Get Your Greek On!

Over the course of this pandemic, I think many of us have come to appreciate the challenges and pressures that surround teaching and education. Those of us with children have faced the daunting task of home schooling, while teachers have had to adapt their educational practices for the technologically demanding remote access world, bringing with it its own tricky demands of how to keep students engaged through the barrier of a computer or tablet screen. This difficult year has been a huge learning curve for us all, particularly for artists in the world of theatre, where live performance has had to adapt to the demands of these COVID times, but for many, has been put on hold entirely until restrictions are eased.

Yet, just as those in education have moved online, so too have many theatre makers and performers. While many have gone down the route of creating digital performances, what Bath based theatre company Moon House Theatre have done is a perfect example of why I love theatre; theatre’s power to connect and engage with our communities. Teachers have often seemed to be the forgotten front line workers of this pandemic. While many have moved online to teach their students, others have had to continue to have face to face contact in their school setting with students who are the children of key workers. Being a teacher is a difficult job at the best of times, but I certainly don’t envy anyone working in the education sector during this pandemic. So it is incredibly inspiring to see a theatre company like Moon House actively try to assist and support educators with a fun and informative web series like Get Your Greek On!

This six part series, available to watch for free via YouTube, offer bitesize episodes delving into different themes concerning Ancient Greek culture and customs. Every episode, running at roughly 10 minutes each, focuses on an aspect of Greek society from the pantheon of gods, to medicine, to theatrical customs, to how they dressed, to what kinds of music they created and listened to. The subjects are tackled with charmingly whimsical humour by the six presenters – Ellen Larson, Emily France, Odette Clark, Rob Bellamy, Laura Heybrock and Zoë Fawcett – intercut with some hilarious graphics and pop culture nods; I laughed out loud with unashamedly nerdy zeal at several points. This series certainly understands its young target audience, approaching topics which could very easily be made dry and tedious in a way that is both striking and fun.

Each episode comes with its own free teaching resource with some brilliant suggested activities for kids to follow, as well as the skeleton framework for a lesson plan to aid any teacher in need of some revitalising educational inspiration. Indeed, what makes this project stand out for me is the kind of skill sharing that has taken place in order for this series to germinate. Get Your Greek On! highlights the incredible power of theatre and the creative industries as a tool for learning and sharing ideas. What gets me excited about theatre is the fact that it provokes discussion, and Get Your Greek On! does exactly this, albeit in an intentionally didactic way. It is a wonderful thing to see a young theatre company proactively supporting its community by offering their resources to educators and youngsters, and in a very entertaining and high quality format.

Get Your Greek On! is a brilliant online teaching resource, but even if you’re not in education but fancy learning a bit more about Ancient Greek culture or want to brush up on your Class Civ knowledge, I would highly recommend this series – as much to chuckle at the meme worthy references as to learn your chiton from your peplos.

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The Space Between Us

Ten minutes is a paradox of time where in one moment it can feel like an infinity, and in another it flickers by in an instant. For the purposes of narrative, particularly when it is performed by a single performer, ten minutes is a challenge in succinct story telling balancing with emotional weight. For the online short film, The Space Between Us, written by Rick Allden, performed by Jordan Bernarde and directed by Alun D Pughe, this balancing act is achieved with focused attention and careful skill.

Lockdown has been lauded as something of a golden opportunity for creatives to challenge themselves and flex their artistic muscles across mediums they may have never previously ventured into before. There has been a boom in online, often free artistic content over the course of 2020, and while it has shown the powerful talents that exist within our industry and brought them to audiences who may have not engaged with them before, it is a sad fact that many in the industry are struggling to maintain our careers in this pandemic. Indeed, this pain and fearful uncertainty extends to many of us both in and outside of the creative industries, and while The Space Between Us taps into a specific blend of grief, these feelings hit home all the more effectively in these troubled times.

Jordan Bernarde brings Allden’s script to life with nuanced care as a young father having the difficult conversation with his young son as he departs with his mother following a painful break up. Allden’s writing flows with light humour that highlights the  aching agony that simmers under the surface of this paternal interaction. It is a tough feat for any actor to perform something so intimate and vulnerable within the unforgiving exposure of film, but Bernarde does so without ever straying into melodrama or demonstrative performance. This is a piece as much about subtext as it is about the text, and the moments of silence slice through the dialogue like a scalpel, revealing the depths of the father’s sense of loss beneath his fantastical stories of aliens and Millennium Falcons. As much as his words try to deflect away from the pain of the moment, the tension of their shared grief is always there.

While parts of the script could bring out more of the natural comedy that comes from the earnestness of young children, this is a powerful piece of drama worthy of viewing and deserving of praise for its powerful performance and precise execution.

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S#*! Talk

It is always a joy to see a female friendship played out on screen. In a world where female voices are often silenced, stifled or compromised for the sake of male driven plots, it is refreshing to see these relationships given the attention and levity they deserve – and S#*! Talk certainly delivers on all these fronts.

This new web series created by Savannah Betts and led by a female creative team examines the lives of friends, Savannah and Ray, as they navigate the baffling and often hilarious shenanigans of their twenties. These bite sized snapshots into these two women’s lives are a delight to watch, with beautiful direction and photography from Raquel Grela and Aphra Evans – this is a series that visually pops and brings an added brightness to the zany humour of the script.

Anna Rømcke Høiseth and Savannah Betts’ chemistry as Ray and Savannah is what truly drives this show and it is a credit to their comedic skills that they are able to land these carefully crafted gags with such flare in a short space of time. Indeed, while these brief episodes only allow us a glimpse into the lives of these two women, the world they present feels fully realised and fleshed out; we can believe that the action goes on beyond the snapshots we are allowed to see, and while there is a sketch-like element to this narrative’s format, the through lines within the writing allows for a sense of real life continuity.

While elements of the editing could be streamlined to hone the speedy delivery of this style of comedy, this is a charmingly conceived web series that holds women and all their flaws and strengths and humour firmly at its core. If you’re in need of a light-hearted binge that’s relatable and giggle-worthy, S#*! Talk should certainly be on your radar.

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