Wednesday, 30 July 2014

THE AGE OF CONSENT presented by Doris Day-Release Productions
Nottingham Lace Market Theatre.

Written by Peter Morris, this has nothing to do with the age of consent but of us being in an age of giving consent, but it will all become apparent if you go along and see it.

There are two characters who deliver two monologues which intertwine throughout the play.Timmy, who is due to be released back into a world that he is no longer familiar with after being in a correctional facility for the last nine years. The other is Stephanie, a pushy stage mother who will do anything to get her six year daughter into show business. Both characters are dangerous to an extent but while there are similarities between both, the play also shows a very great difference between the two.

The play which caused uproar and controversy when it was first performed back in 2001 at the Edinburgh Festival, just after the release of Jamie Bulger's killers, may have lost some of it's controversy, but has definitely not lost its' ability to split an audience and provoke discussion. I noticed a few audience members at the end of tonight's performance who may have been too shocked to applaud. Maybe they didn't enjoy what they saw or maybe they disagreed with the content, who knows, whatever the reason this play sparked conversation and reaction which is how theatre should be!

Gordon Cullen played Timmy with great emotion and really brought out the human side of the child killer, expressing regret and a realisation of the crime he committed. I found myself feeling sorry for Timmy, not for what he had done but for the fear of not being treated as a normal person in a world that had changed greatly from the world he previously knew. While there is no condoning Timmy's actions, you do grow to understand that Timmy, who is due to be released, is not the same Timmy who went in to the correctional facility.

Stephanie, portrayed by Sophie Tilley, on the other hand was the character I felt was the more dangerous of the two. As Stephanie's monologues flow you get to see  where the danger started to emerge, but oblivious to the character who really did believe that she was doing the best for her six year old daughter. While there is no mention of what we think may have occurred, the monologue plants those horrific seeds in your mind when you start to spot the signs of Raquel, the daughter's behaviour.

Both actors delivered a harrowing, at times uncomfortable but thought provoking 90 minutes of excellent theatre, sensitively directed by Neil Duckmanton.

"The Age Of Consent" is at the Lace Market Theatre until Friday 1 August 2014

Monday, 28 July 2014

THE GHOST TRAIN at Nottingham Theatre Royal

As part of the Colin McIntyre Classic Thriller Season, this is the first of four plays in this year's season and it's great to see them back at the Nottingham Theatre Royal again.

"The Ghost Train" written by Arnold Ridley, and first performed back in 1925, is the story of the mysterious ghostly train which, when it appears, brings sure death to all who lay eyes on it. The story, as told by Saul Hodgkin (Adrian Lloyd-James), the station  master at Fal Vale Station,tells of how years ago there was a train crash and the driver still comes back to haunt anybody who happens to be present at the station at midnight, and tonight is the night the train is due to roll by.

It also just happens to be the night that a group of travellers happen to be stranded at the station after Teddie Deacon pulls the emergency cord after he loses his hat on the train. Is it just coincidence or was there some other reason why it happens to be this very night that the mixed group of travellers become stranded at the haunted station? And where does the mysterious Julia Price, in her strange costume, and her two companions fit in to the whole proceedings?

Being a regular "Thriller season" attendee, I know that the quality of these thrillers are of the highest and the cast always put on a great show. There's a lot of comedy courtesy of Andrew Ryan who plays Teddie Deacon, the reason they have all ended up at the station in the middle of the night. The remainder of the cast, in line with Andrew. all ham it up in this 1920's thriller and this is what we have come to expect from them, and what makes their plays such an absolute joy to see.

The set, sound and lighting design all add to create a wonderfully eerie atmosphere, so a pat on the back to Geoff Gilder, Dave Gilbrook and Michael Donoghue respectively for their input, because it's not just down to the actors you know!

When you think that all of the actors involved in performing the four plays in this year's season, excel in the art of repertory theatre, i.e. performing one play while rehearsing the following week's play at the same time. this only adds to the awe you have for them and shows how hard working they all are. Let's face it, it's difficult enough to rehearse and perform one play without having four plays in succession to rehearse and perform in the same amount of weeks.

If you like a really super thriller with a good dollop of spiffing comedy, with a few bits that will make you jump in your seats, then "The Ghost Train" is one play you do not want to miss.

"The Ghost Train" is steaming in at the Theatre Royal until it's departure on Saturday 2 August 2014

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Chilwell School, Nottinghamshire.

Marvellous Productions was only founded in 2013 and you may think that calling your production company "Marvellous" may be a bit like blowing your own trumpet but the production company really lives up to it's name.

Their mission statement is " fresh new talent, fresh new productions" and again this is delivered, although the talent may not be so new because I've known some of them for a couple of years now and they always deliver, and tonight was no different.

"Spelling Bee" is a competition in which contestants are asked to spell a broad selection of words, usually with a varying degree of difficulty. The contestants in this musical play are all characters with their own little idiosyncrasies, and all start off wanting to be the 25th Annual Putnam county Spelling Bee winner, but for some this aim changes throughout the play.

In this play with music, as opposed to a full blown musical, there are six actual contenders with three others made up of voluntary members from the audience, who  one by one are dismissed from their roles when they get the spellings wrong.

The six characters are Chip Tolentino (Kayrakise Evans), a boy scout who has trouble with his spelling when he takes his mind off the job in hand, so to speak,

Leaf Coneybear (Rob Charles), Leaf is like an over excited puppy who discovers that he is smarter than he thought,with a manic way of spelling out his requested spellings. A role that I'm sure Rob took to like a fish to water.

Logainne Schwartzandgrubenntere (Keli Wain), a modern politically aware girl who has two overbearing fathers and a lisp.

Marcy Park (Abby Riddell) who speaks six languages and in the play gets a visit from someone she wasn't expecting,

Olive Ostrovsky ( Sophie Kish) who develops a bit of a soft spot for one of her fellow spelling bee contestants and finally William Barfee (Chris Vaughan), the clever one with a strange way of spelling.

All the characters in the play are very strong and there are three others who complete the cast. Douglas Panch (Daniel Potts) is a brilliantly funny character with some very funny lines but is meant to be one of the more serious roles as the spelling bee judge (work that one out). If Daniel wants an alternative career he could double as a Daniel Radcliffe lookalike!

Mitch Mahoney is "The Official Comfort Counsellor". An ex-convict, Mitch is performing his community service with the Bee, and hands out juice boxes to losing students and played by another familiar theatrical regular Rob Holsman.

And finally, Rona Perretti, a former Putnam County Spelling Bee Champion herself, and returning moderator. This role is played by the lovely Cat Tuckey and what you really  notice about Cat is her gorgeous singing voice.

But I think the most nervous person involved was director George Lamb, as this was his baby. George has several years experience performing on local stages and his direction of "Spelling Bee" was spot on. A generous director who is not afraid to let his actors self develop their characters to make them even funnier. And this is a very VERY funny play. Funnier than I had expected and I knew this would be funny just by knowing the calibre of actors involved and their portfolio of past work.

Some nice lighting effects used to highlight particular moments throughout the play and a simple piano accompaniment by Joel Hall ensured you heard all of the comedic musical lyrics.

All in all, if you fancy a really good chuckle of an evening, you could do so much worse than go out and spend a tenner and support Marvellous Productions marvellous production.

"The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" is at Chilwell School until Saturday 26 July 2014

Monday, 21 July 2014

Nottingham Lace Market Theatre

Written by Jez Butterworth, this is definitely a play of two halves, the second half noticeably longer than the first. I heard a couple of people saying that it could have been shorter, but where, and what do you cut, and how would that affect the flow of the story I ask.

"Jerusalem" is the story of Johnny "Rooster" Byron, a gypsy who lives in a run down caravan in Rooster's Wood and the council's attempts to evict him from his home so that they can bulldoze the place to build more housing. It's also the story really of Johnny and his "friends" who hang with him, "Ginger", Lee, Davey, the girls and the local landlord, Wesley, and the lifestyle they share with "Rooster"

In the first half we find out all about "Rooster" and the camp site friends and is a much jollier affair all round, but come part two, the play takes on a darker mood and several veiled themes are hinted at. By doing that, it gets your mind working and allows your imagination to take over the possible history of Rooster. It may have been all innocent, then again.....

"Rooster" was played marvellously by Andy Taylor, introducing a slightly softer side in the scenes with his son, Marky, played throughout the week by the two young actors Jamie Luft and Peter Daly. Apart from the softer side, Andy drew out the storyteller in Rooster, most of those stories being of the tall variety, but very entertaining stories none the less. You have to admire Rooster in his dogged fight against the authorities to hold on to what he considers to be his.

Some excellent supporting roles from Damian Frendo as Lee, Chris Reed as the accordion playing Davey, Francesca Lawson as "Pea", Hannah Lily as Tanya and Tom Orton as "Ginger" the part time DJ. I hate to say I have favourites in the cast as, especially in this production, everyone was so entertaining but I really did enjoy the comedy of Tom Orton's "Ginger".

Other supporting roles which were just as enjoyable as the others came from Clare Choubey and Gordon Parsons as the council workers Ms Fawcett and Mr Parsons and  another wonderfully comic performance by Richard Fife as The Professor. With John Parker as the bully Troy, Hugh Jenkins as Wesley and Tamzin Grayson as Rooster's wife/ex partner/ mother of Marky, Dawn.

You will love the set complete with caravan and woodland surroundings, this has to be the best scenery I've seen on The Lace Market stage so a great big pat on the back for set designer Mark James.Great props made the scenes believable and a constant sound effect loop of the distant Wessex County Fair as part of the play's St George's Day Pageant also helped create a reality for the time period and event, thanks to Gareth Morris.

I always find that the Lace Market Theatre also have the knack of getting those regional accents just right so a nod to whoever the voice coach was for this particular Wessex based play.

Brilliantly directed by Roger Newman, this is another entertaining play in what is becoming a longer line of entertaining plays from the beaten track and not so well known writers, and again, one really worth seeing for the humour as well as the intense scenes later on in the second part.

"Jerusalem" is at the Lace Market Theatre until Saturday 26 July.

Friday, 18 July 2014

PUNK ROCK by Magpie Drama
Duchess Theatre, Long Eaton

Written by Simon Stephens, this is one hell of a powerful play with a very dramatic ending, which I won't give away if you haven't seen it. Just a shame that the play isn't running longer than the three days that it is being performed at Long Eaton.

The play is set In the library of a grammar school, Seven sixth-formers are preparing for their mock-A Levels and nearing the end of their school lives. There are various sub-plots detailing the various love lives or triangles that emerge through the play and the various characters' personal issues which rear their heads. Dealing with bullying, peer pressure, loss and love among other things, and as you'd expect with a group of teenage characters the language is fruity, to say the least, but is well within the context of the play.

Magpie Drama seem to excel in character driven plays and this is no different with seven extremely different characters to play with. Lily (Jessica Bridge) is the new girl in school and is the catalyst for the explosive ending when she becomes the object of William's affections. William is played by Matthew Biddulph and must be the most challenging role, as an actor, that he has played but boy does he pull off this character with manic conviction.

Bennett is the bully boy who you really do grow to hate with his sadistic mental and physical abuse of the other sixth formers, but again the twist here is spine chilling. Bennett is played by Adam Richmond, who I've been advised is absolutely nothing like the character of Bennett, thank God!

Cissy, played by Rebekah Fearn, is Bennett's girlfriend but that doesn't mean that she is omitted from his bullying.

Nicholas is the "jock" of the piece, a handsome lad, the kind us less than good looking schoolkids envied like mad, who became the boyfriend of new girl Lily, much to the anger of William.Nicholas is played by Jack Eccles.

Tanya is the archetypal school girl who has a crush on the teacher and dreams of bearing her crush's children, and again a bullet in the bully gun for Bennett to fire at her.

And then there is Chadwick Meade, the school swot, the clever one who is always going to be the butt of every bully's jokes. he is on the receiving end of Bennett's mental and physical abuse, degraded by Bennett at every opportunity, but the worm turns and he discovers an inner strength with a powerful speech of his own later in the play. William Rogers plays Chadwick and it's wonderful to note the details that Will puts into Chadwick's character, the little facial expressions as well as the reactions to Bennett's bully tactics. A character piece full of character and as just a juicy role for an actor to play as Bennett's character.

Lucy Francis is a small character in the play, the sister of the bully Bennett, and then the other minor role, but just as important to the plot, is Dr Richard Harvey played by one of the busiest actors, director, singer, film maker in Nottingham and Derbyshire currently, Adam Guest. there must be a clone of Adam somewhere to fit in all of his many projects, either that or he really is Superman.

This is a very clever play which has been directed brilliantly by Rachel Bates and if you look carefully at the play at the end you will see some clever touches like the submissive characters are always pushed to the back and the strong characters always end up near the front. Art reflecting life?

Another great success for a very hard working drama group. You can catch the last performance of "Punk Rock" on Saturday night at the Duchess Theatre in Long Eaton at 7.30. This really is  going to be one of those modern classics.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

OH WHAT A LOVELY WAR by Lakeside/New Street Theatre

"Oh What A Lovely War". More like "Oh What A Brilliant Production". This was fast paced, very sharp, humorous, tight and localised with the facts shared throughout the show being Nottinghamshire based, which shows what a lot of hard work and research has gone into this clever production.

No Pierrot faces and set in an adventure playground makes the production feel more modern than it's 1963 creation and as soon as you walk into the theatre you're drawn to, and into the set by the actors who immediately win you over by interacting with the audience as they take their seats. This also has the added effect of not making a big opening as you feel like you've just stumbled on a meeting place, therefore easing you into the show without you realising.

The show tells the story of the First World War trench action with comedy and parody and more of a music hall feel about it. Just right for the style of songs like the opener "Row Row Row", "Goodbyee", "Roses Of Picardy" and "They Were Only Playing Leapfrog" among many other lyrical lovelies.

There were some beautiful accapella harmonies which really suited the feel of the show, particularly in  stand out songs like "Picardy" and the emotive "Keep The Home Fires Burning" reminding us that in the trenches the soldiers kept their spirits up by singing,and this style would have been the only way to produce these songs at that time.

Comedy is paramount because in the original Joan Littlewood version, her intention was to have us laugh at the atrocities of war, and this was the exact result that was produced.

The cast worked so well as a group and the nice thing about productions like this is that there are no "featured" actors or characters as everyone plays an equal part, several in fact, and they all pull together to create a success.

Regular Nottingham theatre goers will recognise cast members Joe Heap, Judie Matthews, Cibele Ponces Alvarenga, Gomolemo Nyakale (who has grown so much as an actor since I saw him last as Britney Spears in Bilborough College's production of "We Will Rock You"), Katherine Morrant and Damien Ebanks. As I said though, this is a company driven show and the whole cast are like a well oiled machine. Oh and guess what, they actually look like they are enjoying what they are doing which spreads like osmosis. Their enjoyment is contagious.

There are also several New Street debuts in this show, which I really hope will become a great launch pad for the obvious talent on show.

And the cast don't just stick to the stage area either and are all over the place which keeps your attention honed as to where the actors will pop up next.

I've come to expect clever lighting and crystal clear sound at Lakeside and, yet again I was not let down. I knew to expect a great show with Martin Berry directing the show,and yet again I was not disappointed. Martin said that the technical side of the show was epic but everything was just so smooth and flowing that he made this show an absolute pleasure to watch. It's a fairly long show but time flew by, again a tribute to all involved in the show when this is the case.

Martin has managed to trim some unwanted parts from the original play and has created a show that doesn't seem like a collection of scenes spliced together, but a rolling storyline which. for me. made this such an easy and enjoyable show to take in and enjoy.

"Oh What A Lovely war" is at Lakeside's Djanogly Theatre until Saturday 26 July 2014, but I'd suggest you get those tickets fast, while you still have a chance.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

PHANTOM OF THE OPERA Youth Group production
Nottingham Arts Theatre.

Back for another run at the Nottingham Arts Theatre after their March 2014 success, this time round it's even better than in March, and I raved about this show back then, in fact if truth be told, this show has got even better with, I'm sure, even more pyrotechnics.A wealth of talent on all levels this week at the Arts Theatre.

We all know the classic Andrew Lloyd-Webber 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.

Our "Phantom" was played by Simon Kale, and although his background is steeped in opera and musical theatre, he could double as a hypnotist as he had every eye on him when on stage, demanding our attention.

Christine was played by Elizabeth Jerjian and what a gorgeous voice she owns.

Jack Harrison played Christine's lover, Raoul, another excellent singing voice who compliments Elizabeth's and a match for Simon's in the end section where all three sing together.

I absolutely adored the comedy of Carlotta and Ubaldo, the arrogant "stars" of the opera within the show, played by Bethany Lamb and Greg Link beautifully, and both owners of wonderful lungs.

Another classy lead was played by Abby Hughes as Madame Giry, the bossy dance teacher who has an insight into the Phantom.

This production just oozed class in fact from the wonderful choreography to the evocative lighting to the multi faceted set and stage to the wonderful orchestra which swirled around the theatre as easily as the dry ice on the stage. I actually had to take a peek into the pit in the interval because the sound was just so good that i had to check if there was an orchestra there just because the standard was that good.

Although this is an amateur production the show is as professional as anything you will see in the West End. Great actors, the music of Lloyd Webber and a show that will have you smiling as well as making the hairs on your neck stand to attention. Could this be the Ultimate musical? It's a close second to my all time favourite of "Blood Brothers".

Please catch "The Phantom" at the Nottingham Arts Theatre, this week until Saturday 12 July 2014. I promise you will not regret it

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

THE FULL MONTY by Osker Productions
Nottingham Playhouse

BRILLIANT, FUNNY, AMAZINGLY GOOD, A MUST SEE...need I continue with the review? Well let me flesh this out a bit more, if you'll pardon the pun! First off you really have got to take your hat off to the five leads for having the guts to take on these roles with such gusto and humour.

The story is of a group of men who all lose their jobs and in order to get some money quick, all for different reasons, Jerry ( Nick Smith ) comes up with the idea of getting together a group of the ex workers to perform a strip show after seeing the reaction of the women at a local venue to a professional strip show.

He ropes in best friend Dave ( Andy McPhee ), eventually, and with Harold (Shaun Hanrahan) Malcolm
( Andrew Booth ), the ex security guard, they hold auditions for another pair of male strippers. They complete the group with "Horse" (Armani Watt) and Ethan ( Graeme Crawford ), "Hot Metal" are eventually formed for their one night only performance.

There are several sub plots which highlight the relationships between the men and their partners and especially the relationship with Jerry and his son, Nathan ( Jack Hadfield ) which is pivotal to the whole idea to start with.

This really is a great show but if you're expecting a copy of the film, then don't. There is no "You Can Leave Your Hat On" or "Hot Stuff" or "You Sexy Thing". Not that this matters as the music is really good with some clever lyrics plus a catchy end song in "Let It Go", but also listen out for "Big Ass Rock" for comedy and also a couple of emotional ballads in "You Rule My World" and "Breeze Off The River".

There's not one bad performance here and the male leads have a great relationship with each other, but I suppose there has to be lots of trust when you're stripping off in front of each other and everyone else, as well as a lot of laughs as well...for all the right reasons.

Some very strong female roles and voices in Amanda Dixon-Smith, Grace Gallagher, Morven Harrison, Adele Lee, Emma Shute, Kate Williams and Lorna Kirkland are just as important to the plot as the male leads.

There's several well known local names as supporting cast members as well, Stephen Godward and Tadek Chmiel being just two familiar faces.

The music is played live by a really good and powerful band under the musical direction of Stephen Williams and a smash hit as well for the producer, John Osborne.

I really can't urge you to support this show enough and I hope that the auditorium for the rest of the week will be as packed as it was tonight. I must admit, and with no surprise, with the majority being of the female variety. It's fun, it's funny, it's touching, it's heart warming and it's well worth going to see for all the above reasons.

"The Full Monty" is on at the Nottingham Playhouse until Sunday 13 July 2014.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

STAND IN THE SPOTLIGHT by Spotlight Theatre Group
Nottingham Arts Theatre.

The annual showcase of talent from the Spotlight Theatre Group was everything I'd come to expect with a few extra surprises thrown in. Combining the showcase of talent with their annual awards gave an opportunity to show people why they were worthy of the awards that were presented.

The show was a mix of modern songs ( "Girl On Fire", "Make A Move On Me", "All Of Me") and songs from the musicals and original sketches. Mixing classic musicals like "Sweet Charity" (If They Could See Me Now) with newer classics "Les Miserables" (At The End Of The Day) and "Frozen" (Do You Want To Build A Snowman and Let it Go) with the not so well known musical like "Newsies" (Seize The Day), "Spring Awakening" (Song Of Purple Summer) and "Matilda" (School Song).

Kicking off with "One Night Only" from Dream Girls was an apt choice and was sung so well by Grace Hodgett-Young, all the way through to the rousing  "Brand New Day" from The Wiz, you couldn't really find fault with the choices or the presentation.

A couple of original sketches, the first written by Liam Hall and harking back to the 50s style detective movie, the second set in a gym,which I'm sure would make a great warm up for any drama group. Both very comical and showing another side of the theatre group.

Some really inspired choreography by Jessica Royce which showed the male dancers skills to be as adept as the females, whether it be ballet or contemporary.

Amanda highlighted in her speech about the lighting and this was something that I noticed. The use of intelligent lighting really did make a difference, creating such a professional lightshow, the kind you may see at somewhere like the Nottingham theatre Royal.

So many highlights for me as well. I've been a fan of James Murray since I saw him take the lead in "13" a couple of years back and he showed his versatility in both dance, drama and singing, appearing in many of the separate showcases.Eva Sheppard was the same and another worthy recipient of an award tonight.

It was also nice to see some of the elder members, along with director, Amanda Hall, performing "It Sucks To Be Me" from one of my favourite musicals, "Avenue Q"

One section which was a last minute addition, just to provide a bit more time for costume changes, was the song "Corner Of the Sky" from the musical "Pippin", sung with perfection by Reece Carson. Reece, it was told afterwards, already has an agent and is on his way to London, and you can see why, because he has a great voice and stage presence. You can just picture him on the London stages.

All you have to do is look at the faces of the younger members who took part to see what a great boost they all get from hearing that applause after their performance, and by them seeing the elder ones receiving awards for the hard work, must trruly spur them on to want to emulate their seniors.

So many behind the scenes people also complete the jigsaw, too many for me to mention, but like a jigsaw, if one piece happened to be missing, the picture would not be as complete and every single person deserves a massive pat on the back because this show really did showcase the talent that we have in young people and in local theatre, and I for one can have nothing but praise for every single on of you.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Nottingham Lace Market Theatre

Private Peaceful is a modern novel written for older children by Michael Morpurgo. It is about a soldier called Thomas "Tommo" Peaceful, who is looking back on his life from his childhood to his present day from the trenches of World War I in Belgium.

It's a very powerful and emotive story, made all the more intense by the intimacy of the upstairs studio setting. It also tells of the horrors of war,and how the women and loved ones back home are to some extent shielded from the reality of what was happening on the front line.

Martin Pikett is a talented story teller, painting pictures in your head of what he went through as Private "Tommo" Peaceful, alongside his elder brother Private Charlie Peaceful, played by George Page-Bailey, who we saw not too long ago at the Lace Market Theatre in "Rutherford & Son".

A very able cast portray several variable characters each, all of them with their own virtual paintbrush to paint their own characters in your head.

The use of cinematic projection transported you to varied scenes. From the farm in Devon to the Belgian trenches, and I found it very easy to be swept along with these scenes and characters.

Beautifully directed by Paul Johnson with clever lighting designed by Peter Hodgekinson with Martin Curtis providing the sound. The costumes were true to the era and complemented the feel of the overall production.

If you do not find yourself getting emotionally involved in this play, then you haven't bought into the story, and that will be of no fault of the actors who, as I've said in the past who find themselves working in close proximity of the audience in this setting, are truly in the spotlight when so close to their audience.

I can understand why this week is sold out because it's a wonderful play, brought to you by some truly talented actors and crew.

"Private Peaceful" is on until Saturday 5 July 2014

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

OH WHAT A LOVELY WAR by The People's Theatre Company
Nottingham Arts Theatre.

Keeping the original Joan Littlewood idea of making up all of the actors in pierrot costumes with white faces to replace the harshness of war with a "soft, fluffy entertainment" image, providing an ironic contrast to the tin hats which were also wore. Joan  wanted audiences to leave the theatre laughing at the "vulgarity of war".

A lot of the comedy, I felt, was lost through poor sound and not enough projection from some of the 63 actors. i know that director Maggie Andrew said that she wanted anyone to be a part of the production but I felt that by having a smaller cast may have also been beneficial, sometimes more isn't always better.

Now I'm not saying that there were any poor actors on the stage, not at all because the one thing I admire about The People's Theatre Company is that everyone can have the chance to shine, and they wouldn't be there unless they wanted to be, but there were several character actors with that extra spark which did shine a beacon throughout the sometimes ploddy proceedings.

I hate to be negative, but I can't be "Mr Nice Guy" all the time if I'm to be honest to myself and the actors, directors, producers etc that have given their time, blood sweat and tears for entertainment. I felt the timing and flow between scenes could have been tighter, some of the reactions to the really good sound effects were slightly delayed, some of the accents were roving a bit, but there were also some excellent accents from several of the actors.More props were needed, if you're going to show an actor drinking out of a glass, let's see not just the drink but the glass as well, unless miming was to tie in with the pierrot persona. if it was I apologise for my ignorance on this part. I also know that props can be costly and money is scarce even for big professional productions. Finally in the negative mode I think the show would really have benefitted from on stage, or clip on microphones. Oh and it was not only me who noticed one of the instruments was slightly out of tune or key or something.

OK now that's out of the way and I close the lid on my Craig Revel-Horwood persona, here's the other side of me. Mike Pearson was, as usual, a star in his "circus master" style outfit injecting a panto feel about the show, and a welcome comic relief.

Lily Taylor-Ward was sublime as she sang "Roses Of Picardy" in a gorgeous dress oozing style and glamour, and also appeared in several other roles, as did many of the other hard working actors in the show. I noticed there were some pretty quick costume changes as well.I loved John Uttley's Seargeant Major character, again injecting some real character and humour into the show.

There really are no "stars" in this show and that is how it was originally meant to be, so if this was the case, there was a hell of a supporting cast!

I loved the Christmas Day scene which was one of the highlights of the show, that and the ending which was incredibly poignant. The costumes were great, the sound effects were powerful, some nice choreography from  Natalie Randall and  the cinematic backdrop enhanced the show with some shocking facts about the First World War.Plus there are some very enjoyable vocals all through the show.

This is one hell of a show to stage and now is the time to do it, but hats off to Maggie Andrew and the whole cast for taking it on. OK it's not going to be in my Top 5 favourite People's Theatre productions, but they have such an impeccable track record with great shows that this may just be the one blip that all companies experience once in a while. I may not have been over impressed but that;s all to do with the high benchmark they have set themselves.

"Oh What A Lovely War" is on at The Nottingham Arts Theatre until Saturday 5 July 2014