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Showing posts from July, 2016

Review of Market Boy by The Royal & Derngate Actors Company at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

I have now written a little over two hundred and fifty reviews on this blog (yes I know, amazing. I am sorry). Most shows I have enjoyed, many I have given four star reviews, a good number have also got that lofty five stars from me. There is however hiding among them five star reviews, another tier of brilliance. One that lies in my head, where everything comes together to go beyond that five, but where I have nothing left to give. The play, the performances, the staging, and perhaps even more to elevate what is a personal opinion as a review, an actual personal emotional feeling or connection towards the piece.
Market Boy written by David Eldridge and performed by the Royal & Derngate Actors Company will (spoiler intended) receive five stars from me at the end of this review. However as that first paragraph suggests, this was one of those that went a little further for me. Set in what I happily claim as my decade and featuring throughout the music of that decade, which I claim …

Review of Wind In The Willows by Looking Glass Theatre at St Peter's Church (Outdoors), Northampton

More possible years have passed than I wish to imagine since my last encounter with Kenneth Grahame's classic tale of the adventures (or misadventures) of a collection of lively, disturbingly human like animals. However as I watched James Smith's new stage adaptation of the tale, many things came swiftly back to me. Here was the classic messing about in the river line, there was the famous "Poop! Poop!", and there was Toad pretending to be a washer woman. The whole thing was pretty much back, if a little abridged to fit into its seventy minute running time.

That is not to say that this is a straight adaption for the stage, as it is at times more like a pantomime version of the story (albeit one without any "he's behind you!" business) in its absolute silliness. This is much in keeping of what you tend to get from Looking Glass in any case, a relaxed telling of a classic tale. It's what they are best at and it is very much not broke, so why try to br…

Review of Oliver! by R&D Youth Theatre at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

Two years ago this week, I saw for the first time the older faction of the Royal & Derngate Youth Theatre perform Sweeney Todd (I had seen one month before the younger part create the delightful Honk!). While a quite brilliant level of standard has continued in their productions since, nothing has quite reached that optimum point of Sweeney for me. Oliver! is their latest production and this epic scale show merges all of the age groups together to create a spellbinding piece of youthful and lively theatre that is rightfully packing the auditorium like no R&D youth show before.

I have to say straight up that Oliver! does not beat the legend that is Sweeney for me, however it comes as close as we have ever been to doing so. A lot of this perhaps is down to my personal taste and Sweeney's two stunning leads, which have yet to be bettered. The macabre nature of Sweeney also gelled with me and Lionel Bart's tale, despite being packed with more known tunes than seems possibl…

Review of Blood Brothers (the play) by Moulton Players at Moulton Theatre, Northampton

Willy Russell's Blood Brothers was the very first musical that I saw live and to see the show minus this music seemed an impossible thought. This was despite the fact that Russell's story of two twins separated at birth is even minus that music a tremendous roller coaster of emotion. I have to admit that for sometime during the early part of the play I was frankly missing the music, even though the integral Marilyn Monroe song is present at the start of both acts. However mostly due to the strength of many of the performances in this production, I was finally able to get into the happy/sad story once again.

At its centre is the turmoil of the life of Mrs Johnstone (a quite brilliant Katie Bunting), dispenser of seemingly endless babies which comes to a head with the news that one is to become two new babes to feed and the eventual events that leave one of them in the hands of Mrs Lyons (Barbara Jackson).


Blood Brothers is a challenging time travelling story progressing through…

Review of The Killing Of Sister George at The Playhouse Theatre, Northampton

The Playhouse Theatre's The Killing Of Sister George offers to me the most unique review challenge yet as I have followed the creation process unlike any other, having had the privilege to watch a number of rehearsals. Seeing it from relatively early days of book in hand, to book down and to the penultimate dress rehearsal, I have seen it at at some very dramatic times. No one will disagree either that the final time I saw it, just one rehearsal away from going live in front of a paying audience, there was much still to refine. This review is of the fourth night and I will disregard as best as possible what I saw during rehearsals (with one very important exception).

Written in 1964 by Frank Marcus, Sister George was an exceptionally controversial play at its time with its suggestions that its lead characters are in a lesbian relationship, still illegal at the time. The play itself is subtle in its telling, however the 1968 film is much more explicit, capitalising no doubt from th…

Review of Feast Of Fools Storytelling #15 - Kevin Walker at the NN Cafe, Northampton

As across the country Andy Murray continued to be British and Wales returned to being Welsh again, the fifteenth Feast of Fools and the final before the summer break battled against these outside influences to fill its seats. Those that stayed at home on this night though, were to miss the delight that was this months guest Kevin Walker as he took to the NN Cafe stage (or not as he rather delightfully stayed with us at audience level).


Kevin Walker is the kind of teller that places you in the palm of his hand, calmly soothes you with his words, pats you on the head, tickles you under the chin, and then all of a sudden says totally unexpectedly the word "penis". This isn't to suggest that anything particularly vulgar was going on, however for the whole evening we had that perfect blend of traditional stories laced with just the perfect edge of adult subject to make it all just rather brilliant for a grown-up audience.

The penis in question (a first for me to write that I …

Review of The Planets: An HD Odyssey by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

I very nearly wasn't at The Planets, as following a tremendous lack of understanding of the popularity of the show, less than two weeks before show night, I was without ticket and languishing upon the sold out waiting list. However the stars (or planets) aligned and a precious seat, and a good one, became available. Therefore when I wasn't in the Derngate foyer being mistaken as staff and asked about food options or help to carry peoples instruments, I sat transfixed in my seat in row N.

The line-up for this show was what I happily described as my desert island classical selection, all well known to me, all favourites. As well as Holst's The Planets themselves, we had a warm-up pre-interval act which featured Richard Strauss' Also Sprach Zarathustra, Johann Strauss II's Blue Danube, Toccata And Fugue In D Minor from Bach, Beethoven's Symphony No.7 Allegretto and John Williams' Star Wars main theme. Possibly a few of the names might not be familiar to you, h…