Tuesday, 29 November 2016

"All The World's A Stage & Other Stories"
Nottingham New Theatre.
"All the World's A Stage..." written by Yee Heng Yeh with additional material by ian Sheard is a collection of comedy vignettes which would nor be out of place in one of those topical comedy sketch shows from the 1980's like "Not the Nine O Clock News".
It's not often that the Nottingham New Theatre put on a performance like this that is out an out comedy and it's nice to see this sort of entertainment because the comedy, while at times being raw, is refreshing and is actually funny.
The first and shortest of the mini plays is all about John Cage's "4.33" which is just 4.33 of silence but this time round the stage version where nothing happens for that length of time. Or it would've been if not for an "audience member" who wouldn't stop talking while the "director" explained the piece.
All part of the play but what struck home for me was that I, until I was enlightened didn't get the whole "4.33" idea when it was attempted to get that piece of "music" to number one to try and keep the X Factor song from the number one spot a few years back. i listened to the YouTube "video" and thought there was something wrong because I couldn't hear anything. i just didn't get it either!.
The next scenario was all around the "X Factor" style get famous quick game with the good judge/bad judge situation with a couple of really bad contestants.
Merging into the next scene where there was a doctor/patient scene and our dependency on self diagnosis via the internet.
A very off the wall playlet then followed about a machine being trialled in a school called the "psych-o" which is where info from the students of a school are fed into the "psych-o" to find out the students' worth but turns against it's creator/operator.
And finally "All the World's A Stage" where a prisoner and dictator have a "final hours" conversation where everything is turned on it's head and becomes almost a role reversal.
Very cleverly written and well observed pieces of work which i imagine would fit in well in the Edinburgh Fringe scope of comedy show. It's sharp and fresh, almost what may have been termed alternative comedy 30 years ago, but what i prefer to call comedy. if it makes you laugh, why add an "alternative" tag to it, and laugh it did make the audience do.
Beth Angella, Arnaud Lacey, Ronan Lee, Sam Morris and Will Kitchen were the cast and took several parts each, showing a nice range of parts and accents throughout the various character roles they were asked to portray.
Directed by first time director Yee Heng Yeh and James McGilloway, who had directed previously, the two created a slick blend of comedy which segued nicely, keeping the interest and comedy value to the fore.
No flashy lighting techniques, just basic, solid lighting to show the actors in, if you'll pardon the pun, in their best light. Nice use of sound bites.
For a piece that started off as a class assignment,it's blossomed nicely into a well thought out comedy sketch collection, proving that not only do Nottingham New theatre produce some excellent drama, serious writing and theatrical technology people, they can also produce good comedy as well.

Monday, 28 November 2016

"Ghost The Musical"
Nottingham Theatre Royal.
Ghost the Musical is a musical with book and lyrics by Bruce Joel Rubin and music and lyrics by Dave Stewart and Glen Ballard.
Based on the hit 1990 film the plot centres on lovers Sam and Molly, who are attacked as they are returning to their apartment. When Sam dies he becomes caught between the real world and the next. Molly is in danger and Sam cannot leave her. A medium, Oda Mae Brown, helps Sam to get in touch with Molly to warn her.
I love the film "Ghost" with Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze and, having seen both local and UK Touring productions I loved the stage versions, musical and non musical, so you can see that I'd have high expectations.
Having read several of the reviews about Sarah Harding's singing and acting ability throughout this run of the tour, I was very interested in her role of Molly.
When you see the two lead male roles you can tell that there was a slight difference in the acting abilities between them and Sarah. Singing musical theatre is also very different to singing in a girl band like Girls Aloud, and that difference shows as well.
That aside, if the reviews from some of the run is to be believed, then Sarah has learnt very quickly, either that or the reviewers, nay critics, must have had it in for her because I loved Sarah's performance. She showed emotion where needed and, while there aren't many to touch the Cassie Levy version, Sarah did a wonderful job of "With You".
Sarah is very easy on the eye and you have to applaud her for taking all the criticism that has been levelled at her for her role in this musical. She seems to have risen above it all and is honing the musical theatre craft, and I can see that with a few more musical theatre roles under her belt, I believe she will be a credible musical theatre performer.And she can hold the accent as well.
Andy Moss (Sam) was another nice surprise. having not been a follower of "Hollyoaks", Andy is a very natural actor for the stage and what a voice. You can tell he has had training at drama school because his phrasing is wonderful and very easy on the ear. The soundtrack can require the vocalist to perform powerfully as well as very quietly and controlled and Andy mastered both ranges. the role is a very physical one which also didn't seem to be a problem for him.
Playing Sam's best friend Carl, the man behind Sam's murder, albeit accidental, is Sam Ferriday. Another wonderful lead and yet another very powerful singing voice and performer who has a long list of theatrical roles on his CV. A very talented and strong trio of leads, which is exactly what has made this musical the success it has been.
Jacqui Dubois as Oda Mae, the medium who Sam contacts to save Molly, was just perfect. We all remember Whoopi Goldberg's brilliantly comical version, well Jacqui added her own eccentricities to the role. Being a session singer to some of the big soul and dance recording artists also did no harm as she has a belter of a voice to match her comic acting talents. This medium was a BIG success.
A talented supporting cast included Leo Sene (Willie, who killed Sam), James Earl Adair (Hospital Ghost) and Garry Lee Netley as the subway ghost, who by the way was really disturbing and frightening.
The set was fairly simplistic and the special effects didn't have the same effect as when I first saw them on stage, but they still add to the enjoyment of the overall show. In past productions when Sam first walked through the door, it was facing the audience and it actually seemed as if he had walked through a solid door. this production had the door not facing the audience so didn't have the same effect.
What i did love was the rapidity of the substitute bodies when the "spirits" rose from them. I for one didn't notice the substitute as my eyes had been drawn away from that part of the stage by the clever and cunning direction of the play by Bob Tomson. There are bits that Bob has taken out from the original touring production, but by doing so has not weakened the plot or the performance.
Loved the soundtrack, which of course included "Unchained Melody" and one of my favourite musical theatre songs "With You". Other highlights are "Here Right Now", "I Had A Life" and "I'm Outta Here".
All three leads are wonderful and the ensemble and supporting actors did a fantastic job, making this a big crowd pleaser. For those who ex spectred Sarah to be as bad as some of her critics made out well they didn't stand a ghost of a chance of seeing that because this production really made me believe in her and the cast and definitely lifted my spirits.
"Ghost" is materialising every day this week at the Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 3 December 2016.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Nottingham Playhouse.
It's panto time again... oh yes it is!
And what a panto. It's difficult for Kenneth Alan Taylor and the rest of the Nottingham Playhouse panto lot to get better year on year but yet again they have managed it.
There are some things this year that have been trimmed off of the last few years pantos which, albeit being past favourites were missed through their absence but not missed because other good stuff replaced the old faithful jokes like "Butterface".
There are a couple of new faces in the cast as well, keeping the whole panto experience fresh.
Nathan Elwick (Wishee Washee) is an excellent addition to the cast with his Geordie sense of humour and big smile, He immediately made us make him welcome in his panto debut in Nottingham. This boy is a canny dancer and he has a voice so well suited for musical theatre with its' clarity.His face also is very expressive which is a definite boon for comedy roles such as this.
Taking the lead role as Aladdin this year is Danielle Corlass who makes a welcome return with her lovely voice and those great legs.
Also back is the equally gorgeous Rebecca Little in the dual role as WPC Pong and The Slave Of the Ring, yet again showing off those lovely legs and flying feet in a wonderful tap dance section. Needless to say her comedy timing is excellent.
Irene-Myrtle Forrester, a new face to me, also has a dual role as WPC Ping and The Genie Of the Lamp, who loves a good old winge at just about everything. This woman has a cracker of a voice which is well shown off in the medley of songs as she helps Aladdin escape from the cave.
Jasmine White, also back in the fold from playing a cat to playing Princess Jasmine. This panto is one for the men as there are so many lovely faces to look at. Not only that but she shows off her athletic moves as a bonus.
Playing Princess jasmine's mother, the Empress of China, is Darren Southworth who reminds me just a smidge of Antony Cotton from Coronation Street.Not in looks but his accent and campness and I loved it. Let's face it there's nothing more camp than panto and Darren provided just the right amount of comedy camp. Another actor who also has a good voice for the theatre and well highlighted in "Aladdin".

The evil Abanaza is played by Kevin McGowan who gets that panto villain just right, injecting the right amount of nastiness into the role to make him boo worthy, but then allowing us to cheer him after he repents for his nastiness towards our hero.
Last, but by no means least, the panto dame king/queen, Mr John Elkington. back with some amazing costumes and that natural easy going as lib style of acting. he makes it all look do easy, as if he has just popped in and had a good time on stage with his mates, but letting them know that he is in charge all the same. He did not disappoint one iota and his Honey G (from The X Factor, just in case you've just crawled out from a stone), was half expected and a greatly welcomed topical addition with the Widow Twankey rap version of "Stayin' Alive". Widow Twankey , or Widow T was on the dance floor all right!
As usual the sets were amazing, designed by Tim Meacock, excellent lighting designed by Jason Taylor,big Hollywood style dance routines, choreographed by Adele Parry. Loved the sand dance, performed by Darren and Nathan, and the tap section as well as the 1920's dance section, fronting a massive Orient Express train that filled the stage. Sound, as usual was crystal clear, designed by Adam McCready.
The music was again provided by one of the tightest yet rounded group of musicians, under the direction of the legendary Mr John Morton, creating a beautiful array of tunes.
Kenneth Alan Taylor has once more pulled another brilliant, funny, topical and incredibly entertaining pantomime out of his writing bag.
A magical fluorescent section involving planets which also sung, and of course the dancing bunnies.
i love the section which involves the kids on stage as you never know what they are going to say. This tests the actor but as John Elkington was in charge, the king of the ad lib and natural chat was in his element. Ably assisted by Nathan.
The test of a brilliant production, be it panto, musical, drama, whatever, is when it comes to an end. Why do I say that? Well this panto just flew by. I was so surprised that it had run over by about ten minutes because it seemed shorter than the past years, but no, it was just that I had enjoyed this panto so very much that the time simply flew by.
This could be the best panto I've seen at the Nottingham Playhouse, and when I think how many I've seen here over the years, I've had plenty to make comparisons with.
"Aladdin" is at the Nottingham Playhouse until Saturday 21 January 2016, and check out the "Pay What You Can" performance dates as well.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

"The Scarlet Pimpernel" by Present Company.
Derby Theatre.
When musical director Morris Fisher invited me to pop along to see "The Scarlet Pimpernel", I readily agreed as I'd not seen this musical before and i wanted to tick it off my list. I got a copy of the soundtrack, which I thought was OK and this evening looked forward to seeing what it was all about.
The show is set in England and France during the Reign of Terror of the French Revolution. Sir Percy Blakeney has met his young French fiancee Marguerite St just and he has taken her back to good old Blighty to wed her. On their wedding day he discovers that she is passing on information to the French via her ex, Chavelin, which is resulting in the beheading of innocent people and their families.
Percy doesn't like this and decides that a hero is needed and transforms himself in The Scarlet Pimpernel. Zut Alors et Sacre bleu! Along with his friends they scupper many executions while back at home they appear as a group of very British fops and dandies.
It's when Marguerite's brother Armand St Just, who is also one of The Pimpernel's men, is captured by Chauvelin that he enlists Marguerite by blackmail to entice The Scarlet Pimpernel out of hiding.
David Partridge plays the triple part of Percy, Grappin (Chauvelin's enlisted man who he thinks is on his side to help catch The Scarlet Pimpernel) and of course the hero of the story. Wonderfully camp as Percy and wonderfully storybook hero as The Pimpernel. And what a wonderful voice this man has. he, and the cast really brought the soundtrack to life for me and made what was a good soundtrack a brilliant soundtrack. His duet with Marguerite of "When I Look At You" was sheer magic, tingles up and down the spine stuff
Marguerite was played by Rachael Louisa Bray, and again another beautiful clear voice with such emotion which matched her acting.
Craig Arme played the baddie of the musical, Chauvelin, but received a huge round of applause at the curtain call. He completed the trio of excellent voices in this musical. You could just imagine Craig and David in "Les Miserables" with voices that they have, blending so smoothly as they did. These three vocal styles made this musical the wonderful experience it was.
Well these three and the big ensemble and support cast. With having such a large cast who could all sing well, they made the ensemble pieces sound like a big old Hollywood musical, so rich sounding they were. Such a large cast that I won't name them all but they were all marvellous, especially Percy's fops and dandies, supplying many comical highlights.
The music was excellent, like a mash up of Gilbert & Sullivan, Les Miserables and Phantom Of the Opera. the orchestra, conducted and musical directed by Morris Fisher were like a rich red wine; full bodied fulfilling and fruity and I loved the sound they produced.
The costumes were gorgeous and extravagant, i imagine a delight for wardrobe mistress Marion Fisher to be involved with. Well it was a delight to behold the colour and the glamour and decadence of the clothes, both male and female costumes. i imagine as well a possible nightmare for the dressers involved i getting the actors dressed in them!
The choreography was suitable to the style of dancing for the period and added that certain class to the proceedings. A job well executed by Jean Gemmell, who also was Artistic Director.
Decadent sets transported you back to the French Revolution and some very good lighting and sound effects. lighting designed by David Marsden and sound engineered by Simon Birchall. My only niggle with the sound was with the mics which weren't timed quite as accurately as maybe they could have been in Act One as some of the actors words were slightly lost. By Act Two, this has been sorted out, so i was a very happy bunny!
I've touched on the soundtrack earlier but what the recorded soundtrack didn't deliver to me was the beauty of hearing such wonderful songs, sung live, and I just know that you'll go away with some new musical favourites from this show; as well as maybe adding "The Scarlet Pimpernel" to your list of favourite musicals. it's definitely one that I will go and see again, especially if it's performed as well as it was on Thursday night at Derby Theatre.
"The Scarlet Pimpernel" is on at Derby Theatre until Saturday 26 November 2016 and performed by Present Company and they were formidable mes amis!

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

"A Tale Of Cities" by Charles Dickens.
Nottingham Theatre Royal.
It was the best of plays, or was it the worst of plays, that is the question. Well let me tell you, it was one of the best classic plays I've seen, and that word "classic" could be well worn by the end of this review.
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness; it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair; we had everything before us, we had nothing before us"
Straight away these opening lines transported me back to my schooldays where I first read Charles Dickens'.classic story. The story of Charles Darney (Jacob Ifan) and his French to-ing and fro-ing that landed him in the kangaroo Parisian court room which very nearly ended his life at the feet of Madame Guillotine, had it not been for Sydney Carton (Joseph Timms). Carlton makes Darney swap clothes and then drugs him to get him out of the cell, saying that the visitor was drunk. Carlton then takes Darney's place and is executed..
Darney, who is married to Dr Manette's daughter, Lucie (Shanaya Rafaat), who is expecting his child is taken to Lucie as her father (Patrick Romer), and herself are fleeing Paris for their lives after Carlton overhears Madame Defarge (Noa Bodner), swearing to kill Dr Manette and Lucie as well as her unborn child.
That's the long and the short of it but the several sub plots that run through the play make for above average interest.
A very entertaining opening court room scene brings several laughs, and there are other parts of the play that raise the humour stakes.
A wonderful cast who show what classic actors can do with a classic tale such as this. No need for mics and you heard every single word, even above the music, which by the way was gorgeous, thanks to an original score by Rachel Portman. Beautifully projected without the merest sign of strain these actors were some of the best period drama actors I've experienced.
The sets were big and overbearing, which gave just the right feel for the court rooms, easily sliding in and out of position, almost like scenes from a film. Designed by Mike Britton, they alternated from London to Paris with that wonderful 18th Century feel and look.
The costumes in period dramas are what I look at with interest and these were just so full of class, giving a lovely and apt period feel. Designed by Ruth Hall.
The sound design (Adrienne Quartly) was subtle when needed to be and booming when required; the thunderclaps literally made me jump!
The lighting design (Paul Keogan) went through nearly every level from brilliant light to almost pitch, creating wonderful atmosphere sections throughout.
The cast, which was a fairly big one, were amazing, I could watch them all over again I was entranced in the story and their re-telling of it. James Dacre, the director has done a great job here fitting the story into two and a half hours. Was it really that long? Didn't seem to be, but it was. A sign of an enthralling piece of theatre.
There was a local connection here as well with the peasant boy being played by local youngster Rio Jaegar.
If you love classic theatre and plays done really well, this is one play that you do not want to miss. i don't think I ever appreciated Dickens' work when I was at school but decades on I'm loving his work,and where better to re-discover your love for classics such as this, than at the Nottingham Theatre Royal.
"A Tale Of Two Cities", adapted by Mike Poulton and performed by the Touring Consortium Theatre Company and Royal & Derngate Northampton co production is at the Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 26 November 2016. It's one not to be missed.

Monday, 21 November 2016

"A Beautiful Thing" by Emma White.
The Lofthouse, The Lace Market..
This was my first visit to The Lofthouse but what a perfect venue for this play. Intimate but just big enough for the actors to communicate with audience without anyone feeling too far away or being left out. Cosy as it was for the audience, this also added that little bit of an edge for the cast, I imagine, being able to see the whites of their audiences' eyes. That though was also an advantage to them.
There was no definitive start or end to the play and this was like looking at a snapshot, no several snapshots of life artist Freddie's intimate life.
Freddie (Harry Pavlou) likes to paint beautiful bodies and faces. He is intense when he fixes himself on one of the women in the audience, keeping eye contact all the time and sitting there just drinking in the features of his subject, saying nothing until he pours a multitude of compliments on the audience member. He interacts with her, asking for her number like a big sexy chat up manoeuvre that he has perfected many times in the past.
His art dealer (Natalia Gonzalez) also invites audience participation using one male audience member to scrutinize another male member as a work of art. Some may think that being interactive in this way is embarrassing but at no time does it come across like that, which made the rest of the audience feel more comfortable.
Freddie's other past subjects tell their experiences of being painted by the artist and this is where the interesting past comes alive. Freddie is infatuated with their bodies while he is painting them but then the infatuation wanes. This also includes with life artist Peter (Callum Walker) who may or may not have had a crush on Freddie, giving rise to sexual ambiguity between the two.
With Freddie being quite a celebrity it's natural that the press wants all the gossip on Freddie and any possible relationships but the models stay tight-lipped which adds to the intrigue.
Written by Emma White initially as three monologues, these expanded to this hour long peek into Freddie and his model's lives and what they think and do. As I said it's like a snapshot, a snapshot which really made me want more to know about Freddie and his lifestyle and his models. This play could be extended further and still maintain the intensity and personal interaction between the audience and the actor. Emma White is a name to look out for.
The cast, Harry Pavlou (Freddie), Natalia Gonzalez (the art dealer), Chloe Richardson (Rachel), Jessica Lundholm (the journalist), Callum Walker (Peter), Lisa Gier (Ella) and Amy Crighton (Monica) were all hypnotising and I found myself hanging on to their every word. A wonderful attraction for any writer and actor to cast over an audience.
Produced by Darcey Graham and directed by Emma White, I find myself ever drawn in to the Nottingham New Theatre's incredibly talented people, just like Freddie draws in his models, but unlike Freddie I have no intention of my interest waning.
The music in the production enhances the whole feel of the play, as does the lighting, designed by Joe Heil.
"A Beautiful Thing" is being performed again on Tuesday night with two performances, due to popular demand for tickets, and I for one can see why this is, at the Lofthouse, Warser Gate in the Lace Market.

Friday, 18 November 2016

"The Almighty Other" by Causa Sui Theatre.Nottingham Lakeside.

The Almighty Other is the most interesting piece of theatre that I've seen in a very long time. the whole idea behind this one hour piece of theatre is so thought provoking, making you examine how you feel and think about what you're told by others and how and why you decide to process the information given

"What is he on about?" you may say. well let me tell you more.
When I read that in this play you are able to follow the actors around and guide how the play goes I thought "oh no, not one of those audience participation walk through jobbies" but this is so different.
You are led into the performance space and behind one section an almost God-like creature in black tells us that we've all been killed and we are now in purgatory and we will either go to heaven or hell, but we decide, and if we kill anyone, we automatically go to hell.
In among the audience are members of the cast and as the all seeing God (Jack Lamb) disappeared, the self appointed "leader" Gordon (Gordon Cullen) takes the podium and starts to insult members of assembled audience, well the cast members of the audience.
From there we see two groups form, Gordon and Neil (Neil Duckmanton) and Charlie (Charlie Clark), Danni (Danni Huskisson) and Michael (Michael Muyunda).
There are several confrontations, which at time are quite frighteningly violent, physically and verbally, mainly from Gordon, as they wind each other up. Neil is the calming influence and the would be peace maker while the girls report back to Michael several lies which paints Gordon not in the best of lights, but after all he was the protagonist in the group so maybe he deserves it, doesn't he?
The two groups split off into the different sections of the Lakeside performing space, and the audience decide which of the two groups to watch, meaning that they only get half of the story, but that is the point of this cleverly written play because in one way you can only make up your mind based on whichever grouping you follow about.
Tensions rise between the five and matters are taken to extremes, based on the information that person is fed by the other part of the group.
In the end the all seeing God like creature in black comes back in and confronts the group and decides their fate based on what he has seen. there are some sent to hell and the remaining sent to heaven, but who is in which camp?
The play makes you think about your every day situation because we all believe what our friends say and if our friends don't like one person then we tend to side with that friend and believe whatever we are told, but do we stop to get the full story from both sides so that we can truly judge that person or situation? well we all know the answer to that.
It's sometimes during this play difficult to believe that this was all scripted because the words flowed, or more often than not spat out in a way that we all can deliver when we are angry or want to wind someone up.
The five actors were frighteningly good and made me feel quite emotional in parts, sick in others, angry in other parts. the quality of the story and the writing is also some of the best new theatre that I've experienced and so fresh to be in a different setting other than sat within rows of other theatre viewers.
Jack's costume was fantastic, it had to be seen to be believed and so to the shoes of one of the characters. How did she manage to walk in those amazing shoes, I'll never know! the costumes were the genius of Mingzhang Sun.
Directed by Jack Lamb, you can see why it's taken so,long to get this play to a performance level because of the intricate way the play is performed. Making a play look so natural is never an easy task for any director.
I loved the whole concept of "The Almighty Other" and my only disappointment was that not more people attended this new piece of refreshing theatre. But worry not, you can still catch this on Saturday evening at Lakeside and experience some of the freshest and talented, as well as really nice people in real life, people.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

“Disposing Of the Body” by Beeston Players
Roundhill School, Beeston.
Henry and Angela Preece take early retirement and move from London to the Cotswolds. Their only son, Ben, is now living in California, and they miss him. Angela is happy to continue in her role as home-maker, but Henry is finding it harder to settle in their new environment. They meet their neighbours, Alexander and Joanna Barley, and the friendship that develops is promising, albeit a little strained to start. When Joanna begins to take on secretarial duties for Henry, it’s not long before the two begin an affair which ultimately proves to be the unravelling of Henry. Then Angela disappears…..
Written by Hugh Whitemore, to me neither a well-known play or author, it’s always good to see local theatre groups not relying on the better known pieces of theatre; one thing you cannot level at The Beeston Players.
The first act is peppered with several monologues which require the audience to really listen and pay attention, but the second act is where all the action is and it’s important to have the ground-laying of the story in act one to make the second act heightened with emotion.
This play is so different to anything else that I have seen The Beeston Players perform in the past. This is a serious murder mystery but without a body and a few twists thrown in for good measure,
i'm not going to single out any one of the actors because they all acted as a group but I can say that they have really upped their gain in this play, showing that they are worthy serious actors as well as being able to perform the comedy style plays they have done of late.
Rob Jackson (Henry), Nicola Adkin (Angela), Andrew Pidgeon (Ben), Gary Frost (Alexander), Abbie Maddison (Joanna), Alison Williams (Kate), Ian Greatorex (Inspector Poole), Paul Langston (Bassett) and Sarah Nicholson(the waitress) all gave wonderful performances in their roles.
Directed by Larraine Maddison, she managed to keep the pace going as well as leaving gaps to create that air of mystery and tension. At times a gap can say more than a hundred words can say.
Changing the opening and ending where in the past the cast are in place on stage at the start and the end while the audience take their seats, was a wise choice as that can make an audience feel a bit uncomfortable.
Lovely use of light and sound effects thanks to Fiona Maxwell & Martin Coleman and a very natural and realistic set, designed by Sam Williams.
From the producer Sue Frost all the way to the stage management, Tom Jenkins, this team showed us a completely different side to this theatre group, and I loved what they showed us.
The play leaves you with several unanswered questions and for you to decide what really happened to Angela, which is refreshing in a mystery play. I can literally say that this play had me on the edge of my seat and. not having researched the play too closely, i left the ending until I saw the play,and I am so glad I did.
There were just a couple of very minor things I would have changed, but I am being very, very picky here. Joanna wore the same outfit three times and we all know that a woman wouldn't do that in such a short time space. The other was Ben's pacing about was a little too much for me. i would have had Ben perched on the table edge or sat back to front on one of the dining chairs and less pacing. That is just me though and who am I to change what the directions of the play states. Incredibly minor details which probably no other audience member would even have taken note of.
"Disposing Of the Body" by Beeston Players is on Friday at 7.30pm and then on Saturday at 2.30 pm at Round Hill School, so go along and see a new side to this very talented and welcoming group of people. Go along and support local theatre.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

"Blithe Spirit" by the Prospect Players
Bonington Theatre, Arnold.
Noel Coward's classic comedy ghost story is exhumed with great style by The Prospect Players, a theatre group who I can't quite recall having had the pleasure of seeing in the past.
Mr Condomine, a writer, has invited medium Madame Acarti round for a meal with best friends Dr and Mrs Bradman to pick up some tricks of the trade for his next novel, but even though the night seems to have been uneventful, this is in fact far from true.
The play is split into three acts spread over three and a quarter hours, and while this does seem a long time, once the action starts, the time flies by.
The play opens with Edith the maid addressing the audience to let them know of the three acts and the timings before dashing off to serve the Condomines. Played by Danielle Hall, she brings an innocent sense of fun to the proceedings but she, as Edith, has a hidden talent which is revealed towards the end of the play.
Fiona Shore (Mrs Ruth Condomine) had a very natural feel about her acting and her role and really makes you believe the character. By doing this you also believe the relationship between Mr and Mrs Condomine. Lovely amount of stroppiness in with the hot and cold blowing attitude shown to her stage hubby.
Phil Ashford (Mr Charles Condomine) also has a free flowing style of acting; you feel comfortable watching him act. So comfortable was I that it had to pointed out to me that the character was wearing a wig. I never noticed until I looked at the programme notes! A lovely job of communicating with the dead wife, soon to be wives brought the comedy element to the play.
Vic Roberts (Dr Bradman) and Beverley Graham (Mrs Bradman) are another nice pairing with Mrs Bradman also adding comedy to the mix, especially with the interaction with Madame Acarti, who you really feel doesn't have a very high opinion of Mrs Bradman.
Val Petty (Madame Acarti) is undoubtedly the one all of the audience were talking about in the breaks and at the end. Brilliant characterisation and eccentricity, Val is a joy to watch work and has a canny sense of comedy timing. Pure magic to behold and so pleased that she decided to come out of self-imposed retirement for this role.
Helen Foster (Elvira) is another highlight for me as Mr Condomine's first wife, seven years deceased who is summoned to the Condomine's house, but not, as we later discover by Mr Condomine. Helen plays the part of the petulant, flirty and fun loving spirit so well. I can't remember seeing such a flirtatious Elvira as in this production and I loved it.
Liz Hagan has directed the piece in a way that gives a fresh feel, due to the flirtatious and pacy script and has brought the comedy to the fore.
The set is cosy looking and befits the stature of the writer and his friends. Designed by Graham Errington, you can see yourself being quite comfortable living in this designed room.
Loved the costumes. From the smart dinner jackets and evening gowns of the Condomines and Bradmans to the zany Madame Acarti outfits, the wardrobe was apt for the characters and a job done well by Eileen Crosbie, who also sourced the props for the play.
Supplying the lighting and sound for the play was the Bonington Theatre Staff. As they are in house they are specialists in this field and that shows in this production.
There were a few prompts for words but this is such a wordy Coward play, plus there's the need to nail the comedy timing, that the odd prompt didn't matter so much because this was first night, You also have to take nerves into the equation.
Apart from this very minor detail, i think these guys did a cracking job with a play that is not the easiest to produce and perform. They smashed the comedy bits and kept the pace up throughout.
Also must mention the very informative programme. Buy one and get enlightened on the actors and The Prospect Players group.
"Blithe Spirit" is materialising every night until Saturday 19 November 2016 at Bonington Theatre, Arnold. It's everything I ex- spectre-d and more!

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

"Spamalot" by The ESNA Players
Loughborough Town Hall.
What can I say about "Spamalot"? Well my cheeks are still aching from laughter, and this comes from someone who has seen the musical more than once. It's one of the most fun musicals that you can see. It has such wonderfully comic songs, thanks to John Du Prez and Eric Idle and is one musical that should be performed at this time of year because it's such a great run up to the panto season.
That's how it felt; just like a great big fun, colourful pantomime of strange characters who shouldn't be seen on the same stage but do. Where else would you find a footballer, mime artists, Adele, a killer rabbit, Donald Trump, a knight with no limbs, tap dancers, showgirls, Barack Obama, rude Frenchmen and the real Eric Idle as God (type cast a bit there), all in one place and on one stage?
The answer is of course.... Loughborough.
The story is about King Arthur as he goes about with his trusty servant, Patsy, to get knights for his round table. God (Eric Idle) gives him a task in finding the Holy Grail. In his search he encounters many colourful characters.
Directed by James Nelson, and who better to direct it as he has first hand experience of the musical, having performed in the West End production of the show with the likes of Warwick Davies, Joe Pasquale and Todd Carty. James knows what makes this musical work and work it definitely did, keeping it fresh and topical and retaining the all essential Python humour.
David Lovell (King Arthur) was magnificently restrained in his role, maintaining the air of authority as King but with that wonderful comedy timing.
Dan Grooms (Patsy) clip clopped his way round Arthur and also joined in the choreographed pieces with a wonderful air of nonchalance. Several shining moments for Dan including of course his big song "Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life", plus his little forlorn face when Arthur sang "I'm All Alone" got the audience well and truly on his side. A wonderfully comic part for Dan.
Emma Adcock (Lady Of The Lake) is just a great comic role for a female and Emma took the role by the scruff of the neck and shook every last bit of diva and comedy out of it. One of my favourite songs from this musical is "The Song that Goes Like This" and she, along with Sir Galahad made this comedy classic, classic.
Talking of Sir Galahad, this role was taken by Benjamin Hardy. Master of the hair toss, well in this part anyway, he seems to make every role he takes on a special piece of that particular play. This is no different. A lovely comic piece which Ben always shines at.
Arthur's knights, Richard French (Sir Lancelot), James Daw (Sir Belvedere), Jarrod Makin (Sir Robin) all excelled in these comic roles both individually and as an ensemble.
Daniel Robinson was a scream as Prince Herbert, the Prince locked away by his father to marry a woman he didn't love... and we all knew why that is! Another wonderful comedy role culminating in the brilliant big number "His Name Is Lancelot". Just one of many many musical crowd pleasers.
John Smith (Brother Maynard) had a wonderful speech about the grenade, which may not sound like a funny piece but you've not heard this one.
Jonny Painting (The Historian) tried in vain to bring some assemblance and order to the play. His first effort set the scene for what was to come. At the start he described England which was mis heard as Finland and kicked off with a knee and thigh slapping "Fisch Schlapping Dance".
A brilliant ensemble which were like pop up characters, appearing from anywhere and everywhere, using the whole stage and auditorium and even appearing through trap doors in the stage.
The set was brilliant, awash with colour, there was always somewhere else to look at, all courtesy of Scenic Design.
The lighting was spectacular, especially the thunderclap lightning, thanks to Andy Harding.
The sound had a couple of little hiccups, but it was opening night so I always expect the occasional blip, but a wonderful job done by the sound crew of Rob Temperton and Mark Di Martino Marriott for getting it crystal clear. The acoustics at Loughborough Town Hall are excellent and this shows what a great job they did.
James Nelson was the choreographer, who did an amazing job with all of the various dance styles.
Talking of different styles, the music covers many styles and the master of the orchestration, Mr Jon Orton was in charge. i always expect the very best sound when Jon is at the helm and I am never disappointed, and I wasn;t tonight either. Think back to that tingle of hearing the orchestra kick up at the start of the old TV series "Sunday Night at the London palladium" and that's the feeling I got when Jon and the orchestra started. Pure musical magic.
A wonderful wardrobe of clothes (Nicola Scoggins and Molly Limpets) and some lightning costume changes as well, incredibly well managed by the stage crew and managers i noted. There were some outrageous wigs on show (Benjamin Hardy).
You may not notice all of the props that were used in this show but after it had ended, I was treated to a back stage visit and the amount of props used were stupendous. A nightmare for props person Helen Whysall, if any were not in their rightful place in the wings and backstage.
You know I could go on forever about what a wonderful show this is but you really ought to make your way to Loughborogh Town Hall and see for yourself.
A fantastic comedy, which every time I see it is different due to the maintenance of the script and lyrics, forever keeping it topical, just listen to "You Won't Succeed In Showbiz" for a multitude of name checks.
You have to hear one joke (if they dare to repeat it) to believe the closeness to the finger joints it sails. But it's all delivered in such amazing gusto and all in the best possible taste that surely no one could ever take offence... could they?
It's another smash hit for ESNA to add to all of their other previous smash hits. So make sure you get your tickets while there are some left to buy because "Spamalot" is only on until Saturday 19 November 2016. Go on treat yourself to a look at the brighter side of life.