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Review of The Caretaker at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

Some other very wise person has probably described Harold Pinter as a marmite playwright, however, if they have I still claim it as my own and happily used it a few times, before, during the interval and after this new production of The Caretaker, from director Christopher Haydon (a co-production between Bristol Old Vic and Royal & Derngate). Pinter has a strange style which you clearly either get or don't. Since seeing his work first in 2013, with The Hothouse at Trafalgar Studios, I have come down in the first camp of "enjoying" his work. I have to be honest though in the fact that I have difficulty working out why.

The Caretaker is a prime example of the originality and oddness of Pinter, Aston meets a tramp, Davies, before the play opens, and brings him to "his" house and allows him to sleep there. Soon Mick arrives, Aston's younger brother and things become less clear of the status of these three. Over the course of two hours or so, characters are …
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Review of Legally Blonde at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

As I settled down in my chair at the Derngate to see this touring production of the musical Legally Blonde, I generally had no idea what I was letting myself in for. Never having seen the film, read little up on the show, as is my want, and sitting in a clearly unbalanced gender demographic, this show was quite clearly not targeted at me.

As the opening number, a catchy, but the incredibly screechy song, Omigod You Guys was performed, I was not, let's say, won over at first. However, it was clear that this just served as an overwhelming and ridiculous setup to the boldness of the show. The second number, Serious was a much better experience and genuinely funny song and throughout the tracks to come, there was much better to come.

Our lead is Elle Woods (a charming, bubbly Lucie Jones), a typical caricatured blonde whose sole aim in life is to get the hand of her love in life Warner Huntingdon III (Liam Doyle). When he breaks up with her in pursuit of someone "serious" t…

Review of West Side Story at The Lighthouse Theatre, Kettering

Following an interesting journey, myself, Keith, Karl, Tarquin and three ladies (it was clearly a big car) arrived at Kettering to see the Theats production of the classic musical West Side Story. This was a number of firsts for me, with my first visit to The Lighthouse Theatre, the first time I had seen theatre group Theats and my first viewing of West Side Story.

Despite never having seen the classic musical before, I was overwhelmingly familiar with it through both the exceptional songs that come from it and the original Bard source. It is an extremely challenging show to stage I imagine with both the tasking songs and the famous dance routines that have cast its place in history.

For the most part, the amateur group Theats takes this challenge and wins, primarily with its casting of the two iconic leads Maria and Tony, in these roles Lauren Jones and Daniel Fortune form an exceptional partnership on stage and performing both their solos and duets with a confident ease. Lauren par…

Review of Education, Education, Education at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

This touring show from The Wardrobe Ensemble arrives at Northampton (a co-production location) with a substantial amount of success, proudly displaying on the programmes back cover ten review ratings featuring 43 stars from a possible 50. However not wishing to be swayed by such incredible past form, I settled in the Royal to attempt to form my own opinion of the situation blinkered as much as possible from the stars shining bright.

Education, Education, Education (henceforth known as Education. Phew!) is set on the day after the day before of Tony Blair and his New Labour sweeping to power in May 1997. We are in a "normal" comprehensive school as a new day, and a new hope dawns for the teachers and pupils alike. Flushed with this hope and a Eurovision win, things clearly will only get better. Or will they?

Education ticks a number of theatres loves for me early on, with superb use of music, sharp scene changes and best of all a quite brilliant series of movement pieces thro…

Review of Shirley Valentine at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

As we settled in the theatre ahead of the performance of this touring version of the, up to then unfamiliar to me, Shirley Valentine, I could not have realised that a slight inner-Valentine part of me, old before my time, had emerged. Making note of the far too loud pre-show music in the theatre was a typical old person thing to comment on, which verbally I tried to discuss over the aforesaid loud music with my company for the evening.

I feel it's a far point though, as this eighties written piece from Willy Russell was clearly mostly catering for a certain age group and therefore I suspect comment and thought of this music might not have just lain within my thoughts.

Fortunately, however, this minor issue was to be the lowest point of this highly entertaining evening and revival of Russell's well-regarded classic. Shirley is a tired and ill-appreciated housewife, preparing dinner for her working husband as she relays the conversation with both us and "wall" of the …

Review of The Railway Children at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

This touring production of the very classic E. Nesbit tale The Railway Children adapted by Dave Simpson and directed by Paul Jepson delivers perhaps everything that someone familiar with the original tale would desire.

Yes, in this modern age we are treated to the more flashy projection images which while a little unexciting at times (and occasionally diluted in clarity by the other stage lights) provide a pleasing background nonetheless.

This production of The Railway Children though is still very much of its time, nothing exciting really happens, other than some petticots being removed infront of a train, that we of course know is going to stop, even if we don't know the story. It's all very safe, and perhaps that is why it appears the modern audience has less interest in it judging by the shockingly small audience on opening night.

However, those not there are missing out on just a really lovely piece of gentle theatre, that while not without its faults, holds the interest…

Review of Make Way For Lucia by John Van Druten at The Playhouse Theatre, Northampton

There have been a couple of television versions of the Mapp & Lucia novels by E. F. Benson over the years and irrespective of which generation version you might have seen, the roles of Miss Mapp and Mrs. Lucas were filled with some heavyweight performers. So taking on these roles could, in theory, be a challenge too much to live up to. However, that would be if the characters themselves were less the sum of the performer. These are great characters on paper as well as on stage and therefore Gena McCrystal (Miss Mapp) and Juliet O'Connor (Lucia) make them very much their own in the stage adaption by John Van Druten.

Lucia has arrived and breezed both into the town of Tilling and the musical chair roundabout of house rental that is want to occur here. Her rented property is Miss Mapp's and for some reason, Mapp fails to follow the routine of keeping away, constantly "popping in", so the battle lines are drawn.
Make Way for Lucia is the typical battle of supremacy i…