Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from March, 2017

Review of Dizzy Boo (White Cobra) at The Playhouse Theatre, Northampton

Having had the pleasure of seeing six previous and all excellent productions from White Cobra, it is perhaps inevitable one day that one might eventually disappoint. Setting a standard so high means that anything other than excellent feels below par. Sadly their new show Dizzy Boo fails to hit the spot. Not so much in the performances, as White Cobra have once again assembled their excellent company of actors who have yet to be a letdown, it is more that the play itself by Brian Wright seems a little unsure of itself at times.

Set in Saxons Mead housing estate, the play centres around the sale of Nick (Fraser Haines) and Donna's (Kate Billingham) house following his discovery that things may not stay the same forever on the homes overlook of meadows. Add into the mix some roaming immigrants escaped from a lorry and some musical numbers and you have a curious mix between comedy and tough drama.

This mix is at times where some of the problems lie as although the best plays balance b…

Review of Patience performed at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton by the Northampton Gilbert & Sullivan Group

There is the distinct possibility that Gilbert & Sullivan has the potential to become one of my more curious favourites. I have never been an immense fan of opera itself, although never having seen one live, the potential is perhaps still there. However G&S appears to be in a strange world between opera and musical that strangely appeals. It is perhaps the shear silliness of the stories they tell, and now having seen three, the perhaps familiarity of what you are going to get, that makes them interesting.

It was abundantly clear on the evening I saw it, that I generally didn't fit the average viewer of G&S age wise, with it feeling more than ever like a pensioners night out, with just a small scattering of us under forties (of which I have the pleasure of writing for just two more months). It is a shame though because I am sure the younger populace would have enjoyed this little show a fair bit as well.

Patience or Bunthorne's Bride tells the story of the rivalry be…

Review of Vinegar Tom - University Of Northampton BA Actors at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

It is perhaps quite a bit of a review spoiler if I open on the comment that I went to see Vinegar Tom by Caryl Churchill a second time. It must mean that it was good then and this review will only end well, unlike for some of the plays characters? In all honesty, it was more superb than good and I probably would have watched it a third time given the chance.

However, it didn't all start well as I think for the first few minutes or so I still had in my mind that I might not like it. The blame for this lies I think with my previous horrific encounter with the work of Churchill and the excruciating Here We Go, officially the worst play I have seen.

However, time told very quickly that this play was not in that league. It opens with a meeting between Alice (Helena Fenton) and "Man" (Benjamin Hampton in the first of several roles) and is gorgeously performed by the two, with Helena in particular with the most perfectly gorgeous dialect. It is a stark powerful opening to the p…

Review of Posh - University Of Northampton BA Actors at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

The first of this year's BA Actors performances at the Royal, although wonderfully performed, was not a play to the liking of this reviewers taste. The difference twenty-four hours can make though as I settled down to see the next, Posh by Laura Wade, is quite remarkable.

Originally performed at the Royal Court in 2010, it tells of a gathering of "The Riot Club", a fictionalised version of The Bullingdon Club, in a private room of a pub run by Chris and his daughter Rachel. Their "private" activities and typical rowdy behaviour ensures in Laura Wade's truly brilliantly written play.

There is very little to disappoint from this production directed by Dan Coleman in a breezy and pacy way, with the exception of just a couple of slightly disappointing performances, and the rather weird opening and closing scenes which destract from the main meat of the piece withing.

Among those things that are certainly not disappointing include the tremendous Lee Hancock as A…

Review of Neville's Island by Tim Firth at The Playhouse Theatre, Northampton

A works team building away trip could happily paint seven shades of absolute hell on many peoples minds and that is if it goes well. For Neville though and his trio of companions, well doesn't ever come into it in Tim Firth's comedy drama.

Tim Firth is best known for Calendar Girls and it's next musical incarnation currently playing in London, The Girls. However with Neville's Island, things while remaining comic at times, stray into some very dark territories, and that doesn't mean the brooding trees and bushes of the island they find themselves trapped on. The themes here on display range from attacks on religion and to mental illness issues. Not, you would think ideal for a comedy, hence this is a little more drama as well. It works, most of the time. I am sure that on occasion though, some could be uneasy about Gordon's diatribes about Roy's issues and faith, indeed the latter, some would probably find quite offensive.

The first thing you are struck by …

Review of Pornography - University Of Northampton BA Actors at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

You always have to remember that the BA Actors course that I happily follow is there foremost to challenge and teach its students. For this brief period of theatre going, perhaps the audience (paying or not) are not always the most important part of this production. I make this reasoning for the selection of this play, Pornography by Simon Stephens and last years Days of Significance by Roy Williams. Neither of them offer much of a way in for the audience with their endlessly unsympathetic characters and grim look of life.

I can see a day after seeing the play and my usual 'sleep on it' contemplation, why the play works for the students, it challenges them as much as this grumpy theatre goer in row C. Difficult and challenging subject matter, disturbing situations to portray and some really very long and difficult monologues for the several lead characters to perform. It all provides a checklist of items that an actor will see in their future careers. At the time, I felt that …

Review of Cirque Berserk! at the Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

Last October I was invited to go to see a circus by a friend, it was the first that I had seen since I was a kid. It was quite a revelation, and a fantastic afternoon of entertainment. They had moved on quite a bit of course, many of the stunts were more outlandish than that distant time and the dying embers of animals that had still just been present back then were gone. However in essence, the world of the traditional circus remained with the ringmaster, jugglers and the clown. Therefore when booking to see Cirque Berserk! at the Royal & Derngate, I perhaps knew what to expect this time, but also maybe initially concerned that the acts might be a bit samey. However it was far from more of the same in reality, with the exception of the jugglers and clowning (all different performers), the only totally identical act on display was the showstopping Globe of Death.


Cirque Berserk! is sold with the tagline "Real circus made for theatre" and having now seen both versions (ten…

Review of A Passionate Woman at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

There is something tremendously old fashioned about Kay Mellor's A Passionate Woman. Sure it is set "in the north" where in places time has stood still. However even in 1992 when this play first appeared, I am sure some of it would have felt rather quaint. It is not really a criticism though, as it is lovely to have a bit of nostalgia sometimes, especially if you are old enough to remember some of it. Such is the old style though, the rather forced updates that the play has received feel quite wrong. Comments referencing Kate Middleton pitched alongside those of Sarah Ferguson jar a little, making it clear that the modern has been shoehorned in. I wonder also if the mobile phone scene was in the original as well, historically it could have been. However would it have been in keeping with the setting? Personally I think not.

Set in the attic of a house in Leeds, A Passionate Woman is part monologue, part romantic drama, part kitchen sink drama and part farce. It is a pacy…

Review of Nell Gwynn from the Bedford Drama Company at The Place Theatre, Bedford

Last year I saw the University of Northampton BA Actors perform Blue Stockings, an emotive and highly powerful play from Jessica Swale. I was that impressed by both the play and performances that a couple of days later I returned to see it again. Therefore when Nell Gwynn by that very same writer popped up on my Facebook status of a planned trip to see the play from a group of Masque Theatre folk, I conspired my way into a car to Bedford.

Nell Gwynn is I have to say, from the outset, not as strong a play as Blue Stockings, it doesn't have the emotional impact and many of the characters do not get the expansion and depth as those of Stockings. However as that is such a stonker, it doesn't mean that this is poor play. It is actually a wonderfully entertaining take of Nell, one of the first female actors and more famous mistress of Charles II.

For an amateur production also with such a large cast, it also benefits from remarkable high quality of performance across the board. Not on…