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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

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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)

Mar 27th

FAME - the Musical @ The Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury

By Yvonne Delahaye

‘You want fame? Well, fame costs and right here is where you start paying in sweat.’  These iconic words are still used today to promote the New York City High School for Performing Arts, where this musical is based.  Conceived by David de Silva, he enlisted British director Alan Parker to make the hugely successful 1980 film FAME, which was remade in 2009.  The film spawned a TV spin-off show featuring many of the original film cast Lee Curreri, Albert Hague, Gene Anthony Ray and Debbie Allen. Irene Cara, who played Coco Hernandez, had a massive worldwide hit with the title song and the movie won its composer, Michael Gore, two Academy Awards for Best Score and Best Song.

Thirty four years after the film’s release and people are still dreaming of stardom and success, but many now get fast-tracked through the route of reality TV, without the hard work, sweat and sacrifice professional training demands.  In 1967 journalist and broadcaster Malcolm Muggeridge wrote ‘in the past if someone was famous or notorious it was for something – as a writer or an actor or a criminal; for some talent or distinction or abomination.  Today one is famous for being famous.  People who come up to one in the street or in public places to claim recognition nearly always say ‘I’ve seen you on the telly.’

FAME The Musical has retained its following despite many incarnations and this new production has perhaps lost some of the dynamism of the past.  Gone are the iconic legwarmers, which is a great shame especially as some of the audience arrived in them complete with lycra leggings!  This production has brought the story up-to-date complete with mobile phones, but I thought it would have been better to keep it set in the 80s as a timepiece of bygone times, before the advent of reality TV.  The story focuses more on the relationships between Carmen Diaz (Jodie Steele) and Schlomo (Harry Blumenau), the extraordinarily lithe Alex Thomas as Tyrone and Iris (Sasi Strallen) and the crush Serena (Sarah Harlington) has on Nick (Alex Joran-Mills).

We have to wait until the second act to see some of the best dance routines, which I’d have like to have seen more of, by Director and Choreographer Gary Lloyd.

Landi Oshinowo as Miss Sherman
There was a stellar performance by Landi Oshinowo as Miss Sherman, whose rich, gospel tones lifted the whole production.

FAME has enjoyed seven West End runs since premiering in the USA in 1988 and continues to be performed all over the world.  There is only one tune you’ll be singing on your way home and that, of course, is the title track FAME and it’s gonna live forever!

The show runs at The Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury to 29th March and the tour continues to:

Liverpool Empire
14th-19th April 
Edinburgh Playhouse Theatre
21st-26th April
Regent Theatre Stoke-on-Trent
28th April-3rd May

Reviewed by:
Yvonne Delahaye

Mar 26th

Compagnie Käfig’s Boxe Boxe

By Louise Winter

Reviewed at Milton Keynes Theatre 25th March 2014


Dance Consortium presents Compagnie Käfig’s Boxe Boxe at Milton Keynes Theatre on 25 & 26 March, starting their UK tour. Compagnie Käfig has given over 2,300 performances in 650 cities and 61 countries for more than 1 million people. However, they rarely perform in the UK so this is a rare chance to see them live.

The show fuses the art of boxing with dance and the choreography by Artistic Director Mourad Merzouki intriguingly blends these two physically expressive forms together in a highly effective way for the most part. There are moments where the interpretations and connections are beautifully combined and others where this is perhaps less effective.


The troupe of seven men and one woman are incredibly skilled as acrobats, street dancers and martial artists; it’s an exciting palette from which to develop a set of tableaux for this production.

The dancers are accompanied by musicians (last night the Debussy string quartet) who play beautiful music by, among others, Ravel, Verdi, Mendelssohn, Glenn Miller and Philip Glass. This is happens on throne-like, ornate, ironwork chairs and the musicians propel themselves around the stage. The musicians and the music are not separable from the performers, but rather the close and at times claustrophobic proximity of all performers on stage means there is an intrinsic link between them all and all aspects of the show as they work to create a multi-sensory experience.


The props, as in the musicians’ chairs and the punch bag contraptions reminded me of the kinetic work of Swiss sculptor Jean Tinguely, whilst the staging and lighting were reminiscent of painter Peter Howson’s early work; the production is visually engaging and stunning at all times.

There is a great deal of humour in the show, from the opening scene where boxing gloves morph into animated puppets and the tweedledum referee which creates some light and shade of tone and feeling which creates contrasts from the more dynamic and combative moments.
This show has some really spectacular moments and is well worth seeing.
The enthusiasm and appreciation of the audience vocally illustrated the pleasure they got from this show and was a true endorsement.

Highly recommended. Book now for tonight at Milton Keynes Theatre Box Office, Call 0844 871 7652 (bkg fee) or visit (bkg fee) or for details of tour dates and venues

Mar 23rd

Sing-a-Long-a Grease @ The Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury

By Yvonne Delahaye
Hands up anyone who spent Saturday night wearing a paper bag on their head?  Just me and my friend Tricia then?  Oh and about 1000 others at The Waterside Theatre who joined in the fun for Sing-a-long-a Grease!  It’s a fun night where we were all given a party bag with tissue, balloon, chequered flag and popper to use at appropriate times during the film, as well as the bag itself (no we honestly didn't just decide to wear it throughout!).

The evening gives people a chance to dress up and there were some wonderful costumes, from Pink Ladies with pink wigs and jackets and the guys dressed as a T-bird.  The evening begins with the host warming everyone up and holding a competition for the best costumes.  About 30 people took to the stage and first to win a prize was an 8 year-old boy, dressed as Danny and with all the cool moves sorted out.  Two ladies who’d spent some time making eye-catching costumes with rollers in their hair also won prizes as did a brave lady who’d walked through the streets wearing pyjamas, a dressing gown and carrying a teddy bear!

Watching the film again and singing along to the great songs, Hoplessly Devoted, You're the One That I want etc. and joining in with the action is such a enjoyable way to spend an evening.  If you’ve ever been tempted to one of these nights, then go along.  The great thing is you can take your kids as well and enjoy a fun night out as a family and have something to talk about for years to come.

Reviewed by:
Yvonne Delahaye
22nd March 2014
Mar 19th

Noel Coward’s 'Fallen Angels' - Milton Keynes Theatre

By Thia Cooper

Fallen Angels.jpg
Jenny Seagrove & Sara Crowe

When the curtain went up on Fallen Angels last night, the first thing that struck me was the magnificent scenery and lighting! It didn’t change for the duration of the play and it was beautiful 1920’s style. The subtleness of the lighting outside the windows might not have been noticed by some of the audience, but had a very positive affect on me and the friend who came with me.

Two best friends Julia (Jenny Seagrove) and Jane (Sara Crowe) are married to two straight laced, boring husbands.

While the men are away playing golf together, French ex - lover of both girls, contacts them and wants to meet up. This possibility throws Julia & Jane into a spin. Alcohol in the form of Champagne, to calm them down, is the only answer!!

Large amounts of Champagne, encourages lose talk and jealousies, kept under control over the years. These surface and with the addition of alcohol are magnified.

Will the suave, charming Maurice Duclos (Philip Battley) turn up? Speculation is rife!

When husbands make an early return confusion ensues and this is exacerbated by the arrival of Maurice. The play ends with the two ladies going off to see Maurice’s new apartment, just above them in the same building! The men know they have been outwitted, but are not sure how it happened!!

All the actors, apart from Jenny Seagrove, were of the Coward style.

Fred Sterroll, Julia’s husband, played by Tim Wallers, Willy Banbury, Jane’s husband, Saunders, (the maid with an irritating amount of knowledge about everything and everyone) were excellent. They have obviously done a lot of stage work, were relaxed and their humour natural. Their voices were clear and projected with ease.

I was disappointed with Jenny Seagrove, a wonderful actor on television. I equated her performance with opera singers trying to sing jazz. It just doesn’t fully work. She looked uncomfortable and her part didn’t flow like those of her colleagues. Her voice seemed to be shouting rather than being comfortably projected.

Having said that, the production was very enjoyable and I would thoroughly recommend it.

Milton Keynes Theatre

18 – 22 March

Ticket prices £15 - £35

(plus £2.85 transaction fee)

0844 871 7652