Monday, 18 August 2014

Nottingham Theatre Royal

The final of this year's Colin McIntyre Classic Thriller Season by Tabs Productions at the Nottingham Theatre Royal closes with the best yet, "Murder Weapon" by Brian Clemens.

There are several nods to other classic writers with the role of Charley Mirren being just a little similar to Steinbeck's Lennie in "Of Mice And Men" whose partner in crime in that play was George, who just happens to be Charley's friend's name from his prison days in "Murder Weapon". Charley has mental health issues and has been convicted of murder and has just been released and has been advised by the prison service to attend meetings with Dr Blake "to help" his rehabilitation.

Dr Blake takes on the case of the damaged ex prisoner and takes him into his confidence and decides that their meetings should take place away from the office, in a pub and once at his home, This is when Dr Blake lets Charley into his own problematic life and between them a plot is hatched to help both Dr Blake and Charley, as Charley has now become reliant on Dr Blake for his friendship.....or so he thinks!

I'd not seen this play before and it was intriguing to spot the clues along the way, and there is one big one which is given out at the start which becomes apparent to the revelations later on in the play and when you get this, the unravelling begins. A real light bulb moment!

It was a brilliant performance by Jeremy Lloyd-Thomas as Charley with his headaches, nightmares and conflicting admissions and denials. You begin to feel sorry for the character and later on you discover just what really did happen that put him in prison ten year's previous.Some quite emotional and powerful scenes as Charley which showcased Jeremy's emotive acting.

Karen Henson, as Jessica Bligh, the detective, is also wonderful in her only acting role this season, but well worth waiting for. Jessica Bligh is the sort of detective whose dogged determination of the innocence of Charley, even though he was caught red handed, gun in hand with a dead body at his feet by Jessica herself and the murdered man's wife, Diane Tulliver, played by Jacqueline Gilbride. really paid off...this time anyway.

Alan Magor plays his most meaty and dramatic role in this Thriller Season, and I can't really say much more without giving anything away, I'll just say that this is my favourite of all of Alan's performances this season.

Michael Sherwin is brought to the fore this week as Inspector Fremont, sidekick to Bligh, and Andrew Ryan, who in the last three weeks has been very prominent, takes a smaller, but no less important role as the murdered Paul Tulliver. Mustn't forget Edward Parris either as Constable Walters. A brilliant cast and an amazing end to a wonderful season.

As I mentioned, there are loving nods to the Scottish play, which seems to run through this season's shows, Durbridge's "Fatal Encounter" and one other, which I will not give away as that is a vital clue,

So to sum up, great cast, great play, great fun and worthy of a standing ovation...if only the rest of the audience had joined me in that one!!

Until the next time Tabs Productions, thank you for the best season ever and I can't wait for next year.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Nottingham Playhouse

When you mention "Equus" people will automatically think of Daniel Radcliffe baring  all, but there is so much more to this play. That is just a very small part of the story which, as this play is performed by the Nottingham Playhouse Advanced Youth Theatre Group, there is no full nudity.

For those who don't know their Latin, Equus means horse, and while horses are quite involved in this story, the actual story is about 17 year old Alan Strang, a young man with a strict atheist for a father and an excessively religious mother, both wanting Alan to be like them. No wonder the poor boy is confused and turns to horses for comfort.And also about the psychiatrist who attempts to treat Strang for his pathological religious fascination with horses.

After blinding six horses at the stables that he helps out at, he is saved from prison by Heather Solomon, a social worker, by getting psychiatrist Martin Dysart, to take on the case and get to the bottom of why Strang did what he did.

Strang has been seriously damaged by his parents which leads him to singing TV commercials instead of answering questions about what has happened, but slowly Dysart manages to crack through this hard wall that Strang has built around himself for protection, and gets to the real truth. Nature or Nurture, a question that is brought to the fore here.

This particular theatre group's acting ability belie their tender years and there are some brilliant performances from Jacob Seelochon, the psychiatrist who not only breaks down the walls around Strang, but also discovers a few home truths about his relationship with his wife, thanks to Strang's revelations.Jacob is a very natural, passionate and dramatic actor, which is what is needed for this role and not only that, he has the majority of the lines in the play as well, delivered unfalteringly. An excellent performance.

Another excellent performance is delivered by Tom Martin as Strang. Sensitively playing out the mental torture he keeps locked away in his mind, Slowly peeling away the protective skin of the character to reveal the soft underbelly of the hurt teenage Strang. An excellent comparative of the dark denial side and the desperate longing to be rid of his nightmares and past. I have seen Tom in several roles in various theatres in Nottingham but this has to be his finest hour to date.

Some wonderful supporting actors in Will Harrison as the controlling father Frank Strang, Eleanor Sharkey as the over religious  mother, Dora Strang, Paige Peddie as the social worker Heather Solomon, who you feel that without her, Strang, would have been in a much worse place than the place he finally ended up at.

It was a good call that director, Sarah Stephenson, decided to keep the play set in the 70's, which gave rise to some wonderful retro outfits and facial hair (Couldn't work out whether Will's sideburns and moustache were his own or facial props). The play, by Peter Shaffer, was written in 1973.

Sound and light play a big part in any theatre production and the sound design by Thomas Preston was timed to perfection and the clever and effective lighting was designed by Stephanie Bartle.

Performed in the intimate Neville Studios above Cast bar, it was staged in the round with three sides for the audience and the fourth being set out like a jury's bench in a court room with the supporting actors taking their turns to weave in and out of the action when needed.

There is a section of the script delivered by Jacob about passion,and this so apt for this play and this theatre group because you can feel the passion that every actor has for this play and performing which makes this harrowing play so very realistic and an absolute joy to see.

"Equus" is on at The Neville Studios at the Nottingham Playhouse until Saturday 16 August 2014

Monday, 11 August 2014

Nottingham Theatre Royal

Play number three in the Colin McIntyre Thriller Season at the Nottingham Theatre Royal presented by Tabs Productions, and this is the one that I was most looking forward to as I do like a good Francis Durbridge thriller, and I was not disappointed!

More twists and turns than Blackpool Pleasure Beach and more red herrings than a fishmongers sale on herrings, this is one of Durbridge's most stylish of thrillers.

Set in the 1960's the whole atmosphere is of the era and is reminiscent of the old TV detective thrillers such as "Jason King", "The Avengers", Department S", well you get the idea.

There is murder, blackmail, deceit, cover ups, lies, a stabbing, it's all there to keep you on the edge of your seat and to keep you wondering who was behind the whole story. After all we know who carried out the murder, but it's the whole story behind the, albeit accidental murder, that is intriguing. I changed my mind twice trying to guess who was Mr, or Mrs Big behind the permanent eviction of Perry Kingsley.

Andrew Ryan, as Howard Mansfield, the husband of Joanna Mansfield and the one who tries to take the rap for the murder, is on stage for practically the whole play and is, again another completely different character from the previous two he has played this season. There are a lot of words for Andrew in this one and he doesn't miss a beat here. An excellent performance!

Susan Earnshaw is Joanna, the wife who is, to start with a little frugal with the truth, and if you don't know this story, will be surprised at why the snowball she causes escalated to the fatal end to Mr Kingsley, played by the lovely Adrian Lloyd-James, and the reason why he was where he was at the time of his demise.

A great supporting cast, as usual, deliver this truly excellent thriller, and in my humble opinion, the best to date this season, and I loved "The Ghost Train", then again I love Durbridge's writing style. But it does take a great cast to bring the words on the paper alive. Durbridge and Tabs Productions what a joyful combination!

Karen Henson directs"Fatal Encounter" and while we have had to wait for a couple of weeks for this season's directorial debut from Karen, it was well worth the wait; very stylish.

A nice touch for the scene changes with total blackout and classic murder mystery incidental music as well keeps the suspense high. So a nod to Michael Donoghue for the lighting design and to David Gilbrook for the sound.

"Fatal Encounter" is at the Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 16th August 2014

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

AGNES OF GOD by John Pielmeier
Lace Market Theatre

I, along with a select group of people had the pleasure of seeing Zodiac Theatre's first Nottingham production at the Lace Market Theatre of "Agnes Of God" a day ahead of it's public outing, and if you're planning on seeing it on Thursday 7 August 2014, then you are in for a real treat.

Agnes is a young nun who becomes pregnant by what seems to be an immaculate conception. Whether this is the case or not we do not get to find out for sure, which leaves the viewer to make up their own mind as to what may or may not have happened.

It's also partly the story of Doctor Livingstone, the psychiatrist who has been drafted in to try and piece together what happened that led up to the events revealed in the play. We also find out why Dr Livingstone treats the Mother Superior in the way that she does throughout her investigations, and were there darker messages in the play that now and again reared its' head? A thought provoking piece of work for sure!

Lindsay Foster plays the nun Agnes, timid, sheltered, naive and anxious not to believe what has happened to her, but events later in the play clarify why this is the case.

Katie Ward is nothing less than amazing as the Mother Superior, eager to hide some secret about the event, but what could that secret be and if there is nothing to hide, then why is she so eager to have Dr Livingstone taken off of the case?

Anna Sanderson plays Dr Livingstone with such conviction that at times she almost spits venom at the Mother Superior, all the time knowing that there is something that is being hidden from her and frustrated at not being able to get on with her job that she has been hired to do.

If you want the answers to all of the above....well you know where to go!

There are some lovely comic lines along with the very dramatic and wordy pieces. You could have heard a pin drop through most of the play and you could practically hear the assembled audience breathing, so intense was the action.

All three actors held us spellbound with their performances in this powerful play and you can tell that this must have been a labour of love for director Simon Ward to work on. Bringing out the sensitivity of the piece as well as the hard nosed and stubborn sides from the characters.

This is the third production from Zodiac Theatre who are normally based in Mansfield but have made, not only a departure from the comedy they have previously done, but also a departure to Nottingham to spread the word with their talented crew. The Lace Market theatre is the ideal surroundings for their Nottingham debut and I'm hoping that we see a lot more from this very talented, and friendly theatrical group.

"Agnes Of God" is being performed at the Lace Market Theatre on Thursday 7 August only and you can get tickets from the Lace Market Theatre box office.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Nottingham Theatre Royal

The second of the Colin McIntyre Classic Thriller Season 2014 follows on from last week's "The Ghost Train". Written by Nicholas Ridley, son of Arnold Ridley who wrote "The Ghost Train", and Mansfield's Chris Ponka.

The set is the same as last week, but this is because fictitious Am Dram society, The Lemon Tree Players, are set to present a production of "The Ghost Train", little do they realise that they themselves would be wrapped up in a murder mystery to rival that of any fictitious plot.

There are a few new faces in the production, as well as a few of the regular names, Andrew Ryan, in a completely different role from last week's under cover detective, Susan Earnshaw, Jeremy Lloyd-Thomas and Sarah Wynne Kordas. The new names keep the cast fresh and provide some very nice comic touches, especially Alan Magor as the slightly "wet behind the ears" Barrie.

Tabs Productions Company show just how versatile they are with this "play within a play" play and while using the premise of the Arnold Ridley story, the characters and storyline is completely different.

To be honest, I don't think Nicholas Ridley is quite the writer that his dad was because this storyline was no where near as strong as "The Ghost Train" but instead offers a more of a comedy play, which if truth be told, is what the play is billed as, and succeeds under this heading. Saying that though, the ending is more open ended than "The Ghost Train" and possible leaves the door open for another episode for The Lemon Tree Players.

Some nice jumpy bits, good lighting effects and sound and another unexpected twist as to who will be the undercover detective this time. Despite not being as strong as the week's before excellent play, this is entertaining and provides laughs as well as the thrill element.

"Shadow Of The Ghost" is at the Theatre Royal until Saturday 9 August 2014