Saturday, 14 March 2020

"The Story Of Guitar Heroes" with Phil Walker.
Nottingham Playhouse.
As kids we all dream of being rock stars. Some come close and some just pretend. Here is a man who made that dream come true as he is every rock guitarist you can think of. Phil Walker along with his band of Toby James, Lee Williams and Allan Varnfield on drums recreate the sound of every guitar legend from over the decades.
Along with a video back drop showing the heroes, along with interviews and film footage, this show is an absolute must for, not only guitar fans but for lovers of great music.
Weaving his way from the 1950's and stars like Les Paul, Eddie Cochran and Chuck Berry, through the 1960's with Bert Weedon,Peter Green, Hank Marvin and Jimi Hendrix, into the 1970's with The Allman Brothers, The Eagles and Eric Clapton, into the 1980's with Prince, Thin Lizzy and Gary Moore.
Covering every genre from Country with Brad Paisley and Albert Lee, Rock n Roll with The Shadows, Eddie and Chuck, through Blues with Stevie Ray Vaughan, Steve Vai and BB King, to classic rock with AC/DC, Guns n Roses, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, ZZ Top and of course the mighty Queen.
The set was well thought out with Act One ending with the mighty "Comfortably Numb".I have listened to this song many times but hearing this epic track played live on stage by these guitar masters, complete with an incredible light show, this tune took on a life of it's own.
The show ended with Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" guitar break with the video footage of the great Freddie Mercury singing the song to Phil and co's musical accompaniment.
They then came back on for a party encore which included Status Quo's "Rocking All Over The World"
Seeing and hearing tracks like "Parisienne Walkways", "Whole Lotta Rosie", "Little Wing", "Hotel California", "Purple Rain" and "Smoke On The Water" onstage was just jaw-droppingly good. The amount of times shivers went up and down my spine, I could not tell you.
Not only is Phil an amazing guitarist, he has surrounded himself with an incredible band, all of whom provide vocals backing and featured, and Allan on those drums was spectacular to watch.
Not only do we get to see many styles and makes of guitar played, all of which matched the guitars played by the original heroes, but you get an education in the history of guitars and the heroes themselves. Educational and entertaining. Shut your eyes and it could be Hank Marvin, it could be Fleetwood Mac. It could be Thin Lizzy.
This show was for one night only at the Playhouse, but make sure that you catch this show if you can as it travels around the UK, because you will not regret this experience. It's something that I certainly will not forget and neither will the audience whose age ranges were as varied as the music played tonight.

Thursday, 12 March 2020

“The Regina Monolgues” by Rebecca Russell and Jenny Wafer
Performed by Derby Shakespeare Theatre Company
The Duchess Theatre, Long Eaton
Here's another play that I've managed to allow to pass me by, until now!
Six women with one thing in common – marriage to a man called Henry - have passed into historical legend. Their lives are both separate and intertwined as they tell their stories from a room in which they have all once lived. This story would make a great musical!
The women describe their co-existence with the lusty monarch and also their fears and insecurities about his other consorts and their different child-bearing abilities. They graphically discuss Henry at the different stages of his life, creating a simultaneous multi-angled picture of Henry.
What makes this production very different to other productions, is that the play starts with a monologue from Henry. Henry the business man who tells us all about his six wives, how they met and what went wrong, from his point of view.
This part of the play takes place in Henry's office, where we can see that his desk is his castle, a pl;ace that he feels truly at home and open to discuss his love life quite candidly and in a very modern way.
The speech is the work of Caroline Reader, who also directed this section of the play, and is very funny; littered with several jokes that link Henry back to the days of Henry's reign. You need to see this to get the full impact, and I'm not going to give away any of them. There's even a nod to the movie "Notting Hill" right at the end.
As I said, the production is very modern and several of the monologues from the ladies reference some of Nottingham's night spots like Revolution de Cuba, as an example.
The intertwining of the six monologues is done very cleverly and at the end the wedding ring is passed down to all six of the wives to culminate the connection between the six.
Jessica Jackson (Cathy), Emily Emily Horobin (Annie), Steph Carpenter (Jane), Alex Wrampling (Anna), Brogan Piggott (Katie) and Christine Smith (Katherine) are joined by Mathew Shepherd (Henry) in this very funny play, which I'm very pleased to have ticked off the list of plays not previously seen.
Director Niamh Mourton has done a great job with this production, and as I've said, I've never seen this show before so this is the only experience of the show, but what a great experience Niamh has given me with this show. It's pacy, it's lit well (Steve Greatorex/Neil Jones) and the set design (Niamh Mourton and Charlotte Matthews) was again cleverly thought out, providing all six with their own space from where to relate their tales.
Loved the various costumes (Charlotte and William Matthews), reflecting the ages and personality of the women.
I also appreciated the music choices that went along with the play whenever there was a change on positioning of Henry's Queens. From Sinatra to Simone, the snatches of these tunes sublimely filled that period of scene change. Very classy!
It's a brilliant and short piece of theatre, only 100 minutes long with no interval. It makes history great fun, and while this play is not for the younger audience due to some of the language and adult themes that are discussed, I think it's a play that will appeal to anyone with a sense of humour. This audience was of a broad age range and they all seemed to appreciate the humour.
“The Regina Monologues” is at The Duchess Theatre until Saturday 14 March so pop down for a right royal laugh

Wednesday, 11 March 2020

“La Casa de Bernada Alba” by Fedrico Gardia Lorca
Nottingham New Theatre
The play starts just after the funeral of Bernarda Alba's second husband.
Domineering matriarch Bernarda Alba imposes an eight-year mourning period on her household. Bernarda has five daughters, aged between 20 and 39, whom she has rigidly controlled and prohibited from any form of relationship. The mourning period isolates them and tension mounts within the household.
Youngest sister Adela, defies her mother's orders and wears a green dress instead of remaining in black. Her joy is shattered when she discovers that Angustias will be marrying Pepe.
Bernarda sees Angustias wearing makeup. Appalled that Angustias would defy her orders to remain in a state of mourning, Bernarda violently scrubs the makeup off her face.
The other daughters enter, followed by Bernarda's elderly mother, Maria Josefa, who is usually locked away in her room. Maria Josefa announces that she wants to get married. Bernarda forces her back into her room and locks her in again.
We discover that Adela and Pepe are having a secret affair. Adela becomes increasingly volatile, defying her mother and quarrelling with her sisters, particularly Martirio, who also has feelings for Pepe.
Needless to say with all this going on, the play ends on a tragic note.
The all female cast of actors are Nicole Klutse, who makes her debut at NNT as Bernarda, Sophie Mackenzie, also making her debut as La Poncia, Katie McCabe, again making her NNT debut as Adela, Daisy Forster, another debut performer as Martirio, Philippa Horn,and another NNT debut first timer as Angustias, Helena Hunt as Amelia, Katie Booth as Magdelena, Sherifah Dawodu, also an NNT debut as the crazed Maria Josefa, Sofia Loreti as a servant and Edie Gillett as Prudencia.
The show has a lot of shouting and some parts did make parts a bit difficult to hear the words plainly. At the other end of the scale there was just a few parts where the projection could have been more prominent, but this was after all, first night and I'm sure that this will be worked out for the rest of the run.
Director Caetano Capurro makes his directorial debut here, assisted by Pete Rouse, and produced by Ella Seber-Rajan.
I'm not sure how much of the original play has been edited for this 80 minute production, but it just seemed like there was something missing. Maybe it is the writing, i don't know as this is the first time that I have seen this play, so I have no prior knowledge, so have no benchmark to measure or compare with.
It's not a play that I would rush to see again, and it didn't hit any lasting emotional notes for me by the end of the play. That said Nicole's highly emotional performance as Bernarda, and the forceful slapping of her daughter in one scene did provoke a bit of a shock factor for me.
This play's themes though do fall in nicely with the charity that NNT are supporting this season, Mind for better mental health.
“La Casa de Bernada Alba” is at the Nottingham New Theatre until Saturday 14 March.

Tuesday, 10 March 2020

“Some Mothers Do Ave Em”
Nottingham Theatre Royal
Straight away, let me say that this is not Joe Pasquale doing an impression of Michael Crawford playing Frank Spencer.There are no "ooh Betty's" and Joe does not try to emulate Crawford at all. That said, Joe captures the whole Frank Spencer aura and along with the short appearance of the beret and raincoat, every Spencer-esque quality is there without being an out and out tribute act.
Written and Directed by Guy Unsworth and based on the TV series by Raymond Allen this is comedy as we used to see back in the day. It’s quintessentially British and will take you back to a time where comedy TV shows were actually funny, and that is all down to the writing and the actors being able to turn those funny scripts into funny shows. Something you rarely see on TV these days.
The show stars Joe Pasquale as Frank, Sarah Earnshaw as Betty and Suzie Blake as the Mother In Law, although tonight Jayne Ashley stepped into Suzie's shoes, and did it extremely well.
Joe has not only the physicality to play Frank but he also has the vocal ability to use and twist the script to bring out every drop of comedy with perfect timing. The tongue twisting and malapropisms spring from Pasquale’s lips with agility and ease. At the end of the day, Mr Pasquale is one of the UK's best comedy actors, so this role is the perfect vehicle for his great talents.
Sarah actually sounded like the Michelle Dotrice character from the original shows, and was a wonderful foil to her hapless husband
Making up the rest of the cast were Moray Treadwell (Mr Luscombe/Mr Worthington), David Shaw-Parker (Father o Hara) and Ben Watson (Desmond/Constable). These three actors all added to the comedy melting pot, especially the "Knock three Times" section near the end of Act Two.
Timing plays a very important part of this play and every actor's timing was spot on, not only for the delivery of the many jokes and one liners, but for the physical comedy element.
While the script stays true to the original feel of the TV show, it's fresh.and very funny. Some of the jokes you could see coming a mile off but that all added to the joy of this farce. A little like panto when you can see what is coming but you relish the moment any way.
There is a saying that you can't beat the old ones, and that is so true when you get a character like Spencer that has in the past been so well written for, and is a comedy TV legend. Let's face it we can all remember that iconic roller skating scene. Comedy Gold. It's still talked about and exalted today, and that is because there is nothing to match that scene from any TV sit com. And there was a nod to this scene when Pasquale said that he's been "articulated", the same phrase as when Crawford skated under the articulated lorry. Check out the clip on Youtube.
You'll love the set as well, which takes you back to the 1970's, complete with garish wall paper, religious icon photo and posters of Brucie and Engelbert and 70's props.
It could be a long time before you see a stage comedy as funny as this, with a script as well crafted as this, and as well presented as this cast present it. Go along and exercise those chuckle muscles, and believe me they will be in for a real workout!
“Some Mothers Do Ave Em” is at the Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 14 March.

Friday, 6 March 2020

“Godspell”by Erewash Musical Society
Duchess Theatre, Long Eaton
The show opens with a series of philosophers discussing the nature of God, until they disperse, and we’re given an image of Judas Iscariot attempting to preach the word of God.
He meets Jesus Christ, and they amass a set of disciples, and set to teaching a series of parables. The structure follows a pattern. Jesus or the disciples will act out a story and explain a parable, then they will all sing a song about it, rinse and repeat.
The show features a comedic troupe of eccentric players who team up with Jesus to teach his lessons in a new age through parables, games, and tomfoolery.
“Godspell” also features the songs “Prepare Ye The Way Of the Lord”, "Beautiful City", We Beseech Thee" and “Day by Day”, as well as an eclectic blend of songs ranging from pop to vaudeville, as Jesus’s life is played out onstage.
There was nothing that i didn't love about this production. The staging was brilliant, with the band at the back ends of the stage, and all the action taking place on the stage in the middle or in the auditorium itself, with entrances and exits through the side doors and the steps between the seating areas. All very exciting which also keeps the audience on their toes.The group also make use of a shower and a portaloo.
A wonderful cast of talented mains and ensemble entertain all through the production with some brilliant choral and solo work and choreography,and even puppetry, which I had not seen used in "Godspell" before. And that is one thing that I have learned about this show. No two productions are ever the same, thanks to the improvisation opportunities within the scope of the show.
Adam Roberts (Jesus) looks the way that most people would envisage Jesus as looking, apart from the multi-coloured hair and the "Joseph" style multi-coloured costume. But Jesus was a colourful character so that's all in keeping with the character we know and love. Adam has a great voice and he manages to rein in the attention to him - well he is Jesus after all. A very energetic performance which was really well received by the audience on Friday night.
Martin Lewis (John The Baptist/Judas) gets to show off his vocals and acting skills here, something that I've not heard or seen for a while. Martin is often in with the band or in ensemble or minor stage roles, but I'm so pleased to see him bringing his other talents to the fore in this one.
Again, this is a cast who deserve to have everyone mentioned, and they all play ensemble parts as well as having several cameo parts, let's face it, there are enough parables and features to be able to spotlight all of this cast.Within this cast there are some excellent solo and duet vocals.
Megan Asher, Barbara Bostock, Martin Briggs - who also gets to showcase a great solo vocal in the show; I love the slight vibrato in his voice, Gill Cooke, Grace Deakin, Richard Dawson who not only Produces and Directs this show, he also gets to play ukelele and show off his comic talents in his role, Jane Freeman, Sue Hagan, Elin Haycock, Heather Howe, Andrea Kemish, Maria LawrenceKathi Ludlow, Chrissie Oakden, Tracey RenshawKaren Robbins, Biba Tribensee, Laurie Trott, who in my humble opinion is a boon to any show, Louisa Ward and Hayley Wood.
There were many highlights for me in this show. I loved hearing "Day By Day" sung with such clarity, going into a wonderful choral section. "Prepare Ye" was brilliantly rousing. "All For The Best", which is a duet between Adam and Martin was excellent on every level as it also incorporated mini versions of the pair singing and dancing, thanks to some nifty puppetry work by the pair. "Save The People" allowed us to hear Adam's voice with just a guitar accompaniment to start with. Adam also excelled with the gorgeous "Beautiful City", one of the finest and possibly most under-rated songs from this musical. I adored the duet of "By My Side" which was delivered with such purity and the two voices so well in tune with the other. And who could not love "Turn Back O Man" delivered in that sultry cabaret style?
So we come on to the band. Under the Musical Direction of James Bowden the varied soundtrack blossomed and I loved the heavy electric guitar break near the end of Act Two. The band, as usual, sounded crystal clear, and great to see them on stage working away.
There's some great choreography, in fact there is a lot of choreography in this show and Abbi Burns, who debuts with Erewash Musical Society has definitely earned her stripes with this show. A wonderful addition to the EMUS team.
The cast is bigger than the previous production I'd seen of "Godspell" and that in its' own way can create headaches but Stage manager Mark Robbins made sure that everything ran like clockwork.
The sound for this show had absolutely no flaws at all. No mic issues and every word, whether it be singing or spoken, was heard perfectly. I did note that there seemed to be more mics used for many of the actors, which could have caused headaches for the sound techs Dave Dallard and Harvey Tavener, but didn't. The dynamic duo smashed it out of the ball park with this show.
Lighting was by Dave Martin, so I knew we were in the very best hands on that front. Dave never lets you down.
I know that I was late in the run to get to see this production, having had a busy week theatre wise, but boy was I glad that I didn't miss out. Loved this show to bits and will have many ear-worms going through my mind all this weekend with this memorable soundtrack.
“Godspell” is at the Duchess Theatre in Long Eaton until Saturday 7 March

Thursday, 5 March 2020

“Moving Bodies” by Open Road Productions
The Old Library, Mansfield.
This is the fourth play that I have seen by Open Road Productions, following on from “The Same Sky”, “Silver Darlings” and “Grace”, all three very emotive plays.
This is a new play, written by Daniel Ellis and Adam Horvath and follows the story of one man, Bernard Roberts, who turns from being a World Ward One soldier to being a grave digger so that he can give his fallen comrades a peaceful place to rest.
It’s a one man play and includes some brilliant storytelling, painting Roberts' life in pictures in your mind, Combining old war time songs as well as music written especially for this piece with sound bites which take you back through the years, back to the First World War..
There are sections that will bring a tear to your eye with the graphic descriptions of the war and how the men, women and children died. The next minute have you smiling and laughing at Roberts the comedian, the joker of the troupe. Some of the jokes could be seen as just a little sick, but when you think of the sick situation these soldiers were thrown into, it brings the jokes into a more reality situation.
Adam Horvath sings, jokes and shows emotion throughout this short play. He portrays all of the characters, male and female, and you just have to listen to him as the stories just entice you in and make you want to hear more. What I also loved about this character, Bernard Roberts, is that it takes you from a teenager and you are left listening to the aged voice of the man.
The set not only is interesting to look at, but it also used, with its many props in varied ways, depicting several scenes and objects. From a train to a camel to an office, as well as a burial ground, so you can see that this is a very cleverly thought out design by Daniel Ellis, who also directed this piece.
There are also voice overs for the sound bites by Paul Goldsmith and Jake Castle.
It seems that everything that Open Road produce takes you on some kind of emotional journey, and I'm sure anyone who has followed their growth in the world of theatre, will certainly agree.
The Old Mansfield Library show is a one off and the tour for this play next moves to Cheltenham, Birmingham and Sale for five dates in total.

Wednesday, 4 March 2020

“Macbeth” by William Shakespeare
Derby Theatre
The darkest, spookiest and bloodiest of Shakespeare’s tragedy plays, and also the most exciting. It’s the story of the lust for power and greed and how this all comes at a deadly price for those who seek it.
Three witches envisage that Macbeth will be the King of Scotland, and once this prophecy has been received by Macbeth, he decides to make sure that this vision becomes a reality, and that means getting rid of a few people that stand in his way. Ambition and drive though can come with terrifying consequences, as Macbeth and his family soon discover.
Much as I love Shakespeare imaginatively done with a twist, it's also refreshing to see a play like "Macbeth" done in its' traditional form as it is done here. OK maybe some of the costumes may not have been completely true to the period, but the production itself was as true as you can get. That is why I loved this gory, but not over the top presentation.
The Set Design by Ruari Murchison was minimal, but what I really loved was the shadow play fight scenes, and when done in slow motion really created a spectacular effect. It showed the slayings, but not graphically, which was particularly effective when Macduff's wife and children were slain.
I also loved the fight scene between Macduff and Macbeth which actually looked dangerous and the clashing of the swords showed that these were not just wooden swords painted silver, they sounded like the real thing and looked heavy enough to do some damage should one of these actors slipped up. Bethan Clark is the Fight Director.
When a play is presented as well as this one is, there really is no need to shine a spotlight on any particular performance, but these leads are so well versed in their trade and delivered with the passion that is required in such a play,
Adam Karim (Banquo), Rikki Chamberlain (Angus/Porter), Martin Johnston (Duncan/Old Man/Doctor), Danielle Kassarate (Lady Macduff/Witch #2), Daniel Kendrick (Captain/Seyton), Colette McNulty (Young Soldier/Murderer #2/Witch #3/Donalbain), David Nellist (Ross/Murderer #1), Connie Walker (Gentlewoman/ Lennox/ Witch #1), Tilda Wickham (Malcolm).
Phoebe Sparrow was an excellent Lady Macbeth, Ewan Somers delivered a passionate Macduff and Paul Tinto was among one of the best Macbeths I have experienced.
There are three actors who play Fleance at Derby Theatre, Hadley Grange, James Grocock and Veer Seth.
Likewise there are also three actors who play Young Macduff. They are Conrad Chapman, Bobby Rolfe and Jack Scannell-Wood.
I didn't get to confirm which of these actors played the part on Wednesday night, but, the young actors I saw have great potential and also really good projection.Heard every word.
Directed by Douglas Rintoul, he kept the pace going and while not veering too far from the faithful, he managed to present the story with fresh splashes.And I must also mention that the blood actually looked like blood; the colour and, from where I sat looked to have the right consistency. It's the little things I notice! And I also do not think that I have seen this particular staging of the ending before.
The three witches really were quite scary and another thing I loved was how Banquo's body was made to disappear from the stage. Simple but very clever and effective in the move from that scene to the banquet scene.
Lighting Design by Daniella Beattie and Sound Design is by Paul Falconer, both bringing just the right menacing atmosphere when needed.
This production is a co-production with Queen's Theatre Hornchurch and follows the immensely successful collaborations on Abigail's Party, Abi and One Man, Two Guvnors from last year.
A brilliant production of probably the most famous tragedies written by Shakespeare, and possibly just one of the most famous tragedies ever written.Traditional enough to sate the die-hard fans with just enough fresh sprinkles to make a difference to the not so die-hards.
“Macbeth” is at Derby Theatre until Saturday 14 March.

Tuesday, 3 March 2020

“The Taming Of The Shrew” by The Royal Shakespeare Company
Nottingham Theatre Royal.
The original plot shows the courtship of Petruchia (Claire Price) and Katherine (Joseph Arkley), the headstrong shrew. Initially, Katherina is an unwilling participant in the relationship; however, Petruchio "tames" her with various psychological torments, such as keeping her from eating and drinking, until she becomes a desirable, compliant, and obedient bride. 
The subplot features a competition between the suitors of Katherina's younger brother, Bianco (James Cooney), Gremia (Melody Brown) and Hortensia (Amelia Donkor).Lucentia (Emily Johnstone) meanwhile is also in love with Bianco.
In this production, Director Justin Audibert has made Katherine and Petruchia's and Bianco, Gremia and Lucentia's roles completely reversed and it's Katherine who is male and his wife is the one doing the taming.
A fabulous cast Charlotte Arrowsmith (Vincentia), Amanda Harris (Baptista), Laura Elsworthy (Trania), Amy Trigg (Biondella), Richard Clews, who was wonderfully camp as Grumio, Aaron Thiara (Petruchio's servant), Hannah Azuonye (The Pedant), Leo Wan (A Widower), Michael Patrick (A Tailor), Alex Jones (An Haberdasher) and Alexander Mushore (Baptista's servant).
The music for this production was the best of the three plays in this mini season of Shakespeare's comedies. The composer was Ruth Chan and the Musical Directors were Lindsey Miller and Connor Fogel.
A wonderful set (Stephen Brimson Lewis) which incorporated the balcony where the musicians were seated, as with the previous two plays, "Measure For Measure" and "As You Like It".
I also love the costumes, wigs and make up for this production.
This storyline has been seen adapted in films and TV programmes many times over the decades, most notably with “Kiss Me Kate” and, on a less comedic scale, in one of the current Coronation Street storylines with regards to controlling behaviour.
It is a real treat to see this quality and inventiveness of Shakespeare's works performed by cast members of this renown. The Royal Shakespeare Company always manage to bring something new to their productions and this is why we see swathes of young people flocking to see, and visibly enjoying these plays, along with theatre goers who just love the Bard's works.
“The Taming Of The Shrew” is at the Nottingham Theatre Royal on Wednesday 4 March, Thursday 5 March matinee. and Saturday 7 March