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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

Apr 19th

The Wedding Singer - King’s Theatre, Glasgow

By Cameron Lowe

Jon Robyns and Cassie Compton lead a talented cast in a musical adaptation of the hit movie.

 

Marriage may be going out of fashion but romance will never die.  So it came as no surprise that Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore scored a huge hit back in 1998 with the celluloid version of “The Wedding Singer” featuring the perfect union of slushy love story and nostalgic 80’s comedy.  Who would have guessed, though, that this almost formulaic movie could become a fantastic 21st century musical?

 

The show is remarkably true to the original movie including all of the quirky characters, retro comedy and tear inducing romance.  Robbie (Jon Robyns) is a wedding singer who believes in the perfect match.  Together with his band, “Simply Wed”, he seeks to contribute to each couple’s perfect day.  He meets waitress, Julia (Cassie Compton) at one such wedding and unwittingly falls for her.  Julia becomes engaged to her greedy, straying boyfriend just as Robbie is dumped by his bizarre rock-chick girlfriend.  Robbie loses his faith in love but, together, Julia and band mates Sammy (Ashley Emerson) and George (Samuel Holmes) make him believe in true love once again.

 

Jon Robyns played an affable Robbie with his clear vocals hitting the high notes and fitting the requirements of the role perfectly.  He was supported by a great cast.  Cassie Compton was the definitive ‘girl next door’ who would never be swayed by 80s greed.  She certainly delivered the sweetness of the role and ably sang many memorable numbers … but, as written, the character is a little 2 dimensional and it needs a performance twist to lift it out of the ordinary.  Roxanne Pallett took a night off but was energetically replaced by Tara Verloop as Julia’s waitress friend, Holly.  Tara rocked this soundtrack layering on talent and verve like it was going out of fashion!  Ray Quinn did his substantial fan-base proud as greedy trader, Glen with an unerring nasty-boy character portrayal.  “All About The Green” was certainly a highlight. Ruth Madoc earns a mention as Robbie’s scene stealing Grandma Rosie.

 

Among the ensemble, the stand out performer for me was Mark Pearce.  His characterisations lifted scenes throughout the show with every appearance delivering a new ‘face’.  A little more of this from the cast would lift the show to a new level.

 

Set and lighting were eye catching and very effective. Scene changes were slick – although some remnants of props from previous scenes were occasionally left onstage – a serious theatrical “no-no”.  The pacey and surprisingly varied (considering the era) original score was delivered with flair but the sound balance occasionally overpowered some vocals.  Recognisable chords and riffs from the music and movies of the time delighted those of us old enough to remember the 80s as something other than the ‘decade that style forgot’! 

 

This is a delightful uplifting musical which ticks all the boxes to produce a monster hit.    I rate it up there with the likes of “Footloose” and “Sunshine on Leith”. 

 

LISTINGS INFORMATION

King's Theatre Glasgow:

Tues 18-Sat 22 April 2017

Tues & Thurs, 7.30pm

Wed, 2.30pm & 7.30pm

Fri, 5pm & 8.30pm

Sat, 2.30pm & 7.30pm

Box office: 0844 871 7648 (bkg fee applies)

 

Mar 9th

The Play That Goes Wrong at Theatre Royal, Glasgow

By Cameron Lowe

 

 

 

There are many famous stories of things going wrong in theatrical productions; Lawrence Olivier's very first professional performance started badly when he tripped through a door frame on his very first entrance. John Barrymore - drunk and rambling through a performance - forgot his line and staggered to the wings to ask the prompt "What's the line?". The prompt (obviously having had enough of Mr Barrymore's adlibbing and drunken behaviour) quickly responded with "what's the play?".

 

Mischief Theatre have realised how much everyone enjoys to see these little "mishaps" and have created a hilarious show that throws in as many theatrical calamities as you can imagine!

 

Featuring a show within a show, The Play That Goes Wrong tells the story of Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society's production of Murder At Haversham Manor. This looks like a classic murder mystery, but before the show even starts there seems to be a problem. Seeing the stage manager in the audience looking for their lost dog and the technician looking for his lost CD is a great set up to the evening that lies ahead. With an open stage you get a chance to see the 'crew' setting up for the show with toolboxes on stage and various bits of set being repaired (including a particularly troublesome mantel piece above the fire!). If you get a chance - read the first few pages of your programme too. It has been designed to include some brilliant details from Cornley Polytechnic and gives you some insight into the onstage dynamics that adds an extra layer to the whole show.

 

So far, so funny, but once the actual play kicks in - the humour is ramped up even more. Some small physical gags start the show off gently and this builds with some overacting, dropped lines and missing props that set up so many funny moments throughout the show. As with Les Dawson's piano playing - you have to be very good to then cleverly be able to play 'badly' and make it interesting and funny. I could not single out one actor involved as this is very much an ensemble piece that relies on every actor playing their part exceptionally well. The timing involved in getting the physical gags/falls/effects correct and safe is no small task and the set design and stage crew play a huge part in the success of this show under the swift direction of Mark Bell.

 

As actors become indisposed due to injury (usually happening onstage) stage crew are flung on in their place - using the script before the pages are sent flying, leading to some brilliant comic exchanges. Wall hangings on the set start to fall creating a brilliant physical gag that garnered huge applause from the audience on more than one occasion.

 

This review may seem very vague, and there is very much a reason for that. Unlike many murder mysteries where you are asked to keep the secret of who committed the murder - that is the least important thing in this show - the secret I want to keep is of every brilliant moment of this play! It has so much humour and is so excellently executed that words would not do it justice. If you watched their Christmas TV production of Peter Pan Goes Wrong, then you'll have a small indication of what the writing team of Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields are about. However you should note that The Play That Goes Wrong was their first - and in this instance, the original is most definitely the best. Trust me, just take my word and buy a ticket - you can thank me later!!

 

The Play That Goes Wrong

Theatre Royal, Hope Street, Glasgow

Mon 6- Sat 11 March 2017

Mon-Sat Evening, 7.30pm

Thu / Sat Matinee, 2.30pm

Box Office 0844 871 7648 (bkg fee) Calls cost up to 7p per min plus phone company's access charge

www.atgtickets.com/glasgow (bkg fee)