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Thursday, 23 June 2022

REVIEW: A Murder is Announced at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking


Agatha Christie remains the Queen of Crime and her 66 detective novels are still masterful examples of the genre today. She adapted several herself very successfully for the stage including of course both Mousetrap (in 1952) and Witness for the Prosecution (in 1953). Indeed, both are still in the West End today. The latest production of Witness for the Prosecution which started in 2017 is a wonderful atmospheric production. The tour of A Murder is Announced (written as a book by Christie in 1950) which has wound its way around the county visiting over 50 venues before arriving in Woking, started too in 2017 and many of the same cast are still involved. Adapted from the book by Leslie Darbon in 1977 the stage version is a slow burner with a complex plot of hidden identities and plenty of exposition without any of the truly great characters of Murder on the Orient Express or any of the thrilling moments of Witness for the Prosecution. It seems at times to be uncertain whether to play it for laughs and even the (spoiler alert) two deaths lack drama, one played out on a darkened stage and the other comically overplayed.

It is set in the “two drawing rooms” of an early Victorian House in Chipping Cleghorn which on the wide New Victoria stage is a sprawling room in which all the chairs seem lined up in a straight line across the mid-stage, good for the audience to see the characters who are often sat down but rather unconvincing as a realistic residential room. Worse still from my seat, I could not see the stage right wall which I believe contained another exit to the Garden and where two shots embedded themselves in the wall. Characters occasionally disappeared from sight as they moved towards this wall. Furthermore, the full box set had no masking above it allowing us to see through to the rear wall and into stage left flies which distracted from the otherwise well-dressed set.
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Saturday, 26 March 2022

REVIEW: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking


One of the great pleasures of going to see live theatre is to witness the alchemy of the production process in bringing a story to the stage. The blending together of the essential elements of a strong story, magic and illusion, music and dance and the creation of believable characters when it works creates emotional engagement and assists in the suspension of disbelief to transport the audience into a different world. The pedigree of the creative team behind this touring version of the Lion Witch and the Wardrobe promises a great deal so it was with great anticipation that we caught up with its UK tour in Woking.

Director Michael Fentiman was the man behind the extraordinary Watermill production of Amelie and recruits a handful of that cast to this show. Chris Fisher supervises the illusions in the wonderful Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and in the latest West End hit Back to the Future astonishing audiences with the magical effects. Toby Olie is the puppetry director on the current amazing tour of Animal Farm and on the Watermill’s latest incredible production of The Wicker Husband. The creative talents of these three are evident in this show but whether because of budget limitations or the challenges of weekly touring, the production falls short of their earlier successes. It is still an enjoyable and entertaining show, very suitable for young audiences and GCSE students but I hoped for more.
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Wednesday, 16 February 2022

REVIEW: Waitress at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking



Having seen ‘Waitress’ five times (with four different Jennas) during its time at the Adelphi Theatre in London’s West End, to say I had high expectations for this tour is an understatement. 

Based on Adrienne Shelley’s film of the same name, Waitress follows Jenna Hunterson, a hugely talented pie baker who finds herself unexpectedly pregnant by her abusive husband. Jenna dreams of escaping her marriage and starting a new life. With the help of her best friends and an exceptionally charming gynaecologist, she is able to dream again and create bakes like never before and learn all about love in its different forms along the way. The show embodies romance, comedy, tragedy and whips it all together in one big beautiful pie to offer a night a the theatre you will never forget.

With a score crafted to perfection by chart-topper Sara Bareilles, the music is the beating heart of this stunning story and mixed with the book by Jessie Nelson, this really is a special show. There’s hardly an ear out there who hasn’t already heard “She Used To Be Mine”; Jenna’s sensational ballad from the climax of the show, but Waitress has so many more gems throughout. Jenna’s best friends Becky and Dawn (played by Sandra Marvin and Evelyn Hoskins respectively) who work with her at the diner each have brilliant numbers encapsulating their characters with “I Didn’t Plan It” and “When He Sees Me” in turn. 
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Thursday, 17 October 2019

REVIEW: 9 to 5 at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking


Dolly Parton presents 9 to 5, a superbly assembled cheese-fest of a musical based on the film of the same name, starring none other than Dolly herself. Following the story of 3 women, each subjected to sexual discrimination and inequality in the workplace, 9 to 5 is a hugely uplifting fun night at the theatre for newcomers and seasoned visitors alike. 

Via pre-recorded video, Dolly sets the tone for the show with narrations introducing us to our leading ladies and even kicks of the singing of the title song. 1) Violet Newstead, played by Laura Tyrer, is a working mother who’s spent years working for ‘Consolidated Industries’ as reaches her breaking point after she misses out on a promotion to a younger male colleague who she trained. 2) Judy Bernly, played by Amber Davies (of Love Island fame), a 21 year-old embarking on her first ever job after leaving her husband when she discovered he’d had an affair with his 19 year-old secretary, and finally 3) “Backwoods Barbie” Doralee Rhodes played by Georgina Castle, the role made famous by Dolly Parton in the original film. Doralee is happily married but after her loud-mouthed boss starts spreading rumours that he and Doralee are having an affair, the ladies of the office turn their back on her and judge this blonde-bombshell all too quickly. “We don’t like her” says Violet…. 

This feminist fun-fest of a musical sees Violet, Judy and Doralee embark on a fight for equality in the most ridiculous of ways - there are ball-gags, rat poison and spliffs involved… It’s wonderful fun; comedic and empowering all at once. The audience at the New Victoria Theatre was packed to the rafters and hugely responsive to this wonderful show. If you were fast enough to buy a ticket, you’re in luck - (the run has almost completely sold out at time of publishing). 
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Saturday, 21 September 2019

REVIEW: Northen Ballet's Cinderella at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking


Cinderella is a fairy-tale we have all grown up with; a charming riches-to-rags-to-riches story of a young woman’s journey to happiness and love… Following the death of her husband, Countess Serbrenska (Cinderella’s Stepmother) enslaves Cinderella to a life of pot scrubbing and floor cleaning as she’s driven mad by grief. She continues to spoil her own daughters, Natasha and Sophie, but leaves Cinderella in the dark. Thankfully, there is magic in the air and Cinders is soon to be saved, and in turn, find true love and an inner strength any young woman should admire. 

Like many, I’ve known this story (or variations of it) since I was three years-old, but never before have I been moved by this tale like I was during this production. The Northern Ballet has created pure magic with this ballet; the spectacle, the costumes, the music arrangements, the dancers, the huge set pieces – it’s truly magical. A little Christmas-y for mid-September but you’ll hear no complaints for me in that regard.
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