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Dec 27th

Miki - Norden Farm Centre for the Arts, Maidenhead

By Kate Braxton

There is always a point between Christmas and New Year where children and adults alike become restless, and this little nugget of theatrical wonder is the perfect treat to keep the magic of the season alive.

Based on the illustrated book by Stephen Mackey, Miki is an inspiring tale about friendship, courage and adventure. Created for the stage by Slot Machine Theatre Company and Norden Farm Centre for the Arts, the show's action hugs an enchanting original musical score by Nick Tigg, and is proudly unfolded by three masterful puppeteers. Rich production values and neatly delivered messaging transport us deep into Miki’s world in just under an hour.  It is at the very least, sweet escapism.

Miki (Peyvand Sadeghian), Polar Bear (Ian Harris) and Penguin (Jack Kelly) live far away in the icy mountains. One midwinter eve, Miki makes a wish, the moon weaves its magic and she is taken on a delightful journey as she tries to catch a star that will shine forever. The friends’ adventure leads them through an underwater voyage, where they meet all kinds of amazing, friendly creatures.

So committed to their roles are our three actor-puppeteers, while the integrity of the piece lets the imagination run free, I would defy even the grumpiest family member not to suspend their disbelief for a time.

The set and staging appears simple, yet one standalone, three dimesional feature cleverly doubles as both the mountainous landscape scene, while also housing the subterranean action below.

Lighting plays a key part in drawing the audience into Miki’s world, matching ultraviolet effects with brightly coloured underwater characters. The puppetry and choreography are attentively detailed and we find ourselves quite caught up in the current of the underwater setting. Miki is a tightly meshed collaborative piece, but so good is the original music, it could tell the story before a puppet has lifted its head.

Norden Farm Centre for the Arts is a terrific venue for a good-value family show and it comes as no surprise that their prior successes adapting One Snowy Night and Kipper’s Snowy Day have been followed by such a charming Christmas audience captivator. 

Suitable for ages 3+

For tickets Call Box Office: 01628 788 997 or www.nordenfarm.org

Runs twice daily, 11am and 2pm until Saturday 30th December

 

 

Dec 15th

WHITE FANG: Park 90 London

By Elaine Pinkus

White Fang, written and directed by Jethro Compton, inspired by the Jack London novel.

Mariska Ariya and Danny Mahoney in White Fang at Park Theatre. Photo by Jethro Compton 537_preview.jpeg

Mariska Ariya and Danny Mahoney: Photograph Jethro Compton

Jethro Compton emphasised that his is not an adaptation of Jack London’s White Fang but more a play inspired by that novel. It is important to take note of that for if you were to buy tickets in the hope of seeing that delicious novel played out on stage, you would be taken aback. Here Compton has taken the premise of White Fang and offers a new narrative which takes the struggle of the half wolf half dog White Fang and turns it into a human struggle for identity of a young first nation girl, Lyzbet, who in 1898 Canada is caught between two worlds: that of good and bad, of kindness and evil.   

There are several themes and sub plots running through this narrative: hunter/prey, identity/isolation, good and evil, indigenous displacement, integrity and truth. Lyzbet Scott (Mariska Ariya)and White Fang become one spirit in their journey of discovery, to find who they are and where they truly belong. Rescued as baby/pup, found beside the bodies of their dead parent(s), each is caught between two worlds: that of their indigenous heritage and that of the 'civilised' white man. At their core, they answer to the call of their old world but are trapped in the world of rules and mores. Ultimately it is evident where Lizbet believes she belongs, although her angst can become somewhat repetitive and sermonising in places. In their idealistic innocence and desire, each is taken advantage of by the greed of the white man, who has exploited them at every turn. Her beloved adoptive ‘grandfather’ Weeden Scott,( Robert G Slade) has deceived her, Beauty Smith (Paul Albertson) has lied and cheated in his greed for personal wealth. These strings of betrayal and deceit can serve only to fuel her hunger for her true heritage and the honest rawness of nature itself. It is only the character of Curly (Bebe Sanders) who is truly open with Lizbet, perhaps because she is a little in love with this feisty young warrior.

Danny Mahoney and Bebe Sanders in White Fang at Park Theatre. Photo by Jethro Compton 337_preview.jpeg

Danny Mahoney and Bebe Sanders: Photograph Jethro Compton

The puppetry (directed by James Silson) is inspired. White Fang, shown in three stages of his life/death, is convincing at each point. It is he that evokes the highest level of emotion in his unconditional trust of Lyzbet, taking whatever befalls him as a consequence. Words are not necessary; his physicality (snarlingly realistic) tells all. Just as we took to our hearts Joey in War Horse, we absorb this magnificent creature who is majestic like the landscape and who understands the basic rule of nature, to survive and defend his ‘kin’. 

The clever staging achieves the harshness of the Northlands (Yukon territories) landscape. Separated only by a white curtain, there is the external solitude and isolation of the freezing elements and the internal starkness of the log cabin. Each is convincing. With the relentless sound of the howling wind (wolfish in its manner) and the crunchy snow, many of the audience reached for their scarves and jackets to ward off the cold. Park 90 is a small studio space, but the staging was entirely effective with two adjacent seating areas around the small stage. As such, the intimacy and inclusion ensured full theatrical effect.

The cast performed their indiviual roles with conviction and were successfully collaborative as a whole. It would be wrong to single out any as all deserve a mention here: Mariska Ariya, Robert G Slade, Bebe Sanders, Paull albertson, Jonathan Mathews and Danny Mahoney.

Paul Albertson, Danny Mahoney and Robert G Slade (l-r) in White Fang at Park Theatre. Photo by Jethro Compton 633_preview.jpeg

Paul Albertson, Danny Mahoney and Robert G Slade: photograph Jethro Compton

With his love of the western and his cinematic experience (The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Park Theatre), Compton has created a quasi cinematic theatrical experience at Park 90 featuring inspired puppetry (Creator: Eric Davis and puppetry Director James Silson), original plus newly created score, (Jonny Simms Gavin Whitworth and Michael Raabe) and effective creatives of sound, lighting and staging.

Production: 2 hours including a 20 minute interval. 

Venue: PARK90, Park Theatre, Clifton Terrace, Finsbury Park, N4 3JP

Dates: 13 December 2017 – 13 January 2018

Age guidance: 12 +

Performances: Tue – Sat Evenings 7.45pm, Thu & Sat Matinees 3.15pm

 

Prices: Previews £14.50, Standard £18, Concessions £16.50, Child (under 16) £13, Young Patrons £10 (13-20 Dec), Groups: buy 10 tickets get the 11th free

Dec 10th

THE FITZROVIA RADIO HOUR'S 'A CHRISTMAS CAROL'

By Elaine Pinkus

The Fitzrovia Radio Hour’s A CHRISTMAS CAROL

Adapted from Charles Dickens by Tom Mallaburn with Jon Edgley Bond Directed by Owen Lewis playing at the Paradiso Spiegeltent, Leicester Square

Nestling in the centre of Leicester Square is the Paradiso Spiegeltent theatre, similar in layout to a circus tent where visitors access the main auditorium by walking through a large bar area. Seats are not numbered. My advice, get there early so that you can be sure to grab a decent seat with a good view of the stage, the props and the impeccably attired cast, who are suitably dressed in formal evening suit with bow ties and elegant cocktail dresses.  

A_CHRISTMAS_CAROL_1.jpg

Samuel Collings, Alix Dunmore, William Findley and Dorothea Myer-Bennett

My husband, who is a keen supporter of the National Theatre of Brent, was very excited to be accompanying me to this review. Those of you familiar with that radio drama will be aware of the format, which is very similar to that of the Fitzrovia Radio Hour. Others who have enjoyed the theatre frolics and capers of productions such as ‘The Play That Goes Wrong’ will be anticipating fun and high jinks. The promise that awaits is enticing. The stage is laid out with a myriad of accessories, ranging from washboards, cereal packets and rubber gloves as the source of the sound effects; there are microphones and general clutter on stage suggesting potential chaos and cue boards inviting the audience to cheer, applaud and make strange noises. Reminiscent of bygone days this takes us back to those times where audiences would sit glued to their wireless sets and tune in to the current comedy and theatre played over the airwaves.

A_CHRISTMAS_CAROL_8079_preview.jpeg

With plum 1940s accents and reflecting the attitudes of the time, our five actors take to the stage to deliver their classic literary adaptation of Dickens A Christmas Carol. But of course there are issues here and we are told at the onset by the ambitious and dastardly Ernest Andrew that the Fitzrovia Radio Hour cast have had to relocate to this rather noisy tent after a tragic and suspicious accident befell their lead, Stanley de Pfeffel, at the Wyndham Theatre where the scenery from The Importance of Being Ernest collapsed on top of him. Now it so happens that Ernest had yearned for the role of Ebenezer Scrooge, having played Tiny Tim for the last 18 years and is clearly delighted at this opportunity. Valiantly putting his best foot forward he will rise to the occasion in this tented venue, situated in the heart of Dickensian London and where ‘pickpockets, prostitutes and suchlike’ in the nearby streets add to the authenticity of the time. Ironically his humorous apologies for the noise from the proximity of revellers in Leicester Square’s winter wonderland are in fact what mars this performance. The external noise did intrude and in some cases prevented the audience from appreciating the sound effects which were overcome by the volume.  

The retelling of the story was delivered in best English Received Pronunciation by the excellent troupe of Samuel Collings, Alix Dunmore, William Findley, Dorothea Myer-Bennell and Michael Lumsden. Each consonant was exaggerated and rang comically through the hall with words such as chris – t – mas! In true tradition, this festive tale was related, with its ghosts and spirits supported by the crunching of cereal bags (to denote fires). And of course, there was the constant reference to their sponsor: a gin brand, their Christmas friend. But it was in the ‘intermissions’ that the chaos was exposed, with excellent comic timing. Resentment by the cast towards Ernest, opportunist flirting between Vanity Fair and Beau Belles and innuendo a’plenty - all of which raised many a chuckle in the audience.

But, somehow the laugh out loud responses were not there. Was it the noise that infused the tent from the local Leicester Square crowd, or was it the extreme heat inside the theatre?  We had so wanted to love it. This is a group with a noted track record whose past productions have been heralded and who hold a regular spot at London’s Globe Theatre. Certainly the jokes were there, the premise was just right, the content had been well considered and the characterisation was spot on. And yet ... Audience reaction is so important in a production such as this and I am sure the cast will have been a little disappointed. I suspect that the sound may need to be adapted and the thermostat lowered so that future audiences can really enjoy themselves and laugh out loud.

So bah humbug to those who were sidetracked and distracted and in true festive tradition (and in keeping with Tiny Tim): A merry Christmas to us all: God bless us everyone, and here’s hoping that future performances of this delicious festive broadcast will be appreciated more.

Photography: Geraint Lewis

A CHRISTMAS CAROL

Friday 8 December – Saturday 30 December 2017 (full schedule below)

The Paradiso Spiegeltent, Christmas at Leicester Square, London WC2H 7DE

Running time 75 minutes without interval – Age guidance 12+

Tickets: 8, 9, 10 December -  £20 
13, 15, 20, 21, 27, 28, 29, 30 Dec - £25

16, 17, 22, 23, 24 December - £27.50

All performances at 3.30pm except 24 December 2.00pm

​Concessions £1.50 off all prices / Family deal: £10 off 4 tickets

 

Box Office 0333 344 4167 / Book online at www.christmasinleicestersquare.com  

Dec 9th

DAISY PULLS IF OFF by Denise Deegan

By Elaine Pinkus

Daisy Pulls It Off by Denise Deegan at the Park Theatre, Finsbury Park, London.

 

 

Ah hah! Bully off, jolly hockey sticks, it’s back to those halcyon days of Angela Brazil and the bygone era of girls’ boarding schools with midnight feasts, pillow (or in this case hot water bottle) fights and, of course, jolly hockey sticks.  Inspired by her childhood reading, and wishing to create a platform for women actors, Denise Deegan wrote the successful, award winning Daisy Pulls If Off in 1980. Since then it has played in many theatres with varying cast sizes. In this revival, it is being performed in its original cast size and, as such, relies heavily on the artistry of the actors and the skill of director Paulette Randall MBE.

 

On entering the intimate space of London’s Park Theatre, the audience is greeted with the Grangewood school motto 'Honesta Quam Magna' (how great are noble things). Yes, in this privileged world it is honour, loyalty, honesty and of course social class that dominates. Will Daisy Meredith, a mere elementary school girl who has won a scholarship to these hallowed halls, manage to bridge the gulf? Will she be accepted by those who consider her their inferior?

 

 

Pauline McLynn and Anna Shaffer (l-r) in Daisy Pulls It Off at Park Theatre. Photo by Tomas Turpie 35_preview.jpeg 

Pauline McLynn as Trixie and Anna Shaffer as Daisy

 

And so it is that the play within a play begins. It is the 25th anniversary of Grangewood School and the girls are to create and perform a play for the parents, aunts, uncles and all who have come to celebrate. This is to be the story of Daisy Meredith and her chum Trixie Martin who set about solving the mystery of the Beaumont treasure, creating for this purpose their Dark Horse secret society. It is a world of latin expressions, ‘oh jubilate’, of social expectations and of course, sporting prowess. And in this world, there is no sneaking or telling of tales.

 

Productions have generally been played in a straight way, after all the script is so exaggerated that the humour is obvious within the writing. However, Randall has admitted to changing the rules this time and to allow licence to the talented group of actors who embrace their diverse roles with relish. From the prim headmistress (Lucy Eaton), to the bullying Sybil and Monica (Shobana Gulati and Clare Perkins) to the adorable Trixie Martin (Pauline McLynn), we settle into that world and experience the injustices netted out to poor Daisy. 'Play up and play the game' is central to her story. It may be enacted through hockey (Lucy Eaton as Alice), or led by the faultless headgirl Clare, (Melanie Fullbrook), adored by all but at its centre is integrity and fair play.

 

There are some wonderful spirited moments and delicious effects of gales and hockey games. As the play returns to its second act the cast settle confidently into their roles and perform with a sense of fun and enjoyment, winning the audience over with their antics. We celebrate the win at hockey through the excitement of Belinda (Freddie Hutchins) in his/her lap of honour and cheer when Daisy saves the day. 

 

The cast of Daisy Pulls It Off at Park Theatre. Photo by Tomas Turpie 32_preview.jpeg

 

The cast of Daisy Pulls It Off: Anna Shaffer, Freddie Hutchins, Lucy Eaton, Melanie Fullbrook

 

There are some wonderful comic moments with characters bringing to life those glorious boarding school stories. Pauline McLynn as Trixie was an absolute delight, playing her role with uninhibited joy and vigour. Anna Shaffer as Daisy was playing her stage debut and will have gained much from the support of her accomplished fellow actors. 

 

Although I was reticent about the poetic licence and freedom of this interpretation there is no doubt it can be enjoyed by all and is an evening of fun and festve spirit.

 

Photographs: Tomas Turpie

 

Venue: PARK200, Park Theatre, Clifton Terrace, Finsbury Park, N4 3JP

Tel: 020 7870 6876

Dates: Tuesday 5 December 2017 - Saturday 13 January 2018

Age guidance: 8+

 

Tube: Finsbury Park (Station Place Exit)

 

Running time: 2 hours 25 minutes including a 20 minute interval

 

 

 

Aug 23rd

Sophie at The Lion and Unicorn (Camden Fringe)

By Cameron Lowe

‘Incomprehensible to most …unbreakable to two

 

 

 

 “Sophie’s love saves me in so many ways..."

 

Sophie opens to the Peter, Paul and Mary song Puff The Magic Dragon’, the lyrics to which tell the story of an ageless dragon and his playmate, Jackie Paper, a little boy. Jackie grows up but in the process loses interest in his imaginary, creative playtime, and in so doing leaves Puff behind. "A dragon lives forever, but not so little boys" is thought to mean that it was only "little Jackie Paper" who grew up, holding a great significance in the play overall.

 

In the set-up we see Julia Pagett, sister to Sophie sifting through a collection of photographs, among which she finds a scrunched up piece of paper, a memory-trigger; ‘but what can it represent?,’ we ask ourselves.

 

It definitely appears to stir something deep inside of her, till she averts her focus back to what she is doing but it isn’t too long before she has to expel the fiery ball of fury she has allowed to build up, at which point too the music rapidly slows down, till it comes to a complete standstill; comparable, you could say with a wind-up toy, that is void of all momentum.

 

The intro, sans dialogue, for a good few minutes is used as a valuable dramatic device, to help a necessary level of tension to mount, whereupon the music possibly resembles the slowing down of someone’s heartbeat, or blood pressure.

 

The play seems to hold two principal themes, the first being identical twins, which always brings with it a curiosity, and yet most people cannot admit as to why.

 

‘She’s in everything I do.” 

 

I guess, perhaps, it is because the world we live in expects a difference among individuals, in their appearance and behaviour. Therefore, when two individuals are a tight match, our perceptions of how the world is made up is challenged immediately.  And these likenesses then set off a variety of reactions – both negative and positive, needless to say we continue to be drawn in. Why, some people retain an element of jealousy toward twins, in regards to how close their social interaction can be.

Pagett takes ahold of her emotions once again after a splendidly truthful outburst, she then draws reference to the bike on stage, just one in a few props. A symbol one might say of Sophie’s euphoric liberation.

A second theme is introduced, the unpredictability of depression, and the importance of its power never being underestimated, at which point we witness a definite change in mood as the play becomes considerably darker: and to sum up the writings of Rich Larson:

‘… depression and cynicism. ..go hand-in-hand, along with ..anxiety. ..the three ..eat hope ..quickly ..’ leaving behind despair. ‘despair is exhausting ..we keep it to ourselves to (not) be a burden’

 Until it becomes too much. It doesn’t matter who you are, depression can cause you to feel isolated, and at worse it can result in you dying without anyone by your side.

Yet society has us believe that passive thoughts are transitory and so less dangerous than those which are active.

It can be unclear as to when we should intervene but severe symptoms of depression can be unpredictable. It, therefore, is better to be seen to overact than to not act at all.

What might be deemed as a passive thought should be acknowledged as it can be a sign of a darkness looming up ahead.

Sophie is an eloquently written, passionately performed piece, which successfully brings out the idea that despite even the kinship between twins, every one of us is an individual, and we, as individuals, drive the passive and active thoughts inside our heads.

 

Let the rawness of Sophie break the stigma surrounding mental health.

 

Sophie will continue to run as part of The Camden Fringe Festival until Sun 27 August 2017.

*A donation box will be available after the performance to raise money for MIND in the City, Hackney and Waltham Forest. Or donations can be made online at http://www.justgiving.com/sophie-play

 

Sophie

 

A new play

written and performed by Julia Pagett

directed by Keir Mills

lion and unicorn                                                                                

link to The Camden Fringe Festival 2017:http://www.camdenfringe.com/show.php?acts_id=1058

 

Review writer © Tremayne Miller

Aug 18th

LIVE AT ZEDEL: A SPOONFUL OF SHERMAN

By Elaine Pinkus

17794-spoonful.jpg

 

Appropriately shown as ‘the songbook of your childhood’ this charming 90 minute cabaret led us through the interesting family history of the talented Sherman musicians, Al and sons Robert and Richard. Featuring Helena Blackman and Daniel Boys, accompanied by talented pianist Christopher Hamilton and presented by Robert J Sherman, third generation songwriter of the Sherman ‘dynasty’. We sat back with our drinks and prepared to enjoy an evening of nostalgia in the intimate space of The Crazy Coqs at London's Zedel.

 

Illustrating the tales of the 70 year musical journey, related by Robert J, were those magical numbers that remind us so much of our childhood. Not only the rock and roll period of 'You're Sixteen' but fast forward to the Disney collaboration. Tapping our toes, slurping our drinks and occasionally singing along, we were treated to the wonderful tunes of 'Chim Chim Cheree', 'A Spoonful of Sugar'. 'I Wanna Be Like You' (ooh beeee doooo), 'Ugly Bug Ball'. 'Let's Get Together' and so many more. Blackman and Boys appeared to be thoroughly enjoying themselves, which transmitted to the audience whose smiles were testimony to their enjoyment. After all, who amongst us has not sung gleefully 'Winnie the Pooh' and 'The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers'! This was our escape from modern reality to childhood innocence.

 

Following its previously sold out critically-acclaimed London runs, A Spoonful of Sherman is now playing at the Live at Zedel programme in London’s Crazy Coqs bar (once part of the famously Art Deco Piccadilly Regents Palace Hotel). This is a pleasant way to spend a short while after a day at work. And in the final moments, as we all sang along to  ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’  we could only thank the Shermans for their wonderful scores, wish Robert J luck with his new score of ‘Bumblescratch’ and hope that the dynasty continues to be  ‘supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’!

 

Booking Details

 

Playing until Sunday 20 August 2017

To book tickets: https://www.brasseriezedel.com/live-at-zedel/a-spoonful-of-sherman  and  T 020 7734 4888 

Standard seats: £25

Show with Dinner: £45

 

 

Aug 16th

KIKI'S DELIVERY SERVICE at the Southwark Playhouse

By Elaine Pinkus

KIKI'S DELIVERY SERVICE by Eiko Kadono, adapted for the stage by Jessica Sian.

Inspired by her daughter’s drawings of a girl witch, Eiko Kadono’s tale of  Kiki’s Delivery Service took flight. It is a story which reminds us of the importance of loyalty and emotional bonds to family and friends which is so often forgotten in this hi-tech 21st century world. Modern life is so fast paced that we forget the importance of commitment and of human values.

Age 13, the young and impetuous Kiki is keen to make her debut on the stage of witchcraft. Heeding the advice of her parents and taking with her close companion Jiji the cat, the petulant teenager takes flight, sporting her bright red bow and her more sombre black witch’s dress. During her travels she experiences many adventures and learns the importance of friendship and loyalty. After all, even though her delivery service soon becomes a thriving business, Kiki insists costs are paid in kindness – a lesson that may need to be re-introduced to our modern age of bottom line profit and harsh social media.

Kiki in her witch outfit.jpg

Jennifer Leong (Kiki)- photograph Helen Murray

Having played to full audiences at Christmas 2016, this production has returned to the Southwark Playhouse for a few weeks only and with a new cast. The matinee performance I attended was almost full with a mix of adults, young children and teenage drama students. At 90 minutes with no interval, this was a big ask of the youngsters but they sat transfixed and cheered loudly at the end.

But for me, alas, there was no magic. I found the production rather too frantic, with characters running to and fro and almost hysterically shouting at points. Nevertheless, I could not help but appreciate the considered minimalist staging (Simon Bejer) of pastel coloured cubes that were moved to form different tableaux. These, with the clever use of lighting (Elliot Griggs) and the mixed sound effects (Max Pappenheim), a setting was created that  encouraged imagination. Rather refreshing when compared to the computer generated productions that we seem to expect now. Nor could I fail to appreciate the fantastic choreographed movements of flight that were directed by Robin Guiver. 

The cast of six worked well together, with some taking on many different roles.  Well done to Thomas Gilbey’s Jiji and Stevie Raine (Okino), who injected many moments of gleeful humour into Kiki’s Delivery Service.

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Thomas Gilbey and Jiji - photograph Helen Murray

Venue

Southwark Playhouse

77-85 Newington Causeway
London SE1 6BD

 

Nearest Tube: Borough / Elephant and Castle

Performances

KIKI’S DELIVERY SERVICE

Thursday 10 August – Sunday 3 September 2017

Tuesday to Sunday at 3pm and 7.30pm
No performances on Mondays

Box Office Online    www.southwarkplayhouse.co.uk 

24 HOURS/NO BOOKING FEES

By Telephone    020 7407 0234    NO BOOKING FEES

Ticket Prices

Previews from 10 – 13 August - all tickets £12
From 15 August: £20, £16 (conc.)

Family ticket: £64

Concessions

 

Students, Under 16’s, Unwaged, Registered disabled, Over 65’s

 

Aug 16th

Dreamboats and Petticoats

By Kate Braxton

Dreamboats and Petticoats at Theatre Royal Windsor

by Kate Braxton

Some shows could keep returning to Theatre Royal Windsor like a ferris wheel carriage, because they are rounded, neatly engineered crowd-pleasers - and this is one of those safe, heart-warming experiences. 

As the name suggests, Dreamboats and Petticoats is a feel-good showcase for rock ‘n’ roll, which we experience through the activities of St Mungo’s Youth Club. Set in 1961, ‘somewhere in Essex’, the spotlight is given to the daily lives, loves and acne of a group of music-loving youngsters as the storyline develops around a song-writing competition. 

Bobby dreams of fame, Fenders and fantasises about the slightly more mature ‘Runaround Sue’. ‘Sweet 16’ Laura is the bespectacled younger sister of Ray, who can write a good tune and wants to be ‘Bobby’s Girl’. Ray goes with Donna, who runs around with Sue, who shakes her stuff at Norman, The Great Pretender, who can’t see past his own quiff. Together, they twist and shake their way through developing relationships, and begin to discover what really makes their hearts sing through a terrific musical celebration of over 40 hit numbers from the 50’s and 60’s. Dreamboats and Petticoats is a show of hope and promise.

This talented cast of actor-musicians, many of whom double up in acting roles and band duties deliver the full show live from the stage. They are superbly tightly rehearsed and the production really doesn’t hang around at any point. 

Alister Higgins plays the love-struck, star-struck, spotified Bobby as if he identifies with ease. His voice comes into its own in the dreamy, love songs, although it would have been nice to see a bit more expression in his overall performance. In a permanent daze in his wake, Elizabeth Carter’s Laura is a joy to watch. She has a beautiful voice and from behind her piano, specs or insightful throwaway line, her performance commands the stage whenever she’s on it.

Both Laura Dartan as Sue and Gracie Jones as Donna are both hugely watchable and terrific vocalists. Their sounds are so well-matched, there are times when they almost make one instrument of their voices.

Norman is almost like the baddie at the panto, and Alister Hill is very comfortable at being funny, while musically, his handling of falsetto is standout. David Luke gives us a thoroughly likeable and less assuming, Ray, whilst the highly experienced Jimmy Johnson’s casting in the lynchpin narrational role of Older Bobby is inspired. At times I could’ve sworn Carry On’s Peter Butterworth was in the house.

Especial credit for the ulti-multi-task must go to the beautiful Chloe Edwards Wood and Lauren Chinery for taking on the lively choreographed steps while steadily holding their tenor and alto/baritone sax lines, but also Mike Lloyd for bringing Mike Lloyd to Frank/Slugger/Compere/Trombone. Lovely bit of talent.

To deliver this quantity of material in a couple of hours is great theatre creation. A bit of ‘Poetry in Motion’, the show is nostalgic for the oldies, educational and insightful for the younger crowd. So come on everybody, do you wanna dance? If so, that’s good timin’.

 

Dreamboats and Petticoats runs at Theatre Royal Windsor from

Mon 14th Aug - Sat 19th Aug

  • Show Times
  • Mon - Sat 8pm, Thu 2.30pm, Sat 4.45pm
  • Ticket prices
  • £16 - £32

For info: www.theatreroyalwindsor.co.uk

Box Office: 01753 853 888

 

Aug 15th

MAGIC CIRCLE at the Wimbledon Studios

By Douglas McFarlane

MAGIC CIRCLE

 

It’s always intriguing when you walk into an auditorium to take your seat, and there’s activity on the stage. Usually it’s someone sweeping, playing music or walking purposefully in full costume to set the scene. In the case of MAGIC CiRCLE at the Wimbledon Studios, a small fringe like venue run by the Ambassadors Theatre Group, there’s a guy in a circle sitting cross legged and finishing the arrangement of items and chalking symbols around him. He continues carefully and quietly for the duration of the 20 or so audience members to slowly trickle in and take their seats. It worked so well, that I realised we had a good production here with good patience and focus from the actor.

 

There’s a change in the lights, the audience quieten down and the actor on stage delivers his first line clearly and succinctly, with a tone of voice that immediately tells me he’s experienced with great projection. He sets the scene on why he’s there, a kind of evil hunter and in the blink of an eye, another actor enters. He’s the Detective from the CID who is here to solve a murder and is keen to understand why this man is here.

 

What takes place in the next hour, deserves much praise. When a play is a two hander, the ability to keep the audience gripped is in their hands. With some of the best acting I’ve seen on stage since I saw James McAvoy in the West End, this performance takes on another dimension.  The tight intelligent dialogue between these two characters is rattled off to perfection. They moved beyond just delivering lines, to having a conversation, one without hesitation, with clear conviction and tonal range that fits the emotions and frustrations that are building up.

 

Actor James Hyland also produced the play and it feels like a showcase for him, one that highlights his talents.  That’s not to say that Michael Shon in the role of the Professor is any less talented, but Hyland has most of the dialogue and is able to take a journey through a variety of different states seamlessly and effortlessly.  A truly epic performance and one that I was delighted to have seen.

 

MAGIC CIRCLE is touring a few locations this year, but you can find out more about the production company at http://www.brotherwolf.org.uk/

 


SEP 16 @ 7.30pm

BARTON UPON HUMBER - ROPERY HALL

Maltkiln Road, Barton upon Humber, North Lincolnshire, DN18 5JT

01652 660 380 www.roperyhall.co.uk

 

NOV 1 @ 7.30pm

STAFFORD - GATEHOUSE THEATRE

Eastgate Street, Stafford, ST16 2LT

01785 254 653 www.staffordgatehousetheatre.co.uk

 

 

 

Douglas McFarlane is London based editor of UK Theatre Network

Aug 9th

Bugsy Malone at Theatre Royal, Windsor

By Kate Braxton

Bugsy Malone at Theatre Royal Windsor 

by Kate Braxton 

Let’s cut to the cardboard car chase, this community production of Bugsy Malone at Theatre Royal, Windsor is an absolute delight. If anyone has dared to make you feel small this week, get down amongst young friends for this slapstick musical comedy, ‘cos this is where the fun’s at. 

Theatre Director, Robert Miles set the scene on opening night, as it was the first show since the theatre has been fully re-decorated, sponsored by fine paint and paper suppliers, Farrow & Ball. Nothing 34 young cast members with an arsenal of splurge guns couldn’t christen.

Most people know Bugsy Malone as the 1976 Alan Parker film, starring 13 year-old Jodi Foster as Talullah. I had forgotten just what a great score it is, and how much enjoyment a very simple story can bring to the stage.

Set on the streets of New York in the 1920s, Dandy Dan's hoodlums are terrorising the district with their splurge arms. His rival, Fat Sam Stacetto runs the Grand Slam Speakeasy and his gang are still using old-fashioned pies. Fat Sam engages the help of Bugsy Malone, a smooth city slicker, because most of his gang have been splurged.

 

Bugsy, who has promised to take his love interest and singer, Blousey Brown, to Hollywood, has to break his date with her. Meanwhile Bugsy and Leroy Smith - a guy with an awesome punch - witness a secret delivery of guns at Dock 17. A bundle of shenanigans culminates in a final splurge-down and the love split is resolved.  

Under the baton of musical director, Tim Hammond, the Windsor band keep the tempo moving for the young actors and actresses, many of whom have never performed on such a prestigious stage. Despite a few mis-timed cues between actors and technical, the cast is hard-working and a joy to watch.

Astonishingly, there isn’t a precocious BGT wannabe in sight. Most of the principals hold their American accents admirably, especially given they’re quite an international bunch. Australian-born Owen Barkla has a cute, Mark Lester-ish charm that puts him rightly in the role of Bugsy. Chloe Stammage’s performance as his sweetheart, Blousey, is controlled and mature. She has a natural style on stage, and a very promising singing voice.

One of my favourite moments in this show is Dizzy, the janitor’s wistful solo, ‘Tomorrow never comes’. It is a difficult song to sing, and Dilsher Bagri (who is Head Chorister in his school choir) hits the spot here, providing a solid, steady performance of the faithful, overlooked talent.

 

Confident performance of the production goes to the accomplished Mackenzie Foxtrot. A seasoned young actor, with an astonishingly consistent accent, his unique characterization of Fat Sam packs quite a punch when wrapped up with his natural comic timing. 

Originally from Ghana, Araba Blankson is wonderful as Tallulah. She makes the part her own, she is captivating and sassy, and holds the audience controllingly in her gaze as she takes centre stage for her big number. 

And for sheer inspired casting, and some watch-this-one factor, is the noticeable Lisbon-born Guilherme Barbosa as Leroy/Snake Eyes. He’s funny, he gets on with it, he has presence.

As a resident of the Royal Borough myself, I am proud that Bill Kenright’s theatre delivers this terrific learning programme and the kids look like they’re having the time of their lives. Big credit goes to director, Carole Todd and Camilla Rowland for her natty choreography. If anything, the finale could be shaped a little more tightly to sew up this joyful production, but there really should be a lot of happy punters in Windsor this week.

Bugsy Malone is running from Tuesday 8th - Sunday 13th August 2017.

For Tickets, call Box Office: 01753 853 888

www.theatreroyalwindsor.co.uk