Thursday, 30 November 2017

“Collaborators” by John Hodge
Nottingham New Theatre.
Collaborators is a 2011 play about the "surreal fantasy" of a relationship between Mikhail Bulgakov, the prominent Russian writer, and Joseph Stalin, the dictator of the Soviet Union. The play takes place in Moscow from 1938-1940, when Stalin was implementing the Great Purge in which several million people were exiled, imprisoned, or executed.
Bulgakov has just finished his play "The Life of Monsieur de Molière" which his friends hail as being a masterpiece. The night after the premiere, he is visited by two secret policemen from the NKVD. They tell him the play is banned and will never be shown again unless he co-operates with them in writing a "hack" play on the life of the young Joseph Stalin. At first Bulgakov resists their bullying and refuses to co-operate, even though this could endanger his life.
Their terrorizing of Bulgakov intensifies until he pretends to start work, but sits at the typewriter unable to put words to paper. Then one night he receives a phone call and a mystery voice offers him help if he goes to a certain metro station and enters a door hidden in the tunnel......
This is yet another play I'd not heard of previously but what a fascinating little story this is.
Just looking at the programme before we were led in set my expectations as to the size of this comedy play. The people involved behind the scenes number 28, plus a cast of 13. I knew that this was going to be a big production, in every way!
Imagine "Blackadder", "Monty Python", a smidgen of "Benny Hill", "The Young Ones" and you'll get the idea of the style of comedy. At times anarchic, but always a lorra lorra laffs. Bordering on being a farce, well it fulfilled the entrance ways needed for a farce, in fact there were six entrance and exits from the main performing area.
A brilliant cast made up of actors who's had quite a bit of experience before, plus newbies and others who had just one or two NNT performances under their belts. Without looking at the programme though you may not have guessed which were which. Such was the professional, tight knit collaboration of the cast.
Let me highlight a few of my standout performers and roles.
Callum Walker as the playwright Bulgakov was excellent throughout.
Jack Ellis played Stalin, and who knew that the Russian leader was a Geordie with a sense of humour with a flair for writing plays?
Margaux Valarche was Bulgakov's wife. A constant in his ever changing life style. This is Margaux's debut for the NNT.
Alex Piechowski was wonderful to behold as Vladimir, the bullying policeman who ordered Bulgakov to write the play. Vladimir also succeeded in ticking off some from his bucket list by Directing, Producing and by the looks of it choreographing the play wot Bulgakov wrote. Loved the campness of the "showbizz" Vladimir and some wonderful over the top "luvvieness". Great comedy role and the naturalness of Alex's acting isn't what you may expect from yet another NNT debut performer.
Chris Odulele also makes his debut as the other policeman. A quiet, brooding start but that changes towards the end.
Reilly Salmon played a few roles but it was his "huffing" driver character that made me smile most.Another debut performer at NNT.
Matteo Bagaini had another wonderful comedy role as the Doctor who was more interested in finding out one of Bulgakov's former actresses than concentrating on his medical duties. Some wonderful facial expressions as well.
Nat Henderson was wonderfully scatty as Sergei, the young boy living in the cupboard.
Let's face it the whole cast were excellent, Amy Crighton, Rose Edgworth, Jack Lahiff. Leonora Hamilton, Bertie Breeching all gave brilliant performances.
Directed by Will Berrington and produced by Josie Hayden, this was a job and a half. One because the play is two and a half hours long and secondly because of all the different characters. they did it though and a cracking pace was kept up throughout. Wonderful energy from all.
Lighting Designer Nathan Penney also did a cracking job from the very start with the "nightmare" section of the play. the lighting and the banging of the doors created quite an intense and scary atmosphere, giving way to the brilliant comedy we experienced here.
The variety of plays that NNT put on is a joy for any theatre goer because they can afford to take risks and not always perform the "run of the mill" plays. It's always an education when I see something at NNT and they never fail to produce top quality stuff. Plus it's nice to see that this season, I'm not always the "older" bloke sitting in a theatre of students and young audience members. It's about time more people knew about this exciting group of people.
“Collaborators” is on at the New Theatre until Saturday 2 December 2017.

Monday, 27 November 2017

“Five Kinds of Silence” by Shelagh Stephenson
Nottingham New Theatre
The story of a family who try to free themselves from the power of the vicious Billy, who abuses his wife, Mary, and their children, Susan and Janet. It looks at the idea of abuse being continued from childhood, we discover that Billy was himself abused, and has replayed this with his own children.
The story unfolds through interviews with police and psychologists, with the absent Billy a sinister presence throughout. Shelah Stephenson’s play won both the 1996 UK Writers Guild's Best Original Play award and the 1997 Sony Award for Best Original Drama.
Every time I come away from a New Theatre production, I wonder if the next one will be able to match up to the one that I'd just been to see, and yet again it does.
I deliberately didn't read too much about the play beforehand, just the bones of the story, which in itself is chilling. What those bones do not prepare you for is the intensity of this play, and that is mostly all down to the actors, director, production and technical team.
The part of Billy is played by Francis Simmons. From the very start we knew that Billy was a complex character. The sneering, the intense joy he took in causing pain and hurt to others as well as the abuse that he had endured as a child all had me torn about him, But only a small percentage of the abused turn into the abuser. Francis' constant eye contact with members of the audience also created that uneasiness, and the lighting gave him quite a satanic look, and especially as the image through the eyes of the family after they had killed him as he appeared to haunt his wife and daughters.
This role is Francis' first at the New Theatre, but his charisma and confidence show that he must have had acting experience prior to tonight.
Lara Cowler played the Mother, Mary, and what a performance. The nervousness, the flinching, the natural protectiveness for her abused daughters, at times she looked like she was going to burst into tears. All these qualities made me believe in the character and won you over, showing that Lara had got beneath the skin of the abused wife and mother, something you can't draw experience from at such a young age. You just wanted to go and give her a hug.
Chloe Richardson played Susan, and Sophie Curtis played the other daughter Janet. Again these are roles you can't perform from experience, but both gave incredibly emotive and tear-jerking performances. You didn't need a blow by blow description of what the sisters went through to picture in your mind the evil that Billy put them through.As with Francis, this is Sophie's debut for NNT, and again her naturalness and confidence as an actor shone.
Also making their debut was Sam Andre-Paul as the multi-roled Psychiatrist/Doctor and Lawyer. the female counter to Sam's part was played Angharad Davies. Both actors convincingly but empathetically chipping away at the mother and daughters' history to get to the root of what happened prior to Billy's murder.
The story is beautifully, and at times poetically written, something I wasn't quite expecting from such a dark topic. Bringing that beauty and darkness out is something that Director Edward Wiseman-Eggleton has done exquisitely along with his well chosen crew of Jonathan Taylor Davies as Producer, Jess Donn as Assistant Producer, Rohanna Brown (Technical Director), Sam Osborne, who also helped to create that eerie atmosphere as Lighting Director,Tara Prasad (Sound Designer).
I must applaud Tara'a work because the sound was so subtle but evocative. In this recipe for an amazing play, the sound was like the pinch of salt in cooking. Too much would have spoiled the recipe, not enough and it could have been lost, but when it's just perfect you don't notice it but you know it's in there, and balanced either way would upset the subtle taste.
I've seen some amazing productions at NNT and this is way up there. I love new plays that I've neither seen nor heard of and it excites me that NNT feed my hunger for plays like this, and at the same time do it so well.
An incredibly hard hitting and emotional story which I'm sure leaves these actors quite drained, physically and emotionally. No wonder both Director and Producer state in the programme how proud they are of the cast and crew because if I were in their shoes, so would I.
“Five Kinds Of Silence” is at the Nottingham New Theatre until Tuesday 28 November 2017

Thursday, 23 November 2017

“A Doll’s House” by Henrik Ibsen
Nottingham New Theatre
The play is originally set in a Norwegian town circa 1879 and deals with the fate of a married woman, who at the time lacked "reasonable opportunities for self-fulfillment" in a male dominated world. At the time it caused a “storm of outraged controversy” that went beyond the theatre to the world newspapers and society, over a hundred years ago.
Considered one of the first proto-feminist plays and daring to depict marriage in a critical manner, it is famous for its realism and close psychological attention to main character Nora, the wife trapped within a domestic ‘doll’s house’.
Ibsen’s classic is brought to life again by Simon Stephens, in this reminder of the need for honesty and spiritual liberation. Will the cracks in the Helmer’s marriage heal or do they already run too deep?
This may have been a shock to the system 100 years ago, but today I felt that it said nothing new. OK I realise that there are still families like this still around today but the story itself seemed dated.
That said, I loved what these students did with Ibsen's play and loved the characterisations, which was anything but dated.
Director Grace Lievesley, in her debut as a Director for NNT, had brought the action into the 1980's and the soundtrack reflected this with some well chosen 80's Christmas classics.A worthy and fun debut.
In many "classic" plays the cast add nothing to the story, this was the opposite as the cast, for me, made the play interesting and gave a freshness to the plots.
Lucy Chandler (Nora) and Daniel Mcvey (Torvald), the married couple while presenting the seriousness of the story, made it great fun, and I had to smile as they came back from their fancy dress party as John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John from "Grease". Lucy makes her NNT debut in this role.
Claire Wimbush (Kristine), the old family friend who was once involved with Krogstad, played with a real sense of calm menace and under-played manic by Eric Couch, just waiting to erupt.
Arthur Mckechnie (Dr Rank) is a natural and very comfortable to watch.and I love the suit!.
Isabelle Cadwallader (Anna) plays the put upon nurse who look after the two children, Jon and Iver, played by Etan Feingold, another NNT first timer and Jess Donn, respectively. They also created some interesting sound effects as well.
Finally Laura Wolczyk (Helene) as the Helmer's housemaid.
The production crew and technical crew is possibly one of the biggest I've seen at fourteen, but you can see the work that has been put into this production.
I must mention especially Joe Strickland who designed the set, which was an absolute work of art. Very clever and well designed and I loved it.
“A Doll’s House” is at the Nottingham New Theatre until Saturday 25 November 2017 and is well worth a watch.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

“Rita, Sue and Bob Too” by Out Of Joint
Derby Theatre
Best friends Rita and Sue get a lift home from married Bob after babysitting his kids. When he takes the scenic route and offers them a bit of fun, the three start a fling each of them think they control.
Adults of a certain age will remember fondly the 1987 film starring Michelle Holmes, Siobhan Finneran and George Costigan with Lesley Sharp, all of which went on to have very successful acting careers on TV. The film also featured the band Black Lace and one of their more infamous songs.
Written in 1982 by Andrea Dunbar, when she was just 19 years old, this semi-autobiographical play captures a wicked sense of humour and recognition of the industrial age of unemployment in the 80’s with a hunger for excitement and adult adventure.
James Atherton (Bob), who Hollyoaks fans will recognise as Will Savage pleased a lot of ladies of all
ages tonight when they all got to see his backside on several occasions. That aside, Bob came across as a younger and more of a "lad" type of character than his 80's movie counterpart. it also gave a fresher feel to Bob, keeping it more modern but still firmly placed in the 1980's.
Taj Atwal (Rita) gave a performance that grew from a normal teenager who may, or may not, have been fibbing about her experience with men, to a hungry young woman who knew what she wanted and went after it. A journey that was well mapped out on stage.
Gemma Dobson (Sue) makes her professional debut in this play, not that you'd have known had you not read the programme. You have to have confidence to play any of these roles and Gemma showed bags of confidence. Again the journey Sue made, albeit slightly different to Rita's was evident through the time lapse.
Sally Banks (Mum) was a joy, and I know so many characters like this from my childhood/youth. Foul mouthed but a protective wing around her daughter, especially where dad was concerned.. Brilliantly characterised.
David Walker (Dad) as with Sally gave a wonderful performance as the foul-mouthed father, but you could tell that his heart was in the right place as far as his protective streak was concerned. And again, as with Sally, the character was wonderfully and honestly portrayed.
Samantha Robinson (Michelle) played the cheated on wife who was all to well aware of Bob's cheating ways, he's done it before and was found out before.There are some lovely touches with this character where you really feel for her. She works, brings up the kids and is treated like a doormat by Bob, but she loves him and tries, in vain, to keep the family unit going.
The play is just as much fun as the film, if not more, and still holds that ability to be course, rude, raunchy, shocking, lively and funny. The comedy is still as sharp and still has that air of covert naughtiness.
i noticed a few people walk out because of the language I imagine, but the language, albeit very coarse and explicit, was advised upon before the show and if people are offended by such language, why come to see the play? Their loss because the gritty Northern drama demands realistic language.
The soundtrack takes you right back to the decade and how apt can you get to start the play with Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love”. It says it all! Using the soundtrack bites to change the scenes through the four seats with added choreography made the changes an entertaining watch.
Directed by Kate Wasserberg, she had kept all the grit and rawness of the film and retains all of the shock elements that made the film the classic that it became.
Set Design by Tim Shorthall and having a large countryside backdrop between the two sets of flats gave all the setting you needed for the moors and home scenes.
Lighting (Jason Taylor) and Sound (Emma Laxton) once more provided atmosphere, especially with the music sound to light sections which lit up the block of flats windows like a stack of disco lights.
Music from the likes of The Jam, Culture Club, Soft Cell and a host of early 80's classics make the soundtrack a joy throughout.
There's no interval,as this would spoil the fluidity of the story, but you don't need one because at only 85 minutes, and the speed of the play, this play hurtles along at a fine pace, so why break it up with an interval.
Go and relive your youth and see “Rita, Sue & Bob Too” at Derby theatre until Saturday 25 November 2017. It's great fun if you don't mind a bit of coarse language and nudity.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

“Blood Brothers”
Nottingham Theatre Royal
My all time favourite musical so you can guess that I’ll be heavily biased towards this production. It’s one of those musicals that I can watch endlessly and never tire of the story and the wonderful songs within the production.
The story is of Mrs Johnstone and her family. Debts are piling up and Mrs J is finding it hard to keep on top of them all. She takes on a cleaning job for Mrs Lyons who is trying to have children and by a cruel twist of fate, Mrs Johnstone falls pregnant again, this time with twins. Knowing that times are tough, and will only get worse, Mrs J makes the decision, under pressure, to hand over one of the twins to Mrs Lyons to pass off as her own. Mr Lyons works away from home quite a bit.
Mrs J keeps one twin but, when seeing her other twin at the home where she is still cleaning gets a bit too much for Mrs Lyons, she decides to relieve Mrs Johnstone of her services and bans her from ever making contact with the family again.
Things do not go to plan and when Mrs Lyons moves away from the area she thinks that all their problems are solved. That is until Mrs Johnstone is also moved by the council to a new home. The two twins grow up and they meet, quite by accident and become friends and blood brothers, unaware of their real identity.
As they grow up their lifestyles grow further apart, Mickey Johnstone has lost his job, ends up in prison, dependent on drugs and has married Linda, who is now pregnant.
Eddie Lyons is successful after graduating from University and works for the council and is doing well for himself. But things turn very dark for both brothers and it all comes to an explosive ending.
Lyn Paul (Mrs Johnstone) is, as usual excellent. I’ve seen other Mrs Johnstones, and while they have all been wonderful, Lyn is my favourite, the ultimate Mrs Johnstone. It’s a role that was made for her and she gives an honest and incredibly emotional performance every time. Lyn's on stage ageing over the years in the play is excellently done.
Sean Jones (Mickey) has played this role every time that I’ve seen the show and he still presents that wonderful fun and childlike qualities to this role while in Act Two becoming the depressed, pill dependent and dark character. And that is what I love about this musical, the extreme light and dark that Willy Russell has written into this musical so incredibly well.
Mark Hutchinson (Eddie) does the toff role so well. This is the first time that I've seen Mark, even though he has a long association with the part. Once more the ageing up of the role was done so well, making the older Edward more believable.
Danny Taylor (Sammy) may at first seem a little old to be playing the 10 year old and upwards Sammy, as soon as he got into the older Sammy, like Mark, he became instantly more realistic. But a brilliant fun role like Sammy must be a joy for any actor
Alison Crawford (Brenda) and Amy-Jane Ollies (Donna Marie) are both excellent in their character seeped roles.
Danielle Corlass (Linda) reprises her role from when I saw her last two years ago as Linda, and she is as entertaining in this role as she ever was. her ageing process from schoolgirl Linda to Mickey's wife looks natural.
Sarah Jane Buckley (Mrs Lyons) is brilliant as the "always looking over her shoulder" paranoid Mrs Lyons, and what a gorgeous voice. her duet with Lyn Paul, "My Child" is just one of many emotive,and beautifully sung musical pieces in this soundtrack.
Tim Churchill (Mr Lyons) is the business driven husband who will do anything for an easy married life.
One vital role in this musical is the Narrator, played by Dean Chisnall. A dark character that is the glue in this show and often haunts the background like a circling shark, creating tension and atmosphere. The "Devil" that can only be seen by the paranoid Mrs Lyons, whose number he certainly has!
Graham Martin plays just about every other role, about 18 I counted, from Mrs Johnstone's husband through to the judge, debt collector and policeman. Grahame Kinniburgh (Bus Conductor) completed the cast.
Directed by Bob Tomson and Bill Kenright. Just the perfect pacing and presentation.
Musical direction by Phil Gostelow. The songs, to me are classics and with the echo chamber in overdrive, it gave added layering to the sound.
Dan Samson (Sound Design) and Nick Richings (Light Design). What can I say? Just perfect!
The set design is by Andy Walmsley and this time around the back drop was different to the last few productions that I'd seen. A wonderful city scape and luscious green countryside back drops places you perfectly in the locations.
I am very biased with "Blood Brothers" and that could be because the emotional story and the emotional investment the cast put in. They reap the rewards of that investment by getting a complete standing ovation, drawing the cast back four times.
This story of brotherhood, motherhood, friendship,love, superstition, jealousy and depression will always be relevant, and as long as the emotional element remains as high as it has over the last few decades, this musical will remain one of the best loved pieces of musical theatre.
Go and see this if you've never seen it before, and if you have seen it before, go and see it again, and take your hanky, you'll need it!
“Blood Brothers” is at the Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 25 November 2017

Monday, 20 November 2017

“Paper Cranes” by Natalie Henderson
Nottingham New Theatre
This play is all about how medical discussions that aren’t discussed can have an affect on, not only the person who is affected, but by those around them, and the focus is on a young man called Aaron.
Aaron has a sister and a mother. Loves baking and studies food science at Uni. From time to time he makes paper cranes, you know those little origami birds. Of late Aaron has started to lose concentration and seems to be forgetting things and isn’t the same person at all.
The people around him try to make sense of what is happening to Aaron and understand.
Aaron and his friend, David, volunteered to take part in a medical experiment, but David has reacted in adverse way to the experiment which has brought on an early form of Alzheimers.
Blame is laid at the doctors' door and the doctors are seen to be wriggling out of their responsibilities. Dr Beadle though has a conscience and takes an extraordinary step toeards the end of the play.
Meanwhile Aaron is shown to be deteriorating quickly, losing all hold on his adult functions and memory, regressing to a sad childlike figure in his own little world.
The whole cast are making their debuts in this play and if this is where they start, I for one can't wait to see where they end. Having had the pleasure of seeing the last couple of years theatre group students, I know what an amazing talent the New Theatre produce.
Jack Lahiff (Aaron) dhows a lovely range of emotions, one minute having fun with David, arguing over who is the best baker on campus. the next we see Aaron unable to make any sense of the people around him and treating David as a stranger.
A completely believable contrast within the same role, and when you play a role like this, you can't pull on experience when the subject matter is of such a serious medical condition. This obviously shows that he has worked well with Natalie Henderson and has done research on Alzheimers to make the role believable.
Aaron's sister Lucy is passionate about bringing the medical research team brought to justice for their failings and sticks by Aaron all along. Beth Carter gets just the right amount of anger and compassion for the sister, who like Aaron, we find out later is adopted. That is an important piece of information in this play as well.
Katie Fortune plays the Mother. So frustrated in Aaron's demise and scared as well in the way that Aaron treats her in the latter months of the disease taking hold.
Aaron's friend, who actually blames himself for this as he had asked Aaron to get the forms and take part in the medical experiment with him. Rohan Rahkit plays David in a very natural performance.
Morven Cameron (Dr Beadle) shows guilt in the resulting experiment and tries to atone for the actions, She shows a compassionate side of the doctor by visiting the family, but is torn between her work and the failings in the experiment.
Dr Jones, played by Sandra Jareno,is a tough cookie and is looking for an escape clause to remove Aaron from the experiment by putting the blame on his breach of the contract. Her emotion is reserved for the possible backlash of publicity and failure of all the work that her team have put in, and not the demise of a young man's health and well being.
There are several incredibly moving scenes in this wonderfully written play. the one that did it for me was when Aaron was so deep in the hold of Alzheimers that he wanted to create 1000 paper cranes so that on the 1000th he could make a wish. His wish would be to wish his real mummy back "because everybody needs a mummy". At the end of the play he couldn't even remember how to make the paper cranes.
The flashback scenes showing Aaron and his sister and mum before the experiment are a lovely contrast, and the ending is one of the happiest, yet saddest you'll see.
This is a play like no other that I've seen and will affect a lot of people emotionally. Alzheimers is now the biggest killer of adults beating heart disease and cancer, and the more people are made aware of this sad infliction the better.
Research into Alzheimers is under funded and is frightening that any one of us can fall prey to this, and as this play highlights, at any age.
i know that the two performances on Monday night were sold out, which is wonderful at any performance but when there's a message like this to be issued with a play, Nat Henderson and her wonderful technical and production team and cast can feel that they have done their job.
Now all Nat has to do is get this story made into a film which is going to be the next tear-jerking smash.i suggest keeping the same cast as well.
“Paper Cranes” is on at the New Theatre in Nottingham only until Tuesday 21 November 2017.

Friday, 17 November 2017

“White Christmas” by Present Company
Derby Theatre
The play opens on Christmas Eve 1944 on the Western Front in World War Two. American soldiers from the 151st Division are staging their own Christmas entertainment to keep their spirits up. Captain Bob Wallace and Private Phil Davis perform for their fellow soldiers.
The action moves to 1954, where Bob Wallace and Phil Davis are now stars of stage and screen, performing their songs on the famous Ed Sullivan show. Phil is a ladies man, whereas Bob has more traditional family values.
In a club in another part of town, the Haynes Sisters, Betty and Judy, are preparing for their show. Bob and Phil have agreed to come and see their act.
They all have a drink together. It turns out that Judy has arranged for Wallace and Davis to see their show under false pretences, using their brother’s connection to the 151st Division. Phil and Judy get on well, but it’s not quite the same for Bob and Betty, even though there is clearly a spark between them.
The men follow Betty & Judy to their winter appointment in Vermont, which just happens to be owned by Bob and Phil’s former army commander. People normally go to Vermont for the snow but this year there’s a heatwave so the quartet need to save the show and the day, but will romance blossom for all four of them?
The Eagle Award winning Craig Arme plays Bob Wallace and what a great voice he has doe classic musicals like this.
David Partridge, who was another Eagle Award nominee, plays Phil Davis. He has flying feet in the dance sections of the musical and his duet "The Best Things Happen When You're Dancing" with Judy really shows off both dancers excellent footwork, despite a slight slip.
Laura Orton plays Betty Haynes and Rachel Louisa Bray plays Judy, the other sister. Both have a great chemistry on stage as sisters and with their male counterparts, Their harmonies are faultless and they also get to do some very quick costume changes.
General Henry Waverly, the owner of the inn who doesn't realise just how deep in debt his inn actually is in, is played by David Walters.
The secret of the debt is kept by the woman running the inn, Martha Watson, who used to be a star in her heyday, and also gets to showcase her vocal talents after several attempts at dropping hints to Bob and Phil. Playing this part so well is Judith Hanson.
I must also mention Madison Nayler who played Susan Waverley, the General's Granddaughter. She is one to look out for with her strong and confident vocals and her obvious dance experience.
I was really impressed by the age range in this cast as there were several younger males as well as a fair smattering of elderly cast members, making this a cast of wide experience.
Some local theatre groups have trouble getting young, and older males in their productions. That doesn't seem to be an issue with Present Company.
The whole staging reflects the original 1954 film feel with the wonderful soundtrack which includes classics like “Blue Skies”, “Sisters”, “I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm”, “Count Your Blessings Instead Of Sheep”, "I Love A Piano" and of course the title track.
Getting the whole feel of the period is also that was done so well by this group. The costumes were classy, and I love the ostrich feathers.
The orchestra, under the musical direction of Morris Fisher, got the sound spot on and this also created that 1940's sound.
The show is entertainment all the way with the wonderful choreography (Jean Gemmell, Rachel-Louis Bray and Rendezvous For Dancing) which included some lovely ballroom and tap sections.
At times I thought the lighting was just a bit darker than was needed, if that makes sense, but I'm being very picky and Lighting Designer, David Marsden, did a great job.
Great sound as well, I heard every word spoken and sung and a nice comfortable mix with the orchestra by Sound Engineer Simon Bitchall.
Oh, and I love the old style programme, and at just £2.00, a worthy addition to seeing the musical.
Some may say that it’s too early to get into the Christmas spirit but on the same night, Nottingham switched on the Christmas lights, so the timing is just right. You can’t help but get that seasonal feeling after seeing this show and it leaves you with that lovely warm feeling, just like a glass of mulled wine. It’s the equivalent of diving under your quilt on the sofa on a Sunday afternoon with a mug of hot chocolate, whipped cream, chocolate sprinkles and marshmallows with a classic Christmas film on..
“White Christmas” is at Derby theatre until Sunday 19 November 2017.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

“The Ghost Train” by Beeston Players
Round Hill School, Beeston.
A young man accidentally strands six passengers at a small Cornish wayside station. Despite the pyschic stationmaster's weird stories of a ghost train, they decide to stay the night in the waiting room. Soon they regret this decision as ghostly and not so ghostly apparitions materialise,but one of the stranded guests isn't quite who they seem!
Written by Arnold Ridley, who was better known as his role as Private Godfrey in the original BBC's sit com "Dad's Army". he was though a successful playwright with this play being his most famous.
Alistair Hudson plays Saul Hodgkin, the station master who reveals the ghostly tales of the spectral train and the station's annual visitations who bring on fateful consequences at the Cornish railway. Alistair has great projection and a real stage presence.
Ian Greatorex and Sarah Nicholson play husband and wife Richard & Elsie Winthrop who have a few marital issues to start with.
Rob Jackson, who just has to appear on stage to make me smile, plays it serious this time around as newly wed Charles Murdock. His wife, Peggy Murdock is played by Sarah Murray.
Miss Bourne, one of my favourite characters in this play, is played with attitude, which melts into drunkenness by Barbara Barton .
Gary Frost plays Teddie Deakin, the young man who is to blame for the stranded group. Gary brings the comedy element to this play with a lovely gentle hooray Henry style of humour, which was always going to be annoying to the rest of the guests.
Nicola Adkin plays Julia Price who seems to be obsessed with the Ghost Train and being there in time for the reincarnations. Why is she so adamant that she needs to be there against the wishes of brother Herbert Price (Tom Jenkins) and Dr John Sterling (Paul Langston).
With the help of one of the guests and policemen Smith and Jackson, played by Steve Rowlinson and Samuel Williams, respectively, we get to the bottom of the spooky spectres and terrifying trains.... or do they?
Great sound effects (Nina Tunnicliff) and lighting (Jill Griffiths and Fiona Maxwell) and a solid set design (Sam Williams and Steve Rowlinson).
Classic 1920's costumes, paired with appropriate hair styling and make up (Maxine Taylor) created that feel for the era.
Produced by Sue Frost and Directed by Debbie Blake. They kept an eerie feel to this show and I'll admit, even though I had seen this play before, I'd forgotten the bit at the end, which made me jump and gave me shivers.
it wasn't perfect but I think part of that may be first night nerves, and now they have got this one under their collective belts, I don't doubt that any hiccups had will be smoothed out for the rest of the run.
“The Ghost Train” can be seen at Round Hill School in Beeston until Saturday 18 November 2017 at 2.30pm as there’s no evening performance on the Saturday.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

“Cool Hand Luke” by Fourblokes Theatre Company
Guildhall Theatre, Derby.
This production is a mix of the film version, starring Paul Newman, and the Donn Pearce book, and I must admit, I’ve never read the book nor seen the film , so this stage adaptation by Emma Reeves is a new one for me.
I didn't know what to expect but I was pleasantly surprised.
Beneath a scorching Florida sun, Boss Godfrey watches the chain gang and keeps his eye on Cool Hand Luke - war hero, trouble-maker, and inspiration to his fellow inmates - just the kind of man the Boss wants to crush. He'll always get back up after a beating. He'll eat fifty eggs in an hour to win a bet. A man who won't conform no matter what the cost.
Working backwards in time we're teased into the "Cool Hand Luke" story, but without giving anything away. The story is based on Pearce's own experiences of being in jail and his own Luke, which is what makes this story such an impelling one.
The whole cast interacted well with each other and the camaraderie of the chain gang was completely believable and admirable in their brotherhood.
The captain and the "bosses" distanced themselves well from the band of brothers creating a "them and us" separation.
Playing the iconic Paul Newman role is Josh Hayes. he may not have the blue eyes (I don't think) but he certainly had the cheek and charisma for the role.
Ross Lowe (Tattoo), Adam Guest (Society Red), Ian Jones (Dragline), Jason Parker (Curly), Josh C Sly ("Alibi" Gibson), Andrew Bould(Babalugats/Matthew), Kim Harris (Carr). Jack Readyhoof (Rabbit) and Kheenan Jones (Sailor) were, as usual excellent in the characterisation of the roles and the accents were varied, which would be what you'd expect from a chain gang collected from the many states.As previously said, great camaraderie, which works well because most of the actors have worked with each other before and that camaraderie works well offstage as well as on.
Mik Horvath (Boss Kean), Heath Parkin (Boss Godfrey), Pip Price (Boss Paul) and Steve Dunning (Captain) ruled over the men with a level of sadistic pleasure and Heath, even though he has no words to say managed to create that mysterious as well as dangerous atmosphere. Never trust a man who hides behind his shades!
Phil Stanley (John the Preacher) has a voice made for gospel and soul and along with Verna Bayliss (Martha), and Sara Bolger-Evans (Mary) the Salvation Army ladies, the trio created that Southern Gospel belt sound which added so much to the atmosphere of the play. Emily Marshall-Sims is Musical Director.
Verna also doubled as Arletta, Luke's mother, and Sara doubled as Lucille, the woman who got the men in the chain gang all hot and bothered by sunbathing. in the film Lucille was washing cars.
The make-up, by Natasha Lawer, is very realistic as Luke is covered in bruises and blood from his boxing match with Dragline and from when he is caught after one of his escapes.
Talking of fights, this has to be one of the most realistically co-ordinated fight sections in the boxing match that I have seen on stage. I found myself wincing as the blows were delivered and seemingly making contact, They also sounded like they were making contact which is sometimes not thought out when working out scenes like this. The timing was excellent from both actors and the fight choreography by Kheenan Jones was excellent.
The other big scene is the boiled egg eating scene which again was done wonderfully. I tried to see where those eggs were going because surely Josh wasn't really going to eat all 50 eggs was he? Well I didn't see what happened to the eggs so if there was a sleight of hand, you fooled me!
The set was very good and moved around by the cast themselves, making sure that the only people on the stage were the cast. And even in the interval when they came on to change the set, they all kept in character, always aware that they were on show and people will be watching, so not breaking the character continued from Act One to Act Two.
Barry Taylor has directed a massive hit here and the idea to make part of the "digging" scenes in slow motion to give the impression of the long working day was a clever piece of theatre.
Lighting Designer is Stephen Greatorex and the Sound Design is by Barry Taylor and Harry Greatorex. i loved the music played throughout the play, ranging from Hank Williams and Ernest Tubb to Gene Autrey, some classic Country & Western tracks from the 1940's.
There's so much in this play which makes it a resounding success which is why you need to pop along to the Guildhall Theatre in Derby to take in this classic. When everything comes together as good as it does, this is the result you get, and there's absolutely no failure in communicating what a good production this is.
“Cool Hand Luke” is at Derby’s Guildhall Theatre until Saturday 18 November 2017. It's eggcellent!

Monday, 13 November 2017

“The Widowing Of Mrs Holroyd” by D.H. Lawrence
Lace Market Theatre.
The tale of Lizzie Holroyd set in Brinsley, a Midlands mining community, a century ago is brutal and gritty. This was Lawrence’s second play, written in 1910 but only published in 1914.
The play's action is set in the kitchen of a miner’s cottage. Elizabeth Holroyd is an educated woman with refined sensibilities, struggling to make a good home for her two children, Minnie and Jack, in the grime and poverty of a Nottinghamshire mining town. Poverty is not the only problem she faces, for her husband, a miner, is a brutish man, prone to fighting, drinking and spending his evenings in the pub.
Blackmore, a mine electrician, recognises Mrs Holroyd as a kindred spirit, and asks her to leave her husband for him, promising to make a new life for her and her children in faraway Spain.

One evening later, Mr Holroyd once again fails to return home after work. Believing that he has gone to the pub as usual, Mrs Holroyd begins to take Blackmore’s proposal more seriously. However, she then learns that there has been an accident at the mine.
Clare Choubey (Mrs Holdroyd) really comes into her own in Act two as she shows a sensitive side as she is tending to her husband. A complete contrast to Act One where the situation is very different.
Phillip Burn (Holroyd), actually looks very much like Lawrence with his facial hair. I can't believe it's been six years since I saw him in "Me Mam Sez" and this is his "comeback" performance. I thought that he was a little restrained but this is opening night.
Malcolm Todd (Blackmore) absolutely nailed the regional accent and he delivered an emotion packed characterisation of the lovelorn electrician.
Hazel Salisbury (Grandmother), although only in the play in the second part, she made an impression and loved the way she warmed herself on the open fire; something that took me back to seeing my mother in the mornings warming herself.
Tamzin Grayson (Clara) was a delight to watch as one half of the pair of "hussies". Fun and fancy free performance with a natural fluidity.
Claudia Langley-Mills (Laura) was her partner in crime as the other hussie.
Henry Vervoorts (Jack) makes his debut with the Lace Market Theatre and a very confident debut this was as well. A very nice natural feel about the character and he handled the accent really well.
Georgia Feghali (Minnie) again convincing as the Holrroyd daughter. She bought the fun child like feel to her character.
Stephen Herring (Manager), Aaron Connelly (Rigley) and
Sam Howitt and Malcolm Edwards play the miners.who delivered the news to Mrs Holroyd.
Directed by David Dunford, he managed to bring the Eastwood/Brinsley feel of the early 1900s mining community back to life on stage.
The set was designed by Peter Hillier and Gill Newman and what a lovely set this was. the fire in the grate may not have been real but made you feel warm just looking at it, and I loved the appropriate props that went with the piece. It's the little things that make the difference. i just wish that the set had a physical door as it seemed strange to see all the characters entering and exiting through an invisible portal.
Lighting Design is by Phillip Anthony and the Sound Design is by Darren Coxon. Really getting the atmosphere going with the bleakness of the miner's small and dark kitchen, when not lit by candles. The brass band sound creating a "Hovis" feel, and strangely enough, quite a seasonal sound. Brass bands do that to me!
Working with the actors to get the dialect right is voice and dialect coach Janice White and every one of these actors just about cracked this regional accent. Accents can be the most difficult thing to crack, and especially when it's a fairly regional one. I could tell the work that's gone into this area of the play and it really created that special feel to Lawrence's work.
At under two hours with an interval, you won't have time to look at your watch, not that you'll have any need to because the play really captures the local feel of the mining community. A talented bunch of actors and a decent story, albeit not being a happy ending, makes this one play really worth taking time out to see.
“The Widowing Of Mrs Holroyd” is at the Lace Market Theatre until Saturday 18 November 2017