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Wednesday, 31 August 2022

REVIEW: Bugsy Malone at the Mayflower Theatre in Southampton

The 1976 Alan Parker Film Bugsy Malone caught the attention and passed into movie folklore with its very young cast and splurge guns in creating a spoof musical based around the gangster wars of the American prohibition era and starred the wonderful Jodie Foster as the speakeasy singer Tallulah and Bonnie Langford as Lena. There was a charm and humour in the combination of the young performers and light touch delivery of such a grim and violent period of American history. It is a somewhat bold move from producers, Kenny Wax and Theatre Royal Bath, to revive the Lyric Hammersmith 2015 production with a cast of young leads (aged from 9 to 15) with a team of chaperones, and an ensemble of young adults, many making their musical debuts for an extensive UK tour of the larger regional theatres which began in Bath Theatre Royal in August. 

When we caught up with the tour at the huge Mayflower Theatre in Southampton in a one-third full stalls auditorium, there was no denying the production values invested in the touring show. The false back wall portrayed the entrance to the basement Speakeasy with a beautifully coloured bar truck and flown tables taking us inside the venue with elegant ease. The car chase was also wonderfully brought to the stage with a pedal car and strobe effect lights. Indeed, there was an appropriate air of theatricality by Director Sean Holmes setting many of the show's numbers as staged performances and with the occasional breaking of the fourth wall. When a character is shot with the splurge guns a photographer appears to capture the death and in the flash of light, the character rises and walks off. It captures the charm of the original for the stage. The practicalities of staging mean however the splurge guns are reduced to splatter guns and then finally shoot out which was a glorious slapstick scene in the film is somewhat muted. The show is very well lit by Philip Gladwell with neon signs and good use of spotlights and strobes to highlight the action.

Friday, 31 December 2021

REVIEW: Cinderella at the Mayflower Theatre, Southampton

The Mayflower Southampton posters have Craig Revel Horwood and Debbie McGee as the headliners, but it is Richard Cadell as Buttons with his co-star Sooty that makes this show stand out from the crowd this Christmas with a high energy magical performance that supports the narrative but equally entertains with some spectacular illusions and charming comedy with his puppets. Horwood as the aloof villainess stepmother Baroness Demonica and McGee as the Fairy Godmother look the part as they elegantly sashay on and off but only occasionally get a chance to take centre stage. Indeed, when they finally get to look for Cinderella to try on the slipper it is Sooty’s magic rather than the Fairy Godmother that locates her.

The Mayflower stage is wide and deep with plenty of wing space, and this enables the production to include a lot of large props to support the cast. Horwood arrives on a golf buggy, Cadell arrives on a motorbike in a brilliant illusion, Sooty enters on a mini camper van and Cinderella departs for the Ball on a flying coach and horses over the audience (although unusually the lights cues were late and revealed the lifting mechanism as it took off). Cadell also includes a delightfully cute illusion where cast members appear under cloths from an apparently empty cubicle and a spectacular escape from a hanging box chopped up by a set of chain saws. He completes his magic performances with a comedy routine with Sooty under three buckets bringing a fresh twist to the ball and cups street magic. They are all shoehorned into the narrative but are executed with such skill and energy that we simply sit back and enjoy the presentation. 

Tuesday, 22 December 2020

REVIEW: Sleeping Beauty at the Mayflower in Southampton

Michael Harrison and QDOS’s bold plan to stage 10 pantomimes in a Covid safe way around the country this Christmas largely underwritten by the National Lottery was thrown into despairing disarray by tier 3 announcements as they prepared to open. Three opened one of which was closed shortly afterwards so only Plymouth (see earlier review) and Sleeping Beauty at the Mayflower in Southampton will run their planned course. But if you live in a Tier 2 area along the south coast you should make every effort to get along to see Sleeping Beauty. It is a joyous timely reminder of the Christmas family festive outing that Pantomime provides, and, on the day, the South East went into Tier 4 lockdown provides as welcome glimmer of hope for 2021 that theatres can and will reopen.  

Sleeping Beauty is often one of the weaker titles in the Pantomime season, but this stripped-down 90-minute version devised by Harrison himself suits the format perfectly and provides a linking narrative to some brilliantly executed traditional pantomime routines full of silly, madcap entertainment that had the socially distanced audience giggling away almost constantly. It helps that its stars have strong cabaret routines that they effortlessly fitted into the story as well as a lot of pantomime experience between them and are supported by a hard-working strong ensemble cast.

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

REVIEW: Miss Saigon at the Mayflower Theatre in Southampton

One of the fantastic developments of recent decades is to see the great West End productions touring to large regional venues with the same high production values and full ensemble casts and orchestras and Miss Saigon is continuing its tour of the 2014 West End revival. The Mayflower stage is one of the largest outside London and is a natural home for three weeks for this spectacular production. 

The set designed by Matt Kinley and Totie Driver evocatively creates the dilapidated structures of Saigon during the Vietnam war and restages the amazing critical scene when the US marine helicopter arrives at the US base to evacuate the last soldiers. A combination of video and a full scale helicopter nose cockpit accompanied with realistic sound effects and flashing lights produces without doubt the highlight of the show.

The lighting design by Bruno Poet is also very distinctive and so strong that it dominates many scenes. The stage is usually dark creating shadows with the set and the performers picked out with small focused spots. It creates atmospheric settings but the lighting is too overwhelming and clever and becomes the many thing you notice in each scene.

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.
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