Saturday, 29 June 2019

"Happy Bloody Birthday" by Riverside Drama.
Duchess Theatre, Long Eaton.
It's not often you get a brand new play,written locally that is genuinely funny, but here is one that ended its' run on Saturday night. I am so glad that I was able to catch it.
The play starts on the first birthday of young Josh, son of Alan (Phil Whitaker) and Gemma (Samantha Badman) and they have just revealed that they will be trying for a second one to their guests who appear from the front room, where all the child action is.
There's Charlie (Jenni Wright) whose child is depicted as the devil child, but the way she describes him and what he does makes him seem like the devil child. Underneath the comedy though there's a more serious matter that is addressed later in the play. Jenni is also the writer of this sharply observed piece of theatre, which rang many bells with me and I know with almost everyone who must have seen this play throughout its' run.
The mother, Elaine (Liz Turner) who is the calming influence but also has some secrets of her own.
Serena (Donna Osmond), Alan's sister who tries her best but always ends up causing trouble with her brother and sister-in law, especially with her second act revelation and her new boyfriend.
Mike (Jim Green) is the token single man, the womaniser with a one track mind, but we also see a change in Mike by the end of the play. This is JIm's debut with Riverside.
Katrina (Lizzie Norris) has a daughter and her partner Tom (Joe Downing), who is the sort of person you want at any kids' party as he is down with them. he loves kids and loves Katrina's daughter as his own. In all perfect relationships though, there may be cracks, and they can surface. While Lizzie is a regular on stage within Riverside productions, this is Joe's first acting role with the company
Amy (Rebekah Dean) is gay who deals with the friendly atypical banter from Mike with the humour it deserves,and you get the feeling that Amy has heard it all before and comes across as a very cool, laid back character in a sea of troubled family and friends.This is also Rebekah's debut with Riverside.
And then there is Grandad (Dave Wilson). A lovely grumpy character who adds "bloody" into every sentence or comment, which is also where the title comes from.
Over a period of 12 months we see the changes within this group of family and friends and the changes in their circumstances. Some were expected and some came like a bolt from the blue.
I loved this set (Jenni Wright) and the back drop projection (Andrew Bullett), which I noticed also changed from Act One to Act Two.
I also loved the way the action was frozen as we learned about the characters from the others. this was particularly well highlighted by the lighting (Dave Martin).
The Sound Design (Jenni Wright and Andrew Bullett) was also very clever and well presented, as well as very smartly timed. Every time the door to where the party was being held opened, the sound of the kids and activity emerged naturally.
The play which first took root fifteen years ago and was devised after Jenni's son's first birthday party, has grown into a well scripted, naturally comic and brilliantly observed piece of theatre. And when you match such writing with a quality cast, as we have here, it's a production to celebrate.
I hope Jenni's next play will not take another fifteen years to materialise.

Friday, 28 June 2019

"MADD Showcase 2019"
Nottingham Playhouse.
I thought that nothing could top last year's showcase, but then again I say that every year, and yet again, Midlands Academy of Dance and Drama (MADD) have only gone and raised the bar even higher in 2019.
I know from the off that I'm going to be entertained as well as educated. For anyone like myself who absolutely adores the theatre, and especially musical theatre, I am always guaranteed that MADD showcases will show me something that I've not heard before as well as reminding me of amazing snapshots of musical theatre from old and new pieces of theatre. Yet again, this year, I was not disappointed.
44 pieces of work in around two hours on stage, and that is done partly because of the brilliant staging, segueing one piece into the other, making the two sections of the show flow seamlessly. This was conceived, Directed and Staged by Emma Clayton with James Doubtfire as Assistant Director.
If I was going in looking for anything to critique, I would have come out failing because MADD Showcases are always incredibly polished, glitzy, glamorous and utterly faultless. This shows that an incredible amount of work goes into these shows from every person involved.
The production and presentation as well as the performers would not be out of place on any West End stage or production. In fact these showcases could be like a supermarket for any Director, Producer or talent scout from the West End. Pop along, see what you want and add to the list. If I was in the role of either Director, Producer or talent scout, I'd need a very big basket, one the size of a tour bus in fact!
Nothing I can say, or write will ever come close to the sparkling show at the Playhouse, so I'm not going to try; all I will say is that, if you can't afford a ticket for a West End show, then buy a ticket for MADD's Showcase because this is as close as you'll get to West End quality on a local stage.
Musically Directed by John Morton, and let's face it, what John doesn't know in this field isn't worth knowing. The sound of this six piece band was incredible, powerful and crystal clear. The acoustics for music at the Playhouse are perfect when you get it spot on, as it was tonight.
The sound design, impeccably balanced, was the work of Rob Kettridge and Rob Temperton.
The Lighting Design, by Leigh Mulpeter, was again of West End quality. I have seen lighting designs at big name concerts and night clubs less impressive than this one for this show. The mood lighting allowed you to focus on the singer and the song and still enhance the performance, and in the upbeat sections, the lighting created an exciting home for the dancers, singers and performers.
The choreography was everything I'd expect from any professional touring company or London show. The energy, the passion, the sensitivity and the musicality through dance left me speechless. When you have a whole stage of tap dancers and all you hear on every tap is the one tap, you just know that you are in the presence of class.
A very varied array of dance styles and I always look forward to MADD's dance sections because they are so emotional. Again they didn't fail me. I loved the choreography to James Bay's song "Peer Pressure"The physical strength of the dancers and the whole range of musical styles, flexibility and agility will have your jaw not defying gravity.
Every vocal performance was perfect and the range and power of these singers just blew me away. From the second song "Maybe This Time", the hairs on my arm started to rise, which became a regular event throughout the show.
From the opening number "Underground" from "Memphis The Musical" they had the audience in the palm of their hands and there was no release until the closing song "Steal Your Rock n Roll" from the same musical.
Newer, and lesser known musicals like "Prom", "Little Mermaid On Broadway", "And The World Goes Around", "Copacabana", "Tina - The Musical", "The Color Purple", "Spongebob The Musical" to well known musical numbers from "Wicked", "Chicago", "South Pacific", "Footloose", "Cabaret","Legally Blonde", "Company" there really is something for every one in this show, including an hommage to "The Understudy"
The perfect night out for anyone who appreciates musical theatre or just loves top quality entertainment performed live by on your doorstep talent.
"MADD Showcase 2019" is at the Nottingham Playhouse until Saturday 29 June.

Thursday, 27 June 2019

“Chicago – High School Edition” by Bright Lights Theatre School
Loughborough Town Hall
You can’t beat a bit of razzle dazzle on a week night can you? And that is exactly what you get with Bright Lights Theatre School’s latest show, “Chicago”. There are a few subtle changes to this show from the full blown show, only because of the age of the actors involved, but this is full on fun, glitz and glamour from these youngsters.
Although the story is the same every night, every night the audience will see a different cast, all I imagine will be just as fantastic as the one that I saw on Thursday night.
“Chicago” is the story of Roxie Hart who is put into prison for shooting her lover and how infamy can soon turn to fame through the media, especially when you have a big shot lawyer like Billy Flynn on your side. Everyone’s fame though has a shelf life as Roxie, and her fellow inmate, Velma, soon discover.
BrightLights Theatre School is a Performing Arts School for 5-18 year olds, and it always amazes me at the talent these youngsters have, and of course the talents of all young performers across the East Midlands.
You can tell that these actors love what they are doing by the way that they perform and their smiles when they are taking their bows.
Beth York (Velma), Joseph Barber (Fred Casely), Eryn Stevenson (Roxie), Jack Lee (Amos Hart), Lucy Clay (Mama Morton) and Charan Kalair (Billy Flynn) were all excellent in their roles. I'd not seen a High School Edition of "Chicago" before, and it felt a little like "Bugsy Malone" - one of my all time favourite films.
A massive ensemble who worked really well together, and some really young members in the ensemble, showing some great talent with all of those dance steps and song lyrics to remember I am so jealous of your talent.
I've never known a show go so fast; even though it was two hours from start to end with interval,I had to check the time when the final bows were taken as this lot just made the time fly. And that is due to some brilliant performances.
I loved Beth and Eryn's final glitzy set, and those costumes were amazing and so eye catching.
I loved the wonderful character acting by Joseph who threw himself totally into the role of Fred Casely.
I think we all felt for Jack as Amos with his beautifully performed "Mr Cellophane" and then when he asked for his end music and.... well i won't spoil that one!. This role is, I think under rated but when it's done as well as Jack did it, it makes it memorable.
Lucy, as Mama Morton, provided some powerful vocals and just the right amount of sauce.
Charan was very charismatic and cool as Flynn and looked like he was loving being the man all the ladies loved, Oh and that golden jacket, I want one in my size. His duet with Eryn in "We Both Reached For The Gun" was a magical piece of choreography which they performed superbly.
Talking of choreography, Sophie Kandola did an incredible job with this group. I can imagine they are all like little sponges, soaking up everything. the dancing was spectacular.
Before I forget, I must also mention the young man who, in Act Two, was in the Court scene and was questioning Amos when in the dock. I'm sorry I don't know your name but you are a star in the making. Incredible confidence and character acting.
I love this soundtrack with it’s Broadway stylings of “All That Jazz”, “Razzle Dazzle”, “When You’re Good To Mama”, “Cell Block Tango”, “All I Care About”, “Roxie” and the frantic but fun “We Both Reached For The Gun” Musical Director for this show is Kieran Buckeridge and the sound mix was really good for such a large theatre, and I was sat near the back.
Brilliant lighting design (Dave Fadesco) and while there were some bits I couldn't quite hear, mainly down to projection, which is something that will come naturally in time, the sound was really well balanced (Mood Productions). A wonderful set design and some amazing costumes (Kathy Wright)
Directed by Alexander Turner and Produced by Nick Sutcliffe and Patrick Croft, this another success to add to the list of successes. I know that everyone behind putting this show together will be incredibly proud of every single one of these young people on the Town Hall stage, and rightly so.
Go and support this very talented group and their talented teachers, and add some razzle dazzle into your life in time for the weekend.
“Chicago” is at Loughborough Town Hall until Sunday 30 June

Wednesday, 26 June 2019

“Footloose” by Centre Stage Theatre Arts
Derby Theatre
Imagine living in a town that has banned dancing and you’re a teenager. Following a tragic accident, dancing has been outlawed in the town of Bolmont in the USA by Reverand Shaw Moore. Ren McCormack, who has just moved to Bolmont with his mom, feels like a stranger in an even stranger world, and some of the kids, and adults of Bomont make his move to his new home difficult, making him feel unwelcome. But Ren enjoys a good dance, but can he get the kids on his side and change the law laid down by Reverand Moore?
Marcus King (Ren) shows that he sure can shake off those Sunday shoes, in fact any day of the week shoes with his moves. He can sing, he can dance, he can act, and he can carry an accent as well. What can't this young man do?
Natasha Neale (Ariel), plays the Reverand's daughter who likes the bad guys and loves to rebel, but she is torn between being a teenager and the love for her dad. A cracking voice on this young lady.
Ariel's bessie mates, Rusty, Urleen and Wendy-Jo are played by Hannah Riley, Holly Burchell and Harriet Blackwell, and a lovely harmony trio they make, and when Hannah hits that high note in "Let's Hear It For The Boy", the hairs on my arm stood right up as if to give her a standing ovation. All three have great voices, and are fun to watch.
I'm surprised that Dan Evans (Chuck) didn't receive a few boos the way Chuck treated poor Ariel. By the way, this was Ariel's boyfriend, before Ren turned up. There were a few gasps from the audience after his comments about Ariel's friends in The Burger Blast. Shows what a talented character actor Dan is to make the audience buy into his character. I have been told that Dan is a nice guy away from his character.
Ella Slater (Coach Dunbar) stamped her authority on this role and made Ren, and his school mates' lives not an easy ride, especially by punishing the whole class for something that Ren hadn't done, just to make a point. A lovely piece of character acting.
Charlotte Crane (Ethel) is Ren's Mum, and she looks the part. Mature and sensible and also blessed with a lovely voice.
Nicole Lamont (Vi) Ariel's Mother and Shaw Moore's wife also got the hairs on my arm up when she sang the gorgeous and emotional "Can You Find It In Your Heart". She has a lovely control and tone to her voice, and when that voice matures, boy is she going to blow people away!
Isaac Levitt (Shaw) really stood out in this production for me. He has a very mature presence on stage and his voice, expression and stage presence just shone through, and what really knocked me back was that I discovered after the show that he is only 15 years old. Like Nicole, when he gets older, his talent will take him to some brilliant places in theatre.
And so to one of my favourite performers of the evening, Ben Hale (Willard). This young man is another who will go far in local theatre. A singer, wonderful character actor, comedian, he can bust a move or two as well, and I loved the consistency in his accent. He is fun to watch, and I have seen some actors, older than him, who have made this character a bit of a bumpkin, but Ben managed to get Willard, just right for me.
A talented and large ensemble - 48 members in fact - who filled the stage with energy.
Produced by Lucy Cadney and Directed by Kyle Lamley with help from Lucy, this ran very smoothly, and I must mention the scene movers who also worked extremely well to get these sets and scenes removed and set back up.A success for the stage management.
Apart from a few minor teething issues with some of the actors not being heard, could be they weren't mic'd up, who knows, the sound was spot on and well balanced, thanks to Dave Dallard.
Chris Grantham made the show a colourful affair with the lighting design.
This show is all about the dancing and the mammoth task of choreography was down to Natalie Bethel and Sophie Shapcott. Jive kicks were sharp and the line dancing was great fun as well as all of the other moves these two gave the cast to perform. The energy in these dances could have lit the theatre up if plugged into the National Grid.
The soundtrack features some great songs like “Let’s Hear It For The Boy”, “The Girl Gets Around”, “Somebody’s Eyes”, the gorgeous “Almost Paradise”, “Holding Out For A Hero” and of course the boot scootin’ title track. Every one under the expert guidance of Musical Directors Nigel Taylor and James Bowden.
This show is fun, fun, fun all the way and if you do not leave that theatre dancing, there must be something wrong with you. Great energy and enthusiasm from every single one of this young cast who gave an incredibly mature performance all round.
Go see this show now because in ten years time you may be seeing some of these on professional tours, and you can have the pleasure of saying " I saw them in Footloose when they were young, and now look at them......"
And don't forget to buy a programme as well. A lovely glossy souvenir of the show, well set out and presented, and I've only just noticed someone else I know on page two! (What happened to the airbrushing??) Please don't let that put you off buying one.
“Footloose” by Centre Stage Theatre Arts is at Derby Theatre until Friday 28 June.

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

“Calendar Girls – The Musical”
Nottingham Theatre Royal
Having seen Calendar Girls on several occasions, the story is not new to me, so I wondered if making a musical out of such a wonderful, emotional and humanising story would work. I’ve been a fan of Gary Barlow’s work since Take That's first album “Take That And Party” on picture disc and have amassed everything he has released, so I knew that the songs would have that human emotion embedded in every song. I was not disappointed.
The story of the Calendar Girls began in 1998 when John Baker, husband of Angela Baker, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a type of blood cancer. John sadly passed away after just a few months of treatment, but in the months following their loss, Angela and her friends set about creating the now infamous calendar as something for Angela to focus on and, also, to prove John wrong – he said they’d never do it!
Through the sale of calendars, the group aimed to raise enough to buy a new sofa for the hospital where John was treated and were amazed when the calendar attracted international press attention. So far, they've raised millions for Bloodwise (formerly Lymphoma & Lymphoma Research), the blood cancer charity they have been long associated with.
The story has been added to and we see additional characters,and there's more comedy, but the original thread is never lost
The girls Sarah Jane Buckley, Sue Davaney, Julia Hills, Judy Holt, Lesley Joseph, Lisa Maxwell and Rebecca Storm are all excellent, as well as being brave and putting their trust in the choreography of the photo shoots, not to reveal anything, well that was the plan; whether it was planned or not, we did get to see more than we've seen before in "Calendar Girls" this time around.
What I didn't expect was some brilliant singing. You know when you see these women on TV and they're in sit coms, soaps, chat shows, you don't really envisage the wealth of theatre talent they have and it comes as a really pleasant surprise when this wonderful voice is let out on stage. This is why I love theatre because it never fails to bring to me new revelations.
Phil Corbitt (John), Sebastian Abineri (Colin), Ian Mercer ( Rod), Alan Stocks (Denis), Derek Elroy (Lawrence - the photographer), Pauline Daniels (Lady Cravenshire/Brenda Hulse) and Claudia Bradley (Miss Wilson) complete the core characters.
There were three new characters introduced in the form of the children. Tyler Dobbs (Tommo), Danny Howker (Danny) and Nottingham's very own Television Workshop star, Isabel Caswell (Jenny). All three lovely additions to the storyline and a nice balance to the other cast members.
Proving that he can write songs for musicals as well as chart topping hit records, Gary Barlow's songs are intricate, amusing and, while not being instantly catchy, bring the human element to every song here. He is a wordsmith and the songs tell stories and paint pictures.
The opening song "Yorkshire", "Scarborough", "Who Wants A Silent Night", "I've Had A Little Work Done" are little belters and balance well with some lovely ballads like "What Age Expects", "Kilimanjaro" and "My Russian Friend And I", which also have injections of comedy, just to make sure that your emotions get mixed messages. You will laugh, that's a given, but you may also find yourself welling up as well.
Tim Firth, who wrote the original film, "Calendar Girls" collaborated with Gary, and it's not often that you can rival or better a good thing, but these two have achieved just that.
The set is stunning; it's as if the back of the theatre had been taken off to reveal rural Yorkshire. it looked alive, as if you could walk to the back of the raked stage and enter the countryside through some magical portal.
I love "Calendar Girls" and I also love "Calendar Girls The Musical". Both give you a feeling of empowerment and also hope. It also gives the message out that whatever age you may be, don't do What Age Expects and be Mr or Mrs Conventional, you can be or do whatever you want.
“Calendar Girls The Musical” is at the Nottingham Theatre Royal, not just For One Night Only, but until Saturday 6 July.

Monday, 24 June 2019

“Design For Living” by Noel Coward
Nottingham Lace Market Theatre
From 1930s bohemian Paris to the dizzying heights of Manhattan society, a tempestuous love triangle unravels between interior designer, Gilda, playwright Leo and artist Otto - three people unashamedly and passionately in love with each other. They are trapped in what Coward called 'a three-sided erotic hodge podge.'
With Coward's trademark piquant style, this lively, funny but also atypical play looks at dazzling, egotistical creatures and their self-destructive dependence on each other. Exploring themes of bisexuality, celebrity, success and self-obsession, Design for Living is a stylish and scandalous comedy which was initially banned in the UK. A play of it's time.
Kathryn Edwards (Gilda), brings out the independence and confidence in our protagonist, as well as great style in everything that Gilda does and wears. She also shows Gilda's underlying unhappiness at not being seen as an equal in the male dominated business and romance world of the period.
Matthew Finkel (Ernest) provides a lot of the comedy with his facial expressions and some very cutting and acidic lines, with just a touch of the Alan Carr about the character. Ernest's final tirade and flounce from the stage deserves a round of applause on it's own.
Paul Spruce (Otto) had just the right amount of camp for the character, and I really enjoyed the subtle hints of the relationship between Otto and Leo which we discover pre dates Otto and Gilda.Lovely and carefree performance.
John Halstead (Leo) comes across as a slightly spoilt and sulky teenager in this menage a trois, but also shows an excitability in the character, which is typical of Coward's characters.
Órla Godfrey-Carter (Miss Hodge) is also typical of Coward's characters. A lovely comic role, a seemingly over-worked house maid who doesn't seem to do a lot and complains bitterly about the jobs she is given. The role is lower class, working for the upper class which will always have that comedy element and well executed by Orla.
James Whitby (Henry Carver), Emma Bradley (Helen Carver) and Charlotte Thomas (Grace Torrence) are Gilda's guests in Manhattan.
James Hastings (Matthew), Gilda's man servant, who, although only had a small part, really made an impression with his smiley, leering and lustful attention aimed at both Leo and Otto. Coward writes camp so well and James brings this character to life.
Directed by Dan Maddison, I loved the monochrome set and costumes for the characters which really brought the feel of an old black and white movie feel of the early 1930's to life on stage. I also loved the flow of this play because there were swathes of script balanced with small gaps which gave you time to catch your breath.
The set, designed by Max Bromley oozed style and the Paris, London, Manhattan sets were simply done by change of furniture and landmarks depicted on the back wall.
Lighting Design by David Billen and Sound Design by Gareth Morris, who was busy stage managing the play, so the sound was operated by Sophie Owen.
The play oozes class and sophistication and that is reflected in the fashion of the day and these costumes were gorgeous, as was the make up and hair.
Coward's wit is as sharp and sparkling as ever in this play. A play that is very rarely seen performed, and a play of such liberalism and female empowerment, which was way ahead of it's time. All the subtle naughtiness of Coward's writing is at the fore, as is the wonderful campness.
As I previously touched on, the script is very wordy but all of the main characters delivered these swathes with great elan, never stumbling and with a completely natural delivery. It goes to show what hard work this cast and crew have put in to this piece of theatre, and the rewards were richly reaped on opening night.
“Design For Living” is at the Nottingham Lace Market Theatre until Saturday 29 June 2019.

Thursday, 20 June 2019

"From West End To West Gate" by The Young Performers.
The Duchess Theatre, Long Eaton.
For anyone who loves the music of the West End musical, this show is an absolute treat. The Young Performers perform songs from the best of the modern stage and classics from the last 20 to 30 years.
32 young singers, dancers and actors gave their all as they ploughed through selections from 20 musicals including "Wicked", "Rent", "Annie"."Les Miserables", "Spamalot", "Hairspray", "Mamma Mia" and "Shrek".
I loved it that they also included selections from today's biggest West End musicals such as "Waitress", "There's Something About Jamie", "Hamilton", "Heathers", "Dear Evan Hansen" and "School Of Rock". My favourite new musical was also included "Something Rotten", which I have been banging on about for about four years now.
The songs were interspersed with splashes of comedy from two of the Young Performers. Almost like a continued thread of a young couple seeing as many West End musicals as they can in one day, they kept the audience entertained while the scene changes were going ahead behind the curtain.
The large ensemble of performers were choreographed by Vicky Byrne and Lauren Riley and covered a variety of styles.
A simple set that looked great and worked well as the back drop for the props used to enhance the performances, i.e. the tables and chairs in "School Of Rock", "Jamie" etc.
The four piece band were on stage, partly hidden behind two large flaps that when raised revealed the band and then closed to create the back drop. Musically Directed by George Parkinson, they provided a powerful backing which was well balanced with those singers who had radio mics and in ensemble numbers, when it sounded positively choral. There were only a few bits that were lost due to the singers not being mic'd up. that's something that can't be helped.
The show was directed by Zak Charlesworth, assisted by Tricia Freer. Zak himself has created several shows similar to this to raise funds for various local charities, so it was no surprise that everything ran smoothly.
I knew every song performed, so will pick out a few of my highlights. I have always loved "Seasons Of Love" for the harmonies, and this highlighted just how good this group are in that field.
"She Used To Be Mine" from "Waitress" has become one of my favourite ballads, as was "You Don't Know This Man" from "Parade" and "You Will Be Found" from "Dear Evan Hansen"
"Hamilton" is one of those marmite musicals. I hate marmite but love "Hamilton" with its' hip hop/rap soundtrack - there are also some lovely ballads in the soundtrack as well - and this group were feisty and really impressive in the "Hamilton" section.
There was a brilliant close to Act One with two from "Hairspray", and quite ironic that they stopped at that stage with "You Can't Stop The Beat". They also had a brilliant closer to the show with "I'm A Believer" from "Shrek".
I used to send my wife crazy singing "I'm A Believer", so much so that she said that she would leave me if I didn't stop singing that song. Well, I didn't take her seriously, and then I saw her face......
And on that note, it's time to pretend that I am Dave Martin and bring the lights down on my stand up career and to remind you that "West End To West Gate" - great title for the show by the way is at the Duchess Theatre, Long Eaton until Saturday 22 June
I spotted many talented stars of the future tonight, so pop along and do some star gazing of your own.
I thank you and Good Night!

Monday, 17 June 2019

“The Mousetrap” by Agatha Christie
Nottingham Theatre Royal
The longest running theatre show in the world, now in it’s 67th year, returns to Nottingham.
Agatha Christie gave the rights to The Mousetrap to her grandson Mathew Prichard for his 9th birthday. At the time he wanted a bike. Think how many bikes he could have bought over the years with the gift bestowed on him by his Grandmother.
The scene is set when a group of people gather in a country house, cut off by the snow, discover that there is a murderer in their midst. Who can it be? One by one the suspicious characters reveal their pasts until at the last moment the identity and the motive are finally revealed.
And in the true tradition of Ms Christie's plays, I couldn't possibly tell you who dunnit, as I'd have to..... well you know what I mean!
Gwyneth Strong, who you may recognise from playing Cassandra in “Only Fools And Horses” on the BBC plays Mrs Boyle. The typical crotchety older woman who would get on anyone's nerves.
The husband and wife owners of the house, Mr and Mrs Ralston (Nick Biadon and Harriet Hare) and their guests Christopher Wren (Lewis Chandler), a wonderfully camp, excitable but also quite fragile young man, Major Metcalf (John Griffiths), Miss Casewell (Saskia Vaigncourt-Strallen) - suited and booted, and the unexpected late comer Mr Paravicini (David Alcock) - looking quite similar to Hercule Poirot, complete with foreign accent and a strange sense of humour.
The mood changes somewhat though when the Ralston's receive a call from the police, telling them that Sgt Trotter (Geoff Arnold) is on his way up through the ever deepening snow to ask some serious questions.
Can Trotter stem the flow of murders? Someone in that house is not who they profess to be, but who?
Directed by Gareth Armstrong, he keeps a well balanced tension Vs comedy ratio, and I loved the whole feel of the era with the wonderful set design. You could almost feel the cold from the window when opened and the snow was falling.
Agatha Christie is the Queen of the Whodunnit, and I could watch her plays over and over and still get the same edge of the seat tingle as the story progresses and the person/s responsible are eventually discovered.
There are plenty of twists and turns and red herrings, interesting characters with wonderful accents and costumes befitting of the fabulous period to keep you interested and sleuthing. And the one thing that I noticed as well was just how fast those two hours went by as I was completely enveloped in the story, characters, back stories and motive.
You can see why this play is still as popular with the theatre going audience today as they ever were, and also why it's the longest running piece of theatre today.
I also bet Mathew Prichard is now pleased that Granny Agatha didn't get him a bike!
Brilliant cast, wonderful set, classic whodunnit proving that the older a great piece of writing gets, the better it becomes, at least in this case.
“The Mousetrap” is at the Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 22 June.

Saturday, 15 June 2019

'Incognito' by Nick Payne
Nottingham New Theatre
The brain is a story telling machine, but can we really believe everything that it tells us?
Princeton, New Jersey. 1955. Thomas Stoltz Harvey, a pathologist, performs the autopsy on Albert Einstein - and then steals his brain.
Scenario 2: Bath, England. 1953. Henry undergoes pioneering brain surgery. The surgery changes Henry's life, and the history of neuroscience. London, England. Henry Molaison, known in scientific circles as Patient HM, who had parts of his brain removed to cure his epileptic seizures. But he suffered chronic memory loss as a result,
Scenario 3: The Present story concerns Martha, a clinical neuropsychologist and a lawyer called Patricia. They meet through a lonely hearts column, but Martha neglects to tell her new lover that she was married for 21 years and has a grown-up son.
Three interwoven stories exploring the nature of identity and how we are defined by what we remember, “Incognito” is an interesting exploration of what it means to be human.
The play is also split into three sections entitled Encoding, Storing and Retrieving with two intervals. Personally I could have watched this straight through because of the intensity of the script and acting, but I appreciate that parts of the set had to be changed at the intervals.
There are some new names in the cast of eleven, playing eighteen characters.
Sam André-Paul (Henry Maison), Miguel Barrulas (Dr Thomas Harvey), Sophie Curtis (Martha), Bolu Fayese (Patricia), Adam Hennessey (Victor/Jon), Jacob Gausden (Greg/Hans/Freddy), Morgan Beale(Ben/Michael), Tejas Dattani (Anthony/Otto), Jessica Staplehurst (Margaret/Sharon/Anna), Lucy Chandler (Elouise/Evelyn) and Abi Platt (Lisa-Scott).
I would like to mention Bolu because there were times in the first two acts I struggled to hear some of her lines, it could be where I sat on the third row from the front, but all of a sudden, come Act three, Patricia's passionate speech emerged and that made such a difference and we witnessed great voice projection from Bolu.
The further you got into the story the more it all knitted together and the clearer the connections became.
This must have been a mammoth task for the Director Zoe Smith and Assistant Director William Hopwood,, having three scenes and scenarios going at the same time. Mammoth or not, this fascinating story was woven. very smoothly. Zoe and William were ably helped by Producer Abi Platt.
Loved the video design by Jess Donn and the set design by Zoe Smith. As usual the Light (Sam Osborne) and Sound Design (Arthur Mckechnie) played a big part in this production.
The actors who had the roles with the accents - American, Irish, German - did a really good job on the whole. I can always tell if an actor has cracked the American accent if I can identify the area to the accent and I did.We all, me included, think we can do an accent or two, but concentrating on any accent and delivering lines and acting is never as easy as most people think. Jack Ellis and Oliver Binns were the accent coaches.
I was particularly touched by the Henry Molaison scenes,and you realise how frustrating it is, not just for the patient, but for everyone involved in that ripple effect. Imagine having such a short memory span and not remembering who these people are around you, but replaying the same old script over and over again, as if you were hitting the repeat button for a section of your life.
Intense and fascinating, and another educational visit to the New Theatre for me, which made me come away with plenty to think about.

Friday, 14 June 2019

“Godspell” by West Bridgford Operatic Society
West Bridgford Baptist Church, Nottingham.
This immensely successful rock opera needs little introduction, but when it was first produced on Broadway in 1971 it broke new ground in its stage treatment of the historical Jesus Christ. Based on the Gospel according to St Matthew it deals with the last days of Jesus, and includes dramatized versions of several well-known parables.
And yet it is something more - a religious experience, a demonstration of joy, and a celebration of the family of man. The cast use many well-known theatrical devices, pantomime vaudeville and varied musical styles leading up to the Last Supper and Crucifixtion
This musical has always been a lesser performed piece of theatre as it lives in the shadow of “Jesus Christ Superstar”, so I, for one, is very pleased to see this being performed in Nottinghamshire. It seems that I’m not the only one either as Friday was sold out.
I loved the way that the story is told in an almost "rehearsal-mode" way with Jesus as the Director of the piece. He throws in seemingly ad libbed sections and arranges the followers and places them on stage. It comes across as a rehearsal but, please do not take this as a negative as I'm not sure if it is supposed to be like that, but if it is, it worked really well for me.It looked like a really relaxed and natural get together.
Having never seen this play performed before, this is all new, so I have nothing to compare this performance to, but what an introduction to a wonderful theatre experience, and that I can thank Director Meng Khaw for, who was also Musical Director for this musical. Also loved the modern touches injected into the play. See if you can spot them as they enhanced the natural comedy of thye script.
Performing this piece in West Bridgford Baptist Church, gave the play a special feel as you felt you were seeing Jesus' home inside God's home. Very atmospheric.
John Gill plays Jesus, and a completely different Jesus in a rock opera than I had seen before. Excitable like a puppy with a new toy in the first Act, but in the second Act, we saw the more mature side of the man as he learns of his betrayal, and while the Crucifixion isn't the big feature as per "Jesus Christ Superstar" it is a very poignant moment. J.J.'s version of "Beautiful City" was stripped back so you could hear the beautiful lyrics to the song and so you could understand the meaning of the song. Uncluttered by lush arrangements, the simplicity and J.J.'s voice was a spine tingler.
This production boasts quite a big cast, 32 in fact, spanning quite an age range, and I love it when a musical can encompass all ages, as well as varied vocal styles and ranges as well. And when all of these styles and ranges come together, as they did in the second act, the sound was heavenly, making the venue seem even more appropriate.
I'm not going to single anyone out because everyone gets featured,and there are some lovely solo, duets and featured pieces which really elevate this musical throughout.
It's always difficult with local theatre productions in performance spaces like this to get the clarity and projection, which is why several of the principals passed around radio mics, which meant we could hear clearly the main characters but some of the lesser characters were sometimes lost. Nothing can be done about this and I know that if the funding had been there, all would have had the kind of stage mic that J.J. had.
That said, I thought the sound for J.J.'s mic was not balanced right and possibly needed a bit more treble as it sounded a little muggy compared with the hand held mics.
The soundtrack is so varied, from gospel to pop to rap to vaudevillian. For me there were several highlights. "Prepare Ye" took me to church in an instant. the gorgeous "Day By Day" sung by Sarah Shields blended the gospel with the pop. The fun soft shoe shuffle of "All For The Best" by J.J. and Tom Parry, The beautiful folky duet "By My Side" by Sarah Harley and Lee Horne with a lovely guitar accompaniment from Orla O Reilly. The gorgeous uplifting happy clappy "We Beseech thee" by Alex Grosse and the cast, all made for a very memorable and enjoyable musical experience.
WBOS also put on an interval treat as well with samosas - meaty and veggie - as well as some delicious refreshments, so please take advantage of these as they are a taste bud treat at very reasonable prices.
“Godspell” will be performed at West Bridgford Baptist Church, Nottingham until Saturday 15 June with a matinee.