Saturday, 16 December 2017

“Black Beauty”
Djaonogly Theatre, Lakeside, Nottingham.
The Red Bridge Arts & Traverse Theatre Company in association with Nottingham Lakeside Arts present an alternative to the standard Christmas panto fare with this play surrounding the Black Beauty book. The McCuddy Brothers play out scenes from the book.
This all comes about because the McCuddy’s, both called Andy, are sorting out bits and bobs to sell to try and get a bit of money in, because times are hard, so they go through their horse box they call home and in their search, they find the Anna Sewell classic novel which once belonged to their mother.
This pair of equine illusionist, panto horse to you and I,find out that panto cows are now the "in thing". Neigh! I hear you cry, surely not, but, as mother used to say,
there are good days and there are bad days, so surely, good days can't be too far away.....aren't they?
This clever piece of theatre especially, but not exclusively aimed at children by the award winning Director,Creator and Writer Andy Manley, a sure fire thoroughbred when it comes to children’s theatre, along with Andy Cannon and Shona Reppe, Shona also also designed the set and was Co-Creator. I say that this isn’t exclusively for children because this is a treat for all ages from three years old to one hundred and three years old.
The humour will be appreciated by all ages and the puppetry creates magic in the eyes of the young, and not as young, audience members. There aren’t that many pieces of theatre where you can go as a family and everyone enjoy what they see on stage, but I believe that this is one of them.
I'm not going to give any spoilers but there are definite nods to the kind of children's TV of old, with smatterings of mime and circus skills. The way that they use parts of the set in different ways is magical. One prime example involves one of the two Andys being a pregnant woman. I'm saying no more than that but it's simple but very clever theatre, plus the timing between Andy 1 and Andy 2 is really well executed.
What also makes this piece of theatre so special is the sound design (Dave Trouton) and the lighting design (Simon Wilkinson).
I know that I loved it and by the reaction from the audience, of variable age groups, they also loved the gentle comedy and clever story,which also uses local references to make the story even more region related..

You’d be a foal to miss this family show so trot down to Lakeside and treat your family to a bit of excellent equine entertainment.This play could just make your Christmas that little bit more special.

John Currivan plays wee Andy and Paul Curley plays the older Andy brother.

“Black Beauty” is at The Djanogly Theatre at Lakeside on various dates up to Sunday 31 December 2017 so please go to the Lakeside website, www.lakesidearts.org.uk/BlackBeauty, to check the times and days.

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

“One Man Two Guvnors”
Nottingham New Theatre.
Is it really the last production of the season for NNT? Oh yes it is! Well if it's to be the last, then why not go our with a bang, which they certainly did.
Written by Richard Bean, this is the comedy that rocketed James Corden’s theatre career. Set In Brighton in 1963 it tells the story of an out of work skiffle player, Francis Henshall. He goes from being unemployed to having two jobs and two masters, Roscoe Crabbe and Stanley Stubbers. This is where the confusion and comedy arises as he tries to keep the two masters from meeting and discovering his joint employment.
Complicating events, Roscoe is really Rachel Crabbe in disguise, her twin brother Roscoe having been killed by her boyfriend, who is none other than Stanley.
Complicating events still further is local mobster Charlie the Duck, who has arranged his daughter Pauline's engagement to Roscoe despite her preference for over-the-top amateur actor Alan Dangle.
.A wonderful slice of slapstick and physical theatre which requires brilliant characterisation and comic timing.
James Curling(Francis) does a cracking job as our hero. Just one little picky bit for me was at times it was a bit shouty, but that's me comparing James' vision of Francis with the many others I've seen, but boy did James put everything he had into that role. Great energetic performance and brilliant fun.
Rachael Baines (Dolly) continues the talented actors in this play. the character is very confident and this comes across well, especially when she is breaking the fourth wall. The character is confident and so is the acting. A casting made in heaven.
Ted Marriott (Stanley Stubbers) ends a busy year with the best performance I've seen from him. The clipped rapid fire delivery, along with his wonderful facial expressions were a treat to watch
Gigi George (Rachel Crabbe) is wonderful as Rachel/Roscoe. I don't think I've seen Gigi acting before, and why i really don't know because she is very easy to watch. Some actors straight away make you feel very comfortable watching them and Gigi is one of those. A lovely fluidity in her acting.
Sam Morris (Alfie) had one of the hardest roles in this play as the octogenarian waiter. The characterisation was wonderful. I was just a tad disappointed that the cricket bat scene which knocked Alfie for six didn't have the same physical impact because it was not executed in the same way as I'd seen in the past, but that is a decision made by the director, but I think more laughs could have been extracted from the audience with the full swing of the cricket bat by Stubbers. (Hey everyone's a critic and wannabe director!)
Chris Sharp-Paul (Alan Dangle) is wonderfully over the top, just as the character should be, as the actor who is always in the spotlight. The semi tragic, almost Shakespearean Dangle is one of my favourite comedy characters, and every time I've been to see this play, the actor always delivers it just a little different every time. Some wonderfully pained but funny facial expressions which all adds to the comedy.
Andrew Houghton (Harry Dangle) is another great character performer as Alan's dad, and like Sam as Alfie, there's great physicality in this role.
Dom Bitten (Lloyd Boateng) makes his NNT debut in this play, and there were just very tiny things that gave this away. When you get to see as much theatre as I am lucky enough to see, you get to pick up on a few things with newcomers, This is not derogatory by the way because the absolute confidence that Dom shows is brilliant and he really looked as if he was having the best fun. I only noticed that a couple of times his part of the script faded a bit on volume right at the end of the speech. No one else would have noticed this believe me, but what a great debut and believe me this is me being really picky because there's a lot of naturalness with Dom.
Michaela Green (Pauline Clanch) portrays this slightly dim character perfectly and it's through that "naivety" that the natural comedy shines through.
Zack Collins (Charlie Clench), again an over the top character in Charlie Clench and very animated, and Zack actually made me believe that he was the right age for this part, or was it just the slight greying of the side burns that added to the realism of this part? Either way, another comic layer added.
Rohan Rakhit (Gareth) doubled up on parts and like every character in this play, added more of the comedy which this play is built on.
Co-directed by George Waring and Kate O'Gorman, this pair have really pulled off a magical production which has been a joy to see. the comedy is fast and punchy, the scene changing is snappy and incorporating the stage crew as part of the act works, exactly as it should, making the entertainment of the show fluent.
Producer Beth Mullen added so much to this production, which made it all work.A great self made set which was easily moved into place without being obtrusive.
The live band was different because in all other productions I've seen, and in the original, the band was a skiffle band. The band here were a Beatles tribute band in looks. They were made up of students who played a selection of 1960's well known tunes during the scene changes and at the start and end of the play,. Of course though they had to end with "Tomorrow Looks Good From Here".
The Nottingham New Theatre students have this year introduced me to so many little gems that I'd never heard of before this year,and I have a lot to thank this incredibly talented group of student actors for. Consistently good in their choices of theatre and output and it's been a pleasure to experience.
“One Man Two Guvnors” is on until Friday 15 December 2017

Monday, 11 December 2017

"Death Of The Author"
Nottingham New Theatre.
This derived piece of comedy theatre is an interesting piece. The play starts at a funeral with the coffin on show and four characters sitting and a strange creature on the floor, The Jabberwocky.
We discover that the four people, two men and two women, just happen to be Elizabeth Bennet, Dr John Watson, Lady MacBeth and Dorian Gray, all mourning the death of the author, but which author, or is this play mourning the death of the classic author; there are several conclusions you could come to.
Through a series of imagined monologues which flow into other characters' speeches we can possible see what the scene could have been like if they had all been around in person at the same time. And what fun that would have been if this story was anything to go by.
Emily Wong (The Jabberwocky) gives a wonderful off the wall performance as the Lewis Carroll character.Brilliant make up for Emily by Nat Henderson.
Eleanor Rickenbach (Lizzy) makes her debut for NNT, something you wouldn't be able to tell from this performance. Changing from a sensible person into a giggling girl as soon as she meets handsome Dorian Gray who she gets a crush on.
Charlie Basley (Watson), while quite taken by Lizzy, is the object of a crush himself from Dorian. The normally quite sensible Watson erupts into an excitable state as he tries to solve the mystery of who killed the author.
Having recently seen Francis Simmons as the abusive Billy in the excellent "Five Kinds Of Silence", this role is completely different as the young and lusting, hedonistic Gray, he shows his comedic side.
Beth Carter (Lady MacBeth) is wonderfully bossy as the Shakespearean Queen. Wonderfully toffee-nosed and regal.
Directed by Daniel McVey (shadowed by Rosa Morgan) and produced by Florence Bell, this is what I love so much about the productions at NNT. They are fresh, in this case funny, dull of new ideas for theatre.There's nowhere else in Nottingham, as far as I know that is as productive and eager to take risks with what they do like NNT. You can never guarantee a risk being a success but when the devised plays are as good as this, the risk is well worth taking.
One aspect of this show that i especially loved was the insertion of the music sound bites which added so much comedy to the production. A well deserved nod to Sound Designer Yasmin Dankwah.
This group must have had such fun putting this play together because the audience had great fun watching this play, which, as I've said several times during this season, could have run for more than the two nights. It just goes to prove the old theatrical adage to be true, "always leave them wanting more" because this was 75 minutes of unadulterated fun.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

“Beauty & The Beast”
Nottingham Theatre Royal
Dreaming of a happier life, the beautiful Belle finds herself transported to a cursed castle. Held captive by a hideous beast, the castle is full of magical characters placed under a spell by an evil enchantress. Can Belle see beyond the monster and fall in love with her captor before the last petal falls from the enchanted rose, or will the Beast’s selfishness cost him the world he once knew and the hand of the girl who has melted his heart?
Tale as old as time but with a very modern feel, this is the 2017/2018 Theatre royal pantomime starring Nottingham’s very own Sherrie Hewson(Mrs Potts-Temple-Savage) and Ben Richards from Hollyoaks is The Beast.
Ben is well versed in musical theatre having appeared in “Guys n Dolls”, “9 To 5”, “Rock Of Ages”, “The Bodyguard” and as Tick in “Priscilla Queen Of
The Desert”.
Sherrie, who looks amazing, is great fun to watch and adds to the manic comedy with Ben Nickless and Andrew Ryan. It's lovely to see one of Nottingham's most loved actors performing in her own city.
Two of my favourite Theatre Royal panto regulars make a welcome return, Ben Nickless in his fourth Nottingham panto appearance, and Andrew Ryan, making his 31st panto appearance and his 27th year playing Dame; this also being his fourth Nottingham panto.
Andrew is very involved in this particular panto as, not only does he design and create his outrageous costumes himself, he is also the Director for this panto.
Naomi Slights (Belle) is well cast and has a lovely, as well as powerful voice, as highlighted in the song "Symphony", the Clean Bandit hit from this year.
Natalie Spriggs (Deadly Nightshade) is deliciously evil, clad in black and looking a bit like Disney's Malevolent. Natalie also has a corker of a voice on her.
Danny Bayne played Trent, the equivalent of Gaston. Good looking, but doesn't he know it, forever grinning and flashing his muscles. But this story just echoes the fact that looks aren't everything. Brilliant casting for this talented dancer, who also has a strong singing voice.
A very tight and energetic, as well as athletic ensemble with plenty of somersaults and back flips being performed by a couple of the dancers, making this choreography exciting to watch.
The 3D section is possibly the best that I've seen in a panto, and the monster, killed by the Beast, was quite frightening as it towered out and over the audience.
Great sets added plenty of colour to the already colourful costumes in the show.
All of the music was taken from the last couple of years, making this show one of the most up to date one I've seen. I loved the music but many elder members of the audience may be lost with the song choices.
The jokes were topical, including a Donald Trump section which pleased the audience greatly. There were some fresh comedy sections which worked really well, distancing this panto from the traditionalist style and the four way comic song, which replaced the section where children are invited up on stage, was funny and the timings were well worked out.
Like all the other pantos that I've seen this year, this production has upped its' gain, which is something not easy to do when the standard is as high as the Nottingham Christmas shows have been in the last few years.
A great fun show which seemed all too short for me, Two hours, including the interval, and while some pantos in the past I would have shaved rime off, this is one where I could quite happily have watched more of the same.
“Beauty & The Beast” is at the Nottingham Theatre Royal until Sunday 14 January 2018

Saturday, 9 December 2017

“An Ideal Husband” by Oscar Wilde
Nottingham Lace Market Theatre.
I don't mind admitting that as a recent convert to the wonderful wit of Wilde, this play is an absolutely divine way to start the weekend.
The play revolves around blackmail and political corruption, and touches on the themes of public and private honour. The action is set in London, and takes place over the course of twenty-four hours.
Sir Robert Chiltern is a successful Government minister. Well-off and with a loving wife, he has it all; that is until an old acquaintance makes an appearance and threatens to reveal a scandalous misdeed from Robert's past.
Does Robert have any friends that might come to his aid? Can they be trusted or are they scheming too? As the story unfolds, it's revealed that the man thought to be perfect is flawed, the man with all the flaws must do something right, and the question remains: what makes an ideal husband?
Plays about corrupt politicians are always going to be popular and topical and with the wit of Wilde, this is a worthy rival to “The Important Of Being Earnest” as his most popular and performed play.
Lorna Spencer (Lady Chiltern), Sue Drew (Lady Markby), John Anthony (Mason), Arnd Korn (Vicomte de Nanjac/Phipps), Alessia Molteni (Mrs Marchmont) and Ellie Searston (Lady Basildon), all wonderful roles and actors, and Wilde is very good as creating secondary comic, as well as memorable, characters.
Matthew Huntbach (Viscount Goring) was just an absolute joy to watch with his wonderful clipped speech. His comic timing brought out every bit of Oscar Wilde's wit, and at times you had to remember that this was acting because of the naturalness of the delivery.
Kathryn Edwards (Mrs Cheveley) is brilliantly aloof but nice to see when the chink in the defence wall is found, her vulnerability was great to see. Like a soap villain but with the ultimate cool exterior.
Sam Allison (Sir Robert Chiltern), shows the full emotional range of Chiltern as he tries to save his career and reputation, the look of panic at times was great to see when he could see his possible downfall approaching.
Emily Kevan (Mabel Chiltern). Another restrained and cool performance in this character-driven play, and a believable relationship with the Chilterns.
Marcus Wakley (Earl of Caversham) coupled with Matthew were a great pairing as father and son. they were spiky and comical, thanks to the brilliant script, but it takes a good actor to deliver the words to create the comedy. Without an actor the script is just words on a page and Marcus, with his vast experience knows how to deliver.
Max Bromley (Director / Set Designer) obviously has a feel for Wilde's work and the pace of the play varies from Act One to Act Two, which is a lovely contrast and makes for an exciting watch
I loved the costumes. Such elegance and glamour but touching on foppish, especially with Goring's suits, but this always lends itself to the comedy side. the rest of the costumes were as if you've been invited to a really posh do, so classy.
At first I wasn't sure about the set, but come Act Two, a more sense of decadence was shown, and it then created the difference in the more modern (for the era) abode of the man about town Goring, to the more mature home for the Chilterns. This again created that difference in status between the married couple and the single man.
You know me when it comes to the "little things" that add the reality to a play and I must mention something that maybe not many would notice. In Goring's home there was an open fire to which he kept alluding to, and lo and behold there was the impression of the flickering flames of an open fire, all created by magic by the lighting designer, Rose Dudley.
I am biased, slightly, being an Oscar Wilde fan, but this is a wonderfully entertaining piece of theatre with a great cast, and what a way to end the year. Go on, treat yourself to a pre Christmas treat and see this play.
“An Ideal Husband “ is being performed at the Nottingham Lace Market theatre until Saturday 17 December 2017.

Thursday, 7 December 2017

“Timon/Titus by William Shakespeare”
Nottingham New Theatre
We’re advised that “This is Shakespeare… but you won’t recognise it.” Titus Andronicus and Timon of Athens merged as one with a common thread running through, both money and greed, something that is as relevant today as ever.
Written by a group of French students calling themselves Collectif OS'O, the play was translated by NNT student and Director of this play, Ben Standish. That in itself is impressive enough because to translate a whole 2 hours and 25 minutes of a play from French to English and retain the comedy is some going.
I'll admit that by the end of the first act, I was still unsure as to what to make of this play, I didn't really know what was going on half of the time, but by the end of the play, I managed (just) to piece it all together.
The title itself is a bit of a curveball because I thought at first that it was two of Shakespeares's plays mashed together. First mistake on my part. The whole title of the play is “Timon/Titus by William Shakespeare” and not as I first thought “Timon/Titus" by William Shakespeare. You can see how confused I can get!
Anyway, it all starts very moody with Milos (Jamie Watt) booming voice and a set littered with dead bodies. And then it turned into an introduction, almost apologising that we wouldn't be seeing "Titus Andronicus" or "Timon of Athens". then we were treated to a potted version of the plays recreated with dolls and puppets! How bizarre I thought!
The warnings given before we entered the theatre and in the programme about themes of an adult nature and violence including limb mutilation were all there but with dolls. Well there was no contravention of the trade description act either.
Then came a political discussion about money debts, greed, guilt, in the style of one of those TV discussion shows. then to the chimes of Pink Floyd's "Money", the meat of the play was served up which ended in multiple murders, all done ion the best possible taste and great humour.
In between the "drama" inserts there was a very clever, and that's the phrase which describes the whole play, "very clever", animated film section of gains, debt, losses, business practices and Adam and Eve etc, which also showed the timing of the actors against the filmed sections.
The entire group were great fun to watch and you can see the hard work that has gone into this show from every angle. If you can imagine Shakespeare crossed with Monty Python crossed with "The Wright Show", that's the feel of what to expect.
Yet again, a very talented cast, which is what I've now come to expect from NNT. Miguel Barrulas (Calvin Casar), Georgie Brand (Andre Penelope), Grace Williams (Cordella Esme), Emma Pallett (Tamara), Cameron Brett (William Merchant), Emma Summerton (Adelaide Merchant) and Jamie Watt(Migos).presented a show with a difference and with great energy. You, like me, may not quite understand the whole concept, but they fulfilled their promise to make me smile.
Great cast, a wonderful production and tech team and a brilliant set as well.
“Timon/Titus by William Shakespeare” is being performed at the Nottingham New Theatre until Saturday 9 December 2017.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

"Cabaret"
Bilborough Sixth Form College.
One of the sexiest musicals ever. Why? well if you need to ask you've never seen "Cabaret". So now's your chance to see a slightly shorter version of the touring version.
The original 1960's Broadway musical version featured the wonderful Joel Hall as the Emcee and in 1972 the film featured Liza Minnelli as Sally Bowles as well as Hall..
Set in 1929 Berlin as the Nazis are rising to power, it focuses on the nightlife at the seedy Kit Kat Klub, and revolves around young American writer Cliff Bradshaw and his relationship with 32-year-old English cabaret performer Sally Bowles.
There's also a secondary plot which involves the doomed romance between German boarding house owner Fräulein Schneider and her elderly suitor Herr Schultz, a Jewish fruit vendor.
Having had the pleasure of seeing several shows by the Bilborough College students in the past, I knew that a high standard of production would be to come. I was not disappointed.
Alfie Sanders (Cliff Bradshaw) presented the newcomer to Berlin as a pleasant, albeit slighty naive, American visitor with his own brand of sweet talking to get the price he wanted to pay with Fräulein Schneider for his lodging.The naivety soon disappeared when he met Sally. Great change of characterisation when he realised what was afoot and Alfie found the character naturally. A pleasant singing voice as well.
Alice Lindley (Sally Bowles) was fantastic. She kept that quintessential British stiff upper lip accent all the way through, and that's not easy to do when singing.Delightfully cheeky and wonderful characterisation, especially in the song "Don't Tell Mama" and her version of "Cabaret" was excellent.
Archie Stephens (Herr Schultz) got his moment in the spotlight when at the engagement party with his comedy song "Meeskite", also showing that he could work the crowd. Far too young though to be playing this role, which is of an elderly nature, but maybe with make up to age him....possibly?
Molly Hewitt-Richards (Fräulein Schneider) could not have been more perfectly cast in my humble opinion. A very confident performance and she has a lovely voice with just the right amount of vibrato to add the emotion. Just loved the song "So What"
Joe Spoors (Ernst Ludwig) also got to show the two sides of the character, and what a dramatic change in the second half. Another very confident performer.
Imogen Birkett (Fraulein Kost) is wonderfully saucy and upfront about it as well,especially when Fraulein is caught with a sailor (Jordan Hughes) in her room and turns Fräulein Schneider's ultimatum around with a bit of gentle blackmail.
The hardest role to fill, apart from Sally's though was always going to be the one made famous over the years by people like Joel Hall, Wayne Sleep, and currently Will Young. The role of Emcee.
I've seen Young play Emcee and was impressed, but always saw Will Young as opposed to Emcee, if you see what I mean.
Sam Holden, in the same way as Molly as Schneider, was casting perfection. He was the man in charge of the show. he held us in the palm of his hand. He was like a naughty boy crossed with a devil and always in control, but always with that sauce on the side. I've seen Sam before in shows but this has to be his best performance to date character wise.
Directed by Sophie Boettge it was pacy and sexy which made the time fly by. It was over all too soon for me. It had light and shade and the pace of the show was spot on.
The choreography for this show was also wonderful, thanks to Sam Holden. The dancers, of which there were many when you count up the ensemble and The Kit Kat Girls as well made the job Sam had, not the most straight forward, but boy did they all pull it off!
The performance was set "in the round" almost with the audience of three sides, in the same way as they did "Les Mis" a few years back, and I loved that staging. This too worked very well and also helped the sound. Sometimes, when the orchestra is up above you at the back, there is a tendency, depending where you sit, to get an odd mix of music and vocals,
Setting the orchestra (the programme says "band" but they sounded orchestral) at the back of the performing area we got a very clear sound which didn't drown the actors voices one bit, making that all important mix as good as you're going to get.
Co Musical Directors Dan Gribbin and Nathan Holroyd did a cracking job of the soundtrack.
There are some brilliant songs in this musical, "Welkommen", "Two Ladies", "If You Could See Her" and
the title track among them. The omitting of "Money makes The World Go Round" and "Maybe This Time" was a bit of a disappointment for me as they are two of the best known songs from the musical, but I assume that this may have been for copyright or licensing reasons for local theatrical productions.
I must also mention the sound and light design and operation (Callum Roome, Alex Baker, Adam Kavanagh and Joseph Roberts) for a smashing job.
Someone who always works just as hard as the Director is the Producer, so thanks due to Sharon MacInnes as well
So many aspects of this character driven musical would not be the same without stuff like the wonderful, and saucy costumes from the wardrobe department (Isobel Fox), the wonderful hair and make up (Beth Haslam, Kristina Stead and Radina Gibb), plus the smooth stage management.
It's a story that is as topical today as it was back in the 1920's and 1930's with it's racism and class division, but as Emcee says, leave your troubles outside and welkommen to a couple of hours of fun and sauciness Berlin style.
"Cabaret" is at Bilborough College until Friday 8 December 2017, so if you have nothing to occupy your mind, then what use is sitting alone in your room, come to the cabaret and have some fun.