Monday, 25 February 2019

“The Cemetery Club” by Ivan Menchell
Nottingham Lace Market Theatre
"The Cemetery Club", a comedy, is a story about three Jewish widows who meet once a month for tea before going to visit their husbands’ graves. Ida is sweet tempered and ready to begin a new life. Lucille is a feisty embodiment of the girl who just wants to have fun, and Doris is stuffy and judgemental.
One day they bump into their butcher, Sam, at the cemetery, who was visiting his deceased wife's grave, and a new friendship is born.
Ida and Sam fall for each other, but the budding relationship gets squashed and compounded when Mildred, the seductress that Sam decides to bring to Selma’s wedding, particularly unnerves Ida.
I've not even seen the film so this was my first impression of the story, and what a wonderful story. There is sadness and an awful lot of laughter, and it's one of those plays that will really make you think about relationships and friendship, and what is important within a deep friendship, as these three women have forged over the years.
Melanie Hamilton (Ida) manages to reach out with this role, and while wonderfully understated, the emotions that she has been feeling and is feeling in this role really touch you.
Helen Sharp (Lucille) provides much of the comedy, but is a lovely example of how using comedy as a shield for her character's true feelings ca really make you change the way that you read a person.
Carol Parkinson (Doris) never fails to entertain me with whatever role she takes on, but this character piece really does hit home. There's a lovely balancing act with the comic one liners and the protectiveness of her friends and the loyalty to her late husband.
Nic Adams (Sam) just doesn't know what to do for the best as he grows ever closer to Ida but being warned off by Doris and Lucille, he is unaware of their well-,meaning intentions.Playing this relaxed character role is a well suited casting for Nic.
Orla Godfrey-Carter (Mildred) delivers a lovely vamp-like character, who you just know is not right for Sam, and although the character is well meaning, you just have to give a silent whoop when she disappears from the scene, leaving the door ajar for Ida to walk through.
This cast could not have been better picked and the relationships and love for the other are really believable, which is why this play is such an easy watch. This also makes some of the scenes also as breath-taking as they are.
Directed by Gill Scott, she has brought out the comedy and pathos in this story and, along with her wonderful cast, this team draw out every emotion possible fro the viewer.
The set is cleverly designed by Hugh Philip, and while I do not wish to give too much away, the transformation from Ida's living room to the cemetery is stunningly simple but amazingly effective.
Sound by Matt Allcock and Lighting by David Billen, like a well-oiled machine, they create a beautifully atmospheric feel, especially with the lighting for the scene changes. You can not really appreciate how such a, seemingly, simple change of lighting can altogether change a scene.
I am so pleases that i was not tempted to watch the film, instead opting to make this production my introduction to this wonderfully heart-warming and emotional, but highly comical play.
All the little things I have come to expect from the Lace Market have been observed, which also covers the accents. There are different strains of the Jewish accent here, but never are those accents taken over the top or standardised, as i have seen in Jewish comic roles in some other plays and TV programmes.
Although the film was made in the early nineties, the timeline could be any era and feels just as much at home set in modern day as I imagine it would when first written. After all, friendship, grief, recovery and comedy are timeless emotions, which is why this play seems as relevant now as it did when Menchell wrote it.
“The Cemetery Club” is at the Nottingham Lace Market Theatre until Saturday 2 March 2019

Thursday, 21 February 2019

“Iolanthe” by St Peter’s G&S Society
Ravenshead Village Hall
Also known as “The Peer & The Peri” is one of W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan’s finest comic operas. I first saw Iolanthe a few years ago and loved it and like Shakespeare it gets better with age. Also like Shakespeare's works you can have a bit of a mess around with it and keep it fresh for new audiences which is what Director, and Gilbert & Sullivan expert Stephen Godward has done.
Stephen has slightly tweaked some of the script to bring it up to date, and with this particular piece being heavily political, well you can imagine the fun that has been had!
Iolanthe, who is a fairy, has been banished from fairyland because she married a mortal; this is forbidden by fairy law. Her son, Strephon, is a shepherd who wants to marry Phyllis, a Ward of Chancery. All the members of the House of Peers also want to marry Phyllis. When Phyllis sees Strephon hugging a young woman (not knowing that it is his mother – immortal fairies all appear young), she assumes the worst and sets off a climactic confrontation between the peers and the fairies.
Now, the first thing that hits you with this production is the wonderful set. Designed by Mike Tipler and Stephen Godward and brilliantly painted by Mike Tipler and Steve Andrews. It is a lovely summery snapshot of a gurgling stream, wild flowers and the countryside with a large clock face.
The music is provided by pianist Piotr Wisniewski, whose work local theatre buffs may know from the Lace Market Theatre in Nottingham.
Musical Director is Stephen Wall, who has the most impressive of beards that I have seen since ZZ Top!
There are some nice sound effects as well mixed in.
St Peter’s G&S Society are a brilliant company who specialise in the works of Gilbert & Sullivan, and that love of these two shine through their work.
Their comedy is sharp and their singing is powerful and expressive, drawing all the individual emotions from every piece they perform.
It would be unfair for me to highlight any one of these performers because they, as a whole, are just so entertaining.
Tony Pinchbeck (Lord Chancellor), Andrew Halfpenny (Earl Tolloller), Andrew Rushton (Strephon), Dave Lee (Corporal Willis), Stephen Walker (Earl Mountararat), Rachel Wass (Phyllis), Helen Kirk (Iolanthe), Georgie Lee (Queen), Jane Stubbs (Celia), Val Green (Leila) and Phoebe Halfpenny (Fleta) were all excellent fun to see. These though do not include the choruses of Fairies or Peers.
The costumes were absolutely wonderful, full of fairy lights and magic, and you could tell that a great deal of hard work and thought had gone into getting these made.
Only a couple of things in this show made me think twice; the first was the Irish accent, which was a bit nomadic, and the patter song was slightly stumbled. You really have to nail that patter song because of its' speed and the quantity of lyrics within. It's not an easy ask, and I think that unless you know the song, from an audience point of view, the slight stumble would have gone completely unnoticed.
I know, picky picky picky me!
Seriously though, I loved it and it just goes to show that great comedy is timeless and the St. Peter's Gilbert & Sullivan Society prove that this week.
“Iolanthe” is at Ravenshead Village Hall until Saturday 23 February 2019 with a Saturday matinee at 2.30pm.

Wednesday, 20 February 2019

“Calamity Jane” by West Bridgford Operatic Society
The Space, Girls High School, Nottingham.
Calamity Jane’s reputation in Deadwood rests on her behaving more like the guys than the gals, but it’s not until the handsome Lieutenant Danny Gilmartin gets a rival for his affections in the stage star Adelaide Adams that Jane starts to soften her tomboy persona. After a slight misunderstanding involving Adelaide’s dresser, Katie Brown, a joyous and fun love triangle evolves.
Paige Shaw is our leading lady Calamity Jane. She is fiery and Paige plays a wonderful tomboy with plenty of zeal and shows that she can sing a great comic song as well as belt out that wonderful ballad "Secret Love" Her dance moves are mighty fine as well.
Clare Boxer plays Katie Brown and a lovely fun character to play. You can see by Clare's twinkle in her eyes that she is adoring playing this role.
Bill Hickok is played by Ian Pottage, and he has big cowboy boots to fill as we remember Howard Keel playing this part in the film. Big boots they may be but Ian has a great voice and I soon forgot all about Keel. Ian duetting with Paige in "Finaletto" and "Secret Love" is just sublime.
Francis Fryer, who is mistaken for Frances Fryer, is played by Richard Ives and a lovely comic role for Richard.
Alasdair Maughan plays Lieutenant Danny Gilmartin, who also gets to showcase his vocal talents in his duet with Clare on "Love You Dearly"
We don't get to see too much of Lauren Gill as the diva Adelaide Adams but even in a cameo, she makes an impact.
David Gyles gets to play Henry Miller and Henry's daughter, Susan, is played by Louise Grantham, who gets her own happy ending - Susan that is - but both David and Louise must also be chuffed with the reception they got at the final bows.
There's a large chorus which really makes a lovely full sound and they fill the stage perfectly. This looks really impressive when in the dance sections, gorgeously choreographed by Maxine Loydall with some very energetic routines.
Directed, and Musically Directed by Meng Khaw and with the 16 piece band he presides over, this score sounds as lush and layered as the original. Songs like “The Windy City”, The Deadwood Stage”, “Secret Love”, “The Eagle & The Hawk”, “A Woman’s Touch” and “The Black Hills Of Dakota” feature among several others that were written but not used in the original film which starred Doris Day and Howard Keel.
Lovely clear sound (Rob Kettridge) and some excellent lighting (Richard Warriner) and the stage projection looks incredible, especially in "Black Hills Of Dakota" when the moon is on the rise. the Design for this is also something we have to pat Meng Khaw on the back for.
Loved the costumes (Ann Thomas) which really gave a special feel to the whole shebang, as did the set design, by another very talented drama group, Blind Eye Productions.
This musical has fun written all over it and explodes with energy and colour from the first song to the finale. Wonderfully uplifting which will have you leaving the theatre with a big smile on your face.
“Calamity Jane” is at The Space at The Girls High School on Arboretum Street until Saturday 23 February 2019. What better way to start your weekend.
Photos by Gavin Mawditt and David Gyles

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

“Romeo & Juliet” by The Royal Shakespeare Company
Nottingham Theatre Royal
This seems to be the go to Shakespeare play to perform at the moment but why not as it’s a brilliant mix of tragedy and romanticism, plus it is one of his best known works.
The age old story of boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, girl fakes death to be with boy, boy discovers dead body of lover so kills himself, only to be revealed that girl’s death is fake and so overcome with grief, girl kills herself for real.
Gone are the old style doublet and hose images of Shakespeare’s day because this is modern day urban dress, keeping it fresh and, not that Shakespeare needs to have new life breathed into it because it’s always been relevant. Why else would we still be going to the theatre to see plays that were written over 400 years ago?
Every time I see this play it gives a completely different feel; this is no different. It's like seeing a new play every time, and even the language now comes to me without having to think about mentally deciphering the script. And did Shakespeare really coin the exclamation "Shut the door!"?
This version will appeal to anyone who can appreciate Shakespeare's way with words with a not so quite traditional approach, but one that will continue to reach new audiences.
Bally Gill (Romeo) comes across as a modern young man as Romeo with plenty of swagger, humour and a lot of charm. His Romeo is fiercely protective of his Juliet and together they make a believable and charming pair.
Karen Fishwick (Juliet) is lovely as the lovelorn teenager, again very believable with her almost infatuated love for her Romeo. There's a lovely chemistry between these two.
Josh Finan (Benvolio), complete with Hawaiian shirts looks like the sort of bloke who would go on a lad's holiday to Ibiza and that modern cheekiness is really refreshing and fun.
Raif Clarke (Peter) looks like he is only just old enough for a paper round but is so laid back. He, like the other young actors, looked completely at ease in stage and with the text.
Paul Dodds (Montague) and Sakuntala Ramanee (Lady Montague) are also very passionate about their feelings, as any parents would be, for their kin.
Andrew French (Friar Laurence) has that air about him that lets you know that he is a cool and relaxed Father to Romeo, which could where Romeo's swagger came from. See they have me believing their relationship to be real on stage!
Michael Hodgson (Capulet) comes across as a passionate actor, and his argument with Juliet is one that will make you sit up and take note, Mariam Haque (Lady Capulet) also shows her passion but that is because she doesn't want to exacerbate the situation between her husband and daughter..
Charlotte Josephine (Mercutio), now here’s another curveball, a female Mercutio? Why not? Charlotte brings a completely new perspective to the character and I love Charlotte's feisty portrayal. Mercutio could have come from anywhere from Stratford upon Avon to Chigwell in this version.
Nima Taleghani (Tybalt) is also one cool but fiery character.
Ishia Bennison (Nurse) is an absolute breath of fresh air and along with Mercutio, she really brings an energy and wave of comedy to the play.
Directed by Erica Whyman and Designed by Tom Piper.They manage to bring a new stripped back but multi layered production to the stage.
The music is by Sophie Cotton and who would have though Shakespeare would have a mosh pit within one of his plays. Great energy in the music for this production.

There's also a chance for local talent to shine as pupils from Bluecoat Beechdale Academy join the RSC cast on stage.
The Royal Shakespeare Company’s tour of “Romeo & Juliet” is at the Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 23 February 2019 and is well worth a look. Traditionalists may not be a fan of this one but anyone who likes their Shakespeare urbanised and fresh will love it.

Thursday, 14 February 2019

“Wonderland” by Beth Steel
Nottingham Playhouse
The Midlands, 1984. Two young lads are about to learn what it is to be a miner, to be accepted into the close camaraderie and initiated into a unique workplace where sweat, toil, collapsing roofs and explosions are all to be met with bawdy humour.
London, 1984. A conflicted Tory MP, a brash American CEO, known as “The Butcher”, and an eccentric maverick are the face of a radical Conservative government preparing to do battle with the most powerful workforce, the miners.
As the two sides clash, the miners fight for their livelihoods and families, and the government for its vision of a free Britain. Together they change the fabric of the nation forever.
This play was first performed in Nottingham at the start of last year, and such was the success at that time, it’s been brought back, and let’s face it, Nottingham is a mining city and for some, those old 1980’s wounds are still being picked at, which is why this play is as popular as it is.
Writer Beth Steel knows what she is writing about as she is the daughter of a Nottinghamshire miner so she is able to inject warmth, honesty, passion and a first-hand knowledge of the situation. As the son of a Nottingham miner, I was regaled with tales of what happened down on the pit face and the possible hazards of working the seam plus what strike action really entails, so I know that what you see on stage is based on fact.
The play holds a lot of passion as the characters stand up for what they believe in, often sacrificing their home comforts, being reduced to begging for food and money to live and hold their families together. It also shows the brotherhood they share and the humour that binds them together, at times retaining their sanity.
The set is impressive and you get the claustrophobic feel of being deep underground, designed by Morgan Large.
Set in the Welbeck area of Mansfield, the vocal coach Kay Welch has worked magic, as we all know that this area of the country isn't an easy accent to do and get right.
The excellent cast are, Jack Quarton (Fanny). John Booker (Malcolm), Karl Haynes (Bobbo), Paul Kemp (Peter Walker), Nicholas Shaw (Spud), Giles Taylor (David Hart/Mr Bishop/ Chief of Metropolitan Police), William Travis (Colonol), Robin Bowerman (Ian McGregor), Geff Francis (Tilsley/Nicholas Ridley/Milton Friedman/Security Guard and the Chief of Metropolitan Police) and Joshua Glenister (Jimmy).
There are parts which include sections of contemporary dance and song which, may not be the sort of thing that miners did down t'pit but it adds an extra layer to a wonderful piece of theatre which depicts an important part of British history.
There is also quite a bit of swearing and some nudity, but both these aspects reflect a typical day in any miner's working day. It's gritty but real.
Directed by Adam Penford, and back in February 2018, this was Adam’s Directorial debut at The Playhouse, and like a fine wine the play, and Adam’s Directing has matured nicely.
Lighting Designer Jack Knowles creates that suffocating atmosphere perfectly with his lighting design
“Wonderland” is at the Nottingham Playhouse until Saturday 23 February 2019.

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

“Made In Dagenham” by Musicality
Nottingham Arts Theatre.
Based on the 2010 film of the same name, “Made in Dagenham “is drawn from the real-life 1968 sewing machinists strike at the Ford factory in Dagenham, Essex. The musical focuses on the leader of the strike, Rita O’Grady, as she encourages the women of the Ford factory to walk out after they are re-classified as unskilled workers, while the firm’s male workers see their wages increase. After Rita is patronized and snubbed by the factory at a union meeting, the women’s grievances over their worker status turn into a fight for equal pay.
Determined not to be treated like the poor relation, the women vote unanimously to strike. When the American bosses fly in and lay off 5,000 men as a result, including Rita’s husband Eddie, cracks begin to show in the women’s solidarity. Risking her marriage and friendships, Rita continues her efforts for equality and gives a rousing speech at a televised Trade Union Conference, leading to the passing of equal pay within the union.
A powerful piece of theatre which has a lot of comedy, as well as gaining sympathy and pathos form an audience. It highlights the ripples and far reaching circumstances and consequences that may occur when you aim to make a stand.
That's the story, and now I can proclaim that this is possibly the best production of this musical that I have seen, and I have seen some brilliant productions of it.
This group put the musical into Musicality, and apart from a mic issue with Beryl at the start, I really can not find anything at all to fault with this lot.
The singing is so tight in the ensemble pieces, both male and female sections work so smoothly together and separate groups. The solo vocalists are absolutely faultless.
I just knew by the end of Act One that I was going to be on my feet at the end of this show, and I made sure that I kept that promise to myself.
Claire Wimbush plays Rita O’Grady. Such a passionate performer, and she isn't the only one, with an incredible voice to match her acting skills. You really are pulled between the two extremes that Rita finds herself, making you believe in the character and not just the actor.
Jack Matthews as Eddie O'Grady. Jack is a new name and face to me and already I want to see what else he can offer because his passion for acting is so obvious when he is on stage. This is highlighted for me in "The Letter", which by the way is one of my favourite songs from this musical, and he performs this so very well that you'll get a lump in your throat.
Lucy Avery is Connie, totally believable and even though, anyone who has seen this show before knows what happens to her, she still manages to make it upsetting.
Rowena Fry as Beryl. God I love this character. So ballsy and Rowena looks like she is enjoying playing this potty mouth, as much as we were loving the character herself.
Siska Greene plays Sandra, Beth Ward plays the role of Clare, Elly Hassall as Cass, Megan Smith is Tracey, Lucy Taylor plays both Sharon O'Grady (daughter) and Jo.
Yaade Joba as Jeremy Hopkins and Sophie Bradshaw as Lisa Hopkins. Lovely characterisation for both. so much so that you would wonder why these two characters would have got married in the first place. I suppose opposites really do attract.
Nathan Smalley as Mr Buckton/ Mr Macer and makes his debut for Musicality, and what a way to break his duck!
Matt Talbot as Monty, a character who tries to keep both the women in the factory and the management sweet, sometimes a little naively. I love the character performance here.
Carla Davison plays Barbara Castle, fiery like her hair, and I know I keep bandying about the term character performance throughout this review, but this group has many strengths and this is certainly one of them.
Paolo Elias plays both the son Graham O'Grady and Prime Minister Harold Wilson, and it is as the latter that he really shines. The dancing, the comedy, the voice, his facial expressions, the characterisation, this man has it all. Not only that, but he can pass as a schoolkid as well as being convincing in an elder role.
Andrew Whitaker plays Bill . His love for performing is quite evident in this production, and this show is another fine addition to his already respectable theatrical CV.
James Warner plays Buddy Cortina, Barry, and Mr Hubble, showing his ability to play varying ages, but it's his vocals as Cortina that makes this man shine.
James Thacker is Mr Tooley, the arrogant, misogynistic and bigoted American boss of Ford. I have seen James in several productions and every one different, showing his versatility. You should really hate this character, but James brings out the comic, almost laughable side of Tooley. A faultless vocal performance as well.
Have I mentioned that this is a large cast with a brilliant ensemble? Well I need to mention them as well. Rhodri Denton, Lucy Boardman, Silva Lemos, Ellen Steel, Josie Bergman, Sophie Mitchell, Holly Dellar, Fiona Cook and Holly Aldridge, They make the choreographed pieces spectacular and the vocal pieces like a wall of sound.
Directed by Thomas Outhwaite and Produced by Katie Monk. It seems that they don't like to take an easy option, not that either of these theatrical roles can ever be classed as "easy", but what an amazing job they have done. Really pacy, and if you did even think about looking at your watch, the speed of this production wouldn't even allow that.
Musical Director is Abi Browning, and what a big powerful sound she has given in this show with her 10 piece orchestra.
Choreographed by Katie Bacon, and this is the first main show that she has choreographed. I am so impressed because there are some big numbers to choreograph and with a cast this size as well, Katie has obviously done her homework and worked the cast hard. the results speak for themselves.
Musicality prove that you don't need big sets and scenery to have a successful musical, when you have an incredibly tight group of vocalists, who can all sing and put the passion into their acting in the same way as these lot do.
The stage management is excellent (Daniel Bowden/Hannah Burne), the costumes are excellent as are the hair and make up,(Isa Al Khalifa and Olivia Cunningham) evoking the 1960's.
I knew on my journey home that I would be penning a longer than average review, and that is because there is so much to gush about, but hopefully you've got the idea that I absolutely loved this production and the ridiculously talented team at Musicality. Each year they raise that dramatic bar even higher, not only for themselves but for all local drama companies to compete with.
“Made In Dagenham” is at the Nottingham Arts Theatre until Saturday 16 February 2019 and if you want an exciting and entertaining evening of entertainment, fun and talented young actors, then you know where to go. They certainly match the quality, emotion and entertainment of "Blood Brothers" at the Theatre Royal.

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

“Blood Brothers” by Willy Russell
Nottingham Theatre Royal
I may be slightly biased here because this is my all-time favourite musical and has been for many years now, so I start with great expectations of the show.
It’s the story of Mrs Johnstone and her ever growing brood of children. She is a one parent family who is struggling to make ends meet after her husband leaves her for a younger woman who looks like Marilyn Monroe. Before he leaves though she finds herself in the family way again, but this time it’s twins! She takes a cleaning job for a well to do couple to try and make ends meet, but the only way that she and her family are going to stand any chance of doing this is to sell one of the new born twins.
What a devastating decision for any mother to have to make but she has to think of her other children. The woman that she is currently cleaning for, Mrs Lyons, has always wanted a baby, but so far has failed, well you can see where this is going from here can’t you?
The brothers, Mickey and Eddie, are separated but fate steps in and they unwittingly meet as children and forge a strong friendship, becoming blood brothers. Mrs Lyons gets more worried about Eddie’s friendship with Mickey and moves her family to the country, but again fate steps in and, even though the brothers grow up in different worlds, that bond is strong and blood is thicker than water, right to the end……
What I love about this musical is that you have a musical of two halves. The first Act is bright, uplifting, funny and heart-warming but come Act Two and that all changes as we see a darker side of their downward spiralling life, and even after seeing this wonderful; musical so many times, that opening of “Tell Me It’s Not True” still gets the hair on my arms and back of the neck standing up.
Linzi Hateley plays Mrs Johnstone, and this is her first time in this role. Linzi made me realise that it's the character that you fall in love with and as long as the actor playing her does the amazing job we have come to expect from the past Mrs Johnstone, then all is well. Linzy has followed in the big footsteps of women like Lyn Paul, Linda Nolan, Maureen Nolan and Mel C, all excellent actors, and Linzi is absolutely no different as the baton is passed on.
The role is incredibly emotional and powerful and Linzi retained everything that we have come to know and love about Mrs Johnstone. Her voice is so expressive at all ends of the scale.
Much of the cast has not changed over the years and this shows that the producers and directors have so much faith in these actors to give incredible performances. If it ain't broke, don't fix it!
Sean Jones is Mickey. As far as I can remember I have seen Sean in this role every time that I have seen this show and for me, he is Mickey, I can’t envisage anyone else playing this character.
As always, his performance is great fun to watch as the seven - nearly eight year old. In comparison, as adult Mickey, he creates an aura of a very different kind, and he still evokes that nervousness in me, even though I know this musical so well, he still makes me believe in the role.
Mark Hutchinson is Eddie, again I saw him play this role back in 2017 and, like Sean, gives a wonderful child-like quality to the role in Act One and a more mature performance as an adult Eddie in Act Two.Great to see him reprising Eddie.
Danny Taylor is the big brother, Sammy, again back from playing him the last time he was here in 2017. Ditto as above.
Danielle Corlass plays Linda. I saw her play this role in 2015 and again in 2017, and she has not aged one bit. Her transformation from fourteen year old schoolgirl into a beautiful wife and expectant mother is quite magical.
Sarah Jane Buckley as Mrs Lyons and Tim Churchill is Mr Lyons, both reprising their parts. Both wonderful character actors, and I have said this before in my reviews, Sarah's voice is one that I could listen to all night.
The Narrator for this show is Robbie Scotcher, adding that touch of menace, as if the devil had their number and was watching over the families. A vital role in this musical who applies the glue to the storylines, sprinkling a supernatural unease whenever he appears.
One of the busiest actors in this musical is Graham Martin who seems to play every other role.
The ensemble cast though also work incredibly hard with multiple roles per actor.
Like watching your favourite film you see some something that maybe you've not seen on the previous view, and that is so with this production., I am not sure if I missed it previously but there is a beautiful bit when Mrs Johnstone is kneeling down between the twins at the end and she joins their hands together. This simple action just spoke volumes.
Co Directed by Bob Tomson and Bill Kenwright, the pace and presentation is perfect.
The songs in this show, for me anyway, are just brilliant. From the playful “Kids’s Games” to the optimistic “Bright New Day”, the jazzy "Long Sunday Afternoon", the wistful “Marilyn Monroe” to the iconic “Tell Me It’s Not True”, which on it’s own, played on the radio is a beautiful ballad. In the context of this musical it is highly emotional. Willy Russell who is a great playwright also wrote the score for this musical.
This story of brotherhood, motherhood, friendship, love, superstition, jealousy and depression will always be relevant, and as long as the emotional element remains as high as it has over the last few decades, this musical will remain one of the best loved pieces of musical theatre.
Go and see this if you've never seen it before, and if you have seen it before, go and see it again, and take your hanky, you'll need it! Still, in my humble opinion, the best musical running.
The wonderful “Blood Brothers” is at the Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 16 February 2019.

Friday, 8 February 2019

“Romeo & Juliet” by Spotlight Theatre Company
Nottingham Arts Theatre
I think that I can promise you that you probably have not seen a production quite like this one.
William Shakespeare’s most popular romantic but tragic piece is the first full Shakespeare play to be taken on by Spotlight Theatre Company. Previously they have had successes with ”Animal Farm” and “The History Boys” and this third production is following, and building on their successful roster of theatrical productions.
Directed by Cassie Hall and Produced by Amanda Hall, there has been a great deal of thought gone into taking this story apart and putting it back together in a modern and contemporary piece of theatre.
The set is scaffolded which provides the cast with a multitude of performance spaces and entry and exit points. It's simple but imaginatively effective.
Lighting Design is by Tom Mowat. There are no special effects and, like the set itself shows that simplicity can often more effective.
If you are going to present Shakespeare then it is always a good choice of the Director to use an actor who loves Shakespeare and is well known for their Shakespearian knowledge and acting ability and all kudos to Cassie for choosing Rob Goll as Friar Laurence. In my humble opinion, Rob is one of Nottingham’s – and beyond – finest portrayer of Shakespeare’s works. He does not fail us here. You can't help but pay him heed when he is on the stage.
Joseph Stafford (Mercutio) was brilliant as the cross-dresser who came onto the stage to Diana Ross's "I'm Coming Out", and with or without female attire and wigs, his performance demanded you watch him.
Stan Cook (Romeo) and Emma Gregory (Juliet), both still in their teens, are very well cast and as neither have played Shakespeare previously, Their performances and delivery of the Bard’s words show that they have really done their homework in both parts. They are totally believable and have a wonderful chemistry on stage.
Patrick McChrystal (Lord Capulet) gets to show his more serious side, as well as bringing out a more angry and violent side as the head of the Capulets Paddy is one actor who you can put in a role and he will consistently deliver.
Adam Rhodes (Paris/Tybalt) plays two opposites with these two roles, the suitor and Juliet's self-appointed protector, angry to the last.
Jonah Williams (Benvolio) is a worthy wing-man for Romeo.
Jess Gale (Juliet's Nurse) is the female equivalent, pulling out a really emotional performance as she finds Juliet "dead" in her bed-chamber.
Charlie Evans/Blythe Reaney (Lady Montague), Louis Barnes-cupit(Apothecary) and Kim Allsopp (Lady Capulet) complete this talented cast.
The directorial decision to use modern clothing breaks down barriers to a younger audience, which is something that will make newbies to Shakespeare’s plays feel more at ease and more relatable; after all every set of young lovers are a Romeo and a Juliet at some stage of the courtship. Thankfully the ending for most is not as tragic as Shakesperae’s finale.
The contemporary musical soundtrack from the likes of Lana Del Ray, The Cardigans, Beyonce, Evereclear and Savage Garden among many others, will also break down age barriers and freshens the whole feel of this play. Along with that new sound also gives rise to some choreographed pieces which also adds a whole fresh appeal.
If this production does not change how people, of any age, see, understand and enjoy Shakespeare's plays, then I don't know what will
“Romeo & Juliet” is at the Nottingham Arts Theatre until Saturday 9 February.
Pictures by Kelvin P. Coleman