Wednesday, 15 November 2017

“The Ghost Train” by Beeston Players
Round Hill School, Beeston.
A young man accidentally strands six passengers at a small Cornish wayside station. Despite the pyschic stationmaster's weird stories of a ghost train, they decide to stay the night in the waiting room. Soon they regret this decision as ghostly and not so ghostly apparitions materialise,but one of the stranded guests isn't quite who they seem!
Written by Arnold Ridley, who was better known as his role as Private Godfrey in the original BBC's sit com "Dad's Army". he was though a successful playwright with this play being his most famous.
Alistair Hudson plays Saul Hodgkin, the station master who reveals the ghostly tales of the spectral train and the station's annual visitations who bring on fateful consequences at the Cornish railway. Alistair has great projection and a real stage presence.
Ian Greatorex and Sarah Nicholson play husband and wife Richard & Elsie Winthrop who have a few marital issues to start with.
Rob Jackson, who just has to appear on stage to make me smile, plays it serious this time around as newly wed Charles Murdock. His wife, Peggy Murdock is played by Sarah Murray.
Miss Bourne, one of my favourite characters in this play, is played with attitude, which melts into drunkenness by Barbara Barton .
Gary Frost plays Teddie Deakin, the young man who is to blame for the stranded group. Gary brings the comedy element to this play with a lovely gentle hooray Henry style of humour, which was always going to be annoying to the rest of the guests.
Nicola Adkin plays Julia Price who seems to be obsessed with the Ghost Train and being there in time for the reincarnations. Why is she so adamant that she needs to be there against the wishes of brother Herbert Price (Tom Jenkins) and Dr John Sterling (Paul Langston).
With the help of one of the guests and policemen Smith and Jackson, played by Steve Rowlinson and Samuel Williams, respectively, we get to the bottom of the spooky spectres and terrifying trains.... or do they?
Great sound effects (Nina Tunnicliff) and lighting (Jill Griffiths and Fiona Maxwell) and a solid set design (Sam Williams and Steve Rowlinson).
Classic 1920's costumes, paired with appropriate hair styling and make up (Maxine Taylor) created that feel for the era.
Produced by Sue Frost and Directed by Debbie Blake. They kept an eerie feel to this show and I'll admit, even though I had seen this play before, I'd forgotten the bit at the end, which made me jump and gave me shivers.
it wasn't perfect but I think part of that may be first night nerves, and now they have got this one under their collective belts, I don't doubt that any hiccups had will be smoothed out for the rest of the run.
“The Ghost Train” can be seen at Round Hill School in Beeston until Saturday 18 November 2017 at 2.30pm as there’s no evening performance on the Saturday.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

“Cool Hand Luke” by Fourblokes Theatre Company
Guildhall Theatre, Derby.
This production is a mix of the film version, starring Paul Newman, and the Donn Pearce book, and I must admit, I’ve never read the book nor seen the film , so this stage adaptation by Emma Reeves is a new one for me.
I didn't know what to expect but I was pleasantly surprised.
Beneath a scorching Florida sun, Boss Godfrey watches the chain gang and keeps his eye on Cool Hand Luke - war hero, trouble-maker, and inspiration to his fellow inmates - just the kind of man the Boss wants to crush. He'll always get back up after a beating. He'll eat fifty eggs in an hour to win a bet. A man who won't conform no matter what the cost.
Working backwards in time we're teased into the "Cool Hand Luke" story, but without giving anything away. The story is based on Pearce's own experiences of being in jail and his own Luke, which is what makes this story such an impelling one.
The whole cast interacted well with each other and the camaraderie of the chain gang was completely believable and admirable in their brotherhood.
The captain and the "bosses" distanced themselves well from the band of brothers creating a "them and us" separation.
Playing the iconic Paul Newman role is Josh Hayes. he may not have the blue eyes (I don't think) but he certainly had the cheek and charisma for the role.
Ross Lowe (Tattoo), Adam Guest (Society Red), Ian Jones (Dragline), Jason Parker (Curly), Josh C Sly ("Alibi" Gibson), Andrew Bould(Babalugats/Matthew), Kim Harris (Carr). Jack Readyhoof (Rabbit) and Kheenan Jones (Sailor) were, as usual excellent in the characterisation of the roles and the accents were varied, which would be what you'd expect from a chain gang collected from the many states.As previously said, great camaraderie, which works well because most of the actors have worked with each other before and that camaraderie works well offstage as well as on.
Mik Horvath (Boss Kean), Heath Parkin (Boss Godfrey), Pip Price (Boss Paul) and Steve Dunning (Captain) ruled over the men with a level of sadistic pleasure and Heath, even though he has no words to say managed to create that mysterious as well as dangerous atmosphere. Never trust a man who hides behind his shades!
Phil Stanley (John the Preacher) has a voice made for gospel and soul and along with Verna Bayliss (Martha), and Sara Bolger-Evans (Mary) the Salvation Army ladies, the trio created that Southern Gospel belt sound which added so much to the atmosphere of the play. Emily Marshall-Sims is Musical Director.
Verna also doubled as Arletta, Luke's mother, and Sara doubled as Lucille, the woman who got the men in the chain gang all hot and bothered by sunbathing. in the film Lucille was washing cars.
The make-up, by Natasha Lawer, is very realistic as Luke is covered in bruises and blood from his boxing match with Dragline and from when he is caught after one of his escapes.
Talking of fights, this has to be one of the most realistically co-ordinated fight sections in the boxing match that I have seen on stage. I found myself wincing as the blows were delivered and seemingly making contact, They also sounded like they were making contact which is sometimes not thought out when working out scenes like this. The timing was excellent from both actors and the fight choreography by Kheenan Jones was excellent.
The other big scene is the boiled egg eating scene which again was done wonderfully. I tried to see where those eggs were going because surely Josh wasn't really going to eat all 50 eggs was he? Well I didn't see what happened to the eggs so if there was a sleight of hand, you fooled me!
The set was very good and moved around by the cast themselves, making sure that the only people on the stage were the cast. And even in the interval when they came on to change the set, they all kept in character, always aware that they were on show and people will be watching, so not breaking the character continued from Act One to Act Two.
Barry Taylor has directed a massive hit here and the idea to make part of the "digging" scenes in slow motion to give the impression of the long working day was a clever piece of theatre.
Lighting Designer is Stephen Greatorex and the Sound Design is by Barry Taylor and Harry Greatorex. i loved the music played throughout the play, ranging from Hank Williams and Ernest Tubb to Gene Autrey, some classic Country & Western tracks from the 1940's.
There's so much in this play which makes it a resounding success which is why you need to pop along to the Guildhall Theatre in Derby to take in this classic. When everything comes together as good as it does, this is the result you get, and there's absolutely no failure in communicating what a good production this is.
“Cool Hand Luke” is at Derby’s Guildhall Theatre until Saturday 18 November 2017. It's eggcellent!

Monday, 13 November 2017

“The Widowing Of Mrs Holroyd” by D.H. Lawrence
Lace Market Theatre.
The tale of Lizzie Holroyd set in Brinsley, a Midlands mining community, a century ago is brutal and gritty. This was Lawrence’s second play, written in 1910 but only published in 1914.
The play's action is set in the kitchen of a miner’s cottage. Elizabeth Holroyd is an educated woman with refined sensibilities, struggling to make a good home for her two children, Minnie and Jack, in the grime and poverty of a Nottinghamshire mining town. Poverty is not the only problem she faces, for her husband, a miner, is a brutish man, prone to fighting, drinking and spending his evenings in the pub.
Blackmore, a mine electrician, recognises Mrs Holroyd as a kindred spirit, and asks her to leave her husband for him, promising to make a new life for her and her children in faraway Spain.

One evening later, Mr Holroyd once again fails to return home after work. Believing that he has gone to the pub as usual, Mrs Holroyd begins to take Blackmore’s proposal more seriously. However, she then learns that there has been an accident at the mine.
Clare Choubey (Mrs Holdroyd) really comes into her own in Act two as she shows a sensitive side as she is tending to her husband. A complete contrast to Act One where the situation is very different.
Phillip Burn (Holroyd), actually looks very much like Lawrence with his facial hair. I can't believe it's been six years since I saw him in "Me Mam Sez" and this is his "comeback" performance. I thought that he was a little restrained but this is opening night.
Malcolm Todd (Blackmore) absolutely nailed the regional accent and he delivered an emotion packed characterisation of the lovelorn electrician.
Hazel Salisbury (Grandmother), although only in the play in the second part, she made an impression and loved the way she warmed herself on the open fire; something that took me back to seeing my mother in the mornings warming herself.
Tamzin Grayson (Clara) was a delight to watch as one half of the pair of "hussies". Fun and fancy free performance with a natural fluidity.
Claudia Langley-Mills (Laura) was her partner in crime as the other hussie.
Henry Vervoorts (Jack) makes his debut with the Lace Market Theatre and a very confident debut this was as well. A very nice natural feel about the character and he handled the accent really well.
Georgia Feghali (Minnie) again convincing as the Holrroyd daughter. She bought the fun child like feel to her character.
Stephen Herring (Manager), Aaron Connelly (Rigley) and
Sam Howitt and Malcolm Edwards play the miners.who delivered the news to Mrs Holroyd.
Directed by David Dunford, he managed to bring the Eastwood/Brinsley feel of the early 1900s mining community back to life on stage.
The set was designed by Peter Hillier and Gill Newman and what a lovely set this was. the fire in the grate may not have been real but made you feel warm just looking at it, and I loved the appropriate props that went with the piece. It's the little things that make the difference. i just wish that the set had a physical door as it seemed strange to see all the characters entering and exiting through an invisible portal.
Lighting Design is by Phillip Anthony and the Sound Design is by Darren Coxon. Really getting the atmosphere going with the bleakness of the miner's small and dark kitchen, when not lit by candles. The brass band sound creating a "Hovis" feel, and strangely enough, quite a seasonal sound. Brass bands do that to me!
Working with the actors to get the dialect right is voice and dialect coach Janice White and every one of these actors just about cracked this regional accent. Accents can be the most difficult thing to crack, and especially when it's a fairly regional one. I could tell the work that's gone into this area of the play and it really created that special feel to Lawrence's work.
At under two hours with an interval, you won't have time to look at your watch, not that you'll have any need to because the play really captures the local feel of the mining community. A talented bunch of actors and a decent story, albeit not being a happy ending, makes this one play really worth taking time out to see.
“The Widowing Of Mrs Holroyd” is at the Lace Market Theatre until Saturday 18 November 2017

Saturday, 11 November 2017

“The Effect” by Lucy Prebble
Nottingham New Theatre
“The Effect” is a clinical romance. Two young volunteers, Tristan and Connie, agree to take part in a clinical drug trial. Succumbing to the gravitational pull of attraction and love, however, Tristan and Connie manage to throw the trial off-course, much to the frustration of the clinicians involved.But the volunteers aren't the only ones under the microscope!
This is the sort of play that raises more questions than answers, especially in today’s world of modern medicine and what is, or isn’t available and possible in the world of medical and clinical trials.
The play digs deeply into the mysteries of the mind, and also examines the nature of depressive illness. Are anti-depressant drugs any more than a placebo, the play asks, and is being depressed just a natural part of the human condition rather than an illness?
Lois Baglin (Connie Hall) and Luke Slater (Tristan Frey) play the volunteers while Kate Maguire (Dr Lorna James) and Louis Djalili (Dr Toby Sealey) are the ones in charge of the clinical experiments.
All four were excellent with an amazing amount of passion in the characters, but Kate for me was so composed to start with, clinical in her role and delivery but when the human side of the character started to break through, well, and what happened after was a bit of a surprise!
Watching these four actors was like being a fly on the wall because the naturalistic way these four not only interact, but deliver the lines, doesn't come across as being part of a play. It's as if we weren't there. The fluidity of the delivery was a very comfortable watch, even if at times the subject matter wasn't.
Directed by Felicity Chilver and Produced by Rosie Hudson this pair make a great team. Making sure that the tension was forever bubbling under is an art, and this production team, as well as the actors got it spot on for me.

The Lighting Designer for this play is Sam Osbourne and Sound Designer is Andrew Houghton. Both aspects of theatre that is vital to the whole atmosphere and feel and these two made sure that we felt uneasy with the soundscape while highlighting sections with the lighting, ever pointing us to where we should be looking.
The Set itself was clinical white with two low beds and a smattering of medical props, while two screens guided us with what was happening medication wise. The Technical Director for this was Ben Woodford. It also ensured that we were aware of when the play had ended.
Stage manager is Amy Crighton
The play has been running since Wednesday 8 November until this evening Saturday 11 November 2017.

Friday, 10 November 2017

“Around The World In 80 Days”
Derby Theatre.
A The New Vic Theatre production in association with The Royal Exchange Theatre.
The story of Phileas Fogg who makes a bet that he can travel around the world in 80 days. I’d heard and read so many great things about this production, adapted by Laura Eason, that I just had to see it, and I was not disappointed.
Theresa Heskins’ production has a cast of eight playing over 125 characters in this whirlwind of a play which includes no less than six trains, five boats, four fights, three dances, two circus acts and an elephant! What happened to the partridge in a pear tree and the kitchen sink?
I read this book when I was a kid and was completely enthralled by the pictures the words could paint in your mind. Now seeing it on stage and in front of your eyes, that same child-like wonderment came to the fore once more. There’s bandit battling, Princess rescuing, winter storms but will Fogg find love at the end and will he win his bet?
I have to say that this is one of the best plays I've seen this year for several reasons.
The story draws in everyone of any age. It has smatterings of panto with the bad guy versus the good guys, the timing for this production is incredible with the sound to action timing and the reaction to the other actors is just incredibly tight. It's like watching a film with the sound effects dubbed in afterwards, but this is live theatre which makes this do impressive. James Earls-Davis, the Sound Designer and associate Sound Designer, Alex Day have done an incredible job.
The Lighting Designer, Alexandra Stafford is also to be exulted for the split second timing with the lights, creating an exciting feast for the eyes.
The fight sequences are magical, and again with the timing bring a comic book feel to the show, Borrowing from "The Matrix" for some of its' slow mo acting effects, it again gave you the sense of being on a movie set special effect department, and you have to keep reminding yourself that this is live action, not celluloid wizadry.
Andrew Pollard (Fogg), Michael Hugo (Passpartout), Joey Parsad (Miss Singh), Kirsten Foster (Mrs Aouda), Dennis Herdman (Inspector Fix), Pushpinder Chani ( Mr Naidu),
Nyron Levy (Captain Speedy) and Matthew Ganley (Colonel Proctor) were all incredible and so full of energy.
Michael Hugo though was just amazingly entertaining, as they all were, and as a baddie, Dennis Herdman rightfully received his share of booing and hissing, reminding us that panto season was just around the corner.
Lis Evans designed the set, and what a clever set design this was. Each scene was transformed manually from the last scene and the boat scenes which had the actors, and props swaying was becoming so realistic, I found myself swaying along with them in my seat. This was also a massive
success for the Stage Management team.
James Atherton is the composer and Musical Director for this piece of theatre and his music took us to all the parts of the world that Fogg passed through, giving us an aural taste of the region.
One mustn't forget the Movement Director, Beverley Norris-Edmunds because without Beverley's work the often jelly like acrobatic and gymnastic movements would not have been as excellent as they were.
This show will appeal to all ages and is at Derby Theatre until Sunday 12 November 2017, and I would go and see this wonderful show over and over and over again. What a wonderful theatrical aperitif for the Christmas period

Thursday, 9 November 2017

“Rent” by Kristian Thomas Company
Springfield Hall, Sandiacre.
The musical is loosely based on the Puccini opera “La Boheme”. It tells the story of a group of impoverished young artists struggling to survive and create a life in New York City's East Village in the thriving days of Bohemian Alphabet City, under the shadow of HIV/AIDS.
Kristian Thomas Company are one of the most local prolific theatre companies around at the moment, with a very high standard of productivity, and this production does not fall below the standards I’ve seen in the past and have come to expect.
They boast a fluid group of cast members which means that they can have the pick of their members to match the varied roles in the varied productions they perform.
The musical, for those who have never seen it before, feature some very charismatic roles.
Mimi the erotic dancer and Roger’s girlfriend, both have HIV and Mark, who also acts as the narrator of the play as well as being Roger’s flat mate are the main characters but the support roles are just as fascinating character wise.
Maureen, a performance artist and ex-girlfriend of Mark’s, and Joanne, the woman that Maureen left Mark for, are lovers and are fiery, as highlighted in their duet “The Tango Maureen”.
And then there’s Angel, the drag queen who has AIDS and is Tom Collins’ lover.
Benny, the yuppie landlord who has really fell on his feet who used to be where Mark and Roger once was.
Everything about this musical was spot on, apart from the sound in places. that's not anyone's fault as the venue has a high ceiling where some of the sounds can be lost. Nothing you can do about that, and having been to a few music gigs there, you recognise that this is something that will always be a minor problem. That aside the sound was as perfect as you're going to get thanks to the talented Harry Greatorex.
The harmonies were gorgeous and the four piece band, which sounded more like an orchestra created a beautiful backing to this talented bunch of vocalists. Tom Bond as musical director really brought the best out of the foursome.Dave Adey on keyboards, Tom on drums, Jeff Widdowson on bass and Rob Upton on guitar.
The musical score is ballsy and has some memorable songs, especially the wonderful “Seasons Of Love”, plus “I’ll Cover You”, “I Should Tell You”, the seductive “Light My Candle”, “Take Me Or Leave Me”, “Your Eyes” and of course the title track, “Rent”.
The setting was different with the action being played out on a catwalk stage so that the audience were on three sides, making you feel like you were part of the ensemble. A setting that worked so well for this story.
The whole staging was also a lot sexier than any production I'd seen, but not in a sleazy way, which it could have done taking into account that some of the scenes were in meant to have been set in exotic dance clubs.
Let's talk choreography!
Kristian Cunningham, who also produced this show, created some new and exciting choreography here. The section with the row of chairs was wonderful and looked great, and I imagine more complicated than we give credit for. Everything about the innovative dance sections was exciting to watch and I sat there with my mouth open in awe. The energy put in by every one took your breath away.
Director Alysha Gomes kept this "rock opera" style musical incredibly fresh, and although the musical is a bit longer than some, time didn't stand still as the pace left no time to even glance at a watch. It was like Alysha had covered the musical in varnish it appeared fresh and exciting, and I've seen it several times.
The lighting (Stephen Greatorex) was really impressive and set the mood for every part of the musical perfectly.
What a cast!
Benito Preite (Mark) put in an emotional performance, playing his character with great eagerness and zest, all the while keeping his audience in the loop with what was happening in the timeline.
Tom Simpson (Roger) has a wonderful rock voice and again is charismatic to watch on stage.
Beth Denham (Mimi) turned up the sex appeal with her double entendre performance of "Light My Candle" as well s bringing a tear to the eye in Act Two.
Andrew Buxton (Tom Collins) is another actor with a great voice, full of grit and soul, and again in Act Two, his acting brought about many a moist eye I noticed.
Jack Draper (Benny) turned bully boy yuppie in "Rent" but showed a more compassionate side in the second act. Another solid performance from Jack, who seems to change his acting style from one show to the next, showing what a versatile actor he is.
The roles of Maureen and Joanne are played by Shannon O'Donnell and Hannah Eve Brent and Georgie Bond and Anna Cousins for different performances. All four actors are so talented and have such wonderfully powerful voices that you will love whichever pairing you get to see.
Lucas Young (Angel) is one of those actors who can do everything. Not only does he show off some impressive gymnastics but some eye watering dance moves as Angel. He plays percussion and there's no way I'm not going to mention just how good he looks in those red boots. The man has dancers legs and he showcases them in this role.
A wonderful ensemble and supporting cast made up of newcomers and faces we've seen and loved in other shows over the years, and which we always look forward to seeing.
A shame not more people turned out for this particular piece of theatre because they would have experienced a real treat, but there's still time.
“Rent” is on at Springfield Hall until Saturday 11 November 2017

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

“The Cherry Orchard” by Anton Chekhov
Nottingham Playhouse
Written shortly before the Russian Revolution, The Cherry Orchard is one of the greatest of all of Chekhov's plays and regarded as one of the classics of 20th Century theatre.
The play concerns an aristocratic Russian landowner, Ranevskaya, who returns to her family estate, which includes a large, popular cherry orchard, just before it is auctioned to pay the mortgage. Unresponsive to offers to save the estate, she allows its sale to the son of a former serf; the family leaves to the sound of the cherry orchard being cut down.
This is a newer version of the old classic, reimagined by Simon Stephens and directed by Giles Croft.
This is Giles’ final production, and his first Chekhov play, as the artistic director at the Nottingham Playhouse.It's an apt choice as the play is all about saying goodbye to the past and moving on to
pastures new. I know that Giles will, like most of the characters in the play, will be excited about what lies ahead, but look back fondly on what they had.
Set design is by Tim Meacock and as soon as you walk into the auditorium, the marvellous set just hits you right between the eyes. it reminded me a little of the TV set for the house in "The Durrells". Rustic but with great character but in need of tender loving care.
Lighting is designed by Steph Bartle and the Sound design by Adam McCready who also composed the original music for this play.
Choreographed by Adele Parry and the stylish costumes by Jane Temple.
The cast presented themselves as a family group surrounded by friends and that is how it came across. By doing this there didn't seem to be anyone who stuck out more than the next actor. This made for an easy watch and a most believable set of relationships.
That said I am now going to contradict myself because I was drawn towards the characterisation of Firs, the manservant played by Kenneth Alan-Taylor. You felt a certain empathy with Firs having to work into his old age but knowing that this was his life and if it all came to an end, then so would he.
Sara Stewart (Madame Lyubov Ranevskaya), John Elkington (Alexander Lopakhin ), Claire Storey (Charlotte Ivanovna), Jonathan Oliver (Boris Simeonov-Pishchik ), Robin Kingsland (Leonid Gayev), Jamie de Courcey (Peter Trofimov ), Patrick Osborne Goll (Lev the Station Master and Traveller) were all excellent, making you buy into their roles and characters.
(Simeon Yepikhodov ), Sasha Frost (Dushanbe), Graham Butler (Yasha ), Babirye Bukilwa (Varya), Evlyne Oyedokun (Anya ) and Rob
An ensemble of dancers also appeared at the end who had only been visible from a certain angle from the auditorium created the atmosphere of a party just off stage.
The play is worthy of it's "classic" label and with such an able and talented cast, this night at the theatre was an absolute joy. The story isn't locked into the era of its' origin, but has relevance in today's society.
Chekhov's "The Cherry Orchard" is at the Nottingham Playhouse until Saturday 18 November 2017.