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Jun 20th

Summer Holiday the Musical at the Edinburgh Playhouse

By Clare Brotherwood

To be honest, I wasn’t that excited about going to see Summer Holiday the Musical.

I was barely into my teens when I saw Cliff Richard’s original film and, for me, there is no-one to beat him.

So, I thought, I’ll just wallow in nostalgia. After all, I still know all the words to all the songs: timeless classics like Bachelor Boy, Do You Wanna Dance? The Young Ones, The Next Time, Living Doll and, of course, Summer Holiday!

What I didn’t expect was to ‘put on my dancing shoes’ during the encore, clapping, cheering and waving along with the rest of the audience, including my young friend for whom the sixties belong to the history books. This production raised the Playhouse’s roof!

This really is a feel good show which brought sunshine into Edinburgh on one of its driecht days. Like Cliff’s other early film The Young Ones, it’s wholesome and fun, and gives today’s young audiences a taste of how uncomplicated life could be in ‘the good old days’!

Peter Yates’ original film script, adapted for the stage by Michael Gyngell and Mark Madigan, is about Don and his fellow mechanics who take an old London Transport bus to Europe for a summer holiday. On the way they rescue three girl singers and an American pop star who is running away from her Cruella de Ville-like mother and her agent - the only dark characters in what is a happy-go-lucky whirlwind of love and laughter. But then, maybe without them it would be too sweet?

Once I looked at the programme I knew it couldn’t fail, musically at least. Any show with Keith Strachan behind the orchestration is bound to be a winner and musical director Rob Wicks and his men do him proud.

On opening night the production was a bit slow to start, the sound echoing, but the company was energetic and enthusiastic and when Ray Quinn, in the Cliff Richard role, joined in he took the show to a different level. He may have big shoes to fill but he does a good job; throughout the show there are some lovely harmonies but Quinn’s voice is a cut above the rest and he also more than matches the dancers with his acrobatics.

Don’s mates each have their own characters. Edwin is the more sensitive member of the group but in Move It Joe Goldie really comes into his own as an Elvis sound-alike; Rory Maguire is lovable as the cheeky Cyril, while Billy Roberts is very much the cocky Jack the Lad as Steve.

Gabby Antrobus, Alice Baker and Laura Marie Benson play perfectly the dippy, giggly singers while Sophie Matthews’ American singer Barbara has extra depth, innocence and then passion.

Taryn Sudding as Barbara’s mother is a wonderfully screeching harridan; only Bobby Crush cuts a sad figure as Barbara’s camp agent with an ill-fitting wig. Famous all his life as a pianist, in the encore it was heart-breaking to see him playing a keyboard attached to the back of the bus (yes, the bus has a starring role too) that no-one could hear.

Summer Holiday the Musical is at the Edinburgh Playhouse until June 23. It then continues touring:

June 26-30: Plymouth Theatre Royal

July 17-21: Brighton Theatre Royal

July 24-28: Blackpool Winter Gardens

July 30-Aug 4: Leeds Grand

Aug 14-18: Wales Millennium Centre

Aug 23-27: Southend. Cliffs Pavilion

Sept 4-8: Dartford, Orchard Theatre

Sept 11-15: Chester StoryHouse

Sept 18-22: Wimbledon New Theatre

Oct 2-6: Stoke, Regent Theatre

Oct 23-27: Aylesbury Theatre

Oct 30-Nov 3: Glasgow Kings Theatre

Jun 11th

The Darkness or Else the Light at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

By Clare Brotherwood

Now that I am living in Scotland I am finding lots of theatrical gems in Edinburgh.

Not least of these is Strange Town, a registered charity, co-founded in 2008 by creative directors Steve Small (who created the Royal Lyceum’s education department and the award-winning Lyceum Youth Theatre) and Ruth Hollyman, who established the Festival Theatre’s education programme (and has lived in Tokyo where she set up a children’s theatre).

Because of them, each week 350 youngsters, from the ages of eight to 18, are engaged in learning theatre skills through their Youth Theatre groups, their Young Company, and their after-school drama clubs, and showcasing the work of emerging writers. And, as if that wasn’t enough, since 2011 their Young Actors’ Agency has been representing young actors from the ages of five to 25.

In their latest production, around 20 young performers have got together with writer Corinne Salisbury to create a piece about how social media makes us feel.

Who better to take us through the pitfalls than a teenage cast; no-one knows social media and its dark and light sides better than they do. On the bus home I heard someone say the production was like a school play – which is excusable. After all, it was a group of kids, only on this occasion it was a group of kids who, under the direction of professional director Catherine Exposito, were appearing on the stage of the Traverse Theatre and, later this month, the Leith Theatre and the Scottish Storytelling Centre.

Set against a black backcloth with circuit board markings on the floor, the production opens with the entrance of an aggressive group of hoodies in masks – the ‘voices’ of social media.

A mixed bunch of seven teenagers then find themselves invited to a meeting room in the middle of nowhere where a computer tells them that if they each tell their secrets everyone will be equal and there will be rewards.

What follows is how the situation affects different members of the group, especially when it ends with everyone having to take The Test which, because of their early activity on social media, predicts the lives they will leave.

It’s strong stuff, an important piece of theatre with, at the heart of it, the very generation who are part of it, telling the story with credibility and feeling.

Now I think I’ll just ditch my phone!

The Darkness or Else the Light can also be seen:

June 16-17: Leith Theatre

June 23-24: Scottish Storytelling Centre

Jun 7th

Love From a Stranger at the King's Theatre Edinburgh

By Clare Brotherwood

Although it has been a West End hit (albeit in 1936), with numerous radio and film versions to follow, I have never before seen Love From a Stranger.

Apparently, it rather fell into obscurity, which is unusual for an Agatha Christie thriller. Maybe it was because it was co-written by actor Frank Vosper (who fell out of a porthole on an ocean liner and drowned on his way home from the New York run in 1937!).

It is also unusual in that there isn’t a murder in the first act. In fact, it isn’t even a whodunit!

This version, produced by Fiery Angel and Royal & Derngate Northampton, is set in 1958, not the most colourful of times, and designer Mike Britton’s set perfectly reflects the austerity of the era with its earthy colours and women dressed in tweed suits. And the splitting of the set sideways to focus on different areas of the flat is novel, though it leaves the coffee table off centre!

The play is set in a London flat but it is not until well into the scene that we discover who the players are: Cecily Harrington has come into some money, is getting married and is renting out her flat. The annoying pseudo Mrs Bouquet, played by Nicola Sanderson, is her Aunt Lulu, and Mavis is her friend and sharer in the £50,000 win.

The first scene has a 50s feel - restrained and colourless, despite a lively performance from Alice Haig as Mavis - and seems overlong as Cecily (spinster material if ever I saw it) agonises over her doubts about her forthcoming wedding.

But, of course, all is not what it seems, and what starts out seemingly as a rather turgid play blossoms into one of the most psychologically frightening productions I have ever seen, thanks to director Lucy Bailey and gripping performances from Sam Frenchum as Bruce Lovell and Helen Bradbury as Cecily. The build-up may be slow but it’s worth the wait, even though I wasn’t sure, in the end, who did what!

Love From a Stranger is at the King’s Theatre Edinburgh until June 9. It then tours:

June 12-16: Theatre Royal Newcastle-upon-Tyne

June 19-23: Everyman Theatre Cheltenham

June 26-30: Theatre Royal Glasgow

July 3-7: Milton Keynes Theatre

July 1014: The Lowry, Salford

July 17-21: Theatre Royal Norwich

www.lovefromastranger.com

Jun 3rd

The Hour We Knew Nothing of Each Other at the Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh

By Clare Brotherwood

If you like people watching then you've just missed the ultimate experience of your life - apart from being on the streets of Edinburgh during the Fringe Festival!

For in what was the Royal Lyceum's biggest ever production, The Hour We Knew Nothing of Each Other consisted simply of 450 characters talking a walk - and without a word being spoken.

It was staged over three nights, which is little time for something which has been in the making since January. But then it did involve nearly 100 volunteers from the Edinburgh community, so three nights was probably quite long enough for such an undertaking.

The Hour We Knew Nothing of Each Other was written in 1992 by award-winning Austrian playwright, novelist and political activist Peter Handke, who is regarded as one of the most original contemporary German-language writers, and is celebrated for creating performances uninhibited by conventional plot, dialogue and characters.

Translated by Meredith Oakes with abstract music by Michael John McCarthy, it certainly fitted the bill.

For just over an-hour-and-a-half all we saw were people walking across an empty stage. But it was so much more than that. The characters were from all walks of life and from all ages - from Moses holding up the tablet of the Ten Commandments, and Charlie Chaplin, to tradesmen, hikers, tourists, joggers, nuns and firemen. And through them we got to glimpse the lives of hundreds of people, some real, some surreal, some moving, some laugh-out-loud funny. A few were also able to flesh out their characters, such as the barman, and the super supple jogger who turned up often and must surely have a future in the theatre with his gift for mime.

We couldn't wait for the next character to appear. It was totally engrossing.

It must have been a logistical nightmare for director Wils Wilson and movement director Janice Parker, especially as the entire cast were amateurs. And sourcing the costumes would also have been a mammoth task. It looked like all the theatrical costumiers in the country had been raided!

But this prioduction will go down in history as one of the biggest shows the Lyceum has ever presented - in so many ways.

May 29th

Sherlock Holmes: The Final Curtain

By Clare Brotherwood

When it comes to casting for the part of Sherlock Holmes, Robert Powell wouldn’t have been my first choice.

Perhaps I live too much in the past. I still remember interviewing him in the Scottish Borders in the Seventies when he was making The 39 Steps. He had just become an overnight sensation for his award-winning role as Jesus of Nazareth and, even though he was standing at the head of a loch dressed as a tramp, I swear he was surrounded by an aura!

As for Arthur Conan Doyle’s celebrated sleuth, Jeremy Brett takes some beating.

But things aren’t always what they used to be in this new play by acclaimed playwright Simon Reade.

It’s now 30 years to the day since Moriarty - and, supposedly Holmes - fell to their deaths over the Reichenbach Falls; only Holmes is very much alive and living incognito on the South Coast when, coincidentally, a body is found on his private beach and he receives a visit from Mary Watson, the estranged wife of his right-hand man and biographer Dr John Watson.

What develops only the theatregoer will discover but, apart from a good helping of mystery, jealousy and revenge, Reade, the former literary manager for the Royal Shakespeare Company, has injected a wagon-load of humour into this quirky tale which also involves another of Conan Doyle’s interests… spiritualism. And with that come ghosts and special effects, courtesy of magic consultant John Bulleid. Even the curtain which sweeps slowly across the stage between scenes looks like a… haunting of ghosts?

The play is set in 1922 and Reade, together with director David Grindley, make the most of those revolutionary times, not as Conan Doyle would have presented it but a light-hearted entertainment nonetheless, and despite an almost bare stage except for when the action moves the familiar surroundings of 221b Baker Street.

The thread running through the production is Dr Watson’s account of the case in hand which he is transmitting to listeners on a new invention called the wireless. Timothy Kightley is the archetypal doctor: kindly, gentlemanly and somewhat bumbling, and not always au fait with modern gadgets, which adds to the fun of the evening.

As always, Liza Goddard is very much in command of her role: forthright and dominating; which leaves us with Robert Powell. I could never imagine him as the drug-raddled Holmes of Jeremy Brett, nor the animated Cumberbatch version, but then, in this production, Holmes is supposedly in his dotage – which leads us to another problem for although Powell is now in his 70s he doesn’t look or act old enough to be retired!

Only Roy Sampson, as Holmes’ older brother Mycroft, lives up to our expectations of a Conan Doyle character.

Sherlock Holmes: The Final Curtain is at the King’s Theatre, Edinburgh until June 2, and then continues touring.

May 4th

Eddie and the Slumber Sisters at Haddington Corn Exchange

By Clare Brotherwood

I may not have been living in Scotland for very long but even before I came north of the border I knew of The National Theatre of Scotland’s adventurous spirit.

And what an adventure reviewing its latest production turned out to be.

Flagged up as the theatre without walls, NTS go out to rural communities, and it doesn’t seem to matter how far.

Its latest production, in partnership with Catherine Wheels Theatre Company, visited Haddington Corn Exchange this week, and the NTS arranged to pick up the press from the nearest railway station and deposit us back after the show (this is not included in a normal ticket!).

Not only were we transported into the countryside but also to… another planet - Planet Slumber to be precise.

At first I thought the show was going to be set during World War Two, for the Slumber Sisters, wearing US-style uniforms, began by singing, in three-part harmony, songs such as Accentuate the Positive. But although the music sounded as if it was from the 1940s it still went down a treat with the younger members of the audience.

Eddie and the Slumber Sisters is suitable for eight-year-olds upwards and is an endearing mix of music, song, magic and imagination which deals with how we treat young people when it comes to bereavement.

As the Slumber Sisters, Natalie Arle-Toyne, Colette Dalal Tchantcho and India Shaw-Smith

are not only top notch singers, they also bring empathy and comedy into the mix as they help 10-year-old Eddie (Chiara Sparkes) come to terms with her grandmother’s death.

Since losing her gran, Eddie has been having nightmares, which begin at precisely 2.17 each morning. Enter the Slumber Sisters who, in a series of bizarre but entertaining experiments, get her to face her loss and sleep soundly again.

With space-age like control towers, a disembodied hand emerging from the wardrobe, a ‘ding ding harness’ made of socks and old tights which India Shaw-Smith uses to get to Earth where she gives a hilarious impersonation of Elvis, there is plenty to entertain audiences of all ages in this 70-minute show while putting across an important message.

Eddie and the Slumber Sisters continues touring:

May 5: Galashiels Volunteer Hall

May 9: Dunoon Burgh Hall

May 12: Raasay Community Hall

May 14: MacPhail Theatre, Ullapool

May 18: Mareel, Shetland

May 23: Clarkston Hall, East Renfrewshire

May 27: Dalbeattie Town Hall, as part of the Dumfries and Galloway Arts Festival

May 30-June 3: Southside Community Centre, Edinburgh as part of the Edinburgh International Children’s Festival

www.nationaltheatrescotland.com

May 2nd

Creditors at The Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh

By Clare Brotherwood

We all know from today’s Scandi-TV series that, when it comes to drama, our Nordic cousins have a dark side.

But this is nothing new. Ibsen, regarded as one of Europe’s greatest writers, is hardly a barrel of laughs, and Strindberg is no different.

Although Creditors, written in 1888, is classed as a tragi-comedy, its laugh-out-loud moments are far outweighed by the melancholic characters in David Greig’s adaptation, which was commissioned by and first presented at London’s Donmar Warehouse in 2008.

Greig, artistic director of The Royal Lyceum Theatre Company, takes it seriously, and rightly so as there is nothing funny about the personalities entwined in this tale of male dominance and revenge.

Set in a Swedish seaside holiday resort, Stewart Laing’s set is as stylised as his direction. His narrow, raked wooden pontoons hardly make for easy walking, and the four girl guides (featuring Lyceum Creative Learning participants) who appear between scenes are like automatons, maybe mirroring the moving sculpture artist Adolph is making? I don’t know. They are very weird but do add colour and substance to the production.

The play begins with Adolph hauling himself out of a pool and lying half-dead on a pontoon. Nearby an older man sits reading a book, but it’s not long before he engages in conversation with the dripping wet Adolph, and things then begin to take a sinister turn.

Acting as his ‘doctor’, the older man, Gustav, questions Adolph about his marriage and his masculinity and eventually turns him against his wife. The dialogue is vicious and malicious and Adolph, a weak young man given to maladies, is given to believe that he will become epileptic if he sleeps with his wife (this is one of the laugh-out-loud moments)!

As the manipulative Gustav, Stuart McQuarrie is very much the devil on Adolph’s shoulder. His venom leaks from every pore and when we learn of his intentions all becomes plain. On the other hand, Edward Franklin as Adolph is a quivering mess of emotion. At times I wanted to cradle him as I would a child; at others I just wanted to give him a good slap!

The object of both men’s interest, Adolph’s wife Tekla, is the strongest of all three characters (though obviously not 100 per cent!) and Adura Onashile rises to the occasion with a compelling performance (though at one point she walked across a pontoon onto the stage – didn’t she get her feet wet?!).

Pippa Murphy’s sound is a bit spasmodic – one minute we hear the sound of lapping waves, the next all is silent - I don’t think the sea suddenly stops moving! And at one time it is a bit distracting. I didn’t much like the repetitive songs, either, though they did add to the atmosphere of growing insanity.

I very much like the presentation in the second act, however, involving an onstage camera-operator and a black and white screen.

Creditors may not be to everyone’s taste but it is certainly an interesting and thought-provoking study of human relationships and in this context stretches the boundaries of entertainment.

Creditors is at the Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh until May 12.

Box office: 0131 248 4848

www.lyceum.org.uk

Apr 26th

Gut at the Traverse, Edinburgh

By Clare Brotherwood

Audiences will be talking about this play long after they have left the theatre.

Multi-award-winning playwright Frances Poet has taken a subject which is, sadly, so often in the news, and hit every parent squarely between the eyes with it.

How to keep your child safe, sometimes even from yourself, is something all parents must agonise over, not only in today’s climate, but with so many historic abuse cases coming to light.

When trusting granny Morven allows a stranger to take her three-year-old grandson Joshua to the toilet in a cafe while she pays for their food, she sets off a chain of events which not only have far reaching consequences for her and her family but will also have every parent in the audience questioning themselves.

The title refers to the gut feelings Morven says she has always been able to trust; it also refers to the feelings Maddy, Joshua’s mother, ‘who grew him in her gut’, thinks she has towards everyone she comes across after the event. Is she right? Will we ever know?

Despite a simple set, a small cast and invisible children, we are totally drawn into the world of Maddy, her husband Rory, and young Joshua.

Kirsty Stuart and Peter Collins are so natural as Maddy and Rory; there’s an easiness between them as, at first, they are fun-loving and flirtatious, but when paranoia sets in the tension between them is raw and palpable. While Lorraine McIntosh, sometimes singer with Deacon Blue, is believably hurt and bewildered as the erring granny.

The final member of the cast, George Anton, is to be praised for his versatility. Not only does he play The Stranger, he also turns up in seven other roles, from a police officer and a charity worker to someone stoned on cannabis. But is he always the good guy?

There are fleeting references to Jimmy Savile and Gary Glitter, which add to the realism, and Lego bricks strewn across the floor conjure up a world which is broken, while I like the way Kai Fischer lights a doorway to create menace.

There are lighter moments too. We get to learn about a three-year-old’s toileting, and a musical toy gives the cast a break in their dialogue.

Frances Poet takes us on a journey which had me, at one stage, recoiling in horror, but in director Zinnie Harris’s hands, the world premiere of this work, commissioned by the National Theatre of Scotland as part of its new writing intitiative with the Tron and the Traverse, runs like clockwork and is a work of art.

 

Gut is at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh until May 12

www.traverse.co.uk

 

Box office: 0131 228 1404

 

Apr 17th

Writer Douglas Day Stewart talks about An Officer and a Gentleman the Musical on the eve of its national UK tour

By Clare Brotherwood

One of the highest grossing films of all time, ever since An Officer and a Gentleman hit our big screens in 1982, this multi-Oscar-winning movie has, says its creator Douglas Day Stewart, changed lives and, according to the US Navy, was the greatest thing that had ever happened to them. Now Day Stewart has written An Officer and a Gentleman the Musical, which premiered at the Curve Leicester earlier this month and is now touring the UK. At a press conference at the Edinburgh Playhouse this week, he talked about the film, the musical and how Edinburgh is playing a part in their future.

Before he arrived at the press conference at the Edinburgh Playhouse, Douglas Day Stewart had been in his hotel room, finishing the final touches to the screenplay for a sequel to his original film of An Officer and a Gentleman. “It’s a bit of a secret,” he added. “I’ve been working on it for three years and I’ll be taking it to Warner Brothers in the next couple of weeks.”

At 78, Day Stewart shows no sign of letting up. He is as enthusiastic about An Officer and a Gentleman now as he was when he first wrote it back in the Eighties and it won three Oscars - for Best Supporting Actor (Louis Gossett Jr), Best Music and Best Original Song (Up Where We Belong, which also won a BAFTA).

“I’ve seen it about 100 times. I like it,” he laughed. “Once I start I can’t stop watching it.”

An Officer and a Gentleman tells the story of Zack Mayo who is training to become a US Navy pilot, has a tough time from his drill sergeant and falls in love with a local girl, and Day Stewart based the story on his own experiences in the US Navy. “I was an artist, an actor, and one day I was visiting my parents’ house still in make-up where I met an officer who told me we were about to go to war, though people didn’t really know anything about it yet. He said I could join the Army where I’d probably die on some muddy battlefield or join the Navy and live through the whole thing. I wanted to live so I went to Newport Rhode Island (Naval War College) for 12 weeks.”

Day Stewart went on to base ‘the officer and a gentleman’ on himself, though he ‘roughed him up a bit’ to make him more interesting. “I was in the military for three-and-a-half years and there is something about it you never get out of your blood. It’s a very unique experience and it made me a stronger person. Hollywood people are pretty tough but not as tough as a drill sergeant. That school was the toughest thing anyone could imagine and that’s what I tried to portray in the film.”

In order to keep it authentic, Day Stewart insisted on being one of the producers so he could ‘protect it all the way’. He hired military experts and had a big say in the casting.

John Travolta had starred in Day Stewart’s ‘highest rated TV film at the time’, The Boy in the Plastic Bubble, so he was first choice, but when he chose not to do it the part went to Richard. “He is a consummate professional,” Day Stewart explained. “His Buddhist beliefs are very real. He does a lot for a lot of people. He is genuine, a real human being. For the film he taught himself to do the real martial arts. Everything he does he does with that dedication.

“Louis (the first African American to win an Oscar) is another man, like Richard Gere, who believes in things other than his own fame.”

But we are here to talk about An Officer and a Gentleman the Musical, and Day Stewart says he’s excited and thrilled about it.

“It’s pleasing to me to see this story which is so personal being reincarnated. It’s not hard to maintain an enthusiasm for it. So many people’s lives have been touched by it. Time Magazine said we took the negativity of the military out of the Vietnam War and I am proud of this.

“It’s an experience. It’s not like anything you have seen. It’s not like any other kind of musical. It’s so uplifting and emotionally powerful. It will make people fall in love again and retake their vows. It is as much for young people as their parents. It’s a story the young generation needs.

“It’s not quite as raw as the movie. It is respectful that you are watching live entertainers, but we still maintain the raw edge of excitement, sensuality and action. It’s a roller coaster ride.”

As well as including the hit song from the film Up Where We Belong, it also features Eighties classics such as Don’t Cry Out Loud, Girls Just Want to Have Fun, Toy Soldiers and Material Girl.

The musical is directed by Nikolai Foster, artistic director at the Curve, who recently directed the West End productions of Annie and Calamity Jane and is, says Day Stewart, ‘going to emerge as one of the UK’s artistic lights’.

“He moves at the speed of light. Every scene moves into the next with such fluidity.”

He also has praise for choreographer Kate Price, ‘another great bright light in the UK’. “She’s fresh and she has a certain style which makes it fun, but the routines feel integral.”

An Officer and a Gentleman the Musical will be touring the UK until September. Meanwhile, Day Stewart, whose past credits include the ground-breaking 1980 film Blue Lagoon starring Brooke Shields, is enthusing about the sequel to the film.

“It’s a trailblazer. It’s about female empowerment. I’ve taken the daughter of Zack who wants to be a jet pilot, but who knows her dark secrets? And there’s also a gay love story in there.”

Future projects include ‘other deeply personal stuff’. “It seems the only way you can succeed in the film industry today is to get a comic book character, but stay with what you know. Don’t try to tailor yourself for the market,” he said.

An Officer and a Gentleman the Musical is at the Edinburgh Playhouse from July 2-7 www.atgtickets.com/edinburgh  0844 871 3014

Until April 21: Curve Leicester

April 24-28: Leeds Grand Theatre

May 1-5: Mayflower Theatre, Southampton

May 7-12: Wycombe Swan

May 15-19: Birmingham Hippodrome

May 21-26: Liverpool Empire

May 28-June 2: Bord Gais Energy Theatre, Dublin

June 4-9: Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield

June 18-23: Theatre Royal Newcastle

June 25-30: Wales Millennium Centre

July 9-14: Milton Keynes Theatre

July 23-28: Theatre Royal, Nottingham

July 30-Aug 4: Bristol Hippodrome

Aug 6-11: the Marlow Theatre, Canterbury

Aug 13-18: Manchester Opera House

Aug 20-25: Theatre Royal, Plymouth

Aug 27- Sept 1: Regent Theatre, Ipswich

Sept 3-8: The Alhambra Theatre, Bradford

Sept 10-15: Glasgow King’s Theatre

 

Apr 11th

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde at the King's Theatre, Edinburgh

By Clare Brotherwood

I felt an air of excitement as I made my way to the King’s Theatre, knowing that the original version of its latest production was written by Edinburgher Robert Louis Stevenson, who is said to have based his story on Deacon Brodie, by day a respected businessman and councillor, but by night a housebreaker - and who lived not a mile from the theatre.

That excitement never left me. Adaptor David Edgar, famous for his award-winning reworking of Dickens’ Nicholas Nickleby for the Royal Shakespeare Company, has teamed up with Jenny KIng’s Touring Consortium Theatre Company, Olivier Winner for Best Entertainment for its production of The Railways Children at the Waterloo Station Theatre, for this latest version of the classic Gothic horror.

And good, all-round entertainment it is.

Simon Higlett’s two-tiered set depicts, on the upper level, a foggy London street, while below, despite modest props, various scenes change seamlessly and effectively to provide an atmospheric backdrop, helped enormously by Richard Hammarton’s chilling music and sound effects and Mark Jonathan’s creepy lighting.

But Edgar’s version of this dark tale has an unexpected lighter side. He introduces to the story a sister for Jekyll, a fun-loving mother of two played with much warmth and humour by Polly Frame, while Phil Daniels, playing both title roles, becomes an almost Vaudevillian villain as Mr Hyde, mostly making us laugh more than shrink back in horror - although a couple of scenes are frighteningly graphic and had me worrying for the lives of the actors involved! It was also amusing to hear Daniels sporting a soft Edinburgh accent as Dr Jekyll while as Mr Hyde he is the epitomy of a Glaswegian drunk, and sounding not unlike Billy Connolly. It’s a brave act indeed for a Londoner to play Scots in Scotland, and I wonder, had he been playing these roles in Glasgow, if he’d have given Hyde the Edinburgh accent!

Adding to the more chilling aspect is Rosie Abraham who not only plays Jekyll’s niece and a maid but will remain in my memory as ‘the singer’, an enigmatic figure who bridges the scenes and whose plaintive strains sent shivers down my spine. Grace Hogg-Robinson, as Annie, also gives an emotion-driven performance, in contrast to Sam Cox as Poole, every inch the restrained butler.

As I said, this is good, all-round entertainment with some nice little touches from director Kate Saxon.

 

King’s Theatre, Edinburgh

Tues 10 – Sat 14 April 2018

Box Office

0131 529 6000

Alhambra Theatre, Bradford

Tues 17 – Saturday 21 April 2018

Box Office

01274 432000

Wolverhampton Grand Theatre

Tues 1 – Saturday 5 May 2018

Box Office

01902 429 212

Cambridge Arts Theatre

Tues 8 – Sat 12 May 2018

Box Office

01223 503 333

Darlington Hippodrome

Tues 15 – Saturday 19 May 2018

Box Office

 

01325 405 405