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Showing posts from March, 2018

Review of Shrek the Musical at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

When Shrek the Musical rolls into town, it arrives in seven great big lorries, and this actually says a little as to where the strength of this production, now well into its UK tour, lies. This show looks spectacular in every way, it might be the best looking and the biggest tour show you will have ever seen. However, at times, this spectacle feels a little superficial, as you feel more thought could have been put into the original writing.

Shrek the Musical mostly follows the story of the original 2001 computer-animated film, which sees ogre Shrek's swamp overrun by fairytale folk, which results in him confronting the evil Lord Farquaad, which then results in him going to rescue Princess Fiona, as you do.

What feels missing though in this musical (book by David Lindsay-Abaire and music by Jeanine Tesori), compared with the film, is the clever balance for children and adults alike. This nearly always feels targeted more at adults, there is a lack of humour that feels just right fo…

Review of A Bunch Of Amateurs at Stantonbury Theatre, Milton Keynes

I first saw the film of A Bunch of Amateurs a couple of years ago back when I was purely a watcher of amateurs productions, rather than my now, slightly more involved persona. Therefore watching this production by Etc Theatre of this curious tale of country folk, adapted for the stage by two of the original writers Ian Hislop and Nick Newman, and their amateur dramatics world, offers a little more intrigue than that film first did. It also helped that I was seated with a bevy of knowing amateur dramatics folks as well.

Stratford Players are in trouble, their venue is under threat from developers, so, in a last-ditch attempt to save their group, they send appeals out to the big names of the acting world to help generate lifesaving interest. Answering their appeal is the also in trouble, Hollywood actor Jefferson Steel (Bart Gamber). His flagging career sees him accept the opportunity to perform King Lear, in the home of the Bard itself, Stratford. Sadly it turns out to be a barn theat…

Review of Glorious! from White Cobra Productions at The Playhouse Theatre, Northampton

I don't mind admitting that I am a huge fan of the work of White Cobra Productions, they have the ability to draw together the best of what the local amateur world has to offer and package it together in a professional way, they also have a knack for picking plays of quality, rarely performed or brand new material that makes them a breath of fresh air. Well mostly. I don't mind also admitting once again here, that their last show, Hi-de-Hi, felt a terrible misstep on their part, taking a show which was either so enrooted in the minds of some of its audience to single performers of the past, or a bamboozled collection of dated material to others, just didn't really work despite the talent and obvious effort of its cast. So, what of Glorious!, is this a, ahem, glorious return to form?
Short answer, incredibly so, long answer, below.
Glorious! (subtitled The Worst Singer in the World) tells the true story of Florence Foster Jenkins, an American socialite, active in the early …

Review of Shadowlands by Moulton Players at Moulton Theatre, Northampton

It has to be said that the world of Narnia, as created by C. S. Lewis, generally passed me by when I was young. My childhood reading generally came more from the more crazy side like Roald Dahl, therefore I have neither read, or I believe, ever seen any interpretation of Narnia. Not to say that my knowledge doesn't reach to the famous wardrobe, which in its way, has a curious, but fulfilling existence, in William Nicholson's Shadowlands as well.

Shadowlands deals with the relationship between C. S. Lewis and American writer Jo Gresham (Davidman), from burgeoning, to love and then her sudden illness. It's a lovely endearing and gentle tale, which in this production from Moulton Players, is mostly successful, albeit it occasionally clunky, especially in its very long first act.

As C. S. Lewis, Alex Page-Bailey gives a confident performance in a very large role. It has to be said, it doesn't start well, as the play opens with a long, and ponderous lecture to the audience,…

Review of Hamlet by the Royal Shakespeare Company at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

I am personally all about making Shakespeare accessible, I take the Emma Rice line, that many were not keen on, that after a few hundred years, it's perhaps worthy of mixing it up a bit to make it more meaningful to a modern audience. I have a feeling the man himself would have no qualms about seeing his classic Hamlet transposed into a garish multi-coloured world, set in a much more hip place.
The Denmark that we see here and that is still referenced, is now very much an African country, and not just because of the heavy black actor casting, this is all about a style and a carnival feeling to many of the scenes. Music is provided by tribal-like drums, and characters stalk the scenes carrying handguns and rifles, bringing a modern feeling to the conflict as well. This is certainly not the "rotten state of Denmark" that most Shakespeare aficionados are familiar with.
Characters are changed drastically as we have more cocksure, swaggering, modern feeling to the individual…