Share |
Feb 9th

Forever Dusty - Theatre Royal Windsor and touring

By Kate Braxton

It’s only fair to set the scene here and say I am an out and out Dusty fan. I live in a cottage behind her grave and have been hugely anticipating the arrival of Forever Dusty at Theatre Royal Windsor this week - a reviewer's life is Forever Uncomfy...

…This biographical new show has set off on tour with Strictly Theatre Entertainments, and ‘entertaining’ sums it up, in a beehive. It’s nostalgic, dramatic and a simmering pot of emotion from start to finish. Phew!

We’re stepped apace through Dusty’s life story by a script of chapter-style scenes, cataloguing her meteoric rise from shy Irish schoolgirl, Mary O'Brien, through fame and adulation, yet we are also a party to some of her darker periods overshadowed by mental illness, addiction and private struggles with love. The overriding feeling is that she was untouchably brilliant, yet humanly vulnerable. It’s hard not to be empathetic.

Both Springfield’s famous and lesser-known songs drive the narrative in this five person show, and although she physically bears little resemblance to Dusty, the big white boots are filled admirably by Katherine Ferguson. If the characterisation felt a little shaky through Act 1, there is very much a sense of ‘owning it’ come the latter part of the show.  She delivers sequences of magic, including her full rendition of ‘Son of a Preacher Man’, the heady, lingering  'Look of Love', and we get the full force of her performance during ‘I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself' as Katherine's Dusty is driven to her knees by the unmanageability of her life.

Mvula Tampa injects additional power to the production as Dusty’s ‘hidden’, and apparently long-suffering African-American lover, Clare. Her vocals are terrific, her stage presence, quite mystifying. In many of their scenes together, I was perhaps over-drawn to the intrigue of her performance and this ‘dunno what to make of this’ feeling was amplified in their duets, since the pair’s voices compete pretty hard for attention. In many ways, Clare personifies the controversy and conflict in Dusty’s life, so that element of unprettiness is strangely acceptable.

In stark contrast to this emotional heat – and I think for some respite to the audience’s nervous system from writers Jonathan Vankin and Kirsten Holly Smith - the more one-dimensional characters of Dusty’s brother, Dion/Tom and American Producer, Jerry, are given a safe pair of hands in the shape of Josh Harris.  Ashlea Lauren and Samantha Palin also provide strong additional support through musical numbers and anecdotal scenes.

A terrifically balanced selection of musical numbers is crisply delivered by musical director, Pete Dodsworth and his on-stage band, who sadly, but per the direction and writing, remain relatively detached from the stage work.

The unchanging set and simple production values focus all of our attention on the full company’s action and interaction.  With a little sharper attention to the dialogue flow, and some fine-tuning to the shared vocal balance, I believe the show has the potential to be something spectacular in performances to come. 

Runs at Theatre Royal Windsor from Weds 7 - Saturday 10th Feb

  • Show Times
  • Wed – Sat 8pm, Thu 2.30pm, Sat 4.45pm

 
Box Office: 01753 853 888 (10am - 8pm Monday - Saturday)
Feb 7th

Crazy For You

By Trevor Gent

High energy, high kicking and gloriously glamorous, the acclaimed Watermill Theatre production of Crazy for You is the ultimate feel-good musical. Strictly Come Dancing winner Tom Chambers stars in this multi-award winning, romantic comedy, featuring a fabulous score from the Gershwin brothers’ songbook. Music and Lyrics by George and Ira Gershwin. Book by Ken Ludwig.

Crazy for You charts the troubled love story of Bobby (played by Tom Chambers), son of a wealthy New York banking family and frustrated Broadway hoofer, and Polly (Charlotte Wakefield), daughter of the proprietor of a failing theatre in Deadrock, Nevada. Sent to close the theatre down, Bobby falls for Polly and, in the guise of a Hungarian impresario, decides to save the theatre by putting on a show. The show also starrs Claire Sweeney in the role of Irene Roth.

Mistaken identities, heartbreak, happiness and a wealth of memorable tunes, including I Got Rhythm, They Can’t Take That Away From Me, Nice Work If You Can Get It and Embraceable You all feature in this exhilarating celebration of the great Broadway musicals.

The production is well worth its West End billing and is certainly a show stopper of a musical, a real feel good treat with energetic dance routines, fabulous costumes , comic moments and ofcourse some great song and dance numbers. The live on stage musicians added  to the experience as it is something you do not always see on stage. Tremendous entertainment.

There are some blind spot issues for people sitting on the sides of row due to blocked effects on the stage and so actors could not been seen when performing there, which was frustrating and disappointing. However, overall the experience was very pleasurable and this is certainly one I can recommend.

Unfortunately no production photos were provided for the performance but some can be found on the tour link http://www.crazyforyoutour.com/

 

 

The first touring performance of this production was at Plymouth Theatre Royal on Thursday 17th August 2017.

 

The show continues at the Swan Theatre High Wycombe until Saturday 10th February (Box office 01494 512 000) and then at the following locations:

 

13th to 17th Feb - Truro, Hall for Cornwall - 01872 262466

20th to 24th Feb - Ipswich, Regent Theatre - 01473 433100

27th Feb to 3rd Mar - Llandudno, Venue Cymru - 01492 872000

6th to 10th Mar - London, New Wimbledon Theatre -  0844 871 7646

20th to 24th Mar - Milton Keynes Theatre -    0844 871 7652        

27th to 31st Mar - Aberdeen, Her Majesty’s Theatre -  01224 641122

3rd to 7th Apr - Edinburgh, Playhouse - 0844 871 3014

10th to 14th Apr - Bradford, The Alhambra Theatre -     01274 432000      

24th to 28th Apr - Sunderland, Empire - 0844 871 3022

1st to 5th May - Swansea,  Grand Theatre - 01792 475715

8th to 12th May - Wolverhampton, Grand Theatre - 01902 429212

15th to 19th May - Woking, New Victoria Theatre - 0844 871 7645

29th May to 2nd June - Brighton, Theatre Royal - 0844 871 7650

4th to 9th June - Leicester, Curve - 0116 242 3595

                                   

Feb 7th

The Play That Goes Wrong, Aylesbury Waterside Theatre.

By Pete Benson

The Play That Goes Wrong has only one purpose and that is to make you laugh uproariously. Everything you need to know about it is in the title. This is an Olivier award winning comedy written by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields for their Mischief Theatre Company.

TPTGW Kenny Wax Ltd

Images courtesy ofKenny Wax Ltd

The conceit is that we are watching a murder mystery play staged by the fictional Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society. The plot of the murder mystery is of little interest to us because we are here to enjoy hapless actors and stage crew thwarted in their endeavour by varying measures of bad luck and incompetence. Much of the humour comes from broad physical set pieces and indeed the actual set does end up in pieces and what an amazing set it is.

The idea of a play, presented ostensibly by amateur actors, going wrong is not a new one. In the 80s we had the Farndale Ladies, a series of plays about a fictional village company destroying popular theatre genres and before that was The Art of Coarse Acting, a book by Michael Green which was the journalistic equivalent.

Portraying two stage crew, Gabriel Paul and Catherine Dryden, establish the tone of the play in a pre-show set piece as they try to make final adjustments to the set which defies them at every turn, leaving us in now doubt as to the tone of the performance. Their characters both have story arcs within the ensuing chaos. Catherine’s shy, lowly stage crew member transforms through reluctant actress into megalomaniacal leading lady while Paul’s laid back technician builds an endearing relationship with us in the audience.

The play is introduced with an almost stand up comedic monologue by the company director played by Jake Curran. He has also cast himself in the lead part of the detective. Gradually his controlled but self-important demeanour is slowly worn away until he finally snaps as he harangues the audience for laughing at his ‘serious work’.

Kazeem Tosin Amore portrays perhaps one of the more proficient actors and he moves nicely between his actor character and his real life persona which intrudes more and more as his life on stage reaches new heights of absurdity. My personal favourite was Bobby Hirston who plays, the young love interest and also the variously aged gardener.  There is something of the clown about Hirston who is want to smile broadly, abandoning all illusion of acting, whenever he feels he’s pleased his audience. His monologues are illustrated with nonsensical mime and at times he is paralysed by the intimate presence of his female performers. One of which is played by Elena Valentine who undergoes some of the most physically punishing trauma of the show. She gives a brilliant physical comedic performance as an enthusiastic over actor.

TPTGW Kenny Wax Ltd

Images courtesy ofKenny Wax Ltd

It’s good to hear a company tackle the large, impressive Waterside theatre without any radio mics. The portrayal of their amateur oration allows the actors to comfortably project without sacrificing subtlety, because there mostly is none though one of my favourite moments was a just audible whisper.

If I have to criticise, and I don’t really want to after being made to laugh so much, it is that as the play reached its frantic crescendo, volume perhaps was sacrificed for speed and chaos. Arguably this doesn’t matter as the play is now irrelevant and bedlam is everything but strangely it hindered my focus. It is a huge ask to keep up two hours, less an interval, of such broad comedy and for the most part this was achieved. Perhaps there were a couple of dips in comic energy but mostly the big set pieces were well paced giving a constant topping of what had gone before.

If you don’t like broad farcical slapstick taken to the limit and then way beyond, this is not for you. With that one proviso, this show will make you laugh with more fulsome gusto than you have in a long while.

 

Waterside Theatre

“Box Office: 0844 871 7607 (bkg fee)

http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/the-play-that-goes-wrong/aylesbury-waterside-theatre/

 

The Play That Goes Wrong - Theatre tour dates.

BATH Theatre Royal Mon 12 - Sat 17 Feb   01225 448844            

GLASGOW King's Theatre   Mon 26 Feb - Sat 3 Mar          0844 871 7648           

DARLINGTON Hippodrome            Mon 5 - Sat 10 Mar     01325 405405            

EDINBURGH Festival Theatre         Mon 12 - Sat 17 Mar   0131 529 6000           

COVENTRY Belgrade Theatre         Mon 19 - Sat 24 Mar   024 7655 3055           

BIRMINGHAM Hippodrome           Tue 27 - Sat 31 March            0844 338 5000           

DERBY Theatre         Tue 3 - Sat 7 April      01332 59 39 39          

MOLD Theatre Clwyd           Mon 9 - Sat 14 April   01352 701521            

TRURO Hall for Cornwall     Tue 17 - Sat 21 Apr    01872 262466            

MILTON KEYNES Theatre Mon 23 - Sat 28 Apr   0844 871 7652           

CARDIFF New Theatre         Mon 30 Apr - Sat 5 May         029 2087 8889           

YORK Grand Theatre            Mon 14 - Sat 19 May 0844 871 3024           

HULL New Theatre   Mon 21 - Sat 26 May 01482 300 306           

CAMBRIDGE Arts Theatre Mon 28 May - Sat 2 June        01223 503333            

COLCHESTER Mercury Theatre      Mon 4 - Sat 9 June      01206 573948            

SWINDON Wyvern   Mon 11 - Sat 16 June 01793 524 481           

BRADFORD Alhambra Theatre        Mon 18 - Sat 23 June 01274 432000            

MANCHESTER Opera House           Mon 25 - Sat 30 Jun    0844 871 3018           

NEWCASTLE Theatre Royal            Mon 2 - Sat 7 Jul         08448 11 21 21          

LIVERPOOL Empire Theatre            Mon 9 - Sat 14 Jul       0844 871 3017           

BRISTOL Hippodrome          Mon 16 - Sat 21 Jul     0844 871 3012           

SHEFFIELD Lyceum Theatre           Mon 30 Jul – Sat 4 Aug          0114 249 6000           

BLACKPOOL Winter Gardens         Tue 7 - Sat 11 Aug      0844 856 1111           

MALVERN Theatres Mon 13 - Sat 18 Aug 01684 892277            

TORQUAY Princess Theatre             Mon 20 - Sat 25 Aug 0844 871 3023           

BRIGHTON Theatre Royal   Mon 27 Aug - Sat 1 Sep         0844 871 7650           

LEICESTER Curve    Mon 3 - Sat 8 Sep       0116 242 3595           

LLANDUDNO Venue Cymru           Mon 10 – Sat 15 Sep 01492 872000            

BILLINGHAM Forum Theatre         Mon 17 - Sat 22 Sep   01642 552663            

PORTSMOUTH King's Theatre         Mon 24 - Sat 29 Sep   023 9282 8282           

POOLE Lighthouse    Mon 1 - Sat 6 Oct       01202 280000            

 

Feb 2nd

MOMENTS & EMPTY BEDS Julia Cranney/Kate Treadell

By Elaine Pinkus

MOMENTS and EMPTY BEDS: Hope Theatre, Islington

Following its successful run in Edinburgh, (Double award-winning  - SCOTTISH DAILY MAIL AWARD 2016, EDDIES AWARD 2016 for Empty Beds) Pennyworth Productions has brought its double bill  Moments and Empty Beds to London’s Hope Theatre for a three week run, ending 17 February 2018.  Written by Julia Cranney and directed by Kate Treadell, both pieces are poignant and  provoke thoughtful reaction  from the  audience as they address issues of connectivity, mental health and the turmoil of solitude and isolation in the disconnect of modern life. Moments of seriousness  are broken by sardonic humour but the sadness remains in the hopelessness of the different situations.

Pennyworth Productions was founded in 2016. Their work’s intention is to raise questions about today’s world that we often circumvent as they may be uncomfortable in their acknowledgement. Through the medium of these two plays they have achieved their objective. The excellent performances and heartfelt delivery of the cast have steered the principle of this group to the deserved outcome.

The Hope Theatre is a small studio space above the popular Hope & Anchor pub in Islington. It seats approximately 50 and offers intimacy and proximity to the actors. Staging for this production was minimal with two large chests, housing a variety of props, which served as beds, buses and train seats. The productions relied on the skills of the actors who conveyed their roles with commitment, credibility and sincerity.

Moments features two strangers, Daniel and Ava. On first meeting them, we wonder what is their connection after all he is 56 and she is 25. What can they have in common? Ultimately it is their loneliness and mundane daily routine that brings them together. Ava believed she could start a new and exciting life in London but is desperate in her loneliness. Daniel has had a life changing experience and is rejected by his daughter. His sadness is evident in his solitude. Through the intriguing direction by Kate Treadwell, we are served a commentary through the dialogue which adds weight to their situations.

Daniel

Simon Mattacks as Daniel in Moments: photograph Nick Reed

In Empty Beds we meet the Wyld sisters. Despite being connected through their birth, they tend to avoid each other. Whilst on a train en route to visit their brother for his birthday they have agreed to show a united front. However, despite their agreement, 250 miles offers opportunity to vent their true feelings. This is strong acting which is emotionally charged. Like the swaying of the train as it journeys on its rails, we jostle from laughter to sadness, from empathy to anger and as such are transfixed to the unfolding relationships.

The Wyld Sisters

Julia Cranney, Debbie Brannan and Carys Wright: Empty Beds: photo Nick Reed

On a personal level, I was more invested in Moments.  Julia Cranney as Ava and Simon Mattacks as Daniel performed in harmony with a lyrical element. Perhaps the denouement disappointed but for the main part of the hour, it was spellbinding.

Watching Empty Beds was more objective and I felt slightly detached, less involved but intrigued all the same. This was an interesting insight into sibling rivalry. Moments of silence, elements of anger, attempts at laughter. Perhaps this was rather ponderous at times and some of the humour somewhat unnecessary in an otherwise interesting piece.

A thought provoking evening with excellent performances.

Photographs: Nick Reed

Running Time: 2 hours including a 15 minute interval

MOMENTS & EMPTY BEDS JULIA CRANNEY

The Hope Theatre 207 Upper Street London N1 1RL

30 Jan - 17 Feb 2018 Tuesday - Saturday7.45pmTickets £15 & £12 concs

Box Office: 0333 666 3366 www.thehopetheatre.com

Social Media Details

www.pennyworthproductions.co.uk

Twitter: @PennyworthProd Facebook: Pennyworth Productions

 

Twitter: @TheHopeTheatre Facebook: /thehopetheatre