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Jul 15th

Krapp's Last Tape By Samuel Beckett - The Crucible Studio

By Paul Tyree

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KRAPP’S LAST TAPE

REVIEW BY PAUL TYREE

It is perhaps comforting that Samuel Beckett is not above a ‘slipping on a banana skin’ gag, which happens towards the beginning of ‘Krapp’s Last Tape’. It is precisely this sort of silliness that makes us warm to what is, undoubtedly, a piece of theatre that forces the audience to work harder than most and always therefore runs the risk of alienating its paying patrons.

Certainly the person who accompanied me into the land of Beckett had a mutual friend who had told her that it was the worst piece of theatre that she had ever seen.

It’s certainly not that but you could see how the piece itself might turn some people away from it. In other words this is one of those marmite plays that you will either love or hate probably on a totally subconscious level without ever being able to fully explain why.

What you can say, however,  is that before we deal with the script and the play itself there is much on offer here that is sumptuous and pleasing.

Richard Wilson himself with that marvellously rich deep slightly Scottish lilt gives us a character that is transfixing. His movements, his pauses, his breath even, all builds a character that we feel for and care for instinctively. He is a man alone, destined to stay alone and indeed die alone. There is something within that simplicity that all humans seem to fly away from whilst also always knowing that that is precisely how they too will end up.

The direction by Polly Findley and the set design by Alex Lowde combine to create a visual landscape of fantastic dramatic depth, indeed I’ve rarely seen the Studio stage used so well. We see Krapp encased in his own space, a glass box filled with the accoutrements and memories of a life now no longer lived but simply remembered. As it slowly revolves it is though we are seeing all sides of this person, forever repeating and reviewing the past.

What is so interesting about this play is that we seem to be looking into Krapp’s brain itself and that’s what this glass box really represents. Very quickly we have the slipping on a banana skin gag accompanied by much mirth from the audience. What we then quickly have is a repeat of the action but Krapp avoiding the same mistake and therefore this time not slipping on the banana skin. In other words what we have witnessed is the process of learning itself. We then have Krapp listening to his tapes in order to review, re-experience, perhaps even relearn his past and try and find some meaning in it all. Do we as people not do exactly the same thing all the time? The story you tell down the pub or over coffee is often told not for the benefit of the listener, but more often than not the benefit and self-aggrandisement of the teller.

Becket latches onto what is the inner revolve of the human mind, constantly learning, reviewing, rethinking, remembering and re-imagining in an attempt to learn and find meaning. That is what is so brilliant about this play that in so many ways it reflects back to the audience what they bring to it. That, I have no doubt is why so many of us find the experience uncomfortable. And that’s why it is also absolutely brilliant.

A work of art should be a challenge or it’s just ephemera. This is definitely a work of art so don’t miss the final few performances,.......... as who knows what you might bring to it?

Box Office: 0114 249 6000

E-mail
info@sheffieldtheatres.co.uk

Address
Sheffield Theatres Trust
55 Norfolk Street
Sheffield
S1 1DA

Tue 15 Jul7:45pm£15.00

Book Tickets

Wed 16 Jul7:45pm£15.00*

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Thu 17 Jul7:45pm£15.00*

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Fri 18 Jul7:45pm£15.00*

Book Tickets

Sat 19 Jul2:15pm£13.00*

Book Tickets

Sat 19 Jul7:45pm£18.00*

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May 29th

20th CENTURY BOY - Grand Opera House, York

By Cameron Lowe
20th CENTURY BOY

Review by Graham Clark

There have been musicals in the past about 1950's rock stars such as Buddy Holly, so it is only natural that in time there would be a musical based on rock stars from the late 60's and early 70's.
 
20th Century Boy is based on the life of the glam rock star Marc Bolan. It follows his rise to fame, how he handled the success and his death in a car crash (driven by his girlfriend Gloria Jones, who survived) weeks before his 30th birthday.
 
Bolan is played superbly by Warren Sollars. Sollars has obviously studied old videos of Bolan as he has the Bolan mannerisms perfected and at times you think you are watching the real Marc Bolan.
 
The musical starts in 1992 in America with Bolan's son Roland (Luke Bailey) asking his mother, Gloria Jones (Donna Hines) about his father. Roland flies to London to find out more about his father's career.
 
He goes to stay with his grandmother's house in London. Sue Jenkins plays a convincing part as Marc Bolan's mothe, Phyllis Feld. She still carries a grudge against Gloria Jones for killing her son in the car she was driving. She has some of the funniest lines too. When showing Roland a photo album they come across a photo of Cliff Richard, "Who is he?" asks American born Roland, to which Phyllis replies "That's Cliff Richard, mind you, you haven't missed much!"
 
The musical shows Bolan's early days as Tyrannosaurus Rex, how his sound changed from folk to electric rock when record producer Tony Visconti (Andy Coxon) discovers Bolan. Visconti suggests the name change to T Rex. Lucy Sinclar plays a leading part as Bolan's first wife June Child. His love for her was the inspiration for many of his songs.
 
After teaming up with Visconti, Bolan's career takes off and we see him headling Wembley stadium. Visconti introduces Bolan to a new backing singer; this is when he meets Gloria Jones. Bolan tries to replicate the European success in America but middle America does not take to an English glam rock star with Bolan sacking his band in the middle of the tour and he turns to drink and drugs.
 
He falls out with Visconti and starts an affair with Gloria Jones. The musical moves on to Bolan getting the health kick and him becoming the godfather of Punk as he asks The Damned to support him on tour.
 
His career seems to be taking off again in 1977 as he had his own TV show too but after visiting his favourite restaurant one night, Jones decides to drive him home with the story ending as the Mini car that Jones is driving hits a tree.
 
Bolan's songs such as Get It On, Ride a White Swan, Metal Guru, Hot Love and of course, 20th Century Boy feature in the show.  An entertaining show, sad in parts and happy in others. Surely a West End run is on the cards. A must see show. 

Tickets (until 31 May) : www.atgtickets.com/venues/grand-opera-house-york/ 

Tour details: www.20thcenturyboythemusical.co.uk/
May 25th

West Side Story - The Grand Theatre, Leeds

By GRAHAM CLARK
West Side Story

Based on Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story is still a joy to the eyes and ears. Including unforgettable songs such as Maria, Tonight, Somewhere and America with Jerome Robbins original choreography this current production is still as engaging as ever.

The story follows Tony and Maria, two lovers from rival gangs on the rough New York streets. Puerto Rican Maria (Katie Hall) is forbidden by her family for going out with American Tony (Louis Maskell).

For the first 20 minutes of the show there is not one female on stage as the rival gangs of males try to sort out their differences. The duet between Maria and Tony as they sing Tonight, is one of the highlights of the show.

The orchestra led by Ben Van Tienan fill the theatre with lush orchestration and make the songs come alive.

The show lasts nearly 2 and a half hours but because the show is so engaging and entertaining it flashes by.

Spectacular dance sequences

Receiving a standing ovation from the mainly female audience this is a show that still sounds and looks as good in the 21st century as it did 50 years ago.

Runs until Saturday 31 May 2014, tickets from £19.00 available from:
www.leedsgrandtheatre.com
May 20th

Boeing Boeing - Sheffield Crucible

By Paul Tyree

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Boeing Boeing

By Marc Camoletti

Sheffield Crucible

Playing until Sat 7th June

Boeing Boeing is the first farce to grace the Crucible stage since its refurbishment and it is a suitably slick affair as befits the wonderful main stage. Indeed the design by Fabrice Serafino is almost a character in its own right, so wonderfully does it evoke the 60’s.

Telling the story of Bernard, played in a fantastically louche manner by Christian Mckay, and how he manages to juggle 3 different fiancés thanks to the fact that they are all air hostesses with different airlines. This, of course, is the set up for the comedy as it all goes horribly wrong one weekend when Bernard has an old friend, called Robert, visiting.

The laughs it has to be said come thick and fast as the situation becomes ever more awkward.

Joseph Kloska gives a decent performance as Robert the friend tasked with keeping the women apart from each other. If I’m honest it seemed a little underpowered and safe for my liking as the farce could have benefitted from an even more energetic and manic performance. This, however is a minor quibble as generally the performances were excellent.

Best of all was Lizzie Winkler as Gretchen the ‘German Fiance’. Her performance seemed to physically and artistically lift this production to a higher level whenever she was on stage. Julia Deakin was also excellent as Bernard’s increasingly world weary and sarcastic maid.

Overall this production is extremely solid, very funny and will do no harm to the Crucibles reputation as a production house at all.

Slick, smart and extremely likeable.

May 19th

One Man, Two Guvnors - Sheffield Lyceum

By Paul Tyree

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One Man Two Guvnors’

Sheffield Lyceum

Playing until Sat 24th May

Review by Paul Tyree

The smash hit National Theatre production based on Goldoni’s The Servant of Two Masters does what it says on the tin in terms of plot. One man, Francis, serves two masters, or guvnors and the ensuing conflict as he is pulled in opposite directions lends itself to quite hilarious farce.

What is amazing about this play and stands head and shoulders above any other achievement we may claim about it is the genius of the writing and its understanding of theatre. Richard Bean has created a play that manages to break the invisible wall of the theatre and involve the audience quite literally at several points of the play.

Whilst that too is a falsehood it is the awkward hilarity of the audience believing in its own contribution that gives this production a depth and a worth that goes far beyond most farces that you are likely to see.

Gavin Spokes is flawless as Francis the central cog around which all the other characters revolve. His is a performance that shows a great understanding of comedy and whilst you know he is working incredibly hard it all comes across as effortless and absolutely in the moment.

It would be wrong to single out anyone else from the cast as they all perform beautifully and there is not a weak link amongst them but together they all manage to give to the audience an evening frequently interrupted by huge belly laughs and a sense that they are witnessing something truly remarkable.

Sometimes the reputation of a play damages it terribly as living up to people’s expectations is sometimes the most difficult thing in the world. Here, this cast, this play not only live up to your expectations but far exceed them. If you can get a ticket, you should!

May 19th

Brassed Off - Sheffield Lyceum

By Paul Tyree

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Brassed Off

Adapted by Paul Allen

Based on a Screenplay by Mark Herman

Review by Paul Tyree

 

Brassed Off, based on the 1996 movie, gives us a window into the recent history of miners strikes and the crippling poverty that taking on the ‘management’ can create. It is a stirring tale of how through all of the horrors that society can throw at you, how something as simple as music can lift the spirit and somehow give it meaning when you think all is lost.

There is a wonderful inherent dignity to this tale that comes through. Of course it had a lot to live up to when you remember the film, but in some areas this play is better than the movie. Here the female struggle to keep families going, but also to fight for the pit, shines through and gives us an understanding that the miners strike was so much more than an ideological and predominantly male battle. Here, in this play all sides are represented.

There are wonderful performances by Rebecca Clay as the put upon wife of Phil, the hopeless and permantly skint clown. Also Helen Kay and Gilly Tompkins are marvellous as two women on either side of the ‘should we or shouldn’t we take the compensation’ divide.

Clara Darcy as Gloria is wonderful as the young woman trying to bridge the gap between the men and management and strikingly in a play all about men and their struggles, it is the women that shine through best in this production.

All in all, however, from the direction, the music and  the performances, this is a stirring, hugely funny, touching and thoughtful tribute to the times and the men and women that loved, laughed and cried through it all. A night at the theatre you wont regret.

(*This review appeared in The Sheffield Star and I therefore delayed its publication on this forum*).

 

Apr 9th

Dance 'Till Dawn - Grand Theatre, Leeds

By GRAHAM CLARK
Strictly Come Dancing favourites Vincent Simone and Flavia Cacace return in this brand new production. The show was a lot better than I thought it was going to be. It has tons of humour, glamour, an actual storyline and, most of all, spectacular dancing.

Dance 'til Dawn

The story is set in Hollywood in the 1940's and tells of the romance between Hollywood star Sadie Strauss (Flavai Cacace) and her lover (Simone)  who is cheating on her with sultry nightclub singer Lana Clemenza (Abbie Osman).

The story is narrated by private detective Teddy Kempner (Tommy Dubrowski) who has some of the funniest lines in the musical; for instance "Since my wife left me, I am so miserable, it's like she is still here!"

Abbie Osmon who doubles as a Marilyn Monroe lookalike in the musical is engaging, funny and attractive all at the same time.

The musical score is not all from the past either as well as Moon River and That's Life there is also the Adele hit, Rumour Has It.

Oliver Darley who has sung with the likes of Tom Jones and Jamie Cullum is the main vocalist throughout the show and the producers could not have picked anyone better .

Of course it is the dancing that most people are here for and it is as you would expect: faultless with perfect timing. 

A large piece of the West End was recreated in Leeds tonight with this very enteraining show.  

Runs until Saturday 12 April, 2014.

Tickets are available from: wwwleedsgrandtheatre.com

 
Apr 9th

Morecambe, The Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield

By Paul Tyree
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Morecambe - The Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield

Morecambe, the tale of an  unknown comic called Eric is here told in a one man show expertly and wonderfully performed by Bob Golding (who was nominated for a Larry Oliver award, don’t you know).


I jest, of course, as the story of Eric Morecambe the comedian that so many of us in Britain have grown up with and loved for years is largely a familiar one. That isn’t to say that there aren’t some surprises along the way, as there are, but it is precisely that familiarity with the story and the material that contributes to this shows success.


Of course, any one man show is going to ask a lot of the performer in question, but in particular a one man show  where the subject is so well known and loved throughout the land as Eric Morecambe. Luckily Bob Golding is absolutely sublime in the role and many times you forget you’re watching an actor at all and suddenly it becomes Eric Morecambe simply recounting the story of his life.


And what a life it was,  lived for the amusement of others, his generosity of spirit, ultimately contributing to his own end, but it is the laughter that is remembered about him most of all in a story that takes us from his very beginnings to his tragic untimely end. Even that, however is dealt with in a funny and touching way, perfectly in keeping with the wonderfully amusing tone of the piece.


The writing by Tim Whitnall is expertly done and this show feels as if there is not a syllable out of place. Whilst this is in essence a biopic, as an audience you are never more than 30 seconds away from a laugh.


You may be thinking where’s Ernie in all of this, but worry not as his short fat hairy legs are ever present and he’s as reliably wooden as ever.

Undoubtedly what makes this one man show stand head and shoulders above the rest is the care that has been taken in all areas of this production, from the set, the props, the script and especially the performance. If you can possibly get a ticket to this show I would heartily recommend that you do so.

An evening spent in the company of Eric Morecambe is still one of the best nights in the theatre that you’ll ever have.

For the tour dates please visit the website below:
http://morecambetour.co.uk/tour/4579690675

Apr 3rd

Kes - Crucible Theatre Sheffield

By Paul Tyree

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Kes.

A dance theatre adaptation by Jonathan Watkins

The Crucible Theater's first foray into dance theatre is an adaptation of Barry Hines Kes.

The now oft told tale of a young boy raising a  kestrel has been successful both in theatre and filmic terms and works equally well here.

From the very beginning of this production you feel immersed in a world that is familiar and the fact that is told via the medium of dance is no barrier to the enjoyment of the story.

Beginning and ending with two brothers having to share a bed as they live in reduced circumstances with their single mum the story is told in a series of scenes expertly directed and choreographed by Jonathan Watkins.

All of the dancers perform well, but standing head and shoulders above the rest is Chester Hayes as the main character Billy. His is a wonderful performance, not only in terms of dance but also as an actor.

Laura Caldow as Billy’s Mother also impresses greatly in the few scenes she has, especially at the end when the walls of her world are closing in on her. Phil Snowden is perfect as comic relief throughout the play and it is amazing how much humour has been built into the show.

The score by Alex Baranowski is a joy to listen to and perfectly compliments this piece of creative dance.

Kes then is a marvelously entertaining and touching evening at the theatre that I can heartily recommend as a piece of theatre whether you’re into dance or not.

Thu 3 Apr 7:30pm   £19.00* Book Tickets
Fri 4 Apr 7:30pm   £19.00* Book Tickets
Sat 5 Apr 2:30pm   £15.00* Book Tickets
Sat 5 Apr 7:30pm   £21.00* Book Tickets
Mar 30th

The Lion King - The Alhambra, Bradford

By GRAHAM CLARK
The Alhambra in Bradford has secured a 7 week run of this majestic production of Disney's The Lion King. It is a major coop for the theatre and all the hype surounding the show is justified.

Walking into the Alhambra there are banks of speakers at the side of the stage and a big lighting rig that would not look out of place at a rock show. 

In the first few minutes of the show opening we have singers in the seating boxes at the side of the stage, a full sized elephant walking through the stalls and it feels like Bradford has been transported to Africa! 

Simba - Nicholas Nkuna

The story is about a young Prince, Simba (Nicholas Nkuna) whose wicked uncle, Scar plots to take his future crown. Scar kills Simba's father,  King Mufasa but tricks Simba into thinking that the young Prince killed his father, when in fact it was his uncle who killed the King.

Simba goes into exile but returns years later to claim his crown and good triumphs over evil.

There are some very strong characters in the musical -Rafiki played superbly by Gugwana Dlamini holds the show together as narrator with a strong and emotional singing voice.

Rafiki - Gugwana Dlamini

There is comedy too as Simba has two sidekicks  - Pumbaa the warthog (Lee Ormsby) and Timon the meerkat (John Hasler) who keep the audience smiling.

The costumes are colourful and the special effects are what you would expect from a Disney production. the music, largely composed by Elton John is memorable and fits in well with the show.

The lighting on stage creates the feel of the heat of Africa, you can almost feel the rays of the sun.

Hakuna Matata, one of the songs in the show translates as No Worries. This is a show that will appeal to young and old alike and no one will be disappointed, you will enjoy it - Hakuna Matata! 

The show runs until 10 May and tickets can be obtained from www.bradford-theatres.co.uk