Open Theatre exhibited a first-class experience for all on the 11th of Jan 2022, for a relaxed screening of Open Theatre films, and the release of Ronnie & Johnny. Ronnie and Johnny is a hilarious sitcom, written and created by Rob Bate, who featured as Ronnie with Ben Gilbert as Johnny.
Upon entering the Crescent Theatre in Birmingham, we were welcomed with a beautiful red-carpet entrance, adding to the magical VIP experience the Open Theatre wanted to give. By coming in early, I was able to see the Open Theatre set for the screening, as well as get a glimpse of the incredible theatre. It was a theatre that could seat over 200 people and was suitable for almost anyone to get around easily.
At 5.29 pm seats began to fill with quite a few families, The Open Theatre staff, and the cast of the films. The atmosphere was so great to see! The films set forth by the Open Theatre brought a sense of ties amongst everyone, who were excited to see the hard work they had put into creative films during challenging times, and celebrate their achievements.
One of my favourite parts of the Movie Marathon was Act one where a series of short films were displayed. The first film “Friday Group Film” WASa 24 min long documentary filmed by Alex Morey and assisted by Sean Bould. This film gave an insight into what Open Theatre does with its Friday Group and the fantastic members that attend. I found this film to be not only informative but also chucklesome. The film demonstrated the journeys of the individuals attending the Friday Group and how, through attending, they had not only developed in confidence but were also able to find a connection with drama and performing.
The second short film “Lonely Audiences” was filmed by Sean Bould; an 11 min film that was all about having your moment on stage. This film was also quite funny and demonstrated that everyone had talent hidden in them somewhere. This film I found was memorable in terms of the way it was choreographed and edited, and the upbeat humorous nature it consisted of.
The fourth film “Unbounded Film” was filmed by Sean Bould, a 4 min film capturing the Unbounded project, full of playfulness, joy and celebration, with the Unbounded groups in Selly Oak, Northfield, Edgbaston, Erdington and Hodge Hill. This film reminded me of the happiness and joy Summer can bring, and it demonstrated the beauty that the project brought upon families; helping them to meet other families within their area who they had perhaps not met before.
Another one of my favourite films shown was “Behind closed doors‘ filmed by Ben Gregory-Ring and Sean Bould. This film brought an imaginative, magical experience and reminded me of Disney Pixar’s film Monsters INC, the idea that every door has something unique waiting for you. The use of the singular door entranced made it seem there is more to it than just a singular door, leaving it completely to the imagination.
Open Theatre brought about a Marvel experience for those who are huge Marvel fans such as me. The film “Tom N Rob: The Amazing Spying Iron Spider Kick Butt Rangers‘ ‘ was filmed by Ben Gregory-Ring. This film was almost like a superhero parody that demonstrated two heroes dressed in toilet paper and sponges, ready to beat the bad guys and be back in time for the bus home. It was just like watching a Marvel film and the audience definitely enjoyed it as much as I did.
The second to last two films were “Unspoken Values” and “Open Theatre in Lockdown” written and edited by Sean Bould; these films not only showed what we thought was impossible during difficult times but brought it out in humorous ways within the four minutes.
Finally, to conclude Act One was “Frogs and Suchlike Arts Week” created by Rich Phillips and “Digital Doorways” filmed by Chris Neophytou, which captured the creative work by special schools in Coventry and the confounding experience the Open Theatre had visiting families at their doorways during the difficult time we had. This brought tears to my eyes, as despite the global pandemic, the company still managed to obtain smiles upon the faces of families and individuals.
The first half of the experience was incredible. Coming back after a 25min interval, refreshed and ready for the highlight of the show allowed me to understand more about Ronnie and Johnny. A show about two young men who share a flat, a carer and almost every aspect of their lives you can imagine. This wonderful series follows the journey of them and their latest carer Alan, who was played by the fantastic Lukan Smith.
After a wonderful introduction by the cast themselves, Rob and Ben, we were ready to see the first episode “Alan’s First Shift”. Right from the start, I fell in love with the characters. I could tell this was a show that was loved by the audience also, with the constant warm laughter filling the theatre throughout. The first episode illustrated the mischievous ways Ronnie and Johnny would deter their carer, leaving the audience with the question, would Alan take a stance, or would he leave too?
Episode two, “The New Neighbour” took on from Episode 1 bringing much more laughter and cheeky humour. This episode was about Ronnie and Johnny having a new neighbour expecting to be a sexy girl, played by the wonderful Marlien van Liempt, however, after a knock on the door from this new neighbour, they find it to be a man named Daren, played by the talented Ashely Tolley. Darren seems to have everything in order, yet it is clear that he is a lazy man who lives on his video games. I found this episode to be funny, bringing me off my seat in laughter. Not only did we see the relationship between Alan and Ronnie and Johnny grow but we were able to see their character much more clearly.
The final episode, episode three “Lockdown Christmas’ ‘ was my favourite episode. This episode was rib-tickling and I and the audience were unable to stop laughing for a single minute. Rob Bate knew how to bring an audience to their knees in laughter. This episode was about the world turning to another lockdown – yet again Christmas had to be cancelled. But not for Ronnie and Johnny who decided to invite the whole of the apartment round for Christmas, which turned out to be a bizarre and chaotic Christmas! My favourite characters in this episode were Bert, played by the hilarious Kyle Thornton, and Darren. Their characters brought more complications to Christmas and the bizarre events that occurred brought me and the whole of the audience that came to see this breathtaking show in tears of laughter.
Open Theatre did an amazing job and I was so glad to have been part of this Movie Marathon. The tears of laughter and smiles it brought upon many, including me, demonstrated this to have been an unmissable event.
-Written by Hadiyah Zaman