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Showing posts from September, 2016

Northampton Theatre Preview - October 2016

As the nights have started to draw in and the click of thermostats reactivate the central heating across the town, October is perhaps never a better time to get reacquainted with your local theatres. Therefore let us dig deep and see what thrills there are out there.

Still time to catch
As we move into October, there are still a few more opportunities to see the magical Chitty Chitty Bang Bang take to the sky at Royal & Derngate. This blockbuster show with a starry cast has been thrilling audiences not only in Northampton, but all over the country this year and you have until Sunday to catch her before she takes flight.

Free fun
Also opening the month of October with a bang at the Royal & Derngate is the annual Fun Palaces event. This is a weekend of totally free events for all the family with both bookable and drop-in features. Try your hand at puppetry, storytelling, singing, drawing, and much more in a relaxed and always fun environment over the weekend of 1st and 2nd from 10…

Review of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

I have seen a few touring shows of extremely well known shows like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and a few have been quite a disappointment. Producers sitting back happy to sell the tickets on the name of a show, and deliver on stage not necessarily a terrible production, but one that sometimes never really leaves you feeling you have got value for your money.

Music & Lyrics/West Yorkshire Playhouse's Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is far from one of them. An exemplary and large cast, costumes both in multitude and wonderful to look at, a set of infinite invention and a hidden but quality and large orchestra.

Perhaps more importantly this show also doesn't fail on its casting of "stars" over stage talent, for in the lead is Jason Manford as Caractacus Potts, an artist known for his comedy more than his acting history, and certainly little known for his singing ability, is a revelation. Likable, dominant on stage with clear characterisation and an amazingly strong voice, most …

Review of Moonlight And Magnolias at The Playhouse Theatre, Northampton

I have a confession to make from the outset here, I have neither read or have any recollection of ever having seen the movie Gone With The Wind. Incredible for sure for such a classic, but I feel certain that if I had watched a four hour film at any point in my life, I might have remembered it.

This allowed me to feel the pain of the conscripted screenwriter Ben Hecht (Jof Davies), who hasn't read the book, as producer David O Selznick (Graham Follett) and Victor Fleming (Victor Guse) attempt to bring the novel to life in front of him. There are times that writer Ron Hutchinson perhaps makes Moonlight and Magnolias a little too wordy, however it does make the shear panic of the five day script writing our pain as well as those trapped in this cramped office with no other company than bananas, peanuts and occasional startled visits from Selznick's confused assistant Miss Poppenguhl (a nice performance of descending panic from Kate Ellis).

It's a fun and chaotic play based, …

Review of Dead Sheep at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

Recent political turmoils have been kind to Jonathan Maitland's biting and tremendously witty Dead Sheep. As 52% duked it out with 48%, it became the perfect modern metaphor of the lead protagonists of Dead Sheep, Margaret Thatcher (Steve Nallon) and Geoffrey Howe (Paul Bradley). It all appeared to have fell perfectly for this touring production.

Winding back a year and a half to Dead Sheep's debut in London, this play perhaps might have felt a little under appreciated. However, I think it is clear that this script has been doctored, like maybe many political papers of the past, to garner as much mileage from events since. There feels maybe much heavier undertones from the Europe material, that might not have originally got the same response. Mentions of a possible breakaway Euro skeptic party and Howe's line of the British public not being trusted to make the right decision especially, with the latter having quite a response from the audience of the night.
Bradley and Nal…

Review of A Tale Of Two Cities (First Preview) at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

The James Dacre directed production of Mike Poulton's adaption of Charles DIckens' classic novel is as important to me as any play that I have seen. A bold statement, however on the 1st March, 2014 when I first saw it in the Royal & Derngate, it was the first play I had seen in the building for 21 years (that being The Invisible Man with a certain Sylvester McCoy, which I randomly still have the poster for). I was frankly amazed and absorbed from my aisle seat in row B. Because of this, I returned and returned again and have since seen well over two hundred plays at various venues in the town and have been sucked into theatre in many other ways beyond an audience member.

Having the chance to see it again as it sets off on a very well deserved tour was a wonderful opportunity, and no better way for me to open my 2016/17 season at the Royal & Derngate. Adaptor Mike Poulton has done a very good job in bringing Dickens' bold and epic story to the stage and with the wor…

Review of The Same Faces - 27th August, 2016 at The Black Prince, Northampton

My one and only other previous experience of live improv was in the hands of the venerable Mischief Theatre team and a performance of Lights! Camera! Improvise! in London in 2015. It was a heck of an evening to see them weave a movie from a mixture of inputs from the audience, and was quite a team for The Same Faces to follow.

Founded by Tom Young, The Same Faces have been performing in Leicester and Northampton for a number of years and have swelled their ranks of performers to allow a huge amount of variety to not only the show but those bringing it to the stage. For my first encounter with the group, the performers I was to see were Tom Young himself who was joined by Dave Gotheridge, Jen Kenny, Thomas Lawrence and Becky Moore and musician David Burton. The format is simple, through a series of games the audience provide key ingredients to allow the performers to bring the stage alive with their impulsive talent. These can vary from the very simple addition of numbers or colours, to…