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Jul 6th

Knights of the Rose @ The Arts Theatre, London

By Trevor Gent

 

This is a classic rock musical of Shakespearean proportions. Featuring the ultimate playlist including legendary ballads and timeless anthems from Bon Jovi, Muse, Meat Loaf, Bonnie Tyler, No Doubt and many more.

In this epic tale of love, betrayal and sacrifice, the noble Knights of the Rose must defend their House and their honour. Even as the chivalrous Knights return from a glorious victory, a greater threat against the kingdom stirs. As they face the greatest battle of the Age, and betrayal threatens to tear them apart, can true love and honour triumph?

Woven from a rich tapestry of literature and high-voltage classic rock, this heroic new story charges its way into the heart of London for a limited run this summer.

The Arts Theatre was a new venue for me and I was pleasantly surprised how good it was. Very intimate being a small theatre and very friendly and helpful staff.

The production was very slick and entertaining. It’s like Shakespeare meets rock of ages with familiar tunes but in a different context. There were a few laughs when some of the songs started but my attention was held throughout. Clever but simple set and excellent acting.  There was photographer milling around during the show which was a bit of a pain but he did apologise for any inconvenience. Something a bit different so go along and enjoy.

More details on this link http://knightsoftherose.co.uk/

Knights of the Rose is playing at the Arts Theatre, 6-7 Great Newport St, London WC2H 7JB until 26th August 2018

Created by Jennifer Marsden and Directed by Racky Plews.

 

May 30th

Moliere's TARTUFFE: Theatre Royal, Haymarket

By Elaine Pinkus

I would have loved to rejoice in this exciting experiment of Moliere’s Tartuffe, billed as the first dual language production to open in the West End, but sadly I was unable to do so. Disappointingly this production failed to meet my expectations on many levels.

Sebastian Roché and Paul Anderson (l-r) in Tartuffe. Photo by Helen Maybanks 192_preview.jpeg

Sebastian Roche as Orgon and Paul Anderson as Tartuffe: photograph Helen Maybanks

Written in 1664, Tartuffe set out to expose the hypocrisy and deception of religious zealots who manipulated those desperate to dedicate themselves to religious extremism and preyed upon their gullibility and naivety.This expose so enraged the church that it banned the play and it was not until five years later that this iconic French satire was performed to the delight of its audiences and has continued to entertain. Fast forward to our current day and its central theme retains its timeless quality. Manipulation of the gullible continues as does the violence of obsession, fanaticism and fundamentalism.

Adapted by Christopher Hampton and directed by Gerald Garutti,  and supported by the Institut Francais, Moliere’s Tartuffe is set in Los Angeles. Donald Trump has replaced the role of King Louis X1V and the versatile cast perform in both French and English. There are surtitles available for the audience on three separate screens. Whilst helping with understanding, these were a distraction and I found much of my time was spent checking the rhyming metre of the French couplets, the English blank verse and whether my French A level had equipped me with the skills of accurate translation.

 

So, to the tale: Film Tycoon,Orgon, is intent on attaining religious heights. So open to manipulation is he that he readily invites into his home the penniless and manipulative Tartuffe, a modern day American evangelist whose vile and deceptive ambition is to gain the worldly goods and chattel of his host for himself at the expense of the gullible and naive householder. Both Orgon and his mother, Madame Pernelle, will hear only what they want to hear, and see only what they wish to see. Nothing can convince them that Tartuffe is not what he says he is. And they, as the hierarchy of their household, enforce it on their family, rebuking them for their lack of faith. Taking advantage of the blind stupidy of the wealthy householder, Tartuffe sets about seducing both Orgon’s wife, Elmire and daughter Mariane, whilst cheating Orgon of his worldly wealth. It is only thanks to the cunning of Elmire and the strength of Dorine, the strongly feminist housemaid, that Tartuffe is exposed and finally taken away to jail, at the command of Trump’s aide.

At this point I can only wonder why both Garutti and Hampton chose to set the play in LA. As a comedy, this works well as a setting in a parlour or comfortable drawing room. The move to LA, using a set comprising a glass cube raised above sterile flooring with only a narrow table, lost the charismatic atmosphere so necessary to this observation of a family being torn apart. Where family members hid to spy on the attempted seduction of Elmire, they now had to wander/clomp round the glass cube, rather like Winnie the Pooh pacing around his honey tree. It felt awkward, clumsy and lost the farcical comedy of the trickery. When performing within the cube, lit with interesting colours depending upon the topic at that point, voices were muffled and unclear. It just didn’t work!

And that was the problem. The entire production felt uncomfortable. The moving between French and English lost the lyrical quality of the original; the wandering around the glass cube seemed pointless and added nothing to the theatre; the performances themselves were loud and at times simply noisy. Quel domage!

 

The cast of Tartuffe. Photo by Helen Maybanks 181_preview.jpeg

The cast of Tartuffe: photograph Helen Maybanks

 

Nevertheless, Audrey Fleurot (of ‘Spiral’ fame) looked stunning in her costumes, even though they restricted her movement to an extent. Sebastian Roche(London West End theatre debut) bravely performed his role as the naive tycoon (but was the chest baring scene necessary?) and Claude Perron as Dorine was strongly assertive. Paul Anderson (Peaky Blinders fame) was making his West End stage debut in Tartuffe, taking the role of this villain. But he lacked the credibility of this character and appeared ill at ease. (Again, was his chest baring scene necessary!) 

Paul Anderson and Audrey Fleurot in Tartuffe. Photo by Helen Maybanks 248_preview.jpeg Audrey Fleurot as Elmire and Paul Anderson as Tartuffe: photograph Helen Maybanks

 

 

Ending on a note of humour, albeit puerile, at the expense of Trump, twitters and all, the performance concluded. An interesting experiment but joyful, non!

Photography: Helen Maybanks

Theatre Royal Haymarket 

18 Suffolk Street

London

SW1Y 4HT

SEASON DATES

Friday 25 May – Saturday 28 July 2018

 

BOOKING ONLINE

www.trh.co.uk

 

PERFORMANCE TIMES

Mondays - Saturdays: 7.30pm 

Thursdays & Saturdays: 2.30pm

 

TICKETS

Prices from £15

 

TELEPHONE BOOKING

020 7930 8800

 

SOCIAL MEDIA

Facebook: TartuffePlay

Twitter: @TartuffePlay

#TartuffePlay

 

 

May 14th

Soap

By Trevor Gent

My review from Thursday 10th May. Sorry for the delay in posting as unfortunately I have been laid low from food poisoning after eating a burger (something I seldom do and now I know why) on the evening of the show but thankfully I am much better now.

Soap described as a breath-taking fusion of world-class acrobatics and water – bath time will never be the same again! Suitable for all ages... It's good clean circus fun!

Staged in the round as cabaret style entertainment in a tent with a stage adorned with bath tubs. The ensemble opens with the Gnarls Berkeley number ‘Crazy’ and an Opera singer too. Quite an appropriate song as it’s not normally things you associate go together.

This show is a mixture of Cirque du Soleil, meets carry on and Trumpton. Some very clever moves in an out of the bath tubs but not much Soap. However there is water so be warned, a bit like going to see the Killer Whale at SeaWorld, those in the front rows may be get wet. There are comic elements too and the audience is involved on more than one occasion. Some amazing tricks in this show and it keeps you engaged throughout (as there is no interval).

As well as the opening number Soaps live and electric soundtrack includes The Doors, Sia, Tool, Goldfrapp, Beethoven, Mozart and The Beatles - and singing live, is the Soap Opera Diva (Jennifer Lindshield - Carnegie Hall, NYC) – taking singing in the bath to a whole new level.

There is juggling too and even a striptease (a real tease) and a first for me. The lady contortionist was very good but personally something creepy about how they can do those things with their bodies, clever as it is. The Swan Lake number with the boys with just small towels covering their modesty was brilliant.

 

The trapeze finale with water raining down was mesmerizing and beautiful to watch. Brilliant entertainment and the cast mopped up too!

 

Soap continues as part of the Underbelly festival on the South Bank London until the 17th June 2018.

See website for details http://www.underbellyfestival.com

May 2nd

Love From A Stranger at Richmond Theatre

By Douglas McFarlane

Love From A Stranger

"I've read everything from Agatha Christie, but I haven't heard of this", the lady in front of me in the queue said as we waited to go in.


It wasn't until I got to my seat, opened the program and read that this one was based on a short story, which was adapted into a play by Ms Christie. So, the lady in the queue was technically correct, it wasn't one of her many novels.

It was however classic Christie. We know there's going to be a murder, we just don't know who and when. One thing's for sure, we're only likely to know right at the end, despite many guesses. With many diversion tactics, murder suspects, murder victims, and where it will happen. 

One of the ladies behind me, gasped often. A flower was handed over. Gasp! A shadow passed the door. Gasp! Clearly an Agatha Christie fan, she was immersed in the story and expected every twist and turn to provide the anticipated information needed. That 'aha' moment.
It soon comes, and it's not who you suspect. It woudn't have survived that long if it was obvious.

Love From A Stranger, was well performed but the star of the show for me, was the set. It had a flow left to right and right to left, unravelling new items, closing others off, changing rooms, homes, and atmosphere every now and then. Accompanied with suitably eery music, the set complimented the story line and supported the actors, giving them a quality backdrop to take the audience on the murderous journey.

Love From A Strange is on at the Richmond Theatre until Saturday, then touring to Birmingham, Glasgow and Milton Keynes over the next few months.

 

Review by Douglas McFarlane

TICKETS

Apr 28th

Chicago, Phoenix Theatre

By Douglas McFarlane

Chicago

 

You’ll have seen Chicago before most likely. It’s now in it’s 43rd year and I’d seen it quite a few times over this period.  I was wondering whether I would still enjoy it as much. Not since Ruthie Henshall performed as Roxy, has the female leads role been advertised as ‘starring’. I’ve seen the Billy Flynn role being plugged with Darius Danesh, the former Xfactor Scot, Marti Pellow, the former Wet Wet Wet Scot, and this time it wasn’t a Scot but American film star Cuba Gooding Jr.

It has been over 5 years since Chicago was in London, and its now taken over the excellent Phoenix Theatre where I saw Blood Brothers performed for many years. Next door is an excellent pre-theatre restaurant which was part of the former stage dressing area where Noel Coward & Laurence Olivier would have frequented. The Phoenix Theatre opened in 1930 with the premiere of Noel Coward's Private Lives featuring Coward himself in the cast along with a young Laurence Olivier.

With an impressive theatre, I had high hopes and there were a few surprises in the cast which were to transform the musical for me. It literally turned from a sexy show to entertain audiences looking for a great night out, to being recognised as a classic in my eyes.

What made the change ?

Well, Cuba Gooding Jr was excellent in the role, fitting the shady but dapper Chicago lawyer perfectly. His  subtle humour was evident all the way through and you couldn’t help smile at his performance. His dance routines were a delight and flirting with the dance girls with feathers the best I’ve seen.

No, it wasn’t just Cuba which made the big change. It wasn’t Ruthie Henshall either. It was a delight to see her in the ‘Mamma’ role, given that she made the original Roxy her own in the show’s revival in 1997. However, she’s a diminutive character and I prefer my ‘Mamma’s’ to have stature, a big presence and a belting voice.

It wasn’t AD Richardson either, back as Mary Sunshine, who always surprises audiences with ‘wait, what ?’ In her ‘reveal’ scene.  

It was a little known Belgian actress who stole the show for me. Sarah Soetaert is her name and you will be hearing a lot more about her in the future. From the moment she appeared to the end of the show, she had my attention. Her tone of voice, her 1930s styling, blonde curly locks, big smile and infectious character turned this show into a classic. The entire audience were bought into it. At times, I was realising why actors are sometimes called artists. This was an artistic performance. It raised the bar in the role to the point of making the show understandable and realistic, if that’s possible.

I’ll go and see Chicago again when she’s performing. She makes you laugh and have an inner warmth and great feeling when you leave the show at the end. The smile on everyone’s faces on leaving was evident, young and old, and it’s great to see a classic get off the ground again for a long run in it’s new theatre venue.

Review by Douglas McFarlane

 

Chicago is on at the Phoenix Theatre in London for the foreseeable future.

Apr 28th

Kindertransport, Richmond Theatre

By Douglas McFarlane

Kindertransport

 

It means transport for children, in German. The train that takes Jewish children out of Germany before some of the darkest days of our history happened.

A small button was sewn onto the coat of the child. Mum insisted she did it herself, to help teach her to be self sufficient. You see, mum wasn’t going with her on the ‘kindertransport’, and knew that she may never see her beautiful daughter again.

On this premise, the play takes you through a well constructed, thoughtful, emotional journey. We experience the heartache from a number of angles. As the child leaves and the mother holds back her emotions, to her Manchester mother who looks after her, to the child’s older self, now a mum, having arguments with her teenage daughter on keeping information secret.

Tears streamed down my face. Not at a single specific moment. Just constantly during the first act.

We need to see plays like this. We need to experience for one evening, one story of this period, in order to realise how many of these stories there were. How big an atrocity it was, and to understand in some small way what it really means to humanity.

The audience was varied on this evening in Richmond. Teenage girls were in groups and in eager participation. Part of the English curriculum now, this play is about the period 9 months before the outbreak of World War 2 in which the UK took in 10,000 Jewish children from various countries. This year it is 80 years since the first train left.

As you’d expect, the cast were incredible with the now grown up Jewish child being played by the same actress who played the young Jewish girl 25 years ago.

You have to go and see this play. You have to understand this story. It has to continue to be performed.

 

Review by Douglas McFarlane

 

Kindertransport is on tonight at Richmond Theatre before heading for Manchester.

 

Mar 7th

Some Mother's Do 'Ave Them at the Richmond Theatre

By Douglas McFarlane

 

Some Mother's Do 'Ave Them

Some reviews are easy. They make you want to write and write. Stream of consciousness kicks in and you want to tell the world about the performance.

Tonight, I'm pleased to say, I saw something special.

Christopher Biggins, Jenny Eclair, Bonnie Langford....and that was just the audience.

It was press night at the Richmond Theatre, and there was something buzzing. The photographers were snapping away at the entrance. Those arriving seemed younger and cooler than the usual crowd. 20 something women constantly preening their hair, gay chaps standing around seeing and being seen and stars nodding at the bar, knowing their presence was noticed. Someone behind me asked her friend why it was such a different audience. Press night, I said.  

But I was taken by surprise by what I was about to see.

Buy tickets now is all I can say.

Joe Pasquale.

I had heard him talking about his role on BBC Radio 2 this week. He was suggesting he'd made the role his own.  He was of course talking about the classic Michael Crawford TV Series from the 70s which I used to love watching with my parents. 

Would it deliver, I thought. It was brave to take on an iconic role and I was suggesting on social media that it was going to get a great review just for that.  

However, it was incredible. Who'd have thought Joe Pasquale is an amazing theatre performer. The lines came thick and fast, and the dialogue was sharp, focussed and delivered at a pace that you'd expect from perhaps a farce.  This wasn't farce. This was something even better. 

Pasquale's performance was engaging, mesmerising, intriguing and just perfect. 

I want to see more of him in any comedy role. He's got a gift in his voice, his comedy timing, his natural delivery and warm character. 

All the other cast were truly amazing. Betty, played by Sarah Earnshaw was spot on. Susie Blake was delightful. Moray Treadwell simply exquisite. David Shaw, excellent. And Chris Kiely, perfect. 
 

I'm delighted to say it was the funniest thing I've seen for a long time..... in the Noises Off, The Play That Goes Wrong class.... and what impressed me more, was it reached out to young audiences. Those in front of me laughed as much as I did, and  stood up at the end for a well deserved standing ovation, whilst the cast were dancing to Mud's "Tiger Feet".

All I can say is, your life won't be complete unless you buy some tickets and get yourself and your belly, down to an Ambassadors Theatre near you, and laugh, and laugh and laugh.  I did, and it was a fantastic night at the theatre.  

I just love reviewing for gems like this.

 

Review by Douglas McFarlane

 

Coming to a theatre near you, including...

 

 

Tour Dates

LONDON Richmond Theatre

Tue 6 – Sat 10 Mar

Box Office: 0844 871 7651

 

BROMLEY Churchill Theatre

Tue 13 – Sat 17 Mar

Box Office: 020 3285 6000

 

PORTSMOUTH New Theatre Royal

Tue 20 – Sat 24 Mar

Box Office: 023 9264 9000

 

HULL New Theatre

Tue 26 – Sat 30 Jun

Box Office: 01482 300 306

 

DARLINGTON Hippodrome

Tue 3 – Sat 7 Jul

Box Office: 01325 405405

 

NORWICH Theatre Royal

Tue 10 - Sat 14 July

Box Office: 01603 630000

 

LEICESTER Curve Theatre

Tue 17 - Sat 21 July

Box Office: 0116 242 3595

 

See more at

http://somemothersdoaveem.com

Feb 27th

The Weir at The Richmond Theatre

By Douglas McFarlane

The Weir

 

The Weir is the name of a pub in Dublin which in turn was named after a nearby waterway. The characters in the pub congregrate at a slow pace. It's the countryside after all, where things move a little slowly.  The characters come to life one by one as they tell a variety of different stories each more stranger than the next. 

The stories continues throughout the 90 minute play, without an interval, and as they unfold they gently lull the audience to being part of their intimate environment. 

This is a play that has been performed around the world since 1997 and won an Olivier Award for best new play two years later. So it certainly had potential. However as it's a very quiet play, any audience movement or noise can be heard. Additionally, the female character, Valerie, was supposed to be from Dublin, but in this performance she was played as an English woman.

Having said that the two lead actors who took on most of the dialogue, delivered some great character interpretations and made this play worth seeing.  The audience on a cold wintry night were certainly warmed up after this evening's performance.

The Weir is on at the Richmond Theatre this week, before heading to the Arts Theatre in Cambridge.



Review by Douglas McFarlane

Feb 23rd

A Passage To India: The Park Theatre, Finsbury Park

By Elaine Pinkus

Based on the novel A Passage To India by EM Forster, adapted by Simon Domandy and performed by simple8.

It is pre World War 1, at a time of British imperialism and colonialism. Forster’s A Passage to India was an observant critic of the assumptions made by those who settled into this vast nation of many cultures. The unearned holding of power and the misdirected autocracy of the British, demeaning those whose land they usurped, is made clear through their bigoted and racist attitudes and behaviour, performed with conviction by simple8.  India was a country keen to have its own independence but also a  land of many cultures and castes where social diversity, intolerant of each other, prevented that very dream.

Having seen the David Lean film of the novel with its vivid scenery, beautiful costumes and vibrant colour, I was sceptical of it being produced as a play in so small a theatre space. How would it be effective? How could it be convincing? And yet it was! Simplistically set on a stage whose colour represented the dust and the sand, we were transported through the power of suggestion and imagination to the magnificence of the colourful sunsets, the Maribar hills, the bleak and dangerous Maribar caves, the torrential rainfall and the hanging mangoes. We travelled on elephants and horses, shook unsteadily in train carriages and shared the fearful sensations of the echoes that resonated even after we had left the claustrophobia of the caves. And yet there was no technology, no super-imposed film effects. This entire production, in its seeming simplicity, allowed us to suspend reality and uphold belief. But this was not simplistic. It was carefully directed by Sebastian Armesto and Simon Dormandy via the excellent collaborative physicality of the company whose numerous tableaux captured the essence of India.  

Forster’s novel was inspired by Whitman's poem of the same name which held that the physical journey to India is only a prelude to the spiritual pathway to God. A notion held by the goodly Mrs Moore (Liz Crowther) and the earnest Dr Aziz (Asif Khan). But this spirituality cannot be achieved in a country that lacks its own harmony in its diversity; a people who cannot hope to connect with the British colonisers who do not understand India's mystery. Just as the many castes and cultures of India fail to unite in their common desire for independence, so too do these disconnected peoples fail to harmonise. Those who have taken and assume the power see the Indians as a sub-class, inferior to their own and with whom they cannot socialise or integrate but rather use for their own ends.

Credibly portrayed are the contemptible and despicable Callenders (Matthew Douglas and Hannah Emanuel), McBryde (Christopher Doyle) and Turton (Nigel Hastings). Clearly they do not intend to live alongside the Indian people. Rather thay will govern them. Genial college master, Cyril Fielding (Richard Goulding) strives to bridge that gap but is in part naive and misguided and achieves only to disappoint Aziz (Asif Khan) who has tried desperately to close the divide but does not understand the nuances, hypocrisy and twisting turns of the British, despite the warnings of his more aware associates whose contempt of the oppressors is evident. Ultimately Aziz's eyes are opened: 'you cannot be friends with the English'. There too is Adela (Phoebe Pryce) who in her priggish and proper manner claims she truly wishes to befriend and know the Indians rather than be a tourist in India. Nowadays we might accuse her of self delusion.

A Passage To India - The Company. Photo by Idil Sukan_preview.jpeg

 The Company

At its start and throughout the production is the atmospheric music of Kuljit Bhamra, performed by Kuljit Bhamra and Phoebe Pryce and variations of lighting (Prema Mehta) which create the burning heat of Chandrapore and the claustrophobic darkness of the Maribar caves. And so the scene is set. We are in Forster’s (and Whitman’s) India. The mood is set and the mystery of India is evoked.

A Passage To India - Kuljit Bhamra and Meera Raja (live music). Photo by Idil Sukan_preview.jpeg

 Kuljit Bhamra and Meera Raja

Against this and at the core of the novel/play is the harsh echoing of the caves, performed by the company who beat wooden poles on the stage boards and whose voices slowly gather to a screaming crescendo. This is an echo that suggests madness, fear and terror, that reduces everything to nothing and yet is everything. Mrs Moore (Liz Crowther), in her search for God and reason is shaken beyond her wits; Adela hallucinates and imagines an experience that causes her to make false accusations against the only Indian individual with whom she has tried to make a friendship. And so begins the downward spiral that culminates in a severing of any hope of partnership of the two cultures and serves only to ignite the already smouldering resentment that hovers so close to the surface.

Some may find the performed echo to be annoying and bothersome. It is lengthy and loud. However, I believe that it achieved its purpose. It was maddening, almost deafening at times, but it enabled our imagination to transcend into the terrifying experiences of these two women.

A Passage To India - Liz Crowther (Mrs Moore). Photo by Idil Sukan_preview.jpeg

Liz Crowther (Mrs Moore)

This question at the heart of A Passage to India challenges us today just as it did a hundred years ago. With their new adaptation of Forster’s masterpiece and a diverse company of fourteen, simple8 finds in the past a mirror for our own divided times, carefully re-imagining this ground-breaking novel for contemporary Britain.

Simple8 is an award winning ensemble company who specialise in creating innovative and bold new plays - all performed on a shoe string. The sincerity of their performance in A Passage To India and their commitment to the portrayal made effective Dormandy's adapted piece. I thoroughly enjoyed it and left the theatre deep in thought.

A short postscript, the running time for this production is 2.5  hours including a 20 minute interval. The age guidance given is 7+. On a personal note, I do not think this production would suit young children and would recommend it to an adult audience.

(Whilst writing this review, I would like to add that my recent visits to the Park Theatre, Finsbury Park, have been highly rewarding and I would recommend this theatre for its exploration into different writings and productions.)

Photography: Idil Sukan

A PASSAGE TO INDIA

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

Dates: 20 Feb – 24 Mar 2018

Age guidance: Suitable for 7+

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

Parents & Babies: Wed 21 Mar, 1pm

Prices: Previews £18.50, Tue-Thu & Sat Matinees Standard £20.00 - £29.50, Concessions £18.50 - £22, Child £15, Young Patrons £10 (20 – 27 Feb)
Booking: www.parktheatre.co.uk / 020 7870 6876

*10% telephone booking fee, capped at £2.50 per ticket.

Feb 2nd

MOMENTS & EMPTY BEDS Julia Cranney/Kate Treadell

By Elaine Pinkus

MOMENTS and EMPTY BEDS: Hope Theatre, Islington

Following its successful run in Edinburgh, (Double award-winning  - SCOTTISH DAILY MAIL AWARD 2016, EDDIES AWARD 2016 for Empty Beds) Pennyworth Productions has brought its double bill  Moments and Empty Beds to London’s Hope Theatre for a three week run, ending 17 February 2018.  Written by Julia Cranney and directed by Kate Treadell, both pieces are poignant and  provoke thoughtful reaction  from the  audience as they address issues of connectivity, mental health and the turmoil of solitude and isolation in the disconnect of modern life. Moments of seriousness  are broken by sardonic humour but the sadness remains in the hopelessness of the different situations.

Pennyworth Productions was founded in 2016. Their work’s intention is to raise questions about today’s world that we often circumvent as they may be uncomfortable in their acknowledgement. Through the medium of these two plays they have achieved their objective. The excellent performances and heartfelt delivery of the cast have steered the principle of this group to the deserved outcome.

The Hope Theatre is a small studio space above the popular Hope & Anchor pub in Islington. It seats approximately 50 and offers intimacy and proximity to the actors. Staging for this production was minimal with two large chests, housing a variety of props, which served as beds, buses and train seats. The productions relied on the skills of the actors who conveyed their roles with commitment, credibility and sincerity.

Moments features two strangers, Daniel and Ava. On first meeting them, we wonder what is their connection after all he is 56 and she is 25. What can they have in common? Ultimately it is their loneliness and mundane daily routine that brings them together. Ava believed she could start a new and exciting life in London but is desperate in her loneliness. Daniel has had a life changing experience and is rejected by his daughter. His sadness is evident in his solitude. Through the intriguing direction by Kate Treadwell, we are served a commentary through the dialogue which adds weight to their situations.

Daniel

Simon Mattacks as Daniel in Moments: photograph Nick Reed

In Empty Beds we meet the Wyld sisters. Despite being connected through their birth, they tend to avoid each other. Whilst on a train en route to visit their brother for his birthday they have agreed to show a united front. However, despite their agreement, 250 miles offers opportunity to vent their true feelings. This is strong acting which is emotionally charged. Like the swaying of the train as it journeys on its rails, we jostle from laughter to sadness, from empathy to anger and as such are transfixed to the unfolding relationships.

The Wyld Sisters

Julia Cranney, Debbie Brannan and Carys Wright: Empty Beds: photo Nick Reed

On a personal level, I was more invested in Moments.  Julia Cranney as Ava and Simon Mattacks as Daniel performed in harmony with a lyrical element. Perhaps the denouement disappointed but for the main part of the hour, it was spellbinding.

Watching Empty Beds was more objective and I felt slightly detached, less involved but intrigued all the same. This was an interesting insight into sibling rivalry. Moments of silence, elements of anger, attempts at laughter. Perhaps this was rather ponderous at times and some of the humour somewhat unnecessary in an otherwise interesting piece.

A thought provoking evening with excellent performances.

Photographs: Nick Reed

Running Time: 2 hours including a 15 minute interval

MOMENTS & EMPTY BEDS JULIA CRANNEY

The Hope Theatre 207 Upper Street London N1 1RL

30 Jan - 17 Feb 2018 Tuesday - Saturday7.45pmTickets £15 & £12 concs

Box Office: 0333 666 3366 www.thehopetheatre.com

Social Media Details

www.pennyworthproductions.co.uk

Twitter: @PennyworthProd Facebook: Pennyworth Productions

 

Twitter: @TheHopeTheatre Facebook: /thehopetheatre