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Showing posts from June, 2016

Review of The Tempest (2nd preview) at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

I am going to be honest here and state that I had a touch of a Shakespeare relapse while watching The Tempest and was back at my, not fully understanding much of this, position. This however didn't detract from my absolute enjoyment of this brilliant piece of theatre. Channeling everything that I have loved over the years from the University performances, this National Youth Theatre production (part of the Made In Northampton season) brings vibrancy, energy and invention to Shakespeare's tale.

Rebecca Lenkiewicz's adaption and Caroline Steinbeis help make this as much a gem as the strong cast. While I have never seen The Tempest before, it is clear that at just two hours ten minutes with the interval, this is an abbreviated version of the play. While some purists might bulk at this, it makes it much more accessible for the passing audience, while retaining the story.

Those purists might also take some offence at some of the changes made to the characters and situations as …

Review of Sara Pascoe: Animal at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

I like Sara Pascoe a lot. There is something really endearing and innocent about her storytelling and performance. Even when she is talking about, and even demonstrating hand jobs.

This is only Sara's second tour and having had the pleasure of seeing her first last year, I am happy to see the style remains the same. Her stuttering, sometimes hesitant delivery really works for me, as it's a nice change from the often over confident feeling performers, who sometimes alienate rather than charm. There is also an apparent (but unneeded) wariness of interacting with the audience which facinates. Animal is a heavily prepared affair, that at mere mention of Winston Churchill and his history in India from the audience threatens to derail at any moment. However while Sara at first seems unsure how hatred of Tony Blair has moved her into one audience members loathing of Churchill, she eventually makes it work excellently, even slotting it perfectly into the arrival of latecomers expertly…

Review of Show Boat at New London Theatre, London

One of the greatest theatre travesty's for 2015 for me was the spectacularly brilliant Anything Goes ending its tour early, despite a company of exceptional talent delivering an incredibly entertaining show it closed four months early. Sadly after watching Show Boat in London this week, I have probably found this years theatre travesty. Yet another show from the obvious talent of production that is Sheffield Theatres is destined for early closure, again by four months, a cruel pattern. True it will have had four months run in London when it finishes, however a production as brilliant as this deserves to run and run.

There is some suggestion that part of Show Boat's early closure is the fact that it doesn't have a "star" in its line-up. In this "star" wording, we are looking at those from television delights like the soaps or X-Factor that would bring the people in their droves, apparently. However Show Boat does have in my opinion far better stars, thir…

Review of the University Of Northampton BA (Hons) Acting Graduate Showcase 2016 at Tristan Bates Theatre, London

For the second year running, I was honoured to be invited to the Graduate Showcase in the heart of London, at which this years BA Actors made their final appearance together. These were the third group that I have been able to follow to the end, and the group I had spent the longest following, so it was emosh for all of us.

Our venue this year was the Tristan Bates Theatre within The Actors Centre at Covent Garden. I have to admit that personally I wasn't particularly struck on the venue, the studio space was a little dingy and a tad strong on the echo. However venue is second, the talent at it was key, and like previous years this group have been of a tremendous standard.

This year the format of the showcase, under director Simon Cole, had been tweaked a little and the snippets of the actors Flash pieces had been dispensed with in favour of longer pieces from seventeen plays. This year I had actually seen two of the plays featured; Citizenship this year at Connections, and Rainbo…

Review of What The Butler Saw at the Playhouse Theatre, Northampton

What The Butler Saw was my first encounter with the works of Joe Orton, and based on this I very much look forward to seeing more of his work on stage. Frantically insane, saucy and more importantly incredibly funny, this is a wicked little treat of a play. It helps that Masque have created a particularly lively version of it as well on the compact little Playhouse stage. It includes also a few quite lovely performances as well. Although it has to be said that others didn't quite get the best out of some incredibly funny dialogue moments.

Butler is a play that you take an open mind to, as even to this day almost fifty years after is debut the content could be considered fruity and a tad controversial. It does however never feel offensive, even when we have Churchill's appendages, rape, golliwogs and near nudity on offer. Quite a night at the theatre there.

The six strong cast show no inhibitions, especially the two ladies Lisa Shepherd (Geraldine Barclay), Nicky Osborne (Mrs P…

Review of Housebound & Another Fine Mess at The Playhouse Theatre, Northampton (White Cobra Productions)

The two companion pieces of Another Fine Mess and Housebound from White Cobra Productions provided a diverting and entertaining couple of hours of entertainment at the Playhouse Theatre. The feature piece is Another Fine Mess from Gillian Plowman, however the pre-interval short Housebound from Simon Mawdesley is an equally captivating play, if not quite such a socially conscience one. Both plays star White Cobra founders Richard Jordan and Kate Billingham, with Another Fine Mess also starring Paul Fowler (who also directs Housebound).

Housebound is dark in concept but high in comic pleasure as the very briefly masked Bone (Richard Jordan) takes the posh Fiona (Kate Billingham) captive in her home of fine furniture, splendid carpets and resident wasps. Without doubt Housebound suffers in these early stages of being a little under rehearsed with a little hesitation obvious at times from the performers. I think also there was still some development needed to strengthen the characters. It…

Review of Soul at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

A few professional critics have had quite a bit of a downer on the new play Soul by Roy Williams exploring the hidden story behind the death of great Marvin Gaye. Their bugbear, the lack of his original music within the play. One even resorted to giving Soul a two star rating. However with all due respect to their opinion, as that is what a critic at the end is doing every time, they are clearly wrong to take this single omission and use it to beat this singularly brilliant play with it. There was enough explanation of lack of music ahead of debut and any professional critic would have seen it. Soul is not about Gaye's music, it is about his life, and his eventual tragic death.

I have had one experience with Roy Williams' work before, Days Of Significance, and I freely admit it was one of the most vicious and hideously repellent plays I have seen. Oh how different Soul is, a gorgeously worked piece, filled with heart and love of the story it is depicting. Told through the eyes…

Review of Chicago at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

It is wrong I know, but I always get a thrill of excitement when I hear that we have an understudy on. With the exception of trips to London, I rarely attend a theatre production with the sole intent of seeing a star. Indeed for the most part if that it a "star" of shows like Britain's Got Talent or The X-Factor, I am sadly rarely impressed. Yes that may feel like a snobby comment, however I much prefer my theatre performers to have more theatre credits than television appearances and certainly not just a list of talent shows they have appeared on.

However I have seriously digressed and the cause of this was the announcement at the start of my viewing of the touring production of Chicago that Lindsey Tierney would be playing the role of Roxie Hart instead of Emmerdale star and winner of ITV's Dancing On Ice, Hayley Tamaddon. Obviously I cannot comment on Tamaddon, but as understudy, Lindsey Tierney was one of the highlights of the show. Confident with a strong stage …