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Mar 20th

Playing For Time by Arthur Miller - Sheffield Crucible

By Paul Tyree

Playing for Time

By Arthur Miller

Based on the memoir of Fania Fenelon

publicity

Playing for Time now being staged on the Crucible main stage concerns the story of a well known singer and musician caught up in the horrors of Auschwitz because of her half Jewish heritage. Taken from her home and placed with others on a train headed who knows where and towards what fate, this quickly becomes a survivors and witnesses account of the holocaust.

Because of her local celebrity and talent she is quickly marked out for the Auschwitz orchestra, even saving a young girl that she had taken under her wing and protected on the long train journey there. Together they enter a privileged but still under the threat of slaughter at any second rag tag band that are doing their best to entertain the officers and guards of the camp.

Quickly Fania becomes the focus of the band as they learn that she is able to orchestrate new pieces and therefore increase the bands usefulness for the camp. However as the play progresses we witness her humanity and resolve slowly stripped away as her body and spirit begin to fail her. The constant stream of thousands being led to their deaths and into the ovens begin to even overcome her natural human desire to survive.

Many of the other women in the band find ways to survive that equal Fania’s abilities. Some turn ever deeper into their Jewish religion, some become tyrants, some whores and some seek solace in the arms of each other. All find ways to get through the constant worry of what might be to come and to block out the horrors they know exist just outside their sleeping quarters. 

As you can tell from the above description this is not the easiest of watches, nor is it without issues. For much of the play the Nazis are precisely that, the one dimensional Nazi you can find on offer from any WWII movie from the 40’s and 50’s. They are evil and without depth of any kind. Only towards the end of the play when one female Nazi mourns for a young boy she had quasi-adopted and who has obviously gone off to be gassed do we see any kind of human feeling.

The genius of the play resides in the character of Fania and her assertion throughout that ‘we are human’. All around her including her fellow inmates are in turns seen to be much less than that, all of them protecting their own small concerns before the much bigger ones of humanity. Indeed, throughout, some of the behaviour of those in captivity could be classed as just as bad as their Nazi captors.

 

Sian Phillips

(Photo by Mark Douet)

It is, however, a magnificent evening at the theatre because of the transcendent and beautiful central performance by Sian Phillips. She really holds this play and offers it up to you as an absolute theatrical gift. In the hands of a lesser actress it would be easy for the horrors on show to cause the audience to turn away from this, but because of her, even though it is never an easy thing to see you feel that you absolutely have to watch it. It’s captivating, horrific, life affirming and serves as a beautiful testament to Fania's life and the one recurring theme that is mentioned throughout, that she must be a witness, no matter how terrible that request is. I am not a witness to the holocaust and I am glad of it, but I am glad for pieces of theatre like this that serve as a testament to those that were.

Get a ticket if you can. This wont be forgotten!

Sheffield Crucible Main Stage

www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk

 

Telephone Numbers
Box Office: 0114 249 6000

Mar 18th

Crave - Crucible Studio

By Paul Tyree

Crave

crave

 Review by Paul Tyree

As part of the Sarah Kane season currently playing at the Sheffield Crucible 'Crave' is a linguistic poem ostensibly to love, but more realistically to passion, abuse or loss and how much we confuse those emotions and attribute the word love to them.

The four actors that arrive on stage quickly create a cacophony of words and sound that, by turns, confuse and sound threateningly familiar. Wait long enough and you will hear something that you have either thought, said or wished to say.

On show we have both disappointed women and disappointed men, bringing home the often unforgiving and disappointing reality of love and how much we yearn so desperately for the imaginary tales of love and forever that we have been raised with.

If anything this play gives the lie to love but also reinforces how desperately we seem to need to believe in it.

christopher fulford

(Photo by Mark Douet).

Of the four actors it has to be said that Christopher Fulford not only steals the show, he is the show! Without him it would be easy enough not to take this piece seriously and shows the importance of casting and what a positive effect that can have on an audiences perception. His performance feels real and heartfelt and based on knowledge and experience and the pain and tragedy and yearning in his eyes seems to come from hard won experience rather than acting chops. The other 3 actors are incredibly professional but don't seem to connect with the material in quite the same way.

This is only 40 minutes long but is an intensely theatrical experience and is more than worth a visit.

It is painful but no less rewarding for that. An ode to the love we have and a painful cry in the dark for the love we feel we deserve.

Crucible Studio - 55 Norfolk Street, Sheffield, S1 1DA

http://www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk/

Box Office: 0114 249 6000

Wed 18 Mar 7:45pm   £15.00* Book Tickets
Fri 20 Mar 7:45pm   £18.00* Book Tickets
Sat 21 Mar 7:45pm   £18.00* Book Tickets

 

Mar 12th

Saturday Night Fever, Bradford Alhambra Theatre

By Cameron Lowe

Review by Graham Clark

There have been popular stage adaptations of movie musicals such as Grease in the past, so it no surprise that Saturday Night Fever has proved to be a great success since it's original 1998 West End run.

 

Director Ryan McBryde has managed to bring the energy and magic of the 1977 film version to this high octane show.

 

Saturday Night FeverSet in Brooklyn in the late 70s, Tony Manero (Danny Bayne) is trying to escape his boring life and day job working in a paint store. The fuel crisis is in full swing and times are hard. The only light in his life is dancing at the local disco, "2001 Odyssey".

 

A dance competition is being held at the disco but Manero turns down one of his fans, Annette(Bethany Linsdell) in favour of social climber and girl about town Stephanie (Naomi Slights).

 

Of course it is the Bee Gees songs which make the show so special with the lyrics of the songs providing the narrative. A recurring theme is the lyric "Life going nowhere, somebody help me" with the lines being sung countless times throughout the evening.

 

The talented cast sing, dance and act as well as playing musical instruments; their brass section bringing the full force of the Bee Gees' songs to the fore. Without a star name in the musical the cast work hard to bring the film to life.

 

CiCi Howells plays the club singer at the disco.  She has a fine voice; always there in the background, reminding me of the narrator in Blood Brothers. She slows down the tracks at times turning them into a jazzy late night version of the original.

 

Unlike the film version ,the cast perform the Bee Gees hit, Tragedy, which actually was recorded and released 2 years after the film was released in 1977; but the words of the song work well within the context of the musical.

 

As is often the case in live theatre, the cast feed off the audience.  I saw the show at Blackpool a few weeks ago where the audience were much older and less enthusiastic than the Bradford crowd. The cast seemed to perform better and put more into their delivery than the previous version I witnessed.

 

There are a few loose ends to tie up at the end and some parts felt rushed but, other than that, this is an appealing show.  Disco Dynamite, no less.

 

Runs until Saturday 14 March, tickets from £25 available from:

 

www.bradford-theatres.co.uk

Feb 25th

Top Hat - Sheffield Lyceum

By Paul Tyree

 

top hat

Top Hat

 

Music and Lyrics by Irving Berlin

 

Adapted for the Stage by Matthew White and Howard Jacques

 

Photo by Max Lacombe-shaw

 

Review by Paul Tyree

 Direct from huge success in London, where it won three Olivier Awards and the Evening Standard award for Best Night Out, you can easily see why this musical has become so popular so quickly.

 Telling the story of American Musical Revue star Jerry Travers who inadvertently wakes up Dale Tremont, his downstairs neighbour, with his tap dancing, the pairs’ immediate attraction to each other sets off a tale of mistaken identity and musical and comic mayhem to rival any in musical theatre history.

 What makes this production so sublime is its mastery in every theatrical department from the music to the costumes from the singing and dancing over fantastic sets there really is not a foot put wrong here. The sheer hard work, which looks effortless although undoubtedly it isn’t makes this a glorious night at the theatre.

 The leads, Alan Burkitt and Charlotte Gooch are both charming and faultless. The talent required to be able to sing whilst in the middle of a tap routine cannot be overstated. The number of hours of gruelling rehearsal must have been quite mind-boggling and then to produce the performances they do makes them worth the price of admission alone.

 Also quite fantastic and pretty much stealing every scene he is in is John Conroy as Bates, a quarrelsome butler. Special mention too for Sebastien Torkia as Alberto Beddini, Dales’ adoring and ambitious Italian dressmaker.

 This, importantly, is musical theatre at its best. It does not skimp in any department, nor does it flag at any point. It comes across as hugely professional and in those terms very respectful of its audience, who were wowed by an evening that will stick in the memory for many years to come. If you can get a ticket it will certainly be worth it as you will not find any finer that this.

 

Lyceum

  • 55 Norfolk Street, Sheffield, S1 1DA, South Yorkshire, United Kingdom

 To order tickets ring Sheffield Theatres Box Office

 

Telephone Numbers
Box Office: 0114 249 6000

Crucible/ Lyceum Theatre Switchboard: 0114 249 5999

Buy Tickets online at: http://www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk/

 

Feb 17th

Jeeves and Wooster - Lyceum Sheffield

By Paul Tyree

Jeeves and Wooster in Perfect Nonsense 

A new play from the works of PG Woodhouse 

By

The Goodale Brothers 

jeeves and wooster

Image courtesy of Sheffield Theatres (photographer Hugo Glendinning)

Anyone familiar with the work of PG Woodhouse will be familiar with  the story told in this new play. The story of Bertie Wooster helping with the engagement of Gussie Fink-Nottle has been told in the tv series and on film before now.

What makes this play so hilarious is rather the way that it is told and how it is staged. Using just 3 male actors to play all the parts the comedy comes from their ever increasing and desperate attempts to manage to be all of the characters some of whom end up having to have conversations with themselves.

It really has been ingeniously staged and the amount of stagecraft and 'business' truly is a wonder to behold. In truth had it been simply a straight retelling of the story with different actors taking on the parts there would have been a pointlessness to this piece as you might just as well have watched the tv series. 

Luckily this has been transformed into a fantastically adept stage show which is hugely funny and a real delight from start to finish.

Robert Webb is perfect casting as Wooster. He is marvellously charming and deals with huge chunks of dialogue with aplomb. He  is extremely funny as are Jason Thorpe as Jeeves and Christopher Ryan who take the lions' share of assuming the rest of the characters. 

jeeves and wooster2

Image courtesy of Sheffield Theatres (photographer Hugo Glendinning)

At the end of the performance there was thunderous applause and much cheering. The audience knew that they truly been treated to a wonderful play because of a great script and three hardworking and inspired actors. 

A marvellous new piece that truly deserves the highest praise. 

Thu 19 Feb 2:00pm   £11.00 - £19.00*  
Thu 19 Feb 7:45pm Audio Described, Signed £16.00 - £24.00* Book Tickets
Fri 20 Feb 7:45pm   £18.00 - £26.00* Book Tickets
Sat 21 Feb 3:00pm Captioned £16.00 - £24.00* Book Tickets
Sat 21 Feb 7:45pm   £18.00 - £26.00* Book Tickets

 

Feb 12th

The Absence of War - Crucible Sheffield

By Paul Tyree

The Absence of War

by David Hare

Crucible Theatre in collaboration with Headlong and Rose Theatre Kingston

 

Reece Dinsdale in The Absence of War

 Photo by Mark Douet

http://www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk

David Hare's political satire of the 1992 general election featuring the momentous and influential battle between Margaret Thatcher and Neil Kinnock is here presented by the Crucible before going on tour around the country before the 2015 general election.

It is a timely revival and much benefits from the distance between that time and this.

Funnily enough it now resembles an extended episode of 'The Thick of It' a programme that it no doubt inspired.

The back room boys of any political party are now commonplace in our minds and we accept as a public that we are often hearing the ramblings of some underling that has briefed the politican of the day.

I would imagine that when this play first aired that as a nation we were not so well versed in the influence that others were having on our esteemed leaders.

This, it has to be said, stands out as a great play not just about politics but human beings themselves.

George Jones, played sublimly by Reese Dinsdale is the leader of the labour party but a man caught up in a battle between what he wants to say and what others believe he should say, between who he really is and who he must present  himself to be in order to be electable. It must be either a supreme honour or somewhat ironic that the first person to play the part was John Thaw, Reese Dinsdale's Tv father in 'Home to Roost'. It seems then that the acorn never falls  far from the tree.

Here Reese Dinsdale is perfect, not just in playing the part but also somewhat modernising it as well. Even though this is set in 1982, because of his youthful appearance (far more of a Tony Blair than a Neil Kinnock) it feels modern and somewhat relevant in a way that would not have happened had it been an older actor.

Here the 1982 setting is almost irrelevant. This is politics! The themes that this play addresses are undoubtedly as true today as they have ever been and that is perhaps why after all this time we can reflect and see what a masterpiece of theatre this truly is.

It goes without saying that the star of this particular piece is Reese Dinsdale. He proves just what a class act he is. His performance is touching, funny and ultimately heartbreakingly tragic as befits this 'nearly man' of british politics. It is particularly apt that ultimately he puts the fortunes of the party in front of his own ambition.

He, however, is well supported by a fantastic cast of actors. James Harkness as Andrew Buchan is excellent (although someone should tell him to project a bit more as some of us were straining to hear him in places). Don Gallagher who takes on two roles, the encumbent Prime Minister and a sleazy chat show host is marvellous in both and appears like a bad penny troughout the play to plague and test George.

All in all this play is another triumph for the Crucible theatre. It is fantastically well acted, in places hugely funny, but most importantly of all manages to give a human face to politicians and also politics. Its unique tragedy is the truth, perhaps of the situation, that even though we always cry out for the truth from our politicians that there is every reason to suggest that, were they to give it to us, that their political careers would be over before they had begun and that their 'Sophie's choice' is always going to plague them and define their lives as public servants.

This is what theatre was created for! GO SEE IT!!!!

 

Fri 13 Feb 7:30pm   £21.00* Book Tickets
Sat 14 Feb 2:30pm   £16.00* Book Tickets
Sat 14 Feb 7:30pm   £23.00* Book Tickets
Mon 16 Feb 6:00pm   Pre-Show Question Time Event Book Tickets
Mon 16 Feb 7:30pm   £21.00* Book Tickets
Tue 17 Feb 7:30pm Audio Described, Signed £21.00* Book Tickets
Wed 18 Feb 2:30pm Captioned £16.00* Book Tickets
Wed 18 Feb 7:30pm   £21.00* Book Tickets
Thu 19 Feb 7:30pm   £21.00* Book Tickets
Fri 20 Feb 7:30pm   £21.00* Book Tickets
Sat 21 Feb 2:30pm   £16.00* Book Tickets
Sat 21 Feb 7:30pm   £23.00* Book Tickets

 

  • 55 Norfolk St, Sheffield, S1 1DA, South Yorkshire , United Kingdom
  • Box Office: 0114 249 6000
Feb 10th

The Full Monty, Alhambra Theatre Bradford

By GRAHAM CLARK

It was always going to be interesting to see if this version of the popular film could translate to the stage. I should have had no misgivings as this production takes the best parts of the film and brings them to a live audience brilliantly.

The Full Monty

Set in Sheffield in the late 90s, the story is about 6 Sheffield steelworkers who have all been made redundant. Ringleader Gaz (Gary Lucy) has come up with an idea where he and his colleagues perform as Yorkshire's answer to The Chippendales after seeing how well the male strippers went down at the local club. Gaz's version, though, goes one step further, they will strip down all the way, the full monty!

Gary Lucy plays Gaz as the likely lad that he is, although at times his accent went from South Yorkshire to Scouse via Lancashire. His fat friend Dave (Martin Miller) comes across too as an innocent man; though he is struggling on a diet of cream crackers as well as losing his job.

Louis Emerick as Horse had some of the best one liners of the night whilst Andrew Dunn as ex foreman Gerald plays a man facing a mid life crisis with losing his job and having a middle class wife to support who is more than happy to spend his money on her credit cards. His wife remains unwise to the fact that he has lost his job.

Although there is plenty of humour, there is a serious side to the night too; Thatchers policies were wrecking communities in the Yorkshire steel industry, families were being torn apart and money was hard to come by.  There are also references to issues such as class division and how the loss of access to his son, Nathan effects Gaz.

It was not your regular theatre audience and there were many cries of "get your kit off" during the performance. It is a show that appeals to hen nights and females out for a good night out. Having said that, the ending is done very well with the men performing the full monty but the clever lighting does not let you see too much.

The soundtrack sticks to the original film with Donna Summer's Hot Stuff and Hot Chocolate's You Sexy Thing making appearances. Once you see the ex-Steelworkers dancing along to these songs you will always think of the scenes from The Full Monty.

Enjoyable, enthralling and entertaining. You do not have to be female to appreciate this terrific adaptation.

Runs until Saturday 14 February 2014

Tickets from £15.00 available from www.bradford-theatres.co.uk

 

Feb 5th

The Sound of Music - Sheffield Lyceum

By Paul Tyree

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The Sound of Music

Review by Paul Tyree


The true story of the Trapp Family Singers is not quite as is shown in the musical, but they certainly did have a remarkable life.
After suffering in the economic crash in Germany the trapp family had to find another way of supporting themselves and very quickly singing became
their way of life winning many awards and by the end performing in over 30 countries around the world.

They managed to leave Germany by train as opposed to being hounded across the alps as in the movie, but this certainly gives the story a more
fulfilling and thrilling ending and in a sense the ending we see is still metaphorically true. They were fierce opponents of the nazi regime
and undoubtedly would have been hounded, persecuted and possibly killed had they not had the foresight to get out while they still could.

The story of Maria is also an astounding one being orphaned and raised by her uncle to be sceptical of religion before hearing a sunday sermon
which swept her away and convinced her to become a nun. Remarkably it was her love of the children which convinced her to marry Georg and not a love of the man himself, although given time their love did blossom and stood the test of time.

Of course what is really important to theatre goers is does this production live up to and recreate the most popular film musical of all time.

In many areas it has to be said that,thankfully, it does. The sets are suitably magnificent and, of course, the music lifts your spirits to the heavens,
(or to a very high mountain at least).

Danielle Hope is a very effective Maria and carries this production with seeming ease. Steven Houghton as Captain Von Trapp is perhaps a little bland for my taste but sings well and peraps this simply reflects how the character is written rather than any lack on his part. Jan Hartley as the Mother Abbessalso shines out in a production that is uniformly good and guaranteed not to disappoint.

It may not quite hit the heights of the movie version but it does a wonderful job of reminding you just how marvellous the story, the music and
lyrics truly are and that's some acheivement indeed. 

Thu 5 Feb 7:30pm   £27.00 - £35.00* Book Tickets
Fri 6 Feb 7:30pm   £30.00 - £38.00* Book Tickets
Sat 7 Feb 3:00pm   £27.00 - £35.00* Book Tickets
Sat 7 Feb 7:30pm   £30.00 - £38.00* Book Tickets
Tue 10 Feb 7:30pm   £27.00 - £35.00* Book Tickets
Wed 11 Feb 2:00pm   £22.00 - £31.00* Book Tickets
Wed 11 Feb 7:30pm   £27.00 - £35.00* Book Tickets
Thu 12 Feb 2:00pm   £22.00 - £31.00* Book Tickets
Thu 12 Feb 7:30pm Audio Described, Signed £27.00 - £35.00* Book Tickets
Fri 13 Feb 7:30pm   £30.00 - £38.00* Book Tickets
Sat 14 Feb 3:00pm Captioned £27.00 - £35.00* Book Tickets
Sat 14 Feb 7:30pm   £30.00 - £38.00* Book Tickets

Lyceum

  • 55 Norfolk Street, Sheffield, S1 1DA, South Yorkshire, United Kingdom

 

Feb 4th

Calamity Jane, Alhambra Theatre Bradford

By GRAHAM CLARK
Calamity Jane

A lone musician walks up to the stage to play a banjo that is hanging down against the curtain; it was an unusual start for this big production of the musical Calamity Jane.

In this new touring version Calamity Jane is played by Jodie Prenger who plays the role with wide eyed enthusiasm.  Prenger cuts a stocky figure as Calamity Jane but is convincing nevertheless.

Calamity Jane can outshoot any man, desperate to impress she travels to Chicago on the Deadwood Stage to recruit a new star, Adelaid Adams but things do not go to plan and it takes Wild Bill Hickok to make her see sense and to realise her secret love.

Within the first 5 minutes of the curtain going up The Deadwood Stage has already been sung; that is one of the joys of seeing musicals - being able to join in and sing with songs that you know.

 Rob Delaney plays Francis Fryer, a song and dance man who really is one of the main stars of the evening. With his camp lines and humorous  dialogue  he nearly stole the show.  It is a part that someone like Will Young would be perfect for but Delaney is a fine musician and musical director too and he is perfectly cast.

 Tom Lister plays Wild Bill Hickory.  Lister has a fine singing voice whilst Christina Tedders as burlesque dancer, Adelaid Adams cut a fine figure.  While the real Adelaid Adams goes on tour in Europe Phoebe Street playing Kate Brown tries to perform as Ms Adams - with mixed results!

The actors on stage also double up as fine musicians and their roles become interchangeable  - this reminded me very much of the Dreamboats and Petticoats productions where this also happens.

The song Deadwood appears more than twice and it was encouraging to hear the audience  singing along.

On a cold winters night it was like being transported back to the heat of  America.  A rousing and entertaining experience . 

Runs until Saturday 7 February 2015. Tickets from £21.00 available from:

www.bradford-theatres.co.uk

Jan 28th

To Kill a Mockingbird

By Paul Tyree

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To Kill a Mockingbird 

By Harper Lee

Adapted for the stage by Christopher Sergel

 

The story of a white man defending a black man in a court of law has the potential to seem either too dry or too obviously worthy to make for an interesting night at the theatre but, luckily, Harper Lees' genius was to write everything through the eyes of children. Children whom were able to view without prejudice so that the story could be accurately told.

Also the genius of this production is in allowing it to be as much about the art of storytelling as it is a narrative play.  The actors appear holding copies of the book 'To Kill a Mockingbird' and begin to read out loud before slowly becoming characters in the story. This gives the impression of a more communal experience and therefore gives the audience more of a vested interest in the piece.

The actors are uniformly good, and this production truly feels like a company pulling together to deliver a fantastic night at the theatre. 

The story is both tragic and uplifting which perhaps explains why it is both so popular and so powerful.  It manages to marry some truly shocking experiences with an inherent hope for the future and discusses the idea of what it is to be a good person and transcend your upbringing or your surroundings. 

Towards the end of this production I'm not ashamed to say that there were tears rolling down my cheeks at both the tragedy of the story told and also of how strangely uplifted it left me feeling. This is a play that delivers on pretty much every level and I would heartily recommend a trip to Harper Lees magnificent story.

Wed 28 Jan 7:30pm   £16.00 - £24.00* Limited Availability
Thu 29 Jan 2:00pm   £11.00 - £19.00* Book Tickets
Thu 29 Jan 7:30pm Audio Described, Signed £16.00 - £24.00* Limited Availability
Fri 30 Jan 7:30pm   £18.00 - £26.00* Limited Availability
Sat 31 Jan 3:00pm Captioned £16.00 - £24.00* Limited Availability
Sat 31 Jan 7:30pm   £18.00 - £26.00*

Limited Availability

  • 55 Norfolk St, Sheffield, S1 1DA, South Yorkshire, United Kingdom
  • Box Office: 0114 249 6000