'The MakeShift Ensemble's's work is vigourously imaginative and deftly performed. As fellow theatre-makers from the Dorset region, we admire their work ethic and the entrancing power they wield over their audiences. The Makeshift Ensemble is a company that will no doubt continue to flourish as the the years progress - developing innovative, compelling original theatre which adds to an already impressive body of work by the duo ('Sofa' and 'Fox and the Rabbit's Idiots' Guide to the Owl and Pussycat'). We are excited by the prospect of future projects by the company and continue to feel inspired by their high quality output!'
- Paul Lawless (Artistic Director of Frenetic Fox Theatre)
Reviews of Fox and Rabbit's idiot's guide to the Owl and the Pussycat (2016/17)
"Myself and my wee girl have just been to see you both at Cheltenham Everyman this afternoon, telling the story of The Owl and the Pussycat. It was one of the best young theatre productions we've seen. We were blown away by the creative and imaginative sets along with the witty banter, singing and the genius use of the loop pedal. Looking forward to seeing you again in 'Sofa'. In fact I'm tempted to go and see you again when you perform in Ledbury in a few days time!" - Audience member, The Everyman, Cheltenham
"I just wanted to let you know you were the highlight of my daughter's weekend....thankyou!" Elderflower Fields Festival 2017
" A quality, witty family production full of beautiful images and magic" Wendy Van Der Plank, Artistic Director - The Beehive, Honiton
Reviews of Tinderbox (2015)
"This was a tender retelling of the Hans Christian Andersen story with a few twists and turns for the sensibilities of twenty-first century audiences. The rag bag set and dressing up box production provided some delightful surprises and gave an excited air as though the actors were discovering the story for the first time. The props and puppets were well made and inventively used so the whole story seemed fresh and new. Some of the stage set pieces were indeed magical especially the sailing away sequence with a moving song by Joe Butcher. The music throughout was astonishingly sophisticated and emotionally satisfying making use of the same sort of resources as the rest of the production. A verywell put together and staged production by Jacqueline Avery." Peter John Cooper, Playwright and Director
"Jacqueline Avery is an intelligent and inventive director, bringing many elements of performance into a cohesive whole. For the actor, she creates a safe creative environment, filled with fun and play but never afraid of strong critique and editing, helping each cast member push themselves to the best performance they can give. She is an expert in creating a true ensemble, helping to forge connections that go well beyond the rehearsal room.
As a performer, she is graceful, engaging and generous (and very funny). I had a wonderful time working with her, and am proud to be part of the Makeshift family." Laurence Aldridge, Actor 'Tinderbox
Theatre Bristol 4 * Review of '100' Directed by Jacqueline Avery (MakeShift Ensemble) with Peter John Cooper for AsCend Physical Theatre 2013
AsCend Physical Theatre Company is not a group I am familiar with, and it was with some trepidation that I entered the Bierkeller to blue lights and ominous sheets across the stage. Whatever it was I was expecting, it was not the same thing that I ultimately viewed. ‘100’ was a surprisingly moving and emotional piece about the power of memory and what we truly value in our lives. Faced with their doom, each character must choose one moment to take with them into eternity. Quite a choice.
The show opened with an ominous soundscape of breathing, sighing, counting and mumbling while soft orchestrations played through the speakers. I was immediately put on edge; the sounds were wonderfully crafted to clash and move against each other whilst still being variations on, at that moment, an unknown theme. Ellis J. Wells, playing Alex, burst onto the stage in a cloud of bafflement and nervousness. He was slowly joined by the rest of the cast, each as confused as the last.
Jacqueline Avery’s entrance as the Guide was casual, clearly the only character comfortable in the setting. Her performance was one that changed throughout - some moments were tender and full of emotion whilst at times I did feel a slightly less cynical approach would have been more effective, though come her final confession she did go some way to justify these elements of her performance.
With the first memory, Alex’s recollection of his ‘motorbike racing’, we were immediately shown what a physical piece this would be, despite the minimal set and props. Four innocuous black cubes became desks, a step ladder, and a bar, among other items. A number of stout bamboo poles were also used in various ways to depict windows, beds and kitchen tables. Apart from this, the story was told with the actors voices and bodies. Each member of the ensemble transformed themselves a number of times throughout the performance, becoming office workers, commuters and even children to tell each others stories.
The entrance of Alex’s girlfriend Nia (Maya Aitken) felt somewhat underwhelming considering this meant she also had died, though later moments in the piece revealed how the couple both happened to die at the same time. Aitken was, for me, the most emotionally involved actor in the piece, and her chemistry with Wells was tender and heartbreaking at the same time, especially during her chosen memory.
Mainga Mayeya as Ketu was an intriguing character. From some small village, perhaps a tribe, his ‘radical’ thoughts, misunderstood by the village elders, led to his tragic and understated death, which also turned out to be his memory. The choice of a self-sacrifice felt strange to me as a memory to take with you, but it served as a reminder that to some people principles matter above all else.
The music and animation blended beautifully with the action, they never detracted from the performance, instead complimenting it and adding another dimension to the stories being enacted. Simon Swarbrick’s underscoring helped each transition blend seamlessly into the next story and was at times surprisingly stirring.
My biggest criticism of ‘100’ has to be the fact it was only here for one night. Ideally I would love to tell my friends all about it and get them down to enjoy it and join me in hearty debate about our ‘perfect memory’. Instead I shall have to keep an eye on the company's website and put their next appearance in my diary. In all, a provocative and fascinating insight into what we each hold dear, and how that can differ so vastly from person to person.