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Dec 10th

THE FITZROVIA RADIO HOUR'S 'A CHRISTMAS CAROL'

By Elaine Pinkus

The Fitzrovia Radio Hour’s A CHRISTMAS CAROL

Adapted from Charles Dickens by Tom Mallaburn with Jon Edgley Bond Directed by Owen Lewis playing at the Paradiso Spiegeltent, Leicester Square

Nestling in the centre of Leicester Square is the Paradiso Spiegeltent theatre, similar in layout to a circus tent where visitors access the main auditorium by walking through a large bar area. Seats are not numbered. My advice, get there early so that you can be sure to grab a decent seat with a good view of the stage, the props and the impeccably attired cast, who are suitably dressed in formal evening suit with bow ties and elegant cocktail dresses.  

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Samuel Collings, Alix Dunmore, William Findley and Dorothea Myer-Bennett

My husband, who is a keen supporter of the National Theatre of Brent, was very excited to be accompanying me to this review. Those of you familiar with that radio drama will be aware of the format, which is very similar to that of the Fitzrovia Radio Hour. Others who have enjoyed the theatre frolics and capers of productions such as ‘The Play That Goes Wrong’ will be anticipating fun and high jinks. The promise that awaits is enticing. The stage is laid out with a myriad of accessories, ranging from washboards, cereal packets and rubber gloves as the source of the sound effects; there are microphones and general clutter on stage suggesting potential chaos and cue boards inviting the audience to cheer, applaud and make strange noises. Reminiscent of bygone days this takes us back to those times where audiences would sit glued to their wireless sets and tune in to the current comedy and theatre played over the airwaves.

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With plum 1940s accents and reflecting the attitudes of the time, our five actors take to the stage to deliver their classic literary adaptation of Dickens A Christmas Carol. But of course there are issues here and we are told at the onset by the ambitious and dastardly Ernest Andrew that the Fitzrovia Radio Hour cast have had to relocate to this rather noisy tent after a tragic and suspicious accident befell their lead, Stanley de Pfeffel, at the Wyndham Theatre where the scenery from The Importance of Being Ernest collapsed on top of him. Now it so happens that Ernest had yearned for the role of Ebenezer Scrooge, having played Tiny Tim for the last 18 years and is clearly delighted at this opportunity. Valiantly putting his best foot forward he will rise to the occasion in this tented venue, situated in the heart of Dickensian London and where ‘pickpockets, prostitutes and suchlike’ in the nearby streets add to the authenticity of the time. Ironically his humorous apologies for the noise from the proximity of revellers in Leicester Square’s winter wonderland are in fact what mars this performance. The external noise did intrude and in some cases prevented the audience from appreciating the sound effects which were overcome by the volume.  

The retelling of the story was delivered in best English Received Pronunciation by the excellent troupe of Samuel Collings, Alix Dunmore, William Findley, Dorothea Myer-Bennell and Michael Lumsden. Each consonant was exaggerated and rang comically through the hall with words such as chris – t – mas! In true tradition, this festive tale was related, with its ghosts and spirits supported by the crunching of cereal bags (to denote fires). And of course, there was the constant reference to their sponsor: a gin brand, their Christmas friend. But it was in the ‘intermissions’ that the chaos was exposed, with excellent comic timing. Resentment by the cast towards Ernest, opportunist flirting between Vanity Fair and Beau Belles and innuendo a’plenty - all of which raised many a chuckle in the audience.

But, somehow the laugh out loud responses were not there. Was it the noise that infused the tent from the local Leicester Square crowd, or was it the extreme heat inside the theatre?  We had so wanted to love it. This is a group with a noted track record whose past productions have been heralded and who hold a regular spot at London’s Globe Theatre. Certainly the jokes were there, the premise was just right, the content had been well considered and the characterisation was spot on. And yet ... Audience reaction is so important in a production such as this and I am sure the cast will have been a little disappointed. I suspect that the sound may need to be adapted and the thermostat lowered so that future audiences can really enjoy themselves and laugh out loud.

So bah humbug to those who were sidetracked and distracted and in true festive tradition (and in keeping with Tiny Tim): A merry Christmas to us all: God bless us everyone, and here’s hoping that future performances of this delicious festive broadcast will be appreciated more.

Photography: Geraint Lewis

A CHRISTMAS CAROL

Friday 8 December – Saturday 30 December 2017 (full schedule below)

The Paradiso Spiegeltent, Christmas at Leicester Square, London WC2H 7DE

Running time 75 minutes without interval – Age guidance 12+

Tickets: 8, 9, 10 December -  £20 
13, 15, 20, 21, 27, 28, 29, 30 Dec - £25

16, 17, 22, 23, 24 December - £27.50

All performances at 3.30pm except 24 December 2.00pm

​Concessions £1.50 off all prices / Family deal: £10 off 4 tickets

 

Box Office 0333 344 4167 / Book online at www.christmasinleicestersquare.com  

Dec 9th

DAISY PULLS IF OFF by Denise Deegan

By Elaine Pinkus

Daisy Pulls It Off by Denise Deegan at the Park Theatre, Finsbury Park, London.

 

 

Ah hah! Bully off, jolly hockey sticks, it’s back to those halcyon days of Angela Brazil and the bygone era of girls’ boarding schools with midnight feasts, pillow (or in this case hot water bottle) fights and, of course, jolly hockey sticks.  Inspired by her childhood reading, and wishing to create a platform for women actors, Denise Deegan wrote the successful, award winning Daisy Pulls If Off in 1980. Since then it has played in many theatres with varying cast sizes. In this revival, it is being performed in its original cast size and, as such, relies heavily on the artistry of the actors and the skill of director Paulette Randall MBE.

 

On entering the intimate space of London’s Park Theatre, the audience is greeted with the Grangewood school motto 'Honesta Quam Magna' (how great are noble things). Yes, in this privileged world it is honour, loyalty, honesty and of course social class that dominates. Will Daisy Meredith, a mere elementary school girl who has won a scholarship to these hallowed halls, manage to bridge the gulf? Will she be accepted by those who consider her their inferior?

 

Pauline McLynn and Anna Shaffer (l-r) in Daisy Pulls It Off at Park Theatre. Photo by Tomas Turpie 35_preview.jpeg

 

Pauline McLynn as Trixie and Anna Shaffer as Daisy

 

And so it is that the play within a play begins. It is the 25th anniversary of Grangewood School and the girls are to create and perform a play for the parents, aunts, uncles and all who have come to celebrate. This is to be the story of Daisy Meredith and her chum Trixie Martin who set about solving the mystery of the Beaumont treasure, creating for this purpose their Dark Horse secret society. It is a world of latin expressions, ‘oh jubilate’, of social expectations and of course, sporting prowess. And in this world, there is no sneaking or telling of tales.

 

Productions have generally been played in a straight way, after all the script is so exaggerated that the humour is obvious within the writing. However, Randall has admitted to changing the rules this time and to allow licence to the talented group of actors who embrace their diverse roles with relish. From the prim headmistress (Lucy Eaton), to the bullying Sybil and Monica (Shobana Gulati and Clare Perkins) to the adorable Trixie Martin (Pauline McLynn), we settle into that world and experience the injustices netted out to poor Daisy. 'Play up and play the game' is central to her story. It may be enacted through hockey (Lucy Eaton as Alice), or led by the faultless headgirl Clare, (Melanie Fullbrook), adored by all but at its centre is integrity and fair play.

 

There are some wonderful spirited moments and delicious effects of gales and hockey games. As the play returns to its second act the cast settle confidently into their roles and perform with a sense of fun and enjoyment, winning the audience over with their antics. We celebrate the win at hockey through the excitement of Belinda (Freddie Hutchins) in his/her lap of honour and cheer when Daisy saves the day. 

 

The cast of Daisy Pulls It Off at Park Theatre. Photo by Tomas Turpie 32_preview.jpeg

 

The cast of Daisy Pulls It Off: Anna Shaffer, Freddie Hutchins, Lucy Eaton, Melanie Fullbrook

 

There are some wonderful comic moments with characters bringing to life those glorious boarding school stories. Pauline McLynn as Trixie was an absolute delight, playing her role with uninhibited joy and vigour. Anna Shaffer as Daisy was playing her stage debut and will have gained much from the support of her accomplished fellow actors. 

 

Although I was reticent about the poetic licence and freedom of this interpretation there is no doubt it can be enjoyed by all and is an evening of fun and festve spirit.

 

Photographs: Tomas Turpie

 

Venue: PARK200, Park Theatre, Clifton Terrace, Finsbury Park, N4 3JP

Tel: 020 7870 6876

Dates: Tuesday 5 December 2017 - Saturday 13 January 2018

Age guidance: 8+

 

Tube: Finsbury Park (Station Place Exit)

 

Running time: 2 hours 25 minutes including a 20 minute interval

 

 

 

Dec 8th

Sleeping Beauty, The Kings Theatre Glasgow

By Cameron Lowe

 Review by Suzanne Lowe

It’s that time of year again (oh yes it is….) when children and adults flock to theatre’s around the country to see their favourite pantomime.  The Kings Theatre, Glasgow has always produced top quality productions featuring top quality stars and this year was no exception.

 

The audience were transported to the magical city of Glasweedgia and the delights of ‘Sleeping Beauty’.  This is the classic fairy tale of the beautiful Princess cursed by a spell as a baby, who falls into a deep sleep on the night of her 21st Birthday after a rather unfortunate incident with a spinning wheel.  You know the story….

 

The show opened with the usual colourful singing and dancing one would expect.  A stage filled with beautiful people dressed in very pastel shades belting out a rather forgettable opening number!

 

However the arrival on stage of Johnny Mac as ‘Muddles’ set the tone for the rest of the evening.  A veteran of pantomimes all over the country, this award winning comedian delivered the usual corny jokes with great enthusiasm endearing himself to the audience instantly.  His interaction and comedy timing made this the stand out performance of the night.

 

Making a welcome return to The King's Panto for the first time in 8 years was the hugely talented Elaine C. Smith.  Taking on the role of ‘Fairy Bella Houston’ saw her opening number announce her great return.  Perhaps this felt a little self-indulgent and unnecessary for someone with her acting repertoire.  However this was soon forgotten as we moved through the show.  Her usual comedic delivery had the audience laughing for the rest of the evening.  Perhaps her most memorable moment would be that of taking on the classic Adele Song “Hello” and of course re-naming it “Hey You” in her best Glaswegian accent.  She was a perfect match to her onstage son ‘Muddles’ and the two played off one another brilliantly.

 

Juliet Cadzow played the panto baddie this year taking on the role of ‘Carabosse’, the evil witch who placed the spell on poor Princess Beauty.  Perhaps best known for her roles in Balamory and River City she received the usual ‘Boo’s’ from the audience one would expect from the villain of the show.  Playing along-side her, was Paul-James Corrigan (also of River City fame) who took on the role of ‘Slimeball’.  As the son of ‘Carabosse’ the two worked well together giving the audience the roles they love to hate.

 

As a stalwart of Scottish theatre and television George Drennan played the part of ‘King Hector’ ably accompanied by Louise Ludgate as Queen Morag.  Their rendition alongside ‘Fairy Bella’ and ‘Muddles’ of the classic Scottish version of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” had the audience crying with laughter.

 

Will Knights as ‘Prince Calum’ and Maggie Lynne as ‘Princess Beauty’ also delivered faultless performances as the romantic leads.  They brought a sense of calm to the chaotic proceedings going on around them.

 

Perhaps the stand out, jaw dropping moment of the evening has to go to the flying car!  Yes indeed while trying to get to Dunoon, ‘Fairy Bella’ and ‘Muddles’ decided not to take the conventional ferry but instead take to the skies in a sports car.  Having seen many things ‘fly’ over the years on The Kings stage this has to take the crown.  Not only did it lift up on stage it then ‘flew’ out over the audience above the stalls.  An amazing piece of theatre wizardry.

 

As panto’s go this has to be one of the funniest I have seen in a while.  Written by Alan McHugh the up to date topical references have to receive credit.

 

If you want a great night out then get yourself along to The Kings to watch ‘Sleeping Beauty’, you will not be disappointed.

 

(Images courtesy of Ambassadors Theatre Group) 

Sleeping Beauty The King's Theatre, Bath Street, Glasgow

Sat 2 Dec 2017 - Sun 7 Jan 2018

Tue-Sat at 7.00pm, Sun at 5.00pm

Matinees daily at 1pm, 2pm or 11am

www.atgtickets.com/glasgow

0844 871 7648* calls cost up to 7p per minute plus your phone company’s access charge

Dec 7th

Mamma Mia! – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

By Cameron Lowe

The warmth of a Greek Summer will be keeping the Winter blues at bay at Glasgow’s Theatre Royal throughout December  as the ultimate feel-good musical, Mamma Mia!, takes up residency there throughout the Christmas period.

Mamma Mia! (in case you haven’t heard) is the wonderfully crafted musical woven around the hits of 70s and 80s pop sensations, Abba.  Sophie (delightfully characterised by Lucy May Barker) is a 20 year old girl about to marry the love of her life.  Her idyllic upbringing on a sun kissed Greek island seems to have only missed one thing – her father.  But, a quick look at her mother’s diary is all it takes to discover that the lucky man could be one of … 3 men.  So, she does the natural thing and invites all 3 to her wedding in the hope that her real father will step forward and walk her down the aisle – while keeping the plot a secret from her doting mother of course!

This was my fourth time in the audience for Mamma Mia! – and it NEVER gets old!!  It is an absolute joy from start to finish … and I think that this touring production may just have been my favourite so far.  It wasn’t “perfect” … the vocals were not the strongest I’ve heard from the principals … but this was more than made up for in quality characterisation and outright GUSTO!  And, anyway … Mamma Mia! is not a show to get too tied down in artsy critical detail over.  It's how it makes you feel that is important - and that is simply wonderful!

Lucy May Barker was wonderful as Sophie.  She immediately won the audience over with her “girl next door” charm and then set about wowing us with an energetic performance and some beautiful shared scenes with stage mum, Donna (played by Helen Hobson).  Ms Hobson led the ‘older’ generation cast in confident style; portraying extremes of fun and drama with solid believability.  Her combination of “Slipping Through My Fingers” as she describes her changing relationship with her growing daughter followed immediately in the second act by the showstopper “The Winner Takes It All” overpowered the audience with emotion.

Supporting performances were all of an incredibly high standard.  Jon Boydon, as Sam, impressed with vocals that left Pierce Brosnan in the dust.  Brilliant character performances from Emma Clifford, Gillian Hardie, Jamie Hogarth and Christopher Hollis had us all in stitches as they brought Catherine Johnson’s book to hilarious life.  I must also credit Louis Stockil who brought acrobatic skill to the role of Pepper along with pin sharp comic timing.  Energy and vocal harmonies from the ensemble cast were second to none.  The music was note perfect on the night (a must for such popular tunes) but I also noticed that the volume was tempered when underscoring important dialogue and this kept the audience fully engaged with the story – 10 out of 10 from me.

If you have seen Mamma Mia! before, my advice to you is to see it again – this month!  Saying you don’t like this show is like saying you don’t like Christmas!

 

Mamma Mia! Theatre Royal, 282 Hope Street, Glasgow, G2 3QA

Tue 5-Sat 30 Dec 2017

Mon-Sat, 7.30pm

Wed, Thu & Sat matinees, 2.30pm

www.atgtickets.com/glasgow

 

0844 871 7648* calls cost up to 7p per minute plus your phone company’s access charge

 

Dec 5th

JANUARY-MARCH SEASON AT THE FINBOROUGH THEATRE ANNOUNCED

By Carolin Kopplin

During 2018, the Finborough Theatre celebrates 150 years of the Finborough Theatre building with the FINBOROUGH150 series, an anniversary selection of the best plays from 1868. Our first season of 2018 features the first rediscovery from 1868 in the FINBOROUGH150 series, alongside five premieres of new writing – three from brand new British and Irish writers in their formal professional debuts, and two multi-award-winning American playwrights with two hard-hitting and controversial new plays.

Finborough Theatre Artistic Director Neil McPherson said: "A recent article in the press bemoaned the lack of new British playwrights at some of London’s funded “new writing” theatres. As always, it is up to venues such as ours to redress the balance. This season features three new debut plays from British and Irish playwrights, alongside two new plays from multi-award-winning American playwrights. Three of the new plays this season were first seen in our acclaimed Vibrant – A Festival of Finborough Playwrights seasons which will celebrate its tenth consecutive year in 2018. As always, too, we celebrate the old alongside the new, and this season we begin celebrating the 150th anniversary of our building with the first in our new FINBOROUGH150 series.”

Commemorating the 80th anniversary of the Nanking massacre, the season opens with the European premiere of Into the Numbers by the multi-award-winning playwright Christopher Chen, commemorating the 80th anniversary of ‘The Rape of Nanking’, one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century, playing for a four week limited season from 2-27 January 2018. It is accompanied by the world premiere of Imaginationship by Sue Healy, a new play on love, sex, obsession and death in Great Yarmouth, originally seen as a staged reading as part of Vibrant 2017 – A Festival of Finborough Playwrights, playing on Sunday and Monday evenings and Tuesday matinees between 7-23 January 2018.

The season continues with the world premiere of a debut by Cornish playwright Henry Darke, Booby’s Bay, a passionate, comic fable about the housing crisis in Cornwall and beyond, and a maverick’s mission to turn the tide, playing 30 January-24 February 2018. It plays alongside the opening production of the FINBOROUGH150 series – the first London production since 1890 of the 1868 hit, Cyril’s Success, a semi-autobiographical satire on playwrights and theatre folk, by local resident Henry J. Byron, playing for nine Sunday and Monday evenings and Tuesday matinees from 4 February 2018.

We end the season with the world premiere of the first English-language adaptation of the classic novella by Ghassan KanafaniReturning to Haifa, adapted for the stage by Naomi Wallaceand Ismail Khalidi, a compelling story of two families – one Palestinian, one Israeli – forced by history into an intimacy they didn't choose. It concides with the 70th anniversaries of both the Nakbaor “catastrophe” (the mass dispossession of the Palestinians in 1948) and the foundation of the State of Israel, and plays from 27 February-24 March 2018. This production marks the play's world premiere, following its banning by the Public Theater, New York City. It plays concurrently with the world premiere of Checkpoint Chana by Jeff Page, a new play examining the point where pro-Palestinian criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism blur. Originally seen as a staged reading as part ofVibrant 2017 – A Festival of Finborough Playwrights, it runs on Sunday and Monday evenings and Tuesday matinees between 4-20 March 2018.

From 30 January 2018, by popular request, we will be moving to a new ticketing provider, Spektrix, for all ticket bookings. The website address will remain www.finboroughtheatre.co.ukFrom 30 January 2018, telephone bookings will be on a new number 01223 357851 and will be free to call. There will no booking fees on online, personal or postal bookings, but there will be a 5% booking fee on telephone bookings.

The Finborough Theatre has had a superlative year to date with acclaimed sell-out productions, transfers in London and to New York City, our tenth Channel 4 Playwrights Scheme Playwright in Residence Bursary, and nominations for both The Stage Debut Award and an Olivier Award.

For full information, please visit www.finboroughtheatre.co.uk