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Jan 23rd

Richard III at the Rosemary Branch Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

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This is the winter of our discontent...

When the late great Ian Richardson played Francis Urquhart in the original "House of Cards" in the 1990s, he based his character on Richard III, speaking directly to the camera, seducing the audience and making them complicit. Years later, a U.S. remake starring Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood hit Netflix and found a new audience. Inspired by the U.S. remake, Theatre company GODOT's WATCH returns to the original Richard, presenting an energetic modern dress production including smartphones, references to videogames, and cocaine.

Sam Coulson's Richard is not deformed except for a dark red birthmark covering the left side of his face, which would probably be enough to keep him in obscurity in a world where young children already worry about their looks and normal people have cosmetic surgery to look like filmstars. But if Richard does not have the looks, he certainly has the drive to become King of England. Charming and deceitful in equal measure, he surpasses his obstacles, and if they don't yield, they will lose life and limb.

Directed by Sean Aydon, this high voltage production is fast-paced and intense. Sometimes the speed is almost too fast and certain aspects of the play are only touched upon, and the ending is somewhat abrupt. The emphasis of this cut down production is on the scenes between Richard and the female charaters, notably Lady Anne and Queen Elizabeth. The cast of eight is predominantly female with some of the actors playing two or three parts. Sam Coulson is an energetic and demonic Richard and Elena Clements is his intriguing counterpart as the cold and calculating Buckingham. Sophie Ormond impresses as the young Prince Edward and his murderer Tyrell, which is clever casting indeed. The cast is very young and although I enjoy the cross-gender casting I wish there had been some room for older actors as well.

The stage is dominated by a massive golden throne, source of envy and constant reminder of what Richard strives for. The punchy sound design by Daniel Harmer including a variety of musical styles and the trendy neon lights in different colours (lighting design by Jack Channer) add to the contemporary setting of the production.

An exciting production with some daring casting choices.

By Carolin Kopplin 

Until 29th January 2017

Rosemary Branch Theatre

Box office: 020 7704 6665

Running time: 2 hours 15 minutes including one interval. 

 

Jan 22nd

Out There on Fried Meat Ridge Road at the White Bear Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

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Flip (Michael Wade), Mitch (Robert Moloney) and J.D. (Keith Stevenson)

Noam Chomsky is the Jerry Lewis from West Virginia.

This was my first visit to the White Bear Pub and Theatre in Kennington after it had been refurbished and redecorated. It seemed far more spacious and brighter than before and made patrons feel welcome. The theatre is now upstairs and remains an intimate stage, about the size of a living room, which especially benefits this production, the European premiere of Keith Stevenson's hilarious comedy.

Set in a shabby motel room on Fried Meat Ridge Rd. in West Virginia, the play focuses on the hapless Mitch (Robert Moloney) from Maine who, after moving down South, has lost his job, his girlfriend, and his apartment. Now he cannot even sleep in his car because it was torched in front of a Girls' Reform School. Desperate for shelter, he answers an ad for a roommate and finds himself walking all the way to a backwoods motel on Fried Meat Ridge Road. His future roommate turns out to be the amicable hillbilly JD (Keith Stevenson) who surprisingly knows Latin but has never heard of Maine. Before Mitch even has time to digest this upsetting news. Mitch's neighbours begin invading the small room - bigotted motel owner Flip (Michael Wade), the meth-head artiste Marlene (Melanie Gray), and her volatile poet lover Tommy (Dan Hildebrand).

Robert Moloney's Mitch is a neurotic character, very much like one of Woody Allen's creations, who throws up whenever he is upset and suffers from an unusual condition that cost him his job. The laid-back JD, portrayed by playwright Keith Stevenson, is your picture book hillbilly who turns out to be the hub of the motel community, being the go-to guy for everybody in need of help. Yet this should not be too surprising, considering his parentage. Melanie Gray's Marlene and her hot-headed boyfriend Tommy straight out of New Jersey, played with the unpredictablity of a loose-cannon by Dan Hildebrand, are the perfect ill-fitted couple who react to each other "like fire and gasoline". Michael Wade lends credibility to the gruff redneck Flip who has a treasure trove of insults for almost any ethnicity.

The approximately one-hour long play, directed by Harry Burton, is very much like a TV comedy show featuring a host of outrageous characters. After it opened in L.A. in 2012, it soon became a cult hit and two sequels followed.

This is a highly entertaining show with a good cast and a surprise ending.

A fun night out.

By Carolin Kopplin

Until 4th February 2017

White Bear Theatre

Running time: 65 minutes

Photograph by Gavin Watson.

Jan 18th

Burt Bacharach's PROMISES PROMISES at London's Southwark Playhouse

By Elaine Pinkus

The first London production in 20 years of the hit Burt Bacharach/Hal David/Neil Simon Broadway musical Promises, Promises, based on the Billy Wilder film The Apartment is now playing at the Southwark Playhouse, London. Added to the original score are those timeless and still popular Bacharach favourites  ‘A house is not a home’, ‘I say a little prayer’ and ‘I’ll never fall in love again’ which cannot fail to tear at the heartstrings and which serve as highlights of the evening.

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Chuck Baxter (Gabriel Vick)

Set in 1962 in the offices of a male dominated, chauvinistic executive hierarchical structure we meet Chuck Baxter, an aspiring junior accountant and proud tenant of an apartment on the second floor of a block on West 67 Street, New York. Keen to be promoted to executive level, he naively falls prey to the promises of the middle aged higher echelon who cheat on their wives and bed young secretaries and receptionists in this misogynistic working world. In return for allowing them to use his apartment, Chuck will be promoted to a more senior level. ‘Where can you take a girl?’ sung fiercely by these cheating executives is presented with energy and humour and makes clear their exploitation of  this young innocent.

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Chuck and executives (Lee Ormby, Martin Dickinson and Craig Armstrong)

From the start Chuck shares his confidences with the audience. An endearing character, played with charm and a strong likeability factor by Gabriel Vick, we empathise with his low self esteem wishing only the best for what might otherwise be a loser in this corporate world. He is used and abused by those around him; not only the paunchy executive level and the manipulative CEO Sheldrake, played by Paul Robinson, but also by the one girl that he would love to know more, Fran (Daisy Maywood). ‘Our Little Secret’ sung by Chuck and Sheldrake makes the 2017 audience squirm but we must remember we are in the 1960s and the score and staging reflects the typicality of this period.

Chuck and Sheldrake

Chuck and Sheldrake (Paul Robinson)

This is a story of dreams, of disillusionment and empty promises. Supported by an energetic and enthusiastic cast, there are moments of humour which raise the occasional stillness. With numbers such as ‘Turkey Lurkey Time’ and ‘Christmas Day’ the pace quickens and there is a relief injected into the rather long and sometimes tedious moments. Certainly the included numbers mentioned earlier are performed with passion by our two leads, Chuck and Fran and we know that we will work towards a ‘promising’ closure.

Act 2 opens with a bang and we are treated to a wonderful interlude with Marge (excellently performed by Alex Young) and Chuck. Wearing her owl coat (yes that is not a typo) and sounding the final ‘p’ consonant with tight control, there are laugh out loud moments. Furthermore, Dr Dreyfuss (John Guerraso) in his quasi Woody Allen portrayal gives us Neil Simon at his funniest moments. This Act certainly has pace and energy.

Chuck and Marge

Chuck and Marge (Alex Young)

I hate talking about production lengths but in this case I do feel that the three hours (give or take a few minutes) was extravagantly long with an especially lengthy Act 1. However, the intimate staging in the round, the somewhat basic scene changes, the strong support of the band and the costumes and choreography typical of the 60s offered charm and nostalgia. Bronagh Lagan’s revival at the Southwark Theatre offers an enjoyable evening and, for those admirers of Bacharach, David and Neil Simon, is a worthy entertainment.

Chuck and Fran

Chuck and Fran (Daisy Maywood)

Photographs: Claire Bilyard

Aria Entertainment & Senbla
present

PROMISES, PROMISES

Book by Neil Simon

Based on the Screenplay The Apartment by Billy Wilder
and I.A.L Diamond

Music by Burt Bacharach
& Lyrics by Hal David

Friday 13 January -
Saturday 18 February

SOUTHWARK PLAYHOUSE
77-85 Newington Causeway
London
SE1 6BD

Box office: 020 7407 0234
www.southwarkplayhouse.co.uk


Start Time 7.30pm
Matinee Starts 3pm
Running Time 160 mins including interval
Price £25 | £20 concessions | £14 previews

Jan 12th

The Kite Runner at Wyndham's Theatre

By Clare Brotherwood

Films and plays based on books are usually a disappointment. So I didn’t hold much hope for Khaled Hosseini’s best seller’s transference to the stage.

But here is a production which is true to the book. And how they manage to transfer an enraptured audience to the Afghanistan of childhood friends Amir and Hassan with a minimal set and a dozen actors is down to the genius of adapter Matthew Spangler and director Giles Croft.

It’s a simple format: Amir, now married and living in San Francisco, looks back on his life from his childhood days in a relatively peaceful Kabul when kite flying was a competitive sport. It begins with him narrating his story, but it’s not long before Ben Turner, as Amir, becomes more than a mere narrator. Taking on the cloak of the child he once was, the former Casualty nurse transports us back in time, becoming that child in mannerisms, speech and attitude.

It’s an extraordinary performance, for not only does Turner become child, adolescent and adult, he also runs the gamut of emotions from childish wonder and fear to adult love, to guilt and despair as he carries with him a secret which fractured his friendship with his constant companion, his servant, and kite runner, Hassan.

Hassan is totally loyal to Amir and defends him whenever he needs him, never wavering, and Andrei Costin’s portrayal is most moving. I also like Emilio Doorgasingh’s emotional Baba and Nicholas Karimi certainly struts his stuff as the bullying Assef.

Alongside Amir’s story is that of Afghanistan, from the communist coup in 1978, the Soviet invasion in 1979 and the rise of the Taliban. Together, Hosseini and Spangler make the situation real and personal, giving the play an extra dimension, while Hanif Khan adds an extra treat, playing the tabla beautifully at the side of the stage. And it’s not without its humour. Christopher Biggins’ loud laughter from the first night auditorium truly endorsed that!

 

The Kite Runner is at Wyndham’s Theatre until March 11.

Box office: 0844 482 5120

www.delfontmackintosh.co.uk

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)