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See Michael Gray's Arts Blog here
Posted on 13/08/2014
Click on the link to see the full review
The Devil and Stepashka
A very gripping and haunting production
Little Red Hoodie
Part of a set of three plays entitled 'Retold' with new feminist angles on fairy tales. It's actually my first all-woman play. Quite dark, quite striking.
Both plays produced by Goblin Baby Theatre Co.
View 5 min film 'Enemy' http://youtu.be/7yvt1Z34rEo
Tel: +44(0)20 8673 6147
Admiral Costumes Blogspot
Posted on 01/05/2014
THURSDAY, 1 MAY 2014
Whodunnit – a comedy thriller by Anthony Shaffer
This brilliant and unusual little play opens with a taped message from the murderer telling the audience that what they are about to witness isn’t just another murder mystery. The voice confesses that he/she is the murderer and they are to look and listen for clues to help them solve the case.
The entire play takes place in the library of Orcas Champflower Manor, a rather grand 18th century house, located somewhere in the south of England. Six strangers and a butler have gathered for a dinner in a wealthy lawyers mansion during a thunderstorm.
We have thoroughly enjoyed putting together a set of suitable 1930’s costumes for each of the characters and sincerely thank Adhoc Theatre Group for the use of some of the wonderful photographs from their production.
For more information about our period costumes visit www.admiralcostumes.co.uk or call us on 01908 372504
Posted on 30/04/2014
Woodley Light Operatic Society - WLOS
NODA REVIEW - Gondoliers
On Thursday 21st November 2013 I was invited to review Woodley Light Operatic Society’s latest production “The Gondoliers” performed at the Kenton Theatre, Henley-on-Thames. In the past I think I have performed in all the G & S Operas and I think “The Gondoliers” is one of my favourites. To me, it is some of the most tuneful music written by Sullivan, it is a score that sparkles from beginning to the end and the libretto by Gilbert beautifully describes the wide difference in social rank between the gondoliers and their loves and the Ducal party and on the showing on the Thursday night, I think Woodley L.O.S. got the balance just right.
Tom Dance – (The Duke of Plaza-Toro, a Grandee of Spain) – As the ‘Duke of Plaza Toro’ Tom was excellent portraying well his need for money and was not particular in how he remedied the drawback. Vocally his singing of his various numbers displayed his light baritone voice to perfection with good diction throughout – Well done.
Jane Andrews-Wilson – (The Duchess of Plaza-Toro) – Jane can always be relied on to give a good performance in any character she plays and this was no exception. As the aristocratic ‘Battle Axe’ with an overbearing nature, you could not have seen better and together with her strong contralto voice which came to the fore in the number “On The Day That I Was Wedded,” which brought out all the feeling on her position – this was a good interpretation – Well done.
Kate Shaw – (Casilda, Their daughter) – As the daughter of the ‘Duke’ and ‘Duchess’ Kate was suitably aristocratic, extremely aloof and disdainful when in public, but was warm and tender when in the company of ‘Luiz,’ this was a good characterisation. Vocally Kate has a good soprano voice and to me this character has probably two of the best duets in any G & S Opera. You blended well with ‘Luiz’ but try not to push your top register as it can slip very slightly off-key – Well done.
Chris Wakelin – (Luiz, the Duke’s Attendant) – As the ‘Duke’s’ attendant who performs his duties with military precision Chris did quite well. I would have liked to have seen a little more military precision when in the company of the ‘Ducal Party,’ but your feelings towards ‘Casilda’ were well displayed. Vocally you used your high baritone voice in the two duets, blending well with ‘Casilda,’ but again, watch your top register, don’t push it – Apart from that small point – a good performance.
Alistair Parry – (Don Alhambra Del Bolero, Grand Inquisitor) – Alistair gave this character a different interpretation as one normally sees, making him more lightweight. I am not sure that this came off. Vocally the character needs a bass / baritone voice to have the necessary impact and which helps to present a ‘personage of great dignity.’ Vocally Alistair sang his various numbers well with good intonation but would have liked a slightly slower tempo which would have enhanced the character. Unfortunately your costume did you no favours, you looked more like a funeral director as opposed to a ‘Grand Inquisitor’ a man of great dignity. It needed a larger lace cravat and lace on the sleeve cuffs and possibly a coloured cummerbund to relieve the starkness of the black. Also you should have had a long cane with a silver top on your entrance in the first act which would have helped to present the right characterisation – That said, this was a good effort.
Lucy Hutson – (Gianetta, Contadina) – As the other half of the Contadina pair Lucy gave me the ‘Gianetta’ I wanted to see, showing well her feelings at being selected by ‘Marco’ and then her disappointment in losing him after just being married, to her joy at being reunited, all well expressed. Vocally Lucy used her soprano voice to good effect with a well sung solo “Kind Sir, You Cannot Have The Heart,” and with a well sustained soprano line in the difficult quartet “In a Contemplative Fashion” – Well done.
Melissa Harper – (Tessa, Contadina) – I have watched Mel over the years and witnessed her develop into a fine performer. Her expressions and movements are a joy to watch and indicate her professional training. Her superlative acting ability is sustained throughout her performance, not once dropping out of character. Vocally Mel has an expressive mezzo-soprano voice which blended well in such numbers “In a Contemplative Fashion” and “Then One of Us” – Congratulations – a fine performance.
Simon Hutson – (Marco Palmieri, Venetian Gondolier) – I understand you took over this role at very short notice, you would never know, This was a superb presentation of the character ‘Marco Palmeiri’ by Simon. You had the swagger of a young gondolier and a real lady killer, your feelings, facial expressions and movements were spot-on all coupled with a superb tenor voice of power and control, your singing of the well known number “Take a Pair of Sparkling Eyes” was a joy, you brought out all your sincere feelings for your beloved ‘Gianetta’ – A great performance.
Lee Anderson – (Guiseppe Palmieri, Venetian Gondolier) – Lee made a great effort in presenting this character and on the whole did very well. I would have liked to have seen more swagger, particularly on your first entrance with ‘Marco.’ I also felt you lacked the ‘lady-killing’ instinct, so essential in this role. Your movement, diction and facial expressions were good. Vocally you used your baritone voice to good effect in the quartet “In a Contemplative Fashion” blending well with the others. Your number in the opening of the second act “Rising Early in The Morning” is a difficult number to sing requiring excellent breath control. One needs impeccable words and rhythm and to take it at steady pace but I would have liked to have seen more business whilst singing it, bearing in mind that it is a descriptive number.
Carol Woodroffe – (Inez, the King’s foster-mother) – This character only appears at the end of the performance and drops a ‘bombshell’ by revealing that the true King of Barataria is ‘Luiz.’ This is done in the form of a short recitative and is a study in suspense; Carol got the delivery spot-on with a dramatic pause after ‘His name’ — ‘Luiz’ – Well done.
John Robertson – (Antonio, a Venetian Gondolier) – As one of the ‘rank and file’ gondoliers, and who has his moment of glory in the opening sequence singing, “For The Merriest Fellows are We” John sang the number very well displaying a good singing voice, but most importantly he kept the ‘sparkle’ going as so often this number is dragged back which makes it more difficult for ‘Marco’ and ‘Giuseppe’s’ entrance who have to restore the ‘sparkle’ – Well done.
Julie Easton – (Fiametta)
Jenny Stacey – (Vittoria)
Michelle Nelson – (Giulia)
Tony Towers – (Francesco)
John Bagshaw – (Giorgio) – This group played their minor roles very well, entering into the spirit of the production and lending their voices to the many musical numbers.
Chorus of Gondoliers and Contadine – This group certainly entered into the spirit of this production enhancing the colourful scenes on stage with their movement and choreographic routines. Vocally they presented a good balance of voices in the many musical numbers.
Jane Murphy – (Director & Choreographer), assisted by Claire Rowell – Being an old G & S aficionado I was pleased to see that Jane had kept to the original format as I feel you cannot improve perfection. This was a well presented production with the assistance of Claire. It had a good pace throughout with well picked up cues. The chorus had been well positioned and in particular the choreography for the “Cachucha” was well devised and danced as was the ‘Gavotte’ sequence. Overall the characters had been well developed and exhibited a joy of performing – Congratulations on a well presented and enjoyable show.
Gemma Bagshaw – (Musical Director) – The pit at the Kenton restricts the number of musicians who can fit in the space available, which is a pity because Sullivan’s music really needs a large orchestra to do it justice, that said, Gemma had recruited musicians who played the music most sensitively, making it sparkle from beginning to end and at a good tempo throughout. All members of the cast, both principals and chorus, had been well rehearsed in the music making a very good and well balanced sound – Congratulations.
Stage Manager & Crew – This appeared a well managed stage throughout the performance under the control of David Parsonson and with no visible hitches. A pity the curtain was five minutes late in going up!
Lighting & Sound – The lighting and sound plot by the Dinrino Theatre Services was overall good. The lighting was well controlled and gave a good indication of sun-kissed Venice in the first act and a more subdued plot for the interior of the Ducal Palace. The use of individual spots in such numbers as “In a Contemplative Fashion” etc; had quite a dramatic impact. One small point, I did notice one or two dark spots on stage, noticeable when cast members moved from light to shadow. The sound plot and control was excellent with every word spoken or sung being heard at the back of the auditorium.
Set – This was a neat, simplistic set constructed in house which depicted well the two acts. It was colourful and well constructed ensuring the maximum space on the Kenton stage. I particularly liked the Ducal party walking on the gondola, a nice, humorous touch and in some ways helped to indicate their impoverished condition.
Costumes – This was a good set of costumes sourced from the Shinfield Players and WLOS, they were all in the Venetian fashion with a good contrast between the Ducal Party and the gondoliers and contadine. I have commented on the ‘Don Alhambra’s’ costume previously.
Wardrobe Mistresses – The wardrobe mistresses in the form of Jane Murphy and Jane Wilson had done a good job in ensuring the cast appeared on stage in clean, well pressed and fitted costumes. It was also good to see correct footwear on stage, an item that is so often overlooked.
Make-up – Nobody was listed in the programme responsible for make-up so I assume the cast were responsible for their own and which looked good for normal stage make-up, but in this instance it needed more attention to detail and the period. The contadine and gondoliers are sun-soaked peasants and whose base should have been a real golden tan on face, neck, hands and arms. The Ducal party however are Castilians and the true Castilian make-up for the ladies was a very white one, with rouged cheeks, pencilled eyebrows and shadowed eyes. It is this attention to detail that raises a performance above the norm.
Programme – How nice in this day and age to see a programme not inundated with adverts, in fact none. It had been well laid out with items of interest, good cast photographs and biographies, all printed on good quality paper with an eye catching cover.
Front of House – As one has come to expect from this society, Front of House staff were smartly dressed, easily identifiable, friendly and helpful to their audience.
Thank you for inviting me to review your latest production “The Gondoliers,” a most enjoyable production which I thoroughly enjoyed. May I take this opportunity of wishing all members of the Woodley Light Operatic Society a Very Merry Christmas and all success in the New Year.
NODA Representative – London Region – Area 13
Posted on 10/02/2014
Lyndhurst Drama and Musical Society
DAILY ECHO REVIEW - Pinocchio
REVIEW: Pinocchio, Lyndhurst Drama and Musical Society, The Vernon Theatre, Lyndhurst
10:33am Monday 10th February 2014 in Curtain Call By Anne Waggott
IT’S a subdued Italian Christmas – children are mysteriously disappearing, toy donkeys cry real tears, toymaker Geppetto is saddened that nobody is interested in his wooden puppet, while lift operator, Jimmy Crankit, and shop assistant, Grazia, are challenged by the arrival of diva Dame Scrumptious (charismatic Hannah Marks) and her precocious students!
Nathanial Bond, this evening’s Pinocchio, was excellent with his marionette actions, convincing and engaging, frozen impeccably until activated by kindly Fairy Sapphire’s magic (Michelle Bradley-Harris).
Neville Green’s portrayal of Geppetto was both comical and eliciting sympathy from the supportive audience.
Director Jenny Green claimed that she chose this script to give an opportunity for her Kidzone Drama Group to “shine in their individual roles” – and she succeeded. Two separate groups of child actors were cast (not clearly identified in the programme which were performing for specific shows), but all shared enthusiasm, enjoyment and created fun characters.
Enjoyable family community theatre!
Posted on 24/01/2014
Newtown Amateur Dramatic Society
The following reviews have been supplied to Drama Groups by Newtown Amateur Dramatic Society
Play Review: 'World Premiere' of "You Can Only Die Twice" by Clive Bundy a member of Newtown Amateur Dramatic Society
I was at the Thursday (7th November) performance of Powys Theatre’s most recent play 'You Can Only Die Twice'. The play was written by the theatre’s own Clive Bundy, and I really did not know what to expect from the evening. The atmosphere, as always was very pleasant and it was good company to spend your evening with.
The dialogue took a couple of scenes to get going but once it did the story flowed along very nicely. I found myself thinking that I had the plot all sorted out and made this clear to my companions during the interval. However I was proved to have jumped the starting block as it unravelled into something unexpected. Understandably this left me impressed with the playwriting, surprisingly, yet happily impressed.
Two people were making their debut for this particular theatre group, Peter Withers and Brian Davis, and they both performed their parts full heartedly. The standout performer was unsurprisingly Kim Davies, who played the lead role with the enthusiasm and skill that she has become known for over the preceding plays. Sadly I think this is her last play for Powys Theatre, and I know her talents will be sorely missed. It was also nice to see Barbara Stephens continuing her comeback, as she was very convincing in delivering her double-agent. I was definitely fooled. Gillian Thorp rose to a character which suited her perfectly and showed her strongest performance to date in my opinion. The rest of the cast all performed to their usual high standards, that is David Morgan, Heather Hughes and Gareth Woodhouse.
Overall an enjoyable night out and big congratulations to the theatre for successfully putting on the ‘Worldwide Premiere’ of You Can Only Die Twice. Their next play will be held in the week beginning 3rd February 2014. Bookings will begin on 20th January for Theatre Book Holders and 27th January for General Public.
Posted on 10/10/2012
Gillingham Dramatic Society
The following reviews have been supplied to Drama Groups by Gillingham Dramatic Society
Set in 1880’s London, this musical is based on “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” by Robert Louis Stevenson. It has been adapted many times for film and stage and this particular version appeared on Broadway in 1997.
The stark dark stage with only a staircase and ‘balcony’ set the scene and throughout, we were peering at the action through ‘atmospheric’ mist, which made it difficult at times to see anybody on that ‘balcony’. That said, the clever use of lighting, certainly made up for the lack of scenery and created such atmosphere, especially in ‘The Confrontation’, which needed good lighting timing.
Playing the very demanding dual role of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was a very talented Scott Highway who portrayed the torment of Jekyll and the evil of Hyde, terrifying yet emotional through both his singing and acting. Another strong performance was given by Debbie Brennan, who used her moving voice, to reflect the vulnerabilities of her character, Lucy. Rebecca Lehmann was well suited to the part of Emma, Jekyll’s love interest and gave a very moving performance when she cradled Jekyll on his demise. Tarquin Flanagan gave a good portrayal as Jekyll’s friend John Utterson reflecting the feelings of a captivated audience. In fact, all of the supporting cast made their individual characters their own – well done.
There was excellent choreography by Emma Hodge on what looked like a very cramped area (is that why you needed the extra bit in front of the stage?).
The music of this show is fantastic and it was brought to us by an excellent MD Peter Bailey, leading a super orchestra, hidden at the back of the stage. Why no mention of them in the programme? The sound system was quite loud but worked well after a minor hiccup at the beginning. Costumes were good.
This really was an excellent production directed by Francene Harris, with every single member of the cast and backstage crew pulling of what is a difficult musical to stage.
Thank you Jeannette and Stephen for your kindness and hospitality and I hope to meet you all on a future occasion.
NODA Regional Rep.
Jekyll and Hyde
Written and composed by Frank Wildhorn and Leslie Bricusse.
society/company: Gillingham Dramatic Society (directory)
performance date: 05 Oct 2013
venue: The Hazlitt, Maidstone
reviewer/s: Susan Elkin (Sardines review)
The stage fills with smoke and coloured light as Victorian London emerges – the grubby reality of streets, the seedy faux glamour of brothels, counterpointed with the dry calm of a sitting room, the charm of a ballroom and the mysteries of a laboratory. We are firmly in Les Miserables country (although that’s the French equivalent, of course) with a dose of Oliver! and Sweeney Todd thrown in. And Frank Wildhorn’s Jekyll and Hyde music variously reminds me of all three.
Scott Highway, who is rarely off stage in the huge title roles, is the star of this show in every sense. He is a very good actor who manages the transitions between the earnest, honest, tidily coiffed Jekyll and the cackling, evil, manic, shaggy-locked Hyde with total conviction. Actors are meant to ‘present truth’ and that’s exactly what Highway does. Also a remarkable singer, Highway has an almost Pavarottian ability to sustain a long – and often quite high - note for bar after bar at the ends of songs, building momentum as he goes in apparent defiance of all the laws of biology and physics. His is an outstanding performance by any standards – and I review a great deal of professional theatre.
Debbie Brennan’s Lucy Harris is a highly accomplished piece of work too. She can do anything from spiky, immaculately articulated wit in the brothel scene, in which she cavorts and entices, by managing each accelerando and reprise with terrific poise, to full belt and a great deal of top notch acting through song, including the evocation of a great deal of sadness and poignancy. And there’s a fine performance from Rebecca Lehmann as Emma Carew, Jekyll’s hapless fiancée whose clear, bell-like, professional-standard soprano singing is a great asset to the show.
Musical Director Peter Bailey directs a superbly competent band – concealed behind an upstage curtain and not ‘discovered’ until the curtain call – and controls the singing beautifully. The impassioned quartet sung by Chas Alder (as Sir Danvers Carew), Scott Highway, Rebecca Lehmann and Tarquin Flanagan (as John Utterson) is a highspot, for example. So is the duet by Lehmann and Brennan in the second act.
Another star of this show is choreographer Emma Hodge who, working in the Hazlitt’s quite small playing area, moves her vibrant young chorus in such a way that the space seems much larger. The crowd scenes and the one in the brothel are some of the best things in the show. Watch out for Rae Hume too. She plays Nellie, the lead prostitute, but who has enough stage presence and talent to make her stand out even in this high quality show.
I have seen this version of Jekyll and Hyde by Leslie Bricusse and Frank Wildhorn before and not liked it much – which all goes to show that a production’s success lies in what you do with the material. So congratulations Gillingham Dramatic Society. You’ve won me over.
This is a review from Mary Wills
Last evening I went to Maidstone's Hazlitt Theatre (hopefully soon to have a facelift) to see Jekyll and Hyde being performed by Gillingham Ops. And perform they did! I was gobsmacked (or any other more appropriate adjective you may prefer). The whole company – without exception – played their socks off on this the first night of their run. There was an amazing depth of talent and the total commitment of this accomplished company entranced their audience from the first note. I had never seen the show Jekyll and Hyde and hadn't realised how musically complex it is. To undertake to perform this was so brave – but my goodness their hard work and considerable talent really paid off. As mentioned previously the whole company were very special – all of the principals were quality – both in characterisation and voices. But everyone from Jekyll to Paper boys knew their role backwards; not one seemed in doubt or stumbled. If there were 'swans' among them – looking beautiful above the water while frantically paddling below – it didn't show. It is true that if you look committed and confident your audience comes with you. So well done to you all – including the accomplished orchestra that played out of sight behind the action. Wow – have a wonderful week – this one will be one to remember. Congratulations –
Posted on 03/10/2012
Posted on 01/07/2012
Garden Suburb Theatre
BDDF success - Alice wins prizes!
Jon Musker writes: "Alice in Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass was the GST's entry into this year's Barnet and District Drama Festival ('The Barnies'). This festival had eight entries this year, and gives out 11 specific awards, plus an award for all-round winner and one for all-round runner up.
At the awards ceremony last night we won the Best Theatrical Presentation award (the Hampstead and Highgate Express award) and the Adjudicator's Award (the Andrew Forney Memorial award). Danielle Stagg won the Best Young Actor/Actress award and we were awarded the Best Costume award (the Barry Serjent award).
Moreover, we were nominated for a further six awards; Adam Sutcliffe was nominated for Best Supporting Actor, Danielle Stagg was nominated for Best Supporting Actress, and Tempeste Hepenstall-Brown was nominated for Best Young Actor/Actress. I was nominated for Best Director and the show was nominated for the Most Ambitious Choice of Play and also nominated for the Best Set Design and Construction. Moreover we came a (very close) third in the all-round winner award.
The awards at such festivals are slightly artificial, in that drama is not really a competitive sport. However, in this case it was clear that the adjudicator really enjoyed the show, particularly noting the ensemble nature of the piece. She described it as a "perfect piece of community theatre". I think the awards that were presented really reflect the brilliant input from all the cast, production team and staging teams, and the adjudicator indicated that by choosing to present the Adjudicator's Award on the basis of the best ensemble work.
I was immensely proud to be able to receive these awards on behalf of you, the people who made it all happen.
She particularly mentioned the excellent quality of the ensemble singing; the puppetry; the staging; the caterpillar; the costumes and makeup; the warm welcome front of house; the lighting. If you haven't already, you can (and should) read the full adjudication report online http://www.gardensuburbtheatre.org.uk/shows/2013/Alice/review-003.htm - and there are in fact five different reviews of the show online at http://www.gardensuburbtheatre.org.uk/show_archive.htm"
Newtown Amateur Dramatic Society|
Fish Out of Water by Derek Benfield
Review of Fish Out Of Water, written by David Thorp.
I went to see ‘Fish out of Water’ on Thursday 7th February, at Powys Theatre, in Newtown. A comedy, which was written by Derek Benfield, and on the night performed by Newtown Amateur Dramatic Society.
To be perfectly honest, the play started quite slowly. This was, in my opinion, due to the storyline, rather than the acting. Soon enough, though, the performance decidedly brightened up, with the actors all warming to their respective parts.
Especially Martin Jones, who played the bumbling Brigadier, I thought he was exceptionally funny, taking his role by heart and producing many laughs throughout the evening. The other comedic elements were largely provided by Sue James as the very ‘English Old Bag’, and Clive Bundy, the enigmatic Italian Hotel Manager. Both acted extremely well, capturing the sole attention of the audience at all times during their dialogue, and deserve their recognition.
However, all the rest of the hardworking cast deserve a mention too, including Kim Davies, Jenni Freeman, Gillian Thorp and David Morgan, who were all excellent and added a little uniqueness to the show.
All in all, I felt the play was a success, shown by the audience who expressed their enjoyment as the curtains fell for the last time. I thought it was an admirable effort, a lovely little play produced nicely.
The next play in the season for NADS is from the 22nd – 27th April 2013. I recommend you go and check it out as I will.
Date 23rd Feb 2013
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