Thursday, 29 June 2017

INTERVIEW: Ashley Gilmour, starring as Chris in the UK tour of MISS SAIGON


You were in the ensemble of the London production of Miss Saigon, how does it feel to now be one of the leads on the UK tour? 
It feels pretty cool if I’m honest! I find myself standing there on the set and thinking three years ago I was in the ensemble, and now I’m playing the leading role! It’s crazy that in such a short space of time that’s happened, but it’s nice for people to see if you work hard and you put your mind to it then it’s possible, you can achieve it. 


Your co-star, Sooha Kim, also was in the shows ensemble before taking over the lead on this tour and playing Kim in Japan. So how has it been going on that journey with her and finding the characters for yourself?
We have had a lot of fun rehearsing, the material is fantastic, it’s just beautiful and so much fun to sing the songs. It’s lovely. Sooha has been helping me a lot, she’s played Kim before so she knows what she’s doing so it’s been really nice to have someone who knows what they’re doing to help you and give you confidence. We’ve really supported each other and I think that’s really important when you’re playing opposite each other. 

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Wednesday, 28 June 2017

FULL CAST announced for Jesus Christ Superstar at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre


Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre has today announced completed casting for Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar, which returns to the theatre from 11 August in an extended run through to 23 September 2017. Already announced are Declan BennettTyrone Huntley (who won the Evening Standard Emerging Talent Award for his performance in 2016), David Thaxton and Peter Caulfield, who reprise their roles of Jesus, Judas, Pilate and Herod. The 2016 production won the Olivier Award for Best Musical Revival and Evening Standard Award for Best Musical.

Maimuna Memon takes the role of Mary. Previous credits include Winnie and Wilbur(Birmingham Rep), Lazarus (King’s Cross Theatre), The Busker’s Opera (Park Theatre) and Into The Woods (Royal Exchange Manchester).
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Tuesday, 27 June 2017

REVIEW: The Kite Runner at The Playhouse Theatre


At the heart of this wonderful production is the touching heartbreaking story of Amir, played with emotional intensity by David Ahmed and his relationship with his traditional distant wealthy father Baba played by Emilio Doorgasingh and the son of his father’s servant, Hassan, played as a devout friend by Andrei Costin. The audience are moved to tears as the story unfolds and we learn more about their relationships and the impact on them of the society they live in. What elevates this tale is the setting in Afghanistan which starts in the mid 70's, a relatively peaceful time in the country’s history and the fact that Baba and Amir are Pashtun Sunni Muslims and the servants are from the Hazara Shia sect which attracts the attention of Assef, played with menace by Bhavin Bhatt,a local thug who emerges over time as a Jihadi terrorist.

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REVIEW: Mr Gillie at Finborough Theatre


Mr Gillie has not been performed on stage since 1950. The playwright James Bridie, is then an interesting choice on part of the Finborough. He was born in 1888, living in Glasgow and writing over forty plays in his lifetime, including Dr Angelus in 1947, which was also performed at the Finborough earlier this year. A high flyer in his day, he co-founded the Citizen’s Theatre in Glasgow and was also awarded an honorary doctorate from Glasgow University in medicine, his secondary career. He wrote screenplays for Alfred Hitchcock, was chairman of the Scottish Committee of the Arts Council, was instrumental in the establishment of the Edinburgh Festival and also made CBE. Clearly a passionate and intelligent man, Bridie made huge contributions to theatre in Scotland and further afield, with Mr Gillie written and transferred to London’s West End a year before his death in 1950. It seems that the Finborough have also showcased other Scottish playwrights over the years, such as Robert Burns, J.M Barrie and David Hutchinson, which I suppose go some way to explaining this unusual choice of resurrection. 
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Monday, 26 June 2017

REVIEW: The Enchanted at The Bunker


The Bunker on Southwark Street is one of those places that feels like a porthole to the Edinburgh Festival. A recently converted underground car park, transformed into a 110 seat theatre space with a snug bar, a thrust stage and definitely excellent results. The staff were warm and friendly and with cordoned off Borough Market a stone’s throw from the vicinity this felt welcome. In fact, going to see a show that sells itself as a meditation on death row and a contemplation on evil: “are monsters born or do we create them” felt eerily significant in the aftermath of London’s latest attack. 

‘The Enchanted’ is a novel by Rene Denfield, an American author who also works in the US prison system which puts her as well placed to discuss these issues of evil, clemency, punishment and redemption. What follows from Pharmacy Theatre’s adaptation is an intriguing hour and a half of choreography, puppetry and movement. We are introduced to the narrator who is on death row played by Brit School Corey Montague-Sholay. He is a high point of the show with a vulnerability and story telling capacity that shines. The movement of the show, directed by Connie Traves was smooth and has a Greek chorus like feel to it, sweeping us through the story of a human rights lawyer trying to save a prisoner from death row execution. 
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Sunday, 25 June 2017

INTERVIEW: Richard Holt, starring in Alice’s Adventures Underground at The Vaults


Tell us a bit about Alice’s Adventures Underground and what separates it from any other show. 
It’s completely different to anything else. From the audience’s point of view you are split into groups and whisked around a bizarre series of vignettes that knit together into a story of revolution, before recombining for the final scene. And from the actors point of view we rotate through five different parts, doing one part each night and repeating each scene 12 times per night!

What’s it like performing in such a different venue?
The Vaults are well suited to the story as you actually are underground. It comes with its difficulties though, like its strange layout, lack of facilities and dampness, but we’ve managed to overcome most of the challenges.

And how are you interpreting and finding playing the Mad Hatter and your various other roles in Alice’s Adventures Underground?
The story is so full of bizarre characters that we’ve got quite a bit of freedom to come up with bold characterisations. It’s always fun to approach roles where you know nothing is off the table at the start. As for the Hatter – Initially I looked into mercury poisoning and inspirations for Carroll’s character, but in our world the Hatter has been stuck down there on loop for 150 years so there’s freedom to extrapolate. The tea party is the domain of the Hatter and Hare. We are in control and that is really enjoyable. I think most audience members are a little scared of us, and rightly so, we can pick on whomever we like.
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REVIEW: The Quentin Dentin Show at the Tristan Bates theatre


Elevator music welcome us into the auditorium at the Tristan Bates theatre for ‘The Quentin Dentin Show’. Everyone is dressed in white, as is the stage, and the actors move in robotic movements welcoming the audience to their seats. A relaxing voiceover is telling us to ‘Relax’ to ‘take your seats’ and ‘Don’t spill your drink’ as well as other instructions. 


The show revolves around Keith, Nat and robotic ‘Friends 1,2 and 3’ one of which is picked to be Quentin Dentin to host ‘The Quentin Dentin Show’; a game show with a maniacal twist. After friend number three is chosen, with the promise of an upgrade if he completes his task of being Quentin by ‘The Programme’ (an ominous being we only hear the voice of). We are then introduced to unhappy couple, Keith and Nat, sitting on the sofa eating the same meal they have been eating for the last few nights. It’s clear their life if boring and their relationship is stale. They are officially stuck in a rut and that is when Quentin appears; out of the radio none the less and offers them everything they could ever have hoped for. The despondent couple are soon whisked into the show and are very shocked to see people in the walls as they are introduced to the studio audience (us) sitting in their living room. The game show resolves into dance numbers and uptempo songs trying to convince the couple to agree to subscribe to ‘The Programme’.
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Sunday, 18 June 2017

REVIEW: I Know You of Old at The Hope Theatre


'You always end with a jade’s trick. I know you of old.' Shouts Beatrice (Sarah Lambie) at the end of yet another quick repartee with Benedick (David Fairs). In William Shakespeare's comedy Much Ado About Nothing, most of the action revolves around this unconventional couple, where they both take pride in publicly mocking each other but they're intentionally tricked into falling in love. Using only The Bard's original lines, David Fairs wrote a completely different play, where the relationship between Benedick and Beatrice preserves its chracteristic wit but receives a dark twist. 

Staged in modern times, I Know You of Old, is set in a chapel, where the audience is sat around Hero's coffin. She is dead, unable to cope with the public shaming received on her wedding day. After being wrongly accused of infidelity by her fiancee Claudio (Conor O'Kane) and rejected by her father Leonato, she fainted in front of the altar and – differently from what happens in Shakespeare's plot – she has never woken up. Highlighting the mysoginistic attitude of Shakespeare's male characters, this reformed play restores justice for the wretched Hero and openly condemns the people responsible for her misery. Thanks to a fortuitous revelation, Claudio gets a chance to set things straight, whereas Beatrice has the opportunity to reinstate the honourable memory of her deceased cousin and confirm her strong and independent character.
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REVIEW: Groomed at Soho Theatre


Groomed is an autobiographical one-man play which lasts around 60 minutes and is written by award winning director Patrick Sandford, who is returning to his roots as a performer. When he was not even ten years old, his school teacher abused him sexually – at school, in his home and more. Others didn’t seem to notice, or didn’t want to call out the teacher. It took Sandford nearly 30 years after that to reveal his trauma to the world, after keeping it repressed and letting it handicap his life and relationships for all that time. 

This is far from just being a monologue explaining Sandford’s trauma. The hour swishes by, not only because of the utter focus everyone feels in the room when listening to his story, but also because of the quality of the writing: the actor dramatises various parts of his life, playing different characters such as his mother, his attacker, himself as a young boy and older. He also juxtaposes his story with anecdotes of a Japanese soldier who remained at his defence post for almost 30 years after World War II was over, and the Belgian inventor of the saxophone. This instrument is beautifully introduced to the play thanks to a saxophonist who does not leave the stage and intersperses the text with short and often surprising musical interludes. 
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REVIEW: Richard Alston Dance Company: Tangent, Chacony & Gypsy Mixture at Sadler’s Wells


The Richard Alston Dance Company is a medium sized British contemporary dance company founded in 1994, currently presenting Tangent, Chacony, and Gypsy Mixture plus extra Glint over a two-hour evening on the main stage at Sadler’s Wells. A prolific choreographer for nearly half a decade, Richard Alston is renowned for his intimate relationship between music and movement, and as he came out and told us himself before the start of the performance, tonight would be no exception. His genial introduction included an ‘apology’ for what we were about to see and also a nod to current affairs, facetiously reassuring us that there was no disaster, and that seeing him on stage didn’t mean that something was wrong. 

The curtain raiser Glint was apparently created at a difficult time for Alston back in 2016, where he suffered from a decrease in hearing. Not being able to hear high frequencies he turned to percussion, using John Cage’s rich tapestry ‘Second Construction for Percussion’ that starts with a rhythm seeming largely Latin American but then is constantly interrupted by irregularities, all ostensibly intended to upset any sense of order. The ensemble of eight perform a structured and dense dance with costumes akin to a Zoom lolly or European flag, giving it a communist rally or somehow nationalistic feel. The dancers drew together then splintered like pick-up sticks, creating a busy and hypnotic effect. 
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REVIEW: Holy Crap at the Kings Head Theatre


The Heather brothers are back and this time, in contrast to their coming of age angst in ‘A Slice of Saturday Night’ they bring to you sex, drugs and Christianity in one package with a bow of blasphemy on top. 

The King’s Head Theatre is Islington is the venue of choice for the world premier of ‘Holy Crap’; a new musical that follows GOD TV a subscriptions service which is popular stateside but doesn’t pick up ratings in Godless Britain when the production team bring it over. That’s when Bobby Del Le Ray (John Addison) has the great idea of spicing things up by adding sex into the mix. This is all because the team behind GOD TV, Clarissa and Vinnie (Rachel Marwood and Nuno Queimado, respectively) are using it as a money laundering scheme with mafia connections but this information is kept from the other members of the team, Destiny and Rex (Letitia Hector and Arvid Larsen) and they need to find a way to convince the pair before the whole thing unravels. 
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Thursday, 15 June 2017

Casting announced for world premieres of Pinocchio, Saint George and the Dragon and Beginning


On a quest to be truly alive, Pinocchio leaves Geppetto’s workshop with Jiminy Cricket in tow. Their electrifying adventure takes them from alpine forests to Pleasure Island to the bottom of the ocean. This spectacular new production brings together the director of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and the writer of Matilda the Musical.
For the first time on stage, featuring unforgettable music and songs from the Walt Disney film including I’ve Got No StringsGive a Little Whistle and When You Wish upon a Star in dazzling new arrangements, Pinocchio comes to life as never before. 

Cast includes Joe Idris-Roberts (Pinocchio), Audrey Brisson (Jiminy Cricket), Annette McLaughlin (Blue Lady), David Langham (The Fox), David Kirkbride (Coachman), Dawn Sievewright (Lampy), Chris Jarman (Stromboli) together with Stuart Angell, Trieve Blackwood-Cambridge, Stephanie BronJames CharltonRebecca Jayne-DaviesSarah Kameela ImpeyAnabel Kutay, Michael LinJack NorthClemmie Sveaas,Michael Taibi, Scarlet Wilderink and Jack Wolfe.
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Friday, 9 June 2017

REVIEW: Held at Tristan Bates Theatre


Held is set in an all-male prison, where five inmates are shown in two intertwining episodes of drugs, sex and violence. In the first act, entitled Walking, newbie Jamie (Jack Brett Anderson) shares his cell with disillusioned jail veteran Sleat (Anthony Taylor). Initially, the two seem to get along well, and Sleat appears as the fatherly figure keen to take the younger boy under his wing, but things change suddenly and Jamie learns the hard way that nobody can be trusted in prison.

The second act, Dog City, reproposes Jamie's ordeal from a different perspective. Set in the prison's lavatories, it shows the consuming and self-destroying passion between baby-faced Finn (also played by Jack Brett Anderson) and his controlling lover Cal (Duran Fulton Brown). Between them stands the sleazy drug baron Ryde (also played by Anthony Taylor), who plays some ruthless power games to satisfy his perverted needs. 

The subject is strong and has the potential to set the table for a very interesting discussion, but Tina Jay's volatile script lacks the dramatic charge necessary to make it resonate. The tension built before the interval isn't satisfied in the second half, where the plot comes to a standstill and nothing eventful happens for several minutes. Learning from the programme that the playwright has worked as a teacher in a men's prison, one would expect to receive an informed insight on the precarious relationships between inmates. Instead, the scenes presented in Held are hardly credible and the writing loaded with stock phrases that feel more appropriate for a TV drama than a life-changing conviction. 'Will you save me Cal?' asks the vulnerable Finn, tormented by his burning love and the abstinence from drugs.
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Thursday, 8 June 2017

INTERVIEW: Devon-Elise Johnson, currently starring as Ann Pornick in HALF A SIXPENCE at the Noël Coward Theatre


How do you feel your training at LSMT aided your ascension to a leading lady of the West End?
The training is impeccable! They really hone in on the individuality of each student. Best year of my life without a doubt.


If you had “money to burn”, what’s the first thing you’d do?

Enable my mum and dad to retire. They’re incredibly supportive – if I could give back and thanks, it would be that!


Which member of the cast and/or crew makes you laugh the most and why? 

Bethany Huckle (Flo) – she makes me howl with laughter. On two show days, her interpretive dances have us in stiches!

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Wednesday, 7 June 2017

REVIEW: La Cage Aux Folles at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking


Now recognised as one of the world’s finest modern musicals, La Cage Aux Folles began life as a French stage farce of the same name. Written by playwright Jean Poiret, the play tells the story of Albin (otherwise known as Za Za) and Georges, a gay couple who make a living running a St Tropez drag nightclub. But behind the curtains of this sparkling extravaganza, all may be about to change. Georges’ son Jean-Michel announces his engagement to the daughter of a notorious right-wing politician determined to close down the local colourful night-life. Drama and hilarity ensue when a meeting of the parents forces them to cover up their vibrant lifestyle.

Bill Kenwright’s latest tour of La Cage is as unashamedly excessive but boy, oh boy, is it brilliant. Directed by Martin Connor and starring John Partridge and Adrian Zmed as Albin and Georges respectively, this production has all the sequins, glamour and glitz a musical could ever need, but beyond this, it brings to the fore a story of identity and acceptance – a moral tale as resonant today as it was when it was first staged in 1983.
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Tuesday, 6 June 2017

FIRST LOOK: The European Premiere of Stephen Schwartz’s WORKING


Gillian Bevan, Dean Chisnall, Krysten Cummings, Siubhan Harrison, Peter Polycarpou and Liam Tamne lead the cast of the European Premiere of WORKING, directed by Luke Sheppard, with choreography by Fabian Aloise. WORKING will open at Southwark Playhouse on 7 June 2017, with previews from 2 June, for a strictly limited season ending 8 July 2017. 

Completing the cast of the European Premiere of WORKING at Southwark Playhouse are six young performers all making their professional debuts. Patrick Coulter (Bird College of Dance), Nicola Espallardo (Guildford School of Acting), Izuka Hoyle, Luke Latchman, Huon Mackley (all Arts Educational Schools, London) and Kerri Norville (Bird College of Dance).
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Monday, 5 June 2017

Joshua Liburd takes over the role of C.C. White in the London production of DREAMGIRLS


Joshua Liburd had his first night as C.C White in the London production of Dreamgirls tonight, replacing Tyrone Huntly who is off to reprise his Olivier Nominated performance of Judus in Jesus Christ Superstar at the Open Air Theatre, Regents Park. 

Joshua trained at Arts Educational School. His Theatre credits include Motown the Musical, West End original cast (Shaftesbury Theatre), The Book of Mormon (Prince of Wales Theatre), The Scottsboro Boys (The Young Vic). Film includes: Jus Soli. Workshops include: Twelfth Night (Paulette Randall).

The show stars Amber Riley as Effie White, Asmeret Ghebremichael as Lorrell Robinson, Liisi LaFontaine as Deena Jones, Nicholas Bailey as Marty, Adam J.Bernard as Jimmy Early and Jo Aaron Reid as Curtis Taylor Jr.
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Sunday, 4 June 2017

Pocket Picks: Gender-Blind Casting!

Sabrina Aloueche | Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar


Sabrina Aloueche would absolutely kill Judas, that belt would do incredible justice to this amazing score. Maybe if Tyrone wants a little break this summer she could have a go?

Ian McKellen | Madame Morrible in Wicked


OK so this has to happen. Ian McKellen as Madame Morrible? Could there be a more perfect casting? Perhaps for the movie.... 

Patti LuPone | The Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera


Ms LuPone has said recently that she won't do any more musicals because she doesn't think she can continue being a leading lady at her age... But maybe she could give the Phantom a go in the next cast change? How epic would that be?!

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REVIEW: LA STRADA at the Other Palace


There are times when a good show comes along, but ‘La Strada’ featuring on the main stage at The Other Palace races by ‘good’ in gallant strides remaking Fellini's classic into breathtaking theatre. Telephone poles amidst hanging chains welcome the audience to the auditorium with an air of mystery; even without the lights, the stage is poised with wonder as boxes, pieces of cloth and costumes surround the stage. 

‘La Strada’ is centric to a young girl, Gelsomina (Audrey Brisson) who is sold to the traveling entertainer Zampano (Stuart Goodwin), who, before buying her from her Mother, had bought her sister Rosa. Their journey is one of abuse, intimidation, and exploitation but they are two halves of the same coin. The characters compliment each other perfectly; Zampano’s short temper and anger are calmed by the naivety and purity of Gelsomina. 

Zampano soon realises that Gelsomina doesn’t have much talent and teaches her to bang a drum and collect money on their travels. 
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REVIEW: Ordinary Days at London Theatre Workshop


It’s good to know that there are Fringe theatres in the city, providing much needed contrast from corporate life. The London Theatre Workshop is a theatre above the New Moon pub currently showing ‘Ordinary Days’, a musical by Adam Gwon – a rising musical theatre writer and composer. Since it’s inception in 2009 ‘Ordinary Days’ has done the rounds on Off-Broadway and the West End, and now is picked up Streetlights, People! Productions founded by Jen Coles and Nora Perone (performer) who are both alumni of the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. Streetlights, People! Productions promotes itself as “empower[ing] young artists and performers to generate their own opportunities instead of waiting for the phone to ring” and this sense of adventure, connection and discovering the tools to navigate the murky waters of youth is exactly what ‘Ordinary Days’ is all about. 
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REVIEW: Last Night, by Benin City, as part of 'The. Last Word Festival' at the Roundhouse


I’m dubious going in to The Roundhouse’s Sackler Space. There are no seats and the dread that fills me when I think about 4th wall breaking, cringe worthy audience participation takes root in my stomach. The room was alive with chat and people seeing friends they knew and having a drink and then it occurred to me; I’m actually at a gig, well… sort of. 

Benin City are made up of drums, brass and three vocalists, Josh, Shanaz and Tom. They embody the spirit of club culture, they are young, they like to party and they have something to say. 

London is changing and it's had a big impact on the night life of The city: over the past five years the number of nightclubs in London has halved and Benin City's 'Last Night' centres around this very issue. 
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Thursday, 1 June 2017

Shakespeare’s Globe announces full casting for Matthew Dunster’s Much Ado About Nothing


Shakespeare’s Globe is delighted to announce casting for Matthew Dunster’s Much Ado About Nothing. Set in revolutionary Mexico in 1910, the production stars Beatriz Romilly as Beatrice, Matthew Needham as Benedick, Anya Chalotra as Hero, Marcello Cruz as Claudio and Martin Marquez as Leonato.

Beatriz Romilly plays Beatrice, having previously starred in the Globe’s productions of A Midsummer Night’s DreamHenry VI Pt I, II & III, The God of Soho and Doctor Faustus. Other recent theatre includes French Without Tears (Orange Tree Theatre / ETT), After Independence (Arcola Theatre) and The Duchess of Malfi (Nottingham Playhouse). Television includes Shakespeare Uncovered: Othello (Sky Arts) and Doctors (BBC). 
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Full cast announced for UK tour of HAIRSPRAY


Norman Pace (ITV1’s The Hale and Pace Show) will play Wilbur Turnblad in the major UK tour of the smash hit musical Hairspray, opening at Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff this summer. He will be joined by Matt Rixon (The Ladykillers, Around the World in 80 Days) reprising his role as Edna Turnblad, musical theatre star Brenda Edwards (Chicago, We Will Rock You, The X Factor) returning as Motormouth Maybelle and Layton Williams (Bad Education, Rent) now starring as Seaweed. Gina Murray (Chicago and Full Monty) joins the cast as Velma Von Tussle with Jon Tsouras (Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, Crazy for You) once again playing Corny Collins; Edward Chitticks (On the Town, Mamma Mia) as Link Larkin; Aimee Moore as Amber Von Tussle; Annalise Liard-Bailey as Penny Pingleton and Monifa James as Little Inez. Rebecca Mendoza will make her professional debut as Tracy Turnblad.

Full cast includes: Lauren Concannon, Melissa Nettleford and Emily-Mae Walker as The Dynamites, Shay Barclay, Ben Darcy, George Hinson, Jordan Laviniere, Graham MacDuff, Lindsay McAllister, Tracey Penn and Freya Rowley. 
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