In fact, although it still has its core values of accessibility to the arts for young people, Curtain Up! is programmed to appeal to a wide audience range, not just young people. The style of work is more adult, not too traditional, a bit edgy and different, the kind of work that would turn up at the Edinburgh Fringe.
So, I have been to a lot of Curtain Up shows recently, and with one exception, they have all been good and interesting. And I was looking forward to this one, Shame by John Berkavitch, as the description sounded as though it was quite an original format, incorporating dance, Hip Hop, spoken word, animation and story-telling.
In fact, it was clear from the beginning that this was a very professionally put together show, with dramatic lighting and extensive use of projection, some of the most successful I have seen. Bold swathes of light, colour and graphic motifs transformed the stage, eliminating the need for clunky scene changes and creating moods and spaces to suit the story and the action.
Berkavitch is a dramatic persona himself with a strong face and dark beard, shaved head and top knot, tall and with stage presence. He started by challenging the audience to think about their own shameful acts, keeping just the right side of participation - just. After a few minutes of 1:2:1 with his public, John launched into a string of tales of his childhood and family life, confessing to moments of regret and shame, things he wished he had either done or not done. Been more honourable, more courageous, less led by his d**k, more loyal, less cowardly. All in all, he didn't seem to have done anything truly terrible, but they were obviously things that had played on his conscience for a long time, and, he says, make him into a better person now.
Berkavitch was supported by three men in cream attire, with umbrellas and other props, who were his friends, shadows and alter egos. Their background in break dance was evident and there were a number of well-choreographed sequences showing off this form of street dance. They travelled the routes of regret along with JB and demonstrated their evident skill and experience in street dance. Sometimes this worked beautifully and sometimes it felt a bit shoe-horned in but hey, it is their speciality!
They kept up the pace of the action and also were conscripted as key parts of the set, the three of them playing an entire Gaggia-style coffee machine as John Berkavitch works as a barista, serving the audience with fictitious beverages as he fields a variety of phone calls. Sometimes it was hard to follow the chronology of the story-telling and occasionally I wished the dancers would stop still for a minute (they usually did!) as the whole show moves along at a pace and the script is pretty snappy, but there is never a dull moment.
Overall, it was well put-together and also well worth catching if you can before the show heads off down to Bristol and Nottingham. It's just over an hour long and so is fine for a week-day outing. It is in Great Yarmouth at The Drill Hall on Thursday 10 April. #shamejb
The next Curtain Up! show at The Garage is Bitchboxer on 20 May but there are a number of guest theatre performances by local theatre companies - try Canada Boys on 9/10 April and Romeo and Juliet on 12 April and a show about the Burston Strike School on 17 April called Bricks of Burston.
See www.thegarage.org.uk for more details