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The Railway Children

Reviewed by: Elaine Chapman @elainec46302904

Review date: 11th Jan 2020

The Blue Apple Theatre Company present The Railway Children based on the book by Edith Nesbit performing at the Theatre Royal in Winchester from the 10th-12th January 2020.

The stage has been designed by Mark Pyke to depict a fully functional working railway station complete with a working carriage train, you just need to suspend your disbelief. The steam train sounds effects worked exceptionally well along with the bellows of steam pumped onto the stage for additional effects.

The small house that the family move to in Yorkshire is called the Three Chimneys which is depicted by a changing sign in the style of an old railway crossing sign. This can be seen at the far right of the stage. The signs change depending on where the cast is based at that particular point allowing the audience to follow their location as the scene changes are subtle.

In the usual style of Blue Apple, the entire cast are energetic, dedicated and in the final song every single member of the cast sings along waves at the audience and you can see and feel just how much enjoyment and enthusiasm that comes from every single member. It’s an absolute pleasure to support and watch them performing on stage.

Katie Appleford who plays Roberta also known as Bobby claims that she is the favourite child of three Railway Children. She is an extremely strong female lead character and looked very much set in the time period in her royal blue dress.

Tom Hatchett who plays Mr Perks the stationmaster delivers some very funny one-liners throughout the performance his delivery and timing for comedy are brilliant. He is a strong articulate actor who delivers his lines with a lot of power and conviction.

Sam Dace who plays the brother Peter and Katie Francis who plays the other sister Phyllis all work together as a group ensemble as the three siblings along with their mother played by Anna Brisbane. Their father is played by James Elsworthy who only really appears at the end of the production when he returns home.

Although James he can be seen in a screened dance section where he’s dancing with the dream spirit (Amy Britt) this particular section is extremely well filmed and choreographed and the couple moves together very smoothly.

The choreography by Amanda Watkinson and Direction led by Richard Conlon is likely to bring it’s own challenges to this production working with a large cast who all have their own individual style and requirements. However, once on stage it all comes together and Theatre magic happens.

I have the privilege of going to rehearsals and watching the work in progress and I see behind the scenes too. The work and dedication that the whole crew put into working with this company are fantastic. Along with the huge amount of dedication given by the whole cast.

After the performance had finished I heard a couple of members of the audience talking afterwards saying how the last song that the cast sang at the end of the production they were still singing now and they enthused about how much they thoroughly enjoyed the play. Therefore it is not only my opinion that this company is worth going to support but it’s coming first-hand from the members of the audience.

If you are not in a position to see this particular production look out for their future shows and go and see one of those, you won’t be disappointed.

Photography courtesy of Mike Hall.

For more information on the Blue Apple theatre company and their forthcoming Productions and past Productions please check out the website link below.

Check out the link below for The Railway Children on at the Theatre Royal until Sunday the 12th of January 2020

See the full review here


Posted on 12/01/2020


Snow White devised by Chickenshed

Reviewed by: Elaine Chapman @elainec46302904

Review date: 24th Dec 2019

Written and directed by Lou Stein Snow White by Chickenshed is performed by an all-inclusive theatre group. The production is fully signed and the signers are visible on both sides of the stage at the top of the steps which are incorporated into the scenery.

The principal storyline of Snow White is followed in this adaptation by chickenshed. However, there is not a single iconic dwarf to be seen and instead of disappearing to the forest Cinderella escapes up to highlands of Scotland where she ends up finding herself in a commune and befriends the magnificent seven.

Snow White played by Cara McInanny lives with her father Hector (Johnny Morton) who has remarried Jane de Villiers (Sarah Connolly) after the death of his wife. The roles have been reversed in this version and she has not married into money he has. De Villiers holds the purse strings due to her fame as a successful model in her younger years, therefore, vanity and retaining her good looks are paramount to her superiority and helping to maintain her egotistical opinion of herself and image.

Snow White has been adapted and bought up to date in this new work in a very clever and interesting social commentary on people’s vanity and how much some of them value retaining their good looks at any cost and like De Villiers they are influenced by the fashion and modelling industry.

The most endearing part to me of this entire production is the inclusion of anybody who wishes to act on the stage regardless of race, gender and disability where the company advertises that everyone is included and nobody is ever turned away.

At times the stage can appear overwhelming as during certain scenes it is absolutely full up by the entire cast. Everyone of them can be seen to be enjoying themselves throughout the performance

The Seven Dwarfs have been replaced by The Magnificent Seven who have already heard of Snow White’s stepmother and understand completely what she is capable of from years ago when they worked in London where she was modelling at the time. Knowing how ruthless she can be to ensure she has her own way they know how much danger Snow White is really in.

Ashley Driver playing the very glamorous person in the mirror who is responsible for delivering the bad news to De Villiers that her stepdaughter isn’t actually dead adds some Christmas glitz and charm to the part. He doubles up as the traditional pantomime dame with a modern twist.

The creative team behind the scenes is as extensive as the cast itself and I am sure without each and everyone of them this production would not have been as successful as it is. Everybody involved deserves to be proud of what they have achieved.

Set and costume designer William Fricker has created a very unusual stage setting and above the top of the stage in an arc formation with a mass of empty mirror frames to reflect the theme of “mirror, mirror on the wall…” the iconic line used in the classic fairy tale. His creative flair in the dresses worn by De Villers was absolutely stunning and complimented her beautiful long red hair a stunning pantomime “baddie “.

This production is definitely worth taking the time to go and visit the impressive but slightly off the beaten track venue. Snow White is showing from 27th November 2019 to 11th January 2020 and definitely brightens up the festive period. For more information and ticket sales please check out the link below.

Four Stars.

See the full review here


Posted on 24/12/2019


The Rockin’ Panto CINDERELLA by Peter Rowe

Reviewed by: Elaine Chapman @elainec46302904

Review date: 22nd Dec 2019

Cinderella is one of the pantomime seasons favourite productions. The Rockin’ Panto Cinderella at the artdepot’s in association with The New Wolsey Theatre is their first ever pantomime. If this production is anything to go by I don’t think it will their last either.

The panto follows the traditional storyline with the addition of Dandini the very talented famous rock star played by Samuel Pope who is written in as a friend and confidant to Prince Charming ( Chris Vince). Peter Rowe has written him in superbly that it’s hard to believe he hasn’t always been there.

Fairy Godmother (Nicola Bryan) has the most incredible singing voice alongside the wicked stepmother played by Georgina White who goes by the name of Rubella De Zees in this version, a very appropriate name for her and she spreads her toxicity.

The whole cast wore some outstanding costumes designed by Barney George. Rubella’s large elaborate ball gown style dresses certainly matched the size of her character’s ego. Buttons ( Guy Freeman) looked very smart in his blue hotel porter style uniform.

In particular, the ugly sisters Hernia ( Tom Connor) and Daniel Carter-Hope as Verruca were especially bold and their unusual styles and vibrant colours were in the style of a Rowntree’s refreshers pack, perfect for two refreshingly different ugly sisters instead of constantly belittling Cinderella they were on the hunt for new husbands in the crowd.

Incorporating so many well-known songs from Justin Timberlake’s Can’t stop the feeling to Katy Perry’s Firework musical director Ben Goddard has chosen a good mixture of popular numbers to encourage the audience to join in and sing along with the cast.

The entire cast doubled up as the band members too. They are all very accomplished musicians as well as actors. Steve Simmonds who as well as playing Cinderella’s (Chioma Uma) father Baron Hardup which in itself was a major part he could then be seen switching between the drums, trumpet and guitar on numerous occasions he is an extremely talented entertainer.

The adult-themed innuendos are in abundance with some of the actor’s suggestive actions probably being deemed borderline to possibly not suitable for a children’s show. However, I didn’t hear any adults say anything to the contrary and plenty of laughter from the children.

Rowe has written and directed a modern up to date version of Cinderella without relying on a host of special effects. Its returned the panto to how I remember them as a child.

Although I have seen some high-quality pantomimes this season this one has certainly been the funniest one I have watched. I would highly recommend going to see it if you can and enjoy a show aimed at entertaining all the family. These guys have certainly set the bar high for future productions.

Five Stars

For more information and ticket information please use the link below.

See the full review here


Posted on 24/12/2019


Peter Pan at The Mayflower Southampton

Reviewed by: Elaine Chapman @elainec46302904

Review date: 19th Dec 2019

Peter Pan by J M Barrie is this year’s pantomime now showing at The Mayflower in Southampton adapted by Alan McHugh. Starring Marti Pellow as Captain Hook, Darren Day as Smee and Cassie Compton playing Wendy to name but a few of the stars found in this years cast.

Take five minutes before the start of the production to look up at the ceiling as there are projected images of iconic places connected with the story of Peter Pan from the “spooky woods” “home underground” and “crocodile creek ” to name but a few of the examples.

Day’s performance in the role of Smee was absolutely brilliant from the moment he stepped onto the stage. He grabbed the attention of the audience by asking them to call out “Smee” each time he prompted them each time he returned to the stage. From his singing, impersonations and dancing all the way to the complicated tongue-twisting challenge. Day was fully immersed in his character throughout. He is a fantastic all-round entertainer who in my opinion, was the star of the show.

Costume designer Ron Briggs has certainly created some spectacular outfits for this festive spectacular treat. The costumes worn by Tigerlily (Micha Richardson) and The Neverlanders ( the Timbuktu Tumblers) were animal prints designed to camouflage into the scenery which was incredibly striking. The encore costumes worn by the entire cast of white and blue designs were breathtaking.

The acrobatics in those scenes were superb and you could sense the audience hold their breath when one acrobat did a limbo dance under one of the very low poles which were on fire. I could have happily watched more of their captivating routines.

Watch out for the crocodile if you are sitting in the stalls. The moving mechanical beast is impressive and as it lurches out above the stage it is no surprise that Captain Hook is afraid of it.

The ensemble of children from Lindsay Read school of dance was professional throughout the show and it wasn’t any surprise why they had been chosen to perform in Peter Pan.

Living in an era where children are used to seeing so many graphics and computerized productions, this creation of Peter Pan offers them a wide variety of different scenery, larger-than-life characters and a wide variety of performers. There certainly isn’t a dull moment throughout the entire show.

Original music and songs by Marti Pellow and Grant Mitchell comprised io f many up to date musical numbers that children could easily recognize and join in with should they wish. As a family production, it’s important to get a good ratio of songs mixed in for everybody to enjoy and they have definitely achieved that.

Director and Choreographer Andrew Wright have bought together a very strong cast with high-quality and high tech pantomime for this season’s entertainment without losing the ethos behind the traditional pantomime genre.

Five Stars

Hook your tickets today by using the link below and see for yourself what happens as you fly to Neverland playing now from 14th December 2019 to 5th January 2020.

See the full review here


Posted on 20/12/2019


F**k Freud by Lucio Veronesi

Reviewed by: Elaine Chapman @elainec46302904

Review date: 9th Dec 2019

The semi-autobiographical storyline in F**k Freud by Lucio Veronesi watches twenty-something Leone a struggling Italian actor trying to make sense of the world around him while he is attempting to find his identity in a foreign country. Breaking up with girlfriend Sarah ( Siobhan Gallagher) just adds further pain to his situation.

His patience is tested by the customers and his co-worker (Jason Imlach) at the cinema where he works. The job is boring and unfulfilling but Leone needs to support himself between acting jobs and auditions. His sarcastic remarks and lack of tolerance is often lost on both of these parties. Which leads to some very funny one-liner scenes.

The selection of roles played by the incredibly versatile actor Robbie Fletcher-Hill keeps the storyline flowing throughout the performance and the energy in which he puts into these roles is extremely impressive as he switches between the different characters.

The interchanging stage is a really intriguing design made up of plain white pizza box walls representing Leone’s bedroom. The fluidity in which the cast make the stage changes from Leone’s bedroom to the foyer of the cinema and other scenes is incredibly impressive.

When Leone poses the question “Is there anything I want to live for” he isn’t looking for a way out or for any sympathy he is genuinely attempting to make sense of his existence and purpose in this confusing world.

F**k Freud is the debut play for both writer Lucio Veronesi and director Griffin Mosson showing that these two certainly have a flair for what formulates a good theatre production.

Four Stars

For further information on the cast and production please use the link below.

See the full review here


Posted on 13/12/2019


A Christmas Carol at Scrooge’s parlour Immersive Theatre

Reviewed by: Elaine Chapman @elainec46302904

Review date: 4th Dec 2019

Mr Scroggins welcomes you at the door as he checks you off his list before the evening’s spirits aka you the audience enter Scrooges parlour through the mock tavern where you are seated on wooden benches awaiting the evening’s proceedings to begin.

Directed by Tom Bellerby Jacob Marley (Jack Witham) returns from the afterlife in an attempt to try and change Ebeneezer Scrooge’s (Alexander Barclay) miserly ways in Alexander Wrights version of the Charles Dickens classic tale A Christmas Carol.

As you have a good look round the cosey parlour there are bookshelves high on the walls, candles burning and dominating the left-hand side wall is a large black debtors board marked out with a name inside each box with the amount each debtor owes from Oliver Twist to Lady Chlymydia Vicegrip. They are some familiar characters dotted amongst them if you look closely.

The tale of Scrooge follows the novel A Christmas Carol fairly accurately but for just over a two-hour immersive theatre experience it is inevitable some things would need to be cut from the original. However, there is nothing important missing that takes anything away from the enjoyment of the evening.

The evening’s guests are treated to a very generous and tasty Dickensian style Christmas feast from traditional turkey, mutton pies, roasted vegetables, roast potatoes, bread and cranberry sauce and lots of rich gravy there is plenty to share. Just try and leave room for the pudding. It’s certainly not a meal you would expect from such a miser as Scrooge.

Playing parlour games as part of the traditional Christmas is another addition to the evening’s experience. Everyone is encouraged to join in the immersive family-style games and as it’s Christmas they are some well-known carols to sing along with too.

With a selection of smoke effects, moving chairs and silhouette characters added into the production there is a good mixture of entertainment. For a Christmas get together with a difference this certainly would be one occasion you are unlikely to forget soon into the New Year.

Four Stars

For further details and tickets please visit the link below

Scrooge’s Parlour – immersive Dinner Theatre

IMMERSIVE LDN, 56 Davies St, Mayfair, London W1K 5HR
020 7836 8463

See the full review here


Posted on 07/12/2019


Rules for Living by Sam Holcroft

Reviewed by: Elaine Chapman @elainec46302904

Review date: 2nd Dec 2019

Rules for living directed by John Chapman is one of the most realistic Christmas plays I have seen in a long time. The decorations are up, presents are wrapped and dinner is in the oven. What more could anyone else wish for, silent night perhaps?

It’s a Christmas family nightmare which in my experience represents many forced families reunited over the festive period all desperate to be somewhere else and who avoid each other the rest of the year. Coming back together for a few days each of them tries remembering how they need to behave around one other. With each family member managing to fail miserably.

The main five characters have no intention of listening to each other on any matter or attempting to tolerate one another’s opinions without snide comments, cutting glares and arguments. The picture below sums up some of those looks.

As the revelations begin to unravel tempers flare, hidden dirty family secrets are released and suppressed emotions surface very fast. It’s a high-speed play set in real-time all taking place on Christmas day.

Brothers Adam (Dickon Farmer) and Matthew (Adam Hampton-Matthews) in appearance seem to be very different. However, Father’s pressure from being a high powered Judge pushed both of them into jobs as solicitors which neither seem to be happy about. As the play progresses the arguments and petty behaviour between the two is incredibly believable as they descend back to childhood behaviour. The rivalry and comments to one another are at times are extremely uncomfortable to listen to. The pair are pictured below in full flight.

The screen to the right of the stage pings up a rule each time a character is introduced. Allowing to watch their mannerisms and see the cues as their body language and behaviour changes to fit with how they cope with difficult circumstances.

The family try to unite yet fail in helping support Emma (Helena Braithwaite) Adam and Sheena’s (Hattie Hahn) daughter who is suffering from anxiety and depression, which for the vast majority of the play you never see. Through the help of her CBT counsellor, she has been learning methods in how to cope and change her own outlook on her life. However, the rest of the family could certainly benefit from CBT too.

Mum Edith played by Rosanna Preston copes with difficult situations by cleaning frantically. However, with her attitude to just gloss things over and pretend they are not happening, I found myself becoming frustrated with her which I am sure is the desired effect.

The energy and passion from the entire cast are clearly generated through the frustration and anger of a family completely at breaking point and with Christmas at the family home being the last place any of them actually want to be.

A really good alternative to pantomime to go and watch as part of the festive season and the energy from the production certainly raised my adrenaline. A word of warning if you sit in the front row be aware of flying sweets.

Four Stars.

For more details and tickets please visit the link below.

See the full review here


Posted on 07/12/2019


The Cunning Little Vixen by leoš Janácek

Reviewed by: Elaine Chapman @elainec46302904

Review date: 29th Nov 2019

The Cunning Little Vixen was first performed on 6th November 1924 at the National Theatre in Brno. The version at the Mayflower Theatre in Southampton was a co-production by the Welsh National Opera and Scottish Opera, performed in Czech with English subtitles. Divided into three Acts the two hours long Opera seems shorter than that as you immerse yourself into the storyline.

The stage has been divided into three sections which are connected up into one larger area and then divided to allow other scenes to be created. It looked like an aerial view of fields that you would see when you’re flying over them in a plane. The combination of colours and patchwork designs looked stunning.

The stage and the impressive scenery was built and painted by Cardiff Theatrical Services Ltd. I was completely in awe of the scatter cushions that had been placed across the stage to create the imagery of hedges and trees which are used by various cast members to hide behind on occasions.

I particularly admired the symmetry of how the cast had been directed while they were all on the stage. Director David Pountney has created an extremely good balance and it is extremely aesthetically pleasing as the equal numbers io f cast on each side of the stage allow you to see the detail of the characters costumes and facial expressions by not overcrowding the areas.

The vixen (Aoife Miskelly) as pictured above and fox (Lucia Cervoni) have been well cast and their presence on the stage commanded the roles they were portraying convincingly. The fragile frame of the dancer portraying vixen allowed her the agility to take on the traits of the cunning and nimble animal as she moved across the fields while she hunted, played and attempts to get away from the poacher (David Stout). Choreographer Stuart Hopps has done a remarkable job.

The changing lights over the landscape, falling leaves and beautiful flowers endorsed the illusion if the seasons changing. Lighting designer Nick Chelton has certainly created lighting for all the seasons.

Costume designer Siân Price certainly has an incredible eye for colours and patterns and has created two beautiful costumes for both the vixen and the fox in various shades of reds. Along with the costumes for badger, frog, hare and all the other woodland creatures which are all easily identified in the Opera. The young actor Efan Arthur William was extremely endearing as he hopped around the stage

The chicken scene where their mannerisms and clucking all sounded very realistic. The cockerel strutting around proudly was a great addition to the scene and added some humour.

Conductor Tomáš Hanus lead the orchestra through this enchanting Opera with perfect performance from every member of the orchestra. The whole production has definitely left me with a lasting impression.

The variety of scenes, cast members and the endearing musical score has bought this playful Opera to life with enchanting animals and humans attempting to co-exist within the boundaries of a small country village.

Five Stars.

See the full review here


Posted on 30/11/2019


Bench at the Edge by Luigi Jannuzzi

Reviewed by: Elaine Chapman @elainec46302904

Review date: 27th Nov 2019

Bench at the Edge by Luigi Jannuzzi provides the audience with an interesting perspective on how things might look after somebody has attempted to commit suicide. From the long-standing patients kept alive on life support machines and now stuck in an afterlife limbo, to those hovering unconsciously between two worlds as they contemplate suicide to the bullets who simply decide then and there to run and jump thus ending it all there and then.

Actor number one (Meg Lake) waits on the bench in limbo by the edge of the abyss. Connected to the hospital machines which are physically represented by lengths of string attached to woollen arm gauntlets. It is never explained how or why she is in hospital. Although I wondered by her arms if she had slashed her wrists, this is only my interpretation of her suicide attempt though.

As you approach the Bench at the Edge where is there left to go next? Actor number two (Harriet Main) explodes onto the stage angry and hurt desperately to find the edge and leave all the pain that is consuming her behind and end it all.

The dialogue between the two actors explores their past lives in sketches of detail, the other people who have passed by the bench and then go onto to discussing their futures.

Cellist Samuel Creer adds an eerie twist to the performance as he creates the sounds effects and backing music to the play. Setting the tone for the vast majority of the scenes.

Tackling mental health and suicide is never an easy topic in theatre. However, Jannuzzi has captured the fragility of the human mind with care and consideration through this very moving and thought to provoke play.

Keeping the cast all nameless in a play of this nature stops any form of attachment to any the characters. It’s harder to relate to someone who is anonymous. Although you can’t help but feel empathy towards them as their limbo in both worlds becomes difficult for them.

Directed by Kasia Rózycki Bench on the Edge combines a dark world into suicides with some light tasteful comedy moments, there’s nothing funny about the topic but the way in which the characters look at the living through comedy lenses the audience certainly benefit from some light relief.

Four Stars.

See the full review here


Posted on 27/11/2019


La Clique live in Leicester Square

Reviewed by: Elaine Chapman @elainec46302904

Review date: 26th Nov 2019

After a ten year absence, la Clique is back in London performing in Leicester Square in the custom-built Spiegeltent. Don’t be deceived by the outside of this building as once inside you are transported into the realm of mystery and intrigue ready to be entertained and amazed by the eclectic range of performers.

World-class Weimar cabaret diva Bernie Dieter is the host for the evening’s extravaganza of circus-style acts, some incredible singing accompanied by the La Clique Palace Orkestra and some jaw-dropping trapeze work. She boasts that “At La Clique we celebrate weirdness” and what an incredible celebration it is.

Vocalist Kelly Wolfgramm is an exceptionally talented singer, her interaction with the band members and the other acts demonstrated that they have a fantastic working rapport.

The cabaret acts vary from Jamie Swan’s crowd wetting performance in and out of the water-filled bath, Zoe Marshall’s aerial hair-hanging act where her hair is the only part of her connection to the trapeze rope and the suave juggling act with champagne glasses by Florian Brooks.

This show is a heady mix of performances which has absolutely nothing to dislike about it and definitely a fantastic Christmas adult production to treat yourself to. An absolutely flawless production bought together by director Craig Ilott.

La Clique is definitely one show in London this Christmas that should not be missed.

Five Stars.

For more information, performance times and tickets please use the link below.

See the full review here


Posted on 27/11/2019


Diamonds are for Trevor by Cheriton Players

Reviewed by: Elaine Chapman @elainec46302904

Review date: 23rd Nov 2019

The new comedy spoof production by the Cheriton Players Diamonds are for Trevor is extremely well thought out, with a fantastic cast and full of quick-witted one-liners.

The familiar Bond characters have been renamed which are all befitting of the spoof production, for example, Miss Spendapenny, Bigjob and Fanny Stravaganza are a taster of some of those characters starring in the play.

When James Bond’s(Craig Robertson)younger brother Trevor (Charlie Hellard) is summoned to MI6 by mistake after answering his Brother’s phone that he has left behind in the flat they share he is sent on one of the biggest missions to date which is to save the Queen (Pauline Cornter) and her corgi.

The mission Trevor has accepted has taken place due to Vladimir Putitov (John Weston) and Donald Trumpet (Mike Cornter) attempting to try and overturn the monarchy and Putitov to lay a claim to the throne as the rightful monarch.

Trumpet has kidnapped the Queen and one of her corgi’s and held them both to ransom. It’s clear to see why the Weston and Cornter were chosen for those roles as they really bought both men to life. Especially when Weston takes his top off Putin style and starts to work out on stage.

David Cradduck plays Pratt the cleaner in MI6 and a cameo role as the Queen’s husband Prince Philip. The conversation that takes place between the Prince and security is as outrageous and politically incorrect as you would expect it to be from the Prince. Apart from being remarkably younger than the Prince Cradduck’s mannerisms were extremely funny and very much in the style of him.

The film scenes which had been filmed earlier in the year are shown on the large screen at the back of the stage which allowed the production to use James Bond-style car scenes in the play and take them off on various locations to bring a touch of Bond reality to the whole production.

The Corgi is played by a soft toy stand-in. The time and attention to details when they film close-ups of the dog is brilliant. It’s been so well positioned and angled to capture body language and facial expressions that it’s really easy to suspend your disbelief and look at it like a real dog. No animals were hurt in making this production.

One of the things that make this play stand out is how much all of the cast are enjoying their roles. The attention to detail that this company always step up to never ceases to amaze me and I really enjoy going to see what they have created next.

To find out more this talented group and their past and present productions check out the links below to their website and social media pages. Remember, to book early as they are always quickly selling out.

Four Stars.

See the full review here


Posted on 27/11/2019


When The Rain Stops Falling at John Cooper Studios by Rigmarole Theatre

Reviewed by: Charles Hutchinson

Review date: 14th Nov 2019

WHEN will the rain stop falling, you may well be asking amid Yorkshire’s November floods, burst banks and Army assistance in Fishlake.

Bad news. The answer, in Andrew Bovell’s apocalyptic play, is 2039, and by then much water will have passed under the bridge in the two hours’ traffic of 41 Monkgate’s stage.

This week’s Yorkshire premiere of When The Rain Stops Falling marks the debut of Rigmarole Theatre Company, a new York venture led by artistic director and designer Maggie Smales, who directed York Shakespeare Project’s award-winning all-female production of Henry V, set at a “Canary Girls” munitions factory in the First World War.

In other words, she has pedigree for interesting directorial choices, and Smales shows astute judgement again in picking Bovell’s multi-layered mystery, spread across 80 years and four generations of one family in England and Australia, premiered in Adelaide 11 years ago.

Once described as a “poetic pretzel of a play”, it takes the form of an unbroken, non-linear staging of 22 scenes, in this case within the John Cooper Studio’s black-box design, with a back-wall montage of umbrellas, a drape of Aboriginal wall art, window frames and doorways painted white, ceiling lamps in different shades and a prominent fish mobile.

Within this framework, the cast of nine moves furniture on and off and occupants of rooms overlap as the years from 1969 to 2019 move backwards and forwards.

To help you work out who’s who, the one-sheet “programme” provides a pictorial family tree to distinguish between Gabriel and Gabriel and even a Gabrielle.

The play opens to the inevitable sound of falling rain…in the desert region of Alice Springs, Australia, in 2039, with Smales’s company standing in lines beneath umbrellas on the stage periphery and criss-crossing the floor in silent repetitive movements with soup bowls before making way for the first monologue by Mick Liversidge’s Gabriel York.

This drifting, eccentric wanderer is waiting for his long-estranged son, Andrew (Stan Gaskell), with no money, no socks and no food. As chance would have it, a fish suddenly falls out of the sky…manna from heaven in a play with downpours of biblical proportions.

Not till the end shall we see these two again, but as a lattice builds, fish, or more precisely, fish soup, will keep making an appearance, along with dining tables and references to rain in Bangladesh. This adds splashes of dark humour to the otherwise claustrophobically black, stormy days of betrayal, abandonment and destruction that unfold against a backdrop of climate change.

Bovell first heads back to a London flat in 1969, where we meet Gabriel York’s grandparents, James Coldrick’s Henry Law and Florence Poskitt’s Elizabeth, in younger days, their relationship problems heightened by the arrival of son Gabriel. Elizabeth is encountered again in 1988, still in the same flat, even more buttoned up, Gabriel (Adam Sowter) frustrated at her still declining to reveal why his father suddenly disappeared when he was only seven.

Sowter’s Gabriel duly heads to Australia to put the missing pieces together, whereupon he encounters a troubled roadhouse waitress in Coorong, Gabrielle York (Louise Henry, soon to play Snow White in Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs at the Grand Opera House).

Tragedy has struck her not once, but thrice, but you should see the play to find out how and why, as we learn still more from older Gabrielle (Sally Mitcham) and stoical husband Joe Ryan (Maggie Smales).

Smales chose Bovell’s poetic allegory ­- full of Australian culture, Greek myth, English awkwardness, French philosophy and meteorological turmoil – because it addresses “the most important question of our times”: Are we prepared to pass on the damage from the past to our children or can we change to save ourselves?

Ultimately, in a prophetic play heavy with the weight of legacy and inheritance, Bovell calls on us to change before it is too late. Smales’s excellent cast, so skilled at storytelling and largely at Aussie accents too, certainly makes the case for him.

In the words of the director, “If you like a powerful story that has something to say about who we are and where we are going, this is the one to see.”

You are also assured of a warmer welcome than Boris Johnson in sodden South Yorkshire this week. Among the drinks that the convivial bar is serving is…water, naturally.

See the full review here


Posted on 15/11/2019


When The Rain Stops Falling at John Cooper Studios by Rigmarole Theatre

Reviewed by: Anna Rose James

Review date: 14th Nov 2019

A York premiere and launch production for new theatre company Rigmarole, Andrew Bovell’s award-winning 2008 play When the Rain Stops Falling addresses the most important issue of our times: “Are we prepared to pass on the damage from the past to our children?”

Director Maggie Smales follows her successful local productions of Blue Stockings and the award-winning all-female Henry V with this emotional, layered drama telling the story of a family across eighty years and four generations. Spanning the globe between England and Australia, it takes the form of an interweaving domestic mystery unfolding as patterns of betrayal, abandonment and destruction are revealed. As horrific revelations are made, the pieces of the puzzle begin to fit together and culminate to complete the apocalyptic picture.

Alice Springs in the year 2039. A fish falls from the sky and lands at the feet of Gabriel York. It still smells of the sea. It’s been raining for days and Gabriel knows something is wrong.

Both vast and intimate, the Law family saga is a parable for the story of mankind. We are at the point of extinction, and it is of our own making. The unpalatable act of one man turns out to be a metaphor for the collective harm that human beings have wrought on ourselves and our world.

Forgiveness, atonement and requited love are the mighty, vulnerable open questions left hanging in the air after the storm.

The cast features Smales herself as Joe Ryan, Sally Mitcham as Gabrielle York (Older), Beryl Nairn (Bomb Happy; Me and My Girl) as Elizabeth Law (Older), Louise Henry (the eponymous upcoming Snow White for the Grand Opera House) as Gabrielle York (Younger), Florence Poskitt as Elizabeth Law (Younger), James Coldrick as Henry Law, Adam Sowter as Gabriel Law, and Stan Gaskell as Andrew Price, with Mick Liversidge as Gabriel York.

Smales says of the play, “It is spine tingling and devastating but crafted with delicacy and humour.” Exacting exquisite poignancy through an excellent cast completely in tune with each other, Smales employs some of the techniques used by Frantic Assembly (Things I Know To Be True) to create a physical language that is integral to the storytelling. The nurtured fragility made real by the ensemble is so affecting it leaves members of the audience rooted in their seats for several minutes following the climax. The show also features a stunning original score by acclaimed local composer Sam McAvoy and powerfully inventive lighting, making for an invigorating and rewarding piece of thoughtful theatre.

When The Rain Stops Falling is playing at John Cooper Studio @ 41 Monkgate until Saturday 16 November – further information and tickets available here. *Please note: the play contains challenging content and is recommended for ages 14+.

See the full review here


Posted on 15/11/2019


When The Rain Stops Falling at John Cooper Studios by Rigmarole Theatre

Reviewed by: Angie Millard

Review date: 14th Nov 2019

Tonight I saw an exceptional new play: memorable, poetic and resonant.

When The Rain Stops Falling is a drama about family betrayal and forgiveness spanning four generations and moving between Britain and Australia. It consists of a series of connected stories which explore the way people deal with their past in order to make sense of their future. Patterns emerge of betrayal and abandonment and the sins of the father inevitably seem to be visited on sons, The past shapes the future in this epic play which stretches from 1959-2039.

It also explores environmental themes in a study of the nature of time which couldn’t be more relevant to us today The cast begin the play sheltering under umbrellas as flooding in Bangladesh continues.

The last time I saw a play by Bovell it was Things I know to be True performed by Frantic Assembly. In this York premiere of ‘When the Rain Stops Falling’ Bovell uses complex structures to explore his chosen themes and does not shy away from controversy. Maggie Smales confronts the material presenting it to as clearly and with theatrical skill. She has vision but shows this subtly, not leading her audience but allowing us to come to terms with the facts. In order to achieve this, Smales uses the placement and movement of characters rather like a musical fugue; props are minimal and furniture is moved into place as part of the action.

The language of the play is remarkable in its use of repetition and echoed imagery. A fish falls from the sky in an end sequence and fish is used as food throughout. One mother (Beryl Nairn) and her son (Adam Sowter) share a meal of fish soup and in clipped Pinteresque dialogue repeat banalities over a meal which will subsequently make him vomit. This use of a shared reference reappears over generations as people try to redecorate their homes. They paint, clean and scrub but finally the room looks the same as it always did.

The actors have created multiple roles with intelligence and insight. The standard of acting is high and is at times painfully moving. Beryl Nairn holds a strong line as mother of Gabriel and there are poignant scenes where she is on stage simultaneously with her younger self. The younger Elizabeth (Florence Poskitt) plays the realisation of her tragedy with confused emotion and the scenes with her husband (James Coldrick) are a master class of understatement.

Their son Gabriel (Adam Sowter) acts as a link between the continents. His search for his father takes us to the York family and further loss. Louise Henry and Sally Mitcham play out a horrific plot twist with intensity and Sowter is drawn in as we knew he must be. Maggie Smales turns in a moving performance as Joe, playing across gender as the unloved partner and we all feel her pain. I imagine there were reasons for this but, personally, I would have preferred a male casting.

The play ends as it began with Mick Liversidge meeting the son he has no right to want or love and his monologues were a finely-judged acting exercise of precision and tone. We catch ourselves pitying someone we should condemn but this is family and Bovell’s resolution.

Phew! When do we leave a theatre so full of questions? This is a play which makes one confront uncomfortable facts and gives no answers but when did I last come out of a theatre buzzing?

When The Rain Stops Falling is a Rigmarole Theatre Company production now playing at the John Cooper Studio until 16 November 2019. The Director is Maggie Smales.

See the full review here


Posted on 15/11/2019


The 39 Steps by John Buchan and adapted by Chris Hawley

Reviewed by: Elaine Chapman @elainec46302904

Review date: 9th Nov 2019

Set during the winter of 1962 in a radio station Black box Theatre are about to broadcast live The 39 Steps by John Buchan. However, as the weather worsens and snow prevents all but one cast member arriving safely at the studio. Roy the caretaker and Brenda the tea lady is called upon to save the day.

The stage is interestingly dressed with two 1960s style microphones at the centre stage, a prop table to the right-hand side full of stage props which are used for the large array of sound effects ranging from a mini bellow, drinking glasses, upright bicycle pump and a pair of coconut shells.

The humour is varied and extremely well delivered. One particular scene in the outer depths of Scotland it was reminiscent of the BBC’s League of Gentlemen where you can imagine a stranger being the centre of gossip, suspicion and intrigue.

David McCulloch and Scarlett Briant’s delivery is perfectly timed throughout the performance and they never cease to remind the audience that they are still in character as the radio station staff and are just the stand-in cast.

Bruce Chattan-McIntosh in the role of Mr Richard Hanney never falters out of character. Chattan-McIntosh’s work and a vast amount of radio voice over experience shows and he really has perfected the art of radio voice work. An absolute treat to listen to while watching the play.

In the words of the fantastic cast “It’s hawfully good, what, what” and I for one definitely agree with them.

If you would like to discover who or what The Blackstone is then caught one of Blackbox Theatre’s performance while they are out and about with this extremely funny and entertaining show while it is on tour.

Tour dates are available on their website below.

Four Stars

David McCulloch
Bruce Chattan-McIntosh
Scarlet Briant
Hannah Wood-Technical Stage Manager
Chris Hawley- Director

For further details and to check out tour dates please check out their website below.

See the full review here


Posted on 10/11/2019


Soho Cinders by Stiles and Drewe

Reviewed by: Elaine Chapman @elainec46302904

Review date: 6th Nov 2019

West End stars Luke Bayer and Millie O’Connell star in the latest production at Charing Cross Theatre Soho Cinders. Where you meet orphan Robbie and Velcro aka as Sonya long-standing best friends working in his late Mother’s laundrette. Their friendship from the start is strong and with an incredible connection between the two, it’s believable, that they are extremely close friends.

Set in Old Compton Street, London the daily lives of prostitutes, city workers and homeless people share the demographics of this busy London street, all that was missing was the traffic.

The rags to riches storyline mix friendship, politics, spin doctor media stunts and family disputes brilliantly. James (Lewis Asquith) is running to be the next London Mayor and is engaged to Marilyn (Tori Hargreaves). While at the same time secretly having a relationship with Robbie.

The ugly sisters Clodagh (Michaela Stern) and Dana (Natalie Harman) are true to the pantomime genre and their characters are portraying common tarts with potty mouths to match. They are as much to be pitied as they are to be disliked. Their homophobic behaviour and treatment of Robbie leave you recoiling with some of their cutting derogatory comments towards him. Telling him in one scene to move out of the flat as “they don’t want to catch gay” not sure being happy is a bad thing to catch.

The stage is designed as two sides of street one in pink and the other blue mixed together on occasions with the colours and flags of pride which adds the bawdy colours element that you expect to see in any pantomime. As the story pulls you in at times it’s easy to forget that this is based on Cinderella and then a sharp funny one-liner reminds you that is exactly what you are watching.

Choreographer Adam Haigh’s talent was put to the test in this production with twenty singing numbers and individual dances to match it feels original and fresh.

One of my favourite numbers was “It’s hard to tell” the struggle as a straight female can be very much in keeping with this song as it’s not always obvious which men are gay and which are straight. The way in which sexuality is addressed flows naturally throughout. Marilyn addresses James’s infidelity in a mature approach it’s about the fact he cheated and lied to her and nothing to do with cheating on her with a man.

Will Keith’s production of this fantastic musical kept me captivated throughout. There is nothing to dislike or fault whatsoever and he has chosen an incredible cast who have amazing chemistry on stage from the onset and it continues that way to the end.

This musical delivers on every level and is exactly what you expect from a great night out. The musical numbers are still remaining in your head the next day. It certainly gets my recommendation as a must-see musical. Catch it while it is still on under The Arches in Charing Cross for the remainder it’s run.

Five Stars.

Robbie-Luke Bayer
Velcro-Millie O’Connell
Clodagh-Michaela Stern
Dana-Natalie Harman
James Prince-Lewis Asquith
Marilyn Platt-Tori Hargreaves
William George-Ewan Gillies
Lord Bellingham-Christopher Coleman
Sasha-Melissa Rose.
Written by Anthony Drewe and Elliot Davis.
Music-George Stiles
Lyrics-Anthony Drewe.

Director -Will Keith
Choreographer-Adam Haigh
Set Designer-Justin Williams
Production Team
Will Keith
Michaela Stern
Kyle Tovey.

The musical runs from 24th October – 21st December 2019

For general enquiries and tickets information please use the link below.

See the full review here


Posted on 10/11/2019


Great Gatsby

Reviewed by: Elaine Chapman @elainec46302904

Review date: 8th Nov 2019

The two and a half-hour long immersive adaptation of Great Gatsby has moved from Lambeth and is now performing in it’s a new venue which used to be the home of Queen Victoria’s Rifle Association in Davies Street, Mayfair.

The main event room has a backdrop featuring two art deco mirrors separated by a mock waterfall. A raised seating on the right gives the audience a great view of the dance floor where several period dances and a lot of the main action takes place. The piano is staged on the left-hand side with a glass chandelier above setting the scene of wealth and opulence associated with the Great Gatsby.

If you ever wanted to learn the Charleston here is your perfect opportunity as the cast lead you comprehensively through the steps before doing a round or two of the dance. This is just one of the interactive dance routines that take place throughout the evening. Everyone is encouraged to take part without feeling pressured.

Nick Carraway played by James Lawrence narrates the audience through the main parts of the storyline which are broken up by various scenes which are vital to the story and then groups break off into minor plots in other private rooms. As with many immersive experiences you tend to miss just as much as you see with so many sub-stories running at the same time.

The men pictured above all looked extremely dapper and impeccable in their stylish suits. The ladies looked iconic for the era and Myrtle Wilson (Hannah Edwards) in the photo below looked stunning in her purple sequined dress, with matching feathers in her headdress and up close I could see that even her lipstick matched faultlessly.

Choreographer Holly Beasley-Garrigan’s most certainly worked hard with so many different scenes to organise in this reasonably large production. I dare say she’s spent many hours in rehearsal refining the routines with the cast and it has certainly paid off well.

Directed and adapted by Alexander Wright this production is very good and the amount of work he has put into this immersive experience certainly leaves a lasting impression on you.

It’s definitely an extraordinary night out where dressing up is actively encouraged and with so much entertainment going on throughout the evening you are spoiled for choice as to where to go next. Cocktails are available in abundance from the bar so grab yourself a taste of the 1920s, Gatsby style.

Four Stars.

For more information and ticket sales please use the link below.

See the full review here


Posted on 10/11/2019


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