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Jan 11th

Veteran's Day at the Finborough Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

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Colonel Kercelik (Charlie de Bromhead) and Sergeant Butts (Craig Pinder)

All they ever cared about was each other and the hell they'd been through.

Originally produced in Denver and Los Angeles, Veterans Day by political playwright Donald Freed was last seen in the UK at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, London, in 1990, with Jack Lemmon, Michael Gambon and Robert Flemyng. The London critics loved Jack Lemmon but hated the play, which might be one reason why there hasn't been a revival as yet. Marooned Productions in association with the Finborough now provides the opportunity to see this play after almost thirty years.

Three American war veterans meet at a Veterans Administration Hospital just before a remembrance ceremony where two of them are going to be decorated by the commander-in-chief himself: Private Leslie R. Holloway (Roger Braban), veteran of the First World War, in a wheelchair and in an almost catatonic state; John MacCormick Butts (Craig Pinder), a Sergeant in the Second World War; and Colonel Walter Kercelik (Charlie de Bromhead), the most highly decorated soldier of the Vietnam War with the looks and demeanour of an All-American hero.

The enervatingly chatty John Butts, who makes his living as a used-car salesman, contrasts nicely with the quiet authority of Colonel Kercelik, a teacher at West Point. Private Holloway's presence, though almost entirely silent, adds to the anti-war message of this play. As the evening progresses, the characters begin to talk about their experiences and it becomes clear that all three of them have been badly damaged by their experience although the ever jolly John Butts states: "In terms of fun, nothing ever comes even close to the war." Employed in an administrative function, Butts was mainly responsible for providing the big brass with a fresh supply of young girls. He returned from the war with a defective digestive system and a grudge against the Japanese who, after losing the war, now seemed to win the peace with their car industry. Private Holloway is forever trapped in a world of his own "where the dead murder the living". The calm Colonel Kercelik, a picture book soldier, turns out to be a sociopath who intends to assassinate the President as a representative of all the commanders-in-chief who have sent soldiers into the hell of war, leaving many of them dead, mutilated or badly traumatised - either by the deeds of others or their own crimes. 

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Private Holloway (Roger Braban) and Colonel Kercelik (Charlie de Bromhead)

This is the part where the drama stops working. After making valid points about the horrors of war and the appalling treatment of the veterans, the play takes a sharp turn into implausibility and becomes an absurd melodrama. After Kercelik informs Butts of his plans to assassinate the President including the catatonic soldier as a preposterous element, Butts does not even try to prevent the assassination attempt although Kercelik does not have a weapon or pose a threat - except to the President. The confrontation between Butts and Kercelik is rather one-sided and the outcome seems clear from the start because Butts is so weakly written that he is not a suitable antagonist for the deranged but strong and persuasive Kercelik who bombards Butts with conspiracy theories.

Hannah Boland Moore's production benefits from an outstanding cast who are sadly let down by a dramaturgically faulty play. Military marches and popular war songs throughout the 20th century, forcefully played on the piano by Craig Pinder, add to the authenticity of the production which is skilfully designed by Liam Bunster - a canvas splattered with blood and dirt covering the back wall and a sundry of props on the floor, including a defective gumball machine.

By Carolin Kopplin 

Until 24th January 2016

Finborough Theatre

Box office: 0844-847 1652

Running time: 85 minutes without an interval

Photographs by Scott Rylander.

Jan 6th

The Trackers of Oxyrhynchus at the Finborough Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

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Apollo (Tom Purbeck) and two sartyrs (James Rigby and Dannie Pye)

You need no consolations of high art,
Your human pain's cancelled by your horse / goat part.

Poet and playwright Tony Harrison's 1990 verse play is partially based on Ichneutae (The Trackers), a satyr play by Sophocles, which was found in fragments at the Egyptian city of Oxyrhynchus. It is also a dramatised account of the discovery of the papyrus fragments of Sophocles' play by Bernard Grenfell and Arthur Hunt.

Originally written for one performance only in the ancient stadium of Delphi in 1988 with a cast including Jack Shepherd, Barrie Rutter and Juliet Stevenson, and subsequently presented at the National Theatre in 1990, the play now sees its first London production in nearly 30 years at the Finborough Theatre.

Oxyrynchus, Egypt, 1907. Oxford dons Grenfell (Tom Purbeck) and Hunt (Richard Glaves) are searching for Sophocles's lost masterpiece in a pile of rubbish but all they can find are petitions. Fellaheen workers help put all the papyri in boxes to ship them to Oxford before the natives use the historically valuable papyri as compost or burn them instead of studying them. At long last the two archaeologists find a fragment of a Sophoclean satyr play.

Grenfell is so dedicated to finding the rest of the manuscript that he becomes possessed by the Greek god Apollo who, after having been buried for 2000 years, demands that the missing text be found. Hunt has also changed into Silenus, leader of the satyrs. As the audience is asked to chant verses from the fragment along with the satyrs, we are taken back to Mount Cyllene, in the 5th century BC and into Sophocles' missing satyr play.

Apollo's herd has been stolen and he expects the satyrs to find them, promising them gold and their freedom. When the satyrs find the herd along with a lyre, built by Hermes, they want to keep the beautiful musical instrument along with the gold but Apollo refuses and retreats into a "clogless, desatyrized zone" to enjoy music and poetry, which is not meant for satyrs.

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Silenus (Richard Glaves)

Jimmy Walters' intriguing production benefits from Phil Lindley's set design featuring Greek columns and placards with Greek writing, boxes and papyri scattered across the stage. Tom Purbeck and Richard Glaves convince as the dedicated archaeologists and excel as the arrogant god Apollo and Silenus, the leader of the satyrs - dressed in furry trousers with prominent phalluses. Peta Cornish as the delicate nymph Kyllene is not amused by the noisy stomping satyrs who indulge in drinking, sex and coarse jokes but helps them nonetheless to find the lost herd. The intimacy of the staging draws the audience into the performance even before the chant-along to revive the lost satyr play.

Tony Harrison's multi-layered drama that creates an arc from the satyr play to contemporary London criticizes the exclusion of the lower classes from the fine arts. Just like the satyrs, who turn into modern day hooligans in the course of the play, they are scorned and deemed too ignorant to understand high tragedy, poetry or serious music. The story of the satyr Marsyas, who challenged Apollo in a musical competition and was cruelly punished serves as a warning that improvement is not desired by the rulers.

An extraordinary and unusual play that should not be missed. 

By Carolin Kopplin

Until 28th January 2017

Finborough Theatre

118 Finborough Road, London SW10 9ED

Telephone 020 7244 7439

Running time: 80 minutes

Photographs by Samuel Taylor.

Dec 17th

Candid at the Blue Elephant Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

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We are abandoned in this empty land. At dawn, we are given the spell. Tied together in our bond, we will grow older and older in the same position. We will never question if it's worth it...

CANDID is a ‘performance-ritual’ devised, written and performed by Tania Batzoglou and Vanio Papadelli. Frustrated with the stereotypical representation of female friendships, this project was launched in 2013 and is performed at least once per year, changing with the performers and the space where it is presented. 

Before the show, the audience is invited to explore various "stations" about friendship in the theatre foyer or bar. One can listen to interviews about female friendship, answer questions about oneself and one's friend in a guestbook, or eat a fruit. What does friendship mean to you? The audience is invited to experience, comtemplate and celebrate long friendships as opposed to modern day short-term friends and pretend-friends of the social media culture.

As we enter the auditorium, we are welcomed by the performers, both dressed in grey, holding honeydew melons: "Please take your seat and settle in." The stage is bare but there is an abundance of fruit dangling from the ceiling, some of which will be eaten or employed for other purposes. Using movement as well as words, Batzoglou and Papadelli tell the story of two friends - showing their closeness, their love for each other as well as their rivalry and irritation with their friend's flaws. Using phrases from the guest book, they define their friendship before they begin to play Truth or Dare, a revealing game that entails intense physicality and forces the characters to intimate confessions that eventually lead to unwanted hurtful comments and a temporary falling out.

Episodic scenes paint a picture of what friendship can include, from shared intimacy and deep trust to rivalry, jealousy and the fear of loneliness caused by the pregnancy of one friend as their friendship will change once the child has been born. There are intense moments when the characters erupt into open hostility. Yet a real friend will forgive and your friendship will endure.

An intriguing project that offers some interesting ideas on the nature of female friendship, beautiful images as well as slapstick entertainment.

By Carolin Kopplin

Candid was shown on 14 December at the Blue Elephant Theatre.

Running time: 45 minutes without an interval

Further information: www.projectcandid.co.uk

 

Dec 11th

Benighted by J. B. Priestley at the Old Red Lion Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

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A Dark Night's Adventure...

After the highly successful 2015 Arthur Miller premiere No Villain, the Old Red Lion Theatre now presents the world premiere of Duncan Gates' stage adaptation of J. B. Priestley's novel. Benighted was brought to the screen by famed horror director James Whale as the 1932 classic The Old Dark House, one of the first films dealing with the theme of spooky houses in forlorn places.

Like in The Rocky Horror Show a couple is stranded in the countryside during a heavy thunderstorm. Margaret (Harrie Hayes) and Philip Waverton (Tom Machell) and their cheerful friend Roger Penderel (Matt Maltby) make their way to a dilipidated house on a hill to seek refuge from the inclement weather. Their welcome by the eccentric Mr Femm (Michael Sadler) and his even stranger sister Rebecca (Ross Forder) is as frosty as the house is uninviting. Despite a sip of gin and a change of clothes, the guests begin to feel increasingly uncomfortable in the ramshackle building. When they are joined by another couple, Sir William Porterhouse (Ross Forder) and his companion, a revue girl named Gladys Du Cane (Jessica Bay), they all agree that something is not quite right in the Femm residence. 

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Michael Sadler as Mr Femm

Created when J. B. Priestley was still a struggling writer, Benighted already shows the social conscience of the lifelong socialist as his characters, thrown together in the middle of nowhere, ponder moral questions. All of the characters are burdened with their own little unpleasant secrets, particulary jokester Roger Pendrell, who is still struggling with his traumatic experiences of World War I. The Great War plays an important part in Priestley's story, written only nine years after it ended, and still influencing the lives of those who survived it.

Adapting Priestley's novel that includes a good deal of soul searching and long monologues within the framework of a horror story is no mean feat and Duncan Gates has succeeded in creating a reasonable balance, making for an exciting and meaningful play featuring an impressive cast.

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Harrie Hayes as Margaret Waverton

Yet Stephen Whitson's production cannot quite decide whether it wants to be a serious drama or a comedy. The tone swerves between moralistic discussion and comical horror story. At some point the characters become so nervous that they even jump when somebody is not present. The fight scene in slow motion complete with strobe lights is pure slapstick. These scenes jar somewhat with the serious tone of other parts of the play. The ending of the 80-minute play is rather abrupt and makes one wonder if there is more to come.

Gregor Donnelly's set design, an expressionistic vision of a haunted house, all angles and gloominess, dominated by a grandfather clock, and David Gregor's spine-tingling sound design greatly add to the spooky atmosphere of the production and the important themes of reality and illusion. 

An enjoyable, atmospheric production despite some minor flaws.

By Carolin Kopplin

Until 7th January 2017

Old Red Lion Theatre

418 St John Street, London, EC1V 4NJ

Tickets: http://www.oldredliontheatre.co.uk/benighted.html

Box Office: 0844 412 4307

Tuesday - Sunday at 7:30pm
Saturday & Sunday matinees 2.30pm
Tuesday matinee 27th December & 3rd January at 2.30pm, Wednesday matinee 4th January at 2.30pm
Thursday & Friday matinees 29th & 30th December, 5th & 6th January 2.30pm
No performances 12th, 19th, 24th & 25th December & 2nd January

Post-Show Discussions (Free to ticket holders) 

Tuesday 13th December - Join the adaptor of J.B. Priestley's "Benighted" Duncan Gates in a post show discussion with Actor Paul Shelly.

Running time: 80 minutes without an interval

Photographs by Chris Gardner.

Dec 11th

Sleeping Beauty at the Richmond Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

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Maureen Lipman as Carabosse

For the first time in my life I feel free! 

The traditional pantomime at the Richmond Theatre is one of the highlights of the year in this lovely town, offering delightful entertainment for the entire family with amazing stage designs, beautiful costumes and featuring at least one big star. This year it is Maureen Lipman's turn to appear as the evil fairy Carabosse, a part she has played before with great success.

The show definitely focusses on the younger members of the audience. The foyer of the theatre is decorated as a castle and the show starts off with the announcement: "Turn off your mobile phone and turn up the volume of your children!", which was met with happy screaming as the curtain rose to a village scene right out of a fairy tale picture book and Princess Beauty's first day outside the castle walls. Closely guarded by Nurse Mollycoddle (Matt Rixon) aka "Nursie", Beauty discovers the excitement of the real world together with her friend Chester (Chris Jarvis), the court jester, Both Chris Jarvis and Matt Rixon know how to connect with the younger members of the audience, making Chester and Nursie truly endearing characters.

Lauren Hood as Princess Beauty, Matthew Rixon as Nanny and Dan Partridge as Prince Antonio in SLEEPING BEAUTY. Credit Craig Sugd

Nursie (Matt Rixon) protecting Beauty's (Lauren Hood) innocence from the bold Prince (Dan Partridge)

And Maureen Lipman enjoys every second of her performance as Carabosse, accepting boos and hisses as her special badge of honour. Arriving in a dragon wagon and wearing a sexy vamp outfit, Carabosse is a formidable sight indeed. And she becomes ever more frightening when she begins to sing, making Florence Foster Jenkins appear a gifted opera diva in comparison. Accompanied by devils and ravens, the fearsome Carabosse announces that her curse on Beauty will take effect before Beauty's 18th birthday.

Meanwhile Beauty is taking a walk in the forest where she encounters the dashing Prince of Aragon (Dan Patridge), who is in search of a bride - and it seems that he has found her! Yet before the Prince can present himself to Beauty's parents and ask the King for the hand of his daughter, Carabosse's curse fulfills itself and Beauty falls into a 100-year long sleep whilst the Prince is abducted by Carabosse who means to make him her husband. 

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The Lilac Fairy (Tilly Ford) in all her splendour

The book by Eric Potts does not offer a lot of surprises but the children loved the colourful show, directed by Chris Jarvis, which emphasises humour rather than romance. The adults in the audience appreciated the local references and the satirical quips on current political events and had as much fun as the children when some of the gifts in the "Twelve Days of Christmas" song were replaced by other less desirable items. The music includes pop songs from the 1970s through today, including the "Time Warp" which takes us back to Beauty's childhood when she grew up with the "Chiswick Chav".

Apart from the lovely Lauren Hood and Dan Partridge as the princely couple, the excellent Maureen Lipman as Carabosse, the delightful Chris Jarvis as Chester and the endearing Matt Rixon as Nursie, one must not forget to mention Graham James and Tania Newton as Beauty's parents - the King who is somewhat hard of hearing and his Chiswick-Queen.

The stage design and costumes were often held in pink which might have pleased many of the little girls in the audience but I don't think the boys minded too much either.

A delightful evening out for the whole family. 

By Carolin Kopplin

Until 8th January 2017

Richmond Theatre
The Green, Richmond, Surrey, TW9 1QJ

Running time: 2 hours 20 minutes including one interval

Tickets: http://uktheatrenet.ambassadortickets.com/whatson.aspx

Photographs by Craig Sugden.

Dec 9th

ALL THE ANGELS Handel and the First Messiah by Nick Drake at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, London's South Bank

By Elaine Pinkus

Hallelujah! As part of its 2016 festive candlelit musical events, the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse is repeating its successful 2015 run of Nick Drake’s ‘All the Angels: Handel and the First Messiah’ in the wonderful intimacy of this atmospheric theatre. Emma Rice, Artistic Director had said ‘After an acclaimed and celebrated run last year, I know that I wanted to bring this wonderful production of Nick Drake’s All The Angels back to the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse.’   Directed by Jonathan Munby, this is a play deserving of its re-run with an increased number of performances over the previous year.

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Before its performance in Dublin in 1742, Handel rehearsed some of the music of Messiah above a pub in Chester. He had been on his way to Dublin when bad weather forced him to delay his journey. The play opens with a grumpy, grumbling George Frederic Handel (David Horovitch) berating the local choir for their less than satisfactory rehearsal of his oratory.  Handel’s original casting was chosen simply from those musicians and singers who happened to be available to him and these are recreated spectacularly by Kelly Paul, in her role of the singing actress Susannah Cibber, desperate to re-invent herself after a disastrous sex scandal in London, and eight choristers comprising four ensemble (Saskia Strallen, Lawrence Smith, Paul Kemble and Lucy Peacock) and members of The Sixteen. With voices soaring to the accompaniment of Michael Haslam’s quartet, the tale of the organic growth of this renowned oratory unfolds under the lively and lyrical narrative of Sean Campion in his role of Crazy Crow, porter and part time ‘Resurrectionist’ (aka body snatcher).

 

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Handel composed Messiah in little over three weeks but it was never ‘finished’ in the true sense of the word. He continued to develop and adapt the piece, which culminated in multiple versions. As such, this work of wonder, holding great power and strength, remains mystical and does not fail to reach the depths of one’s soul. This is emphasised in Crowe’s torment and frustration that despite the magic of the piece that promises such hope, he must return to his poor and pathetic existence.

Campion is to be congratulated on his splendid performance. At each turn he embodies the essence of different characters – at one time the scruffy porter/resurrectionist Crowe, at another Charles Jennens the librettist and another William Cavendish the theatre proprietor. His is a master class in acting and he is entirely convincing in his different roles. Reminiscent of Eliza and Professor Higgins, Kelly Paul and David Horovitch interact perfectly and we can see her blossom before our eyes into the soprano of this piece.

Although a serious dialogue, there are moments of humour which lift the production and raise guffaws among the audience. Horovitch in his grumpy and somewhat sarcastic asides appeals to the audience’s sense of fun. In particular his reference to the critics of the day as ‘gargoyles’ was not lost on the number of press who were attending – good fun. Additionally Crowe’s justification on ‘moonlighting’ because of his poor pay and zero hours contract resonated with today’s audience and such poetic licence must be allowed.

This is a perfect Christmas production in a perfect setting, deserving of its rapturous applause. ‘Christmas, candlelight, Handel and Messiah – what more could you want.’ (Emma Rice)  Halelujah to that!

All the Angels – Handel and the First Messiah by Nick Drake

Performing at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse 6 December 2016 - 12 February 2017

Photographer Marc Brenner

Shakespeare’s Globe

 

Booking:

Phone               +44 (0) 20 7401 9919

In person          Mon-Sat 10am-6pm (8pm on performance days)

Sundays           10am-5pm (7pm on performance days)

Online               www.shakespearesglobe.com

Tickets               £5 - £45 (Globe Theatre) £10 - £62 (Sam Wanamaker Playhouse)

 

 

Dec 9th

Scenes from the End at the Tristan Bates Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

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Héloïse Werner

Indifferent, inhuman, inevitable!

How do you deal with grief? You will find it hard to express your feelings in a society in which most people will avoid the subject of death after quickly expressing their deepest sympathy. The subject is awkward and best to be avoided.

After successful appearances at this year’s Camden and Edinburgh festivals, this new one-woman opera, a collaboration of soprano Héloïse Werner, composer Jonathan Woolgar and director Emily Burns, explores the difficult themes of death and grief. The opera is divided into three parts, moving from the cosmic to the intimate: End of the Universe, End of Humanity and End of the Human Life. Using comic and tragic images to illustrate the end, Héloïse Werner's performance is complemented by quotes by Carl Sagan, T. S. Elliot and William Shakespeare that are projected against a wall.

Scenes from the End showcases Héloïse Werner's talents as both a singer and a performer. Accompanying herself with wooden claves and a small gong and using the impressive range of her vocal and acting skills, Héloïse Werner's character tries to come to terms with the feeling of loss. Often using only sounds because "words cannot express grief", Werner's voice conveys infinite pain and sadness but there are also more upbeat moments when the character laughs at the absurdity of life or takes a necessary break to gather strength, such as in the "Interlude Blues".

Jonathan Woolgar, BBC Young Composer 2010, who is responsible for music and  libretto, regularly works with Werner, who is fascinated by the idea of music as drama and enjoys experimenting with different genres and techniques.

An intriguing show on a difficult subject.

By Carolin Kopplin

Until 10th December 2016

Tristan Bates Theatre

1a Tower Street, London WC2H 9NP

Box office: 020 3841 6611

Running time: 45 minutes

Photograph provided by Chris Hislop.

Dec 8th

Jack and The Beanstalk at Theatre Royal, Windsor

By Kate Braxton

My introduction to pantomimes at this theatre began 35 years ago, and many’s the dreamy day I wish I was eight again. Windsor describes its festive offering as a ‘traditional’ pantomime, and there’s no hiss or boo back at that claim; this production is a wholesome, wobbly-sceneried bundle of Christmas joy for the kids, packed into a ‘bra made for 3 boobs’ for the adults. And such a reminder of how tricky it is to provide something for everyone, which this art form depends upon for success.

For the 40 Something of Berkshire, the hangover of Blue Peter waving its Anthea Turner-shaped wand as Fairy Destiny coupled with Timmy Mallett’s never-ending quest for revival tick the panto predictability boxes. Everybody say Bleuugh,’n all that. But I gleefully report that in balance with this are fresh talent in the young leads, lesser-known-but-regular comic favourites on the Windsor stage, popular contemporary musical numbers and some original writing.

Jack and The Beanstalk follows Jack Trott and love interest, Princess Jill, whom he must gallantly save from beastly Giant, Boris Blunderbore, boomed to Beaconsfield and back by Brian Blessed. Luke Harley’s Jack is thoroughly likeable. He has a good singing range, and before his slightly class nerdy rendition of Justin Timberlake’s Can't Stop The Feeling brings on too much of an unwanted feeling, he shines with his solo performance in Act 2.  All in all, charming. However, Anna Campkin’s extraordinary vocals as Princess Jill are worth considerably more than his bag of beans.  

(Simple) Simon Trott leads the audience participation, and Kevin Cruise knows how to effortlessly work the British audience, as a past finalist of Britain’s Got Talent. He’s a glory on stage, working out in a leotard like a cross-dressing Boris-Johnson-meets-Donald-Trump, who magically feels like the best friend everyone wants at a party. His double act with Steven Blakeley as Dame Tilly Trott is deep joy, and these two are the backbone to the flow and intention of the pantomime script. It has some inspired touches, alongside a few moments that don’t achieve the laughs they are seeking, but it feels like an overall success.

I will reach the most sublime, sensual and wicked hiss and boo momentarily, but I feel the need to drop in one panto-goer moan, because if anything could possibly crack the brilliance of this all-round success, it is the shameless commercial sales splurge in the script. A panto can be spoilt by extraneous stuff we don’t need to know. Joe Windsor doesn’t care that The Dame wrote the panto. And we don’t need a giant reveal to advise that Jason Gardiner has been seen on ITV. Even if it’s in the contract, ad lib out of it and give him the credit he’s due for being a successful artist. And finally, Timmy’s small pink mallet may well be on sale in the foyer, but I’d rather find that out and bang it on the counter for myself, thank you. My bad... 

...Oh no I’m not. Because THE Best Bad Guy in Berkshire is Gordon Fleshcreep played by Jason Gardiner, the jugular jackknifing judge from Dancing on Ice. Gardiner is an inspiration and a celebration: he sings, dances and characterizes like the most salacious nightmare anti-hero you’ve perversely ever wanted to remember.

 

For a frock-filled frollick of a time out with gunk, singalongs, dancealongs, bog roll bouncing, kids trying to remember the moves, a snippet of Frozen and an almost-Brexit-free belly of laughs, rock up to Theatre Royal Windsor this Christmas.

 

Reviewed by Kate Braxton

 

Jack and The Beanstalk is running Thursday 1st Dec - Sun 8th Jan
 
Ticket prices: £17 - £34, Royal Specials £40- £42
For more info or to book: 01753 853888
www.theatreroyalwindsor.co.uk

 

 

 

Dec 4th

Gothic Season at the Hope Theatre: Her Aching Heart

By Carolin Kopplin

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Last night I dreamt I went to Hellstone Hall again.

The final offering of the Gothic Season at the Hope Theatre is a parody on Gothic romantic novels, framed by a modern day love story. A London couple is reading the same novel, thereby entering the world of Lady Harriet (Colette Eaton) of Hellstone Hall and peasant girl Molly (Naomi Todd). One of the two London women is abroad but as they are reading the novel, they share a special closeness all the same as the love story unfolds and they picture themselves as characters in the story.

In the novel, Lady Harriet comes across Molly during a fox hunt when Molly desperately tries to save the fox, only to see it perish. Molly blames the haughty Lady Harriet for the fox's demise and but a fire of passion has been kindled by their encounter, leaving their rather inept male suitors without a chance. Held back by the restraints of the class system and the taboo on their special kind of love, there is quite a bit of sighing and chest heaving before their romance eventually gains momentum - leading to murders most foul with one of the protagonists fleeing to revolutionary France whilst the other becomes a nun. 

Matthew Parker's 25th Anniversary production of Bryony Lavery's play intelligently spoofs the style and language of novels such as "Rebecca" and "Wuthering Heights" with Ian Brandon's songs adding to the romantic atmosphere of the piece. The two actors convince as the two female leads along with a variety of other roles, including Molly's granny (Colette Eaton) who is quite a character, Lady Harriet's slutty and insolent maid Betsy (Naomi Todd), and the two suitors - the hilarious Lord Rothermere (Naomi Todd), whose plan for romancing Lady Harriet includes "Bed her and get her breeding", and a good natured country yokel (Colette Eaton).

The intimate venue is transformed from a bar, where Colette Eaton starts off the performance as a torch singer seductively crooning "Babe, you're unwelcome, so why are you here?" to Lady Harriet's stately home and Molly's village, using few props and a lot of imagination (set and costume design by Rachael Ryan).

There is not a dull moment in this fast-paced production, providing lots of laughs, a fiery romance, and an exciting sword fight.

By Carolin Kopplin

Until 23rd December 2016

Hope Theatre

207 Upper Street, Islington, London N1 1RL and can be found on the corner of Upper Street and Islington Park Street.

Box office: 0333 666 3366

Running time: 2 hours 15 minutes including one interval

 

Nov 30th

Dr Angelus at the Finborough Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

15272235_10153920984311372_6342575706037104149_o.jpgJanet McAdam (Rosalind McAndrew) and Dr Angelus (David Rintoul)

You did your best but it wasn't very good.

Glaswegian James Bridie worked as a doctor before he became a full-time writer in 1938. The main founder of the Citizens Theatre in Glasgow, Bridie was also instrumental in the establishment of the Edinburgh Festival. In the late 1940s, he collaborated with Alfred Hitchcock on several films, including The Paradine Case (1947). Although one of the most successful and best known playwrights of the 1930s and 1940s, Bridie's work has not been seen outside Scotland for many years. This production by the Finborough Theatre marks the first production of Dr Angelus in England since its 1947 London premiere, starring Alastair Sim and George Cole.

Glasgow, 1920. Doctor Angelus has taken on a junior partner, earnest young doctor George Johnson. When Dr Angelus’ treatment of his own mother-in-law, who suffers from a gastric complaint,  results in her death, George remains fiercely loyal, although he is warned against his eccentric senior partner. However, when Mrs Angelus suddenly begins to suffer from the same gastric complaint as her mother, Dr Johnson's suspicions are aroused.

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Dr George Johnson (Alex Bhat) and Inspector MacIvor (Malcolm Rennie)

Dr Angelus is a classic psychological thriller, based on the true life case of Dr Edward Pritchard, the last person to be hanged in Glasgow. Drawing on James Bridie's medical experience, the play focuses on what it means to be a doctor, repeatedly referring to the Hippocratic Oath which is, of course, in stark contrast to what Dr Angelus is up to.

Jenny Ogilvie's exciting production mostly serves the form of a classic thriller yet departs from it in a surreal dream sequence presenting the inner conflict of the young doctor, who finds himself torn between loyalty to his mentor and his duty to save lives. Despite its sombre subject, the play is darkly funny with more than a touch of gallows humour.

The production features a tour-de-force performance by David Rintoul. Rintoul inhabits the role of Dr Cyril Angelus, a charismatic and cunning manipulator with delusions of grandeur who takes advantage of Dr Johnson's naivité to execute his evil plan. Using an innocent yet slightly ambiguous episode with seductive patient Irene Corcoran (Lesley Harcourt), Rintoul evades Johnson's questions, indirectly accusing Johnson of unprofessional behaviour with a patient and warning him that this might cost him his license. Alex Bhat is very good as the young, inexperienced doctor who wants to do the right thing but finds himself incapable to do so.

However, the female roles are rather two-dimensional. Rosalind McAndrew does make an impact as the insolent servant Janet McAdam who openly shows her disdain for Mrs Angelus (Vivien Heilbron), the obedient and rather passive wife of a patriarch. Malcolm Rennie provides comic relief as the pompous Sir Gregory Butt, a senior doctor who is consulted by Dr Angelus when it is already too late, and the quirky yet good-natured Inspector MacIvor.

There were problems with the lighting and rather obtrusive sound effects but I assume that these were early run issues that will be taken care of before long.

By Carolin Kopplin 

Until 20th December 2016 at the Finborough Theatre

118 Finborough Road, London SW10 9ED
Box Office 0844 847 1652
Book online at www.finboroughtheatre.co.uk

Running time: 2 hours 15 minutes including one interval.

Photographs by Lidia Crisafulli