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Showing posts from February, 2015

Review of Oklahoma! at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

My musical theatre crash course continued this week with Rodgers & Hammerstein's Oklahoma! Although it came with the territory of sitting in a theatre seemingly more often than at home, its safe to say that the musical side of it has been one of the greater revelations. Having now seen more musicals in the last few months than I had in the proceeding thirty seven years, I have sort of been converted.

Oklahoma! like the exceptional South Pacific I saw last year was entirely new to me as a complete package. However like SP, many of the tunes were well known from, well somewhere I know not. From the uplifting and heart rising "Oh What A Beautiful Mornin'" to the bold and celebratory Oklahoma! itself, these songs were classics even if I had never seen the package they were weaved around.

For myself there was also the comfort blanket of two actors who had very much been about during my time growing up. Both the effortless Gary Wilmot and the delightful Belinda Lang, w…

Review of Peter Pan Goes Wrong at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

Having seen Mischief Theatre's phenomenal The Play That Goes Wrong three times last year, there was a strange and uncomfortable feeling at the start of Peter Pan Goes Wrong for me. Creators Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields have come up with such a well defined collection of characters, complete with their own personal foibles (and indeed desires), that it felt sacrilege to see different people playing them. For my three viewings last year, I had been privileged to see the original cast on all occasions, so who on earth was that person playing stage manager Trevor (actually Chris Leask)? Causing the usual pre-show mayhem (this time right in front of my row), he acted and sounded the same yes, but he looked, just different. Then who on earth is this guy pretending to be director Chris Bean?

However this was my own foible because once the onstage chaos began, none of it mattered, as once again myself and the audience were carried away in a chaotic, blistering and immense…

Review of ODD In Concert at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

Last night I had the privilege to hear the first public performance of the new musical offering ODD. Winner of the Perfect Pitch award in 2014, ODD is a loose modern retelling of Homer's Odyssey. Bringing the story bang up to date, the lead character Odessa (or Odd as she is known) has been giving a copy of the classic Greek tale and becomes absorbed by the story and begins to see a potential path of her own journey around her.

For the concert we are presented with the full first act and abreviated storytelling and a choice selection of songs from the second. Although presented as a concert and read from book on podiums front of stage by seven actors, this is still a very effecting play, with vivid and often very funny songs and script. The seven actors while only in theory there to present a preview, still put great style into their performances.

The songs are an impressive collection, with high variety. The catchy opening Long Way From Home reminded me of the style of songs like…

Review of That Face by Polly Stenham performed by The Masque Theatre at the Playhouse Theatre, Northampton

As millions were sitting down to watch the misery of EastEnders and its big reveal of Lucy's killer, A Small Mind ventured out to the theatre for some light relief. Yeah right!

That Face by Polly Stenham is generally as far from light relief as you could imagine, like the aforementioned soap being unshackled by its pre-watershed needs, this was gritty family drama in the extreme. Long before the play begins those who had made their way to their seats early get the chance to see curtain up and a girl sitting bound and masked in a chair. Moments of 50 Shades fears aside, its clear that we are seeing one of the unluckiest actresses you could imagine. Destined to be in two scenes with no lines, the first of which involves her being mauled about no end, its a thankless role, which todays actress of pain Julie Hicks plays very well. Suffering for her art indeed.

Doing the mauling are boarding school "buddies" Mia (Amber Mae) and mad as a box of frogs Izzy (Clare Balbi). Mia is…

Review of Aftermath by Daniel Bye at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

For me the inventiveness and emotional power of Aftermath was encapsulated in its opening and closing scenes. They formed the solid bread of the delightful meat within. The opening also allowed the newly emerged "Immerse" section of the R&D Youth Company to do very much that. It was a neat trick to open the play with, and I think genuinely confused a few members of the audience.

However it worked very well at drawing the audience into this tale of several characters personal lives, and their experiences of the First World War, both at home and on the front. The disillusioned youth being preached upon by the elderly was also the perfect moment for the youth and actors company to merge together. Huge credit must go to writer Daniel Bye who with wit and powerful intent has created a fine play from a collection of local stories (much as he did when I pursued him round town with an umbrella for Story Hunt last year). While at the same time shoehorning in "pop group"…

Review of R&D Community Choir 10th Anniversay Gala Concert at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

...and on the seventh day I sat for the fourth night in those seven days in a Royal Theatre seat and watched something I hadn't even seen live before. Its quite clear that Royal & Derngate have spoiled me this week with their variety. Saturday saw storytelling, Monday saw physical theatre with mime, Thursday saw stand up and on the final night it was this show, a very much more homegrown affair.

The Royal & Derngate Community Choir celebrated its 10th anniversary in glorious style with a gala of epic Last Night Of The Proms proportions in which no one appeared to want to go home. I didn't really either (although watching the England rugby game till near 1am was a bit straining), as it was a quite glorious evening of powerful, bone shaking, neck hair lifting proportions. It was the first time I had seen the choir in a full show, having previously seen them in the occasional warm ups that they do in the foyer (the reason I was at this show really).

During the gala I was …

Review of Sara Pascoe Vs History at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

There was a rather superb magic moment shared by those present at Sara Pascoe Vs History last night that I have reservations of whether I want to think it was totally spontaneous or not. I like to think that we have been the only ones to share that moment on Miss Pascoe's tour, but then I also like to think maybe not, as I would feel sad on other audiences not to have experienced it. Suffice to say it involved last comers and music. I hope you enjoyed it if you were there, despite any dignity that may have been lost as a result. I know I did (lost any dignity that is).

Anyway, to business. This was my first time watching a live stand up show and on this first experience perhaps I may go again. Miss Pascoe has a really rather delightful stage presence and an incredibly sharp wit. The loose premise of the show is that she quite frankly lays her life history and love life bare while intermingling the history of the title. So as she talks of such things as to whether she needs her fri…

Review of Light by Theatre Ad Infinitum at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

Light is a tricky production to describe to someone, and before seeing it I had little knowledge of what it was about or how it was to be performed. The first part of description I would offer though is that it really is rather superb.

Part light show, part silent movie (story progression is projected on a screen), and as I saw written somewhere, part mime. Now mime is undoubtedly a first for me at the theatre, and I think generally my little memory of it consists of Kenny Everett walking up invisible stairs or walking into non-existent walls. However from my experience of Light, I would like to see more of it.

Light is at its core incredible physical theatre. The five (yes only five, I was surprised as well) performers; three men and two ladies; have not only incredible fitness moving with ease across the stage, but also incredible spatial awareness as virtually all movement is performed in near total darkness. I first saw some of this type of blind movement in Headlong's 1984 (r…

Review of Fairytales For Grown Ups at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

Are you sitting comfortably? Oh, you're not. Well get off the spiky shaped toadstool and climb into your favourite comfy armchair at I am about to begin.

It was a cold and chilling evening on the very final day of January of the year two thousand and fifteen. There lay upon the fair land of the kingdom of the place known as Northampton the final remnants of a storm of snow, sleet and slush.

On this night a brave, debonair, handsome, tall and dark (well this clearly is a fairytale) gentlemen struck through the streets towards a striking building. This building made of fine bricks and sporting a protruding chimney of no smoke, held many delights upon this cold night. As the fine young gentlemen arrived he bustled through many patrons, fair of age, who gathered on this night to relish music and dance of a magical time the people did called the swinging sixties.

Our hero however was not at this place of theatrical things for this such spectacle. His destination was a place much older.…