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Showing posts from June, 2015

Review of Voluntary Impact Northamptonshire's Celebrate Northampton at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

You would probably be hard pushed to find a show of such contrasting quality on the Derngate stage than Celebrate Northampton. There was much brilliance at times, but also some, saying in my kindest way possible, less good. However it was totally unimportant about the quality on such a night, because it just did not matter. Celebrate Northampton was just a joyful couple of hours or so of ordinary people being 100% braver than I would be and seizing that chance to perform on the Derngate stage.

The show was broken into two separate parts with the pre-interval a dance orientated one and after the interval a full choir. The show was introduced by VIN Chief Executive Jane Carr, hosted by John Fisher and the choir directed by the seemingly omnipresent Gareth Fuller.

I rather unexpectedly enjoyed the first half of the show the most, despite the fact that I was looking forward to the choir part having experienced and enjoyed a few in recent months. Maybe its that the dance part offered a con…

Review of The Music Of John Willians by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

They say that everyone has a soundtrack to their lives and it usually leans towards a particular decade that they grew up in, that makes mine the eighties (of which I agree). However for me there has also been an affinity towards film soundtracks. For as long as I remember while growing up, I had vinyl, then cassettes and finally CD's of themes and original scores of films. A mainstay of these was the exceptional talent that is Mr John Williams. His work, particularly with who is also my favourite film director, Steven Spielberg is a thing of both excitement, action and also of stunning beauty.

The music performed by the Royal Philharmonic on this evening took me from a five year old and his earliest memories of the cinema and being amazed by E.T.'s glowing finger and bike ride across the sky, onto watching as a fifteen year old at school the film JFK for history. It then transported me to the thrill of seeing living, breathing dinosaurs as a sixteen year old and to a more mat…

Review of The 39 Steps at the Criterion Theatre, London

The 39 Steps by John Buchan is to many a remarkably familiar tale. Even if you haven't read the relatively slight book, you will almost certainly have seen one of the numerous versions of the tale Whether your Richard Hannay was Robert Donat's 1935 version or Rupert Penry-Jones' version in 2008 or somewhere in between, a play perhaps needed to do something different.

Patrick Barlow's version at the Criterion sure does something different and nine years after its debut at the theatre is still packing them in, my Tuesday viewing left little room for many more patrons. It is however soon to end though as the Laurence Olivier and double Tony Award winner is to finish in September.

The play by Barlow is adapted from an original concept by Simon Corble and Nobby Dimon which was first performed in Richmond, North Yorkshire in 1995. That concept is for a no holds barred physical comedy version of the spy story with the clever idea of just four actors playing all of the parts, …

Review of the University Of Northampton BA (Hons) Acting Graduate Showcase at Leicester Square Theatre, London

The Graduate Showcase was pretty exciting even for me, so heaven knows how it was for the actors actually taking part. Here I was in a gathering of around twenty people (all others infinitely more important than me) at a special closed event at a West End theatre, complete with free drinks and buffet. Fortunately I had Mr Jim aka @mudbeast76 to keep me on the straight and narrow of juices after the one alcoholic one went straight to the head drink. Then as if it wasn't a surreal world as it was, there only goes and walks in Lukewarm himself, Christopher Biggins!

However, this isn't about me, this is about the thirty six ultra talented individuals who after I have followed them for a bit over a year are about to venture forth into the big competitive world of the acting community. They have though the double advantage of not only coming through the excellent three years University Of Northampton training and also being rather talented to help them in this.

This being my first s…

Review of making second Kontakt with the R&D Youth Theatre at Royal & Derngate (Underground), Northampton

As I said in my first Kontakt review, I wasn't really sure that I wanted to see this show. However come Sunday and a second opportunity to see it, I was genuinely looking forward to it.

With the show now having departed, for my second review I will elaborate a touch more on happenings, which initially I shied away from as spoilers. My actor for my second encounter was 15 year old Michael. He had the enviable task unlike Michael before him of dealing with someone who knew quite a bit of what was coming. As those surgical gloves went on I this time was certain that the R&D were not going to overstep the boundary and do a full medical. I had also learnt that a crisp sandwich was something that should be left in the memory, so cheese was a much more sensible option.

I was able to complete the calculation generally unaided and managed to express an exaggerated shock at the latter outcome. The game of Jenga managed to stay stable once again and rather amazingly managed to bring thre…

Review of Kontakt by R&D Youth Theatre at Royal & Derngate (Underground), Northampton

Theatre at its very best is a totally encapsulating experience. While you are relaxed in your theatre seat, you want to be taken to this created land and dragged into the lives of the people on the stage. You want to suffer the stress, the fun, the wide-eyed joy of those actors in front of you.

Royal & Derngate's Youth Theatre gives you a very different immersive experience with Kontakt. During it running time of 45-60 minutes, you are very much part of the performance. Not any old part, you don't get dragged on stage for a couple of minutes here or there. You are pretty much fifty percent of the show, for the whole show.

Originally created and developed by Philip Mackenzie for the Sherman Cymru Youth Theatre in 2008, the format is on paper simple, if a little scary to the audience member. You and a youth theatre actor share a table for the duration of the show partaking in games, simple question answering, drawing, some more deeper thoughts on life and dancing. For those …

Review of the NMPAT Festival 2015 at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

For over five hours over the nights of Wednesday and Thursday I managed to sit enthralled by the varied, fun and heartwarming performances of hundreds of local children. Organised with the help of Northamptonshire Music and Performing Arts Trust (NMPAT), Karen Bailey, Anna Carter and compered with panache by Leigh Wolmarans. This two night feast brought together the work of thirty six schools and groups to provide entertainment for everyone. The packed out audience certainly agreed as they all got into the spirit of supporting all the performances, even allowing for the fact that the bulk of them were perhaps generally there to support their own child.

In his opening speech Mr Wolmarans requested that we applaud them all, support all, there were no winners. I whole heartily agree, on these two evenings all those children that put effort into their performances, of whatever standard, were champions. These were not at home giving kids a bad name, playing video games, trolling on social m…

A second reviewing of The Hook by Arthur Miller at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

An unexpected availability last night left me back at the Royal & Derngate for not only a second helping of The Hook but also its post show talk. I confess I love a post show talk, even if I haven't yet been brave enough to ask a question at one. Other people always seem to have more interesting questions and I also tend to take a sleep on it to think of relevant ones in any case.
In hindsight however, I should have asked about thoughts on development between the previews and the end product that I saw on my second viewing. Having seen the final preview exactly a week before, it was quite amazing to see the alterations to the show I had seen then, both subtle and in one case quite a revelation.
Although I didn't dwell on the negatives in my review at the time (I leave the criticism to them "professional" critics), also it being a preview it was wrong to do so. I was amazed to see how pretty much all of them I had spotted had been addressed. It's true to say t…

Review of The Hook by Arthur Miller at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

The play The Hook based on an original screenplay by Arthur Miller has lain dormant for over sixty years, failing to make it to the screen due to political tensions at the time. However although the story has been untold in this time, for those that have seen either Miller's A View From The Bridge or the brooding Marlon Brando in On The Waterfront, will be very familiar with the environment and style depicted here.

Adapted for the stage in a sharp and snappy paced manner by Emmy winning writer Ron Hutchinson, the play tells the story of dockyard worker Marty Ferrara in the Red Hook district of Brooklyn. The tale tells of his battle with mobsters, unions and the dockyard authorities all instigated following the death of a co-worker, as well a dalliance as a bookmaker. Playing Marty and fully channeling Marlon Brando is Jamie Sives. He is a dominant presence throughout and generally maintains a clear and solid accent. Indeed the accents are clear and solid across the board, only ver…

Review of The Winter's Tale performed by University Of Northampton BA Actors at Royal & Derngate (Underground), Northampton

While I had tremendous fun with Merry Wives two days before, I feared The Winter's Tale for one being Shakespeare and tow the fact it wasn't a comedy. This was bad enough for me, and then it turned out that it was Shakespeare doing Greek as well, which was another slight problem that had reared its head in the past. I don't do old language, I am with all this new stuff innit.

So I am afraid that I had trouble with this one, but never because it was of a poor quality. It was obvious that there was some superb, super strong acting going on. I commented in a rather ugly way during the interval that for me proper, giving it some welly acting brings the spit levels to the forefront. During Winter's Tale there was some epic spit moments, particularly during the first half where the truly big speeches came.

Giving it some real welly for me was the epic performance of Sophie-Rose Darby as the "doomed" Hermione. Her speech in court was quite staggering in every single…

Review of The Merry Wives Of Windsor performed by University Of Northampton BA Actors at Royal & Derngate (Underground), Northampton

My ongoing policy to avoid William Shakespeare as much as possible is as successful as many government ones over the years. A Small Mind is not for turning! However he always, endlessly ends up back sitting watching another of the bards many (and long) tales.

The Merry Wives Of Windsor has the one thing going for it in my mind from the bard, in that it is one of the comedies. I find them more bearable, but unfortunately locally there seems to have been very few of them performed. So for every comedy I have seen (and this would be only my third live), I have seen an endless stream of dead bodies on stage at the end of some horrific tragedy. Trepidation therefore was high as I approached another prospect of three hours of Shakespeare.

Having said all this, I have managed to enjoy the University performances the most because they tend to do something different. This time the different had begun before the play started as when entering the inferno, otherwise known as the Underground, we w…

Review of Feast Of Fools Storytelling #3 featuring Tim Ralphs at the NN Cafe, Northampton

As the walls of the Royal & Derngate prepared to shake to the tunes of UB40, I settled down in the more sedate environment of the NN Cafe for some storytelling and got... bagpipes! I hate bagpipes. However I stuck it out and didn't flee in the direction of Red, Red Wine.

I am glad I did as thankfully our Feast Of Fools resident host Richard York swiftly ceased the torture of the air bag and the storytelling began. We were given a welcome and indeed as the ringing in my ears had stopped, I was able to hear that a certain highly educated reviewer was referenced in the opening speech. Our host also provided us with a aperitif story before the introduction of the guest of the evening.

The performer of the evening was the bow tie and tails donning Tim Ralphs. I had seen Tim once before in the Underground presenting a Norse inspired piece (review here) and an informative after show Q&A. This time we had a little more Q&A and a performance of his storytelling piece Rebranding…

Review of Lights! Camera! Improvise!: The Worm That Turned by Mischief Theatre at the Duchess Theatre, London (1st June 2015)

With the small matter of three viewings of The Play That Goes Wrong and a viewing of Peter Pan Goes Wrong behind me, it is safe to say that I am sold on the genius of the performers of Mischief Theatre. Lights! Camera! Improvise! was safe to say going to a rip roaring affair I was certain, I expected nothing less from them.

I got nothing less, indeed it was even better than I anticipated. The format is that the audience on the night has the task of selecting the genres for an imagined film production directed by Oscar (Jonathan Sayer). This selection itself is a comic masterpiece as many of the audience are fully into the swing of the idea and par off with their host superbly, although Sayer always has the upper hand with the put downs. Even if on the night he still reluctantly ended up with "Yiddish" as a genre and the wonderful "The Worm That Turned" as the films title title. I am glad we did, because the team of wonders worked magic with the subject which had as…