Friday, 18 January 2019

“Arcadia” by Bonington Players
Bonington Theatre, Arnold.
“Arcadia” is a serious comedy which is funny, thought-provoking and touching in parts, described as ”a comedy about science, sex and landscape gardening”. Oh and it also features a tortoise!
The play is set in Sidley Park, an English country house in Derbyshire, and takes place in both 1809 and the present day. Written by Tom Stoppard, the activities involve two modern scholars and the house's current residents are juxtaposed with those of the people who lived there in the earlier period.
Stoppard’s play is complex and presents contracts between past and present and order and disorder with everything coming together like a great big melting pot at the end, blurring the contrasts to show that everything is connected in some way through history.
You’ll notice that this is a very wordy play and the actors did brilliantly in, not only remembering the script, but actually performing the script.
Now I’m not one of Stoppard’s biggest fans, but then again my only experience of his work is through ”Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead”, which I first read last year and that confused the hell out of me on page. His plays are not performed that often so it’s hard to tell if seeing this play would make it a better experience in warming to Stoppard’s writing.
“Arcadia”, I have never read and after a while, I managed to work out what was happening and settled down to quite an enjoyable evening, greatly helped by this hard working cast, who by the way made the complexity of the play and script seem like a walk in the park. I know that anything that looks this relaxed and natural normally takes a lot of hard work, something I know that The Bonington Players are no stranger to.
Loved the matter of fact style of tutor and close friend of Lord Byron, Septimus Hodge (Jonathan Greaves), as well as his pupil, Thomasina, played with great elan by Charlotte Cordall.
There’s a lovely comic interchange with poet Chater, (Wayne Hill), and Hodge when Chater discovers that Septicus and Chater’s wife Lady Croom (Jenny Chatten) have been caught in “carnal embrace” in the gazebo. Hodge manages to turn the situation around to his advantage very well. There is another confrontation later on between Chater and Hodge when Chater learns from Lord Byron that Hodge had given Chater’s last work a bad review
In the present day this scenario is echoed with Bernard Nightingale (Trev Clarke) paying a visit to writer Hannah Jarvis (Lauren Hodkin), under the assumed name of Peacock, as Nightingale had given Hannah a bad review of her recent book. The characters are just as interesting in the present day as in the latter period and it’s when you see both families that the comparisons between their actions and their activities become more clear, which is when I started to understand and enjoy the story.
The rest of the cast are Chloe Coverley (Grace Brookes), Valentine Coverley (Alex Brimelow), Gus Coverley/Augustus Coverley (Byron Barkel), Jellaby (Vic Roberts), Richard Noakes (Adrian Bacon) and Captain Edward Brice (Eddie Januszcyk).
It’s a little bit saucy but great fun and the Bonington Players may have just kept my interest in Stoppard for a while longer.
Loved the costumes (Anna Hodkin/Donna Price) and the set, which was cleverly used for both time periods.
A simple but effective sound throughout (Designed by David Goathamand operated by Abbigail Byrne), as was the lighting (Howard Whitehurst).
Directed and designed by Anna Hodkin.
“Arcadia” is at the Bonington Theatre in Arnold until Saturday 19 January 2019.

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

“Peter Pan A Musical Adventure” by The Young Performers
Duchess Theatre, Long Eaton.
Everybody knows the story of Peter Pan but there are two different styles of this J.M. Barrie play – the panto and the musical. This is the musical and my first time of seeing it, anywhere.
Both are the same story wise, just different in the way they are performed. J.M. Barrie's classic tale of the boy who fell out of his pram and disappeared and then never grew up, but longs to be loved by a mother.
Although a children's novel, Barrie has a knack for writing some wonderful character pieces, Wendy being the stand out characters in the way that he shows both the child and maternal sides. If more proof were needed of his female character observation writing style, read, or watch "The Old Lady Shows Her Medals"
Playing our hero is a young man who I have had the pleasure of seeing grow in several ways in the theatre is Harvey Tavener. I have see him not only grow taller, but confidence and vocal wise. His voice is stronger than ever and to hear him belt out the final song with the power and confidence he has made me feel very excited about what his future holds. And he gets to fly as well!
It should not have surprised me but this whole cast were wonderfully well cast and they all did an incredible job, worthy of any professional stage.
Jake Truman is another actor I have seen several times before and, like Harvey, he really believed in his role as Captain Hook. You could tell that he loved the whole evil villainy of the part. What he also nailed was the fine line between being over nasty and not believable as the villain. As in panto, you have to pitch the baddie just right and I felt Jake did this. He also performed his role and his songs, now that may seem a daft thing to say but you could see that Jake felt the role and this came through the whole performance. Plus he got booed at the end when he took his bow, which proved to him that he had done a great job making the audience believe in the role.
Ellen Oldershaw, who played Smee, made me smile, and I loved the Lancashire accent and the energy in her performance.
Caitlin Oldham as Wendy also managed to get that pitch right as layer in the musical she shows a mature, responsible side of Wendy when she is duetting with Peter in "One Big Adventure" about his responsibility of looking after the children, and also manages to retain the little girl in Wendy.Caitlin also has one of those voices that you will remember long after you leave the theatre.
The Storyteller is played by Charlotte Rowland and supplied the glue in the story, enabling the pace to be moved on from scene to scene. One of the important roles that sometimes gets overlooked by the audience.
The Darling family were played by Ryan Yates (John), Drew Boswell (Michael), Molly Parkinson (Mrs Darling), who by the way also has an unforgettably pure and tender singing voice, and Ricky Hill (Mr Darling).
Along with the flying, the other special addition to this was the puppetry by Finlay Dilks with Nana, the Darling's pet dog.
Tinkerbell is played by Brooke Marsden and you can really tell that she has put her dance background to good use as the playful fairy. Loved that when Tinks is about to die, the option to bring her back to life was to applaud instead of asking the audience to shout out that we believe in fairies as this can be a possible embarrassment if the audience are too shy to take part in shouting out, but the applause option worked well. A wise Director's decision.
Directed by Zak Charlesworth, it was hard to believe that this was his Big Musical Directorial debut because of the smoothness of the whole show. Zak has spent the last decade working in musical theatre so he knows his way around a stage and what works in a show and what doesn't, and it's his vast experience that comes through in this show. This boy done really good!
What struck me about this show is that every part of the production has a professional sheen about it, and that includes the brilliant choreography by Vicky Byrne. If you've ever seen any of the choreography for "Matilda", there are certain echoes of this.
The soundtrack is one that I have not heard before but it is absolutely gorgeous, lyrically and musically. The Musical Direction is by George Parkinson, and when you look at the amount of music, vocally and incidental, you can see what a lot of work the band and Musical Director has to do; and they did it very well.
The sets exceeded my expectations and they have that "WOW" factor. I know the back of the stage at The Duchess and know that the wings are small, and with the size of the some of the set pieces, they made the back and side stage areas appear like a tardis.
Roydon Charlesworth, who was responsible for the stage management did a cracking job, and while not everything went as smooth as it was expected with parts of the set, the management of that part of the production was really well executed. I am sure that not everyone would have noticed the miniscule snags, and I am being extremely picky here.
There were also a couple of moments when maybe some incidental music could have been extended to cover the blacked out set when the scenes were being changed. But I am being very very picky as a few seconds with a blacked out stage in silence was probably not picked up on by anyone apart from myself. I think that this is just because it was opening night and everything will be timed to absolute perfection for the rest of the run.
Lighting and sound are now always strong points at The Duchess and that's because they are in the hands of Dave Martin and Dave Sims, respectively.
If you are lucky enough to get a ticket for this gorgeous piece of theatre, you will absolutely love it. What's not to love? It has a beautiful soundtrack, an incredibly talented cast, great choreography and a Director who can add this title to his list of theatrical achievements.
As I said earlier in the review, everything about this musical exceeded my expectations, and I loved it.
“Peter Pan” is at the Duchess Theatre, Long Eaton until Saturday 19 January 2019 but tickets are almost sold out

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

“The Effect” by Lucy Prebble
Lace Market Theatre
I’ve had the joy of seeing this play performed before in 2017 at the Nottingham New theatre and loved the story, so it was with real anticipation that gripped me when I found out that this play would be the first play to be performed at the Nottingham Lace Market Theatre for 2019. And what a start!
The play, and the writer, Lucy Prebble, credits the audience with the intelligence to make their own minds up about what they see. This is a controlled – to a certain degree – experiment on human behaviour while on a drug controlled scheme and a psychiatrist is tracking their behaviour, but we in the audience are the ones really keeping watch.
Can drugs control our emotions? Are these emotions less real if enforced? Can love be forced? Can opposites really attract? Just some of the questions that you may find yourself running over in your mind as you watch “The Effect”
The intensity is heightened by being set in the upstairs performance space making this even more intimate, and you’ll feel like you’re the fly on the wall as you see both sides of this experiment.
The two volunteers start as polar opposites. Connie Hall (Riana Howarth) and Tristan Frey (Jamie Selfridge) could not be more different. Tristan is more streetwise having applied for these type of experiments before, wanting the money from the experiment to fund his latest foreign trip while Connie’s is her first time so a bit wet behind the ears where this sort of experience is concerned. Tristan is more outgoing, cocky some may say, single, while Connie has a reserved edge and is in a relationship..
Dr Toby Sealey (Malcolm Todd) and Dr Lorna James (Lynn Burges) also , as we learn are opposites, character wise, and for anyone who has not read the play or seen it will find it exciting to discover in what way as we go through the play, and their outcome in this play.
Riana and Jamie both make their debuts for the Lace Market Theatre in this play, but both of these young actors have credible theatrical CVs and are a great addition to the Lace Market Theatre stable.
They play their characters really well with a natural feel, well they are playing characters who are in their age range so it looks and feels natural, as is their language.
Lynn also makes her Lace Market Theatre debut but has worked with Malcolm previously. With three quarters of the cast making their debuts for LMT, you can't help but get excited about what is in store for the future
Directed by Malcolm Todd, he has tweaked parts of the play to make this play more localised and up to date, but that is only because I've seen the play before that I noticed this.
I love that there are parallels between the two pairs of characters within this story and within both, there is a great deal of passion from all four actors. Even though I knew the ending, these four actors still delivered the shock factor.
This style of writing is perfect for this intimate environment and magnifies every emotion, giving you plenty of sharp intakes of breath moments along the way.
This play also goes to show that you don't need a great set to deliver a great story, because while the set is sparse, the prop count is massive for this one. I think about 140 props, than ks to Alistair Hudson, who also stage managed the play.
Clever use of projection gave another dimension (Gareth Morris), and sound (Jack Harris) and light design (Philip Hogarth) created more atmosphere. the costumes were by Marie Morehen.
“The Effect” is at the Nottingham Lace Market Theatre until Saturday 12 January 2019, but as is the norm at the Lace Market Theatre, they have currently sold out every night so your only chance to experience this thought-provoking play is if any tickets are returned, though goodness knows why that would occur.
Make sure you get in early for the next production of “A Streetcar Named Desire” later this month!

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

"An Evening Of Christmas Cheer"
Nottingham Arts Theatre.
What a cracking Christmas Cracker of a festive show this was, and more fool you lot who missed it!
Anyone who knows me, knows that I love Christmas and the lead up to Christmas, and this show, rapidly following on from their smash hit panto, set the mood perfectly.
A gorgeous melting pot of classic carols and hymns as well as more contemporary pop Christmas hits, blended in with some music theatre hits. Fold in some festive readings and this Christmas offering left even the most Grinch like of people feeling toasty warm inside with a massive grin on their face.
It was lovely to see many of the regular faces on stage again for this one night only celebration (which i really hope becomes an annual do). Not only did they entertain us splendidly, they looked really happy to be doing so as well.
Bertie BlackChristine Boothe, Mike Bulford, Glenise Ellis, Laura EllisTony Ghostwalker, John GillElla GreenwoodAmanda HallBeth Hinchliffe, Barry Hobbs, Jacob FowlerPatrick McChrystalRay McleodMike PearsonSophie Petruccio-HallMarie RogersAmy Rogers-GeeHannah Rogers-GeeAlison SheppardRoy SmithLaura Thurman and Emily Wilkins sprinkled Christmas cheer over the theatre and the audience. All we needed was snow.
And I must not forget Rob Kettridge and Nathan Penney on the technical side of things
The audience were provided with song sheets for the carols and were encouraged to sing along, and even I aired a few vocals from the anonymity of my seat , so wrapped in a merry mood was I.
Not only did this special show spread the most festive of cheer, but it also showcased some of Nottingham's finest voices, and I really am trying not to spotlight any singers, as they were all so very good, but there were a few performances that really did give me that shiver up my spine moment. Nothing that was not expected by me as I've mentioned their names in many reviews over the years for their vocal prowess, and here they also shone in a sky full of equally sparkling stars that radiated from the Nottingham Arts Theatre stage.
I'd also like to mention how beautiful the theatre itself looked with its' deep red curtains and blue stage, and the seats being so much more comfortable after the refurbishment, which is still a work in progress but well on their way.
I am very lucky in knowing the majority of the people on stage tonight, well enough to chat with them when our paths cross, and that means that i know their work ethic and what they are capable of, and when they perform to this standard, it makes me very proud just to be able to say that i know you.
To everyone on stage, and behind the scenes who have given so much entertainment to us audience members for the last year, I'd just like to thank you for your amazing talent, the blood, sweat and tears that you all give, the time you give up for rehearsals, the hard work that you all put in to make your performances look so effortless. Thank you, I am so in awe of the special talent you have.
Have an amazing Christmas and I can't wait to see you all again in 2019.

Saturday, 15 December 2018

“Red Riding Hood”
Nottingham Lakeside
Presented by Eugene House in association with Lakeside Arts, this year’s Christmas show, aimed at kids, but is just as entertaining for adults, is the story of Red Riding Hood.
Written by Mike Kenny and Directed by Matt Aston, this is a joyous piece of theatre that returns to Lakeside after its’ 2011 debut and will entertain and enthral kids of any age.
The show has musical numbers especially written with children in mind by Julian Butler, who has written pieces of music and songs for children for years now, so he knows what he is doing to capture the little ones imagination and attention.
As an adult theatre-goer, I could hear distant echoes of "Into the Woods" songs and I love the dark feel through the songs. Because let's face it, the story is quite a dark one that may go unnoticed by younger audience members, again making this story work on different levels for all.
The story is about a little girl, Brigit, who went to spend the night at Grandma’s house, and her little brother, Stephen, came too. She just wanted to go to sleep but he was excited and wouldn’t settle down. To help get him off to sleep, the young girl promised to tell her brother a story. But when you start acting out your favourite fairy-tale, who knows what’s in store?
The set is very quirky and quite cartoon-strip style but also holds a lovely nostalgic olde-world "grandma"style brown interior design look, which all adds to the feel of this piece of theatre. Designed by Laura McEwen.
Anne Kirkman and Adam Ryan who play the kids, and all of the roles, are quite magical to watch, and as an adult, I found their story-telling just mesmerising and their characterisation spot on from the eyes of the children.
One thing that makes brilliant theatre, and can either make the show a success or not, is the lighting and sound and both Richard Statham (Lighting design) and Edwin Wallace (Sound design) added that extra layer of magic to this play.
I also loved the choreography (Claire Cunningham) which worked so well in this piece.
Beautifully directed by Matt Aston, he created a very understated piece of magic for the whole family
The play only lasts 55 minutes so is a lovely diversion from the hustle and bustle of Christmas – or New Year – preparations and will keep everyone transfixed, if only for a short while. I'm sure though that it's something that the audience will be talking about long after they have left Lakeside.
I must also mention that the end of the story also has a lovely twist, which I certainly had not anticipated!
“Red Riding Hood” is at Djanogly Lakeside Theatre until Sunday 30 December 2018 and get there a bit earlier so that you and the little ones can check out the wonderful digital installation exhibition by Barret Hodgson that is at Lakeside as well.

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

'Breathing Holes' by Jonathan Davies
Nottingham New Theatre
Another New Theatre and Nottingham University student play, closing this season at the theatre. There seems to be so many talented writers and directors as well as tech people and actors, and Mr Davies is in that mix.
Over the last couple of years I’ve seen a few productions that Jonathan has been involved in, “Uz & Them”, “Five Kinds Of Silence” and the crazy “Cogito Ergo Bum”. And now comes “Breathing Holes”.
We all daydream, and often as not, sometimes we can't make sense of what we dream. It's often random ideas thrown together, and that is what this play is about.
There are four characters, none of which have names, that doesn't matter and is unimportant because it's what they say, not who says what that is the centre of this piece of theatre. You'll have to excuse me if I'm not making sense here but it's the sharing of the experience that is what is on show here; the randomness of our dreams and thoughts.
It shows four possible daydream situations, at the sink looking out of the window, in bed and on the settee, and then there is a character trapped, metaphorically, in a glass jar. The image of this is particularly interesting. We're not told why, and I think this leaves the audience member to make their own minds up as to why, he is in this jar, but again this could all be metaphorical, but when he breaks free from the jar, this could herald the awakening of the day dream. Who knows, that's my understanding, but we all possibly have a different image and understanding of this.
This is one piece of theatre unlike anything else that I have seen at the NNT, and while the four characters separate monologues may seem unconnected, listen carefully because there is a link between the four, which may only come to mind when you've had time to digest the piece as a whole.
It's very clever writing and will make you think. It's poetic and the poetry of the words and the piece are well matched with the wonderful video images. I know that if I were looking out the window on a rainy day, my mind too would wander.
And it's all about train of thought as well. Isn't it great to just let your mind roam and you soon look back and realise that what you end up musing about may not be anything like your first thoughts, but how did you get from A to B to C without that smooth train of thought?
Well that was what I felt this piece of theatre experience was about, and if it wasn't, then this is either me misconstruing the mind of the writer, or a clever piece of writing which has given every audience member free reign on taking what they see and moulding it into their own little piece of theatre within their minds. I'd like to think it's a bit of both.
The four mind bending actors responsible for bringing the script to life are Rohan Rakhit, Lucy Chandler, Sophie Curtis and Rosiella Sutherland, who also produced this piece.
Written and Directed by Jonathan Davies and, as usual at the NNT, a very talented tech and creative bunch of people.
One of the most interesting original plays this year that credits the audience with the intelligence to interpret the script with their own understanding.
The play is only 40 minutes long followed by a "Q & A" session, which also gives you plenty of time afterwards to discuss it in the public bar.
“Breathing Holes” is at the Nottingham New Theatre until Friday 14 December 2018.

Monday, 10 December 2018

“The Hound Of The Baskervilles”
Nottingham Lace Market Theatre
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic winter thriller is not being taken seriously by the Lace Market Theatre – but that is how they have planned it to be. It’s a spoof of the classic tale so don’t worry, I’m not being derogatory!
The story has been adapted by Steven Canny and John Nicholson into something similar to “The 39 Steps”, but with flashes of The Two Ronnies, Monty Python and through to The Young Ones and The Sooty Show (honestly), with even a nod to Strictly Come Dancing along the way.
There is a curse on the Baskerville family and the latest victim is Sir Charles Baskerville. Enter the great Sherlock Holmes and his trusty side kick, Dr John Watson, determined to unmask the killer before another victim falls prey to the infamous hound.
Before the story really gets going though there's an introduction to the actors and their roles which really gets you in the mood for a brilliant night of fun and frivolities.
A cast of three play all the parts in this fast paced comedy, with even faster costume changes. A plethora of accents as well as props are abound, creating mischief, mirth and merriment.
When you think back to the classic films and the various Holmes and Watsons, you always have the idea that it is Watson who is the quiet hero of the piece , letting Holmes be the one to take all of the credit. In this production that scenario is the same and Holmes seems to take a back seat to Watson in this breakneck theatrical piece.
Mr John Parker plays Sherlock Holmes, as well as six other parts, This man never seems to get out of breath despite racing around the stage in various guises. And I still reckon that if there is a theatre version of "Rising Damp", then John will be the only one who can play Rigsby. He has very expressive eyebrows as well!!
Mr Richard Young is Doctor Watson, and two other characters and while trying to be the more serious of the characters, there were wonderful breaks from the "seriousness" with some crazy facial expressions
Mr Jamie Goodliffe plays Sir Henry Baskerville and all the other parts. Thankfully we also discover at the end of the play where his trousers keep disappearing to, and that one shoe.
All three actors show what talented character and comic actors they are with a talent for a certain amount of ad-libbing, just long enough to cover the quick changes for the other actor to return to the stage, when requred.
Possibly one of the fastest plays I have seen, and most definitely one of the funniest and manic with so many nods to many comedy kings through the decades. You'll feel out of breath just trying to keep up with this masterclass of farce and spoofdom. the comedy covers many idioms; physical, mime, men dressed as women - with or without beards- and a lot of silliness bordering at times on slapstick. there's even the odd break of character to comment on the stage managers, who would have earned their money on this run, if only they were getting paid for it!
Directed by Mr Matthew Huntbach, who I know has a love of great comedy and spoof, so this is right up his alley. This isn't just pacy, this is breakneck.
There are so many things, as a reviewer and audience member, that i was so impressed with. the sound effects designer, Darren Coxon played an absolute blinder in this show, and that sound effect "timing" also created several of the comic moments itself.
Brilliant Lighting design by Phil Anthony all added to the whole atmosphere of the play.
In the spirit of panto, this is an alternative to panto but still also provides a lot of classic panto style fun which i know will be loved by all age groups.
You will, however, be extremely lucky if you want to get a ticket for this show because every single night is sold out, even before the doors opened tonight, but it’s always worth checking in at the box office for any return tickets or cancellations.
It’s brilliant as someone who loves the theatre to see this in local theatre, especially when the theatre itself is hidden away from the main roads in the Lace Market. It shows that theatre goers are faithful to the Lace market and that the best advertisement is word of mouth and social media because being sold out is not a rarity at the Lace Market Theatre, so you have to get in there pretty sharpish! At least before Saturday 15 December 2018.
It doesn’t take a great mind to deduce that this production is non-stop fun from start to end and is going to be another massive success for the Lace Market Theatre; it’s elementary my dear reader!
Oh, and make sure that you buy a programme (£1.00 - cheap at half the price, so buy two) and see if you can spot even more spoofing throughout. I now know what a fire-place pilot is but any ideas what a dog wrangler is? Anyone?