29 August 2019

The Entertainer - Curve Review

John Osborne's play The Entertainer arrives at Curve ahead of a UK Tour.
Shane Richie as Archie Rice. Photo by Helen Murray.
The Made at Curve production gives the play a new setting in 1982, where washed-up entertainer Archie Rice has completed a summer season whilst his soldier son is away fighting in the Falklands and his daughter Jean returns from campaigning against the war.

Whilst I felt first act was a bit tepid, full of the characters drinking excessively and arguing with each other which felt like it had no purpose except to show the conflict of the characters. I much prefered the second act where it felt the story moved along and added more emotion. I felt more invested in Archie's characters arc, especially in the moving final sequences.

Shane Richie is excellent as Archie. He clearly revels in every moment in this character, forget the famous names who have previously played this role (Laurence Olivier originated the role), Shane absolutely makes it his own. He nails the characteristics of this broken entertainer. He delivers the stand-up sequences excellently oozing out every comic detail superbly and also shows off his brilliant vocal range.

Diana Vickers as Jean Rice. Photo by Helen Murray.
Diana Vickers is spellbinding as Jean Rice. She's such a wonderful actress to watch. You feel the pain of Jean and the suffering she's gone through from her family life. Towards the end of act two as Jean confronts Archie you can see the pain etched on her face. A rising star for sure.

Sara Crowe's beautifully brings a touching quality to Phoebe Rice. Pip Donaghy's both charming and senile Billy Rice. Christopher Bonwell add's fine support as Frank Rice.

The play is very relevant to modern audiences and it's great that the play has been given this new setting for this new production, it really works. Director Sean O'Connor has done a fine job staging this challenging play with a great design team (Tim Mitchell lighting design, Chris James sound design and Lizzie Frankl prop supervisor).

Top: Diana Vickers (Jean) and Pip Donaghy (Billy), Christopher Bonwell (Frank)
Bottom: Sara Crowe (Phoebe) and Diana Vickers (Jean), Shane Richie (Archie)
and Sara Crowe (Phoebe). Photos by Helen Murray.

It is ultimately a marmite production, some left at the interval whilst other's roared with approval at the end.

Rating: ★★★ - excellent performances shine in this difficult play.

The Entertainer runs at Curve until Saturday 31st August before heading on a UK Tour until the end of November. For dates and booking details click here.

22 August 2019

Accessible Theatre: The RSC.

Accessible theatre is vitally important. Theatre is for ALL. Just like anything, there is no place for discrimination. Yesterday I got the pleasure of seeing first hand some of the work the Royal Shakespeare Company do in regards to the accessible theatre.

Last week I won a competition for a Summer Escape Pass with the RSC. The pass included a visit up the theatre's tower, a visit to the award-winning The Play's The Thing exhibition, a front of house (although we were lucky enough to go backstage too) tour, a 2-course pre-theatre dinner at Susie's and tickets to a play. I picked to have a second visit to see The Taming of the Shrew which is running in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. I had to ring up to book in the package and I wasn't aware until I collected the tickets that I'd booked for the BSL interpreted performance.

You think BSL interpreted and you imagine a signer stood to one side of the stage signing the performance. Not at the RSC. Fully costumed here the signer is as much part of the performance as any of the actors. It works brilliantly, and although personally I don't require or to my shame understand the sign language it's a joy to watch it done this way.

At last nights performance, Clare Edwards was our signer. In the fascinating post-show talk with the company, Clare discussed here workings on how she interpreted Shakespeare's text. How she listened and listened to the play to prepare for the performance. Watching Clare throughout was a privilege. She fitted into the play superbly. Bear in mind that she was never off stage throughout and did the performance with only a few hours of rehearsals with the company yesterday. I can't heap enough praise on Clare or the company for the work they did to get this performance together.

I also got to experience a second of the RSC's accessible options last night too. My dad is hard of hearing and wears hearing aids. We often book to sit in the front row as it's better for his hearing but we'd also been hearing about the headphones that are available that enhance the audio. We were chatting with one of the RSC staff (who I must say were excellent yesterday in every aspect - especially when the IT system's crashed) who said his wife had used the headphones recently and said she'd wished she'd had them for years. My Dad too sang the praises of the headphones after the performance. It was great that it allowed him to enhance his enjoyment.

The RSC offers various other accessible performance options. Captioned and audio-described (including touch tours and audio notes). They also offer chilled and relaxed performances which offer the same productions but with a more relaxed feel to the auditorium.

There is also great access throughout the RSC buildings for people with access needs. The theatre is designed for everybody so that everybody can experience the world-class theatre the RSC produces.

Whilst I know that all theatres offer access performances I know that some theatres could be better in certain areas. The RSC is a leading theatre company leading the way for accessible theatre and I'm proud of them for that.

To read more about the access options at the RSC or to book any of the future access performances please visit here.

15 August 2019

West Side Story - Curve Full Cast Announcement.

The popular musical West Side Story runs at Curve in a Made at Curve production this festive season and today the full casting has been announced. The show will run in the main theatre from 23rd November 2019 through till 11th January 2020.

The musical will be directed by Curve’s Artistic Director Nikolai Foster, responsible for Curve’s recent hit productions of White Christmas (also at the Dominion Theatre, London), Grease (currently on tour in the UK) and Scrooge, with new choreography from Ellen Kane (Cats, Universal/WorkingTitle film directed by Tom Hooper and Worldwide Associate Choreography on Matilda the Musical, RSC).

The cast of West Side Story. Photo by Ellie Kurttz
Adriana Ivelisse and Carly Mercedes-Dyer will play trailblazing women Maria and Anita, who arrive in the United States from Puerto Rico looking for a new life. Adriana, a Puerto Rican native and 2019 Spotlight Prize Finalist, will make her professional UK debut as Maria while Carly will play Anita, Maria’s closest friend.

Jamie Muscato (Bend it Like Beckham, Phoenix Theatre, Lazarus, Kings Cross Theatre, Heathers,
Theatre Royal Haymarket and The Light Princess, National Theatre) will play Maria’s lover Tony.

Jonathan Hermosa-Lopez (Grease, UK and Ireland tour) and Ronan Burns (Kiss Me Kate,
Sheffield Crucible Theatre) will play rival gang leaders Bernardo and Riff.

Darren Bennett, who has appeared in numerous Made at Curve productions including Grease as
Vince Fontaine (2016 and 2019 UK and Ireland tour), Scrooge the Musical (2017) as Mr Fezziwig and cover for Scrooge, will play Police Detective Lieutenant Schrank.

The cast also includes Ryan Anderson (Grease, UK and Ireland tour) as A-Rab, Damian Buhagiar
(Grease, UK and Ireland tour) as Chino, Thea Bunting (Grease, UK and Ireland tour) as Graziella,
Alex Christian (Oklahoma!, Chichester Festival Theatre) as Baby John, Abigail Climer (Grease, UK and Ireland tour) as Consuelo, Isaac Gryn (Oklahoma!, Chichester Festival Theatre) as Action, Beth Hinton-Lever (Hadestown, National Theatre) as Anybodys, Katie Lee (Matilda, Royal Shakespeare Company) as Velma, Mireia Mambo (Evita, Regents Park Open Air Theatre) as Rosalia, Michael O’Reilly (Dirty Dancing, UK and Ireland tour) as Diesel, Dominic Sibanda (Aladdin, Prince Edward Theatre) as Indio, Dale White (Grease, UK and Ireland tour) as Big Deal and Christopher Wright (The Ladykillers, Oldham Coliseum) as Officer Krupke and Doc.

Speaking about the cast, Curve’s Chief Executive Chris Stafford and Artistic Director Nikolai Foster said:
“West Side Story really is one of the greatest musicals ever written theatre. To bring to life any piece of theatre you need an astonishing group of collaborators and we are proud to have assembled such a
talented, imaginative and quintessentially 21st-century group of actors, who will celebrate the heritage of this play, whilst rediscovering it for an entirely new generation. Adriana, Carly, Jamie, Jonathan and Ronan leads an outstanding company of actors, who all recognise how important the musical’s message of love and acceptance is in 2019.”

The West Side Story cast. Photo by Ellie Kurttz
Set in New York City, West Side, in 1957. In the midst of gang rivalry and racial tensions, love at first sight strikes between Tony, a founding member of the White-American Jets and Maria, the sister of
Bernardo, leader of the Puerto Rican Sharks. In the face of danger, the two young lovers continue to
meet in secret – but the Jets and the Sharks have one last rumble to fight out.

Inspired by Shakespeare’s classic tragedy Romeo and Juliet and with a timeless score including
‘Tonight’, ‘America’ and ‘I Feel Pretty’, West Side Story represents one of the greatest musicals of all time, filled with romance, charm, aggression and heartbreak.

West Side Story is based on a conception of Jerome Robbins, with a book by Arthur Laurents, music
by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.

Tickets for West Side Story at Curve are available to book now. To find out more and purchase
seats, visit www.curveonline.co.uk, call Curve’s Box Office on 0116 242 3595 or visit the
theatre in person.

14 August 2019

Les Miserables: The Staged Concert - Review

The classic musical gets an all-star concert staging at the Gielgud Theatre.

With the renovations currently ongoing at the newly renamed Sondheim Theatre the Les Mis creatives decided to stage a 16 week run in concert format at the next door Gielgud Theatre to keep the show running during this period. The set up is similar to that of the O2 25th-anniversary concerts and it's a masterpiece.

Alfie Boe leads the cast as Jean Valjean. Watching him in this role is special. He is perfectly cast here. His gorgeous vocals soar throughout. His genuinely haunting rendition of "Bring Him Home" stopped the show. He gives everything to the character. I was fortunate enough to be watching from the second row of the stalls and seeing and hearing him from this close proximity made the whole experience even more special.

Michael Ball, the shows original Marius, returns after 34 years to take on the role of Javert. He is a commanding presence but I didn't think his vocals always hit the heights I was expecting. That said his rendition of "Stars" was superb.

Matt Lucas returns to Thenardier. He laps up every moment in the role and is the right amount of grotesque and hilarious with a superb voice. His fourth wall breaking response to a big round of applause as he entered the stage for the first was brilliant "what are you clapping for? I ain't done anything yet. I might be rubbish". Matched together with Katy Secombe's excellent Madame Thenardier, she relishes every moment too, especially during "Master of the House". I don't think anyone plays the roles better than Matt and Katy do.

Carrie Hope Fletcher takes on the role of Fantine and this is her best performance of her career to date. Her beautiful vocals hit every powerful note. She has so much control and power in her voice. You felt every painful emotion as the character goes through horrible circumstances. The iconic "I Dreamed a Dream" was delivered to perfection. Through the thousands of renditions of this song previously I doubt it's ever been sung as good as Carrie gives.

Shan Ako, making her West End debut as Eponine, is a real find. She is terrific throughout. You felt every emotion and heartbreak of her character, especially as Marius chooses Cosette over her. She delivered the most painful and beautiful "On My Own", her voice it beautifully. I suspect and hope that we'll be seeing a lot more of Shan in the future.

The cast images from the brochure.

Rob Houchen's Marius is as good as ever. You truly believe he is absolutely besotted with Lily Kerhoas as Cosette from their first meeting. Rob delivers a spellbinding "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables" too. Lily, another making her West End debut, is charming and sweet as Cosette.

Bradley Jaden's gives an amazing Enjolras. What a powerful voice he has. I'm not sure he'd even need a microphone to be heard on the back rows of the upper circle. He's THAT good. I could have happily watched him all night. He's strong and commanding leading the boys on the barricades. Possibly the star performance of the night.

A large ensemble completes the fantastic company. It's great to see so many excellent returning Les Mis alumni. I must give mentions to; Simon Bowman's Bishop of Digne, the massively underused Earl Carpenter's Bamatabois, Celia Graham's Factory Girl, Christopher Jacobsen's Warnings and Raymond Walsh's Grantaire, but it's hard to single anyone out in this strong company. Logan Clark is a delight too as Gavroche. A little star in the making.

A large orchestra under the direction of Alfonso Casado Trigo sounds beautiful throughout. A fantastically talented group of musicians. It was so refreshing to see everyone around me stay and clap them after they played the Playout.

The concerts staging is naturally a bit simplified compared to the full-scale production but you lose none of the emotion of the story. Matthew Kinley's set and image design bring the real feel of the original production. I adored the opening where the lights raised as the orchestra playing the opening bars. Paule Constable and Warren Letton's lighting is particularly good, although the use of lights from behind the characters and onto the front rows of the stalls did make it a bit too bright to see sometimes. Nick Potter's sound design is strong, blending the sound effects and the music superbly. Andreane's Neofitou's iconic costume continues to be an important part of the show look and feel.

I've seen Les Miserables numerous times in London and a couple of times on it's current UK tour, but last night was the show at it's best. An incredible company, staged superbly, with a brilliant orchestra and a great atmosphere in the audience. I don't think you could see Les Mis done better than this concert staging. Musical Theatre perfection.

Rating: ★★★★★

Les Miserables: The Staged Concert runs at London's Gielgud Theatre until November 30th. For final remaining tickets visit click here

The Mousetrap - Review.

Agatha Christie's murder mystery going strong in its 67th year.
The cast of The Mousetrap. Photo by Johan Persson.
It's hard to comprehend that Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap has been running at London's St Martins Theatre for 67 years. Having finally caught the production yesterday it's not hard to see why it's been a success and why it continues to get packed out audiences 9 shows a week.

Christie's a genius in terms of crafting together the perfect murder mystery and this has to be one of her finest. Set at Monkswell Manor where Giles and Mollie Ralston are set to greet their first guests to their new guest house. On a snowy day, the guests arrive and soon one of them is murdered. Can the crime be solved but the murderer picks their next victim.

The play is tense and gripping and whilst I will rightly keep all secrets and spoilers to myself I found myself on the edge of my seat during the exciting final sequences.

Under Ian Talbot's direction, this current company are excellent. Dan Burton oozes class as Giles Ralston, he shifts between charm and shifty very well. Haley Flaherty brings real warmth and likeability to Mollie Ralston. She interacts superbly with the other actors and pitches the character perfectly.

Sam Heron is a hugely likeable presence as the slightly madcap Christopher Wren. Paul Ridley brings a strong trusting presence to his Major Metcalf. Lynette Edwards brings the right amount of snooty quality to Mrs Boyle. Mary Galloway gives great watchable quality to Miss Casewell. Sean Patterson brings a touch of humour to proceedings as Mr Paravicini, he is superb throughout. Alan Magor's Detective Sgt. Trotter drives the play forwards and he has a great stage presence.

The set and lighting design, originally by Roger Furse and redesigned by Anthony Holland for the St Martin's Theatre, is brilliant. The look and feel that we're in the Manor. The use of the various entrance and exit points of the set really adds to the suspense as it builds.

The cast of The Mousetrap. Photo by Johan Persson.
The whole production is slick, tense and moves at a great pace towards a gripping finale. Although smugly I cracked it at the interval make sure after you visit to keep the secrets and let's hope the trap is never shut on this fine production.

Rating: ★★★★

7 August 2019

Bollywood Jane - Curve Leicester Review

Saris, sequins and Bollywood burst on the Curve Studio Stage with a new production of Amanda Whittington's Bollywood Jane. This updated version of her play, set this summer, is staged by the Curve Young Company and Community Company. A show set in Leicester and couldn't be more made for the Curve stage.

Chloe Wilson (Jane) and the cast of Bollywood Jane. Photo by Pamela Raith Photography
The play follows 16-year-old Jane and her mum, Kate. They arrive on Leicester's Golden Mile struggling to make ends meet. In search of work Jane ends up at the local Bollywood cinema where she becomes mesmerised in the world she sees on the screen. A friendship with a local boy, Dini looks to promise Jane her own Bollywood fairy tale love story - if only life could be so simple.

The shows at it's best during the terrific Bollywood dance sequences which are superbly performed by the company. Choreographer Kesha Raithatha has done a sterling job and it pays off with a joyous final sequence. Whilst those dance moments are superb the play's clunky dialogue and wordy scenes do make the 2 hours 10 minute run time feel a little long.

Having a large number of cast members works really well for the dance sequences but it doesn't work in other places. In the first act, there was a very clumsy market scene where the lead actors were completely drowned out by the noise of the company. I can't fault any of the company for they all put in a great effort and it's wonderful to see such a range of ages on the stage together.

Top: Left- Chloe Wilson (Jane). Right - Sanjay Dattani (Amir)
Bottom: Left - Rebekah Fleming (Kate). Right - Chloe Wilson (Jane) and Rav Moor (Dini)
All photos by Pamela Raith Photography
The saving grace for this production are the lead actors. Chloe Wilson's Jane, sassy, feisty but with a soft centre, is a joy to watch. She makes you feel totally invested in Jane. Rav Moore's Dimi is tremendous. He's a fantastic young actor and oozed likeability. He wouldn't look out of place on any stage or big-screen Bollywood (or Hollywood!) blockbuster.

There's fine support too from Rebekah Fleming's boisterous Kate and Sanjay Dattani's down on his luck cinema owner, Amir Desai.

Siobhan Cannon-Brownlie's has done a fine directorial job and along with Eleanor Field's design and David Hately's lighting, they've brought a real flavour of the city's Golden Mile to the Curve stage with a great company. Whilst it's a bit hit and miss at times it's ultimately a likeable and enjoyable production.

Rating: ★★★

Bollywood Jane plays at Curve's Studio space until Sunday 11th August. Tickets and more information are available here.
The cast of Bollywood Jane. Photo by Pamela Raith Photography.

3 August 2019

Best Friends Cabaret at The Camden Fringe.

The easiest path to fame? A self-funded feminist comedy cabaret. Duh.

New musical comedy arrives at the Camden Fringe.

Saturday 10th and Sunday 11th August at 8.30pm (running time one hour)
Aces and Eights, 156-158 Fortress Road, Tufnell Park, London, NW5 2HP
Tickets only £10 and are available from www.camdenfringe.com

Best friends Alice and Livvy believe strongly in female friendship, but more importantly in being the centre of attention. Sharing their misadventures in a brand new piece of musical theatre, Alice and Livvy take their audience on a journey of faulty feminism, show tunes, and competitive kick lines.

Making its debut at the 2019 Camden Fringe, Best Friends: A Cabaret is a funny, frantic, and irreverent exploration of female friendship and the pursuit of fame. Musical theatre enthusiasts and shameless show-offs Alice and Livvy explore the vicissitudes of living, working, and dating in London in this new cabaret, with songs including ‘I Try To Do the Splits at Parties’, ‘It’s Not Easy Being Us’ and ‘To All the Boys I’m Currently Messaging’.

This sassy, sparky, musical romp will feel familiar to any recent graduates, young theatre-makers, and anyone who’s had to battle with their own demonic drunk alter-ego.

Alice Coombes and Livvy Perrett

Alice Coombes and Livvy Perrett graduated from University College London in 2018. They performed together in Into the Woods at the Shaw Theatre and co-directed The Pajama Game at UCL. Their previous fringe credits include James and the Giant Peach (2016) and Meat (2017), both Zoo Monkey House at the Edinburgh Fringe. This is their first co-written project and Camden Fringe debut.

You can follow the show on across the social media platforms:
Instagram , Facebook, Twitter

Sounds exciting doesn't it?. Please go and support Alice and Livvy in their new venture which sounds fabulous. Running Saturday 10th and Sunday 11th August at 8.30pm and Ace and Eights in Camden. Tickets avalible at www.camdenfringe.com

1 August 2019

Seeing Shows More Than Once.

Often I think people who don't love theatre don't understand why I and many of my fellow theatre lovers go and see the same shows numerous times. I was watching Loose Women with my mum this lunchtime and they had a discussion about adults who go to Disneyland and how a couple of the panellists simply thought this was wrong or stupid. I hope this blog post makes those who don't believe why return visits are great and not a bad thing.

Personally, for me, I normally re-see a show that I've felt connected too. If I see a show I've really enjoyed I normally want to return as soon as possible. I think people forget that live theatre is also different every single time. You can watch the same show with the same cast 100 times and every single performance is going to be different simply because that is how live performance is. You truly can't beat live theatre.

All of my last 4 visits to the theatre in the past 3 weeks have been to see Amelie. I still see new things watching it. I still hear new things. I still pick up different things. I still get the same amazing feeling I got when I watched the show the first time.

I've seen numerous shows 5 times plus, in fact, I've seen Rocky Horror Show over 60 times. That might sound silly to those who don't get it or understand but it's always something different, especially seeing it in different theatres up and down the UK.

I tweeted out asking for people's views on seeing the same show more than once and here are some of the responses I got:

@stecodes: 1000% into it. You see new things each time

@broadwaybobnyc: Hard to justify the cost but it can be really great to see something you love again. It's especially exciting when you know a really great number is coming up. I usually only do it if I'm with someone who wants to see it for the first time, but sometimes treat myself.

@MTlivesinme: Love it! The same show is never exactly the same. You notice different things, see different things. It's wonderful

@ivebroughtticket: If people enjoy something so much and it makes them happy then why not? I know I buy returning tickets to a show on the knowledge than I know it’s going to make me happy and forget the world for three hours

@high_onahill: I would see most shows twice (or more!) if I could afford it/live near enough... There's always new things to spot, a different cast member - even just sitting in a different seat makes for a different experience. Sometimes it's just so brilliant you have to go again.

@miagoddardx: You never see the exact same show more than once

@Terry_Ea: You never see the same show more than once. Every time is a unique experience.

@musical_manda: It’s their life. Let them do with it what they want. Personally I always get more out of a show on the second visit anyway. There’s certainly worse ways you could spend your time and money!

@DaveRiddell59: I watch many shows many times and every time you see or notice something you didn't before. People watch a great movie a dozen times, so why not a show (except for the cost!)? Also, seeing different actors adds a new dimension.

@craftymiss: I've seen many shows multiple times. I find something new in them everytime I've visited; understudy on, cast change, new MD, new theatre. The bottom line is, my money, my choices

@Michatheatrefan Their life, their spare time, their money especially if it makes them happy. And even if same production no show is the same due many reasons - cast, audience etc. And if it is even a different production of the same show - more reasons as it can be totally different.

@Suzyy_H: I love it! So often I miss things first (or second, or even third) time around, and notice something different each time - be it cast related, staging, harmonies, anything! If I love a show, why wouldn’t I go back? It’s the equivalent to watching a film/tv show in my opinion!

I hate people who judge others for what people like/don't like. If someone wants to see the same show 1000 times GO FOR IT! If it's something you love why not? You are here on Earth once. You've got to do the things you love.

I hope this blog post makes people understand a little bit more.

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