Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 1 February 2014

We all know the song "Walking In The Air" taken from the film of the same name directed by Dianne Jackson and based on the book by Raymond Briggs, but seeing this production just brings everything to life.

"The Snowman" is pure magic, and although we may be just outside the Christmas period, the mood created by snowy opening set the precedent for the rest of the show, all the way to the snowy end of the performance.

The story is one of The Boy who builds a snowman who then comes to life and they have several adventures which include flying, meeting Santa Claus and overpowering the evil Jack Frost, but was it really all a dream?

There are some additions to the film version with the introduction of Jack Frost, but it's not detracted from the book or the film one iota. At times it reminded me of Beatrix Potter with the balletic prancing of the reindeer, penguins and woodland animals which also showcased the talents of choreographer Robert North, and told the tale beautifully through dance, especially as there was no script, but no script is needed.

Archie Durrant plays "The Boy", and I think he's in for a big and successful career in the theatre. Not only is he as cute as a button, he's likeable too! Archie is very confident and a natural performer and his varied dance training is brought to the fore throughout the whole time he was on stage, which was for the majority of the play.

This production by the Birmingham Repertory Theatre Company is essentially a ballet for all ages to enjoy, but do not let the word ballet put you off because the dancing and musicality is jaw droppingly enchanting and you'll find yourself being drawn further into the story with every step and pirouette.

It's a play you can take your five year old to and get as much enjoyment and wonderment as taking your ninety five year old to. It'll melt your heart as fast as the Snowman melted at the end and I guarantee that you'll leave the theatre with a warm fuzzy feeling.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Nottingham Theatre Royal until Sunday 19th January

This show is very similar to the Cirque de Soleil Michael Jackson Experience but with live singers performing the hits of Michael Jackson, The Jacksons and the Jackson 5 with separate dancers replicating the dance moves and routines to his hits.

There are some excellent digital backdrops, one of which has an enormous glitter ball for the Jacksons disco era. The lighting also enhances the sharpness of the dance routines and punctuate the rhythm of Jackson's amazingly foot tapping hits.

The show opens with a medley of Jackson 5 hits  and works it's way through the 70s disco of The Jacksons epic hits, paying tribute to all of Jackson's great solo albums, "Off The Wall", "Thriller", "Bad" and "Dangerous", blending in the big ballads like "Man In The Mirror", "I Just Can't Stop Loving You", "She's Out Of My Life" and "I'll Be There" with some of the best dance music from the last five decades and all time party hits like "Blame It On The Boogie", "Can You Feel It", "Rock With You", "Don't Stop Till You Get Enough", "Bille Jean" and of course "Thriller".

A lively group of backing dancers complement the different faces of Michael Jackson through the years and the routines that accompanied the hits making this one of the best "tribute" musical shows around today. Combine these ingredients with an excellent live band and this will be the closest you'll get to experiencing the real thing that was the Michael Jackson phenomena.

An absolute must for all fans of Jackson and great dance, soul, r 'n' b, or music in general which had me on my feet moving to the music, well I blame it on the boogie myself!

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

by Caryl Churchill
Lace Market Theatre until Saturday 18 January 2014.

For those expecting large cigars and speeches about fighting on the beaches, you'll be disappointed. Instead you can see two plays, "The Blue Kettle" and "This Is A Chair".

The Lace Market Theatre are relatively well known for producing new and different plays and these fall into both of these categories and may not be for everyone but is definitely thought provoking and will divide audiences, as it did tonight.

The storyline for "The Blue Kettle" is a man, Derek, who is meeting his mother for the first time after being given up for adoption when he was a baby, but when the second scene evolves, and he is meeting up with another mother, the confusion starts to creep in but we soon learn that Derek is pulling a scam, making believe to five mothers that they are all his mother. This is almost unravelled when Enid, Derek's girlfriend gets a little tipsy and blurts out his plan to one of the mothers, Is Derek's deceitful dalliances done and dusted? Well.........

So where does the Blue Kettle come into play? Well the odd word is replaced by either "Blue" or "kettle" until near the end there seems to be more "blues" and "kettles" and shortened versions of both peppering the script, which grew to be, not only confusing, but detracting from an interesting storyline. Maybe I was missing the point somewhere down the line but looking round at some of the other audience members I could see that they also seemed to be having the same problem of understanding why!

"This Is A Chair" was a short set of scenes which look at different aspects of current day to day occurrences that happen behind some suburban closed doors and explore them slightly differently. Again a very interesting concept which really got the old mind working quickly, mainly due to the quick succession of the scenes and the subject matter.

Both are thought provoking and that's what theatre should be all about. Whether the theatre is good or bad (in the eye of the viewer) as long as it can cause a reaction of some sort, then I feel that it's done it's job.

All of the actors, some better than others, I thought deserved a pat on the back for performing in the very close proximity of the upstairs studio. Brave indeed but also highlighted some slight timing issues that may have gone unnoticed if it had been performed on the stage downstairs.

Interesting and quirky but may be a little too off the wall for some.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

MEN OF THE WORLD by John Godber

Duchess Theatre, Long Eaton.
Performed by Magpie Drama until Saturday 11th January 2014

What better way to warm up your cold January evenings than with an evening of warmth and humour, with just a touch of melancholy, from one of our best loved playwrights, John Godber.

The one liners, observational humour and characters are typical Godber and the three actors from Magpie Drama Rachel Bates, Gary Lever and Howard Mackintosh bring to life about 18 characters between them. Meet The Beverley Sisters, The Marx Brothers, Mack and Mabel among the many elderly regular bus travellers, all with their many colourful tales to tell, and Dolly, the nightclub entertainer who performs the same act for the sixth year running...ah but is that a new joke tonight? The camp guest house owners and the 46 year old who still goes away on holiday with his mum, oh and then there's the one that dies en route.

Rachel plays Frank (don't ask -it'll only shock you) the only female bus driver of the three; Larry, played by Gary, the elder driver and Mario Lanza fanatic and Stick, played by Howard the one that moans about all of his passengers and thinks that they should all be shot and wants to do the Spanish run with all of the totty.

With just three actors on stage, bare bones scenery and about 18 suitcases to manoeuvre around the stage, this play really relies on the wonderfully funny script and the talents of the actors to paint pictures in your mind, and they succeed in doing just that. It's quite amazing how when the flat caps and the spectacles go on, or the headscarves, Rachel, Mark and Howard not only become different people, they look and sound so different as well.

The characterizations are excellent, and how the actors can remember all of those words, and which character they are and who says what is a tribute to all three. A mention to the sound and lighting technician, Simon Birchall for his part in creating the sectioned areas of the play, giving each scene a different feel, and also for the well executed sound effects is also due.

This is only the second play for the newly formed Magpie Drama, formed by Rachel and her husband Dan, who's also a fine actor himself, and with this standard, and inspired choice of plays, I predict many more full houses to come and a successful future for Magpie.

And what makes it all more of a great night out is that tickets are from 5 -7 quid. Absolute bargain if you ask me!