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Artistic Director Tom Littler's first production The Circle is now performing at the Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond. The round Theatre layout offers challenges for a director and producer with setting the stage to allow an almost 360-degree visibility to the entire audience. However, after last night's press night, I felt this has been achieved perfectly.
Jane Asher stars in The Circle playing the disgraced Lady Catherine Champion-Cheney who's invited to stay in the Country estate owned by her estranged son of thirty years Armold Champion-Cheney (Pete Ashmore) and his wife Elizabeth Champion-Cheney (Olivia Vinall). Reunions after this many years are undoubtedly going to have conflict.
Lord Hughie Porteous (Nicholas le Prevost) dry quick witted humour is an absolute "hoot" and although he appeared grumpy at times I could see the spark of life which would have enticed Lady Catherine away from her former husband Clive Champion-Cheney (Clive Francis).
Somerset Maugham's story The Circle first arrived on the stage in 1921. Some of the outdated ideals and attitudes from that era no longer exist in modern-day England. However, reading the experiences and career path Muughm had taken the rich tapestry of characters would have undoubtedly crossed his path during his lifetime.
Quintessential Englishness and a reminder of colonial days are reawakened within this adaptation of The Circle. Littler has created a respectful and absorbing production which I have thoroughly enjoyed.
Watching the Bridge card game fascinated me. I discovered that after talking to Littler the entire game is timed to perfection, and each card is accurately played during the narration by the cast involved. The scene is perfectly delivered, and it was hard to believe that you weren't watching a real game of cards.
There's nothing to dislike or criticize about The Circle, and it certainly has an established, acclaimed cast who has a powerful onstage chemistry. For a taste of days gone by Englishness, I highly recommend putting this on your "to watch" list.
For further information on The Circle and future productions at the Orange Tree Theatre, please use the link below.
Many years ago, circus entertainers were renowned for being part of a "freak show." Hugh Jackman led The Greatest Showman into the cinema in 2017 as the American circus entertainer P.T Barnum put those who were "different" into the public eye and created a platform for their talents. Waldo's Circus of Magic and Terror follows this theme and is the third show in the company's diverse-led circus program.
Waldo (Garry Robson) leads his troupe throughout Europe during the rise of Hitler in Germany. The constant threat of danger and Hitler's determined views on removing anyone he deemed to be "not perfect" in his strive to create the perfect Arian race, laid heavy on Waldo's shoulders. As a wheelchair user, he knew his days were numbered as he battled to keep the show going.
The multi-layered production brings together actors and circus acts with a range of challenges and disabilities. Ranging from deaf, wheelchair use, rs and neurodiverse, and a range of "extraordinary bodies" create an evening of incredible entertainment.
Relationships are featured throughout the show. From the turbulent father and son disagreement between Waldo and Peter (Tilly Lee-Kronick), which almost gas catastrophic consequences to the romance between trapeze act Krista (Abbie Purvis) and circus Newcomer Gerhard (Lawrence Swaddle). Krista's dwarfism holds her back initially from becoming involved as she fears Gerhard will lose interest once the novelty wears off. He eventually proves that he isn't going to treat her in that way.
On many occasions during the musical parts the band accompanying the singers tended to be pitched too loud and sadly drowned the voices out. Which I have given as feedback and hopefully this will be rectified. There are some incredible soloists in this performance which deserve to be heard.
My plus one for the evening was extremely impressed with the production. They claimed it was something so different but brilliantly performed.
Actors of all abilities should be celebrated more often and Waldo's Circus highlights the excellent possibilities available when actors are given a chance to shine. Each performance includes BSL interpretations, Captioned and Audio description.
For more information on this circus performance and future productions at The Mast, please visit the links below.
Gino Bartali rode to glory for the second time in the Tour de France in 1948. However, Glory Ride focuses on the riders bravery during World War II, where he risked his life and used his privilege of being allowed out of the city to be able to ride in the mountains at night, to deliver documents that saved hundreds of Jewish children from persecution and death.
Based on the book by Victoria Buchholz and her father Todd Buchholz. Glory Ride is a new musical telling the story of Gino Bartali. The book was inspired after Victoria was inspired nine years ago while travelling to Tuscany and reading about him. She decided it was part of history that deserved to be brought to life.
Josh St Clair, in the role of Gino Bartali, looks every part of the athlete as he takes to the saddle on numerous occasions during the musical. His skill at manoeuvring the bike with a trailer attached to the smaller stage was impressive, and I dare say he needed some practice.
Bartali agrees to work with the resistance against the “black shirts” who have taken over the city to deliver false papers and doctored documents to Jewish people fleeing for their lives to the Swiss border. Cardinal Elia Dalla Costa (Niall Sheehy), together with Giorgio “Nico” Nissim (Daniel Robinson), protects the children, and Nissim sets to work on the documents.
The star of the night belongs to Amy Di Bartolomeo playing Adriana Bani. From the moment she began singing the hairs on the back of my neck raised, and I knew she was about to deliver an amazing performance, and she did throughout the musical. One of those voices I could listen to on repeat.
The new musical is not without its faults. I felt there were at times too many musical numbers, and sadly, some of these merged into each other. This could easily be rectified with some tweaks and editing, though.
Glory Ride is a fascinating story that even in today’s world, where the world is watching the war in Ukraine we can see the dangers faced by those fleeing for safety. I admire the risks and principles held by Bartali openly and knew the dangers he faced to give so many a chance to live.
For further information on this new musical and future productions at Charing Cross Theatre, please use the link below.
F**cking Men by Joe Dipietro based on Schnitzler's La Ronde explores attitudes and sexual relationships, encounters, and liaisons through a gay man-themed perspective. Disclosing secrets and attitudes are often not openly shared.
Alex Britt, Charlie Condou, Derek Mitchell, and Stanton Plummer-Cambridge certainly have a fantastic rapport on stage and trust in one another due to some of the extremely intimate settings and scenes the four engage in.
The theme of using sex as a form of connection rather than love repeats throughout the play. Which Offers an intriguing insight into how monogamy is perceived by some of the community. Desperate to express their emotions in an intimate act can be almost as acceptable as a "handshake".
The older guys in committed relationships saw sex outside of the relationship as a right of being a gay man. I am not sure if this is a universal idea in the gay community, and I very much doubt it is. Although heterosexual men often view sex in a different way to women and "cheating" can be described as a connection usually because the female partner "doesn't understand them!"
Director Steven Kunis used the cast of four in an extraordinary performance, entwining characters and constantly moving through the liaisons without little time to reflect on the emotional impact it might have on the couples. Bringing "F**cking Men" to a new generation of theatergoers looking for something different.
I was fascinated with the screen of perspex windows, which divided the stage in two used throughout the performance. All or individually Illuminated, depending on which section of the stage was in use at the time. From total whiteout where you couldn't see through to clear vision.
Lighting Designer Alex Lewer used these windows to create moods and dramatic effects by incorporating colour changes on all or some of these sections as to which mood was required. The impact brought the stage to life.
There's plenty of nudity, themes of a strong sexual nature, and touching moments of intimacy. Attitudes surrounding A-lister men who require anonymity around their sexuality are still even now in fear of not being cast I am told is still relevant today as it was in fifteen year's ago when the play first debuted. This is not a play for anyone easily embarrassed. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
For further information on this play and future productions at Waterloo East Theatre please use the link below. However, my understanding is that the run of this production has currently sold out.
The mindful state between genius and madness is often closely linked. Arthur ( Jack Fairey) is an artist surrounded by many unfinished paintings and boxes that require attention before he and his girlfriend Tara move into their new flat. Are her concerns justified?
Arthur discovers a book on ancient Greece while organising his belongings. Icarus desperately wants to reach the sun and taste freedom after being imprisoned in the tower. Becoming the focus of Arthur’s attention, he explores in depth how he perceived Icarus felt at that time.
As the artistic mental block that has shrouded Arthur, lifts he becomes absorbed into his work once again and loses track of time, location, and mental stability. Forgetting the commitment he has made to Tara to attend their party.
Tightly written by Fairey bringing modern-day life in Egham together with ancient Greek mythology and World War Two Kenya in the painting, he is desperately trying to finish for his brother, Ethan for his birthday.
Mental health can creep up upon us without a clear realisation of what is happening until faced with catastrophic consequences. Unfortunately for many, there isn’t an Ethan there to save the day and help put things into order without judgement.
Joe Malyan created a chaotic artistic setting for Fairey’s performance. Screens at the back of the stage allowed the colour changing walls to come to life during his moment of madness! Adding to the dramatic impact of the story.
In seventy minutes, you experience a rollercoaster ride of emotions and an insight into the way the grip that mental health can have upon you without warning to the sufferers. Although from the outside, it’s uncomfortably apparent.
For further information on this play and future productions at Brockley Jack Theatre, please use the links below.
Generation Games offers two one act plays in one evening at the White Bear in Kennington. Starting the evening with A Certain Term by Michael McManus followed by I F_____n’ Love You by Charlie Ross Mackenzie.
The two plays follow similar themes of love, loss, and life in all its glory. Older gay men who have seen life through a different generation of hostility and violence hiding themselves away for fear of repercussions. Accepting that a time in history has passed and who are refreshed by the younger guys who come into their lives and embrace their sexuality and want the men in their lives to be proud of who they are. Seeing that the world has changed and maybe it is time to remove the labels.
Graham (Luke McGibney) is busy preparing his flat for a party. When the doorbell rings and Joe ( Simon Stallard) arrives forty-five minutes early. Graham is extremely manic and dashes in and out of the kitchen with nibbles and wine. Living on his nerves desperately trying to suppress who he is and how he really feels about his ex-partner Robert. Living an unfulfilled life in fear of being hurt and alienated.
The storyline is complex, and past ghosts and trauma become unpacked and laid bare. Once you allow yourself to open your heart to feel and heal from deep-rooted trauma, anything can happen!
In the second play Adrian (Charlie Ross Mackenzie) and Simon (Joe Ashman) live together and work in television and media. Adrian’s fifty-something with a frequent bladder in need of emptying.
Bucks Fizz have reformed, and he’s compiling questions for the next day’s interview. It’s getting late and the couple really should be getting some sleep. However, Simon’s past liaison with Sophie is explored and a buried part of his past is unveiled leaving the couple questioning each other over whether they want to have children or not.
The experiences faced by the generations’ differences run throughout both plays. The younger generation in both relationships unaware of the reality of the struggles and angry homophobic aggression faced by many gay men in the 1980s, especially when AIDS hit the headlines.
Both plays offer an insight into the changing attitudes of gay man from different generations and society. From the world of dark “dirty” secrets surrounded in shame to the acceptance by their families and the general population at large. Something I strongly believe in and feel that everyone should be free to love who they choose.
For further information on these plays and future productions at the White Bear in Kennington please use the links below.
The semi-biographical story told by Manal through rants, movement, and raw honesty towards her secret and forbidden white boyfriend isn’t for the faint-hearted. Descriptions of forced imprisonment, eating disorders, and controlling behavior endured at the hands of her Muslim father.
RAH explores the internal battle taking place between who Manal wants to be against the paternal hold her Father has over her. A Casablancan Muslim Manal describes everything that pretty much everything that she does staunchly goes against his religion, from drinking and smoking to showing her ankles.
Honour killings within certain religious communities are rarely discussed until one takes place that will hit the mainstream media, which will then report the event in detail, shocking the wider community who can’t believe this has happened. However, there are around twelve each year, which on average, is one per month, and I don’t recall hearing about that many.
However, a strong sense of hypocrisy came through the performance upon learning that Manal’s mother is from Ireland and is white and from the United Kingdom. Which left me Questioning just how strictly religious her father is. As he broke his own rules to father Manal.
Laila Latifa’s performance is powerful, and as expected with a Semi-biographical production, the audience can feel her passion through every movement and word. Yet, as with many Fringe venues, the audience numbers were low, and this is a production that deserves to be seen.
For more information on this play and future productions, please use the link below.
Emma Rice’s adaptation of Brief Encounter certainly adds a fresh look at the 1945 British romantic film directed by David Lean. Which had originally been adapted from the Noël Coward play of 1936 Still Life.
Love works in mysterious ways. Especially temptation and unforbidden love. Laura Jesson (Hanora Kamen) rushes into the train cafe after coal grit gets blown into her eye by a passing heavy train. Dr. Alec Harvey (Jammy Kasongo) rushes to help her claiming that he is a doctor. This is where the fated couple begins the ill-fated affair.
The stage is encircled by two curtains drawn and opened throughout the performance adding intrigue, and mystery and allowing scene changes to take place unseen. The main focus for me was the use of the curtains to add depth to the effects of the trains rushing in and out of the station and the rushing water, which represented for me the speed and velocity in which the affair was developing.
Be ready to suspend your disbelief when Jesson returns home one evening to find her children arguing. Fred Jesson (Samuel Morgan-Grahame) raised a few laughs from the auditorium as a fully bearded young child. However, the tantrums were uncannily realistic.
Setting the majority of the action within the station cafe at Milford Station. Tea is generously poured, buns eaten, and all the while, the trains rush past outside. It’s a reminder of the character and experience train traveling used to hold. The personal touch has sadly been lost over time and replaced by expensive coffee chain booths on many platforms.
Each of the station staff had their romantic connections taking place, too. From Myrtle Bagot (Nicola Bryan), the confessed “no good at love” cafe manager to Stanley (Luke Thornton), the love-struck station porter. Everyone had their own “Brief Encounter” taking shape too.
The casting is superb, the musicians skilled, and extremely entertaining. A different production of the play from the filmed version I have briefly watched. It has been modernised and added a layer of entertainment value that befits this classic story of married strangers becoming lovers.
For more information on this play and future productions at the Salisbury Playhouse please use the link below.
Entering the auditorium at Tower Theatre, you are immediately submerged in the detainment facility. Handed a coloured lanyard and security pass, which you are instructed to wear at all times, along with an information sheet explaining the colour-coded lanyards.
The atmosphere is unsettling at first, as you are scanned before entering and audience members look at each other in intrigue as you try to decipher what’s about to take place.
Unusually, the Theatre auditorium is divided into three observation areas surrounding the centre stage area where a table and four chairs are positioned on a circular raised stage.
Two members of staff welcome the visitor. A lady between 30-40 and proceed to nervously and at times annoyingly ask her if she would like a drink and continued to do so throughout to break up the awkwardness of the situation.
The exact nature of the crime is never fully disclosed. However, the intense detail of the impact the historical events have had upon the family is enough to understand why the perpetrator is awaiting the death penalty.
Valerie Paul-Kerry gives an extremely powerfully controlled performance, holding herself together throughout the meeting. Dealing with hard-hitting facts and not allowing the detainment staff to placate her pain by empathizing when they truly have no idea of the trauma the family has been reliving day to day.
Sara Odeen-Isbister and Henry Sharples frustrated me as they bumbled around the paperwork that needed to be signed, picking up the minor issues of not having glasses for the water bottle and a general lack of understanding for the victim. The character’s lack of professionalism at times suggested that the pair rarely dealt with the death penalty paperwork.
The moral questions surrounding the death penalty are never raised or questioned. As Paul-Kerry shakes uncontrollably while signing the paperwork after choosing her preferred method to kill the perpetrator, it is clear that the decision has not been taken lightly.
The cast of three brings a very hard hitting and thought-provoking subject to stage. Writer Debbie Tucker-Green’s research and sensitivity make the topic bearable. With the centre circular staging revolving throughout the discussions, you can watch all three characters’ reactions and feel part of the decision.
For more information on this production and future performance at Tower Theatre Stoke Newington please use the link below.
Combining children’s entertainment and raising awareness of the imminent problems creating global warming in Antarctica. Twelve year old Georgia (Flossie Zoe) travels to Antarctica to spend the summer holidays with her older sister Helena (Zoe May Dales), a scientist studying penguins. All her friends are spending their summer doing far more “exciting” things like sun bathing, and she’s stuck there!
The adventure begins surrounded by penguins and the stench of guano (penguin poo) which is one of the areas Helena is studying in Antarctica. Explaining all the information that can be obtained from it. I didn’t realise it was one of the things along with the Great Wall of China that is visible from space. Allowing satellites to track penguin migration.
The star of the show has to be the puppetry penguin operated by Dales. They talk, interact with the audience, and converse with Georgia. I thought they were enchanting and cheeky. It reminded me of when my twenty something adults boys used to be fascinated with Pingu on the television when they were much younger.
There’s a level of suspension of disbelief as the twelve year sets out across the ice to save the penguins from the imminent Iceberg. With only a rucksack and rain coat, she isn’t exactly prepared for an Antarctic trek across the ice. I do accept that I am looking at this from an adult perspective.
It’s fun, educational, and interactive with the some of younger audience members invited onto the stage to participate. David Attenborough and Greta Thunberg both feature in the production. Important figures in the fight against global warming and the devastating impact “man” has been creating for many years.
Georgia and the Iceberg is currently on tour. I would highly recommend taking the family to watch this. Its suitable for all ages and an important topic that we should all be concerned about.
For further information about Dorset Bred and this production, please visit the links below.
Adapted from the original book by Edgar Allan Poe The Tale Heart gothic horror novel is a sinister story with a deadly twist. Clarry Straven ( David Martin) stumbles upon the lodgings of Roderick Bounty (John Goodrum), a strange gentleman with a rather odd collection of belongings.
Haunted by the “Raven eye” of his host Bounty, Straven is unsettled and struggles to sleep at night, waking between 3-4 am each morning to check that his host and the eye are asleep. He fears his host and is unnerved by his presence. Yet there’s no obvious reason at first, just a slightly eccentric host who rents out his spare room.
Staged in front of a dark background with curtains drawn to keep out the light, which Bounty claims is to prevent robbers from looking in to see his treasure chests placed under the window. However, as the story unfolds, this turns out not to be the only reason.
The performance is strong through the first fifty minutes. The second half would benefit from editing during the conversation, which takes place between Straven and Inspector Morgan ( Gordon Johum), who calls around after a neighbour heard screams coming from the house. The tension built up after the events between Straven and Bounty became diluted with the quantity of dialogue from the Inspector, and at times, I lost track of where they were in the conversation.
I especially liked the rain and thunderstorm raging throughout the play. Adding an air of danger to the situation, claps of thunder were placed at points to make the audience jump and heightened the tension building up between the characters, waiting to explode.
Poe’s writing certainly isn’t for the faint-hearted Theatre goer. I enjoy being challenged and gripped by the tales such as The Tell-Tale Heart. Many twists in his work make for compelling viewing.
For more information on about this play and future productions at Theatre Royal Winchester, please use the link below.
Fighting High and for George productions pay honour to many of the heroes and unsung heroes of World War II through Their Finest Hour. Bringing to the stage the story of the war that took place in the skies through the timeline history of the RAF. Dangerous missions, deadly sunrises, and unchartered territories map out on stage. With many fatalities along the way.
Jamie Dunlop (Patrick Lock) predominantly narrates the performance. Friends of the recently deceased family discover their Granddad’s wartime memories and read private letters which had remained locked away since the end of the war. Standing to the side dressed in uniform he confidently retells the stories.
Older cast member Peter Pearson adds authority to the production. Bringing the famous historical figures of the time to live from Winston Churchill to Neville Chamberlain. As a voiceover artist with a range of voices, Pearson added authenticity to each role.
However, the second narrator in my opinion belonged to Tabitha Baines. Singing many songs from World War II times. Many audience members might not be familiar with some of the famous pilots featured in the play. Yet the songs chosen will be far more universally identified and delivered by an incredible singer.
The fighter scenes came to life in several scenes. Moving the dining chairs onstage into numerous positions, allowing the suspension of disbelief to see them become a Lancaster Bomber or Mosquito flying into Berlin or Dunkirk attacking the Germans.
Costume designer Anne ‘Bam’ Thomson creates a fantastic display of uniforms, European hats, and period outfits worn by the cast. the weather-beaten jumpers, in particular, worn by the prisoners of war, added a dramatic impact to the situation they found themselves in.
Steeped in historical research, first-hand experiences, and some harrowing insights into the dreadful atrocities that took place during the Second World War. However, these fascinating insights are times too drawn out and would benefit from editing in order to help the production flow smoother. Although the staging and scenery certainly added a layer of authenticity to the overall production.
Running from the 8th to 26th March at Waterloo East Theatre. Please use the links below for more information and ticket bookings.
Ryan (Zach Hawkins) a 19 year old guy confused about his future decided to follow his older brother Ben a successful up and coming accountant to London. The promise of a brighter future and more opportunities first lured him there. However, Ryan’s life couldn’t be further away from the success and popularity experienced by his older brother.
Stephen Leach’s new debut one man play Can’t Wait to Leave is bought to stage with an incredible performance by Hawkins. The depth of self-awareness is written with a refreshing honesty and compassion. Never allowing Ryan to become a victim of his circumstances, facing them head on, and knowing he needs to make the necessary changes to improve his future. Just needs to figure out how!
Disillusioned with his deliveroo job and the should be “condemned” flat he is sharing. Life in London isn’t anything like he imagined it to be, and he “can’t wait to leave” it all behind him. Without any money or job prospects, where can he go.
After meeting affluent 53-year-old Richard at his brothers drinks event leads him into a situation he cannot have foreseen or sadly prevented.
Stephen Leach tackles male rape with sensitivity yet at the same time hitting the audience hard within his writing. The story isn’t verbatim, although Leach explains that “his story is no-one’s and everyone’s ” where sexual assaults are often committed by people familiar with the victim.
The play would benefit from editing and tightening up a few scenes to add further dramatic impact this powerful play truly deserves. As writer, director and producer Leach has worked incredibly hard to bring the story stage and should be immensely proud.
For more information on this play and future productions at Waterloo East Theatre please use the links below.
Charlie and Stan tell the lesser-known story of when Fred Karno’s (Nick Haverson) music hall troupe set sail from Southampton to New York in 1910. Where two of the most famous and influential men in the world of comedy first met. Charlie Chaplin (Danielle Bird) and Stan Jefferson aka Stan Laurel (Jerome Marsh-Reid).
Chaplin often casts a lonely figure in the history books of “slapstick comedy”. However, aboard the ship Cairnrona. Chaplin forms a friendship with Laurel while the pair share a cabin aboard the ship. The pair become friends and practice performances together onboard.
The eighty-minute production offers fast-moving, silent movie-style comedy with the infamous red curtain notice board used for introducing announcements or information. Accompanied throughout with live music performed by award winning jazz musician Zoe Rahman.
The finely timed theatrical falls, slapstick drunken escapades, and an insight into the traumatic life led by the younger Chaplin are captivating and cleverly directed by Paul Hunter. Reconstructing slapstick comedy doesn’t appear to be an easy feat yet the performances of the cast came across effortlessly.
Even after over a hundred years, these comedy legends still live on and deserve to be enjoyed by future generations. Told by an Idiot Productions has respectfully kept their memories alive with their own company of comedy geniuses. Especially Bird in the insightful and empathetic role of Chaplin, I can only begin to imagine the hours spent studying the late and great silent movie genius.
Oliver Hardy performed by (Nick Haverson) as well. Transformed into a character on stage before us, and although the audience knew who it was, his entrance was well received. No performance of Stan Laurel would be complete without his appearance. Although brief, just enough information to know how the famous double act met.
Charlie and Stan is a must-see production. I would encourage younger audiences to watch and marvel in the work created by Chaplin and Laurel and Hardy.
For more information on this production and future productions coming to The Mast in Southampton please use the links below.
Alan Ayckbourn’s play How The Other Half Loves is the perfect comedy entertainment to brighten up a Winter’s evening. Three couples’ lives and marriages entwine. It’s the morning after the night before and two have been playing away from home. There’s no mystery about who they are from the start of the play develops around their secret coming out.
One stage boasts two homes. Half designed in the style of the affluent home of the boss Frank Foster ( Philip Bretherton) and his wife Fiona (Sherry Baines). The other Half belonging to Franks employee Bob Phillips (Haydn Oakley) and wife Teresa ( Joanna Van Kampen) the family life mess is evident and the furniture is functional.
Alternative decorated walls depicted whose house you are in during the play. The ceiling heights, a higher standard of decor, and soft furnishings in the Foster household including the sofa coverings split. The details and organisation of a complex set such as this on are superb and made it extremely easy to follow where you were at all times.
The dinner party scenes split between Thursday and Friday night at the different houses are timed perfectly. Both of the couples invite William and Mary Featherstone (Sam Alexander and Rebecca Cooper) around for an evening of dinner and getting to know one another.
The Featherstone’s sit on swivel chairs to switch quickly between both homes to engage with their hosts. Conversations and revelations are perfectly timed letting the audience follow the fast-paced storyline without losing any of the dynamics built up between the three couples. The cast of six bring the classic Ayckbourn play to life with precision and confidence.
Philip Bretherton’s portrayal of the slightly forgetful and erratic boss Frank Foster catches you unaware at times, and you burst out laughing. Don’t be fooled, though. This man doesn’t miss anything and eventually pieces everything together.
Director Gareth Machin has created an incredibly funny, finely tuned production of the Ayckbourn play to the stage. With so many intertwined complex scenes where both families are simultaneously in their homes on the stage together, nothing overlaps. I left completely in awe of Machin’s direction skills and considering where you start when putting a complex performance on stage such as this.
For more information on this play and future productions at The Salisbury Playhouse, please use the links below.
Reviewing Six Plays in One Day can feel like an endurance test at times. Beginning at 2 pm and finishing at 9 pm. The range of performances kept my interest alive. Produced by Threedumb Theatre with Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts sponsoring the day hosted at The Space Theatre.
Permanent Tenants by Louis Gale an interesting idea where five housemates are killed by carbon monoxide poisoning due to their negligent landlord. The cast of six were still reading off script. With all the stage directions and prop details read out too, the production is quite a way off being finished.
The audience were informed at the end that it was destined to be a television, theatre and various other productions a long the way. Their best way forward if this piece is going to be developed would be to decide on a performance platform. Strict editing and good direction would be advised. At times, the performance descended into a disorganised shouting chaotic situation, which is one area in which good direction would help.
Chicken Pasta by Katie Read facing the “Big C” at any age is a frightening prospect. When George is a personal trainer who eats healthy, never smoked, and drinks in moderation, he has to live with the terminal bowel cancer under the age of thirty life is cruel.
Married to Cat the ups and downs of everyday life are marred by the ticking time bomb which is ever present in their lives. Potentially, the subject matter should leave the audience with at least a lump in their throat, sadly that part was missing for me.
Ophelia by Hannah Roze-Lewis advertised as a work in progress. Delivering every line with a smile Roze-Lewis describes the horrendous circumstances surrounding Ophelia’s friend Emma going missing. The damage caused by males and phone cameras, violation of privacy, and the heinous behavior of exploiting obscene images on the “darker side” of the Internet.
Unstitching by Ruby Shrimpton facts and upbeat entertainment from the world of Eurovision song contests past and present. Shrimpton’s analysis of the sometimes deemed “rigged” voting system left me looking at the contest in a different light.
There’s a platform on the Fringe Festival circuit where Upstitching will be welcomed and thoroughly enjoyed. The Eurovision Song Contest has a large following, and if the advertising is targeted correctly, Shrimpton could be playing to full auditoriums.
At Eternity’s Gate by Joseph Winder is based on Vincent Van Gogh. His brother reflects on living in the shadows of the famous artist. Selling his artwork, trying to live his own life, and the pressure he felt from his brother’s demands. An interesting insight into the brothers’ relationship.
Although, at times, it felt slow and would benefit from editing. Covering the floor of the stage with papers and props left the majority of the audience at a disadvantage from not being about to see what he working through or looking at.
Pill by Rebecca Phythian, the contraceptive pill was created to liberate women and allow them to control their bodies against unwanted pregnancies. Studies have shown that for some women, the risks to their physical and mental health issues are far too high.
Phythians’ pent-up frustration and anger directed towards the doctor during her appointments and their refusal to listen to her concerns reflected some of my own experiences with health professionals.
The information and facts delivered through Pill are more of a public information production. Colleges and Universities were the younger generations of women who could be affected by the concerns raised during this performance.
New showcase work is always unchartered territory. Out of all the pieces today, the two that stood out are Ophelia, Roze-Lewis has an incredible stage presence and delivery. The piece is well-written, compassionate, and disjointed to represent the fragility and destruction mental health creates. One actor to watch in the future.
The second is Pill, although I don’t necessarily see this work appealing to Fringe Theatre audiences on its own due to being thirty minutes. It would have a future in touring Colleges and Universities raising awareness among young women, and creating a platform for discussion around what they are putting into their bodies. It might help others recognize symptoms they are suffering from and, in some circumstances, save someone’s life. I make sure that I question everything I am offered by doctors, especially side effects, and I feel more patients should do the same.
New artists and new work benefit from showcase events like these. Giving the artists a safe platform to perform and audiences to watch up-and-coming creatives under one roof.
For more information on the day and future productions, please visit the links below.
George Takei headlines the moving Broadway Musical Allegiance at Charing Cross Theatre. Based on the book by Marc Acito. Elements of the story are from the life experiences of Takei while he was growing up, the events that take place in Allegiance are not biographical although they are based on another family’s experience in the same camp as Takei’s family.
Sam Kimura (George Takei) has been estranged from his family for over fifty years. The news of his sister’s death and a delivery of a mystery envelope forces Sam to revisit a part of his life that he had suppressed for all those years.
The stage comes to life as the cast brings Kimura’s memories to life and we have the privilege of watching the events that shaped the man and caused the deep family and cultural divide. Telly Leung steps into the role of younger Sam Kimura as the family’s past unfolds and has shaped the future Sams response to the letter delivered.
In 1941 America all residents of Japanese descent were automatically classed as “enemies of the state” after Japan attacks Pearl Harbour. The descendants are forcibly removed and held in camps to keep America “safe” for an undisclosed amount of time. These families had made America their home, the inhumane actions divided the community. To show their “Allegiance” to the USA it’s decided that a questionnaire is distributed to the camps. Seeing some of the men signing up to fight as American citizens and others refusing to.
Kei Kimura (Aynrand Ferrer) plays Sam’s sister is an incredible actor with a voice to match. Her stage presence and compassion for her whole family are extremely moving. When she argues with Sam about her husband upon his return from war it left me with a lump in my throat.
During one scene the camp is engulfed by a terrible sandstorm. The effects are incredibly realistic and for a moment through suspension of disbelief, I felt I was witnessing an actual event. Extremely moving to watch the cast trying to escape out of the sand before being overcome by it and choking.
Tara Overfield Wilkinson’s choreographer and director are flawless. From the train formation journey to the camps, numerous uplifting musical routines, and harrowing battlefield scenes. I fail to see that anyone couldn’t be moved by the roller coaster of emotions played out in Allegiance.
Leung has been brilliantly cast, his bone structure, mannerisms, and smile resemble Takei in his younger days aboard the Starship Enterprise. Making the step back in time to the younger Sam believable.
History isn’t meant to be comfortable or edited. Bringing one of the misjudged and darker sides of American History to the stage in a musical format has been sensitively worked and presented to allow audiences to understand the cost on humanity and innocent people.
Allegiance will be one of the musicals that leaves a lasting memory for all the right reasons. Running until April 8th there’s plenty of time to catch a performance and catch this legendary actor on stage.
For more information on Allegiance and future productions at the Charing Cross Theatre please use the link below.
It is six years since the origin of SIX the Musical started its infancy by Cambridge University Theatre Society. Knowing they had to produce an original musical to perform at the Edinburgh Fringe the idea of Six came to life. The festival is notorious for making or breaking many performances and artists year after year, for this team its lead to global success.
January 2023 the latest cast change and my first press night back in the West End. Unlike many of the audience members this happened to be my first time watching SIX. I certainly haven’t been at all disappointed. The strong female-led cast and the Ladies in Waiting four-piece band offer a feminist approach and insight into the reign of Henry VIII.
Strong casting has created a fantastic press night. The cast dynamics are incredible. Each of the six Wives of Henry VIII vying to win pole position by the audience as to which one had the harder reign as the Queen and wife to the infamous volatile King.
Rhianne-Louise McCaulsky starts the solo proceedings in the role of the divorced Catherine of Aragon. Wearing an outstanding gold embellished dress, fabulous gold make up and a voice to match. Each note held and delivered with power and confidence. Totally stunning and every bit a Queen of the stage.
The tone adapted by Claudia Kariuka as the ill-fated Queen Jane Seymour who tragically died in childbirth lowers the tempo and offers a kinder look into the relationship the pair shared. She recalls a loving caring husband. An opinion not readily shared by the other five.
Costume designer Gabriella Slade creates six incredible outfits. Each takes a different colour and uses as many gems and bling that is physically possible. Even down to the microphone holder loop on each outfit allowing the cast to free up their arms for dance numbers. The attention to detail is superb.
Carrie-Anne Ingrouille Six’s choreographer has bought together an incredible fast-paced seventy-minute production. From each of the solo performances to the whole cast’s dance routines.
Although a story of the tragedies which the King bestowed on each Queen. There’s a strong message of female empowerment, taking back the power of their stories and retelling them with a twist. Even though its possibly not historically accurate the idea behind the musical is fascinating.
For more information on SIX and ticket bookings please visit the link below. It’s definitely one of the best West End musicals in Theatres at the moment.
Director and performer Stephen Smith bought “One Man Poe” to our screens during the lockdown. The gothic trilogy The Tell-Tale Heart, The Pit, and the Pendulum, and The Raven are now being performed live on stage at The Kings Head Theatre in Islington. Smith breathes an eerie new life into the C19th work.
The Tell-Tale Heart explains the murder of the gentleman with a false Raven eye through the justification of a madman murderer. The premeditated demise of a “nice” man whose only fault was his false eye.
The Pit and the Pendulum is a dark and harrowing account told by a prisoner kept in the depths of a dungeon cell. His surroundings are unknown and disturbingly come to life as Smith explores the dank and slippery environment. Discovering he is but a nose width away from plunging to death into a well.
His graphic account as the killer Pendulum which swings down from above will have you gripped throughout, to the point of looking up to make sure there isn’t anything coming down from the ceiling. Each sharp intake of breath and sweat module falling from his brow has you on the edge of your seat.
The Raven offers a shorter and slightly less horrific ending to the Poe trilogy. Although equalling as compelling in leaving you feeling uneasy and looking behind you.
Smith’s cast change between each of the three tales allows you a few moments of respite to gather your thoughts and prepare to be plunged back into the C19th gothic mind of Poe. The performance is one not to be missed and balances a compelling and repelling experience blended to leave you feeling disturbed and your senses on high alert.
Sound Designer Joseph Furey and Django Holder create a truly gothic experience. Especially in The Raven where I couldn’t quite locate where the noises made by the bird were coming from and found myself looking around at the time as Smith’s character.
The passion and understanding of how horror can captivate an audience are beautifully composed by Smith. Respecting the work by Poe and creating a performance that one would feel even the author himself would leave feeling disturbed by. I have a strong admiration for Smith’s portrayal of the three different characters and look forward to seeing future productions.
For more information on One Man Poe, Threedumb Theatre, and future productions at The King’s Head Theatre please use the links below.
It’s Christmas time, and that can only mean one thing: pantomime! City Theatre presents this production of Snow White, which differs a little from the typical tale. So, Snow White and Will Grimm are heading to Liverpool to confront the wicked Queen, Anastacia. But of course, the Queen has her ways, and so both of our heroes face struggles amidst their quest.
Fortunately, though, some help is at hand. Because Happy (the lone representative of her clan, as her six friends are stuck somewhere over the water) is here! As is Fairy Hope and her magic wand. Yet there’s only so much they can do with Queen Anastacia, who has her trusty right-hand man Hench. Not forgetting, too, the comic capers of Buttons and his mother. So, will the Queen continue to rule (and ruin) Liverpool, or is her reign finally in vain?
Analysis Of Snow White And The Scouse Queen
The story is easy to follow, and as alluded to, there is a twist on what you would expect. I won’t give away spoilers about the storyline here. But there are definitely some pleasant surprises that veer the arc in an unexpected direction. More notable, though, is the humour that we get. Snow White has some good lines, and Buttons and QEII both crack up, for real, numerous times.
But it’s Happy that steals the show with some hilarious comments and self-ironic statements about her role. Not to ignore her amusing dance moves during one particularly emotional scene involving Snow White and Princess Ava. There are also some notable music performances, as well as a fair few tracks that the audience is welcome to sing along to. This especially applies to the final number, which leads to the biggest reaction of the evening, as intended.
Summary Of Snow White And The Scouse Queen
City Theatre’s production of Snow White runs at the Hope Street Theatre until Saturday 10 December. And it’s worth attending to get some early Christmas cheer with a unique take on a classic story.
It’s that time of year again when Pantomime takes over the local Theatres and auditoriums fill up with children of all ages ready to be transferred to another world, oh yes they are. For many children, this is the first encounter they have had with the Theatre and what an experience to take away with them.
The Wizard of Oz is an all-time family favorite. Dorothy Gale (Abigail Coy) is swept away to the land of Oz after Kanzas is hit by a tornado. Killing the Wicked Witch of the East was never her intention. However, after her house lands on her, she is instantly revered by the locals and Glinda (Katie Stasi) the good witch.
All the familiar characters appear as Dorothy embarks on her journey to the Emerald City. First encountering the “brainless” Scarecrow (Max Gallagher), Rusty the Tin Man (Libby Gore) and the cowardly Lion (Julian Eardley) whose braver than he realises.
An Emerald City Welcome by composer Simon Slater offers a promising start to Dorothy and her friend’s request to see the Wizard himself. However, the tune soon changes and they realize that he isn’t quite as magical as they had been led to believe. Gatekeeper (Jon Bonner) attempts to let them gently when he sends them out on a quest.
Choreographer and assistant director Sam Taylor-Martin leads the cast down the yellow brick road on Dorothy’s search to find the Wizard of Oz. I especially liked the “flying monkey’ scenes when they are following orders from The Wicked Witch of the East (Ellie McMahon).
This year’s support cast offers a range of characters supporting the main cast along the way from the farmhands on the Ranch in Kanzas, and flying monkeys to the City dwellers from Oz. Extremely talented ensemble.
It would be fantastic for as many local schools and children to watch this year’s Panto at Theatre Royal. It has a fantastic balance of humour, singing, and special effects. Plus a range of detailed backdrops is used throughout the performance.
For more information on the Wizard of Oz and future productions at Theatre Royal Winchester please use the links below.
If nothing else, lockdown provided time and space to discover a wealth of acting, directing and writing talent that might otherwise have passed me by. In the latter category I “discovered” the work of David Ireland the appropriately named Belfast playwright whose most well-known piece https://wp.me/p7LeCU-wI Cyprus Avenue shocked audiences with its pitch black hilarity and violence in a stream from the Royal Court. A later and equally disturbing play, https://wp.me/p7LeCU-2Fq Sadie, then popped up as part of the BBC’s Lights Up festival. These two compelling dramas meant that the writer’s work has been high on my “to see” list now that normality has more or less been restored. Not Now currently playing at the pocket sized Finborough, which has championed some of Ireland’s other work, has many of the same concerns of the earlier plays but is much briefer and far less shocking. However, it is a perfectly formed little gem which shows that the writer is more than able to approach difficult subjects through a different lens and confirms his status as a major modern dramatist.
Set as ever in the writer’s native Northern Ireland the piece, once again, questions the whole notion of identity and its associated politics through two related but quite different characters. Young Matthew is hoping to get into RADA and is up bright and early to practise his audition speech, the opening monologue from Richard III. It’s clear that Matthew’s characterisation approach is heavily influenced by Olivier’s famous portrayal and his over exaggerated stance and vocal choices do not bode well – he’s having a particular struggle with inflecting the opening word “Now”. Uncle Ray thinks that he is being helpful with his suggestions for improvement – principally that his nephew should use his native brogue and Irish charm to win over the, what he calls RADAR, audition panel. The problem is that Matthew regards himself as British and doesn’t want to come across as something that he isn’t. As Ray points out there’s not much point in trying to be an actor then.
This opening section is playfully hilarious even when it is examining some sobering subject matter such as the sectarian strife and one family’s involvement in and reaction to the past troubles. Set against the background of the funeral of Matthew’s father/Ray’s brother the day before, the play gradually starts to expose a dark family secret about the departed. The sexual insecurities of the protagonists are also made manifest and shared as another aspect of identity comes under the microscope. There’s a tenderness evident in this middle sequence as the two men come to a better understanding of each other and realise there is as much that they share as that which divides them. The play returns to comedy for the coda but this is more about a sense of hope for the future and a celebration of who the two men are.
The pair of actors do a superb job in bringing the nephew and uncle quickly to life and sustaining believable characters throughout. Matthew Blaney is all gangly limbs and nervous glances as the aspiring actor and there’s real depth to his shock and surprise as he finds out the hidden past of first his father and then his uncle. Even better is Stephen Kennedy as the plain speaking painter and decorator who exudes a deal of confidence which actually masks deep seated insecurity. Kennedy has expert comic timing and makes the running gag of misremembered names a thing of joy. The moment when he confuses George Michael and George Clooney brought a huge wave of laughter from a capacity audience.
There’s a simple but effective kitchen table setting from Ceci Calf though that does mean that the centre of the traverse stage doesn’t get used that often. I could also have wished that director Max Elton might have moved his two characters around a bit more as they both seemed mostly rooted to one end or the other – unless that was some deliberate ploy to suggest the divide between the generations and their respective outlooks. These though are very minor points in a production that zipped by in just fifty minutes and said just what it needed to say and didn’t really need to say any more. David Ireland’s clever construction and insistence on brevity along with brace of assured and persuasive performances would be hard to better. Go see (that is, if you can get hold of a ticket!)
Not Now is at Finborough Theatre – click here To keep up with the blog and all the latest reviews please click here and choose a follow option
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I was reading an article the other day about one of the most popular films of 1931, Trader Horn. One of the first Hollywood films to be shot on location in Africa, it included the immortal line “The natives are restless tonight” and clearly thought it was being remarkably liberal by having a character declare, “They’re not savages! They’re just happy, ignorant children.” At a time before society in general became rather more aware of the rights and feelings of others it is not unusual to encounter such examples of bigotry and prejudice. With that in mind I rather expected that a play from the very same year, John van Druten’s London Wall currently playing at the Tower Theatre in Stoke Newington, might follow a similar trajectory; as it transpired, very far from it.
Viewed through the lens of nearly a century of “progress” the play comes across as remarkably forward thinking and more than ready to challenge the status quo which existed at the time (now?) on the subject of women in the workplace. It is set in the offices of Walker Windermere, a busy solicitors firm in the City with a relatively new fangled typing pool inhabited entirely, of course, by female workers eking out a living on skeletal wages. Personal lives have to be sublimated in the expected quest to become a cog in the machine (what boss Mr Walker refers to as “automata”). Office supervisor Blanche Janus (Stephanie Farrell) has worked there for a number of years but is unlikely to see her career (if such it can be designated) go any further. She has a degree of authority but has reached the proverbial glass ceiling and, at the tender age of just 35, is beginning to feel under appreciated in both her work and private life. Into the office comes new recruit, 19 year old Pat Milligan (Eloise McCreedy); the former, perhaps recognising a younger version of herself, takes the latter under her wing. This is none too soon as odious office lothario Mr Brewer (Nick Edwards) – interestingly his age is never mentioned – is on the prowl for his latest conquest and has naive Pat firmly in his sights. True to the standards of the era he wines and dines her but expects a reward which it appears he is willing to forcibly extort. But Miss Janus and Mr Walker (Jonathan Norris) are ready for him and between them swiftly take back control. True to the form of the well-made play the crisis is averted and Oscar Wilde’s well known dictum “the good end happily, and the bad unhappily” prevails.
If the premise seems a little well worn it is made interesting by van Druten’s and the cast’s command of character. They are both well drawn and well played with each of the already mentioned quartet giving well judged performances which help to raise them above mere types. It’s often easier to portray villains than good people, so Eloise McCreedy does well to avoid the victim stereotype while Stephanie Farrell radiates a quiet assurance deliberately masking Miss Janus’s inner turmoil as both her place of work and her long term relationship contrive to keep her in her place. The secondary characters are perhaps rather more sketchily constructed but here too, the players do what they can to create figures which are more fleshed out. Alison Liney scores a hit with her litigious client and I was thankful that company newcomer Sandy Miller successfully steered his office junior, enjoying the salacious bits of the divorce cases, away from Dick van Dyke cockney excess.
The office setting is stylishly realised in Phillip Ley’s set design with location changes handled well by the stage management team. There’s plenty of period detail to be enjoyed, in particular an impressive looking telephone exchange system neatly encapsulates the era, which is further enhanced by Sheila Burbidge and Peter Westbury’s redolent costume design. I’m not sure who was responsible for the hair design (maybe the actors themselves) but this too helped to successfully set the overall tone.
London Wall has been seldom revived since its premiere in the interwar years and it was interesting to hear some of the condemnatory vocal reactions from the audience to the predatory behaviour on display. I guess these would have been less muted back in 1931 but the playwright was making a bold point and may at least have given his original playgoers pause for thought. Originally due to have been staged before the pandemic hit, this carefully and lovingly crafted production has been gestating as a project for director Stephen Brasher for a very long time. It is to his credit that he has steadfastly seen this vision through and that the end result has turned out so successfully.
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Back in the day I can recall a time when pantos used to run until Easter. There was always something a bit odd about seeing this most Christmassy of entertainments when spring flowers were appearing and everyone’s mindset was chocolate, chocolate, chocolate. I had a similar moment of reflection with the “show” I saw yesterday as, ideally, it should really have been attended a couple of weeks ago during the Bonfire Night season. And indeed, that had initially been the plan; for reasons I won’t bore you with here I’d had to take a rain check. However, when I found that the “show” had initially opened in June I didn’t feel quite so out of step and besides one season seems to melt into another nowadays; Xmas ads have already been pervasive on TV for weeks.
The eagle eyed among you will have spotted that I’ve now written show as “show” twice. This is because, although there are certainly strong theatrical elements, The Gunpowder Plot is badged as an immersive experience rather than an actual play. As well as live actors, Layered Reality uses elements of the escape room/problem solving exercise, a history lesson and a theme park ride all topped off with some brilliant VR technology which make this something quite different. Based on real historical events and characters (though with a healthy dose of reinvention and even fantasy) the experience tells the story of the 1605 plot to blow up parliament headed by the enigmatic figure of Guy Fawkes in an England riven by religious bigotry and an insecure monarchy. This all takes place in a purpose built underground labyrinth right next door to the Tower of London and is primarily there to capture the tourist market. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, although the prices charged are quite steep especially if you start opting in to the add on extras such as meals, drinks, souvenir photos (really??), etc., etc.
As is the way with these immersive shows you are not simply an audience member but an integral part of the action. In this instance one of a small band of Catholic renegades who might (or might not) be in favour of the failed plot which, had it taken place, would have killed hundreds of people. And therein lies part of the problem because the outcome can only ever be that the plan is foiled – the rest, as they say, is history. It totally diminishes the power of the group to affect the outcome and as we all know that it ended badly for the conspirators I was left wondering what the purpose of the show actually was. If you can suspend those nagging doubts however it’s quite a lot of fun which I suppose answers the question. Basically, it’s a bit of fun and if you happen to learn some stuff along the way then that’s all to the good.
“Trust no one” is the watchword as you try and work out who are agents of the crown, who are double agents and even whether there is a triple twist going on. You get a rudimentary disguise and are assaulted not just by the sights but also the sounds and smells of early 17th century London. One of the most disconcerting sections is when you are shut up in a pitch black priest hole while outside a brutal arrest takes place. The technical stuff is very well done with both strong sound and lighting (Adrienne Quartly and Robbie Butler respectively) creating a strong sense of atmosphere. The actors who appear work hard for their paycheque; as well as following a script by Danny Robins they also have to keep the audience group moving and improvise according to responses from a constantly changing set of participants. Some non sequiturs inevitably creep in (I’m not sure that imprecations such as “Move it!” were part of the vernacular for the historical era) but there’s generally a sound interpretation of character and situation which keeps the tension flowing
The live cast are supplemented by a host of others who appear in the three VCR sequences which are scattered throughout. These include Harry Potter alumnus Tom Felton as Guy Fawkes (if you’re expecting to encounter him live, then don’t) with the character dominating the second half of the show. The VCR sequences are the undoubted stand outs of the proceedings as you get to zip wire over Stuart London (you can even see “your feet” swinging in front of you) and are rowed down the Thames to Parliament. For some unaccountable reason the boat “takes off” for a dazzling aerial spectacle but by then I was just enjoying the thrill ride element rather than worrying about plot. There’s also a neat sequence at the end as you are raced through a brief history of why we still celebrate the whole event. The trick with all of this is to make sure you keep doing a 3600 swivel or you’ll miss the myriad of lovely detail which the sequence’s director Simon Revely and his talented team has included.
While The Gunpowder Plot may not be the height of immersive theatre it certainly reaches for the apex of which the genre is currently capable and makes for an attractive addition to the tourist market. It would be ideally suited to a works group outing where participants already know each other and there isn’t the necessity to start bonding with a group of random strangers. Now that we can all go out again it will almost certainly do well in the run up to Christmas and would make a great gift for theatre goers to try something different. And the fact that November 5th has been and gone is certainly no barrier to enjoyment; in any case as I finished my journey home two weeks after the big day there were still fireworks going off in the distance – a fitting finale to an entertaining and unusual “show”.
The Gunpowder Plot Experience is at The Tower Of London Vaults – click here To keep up with the blog and all the latest reviews please click here and choose a follow option
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Migrations tell the story of migrants spanning between 1620-2022 who risk their lives for the opportunity to have better quality and opportunity in life. This isn’t a tale of “woe is us” this is a strong powerful Operatic performance sharing the plight tens of thousands of people have embarked upon for the dream of a better life. Conductor Matthew Kofi Waldren led the orchestra through the voyage with incredible navigation.
The Native American Cree community fighting for their right to “exist” is told by Dawn (Marion Newman) a worn down native who only wants to live on and survive by the land her ancestors left her. Fighting the large oil companies devastating her habitat for greed and expansion. Challenging the question of authority and ownership of free land. Her voice is waning and the frustrated exhaustion comes across as a heart-rendering performance.
To the right-hand side of the stage, the four richly dressed gentry sit eating a vast array of decadent dishes served to them by their “negro” slave. Oblivious to the plight of pain and torment surrounding them. They laugh, eat and discuss the trading of slaves in the way in which you would write a shopping list. The boos they received at the end highlight the impact their presence had on the audience.
A flock of birds on their annual migration fly in and out of the stage observing the human migrants as they go. The youngest constantly questioned the adults on why they continued the same way each year and why are people behaving in a “stupid” manner. However, on arrival at their annual nesting rock, they discover its been a casualty of global warming and is now submerged underwater, exhausted by their long flight each of the birds succumbs to the water and died in quick succession.
Will Todd’s music and orchestrations bring each era to life with a new passion for each migrant collective? The scale of work involved shows Todd’s passion and conviction in bringing their stories to life. With a cast of over 80 performers, it is certainly not a small-scale production and I was impressed that the attention to detail never slips.
A refreshing and honest modern Opera. Bringing to stage up-to-date concerns, and raising awareness of real-life issues and major problems is to be congratulated and applauded. Migrations will remain with me for a long time, feelings of disgust and despair never go away overnight.
Migration issues are as relevant today as they have been throughout History. The plight people endure escaping war, murder, rape, and atrocities. Although pinpointed over several decades migration hasn’t changed and as long as people feel undervalued and afraid of the lives they are living it will continue for many decades more.
I would strongly recommend buying a programme for Migrations. It is a fascinating insight into how the Opera was constructed and the indepth historical information collected and covered throughout the Opera.
For more information about the Welsh National Opera and future ptarmigan at the Mayflower please visit the link below.
Hollingsdene Labour Party meeting opens up proceedings for the evening’s performance. June Wright (Carrie Cohen) the mature stalwart long-term Labour member chairs the meeting with a strong authoritative presence, leading the meeting fairly to ensure all the comrades who have gathered there behave in an orderly fashion allowing everyone a chance to speak.
Local MP Sally Finch (Antonia Beamish) actively supports local University Lecturer Jim Marr (Michael Palmer) on the picket line as he protests against the further proposed cuts in Education. However, when he meets Sofia Peters (Catherine Adams) she isn’t as quick to support as nobody was there to represent her Mother whose cleaning job in the University was unfavorably changed without consultation and came out against these changes to protect her interests and future.
Fragility in the political landscape comes to the forefront when MP Sally Finch votes against the whip in an education bill within a parliamentary vote. Her reasons are never fully explained or questioned in depth. However, it spells disaster and the future of her holding onto the seat is locally Triggered and put to the constituents vote.
Emna Burnell’s long standing political background and insider understanding run throughout Triggered. Many inside jokes are often apparent and appreciated by audience members in the “know”, yet admittedly many of these went over my head.
Sharing the plate of biscuits towards the beginning of the play explained how you could identify a person’s political preference by the biscuit they chose. I chose a custard cream this apparently represents the safe choice that rarely goes creates waves and supports Tony Blair! Not sure anyone who knows me would agree. Yet, If the garibaldi is your preference it’s the one that nobody admits to liking, apparently like a Tory supporter. Make of that what you will. I will need to choose my biscuits with more consideration from now on.
An interesting plot that although based on the Labour party could easily transcend across other parties. My knowledge of behind-the-scenes politics is limited and I left feeling I had a small insight into the grassroots side of how the constituency hub might have been managed.
For more information on Triggered and future productions please visit the link below. Although I do believe that this run of Triggered has already sold out.
There’s nothing quite like reviewing a festive family production when the auditorium is full of excitement from the four busloads of primary school children sitting ready and waiting the wonders that are about to come alive on the stage. At 10.30 am, spirits are running high.
Rapunzel (Tilly-Mae Millbrook) is left by her father after the death of her Mother in the garden belonging to herbalist Mother Gothel (Miiya Alexandra). Teaching Rapunzel all about the healing qualities of each of the plants growing in the garden the audience have a horticultural lesson as part of the entertainment. The pair become incredibly close.
Everything in the garden is rosy until Rapunzel begins to blossom into a young woman and the fear of losing her to a young man engulfs Mother Gothel who then decides to hide her in the tower. Keeping her safe and all to herself. All parents know this is never going to end well!
Tilly-Mae Millbrook’s performance in the role of Rapunzel brings a touch of reality often lost in other adaptations in the form of Rapunzel’s reaction each time her hair is used for a rope ladder her face winces and consorts demonstrating the pain and torture that would be felt.
Along comes Prezze (Jess Lobo) to rescue her from the Tower and take her back to his family Palace to live happily ever after. Things don’t go to plan as you might expect and the journeys they embark on certainly weren’t part of their plans, however, they need to be travelled before being reunited.
Upon revisiting performances like Rapunzel as an adult you see the cruelty and control used by the dominant “bad” characters over those they deem weak. Although Mother Gothel approaches from a maternal perspective it’s nonetheless cruel and imprisonment.
I especially liked the slapstick-style comedy used by Rapunzel as she flees the two “baddies” who want to Rob her. Each of the extremely talented cast members doubles up as the orchestra bringing the musical score directly to the stage either as a solo or collective depending on the music required.
Pierluigi Ambrosi (Emma Barclay) encompasses humour, truth, and an abundance of talent to see the errors of their ways and turn their back on crime and work towards a positive future. Barclay’s performance shone throughout the play and engaged enthusiastically with the younger audience members.
Offie Award-winning director Lucy Betts has bought to stage the classic tale of Rapunzel and added a few twists which make for a thoroughly enjoyable alternative Christmas production.
The programmes retail at £3 each which I think is good value for money, as well as the usual cast information it has several pages of word search, crosswords, and make your crown instructions which would entertain younger audiences at home afterward, keeping the magic alive a while longer.
For more information on this Christmas production and future work coming to the Watermill please use the link below. Rapunzel is running now until 1st January 2023.
Witches of Oz The Vault’s latest immersive product is a blend of The Wizard of Oz and the Witches from Wicked. There are two options in place to enjoy the show. The three-course dinner is served at intervals throughout the performance or shows only, with both groups sharing the same seating area. The main course is delicious chicken thighs with a selection of vegetables and two varieties of cooked beetroot which I devoured.
The evening begins as the subjects of Emerald City (audience) are sent down the destructed yellow brick road signs to the first cabaret room. Relax with a carefully constructed themed cocktail, wine or a range of soft drinks. Take your seat as the cast introduces themselves and warms up the audience for an entertaining trip to the World of Oz.
Travel on twenty years as we return to the land of Oz under Waterloo in The Vaults. Changes have taken place in the land of Oz and Dorothy is no longer a sweet and innocent little girl. Older and wiser the group are bought back together and set on a new journey in the Emerald City.
The Lion (Milla Sutton) certainly has found the courage she was searching for in donning the figure-hugging dominatrix PVC outfit. Complete with a glorious large mane and the tail-designed finishing touch of a whip, leaving her ready to jump into action if and when required throughout the evening. Fabulous power dressing in the Land of Oz.
Director and writer Shay Shay yet again work his magic. After the recent sell-out successful production of Mulan Rouge in the same venue in the depths of the Vaults. Witches of Oz is an equal musical treat adding a Shay Shay twist to the famous Oz characters. I look forward to seeing what Shay Shay creates next.
For more information on this production please visit the link below.
Based on the 1982 original novel by Alice Walker, The Color Purple The Musical was written by Marsha Norman and accompanied by music and lyrics composed by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray.
With the depth and strong themes throughout the original novel by Walker, the idea of the subjects transferring to a musical intrigued me. However, it certainly doesn’t disappoint. The musical score and strong cast bring this powerful novel into the Musical genre triumphantly.
Celie (Me’Sha Bryan) and Nettie (Aaliyah Zhane) start the story at the tender ages of 14 and 12. Celie has been systematically raped over the years by her father (KM Drew Boateng) and has two babies by him which he removes. Married off to a cruel widowed farm owner the abuse continues for many years.
As the musical develops Celie gains the strength to break free from her marriage and start her life again. Breaking free from a lifetime of physical and mental abuse takes strength and self-belief. This is reflected in the songs in which she begins quiet and timid where at times you struggle to hear some of the lines. However, by the end of the performance, she raises the theatre roof with a powerful performance of “I’m Here” which resulted in rapturous applause.
The stage starts life in the form of the inside of a large barn. On both sides house style, panelled areas move in and out as the scenes change from the local church, store owned by the girl’s stepfather and later into the successful trouser store created by Celie. Projected images showing the forest or corn fields depict the outside landscape surrounding the families. Set designer Alex Lowde’s thought and design techniques bring part of Southern America to the stage.
Director Tinuke Craig has bought the powerful novel to life through the staged musical without removing the hard-hitting topics that are present throughout the book. Dealing with rape, abuse and control is painful to watch yet the techniques used feel empathetic and considered how the victims would have felt. Theatre should be challenging and this production certainly is at times.
The long and bitter fight for Civil Rights spans many decades in America. Within the Theatre programme, there’s a comprehensive timeline starting in 1904 through to 2021 describing key or life-changing events that have taken place in the fight for equality. I think this is an extremely important timeline to have been included.
For more information about this touring musical and future productions at the Mayflower Theatre please use the links below.
The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland staged version by Wise Owl Theatre Company has been superbly adapted from the original book “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll published in 1865, bringing a wonderful family show to the stage. Combining imagination, songs and an invitation to the Mad Hatters Tea Party, just watch out for the hiding mouse.
Alice is inquisitive, bright and always looking for her next adventure through her imagination. Well, let the adventures unfold as she enters the surreal world of Wonderland.
My favourite character in the show has to be the glamorous caterpillar who Alice embarks upon in the garden. The caterpillar is awaiting the transformation into a butterfly while munching through cabbage leaves. The range of sparkly shoes complimenting the multi-coloured pupa costume was stunning. Her Operatic numbers from Madame Butterfly and Carmen were fantastic.
All of the well-known characters feature in the performance. The crazy conversations taking place between the Mad Hatter and The Hare at the famous Mad Hatters Tea Party are fast-paced and somewhat bizarre, yet very funny. The Queen makes a regal appearance threatening to behead nearly everyone around her, making you question why anyone still lives in Wonderland.
The self-contained staging begins in the family home’s attic which is full of family heirlooms, Alice’s haven where she escapes on stormy days like today. Her imagination takes her on many adventures through the items she finds up there. The attic opens up to reveal the world of Wonderland where the surreal adventures begin.
The puppetry used throughout the performance is of an extremely high standard which is no surprise as Matthew Forbes, associate puppetry director at the National Theatre as part of the creative team from War Horse and now in the Lion King, designed the ones being used. We first see the white rabbit bounce through the auditorium on his quest to find the red paint. To the larger life, Cheshire Cat divides into four sections allowing the character to circle Alice confusingly as seen in the original book.
For more information on this play, future productions at the Theatre Royal Winchester and the Wise Owl Theatre company, please use the links below.
James Forth brings The Boy who Fell into a Book to life this October half term at The Tower Theatre in Stoke Newington. One of Alan Ayckbourn’s classic British family play watches Kevin Carter become absorbed into the covers of his favourite characters’ crime stories and join him on the quest to help him escape the furnace and destroy The Green Shark.
Based on a cross between Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins) the hapless detective in Walt Disneys Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Raymund Chandler’s fictional detective Philip Marlowe. Complete with the iconic brown mac and a hat. Matt Cranfield is the perfect choice for the role of Detective Rockfist. Complete with an unshaven dishevelled look and sharp enquiring mind.
Six books feature throughout the performance from the initial Detective story, Chess for Beginners to Grimm Fairy Tales by Grimms Brothers. Rumplestiltskin also makes a guest appearance while he is on his quest to steal the Queen’s baby. Before we are introduced to Red Riding Hood and the big bad wolf.
I especially liked the vast range of costumes designed by Lynda Twidale. From the aptly designed pyjamas depicting Detective Rockfist Slim worn by Kevin, Little Red Riding Hood’s stunning red cape to the amazing chess piece costumes. The White Queen looked especially regal upon entering the stage before she trumps and banishes the Knight and Bishop from the chess board.
Director John Chapman has worked at Tower Theatre in various roles since 2012. He has been associated with Alan Ayckbourn’s work for many years and can safely add this latest production to his list of successfully directed plays.
One piece of advice before going to see The Boy Who Fell into a Book is to arrive in the auditorium about fifteen minutes early as there’s something to watch before the play begins.
For more information on this play and future productions at Tower Theatre please use the links below.
The powerful writing is matched by Joseph Potter’s outstanding performance as the unfulfilled prodigy artist Sasha in Poltergeist. Offering a challenging and exhausting role for Potter who delivers the dialogue with precision and an abundance of energy. Ranging between strong outbursts of rage, and screaming to lucid clarity. All of these are driven by a deep-rooted sense of loss.
Sasha had his hopes and dreams of becoming a successful artist through his acts stemming from the grief of losing his Mum while staying in a farm outhouse on the grounds of his sister in laws parents’ property. After completing the commissioned artwork he sets fire to it in a fit of rage and grief.
Popping copious amounts of co-codamol and a deep. sense of self-loathing has spread into every essence of his life. It doesn’t matter how much he consumes the pain remains ever-present.
The catalyst for today’s episode of self-loathing has been created after being invited to his oldest niece’s birthday party. The lack of interest in anything to do with them is compensated by his partner Che, whose relationship with the family helps keep the contact intact.
Poltergeist normally refers to paranormal activity or spirits. However, Sasha becomes possessed while he is in his brother’s house becoming a living and breathing Poltergeist. Moving photos, emptying the bathroom cabinet and leaving nail scissors abandoned at the top of the stairs.
The exceptional one-man performance brings a host of family and friends to life throughout the play. Each of the partygoers is distinguished through mannerisms and accents. From his pregnant sister-in-law Niamh who gushes with over-the-top necessities which grated on me and becomes sickly at times. Alongside his brother Flynn who is desperately trying to make sure everything runs smoothly. Is it driven by guilt or simply playing the good host it’s left for the audience to decide as we never know her or any of the other family members’ side of the story?
Watching the deep concentration and beguiling physical performance by Potter, You can feel the power as he is overcome and completely possessed by the Poltergeist spirit of his character, Sasha. I defy anyone to leave the Theatre, without feeling mentally exhausted.
Potter’s performance leaves me in no doubt that we are going to see a lot more of him in the future. These “gem” productions and performances are what keep the Off West End Theatres alive and drawing in the audiences.
For more information on this play and future productions at the Arcola Theatre please use the links below.
Hot off the press is a new Yorkshire musical comedy, There’s no Mystery in Murder. When a small Yorkshire village begins to be plagued by a serial killer after the murder of local Councillor Broadbent whose unpopular decision to bring a supermarket to the area had been passed was “obviously” the motive.
Murder is all too much for the local laid-back Police Sargent who immediately calls Leeds for help. However, local PC Banks is desperate to try and solve the first murder case in this village. Upon Detective Ilitch’s arrival, Banks shadows him to try and solve it much to the Detective’s annoyance.
The cast of four effortlessly move between characters bringing to life the sleepy village in Yorkshire. The array of villagers is hilarious. From the stalking slightly unhinged scissor weilding florist to Mr and Mrs Rising the couple obsessed with chess. At one point I had to do a double take as to how many members were performing in the cast as it appeared to be more than four.
Well, scripted fast-paced musical comedy isn’t an easy genre to stage and put together with the ease that Northern Corner have managed. The cast quick fire interaction holds the audience’s attention throughout. I didn’t want them to declare “who dunnit” as I was laughing too much.
This production has real potential to be one of the Fringe sellouts and certainly deserves to be in my opinion. Whether you’re a musical fan or not I can guarantee this production will entertain and make you laugh.
For more information about the musical comedy or to book tickets please use the link below.
Assisted is billed as “new writing/sci-fi”. Jordan and Connie are embarking on a new romance and everything is ” rosey”. Things are becoming serious when Jordan asks her to move in with him. Discussions about children and plans begin quite soon into the relationship.
Jordan is desperately striving for perfection and by using his household voice assistant AI Alivia he constantly checks in with her to make sure everything in his life is running to an unobtainable level. This particular concept may be closer to reality than we would like to admit.
Connie’s every move starts to be monitored, questioned and criticised by Jordan through the help of Alivia. When she wants to enjoy a relaxing glass of wine a full breakdown of the effects on her body is disturbing. The entire toxic three-way relationship would probably destroy the relationship much sooner than it does.
Whether Jordan’s behaviour is bought on through his unhealthy obsession with Alivia or he is naturally controlling is never fully ascertained as the play develops.
Sadly, the trigger warnings that should I felt should have been advertised with this production are missing. I found the strong themes around coercive control and domestic abuse jarring and uncomfortable. Challenging audiences is exactly what Fringe productions should be doing. However, please give them the informed option as to whether they wish to sit through these scenes or not.
Assisted provides a stark warning about the future development of AI machines and the detrimental effects it could have on our mental health and relationships.
For further information and on purchasing tickets please use the links below.
Set in the 1920’s insect enthusiast and budding scholar Marigold Webb (Laura Crow) became deaf at five years old when she was taken seriously ill by meningitis. The long-term condition during the 1920s wasn’t particularly understood or made allowances for, therefore she embarks on a long-term struggle to be “heard” and taken seriously in a male dominated field. .
Ben Hynes’s performance switches between her foul and manipulative husband Nicholas Webb and her much kinder long-term friend Thomas Dollman. One of whom completely understands her and the other just wants her inheritance.
Mrs Meadows (Samantha Vaughn) Marigolds Mother is torn between wanting to support her daughter’s path yet knows that women at that time are expected to have a husband in order to be provided for financially.
The audience also experiences the world through the “ears” of Marigold when the technician switches the volume to a low buzzing style noise and the conversations between the other two characters continue with them mouthing to one another.
Performances encompassing disabilities in an everyday situation allow a greater understanding about how the world and other people can appear to them. Hopefully educating some of the audience’s along the way.
I found the stage and costumes a striking theme of black and green. Black from the monochrome filmed era of motion pictures to the emerald green represents the natural world with which Marigold feels at one.
A very powerful piece of theatre which succeeds “elegantly” through Marigold’s actions in raising awareness about the silent world in which many deaf people live. Hopefully this production will go on tour to a wider audience in the future as it’s a beautiful piece of theatre.
For more information on the play, theatre company and tickets, please use the links below.
The Watermill’s bespoke setting and compact stage wouldn’t be my first choice of venue for a revival production of the musical Whistle Down the Wind based on the book by Mary Hayley Bell, adapted to music by Andrew Lloyd Webber with lyrics by Jim Steinman. However, the results were extremely impressive.
The storyline touches upon grief, racism, loneliness, small-town attitudes from 1959 Louisianna and religious practising cults in the form of the Snake Preacher (Elliot Mackenzie).
Swallow (Lydia White) is an older teenager who’s struggling with grief for her recently deceased mother, attempting to reassure and protect her younger siblings while trying to understand her father’s problems. Her faith is the one stable and constant thing in her life and it’s quite easy to see why the “man” she discovers in the family barn soon becomes a victim of mistaken identity.
Robert Tripolinos’ performance as the injured “man” an escaped murderer. Mistaken for Jesus by Swallow and the children he starts quietly with an air of uncertainty about him. Yet, as he becomes comfortable and finds his voice the sinister background stories being discussed by the adults in the village soon become reality. Tripolino’s voice is outstanding and amazed the auditorium when he sang his first number.
Although on the surface the storyline appears far-fetched and improbable. When you look at the events taking place through the eyes of a grieving daughter and the younger cast it’s a befitting story that wild imaginations would create and encourage each other to believe in within their peer groups.
The entire performance is set in and around the backdrop of the barn set in farmland where Swallow and her siblings live. Doubling up as the house of god, the local bar and a railway tunnel. Simon Kenny uses all the space available to its best capacity.
Many of the cast doubled up as the musicians from a range of guitars, piano, clarinets and piccolo. The limited space in the Theatre doesn’t allow room for an orchestra pit as well. Musical director George Francis certainly overcame that challenge.
The smaller scale setting certainly didn’t leave the audience with a smaller scaled production. I am sure the Choreography at times took precision and planning to allow each of the dancers the required space they needed without falling over each other. Director and choreographer Tom Jackson Greaves has developed a memorable production.
For more information on this production which runs until September 10th and future shows coming to The Watermill please check out the link below.
Moment of Grace brings to stage a poignant part of documented history when the country watched on as Diana Princess of Wales opened the AIDS ward unit in London’s Middlesex Hospital. Diana began breaking down the myth that HIV could be passed on through touch or hugging.
Patients were “infectious, not contagious”. Stigma and urban myths shrouded the infected patients. Anyone so much as connected to them lived in fear of being alienated and cast out as “they must have caught it”. Nurse Jude (Narisha Lawson) explains the fear of ridicule compassionately which she faced on a daily basis as a 24-year-old nurse.
I was moved throughout the 55 minute performance by all three cast members. Understanding how they all lived through the same events yet their experiences were worlds apart. Andrew (James Taylor-Thomas) explains from the perspective of an hiv patient living on the ward how he hid his illness from the world and condemned himself to the inevitable, death.
Donnie (Richard Costello) is mourning the loss of his son and best friend. His conflicting opinions on gay men are subtle. He should hate them for not being ” a man’s man” of his generation and they deserve to be ill. Although I wanted to dislike him for his outward opinions there’s a softer side to his character that I felt wanted to accept everyone for who they are.
Director Su Gilroy captures the cruelty of the 1980s stigma and ignorance surrounding HIV patients. Although we don’t see Diana Princess of Wales the mention of her presence is all we need to see how deeply she touched the lives of so many. Using three stools and a uniformed cast alone, the rich and moving script by Bren Gosling was all that the cast required to bring this extremely important story to life.
Stories like a Moment of Grace are archived in our memories as part of history. Yet these harsh periods in our not-so-distant past need to be talked about and bought to the screens and stages to raise awareness of how hideously a large section of society was unjustly treated.
Please use the link below to find out more about a Moment of Grace, book tickets and for information about future productions coming up at The Hope and Anchor pub theatre.
Moment of Grace
Links below to The Terence Higgins Trust and other organisations that support and help those effected by HIV.