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Nov 16th

Tango Moderno at Milton Keynes Theatre

By Alison Smith

 By Alison Smith

Yesterday evening the audience at Milton Keynes Theatre was witness not only to a great mix of dance at Tango Moderno – street, modern, jazz and, of course, tango, - but also to a wonderful variety of music  by a seven piece band sequestered at the back of the stage enlivening the proceedings. The highlights of the music? Flight of the Bumblebee played faultlessly by Oliver Lewis, The First Time Ever I saw your Face sung emotionally by Rebecca Lisweski and the charismatic Tom Parsons, the narrator, with his guitar.

 As for the dance, it was disappointing that through injury Vicent Simone was unable to partner Flavia Cacace; two dancers replaced him one of whom was unbelievable. This was Leonel Di Cocco, who in el tango argentino impressed with flawless footwork, restrained passion and his undivided attention to his partner. Unfortunately the same could not be said about Pasquale La Rocca, who although a competent dancer, was minimally attentive to Flavia.

 Flavia is an exquisite dancer, supple, graceful, passionate, proficient in any dance genre. The dances for Tango Moderno were choreographed by the talented Karen Bruce, together with Flavia and Vicent, and executed perfectly by the young, energetic, dynamic company. The narrative behind the show is rather weak – Flavia and her partner have some magic dust which makes the isolated techno-obsessed young couples they meet fall in love. But the story line is merely an excuse to get the people dancing – hip hop or cha cha cha, foxtrot or whatever.   

 Flavia and Leonel’s last dance was haunting and smouldering; the dance an Argentine tango , the music Codigo de Barras by Bajofondo , the musician Oliver Lewis. This dance was perfection, and worth seeing time and time again.

Tango Moderno is at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday 18th November

www.atgtickets.com

0844 8717652

Booking fee applies

 

Nov 10th

Awful Auntie at Milton Keynes Theatre

By Louise Winter

Reviewed by Louise Winter 8th November 2017

poster AA

My nephew has read all David Walliams’ books and greatly enjoyed Gangsta Granny when it was at MK theatre last year so he’s here with me again reviewing this latest offering from the massively Walliams. Neil Foster, of Horrible Histories fame, has adapted Awful Auntie into this stage production with somewhat less success (at least with this audience) than was achieved with Gangsta. Perhaps this is because there is nothing original in this tale. Gangsta was a great modern adventure story full of humour and emotion. Awful Auntie has less of both.  

Twelve year-old Lady Stella Saxby (Georgina Leonidas) wakes up from a coma to find her parents have died and she is confined to Saxby Hall at the mercy of the Awful Aunt Alberta (Timothy Speyer). Stella suspects her Aunt has killed her parents and tries to escape with the help of the house ghost, Soot. An adventure of sorts unfolds but there is more talking than action; the on stage car chase couldn’t be slower and more could be made of Auntie on a motorbike which was visually very amusing but short lived.

Jacqueline Trousdale’s set is great with turning, sliding turrets and her garb for Auntie is fittingly garish and awful. The actors do a good job; Timothy Speyer is super as Alberta, Richard James (Gibbon) has far and away the funniest moments and makes the most of them. Ashley Cousins (Soot) and Georgina Leonidas (Stella) make the most of rather one dimensional characters though Leonidas is miscast as a twelve year old.

There’s not enough mayhem, silliness or laughs. Williams’ has stated that he hopes the stage show will be a hoot but we thought it was lacking in the hoot department. He also states that Stella is a ‘pretty self-reliant heroine, and so I hope children will be inspired to find the strength within themselves to deal with bad situations’. Well, his story is rather old-fashioned and the moral – that it’s not important whether you are ‘posh’ or not - appears rather dated within the context of this partiuclar story. Walliams doesn’t purport to write great literature but entertaining, fun, absorbing books for children with some sort of moral attached. IIt seems that this story maybe is the most suitable to bring to the stage.

At Milton Keynes Theatre until Sunday 12th November 2017

Book tickets at http://www.atgtickets.com

Box office 0844 871 7652

Groups Hotline 01908 547609

Access Booking 0844 872 767

 

 

Oct 27th

The Addams Family at Milton Keynes Theatre

By Louise Winter

Reviewed by Louise Winter

24 October 2017

Tour poster Addams

The Addams Family was the creation of illustrator Charles Addams. His characters first appeared in The New Yorker magazine in 1938 as a cartoon strip which was developed many years later in 1964 into an ABC TV series where the clan was fleshed-out, so to speak. Although unconventional and positively odd in many ways, they were portrayed as happy, loving and functional. The show was a huge success even with the highly popular and similarly unconventional Munsters on rival CBS. The cast was excellent, the scripts were funny and imaginative and the catchy four-note theme tune, along with the finger clicking, found its way into popular culture. After over 60 episodes the show was cancelled and it took a lull of a few years for the family to find a new home; this time on the big screen in 1991. This was a massive hit with an incredible cast: Raul Julia as Gomez, Angelica Huston as Morticia, Christina Ricci as Wednesday and Christopher Lloyd as Uncle Fester. It led to a sequel, an animated series, video games and a range of merchandise and introduced the family to a whole new and young audience; it is the definitive portrayal of the family for many fansAfter all these incarnations the only place left was the stage and this musical, first performed in 2010, is the result of a collaboration between Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice along with songwriter Andrew Lippa. 

Addams Blakely Matt Martin 

image by Matt Martin

Whilst understandable that producers and directors will want to put their own stamp on a production it is puzzling why there would be such a move away from the elements that are integral to the Addams family and the basis of their popularity. Andrew Lippa (music and Lyrics) states that the story is inter-generational’. Indeed, it always has been and this is a fundamental aspect of thAdamms family; that it has an appeal for quite young children through to adults. So, this begs the question why the children Wednesday and Pugsley have been moved into their teenage years and why the only storyline is that of the tedious and overdone theme of two teenagers from different types of families falling in love against family wishes. The result is that the younger members of the audience (of which there were many on tuesday) have nothing to relate to and the positioning of much of the humour as purely adult-appropriate further narrows the scope and alienates even those young teenagers in the audience. This is baffling; The Addams Family has always had an all-age appeal and had something for everyone but this is not so here and this show is definitely poorer for it. It’s not a family show.  

Designer Diego Pitarch states that the production has ‘been faithful to the original’. This is true generally of the visual aesthetics where nearly all is fixed and enclosed within the house The Addams’ residence is in the middle of Central Park providing the opportunity to exploit a wealth of visual elements and create some interest on stage but we are instead given the obvious haunted house set.

Addams Fester Matt Martin

image by Matt Martin

The show starts dynamically enough with the full company onstage for the catchy ‘When you’re an Addams’ and over the next couple of scenes the main players are introduced. Cameron Blakely as Gomez is outstanding and has the audience eating out of the palm of his hand. He is hilarious and the source of most of the humour – not necessarily from the script. While well matched on stage by the rest of this cast he is far and away the strongest player. Scott Paige (standing in for an ill Les Dennis) as Fester was brilliant as gentle uncle Fester, Samantha Womack plays Morticia as elegant and cool but rather too still throughout. Wednesday (Carrie Hope Fletcher) is a fairly generic American teenager here if you remove her specific Addams traits, but Fletcher does a good job. Pugsley (Grant McIntyre) is funny but underused as his sister’s attention is elsewhere rather than tormenting him. 

Addams Matt Martin

image by Matt Martin

The story, such as it is, introduces Wednesday’s love interest Lucas Beineke (Oliver Ormson) as another generic American teenager. Ormson has a very specific voice which becomes thinner and whinier the more he talks and sings unfortunatelyThe two families meet for dinner with the Beineke’s coming to the Addams’ mansion. Here the engagement is due to be announced with, according to the blurb, ‘hilarious consequences’, overselling this momentarily vaguely amusing scene! If anything it is mostly odd, introducing a game called Full Disclosure, and sending Mrs Beineke (Charlotte Page) into some sort of realisation that her marriage isn’t as it could be setting up the second act for the realisations that all relationships have problems and all families are ‘normal’ in their own way. So what’s new? 

This is a very long show as a result of the number of musical pieces that are packed in to make up for the lack of a storyline. The music and lyrics are original, very catchy and excellently performed by the cast who mostly have very powerful voices and are accompanied by an orchestra led by Andrew Corcoran; this makes all the difference in this show. However, the original Addams family theme tune and finger clicking is missing until a few seconds at the end. This was a disappointing for the audience near me who were expecting this to hear this and enjoy some participation. Perhaps there is a copyright issue here otherwise it is unclear why this iconic music would not be used throughout this show. While the music and lyrics along with Blakely are the strongest part of the show they cannot make up for the almost non-existent plotline.

Plays MK theatre until Saturday 28 October 2017

book tickets at http://www.atgtickets.com

Box office 0844 871 7652

Groups Hotline 01908 547609

Access Booking 0844 872 767

Oct 19th

English National Ballet: Song of the Earth/La Sylphide at Milton Keynes Theatre

By Louise Winter

Reviewed by Louise Winter

17th October 2017

English National Ballet have created two stunning pieces for this tour.

SoTE/La Sylph

image by Jason Bell

Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s Song of the Earth and August Bournonville’s La Sylphide recreated by Frank Andersen and Eva Kloborg are both new to ENB and showcase the incredible talents and abilities of the ENB as a whole.

Song of the Earth has three primary characters, a man, a woman and ‘the messenger of death’. This is a poignant study of life’s journey and of death’s constant presence. Mahler’s mesmerising Das Lied von der Erde score is performed by the splendid English National Ballet Philharmonic led by Gavin Sutherland and each of the six songs is exquisitely performed by Mezzo Soprano Flora McIntosh and Tenor Simon Gfeller.

SotE Laurent Liotardo

image by Laurent Liotardo

Macmillan’s choreography is stunning, drawing out Mahler’s musical phrasing through the performers who are propelled across the whole of this expansive empty stage. Simply attired in monochromatic dress the three key performers present a powerful synergy. Aaron Robison is a fabulously commanding presence as the messenger of death. His height and elegant body line and shaping are well suited to the role and his seduction of firstly the Man, the powerful Joseph Caley, and then the delicate and seemingly vulnerable Woman, Tamara Rojo.  Caley’s character, initially hopeful and robust, is continually confronted and tested by Robison’s ominous messenger. Rojo’s expressiveness is perfect for her character’s journey from spirited purity to the desperate end acquiescence.

This is a challenging, powerful work which slowly draws you into it absorbing you as it reaches its dramatically sad close.

La Sylphide

image by Laurent Liotardo

The second piece here is Bournonville’s La Sylphide, exploring all-absorbing love which ultimately leads to tragic end. Choreographers Frank Anderson and Eva Kloborg stay faithful to this classically romantic ballet’s original 1830s presentation and the feel, in sharp contrast with the first piece is of the traditional. There is a wonderful melding of classical ballet steps and Scottish folk dance which is exciting, in its speed and precision.

This is a captivating piece in part due it sumptuous nature. It is a massive production with full scenery, costumes and cast. Erina Tagahashi as the Sylph, is engagingly, vulnerably magical and her physical expression in the death scene is heartbreakingly moving. Jeffrey Cirio (James) is a thoroughly dynamic performer and Francesca Velicu as his bride to be Effy, is prettily innocent.

La Sylph LL

Image by Laurent Liotardo

Milkael Melbye’s design is fabulous and adds a further layer of magic into the production; gorgeous costumes of rich golds, greens and red tartans and exquisite traditional soft, white tulle for the huge cast of sylphs.

Two completely contrasting pieces which complement each other perfectly in this superb evening’s ballet.

at Milton Keynes Theatre until 21st October 

book tickets at http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/song-of-the-earth-la-sylphide/milton-keynes-theatre/

Box office 0844 871 7652

Groups Hotline 01908 547609

 

Access Booking 0844 872 7677

 

Sep 27th

Cilla The Musical

By Alison Smith

Cilla the Musical at Milton Keynes Theatre

Reviewed by Alison Smith 

For those in the audience who were teenagers in the 60s in Liverpool, Cilla the Musical, is a most pleasing nostalgic journey; for others the musical brings to life a plethora of great foot- tapping pop songs, belted out by a young girl with a great voice. Kara Lily Haworth portrays Cilla – a confident, somewhat brash, character. Kara is easily able to cover the needed vocal range and her acting ability gives a believable portrait of the life of Cilla, her triumphs and her heartaches. 

Priscilla White’s life is one of those extraordinary, heart-warming true stories of an ordinary girl hitting the high life. In the right place at the right time, blessed with a strong voice, determination and a good manager/husband, Cilla was a pop star with two number ones in the charts, before she segued into a ‘national treasure’.

Jeff Pope has adequately adapted his TV series Cilla for the stage. However,  the first act is slow  - the setting of the scene somewhat dull , a Liverpool Club, supposedly  the Cavern , Bobby and Cilla’s first meeting, the introduction of Brian  Epstein. There is little to enliven the backs of the jigging fans in the Cavern, with low lights and little energy. The last song of this act – Anyone Who Had a Heart – does at last bring relief to the monotony.

The second act is much more entertaining; there are more set and light changes, lively choreography and a more interesting story line –  will Cilla be a success in the States, will Booby become a singer ,will they part or not? But again it is the music of the 60s, which is the most captivating - the ironic ‘You’ve Got to Hide your Love Away, the moving Alfie ,the touching Liverpool Lullaby.

Two other members of the cast deserve praise. Bobby, played by Carl Au and the tormented Brian,  Andrew Lancel. Both actors are totally believable in their roles,  generously supporting Kara.

The finale was lively – the audience on their feet , dancing and clapping. It is just a shame the first act did not have an equal amount of energy.

Cilla the musical is at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday 30th September

 

 www.atgtickets.com 

0844 8717652

Booking Fee applies

 

Sep 6th

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime - Milton Keynes Theatre

By Louise Winter

Reviewed by Louise Winter 4th September 2017

poster Dog

The Curious Incident phenomenon has been ongoing since the publication of Mark Haddon’s novel in 2003. Although it quickly became an international bestseller it wasn’t staged until 2012. Since then it has become an established fixture in theatre-land.

A most unusual book turned into a most unusual play; Simon Stephens’ adaptation is faithful to and respectful of Haddon’s story and Marianne Elliot has brought it to life with her challenging and stimulating direction. The treatment of the book by these creatives must be a primary element in the success of the play; Stephens has been true to Haddon’s novel and Elliot has created a visually innovative and utterly absorbing 3D world from her imaginings of Christopher’s experience of the world.

Dog Scott Reid

photo by BrinkhoffMögenburg

When Stephens was asked during the construction of the play in 2012 if he was nervous that he was in part responsible for taking such a loved book to the stage, he responded that he comforted himself with the knowledge that nobody could love the book more than he, Elliot and all the performers involved did.  This love is tangible on stage, not just in the adaptation of the story line, direction, production and staging but in the performances of all the actors. This cast portrays a great compassion, integrity and drive in bringing the story and the ‘messy’ side of some of the characters to life and the depiction of Christopher’s perception and management of the world around him, and in turn that worlds’ perception and management of him, is extremely well crafted, neither trivialising nor stereotyping.

CI Dog

photo by BrinkhoffMögenburg

Christopher, played with absolute passion and integrity by the utterly brilliant Scott Reid, is a fifteen year old with a collection of eccentricities which combine to create a set of complicated behavioural quirks. These make negotiating everyday life challenging for him and his family. Finding people very difficult to deal with, Christopher doesn’t venture out of his street unaccompanied but when he discovers his neighbour’s dog Wellington has been murdered, he turns detective in order to unearth the killer. A complex adventure/whodunit/family drama unfolds as the key players experience a journey of discovery. None experiences so much as Christopher who is, I suggest, a fitting hero for the 21st century. His travels outside of his comfort zone are gripping and realistically alarming accompanied as they are by an onslaught of ear-assaulting sounds, flashing lights and visuals which shake the auditorium. It’s this use of technology throughout the play that gives the play its uniqueness in creating an all absorbing, fresh experience.  

All is confined within a stage-filling, imposing 3 sided ‘box’, the walls of which serve as huge screens upon which images, text, video, and the mathematical equations that Christopher turns to in times of stress, are projected. Drawers and doors open to reveal props – the combined elements of Christopher’s slowly growing train set is a revelation at the close of the first half – and mobile entrances and exits for characters. The physical dynamism created by Movement Directors, Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett, is wonderfully creative, particularly so into the travel scenes.

This is a stunning production - challenging, exciting, uplifting, funny and heartwarming. It was packed at MK on Monday night and received a rapturous response. 48 hours later I am still excited and happy as a result of experiencing it!

Do get tickets – it’s on a longer than usual run in MK until Saturday 16th September

Box office 0844 871 7652

Groups Hotline 01908 547609

Access Booking 0844 872 7677

 

Online booking:  www.atgtickets.com/miltonkeynes

Aug 30th

Grease at Milton Keynes Theatre

By Alison Smith

 

Reviewed by Alison Smith

We were hit full blast with nostalgia of the 50s tonight at the first performance of Grease at MK Theatre. There was upbeat music from the excellent 7 piece band led by Griff Johnson, innovative choreography thanks to Arlene Phillips and voice, energy and emotion from the talented cast.

Although Grease is over 40 years old – it first appeared on Broadway in 1972 and then the film became a box office hit with Travolta and Newton-John in 1978 – it still buzzes with fun. Partly this is through the simple story line: boy and girl meet, boy and girl part, boy and girl meet and don’t see eye to eye, and then boy and girl make up and the fairy tale comes to a happy ending and who isn’t a sucker for that ! Of course there is drama on the way, but not too much - this is only the beginning of the Rock and Roll, teen revolution after all. The Pink Ladies have their troubles, a school drop-out and a teen pregnancy, but Frenchy goes back to school and Rizzo’s guy sticks by her. And the black leather jacketed T–Birds are not so tough at all – this is not West Side Story.

 The story and dialogue are secondary in Grease. It is the music  - around 18 songs  - and dance which are spell binding. The best numbers are when the ensemble is on stage for numbers such as Shakin’ at the High School Hop and Grease is the Word. Individuals to mention are Kenickie (Tom Senior) who almost flew  in Greased Lightning and Rizzo ( Louisa Lytton), who pulled at the heart strings in There are Worse Things I Could Do .Teen Angel (George Olney),  gave a wonderfully polished camp performance of Beauty School Dropout. Of the two big names, Danielle Hope and Tom Parker as Sandy ‘goody-goody shoes’ and Danny Zuko , it is the former who gets the accolade. She has a stage presence and a powerful voice with a great range. Her transformation into a seductress, complete with 4 inch heels and skin tight trousers when she belts out You’re The One That I Want is amazing. Tom Parker is, unfortunately, the weak link in the show – his singing, dancing and acting do not reach the standard of most of the cast. I did wonder what Sandy saw in him! 

The set is simple – neon lights and moveable ranks of seats and a bar; the band, such an integral part of the show, is perched high at the rear – sometimes hidden but at other times a sight to appreciate. The lighting is extreme at times – bold, bright with a lit-up guitar and a flashing car. The costumes - 140 costume changes – give credence to the actors. Rizzo’s red and black dress, Sandy’s droopy dress and cardigan, the Pink Ladies net underskirts and  elasticated belts, the T-Birds black leather jackets and winkle-pickers –the rollered hair, the Brylcremed quiffs, the  red lipstick and the sequins , all layers of perection

 This is a show of real musical excellence – a first class production and a musical not to miss.

Grease is at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday 2nd September

www.atgtickets.com

0844 871 7652

Booking fee applies

 

 

Aug 11th

La Cage aux Folles - Milton Keynes Theatre

By Louise Winter

Reviewed 8th August

Les Cagelles

image Pamela Raith

Opening with a WOW performance by Les Cagelles of ‘We are What We Are’ the scene is set for a visually exciting evening. The troupe are wonderfully polished, beautifully made up (Richard Mawbey) in fabulous feather costumes (Gary McCann) and performing slick and stylish choreography (Bill Deamer). This highly professional, high energy start to this touring production doesn't carry through the whole show though.  

La Cage aux Folles was in many ways a groundbreaking story when it first came to the screen in 1978. Hugely successful it then arrived on stage in the early 80s. The story of a gay couple, Georges and Albin, running a drag club in sophisticated Saint Tropez oozed style, panache, and humour but above all love.  

Georges has a son from a previous relationship (Jean-Michele) and with the mother completely disinterested Albin has devoted the past twenty years to bringing him up as his own child. When Jean-Michele arrives home with the news that his fiancée Anne comes from a puritanical family who cannot possibly know that Georges and Albin are his parents, farce ensues as Georges and Jean-Michel try to keep Albin secret; Albin has other ideas!  

Albin and Jacqueline

image Pamela Raith

 

While the story remains in this productionthe presentation and treatment is uneven. In large this is down to the fact that John Partridge, who plays Albin, seems to be under the false impression that the show is only about Albin, and from his behaviour at the curtain call, him. Oddly, he is the weakest link in this very strong cast, lurching bizarrely between accents, volume and behaviour even well beyond the scope of his already temperamental stage drag character ZazaThe ill-fitting section of improvised comedy in which Partridge channels a cross between a poor Dame Edna and a pantomime dame is unnecessary, overlong, only vaguely funny and stops the show dead in its tracks. References to Primark and Tess Daly, the singling out of individuals in the front row for sarcasm and the crass and corny ‘jokes’ with the conductor are more suitable for a low-level talent show rather than a supposedly high class production. Why this section is included just before the key performance of ‘I am What I Am’ is a mystery and undermines the emotion and storytelling. 

 

Albin and Geores

image Pamela Raith

 

Of course all the visuals are fantastic and full credit to all the performers who are solid; Adrian Zmed as Georges, a class act from Marti Webb as Jacqueline, Dougie Carter and Alexandra Robinson are suitably fresh as the young couple Jean-Michele and Anne, Samson Ajewole as Jacob the butler/maid is a riot and won the audience's heart within seconds of being on stage. He is the scene-stealer here. A fabulous live orchestra led by Tim Whiting give the evening the feel of a real club throughout.

 

There are very amusing moments and there is no doubt that the audience in general thoroughly appreciated the evening. A little less ego and centre staging and a little more humility from Partridge would help balance the overall feel of the production.

 

At Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday 12th August and then continuing on tour

Box Office: 0844 871 7652 (bkg fee)

Groups Hotline: 01908 547609

Access Booking: 0844 872 7677

 Online Booking: www.atgtickets.com/miltonkeynes (bkg fee)

Jul 25th

The Judgement in Stone at Milton Keynes Theatre

By Alison Smith

Poster AJIS

The stage adaptation by Anthony Lampard and Simon Brett of Ruth Rendell’s 1977 novel, A Judgement in Stone, gives a different twist to the crime. In the novel the first line - ‘Eunice Parchman killed the Coverdale family because she couldn’t read’ - gives the reader the ‘who’ and the ‘why’ of the ‘whodunit from the outset.  The interest in the novel lies in the psychology behind the criminal motive. In the Classic Thriller Theatre Company’s play the ‘who’ and ‘why’ are slow to be revealed, which should increase the tension throughout the play – is it the gardener, the cleaner, the boyfriend?

 The dénouement is through a question and answer formula – on February 14th two police officers  Detective Superintendent Vetch (Andrew Lancel) and Sergeant Challoner (Ben Nealon)  begin their interviews of  Eunice Packman (Sophie Ward). It is the day after the shooting of the four Coverdales. As their live-in cleaner for nine months Eunice was close to the family, at least in distance. Through Eunice’s and the other staff’s testimonies we are presented with the dead -  the parents, played by Mark Wynter and Rosie Thomson, and their children, in a series of flashbacks.  The past and the  present  are cleverly marked by lighting changes - a golden glow for the past and a cold blue for the present.

 The setting is very Agatha Christie – a country estate – Lowfield Hall  -with a collection of stock characters – upper class and lower class, a character with previous , a reformed  bible-bashing prostitute. The set is a reflection of upper-middle class life – comfortable but not luxurious. The Coverdale’s tastes are also discerning – opera, overseas travel, shooting and they employ others to look after them – Meadows the gardener, Eva the cleaner and Eunice the housekeeper. It is the Coverdale’s buying power which catches the killer in the end. Throughout the play we are told  about their modern devices, of the large TV in the sitting room, the one in Eunice’s room and the cassette player on which Melinda was recording opera when she was shot.

 The novel is well adapted to the stage to show the passing of time with the characters’ slick exits and entrances. The cast are word perfect. Their gestures and voices bring individuality to their roles. The most amusing and lively is the Post Mistress, Joan Smith (Deborah Grant) who brings, at least during her first appearance, liveliness and amusement. Unfortunately the characters relationships are not fully developed. I was unconvinced by the relationship between Joan and Eunice and unconvinced by the sudden killing -  Eunice had not expressed revenge towards anyone in the family except Melinda; moreover, her reaction to her dismissal by George was too accepting. In fact there was too little weight put on the psychology of the characters – the story was not believable. Perhaps the stage is not the right setting for A Judgement in Stone – television may do it more justice. 

A Judgement in Stone is at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday 29th July

 www.atgtickets.com

 0844871 7652

 Booking fee applies

 

Jul 12th

Jane Eyre - Milton Keynes Theatre

By Louise Winter

Reviewed by Louise Winter

10 July 2017

JE poster

Having seen Sally Cookson’s creative re-imagining of La Strada earlier this year it was with very high expectations and great anticipation that I settled into my seat for her take on Jane Eyre.  What a thrill! Absolutely nothing in this production disappoints; it is stupendous and utterly satisfying on all levels.

Charlotte Bronte’s novel, which brought to the page much of her suffering and anguish as a young woman, was originally titled ‘An autobiography’ and published under the name Currer Bell. No one initially believed a woman would be the author of such an angry and passionately intense book and it created a huge stir at the time. There are numerous connections across Bronte and Eyre’s lives; the north-country origins, early deaths of siblings, and desperately unhappy times through boarding school and early work-life. The power of the story and its autobiographical elements, married with Cookson’s unique presentation and the powerful elements of the production design, combine to create an absorbing and mesmerising three hours.

JE BM

photo by Brinkhoff/Moegenburg

Michael Vale’s stage design is understated and dynamically effective.  A centre stage series of wooden frames, platforms and ladders, which remain immobile but are dynamically utilised by the players, serve as a child’s climbing frame, various residences and institutions and rooms within these. Depending on how this frame is lit and populated, the atmosphere veers from the oppressive to the expansive. Further suspended or carried frames suggest outside spaces through to imagined vistas and the changing of the seasons. A background of white drapes on 3 sides serve as screens for Aideen Malone’s colour projections creating shifts in emotional and physical space; the foreboding and punishment of the red room, the cruelty and starkness of the orphanage.

JE BrinkhoffM+Âgenburg

photo by Brinkhoff/Moegenburg

Benji Bowers’ compositions and Dominic Bilkeys’ sound design, are integral to everything that happens on stage. All original apart from three pieces, it is eclectic and performed centre stage by a small group of musician/actors. Far from being a distraction they are absolutely vital to the story and lend a further element to the story and atmosphere. There is often a hypnotic sense to quieter moments on stage created by the soundscape until contrasting speeds, genres and volume shift the timings and dynamically propel us again through Jane’s journey and emotions. The fully integrated and balanced use of the designers’ use of all elements of structure, sound, space, colour and movement ignite the audiences’ imagination fully in Cookson’s take.

JE BM

photo by Brinkhoff/Moegenburg

 

A very small cast with actors playing multiple parts means everyone is on stage for most of the time. Outstanding one and all, this group of  actors and their sense of unity creates the completeness of the experience rather than the relying on lead players. Melanie Marshall, at first appearing to be an understated narrator or commentator later emerging to be Bertha Mason, is still and poised emerging from the shadows to perform with the most entrancing operatically powerful voice. Her stillness symbolising her trapped life perhaps, with not a hint of chaotic madness about her but rather a measured clarity of purpose.  Nadia Clifford as Jane is brilliant and the difficult and tumultous relationship between her and the excellent Tim Delap as Rochester is palpable, never veering into caricature but believable and true. Paul Mundell (Mr Brocklehurst/ Pilot/ Mason) is markedly different in his roles, very funny and unusual as Rochester's dog. Evelyn Miller (Bessie/ Blance Ingram/ St John) is outstanding and proves her versatility in this range of parts as does Hannah Bristow in her five roles.

A dynamic, energetic, absorbing and stunningly presented piece of physical theatre which brings a new dimension to Bronte’s book. 

Jane Eyre is at MK theatre until 15 July and then continues on tour 

Box Office: 0844 871 7652 (bkg fee)

Groups Hotline: 01908 547609

Access Booking: 0844 872 7677

Online Booking: www.atgtickets.com/miltonkeynes (bkg fee)

 

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