Operation Black Antler
Devised work, 2016-2017
"The genius of Black Antler is it doesn’t tell us what to think. Like me, you could sit within spitting distance of an unflinchingly truthful performer and experience the friendly face and soft tones of evil in a social setting."
The Guardian ****
"This disturbing piece of immersive theatre shines a light on the morality of police surveillance."
MANCHESTER EVENING NEWS *****
"One of the most most gripping pieces of theatre you'll ever see"
THE REVIEWS HUB
"Ambitious and impressive...The merits and ethical issues of police surveillance have never been in the public eye as much as they are now"
The New World Order
by Harold Pinter, 2007-11
The Guardian 5*****
"A brilliant collage of Pinter's political plays that takes the audience on a journey into the maze-like prison beneath the city's town hall... The collection of Pinter plays, superbly directed by Ellie Jones for Hydrocracker, is both disturbing and timely..The result is far more than a tourist's-eye view of torture. An unnerving coda to a shattering experience that brings Pinter's world directly home."
"Both Pinter and site-specific theatre emerge as winners from Hydrocracker's deeply unsettling 75-minute piece played out in the dizzying heights and dank depths of Brighton Town Hall.... a logistical as well as an artistic triumph."
"Hydrocracker have tellingly brought together a number of short Pinter plays and positioned them in different parts of the handsome Town Hall...As so often with Pinter, the plays have shifted and darkened their meaning over time: what once looked far away now looks much nearer home."
" the sense of being trapped within a brutal state machine builds and intensifies during this brilliant site-specific production by Hydrocracker. ...Pinter's words couldn't be more full of menace and threat. But when the audience is physically placed in his world with no separation from the actors, there is no longer even a comfort zone to watch from, even though we know that - unlike the people who suffer torture and human rights abuses for real - we get to escape and go home safely."
"Hydrocracker's revival of its 2007 production ...is a profoundly disturbing
brilliant and beautifully performed."
Daily Telegraph 4****
"One of the festival’s main in-house offerings is a lavish site-specific rendering of a batch of short political plays by Harold Pinter.... the evening renews one’s admiration for his consistency of outrage…The voices we hear are English, the insinuation is clear: unspeakable things are done in our name, and if we don’t speak out, they could also end up happening here, under our noses.
The Times 4****
"Whatever you think of One for the Road, Mountain Language, Precisely, Press Conference and The New World Order – and recent events have left me thinking them horribly apt – they gain from being cut into each other and presented in a walkabout that begins in a posh council chamber and ends in the building’s sinister catacombs. Topical? Surely so."
The Erpingham Camp
By Joe Orton, 2009
The Guardian 4****
"Two years ago, Hydrocracker lit up the Brighton festival by staging Harold Pinter's late political plays in the labyrinthine Town Hall. Now they try a similar tactic with Joe Orton's 1967 play about a holiday camp brouhaha, staged on Brighton's sole surviving pier.
....Ellie Jones's promenade production exudes the right air of jovial anarchy.
Jones uses the space imaginatively, and Jem Wall as Erpingham, Matthew Wait as the redcoat and Richard Hahlo as a sanctimonious padre are all spot-on. A forgotten Orton play is brought to exuberant life."
The Times 4****
"Hydrocracker is a company that professes to “want more for our audiences than to sit in the dark and watch”. This robust, inventive promenade performance of Joe Orton’s farce, presented as part of the Brighton Festival, demonstrates how true Hydrocracker is to its words.
"Anyone venturing on to Brighton Pier is soon being invited to participate in singalongs and knobbly knees competitions ....(and) enjoying a fish-and-chip supper or learning how to twist a balloon into the shape of a dog."
"The Brighton Festival has developed a reputation for innovative, site-specific work, and this version of Joe Orton’s comedy about a dictatorial holiday camp owner and his rebellious employees has the wonderful setting of Brighton’s surviving pleasure pier.
...While this is not a radical piece of site-specific theatre, it does make strong use of the pier. Joyful and generous, it is interactive theatre at its best... the real stars of this show are Brighton and its pier, that wonderful memorial to the entertainment so beloved of our forebears."
Shakespeare à la carte
Devised, with text by W Shakespeare,
"Taster-sized portions of The Great Bard's work are the dish of the day in this brilliantly conceived and imaginatively staged Argus Angel-winning theatrical event. The cast, whose credits all include the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre, perform some of the best bits of the Bard as a perfect accompaniment to a Sunday morning hot coffee and pastries.
It is a treat both for the Shakespeare lover and the newcomer...(with) the sort of audience participation designed to heighten your enjoyment of the show rather than make you feel stupid.
The up-close-and-personal edge to Shakespeare a la Carte is all the more welcoming compared with the distant open-air performances found at most festivals.
Pick of the Week Radio 4.
“..delicious... a clever gem of a production”
By Neil Fleming, 2011
"Hydrocracker turns the business world into intriguing and gripping theatre...The cast of four, led by Pip Donaghy and James Wilby, is terrific: the swerves of their dialogue intrigue and grip; the crisp staging against Agnes Treplin's gleamingly Modernist set keeps the tension high. Even the scene changes are exciting with their jabs of light and rattles of machinery ...(Donaghy gives) a riveting performance ...If it becomes hard to believe anyone like Donaghy's James actually exists, the insights into the dark mysteries of his craft remain fascinating."
The Guardian 3***
“Brighton's Hydrocracker company makes its London debut with this lively new play by Neil Fleming about management consultants.
"Fleming is at his best when he writes about the mechanics of external expertise....(and) offers some sharply funny satire on business waffle and is shrewd enough to suggest that consultants occasionally expose the gentlemanly amateurism of the commercial sector.
"Geoff Church's production is also vigorously acted by a strong cast. Pip Donaghy as the maniacal James, Helen Millar as his seductive sidekick, James Wilby as the nervy executive and Sian Webber as his strong-minded spouse put flesh on Fleming's argument that we live in a credulous age in which management consultants are treated with a superstitious awe once reserved for alchemists and astrologers.”
“A former management consultant himself, playwright Neil Fleming is well placed to satirise the role of the men behind the men in charge of corporate Britain.
Fleming certainly has an ear for dialogue and dissects the meaningless jargon of the corporate world - “paradigm shifts” and “metrics embedded in workflow” - with real sharpness and flair .
(It is) entertaining and genuinely funny, thanks in no small part to the central pairing of James Wilby and Pip Donaghy as Shackleton and Ross who both give excellent performances. It is also beautifully staged on Agnes Treplin’s set, shifting impressively from a cold corporate office in the first act to French villa in the second.”
"Fleming is a lively, pleasingly cynical writer...(Pip) Dinghy is a modern-day Satan, slithering around on his wheels and spitting put words like poisoned darts...His assistant, Nicola (Helen Millar), has an equally sinister sheen, eyes bulging as she looks for her next victim...the sharpest scenes are in-between the downtrodden Hugo (James Wilby) and his fiendishly clever wife, Claire (Sian Webber)"