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Apr 21st

Casanova at Milton Keynes Theatre

By Alison Smith

By Alison Smith

Casanove copyright Guy Farrow

image by Guy Farrow

Giacomo Casanova is renowned for his sexual exploits but in the eighteenth century he was famous for so much more. He was, amongst other things, a translator, a violinist, a papal knight, a trainee priest, a spy and a philosopher. Casanova’s own memoirs - not intended to be published apparently - are the reason that more is known of his sex life than his other activities. He was, significantly, an adherent to the ideas of the Enlightenment and hence a participant in a revolution of freedom of expression, tolerance of sexual differences and escape from the strictures of the Roman Catholic Church.

This ballet is adapted from the 2008 biography, Casanova, by Ian Kelley. Casanova, the ballet, depicts the man’s life from postulant to gambler to writer, from virgin to Lothario to broken hearted lover, through a series of delicious vignettes. But it is impossible to convey the richness and sensuality of the dancers, the atmosphere created by the music, set, costumes and wigs, which make the ballet an outstanding experience, in mere words.

Casanova CDB Copyright Emma Kauldhar

image by Emma Kauldhar

The curtain opens on an austere stage – gloom, chimes, an incense burner, gilded pillars, but from this moment the audience is transported into many different worlds by small shifts of stage furniture and a remarkable use of lighting (Alastair West). The music (Kerry Muzzey) is so closely integrated with the movements on stage that it becomes as one with them and each scene segues into the next seemingly effortlessly as we are transported from one location to another. And what dancers! They are skillful not only in dancing but in conveying emotion through each bodily movement; especially notable were the beautiful lines made by the male dancers’ arms when they were clad in priestly vestments.  Of course the scenes with less clothing – the masquerade, the seduction by M.M., the party in Paris, allow an appreciation of bodies which move with the fluidity of water, which are expressive and beautiful. Accolades must be given to Kenneth Tindall the choreographer. It is difficult to portray sex scenes without falling into the trap of indecency and lewdness, but Tindall’s choreography has created a world of sensuality and intimacy.

Casanova image copyright Emma Kauldhar

image by Emma Kauldhar

The most sensuous was Giuliano Contadini as Casanova. He shone in the duets and trios with both male and female partners. His relationships with Bellino (Dreda Blow) and Henriette (Hannah Bateman) expressed the joy of their close, physical contact, an intimacy very different from the relations with Madame de Pompadour and Senator Bragadin.

Casanove Courtesans Caroline Holden

image by Caroline Holden

The corps de ballet in their roles as priests, guests at the ball, courtesans and gamblers filled the stage with movement and drama ; there was the occasional mistiming but whatever their dancing expertise - soloists, leading dancers or ensmble – all portrayed a world of grandeur, hedonism and beauty, which is unforgettable.

Casanova is at Milton Keynes theatre until Saturday 22nd April

www.atgtickets.com

0844 871 7652

Booking fee applies

 

Apr 19th

The Wedding Singer - King’s Theatre, Glasgow

By Cameron Lowe

Jon Robyns and Cassie Compton lead a talented cast in a musical adaptation of the hit movie.

 

Marriage may be going out of fashion but romance will never die.  So it came as no surprise that Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore scored a huge hit back in 1998 with the celluloid version of “The Wedding Singer” featuring the perfect union of slushy love story and nostalgic 80’s comedy.  Who would have guessed, though, that this almost formulaic movie could become a fantastic 21st century musical?

 

The show is remarkably true to the original movie including all of the quirky characters, retro comedy and tear inducing romance.  Robbie (Jon Robyns) is a wedding singer who believes in the perfect match.  Together with his band, “Simply Wed”, he seeks to contribute to each couple’s perfect day.  He meets waitress, Julia (Cassie Compton) at one such wedding and unwittingly falls for her.  Julia becomes engaged to her greedy, straying boyfriend just as Robbie is dumped by his bizarre rock-chick girlfriend.  Robbie loses his faith in love but, together, Julia and band mates Sammy (Ashley Emerson) and George (Samuel Holmes) make him believe in true love once again.

 

Jon Robyns played an affable Robbie with his clear vocals hitting the high notes and fitting the requirements of the role perfectly.  He was supported by a great cast.  Cassie Compton was the definitive ‘girl next door’ who would never be swayed by 80s greed.  She certainly delivered the sweetness of the role and ably sang many memorable numbers … but, as written, the character is a little 2 dimensional and it needs a performance twist to lift it out of the ordinary.  Roxanne Pallett took a night off but was energetically replaced by Tara Verloop as Julia’s waitress friend, Holly.  Tara rocked this soundtrack layering on talent and verve like it was going out of fashion!  Ray Quinn did his substantial fan-base proud as greedy trader, Glen with an unerring nasty-boy character portrayal.  “All About The Green” was certainly a highlight. Ruth Madoc earns a mention as Robbie’s scene stealing Grandma Rosie.

 

Among the ensemble, the stand out performer for me was Mark Pearce.  His characterisations lifted scenes throughout the show with every appearance delivering a new ‘face’.  A little more of this from the cast would lift the show to a new level.

 

Set and lighting were eye catching and very effective. Scene changes were slick – although some remnants of props from previous scenes were occasionally left onstage – a serious theatrical “no-no”.  The pacey and surprisingly varied (considering the era) original score was delivered with flair but the sound balance occasionally overpowered some vocals.  Recognisable chords and riffs from the music and movies of the time delighted those of us old enough to remember the 80s as something other than the ‘decade that style forgot’! 

 

This is a delightful uplifting musical which ticks all the boxes to produce a monster hit.    I rate it up there with the likes of “Footloose” and “Sunshine on Leith”. 

 

LISTINGS INFORMATION

King's Theatre Glasgow:

Tues 18-Sat 22 April 2017

Tues & Thurs, 7.30pm

Wed, 2.30pm & 7.30pm

Fri, 5pm & 8.30pm

Sat, 2.30pm & 7.30pm

Box office: 0844 871 7648 (bkg fee applies)

 

Apr 16th

The Crucible at the Richmond Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

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Is the accuser always holy now?

Written by Arthur Miller in 1953 as a response to the communist witch-hunt, The Crucible is seen as a metaphor for McCarthyism as there were obvious parallels between the witch-trials in 17th century Salem and what witnesses were subjected to in hearings conducted by the House Unamerican Activities Community (HUAC). The cause was later hijacked by Senator Joseph McCarthy, who needed a patriotic platform that would generate enough publicity to guarantee his re-election. The play has never been more relevant than today when one can easily detect the strong parallels between the community of Salem - a society in the midst of great change and anxious about the future - and the political climate in the US and the UK. 

In the Puritan New England town of Salem, Massachusetts, a group of girls is detected dancing in the forest by the local minister, Reverend Parris. Parris’s daughter Betty, has since fallen into a catatonic state. There is talk of witchcraft and Reverend Hale, a specialist in this field, has been asked to come and investigate. Parris doesn't believe in unnatural causes but he is scared that his enemies might harm him over his daughter's improper behaviour. Abigail Williams, who led the dancing party in the woods, convinces the girls not to admit anything. Abigail had a secret affair with John Proctor, a respected local farmer, whilst being engaged in his home. She was consequently fired by Proctor's wife Elizabeth. Abigail still desires Proctor but he regrets his adulterous behaviour and fends her off.  

 

A separate argument between Proctor, Parris, Giles Corey, and the wealthy landowner Thomas Putnam soon ensues. This dispute regards land deeds and money with Putnam trying to grab Corey's land and to dictate the terms in Salem because of his wealth whilst Proctor argues that it is up to the community to make decisions. As the men argue, Reverend Hale arrives and examines Betty. Hale then demands to speak to Tituba. After Parris and Hale interrogate her, the panicky Tituba confesses to communing with the devil, and she hysterically accuses various townsfolk of consorting with the devil. Suddenly, Abigail joins her, confessing to having seen the devil conspiring and cavorting with other townspeople. Betty joins them in naming witches.

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Reverend Hale (Charlie Condou) having a friendly talk with John and Elizabeth Proctor (Eoin Slattery and Victoria Yeates) 

A week later, 14 people are locked up in prison because they were "seen with the devil" by the hysterical girls. At first only vagrants and eccentric old women are denounced as witches. John Proctor is reluctant to go to court and inform the judges about Abigail's character when Mary Warren, their servant arrives, and informs them that Elizabeth had been accused of witchcraft but the court did not pursue the accusation. Shortly thereafter, Giles Corey and Francis Nurse come to the Proctor home with news that their wives have been arrested. Officers of the court suddenly arrive and arrest Elizabeth. After they have taken her, Proctor browbeats Mary, insisting that she must go to Salem and expose Abigail and the other girls as frauds. 

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Betty Parris (Leona Allen) and Abigail Williams (Lucy Keirl) having a vision

Douglas Rintoul's production is very fast-paced, which sometimes works against the tension of the play. Occasional stage directions, such as "The curtain falls" and "He conceives himself much as a young doctor on his first call" (regarding Reverend Hale), that are projected onto the wall can be amusing but I found them rather distracting.

Victoria Yeates gives a touching performance as Elizabeth Proctor but is rather subdued, which is especially noticeable in the important final scene between Elizabeth and her husband. Charlie Condou is very good as Reverend Hale who comes to regret his hasty judgment. Lucy Keirl convinces as Abigail Williams and Jonathan Tatler is excellent as Judge Danforth as he manipulates naive witnesses so their statements suit his agenda. Diana Yekinni impresses as Tituba, helpless in her low status as a slave and afraid for her life, and Augustina Seymour is very good as both Mary Warren and the dignified Rebecca Nurse.

The minimalist stage design by Anouk Schiltz consists of a panelled wall and a number of trees which works well for this play. However, the costumes seem to derive from various periods over the past few centuries without any consistency whatsoever. Unfortunately, this is also true for the accents. It is doubtful that a small Puritan community would entail accents from Ireland, Cornwall and Buckinghamshire. Yet is is possible that these minor points show the universality of the play.

An impressive production of a powerful play. 

By Carolin Kopplin 

The next stop of the tour will be Brighton from 24th April.

Tickets: http://uktheatrenet.ambassadortickets.com/whatson/aspx28

Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes including one interval

Photo Credit: Alessia Chinazzo

Apr 13th

More twists and turns than an acrobat on acid - Mindgame at Malvern Theatre

By G.D. Mills

In Anthony Horowitz’s country house asylum for the criminally insane, things are not as they seem. The presiding doctor is more psychopath than psychoanalyst, the writer more comfortable with a scalpel than a pen in his hand, and the nurse’s increasingly febrile interjections hint at a terrible secret. 

Dr. Farquhar entertains a visitor, a writer collecting information about a serial killer who dwells in the asylum. Most of the drama swivels on the shifting relations between the two male characters and the slowly dawning suspicion that the inmates are running the asylum. Andrew Ryan’s Styler is an athletic, ambitious writer pitting his apparently sluggish wits against the avuncular, patrician Farquhar, played ably by Michael Sherwin.  

This psychological thriller takes on its highest form when elements of surreal menace (a tinny tanoy arbitarily emitting snatches of screechy symphony, for instance) and Pinteresque absurdity (when a long list of increasingly bizarre sandwich options are offered) creep in. But this is a genre piece more than anything, and so with a perfunctory twist here, and an obligatory turn there, it is especially gratifying when the final revelation puts paid to the sneaking suspicion that some of the plot ends don’t quite tie up. They do, very neatly as it happens 

Set in the doctor’s office, Sarah Wynne Kordas' deceptively static set begins to ennerve you. Are those beautifully manicured gardens through the window beginning to recede? And is that portrait slowly transmutating into something altogether more sinister? 

Delivering more twists and turns than an acrobat on acid, Mindgame with keep you guessing right to the end.  

 
Catch it now.

Visit  http://www.malvern-theatres.co.uk/events/event/mindgame/

Apr 10th

Write of Spring - a New Writing Showcase

By Carolin Kopplin

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Network Theatre is a community theatre space in the underground railway arches of London Waterloo station. Run by the volunteers of the resident Network Theatre Company, an amateur theatre group, the venue offers productions of contemporary theatre and provide a rather unique location for visiting theatre companies and events.

The festival Write of Spring, which took place on just one day, 19th March, was a celebration of new writing, featuring six short plays that focus on beginnings - the start of a new life or a new discovery.

The first play One in Four, written and directed by Kate Pettigrew, takes place on a sheep farm. It is lambing time and Sally (Andrea Mentlikowski) is having a difficult birth. When the lambs are finally born, they are up to all kinds of nonsense, playing and rolling around in the stable, and they listen with big eyes as Sally tells them stories about green fields. Will they ever get to see them? Farmer Steve (Owain Jones) and his wife Jess (Kat Holland) have a rather fraught relationship ever since Jess had a miscarriage for which she blames herself. A delightful play with dark undertones.

Braincell by Shaun Smith, directed by Rebecca Mason, begins as the clock strikes twelve on New Year's Eve. Regret (Nigel Williams), Reluctance (Amy Andrews), Reminiscence (Edmée Sierts), and Recognition (Tekle Baroti) reflect on loss in this pinteresque play that consists mainly of monologues. Nigel Williams was particularly impressive as he expressed his grief about his recent loss.

The last play before the interval was Life Boat by Lisa Pancucci, directed by Kate Pettigrew. Middle-aged Martin (Nick Rutherford) visits Helda (Lisa Pancucci), his dominatrix, who is already annoyed by his delay: "Mistress Fury waits for no one." Delightful punishment awaits - but this time Martin would like to try a completely different direction. A bittersweet comedy with a surprise ending.

The Dark before Dawn by Amy Andrews deals with a couple that couldn't be more different. Ivy (Edmée Sierts) is the eternal optimist who loves to sing and enjoy life whereas Eben (Peter Kershaw), a pessimist, feels worn down by Ivy's seemingly carefree attitude: "Doesn't anything ever bother you?" A light-hearted play asking some serious questions about how one should live one's life.

Ryan M. Bultrowicz's play Shower Thoughts deals with writer's block. Robert (Nigel Williams) has taken umpteenth showers to restart his brain but he still cannot think of an ending to his book. His girlfriend Kate (Andrea Mentlikowski) prevents Robert from taking yet another shower with a different suggestion. The play is a bit too short for character development and Robert's change happens a bit out of the blue but the premise is interesting.

The evening concluded with Cuckoo by Shamini Bundell, directed by Kristen Farebrother. Miles (Owain Jones), a PhD student in archaelogy, is invited to an army base to investigate a mysterious object. The object is top secret and must not be moved. Miles is excited because he usually does not get the opportunity of shining with his expert knowledge as his professor is taking all the credit for his hard work. Will Miles dare to be bold this one time?

An entertaining evening with some promising work by new writers.

By Carolin Kopplin 

Network Theatre - London's Secret Community Theatre

246A LOWER ROAD, WATERLOO, LONDON, SE1 8SJ

More information on Network Theatre: https://networktheatre.org/

The next show will be Collaborators by John Hodge, from 21 June - 24 June 2017

Apr 7th

Out of Order at the Richmond Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

 George Pigden (Shaun Williamson) & Richard Willey (Andrew Hall) (1).jpg

George Pigden (Shaun Williamson) & Richard Willey (Andrew Hall) 

She's not my bride, she's Jeremy Corbyn's secretary!

Ray Cooney, the Master of Farce, will be celebrating his 85th birthday this year. Whilst other people his age are happy to enjoy their hard-earned retirement, the energetic Ray Cooney, whose career now spans 70 years, presents a new version of his 1980 play Whose Wife Is It Anyway, which he also directs.

Out of Order is a fast-paced farce about a philandering Tory politician who sees his tête-à-tête with a Labour secretary rudely interrupted and spends the rest of the evening trying to save his hide. The play has been updated to include jokes about the current political situation and well-known polticians.

Junior Minister Richard Willey (Andrew Hall) has booked a room in the Westminster Hotel with a direct view of the the Houses of Parliament. He is expecting to spend the night with stunning secretary Jane Worthington (Susie Amy) whilst he led his wife Pamela (Sue Holderness) to believe that he is attending the debate in the House of Commons. He expects to sneak out for a bit to do his duty with the PM before returning into the arms of his stunning lover. With a bucket of champagne and a few dozen oysters, nothing should go wrong. But when Willey enters his room, there is a man caught in the window - he appears to be dead. After hiding the corpse in the wardrobe, Willey quickly calls his assistant George Pigden (Shaun Williamson) to take care of the mess.

Ronnie Worthington (Jules Brown), Richard Willey (Andrew Hall), The Waiter (James Holmes) & The Manager (Arthur Bostrom).jpg

Ronnie Worthington (Jules Brown), Richard Willey (Andrew Hall), The Waiter (James Holmes) & The Manager (Arthur Bostrom).jpg

After a somewhat sluggish first half, complete chaos ensues and the jokes come one laugh a minute. The show includes a lot of physical comedy, often featuring a rather volatile window, and more than one pair of dropped trousers.

Shaun Williamson has the plum role as Willey's aide Pigdem whose problem-solving skills are challenged to the max. Andrew Hall is very convincing as the slick politician, who seems able to weasel his way out of any situation. Susie Amy does her best with a role that is very slight - she mostly shocks the other characters by popping up in her underwear when least expected. Arthur Bostrom is hilarious as the mortified hotel manager and James Holmes gives a comical tour de force as an incompetent but sly waiter. Jules Brown is hysterically funny as Jane Worthington's husband Ronnie who is raging with jealousy. Sue Holderness provides some humour as the inebriated Mrs Willey and Elizabeth Elvin has quite an entrance as the forceful Nurse Foster. David Warwick makes his mark as the rather animated "body". 

The set design by Rebecca Brower includes a defective window that develops a life of its own and deservedly gets a round of applause when it is taking its bow together with the cast.  

Although some of the jokes and situations seem a bit old-fashioned, this is a highly entertaining production.

By Carolin Kopplin

Until 8 April 2017 at the Richmond Theatre

The Green, Richmond, Surrey, TW9 1QJ

Tickets: http://uktheatrenet.ambassadortickets.com/whatson/aspx28

Running time: 2 hours 5 minutes including one interval

Photos by Darren Bell.

Apr 7th

THIS JOINT IS JUMPIN' at London's Other Palace, Victoria

By Elaine Pinkus

Leave the woes of London behind and enter the ‘cotton club’ at the Other Palace Studio, Victoria (previously the St James Theatre), where a Harlem Rent Party is about to take place and we are invited to be its guests. Sit back, enjoy a drink and relax to the songs, dancing and general atmosphere of This Joint is Jumpin’, produced by Hoagy B Carmichael and directed by Patrice Miller, based on the book by Jeremy M Barker and Patricia Miller. In homage to Fats Waller, we are transported to the 1920s, to the music of swing which was greeted enthusiastically in its day and continues to do so. With musical arrangements moving between jazz and rhythm and blues, the mood was created. We might not have been jumpin’ as such, mainly because there was simply not the space to do so, but our feet were certainly a’tappin’ alongside the wonderful  Joseph Wiggan (sensational)  and Michela Marino Lerman as they whacked their taps to the fabulous song score of Fats Waller. With vocals by Vuyo Sotashe, (so mellow), Michael Mwenso and Lillias White, (a belting sensation) and the fantastic five piece band, The Shakes (Ruben Fox, Mark Kavuma, Dion Kerr IV, Mathis Picard and Kyle Poole) this was an evening of pure enjoyment.

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The cast

Opening with This Joint is Jumpin’ the mood was set and the ensuing numbers such as Honeysuckle Rose, Squeeze Me and so forth maintained this night club atmosphere. Lilias White oozed passion and kittenish sex appeal, whilst Vuyo Sotashe’s vocal range vibrated with mellowness and soul. We ached with White as she gave her heart rending passion of Black and Blue, remembering those victims of the Klu Klux Clan and then, deftly, were brought back once more to joy with the high level tap of the dynamic pair and the wonderful arrangements of the fabulous Shakes. Whilst all showed their skills Mathis Picard deserves an additional applause for his mind blowing piano playing.

THIS JOINT IS JUMPIN 4 (left to right) Mathis Picard (pianist) Vuyo Sotashe (vocalist) Mark Kavuma (trumpet) Ruben Fox (tenor s

The Shakes: Ruben Fox (Saxophonist), Mark Kavuma (Trumpet), Dion Kerr IV (Bass), Mathis Picard (Pianist) and Kyle Poole (Drummer)

In her role as Master of Ceremonies, Desiree Burch offered snippets of history and context, not only in the life of Fats Waller but also in the struggles of the Black communities, referring to James Baldwin and historical facts of Atlanta. Perhaps these were somewhat disconnected but as an homage, there was the need to include meaning and relevance. 

With a running time of just under two hours (including the interval) this is pure fun and entertainment. Well done to the well rehearsed cast who not only performed with commitment, energy and excitement but who also took time to chat to their audience during the interval. A highly enjoyable evening.

(note to myself: dust those tap shoes and get practising!)

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Michaela Marino Lerman and Joseph Wiggan

Photography: Darren Bell

THIS JOINT IS JUMPIN’

Tuesday 4 – Saturday 15 April

Performance Times:
Tuesday - Saturday evenings at 8.00pm
Fridays 6.30pm & 9.00pm
Saturday matinees at 3.00pm

Ticket prices:
£20/£25
Fridays and Saturdays:
£25/£30

The Other Palace Studio
12 Palace Street
London
SW1E 5JA
Box of] fice: 0844 264 2121
www.theotherpalace.co.uk

Twitter - @JointisJumpin
Facebook - /JointisJumpin

Apr 6th

I Capture the Castle at the Watford Palace Theatre, Watford

By Trevor Gent

 ‘First love, unrequited love, married love...’

Watford Palace Theatre, Octagon Theatre Bolton and Kevin Wallace Limited in association with Deborah Ward present a new British musical based on the novel by Dodie Smith. It tells the story through the eyes of seventeen year old narrator Cassandra, opening with the famous line: ‘I write this sitting in the kitchen sink..’

Cassandra (Cassie) is 17. She is trying to ‘capture’ her eccentric family in her new diary - her irritating elder sister Rose, her unconventional stepmother Topaz, her orphaned admirer Stephen, and her novelist father James, who hasn’t written a word in years.  They are behind with the rent for the tumbledown castle that seemed so romantic when they moved in. The roof is leaking, it never stops raining and the family is surviving on oatcakes and eggs. 

But the new landlord is a wealthy young American, with an attractive younger brother, and spring is in the air...

Set in the bohemian England of the 1930s, this warm and sharply funny coming-of-age story from the author of 101 Dalmatians is set to stunning original music by Steven Edis, with influences of swing, tango, beguine, English folksong and a hint of Cole Porter!

The Palace team have brought their trademark blend of emotional storytelling and physical theatre to this brilliant new musical, developed and premiered in Watford before going out on the road...

A very engaging and well written piece of theatre, the simple staging is effective with stairs and beams representing the interior of the castle, and curtain backdrops and clever use of props, sound and light effects depending on the mood and location of the scene. All this leaves you concentrating (and you will need to concentrate) on the actors themselves who all play their roles very well indeed. 

A very enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours. Go along and see for yourselves!

 

Full Cast detail on this link:

https://watfordpalacetheatre.co.uk/whats-on/theatre/i-capture-the-castle/#meetthecast|rose&cassandra

Book and Lyrics by Teresa Howard

Music by Steven Edis

Directed by Brigid Larmour

Designer Ti Green

Movement Director Shona Morris

Musical Director Oli Jackson

Lighting Designer Mike Gunning

Sound Designer Nick Manning

 

Playing at:

Watford Palace Theatre from Friday 31st March until Saturday 22nd April.

Octagon Theatre, Bolton from Wednesday 16th April to Saturday 6th May.

Further tour dates to be announced.

Reviewed by Trevor Gent

Apr 5th

"This beguiling ballet, this terpischorean treat" - The Red Shoes at the Bristol Hippodrome

By G.D. Mills

Based on the 1948 Oscar winning film, which in turn takes its inspiration from the Hans Christian Anderson story, Matthew Bourne brings us a new, visually stunning, dream-like incarnation of The Red Shoes. For those who don’t know, the grisly fairytale is about a girl who refuses to take off her red shoes when she goes to confession. For her sins the shoes develop a life of their own and so she is doomed to dance, through streets, fields and graveyards, by day and by night. Even when her feet are chopped off she is unable to gain redemption - only death can give her that.

In both the film and Matthew Bourne’s version we are presented with a dance company going through the processes of staging the old fairytale. And so what we see is a stage, on a stage, on a stage. Designer Lez Brotherston captures this complex dynamic beautifully with a series of complex and ingeniously conceived mechanical switches, which transport us across multiple locations in a matter of seconds. There is a filmic quality to the production too: we find our point of view being cleverly and unexpectedly manipulated as the onstage curtain reverses and we find ourselves treading the boards alongside the dancers, looking out towards another audience.

The story is told exclusively through movement and dance, as presented by a motley bunch of theatrical eccentrics: the impetuous, impressario director; the melodramatically fey, male lead; the muse-struck musician and, of course, Vicky Page, who simply flies through the air with a beautifully fluid grace. The set is rarely motionless and the stage is ceaselessly alive with movement.

Bernard Herrman, a Hollywood legend known for his musical contributions to Citizen Kane and Taxi Driver, provides a psychologically nuanced score. Always visually engaging the production is nevertheless narratively ambiguous. Despite having read the programme notes beforehand I wasn’t always sure whether I was watching the show within a show within a show, or merely the show within the show. With a complex premise of this nature, you can see where there is room for confusion, and discussion at the interval confirmed that I wasn’t the only slightly confused audience member.

 

The arrival of a steam train, which crashes apocalytically through the stage, marks the end of this dance delight, this beguiling ballet, this terpischorean treat. For those new to the world of ballet, as I am, The Red Shoes provides a marvellous introduction.

Go see the production at Bristol Hippodrome yourselves.

 Visit http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/matthew-bournes-the-red-shoes/bristol-hippodrome/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Apr 5th

Caste at the Finborough Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

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George D'Alroy (Duncan Moore) and his beloved Esther (Isabella Marshall)

Kind hearts are more than coronets, and simple faith than Norman blood.

First produced in 1867, Caste was one of a series of plays in the naturalistic style by theatrical revolutionary T. W. Robertson. Robertson was the first playwright who dared to show comtemporary British people in realistic settings and directed his own work. He was a great influence on Arthur Wing Pinero, who based the character of Tom Wrench in Trelawny of the Wells on Robertson, and on W.S. Gilbert, who admired his theatrical innovations, stating that Robertson "pointed the way for a whole new movement". Caste, widely considered to be Robertson's masterpiece. focuses on the distinction of class and rank in Victorian Britain.

To celebrate the 150th anniversary of T. W. Robertson's comedy, the Finborough Theatre presents the first UK production of Caste in over 20 years.

London 1867. George D'Alroy (Duncan Moore), a soldier and the son of a French nobleman, asks his friend Captain Hawtree (Ben Starr) for advice. He has fallen in love with Esther Eccles (Isabella Marshall), a beautiful ballet dancer from a poor family. Esther's father (Paul Bradley) is a drunkard and her sister Polly (Rebecca Collingwood), also a performer, is engaged to a plumber with the unflattering name Sam Gerridge (Neil Chinneck). Hawtree warns his friend that he should never marry beneath him, although he himself has aspirations of marrying an aristocrat far above his station. However, George does not listen to his friend's advice. When Esther tells him about a dancing opportunity in Manchester, George proposes to her to keep his beloved in London.

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The Marquise de St. Maur is not amused - Susan Penhaligon and Paul Bradley

Six months later, George is called to arms and his mother, the Marquise de St. Maur (Susan Penhaligon) arrives to say her goodbyes. She is mortified when she learns of his marriage to a common girl but there are more important matters at stake. Family honour forces George to go and fight in India, leaving his wife behind to confront the class prejudices of e Marquise, whilst coping witthh her drunken father at the same time.

Charlotte Peters directs a charming production of Robertson's comedy drama, which naturally does not appear as revolutionary today as it did 150 years ago, but still has much to offer - some very witty lines and colourful characters. Duncan Moore and Isabella Marshall are lovely as the ill-fated couple, believing that love can conquer all. Susan Penhaligon's arrogant aristocrat evokes Edith Evans in her prime, and Paul Bradley's unscrupulous and workshy scrounger Eccles seems a lost brother to Eliza Dolittle's father in Pygmalion. Rebecca Collingwood impresses as Esther's flirtatious and self-assertive younger sister Polly who loves theatrics but makes the right choice with Neil Chinneck's hard-working plumber Sam. Ben Starr convinces as Captain Hawtree who also learns a thing or two about "caste".   

A rare revival of a delightful play that should not be missed.

By Carolin Kopplin

Until 18th April 2017

Finborough Theatre

Running time: 1 hour 45 minutes including one interval. 

Photos by Greg Veit.