Wednesday, 21 March 2018

“Beasts & Beauties” by Lace Market Youth Theatre
Nottingham Lace Market Theatre
Seven stories from Europe adapted by Carol Ann Duffy. The stories are the basis of some of the best known fairy tales but are steeped in much darker roots.
From a down trodden girl despised by her step sisters who goes on to marry a Prince by way of a sneaky hedgehog who cheats a hare to win a race through a young girl who's on her way to visit her Grandma in the woods but falls foul of a wolf to a goat that dispenses gold through its' backside,
This collection is great fun and the young people who perform these tales ooze confidence and take on the voices, accents and physicality of their roles wonderfully.
Directed by Sarah Ogando, she keeps the action flowing through the song "Lavender Blue", changing some of the words to match the playlets' stories, which makes each one flow seamlessly from one to the next.
Max Bromley is the lighting designer for this show and Jack Harris id responsible for the sound
As you’d expect the costumes are fabulous. Marie Morehen, Doreen Hunt and Jean Newton provide these. i especially love the costume for The Beast (Megan Murphy) and Mr and Mrs Hedgehog (Freddie Stevenson and brother Archie Stevenson). The former spectacular and flashy, the latter very simple but so effective.
21 young actors from the Youth section of The Lace Market Theatre provide an enchanting show which blends thrills, comedy, romance and loyalty. What makes it more challenging for these actors is that they are nearly all on stage at the same time all the way through, keeping character throughout, swelling the ensemble and playing various characters all the way through.
Great enthusiasm, plenty of energy and I can see several leading actors for the future in this group, and they're in the right place to grow their talents at the Lace Market Theatre.
"Beasts & Beauties“ is at the Nottingham Lace Market Theatre until Saturday 24 March 2018. And while you're at the theatre, take time to have a look at the picture exhibition upstairs by Grace Eden.

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

“Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde”
Nottingham Theatre Royal
Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1886 gothic classic is adapted for the stage by David Edgar, directed by Kate Saxon with Phil Daniels in the title roles.
In a secret experiment, the upright and respectable Dr Henry Jekyll splits his personality into two, releasing the fiendish and murderous Edward Hyde.
As Hyde brings about mayhem, terror and death in foggy London, can Jekyll find a way to suppress his monstrous alter ego, before it takes him over for good?
This adaptation is fairly true to the original with the addition of several more female characters including Katherine, Jekyll’s sister who gives an incite into the relationship that Jekyll had with his Father.
Phil Daniels, I feel doesn’t really make the most of this role – or it may be Director Kate Saxon’s decision to dilute the goth horror feel- but the only sign of the transformation from Jekyll to Hyde is a change of accent to a broad generic Scottish accent. It's like when Batman puts on his mask, no one recognises him, but Hyde hasn't even got a mask, but still no one can see that they are the same person!!
I can remember some of the old horror films of “Jekyll & Hyde” and Hyde was portrayed as an evil, monstrous, snarling animal. I don’t know if I’ve been de sensitized but nothing about this metamorphosis even made me flinch, in fact much of the Hyde parts made me snigger. The character was almost comic, slightly panto-esque.
There was a scene where Jekyll - or was it Hyde - and another character were sitting on cases at the railway station and they just seemed to be shouting at each other even though - as far as I could see - started as a normal conversation. I just didn't get it!
That aside I feel that Daniels has proved his acting worth in the past and this may be forgotten - probably best to - and his previous acting accolades allowed to shine. I loved his Jimmy in "Quadrophenia" and Richards in "Scum" but this role didn't convince me.
I did though like the comic line from Jekyll when asked where he had been he replied "I've been Hyding" oh how I chortled!!
Sam Cox, as butler Poole, adds a little levity with several well aimed asides.
Grace Hogg-Robinson is a convincing maid, Annie, who shows a good deal of emotional intelligence and I loved the accent and physicality of her character.
Polly Frame played Katherine, the sister, another character I enjoyed.
There's a singer, Rosie Abraham, drifts in and out with some oft rambling words in song like "Light", "Da Da Da".and the song that everyone is going to go out into the street singing "Don't Tickle Teddy In the Forest". My question is ....why?
Simon Higlett's set and costume design is evocative of Victorian London and the period. Dark, foggy streets lit spookily by gas and candlelight form a dangerous and creepy landscape. Darkness everywhere and even the walls inside the house are
painted black, except for the blood red door to Hyde's laboratory.
Sound designer, Richard Hammerton's soundscape is nicely eerie, of that's possible. There sound effects are grisly, with a gruesome cracking of bones as Hyde gets rid of politician Carew.
This also, unless I fell asleep part way through, was the only murder we saw. It needs more gore! Maybe they could have added more killings in the first hour of the play which may have made it not seem longer than it actually was.
Look, I may be taking the mick a bit but I was just expecting more. I've seen this play before and remember it was done better. There just wasn't enough of the scare factor in this production with nothing to differentiate the good and the bad sides of the main man. The sight and sounds of theatre seats being vacated before the end of the play is something I've not seen for a long time but tonight............
Murder by Hyde may not have been the only crime committed in this production
“Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde” is at the Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 24 March 2018

Monday, 19 March 2018

“Do I Wanna Know” by Felicity Chilver
Nottingham New Theatre
This play is part of the Nottingham New Theatre’s Fringe season, which runs alongside the other plays they are presenting this season.
Written and Directed by Felicity Chilver, the play focuses on James, a writer, and Evelyn, a performer. They meet, fall in love and start a relationship. It then explores the highs and lows of the relationship and when James gets his break and Evelyn loses her mum, the relationship crumbles. We see what happens with the pair after the break up which makes for an incredibly emotive close.
Let's talk about Felicity's writing. This is a really strong piece of theatre, and quite different as well. I'm not sure how much of the play is ad lib because there's quite a bit of audience involvement which is managed really well by both actors.
Pulling on her own experiences, Felicity has created a piece of work that makes you laugh out loud as well as choke you up, and that is not easy. At times the writing and scenes were Woody Allen-esque.
The exploration of friendship before, during and after a relationship, as well as the family relationships are beautifully highlighted, and the final scenes are quite emotional.
“Do I Wanna ” by Felicity Chilverve seen Ted in several plays over the last couple of years, but this is possibly the best I've seen him. From the very start he shows his skill at using the audience, acting and reacting and from there on, he shines. He uses every range of emotion and you can see the reaction he evokes in the faces of the audience, especially as the lights go down at the end of the play. Ted has a very expressive face and he uses this to his advantage to let us know what his character is feeling.
Sophie Walton plays Evelyn, and just like Ted, this is us the best I've seen from Sophie, and I've seen her do some emotional scenes. Her role in this also shows a more comedic side to her acting and seeing this makes her phone message to James at the end ever poignant. Now I don't know if I saw right from where I was sitting but I could have sworn that Sophie even produced tears while leaving that phone message, showing what a talented actor she is. It also shows what an emotional piece of writing this is.
I don't know who the set design was by, but as soon as you stepped into the studio space, it got your imagination going, It was set with tables around the chairs making it look like a cabaret bar, and this worked well with the storyline
The lighting design (Nathan Penney) and sound design (James Curling) were well synced in, creating just the right atmospherics for the play.
Produced by Sam Osborne - and I was surprised to see that this was his first NNT show, Laura Wolczyk was the Technical Director and Georgina Pittman also made her debut of this show as an Assistant Director.
Altogether the technical team, writer, director and actors combine to create an incredible start to the NNT Fringe Season. If this is the bar that has been set to start with, the rest have got to be good to keep up this standard.

Saturday, 17 March 2018

"Mystery Magic and Mayhem" by Musicality.
Studio Live Nottingham University.
What I love about showcases like this is that i always come away from them with something I've not heard before or something that I've not heard in a very long time. This was true on both accounts with this particular showcase put on by Musicality at Nottingham University.
The programme was well put together and included pieces from older musicals like "Chess" ( I Know Him So Well), "Les Miserables" (Who Am I), "West Side Story" (Gee Officer Krupke) and "Footloose" (Holding Out For A Hero) as well as a very modern selection of pieces from some of my favourite newer soundtracks like "Dear Evan Hansen", "The Greatest Showman", "Kinky Boots" and "Hamilton".
The theme of the night was Mystery, Magic and Mayhem and this ran through the musicals theme or the songs that were performed, so it was no mystery to me why this evening was so magical, with no sign of mayhem at all.
Linking the performances together was master of ceremonies Jake Gelernterwho sprinkled his own comic touches to the evening as well as performing as part of the ensemble and solo with "Who Am I" from "Les Mis".
The evening opened and closed with full ensembles and in between we were treated to solos, duos, trios as well as group numbers, showing the variety within Musicality.
I'd not heard "Times Are Hard For Dreamers" from "Amelie" so this was my educational addition, Charlotte Mann performed this song with such feeling, she made me want to find out more about the musical and get a copy of the song and the soundtrack. She sold it to me good and proper.
I love the "Hamilton" soundtrack and Claire Wimbush and Matt Talbotperformed "That Would Be Enough". This duo made me think that they would be perfect to perform Jason Robert Brown's "The Last Five Years" because they sounded good together and had the right chemistry for this musical. Just a thought!!
I've heard several versions of "I Know Him So well" but Eleni Kite and Bethany Ward performed this song so well, it felt like the first time that I'd heard it.
Another wonderful duet was "In His Eyes" from "Jekyll & Hyde" by Becky Fryza and Megan Smith.
Loved the fun in the dance section to "My Strongest Suit" from the Tim Rice/Elton John musical "Aida" chotrographed by Rowena Fry and Sophie Mitchell. "Requiem" from "Dear Evan Hansen" performed by Charlotte HowarthRhodri Denton and Emily Dervey gave us something to think about. Comedy was also highlighted in "The Negative" from "Waitress" played out by Bryony Kirby, Rowena Fry and Adaeze Olugbemi.
Looking down the programme I saw "Defying Gravity" from "Wicked" and my first thoughts were that this song is such a big one that it's going to need someone who can really pull this off or else it could be a disaster. I really need not have been worried because Siska Yustina absolutely nailed it. Kerry Ellis watch out!
Mix in songs from "Shrek", "Spring Awakening", "Tangled", "Anastacia","Avenue Q", "Beauty & The Beast" and "The Little Mermaid" and you have a greatest hits of classic and modern musical theatre.
"Mystery, Magic and Mayhem" is on again Sunday 18 March 2018 and monies raised will help to fund the Fringe show that Musicality are taking to Edinburgh this year "Ordinary Days"
I'd have loved to have been able to say thanks to everyone personally for a wonderful evening of entertainment but with such a large group of people involved, I may have been there a while.

Friday, 16 March 2018

“Black Comedy” by Peter Shaffer
Nottingham New Theatre
First performed in 1965, this one act farce which opens on a darkened stage, when there is then an outage of the lights, and then the play becomes lit, reversing the “blackout” and creating the pun in the title.
Brindsley Miller (Harry Pavlou), a young sculptor, and his debutante fiancée Carol Melkett (Lois Baglin) have borrowed some expensive, antique furniture from his neighbour Harold Gorringe (Sasha Gibson)'s flat without his permission in order to impress an elderly millionaire art collector, George Bamberger (Reilly Salmon) coming to view Brindsley's work, and Carol's father Colonel Melkett (Hugo Minta). When the power fails, Harold returns early, and Brindsley's ex-mistress Clea (Selin Aci) shows up unexpectedly, things slide into comedy disaster for him.
Throw into this mix an elderly neighbour, Miss Furnival (Emilie Brittain) and a foreign electricity board worker, Schuppanzigh (Jack Ellis) who they mistake for the millionaire art collector and the recipe for comedy madness is complete.
I's seen this play a few years ago and knew how funny it is, so I eagerly anticipated this production, and I was not disappointed.
It takes talented actors, directors, producers etc to bring the comedy from the page alive and they certainly did that.
Louis Djalili I am so glad that your Dad pointed you in the direction of this play because you did a cracking job of it. Farce is not the easiest of forms to get right but the whole pace of this play was perfect and you obviously got the very best out of the cast and crew. If this is the last play you work on for NNT, I think you can say that you went out on a massive high.
Harry Pavlou, I've seen you in many plays and have nothing but compliments for your talents. This play for me is the cherry on top of the cake - even though I still love "Dead The Musical" to bits. Your comic timing and physical comedy is an absolute joy to watch. Comedy obviously comes as second nature to you.
Talking of physical comedy, Lois Baglin matched Harry every step of the way and I love the "posh" debutante accent which added so much to the character and comedy.
Hugo Minta was wonderfully over the top as the Colonel, a proper archetypal shouty army old timer.
Emilie Brittain is a wonderful character actor, Playing Miss Furnival really put the "fun" into Furnival as the character spirals slowly from God-fearing goody goody tea total neighbour into the most wonderful lush ever. Method acting at its' best.
Sasha Gibson just makes me smile whenever I see her perform and playing a man made me smile even more, Like Emilie, Sasha is a talented character actor and I loved the camp overtones of the character.
Selin Aci really looked to enjoy this role. Not only did she get to grips with Harry but to play a sexy,
mischievous and naughty character seemed to be something that she relished, and she did it well!
The two cameo roles causing some confusion within the play's storyline are played by Jack Ellis as the electrician who turns up to resolve the fuse outage and Reilly Salmon who's come to view the sculptures, and share the same accent. No wonder there was confusion!
Farce is all about comedy timing and this cast have obviously worked hard on this. The laughs come thick and fast, and not just giggles or chuckles, proper belly laughs. It is great to see comedy written in the 1960's getting such a brilliant reaction from the students.
The split level set could just be the best that I've seen. Designed by Beth Mullen.
One thing that could make or break a production like this is the Light design and Ian Webster smashed this, Again it's all in the timing and the timing was split second spot on.
Can i just say that I also loved the programme design. Very reminiscent of the old 90's hip hop style drawn characters
This will be the last NNT production for some of the students, and I for one hope that they will continue with their theatrical talents, as it would be such a waste if they didn't. I've enjoyed watching everything that you've done at NNT, and I hope that I get to see you in more stuff away from NNT, I'll watch out for your names.
“Black Comedy” is at the Nottingham New Theatre until Saturday 17 March 2018. it's one not to be missed if you want to exercise your chuckle muscles.

Thursday, 15 March 2018

“Tommy” by Gatepost Theatre
Guildhall Theatre, Derby.
Based on the iconic 1969 concept album, The Who’s "Tommy" is the multi-award winning epic rock musical written by Pete Townshend.
After witnessing the murder of his father by his mother's lover, Tommy is traumatized into catatonia, and as the boy grows, he suffers abuse at the hands of his sadistic relatives and neighbours.
As a teenager, he’s discovered to have an uncanny knack for playing pinball, and when his mother finally breaks through his catatonia by smashing the mirror he sees Captain Walker through, he becomes an international pinball superstar.
The musical is something special. This production is also something very special with parts of the musical being signed by the cast as they performed.Knowing how difficult it is to learn the basics of signing, this cast did a smooth job, thanks to the help of their signing consultant Jean Collington.
Tommy is played by a young actor called Harrison Ince who oozes confidence and can hold a tune as well.
Captain Walker is played by Christopher Collington, who doubles as the narrator, co-designed the set, choreographed the musical and directed it. One man, many hats.
Kirsty Vastenavondt (Mrs Walker), Daniel Collington (The Lover), Simon Owen (Uncle Ernie), Simon Collington (Cousin Kevin) and Sarah Knight (The Acid Queen) were all incredible. Their vocals were amazing. This is a rock opera and singing this style can be quite difficult, but it was if they had sung rock music all their lives. The power and clarity of their voices were fantastic.
This production features a brilliant live band faithfully recreating the sound and score of Pete Townshend and The Who. Tracks like “Amazing Journey”, “See Me Feel Me”, “The Acid Queen”, "I'm Free", “Smash The Mirror” and of course “Pinball Wizard”
At the start they warned the audience that they would need to switch their mobiles off as well as their hearing aids, and they delivered what they promised. Being loud doesn't always mean being comfortable to listen to but in the hands of Musical Director James Bowden, this band were loud and very comfortable on the ears. If I'm going to listen to rock music, it has to be loud! It has to have clarity!
The sound inside The Guildhall is always crystal clear and you could hear every word of every piece of dialogue and every song. Sound technician, Harry Greatorex made sure of that.
A simple set, co designed by John Cliff and Chris Collington, made sure that nothing detracted from the story, and this musical is all about telling a story. the first five minutes or so was all done with no words and that set the tone for the rest of the show.
From the Producer, Jim Dawkins, to the costumes provided by Mina Machin, to the wonderful ensemble and stage management team, you could tell that this show has been a labour of love for everyone involved. The passion and energy behind the performances is clear to see, and that is what makes this show one not to miss.
“Tommy” by Gatepost Theatre Company is at The Guildhall Theatre, Derby until Saturday 17 March 2018

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

"War Horse" National Theatre production.
Nottingham Royal Concert Hall.
This was the play that I've been looking forward to seeing for the past 18 months or so, and I tell you what, it was well worth the wait. I'd heard so many excellent reports of "War Horse" and every single one of them were true.
The young horse was bought in an auction when Ted Narracott out bids his brother, Arthur, using the mortgage money of $39.00. This obviously doesn't go down well back at home and his son, Albert is then given the job of looking after the horse, now named Joey.
Arthur then makes a bet with Ted which involved the horse being able to pull a plough within a week, which Albert trains Joey to do, winning the horse for himself.
As war comes, Ted sells the horse to the war behind Albert's back for $100. Albert is resigned to bring Joey back from the war which involves signing up for war, even though he is too young.
"War Horse" exceeds other theatre productions, for me, on two accounts. The first is the whole depiction of war. It shows the true horrors of the first World War; soldiers being blasted off of their horses, horses being mutilates by soldiers riding them into barbed wire fences, soldiers with limbs blown off and the horror of the whole involvement of war. I may say at this stage that it's not quite as graphic as I've made out but the presentation makes your imagination work overtime.
The second is the amazing puppetry. You soon forget that these horses are puppets and there are people involved in making the magic, and you truly believe there are horses on stage. there's one piece where one horse was put out of its' misery which will really get to you; it did me and you just feel helpless, and then you have to bring yourself back to reality and think "it's a puppet"!
That said, these puppeteers, the award winning Handspring Puppet Company, are incredible. The flicks of the horses' tail, the subtle movements, the mane shaking, the breathing of the horse, every mannerism makes you feel they're exquisite equines in front of your very eyes.
It;s not just the wonderful horse puppets though, as there's the comical goose, the birds in the sky, as well as the savage ones picking at the flesh of the dead soldiers and the horses. Pure theatrical magic.
It's this magic that will get you choked at the end. A lesser individual would have released a tear; I just had dust in my eye making it water. Must have been all that dust from the several gunshots on stage.
Seriously though, this has to be one of the most amazing pieces of theatre of the last however many
years, and you'd have to be inhuman not to be moved by the incredible actors, puppeteers, singers etc, If you allow yourself to invest emotion into this show, you'll leave this theatre drained.
The lighting design (Paule Constable) was spectacular, as was the sound design (Christopher Shutt); both bringing your heart rate down as well as making you jump out of your skin.
Music was beautifully evocative folk music, written by Adrian Sutton and performed live on stage by Bob Fox.
Several times I've built myself up for a piece of theatre and have found that the production fell below what I'd hoped for. This production exceeded anything I could have hoped for. It's a beautiful piece of theatre, which I'm sure that the Directors,
Marianne Elliott and Tom Morris are incredibly proud of. If I was a director and produced a piece like this, I'd be happy to retire knowing that I'd be hard pushed to better it.
I really can't impress on anyone wondering if they should see this show just how much they will love this piece of theatre, as I did. My only disappointment was why so many people in the audience didn't stand to show their appreciation at the end. Maybe they were just a wee bit more reserved than I at showing how much I appreciated the talented actors!
"War Horse" is stabled at the Nottingham Royal Concert Hall until Saturday 7 April 2018.