Wednesday, 28 November 2018

“Dr Faustus” by Christopher Marlowe
Nottingham New Theatre
“The Tragicall History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus”, commonly referred to simply as “Doctor Faustus”, is an Elizabethan tragedy by Christopher Marlowe, based on German stories about the title character Faust,
Not happy with his lot, Dr Faustus is hungry, nay greedy for more knowledge, and with knowledge comes power, so he uses magic to summon Mephistophilis, a devil, to act as a go between between him and Lucifer so that he can make a pact with him.
Faustus strikes a deal with Lucifer to be allotted 24 years of life on Earth, during which time he will have Mephistophilis as his personal servant and the ability to use magic; however, at the end he will give his body and soul over to Lucifer as payment and spend the rest of time as one damned to Hell. This deal is to be sealed in the form of a contract written in Faustus' own blood.
Dr. Faustus does nothing worthwhile, having begun his pact with the attitude that he would be able to do anything. Instead, he merely uses his temporary powers for his own entertainment.
The Nottingham New Theatre last did this play, as far as I can remember, four years ago as a project with Lakeside when it was directed by Martin Berry and that was the first time that I had seen this brilliant piece of literature on stage.
Marlowe is often mentioned in the same breath as Shakespeare and having loved the New Theatre’s full version of “Macbeth” earlier this year – it remains one of my favourite productions of the Bard’s play to date – “Faustus” really got my theatrical juices flowing.
For me I think this adaptation was just a bit too off the wall for me, even missing out the dramatic ending when Faustus is dragged into hell. Instead there was a change of costume and Faustus returned to watch a news report, taking the play full circle from whence it started.
What I did like though was the intervention from "The Voice" - God - to try and save Faustus from throwing away his life by telling him that it's never too late to repent, as this shows that Faustus was steadfast and resolute in carrying out his pact, but with this being an adaptation, he could have relented and the ending may have been another different one!
This ending though confused the audience as to whether this was the end, with some unsure as to clap or just leave.
Now I embrace a different slant to a classic piece of theatre, God knows I've seen enough variations of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" to appreciate this, but Daniel McVey's adaptation of the Marlowe classic just didn't grab me, I'm afraid.
In the programme Daniel says "This play promises to be unlike any Faustus you've ever seen before and you're likely to see again. This play is not Marlowe's Doctor Faustus" and I will agree with that statement.
In the end scene Faustus says, "I'm just an actor on a stage and these are the words I've been given to say".so let me talk briefly about the actors.
There are a fair few newbies here and they all performed the parts well and I enjoyed the energy they put in, and I can't wait to see what they do next.
Morgan Beale (Doctor Faustus) worked his part really well. he looked confident and comfortable and gave a believable debut performance for NNT,
Grace Williams (Mephistopheles) also gave another one of her brilliant performances that I've become used to seeing.
Jack Ellis (The Voice) is a pretty laid back Godly character who doesn't forsake Faustus easily, but a God still can only do so much.
Sarah Ingham (Pride/Scolar), Ellen Schaffert (Greed/Attendant), Caitie Pardoe (Lust/Knight), , Olly O'Regan (Gluttony/Duke/Alexander), all make their debuts for NNT.
Megan Peace (Wrath/Melchozedek) and Olly Binns (Sloth/Emporer), Selin Aci (Envy/Helen/Duchess/Paramor) add to their NNT theatrical CV's with their roles.

By the way I absolutely loved the lighting design for this play, Sam Osborne and the addition of the choreography by Zoe Smith.
Theatre can be a very subjective world, which is why even though this adaptation wasn't necessarily my cup of tea, i know that it will appeal to many others. I applaud Daniel though for "tearing Marlowe's play to shreds to ensure that he would be spinning in his grave" - Daniel's quote, not mine. This new, and brave outlook is what keeps theatre as fresh and radical as it is today.
"Dr Faustus" is at the Nottingham New Theatre until Saturday 1 December 2018

Monday, 26 November 2018

“Murder For Two”
Nottingham Theatre Royal
Officer Marcus Moscowicz is a small town policeman with dreams of making it to detective. One night, shots ring out at the surprise birthday party of Great American Novelist Arthur Whitney and the writer is killed.
With the nearest detective an hour away, Marcus jumps at the chance to prove his sleuthing skills—with the help of his silent partner, Lou. But whodunit? Did Dahlia Whitney, Arthur’s scene-stealing wife, give him a big finish? Is Barrette Lewis, the prima ballerina, the prime suspect? Did Dr. Griff, the overly-friendly psychiatrist, make a frenemy? Marcus has only a short amount of time to find the killer and make his name before the real detective arrives!
Here is a piece of theatre that I have never seen the likes of before. Two actors play all the parts – and the piano – in an homage to the old style murder mysteries, and is a very different slice of comedy musical theatre, or murder mystery, and how often do you see these two genres merging?
You can see why this show did extremely well Off Broadway because the whole feel of it is that smaller theatre intimacy, which obviously works just as well in a theatre the size of the Nottingham Theatre Royal.
Jeremy Legat and Ed MacArthur are the actors who play all 13 characters, so a talent for voices is just one thing this talented pair can boast. They also both play the piano, separately and together. Their comic timing is so tight and slick and they also can dance as well - one of the characters is a ballet dancer so we see not only a bit of tap but ballet and theatre dance.
Comedy, and great comedy is all about timing and when you see that these two work props, hats, glasses, different voices, a door as well as a piano, you have to admire that they never miss a beat and everything looks to have been rehearsed to within an inch of rehearsals life.
The play was only written at the start of this decade but the whole look and feel is from the 1940s/1950s classic Dick Tracy detective era, helped along by a wonderfully retro set.
There are eleven songs with some wonderfully witty lyrics, and you know what, you can hear every single syllable from this pair, complementing the brilliant comedy acting, mixing in slapstick as well as mime.
They do though break an unwritten theatrical rule of telling the audience who the killer was in Agatha Christie's "And Then There Were None" - naughty boys!
This is one of the cleverest plays I have seen, and these two work hard, without showing just how hard they work to deliver something just a little different in theatre.
Oh, and the actual murderer in this show is definitely not who you'd expect it to be, but is a clever reveal.
“Murder For Two” is at the Nottingham Theatre Royal until Wednesday 28 November 2018

Sunday, 25 November 2018

'Esse SA Essay' by Callum Walker
Nottingham New Theatre.
One thing that you can’t say about New Theatre student Callum Walker is that he shies away from a tough topic. Last March his play “The Black Dog On My Sofa” was presented; a play about depression.
This play is about the sensitive subject of the psychological effects of male rape. Skipper, the main character was raped by an older woman when he was sixteen. He deals with this trauma by suppressing the memories of the event and he locks them away in a box in his mind.
He also keeps a box under his bed which is sealed, which we are not privy to the contents, which could be a physical image of the box that he keeps those memories locked away in.
Years later he begins to go back over it all, painful as it is, he needs to come to terms with what happened to him, piece by piece. But is there still a piece missing from the jigsaw of that night?
The piece looks at, not only what happened to Skipper, but from the start, how men are viewed from his circle of friends, the stereotypical male, and how Skipper sees himself from inside himself and how the memory can be utilised by the owner.
Written and Directed by Callum Walker, normally the best work is written from experience, I'm hoping this isn't the case, but Callum has presented, not only a quite shocking piece of theatre but even manages to raise a laugh, albeit at times a nervous one, which is needed to break the seriousness of the work. I can see that a lot of research has been done through the writing as well as the emotional and, at times, harrowing production and presentation.
Produced by Sophie Curtis, this I also imagine was not an easy piece to be involved with.
With a cast of one, and this being his NNT debut, Jake Aaron Levy, does not have an easy task fro several reasons. First he has the responsibility to deliver on his shoulders alone. He delivered the emotional and at times pacy script with great conviction and feeling. there's no one to fall back on or bounce off when you are the only cast member, so he had to make sure that he knew this 100%, and he did.
There is full frontal nudity in the play, which is relevant to the script and for understanding what Skipper is going through. No matter how confident any actor is, when they have to perform naked, and in such an intimate performance area, that will always be another thing the actor has to mentally and of course physically, roster into his performance. It takes guts even for an experienced actor, and let's remember, this is Jake's NNT debut.
I loved the Sound Design (Tara Prasad) for several reasons. From the ticking of the clock, as timelines were part of the play, to the tracking of the journey taken by Skipper on the night his assault happened, painting an aural picture in your mind.
Going hand in hand with the sound in any production is of course the Lighting Design (Laura Wolczyk) with the sharp sound to light effect of the timeline of events as Skipper recalled them over and over, each time getting faster and the lights heightening the audience's senses.
Like "Black Dog", which I also enjoyed for the darkness, and for being an issue that men shy away from discussing for fear of seeming "less masculine" and something that doesn't happen to men, I applaud Callum for highlighting this and Jake for delivering and performing the script as sensitively as he did.
A play that should be seen by as many people as possible in my humble opinion.
And for anyone who, like me at the start, was trying to work out exactly what the title meant, that too is revealed within the play, so you won't be leaving confused, but you will leave with several talking points in your head.
"Esse Sa Essay" is at the Nottingham New Theatre until Tuesday 27 November 2018.

Saturday, 24 November 2018

“The Beauty Queen of Leenane” by Martin McDonagh
Nottingham New Theatre.
Mag is 70 and sits in her rocking chair most of the day while her daughter, Maureen, skivvies for her.
Maureen is around 40 and tells us she has been caring for Mag for 20 years. Maureen has only ever kissed two men in her life – and that is two too many as far as Mag is concerned.
Initially, the picture we get of the relationship between mother and daughter, is that Mag is domineering and self-centred, and our sympathy builds for Maureen who we see as little more than an over-worked servant.
But even just a few minutes into the story, we begin to see another side of Maureen. As the story unfolds, the relationship is not all that we first imagined. Mag may come across as an overly protective mother, but she is, as we find later on, one of those elderly people who is afraid to be left to cope on her own.
Maureen is invited to a dance for a friend's party and she brings him home. He stays the night, but again later in the play, this was not the big night Maureen says it was.
The ending of the play is very dark, with some harrowing scenes of violence, and there are even more secrets that go unanswered, leaving the viewer to decide what they believe happened.
Making his Directorial debut in this deliciously dark piece of theatre is Cameron Brett, and a good job he made of it. He kept the pace just right and, me not knowing this play at all, created a chilling shock factor, complete with sound effects, making the abusive relationship seem very real.
NNT debuts are aplenty in this play with Esther Townsend making her debut as Maureen and Barney Hartwill debuting as Ray Dooley, Pato's brother and message boy.
Alice Walker also gets her first time Producer fold star in this play as well.
Playing Mag is Emma Pallett and Eric Crouch gets to grips with Maureen, playing Pato.
All four actors do a splendid job and each get their own special moment to shine as actors with some wonderful speeches, especially Eric with his letter back home to Maureen.
Keeping an accent up, and especially Irish accents, isn't easy but I think they all did a really good job. There were a couple of times where some of the words were lost due to the accent or projection but that's something you learn the more plays you perform.
The set was of a typical rural kitchen, basic but looked warm and cosy. The Set Designer has done their homework here with a fully functioning kitchen.
And that brings me on to the little things that could well have been overlooked. The tea was made, not pretence drinks, the kettle boiled, they used tea bags and milk. So many rimes I have seen drinks pretended to be made, poured and drank, and it takes away from the realism that the Director wanted to bring to the stage, but no, this little detail made what we were seeing real. Even down to the gravel path outside the kitchen window, which we didn't see. but we heard gave us that feeling of there being a world outside that kitchen window.
Another simple but effective piece of thinking was with the lights. Designed by Yasmine Dankwah, at the end of the scenes there was total blackout but the evocative music of the Cranberries filled in the time taken for the actors to re-position themselves within the black outs meaning that we, the viewer, then came back to the story afresh, devoid of set or actor movements.
A subtle sound design also made sure that we were placed within the action and atmosphere of the play. You felt that you were listening to the radio with Mag and watching the TV with Ray and Mag, Oliver Binns is responsible for getting this just right.
What i also must applaud as well is that, along with all of the plays this season in the main theatre at NNT, is that, instead of breaking up the atmosphere of the play with an interval, they played the whole play straight through. Sometimes in plays I just wish that we could just skip the interval and get on with the rest of the story, especially when there has been a tension built up by the cast. The audience and the cast then have to get back to where they left off. Not so with these plays at NNT. Straight through and done. I appreciate that in some pieces of theatre an interval is needed or set changes or for the length of the play, but it's great sometimes just to get on with the action, so thank you for doing just that.
What else can I say? Another cracking show from the NNT and more pats on the backs of everyone involved in my continued education of new pieces of theatre. Thank you.

Friday, 23 November 2018

“Legally Blonde” by Medicine Performing Arts
Nottingham Arts Theatre
“Legally Blonde” follows the story of sorority president Elle Woods as she crosses the country on a mission to find love at Harvard Law School. After discovering how the law can be used to help others, she uses her new found skills to defend a workout-queen in a murder trial, defying the odds and proving that blonde can save the day!
Possibly the most performed musical in the local Nottinghamshire/Derbyshire/Leicestershire area this year as it seems many local theatre groups have had a go this year. It cannot be denied though that this is one of the brightest, bubbliest, fun musicals available to perform on both a professional and local theatre level, and not only that but people will still pay to see this kind of light hearted fluffy, feel-good musical, so it’s a win win situation all round.
A couple of weeks ago I was speaking to Co-Directors Harry Pavlou and Jamie Short and they promised that this production would be different. So I wondered how do you make your version of a musical like this any different to all of the others. Well, they did it! I loved spotting the little extra bits they had added to keep this show fresh, none of which I'm going to reveal, but take it from me, it was like watching an old favourite with added sparkles. Congratulations on a brilliant production and not being afraid to add things to an already wonderful show.
What i also loved about this production was something none of the cast or Directors could arrange, and that was an audience who seemed not to have seen this show before. Their reactions to the show was another thing that made this production so good. It's lovely, from my point of view, to hear and witness the reactions of a crowd loving what they were seeing and buying in to the story. Not only the adoration for the two gorgeous dogs, but to the cast and the "cameos". Even the stage hands became part of the show without being part of the show,
The soundtrack is brilliant with varied styles to keep everyone happy. Right from the opening “Omigod You Guys”, the funky “Serious”, the wonderful “Ireland”, the energetic “Whipped Into Shape”, the naughty but nice “There! Right There!” through to the title track, it’s big and bouncy all the way and led by Musical Directors Carmel Oliver and Joe Mahon.
Elle is played by Georgia Oakes and OmiGod what a voice. She injected a load of fun into this role with her energy and zesty nature. A real joy to see how much she was enjoying this role and show.
Elle's bessie mates Margot, Serena and Pilar are played with great gusto by Holly Richardson, Hannah Tang and Emily Armon.
Jordan Smith (Warner Huntington III) has a really soulful voice and I loved the way that he coaxed the reactions from the audience by doing nothing other than playing the part. To start with he was getting wolf-whistles but by the end he was being (playfully) booed.
Harry Pavlou (Emmett Forrest) is also a man with a brilliant voice, his husky tones contrasted with the other singers here, and possibly the actor with the most experience. Not that that mattered as all the cast were well matched with confidence. Harry also attracted many favourable reactions from the audience, especially with Elle's transformation of him and the end scene. I really have not heard an audience so enthusiastic doe a cast which i am sure was appreciated by the cast and crew.
Kaman Sharma (Professor Callahan) is yet another owner of a really good voice. With his first appearance there were a couple of times I had trouble hearing him - I was at the back though- but he grew and so did his character. Another actor to illicit playful disdain from the audience in Act Two. Good or bad reaction from an audience shows that you are doing something right with their character acting.
Katherine Livesey (Paulette Bonafonte) is great fun to watch as the "Hair Affair" owner who becomes a great friend to Elle. And what a belter of a voice she has; she sent shivers down my back in Act Two.
Emma Jackson (Vivienne) plays one of those lovely characters where you start off not being very fond of, and in the end loving her because she's shown the other side of her character. Emma also has a strong voice which we managed to hear in the second act.
Nikki Spence (Brooke Wyndham) gives an energetic performance as the fitness queen on trial for the alleged murder of her aged husband.
Fiona Houghton (Enid) provided several laughs with her character and, again, a fun watch.
Ollie Martin (Kyle - the UPS Delivery Man) injected some double entendred sauce to the show with his "package" and swagger.
Also getting a massive round of applause, as it always does, is the "outing" of Brooke's pool boy Nicos, played by Gideon Rothstein along with his boyfriend, sorry best friend, Carlos, played by Jamie Short. The song "There Right There" is a proper crowd pleaser.
Our Directors have added an extra bit of sexiness to the show with the Frat boys/ Prison Guards. the former mostly topless and in shorts, and the latter in white vests, braces and black trousers, almost as if they were going to do the Full Monty as they stood guard in the aisles up and down the theatre, truncheons in hand!
This is a massive cast and, I imagine a massive task for the Directors and Producers (Megan Laud and Holly Richardson)to get everyone together all at the same time with rehearsals. However they did it though, it certainly worked.
With it being a large cast, the choreography was also a big task for Abigail Rees, but I loved the work she and the cast have done. From Irish dancing to ballet to tap, it's all in there.
The set was not the big sets that I have seen in other shows but size isn't everything and, as I've always said, it's how you use it and not how big it is, and that is so true here. Very functional, non obtrusive and easily moved on and off stage by the stage crew, smoothly managed by Anjali Yapa and Chloe Monnier.
I've not mentioned all of the cast by name as I would be going on forever but the whole crew were wonderful. Even though I have seen this musical about four times this year, this is up there with the others for great entertainment value, and great fun spotting the additional bits, including localising the production with a mention for a local nightclub and the wonderful lighting creating a backdrop of the Irish flag.
I have a feeling that Saturday's shows may be practically a sell out both matinee and evening shows but it would be worth trying to get a ticket for this show because it really is a clever and very entertaining show with an incredibly talented cast.
“Legally Blonde” is at the Nottingham Arts theatre until Saturday 24 November 2018

Thursday, 22 November 2018

"Nell Gwynn" by Riverside Drama Company.
Duchess Theatre, Long Eaton.
Described as a bawdy period comedy and it lived up to that description perfectly.
From the very start, which is a great way to start a play, but no spoilers from me here, right to the end, this is a delicious slice of period fun.
Nell (Jenni Wright) is a mere orange seller with a slick line in comeback for her hecklers, when she catches the eye of actor William Hart (Julian Franklin), who teaches her the art of acting, and needless to say, falls madly in love with her.
Jenni is great fun to watch and not only brings out the naughty side of the character but also the more serious side as we learn that she couldn't read but through her love of the stage and acting learnt how to combat it.
Nell becomes the talked about actress on the stage and quickly catches the eye of King Charles II (Dan Bates), and very soon she is smitten with him.
Dan adds another brilliant character role to his CV. Looking like Peter Bowles, he also adopts a wonderfully foppish voice and image for the King.
That's the basic story but there is a wonderful rich script woven within this story line, and a great cast to bring that humour to life.
The King's Company - the drama group - are a wonderful casting, Martin HoltomJames Billington - who by the way steals this for me with his withering looks and camp but luvvie characterisation, Mike Evans, Jon Franklin and Celia Billau. If this was a TV show, this lot would be worthy of a spin off series.
The non actor actors are Donna Osmond (Nell's sister), Rachel Bates (Nell's alcoholic brothel running mother), Lizzie Norris (Lady Castlemaine), Amy Cannon (Louise de Keroualle), Moya Magee (Queen Catherine), Keith Salway (Lord Arlington), Phil Whittaker (Servant to the King) and Bob Baron.
A brilliant cast collated by Director Liz Turner, who got the pace of this comedy spot on. Just one section at the end of Act two where there was an empty stage a wee bit longer than expected. I have a feeling that this was down to costume changes, of which there were many which were completed in a timely fashion.
Talking of costume changes, these costumes (Janet Whyatt and Diana Edwards with help from Mina Machin) were wonderful. in the words of John Barrowman "Faabulousss".
Dave Martin was in charge of the lights so we knew that these were in good hands, and they certainly were.
Joe Downing was the man with the sound and was mixed just right so as to not drown out the voices from the stage.
Oh yes and talking of the music. the original compositions in this play, which created a brilliant periodic atmosphere was the work of Liz Turner and arranged by Phillippa Byrne..
The set was split in two with minimal props to be moved, making the segue from one scene to the other effortless.
Choreographed by Jenni Wright, this was traditional and also fun to watch.
Another show that you get your money worth as it runs for two and three quarter hours with a fifteen minute interval, (which gives you time to have a look at the many other shows that the various other local theatre companies are presenting over the next year or so). It does not seem that long though, which is a sure sign of an entertaining, slick piece of theatre.
"Nell Gwynn" is at the Duchess Theatre, Long Eaton until Saturday 24 November 2018

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

“Nativity – The Musical”
Nottingham Theatre Royal
Now here is a musical to get you in a jolly holly mood for Christmas.
Here's a spoiler as to if I enjoyed this musical. MY FACE MUSCLES ACHE FROM HAVING A PERMANENT SMILE ON MY FACE!!!!!
Every child in every school has one Christmas wish, to star in a Nativity, and at St Bernadette’s School they’re attempting to mount a musical version! Only trouble is teacher Mr Maddens has promised that a Hollywood producer is coming to see the show to turn it into a film.
Maddens' girlfriend, Jennifer, up sticked to Hollywood to follow her dreams to be a producer so Maddens flew over there to ask her to come back to Coventry and bring Hollywood back to see the Nativity.
All this just to get one up on his primary school teacher rival, Mr Shakespeare, who always gets a 5 Star review for his end of school term shows from local reviewer critic Patrick Burns. Last year he gave St Bernadette's school production a -2 Stars!!
But how will Mr Maddens tempt Hollywood to Coventry, especially when he discovers that dreams don't always come true....especially in Hollywood!
Simon Lipkin plays Mr Poppy and as soon as he arrives on stage he IS Mr Poppy from the films! He appeals to all age groups who have come to see this show in the same way as many of the panto characters we’ve all seen grace the stage in panto season. In fact the whole atmosphere in this show is partly panto, especially with the ease that Mr Lipkin ad-libs. Quite simply he is fantastic fun for whatever age, reminding us all to be more child-like and have more fun.
Charlie Brooks, who everyone will know as Janine from “Eastenders” plays the part of The Hollywood Producer. Not the biggest part in the musical but good to see her back in Nottingham.
Scott Garnham is a great straight man, as Mr Maddens, to Simon's Mr Poppy, and a nice musical theatre singing voice. No surprise there though looking at his theatrical resume.
Jennifer is played by Ashleigh Gray, and although she didn't have any singing to do in the first act, in Act Two, Ashleigh showed off a gorgeous voice in the wonderful ballad "Jennifer's Request".
Andy Brady becomes the "panto baddie" role as Mr Shakespeare and receives plenty of "boos" with his actions in the second half. I loved his "Herod" role with a difference in his "Herod - The Rock Musical" end of term production for his school.
Jamie Chapman, as local critic Patrick Burns channels his best Allan Carr and is a comedy highlight in this show.
Jemma Churchill as St Bernadette's head teacher Mrs Bevan, is again another fun role to watch.
Local actor Oscar Conlon-Morrey plays the PE Teacher , Mr Rye, but on Thursday takes on the role of Mr Poppy. I've seen Oscar several times locally over the years until he moved to entertainment pastures new in the south, so it's great to see him back in Nottingham and on the "big stage". Oscar is one of those people who you instantly like on meeting and I for one am chuffed that his career is on the rise. After this show he's back on tour with "Only Fools And Horses - The Musical" in the New Year.
Oscar is not the only local actor on stage as well, Earlier in the year auditions were held for local children to be part of the show. Fifteen wonderfully talented kids from the local area play Mr Shakespeare's Drama Club. Bursting with energy and confidence and every one a personality and little star in their own right. Brilliant role models for any youngster who is thinking of joining local drama groups.
The kids of St Bernadette's are touring with the production and are, just like the local young actors, full of enthusiasm, energy and personality, and all of these kids are true stars who literally sparkle and shine very brightly.

All this and the very cute Pepper, who plays Cracker, the dog.
I could go back and see this wonderfully warm, funny and feel-good musical every night, but I'm not sure if my cheek muscles would be able to stand the constant exercise but, if I wasn't already pre occupied, I'd be willing to put those muscles to the test.
This show is one that you can take your kids to as well as your Great Grandparents and they will all love absolutely everything about this musical. It truly is a magical show.
The costumes, the sets, the lights, the musical numbers, the sound, everything was pure perfection and I left the Nottingham Theatre Royal with a lovely warm feeling inside and in an even more Christmassy mood than I went in.
A real festive treat for everyone which should not be missed, especially as Hollywood.... sorry Holidays are indeed coming!.
“Nativity – The Musical” is at the Nottingham Theatre Royal until Sunday 25 November 2018

Sunday, 18 November 2018

“Adult Child/Dead Child” by Claire Dowie
Nottingham New Theatre
The play itself is a difficult watch because of the subject matter, but the message it gives is so powerful that if you walk out of that performing space unaffected, you must be made of stone.
The play deals with the realities of developing schizophrenia. It unlocks the daily realities and unlooked-for consequences of the condition from the perspective of the adult looking back on his confused and innocent child-self.
An incident involving an attempted hammer attack on his father makes perfect sense to him, and by explaining it from the child's point of view it makes a strange kind of sense to the audience too."An eye for an eye" as they say in the bible.
Such moments are potentially dark, but there are touches of humour and absurdity which lift the piece without undermining its seriousness.
His only comfort comes in the shape of his imaginary friend, Benji, who becomes company of sorts at first, only to turn into something more troubling and sinister as her condition worsens.
Alex Piechowski is a very brave, but talented man to take on a role like this but shows his talent as an actor. For 65 minutes he holds us in his spell with his retelling of the character's journey from a child to adult hood, Not only is it impressive that he has this power to keep is hanging off of every single word, but his memory power is immense.
When I went to "radio school" many years ago the first thing that they had everyone do was to talk about themselves for one minute. That may sound simple, but just try it!. Fortunately I was able to do this and passed the first test. Alex has to do this about "the child" for 65 times longer, and ok it was scripted, but to make it sound natural and unscripted takes talent. It takes not just a good actor, but a fine story-teller to pull this gem off.
And then there are the character add ons. The leg shaking, the fiddling with his clothes, the nervous eye twitches, the inability to remain in one place for too long. All of these things make the character alive and human, so we're not just listening to a monologue, we're experiencing the pain that this human being was put through.
The looping provided us with maybe what the child was hearing in his own head, repeated voices speaking to him, nit knowing who or what to listen to. So layered is this damaged character that you just want to give him a hug.
The ending is a beacon in this man's life though and I'm not going to say what that is, because it does release the pressure cooker feeling that this play, and its' wonderful writer, Claire Dowie creates within you.
Directed by Jess Donn, she and Alex, has succeeded in showing what loneliness is like from another viewpoint A viewpoint that hopefully none of us will, or have had experience of.
Produced by Charlie Basley (who I was so pleased to get to say hello to afterwards), proving that he is growing into an absolute theatre all rounder.
The lighting (Daniel McVey) adds that extra air of, I don't know if menace is the right description, but depression is probably too strong a word, something between the two.
This monologue incorporates poetry, projection (Amy Crighton) and live sound looping (Sound design by Izzy de Bono) and really explores being lonely, loneliness, recovery and that desperate need to be loved and to love.
This, like all of the productions that NNT have presented this season, has been thought-provoking, which is a brilliant for local theatre.
"Adult Child/Dead Child" is at the Nottingham New Theatre until Tuesday 20 November 2018 and with all tickets at just £3.00 there is absolutely no reason for this particular play not to be sold out every night

Saturday, 17 November 2018

“9 To 5 The Dolly Parton Musical” by ESNA Players
Loughborough Town Hall
It's been so long since I've seen this musical that I'd forgotten just how much fun this show is.
Music and lyrics are by Dolly Parton and the book was written by Patricia Resnick. The musical is based on the 1980 film and set in the late 1970’s. Three female co-workers have been pushed to boiling point by their boss, so they plan to get their own back!
Now this musical is, on the outside light, fluffy bundle of fun, but just under the surface there is a relative and serious reminder of what's happening in the world today. #MeToo. the subject of equality with equal pay for female workers and the way that they are treated in the workplace. Just goes to show how far we have, or have not moved on in the last few decades.
That aside the production lives up ti the standard I've come to expect from ESNA.
Laura Hardy (Doralee) is great fun to watch, and just like the real Dolly that the character is based on, she may be blonde but she ain't no dumb blonde. Laura injects a lot of fun into the play with high energy levels. Her vocals are well suited to the Country style, and along with the other ladies in the show, looks like she is having a ball in this role.
Emma Adcock (Violet) matches Laura and Nicky with her wonderful vocals, as well as glamour, and equally fun to watch. Her big song "One Of the Boys" is pure Broadway as she strives for equality and promotion.
Nicky Hignett (Judy) gets to wear an amazing red dress in this musical and she looks, and sounds, amazing. her version of "Get Out And Stay Out" made me tingle, especially that end note!
Natasha Bryan (Roz) gets to show two sides of Roz. You know that mousy secretary who then whips off the glasses and lets her hair down, well, that's what you see in Roz. From mouse to sex bomb in one song. The applause level rose after her "5 To 9" number.
Gareth Busson (Hart) maybe the boss who is under fire, quite literally in one part of the show. he is hung up, branded, poisoned, shot up, ties up with telephone cord but, as an actor I bet he enjoyed every second of this character role. He smashed this part.
Lewis Fenn Griffin (Joe) becomes the hero of the hour with his nerdy know how,and Joe's a man who gets what he wants as well... in the end. Lovely character acting.
An epic supporting cast and the ensemble dance pieces are lovely to see, especially the tap number, and I love a good tap ensemble piece.
The choreography by Carl Edwards is energetic but these dancers make it look so easy. And when it looks that easy, I know that that a great deal of hard work has been put into it.
Gareth Wynne is the Musical Director and anyone who has been to the Town Hall before for a musical evening will know what great acoustics this place has. When you have an MD of this standard, you know that the quality of the music is also the best, and it was a beautiful and clear sound the orchestra produced.
With this show there is also the addition of Dolly Parton's image segments within the show, so working the live music around these features is also another thing that Director and Musical Director had to get spot on. And they did.
Directed by Benjamin Hardy, and I can't believe that this his full musical directorial debut, what with his decades of performing in musicals.
I really must doff my cap to the stage management crew, led by Simon Pack. the speed that the scenes were changed were as rapid as any professional touring show I have seen. Stage Direction by Ash Moulton.
Loved the costumes which really made me feel like I was back in the 1970's.
Lighting design by Kevin Cutts and Sound by Rob Temperton and Harry Bridge.
I've no idea if the Town Hall was as packed throughout the week as it was this afternoon, but I'm hoping it was because I know that ESNA have an incredibly loyal fan base. Not only that but I love to see a full theatre enjoying quality local theatre shows like this one.
"9 To 5" ends tonight for ESNA and I have a feeling that the cast will be having the biggest of post show blues. Another success for everyone involved.