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Wednesday, 15 June 2022

REVIEW: Matthew Bourne’s The Car Man at the Royal Albert Hall

Having long been a fan of Matthew Bourne’s, I was excited to see the reimagining of Bizet’s Carmen at the iconic Royal Albert Hall for its 150th birthday celebrations. Famously working his magic by modernising operas and ballets to appeal to a wider audience, The Car Man, et in 1960s America at a grubby garage-diner, is a dramatic- and steamy! - thriller. 

A small town named ‘Harmony’ becomes the scene of infidelity and murder when an attractive stranger arrives and stirs the pot, causing devastating scenes. It goes without saying that the New Adventures dancers are at the top of their game, especially when Bourne’s choreography is satisfying in every sense. 

Sunday, 29 May 2022

REVIEW: L-E-V Chapter 3: The Brutal Journey of the Heart at Sadler's Wells

L-E-V returns to Sadler’s Wells for the final piece of the Love Cycle trilogy, ‘The Brutal Journey of the Heart’ choreographed by Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar.

The stage is dimly lit to reveal the dancers, dressed in skin-coloured bodysuits, giving the illusion of naked tattooed skin, with a large red heart on the chest, designed by Christian Dior Couture’s creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri. 

Eyal and Behar’s choreography is incredibly stylised, the sharp movements are compelling and a little flirty; as the dancers clutch their throats, gyrate their hips and pulsate in unison. Each dancer (7 in total) expresses themselves individually within the choreography, which almost intensifies the connection between the company.

Sunday, 22 May 2022

REVIEW: German Cornejo’s Wild Tango at the Peacock Theatre

Argentinian Choreographer German Cornejo’s Wild Tango boasts about an evening of South American culture, enticing them with a night of passion and an ‘explosion’ of tango, contemporary dance, urban, malambo and circus. Inspired by the origins of tango, this show features a mostly male cast (there are only three female dancers out of eleven).

The first act opens with a steamy duo surrounded by dancers in hooded black costumes surrounding them, with a live band – drums, piano, a guitar, accordion and vocalist at the back of the stage, adding to the authenticity of the evening. They take themselves quite seriously, but it is nonetheless feisty. Their costumes appeared somewhat of a hindrance, with hoods slipping down, but the overall atmosphere was electric.

The dances aren’t connected by a narrative or apparent theme, but this is unimportant and does not change the slick transitions between performances. Each one is unique, fast-paced and upbeat. When the aerial is introduced, the dancers create impressive positions while swirling in the air, although not completely in unison. Moments of the performance could be cleaned up for the full WOW factor.

Monday, 9 May 2022

REVIEW: Mulan Rouge at the Vaults

Combining the Disney hit Mulan with Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge, The Vaults have transformed their space into a raunchy French club. In this version, Mulan disguises themselves as a man to take their father’s place in the war against the Huns. Their General commandeers the Moulin Rouge, and in a turn of events, they become infatuated with one of the go-go girls, Ginger. Secrets are aplenty and Mulan’s cover cannot be blown as they defend the honour of the Mulan Rouge.

We began the evening in the bar, as Mulan (Ella Cumber) and “Sindy Sinclair” warm up the crowd and play a little game to find them a romantic match. We were then called into the dining hall by stage management staff, although this was well organised- this could have been slicker and incorporated into the show. The dining hall has a promenade stage and 4 large benches, the food is creative and caters for all. The portions are good and the spacing between courses is perfect.

Wednesday, 4 May 2022

REVIEW: La Veronal- Pasionaria at Sadler’s Wells Theatre

Marcos Morau’s dance company, La Veronal, returns to Sadler’s Wells for the first time since 2015. He describes Pasionaria as being 'a place everyone talks about and a place of progress. Life has become an artificial landscape and inhabitants have lost any kind of passion’. 

A multi-disciplinary piece, Pasionaria could be described as a sci-fi performance. Designed by Max Glaenzel, the dimly lit set looks like it could be in a school, or a station, somewhere that is a purgatory point in life that everyone is trying to hurriedly move on from. There is a row of white cushioned benches on the lowest level, with a telephone and a door locked by a code. A large white staircase takes up the majority of the stage, with high sides that mostly shield the identity of the people walking down. There is a window top left to the outside, lit up with stars and the moon, that expands and shrinks throughout the piece as if this building is moving around space.

Wednesday, 6 April 2022

REVIEW: English National Ballet ‘The Forsythe Evening’ at Sadler’s Wells Theatre

William Forsythe’s choreography is a work of art. He has taken the traditional ideals of what ballet is and proven its versatility by modernising the music and themes. You would not guess that the American choreographer is 72 years old, his enthusiasm and charisma are infused into his dances and the English National Ballet dancers are responsive to every note. 

Act One, ‘Blake Works I’ is made up of 7 dances performed to James Blake’s songs from the album ‘The Colour in Anything'. By using mainstream music, Forsythe has gifted the dancers the opportunity to express themselves in free movements, albeit in keeping with the technicalities and discipline of classical ballet. You can sense the delight in their performances, as they give it some attitude and sass. I have never experienced a sense of humour this much in a dance performance, and it has shifted my views on what modern dance can be when combined with traditional movement. Wearing only slate coloured bodysuits and leotards (designed by Forsythe and Dorothee Merg), with no set, the setup is simple with all of the focus on the performers. 

Friday, 18 February 2022

REVIEW: Broken Wings at the Charing Cross Theatre

Adapted from Khalil Gibran’s 1912 poetic novel ‘Broken Wings’, the new musical is set in Beirut, Lebanon. The story is biographical and follows the life of Gibran as he returns to Beirut at the age of 18, after spending the last 5 years studying in America, where he finds love for a girl and for his country. Gregor Donnelly’s set captures the warmth of the city and the hustle and bustle of people with the rotating set.

Written by Nadim Naaman; who stars the 40-year-old Gibran, shadowing his younger self, played by Lucca Chadwich-Patel, Broken Wings initially had a limited run at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket in 2018, followed by a few performances in Lebanon and Dubai. Director Bronagh Lagan has brought it back to London to share poems and stories from the Middle East. 

Thursday, 20 January 2022

REVIEW: Moulin Rouge at the Piccadilly Theatre

Walking into the auditorium is a spectacular experience; you are immersed into the world of the Moulin Rouge. Not a single detail is spared in Derek Mclane’s set, with the iconic windmill stage right and the giant elephant head stage right, at eye level in the Royal Circle. The dancers circle around the stage, quite menacingly in slow motion, in anticipation of the show- head to toe in burlesque-themed sparkling outfits, designed by Catherine Zuber. Lady Marmalade starts the show with a bang, the ensembles’ energy uplifting and throws you into the drama of the Moulin Rouge. 

As the club is on the brink of shutting down, the owner Harold Zidler (Clive Carter) must do what it takes with his ‘diamond’ showgirl, Satine (Liisi Lafontaine) to gain investment from the Duke (Simon Bailey). Mistakenly identifying an American tourist named Christian (Jamie Bogyo) for the Duke, Satine spends the night being entertained by Christian and his fellow songwriters, Santiago (Elia Lo Tauro) and Toulous-Lautrec (Jason Pennycooke), who wish to bring their show to Moulin Rouge. When the Duke arrives for his time alone with Satine, he finds the three in a compromising position, of which they improvise their way out of and make an arrangement for the Duke to invest in the show and the venue. Being the seedy man he is, he also takes ‘ownership’ of Satine- who has quickly fallen in love with Christian- whom she has a secret affair with alongside being with the Duke. 

Saturday, 11 December 2021

REVIEW: 2:22 A Ghost Story at the Gielgud Theatre

Starting a new season in a new theatre and cast, Danny Robins’ 2:22 A Ghost Story is ready to spook the audiences in the West End. Set in modern-day in a Victorian terrace, currently being refurbished by the couple who just moved in; Jenny (Author and Queen of the Jungle, Giovanna Fletcher) and Sam (Elliott Cowan from Demons) and their 1-year-old daughter, Phoebe, never seen on stage only heard through the baby monitor. 

Anna Fleischle’s set is a familiar space and feels almost homely, aside from the unfinished touches that give the house a spooky element. The stage is bordered by a bright red neon light and a digital clock looming above the door, counting down the hours before 2:22. 

Friday, 3 December 2021

REVIEW: XENOS by the Akram Khan Company at Sadler's Wells

Over 20 years ago, The Akram Khan Company began building their reputation as one of the most respected companies in the world. Khan’s contribution to the arts is internationally recognised; most notably when he choreographed a section of the London Olympic Games Opening Ceremony in 2012.

Written by Jordan Tannahill and adapted by Ruth Little, Xenos is Khan’s final solo performance. It is a tribute to the millions of Indian soldiers who fought in WW1. As you enter the auditorium and take your seat, a percussionist and vocalist are performing cross-legged onstage. The lights are warm and the scene peaceful, before Khan stumbles onto the stage and begins to perform. His movements are inspired by the Indian classical dance form, Kathak, blended with contemporary dance. He is fascinating to watch; his precise, agitated movements are incredibly expressive and entirely captivating. 

Friday, 5 November 2021

REVIEW: Birmingham Royal Ballet Curated by Carlos Acosta at Sadler's Wells

Miguel Altunaga's City of a Thousand Trades is described as a 'love letter to Birmingham'- however it does not seem to be filled with love towards the city at all. Giulia Scrimieri’s abstract set is striking, built up with structures and poles creating chimneys and factories that build the Birmingham skyline. The dance is raw and dark, with dancers carrying metal poles and building on grey, industrial-looking moveable blocks. Birmingham's 2020-22 Poet Laureate, Casey Bailey's voice rings out and stories are told of immigrants moving to the city knowing no one and having nothing. Dancers perform to the voiceover of immigrants who describe the struggles they have overcome and the parts of their lives they have traded in to live in this city. This came across as overly dramatic for the words being said and although the music -inspired by sounds of the city- and storytelling is fascinating, they missed the mark on demonstrating optimism and hope within the community.

Imminent, a very relevant piece, choreographed by Daniela Cardim, evokes the feeling of uncertainty and fear of what is to come. More of a classical piece, it felt a little too wishy-washy to portray the curiosity of the dancers as they instinctively begin to investigate the open door that looms in the background. The set outlines crumbling icebergs, as Cardim was inspired by the fear of climate change in her themes. April Dalton's were underwhelming and fairly unflattering, with only the lighting design in the second part (Peter Teigan) sparking some action as the urgency of the performance picks up as the flames appear and tension builds. 

Wednesday, 3 November 2021

REVIEW: SIX at the Vaudeville Theatre

SIX has been on the go since 2017 when Toby Marlow & Lucy Moss wrote the original musical for students at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Since then, it has rocketed sky-high and is now not only on the West End and a UK tour but on Broadway, Chicago and Boston, as well as touring on the other side of the world in Australia and New Zealand. The energy is unmatched and there is no sign of this show’s momentum slowing down any time soon.

Let’s face it, Henry the 8th is only memorable because of his 6 wives; so SIX introduces us to the powerful women whose lives were summarised in just one word: divorced, beheaded, died; divorced, beheaded, survived. Each Queen ‘competes’ in a battle against the others to prove they had the most traumatic life, before coming together and rewriting ‘herstory’. 

Thursday, 28 October 2021

REVIEW: Night, Mother at the Hampstead Theatre

Night, Mother is a Hampstead Theatre original play, written by Marsha Norman. Directed by Roxana Silbert, it is set on a normal Saturday evening at home in rural North America with Thelma (Stockard Channing) and her daughter, Jessie (Rebecca Night). Ti Green’s set is warm and comforting despite the disturbing events that follow; Jessie has calmly decided that tonight she will commit suicide and nothing will change her mind.

The script is good, it touches on many topics; sickness, divorce and stigma and Thelma tries to understand why her daughter is suicidal. It leads us to question whether a person really needs a ‘reason’ to want to end their life, or if it is a decision you simply make; something as easy as getting off a bus if you have had enough of the ride (as Jessie states).

Friday, 1 October 2021

REVIEW: Witness for the Prosecution at the London County Hall

The show truly begins as you enter the building. Walking into the London County Hall, you are immediately transported back in time to the early 1900s as you are immersed in the courtroom surrounded by judges and clerks. Agatha Christie’s Witness for the Prosecution - first published in 1925- has been playing at the County Hall for the last five years, but the show has not fatigued in the slightest.

Originally written as a sketch, the play is your typical murder mystery with the formalities of taking place in an old courtroom with a ‘jury’ of audience members. Young Vole (Joe Mcnamara) has been accused of murdering an older lady, Emily French, he claimed to take a fondness of. Although seemingly charming and innocent, the odds are stacked against him as we discover he has the incentive to take on her fortune and his leather-clad German wife, Romaine (Emer Mcdaid) denies his alibi. The case seems overwhelming against him, and the plot thickens as the play goes on 

Tuesday, 3 August 2021

REVIEW: John and Jen at the Southwark Playhouse

John and Jen takes place in the USA spanning from 1985 to 2022. The musical opens as we are introduced to siblings Jen (Rachel Tucker), at 7 years old, cradling her baby brother, John (Lewis Cornay) in their secret attic (designed by Natalie Johnson). Time passes quickly as we see the pair’s relationship dynamic change from vowing to protect each other from their abusive father to being a stereotypical teenager embarrassed by her younger brother to Jen going to college and leaving John behind to ‘hold the fort’. Supposedly years down the line, John begins to idolise his father and becomes extremist in his patriotic views and decides to join the forces.

The story slows to a more welcome pace as the musical becomes more sombre towards the end of the first act when John passes away after fighting in the war. 

Monday, 28 June 2021

REVIEW: Shedding a Skin at the Soho Theatre

Amanda Wilkins, 2020 winner of Soho Theatre’s Verity Bargate Award, is the writer and performer of Shedding a Skin. She plays Mayah, a young woman with an unpredictable life. She quits her job, breaks up with her boyfriend and moves into a small flat with an elderly Jamaican woman called Mildred (Mrs T to her face). Their intergenerational platonic friendship is what makes this play so heart-warming; with hilarious one-liners, emotional breakdowns and many surprises in the story- these 90 minutes truly fly by as you take a journey with Mayah as she experiences life with new perspectives. 

Shedding a Skin feels real, as Wilkins herself says, she vows the ‘tell the truth’ in her writing. I became so swept up in her characterisation, directed by Elayce Ismail, that by the bows I had completely forgotten she was the only person on stage throughout the show and was expecting a full cast to walk out and admire their standing ovation. 

Wednesday, 3 February 2021

REVIEW: Dance of a Million Pieces for the Living Record Festival Online

Dance of a Million Pieces is a 25-minute binaural piece as part of The Living Record Festival, written and performed by Gemma Rogers and Cary Crankson, with sound design by Rafael Diogo.

Endy (Gemma Rogers) is in a coma and Mion (Cary Crankson) is doing whatever it takes to wake her up to keep her from being taken off life support. They take adventures together and explore memories, as he grasps at anything to pull her back so he can take her home from the hospital. The balance between imagination and real life is well interlaced to portray his battles between facing reality while still being hopeful that she will wake up. This short performance combines hypnotic visuals layered with voice-overs to tell the narrative. It is obscure and emotional as it takes you on a journey to show the grief of losing someone you love.

It took me a little while to get into it, the first half I found quite confusing as the relationship between the two isn’t obviously romantic until the second half. Although the aggressive desperation in Mion’s voice came across quite too intense at times, the acting from both performers was well done and I became more invested in the relationship as the script became more poetic. The videos reflected the story nicely and helped it flow, without distracting from the show. Diogo’s sound design gives the characters depth as you feel the distance between them grow as Endy begins to slip away.

Thursday, 12 March 2020

REVIEW: Love Love Love at the Lyric Hammersmith

Ten years after Mike Bartlett’s Love Love Love premiered, it has returned to the stage. The play is in three acts in different eras with the same baby boomer couple, Sandra (Rachael Stirling) and Kenneth (Nicholas Burns). Their lack of empathy and understanding of their own middle class, white privilege is as relevant and fascinating now as it was in 2010. 

The first act is set in 1967, when young Kenneth is staying with his older, sterner brother, Henry (Patrick Knowles). Henry has invited his ‘girlfriend’, Sandra – dressed in a vivid purple dress - round for a romantic evening but she hits it off with dressing gown-wearing Kenneth instantly. They connect over Oxford University and their excitement of ‘things changing’ in London and the future ahead of travelling, getting high and being free. Bartlett’s text captures the language used at the time; the dismissal of feminism and homophobic slurs. 

Tuesday, 25 February 2020

REVIEW: The Pirate Queen at the London Coliseum

For one night only, Tom Gribby made his producing debut and brought the magnificent The Pirate Queen to the London Coliseum to raise money for Leukaemia UK. Directed by Drew Baker, the show (book by Alan Boublil, Claude-Michel Schonberg and Richard Maltby Jr) sets the scene in 16th Century Ireland. The Pirate Queen tells the tale of feminist Grace O’Malley fighting her way to be Captain of the ship, struggling with love, loss, betrayal and being hunted down by Queen Elizabeth’s royal subjects.

With two incredible Musical Theatre stars blessing us on the stage as the two powerful women, Grace O’Malley (Come From Away’s, Rachel Tucker) and Queen Elizabeth I (Sex Education’s, Hannah Waddingham) the expectations were high. The score is stunning, Tucker’s vocals stole the show whilst she was supported by a fiercely strong cast, ensemble and the PPA, Arts Ed and Mountview choirs. As this version is more of a concert, rather than a theatrical production, the Irish dancing (choreographed by Jack Ludwig) was a welcome relief from the fighting and the ballads.

Thursday, 13 February 2020

REVIEW: Opera Undone: Tosca & La Boheme at Trafalgar Studios 2

Opera Undone: Tosca & La Boheme is The King’s Head Theatre’s first West End transfer and quite something it is. Puccini’s operas are sung in English and condensed into two 60-minute performances, reimagining the original stories to modernised operas.

Tosca, in this version set in 1940’s New York, is a tale of love, jealousy and torture. Tosca (played by Fiona Finsbury) gets caught up in a romance with Cavaradossi (Roger Paterson), a painter, who has some big secrets. He seeks to help his criminal friend runaway, until creepy Mafia boss Scarpia (Hugo Herman Wilson) captures him and preys on Tosca as revenge. The opera starts strong, with many amusing moments that draw the audience into the show. As the plot becomes more of a tragedy and quite horrifying at times, the audience connection seemed to fade; noticeable in such an intimate staging. The vocals are challenging but were very well executed by all of the cast, however, it seemed that the pace of arguments is stilted when sung and the tension dissipates. It was enjoyable but certainly lacked something, it noticeably seemed that a lot of plot and character depth had to be cut to fit the story into the hour.
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