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May 6th

Dance'til Dawn

By Louise Winter

Dance 'til Dawn Reviewed 5th May 2014

************************** BRILLIANT!!!!!! **********************

What’s not to like about Vincent and Flavia? Two of the most dynamic and likeable of the Strictly Come Dancing cast with their Argentine Tango often the standout professional performances of the series.

Dance ‘til Dawn follows on from their fantastic 2010 show Midnight Tango. Set in 1940’s Hollywood it follows a starlet (Flavia) and her lover (Vincent) through the true Golden Age of Hollywood, with a bit of mayhem and murder and lots of INCREDIBLE dancing thrown in! The economically effective set (Morgan Large) and dazzling array of costumes (Vicky Gill) recreate the time impeccably. Choreography (co-choreographer Karen Bruce) and performances are, as to be expected, WORLD CLASS.

It’s gorgeously put together, romantic, very, very funny and breathtakingly dynamic at times. Flavia and Vincent are superlative dancers - lyrical, balletic, graceful and acrobatic. There is a symbiosis to them and their performances that is sublime. They are completely believeable.


In fact, all the cast are superb and what is so particularly charming and heartening about this show is that it is clearly a co-operative piece. There is no grandstanding by the main leads, even though they are obviously centre stage most of the time. The ensemble dance company are all fantastic giving professional, tight, extremely skilled and energetic performances throughout and they all look amazing.

The two other main characters have all the lines; Teddy Kempner as the detective Tommy Dubrowski) and Abbie Osmon as bad girl Lana (a cross between Marilyn and Jessica Rabbit) deliver most of the laughs in their scenes together - they are hilarious and this is a genuinely witty show thanks to the quirky writing of Ed Curtis and the sharp, tongue-in-cheek delivery by the actors.

Teddy Kempner as Tommy Dubrowski and Abbie Osman as Lana Clemenza

The superb band, led by Chris Egan, play a range of music from the past to the present. Nothing beats a live band, except a live band at the top of their game such as this one.

This is a delightful show, full of the joy of dance and music, and each and every member of the production is FANTASTIC!

SUPERB. BUY TICKETS NOW!!!!! Playing at MK Theatre until 10th May

Box office 08448 717652 (booking fees apply) or on-line at
May 1st

The Seagull at Norden Farm Centre for the Arts, Maidenhead

By Clare Brotherwood

Even though Chekhov thought of his plays as comedies, to me Russian drama is all about angst and misery, played out in the middle of nowhere.

The SeagullThat was before I saw Shifting Sands Theatre’s The Seagull - featuring a cast of unhappy characters. This company has a reputation for presenting fresh, playful reworkings of classic text and their production of The Seagull is like Noises Off on speed! Although they stick to some of Chekhov’s text, their interpretation, involving four Chekhov fanatics preparing to put on The Seagull while dealing with their own problems, is imaginative and original, and enthusiastically mixes clowning and pathos with warm humour, helped by a collection of madcap props.

The five-strong and very hardworking cast, under director Gerry Flanagan, play a multitude of characters, sometimes with just the addition of a beard or a hat, but the audience don’t get away with doing nothing. In Maidenhead they were called upon to play a lake every time it was mentioned, and gamely made swishing noises as they used their hands to make waves.

For me, Chekhov will never be the same again.

Shifting Sands Theatre continues its national tour of The Seagull:

May 1: West End Centre, Aldershot
May 2: Borough Theatre, Abergavenny
May 3: Cuddington Village Hall, Cheshire
May 6: Create Theatre, Mansfield
May 7: Courtyard Theatre, Hereford
May 8: Cranbrook School, Kent
May 9: Cramphorn Theatre, Chelmsford

Apr 30th

Agatha's Christie's 'Black Coffee', Milton Keynes Theatre

By Thia Cooper

Black Coffee.jpg


Robert Powell starring alongside Liza Goddard

Black Coffee is real old-fashioned theatre! It tells the story of the English country estate of Sir Claud Amory, thrown into chaos following his murder! Everyone latches onto the fact that the murderer must be involved in the theft of Amory’s mind blowing formula. In falls to Poirot to solve the mystery of course, in his unique way!

Suspicion falls on most of the characters at one time or another, and it includes all the usual Agatha Christie elements which we find familiar when the famous Belgian detective, Poirot, is involved. Donning the famous moustache must help actors to get immediately ‘in character’.

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Japp (Eric Carte), Poirot and Hastings (Robin McCallum)

My first memory of Robert Powel, is his beautiful bright blue eyes when he played Jesus of Nazareth, in Franco Zeffirelli’s 1977 TV film. Since then, he has become a multi award winning actor and admired throughout the industry.

Now, as Hercule Poirot, I couldn’t see the eyes from my seat, but his great portrayal of the fictional detective, lost nothing because of that! It must be a difficult job to follow in the footsteps all his famous predecessors. But he made it his own.

The stage lit up every time Liza Goddard (Caroline Amory sister) walked on! She was a joy to watch and hear. Humorous snippets were perfectly timed effortlessly. She was joined by Peak Practice’s Gary Mavers (Doctor Carelli – the most suspicious person as he was Italian) and Soldier Soldier’s Ben Nealon (Richard Amory, Sir Claud’s Son) in the cast.

Felicity Houlbrooke, as Barbara Amory gave a sparkling bright, humorous performance.

The costumes and scenery were to the usual high standard.

All in all, Black Coffee is a good enjoyable, traditional play, with superb actors (and I could hear every word!) and which I thoroughly recommend. I’d go again!

The show runs at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday 3rd May
Book Tickets

Apr 24th

Tonight's the Night - MK Theatre

By Louise Winter

Tonight's the Night
Reviewed 22 April 2014

Tonight's The Night

This show, based upon the hits of Rod Stewart, written by Ben Elton and directed by Caroline Jay Rayner, is successful entirely due to the cast working extremely hard to flesh out this thin story line and weak script. It is a success in spite of these traits and I have to be honest and sorry to say that I think it is pretty poor of Ben Elton and the production team to present such an unimaginative and rehashed tale ... and why is it set in America?

We follow Stuart (Ben Heathcote), a Detroit mechanic whose shyness stops him communicating with the opposite sex and ultimately declaring his love for Mary (Jenna Lee-James). He strikes a deal with the devil (Tiffany Graves) through which he gains the soul of (you guessed it) Rod himself and after a few trials he predictably (yes, you guessed again) learns that in order to get the girl, being yourself is a better bet than trying to be someone else.

Slow to warm up, and with rather predictable and fairly uninspiring choreography and staging, the show lurches from song to song with them crow-barred into the ‘action’. The audience, clearly there because of a great fondness for Rod Stewart’s vast songbook, were also slow to warm up.


It is ALL credit to Ben Heathcote that he had every audience member singing along and waving their arms in the air for the grand finale. He has boundless energy and is on stage practically the whole time. His voice resembles Rod’s on occasion and there are some interesting arrangements of the well known songs but he is given little character to get his teeth into.

Vocal performances throughout and by all the cast are strong but special mention must go to Jenna Lee-James and Rosie Heath who have gorgeous voices and held the audience’s attention with their beautiful, moving performances.


Michael McKell as Stoner, a cross between Mick Jagger and Bill Nighy in Love Actually had the audience laughing out loud, again in spite of his predictable lines; full marks to him for fleshing them out.


It’s almost impossible not to tap your feet and sing quietly along to the numerous classics here; Gasoline Alley, Stone Cold Sober, Do Ya Think I’m Sexy? Maggie May, I Don’t Want To Talk About It, You Wear It Well, Hot Legs, Stay With Me, Sailing and, of course, the title song. These are all performed by a fabulous band who are slightly hidden away on the scaffolded staging for the whole performance - Griff Johnson, Steve White, Andy Taylor-Vebel, Lael Goldberg, ALex Meadows and Matt Bayne. Top notch and given rapturous applause by the audience at the end.
So, all in all weak story and production but outstanding work by the cast and musicians and of course the songs speak for themselves.

The show is at Milton Keynes until April 26
Box office 08448 717652 (booking fees apply) or on-line at
Apr 17th

Last of the Duty Free at the Theatre Royal Windsor

By Clare Brotherwood

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Call me a snob, but I’ve always preferred Barcelona to Benidorm and the Northern mountains of Mallorca to Magaluf, so TV series about holidaymakers in the Costas have never interested me.

Obviously, I’m in the minority. Between 1984 and 1986, audiences of 12 million were watching a sitcom, written by the BAFTA award-winning Eric Chappell (Rising Damp, Only When I Laugh), about a working class man and an upper-middle class woman who fall in love in Spain while on holiday with their respective spouses.

Thirty years on and three of the original cast began an extensive national tour this week of a spin-off of the series, Last of the Duty Free.

If duty hadn’t called I would have gone to see it anyway. Keith Barron was one of the most memorable actors on television when I was growing up. He was in so many series, playing gritty Yorkshire characters. Now here he is doing more of the same and it’s a privilege to see him in the flesh; it’s unbelievable to think he’ll be celebrating his 80th birthday while on tour, but he is still looking good, and totally believable (and fanciable) as David, the object of the lovely Linda’s affections. It is only when he pretends - and he does have to pretend! - to be old and infirm that you can picture him in, say, 20 years time!

Also wearing well, looking nowhere near her 75 years, is award-winning actress Gwen Taylor, reprising her role as Barron’s wife Amy. A bit of a shrew, Taylor also shows her as a caring wife and her lively performance and comic timing makes her character’s lack of humour all the more funny.

For the final ‘original’, Neil Stacey, time seems to have stood still if photos from the series of Duty Free are anything to go by, and as Robert, Linda’s husband, he is both naive and menacing, while Carol Royle, as Linda, provides the glamour, looking at least 20 years younger than she is.

As is to be expected, The Last of The Duty Free is set in the same hotel where, 20 years before, David and Linda fell in love. The two are now meeting secretly for a lovers’ tryst, but when Amy and Robert arrive unexpectedly, the fun begins, with all sorts of lies and misunderstandings adding to the mix, not helped by newlyweds Jeremy (Keith Barron’s son James) and Clare (Maxine Gregory).

Despite its setting in the Costas, The Last of the Duty Free isn’t tacky at all! In fact, quite the opposite. Julie Godfrey’s set is tasteful (and makes me want to get on a plane) and, through gentle humour, the marriages of all three couples, are explored, from discovering to discovery and having discovered.

Last of the Duty Free is at the Theatre Royal Windsor until April 26 and then tours:

May 5-10: Hall for Cornwall, Truro

May 12-17: Theatre Royal, Bath

May 19-24: Regent Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent

May 27-31: Churchill Theatre, Bromley

June 2-7: King’s Theatre, Edinburgh

June 9-14: Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford

June 16-21: Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield

June 23-28: Devonshire Park Theatre, Eastbourne

July 7-12: Theatre Royal, Glasgow

July 14-19: Arts Theatre, Cambridge

July 21-26: Malvern Theatre, Malvern

July 28-August 2: Milton Keynes Theatre, Milton Keynes

August 18-23: New Victoria Theatre, Woking

September 1-6: Theatre Royal, Brighton

Box office: 01753 853888
Apr 10th

Dial M for Murder @ The Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury

By Yvonne Delahaye

We all love a good murder mystery thriller that keeps us on the edge of our seats and guessing right until the end and this play really delivers.  Dial M for Murder  was written in the early 1950s by Frederick Knott and was famously made into a film by Alfred Hitchcock in 1954, starring Ray Milland and Grace Kelly.  Hitchcock rarely moved the action outside the single-room setting, capturing the play’s claustrophobic intensity.

Tony (Daniel Betts) is convinced his wife Sheila (Kelly Hotten) is having an affair with Max (Philip Cairns). We watch mesmerised at Tony’s precision in planning what must surely be the perfect murder… until it falters in the most unexpected way. 007.jpg
Daniel Betts (Tony) is outstanding as he convinces his wife that he’s a loving husband, whilst coldly calculating her demise.  The cast, which includes Christopher Timothy as Inspector Hubbard and Robert Perkins as Captain Lesgate, all deliver solid performances in keeping with the period, that keep us in suspense throughout.
Mike Britton has designed an amazing set that helps to create an atmosphere of tension and expectation. 

The play is directed by Lucy Bailey, whose hit production of Fortune’s Fool is currently playing at the Old Vic.    She writes ‘Dial M for Murder operates on a surface of terrible politeness; beneath it, there’s violent, erotic, almost impenetrable undercurrents.’
This really is a stylish, intensely gripping thriller that will stick in your mind for many years to come.  You really must go and see this superb production, Dial M for Magnificent!

Tour continues to:
15th-19th Festival Theatre, Malvern
22nd-26th  Theatre Royal, Nottingham
29th April-3rd May Theatre Royal, Norwich
6th-10th May Opera House, Manchester
13th-17th Birmingham Repertory Theatre
20th-24th Yvonne Arnauld Theatre, Guildford
27th-31st May  His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen
4th-7th June New Theatre, Cardiff
10th-14th June  Hall for Cornwall, Truro
17th-21st  Arts Theatre, Cambridge
24th-28th June Theatre Royal, Glasgow

For more info, visit

Reviewed by:
Yvonne Delahaye
8th April 2014


Apr 9th

Robin Cousin’s ICE, Dazzling, exciting and daring!

By Thia Cooper

As an avid watcher and fan of ‘Dancing on Ice’ I wasn’t sure what to expect from ‘ICE’. What I got was breath taking!! If I had gone to the performance with the slightest idea of comparing it with the ITV programme, this was instantly dismissed with the opening number.

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The performance is made up of scenes with a theme. For example ‘Winterscape’, ‘Rhythm’, ‘Swingtime’ and ‘Tonight’. The original music was interspersed with snippets of recognisable popular tunes.

The first solo was performed by Annie Aggeler bringing us a taste of magical things to come. She glided gracefully across the ice, amazing the audience with her expertise and athleticism.

Brandee Malto and Neill Shelton followed with ‘Dance with You’. They showed how to make (in my opinion) dangerous moves look so graceful and easy.

The humour was put across by Vaughn Chipeur in ‘Blade Runner’. It goes without saying that the skating was exciting and daring, but his contact with the audience was special too.

Can Michael Solonoski please tell me how he can sing live and skate so beautifully at the same time? His voice was velvet smooth and he didn’t seem at all out of breath! A nice surprise not to have piped music for a change.

There were some gasps when Kate Endriulaitis stunned us with an aerial display, combined with skating. She moved through the air effortlessly! Partner, Michael Solonoski added to the effect.

It does seem unfair to mention anyone by name as all the skaters were magnificent. However, as I’ve just shown a few did stand out.

All in all it was an inspiring night and you forgot there was the extra hazard of the ice!

Hurry and get your tickets if you haven’t already done so!! You’ll not regret it.

Robin Cousins – congratulations for a most beautiful evening. What a challenge for all the skaters, chosen from all over the world. They brought a joy to the performance as they obviously were thoroughly immersed in the performance and infected the enthusiastic audience, giving them a well deserved standing ovation.

Tim Mitchell Lighting Design, Maurice Luttikhuis Music Supervisor, David Shields Set and Costume Design you’re amazing.

Milton Keynes Theatre

08 – 12 April, 2014

Ticket prices £10 - £30

(plus £2.85 transaction fee)

0844 871 7652

Apr 8th

Sense & Sensibility at The Watermill, Newbury

By Suzanne Robinson

One of Jane Austen’s best known and most loved novels, ‘Sense & Sensibility’ has been brilliantly adapted and directed by Jessica Swale in this fresh new production at The Watermill, Newbury.

Sense and Sensibility L to R Sally Scott, Cassie Layton, Jenny Funnell, William Owen. Photo Credit ©Michael Wharley 2014.jpg
Sally Scott as Elinor, Cassie Layton as Marianne, Jenny Funnell as Mrs Dashwood and William Owen as Willoughby. Photo by Michael Wharley

For those unfamiliar with the book or the lauded Ang Lee directed 1995 film, Sense & Sensibility tells of the lives and loves of the Dashwood sisters after being left in much reduced circumstances after the death of their father. This production deftly highlights the total reliance of women on the generosity and benevolence of men during this period, without excessive wailing and hand-wringing. Whilst gentlemen could enjoy their inheritance, choose an occupation and take their pick of wives, the prosperity of young ladies, and often their entire families with them, depended entirely on making a good match. Those unmarried or widowed had to rely on male relatives who may or may not support them. It would therefore be easy to wonder at the relevance of this story today, when women have so many more options open to them, but it is also the story of young love, innocence and expectation within the confines of society which is as relevant now as ever.

Sense and Sensibility L to R Sally Scott, Cassie Layton, Alice Haig. Photo Credit ©Michael Wharley 2014.jpg
Sally Scott as Elinor, Cassie Layton as Marianne and Alice Haig as Margaret. Photo by Michael Wharley

Philip Engleheart’s stage design nestles perfectly into the Watermill space, almost looking like part of the theatre itself. It’s hard to imagine a more fitting setting for this play than the timeless and intimate space of the Watermill, which was filled with an appreciative audience. Paul Herbert’s music accents the mood perfectly.

The key to any successful novel adaptation is the script, and Jessica Swale has done a fantastic job of bringing the scenes and characters truthfully to life with sparkling and witty dialogue. Her sensitive direction is pacey, whilst taking its time over the more important moments, never rushing the excellent cast. I particularly liked the way 2 scenes would play out at the same time, complementing each other perfectly.
Sense and Sensibility L to R Sally Scott, Peter Ormond Photo Credit ©Michael Wharley 2014.jpg
Sally Scott as Elinor and Peter Ormond as Colonel Brandon. Photo by Michael Wharley

The versatile cast, often playing multiple roles, keep the characters very close to the novel. Sally Scott gives a graceful, sensitive and subtle performance as Elinor, making her a heroine we are happy to root for. The character is beautifully defined, never boring but dutifully confining her passions and feelings to societal norms. Cassie Layton as Marianne is her polar opposite, full of youthful exuberance and unbridled passion, making the dynamic of two completely different sisters struggling with very similar situations fascinating to watch. Fantastic comic performances from Jane Booker as Fanny Dashwood and Mrs Jennings provide plenty of laugh out loud moments and anchor the whole production in good humour. Also excellent is Alice Haig as younger sister Meg and the delightfully irritating Lucy Steele, wringing maximum comedy from the script and situations. But the cast of nine is universally strong here and all produce cleverly nuanced performances.

This is an extremely enjoyable production and faithful book adaptation. If you’re an Austen fan, you’ll love it. If not, you’ll still find plenty to admire and amuse.

Sense & Sensibility runs until May 10.

The Watermill Theatre
Bagnor, Newbury RG20 8AE
Box office: 01635 46044


Apr 2nd

Nina Kristofferson's Billie Holiday Story @ The Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury

By Yvonne Delahaye

It’s a sad fact that some of the world’s most talented artists live their lives in alcohol and drug-induced hazes and die tragically young.  The comparison between Amy Winehouse’s tragically short life and that of Billie Holiday is very marked, but we can take comfort that their music will remain forever.  Billie died in 1959 at the age of 44 of cirrhosis of the liver, after many years of alcohol and drug abuse.

Billie Holiday’s story is extremely sad, beginning with childhood rape and prostitution, but somehow she managed to escape and at 15 became a singer.  Her unique style of improvisation was based on hearing Bessie Smith and Louis Armstrong singing and wanting to use her voice as an instrument.  Without any formal training and with a limited range, she created sounds that are virtually impossible to emulate even today. 

Frank Sinatra was influenced by her performances on 52nd Street as a young man. He told Ebony in 1958 about her impact:
With few exceptions, every major pop singer in the US during her generation has been touched in some way by her genius. It is Billie Holiday who was, and still remains, the greatest single musical influence on me. Lady Day is unquestionably the most important influence on American popular singing in the last twenty years.

Lady Day was the nickname given to Billie by her old friend saxophonist Lester Young and the name stuck.  Between 1944-47 she won the Esquire Magazine’s Gold and Silver Awards for Best Female Leading Jazz Vocalist.  Billie Holiday was posthumously inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, which is a special Grammy award established in 1973 to honor recordings that are at least 25 years old and that have "qualitative or historical significance."  In 1972, Diana Ross portrayed Holiday in the film Lady Sings the Blues, which is loosely based on the 1956 autobiography of the same name. The film earned Ross a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress.
Nina Kristofferson’s Billie Holiday Story is touring following a successful run in the West End’s Charing Cross Theatre in 2013.  Supported by a 5 piece band, the show features some of her most memorable songs God Bless the Child, Don’t Explain, All of Me, The Man I love, Lover Man, Strange Fruit and Body and Soul amongst others.  Interspersed with the songs, Nina acts out some of the stirring and haunting memories that plagued Billie throughout her life.

Nina’s extensive career has encompassed theatre, TV, panto, Shakespeare and cabaret.  It’s very tough to perform a one-woman show, but Nina is supported throughout this show by her brilliant band Allan Rodgers (Musical Director/Pianist), Martin Shaw (Trumpet), Phil Donnelly (Double Bass), Albert Gaza (Tenor Sax/Clarinet) and Elliott Henshaw (Drums). It’s so hard to encapsulate the specific sounds that Billie Holiday could make with her voice, but occasionally Nina manages it on Don’t Explain and All of Me.  Nina’s rich, mellifulous tones reminded me more of Sarah Vaughan, a contemporary and sometime rival of Billie Holiday.

Despite her continuing popularity and influence on today’s pop singers, sadly the 1200 seat theatre was only about a quarter full.  I think it would perhaps have more impact in a smaller theatre, where the intimate nature of the story could be more fully appreciated.

The tour continues to:
8th April The Churchill Theatre, Bromley
9th April New Wimbledon Theatre
16th April Grimsby Auditorium
17th April Grand Opera House, York
1st May New Victoria Theatre
8th May New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham

Reviewed By:
Yvonne Delahaye
1st April 2014


Mar 31st

The Perfect Murder at Milton Keynes Theatre

By Louise Winter
Reviewed 31st March 2014

The Perfect Murder.jpg

A high quality cast manages this adaptation of the best selling novel by Peter James. More comedy than thriller, there is minimal suspense; this is intentional farcical black comedy which is rather good fun at times and a pleasant enough way to spend an evening.

The play grew on me as it unfolded to be frank, with the first half of the first half spent introducing the characters and building the narrative resulting in us witnessing some quite intense nastiness between Victor and Joan. The constant bickering and bitchiness of two people who should clearly not be married was quite depressing here even though it was packed with funny moments. Oddly the most hilarious moments came in the darkest moments; no spoilers here, you’ll need to go!


A sharp, fast-paced script full of one liners, adapted for the stage by Shaun McKenna, is a gift to the performers; Les Dennis as Victor Smiley, Claire Goose as Joan Smiley, Gray O’Brien as Don Kirk, Simona Armstrong as Kamila Walcak, and Steven Miller As DC Roy Grace. These five are all equally strong in their parts and there is clear enjoyment from them as they make the most of their characters.

Victor is planning to escape his marriage and run off with prostitute Kamila after murdering Joan, while Joan is planning to murder Victor and start a life with taxi-driver Don. It’s a matter of who can bump who off first!. I don’t want to give too much away in case you don’t know the plot (however, I am under the impression that most of the audience knew this novel and were at the theatre as Peter James fans) but it is the ensuing unfolding of events that is both entertaining and intriguing.


The set is fabulous with all rooms of the Smiley’s house, along with Kamila’s room, on stage at all times and it is the lighting (Mark Howett, lighting designer) that moves the focus around the stage. This is a really well managed; any other staging would have interrupted the flow of the action and distracted from the script.

This is a ridiculous and implausible set of affairs, literally, which was laugh out loud funny throughout. A very popular show and very well received by the audience.

The Perfect Murder plays Milton Keynes until Saturday 5th April
then on tour.
Call 0844 871 7652 (bkg fee) or visit (bkg fee)