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Showing posts from July, 2017

Review of The Blue Road by R&D Young Company at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

I have a 100% strike record with the wonderful Youth Theatre group at Royal & Derngate, they have never let me down with a show and sometimes with those of Sweeney Todd and Kontact, have provided me with some of the very optimum theatre points of each year. The Blue Road, their very latest production for me is slightly less successful.

However, it thankfully and perhaps not surprisingly, is nothing to do with the constantly talented bunch of actors that gather in this group. My problem lies in two places, of play selection and the way it is told. The Blue Road chronicles the story of a group of young people on the backend of a not totally described crisis, and this, unfortunately, is where we were more or less just two years ago with the Young Company and their show Immune. I have always been interested in these post apocalyptic stories and often love them, however for the same group to do two so close together feels a shame. They challenge certainly, but I am sure there are many…

Review of Once Upon A Grimm Tale by The Royal & Derngate Actors Company (Early) at Judge's Lodgings, Northampton

Once upon a time, there was a brave theatrical reviewer. He lived in a market town in deepest darkest Englaland, where many great and remarkable things of stage did occur. At the centre of this wondrous world of performing spectacles was a place referred to by many as the Royal Derngatus, a place of people pretending to be other people and telling tales of mystery, intrigue and frolics.

Within the fortressed walls of Royal Derngatus, there were a group of fearless players who entertained local folk for no reward, other than the thrill of seeing the joy in the faces of others. Those group of artists went by the name of Actors Companus, which many pronounced carefully when they did say it out loud. This group of merry men and women did have two forms, an early and a late, and but two days before this adventurous evening of forthcoming storytelling, the late group did perform for a third and final time a most amazing feat of theatre, going by the name of Great Expectations.


Our hero of thi…

Review of Great Expectations by The Royal & Derngate Actors Company at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

Market Boy from The Actors Company last year was a remarkable show and is likely to stay with me for a long time, so following it with this year's production was always going to be a tough call and with their production of the epic Dickens classic Great Expectations, they at least didn't lack ambition.

I have to be honest, things for me didn't start well. The first few minutes of this adaptation by Declan Donnellan and Nick Ormerod is a busy and convoluted sequence moving the opening part of the story in an unclear and often irritating way. For those present not aware of the original story, I wouldn't envy them trying to keep up with what is going on. However much of the trouble of this opening sequence is quickly corrected as scenes become more defined and controlled and the story is allowed to develop at a slower pace.

Perhaps also in the early part, it doesn't help either that the gender-swapped Magwitch played by Salli Bersham is a little too full on with the o…

Review of Hansel & Gretel by Warts & All at Delapré Abbey, Northampton

For those unfamiliar with Kneehigh Theatre (from where this show originally comes), the best way of explaining them is that they do traditional things, differently. This performance by Warts and All Theatre of their adaptation of the classic tale of Hansel & Gretel tells you much of what you need to know early on as a (human) rabbit is pinned down upon a table and skinned (half their costume removed). It is just one of an evening of wacky and quite brilliant moments as this production sours mostly for the sky of brilliance.

Handed to a cast of young performers, the result is often disturbingly professional. Sure it is still rough around the edges at times, but perhaps this helps the material. It doesn't actually matter if there is sparring from the cast with the audience, knowing looks and playfulness. It doesn't matter if one of the cast nearly knocks the cymbal of the musicians flying, perhaps it would have been even better if they had, this is anachic fun at its very b…

Review of Alice At Wonderland from Open Stage Performing Arts at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

I always try my very best to be positive about community shows as they form a perfect bridging gap between the very beginners and those of the professional world. Among these vast numbers (and in this show, there were roughly 170 performers in this epic), some on the stage you always feel sure has enough talent to take them to some success in the future.

So if all that hints that I didn't find Alice At Wonderland the greatest success ever, you would be quite right. However, fortunately, most of the blame doesn't lie with the performers, most are the fault of the script. While the premise of setting Alice in Wonderland during a festival called Wonderland (explaining the At of the title) is excellent, it drags the whole premise over an incredible and excruciating three-hour-plus production. Now, community shows are often long, it is to be expected as teacher and pupils alike need to have their turn on the stage, however creating one of such length doesn't really help anyone…

Review of Fame Jr. by R&D Youth Theatre/Young Company at Royal & Derngate (Underground), Northampton

Despite very much being one of the in things when I was growing up in the eighties and definitely seeing on occasion, Fame wasn't really for me. However via theatre of the last four years, I have learnt to love musicals of various kinds more, and the R&D youth company and its companion young company via Sweeney Todd, Honk!, Cafe Crescendo and Oliver! have helped that development.

For 2017 they presented two versions of the same play, the junior version of Fame, it runs for just a compact hour, and while they were dialogue wise the same, directorially and performing was very different. It offered in two days a great opportunity to see the same thing, differently. Even during the opening it was clear that the different nuances were going to be fascinating to look out for, the opening scene sees the students preparing to discover if they have made P.A., and in the young company version the cast clutch their notes and pray to them, while the youth version sees them hidden in their…

Review of The Reluctant Dragon by Munchkins & Monsters Theatre Company at Rugby Theatre, Rugby

I first saw a show from Munchkins & Monsters during the 2016 local Northampton Umbrella Fair and their lively tale, Back In Time For Breakfast managed to keep an audience enthralled for an hour in a tent on a swelteringly hot August day, so with that achievement under the belt, it was clear they were doing something very right. As it turned out, the day that I saw this, their show entitled The Reluctant Dragon, the temperature wasn't a great deal cooler, but the lack of the tent meant we didn't get quite cook, even if the performers clearly did during this occasionally very energetic show.

The scene for the performance is set with a simple and clear staging of sheets with cartoon landscape, and puppets and cardboard towers hinting of what is to come. After the piping in of medieval music as we take our seats, our performers of Dale Forder, Hannah Conway and Laura Richardson take to the stage with all the suitable enthusiasm to try to keep an audience of children captivated…

Review of The History Boys by Alan Bennett at The Playhouse Theatre, Northampton

Remarkable as it may seem when I settled, although a little sweatily into my seat at The Playhouse Theatre to watch The History Boys, I was about to have only my second encounter with the works of Alan Bennett. My only previous meeting with his material had been the 1994 film The Madness of King George.

Set in a Sheffield grammar school in the 1980's, The History Boys brings to life the story of the pursuit to Oxford of eight students and the school's collection of wacky and genital cupping teachers. It's a bewildering piece to stage with its pre-interval 18 scenes and another bag of 15 afterwards, however, this snappy production under the direction of Gary Amos moves without pause for breath, and perhaps despite my never thinking I would ever write this, maybe at times too swift scene changes. For a person whose musical tastes lie very much in the eighties soundtrack this play utilises, bridging every single scene with classics from the decade falls right into my happy wo…

Review of Warts & All Scuff Night at Foodies.rocks, Northampton

The new Warts & All theatre group have been set-up almost a year now and finally this weekend I actually managed to have my first encounter with them with their Scuff Night. It was a perfect introduction to the group for myself as it very much leant towards their theatre creation area, rather than some of their more varied gatherings they have been holding.

On this evening we were presented with short, ten to fifteen minutes extracts from four plays that have been under development for a few months, and our challenge was to select the two that would go further forward and become full pieces under the tutorship of professional playwrights Think The X-Factor, but with much more intellect. Our weapons of casino chips were in our possession and the event was to begin.

It started with Deep Freeze, a play based on a true case a short time which I remember well, about regarding a child who wanted to be cryogenically frozen at her soon to be early death. It was and remained my favourite …