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Sunday, 22 May 2022

REVIEW: A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Reading Rep


I have had the most rare vision. I had a dream: A Midsummer Night’s Dream. A play within a dressing room within a play within a theatre… I hope you’re following! 

Paul Stacey’s adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Athenian comedy is set in a dressing room of a theatre, with the set emulating the rough-and-ready backstage areas that will be familiar to anyone who has crossed the threshold at a theatre. Dressing tables, boxes, instruments, and costume rails make up the space, with a scaffolding tower dominating the stage in front of an enormous moon. The actors arrive for work (and yoga) before the dominating director bounds in and decides to workshop his new play ‘Bottoms Dream’ which will be performed for the Jubilee. From here we go on a journey through an abridged version of the Elizabethan classic, with modern twists and feverish energy. 

The direction from Paul Stacey and Chris Cumming does away with most of the conventions that you may expect from a Shakespeare play. The actors easily move between their actor characters and their Shakespearean characters, showing wonderful distinction both between the two and between their multirole characters within the Athenian world. David Fishley’s Oberon is powerful and distinguished, and his voice resonates around the theatre with strength and heart.
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Thursday, 23 September 2021

REVIEW: Bedknobs and Broomsticks at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking


From the talented minds of the two busiest composers in cinematic history, Bedknobs and Broomsticks is a staple Disney classic from the seventies. This new stage production still harnesses the brilliance of the film and injects a smouldering cauldron-full of new material, from songs to narrative. 

The story begins at the height of the blitz. Bombs are raining down on London as three children hunker down in their bedroom. The bedroom is a small, warmly lit haven surrounded by a vast void as the show opens. The Luftwaffe (albeit never explicitly named as such) drop another bomb and the bedroom shatters across the stage. The cast storm on, and in a whirlwind of tightly choreographed movement the children are whisked away to the safety of the countryside; And thus begins our adventure filled with magic, anthropomorphism, and a whole lot of heart. 

This stellar, multi-talented cast is led by Dianne Pilkington as Miss Eglantine Price, Charles Brunton as Emelius Browne, and Conor O’Hara as Charlie Rawlins. O’Hara brings a naivety to the 13-year-old character and harnesses the fear and forced adulthood that a child of the time had. A brilliantly embodied performance for his professional debut. 
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Sunday, 12 September 2021

REVIEW: Grease at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking



From Chicago in ’71 and Broadway in ’72 and the West End in ‘73, to the biggest box-office Hollywood hit, through two broadway revivals, five West End revivals, four tours and a TV adaptation, it's fair to say that Grease has been around the block a few times. Yet this UK tour version still manages to make the show feel fresh and exciting.

This wonderful cast are led by Dan Partridge as Danny and Georgina Louise as Sandy. Partridge truly commands the company when he takes to the stage; his presence and authority are matched only by his swagger and charm. He really comes to life in Act 2 as he gives us his heartfelt ‘Sandy.’ Louise is perfectly innocent in her part, and has a voice that would shake even the hardiest of the Burger Palace Boys. Again in Act 2, Louise’s voice tears through the auditorium in ‘Sandra Dee’— an absolute show stopper and truly magnificent to witness.
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Wednesday, 7 July 2021

REVIEW: Be More Chill at the Shaftesbury Theatre


Full of your stereotypical American high school students, a pulsing soundtrack, and a Japanese supercomputer that embeds itself inside people brains, Be More Chill has an air of familiarity but with an original twist. As we follow the nerdy Jeremy (Scott Folan) on his journey to become cool, the show tackles bullying, self-perception, and world domination by a SQUIP. It makes much more sense in context! 

Folan takes the lead role and tackles it well. He made fantastic acting decisions throughout, particularly in musical numbers. Blake Patrick Anderson is the standout performance of the evening for me. His voice and tone are beautiful, and during act 2 I leaned over to my friend and whispered something that I feel sums up his performance: “Every time Blake opens his mouth I get goosebumps”. This is the West-End debut for Anderson, and he is certainly a performer to watch as his career soars to great heights very soon. This pairing of young actors is a real triumph. Not only is the on-stage relationship between Folan and Anderson heartwarming, but they bounce off of each other with an energy that keeps their scenes racing along. 
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Sunday, 20 June 2021

REVIEW: Doctor Who: Time Fracture at ImmersiveLdn / UNIT HQ


Immersive Everywhere have created the world of Doctor Who under the pavements of the West End. Located near Bond Street, Time Fracture is the latest project from a cultural institution; the most famous time-traveller in history! 

Before I delve into this review, I feel the need to make a few disclaimers: 

Firstly, I am a massive nerd and very proud of the fact. I have been a Doctor Who (and Torchwood… and Sarah Jane Adventures… and Class) fan since I was knee-high to a grasshopper. So I make absolutely no apologies for being utterly awe-struck by this production. Secondly, I will follow in River’s footsteps (you were warned in the first disclaimer!) and avoid spoilers. With that in mind, I may end up talking in riddles slightly! 

The immersive experience begins from the moment you’ve had your temperature taken outside UNIT HQ. UNIT (Unified Intelligence Taskforce) soldiers are there to ‘greet’ us before we are ushered inside and given a briefing by their boss. We are told that we are volunteers, recommended by The Doctor, who have come to save all of time and space. A bomb was dropped during the blitz and it has created fractures in time which we are here to investigate and, hopefully, fix. As we stepped out of the briefing room and into the beating, beeping, whirring heart of UNIT, I was blown away by the production values. The huge room is kitted out like a mission control centre at NASA. We are passed around various lab-coated doctors and given more information about the time fracture. Eventually, we plucky scientists are thrust through the fracture and end up in some remarkable worlds. 
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Sunday, 13 June 2021

REVIEW: West-End Musical Celebration at the Palace Theatre


Some of the finest voices in town get together to tackle some of the best songs in musical theatre. Whether The Sound of Music is your thing, or you prefer Jesus Christ Superstar; this show has it all. Mix that with an unfashionable level of talent on stage and you have a roof-raising recipe. 

West End Musical Celebration has pivoted from a Christmas to a summer celebration and boasts an exciting array of talent. Opening the show with a remastered ballad version of You Can't Stop the Beat, which quickly becomes the toe-tapping number we all know, is one of the producers of the event Shanay Holmes. Holmes is also our compare for the evening, and takes the musical limelight more than once, to my utter joy! 

This concert is unlike any other west-end show in that the audience are asked to play a role. We were encouraged, nay ORDERED, to sing-along, dance-along, and celebrate in the most raucous way we could. After 16 months of darkness along Sharfetsbury Avenue, it was a glorious tonic and an apt way to ring in the reopening of theatreland. That being said, I find all the encouragement and ‘I can’t hear you’ lines a little tedious unless it's at a pantomime. On the other hand, it’s worth noting that that is very much a reflection on ME and not on Holmes engaging, excitable, and energetic hosting. 
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REVIEW: The Comedy of Errors at the Roman Theatre, St Albans



It’s not often you get to see a Shakespeare play in a theatre that pre-dates the Bard himself, but The Roman Open Air Theatre Festival provides that rare opportunity. A tale of twins and mistaken identities, this reimagining of the famous Shakespeare comedy fuses a modern setting with Elizabethan language and a handful of karaoke classics. 

As the story begins, we learn through a beachfront puppet show that two sets of twins are separated by a storm at a very young age. The play then goes on to see how these sets of twins happen by the same town at the same time and are repeatedly mistaken for each other to the utter confusion of themselves and the townspeople. The strange and silly plot allowed director Matthew Parker many freedoms that may have been more difficult in any other Shakespeare. 

The use of physical comedy and farcical tropes brought an additional layer of comedy and energy that invigorated the show. The performers handled this with dexterity and brilliance, really embodying the pace and the tone. 
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Sunday, 25 April 2021

REVIEW: Soft Sessions Live in Concert at Stream.Theatre


Riding fresh from their success of song snippets on YouTube, Soft Sessions brings together 6 beautiful performers for a streamed concert.

Soft Sessions is just the perfect title for this show. 45 minutes of soul- warming vocal bliss streamed direct to your home. With song choices spanning genres and eras, there is something for everyone. But, not only that, but the songs take on a new life as they are remastered by Alex Beetschen and the stellar cast.

Aesthetically, this show combines succulent greenery with rooms that ooze rustic-chic. Soft leather and velvety voices combine perfectly in a concert performance that feels welcoming and comfortable in all the right ways. Callum Heinrich has worked some magic with the camera and editing, transitioning easily between songs and interviews, employing some wonderful trickery in the process.
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Saturday, 17 April 2021

REVIEW: Cruise at Stream.Theatre (Online)



It’s 1988. It’s 2021. It’s the true story of how Michael Spencer experienced the Soho scene in the 80s.

Written and performed by Jack Holden, we are invited into a frenzied world of vibrant characters, shadowy nightlife, and sex and love. We meet Jack at 22 years old, answering the phones for the LGBTQIA+ helpline, Switchboard. From there we are dragged, kicking and screaming, through a soul-thumping story of love and loss, of joy and pain, of time and age.

Holden has penned this production with passion and precision, using his own experiences and the stories of a generation before to create a world that exists in the 80s and the present; performed in the warren of basement spaces under Shoreditch Town Hall. Holden’s use of body and voice (both speaking and his stunning tenor singing) to breathe life into a multitude of eccentric but utterly honest characters, is matched only by his exquisite command of text and language. The dialogue trips effortlessly from narrative to poetry in a way that I have never seen before.
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Thursday, 24 December 2020

REVIEW: All I Want For Christmas is Theatre at Thespie.com


For me, theatre should always be an event. It’s an evening out where you get to sit with hundreds of like-minded people and loose yourself in a living, breathing story. But, since March, this has scarcely been possible, so most of us are turning to online performances to either watch or work on. All I Want for Christmas is Theatre brings together some of the west-ends biggest names for a Christmas concert, featuring performers from Heathers, Dear Evan Hansen, & Juliet, Six and many more. Fifty minutes of festive joy beamed directly into your home... what more could you ask for as you polish off the final few chocolates of your advent calendar?

To praise every member of the 40 strong cast would take longer than a Downing Street press conference; the burning talent on screen is undeniable and sometimes joyfully overwhelming. With rich harmonies courtesy of Musical Directors Nick Barstow and Gareth Weedon, suitably cheesy choreography and the rousing vocals of some of the UK’s greatest talents, there is little that can go wrong.
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Monday, 26 October 2020

REVIEW: The Great Gatsby at Immersive LDN



There are a few names in the world of immersive theatre that should get you excited and Immersive Everywhere is definitely one for that exclusive list. Tucked away just off of Oxford Street awaits the world of love, well-pressed suits, and bootleg liqueur; it’s the Roaring Twenties and we are invited to a party.
 
Jay Gatsby’s mansion is the venue for our evening of entertainment. The central space lies in anticipation with a piano dimly lit pulling focus. Around this the audience are seated at a safe distance from each other with Mr Gatsby’s bar dominating one wall. After some welcome rule setting the party springs into life with a snappy Charleston dance number and we are introduced to Nick Carraway (James Lawrence); the man who will guide us through the evening. Lawrence handles his lengthy monologues with ease, setting the scene, giving exposition and being on hand to steady the ship. He holds our attention expertly and has a welcome air of empathy and honesty in this world full of fake niceties and bolshy pomposity. Whilst Jay Gatsby may be the name on the wall, it feels as though Craig Hamilton’s character is written as more of a facilitator and catalyst for Nick Carraway to flourish. Whilst Carraway flourishes through prose and Lawrence’s embodiment, some of the other characters and moments seem under-developed as if they haven’t had the airtime to rise to their full potential.
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Monday, 9 March 2020

REVIEW: Waiter, There’s a Murder in my Soup at Studio 5ive, Troubadour Wembley Park


A fine dining experience mixed with an immersive murder mystery, Waiter, There’s a Murder in my Soup is a musical farce set within the confines of Studio 5ive restaurant at the Troubadour Wembley Park. Once seated and our glasses filled, the performers begin to inhabit the space, gently interacting with each other and setting the stage for the concert of the Marchioness du Jour. The venue is busting with dignitaries, thespians and connoisseurs of the opera scene (that’s the part we’re playing) and we meet the Marchioness’ footman, the German trying desperately to pass as a Brit in post-war 1946. A scream. A shock. A cry. The Marchioness has been murdered and all six suspects are together in the room. There’s only one way to solve this, and in she bounds on her bicycle ready to crack the case; Detective Susan Gusset. 

After a few jaunty comedy tunes and an interview of each suspect the first delicious course is served. Between being fed each delicious course, we are fed more information about the murder, the suspects and their motives. Before each scene we are drawn back into the farce with a few 1940s classic songs before a peppy number brings the suspects back on to be interrogated by Gusset.
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Friday, 21 February 2020

REVIEW: Beautiful: The Carole King Musical at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking


It’s hard to over-state the importance of Carole King on the music industry. Over a thousand artists have covered or released her songs from The Shirelles and The Drifters to Celine Dion and Aretha Franklin. As a solo artist King has had seven Top 10 albums and has recorded some of the most well-known songs in pop history. Beautiful: The Carole King Musical follows King (Daisy Wood-Davis) as she writes, falls in love and soars to great musical heights.

The overture starts and we tumble through some of the most iconic King masterpieces in a brash medley, ending with Wood-Davis sat at a grand piano centre stage about to preform to Carnegie Hall on 18th June 1971. The production then throws us back into the midst of 1950s America to watch Kings rise to stardom.

Wood-Davis is elegant in her portrayal of King; with wonderful vocals and a great portrayal of the southern twang that King is known for. Gerry Goffin is played brilliantly by Adam Gillian. With appropriate swagger he pulls off both the high-school jock and the budding playwright and lyricist with a voice to match that of Wood-Davis. His emotions sometimes seem to come from nowhere with some less nuanced choices than the other principal cast.
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Thursday, 5 December 2019

REVIEW: Cinderella at The Vaults


An immersive and modern take on the classic fairy-tale made famous by Disney and performed up and down the country every December, Cinderella at The Vaults was more of a Christmas party than a theatre show.

Set in a pub, the bar sits along one wall, with audience seated in both cabaret style and theatre style along the three remaining sides. We are welcomed into the pub and shown to our seats by the characters as they inhabit the venue. The actors truly inhibit their characters and indulge in playing with the audience, teasing them and welcoming them into the world.

Mike, played by Jimmy Fairhurst and taking on the usual role of Cinderella’s fairy godmother, is the host of karaoke and warms up the audience with both his dress sense and a wonderful rendition of Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree. Once the audience have had a chance to get a drink from the bar and been sniffed by Buttons the dog, the show begins as every fairy-tale should: with a rendition Bohemian Rhapsody.
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REVIEW: Sleeping Beauty at Greenwich Theatre


Everyone knows the age-old tale of Sleeping Beauty, but Greenwich theatre have stretched the traditional story and centred it around Russia, the moon, and 50 years of Greenwich Theatre… obviously.

It’s 1969 and we are introduced to a “very very Scottish” actor, Ewan (Regan Burke). As he wanders the dark corridors of Greenwich Theatre, he comes across a common item found in London theatres; A Faberge egg. He releases its magical power in the form of Fairy Faberge (Funlola Olufunwa), who waves her sparkly egg-wand and whisks him back in time to 1850s Russia. We meet the Tsar and Tsarina (Martin Johnston and writer/director Andrew Pollard respectively) and the evil Rasputin (Anthony Spargo) who has cast a spell on a mirror to rid Russia of the Tsar and Tsarina and take over the world, as every good panto villain wishes to do.

With a stunning design from Cleo Pettit, both the set and costumes have all the appropriate panto sparkle and shine with great flavours of Russia and some ridiculously tight trousers for Ewan when he accidentally becomes ‘Major Tom’ after a confusion with a costume fitting. The set consists of a huge revolve which is utilised expertly to show the passage of time during the famous 100 years sequence, and also allows the pace of the show to keep up with the short attention span of the younger audience members. 
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Sunday, 17 November 2019

REVIEW: Poisoned Polluted at the Old Red Lion


Kathryn O’Reilly’s second play tackles traumatic and painful subjects head on. Child abuse, drug addiction and growing up are all on the agenda of Poisoned Polluted. Against a backdrop of luscious green forestry, the two sisters flashback and forward retelling the trauma of their childhoods and reliving the games, the pleasures and the memories of their past. 

Kathryn O’Reilly plays Sister, the older and more weathered of the two. She tackles Sister’s addiction and psychosis with honesty and truth, utilising her wonderful physicality to truly embody the crippling anxiety and excruciating pain that Sister experiences throughout her life.

Her is played by Anna Doolan. The more grounded of the two characters, Her is constantly reaching out to help her sibling, often with little effect. Doolan plays the desperation and the helplessness of Her with precision and clarity. The two actresses work brilliantly together to push and pull the text and embody the story.
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Thursday, 7 November 2019

REVIEW: I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change at the Chiswick Playhouse


It’s hard to know whether to hate or admire a musical that rhymes “thrill us” with “Bruce Willis”. I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change has book and lyrics by Joe DiPietro, who is probably better known for his work on the Tony award winning Memphis, with music by Jimmy Roberts. Originally produced off-Broadway in 1996, it has been significantly reworked and now opens the inaugural season at the newly anointed Chiswick Playhouse in its first UK performance since being re-written. This musical revue sees four actors playing a multitude of characters all singing about love, sex and dating. With so many musical numbers it’s no surprise that some are more forgettable than others, but with catchy melodies and relatable lyrics, this show has a winning formula.
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Saturday, 2 November 2019

REVIEW: Chemistry at the Finborough Theatre


The European Premier production of Jacob Marx Rice’s award-winning Chemistry is an intimate and honest look into the world of mental health and its preconceptions and misconceptions. The haze-filled auditorium is in traverse layout with the stage space being dominated by a floating rectangle of scaffolding which houses the two characters throughout. Following the shape of the scaffolding is a maze of wires and lights across the floor. The story follows Steph (Caoimhe Farren) and Jamie (James Mear) as their lives combine after a chance meeting in a waiting room. 

Farren’s depression-stricken Steph is sharp-witted and Farren seems to revel in her characters playfulness. She also masterfully tackles the intricacies of Steph’s depressive episodes with truth and an individuality appropriate for such a complex and diverse illness. 

Mear is brilliant as unipolar manic Jamie. His performance was gut-wrenchingly real and had beautiful moments of guttural pain and frustration which was painful to observe in all the right ways.
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Wednesday, 30 October 2019

REVIEW: Soho Cinders at the Charing Cross Theatre


Old Compton Street in the heart of London is the setting for this modern twist on a classic tale. Robbie, the Cinderella of this story, is stuck working in a Laundrette after the passing of his mother and is forced to pay rent to his ugly step sisters. The two best things in his life come in the form of his best friend and colleague, Velcro, and his secret lover, James Prince; who incidentally is married to a woman and also running for Mayor of London.

Unashamedly camp, Stiles and Drews show takes pride in showcasing both light and dark sides of the LGBTQ+ community. From rent boys and sugar daddies to lap-dancing and simulated orgasms, Soho Cinders certainly isn’t as family friendly as its classic pantomime counter-part. That being said, the sharp wit and zinging one-liners make for some good laughs for a more age-appropriate audience.
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Wednesday, 9 October 2019

REVIEW: Gaslight at the Watford Palace Theatre


A play-within-a-play set in a women’s refuge, this production of Patrick Hamilton’s Gaslight boasts an all-female cast. The cast are all escaping domestic abuse at home and perform Hamilton’s classic thriller in the living room of their refuge while stage directions are read out through a microphone in true Brechtian style.

Hamilton’s writing is suspenseful and exciting whilst being somewhat predictable due to its simple structure, but this doesn’t take away from the standout performances of the night. Sally Tatum takes on the role of Bella Manningham, the downtrodden and abused wife of the man of the house, Jack Manningham (Jasmine Jones). Tatum’s performance stays honest and true throughout which is no easy task with so much fear, anger and distress in a character. 

Inspector Rough, traditionally an older gentleman, is portrayed by Tricia Kelly who tackles the confident, strong and humble Inspector with ease and joy.
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