Share |
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

 

Jan 15th

And Then There Were None at the Theatre Royal Windsor

By Clare Brotherwood

Queen of Crime Dame Agatha Christie was born 125 years ago this year. So what better way to celebrate than with The Agatha Christie Theatre Company, which began a grand tour of her most popular and best-selling murder mystery, And Then There Were None, at Windsor this week?

The company is itself celebrating a milestone. It is 10 years since Agatha Christie’s estate gave producer Bill Kenwright exclusive rights to tour her original stage plays under the banner of The Agatha Christie Theatre Company, and some of our most esteemed actors have starred in them: Tom Conti, Robert Powell, Martin Shaw, Liza Goddard, Jenny Seagrove…

This production is no exception. Paul Nicholas, ably abetted by Dalziel and Pascoe’s Colin Buchanan, former Emmerdale stars Verity Rushworth and Frazer Hines, and Company regulars Susan Penhaligon, Mark Curry and Ben Nealon, are among the cast.

Filmed many times in various settings, this production has been taken back to the time it was written, in the 1930s, and is, therefore, a period piece, with Simon Scullion’s wonderful art deco set and costumes by Roberto Surace to match.

But elegance and sophistication are only on the surface. Stranded on an island with no means of communication or escape, the 10 guests of an elusive millionaire have their dark secrets exposed before each of them - bar one! – is murdered.

The opening scene is a great way of introducing the characters as they arrive for, what they think is, a weekend house party. And there are some surprises. Paul Nicholas is gaunt, grey-haired and slightly sinister as an elderly high court judge, not at all the twinkling charmer he usually is. And I can never get over how Susan Penhaligon, whom I remember in the original series of Bouquet of Barbed Wire, now seems to specialise in playing matrons. As Emily Brent she certainly gives Dame Edith Evans’ Lady Bracknell a run for her money, but her expertise at playing old is so depressing – there are only three days between hers and my birthdays! That aside, this first scene felt long and drawn out, and it was only when the murders began that I became more engaged. The claustrophobic feeling of being trapped also didn’t always come across, though Verity Rushworth as the millionaire’s secretary can certainly do hysterical!

It was only the opening night, however, and I’m sure distinguished director Joe Harmston will have the production up to speed by now. Meanwhile, it is great fun wondering who is going to die next and how, and I also found myself staring at the mantelpiece where ’10 little soldier boys’ are lined up under the nursery rhyme which heralds each murderous deed. For as one person died then one of the soldier boys disappeared, but only once did I think I saw an actor surreptitiously pocket one.

And Then There Were None is at the Theatre Royal Windsor until January 24

Box Office: 01753 853888

www.theatreroyalwindsor.co.uk

It will then tour:

Jan 26-31: Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham

Feb 2-7: Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton

Feb 16-21: Belgrade Theatre, Coventry

Feb 23-28: Regent Theatre, Stoke

Mar 2-7: Pomegranate, Chesterfield

Mar 9-14: Congress Theatre, Eastbourne

Mar 16-21: Festival Theatre, Malvern

Mar 17-23: Churchill Theatre, Bromley

Mar 30-Apr 4: Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford

Apr 7-11: Clywd Theatr Cymru, Mold

Apr 13-18: Theatre Royal, Bath

Apr 20-25: Grand Theatre, Blackpool

May 26-30: Richmond Theatre

June 1-6: The Woodville, Gravesend

June 8-13: The Hawth Theatre, Crawley

June 22-27 Ashcroft Theatre, Croydon

Jun 30-Jul 4: New Theatre, Cardiff

Jul 13-17: Theatre Royal, Brighton

Jul 2-25: Milton Keynes Theatre

Jul 27-Aug 1: Theatre Royal, Newcastle

Aug 17-22: Leeds Grand

Dec 18th

Cinderella @ The Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury

By Yvonne Delahaye

Cinderella at AWT 2014 011 Press Res.jpgCinderella at AWT 2014 069 Press Res.jpgCinderella at AWT 2014 064 Press Res.jpgCinderella at AWT 2014 051 Press Res.jpgCinderella at AWT 2014 044 Press Res.jpgCinderella at AWT 2014 042 Press Res.jpg

Photos: Barry Rivett of Hotshot Photography, courtesy of The Waterside Theatre.

A lot of people would find the thought of spending an afternoon in a theatre packed full of primary school children quite horrifying, but it’s actually a wonderful way to enjoy a panto.  For the kids this might be their first introduction to theatre and what better way to have fun than with all their school friends screaming and shouting together!   The atmosphere was thick with excitement and anticipation and it was a joy to watch them really having fun, waving their hands, singing along to this year’s top hits, hissing, booing and screaming ‘he’s behind you’!  You just can’t help but join in and enjoy yourself.

21232_full.jpg


This year’s panto is a sparkling traditional production of Cinderella, featuring glittering sets, gorgeous fairytale costumes, big song and dance routines, lots of audience participation and 2 very cute Shetland ponies pulling the coach.


Starring as Fairy Godmother is the stunning actress/singer Suzanne Shaw, who also co-directed the show.  She belts out some songs, waves her wand with gusto and helps to create some magic to transform Cinderella’s life.  The lovely Russell Grant plays Baron Hardup and shows he hasn’t forgotten his light-footed dance moves as he’s still a regular on Strictly Come Dancing.

Britain’s Got Talent semi-finalist Andrew Derbyshire makes the perfect Prince Charming. With his good looks and exquisite singing voice, he has some delightful duos with the beautiful Holly Brewer who plays Cinderella.  This is her third year in panto at The Waterside and she was excited to be returning to play this role.


TV personality Andy Collins also makes a welcome return as Buttons and this year is very special for him, as his 10 year old daughter Molly is in the dance ensemble.  Andy always engages the audience and delivers some great comic moments and it was good to see favourite sketches The Twelve Days of Christmas and The Ghost on the Bench again.


Returning to The Waterside to play one of Cinderella’s pulchritudinously challenged siblings, Cheryl, is the magnificent Tim Hudson.   With some gloriously outrageous costumes, Tim’s twerking will sit in the annals of my memory for years to come!  Dave Lynn plays the delightfully wicked Mel and the two provide the perfect combination of vulgarity and crassness.


This truly is a magical pantomime to be enjoyed by all the family, so make your Christmas even more special this year and book your tickets now!
The panto runs to Saturday 4th January 2015.

Tickets:  £10 - £30.40. See website for times and prices. 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)


Reviewed by:
Yvonne Delahaye
17.12.14

Follow on Twitter: @yvonnedelahaye

Dec 17th

Dick Whittington @ The Swan Theatre, High Wycombe

By Yvonne Delahaye

  Dick_image_Lead2.jpg

With the X-Factor finals over and the race for the Christmas Number 1 on, we turn our thoughts to panto season to really help us get into the festive spirit.  This year The Swan sees a welcome return of Shane Ritchie in the title role of Dick Whittington.

untitled.png (Photo: Robert Workman)

Shane is best known for playing Alfie Moon in EastEnders for which he’s won numerous awards and the panto naturally has many references to his character and the soap.  There are plenty of opportunities to hear the familiar ‘duff, duffs’ of the EastEnders theme tune and even a voice-over by Kat!  Shane is a great all-round entertainer, who engages the audience immediately with his quick wit and warmth and the panto really comes to life whenever he’s on stage.

An unusual twist in this panto is to have a Queen Rat, rather than King Rat, played by Kim Tiddy.  Kim is best known for her role as PC Honey Harman in The Bill and more recently as Heidi Costello in Hollyoaks.  She looks great and plays her role with relish, but it was when singing the Rihanna hit, Diamonds in the Sky, that she showed herself to be an accomplished singer and dancer too.


Malcolm Lord, as Mrs Fitzwarren, also makes the most of his role and is a wonderful comic dame with outrageous costumes providing the perfect foil for Dick. Another unusual twist was having The Sultan of Morocco played by local illusionist Phil Hitchcock.  It worked a treat, as his magic is truly amazing and I have absolutely no idea how he made things appear and vanish in front of our eyes.

They’re supported by Sharon Ballard as Spirit of the Bells, who has also appeared in EastEnders playing Gillian.  Nicola Weeks plays Dick’s love interest Alice Fitzwarren and they both take it all in good part when their big ballads are upstaged by comedy routines.

untitled 1.png (Photo: Robert Workman)

The sets were delightful and the colourful costumes were spectacular, especially at the end of the end of the first and second acts. It’s a great family panto and is very funny, providing the perfect vehicle for Shane’s comic talents.  The only scenes I felt that didn’t work and dragged the show down were the sailor scenes with the Trio Hatton. They just weren’t actors and the 2 scenes in the first act could have easily been cut and would have made it a tighter, more enjoyable show.

The show runs until Saturday 4th January 2015. Go to www.wycombeswan.co.uk to buy tickets.


Reviewed by:
Yvonne Delahaye
16.12.14
Follow on Twitter: @yvonnedelahaye

 

 

 

Dec 11th

Beauty and the Beast at the Theatre Royal Windsor

By Clare Brotherwood


Th.Ryl.Windsor.Beast.1464.jpg
Steven Blakeley, Kevin Cruise, Michael Winsor and Georgina Leonidas

The Theatre Royal Windsor has always been famous for its traditional pantomimes.

Back in the day they used to be written by the gracious and much missed actress, the late Mary Kerridge, and didn’t need to rely on big names to draw the crowds, sticking with regulars like Joe Brown and Bryan Burdon.

Then there were a few years when they weren’t so good – until ex-Heartbeat’s PC Geoff Younger and now Windsor’s regular Dame, Steven Blakeley, came on the scene as writer three years ago, and Martin Cabble, otherwise known as Britain’s Got Talent’s Kevin Cruise, became creative consultant.

Now Windsor’s panto really rocks, and even more so this year with the not so well known Beauty and the Beast. When the curtain went up to MD Lindsey Miller’s pulsating music the audience was raring to go – so much so that when former lead singer with the Three Degrees’, Sheila Ferguson, made her entrance as the wicked enchantress Maleficent, she couldn’t be heard for enthusiastic boos.

But this sassy lady from Philadelphia wasn’t standing any nonsense. “Ah, shut up,” she snarled, instantly earning her place as the nasty villain, especially when joined by her alarmingly realistic dancing wolves.
Th.Ryl.Windsor.Beast.2612.jpg 
Sheila Ferguson

Maleficent is the one who changes the local prince into a beast and his manservant into…. Basil Brush, and the introduction of the talking fox into the story really works. After over 50 years, children still love his naughtiness while accompanying adults warm to his cheeky, irreverent charm.

It is Rhydian as the Prince, however, who really blows me away. Without wanting to insult The X Factor, I’d never have thought such a good voice would come from that series. He’s magnificent, and not just as a singer. As the Beast with a heart he brought tears to my eyes, and I was fascinated by the breathy way he delivered his lines, rather like Darth Vader!
Th.Ryl.Windsor.Beast.2222.jpg 
Rhydian

This production, which runs at a fantastic pace under the director of Roger Redfarn, is certainly strong on vocals this year, what with Rhydian, and Sheila Ferguson who, since topping the charts 17 times in the seventies, has made a name in musical theatre. Thankfully, she was given the chance to belt out some wonderful numbers including When Will I See You Gain (soon, I hope!).

Since Steven and Kevin came on board, however, it is the comedy that really shines. With his orange tan, dazzling white smile and OTT camp humour I’m afraid I dismissed Kevin Cruise when he was on BGT, but now I can’t wait to see him perform. He really is a master craftsman of what he does and I look forward to seeing some of his own Moon on a Stick productions and hearing about the Cabaret Academy he is launching - in my home town no less! He can work an audience like nobody else. When he was throwing giant inflatable footballs into the audience the roar that came up would have beaten any crowd at Wembley. I defy anyone to resist his enthusiasm, charm and playfulness, and one of the highlights of this show is the way he is always bursting into song.

Steven Blakeley as the Dame has also become a firm favourite. He just so fits the role, and the company’s own version of the 12 Days of Christmas, with articles flying about the auditorium, had everyone helpless with laughter, while my four-year-old friend Oscar is still going round singing ‘five toilet rolls’!

With Harry Potter star Georgina Leonidas as Belle, Carry On’s Sally Geeson as Fairy Beneficent, singer, actor and voice-ever artist Michael Winsor as Bell’s wistful father Maurice, and Postman Pat, there is plenty to enjoy.

Windsor’s version of Beauty and the Beast is Boom Booming marvellous!!
Pictures courtesy of the Theatre Royal Windsor 

Beauty and the Beast is at the Theatre Royal Windsor until January 11.

Box office: 01753 853888 www.theatreroyalwindsor.co.uk