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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 

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