Thursday, 24 May 2018

“Confusions” by Alan Ayckbourn
Ravenshead Theatre Group
Ravenshead Village Hall
Originally a five piece play, Ravenshead Theatre group have reduced this to four to make the four pieces more relevant.
"Mother Figure", "Drinking Companion", "Between Mouthfuls" and "Gosforth's Fete". These four make a smooth transition from one play to the next but the fifth in the sequence, which is the one that has been omitted was “A Talk In The Park”, which covers the aftermath of the previous four plays.
I’m not going to give any spoilers about any of these plays because they are cleverly segued by Ayckbourn and you need to follow the stories from play one through to play four to get the full effect and thread to be able to iron out any confusions that may be given if the plays are taken out of context.
What I will say though is that is classic Ayckbourn, which means that there are many laughs - not titters, not giggles but proper laughs and that is down, not just to the script but to the actors who brought the words and physicality of the play alive.
Catherine Buckley was wonderful as the "mother" in the first play and the lovely gentle Welsh Milly in the final play who has a secret that is revealed in the most public of revelations.
Rob Hurst appears in three of the four plays and I couldn't possibly choose a favourite of his characters, just like the other actors
Sarah Tryner was an absolute star in all three of her pieces and her facial expressions were an absolute joy, as were her character portrayals. It is her role as the waitress in "Between Mouthfuls" which for me showed off her comedy skills to the max.
Terry Cox plays a wonderful drunk in "Drinking Companions" and a wonderful comedy vicar in "Gosforth's Fete".
Mandy Buckley features in two of the four and for me her piece de resistance is as Polly in "Between Mouthfuls" , a role that's different to Bernice in "Drinking Companions", which I also loved.
Julie Cox, again in two of the four plays injects plenty of glamour into both roles but the comedy elements really shows in her second role as Mrs Pearce in "Gosforth's Fete".
Last but not least is Adam Hague who featured most in the final of the four plays.
Much as I would love to tell you more about the roles and the plays, you really do have to see these plays and the wonderfully comical characters without knowing too much about them before hand.
Directed by Dennis Baggarley and "Fete" by Andy Cook, they. along with the actors made sure that the comedy was clear and uncomplicated and an easy but enjoyable watch.
Another fine production by all involved.
“Confusions” is being performed at Ravenshead Village Hall until Saturday 26 May 2018.

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

“Jekyll & Hyde – The Musical” by Beeston Musical theatre Group
The Duchess Theatre, Long Eaton.
The epic struggle between good and evil oozes to life on stage in this epic musical phenomenon. Based on the classic story by Robert Louis Stevenson and featuring a thrilling score from multi-Grammy- and Tony-nominated Frank Wildhorn and double-Oscar- and Grammy-winning Leslie Bricusse.
An evocative tale of two men – one, a doctor, passionate and romantic; the other, a terrifying madman – and two women – one, beautiful and trusting; the other, beautiful and trusting only herself– both women in love with the same man and both unaware of his dark secret.
A devoted man of science, Dr. Henry Jekyll is driven to find a chemical breakthrough that can solve some of mankind's most challenging medical dilemmas. Rebuffed by the powers that be, he decides to make himself the subject of his own
experimental treatments, accidentally unleashing his inner demons along with the man that the world would come to know as Mr. Hyde.
"Jekyll & Hyde" is often overshadowed by shows like "Phantom Of The Opera" but after seeing this production, it is very much on par, if not better.
That's the easy bit; now let's see how concise I can get this next bit! I was going to start off with "OMG" but I think "OMFG" is more accurate.
Jekyll and Hyde are played by George Mercer, and anyone having seen George perform before, like myself will know that he has the perfectly pitched voice for this very challenging vocal piece of theatre. He has the drama in his delivery and the subtle facial movements are just as eerie as the full blown contortions of the transformation from Jekyll to the evil Mr Hyde.
He simply lowers his voice to an eerie growl when in Hyde persona and his eyes take on an almost manic appearance. When Hyde enters the stage, a seemingly colder atmosphere takes over.
Lily Taylor-Ward, again perfectly cast as Lucy, the lady of the night Jekyll falls for. This role though is a role that has stretched Lily and I know that she has not played anything like this in her past theatrical roles. I can, hand on heart, state that I have never seen Lily act the way she did tonight!
Like many of the roles in this superb musical, it asks a lot from the actor and they push the performer to stretch themselves, and that is exactly what the three main roles request of the talented cast.
Her voice is perfectly matched for George and her rendition of "Someone Like You" sends the hairs on your body into overdrive. Chillingly beautiful, as is the duet "In His Eyes" which Lily sings with Claire.
Playing Emma, Jekyll's fiancee, is Claire Rybicki. Once again a perfect casting and her gorgeous clear vocals ring out. There's a lot of passion in Claire's performance especially in the final scenes of this piece of theatre.
Spider, the woman in charge of the bordello where Lucy works is played by Abby Riddell.Not the nicest of characters but what a performance and another very distinctive vocal style.
This musical is a bit of a change from the last few musicals as in the past we've seen BMTG perform comedy. This week though we get to see many regulars acting very differently and they show a completely different side of their talents.
Rob CharlesChris Bryan - who also did an amazing job of the fight choreography, David HurtDavid ArtissJohn Hand and Andy Bulmer, I'm so used to seeing them in comedy roles proved that they could pull out very credible serious performances
There are also a lot of new faces in this show who slotted in perfectly into this musically very complex work.John Henson, Andy Wallace and Garreth Frank, it was a pleasure to have time for an all too brief chat after the show. Welcome to the BMTG family.
The female ensemble section were also packed with many BMTG favourites. Cheryl CammMariko JonesKatie BirdLucy CastleCarrie-Anne CornerJane CotteeClaire Farrand-PrestonSandy C LaneMina Machin - who did an amazing job with the incredible costumes in the show, Rachel Maddison, Cheryl Mills, Jackie Rawling, Hollie Smith and Laura Smith all helped to create a wonderful stage presence and a wonderful choral feel to many of the musical numbers.
With such a large cast/ensemble, the choreography needs to be tight as well as exciting and Jodie Cresdee succeeded in smashing this part of the production right out of the ball park.
Musically directed by Sam Griffiths and Andrea Chapman so we know the music is going to be of the highest quality, and it was. No fear of drowning these amazing singers with the power they all have, just a wonderfully mixed sound - thanks to Harry Greatorex - who was also responsible for the sound effects which had the audience wincing vocally.
An incredible lighting design which added so much to the tension and atmosphere of the show, designed and engineered by Dave Martin and Matthew Cook. Stunning!
Directed by Beth Yearsley, this show is so incredibly fast moving and has such a large cast and ensemble, Beth showed that she does not shy away from a challenge, and that challenge paid off big time.
The set design was also very clever. Simple stage within a stage which meant that we were forced to focus on a smaller area and concentrate on the actors and their performance, making the intensity of the show uppermost. A very clinical approach which was apt for a doctor and his laboratory setting.
If I didn't know this wonderful group of talented people, and this was the first time that I had seen one of BMTG's shows, you'd think that this was a professional touring show the quality is so high.
The vocals from everyone were out of this world, my hair follicles had a proper workout throughout this show. The acting was passionate, the music, lights, sound, orchestra, stage management, choreography were of a level that I have often seen on big touring shows, which puts BMTG on a par with the big gun professionals.
I had many superlatives going through my mind to describe everything about this practically perfect musical and production, but I relented from using them as you know I don't like to go too over the top.
“Jekyll & Hyde” is at The Duchess Theatre until Saturday 26 May 2018 with a special Charity Night on Thursday 24 May 2018

Thursday, 17 May 2018

“NSFW” by Lucy Kirkwood
Nottingham New Theatre
The play's title refers to a website acronym meaning "not safe for work" and applies to soft-porn material you wouldn't want to be caught browsing.
The first half of the play is set in the offices of a lad mag called Doghouse that delights in publishing blown-up shots of female breasts: the crisis comes when the editor, Aidan, discovers that a well-meaning junior, Sam, has sanctioned the use of shots of a 14-year-old girl. The girl's age comes as a bit of a surprise to everyone, especially Sam
The play doesn’t just focus on the grubby end of the men's mag market: but goes on to show Miranda, editor of a glossy women's mag called Electra, interviewing the now-destitute Sam and imbuing him with her own corrupt values.
I always find it quite rude to look at one's watch while in the theatre, but I had to check mine because this 90 minute play just flew by and the end came all too soon for me.
Yet another new play to me, which is one thing that the New Theatre are so very good at, choosing little known plays which are powerful and relative pieces of theatre which larger theatre groups shy away from. I am so pleased that NNT are not backwards at coming forward where their choice of plays are concerned.
The cast are perfectly chosen and they all stand out as incredibly talented young actors. There was absolutely nothing I could find to fault this wonderfully written play.
Rupert (Ronan Sullivan) is one of those typical "lads" you could see in any pub, and he just happens to have the perfect job for a character like Rupert, working on a lads mag. His crude banter with Charlotte (Amelia Bell) is cringe worthy but very funny. This is Amelia's debut for NNT but the comfortable feeling she emits in this role makes her a joy, as well as an easy, watch.
The new boy on the Doghouse block, Sam is played by Charlie Basley. Charlie brings the "wet behind the ears" Sam to life with the main part of the role showing deep embarrassment.
Aidan, the boss of the magazine, is played very powerfully by Zack Collins. This is a powerhouse performance by Zack especially in his scene with the father of the 14 year old girl's father, Mr Bradshaw.
I was really blown away by every performer but Ethan McCrystal who played Mr Bradshaw had me leaning forward in my seat with a wonderfully passionate performance. You felt the anger in his tirade against the magazine boss, and what made this even more overpowering for me was this was Ethan's first production with NNT. I don't know if he has acted in the past but this for me showed a very passionate actor who can realistically make you feel the emotions that his character was experiencing.
Completing this brilliant cast was another wonderful character role, Miranda, played by Ellen Dennis. A brilliant comic charcater who we discover to be a harder cookie than first seen. You can see the powerful business woman beneath that friendly and fun exterior.
As I said,the acting and the roles were completely faultless.
Bringing this very entertaining play to the stage is credit to Director Nat Henderson and Producer Georgina Pittman. Perfectly paced and where the scene changes occurred, they were swiftly executed by the cast to flickering lights and to the sound of come classic female 80's pop classics.
Lighting design is by Joe Strickland and Sound design by Yasmine Dankwah backed by an equally talented technical crew.
Why this beautifully crafted piece of writing has not been performed more I don't know. The cast have many pages of script each but the fluidity of the script and timing of this cast make this another classy as well as classic NNT production.
“NSFW” is at the Nottingham New Theatre until Saturday 19 May 2018

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

“Fame” by Greasepaint Productions
Loughborough Town Hall
I’m sure that everyone knows the story of this musical but here goes…..
A group of young people, from vastly different backgrounds, have just been accepted for a five year course at the prestigious New York High School of Performing Arts. They soon find out that it is not all just singing, dancing and fun. It entails a lot of hard work, frustration and occasional disappointment.
The story looks at a number of students, their private and academic lives and their relationships. This is not just a bunch of musical pieces joined together by a flimsy story. There is love and drama, joy and sadness all played out with great feeling. They take on subjects such as homosexuality, prostitution, drug addiction and young death. They do not skirt around the issues but confront them head on.
For a reviewer who has seen this musical several times now, what is most refreshing is spotting the new members of Greasepaint, and there are several here. Backing the newer members up are some very accomplished regulars to the Loughborough stages. And I am sure that the opening is a little different as well.
Yvette Healey, one of the new faces, plays Carmen with a great deal of Latin sassiness, in contrast to the lovelorn Serena, played by Gemma Landers. Both ladies have great voices.
Serena is in love with Nick, played by Jonny Painting. There are highlights for all the main characters and for Jonny it’s one of my favourite songs from the musical “I Want To Make Magic”
One of my favourite young actors from the area is Joe Harrison who is perfectly cast as Tyrone. I’ve always highlighted Joe’s technical and artistic dancing abilities and these are spotlighted, along with his confident and strong vocals as Tyrone. Both are no better highlighted in the track “Dancing On The Sidewalk”. "Fame" is all about the dancing and Joe has several styles of dance that he performs with ease and style, and just watch the shaping of his hands.
Another of my favourites is Chris Wilson who never fails to bring a smile to any audience’s face and as Joe, he plays to his strengths as a wonderful comedy character actor. Hear the sauce in his version of “Can’t Keep It Down” and watch out for his choreoghraphy in Act Two!
Hannah Underwood plays Mabel, the ever hungry student who has a lovely gospelly solo spot in "Mabel's Prayer"
Harriet North plays Iris, the ballet dancer who is paired with Tyrone. there is something really peaceful and relaxing watching ballet, and that's the feeling you get watching Harriet dance.
Josh Hill plays Schlomo, the student who is living up to his violin playing father's fame, and nice to see a local actor show his musical skills as he plays violin and keyboards on stage. So many times I've seen obvious miming with instruments so this is really refreshing and an eye opener to Josh's talents.
Ollie Lewin plays Goodie, the trumpeter of the music student trio, and Ollie gets to play to his strengths in singing and his obvious comic talents as well as some very energetic dancing.
Emily Canham plays Lambchop, the drumming third of the music students, and again playing her drums on stage, a nice surprise.
Anna Rowlands as Miss Bell the dance teacher and Katherine Pledger as Miss Sherman the English teacher clash over Tyrone's studying which results in a wonderful duet between the pair. Katherine also gets to belt out another one of my favourite songs from this show "These Are My Children"
Tania Smith is the drama teacher Mrs Myers and completing the faculty staff id Alan Clarke as the music teacher Mr Sheinkopf.
Choreography is in the very capable hands of Jeanette Patrick-Cooper who has done a great job on this one, especially when you see how many different styles of dance are featured in "Fame". It does help though having a great ensemble of very capable dancers who I know have worked their socks off on this show.
Musical Director for this show is James Stevens and like Jeanette, the music genres are as varied to match the dances
There are some great songs in this musical, "Let's Play A Love Scene". the latin tinged "There She Goes", the big numbers for me "Bring On Tomorrow" and of course the title track, sung at the end complete with a big yellow New York taxi.
There were a few wobbly notes in some of the songs where some of the singers didn't quite hit the higher notes, but these are just very minor notings on my part
"Fame" is a big show with a big cast, big dance numbers, big songs and big characters so it's only right that such a show has two big Directors in James Nelson and Gareth Wynne, who makes his debut as a Director after spending so many years being a Musical Director and actor.
Wonderful colourful lighting design (Kevin Cutts) and a clear sound design (Rob Temperton) and some lovely costumes.
The energy in this show is so infectious no one seems to show a bead of sweat or even look out of breath, and they never miss a beat even when dancing and singing at the same time. A truly professional performance with a cast of very talented all rounders whose names will live forever within local theatre.
“Fame” is at Loughborough Town Hall until Saturday 19 May 2018 but tickets may now be limited due to the popularity of this theatre group.

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

“Legally Blonde”
Nottingham Theatre Royal
Legally Blonde is the well-known story of sorority president Elle Woods, as she crosses the country on a mission to find love at Harvard Law School. After discovering that she can use law for the greater good, she uses her new found skills to defy the odds and prove that pink really can save the day.
The X Factor’s 2009 finalist Lucie Jones plays Elle Woods and I think I'm in love with her. Proving that there is so much more to this singer than just a great voice, she shows what a talented stage actress she is. There are little facial expressions that she gives that make Elle's character so natural, and Lucie could possibly be the best Elle that I've seen. Such a well rounded performance which is also great fun to watch. There's also a mention for Simon Cowell shoe horned into the script!
Hairdresser and Beautician, Paulette Bonafonte, is played by Rita Simons, best known for her role as Roxy Mitchell in Eastenders. I think I am also in love with Paulette. She gives a gutsy performance which you just can't help but love. And what a wonderfully raspy soul edge to her vocals.
Another soap star plays Professor Callaghan. Bill Ward who was last seen falling from a motorway bridge in Emmerdale, and previously being beaten to death by Tracy Barlow in Coronation Street, at least survives this role.
Soap stars often get pigeon holed but when you see actors who are known for being in weekly TV dramas like Eastenders, Emmerdale and Coronation Street on stage, you really see another side of them. Or maybe we just see another layer of their talents that we've not yet discovered. If Bill hasn't played Billy Flynn in "Chicago", he ought to after seeing him in this role.
Bill Ward can sing and he can also bust some moves out as well, and you find yourself having a new kind of admiration for soap actors like Rita and Bill.
The rest of the mains are absolutely superb. David Barrett (Emmett Forrest), Liam Doyle (Warner Huntingdon III),Laura Harrison (Vivienne) and Ben Harlow (Kyle B O' Doyle) also go to prove that this could be the best professional cast I've seen do "Blonde".
And then there's the ensemble actors who add more layers to this gorgeous musical.
A wonderfully crisp orchestra who complemented the onstage vocals without once swamping them. Directed and choreographed by Anthony Williams, this is a show that is pretty dance heavy, for all the cast members and ensemble.
This show has so much energy in it that even the skipping ropes lit up from the sheer power and skipping skills of the cast
The set reminded me of a cartoon page with its' off kilter and slanted scenery, only added to the comic style element.
But stealing most of the hearts tonight were Bruiser and Rufus, the two canine stars.
Oh My God how I love this musical which is crammed full of catchy tunes, great characters, a fun script, that may not be quite PC - but who cares? It's bright, breezy, bouncy, camp and pink! What more could you ask for?
A total standing ovation showed that this is a much loved piece of theatre that will continue top bring great pleasure to theatre audiences for decades to come.
“Legally Blonde” is at the Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 19 May 2018. You’ll be tickled pink if you manage to bend and snap up a ticket for this fun, frothy, feel good musical

Monday, 14 May 2018

“Vaginal Discharge” by Florence Bell
Nottingham New Theatre
Often the title of a new play gives a bit of an incite into what the play is about; erm… well…OK, it's all about women's issues. Things that us blokes know of but really know nothing about.... basically because we're not women!
Flippant I know but, like the male character, King,the only male character in this play shows, we blokes are pretty ignorant about what happens to a woman's body, and what they endure.
The four, all female cast set out to educate the male majority audience tonight, and I found myself being educated in an entertaining way, not unlike Eve Ensler's ground breaking "Vagina Monologues". You really do leave the theatre a little wiser than when you went in.
We start out watching a follow up to a TV interview about wash powder where Catherine actually said the "V - D" word on prime time TV. From then on we go through several scenes with Catherine and her family including their two daughters, one just starting her periods, highlighting the censorship issues in and out of the home.
Laura Wolczyk (King), Eleanor Rickenbach (Catherine), Rosiella Sutherland (Martha) and Beth Summerfield (Asha) presented and educational and entertaining piece of theatre that could only have been written by a woman and performed by women.
The vivid descriptions of the consistency on the blood flow is something that maybe men shouldn't be privy to, mainly because we're a squeamish lot when it comes to stuff like this. We're OK watching gory films where limbs are ripped off and zombies eat brains from the skull but describe a perfectly "natural" female body function as these women did - and i can only speak for myself here - I was feeling just a little in need of air and smelling salts!
If anything, this play explains what a woman goes through and her feelings about what happens to her, and her body during this time, and while we men like to think we understand, I don't think we really appreciate the affects, so thanks for entertaining and more importantly, educating this bloke
Florence Bell is the writer and Director, assisted by Skylar Turnbull Hurd, and the piece was produced by Francis Simmons
Darcey Graham is the Lighting Director with the Sound Design by Miguel Barrulas.
“ Vaginal Discharge” is at the Nottingham New Theatre until Tuesday 15 May 2018. Don't be bloody minded and go with the flow and get yourself educated as well as entertained.

Thursday, 10 May 2018

“Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency”
Nottingham New Theatre.
I'm not sure how to describe this play, or more to the point, I'm not sure what words describe what I've seen. Don't get me wrong, this is a good thing, but this play is so different to anything that I've seen and is so off the wall, but is also so idiotically entertaining and zany. Look let's start with what the play is about.......
When Richard MacDuff'’s boss Gordon Way is shockingly murdered he is thrust into the bizarre and fast-paced world of Holistic Detective, Dirk Gently – his old room-mate from university. Dirk takes it upon himself to help Richard by finding the murderer using his unique detective techniques.
What Richard doesn’t realise is that accepting Dirk’s service will lead to the uncovering of a long-kept secret of Cambridge’s resident Professor of Chronology, Reg, and an attempt to help an alien from the beginning of time. I think that clarifies what this play is all about!
Beth Mullen (Dirk Gently) is so good in this play. How would I describe Beth and her character? Well, just think of the most outrageous, outlandish, foppish version of Dr Who and that may come close to Gently.
This whole cast must have had so much fun, I don't see how they got to getting this on to the stage in the time they did as they must have spent so much time laughing at the silliness. Echoes of Monty Python and The Young Ones come to mind for the utmost Off the wall humour. As I said, this is the craziest show I've seen since "Saucy Jack & The Space Vixens".
Joe Strickland (Reg), Daniel McVey (Richard MacDuff), Callum Walker(Gordon Way), Margaux Margaux Valarch√© (Susan Way),
Eric Crouch (Michael Wenton-Weakes), Isabelle Cadwallader (Sgt Gilks), Chloe Schlitter (Janice Pearce), Dom Bitten (Perkins), Jamie Drew (Albert Ross/Marvin Androyd), Sally Nesbitt (Sarah Androyd/Housekeeper) and Jake Gelernter (Watkin) are the brilliant cast who deliver the laughs and crazy story throughout the 140 minutes.
There's a great deal of technical work in this play as well and Ben Woodfordis the man behind this with the operators for this work by Adam Frankland, Rohanna Brown, Hannah Burne, Zoe Smith and Nathan Penney. David Taylor was the Projection Designer, which gave another wonderful layer to this piece of theatre.
Nathan Penney also did an amazing job with the lighting with Rohanna Brown in charge of the sound design.
The set was cleverly designed to cover every scene and scenario in this play with just the introduction of a few extra items to create car scenes etc.
With this large cast and the speed of some of the scenes you need capable stage managers and Laura WolczykMaggie Dorling, Gemma Walton, Tom ProffittEmily Wong and Darcey Graham made sure everything ran smoothly.
Someone else who not only must have had an amazing amount of fun, but also must have had a few headaches with this enormous task was Director Arthur Mckechnie, and Producer Jess Donn, but wow, what a job they did. Obviously Arthur and Jess don't like to take the easy options!
And just before I sign off, I must mention the wonderfully eye catching poster and programme design for this particular show by Marsya Hazanan,
This is one play that you do need to experience because it fits a lot in and you will get a lot of enjoyment from this crazy, zany but clever play, which even has a musical number shoe-horned into it.
“Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency” is at the Nottingham New Theatre until Saturday 12 May 2018.