‘Be More Chill’ in Hindsight or An Ode to Student Theatre

by Thea Hartman

I remember fondly one of the very last outings I went on before the world was turned upside down: Saturday 7 March 2020, closing night of Be More Chill at the Annex Theatre, University of Southampton.

It’s only about six weeks ago, but it feels like at least a year has passed. Therefore, I couldn’t possibly call this a review because I couldn’t be objective (can anyone ever be, really?) – that night is already rose-tinted with nostalgia. So I would like to offer my apologies for the delay, Showstoppers – I got majorly distracted, I hope you understand… but I’m here now, ready to sing (not half as well as you) your praises.

Continue reading ‘Be More Chill’ in Hindsight or An Ode to Student Theatre

VIDEO: Arts Ambassadors attend John Hansard Gallery Opening

Two of our University of Southampton Arts Ambassadors – Kate Briggs-Price and Thea Hartman – were in attendance at John Hansard Gallery’s bumper opening event on Saturday 25 January 2020. Join them as they explore the exhibitions, mingle with the artists, interview some of the people behind the shows and generally have a good time.

Three exhibitions opened that night, as follows:

Larry Achiampong: When the Sky Falls
25 January–21 March

Many voices, all of them loved
1 February–11 April

Lindsay Seers: Every Thought There Ever Was
8 February–11 April

Video by Kate Briggs-Price for Arts at University of Southampton.

Review: Heist at NST City (or Our First Dance Show Experience!)

By Thea Hartman and Kate Briggs-Price

To our shame and huge excitement and curiosity, the opening night of ZoieLogic Dance Theatre’s Heist was the first time either of us had seen a dance-only production. And on top of that, whilst between us we have a few years’ worth of mostly amateur dance experience, we know nothing about contemporary dancing, which was the show’s predominant style. In a nutshell, we went to the opening night of this show with absolutely no expectations and completely ready to see contemporary dance with fresh eyes.

And that is exactly what happened. As ZoieLogic Dance Theatre Artistic Director Zoie Golding expertly put it (she created the show after all), Heist mixes “the adventure of Mission Impossible, the gaming of Crystal Maze, and a little bit of the heart of The Goonies” – an emotionally dynamic, cleverly woven, action-packed show bursting with the most graceful moves which kept us on the edge of our seats throughout.

One of the most striking aspects of Heist was in the way it established the tone so promptly and accurately from the very first minute with the help of soundtrack and a villain with robotic moves, deeply unsettling facial expressions and Matrix-like costume. We like to think that we don’t get scared easily, but we definitely found ourselves huddling close into each other as the villain slowly approached our end of the stage. This almost instant characterization was also instilled into the four ‘good’ guys – despite there being absolutely no words spoken for the entire duration of the show, we quickly got a real sense of the dynamic between the characters in the first act, as their movements started to organize themselves into patterns and motifs to show their quirks and mannerisms, their teamwork and their willingness to do whatever it takes to escape the prison.

Interestingly, the storyline was quite minimalistic. Whilst the general plotlines were conveyed by the characters’ interaction with the set, the soundtrack and the dancers’ movements and facial expressions, the lack of words brought with itself a lack of specificity which Heist turned on its head into a vagueness encouraging audience engagement. We did not know exactly why the four men were imprisoned, or what they tried to set free at the end of it, but when we talked about it after coming out of the show we both thought it had something to do with identity. Whether or not that’s what it actually was about is a different question.

The great thing about the show is that none of this guesswork actually matters: you don’t get brownie points for identifying one specific metaphor the author wanted to convey. The focus was simply on how the incredibly skilful and graceful movements affected the audience’s emotions (and trust us, they did). The plot was merely shaped by some classic heist film tropes (e.g. the chase scene), and the fantastically adaptable set which enhanced the experience of the show by being as fluid as the dancers’ movements; the essence was all in the relationship between movements and emotion. As the dancers were climbing the prison’s walls showing some real parkour skills, we waited anxiously for them to fall. As they supported each other through their feeblest sequences of choreography we felt feeble with them. As they were running from the villain through the set which became a maze we were rooting for them to get away.

For us, that was the essence of Heist. It did not matter that we knew close to nothing about contemporary dance. It only mattered that we opened our eyes and hearts to see and feel this show, and we left NST City all the richer for it.

Watch the trailer for Heist below, and catch ZoieLogic Dance Theatre’s next show @zoielogic or at www.zoielogic.co.uk.

Introducing our 2019/20 Arts Ambassadors: Kate Briggs-Price

Kate Briggs-Price in action

MA Global Media Management student Kate Briggs-Price talks about her time at university, her passion for film-making, her experience with University Societies and what she brings to the team as an Arts Ambassador!

Now in my fifth year studying at the University of Southampton, I’ve spent my time trying to discover what I enjoy and am passionate about. Both in my professional and personal life, I have pursued many avenues and have ultimately come to the conclusion; art has always been something that connects the people and the decisions.

Being busy and pushing myself to achieve everything I possibly can is a major driving force of my personality. I am very lucky that my Master’s degree involves practical film making, but also gives me the freedom to shoot and direct in my spare time. The arts have given me the chance to not only to push myself creatively but given me the discipline, scope and the technical skills to create both professionally and for pleasure.

My passion is definitely film-making, whether that be a documentary film or creative shorts. I have a range of projects on the go – a short film up for release at the end of January and a documentary that will be released both as a short and hopefully a feature-length film by the end of September 2020. Being a Photography and Videography Ambassador gives me a chance to develop and work on technical skills whilst also helping to give people access to art around Southampton. Whether that be through their phones or through media, we can help bridge the gap of intimidation that people often feel about attending events in the ‘art world’.

I’ve always focussed on multi-media storytelling. As Head of Marketing for Surge Radio –  live shows, podcasts, graphics and social media are all things I have been developing. The interconnections between all the different strands of media working together to create an experience is what interests me. Although not directly connected to media, I am also President of the Erasmus Student Network Southampton. This is the largest student organisation in Europe, taking care of all the visiting international students who come to the university – my interest in this came from my experience of my year abroad in Germany. This really developed my interest in people, which is at the heart of my love for art and really everything I have done at University.

As I have been involved in over 9 different societies during my time here, I have had the opportunity to learn and grow from a huge range of people. We often connected through the process of making art or through experiencing it together as a way to express something we had in common or something that was different about us. I want to make sure that students discover not only the art available to them in Southampton but also the people behind that art. The artists, often from around the world, have so much experience and perspectives that they are willing to share.

Introducing our 2019/20 Arts Ambassadors: Thea Hartman

Thea Hartman during her time as Editor of The Edge magazine

MA English Literary Studies student Thea Hartman talks about her passion for escapism, textual analysis, her experience of the Southampton art scene, and what plans she has for her time as an Arts Ambassador!

This is going to sound ridiculously cliché, so brace yourselves, because I really don’t know how else to say it: yes, I have loved art in all its forms for as long as I can remember. The philosophy behind this love is simple: if you’re looking to escape the real world for a bit – and I honestly bet you do – there is no better way to spend those rare spare hours than with a film, some music, a trip to the theatre, a gig, or many a good book. 

As far as that goes, I am an expert fugitive. My Mum taught me how to read early because I would always ask her to read me one more story and she couldn’t catch her breath. And that hasn’t really changed (well, I did learn to read, but you get the idea) – ‘one more story’ became a BA English degree, and then an MA English Literary Studies degree, with a focus on twentieth century literature. Turning a text on all its facets, understanding it in its present and in our own – to me, there’s nothing quite like it, even if it does sometimes push my limits so much that I can’t touch a book for months… Luckily, there are other ways to keep escaping.

And because we’re in Southampton, we have loads of them right on our doorstep! I started discovering the Southampton arts scene due to The Edge, the University’s student entertainment magazine, which sends writers to a wide range of theatre shows and concerts (even after over three years of writing for it I’d probably have a hard time naming all the music venues in Southampton…), but it wasn’t until my summer internship with ‘a space’ arts that I had the chance to get to know the arts community in Southampton and learn just how complex and welcoming it is!

I’m not an artist, so I’m not a stranger to thoughts like “I’m not artsy enough to go there,” or “I don’t belong there” – but I realised I couldn’t be more wrong. And that’s what I’m most excited about doing as an Arts Ambassador – helping to spread the word not only about what the arts scene in Southampton has to offer generally, but also about what it has to offer to those who think like I used to. I’ll be found mostly on this blog and on social media, trying to put all these feelings into words as I explore Southampton’s art scene with Molly and Kate this semester – I hope you join us on this journey!