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Apr 13th

Dead of Night at The Mill at Sonning

By Clare Brotherwood

They often say that the best things often come in small packages, and The Mill at Sonning certainly comes into that category.

Winner of a Most Welcoming Theatre award, this 215-seater dinner theatre also generates its own electricity and is completely self-funded.

And its latest coup is hard to beat.

Dead of Night

The picturesque venue on the banks of the Thames is currently undergoing a £300,000 refurbishment but, while other theatres may go dark, the Mill’s managing director Sally Hughes has made the most of the situation by commissioning an entertainment which has been written especially for the theatre in its current state.

Dead of Night is devised by Hotspur Theatre (founded in 2013 by Tam Williams, son of actor Simon Williams, and currently a star of the Olivier New Musical winner Sunny Afternoon), which specialises in creating site-specific, small-cast productions.

And boy, do they deliver!

To give away the plot would spoil it for any future audiences, but what I can say is that the action starts in the newly installed Waterwheel Bar where the actors have to perform Macbeth because the theatre is… being refurbished.

But after 40 minutes of mayhem and egotistical meltdown, The Scottish Play gives way to a ghost story which slowly comes to life in a promenade production which takes the audiences through the darkened - and some say haunted - theatre.

It’s thrilling stuff. For someone who laughed their way through Ghost Stories in London’s West End, I was shaking in my shoes.

Hotspur Theatre is a company to be reckoned with. Dead of Night was written by Luke Beattie and Nick Malinowski, who both appear in the play, and marks actor Chris Myles’ directorial debut. It’s imaginative, innovative and has lots of laughs to get us into a false sense of security, while there is just the right amount of horror – well, for me, anyway. I was scared, not quite to the point where I had had enough, but almost…

The entire company deserves praise for its spirited (and I don’t mean the ghostly kind!) performances, enhanced by magician Paul Daniels’ help as illusion consultant. I can’t wait to see their next production.

Dead of Night is at The Mill at Sonning until May 2.

Box Office: 0118 969 8000

www.millatsonning.com

 

Apr 9th

Macbeth at the Theatre Royal Windsor

By Clare Brotherwood

Macbeth may have been written over 400 years ago but, Tara Arts’ thrilling interpretation, notwithstanding Shakespeare’s sublime prose, could have been written last week.

Set within an extended British-Asian family (some with northern accents and wearing tweed coats over their traditional dress), director Jatinder Verma’s production explores the consequences of relentless ambition, and fanaticism such as that seen in the Taliban and ISIS.

But what is especially topical is the portrayal of the ‘Weird Sisters’ as transgenders. Louis Theroux may have made the headlines by investigating transgender children for his BBC series, but Hijras, or the third gender, have been around for thousands of years and are legally recognised in India where, appropriately for this play, they see themselves as part of the spirit world.

In this production, made in association with Queen’s Hall Arts, Hexham, and Black Theatre Live, they are bearded (as they were described in the original text) and brightly dressed in glittering saris, adding even more depth to an already colourful  presentation (especially if you like blood red!). As the witches, Deven Modha, John Afzal and Ralph Birtwell are mischievous rather than evil, but nevertheless intimidating even though their taunts and sinuous dancing raise many a smile.

As Macbeth, RSC actor Robert Mountford commands attention; Shaheen Khan really comes into her own when, as Lady Macbeth, she becomes mad, while Shalini Peiris is gloriously funny as the servant.

Just eight actors portray all the characters, making for a versatile and very capable company, but mention must be made of Rax Timyr, without whom this production would not be so special. Paul Bull’s sound effects and Hassan Mohyeddin’s compositions are stunning, but they are made even more so by Timyr’s musicianship. On stage throughout, his playing of the drums and cymbals, not to mention his beat-boxing (or vocal percussion) is exhilarating and fascinating. He deserves a show of his own!

Claudia Meyer’s set is simple but so effective. As in any Asian production, there are lots of bling, music and dance, a perfect antidote to the deadly deeds which are at the heart of the play. I loved it!

Macbeth continues at the Theatre Royal Windsor until April 11.

Box office: 01753 853888

www.theatreroyalwindsor.co.uk

It then continues touring:    

April 14-18: Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds

April 21-25: Derby Theatre

April 28-29: Key Theatre, Peterborough

May 5-9: Harrogate Theatre

www.tara-arts.com

www.queenshall.co.uk

www.blacktheatrelive.co.uk

Mar 17th

Dreamboats and Miniskirts at the Theatre Royal Windsor

By Clare Brotherwood

Shows such as this are a double-edged sword. While taking you back to your youth you are constantly reminded of the present day just by looking at the person next to you, if you know what I mean. We are all of an age.

Dreamboats and Miniskirts

But what great entertainment these shows deliver. There was no-one dancing in the aisles, as there often is, for the opening night at Windsor, but I could hardly contain myself as I tapped my feet and sang along to all the hits of the early sixties. Oh how I wish I could remember things today as well as the words of the songs I grew up with!

But the songs then really were special and, as in this instance, you really can create a story around them. I must say, I’m not the greatest fan of Dreamboats and Petticoats - I find it too cheesy – but because it is set a little later, I warmed to its sequel, Dreamboats and Miniskirts so much more.

The show takes up the story of Bobby and Laura who, in Dreamboats and Petticoats, win the Youth Club Association’s first national song writing competition.

Bobby is still gauche, and not overly confident, while Laura is streets ahead and becomes a sort of fictional Cilla Black.

We journey with them as their relationships and those of their friends develop, illustrated by songs such as I Only Want To Be With You, A Groovy Kind of Love, If You Gotta Make A Fool of Somebody, You Really Got A Hold On Me and Baby I’m Yours. In fact, there are 38 songs to get your teeth into and, as always in co-director (with Bill Kenwright) and musical supervisor Keith Strachan’s shows, the musicianship is second to none while the entire company produce a seamless, fast-moving show. I do find the Essex girls’ accents irritating but once those girls start singing it’s a whole different ball game, and I especially liked Louise Olley who, as Sue, really lit up the stage with her bright, vivacious performance. She really looked as if she was having a ball.

Written by heavyweights Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran, I love the references to the sixties which are dotted about in the script: Thank Your Lucky Stars, Ready Steady Go!, Wimpy Bars, the Golden Egg, Radio Luxembourg, C&A and New Musical Express. It’s an uplifting trip down memory lane which sent me home with a spring in my step.

Dreamboats and Miniskirts is at the Theatre Royal Windsor until March 21.

Box Office: 01753 853888

www.theatreroyalwindsor.co.uk

The tour will then continue:

March 23-28: New Pavilion Theatre, Rhyl

March 30-April 4: Marina Theatre, Lowestoft

April 7-11: The Hawth Theatre, Crawley

April 13-18: Ashcroft Theatre, Croydon

April 20-25: Palace Theatre, Manchester

April 27-May 2: Victoria Theatre, Halifax

May 11-16: The Embassy Theatre, Skegness

July 13-18: The Grand Theatre, Leeds

July 21-15: The Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury

August 10-15: Kings Theatre, Glasgow

www.kenwright.com

 

Mar 11th

The History Boys at the Theatre Royal Windsor

By Clare Brotherwood

Since it was first staged at the National Theatre in 2004, Alan Bennett’s comedy about a sixth-form’s rite of passage has won more than 30 awards and been voted the nation’s favourite play.

The History Boys

It’s not hard to see why. We have all been teenagers, at school (except for the growing number of home-educated!), so we can all relate to the story and the characters in some way. But Bennett takes it further. His teachers and pupils cover love, sex and death. His teachers don’t seem to adhere to rules and the boys are wittier than a lot of ‘real’ teenagers. And, as it was written by Bennett, the language is sublime, though it does degenerate (as in real life).

It’s not an easy ride. Often it is quite deep, though there are plenty of lighter, almost pantomimic, moments. But Sell A Door Theatre Company’s cast carries it off as well as the actors who starred in the 2006 film – which is quite something as several of the ‘boys’ are making their professional stage debuts. I especially like Hollyoaks’ Steven Roberts’ sensitive performance as Posner, a boy who is struggling with his sexuality and often breaks into song with a thin, reed-like voice which has his audience in stitches.

Because of today’s current climate there are elements which may have been funny in 2004 (though I doubt it) but which I now find uncomfortable – namely English teacher Hector’s ‘fiddling’ with his pupils – especially as he remains popular among both staff and pupils. Nevertheless, I found Richard Hope’s portrayal of the motorbiking lover of language far more likeable (how many victims of abuse have made that mistake?) than that by Richard Griffith in the film version, while Christopher Ettridge as the hypocritical headmaster is far more creepy. Meanwhile, it seems Mark Field has been made to look like Alan Bennett for his part as the supply teacher Irwin, which is unfortunate as he too has his dark side.

The History Boys is at the Theatre Royal Windsor until March 14.

Box Office: 01753853888

www.theatreroyalwindsor.co.uk

The tour then continues:

March 17-21: Kings Theatre, Edinburgh

March 23-28: The New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich

March 31-April 4: Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham

April 14-18: The Grand Theatre, Blackpool

April 22-25: Kings Theatre, Portsmouth

April 27-May 2: Churchill Theatre, Bromley

May 5-9: Lyceum Theatre, Crewe

May 12-16: Millenium Forum, Derry

May 19-23: Opera House, Buxton

May 26-30: Northcott Theatre, Exeter

June 1-6: Wyvern Theatre, Swindon

June 8-13: Grand Opera House, York

June 16-20: Darlington Civic Theatre, Darlington

 

Feb 24th

Three Men in a Boat at the Theatre Royal Windsor

By Clare Brotherwood

 

Even though I have seen a few other productions of Three Men in a Boat, I don’t think I’ve ever seen one which is so off the wall.

Produced by The Original Theatre Company and the Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds, director Craig Gilbert’s first full length play bows more to Monty Python than the Victorian solicitors’ clerk’s account of his holiday on the Thames in an open skiff with his friends Harris and George. They’ve even got a ‘funny walk’ in it, while fox terrier Montmorency (who was, incidentally, fictional) reminds me more of the dead parrot sketch.

But looking through my own copy of the book, I have to admit that they do pretty much stick with the original dialogue – until you come to the music hall song and dance routines, the accompanying pianist and the fact that this show is set in a pub!

J is giving a talk about his journey in said pub as the village hall has been destroyed (no going half measures here). His audience is the theatre audience and as he attempts to tell his tale his two friends get up to all sorts of jolly japes.

It’s almost silly schoolboy humour, but the timing is spot on, with the three actors, David Partridge as J (looking uncannily like John Cleese), Michael Rouse as George and Tom Hackney as Harris, in an almost choreographed piece with some very impressive quick changes.

Anna Westlake as Nelly the pianist (and accordionist) fits in easily as their accompanist and adds much to the show with well thought-out tunes and some little cheeky asides.

Three Men in a Boat is at the Theatre Royal Windsor until Feb 28.

Box office: 01753 853888

www.theatreroyalwindsor.co.uk

It then continues touring:

Mar 3-7: Devonshire Park Theatre, Eastbourne

Mar 23-25: Mercury Theatre, Colchester

Mar 26-27: Venue Cymru, Llandudno

www.originaltheatre.com

 

 

Feb 24th

Various children's shows

By Clare Brotherwood

As I’ve said before, children’s entertainers are often overlooked. And yet children’s theatre is the most important part of the industry. Do it right and you’ve got them for life. Do it wrong and you may never get them on board.

With this in mind, I took myself off to some children’s shows during half term to see just what is on offer for, hopefully, our next generation of audiences, performers, directors and technicians.

My local arts centre, Norden Farm Centre for the Arts in Maidenhead, was buzzing. There was something on all day every day, from storytelling in a gypsy caravan-style tent complete with floor cushions, to family friendly movies and arts and crafts sessions.

But it was the children’s shows I wanted to see, and I was not disappointed. While many may think there is not much to entertaining little ones, nothing could be further from the truth. The shows may look simple but it takes a lot of skill to keep young minds engaged for 50 minutes, and today’s entertainers come with skill in abundance.

 

Real Fairy Story

Image credit: Andy Sapey courtesy of Ripstop Theatre

First off was Zannie Fraser who, in 1998, formed her own theatre company, Ripstop Theatre, which went on to be the first British company to perform at the International Shadow Theatre Festival in Germany in 2003.

Inspired by the Collingley Fairies, supposedly photographed in 1917, Zannie’s show, A Real Fairy Story, really is magical – to the point where a fairy levitates under a piece of cloth and words disappear from a book.

As Miss Amelia Buttersnap, a fairy expert who has never seen a fairy, Zannie incorporates all sorts of paraphernalia to hunt down fairies and photograph them – and when someone sends her a captured fairy she transforms it into exquisite scenes of shadow puppetry.

Andy Lawrence is an imposing figure with his white pointed beard and love of hats, but he takes children’s entertainment to another dimension with a myriad of puppets and sublime storytelling.

Andy trained and worked as a theatrical costume designer but now, under the title of the Theatre of Widdershins, he uses his skills to create imaginative, innovative shows and workshops which leave his audiences wide-eyed and open-mouthed.

The Magic Porridge Pot

Image courtesy of Widdershins Theatre and
Norden Farm Centre for the Arts

The Magic Porridge Pot and Other Tasty Tales comes in three parts. Scenery pops out of boxes like Russian dolls and animals, including a giraffe, unfurl from buckets, porridge threatens to flood the home of Granny Grimpickle and her lifelike dog Podge, stone soup is served and a gingerbread man runs wild. Together with original music, jokes for parents/grandparents and Andy’s unique personality, this three-course show is a veritable feast.

Finally, I made the journey to the Lyric Hammersmith to see the Blunderbus Theatre Company or, rather, gifted young actor Ben Sbuttoni.

Blunderbus was also set up in 1998 and has such a good reputation that when it was touring in Malaysia recently two storytellers made a special trip from Indonesia just to see the show. Their shows are bright, colourful, and involve the young members of their audiences with slapstick and squirting of water.

But it was Ben I wanted to see. Expressive, outgoing, but with a wide-eyed innocence and a cheeky grin, he is a natural performer and a great favourite with children. Together with his co-star Simon Sanchez, he had the audience in fits of giggles as they told the story of Dotty the Dragon.

Dotty The Dragon

Image courtesy of Blunderbus

Judging by the sell-out shows last week and the happy, excited children leaving each venue, it looks like children’s theatre is thriving – and long may that be!

 

www.ripstoptheatre.com

www.widdershins.co.uk

www.blunderbus.co.uk

www.nordenfarm.org

www.lyric.co.uk

Feb 17th

Return to the Forbidden Planet @ The Swan Theatre, High Wycombe

By Yvonne Delahaye

Poster

When I read that it was 25 years since Captain Tempest and his crew first journeyed into hyperspace, I couldn’t believe all those years had passed.  I vividly remember seeing a friend in the show in a run at the Soho Theatre, which was such good fun I knew they had a big hit on their hands.  As a recently graduated young actress, I was astounded by the talents of the cast not only acting, singing and dancing, but playing a variety of instruments as well!  Creator and Director Bob Carlton set the trend and spawned a number of shows that require actors to be ultra talented and multi-faceted.

Inspired by Shakespeare’s The Tempest and packed with rock n’ roll classics including Great Balls of Fire, This is a Man’s World, Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood, Who’s Sorry Now, Teenager in Love, Young Girl, Heard It Through the Grapevine, Johnny B. Goode and Born To Be Wild, With stunning special effects, a brilliant cast of actor-musicians, a mad scientist, a huge green-tentacled monster and a rock ’n’ roller-skating robot, your in-flight entertainment is guaranteed! So fasten your seatbelts, set your ray guns to stun and prepare for blast off!

In this new production, founding member of Queen and a world-renowned guitarist Brian May appears via video projection as the Newscaster, a role I saw esteemed astronomer Sir Patrick Moore portray. The exceptionally talented cast features Steve Simmonds as Bosun, Sean Needham as Captain Tempest, Christine Holman as Science Officer, Greg Last,  as Navigation Officer, Mark Newnham as Cookie, Jonathan Markwood as Prospero, Frido Ruth as Ariel, Sarah Scowen as Miranda, Georgina Field as Anne Droid, Callum Hughes as Phil McCavity, Joseph Mann as Ewan Watami and Hannah Howcroft as Young Miranda.

Poster 2

Return to the Forbidden Planet opened at the West End’s Cambridge Theatre in September 1989, where it ran for over 1500 performances and won the 1990 Olivier Award for Best Musical.

Directed by its creator Bob Carton Return to the Forbidden Planet is choreographed by Frederick ‘Frido’ Ruth, with musical direction by Greg Last. It is designed by Rodney Ford with lighting design by Mark Dymock and sound design by Ben Harrison.

With a high-kicking, all-singing, all-dancing robot, superb vocals from everyone, excellent music and lots of Shakespeare’s quotes intertwined, what more could you want for a great night’s entertainment?  The show appeals to all ages, from primary school children with their parents up to their grandparents who can relive some fond memories through the music of the 50s and 60s.  Judging by the whoops and cheers at the end, everyone had had a thoroughly good evening and left feeling happy and relaxed.

This is a show that really puts a smile on your face and is the third time I’ve seen it. I pondered whether in another 25 years I’ll be returning once again to the Forbidden Planet, hopefully still fit enough to dance along to the encore?  I hope so!


Listings Information
Return to the Forbidden Planet
Mon 16 – Sat 21 February
Wycombe Swan, High Wycombe, HP11 2XE
Press Night: Mon 16 February | 7.30pm
Booking 01494 512 000
On-line  www.wycombeswan.co.uk
Tickets   £39.50* - £15.00* with concessions available
*A £1.50 per ticket booking fee will be added to all transactions.

 

Reviewed by:
Yvonne Delahaye
16.2.15

Twitter: @yvonnedelahaye

Feb 12th

Noel Coward’s Brief Encounter On Air at the Theatre Royal Windsor

By Clare Brotherwood

 

A steam train chugged into Windsor this week to promote the Theatre Royal’s latest production. But such extravagant publicity is unnecessary. You only have to speak to any member of the opening night audience to discover that this is a ‘must see’ show.

From Jenny Seagrove’s first emotionally charged words this is a heart breaking portrayal of a wife and mother who falls in love with a man she meets in a railway station refreshment room - or rather her portrayal of an actress playing that woman for a radio version of the iconic movie starring Celia Johnson.

Seagrove is perfect for the role - with her classic English rose looks and slightly tremulous, cultivated voice her performance is beautifully executed. Though she is reading from a script she totally brings to life the role of a woman recounting her affair to her affable husband. She is so convincing that very little imagination is needed to visualise the railway station and the clandestine meetings, even though all we are faced with is a group of actors reading from scripts into a microphone.

Seagrove isn’t the only star of the show. As her character’s lover, Martin Shaw exudes sex appeal though, of course, as this takes place in the 1940s, only in the nicest, most gentlemanly way. The chemistry between the two actors is palpable, and their characters’ guilt and despair brought a lump to my throat and a tear to my eye.

Thank goodness, therefore, for the lovely Roy Marsden, who must also be thanked for his sympathetic direction. As the station porter he brings some much needed humour to the plot, relishing in his down-to-earth, cheeky, flirtatious role. He and Sara Crowe as the gossipy refreshment room manageress deliver Coward’s famous wit like a comedy double act.

The Theatre Royal did a similar production last year, during which three of Agatha Christie’s radio plays were acted out as in the 1930s. I described it as ‘most original and unusual… classy, nostalgic… and with a huge novelty factor’. The same goes for this production. And no radio play would be complete without the foley artist (who makes the sound effects). On this occasion it is Jared Ashe, who delights us with his popping of champagne corks, tinkling of teacups, and banging a door or climbing a staircase, both of which are so small they wouldn’t be out of place in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Performances apart, Brief Encounter is refreshingly decent, a virtue we seem to see less and less of in today’s world.

 

Noel Coward’s Brief Encounter On Air continues at the Theatre Royal Windsor until February 21.

Box Office: 01753 853888

www.theatreroylwindsor.co.uk

Feb 10th

Anything Goes @ The Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury 9th-14th February 2015

By Yvonne Delahaye

Anything Goes Tour

Image courtesy of Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury

When Anything Goes opened on Broadway at the Alvin Theatre on November 21, 1934, it ran for 420 performances, becoming the fourth longest-running musical of the 1930s, despite the impact of the Great Depression on Broadway patrons' disposable income. Directed by Howard Lindsay with choreography by Robert Alton and sets by Donald Oenslager, it starred Ethel Merman as Reno Sweeney, William Gaxton as Billy Crocker and Victor Moore as Moonface Martin.  The 1936 film version also starred Ethel Merman, but with Bing Crosby in the role of Billy Crocker.  In 1956 a new version of the film was made again starring Bing Crosby, but with Mitzi Gaynor playing the new role of Patsy Blair.

This version of Anything Goes is produced by Stage Entertainment, in association with Sheffield Theatres and is directed by Daniel Evans and choreographed by Alistair David and will be touring to 32 venues around the UK until the autumn.

Anything Goes Cast (Credit - Johan Persson)

Photo credit: Johan Persson

When Billy Crocker discovers that his heart’s desire, debutante heiress Hope Harcourt is engaged to an English aristocrat, he stows away aboard the S.S. American to win her back. Aided by a string of eccentric passengers on board the luxurious transatlantic liner, can this web of love be untangled before they reach Southampton?

A sensational cast of 26 is led by Hugh Sachs (Bendidorm) Jane Wymark (Midsomer Murders) and Olivier Award nominees Debbie Kurup (The Bodyguard, Chicago) and Matt Rawle (Evita, Martin Guerre).  Anything Goes has Music and Lyrics by Cole Porter and features some of his wonderful songs I Get A Kick Out of You, You’re the Top, It’s De-Lovely and, of course, Anything Goes.  Some of Porter’s lyrics and key changes are very complex, but this strong cast make them look effortless.  It’s good to see a musical with three good main roles for women and they’re all perfectly cast.

The big production tap dancing routine to Anything Goes was superb and the show really came alive at this point, so I felt it was a shame there isn’t another big number earlier in the show.  There is, however, a very clever swimming dance routine that works extremely well.

The second act is completely stolen by Evelyn Oakleigh’s (Stephen Matthews) hysterical rendition of The Gypsy in Me.  Now that’s how you make your mark amongst a huge cast!

Due to some technical issues, the show was 15 minutes late starting and I felt it took a while to get into the flow, but the set, divine costumes, comedy capers and hi-jinks soon has the audience engaged and having a good time.

The Original Book is by P.G. Wodehouse & Guy Bolton & Howard Lindsay & Russel Crouse. New Book by Timothy Crouse & John Weidman. Originally produced by Lincoln Centre Theatre, New York City.

The show runs at The Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury to:

Performances:   Mon 09 – Sat 14 Feb 
Evenings 7.30pm Thu & Sat Mat 2.30pm
Tickets:  £15.90 - £39.90 (Premium seats also available) when booked in person at the Box Office or for full details when booking on-line or over the phone visit www.atgtickets.com/aylesbury (bkg fee)
Box Office:  0844 871 7607 (bkg fee)
Groups Hotline:  0844 871 7614
Access Booking: 0844 871 7677 (bkg fee)
Online Booking: www.atgtickets.com/aylesbury  (bkg fee)

Facebook www.facebook.com/AnythingGoesTour
Twitter www.twitter.com/AnythingGoesUK_

For full tour dates, visit:
http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/anything-goes/

Reviewed by:
Yvonne Delahaye
9/2/15

Twitter: @yvonnedelahaye

Jan 29th

Twelve Angry Men at the Theatre Royal Windsor

By Clare Brotherwood


12AM_TC_Knife.jpg

Tom Conti Picture courtesy of Theatre Royal Windsor

During five years as a full-time Crown Court reporter I don’t think I ever felt as engaged in a case as I did during the first night of Bill Kenwright’s touring production of Twelve Angry Men.

I’d always wondered what it would be like in the jury room, but nothing prepared me for the highly charged drama which followed. Tom Conti, voted the most popular actor in the West End in the last 25 years, may have been responsible for the full house, but his beautifully understated performance is only one of many gems in this extraordinary production. There aren’t enough superlatives to describe this thrilling piece of theatre.

Set on a stifling hot day in 1950s New York, 12 men are locked in a room to decide the fate of a 16-year-old on trial for the murder of his father. Not much to get excited about, you may think, especially as it begins with almost bar room banter as the 12 exchange niceties. But under Christopher Haydon’s direction it is a rumbling volcano of emotions and prejudices which go on to erupt into frightening and ugly scenes.

So real did it seem and so involved did I become with the characters that I found myself nodding in agreement when different points were made, and so engrossed was I in what was going on that I never once saw the table (around which the men sat) move, though it kept turning 360 degrees!

Michael Pavelka’s set and Mark Howett’s lighting do much to create the oppressive, claustrophobic atmosphere: the dusty windows are open, the fan doesn’t work and a storm is brewing. When it breaks, thunder crashes and rain pours down the windows, mirroring the mood of different jurors. It’s breathtaking.

Despite Tom Conti’s star billing, every actor stands out - even the guard, played by Jon Carver, if only because he has to sit doing nothing for more than two hours!

Among the major roles, however, I wonder Denis Lill doesn’t have a heart attack as the apoplectic Jurer 10, whose volatile outbursts had me shaking in my shoes, while Andrew Lancel is unrecognisable as the former Corrie killer Frank Foster, this time putting in a striking performance as a knuckle-headed country boy who, despite his attitude, had me in tears with his heart rending finale.

Conti, on the other hand, stands out as the one quiet, contemplative and compassionate juror who sets the ball rolling when, in the beginning, he is the only one of the 12 to vote not guilty.

This is strong stuff, and Reginald Rose is to be applauded once again for his worthy script which addresses serious social issues as prevalent today as they were in the 1950s.

Twelve Angry Men continues at the Theatre Royal Windsor until Feb 7.

Box office: 01753 853888

www.theatreroyalwindsor.co.uk

It then tours:

Feb 9-14: The Belgrade Theatre Coventry

Feb 17-21 Feb New Theatre Cardiff

Feb 23-28: Kings Theatre Edinburgh

Mar 2-7: Everyman Theatre Cheltenham

Mar 9-14: Yvonne Arnaud Theatre Guildford

Mar 16-21:  Bord Gais Theatre Dublin

Mar 23-28:  The Lowry Lyric Theatre Salford

Mar 30-Apr 4: Theatre Royal Bath

Apr 6-11: Grand Theatre Leeds

Apr 13-18: Grand Opera Theatre York

Apr 20-25: Venue Cymru Llandudno

Apr 27-May 2: Richmond Theatre Richmond

May 11-16:  Palace Theatre Southend

May 18-23: Grand Theatre Wolverhampton

June 1-6: Queen's Theatre Barnstaple

June 8-13: Ashcroft Theatre Croydon

June 15-20: Theatre Royal Newcastle

June 22-27: Theatre Royal Glasgow

www.kenwright.com