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Jun 14th

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at Cottiers Kelvinbridge Theatre

By Cameron Lowe

“The Bee”, as this lengthily titled one act musical comedy is affectionately (and justifiably) known, does exactly what it says in the title.  That is, it is set entirely during a youth spelling competition in Putnam County.  How dull, you might say.  How wrong you might be!

 

The Bee

Against the backdrop of youthful enthusiastic American competition is delivered a touching and intelligent study of character with an uplifting score and some genuine poignancy (P-O-I-G-N-A-N-C-Y).  As the six competitors (and three adults) are introduced and begin their spelling challenge, we get to know them, their backgrounds and their life goals; and we are quickly drawn into this quirky bright and engaging tale.  To add to the complexity of this nine part ensemble show, four members of the audience (recruited earlier in the evening) join the cast onstage as guest contestants; adding more fun and a random element to an already laugh-out-loud show.

 

Staging was necessarily simple at the new Cottiers Kelvinbridge venue.  Direction from Sarah-Elizabeth Daly was crisp, lively and genuinely touching at times.  Music and Lyrics by William Finn supported character throughout with energetic and comedic numbers balanced beautifully by wistful soliloquies (S-O-L-I-L-O-Q-U-I-E-S) as the audience glimpsed back stories that the principals kept hidden – even from each other.  Particularly effective was the structure of some of the songs which could be highly complex and often left the performers exposed against clashing harmony from chorus or band.  This emphasised the vulnerability of characters and was beautifully executed by the cast and band under the direction of Connor Going.

 

Photo - GlasgowTheatreBlog.comThe cast were universally excellent.  And I mean that (E-X-C-E-L-L-E-N-T).  Completely flawless in their delivery of comedy, song and childlike choreography (by John Gerard McFaulds).  An incredibly diverse range of characters were rendered and all with complete conviction and in the absence of unnecessary stereotypes (S-T-E-R-E-O-T-Y-P-E-S). There were particularly impressive vocals, incredibly funny mannerisms, hilarious physical comedy … all of the ingredients were just right.  Without exception, Rachel Sheinkin’s side-splitting book was delivered to maximum effect.

 

Did I mention that this is an amateur production? A-M-A-T-E-U-R!!  In aid of Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research (L-E-U … you get the picture!).  Presented by Mad Props Theatre Company as their inaugural production.  This is definitely a company to watch for the future; particularly as their next production is Avenue Q.

 

The best £12 you could possibly spend this weekend.

 

O-U-T-S-T-A-N-D-I-N-G

 

12-15 June 2013

Cottiers Kelvinbridge

416 Great Western Road
Glasgow
G4 9HZ

Tickets £12

BUY ONLINE (Booking Fee)

 

http://www.madpropstheatre.com/

Photo above courtesy of Sarah-Elizabeth Daly and www.glasgowtheatreblog.com 
Jun 13th

Sleeping Beauty On Ice – Theatre Royal, Glasgow – 11th – 15th June 2013

By Jon Cuthbertson

After the success of their previous productions, The Imperial Ice Stars return to Glasgow to present Sleeping Beauty on Ice.

Sleeping-Beauty-on-Ice-1-236x300.jpg 

I have always been impressed by this company, and the amazing work they can do on the ice and was looking forward to seeing their interpretation of this story. Again they have brought an extremely talented cast of skaters who show off an amazing array of skills while displaying a dazzling array of costumes.

 

In the title role, returning performer Olga Sharutenko (recently seen partnering Keith Chegwin on TV’s Dancing On Ice) has a grace and beauty as a skater that suits the character of Princess Aurora. Her dreamlike appearance during the forest scene in the second act was a great display of those skills. In contrast Iuliia Odintcova as the evil fairy Carabosse had the exciting and dramatic style of skating that gave the upbeat sections of the story an equally important presence. Her work with Jurijs Salmanovs as her shadow had great flair and when joined by Carabosse’s Retinue they created some of the most dramatic throws and flips that will ever be seen in live theatre.

 

Yulia Ashcheulova as the Lilac Fairy was more than just a skater, her ballet section (yes, she did indeed perform en pointe on the ice!) was exceptional. Volodymyr Khodakivskyy and Fiona Kirk had minor roles as the King and Queen, but their unnamed roles where they performed their aerial duets showed their great skill as gymnasts. The entire company (too many to mention) show exceptional skill, which definitely outweighs the tricks you can see on TV, particularly in a space less than half the size of the usual ice rinks and this is seen no better than in the thrilling encore section of the show where each of the cast has a chance to show off some signature moves.

 

For want of a better cliché, get your skates on now to grab a ticket to see this show!

 

 

Performances

Tue 11 – Sat 15 June

Tue - Sat eves @ 7.30pm

Wed, Thu & Sat mats 2.30pm

Tickets: £10 - £29.50

Box Office: 0844 871 7647 (Bkg fee)

Web: http://uktheatrenet.ambassadortickets.com

 

Jun 5th

Evita at King’s Theatre, Glasgow

By Cameron Lowe

Review by Cameron Lowe

The Tim Rice / Andrew Lloyd Weber masterpiece, Evita, returns to the King’s Theatre this week.

Evita

It is easy to see why this musical has become one of the most loved and enduring successes of the Andrew Lloyd Webber / Tim Rice partnership.  With an appealing score carrying the real life narrative including musical favourites like High Flying Adored, Another Suitcase in Another Hall, On This Night of a Thousand Stars, You Must Love Me and, of course, Don’t Cry For Me Argentina the show lives long in the memory of the audience.  The drama, too, is hard hitting set against the backdrop of civil unrest, a military coup and the untimely death of Eva Peron aged just 33.

This is a show of contrasts as unusual rhythms and jarring harmonies often resolve into beautiful, well known, melodies.  A tale of political corruption and subterfuge is interspersed with moments of levity, fun and lively dance sequences as the people live their lives innocent of the power plays in the higher echelons of society.

Bill Kenwright’s production, as we would expect, brings the story to the audience with authority and a high presentation standard.  The set, by award winning Glasgow trained designer Matthew Wright, brought an extra dimension to the performance with a flexible system of balconies, pillars and sweeping staircases which effectively represented interior and exterior scenes.  Choreography from Bill Deamer firmly placed the story in Latin America and added energy to several scenes.

 

Marti-Madalena-Evita

Performances were excellent throughout.  Marti Pellow has rightfully established his place as a UK theatre star and seemed very comfortable as Ché.  This is a demanding pivotal role as the character is rarely off stage and, as the narrator, drives the story forward. Mark Heenehan was convincing as Peron and Sarah McNicholas delivered a lovely rendition of “Another Suitcase In Another Hall” as the Mistress.  But the spotlight must rightly remain on Madalena Alberto as Eva.  Her voice had a beautiful quality; raising hairs on the back of the neck more than once.  Vocal control was superb and particularly impressive during the dance sequences (which she appeared to relish).  She balanced the (sometimes cold) ambition of Eva with her passion for the people of Argentina to ensure that the audience were ready to shed a tear upon her death … and they leapt to their feet in ovation for her curtain call.

EVITA

King’s Theatre, Glasgow

Monday 3 – Saturday 15th June

Tickets £10 – £29.50

Box Office: 0844 871 7648 (bkg fee)

www.atgtickets.com/glasgow


May 28th

Noises Off at King’s Theatre, Glasgow

By Cameron Lowe

Noises Off, the play that makes a farce out of theatrics (or vice versa), has arrived at Glasgow’s King’s Theatre for a one week run of side-splitting comedy before continuing its national tour.

“Noises Off” is named after a common stage direction written in theatrical scripts.  It is often given as a note to prompt a sound effect in a stage production with the effect that the audience will ‘hear’ what is happening in action offstage.  It is most common in comedy as the sound of an impact or clamour or fight or a fall can often be as funny for an audience as actually seeing the action.  The name hints that the audience of this show are about to see elements of theatre which are normally hidden from view – and, boy, do the audience get more than they bargained for!

Noises OffThe story centres around a touring production of a farce called “Nothing On”.  From the outset there are stresses among the company as the performances are clearly less than perfect with just a few hours to go until the curtain rises on opening night.  In Act 1, the company are running the Dress / Technical Rehearsal with several comedic interruptions from the Director, Lloyd Dallas (Neil Pearson) as various aspects of the show go wrong.  This sets the scene delightfully for the mayhem which will follow in Acts 2 and 3 as we get a demonstration of what should happen onstage as well as an introduction to the actors and crew and their complex relationships.  After the interval we re-join the company half-way through the tour.  This time we view the action from backstage during a live performance of the play.  Living and working in close proximity to each other has taken a significant toll on the relationships between the actors and crew.  Several actors threaten to not go on with the show, many threaten violence on others and some follow through with their threats … all the while the show is played in the background to a ‘matinee’ audience who must wonder why the doors in this farce are being slammed particularly loudly!  Act 3 sees the company at their final venue and we watch the action once again from the auditorium.  To say the show has deteriorated would be the understatement of the century.  In fact, everything that can go wrong does go wrong and, knowing how the play should run from Act 1, the audience are ‘in’ on every joke.

The Backstage ComedyThe comedy has universal appeal with a classic ‘Carry On’ style and lots of physical comedy to hook anyone who enjoys a good belly-laugh.  Fans of the genre and anyone who has trod the boards in any capacity will find this show particularly funny.   The extensive use of props has to be mentioned as these provide an endless source of mirth.  Props are the bane of every actor’s life as they often seem to have a mind (and legs) of their own.  As the props from the onstage farce and the backstage antics of the cast and crew are mingled in Act 2 you really have to marvel at the complex choreography which sees them change hands endlessly to great comic effect.

The cast were universally excellent as they delivered this “farce within a farce” holding two characters each while all hell breaks loose around them.  Direction from Lindsay Posner builds pace beautifully and the farce is simply outrageous by the end.  Design by Peter McKintosh and set construction by Rocket Scenery was wonderfully solid as doors were slammed around the stage at incredible pace.  The backstage view of the action was very practical and wonderfully convincing.

One of the funniest nights out you will ever experience.  The tour continues to Edinburgh Playhouse from 4th to 8th June.
 

NOISES OFF
Mon 27 – Sat 1 June 27
Mon – Sat eves 7.30pm
Wed & Sat mats 2.30pm
Tickets: £10 - £29.50
Box Office 0844 871 7648 (Bkg fee)
www.atgtickets.com/glasgow  (bkg fee)

May 16th

Ghost - The Musical at Edinburgh Playhouse

By Cameron Lowe
Hot from a successful run in the West End garnering no fewer than 5 Olivier Award nominations, Ghost The Musical comes to Edinburgh with the high expectations of the ticket buying public resting on its ethereal shoulders. But Ghost The Musical is no insubstantial phantom ... with a story famous for drawing many a tear in cinemas and around TV screens since 1990 and a score from Eurythmics supremo, Dave Stewart, could this touring show also live up to the hype whipped up in London around its astonishing technical prowess?

Ghost The Musical

From the off, the audience are literally dazzled by what seems like millions of watts of luminescence before we are introduced to the principal characters. Sam (Stewart Clarke) and Molly (Rebecca Trehearn) are in love - although he never says the words. Sam's best friend and work colleague, Carl (David Roberts), helps the couple with renovations in their newly purchased New York loft apartment. But, before the couple's love can be truely established, Sam is killed in an apparent robbery attempt. Things are not as they seem and Sam's ghostly spirit remains on Earth to resolve the mystery of his murder. In doing so, he engages the help of psychic Oda Mae Brown (Karlene Wray) resulting in as many laughs as tears.

Rebecca Trehearn and Stewart Clarke

Without a doubt, this is the most technically astonishing and accomplished show I have ever seen on tour. If you have seen the movie (and who hasn't?) you can begin to imagine the difficulty in transferring the effects which are core to the story onto a live stage. Diverse expertise from projection and automation to direction, choreography, costume design and illusion come together almost seamlessly to deliver what (from my seat in the stalls) was an incredibly convincing narrative - despite its real world physical impossibility. In addition, the wizardry of set design from Rob Howell based on several flying stage-width video screens combined with convincingly solid elements to not only set the scene but also add depth and excitement to several beautifully choreographed chorus numbers. The subway sequence in the first act was so good ... I began to wonder if there was any future in 3D Cinema when something this good could be done live!

Sadly, onstage I found it easier to believe in Ghosts than to believe in Sam and Molly's relationship while he was alive. Ironically, it was after Sam's death (while the characters could no longer interact with each other) that I began to believe in the onstage emotion. Rebecca Trehearn's rendition of "With You" was heartfelt and the Act One finale added some drive to the principals' actions and feelings. Karlene Wray stepped up well to understudy the role of Oda Mae and seemed to be positively channelling Whoopi Goldberg. She brought several laugh out loud moments and delivered a cracking second act rendition of "I'm Outta Here". David Roberts convinced throughout as the pressure escalated on his character.

This is a great show with a good score and solid storyline as well as the eye-popping special effects. Like its namesake, Ghost has to be seen to be believed.

Ghost The Musical
Edinburgh Playhouse
14 May to 1 June 2013
Tickets £12.90 - £48.90
Box Office: 0131 524 3333 (booking fee)
Book online (booking fee)
May 9th

Hairspray at King’s Theatre, Glasgow

By Cameron Lowe

Review by Cameron Lowe

Welcome to the Sixties!  Musical theatre’s most colourful and energetic touring production reached Glasgow this week as HAIRSPRAY exploded onto the King’s Theatre stage with its trademark fun, verve and HUGE hairdoooos!!

Hairspray

For many, Hairspray epitomises a great night out at the theatre.  The show is full of laughs, love, catchy tunes and a couple of characters that you love to hate.  The sixties setting gives a great opportunity to go overboard on zany costumes and scenery and there are more high energy chorus and dance numbers than you can shake a sixties stick at.

It’s 1962 and larger than life (in more ways than one) teen, Tracy Turnblad (Freya Sutton), dreams of appearing on the Corny Collins Show – Baltimore’s TV Dance sensation.  Her (even larger) mother, Edna (Mark Benton), tries to keep her feet on the ground as she knows that “people like us don’t get on TV”.  Determined to achieve her goal, Tracy learns some cool dance moves from her friend Seaweed (Marcus Collins) but realises that she can never dance with Seaweed on TV because he is black and segregation is the norm in 1962.  Tracy sets out to change all that …

Hairspray CastCultural change on racial segregation sounds like a heavy backdrop for a musical, but the innocence of Tracy’s character keeps the story lighter than light and the race issue only serves to identify who the ‘bad guys’ are in the tale.  The overwhelming joy of the show comes from the sheer energy of it.  Two huge song and dance chorus numbers are delivered before the first word of dialogue and the pace never lets up from the “Good Morning Baltimore” opener to the “You Can’t Stop The Beat” finale.

Colourful costumes from William Ivey Long complimented whacky set design from David Rockwell.  Director, Jack O’Brien, made the most of the contrasts of casting as contrast was a clear theme throughout.  Tracy was big while her friend Penny (Lauren Hood) was skinny.  Edna was tall while husband, Wilbur (Paul Rider), was small and this physicality was used to great comic effect.

Paul Rider, Sandra Marvin and Mark BentonOn stage, newcomer Freya Sutton carried the narrative well and delivered a superb all round performance.  Double acts from Mark Benton / Paul Rider and Lucy Benjamin / Gemma Sutton (as the ‘we love to hate them’ Von Tussles) produced some great entertainment with support from a fantastic ensemble cast.  Lauren Hood was a stand-out as skinny pal, Penny, who was given a chance to really shine at the end of the show – and boy, did she take it!  But the stand up, sit down, blow your socks off moment must be attributed to the incredible vocal talents of Sandra Marvin as Motormouth Maybelle.  Her rendition of “I Know Where I’ve Been” had the entire audience wondering where their socks had gone at the end of the night.  She nailed the ‘money note’ 8 bars from the end and the audience couldn’t help but clap and cheer all the way through the final harmonies.  Amazing.

Beg, borrow or steal to get a ticket to see this show before it leaves Glasgow on 18th May.

HAIRSPRAY

Tue 7 – Sat 18 May

Mon – Sat eves 7.30pm

Wed & Sat mats 2.30pm

Tickets: £17.50 - £44.50

Box Office 0844 871 7648 (Bkg fee)

BOOK ONLINE (bkg fee)

May 2nd

Highland Fling (Scottish Ballet) - 27th Apr – 4th May 2013, Theatre Royal, Glasgow

By Jon Cuthbertson

Highland Fling.jpg 

A ballet where the lights come up on a gents toilet, the leading man snorts drugs and collapses in a urinal, and not a tutu in sight – this is Matthew Bourne at his best. I remember the very first tour of Highland Fling and the shock that it generated – this came before his all male Swan Lake, before the nudity in The Carman and before his whimsical look at The Nutcracker. Matthew Bourne had taken the romantic story of La Sylphide and updated it for the Trainspotting era. This gritty modern edge still works today, and although it may be less shocking on the second viewing, it is still just as entertaining.

Scottish Ballet are the first company that Matthew Bourne has allowed to present one of his full length productions – and the talent on show tonight confirms that he has been waiting for just the right offer. Matthew Bourne’s own company are reknowned for their ability to act through dance, something I have always seen as a skill displayed exceptionally well by Scottish Ballet’s artistes. Christopher Harrison as James not only has excellent technical skill, shown in the effortless lifts and solo work, boundless energy – he is very rarely off stage – but more importantly the charisma and wit to make the audience empathise with his character – and all of this without saying a single word. Sophie Martin as the Sylph and Katie Webb as Effie make two great and contrasting leading ladies. The supporting cast also provide a wonderful variety of characters and that is what lifts this piece to another level theatrically.

To continue the wit of the production, the costume design is a delight, awash with more tartan than an Edinburgh Woollen Mill display cabinet. The subtle use of the white kilts and dresses for Les Sylphides, with the addition of sashes in a nod to traditional Scottish Country dancing costumes was indicative of the level of detail the creative teams have gone to in order to create a unified vision.

If Matthew Bourne had any concerns about allowing another company to perform his work, this will surely have allayed his fears. It has also given his production another edge in that we now get to see it performed with a live orchestra, something I have always felt was missing in his own company productions. Thankfully, Scottish Ballet are keeping live theatre live, with exceptional dance and a wonderful score performed by talented musicians – all you need to do is buy a ticket, take a deep breath, sit back and enjoy!

Listings

Theatre Royal, Glasgow: 27th April – 4th May
Eden Court, Inverness: 9th – 11th May
His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen: 16th – 18th May
Festival Theatre, Edinburgh: 22nd – 25th May

Book: http://uktheatrenet.ambassadortickets.com

May 1st

High Society at the King’s Theatre, Glasgow (30 Apr – 4 May 2013)

By Cameron Lowe

Review by Cameron Lowe

 

High Society

Recently I’ve been thinking that a lot of classic musical shows are no longer standing the test of time.  The advent of exciting new productions like Mamma Mia, Wicked and Matilda make it clear that fast paced narrative and knock-em-dead soundtracks can be delivered with great success in a two hour theatre event.  This makes even time honoured classics from great writers like Rogers and Hammerstein and Cole Porter seem a little slow and outdated – not simply regarding their subject matter, but also in terms of pace and presentation to a modern audience who want more from a show than simply a few well known tunes.

 

Wouldn’t it be great if producers could give some of the classics a “re-boot”?  I mean, it worked for superheroes like Batman and Spiderman … so why not re-boot a classic musical?  “High Society” very nearly delivers that … but (for me) falls a little short of perfect!

 

The action takes place in and around the huge family homes of the Lords where a society wedding is about to be held for Tracy Lord (Sophie Bould) and George Kittredge (Keiron Crook).  The year is 1938; a time when (no matter your riches) a family history of divorce and drunkenness generates whispers at parties and society column inches!  Tracy’s marriage is a rebound following her divorce from true love, Dexter Haven (Michael Praed).  Dexter regrets letting Tracy slip through his fingers; a view shared by Tracy’s family, particularly her younger sister Dinah (Katie Lee).  The show boasts a great Cole Porter score including “True Love”, “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” and “Well, Did You Evah?”.

 

This production has had a dazzling makeover since the show originally graced the West-End stage in 1987.  A “re-boot”, if you will.  More Cole Porter classics have been added to the score (“Just One of Those Things”, “Let’s Misbehave”) and the wordy script has been trimmed heroically.  But the biggest success must be attributed to the snappy direction of Anna Linstrum combined with the impressive revolving set designed by Francis O’Connor.  Linstrum critically retains the engagement of the audience as we are treated to many locations around the Lord mansions with sets rearranged by the cast in seamless choreography.  The direction maintains energy and flow onstage with particularly creative use of props – just watch for champagne bottles, drink trays, muffins and even toast to see what I mean!  Choreography from Andrew Wright was lively and further utilised props to the delight of the audience.  I still felt, even with all this creativity, that the talented ensemble were underused – frankly, the show needs at least two more chorus numbers – but the conversion of “Well Did You Evah” into a full on dance and comedy routine from the entire cast brought a huge grin.

 

High Society Cast

Onstage, performance were faultless and, occasionally, outstanding.  Young Katie Lee stole every scene that she was in with boundless energy and a character that was just right.  Leading performances from Sophie Bould and Michael Praed were excellent with Ms Bould’s vocals effortlessly delivering the timeless Cole Porter score and Mr Praed characterising a suave yet affable Dexter Haven (a difficult balancing act).  Teddy Kempner was hilarious as Uncle Willie; delivering a string of drunken one-liners to the joy of the audience.  Daniel Boys and Alex Young gave great support as the society reporters, Mike and Liz.  Ms Young was particularly likeable as the wise-cracking (yet smitten) Liz Imbrie.

 

This was a very likeable production with more than a few moments of genius.  I can see room to improve the show further but there is definitely life in this Cole Porter classic yet … I hope it is not another 25 years before we see it back in Glasgow!

 

High Society

Tue 30 April – Sat 4 May

Tue – Sat eves 7.30pm

Wed & Sat mats 2.30pm

Tickets: £10 - £29.50

0844 871 7648
BOOK ONLINE

Apr 19th

Thriller Live at the King's Theatre, Glasgow

By Cameron Lowe

This celebration of Michael Jackson’s music and unique dance style returns to the King’s Theatre with a performance powerful enough to turn your socks white and blow one glove off your hand!

 

Thriller Live

Thriller Live delivers the MJ magic in spades with a loosely chronological review of his music from the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” through to his 1995 release “Earth Song”.  The presentation style was unusual for a stage show, delivering a documentary of Michael Jackson’s musical history and record breaking achievements rather than a more traditional biopic.  This lent itself to a focus on the music and dance rather than the star’s controversial live story.  With such a rich back catalogue of music to choose from over a 30 year period, the delivery did not disappoint the audience.  The deceptively simple fixed set proved to be incredibly dynamic as a huge movie screens featuring dazzling effects, movie clips and photos became transparent on several occasions to reveal the live onstage band.

 

The unique Jackson 5 sound was authentically reproduced from the off, but the glove (quite literally) came off in the second act as tens of millions of pounds of the worlds most expensive music promotion videos were reproduced live on stage!  The choreography, styling and effects of “Smooth Criminal” were just mind blowing.  There was a very moving performance of “Man in the Mirror”– the song which topped the UK charts following Michael Jackson’s untimely death in 2009.  Other MJ high notes were hit by Samantha Johnson and talented fellow vocalists John Moabi, Andrew Derbyshire and “Oggie”.  The signature fedora hat should also be tipped forward in recognition of the diminutive talents of Emmanuel Sakyi who played young Michael in his first professional role.  My ‘plucked from obscurity’ award for this production goes to dancer, Kamilah Beckles, who was simply mesmerising!

 

Live onstage

This production was so slick it had my “click track” senses tingling (particularly in reference to the backing vocals), however I was won over by astonishing solo vocals and high energy dance routines that followed the unique MJ style flawlessly through three decades of hits.  This show will have you moonwalking in the aisles.  Shamone!

 

THRILLER LIVE

Thu 18 – Sun 21 Apr

Fri 5pm & 8pm

Sat & Sun 3pm & 7.30pm

Tickets: £10 - £32

Box Office 08448 717 648 (Bkg fee)

Book Online (bkg fee)

Apr 9th

Birdsong - King's Theatre Glasgow

By Cameron Lowe

Review by Nicol Gilmour

Birdsong

Sebastian Faulk’s much-loved bestseller was always going to be hard to transform to the stage especially in only 2 hours and 40 minutes.  Rachel Wagstaff’s stage version is a fantastic and much loved piece of writing that I urge anyone, to go and see.  Alistair Whatley’s direction is exquisite, having his actors play between past and present moments throughout the play.  He also uses lighting and sound to his advantage, having the audience jumping out of their seats at times with explosions of war.  That being said, my review should start with the opening; a fantastic set designed by Victoria Spearing is displayed to the audience which is wreathed in smoke and looking rather dirty. The design is complex, with makeshift tunnels and an upper platform where, for me, the most important part of the set is revealed but never referenced at any time through the play; a makeshift cross up stage centre.  The use of lighting and the sound of live music make it an eerie entrance to any audience member.

The cast begin by playing an open stage that turns to song with the banter of men at war away from their wives and mothers.  For me, this was a rather weak opening and it took me around 10 minutes to start enjoying not only the performance of the actors but the writing of Wagstaff.  This left me to wonder why this scene was included in the play; a poor opening from which it was difficult to recover.

But recover it did, thanks to an outstanding cast headed by Tim Treloar (Jack Firebrace) as one of two leading men alongside Jonathan Smith (Stephen Wraysford).

For those that have read the book, the characters of Stephen, Jack, Tipper and Gray all recreate the horror and fear felt by those fighting in France in the early 20th century.  At the same time they share with the audience the sense of camaraderie, and even humour, they express as the men try to deal with the terror of being on the front line over and underground.

We are taken on a journey as Jack Firebrace, a former miner and the joker of the group, learns from his letters from home that his young son John, who is in poor health and been hospitalised, is not in a good way and seeks leave from his captain.  Treloar’s performance is nothing but sensational.  His choices of subtle changes in emotion are outstanding and his scenes in the 2nd act alongside Stephen were so powerful that the audience could feel raw emotion brewing.

Smith’s performance as Stephen is strong and rooted playing his scenes with a sense of snobbery. This leads us to his affair with a married woman (Isabelle Azaire) in Amiens (France) prior to the war. The affair is played out through flashbacks in his mind.  He dwells on memories of Isabelle to try and see him through his darkest periods.  Smith’s character is played with innocence during his and Isabelle’s affair but he becomes desolate and traumatised as he leads his men through the carnage of the Battle of the Somme.

The cast are fantastically supported by Sarah Jayne Dunn (Isabelle Azaire), Malcolm James (Rene Azaire) with the fantastic comic timing of Tim Van Eyken (Evans) who also accompanies himself on accordion.  Musically, Joshua Higgott’s (Brennan) singing voice and recorded piano playing are a joy to listen to and set the scene for him to underscore other cast members.  If I could ask anything further of this cast it would be diction.  The dialogue features several different accents and dialects and, at times, lines were rushed and the audience could not keep up with some of the more amusing lines with words being garbled.

Scenes to look out for are a superb ballet section between Stephen and Isabelle on starting their affair and Jack and Stephen’s final scene in a tunnel blown up by the Germans and close to death.

This production is proudly supporting the help for hero’s charity and brings home not only the truth of WW1 but also the fear, astonishment and sadness that was WW2.

Birdsong

Kings Theatre Glasgow

Mon 8 – Sat 13 April

Mon – Sat eves 7.30pm

Wed & Sat mats 2.30pm

Tickets: £10 - £25.00

Box Office 0844 871 7648 (Bkg fee)

www.atgtickets.com/glasgow (bkg fee)