Monday, 31 March 2014

Nottingham Theatre Royal

This is a fairly new play, written in 2005 by Morris Panych and is set below stairs in a restaurant that was once frequented by "new boy" dishwasher, Emmett, played by ex Emmerdale actor, Rik Makarem, originally from Chesterfield in Derbyshire.

The story is that Emmett had everything and then lost it all and had to downgrade to being a dishwasher in the realm of King of The Dishwashers, Dressler (David Essex), a man proud of his job and protective of the work seen by Emmett as "the pits". Completing the little trio of washers is aged Moss (Andrew Jarvis), a man that has slightly lost the plot but, as in most cases, provides the bulk of the laughter due to the meandering mental state of his mind. There are times that you almost feel guilty for laughing at the character because of this.

It's a story of class differences, ignorance in Moss and Dressler's image of Emmett's background, wanting to better themselves and workplace etiquette and standards. Sometimes bordering on the dark side but then pulled back to a lighter sense of humour and then steeped in sadness with the passing of Moss and the protectiveness that Dressler shows for Moss.

David Essex absolutely shines as bright as one of the plates that he takes pleasure in polishing, and comes across so natural in this role. I say this as I've seen David in a few roles over the years, all musical, and while music was his field, this non musical role for me has to be his best to date. He just seems to be in his own element playing a character that exudes such life experience as Dressler.

Rik is best known as Nikhil in Emmerdale and for the first five minutes this is who you see on stage, but this image is soon dismissed because, while there is a similarity in the class department between Nikhil and Emmett, Rik plays a blinder as the down on his luck posh lad. It's great to see comedy from Rik but looking at his CV, the theatre and the stage seems to be where he is most at home, but a spell on a prime time soap has done him no harm at all.

Moss is a wonderfully colourful character and Andrew Jarvis, almost unrecognisable under all of that make up and and additional facial hair really ages himself with this role of a man on his last legs. What a class actor!

Jared Garfield makes an appearance at the end as Emmett's replacement and latest knave in King Dressler's Kitchen.

it's a brave move because this is such a new play, by theatre standards, but that's what theatre is all about, getting new work to the stage. The bonus of getting David Essex and a cast of this quality to perform new stuff like this is only going to be a bonus in drawing in the audiences.

The set is functional and pays great attention to details and there's a really interesting way of closing each little section of the play; simple but so effective, and while the play is wordy, and very clever wordy, the only incidental music also does it's job in setting the atmosphere for the play.

Very funny, very entertaining, extremely clever and watchable and don't be afraid of trying something new, because you will not be disappointed.

"The Dishwashers" is on until Saturday 5 March 2014

Monday, 24 March 2014

Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 29 March 2014

OK Let's go straight for the jugular. This is probably one of the most innovative and funny plays that I've seen. Think Morecambe and Wise, John Cleese, Monty Python, The Young Ones, Bottom, Acorn Antiques and the old silent movies kind of slapstick and this will give you an idea of what to expect.

It's a play within a play and the  theatrical company in the play, Cornley Polytechnic Society are putting on one of their infamous plays entitled, "The Murder At Haversham Manor",and while they are supposed to be an amateur dramatics society, I've never seen any amateur dramatic company like this in real life, and that's where the comedy lies.

Doors that won't open, missed cues, dodgy sound effects, props that don't work, over acting and scenery faux pas are all in full effect here and escalate through the play to great comedy affect.

There are no "star" names here but all the actors are excellent, and just like Les Dawson's piano skills, many people don't realise that to play as awful as Les did, he actually had to be an accomplished pianist to create the comedy, and that's the same here. You have to be very very good to act as if you're the opposite!

The characters are wonderful; an Inspector of police who doubled in the play as the director; "Perkins" the put upon butler who had been in service for, was that 80 or 8 years, complete with talcum powder hair whitening and a penchant for reading certain words from his own personal cue cards.

The "murdered" Charles Haversham who made two or three appearances before the big reveal; Thomas Colleymore, brother of the murdered man's fiancee, Florence Colleymore, the closest thing you'll get to a female Rik Mayall in mannerisms and over the topness.

Cecil Haversham, brother of the sometimes deceased Charles, and the love interest (on the side of course) of Florence. Cecil also gets bumped off but looks an awful lot like the gardener who makes an appearance later on!

And then there are stand in's for characters who become indisposed , shall we say, by the Stage Manager, who gets a taste for all of this luvvie am dram stuff who doesn't want to give up her newly found penchant for audience adoration without, quite literally, a fight. And the lighting and sound operator who doubles for Florence and ends up bloodied, battered and snogged by Cecil!

So many hilarious moments which include the props, as well as the actions of the characters. It's the only play where at the end, the whole set needs rebuilding it's that physical.

The cast of Mischief Theatre, they're the theatre group who are the touring group presenting "The Play That Goes Wrong", are close to genius and I must applaud the timing of all the actors as well as the physical aspects of the comedy. Oh and make sure you buy a programme because in the interval you can spend the time reading up on the real actors of Mischeif with the thetare CV's of the actors of Cornley Polytechnic and about the characters they play in the play within this play!

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

PHANTOM OF THE OPERA University Production

Nottingham Arts Theatre until Saturday 22 March 2014

Tis the story of the theatre phantom who falls for the beautiful opera singer, Christine Daae, his love turns to obsession and holds the theatre staff to ransom until they do as he says so that he gets the girl, but because he loves her so much, he then lets her go to be with the one she really loves, Raoul. Yes it's the age old love triangle, Phantom falls in love, Phantom wins the girl, girl falls in love with non Phantom, and Phantom loses girl.

That's the story in a nutshell but a nutshell that earned Sir Lloyd-Webber a pretty packet and a few more hit songs under his belt. Memorable songs like "The Music Of The Night", "All I Ask Of You", "Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again", "Think Of Me" as well as the dramatic title song.

This is a wonderful production and the work that has gone into producing it really shows. From the scenery, special effects, the brilliantly creative lighting, the brilliant orchestra, and the sound, to the actors that pull it all together on stage, it's a joy to behold. Some of the singing was, in parts, a little pitchy but this was opening night so you can forgive a few first night jitters. I've seen professional actors pitchier than this in totally professional productions, and let's remember these are University students, not professional singers and actors.

"Phantom" is typical of Lloyd Webber's writing. The songs are complex and not at all easy to sing, although when sung well sound simplistic, which was what we heard at the Arts Theatre.

Our "Phantom" was played by Simon Kale who captivated the audience and held them in his hand, exuding fear and control but at the same time making you feel sorry and pity for the disfigurement he carried around with him, never knowing what love was until Christine came along. Simon comes from an operatic background; his father is also a trained opera singer so it's in the genes. He stood tall and demanded his audience's attention with his enigmatic stage presence.

Christine was played by Lizzie Jerjian, and what a voice she has, tender yet powerful, allowing the audience to believe that she really did have feelings for the Phantom, but all the time wanting Raoul. Lizzie was lovely to look at and lovely to listen to as well.

So many excellent voices and that goes for Andrew Bond who was Catherine's Mr Right, Raoul, perfect pitch and you can forget Cliff and Sarah Brightman's duet of "All I Ask Of You" when you hear Andrew and Lizzie sing this gorgeous ballad.

And every musical, whether it be opera or straight musical has it's comedy elements and "Phantom" is no different with Carlotta and Ubaldo, played subtly comedic by Bethany Lamb and Greg Link, who at the curtain call received almost as loud applause as the Phantom himself! Oh and they also had amazingly powerful voices to boot.

There's no weak link in this production and is as close to a professional show as you can get. Great entertainment, powerful voices, brilliant acting, suspense, comedy, come on what more can you ask for? And I feel that if whatever these students are studying for, if their chosen careers don't come off, I think that they could easy work treading the boards in musical theatre.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Theatre Royal until Saturday 15 March 2014

For those theatre goers expecting men in tights, tutus and feather headpieces, think again because Matthew Bourne strips away all misconceptions of what you envisage as "ballet" with the most moving and emotional piece of theatre I have ever seen on any stage. I will admit that "Swan Lake" did bring a tear to my eye and my heart beat much faster with the emotion packed ending that had the whole audience on their feet with the well deserved standing ovation.

This was my first proper ballet and what an introduction. At times it felt like I was the only person there, the action on stage was so hypnotising. The only tights worn were by the women, and for those who thought Matthew Bourne had a male only dance troupe, well you're wrong because about a third of the contemporary dance troupe (as opposed to ballet) are female.

Many say that "Swan Lake" is "homoerotic", well just remove the first part because I feel that erotic is as good a word as any to describe a lot of the action. Tchaikovsky's music is full of light and shade, tender and action packed, which is brought out amazingly by Bourne's work.

What I loved about the piece was the comedy that was infused within the piece and when you think that there is no scripted dialogue, all of the story is portrayed through dance, and what an amazing story, made so easy to follow. The dance and performance is continually updated, and to say that this only started off as a short term project back in 1995, it's still going stronger than ever today.

It's a big cast but the performances of The Prince (Simon Williams) and The Swan/The Stranger (Chris Trenfield) were just amazing. I've never been so emotionally affected by a performance as I was watching this show. The Queen, which is an amazing role for an older ballerina, was played with such joy by Madeline Brennan and the Girlfriend by Anjali Mehra is a great comedy vehicle for any actor.

An amazing set by set and costume designer, Lez Brotherston made the show a wonderful feast for the eyes. Wonderful make up and costumes complete the visuals.

If you've never thought of going to see a ballet, please let this be your initiation because if it can bring a tear to the eye of this big hairy bloke, then I'm sure it will do the same to you. Be prepared to laugh as well as become emotionally involved with the whole show, but especially the finale.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 8 February 2014

For those old enough to remember the miner's strikes of the 70's and 80's, this play will bring back some of the emotions that you may have felt, and I, as a miner's son felt a pang of patriotism to the cause, even though at the height was too young to really take in the hardship of the whole scene.

It was very easy to feel sympathy for the miners in the play with the loss of their livelihood hanging like a noose over them. The loss of, not only their job, but for some their homes, their families and their dignity. But music for these men ran through the core of their solidarity and that's what kept their spirits up and saved them from losing all hope in what must have seemed a hopeless world.

There was plenty of laughter but equally there was plenty of sorrow and heartache and emotions were like a pair of scales as one minute you were laughing but seconds later, having lightened the scene, there was tragedy. the fear of the diseases that sprung up from the coal dust, attempted suicide when Phil ( Andrew Dunn from "Dinnerladies"), felt that he couldn't lose anything else. After all his home had been taken from him, his wife and family had left him, his father, Danny (John McArdle best known from his "Brookside" days),was dying in hospital and his clown act for the kids was dying a death as well, took himself up to the coal face and tried to hang himself.

But through all of this, Danny held on to the hope of winning that final Brass Band competition, and that's what the band reformed to do, and they did.

The majority of the band onstage were the real thing, the Trent Brass, with a little bit of help from a few of the actors, including the "outsider" Gloria (Clara Darcy), who played a beautiful rendition of "Concerto D'Aranjuez" on the fugelhorn. Gloria, was also the love interest for young Andy ( James Robinson), who pleased the ladies in the audience by appearing in just his pants a couple of times, also worked in management at the pit. Even though she was on the side of the men, she was looked on as the outsider because of her job. It didn't stop her from losing hers though with the rest of the men.

Other notable performances by Luke Adamson ( Shane ), who played Phil's son and part time narrator, Gilly Tompkins (Vera), Helen Kay (Rita) and Rebecca Clay (Sandra), the wives who tried to keep it all together back at home, and on the picket lines.

A brilliant production which kicks off a two month tour from this week, and if the patriotic music like "Jerusalem", "Danny Boy" and "The Floral Dance" doesn't get you, then the Union Jack flag waving and the camaraderie will definitely bring a tear to the eye and a lump to the throat.

I've heard that it's almost a sell out so please get your tickets as soon as possible because this is one production you won't want to miss.

Monday, 3 March 2014

Lace Market Theatre until Saturday 8 March

I was discussing theatre last weekend with a friend and we both agreed, and I've said this in the past, that theatre should evoke some sort of reaction, whether it be good or bad, and Black Comedy does that.

Peter Shaffer's "Black Comedy" is one very funny play, nay a farce, but it takes a really good cast to bring out the comedy in any play, and that's exactly what we have here, a really good cast.

"Black Comedy" is a one act farce set in Brindsley Miller's apartment on a Sunday evening at 9:30. The play begins in complete darkness, why? because when the power supply goes, the main action is then seen in light and the actors can be seen stumbling around in the dark, unable to see each other, and that's where the frivolity begins.

Brindsley Miller, played by George Page-Bailey, is a young sculptor, and his debutante fiancée, Carol Melkett (Nicki Ubhi), have borrowed some very expensive antique items and furniture from his neighbour, Harold Gorringe (Sam Allison), who is away for the weekend, in an attempt to spruce up his normally slum-like apartment in order to impress a wealthy art collector, Georg Bamberger (Aris Alexandros Daoutis), who is coming to view his work, and Carol's father, Colonel Melkett (David Pain).

When the lights go out another neighbour, Miss Furnival (Bex Mason), who is afraid of the dark joins the crew, but home early from his holiday is Harold, who now adds to the cocktail because Brindsley now has to try and put back all of Harolds's precious furniture without anyone becoming aware of it and in the dark, with hilarious results.

Enter Brindsley's ex, or so he thought, Clea ( Charlie Osborne) to stir up even more trouble in the dark, initially without anyone being aware and finally there's confusion when the electrician is mistaken for the German arts expert, Bamberger, who has been invited to cast his expert eye over the Miller's sculptures. More comedy evolves when we learn that Bamberger is very hard of hearing and the electrician, Schuppanzigh (Chris Moseley) also German isn't.

And finally Bamberger arrives after Gorringe has discovered what has been going on and Miss Furnival, who never drinks has become paralytic with drink due to her being unable to read the labels on the bottles of booze and the whole secret about Clea and Miller has been disclosed.

The whole cast are brilliant and George, as Brindsley is a slapstick genius, very reminiscent of John Cleese, a perfect foil for the wonderfully upper class Carol, a role that I'm sure Nicki absolutely adores playing and a complete character contrast to her last role at the theatre in "The Regina Monologues".

There was a mid way round of applause for the wonderfully drunken scene by Bex as she exited being held up by another brilliantly over the top camp performance by Sam Allison as Harold.

If you like a good old laugh then The Lace Market Theatre is where you need to head to because this is just wonderful, but be quick because tickets really are selling fast and when word gets around how good this is, you may find that you've missed the boat.