Wednesday, 10 October 2018

"Kindertransport" by Diane Samuels
Nottingham Playhouse.
Faith is leaving home to move into a new flat and her mother, Evelyn. is going through items in their attic, glasses, teapots, cutlery etc, to give to Faith for her new flat,when Faith decides that she doesn't really want to move out, so the mother leaves her up stairs while she goes down to sort tea out.
Whilst she has the attic to herself she starts to look in some of the other boxes, which reveals a secret that had been hidden for a long while.
Kindertransport (children's transport), gave Jewish children—and only children—safe passage to the UK. Spared the horrors of the death camps, the Jewish "Kinder" were uprooted, separated from their parents and transported to a different culture safe from the fear of the German death camps.
Eva Schlesinger, daughter of Helga and Werner, is sent away to live with a foster carer, Lil, in Manchester, England, temporarily until her parents find work and move to England too.
How are these two incidents connected and what is the secret that Evelyn had kept from Faith? And who is the Ratcatcher, and why is the evil Ratcatcher connected to both Eva and Evelyn?
Cleverly written which will have you thinking throughout the play's first act, the pieces then all come together in the second act, and the demons hidden away in the attic resurface.
The cast, Denise Black (Lil), Elena Breschi (Faith), Rebecca D'Souza (Helga), Cate Hamer (Evelyn), Jenny Walser (Eve) and Patric Osborne, who plays the Ratcatcher, very much in the style of Freddy Kreuger, are all superb.
Directed by Fiona Buffini, she excels in the visual side of this play.The lighting, by Alexandra Stafford, really does paint the nightmarish Ratcatcher in a horror movie style image, in contrast to the loving and protective imagery of Lil and Evelyn.
Almost all of the stage is the attic, and there is so much to look at, as you can imagine, Lil and Evelyn have amassed many memories up there, and is instantly eye catching. the right side of the stage is given away to a bed where Helga and Eve hold their discussions before Helga sends Eve away. This design is by Madeline Girling.
You'd think that a story about a girl sent away to escape the horrors of the war may be a bit dreary or bum achingly dull. Not so my dear reader as the story is so cleverly interwoven betwixt the two families that you find yourself almost playing detective as to the connections. It is at times harrowing but it needs to be to portray what Eve and her mother went through as well as the cultural differences between the two countries and families.

"Kindertransport" is on at Nottingham Playhouse until Saturday 20th October 2018.

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

“Dracula” by A Touring Consortium Theatre Company Production
Nottingham Theatre Royal
Here is a piece of theatre to really get your teeth into. I've always loved the gore of Peter Cushing, Bela Lugosi and especially Christopher Lee, the best Dracula in my opinion, so this was one play that I've been looking forward to.
"Dracula" remains the father of all gothic thrillers but I wondered how this adaptation of Bram Stoker’s novel would translate to the stage.
Well I can reveal that it worked really well, and it worked well for several different reasons
“Dracula” is brought to life with Illusions courtesy of Ben Hart, magician and illusion designer. Ben was the Magic Circle’s Young Magician of the Year (2007) and designs extensively special effects for theatre, film and television.
Now I'm not going to reveal what tricks are used but they work really well within the story and used in conjunction with the brilliant lighting affects by Ben Cracknell, it will leave you wondering "how did that happen?"
The lighting, along with the Music and Sound design by Paul Ewin, really creates the jumpiness and the shocks in this dark but quite sexy piece of gothic theatre.
Eduard Lewis directs this new adaptation which is designed by Sean Cavanagh. The set is dark and foreboding with plenty of dry ice creating that Hammer Horror feel.
Cleo Pettitt is the Costume Designer and Sara Green did a sterling job as Movement Director..
Cheryl Campbell plays Lady Renfield, locked away in the mental asylum with an unhealthy diet of flies, spiders and mice
Philip Bretherton, who you may recognise from Coronation Street a few years ago, plays Van Helsing.
Count Dracula was played by Glen Fox, who seems to pop up and then disappear at will.
Olivia Swann makes her professional stage debut as Mina, who manages to be saved just at the last moment despite falling victim of Dracula's late night habits of popping out for a bite.
Andrew Horton was Jonathan Harker, the man sent out to meet the Count and deliver some documents for his move to Whitby. Jonathan is Mina's fiance.
Jessica Webber was wonderful as Lucy as her life blood slowly drained from her body, looking paler and thinner as the play went on.
Evan Milton played Doctor Seward
This production brings the sexy back to gothic darkness and is a thrilling, edge of the seat piece of theatre for anyone who jumps easily.
Being a fan of the Dracula myth, I enjoyed the play, especially the technical side of it. There were no surprises in it for me, but is a bloody good watch, so fangs for an entertaining night of goth horror..
“Dracula” is at the Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 13 October 2018

Monday, 8 October 2018

“Equus” by Peter Schaffer
Lace Market Theatre
This is a production and a half and everyone involved should be very proud of themselves. Every time I go to the theatre and think that I have seen one of the best productions of the year, up comes another to top the previous. This has just topped the previous with icing, cherry and sprinkles galore.
The second play in the new season from the Lace Market Theatre is one of those plays that isn’t performed that often but guarantees to be a sell out due to its' dark and powerful story, not to mention the superb acting of this formidable cast.
“Equus” was written in 1973 by Peter Schaffer and is based on the true story that Schaffer heard about regarding a crime involving a 17-year-old who blinded six horses in a small town near Suffolk. He set out to construct a fictional account of what
might have caused the incident, without knowing any of the details of the crime. The play's action is something of a detective story, involving the attempts of the child psychiatrist Dr. Martin Dysart to understand the cause of the boy's actions.
A court magistrate, Hesther Saloman, visits Dysart, believing that he has the skills to help the 17 year old Alan Strang come to terms with what he did. At the hospital, Dysart has a great deal of difficulty making any kind of headway with Alan, who at first responds to questioning by singing TV advertising jingles. Slowly, Dysart makes contact with Alan by playing a game where each of them asks a question, which must be answered honestly.
The discussions develop and Dysart discovers all about Strang’s parents, Dora and Frank, Strang's confused childhood and his seduction by his friend .Jill which leads to the shocking, dark and explosive ending.
Fraser Wanless (Dysart) is undeniably one of the areas best actors. His projection and diction is perfect and in this role, part narrator, part psychiatrist, you find yourself hanging on to every word.
Jak Truswell (Strang) has obviously studied this role and morphed into this troubled teen. I've seen Jak in several productions over the years but I can safely say that this is the best piece of theatre he has performed, and I said that about his role in "Beautiful Thing". No pressure but this role is going to take a lot of beating for Jak.
Nik Hedges (Frank Strang) delivers another strong performance in his second show for the Lace Market Theatre. Frank is supposed to be this moralistic father figure but his secrets are soon uncovered by Alan.
Sarah Taylor (Dora Strang) puts in a beautifully impassioned performance as Alan's religion-obsessed mother. Almost as if she is about to bubble over with nervous anger most of the time, a couple of times that pressure cooker gives way with some powerful emotional outbursts
Carol Parkinson (Hesther Salomon), at the start I thought may have forgotten her lines, but then I thought twice and said to myself, hang on this Carol, she does not forget lines and I realised at that point that the every so slight stumbling delivery was for dramatic effect of the character. The uncertainty as to whether Dysart would take on the case and save Strang from jail gave Carol's performance that extra edge. Brilliant.
Joanna Hoyes (Jill Mason) is the seductress in this play and a lovely confident performance. Who could resist?
Alistair Hudson (Harry Dalton), the stables owner where all the darkness takes place, and we get to hear that lovely Yorkshire accent again. this play makes it his second for the Lace Market theatre this year.
Mark James (Horseman/Nugget), a dual role for Mark. I loved the toffee-nosed horseman part, the introduction to Strang's love affair with horses. Also loved the physicality of playing Nugget.
Dani Wain (Nurse), not the biggest of roles but loved the gentle but masterly role, creating character for the nurse, which could have gone unnoticed, but didn't.
The other horses are played by Jonathan Cleaver, Matthew Matthew James Finkel, Neil Ledward, Nathan Sharpe and Arnd Korn
Directed by Chris Sims, Sir you have created a masterpiece in modern theatre this week. The tension in this play is enough to make a person burst, and I've seen the play before, so i know what an amazing piece of theatre this is.You can feel the immense amount of hard work that Chris and the cast have put into this play, a play that sucks you in and gets you so engrossed with the story and the characters that you feel that you are the only person in the theatre at the moment.
The set is designed by Mark James. Simple but very effective. having a revolving stage, which I've not seen done in this play before, gives the on stage seating another view of the actors. The darkness of the play is reflected by the colour scheme.The simpleness also detracts nothing from the actors while creating a multi-functional stage for the actors
Abby Wells is the Movement Director and this comes into play at the end with the chaos caused and the blind panic, but just notice the way the "horses" move when required.
Lighting Design by David Billen and Sound design by Jack Harris, and these two together helped create the overall feel of the creeping darkness and the expected chaos and carnage.
Much as i love a comedy, or a musical, you can't beat a good dark piece of theatre, and this ticks every single box that i had in my head.
Taking out of the equation that for a short space of time you have two actors naked on stage, and I know that this may be what attracts some folk to see this show - let's face it, it didn't do Daniel Radcliffe any harm in the world of theatre when he played Strang - this show is a powerful and wonderfully written piece of modern theatre. This production is one you must see, even if it is just for the shock value of Strang's actions.
Possibly my favourite piece of theatre this year.
“Equus” is being performed at the Lace Market Theatre, Nottingham until Saturday 13 September 2018.
Pictures courtesy of Kareena Sims.

Thursday, 4 October 2018

“And Then There Were None” by Ravenshead Theatre Group
Ravenshead Village Hall
Written by the Queen of Murder Mysteries, Agatha Christie, this is her most often performed piece of theatre. For those who have not seen this play, read the book or seen the TV adaptations of this piece of work, here’s just a quick resume.
Ten complete strangers arrive on a small, isolated island off the Devon coast. Each has an invitation tailored to his or her personal circumstances, such as an offer of employment or an unexpected late summer holiday. They are met by Thomas and Ethel Rogers, the butler and cook-housekeeper, who state that their hosts, Mr Ulick Norman Owen and his wife Mrs Una Nancy Owen, whom they have not yet met in person, have not arrived, but left instructions.
This randomly assembled group may not be as random as first thought because they all have one thing in common… a secret in their past that seems to have come back to haunt them
One by one the guests meet an untimely exit which coincides with a rhyme about ten little Indians. The guest’s demise also coincide with the models of the ten little Indian figures disappearing, but who is responsible for these deaths? As the suspect list diminishes, truths are revealed, but will the killer be revealed, and who are Mr and Mrs U N Owen?
From the off, this production was different to the others that I had seen as the ghostly, ashen figure of a child, played by James Terry, relates the poem and throughout the play, his ghostly figure appears and removes the indian figures.
James looks the part and took his time entering and exiting the stage, giving an eerie presence, and his make up was brilliant.
Fred Narracott, the boatman who delivered the guests to the island is played by Naomi Joyce. Again another unexpected change, but with some effective make up, completely passable as the boatman.Naomi also doubles as Stage manager.
Sir Lawrence John Wargrave, a retired judge, known as a "hanging judge" for liberally awarding the death penalty in murder cases is played by John Birch.
Vera Elizabeth Claythorne, a cool, efficient, resourceful young woman who is on leave from her position as a sports mistress at a third-rate girls' school. Mandy Buckley puts in a controlled performance and builds up to Vera's climactic exit.
Philip Lombard, a soldier of fortune. Literally down to his last square meal, he comes to the island with a loaded revolver, as suggested by his invitation letter.Rob Hurst is very well cast as Lombard with his jokey outer character, but is that jocular external sheen really hiding a killer?
William Henry Blore,aka Mr Davis, is a former police inspector and now a private investigator. Blore is a really dominant character and Andrew Cook delivers a very confident performance and an exciting watch.
Dr Edward George Armstrong, a Harley Street doctor,is played by Daniel Andrews. With Daniel I particularly noticed the attention to character details. Armstrong is a very nervous character and his constant fiddling with his hands mirrors this nervous trait. It's the little things that make a character believable and the hands ticked the box for me
.
Emily Caroline Brent, an elderly, religiously rigid, socially respectable spinster who accepted the vacation on Soldier Island largely due to financial constraints. Julie Cox was wonderfully bitter in this role, befitting the devout puritan woman that Brent is.
Thomas Rogers, the butler and Ethel Rogers' husband is played by Adam Hague. I've seen Adam in previous productions and in this one nervous energy really works in his favour because Rogers is that sort of character, that once his confident surface sheen is scratched.........well who knows? Adam's confidence as an actor grows every time I see him.
Mrs Ethel Rogers, the cook/housekeeper is played by Sarah Tryner, A very confident performer with a wonderful theatrical scream in her lungs.
General John Gordon Mackenzie, a retired World War I war hero is played with a lovely melancholic feel by Dennis Baggarley. His reminiscing of his late wife Lesley brings a bit of true feeling to the character..
And finally Anthony James Marston, an amoral and irresponsible young man who drives a fast sports car and manages to rub several of the play's characters up the wrong way as soon as he arrives. Another twist here as Marston is played by Catherine Buckley, and that too works really well.
The stage at The Village Hall isn't the biggest area but the set design, by Terry Cox, is well suited to the space and did not look cluttered and seemed quite spacial. Terry was also in charge of the sound which slotted in nicely behind everything that was going on, on stage.
The lighting design by Ian Walton also created just the right atmosphere.
Even though I knew who had dunnit, well once you've seen it a few times...... I still found this production fresh, due to the direction by Terry Cox. It's the little changes to the usual production that catches you off guard, like the ghost child addition and the ending itself. I'm giving nothing away by saying that there are two different endings to the play, but you'll have to go and see which ending is played out in this production.
Time flew by watching this play, which is the sign of an exciting and engaging production, which this one is.
“And Then there Were None” is at Ravenshead Village Hall until Saturday 6 October 2018

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

“Made In Dagenham” by Erewash Musical Society
Duchess Theatre, Long Eaton.
The musical is based on the 2010 film Made in Dagenham, which in turn centred around the true-life events of the Ford sewing machinists strike of 1968.
Rita O'Grady acts as the spokesperson for a group of female workers at Ford's Dagenham plant, who go on strike to fight the inequality that becomes apparent when women workers were to be paid less as they were classed as unskilled. In contrast, their male colleagues were classed as skilled and ultimately received more pay. These actions led to the creation of the Equal Pay Act 1970.
But these actions, while causing problems at work, also put the O'Grady family unit under great stress.
You can see why this production has been a sell-out, and while this musical not being a great one, it is a very good one and I will tell you why. Because this is based on true events, the passion and grit shines through and you get behind the women and their cause. A cause though that thunders on still.
Rebecca Charmley (Rita) is the star, well ok, one of the big stars of this show, Becky is fabulous as Rita and she completely embodies the role. Her passion for this role shines through.
Simon Parker (Eddie) also shows great passion as the husband who is trying to keep the status quo with everyone. He also gets to sing my favourite song in this musical, "The Letter" which will not fail to get to you.
Maria Lawrence (Connie), Lydia Page (Sandra),Emily Oakden (Wosaname), Clare Kay (Cass) and Laurie Trott who plays the wonderfully foul-mouthed, no nonsense Beryl are the main factory girls.
Richard Comfort (Monty), Richard Dawson (Sid), Ross Lowe (Bill) and Martin Lewis (Barry) are the main factory lads.
The factory management are James Bowden (Mr Hopkins), Gary Lever (Mr Tooley), Andy Honman (Ron Macer) and Alex Grosse (Gregory Hubble).
Louise O' Louise O'Boyle (Lisa Hopkins) was wonderful as the wife of the management who also helps Rita in her cause.
Keith Butcher (Harold Wilson) was a big hit and brought a lot of comedy to the play as he sung and danced his way through, and depicted the PM as a comedy figure, typical of Richard Bean's writing.
Fiona Wright (Barbara Castle) was also a great success with her fiery - just like her hair - performance. Fiona has a really good voice as showcased in the powerful "Ideal World".
The two civil servants were played by Andy Honman and Martin Lewis. martin also played the Cortina Man.
The O' Grady children were played in this performance by Oli Hickling and Katie Fitzpatrick.
This show has a large ensemble but they never make the stage look over crowded. When they all sing together the sound is wonderful, when the solo pieces are sung, they sound just as wonderful.
There was a small issue with the sound at the start but this was quickly sorted out and ended up well mixed.
The band were hidden away, which gave space for the cast to use the front of the stage, under the Musical Direction of Dave Dallard and Sam Griffiths. At times you may have mistaken the balanced mix for being recorded, but oh no, it was definitely all performed live.
There are some memorable songs in here, as I mentioned before "The Letter" is my favourite, but you btry to keep your feet still to such numbers as the title track, "Everybody Out", "Busy Women". The wonderful tongue in cheek lyrics of "This Is America" and the comedy in "Always A Problem", plus the beautiful "Nearly Had It All".
"Dagenham" has many big choreographed numbers and under the expert eye and choreographic talents of Alex Tavener, you're guaranteed a classy dance set.
Chrissie Oakden directed this big musical, and did a wonderful job. The musical is a long one but having seen it before I knew this and knew where the interval was due. Being a director is by no means an easy job and there is a continuous need to shave seconds off. Wednesday night a full dive minutes was shaved off the previous night which just goes to show how much Chrissie has tightened this show up.
"Dagenham" is not a show that is done often at local theatre level, maybe because it is a big one with a big cast, and I really do appreciate Erewash Musical Society doing something just a little different. It's risky but it paid off, you just had to see and hear the audience's reaction at the end.
“Made In Dagenham” is at the Duchess Theatre Long Eaton until Saturday 6 October 2018, but spare tickets may be hard to buy now!

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

"Abi" by Atiha Sen Gupta
Derby Theatre.
This play is a new play in response to "Abigail's Party" which is also playing at Derby Theatre.
It is a one woman production with Safiyya Ingar as Abi.
Abi is the fifteen year old Grand daughter of Abigail, who as in "Abigail's Party", is never seen but is crucial to the plot.
Abi is throwing a bit of a party herself and is expecting her boyfriend Lucas round for pre party entertainment, when she discovers some quite shocking secrets about what happened at the party back in 1977. This play also shines a very eerie light on one of the party guests featured in "Abigail's Party" and answers some of the unanswered questions that in the original play, may not have been so mysterious.
Using the same set give or take a few updated furniture and decorative designs, from "Abigail's Party", this action takes place in 2018, where the party music is current and so is the language.
It's a clever way to go back and shed some light over the events that happened on that night back in 1977, and by the end of this one hour play, you get a certain shock factor which mirrors recent events over the past few years.
That said , for me it could have been shorter and meandered a bit, but maybe that was the whole point to take you off of the scent as to what the play would end up revealing.
Saffiyya is a talent to look out for and I've seen her in a couple of other plays locally and she always delivers a fiery, gritty and modern performance. This play is no exception and I loved that light bulb moment when the jigsaw pieces from 1977 fell into place in 2018.Cleverly directed to keep that revelation right at the end for maximum impact by Sarah Brigham.
"Abi" is at the Derby Theatre until Saturday 20 October 2018.
See both "Abigail's party" and "Abi" to get the full impact as the story continues.........
"Abigail's Party" by Mike Leigh
Derby Theatre.
I'd forgotten what a wonderful piece of theatre this play is, but tonight refreshed my love for this Mike Leigh slice of suburban seventies soiree.
Beverley is throwing a small but select "do" consisting of their new neighbours, Angela and Tony and Susan, mother of Abigail, who is having a teenage party a few doors down. Laurence, Bev's husband, is racing around catching up with his work as well as racing around after Bev..
As the evening continues we hear snatches of the back stories of all the characters and slowly, secrets are revealed about all five of them, giving us a more rounded image, as well as a darker side to them all.
Tony and Laurence are sent off to make sure that all is well at Abigail's party, Tony returning a while after Laurence confirming that all is OK to Susan, who takes ill after Bev continually topping up her drinks. All on an empty stomach as well!
The evening ends in a very dark way for one of the five.
The cast are excellent.
Melissa Gutteridge (Beverley) is wonderfully flirty as the hostess with the mostest.
Christopher Staines (Laurence) really encompasses the hard working husband, slightly under the thumb with a bit of a rebellious streak.
Amy Downham (Angela) has a wonderful character to play and her voice is delightfully infuriating while also keeping that comic edge, Angela sometimes lets her tongue run away with her while trying to keep up with Bev's life tales.
Liam Bergin (Tony) depicts the typical 70's heart throb. Long hair, beard, tache, hairy chest, smart, trendy clothes and at times mysteriously silent. he also used to be a pro footballer - for a short time. It makes you wonder why he has married Angela at times. You can tell he has an eye for the ladies as he is seduced by Beverley, right under everyone's nose.
Susie Emmett (Susan) is also another wonderful character driven part, as are all the characters in this play. Susan is well bred, divorced and nervous about leaving Abigail and the party, especially with all the horror stories the others drip feed her about their past party experiences.
A brilliant set (Lee Newby) which depicts the typical 1970's middle class home, complete with lava lamp and other seventies lights, bar, furniture, wall coverings and vinyl. Baccarra, Elvis and of course Demis Roussos. As only to be expected the clothes are wonderful, also designed by Lee Newby. That is what makes this play fascinating to watch, the attention to detail.
Brilliantly directed to make sure that the comedy and pathos, and the final dramatic ending were well balanced, Douglas Rintoul has kept all the magical feel of the era but still managing to make it feel like this was the first time that I had seen the play.
Ivan Stott did a great job with the sound design as did Zoe Spurr with the light design.
Mike Leigh's writing has stood the test of time and this wonderful production proves it.
"Abigail's Party" is at Derby Theatre until Saturday 20 October 2018