31 October 2020

What A Carve Up! Review

The Barn Theatre in Cirencester, who have done some magnificent work during this difficult period, has produced a virtual piece, What A Carve Up! In co-production with The Lawrence Batley Theatre and The New Wolsey Theatre.


This intriguing murder mystery is written by Henry Filloux-Bennett adapted from the book by Jonathan Coe and told by a hugely talented company of actors, most of whom are only ever heard and not seen. 


Alfred Enoch



The story is told from the perspective of Raymond Owen (Alfred Enoch), he sits in his office with a wall behind him that shows how dedicated he's been to his own investigation into events. Raymond's father Michael Owen (Samuel Barnett) is the prime suspect in a murder case that happened 30 years previous where 6 members of the infamous Winshaw family were killed. Can Raymond prove his father's innocence with the evidence he's found? As the viewer it's as if we're in the hot seat watching Raymond conduct his own trial.


With all the current government guidelines the production is mostly told through interviews over radio tape with Raymond tying it all together. The only interview we see involves the only remaining member of the Winshaw family, Josephine (Fiona Button) who is talking with an interviewer (Tamzin Outhwaite).


Whilst I did feel the first 20 minutes felt a little slow once we got through those this compelling mystery began to unfold with great pace and intrigue. Writing this review alone I've written 3 sides of paper with notes trying to work out what has happened and how all the characters tie in together! It's a tremendous performance by Alfred Enoch who brilliantly keeps you involved with the story and stops the viewer from becoming overwhelmed with the amount of information that is thrown at you. 


Tamzin Outhwaite and Fiona Button.


We cleverly delve deeper into the past of these characters and it's clearly painted on the viewer how disliked the Winshaw family are, it's not difficult to see why they've been bumped off! All the strands of the family seem to have upset people around them with even Josephine being painted as a Trump-voting highly opinionated individual. We learn a lot more about Michael too and how he became involved with the family through writing The Winshaw  Legacy all about them and about the cinema trip he went on as a child to see the film 'What A Carve Up!'


Along the way we hear from such characters as Findlay Onyx (Derek Jacobi) who has ties to the murder incident and a further incident that happened some 30 years earlier, Joan Simpson (Celia Imrie) who describes the Winshaw's as "their poison gets everywhere", Patrick Mills (Stephen Fry) the publisher who worked alongside Michael Owen. It's a talented company who all lend their vocal skill to the characters and add to the mystery.


This mystery certainly keeps you interested throughout, as we delve further into the past of these characters. The use of stock footage with the voice-overs is clever as it allows you to picture what the characters are discussing. Tamara Harvey has done a fine job with the direction, brilliantly wrapping everything together. Harry Smith has done an accomplished job with sound and music.


This is certainly a production fitting for these times (it's set now and there are references to Trump, Dominic Cummings and COVID). It's hard to imagine how you could create a better murder mystery in these challenging times. A fascinating watch.


Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ - a cleverly crafted intriguing murder mystery.


Tickets to stream What A Carve Up! can be purchased from https://www.whatacarveup.com/  with two ticket option available, the stream option and an option to stream including a goody bag (a programme and pre-show recipe cards by Darjeeling Express founder Asma Khan)

30 October 2020

The Theatre Channel Episode 2 Review

Following on from the success of the first episode (available to stream from here, or read my review here) Adam Blanshay Productions and The Theatre Cafe bring us the second episode of The Theatre Channel and on the eve of Halloween, it's a spooktacular themed episode.


Jordan Shaw. Photo by Edward Johnson


We open this episode with Jordan Shaw and Cafe Four (Alyn Hawke, Emily Langham, Sadie-Jean Shirley and Alex Woodward) performing 'Translyvania Mania' from Young Frankenstein (can we get a revival of this show please!). It's a superbly upbeat opening and features some dazzling choreography by Bill Deamer.


Aimie Atkinson sings 'Dead Mom' from Beetlejuice. The space is once again completely transformed with leaves strewn all over the place and a stone bench and a pot of dead flowers. The number fits perfectly into Aimie's powerful vocal range and she sings it with great gusto.


Aimie Atkinson. Photo by Edward Johnson

Atmospheric smoke and candlelight take us into 'Life After Life' from Dracula, The Musical performed by Bradley Jaden and Sophie Isaacs. It's not a number I knew but Bradley and Sophie sing it tremendously, it's probably my favourite number of the episode. Ben Hewis's videography(which is faultless throughout) is at it's best here.


Sophie Isaacs. Photo by Adi Haroush

The always classy Ria Jones sings 'Last Midnight' from Into the Woods. She stands regal like the Queen of Halloween and makes singing the number appear effortless.


Josh Piterman then brings us 'Confrontation' from Jekyll and Hyde. Josh combines his great voice with his fine acting skill as he plays the two characters. You feel every word he sings. There's a fantastic use of some outdoor space here including a stairway which adds to the effectiveness of the number.


Josh Piterman. Photo by Edward Johnson.

Linzi Hateley, the star of the original production, sings 'When There's No One' from Carrie. This powerfully touching number is sung with so much heart and feeling that I must admit I found myself a little misty-eyed. Linzi is captivating to watch. Make sure you don't turn off during the credits because there's a lovely bonus interview with Linzi after the credits roll where she discusses Carrie.


Linzi Hateley. Photo by Adi Haroush.

Is there a more perfect Halloween number than the iconic 'Time Warp' from Richard O'Brien's Rocky Horror Show? Trevor Dion Nicholas is a fantastic Riff Raff and is ably supported by Cafe Four who are all dressed as various characters from the musical. There's a cameo too from Bonnie Langford. Joined on the roof by a larger ensemble it's a delightful way to end the episode.


Much credit must go to the design team behind this weeks episode. Gregor Donnelly's set and costume design brilliantly capture the theme for each number, the transformation of the look of The Theatre Cafe for each number are stunning. Diana Hudson's make up design is faultless as is Jack Weir's atmospheric lighting. Keegan Curran's sound design is strong and Michael England's musical direction allow these numbers to flourish. This combined with Ben Hewis's outstanding videography and Bill Deamer's direction and choreography allow for a visual feast for the viewer. 


Trevor Dion Nicholas. Photo by Edward Johnson.

Overall it's a delightful feast of an episode, undoubtedly stronger than the first. Much like reaching into a pick and mix bowl, you're never disappointed by what you find. 30 minutes of theatrical brilliance. Stream the show from www.thetheatrecafe.co.uk/channel 


The next episode which releases on November 27th is 'The Rock Episode' and will feature Shan Ako, Alex Gaumond, Rob Houchen, Francesca Jackson, Aisha Jawando and John Owen-Jones.

28 October 2020

Curve Announces Community Day Line up and Family Christmas Show

After the fantastic news  a couple of weeks ago from Curve that they'd secured government funding and that the theatre is to re-open with 3 fantastic productions (The Color Purple in Concert, Sunset Boulevard in Concert, and Memoirs of An Asian Football Casual), there's more good news today from the venue.


Running between 10am and 4.30pm on November 14th the Curve will re-open its doors for a Curve Community Day, a day of socially distanced free events and activities to welcome members of the community back to the Curve building.


Legendary theatre choreographer Arlene Phillips will lead a dance workshop at 10am, she's taking inspiration from David Bowie's 'Life On Mars' and 'This is Me' from The Greatest Showman to get people of all ages and abilities moving and feeling together again after months apart in lockdown.


Later in the day Curve Associates Mel Knott and Tasha Taylor Johnson will teach families to sing and dance the 'Rhinos' Rock and Roll' number from the 2019 Made at Curve production of Giraffes Can't Dance. 


Local artists Rebecca Harvey-Hobbs and Kate Unwin will host design workshops for participants to create and craft their own pieces. The sessions will focus on mental health and environmental sustainability in the wake of lockdown, designing worry boxes to help manage stress, and creating an installation from unused 2020 posters.


The award-winning Showstoppers team return to the Curve stage with The Showstoppers Kids Show, putting the kids in charge of the interactive improvised musical. Taking place in the Curve's specially adapted socially distanced auditorium, the hour-long performances will take place at 11:30am and 2:30pm.


Curve. Photo by Ellie Kurttz

Ahead of the day Curve’s Chief Executive Chris Stafford and Artistic Director Nikolai Foster said:


“We couldn’t be more overjoyed at the prospect of welcoming our communities back to Curve for this very special, socially distanced day of activities and performances.


“Lockdown has taken its toll on everyone and the extension of Leicester’s restrictions has been sharply felt in our brilliant city and across our communities. We’re proud to be able to welcome people back to our building for a safe, fun and creative day out for all of the family, focusing on positivity and mental well-being.


“We’re immensely grateful to the incredible practitioners leading these workshops and all those who will be part of creating what is sure to be an extraordinary and memorable day for all of us.”


All of the workshops will be free to attend, with tickets for The Showstoppers Kids Show priced at £10 each. Tickets for all activities and performances must be booked in advance and can be booked now from www.curveonline.co.uk/


Curve has also announced that from 3rd to 6th December, families can enjoy live, socially distanced performances of Dear Santa, adapted from author Rod Campbell's beloved book. The show follows Santa as he tries to find the perfect Christmas present and to help spread cheer, every child in the audience will receive a free gift as part of the show.


Perfect for families and children aged 2+, tickets for Dear Santa will be on sale to Curve Friends and Supporters Wed 28 Oct, Members and Access Register customers Thu 28 Oct and on general sale Fri 30 Oct, all from 12pm.


Curve’s Community Day will officially welcome audiences back to the theatre, ahead of a trio of Made at Curve favourites performed in Curve’s transformed 533-seat auditorium. The theatre’s reopening plans are only possible thanks to grant funding received from the government’s Culture Recovery Fund and the ongoing support of Arts Council England and Leicester City Council. Tickets for performances of The Color Purple in concert (23 Nov – 5 Dec), Sunset Boulevard in concert (14 Dec – 3 Jan) and Memoirs of an Asian Football Casual (25 Jan – 6 Feb) are on sale now.


For more information visit www.curveonline.co.uk or call Curve’s Box Office team on 0116 242 3595.

17 October 2020

Midlands Theatre

With a raft of theatre's being able to reopen again with socially distanced audiences and productions. I've put together a helpful guide of what's happening at some of the theatres here in the Midlands.

Updated: 17th October 2020

Curve, Leicester
The flagship theatre in the heart of Leicester is re-opening with a special celebration evening, a family day and 3 productions. The theatre space is being transformed so the productions can be performed in the round allowing for an audience of 533. Sir Cameron Mackintosh has donated a triple revolve. Full details https://www.curveonline.co.uk/

The Snail and the Whale - 25th October 2020
Tall Stories present a live-streamed production of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler's story. The stream will be available both online and an in theatre screening.

Launch Event - 12th November 2020
A special event which will be streamed live from the theatre

Family and Community Day - 14th November 2020
A socially distanced day which will include low cost and free workshops, performances and activities. Full details will follow.

The Color Purple in Concert - 23rd November to 5th December 2020
After a successful run in 2019, the production returns to Curve in a staged concert. Original cast members T'Shan Williams (Celie) and Danielle Fiamanya (Nettie) return with original creatives Tinuke Craig (director), Alex Parker (musical director) and Mark Smith (choreographer) to returning. Further casting to be announced.



Sunset Boulevard in Concert - 14th December 2020 to 3rd January 2021
The 2018 Whatsonstage Award-winning (best regional production) production of Sunset Boulevard also returns in a staged concert. Directed by Nikolai Foster and with returning stars Ria Jones (Norma Desmond) and Danny Mac (Joe Gillis). The production will have a 16 piece live orchestra. Further casting to be announced.

Memoirs Of An Asian Football Casual - 25th January to 6th February 2021
Another award-winning production returns with Nikolai Foster again directing this production which brings to life on the terraces to the Curve stage. Based on the life of former football hooligan Riaz Khan and adapted to the stage by Dougal Irvine.

The Little Theatre, Leicester
This little gem of a theatre which is predominantly run by volunteers has been open for over 90 years and will re-open with some festive family joy. Full details https://www.thelittletheatre.net/



We Need A "Little" Christmas - 1st, 3rd and 5th December 2020
Devised and directed by John Ghent this evening of music and song will bring the sparkle of Christmas magic with singers and musicians popular with Little Theatre audiences returning. 

Nottingham Playhouse, Nottingham
The Nottingham Playhouse opens with a new season titled Nottingham Playhouse Unlocked which sees the theatre re-open with productions also being streamed online too. Full details and booking https://nottinghamplayhouse.co.uk/

Rootless Island Baby - 21st October 2020
A staged reading of a new play by Nottingham Playhouse associate artist Sarah 'Rain' Kolawole and directed by Madeline Kludje.

Bubble - 23rd and 24th October 2020
Nottingham Playhouse associate artist, James Graham (Ink, This House and ITV's The Quiz) returns to his home city with a love story for today. It'll star Pearl Mackie and Jessica Raine.

A Double Bill Of New Work By East Midlands Talent - 28th October 2020
This exciting double-bill will feature two new works, A Short Tour Of The Heart by Ben Norris and Where It Lands by Naomi Obeng. 

Shuck - 29th October 2020
A thrilling new work by Nottingham company LaPelle's Factory which will be staged for the first time.



Ghost Stores with Mark Gatiss - 30th and 31st October 2020
The master of spooky tales, Mark Gatiss, and Jade Anouka bring some of classic ghost stories to the Nottingham Playhouse stage. 

Hand Me Down - 3rd November 2020
In a story of dance and spoken word this piece by Wayward Thread. 3 friends see their reflection in family who exist on opposite sides of British identity, being pulled apart in an increasingly aggressive discussion about race.

Improvisation - 4th November 2020
James "Lloydie" Lloyd returns with his 4-session course exploring emotion, relationship and context. Perfect for beginners, improvers and teachers. 

Wolf - 4th November 2020
Armed with just a chair, Lewis Doherty mimes every prop, makes every sound effect and brings to life over thirty characters in this cyberpunk, neo-noir, one-man action-packed blockbuster!

Rosalie, Sandra and Jodie: Live in Concert - 6th and 7th November 2020
Rosalie Craig, Sandra Marvin and Jodie Prenger bring a night a musical theatre with songs that made their careers. 

Dot. Dot. Dot. Daniel Kitson - 9th November 2020
Daniel Kitson presents his account of six ridiculous and devastating months, experienced largely from a safe distanced. 

Cinderella - 27th November 2020 to 16th January 2021 
A magically reimagined production of legendary festive pantomime will bring some much-needed family joy to the theatre this Christmas. Filled with all the usual pantomime humour, upbeat musical numbers and all the characters you know and love.

Belgrade Theatre, Coventry
The wonderful venue in Coventry is re-opening its doors with productions both inside and outside. Full details https://www.belgrade.co.uk/

Boys To Men - Mind Taster Workshop - 22nd October 2020
A free online workshop exploring mental health issues in young black men.

COBO: Comedy Shutdown - 23rd October 2020
COBO bring a Black History Month special evening of comedy. Line up (subject to change) includes Kane Brown, Christopher Savage, Nabil Abdulrashid and Annette Fagon. 

Dr Blood's Old Travelling Show - 23rd and 24th October 2020
A thrilling production taking place outdoors in Belgrade Square. imitating the dog bring their innovative skill to create a deliciously dark tale of mischief and immorality. 

The Snail and the Whale - 28th October 2020
Tall Stories present a live-streamed production of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler's story. The stream will be available both online and an in theatre screening.

Black Future: Untitled - 30th October 2020
Join artists and speakers from the Maokwo Fusion Artists Network to wrap up Black History Month with an evening of socially distanced performance and discussion.

The Cat and the Canary - 3rd to 7th November 2020
The Classic Thriller Theatre Company bring the famous stage thriller The Cat and the Canary to the stage.

The Indians Are Coming - 9th November 2020
Join Desi Central as they return to the Belgrade Theatre with some of the best comedians on the circuit. Line up (subject to change) includes Hyde Panaser, Rahul Kohli, Tommy Sandhu, Jay Droch and special guest Nabil Abdulrashid.



Jack and the Beanstalk - 1st to 31st December 2020
Written and starring Coventry's favourite Dame Iain Lauchlan, alongside the wonderful Craig Hollingsworth, this seasonal pantomime will be streamed online with special screenings at the theatre on various dates too.

Santa's Christmas Rescue - 10th to 24th December 2020
Santa, Rudolph and Ellie are back for another Christmas cracker of a show for pre-school children. 

Derby Theatre, Derby
Derby Theatre presents a season of online work and festive production of The Little Mermaid. Full details https://www.derbytheatre.co.uk/

User Not Found - Available online till 31st October 2020
User Not Found is an immersive video podcast about what happens to our online identities after we die.

The Snail and the Whale - 25th October 2020
Tall Stories present a live-streamed production of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler's story. The stream will be available both online and an in theatre screening.

PETRICHOR - 16th to 22nd November 2020
Step into a new world. PETRICHOR combines live-action theatre with animation in an immersive VR experience. Available to view online through Derby Theatre for a limited time.



The Little Mermaid - 2nd December 2020 to 2nd January 2021
The theatre re-opens this Christmas for a socially distanced festive production of The Little Mermaid - an uplifting underwater adventure suitable for ages 5 and over.

Birmingham Hippodrome, Birmingham

Van Gogh Alive - until 31st December 2020
Don't just admire Van Gogh's paintings, immersive yourself in the most visited multi-sensory exhibtion in the world. Created by Grande Exhibitions, Van Gogh Alive, a digital art experience uses stunning projections, classical music and scent to give you a unique opportunity to step on to the Hippodrome stage and truly venture into Van Gogh's world. For more details https://www.birminghamhippodrome.com/



The Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Birmingham
The Birmingham Rep has re-opened its doors with a couple of shows. Full details https://www.birmingham-rep.co.uk/

Birmingham Royal Ballet: Lazuli Sky - 22nd to 24th October 2020
This one-act ballet commissioned and presented by Carlos Acosta as Director of Birmingham Royal Ballet. Will Tuckett's Lazuli Sky is inspired by ideas of 'social distancing'.


Rosie Kay Dance Company: Absolute Solo II - 21st November 2020
Rosie Kay returns to the stage performing a triple bill of solo new work created in lockdown.


Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford-Upon-Avon
The company will focus on only the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in 2021 meaning The Swan and The Other Place will remain closed till 2022. The company is hopeful they'll be to open The Winter's Tale and The Comedy of Errors which should have run this summer in spring. The Magician's Elephant is scheduled for the Christmas period 2021. 

The company will reopen the RST with performances in December and January with further details to be announced in November. Check https://www.rsc.org.uk/ for further updates.



Lots of theatre is happening again in the midlands which is exciting. I'm sorry if I've missed anything here. I'll keep this blog post updated.

10 October 2020

Talking Mental Health on World Mental Health Day 2020.

Before I start this post I just want to trigger warn any readers that this post will contain references to anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts and self-harm. Please don't read on if any of these things may trigger any thoughts. 


There I was standing at the top of the stairs. Ready to throw myself down. To throw myself into hopefully the abyss, to never see another day but something stopped me. I couldn't do it. Fear held me down and eventually I walked away and I survived.


I was very hesitant to write such an open post on my theatre page but I just wanted to encourage any of you who are/have struggled to be open and honest and to talk. Talking helps. On my own personal blog that I very rarely post on these days, I've often written about my mental health and just unloading those thoughts can be helpful. I'm not saying to necessarily write a blog post but maybe write it down on paper, write to a friend, talk to a professional. The one thing with mental health is to try to not bottle up those thoughts because if you bottle them they'll start to expand and try to push the lid of that battle off and then you can feel even worse.



2020 certainly hasn't been a great year. I think many of us have had struggles and mental battles during this year. Whether that be a rise in anxiety thanks to the COVID situation or just the general down feels during the lockdown. Naturally, one of the things that helps my mind escape the most is the theatre and being without theatre not for 6 months has been a very difficult time for my mind.


I send my love to all the theatre professionals who have lost jobs, incomes and continue to struggle during this time. I've often felt completely overwhelmed by the situation. The lack of support for the arts, in general, has been devastating. I'm only a very small voice in a big pond of voices and I know I can't change much but together hopefully the louder all the voices the more noise and positive change it'll make going forwards. Quite simply the arts are vital. 


I wrote the other day on the social media take over that the Arts did that how important theatre can be, how it can let someone escape, how it can maybe give a lost soul hope, how it can impact on them in the days following a performance. If one show can help one person isn't that enough?

 

Around this time last year I'd been re-prescribed sertraline by my GP and I had the darkest spiral backwards after I started taking them. Early parts of 2019 had been okay, but then I started to gradually feel lower and lower to the point where I talked to my GP about it and he recommended we try the tablets again (in 2018 the GPs kept changing my medication, something which they admitted was a mistake, so I was very unsure about re-starting them). It's hard to describe how I felt in the weeks after I started taking them. It honestly felt like I'd died. I was a ghost just participating but I felt nothing. No emotion, nothing. I wasn't there at all. 


A certain musical set in Paris (Amelie), which I'm sure I've talked about too much, really helped me escape. I dragged my dad all the way from Somerset back up to Reading during a weeks holiday just to catch it. It was during that time I was on the medication and just being in the theatre again watching something that meant a lot to me was so freeing. 


That's the one constant thing that has helped me battle on, theatre. It's most of my life. I'm often writing about theatre on my site or my social media, often watching live theatre (or this year streamed theatre). It gives me some purpose. Something to focus on. During this year I've been part of a little community of theatre fans from a WhatsApp group and I can't tell you how much that has helped me. We've done a lot of quizzes and bingos over Zoom and it's constantly a ray of sunshine during a period which has been difficult to navigate. It's been strange losing something I'm so used to in going to the theatre but through those streams and those conversations, the little magic light of theatre hasn't gone out.



Over the years I've battled with depression, feeling like I'm not worth anything like I'm a failure. Especially since I turned 29 in August I've more lately been thinking what is my worth? Do I offer anything? Will I ever be enough for someone? All those kind of darker thoughts which can make days difficult cause once a low mood hits it's like you've got a million bricks places on your mind and only one by one can you try to remove them but often they're just too heavy. Maybe you'll see my social media and think that I'm doing okay but sometimes you simply can't see the battles that are going on inside.


Thankfully as I write this I'm over 3 years since I last self-harmed (if you can please DON'T do it, it's really not worth it). The thought of I must physically punish myself can be so overwhelming and I felt so removed from myself the time I was there hacking away at my own skin. On my darkest day, I remember ripping a towel cause I was holding it so tightly, getting nail scissors and just slashing away at my skin. The one overriding memory of that was it was the night that Leicester City were at home to Liverpool that night. Instead of being at the match, I was at the walk-in centre seeing a GP, and it was the night Jamie Vardy scored one of his most famous goals. Every time I see that goal I feel a bit defeated and shame cause I should have been at the game and not at the doctors. 


I talked in the opening paragraph of the fear that stopped me from committing suicide, and again thankfully it's been a while since I had those thoughts. I'm grateful that the fear held my feet at the top of the stairs. I wasn't even sure if you could die from falling down the stairs, but I at least knew it would be very damaging to myself but I was ready to go. I've always had a fear of death (don't we all) and I think that held me down. Falling into the darkness. It's like in the movies when you see a villain pulling a character towards and the darkness but they resist. Something in my mind was screaming NOOOO. Life is worth living even if it doesn't feel like it sometimes.


I hope that if you're struggling that you feel you can reach out to someone. I'll ALWAYS be here for anyone who needs someone to talk too. Contact through my social media, DM me, email me, anything. Please don't be afraid to reach out to me on either my Beyond The Curtain page or my own personal social media channels. If we can all support each other without judgement the world would be a slightly better place.


I want to reach out and give you all a big hug and tell you that it's going to be okay. Keep fighting. Sometimes even if you take a few steps backwards that's more than okay. It's okay to not be okay.


Love to you all. 

8 October 2020

Simon Beck's The Courage of a Dreamer: 5th Anniversary Re-Release.

Simon Beck's wonderful debut album, The Courage of a Dreamer, is celebrating its 5th anniversary with a wonderful re-release on October 12th (available to purchase through Simon's website).

For those of you who aren't aware, Simon is a multi-talented gent who has worked in the West End and beyond. Strings to his bow include conducting, musical directing, singing, mentoring and being an all-round lovely man. He has worked on shows including the Miss Saigon, Sunset Boulevard, Disney's Beauty and the Beast, Acorn Antiques, Rocky Horror Show, Sweet Charity and many more. 

Simon's album includes lesser-known tracks from the world of American theatre as well as the Oscar-winning title song from Beauty and the Beast and Dancing Through Life from the hit musical Wicked. It's a wonderful re-imagining of some tunes you'll know and some that you won't.


I was fortunate to speak to Simon about the album's release;

Q: With the album due for re-release why should people listen to it? 
A: As we’ve all been separated during Covid times this is an album all about connection. I call it my ‘meditation album’. It’s my personal celebration of musical theatre. Featuring my favourite theatre composers, Stephen Schwartz (The Prince of EgyptWickedGodspell), Stephen Flaherty (RagtimeAnastasiaSeussical), William Finn (FalsettosA New BrainElegies). As well as my most favourite cabaret composer, Amanda McBroom (Bette Midler’s The Rose). And in this current struggle to support artists in all genres, I am so proud that this album was made with a team of musicians and singers from the West End, produced by engineers at Angel Studios, artwork by graphic designers featuring images of my local nature spot, Draycote Water. Plus, it shares my story through life!  

Q: How do you reflect on the album after 5 years? 
A: I am so proud of this album! It’s interesting how critical one can be at the time of recording, but with the passage of time one can listen anew with a fresh perspective. I knew absolutely nothing about producing a record. I learned how to contract the musicians thanks to the Musicians Union. The recording studio, Angel Studios in Islington (sadly no more,) was incredibly supportive of me being a ‘young’, up and coming artist. We came in to record immediately after Shirley Bassey and her team, how intimidating! But the Angels treated us exactly the same. They were special. I even had a film crew document the recording process. (The videos are on my YouTube channel!) To play the piano and sing with these musicians, who are also my friends, was such an experience! The song choices remain as important to me now as they did back then.

Q: Was an album always something you dreamed of doing?
A: Not at all. I always sang and performed as a child growing up. I studied acting and singing through my early-mid twenties, but it was always clear that I would work predominantly as an instrumentalist. It was Dr Paul Whittaker OBE (founder of the charity Music and the Deaf) who gave me my solo cabaret debut in 2000. I was working in the pit of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (Dominion) at that time, so I was very lucky to have three of their rhythm section in MY band! They also feature on the album. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to record a new orchestration by Neil Rutherford of that Oscar-winning song, Beauty and the Beast with those original musicians!
The songs on this album were first performed in a live show in 2005 at the Jermyn Street Theatre in London. Audiences were asking for my CD, so it became clear I ought to have one! 

Q: How did the album originally come about? 
A: Following such kind compliments from the live audiences, I felt it was time to explore making a record. I was also leading some big musical productions in the West End and on tours (Rocky Horror & Spamalot) and felt I would be heading a cast album before too long, but I didn’t want to be in the studio not knowing the first thing about the process. I started Courage as a learning project for myself really, but because of my fantastic team I was so happy with the results that I decided to release it.

Q: What’s your favourite track?
A: The Human Heart (Once On This Island) is probably my favourite as it was the inspiration for the whole album. The idea that we really are all connected, “Part of the Human Heart”. It’s so important, especially right now! And I must mention Just A Boy because it was written especially for me as a tribute to the wonder that is Dr Paul Whittaker OBE. I am so proud to call him a friend. He has done so much for the deaf community to enable them to share in the joys of music in all forms. He was the first deaf student to study music at Oxford!

Q: Will we get a follow-up album? 
A: I certainly hope so! Probably something lively and upbeat! ‘Courage' is the meditation album, full of life lessons and spiritual helpers.

The album which has had fantastic reviews including theatre director Ken Alexander who said - "I’d encourage anyone with an interest in musical theatre to buy this album. Simon is a wonderful musician. I loved his vocal and instrumental arrangements as well as the thoughtful and insightful interpretation of a terrific songlist" and Cello Diva, Sally Maer - “Beautiful, heartfelt singing of fabulous musical theatre songs” and has been played on Sunday Showtunes, Crush of the Week on Mark Petty's Midday Mixtape and on The Curtain Up Show.

Featured singers on the album include Justine Balmer (ClassicFM featured soprano), Claire Parrish (Miss Saigon, Mary Poppins), George Tebbutt (Les Miserables, The Barricade Boys) and Samuel Morgan-Grahame (Amélie)

The Courage of a Dreamer is available to order now through Simon's website (click here). I highly recommend you purchase, you'll not regret it.

If you want to catch Simon in person he is next singing and playing the piano with Sophie-Louise Dann (Made in Dagenham, The Girls, Lend Me A Tenor and Bend it Like Beckham) in her new concert May I Have A Moment? at the EM Forster Theatre in Tonbridge on October 24th 2020 and at the Everyman Theatre in Cheltenham on November 7th 2020. 



2 October 2020

The Theatre Channel Episode One Review

Adam Blanshay Productions and The Theatre Cafe have teamed up for an exciting new series of streamed concerts filmed in and around The Theatre Cafe in the heart of London's West End. Each concert consists of a line up of West End stars performing well-known musical theatre classics. I was fortunate enough to be able to review the first episode which launches today and is available to watch from https://www.thetheatrecafe.co.uk/channel/

Cafe Four. Photo by Edward Johnson.


The episode opens with the title credits featuring Cafe Four, this assembled group will support the performances and consists of Alyn Hawke, Emily Langham, Sadie-Jean Shirley and Alex Woodward. The titles lead in the opening number 'Coffee In A Cardboard Cup' from And The World Goes 'Round by Kander and Ebb. This brilliantly appropriate number couldn't be more appropriate for the setting inside the Cafe. It's an upbeat peppy opening performed with great enthusiasm by these wonderful performers.


Tarinn Callender (Come From Away, Hamilton) brings 'On Broadway' from Smokey Joe's Cafe. This number suits Tarinn's silky smooth vocals. Close your eyes and he sounds like a younger Gregory Porter. 


Tarinn Callender. Photo by Edward Johnson

Following Tarinn is Lucie Jones who sings 'Maybe This Time' from Cabaret. She stands as the Theatre is all packed up for the night staring and hoping it will be her time. She acts and sings the number with tremendous skill. 


With the cafe seemingly transformed into a florists, real life couple of Carrie Hope Fletcher and Oliver Ormson sing up a storm together with their rendition of 'Suddenly Seymour' from Little Shop of Horrors. Ormson's geekish looks and Hope Fletcher's powerful vocals combine well together. Next time the show is revived (hopefully soon!) they'd make great casting in these roles.


Oliver Ormson and Carrie Hope Fletcher. Photo by Edward Johnson

We head to the building's roof for Jodie Steele's leather-clad rendition of 'Heaven on Their Minds' from Jesus Christ Superstar. Her rock vocals suit this number well and she gives it all her gusto, although I found the music did overpower her a couple of times during the number.  


Back inside we go with Matt Henry's rendition of 'Let It Sing' from Violet. Matt is a fabulous performer, as anyone who has seen in him in Kinky Boots will know. He skillfully moved around the place and his voice is a joy to listen too. 'You've Got The Let It Sing' Matt sings with magnificent talent. This was probably my favourite of all the numbers in this episode.


Matt Henry. Photo by Edward Johnson

The finale is given to the always classy Jenna Russell sings 'The Ladies Who Lunch' from Company. Her class and quality shine out. She doesn't just sing a number she feels it, she acts it, she embodies the characters she plays. You can put your feet up and just soak up her talent and enjoy as she wraps up this promising first episode.


The production values are a joy. With Bill Deamer's superb direction and choreography, the whole production has been gorgeously shot by Ben Hewis. The videography captures the space and the mood of the numbers brilliantly. Jack Weir's atmospheric lighting and Gregor Donnelly's set and costume design turn the cafe into a great performance space. Michael England's music supervision allows the number to sound as fresh as ever.


Jenna Russell. Photo by Edward Johnson

It's a hugely delightful 30 minutes of theatre joy. The kind of joy that we've all missed during this year. Incredible talented indivudals all coming together to combine to make something that is every theatre fans dream. Joyous, settle down with cake and a hot brew for 30 minutes of high quality musical theatre enjoyment.


The Theatre Channel's first episode is avalable to purchase and download now from https://www.thetheatrecafe.co.uk/channel/. The second episode will launch on 30th October and is Halloween Themed and will star Linzi Hateley, Sophie Isaacs, Bradley Jaden, Josh Piterman and Aimie Atkinson. 

Lucie Jones. Photo by Edward Johnson.


1 October 2020

Visitors - An Audio Experience from Darkfield Radio.

VISITORS

THE SECOND IMMERSIVE AUDIO EXPERIENCE FROM DARKFIELD RADIO

WITH LATE NIGHT SHOWINGS PUT ON  AS RESPONSE TO NEW UK COVID 10PM CURFEW

 

  • TICKETS ON SALE NOW FOR SHOWS FROM  6 OCTOBER
  • NEW TICKETING STRUCTURE FOR BOTH VISITORS AND DOUBLE: A DIGITAL EXPERIENCE FOR TWO FOR ONLY £10 - NOW ONLY ONE TICKET PURCHASE REQUIRED, FOR BOTH PARTICIPANTS.
  • VISITORS CONFIRMED AS JOINING THE OFFICIAL SELECTION FOR RAINDANCE FILM FESTIVAL 2020 - NOMINATIONS FOR OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN AUDIO AND BEST NARRATIVE EXPERIENCE

 

DARKFIELD - the British immersive theatre company producing innovative work at the forefront of technology and theatre since 2016 -  with an emphasis on binaural sound and sensory effects to situate each audience member at the centre of intense, evolving narratives - are pleased to announce that tickets are on sale now for the second show on DARKFIELD RADIO.  

 

VISITORS is a 20-minute immersive audio experience for two people to do together in a room at home - anyone with a phone, headphones and one other person can take part (and the experience is intrinsically socially distanced, so this doesn’t need to be a household bubble). The experience is communal - the DARKFIELD RADIO app, available on IOS and Android, is designed to deliver the show at a set time and date, so not only are audiences experiencing the show in pairs, but the show is replicated in hundreds of rooms across the world, much like going to the cinema for a screening, or a theatre for a play. 

VISITORS will launch from 6 October, with showings on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 19:30, 21:00 and 22:30 - responding to the UK government's recent announcement that pubs will have a 22:00 curfew. Press previews will take place on the 1st and 2nd of October. A new and simplified ticketing structure has also been launched - just one ticket purchase is required, costing £10 per experience for two participants.


Thank you for inviting us into your home. We didn't know where else to go…

A dead couple look for a temporary solution to their permanent condition.

A reflection on our irrepressible desire to touch and why the dead find so little comfort in the world of the living.


Artistic Directors Glen Neath and David Rosenberg explain, “Whilst we live in a world where many are not able to see or hug friends and family members, we feel the themes within VISITORS are a poignant response to the experience of longing for connection. The audience are placed at the heart of the show, becoming characters within the story. Their living room becomes the stage for the narrative to unfold.  As an audience member, you will be asked to sit 3 metres apart from a partner, and to be mindful of the characters you invite into the space between you.

Taking part in VISITORS is simple - you buy a ticket, download the DARKFIELD RADIO app, and enter your code. At the designated hour, you and your partner put on your headphones and your own home becomes the setting for another world, blurring the lines between real and imagined. DARKFIELD RADIO is a brand new innovative form of entertainment directly responding to the new age we are living in, immersing audiences in strange and curious worlds in their own home and bringing new meaning to the familiar spaces we inhabit


VISITORS has been confirmed as joining the Official Selection for the Raindance Film Festival 2020, and is nominated for two awards - Outstanding Achievement in Audio and Best Narrative Experience. 

 

DARKFIELD RADIO is a new and innovative series of immersive audio experiences for audiences to do together at home. Its launch represented a shift from physical installations to home entertainment, as a reaction to the ongoing COVID19 pandemic and lockdown. The first show, DOUBLE - a dark psychological thriller launched in July in the UK and Australia to great critical acclaim, and subsequently expanded globally with evening performances launched in the US and New Zealand in mid-August. DOUBLE was selected for the Venice International Film Festival (2 - 12 September 2020) as part of the ‘Best of XR’ (eXtended Reality a catch all term for immersive productions including AR and VR) category; the first ever audio-only experience in the programme.  DOUBLE has been the most critically acclaimed and widely experienced show ever produced by Darkfield, with people in 35+ countries worldwide downloading it since the launch in July, including 500 participants of the Venice International Film Festival.


DARKFIELD has so far welcomed 170000+ audience members globally and with DARKFIELD RADIO, will now reach even larger audiences worldwide in their homes. The Darkfield Radio App is powered by Wiretapper, and funded by the Arts Council for England. Previous DARKFIELD experiences SEANCE, FLIGHT and COMA, sited in shipping containers, originally premiered at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and have since toured the UK and Australia. 

 

DARKFIELD Radio is transmitting DOUBLE and VISITORS every Tuesday, Friday, Saturday.

DOUBLE will broadcast at 20:00 & 21:30. 

VISITORS will broadcast at 19:30, 21:00 & 22:30

 

PLEASE BE AWARE SHOWS ARE 14+.

Experienced through the DARKFIELD RADIO app available for android and iphone. 

http://www.darkfield.org/radio 

SeaView Opening Casting Call

Want to be part of an online TV show breaking new ground in the West Midlands?


In the lead-up to Coventry’s year as City of Culture, Belgrade Film and Digital Ltd (an independent film production arm set up by the Belgrade Theatre Trust) has teamed up with Strictly Arts Theatre Company, Fix 8 Films, Run Home Productions and Audio Bassment to produce SeaView – a six-part, supernatural drama set among the region’s urban, working-class communities.


With scripts being developed by a team of up-and-coming Midlands writers, the producers are now looking to assemble a cast for the show, which is due to begin shooting in Coventry and Birmingham in March 2021.


Inspired by a true story, SeaView is an urban, supernatural drama centred around Steven - a young man destined for great things who is quietly tormented by his gifts. Steven's cousin Chez is desperate to finally cut ties with his illegitimate business and make an honest living, but when Steven is stabbed on a night out, Chez is forced to bury a dark secret and the family begin to fall apart.


Reality shifts and the realms of possibility are called into question as Steven's gifts suddenly appear super-human. On a mission to discover what he's truly capable of, can Steven liberate his family from the cycle of lies, crime and violence that have ensnared them? SeaView celebrates a Black, working-class, aspirational family, exploring the challenges they face in their efforts to achieve great things.


As with the writers’ room, the casting call is completely open, reflecting a commitment to providing opportunities for emerging talent both behind and in front of the camera, and particularly for those local to the region.

Image from the SeaView pilot


Actors are invited to audition via self-tape for one of the 13 roles outlined below – more detailed character breakdowns are available to download from the Belgrade Theatre website. The roles being cast are as follows:


Steven

Age range: early 20s

Gender: Male

Accents: RP

Ethnicity: Black dual heritage – British Jamaican and West African

Character relationships: Cass’ cousin, younger half-brother to Rex, son to Atlas and Diane

Description: Warm and charismatic, a joker, contemplative, reliable and intelligent. A law student viewed as the family’s “golden child” but quietly lonely and plagued by guilt for having privileges not afforded to his cousins.


Cass

Age range: Mid-late 20s

Gender: Male

Accents: Birmingham

Ethnicity: British Jamaican

Character relationships: Steven’s cousin, Chez’s younger brother

Description: Charismatic and likeable, but his external charm masks a complex internal life. He’s been working for his brother since their parents died when he was 9, and is resentful of the role ascribed to him. Very intelligent, but hasn’t had the same opportunities as Steven, and as a result is quietly jealous of his cousin, despite the deep love between them.


Rex

Age range: Early 30s

Gender: Male

Accents: Birmingham

Ethnicity: British Jamaican

Character relationships: Steven’s older half-brother, Diane’s son

Description: A powerful presence and persuasive orator who immediately commands attention. His tough outer shell hides a soft inner soul. Can be self-righteous but is protective and caring with a strong moral compass. Having followed his father into a life of crime and violence, he’s spent time in prison, but is trying to change with the help of David, a surrogate father figure. Nevertheless, his violent past always threatens to consume him.


Chez

Age range: Early 30s

Gender: Male

Accents: Birmingham

Ethnicity: British Jamaican

Character relationships: Cass’ older brother

Description: Stubborn, arrogant and egotistical, but also hard-working and charming. After losing his parents at 17, he raised his younger brother Cass alone. He never had the chance to grieve, instead focusing on the material and what they needed to survive. Beneath that, he’s desperate for validation and love. Has a few women on the go, but Nova is special to him.


Dane

Age range: Early 30s

Gender: Male

Accents: Birmingham

Ethnicity: Black British

Character relationships: Chez’s right-hand man

Description: Big and physically intimidating. Can be hot-headed and aggressive but is shyer than Chez.

Usually polite and respectful, he’s well-read but not opinionated, straightforward and proactive. Knows he’s talented but feels resigned to the hand he’s been dealt in life.


Sherelle

Age range: Mid-20s

Gender: Female

Accents: Birmingham

Ethnicity: Black and white dual heritage

Character relationships: Cass’ best friend

Description: Kind, considerate, soulful, reserved and observant, Sherelle is a deep thinker who people naturally gravitate to for advice – but only if they want to receive it straight. A natural giver, she rarely puts herself first, but can be resentful of the actions of her family and friends. Grew up caring for her mother, a recovering alcoholic. Cass is like a brother to her.


Diane

Age range: Early 50s

Gender: Female

Accents: Well-spoken West Midlands – a trained, practiced accent

Ethnicity: British Jamaican

Character relationships: Mother to Rex and Steven, Atlas’ partner

Description: Stubborn, opinionated, determined, blunt and highly aspirational. Proud and deeply conscious of social status. A traditional Auntie who’s seen it all, she’s gone from being hard as nails and a bit of a gangster to a respected, professional woman with high expectations. She met Steven’s dad, Atlas, when Rex was turning 8. Rex no longer fits in with her new lifestyle, so she has cut him out completely.


Atlas

Age range: Late 50s

Gender: Male

Accents: Originally West African but he’s been in the UK a long time

Ethnicity: West African

Character relationships: Steven’s father, Diane’s partner

Description: A successful property developer who has offered Diane a radically different way of life. Quiet and mild-mannered, he is completely dominated by her presence. Comes from a well-to-do family and has always kept his head down and worked hard. Has a steady relationship with Steven, but it’s fairly functional and lacks intimacy.


Carl

Age range: Mid 50s

Gender: Male

Accents: RP

Ethnicity: White British

Character relationships: Nia’s father

Description: Calm, methodical, vindictive, power-hungry, manipulative, private and unforgiving. A “businessman” who is used to being king, he has a number of legit businesses all secretly funded by a drug empire built on the backs of lads like Chez, Dane, and Rex.


Nia

Age range: Late 20s

Gender: Female

Accents: Estuary

Ethnicity: White or dual heritage

Character relationships: Carl’s daughter

Description: Resentful of her father, Nia is fiercely independent, resilient, inventive and hard-working. She has grown up in opulence, private schooled, but now rejects her father’s money. She’s looking for something more meaningful, and has found a connection with Rex, though they’ve grown apart since he was sent down.


Bubbles

Age range: Mid 60s

Gender: Male

Accents: Jamaican

Ethnicity: Jamaican

Description: Scruffily dressed, out of shape but not overweight, sounds older than he is and looks younger than he sounds - a walking oxymoron. Intense, spiritual, empathetic and expressive, but also lonely and fearful. He’s something of a local legend - the story goes that he used to be a big player in the area, making millions before losing it all, but no one seems to know why. Often found singing on street corners and prophesizing the end of the world.


Nova

Age range: Early to mid-40s

Gender: Female

Accents: Well-spoken, Eastern European but has been in the UK a long time

Ethnicity: Eastern European

Description: Powerful, manipulative, ruthless and selfish. A successful businesswoman who has sacrificed

a lot to get to where she is, fighting to build up herself up from nothing. She’s drawn to Chez and the more illicit side of business. They’ve been dating on and off for years.


James

Age range: Late 40s

Gender: Male

Accents: Irish

Ethnicity: Caucasian

Description: Employed by Carl, tough, ruthless and loyal, gets the job done and doesn’t ask questions. Years of service have taken their toll – he’s out of shape with a receding hairline.


SeaView is a co-production between Belgrade Film and Digital Ltd and Strictly Arts TheatreCompany. Strictly Arts will be issuing the contracts.


To obtain script sides, please email ebarber@belgrade.co.uk. Self-tapes must be submitted no later than 1pm on Friday 9 October. For more information, please visit www.belgrade.co.uk.

To stay updated about SeaView, follow @SeaViewSeries on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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