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Sep 28th

The MGM Story: The Magic of the Musicals

By Clare Brotherwood

To generations of film fans, MGM meant glitz and glitter.

Between its foundation in 1924 and its demise in the 1950s, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s Hollywood studios produced the biggest though not always the best musicals, launching the careers of the likes of Judy Garland, Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire.

If audiences of this show expect even a little of the glamour of MGM’s productions, however, they will be sorely disappointed.

Set on a drab, disused film set, this budget production from Katy Lipson for Aria Entertainment Concerts and Szpiezak Productions Ltd is essentially a small show with big songs. There isn’t even a whimper from MGM’s famous signature lion.

But there are big performances.

West End veteran Miranda Wilford heads a hard-working, all-singing, all-dancing trio which also gives a light but informative history of one of the largest, most glamorous and revered studios ever, with some fascinating behind-the-scenes stories.

Her beautiful renditions of some of the most famous songs to come from America are faultless. James Leece, who trained at the Royal Ballet School and has worked for Matthew Bourne, also gives a fine performance - his voice has a vintage quality which suits the era, though tiredness was beginning to show towards the end of the first night show. Completing the trio, Steven Dalziel literally throws himself into his role. He’s full of enthusiasm and with his expressive face and flexible body would go far as a comedy actor.

But this is essentially a musical revue and the songs really are the stars.

Musical director Charlie Ingles and his handful of musicians take audiences down memory lane with nostalgic arrangements of such classics as That’s Entertainment, Broadway Melody, Over the Rainbow, Meet Me in St Louis, New York, New York, I Got Rhythm, Singin’ in the Rain, Make ‘Em Laugh and The Night They Invented Champagne.

This show proves that there really is No Business Like Showbusiness!

 

The MGM Story: The Magic of the Musicals is at the Theatre Royal Windsor until

Oct 1

Box Office: 01753 853888

www.theatreroyalwindsor.co.uk

Further performances:

Oct 7: Playhouse Norwich

Feb 18, 2017: Chipping Norton Theatre

Sep 28th

Sunny Afternoon @ The Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury

By Yvonne Delahaye

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Reaching your teens is a time of great anxiety for everyone, as many changes are taking place in your life and body.  Imagine that on your 13th birthday you're given a guitar by an older sister, who then goes out to a dance and dies from a heart attack?  Such a terrible personal tragedy at that delicate stage of life, must leave an indelible pain in your heart that could never be erased.  This is exactly what happened to Ray Davies, but he turned this personal heartbreak into a very successful career spanning many decades, as he wrote songs from the heart.  Unable to express himself because of a terrible stutter, Ray turned to writing and his lyrics still remain relevant 50 years on.

Sunny Afternoon tells the story of Ray and his brother Dave’s rise to success in the 1960s, as The Kinks exploded onto the scene with a raw, energetic new sound that rocked the nation.  The show opened at The Hampstead Theatre to critical acclaim, before transferring to The Harold Pinter Theatre in October 2014.  In April 2015, Davis won an Olivier Award for Outstanding Musical Achievement for the show, which also won Best Actor in a Musical for John Dagleish, Best Supporting Actor in a Musical for George Magquire and Best New Musical.

Ray Davies continues to be very instrumental in the production of the show, including the casting and development of the roles.  This tour features Ryan O’Donnell as Ray Davies and he has a superb range, which can belt out the rockier numbers You Really Got Me and All Day and All of the Night, but also portray the depth of emotion in I Go to Sleep.  It’s a very sensitive performance, that gives a unique insight into the real man behind the music.    Mark Newnham is also outstanding as the younger brother Dave Davies and the rest of the cast are also all very talented musician/actors.

I didn’t know much about The Kinks before seeing the show, so was very surprised to hear two lovely ballads, Stop Your Sobbing and I Go to Sleep, as I knew they were both big hits for The Pretenders in the 1980s.  Ray had a relationship with lead singer of that group, Chrissie Hynde and they had a daughter together, so that’s where the connection comes in.

The story of how The Kinks became another band that made up ‘The British Invasion’ of The States in the 60s, was very interesting.  They also managed to get themselves thrown out after disputes about non-payment of union fees!  It’s a great story and the theatre was packed to the rafters with fans, old and new, who loved the songs and whooped and applauded with a standing ovation.  My top tip though if you have sensitive hearing is to take a pair of ear plugs, as it is very loud!  Also at nearly 3 hours with the interval the show is very long, but you won’t be disappointed when you hear all their old hits being played live.

For further tour details go to:
www.sunnyafternoon.com

Reviewed by:
Yvonne Delahaye
26.9.16
@yvonnedelahaye

Sep 20th

Dirty Dancing @ The Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury

By Yvonne Delahaye

Dirty Dancing Tickets at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury

Who’d have thought that a low budget film, made in 1987 by a new studio that struggled to get the funding, would have turned into one of the most popular films of all time, becoming the first film to sell over a million copies on home video?  It made its leading actors, Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey, into stars overnight and Patrick, in particular, will always be remembered for creating such an iconic role.  Tragically, he died in 2009 of pancreatic cancer but his work will never be forgotten and new audiences will have the opportunity to watch the film for years to come.

How could this classic film be successfully turned into a stage show you wonder? Full of passion and romance, heart-pounding music and sensationally sexy dancing, the record-breaking show has been reconceived in an all new production created by an innovative new creative team; directed by Federico Bellone, choreographed by Gillian Bruce and with design re-imagined by top Italian set designer Roberto Comotti. The production premiered in Milan in July 2015, subsequently packing out the 15,000 seat Roman Arena in Verona, and then played a season in Rome. Dirty Dancing –The Classic Story On Stage originally opened at London’s Aldwych Theatre in 2006 with a record-breaking advance of £15 million, making it the fastest ever selling show in West End theatre history. The production became the longest running show in the history of the Aldwych Theatre and played to over 2 million people during its triumphant 5 year run.

It’s the summer of 1963, and 17 year- old Frances ‘Baby’ Houseman is about to learn some major lessons in life as well as a thing or two about dancing. On holiday in New York’s Catskill Mountains with her older sister and parents, she shows little interest in the resort activities, and instead discovers her own entertainment when she stumbles across an all-night dance party at the staff quarters. Mesmerised by the raunchy dance moves and the pounding rhythms, Baby can’t wait to be part of the scene, especially when she catches sight of Johnny Castle the resort dance instructor. Her life is about to change forever as she is thrown in at the deep end as Johnny’s leading lady both on-stage and off, and two fiercely independent young spirits from different worlds come together in what will be the most challenging and triumphant summer of their lives.

The show works wonderfully and recreates all the memorable scenes, including the dance practice in the water and on a log, with some very clever set designs by Andrea Comotti, Wellington Scenic and Henry Thomas.

Lewis Griffiths has very big shoes to fill to make the role of Johnny Castle his own, but with his incredible torso, snake-like hips and sublime dance moves, we gradually get drawn into his performance.  Katie Hartland does a splendid job of playing Baby Houseman, as she makes her professional debut since graduating from Royal Central School of Speech & Drama in 2015.  It’s not easy to pretend to be stiff and uncoordinated when you’re actually a trained dancer, but she’s very believable in the role.  Carlie Milner as Penny Johnson is a joy to watch, with incredibly toned muscles and long legs and the dance routines with Penny and Johnny are magnificent.

If you loved the film (and let’s face it most of us do), this show is an absolute must to go and see.  The audience whooped in the final scenes, when we heard the iconic line ‘nobody puts baby in the corner’ and watched enthralled as they performed probably the most copied dance routine of all time.

You really will have ‘the time of your life’ watching this show and the good thing is that it’s loved by men and women, so you don’t just have to go along in a hen party!

Performances:      Mon 19 – Sat 24 Sep
            Mon –Thu & Sat eves 7.30pm, Fri 5.30pm * 8pm Sat mat 2.30pm
Tickets:         From £12.50 (£14.40 when booked online or over the phone)
Box Office:         0844 871 7607 (Bkg fee. Calls 7p per min plus phone company’s access charge)
Groups Hotline:     0844 871 7614
Access Booking:    0844 871 7677 (Bkg fee)
Online Booking:    www.atgtickets.com/aylesbury (Bkg fee)

For further tour details go to:
www.dirtydancingontour.com


Reviewed by:
Yvonne Delahaye
19.9.16
@yvonnedelahaye

Sep 14th

The Little Shop of Horrors @ The Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury

By Yvonne Delahaye

Little Shop of Horrors Tickets at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury

The classic moralistic story of Dr Faustus signing a deal with the devil in blood is re-told in this quirky, hilarious 1950s musical comedy, Little Shop of Horrors which tells the story of Seymour, the assistant at Mushnik's Flower Shop in downtrodden Skid Row, who becomes an overnight sensation when he discovers a strange and exotic plant. He names it Audrey Two in order to impress glamorous Audrey, the shop assistant he’s secretly in love with. But Audrey Two has a mind of its own, and soon grows into a bad-tempered, foul-mouthed carnivore with an appetite that can’t be satisfied. Seymour must keep the meals coming to stop his prized plant from wilting, but how far is he willing to go to get the girl of his dreams?

Little Shop of Horrors originally opened Off-Off-Broadway in 1982 before moving to the Orpheum Theatre Off-Broadway later that year, where it ran for five years and won numerous awards including the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Musical and the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Musical. It opened in the West End the following year, and in 1986 was adapted into the now iconic cult film starring Rick Moranis, Ellen Greene and Steve Martin. Other notable stage productions include the 2006 London revival at the Menier Chocolate Factory and in the West End, starring Sheridan Smith as Audrey.

Little Shop of Horrors features music by Alan Menken and book and lyrics by Howard Ashman. They are best known for their collaborations on iconic Walt Disney films including The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast, for which they received Academy Awards.

The ultra-talented cast features Sam Lupton (Boq in Wicked, West End, Avenue Q, UK Tour) as Seymour, Stephanie Clift (Mamma Mia!, West End) as Audrey, Paul Kissaun (Calamity Jane, Fiddler on the Roof, UK Tours) as Mushnik, Sasha Latoya (Rent, Greenwich Theatre, Britain’s Got Talent) as Crystal, Vanessa Fisher (Hairspray, UK Tour) as Chiffon, Cassie Clare (Cats, West End) as Ronnette and Josh Wilmott (Spamalot, We Will Rock You, UK Tours) as Audrey II. The cast also includes Phil Adele, Stephanie McConville and Neil Nicholas.

X-Factor winner Rhydian was unable to perform the role of Orin, the sadistic dentist, but was brilliantly replaced by Josh Wilmott.  Josh has a powerful voice, great comic timing and energy and certainly ‘owned’ the roles he created.  Stephanie Clift also has superb comic timing and relished her role as Audrey as did Sam Lupton, as the hapless Seymour whose life changes dramatically because of the blood-sucking plant.

Little Shop of Horrors is directed by Tara Wilkinson (Associate Director of Motown the Musical, Memphis and Sunday in the Park With George, all in the West End) with choreography by Matthew Cole (Footloose The Musical UK Tour), design by David Shields, lighting design by Charlie Morgan Jones and sound design by Gareth Owen. The Musical Supervisor is Mark Crossland. It is presented by Sell a Door Theatre Company and Damien Tracey Productions by arrangement with Music Theatre International (Europe) Limited. Sell a Door Theatre Company have previously toured critically acclaimed productions of Avenue Q, The History Boys, American Idiot and Seussical the Musical.

This is a fantastic night’s entertainment that will have you laughing all the way through and singing along with its iconic songs. The show is extremely slick with strong performances from everyone and if you loved the film, you’ll love the stage show even more.  Go and see it, have fun and escape into a fantasy world of craziness for a while; it’ll uplift your spirits and keep you smiling for a long time after the curtain comes down.

There's still time to catch the show in Aylesbury:
Performances:      Tue 13 – Sat 17 Sep
            Mon – Sat eves 7.30pm, Thu & Sat mats 2.30pm
Tickets:         From £15*
Box Office:         0844 871 7607 (Bkg fee. Calls 7p per min plus phone company’s access charge)
Groups Hotline:     0844 871 7614
Access Booking:    0844 871 7677 (Bkg fee)
Online Booking:    www.atgtickets.com/aylesbury (Bkg fee)
Facebook:         www.facebook.com/aylebsurywatersidetheatre
Twitter:         @thewaterside1


Full tour details can be found on:
www.littleshopuktour.com
@LittleShopTour

Reviewed by:
Yvonne Delahaye
13.9.16
@yvonnedelahaye

Sep 2nd

NT Live Encore 'The Audience' at Second Space, The Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury

By Yvonne Delahaye

The National Theatre’s Live Screenings have been an outstanding success around the country, enabling everyone to see an NT production without having to travel to London.  Some of the most popular screenings are being repeated and if you missed them first time around, it’s certainly worth trying to catch one of the ‘Encore’ screenings around the country.

To celebrate the Queen’s 90th birthday, The Audience has returned to cinemas starring Helen Mirren in the multi-award  winning performance as Queen Elizabeth.  Written by Peter Morgan , who also wrote the film The Queen, the play is directed by two-time Tony Award winner and Academy Award nominated director Stephen Daldry.

For sixty years, Queen Elizabeth II has met with each of her twelve Prime Ministers in a private weekly meeting, lasting just 20 minutes.  These meetings are known as ‘The Audience’ and are completely confidential, creating speculation about what is actually discussed between the two parties.

Helen Mirren is outstanding as The Queen and it’s a hard task to change physically and vocally through six decades, as well as all the rapid costume and wig changes.  Her comic timing is spot on and she perfects the regal mannerisms, withering looks and humour of our much-loved monarch.

Supported by a tremendous cast playing the 12 prime ministers, each meeting is a vignette providing an insight into what was happening politically at the time.  With Edward Fox as Churchill, Michael Elwyn as Anthony Eden, Richard McCabe as Harold Wilson, Nathaniel Parker as Gorden Brown, Paul Ritter as Rufus Wright and David Peart as James Callaghan, who all portray their respective PMs with brilliant authenticity.  For me though, the meeting between Margaret Thatcher, superbly played by Haydn Gwynne, was the highlight of the play.  Haydn totally captured the vocal intonations and authority of Thatcher and for a while you could imagine you were witnessing an actual conversation.

The screening ends with a Q&A session recorded between Stephen Daldry and Helen Mirren and is well worth staying a few more minutes to listen to.

Reviewed by:
Yvonne Delahaye
1.9.16
@yvonnedelahaye

Jul 27th

That's Entertainment @ The Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury

By Yvonne Delahaye

That's Entertainment Tickets at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre,

Summer is finally here and with the long school holidays, I’m sure there’ll be lots of parents and grandparents looking for entertainment ideas.  One of the great things about a show like That’s Entertainment is that it can be enjoyed by all the family.  Younger children may not appreciate it so much, but with a dazzling arrays of beautiful costumes, excellent tap dance routines and timeless songs, there should be something for everyone.

That’s Entertainment includes songs from Carousel (If I loved You, You’ll Never Walk Alone and Carousel Waltz) and South Pacific (I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair, Some Enchanted Evening and There is Nothing Like a Dame) by Rodgers and Hammerstein. The show features the 1927 song Putting on The Ritz by Irving Berlin and They Can’t Take That Away from Me by Cole Porter, right up to the 1971 hit The Candyman.  There’s also a Cockney Knees Up section, featuring songs from the 1912-1947, including My Old Man and We’ll Meet Again. Although the poster says ‘The Greatest Hits of the 40s and 50s’, as you can see there’s an eclectic mix of songs covering 6 decades.  The show boasts over a million sequins and 20 stunning costume changes, some of which are completed in under 30 seconds!  There are some brilliant dance routines and clever use of backing tracks that sound as if there are dozens of people tapping, which is incredibly effective.  The show is directed and choreographed by Emma Rogers, with musical direction by Kurt Kansley and is produced by David King of Spirit Productions Worldwide, who produced Putting on The Ritz.

Making three guest appearances throughout the show is four times Olivier-nominated musical theatre artist, Ruthie Henshall. Ruthie has played the lead role in many of the most highly-acclaimed, long-running successful award-winning musicals in the West End and on Broadway of the last 30 years, including Billy Elliot, Chicago, Miss Saigon, Les Miserables, Cats and Crazy For You which catapulted Ruthie into a major musical West End star. Ruthie is also in high demand as a concert performer touring and performing extensively in the UK, the USA and Australia. Ruthie engages the audience with theatrical tales and shares some personal memories in between singing some of her favourite songs, including All That Jazz from Chicago.
 
With glorious costumes, sumptuous music, stunning dance routines and an award-winning cast of singers and dancers, this is guaranteed to wow the audience and keep their toes-tapping! That’s  Entertainment is feel-good entertainment at its best for all the family.

Prior to the show was the launch for the autumn season, when we can look forward to Little Shop of Horrors, AIDA, Dirty Dancing, Sunny Afternoon, Save The Last Dance for Me, The Woman in Black and this years panto, Aladdin, featuring Michelle Collins.

The launch was hosted by BBC Three Counties Radio’s Theatre Luvvie, Ian Brown, who introduced us to Richard Darbourne, the Producer of The Kinks Sunny Afternoon.  Richard gave us an insight into the casting and rehearsal process for the show, where Ray Davies has been very hands-on from auditions and rehearsals through to opening nights.  The show has been running in the West End since October 2014 and won Best New Musical Olivier Award 2015, as well as Best Actor (John Dagliesh), Best Supporting Actor (George Maguire) and Outstanding Achievement in Music (Ray Davies).

Also on the platform was National Theatre Producer, Kash Bennett who talked about the exciting production of Jane Eyre.  Charlotte Bronte’s novel has been described as one of the greatest romantic novels of English fiction.  The NT’s production has been called ‘Enchanting’, ‘Magnificent’ and ‘theatre at its most imaginative’ and The Waterside Theatre is pleased that the play will be coming to the theatre next year.  Two other hugely successful NT productions, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time will be making a return visit and War Horse will also be coming to The Waterside.

Details of all the shows can be found at www.atgtickets.com/Aylesbury 

Reviewed by:
Yvonne Delahaye
26.7.16

Jul 12th

Chicago @ The Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury 11th-16th July 2016

By Yvonne Delahaye

In the 1920s Chicago was run by gangsters, making huge amounts of money out of illegal alcohol, gambling, prostitution and extortion. This was the era of the Prohibition Law, where mobsters Al Capone and Johnny Torrio frequented nightclubs and enjoyed the company of jazz musicians.  Set against this lawless background, a junior reporter on the Chicago Tribune was assigned to cover the trials of women accused of murder.  Maureen Watkins interviewed the most glamorous women and soon transformed criminals into stars.  Two women in particular caught her attention, Beulah Annan and Belva Gaertner and it was their stories that she wrote about, which raised public sympathy leading to them both being acquitted and literally getting away with murder! 

In 1926, Watkins turned their stories into a play, so Beulah Annan became Roxie Hart and Belva Gaertner became Velma Kelly.  Their flamboyant attorney W W O’Brien was transformed into Billy Flynn.  The play was described as ‘the finest piece of stage satire ever written by an American’ and was turned into a film with Ginger Rogers, before John Kander and Fred Ebb created the 1975 musical we enjoy today.  Co-author Bob Fosse choreographed the original show and his style is tightly emulated wherever it’s performed around the world.

The original Broadway production opened in 1975 at the 46th Street Theatre and ran for 936 performances until 1977. Bob Fosse choreographed the original production, and his style is strongly identified with the show. Following a West End debut in 1979 which ran for 600 performances, Chicago was revived on Broadway in 1996, and a year later in the West End running for 15 years, making it the longest running American musical. The Academy Award-winning 2002 film version of the musical was directed by Rob Marshall and starred Renée Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Richard Gere, John C. Reilly, and Queen Latifah.

When I was in my first year at drama school we stage managed the second year’s production of Chicago, which we also took on tour.  The two leading ladies both went on to successful West End careers and I loved the storyline, vibrancy and catchy songs.  Our production was a colourful affair with glitter curtains and sequins, so when I saw the West End production some years later I was disappointed to see how black and grey everything was.  Of course, it was slick and stylish, but I felt it had lost some of its humour and warmth.  I’m pleased to say that this touring production has got both in bucketloads!

Hayley Tamaddon is wonderful as Roxie Hart and radiates energy with a smile that lights up the whole theatre.  She proves herself to be a brilliant ‘triple threat’ and not just a soap actress, renowned for her roles in Coronation Street and Emmerdale.  Roxie’s arch enemy, Velma Kelly is played by Sophie Carmen-Jones.  Former Eastenders actor, John Partridge, makes the most of his role as the corrupt attorney Billy Flynn.

Returning to play the role of Mama Morton is Gina Murray, who played her in the West End and recently on a tour of China.  She has a terrific voice and gives a very solid performance as the prison guard who takes care of all the girls. Cuckolded husband, Amos Hart, is played with just the right amount of pathos and subtlety by Neil Ditt.  Journalist Mary Sunshine (A D Richardson) almost shatters the lights with the strength of her vibrato and I could feel my eardrums quivering.  What an astonishing voice!

Of course it’s the songs that make this show so memorable, All That Jazz, Funny Honey, Cell Block Tango, We Both Reached for the Gun, Mister Cellophane, Razzle Dazzle and Nowadays being some of the best known. 

This truly is a brilliantly stylish show and one that can be enjoyed over and over again, so go on... paint the town and all that jazzzzzzz.

Chicago is at The Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury until Saturday 16th and continues its tour to Liverpool, Glasgow, Woking, Sunderland and Birmingham.  Full tour dates and booking details on http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/chicago-the-musical/

Reviewed by:
Yvonne Delahaye
11.7.16

Jul 8th

The Hollow at The Mill at Sonning

By Clare Brotherwood

 

Mention the name Brian Blessed and we all expect something… BIG!

And last night we had that in so many ways, even though the larger than life actor sat quietly in the back row of the auditorium.

For it is at the pretty Thameside dinner theatre that Blessed is making his directorial debut.

For a start, The Hollow stars the second biggest cast The Mill has ever accommodated. The play also lasts longer than most - not that the first night audience was complaining. But, most notably, Blessed has a big hit on his hands!

Given his personality you’d be forgiven for thinking that his production would gallop along - but no. Agatha Christie’s classic thriller is nicely paced and totally absorbing, though there are some quirky touches which has Brian Blessed written all over them and, as Lady Angkatell, the lady of the house, Blessed’s wife Hildegard Neil certainly knows how to interpret her husband’s comic side. In the midst of murder, her portrayal of the forgetful wife of a former governor in India is not only endearing but very funny.

It’s a family affair. Among the 12-strong cast is Rosalind Blessed, Neil and Blessed’s daughter who has inherited her father’s big personality, just right for the part she plays - Henrietta, a sculptress and mistress of the murder victim.

I’m not giving the game away here. The doctor, John Cristow, has many enemies, not least a Hollywood film star (and his former fiancee) who has moved into a cottage down the lane from The Hollow where Lady and Sir Angkatell (played by a distinguished Terence Wilton) are hosting a weekend house party. Given that George Clooney has moved into the village (and has visited the Mill), a knowing chuckle rippled through the audience when Sir Angkatell referred to the Hollywood film star at the end of the lane. Was that in the original script I wonder or a Blessedism!

It is, of course, a whodunnit: was it the film star, the selfish, scheming Veronica Craye, played by Leanne Rowe with a wonderful brittleness; the somewhat weak Edward (Alexander Neal), owner of the family estate, who is in love with Henrietta; shop girl Midge (played by Francesca Regis with a wholesome freshness), who is in love with Edward; the doctor’s wife, the nervy, subservient Gerda, played with great feeling by Emily Stride (daughter of the late, great Susan Sheridan); or even the butler, Gudgeon, portrayed with great aplomb and dignity but not without a little bit of wickedness by George Telfer. The only character out of the frame is the sweet maid Doris, who is eager to please everyone, and making her stage debut inthe part is Angharad Berrow who does just that with her enthusiastic performance.

The cast is completed by Jason Riddington’s tremendous, egotistical performance as John Cristow; Oliver Ashworth as the star-struck DS with an eye for the girls, and the authoritative but understanding police inspector (Noel White).

As always, the set is exquisite, this time thanks to Dinah England, and I love the nod to the early fifties in which the play is set, with old radio recordings of Happidrome, Workers Playtime and Elsie and Doris Waters.

So, well done to everyone, especially Brian Blessed. You’ve reached the peak of another Everest; in fact, the Universe is your oyster!

 

The Hollow at The Mill at Sonning continues until September 3

Box office: 0118 969 8000

www.millatsonning.com

Jul 6th

The Ladykillers at the Theatre Royal Windsor

By Clare Brotherwood

 

What is there not to love about The Ladykillers? Originally a 1955 Ealing Comedy starring

Alec Guinness and Peter Sellers, Graham Linehan’s (creator of Father Ted) stage adaptation made its debut in 2011 with, as I remember, the set being as memorable as the cast headed by former Dr Who Peter Capaldi and the ever delightful Marcia Warren.

The Windsor Repertory Company obviously doesn’t have the funds of a West End production but it is every bit as enjoyable in its own way.

Hilary Harwood is impressive as Mrs Wilberforce, the genteel old lady who thinks she’s letting a room to the conductor of a string quartet when, in fact, he’s the leader of a gang planning a robbery. You can almost smell the lavender water as she walks stiffly about the stage, speaking in that precise way old ladies of the fifties sometimes did.

The action takes place in Mrs Wilberforce’s house which is situated over a railway tunnel at King’s Cross. Only a crooked picture gives a taste of the lopsided dwelling but its close proximity to the station is emphasised by surround sounds of steam trains even before the curtain goes up.

Every single character adds something to this quirky, farcical black comedy, even Julie Ross’s very small part as Mrs Wilberforce’s haughty friend Mrs Tromleyton.

Tom McCarron is charming as the leader of the gang; Danny Lane hilarious but endearing as the punch-drunk ex-boxer One Round; Chris Kiely terrifying as the psychopathic Romanian; Chris Casey almost lovable as the pill-popping Harry, and as Major Courtney, the closet transvestite and con-man, Russell Anthony really conned me into thinking he was an officer and a gentleman.

There is plenty of fun and games to be had in this production, not to mention a plethora of killings - look out for the knife that goes through On Round’s head. I certainly didn’t see that coming.

 

The Ladykillers continues at the Theatre Royal Windsor until July 9.

The Windsor Repertory Festival ends with Pygmalion from July 12-16

Box office: 01753 853888

www.theatreroyalwindsor.co.uk

Jul 5th

The Mousetrap @ The Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury

By Yvonne Delahaye

When The Mousetrap opened in the West End after a short tour on 25th November 1952, Agatha Christie reckoned that her play would run for eight months.  Producer, Peter Saunders, was slightly more optimistic predicting a run of 14 months.  How astounded would they be now to see that 64 years later the play is still running in the West End, with a tour around the UK?

On 13th September 1957, the play achieved ‘longest running straight play in the West End’, which prompted Noel Coward to send a spiky message to Agatha ‘Much as it pains me, I really must congratulate you!’ But that was just the beginning of its most extraordinary record breaking achievements. The 50th anniversary was on 25th November 2002 and the performance was attended by HM The Queen and Prince Philip.  In its 60th year on 18th November 2012, the play reached an astounding 25,000 performances!  It was in this year that the first UK tour set out, but the play continued to run at St Martin’s Theatre, which has been its home since transferring from The Ambassadors Theatre in 1974, without a break in the run.  It also toured the Far East in 2013.

The big star names in the original cast were Richard Attenborough playing Det Sgt Trotter and his wife, Sheila Sim, who played Mollie.  Over 400 actors have played in The Mousetrap in the last 64 years, so it has certainly given a lot of jobbing actors regular work opportunities.

This touring production has only one ‘name’ at the moment and that’s Louise Jameson, who plays Mrs Boyle.  Louise is best known for her roles in Doctor Who, Bergerac, EastEnders and Doc Martin.  The Mousetrap though is bigger than any ‘names’, so long as the actors are good, then people will still flock to see the play, rather than its stars.

The characters are two-dimensional and the lines a bit clunky and full of clichés, so it’s not that easy to make the part your own.  Gregory Cox, playing the flamboyant Mr Paravicini, though did manage to lift the energy from a quite lack-lustre Monday evening show.

Agatha Christie was perhaps as baffled as everyone else by the show’s enduring appeal, but offered the following analysis ‘it is the sort of play you can take anyone to.  It’s not really frightening.  It’s not really horrible.  It’s not really a farce, but it has a little bit of all these things and perhaps that satisfies a lot of different people.’

Check out tour dates on www.mousetrapontour.com and tick this one off your bucket list!

Reviewed by:
Yvonne Delahaye
4.7.16