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Everything is better in space.
The VAULT Festival is now in its fifth year. Until 5 March, hundreds of new shows are presented in the Waterloo Vaults. Summer Nights in Space is a musical comedy about the search for love across the universe by Hannah Elsey Productions, the same company that created the hilarious The Quentin Dentin Show.
Ever since Captain John Spartan (Matthew Jacobs) was a little boy, growing up in a bio dome and living on soylent green, he dreamt of going boldly where no man has gone before. After finishing space school, he was given command of the Excelsior. After his third year in space, a dull computer as his only company, John is getting increasingly scared of catching space madness.
But then he detects a distress call in his spam folder and, despite the warnings of his computer, calculates a trajectory to the perishing astronaut. On his way to the damsel in distress, John finds a dangerous alien (Candice Palladino) on board. To make matters worse his arch nemesis and space rival "Lethal Space Bizzle" (Benjamin Victor) appears, rapping across the bridge.
Candice Palladino, Matthew Jacobs Morgan and Benjamin Victor
Henry Carpenter's musical is a spoof on popular science fiction, with references to Star Trek, Alien, Soylent Green, Dark Star, Moon and many other famous films. Accompanied by the Spacebugs - Henry Carpenter (musical director), Mickey Howard (guitar), and Archie Wolfman (drums) -, clad in white coveralls, with insect antennae and futuristic glasses, the three actors are singing their hearts out, sometimes in vain as the band can be overpowering. The songs are not very memorable but "Lady in Space" entails all the longing Captain Spartan feels for the unknown astronaut with the sexy Russian accent.
Sinead O'Callaghan's production is entertaining and includes some good twists. It benefits from a talented cast: Matthew Jacobs Morgan gives a highly energetic performance as Captain John Spartan, Candice Palladino is delightful as the space alien, moving in a predatory crouch, smiling threateningly, accompanied by the occasional hiss. Benjamin Victor has the most thankless role as the aggravating Lethal Space Bizzle. His appearance is too short to make much of an impact, yet he is very good as the voice of the computer.
The stage design by Lars Davidson entails a spacey floor with grid pattern, two walls in glittery white and a few gadgets, including a silvery truck that delivers Spartan's food among many other items. A monitor dating back to the 1980s with green fonts represents the computer - basic but sufficient.
An entertaining show.
By Carolin Kopplin
Until 19th February 2017
Running time: 80 minutes
Photographs provided by Chris Hislop.
Lars Eidinger as Richard III
I myself find in myself no pity to myself.
After a successful and critically acclaimed run at the Edinburgh Festival last summer, Thomas Ostermeier brings his intriguing Schaubühne production to London, with Lars Eidinger in the title role.
Using a translation by Marius von Mayenburg, one of the most important contemporary dramatists in Germany, Shakespeare's verse is replaced by prose and the play has been cut down to a running time of two and a half compelling hours without an interval, which seems taxing but is doable as there is not one dull moment in the show.
Thomas Ostermeier's production begins with thunderous drumming by Thomas Witte and a cacophony of noises before we find ourselves at a swell party. The Yorks are celebrating their victory in frat party style, covering the stage with glitter and giving in to any possible vice imaginable. Only Richard finds himself excluded from the festivities. An outsider because of his disfigurement, he has been pushed to the sidelines for far too long. Richard decides to get what he deserves by using deceit and murder. The glitter remains on the stage, stomped into a mix of clay and blood as Richard murders his way to the throne.
Lars Eidinger (Richard III) and Jenny König (Lady Anne)
Commanding centre stage from the beginning, Lars Eidinger provides Shakespeare's antihero with sexual magnetism and a boyish charm, displaying a set of braces whenever he smiles. He is rapper and stand-up comedian, using a microphone to share his most intimate thoughts with his audience. Using his fake humility to deceive his opponents, Richard makes his lies appear like the truth. When wooing Lady Anne, Richard strips down, offering himself for the kill. Yet instead of piercing his heart, Lady Anne gives Richard a passionate kiss. Richard's seduction has worked and he despises Anne for being such an easy prey. Lars Eidinger's Richard is a monstrous but highly seductive performer. He fondles the microphone like a rock star, aware of his power over his audience.
One could say that one flaw of this production is that it centres too much on Lars Eidinger, thereby sidelining the other characters, which leaves him short of serious opponents. Margaret, played by Robert Beyer in drag, is comical. Her curse has been cut and she does not appear as a threat in any way. Jenny König, who gave a splendid performance in Ophelia's Zimmer at the Royal Court, is very good as Lady Anne but her character and Elizabeth (Eva Meckbach) are mere victims, doomed to passivity. Buckingham (Moritz Gottwald) is smeared with a brown paste by Richard, who then exclaims that Buckingham "looks like shit", getting many laughs from the audience. Yet in the end Richard destroys himself by taking his course of action, haunted by his victims and ending up alone in a rather surprising twist.
Thomas Ostermeier's production benefits greatly from Jan Pappelheim's stage design, depicting a bare stage, covered with clay, that seems to be in decay, rotting away with the mayhem caused by the protagonist, and Erich Schneider's atmospheric lighting design. Sébastien Dupouey provides video projections reflecting the unsettling events on the stage.
An impressive and challenging production.
By Carolin Kopplin
Until 18th February 2017
Running time: 2 hours 30 mins/no interval
Age guidance 14+ (contains nudity and violence)
Performed in German with English surtitles
All photographs provided by the Barbican Centre.
The popularity of dance for the British public has soared over the past 10 years, thanks to the foresight and insight of a singular BBC television show. Yet long before this, a singular individual was shaping the future of accessible, popular dance hailed in Britain, for audiences across the globe.
Marking the 30th anniversary of his own dance company, the current touring production of Matthew Bourne’s Early Adventures demonstrates with joyful celebration and unique, comfy-in-its-own-skin movement, why he is referred to as ‘Britain’s favourite choreographer’. Bourne is the creator of the world’s longest running ballet production, a five-time Olivier Award winner, and the only British director to have won the Tony Award for both Best Choreographer and Best Director of a Musical. And the affection for his work is alive in every one of the company dancers in this production, who, if they were honest, are close to heaven under Bourne’s masterful direction, such is the show’s overriding authentic sense of joy.
This triple bill of succinctly-crafted works - Watch with Mother, Town and Country and The Infernal Galop – feels as relevant today as to an audience when it ws first performed in the 1980’s. Bourne’s wide-reaching and lasting appeal works through a fusion of touching and wit-led story-telling, bringing nostalgic scenic tableaux to life in a captivating, timeless style.
The eras depicted in the pastiche scenes are merely vehicles for commentary on basic human limitations and foibles at the hest of community social mores. And Bourne has the ability to elicit bursts of belly laugh through pithy, perfectly-timed visual gags, ranging from a duo of country bumpkins clog dance which we are led to believe may never end, to the sombre funeral procession of a glove puppet hedgehog. It’s fun-poking joy, with occasional life-based sinister undertones. But laughter at human imperfection is at the core, as Bourne’s sublime command of timing facilitates quite personal connections with the audience through identification.
The visual backdrops and wardrobe are generally hard to get emotional about. The scenes of all three works have echoes of absurdist theatre; surreal, painted backdrops offsetting larger-than-life facial expressions, borderline grotesque characterisation wrapped up in some Brechtian alienation effect.
Joie de vie fills the stage from start to finish. It is timeless, proud and completely at ease with itself. Anybody wishing to experience a living stagecraft master at work should not miss his Early Adventures. And all that for a man who started dancing at 22, when most young wannabees have retired through injury. Class of his own.
Matthew Bourne’s Early Adventures is currently touring the UK until 12th April 2017. For further information, see www.new-adventures.net
Reviewed by Alison Smith
image: Johan Persson
Bourne says The Red Shoes is a modern story of ‘obsession and celebrity’ and we see that clearly through the life of a young dancer who makes the wrong choice in choosing ballet stardom before love, a choice which leads to her tragic death. But on the way to her untimely death, Bourne presents the audience with a sumptuous ballet. This stage production is based on The Red Shoes, the 1948 ballet film by Powell and Pressburger, based in turn on the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale. In the Forties’ film the young dancer, Victoria Page, and the young composer, Julian Craster, are taken on by the tyrannical, yet charismatic, ballet impresario, Lermontov. Victoria has her chance to become a star when the prima ballerina of the company is injured. By then Victoria has fallen in love with Craster, the composer. Jealous Lermontov banishes Craster from the troupe, thus setting the stage for the tragedy.
image: Johan Persson
The complexity of Bourne’s Red Shoes is that the ballet is a ballet within a ballet. The ingenious device of designer Lez Brotherson’s moving proscenium arch reveals on-stage and off-stage, beach and bedroom, Covent Garden and Monte Carlo. This allows a voyeuristic view of the ballet troupe and the constant mixing of ‘real life’ and ‘art’, and the incorporation of pastiches of twentieth century ballet and intimate scenes, juxtaposed with the ensemble, give Red Shoes its pace. There are many unforgettable moments such as the glorious scene in the rehearsal room when the stars, jaded Irina (Anjali Mehra) and the outrageously camp Ivan (Liam Mover) go through their number dressed in fur coat and kimono, the joyful ballet on the beach in Villefrance-Sur-Mer, the sand dancers in the tawdry music hall and the moving solo performance by Victoria (Ashley Shaw) at the end of Act 1 when the red shoes first reveal their evil nature.
image: Johan Persson
The choreography matches the mood of the scenes perfectly. There is real tenderness in the pas-de-deux between Craster (Dominic North) and Victoria; in the trio dances with Lermontov (Sam Archer) the battle for control and emotion is apparent. The atmospheric score by Bernard Hermann with arrangements by Terry Davies reinforces the atmosphere and the incorporation of music from the 1966 film Fahrenheit 451 is sensational. The lighting pervades the stage with shadows and brightness. It is used to great effect when the audience becomes part of the troupe and the lights are on us and, explosively, in the last scene when the audience is blinded by the lights of the train. Lastly the costumes must be mentioned – a mixture of modern and classical, rich, colourful and beautiful.
There is little to fault in this ballet - the dancing, the music the setting and the lighting are inspired. It is a privilege to see such a polished performance.
The Red Shoes is at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday 18th February.
Booking fee applies
Alan Ackybourn really is astonishing. His characters have often been ordinary, even boring, people whose lives usually go no further than their suburban gardens. And yet, through his powers of observation and his unrivalled talent he makes them into roles which have had audiences transfixed for over 50 years and have professionals and am dram societies alike clamouring to perform his plays all over the world.
But Henceforward… is a world away from suburbia. And its characters are, well, not of this world. No breathing Ayckbourn’s magic into the lives of dull little families here. Instead, the actors are challenged with bringing to life and living with a robot, and a dysfunctional one at that.
The play premiered in 1987 and was the first time Ayckbourn used a robot in the storyline. Eleven years later, in Comic Potential, his second robotic character won Janie Dee three awards only ever bestowed on one other actor before or since… Judi Dench.
There are certainly award-winning performances in this production but, first, to the set the scene. Henceforward… takes place in the not too distant future when society has broken down and thugs called The Daughters of Darkness police the area where composer Jerome Watkins lives in a dingy tower block with steel shutters on the windows. It’s totally unnerving. Though written 30 years ago Ackybourn’s vision was extraordinary and nowadays is way too close for comfort. The grey, concrete walls and drab surrounds of Roger Glossop’s set is unsettling.
The play is also extremely funny. Jerome has an android, model no NAN 300F (listed in the cast as Herself!), which a neighbour gave him for spares, but though he refers to her/it as ‘a load of old scrap’, he has programmed her to walk (after a fashion) and talk (after a fashion) - with hilarious consequences. We must surmise that Jacqueline King, who plays Jerome’s unpleasant and forceful ex-wife Corinna in the second act, is indeed NAN, and, therefore, she should be praised for both monumental performances. I could never tire of watching what NAN gets up to next. Just the anticipation is pure joy.
But King is not the only actress who has to walk the walk and talk the talk of NAN. In the first act Laura Matthews plays Zoe, an escort hired by Jerome to play his fiancée so as to make his ex-wife think he has a stable home where his daughter Geain can visit. Beaten up by the Daughters of Darkness, Zoe’s various emotional states, which range from highly entertaining to down-right moving, are superbly drawn by Matthews, but there is more to come in the second act when she too becomes NAN.
There is a great deal of underlying darkness to this play, but it is so well balanced with great humour and strong characters including Nigel Hastings as the all too human Mervyn and Jessie Hart as Jerome’s complex daughter. King and Matthews understandably command the stage, but Bill Champion will stick in my mind as the troubled, humourless Jerome whose one, blind obsession loses him the thing he was looking for but had all the time.
Superbly (of course) directed by Ayckbourn himself, the production could not work without video designer Paul Stear’s special effects.
Henceforward is at the Theatre Royal Windsor until Feb 18.
Box office: 01753 853888
Further dates include:
Feb 22-25: Cambridge Arts Theatre
Sonia (Christina Baston), Raskolnikov (Christopher Tester), Porfiry (Stephen MacNeice)
Mankind won't improve itself and there is nothing I can do about it.
Arrows & Traps have done it again! After their compelling production of Anna Karenina, the company returns to the Jack Studio Theatre with yet another Russian classic - Fyodor Dostoevsky's first great novel Crime and Punishment, adapted by Marilyn Campbell and Curt Columbus.
Raskolnikov, a former law student, murders an old pawnbroker and her sister to prove a theory. In the aftermath of his heinous crime, Raskolnikov battles with his conscience, going through a variety of emotions, from justification to guilt, from despair to empowerment. He is eventually forced to face his guilt by the contact with two characters — the deeply religious Sonia, whose life has been one long path of suffering, and the clear-sighted Porfiry, who is charged with investigating the murder.
Raskolnikov (Christopher Tester)
The brilliant adaptation by Campbell and Columbus does not attempt to bring a detailed account of the novel to the stage. Instead it distills the essence of Dostoevsky's novel and focuses on the major themes. The play is a psychological thriller that takes us into the mind of a murderer. Everything revolves around Raskolnikov as he relives his memories and the thoughts that drove him to the crime.
Whilst being interrogated by Porfiry, Raskolnikov argues his theory that extraordinary people have an inner right to overstep certain boundaries and to dispose of people who hinder their grand plans, using Napoleon Bonaparte as an example. He refuses to be tricked by Porfiry into a confession, telling the inspector that he - as a superior being - can see through his indulgent act. However, Porfiry is convinced that Raskolnikov will confess in the end as a murderer is "like a moth circling a flame".
As Raskolnikov relives his memories, he reveals his feelings for Sonia who is willing to do anything to keep her family afloat, whilst being tormented by her ailing stepmother and left to her own device by her useless drunkard of a father. Still Sonia remains compassionate and pious whilst Raskolnikov embraces a nihilistic world view. Sonia realises Raskolnikov's isolation and loneliness when she tells him:" There is no one in the world as unhappy as you."
Sonia (Christina Baston)
Ross McGregor's intense and imaginative production does justice to Dostoevsky's masterpiece. Christopher Tester is outstanding as the tormented Raskolnikov as he goes through myriad emotions, sometimes speaking directly to the audience. Christina Baston portrays Sonia as vulnerable and strong at the same time. Baston also plays all the other female characters in the play, including the murdered pawnbroker Alyona, her gentle sister Lizaveta, and Raskolnikov's long-suffering mother. Stephen MacNeice convinces as the soft-spoken inspector Porfiry as well as Sonia's drunken father Marmeladov. Both actors manage even rapid transitions between their various characters smoothly and with great skill.
Set in the time of the novel, the actors are wearing authentic period costumes, designed by Ross McGregor. The simple set by Luke Ridge consists of a few chairs, a table and a sofa. Quotes and keywords from the novel are written across two columns framing the wall that also includes a window, drawn with white chalk. Gareth Kearns' soundtrack adds to the unsettling atmosphere of the play.
An impressive adaptation of a classic that should not be missed.
By Carolin Kopplin
Until 25th February 2017
Running time: 90 minutes, no interval
Photographs by: Davor Tovarlaza @ The Ocular Creative
Laurenz Laufenberg and Christoph Gawenda
Once more my pity had been stronger than my will.
The novel Beware of Pity (Ungeduld des Herzens) by Stefan Zweig was published in the eve of World War II and takes place in 1914, shortly before the beginning of World War I. Simon McBurney directs the Berliner Schaubühne ensemble in a compelling production that raises questions of consciousness and compassion as the Austro-Hungarian empire disintegrates.
The performance begins at night in a museum. Two uniforms are on display: the first is covered with blood as it was worn by Archduke Franz Ferdinand when he was assassinated in Sarajevo in June 1914. The other uniform is squeaky clean, the uniform of an officer of the Hapsburg cavalry. This uniform belongs to Anton Hofmiller, a young career officer who slides into a terrible situation shortly before the assassination of Franz Ferdinand and the beginning of the Great War, an ill-fated love story with a rich and disabled young woman. As a now middle-aged Hofmiller remembers his younger self, the production takes us to a different time.
Young cavalry officer Anton Hofmiller (Laurenz Laufenberg) is stationed in a small garrison town near the Hungarian border. He is invited to a soirée held by Baron Kekesfalva (Robert Beyer) at his castle and enjoys the delicious food, select wines and the delightful company. Before leaving, Hofmiller feels obliged to ask Edith (Marie Burchard), the daughter of his host, for a dance. His request is met with shock and disbelief as Edith is disabled. Deeply embarrassed by his faux pas, Hofmiller flees from the castle. To atone for his behaviour, Hofmiller sends flowers to Edith and apologises, Edith responds with an invitation for tea. Soon Hofmiller is a daily visitor at the castle. He enjoys the rich food and the warm welcome by Edith's family but remains ignorant of the fact that Edith is falling in love with him. When Hofmiller realises the extent of the girl's feelings for him, he dutifully asks for her hand in marriage. But Edith soon realises that Hofmiller just feels pity for her.
McBurney designs his production as an experiment - researching the timeless lack of compassion. The stage design by Anna Fleischle resembles a museum space with some of the actors sitting at desks, whilst others are placed in front of microphones or exhibits as they take us to the past so vividly described by Stefan Zweig. Hofmiller's story is told in German by seven actors, swapping narration and dialogue, who are not individually credited. Stylised movement by the ensemble reflects Edith's disability or suggests a cavalry drill, accompanied by Pete Malkin's thunderous sound design. Video projections of desolate battlefields and boats of refugess (design by Will Duke) place this story in a contemporary perspective.
Laurenz Laufenberg is excellent as the young Anton Hofmiller as he stumbles into an abyss, prompted by his older self and his comrades, torn between recklessness and a kind of foreboding. Marie Burchard plays Edith as a stubborn, unstable young woman who is helplessly moved around the stage on a mobile table. Robert Beyer convinces as Edith's father, acting like an aristocrat but despised as a Jewish upstart by the community and Hofmiller's comrades. Johannes Flaschberger is compassionate as Edith's doctor.
Stefan Zweig wrote that there were two kinds of pity: "One, the weak and sentimental kind, which is really no more than the heart's impatience to be rid as quickly as possible of the painful emotion aroused by the sight of another's unhappiness, that pity which is not compassion, but only an instinctive desire to fortify one's own soul against the sufferings of another; and the other, the only one at counts, the unsentimental but creative kind, which knows what it is about and is determined to hold out, in patience and forbearance, to the very limit of its strength and even beyond". We have to ask ourselves what kind of pity we are guilty of.
The production is part of 14-18 NOW, the UK’s arts programme for the First World War centenary.
By Carolin Kopplin
Until 12th February 2017
Running time: 2 hours with no interval
Age guidance 12+
Performed in German with English surtitles
The show is now sold out but is available online:
Live stream online: 12 Feb 3pm GMT
Available online until 26 Feb 11.59 GMT
Watch on these websites:
Photocredit: Gianmarco Bresadola
Adi Chugh as Amar
Can you see me? Can you see me standing here in the stars? Look at me I'm in the future. (...) I'm in the future and I'm building one of the highest buildings in the best city of the world.
First shown in a staged reading format as part of the Finborough Theatre's Vibrant Festival in 2015, Carmen Nasr's play discusses the contradictory nature of luxury founded on the exploitation of impoverished foreign workers.
Dubailand is the name of a retail and entertainment development that is nearing completion. The play focuses on three characters - Indian migrant worker Amar who helps building the dream, British PR hotshot Jamie who is promoting it, and British journalist Clara who intends to reveal the truth about this fantasy.
On the 88th floor of an unfinished skyscraper, Amar (Adi Chugh) is gazing at the stars, talking to his little daughter who he left behind in India. He came to Dubai for a better life - a city of lights and an ice cream parlour offering 200 different flavours - yet he finds himself living in a slum. Moving to a different camp would require bribes that he cannot afford. Meanwhile Jamie (Nicholas Banks) is living in luxury - that he cannot afford. A former activist, he now prefers living the good life. He has just impressed his icy boss Amanda (Belinda Stewart-Wilson) with the idea of a live-feed broadcasting directly from the building site so buyers can see how their property is being built and their investment is growing. So naturally Jamie is not pleased when his former girlfriend Clara (Mitzli Rose Neville) intends to further her journalistic career by putting his own job on the line. Clara, tired of writing for a shopping magazine, wants to research the working conditions of migrant workers in Dubai who are building Dubailand and reveal the brutal exploitation at the heart of the glittering dream world.
Nicholas Banks as Jamie and Mitzli Rose Neville as Clara
Amanda's PR team strives to present Dubailand as a modern development where Emiratis drink coffee in Starbucks whilst enjoying state-of-the art technology with their latest gadgets. Any hint of tradition or the past is to be banned from the video presentation. Of course the truth is rather different. Dubai is an absolute monarchy and a tax haven for the rich. There is no income tax but you also have to do without opposition parties, elections, or unions that could protect workers' rights. Migrant workers from India, the Philippines and other south Asian countries come to the UAE and are paid very low wages, often living under appalling conditions. Carmen Nasr effectively targets these issues in her play.
The German airport security officer is a true clichée but the play is well written and Nasr presents her arguments well, placing the emphasis more on the subject matter than the characters. Occasionally, Nasr's language changes into a form of free association, using the bare minimum to get her point across.
Georgie Staight's simple but intense production features a very good cast, most of all the three main characters played by Adi Chugh, Nicholas Banks, and Mitzli Rose Neville, but they get splendid support from Belinda Stewart-Wilson's cold-blooded Amanda who defeats Jamie's arguments by comparing his present hedonistic life to the crammed conditions in a London flat share. Reena Lalbihari impreseses as Jamie's colleague Deena who is living the good life just like her western colleagues, rejecting the "backwards" traditions of non-western countries. Leon Williams plays Jamie's colleague Tommie and Varun Sharma convinces in a variety of roles. Aanya Chadha is lovely as Amar's daughter Lali.
A relevant and topical new play that shows much promise.
By Carolin Kopplin
Until 21st February 2017
Running time: 90 minutes with no interval
Photographs by Tim Hall.
UK PREMIERE AT GARRICK THEATRE ON TUESDAY 10 OCTOBER
Mel Brooks’ YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN - the new comedy musical based on the Oscar-nominated smash hit movie - will open in the West End on Thursday 28 September at the Garrick Theatre (Press Night: Tuesday 10 October). Tickets go on-sale tomorrow,Friday 10 February.
The production will open for a pre West End season at the Theatre Royal Newcastle from Saturday 26 August to Saturday 9 September.
The London run for Young Frankenstein is announced in the week that Mel is to be awarded the BAFTA Fellowship, the highest honourthat the Academy bestow and a lifetime achievement recognising his remarkable career across the arts.
Young Frankenstein, the wickedly inspired re-imagining of the Mary Shelley classic, see’s Frederick Frankenstein, an esteemed New York brain surgeon and professor, inherit a castle and laboratory in Transylvania from his deranged genius grandfather,Victor Von Frankenstein. He now faces a dilemma - does he continue to run from his family’s tortured past or does he stay in Transylvania to carry on his grandfather’s mad experiments reanimating the dead and, in the process, fall in love with his sexy lab assistant Inga?
Based on the hilarious 1974 film andco-written with Thomas Meehan, Brooks will once again collaborate with Broadway director and choreographer Susan Stroman for this all-singing all-dancing new production, bringing his and Gene Wilder’s classic movie to life on stage.
Casting will be announced at a later date.
Young Frankenstein is produced by Mel Brooks, Michael Harrison and Fiery Angel.
Charing Cross Road
Performances begin Thursday 28 September
Monday - Saturday: 7:30pm
Wednesday & Saturday Matinees: 3:00pm
Tickets from £20
0330 333 4811
First, let me emphasise that the performance of Ben Frost/Richard Hough’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is a work in progress and, as such, is still in its stage of evolvement. As a reviewer, I was very excited to be part of the audience for this ‘workshop’, where attendees were invited to contact the production team with their views and ideas.
Frost and Hough have based this production loosely around Goethe’s short tale of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Rather than focusing entirely on the traditional outline of the lazy young apprentice whose magic misfires in the mayhem of the famous broom scene, this tale uses that reference in one scene only. The title role in this production is cast as feisty teenager Eva, (played delightfully by Naomi Petersen) who wishes to be taken seriously by her magician father Johan (Neil McDermott ) in her desire to be his apprentice despite being a ‘mere’ girl. Interwoven with this basic premise there are various sub plots including a love interest with young Erik (Blair Gibson), the confused relationship with long suffering Queen Larnia (Tracie Bennet) and a murderous plot devised by the jealous and cunning Prince Fabian (Jos Slovick).
At the very start Jan Ravens, as narrator, asks the audience to suspend reality and exercise their imaginations, for this is a minimalist performance with no scenery, no costumes and no lighting. Undoubtedly, should this production go ahead, it will demand all three on a large scale. Perhaps it was a big ask of the audience who were seeing only 7 chairs on an empty stage but all credit to the cast who gave it their all. They had rehearsed this first showing for three weeks only but had embraced their characters and were able to draw in the audience.
This Sorcerer’s Apprentice had a large musical score but lacked any real show stopping numbers where ensemble and/or harmonies could explode on stage. Perhaps this is an area that might be revisited. There were a few moments of humour but again, this might need addressing. Nevertheless Seann Alderking (Musical Director) and Ed Scull presented the score on piano and percussion with finesse and are to be applauded. And not to omit Nigel Richards as Chancellor whose presence on stage injected some pantomime aspects into a show that could perhaps include an audience of both adults and younger visitors. At the moment, I am not quite sure who is the target audience.
This workshop was presented at London's Ambassadors Theatre on one night only. I await with interest the outcome of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.
Social media: @AmbTheatre #sorcerersmusical
Wednesday 8 February 7.30pm – The
Ambassadors Theatre, West Street, London, WC2H 9ND - one night