Thursday, 18 January 2018

“Dick Whittington & His Cat” by the Young Performers
Duchess Theatre.
Just when you think panto season was over (oh no it’s not!), well it’s not quite over yet. And let’s face it panto isn’t just for Christmas after all.
Another way of looking it is that now all the other pantos are out of the way, what better time to put on another show, the competition is drastically reduced, so you could say that this is good planning all round.
Written by Lauren Riley, this really is a funny piece of theatre. the jokes are new and they don't try to be too clever which is what makes the jokes funny.
i loved this panto for several reasons, so let me expand.
Millen Scrivener (Dick) is a confident young actor with a very pleasant voice. Her pairing with her cat, Tommy, played by Emma-Jane Peel was believable and together they worked well.
Millen's other pairing, with Alice (Megan Thomas) was also well thought out and they worked well together, especially in the duet of "Embraceable You" which, while may have been just a bit old fashioned a song for this fresh panto, did show off the pair's voices well.
Molly Parkinson (The Good Fairy) played her part well and looked as delicate a fairy as you could wish for. But the tougher side came out when battling the evil King Rat.
Playing this particular baddie was Jake Truman, and he really got into the part well, extracting hisses and boos from the audience, just like a good panto baddie should.
Loved the make up for King Rat but the programme didn't mention who did the make up but whoever you are mysterious person, well done, it made Jake look the part.
Joe Downing played Mr Fitzwarren, and another confident performer in this cast. Instantly likeable and good at expressing various emotions in this role, which isn't always easy for a young actor to do. A solid performance form an easy to watch actor.
The Sultans are played by Ryan Yates and Finlay Dilks. Panto is all about pairings. This is another lovely pairing and these two add to the comedy of the panto in their physical appearance and their character names, which I'm not going to give away as that is where a good chunk of the comedy arises.
Harvey Tavener plays Jammy, son of Dame Geraldine. Harvey is a very confident performer. He is another likeable performer who can sing and dance well who also is a natural actor. He seems quite at home working with the audience as he does working with the rest of the cast, and this shows a great maturity doe such a young man.
George Parkinson, doe me, has the hardest role playing Dame Geraldine. His confidence in this role is a joy to watch and he could be a natural Dame going forward as he is not afraid of the role. George too works well with the audience and can control them. He also ad libbed well when part of the set from the previous scene was left on stage. He and Harvey dealt with this oversight really professionally.
Making is Directorial debut is Zak Charlesworth, and this is no easy job by any stretch of the imagination, but the boy done good and everything on stage went off extremely smoothly with no sign of the legs paddling like crazy under the water.
Lauren Riley not only wrote this gem but choreographed it as well. The choreography was very tight and, again, another reason for my loving this panto. Every one involved in the ensemble were so enthusiastic which makes watching them an absolute joy.
A very professional set designed and built by Roydon Charlesworth also created to house the band, Musically directed by Leon Wade they were several feet in the air over the back of the set which left the stage uncluttered and allowed for the stage extension to feature the cast and not the band, who produced a sound which was comfortable to hear and didn't drown any of the singers. A nice compliment to the actors and ensemble.
Lighting, as usual was unobtrusive under the control of the lighting master, Dave Martin.
A really enjoyable night out with a very confident and talented young group of people who'll have no trouble getting you involved in the audience participation section of the show.
I predict many future stars of the stages in the locality can be seen all this week on this very stage.
"Dick Whittington & His Cat” is at the Duchess Theatre in Long Eaton until Saturday 20 January 2018 with a Saturday 2.30pm matinee.

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

“Caught In The Net” by Rumpus Theatre Company
Pomegranate Theatre, Chesterfield.
Ray Cooney’s classic farce and sequel to his “Run For Your Wife” is all about juggling! John Smith has been juggling his two lives, his two wives and his two families for a while. He’s managed to keep all his balls in the air for some time, until the internet threatens to bring those balls crashing down around his ears!
I love a good farce and having seen this Cooney classic before, I knew what fun an audience can have watching the confusion and panic that befalls John Smith in this play.And this cast, who I've seen on several occasions now absolutely enhance the comedy of Cooney's fabulously funny script.
Farce is all about timing, and doors, and there are seven doors to slam in this set. The timing is nailed by all, both physically and verbally, at times leaving you catching your breath at the rapidity of the delivery.
John Goodrum plays Smith and races around like a mad thing all the way through and his verbal dexterity is to be admired.
Susan Earnshaw (Mary Smith) and Susie Hawthorne (Barbara Smith) remain perfectly confused and oblivious of the other but when they all come face to face, there's a surprise for John!
Charlotte Chinn (Vicki Smith) and Chris Sheridan (Gavin Smith) play the kids, and you know what, it's not that often you get adult actors who can actually pass for their stage character age but both Chris and Charlotte actually look like teenagers. Not only that, their persona as teenagers is spot on. Lovely characterisations.
While John Smith is the main character in the play, for me George Telfer (Stanley Gardner) was the man. Gardner is John Smith's best friend and lodger and the character who steers this ship through the comedy seas. Not only has he got to deal with the two wives and John, plus keeping the siblings separate, he also has to deal with his confused father who has a problem differentiating between Felixstowe and Wimbledon.
“A Touch Of Frost”s john Lyons features as Gardner's Dad and, as usual, a joy to watch with that cheeky twinkle he has when not busy being confused. I'd like to think he's playing the family along with that sense of humour Daddy Gardner has.
Directed by Karen Henson and John Goodrum, the pace is break neck and the comedy comes thick and fast. The chemistry between all the actors on stage is evident, which is built up by the many years this lot have performed together.
An uncluttered set, thanks to John, Clive Goodlad and Pete Siddon, provides the many doors needed to create the comedy, even if it is behind locked doors. Providing the home setting for both Smith families, it could have caused confusion but it didn't.
The sound in the Pomegranate is crystal clear, both music wise and from the stage. You could hear every word uttered, thanks to David Gilbrook who was in charge of the sound.
This Cooney classic is as funny now as it was when it was first written and is at home in the modern setting as in any decade.
A wonderfully talented cast means that you will not be disappointed with this play. With the twist at the end, which even though I'd seen before, had forgotten the twist, this play will have you belly laughing, not just chuckling.
“Caught In The Net” is on until Saturday evening with a Saturday matinee at 3pm at The Pomegranate Theatre, Chesterfield.

Monday, 15 January 2018

“Charles Dickens-The Haunting”
Nottingham Lace Market Theatre
Wasn’t it one of the characters in Charles Dickens’ “The Pickwick Papers” who said ‘I wants to make your flesh creep’? Well there are many of Dickens’ books that have featured supernatural visitations, so this play by Hugh Janes, which has been adapted from several of Dickens’ original ghost stories is a salacious supernatural selection of spookiness.
A young book dealer, David Filde, is employed by a former associate of his uncle to catalogue an impressive library at his crumbling old mansion. But a series of strange and unexplained events occur and Filde begins to fear for his safety. He tries to convince his employer that the ghostly happenings are real and the two men stumble across a dark and terrifying secret that will change their lives forever……….
To tell the truth, this play left me cold.....due to the shivers that watching this play sent up and down my back. People will obviously make comparisons between this play and "The Woman In Black", but I tell you what, this play is the better of the two. There are several "chill" moments and just as many jumpy moments which should satisfy any fan of this sort of genre, as well as anyone who loves absorbing theatre.
Damian Frendo plays Filde, and you can feel the nervous fear in his delivery of the script. I found myself watching Filde and not Frendo, which may, to some seem a weird thing to say, but any actor will know that their main aim is to make the audience believe in the character that they are playing, and Damian certainly did that.
Lady Gray is played by Emma Carlton, and possibly my favourite of Emma's roles. She pronounced and enunciated every word, making Lady Gray a character to keep your eyes and ears on. Most of the humour came from Lady Gray's lines in a Penelope Keith style.
Elise Matter plays Mary, and Director Adam Goodchild had told me that this character was scary, and he was not wrong. The air of unearthly detachment was presented so well and the make up for Elise was spot on, especially when she is seen in the light of a lightning flash.
Twitching is played by Christopher Collins, Not a big part for Chris but sets the mood for what was to come right at the start of the play.
Appearing in voice only, as old Lord Gray is the unmistakable tones of Richard Fife, even with the sound effect on his voice.
Making his directorial debut for the Lace Market Theatre is Adam Goodchild and what a way to do it. Technically this is one play that is great fun for a Director to play with, but he didn't go over the top and the slow burn of the spirit making her presence felt was perfect.
This play shows that saying nothing at all can say more than a page full of script. At the start of Act two there is a silence on stage for a few minutes, and in that silence the atmosphere and tension built on the ending of Act one.A possible worry for any Director and actor, but not in this play
The set, which is designed by Hannah Eccleston and Adam Goodchild, gives you that "WOW" factor. The detail in every part of this set ensures that you always have somewhere to look, a good idea to get in there early for a proper look at it. I was sat in the perfect seat because the "magic" of theatre within the set could not have been better. I will not expand on that for fear of giving away anything that may spoil your theatrical experience.
When a play of this kind is produced, the sound effects and the lighting effects really add to the whole atmosphere, and Matthew Allcock and Allan Green, respectively just nailed it.The whole atmosphere was enhanced by their magic and was part of the reason that I left just a little uneasier than when i went in.
There’s lots of good old fashioned theatrical magic and trickery used to create what you see in this play and you can really become enveloped in this creepy story. I knew some of what to expect but when you don't know where that magic is going to materialise it still takes you by surprise.
“The Haunting” is at the Lace Market Theatre until Saturday 20 January 2018 but hurry as the Saturday matinee is already sold out, so get those ticket while you still have a ghost of a chance of seeing this spirited production as it’s ex-spectred to sell out pretty quickly!

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

“Thriller Live”
Nottingham Royal Concert Hall
Now in its tenth year, this show takes you back in time and remembers the many periods of Jackson’s career. Right from his early Jackson Five days all the way up to the end of his career, this show has toured all over the world giving fans who never had the chance to see Jackson live a taster of what they may have missed.
Now, no one can dance like Jackson, but these dancers do a damn good job to emulate the moves and the aura that Jackson had. But no one can match Jackson's natural dance skills, especially in those "pop and lock" to the beat. Even the great Fred Astaire listed him as one of the best dancers in the world
Let’s face it, he was one of the most exciting entertainers in the world of music and dance, so you have to be very good to even try and get close to the energy and excitement seen in one of Jackson’s live shows
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Six different vocalists cover Jackson’s career led by Britt Quintin, whose natural stage presence will grab you as soon as he appears on stage.He looks like Jackson and sounds like Jackson in a natural way
Who can keep their feet still when classics like “I Want You Back”, “ABC”, “Can You Feel It”, “Off The Wall”, “The Way You Make Me Feel”, “Smooth Criminal”, “Beat It”, “Billie Jean”, “Dirty Diana”, “Bad”, “Rock With You”, “They Don’t Care About Us”, “Dangerous” and of course “Thriller” are churned out. Not I!
Performed in a concert like atmosphere, it’s like being at a gig with the lighting and the throbbing sound system, at times leaving you breathless. Something these dancers never showed signs of.
At first it was all quite Cruise ship entertainment, and that's not a criticism as I know how hard Cruise ship entertainers work, it just had that feel.
But come Act Two, this was the explosive to Act One's touch paper!
They had the crowd on their feet with even more classics and also held two of my highlights from this show.. Rory Taylor's version of "She's out Of My Life" dripped heart felt emotion in Act One, but in the second half came another, "I Just Can'r Stop Loving You" and the incredible version of "Earth Song". We also had to wait for "Thriller" almost to the end.
Jackson is famed for his innovative choreography, and I can remember seeing him do the moonwalk for the first time at the Motown 25th Celebrations on TV, and that blew my mind. How did he do that? I practised for weeks, unable to pull off that move.
Director and choreographer Gary Lloyd re created the iconic dance moves of the man, including a gravity defying lean forward move in "Dirty Diana".
I had my doubts as to whether every thing we saw was "live", the "Dangerous" and "Billie Jean" sections sounded pre recorded, but who cares, the music is iconic.
That aside, I'm not going to take anything away from these singers and dancers because they have enough energy on that stage to keep the stage lights shining all night. Not to mention that incredibly hi tech set designed by Jonathan Park.
There was though one moment at the start with singer Shaquille which caused a little concern, not from the ladies in the audience when his trouser zip seemed not to be in the up position. Thank goodness he was wearing pants underneath! Like the pro he is, he carried on regardless.
This is the second time that I have seen this show and I can’t see me getting tired of hearing these songs or watching these dancers for many years to come.Okay, it;s not Jackson himself but it's as close as you're gonna get.
“Thriller Live” is at the Nottingham Royal Concert Hall until Saturday 13 January 2018.

Saturday, 16 December 2017

“Black Beauty”
Djaonogly Theatre, Lakeside, Nottingham.
The Red Bridge Arts & Traverse Theatre Company in association with Nottingham Lakeside Arts present an alternative to the standard Christmas panto fare with this play surrounding the Black Beauty book. The McCuddy Brothers play out scenes from the book.
This all comes about because the McCuddy’s, both called Andy, are sorting out bits and bobs to sell to try and get a bit of money in, because times are hard, so they go through their horse box they call home and in their search, they find the Anna Sewell classic novel which once belonged to their mother.
This pair of equine illusionist, panto horse to you and I,find out that panto cows are now the "in thing". Neigh! I hear you cry, surely not, but, as mother used to say,
there are good days and there are bad days, so surely, good days can't be too far away.....aren't they?
This clever piece of theatre especially, but not exclusively aimed at children by the award winning Director,Creator and Writer Andy Manley, a sure fire thoroughbred when it comes to children’s theatre, along with Andy Cannon and Shona Reppe, Shona also also designed the set and was Co-Creator. I say that this isn’t exclusively for children because this is a treat for all ages from three years old to one hundred and three years old.
The humour will be appreciated by all ages and the puppetry creates magic in the eyes of the young, and not as young, audience members. There aren’t that many pieces of theatre where you can go as a family and everyone enjoy what they see on stage, but I believe that this is one of them.
I'm not going to give any spoilers but there are definite nods to the kind of children's TV of old, with smatterings of mime and circus skills. The way that they use parts of the set in different ways is magical. One prime example involves one of the two Andys being a pregnant woman. I'm saying no more than that but it's simple but very clever theatre, plus the timing between Andy 1 and Andy 2 is really well executed.
What also makes this piece of theatre so special is the sound design (Dave Trouton) and the lighting design (Simon Wilkinson).
I know that I loved it and by the reaction from the audience, of variable age groups, they also loved the gentle comedy and clever story,which also uses local references to make the story even more region related..

You’d be a foal to miss this family show so trot down to Lakeside and treat your family to a bit of excellent equine entertainment.This play could just make your Christmas that little bit more special.

John Currivan plays wee Andy and Paul Curley plays the older Andy brother.

“Black Beauty” is at The Djanogly Theatre at Lakeside on various dates up to Sunday 31 December 2017 so please go to the Lakeside website, www.lakesidearts.org.uk/BlackBeauty, to check the times and days.

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

“One Man Two Guvnors”
Nottingham New Theatre.
Is it really the last production of the season for NNT? Oh yes it is! Well if it's to be the last, then why not go our with a bang, which they certainly did.
Written by Richard Bean, this is the comedy that rocketed James Corden’s theatre career. Set In Brighton in 1963 it tells the story of an out of work skiffle player, Francis Henshall. He goes from being unemployed to having two jobs and two masters, Roscoe Crabbe and Stanley Stubbers. This is where the confusion and comedy arises as he tries to keep the two masters from meeting and discovering his joint employment.
Complicating events, Roscoe is really Rachel Crabbe in disguise, her twin brother Roscoe having been killed by her boyfriend, who is none other than Stanley.
Complicating events still further is local mobster Charlie the Duck, who has arranged his daughter Pauline's engagement to Roscoe despite her preference for over-the-top amateur actor Alan Dangle.
.A wonderful slice of slapstick and physical theatre which requires brilliant characterisation and comic timing.
James Curling(Francis) does a cracking job as our hero. Just one little picky bit for me was at times it was a bit shouty, but that's me comparing James' vision of Francis with the many others I've seen, but boy did James put everything he had into that role. Great energetic performance and brilliant fun.
Rachael Baines (Dolly) continues the talented actors in this play. the character is very confident and this comes across well, especially when she is breaking the fourth wall. The character is confident and so is the acting. A casting made in heaven.
Ted Marriott (Stanley Stubbers) ends a busy year with the best performance I've seen from him. The clipped rapid fire delivery, along with his wonderful facial expressions were a treat to watch
Gigi George (Rachel Crabbe) is wonderful as Rachel/Roscoe. I don't think I've seen Gigi acting before, and why i really don't know because she is very easy to watch. Some actors straight away make you feel very comfortable watching them and Gigi is one of those. A lovely fluidity in her acting.
Sam Morris (Alfie) had one of the hardest roles in this play as the octogenarian waiter. The characterisation was wonderful. I was just a tad disappointed that the cricket bat scene which knocked Alfie for six didn't have the same physical impact because it was not executed in the same way as I'd seen in the past, but that is a decision made by the director, but I think more laughs could have been extracted from the audience with the full swing of the cricket bat by Stubbers. (Hey everyone's a critic and wannabe director!)
Chris Sharp-Paul (Alan Dangle) is wonderfully over the top, just as the character should be, as the actor who is always in the spotlight. The semi tragic, almost Shakespearean Dangle is one of my favourite comedy characters, and every time I've been to see this play, the actor always delivers it just a little different every time. Some wonderfully pained but funny facial expressions which all adds to the comedy.
Andrew Houghton (Harry Dangle) is another great character performer as Alan's dad, and like Sam as Alfie, there's great physicality in this role.
Dom Bitten (Lloyd Boateng) makes his NNT debut in this play, and there were just very tiny things that gave this away. When you get to see as much theatre as I am lucky enough to see, you get to pick up on a few things with newcomers, This is not derogatory by the way because the absolute confidence that Dom shows is brilliant and he really looked as if he was having the best fun. I only noticed that a couple of times his part of the script faded a bit on volume right at the end of the speech. No one else would have noticed this believe me, but what a great debut and believe me this is me being really picky because there's a lot of naturalness with Dom.
Michaela Green (Pauline Clanch) portrays this slightly dim character perfectly and it's through that "naivety" that the natural comedy shines through.
Zack Collins (Charlie Clench), again an over the top character in Charlie Clench and very animated, and Zack actually made me believe that he was the right age for this part, or was it just the slight greying of the side burns that added to the realism of this part? Either way, another comic layer added.
Rohan Rakhit (Gareth) doubled up on parts and like every character in this play, added more of the comedy which this play is built on.
Co-directed by George Waring and Kate O'Gorman, this pair have really pulled off a magical production which has been a joy to see. the comedy is fast and punchy, the scene changing is snappy and incorporating the stage crew as part of the act works, exactly as it should, making the entertainment of the show fluent.
Producer Beth Mullen added so much to this production, which made it all work.A great self made set which was easily moved into place without being obtrusive.
The live band was different because in all other productions I've seen, and in the original, the band was a skiffle band. The band here were a Beatles tribute band in looks. They were made up of students who played a selection of 1960's well known tunes during the scene changes and at the start and end of the play,. Of course though they had to end with "Tomorrow Looks Good From Here".
The Nottingham New Theatre students have this year introduced me to so many little gems that I'd never heard of before this year,and I have a lot to thank this incredibly talented group of student actors for. Consistently good in their choices of theatre and output and it's been a pleasure to experience.
“One Man Two Guvnors” is on until Friday 15 December 2017

Monday, 11 December 2017

"Death Of The Author"
Nottingham New Theatre.
This derived piece of comedy theatre is an interesting piece. The play starts at a funeral with the coffin on show and four characters sitting and a strange creature on the floor, The Jabberwocky.
We discover that the four people, two men and two women, just happen to be Elizabeth Bennet, Dr John Watson, Lady MacBeth and Dorian Gray, all mourning the death of the author, but which author, or is this play mourning the death of the classic author; there are several conclusions you could come to.
Through a series of imagined monologues which flow into other characters' speeches we can possible see what the scene could have been like if they had all been around in person at the same time. And what fun that would have been if this story was anything to go by.
Emily Wong (The Jabberwocky) gives a wonderful off the wall performance as the Lewis Carroll character.Brilliant make up for Emily by Nat Henderson.
Eleanor Rickenbach (Lizzy) makes her debut for NNT, something you wouldn't be able to tell from this performance. Changing from a sensible person into a giggling girl as soon as she meets handsome Dorian Gray who she gets a crush on.
Charlie Basley (Watson), while quite taken by Lizzy, is the object of a crush himself from Dorian. The normally quite sensible Watson erupts into an excitable state as he tries to solve the mystery of who killed the author.
Having recently seen Francis Simmons as the abusive Billy in the excellent "Five Kinds Of Silence", this role is completely different as the young and lusting, hedonistic Gray, he shows his comedic side.
Beth Carter (Lady MacBeth) is wonderfully bossy as the Shakespearean Queen. Wonderfully toffee-nosed and regal.
Directed by Daniel McVey (shadowed by Rosa Morgan) and produced by Florence Bell, this is what I love so much about the productions at NNT. They are fresh, in this case funny, dull of new ideas for theatre.There's nowhere else in Nottingham, as far as I know that is as productive and eager to take risks with what they do like NNT. You can never guarantee a risk being a success but when the devised plays are as good as this, the risk is well worth taking.
One aspect of this show that i especially loved was the insertion of the music sound bites which added so much comedy to the production. A well deserved nod to Sound Designer Yasmin Dankwah.
This group must have had such fun putting this play together because the audience had great fun watching this play, which, as I've said several times during this season, could have run for more than the two nights. It just goes to prove the old theatrical adage to be true, "always leave them wanting more" because this was 75 minutes of unadulterated fun.