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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)

Feb 7th

Thoroughly Modern Millie at The King's Theatre, Glasgow

By Cameron Lowe

Review by Chris Lowe

 

Thoroughly Modern Millie is a 1967 American musical and romantic comedy film which came to broadway in 2002. The story focuses on a naive young woman who finds herself in the midst of an adventure pursuing her goal of marrying a rich man.

In New York City, 1922 Millie Dillmount (Joanne Clifton) is driven to find work as a stenographer to a wealthy businessman (Graham MacDuff) who she plans to marry. Millie befriends a sweet girl named Miss Dorothy Brown (Katherine Glover) an orphan who has checked into the Priscilla Hotel where Millie also resides. Unknown to Millie and Dorothy, their hotel owner Mrs. Meers (Michelle Collins) is selling her tenants into "white slavery".  At a friendship dance in the hall, Millie meets a paperclip salesman Jimmy Smith (Sam Barrett) who she takes an instant liking to.

Joanne Clifton delivered a wondrous performance as Millie. She can dance with zest and she certainly can sing with that bold, brassy voice and a flawless delivery which allowed the show to soar.

Sam Barrett plays a great supporting character and you can feel the connection between Millie and Jimmy from the start. His voice was extraordinary, dancing skills were striking and he paired very well with Joanne Clifton.

The funniest performer would have to be Millie's boss played by Graham MacDuff. His acting was incredible and his dancing was staggering to watch but it was his comedic performance which stole the second half of the show. The funniest scene of all time would be when Mr. Graydon has had a bit too much to drink; his portrayal of his inebriation is nothing short of hilarious and had the audience in stitches.

Overall I cannot fault any of the cast members and musicians or the production value. The set had a nice aesthetic, the choreography was pristine and each cast member delivered their own unique performance with precision. This is a musical not to be missed!

LISTINGS

Thoroughly Modern Mille

Mon 6-Sat 11 Feb 2017

Mon-Sat eves, 7.30pm

Wed &Sat mats, 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)

 

Dec 22nd

The McDougalls, Chaos At Christmas - Harbour Arts Centre, Irvine, December 2016

By Jon Cuthbertson

 

The McDougalls present a fun and festive family show filled with laughter and song.

The McDougalls

The McDougalls are already a little bit of a cult hit with the kids of Inverclyde and Ayrshire – and the kids of Glasgow are catching on too after their recent trip to the Theatre Royal. Aimed at the pre-school market, the shows are mainly set around songs that the young people can join in with, performed by larger than life characters who move it along in story form.

In this latest production, Chaos At Christmas, there are many classics that even I remember from my childhood (although with some new verses on to Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, I had to rely on the 3 year old beside me to help me with the actions and words!) and some new songs that I believe are written specially for the McDougalls.

The McDougalls themselves are Max (played by one of the show’s creators, Ryan Moir), Maisie (Colleen Garrett) and Auntie Aggie (the show’s other creator, Ruairidh Forde). They are joined throughout by various other characters such as their, rather large, pet rabbit Morag (played by Euan Barker in one his many skin character guises) and wee cousin Shug (a second role for the versatile Ruairidh Forde). Each character is lively,colourful and full of energy.

 

The simple story follows the family on Christmas Eve as they prepare for Christmas Day itself, however nothing quite goes to plan. Shug has been rehearsing the wrong song for the school nativity and has the wrong costume (his monkey onesie may look cute, but just won’t do when it’s a donkey in the nativity), Aunt Aggie has ruined the turkey and Morag has eaten the carrot that was to be left for the reindeer!

Each of the performers have their moment to shine - Max has been praticing his piano and so we get to see Ryan Moir's musical talents here. Maisie sings a gentle version of Little Donkey to Cousin Shug (and manages to keep a room full of rowdy toddlers enthralled in silence as she sings - a very brave decision to take in a show like this and one that worked extremely well) giving us the chance to hear Colleen Garrett's vocals. Ruairidh Forde's moment to shine was during one of the most interactive parts of the show - 8 kids were chosen to come up to help play Santa's reindeer for a song. As Aunt Aggie, Mr Forde spoke to each of the children and had a little joke or quip ready for any of the answers they threw at him (and trust me, kids of that age can say pretty much anything!). With appearances from a snowman and from Santa (who arrives through the fireplace, having been stuck up the chimney - cue for a song? Of course!) and even some magical snow for the show's finale, there is festive fare aplenty. 

The McDougalls wrap up the show by telling the audience "We're the McDougalls and we've had fun!". Well, they weren't alone - the audience seemed to have had a ball.

Having grown up watching Cilla and Artie in the Singing Kettle, this seems like exactly the kind of show I'd want to see as a child now - a sophisticated Singing Kettle for 2016. With the colourful sets, the energetic characters and the wonderful music this is 5 star family fun!

 

Listings

Harbour Arts Centre Irvine

 

Friday 16th December 6.30pm

Sunday 18th December 1pm (SOLD OUT)

Sunday 18th December 3pm

Sunday 18th December 6.30pm

Wednesday 21st December 6.30pm

Thursday 22nd December 6.30pm

Friday 23rd December 6.30pm

 

http://www.ticketweb.co.uk/artist/harbour-arts-centre-tickets/976948

(booking fee applies)

for more dates see www.mcdougallstheatre.com

 

Dec 9th

Cinderella – King’s Theatre, Glasgow (until Sun 8 January 2017)

By Cameron Lowe

Why are Pantos like hospitals? Because the audience are always in stitches! You can keep that one – have it for free!  ‘Tis the season for corny jokes and Glasgow’s King’s Theatre Pantomime, Cinderella, has them by the bucketload thanks to the hilarious talents of writer, Eric Potts (much better than my effort above).

 

If you thought that Panto was dead, get yourself along to the King’s theatre and get yourself re-educated.  There is plenty of hilarity for all ages on stage and a top knotch soundtrack of up-to-date tunes to keep even the greenest of Grinches tapping their feet.  Choreography from Ian West is first class, too, keeping a great balance of contemporary steps and classic promenades to show off those lavish costumes.  The whole production has a very high quality feel while director, Morag Fullerton, keeps up the machine gun pace admirably as those quick fire jokes are delivered like bullets from a gattling gun!  Cinderella’s trnsformation is magical and her coach and horses are worth the ticket price alone!

 

The principal cast of characters delivered on all fronts.  Gregor Fisher and Tony Roper rightfully stole the show as Euphimia and Lavinia (“Lavvy” for short); the ugly sisters but they were not left to carry this show.  Des Clarke continued to keep the share price of Red Bull high with his high-energy portrayal of Buttons and Elaine Mackenzie Ellis ensured that all her couplets were rhyming as the Fairy Godmother.  Gary Lamont was outstanding; showing off both comedic and singing talent as the ‘just-camp-enough-to-be-hilarious’ Dandini.  Meanwhile, the romantic lead roles played by Gillian Ford (Cinderella) and Josh Tavendale (Prince Charming) ensured that the narative was delivered while entertaining our ears with impressive vocal talent.

 

It was an absolute joy to attend this performance and I left feeling that my laughter muscles had had a good workout.  You cannot beat this show for a great family night out this Christmas.  Treat yourself to some Christmas Cheer at the King’s this year!

 

 All images courtesy of the King's Theatre, Glasgow. 

Listings Info:

 

CINDERELLA

 

KING’S THEATRE GLASGOW

Fri 2 Dec 2016 – Sun 8 Jan 2017 (please call box office for full details)

 

Access Performances:

Captioned Performances – Wed 14 Dec, 1pm & Wed 21 Dec, 7pm

Sign Language Interpreted – Fri 16 Dec, 11am & Mon 19 Dec, 7pm

Audio Described – Tue 3 Jan, 1pm

Relaxed Performance - Fri 6 Jan, 11am

Box Office: 0844 871 7648 (bkg fee)

Schools and group bookings: 0844 871 7602

Calls cost 7p per min, plus your phone company’s access charge

 

www.atgtickets.com/glasgow (bkg fee)

 

Oct 20th

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at The Kings Theatre, Glasgow

By Cameron Lowe

 

 

The show certainly bursts onto the stage with a bang (bang), but can you believe the hype?

 

Seven years on from my first sight of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang on tour and I must confess that the “wow” factor has diminished a little.  It’s still a great show with many positive elements and little to say that is actually ‘wrong’ with it … but the action was not quite as gripping for me as the first time around (and, before you suggest otherwise … I wasn’t 12 when I last reviewed the show!).

 

Even if the car had been a huge disappointment, the show would have proved itself as to be a good piece of musical theatre.  The sizable cast of adults and children filled the stage with energetic performances, solid vocals and entertaining dance routines.  The large scale set added a childlike sense of drama as it dwarfed everything and provided a dynamic backdrop for the extensive use of animated projections.  Choreography was characteristic and entertaining in equal measure and flawlessly executed throughout – including a musical theatre favourite – a tap routine!  The adapted script was bold in both cuts from and additions to the original 1968 movie screenplay and delivered rounded characters who were quickly lovable (or loathable) as required.

 

As I said; very little to complain about.  Picking nits I might suggest that some principal characters lacked a little verve and there was a sense that the show lacked freedom as everything had to click along at a fixed pace to match the projected animations.  But this was a small criticism of a polished (and expensive looking) gem.  It’s true to say that this is a family show which is firmly aimed at the younger members of the family.  There was the occasional double entendre (Spotted Dick was mentioned twice!) but this is no Shrek in the script department.

 

The score is packed with childhood favourites like Toot Sweets, The Ol’ Bamboo and Truly Scrumptious and the principal cast together with the large and talented ensemble delivered all to a good standard and to the delight of the audience of young and old alike. Headliners Jason Manford (Caractacus Potts), Phill Jupitis (Baron) and Claire Sweeney (Baroness) don’t disappoint while Charlotte Wakefield proves to be a sweet Truly Scrumptious (pun intended).

 

But the car … oh, the car is the star (as they say)!  Take every wish that you may have dared to fanaticise upon for the delivery of your childhood dream Chitty and it is produced as a reality on stage.  There is a seemingly endless escalation of awesomeness as the car performs one miracle after another from its first spotlight reflecting reveal through a speeding countryside journey to a jaw dropping slow motion fall from a clifftop!  Chitty deservedly takes the final bow at the end of the show to the strains of the Superman movie theme!  WOW!

 

If you have kids (or can ‘borrow’ one) don’t miss this fantastic show … its fantasmagorical!

 

Listing Information

 

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

King’s Theatre Glasgow

Wed 19-Sat, 29 Oct

Wed-Sat eves,7.30pm

Wed (26 Oct), Thu & Sat mats 2.30pm

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

www.atgtickets.com/glasgow (bkg fee)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oct 5th

Sister Act at The King’s Theatre, Glasgow

By Cameron Lowe

 

Review by Cameron Lowe

 

Sister Act is raising spirits at Glasgow’s King’s Theatre this week!

 

Based on the 1992 movie starring Whoopi Goldberg, this musical has found its shining star in Alexandra Burke.  Having thoroughly enjoyed Ms Burke’s performance in the recent tour of The Bodyguard I had high expectations for this production which were quickly surpassed.  Alexandra Burke is “Heaven sent” to play the role of Deloris Van Cartier!

 

The show itself has a fantastic blend of comedic characters and a score that hits the high notes with original songs from Alan Menken (famed for Disney’s musical revival in the 90s) which fit the late 70s era perfectly.  The story puts our heroine in ‘peril’ but the delivery from Director Craig Revel Horwood is very light hearted.

 

There are some brilliant supporting performances.  Sarah Goggin shines as Sister Mary Robert – the mousy quiet nun who finds her voice – and what a VOICE!  Those who are new to this show may be surprised by the laughs generated by the ‘bad guys’ who hunt our heroine down while she seeks shelter in the convent.  The laughs come loudest from the performance of Sandy Grigelis as “TJ” – the nephew of the gang leader whose strange habits are said to “skip a generation”!  Karen Mann delivers some impressive “wow” moments as Mother Superior.  The power and vocal range of this diminutive performer was phenomenal.

 

The production is well presented with a very solid looking church interior and balcony designed by Matthew Wright.  This was swiftly (and minimally) converted into a bar, police station and street exterior as required.  The only element that didn’t quite work for me was the ‘confession scene’ which I think might have been better served by a simple confessional truck.  The sound and light show was seamlessly delivered and suitably atmospheric.

 

But back to Alexandra Burke who completely in-habit-ed the role of Deloris (#punsareNOTweapons).  I expected the vocals to be flawless and impressive (they were) but I was equally impressed with Ms Burke’s comic timing and her high energy delivery of the character as Deloris lifted the spirits of everyone around her.  A fabulous performance from an all-rounder leading lady. 

 

You MUST see this show!  There is nothing quite as entertaining as a nun in a sparkly habit singing and dancing to a hip hop beat!!

 

 

SISTER ACT – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

 

Tues 4 Oct-Sat 8 Oct

 

Tues-Sat eves, 7.30pm

 

Wed & Sat mats, 2.30pm

 

Please note Alexandra Burke will star in evening performances only

 

Box Office 0844 871 7648 (bkg fee) Calls cost up to7p per minute, plus your phone company’s access charge.

 

 

www.atgtickets.com/glasgow (bkg fee)

 

 

Sep 16th

CATS at The King's Theatre, Glasgow

By Cameron Lowe

Review by Suzanne Lowe

 

Cats holds a special place in my heart having seen it in the past countless times.  Being an avid lover of all things “dance” this show ticks all the boxes for me.

 

The show is based on the book of poems from T.S. Elliot’s “Old Possums’s Book of Practical Cats” a childhood favourite of its creator Andrew Lloyd Webber.  A completely “sung through” musical it has the added challenge for all characters, except “Old Deuteronomy” and “Grizabella”, to be accomplished dancers.

 

From the opening number, the iconic dance moves did not disappoint.  High energy and great vocals draw you into this show from the start with the exceptional level of dance awe inspiring.

 

Lucinda Shaw (Jennyanydots) gives a superb performance of The Old Gumbie Cat accompanied by her impressive troop of tap dancing Cats.

 

I was slightly bemused by the revamped version of The Rum Tum Tugger.  Having been a big fan of the original version and character this hip hop/rap style number didn’t sit well with me.  My first thought was “If it ain’t broke…….”  However my much younger companion who was experiencing Cats for the first time was completely enthralled by this number.  Marcquelle Ward (Rum Tum Tugger) produced some impressive dance moves even if it was not quite to my taste.  I felt the characters normally strong presence was perhaps diminished by the changes.

 

Marianne Benedict’s (Grizabella) moving performance of the iconic song “Memory” was a particular highlight of the night.  Her outstanding vocals ensured that the audience gave the longest applause I have heard in a long time for a solo number.   Joe Henry and Emily Langham (Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer) delighted the crowd with their high impact routine while still delivering impressive vocals.  Lee Greenway’s (Skimbleshanks) performance of the railway cat was a joy to watch.  Always a crowd pleaser this was excellently backed up by the Cats Chorus.   Mr Mistoffelees, played by Shiv Rabheru, executed a visually entertaining phenomenal dance routine.  His impressive “spin” skills a particular highlight.  Special mention also has to go to The White Cat played by Sophia McAvoy.  A joy to watch her beautiful transitions between moves and exceptional balancing skills were a particular favourite of mine.

 

I did however, feel that the first half of the show seemed to be a little less impressive than that of the second.  Perhaps this was due to finding myself in the Gallery.  A little high up to be drawn into the cat like movements which are always carried out superbly by cast members.  Although looking down from that height gave a great view of the overall dance numbers anything happening upstage on raised levels could not be seen.  I think perhaps this did spoil the spectacle that is “Cats”. 

 

Overall, another superb performance of “Cats” by the cast and well worth seeing.  However to immerse yourself fully in this show it is well worth spending the extra money on good seats.

 

CATS – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

Tues 13 Sep-Sat 17 Sep

Tues-Sat eves, 7.30pm

Wed, Thurs & Sat mats, 2.30pm

Box Office 0844 871 7648 (bkg fee) Calls cost up to7p per minute, plus your phone company’s access charge.

www.atgtickets.com/glasgow (bkg fee)

 

Sep 13th

EDINBURGH FRINGE 2016 WITH A TEEN

By Kirstie Niland

The decision to visit Edinburgh for the last weekend of the Fringe with my son Cameron was a last minute one. So we put together a programme based upon advance recommendations from a Fringe veteran, coupled with impromptu choices when we got there. The result was three days of first class entertainment.

We returned home to a whirlwind of back to school and work commitments, and in between we pooled our views (Cameron's in blue) to write this joint account, beginning with Cameron’s first impressions.

At 14 years old, Edinburgh Fringe was my first big festival. Having always wanted to go to one I was excited and curious. It was only the day before our journey to the capital of Scotland that I realised the Edinburgh Fringe was not traditional towards other big festivals in that it was not revolving around one central ground, the venues were dotted around Edinburgh, but this did not then compromise the festival atmosphere.

I particularly enjoyed walking through this beautiful, historic city to explore various venues. Our first stop was Summerhall for two thought-provoking tales in the form of a one-woman and one-man show.

All the Things I Lied About – Katie Bonna

Here, Fringe First award-winner Katie poses the question in a TED-style talk: Would the world be a better place if we were all honest? This begins with a light-hearted journey from birth through to adulthood, looking at the ways in which we learn how to build layers of lies, and why we do it...to fit in, get out of trouble, flatter, protect, save others' feelngs...

We are in the round for this show, and Katie makes the most of the intimate setting with a gently comedic introduction, before unexpectedly disarming us with her family’s true-life story - a shocking account of how her mother was “gaslighted” by her father, who she says psychologically manipulated her into thinking and acting like she was crazy because she believed he was having an affair, which he denied for years. Katie says he was eventually exposed as a liar, but the damage had already been done to her mum, who was discredited as being paranoid and unstable throughout Katie’s childhood. Katie then holds herself to account for lies she herself has told, before giving a public promise to her current partner that although she probably will lie to her, if she does it will not be to hurt her, she will lie with love. She will break the circle.

Katie’s likeable, non-confrontational approach and raw honesty make this poignant story, peppered with humour, a lesson in lies - those we tell others, and the ones we tell ourselves.

Though I’m not really old enough to relate to some of the subjects covered, the show was still enjoyable. Katie started off the talk light-hearted, and ended on a note that was hard-hitting for many but with humour throughout that stopped the mood from dropping too low. It did make me think that if everyone was brutally honest with each other all the time we wouldn’t have any friends, and for most people I don’t think lies are told with the intention of hurting someone. In Katie’s Dad’s case he should have admitted the truth when he saw what his lies were causing.

We both agreed that Katie’s style of writing and performing is engaging, entertaining, and most of all, makes a difference.

Tell Me Anything - David Ralfe

The next show we had lined up was Tell Me Anything, written and performed by David Ralfe. When David was 15 he was in a relationship with a girl called Kate, who had an eating disorder. David tells the story of how he did his very best to help her in a diary-like fashion. It was emotional throughout, and pulled on the heartstrings of all in the audience. As I am about that age now it must have been difficult to know how to help someone you love when you don’t have the experience, and he missed out on the fun he should have been having at that age.

This is true. As David takes us backwards and forwards through his story, he rearranges tubes which are standing on the stage, as though navigating the maze of his relationship. He tries to make sense of Kate's compulsion to starve herself to achieve an ethereal/fairy like image; addicted to a disorder she admits is destroying her, but which also makes her feel good.

David begins the show with an inflatable dolphin attached to his back, as he had read that to help someone with a disorder, you shouldn’t judge, or force them to change, you should love them for who they are, and help them using dolphin-like traits of warmth, guidance and gentle nudging. However as his frustration and helplessness grows, with little support from her family or health workers, flashes of anger appear. Then David reveals his hatred of the media and its pressure on girls to look perfect, his dismay that Kate doesn’t see how beautiful she is naturally, and his revulsion when they kiss straight after she has made herself sick.

He loses the fight, the dolphin deflates, and he describes the ending of this, and his most recent relationship, touching on his need to be loved for who he is too. This was an intense insight into a boyfriend’s battle by proxy with an eating disorder, and the debilitating feelings men have too.

Skin of the Teeth – Fat Content

This was the last of the more serious acts we saw, and for me it was the most moving. Fat Content’s production, written by the award-winning poet and playwright Anna Beecher, is a reimagining of the Grimms' fairytale, The Boy Who Went Forth to Learn to Shudder. The story of a boy who can’t feel fear.

Nicholas is brought to life by Daniel Holme, whose exceptional portrayal of a young man’s vulnerability and simple wish to feel what everyone else does is heart-rending. Nicholas just longs to feel fear, and this, along with a naive belief that what is missing in him will not be used against him, leaves him exposed to adult manipulation. After a violent accident he is befriended by the charming Mr Bacon, who lures him away from his seaside home and makes a pet of him, cajoling him into carrying out dangerous tasks and dares. Nicholas agrees out of desperation to feel fear, with tragic results. Daniel acts out this dark and upsetting tale so urgently as Nicholas, the emotion in the audience is palpable. Despite being a grown man playing the part of a young lad, Daniel Holme, praised as a “talent to be reckoned with” by Onstage New York, shows Nicholas as so utterly open and exposed as the troubled and vulnerable youth, you’re convinced you are watching a young boy in real danger, willing him not to fall into Mr Bacon’s clutches and urging him to run as fast as he can to safety.

Nicholas describes how Mr Bacon and his gang sent him into a disused shopping centre in the dark to learn how to shudder, and blindfolded and whipped him to try and make him shudder at the pain he knew was coming. They even killed the dog Nicholas had adopted to see how he would react. If that was me I would have been terrified, but Nicholas was so determined to feel fear that he did everything they asked, and ended up stabbing another boy as they told him he might shudder if he hurt someone else and felt their fear. It made you want to tell him: “It might make you shudder but it will make you a murderer, and Mr Bacon is using you.”

Skin of the Teeth is billed as “a boldly physical one man show...taking an unflinching look at fear, fearlessness and the manipulation of young men.” It’s been described by Fringe Review as “A Work of Visionary Excellence”, and it is.

Our Show - Max & Ivan

Saturday night, time for some fun at the Pleasance, and what better way to start than with the dynamic and hilarious double act of Max, “the taller one” and Ivan, who “generally has a moustache.” They accurately promised Our Story to be the....Best – show – ever. Praised by The Times as “Astonishing: fast-paced and unflaggingly funny,” Max and Ivan took us through an action-packed, side-splitting adventure, directed by Tom Parry – and I haven’t seen Cameron laugh as hard at a show – ever.

This show tells the side-splitting tale of how the comedic duo first met, at two neighbouring summer camps. I can genuinely say this show was one of the funniest hours of my life. Having heard of Max & Ivan before I was excited to see what their show would be like, and I was not disappointed. I found myself laughing to the point where I didn’t even make a noise, just a combination of shaking and wheezing. It also included some of the funniest audience participation I’ve ever seen, taking a random man from the audience and creating “Luke the Destroyer,” the incredible wrestler who would save Max at the end of camp wrestling match, where the best wrestler must have a one on one fight with the coach. Possibly the funniest show at the Edinburgh Fringe, Max & Ivan are a must see, and definitely on our list for next year.

Like all successful double acts, Max & Ivan have a chemistry and affinity which results in impeccable comic timing, drawing belly laughs from the audience, sometimes without uttering a word, simply with an expression or stance. True comedy talent, with a lovely montage of photographs at the end of Max & Ivan when they were little boys. Awww. I second Cameron’s vote to see them in 2017.

If you can’t wait until then, check out their live dates here.

The Naked Magicians

They promised sleeves up, pants down – and as for the traditional magician’s top hat...well it was used for something a lot more naughty than pulling a rabbit out of.

Suffice to say this show features full frontal illusions. However there is nothing offensive about this Australian duo. The Naked Magicians are all about sauce not sleaze, and a little bit striptease. There are lots of surprises up the boys’ sleeves, when they’re wearing them, some (not too risqué) audience participation, and plenty of jokes along the way. I don’t want to give too much away about this one as part of the magic is all about the reveal – literally.

Currently wowing audience in the West End until 24th September. More info here.

Stop the Train Musical

From day two onwards the shows we had planned were mainly comedy, and it was well needed after the starting shows from the previous day. Following a good night’s sleep we set off to Paradise in Augustine’s, the venue for Stop the Train, written by Lancashire’s own Rick Guard and Phil Rice. Probably the most relatable show at the Fringe for me, and every other teenager. Stop the Train highlights the overuse of technology, not just among teens, but among working adults in the UK. Similar to All the Things I Lied About this show kept the mood aloft throughout with humour. One of the highlights has to be my favourite song, describing how the show’s financially struggling Welshman is waiting for his balls to drop (his lottery balls of course).

This is a personal favourite of mine, having already seen the show in Lancashire last year. Still in development, the musical merges catchy songs and humour with thought-provoking twists and turns – and lyrics that are current and relevant. Again, the best performance for me was by the beauty therapist and wannabe wag, who detailed her: “Ten steps to being famous, with no discernible talent.” Stop the Train sold out throughout the Fringe, so it’s no surprise to hear that very soon after, Rick Guard was sitting in Cameron Mackintosh's London office! I look forward to seeing this upbeat, characterful musical make a stop at the West End.

http://stopthetrainmusical.com/

Showstopper! The Improvised Musical

And so on to the Pleasance Grand for the first improv show of our visit, which was given a huge build up - billed as a musical, made up on the spot, using ideas from the audience. It’s “Edge-of-your-seat, laugh-out-loud funny. Raw and satirical,” proclaimed BritishTheatre.com.

When I first heard what the idea of this show was I wondered what could happen if the whole thing just fell apart. However this was not the case, and how the performers kept this going for a full 70 minutes I have no idea. Showstopper! is a musical, but completely improvised, I don’t know how they manage it but they do, and then some. With the audience suggesting what the play should be about, the winning idea was brilliant; a musical set at Queen Elizabeth II’s hen party, and the same man who suggested this idea then followed it with an equally brilliant title, Liz on the Lash. Using wit, excellent vocals and hilarious acting, Showstopper! put together a better musical on the spot than most people ever could.

Suggestions were also taken from the audience for the show’s themes, and these were Chicago, Hair, Into the Woods, Hamilton and Kinky Boots. Clearly such a tall order calls for a cast who are completely in tune with each other – and they were. Working together with such intelligence and wit resulted in one of the best displays of teamwork I’ve witnessed. Their tale of a reluctant Queen who has promised to marry the son of Greek, who doesn’t think he loves her – but then realises he does after Liz disappears incognito, and has a few too many tipples with a commoner in Portsmouth, is laugh out loud funny. The quickly improvised choreography is amusingly clever. The stand-out performance for me came from Ruth Bratt, who has many radio and TV comedy credits (including Radio 4's Sarah Millican’s Support Group) and played Queen Liz with aplomb. In words taken from one of the improvised songs, Liz on the Lash made a splash.

Eurobeat

Eurobeat is a comedic parody of the annual continental song contest we all know and love, and watch every year, even though we realise the UK will do terribly. The show plays on the common stereotypes of the countries in Europe. Probably not the most PC show at the Fringe, but definitely one of the funniest.

Eurobeat is held in Moldova, hosted by local celebrities Katya (Rula Lenska) and Nikolai (Lee Latchford-Evans). Basically this is a kaleidoscope of sequins, schmaltz and stereotypes, much like the real version with a double dose of irony. As we queued we were given flags to wave for our country of choice, and we all joined in the fun. Rula Lenska and Lee from Steps were a great foil for each other, playing the upright Katya and the goofy Nikolai, and we were treated to a couple of cameo roles for the results by satellite, including the excellent Patti Clare, aka Corrie’s Mary Taylor.

The vocals and choreography were strong and polished, with the cast clad in country-themed costumes. This is guilty pleasure at its best with no cliché left unturned. From the robotic Jedward-inspired Irish duo with flashing green trainers, to the innocent English Morris dancers in white (all probably related and from Portland we were told), and the girl group from Morocco with the culinary inspired lyrics: “His love was hot like Vindaloo...turmeric is sour, cinnamon is sweet, mixing it together makes it good to eat...”

Thank you Eurobeat!

Aaand Now for Something Completely Improvised – Racing Minds

On our last day of the Fringe we had our first morning show, another improv. Expecting something brilliant after seeing Showstopper!, yet again I wasn’t disappointed. Racing Mind’s Aaand Now for Something Completely Improvised is exactly what it says. Using a few props that are already on set at the start, appropriate music, and their own creative imaginations, Racing Minds produce from scratch, a play lasting a whole hour. Like Showstopper! they took ideas from the audience to create their show, asking random audience members to name the characters, a secret, and a title. We ended up with a mesmerising production named “The Missing Radioactive Submarine” in which the main character was Dave, whose big secret was that he had a very large breakfast this morning... with half a bottle of wine. In a cafe in Sau Paulo. Using this alone as a template for their story the group produced a fantastic, political satire, the majority of which I was doubled over laughing at.

What can I say, we were completely in awe of the comic genius involved in developing a plot from such a random and bizarre set of suggestions. As TheNewCurrent.co.uk says: “Insanely original.”  Amidst the actual story there is some good-natured leg-pulling amongst the group and some real life insights, such as the reason for Chris Turner’s absence. He was at a wedding in Germany apparently (due to return for his own show that night), and had texted to say it which was well worth going as he had met several people who owned planes.

The emerging plot involved two Smashie and Nicey type DJs, who are active on the radio (nice twist). They are broadcasting from a submarine captained by a Russian crew, and this is misconstrued as a political threat and potential nuclear disaster, which David (Dave) Cameron manages to avert, thereby redeeming himself following his resignation. There were inspired performances from all, and an intelligent weaving of world politics into a topical comedy on the spot.

Daniel Nils Roberts – Honey

Racing Minds were so good that we decided to see one of the group’s one man shows - Daniel Nils Roberts’ Honey. We entered this show with high expectations, after seeing Daniel’s brilliant performance in the previous show. One by one Daniel plays different characters, and I became part of the show when one of them, the ambitious American UNICEF employee, asked me to feed him yoghurt and jam, using what was essentially a cardboard spoon shaped like a hand, holding it under my armpit. This was supposed to prove the point that the problem with babies is their tiny little arms. After departing this show, past Daniel snogging a bear wearing a blonde wig and skirt, we made our way to the Pleasance Beside for our last show of the Fringe.

The exit was as alternative as the entire act, which begins with a man dressed as a bear (the show’s device), sitting, arms folded, surveying us as we enter. This introduction alone sets an anticipatory tone for some daft humour, so we are already on the brink when Daniel begins what has been billed as “An explosion of gag-stuffed sketches and unhinged characters from this mischievous man-child.”

There’s a multi-media backdrop to set the scenes, including the UNICEF employee’s presentation, and a simple pink screen for the lovelorn romantic author who reads aloud to us. Daniel’s guide of historical art, with famous works of art studied and given alternative names, is simply hilarious. This is “had-to-be-there” humour at its best. Difficult to describe but impossible to forget. One fantastically funny moment, a 120 second one in fact, was when Daniel announced we were having a two minute break. And we did, as Daniel sat, to our surprise, doing nothing. Apparently the aim was to tackle the "Edinburgh slump," the 40 minute stage where audiences lose concentration. Was he really going to wait for two minutes? Yep, he did. And it worked. We paid avid attention for the remaining 18 minutes. We will be keeping an eye out for more of Daniel Nils Roberts, and his fellow Racing Minds comics.

Observational Tragedy – Chris Turner

To finish off a great few days, our finale to the Fringe was Chris Turner’s Observational Tragedy. This show was probably one of my favourites. Chris starts off the show talking about what he is good at, freestyle rapping. On entrance to the Pleasance Beside you are handed a post-it note and a sharpie to write down an object or topic. The post-its are stuck on the wall in a row, along with with hundreds upon hundreds of ideas written by previous audience members. With this being the last show the wall was almost covered beneath a sea of yellow squares. Chris randomly chose a few, and then from nothing except what he has in his head, rapped about them – a tornado, a flat screen TV, the big bang theory, and “Kalahari mice shit”. Chris had the whole audience in awe of his talent. After this however, Chris told us what he can’t do, he can’t recall long term memories, and has to anchor them to music in order to remember them further down the line. I can’t imagine how hard it must be not to have memories, but at the other end of the scale he has an exceptional gift and is using that to combat his problem, as well as stun audiences.  Chris is doing another show next year about feeling inadequate, and it will be top of our list.

I had read about Chris Turner prior to booking this show, and was intrigued to see the “lanky, intelligent white guy, leaning slightly on the posh side, who can really… rap.” His reputation as a talented freestyle rapper is well deserved, his skill at composing a track-length rap, with witty rhyming lyrics, from just a few post-it note prompts is jaw-dropping. So this rare talent underlines the poignancy of his revelation that he remembers facts but not experiential memories. Chris is a charming, sensitive young man, with evident love for his partner who he bonded with over her fondness for inspirational quotes, which she pins to her bedroom wall. The show hinges on one particular quote from Iris Murdoch’s The Sandcastle, and its reflection of the speed and ease with which something beautiful and full of hope can flip to sadness and loss.

“I saw a butterfly flying out to sea. It will get lost out there and die.”

Chris takes us through photographic evidence of his childhood experiences, much of which he relates to his grandparents. He describes the painful loss of his grandmother, prior to her death, to Alzheimer’s. This was especially tragic for Chris because she was a powerful key to his long term memory. Despite the sadness of the stories, the mood is never low, Chris adds touching and funny anecdotes throughout, and asks for volunteers to share their own childhood memories, which he then turns into a second astounding rap.

Chris’s last show talked about his mortality, as he celebrated the approach of his quarter-century birthday - the age at which a doctor predicted he'd die from the genetic medical condition he has, Marfan Syndrome. His ability at just 25 to take the cards he’s been dealt and not let them define him, to turn things on their head, find solutions, and share that in such an original, highly intelligent and humorous way is laudable. Chris also has an uncanny knack of chatting easily with the audience like it’s circle time. Overall, a unique show which is clever and funny, and tackles some serious subjects without getting too deep. As I tweeted after the show, Chris Turner is pretty fly, pretty awesome. He’s also pretty damn inspirational. What a finale.

Reflecting on all of this when Cameron and I arrived home, I discovered a quote to hang on our own wall.

“We travel because we need to, because distance and difference are the secret tonic of creativity. When we get home, home is still the same. But something in our mind has changed, and that changes everything.” Jonah Lehrer

Edinburgh Fringe 2016 was one of the highlights of the year for us both. It made us think, laugh, and plan things for the future, and know, that if in doubt, you can always improvise.

And most of all laugh a lot. In the right circumstances, there is humour in everything. Even mouse poo.

 

 

 

 

 

Jul 27th

Wizard of Oz (RSC Version) Theatre Royal Glasgow, 22nd – 23rd July 2016

By Jon Cuthbertson

Well a twister certainly hit the Theatre Royal last week with an energetic production of Wizard of Oz.

 

As part of ATG’s Stage Experience, in only its second year, local children were given the opportunity to rehearse and perform in a professional theatre environment. However, they were given much less of a chance than a professional performer and had to pull the whole show together in less than two weeks of rehearsal! Glasgow must have some very talented kids to have delivered such polished vocals and choreography in that short space of time. Lisa Kennedy, assisted by Greg Robertson, created some wonderful and varied routines which the children delivered with precision and energy. From ballet moves to modern street dance all genres were covered and made to look like they were intended to fit the classic score.

 

Anna Cowen as Miss Gulch and The Wicked Witch of The West had some of the best lines in the show and these were delivered with a great helping of sass making her for me the The Wisest Wit in the West! Managing not to upstage the 75 strong cast (but only just due to extreme levels of cuteness) was Angus as Toto. Also a newcomer to the stage, Angus seemed perfectly at home and worked extremely well with Cara McQuiston as Dorothy.

 

Another part of the Stage Experience remit is to have young people assisting in the technical roles for the production too. This is no mean feat and they made a sterling effort at keeping the show running well. It looked like ATG had put the budget to good use here too with some good effects making the magic happen on stage.

 

Ryan Moir, Musical Director, pulled some brilliant vocals from the cast and even the smallest of munchkins could be heard clearly. He also must have been delighted about the cast he had to work with - in particular Alastair McLeod’s lovely warm tone as the Tin Man which had the audience, as opposed to the witch, melting. However he did save the best til last and used the finale to showcase once again the wonderful vocals of Cara McQuiston as Dorothy. Singing a reprise of Somewhere Over The Rainbow unaccompanied to a full auditorium was surely a risk for this 13 year old, but there was no sign of nerves here, just a beautiful lilting voice with more than a nod to the young Judy Garland which left many of the audience with tears in their eyes.

 

 

This is a fabulous showcase from the creative learning department, who provide some great opportunities throughout the year for young people, and I am already looking forward to seeing what production they’ll pull together next year.