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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

Nov 30th

High Society at The Mill at Sonning

By Clare Brotherwood

Think of High Society, and Cole Porter classics such as Who Wants to be a Millionaire, True Love, Just One of Those Things, and Samantha, come to mind, sung by original cast members Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly and Frank Sinatra.

It’s a frothy, funny, feel good show you’d think would only be at home in Hollywood movies or on the West End stage. But, to quote Mr Porter, you’ll be ridin’ high if you join in the swell party this is at The Mill at Sonning.

Just how this ‘big’ musical fits so comfortably in The Mill’s small space must be an illusion. The audience is certainly not short changed by the intimacy of its surroundings, nor the calibre of the performers. It’s full-on, fast-paced, all-singing, all-dancing entertainment, yet it isn’t in your face - and we must thank director and choreographer Joseph Pitcher, who has been resident director on the RSC’s West End production of Matilda for the past two-and-a-half years, for striking the perfect balance.

Perfect is an adjective I think I shall be using more than once in this review.

High Society is set on Long Island in 1938 and charts the events leading up to the wedding of the fabulously wealthy Tracy Samantha Lord to the humourless George Ketteridge. Enter Tracy’s ex-husband, a couple of undercover reporters wanting to dig the dirt on Tracy’s erring father, and a lot of Champagne, and things don’t always go according to plan.

From the outset, Kirsty Ingram proves she is a star in the making as Tracy’s kid sister Dinah. Although aged 22 and only in her second professional production, she sparkles throughout her perfectly portrayed role as a petulant child, bossy and cheeky, but with a vulnerability, especially in scenes with Tracy’s ex, on whom she obviously has a crush.

At the other end of the scale, David Delve is an old hand at musicals, both in the West End and on tour, and although his larger than life performance as Tracy’s Uncle Willie would satisfy audiences in big theatres, it is not over the top in this smaller venue. The big expressions, flashing eyes, swivelling hips (and wandering hands) all make for a great deal of hilarity.

All 11 members of the cast must be congratulated on their fine contributions to this perfect way to celebrate the festive season, not to mention musical director Charlie Ingles’ hard-working band, Callum White on percussion, Pete Hutchinson on double bass and the impressive Joe Atkin-Reeves on clarinet, sax and flute.

As Tracy’s mother, Elizabeth Elvin, a regular at The Mill, fits right in with a cast whose background is in musical theatre rather than as actors who sing. Bethan Nash has an amazing voice and sings and dances her way through the role of Tracy Lord with fluidity, pose and an endearing sense of fun, but among my favourite scenes are those between Rachel Moran as Polly the maid, and Grant Neal as Chester the butler. Every time the stiff, poker-faced servants launched into a wild, abandoned song and dance routine the audience erupted. A swell party indeed!

 

High Society is at The Mill at Sonning until January 14. Box office 0118 969 8000

www.millatsonning.com

Nov 26th

Rodney Ackland's After October at the Finborough Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

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Marigold Ivens (Beverley Klein) encourages Clive Monkhams (Adam Buchanan)

The fabric of this house is built on the idea that I'm a genius.

It is surprising that Rodney Ackland's most autobiographical play has not been shown in Central London since its premiere in 1936. But thanks to Troupe and the Finborough Theatre, Ackland's forgotten drama can currently be seen at the Chelsea venue, which has been transformed in a big living room with the audience seated on all sides, making this experience even more intimate than usual.

Taking place in a run-down flat in Hampstead, the drama focusses on aspiring playwright Clive Monkhams (Adam Buchanan) who is dreaming of fame and fortune. As the performance begins, Clive is working on an overdue article whilst his mother, retired actor Rhoda (Sasha Waddell), reminisces about past glory. The widowed Rhoda, who is slowly running out of ideas of how to avoid her numerous creditors, completely relies on her son's future success - as do his penniless sisters and a number of artistic friends. When Clive learns that his play will be shown in the West End, the future suddenly looks all too bright. Everybody, except rebel-poet Oliver Nashwick (Patrick Osborne), expects the play to be a success and plans are being made. 

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Rhoda Monkhams (Sasha Waddell)

Clive promises to marry his secret love Frances (Jasmine Blackborow), who has been going out with dull civil servant Brian Guest (Stephen Rashbrook) to combat her loneliness. Rhoda is hoping to move into a bigger flat with Mrs Batley (Josie Kidd) as a live-in servant, thereby rescuing her from her vicious son-in-law. Clive's bohemian friend Marigold Ivens (Beverley Klein) hopes that Clive can get her nephew Bobby, currently residing at Wandsworth Prison, a job once the play will be touring. Oliver expects a £100 loan to publish his brilliant poems in case he is wrong and the "boring" play will be a success.

As opening night is drawing nearer, Clive's sister Joan (Allegra Marland) has quit her job as a secretary for her overbearing lover Alec Mant (Jonathan Oliver), married with children, and is concentrating on her art work. Sister Lou (Peta Cornish), a dancer, has returned from France with her French husband Armand (Andrew Cazanave Pin), adding to Rhoda's financial burden. Money is running out fast.

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Frances Dent (Jasmine Blackborow), Joan Monkhams (Allegra Marland), Alec Mant (Jonathan Oliver) and Lou St. René (Peta Cornish) 

Oscar Toeman's production might be a bit longish but there is not one dull moment. Rodney Ackland's satirical play about a bohemian family, with touches of Coward and Rattigan, is delightful and all of his characters, no matter how small the part, are well written. The talented cast make the most of it. Apart from the impressive leads - Adam Buchanan and Sasha Waddell -, Beverley Klein is hilarious as the eccentric Marigold Ivens, believer in numerology and amateur actor. Peta Cornish is terribly stylish as Clive's sister Lou and Josie Kidd inhabits her role as Mrs Batley.

An atmospheric set design by Ann Vize, Anna Lewis' authentic costumes and music by Lucinda Mason Brown add to the appeal of the play.

A forgotten classic that should not be missed.

By Carolin Kopplin

Until 22nd 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 40 minutes including one interval

Photographs by Mitzi de Margary

Nov 25th

The Nutcracker on Ice at The Winter Palace Theatre, Hyde Park

By Kate Braxton

When it formed in 2004, one of the key aims of the Imperial Ice Stars company was to take the spectacle and magic of ice dancing out of an arena setting and bring it into the comfort of a traditional Theatre. 

The Nutcracker on Ice is brought to us in the centre of Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland ‘theme park’ experience inside a 26m purpose-built temporary “polygon structure”. It is a highly laudible feat to have dropped this into central London, with its 7000 LED lights creating a giant starclothed environment, and one which I remained more interested in than the show itself. It is a cracker of a piece of production work, given the brief.

But The Nutcracker on Ice didn’t work for me. Condensed into a one hour show to appeal to audiences of all ages, we are seated on 3 sides of the ice stage, and no slips and trips go un-noticed. For me, The Nutcracker and Tchaikovsky’s beautiful score require grace and intimacy, the like of which are arguably impossible to achieve with the chance of a slipple on yer triple salko. And there was quite a painful-to-watch lady-tumble.

Not a bad overall experience, some nice technical moments with multimedia and lighting effects, a few (intended) flames and an aerial acrobatic scene. But if it isn’t quite for me, then is it for the kids? It’s just not how I would want to introduce my children to one of the finest ballet masterpieces that will ever exist. Somewhat irreverent, but fitting, perhaps, for a theme park. One to drop in for when you’ve finished with rollercoasters and gluwein, and you’re ready for a bit of an oooh and an aaaah. The English National Ballet at Milton Keynes is where I'm heading.

Dates: Friday 18th November 2016 – Monday 2nd January 2017 (closed on Christmas Day)
Times: The show is 1 hour long starting at 14:00, 16:00, 1730 and 19:00. There will also be performances at 12:30 and 20:30 on selected days. Check website for details.

Prices: From £11.95 (children) £15.95 (adults)
Online booking: www.hydeparkwinterwonderland.com
Address: Hyde Park, London, W2 2HU

 

Nov 24th

ENB Nutcracker at Milton Keynes Theatre

By Alison Smith

 

Reviewed by Alison Smith 23rd November 2016 

The ENB Nutcracker ushers in the season of good tidings and joy. This ballet kindles  nostalgia, romance and, so as not to be too cloying for the adults or too frightening for the children, just a touch of terror in Mouse King and his ‘family’; nostalgia in the depiction of an Edwardian Christmas, romance in the dream of a beautiful young girl and a handsome prince, and terror when evil creatures appear. It is the tradition too, as in all fairy tales, that the ending is perfect; God is in his heaven and all is right with the world.

The English National Ballet does not disappoint on any of these details. The Edwardian Christmas in Act l is perfectly portrayed with an old-fashioned winter scene, skaters skimming (mostly) gracefully over the ice, their costumes classy, if a little dull.  And then indoors the atmosphere is warm and cosy; the Christmas decorations not too gaudy, the children, or the girls at least, well behaved. 

The young Clara is danced beautifully by Sophia Mucha; delicate and expressive she reveals all the emotions of a child at Christmas. It is Clara who is given a doll in the shape of a nutcracker by Drosselmeyer (Fabian Reimair), a family friend and uncle to the handsome boy of the romance. The older Clara was portrayed, on the evening I saw the production, by Alina Cojocaru. Ms Cojocaro captured the essence of a young girl on the edge of womanhood, a little gauche at times but spontaneous and passionate. Drosselmeyer’s nephew (Cesar Corrales) is a strong, athletic dancer, performing the most amazing grands jétés and sauts de basque seemingly effortlessly in his solo dance in the grand pas de deux with Clara. This is the pièce de resistance of the ballet, fairly traditional, but accomplished (a little fumbling in some lifts though) and tender; theirs is an excellent partnering. The third notable dancer is the nutcracker (James Forbat). I liked very much his fiery interaction with the mice. 

Mention must also be made of the corps de ballet. In the snowflake scene the dancers were crisp and graceful; as flowers they were in perfect unison. Act ll at the puppet theatre gives the opportunity for different styles of dance to be performed – Spanish, Arabian, Chinese. The most outstanding of these was the Russian dance by the male dancer (Ken Saruhashi) replete with travelling leaps. The children from Tring Park School for the Performing Arts were remarkable too, and added to the excitement of the performance, especially the boys on their hobby horses.  There were lots of touches of humour too – soldiers killed by cheese, Freddie in a strop, a forgetful grandmother and her long-suffering, if controlling, husband and the escape from danger by air balloon.

Of course the narrative is accompanied by Tchaikovsky’s marvellous score played by the ENB Philarmonic under the direction of Gavin Sutherland. Wayne Eagling, the choreographer, has merged the music and the steps magically and his talent is emulated by that of the outstanding dancers of the English National Ballet. 

This is one ballet not to be missed.

 

 ENB Nutcracker is at Milton Keynes Theatre until 26th November

 www.atgtickets.com

 0844 871 7653

 Booking fee applies

 

 

 

Nov 21st

Mad Meg at the Blue Elephant Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

Mad meg new_0.jpgMarianne Tuckman and Phoebe Ophelia Douthwaite

Meg spent much time with thinking. Her favourite topic: How the world connects.

The final production of the Elefeet Dance Festival 2016 at the Blue Elephant Theatre was a fusion of dance, folk music, and storytelling, skilfully presented by MAZPOD. Starting off in a rather unconventional way, Laurence Marshall, a multi-instrumentalists, sang a couple of folk songs, accompanying himself with a variety of instruments, whilst the audience were waiting in the upstairs bar for the actual show to begin. The cheerful and comical gig included songs about pirates and how hard it is to be a breakfast cereal.

The actual dance performance kicked off with Phoebe Ophelia Douthwaite and Marianne Tuckman sitting at a table with Laurence Marshall, having a couple of beers. As they began to tell the story of Mad Meg, Marshall accompanied them on the accordion, a ukulele and percussive instruments, whilst the two dancers/actors took turns playing Meg and the people she associated with. The extremely physical performance narrated the story of a lonely woman, socially isolated because of her odd behaviour - "she shrieked her questions so loud and so coarse" - and her plain looks. Nobody wanted to talk to her and listen to her, she was silenced by everybody. But one day she met a man who was willing to marry her.

Meg's story, her awkwardness and loneliness were transported by movement as well as words. Her shrinking from others, the rejection she experienced, yet also her unpleasant groping and her involuntarily aggressive behaviour became apparent in the performance. The scene when Meg's husband showed his true feelings for her was devastating.

Inspired by Texas Gladden's ballad "The Scolding Wife" and Clarissa Pinkolas book "Women Who Run With Wolves", this production discussed relationships, abusive behaviour and domestic violence, and the soul destroying effect of loneliness.

An intense and intriguing production.

By Carolin Kopplin 

The short run has now ended. 

Running time: Approximately one hour

Photograph provided by the Blue Elephant Theatre.

Nov 21st

DISASTER! A 70s Disaster Movie Musical premier/gala performance at London's Charing Cross theatre

By Elaine Pinkus

What a joy! Leaving behind the doom and gloom of a storm driven November evening, London’s Charing Cross Theatre played host to its ‘partially staged Gala performance’ of Seth Rudetsky and Jack Plotnick’s Disaster, a spoof which has enjoyed Broadway success and has travelled over the pond to make its debut performance here in London. The recommendation was that the audience should ‘prepare to die laughing’ and indeed laughter rang out loudly in this small but intimate venue.

It is amazing what can be achieved with the minimum of set and effects. More important and delightful to see/hear was an exuberant cast, great music (from the 70s) performed by a band ably led by musical director James Taylor, choreography by Ashley Nottingham and some brilliantly ‘daft’ props.

Chad and Marianne

Chad (Oliver Tompsett) and Mariane (Alice Fern)

OK, so think Airplane, Snakes on a Plane, The Poseidon Adventure, Jaws and many other movies of that genre and you have got the gist of Disaster. The action takes place on a floating casino, secured (loosely) to a pier on the Hudson. Now we all know that the 21st century is over-dosing on health and safety, well not so 1970s United States.  Rejecting the warnings of geology professor (Seth Rudetsky), who specialises in investigating worldwide disasters, the boss of the Barracuda  (Simon Lipkin) has ignored health and safety on his floating casino. As a result, when an earthquake hits, the lives of those on board are in peril, with fires, piranhas, sharks, rats and a multitude of other dangers around every water blocked corner.

Olivert Tompsett and Mark Anderson

Mark Anderson (Scott) and Oliver Tompsett (Chad)

The characters are fantastic. There is a nun complete with guitar, (think Airplane), played brilliantly by Jennifer Simard. Her lust for the TX420 is nothing short of quasi-erotic and is hilarious. Add to this an adorable middle aged Jewish couple, Shirley and Maurie (think Shelley Winters in the Poseidon Adventure) played delightfully by Sally Ann Trip[let and Paul Grumett, a lovesick couple (Oliver Tompsett and Alice Fern) and you have the ingredients of a perfect disaster.

Jennifer Simard as Sister/Nun

Jennnifer Simard as Sister/Nun

The script itself is interspersed with side-splitting links to well known songs of the 70s, all performed fantastically by this talented cast. At every turn are snippets from hits such as All Right Now, Hot Lunch, Torn Between Two Lovers, I will survive, Knock Three Times, Daybreak and  I am woman (a tour-de-force performed by Alice Fenn with Bradley Riches).

Ensemble

The Cast

This is a glorious evening and it would take far too many pages of this review to name all the songs (70 in total) and all the cast. Suffice it to say, each was splendid in its own right. Hats off to Jennifer Simard as the singing, gambling addicted nun; Sally Ann Triplett as the dying Shirley (yes, I know, but she was hilarious) and Bradley Riches, whose transformation within seconds of Ben to Lisa was nothing short of miraculous.

Jennifer Simard, Seth Rudetsky and Bradley Riches

Jennifer Simard, Seth Rudetsky and Bradley Riches

Disaster is highly deserving of a London run. It was a privilege to be amongst the audience at this special Gala night. 

This was a one day only Gala Performance.

Photographer Jamie Scott-Smith

Charing Cross Theatre
The Arches
Villiers Street
London WC2N 6NL
www.charingcrosstheatre.co.uk

Theatre MAD and Making Productions presented a Gala charity performance of Disaster at London’s Charing Cross Theatre. The Make A Different Trust is a UK based charity with a vision of a world free from HIV andAids.

Nov 20th

Princess - The Good Girls Gone Bad at LOST Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

download.jpegJennie Dickie and Morgan Scott

Critically acclaimed writer/director Stuart Saint presented his variation on the "Princess" theme in a unique interdisciplinary dance performance, fusing video projections with live performance, at LOST Theatre, one of the more hidden venues near Vauxhall station. 

Saint's gig theatre features an electro-pop soundtrack inspired by Soft Cell and Depeche Mode and an impressive choreography. Structuring the show like a series of quests in a videogame, Stuart Saint provides a spirit guide in the form of a Rabbit (Morgan Scott) to a little girl (Jennie Dickie) who dreams of becoming a princess. But princesses are not the way they are portrayed in Disney movies any more. A coming-of-age tale as well as a quest to become a Princess, Princess shows how the Girl discovers a world of wonders as well as cruelty.

The bare stage is lined with old TV sets with a little white rabbit placed in the centre. The Girl comes on wearing dungarees and carrying her soft toy rabbit. As she is entering the fairy tale world, her toy eventually turns into a man wearing a rabbit mask. The princesses have a definitive Goth look with dark eyes and dark lips, dismissing the Girl as obviously not being one of their equals. But this is only the beginning of the Girl's adventure.

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Stuart Saint takes his audience into a mysterious world of princes, princesses and fairies but the princes are not always charming and the princesses can be tough and rather unpleasant. The Girl has her Rabbit guide to cling to but if she wants to become a Princess, she might have to leave him behind.

The most important element in this production is not the acting, it is the choreography performed by very skilful dancers. Some of the acrobatic stunts, especially by Morgan Scott and Onyemachi Ejimofor, are breathtaking. Stuart Saint creates some memorable images such as Ejimofor's Granola, an evil presence in a black cape, and a gigantic ballooning dress worn by the Girl as the rest of the company moves underneath.

The narrative seems open to many interpretations, which is actually a very welcome aspect of this production. Stuart Saint is certainly a name to remember. I am looking forward to his next work.

By Carolin Kopplin 

The run has now ended.

Running time: 65 minutes without an inteval

Further info on LOST Theatre: http://losttheatre.co.uk/

Nov 19th

Pride and Prejudice at the Richmond Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

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My good opinion once lost is lost forever.

Following a sucessful run at Regent's Park Theatre, Simon Reade's adaptation of Jane Austen's classic novel is now touring the UK, starring Matthew Kelly and Felicity Montagu as Mr and Mrs Bennet.

Mrs Bennet (Felicity Montagu) is burdened with five daughters, none of them married yet. What to do? When eligible bachelor Mr Bingley (Jordan Mifsúd) arrives at his country home, he is immediately targeted as a prospective husband for her eldest daughter Jane (Hollie Edwin). Mrs Bennet's plan seems to work as Mr Bingley is enchanted by the lovely Jane. Meanwhile Mr Bingley's friend Mr Darcy (Benjamin Dilloway) is less impressed by the charms of the Bennet girls, clearly showing his disdain for Mrs Bennet's predatory behaviour. Elizabeth Bennet (Tafline Steen) overhears Mr Darcy's remarks and dismisses him as proud and arrogant.

Written almost 200 years ago, Jane Austen's novel, in Simon Reade's adaptation, is as delightful as ever. Of course this is not just a shallow romantic comedy about a money-grabbing woman, trying to marry off her daughters to the richest bidders. When Jane Austen wrote Pride and Prejudice, only men could inherit property, which means that in the case of Mr Bennet's demise his wife and five daughters would have to rely on the generosity of his heir - Mr Bennet's cousin Mr Collins - who might very well decide to turn them out of their own home. Considering the gravity of the situation, it is more than understandable that Mrs Bennet frantically tries to marry off her daughters so they won't be destitute in the future. When Mr Collins proposes to Elizabeth, Mrs Bennet is overjoyed because, along with Elizabeth being taken care of, this would also mean that she is less likely to be evicted by the prospective heir. Therefore, Mrs Bennet's hostile reaction to Elizabeth's refusal to marry Mr Collins is not as selfish as it seems at first glance.

Although Tafline Steen is excellent as Elizabeth Bennet, who is one of the most endearing characters in literature, capturing her intelligence, wit, honesty, and compassion, Deborah Bruce's production clearly focusses on Felicity Montagu who inhabits the role of Mrs Bennet, giving an outstanding comical performance. Matthew Kelly is also very good as Mr Bennet, a gentleman who has married below his station, delivering some of the witties lines of the play with dry humour. Equally remarkable is Steven Meo's portrayal of Mr Collins, a frightful little man and busybody who is in great awe of his benefactor Lady Catherine De Bourgh (Doña Croll), a haughty aristocrat and Mr Darcy's aunt, who greatly disapproves of her nephew's interest in Elizabeth Bennet, expecting Darcy to marry her sickly daughter Annabel (Leigh Quinn). Mr Darcy has never seemed more arrogant and disdainful as being played by Benjamin Dilloway before he reveals his true feelings to Elizabeth.

Diverse casting adds to the attraction of this charming production, featuring an beautiful costumes (designed by Tom Piper), skilfully choreographed dances with a lovely musical score by Lillian Henley, and a flexible stage design consisting of a metallic structure and enhanced by projections of forests and soft landscapes to replace the open air venue at Regent's Park (designed by Max Jones).

By Carolin Kopplin

The run at the Richmond Theatre has now ended.

The next stop of the Pride and Prejudice UK Tour will be Bath.

Further information: http://prideandprejudiceplay.com/#tour

Running time: 2 hours 35 minutes including one interval.

 

Nov 18th

Half A Sixpence - Noel Coward Theatre

By Douglas McFarlane

Half A Sixpence

 

This one was always going to be a different review for me. It was my very first performance on stage. I had auditioned for the part of Arthur Kipps with Theatre Guild in Glasgow, after a few years of training. Aim for the stars and land on the clouds was my policy. The role was given to the editor of this website, Cameron Lowe, and I was delighted to get the role of one of his 3 mates, Pearce. Cameron played opposite his wife Suzie, and they were the perfect Kipps and Ann as they had the connection needed to show that clearly Kipps was in love with the young Ann from childhood. This was important as my review will cover.

On arriving to pick up my press night tickets, I bumped into Sir Cliff Richard, as you do. "Good evening, Sir Cliff", I said and he smiled and said hello back before going to look for a pre-theatre restaurant. It was going to be one of those nights with celebrities attending it seemed. Gloria Hunniford arrived in a chauffeur driven car, "Good evening, Gloria", I felt that I was celebrity stalking and all I was doing was picking up my tickets. The photographer on hand was snapping away and mentioned that there were many more expected tonight. I popped into Brown's next door for a lobster and a glass of champagne.  This was a special night, so I was all out, and returned to the theatre bar for further champagne, picked up the Half A Sixpence soundtrack, and headed early to my seat.

Curtain up and Kipps and Ann are on a sparce stage as teenagers and having a bit of fun.  Not a great start. They were supposed to be childhood sweethearts and this Kipps, played by relative newcomer Charlie Stemp, didn't care much. Sure, he shuffled up to her, but it wasn't natural and didn't get across that shy, timidity of teenage friends secretly being in love. It was such an important opening scene and they'd ruined it for me and it was to prove critical for the overall enjoyment of not just myself, but I'm sure much of the audience. Ok, maybe that's a bit over dramatic, but a fellow reviewer sitting next to me had noticed this too.

You see, the story as it goes, is that Kipps is a poor boy who inherits some money, only to find the girl of his dreams when he's older, Miss Walshingham, superbly played by Emma Williams, is too posh and he is drawn back to his childhood sweatheart when she appears back on the scene as an employee of the wealthy family. He's supposed to be torn between the two lives. Money and posh girl. No money and poor girl.  However, as an audience we don't care. We actually like this Miss Walshingam, she seems to have her head screwed on and feet firmly on the ground. She's not a nasty posh, it's her mother's upwardly mobile aspirations at any cost is what we don't like. So as an audience, we're not as sad as we perhaps should be when Ann played by Devon-Elise Johnson beautifully sings her solo leaving only a small hint of tear from me at the end of the first act.

On the whole I felt that Charlie Stemp's Kipps, isn't as cheeky chappie as I'd have preferred. The style of Tommy Steele's original singing was heartfelt, warming and Stemp seems to have lost all of that.  Additionally, his vocals seems to take a dip at the end of some lines, for no known reason, when those were key notes which could've shown the quality of his voice. He did dance around stage and jump from high places to show his agility and did an admiral acting job, but for me he needs to go much further with this role to really bring the house down.  There's some real emotion that is missing from this version of this wonderful musical as a result.

Having said all that, what it lacks in emotion in makes up for in laughter. The scene with the new song "Pick Out A Simple Tune" had the audience roaring with enjoyment, and as the crescendo of the musical reaches towards it's final scene of "Flash Bang Wallop", the audience were on their feet and gave the mightiest of roars as it came to it's conclusion. Everyone, including me, were on their feet. Both of these two main scenes were made more interesting by Gerard Carey, who plays James Walsingham with his maniacal piano playing and hanging from the chandelier in "Pick Out A Simple Tune" and the camp funny Photographer in "Flash Bang Wallop".


Half-A-Sixpence is on at the Noel Coward Theatre and is currently booking until end-February 2017. http://www.halfasixpence.co.uk/