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Showing posts from February, 2016

Review of The Musicians - National Theatre Connections performed by R&D Youth Theatre at Royal & Derngate (Underground), Northampton

There is something quite magical about youth theatre other grown-up productions don't exhibit. A vibrant energy exudes from the actors, be it because they either have something to prove (to themselves or others), or perhaps more simply just a feeling of youthful ambition. I think it is almost certain that they are free to enjoy the situation more, as at this time this is for the fun of it with no monetary reward. This doesn't detract from the quality of the situation as this group appears to work tirelessly well together, with no obvious frictions that their musician characters depict in this play).

The Musicians by Patrick Marber (Closer and Dealer's Choice) is like all Connections plays a relatively short forty to fifty minute play specifically written for youth groups to perform. Originally written in 2004, this is part of the 2016 celebration of past material written for the yearly festival. It tells the story of a group of young musicians who find themselves at a conc…

Review of Gargantua - National Theatre Connections performed by Looking Glass Theatre at St Peters Church, Northampton

Over the last couple of years the National Theatre Connections plays have become quite a favourite of mine. They are short snappy forty to fifty minute plays by often well known writers and are designed purely to be performed by youth theatres. This year locally there are to be 21 youth theatre performances of the twelve plays for 2016. The location venue for this batch will Royal & Derngate at the end of April and just into May and I myself shall do my very best to see as many as possible.

However on Saturday I had the pleasure of seeing the very first preview of Gargantua by Carl Grose by the Looking Glass Theatre in their wonderful performance venue of St Peters Church. Last year I happened to see another piece by Grose entitled Stay Brave, Brian Gravy, which was a tremendously challenging piece for the even younger performers. This was to be quite a bit different.

The performance itself was very much in its early days with an acknowledged number of issues (not least some missi…

My review of Ophelia's Garden by the RDYouthTheatre at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

I have a special interest in the Royal & Derngate Youth Theatre's React-Respond after my play The Grandfather Clock was the very first play to be performed last year in its inception. The idea is that the theatre group reacts to the current Made In Northampton production with an original slightly themed response to the story within. Last year audience members were given the chance to submit ten minute plays to be performed in response to the then production Gaslight. Mine and three others had the honour to start the React-Respond ball rolling.

This time the youth theatre were to take existing work, that of William Shakepeare himself and weave it into a production linked to The Herbal Bed. Using sonnets and extracts from his work, director Ben Spiller took the young actors and ourselves to the not too distant future where children have once again become the ownership of their fathers after an old law is revived. Ophelia (Jasmine Smellie), who herself is banned from going out wi…

Review of Ed Byrne: Outside, Looking In at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

Thursday I found myself at my first stand-up in the Derngate theatre as an honoured guest of Mr Chris Sparkle due to Mrs Chris Sparkle doing big business elsewhere. The stand-up in question was Mr Ed Byrne, a comic I was vaguely familiar with via panel shows including Have I Got News For You. However appearances on these shows very rarely give you the gist of what they get up in their live stand-ups. So there was little knowledge of what to expect.

Unshackled from that desk that is the staple of the TV panel show, Mr Byrne became a slightly stalking and ganguly presence on stage. Trailing the large stage microphone cable in tow and occasionally sipping from a generous glass of "juice", he proves an interesting vision.

His material is magical and detailed in its exploration of subjects. After being insulting to bankers (via an anecdote about performing at a corporate gig) and rather strangely Audi drivers (we all agreed during the interval that surely he meant BMW owners), th…

Review of The Herbal Bed at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

2016 is the four hundredth anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare and as expected there is a veritable cavalcade of his works heading to the stage. However for my second encounter with the bard this year, I was once again presented with a play revolving around his family rather than his own work. Where Shaxpeare's Box was an all out comedy linked with Shakespeare's granddaughter, the much more serious affair of The Herbal Bed tells a story revolving around his daughter, Susanna Hall.

Opening the 2016 season of Made In Northampton productions, The Herbal Bed is directed by the Royal & Derngate artistic director James Dacre. Once again his mark is present on the stage as set changes are smooth and clean, and dramatic moments are given wonderful audio edges from Becky Smith on sound design. I was particularly fascinated by the wonderful echo that resonated during the second act scenes in court, they must surely created? There are also some gorgeous light fades from l…

Review of Streets Ahead Dance Academy's Don't Stop The Beat at the Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

A Small Mind was fully busting his hip hop moves at the Royal & Derngate last night. However thankfully is was all in his head rather than some kind of fit on the stage of the Derngate.

Thankfully for the audience for Streets Ahead's Don't Stop The Beat! the dancing was much more impressive on stage. Predominantly hip hop, but with elements of contemporary and tap, it all provided a quite breathless night of entertainment.

Breathless must indeed have been perfect summing up for the performers, especially the much older advanced group of dances, as they were hardly off stage during the near three hour show. Indeed courtesy of some dramatic quick changing that must have been going on behind stage, they occasionally ran off one side and with a brief period of darkness returned from the other side wearing something else and straight back into the next routine.

Routines covered a multitude of songs, although personally many of them to music that only serves its existence for hi…

Review of Scaramouche Jones by Justin Butcher at The Playhouse Theatre, Northampton (White Cobra Productions)

Leading up to my seeing Scaramouche Jones for the first time, I had been informed by many that this was a quite a special show. Well written, intense, and in the case of those that had seen it at a previous visit to Royal & Derngate in 2002, a quite incredible performance by the late great Pete Postlethwaite. Having now seen the play I can only imagine what power Mr Postlethwaite brought to the role. Thankfully for my Scaramouche Jones, Richard Jordan, my preconceptions came fresh with no startling memories of such a performance.
Written by Justin Butcher, Scaramouche Jones takes us through the last hour or so of the life of a clown in his one hundredth year on the planet. He recounts his life from being born in a Trinidad whore house to a gypsy prostitute with a penchant for holding a meat hook in her hand while servicing her clients. He recounts his epic journey over fifty years to the land of England, including time featuring a snake being charmed to the music of Scott Joplin a…

Review of The Classic Rock Show: Top 20 Greatest Guitar Riffs Ever Part 2 at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

By very good fortune I found myself back at Royal & Derngate (with three companions) for The Classic Rock Show and this years theme, the Top 20 Greatest Guitar Riffs Ever Part 2. Never having seen this band before, I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by the evening as a whole although I certainly had some personal reservations.
Formed from eight members it gives the opportunity to have a great deal of variety from the performances, with only two of the group not getting their opportunity at the microphone for a solo. Lead vocals however are provided magnificently by Alex Dee and Ricardo Afonso. Personal highlights from them for me was for Dee during a superbly powerful rendition of Wings' Live And Let Die. While Afonso's take on Queen's The Show Must Go On, was an immensely strong point. I also loved their creation of Meatloaf's Bat Out Of Hell, with Dee bringing the softer moments and leaving Afonso to cover those big and bold periods.
Of the other solo …

Review of Opening Shaxpeare's Box at St Peter and St Paul Church, Northampton

When I reviewed the Masque Theatre's Shaxpeare's Box earlier this year there was one glaring omission from the review and that was the rather wonderful and at times very comical music that Richard and Elizabeth York had composed for it. Suitably atmospheric and playful when required, it added much to the whole successful package of the production.

The reason it was overlooked was mainly because I knew the chance would come when reviewing Opening Shaxpeare's Box to wax lyrical about it. Although as it happened that original music for the play only appeared during the show via the previous recorded segments played from the computer, it was however great once again to hear it.

Opening Shaxpeare's Box was Richard and Elizabeth York tribute to not only the music of the period of Shakespeare's lifetime but also played upon the instruments available at the time. So we had during the show original design harps including the bold and noisy bray harp. We had the fabulous alm…

Review of Feast Of Fools Storytelling #10 - Eamonn Keenan at the NN Cafe, Northampton

After two months of open mic nights, the Feast of Fools returned to a special guest night with Belfast Londoner Eamonn Keenan. However first up we were treated to a slight open mic night for a half hour warm up from familiar and in one case unfamiliar performers.

Opening the evening once again was the music of Richard York, this time again joined by Elizabeth York on the harp (which was to be used a little later in the evening as well to storytelling perfection). Richard York was also our host of the evening and gave us a comic and perfectly sneaky short tail of a shepherds sheep being missing. The perfect punchline that went down well with the assembled audience, even if I am sure the sheep wasn't impressed.

Our next teller was the new performer for the evening, her name Anne-Marie Sandos. A playful teller and as she informed us, usually a teller to children. So we were given big and bold telling painted with vast broad strokes, much like Feast regular Lisa Shepherd (and indeed s…