Review: Theatre with Teeth’s Jawbreaker Variety Night

Theatre with Teeth took over the Exeter Phoenix on Thursday 21st February for a night that promised music, comedy, spoken word and theatre – a showcase of Exeter’s talent. Auditions happened weeks ago and the successful performers represented the best that Exeter could offer. The evening did not disappoint in all that it promised. Priced at an ambitious but justified £10 per ticket, the evening was jam-packed with touching, funny, punchy and eclectic performances in all spheres of the arts. The evening was split between the auditorium, for performances with larger numbers, more sound technology and anticipating larger audiences, and the workshop, a small, brick-walled room with the feel of an underground Soho jazz bar. However, the audience numbers were equal, with people moving around the venue and piling up at the door of the workshop to get a glimpse.

Bronwen Davies-Jones was the first to grace the stage of the workshop, setting an extremely high standard for the night to follow. Her soaring, rich vocals danced over her short, three-track stage-time, and she delivered moving original material as well as a stunning rendition of a Trisha Yearwood song. A simple set with just an acoustic guitar and the walls lined with fairy-lights, the third-year drama student won over her audience with her warm voice, her calm, youthful sound, and the wisdom and poetry of her lyrics.

Following Bronwen was Exeter’s Shakespeare Society, with a hilarious, contemporary reimagining of Shakespeare’s most famous works, in 15 minutes. Engaging, provocative and contemporary, the team proved the adaptability and continued relevance of Shakespeare’s work as well as their own knack for wordplay, comedy and performance, through the witty reinvention.

Also in the workshop space, Rachel Crozier’s poetry was evocative, personal and moving, while in James Wijesinghe’s spoken word set, his linguistic talent and knack for capturing emotion in language perfectly suited the small, intimate room. Meanwhile, Roshi Grace boasted a stripped-back, acoustic sound, with a gentle, agile voice, which, alongside her dexterity on guitar and her lyrical imagery, created an oasis of calm.

Exeter Comedy Society offered a variety of hilarious stand-up performers, the talented comedians playing on the ideas of relationships, family, stress and university life with ease. The audience in the intimate workshop were laughing throughout the range of very talented and highly entertaining comedians. Alex Rose rounded up the performances in the workshop with an eerie, experimental set which boasted his innovativeness as well as his vocal, musical and sound technology skills. A highly unusual but captivating performance, the workshop performances ended on the high they opened with, embracing a range of unique student talents.

In the auditorium, on a much larger stage and playing to a correspondingly larger room, Fayres were the highlight of the evening, the three-person band supported by an acoustic guitar and backing vocals with a folky influence. The set featured well-known covers, the band showcasing their ability to adapt and reimagine established songs to their own sound. The easy-going, positive atmosphere of the set was maintained throughout and each performer boasted strong vocals.

Pedrick brought a new energy to the evening, and the group could easily have entertained a much larger crowd with their pop/rock set and anthemic songs. They have headlined the well-known London venue Half-Moon and have played support at Islington Assembly Hall previously and so took to the Phoenix stage with ease. The punchy, foot thumping sound had the audience fist-pumping and dancing in the Phoenix auditorium. For their debut EP, the group have worked with Grammy-winning producer Ian Dowling and are definitely a band to note.

The final act of the night was Tarab, a six-piece soul, R&B band, who effortlessly blended jazz with exceptional lyrical acrobats. James Otenio rapped, sang and played various instruments, while Sarah Ourahmane sang and intermittently played the electric cello. The set featured many originals as well as covers, and the audience, larger at this point in the evening, grooved in time with the group’s rhythmic, soulful feel and flowing positive-energy.

Featuring an eclectic mix and showcasing some extraordinary student talent and a huge amount of work, the night was a testimony to Exeter University’s artistic flare and was a pure delight to witness.

Katie Rivers

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