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Thursday, 4 August 2022

REVIEW: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking

The award-winning Linzi Hateley and rising star Jac Yarrow lead this impressive and hardworking cast in the latest revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s classic musical, Joseph. The story follows gifted Joseph and his brother’s struggle to remain in his shade accompanied by a number of sing-a-long classic songs.

The set design is vibrant, flexible and moves slickly from one scene to the next allowing the story to move along at a good pace and no song or scene outstaying their welcome. Morgan Large’s design is a feast for the eyes, especially once the story moves into Egypt and we meet the charismatic Pharoah played by Bobby Windebank. Windebank sparkles as the Elvis-esque Pharoah full of hip thrusts and high-energy moves. 

Tuesday, 22 February 2022

REVIEW: Hamlet by Guildford Shakespeare Company at the Holy Trinity Church, Guildford

Guildford Shakespeare Company returns to Holy Trinity Church – a beautiful setting for this new production of Hamlet directed by Tom Littler and starring award-winning actor Freddie Fox, who most recently won acclaim for his TV roles in The Crown and White House Farm.

The venue was an eerie and atmospheric home for Shakespeare’s masterpiece about a man trapped in a life he’s keen to leave behind. Mystery and tragedy combine, together with some flashes of modernity and comedy, in this great retelling in which Fox shines as the lead, Hamlet.

The small but perfectly formed company of ten combine brilliantly, with some multi-rolling to bring this story to life. The production has a slick and fast pace to it with the action moving seamlessly from one scene to the next. 

Wednesday, 29 January 2020

REVIEW: Ghost Stories at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking

First a play and more recently a film, Ghost Stories has been frightening audiences for the best part of ten years and his currently out on its first UK tour.

Written by Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman, much of the show’s success has centred around audiences (and critics) keeping its contents under wraps and spoiler-free with little known about the show in publicity or on social media.

With a cast of just 4 actors, the show is a taut, tight 80 minutes long and is full of thrills and jumps but plenty of laughs too. It’s easy to see Dyson’s style all over this when you remember he is one of the talents behind dark comedy The League of Gentleman, and fans of that show and Inside No.9 would love this play.

Intertwining 3 different ghost stories presented by lecturer Professor Goodman, the show uses effective and clever effects without ever letting them detract from the story or be in place of good writing or performances. 

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

REVIEW: The House On Cold Hill at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking

The premier of the latest thriller from best-selling author Peter James fails to ignite the imagination and leaves its cast empty handed.

Billed as a “spine-chilling thriller”, The House on Cold Hill stars Holby City and Strictly Come Dancing’s Joe McFadden and former EastEnder Rita Simons as the Ollie and Caro Harcourt whose move into the house of their dreams soon turns sour. 

The script, adapted by Shaun McKenna, feels more of a farce than horror territory and regularly throws away any drama in this MOR story. Relying on electronic assistant “Alexa” and references to FaceTime to give this the modern edge, it feels forced and contrived rather than helping create any horror or tension on stage.

Thursday, 7 February 2019

REVIEW: Benidorm at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking

Stage adaptations of books, films and television shows are nothing new and have been met with mixed success. For every Full Monty there’s a Shawshank Redemption. This new production of Benidorm follows sitcom successes such as Dinnerladies and Heartbeat and hopes to win the hearts of first time fans of the show and perhaps generate appetite for a TV comeback.

Pleasingly, many of the faces from the show appear in this show and are warmly greeted by the loyal audience who love the familiarity of their favourite characters in front of them.

It’s a strong cast too with Janine Duvitski’ particularly impressing as loud, irritating (but very funny) hotel regular Jacqueline. Sherrie Hewson is a commanding presence as hotel manager Joyce Temple Savage while Adam Gillen and Tony Maudsley are audience favourites as comedy duo Liam and Kenneth.

REVIEW: Ghost the musical at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking

Adored by millions and regarded as one of the most iconic films of the 90s, Ghost made stars of Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze and helped sales of pottery wheels rocket around the world. 

The musical version follows the story of the film faithfully and brings all the original characters to the stage, focusing on the love story of Molly and Sam and the betrayal of best friend Carl.

Rebekah Lowings is a strong and commanding presence as Molly who portrays ambition, love and heartbreak in equal measure with ease. Her voice has a good range and has great power and tenderness.

Vocally, Niall Sheehy’s Sam was excellent but the characterisation felt weak and undeveloped. There lacked a genuine chemistry early on between Molly and Sam meaning that for large parts of the show, you never really invested in the relationship. 

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

REVIEW: A Very Very Very Dark Matter at the Bridge Theatre

Set largely in the cluttered attic of writer Hans Christian Andersen, this 90 minute world premiere by Martin McDonagh has split opinion of audiences at the Bridge; and it’s clear to see why.

On the one hand the cast are good with Jim Broadbent and Phil Daniels giving strong performances as Anderson and Dickens respectively. Newcomer Johnetta Eula’Mae Ackles also shines as captive ghost writer Majory in this, her professional debut. The first scene between Anderson and Charles Dickens (repeatedly referred to as Charles Darwin) is a comedic highlight and Jim Broadbent really does carry this show.

The set design by Anna Fleischle is exquisite; full of intrigue and intricacies and gave hope to a play really creating a world and setting. In truth though, the design seemed a complete waste and the utter mess of the script really let the design and actors down.

With the writing, there was no clear time or place both in the story or language used and this really jarred with the design and costume. There was nothing clever or sophisticated about the text or the direction and all the elements of the production felt very disjointed.

Thursday, 18 October 2018

REVIEW: The Trench at the Southwark Playhouse

The Trench, first performed back in 2012, is in London for the first time – fittingly in time to commemorate 100 years since the end of the First World War.

Les Enfant Terribles have become one of the most respected and innovative theatre companies in the UK, earning rave reviews, award nominations and selling over 90,000 tickets for their immersive Alice’s Adventures Underground and more recently, a sell-out run of the absurdist and brilliant Flies at the Edinburgh Fringe.

This production carries many of the familiar hallmarks of a LET show; mesmerising puppetry, intricate set design and original music played live throughout and the cast of 5 are incredibly talented with newcomer James Hastings really shining as he glides effortlessly between a number of instruments. 

As with many of their other works, they do really well to create the world of the play and Samuel Wyer’s design is spot on for this show. The set offers the performers flexibility and space to weave in and out of the story and there are many flashes of beautiful movement throughout this 65 minute piece.

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

REVIEW: Fame the Musical at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking

A staple on stage, screen and Walkman’s since the 80s, Fame is the classic story of hope, ambition and showbiz with a sprinkling of love for good measure. 

This production starts slowly and with a few technical wobbles, but a strong and energetic ensemble picks this production up with Morgan Jackson and Tom Mussel particularly impressing. 

The set design is relatively simple and static but allows the large cast plenty of space for some expansive choreography. The actor/muso device utilised some talented performers, namely Alexander Zane (Goody) and Simon Anthony (Schlomo), but it wasn’t always clear when the music was full band or the on stage musicians.

Jorgie Porter shows there’s much more to her than starring in a Soap and demonstrates some beautiful dance moves as budding ballet dancer Iris. Her relationship with dyslexic Tyrone (played by Jamal Kane Crawford) is the most fully formed of all the love interests and there seems a real, genuine connection between the two performers. Crawford is imposing and vulnerable in equal measure and deserves all the whoops and cheers from the female audience.

Thursday, 5 July 2018

REVIEW: Circa: Peepshow at Underbelly London

Hailing from Australia, Circa are one of the world’s leading contemporary circus companies. Since 2004 they have been wowing audiences across the world and becoming a firm Edinburgh Fringe favourite at the Underbelly.

Bringing their latest work to London, Peepshow is a bold and breath-taking production that grabs you hard and doesn’t let go. Director Yaron Lifschitz has turned the traditional ideals of a ‘peepshow’ on its head and while the show is sexy and wild, it is not about gratification and objectifying women which has become so synonymous with the genre.

The show really lent itself to the space and seeing Peepshow in a more traditional space just wouldn’t have the same impact. It’s no wonder the Australian Government are so happy to support their work. This new production only further enhances their reputation and reinforces the plaudits that have followed from their other shows including Humans and Closer.

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

REVIEW: Thriller Live at New Victoria Theatre, Woking

Featuring over 35 Michael Jackson hits, Thriller Live has been performing to audiences all over the world for over 10 years with more ticket sales since the King of Pop’s untimely death in 2009.

Much like Immortal by Cirque du Soleil, this show fails to tap into the mind of Jackson and instead presents the hits backed by an energetic ensemble and tight live band. Largely the hits are presented in all their glory, resisting the temptation to update or remix them. This is well received by the enthusiastic crowd tonight who are on their feet and happily join in with the audience participation.

There’s no story to follow – save a couple of facts about Jackson – and no seeming logic to the order of the numbers but the cast plough through nearly two hours of songs and dances with highlights being the final 15 minutes act one (disco MJ) and the Smooth Criminal segment in act two. When the show is good, it is a timely reminder of an artist lost and it is a joy to hear the music he left behind.

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

REVIEW: Crazy For You at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking

Crazy For You opened over 80 years ago and has been delighting audiences ever since; so can this new touring production breathe new life into an old classic?

Well, it gives it a very good go with some excellent work from the cast – namely the strong ensemble and supporting roles all of who multi role and play a plethora of instruments live on stage. Ned Rudkins-Stow particularly impresses as gormless Moose whilst excelling on bass and almost stealing the show with some great one liners.

Tom Chambers is a mixed bag as Bobby Child with his characterisation too zany for the audience to fully engage with. He is better when pretending to be theatre producer Bela Zangler and this role seems to suit him more naturally. His silky dance moves made famous by his turn on Strictly Come Dancing are on full display but his stage presence isn’t enough compared to the experience of Claire Sweeney. 

Thursday, 22 March 2018

REVIEW: Cilla the Musical at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking

Telling the rags to riches story of entertainment star Cilla Black, Cilla The Musical is a real crowd pleaser of a show. Starring Kara Lily Hayworth in the title role, the show is packed full of memorable songs and an easy to follow narrative of love, ambition and the pitfalls of fame.

Hayworth is a fantastic Cilla with her mannerisms and physicality spot on for the role. Having wowed crowds in Moulin Rouge last year, she’s a performer to watch out for and her vocal in Anyone Who Had a Heart at the end of act one was a particular highlight (even inducing a standing ovation before the show had ended!

Sunday, 18 February 2018

REVIEW: Strangers On A Train at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking

Strangers On A Train is based on the novel by Patricia Highsmith and made world famous by the classic Alfred Hitchcock film. A fateful encounter takes place between two men, Guy Haines and Charles Bruno, in the dining carriage of a train crossing America. Guy is the successful businessman with a nagging jealousy; Charles is the charming, calculating, enigmatic chancer with a dark secret. A daring and dangerous plan develops from this casual conversation setting in motion a chain of events that will change the two men’s lives forever.

Heading up a small but talented cast of Chris Harper who executes the character of wily Bruno perfectly. His performance is animated and mesmerising without ever turning over the top, and acts as the perfect foil for Jack Ashton’s more subdued and restrained Guy Haines. There seemed to be genuine chemistry between all the actors and Harper’s performance was a particular highlight. 

Thursday, 11 May 2017

REVIEW: Thoroughly Modern Millie at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking

Originally a film made famous by Julie Andrews, Thoroughly Modern Millie is the story of a small-town Kansas girl who moves to the city to find a rich man to marry.

From the outset it’s hard to fathom who thought this show needed to be retold for a modern audience. With no likeable characters to cling on to, strong narrative to drive the plot and no memorable numbers, this is a musical that really could have stayed in the history books. In the 20s Millie may have been aspirational and modern, today we’d have called her a gold-digger.

The show starts brightly enough with “Not For The Life Of Me” building nicely and some fizzing choreography, but its light soon fades. What follows is nearly three hours (including interval) of woeful characterisation and non-existent storyline.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

REVIEW: The Woman in Black at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking

Celebrating nearly 30 years as an award winning stage show, the Woman in Black has won a legion of new fans since a certain Harry Potter star led a movie adaptation.

The play is significantly better and stronger than the film and this new UK tour continues to delight and scare its audience. Despite performing for three decades, the Woman in Black continually finds new scares and thrills in this tight script and adapts to the space well. 

This version has more humour and wit than fans of the film would expect and this is a great device to lure the audience into a relaxed and false sense of security. Once their guard is down, the horror has more impact and there are many well placed jumps and gasps amongst the audience.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

REVIEW: Wonderland at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking

Wonderland rolls into Woking as part of a 30 venue UK tour following successful runs in Tampa, Texas and Tokyo and is a modern re-working of the Lewis Carroll stories Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass.

A large, impressive cast are led by household names Kerry Ellis, Wendi Peters and Dave Willets and the ensemble dazzle throughout in a variety of roles. Vocally and musically, this was a very strong production with the original music largely feeling very fresh. 

Natalie McQueen shone as the Mad Hatter, belting her way through musical highlights such as I Will Prevail and This Is Who I Am with ease. Advice From A Caterpillar was effortlessly cool with Kayi Ushe beautifully supported by his Legs as he slinked across the stage in a mesmerising scene early on. 

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

REVIEW: Gaslight at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking

For a play written in 1938, Gaslight feels refreshingly relevant and powerful with its key themes resonating hard. A busy audience are drawn into the world of Bella and cruel mental abuse inflicted (or not) on her by imposing husband Jack Manningham.

All the action takes place in the claustrophobic and moodily lit drawing room in the Manningham house complete with secret bookcases and ornaments galore. The set was rich and luxurious and was the perfect setting for this tense and atmospheric play. Music is used sparingly but effectively to ramp up the suspense while never taking focus from the story and performances of a small but strong cast.

Monday, 26 September 2016

REVIEW: Save the Last Dance for Me at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking

From the Producers of Dreamboats and Petticoats comes Save The Last Dance For Me; a jukebox musical billed as ‘the greatest summer holiday of their lives’.

The show is set in Luton and Lowestoft in 1963 and centres around the two sisters Jennifer and Marie and their holiday romances. X Factor Alumni Lola Saunders takes the role of elder sister Jennifer and gives a strong performance in her musical theatre debut. A confident and ballsy singer and accomplished mover she towers over Antony Costa from boy band Blue who shares the top billing with her.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

REVIEW: Priscilla Queen of the Desert at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking

Bright and bold; it’s a real slap in the face musical!

Bursting on stage with drag queens aplenty, Priscilla Queen of the Desert doesn’t take you on a journey but rather the ride of your life in a show that flies faster than the speed of light. Brash and garish in style and colour, this is also a show with real heart and warmth largely to some stellar performances and strong ensemble work.
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