Thursday, 25 May 2017

“Punk Rock” by Creatio Arts
Guildhall Theatre, Derby.
Set in the library of a modern Stockport grammar school, it tells the story of various angsty adolescents as they flirt, bully and pontificate their way through their A-level mocks.
Written by Simon Stephens and based on his experience as a teacher, we’re allowed into the secret corridors of the minds of seven teenagers, all with their own agendas, worries, crushes, peer pressure, exams, body image worries, sexual awakening and curiosity, basically everything that a normal teenager goes through throughout their teenage school lives. Most teenagers though don’t take things to the extremes that one of these does.
Simon Stephens is one of the most powerful modern day writers I can think of. He wrote "The Curious Incident of The Dog In The Night Time" and
there are some parallels with that play in "Punk Rock"; mainly because it deals with mental health issues, as well as some amazing facts the play gives out.
I've seen this play before and loved it. This time round I loved it even more. there's a couple of places that still made me jump, even though I knew what was coming.
This is the first non-musical production that Creatio Director Matt Powell and his talented team of actors and production crew has taken on. They present incredible large scale musicals and if "Punk Rock" is anything to go by, as a starter, Creatio Arts also show that they can present amazing and powerful plays.
Andrea Pocock and Katie Wendorf are Producers for this captivating and hypnotising play.
William Carlisle (Morgan Ratcliffe) is desperate to attract the new girl in school, Lilly, and soon becomes almost addicted to her. Unfortunately she chooses Nicholas as her lover. Morgan turns in a powerful performance in this debut for Creatio and as Carlisle his little lies soon become unravelled.
Lilly Cahill (Lucy Judson), the new girl at Stockport Grammar School. Seeing the fear in her face towards the end shows what a versatile and emotive actor she is
Bennett Francis ( Kheenan Jones) is the bully in the bunch.It's the sign of a good actor when you really start to dislike the character you see in stage and Francis is a real nasty bully, physically and mentally he is just nasty.It was nice to see him whimpering lie a baby as a reversal, but that didn't end his comeuppance there!
Cissy Franks (Emily Cox) is bully Bennett's girlfriend and you can see just how afraid she is of him as well. Her friends show their distaste for Bennett in the way they start to react to Cissy.
Nicholas Chapman (Lewis Haycock). Lewis gives another solid performance, and quite restrained in this. It really is nice to see another side of Lewis, having only seen him do musicals. Straight plays really suit him and he gave a truly believable performance as the part of the loved up pairing.
Tanya Gleason(Lowri Spear) was, in a way, the mediator of the play between the various characters, but even she was afraid to stand up to Bennett. Loved the accent which gave the setting in Stockport more of a real feel for the area
Chadwick Meade (Jack Readyhoof) was the wimpy kid of the bunch. The swot who had all the facts. Bennett made him a target because of this and his image. Degraded and belittled on a regular basis by his tormentor, he jumped, winced and did as he was told. I've seen Jack in many roles over the years and all of them different. This is my favourite up to date. Again it's great to see Jack in a non musical role and his character acting as Chadwick was incredibly well observed. A lot can be said just by facial expressions and just looking at Jack's as Chadwick told you everything you needed to know.
Dr. Harvey ( Lisa Judson) came into the play at the end when she was observing the particular person who snapped. A nice controlled and calming performance.
Directed by Matt Powell, assisted by Lisa Judson. they really can't do anything wrong for me in local theatre. as I said at the start, I love this play with the powerful message it brings to us and the slow burn leading up to the explosive ending simmered nicely. You could tell the ones in the audience who had not seen this play before because when the inevitable happened, there was an audible reaction to the event. Matt also designed the set.
I'm going to mention the programme as well because it gives plenty of incite into Creatio and the actors. So if, as you walk up the stairs to the
theatre and your offered a "prospectus for Stockport Grammar School", buy one (it's the programme) because after you've read it from front to back, you can use it to fan yourself in the warm theatre.
Go and see this power packed slow burn play with this fantastic cast. If you've only seen them in musicals, go and see another side of their talents.
“Punk Rock” is at the Guildhall Theatre in Derby until Saturday 27 May 2017

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

“The Perfect Murder” by Peter James
Nottingham Lace Market Theatre.
Victor Smiley and his wife Joan have been married for a long time. But their marriage has reached crisis point and Victor has decided that there is only one way to get Joan out of his life forever... but he’s about to get a nasty surprise.
As a young Detective Roy Grace starts to investigate his very first murder case, dark forces intervene and he begins to realise that nothing is quite as it seems…
Victor is played by Ian Currie, and what a role, and what a brilliant performance Ian puts in, extracting gasps of disdain from the female audience members in the way that he speaks to Joan. His facial
expressions can turn quite frightening, as is his demeanour most of the way through this play, creating quite a threatening atmosphere. Great character play by Ian.
Joan is played by Jemma Froggatt, and again a very naturalistic performance; her fear when she thinks that Victor is haunting her is quite unnerving, as is the "haunting" scene itself. It really is quite a scary experience. A solid and enjoyable performance from Jemma.
Don, the taxi driver, who Joan is having a fling with, is played by Steve Mitchell. It takes a bit of getting used to his cockney rhyming slang. The comedy side balances well with his sympathetic and empathetic side of his character. Again a very believable portrayal. Ladies will also get a bonus by getting to see Steve in the buff, all in the best possible taste of course!
Kamila, a Croatian working girl, is played by Sophie Owen. I have seen Sophie in several roles in the past, and it's nice to see her in major and juicy role. The accent is good and I love the way that she is involved in the final reveal. Possibly the best role I've seen Sophie in.
Detective Constable Roy Grace is played by Matthew Finkel, making his debut for the Lace Market Theatre.At first I wasn't warming to Grace as he seemed detached from the situation, and then the detachment faded in Act Two and I warmed to the character. I then realised that this really worked in the character's favour, rethought what I initially felt and decided that I was loving Matthew's character acting. I'm looking forward to seeing more roles from Matthew with the Lace Market Theatre.
The set is split into two with part of it being the bedroom and the other part being the kitchen/dinerMark James and combined with the lighting design by Phil Anthony, the highlighting split the two areas perfectly.
The sound design, by Gareth Morris, is clever and could have gone unnoticed because of the natural insertion of the sound affects coming from all areas of the stage. The "haunting" section was incredibly effective from a technical point of view.I imagine also quite challenging.
Directed by Chris Sims, and what a nice combination of high drama as well as the mundane every day life of the warring married couple . The mentions of Benedict Cucumberpatch, and his bottom, as the modern Sherlock, as well as several other modern nods brings this very witty script even more up to date.Some nice little touches ignited the sparkiness in this play
Written by Peter James and adapted for the stage by Shaun McKenna, it’s full of twists and turns in James’ classic thriller style. Having not read this novel, it was new to me, and although I expected a twist at the end, I didn't see what it was or how it would come about.
A really fine cast and technical production made for an exciting evening that is a must for any Peter James fan as well as any thriller fan. Not forgetting the lovely comedy interwoven in the script.
“The Perfect Murder” is at the Lace Market Theatre until Saturday 27 May 2017

Monday, 22 May 2017

“Shirley Valentine” by Willy Russell
Nottingham Theatre Royal.
Shirley is a Liverpool housewife. Her kids have left home and she makes chips and egg for her husband while talking to the wall. Where has her life disappeared to? Out of the blue, her best friend offers her a trip to Greece for 2 weeks and she secretly packs her bags. She heads for the sun and starts to see the world and herself very differently.
Starring Jodie Prenger in this first major revival of the play which premiered in 1986 and was massive hit which was later adapted into a film. Jodie has come a long way since landing the role of Nancy in the revival of “Oliver” after winning the part on BBC1’s “I’d Do Anything” where the search was on for a new actress to play the part of Nancy.
We all love listening to stories and Jodie is a marvellous lyrical painter of pictures. What she also brings to this role is her ear for accents, and I love a good accent.
Jodie is exciting to watch and I will admit that seeing her in musicals in the past, she didn't stand out that much, but I can't say that in this one woman show. Jodie has to stand out and she does. She lights up the stage without even trying and you wanted to be near her to soak in all of her wonderful stories; well the stories written by Willy Russell for Shirley Valentine.
Directed by Glen Walford, she made this look so casual and laid back, just as if you were the only one listening. Produced by Adam Spiegel
Set and Costume design by Amy Yardley. The first act was a working kitchen where Shirley actually made chips and egg on the cooker. We all got hunger pangs smelling that food in the theatre. It also highlighted Jodie's timing to be spot on.
The second act was the beach at Greece. With the sounds of the beach and the shore rolling up to the beach side taverna, you could picture the Grecian nightlife. The minimalist set of some rockery was all you needed.
Lighting Design by James Whiteside made you almost feel the warmth of the sun on that beach. A subtle soundscape by Ed Clarke meandered it's way in and out of your head.
For some strange reason we were told before we went in to the auditorium that this was just a one
woman show. that must have been for anyone unfamiliar with the play or film.
With such a pictoral and lyrical script, all you need is one good actor when you have a writer like Willy Russell. All we needed was Jodie Prenger.
A wonderful show, a hypnotic actor in Jodie and a standing ovation for affirmation.
“Shirley Valentine” is at the Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 27 May 2017

Saturday, 20 May 2017

"Peter Pan"
Duchess Theatre, Long Eaton.
Alexandra's School of Dance and Theatre present an original version of Peter Pan, written as well as choreographed by Alex Tavener.
The school teach children from 2 years of age upwards in various styles of dance and theatre. I've not seen anything by this group before, but I know that this will not be the last I see of the group, or the members.
The "Peter Pan" story has been revisited and within the story Alex had included several styles of dance, combining various musical styles from Justin Timberlake's "Can't Stop the Feeling" and S Club 7's "Reach" to Debussy's "Clair de Lune" to classic Disney songs and even Max Bygraves!
One thing to notice from the programme is the size of the school, from Pre-School to Seniors.
There's always going to be that "aaaahhh" factor with the little ones, It's the best age to get them interested in dance and theatre and if you can grab them at that age, you have every chance of keeping them, because all little girts, and boys, like to dance. Add to that getting a rousing recognition from the audience will leave them wanting more of the same.
I'm not going to mention every one because I'll be here forever but from where I sat, they all looked as if they were enjoying every minute of being on stage, albeit just one teary moment, but hey, it can be frightening having all that adoration!
The seniors presented a very traditional grown up ballet sequence which was really relaxing to watch. There's something about watching ballet that has that affect on me which is why I love ballet. It's exciting, passionate and relaxing and the seniors made you feel like you were having a virtual massage it was so laid back.
Let's look at the character actors....
Ava Haylock (Lost Girl), Giselle Taverner (Tiger Lily), Rachel Gould (Great Big Little Panther/Mother), Lily Stobo ( Mermaid Queen) Harmony Torrington (Fairy Queen), Hayley Watson (Saptain Hook/father), Christopher Oliver (Storybook Mr Smee), Adam Taylor (Storybook Captain Hook), Francesca Budden (Tinkerbell), Nana The Dog (Alex Tavener), Holly Cooke (Michael), Sylvie Cole (John), Darcy Cole (Wendy) and Harvey Taverner (Peter Pan).
Playing the title role, Peter Pan, I'm obviously going to focus on Harvey, but you can tell that all the character actors have really nailed their roles because of the magic they produced on stage.
Harvey Taverner is a dancer who will have a big future if that is what he wants from theatre. I've not seen a ballet dancer of his age (13) as good and as confident as he is. Just look at his hand extensions and his pointed toes, they flow. Just look at the ease of his lifts, no struggling, no effort needed, He looks confident and has great leadership qualities as he guides the younger dancers round.
As he gets older he will build his core and upper body strength and will be an incredible dancer. He, I'm sure, is aware of the time, hard work and practice that goes into training, much the same as any athlete.
I don't say this because his mum runs the school, I say this because he is very good at what he is doing. Harvey is also a great role model for the others in the school.
The costumes are wonderful, the sound was crystal clear (Ben Tennett), some lovely projection shots and lighting (Dave Dallard) and the stage manager (Christine Hewitt), with all of those children deserves a medal.
This was just a lovely, entertaining show which highlights the very talented young people we have in the locality. You can see the hard work that everyone has put in, and just looking round the theatre, you could see so many proud parents, and they have every right to be. So should Alex and her teachers Georgie Ure and Rachel Murray.
"Peter Pan" is at the Duchess Theatre, Long Eaton until Sunday 21 May 2017 where there is a matinee and evening show. See the dance and theatre stars of tomorrow, today.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

“Lemon Popsicle” by Smelly Sox Theatre
Create Theatre, West Notts College
What happens when a hard working pensioner called Henry is unhappy with his repetitive job and troubled family life, well he goes out for a drink to unwind and there meets an old friend of his called Denham. Denham wants to go out on the town and paint it red one last time and Henry goes along with him. This is the story of what happens.
This is the first production I’ve seen from Smelly Sox Theatre, the group formed by Matt Lamb. This their third production.
You know what I like about new pieces of theatre? That they are new. You don't have any preconceptions of what it's all about and you can't make any comparisons, which is a great position to be in as an audience member.
"Lemon Popsicle" is written by Connor Talbot and is a really good piece of comedy theatre which I can
see going down well at The Edinburgh Fringe because the comedy is of that style.
The voice over to open the play sets the scene well and introduces the two main characters as Henry is taking a leak in the bushes. As I said, it sets you up as to what to expect.
There's a lot of bad language and while that may not be of the norm, I know of people of that age who are as crude as these two, so it's not that far away from reality.
the thing that first hits you is Henry's enormous moustache. Think 1970's porn films and that's what you have. i know that some may be drawn to this but in a way it's just a caricature, a lampoon or cartoonish element.
Julian Salmon (Henry) is good at presenting the aged look and the physicality of the character, as is Matt Lamb as the geriatric rebel rouser, Denham, who's libido has not waned with age.
The pair were a good match and complemented each other, and the characters well. there's an excellent section when the club kids have a dance off with Denham and Henry which was well choreographed.
Sally, Henry's Granddaughter, is played by Chloe Thistlewait, who has a secret to hide from Henry, but it's on the oldies night out when that secret is discovered in a most embarrassing way for both,
Sally's boyfriend, who also is Henry's bullying boss is Jayce, played by Dan Wilkinson. His characterisation of the bully boss is one that gets you to instantly dislike, and you really pray for him to get his comeuppance, which he does, thanks to our dynamic duo.
There's a section where Sally is trying on dresses which is very funny and straight out of something like "The Young Ones", Rude and laddish but let's face it laddish humour is also very funny, when it's happening to someone else.
Ryan Drew brings a great comedy element to this play as Estelle, or is that Erotic Estelle. Denham shows that he can still pull in these modern disco bars and pull Estelle he does, and gets a lot more than he bargains for!
Loved the dance routine for this section as well which included a section borrowed from the film "Dirty Dancing", Really well done and very funny.
The bar person, Jordi, was played by Natasha Hobbart. I was a little confused as to whether Jordi was supposed to be male or female, even though it was very obvious that Natasha is female, I just wasn't sure from the script where Jordi's preferences lay.
Completing the cast is Kian Stanley who played the other local in the pub.
One issue I found was that not everyone projected and sometimes it was a little hard (sorry Jayce), to hear some of the words. One other rule of the theatre is not to turn your back on the audience and there were a couple of times when this happened, again losing some of the script to the back of the stage. These are things that you learn along the way and something that Director Tom Wilson can rectify easily with his cast members.
It's a good and comical script and it was nice to see a different side in the end scene. It was a clever piece of writing and directing to have the audience focus on Henry's speech while something else was happening on the other side of the stage. this was also well highlighted by the lighting designer.
There are a few rough edges that may need to polished but on the whole the rawness worked very well. The script is good, the characters are slightly over the top - nothing at all wrong with that - Monty Python built a career on this form, but remained believable. The choreography was good and I loved the fact that we started and repeated the "Footloose" section near the end, which shows Connor may have a liking for the movie classics of the 1980's.
I thoroughly enjoyed myself and I look forward to more stuff from Smelly Sox. At just over an hour long as well there is room for expansion and development of the characters, but as a taster, I was impressed.
“Lemon Popsicle” is at the Create Theatre at west Nottingham shire College in Mansfield until Friday May 19th

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

"Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” by Greasepaint Productions
Loughborough Town Hall
The musical is based on the 1988 film with Michael Caine and Steve Martin, but at one stage, David Bowie and Mick Jagger were in the possible running for the film version. Yes fact fans it’s true. Would I con ya?
What hits you first about this production is the wonderful set as you’re whisked away to the glamorous and oh so stylish La Plage sur la French Riviera, ooh la la!
Enter conman Lawrence Jameson (Lyndon Perry) who discovers that a new conman on the block, known as "The Jackal" is on the prowl. Enter Freddy Benson (James Nelson), Freddy and Lawrence are polar opposites and both very funny characters.
I’ve seen both actors previously so I already knew they were more than capable of getting the comedy in the bag. The timing was spot on, even down to the facial expressions.The chemistry between these two is just lovely and natural
Freddy gets to show his cheeky side, quite literally with a semi-moon as he is dressed and undressed on stage. Something I know the group of ladies sitting close to me really appreciated.
The whole cast are all on the money and the mains and ensemble are excellent.
Jenny Nelson who plays Jolene gets to wear the most amazing wig, I found out afterwards that the wig is nicknamed "Dolly", and it's one that Dolly Parton would be very proud to own. Her big number being “Oklahoma?” was just incredibly good to watch for the choreography alone, as well as that wig! Such energy from Jenny and the ensemble.
Sean Hickling (Andre) comes into his own in Act Two and also delivers his fair share of comedy lines, and I can only imagine what he does with that Toblerone!!
Jodie Blowfield (Muriel) also is featured more in the second act as a pairing with Andre makes for magic theatre with some very funny comic moments
Erica Makin (Christine Colgate) was fantastic, a smooth dancer and what a voice she has, but just you wait to see what she has up her sleeve at the end!
Great light design creating a very colourful and visually exciting production by Kevin Cutts and a crystal clear sound designed by Dave Cooper and Jack Harper.
A busy stage crew worked tirelessly to get the scene changes done smoothly under the stage
management of Lynsey Bloomfield.
Directed by Shane Perry, who was also responsible for the previous show “Barnum” seems to have the directorial Midas touch.In the same way as Barnum" he spruces up a very funny script with topical references.
We get Prince Harry name checked in "Great Big Stuff", Lady Gaga gets a mention as does Rihanna and local references like Coalville, Hathern and Loughborough all get name checked.
What can I say about the soundtrack. Having listened to the songs for the last couple of weeks, I loved all of the tracks and James Stevens, who was the Musical Director brought the magic and humour of the songs to life. The styles of the music in this soundtrack are varied which gave him something to get his musical teeth into.
The lyrics are seeped with comedy but "All About Ruprecht" is just hilarious, and also explained many of the references he made to me during my chat with him on the radio last Sunday.
You can’t beat a good old country hoe down to get the toes a tapping and the hands a clapping and, by contrast, a wondrous ballroom section all wonderfully choreographed by Jeanette Patrick-Cooper and co choreographer Shane Perry, who also was involved in the ensemble.
Having never seen this musical before, and never even seen the film, I am so glad that this was my first experience of "Scoundrels" and I'm pleased that it was Greasepaint who introduced me to such a very funny piece of theatre.
The audience were after a great evening of music and comedy and Greasepaint gave them what they
wanted without a shadow of a doubt. The standing ovation said it all and we were even treated to a tribute to Morecambe and Wise by Nelson and Perry.
Grab a programme as well because it's bright and colourful, just like the production, thanks to Cazz Lander.
“Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” is at Loughborough Town Hall until Saturday 20 May 2017

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Nottingham Playhouse
Marking the musical’s 20th Anniversary “Rent” tells the story of a group of young artists struggling to survive and pay their rent in New York City’s East Village and is based on Puccini’s opera “La Boheme”.
The book, music and lyrics are written by Jonathan Larson and many of themes highlighted when it first opened in 1996 are still relevant today because it celebrates being different. While the openness of sexuality, gender and creed in the play are shown in the main to be accepted, the fight for this acceptance today goes on.
The young cast bring out the raw emotion of this wonderful modern musical, but the same can be said of the ensemble pieces as well. Take for instance the brilliant “Seasons Of Love”, allowing main and ensemble to shine together.
Billy Cullum (Mark) comes across in his character as someone you can relate to while still being that struggling artist.A magical duet with Mark and Joanne in the wonderful "Tango Maureen",a nd brilliant choreography for this one as well.
Ross Hunter (Roger) has one of those voices just made for rock opera. His relationships with flat mate, Mark as well as his romance with Mimi were totally believable. Just the bloke you could take to the pub for a pint.
Ryan O Gorman (Tom). What can I say about this man's voice. Every one of that cast could sing. This man could REALLY sing. Absolutely dripping with raw emotion as he sang the reprise of "I'll Cover You".The hairs on the back of my neck standing to attention.
Javar La’trail Parker (Benjamin Coffin III) was the hard-nosed owner demanding rent for the property and cutting their electricity.
Layton Williams (Angel) is one of the most engaging and athletic portrayers of Angel I've had the pleasure of experiencing. He is fun, exciting, his dance moves were incredible but will break your heart in his final scenes. There was an increase in the applause and cheers as he stepped up to take his well deserved bows.
Philippa Stefani (Mimi) was a sight for this old man's eyes, and what a comeback in Act Two. just when you think she had breathed her last breath........
Lucie jones (Maureen) and Shanay Holmes (Joanne) were a joy to watch as the argumentative couple. Loved their duet "Take Me As I Am"
Directed by Bruce Guthrie. He manages to create a freshness about the play which really spotlights the need to love one another, family, friends and taking people as they are
Lee Proud’s Choreography is wonderfully energetic, "Tango Maureen" and all of Angel's moves were spell-binding, as was the rest of the musical moves. No matter how energetic the choreography was, the actors just did not seem to show any sign of being out of breath - a tribute to just how fit these actors need to be.
Joe Hood is the Musical Director. The live band were really good, in places just a bit too loud, or it could be the mix of the actor's mics with the band. i love loud but with lyrics loaded with emotion as well as fun, you need to hear the words.
Lighting by Rick Fisher. An exciting lighting design gave even more life to the scenes and the section where Angel is about to die really heightens the senses to what was about to happen.
A very busy set which gave a multi levelled platform for the large cast and ensemble. Three sets of scaffolding made up the majority of the set but it worked really well for the cast to swing from and scale the ladders. With a set like this you just know that there's going to be a lot going on, and there was. Exciting to watch the cast utilising the various sections of the set.
Sound Design by Mike Walker.This is the only part of the technical section that was to cause any issues. There were mic issues and at times you were unable to hear the actors. It;s opening night so you can
forgive that. One commendation I must give though is that in Act Two there was a sound issue that caused the musical to come to a halt and then restarted. Dan Hunt is head of sound.
We knew there was something wrong and we were quickly alerted to this issue by a member of the production team and within a few minutes "Rent" was back on track. Very professional and swift action gained the crew an appreciative round of applause. Nothing could spoil this marvellous musical... or would you class it as a rock opera because there was very little in the way of speech in between the continuous songs.
Talking of which, the songs are just so good, and they were delivered with humour and passion. "Seasons Of Love", "Tango Maureen", "I'll Cover You",
"One Song Glory", "Light My Candle", "La Vie Boheme", "Rent" all memorable and so many more.
Having been a fan of this musical for a few years now, I’d heard great reviews of this 20th Anniversary production, so I already had high expectations before even stepping into the theatre, and those expectations were met.
I should just mention the programme. Packed with pictures and some information about the musical, the write, producer and director, the cast list and technical team, but at a cost of £8.00 a programme/book, this was a tad steep, but a musical of this size needs to be paid for some way, I suppose.
“Rent” is at the Nottingham Playhouse until Saturday 20 May 2017.
"An Ordinary World"
HE Festival, Clarendon College, Nottingham.
"An Ordinary World". What is an ordinary world. Mine is getting up in the morning, going to work, coming home and being with the wife and kids, when I'm not out at the theatre. That's orsinary to me. To others it may be something completely different.
This short 15 minute play shows us a world that one man believes to be ordinary. But his ordinary world is a world of domestic violence. A man being beaten and verbally abused by a woman? It does happen and, albeit in a light hearted way, it delivers the message that, yes, men can also the abused, as well as the more oft thought role as the abuser.
There are no names just "The Forgotten Victim" (Jak Truswell) and "The Overlooked Problem" (Libby Green). They start with the T Shirts with these titles. "The Forgotten Victim" is then stripped of his T Shirt and jogging bottoms to represent his vulnerability in this partnership where we see he is part of a mock up boxing match after being on the receiving end of a volley of abuse from "The Overlooked Problem". Needless to say he doesn't retaliate.
There's also a video clip of part of Jeremy Kyle Show where it features a young man who is locked in a third storey flat and escapes only by leaping out of the window, causing damage to himself. the audience in the TV studio laugh but Jezza makes the point that if this had been a woman, there wouldn't be laughter.
In an almost contemporary dance section we see "Overlooked" apologising and stating that it will never happen again and "Victim" at first going back with her. At the end though he turns his back on her, which is where, after he gives us some quite startling facts about male domestic abuse, the play ends.
This sort of play does show what can happen behind closed doors even though we like to think that it couldn't, could it? Not to a man? By a woman? Yes, it does.It's a hidden issue that we need to be made more aware of and plays like this one can only help.
Even when "Victim" tries to open up to his male friend, it ends up being turned around by the other male as "she likes it rough in the bedroom" type of lad's banter. There's no way "Victim" is going to open up to him was there?
The two co stars, Henry Bennett and Christopher Walters ably supported, in more ways than one, the two mains.
The music, from Green Day, was well chosen and operated, as well as the Jezza Kyle section by Joseph Spybey.
Stage managed by Amy Jackson assisted by Chris Mercer and directed by Paul C. Duffy. it is really refreshing to see new work by young artists and there's great scope for this play to be extended, in my opinion.
HE Festival is on at Clarendon College for this week and next week and it's all free.

Monday, 15 May 2017

“Rumours” by Emma Summerton
Nottingham New Theatre
‘Rumours’ is a play recounting the lives of Fleetwood Mac at the time of the recording of their most infamous album. Focussing on the bands' battle to stay together, despite all the struggles and heartache the band were dealing with at the time. The sound, the songs, the heartbreak, the tension. The making of music history. The making and breaking of Fleetwood Mac.
The latest in the New Theatre’s Fringe plays which I’ve found to be some of the best new theatre I’ve seen this year, as well as being massively varied.
I, personally didn't know the intricacies of the inner workings of the band, which shows that Emma has really done her homework on this subject, and a fascinating and informative play it really is. Ok I knew that there were fallings out and the marriages and relationships stretched to breaking point, but this play has taught em a lot, as well as being incredibly entertaining.
The fights, the passion, the arguments, the affairs, the drink, the drugs but also the incredible music of Fleetwood Mac was highlighted.
The producer Ken Caillat was played by Sam Morris, who I'd seen in a couple of productions before. He broke the fourth wall by addressing members of the audience and passing out the occasional mini pot of jam!
Boo Jackson (Christine McVie) unleashed real passionate anger at Arthur McKechnie (John McVie) as his drinking and drugs habit and extra marital affairs spiralled.Boo I'd seen before but Arthur I'd not seen before, but a pretty convincing drunk he made. It's always so easy to take "drunk" over the top but I think Arthur got it just about right.
Jess Lundholm played the sexy Stevie Nicks opposite Andrew Houghton's Lindsey Buckingham. Again a fiery pair in and out of the studio, often like a powder keg just waiting for the spark.
Joe Strickland was almost unrecognisable under the heavy wig and beard of Mick Fleetwood, clearly the brains of the Mac.
Directed, as well as written by Emma Summerton, she has brought out the character actor in all of her cast and her research and writing has got to be credited. Her right hand woman is Producer Maggie Dorling, a super pairing.
The set was also worthy of a mention with the recording desk, posters as well as the obligatory comfy chair, drinks cabinet plus a bed and drugs. Everything catered for and on hand for the wants of the archetypal rock star.
The lighting was an important part of this play because it gave focus to the monologues of the individual members of Fleetwood Mac. highlighting, literally, what was said. A job well carried out by Lighting Designer, Nathan Penney.
And of course, we can't forget the music snatches which we heard in between the scene changes, showcasing the marvellous music that the band had written for the album "Rumours". The music design was by Will Peters. You can also find a remix by Will of "The Chain" on Soundcloud which featured in the play under Cosmic Will.
An entertaining and educational 90 minutes which will have you fixated on this wonderful tribute to a group of musicians who, although fragmented, are still giving us music to this day.
“Rumours” is at the New Theatre, Nottingham until Tuesday 16 May 2017

Saturday, 13 May 2017

“Blue Stockings” by Jessica Swale
Lakeside, Djanogly Theatre
“Blue Stockings” follows the story of four young women fighting for education and self-determination against the backdrop of women’s suffrage.
The year is 1896. The location is Girton College, Cambridge, the first college in Britain to admit women. The Girton girls study hard and match their male peers grade for grade. So why then, when the men graduate, the women leave with nothing but the stigma of being a ‘blue stocking’ – an unnatural, educated woman. They are denied degrees and go home unqualified and unmarriageable.
In Swale’s play, Tess Moffat and her fellow first years are determined to win the right to graduate. But little do they anticipate the hurdles in their way: the distractions of love, class divide or the strength of the male opposition, who will do anything to stop them. The play follows them over one eventful academic year, in their fight to change the future of education.
Presented in collaboration with the Nottingham New Theatre, this is the fifth collaboration and manages to balance the scales of laughter and historical drama with political correctness and frustration. It just goes to show how much we, today, take our education for granted.
Being a frequent visitor to the New Theatre, I knew the quality of the actors so knew that I was in for a cracking performance.
Entering the theatre space the first thing that hits you is the brilliant set designed by Jessica Kyndt
The set was a feast for the eye, placing you at the centre of, what I imagine Cambridge college may have looked like in 1896. It had an air of Harry Potter with a stream if flapping books migrating from the book case captured in freeze frame.
The set changes are accompanied by some lovely, evocative piano music by Rob Upton which also captured the era wonderfully.but simplistically. Even these changes were choreographed.
Libby Boyd plays Miss Blake and with Arnaud Lacey as Mr Banks played the two main tutors, both stand out performances for their incredible enthusiasm for teaching the Girton girls.
Daniella Finch was wonderful as Miss Bott, keeping a beady eye on the girls and making sure that there was someone to watch over them when in the company of a boy.
Kate O Gorman played Tess, the tour de force of the play with every actor giving immaculate performances. Louise Harris (Elizabeth Welsh), Natalie Henderson (Maeve), Chloe Schlitter (Minnie), Alice Simmons (Celia), and Emma Pallett (Carolyn)
Jamie Watt (Ralph), Cameron Walker (Maudsley) - this was Cameron's last performance at University and I'm pleased to have seen him in sime wonderful productions, Luke Slater (Will), Miguel Barrulas (Holmes), Louis Djalili ( Lloyd) - the real bad guy in this play; when he threw Elizabeth to the floor near the end, you could hear a crack, which made my jaw drop a bit, and Edward Marriott (Edwards), never disappointing with his comedy. Another actor I've seen in several productions at NNT.
Directed by Martin Berry, he always sets himself a high bar, and always manages to reach that bar, which while being a wonderful experience for the New Theatre drama students, also makes for theatre with class for the audience member.
The lighting design (Richard Statham) created a wonderfully evocative feel, from the bright lights of the school, to the stained glass window to the orchard at midnight. Programmed by Chris Flux.
An equally evocative soundscape painted aural pictures in your mind.
I must mention the costumes as well because they were wonderfully apt for the period, designed by Annie McKee.
I don't know if it was accident or intentional but with this play being about putting women down as secondary to the male species, the programme listed the women first.
This play has a brilliant message to deliver and this production was faultless in delivering the message, thanks to the immense talent at NNT and Lakeside.
The rousing and enthusiastic applause at the end gave affirmation of my enjoyment of this production.

Friday, 12 May 2017

“Outside Edge” by Richard Harris
Round Hill School, Foster Avenue, Beeston
Roger (Dave Roberts) is having trouble getting a team together for the afternoon's fixture against the British Railways Maintenance Division Yeading East but this proves to be the least of anyone's worries.
Bob (Gary Frost) is having marriage trouble as he is still doing odd jobs for his ex-wife behind his current wife Ginnie's back, played by Sue Frost.
Dennis (Paul Langston) is also having marital trouble as his wife seems intent on moving house despite the fact they only moved recently. When he finally puts his foot down she sets fire to his new car.
Kevin (Tom Jenkins) is trying to fight off his over affectionate wife Maggie (Sarah Nicholson) while at the same time nurse his injured spinning finger and Alex's new girlfriend, Sharon ( Leah Woolley), ends up shutting herself in the toilets having hysterics. Alex played by Kai Robbins
Even Roger's seemingly perfect marriage to Miriam (Alison Williams) hits the skids when she discovers he was playing away from home in more ways than one on a trip to Dorking last year.
Just when it seems things can't get any worse for them, it starts to rain.
Very much like the farces of Ray Cooney, but with less doors, there were laughs aplenty in this comical cricketing romp. This is gentle humour which was appreciated greatly by the audience. Even the sexist humour, which you shouldn't really laugh at in this modern world of political correctness, are still amusing.
The cast is a nice mix of regular faces as well as a few newcomers; Leah Woolley, Tom Jenkins and Sarah Nicholson.Tom and Sarah, aka Maggie & Kevin make a wonderful comedy couple. In fact all the couples in the play bounce off each other rather nicely.
Directed by Mark Robbins the action keeps flowing at a gentle pace and the comedy flows naturally from all actors, even Leah who has the least lines but some nice comic touches in her script.
The script is clever and wordy and delivered with a natural flow, especially from Dave Roberts, who reminds me just a little bit of Tony Robinson with his dryness.
The set was designed by Gary Frost and Sam Williams and used the aisle up the centre of the hall as an extension of the stage and steps as a runway to the cricket pitch.
It's nice when the little touches are added and especially in the sound department, meaning that you don't have to use your imagination too much. The sound of the cricket match gave you the image of the game as if you were relaxing in the cricket pavillion. Sound and lighting for this show was by Fiona Maxwell and Nina Tunnicliffe.
The last time Beeston Players performed this play was 33 years ago back in 1984 when Alison Williams played the part of Sharon. Another name which featured in that 1984 production was Barbara Barton who produced this show but was in charge of make up back 33 years ago.
Another nice touch was the home made cream teas that were on sale in the interval, with all monies going to charity for the Hospice.
Another very entertaining and solid production to go on the expanding list of shows that I've had the pleasure of seeing from the Beeston Players. They always vary their productions and the next one in November 2017 will be Arnold Ridley's "The Ghost Train"
“Outside Edge” is at Round Hill School on Foster Avenue in Beeston until Saturday with the final performance being a matinee at 2.30pm