Sunday, 31 December 2017

Pocket Size Theatre 5th Anniversary: The top 10 best shows we've ever seen!

One of the more recent productions on the list, Mark Swale seemed to be very impressed by this production. The show, which started at the Southwark Playhouse, went on to play to sold out audiences at the Edinburgh Fringe before transferring to London's West End. 

"This is a fun show and one that is needed in London at the moment. Its an alternative to The Book of Mormon and a quarter of the price. This is on our must see list so make sure you head down down to the Arts Theatre and see this whilst its around!"

The only fringe musical on the list, Salad Days played at the Union Theatre in 2017 and its success was incredible. James-Lee Campbell, one of our favourite reviewers, loved this show and we can totally see why! 

"For a couple of hours it will transport the audience away from all the doom and gloom we face day to day... Go and see Salad Days for a touch of ol’ fashioned musical theatre glamour and joy." 

Friday, 29 December 2017

REVIEW: Hamilton at the Victoria Palace Theatre

So much had been written about Hamilton, the story of a long forgotten immigrant founding father of America, that it sold out for its opening months when it went on sale in January 2017, long before Cameron Mackintosh knew whether his refurbishment of the wonderful Matcham Victoria Palace would be complete in time. The cancellation of the first performances after a wait of nearly a year added to this anticipation and you could feel the excitement in the theatre before and throughout the show. The audience whooped and cheered at every entrance, look and song showing a familiarity with the production that is only possible in this modern internet world. For those not familiar with the style, historical background or music , the show takes time to adjust to. The opening number "Alexander Hamilton" sets the scene but too many of the words get lost.

The first half is unrelentingly fast paced hip hop and rap telling of the American war of independence and rise of Alexander Hamilton in first the army and then politics. It requires intense concentration to catch the fast talking verbose language set against the heavy rap beat and some of the cast lost the clarity of delivery in this breathless energetic non stop story telling. However in the second half that changes , the mood darkens , the music becomes more melodic, there is more light and shade and the emotional connections between characters and with the audience develops to create a much more satisfying and enjoyable piece of modern innovative theatre.

REVIEW: A Christmas Carol at Middle Temple Hall

No other piece of British literature, tale or urban legend sums up the spirit of the festive season like Charles Dickens's masterpiece novella A Christmas Carol. I went to see this production from Antic Disposition at the Middle Temple Hall on Christmas eve and it has immediately become the cherry on top of my theatrical year.

The venue itself was known to Dickens, who considered pursuing a career as a barrister and had access to the Hall for over 15 years. In those times, the building was already 300 years old and the writer describes its beauty in a chapter of Barnaby Rudge. If this wasn't a good enough reason to pay it a visit, within these very walls, William Shakespeare offered the premiere of his Twelfth Night, and the table where all members sign when they're called to the bar is made of the hatch-cover of Sir Francis Drake legendary ship The Golden Hind.

Surrounded by this magical atmosphere, directors Ben Horslen and John Risebero create an unforgettable experience, dense with the scent of mulled wine coming from Bar Humbug, and sparkling with a cast of stars, led by stage veteran David Burt as Ebenezer Scrooge.

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

PANTOMIME REVIEW: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs at the Mayflower Theatre in Southampton

Most of the parents and some of the grandparents taking their children to the Mayflower this Christmas will have grown up watching the Chuckle Brothers on TV since their debuts on Opportunity Knock and New Faces and may have seen their stage shows over the years since. So they were familiar with their catchphrases and routines but despite both Barry and Paul having now turned seventy they will surely have been delighted with the effortless brilliant comic timing and delivery of this enduring double act. Judging by the audience reaction , the children too found them hilarious . The show provides a platform for them to perform some of their best routines including the song "We have got some presents", the Smelly socks game, the Strongman sketch, the Magic sword trick, and the Goldilocks and the three bears routine all of which they deliver with such ease and experience that even a sideways glance at the audience from Barry can produce howls of laughter from the two thousand plus audience. Of course this all has little to do with Snow White but is does not matter.

REVIEW: The Book of Darkness & Light at Camden People's Theatre

For The Book of Darkness & Light, the auditorium of the Camden People's Theatre is bare and semi-dark. Centre stage, a wooden crate is standing upright and serves as a coffee table for a pewter tankard and three artificial candles. These emanate a pulsing orange glow, strong enough for me to see the violin laying on the floor. On the other side of the crate, there's an empty chair.

First to walk onto the stage is Ben Styles, whose accompaniment at the violin is the undiscussed highlight of this 60-minute ghost stories showcase. Like a lament, his first note echoes from wall to wall, tearing the silence before drowning in darkness. A second longer note floats in the space like a slow cry, sending chills down my spine.

When the door opens again, another man slowly walks in, holding a lantern high up and inspecting, one by one, the spectators sat on the front row. He's wearing a black suit, with a white shirt and a black tie, his overcoat is also black, but his scarf is red, and his shoes are brown. For a second, I get distracted by this detail and I start wondering about the odd choice.

Friday, 22 December 2017

REVIEW: Peter Pan at the Birmingham Arena and the Wembley Arena

Peter Pan at the Birmingham arena (for 4 days) and at Wembley arena (2 days) is billed as the worlds biggest pantomime and by some measures it is . The vast auditorium seating 5000 and a cast of 100 with two big stars in Bradley Walsh and Martin Kemp promises a lot but somehow the story gets lost in translation to this vast space . What we are left with is a Christmas variety show with a comedy ring master and a loose connection between each scene.

The problem is visible as soon as you settle into your cramped seat with a £10 programme in hand . No one has a good view of all the action as the long thrust stage runs through the lower tier seating and half the audience are viewing side on. The large LED screens which are used for some excellent scene setting visuals as well as close up projections of the action become the main way to work out what is going on as the cast fill the available space on the stage and spill onto the large walkway in front of the tiered seating .

There is no magic in this production. When Peter first appears high up at the back of the auditorium you hope he might fly down to the stage but he does not. When he and Wendy do eventually fly they emerge from behind the screens with the full pulley system on show . Worst still when overage Michael and John fly you can see the stagehand pulling hard on the manual lift. When the crocodile finally appears he can only get half way along the thrust stage so the pirates including Hook have to walk back to it and throw themselves at it. You can see these key moments done so much better in many theatres around the country this year.

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

12 Brits who are flying the flag on Broadway!

Brits have been flying the flag on Broadway for years now, some huge names who have starred on Broadway include Julie Andrews, Carey Mulligan, Michael Xavier, Helen Mirren, Ruth Wilson and Catherine Zeta Jones, to name but a few! We wanted to take a look at some of the West End stars who are living the dream on the Great White Way! We focus on 12 performers who are all doing the West End proud! 

Olivia Phillip

Olivia made her West End debut in Priscilla Queen of the Desert at the Palace Theatre before appearing in Ghost the Musical at the Piccadilly Theatre and The Book of Mormon at the Prince of Wales Theatre. She went on to play Velma on board the Royal Caribbean before making the move over to America. She made her Broadway debut in Diaster! at the Nederlander Theatre in 2016 before featuring in the Broadway production of Waitress. She is currently part of the Original Broadway cast of Frozen, which opens in February 2018 having done an out of town try out in Denver. @OliviaPhillip

Gavin Lee 

Gavin is a proven West End leading man; playing leads in Top Hat, Singin' in the Rain, Crazy For You, Peggy Sue Got Married, A Saint She Ain’t, Me And My Girl, Oklahoma! and Contact. Gavin made his Broadway debut playing Bert in Mary Poppins, a role he originated in London at the Prince Edward Theatre and later played the role on tour across America. He last played Thenadier in Les Miserables on Broadway and is currently playing Squidward Q. Tentacles in Spongebob Square Pants in the original Broadway cast. 

REVIEW: The Grinning Man at the Trafalgar Studios

Rarely since its transformation into Trafalgar Studios in 2004 has a production felt so at home in this tight intimate venue. The auditorium has been dressed into Trafalgar Fair freak show stage which sets the tone for the production and once the band strikes up the stage explodes with a fusion of creativity and invention that immediately engages, excites and entices us into the strange world of the Grinning Man. The opening song "Laughter is the best medicine" is a delightfully comic scene setter underlying a central theme of the tale.

The creation of a musical from Victor Hugo's epic nineteenth century novels has of course been done before but Carl Grose has adapted "The man who laughs " into a dark mortality tale about the haves and the havenots and about the search for truth. The creative team of director Tom Morris, set designer Jon Bausor, lighting designer Rob Casey, choreographer Jane Gibson and sound designer Simon Baker have created a macabre strange world inhabited by flawed characters who gradually reveal the truth. It is spell binding at times (occasionally too laboured at others) as the story unfolds not just on the stage but in the auditorium itself. 

REVIEW: Slava's Snowshow at the Royal Festival Hall

Returning back by popular demand, Slavas Snow Show runs until the 6th January at the Royal Festival Hall. It has delighted audiences all around the world for almost 30 years now, however it may not have left the same affect on me. 

The show has no narrative and is made up of sketches. I failed to see the links to the theme of the show, none of which were anything to do with snow or the festive season so why this is a Christmas must see is a mystery to me. The characters didn’t have enough for us to make a connection with; anytime we were close to, the sketch was over and it was time to see something else. 

Clowning is such an impressive skill to master and its safe to say this set of performers have it down to perfection but I think what let them down was the scale of the theatre. It swallowed them up. 

Monday, 18 December 2017

FIRST LOOK: New cast of Dreamgirls join the show at the Savoy Theatre

American star Moya Angela joins the London cast of Dreamgirls as Effie White with Karen Mav and Marisha Wallace, who already star in the London production alongside original London Effie, Amber Riley. They alternate the role during the week. 

Asmeret Ghebremichael continues to play Lorrell Robinson, with Joe Aaron Reid continuing in the role of Curtis Taylor Jr, Brennyn Lark as Deena Jones, Tosh Wanogho-Maud as Jimmy Early, Durone Stokes as C.C. White, Delroy Brown as Marty and Kimmy Edwards as Michelle Morris.

The cast of Dreamgirls also includes Michael Afemaré, Callum Aylott, Georgia Bradshaw, Jabari Braham, Ashford Campbell, Sanchia Amber Clarke, Nicole Raquel Dennis, Nicole Deon, Rhiane Drummond, Ashlee Irish, Emma Louise Jones, Ashley Luke Lloyd, Samira Mighty, Jayde Nelson, Aston New, Sean Parkins, Kirk Patterson, Rohan Pinnock-Hamilton, Ryan Reid, Rohan Richards and Joshua Robinson.

Saturday, 16 December 2017

REVIEW: Top Hat at Upstairs at the Gatehouse

Top Hat hit the screens in 1935 with legend Fred Astaire in the lead role with Ginger Rogers playing his love interest, Dale Tremont. The film was the 4th most popular film at the British Box office in its year of release and it hit the West End stage in a new version starring Tom Chambers and Summer Strallen in the leading roles after a UK tour. It ran through 2012 and closed the following year before hitting the road again in another tour of the UK. 

The show is being revived Upstairs at the Gatehouse in a new version directed by John Plus and choreographed by Chris Whittaker with Strictly Come Dancing star Joanne Cliffton and West End performer Joshua Lay taking on the leading roles.

Firstly, the organisation skills of the theatre need to be reassessed. Being asked to constantly move and being told where we should sit isn't really necessary, if its a problem then they should be printing seat numbers.

INTERVIEW: Daniel Boys, currently starring in Nativity the Musical at London's Eventim Apollo

Daniel is currently playing Paul Maddens in the Musical adaptation of Nativity, the part made famous by Martin Freeman. His other credits include The Boys in the Band (Park Theatre/National Tour and transfer to Vaudeville Theatre), Miss Atomic Bomb (St James Theatre),  Spamalot (Playhouse), Avenue Q (Gielgud / Noel Coward),  Grease (Victoria Palace), RENT (Prince of Wales & National Tour), Sweeney Todd (Royal Festival Hall), Ordinary Days (Trafalgar Studios) and Wolfboy (Trafalgar Studios). He took some time out of his run at the London Eventim Apollo to chat to us. 

Your list of credits is extensive, but what have been a few highlights for you? 

I guess firstly playing Tony in West Side Story on the European tour in I think 2005. It was always one of my dream roles as I think it’s the most perfect, beautiful musical and touring round Europe was a highlight as I saw some wonderful places. Avenue Q which I did for two and a half years in the West End was very special. Earlier this year I got to be in The Boys In The Band which was a very special job as it was my first play, a brilliant play, and a wonderful cast led by the brilliant Mark Gatiss and I loved meeting him and his wonderful husband Ian. 

You’ve worked with fellow cast member Simon Lipkin before, how is it working with him again? 

Simon is brilliant, he’s a tour de force really and he’s perfect for this part of Mr Poppy. He’s just a wonderful actor to act opposite and as this show is predominantly improvised his improvisational skills are impressive and almost intimidating! 

INTERVIEW: Simon Lipkin, currently starring in Nativity the Musical at London's Eventim Apollo

Simon is currently playing Mr Poppy in the new musical adaptation of the hit film Nativity, a part that Marc Wootton played in the film. His other credits include Rat in The Wind In The Willows (Palladium, West End), Sheriff in Whisper House (Other Palace), Nathan Detroit in Guys and Dolls (West End), Lou Lubowitz in Miss Atomic Bomb (St James Theatre), The Lorax in The Lorax (Old Vic Theatre), The Proprietor in Assassins (Menier Chocolate Factory), Barlow in I Can’t Sing (London Palladium), Lonny in Rock Of Ages (Original West End Cast), Galahad in Spamalot (Original UK and International Tour), Nicky and Trekkie Monster in Avenue Q(Original West End Cast), I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change (Arts Theatre, London), The Wedding Singer (Original UK Cast) and Pharaoh in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (West End). He took some time out of his run at the London Eventim Apollo to chat to us. 

You really are someone who seems to go from job to job, your list of credits are crazy! What have been some of the highlights of your career so far?

There have been some amazing moments, and I will always count myself as very lucky. Avenue Q was incredible and it was my first leading role, but there has also been some other brilliant stuff – Assassins at the Menier Chocolate Factory will always be a special one. There’s been a lot and they’re all very cool and special in their own ways. 

You’re pretty fresh from playing Rat in the London Palladium production of The Wind in the Willows, how was it performing in your third show at the Palladium?

The Palladium is a really cool theatre. It’s one of those where the history is undeniable and a lot of the people I respect and have grown up watching have performed on that stage. When I was 11 years old I used to go to a Saturday stage school and we all did a big show at the Palladium and I sang ‘Dedicated Follower of Fashion’ on the stage at the Palladium when I was about 11 years old so technically it was my fourth time performing there with Wind in the Willows! 

PANTOMIME REVIEW: Aladdin at the Bristol Hippodrome and The Playhouse Theatre in Weston-Super-Mare

We sometimes forget that as well as being a family entertainment, pantomime is a serious competitive business with productions doing their best to attract rave reviews and audiences which can be critical to the financial success of a venue for the whole year. Large venues that can attract large audiences, have bigger budgets for headline casting , special effects and more promotional impact than their smaller local rivals. This is only too clear when you see Aladdin within a few days at both the enormous Bristol Hippodrome with a Qdos production starring Joe Pasquale and at the much smaller Playhouse, Weston Super Mare with an ensemble cast.

The Qdos offering relies almost entirely on Joe Pasquale's high energy squeaky voiced madcap persona, as he does his best to make the rest of the cast corpse and on the amazing Twin FX special effects including King Kong, a giant Cobra, elephants, pandas and a flying carpet with 2 passengers that turns upside down. It is spectacular and amusing but at times the pace slows and the humour is laboured. 

Friday, 15 December 2017

PANTOMIME REVIEW: Robin Hood at The New Victoria Theatre, Woking

There’s nothing like a pantomime to truly get you into the Christmas spirit. 

The timeless tale of Robin Hood and his merry men has stormed its way to Woking’s New Victoria Theatre for the holiday season. It’s safe to say Robin Hood is quite easily the most dynamic and exciting panto I have ever seen. Packed full of visual spectacle; acrobats, fight sequences, ACTUAL MAGIC, a 3D movie segment and even a DINOSAUR, Robin Hood is everything you could wish for in a panto. 

Shane Ritchie, of Eastenders fame (and beyond), leads this cast as Robin Hood. He is wonderfully funny and engaging with children and parents alike (especially the “yummy mummys” out there!) It simply wouldn’t be pantomime without a revamped version of The Twelve Days of Christmas and Ritchie shines effortlessly here. Who’d have thought the words “two juicy apples” could great quite so much hysteria!? To quote my thirteen year old brother - “He’s bloody hilarious”.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Alan Ayckbourn's The Divide to play at the Old Vic

Written as a ‘narrative for voices’ by Alan Ayckbourn and brough t to The Old Vic stage by Old Vic Baylis Director Annabel Bolton following its premiere at the Edinburgh International Festival, The Divide unfolds in a dystopian society of repression and seething insurrection. 

In the aftermath of a deadly contagion which has decimated the population, contact between men and women has become fatal. Under the dictates of an elusive and authoritarian Preacher, an unthinkable solution has been enforced. The adult survivors are now segregated by gender and, physically separa ted, men wear white as a sign of their purity and women – still deemed infected – are clothed in black as a mark of their sin. 

As new social norms prevail, brother and sister Elihu (Jake Davies) and Soween (Erin Doherty) grow up learning the ways of their tightly controlled society. As they begin to glimpse the cracks in the system, Elihu falls for Giella (Weruche Opia), the daughter of two radical mothers, risking fatal disease and threatening to ignite a bloody revolution. 

London Musical Theatre Orchestra's A Christmas Carol at Lyceum Theatre on 11th and 18th December

London Musical Theatre Orchestra brings back their  production of the spectacular concert version of A Christmas Carol, which returns by overwhelming popular demand to the Lyceum Theatre in London after a five-star sell-out performance last year, with two performances of the festive favourite at 7.30pm on 11th and 18th December. Tickets are on sale now.

The cast includes Olivier Award nominee Sophie-Louise Dann (Lend Me A Tenor / Made In Dagenham / Bend It Like Beckham The Musical / The Girls) as Mrs Fezziwig, Glenn Carter (Jersey Boys / Jesus Christ Superstar) as Marley, Nicholas Colicos (Kiss Me Kate / Mamma Mia! / The Producers) as Mr Fezziwig, Rebecca Lock (Mary Poppins / Mamma Mia!) as Mrs Cratchit and new-comer Cameron Potts as Fred Anderson / Young Scrooge.

Alongside these cast members, multi award-winning stage and screen actor Robert Lindsay (Citizen Smith / My Family / Wimbledon / Dirty Rotten Scoundrels) returns to the role of Ebenezer Scrooge. Robert will be joined by Lucie Jones (2017 UK Eurovision entrant / Les Misérables / We Will Rock You) as Emily / the Ghost of Christmas Future, Hugh Maynard (The Lion King / Miss Saigon) as the Ghost of Christmas Present, Gemma Sutton (Gypsy / The Go-Between) as the Ghost of Christmas Past and Olivier-nominee Michael Xavier (Prince of Broadway / Into The Woods / Sunset Boulevard) as Bob Cratchit. 

PANTOMIME REVIEW: Peter Pan at the Wyvern Theatre in Swindon

Pantomime is all about traditions in story telling and the audiences familiarity with the comedy routines and interactions with cast . But it is also fun to see new ideas and innovations in the production and this version of Peter Pan introduces us to a new character Eliza (who becomes Tiger Lily in Neverland) and the unusual pairing of the roles of Mrs Darling and Tinkerbell and it is these two roles that stand out at the Wyvern theatre in Swindon . Eliza is played with a delightful charm by Danielle Black and she is the first to get a reaction from the audience and then leads a lively well choreographed opening number in the nursery with the ensemble and juvenile chorus to get the show off to a great start.

TInkerbell is introduced as a green laser spot flitting around the stage until she bursts from the dolls house played by Abigail Matthews with lots of attitude and immediately taking against Wendy, played as a young girl by Lucy Pollard who never really mothers the confident Lost Boys or Peter Pan (Ryan Anderson). 

Full Cast Announced for Brand New British Musical EUGENIUS! at The Other Palace

Warwick Davis and Kevin Wood are delighted to announce the full cast for the hotly anticipated new musical for years, “EUGENIUS!” which is coming to London for a strictly limited run at The Other Palace from 22 January until the 3 March 2018.

Making his London theatre debut is American born Liam Forde who will play the lead role of ‘Eugene’. Liam has performed in many shows across America and is looking forward to making his debut across the pond. Joining Liam is Laura Baldwin who will play Eugene’s love interest- ‘Janey’. Laura’s previous credits include UK Tours of “Shrek” and “Betty Blue Eyes” and currently she can be seen in ‘Big Fish The Musical’ at The Other Palace.

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

PANTOMIME REVIEW: Aladdin at the St Alban Arena

St Alban arena attracts over 40,000 to its annual pantomime and this year's offering from them and producers Evolution is Aladdin. The size of the audience allows them to invest in a first class cast and under Will Brenton's direction , Paul Henry's script delivers an outstanding evening of pantomime family entertainment. 

The central trio of Phil Gallagher as Wishy , Bob Golding as Twankey and Ian Kirby as Pongo , all frequent visitors to the venue drive the show along with great energy, brilliant comic timing and a warm charm. They have also perfected the faux slips, mistakes and corpsing that are part of these shows. Golding and Gallagher link up is reminiscent of the stage performances of Morecambe and Wise in the natural ease together, the asides and the looks and easily win over both the kids and the mums and dads. Their routines with Kirby are show stopping highlights and true to the tradition of great pantomime; a clever spurious shops signs routine , a wonderful 12 days of Christmas with five custard pies, the standard of pantomime bench scene, an overacted death scene and a very good Laundry scene. They all engage the audience well in banter and comic looks but beware sitting in the first few rows especially when they bring the video camera on stage!

Monday, 11 December 2017

PANTOMIME REVIEW: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs at the Aylesbury Waterside Theatre

The 1937 Disney film defined this title and sometimes it feels awkward to squeeze it into the Pantomime format but when all the elements come together it is a title that will delight Christmas audiences. This UK Production show written by Andrew Ryan, with a strong ensemble cast, all the essential Pantomime business and some of the original Disney tunes certainly does this and credit must go to the whole team under the direction of Chris Nelson. Rarely even in pantomime do you hear an audience this engaged in a production, even the theatre foyer is dressed to get them in the mood before the start. 

The show is driven with loads of energy by Andy Collins as Muddles (7th season at Waterside) and La Voix as nurse (another experienced pantomime Dame). They work very well together from their first entrances, Muddles riding a my little pony and Nurse singing Fame and in a gag filled Mastermind parody. The running gag of the missing pots and pans provides further comic moments leading to a show stopping "Twelve days of Christmas", one of the best you will see, with amazing audience involvement and even Company Stage Manager, Robb Mookhoek joining the fun in the auditorium with a super soaker.

Friday, 8 December 2017

Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake to return to Sadler’s Wells for Christmas 2018

New Adventures is delighted to announce that Matthew Bourne’s legendary “SWAN LAKE” will return to Sadler’s Wells in 2018 for the Christmas season with a fresh look for the 21st Century and will also tour the UK. Tickets go on sale at Sadler’s Wells on Monday 26 February 2018. Dates for Sadler’s Wells and the UK tour will be announced in January 2018.

Retaining all the iconic elements of the original production loved by millions around the world, Matthew Bourne and the creative team will create an exciting re-imagining of the classic production.

Thrilling, audacious, witty and emotional, Matthew Bourne’s “SWAN LAKE” is perhaps still best known for replacing the female corps-de-ballet with a menacing male ensemble, which shattered conventions, turned tradition upside down and took the dance world by storm.

Thursday, 7 December 2017

PANTOMIME REVIEW: Jack and the Beanstalk at the Salisbury Playhouse

Many pantomimes sell themselves on a poster of celebrities from children's TV and the soaps, corny and topical jokes and borrowed or reused sets so it is very refreshing to see a production that sets out to create its own unique feel while remaining consistent with pantomime traditions. Andrew Pollard's script and Ryan McBryde's direction achieve this with Jack and The Beanstalk at Salisbury Playhouse. 

You get a sense that you are going to see a production created with loving care as soon as you enter the auditorium and see the beautiful sunflower covered proscenium arch and large giants eye looking out with clever lighting highlights behind the clouds. The opening prologue by Jemma Geanaus as Fortuna (the fairy character) reinforces the fresh take on the familiar story and her active role in the story with a good rendition of "I need a hero" to defeat the gIant . The not so obvious choice of hero is Jack Trot (played by Sam Harrison) who with easy charm establishes himself as both the love interest and usual silly character.Richard Ede plays his mother Dame Dottie Trot with equal charm and delightfully plays to the audience. 

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

REVIEW: The Lost Boy Peter Pan at the Pleasance Theatre

On paper the idea of taking a talented young group of actor musicians, the inspiration of JM Barrie's story of Peter Pan and modern pop music and combining it into a fresh take on the story of the lost boys is good. Of course already we have had in London the extraordinary visually exciting Bat out of hell which did just this with the music of Meatloaf and will return to West End next year. It is therefore a challenge that producer Action to the word have set themselves to do the same in the small intimate venue of the main house at The Pleasance in Islington for a Christmas run.

This version which says it is inspired by JM Barrie actually stays pretty close to the familiar elements of the story : the flight from London, the shooting of Wendy, the capture of Tiger Lilly , the poisoning of Tinkerbell , the capture of Wendy by pirates , the fight with Hook and the return to their Mother and Father. However what writer and director Alexandra Spencer Jones has created is a frenetic , energetic , punk version of the story with the cast of seven leaping around the stage playing a wide range is instruments in short bursts of song dressed in their pyjamas. 

REVIEW: The Woman in White at the Charing Cross Theatre

The Woman in White opened on the West End at the Palace over 10 years ago in 2004, with a star cast that included Maria Friedman and Michael Crawford. The story is based on the 1859 Victorian novel by Wilkie Collins, “A tempestuous tale of love, betrayal and greed, adapted from Wilkie Collins’ haunting Victorian thriller, this is the premiere of Andrew Lloyd Webber and David Zippel’s revised score.” The Charing Cross Theatre has its flaws as a building, where I was sat I felt very out of the action and the chance to really immerse yourself was sort of lost by tunnel vision from my seat. 

The story itself is lacking in content, the show moves very fast but nothing really happens most of the time. Even though the content may be a little empty, the performances and direction knew exactly what they were trying to achieve and this is where the heart and success of the production lies. 

Thom Southerland directs this production, the ups and the downs were portrayed beautifully and this innovative production, with Morgan Large’s set design, gives us drama and heart all in one. 

Monday, 4 December 2017

FIRST LOOK: Pinocchio at the National Theatre

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 Strings, Give 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), Mark Hadfield (Geppetto),Annette McLaughlin (Blue Lady), David Langham (The Fox), David Kirkbride (Coachman), Dawn Sievewright (Lampy), Gershwyn Eustache Jnr (Stromboli) together with Stuart Angell, Trieve Blackwood-Cambridge, Stephanie Bron, James Charlton, Rebecca Jayne-Davies, Sarah Kameela Impey, Anabel Kutay, Michael Lin, Jack North, Clemmie Sveaas, Michael Taibi, Scarlet Wilderink and Jack Wolfe.

PANTOMIME REVIEW: Peter Pan at Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury

The Marlowe production in 2016 won a pantomime of the year award with Dick Whittington and this year's offering of Peter Pan starts with great confidence using a camera to poke fun at the audience and an excellent Peter Pan graphic and London skyline animation. This transports us into a very strong opening scene in the Darling's nursery. The fresh approach bringing the whole cast into the nursery, not just the Darling family and Peter Pan but also Mrs Smee, Lily and Starkey. Their entrances, the children through the stalls, Mr Darling in a circle box and Peter flying in from the upper circle creates an exciting dynamic opening. Added to this is a break dancing Nana the dog, an effective projected dancing shadow and a lively dance routine. 

The strong opening continues with a good flying sequence to "Don't stop me now" to Neverland and a brilliant comedy routine with a wheelbarrow of fruit which firmly establishes Mrs Smee, Starkey and Hook as the driving energy of the production. But just as Mrs Smee comments "if you listen carefully you can hear the sound of JM Barrie revolving" , the show settles into a traditional telling of his Peter Pan story and the production never quite hits this level of the opening scenes.

REVIEW: The Borrowers at the Watermill in Newbury

Mary Norton’s award winning Borrowers books written in the nineteen fifties present a staging problem for theatre which is easily solved in TV and Film adaptations because the essence of the stories is that the little five inch tall people (The Borrowers) live their lives trying to avoid being seen by the “Human Beans”. The interaction between the two is central to the first book. Toots Butcher’s set design firmly places us in the Borrowers world with a large Colman’s mustard box, abacus, crayons, matchsticks and ABC cubes setting out their home beneath the floors of an old country house in rural England.

It is here we meet Pod (energetically played by Matthew Romain), his worried wife Homily (Charlotte Workman) and their adventurous daughter fourteen year old Arrietty (Nenda Neurer) as Pod returns from another borrowing expedition in the house above. It is easy to accept them as small people in their natural habitat nervously responding to noises from above. The challenge is representing the Human Beans who catch sight of them and it is a weakness of the first half direction that this is inconsistent, sometimes The Boy (played with youthful charm by Frazer Hadfield) is on stage peering into the floor boards, sometimes he is high above look down from a platform and sometime we are asked to imagine he is above the auditorium. The other human beans Mrs Driver (Natasha Karp) and Crampfurl (Ed Macarthur) appear mainly on the stage amongst the Borrowers borrowings. It would have worked better if director Paul Hart had used the high levels of the lovely theatre consistently to represent the Human’s domain and the stage the Borrowers environment.

REVIEW: Once upon a Snowflake at the Chelsea Theatre

The title "Once upon a Snowflake" does not do justice to this creative, innovative children's show at the Chelsea Theatre which offers an imaginative, fun hour of family entertainment . Developed by Russian Theatre Director Maria Litvinova it draws strongly from the style of Russian fairy folklore and uses shadow puppetry to tell the story of Liza and the winter sprites. The producers Paper Balloon Company , for whom Alex Kanefsky is artistic director and Dorie Kinnear is a founding member, specialise in theatre for young people.

The magic starts as we enter the black box theatre to see Joseph Hardy playing the piano and over the following ten minutes he gradually adds more instruments into the tune as the instruments he puts down continue to play. It is a charming and amusing introduction to the storytelling and Darren Clark's original music gently underscores much of the show along with Hardy's sound effects.
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