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
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.