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Showing posts from March, 2016

Review of A Swan In The Attic at the Playhouse Theatre, Northampton

Major spoilers are contained within this review.

Having fully adopted myself into the amateur theatre realm of shows in Northampton and now knowing a few of the people involved, it was perhaps inevitable at some point that I might have the awkwardness of writing a slightly poorer review where I knew people involved. However I have backed myself into this corner, so I shall have to bite the bullet and fight my way out.

A Swan in the Attic written and directed by Weekes Baptiste is sadly one of those slightly problematic plays, although not in this case with the performances. These I felt were in general nicely done from April Pardoe as lead Gloria through to the mad antics of Jake Abbott's Doll. April on stage for much of the show and with a significantly larger role than I have seen her perform before is confident throughout. However the play itself takes so many odd turns it often feels very difficult to follow their characters progression.

It truly is a difficult play to get a h…

Review of Welcome To Thebes - University Of Northampton BA Actors at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

Following the rather poor play in the form of Days Of Significance (and a little bit of minor social media storm), I am happy to say that the third and final outing from this years third year uni shows was a much greater success. This despite the fact that Greek themed plays are well down in my own personal favourites.

Written by Moira Buffini, Welcome To Thebes is an exploration of an encounter between the wealthy state of Athens under leadership of Theseus (Vandreas Marc) and the substantially poorer Thebes of the title under command of Eurydice (Sharni Tapako-Brown). Lurking in the background are Prince Tydeus (Charlie Clee) and lover Pargeia (Kathryn McKerrow) seeking to snatch power through their own stirred up anarchy.

The direction from Eva Sampson is for me the best of the three plays, superbly whipping the audience into the world of Thebes with opening tension in the stalls of the Royal. Three soldiers; Megaera (Madeleine Hagerty), Scud (Daniel Gray) and Sergeant Miletus (Pat…

Review of Days Of Significance - University Of Northampton BA Actors at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

Following the emotional trauma of Blue Stockings, for my second play from the University of Northampton's third years, it would have been nice to have a gentle cool down. Days Of Significance telling the story of love lives and their own fears for a future on the front line in Iraq was not to provide it. Never in my experience so far have I been welcomed to a play with such aggressive and upfront material as this from Roy Williams. A barrage of F words, a minor mortar of a prosthetic penis hanging limply from an actors trousers and then an artillery shell of C words to make sure the enemy/audience is totally wiped out. I am quite frankly not surprised that an elderly couple did leave the show relatively early in the first half as despite our understanding that this was a war themed play, we were little prepared for the "Battle Of Bridge Street" opening, to give it a local theme.

Fortunately myself, while not likely to partake in verbals to this extreme, rarely, maybe nev…

Review of Blue Stockings - University Of Northampton BA Actors at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

So once again another year comes round, now my third, as the final group performances take place of the third year actors. Following these actors is always a pleasure like following our children (without any of the monetary implications) prepare to enter the big bad world. This group is particular poignant to me more than the previous two, as 719 days ago I had the pleasure of seeing their first public performance at the Holy Sepulchre Church and followed them through all their performances to these final shows before the Flash dissertations in May.

The first of the three shows for me was Blue Stockings by Jessica Swale. This tells the powerful story of four young woman's educational battle to gain the right to graduate with their degree at Girton College, Cambridge. Set in 1896 also allows the turmoil of the ongoing women's suffrage movement to make its mark. All is set for a heady mix of thought provoking drama.

Playing the four ladies and all on tremendous form are Lucy Kit…

Review of They Came From Mars (Farndale Avenue) at The Playhouse Theatre, Northampton

"They Came From Mars and landed outside the Farndale Avenue Church in time for the townswomen's guild's coffee morning" is probably the longest play title out there and currently I reckon the strangest play that I have seen. Having said that and with no prior knowledge of what the play entailed, it turned out that it was much more familiar to me than I first thought.

Written by David McGillivray and Walter J Zerlin Jnr, They Came From Mars is part of a series of plays otherwise known as Farndale Avenue. They centre around a women's guild attempts of producing a play despite a general lack of everything including sets, props, abilities to act and men.

Not long into the play and after a gloriously entertaining audience participation introduction from Mrs Reece (Adrian Wyman) it slowly became clear to me that I had seen many of the ideas before. It is true that Mischief Theatre through their two Goes Wrong plays have refined a failed production to both timing and phys…

Review of The Perfect Murder at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

I first saw Peter James' The Perfect Murder about two years ago at Milton Keynes Theatre and for some unknown reason, despite enjoy its dark comedy quite a bit, I never committed a review to page. So I felt having now seen it again with a near brand new cast at my home theatre, I thought I better write a few words.

Based upon James' novella of the same name, adaptor Shaun McKenna has created a funny, frivolous and divertingly entertaining two hour comedy thriller. It is never going to challenge the cerebral matter much, but it offers plenty of fun and just a small amount of intrigue.

When I first saw the play two years ago, Les Dennis and Claire Goose took on the roles and very much made them their own. Dennis was a revelation to me and Goose was everything I wanted (the reason I was there to be honest, as I am a big fan). Filling these roles this time are Shane Ritchie and Jessie Wallace, an all too familiar pairing if you are an Eastenders viewer. They fill the roles well cr…

Review of The Yeomen Of The Guard performed at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton by the Northampton Gilbert & Sullivan Group

My first and only encounter to date with a live Gilbert & Sullivan production came with last years The Mikado from the Northampton G&S Group and this year I was back for their 2016 production a little more aware of what to expect. I knew a small amount about The Mikado before seeing the show, however The Yeomen Of The Guard was utterly unknown territory to me, and this was much how I preferred to find my theatre.

At the outset during a very long overture much of the cast gathers upon the stage and goes about their washing, spinning and bread making business while a couple of yeomen guard a prisoner, Colonel Fairfax (Phil Abbott), rather cleverly appears at both theatre boxes during the intro giving equal opportunity to the audience members to observe his exercising and flexing his muscles. Also being very observant of the Colonel is Phoebe (Georgia Grande), daughter of yeomen of the guard Sergeant Meryll (Mike Gray). The opening song When Maiden Loves sung wonderfully by Grand…

Les Misérables: School Edition at the Cripps Hall Theatre, Northampton

Up until seeing Les Misérables this week, I regarded it as the best musical that I had never seen live. It has without doubt in At The End Of The Day and Master Of The House two of my favourite musical songs, this coupled with several others, an interesting story and some real rich characters make it just the almost perfect show. I would personally say that the best of the music is done and dusted before the interval, however as a whole package it is one of the best. Therefore when I heard just a month or so that just up the road I could experience my first live production, I obviously jumped at the chance.

Presented by Northampton School for Boys with a twenty-one strong orchestra and a massive cast of sixty to provide all the relevant roles of beggars convicts and prostitutes, this is clearly a very big enterprise. From the outset it is also obvious that a lot of work has got into the production with a lifting powerful opening, including the chain gangs appearance via the side theat…

Review of NMPAT Orchestra Spectacular 2016 at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

I first saw the Northamptonshire Music and Performing Arts Trust (NMPAT) on my first Theatreversary last year and being also my first live orchestra music concert it had quite a profound effect upon me. Now several concerts under my belt it is true that the initial impact has gone, however without doubt there is still quite a thrill from seeing a full orchestra in action. Perhaps even more so, seeing three young groups in development such as in these shows.

Once again the format under the guidance of host Peter Smalley, took us through the three burgeoning orchestras. First the Junior Orchestra, followed by the Training and then finally after the interval the full County Youth Orchestra. Again they took us and the full audience through a collection of familiar and not so familiar tunes, this time based around the loose theme of travelling around the world.

First up was The Children Of The Regiment by Julius Fucik and it was a rousing way to begin the evening. The Junior orchestra are …

Review of Richard Herring: Happy Now? at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

Long before the show started last night there was something that slightly felt wrong to me. On the stage was the quite usual projection of our star of the night, this time an apparently contented family pose. What differed from all the previous stand ups I had seen though was a quote: "At the very top of his" The Scotsman. Now I had happily used my money to purchase a ticket and was seated for the show, I needed at that point no sales pitch, in my mind it just seemed weird to have it up there on the screen.

However putting aside such wayward thoughts I was ready to see Richard Herring's stand up for the first time. Originally part of a double with Stewart Lee, Herring has become a huge success on the comedy circuit with Happy Now? his twelfth show in as many years. He must be doing something right? Sadly for me after the show, I wasn't entirely sure what it was.

Unlike the recent comedy shows I have seen, Happy Now? is a tremendously rigid performance based on his ne…

Review of Feast Of Fools Storytelling #11 - Sarah Rundle at the NN Cafe, Northampton

A bustling and rowdy crowd had gathered for the eleventh Feast Of Fools evening and it was all very apt for Sarah Rundle's telling of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

DRINK!
Our introduction to the evening once again came from Richard York and together with Elizabeth they spirited us into the past with their ye olde instruments including that wonderful herdy gurdy again. The second half even included what was described as some medieval jamming (comment copyright Mrs Blake).
However the star of the evening and the one and only teller, was Sarah Rundle. Bounding onto the stage, dressed casually, telling us little of what a night we were in for. However for over ninety minutes and the longest evening of FoF yet, we sat, as is withing her palm entranced by a lively, relevant telling of the ancient tale of Gawain.
Made into a tremendously modern tale while maintaining the flavour of its origin, we were offered broadsides into quite brilliant PowerPoint presentations, a random reference …

Review of Katherine Ryan: Katebum at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

Just over a week after my first experience of stand-up in the Derngate, I was back and fearful that another avenue of theatre was opening up before me like a great chasm in my wallet. Katherine Ryan just like Ed Byrne was familiar to me only though TV panel shows, so once again unshackled from the constraints of TV it would be interesting to see what was up.

It was as it turned out going to be a while before I was to see what was up, the other side of the interval in fact. As I was this night to experience my first ever support act. Mr Stephen Bailey at the very least prepared me well for Ryan's act, as we had some of the more gay offensive jokes you could ever wish to hear, enough to curl the tongs of some curling tongs no doubt. I wasn't bothered in the slightest as I don't get offended by material, I generally just get annoyed if its offensive through laziness. Bailey however is clever, funny and impressively relaxed with his audience. It must take great skill and indee…

Review of Broken by Motionhouse at The Castle Theatre, Wellingborough

When I first investigated Motionhouse's Broken via its vivid trailer, it felt as if it could offer some fascinating stage work familiar to that of Frantic Assembly, which I truly wanted to see more of. Therefore I found myself in the main theatre at Wellingborough for the very first time last week to see what was going to be quite a show.

The first thing to say is that Motionhouse is in reality a very different beast to the work of Frantic Assemby, happily plowing its own rich reserves of contemporary dance, where as Frantic builds a story around physical motion. What artistic director Kevin Finnan brings to the stage is a world travelling a path of early human evolution through to a potential collapse as we reach at the end a cataclysmic event. Well that is what it feels like, as much like a painting, the audience might get many feelings and emotions from the scenes depicted. In the early cave scenes we appear to have dancing amoebas as life begins. Then we progress through to ca…