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Buzzing by Debbie Bird

Reviewed by: Elaine Chapman @elainec46302904

Review date: 17th Aug 2019

Debbie Birds new Edinburgh show Buzzing tells the story of Julie. Recently separated from her husband of over twenty years. Life back in the single market isn’t what she had planned as she approached 50.

How do you rebuild your life after such a long time with the same sexual partner? Routines and familiarity often take away your ability to let yourself go and know who you are.

The variety of sex aids used during the play are all explained and demonstrated how they work and the pleasure you can derive from them. Although not physically, unless the end of your nose counts!

Although ending up alone as she approached 50 the new discovery of the enjoyment of sex combined with her journey into self-discovery gives a strong positive message to anyone who finds themselves in the same situation and it’s surprisingly common.

Women of a certain age who have experienced similar events will no doubt relate to this play and Bird speaks for a generation who are usually deemed past it and invisible. The reality could not be any further from the truth.

This isn’t just a play for women though. I dare say the men in the audience had an eye-opening experience too along with an insight into how many women of a certain age really think.

Nothing is off-limits in this frank, open and honest heartfelt story. It’s certainly about time someone gave a voice to these ladies. Bird has done exactly that showing a certain generation also knows how to see the funny side of life too!

Four stars.

Written and performed by Debbie Bird
Directed by Mark Farrelly.

See the full review here


Posted on 17/08/2019


Teach by Matthew Robert

Reviewed by: Elaine Chapman @elainec46302904

Review date: 16th Aug 2019

The powerful semi-autobiographical production by Matthew Robert’s at the 2019 Edinburgh Fringe Teach is a “warts and all” fast-moving play about his experiences inside and outside the classroom.

Smattered with shocking statistics and an insight into how unsupported teachers are by parents, the wider community and the least of all the government. We send our children to be educated and as parents, it’s easy to forget to see the person sat on the other side of the desk as we expect the impossible from them in too many instances.
Roberts asks the audience to vote on whether he should leave teaching or not three times during well-placed intervals through the show. Robert’s is a real-life teacher questioning strangers at how they see his role and job to decide if he should stay or not. The results have been astonishing to him as each day the audiences have differed in opinion.

Helen Tennison has directed an insightful, vibrant, passionate and hard-hitting play that deserves to be seen by anyone who has children. The view into the other side of teaching isn’t for the faint-hearted.

If we want to and we should want to keep passionate and dedicated teachers like Roberts in these important jobs then attitudes and funding need to change to support them!

Five Stars.

Written and performed by Matthew Robert’s.

Directed by Helen Tennison.

Matthew Roberts will present the epilogue of TEACH at the rally on Friday 27th September 2019

See the full review here


Posted on 16/08/2019


The Heresy Machine by Dmitri Barcomi and Seth Majnoon

Reviewed by: Elaine Chapman @elainec46302904

Review date: 16th Aug 2019

The movement-based play The Heresy Machine is a queer cyborg fictional love story set between Alan Turing and his computer that he names Baby.

The original musical score by Eamon Goodman integrates with the worlds first computer-generated music with his composition. It’s extremely clever and the voice of the computer is exactly how I would imagine it to sound.

An unusual performance of an actor taking on the role of the computer through speech and jolted movement in time with the diction was absolutely precise. They had certainly timed each line perfectly and it would probably not have been an easy role to fulfil.

The production brings into question human relationships with computers and everyday machines in our lives today. We rely on them to perform for us every day and subconsciously build up a rapport as we understand their quirks and how to get the best results out of them.

I did find in places during the performance I was at a loss as to what was going on. However, I am arts-based not science and I dare say someone in that field would have a far greater understanding.

Maria Moriarty
Marc Sinoway
Michelle Kariuki.
Created by Dmitri Barcomi and Seth Majnoon.
Sound design Eamon Goodman
Computer programming Robert Salzer

Three Stars.

See the full review here


Posted on 16/08/2019


How to Mend the World (with a student play) by Drunken Brainstorm

Reviewed by: Elaine Chapman @elainec46302904

Review date: 16th Aug 2019

Drunken Brainstorm would have been the perfect title for this production of How to Mend the World (with a student play).

The fast-paced comedy performance is set as a group of budding actors brainstorm ideas to take their ideas in front of a funding board for twenty thousand pounds to enable them to bring to stage Arthur Millers play The Crucible.

Egos at the ready as the group of four begin discussions. Three of the four characters trying to control how the funding meeting should go.

Drunken Brainstorm has combined a great mix of comedy, slapstick scenes, mayhem and overall madness to this production. A very talented quartet who have bought a show here that the Edinburgh Fringe needs.

It’s never going to end well and with the spaghetti tower smashing it is unlikely to end tidily either! There are a lot of laughs along the way and as each cast member was enjoying themselves it helps raise the atmosphere of the performance.

Four Stars


Christian Bennett – Liam Hurley
Jonty Bailey – Higggins – Francis Nunnery
Felicity St.Clair – Tilly Price
Ben Hackett – Ollie Tritton – Wheeler

See the full review here


Posted on 16/08/2019


Mason King- Sleight of Mind

Reviewed by: Elaine Chapman @elainec46302904

Review date: 16th Aug 2019

Entering Mason Kings 45 minute Sleight of Mind show. I was feeling cynical and unsure about what to expect. Magic is exactly that magic, I mean surely it’s all up to the magician’s sleeve! However, none of his tricks went anywhere near his sleeve during the entire show. The sheer level of accuracy was mind-blowing.

King’s happy exterior and complete control over the entire performance is brilliant. He sets the audience at ease and there’s a lot of careful interaction.

The audience was astounded at times by his accuracy and the reactions they gave during the show were all genuine as far as I could see.

There were a couple of moments when he was not accurate with his mind-reading predictions. Although I do wonder if that was part of his act too, building up the atmosphere. Regardless of how or why it’s a very entertaining and thought-provoking show.

I was left questioning how did he do that? Whatever methods King uses I am very impressed with the performance I have seen. The ending to his show leaves you wondering how!

Four Stars.

Performed by Mason King.

See the full review here


Posted on 16/08/2019


Letter to Boddah by Watershed Productions

Reviewed by: Elaine Chapman @elainec46302904

Review date: 16th Aug 2019

As two friends Neil and Bill hold themselves hostage in the disabled toilets at their local Tescos in Oldham. They are contemplating their next move. With two guns on the toilet cistern and a suspicious-looking rucksack and the friends dressed in army uniform, only time will tell as to what happens next!

Bill played by Sam Glen has orchestrated this two-man war. With his hands violently shaking with nerves and the heightened anxiety, this all sets the scene immediately as the pair enter the disabled toilet. Combined with raised voices and nervous rapid conversation the fear sets in that this is unlikely to end well.

We all make wrong decisions in life and as life’s catastrophic events eat away to the very core of Bill existence, his best mate Neil has found himself caught up in his friend’s frenzied world.

Watching Glen in character as he opens the rucksack to set the fuses on the bomb the intense scene has you drawn in completely. I had to play myself out to remember this is a play I am watching as at that very moment it felt one hundred per cent real and there was a bomb.

As the two men open up to each other about the heartbreaking events they lived through during childhood and adolescence. The picture becomes clearer as to how these two funny, damaged and very likeable friends have found themselves in this position.

The rapport that these two extremely talented actors share on the stage is very rare. There are absolutely in tune with each other and it’s incredibly moving. Every emotion felt by the actors is passed out through their outstanding performances to be felt by the audience in turn.

With such a tightly written script from Sarah Nelson, this play is absolutely flawless. Writing this strong drives passion and emotion throughout the play never allowing the actors or audience a chance to catch a breath!

Unbeknown to me the play is named after the suicide letter Kurt Cobain wrote to his imaginary friend at the time of his death.

The Letter to Boddah is a rare gem at this years fringe and deserves to be seen. Leaving a theatre thinking “wow” because it leaves you speechless speaks volumes.

Five Stars.

Sam Glen-Bill
Jordan Reece-Tink/Neil
Writer Sarah Nelson.

See the full review here


Posted on 16/08/2019


The House of Influenza: A Spooky Tale of Freighteningness by Andrew Shires

Reviewed by: Elaine Chapman @elainec46302904

Review date: 15th Aug 2019

Lily Edwards performance in the one-woman show The House of Influenza by Andrew Shires is outstanding. A mixture of horror, humour and an array of different characters bring the stage to life.

The atmosphere for this “kooky, spooky and a little bit kooky” production switches between a blacked-out theatre and a fully lit one. Which heightens your own senses and adding another dimension to the performance of this “horror parody”.

Set during the beginning of a zombie apocalypse the women in the story decides that this is one her time to write the horror book that she has always wanted to do. Facing survival from the zombies outside as she is locked in her own house she uses humour to overcome fear.

With references to many popular horror films from The Woman in Black to Final Destination scattered throughout the performance it never feels like it’s just a list of titles for the sake of it.

Edwards certainly brings the book to life playing each of the characters within the book with a different stance and voice. Look out for the straight-laced Mrs Shinfeather the harder she tries to be serious the funnier she becomes.

Edward’s is brilliantly entertaining and has incredible talent. The stage is certainly ready for the next Victoria Wood.

Five Stars.

Lily Edwards
Writer Andrew Shires.

See the full review here


Posted on 15/08/2019


HERSTORY by The Polly Clamorous Collective

Reviewed by: Elaine Chapman @elainec46302904

Review date: 15th Aug 2019

Herstory explores a chronological historical timeline about some of the forgotten famous enigmatic ladies who have played a role in shaping our history as we know it today.

These are the ladies who have been sidelined and ignored through the history books and lost somewhere in time. From Adam’s first wife Lilith, Journalist Black Nelly to the indigenous ladies in Australia who lose their lives at the hands of their families at a rate of one a week.

Be prepared to take an interesting history lesson about how the “weaker sex!” actually made their mark in the world. From what some of them achieved to the sacrifices they made in order to succeed.

The costumes chosen by each member of the quartet are very striking and each one has chosen a different style to represent their individuality. Befitting of their roles in the production.

Set to music, dance and some puppetry the quartet breath a new life into each of the ladies featured. The lyrics to the songs performed are very catchy. With a keen eye for detail and excellent research into the history of each one, they are all bought to life in this packed 50-minute performance.

Four Stars.

Jamie Fischer
Aurora Richardson
Isabelle Woolley
Stefanie Bruckner
The technician is Chloe Mantripp.

See the full review here


Posted on 15/08/2019


The People’s Boat by Moaning Toad Productions Ltd

Reviewed by: Elaine Chapman @elainec46302904

Review date: 14th Aug 2019

Moaning Toad Productions Ltd has bought an interesting play to this years Edinburgh Fringe looking at how the post-Brexit U.K landscape might look as we lose our ropes and cast off from Europe.

The stage is dressed as a ramshackle boat. As the crew discuss food, life and try to work out where they are heading. The one thing they omit from the conversations is “Brexit”.

What you discover is that you are watching a play within a play as the crew are all budding actors discussing the script about who is going to be playing which the crew members on the boat as it sets to the stage.

The writing has been produced in a clever well thought out structure. As you know exactly which events they are referring to throughout the play without outwardly discussing them.

Elliot Williams is extremely funny and is perfect for the comedy role he performs. As with all good comedy actors, the delivery comes through in his body language and facial expressions alongside some very funny lines.

Their Fringe debut is a perfect creation in this time of political uncertainty and the frustrations many people feel as the UK detached itself and sails off into unknown territory. A great way to round off an evening in Edinburgh at the festival.

Four Stars.

The cast of four

Written and Directed by the cast below.

Arthur-Chris Whyte
Garth-Elliott Williams
Hector-Luke Bateman
Shane-Jack Hilton.

See the full review here


Posted on 15/08/2019


Gobby by Jodie Irvine

Reviewed by: Elaine Chapman @elainec46302904

Review date: 12th Aug 2019

Jodie Irvine has taken a partly autobiographical approach to the cause and effects of domestic abuse predominantly the damage caused by the term of abuse referred to as gaslighting. Setting the party themed stage with various party items from party poppers to hats you could easily believe this was to be a light hearted play.

However, you soon begin to realise the story is far from light hearted. Dealing with the sensitive and often misunderstood subject of domestic abuse is a tough topic to approach sensitively. For many people who have not suffered, it’s hard to comprehend and the victim is often asked: “why did you let it happen?”

I especially liked her approach to splitting the show into five parties. I saw them as her journey of recovery and through pulling the relevant amount of party poppers each party is clearly defined. A clear indication that she was healing and moving forward throughout her two years of recovery.

Gobby focuses on the aftermath of abuse and the way in which relationships with friends change. However, as you watch the story unfold she also has to come to terms with dealing with the painful rejection from them too.

Becoming more aware and accepting of her so-called friends rejecting her. The epiphany takes place in which realises she has unwittingly changed who she was too through the trauma. This holds the major key in her recovery.

The celebration in party five of the solo party is the best party of the night. When the victim turned survivor can actually become at peace with themselves and enjoy their own company the healing process has come to an end.

Such a brave topic to speak out about and Irvine has found her new voice through Gobby. I hope anyone watching the show who is experiencing anything similar will seek help.

Four Stars.

Written and performed by Jodie Irvine
Director Serafina Cusack
Assistant Producer Amy Toledano
Costume and Stage Manager Alex Milledge
Technician Hannah-Louise Batt.

Playing from the 1st-15th of August.

Underbelly Cowgate-Big Belly Venue 61 at 6.25pm daily.

See the full review here


Posted on 15/08/2019


Rock ‘n’ Roll Girls by Queen Mary Theatre Company

Reviewed by: Elaine Chapman @elainec46302904

Review date: 14th Aug 2019

What on earth can be the connection between Brown Sugar by the Rolling Stones, Lola by The Kinks, Eleanor Rigby by The Beatles, Roxanne by The Police and… Monica? The five characters in Rock ‘n’ Roll Girls explain all.

Set in what is described in the press release as a “dingy social club” the five ladies get together to discuss their hope’s and aspirations beyond certain binding constraints!

The five characters have all been bought to life through the cleverly written play. The idea that each of these ladies is real and longs for far more than simply being part of a constructed “mans” song lyrics.

When I first saw the cast on stage together I instantly connected their outfits to resemble the Spice Girls which is poignant in this year with their comeback tour. Along with some attitudes portrayed as well through each character too. A very clever touch whether it was consciously done or not.

It’s a brilliant concept and with such a tightly written script with no loose ends by the end of the play. Each of the five cast members played their parts with an air of believability. This play is definitely worth taking an hour out of your Fringe to watch.

Four Stars.
Writer/Co-Director Rachel Jermy
Co-Director Ellie Calnan
Efe Uwadiae
Alice Wilson
Stephanie Overington
theSpace @ Venue 45, 63 Jeffrey St, Edinburgh EH1 1DH

See the full review here


Posted on 15/08/2019


Drowning by Jessica Ross

Reviewed by: Elaine Chapman @elainec46302904

Review date: 12th Aug 2019

The harrowing true story of the four Austrian nurses Maria Gruber, Irene Leidolf, Stephanija Meyer, and Waltraud Wagner who worked at the Geriatriezentrum am Wienerwald in Lainz, Vienna who between 1983 and 1989 killed 49 patients is told through the play Drowning.

Each of the four women explains their own backstories during the play leading up and during these events taking place. Although we know murder is a crime the way in which Jessica Ross has written the play and the brilliant performances by the cast it’s hard not to feel empathy towards each nurse rather than disgust.

If you believe that the “abused can become the abuser” then this play encapsulates this theory entirely. Each of the four actresses plays their part brilliantly with passion and conviction and you cannot help but the question did each murder victim actually want to die and not suffer anymore?

Was their crime murder or were they simply doing an act of mercy? That is ultimately up to the audience to decide for themselves. There isn’t any bloodshed or horrific murder scenes. They murdered each patient as humanely as they saw fit!

One of the absolute must see productions at the 2019 Fringe.

Five Stars.

Pleasance Courtyard (Above) from 31st July

Box Office Tickets are available from or 0131 556 6550.
Previews: £7
Early Week: £9 (£8)
Midweek: £10 (£9)
Weekend: £11 (£10)

Writer Jessica Ross
Director Steven Roy
Executive Producer Carrie-Anne Moss

Waltraud Evelyn Edwards
Stephanie Andrea Helene
Maria Aurora Henning
Irene Jessica Ross

Twitter @drowningplay, #isitmurderormercy, @SFTWshows, @ThePleasance
Instagram @drowningtheplay

Notes Ages 14+ contains adult themes and content including some scenes of violence and some strong language.

See the full review here


Posted on 12/08/2019


STYX by Max Barton

Reviewed by: Elaine Chapman @elainec46302904

Review date: 11th Aug 2019

STYX by Max Barton explores a families gradual loss through the disease Alzheimer’s. With his Grandmother Flora being diagnosed with it and losing his Grampa Mike from the illness too the family have the first-hand experience in the painful way in which these takes loved ones before they die.

The extraordinary journey Barton has captured from his Grandmother’s memory through the personal conversation recordings he had with her are then intertwined with a well-timed combination of taped interviews, musical score, dramatic lighting and taped dialogue from the band members.

I especially liked the use of the individual lightbulb stage setting. Each bulb can be independently controlled and during times of memory loss or lack of clarity the bulbs would flicker and turn off as the memory was lost. Such an effective yet simple idea which adds another depth to this emotive production.

Barton explores what it is like to lose our memories. What exactly makes us who we are and the interlinking family stories that connect each of us and our family links. Are we all connected by our past and present? Do coincidences within families exist, or are we predestined? That’s for the audience to decide.

Flora and Mike had set up the Orpheus music club before Barton was born. Part of the production sets out the quest in which Barton attempts to track down and see this venue for himself.

This autobiographical family history musical is a beautifully constructed Memoriam for Barton’s Grandpa who himself was a musician. The tribute paid to Mike at the end is tear-jerking.

Five Stars.

ZOO Southside (Main House)
Fri 02 - Sat 17th August 3:05pm
Tickets: £14.00 (£12.00)

See the full review here


Posted on 12/08/2019


Fisherman’s Tail by 4front Theatre

Reviewed by: Elaine Chapman @elainec46302904

Review date: 10th Aug 2019

The ensemble of five have bought together a great family show explaining the Fisherman disciples story adapted from the Bible. Carubbers Christian Centre is the perfect venue for this production as it offers ample comfortable seating and a lot of space for families which the show is aimed towards.

As the two rival sets of Brothers compete over their fishing catches and the state of their nets. It’s only when they all have a chance encounter with a stranger (Jesus) who comes to visit the town on one occasion that the four Fisherman’s future change paths.

As they embark on the “Jesus’s speaking tour” a term I have not heard before. However, it raised some laughs from the audience. Differences between the rivals calm down and they leave to be “fishers of men” and spread the good word set out by Jesus.

Their use of the orange lifebuoy to depict the part to be played of the saviour of mankind Jesus is a clever idea. The purpose of this object is also to save lives as well and the Bible states he too was sent to Earth to save mankind.

There are a lot of sea shanty style songs and uplifting music throughout the entire show. Each member of the cast playing a different instrument and swapping at times midway through a song. The key ingredient to this production is how much you can see the cast themselves enjoying it.

The quality of props the group have used are very effective and extremely impressive considering the work involved in putting on an Edinburgh Fringe show along with the cost of transportation up to Scotland.

It’s a great family fringe production and the acoustics in Carubbers is perfect to raise and enhance the voices of the cast. It even comes with a net full of fish, I am just not sure which variety they were though!

Four Stars.
Venue: Carrubbers Christian Centre, 65 High St, Edinburgh EH1 1SR (Venue 520)
Time: 13:00
Tickets: £5 (concessions £4, family ticket £16)
Dates: 2nd- 17th August. (No show Sun 4th or Sun 11th Aug)
Running Time: 65 mins


See the full review here


Posted on 12/08/2019


Kemp’s Jig by Chris Harris

Reviewed by: Elaine Chapman @elainec46302904

Review date: July 28th, 2019

Steve Taylor enthusiastically brings this legendary Shakespearean actor, comedian and star of the stage Will Kemp to life in Chris Harris’s one-man show entitled “Kemp’s Jig”.

The “Jig” as the title suggests was, in fact, the Morris Dance Kemp undertook to start in 1599 from London to Norwich. He regales to the audience the various stories about how he was received by each town as he stopped along the way and the large crowds that gathered to welcome him.

The story of Kemp’s love-hate relationship with the Bard is told through his narrative. The witty and bawdy humour indicated that perhaps at times Kemp outwitted “Shake-rags” which is his often preferred nickname for Shakespeare.

His unique trunk of props also doubles up as a home to his dog, who when asked nicely can jump over a stick with only minor assistance! Although I am not too sure what breed of dog it is.

There are some interesting historical facts along the journey. For example the moving of The Globe and the graphic description of the macabre past time of watching someone being hung, drawn and quartered which Kemp appears to have enjoyed.

There is nothing to dislike about this show. Taylor breathes life into this colourful historical actor/comedian. It is very good light-hearted Fringe entertainment which is likely to raise a laugh or two along the way.

Four Stars.

Kemp’s Jig will be performed on August 2nd, 4th, 6th, 8th, 10th, 13th, 15th, and 17th.

At the Space on the Mile (Venue 39)

See the full review here


Posted on 30/07/2019


Space Junk A Soviet Musical presented by Slipshod Productions

Reviewed by: Elaine Chapman @elainec46302904

Review date: July 27th, 2019

Space Junk the Musical tells the story of rise and fall of Russian astronaut Yuri Gagarin through the narrator Alexey played by Oscar Ginn pictured below along some extremely well-chosen musical numbers.

It’s well written, the storyline is fluid and flows well throughout the performance. Mike Dorey as the ill-fated overnight “starman” celebrity Yuri Gagarin has been well cast and commands the stage with his presence.

With a great selection of music, especially the apt David Bowie songs this musical play never slows down. The important part is the entire cast work well together and look like they are enjoying themselves.

The band play additional characters as well as their instruments. My advice watch the body language of the drummer Tom Tollyfield he captures the sarcasm in his role brilliantly and I found him very funny.

There is so much packed into this hours production from his marriage to Valentina played by Liv Richardson-Frisby. To various affairs from heavy drinking nights out, the did they/didn’t they relationship scenario between him and his colleague Winkle as seen below was a surprise to me. Slipshod have certainly researched Gugarins life in much detail.

There is a bizarre drunken stupor Yuri finds himself in one night. Where he ends up arguing with a life-size bottle of Vodka. Quite a trip to be having. Only at the Fringe!

If you looking for entertainment and education with some good music added in then this is worth taking an hour out of your Fringe schedule to watch.

Three and a half stars.

Space Junk can be found:

At 21:10 from August 2nd-10th and August 12th-17th.

In the Space@Suregons Hall (Theatre 2 / Venue 53).

Tickets available now from the Fringe Box Office

See the full review here


Posted on 27/07/2019


Brighton Year-Round 2019 - Wuthering Heights by Identity Theatre

Reviewed by: Elaine Chapman @elainec46302904

Published July 25, 2019 by Simon Jenner

Venue: BOAT (Brighton Open Air Theatre)

Low Down
Identity Theatre’s new production of Wuthering Heights is co-directed and produced by Nettie Sheridan and Gary Cook – who also provides sound design and graphics. Dena Lague is movement director, Beverley Grover the technical director and lighting operator. Martin Oakley and Andrew Wesby design and build the set with Debbie Creissen assistant director and stage manager. Musical settings of The Unquiet Grave and Low Down in the Broom are arranged from folksongs by the three singers: Helen Toplis, Jo Simpson and Nancy Wesby. Gladrags, Identity and Southwick Players provide the fine costumes.

Identity Theatre’s been scoring palpable hits at Brighton Open air Theatre. Recent productions of The Crucible and Blue Remembered Hills were remarkable for the consistency, vocal quality, vision and almost choreographed way each moves in the open air. Their presenting April de Angelis’ adaptation of Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights is no exception.

When not writing original drama, de Angelis famously provides a fresh feminist perspective in her adaptations. Her Sense and Sensibility for instance was mounted last year by Brighton Little Theatre. This sharp, slick re-telling of Emily Bronte’s transcendent masterpiece is hailed as one that concentrates on the whole story and context, rather than just lovers, or the two Cathys. Indeed it does to begin with, though there’s little to delay the essentially retelling over two-and-a-half-hours with interval.

There’s a beautiful addition. Musical settings of The Unquiet Grave and Low Down in the Broom are arranged from folksongs by the three singers: Helen Toplis, Jo Simpson and Nancy Wesby. The Unquiet Grave is one of the great poems of the 15th century, haunting and wholly appropriate. This part-singing brings an earthy immediacy, a gentle grounding in song.

Bee Mitchell-Turner anchors this production in her earthy common-sense, loyal and partly perceptive Nelly Dean, the housekeeper who doesn’t quite appreciate the elemental demons that haunt Heathcliff and the two Cathys. She’s joined by the nicely pompous Andy Bell as Wuthering Heights’ new tenant from London, Mr Lockwood self-preening in his London fashion c. 1801, and his frequent self-congratulatory noises on not being a northern barbarian. Bell’s clarity and prissy bombast is another anchor, both in role and in Bell’s performance.

There’s much scowling as Lockwood’s not admitted by Andrew Wesby’s old Joseph, the surly old religious hypocrite – Wesby’s even managed a swaying walk and captures Joseph’s gleeful spite. Lockwood though is not to be put off. He even fancies the young widow Mrs Catherine Heathcliff née Linton (Carly Tennant) with her keen eyes might fancy him. Still ‘Women are fascinating creatures, but I’ve broken too many ladies’ hearts.’ This blank ignorance extends to a woman beating on his windowpane after he’s managed – with difficulty – to be allowed to stay the night in a snowstorm.

The framing device of Dean and Lockwood counterpoints the narrative neatly in the way de Angelis spaces and invents a few pauses. And in making Lockwood more absurd even than Bronte renders him, allows him a primped-up self-importance so he’s not quite a cipher.

The wraith at the windowpane is Phoebe Cook’s ardent Cathy Earnshaw, later Linton. It’s very difficult for a non-native to speak with both Yorkshire accent and vehemence, and the pressure on the cast to do this – particularly three of the leads – is considerable. The result is strongly to their credit. Cook clearly pitches her Cathy a fraction below Heathcliff in sheer possession, above him in careering wilfulness, and more wild in her death throes which are here strikingly begun with tearing out a pillow and naming birds.

Cathy and the gypsy foundling from Liverpool her father returns with, Kane Magee’s Heathcliff, is named after a son who died. The actual surviving son Hindley – Harry Armstrong – bitterly resents the intrusion and Armstrong’s burly performance well conveys the boorish terror of being superseded. There’s a treasurable turn as he presents a vapid wife Frances – Kate Stoner, twitteringly delicious in this, a highlight. Stoner elsewhere plays servant Mary in a raucous obverse of that.

The electricity between Cook and Magee is vivifying, as they dance about in red shawl and blue turquoise tunic. Magee seems young for a part he’s appeared in at the start as a man in his forties; but throughout the evening’s flashbacks he grows in stature from awkward defiant boy to an elemental monarch of the moors.

Identity Theatre’s new production of Wuthering Heights is co-directed and produced by Nettie Sheridan and Gary Cook – who also provides sound design and graphics. Dena Lague’s movement direction is key to this production with the two leads performing gestural balleticism. Beverley Grover the technical director and lighting operator really adds to the atmosphere in the increasing gloaming of a summer’s evening slanting from 19.30 to 22.00. Martin Oakley and Andrew Wesby design and build the set. There’s a raised pallet or dais with a coup as Cathy emerges from trap doors – it’s a pity it’s used just once. Various kitchen accoutrements lie nearby but otherwise it’s an uncluttered set using the grass as moorland and general outdoors. Gladrags, Identity and Southwick Players provide the fine costumes. Debbie Creissen’s assistant director and stage manager, as well as ensemble servant.

Armstrong’s Hindley is a fine lumbering realisation and Armstrong’s increasingly appealing as his son 23 years later, Hareton whom Heathcliff had kept in lettered ignorance after his parents’ death and whom the younger Catherine or Cathy begins to harbour feelings for and teach him letters. His transformation from boorish brat to someone worthy of the more refined Catherine is etched in a few convincing scenes.

As his first cousin – they’re all related and the Heathcliff strains dies out – Tennant’s Catherine is as memorable as the excellent Cook, though she has less to do (opening and last third) and less extremes. The fight sequences between her and Magee’s Heathcliff for one thing are strong and she matches her fictive mother for fire, diction and sheer dash.

The Linton family too get a couple of very strong performances from Daniel Walford, first as the effete grey-frock-coated Edgar who marries Catherine Earnshaw, then as the son of Heathcliff and Isabella Linton: a peevish brat, sickly but removing all sympathy in his spiteful self-fixation whom his father contemptuously uses to marry the younger Catherine to snatch her fortune. Heloise Bliss is his unlucky mother, Isabella, sister of Edgar and again moving from society pride to fright-driven bride prepares to strike her new husband when in flight from him. Bliss conveys her desperation for Heathcliff, and her escape; a neat contrast to her heedless snobby self-importance.

Debbie Creissen apart from offstage works appears as servant and ensemble to swell the decidedly rich element of servant relations etched by de Angelis, and culled from the novel. De Angelis has transposed one contemptuous speech of the younger Cathy’s directed at Linton Heathcliff to the elder Cathy castigating Edgar. What she has achieved though is still classic dark romance. The misogyny rippling from Lockwood through Heathcliff to such figures as Linton Heathcliff is foregrounded a little more, as is resistance to it. Class and servant relations are sharpened, usually at Nelly Dean’s expense. Mitchell-Turner’s sovereign calm is as ever a foil to the whirling passions around her (and Bell): Cook, Magee and Tennant shine the brighter for it.

This production never feels too long and on its opening night barely drops in pace throughout. Wuthering Heights is one of those gothic stories that are better than they can ever be played, whoever adapts: such transcendent emotions in the key characters defy nearly all attempts and it’s a huge credit that you don’t cease to believe these actors. Vocally too it’s extremely taxing. De Angelis has chosen fluid storytelling, social and feminist point, and some humour. It’s more vividly mobile than any TV version.

There’s not a weak link though and this production sails effortlessly into a top recommendation for this version. There mightn’t be a finer adaptation at BOAT this year. See it if you can.

See the full review here


Posted on 26/07/2019


The Falcon’s Malteser presented by New Old Friends and James Seabright

Reviewed by: Elaine Chapman @elainec46302904

Reviewed 20th July 2019

The 80-minute funny and thoroughly entertaining family show played to an almost full venue at the Vaults Theatre as we watched the world’s worst detective, Tim Diamond played by Matt Jopling bumble his way through his latest case.

This new production has been adapted from the book “The Diamond Brother’s in The Falcon’s Malteser” by Antony Horowitz who personally endorsed this stage version entitled A Falcon’s Malteser.

Diamond claims on several occasions to be a top detective. However, 13-year-old Nick Diamond played by Sian Eleanor Green is the actual brains behind this detective double-act. Suspension of belief as Green becomes the young Diamond isn’t unbelievable as she takes the role in her stride convincingly.

Although Samantha Sutherland and Fergus Leatham are cast in the programme to play four and three characters each. They also take on the roles of all the minor characters or guest spots taking place throughout the play. You watch as they effortlessly dash from one end of the stage to the other. In addition to these roles, they are expert stagehands too, moving all the scenery around when required.

With Green’s character breaking through the fourth wall at regular intervals to keep the audience up to date with the storyline. Those watching the play have far more idea of what is going on than her older brother Tim Diamond. He reminded me at times of the children’s detective by DIC Enterainmaint’s Inspector Gadget who bumbled through cases and then looking shocked and bewildered at Brain the dog who had actually solved the case.

I especially enjoyed the car chase. The ability to bring a sense of realism to a scene like that shows a great quality of acting skills held by the cast. As the wheeled office chairs scoot around the stage, Green chases after them in slow motion. An idea of how the scene looked can be seen in the picture above.

Director Lee Lyford has bought together a fine mixture of comedy, family fun, and mystery to this latest adaptation by Feargus Woods Dunlop and the theatre company New Old Friends and James Seabright.

Running now until the 25th August it’s a must-see for anyone in London over the summer and great family entertainment at a fraction of West End prices.

Four Stars.

Cast: Sian Eleanor Green-Nick Diamond
Matt Jopling-Tim Diamond
Fergus Leatham-Inspector Snape, Himmel, Johnny Naples and others.
Samantha Sutherland-Beatrice Von Falkenberg, The Fat Man, Betty Cleaner, Lauren Bacardi and various others.
Adapted by Feargus Woods Dunlop
Directed by Lee Lyford with Heather Westwell
Designed by Carl Davies
Photography by Geraint Lewis.
Originally produced by New Old Friends in association with Theatre Royal Bath’s egg & Newbury Corn Exchange
The Vaults Theatre, Launcelot Street, London SE1 7AD
17 July – 25 Aug 2019, Tuesday to Sunday 7 pm plus Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday 3 pm
Tickets £15 – £35 | | 0844 815 7141

See the full review here


Posted on 25/07/2019


Warnock - Hope Street Theatre

Reviewed by: Donna M Day - North West End

Reviewed 11th July 2019

Warnock, written by Barry Levy, is an exploration of the shortcomings of the care and justice systems and what happens to people when things go wrong. Directed by Peter Sebastian, it tells the story of 16 year old Sasha Kilpatrick (Rebecca Bryan), a young homeless girl who has been in and out of the Warnock Youth Detention Centre.

The play begins with Sasha and her close friend and companion, Dodge (Johnny Sedgwick) waking up on a beach in Blackpool. That evening they go to do their latest job, the robbery of a local warehouse. Unfortunately their accomplice does not show up and the warehouse is crawling with security staff. Dodge manages to escape but Sasha is caught and returns to Warnock.

When she arrives she meets Michelle Glover (Eleanor Bate) a seemingly apprehensive girl whose sister, Kerry (Chloe Dwerryhouse) is already serving time at Warnock and Laura Riley (Kayla Lundstram) who has been found guilty of murder, despite protesting her innocence. The girls in the detention centre develop a close relationship as they navigate life in Warnock.

While some of the prison staff are trying to create an environment of education and development for the girls in their care, others are taking advantage of the situation to further their own interests. Warnock is a toxic environment, especially for Sasha who is abandoned and alone in her cycle of reoffending and reimprisonment.

It quickly becomes clear that some of the prison staff are aware of the bad behaviour of some of their colleagues, but the word of the inmates will not be taken as serious evidence, meaning that they are turning a blind eye to what is going on while they build their case. Can they fix things before it’s too late?

The characterisation of the prison staff is interesting combining those who are passionate about helping such as Mr Hughes (Joe Gordan) to those who feel they are beyond help such as Mr Abbott (Colin Jones). These characters serve as representations for the extremes of either side of the spectrum. Jones’ portrayal is particularly cold and menacing and his ability to change the entire tone of a scene through subtle facial expression and tone of voice deserves praise.

The play is presented in the half round, an interesting technique which creates a goldfish bowl effect for the audience. However, the seating is quite far back from the stage and a smaller half round or thrust layout could have added more intensity to the show. Consideration needs to be given to blocking as the actors frequently tended to direct their performance towards the back of the stage, meaning that facial expression and lines were lost for the entire audience. Thought also needs to be given to vocal projection as a whole, as on occasion dialogue was barely audible.

Scenery is created through a combination of naturalistic and symbolic projections on the back wall. These create a sense of place and add to the emotion of some of the scenes. There were some long gaps between some scene changes which may have been intentional in an attempt to add tension, but caused the play to lose pace.

Bryan’s performance as Sasha is powerful, combining the sense of a streetwise and confident young girl, with a lost soul who just wants to be loved. The emotional complexity and realism of the portrayal is admirable.

Sedgwick’s performance as Dodge and Keefy Steve playing Mr Norris Anderson, provide some light comedy relief to the show. Gemma Rowlands (Samantha Westwell), a Del Boy like character selling various items within the detention centre is a lovely addition to the story. These characters add lighter elements to the show which add a feeling of roundness of the play.

Warnock is a dark story, brilliantly performed by an evidently close and hardworking cast. While the tension and drama could be improved on in some parts of the play, when emotions are high the performances skyrocketed right up until the breathtaking ending.

See the full review here


Posted on 16/07/2019


Blue Apple Performance

Reviewed by: Elaine Chapman @elainec46302904

Reviewed 6th July 2019

The small group performing in this piece at Winchester Hat Fair took place in the Outer Cathedral Close on Saturday afternoon, after walking down the high street dressed in their costumes, as pictured below. Complete with two roughly eight-foot tall monsters complete with enormous heads no mean feat in the midday sun.

The short play based on a creature called “Dom, Gloom and Despair” caused the neighbouring happy villagers to fall out. Both villages had very long amusing names which shortened to the “La’s” and the “Lo’s”. Which is far easier to remember.The two villages are bought to disarray as the creature causes trouble, setting them against one another. The arguments and standoffs take place and become more hostile over time. When suddenly both realise what is taking place and decide individually to try to get ” Doom, Gloom and Despair” to stop and leave them alone, through various methods.

As each village tries in its own way to stop it from continuing they realise that their only real chance of success is to work as one. As the two groups reunite and take on the task ahead the creature retreats realising he is outnumbered and outsmarted.Blue Apple’s ethos of working together and overcoming obstacles when the odds are not in your favour is at the heart of this piece. It never fails to amaze me how the dedicated team who work with the theatre company bring out the potential of each and every member valuing what each of them can bring bro every performance.Despite the heat, they never faltered once and James, disguised as the creature must have been extremely hot inside the heavy creation. As seen in the picture below at the back. The smiles alone show how much they enjoyed the performance.

The moral of the story, work together and bring peace rather than chaos and fighting. Another successful production in my opinion from this fantastic group of actors.

See the full review here


Posted on 07/07/2019


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