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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

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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


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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.
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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!
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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

Dec 1st

Kipper’s Snowy Day at Norden Farm Centre for the Arts, Maidenhead

By Clare Brotherwood

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Photo: Luminous Photography
We all know that the best shows aren’t always to be found in the biggest theatres. Arts centres and fringe theatres around the country produce some real gems, with real stars.

Such is the case at Maidenhead’s arts centre where two of the puppeteers appearing in this year’s Christmas show are, in fact, stars of the West End production of War Horse.

Mikey Brett, who shadows Kipper the dog in this production by Slot Machine, has been puppeteer for both Joey and Topthorn in the National Theatre production. While Robin Guiver, although a puppeteer and movement director who, along with Mikey worked as a movement artist on the film Gravity, played Geordie in the original West End cast.

In this stage version of Mick Inkpen’s classic children tale, however, there are not so many parts for them to move around. Kipper and his friends’ faces are inaminate objects but, although I found that a shame, it didn’t spoil the pleasure of my four-year-old fellow reviewer Oscar, who beamed all the way through the 50-minute show. Certainly Mikey, Robin and their co-star Amy Tweed bring Kipper and friends to life for their young audiences, in spite of nothing more to help set the scene than a snowy hill and a huge blank page on which scribbles and drawings appear.

But it is the clean, fresh simplicity of the set which emphasises the snow and the space in which Kipper delights. Just enough props like presents and a Christmas tree, together with lighting and original music, add atmosphere and colour. 

The songs were developed through workshops with local schoolchildren and express the excitement of Christmas Eve and playing in snow, perfectly reflecting the action in a show which proves that Brett and Guiver are not only superb puppeteers but also accomplished actors, singers and dancers.

There is, however, a lack of audience participation, which could well have been introduced when Kipper has to choose between a snowman and a star for the top of his Christmas tree.

But Oscar is full of praise. “Kipper is the best thing ever and if you go there you will love it,” he says.

Kipper's Snowy Day is at Norden Farm Centre for the Arts, Maidenhead until  Dec 28. Box Office: 01628 788997. www.nordenfarm.org

 

Nov 19th

Our Country’s Good at the Theatre Royal Windsor

By Clare Brotherwood

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Today I am jubilant! I spent last evening in a theatre full of young people watching an extraordinary play which extols the virtues of… theatre.

There can be no better way of attracting new audiences than this production of Timberlake Wertenbaker’s play, based on the true story of convicts staging George Farquhar’s The Recruiting Officer in Australia in 1788.

Co-produced by Out of Joint and the Octagon Theatre Bolton, it is directed by Out of Joint’s artistic director Max Stafford-Clark, who commissioned the play for the Royal Court Theatre 25 years ago after reading Thomas Keneally’s novel The Playmaker.

You can tell this production has been put together with the care and love Stafford-Clark must have for his ‘baby’. He’s nurtured it well, and his theatre company gives it the respect this modern classic deserves.

What hits the audience immediately is Tim Shortall’s simple but stunning staging: set against an ever-changing skyscape with backcloths rigged up as sails, the action takes place on a large raft in front of which is the outline of the Sydney coastline looking as if it were a beach meeting the sea. The effect is more than augmented by Johanna Town’s atmospheric lighting and Katy Morison’s sound effects.

The cast first appear as in a tableau, but the stillness is quickly shattered by the off-stage flogging of a convict, his perpetrator running backwards and forwards with bloodied hands – for this is at times graphic, with violence, sex and offensive language playing a large part.

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Pictures by courtesy of the Theatre Royal Windsor

But it is Captain Arthur Phillip’s liberal treatment of the convicts which is the kernel of the story. The First Governor of New South Wales, who sees theatre as ‘an expression of civilisation’, assigns the sensitive Lieutenant Ralph Clark to direct the convicts and, by treating them as human beings, we see astonishing transformations, not only among the prisoners who work through their petty differences and jealousies, but also the officers. As the programme notes state: ‘In 1988 the play and the production were hailed as a celebration of the humanising force of theatre… Just as Danny Boyle’s Olympic opening ceremony was a paean of appreciation of the NHS, so this is of the theatre’.

Most of the cast members play multiple parts (and genders) and, to be honest, the women playing the convicts are the stronger characters and performers, though Simon Darwen is memorable for his entertaining role as East End pickpocket John Wisehammer rather than that of Captain Phillip. As Liz Morden, who is about to be hanged for theft, Kathryn O’Reilly spits venom (oh, yes, a lot of spitting actually goes on!). With scowling face she positively fizzes with aggression and attitude. Victoria Gee, on the other hand, is likeable but loud and coarse as Dabby Bryant, while acting completely transforms the mouse-like Mary Brenham, as played by Jessica Tomchak.

Nathan Ives-Moiba shows the weaker side to an officer as Ralph Clark and, among the other officers, Sam Graham as Harry Brewer is a colourful character.

Our Country’s Good is an important piece of theatre. Based on true facts, it shows how people can forget their own misfortunes through acting while the rest of us can sit back and wonder at the magical powers of storytelling.

Our Country’s Good is at the Theatre Royal Windsor until Nov 22.

Box Office: 01753 853888

www.theatreroyalwindsor.co.uk

Nov 13th

Vienna Festival Ballet in Swan Lake at the Theatre Royal Windsor

By Clare Brotherwood

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Like all little girls of my era I wanted to be a ballerina, and spent hours reading stories about them and drawing tutus and ballet shoes.

Half a decade later the magic is still there, and it is thanks to small companies like the Vienna Festival Ballet that classical favourites such as Giselle, Coppelia and The Nutcracker can be seen by a wide audience everywhere.

The company, founded by Austrian dancer and artistic director Peter Mallek in 1980, tours for seven months of the year with a repertoire of six ballets.

Their latest offering at Windsor is probably the greatest and most popular of all ballets, combining a good story with Tchaikovsky’s spellbinding music, but on the Theatre Royal’s small stage the love story which is overshadowed by the evil Baron Rothbart becomes an almost intimate experience.

It’s a pity the programme doesn’t give the names of the leading dancers as I would like to mention in particular the flamboyant and highly entertaining jester and the prima ballerina who dances the part of the Queen of the Swans. She has an almost ethereal presence and her pas de deux with Prince Siegfried is exquisite.
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The corps de ballet also portray the swans seamlessly, but in the palace scenes were, on the night I saw them, a little untidy and not always in time.

However, the overall experience was enchanting, if not a little spoiled by a fellow reviewer sitting in front of me taking notes on her (bright) tablet.

I know we live in a technological age, and I embrace it – to a certain extent. But the theatre is one place where we should be allowed to be transported into another world, and while the hard working young members of the Vienna Festival Ballet were giving their all, I found it distracting and disrespectful that someone should be using a tablet and then, obviously having made enough notes, left at the interval.

Vienna Festival Ballet’s production of Swan Lake continues at the Theatre Royal Windsor until Nov 15.

Box Office: 01753 853888

www.theatreroyalwindsor.co.uk

www.viennafestivalballet.com

Nov 8th

Return to the Forbidden Planet - Queen's Theatre Hornchurch

By Dan Zbijowski

My first trip to Queen’s Theatre in Hornchurch, was a highly enjoyable one. Having acted as Ariel in the same production some 18 years ago, I was keen to see this anniversary edition of Return to the Forbidden Planet. Fully expecting a rip-roaring ride, this musical extravaganza set aboard a spaceship didn’t disappoint.

Bob Carlton, the original creator of Return to the Forbidden Planet has also directed its latest incarnation. With his 17 year stint as Creative Director of Queen’s Theatre drawing to a close, he has an impressive resume from his time in charge, including creating the UK's only permanent company of actor/musicians. It therefore seemed fitting that a show specifically designed for such a company (and created by the man himself no less) was the one to lower the curtain on his time at Queen’s.

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Photographer Credit - Nobby Clark

Return to the Forbidden Planet is part sci-fi b-movie, part rock'n'roll concert, with a healthy sprinkling of Shakespeare. The script is loosely based on the plot of Shakespeare’s Tempest and 50's b-movie Forbidden Planet. It centres on Dr. Prospero’s experimentation with brain enhancing drug “the X-factor” and the side effects it has. The musical is cleverly interwoven with parodies from the Bards many plays, and includes quotes that you’ll recognise, if not immediately, including the most famous ones from Hamlet, Julius Caesar and Romeo and Juliet.

Being set in a spaceship, the audience were treated to a pre-blast-off safety demonstration... if only standard airline flights had a 'reverse polarity drill procedure' that required audience participation. Already fully engaged in the action, a cameo from Brian May appearing as the Chorus via projector screen further set the tone of the fun to come. An estranged wife, a love triangle, a robot on roller skates, a monster from the Id and more instruments than an orchestra practise, the action never stopped.

A wonderfully Machiavellian Dr. Prospero, played by Jonathan Markwood, was probably just outdone in the performance stakes by the energetic and comically lovelorn Mark Newnham as Cookie, whose efforts playing guitar were as worthy of a stadium as a stage. A special nod should also be given to “Frido” Ruth playing Ariel, who, as well wearing a clunky robot suit and using Roller Skates, at one point managed to skate, carry a fellow actor and play an instrument all at the same time!

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Photographer Credit - Nobby Clark

My only small gripe was that the hand mikes, although used to comic effect, felt clunky and the hand overs were awkward in places. As this was a preview show there is no doubt that these issues will be worked out with stage time.

Despite being as crazy as it sounds and celebrating its 25th year, the show has lost none of its appeal. It certainly doesn’t feel dated in any way, the timeless and instantly recognisable songs have some modern riffs included, ensuring the production feels contemporary.  

The humour, musical agility and energy from the cast make this a thoroughly entertaining watch and they fully deserved the impromptu standing ovation at the end.  

The current run of Return to the Forbidden Planet at Hornchurch is already sold out, but there is no doubt that the longer this show goes on, the funnier it will get. With a nationwide tour planned early next year, I fully intend to catch it again and suggest you do too.


 By Dan Zbijowski

Until 15th November.
The Queen's Theatre, Billet Lane, Hornchurch RM11 1QT
Box Office: 01708 443333 
More information: http://www.queens-theatre.co.uk/

 

Oct 28th

But First This: A Musical Homage to Radio 4 at The Watermill West Berkshire Playhouse

By Clare Brotherwood

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I was so relieved to hear the Radio 4 pips this morning because, in radio announcer Kathy Clugston’s scintillating new musical, Selina Badminton, the new controller of Britain’s flagship station, reduces their number, as well as axing Woman’s Hour.

Believe me, the Today programme will never be the same again as Kathy takes us behind the scenes in a somewhat fictionalised studio setting where John Humphrys, forever looking pleased with himself, starts the first of a few cheeky numbers by singing the weather forecast, news reader Anna complains about people with long names, while kindly, dishevelled Jim Naughtie moans the demise of Woman’s Hour before going off to hunt down the missing Greenwich Time Signal pips.

You don’t have to be a Radio 4 aficionado to enjoy this production. Anyone who appreciates a cleverly written and very funny script, superbly acted by a versatile and charismatic cast, will be hugely entertained, but knowing the in jokes and the programmes whose titles pepper the dialogue makes it even more enjoyable. The audience at last night’s press night were obviously fans, becoming almost part of the show.

The evening didn’t start well. When I looked down onto the huge car park which was the M4 and knew I had to endure a 70-mile round trip to the theatre, I thought that even a musical based on my constant daytime companion couldn’t be worth the hassle.

It was!

From start to finish I was often aware of how broadly I was smiling, when I wasn’t whooping and laughing out (very) loudly. This is the funniest play I have seen since The Play That Goes Wrong, which I saw long before it went into the West End - where this production certainly belongs.

As Selina, Louise Plowright has huge presence, seeming almost like Cruella Deville as she relishes in her evil character. She is every bit as scary as the head of the pronunciation department; this time appearing like a black coated Dracula. How she must enjoy playing those parts.
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As John Humphrys, Michael Fenton Stevens also looks as if he is having a ball – unlike the real John Humphrys! And yet he manages to capture him so well that I had to tell myself he wasn’t the real thing.
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Having met Jim Naughtie I am able to confirm that Jonathan Dryden Taylor’s genial portrayal too, is spot on, while Helena Blackman as the news reader and Neil Ditt as the weather forecaster provide strong support and, like the rest of the cast, show their versatility when playing countless other characters. There are also off-stage cameo roles played by announcer Alice Arnold and Radio 1 DJ Scott Mills, whose original Edinburgh Festival show gave Kathy the idea for But First This.

Among those who appear on Radio 4 is Libby Purves, who happened to be in the audience last night, reviewing for her website theatrecat.com. She too is mentioned in the show, along with ‘appearances’ from Nicholas Parsons, Kirsty Young and Stephen Fry, and was delighted about it. She told me the announcers have such a great sense of humour but always have to keep it hidden, never showing it in their voices, so not only is But First This is celebration of Radio 4 but an explosion of hidden humour.

There are so many highlights: the three men singing how Woman’s Hour will make you one hell of a man; scenes from The Archers spoken as if by characters from Tennessee Williams’ novels, while concerns over Jim’s death as he rows in a storm from Lundy (Kirsty Young’s desert island) across the Bristol Channel looking for the missing pips reduced me to tears, only to find myself laughing again as the others tell Jim: ‘We thought you were dead!’ His reply: ‘Really? In a comedy?’

I hope Radio 4 never dies, and that But First This also has a long and happy life!

But First This: A Musical Homage to Radio 4 continues at The Watermill West Berkshire Playhouse until November 8.

Box office: 01635 46044 www.watermill.org.uk

Oct 21st

The Perfect Murder @ The Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury

By Yvonne Delahaye

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Our TV screens are awash with crime dramas with detectives trying to solve the crime, but have you ever wondered how to commit the perfect murder? Victor Smiley and his wife Joan have been married for a long time. But their marriage has reached crisis point and Victor has decided there is only one way to get Joan out of his life forever... but he’s about to get a nasty surprise... as a young Detective Roy Grace starts to investigate his very first homicide case, dark forces intervene and Grace begins to fear that nothing is quite as it seems in this entertaining dark comedy thriller.

This is the first ever stage production of the work of international best-selling crime thriller novelist Peter James – who has sold over 15 million books of his Roy Grace series and been published in 36 languages – The Perfect Murder, which spent 15 weeks at No.1 in the book charts, has been adapted by award winning writer Shaun McKenna.

Olivier Award winner Ian Talbot directs an all-star company in the autumn re-casting of The Perfect Murder. Having donned his white coat for eight series of ITV’s 1960’s hospital drama The Royal, Robert Daws, best-known to millions as Dr Gordon Ormerod, plays Victor Smiley. Robert's extensive TV credits have also seen him appear on screen as Sam Mountjoy in Roger Roger, Tuppy Glossop in Jeeves and Wooster and Roger Dervish in the award-winning Outside Edge. His extensive theatre credits include The Secret of Sherlock Holmes and Public Property in the West End and UK tours of Michael Frayn's Alarms and Excursions and David Harrower’s Blackbird, the later of which also starred Dawn Steele.

Dawn Steele has starred in numerous hit TV series including the BBC’s Monarch of the Glen, Sea of Souls and she played the hugely popular character of Alice Collins in ITV’s Wild at Heart. Other theatre credits include the lead role in The Agatha Christie Company's production of Verdict and Dawn also starred in Noel Coward’s previously undiscovered Volcano in both the West End and on tour.

They are joined by Gray O’Brien – who continues his highly acclaimed role as the loveable Don Kirk. Gray recently enjoyed an award-winning three years in Coronation Street and has also starred in the TV series Titanic, Peak Practice and Casualty as well as in the West End in Sleuth; Thomas Howes (DC Grace) who played the much loved character of William the footman in Downton Abbey for which he won a Screen Actors Guild Award and whose theatre credits include The Winslow Boy and the National Theatre Production of The History Boys and finally Romanian born Simona Armstrong, who the British public took to their hearts when she was discovered in the BBC's How do You Solve a Problem Like Maria and who now continues her run in the role of Kamila.

The play itself is very black comedy and all the performances are good, but I felt it was in need of some cutting especially in the first act.  The second scenes between Victor and Joan went on far too long and it seemed that the audience were getting restless for the plot to move forward.  The story was lifted by the appearance of Don Kirk (Gray O’Brien) looking extremely buff in just a pair of boxers and from there the proceedings progressed with unexpected twists and turns, interspersed with very dark humour.  It’s very enjoyable and should be taken with a huge pinch of salt, but I think if it was 20 minutes shorter it would be ‘the perfect play.

The Perfect Murder is produced by Joshua Andrews and Peter James, in association with Paul Tyrer and Jamie Clark at the Booking Office. Their next production – Peter James’ best-selling novel Dead Simple tours the UK from January 2015.

Book now at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre Box Office on 0844 871 7607 (bkg fee), or online at www.atgtickets.com/aylesbury  (bkg fee)

Performances:   Mon 20 - Sat 25 Oct 
Evenings 7.30pm, Thu & Sat Mat 2.30pm
Tickets:  £10 - £32.50 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)

Reviewed By:
Yvonne Delahaye
20.10.14
Twitter: yvonnedelahaye

A light has gone out in the theatre world, as we pay respect to one of the most warm, much loved and vibrant actresses of our time.
AYLESBURY WATERSIDE THEATRE TO OPEN A BOOK OF CONDOLENCE
IN MEMORY OF LYNDA BELLINGHAM
Following the sad news of Lynda Bellingham losing her brave battle with cancer Aylesbury Waterside Theatre will be opening a book of condolence in her memory .

Lynda, originally from Aylesbury, was a firm supporter of the theatre, taking part in the ‘Topping Out’ ceremony in 2009, she also helped to launch the theatres first season in March 2010 and appeared on stage starring in Calendar Girls as part of that opening season.

Elizabeth Adlington Area Theatre Manager for Aylesbury Waterside Theatre said ‘On behalf of our staff and our customers we will be opening a book of condolences for the people of Aylesbury to share their memories of Lynda and their tributes and messages of support for Lynda’s loved ones.  We were privileged at the Waterside to have met Lynda on a number of occasions.  Our thoughts are with her family at this sad time.  She was a wonderful warm lady who will be sadly missed’

The book of condolence is now open to the public during opening hours at the Aylesbury Waterside Theatre in the main foyer.