Tuesday, 31 July 2018

“Sleighed To Death” by Tabs Productions
Nottingham Theatre Royal
Just as most local theatres are winding down their season, along comes the Colin McIntyre Classic Thriller Season to fill that gap. It’s definitely one season that I personally look forward to.
The first of the four week run of classic thrillers starts with “Sleighed To Death”. The prequel of the Inspector Pratt stories, written by Peter Gordon, where Pratt sets about solving an attempted murder. And provides comedy as well as thrills.
1920s England, it’s Christmas Eve in the manor house of the bumbling aristocrat, Sir Walton Gates (Andrew Fettes) and his wife Grace (Karen Henson). His daughter Emma (Emma Vickery) from a previous marriage arrives from town with her new companion in tow, the dashing James Washington (David Martin) and added to the mix is Sir Walton’s estranged brother Archie (Jeremy Lloyd-Thomas), recently returned from years spent in Australia, bringing with him an appetite for mischief.
Enter England’s most confused police officer, Sergeant Pratt (David Callister), who unwittingly kicks a hornet’s nest of English gentility and the evening soon descends into chaos. Pratt, together with his assistant, Constable Mary Potter (Susan Earnshaw), is on a fund-raising mission with his magic show.
Magic tricks will fail miserably, shots will inadvertently ring out and identities will be confused but can Pratt identify the individual with murderous intent before a body is found? Probably not . . .
“Sleighed To Death” takes us back to the start of Inspector Pratt’s career and we discover that his early life as a policeman is no less hilarious than his later exploits into sleuthing!
As Pratt stated in the play, this is a case of Who - didn't - do it -dunnit... and that's enough of a spoiler alert from me!
As to be expected from Tabs Productions, the cast is first rate, the comedy is delivered with split second timing, and while I wasn't intending to single any actor out, I must say that David Callister's part was superb!!! To deliver his script with the fluidity and naturalness and with his comedy timing was just a masterclass in comic theatre.
Being a fan of accents, there were several in this play but are they all as they seem?
A wonderful comedy thriller to kick off this 30th season off, with some marvellous 1920's costumes and wigs (Geoff Gilder), Expertly Directed by John Goodrum and a brilliant set design by Sarah Wynne-Kordas.
“Sleighed To Death” is at the Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 4 August 2018.

Photos by Simon Cooper.

Sunday, 29 July 2018

"Around The World in Twenty Musicals" by Your Chance Productions.
Bunkers Hill, Hockley, Nottingham.
Sitting back and being entertained by these seven talented people was like listening to one of those Greatest Hits Of the Musicals compilation CDs, but knowing every track and loving every one of them.
It never fails to impress me when, and especially in such a small venue as the upstairs room of Bunkers Hill, the clarity and quality of a singer shines through, and these seven have both of these qualities in abundance.
I would imagine performing, and that is exactly what they did, they performed the songs, they didn't just sing them, in such an intimate place, could be quite alarming, after all you can see the whites of the punter's eyes and feel and hear their breath. That mattered not to them as they took us on a trip around the world with this cleverly compiled mini concert.
John Gill started the evening with one of my favourite songs from "Jekyll & Hyde", "This Is the Moment", taking us through "Anthem" (Chess) and another powerful song "One Song Glory" (Rent). A wonderful performer of songs as you can see that he feels the words he sings. It's important to me for a singer to believe what they are trying to get us to believe, and John does just that.
Maddie Walker has such a powerful voice and she was not afraid to let us know it. From the wistful "Wouldn't It Be Loverly" (My Fair Lady) through "Cabaret", "I Know Him So Well" (Chess) with Eliza Hill, and "All That Jazz" (Chicago), Maddie also dressed for the parts. I love the ability to belt out a song and Maddie was not the only one to be able to do that.
Alison Sheppard made me sit up and really take notice as I've not heard a woman sing "Bring Him Home" (Les Miserables) before, but what a lovely surprise.Alison also gave a cracking, emotionally dripping version of "I Don't Know How To Love Him" (Jesus Christ Superstar), "Take Me Or Leave Me" (Rent) with Maddie Walker, "Hey Big Spender" (Sweet Charity), and an amazingly soulful version of "I Know Where I've Been" (Hairspray).
Eliza Hill also brought the emotion with "As Long As He Needs Me" (Oliver), "Change In Me" (Beauty & The Beast), plus a lovely whimsical "Pulled" (The Addams Family).
Tom Keetley brought the comedy into play with "Master Of The House" (Les Miserables) with Maddie, and "Hakuna Matata" (The Lion King) with Christian Oliver-Bates. It's about time Tom was given a main part in a comic musical role, possibly something like The Producers?
Emily Wilkins has one of those voices that I could listen to all night and her smile lights up the whole room. "Think Of Me" (Phantom Of The Opera), "Lay All Your Love On Me" (Mamma Mia) with Christian, "Jacob and Sons" and "Joseph's Coat" (Joseph),and "Good Morning Baltimore" (Hairspray), gave her and us plenty to smile about.
Christian Oliver-Bates, aside from his duets, gave us a couple of solo successes with "It Takes Two" (Hairspray) and "Oh What A Beautiful Morning" (Oklahoma), showing leading man tendencies.
Rounding off the evening was a collective cast performance of songs from "The Wiz", and I didn't see the audience in a rush to pop those ruby slippers on to transport them back home.
Our guide for this global trip around the musicals was Jessie Meg who was the perfect compere and host.
If I had been a talent scout tonight, I would have not known which of these to scout, I'd have had to have taken the lot on because any one of these could appear in the musical of their choice. Their voices are so varied and they are performers of songs, not just singers.
I've had the pleasure of seeing most of them perform before and I'm looking forward to seeing them all again, hopefully.
A wonderful evening of such talent should though be supported by a bigger turnout, which was a bit of a shame, but it was other's loss who missed their chance, and definitely this small audience's gain in experiencing Your Chance..

Monday, 23 July 2018

“She Stoops To Conquer” by Oliver Goldsmith
Lace Market Theatre.
The latest season at the Lace Market Theatre closes with a belter of a play and an absolute classic and one of the few plays from the 18th Century to still be performed.
I read this play just a few months ago and found it, in play form humorous. On stage, the wonderful script just explodes into life.
Our hero, Marlow, mistakes a private house for an inn, thanks to the mischievous Tony Lumpkins. He also mistakes the woman he is supposed to be wooing for a barmaid, and his future father-in-law for the landlord, and this raises all kinds of questions about class and snobbery. Confusion and comedy are the results which also results in a lovely journey of self realisation for more than one of these characters.
David Dunford (Mr Hardcastle) straight away makes a big impact with his wig. Hardcastle is just one of a group of characters who are comedic without being overtly funny, but his reactions and asides are what makes this character joyful to watch.
Cynthia Marsh (Mrs Hardcastle) really brings the comedy of this character alive and the physicality of Mrs Hardcastle is just one more reason to see this play, and I loved her script, delivered with, at times, an almost tongue in cheek delivery.
Ellie Searston (Miss Kate Hardcastle) was just an incredibly good watch. Everything from the looks breaking the fourth wall to her giggles and her dual role as the "barmaid" and the "woo-ee" for Marlow with the change in accents as part of the deceit. A brilliant role for any woman to play which showed off Ellie's lovely comic side.
Charlie Bailey (Miss Constance Neville) was a wonderful pairing with Ellie for this girlie pair. Another lovely and believable coupling of friends, who, if in another century, would be the sort to have sleep overs and watch "Grease" on repeat.
Bertie Black (Tony Lumpkin) is like the naughtiest school boy you can imagine and reminiscent of Dennis the Menace. Excitable with a wicked sense of humour who relishes the situations when his plans come together. I imagine Bertie is having great fun playing Tony, because we were having fun watching him.
Steve Mitchell (Charles Marlow) delivered a classy but haughty performance as the man who was comfortable chatting up ladies below his class stature but floundered when in the presence of his own class. A wonderful vision of embarrassment in Act Two as the whole deception became apparent. His soft spoken approach with this character really suited the part.
Paul Spruce (George Hastings) is an actor I don't think I have seen before gave a very confident performance and a very comfortable relationship with Marlow; the sort of lads around town, best buddy type of 18th Century mate.
Bob Wildgust (Sir Charles Marlow) makes an appearance in Act Two as young Marlow's father.
Linda Croston also made an appearance as Kate's servant, Pimple.
Glenn Murphy(Landlord Diggory) and the Servants, Maids and Drinking Companions are played Anne Mccarroll, Molly Wright, David Watts and Arnd Korn opened the scene with a raucous bar scene which set the tone for fun throughout
Directed by Marcus Wakeley he made sure that the pace was kept sharp at no time was there an empty stage, and this really made this play fly by. The comedy was wonderfully out there, Marcus making sure that the actors delivered in such a way that it would be impossible to miss any of Goldsmith's wonderfully comic script. This is a play that was written to break the fourth wall and with the actors making entrances from everywhere, he made sure that the whole of the theatre was used to expand the stage.
The set was designed by Milly White and it really gave you an insight into the lifestyle of Goldsmith's era. Lush furniture and furnishings and a reflection of the well to do lives these characters led.
Brilliant wardrobe and wigs by Max Bromley and the LMT Wardrobe department.
This season at the Lace Market has been varied and wonderful and this was a fine way to close the season. It was also lovely to see, as in most productions this season, a practically full first night, and I have every expectation that the rest of the week will be just as packed, because it really deserves to be.
A wonderfully talented cast and a wonderfully written piece of comedy theatre, and when you get those two spot on, then you have theatre magic, and that I can bear witness to!
“She Stoops To Conquer” is at the Lace Market Theatre until Saturday 28 July 2018.

Saturday, 21 July 2018

“The Tempest” by Oddsocks Productions
Lakeside Arts Centre, Nottingham.
The second of two nights at Lakeside following on from last night’s excellent Mods V Rockers re-telling of Shakespeare’s “Romeo & Juliet”. Tonight “The Tempest” gets the science fiction make over; boldly taking Shakespeare where no other Shakespeare play has gone before!!
In this production Prospero is marooned in a galaxy far, far away from his daughter, Miranda. Years later a spaceship, containing his enemies passes nearby and Prospero gets his chance to wreak revenge. He conjures up the force to bring his enemies to him and a meteor storm causes them to crash land, leaving them at the mercy of Prospero. It’s like Star Trek meets Star Wars meets Shakespeare with a nod to "Alien" on the way!
Even more like panto than last night but just as much fun with crazier costumes and a disappearing Ariel in Act Two.
Andy Barrow gets the lead role as Prospero in his Obi Wan Kenobi style outfit and also doubles as Scottie from Star Trek... and another accent!
Matt Penson gets to play Captain, Ferdinand as well as Ariel 3 - the disappearing one, and I love the little attention to detail as he gets the pose of Captain Kirk in his chair spot on. You can tell, as with the others, that Matt is an avid Shakespeare fan just in the way that his Shakespearean lines are delivered.
Alice Merivale plays Miranda as well as Ariel, and another cracking pair of parts she portrays with boundless energy and fun.
Amy Roberts, again gets three parts in Alonsa, Stephanie and Ariel 2.
Dom Gee Birch gets to play the fishy monster Caliban and Sebastian.
Gavin Harrison plays Antonio and Trinculo.
These actors work so well together, it's impossible to pick any particular actor, or role, to highlight over the other, so i won't even try.
As with last night, the cast also perform all of the songs live and play the instruments and we were treated to some more pop classics. Hits like Fat Larry's Band's "Zoom", Chumbawumba's "Tubthumping" and a great finale with Take That's "Rule The World".
What i also find good about this group is that they mingle in the interval with the crowd, which really makes you feel part of the gang, breaking down any barriers between the actor and their audience.
If you want to introduce your kids to Shakespeare then take them along to one of Oddsock's shows and I guarantee they will want to learn more about the man, and want more of Oddsock's unique and out of this world productions.
I for one can't wait for their winter shows.

Friday, 20 July 2018

"Romeo & Juliet” by Oddsocks Theatre Company
Lakeside, Nottingham
I’d heard of Oddsocks Theatre Company but had never had the joy to see this innovative theatre company actually on stage. What had I missed?
Friday night in the open air of Lakeside’s grounds the Capulets and the Montagues clash, but these hearts beat to the sound of a different drum and beat as Oddsocks have time travelled these two warring families to the Mods and Rockers era.
The Capulets own a rock bar and the Montagues a pizza restaurant and we, the audience are asked to join in the fun with several activities which really make you feel involved, a little bit like in "The Rocky Horror Picture Show".
The members of the cast also make up a band who play music live on stage, something you would not expect from a Shakespearian classic. Hits from the 1950’s and through some well-chosen party/rock classics are performed throughout. "Black Betty", "Rhythm Of The Rain", "Sweet Child Of Mine", "Be Bop A Lula", "Every Breath You Take/Chasing Cars" mash up and many more.
There’s an enormous amount of energy brought to this production along with some brilliant comic slapstick and comedy accents. When can you ever remember a Capulet – played by Director Andy Barrow - having a Birmingham accent? Andy also doubles up as Tybalt.
Playing Romeo is Matthew Penson, on his first tour with Oddsocks and Juliet is played by Alice Merivale.
.Juliet’s nurse is played by Amy Roberts who also debuts in this tour.
Dominic Gee Burch played Mercutio, Officer Prince and and Friar Lawrence
Completing the line-up is Gavin Harrison as Benvolio and Paris.
All of these actors make this production something very special and unique with smatterings of ad libbed sections while reacting to the activities of the audience. A warning - don't get up and go to the toilet and be seen by the cast!!
There are some brilliant fight scenes in here, Directed by Ian Stapleton.
Shakespeare’s plays have been performed in various ways and it’s great to see the classics viewed from a very different perspective through the eyes of Oddsocks Theatre company, making it all fresh and new again.
You can’t beat the classics and the way that they were originally written to be performed; but why try to beat them when you can show a different slant and make them just as interesting as the original.
It’s also a wonderful introduction to the Bard’s scripts for people who may not have discovered the glory and richness of his work.
Oddsocks are unique and great fun to watch,and they certainly make Shakespeare fun and relevant for a new and younger audience, as well as open minded bard fans like myself.
If you want to experience Oddsocks for yourself, they are back at Lakeside on Saturday evening for a science fiction version of "The Tempes

Thursday, 19 July 2018

“The Museum Of Tat” by Milk Bottle Productions.
The Old Library, Mansfield.
It's always interesting when you're asked along to see something brand new because you have no preconceptions of what you're about to see, and as a reviewer that is fresh and very exciting.
This piece of theatre follows on from the podcast series “The Museum of Tat”, This is a send up of all of those antique programmes you see on TV where you take a piece you think is worth thousands to be told it’s worth 50p.
It pokes a gentle finger at how serious people can be when they think there may be a fortune loitering in their attic, cellar of bottom drawer, as well as the “experts” valuing the objects
Simon Nader co stars in this production, ahead of its relocation relocation ( no that’s another TV show) to the Edinburgh Fringe, and plays the Presenter, Derek Knowless, desperately trying to keep the online show going, and by the end he is quite literally at his wits' end.
Robert Crighton plays Professor Jeffrey Collins, the specialist who gets to value tat from audience members, who are asked to join in and bring their favourite pieces of tat for a professional evaluation. This pre-empts the main feature and also carries on after the theatrical performance ends.
At times it borders on organised anarchy as Collins works out the last minutes of his contract and Knowless appears to have a secret bottle of something to get him through the live staged podcast.
All great fun and the audience are only too willing to take part in the show. there was also an auction for a piece of tat which went for much more than both Collins and Knowless expected.
This is one of those productions where it's very hard to work out if this show is a scripted one or if it's improvised; maybe a bit of both. I say this because the comedy seems instant and anarchic, and sometimes this style of comedy is better off the cuff, especially when the two actors are well tuned in with each other.
This show is going to go down a storm in the Fringe, for a couple of reasons.
One: It's funny and it's fun and it's novel.
Two: The antiques TV show format is watched by many students and has a cult status; a bit like "Supermarket Sweep" was a massive hit for students. The Fringe is the place for students to get to see a wide host of great entertainment, ergo It's a hit!
Cleverly conceived and recognised as being a gap in the market that needs filling - let's face it I have never seen a play based on this theme before, have you?
Spotting that gap to fill in theatre is not easy but that has been well spotted and well developed into an hour show which not only includes comedy, but has audience participation, an auction and a sing along with choreography. Not only that but you can see this show several times and never see the same show twice. Clever!

Sunday, 15 July 2018

"Legally Blonde" by Spotlight Theatre Company.
Nottingham Playhouse.
It may give you an incite to how successful this production was when I say that this audience on Sunday night were the most appreciative and excited audience that I've seen in a while.
Legally Blonde is the story of Elle Woods who is completely smitten with Warner Huntington III when he tells her that she is dumped as he is off to Harvard to study law, and feels that he needs someone more "serious". Elle decides to show him that she is serious by enrolling in Harvard to win him back, unbeknown to her, he has already found his someone serious in Vivienne.
Elle discovers that she has a flair for this legal thing by using unconventional methods and manages to win the day by winning the murder case and freeing the accused, the fitness queen Brooke Wyndham.
In the interim she finds herself a new love, an unlikely ally and a an enemy in Professor Callaghan when she turns the tables on him and shows what a slimeball he really is.
This production is on a par, if not better than the recent touring production. The energy levels, dancing, vocals and comic skills of this immense cast shows what an incredible talent Nottingham's local theatre has. Something that I've known for many years now.
Playing the iconic Elle is Ella Greenwood. She nailed every single aspect of this character. A cross between Marilyn Monroe sexiness with the powerful vocals of Christina Aguilera. O Mi God was she incredible.
Emmett Forrest, who Elle fell in love with, was played by Patrick McChrystal. he is turning out to be a really credible leading man and his voice is getting better all the time. His pitch and his note holding are absolutely spot on, and he was a big hit with the audience as well.
Laura Thurman was so good as Paulette the hairdresser. Again great vocals and lovely comic timing. Great fun to watch and so nice to see her back on stage again after a bit of a hiatus.
Paulette's ideal man is an Irishman and when she finds out that her new UPS delivery man is not only an absolute hunk, but is Irish as well..... Kyle, the UPS man is played with great twinkly-eyed confidence by Alex Huntley, who I have been told has spent several hours in the gym to get that physique that had the ladies in the audience even hotter under their collars!
The slimy Professor Callaghan was played by Robert Goll. he completely embodied this role and this musical suits his voice so well. I saw Bill Ward play this part in the National tour and much as I enjoyed Bill, I really enjoyed Rob's portrayal.
Warner Huntington III is played by Jacob Fowler. A wonderful leading man and what a voice this man has. I noted his voice in another production earlier this year. In this show we got to hear more from Jacob and he has one of those voices that would sound great on the radio. He has a current sounding tone but also quite old school 90's soul. His voice is made for musicals, as well as recording and his timing is spit on.
Charlotte Howarth plays Vivienne. I have been lucky enough to have seen Charlotte in several parts and shows all over Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire and every time I see her, she grows as an actor and that voice is a belter.
Brooke Wyndham, the fitness queen is played brilliantly by Georgia Hodgett-Young, and you have to admire her energy levels as she sings, skips and acts without missing a beat. the skipping scene is one of my favourites, and the timing in this scene alone is one that has to work, and it does.
Elle's best friends are Margot (Bethany Wear), Serena (Grace Hodgett-Young) and Pilar (Laura Ellis). Three very capable actors who again, I've seen grow in their acting roles, and I love the harmonies created by these three. Really well cast.
Enid Hoopes is another Harvard intern who is on the case in Callaghan's team, and a lovely comedy part for Cassie Hall.
Holly Neil, who is a newcomer to me, plays Chutney - who would name their child Chutney? - Wyndham. Holly has been in several productions before making her Spotlight debut, and I look forward to seeing her in the future, especially as she can do accents and sings soprano.
Tano Gangemi is another new name to me but plays Nikos, the man in the dock who works for Brooke as a pool man. A minor comic role where we have to decide if he is gay or European. The truth is out, quite literally when his best friend, or is that boyfriend Carlos, played by Matthew Wesson, a scene they both steal and attracts a massive round of applause for both.
Stan Cook, who I think I last saw in Spotlight's successful "The History Boys" pops up again as Aaron Schultz, as well as other various roles.
Talking of playing various roles, Matty Collins, i think, gets the record for this in this production including Dewey, Paulette's ex who has a disgusting habit of sticking his finger in his naval and sniffing his fingers.
Now we must not forget the two canine lovelies here. So well behaved they are and they seem to have enjoyed their thespian roles as their tales never ceased to stop wagging. Hugo played Rufus and Lady played Bruiser.
I said that this production had a massive cast and there were another 28 in the ensemble and playing other roles.
The production team are Amanda Hall (Director), Jessica Royce(Choreography) and Geoff Burnhill (Musical Director); the dream team.
A wonderfully clear sound by Rob Kettridge and a great lighting design by Tom Mowat.
I knew from just a few minutes in that this show would warrant a standing ovation, and they certainly got one.
It's just a crime that this wonderful production was only on for two nights because it could have so easily have ran for longer.
Photos by Gavin Mawditt

Saturday, 14 July 2018

"You're The Voice" by Zak Scott & Friends.
Duchess Theatre, Long Eaton.
I can remember four years ago at the end of the first Zak Scott & Friends, Zak saying "never again". Four years later this is the fourth fundraiser Zak has done, and the shows get better every time.
Over the years I have seen Zak grow and mature and every year I seem to notice something extra in his shows and performances. This year his voice has again matured and he has injected a mature emotion into his performances. I can tell that because you could not only hear the difference in the way he sings but you can see the emotional connection he has with certain songs.
"Electricity" was the song that got him noticed when he was just nine years old at school and watching him sing this, you can see him reliving the last decade through the song.
"Bring Him Home" is HIS song and as soon as he opened his mouth the hairs on my arms went up. He is note perfect and I still think that he does the ultimate local theatre version of this song, such emotion.
Just watching and hearing him sing "Proud Of Your Boy" and also "Not My Father's Son" show how emotionally involved Zak gets with his songs. His parents, Sarah and Roydon, who I know have invested so much of their time (and money) in backing Zak all the way, are extremely proud of this talented and unassuming young man. Rightly so as well.
It was also nice to see him do something not quite as serious in "Baptise Me" (Book Of Mormon), a song with a slightly naughty double meaning.
One slight criticism though. You had a big sign at the back of the stage saying "Zak Scott & Friends", so why was this not lit up? Your name should be up in lights! Just a thought for the next one.
Now in that sign there was the "& Friends" section and what a talented bunch of friends he had on that stage.
Erin HillEmily HornerEllie Simmonds all have wonderful voices and presented such an array of musical styles, and not just from the musical theatre genre. The Supremes and George Michael both received tributes from Emily.
Providing backing vocals were Millen ScrivenerMolly Parkinson and Jake Truman.
Cara Verney choreographed the dance sections and with sister Rosie Verney and Courtney, Androulla, Anthasia, Malachi, Izzy, Beth, Jessica and Anita, entertained with some hypnotic contemporary dance.
And of course I can't leave out Zak's compere for the evening, Mr David Allen, who's jokes get worse every year, but that is what we love about David's sections of this show. A bit of something for everyone.
The brilliant lighting for the show was by Tom Olding and the sound was managed perfectly by Sean Renshaw.
The evening was for a very good cause; Project Defib. This is a project that saves lives and it's Zak's aim to supply the local community in Long Eaton with Public Access Defibrilators that can be used when someone is in cardiac arrest.
These things save lives and you don't have to be a First Aider to use them, as explained by Zak last night, as well as demonstrating the correct way to perform CPR. Time is of the essence when saving lives and these things will provide that bridge between cardiac arrest and an ambulance getting to them. I know you'll agree that this project is so important.
Last night was not only very entertaining but also educational as Annie also made a special appearance on stage. First Aiders will know who i mean.

Friday, 13 July 2018

"Sweeney Todd” by Encore Productions
The Space, Arboretum Street, Nottingham.
Encore present a semi-staged production of Sondheim’s musical about the Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Complete with a 22 piece orchestra and the Encore choir, this was a production I was really looking forward to seeing.
Sweeney Todd, whose real name is Benjamin Barker, uses his new alias to resume work in his barber shop above Mrs. Lovett’s struggling pie shop after being wrongfully sentenced to life imprisonment by the corrupt Judge Turpin. After swearing vengeance against the judge that tore his family apart, Todd and Lovett plot a unique plan that helps them both and leads them down a dangerous, thrilling path with deadly consequences.
Encore go from strength to strength, and sometimes you wonder just where the ceiling is for this group's talent, because at the moment it seems infinite
The casting is perfect and with that incredible orchestra and choir on stage with the actors, it was reminiscent of when they had the big "Les Miserables" semi staged concert on London a few years back. The lack of scenery, for me, didn't matter because the story is a strong one and the music is so incredibly lush while being intricate and complicated, bordering on the operatic.
Duncan Leech (Judge Turpin) like everyone gave a wonderful performance as the bullying and slightly unnerving Turpin; thrashing himself in a state of undress while spying on his ward, Joanna. He made you feel quite uneasy, a sign of a good actor to evoke such emotion in an audience.
George Lamb ( Beadle Bamford) has dot to be one of my favourite comic characters in this musical, and possibly one of the best performances I've seen George give on stage. He just completely embodied the camp but comic character. His facial expressions, changing from salacious, manic and sadistic pleasure to practically bored rolled eyes look really gave a brilliant fun element to this very dark piece of theatre. Like Turpin, a character you weren't sorry to see get their comeuppance.
Christopher Mundy (Tobias) showed a believable transgression from
innocent servant to Pirelli to the protective and faithful young man who ended up being driven mad by the visions that he saw in the hell hole of the Lovett's pie ovens.
Lucas Young (Anthony) showed again what a fine voice he has as the romantic and lovelorn sailor who fought to free Joanna from the clutches of Turpin and the walls of the city's asylum.This man has the ability to play any role he wants just like a chameleon.
Helen Whittle (Johanna) is another actor who has an incredibly good voice and her operatic talents are well suited in this musical. It is with ease that she reaches those gorgeous Sondheim high notes.
Kimberley Allsopp (The Beggar Woman) plays a crazy woman so well, but there's a secret hidden in this character, which if you don't know the story of Sweeney Todd, I ain't gonna spoil it for you. A fine vocal style as well as she switches pace in her songs so fast.
Jorge Diniz (Adolfo Pirelli), a new name to me, gets to play quite a complex character in Pirelli. An Irishman who has a secret and pretends to be an Italian, but we all know what happens to faux Italians who try to blackmail the demon barber of Fleet Street... don't we?. Another adept vocalist who hasn't the easiest of pieces to sing but must have vocal chords made of elastic.
Danielle Hall (Mrs Lovett), well what can I say? I can't recall hearing Danielle sing before but she has kept this talent well and truly hidden. I love this role, as Danielle really extracts every piece of humour from Lovett. This is especially true in the duet with Todd "A Little Priest". Wonderful character acting and a brilliant vocal; nothing is forced with Danielle, and this makes her very easy to watch.
Adam Guest (Sweeney Todd). As with Danielle, you know you can relax watching Adam, which is not so accurate a description of his character, because they know what they are doing on stage. I did not realise though just how unnerving Adam's acting can be, and I've seen Adam act many times. His wild eyes are quite frightening and he looks completely manic on some scenes. The people sitting on the front row I imagine may have been a little nervous as he took to the audience, razor in hand seeking revenge on Turpin, or anyone who took his fancy. A brilliant character performance and wonderful vocals to match. Possibly the perfect performance of Todd.
Musically Directed and produced by Sam Griffiths. He had the incredibly difficult job of bringing out the joy, pain, fun and darkness of Sondheim's music. Practically a non stop score and he was on his feet all evening. A beautifully layered and lush arrangement of this wonderful score, and when you add the additional layer of the Encore Choir to the mix, it takes you to aural heaven.
Directed by Andrew Bould, he was not content on presenting this as a faithful copy of what had gone before. For one it was semi staged which could have given limitations but not in the eyes of Mr Boult. I loved what he did with "By the Sea" and created a whole new feel and comic image. The song is not really a major song within this musical but this visionary rework made it one of the many highlights for me.
The lighting, and may I say that the "inferno" lighting effect for the "bakery" was very effective, was the responsibility of Richard Heappey. Creating the right feel for the different areas of the piece by a change of hue; subtle but did the job.
Dave Dallard is the man behind the sound desk and while at the start there were a few lost words from the songs, this was quickly sorted out and the wonderful acoustics of the theatre was taken full advantage of and the beauty of Sondheim's words were heard by all.
Encore are very good at using the best people and this musical shows this to full effect. What i also love id that Encore have such a well respected reputation that the best people also want to work with Encore. And that is why this cast is so perfect.
A very well deserved standing ovation at the end just proves to me everything that has been writ above, and I was proud to be one of the first to get to my feet to show my appreciation of a incredibly talented group of people and a wonderfully entertaining piece of theatre. In such a short period of time this lot have had to stage this show, the results are breathtakingly good.
Always one to give back to the community, Encore always hold a collection after every performance for a well-deserved, and relevant to the show, charity. This time, with the story being about a barber, they
have chosen the Little Princess Trust charity who provides real hair wigs free of charge to children and young adults up to the age of 24, who have sadly lost their own hair due to cancer treatment and other illnesses.
Friday night was practically a sell out so you may just be able to get a ticket for Saturday’s matinee or evening performances. Please try not to miss out on this one.

Monday, 9 July 2018

"Ghost Lights"
Nottingham Arts Theatre.
Being a total believer and having had experiences of a supernatural nature several times in my life, this walk through the Nottingham Arts Theatre was right up my theatrical aisle.
Now I am not going to recount any of the stories that out host told because he was such an accomplished story teller that he kept you completely enthralled and under his spell.
I thought I knew a lot about the theatre and superstitions but tonight I learnt so much. This walk through the theatre not only recounted unexplained stories, as well as several stories that could be explained, but loads of stuff about the theatre, the workings of a theatre and theatre folk. Folklore, myths and legends of days gone by that send the hairs on your neck standing to attention.
It is also a wonderful insight to the workings of a modern theatre with visits to the dressing rooms, and I learned the correct way to enter a dressing room. Anyone who, like I, love the theatre will be fascinated by these stories of the auditorium, the Green Room, rehearsal room,the cat on the stairs, the mystery of the dressing room mirrors and other parts of the theatre.
When you first enter into the auditorium, which I have been in many many times before a show, tonight in the dark, illuminated by just one light the "ghost light", the whole feel of the area changed, and I certainly would feel uneasy spending the night in the dark in the theatre.
Tony, our host and narrator, is a wonderful painter of pictures and creates just the right atmosphere, and I for one will be keeping an extra eye out the next time that I come to the Nottingham Arts Theatre.
The Ghost Lights tour takes place every second Monday of the month and is a must for anyone interested in the theatre as well as the unexplained. The tour is limited to 20 people and bookings can be made through the Nottingham Arts Theatre website.

Friday, 6 July 2018

"The Dresser" by The Festival Players.
Sir Robert Martin Theatre, Loughborough University.
Ronald Harwood's story about an aging actor's personal assistant, Norman,who struggles to keep his charge's life together. "Sir" is about to go onstage to perform King Lear but it's obvious that something isn't quite as it should be with Sir.
Harwood was himself a dresser: to actor Donald Wolfit, most famous for his Lear.
It has been a long time since I've seen this play and had forgotten just what an enjoyable watch this play is.
Steve Illidge plays Norman, the dresser. He's like the third party in Sir's relationship with"Her Ladyship". he is bullying, persuasive, supportive, protective, always encouraging but also a tad jealous, and Steve brings out all of these traits in Norman. You also see a touch of bromance, more from Norman's side, in their relationship.
Sir, is played by Nick Grainger and the character is leading tours of tatty productions of Shakespeare to the British provinces during the Second World War and the company he’s got to work with are what he dubs the “cripples, old men and Nancy boys” who are not fighting on the front.
Nick brings out the total dependency that Sir has on his dresser, as well as the loneliness, sadness and helplessness in the character. You really feel sorry for the crumpled heap of a character Sir has become, especially as you're in on the fact that Sir is not well.
Liz Berrisford plays a wonderfully business like Madge, who's running the show, who we discover may have had some history with Sir, well it's hinted at!
Playing Her Ladyship is Julie Easter; a completely different character role from the last one I saw Julie in, which shows that character roles are strong in Julie's catalogue.
The three visible Lear tour members we see are Irene, played by Persephone Leafe, Oxenby, played by Chris Marshall and a lovely comic role in Geoffrey Thornton - "The Fool" played by Eddie Orton. There are also two other actors we hear but don't see as Lear players during the Lear production within The Dresser, voiced by Doug Gilbert and Jessica Hannah.
Directed by Rachel Ingham, the pace is gentle, which is one thing that makes this play a joy to watch. While the characters could have been played over the top, this was not the case here, making the characters believable and endearing.
I loved the set which was mainly a 1940's style dressing room, with some lovely props making the era stand out, and the other part was the wings at the side of the stage. there's plenty to look at on this set without being cluttered.
A thoroughly enjoyable play, which to say was written as a
tragi-comedy, has just the right balance of both.
"The Dresser" is at the Sir Robert Martin Theatre at Loughborough University until Saturday 7 July 2018.