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Showing posts from April, 2016

Review of The Shakespeare Story Trail from Royal & Derngate, Northampton

The Shakespeare Story Trail from Royal & Derngate and written and directed by Erica Martin with stellar production from Helen Gibb, was a tour de force, as through elaborately organised perfection we traversed Northampton. We visited thirteen different locations within Northampton town centre, and following a coach trip, in Abington Park, this was a delight of not only street theatre, but interactive and education as well.

Our hosts for the event were William Shakespeare (Davin Eadie) and his mischievous fairy, Puck (Keith Maddern). William is suffering writers block working on his play and needs some inspiration so he invites us to journey with him around the town for wonderful ideas. So via Northampton Castle, Hazelrigg House, Market Square, Royal & Derngate and ending at Abington Park, we meet many a character from the bards tales and stories from history.

Those thinking that this was just a walking tour (as was my companion of the day) were in for a big surprise. Throughou…

Review of The James Plays at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

There is no question that over the course of the six plus hours it takes to watch The James Plays, you are never far from having immense enjoyment and regard for the work being performed. However at times during the three plays, it can tend to feel that you are more witness to an "experience" more than three perfect plays. The James Plays are very much an event and one which while you could maybe just attend one of, actually works better seeing all three. However that takes a great deal of commitment from the audience and therefore needs to be rewarded.

The James Plays are written by Rona Munro, whose only other work I have encountered was rather fascinatingly a Doctor Who story twenty-seven years ago about human sized cats. I kid you not. Telling the story across the three plays of each of the first three King James of Scotland, from the warrior like James I, onward to the childhood times of James II, onto eventually the frankly madcap antics of James III. The contrast of t…

Review of Calling For Help! at the Playhouse Theatre, Northampton

The subtitle of Calling For Help is Man Vs Mother-In-Law, however I can't help but think that this is a slight disservice to this genuinely entertaining and fun play. That subtitle brings up connotations of wicked little Bob Monkhouse or Les Dawson jokes, whereas in reality the family relationship portrayed between the characters Rachel and Sean is really rather sweet. The versus bit really comes mostly from the machinations of the call centre business, where much of the play is set.

We are first witness to Rachel (Caroline Nash) and Sean (Oli Leonard) long before the play gets underway. Rachel is stalking around the theatre and bar area with Sean kept at heel, welcoming the other call centre staff, us. For this is indeed an interactive play, indeed one of the most I have yet experienced. As the play progresses, the scenes within in the call centre always involve in some way the audience. Selected members of the audience even get given a name via a lanyard with badge and a designa…

Review of Urinetown The Musical by Miss:CREATES at the Castle Theatre (Studio), Wellingborough

I first saw Urinetown in London in November 2014 as an add-on for a trip to see another show (best not to comment on that one) and it was one of the easiest five stars I have ever awarded on this blog. An absolute joy from beginning to end, with super intelligent writing and some of the very best musical numbers you could want. It is the musical soundtrack that I have listened to by far the most since and remains up there in my favourite shows ever.

Therefore by fortune on a previous trip to the Castle, I spotted a flyer for the Miss:CREATES version of the show coming up and without question I knew I had to see it again. I also knew that other people needed to see beyond the title and theme and see it as I knew they would not regret it. So a social media campaign began to plug, plug and plug the show. Sadly no many fell for the bait, but that is unquestionably their loss.

However, could an amateur version of the show being performed in the small studio Castle Theatre live up to the st…

Review of Feast Of Fools Storytelling #12 - Open Mic Night at the NN Cafe, Northampton

It was birthday time at the NN Cafe as Feast of Fools became a year old. A relatively small (guys come to open mics they are great), but enthusiastic crowd were present to see the eight performers on the evening.

Our host for the first half was Richard York who welcomed us to the evening with a none too offensive blast on his bagpipes before spiraling into a number of thanks for those who made the first year such a success. After this he gave a tale of a bag filled with torn up tales. It was all great fun to get the evening going. This was promptly followed by two lovely songs from Theresa Kelleher, the second of which was especially quite amazing.

For birthday night we had just the one new performer, however what a new performer. Lynette Hill gave us a quite magical tale of her gran's adventures with her ducks, Cuff and Link. Funny, uplifting and endlessly entertaining. It was quite a debut.

We needed a great star to follow that. We got Dave Blake. I have to say I frequently zone…

Review of The Importance Of Being Earnest performed by The Masque Theatre at the Playhouse Theatre, Northampton

It is still a relatively rare event that I venture into the theatre environment knowing the play that I am about to see. However last evening for my latest trip to the wonderfully cute playhouse, Oscar Wilde's The Importance Of Being Earnest was one of those rare occasions. The latest Masque production, directed by Robert Kendall with a lively flair on the compact stage was once again going to provide a hugely enjoyable evening.

The Importance Of Being Earnest is an endlessly funny play of confusion, social commentary and farce, revolving around fake relations and false names which needs seeing rather than explaining.

Our opening characters are Algernon Moncrieff (Robin Armstrong) and his manservant Lane (a suitably droll Craig Macpherson). They comfortably set the scene of a typical upper class environment, with Robin a gloriously precise deliverer of his lines, eater of muffins and cucumber sandwiches. He also has a particularly perfect timing for the most rude and comical lines…

Review of Priscilla - Queen Of The Desert at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

You watch Hairspray. You watch Last Night A DJ Saved Your Life. You watch Xanadu. You think that campometer has absolutely no other levels. Then you sit down and watch Priscilla - Queen Of The Desert and realise that you have only been watching the pretenders to the crown. Emblazoned with fifty shades of pink, the loud and proud Priscilla is like nothing else ever witnessed and to be absolutely frank, it really is quite brilliant.

Following the removal of the giant lipstick prop and the rousing overture, complete with a bedazzling light display courtesy of the strategically placed glitter balls. We head straight into the buzzing musical numbers with the full company performance of Downtown. It also gives lead Duncan James (Tick/Mitzi) his first chance to get down to his pants, much to the delight of a great many of the crowd. It was clear he had been working out, quite offensively so to be honest. Getting changed on stage into one of the many and frankly ridiculous, but always enterta…

Review of King Lear (First preview) at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

Review of first preview.

It is not quite the done thing to review a preview, however I do feel that as long as it is made absolutely clear and signposted (up there, look!), we can get away with it. It does help though if like King Lear, it already feels an incredibly polished affair.

Continuing the Royal & Derngate's busy Shakespeare 400th anniversary season, King Lear is an early twentieth century themed update on perhaps the Bard's greatest tragedy. Directed by Max Webster, who recently worked on the stunning and incredibly different The Lorax, this is at all times faithful but also suitably dynamic enough to work for a modern audience. Designer Adrian Linford has provided a visually simple set (never has the slope of the Royal looked more menacing) for the performance to play out on, allowing the actors to come to the front.

This is where the true brilliance of this production of King Lear is shown. Fourteen actors all virtually at the top of their game bring the consta…

Review of The (Almost) Complete History Of Britain by The Pantaloons at The Castle Theatre, Wellingborough

It became very apparent quite quickly during History Of Britain that to get full value from the experience, it would be worth regressing to childhood. Targeted at all, but with quite a lean towards the younger members of the audience, I switched off thirty years of life and found it much easier to chortle at The Pantaloons.

Dressed in paint speckled dungarees, the four performers are present in the theatre long before the show is ready to begin. Running through the foyer and mingling with the audience in the stalls selling their programmes, this is already a pretty entertainingly silly night before it begins. Our four performers Edward Ferrow, Kelly Griffiths, Neil Jennings and Alex Rivers have infectiously exuberant personalities and no matter how bad the jokes they throw at us get, you often can't help but have a little chuckle.

The writers responsible are Mark Hayward and Stephen Purcell, who also direct. They drag us through the history of Britain missing out vast amounts of it…