Friday, 29 June 2018

MADD Showcase 2018
Nottingham Playhouse
This is the third consecutive year that I have had the pleasure and privilege of experiencing some of the best up and coming talent from this rich area of the arts.
The Midlands Academy of Dance and Drama (MADD) prides itself on being a ‘College of Excellence’ providing one of the leading Musical Theatre Courses in the UK. Many of their students have gone on to appear and work in the West End, and anyone who knows anything about the theatre and the arts will know the standard that is expected to find paid work in this field.
The past two showcases have been to such an incredible standard of professionalism that sometimes one wonders just how far that bar can be raised, well let me tell you, that bar seems to have an infinite level where these scholars are concerned.
Of course we all marvel at the polished performances on display but this also reflects the work the teachers, production teams, Directors, Choreographers, Stage Managers, Musical Directors, musicians, Light and Sound designers etc etc etc have invested throughout the year, so this really is a showcase of some of the best talent around in local theatre and the Arts.
I have no intention of mentioning every performer by name for two reasons. The first is that every single person on that stage were equals, I honestly would not be able to pick one performer, one group of performers over another. the second is that I'd be here for the next hour just typing their names up.
Music wise, the choices varied from the opening piece "Dirty Laundry" from "The Witches Of Eastwick" through tracks from "The Greatest Showman", "The Addams Family", "Hello Dolly", "Copacabana", "The Wild Party" - a musical I'd not heard of before tonight - "Spongebob the Musical", "Spamalot", "And The World Goes Around", "West Side Story" plus many more musicals. And then there were classics like Nat King Cole's "Orange Coloured Sky", Sinatra's "That's Life". Dance sections incorporating Run DMC. Kelis and Michael Jackson, plus a very powerful piece called "Vikings",every one performed to the highest of standards..Not forgetting an incredible tap dance routine.
I've said in the past that what I love about this showcase is the way that one scene and song segues smoothly into the next, and yet again the seamless way MADD have made this showcase run meant that there were no awkward pauses and scenes being taken down and others set up were all incorporated into the separate performances.
I could say that these performers are the stars of tomorrow, but I may be wrong, They are stars today but just need spotting and sending on their way to fame and fortune. They are ready now and they look like stars with their brilliant costumes, make up and attitude, not to mention their limitless energy.

With an amazing band and some wonderful lighting designs, this showcase really is something very special.
There's a repeat of this showcase on Saturday, so if you want to see the closest thing to a West End showcase, then get your ticket for MADD;s showcase at the Nottingham Playhouse.

Thursday, 28 June 2018

“Joseph & The Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat” by Erewash Musical Society Youth Group
Duchess Theatre, Long Eaton.
There can’t be many people who do not know this Andrew Lloyd-Webber/Tim Rice musical as it’s such a staple of schools and local theatre productions. Because of this, it means that I can get straight on to telling you all about this wonderful cast and the production of this show.
From the moment the curtains opened it was like a tsunami of energy swamping the theatre. Energy you could light the room with.
There were quite a few new members in this performance and I always make a point of watching faces that i have nor seen before and you know what. Every actor was performing. That may seem a strange thing to say but when you have new members and the show is ensemble heavy, you may spot the odd actor "going through the newbie motions". Not in this show!
The performance value from every member of this cast and the energy and excitement was clear to see and they all looked like they were the stars because they were enjoying what they were doing, and that for a reviewer and audience member was an absolute joy to see.
As I said this show is an ensemble piece and the choreographed pieces as well as the vocal pieces proved what a great ensemble show this is.
The two narrators, Emily Bridge and Grace Deakin were perfect choices and their voices were pure and powerful.
James Christian played Jacob, Joseph's father, and I must compliment the physicality he put into this role, something that often does not come naturally to such young performers, but James smashed it.
Playing the brothers were Ethan Fletcher (Reuben), Joe Langley (Simeon), Robyn Oleshico (Levi), Oli Nickling (Naphtali), Ben Kirkland (Isaachar), Paige Bail (Asher), Evan Hagan (Dan), Joel Dawson (Zebulum), Tom Baddiley (Gad), Ewan Hoole (Benjamin) and Bethan Moore (Judah). Every one gave 110%.
Playing the main man was Ethan Lee and as soon as I saw that Ethan was playing this role I just knew that this was another perfect casting. Vocal wise he was spot on and he has that certain confidence and stage presence which makes this role magnetic to watch. Joseph, although billed as the "star" is quite arrogant and Ethan managed to play this characteristic in quite an innocent way, which I thought came across really well.
Will Robbins played Potiphar, husband to Mrs Potiphar, who I can'r see mentioned in the programme, but gave a lovely age appropriated version of the seducing wife with comedy.
Pharaoh was played by Gabryl Oleshko and while he carried off the swagger of the Pharoah King, it was just a shame that his mic failed and we didn't get to hear Gabryl's voice and the comedy in Tim Rice's lyrics.
This was a problem that cropped up more than once and we lost some of the vocals with Ethan as well. This turned out to be the mic packs and while it may have slightly tainted the show, these actors carried on professionally throughout.
Sound also became a slight problem because of where the band were positioned. The eight piece band positioned at the front of the stage area created a wall of sound that often swamped the singers. The band itself were solid, and can I say great to see a female drummer in Emily Hall.Musically directed by Heather Howe.
This also has to be one of the rare musicals where every single song is known and loved. With the music being practically non stop, the band did a cracking job as they also didn't get a rest until the interval.
The lighting was wonderfully designed and presented by Dave MartinDave Dallard and Matthew Cook, making this exciting visually.
Produced and Directed by Carol Lawson, she has succeeded in presenting one hell of a brilliant and pacy show. There's a certain modern feel to the look of the show as well mainly I feel from the costumes and look of some of the brothers, this and the addition of the footballs at the start, tying nicely in with the current World Cup. After all that is what brothers do today so whose to say they didn't do that in Joseph's day!!
The choreography was great fun and I could see that a lot of hard work had gone into this area from not only choreographer Hattie Kemish but also the whole cast.
This musical is non stop and many of the cast are practically on stage almost all of the time so will be an energy endurance piece for them, but the looks on the cast's faces backstage afterwards showed me that they loved every minute of what they did. that I can confirm was mirrored by the very enthusiastic and supportive audience.
It's one of the best Lloyd-Webber/Rice pieces of theatre and this brilliant cast certainly did the writers credit, as well as the EMUS proud.
“Joseph & The Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat” is at The Duchess Theatre until Saturday 30 June 2018. Thursday was a sell out so get your tickets while you can.

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

“Grace The Lighthouse Girl” by Open Road Productions
Guildhall Theatre, Derby.
The story of Grace Darling is brought to the stage thanks to the pen of William Varnam with the songs being penned by Phil Baggaley, who makes this show three in a row after the incredible success of “The Same Sky” and “Silver Darling”, both musicals I personally rate highly.
Grace was a hardworking girl from Northumberland whose life was changed because of her brave involvement in a sea rescue.
In the early hours of 7 September 1838, Darling, looking from an upstairs window, spotted the wreck and survivors of the Forfarshire on Big Harcar, a nearby low rocky island. The Forfarshire had foundered on the rocks and broken in half: one of the halves had sunk during the night.
She and her father William took a rowing boat across to the survivors, taking a long route that kept to the sheltered side of the islands, a distance of nearly a mile.
Darling kept the boat steady in the water while her father helped four men and the lone surviving woman, Mrs. Dawson, into the boat.
Hailed, along with her father, a local hero, her fame spread far and wide, but we discover that fame was too much for her.
Rachel Bird played several roles with several different accents, all well executed and with lovely physicality that distinguished the various characters.
Mica Loveridge played Grace from birth to her passing. Not only is Mica an excellent actor she has the voice of an angel and these songs suit her tone so well
William Varnam played William Darling, and being the writer, he even managed to write in a classic line like "who's going to write a play about you, Grace?", with a knowing look out to the audience.
Aaron Belcher and Andrew Buxton, apart from playing several other roles played the two characters which reminded me of a cross between Emcee from "Cabaret" and, especially with Aaron, Freddie Mercury in his comedy/dramatic phase.
Great comedy pairing which really kept the comedy going throughout the play. Similar as well to the French mime artists, their faces expressing all their emotions. These two characters were borne from several varied comedy characters stretching back to the old silent movies era. All we needed was that strobe light effect to make the set look like an old black and white movie.
And that is one thing that I really didn't expect. A brave but tragic tale of a young hero who died under possible suspicious circumstances, and it being portrayed like a cabaret show from the 1920s, but you know what.it really worked.
This is a wonderful way to bring history to life using the best kind of entertainment; what a way to educate the kids about historical events.
Directed by Daniel Ellis, he has brought the rime line forward from the 1800s, when the event happened, and created a more modern, almost "play within a play" feeling about it. Fast moving but balancing the pathos with comedy perfectly.
The set, also designed by Daniel Ellis encompasses everything the cast need without straying to far off set. There's a watery feel to the set which matches the wonderfully fluid feel of the piece
The wonderful 12 piece band brought to life the gorgeous songs written by Phil Baggaley. I love this style of music used in these productions. Part folk, part Irish traditional but infuriatingly catchy. Songs that will rattle around your head for long after you leave the theatre.
The costumes and make up go a long way to creating that "cabaret/circus" feel to the show, making this a visual spectacle.
This musical has just about everything that spells success, and that includes some lovely choreographed pieces, as catchy as the music. Rachel Bird has done a brilliant job with the infectious dance sections.
Open Road Productions are like a beacon, shining bright where local writing and drama is concerned, and that is very exciting, especially for someone like myself who is privileged to be able to see so much theatre on a local and touring basis.
“Grace The Lighthouse Girl” is at The Guildhall Theatre, Derby until Saturday 30 June 2018.

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

“Cirque Beserk”
Nottingham Theatre Royal
I can’t ever remember visiting a circus in my life, but what is a circus if not a theatrical show in a big tent. Well, Cirque Beserk have moved the Big Top to the theatre stage, so with my love of the theatre and not having experienced a full blown circus, how could I let this pass me by?
I can sum this show up in one sentence. The most exciting thing I have seen on stage.
The show is designed to get your pulse and heart racing with it’s death defying stunts, and that certainly works as act after act vie for your applause and terror. Just wait until you see the headline act with the motorbikes in “The Globe Of Death”
Even though there was something that stopped all four motor cyclists from whizzing around that large metal cage like fish bowl, the sight of three bikers, all lit up was jaw dropping.
When you think that just one second mis timing could possibly mean an horrendous accident, and you being feet away, made this section hair raising.
I really don't think any words can suitably describe the performances on stage or the atmosphere in the theatre, apart from pure electric.
We see acts similar to some of these on shows like Britain's Got Talent, but to see them live on stage really brings it home to you just how dangerous the performances are and how talented the acts are. It also makes you think of the amount of time these people put into their shows to perfect them to the standard we see here.
The tumblers are incredible acrobats who perform with great speed, adding a further element of danger by including fire.
The bolas, which are used as a hunting weapon made of two weights on the end of strong cords, and if you're old enough to remember "klackers" which always ended up causing bruised wrists after they battered you when they missed, they are a more dangerous version of them. The two artists made them an art by creating music with them among other entertaining sections.
Odka who practically pours herself from a large bottle, and then contorts herself into an archer.
Jose and Gaby, a balancing act with incredible strength.
A Cuban troupe who catapult themselves into the air, so high you'd have neck ache watching them. Again the timing in this act is incredible.
Jackie the strap acrobat, who mixes grace with hair raisingactobatic skills.
One definitely for the ladies is Laci Fossett, an incredibly fit young man performing his aerial pole act
There's an incredible juggling act who likes to do things on a large scale, Germaine juggles everything from hoops and balls to a massive fiery platform. What strength that woman has in her legs!
There's knife throwers who will have you holding your breath.
Dancers and aerial ballet acts which will have your eyes as wide as they can go.
An amazing balancing act on stacks of chairs and not forgetting a giant robot.
No circus is complete without clowns and the Mustache Brothers fill that gap wonderfully. Slapstick, comedy and an amazing skill for acrobatics and physical comedy.
They mix vintage comedy routines with some very clever and funny original comedy routines together and out comes a wonderfully gigglesome section for all ages.
There are several random sections which segue acts together albeit randomly, they make the show seem to be seamless, and over all too soon.
This show really is a theatre piece for every age group. It delves back into the roots of circus and commedia dell'arte, and like I said, something that I've not experienced in a theatre venue before, but something I would readily see again
I have tried to give just a little incite as to how exciting this show is, but to really understand what an incredibly breath taking global piece of theatre, you really need to see it.
No wonder so many people wanted to run off to the circus back in the day.
“Cirque Beserk” is at the Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 30 June 2018.

Monday, 25 June 2018

“Rough Crossing” by Tom Stoppard
Nottingham Lace Market Theatre.
Ahoy there! All aboard for a trip back in time to the heady 1930,s on board the liner SS Italian Castle. So up yer anchors and set sail for the Lace Market Theatre,
Why oh why have I not seen this wonderful piece of comedy before? Thank you Tom Stoppard and thank you Lace Market Theatre. Not one of Stoppard's oft performed works, in fact, according to Samuel French's licencing web site, this is the only place you can see this play in the whole wide world.... this week anyway!
Let me tell you what the play is all about.....
Two playwrights, Turai (Sam Allison) and Gal (Daniel Bryant) are aboard a ship sailing from England to New York. They are accompanied by a young composer for their musical comedy named Adam (James Hallam) and two actors, Ivor (Nik Hedges) and Natasha (Kareena Sims). Natasha is Adam's fiancée. During the voyage, they must fine-tune and rehearse the play, for presentation upon arrival. The only other member of the cast -- and the glue that holds this production together -- is the ship's steward, Dvornichek (Chris Sims).
Trouble ensues when Adam overhears Natasha and Ivor in flagrante delicto. To keep the project from unravelling, Turai concocts an explanation: they were rehearsing a new ending for the play.
Will they pull it off? Will Adam believe this cooked up story? Will Turai finally get that Cognac he keeps asking for? Does Dvornichek ever sleep? All will be revealed... but only if you pop down to board SS Lace Market Theatre for this play within a play screwball comedy.
Directed by Clare Choubey she has managed to contain all of that 1930's style glamour and awfully good comedy for a spiffingly marvellous piece of theatre which will have you laughing from the opening scene all the way to the final bows.
The set design is by Emma Lane, and as soon as you walk into the theatre you know what you are going to get. The clean cut, ship shape, symmetrical white curved walls and port holes place you right at home inside this ocean liner. Oh and I love the props (Coral Bailey).
Musical Director is Piotr Wisniewski, who created the 1930's atmosphere through the songs, which by the way were written by Andre Previn for the original production.
The costumes are by Jane Herring and were perfect for the era and the play.
So what can I say about the cast for this very funny and cleverly written play, with some cleverly observed double entendres and puns, just ready to be spotted?
Sam Allison was excellent as the often "on the verge" playwright, Turai. Some wonderfully emotive outbursts, especially in Act Two.
Daniel Bryant, the much more laid back of the two playwrights, who also has quite an appetite for eating!
James Hallam's character is a really interesting one with his vocal foibles to start, which although we shouldn't laugh at, well Stoppard obviously wrote this in for comedy purposes, so why shouldn't we, and we do. It's not just this though because there is a very funny, farce style moment which includes retaining Adam in any way possible by Turai and Gal.
Kareena Sims not only gets to show off her wonderful doleful expressions and doe eyes, but also her gorgeous singing voice, as well as her flair for comedy. A red haired equivalent of Betty Boop.
Nik Hedges makes his debut for the Lace Market Theatre as Ivor, but just experiencing his comic timing and acting ease, shows that this isn't his first foray into acting. He has quite a list of roles on his acting CV. An easy and comfortable watch.
Last, but by no means least is Chris Sims. What a brilliantly written and equally brilliantly performed character. Dvornichek, the steward gets some very lengthy and wordy pieces, delivered practically without a breath taken. Within these lines are some very comical pieces that need to be listened out for.
A play like this depends on comic timing and this cast have this down to a tee. You can see and appreciate the hard work that has gone into the whole timing element of this production.
There was hardly a time tonight when I did not either have a smile on my face or was laughing. Such is the wit of Stoppard, the sharp direction, and the comedy talents of this cast.
And I thought Cruising with Jane McDonald was fun.
“Rough Crossing” is at the Nottingham Lace Market theatre until Saturday 30 June 2018. Bon Voyage!

Friday, 22 June 2018

“High School Musical” by Bright Lights Theatre Company
Loughborough Town Hall.
Based on the Disney Channel Original Movie High School Musical, Bright Lights Theatre Group start the weekend off with a high energy, fun musical which is just right for these young actors.
We have The Jocks, the Thespians, the Brainiacs and The Skateer Dudes. All the gang are here. Basketball team captain and resident jock,Troy, Brainy Gabriella, Sharpay, Ryan, Chad and all of the students from East High.
Troy, discovers that Gabriella, a girl he met singing karaoke on his ski trip, has just enrolled at East High. They cause a bit of an upset when they decide to audition for the high school musical that is being led by Ms. Darbus. Although many students resent the threat posed to the "status quo," Troy and Gabriella's union might just open the door for others to shine as well.
All three of the Loughborough Bright Lights Schools are involved in this production which gives a wide age range of kids, ensuring that "aaah" factor.
What a talented cast of kids who,even though they have had minimal time to get this show to the stage, they have done an incredible job. One that really lifted my spirits and put a smile on my face.
Let me highlight just a few......
The High School announcer, Jackie Scott was bursting with enthusiasm wither her announcments, and played with great zest by Ella Greatorex.
Troy was played by Zak Draper, and he has the making of a really good vocalist and has a wonderful air of confidence on stage.
Gabriella was delightfully played by Madison Clarridge and hers and Troy's pairing was completely believable.
Ellie-Marie Cadwallader plated the marvellously bossy Sharpay, a role I bet she really enjoyed!
Daniel Johnson played the suffering brother Ryan, forever being bossed about by elder sister, by eight minutes, Sharpay.
The jocks Chad and Zeke were played by Stefan Yoxon and Jake O Sullivan.
Kelsi, the other thespian who composes the songs for "Juliet & Romeo" in this play, is played by Isla Harriman.
The other Brainiacs, Taylor, Martha and Kratnoff are played by Sophie Wilson, Kate Lockwood and Charles Pugsley.
The skater dudes, Ripper and Mongo are played by Daniel Pedge and Ned Pritchard.
Ms Darbus, who is in charge of drama and dislikes the jocks and Coach Bolton is played with a real feel for the part by Felicity Ryan.
Coach Bolton, who also happens to be Troy's father, is played by Joshua MacAlistair.
A brilliant ensemble with some wonderful characters - i must say I loved the scene stealer who played a worm in the drama detention scene - he made me and everyone else giggle.
The two chart hits are featured in this musical “Breaking Free” and “We’re All In This Together” as well as other HSM favourites like “The Start Of Something New”, “Bop To The Top”, "Getcha Head In The Game" and "Stick To The Status Quo" among them.
Directed by Alexander Turner and Produced by Nick Sutcliffe and Patrick Croft with some incredible choreography by Sophie Kandola and Musical Direction by Kieran Buckeridge.
There are some stars of tomorrow in this show and I recommend you go and seek them out for yourself while you can. Bright Lights may have shone last night but so did all of the young actors on that stage. An absolute pick me up for the weekend.
“High School Musical” is at Loughborough Town hall until Sunday 24 June 2018

Thursday, 21 June 2018

“A Bunch Of Amateurs” by Riverside Drama Company
Duchess Theatre, Long Eaton.
A washed-up Hollywood star, Jefferson Steele, is flown to England to play the title role in King Lear at "Stratford" believing he will be appearing onstage at the legendary Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon.
Instead he finds he has signed on with the "Stratford Players" in the Suffolk village of Stratford St John. He arrives in England with his career deteriorating and having problems with his daughter who is an aspiring actress on the fringes of the New York theatre.
The local villagers are over the moon to have such a “star” playing with them. Daniel Bates (Steele) plays a typically selfish American with no time for manners, and displays an appalling lack of class, considering himself too big for this lowly setting.
Will the arrogant Steele knuckle down to his latest role, or will he forever play the Hollywood star? Come and find out.
Martin Holtom plays Nigel Dewsbury, possibly a rival for Steele but he loves the theatre and is very confident about his acting ability with the Stratford Players.Nigel is a proper ham and Martin takes every opportunity to go over the top in a gloriously dramatic way.
Samantha Badman plays the slightly over excitable Mary in the play who has a bit of a crush on Steele.But could her jealousy be the downfall of out American star?
Jenni Wright plays Lauren, the wife of the sponsor and budding actor herself, but all does not go quite to plan when her former occupation causes quite an unexpected blow to the future of the play!!!
Phil Whittaker plays Dennis, caretaker, health and safety officer and the Duke of Gloucester. Now I love accents and Phil perfects the Suffolk accents and maintains that burr all the way through. Like all of these characters, great fun to watch.
Frances Pearson plays Jefferson’s feisty teenage daughter, Jessica Steele. Jessica is wise to her father and his ways and stands no nonsense from him. Does her love of acting bridge that gap that has widened between her and Jefferson over the years? Only one way to find out!
Daniel Bates plays Steele and what a tour de force both actor and character are. The accent was constant throughout and while you couldn't quite hate the
arrogant and vain Steele, you found yourself willing him to do well for the Stratford Players. A brilliant character part for an excellent character actor, and after tonight, I can see more possible Shakespeare?
Lizzie O Hara plays Dorothy Nettle, the director of the Stratford Players and the moving force behind keeping the theatre alive.Dorothy is very typical of many Directors I know because she is the glue, the force, the determination, the organiser, the agony aunt as well as the mother hen for this bunch of amateurs. A role that I'm sure Lizzie absolutely loved playing.
Playing the Fool is Celia Billau and each time she appeared to distract us from the scene changes, her songs got ever more strange and comical. the costumes also became brighter and bolder, as did Celia! Liz Turner must get a mention for the song lyrics.
Directed by Rachel Bates, the pace of this comedy was spot on. The characters were wonderfully different and it's nice to say that I could recognise many actors I know in many of the characters in this play, especially the role of Nigel! Comedy is a lot harder to make succeed than straight plays but the comedy flowed well and the timing was faultless. that was no surprise to me though as Riverside are very good at producing some wonderful comedy pieces of theatre.
Loved the set design which was also by Rachel. Typical of many local am dram performance stages I've seen over the years.
Sound and lights were under the control of Dave Martin, and my only note was that maybe the sound effects could have been a little lower in volume. The phone ring tone and the thunder and rain could be turned down just a few notches.
The costumes for the final production of King Lear were marvellous, thanks to the costume Queen, Mina Machin as well as the company.
There is a speech in this play near the end which explains why people do am dram and local theatre and this rings so true, and I felt like applauding this section alone. They also explain that in small villages, something like as dram keeps a community going and brings the village together and that is oh so true.
The writers Ian Hislop and Nick Newman really get to the heart of what local theatre is all about and that an amateur operation like local theatre is anything but amateur. I for one have been shouting this for decades.
“A Bunch Of Amateurs” is at The Duchess Theatre in Long Eaton until Saturday 23 June 2018. Book your tickets for "A Bunch Of Amateurs" but be prepared to watch a local theatre group that are anything but!

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

“Lava” by James Fritz
Nottingham Playhouse, Neville Suite.
So, what is “Lava” all about, as the title gives nothing away. Well, a small asteroid has hit London. In a town far away, but I get the feeling very local, a young man called Vin is finding it hard to talk.
Now, the only person who seems to bother, apart from Vin's mum, is a young girl called Rachel who makes it her business to find out why this is, and to help him get his voice back.
As time goes by, we discover that what Vin doesn't reveal is more sinister than what he does reveal. Slowly the truth is revealed like the peeling of an onion, but not all the mystery is discovered, leaving you to fill in the gaps.
Written by James Fritz, this is a very clever piece of theatre,and literature with four very different characters who bounce off each other really well and are believable. Characters you can emotionally connect with.
Ted Reilly (Vin) possibly has the hardest of roles here. That may seem a contradiction in terms as he has almost no lines, but having to act with his face and body and express everything he needs to get across must be a test for any actor. You can feel the frustration in his face and actions and slowly you start to understand the emotions he is experiencing as a result the fallout from of his own bombshell.
Safiyya Ingar (Rach) shows us comedy as well as frustration, anger and affection as she tries to reach out to Vin, who we find out worked in the same call centre as Vin. She is the one that he opens up ever so slightly to, and there's a lovely openness where the two are dancing around to Sia's "Chandelier". Rach sticks with Vin and by the ens of the play there's a real light at the end of the tunnel for the pair.
Fred Fergus (Jamie) plays a survivor of the London asteroid and we discover, on several occasions, that he lost his mother as part of the tragedy. Jamie bulldozes his way into Vin's and Rachel's life but that bravado he shows is part front as we see a rare crack in the armour with a gentle one to one with Vin. Jamie first thought he and Vin had something in common, but after the man to man, we also find they have something else in common.
Emma Pallant (Vicky) plays Vin's mum. long suffering and an emotional role to play. Vicky is part of the time walking on egg shells and the other half trying to keep normality for Vin. there's a heart wrenching scene where she loses her cool with Vin. There's also another wonderful scene with Vin where there looks like a breakthrough is about to happen.
All four of these actors make us seem like flies on the wall,witnesses to this private turmoil.
Directed by Angharad Jones, assisted by Laura Ford, they, along with the actors, make this 85 minute piece of theatre seem half the length. You invest your time and interest in these characters which is a sign that the Directors have done their job with the cast really well, making them characters you want to know and find out about.
The set designed by Amy Jane Cook is stark but always reminding us of the asteroid that sparked the opening of the story by having a big round crater in the centre of the stage. Another large circle in the "wall" of the set creates a wonderful back-lit and atmospheric entrance and positional piece for the actors.
Lighting designed by Alexandra Stafford,and the bleak black outs, which separate the scenes, entrances and exits of the actors split the story well with effect.
Dan Balfour’s Sound Design is subtle and at times, although you know it is there, seems almost invisible because there's so much concentration on the characters and the wonderful story. Take that sound-scape away though and the atmosphere would be very different.
The video design by Louise Rhoades-Brown and is a vital timeline reminder of the piece as well as letting us know the various emotional stages we were at with the characters.
I found this a really interesting piece of theatre and i thought how frustrated i would be if, as Rach herself observed, one was to lose the power of speech. Our every day life would be totally different. This in itself is a talking point. It's also the story of friendship and relationships and understanding others and their feelings, masking inner emotions and covering up and asking for help. being afraid, being brave and presenting bravado.
A fascinating, thought-provoking and entertaining piece of work that deserves, and calls for full audiences.
“Lava” is at the Neville Suite at the Nottingham Playhouse until Saturday 30 June 2018.

Saturday, 16 June 2018

"Making A Meal Of It" by Your Chance Productions.
Bunkers Hill, Nottingham.
Here is a collection of funny pieces of theatre and TV sketches with one thread running through it. Food.
Now, what is clever as well is that as soon as you walk through the door upstairs at Bunkers Hill in Hockley, you are shown to your reserved table by your waiter and offered food. yes, food is included in the ticket price!
There are three sketches, seen on TV shows and three sketches from plays. the odd one out is a piece called "Whiskey Cake" which is all about making a cake with lots of whiskey tasting in between the recipe details. You can imagine the outcome!
"Why Cupid Came To Earls Court" is a one act play by Cosmo Hamilton and part of that play is performed in this showcase.
"Between Mouthfuls" is taken from Alan Ayckbourn's "Confusions" and is all about two couples who go to the same restaurant. The two couples, a boss and his employee and their respective other halves both have secrets which emerge throughout the stormy meal.
This is a farce and depends on the waiter being like a microphone between the two tables, so you only hear snippets of conversations. At times this didn't work as well as it could have done as the waiter was at times nowhere near the couple that were talking.
What I did like though about this was the way that it segued into the next "food" section which was from "The Importance Of Being Earnest" and is when Gwendolyn and Cicely first meet.
The segue includes the two waiters clearing the tables from "Mouthfuls" and setting up for "Earnest" and the banter while doing this. I found out later that this improvised.
New names blended with actors I'd had the pleasure of seeing previously and were all great fun to watch.
Christian Oliver-Bates, Glenn Edward-Estes, Algernon Wells, Thomas Keetley, Emily Wilkins, Madeline Walker, Jessica McLean, Philippa Buchanan and Sarah Astill gave us accents, characterisations and lashings of comedy to make a meal of, and like any good meal, left you wanting more.
Whoever's idea it was as well to give Algernon the part of Algernon in the final sketch ("Earnest") was a stroke of genius, especially when he was asked if his name was really Algernon.
Also letting Tom and Algernon do the improvised comedy segue was clever as it showcased their obvious improvised comic talents.
All of this in six weeks is pretty impressive stuff and a lot of thought has gone into collating these themed pieces.
A wonderful evening's entertainment performed by some naturally comic people.
“The Lady In The Van” by Alan Bennett.
Spotlight Theatre.
"The Lady in The Van" tells the true story of Alan Bennett's strained friendship with Miss Mary Shepherd, an eccentric homeless woman whom Bennett befriended in the 1970s before allowing her temporarily to park her Bedford van in the driveway of his Camden home.
She stayed there for 15 years. As the story develops Bennett learns that Miss Shepherd is really Margaret Fairchild, a former gifted pupil of the pianist Alfred Cortot.
She had played Chopin in a promenade concert, tried to become a nun, was committed to an institution by her brother, escaped, had an accident when her van was hit by a motorcyclist for which she believed herself to blame, and thereafter lived in fear of arrest.
The story was made into a film in 2015 starring Maggie Smith, who also starred in the West End play, and Alex Jennings.
I have never seen the film but Amanda Pearce who played Miss Shepherd gave a cracking performance and sounded not unlike Dame Maggie.
Alan Bennett was portrayed as two Bennetts by Matthew Clapp, who I don;t recall seeing before but he seems to have a real ear for accents and especially Bennett's Leeds accent along with all of his trademark way of talking.
Matching Matthew as the second Bennett was someone I do know from many local theatre performances, but I had to check the cast list as I really did not recognise Joseph Smith at all.He looked so different without his facial hair, his Bennett hair do and glasses. He's also got an ear for the accent.
Playing Bennett's Mam was Molly Wright on Saturday but on Sunday will be played by Carolyne Willow. Carolyne also played Miss Sheppard's doctor as well as the interviewer who popped round to interview Bennett.
Bennett's easy going but slightly nutty neighbours, Rufus and Pauline, were played by Patrick McChrystal and Maggie Burrows.
Miss Sheppard's Social Worker was played by Rachel Ross. You wouldn't expect Social workers to come across as comical but Rachel brought out the comedy in the part.
Dan Wolff played four parts here. A foul mouthed lout who was after Miss Shepherd for something. Something we discovered at the end of the play, Underwood, Mam's doctor and the ambulance driver.
Mike Newbold played Miss Shepherd's brother, Leo Fairchild and Laura Ellisplayed the Council Worker.
This is a lovely gentle comedy with a few naughty words sprinkled around, typical of Bennett's dry sense of humour, which is also brilliantly put across by Matthew and Joseph.
Directed by Liam Hall and assisted by Dan Wolff, the gentleness of the piece is helped by the steady pace of the play.
There is a subtle sound scape (Rob Kettridge) which creates the atmosphere of outside the Bennett house, where most of the action takes place along with his garden, and is set between 1974 and 1989. We know this because there are verbal nods to historic elements throughout.
I'm so pleased that this was my introduction to this play because I'd got nothing to compare it to, If I see the film now, I'll be comparing it to this.
"The Lady In The Van" is also being performed on Sunday 17 June 2018 at the Studio Theatre, College Street, Nottingham, Go out and support your local theatre and actors, especially when the talent is this good.