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Some Like It Hip Hop by Zoonation

Reviewed by: Elaine Chapman @elainec46302904

Review date: 16th Oct 2019

Some Like It Hip Hop is adapted from the book by Kate Prince MBE and Felix Harrison and performed by the extremely talented ensemble group of twenty-two dancers from Zoonation.

The narrator deserves a lot of credit for his performance he is very clear and concise. He is extremely charismatic and engages with the audience throughout the entire production it was clear why he had been chosen to play this role. A really likeable character and talented actor.

The story is about grief hurt and how we process these feelings after we have lost someone dear to us. The central character the Governor in this production after being introduced to the audience starts of the play by pulling a black blanket across the Sun which is centred at the rear of the stage and plunging his world into darkness.

There are four singers in this production made up of two ladies and two men. Although they are all very good the two females are the stronger voices. When they initially first started to sing the hairs on the back of my neck stood up.

The dancer who plays the governor is an extremely intimidating presence on the stage his strong demeanour and impressive dancing skills make him an excellent lead character. He has strong body language and carries himself perfectly although as the storyline unfolds you start to see a softer side to him and understand why he has become the way he is.

After the death of his wife he sinks into a long deep dark depression as well as turning the sun off at the beginning he then proceeds to ban all books by burning them and actively advocates the suppression of women within his environment. It’s repeated throughout the musical that “women should be seen and not heard!”

The plot is based around male dominance and we watch as two of the ladies are thrown out of the factory for rebelling against the men as seen in the picture below. They decide to disguise themselves as men in order to return to work in the safety of the factory walls. Their disguises are fairly obvious that they are masquerading as men but this doesn’t spoil the storyline.

Set designer Ben Stones has dressed the stage in a 1920s style. The scaffolding based structures are interchangeable and the scene changes are very smooth. It complements the production and the factory gates could easily pass as being real gates.

With such a high standard of dancing and movement in this production, it is hardly surprising that they were three choreographers Kate prince MBE, Tommy Franzen and Carrie-Anne Ingrouille along with two assistant choreographers for the large cast.

Overall this is an extremely good production although there should have been a warning advisory note put on the production sheet or a sign in the auditorium to warn against the scenes of violence against women, which I found uncomfortable to watch.

Four Stars.

See the full review here


Posted on 17/10/2019


The Signalman by Charles Dickens

Reviewed by: Elaine Chapman @elainec46302904

Review date: 12th Oct 2019

The Signalman adapted by Martin Malcolm to a fifty-minute Fringe Theatre production is a well scripted and moving credit to the original story written by Charles Dickens.

Tim Larkfield in the role of The Signalman delivers an impressive performance as he slowly mentally battles with the spirit that keeps appearing on the track. He attempts to work out what the mystery figure is trying to tell him as each time he appears a major incident occurs.

The harrowing effect this plays in the mind of the Signalman becomes all-consuming and he is left questioning what is real and what is all in his mind! Especially when the warning bell often rings without any reason and he is the only one who hears it.

I was completely taken aback by the phenomenal acting ability of Helen Baranova in the role of the crossing sweeper called Jo. To be able to perform a role in a two-man production with no written script assigned to her character this relied solely on her physical performance in order to bring the part to life. Everything she said was spoken through her eyes, from fear, warmth and a complete understanding of the whole situation as it was explained to her by the Signalman certainly captivated me.

The stage is dressed predominantly by the signal box a simple open structure which dominates the right-hand side of the stage. The perfectly timed train sound effects and lighting changes allows you to suspend your disbelief and imagine you can visualise the steam trains going through the tunnel as interpreted in detail by the Signalman.

Director Sam Raffal has utilised all the space available in the Bread and Roses theatre to breathe new life into this haunting and spine-chillingly classic tale. This is one of those fringe productions where you leave feeling really pleased to have been in the audience. Another brilliant example as to why Fringe Theatre should have bigger audiences.

Four Stars.

Tim Larkfield- The Signalman
Helen Baranova- Crossing Sweeper aka Jo
Adapted by Martin Malcolm
Directed by Sam Raffal.

See the full review here


Posted on 14/10/2019


Gutted by Sharon Byrne

Reviewed by: Elaine Chapman @elainec46302904

Review date: 12th Oct 2019

Gutted by Sharon Byrne first appeared at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2018 the script has undergone a lot of alterations, editing and some very effective new stage directions. It was a pleasure to see the original cast though who originally first bought this play to life.

Niamh Finlay in the role of Deirdre a girl on the cusp of womanhood is living with her Mum and younger brother and looks forward to her Saturday night’s when the babysitter arrives. Her life is far from perfect but she is determined to get out of her town and make a better future for herself.

Nothing quite prepares the audience for the life-changing events that happen to her. However, Byrne’s has written the scene with such care that although you are not left wondering what happens the details are left to your own imagination!

The theme of the changing lamp lights used on the stage and strong use of strobe lights are a clever addition to the production as they double up as additional characters which are then voiced by the cast.

Dolores (Sarah Horsford), Breda (Eleanor Byrne) and Deirdre under the direction of Chris White (director) combine their dialogue smoothly and with strong conviction. These ladies are not going to be seen and not heard. Each of the three main characters appears to be bought to life with ease and much of the performance I was drawn into their lives feeling a lot of empathy towards them.

Entrenched in Catholicism the three women discuss abortion from another perspective, in Dublin only those who can afford to travel to England have the option of not continuing with an unwanted pregnancy.

Set to a predominant 1980s soundtrack of Tainted Love by Soft Cell the incredibly talented cast of three have brilliant voices and art certainly reflects life as all three are exposed to this type of love at various points through the play.

With much heartfelt anguish and tear-jerking scenes, humour quickly brings the audience back into the story, there isn’t time to get drawn into pity for any of them although their backstories would give plenty of reasons to do so.

Byrne alongside Sophie Sodd (production manager) and stage manager Michaela Corcoran have taken the original play and produced a much stronger and hard-hitting performance which delivers an uncomfortable but heart-warming insight into how an Irish community my live.

Four Stars

Eleanor Byrne-Brenda
Niamh Finlay-Deirdre
Sarah Horsford-Dolores
Writer and Producer- Sharon Byrne
Co-Producer-Vivienne Foster
Director-Chris White
Casting Director-Natalie Gallacher
Movement Choreographer-Jess Tucker Boyd
Costume Designer-Sorcha Corcoran
Lighting Designer-Marty Langhorn
Production Manager-Sophie Sood
Stage Manager-Michaela Corcoran
Graphic Designer -Marianne McConnell.
Facebook @Guttedtour
Instagram @Guttedfringe

See the full review here


Posted on 14/10/2019


Classified by Jayne Woodhouse

Reviewed by: Elaine Chapman @elainec46302904

Review date: 6th Oct 2019

Loosely based Theatre Company’s three interlinked short plays are a macabre fictional look at the reality of a world that could be closer than we think! When freedom is removed and only allowed to a privileged few who can we trust? Nobody is the simple answer in this production and absolutely nothing is what it appears to be!

First time Mum, 18-year-old Leanne (Kayley Rainton) has given birth three days earlier to Jax. She is subjected to an appalling interview by the Man played by David House at first it appears to be a routine interview. As the meeting progresses the sinister and insidious reason for calling her in is sickening. Does she have a price and will she sell her only commodity? The questions left me cold and I felt very angry by his smug demeanour as can be seen in the picture above.

There are interlinking subtle themes running throughout the three short plays. The Sixty minute straight through production keeps you gripped wanting to find out the fate of each character. Breaking the fourth wall frequently engaging directly with the audience and encouraging them to become more than passive observers adds another dimension to this play.

Actress Rosannah Lenaghan pictured above plays the other half of a young couple. She misses curfew trying to find out what has happened to a lower level man she sees on a daily basis called Jax. Neil Gardner in the role of her boyfriend is more concerned about how her actions will affect his own status level. Just how far does he go to save his own privileges?

Playwright Jayne Woodhouse delivers a very dark and deeply uncomfortable insight into a future that isn’t completely inconceivable. The tightly weaved script leaves you cold in places and delivers plenty of shocks along the way. Just how far will people go to protect themselves in the name of what they have been brainwashed into believing to be “right”!

Director Calum Robshaw has bought each of the characters together in an extremely well-directed trio of hard-hitting situations. The smooth transition between each play doesn’t allow much time to gather your thoughts!

The stage is minimally dressed nonetheless the strong script doesn’t depend on props. The strength of conviction by the cast of four is all you need to focus on. Their interlinked stories and how their paths often cross is the central focus and the delivery is close to perfect. As with all particularly good Fringe plays the key is in the quality of writing and the right choice of actors, not the budget spent on special effects!

Four Stars

Running Time 60 minutes.

Neil Gardner-Man/Joe
David House-Interviewer/Principal
Rosannah Lenaghan-Woman/Mother
Kayley Rainton-Leanne/Sarah.
Writer-Jayne Woodhouse
Director-Calum Robshaw.
Photography-John Bruce

Performed at:
The Chapel Nightclub, 34 Milford St, Salisbury.

From 12th-13th October 2019
Lion and Unicorn, 42-44 Gaisford Street, Kentish Town, London NW5 2ED.

See the full review here


Posted on 14/10/2019


When the Rain Stops Falling by Andrew Bovell

Reviewed by: Elaine Chapman @elainec46302904

Review date: 29th Sep 2019

Set in Alice Springs in 2039 the audience watch as four generations through the ages as two families share tender moments of love and happiness in which life changes in an instant becoming toxic and beyond any chance of repair!

The physical theatre production with the cast of six flows backwards and forwards between the generations as the story unfolds. You are not prepared for how and when the story takes the turns into uncomfortable territory.

Vivienne Smith delivers an outstanding performance in the role of Elizabeth Law an alcoholic grief-struck mother and wife who never comes to terms with the shocking and abhorrent truth that she abruptly discovers! The challenges facing Aidan Crawford in his role as Henry Law highlighted his excellent acting ability.

Set between two hemispheres the hustle and bustle chaotic life in the London flat juxtaposes against the peaceful and quieter life on the South Australian coast. Where watching the blanket of stars in the shadow of Ayres Rock sounds tranquil and appealing. However, the tragedy closely connecting these two countries left me cold!

Director Gemma Maddock really captured the heart of this story the relatively larger cast in the smaller Fringe Theatre shows the vision and creativity in her attention to details as space is more compact and utilizing every inch of the stage is vital especially with the amount of movement that takes place.

I especially liked the changing usage of the family dining table where much of the story took place either around it, on it or underneath it a seen in the accompanying photographs. The hub of a family is often referred to as being the dining table where families often meet to eat and socialise.

The persistent rain soundtrack throughout the performance by its composer Nick Di Gregorio is an interesting choice and while tragedy rains down upon the cast it’s continuously in the background. I would recommend visiting the toilet before you go to watch the play though!

This very clever and intertwined storyline echoes many families lives where one heartbreaking action taken by one member of the family leaves a trail of scars which is carried on into the next generation without those involved fully understanding it’s origins.

The line of miscommunication destroyed the relationships of the four generations within this play. Leaving the question of how well do we actually know those closest to us!

Four Stars.

See the full review here


Posted on 30/09/2019


Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story

Reviewed by: Elaine Chapman @elainec46302904

Review date: 22nd Sep 2019

The moment you step inside Wiltons Music Hall you are entering a building steeped in history and character. Many of its features are original dating back to when it first opened in 1859. Plain brickwork and restored walls and features from the period all add to the beguiling charm of the experience of watching a first-class musical production in this venue.

Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story tells the love story between the Jewish couple Chaya (Mary Fay Coady) and Chaim (Eric Da Costa). Meeting by chance after they had fled from Romania to Canada in the early 1900s. The couple takes you through their journey through music and dance. You are given an insight into the horrific events that they experienced before leaving Romania. It’s quite harrowing in places but then history often is!

The Narrator for the 80-minute performance is Ben Caplan. Well what a fantastic performance he gave, I was entranced by his character’s presence on the stage at all times. With an ever-changing tone and fast-flowing dialogue, he throws in some open untruths which he admits to the audience every time which keeps you engaged in the story. A very unusual style which he carries off with perfect precision. A first-class fascinating actor to watch in character.

The Music Hall has been perfectly chosen for this production. Providing excellent acoustics and atmosphere to this extremely well-produced musical. As part of the audience, you are adding yourself to its ongoing history.

Carly Beamish costume designer has kept the costumes plain and from what I would have expected to see from the period of the early 1900s the simple black dress worn by Chaya is a simple design but looks very effective alongside Chaim’s trousers, shirt and waistcoat.

Director and set designer Christian Barry creates an unusual stage set inside what looks to be a converted storage container with doors on one side. Once the doors are opened you are invited in to watch the lives of the couple unfold.

Playwright Hannah Moscovitch has taken the heart-wrenching story based on her paternal family and placed it into this thoughtful, entertaining and powerful Theatre production. A real credit to her families history and a brilliant performance all round.

Five Stars

Ben Caplan-The Wanderer
Mary Fay Coady-Chaya, Violin
Eric Da Costa-Chaim, Woodwinds
Kelsey McNulty-Keyboard and accordion
Jeff Kingsbury-Drumset.

Created by Hannah Moscovitch, Ben Caplan and Christian Barry.
Playwright-Hannah Moscovitch
Director-Christian Barry

Running from 18th-28th September 2019

See the full review here


Posted on 23/09/2019


Foxfinder by Dawn King

Reviewed by: Kev Castle @CastleKev

Review date: Friday, 13 September 2019

The play was written in 2011 by Dawn King, a writer that I have not heard of before, and a play that I have not heard or seen before.

Set in the upstairs performing space of the Lace Market Theatre, the story takes on an even more intimate feel. With the majority of the scenes also set in the farmhouse kitchen, the wooden beams of the theatre made this even more realistic.

Set on a remote farm, the action takes place within the farm house kitchen belonging to Sam and Judith Covey, who are reeling from a personal loss, failing to meet the production targets on the farm, they receive a visitor by the name of William Bloor.

Bloor is a “foxfinder” whose job is to hunt out infestations of foxes, who are blamed for just about everything, including the poor performance of the farm and its’ produce. Rumour is spread that these “foxes” may have supernatural powers.

Bloor starts to investigate the Coveys, their farm and neighbours, prying into every crevice of their personal and professional lives. We soon discover though that Bloor also isn’t quite as perfect as first thought, and he has weaknesses of his own.

Malcolm Todd (Samuel) plays a really interesting character as, depending on how you look at the way Samuel is played, he could be playing along with the foxfinder to hunt out the foxes, or he could be more intelligent that what he is first given credit for. has he spotted a crack in Bloor's armour with him being so young, and is trying to lead him up the garden path by siding with the foxfinder. A clever character with whom the audience could be divided by his actions.A brilliant character role for Malcolm to get his teeth into.

Kareena Sims (Judith) pulled out her emotional side of her acting ability in Judith. Kareena portrays so much emotion in her face; you feel her frustration, her tiredness, her anger, her fear, but also her Grace. She has been pushed to the edge and is on the brink of doing something that Judith would seriously regret, when something stops her. I can only imagine that this is one role that would drain an actor due to the passion needed to play this character with the respect that is deserved.

Emily Kelsey (Sarah) is another actor who brings the emotions of the characters to life. The look of complete fear when she is being interrogated by Bloor was enough to chill your bones.

AJ Stevenson (William Bloor) gets to play one very interesting character in Bloor. His delivery of the script is perfectly detached and, at first I thought emotionless, but after a while the emotion oozed out and you realise that here is a man who has been brain washed into believing what has been drilled into him. And this makes the character dangerous. Bloor is 19 years old and we discover through his conversations with Judith that his life has been flawed since childhood. AJ's delivery is exact and deliberate and when Bloor visits Sarah, his whole approach is quite evil and calculated.

It's a very tense play and you could feel that tension. It's also a very emotive play as we discover the history of the characters, but it also has some lovely comic moments to relieve the intensity.

Director Chris Sims has amassed the best cast for this style of play and to be able to make an audience absorb that tense, and uneasy feeling, takes something special. It made me wish for the interval to come to break that unease, but then I couldn't wait for Act two to see what happened next. The ending was one that I didn't quite expect either.

The set is designed by Mark James, and the set changes were done smoothly, veiled by some very interesting and appropriate folk music, adding to the location feel.

Lighting Design by David Billen and Sound Design by Gareth Morris. This in particular painted mind pictures of the rural landscape beyond the theatre walls.

If you like intelligent, tension filled theatre, then this is the one to book your ticket for, if there are any left for Saturday. A powerful start to this new season's programme.

"Foxfinder” is at the Nottingham Lace Market Theatre until Saturday 14 September

See the full review here


Posted on 14/09/2019


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