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Showing posts from February, 2018

Review of Agatha Christie's Love From A Stranger at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

I have to confess that I am a huge fan of the little mysteries of Agatha Christie, however, I also confess that I have read very few of the novels. My love comes from the various screen versions, growing up through the eighties, there was always the comfort of a good old fun little murder going on, that Joan Hickson, aka Miss Marple (random fact, Hickson played the cottage maid in the original 1937 film version of this play) or David Suchet, aka Hercule Poirot, would breeze into the middle of, and by the end of the hour or so, have cornered the guilty party in front of an assortment of all very potential suspects. They are frivolous in theory, but pull them apart (as fellow reviewing blogger The Real Chrisparkle is want to do in his Agatha Christie Challenge) and you realise that you the reader/viewer are observing a cleverly created spiders web of intrigue, where on closer inspection, all the threads lead to the big, bad, murderous spider at its centre.

Love from a Stranger adapted b…

Review of Cilla - The Musical at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

I have to start with a confession dear reader, what I know about Cilla Black can pretty much be written on the back of the Derngate ticket that I clutched on entering the theatre (and that allows for the advert on the back). I have heard a couple of her tunes of course (more than once) and confess, once again, that I generally didn't like what I heard. I think it's clear that with her natural raw form and voice, "a diamond in the rough" as Brian Epstein, her eventual manager describes her, she a performer that you either love or generally, not hate as such, but perhaps just dislike. I fall in the latter. Curiously as I a forty-year-old, I also don't even fall into the Cilla of hit television either, being a BBC viewing family, I never saw her on TV much when I was growing up.

So, coming almost totally fresh to the world of Cilla, it was a little comforting that for the first act, much of the world of Cilla - The Musical revolves not just around star building Cil…

Press launch of Sting's The Last Ship at Errol Flynn Filmhouse, Northampton

On Friday 16th February 2018, I attended the official press launch of The Last Ship. In attendance were the writer of the show, Sting, and cast members for the 2018 UK tour Richard Fleeshman, Charlie Hardwick and Joe McGann, with musical support from Rob Mathes.

During the event, opened entertainingly by producer Karl Sydow, Sting and the cast members performed seven of the songs from the show: The Last Ship (Sting), Dead Man's Boots (Sting and Fleeshman), Sail Away (Hardwick), The Night the Pugilist Learned to Dance (Fleeshman), What Say You Meg? (Fleeshman) and What Have You Got? (Sting and cast).

Each of these songs showed us a great background to the evocative tale that The Last Ship tells, of a community under attack as its crucial shipbuilding industry begins to fail. The performers and Sting himself delivered the songs with huge passion, despite, as Sting himself commented, the earnestness of the hour, with the event beginning at 10 am.

The Last Ship was initially inspired …

Review of Woman In Mind by Masque Theatre at The Playhouse Theatre, Northampton

I like Alan Ayckbourn, I may only have seen a few of his vast array of plays previously, but all have been a delight, often crazy yes, but constantly funny, and especially in the second act spiralling often into just on the very edge of believable nonsense. With Woman In Mind, acknowledged by many as one of his finest works, my own personal jury is very much out on whether I liked it or not.
What was very good, mostly, however, were the performances, most especially the two that we are introduced to at the very beginning. The prostrate Susan (Nicola Osborne), with sinisterly lurking rake alongside her, and the bag struggling doctor, Bill (John Myhill).
Nicola Osborne has the unenviable task in this play of never leaving the stage, a feat in itself. Add to this the constant weaving of the character's world (more on this later), and you have a role featuring some significant challenge, one that Osborne ably surmounts. I once described Osborne as a "safe pair of hands" in …

Review of Canterbury Tales, performed by University Of Northampton BA Actors at St Peter's Church, Northampton

Much like An Evil Gathering of Infidels failed to live up to its same year devised buddy Orientation, Canterbury Tales has much to do so over Accused this year and sadly like Infidels is doesn't succeed, and in fact sadly fails much more so. As ever, little to do with the performances, which for the best part are top notch, but more because of the consistency of the material. Just like the distance Chaucer's pilgrims travel during their story-telling contest, here lies an immense gulf between the interest, and frankly boredom of some of the segments occurring here.

It probably doesn't help that I have a nonchalant regard for Chaucer, having certainly studied him at school, I frankly, quickly forgot him (although I definitely had a flashback to The Miller's Tale and the red-hot coulter) and have never really encountered him since.

The Miller's Tale ironically provides the best entertainment from Canterbury Tales, although you get to hear it twice (and repeats are a …

Review of Accused, performed by University Of Northampton BA Actors at St Peter's Church, Northampton

Going into seeing Accused, the first devised show by this years third year BA Actors graduates, I have to confess I shamefully knew nothing of its influence, Oscar Wilde's The Ballad of Reading Gaol. However, it wasn't a great leap for me to identify that the piece gorgeously sung by the whole cast at the end of this really imaginative piece, was indeed part of the Ballad itself.

The Ballad it turns out, written by Wilde during exile following release from Reading tells of the execution of a man called Wooldridge, a man hung for cutting the throat of his wife. In Accused, we have another prisoner, destined to hang, but cleverly for what remains to its end, an unknown crime. It's bad, pretty bad, clear from the reaction of both prisoner and guards alike, and the Accused's life is generally in danger a great deal, long before the Executioner (played extremely nicely by Georgi McKie) comes to do her bidding.

Playing the Accused, and really rather brilliantly, is Alexande…

Review of Of Mice And Men at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

Other than, randomly, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The War of the Worlds, John Steinbeck's classic Of Mice and Men is perhaps one of the most familiar of stories to me. I have seen it several times before, and while at school, we studied it, and dissected it like the work of Mr Shakespeare, but with Steinbeck, I got out the other side still liking it.
This brand new version from Selladoor Productions, which opened in Canterbury last week, brings a by-the-book presentation of the trials of George and his slow, but incredibly strong friend, Lennie, to the stage. Perhaps, this is its first issue blocking a huge success from this production, in that it rarely does anything brave or different.
It's clearly been expertly cast visually, with the hulking form of Matthew Wynn as Lennie, and the diminutive (in comparison) Richard Keightley and Kamran Darabi-Ford as George and Curley respectively. Darabi-Ford especially perfect in his tremendously awkward scenes with Lennie, so…