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Feb 28th

Round the Horne @ The Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury

By Yvonne Delahaye

Round The Horne Tickets at Victoria Hall,

“Oh, Mr Horne! How bona to vada your dolly old eek!”

If you were around between 1965 to 1968, you may recognise this line from the biggest radio programme in Britain at the time, the ground-breaking Round the Horne.  For half an hour every Sunday afternoon, audiences of up to 15 million people would gather around the wireless to listen to Kenneth Horne and his merry crew get up to all sorts of mischief.

With its infamous movie spoofs and hilarious regular characters such as Rambling Sid Rumpo, Charles and Fiona, J. Peasemold Gruntfuttock and Julian and Sandy, Round the Horne was one of the biggest and best radio comedy shows of all time.  Over 50 years since it began it still earns new fans every year and with packed theatres around the country to see the tour, set in the BBC’s Paris Studios, its success is assured for years to come. 

This is the end of the 50th anniversary tour which has been running since 2015 with three U.K. tours and eight weeks in London. The cast were all excellent at recreating the iconic characters portrayed in the radio show, though Colin Elmer deserves a special mention for perfectly emulating  Kenneth Williams’ voice and mannerisms.

Kenneth Horne - Julian Howard McDowell

Kenneth Williams - Colin Elmer

Hugh Paddick - Alex Scott Fairley 

Betty Marsden - Eve Winters 

Douglas Smith - Alan Booty

SFX/Musician - Miles Russell 

The show was compiled, produced and directed by Tim Astley who set up Apollo Theatre Company in 2010, after graduating from Guildford School of Acting.

Personally, I didn’t know the radio shows so a lot was lost on me, but the almost full theatre whooped at familiar lines and characters they recognised.  What I loved, as an actor myself, was that all of the actors seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves which made me wish I was up there with them!  We certainly need to see more comedy on stage and it’s a compliment to the clever writing of Barry Took and Marty Feldman that it still works to this day.

The tour ends on 1st March at The Victoria Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent.  Tim Astley says ‘It is entirely possible that we may produce a 'Round the Horne' show again in the future but for now there are no immediate plans.’

For further details of all their productions, go to www.apollotheatrecompany.com

Reviewed by:

Yvonne Delahaye

27.2.17

 

@yvonnedelahaye

Feb 21st

Dreamboats and Petticoats The Musical @ The Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury

By Yvonne Delahaye

Dreamboats and Petticoats Tickets at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre,

Inspired by the smash-hit multi-million selling CD albums Dreamboats and Petticoats One, Two, Three, Four and Five, the West End sell-out sensation Dreamboats and Petticoats The Musical is celebrating its 10th anniversary tour and features some of the greatest hit songs of the Rock ‘n’ Roll era. These include Let’s Dance, To Know Him Is To Love Him, Shaking All Over, Bobby’s Girl, Little Town Flirt, Only Sixteen, Runaround Sue, Happy Birthday Sweet 16, Let It Be Me, Great Pretender, C’mon Everybody, Let’s Twist Again and many more hits from music’s golden era!  Dreamboats and Petticoats The Musical  was nominated for an Olivier Award in 2010 for best new musical.

The dazzling success of the first five albums in the Dreamboats and Petticoats series sent the message loud and clear. With over 4 million copies sold and several weeks at the Number One spot in the compilation charts, the Great British public were saying that they didn’t just want to listen to pure nostalgia: they’d love to see it as well. Written by Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran, the writers behind TV classics Goodnight Sweetheart, Birds of a Feather, The New Statesmen and Shine On Harvey Moon, the show features classic tracks from Roy Orbison, The Shadows, Eddie Cochran, Billy Fury, and many more. Dreamboats and Petticoats The Musical is produced by Bill Kenwright and Laurie Mansfield in association with Universal Music.

Set in 1961, emotions are running high as young musicians Norman and Bobby compete to win a national song writing competition – and, more importantly, the attention of the gorgeous Sue! But when Bobby discovers that shy Laura is no slouch on the piano, love and rock‘n’roll fame beckons.

The role of Laura was played by Chloe Edwards-Wood for this performance and she totally owned the part, playing the love-sick schoolgirl who transforms into a beautiful young woman.  Alistair Higgins plays spotty teenager Bobby, who pursues glamorous Sue (Laura Darton) who in turn is pursuing cool dude Norman (Alastair Hill), who can have his pick of girls and ignores her advances.

Whatever era you grew up in, we all remember the music of that time and it defines who we are now with the memories it creates.  Being a teenager is probably the most difficult period in all our lives, with raging hormones and the juxtaposition between being a child and an adult creating conflict as we strive to work out our place in the world. This show gives a good insight into a time long before the internet, when youth clubs reigned and this was probably where you met your first love.

It’s a fabulous way to spend a winter’s evening and the energy, vibrancy and sheer talent of all the cast ensures that you have a really great night out. 

The talented cast includes:
Jimmy Johnston as Phil/Older Bobby, Gracie Johnson as Donna, David Luke as Ray, Henry Alexander as Colin, Jay Osborne as Richard, Rob Gathercole as Jeremy, Lauren Chinery as Babs, Josh Tye as Derek, Sheridan Lloyd as Andy, Billy Stookes as Barry, Mike Lloyd as Frank/Slugger, Stephanie Hackett as Daisy/Brenda, Alan Howell as Eric

The show continues at Aylesbury Waterside until 25th February, so there’s still time to call the Box Office, on  0844 871 7607 (bkg fee) or visiting www.atgtickets.com/Aylesbury   (bkg fee).

And for the next few months to:

27th - 4th March
Palace Theatre, Manchester
6th - 11th March
Orchard Theatre, Dartford
20th - 25th March
Southport Theatre and Convention Centre, Southport
3rd - 8th April
Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham

Further tour dates can be found on www.dreamboatsandpetticoats.com

 

Reviewed by:

Yvonne Delahaye

20.2.17

@yvonnedelahaye

 



Feb 21st

Ding Dong Murder Me On High!

By Clare Brotherwood

Back in the day, The Questors Theatre in Ealing was synonymous with The Art of Course Acting, a sort of precursor to The Play that Went Wrong, which is so popular today.

Questors is an amateur theatre group and member Michael Green drew upon his experiences to write a book on the subject before taking The Course Acting Show to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and then into London’s West End.

There are aspects of this talking Scarlet (why do they have to italicise, underline and not cap up?) production which brings me in mind of course acting. Obviously Ding Dong… is a spoof, but it’s not done well enough to be admired.

David Callister, as the aptly named Sgt Pratt, is the only one to get my vote with his Malapropisms and double entrendres. It must be so difficult to have to keep dropping the wrong words into the dialogue, and he does it so well, even when he corpsed during Windsor’s first night and then said, ‘I don’t know what I am talking about any more’. It was the highlight of the evening.

The opening night audience seemed to enjoy it well enough, and that’s the main thing, but I found it all too silly and the characters too transparently over the top.

The action takes place in the home of Sir Walton Gates, where his family are gathering together for Christmas (I was just beginning to put Christmas behind me!). Enter Sgt Pratt and his sidekick WPC Potter, collecting for the police benevolent fund, and chaos ensues. In the mix there are guns going off, sub plots and imposters, but I was inclined to agree with another theatregoer who queried, ‘Is this supposed to be for adults?’

Only Anna Brecon as Lady Gates appears believable (well, mostly), with a cool sophistication (well, mostly) which brought me in mind of Samantha Bond. I’ve always liked Jeffrey Holland, and his portrayal of the creaky old Lord is passable. Oliver Mellor (Dr Matt in Corrie) does well to irritate us as the cocky James Washington, but the others are just too silly. Natasha Gray as Sir Walton’s PA Morag McKay brought me in mind of Dr Finlay’s Janet (for those old enough to remember) with her high pitched pseudo-Scottishness, but Carly Day ladles on so much affectation as Sir Walton’s excitable daughter Emma that, half the time, she is inaudible. And there were knowing chuckles when someone refers to Archie Gates’ (played by Neighbour’s Mark Little) ‘ridiculous Australian accent’.

This is the world premiere of this production, and apparently there are many other misadventures involving Sgt Pratt. Good luck to him, and his creator Peter Gordon. With this company they need it.

Ding Dong Murder Me on High! is at the Theatre Royal Windsor until Feb 25.

Box Office: 01753 853888.

www.theatreroyalwindsor.co.uk

It then continues touring:

Mar 13-15: Grand Theatre Swansea

 

Mar 17-18: Garrick Theatre, Lichfield

Feb 15th

Henceforward... at the Theatre Royal Windsor

By Clare Brotherwood

Alan Ackybourn really is astonishing. His characters have often been ordinary, even boring, people whose lives usually go no further than their suburban gardens. And yet, through his powers of observation and his unrivalled talent he makes them into roles which have had audiences transfixed for over 50 years and have professionals and am dram societies alike clamouring to perform his plays all over the world.

But Henceforward… is a world away from suburbia. And its characters are, well, not of this world. No breathing Ayckbourn’s magic into the lives of dull little families here. Instead, the actors are challenged with bringing to life and living with a robot, and a dysfunctional one at that.

The play premiered in 1987 and was the first time Ayckbourn used a robot in the storyline. Eleven years later, in Comic Potential, his second robotic character won Janie Dee three awards only ever bestowed on one other actor before or since… Judi Dench.

There are certainly award-winning performances in this production but, first, to the set the scene. Henceforward… takes place in the not too distant future when society has broken down and thugs called The Daughters of Darkness police the area where composer Jerome Watkins lives in a dingy tower block with steel shutters on the windows. It’s totally unnerving. Though written 30 years ago Ackybourn’s vision was extraordinary and nowadays is way too close for comfort. The grey, concrete walls and drab surrounds of Roger Glossop’s set is unsettling.

The play is also extremely funny. Jerome has an android, model no NAN 300F (listed in the cast as Herself!), which a neighbour gave him for spares, but though he refers to her/it as ‘a load of old scrap’, he has programmed her to walk (after a fashion) and talk (after a fashion) - with hilarious consequences. We must surmise that Jacqueline King, who plays Jerome’s unpleasant and forceful ex-wife Corinna in the second act, is indeed NAN, and, therefore, she should be praised for both monumental performances. I could never tire of watching what NAN gets up to next. Just the anticipation is pure joy.

But King is not the only actress who has to walk the walk and talk the talk of NAN. In the first act Laura Matthews plays Zoe, an escort hired by Jerome to play his fiancée so as to make his ex-wife think he has a stable home where his daughter Geain can visit. Beaten up by the Daughters of Darkness, Zoe’s various emotional states, which range from highly entertaining to down-right moving, are superbly drawn by Matthews, but there is more to come in the second act when she too becomes NAN.

There is a great deal of underlying darkness to this play, but it is so well balanced with great humour and strong characters including Nigel Hastings as the all too human Mervyn and Jessie Hart as Jerome’s complex daughter. King and Matthews understandably command the stage, but Bill Champion will stick in my mind as the troubled, humourless Jerome whose one, blind obsession loses him the thing he was looking for but had all the time.

Superbly (of course) directed by Ayckbourn himself, the production could not work without video designer Paul Stear’s special effects.

Henceforward is at the Theatre Royal Windsor until Feb 18.

Box office: 01753 853888

www.theatreroyalwindsor.co.uk

Further dates include:

 

Feb 22-25: Cambridge Arts Theatre

Feb 8th

Kiss of Death at the Theatre Royal Windsor

By Clare Brotherwood

After many decades as a theatre reviewer, nowadays when someone asks me what play I’ve just seen I often can’t remember! But such is Simon Williams’ gift for playwriting that his previous productions are lodged firmly in my brain and I’ve found them hugely enjoyable. Unfortunately, Kiss of Death will be memorable, but not for the right reasons.

The trouble is, this talking Scarlet production is woefully under-rehearsed. On the opening night the actors were speaking their lines rather than performing them and there were issues with the sound, including lack of projection, while the set, which is little more than a mishmash of chairs, adds nothing to the ambience. In fact, there isn’t any. It’s a travesty that a production which carries the name of such a distinguished actor as Williams is allowed to be performed in such an unfinished state.

It’s not as if the cast don’t know what they are doing. All four members have solid backgrounds. David Janson has appeared in everything from The Beatles’ film A Hard Day’s Night to TV comedies ‘Allo ‘Allo and Keeping Up Appearances, and from working with the RSC to panto, while his daughter Ciara Janson spent three years in Hollyoaks before making her West End debut. And Peter Lovstrom and Davies Palmer both have many film, TV and stage credits. Yet they failed to make their characters or the storyline in any way believable. Only Ciara Janson shows any form of emotion.

It’s a complicated, imaginative plot, with many twists, and, done properly, would be a spine-tingling psychological thriller, if a little off-beat. It all centres on actress Zoe Lang (Ciara Janson) who finds herself auditioning to be the bait for a real life serial killer, but even when the sardonic murderer reveals himself there is no real feeling of menace, and two policemen handling such a big case shouts a tight budget! In this state it also feels disjointed; it’s very slow to start – building up the tension, I kindly thought, but I soon realised it was because it lacked pace.

Let’s hope Patric Kearns, director, designer and artistic director of talking Scarlet, takes a hard look at the production and puts things right. I have always admired Williams’ writing – both his plays and novels – and I wouldn’t want anyone to judge him by this one.

Kiss of Death is at the Theatre Royal Windsor until Feb 11

Box Office: 01753 853888

 

www.theatreroyalwindsor.co.uk

Feb 8th

The Curious Incident of The Dog in the Night-time @ The Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury

By Yvonne Delahaye

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time Tickets at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury

Following the successful tour in 2015 of The National Theatre’s production The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, the play makes a welcome return to the Waterside Theatre from 7th-11th February. The play is adapted by Simon Stephens from  the novel of the same name by Mark Haddon and is directed by Marianne Elliott. The story concerns a mystery surrounding the death of a neighbour's dog that is investigated by 15 year old Christopher Boone, who has Asperger’s Syndrome and explores his complicated relationships with his parents, interspersed with advice and support from his school mentor, Siobhan.

The play received seven Olivier Awards in 2013, including Best New Play, Best Director, Best Design, Best Lighting Design and Best Sound Design and five Tony Awards on Broadway including Best Play.  The play's West End Theatre debut was 2 August 2012 at the Royal National Theatre, playing in the round. It transferred to the Apollo Theatre in 2013, but following a roof collapse it closed down. It reopened on 9 July 2014 at the Gielgud Theatre, where it will continue until 3rd June 2017. A Broadway theatre production debuted at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre on 5 October 2014. It won the 2015 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Play, 2015 Outer Critics Circle Award Outstanding New Broadway Play, the 2015 Drama League Award for Outstanding Production of a Broadway or Off-Broadway Play, and the 2015 Tony Award for Best Play. 

I saw the live screening of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time a few years ago and was enthralled by the clever set, which the cameras showed from different angles, enabling the audience to see the action from other dimensions.  It’s a really amazing piece of ensemble theatre and I remember thinking how wonderful Una Stubbs was to be throwing herself around the stage, when she was then 75! 

In this tour, playing the demanding central role of Christopher Boone is Scott Reid, who is currently appearing in BBC1’s comedy Still Game. Scott totally inhabits the role and gives an energetic, committed performance that allows us to experience the inner turmoil of Christopher’s world.  The cast all work hard to create a range of characters and the action moves along at a pace.  I was disappointed that some of the actors seemed to be struggling to project in the space at The Waterside and a few of the performances were rather weak. 

What really makes this play work is the incredible set and the production is designed by Bunny Christie, with lighting by Paule Constable, video design by Finn Ross, movement by Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett for Frantic Assembly, music by Adrian Sutton and sound by Ian Dickinson for Autograph.  The Associate Director is Elle While.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time allows the audience to experience life from the perspective of a mathematical genius, who happens to have Asperger’s Syndrome, giving us an insight into his turmoil and struggles.  It was good to see so many teenagers in the audience and to hear them raving about the play at the end, so if it helps bring about more tolerance in our society then this play should continue running for years.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Tour of the UK and Ireland 2017

Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury                                  7 – 11 February

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh                                    20 – 25 February

Grand Theatre, Leeds                                               28 February – 4 March 

Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury                                   6 – 11 March

Theatre Royal Bath                                                    14 – 25 March

Mayflower Theatre, Southampton                            27 March – 1 April

Nottingham Theatre Royal                                        4 – 15 April 2017

Grand Opera House, Belfast                                     18 – 22 April

Bord Gáis Energy Theatre, Dublin                            25 – 29 April

Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff                              2 – 6 May

Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield                                         9 – 20 May

New Theatre, Oxford                                                  22 – 27 May

Theatre Royal, Newcastle                                         30 May – 10 June

Bristol Hippodrome                                                   13 – 17 June

Theatre Royal, Plymouth                                          26 June – 1 July

Birmingham Hippodrome                                          3 – 8 July

Venue Cymru, Llandudno                                         11 – 15 July

Cliffs Pavilion, Southend                                           17 – 22 July

Liverpool Empire                                                        25 – 29 July

Alhambra Theatre, Bradford                                     31 July – 5 August

His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen                              8 – 12 August 

King’s Theatre, Glasgow                                            14 – 19 August

Norwich Theatre Royal                                              29 August – 2 September

Milton Keynes Theatre                                               4 – 16 September

 

Check with individual theatres about dates and prices     

 

Reviewed by:

Yvonne Delahaye

7th February 2017

@yvonnedelahaye

Jan 26th

Dreamboats and Petticoats at the Theatre Royal Windsor

By Clare Brotherwood

Ain’t life strange! After three days of wallowing in family photos, mainly from the Fifties and Sixties, as I prepare to move house, last night I was pitched into another journey down memory lane. It felt like I’d never left home - except I don’t have live music on tap where I live!

And what music! It would have certainly awakened the neighbours! There really was dancing in the aisles as this feel-good celebration of pop songs circa 1960 exploded onto the Windsor stage at the start of yet another mammoth Bill Kenwright tour.

Dreamboats and Petticoats has been on the road before but this latest version celebrates the 10th anniversary of the million selling album of the same name.

It starts with Bobby reminiscing to his granddaughter about the good old days when, as a gauche 17-year-old at his local youth club, he first encountered love, and fame as a song writer.

The action, of course, goes back to those days when we see the young, enthusiastic Bobby ousted by an know-it-all by the name of Norman, played by a swaggering Alastair Hill, who steals his place as lead singer with a band (oops, sorry, group), and his girl. It’s no surprise that it all works out, but until that happens we are treated to a feast of rock ‘n’ roll, served up by a company of versatile and talented musicians who also double up as dancers and actors. There are no less than 46 songs in the show, each of which links together the story of Bobby, Laura and their friends at St Mungo’s Youth Club at a time when songwriters really knew how to write. I especially like To Know Him Is To Love Him, poignantly sung by Elizabeth Carter as Laura, a 15-year-old geek with pigtails and national health specs. It is hard to imagine she is anything but a little girl until she blossoms into a 16-year-old, and Carter’s voice proves she is no child.

Alistair Higgins also puts in a good performance as Bobby - his duet with Carter of Let It Be Me brought tears to my eyes - while Jimmy Johnston adds gravitas as Bobby’s father and the older Bobby.

The music isn’t the only good thing about this show, however. It really is very funny in places. Look out for Mike Lloyd as the Southend Slugger and a scene in slow motion. Brilliant! And then there are the references to all sorts of things that were popular around 1960 - much appreciated by members of the audience who are of a certain age! But it’s not only for people who were around back in the day. If you like a good night out, exciting music and are into retro fashions, this is the show for you.

Dreamboats and Petticoats is at the Theatre Royal Windsor until Feb 4.

Box office: 01753 853888

www.theatreroyalwindsor.co.uk

 

It then tours:

Feb 6-11: Southsea Kings Theatre

Feb 13-18: Cardiff New Theatre

Feb 20-25: Aylesbury Waterside Theatre

Feb 27-Mar 4: Manchester Palace Theatre

Mar 13-18: Billingham Forum Theatre

Mar 20-25: Southport Theatre

Mar 27-Apr 1: Chesterfield Winding Wheel Theatre

Apr 3-8: Everyman Cheltenham

Apr 10-15: Stoke Regent Theatre

Apr 18-22: York Grand Opera House

Apr24-29: Blackpool Winter Gardens

May 2-6: Birmingham Alexandra Theatre

May 8-13: Edinburgh Playhouse

June 12-17: Glasgow Kings Theatre

June 19-24: Sunderland Empire Theatre

June 26-Jul 1: Sheffield Lyceum Theatre

Jul 3-8: Milton Keynes Theatre

Jul 10-15: Leeds Grand Theatre

Jul 17-22: Torquay Princess Theatre

Jul 24-29: Bristol Hippodrome Theatre

Jul 31-Aug 5: Liverpool Empire Theatre

Aug 7-12: Norwich Theatre Royal

Aug 22-26: Mayflower Southampton

Aug 29-Sept 2: Southend Cliffs Pavilion

Jan 20th

Dead Simple at The Mill at Sonning

By Clare Brotherwood

 

It’s taken me a while to get down to writing this review because, there are so many elements to The Mill’s latest production, I don’t know where to start.

I wish I could just stay with… it’s outrageously entertaining. Words fail me (which isn’t a good thing for a writer!). It’s a storyline which is so jam-packed full of completely unexpected surprises, all I can say is, how one man can think up such a plot is beyond my wildest imagination. It’s one of the best I’ve seen in a lifetime of theatregoing, and gave me huge enjoyment. I don’t think I’ve ever reacted so much. It left me open mouthed, gasping with surprise and incredulity and, at one point, I was even stuffing my fist into my mouth. Best-selling author Peter James, whose book Shaun McKenna’s stage version is based on, is a genius!

It begins with the run-up to Michael Harrison’s wedding. His business partner is arranging a stag night but when armed men turn up at his flat, kidnap him, bury him alive in a coffin in the middle of a forest and then go off and get killed in a head-on crash, the question on everyone’s lips is, will he get out alive?

That remains unanswered for most of the play, but in the meantime all sorts of sub-plots keep us literally on the edge of our seats, as psychopaths and even the supernatural abound.

It’s a hugely complicated and technical production for all actors involved, and my huge thanks to them and to director Keith Myers for presenting us with such thrilling entertainment. I don’t really want to single out anyone as I can’t say why without giving some of the game away, but Louise Stewart as Michael’s fiancée; Martyn Stanbridge as her gloriously camp uncle; Lewis Collier, who has to go through physical torture as Michael, and Matt Milburn as Michael’s emotional business partner, are the protagonists, together with a seriously disturbed young man, magnificently portrayed by Daniel Buckley.

If you like a cracking good story that is likely to scare the hell out of you, this is a must-see!

Dead Simple is at The Mill at Sonning until March 11

Box Office: 0118 969 8000

 

www.millatsonning.com

Jan 19th

Gaslight @ The Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury

By Yvonne Delahaye

Click for more details and to book tickets for Gaslight at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury

Written by Patrick Hamilton in 1938, Gaslight is one of the greatest thrillers of all time.  Frequently performed by amateur groups, the play can sometimes be turned into melodrama.  Set in fog-bound London in 1880 in the upper middle class home of Jack Manningham and his wife Bella, the scene opens late afternoon being the time ‘before the feeble dawn of gaslight and tea’ as Hamilton wrote in his notes.

Bella has recently moved to a new house with her husband Jack, but she has started to misplace objects and is worried that she may be losing her mind as her mother did.  Jack leaves her alone every evening as he visits the town, but mysterious footsteps are heard overhead and a ghostly flickering of the living room gaslight makes Bella believe she may be going mad. Does the terror exist in her imagination or are dark secrets living in her home? The surprise arrival of retired Detective Rough leads to a shocking discovery that will shake her respectable Victorian marriage to its core.

The play was turned into a British film in 1940 with Anton Walbrook, Diana Wynyard and Frank Pettingel.  Encouraged by the success of the play and film, MGM bought the remake rights, but with a clause insisting that all existing prints of Dickinson's version be destroyed, even to the point of trying to destroy the negative, so that it would not compete with their more highly publicised 1944 remake  starring Charles Boyer, Ingrid Bergman and Joseph Cotten. It was also released under the title Angel Street.

Having seen the films and the play on stage many years ago, I was curious to see how it would be staged in this new touring production.  This suspensful thriller can easily be turned into a Victorian melodrama, but this production keeps it truthful with controlling husband Jack playing on Bella’s vulnerabilities and insecurities.

Acclaimed TV and stage actress Kara Tointon has a natural radiance and warmth that makes her very watchable in everything she does and as Bella begins to lose her grip on reality, Kara gives a compelling , multi-layered performance. BBC 1 ‘s ‘Merlin’ star  Rupert Young joins Kara as husband Jack Manningham and in the second act we see more of his sinister, menacing traits. Bringing some light comedy to this darkly twisted thriller, is multi-talented Keith Allen as Detective Rough.

The production has an authenticity that draws you in and the first half raced along.  Even though we’re kept in the picture throughout, the play still has the ability to surprise. It also provides an interesting observation of human frailties and the dynamics of an abusive relationship.

The play tours to Woking, York, Brighton and Richmond and tickets can be booked at:

http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/gaslight

 

Reviewed by:

Yvonne Delahaye

16.1.17

 

@yvonnedelahaye

Jan 12th

A Judgement in Stone at the Theatre Royal Windsor

By Clare Brotherwood

If the opening night audience was anything to go by, Windsor theatregoers are ready to shake off the panto season and embrace the Theatre Royal’s programme for 2017.

A packed auditorium heralded the first of this year’s productions which celebrates the 10th anniversary of The Classic Thriller Theatre Company with a tour of, so far, 29 theatres, which will keep the cast in work until at least September. Some marathon!

That cast includes familiar favourites such as Mark Wynter, a pop star in another life who gets to sing in this play; star of classic films such as Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, The Entertainer and Alfie, Shirley Anne Field; Andrew Lancel who won the Villain of the Year in the British Soap Awards for his role of Frank Foster in Coronation Street; Deborah Grant, best known for A Bouquet of Barbed Wire and Another Bouquet, and Sophie Ward, who has numerous film and TV credits.

A Judgement in Stone is considered to be one of Ruth Rendell’s greatest works, but unlike the queen of crime novelists Agatha Christie she is more concerned with the psychological sources of a murderer’s actions.

So we don’t have a whodunnit here, rather a whydunnit, and how did it come about.

The play alternates between real time and the months leading up to the murder of a wealthy family of four. We know where we are because of Malcolm Rippeth’s atmospheric lighting - warm and homely for when the family is still alive, and cold and stark for the time after the murders when the police are investigating the crime and questioning various suspects. It’s an intricate business. At the flick of a switch the scene changes and, last night, characters sometimes didn’t get on or off stage in time for the next scene. But it was, after all, opening night, and under Roy Marsden’s skilled direction I’m sure the production will be tightened up in no time.

It is beautifully set, in an oak panelled room with large leaded windows looking out onto a garden, so top marks to designer Julie Godfrey who makes the whole thing look so realistic.

There are surprising performances from some of the actors. Sophie Ward plays Eunice Parchman, the housekeeper whose attempts to keep her illiteracy secret lead to the tragic deaths of her employers. As such she is wonderfully withdrawn but with a very dark side, quite the opposite of Eunice’s only friend Joan Smith, the village postmistress. She’s not at all like you’d expect a postmistress or Deborah Grant, for that matter, to be. I love Grant’s performance as a bleached blonde, mini-skirted common ex-prostitute who has found God. Way over the top and hilarious with it, the funniest scene is when she is dancing on the table.

I wouldn’t have expected Shirley Anne Field to be playing an embittered cleaner, either, but that’s showbiz!

Everyone deserves praise: Andrew Lancel is suitably authoritative as DS Vetch, up from London to head the investigation, while Ben Nealon adds a homely touch as the local DS. As master and mistress of the house, Mark Wynter and Rosie Thomson are full of bonhomie and pretty smug, and I also like the performances of their children. Although not the biggest parts Joshua Price makes his mark as the moody Giles, as does Jennifer Sims as the friendly, lovable Melinda, while Antony Costa as the wayward gardener may seem just a nice country lad, but he does show his hidden depths.

 

A Judgement in Stone is at the Theatre Royal Windsor until January 21

It then continues to tour:

Jan 23-28: Richmond Theatre

Jan 30-Feb 4: Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford

Feb 13-18: Kings Theatre, Edinburgh

Feb 20-25: New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham

Feb 27-Mar 4: Eastbourne Devonshire Park

Mar 6-11: Hall for Cornwall, Truro

Mar 13-18: Buxton Opera House

Mar 27-Apr 1: Northampton Theatre Royal

Apr 4-8: Cardiff New Theatre

Apr 10-15: The Playhouse, Weston-Super-Mare

Apr 18-22: Bromley Churchill Theatre

Apr 24-29: Leeds Grand Theatre

May 2-6: Malvern Festival Theatre

May 8-13: Cheltenham Everyman Theatre

May 15-20: Assembly Hall, Tunbridge Wells

May 22-27: Crawley The Hawth Theatre

May 30-Jun 3: Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury

Jun 5-10: Southend Palace Theatre

Jun 12-17 Derby Theatre

Jun 19-24; Glasgow Theatre Royal

Jun 26-Jul 1: New Victoria Theatre, Woking

Jul 3-8: Wolverhampton Grand Theatre

Jul 10-15: Harrogate Theatre

Jul 17-22: Stoke Regent Theatre

Jul 24-29: Milton Keynes Theatre

Jul 31-Aug 5: Newcastle Theatre Royal

Aug 19-23: Belgrade Theatre, Coventry

Sept 25-30: Orchard Theatre, Dartford.

 

Box Office: 01753 853888

www.theatreroyalwindsor.co.uk