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Jan 18th

The Snowman at Milton Keynes Theatre

By Louise Winter

Reviewed by Louise Winter on 17th January 2018

 The Snowman and Boy

image copyright Alastair Muir

A charming and gentle production.

This iconic story is enchantingly presented here and there were plenty of appreciative children and adults in the theatre last night.

Spanning all generations, Raymond Briggs’ book appeared in 1978, the film was released in 1982 and the iconic music ‘Walking in the Air’ topped the charts in 1985. Birmingham Repertory Theatre first staged the story in 1993 with the show making its London debut in 1998 where it has continued to run each year since, making it the longest running Christmas show in the UK.

This show has been tweaked over the years,and now includes the roles of the Ice Princess and Jack Frost. Generally though, it is pretty faithful to the book and film as a result of the creative team remaining steady - Bill Alexander directing and Howard Blake as musical supervisor and joint executive director.

Presented here using a pretty straightforward set; floor to roof two-dimensional snowy covered fir trees frame the centre stage. There are a couple too many set changes in the first half where the audience sit in darkness waiting but this could be addressed by using the front panels to project imagery, as is done at other times during the show, mostly to depict falling snow.

ensemble snowman

image copyright Tristram Kenton

There are plenty of little instances of physical humour throughout. My nephew loved the penguins especially and the delightful woodland animals with their quirky and amusing movements and particularly wonderful costumes.  

When extending a show for the stage there are often, inevitably, moments that don’t appear in the story or film and whilst these felt a little bit out of place the children, most importantly, seemed unconcerned with this.

The much anticipated flying is enchanting and really well done with great reference to the imagery of the book and film. There’s quite a bit of it thankfully and it is magical and for many in the audience was emotionally nostalgic; there were tears!  The book and the film both depict the world below the Snowman and the Boy as they fly but this was not made the most of here which seemed  a mixed trick. The story is about the Snowman taking the Boy to a faraway place, another world in a sense, but this was not fully imagined in the staging. Again, employing projected imagery on the back drop or the foreground set could have added to this sense of travel and other-worldliness.

A cast of 17 dancers means there is some dance, but I was surprised that this element seemed underemployed.  This is movement to music mostly rather than a full dance production. There is a marvellous orchestra led by David Quigley but it was disappointing that the carol singers and on stage musicians appeared to be mostly miming.

My nephew commented that the Snowman was not fat enough and I agree; his costume was flapping around him sometimes and I initially thought that this was because he would need to move and dance extensively but this was not so. Indeed all the snowmen and women were rather lean. Although avuncular, they could do with a few more mince pies!

This is a sweet, nostalgic 90 minutes of escapism that rekindles thoughts of the magic of childhood.

The Snowman plays Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday 20th January (There is are three performances on Saturday including one at 10.30am). This year’s tour finishes in Brighton on 28th January.

Box office 0844 871 7653

http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/the-snowman/milton-keynes-theatre/

Booking fee applies

Jan 17th

Tango Moderno, The Kings Theatre Glasgow

By Cameron Lowe

 

Vincent and Flavia (Simone and Cacace of the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing fame) present a wonderfully diverse evening of entertainment at Glasgow’s King’s Theatre this week featuring their famous style of choreography.

 

Let’s face it … we’ve all been there, right?  We have a ‘significant other’ who is super excited to see a new show and we go along … doing the right thing to be there (reluctantly) while our loved one grins enthusiastically at the stage for a whole evening.  It has to be done!

 

But anyone arriving (reluctantly) to this latest production featuring Vincent and Flavia might be pleasantly surprised as this remarkably varied production has something to entertain even the most jaded of persuaded partners!

 

So, it’s basically an evening of dance.  That is a given.  And we should celebrate that dance element first and foremost.  Strictly fans will be delighted to see Vincent and Flavia deliver some lovely routines throughout the show including some steamy hot Argentine Tango choreography.  Most impressive to me was the powerful subtlety of the lifts – less “look at me” in a ‘Strictly’ style and more emotive and powerful; relying as much on Flavia’s core strength as that of Vincent. 

 

But the show adds so much more through the ensemble cast.  Each routine is presented as a short vignette – telling a short story of couples or groups.  Lovers, work colleagues, groups of friends, etc.  The stories are connected through a loose theme of couples coming together and there is a real sense of conclusion at the end of the show which is quite satisfying – not bad for a show with no dialogue! 

 

The vignettes are introduced and connected by a narrator (Tom Parsons) who speaks in cool contemporary prose.  There have been a spate of TV adverts in this style recently and for good reason … it is so on trend!  Tom also sings lead vocals on the majority of numbers – beautifully accompanying the dance activity and covering a broad range of modern artists from Ed Sheeran to Rag ‘n’ Bone Man to Lucus Graham and many more.  Tom is joined by Rebecca Lisweski on vocals.  Rebecca takes the lead from time to time, too, and together they deliver first class entertainment worth the ticket price alone.

 

The choreography from Karen Bruce is excellent throughout.  Each piece advances the story or theme and the variety is astounding covering the spectrum from hilarity to pathos.  The dancing cast deliver all of this with aplomb – in particular, their characterisation is evident with every step and leap.  The piece accompanied by Lucas Graham’s “7 Years” was astonishing and moving and left we wanting to pause and rewind to see it again.

 

I’ll confess that I was already looking forward to seeing this show …  but, having seen it, I’m bursting to tell people who might not normally buy a ticket to see a “dance show” to go and see this one!

 

Tango Moderno, King’s Theatre, 297 Bath Street, Glasgow, G2 4JN

Tue 16 - Sat 20 Jan 2018

Tue-Sat, 7.30pm

Thu & Sat matinees, 2.30pm

www.atgtickets.com/glasgow

0844 871 7648* calls cost up to 7p per minute plus your phone company’s access charge

 

Jan 9th

An Opportunity For All Creatives to Meet the Finborough Theatre Team

By Carolin Kopplin

To ensure our work remains accessible to all, and following the success of Introduce Yourself for playwrights during our annual Vibrant– A Festival of Finborough Playwrights, we are now extending Introduce Yourself to provide an opportunity for emerging creatives (other than writers) to engage with the Finborough Theatre.

 

Introduce Yourself is for new directors, designers, lighting designers, sound designers, choreographers, movement directors, actors etc etc etc from the UK who have never previously worked at the Finborough Theatre and who would like to meet us.

 

On Tuesday evenings during February 2018 Neil McPherson, Artistic Director of the Finborough Theatre (13, 20, 28 February), and Alex Marker, Resident Designer of the Finborough Theatre (6 February), will be in the Finborough Arms pub below the theatre between 6.00pm and 9.00pm for you to Introduce Yourself personally.

 

Bookings will open for each fifteen minute slot at the Finborough Theatre on Thursday, 1 February 2018 by email to admin@finboroughtheatre.co.uk

Following a discussion on social media which can be read on Facebook here, both Neil and Alex will be accompanied by a female member of staff, and you are welcome to bring someone along with you if you would like to.

 

Jan 6th

One Night of Queen @ The Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury

By Yvonne Delahaye

Image result for one night of queen

There has never been a greater showman than the sorely missed Freddie Mercury.  He knew how to strut his stuff, totally owning the stage beaming his colossal personality out to tens of thousands of people.  He was unique with his extraordinary vocal range and incredible musical talents and no-one can compare to him.  Many have tried to emulate him, but he’s a one-off and we’re unlikely to see the like ever again.

Prior to the formation of Queen, Brian May and Roger Taylor played in a band called Smile. Freddie Mercury was a fan of theirs and suggested the name Queen when he joined them in 1970.  Prior to their first eponymous album release, in 1973, John Deacon joined the band and that was the beginning of the legendary band we all know and love.  With the release of the album A Night at the Opera, featuring Bohemian Rhapsody, in 1975 the band went stratospheric.   ‘Bo-ho Rap’ stayed at number one in the UK for 9 weeks and the music video helped to popularise their use to promote songs.

Hit after hit followed We Will Rock You, We are the Champions, Another One Bites the Dust to name but a few.  Their performance at the 1985 Live Aid concert has been ranked among the greatest in rock history by various music publications, especially as Freddie captivated the world with his energy and exhibitionism.  Tragically, Freddie died in 1991 and we must wonder what other extraordinary music he may have created.  John Deacon retired in 1997, but May and Taylor continue to perform under the name Queen with guest lead vocalists Paul Rogers and Adam Lambert.

Gary Mullen, as a lifelong fan of Queen, decided to enter ITV’s Stars in Their Eyesfor a laugh’ and ended up winning the Live Grand Final!  That was in 2000 and Gary has been touring globally ever since creating his show, after forming a band called The Works.  

No-one can doubt Gary’s energy as he gives 110% from the moment he comes on stage.  He keeps himself fit and flexible by lifting weights and practicing yoga on tour and he wouldn’t be able to do his job without regular exercise.  He certainly has Freddie’s strut and moves off to a tee, as he is constantly moving around the stage.  Unfortunately that means that sometimes he puts too much energy into the movements and less into the vocals.  We found it hard to hear the lyrics on most of the songs and the tempo was so fast the band had problems catching up.  It was very much a ‘one-man’ show and most of the band weren’t even lit!  David Brockett (Brian May) had a few opportunities to shine with some iconic solo instrumentals, but overall the band weren’t as tight as they should have been.

Half-way through the first half, we overheard one lady saying ‘he’s beginning to grow on me’, which was very telling.  I felt that if he’d spent less time on the showmanship and more on working together as a band, the show would have been a lot better.  Not that most of the audience minded, as people stood up and sang along to all the timeless songs.  The theatre was nearly full and although the average age would seem to be people in their 60s, it was good to see new generations of fans being introduced to Queen’s music.

Freddie Mercury is inimitable, but this show is entertaining and Queen fans may enjoy a night of memories.

For further info: http://www.garymullenandtheworks.com/tour-dates

 

Reviewed by:

Yvonne Delahaye

@yvonnedelahaye

 

05.01.18

Dec 27th

Miki - Norden Farm Centre for the Arts, Maidenhead

By Kate Braxton

There is always a point between Christmas and New Year where children and adults alike become restless, and this little nugget of theatrical wonder is the perfect treat to keep the magic of the season alive.

Based on the illustrated book by Stephen Mackey, Miki is an inspiring tale about friendship, courage and adventure. Created for the stage by Slot Machine Theatre Company and Norden Farm Centre for the Arts, the show's action hugs an enchanting original musical score by Nick Tigg, and is proudly unfolded by three masterful puppeteers. Rich production values and neatly delivered messaging transport us deep into Miki’s world in just under an hour.  It is at the very least, sweet escapism.

Miki (Peyvand Sadeghian), Polar Bear (Ian Harris) and Penguin (Jack Kelly) live far away in the icy mountains. One midwinter eve, Miki makes a wish, the moon weaves its magic and she is taken on a delightful journey as she tries to catch a star that will shine forever. The friends’ adventure leads them through an underwater voyage, where they meet all kinds of amazing, friendly creatures.

So committed to their roles are our three actor-puppeteers, while the integrity of the piece lets the imagination run free, I would defy even the grumpiest family member not to suspend their disbelief for a time.

The set and staging appears simple, yet one standalone, three dimesional feature cleverly doubles as both the mountainous landscape scene, while also housing the subterranean action below.

Lighting plays a key part in drawing the audience into Miki’s world, matching ultraviolet effects with brightly coloured underwater characters. The puppetry and choreography are attentively detailed and we find ourselves quite caught up in the current of the underwater setting. Miki is a tightly meshed collaborative piece, but so good is the original music, it could tell the story before a puppet has lifted its head.

Norden Farm Centre for the Arts is a terrific venue for a good-value family show and it comes as no surprise that their prior successes adapting One Snowy Night and Kipper’s Snowy Day have been followed by such a charming Christmas audience captivator. 

Suitable for ages 3+

For tickets Call Box Office: 01628 788 997 or www.nordenfarm.org

Runs twice daily, 11am and 2pm until Saturday 30th December

 

 

Dec 27th

Cinderella, The Alhambra, Bradford

By GRAHAM CLARK

The Bradford Alhambra pantomime is rightly known as one of the best pantomimes in the country - this year it even opens with a song about the theatre with the lyric "at the Alhambra, the greatest of them all"

Yorkshire comedian and former Butlins redcoat, Billy Pearce is much apart of the Alhambra as its famous domes. Playing Buttons in his 19th performance here, this is a lavish West End style production, proving too that he is still the King of panto.

Coleen Nolan as the Fairy Godmother was all motherly and charm whilst her real life son  Shane Nolan eventually settled into the role of Dandini as the evening progressed.

The Ugly Sisters were a scream with costumes as outragous as their lines. Hernia (Graham Hoadley) and Verruca (Jack Land Noble) played their characters with a wicked menace.

Sarah Goggin as Cinderella appeared all youthful innocence and charm whilst Sam Barrett played Prince Charming as suave and debonair as you would expect with a chemistry between the two.

The traditional Bradford Sunbeams were present providing a youthful exuberance to this  captivating pantomime.

Of course you have to be as up to date as possible with the songs, so the Ed Sheehan hit Shape of You becomes Gonna Be A Prince Like You when Dandini becomes the Prince.

Special effects such as Cinderella's coach and horses riding out over the audience in the stalls and a life like 3D Forrest scene kept everything high tech and magical.

The scene where Buttons has a talking bear - Bertie the Bear from Barnsley was laughable as the bears mouth stopped working half way through the act, with years of panto experience Pearce carries on only to say at the end "that bear is going back to the shop in the morning"

Despite all the hi tech treats the simple slapstick routines seemed to go down best with the younger members of the audience which showed that sometimes you do not have to go above and beyond to get the best reactions.

With spectacular costumes, fast paced cheography and a wonderful story this was a regal, funny, entertaining and joyful panto. Bradford has done it again and raised the bar for others to follow.

Runs until Saturday 28 January 2018

www.bradford-theatres.co.uk

Telephone: 01274 432000

Dec 23rd

Peter Pan: A Musical Adventure

By Kirstie Niland

Blackpool Opera House, until Sunday 7th January 2018

Peter Pan is sprinkling fairydust over Blackpool this Christmas with a new musical production by the award-winning Selladoor Family, and this show is a welcome alternative to the standard Christmas panto.

The cast features X Factor eye candy Jake Quickenden in the title role, and TV star Jennifer Ellison as an impressive Captain Hook. Radio Wave presenter Scott Gallagher totally steals the show as Smee, and Blackpool's treasured Maureen Nolan plays Mrs Darling. Joining them are a strong cast of triple threats. 


        

No spoiler alerts here, except to say don't book this expecting a traditional pantomime. Whilst there are some panto style comedy moments, this show is exactly what it says on the tin - a musical adventure - packed full of foot-tapping chart hits and energetic choreography. This means lots of nods to the original stage play, so here is the background story of how the boy who never grew up first took flight.

Peter Pan was born in 1902 in J.M. Barrie’s novel The Little White Bird, as a baby who lives on Kensington Gardens’ Serpentine Lake and learns to fly. The story of Peter was adapted to create the children’s book Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens (1906), which Barrie dedicated to “Sylvia and Arthur Llewellyn Davies and their boys. My boys”. Barrie said these five boys - George, Jack, Peter, Michael and Nico - formed Peter Pan’s character: “I made Peter by rubbing the five of you violently together, as savages with two sticks produce a flame. Peter Pan is the spark I got from you”. And so it was that the boastful, careless boy who can fly, and wouldn’t grow up, was brought to life.

However, the origins of Peter Pan are more tragic, as he was first based on Barrie’s brother David, who died in an ice-skating accident the day before his 14th birthday.  Barrie and his mother remembered David as “forever a boy” - just as Peter Pan has remained a youngster for over a century, known to fairytale lovers the world over as the beautiful boy with a beautiful smile.

Barrie’s stage play adaptation, the musical Peter Pan, was an instant hit when it opened at London’s Duke of York theatre on 27th December 1904. It was tradition then for women to play young boys, so sadly Barrie never fulfilled his wish to see a boy play Peter, and the much sought after role has continued to be played by females, with West End lead’s including household names such as Lulu and Bonnie Langford.

Next came Broadway and critical acclaim, and then the silver screen, with Disney’s Peter Pan in 1953 and Steven Spielberg’s Hook in 1991. Hook attracted a stellar cast, with Robin Williams (Peter Pan), Dustin Hoffman (Captain Hook), Glenn Close (Gutless the pirate), Gwyneth Paltrow (Wendy), Bob Hoskins (Smee) - and Julia Roberts as Tinkerbell.

Tink the fairy wasn’t always played by a pretty woman though, in the original stage production she was a tiny but powerful dot of light. Meanwhile Captain Hook didn’t exist in the first drafts of the play, he appeared later to entertain pirate-loving children and take over the reins of evil from Peter Pan - who was initially the villain of the story. And Peter didn’t wear green, his clothes were the autumnal colours of skeleton leaves.

As for Peter's ability to fly, he tells the Darling children this is only possible through lovely wonderful thoughts and fairydust. Barrie introduced the necessity for fairydust to stop children from injuring themselves while trying to fly like Peter and the Lost Boys. Take note kids – don’t try this at home.

So Peter Pan has glided through various pages and performances over the decades, but it wasn’t until changes in copyright were made that the play could be adapted to create a pantomime. Since then Peter Pan has become a popular Christmas show at theatres across the UK.

Barrie’s instructions over the copyright of Peter Pan have also enabled the character to forever be a help to children in need of support. For in 1929, he gifted it to Great Ormond Street Hospital, which means GSOH receives royalties from every production. When Barrie moved to London from Edinburgh to pursue a career in the arts, his lodgings were in Grenville Street, behind GSOH, and this house was the inspiration for the Darling family’s home. It is a fitting tribute therefore that his magical legacy lives on through such a worthy cause.

Peter Pan's latest swash-buckling adventure in Neverland runs at Blackpool Opera House until Sunday 7th January. Book tickets here.

Photographs courtesy of Selladoor Productions. 

Dec 23rd

The Wizard of Oz at the Heywood Civic Centre

By G.D. Mills

The Wizard of Oz has had thousands of incarnations, the most famous of which must be the 1939 Techni-colour film starring Judy Garland. Few people realise, however, that it started out in life as a children’s book by L. Frank Baum, published some 39 years before the double Oscar winning musical appeared on screen.

 

Liam Mellor’s adaptation for Heywood Civic Centre, like any successful pantomime, amply accommodates for an audience across the age ranges, and comes replete with engaging visuals, groan-worthy puns and a scattering of satirical swipes sophisticated enough for an adult palate.

 

At the beginning, true to the original story, we find ourselves on a Texan farm where a willow-like, honey-voiced Dorothy (endearingly portrayed by Lauren Ramsey) sets off on her mission to find the City of Emeralds.

 

Accompanied along the way by a scatter-brained Scarecrow (Mike Smith – Cbeebies, BBC warm-up man), a timorous lion (Jordan Kennedy – Victoria, Waterloo Road) and the loveable Tinman (James Edgington – Hollyoaks, Downton Abbey) this fantastical triumvirate encounter evil in the form of a cackling witch (Victoria Roberts – Britain’s Got Talent, Let me Entertain You) and the munchkins (represented by the Tymcyshyn School of Dancing), only to discover that the wizard, flamboyantly played by reality show star Liam Halewood, has been with them all along.

 

Julia Haworth’s (Coronation Street, Peak Practise) plays the glittery Good Fairy with impeccable grace, while Mike Smith, a seasoned presenter with a comic’s instinct for killer timing, frequently shatters the fourth wall to deliver some of the funniest lines of the evening.

 

The dialogue gallops along at a break-neck pace (sometimes the audience needed time to process the jokes) and a little judicial editing might have honed the performance to pantomimic perfection, but otherwise this is a stomping good musical with a generous dollop of the Xmas feel-good factor.

 

You can book tickets by visiting the website here:

Heywood Civic Centre

 

Dec 20th

The Rat Pack - Live from Las Vegas

By Trevor Gent

Last night my guest and I enjoyed a Christmas treat with The Rat Pack - Live from Last Vegas at the Haymarket theatre in London (from January 9th to Saturday 3rd February 2018 it will be The Rat Pack - Live From Las Vegas celebrating Ella Fitzgerald’s centenary).

Frank

The celebrated West End production of the Olivier Award-nominated The Rat Pack - Live from Las Vegas, returns to the Theatre Royal, Haymarket – which was its home for its first West End run in 2003 - for a strictly limited season from Wednesday 13 December - Saturday 3 February.

The cast features Garrett Phillips as Frank Sinatra, Nigel Casey (Dean Martin), David Hayes (Sammy Davis Jr), with Joanna Walters, Amelia Adams-Pearce, Rebecca Parker and Laura Darton as The Burrelli Sisters.

Musical Director of the 12-piece Rat Pack Big Band is Matthew Freeman.

Nicola Emmanuelle will also join the show from Tuesday January 9 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of the First Lady of Song and Queen of Jazz, Ella Fitzgerald. Songs featured in this special edition of the production will include Night and Day, The Lady is a Tramp, Mack the Knife and S’Wonderful.

From 13 December to 6 January, The Rat Pack - Live from Las Vegas - devised, directed and choreographed by Mitch Sebastian - will have a Christmas theme with the Pack’s unique take on such festive classics as Baby It’s Cold Outside, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, White Christmas, Winter Wonderland, Jingle Bells and Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow.

The original show updated

At the start of the 1960s, The Rat Pack led by Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. were the toast of Las Vegas. With the world’s rich and famous jetting in to see them joke around and sing some of the finest songs ever written, the guys also starred together in a series of glamorous Hollywood films, set fashion trends, rubbed shoulders with the US President, politicians and mobsters... and partied hard as the coolest cats on the planet. The Rat Pack - Live from Las Vegas recreates that special time. Prepare to drift back in time to an era of glitzy nights spent on the Vegas strip in the company of three of the world’s most popular entertainers. This spectacular production - with a very special Christmas theme until 6 January - celebrates the incredible singing talent of three world-famous entertainers and performers and some of the finest music and song that has ever been recorded. Frank, Sammy and Dean are once again performing in the world-renowned Copa Room at the famous Sands Hotel, supported by the fabulous Burrelli Sisters and The Rat Pack Big Band in a critically acclaimed show that clocked up over 1,000 West End performances on its West End premiere. Frequently imitated but never bettered, The Rat Pack - Live from Las Vegas features hit after hit, including Pack favourites The Lady is a Tramp, Mr Bojangles, That’s Amore, I’ve Got You Under My Skin, What Kind of Fool Am I?, Volare, My Way, Candyman, Everybody Loves Somebody and many, many more. If you wish you’d swung with the hardest partying pack in town, now’s your chance!

Frank


With the arrival of Frank on the stage the show swings straight into action and flows smoothly as we meet Sammy and then Dean. Filled with fun and laughter, not to forget a song or two, this will have you head nodding, knee and foot (and whatever else) twitching along with tunes you will know. You may even be tempted to sing along with some too.

The three main cast members were all superb and smoked and drank their way through the show (with the odd joke or two) engaging with the audience well.

The experience was slightly affected by a couple of rather inebriated girls in the row in front of us who swayed, chatted and whooped throughout, and a loved up couple next to them who maybe should have just got a room instead of going to see the show?

Nevertheless well worth a visit to see this show so catch it if you can.

Post London dates are detailed below. Enjoy and Happy Christmas!

Dean
The Rat Pack - Live from Las Vegas is produced by Paul Walden & Derek Nicol for Flying Entertainment & TRH Productions

www.theratpacklivefromlasvegas.com

Following the West End season, The Rat Pack - Live from Las Vegas
featuring Ella Fitzgerald Centenary Celebration will play:

Tuesday 6 - Saturday 10 February
Glasgow King’s Theatre

Tuesday 13 - Saturday 17 February
Liverpool Empire Theatre

Tuesday 20 - Saturday 24 February
Manchester Opera House

Tuesday 27 February - Saturday 3 March
Edinburgh Playhouse

Tuesday 6 - Saturday 10 March
Eastbourne Devonshire Park Theatre

Tuesday 13 - Saturday 17 March
Sunderland Empire Theatre

Tuesday 20 - Saturday 24 March
Cardiff New Theatre

Tuesday 27 - Saturday 31 March
Birmingham Alexandra Theatre

Monday 2- Saturday 7 April
Dublin Gaiety Theatre

Thursday 12- Saturday 14 April
Belfast Waterfront Hall

Tuesday 17- Saturday 21 April
Woking New Victoria Theatre

Tuesday 24 - Saturday 28 April
Blackpool Grand Theatre

Tuesday 1 - Saturday 5 May
Sheffield Lyceum Theatre

Tuesday 8 - Saturday 12 May
Darlington Hippodrome

Monday 14 - Saturday 19 May
Dartford Orchard Theatre

Tuesday 22 – Saturday 26 May
Bath Theatre Royal

Tuesday 29 May – Saturday 2 June
Crawley The Hawth

Tuesday 5 – Saturday 9 June
York Grand Opera House

 

Dec 15th

WHITE FANG: Park 90 London

By Elaine Pinkus

White Fang, written and directed by Jethro Compton, inspired by the Jack London novel.

Mariska Ariya and Danny Mahoney in White Fang at Park Theatre. Photo by Jethro Compton 537_preview.jpeg

Mariska Ariya and Danny Mahoney: Photograph Jethro Compton

Jethro Compton emphasised that his is not an adaptation of Jack London’s White Fang but more a play inspired by that novel. It is important to take note of that for if you were to buy tickets in the hope of seeing that delicious novel played out on stage, you would be taken aback. Here Compton has taken the premise of White Fang and offers a new narrative which takes the struggle of the half wolf half dog White Fang and turns it into a human struggle for identity of a young first nation girl, Lyzbet, who in 1898 Canada is caught between two worlds: that of good and bad, of kindness and evil.   

There are several themes and sub plots running through this narrative: hunter/prey, identity/isolation, good and evil, indigenous displacement, integrity and truth. Lyzbet Scott (Mariska Ariya)and White Fang become one spirit in their journey of discovery, to find who they are and where they truly belong. Rescued as baby/pup, found beside the bodies of their dead parent(s), each is caught between two worlds: that of their indigenous heritage and that of the 'civilised' white man. At their core, they answer to the call of their old world but are trapped in the world of rules and mores. Ultimately it is evident where Lizbet believes she belongs, although her angst can become somewhat repetitive and sermonising in places. In their idealistic innocence and desire, each is taken advantage of by the greed of the white man, who has exploited them at every turn. Her beloved adoptive ‘grandfather’ Weeden Scott,( Robert G Slade) has deceived her, Beauty Smith (Paul Albertson) has lied and cheated in his greed for personal wealth. These strings of betrayal and deceit can serve only to fuel her hunger for her true heritage and the honest rawness of nature itself. It is only the character of Curly (Bebe Sanders) who is truly open with Lizbet, perhaps because she is a little in love with this feisty young warrior.

Danny Mahoney and Bebe Sanders in White Fang at Park Theatre. Photo by Jethro Compton 337_preview.jpeg

Danny Mahoney and Bebe Sanders: Photograph Jethro Compton

The puppetry (directed by James Silson) is inspired. White Fang, shown in three stages of his life/death, is convincing at each point. It is he that evokes the highest level of emotion in his unconditional trust of Lyzbet, taking whatever befalls him as a consequence. Words are not necessary; his physicality (snarlingly realistic) tells all. Just as we took to our hearts Joey in War Horse, we absorb this magnificent creature who is majestic like the landscape and who understands the basic rule of nature, to survive and defend his ‘kin’. 

The clever staging achieves the harshness of the Northlands (Yukon territories) landscape. Separated only by a white curtain, there is the external solitude and isolation of the freezing elements and the internal starkness of the log cabin. Each is convincing. With the relentless sound of the howling wind (wolfish in its manner) and the crunchy snow, many of the audience reached for their scarves and jackets to ward off the cold. Park 90 is a small studio space, but the staging was entirely effective with two adjacent seating areas around the small stage. As such, the intimacy and inclusion ensured full theatrical effect.

The cast performed their indiviual roles with conviction and were successfully collaborative as a whole. It would be wrong to single out any as all deserve a mention here: Mariska Ariya, Robert G Slade, Bebe Sanders, Paull albertson, Jonathan Mathews and Danny Mahoney.

Paul Albertson, Danny Mahoney and Robert G Slade (l-r) in White Fang at Park Theatre. Photo by Jethro Compton 633_preview.jpeg

Paul Albertson, Danny Mahoney and Robert G Slade: photograph Jethro Compton

With his love of the western and his cinematic experience (The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Park Theatre), Compton has created a quasi cinematic theatrical experience at Park 90 featuring inspired puppetry (Creator: Eric Davis and puppetry Director James Silson), original plus newly created score, (Jonny Simms Gavin Whitworth and Michael Raabe) and effective creatives of sound, lighting and staging.

Production: 2 hours including a 20 minute interval. 

Venue: PARK90, Park Theatre, Clifton Terrace, Finsbury Park, N4 3JP

Dates: 13 December 2017 – 13 January 2018

Age guidance: 12 +

Performances: Tue – Sat Evenings 7.45pm, Thu & Sat Matinees 3.15pm

 

Prices: Previews £14.50, Standard £18, Concessions £16.50, Child (under 16) £13, Young Patrons £10 (13-20 Dec), Groups: buy 10 tickets get the 11th free