Tuesday, 31 January 2017

“Invincible” by The Original Theatre Company
Derby Theatre.
With the recession biting hard, Emily and Oliver have decided to downsize and shift their middle-class London lifestyle to a small town in the north of England. One night they open their doors and invite next door neighbours, Dawn and Alan into their home. Over the course of a disastrous evening of olives, anchovies, Karl Marx and abstract art; class and culture collide where the consequences are as tragic as they are hilarious.

Written by Torben Betts, this play starts out as a good little comedy piece but develops into something a little darker. Slowly stories from the past reveal themselves on both sides, especially when political subjects are brought up and drink starts to flow. The ending is not a totally happy one and not all the questions get an answer.
"Invincible" is billed as a comedy and for the most part it is. The comedy is very well written and is borne from the natural situations the two pairs find themselves in.
There are the expected differences in the North/South divide, the two ways of life, cultural and otherwise but as we find out they have several things in common and these start to create the cracks that appear so apparent as the play continues.
Our two Southeners, Emily and Oliver are played by Emily Bowker and Alistair Whatley. Two excellent actors who keep us guessing all the way through. It at first seems strange that Emily is so hell bent on checking on her young daughter and Oliver wants to rebel against Emily's beliefs and lifestyle and opinions. Both reasons for this behaviour is soon unfurled.
The Northern neighbours Dawn and Alan, played with equal excellence by Elizabeth Boag and Graeme Brookes. Again there is repression and secrets and ultimate heartache but how different are the pair at the end from when we first see them.
I was totally drawn in to these two couples story and their lives ina way that I've not been reeled in for a long time; maybe with it being a new story to me, I don't know but you find yourself unable to take your eyes off of this Derby Theatre stage and these magnificent actors who play out this magnetic story.
Torben Betts, I'll admit, I've not heard of before but I intend to make sure that I search out some of his many other works after seeing this classy piece of theatre.You can see why Alan Ayckbourn is such a fan of his work.
Stephen Darcy is the director of "Invincible" and he has succeeded in maintaining that mystery, tension and comedy, helping create one of the best new plays I've had the pleasure of in a long time.
"Invincible" is at Derby Theatre only until Saturday 4 February 2017 and it's one that I would recommend to anyone who loves a good story with some very good twists performed by four totally believable actors.

Monday, 30 January 2017

“Sister Act”
Nottingham Theatre Royal
Deloris Van Cartier, crowned 'Lady Fabulous' of 1978, and girlfriend of gangster, Curtis Shank. sees Shank (Aaron Lee Lambert) shoot someone who they believe has "squealed" about them to the cops. Horrified, Deloris runs away and Shank orders his men to get her and bring her back. Deloris runs to a police station and tells the desk chief about what happened.
The two recognise each other as old friends from school with Deloris calling him "Sweaty Eddie". Eddie (Joe Vetch) decides that Deloris needs to go into the witness protection program and sends her to the place he believes Shank will never find her - a convent called The Holy Order of the Little Sisters of Our Mother of Perpetual Faith. Sassy and streetwise Deloris changes the nun's lives, and they too have an affect on Deloris.
That's where it all starts.....
Now this is where the review gets subjective.
Alexandra Burke has hurt her back so is unable to perform so her understudy, Joanna Francis stepped in. Already this could put Joanna a little on edge as everybody has come to see Alexandra, but there's no taking it away from Joanna that girl has some pipes on her and can belt out a tune or two,and there are some belting tunes in this show.
Personally I didn't feel Joanna had enough Deloris attitude to clinch the deal but she did what she had to do and turned in a solid, but safe performance, and let's face it, she saved the show in Alexandra's absence.
One actor who I absolutely loved was Karen Mann as the Mother Superior. her voice reminiscent of the late Elaine Stritch for it's theatricality and the section where she was supposed to be drunk was wonderfully played. You could tell the full journey her character travelled and I loved the character and the way that Karen played her. I don't remember the character hitting the bottle before so it was a nice touch added by director, and choreographer, Craig Revel-Horwood,
The nuns were all well characterised, especially Sisters Mary Lazarus (Liz Kitchen), Mary Robert (Sarah Goggin) and Mary Theresa (Allison Harding).
Curtis' henchmen Pablo (Ricky Rojas), Joey (Samuel Morgan-Grahame) and T.J. (Sandy Geigelis) were wonderfully simple-minded, which is how the henchmen are supposed to be played. What slightly marred their big piece in the musical, where they sing "Lady In The Long Black Dress" was that a brilliant, funny song was, for me, ruined by making it overtly sexual and dirty, which it's really not supposed to be. Sorry but I've seen funnier and less smutty versions which I've enjoyed better.
Aaron Lee-Lambert, I must admit though did have a really nice soul voice in the style of Teddy Pendergrass as he sang "When I Find My Baby"
A few things didn't work for me in this production, including the actors playing instruments on stage. Now I am all for actors playing instruments on stage when there is a need for it,i.e. the character needs to play an instrument in his role. What made this musical look wrong was seeing nuns with trumpets, saxophones and trombones and Sweaty Eddie patrolling the streets with a guitar strapped to his back, just waiting to break into song. How many gangsters and henchmen do you see carrying guitars anyway?. Are they going to snuff some dirty rotten squealer out with an A Flat chord? Sorry this didn't work for me!
The scene where Sweaty Eddie sings "I Could Be That Guy" also looked a little laboured with the switch from policeman to disco star and back to policeman. Again I've seen it done better. Great song though!
But it's not all bad. the music was great, the songs were great, the staging was great, the lighting and sets were great, the glitter cannon at the end was great, the enthusiasm was great, but the whole show could have been better than great. Maybe Craig Revel-Horwood wanted to change it up a bit and make it fresher and sexier, and let's face it, this musical now can be a bit dated, albeit great fun, and I applaud Revel-Horwood for taking a chance. It just didn't work for me. It obviously worked for several of the audience who gave the cast a standing ovation at the end.
As I said at the start, this reviewing lark is very subjective and comparing one production to another is inevitable..
"Sister Act" is on at the Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 11 February 2017.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Lace Market Theatre
“Glorious” is the story of Florence Foster Jenkins. But who is Florence Foster Jenkins?
Florence Foster Jenkins was billed as the worst singer in the world In 1940's New York, The performer who everyone wanted to see live was Florence Foster Jenkins, an enthusiastic soprano whose pitch was far from perfect.
Known as 'the first lady of the sliding scale', she warbled and screeched her way through the evening to an audience who mostly fell about with laughter. But this delusional and joyously happy woman paid little attention to her critics, instead she was surrounded by a circle of devoted friends who were almost as eccentric as she was.
Based upon a true story, the play spins from Florence's charity recitals and extravagant balls, through to her bizarre recording sessions and an ultimate triumph at Carnegie Hall.
Alison Hope plays Florence. This role shows what a good actor Alison is because I know that Alison can sing, and to play a role where the character is an off key singer is a lot harder than most people would think because you automatically want to sing in tune and not just out of key.
A great deal of character concentration is needed as just one slip could break the character. Having seen Alison in several shows I also know what a lovely generous actor she is and playing Florence has elevated her even further up the ranks of being the sort of actor any theatre company wants in their roster of fine actors. Alison rules the stage but doesn't dominate the stage.
Chris Sims plays Cosme McMoon. Another marvellous character and another wonderful performance. As McMoon, Chris has some wonderfully veiled lines to Florence and his facial expressions when delivering them are lovely to see
Max Bromley, as St Clair Byfield. Wonderfully British hammy actor, Byfield, not Bromley, and like Cosme, this character has his fair share of brilliant comic one liners.
The lovely Carol Parkinson is Dorothy, best friend to Florence. This play has almost equality where the comedy is placed because the delightfully scatty Dorothy and her dog produces an unexpected highlight in the funeral scenes.
Maria, played by Beverley Anderson is the Spanish maid employed by Florence. She has been sacked from the position three times, but as she didn't understand English, she just stayed on. Speaking entirely in Spanish, this is another joyous part. Beverley makes her debut for the Lace Market Theatre with this role, and what a brilliant solid debut it is.
Cynthia Marsh plays Mrs Johnson, the lady who plans to scupper Florence's career. Does Mrs Johnson succeed? One way to find out!. Cynthia is known for directing pieces, but here plays a lovely feisty role.
There are some fantastic costumes, primarily for Florence, but Dorothy has some pretty wacky costumes as well. the male costumes are, as you'd expect for the era, pretty damn smart.The costumes are the hard work of Barry Holland and Jean Newton and are lush.
The set itself, designed by Carole Philip is quite beautiful,especially the "ball" scene.
The lighting was designed by Hugh Philip and sound design courtesy of Gareth Morris, sublimely complementing the whole show
Directed by Roger Newnham, this is a lovely almost self-assuring play which gives you a sense of self belief in you can be or do whatever you want to be or do, as long as you have the money and influence.
It;s rare to find a play that has six characters who are as equally watchable and likeable, but here is one that does just that.
“Glorious” is at the Nottingham Lace Market Theatre until Saturday 28 January 2017 and I could sum up this incredibly engaging comedy in one word. Glorious.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

“Cats” by Creatio Arts Youth Theatre.
Derby Theatre.
Midnight. Not a sound from the pavement. Suddenly an explosion of music and lights reveals a larger-than-life disused factory floor. Tonight is the one special night each year when the tribe of Jellicle Cats reunites to celebrate who they are. They emerge singing of their unique abilities and special traits from all quarters of the theatre.
“Cats” first opened in the West End in 1981 and as of 2016, is the fourth-longest-running show in Broadway history. So what gives this Lloyd-Webber musical such longevity? I think I now know.
I must admit “Cats” is one musical I’ve now seen three times, this being my fourth, and after not enjoying, maybe not engaging with the musical after the first couple of times, I though last year I’d give it another shot and saw a local theatre production.
The first two were professional touring productions. Well, I finally got it by the third view. I realised that there is no deep meaning in the musical and the show is just a celebration of cats. I may have been looking too deep and looking for something that wasn’t there and it took three sittings to realise this!
As only to be expected, this is a massive cats, sorry cast of over 50, and local theatre goers will possible spot behind the excellent make up, OK maybe from the programme, many well-known names of local theatre productions from the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire areas. So many that I can’t possibly name them all, but I should mention some of them.
Lowri Spear played Grizabella - The Glamour Cat. Past her heyday, Grizabella, definitely not Lowri. She hit that big note in "Memory" and gained a rousing recognition from the packed to the rafters theatre
Adam Griffiths-Vernon, a new name to me, as far as I can remember, but a name to watch out for with his strong vocals.
Ryan Wiggins as the equivalent of some sexy cat pop idol as Rum Tum Tugger, gyrating around his cat admirers.
Oscar Hewitt-Richards, again another new name, as Bustopher Jones. A good voice for musical theatre and nice characterisation. Another name to look out for in theatre land.
Lewis Haycock and Erin Keogh teased as Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer, and even came out to play "tag" in the interval, which delighted the kids who were in attendance.
Oliver Wheddon as the lithe Skimbleshanks, director Matt Powell couldn't resist a part, or two, as the very colourful bespectacled Rumpus Cat and Carbucketty.
It seems a long time since I saw Bradley Mcclean on stage and he has grown. Playing Macavity shows a more grown up actor and it suits him.
Paddy Stafford was a joy as Gus The Theatre Cat, and again brilliant character driven role and what a voice made for musicals.
Griddlebone was played by Emily Cox and teaming her up with Paddy in these roles was magical in their duet.
Zak Charlesworth as the daddy of the cats, Old Deuteronomy, showed with this musical an even more mature voice from Zak. He has always had a brilliant voice but tonight he showed what a great musical theatre, and possibility of light operatic voice he has. The strength and control he has was spell binding. The world is this young man's oyster at the moment.
Bagging the most applause though in "Cats" was Lucas Young. His balletic and acrobatic performance just blew everyone in the theatre away in his role as Mr Mistoffolees. I've always known that Lucas is a good dancer. In "Cats" he has shown what a fantastic dancer he is.
It would take forever to mention every one of these amazing actors, and I apologise to those I've not highlighted, but wow, you were all simply incredible to do what you did on that stage. If I were your patents, I'd be super-proud.
Choreographed by Charlotte Richardson-Astle and Ellie Jones with additional choreography and direction from Rachel Bates and Matt Powell. Why so many choreographers? Have you seen this musical and the varied dance styles? What can I say but WOW!
It takes a special kind of actor to be able to get into the mindset of being a cat and the way cats move. They are full of grace, so aloof, and every step taken is precise and seems to have a meaning, so when you think of these traits within choreography, you can appreciate the work that goes into teaching actors, many unfamiliar to moving in this way, to carry out these specific steps.With this show being forever on the move, you can appreciate every ounce of hard work these dance routines take to look as good as they did.
Musical Direction by Tom Watkins and what a fantastic orchestra he led. Not one note out and just the right sound level. Perfection.
Produced by Emily Gent and Creatio Arts Ltd. This is just another massive success for Creatio and their ridiculously hard working technical team. they certainly do not do anything by halves.
The sets, again as you’d expect are wonderful. Designed bySimon Davey with some long hours put in by Roydon Charlesworth and Paul Wheddon to make it look as fantastic as it does.
There were a few mic issues but I'm sure that the sound wizards will resolve these.
The lighting was designed by Tom Mowat so was incredible and I will mention the follow spots because I know from talking to lighting folk that these aren't as easy as it may look and so Kheenan Jones and Jack Readyhoof deserve credit for their job with the follow spots. I am lead to believe that this was their first time!
Amazing costumes, sourced and put together by a whole host of people, incredible make up and wigs. The make up was done by the cast themselves, yes I know that's what most local theatre people do but I'm always overwhelmed at such things like this, especially when they all look so amazing!
A total standing ovation by the end, and I for one was not tardy in getting to my feet to show how much I enjoyed this production. I'm not saying that "Cats" is my all time favourite musical all of a sudden, but it's creeping up my favourites list, slowly.
"Cats" is only on until Friday 27 January 2017 and I know that there are only a few tickets left, but if you can, I would. go on have a (fur) ball.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

“Sunny Afternoon”
Nottingham Theatre Royal.
Based on the formation and career of The Kinks, this is their tale of their rise from the dead end streets to rock stardom. It’s set against the background of political and social change of the 1960s and examines the early years of the Muswell Hill based group. After initial failure, the band's lead guitarist Dave Davies experimented and created a distorted power chord sound on the group's third single, "You Really Got Me". The song, written by Dave's older brother Ray, went to No 1 in the charts and preceded a string of hits.
Woven into this 2015 award winning new musical are the themes of the Davies brothers' sibling rivalry, management problems, their sister's untimely death, Ray's doomed marriage and their subsequent banning from the United States following a dispute with the musicians' union.
All the biggest and best hits are here, “You really Got Me”, “Days”, “Dead End Street”, ”Dedicated Follower Of Fashion”, “Stop Your Sobbing”, “All Day And All Of The Night”, “Tired Of Waiting”, "I Go To Sleep", “Waterloo Sunset”, “Lola”, "Sunny Afternoon" and so many more.
This show combines the adrenalin rush of being at a live concert with the whole theatricality of a stage show and the whole rebellious spirit of the 1960s. Bringing the primal sound of rock ‘n’ roll to the “lardies” (lah di dah-upper class people) can be an uphill struggle and not without physical oppositions.
It’s always nice to see those on stage actually playing their instruments, bringing an air of realism to the roles of the fine musicians that are the Davies brothers and the band, with only a couple of drafted in musicians to fully flesh out the sound.
The arrangements of Davies' songs when stripped back show what beautiful words and melodies he produced. Ir also highlighted the really good voices the actors had.
Mark Newnham gave a wonderful, if not slightly twisted performance as Dave Davies, but that guitar playing was just amazing. he sung more than one axe in this show (that's musician talk by the way-go see the show to find out what I mean). A bordering alcoholic womaniser who constantly argued and fought with his sibling, as well as anyone else who he took a passing dislike to. A lovely touching moment of truth though at the end.
Ryan O Donnell played Ray Davies. Thoughtful portrayal of a thoughtful man with talent in abundance, still has, and a legend in the world of music. Ryan even looked like the young Ray Davies although didn't sound like Ray, but this wasn't a tribute show, this was a tribute to great music and a great story.
The Kinks drummer, Mick Avory was played by Andrew Gallo and boy could he beat them skins. A formidable drum solo in Act Two highlighting his drumming skills. This Mick certainly gave it some stick!
Completing the line up was bassist Pete Quaife played by Garmon Rhys. Another fantastic musician.
One part of The kinks story I wasn't aware of was Ray's wife, Rasa and their baby which came to be very early in the Kinks' career and the issue that this would cause Ray during the Kinks U.S. tour. Rasa was played by Lisa Wright, who is a recording artist in her own right.
Brilliant costumes and wigs, especially for Dave Davies,an amazing light show and powerful sound. I did hear someone behind me dare to say that it was too loud. This is the music of The Kinks, one of the most influential bands of the 1960's. Too loud? Oh no, not for me, I loved the whole concert feel to the show.
Loved the choreography (Adam Cooper) and those fashions and girls are so sexy.
Great entertainment as well as educational, an amazing back catalogue of songs, a fantastic history lesson and a crazy, mixed up, shook up world of sixties pop culture. These songs will have you singing for days after the event as you walk off into your own Waterloo sunset.
“Sunny Afternoon” is at the Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 28 January 2017.

Monday, 23 January 2017

“Legally Blonde” by Christchurch Theatre Club
Loughborough Town Hall
Legally Blonde The Musical is the story of college sweetheart and homecoming queen Elle Woods, who doesn't take no for an answer. When her boyfriend, Warner Huntington III, dumps her for someone serious, Elle puts down the credit card, hits the books and heads for Harvard Law! Along the way, Elle proves that being true to yourself never goes out of style.
Christchurch Theatre Club have a history of putting on some top notch productions and that run doesn’t end with this one because this big pink musical is just bursting with fun and vitality. Stereotypes, scandal, snobbery and sauce salubriously satisfy the senses superbly.
A wonderfully talented cast led by Lucy Maden as Elle, who has a gorgeous voice (something that I knew from past productions), and is very easy on the eye as well as the ear. She exudes fun in this role.When she sings as Lucy, as opposed to Elle, you can hear the contrast in her voice, something that I noticed in the second act.
Ashley Bright (Emmett Forrest) played a very strong Emmett, and again the rise from being the clever
"college kid next door" to the legal eagle, resplendent in smart suit in act two, along with a more confident attitude shone through. As did his voice. There were a couple of wobbles at the start but he soon got into his stride and was belting those songs out, Good power and control.
Playing the shallow intellect, Warner, is James Daw. What a brilliant part for James and again, another strong vocalist, especially noticeable in the song "Serious".
Perfecting her “bend and snap” and delivering some wonderful saucy lines is Julie Easter as hairdresser Paulette Bonafonte. Julie has one of those immensely powerful voices when she lets rip, and whether she thanks me for it or not, her voice reminds me ever so slightly of Jane McDonald (that is a compliment-honestly). Great chatacterisation, great fun to watch and great vocals, especially on one of the stand out tracks "Ireland"
Holly Easter (Brooke Wyndham) is a smaller but no less important character and her energetic version of "Whipped into Shape", complete with skipping ropes was one for the lads!
We all love a good villainous role and Guy Benson takes the mantle and runs with it as Professor Callahan, the slime ball (Callahan, not Guy).When Elle slapped him at the end, you really felt that slap, and heard it. If that was a theatrical slap, it was well executed but looked so realistic. if it was a proper slap, I imagine that Gut will be glad when this particular show ends! Guy made us, not hate the character, more intensely dislike Callahan, which shows that he did a good job of the role.
Lucy Gamble (Vivienne Kensington) starts off being the female baddie but then turns the role around, and I must admit, I did like the second act character best, but again that proves that Lucy is very good at her role play, and a good solid role it is.
Completing the main roles is Heather Gallagher as Enid Hoops.Some good comedy parts from Heather as Enid which I really enjoyed, A good gutsy performance.
There’s a fairly large supporting cast who complement the mains exceedingly well and of course the extra element of having not one, but two furry friends in Chilli and Lola, the two incredibly cute dogs who behaved themselves impeccably.
Several of the ensemble doubled up roles and there were some brilliant cameo spots from Craig Butterworth as the flamboyant Carlos, Jack Hardy as Nikos and Aaron Murray as Kyle B O'Boyle, the delivery man. Never was a role so suitable for Aaron as this great fun, saucy role and he acted like he knew it as well, delighting the ladies on the front row as he made his way to the stage.
Brilliantly bouncy soundtrack which had the audience bouncing with them. The orchestra under the musical direction of Vicki Hing sounded superb. There were several varied musical styles, all sounding fantastic, especially the more uptempo disco-style numbers.
The exciting choreography was also varied but all the dancers threw themselves into the dance routines with great energy, Choreographed by Michael Gamble, who also directed the show. Its a fast paced musical and he kept it rolling like a big pink shiny glitterball.
The sets were wonderful and changed so fast as well. No hanging about here, as soon as one was finished with it was on with the next making this a really smooth fast-moving show.
Sound may be the only thing that let this production down slightly. At times there seemed to be issues with mics either not working or it may just be that there weren't enough mics to go round. Some of the singers were lost because of this. It may just be first night technical wobbles and it didn't spoil the show, but may need addressing. Apart from that the sound quality was, as usual,excellent.
Marvellous costumes and wigs and some very quick changes. Loads of props which looked great and a big hand must go to someone who must've worked his socks off due to the smoothness of the show and what we saw on stage, the stage manager, Adrian Wray
This is a tasty show, not only because one of the characters is called Chutney, and I have it on very good authority that there is cheese involved, but I’m not going to reveal where and how it’s implemented (our secret Julie) but it will leave anyone watching this production feeling in the pink. This much fun surely must be illegal!
“Legally Blonde” is on at Loughborough Town Hall until Saturday 28 January 2017. Oh My God you guys shouldn't miss this one because you'll feel so much better for seeing it! I'm serious, I'm positive it's just what you want on a cold January evening to warm you up.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

"Our Day Out" by Willy Russell
The Young Performers.
The musical was developed from the 1977 BBC television play "Our Day Out" by Willy Russell. The story is about a group of children in a Progress Class going on a school trip to Conwy Castle in Wales. On the journey, they make some stops: at a petrol station where they steal sweets, at the zoo they steal most of the animals and a student gets lost at the beach.
There's the usual teacher crush, the bossy teacher and the nice teacher, giving the good cop bad cop situation, an over protective bus driver who stamps his authority over the kids by letting them know that he's the "boss of the bus", plus many colourful characters among the kids.
There's a line in the play which states that "if you don't invest in something, you can't get anything out", and that is so true here because there's been a lot of investment in time and talent and we got a lot out of this investment.
I for one was transported back to some of my school trips with some of the characters, especially the wonderful "I'm bleeding bored" duo.
The young cast were really good but there were several actors who really stuck out for me.
Molly Parkinson (Mrs Kay) played the good cop teacher whose character invested her faith in the "special" kids, giving a lovely light and shade when discussing the kids with the bossy Briggs.
Briggs was sent along by the headteacher (Zak Charlesworth), to keep an eye on the kids and the two teachers, Mrs Kay and Colin (George Parkinson). Loved Harvey Latter as Briggs in this role as he turned the "down the line" teacher from zero to hero in the eyes of the kids and Colin and Mrs Kay.
Joseph Downing, as the bus driver, Ronnie, presented another turnaround character as he played the bus boss from strict to a kindly uncle role.
Sienna McQuade (Linda) and Lauren Riley (Jackie) were besotted with "Sir" and the "bored pair" played with great fun by Harriet Slatcher and Lucie Smith-Barnes.
The two ex Progress class lads who joined the day out were played by Jake Truman (Btain Reilly) and Bradley Mcclean (Digga Dickson) were also a pair that took me back to my childhood. i must also say that Bradley has a good voice for the theatre and really good projection.
Another actor here who has a really good voice is Libby Gallagher (Carol) who played a lovely part as the young girl who really wanted to better herself and raise herself out of the Progress class and to make something of her life.
As I said, the whole cast gave diamond performances and there are many future stars in this cast.
The rest of the cast were Megan Thomas, Tilly Finn-Cook, Liam Morris, Ryan Yates, Hayley Watson, Lenny Antwi, Brooke Marsden, Ruby Garrison, Ava Haylock, Lucy Kenyon, Eleanor Meakin, Giselle Taverner, Darcey Alicia Taylor and Henry Icke. Every one giving 110% especially as they also acted as the scene shifters as well as providing vocals.
Great sound, as usual, from The Band, Leon WadeSean GaravanJeff Widdowson and Adam Baskill and the same quality as I've come to expect from Dave Martin and David Sims with the lighting and sound mix.
Making sure that there was loads of fun in this production were directors Elaine Clemerson, Patricia Freer and Vicky Moran.
This is a lovely fun filled production which also gets you thinking twice about pre-judging, as well as transports you back to your juvenile days.
Some wonderful catchy songs, 18 of them in about an hour and twenty minutes, and by the looks of the fun that was emitting from the stage, the audience were caught up in this wave of fun and reacted accordingly with rapturous applause, richly deserved.
It takes a lot of guts for anyone to put themselves out on stage and sing and dance and act, something I just wouldn't have the guts to do, and these kids are young and their passion is obvious for all to see. They deserve our support and admiration.
"Our Day Our" by The Young Performers is being performed at The Duchess Theatre until Saturday 21 January 2017. Go on, have a night out with "Our Day Out".

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

“And Then There Were None” by Bonington Players
Bonington Theatre.
A group of people are lured into coming to an island under different pretexts. All have been involved in the deaths of other human beings, but either escaped justice or committed an act that was not subject to legal sanction.
The guests and two servants who are present are "charged" with their respective "crimes" by a gramophone recording after dinner on their first night, and informed that they have been brought to the island to pay for their actions. They are the only people on the island, and cannot escape due to the distance from the mainland and the inclement weather.
The nursery rhyme “Ten Little Indians” describes how the ten little Indians are killed off. Gradually the guests are killed off in turn, each in a manner that seems to parallel the deaths in the nursery rhyme. Nobody else seems to be left alive on the island by the time of the apparent last death, but someone must be responsible for the deaths, but who?
The way I see it is that all you need for engaging theatre is a good script,a good cast and a good technical crew. Simplistic, I know but that is what Bonington Players have. Agatha Christie is one of the finest, in my opinion, thriller writers and they are all so stylised.

Bonington Players have compiled a fine cast for this classic murder mystery.
Vic Roberts (Rogers-the Butler), Anna Hodkin (Mrs Rogers, his wife and cook), Tony Tatton (Fred Narracott-the boatman), Helen Holbrook (Vera Claythorne-a young woman and object of a couple of the guests' attentions), Kevin Chatten (Phillip Lombard-the wise cracking revolver toting soldier of fortune), Neil Holbrook (Anthony Marston-the hooray henry lover of fast cars), Eddie Janusczcyk (William Blore-a former police officer), Mike Baker (General Mackenzie who thought he kept seeing his late wife, Leslie and seems to be slowly losing his mind), Julia Walters (Emily Brent-an acidic old woman), Tony Tomlinson (Sir Lawrence Wargrave known as "The Hanging Judge") and Wayne Hill (Dr Armstrong- a Harley Street doctor). A brilliant cast who were completely engaging. It's be so difficult for me to highlight just one of these actors because they were all so very good.
Stylishly directed by Tony Tatton and a wonderful set designed by Howard Whitehurst, giving the outdoor scenery a depth I can't remember seeing in any other productions I've seen of this play.A simple but effective and apt set dressing by Linda Whitehurst.
The soundscape was realistic, and a again I know this may sound obvious but when the doors to the outside were opened you could hear the outside sound and when they closed the riming was perfect. This may seem like a given but this doesn't always work as it should. Designed by David Goatham, along with the lighting design, these two skipped merrily and jauntily hand in hand in wonderful unison.
Part of the style of Christie's plays are the wonderful clothes of the period and Gail Tomlinson did the play proud with the costumes.
There may have been a few stumbles over the odd line but they were well recovered by the actors who helped hide these as well as they could. It's first night, there'll always be nerves no matter how experienced an actor you are but the secret is recovery. i got the feeling that quite a few of the almost full theatre at Bonington may not have seen the play before from their reactions, so they's be none the wiser.
Any stumblings were glossed over because the way every actor threw themselves into the marvellous characters they were playing. the script is classic and this cast brought the lines to life, resulting in several of the audience members teetering on the seat edges for the finale.
This is without doubt a wonderfully entertaining piece of theatre, made all the better by a talented cast and technical crew and is well worth seeing this week.
"And Then There Were None" by The Boninton Players is being performed at Bonington Theatre in Arnold until Saturday 21 January. Don't hang around though because you may wait for later in the week to get a ticket and then there were none left!

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

“Tissue” by Louise Page
Lace Market Theatre.
“Tissue” is a play about breast cancer. It follows the journey of Sally Bacon (as in eggs) as she goes through the ups and downs, and the support she receives from family and friends, facing the path that lays ahead of her. It also shows the effects it has on her family which sometimes can often be forgotten.
The play time-skips backwards and forwards to cover Sally’s timeline of events which, to start with seemed a little confusing, but you soon get used to that and you become completely enveloped in this intimate, emotive and daring piece of contemporary theatre. You follow Sally’s reminiscing of her longing for puberty all the way through to the most poignant, emotional and physical turmoil of discovering that lump and her mastectomy..
There was a time when this hideous disease was mainly accredited as a “woman’s thing”, but over the years, we know that men are also just as susceptible to breast cancer as well. To dismiss this play as a woman’s play would be ignorant on the part of the male species.
We're taken through that feeling of feeling unattractive to her partner and the feeling of not being whole, as a woman. These things, as well as the whole horror of discovery, uncertainty and realisation, as well as acceptance is something that an actor can only depict through research and drawing on acting skills.
Making an audience member believe and feel the emotions of the character is, possibly , one of the hardest tasks an actor can hope to achieve but these three achieved just that.
Don’t be fooled though into thinking that this is all doom and gloom because there are plenty of lighter scenes. The teenage Sally’s mantra of “I must, I must, I must increase my bust” brings a smile to the face, this being a complete contrast to the post-op scenes of the mastectomy.
“Tissue” relies heavily on the talents of the actors and Kirsty Guest (Sally) really makes you feel what her character feels. Her anger, disappointment, fear, uncertainty, the trust she has in her brother, Simon. When she catches your eye during parts of the speech it really is as if she is talking directly to you.
Malcolm Todd plays all of the male roles and the quick changes from the doctor, to brother, to father to lover to ex partner makes this role not the easiest for an actor. There's a lovely comedy section where, as Sally's brother he wanted to see her breasts to compare them with the glossy pictures he, and his friends had found
There are also several scenes as Sally's partner when he dismissed the lump as being brought on by Sally for being frigid and refusing to help examine her breast for the lump. These scenes create little globules of emotion in the viewer but so fast is the pace that you feel another emotion, whether it be humorous or otherwise,
Dawn Price, who played all of the other female roles is the same as Malcolm. The rapid turnaround of roles keeps you on your toes and the story tight. Another actor who deserves praise for character change accuracy. There's also a lovely scene where Dawn plays the part of a double mastectomy patient. As a man you can't, I don't think fully understand what this, albeit life saving surgery, can do to the confidence of a woman, but Dawn, and Kirsty really make you think about it, carefully.
Directed by Clare Choubey, she has approached this really touching and brave production with great tenderness, and the pacy delivery made sure that you didn't dwell too much on each emotion and scene. I imagine that when you contract this heinous disease, life may seem to fly by with the same rapidity of these scenes.
Set in the upstairs studio, this intimate performing space creates the perfect atmosphere for this play.
I always stress the importance of the lighting and sound design as so much can be added, as well taken, from the scenes and Philip Hogarth (Lighting) and Philip Anthony (Sound) added to the heightened emotions and the comedic scenes. The opening piano piece and the closing "Ave Maria" were spot on.
For a challenging piece of theatre which will take you on a trip through almost every emotion, you need to see this play, and take a tissue, just in case.
A thoughtful piece if theatre which kicks off, what is going to be a wonderful season, “Tissue” is being performed at the Nottingham Lace Market Theatre until Saturday 7 January 2017.