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Saturday, 24 December 2022

Pocket Size Picks: Top Shows of 2022

Theatre has been through a lot in the past few years, with the complete shutdown of the industry in 2020 we were all left with uncertainty about the industry and how it would come back. Whilst we are still feeling the effects of this, the theatrical world is back on its feet and 2022 has been a wonderful year for theatre. Pocket Size Theatre looks back at the productions we've seen this year and we have collated a list of the best 20 shows we've seen, take a look and celebrate with us all that theatre has achieved in the past year! 

The Wicker Husband at the Watermill Theatre

"This is a story with real heart and meaning. In a world ravaged by war & global warming and dominated by a superficial obsession with images & messages on social media, it is a pleasure to see a story with powerful reinforcement of natural good triumphing over evil intent and a message that what makes a person beautiful is their soul and caring attitude rather than their external appearance."

Cruise at the Apollo Theatre

"This is an important piece for the LGBTQ+ community, Holden gives the performance of a lifetime and you need to beg, borrow or steal a ticket to this. The most important play you can see this summer."

Grease at the Dominion Theatre

"This is a really great production and whilst it may not be what audiences are expecting, it's a much-needed revival that the West End needs right now to inject some life into it. An absolute mind-blowing cast and it’ll be one I will definitely be returning to!" 

Grease returns to the Dominion Theatre in 2023, running from the 2nd of June to the 28th of October. Click here for tickets from £21.00!

Monday, 12 December 2022

REVIEW: Matthew Bourne's Sleeping Beauty at Sadler's Wells

When it comes to fairy tales, we have often heard the story a thousand times before. Yet, when going to see a New Adventures production, every tale that you thought you knew, gets a whole new lease of life and magic, which is certainly the case for their current production of Sleeping Beauty, currently playing at Sadler’s Wells Theatre until January 15th 2023.

Having been a fan of Matthew Bourne for over ten years, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to attend the press night of Sleeping Beauty, as it reawakens celebrating 10 years since its premiere at Sadler’s Wells when it became the fastest-selling production in the company’s history.

Having mesmerised international audiences around the globe, I was eager to be transported into yet another mystical masterpiece by the company of New Adventures, who undoubtedly proved once again why they are an unstoppable world-class force to be reckoned with. 

Saturday, 16 July 2022

INTERVIEW: Rob Houchen, currently starring in SOUTH PACIFIC on tour and at Sadler's Wells

Rob Houchen is a true modern-day Musical Theatre leading man, his CV is one to impress anyone out there with a huge range of work under his belt. He is currently playing the role of Lieutenant Cable in the UK tour of South Pacific after appearing in the production at the Chichester Festival Theatre, the show will also make a stop in the West End when it comes to Sadler's Wells from the 27th of July to the 28th of August. 

His theatre credits include South Pacific (Chichester Festival Theatre); Marry Me A Little (The Barn Theatre); City of Angels (Garrick Theatre); The Light in the Piazza (Royal Festival Hall), (Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Los Angeles) & (Lyric Opera, Chicago); Les Miserables All-Star Concert(Gielgud Theatre); Eugenius! (The Other Palace); Broken Wings (Theatre Royal Haymarket); Les Miserables 30th Anniversary (Japan); Titanic (Charing Cross Theatre); Les Miserables (Queen’s Theatre); The 12 Tenors (World Wide Events); Godspell in Concert (The Lyric Theatre); Candide in Concert (Cadogan Hall) and Peter Pan (Harlow Playhouse).

Television/Film credits include: ‘Tony’ West Side Stories: The Making of a Classic (BBC) and Les Miserables The All-Star Concert (Universal).

South Pacific has just opened at the Manchester Opera House, but we managed to speak to Rob during the rehearsal process. 

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, 27 March 2022

REVIEW: Ballet Boyz: Deluxe at Sadler's Wells

When I hear the word ‘Ballet’, my mind transports me straight to a front-row seat at the classic tale Swan Lake.

Last night, that traditional vision was shattered, by the dynamic, daring and delightful talents of the cast of Balletboyz: Deluxe, which I had the pleasure of attending during the Press Night performance at the prestigious Sadlers Wells. 

As someone who has had a passion for dance and choreography from a young age, I jumped at the chance to grab a ticket for a production performed and driven by a cast of male-identifying individuals. Even before the curtain had lifted, I took pride and inspiration in the knowledge that this cast and concept of production alone makes a bold statement simply by contradicting gender stereotypes historically seen within dance productions. 

Saturday, 26 March 2022

REVIEW: Somnole at Sadler's Wells Theatre, part of Dance Reflections by Van Cleef & Arpels

Over a period of nearly three weeks between March 9-23, Dance Reflections by Van Cleef & Arpels is the first edition of an exciting festival celebrating choreography in modern and contemporary dance in partnership with The Royal Opera House, Tate Modern and Sadler’s Wells. With a plethora of influential works on show this year (seventeen to be exact) and I was fortunate to catch French choreographer Boris Charmatz in his solo performance, Somnole, at Sadler’s Wells Lilian Baylis Studio last Friday evening.

Somnolence is the feeling of being on the brink of sleep and in this hour-long dance piece, Charmatz explores this idea through movement and sound. The entirety of the piece involves a mediative quality anchored by continuous whistling from Charmatz and on occasion is broken up by moments of audience interaction and humour. Whistling in particular is the key feature in this work. Sometimes it is ambiguous and it’s difficult to understand where the sound is coming from or sometimes it resembles a well-known tune like Morricone’s The Good The Bad and The Ugly. In both scenarios, however, it interrogates the physicality required to produce such a sound and demands from its performer an impressive stamina. As the sound intertwines with the movement which is often repetitive, spiralling and circular, each element influences each other and takes the viewer on a journey between what feels like concise and unconscious moments but never lingering on either one for long.

This work is performed in a black box theatre space, stripping any possibility of placing it in a concrete environment. For the most part, I remained in the theatre space without entering any visual dreamlike state, despite the invitation through familiar tunes and gestures. I question, therefore, is a feeling of Somnolence one of purgatory, neither here nor there? 

One of the most successful moments of the work came when the fourth wall was well and truly dropped and Charmatz began a slow dance with an audience member before conducting us in a whistle orchestra. Unfortunately, it was a long way in before this interaction was made and it felt like it was over before it began.

The lighting design by Yeves Godin was a simple silvery state supporting the minimalist aesthetic of the work nicely and the costume by Marion Reginer, a skirt made of different patterned strips of material, helps to give the movement a lightens in contrast to the heavier muscular physique of the dancer. 

My main criticism of the piece relates to the quality of the movement. Although engrossing with a clear flow and cohesive structure, it lacked any dynamic and stayed on one note for the most part in a middle ground of wight, tempo and texture. Repetition is interesting but without some evolution or nuance, the piece becomes stagnant in many moments.

Somnole is a dreamlike experience that sits on the edge of reality. As an audience member you are subject to the ebb and flow of its affective mediative quality as Charmatz draws you in then leaves you to float alone.

Review by Stephanie Osztreicher

Rating: ★★★

Tuesday, 8 February 2022

REVIEW: Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch Kontakthof at Sadler's Wells

Undoubtedly an icon in the world of dance theatre since the 1970s, Tanztheter Wuppertal Pina Bausch has played a large role in changing the landscape of modern dance with a ripple effect that can be felt through contemporary dance and theatre today. The late, Pina Bausch, a maverick of the arts, through her choreography has the ability to transcend movement into an expression of the human condition which is raw and pure. The latest remounting of the pivotal piece Kontakthof by the company at Sadler’s Wells this February is an important reminder of how, truly great theatre, can transcend time and context. 

Kontakthof was originally premiered in 1978 at Operahouse Wuppertal and has remained, for many, to be one of the most important pieces in Bausch’s canon of work dealing with themes of desire for contact the need to be seen, appreciation and equality. Provoked by the pandemic, social issues such as sexism, racism and cultural appropriation, have also been largely explored by the company for this latest version. Moving forward, you can’t help to think there are themes of gender too yet to be tapped into.

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. 

Friday, 6 August 2021

REVIEW: Singin' in the Rain at Sadler's Wells

At university, a friend improved my life in two important ways. Being part American, they showed me the correct amount of ice to put in a glass of Coke (basically it’s all ice). More significantly, they insisted one afternoon we should go to a screening of Singin’ in the Rain, which I’d never seen.

If that’s you, then whatever else you do, don’t think that this show is a nostalgia-fest for people who love the film. It’s fresh, bright, tuneful and funny. If you’re new to the party, this tale set in a Hollywood studio at the start of the talkies in 1927, will welcome you with open arms. 

The plot concerns silent film stars Don Lockwood (Adam Cooper) and Lina Lamont (Faye Tozer), whose problems begin when it’s clear Lina’s vowel chewing accent doesn’t match her romantic heroine look. They decide to convert their latest silent movie into a sound musical, with help from Lockwood’s sidekick Cosmo Brown (Kevin Clifton), at which point we discover she’s also tone-deaf, can’t act and can’t dance. As Cosmo says – a triple threat! Cue Lockwood’s new voice-of-an-angel girlfriend Kathy Seldon (Charlotte Gooch) to save the movie by dubbing Lina’s voice. But Lina is not amused and plots her downfall.

Tuesday, 17 December 2019

REVIEW: The Red Shoes at Sadler's Wells

What is it about dance companies that sometimes brings out a sense of horror, from “Suspiria” to “Company” and “The Red Shoes”? Is it the tireless work that the artists put in, the late rehearsals that end in someone walking home in the dark, or that one dancer with red hair who catches everyone’s eye and is too perfect for words?

The Red Shoes was my first ballet by Matthew Bourne and I was blown away by it – the costumes, music by Bernard Herrmann, ensemble, and that central dancer! 

This story was originally a fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen (whose tales, as we know, can go very dark) and was adapted for the big screen by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger in 1948. It follows a dance company and the obsession of two men for a red-haired dancer who will become possessed by her red dancing shoes. 

Sunday, 17 September 2017

REVIEW: Grand Finale at Sadler's Wells

Recalling flickering flames or dead leaves in a whirlwind, ten bodies appear on stage immersed in mist, entangled or scattered like a fickle substance. Huge slabs, similar to imposing gravestones, are pushed around, creating different shapes and casting long, menacing shadows on the floor. The pace is relentless and often jars with the eerie melody executed live on stage by the six-strong orchestra. 

In Hofesh Shechter's apocalyptic masterpiece, life and death coexist and are translated into a thundering compound of sound and movement. Putting physical force at the centre of the work, the choreographies are raw, intense and impeccably executed by the diverse ensemble of performers, cherry picked from all over the world.

Monday, 11 September 2017

REVIEW: ISHQ at Sadler's Wells

'Ishq' is a word commonly used in the Muslim world to express passion and the most intense kind of love. In this case it is the title of the first Anglo Sufi musical, written by Mushfiq Murshed to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Pakistan's independence and celebrate the cultural fusion between this country and Britain.

Inspired to the Panjabi legend of Heer Ranjha, ISHQ narrates the story of a young couple, whose mutual passion is bound to kill them. Considered as the Romeo and Juliet of the East, Heer (Rasheeda Ali) and Ranjha (Ahsan Khan) meet accidentally when the charming boy is disowned by his family because of his insistent dedication to music. 

Immediately falling in love with him, Heer convinces her wealthy father to hire him as a cowherd but the burning romance is uncovered when Heer's jealous uncle Kaido (Adnan Jaffar) reports the pair's affectionate encounters to the maiden's father. Opposed to the match, Heer's father removes the young man from his employment and rushes an arranged marriage between his daughter and another man. 
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