Tuesday, 31 October 2017

“Follies” by Good Companions Stage Society
Derby Theatre
Set at a 30-years-on reunion of vaudeville singers and dancers from a New York theatre that closed in 1941, the show moves between the time periods with the 1971 characters and younger versions of their characters.
It begins with a reunion of showgirls who were once members of Broadway's glamorous Weismann Follies. They meet in a crumbling theatre that will soon be demolished to make way for a parking lot,and recall past glories but also look at dreams they once cherished. And as always when memories are delved into, old wounds can be re opened, and are, and ghosts unearthed.
We follow two couples, Ben and Phyllis Stone (Davron Hicks and Yvonne Taylor) and Buddy and Sally Plummer (Steve Foster and Hilary Leam).
Sally has never really got over her love for Ben and while she starts off nervous about meeting up with Ben again, by the end her feelings have turned in the other direction and shows a more angry side which is depicted clearly with her version of the beautifully poetic “Losing My Mind”, the most well-known song from this musical. She comes to the conclusion that the time she had waited and dreamt about Ben were wasted years.
This basically is the plot which is spread over two and a half hours.
For every Lloyd-Webber "Joseph", "Evita" or "Phantom", there's an "Aspects Of Love".
With Sondheim, for every "West Side Story", "Sweeney Todd" or "Into the Woods" there's a "Follies". For me the "Emperor's New Clothes" of the musical world.
I'm sorry I just do not see the greatness in this musical. If I hadn't had read up about the musical, I would have been a rather confused viewer as most of the main characters also had a younger version of their character. Even being aware of this, the storyline didn't make this clear, which I overheard several audience members comment on.
Salesman Buddy is unfaithful but loves Sally. Ben, the old flame and former politician also recognises his wasted life and has a breakdown. Phyllis is sophisticated but hides her misery behind her wise cracking.
There's some really good stuff in here though, so please don't shoot the reviewer just yet!
There are some great songs here, Sondheim mini classics. Not only the epic and aching “Losing My Mind” but the wit in “Could I Leave You”, the glitzy “Broadway Baby”, the soaring ballad “One Last Kiss”, the wonderful "Too Many Mornings" and the defiant “I’m Still Here”.
The costumes are gorgeous and the orchestra, under the direction of Dave Adey, is lush and sweeping, creating the romantic atmosphere.
Directed by Phil Simcox with the wonderful choreography of Pauline Reader, There are some beautiful dance pieces here which are truly hypnotic.
There are some very strong voices in Good Companions, most notably Davron Hicks (Benjamin), Hilary Leam (Sally) and Dionne Reid (Carlotta). They are all very strong vocally, and I appreciate that Sondheim pieces are notoriously difficult to perform.
The cast is massive, boasting 45 strong, but the stage didn't look overcrowded, giving due credit to the Director and Stage Manager, Steve Cole..
There were a few teething issues where the sound was concerned and throughout it was sometimes difficult to hear some of the spoken word and the quiet start of "Losing My Mind" when the mics didn't come on in time. It was first night so I expect sound issues, it's not uncommon.
Sondheim’s musicals can be dark and look at the more morose side of life, and that’s good as a contrast to many musicals which all end happy and in love. What this particular musical lacked though was a sustainable plot. The songs were good, the cast did their job admirably and looked and sounded good but i just don't think the musical is one of Sondheim's strongest.
“Follies” is at Derby Theatre until Saturday 4 November 2017

Sunday, 29 October 2017

“Topsy Turvey/Trial By Jury” by Matthew Siveter and Derbyshire Gilbert & Sullivan Society
Duchess Theatre, Long Eaton.
Tonight was like a football match of two halves because in the first half we have a one man show featuring Matthew Siveter called “Topsy Turvey” featuring a selection of quirky songs, comedy and Gilbert & Sullivan songs.
With a novel introduction piece and an even more novel ending, and I won't say what these are and spoil the magic for if you see Matt's one man show in the future, but they are very funny, as is the rest of his material in between.
With musical pieces like "Poisoning The Pigeons In The Park", "I'm Not Like The Other Cavemen" and "The Masochism Tango", as well as parodies of G&S pieces, this is one comedy show with a difference. I must also add though that Matt is an excellent singer, as he proves throughout his show.
Supported by Chris Flint on keyboards, this is one classy presentation.
In the second half the Derby Gilbert & Sullivan Society present the one act comic opera “Trial by Jury”.
As with most Gilbert & Sullivan operas, the plot of “Trial By Jury” is ludicrous, but the characters behave as if the events were perfectly reasonable.
Matt continues with the comedy as the Judge, complete with a "fat suit", robes and wig alongside Stephen Godward (Counsel for the Plaintiff), Tom Rushton (The Defendant), Peter Bostock (Foreman of the Jury), John Carter (Usher), Jenny Ashworth (The Plaintiff) and the Bridesmaids Sue Parker and Claire Warren.
The filming of the trial by the "media" is done live by Jean Krzeminski, Lynda Dunkley and Richard Miller plus an ensemble of eighteen providing a wave of vocals that swamped the Duchess Theatre.
Directed by Andrew Nicklin
A one night only performance which would prove to any doubter the comedy in Gilbert & Sullivan's works is for everyone.

Saturday, 28 October 2017

“My Fair Lady” by Nottingham Operatic Society
Nottingham Theatre Royal
“My Fair Lady” originally opened at the Lyttelton Theatre in March 2001, before it transferred to the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in July 2000 where it ran for two years. The production went on to win a total of five Laurence Olivier Awards, including 'Outstanding Musical Production' and 'Best Theatre Choreographer', Matthew Bourne and in 2002 it also received The Hilton Award for Outstanding Musical Production. So no pressure then for the Nottingham Operatic Society then!!
Based on George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion”. The story concerns Eliza Doolittle, a Cockney flower girl who takes speech lessons from Professor Henry Higgins, a phoneticist, so that she may pass as a lady.
The sets are spectacularly good, and easily moved in and out, the costumes are beautiful and the orchestra is sounding gorgeous led by Stephen Williams. With Tom Mowat in charge of the lighting, youMichael Donoghue made sure that you could hear every word spoken and sung.
just knew that everything would be of the highest quality.
The songs are recognised by all and I overheard one lady recount that she hadn’t realised that the songs that she knew were from this musical. “On The Street Where You Live”, “Get Me To The Church On Time”, “I Could Have Danced All Night”, “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly”, "I've Grown Accustomed To Her Face", "With A Little Bit O' Luck", musical theatre classics.
Katie Taylor as Eliza Doolittle was the perfect choice and I fell in love with her straight away and her brilliant characterisation. Why has she been away for nine years? Hopefully Katie won't leave it that long before we see her again on stage and deprive us of that beautiful clear voice.
Simon Theobald as Professor Higgins, and let’s face it who else would be a match for Rex Harrison but Simon Theobald. Every role he takes on he makes it his and that is no different in Higgins. A very relaxed performance which always makes Simon a joy to watch.
Rob Harrison is Colonel Pickering and was almost unrecognisable in the role. Again another classy performance, which is what we've come to expect and what Rob always delivers.
Ian Pottage matches up to Stanley Holloway’s Mr Doolittle with an energetic performance of "With A Little Bit O Luck" and the excellent "Get Me To the Church On Time"
The song “On The Street Where You Live” is one of the biggest in the show and this is delivered by Drew Dennis. Unfortunately for Drew there was something happening in the audience which could have put
him off his stroke but didn't. You could see that he was aware of it but being the pro that he was he carried on unfaltering. Again another lovely character role which earned him a big cheer when taking his bows at the end.
Linda Croston is a joy to watch as mother to the Professor, Mrs Higgins and I loved the motherly advice given to the Professor and her warmth shown to Eliza in the role. This was Linda's debut performance for Nottingham Operatic Society and a wonderful debut as well.
Janet Wootton was delightfully formidable Mrs Eynsford-Hill and Adele Lee as the house keeper Mrs Pearce.
A massive 29 strong ensemble were all amazingly good.
Choreographed and directed by Morven Harrison, what can I say? Two of the most stressful jobs in theatre which Morven has proven she is expert at with this wonderfully classy production. the choreography at times was almost dream like, just beautiful.
It’s been a very busy week for me theatre wise and knew that I’d be missing this but I am so pleased that I got the call by Nottingham Operatic Society to come on down to see this show, even on its’ last night, and I am so pleased that I did.
What a loverly way to end a week of brilliant local theatre productions. It just goes to show that “amateur” theatre groups are anything but amateurish and every show I’ve seen this week has been so polished and professionally produced that the professionals need to watch their backs. The musical theatre stars of tomorrow are here now!

Friday, 27 October 2017

“Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” by LEOS
May Hall, Long Eaton.
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is the story of two conmen, Lawrence Jameson and the new boy in town Freddy Benson. Lawrence has heard by way of his friend and assistant, Andre, that a conman called "The Jackal" is in town.
While there’s no room for two swindlers in the little French Riviera town, they decide to work together and the first one of them to get $50,000 out of a woman gets to stay and the other has to leave.
After making this arrangement “The American Soap Queen, Christine Colgate” sweeps into town and becomes the target for both Freddy and Lawrence. Which one, if any, will win and get to reign as the supreme con artist? High jinks and hilarity ensue in this sophisticated piece of mischief.
The Long Eaton Operatic Society have got together a marvellous cast for this musical (they do have a habit of doing that!) and play to their comedy strengths with "Scoundrels".
Dave O'Neal plays the sophisticated smooth talker, Lawrence, with his typically English accent and ways, but we also get to hear Dave's ear for accents as well. This lady killer role suits the suave Mr O' Neal rather well.
Freddy, the younger con artist, is played by Jack Draper and gets to show us his comedy acting side in this musical. I've seen Jack in several musicals before and have seen various sides to his talents.In the last production, "42nd Street" we got to see his tap skills, this time round it's the comedy that is on tap, and he's a natural comedy actor.
Ross Lowe was the perfect choice for Andre. I loved his "Allo Allo" style accent and another wonderful comedy part for Ross.
Loved the role of Jolene Oaks, and as you can guess from the character, she's a country gal, and hitting the right spot in this part was Anna Cousins. Hoe down anyone? Hoe Yes!
Liz Woolley was also wonderful as Muriel, who initially fell under Lawrence's spell but really shone when coupled up with Andre for a slice of comedy heaven, with a side serving of sauce.
Christine Colgate was played by the lovely Si├ón Scattergood, and another perfect casting. Gorgeous voice and she knows her way round a piece of choreography as well.
A large ensemble created several groups of characters and added to the fun of this musical.
Long Eaton Operatic Society always use top musicians for the rounded sound their orchestra produce. It seems to get bigger every time I have the pleasure of seeing their shows. Under the musical direction of Tom Watkinswith assistant musical director Rob Upton, these layered arrangements for the songs sounded beautiful.This is Tom's first time working with LEOS; I have a feeling it may not be his last.
There are some cracking tunes in this musical, and for me the highlights were the wonderful comedy duet between Jack and Dave "All About Ruprecht", Anna Cousins' "Oklahoma", "Giving Them What they Want", "Dirty Rotten" and of course "Great Big Stuff". Infuriatingly catchy all the way through.
Choreographing the show was the work of Gemma Haigh and what a very stylish job she has done with this musical. And what a great job all the dancers did with Gemma's work.
Patricia Church directs this show and keeps it really tight, which includes the scene changes, making the whole show a smooth affair all round.
May Hall has always been at the mercy of sound issues, depending on where you sit. There was, not so much a problem with the sound tonight, just that in the first act, I think the mics should have been turned up a bit more. By Act Two it had all been sorted out. Andrew James, the man with his finger on the sound, rectified this. It's always a bit hit and miss but this time around it was definitely more hit than miss.
Lighting by Tom Olding was, if you'll pardon the pun, spot on. following on from that bit of corn, the follow spot (Kiah Smith) also did a cracking job.
Smashing wardrobe and make up completed this very funny musical and made it a joy to watch. One more success for LEOS to notch up, and possibly another award winging it's way to them next July.
“Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is at May Hall in Long Eaton until Saturday 28 October 2017.

Thursday, 26 October 2017

“Sister Act” by Greasepaint Productions
Loughborough Town Hall
There are a few things that I personally can count on as I walked through the sliding glass doors of the Loughborough Town Hall to watch “Sister Act”. The first is the choice of musical. “Sister Act” is a brilliant comedy which is jam packed with some brilliant songs. The second is the history of shows put on by Greasepaint and the reputation of the cast and production crew.
Let’s start with the show itself. Deloris Van Cartier (Dawn Stewart) is witness to the murder of a “grass” by her boyfriend Curtis (Steve Duguid) and goes to the police and tells Eddie (Gareth Wynne) who is in charge of the police station and, in the past, had a bit of a crush of Deloris.
He finds her a safe haven with a group of nuns in the city’s convent, run by the Mother superior (Linda Moulton). Deloris finds it difficult to adjust to the staid regime but finds her niche within the nun’s choir. In the meantime Curtis and his henchmen TJ (James Highton), Joey (Ollie Lewin) and Pablo (Scott
Tomkins) are hot on her trail with the aim of silencing her.
This particular trio of TJ, Joey and Pablo really ramped up the applause from the audience with their typical 70's inspired dance routines and singing. Some great falsetto moments!
Deloris’s popularity with the choir though becomes her downfall as the added interest in the revamped choir is highlighted by the media which leads Curtis and co straight to the convent and trouble for the nuns, as well as Deloris!
The nuns are, as usual great fun to watch. Sister Mary Patrick (Charlotte Bond), Sister Mary Roberts (Alix Larter), Sister Mary Lazerus (Gillian Leeson), Sister Mary Martin of Tours (Hannah Underwood) and Monsignor O’ Hara (Sean Hickling) go under a conversion of their own with hilarious results and the choir has never been so hip sounding.
One of the many strengths in this company is their vocals, and this show really highlights this, both as a group and individually.
A wonderful ensemble flesh out main roles and provide a heavenly backdrop of sound and human visuals.
Tina is played by Nicky Hignett and Michelle is played by Paige Brierley.
I mentioned the production team for this musical and Director Shane Perryhas created a little bit of heaven on earth with this hell of a feel good musical.
I love the soundtrack of this musical and need no excuse to play “Sunday Morning Fever” on my radio programme on Sunday mornings. Musical director James Stevens creates a big bouncy sound especially with the 70’s disco themed songs. Tracks like "Take Me To Heaven", "Raise Your Voice" and "Fabulous Baby" will have you clapping along and listen for the comedy in "When I Find My Baby" and the hilarious "Lady In the Long Black Dress".
Couple those with some lovely ballads like "Here within These Walls" and "The Life I Never Led" make sure that there is something musically for everyone.
Choreographing the whole show is a task and a half but what results Jeanette Patrick-Cooper has reaped from the cast.The energy the cast put into these routines is insane.
As you'd expect, the costumes are wonderful. From the nun's habits, with their various glittery adornments, to the wacky 1970's suits, and loved the combo that Curtis wore. Deloris's final outfit was just stunning.
Loved the sets, which at times took a little longer than maybe should have done to change, but that's me being mega picky.
Lighting (Kevin Cutts) and sound design (Dave Cooper and Jack Harper) made this show a visually pleasing as well as audibly pleasant experience.
You will leave this theatre feeling so good, you'll feel heaven blessed. And if you're feeling just a bit down, then this is just what the doctor ordered to put a smile back on your face and a chuckle in your belly.
“Sister Act” is at Loughborough Town Hall until Saturday 28 October 2017 and is absolutely divine entertainment which will have you pulling on your FM Boots to party round in, but wait till you get home eh?

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

"Spamalot" by BMTG
Duchess Theatre, Long Eaton.
What can I say about this production? I've just about bored the pants off of everyone in the after show bar telling them that I'd seen "Spamalot", which is the theatrical equivalent of the Monty Python film, "Monty Python & The Holy Grail", about four times and loved it every time I'd seen it.
Every time you get to see "Spamalot" is different to the none you'll have seen before, thanks to the imagination of the Director, and this production has little bits that are slightly different, keeping the show fresh.
Beeston Musical Theatre Group celebrate their 50th year with a production that will have you crying..... with laughter. Everything about this production is spot on, and in my role as reviewer, knowing the cast and their history, I now tend to look for anything to critique, as I know it can be boring reading nothing but compliments and how good the show is. Unfortunately, i couldn't find anything to criticise, so it's going to be a review of how good the show is.
As my role as President of Beeston Musical Theatre Group I'm also proud, as well as pleased to do the same.
Directors Simon Owen and Christopher Collington has kept that comedy timing right up there, obviously with a little help from the cast. from speaking to many directors in the past, I know what a great deal of work goes into making a production a success, With comedies, the
pressure is also on to make a funny play funny for the audience and bringing that out of their cast isn't always a natural thing, but they did it.
Lucy Castle's choreography is worthy of any professional production you may see in any touring show.
The live 12 piece orchestra never sounded better, and with the electronic drums (Jack Helan) highlighting the 70's syn drum sound in the Act Two song "His Name Is Lancelot",it added a new sound to the already incredibly talented bunch of musicians. Under the musical direction of Sam Griffiths, the orchestra created a layered and lush backing.
There are some very clever lyrics and catchy melodies in this musical, so listen to the words and get the most out of the comedy songs, which include "Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life"
The lighting for the show is just.... WOW!. You have to see it, the effects are timed to perfection and adds to the colourful spectacle that "Spamalot" is. Matthew Cook and Dave Martin have to be praised for a brilliant job, again , no surprise to me as I've witnessed their work in the past.
It's be so easy for me to say that the set was simple, but I also know what hard work goes into making a set, which may look simple, but is anything but!
Fantastic costumes, which while looking amazing aren't, for some of the cast the most comfortable after wearing them for any length of time.
It's very difficult for me to pinpoint any actor over the next because it's impossible for me to do that. Not just because I know the cast, but because every actor, whether they be in a main role or ensemble were amazing. I knew that I had confidence in every single person on that stage to deliver, and the delivery of their role was first class.
Kevin Chatten (King Arthur), Christopher Collington (Sir Robin), Simon Owen (Sir Lancelot), Rob Charles (Patsy), Martin Holtom (Sir Bedevere), Beth Yearsley (The Lady of the Lake), and David Hurt (Prince Herbert) were faultless. The comedy timing was so tight it almost squeaked. i could go on and on and on about the excellence of all the above actors but why should I? I know that they know what a great job they do, the standing ovations are proof of that, not only that but they're all probably tired of hearing me laud them to the heavens anyway! They are all ridiculously talented though.
As are the ensemble who added to the fun filled frolics, so I must spotlight them all as well.
Victoria Jane Appleton, Rachelle Bragg, Ronja Breitkopf (we'll miss you), Charlotte Howarth, Laura SuchCat Tuckey, Lotte Valks, Keli WainChris Bryan, Jane Cottee, Alex GrosseMina MachinRachel Maddison and Ruth Maddison.
And I mustn't miss out Tim Yearsley and the voice of Eric Idle as God and a killer performance by...... a rabbit. Plus several back stage stars making cameo appearances creating the "magic of theatre". Minnie Hurt also made a cameo debut appearance on Wednesday night.
I think you can see that the cast is not a small one.
I must also recommend buying a programme. I won't say why as once you've bought one, all will become apparent
Sometimes it's not easy reviewing shows, and I've learnt to choose my words carefully, and I know, because I've been told by actors and alike that they can read between the lines of what i write, to understand what I mean, or would really like to say. This has been the easiest of reviews to write because I love this show, even though I'm not a massive Python fan. I also know how much the cast love this show because that love shines from them all when they are on stage.
My only problem with writing this is keeping it within the realms of doing a "War & Peace" size review and not going too over the top and gushing. I hope that I have achieved that so that there's no fear of reading between the above lines.
"Spamalot" is at the Duchess Theatre, Long Eaton until Saturday 28 October 2017.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

"The Thrill Of Love" by Amanda Whittington
Nottingham Lace Market Theatre.
Ruth Ellis (Kareena Sims) was the last woman to be hanged in Britain in 1955 after being convicted of shooting her lover, David Blakely. The Thrill of Love dramatises this infamous true story and takes a closer look at the women behind the headlines.
Ruth was a divorcee with a young child to care for, She worked in the kind of nightclubs where there’s more than just a drink on offer, but the girls work hard, play hard and dream of a movie-star life.
Then she meets the wealthy, womanising David, a racing driver with whom she becomes obsessed. She also begins seeing Desmond Cussen, a man driven mad with jealousy by her tempestuous and often violent relationship with David.
The play focuses on Ruth’s life, as well as her friendship with three women all working the club scene: club owner, Sylvia (Jemma Froggitt), aspiring actor and model, Vickie (Charlie Bailey) and charwoman, Doris (Rosina Reading). These friends provide comfort and nursing as she battles abusive lovers and the press.
Meanwhile, Detective John (Jack) Gale (Fraser Wanless) follows her story from the beginning, hoping to piece together the motive behind why she murdered David, and who provided the gun she used to shoot him with.
Casting judgement on Ellis was Colin Treliving as the judge, a role that in some versions of the play isn't utilised.
Amanda Whittington's writing is beautifully researched and, as with all of her plays, is written from a woman's point of view especially for female actors, for everyone to enjoy.
The acting and the accents are perfect and differentiates the classses of the characters wonderfully. And while this story may at first be envisaged as quite dark, given the subject matter, there are many comedic moments, and the lines are delivered with a natural throw away style, in the way that you'd make an off the cuff remark within any normal conversation. What I'm trying to say is that none of this play comes across as staged and the naturalness shines through from all.
There's a feeling of film noir, especially in the flashback sections with Gale, and this is helped by the lighting from Philip Hogarth which created that special 1950'd movie atmosphere.
We were advised at the start that the play would begin in nine seconds which i thought was a bit weird, but put dismissed it, but later in the play nine seconds would be mentioned again. This reference at the start and later in the play gives you some sort of perspective for the second reference, which I won't give away, but a very clever touch.
What i also loved were all the little things throughout the play which shows the attention to detail for the period in the props (Holly Coleman),The pill box that Ruth had, the old HMV record label, the record player, Ruth's painful looking bruises, the brilliant costumes (Jane Herring), and the music.
The projection of the old Pathe news reel reporting about the trial added that certain bit of historical magic to the piece (Matthew Allcock). If only they taught history in schools in the same way as this play was presented.
The soundtrack of this play is Billie Holiday all the way through, and being a fan of Lady Day, this drew me in even more. Just listen to the choices of the tracks and they tell the story as well as the actors and the writing, "Guilty", "My Man", "Taint Nobody's Business", "God Bless The Child", every song paints a picture. It's as if the songs were written to tell Ruth's story.
Director John Anthony has done a wonderful job. You are drawn in to the story behind the woman, her hurt, her abuse, both physical and mental, but still keeps that little unanswered mystery of who provided the trigger that Ruth pulled, which led to her being the last woman to be hanged in Britain. No wonder there was so much empathy for this fiercely independent woman whose weakness was just wanting to be loved.
Being in the intimate upstairs performance space, you could see every facial expression from every actor.You could feel everything that they were conveying about their character, something that may be missed on a larger set, which was designed by Keith Parkinson.
Being a smaller space also means that the sound quality is very good. You could hear every word from the lyrics of the songs and the sound effects gave the effect of coming from outside the main arena, putting you right in the centre of the action at all times. Jack Harris is the man behind this aural clarity.
The actors us several entrance doors into the performance area, which is well stage managed by Julian Phillips, making an interesting and "on your toes" viewing experience for the audience.
You'll be completely enveloped by this fascinating play and the beautifully written characters and story. The passion in this play, and for this play is evident.
"The Thrill Of Love" looks set to be another sold out week for the Lace Market Theatre, I understand that there may be a few tickets left up until Saturday 28 October 2017, but once word gets about as to how good tonight was, you may not want to leave it to chance.
Another excellent production in an excellent 2017 season.

Friday, 20 October 2017

“Physical Theatre Killed The Radio Star” by Under The Headstocks
Waterstones Bookstore, Nottingham
Not the first venue you’d think of to hold a theatre production, in a City bookshop, in the Alan Sillitoe Room, but nowadays anywhere is fair game for a performance. I’ve seen plays indoors and outdoors, in cellars and in the top rooms of buildings, so why not a bookshop?
I’ve been lucky enough to see part of this play in its early stages so was very interested to see this play in full and in its finished state.Talking to writer/director Alan Dawson afterwards though, he says that it's still a work in progress.
The play looks at speech, language and communication by way of modern day slapstick comedy, mime and clowning.
The two characters Trevelyan (Matthew Lamb) and Dev (Sandy Edwards-Walsh) come together to perform a radio play, but this isn’t the run of the mill radio play as Trevelyan has mainly non-verbal communication which makes it a bit difficult for Dev to improvise, not forgetting this is for the radio! It asks the question of how do you get help if you can’t ask for it?
Although this is a comedy it has a serious undertone which addresses homelessness and the way that homelessness is seen through the eyes of others and the stigmas that are attached to it.
I'm not sure if it was intended but Dev's character styling comes across as hammy, something that is often preconceived for radio drama actors. The script for Dev is very pronounced, which I actually think added to the comic element and I loved the hamminess, which also created a class difference between the two radio actors. if the "ham" wasn't written in as a characteristic by Alan and just evolved that way, or was the way that Sandy envisaged the character, please keep it, as I loved it. Sandy is great fun to watch.
Trevelyan could be seen as a bit of a buffoon, a lovable one. Alan had the image of a Mr Bean type character and I think that came across to a certain extent. The audience has a lot of empathy for Trelevyan because of his apparent learning difficulties but because he didn't let this hold him back in what he wanted to do, we warm to the character. He is also homeless. I've seen Matt as an actor and as a writer/Director before and he's a rough diamond who had a lot to offer in all three spheres.
The radio play characters are the play within the play and Matt and Sandy start off as actors being directed by the Director, strangely enough, played by Toni Sutton. There are sections that return to this trio as Director/actors scenario, which is quite a brave thing to do for a writer as it may confuse some audience members. The characterisation between the different roles reduce any confusion.
The play is just the right length at around 75 minutes, and for me to see this fuller version from the ten minute or so section I saw.months ago, was a lovely incite into the actors' and director's brains when it comes to fleshing out characters and story lines.
This show was previously performed at Mansfield Palace Theatre, and is also is a one off performance, but a worthy showcase of everyone's talents involved.
Under The Headstocks is a theatre company to look out for in the future.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

“Move Over Mrs Markham” by The Bonington Players
Bonington Theatre, Arnold.
Written by the King of Farce, Ray Cooney and John Chapman, this wonderful farce is set in a top floor London flat, belonging to Philip and Joanna Markham. The flat has been renovated, and so has been largely empty.
Philip is a publisher of children’s books, and he shares an office with his partner, Henry Lodge, on the ground floor. Philip agrees to let Henry borrow his apartment for the evening to “entertain” his latest girlfriend, Miss Wilkinson.
At the same time, Joanna Markham is persuaded by Linda Lodge to let her borrow the apartment, so she can entertain her lover, Walter. What nobody knows is that the interior designer, Arthur Spenlow, who had been decorating the apartment for the past three months has decided that this was the night he and the au pair girl, Sylvie, would try out the new oval bed!
When all three sets of people converge on the apartment, expecting to find it empty, chaos and confusion ensue. And that is only added to when prudish writer, Olive Harriet Smythe pops by looking for a new publisher.
This is a proper five door farce with plenty opening of doors. The set is really plush with a nice separation between the bedroom and the living area, both vibrantly decorated.
A lot of work has gone into the design of the set as well because the area behind the doors and the window are all three dimensional, giving even more depth to the set.
The secret to a good farce is timing, and a lot of hard work, and both of these attributes are in abundance. You cane really tell that a great deal of hard work has been put in by everyone in this production.
Act two is do fast paced and with the addition of the other characters, plus most of them all swapping names and roles, it can send your head dizzy, but it's such a clever script that it makes watching the action an absolute joy to take in.A wonderful job of directing by Howard Whitehurst.
Every single one of this cast is so hard working and even through all of the on stage melee, you just know that the actors have mastered that split second timing.
Anna Hodkin (Joanna Markham), Jonathan Greaves (Alistair Spenlow), Lauren Hodkin (Sylvie), Lindsey Parr (Linda Lodge), Wayne Hill (Philip Markham), Eddie Janusczcyk (Henry Lodge), Philip Chapman (Walter Pangbourne), Julia Walters (Olive Harriet Smythe) and Helen Holbrook (Miss Wilkinson) interact with each other so smoothly. There are no singular performances that stick out over any other which just goes to show what a great cast this is.
Also doing a fantastic job is the sound and light designer, David Goatham, the sound operated by Zoe Lander, Making sure everything is where it should be, when it should be there in this fast paced production is the stage manager, Tony Tomlinson.
It's a very saucy farce with a barrel load of laughs and some excellent performances which is really worth shelling out for.
“Move Over Mrs Markham” is at Bonington Theatre until Saturday 21 October 2017.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

“Avenue Q” by Gatepost Theatre Company
Guildhall Theatre, Derby.
Sesame Street for adults is one description of this musical where the stars are puppets. Well we all know that actors have a hand in this somewhere but when done well your eyes focus on the puppet stars of the show and you don’t notice the actors behind the puppets, which is the way it should be.
Having seen both professional and local theatre productions, I know what a brilliantly funny and ever so slightly naughty show this is.And like seeing a favourite old film, it just gets better the more you see it.
The show is a lot more difficult than it may first appear and timing for the show is vital, as well as synchronicity when you have two actors controlling the same puppet. There's more to think about for these actors than may first meet the eye, or mouth! Physically, it's also not an easy ask for the actors.
Gatepost are now into their 13th year, and while 13 could be classed as unlucky, for this group, 13 isn’t unlucky for Gatepost, especially with this production.
“Avenue Q” is the story of a group of twenty-somethings looking for their purpose in life. Recently graduated from college Princeton, moves into an apartment all the way out on Avenue Q, New York. There, he meets Kate (the girl next door), Rod (the Republican), Trekkie (the specialist movie expert), Lucy The Slut and other colourful types.
There's the relationship between flat mates Rod and Nicky, Princeton and Kate Monster and Princeton and Lucy, and the very real relationship between the only two actual human characters Christmas Eve and Bryan. And then there's The Trekkie Monster (always been my favourite) with his relationship with his hard drive!!
And just when you think all is going well, along come the naughty Bad idea Bears. Wonder why they are called that?
Kate Monster (Kirsty Vastenavondt), Princeton (Christopher Collington), Brian (Chris Bryan), Christmas Eve (Gemma Ryan), Gary Coleman (Josephine Pearson), Nicky (Dan Collington and Mina Machin), Rod (Simon Collington), Trekkie Monster (Richard Pearson and Ryan Taylor), Lucy (Laura Howard), Mrs Thistletwat (Jude Cliffman and Mina Machin) and last but not least The Bad Idea Bears (Michelle Bruce and Martin Holtom) are all wonderfully entertaining.
The vocals match the characters and the accents are performed well.
There area few differences in this production from others that I'd seen, one being Gary Coleman being a puppet, whereas I'd always seen productions where Gary was played as a human and not a puppet, and I suppose this version fitted in with the rest of the characters. It didn't seem out of place with just Bryan and Christmas Eve now being the only pair of humans.
If you've seen other productions of "Q" and you're intending to see this one, I'll leave you to spot the differences as they're fun to pick out.
The soundtrack is filled to the brim with catchy tunes with clever lyrics, and while many of them are not politically correct, they will make you laugh.James Bowden was the Musical Director and his band of musicians sounded crisp and at a level which blended in well with the acoustics and didn't drown the vocals from the stage.
Directed by Christopher Collington and Produced by Daniel Collington between them they gave us a rollicking good show full of laughs. With the addition of the puppets as well as timing in the two TV screens, there was a lot to make sure went right, and it did, very smoothly.
The set is especially hired in, as are the puppets to make sure the "brand" is kept.
My only niggle of the evening is regarding one of the vital parts of this musical, and that is timing. Not with the actors or puppetry, but with the lighting. There's a section where the upstairs windows have the characters appear at the windows to sing, and these weren't hit by the lights, so we could hear the vocals, we just didn't see the characters at the window. For me that hitting the window with the spot needs to be timed better. Not a major thing by any stretch of the imagination and nothing that can't be tweaked. But I knew that nothing would spoil my enjoyment of "Q", and it didn't.
It's one of those musicals that once you've seen it, you'll want to see it again, just for the sheer fun and non politically correct comedy. Great respect for all the actors and puppet masters, and if your eyes stray from the puppet characters to the actors, just note the shadowing of the puppet in every aspect, physically and visually.
“Avenue Q” will be right up your street if you go and see it before it closes on Saturday 21 October 2017