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Showing posts from 2017

Review of The Caretaker at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

Some other very wise person has probably described Harold Pinter as a marmite playwright, however, if they have I still claim it as my own and happily used it a few times, before, during the interval and after this new production of The Caretaker, from director Christopher Haydon (a co-production between Bristol Old Vic and Royal & Derngate). Pinter has a strange style which you clearly either get or don't. Since seeing his work first in 2013, with The Hothouse at Trafalgar Studios, I have come down in the first camp of "enjoying" his work. I have to be honest though in the fact that I have difficulty working out why.

The Caretaker is a prime example of the originality and oddness of Pinter, Aston meets a tramp, Davies, before the play opens, and brings him to "his" house and allows him to sleep there. Soon Mick arrives, Aston's younger brother and things become less clear of the status of these three. Over the course of two hours or so, characters are …

Review of Legally Blonde at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

As I settled down in my chair at the Derngate to see this touring production of the musical Legally Blonde, I generally had no idea what I was letting myself in for. Never having seen the film, read little up on the show, as is my want, and sitting in a clearly unbalanced gender demographic, this show was quite clearly not targeted at me.

As the opening number, a catchy, but the incredibly screechy song, Omigod You Guys was performed, I was not, let's say, won over at first. However, it was clear that this just served as an overwhelming and ridiculous setup to the boldness of the show. The second number, Serious was a much better experience and genuinely funny song and throughout the tracks to come, there was much better to come.

Our lead is Elle Woods (a charming, bubbly Lucie Jones), a typical caricatured blonde whose sole aim in life is to get the hand of her love in life Warner Huntingdon III (Liam Doyle). When he breaks up with her in pursuit of someone "serious" t…

Review of West Side Story at The Lighthouse Theatre, Kettering

Following an interesting journey, myself, Keith, Karl, Tarquin and three ladies (it was clearly a big car) arrived at Kettering to see the Theats production of the classic musical West Side Story. This was a number of firsts for me, with my first visit to The Lighthouse Theatre, the first time I had seen theatre group Theats and my first viewing of West Side Story.

Despite never having seen the classic musical before, I was overwhelmingly familiar with it through both the exceptional songs that come from it and the original Bard source. It is an extremely challenging show to stage I imagine with both the tasking songs and the famous dance routines that have cast its place in history.

For the most part, the amateur group Theats takes this challenge and wins, primarily with its casting of the two iconic leads Maria and Tony, in these roles Lauren Jones and Daniel Fortune form an exceptional partnership on stage and performing both their solos and duets with a confident ease. Lauren par…

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

This touring show from The Wardrobe Ensemble arrives at Northampton (a co-production location) with a substantial amount of success, proudly displaying on the programmes back cover ten review ratings featuring 43 stars from a possible 50. However not wishing to be swayed by such incredible past form, I settled in the Royal to attempt to form my own opinion of the situation blinkered as much as possible from the stars shining bright.

Education, Education, Education (henceforth known as Education. Phew!) is set on the day after the day before of Tony Blair and his New Labour sweeping to power in May 1997. We are in a "normal" comprehensive school as a new day, and a new hope dawns for the teachers and pupils alike. Flushed with this hope and a Eurovision win, things clearly will only get better. Or will they?

Education ticks a number of theatres loves for me early on, with superb use of music, sharp scene changes and best of all a quite brilliant series of movement pieces thro…

Review of Shirley Valentine at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

As we settled in the theatre ahead of the performance of this touring version of the, up to then unfamiliar to me, Shirley Valentine, I could not have realised that a slight inner-Valentine part of me, old before my time, had emerged. Making note of the far too loud pre-show music in the theatre was a typical old person thing to comment on, which verbally I tried to discuss over the aforesaid loud music with my company for the evening.

I feel it's a far point though, as this eighties written piece from Willy Russell was clearly mostly catering for a certain age group and therefore I suspect comment and thought of this music might not have just lain within my thoughts.

Fortunately, however, this minor issue was to be the lowest point of this highly entertaining evening and revival of Russell's well-regarded classic. Shirley is a tired and ill-appreciated housewife, preparing dinner for her working husband as she relays the conversation with both us and "wall" of the …

Review of The Railway Children at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

This touring production of the very classic E. Nesbit tale The Railway Children adapted by Dave Simpson and directed by Paul Jepson delivers perhaps everything that someone familiar with the original tale would desire.

Yes, in this modern age we are treated to the more flashy projection images which while a little unexciting at times (and occasionally diluted in clarity by the other stage lights) provide a pleasing background nonetheless.

This production of The Railway Children though is still very much of its time, nothing exciting really happens, other than some petticots being removed infront of a train, that we of course know is going to stop, even if we don't know the story. It's all very safe, and perhaps that is why it appears the modern audience has less interest in it judging by the shockingly small audience on opening night.

However, those not there are missing out on just a really lovely piece of gentle theatre, that while not without its faults, holds the interest…

Review of Make Way For Lucia by John Van Druten at The Playhouse Theatre, Northampton

There have been a couple of television versions of the Mapp & Lucia novels by E. F. Benson over the years and irrespective of which generation version you might have seen, the roles of Miss Mapp and Mrs. Lucas were filled with some heavyweight performers. So taking on these roles could, in theory, be a challenge too much to live up to. However, that would be if the characters themselves were less the sum of the performer. These are great characters on paper as well as on stage and therefore Gena McCrystal (Miss Mapp) and Juliet O'Connor (Lucia) make them very much their own in the stage adaption by John Van Druten.

Lucia has arrived and breezed both into the town of Tilling and the musical chair roundabout of house rental that is want to occur here. Her rented property is Miss Mapp's and for some reason, Mapp fails to follow the routine of keeping away, constantly "popping in", so the battle lines are drawn.
Make Way for Lucia is the typical battle of supremacy i…

Review of Rules For Living at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

It is possibly a rule in life for a few in the audience for the opening night of Sam Holcroft's domestic comedy Rules For Living not to mention Christmas until December. Therefore anyone of such a persuasion might have been a little perturbed to be presented on the 13th September with, an undeniably brilliantly dressed, homely Christmas scene.

Opening up in glorious dollhouse style and on a gorgeous little hinge, this little home of living room and kitchen sets the scene for a typical family Christmas. Mother Edith (Jane Booker) welcomes her sons, Matthew (Jolyon Coy) and Adam (Ed Hughes) and their respective partners, Carrie (Carlyss Peer) and Nicole (Laura Rogers) And with a final dramatic arrival of father Francis (Paul Shelley), the scene is very much set for comic antics of the highest calibre.

The first thing you get from Rules For Living in the first few minutes is the arrival of one of the most brilliant, yet simple concepts I have seen for a while in the play. These are …

Review of A Midsummer Night's Dream at Wicksteed Park, Kettering

I have seen three Shakespeare plays so far this year (and also Kiss Me Kate, if that counts) and rather uniquely every one of them has been outdoors, therefore upholding this pattern once more I headed off to Wicksteed Park for a little evening performance of perhaps what is regarded the Bard's most accessible play.

I hadn't seen A Midsummer Night's Dream before this Masque Theatre production, however, I had experienced a little of it at last years The Shakespeare Story Trail, so I had seen a Puck and The Mechanicals in another form.

Now, Shakespeare is a thing that I often appreciate rather than enjoy, and also admire if something a little different is attempted. Therefore this mad as a box of frogs production and indeed play was very much the most I have enjoyed Shakespeare. It is as was suggested a very accessible play, and for a first time viewing, the most I have been able to follow what is actually going on. This production, coming from the mega inventive brains (bu…

Camden Fringe Review: FEET by Emma And Lawrence Wrote A Play at Etcetera Theatre, London

While some issue plays tend to miss the point of providing fun and entertainment as well as making their point on a relevant issue, FEET is certainly not one of them. Written, produced, directed and performed by the two-person team of Emma And Lawrence Wrote A Play, this is clearly a labour of love of the two, full names Emma Brown and Lawrence Smith, it is fun and engaging throughout.

It's "issue" is loosely about selling your body for money or art and how far you might be willing to push it. Lucy Winwood (Emma Brown) is your typical young actress, struggling hard to get those money making roles, or roles in general, and in need of money she stumbles upon the world of feet fetishism (as you, of course, would) and slowly from just images of her feet sold online, it becomes feet in jelly and then finally personal meetings with clients for full on feet interaction.

The path that FEET takes is that is this denigration of your body in selling your feet actually worse than per…

Camden Fringe Review: The Invisible Condition by Last Word Theatre at Etcetera Theatre, London

It is perhaps worth going to the theatre to be educated as much as be entertained, and the Fringe like my home grew Flash Festival seem to have a lean towards plays wishing to make a point. The Invisible Condition from Last Word Theatre is very much one of those, its theme is mental health, and perhaps more specifically the NHS approach to it.

The play itself offers us to a certain extent the two sides of treatment, we have the psychologist (Anna Demetriuo) trying to deal with a problem through observation and discussion, and then we have the psychiatrist (James Pearse) who goes by the solution of throwing tablets at the patient.

While the whole piece is very worthy and putting over a tremendously important subject, The Invisible Problem gets bogged down in too many facts and ends up being more a series of case studies than a piece of theatre. This influx of data leaves it difficult for the audience to ever create much of an emotional connection with the numerous characters that the pe…

Review of Blodeu(w)edd Untold work in progress share at Royal & Derngate (Underground), Northampton

At the end of this presentation of a work in progress from local storyteller Jo Blake Cave, I commented to the poetic chap seated to my left about a conversation that I had some time ago about the desired style of delivery of a storyteller. Over the three years or so I have seen a few different ways it has to be said, and I always lean towards the more dynamic, animated style rather than, perhaps, the traditional style (if indeed there is one) of static delivery, where the words do all the work.

It was clear which side my left seated companion came down as in the interesting post-show discussion, he made his point very positively, and well made although perhaps it was clear from the assembled he was in the minority.

However, perhaps this is where you have to be careful about opening up a show in development to a rightfully opinionated public. As this show, is clearly a very personal one, and maybe, just maybe, it's teller must and only must put the show on the way she desires, as…