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Oct 27th

Our Fathers at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

By Clare Brotherwood

 

Rob Drummond and Nicholas Bone need divine intervention!

Growing up as atheists in religious households has left them both in a quandary. Loving their fathers but unable to talk to them about their lack of faith has had them questioning all aspects of their lives, and particularly the relationship between fathers and sons.

It all began when Bone’s father, a bishop in the Church of England, referred him to a book by a preacher’s son who gradually lost his faith in God.

Now the two friends have got together to write and perform a play based on Father & Son by Victorian poet, writer and critic Edmund Gosse.

In Our Fathers, Drummond, whose dad is a Church of Scotland minister, and Bone re-enact Gosse’s story of his growing up in a strict Plymouth Brethren household.

But it is far from just an account of Gosse’s life. Both actors dip in and out of the story to interact about their own lives, often on a very personal level as they argue and debate, even to the point of Drummond leaving the stage on one occasion to leave Bone to ‘get on with it’.

It’s a little contrived but adds another level to this 75-minute performance which is not only thought-provoking but also at times highly entertaining as well as moving.

Drummond particularly connects with the audience, beginning before the play begins by asking members for the 10 Commandments so he can write them up on a chalk board. But both deliver as if talking to a group of friends.

Our Fathers is the first collaboration between the Traverse Theatre and Bone’s Magnetic North theatre company, and certainly gives its audience food for thought.

 

Our Fathers is at the Traverse Theatre until Oct 28.

www.traverse.co.uk

0131 228 1404

It then commences touring:

Nov 1-4: Tron Theatre Glasgow

Nov 8: Eden Court Inverness

Nov 9: The Barn Banchory

Nov 10: The Lemon Tree Aberdeen

Nov 11: The Beacon Arts Centre Greenock

Nov 15: Platform Glasgow

Nov 16-17: Byre Theatre St Andrews

 

Nov 18: Eastgate Theatre Peebles

 

Oct 5th

Sunset Boulevard at the Edinburgh Playhouse

By Clare Brotherwood

With all the glamour and melodrama of a bygone age, Sunset Boulevard played to impromptu cheers and a standing ovation from an ecstatic Edinburgh audience on opening night.

And in the centre of it all was Ria Jones, who memorably took over from Glenn Close in London’s West End production and has now made the role of tragic Norma Desmond all her own.

Every inch as charismatic as any big Hollywood star, this Welsh songstress movingly brings to life the faded silent screen actress who returns to Paramount Pictures, where she was once ‘queen of the lot’, with horrific consequences.

It’s a performance which holds me spellbound, from her first glamorous entrance down a sweeping staircase to her cackling descent into madness. It is something of a shock when Jones takes her curtain calls for she seems so young and small compared to the character she plays. In one of the scenes when someone says, ‘You used to be big’, Norma Desmond retorts, ‘I am big. It’s the pictures that got small.’ Well, what with her stage presence and soaring voice, everything around Ria Jones seems small by comparison. It’s not just with one look that this production is a triumph. But she is not alone in making it so.

When Adam Pearce, as Max, her stiff, expressionless butler, comes on the scene, he reminds me of Lurch in the Addams Family movie, but his singing voice is extraordinary; rich and deep for the most part but with such an incredible range it leaves me open-mouthed.

Sunset Boulevard is very much like an opera, with performances worthy of any opera house… though you don’t get many opera singers with the matinee idol looks of Danny Mac (who, incidentally, gets to demonstrate his Strictly Come Dancing skills) as the object of Norma Desmond’s desires.

Some of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s numbers bring me in mind of The Phantom of the Opera – in fact, the stories aren’t that dissimilar. Both have damaged leading characters who haunt performances spaces – in Sunset Boulevard, Paramount Pictures’  Stage 18 is an interesting montage of vintage spotlights and cameras against a backdrop of old black and white movies, courtesy of Colin Richmond, who also designed the sumptuous costumes.

But there are some really upbeat numbers which shout ‘musical’, such as New Year Tango, and, of course, such well known songs as The Greatest Star of All and The Perfect Year. On my way home a young girl passed me in the street singing them…

Sunset Boulevard is at the Edinburgh Playhouse until Oct 7.

www.atgtickets.com/edinburgh

 

Box office: 0844 871 3014

Sep 27th

Our House, King's Theatre, Glasgow

By Cameron Lowe

Madness broke out at The King’s Theatre in Glasgow last night – Madness of the best possible kind!

 

For some people, it might appear to be “madness” to fork out up to £50 for a ticket to see a show that you might never have heard of before.  I can understand that; a visit to a live theatre event is a luxury for most of us.  It’s a lot out of your monthly pay packet and sometimes it can be something of a gamble.  But this is a show that is exciting, engaging, full of life, packed with music that you’ll love and probably already know and with a storyline which has proven its pedigree.  You’d be mad not to go and see it!  But sadly, the King’s was only half-full last night.  Glasgow … you’re missing a bargain!

 

The story has similar themes to that smash hit Brit-flick from the 90’s, “Sliding Doors”.  Joe Casey (played by the fabulously talented Jason Kajdi) is a typical 16 year old kid who makes decisions that will affect the rest of his life on a daily basis.  The show splits into two separate narratives when Joe is faced with a decision that will change his world.  He takes his girlfriend (Sarah played by Sophie Matthew) to a building site to get a view of their London neighbourhood from the scaffolding.  When police sirens sound, what should Joe do?  Should he run … or should he stay to face the music?

 

Talking of music … Joe’s worlds (both of them) are accompanied by a fantastically raucous soundtrack from 80s pop legends; Madness.  From “Baggy Trousers” to “Welcome to the House of Fun”, “Embarrassment”, “Driving in my Car”, “My Girl” and, of course, “Our House”, all are delivered with real conviction and a sympathy to the story.  “It Must Be Love” was a beautifully crafted scene.  Choreography from Fabian Aloise was brilliantly bonkers and true to the inspirational soundtrack.  “Wings of a Dove” was my favourite – I know this because I grinned until it hurt!

 

Performances were superb across the board.  It was one of those shows where you feel that the entire cast completely gel and deliver an energy greater than they should be able to combined.  From the first beat to the last body-pop the cast gave their all.  Jason Kajdi was an outstanding lead in this role. Full of energy, talent and above all a likeable character in both halves of the story.  Sophie Matthew was ideal as Sarah. Pretty, principled and brainy in equal measure she kept Joe on the straight and narrow ... more or less.  George Samson was a believable bully as Reecey and his dance ability stood out even in this exceptional company.  Sidekicks Billy Roberts, Will Haswell, Jessica Niles and Etisyai Philip were given a chance to shine and shine they did with funny individual characters which contrasted well.

 

This is a show that really needs the Sound department to be on their game.  There were a couple of hiccups but nothing major.  I do have to complain that the balance was a little too much in favour of the band over lyrics.  Lighting was dynamic if a little repetitive but the clever set and (hopefully not trademarked) use of sliding doors was very effective. For Theatre buffs, the costume changes for lead character, Joe, are worth the ticket price alone!

 

Don’t miss this show.  I think that there are offers to be had online so search around and get twice the fun for half the price!  An awesome night’s entertainment that you’d be mad to miss!

 

 

Listings Information

 

Our House

 

King’s Theatre, Glasgow

 

Tuesday 26 -Saturday 30 September

 

Mon-Sat eves, 7.30pm

 

Wed & Sat matinees, 2.30pm

 

Box Office 0844 871 7648 (bkg fee) Calls cost up to 7p per minute, plus your phone company’s access charge

 

www.atgtickets.com/glasgow (bkg fee)

 

Sep 20th

Cilla the Musical at the Edinburgh Playhouse

By Clare Brotherwood

Cilla the Musical already has an impressive pedigree.

Penned by Jeff Pope and based on his award-winning TV mini-series Cilla, it is produced by those masters of feel-good, semi-bio music shows about past icons and eras, Laurie Mansfield and Bill Kenwright - who also directed the show.

Even so, Cilla the Musical is in a different stratosphere - thanks to Kara Lily Hayworth in the title role.

I reckon I am well qualified to judge. As a young teenager I hung on Cilla’s every lyric and even travelled down from Carlisle to see her at the London Palladium. I still remember her mannerisms and how she delivered her songs so, for me, anyone playing her has to be spot on. And Kara Lily Hayworth is!

When she makes her first entrance, apparently giving an interview to Kathy (Kathy McGowen, I presume. She’s not introduced!), I am disappointed - she doesn’t look like Cilla for a start. But as the show progresses she quickly grows into the role, both physically and vocally. Hayworth may come from Buckinghamshire but she’d pass for a Scouser any day, and it’s not hard to see why she also has a career as a singer. She’s a real little belter! At times, I really think Cilla Black is there on stage, performing all her old hits such as Anyone Who Had a Heart, You’re My World, and It’s For You. It makes for an emotional evening, and is deserving of the standing ovation.

This fast-paced, vibrant show isn’t all down to her, however. Pope’s script contains more than a sprinkling of the humour Liverpool is so famous for (no doubt with contributions from Liverpudlian Kenwright - and as chairman of Everton FC did the reference to that team come from him?). Cilla’s son Robert Willis is executive producer, so with his seal of approval you know the story is authentic, and the cast really does bring to life the star’s early days.

As Bobby, Carl Au plays the role of Cilla’s soul mate with conviction, starting out as a swaggering youth with not much confidence but with a belief in Cilla’s talent which knows no bounds. Likewise, Andrew Lancel is a totally believable Brian Epstein, manager of both Cilla and The Beatles. In this role he is a million miles from Corrie villain Frank Foster, cutting a tragic figure as a man whose private life was a mess and who died from an overdose. His reprise of You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away comes as a total, pleasurable, though moving, surprise.

As in this type of show, the supporting cast are extremely versatile, acting, singing, dancing and playing various instruments. The Beatles are especially good, particularly Michael Hawkins’ cheeky portrayal of John Lennon, and Alan Howell, though looking nothing like him, sounds just like Gerry Marsden.

Cilla’s career spanned 50 years, and this is a fitting tribute to her, especially in the expressive hands of Kara Lily Hayworth - who is also making the transition to stardom.

 

Cilla The Musical continues at the Edinburgh Playhouse until Sept 23.

Box office: 0844 871 3014

www.atgtickets.com/edinburgh

It will then continue touring:

Sept 26-30: Milton Keynes Theatre

Oct 10-14: New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham

Nov 7-11: New Wimbledon Theatre

Nov 14-18: Regent Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent

Nov 21-15: Palace Theatre, Manchester

Jan 23-27: Grand Opera House, York

Jan 30-Feb 3: King’s Theatre, Glasgow

Feb 13-17; New Theatre, Oxford

Mar 13-17: Bristol Hippodrome Theatre

 

Mar 20-24: New Victoria Theatre, Woking

 

Aug 18th

Margarita Dreams

By Kirstie Niland

Until 28th August 2017, Edinburgh Fringe Festival

There’s no doubt that Margarita Dreams - a cocktail of absurd comedy - is written by a past master. Step forward Richard Sparks, creator of the Schoolmaster Sketch made famous by Rowan Atkinson and material for Not the Nine O'Clock News. 

It begins with Dave on a beach in Mexico, drinking margaritas. An alcohol-induced dream catapults him through a series of sketches, starting with paranoia about his phone and ending with a surreal Abba-esque disco dancing therapy session - with divorce, cross-dressing, a medium and a flasher in between.

Earning praise from comedy royalty Jack Black, Kathy Lette and Griff Rhys Jones, this show brings classic daft comedy into the modern world.

 

Book tickets here

Aug 18th

The Cambridge Footlights International Tour Show 2017: Dream Sequence

By Kirstie Niland

Until 28th August 2017, Edinburgh Fringe Festival

The world-renowned Cambridge Footlights troupe has launched comedy household names such as Stephen Fry and Sue Perkins, and the Edinburgh Fringe is just one stop on their global tour of London, California, Las Vegas, Chicago, New York and more.

As expected the show was packed ready to see what the latest esteemed new talent would be like. It was exactly the kind of slapstick British character comedy you would expect to see from those following in the footsteps of the greats.

The current troupe – Sam Knights, Ruby Keane, John Tothill, Ania Magliano-Wright and Henry Wilkinson – gel well together and show real promise.

The scene which drew the biggest laughs was the hilariously accurate sketch portraying primary school teachers on a day out: "Fingers on lips…what are we doing Year 4? We're looking at YOU Toby!" This scenario was clearly relatable to one and all as we replied obediently in chorus: "Representing the school”. A series of mishaps occurs, including the teachers losing the theatre tickets..."We'll do what we always do, we'll pin it on Toby".

Other highlights included a cross-dressing parody of Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heights and some grotesque face-pulling by Sam Knights over the sensation of a warm sheet of paper from the photocopier - uncannily reminiscent of Rowan Atkinson.

Altogether an hour well spent - and possibly an opportunity to have seen some more British stars of comedy in the making.

 

Book tickets here

Aug 18th

Murder She Didn’t Write

By Kirstie Niland

Until 28th August 2017, Edinburgh Fringe Festival 

Who can improvise a whodunnit and make it fabulously funny? The finger of suspicion points to Degrees of Error with their murder mystery, Murder She Didn’t Write.

It begins with the usual formula of suggestions from the audience, except this time there’s an extra challenge in that the actors have to create a drama surrounding a victim and killer, as well as motives for the rest of the cast, without giving the game away or losing the plot.

And so we, henceforth referred to as the groundsmen, look out for clues as the cast is gathered at a séance for The Case of the Straight Banana. The cast’s comic timing and ability to think on their feet is outstanding, with many flashes of brilliance - such as the quick response from Madam Scarlett (a clairvoyant author) when a fellow actor tests her with the question - what does her book title ABCDEFG stand for? "And Because Clues Don’t Exactly Flourish – Ghosts!"

With Cluedo-inspired names and some first class acting and improv, the result is a rip-roaring, polished performance.

 Book tickets here

Aug 18th

Showstopper!

By Kirstie Niland

 Until 27th August 2017, Edinburgh Fringe Festival

The Fringe just wouldn’t be the Fringe without Showstopper! - and the riotous laughter and applause from the audience stands testament to the popularity of this Olivier Award-winning musical comedy. 


For our visit the improv challenge was Buy or Die!! set in Birmingham at the Leamington Spa branch of Currys, with the first scene at the Black Friday sale.

Sparks fly when two excited bargain hunters are served by two dedicated shop assistants - forming two couples who fall in love, enjoying dates at the chippy before settling down to have children. As ever there are obstacles ahead, and the couples travel the rocky road of true love in the style of Legally Blonde, Hamilton, Oliver! and Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

The super talented cast conjure up a side-splitting series of songs, including Open the Doors (to Curry's) and Let Love In, Grab a Deal, Everybody Needs a Cable - Everybody Needs a Plug, and Currying Favour.

No matter how many times you see this show, the story developed is always completely different and the result is a smooth, professional performance you would think had been rehearsed. It's astonishing how the actors can create a plot with characters, cast the roles, come up with a script and song lyrics, whilst simultaneously performing it and making it very very funny to boot.

Another five-star performance from Showstopper!

 

Book tickets here

Aug 18th

Rhapsodes

By Kirstie Niland

Until 27th August 2017, Edinburgh Fringe Festival

This extraordinary Shakespeare improv comes from the creators of the Olivier Award-winning Showstopper!. It features two rhapsodes, Adam Meggido and Sean McCann, who create an original Shakespeare play, drawing on audience suggestions and the styles of writers from the last 3,000 years.

We enjoyed a show which combined history, tragedy and comedy to tell the story of a window cleaner who thinks he's been cuckolded and falls off his ladder, which prevents him from playing Shinty - but of course he recovers to triumph in the end. The performance includes an ingenious Harold Pinter v Edgar Allan Poe poetry slam about a visit from debt collectors, and the non-stop wordsmithery is ridiculously fast throughout. 

Rhapsodes is a prime example of how the Fringe provides excellent education as well as entertainment. Where else would you see an audience of all ages pay avid attention to a lesson in iambic pentameter? Or the four temperaments of sanguine, choleric, melancholic and phlegmatic demonstrated and understood so uproariously in just minutes? 

Highly recommended, not just for a fun-filled hour of bard-worthy banter between rhapsodes, but as an inspirational experience for teens who are studying Shakespeare.

 

Book tickets here

Aug 18th

Chris Turner: What a Time to Be Alive

By Kirstie Niland

Until 27th August 2017, Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Crossing the Atlantic can prove problematic, especially if you have a suitcase full of "leaves" and can't resist a quip at the airport. But Chris Turner is such an unusual combination of the likeable and unlikely, it’s entirely believeable that he should end up freestyle rapping for the security guards when they realise he’s an innocent, award-winning comedian on his way to America to live with his girlfriend. With lots of tea. No wonder his YouTube channel has scored over 5 million hits.

 

The statue of liberty holding aloft a box of Yorkshire Tea in the background (he’s rapped an advert for them) is a fitting tribute to his cross-Atlantic gags and the nuggets of wisdom he has encountered there…don’t be a cop just because you like donuts….Trump is going to make America great again. With his self-deprecating humour and widely appealing act, it’s no surprise Chris was asked to promote such a well-loved tea brand, or that he was headhunted by the Coca Cola empire even though he makes fun of their homeland. And despite his principles over the company’s ethics they nearly had him hooked, until he discovered, with some relief, that his tea contract meant he couldn’t promote another beverage. Their response was that they didn’t consider tea to be a beverage. Cue an insightfully funny email rant that “put the rage into beverage”.

He hasn’t exactly pledged allegiance to America (only its donuts) but post-Brexit Blighty doesn’t escape his wit either. Why don’t we have a Hollywood Walk of Fame? You'll have to see him to find out.

This year’s hour full of belly laughs and raps has earnt Chris a place on The Telegraph’s 53 funniest one-liners from the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe so far with: “My Mum doesn’t sugar coat things, she’s diabetic”.

Do not miss this. He’ll be back in America before you can say Brexit.

Book tickets here