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Friday, 16 September 2022

REVIEW: 2:22 A Ghost Story at The Criterion Theatre

Who doesn’t love staying up late? Almost everyone, however when it’s to find out what the mysterious footsteps are in your one-year-old daughters' room and whose voice that belongs to walking around, suddenly it’s not so appealing. 

For Jenny (Laura Whitmore) and her husband Sam (Felix Scott), it’s exactly that. the past few nights at exactly 2:22 those noises and voices happen repeatedly, so midway through an evening of drinking they ask Sam’s good friend Lauren (Tamsin Carroll) and new partner Ben (Matt Willis) to stay and see for themselves to prove Jenny Isn’t as crazy as Sam thinks she is.

Sunday, 11 September 2022

REVIEW: Antigone at Regent's Park Open Air Theatre

It seems lately the go-to option, is to reimagine a classic entirely, making it as current and topical as possible. While some have faltered in the past, some have given a new lease of life to the original. Antigone, the Greek tragedy has done exactly that. Bringing the original tale to life in remarkable fashion. 

Set both in 2018 and 2022 the story centres around our protagonist Antigone (Zainab Hasan), sister Ismene - Lydia Bakelmun and their struggle to educate brother Polyneices (Nadeem Islam) on the difficulties of the world. After a massive argument, Polyneices leaves (2018) and goes missing for years until a major incident (2022) brings him back into their lives. 

Thursday, 21 July 2022

REVIEW: Billy Elliot at the CURVE theatre, Leicester

Billy Elliot, based on Stephen Daldry’s acclaimed film from 2000 tells the story of community, acceptance and one boy chasing his dream against all the odds. After its many successful years in the West End, Billy Elliot finally makes a long-awaited return in a new re-imagined production from director Nikolai Foster and choreographer Lucy Hind at the Leicester Curve. 

What has and always works for Billy Elliot is how it’s one of the very few productions that manage to make the transition from screen to stage so well. It takes the memorable moments from the film and adds in an array of musical numbers (music from Elton John and Lyrics from Lee Hall). Combined it becomes a musically catchy and enlarged version of the beloved film. 

Once the curtains come up, an empty and stripped back stage appears, with just a few gates and some scaffold poles. It gives the audience an industrial setting reflecting the minor strike and creating a sense of realism. The focus as a result is spent on the actors and not the surroundings. A clever setting choice from designer Michael Taylor.

Thursday, 7 July 2022

REVIEW: Mad House at the Ambassadors Theatre

A family reunion can either be a wondrous occasion, or a total disaster. When Daniel’s (Bill Pullman) children Nedward (Stephen Wight) and Pam (Sinead Matthews) come to visit, to see how much they’re being left in the will and how much their father’s house is worth. It already has the recipe for a chaotic affair. Except for the other child Michael (David Harbour) whose already been living at his father's home for the past eleven months to care for his dying father. It becomes apparent quickly that this is one family reunion that won’t be forgotten in Theresa Rebeck’s dark comedy. 

For a start, what’s immediately impressive is the set, rural Pennsylvanian home with a great deal of attention to detail, Frankie Bradshaw’s set design immediately transports you to an old man’s home. With the homely but messy feel around the place, the set saves its biggest surprise till the second act for a surprising reveal. 

Monday, 20 June 2022

REVIEW: A Dolls House, Part 2 at The Donmar Warehouse

After walking out on her husband 15 years ago, Nora (Noma Dumezweni) is back to face her Ex-Husband Torvald (Brían F. O'Byrne). Except there’s one problem, Despite thinking she was no longer married and conducting herself outside the marriage, Torvald never filed for divorce.

The show is very central to Nora’s attempt to persuade Torvald to file for divorce. Nora’s feminist writing has landed her in trouble with a lot of people, one, in particular, threatening to expose the pseudonym she writes under, in turn exposing the fact she’s not acted within the marriage. 

Wednesday, 15 June 2022

REVIEW: Tony! (The Tony Blair Rock Opera) at the Park Theatre

Staging a rock opera about the ups and downs of an individual's life, you’d expect a name that raises eyebrows. Whether you deem Tony Blair that name, it certainly raises an eyebrow or two. Tony! (The Tony Blair Rock Opera) tells the story of a man’s journey from band frontman to the prime minister and the subsequent warmongering that followed! 

Let’s start by getting straight to it, the show is bonkers. The over-the-top ridiculousness allows it to not be taken seriously and enables it to get away with the on-the-mark gags it throws around throughout the show. The cast does a good job of over-dramatising their characters and the political figures they all portray, making it comical and never too serious. A few standouts were Cherie Blair (Holly Sumpton), Peter Mandelson (Howard Samuels), John Prescott (Rosie Strobel) and finally of course the titular character, Tony Blair (Charlie Baker). Each life to their roles and always stole the eyesight whenever they took to the stage. Combined with Libby Watson’s set and costume design, topped off with the combination of comedic duo Harry Hill (Book) and Steve Brown (lyrics and composer) you have all the right ingredients to cook up something hilarious. 

Sunday, 29 May 2022

REVIEW: Animal Farm at The Churchill Theatre, Bromley

George Orwell’s novels seem to have this incredible ability to always stay relevant. Animal farm, for instance, Orwell’s satirical novel about power, class and greed continues to stay current despite being published back in 1945. Telling the story of a group of animals who decide to stage a revolution and claim the farm for themselves from the farmer, with the dream of freedom and equality for all animals. 

The subject material could be seen as heavy, almost too much for a younger audience. Particularly the theme of nazism, the vilification of an enemy and the propaganda that follows. 

What’s interesting here is the show, partnered with ‘Children’s Theatre Partnership’, would almost have you expect it to be a childish take on the themes. Yet the show does expertly well in catering to an audience of all ages with the ability to be educational to the youth and still portray the themes and messages that covey within the book.

Wednesday, 20 April 2022

REVIEW: Tapped at Theatre 503

Is there anything more motivating in the world than a pep talk, a club bar, and ‘Gold’ by Spandau Ballet? If you’re thinking yes, then you need to get down to ‘Go Get It’ Gavi’s (Max Hastings) motivational self-help group as he tries to inspire the community of Stapleford. So far his only problem is he’s only got two members, mother and daughter Dawn (Jennifer Daley) and Jen (Olivia Sweeney)

From start to finish Gavi runs the show, though it seems the group almost appears to be a coping mechanism for his mental battle, the deeper the show delves it almost seems the group is the only thing keeping him alive. The irony behind the self-help he offers within the group but not allowing help from others makes the show even more poignant and hard-hitting. 

Hastings delivers a performance worthy of praise. Throughout he’s comedic and filled with both energy and intensity. It makes his moments of despair more compelling. Daley also adds to the comedy as Dawn; She embodies the typical townsfolk character, she’s comical and what makes it so much more clever is how you’re sitting there almost telling yourself you know a Dawn. Finally, Sweeney also adds to the comedy. Though her character Jen appears much more serious throughout, with more blunt humour. However, the conversations between mother and daughter are both comical and moving as the show progresses. The trio all perform remarkably. 

Wednesday, 6 April 2022

REVIEW: Everybody's Talking About Jamie at the New Wimbledon Theatre

When Jamie first came to the West End in 2017 there seemed to be an element of scepticism and unknown. A TV documentary turned musical seemed a bold move. Fast forward over four years later and the show has grown from strength to strength. With multiple tours, a lengthy West End residence and now even a major motion picture, it seems everybody is talking about Jamie. 

For tonight’s performance, Jamie New was to be played by alternate Jamie, Adam Taylor. It has to be said initially where Taylor seemed to not be giving his all he grew into his role and delivered a standout performance as Jamie, though his predecessors made much more of the role through their mannerisms and subsequently made the role their own, Taylor most definitely stepped up and filled those heels putting his stamp on Jamie.

Saturday, 26 March 2022

REVIEW: Psychodrama at The Battersea Arts Centre

A night at the theatre is normally a time to switch off and enjoy. Rarely are you encouraged to be involved. However, whenever a show focus on the use of senses (in this case sound) it makes for an interesting and unknown premise. UK / Spanish experimental theatre group ‘Sleepwalk Collective’ have created just that, ‘Psychodrama’. A sound sensory 75-minute journey about imagination, and how the stories we hear in childhood shape our imaginings.

It’s effectively a television show we’re watching. The duo performing (Christopher Brett Bailey and Iara Solano Arana) sit behind tv screens and address us through our headphones as they encourage us to close our eyes and imagine the stories they tell which delve between fiction and reality.

In theory, it seems a clever idea but what seems to be the issue with the sensory side of the performance is the fact that the headphones aspect normally works better when you are either in total darkness or isolated and left completely alone to focus your senses. When you’re sat a few rows away from the actors it seems to ironically take away the connection, you’re so close to them yet so far away from what the Intention of the imagination is. It’s incredibly difficult imagining the described scenario whilst they’re walking around also acting parts out.

Friday, 11 March 2022

REVIEW: Ghosts of the Titanic at The Park Theatre

It’s always refreshing to see a show that doesn’t need the big stage, fancy costumes and huge sets to be successful. ‘Ghosts of the Titanic’ is exactly that. An intimate show telling the not so intimate story of possibly the most famous shipwreck of all time, the HMS Titanic. Or at least that's what we think is going to be told …

Probably the biggest part of this show is the storyline and what it focuses around, a theory that the HMS Titanic never actually hit an iceberg, that’s what Emma (Genevieve Gaunt) thinks as she begins to question what happens when her fiancé never returns home from the Titanic’s maiden voyage. She confides in Molloy (John Hopkins) who she believes to be a reporter, Insistent on getting her story out there, and also to Swanson (Lizzy McInnerny) at the local news desk. 

Wednesday, 2 March 2022

REVIEW: The Woods at the Southwark Playhouse

It seems to be that any David Mamet play tends to have the same similarities to its predecessors and successors. Enough so that if you get out your Mamet bingo card you’ll soon find yourself ticking off the usual trademarks, swearing, shouting, sexual references, and indeed, Sexism rather quickly. ‘The Woods’, Mamet's ninety-minute battle of the sexes gets that card well and truly stamped through an emotional turmoil involving a boy and girl's trip to a remote cabin.

It’s very simple, the storyline. Nick (Sam Frenchum) and Ruth (Francesca Carpanini) attempt to enjoy some alone time within the cabin; however, it quickly becomes apparent that the duo may not be as compatible as they think. As more and more niggles and throwaway comments here and there come out, it soon becomes an explosive back and forth between the pair.

Friday, 14 January 2022

REVIEW: Cirque Du Soleil - ‘Luzia’ at The Royal Albert Hall

Recognised globally for its spectacular performances, Cirque Du Soleil is a phenomenon. Continuing to amaze and leave audiences in awe around the world year after year. In the newest entry in the Cirque Du Soleil catalogue, it’s Luzia, a celebration of Mexico and the vibrant and colourful culture the country is known for. 

Much like its predecessors, Luzia has its moments of spectacle and elements to captivate, amaze (The many rain scenes in particular highly impressive) and even shock (Referring of course to the world bendiest man, I can only imagine the faces pulled under peoples masks throughout his section). It manages to expertly cater to all ages, the older generations leaving thoroughly blown away and the younger generation no doubt a part of the show imprinted in their minds, something they’ll most definitely never forget. 

Tuesday, 11 January 2022

REVIEW: Force Majeure at The Donmar Warehouse

Well here’s something different, Rory Kinnear in a show set in a French ski resort on a sloped ski stage at the Donmar Warehouse… I know right? Based on the film Ruben Östlund’s film of the same name, Force Majeure tells the story of Tomas (Rory Kinnear) and his one cataclysmic decision and the effects it has on his family that follow. 

What starts as a seemingly fun family holiday very quickly becomes the opposite when an avalanche destroys not only the resort but the moral compass of the family. It instantly goes from 0-100 within the aftermath of the event, though oddly it never seems to go anywhere after that and we’re kind of left wondering where this can continue to go. 

Friday, 10 December 2021

REVIEW: Sh!t-faced Showtime ‘A Pissedmas Carol’ at The Leicester Square Theatre

Get a group of actors together to put on ‘A Christmas Carol’ and get one of them completely drunk beforehand and what do you get, chaos? … absolutely! But a comedic 90-minute chaotic affair, at the expense of everyone but the drunk actor! 

Except for a compare who explains the proceedings of the show, the premise is pretty much self-explanatory. The. It’s a wait to find out who is tonight’s drunk addition before the show begins. 

What makes the show work so well is the complete unpredictability of the show. Naturally, the sober cast members do their best to navigate their way through the script, however, it’s not that simple when a drunk cast member has other ideas. The cast does exceptionally well it must be said, to continue with the story as it goes more or less off at a complete tangent (I’m certain I’ll never see ‘A Christmas Carol’ I’m quite the same way!) but remain composed throughout. 

Thursday, 18 November 2021

REVIEW: Little Women at The Park Theatre

Jo March (Lydia White) has a small dream, to write stories and provide everything for her three sisters Meg (Hana Ichijo), Amy (Mary Moore) and Beth (Anastasia Martin). Though her societal demands make this a challenge in a world where a woman is to marry rich and powerful, relying on a man to support her. As she conquers rejection after rejection from publishers due to her unconventional stories, a suggestion to make her stories more personal may just be the answer she needs. 

To bring Louisa May Alcott’s book to life on stage would require transporting the imagination of the audience back to the period in which the story is set, of course, if the set and costumes are designed well then it’s a simple task to guess when and where we are. something that Nik Corrall exceeds in. Designing an intimate set and visually attractive costumes, remarkable feet to design both and excel at both. Considering the size of the theatre the set was both small and large at the same time, allowing the cast to move freely around the space, but creating a stunning backdrop for the many scenes. 

Though the story centres very much around Jo, who it has to be said is played with enthusiasm and brilliance by White, each scene she’s in she steals the spotlight, a powerhouse performance both in her acting and vocal ability. The show does very well to weaving in other characters at just the right time to add something extra to the show, be it their song or words. 

REVIEW: Showstopper! at The Lyric Theatre

A musical composed entirely from audience suggestions, sounds like a recipe for disaster, doesn’t it? You’d be right to assume this, but you couldn’t be further from the truth with ‘Showstopper!’ A brilliant evening of improvised comedy from start to finish. 

The premise is pretty simple. The compare in charge of the evening (Dylan Emery) receives a call from a west-end producer in need of a show and works to make one within 2 hours. The place, theme and musical style are entirely down to the suggestions from the audience, then it’s up to the cast to create the musical from scratch. 

Everything within the show from the compare, to the cast and musicians, work in cohesion to create the storyline. The musicians in particular do a tremendous job of creating music that fits the current point in the show and the cast then in turn do very well to create the songs on the spot. 

What’s very impressive with the cast is the ability to make the suggestions work, though it could be said that a few suggestions weren’t very funny or very easy to work with, the cast manage to make every suggestion work. It also highlights just how well they all work together and showcases the talent to quite literally, make anything work. It’s a skill to create a 2-hour long musical with a storyline that’s engaging and humerus from a few suggestions they’ve only just heard. It must be said that performances from Ruth Bratt, Pippa Evans, and Adam Meggido were the highlights, Meggido’s Hamilton inspired pirate rap was thrilling to watch!

Wednesday, 3 November 2021

REVIEW: Heathers at the New Wimbledon Theatre

Your school years are said to be the best years of your life, but are you living your best life if you're not befriending the popular people (The Heathers - Maddison Firth, Lizzy Parker, Merryl Ansah), getting caught up in boyfriend Drama (JD - Simon Gordon) and killing off your classmates… Sounds like a day in the life of Veronica Sawyer (Rebecca Wickes). 

With the touring cast overcoming the challenges of recent cast illnesses and having to reshape a show with understudies in previous performances, It’s a reassuring sight to see everyone back to their best. That said some members of the cast began very tamely but eventually grew into their role, whereas other members of the cast instantly hit the ground running.

Wickes’ and Gordon’s relationship was enjoyable to watch, they both complimented each other, allowing the pair to create a relationship that helped to showcase their chemistry through their acting abilities. Though they both appeared to hold back through their first few songs (Gordon’s ‘Freeze Your Brain’ still a soft and easy on the ears joy to listen to and Wickes’ ‘Dead Girl Walking’ a gritty and vocally tremendous well performed and acted number). They both grew into the roles and by the end, each showed just how talented they both are. 

Monday, 18 October 2021

REVIEW: Love And Other Acts Of Violence at the Donmar Warehouse

After a much-awaited re-opening, The first show to open the newly refurbed Donmar Warehouse was always going to carry tremendous pressure to set the bar for future shows to follow. Cordelia Lynn’s ‘Love And Other Acts Of Violence’ not only opened it tremendously but set the bar at such a height that productions to follow will struggle to raise it.

Basia Binkowska’s staging first and foremost, is incredibly clever. A simple wooden flooring surround by dirt transforms later into a much more detailed design. Suspended above and unbeknown to us the surprise is clever and elevates the story to a whole new level when the scenes change. 

As for the show itself, a young Jewish physicist (Her - Abigail Weinstock) and a left-wing poet (Him/man - Tom Mothersdale) who meet at a party may sound like the start of a bad joke… but as society collapses around them they struggle with their relationship and the demise continues to become more evident throughout the show, it’s quite clearly no laughing matter. 

Friday, 24 September 2021

REVIEW: The Last Five Years at the Garrick Theatre

Nothing says ‘relationship’ quite like a five-year emotional rollercoaster, it seems the perfect way to capture and depict the constant highs and lows is to stage it in chronological (Jamie - Oli Higginson) and reverse chronological order (Cathy - Molly Lynch). Here we get to see everything The couple go through, following their successes and failures, waiting on bated breath to see just how ‘The Last Five Years’ have been for them. 

Initially revived as a smaller staged production in its original venue, now comes the challenge of a much bigger theatre and stage Though it must be said the staging wasn’t affected at all. If anything the production itself benefited from a bigger stage, allowing the actors more space to move around and showcase their acting and instrumental abilities throughout. When the pair play the piano around each together it’s intimate and personal, it becomes their story and we’re just spectators. 
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