Friday, 18 August 2017

“Hairspray Jnr”
Nottingham Arts Theatre
It’s 1962 in Baltimore, and the lovable teenager, Tracy Turnblad, has only one desire – to dance on the popular “Corny Collins Show.” When her dream comes true, Tracy is transformed from social outcast to sudden star. She must use her newfound power to dethrone the reigning Teen Queen, win the affections of heartthrob, Link Larkin, and integrate a TV network… all without denting her ‘do!
This is part of the Summer School 2017 scheme that is run at the Nottingham Arts Theatre, giving aspiring actors, or just kids who fancy having a go a chance to perform in front of friends and family but with professional tuition in theatre craft. The children in the Summer Scheme, aged 7 to 16 year old, learn the musical, the script, the songs, the choreography and stage craft all under the expert eye of producers, directors, musical directors etc . Tonight is the chance these kids get to show what they’ve been learning over the last two weeks.
I’ve been lucky enough over the last few years to have been invited down to see the end results of these Summer Schools and witness the absolute joy, and the occasional tear.
It takes a lot to put on a production of this standard and Director and choreographer Amy Rogers-Gee, Musical Director and set designer Laura Ellis and co set designer Joseph Smith who also stage managed the musical.
Emily Wilkins played Tracy. Not only did she sound and looked good but she had to endure being in a fat suit, which made me think that she must have been very slender under that costume.
Manny Moore was a very confident Corny Collins and playing Edna, and in the true tradition of the film of being male playing a female was Billy Kiety, who looked to be having as much fun playing Edna as we had watching him play Edna.
Wilbur, father to Tracy and husband to Edna was portrayed by an very confident Se Phelan.
Penny, Tracy's best friend, was played by Lacey Dykes and the pairing of Velma and Amber, the mother and daughter bigots were played with great attitude by Nia Phelan and Molly Benner respectively.
The Corny Collins heart throb, Link Larkin was played by Jonathan Jaycock. His mum said before the show that Jonathan was really nervous but if that was the case, he either hid them well or lost them as soon as the curtain went up.
Seaweed was played by the ultra cool Yara Johns-Ramos and equally as cool was Hattie Campion as Little Inez. Grace Hodgett-Young showed off her amazingly soulful voice as Motormouth, especially in the gorgeous "I Know Where I've Been".
There was a large ensemble who were equally as joyful to watch and several future stars were on show tonight.
Great dancing from all and everyone looked like they were having a ball on stage. the songs are infectious and the enthusiasm was plain to see, and all of this in the space of two weeks.
There are several musicals which I’ve felt aren’t quite suitable for that additional “Jnr” tag, but this isn’t one of them. It’s great fun, it’s colourful and it gives out a wonderful message to the kids and the audience about racial harmony and class division.
I can only imagine the two weeks leading up to this performance were a great introduction and education for the kids who were having their first taste of being in the spotlight, but also a fun fortnight, because you can't put on a show like "Hairspray" without enjoying what you do, because that would show. I sat there with an inane grin on my face for all of the night because this group made me feel that way.
Another brilliant Summer School Scheme from the Nottingham Arts Theatre and another amazing cast of talented kids, who should all feel absolutely over the moon by what they've achieved.

Friday, 28 July 2017

“WW! - Present Location Uncertain”
The Vine Community Centre, Basford.
As part of the WW1 Community Project, this is something that is a little bit different; so what’s it all about?
“Present Location Uncertain” is based on the World War 1 letters of Nottingham soldier, Harold Priestley. The Project recalls the life of Priestley, who fought on The Western Front, and his family and the community during the period 1914-18. This is in association with Djanogly City Academy.
The set makes an instant impact with large scale letters hung up around the performance area. It starts with an unnamed man going through some old memorabilia and discovering the letters in an old case; from there we are taken back to where Harold Priestley meets his soon to be wife, Eva.
We follow his footsteps through his courting days, the mother who obviously feels that Eva is not good enough for her son, the wedding, their son, called "Sonny", and Harold getting his call up papers.
From there on the mood changes and you get to feel the longing and emptiness felt by both as they converse through letters, some of which don't get through. This is cleverly depicted in the simplest of ways, but is so powerful.
And that is the theme that runs through this short play; simple but powerful and emotive. This makes the delivery of the news of Harold's death even more powerful. You can feel the love these two people have for each other and the massive space between the two is well portrayed.
The cast, Maddy Chapman, Angela Hayes, Andy Hutchinson, Emily KelseyMarcus Whybrow, Molly Wright, Thomas Randall, Rania Dante, Sonny Hale, Maggie Burrows and Rayyan Yousef Khan are excellent in telling this story, which is basically a love story across time and space, but what we shouldn't forget is that this is a true story.
I loved the puppetry in this play as well to portray Sonny. A clever piece of theatre which when executed well, as it is here, adds to the play.
Directed by Sarah Stevenson with design by Sarah Lewis. What also creates that special atmosphere is the instrumental music. the Sound Design is by Matt Marks and the wonderful story telling is all thanks to the wonderful direction and the dramaturg, Beth Shouler.
I've seen plays like this in the past but for some reason this was different and it strikes home, maybe it's the rich story telling element and the way these actors brought the letters and the words from the letters to life, who knows? This is a special play and should be seen by more people, especially school kids, and I hope that this will be the case.
The project itself will conserve and digitise 88 letters plus postcards and photographs in the possession of David Priestley, Harold’s grandson. The digitised collection will be deposited with the Vine and at Local Studies in Nottingham’s Central Library.
There'll also be a film made of this story and play and will be shown on 11 November 2017 at Central Library in Nottingham.
The title of the project is taken from the words stamped on letters returned to Eva, Harold’s wife, from the Western Front in 1918, when Harold could not be found after fighting on the Front line. He had fallen in battle near Arras.
This is community theatre at it's best and I have Euan David to thank for inviting me down to see this lovely, thought-provoking piece of true history.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

“Marie Lloyd and the Music Hall Murder” by TABS Productions
National justice Museum aka The Galleries of justice
They do say that all good things come to an end and, unfortunately, so too does this year’s Colin McIntyre’s Classic Thriller Season after a slightly shorter and nomadic run for 2017.
I say nomadic but that’s just because their normal roost, the Nottingham Theatre Royal is under refurbishment. The first two plays were performed at the Nottingham Playhouse but here we are already at the third and final play, performed in the aptly chosen surroundings of the National Justice Museum, or to you and me The Galleries of Justice.
So what’s the story here, I hear you cry!
Well, Marie Lloyd, Queen of the comedy stage, is detained at the Stage Door of the Empire Palace of
Varieties by the Nottingham Constabulary for the willful murder of magician, The Great Merconi. She is tried at the National Justice Museum, after he is found in his dressing room, apparently strangled by her garter…
Written by Karen Henson with yet another brilliant cast of regulars, all familiar to anyone who follow this wonderfully entertaining troupe of actors.
This is slightly different to the ones we’ve seen just recently with its slight lean towards the art of panto, plus there’s singing in this one. Well Marie Lloyd was known for her songs, and especially that slightly saucy sense of fun in her choice of song.
We have a generous smattering of music hall standards as well as some songs that, although have the
original lyrics, have new melodies attached to them, all of which wouldn't be out of place with the days of the Good Old Days. The original music was composed by John Goodman
Andrew Ryan doubles as The Great Merconi and also as Miss Sachei Aweigh, woman of mystery.Who is that veiled woman? What connection has she with Merconi and what is her real reason for her to be in Nottingham just at this time?
Andrew performs mystifying magical miracles and works the audience into his act to great amusement.
David Osmond plays the serious court usher, strangely called Mr Osmond, as well as tinkling the ivories for the accompanying tunes for this play
Susan Earnshaw was our Marie Lloyd, airing her vocals with some classic music hall faves like "A Bit Of A Ruin That Cromwell Knocked About A Bit", "My Old Man", "A Little Of What You Fancy" and with the whole ensemble in "Down At the Old Bull And Bush". A wonderful cheeky performance which left me with a big smile on my face.
Sarah Wynne Kordas played Claudia Dawn, mistress of the robes. It's strange that as soon as Sarah dons a wig and make up, she becomes completely unrecognisable. I had my suspicions about Claudia in this production, but was she the murderer? You'll have to go and see the play to find out!
John Lyons was wonderfully almost "fuddy duddy" in this play as His Honour The Judge. A lovely comic role for John with some wonderful lines to deliver, and his "Macbeth" section is classic, plus he even gets a nod in to the role we know him best for. Lovely fun character for an actor who I could tell relished this part.
David Giltbrook played the barrister, Mr R Blowers. The glue that brought all the characters together, and even in the bit which didn't quite follow the script, Mr Giltbrook, with Mr Lyons, managed to cover and get back to the script without it looking too obvious; a sign of true professionalism and experience.
You probably won't see this though because as with all live theatre, no show is the same two performances on the run.
Jeremy Lloyd Thomas, played the stage door attendant, Mr Charlie Welkin. His one word answers, rising from the inaudible grunts to start with, gives rise to some comic moments from the Judge who apparently can translate these grunts perfectly! He sees and hears everything at the back door, so may have the motive for killing the mustachioed magic man, but for what gain?
Anna Mitchum plays Miss Lilly Lovage, who is reported to have been on the wrong end of Merconi's ire. Could this wee gentle lady have the strength though to strangle Merconi?
Who is the music hall murderer? Surely it would be too obvious for it to be Marie LLoyd, even though the weapon of choice was Marie's garter? Claudia Dawn the wardrobe mistress? Charlie Welkin, the back door man? Lilly Lovage? Miss Sachei Aweigh? Only one way to find out who and how and why!
Well first we have to try Marie Lloyd, and there is a jury of willing audience members to take this role on.
Karen Henson has written a wonderfully fun piece of theatre, and let's face it the court room is theatre anyway, so a perfect setting. The setting gives great atmosphere to the play as well as a sense of reality, almost making you a part of the whole story. there are many Nottingham landmarks
name checked in this play which really makes it more personal.
It's great fun, it's panto, it's music hall, and with these seasoned actors you won't feel guilty about enjoying yourself in court.
Wonderful costumes, as you'd expect, and that's one thing that I've really noticed about this season from TABS, the costumes have been one of many many highlights of this year's season.
This jury is in total agreement and we find this play guilty of being a thoroughly enjoyable romp.It'd be criminal not to pop down and see this piece of theatre
“Marie Lloyd and the Music Hall Murder” is at the National Justice Museum, High Pavement in Nottingham until Saturday 29 July 2017.

Friday, 21 July 2017

“Guys n Dolls”
Nottingham Lace Market Theatre
This is a musical for romantics everywhere and set in “Noo Yoik” with some brilliant characters, gamblers, gangsters and night club singers. It derives from the Damon Runyan’s stories of Broadway’s underworld, and especially about a Bible-quoting gambler, Nathan Detroit, who ends up dating a Salvation Army girl, Miss Adelaide.
The script is teeming with wittiness and this spills over into the lyrics of the instantly recognisable songs. “A Bushel and A Peck”, “Luck Be A Lady”, “Sit Down You’re Rocking The Boat”, “Sue Me”. “Take Back Your Mink”, “If I Were A Bell”, “I’ve Never Been In Love Before”.
The story is of Nathan Detroit and his 14 year old engagement to Miss Adelaide and Sky Masterson and a bet he made with Nathan to win $1000 to stage a crap game. The bet was to take Sarah Brown to Havana, but Sarah isn't such a pushover!
The Lace Market Theatre's closing production for this season is an absolute cracker of a show.
The sets rely mainly on projections, but they are used so well and with subtlety that they set the scenes without being obtrusive or looking out of place. This , as well as the sound design is by Matthew Allcock.
I've seen many of this cast in previous plays in the past at various theatres, but when you see them in a musical, you see a completely different side to them, another talent, and that's exciting to the viewer. And with all of the cast, the singing matched their acting ability, and the acting was brilliantly entertaining.
The casting of this show was spot on, nothing or no one I could see not being in the roles that they were given. Therefore I feel it only right to give everyone their due with a mention.
As the sign said on the journey back from Havana, "Fasten your seatbelts", this could be a long one......
Paul Johnson (Sky Masterson), Dermot Randall (Nathan Detroit),
Chris Sims (Nicely-Nicely Johnson), Matthew Thomason (Benny Southstreet),Roger Newman (Arvide Abernathy), Richard Ives (Rusty Charlie), Christopher Collins (Big Jule), Gareth Morris (Harry The Horse), Chris Teasdale (Lt. Brannigan), Tom Walters (Society Max), Kyle Stirland (Good Time Charlie), David Hope (Angie The Ox), Julian Phillips (Louie the Greek), Connah Porter (Dave The Dude), Roger Watson (Bookie Bob and Calvin), all incredibly entertaining and all coping well with the varied American accents.
Fraser Wanless needs a special mention as he played several different characters from Joey Biltmore , a waiter, a drunk, Jose and a cop.
They're the "Guys" and her comes the "Dolls"......
Lucy Theobald (Sarah Brown), Eileen Frier-Kelsey (General Matilda Cartwright), Liza Pybus (Agatha), Anne Anne Mccarroll (Martha), Rebekah Blasdale-Smith (Ruth), Lucy Colgan (Mimi), Alison Biller (Miss Georgie), Jenny Scott (Miss Lili), Lucy Bailey (Miss Dandi), Everyone was great fun to watch and you could feel the excitement these ladies emitted from that stage.
Jackie Dunn as Miss Adelaide just has to be the star of the show. This role is so far removed from Jackie's own personality that when Miss Adelaide first appeared on stage, I had to look twice. She didn't look like Jackie and she definitely didn't sound like
Jackie. This role shows what a wonderful character actor Jackie is, and what a wonderful singing voice she has, even singing in Miss Adelaide's "squeaky" voice and with a New York accent.
But Jackie is just one star among a sky fill of stars in this show.
Directed by Linda Croston, you can tell this was a labour of love for Linda. She got everything just perfect. The pace was good, the comic lines were delivered with timing. You'd expect that from Linda though because she has been behind so many successful musicals for several theatre companies over the years. She knows her stuff where musicals are concerned.
Set Design was courtesy of Max Bromley, and as I said earlier, it was, like everything else to do with this production, spot on.Whether set in the night club, The Hot Box, or in the Havana scenes, from the Mission to the underground "crap" shoot, everything was just right.
Musical Director was Stephen Williams, and while I knew that there would be no lush arrangements for this soundtrack, the simpler, jazzy arrangements by this three piece group worked really well and gave all of the vocalists a backing that didn't overpower the singer, but instead complemented their individual voices.All helped by a sensitive live sound mix from Simon Carter
Choreographer Lisa Lee did a cracking job with some really athletic and exciting dance moves.
With so many bodies on stage, Stage manager, Bex Mason may just have had her hands full, but that didn't show as everything ran as smooth as clockwork.
As you'd expect, being set in New York in the 1920's/1930's Gangster era, the costumes for this musical are incredibly classy and stylish, which also makes this musical the classy affair that it is. Jane Jim Brooks, Trish Hope, Jayne Richardson and Triple C Costumes deserve praise for the costumes.
Herring, 
Don’t leave it to lady luck to get your ticket on the door as that would be too much of a gamble. "Guys n Dolls" is a classic stage musical and Linda and her cast present a thoroughly entertaining show with laughs and great musical numbers and dance routines.
“Guys n Dolls” is being performed at the Nottingham Lace Market Theatre until Saturday 29 July 2017 with just a one day break on Sunday 23 July 2017.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

“Bouncers” by Regis Theatre Company
Duchess Theatre, Long Eaton
Lucky Eric, Judd, Les and Ralph are the original men in black as they tell the tale of one night in a Yorkshire disco in the 80’s. All the gang are out on the town, the boys, the girls, the cheesy DJ, the late night kebab man and the taxi home, all under the watchful eyes of the Bouncers.
Set in the 1980s at a Northern Night Spot, the play features the four doormen (or Bouncers) who play multiple parts to reflect the goings on at the club. Try imagining four beefy bouncers dancing round their pink handbags when discussing a hen party and you’ll have some idea of the kind of thing that will have you in stitches.
John Godber's plays are always incredibly popular and he has an eye for the ridiculous in the common man, which is what makes his plays so down to earth and enjoyable. You can see traits in all of Godber’s characters in someone you know, or may have known in the past. Godber is an observer of people which is why his characters are so realistic.
It has been known for me to well up at emotional plays but tonight I was in tears. Tears of laughter, they were literally rolling down my cheeks.
Having seen "Bouncers" before I knew that it had funny bones, but this cast brought out more comedy in this play than I had ever remembered it to have. In parts it may not have been quite as Godber had written but when you have a cast that have the professional capacity to cover forgotten lines and corpsing and still have the audience rolling around, you know you've got a winner on your hands.
Unfortunately "Bouncers" was only on for two nights, Wednesday being the second of two, so I can only report what you've sadly missed. Hopefully Regis and this cast may revisit "Bouncers" later down the line, but will they be able to reproduce this level of hilarity. That's the wonderful thing about live theatre, you never get to see the same production, exactly the same, every night.
Director Ollie Turner and Assistant Director and Production manager, Maureen Tierney, launched Regis Theatre Company with a smash. The play needs little scenery apart from four beer kegs and a door, minimal props and four brilliant actors. The play was the perfect choice, as was the casting.
Adam Guest plays “Lucky Eddie” who has some wonderful, at times poetic monologues, which also shows the more human and softer side of the burly bouncer. A lovely contrast to the comic characters Adam also plays here. like the kebab/hot dog man.
Kheenan Jones is Judd, sexually frustrated hard case. All four actors play all the characters and seeing burly Kheenan prance around the stage playing one of the "girls" with a pink handbag over his shoulder, dancing to "Girls Just Want To Have Fun" and trying to french kiss one of the drunkard "lads" in the play was a scream.
Mik Horvath's main "Bouncer" character is Les, always looking for a fight. His drunk acting and slurred speech was pure comedy classic,as was his "girly" character.
Last but by no means least is Tom Preston as Ralph. He may have been the smallest in stature but his presence was big. Apparently not only his presence is big as we are told by one of the "lads" in the gents toilet scene!
All brilliant banter we've all all experienced in out younger days when out on the town and on the pull with the lads, after all it is Friday night at Mr Cinders, the hottest night spot in Yorkshire with the cheesiest DJ, also played by Tom.
There's a classic scene when the Bouncers have finished their shift and they are watching a "Svedish blue movie" acted out by Adam and Tom.Absolutely hilarious, as was the scene in the taxi.
From entering the theatre, right through to the ushering out, the four bouncers stayed perfectly in character, creating the perfect atmosphere for the play.
They got the audience on their side straight off with "The Bouncers Rap", all the way through to "Thriller" at the close.
It's one of the best comedies I've seen for a long time and if this is where Regis's road starts, I can see a long and fruitful journey for them
“Bouncers” concluded tonight, Wednesday 19 July 2017 but I was so pleased to have my name on the list to see this smash of a production.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

“Dangerous Corner” by J.B.Priestley
Nottingham Playhouse
This is the second of the three plays in the Colin McIntyre Classic Thriller Season 2017 performed by TABS Productions.
Robert and Freda Caplan are entertaining guests at their country retreat. A chance remark by one of the guests ignites a series of devastating revelations, revealing an undiscovered tangle of clandestine relationships and dark secrets, the disclosures of which have tragic consequences.
Chris Sheridan (Robert Caplan), Charlotte Chin (Freda Caplan),
Anna Mitchum (Betty Whitehouse), David Osmond (Gordon Whitehouse), Jo Castleton (Olwyn Peel), Mark Huckett (Charles Stanton), and Susan Earnshaw (Maud Mockridge) were all, as usual excellent in their respective roles.
Geoff Gilder once more excelled in the costume department. Very simple but very stylish.
The set design (Sarah Wynne Kordas) was different to what I'd expected from the typical drawing room set. Before hand Director Karen Hensonhinted that she had set it in a circus, and that is just what the "walls" of the set looked like. Again simple design which meant that the set didn't detract
from the script or the wonderful acting. The furniture was classy and apt for the 1930's setting of the play.
Karen's direction, or is it the natural ability of the actors, not quite worked that out yet, means that when you listen to these actors, it's like you're sitting in the corner eavesdropping on a group of friends.. There's some lovely "angry" speeches and the odd funny line all delivered clipped. The flow of the speeches and script makes this play nice and pacy.
The lighting in this play, designed by Michael Donoghue, at first, apart from the obvious bit where the lights were turned out to see the "ghost owl", was very subtle in Act two, especially shown to best advantage on the white sections of the black and white striped background. You have to see it to get the whole feel .
David Gilbrook is the Sound Designer. One thing you notice, or not as the case may be, with these plays by TABS is the unobtrusive but natural sound effects. But this is an art to make everything sound naturalistic. You expect to hear a sound, so it comes as no surprise that it;s there and on time.It's simple to say but in the theatre, one missed sound cue and it throws everything out and that natural feel is lost. Believe me I've seen it and it kills the magic.
The script is quite wordy and it's one of those plays that you have to concentrate on to get the full enjoyment of the play, but the ending is like tying the bow on the big present, you get my gist, don't you?
Priestley's first play brings into play the time lapse element which can sometimes be not the easiest to replicate on stage, but it really worked well with this play
Anyway, I can waffle on rill the cows come home but to get the full effect and joy of this stylish play, which isn't really a murder mystery as we don't see any murders, and it's not really a thriller. It's just a good play with a murder and some intricate revelations from every character.
“Dangerous Corner” is at the Nottingham Playhouse until Saturday 22 July 2017.

Monday, 17 July 2017

“Out Of Order” by Ray Cooney
Nottingham Theatre Royal
When Richard Willey (Jeffrey Harmer), a Government Junior Minister, plans to spend the evening with Jane Worthington (Susie Amy), one of the Opposition’s typists, in the Westminster Hotel, things go disastrously wrong - beginning with the discovery of a body (David Warwick) trapped in the hotel’s only unreliable sash window.
Desperately trying to get out of an extremely sticky situation, Richard calls for his secretary, George Pigden (Shaun Williamson) who, through Richard’s lies sinks further and further into trouble with everybody and ends up going through an identity crisis.
Things go from bad to worse with the arrival of Jane’s distraught young husband (Jules Brown) and with the addition of an unscrupulous waiter (James Holmes), a frustrated Hotel Manager (Arthur Bostrom), Mrs Willey (Sue Holderness) and Nurse Foster (Elizabeth Elvin) - things really come to a head!
Farce is a funny old area of comedy which takes me back to my childhood in the 70's. Brian Rix and "whoops there goes my trousers" plus this comedy style is always about timing and doors, just think "Fawlty Towers" at the better end of the farce scale.
That said I've always found farce a dated style of comedy and that's what tonight seemed to be, slightly dated, Don't get me wrong there were many laughs to be had but there were no big belly laughs for me at least.
Farce is physical humour and there's no shortage of that here.
Farce is a comedy style that is exaggerated and aims at entertaining the audience through situations that are over the top, and thus improbable. That too is in abundance here as well.
There are plenty of door slammings and a sash window with a mind of its' own.
Farce also has a lot of seaside bawdiness with a dash of nudity thrown in, again all the right ingredients are in this play, with a decent splash of sauce as well.
All the actors worked their socks off, one quite literally, alongside the rest of their clothes, giving another meaning to turning the other cheek. And very cheeky this play is!
It was lovely seeing Arthur Bostrum on stage but I kept hearing his faux French accent from his "Allo Allo" role in my head.
Shaun Williamson and Jeffrey Harmer were like a well oiled perfectly timed machine, at times bordering on "Little Britain" and their political comedy style but then there were times where I could see blatant borrows from kids TV shows, especially when that fourth wall was broken .
My favourite though by far was James Holmes as the waiter. So funny in his accent and Del Boy style on the make at every opportunity.
There's something for everyone in this play and the lads were well catered for with the lovely Susie May, who used to be in "Footballer's Wives" and spends most of her time in some very attractive lingerie. When you got a body like that, why keep it hidden?
For the ladies Jules Brown, appears part of time in just a towel, and finds himself in some very compromising positions!! When you got a body like that, why keep it hidden?
The timing is spot on, the doors are slammed, to such an extent that they almost take on a character of their own, and slamming a door shut is an art form of it's own, and done for a reason, not just to make a noise. it's all about the rhythm and the energy. Much like the whole of this play; energy, timing and rhythm.
Dated it may be but it still makes you laugh. The politics and political names have been updated to May and Corbin to try and refresh the play.
“Out Of Order” runs at the Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 22 July 2017.