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Aug 17th

Pamela DeMenthe Presents: Sticky Digits at the Edinburgh Festival

By G.D. Mills

Les Dawson was able to play the piano with comically bad precision because he knew how to play it well. Likewise Jenny Morgan’s (pen name Pamela Dementhe) assured grasp of the English language enables her to twist it into hilariously awful prose. Metaphors are mangled, similes shat on, and good taste shot to hell as DeMenthe, self-published author of a plethora of erotic novels, guides us through her creative process. Titles include Raise it for Pamela and Filling Me Softly, at the Esso Garage. DeMenthe’s irrational, sensual and fevered personality is joyfully mismatched by her earnestly conceived PowerPoint presentation during which we learn more about her frustrated sexual desire than about the world of literature.

“I woke up to find two fingers in my cunt. Only one of them was mine.” Thus begins her latest novel Sticky Digits, an exorbitantly priced tome which she reads from and then dramatizes using a series of props and projected images. DeMenthe’s surreal flights of fancy involve a lover pleasuring himself anally with a plutonium rod, a great deal of ‘nakidity’ and would-be lovers who are transformed, at sexually critical moments, into ravens.  The story pulses and throbs its way towards an orgiastic denouement involving, if I remember correctly, a raw egg and an explosion of flour.

There was a moment of quickly aborted audience interaction, which might have been quite fun, and Morgan makes best use of the slightly claustrophobic space alloted to her at the venue - a more spacious, bourgeois setting would have suited the immaculately turned out DeMenthe more nicely I feel. Those with a puritanical streak might do well to avoid this show. Otherwise this is fifty minutes of surreal and verbally dexterous funniness.

Image result for four and half stars


This show runs in Edinburgh until the 27th August at Just the Tonic at The Caves

Buy your tickets here

Aug 17th

Victim

By Kirstie Niland

Until 28th August 2017, Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Following the success of his 2016 show – Villain – at the Fringe, Bruised Sky Artistic Director Martin Murphy has returned with a one-woman show, Victim.

 

In this unnevering play, the clanking switch of a spotlight from blue to red alerts us to the change of character from upright Tracey the prison guard to predatory prisoner A23174 Siobhan. However Louise Beresford is so adept at her portrayal of two polar opposite women that we are immediately aware of the shift through the change in her demeanour and facial expressions.

The two women are preoccupied with an infamous new inmate, Marcie, who has murdered her baby. Tracey, who is trying to get pregnant, thinks she can help her. Siobhan, serving a sentence for killing her ex-boyfriend, is savvy enough to know that her status as Marcie’s cellmate will provide her with an opportunity to get under the usually guarded Tracey’s skin.

Siobhan – the prison “fixer” - is wickedly open about her past and her plans to lure Tracey into incriminating herself so that she can be blackmailed into bringing in forbidden supplies. Meanwhile Tracey falls victim to misplaced trust and walks right into her trap. 

Their respective downfalls reveal ironies about broken rules and double standards, with dark comedy alleviating some of the tension.

As each describes their life story and struggles we see them slip and show weakness; and there is a disturbing realisation that these two women, despite their different backgrounds and motives, are both the victim in this compelling drama.

 

Book tickets here

Aug 17th

Darren Harriott: Defiant

By Kirstie Niland

Until 27th August 2017, Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Darren Harriott has that genius knack for observational comedy that catches you off guard and has you laughing so hard your sides hurt.

“Three things are guaranteed in life: failure, strong opinions and death,” says the blurb for his show, and this talented comedian finds humour in every situation, whilst sharing some very difficult family history with sensitivity and a tiny hint of vulnerability.

You find yourself relating to things you’ve noticed without realising just how funny they are, addressing stereotypes we’re not supposed to laugh about in case it isn’t PC. Like what was wrong with the original yellow emoji? Turns out it’s been a useful way for Darren to find out what colour he is: “second from the end black, and far right when I’ve been on holiday”. On class/pay divide: he’s not like us, he shops in Waitrose. On gender: today’s extensive list has ruined the game Guess Who. And why do the voices in your head never tell you to do something positive, like have a cup of tea?

Darren Harriott is matter of fact when he mentions the effect of drugs and mental illness on his family, and the suicide of his father in prison. His humour pushes boundaries but never crosses the line and he pays respect to both his dad’s memory and to his mum, who likes a glass of wine, afternoon naps - and complicated men.

There are too many seriously funny moments to do this affable, up-and-coming comedian justice in one short review so let’s just say he nails it. So go and see him.

You will not beat Defiant for fast-paced, laugh out loud humour that emphasises the ridiculousness of not seeing the funny side of life, even when times are tough.

Five well-deserved stars for Darren Harriott and his little boy knees.

Book tickets here

Aug 17th

SiX

By Kirstie Niland

Until 27th August 2017, Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Choosing a select number of shows to pack into a very limited schedule is no easy task, but the announcement that Henry VIII’s wives are back... divorced, beheaded and live in concert as world-famous girl group SiX...made this show a must-see.

And what a breath of fresh air it was.

Since SiX is the first original musical to be taken to the Edinburgh Fringe by the Cambridge University Musical Theatre Society, the misogynistic king’s wives are set to go down in history once again. For this unique, historical musical with its catchy songs and high energy choreography is proving a right royal success, with sell out shows and standing ovations.

The queens who had the misfortune to marry Henry VIII are brought to life by six charming, triple threats, all perfectly cast for the persona of the wife they’re portraying. The girls hold a sing and dance-off to decide who had it worse, beginning with an energetic performance by Catherine of Arogan warning off her rivals, followed by a risqué number Don’t Lose Your Head by the sassy #sorrynotsorry Anne Boleyn. True love Jane Seymour belts out a power ballad, then Anne of Cleves steps it up with an admission that her misleading profile picture meant she kept her head - and her cushy lifestyle. Katherine Howard’s sexy number explains why she met the same fate as Anne Boleyn. And last but not least, Catherine Parr laments the love she had to leave to marry the king.

The costumes are a clever combination of old meets new - think tiaras, frills and beads mixed with silver pumps, skater dresses and bright red lipstick.

With bang up to date lyrics incorporating comedy and double entendres to describe their plight, SiX could bring a whole new meaning to curriculum development – you certainly won’t beat this for a memorable history lesson. But somehow I think SiX are destined for much bigger things, like the West End.

Welcome to the histo-remix.

Book tickets here

Aug 17th

Thrill Me: The Leopold and Loeb Story

By Kirstie Niland

Until 27th August 2017, Edinburgh Fringe Festival

This musical depiction of the shocking true story of the law student lovers who kidnapped and killed 14-year-old Bobby Franks in 1924 is such compulsive viewing that as soon as it finished I could have watched it again. Stephen Dolginoff’s award-winning show brings wealthy Chicago thrill-killers Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb starkly to life, telling the tale of their bid to commit the perfect murder through flashbacks.

It begins with the1958 parole hearing of Leopold, who wants to convince the panel he was so in thrall of Loeb that he became his willing accomplice in crimes, which began as petty ones but escalated into a desire to kill and not be caught. We discover that Loeb cannot contradit this as he was stabbed to death in his cell some years ago.

The dark set is sparsely furbished so that our focus is fixated only on the men and their most meaningful accessories – the bed they shared, the typewriter they used to write a blackmail letter, the telephones which became their only connection as Leopold panicked and Loeb distanced himself from his lover and their horrific crime.

Ellis Dackombe’s performance as the self-absorbed, manipulative Loeb is thoroughly believable as he blows hot and cold, exerting sexual power over his childhood friend. He is well aware that Leopold is as obsessed with him as he is with the philosophy of Nietzsche, and a belief that he is a “Superhuman” beyond good and evil - and therefore above the law.

But when the brilliantly intense and insistent Harry Downes sings the demanding Thrill Me we begin to see glimmers of a different view, and as Leopold begins to realise he is simply a human, and a fallible one at that, the roles reverse, and we begin to wonder, just who has manipulated who?

The physicality of Dackcombe and Downes, coupled with their ability to convey every nuance through their individual vocals and harmonies, results in a powerful, mesmerising and appropriately disturbing performance.  

Book tickets here

 

Photograph: Thrill Me UK

Aug 17th

Aaaand Now For Something Completely Improvised

By Kirstie Niland

Until August 28th 2017, Edinburgh Fringe Festival

It’s the second time I’ve seen them and the fourth time they’ve sold out at the Fringe – yet there is no sign of Racing Minds running out of steam. They describe themselves as an “improvised comedy quintet” but each of the members is successful in their own right. So that equals a huge amount of combined talent devoted to making up original stories based on suggestions from the audience. 

We were treated to a tale called Dot Dot Dot about Albert and the twin he didn't know he had. On a river boat in Mississipi where snakes have been put in charge of the emergency services so that a redneck can spend time with his cross-dressing Southern belle.

It’s massively impressive that five guys can create a joined up story based on random off-the-wall facts with such razor sharp wit. But what really makes this show for me is that they look like they’re having just as much fun as the audience, and their amusement at each other’s hesitations and hitches adds to the overall hilarity. Only just missed the five-star rating due to the material given to work from and I suspect this team will never fall short of four-five stars. 

Book tickets here

 

Aug 11th

Flashdance the Musical, Kings Theatre, Glasgow

By Cameron Lowe

 

80s revival musicals seem to come as frequently as downpours in August but this one is remarkably true to the original movie and has a rock solid cast to boot!  The bosses at Selladoor decided to launch this UK Tour in Glasgow and the local audience responded enthusiastically to this honour.

 

You can get a feel for the cultural impact of a movie by the number of times it is copied, mimicked or lampooned in other media.  With its iconic dance sequences, gritty characters and dark humour, Flashdance ticks all of the cult boxes … try typing Flashdance into Youtube to see what I mean!  So, a musical version of the movie might seem almost inevitable … but a successful conversion from celluloid to live theatre is far from certain and this revived production would have to work hard to match the grit of a tour almost 10 years ago.  Thankfully, the producers of Flashdance the Musical have not let us down.

 

At its heart, Flashdance is a story about achieving acceptance and respect.  By day, Alex (played by Strictly’s Joanne Clifton) is a female welder in “Steel Town” Pittsburgh working hard to be respected in the male dominated culture.  By night she is an exotic dancer in a ‘respectable’ joint.  She has aspirations to train at a dance conservatory but fears prejudice against her background.  Nick (played by pop icon, Ben Adams) is the son of her daytime boss.  He is immediately attracted to Alex but she has a rule about “dating the man who signs her pay cheques”.  This unlikely love affair is set against a gritty backdrop of mass unemployment, drug abuse and mobsters.

 

The musical avoids wallowing in its 80s roots by using down to earth costume and street language.  Matt Cole’s choreography adds real character to the piece with dazzling break dances contrasting well with ballet sequences.  Hairography was suitably present and even the slick scene changes were augmented with a dance accompaniment – sceneography?  Video projection was used effectively to change mood and depict thoughts feelings and dreams.  The score from Robbie Roth and Robert Cary develops character and helps to move the story along.  It has many changes from the last tour but still features original movie hits like “Maniac”, “Manhunt”, “Gloria” and “Flashdance - What A Feeling”.  The sound was suitably rocky and loud but sometimes overpowered the lyrics – especially in chorus numbers.

 

Onstage performances were superb throughout – although some minor characters suffered from a lack of consistency in accents.  Ben Adams really hit the high notes and delivered a convincing performance although, by the end of the evening, his signature nasal vocals did grate a little for me.  The entire cast showed impressive dance capability and, in some cases, eye watering flexibility!  The show was deservedly headlined, though, by leading lady Joanne Clifton who truly led from the front with her genuine triple threat skills on show.  You'd be a maniac to miss this.

 

Listings Information

Flashdance – The Musical

King’s Theatre, Glasgow

Monday 7-Saturday 12 August

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)

 

 

TOUR DATES              

 

King's Theatre, Glasgow 04 AUGUST-12 AUGUST 2017

Empire Theatre, Sunderland 11 SEPTEMBER-16 SEPTEMBER 2017

New Theatre, Oxford 18 SEPTEMBER-23 SEPTEMBER 2017

Regent Theatre, Stoke 25 SEPTEMBER-30 SEPTEMBER 2017

New Theatre, Wimbledon 02 OCTOBER-07 OCTOBER 2017

Empire Theatre, Liverpool 16 OCTOBER-21 OCTOBER 2017

Assembly Hall Theatre, Tunbridge Wells 13 NOVEMBER-18 NOVEMBER 2017

Opera House, York 27 NOVEMBER-03 DECEMBER 2017

Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham 04 DECEMBER-09 DECEMBER 2017

Playhouse Theatre, Edinburgh 15 JANUARY-20 JANUARY 2018

Palace Theatre, Manchester 29 JANUARY-03 FEBRUARY 2018

Victoria Theatre, Woking 19 FEBRUARY-19 FEBRUARY 2018

Princess Theatre, Torquay 26 FEBRUARY-03 MARCH 2018

DeMontfort Theatre, Leicester 26 MARC-31 MARCH 2018

Theatre Royal, Brighton 09 APRIL-14 APRIL 2018

Hippodrome, Bristol 25 JUNE-30 JUNE 2018

Milton Keynes, Theatre 16 JULY-21 JULY 2018

Aug 5th

Edinburgh Festival Fringe: Puppetry

By Clare Brotherwood

Boris & Sergey's One Man Extravaganza at the Omnitorium, Assembly George Square Theatre

A Heart at Sea at the Pleasance Courtyard: Below

 

Ever since War Horse, puppetry has been recognised as so much more than a simple entertainment for children. And among this year’s offerings in Edinburgh are two very different shows with adults in mind.

Flabbergast Theatre is a London company which features Bunraku puppetry in a riotous tale of Balkan bad guys Boris and Sergey and their rise to and fall from fame.

Although these little fellows are made of leather and have featureless heads which resemble cricket balls, at the hands of six skilled puppeteers they quickly come alive in a spirited show of black humour, brutality and bullying, but which had its opening night audience in stitches.

Bunraku puppetry originates from Japan and involves three people working one puppet which, in the confines of the Omnitorium (at the back of the George Square Theatre), only emphasises the physical skill and concentration of those taking part, especially in the scenes involving a dance routine and a sword fight.

This show is imaginative and entertaining with some audience participation, but some of its adult content may not be for everyone.

Half a String’s A Heart at Sea is, however, suitable for seven-year-olds upwards and while children will be enchanted by puppeteer Peter Morton’s creations, adults will no doubt gasp with admiration at his exquisitely crafted wooden chest which opens up to become every scene needed for this bittersweet story of a boy who, having bottled up his heart and thrown it into the sea, then goes in search of it.

Described as an ‘epic musical folk tale told on a miniature scale’, Peter, who also plays drum and harmonica, is complemented by the captivating performance of Avi Simmons, who composed the songs and accompanies them on guitar as well as providing a myriad of sound effects.

It’s no surprise that this ingenious show was 18 months in the making.

 

Boris & Sergey’s One Man Extravaganza is at the Omnitorium at Assembly George Square Theatre EH8 9LH daily at 9.25pm. www.edfringe.com/event/2017BORISSE_AYY

 

A Heart at Sea is at the Pleasance Courtyard: Below EH8 9TJ (venue 33) daily at 11.50am.

 

Box office: 0131 556 6550 www.pleasance.co.uk

 

 

Jun 13th

Dreamboats & Petticoats - King's Theatre, Glasgow

By Sean Stirling

Do you wanna dance? If the answer is “yes” then the King’s Theatre, Glasgow is the place to be this week where the 1960’s juke box musical, Dreamboats & Petticoats, makes its triumphant return as part of its current UK tour.

Dreamboats started life as a series of compilation albums featuring hit songs from the likes of Roy Orbison, Neil Sedaka, Connie Francis, Chubby Checker, to name but a few. Music of this era has been successfully imitated on stage in musicals such as Grease and Hairspray but the songs that gave inspiration for these shows now have their own vehicle in this musical which is jam packed with over 40 of some of the greatest chart toppers of the 1960’s.   Included among these treasures are To Know Him Is To Love Him, Bobby’s Girl, The Great Pretender and Let’s Twist Again. The score also features a couple of original songs written especially for the production, which you would find hard to believe that weren’t standards of the era.

The plot is streamlined in order to join this musical cavalcade together.  We are transported back to a time before snapchat, fidget spinners, bottle flipping and dabbing when being a teenager meant you went to your local youth club to play rock and roll (or table tennis) and learned how to deal with the turmoil that is young love.  Schoolboy Bobby (Alistair Higgins) longs for an electric guitar so that he can join a band to impress the older and sassy Sue (Laura Darton).  Sue has her eye set on the band’s newest front man, Norman (Alastair Hill) but his attention is purely focused on himself.  Meanwhile schoolgirl Laura (Elizabeth Carter) wants to be Bobby’s girl.

Alistair Higgins is an endearing Bobby with the warm baritone of a young Elvis Presley and the tender falsetto of Frankie Valli.  Elizabeth Carter is a sweet Laura with a voice that could melt even the coldest heart.  Laura Darton and Alistair Hill are matched well in a relationship reminiscent of Kenikie and Rizzo in Grease.  Jimmy Johnston, who you might recognize as playing Will Parker in the filmed production of the National Theatre’s ‘Oklahoma’, holds proceedings together in his dual roles of Bobby’s dad and older Bobby.

The principals are also supported by an amazing quadruple threat company who not only play minor characters, but are also the fantastic onstage band, often playing instruments and dancing at the same time.  They also provide backing vocals throughout the show.  Two songs in the production are performed a cappella by the full company and the results are heavenly.  This production is to be highly commended for its use of live music.

The design is simple but effective making use of album covers and advertisements of the era.

The audience members at Monday evening’s performance lapped all this up and were up on their feet, dancing, singing and cheering along to the rousing finale.

Dreamboats & Petticoats

Monday, 12th June - Saturday, 17th, June

Mon – Sat eves 7.30pm

Wed & Sat mats 2.30pm

Box Office 0844 871 7648 (bkg fee)

www.atgtickets.com/glasgow (bkg fee)

May 12th

Grease The Musical at The King's Theatre, Glasgow

By Cameron Lowe

 

Review by Christopher Lowe

Grease is the word this spring at the King's Theatre Glasgow as David Gilmore directs this production of the smash hit musical.

It's 1959 and America is teetering on the brink of liberation driven by the power of rock 'n' roll and sexual freedom.  Tough guy, Danny Zuko, meets angelic Sandy Dumbrowski for some summer luvin' over the school holidays. When back at high school, things don’t seem so sweet as Danny tries to play it cool in front of his mates. After much frustration and determination, Sandy decides to put on those leather trousers and flashy red heels and she decides to grab her man.

As one of the most famous and loved musicals Grease is hardly a show that needs headline names to succeed.

“The Wanted” star, Tom Parker, appears in his element in the iconic role of Danny; full of charisma and rebellious charm. He works incredibly well with his partner, Danielle Hope; both with stunning vocals and fantastic theatre presence.

Eastender,Louisa Lytton, plays Rizzo with great success and her previous experience as an actress comes to the fore in this key dramatic role.

The cast members all had great energy throughout the performance. Everything about the show was a real trip down memory lane either for fans of the 70’s movie or fans of the original era! The choreography was on point, the character portrayals were terrific, the lighting was mesmerizing and the music was,as you would expect, crazily catchy.

By the end of the evening the audience were all singing and dancing and having such a great time. It is a very enjoyable, fun and energetic production. I would find it very difficult to believe that anyone would not be pleased with this show. It is a classic and you can't go wrong!

Grease The Musical

King’s Theatre, Glasgow

Tues 9 May-Sat 20 May

Mon-Thu eves, 7.30pm

Fri, 5.30pm & 8.30pm

Sat, 5pm & 8.30pm

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)

 

 Images by Paul Coltas courtesy of Ambassadors Theatre Group