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May 23rd

The Mystery of Edwin Drood at the Arts Theatre

By James Buxton

TheMysteryofEdwinDrood.jpg

The Mystery of Edwin Drood
is a rip rollicking, solve-it-yourself Musical, based on Charles Dickens last, unfinished novel. It was adapted in 1985 by Rupert Holmes and won 5 Tony Awards including Best Musical production when it was first performed on Broadway. Intriguingly, it takes the novel approach of allowing the audience to decide the identity of the murderer. 

This year marks the 200th anniversary of Dickens' birth and Aria Entertainment and the Arts Theatre, inject a new lease of life into a typically Dickensian assortment of eccentric oddballs and dastardly villains. Holmes adaptation ingeniously takes the form of a play within a play, as the cast of the Music Hall Royale perform their ramshackle version of Dickens final novel under the watchful eye of their compere, Chairman William Cartwright, (Denis Delahunt) a sage, yet cheeky old man who narrates the events of the novel whilst orchestrating the action. Delahunt also doubles up as the Mayor Sapsea, switching roles with incredible dexterity, from their larger than life MC to the hunched, miserly old mayor.

Natalie Day plays the title role of Edwin Drood as her stage persona, Miss Alice Nutting, who has the questionable honour of being described as the best male impersonator in London! Day’s Drood is an earnest young man, brimming with all the theatrical, grand gestures of turn of the century music hall theatre. While Daniel Robinson as Mr Clive Paget, plays John Jasper, Drood’s nefarious uncle, and choirmaster of Cloisterham Cathedral. Robinson puts on a powerhouse performance switching character with Jekyll and Hyde like intensity.

Jasper’s 
wondering eye takes a shine to Drood’s fiancée, Rosa Budd played by the inestimable, Victoria Farley. Farley’s petite frame disguises her superb voice, which is one of the highlights of the show. Jasper however, is not the only man bewitched by Drood’s fiancée as the dastardly, Neville Landless (David Francis) a newly arrived aristocrat from Ceylon, takes a shine to Rosa Budd. Francis’s hammed up version of Landless is hysterically funny, in his brown face mask he wildly arches his eyebrows and acts out the role of a vaudeville villain with great relish. Landless brings with him his sister, Helena Landless (Loula Geater) who carries an air of exoticism as she struts about the stage speaking in a Eastern European accent. Once Drood disappears however, we are left with a cast of suspicious characters, each more extraordinary than the last, but it is left to us to decide, who is responsible for Drood’s murder!

 The music hall tradition is lovingly brought to their mock-proscenium arch stage, replete with stage musicians, who provide a raucous soundtrack without missing a beat. We are treated to a multi-sensory experience as the smell of incense wafts through the air, smoke fills the stage, the lights turn red and the cello carves out it’s tune as the matriarch of the opium den, Princess Puffer (Wendi Peters) waddles onto the stage. Peters in her busty dress is hilarious as an East End mistress of vice, sharing a great sense of mirth with the audience. She excellently alternates between the cockney, pugnacious Princess Puffer and her theatrical alter ego, the well spoken, Angela Prysock.

Credit goes to Matthew Gould who’s direction artfully balances the play within a play, as the narrative of Edwin Drood is skillfully intertwined with the chaos of the company of the Music Hall Royale. Thus we are introduced to a cabaret of characters, of villains and aristocrats, fiends and lovers, in this fast paced romp that will have you rolling in the aisles. So kick off your boots and loosen your corsets for this schizophrenic, music hall rendition of The Mystery of Edwin Drood. 

18 May - 17 June
 http://www.artstheatrewestend.co.uk/whatson

Aug 21st

MAMMA MIA!

By Kirstie Niland
Blackpool Opera House

MAMMA MIA! How can I resist you when the Blackpool show has broken box office history. After seeing this five-star performance at the Opera House it’s clear to see why it remains packed well into its 12-week run.

Geraldine Fitzgerald, Sara Poyzer & Sue Devaney in MAMMA MIA! International Tour, credit Brinkhoff & M+Âgenburg.jpg

Having watched the movie several times it took a few minutes to adjust to the cast. It’s a bit like seeing the film before the book, it spoils you for the real thing. After all, how can anyone beat such a stellar line-up including Meryl Streep and Colin Firth?

Well...by forming a cast so packed full of charisma and talent that you forget the big names and get carried away by their magic – enough to have you on your feet, dancing and singing along with a standing ovation at the end.

Blackpool’s Opera House is the only venue to host the international tour of the West End production of MAMMA MIA! this year, and took £2million in ticket sales in the first six weeks alone, making it Blackpool’s highest ever grossing show.

The feel good family tale set on a Greek island features a simple set which is seamlessly changed by the cast themselves, so that the story flows without interruption.

The most spectacular moments are: the Voulez Vous scene, where Sophie’s three fathers announce they will give her away as she swirls into confusion under disco lights; and the high action flipper sequence where the groom’s friends carry the boy band-esque Sky (Bart Edwards) away to Lay All Your Love on Me. And if like me you’ve seen the film first, then deleted movie scenes Under Attack and The Name of the Game are a welcome surprise.

Understudy Jasmin Colangelo is sweet as Sophie, and Sara Poyzer powerfully eclipses Meryl Streep as Donna. Ex Corrie star Richard Standing is superb as Sam, and anyone wondering at the heightened chemistry between him and his Say I Do bride should know they celebrated their real life wedding anniversary one night this summer after their on-stage marriage!

The cast as a whole create huge chemistry together, and a special shout-out must go to homegrown talent and West End Billy Elliot star Ashley Luke Lloyd who is an entertaining and high energy Eddie.

My favourite stars of the show were Donna and the Dynamos. Sara (Donna), Sue Devaney (Rose), and Geraldine Fitzgerald (Tanya) are excellently cast as friends for life. Chiquitita, Does Your Mother Know and Take a Chance on Me are hilarious and excellently choreographed, and Sara’s performance of The Winner Takes it All and Slipping Through My Fingers are mesmerising and full of emotion.

Geraldine Fitzgerald, Sara Poyzer & Sue Devaney in MAMMA MIA! International Tour 2, credit Brinkhoff & M+Âgenburg.jpg

Of course no production of Mamma Mia would be complete without the comedy finale of Waterloo. The three male leads, Sam, Bill Austin and Harry Headbanger, do Abba, Blackpool and Funny Girls proud, strutting their stuff to perfection.

So on behalf of UK Theatre Network I say: MAMMA MIA and the Opera House...Thank you for the Music.

The International Tour of MAMMA MIA! is playing at the Winter Gardens Opera House, Blackpool, until September 14. Take a Chance on me and see it. (Sorry, couldn’t resist).

Tickets, priced from £20, are available from Blackpool Opera House and VisitBlackpool Tourist Information Centre, 01253 478222, or by calling Ticketmaster 0844 847 2517.

Apr 18th

Bridlington at the Rosemary Branch Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

 My heart is like a frozen sea.

This is the third part of writer Peter Hamilton's trilogy about provincial towns in England after Basingstoke and Basildon. Inspired by a holiday in Bridlington in the 1950s, Hamilton created the partially autobiographical character of Bernard who is fascinated by a red German submarine from WW I that was washed up on the beach below Flamborough Head. Directed by Ken McClymont, Clockschool Theatre Company presents Bridlington at the Rosemary Branch Theatre for a 3-week run.

Bernard and Ruth are both patients in a psychiatric institution. Ruth is making her mark in the Poetry Workshop and is obsessed with Wuthering Heights, which she has read 49 times. Bernard is intrigued by anti-submarine warfare in the North Sea during the First World War. He has an imaginary friend, a German submarine commander named Wulf, who celebrates adventure and the risky life of a hunter. Ruth is fascinated by Bernard as he reminds her of Heathcliff and they begin a doomed relationship.

Julia Tarnoky as Ruth -- Photo by Bill Knight

As the performance begins, a big book moves across the stage like a butterfly, conjured by Ruth - a fascinating image that implies that Ruth might be the creative force of the evening. Eric and ward sister Gillian are chatting, her assistant Alexander fetches tea. Gillian is worried about Ruth as she has not seen her in some time. This conversation frames the production. Ruth enters and tells us the happiest day of her life was when she discovered "Wuthering Heights" by Emily Brontë. Inspired by Brontë, she has written poetry and has now finished her first novel and we - the "dear readers" - are her first audience. And so the story begins.

The first part of this play is fascinating as we meet the sweet-natured and delicate Ruth with her passion for Emily Brontë. Her world is filled with the characters of "Wuthering Heights" and she keeps writing to them. Her heart belongs to the volatile Heathcliff and there is a deep longing for the wild and dangerous Yorkshire moors. Bernard, a man in his late 30s who is dressed like a little boy, shares Ruth's yearning for a more natural life, away from the institution. Bernard dreams of joining his imaginary friend Wulf in the submarine war to live a free life at sea. Ruth is very attracted to Bernard's qualities and they become involved in a relationship. But Bernard's urge to leave the institution to live a free, adventurous life threatens their delicate friendship.

As Ruth's and Bernard's relationship comes to a conclusion and the important issues seem resolved, it felt like the performance had finished. The remainder of the play, after the interval, did not bring much to the play although several of the scenes were rather intriguing.

Richard Fish as Bernard and Julia Tarnoky as Ruth -- Photo by Bill Knight

This is a sensitive and intelligent portrayal of two people who are traumatised by the industrialised coldness that we all live in. They have lost their connection to nature but feel a deep longing for it - Ruth for the Yorkshire moors, Bernard for the vast sea. The form of the play is fascinating as we are taken into Ruth's - and partially Bernard's - imaginary world by Ken McClymont's skilful direction. Julia Tarnoky is outstanding as Ruth as she draws us into her story and Richard Fish comes a close second as the childlike Bernard whose manic laughter sent chills down my spine although I felt sympathy with him at the same time. Christopher James Barley is charming as Gillian's kind assistant Alexander and charismatic in a rather sinister way as Bernard's imaginary friend Wulf. Toni Brooks and Steve Hunt are very good as the the caring sister Gillian and the frustrated opera singer Eric.

An intriguing play about mental illness caused by a sterile and industrialised world.

By Carolin Kopplin

Until 3rd May 2015

Rosemary Branch Theatre

Shepperton Road, London, N1 3DT

Mar 24th

Matthew Bourne's SLEEPING BEAUTY

By Douglas McFarlane

 

I never know what to expect when I go to the theatre to review a production. It's the way I like it, much like BAFTA film review time when I had no idea what The Revenant was because it arrived in November before any press marketing has started, and at that time I didn't even know it was Leonardo's route to Oscar glory. I'm always very busy and a review is another one of many appointments in my day.  Planning on how to get there, followed by where to eat take up the next priority of the evening.  Then the conversation with my wife starts with, so what's this all about ? 

"Matthew Bourne, that choreographer fellow who made a name for himself with Swan Lake where it was an all male cast", I offer knowingly but then my tired brain fails me with attempting to get further. "Sleeping Beauty, is there a beast in that ?".  No beast, but "was that where she eats the apple ?". No, that's Snow White. "No mirror mirror on the wall then ?". Nope, Snow White again, so what's Sleeping Beauty about then ?

I knew I loved Tchaikowsky's music which I had played over and over again when I got hooked on Swan Lake & Nutcracker for the first time, and proceeded to learn more. Wait, is this a ballet ?  In a regional theatre ?. Yes, as it turns out.

That thought reminded me of the fantastic Glasgow actor Gary Lewis in Billy Elliot. "Ballet ?" he snorts. "What's wrong with ballet?" says Billy. "What's wrong with ballet ?" his dad replies with increasing angst, "It's perfectly normal", "Perfectly normal". Then the nan gets involved and now his dad is fuming with every word being emphasised. "Aye for yer nan, for girls, not for lads Billy. Lads do... football, or... boxing, or..... wrestling. Not friggin.... BALLET".

Well this ballet is a modern, contemporary ballet, without all the white tights and cod pieces. A dark fantasy story-telling ballet with fine sets, elegant costumes, expressive dancers and a cute and funny puppet baby.

Watching ballet requires you to zone out and let the dance feed you. Much in the way that you'll never understand a Shakespeare play if you attempt to focus too much, ballet needs your subconscious to take over and make sense of it.  Fortunately, I was in great seats with no distractions to be able to do that. In the first act that is, more on this later.

As you zone out, and let the stress of the day melt away, and consume the dance, you reach a part a short way in where it starts to make sense. Not in words, not in he said, she said, but as a whole. The production shares the story, and the expressions on faces, swaying arms and fast moving legs of the dancers become both the musical staff lines, and the written lines of the script. It wasn't overdone either. It didn't have to be over-expressed, just subtle enough like a normal conversation.  That was clearly evident from this production.

Each and every one of the dancers were talented actors as well as being masters of their craft of dancing. You could feel Matthew Bourne's demand for excellence in each performer. You knew they had stripped back everything they knew about dance, and relearned to immerse themselves in Matthew Bourne's way. Much like film actors might do in a Mike Leigh film.  The quality was very evident, and you knew you weren't going to see much better dance talent on a Wimbledon stage than this, ever.

In the second act, I made the mistake of swapping seats with my wife who had a tall lady in front of her. When I moved I then realised that not only did I have wobbly headed tall gangly woman in front of me, to the left I also had excitable dancer bloke who hummed the tunes and shouted "Bravo" regularly, and was constantly looking over at other excitable dancer bloke to our right, to nod, smile and giggle throughout. It took a lot of hard work to get into the zone again, but I got there and thoroughly enjoyed this quality performance, despite the theatrics next to me.

Matthew Bourne's Sleeping Beauty is touring and apart from Wimbledon which closes this Easter Weekend, there's a few venues in Newcastle, Nottingham, Cardiff, Sheffield and High Wycombe where you can still book up, before they head out for an international tour.

 

The official website is here >

SLEEPING BEAUTY

 

Review by Douglas McFarlane

 

 

Sep 4th

Singin' In The Rain - Bradford Alhambra

By GRAHAM CLARK
I was not quite sure what to expect from this big budget production of the stage show of this popular film. I need not have been worried though because the show is an all singing, dancing, lavish and very funny musical.

Singing in the Rain

It is like being back in the golden age of cinema, when movie stars were some of the biggest names around. Set in Hollywood in 1927 the story of the stage show sticks closely to the film version.

With Monumental Pictures loosing out to Warner Brothers new "talking" movies, Monumental has to move with the times and its new film hence The Duelling Cavalier becomes The Dancing Cavalier with a musical score. Of course there is a twist in the tale.

On screen lovers Don Lockwood (played with style and panache by James Leece) and Lina Lamont (Vicky Binns) move swiftly over to the "talking" movies, however, there is just one problem in that Lamont cannot sing! Lockwood's off screen lover Kathy Seldon (Amy Ellen Richardson) has the voice and she becomes the on screen singing voice of Lamont much to her dislike.

One of the stars of the show who has some brilliant one liners is Cosmo Brown (Stephane Anelli). Anelli has perfect comic timing and his slapstick comedy is one of the main draws of the show.

Credit too must go to Paul Grunert who plays a brilliant part as Director Roscoe Dexter. Studio owner R F Simpson is played with authority by Maxwell Caufield.

The songs are well known though Make 'em Laugh is memorable, there is even a dancing gorilla!

Some of the front row have come armed with umbrella's, they need them too as just before the end of the first half of the show Singin' In The Rain is performed as  some of the 12,000 litres of water used in the show, starts to rain all over the stage!

There is no escaping as the song is performed again - with more rain, at the end of the show.
 
The show has everything you want from a musical and more, I enjoyed every minute of it. My tip though is do not sit near the front unless you enjoy getting wet. It does not deter though from what is one of the best musicals currently touring the UK.
 
Runs until Saturday 13 September 2014,  tickets from £19.50 available from: www.bradford-theatres.co.uk.  Telephone 01274 432000
Feb 28th

Round the Horne @ The Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury

By Yvonne Delahaye

Round The Horne Tickets at Victoria Hall,

“Oh, Mr Horne! How bona to vada your dolly old eek!”

If you were around between 1965 to 1968, you may recognise this line from the biggest radio programme in Britain at the time, the ground-breaking Round the Horne.  For half an hour every Sunday afternoon, audiences of up to 15 million people would gather around the wireless to listen to Kenneth Horne and his merry crew get up to all sorts of mischief.

With its infamous movie spoofs and hilarious regular characters such as Rambling Sid Rumpo, Charles and Fiona, J. Peasemold Gruntfuttock and Julian and Sandy, Round the Horne was one of the biggest and best radio comedy shows of all time.  Over 50 years since it began it still earns new fans every year and with packed theatres around the country to see the tour, set in the BBC’s Paris Studios, its success is assured for years to come. 

This is the end of the 50th anniversary tour which has been running since 2015 with three U.K. tours and eight weeks in London. The cast were all excellent at recreating the iconic characters portrayed in the radio show, though Colin Elmer deserves a special mention for perfectly emulating  Kenneth Williams’ voice and mannerisms.

Kenneth Horne - Julian Howard McDowell

Kenneth Williams - Colin Elmer

Hugh Paddick - Alex Scott Fairley 

Betty Marsden - Eve Winters 

Douglas Smith - Alan Booty

SFX/Musician - Miles Russell 

The show was compiled, produced and directed by Tim Astley who set up Apollo Theatre Company in 2010, after graduating from Guildford School of Acting.

Personally, I didn’t know the radio shows so a lot was lost on me, but the almost full theatre whooped at familiar lines and characters they recognised.  What I loved, as an actor myself, was that all of the actors seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves which made me wish I was up there with them!  We certainly need to see more comedy on stage and it’s a compliment to the clever writing of Barry Took and Marty Feldman that it still works to this day.

The tour ends on 1st March at The Victoria Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent.  Tim Astley says ‘It is entirely possible that we may produce a 'Round the Horne' show again in the future but for now there are no immediate plans.’

For further details of all their productions, go to www.apollotheatrecompany.com

Reviewed by:

Yvonne Delahaye

27.2.17

 

@yvonnedelahaye

Sep 4th

Dangerous Corner at the Theatre Royal Windsor

By Clare Brotherwood

A shot in the dark, followed by a scream, and the stage is set for the first of J B Priestley’s many plays.

Dangerous Corner

But the content is in stark contrast to the rich, warm tones of the Art Deco drawing room of the country house in which the play is set. For beneath the 1930s respectability of wealthy couple Robert and Freda Caplan, their friends and colleagues, lurks the darkest of secrets which are disclosed as the evening unfolds.

J B Priestley himself described the play as ‘pretty thin stuff when all is said and done’, but if it were a book it would be a real page-turner, and in the hands of director Michael Attenborough and his sterling cast it has its audience in suspense right up to the very last line as devastating revelation after devastating revelation is exposed.

Some, such as affairs and homosexuality, probably wouldn’t turn a hair in today’s society, but in the mannered world of the 1930s, beautifully recreated by set and costume designer Gary McCann and lighting designer Tim Mitchell, what unfolds appears to be somewhat shocking when the stiff upper lip collapses - with tragic consequences.

As Robert Caplan, Colin Buchanan (remember Dalziel’s Pascoe?) is the perfect host for most of the evening but shows his passionate side in the closing scenes with a powerful explosion of emotions. Robert’s wife, however, shows her feelings more easily from the very beginning and Finty Williams portrays her as both fearful and feisty with a presence she has obviously inherited from her mother, Dame Judi Dench, who was in the audience.

Though Kim Thomson’s Olwen is gentle and almost wan, her presence is just as striking, as is Lauren Drummond’s Betty, for completely different reasons - a playful, shrieking child well suited to her gauche, lumbering husband (Matt Milne).

Though the most contained of all the characters, it is Charles Stanton’s lack of emotion which makes him the most menacing and Michael Praed’s performance is memorable for its steely coldness.

All in all, a class act to be savoured.

Dangerous Corner is at the Theatre Royal Windsor until September 13 and then tours:

Sept 15-20: Clwyd Theatr, Mold

Sept 29-Oct 4: Richmond Theatre

Oct 6-11: Devonshire Park Theatre, Eastbourne

Oct 13-18: Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford

Oct 27-Nov 1: Theatre Royal Glasgow

Nov 3-8: Birmingham Repertory Theatre

Nov 10-15: Malvern Theatre

Nov 17-22: Regent Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent

Nov 24-29: New Victoria Theatre, Woking

www.theatreroyalwindsor.co.uk

www.kenwright.com

Sep 5th

Tess of the D'Urbevilles at the New Wimbledon Studio

By Elaine Pinkus

Having studied Tess of the D’Urbevilles some years ago, I was intrigued by the idea of the adaptation of the Hardy novel to a musical version. Delightedly, I am pleased to say that it worked on every level.

This is the fourth large scale musical that brothers Alex Loveless (Director) and Chris Loveless (Musical Composer) have worked on together, including an adaptation of the Booker Prizewinning The Remains of the Day, in collaboration with author Kazuo Ishiguro.

Together with director Chris Ash, artistic director of Fallen Angel Theatre Company and associate director of Stepping Out Theatre and The Ashton Group, and choreographer Lucy Cullingford, who has worked on dance and movement for the RSC including Matilda, they have created an exciting and accessible production which can be enjoyed by those who know the novel and those who are new to it. The pace of the scenes does not lose momentum, ensuring the audience are involved throughout.

Hardy’s 19th century novel (1891) is set in Wessex and follows Tess’s journey through her relatively short life. David Shield’s set, minimalistic in design, with black and white scenery, evokes not only the openness of the countryside but also the bleakness of Stonehenge. The clever use of lighting (Phil Spencer Hunter) transports us to the fields of Wessex at one moment and the interior of the ale house at another.

The play opens with a lively prologue sung superbly by drunk John Durbeyfield, played by Marc Geoffrey, who captures the essence of this poor peddler. It is here he learns from Parson Tringham (Guy Hughes) that he is indeed the descendent of the noble family the D’Urbevilles. In his drunken stupor he goes off to celebrate, fantasising about the possibility of a meteoric social elevation to nobility. At once the scene switches to the May dance on the village green. This is a delightful interlude where the ensemble plays the roles of the villagers and sings with gusto. It is here we meet the handsome Angel Clare (Nick Hayes), son of Parson Clare, and note the spark that ignites between him and the young Tess (Jessica Daley). Performing to Children of the Earth, the small studio is transformed and the mood set for an enjoyable matinee.

Tess image

Tess secures a position at the D’Urbeville estate and commences her tragic journey. Dastardly Alec D’Urbeville (Martin Neely) attempts to seduce the innocent 16-year-old country girl with his rendition Forbidden Fruit and, determined to have his way, rapes her. Hardy was infuriated by the control and power of the upper class and the manipulation by Alec of Tess typifies this. Hardy had a deep sense of moral sympathy for England’s lower classes, particularly women, and his depiction of their plight is shown through the tragedy of Tess.

The energy and enthusiasm of the ensemble is infectious. Between them they play 20 instruments and their musical talent is undeniable. Having been captivated by them in their opening number, I could not wait for their further scenes. Each was delightful, performed with energy and relish. All are to be congratulated but I cannot leave this without a special mention to Emma Harrold who shone in her performance. In her role of Retty, we see her and farm girls Izz and Marian lusting for Angel, and their performance of Will You Marry Me is a delight.

Ensemble

I would also celebrate Daley for her depiction of the young, innocent Tess who is unaware of the cruelty of the world and is unprepared for its treatment of her, who accepts the inevitable and deals with all that fate has thrown at her; Neely in his portrayal of the cruel and lascivious Alec, and Hayes who is convincing as a good man but whose flawed character harms our heroine as much as the cruelty of Alec.

The haunting strains of the duet between Tess and Alec, The Folly of My Youth, take us through the interlude and prepare us to journey with her to her destiny. Catherine Digges and Marc Geoffrey are to be congratulated for their convincing performances in their many roles, not least of which are Parson Clare and Mrs Angel, and their cold indifference to those whom they consider socially unworthy through the song A Truly Christian Woman.

There is no denying the musicality of the performers. Duets are emotional, solos are exquisite and ensemble pieces are enthusiastic and lively. The musical score with its notable numbers will leave you humming in the interval and at the close when you leave the Wessex countryside of the New Wimbledon Studio with memories of a glorious afternoon.

Tess of the D’Urbevilles continues at the New Wimbledon Studio until Sep 27

 

 

http://www.atgtickets.com/venues/new-wimbledon-theatre/


BoxOffice: 0870 060 6646



Sep 5th

Helen Baxendale Returns to the Stage in New Play The Distance at the Orange Tree Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin
Hyg8t7zM.jpeg
Helen Baxendale, Emma Beattie and Clare Lawrence-Moody lead the cast of Deborah Bruce’s new play The Distance.

Helen Baxendale, Emma Beattie and Clare Lawrence-Moody play friends Bea, Alex and Kate in Deborah Bruce’s second full-length play The Distance: a tough, funny look at the responsibilities of being a parent, the strength of friendship, and trying to do the right thing. Running 8 October – 8 November, the production is directed by Charlotte Gwinner and designed by Signe Beckmann. The cast also includes Daniel Hawksford, Timothy Knightley, Bill Milner and Oliver Ryan. 

The Distance is the second play in Paul Miller’s inaugural season as Artistic Director of the Orange Tree Theatre, which opens tonight with his production of DH Lawrence’s The Widowing of Mrs Holroyd. 

BwwjClIIEAA1Pi9.jpg 
Helen Baxendale

Helen Baxendale returns to the stage after five years. Previous theatre roles include After Miss Julie (Donmar Warehouse); The Woman Before (Royal Court) and Swimming with Sharks (Vaudeville). She can currently be seen in BBC comedy Cuckoo with Greg Davies and airing on BBC One on Tuesday 9 September, The Visitor, part of Dominic Savage’s new drama series The Secrets. Her other extensive work on television includes Rachel in Cold Feet, Emily in Friends and Claire in Cardiac Arrest. Also Death in Paradise, Dirk Gently, Kidnap and Ransom, An Unsuitable Job for a Woman and Truth or Dare.

Emma Beattie
worked with Michael Grandage in Ivanov, John Gabriel Borkman and The Cut (Donmar). Her recent work includes The Odyssey (Derby Theatre) and Great Expectations (The Watermill, Newbury). 

Clare Lawrence-Moody’s work in theatre includes Shelley and Mine (Shared Experience); Age of Arousal (Royal Lyceum Edinburgh, Critics’ Award for Theatre in Scotland); The Girls of Slender Means (Stella Quines/Assembly Edinburgh). She appears in the new Matthew Warchus film Pride

Good friends should be there for one another – no matter what. But when Bea returns home after three years abroad having made a bold choice about her life, old friends struggle to support her. Or even to understand. One night in Brighton, things threaten to slide into chaos...

A sharply funny play about motherhood (and fatherhood); about keeping control and letting go. Relationships are hard: long-term ones harder still. What does it take to really go the distance?

LISTINGS INFORMATION

The Distance, a new play by Deborah Bruce

Directed by Charlotte Gwinner

8 Oct – 8 Nov


Orange Tree Theatre
1 Clarence Street, Richmond, Surrey, TW9 2SA

Box Office:  www.orangetreetheatre.co.uk | 020 8940 3633 (open 10am to 7pm Mon-Sat).

Sep 6th

The Flouers o' Edinburgh at the Finborough Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

LeighLothianAndJennyLee1.JPG

Leigh Lothian as Kate and Jenny Lee as Girzie

I am British, father. The terms ‘Scotch’ and ‘English’ became obsolete in the Union.

Did they? I’ll wager ye winna fin mony Englishmen caain themselves British and stertin to talk and dress like Scotsmen.

If you can understand the second sentence, you won't have any problems understanding the dialogue of the play. I have to admit that I struggled a bit for the first fifteen minutes.

The Finborough Theatre presents the English premiere of Robert McLellan's period satire The Flouers o' Edinburgh as part of its Scotland Decides/Tha Alba a'taghadh2014 season. It is a bit surprising that only few theatres include productions regarding the referendum in Scotland on 18th September in their programming considering the importance of the event,  whereas the Finborough presents The Flouers o' Edinburgh, Jock: Scotland on Trial, a staged reading of The Wallace, and Little Red Hen on the day of the referendum itself.

First produced in 1948 starring Duncan Macrae, The Flouers o'Edinburgh has been widely performed and often revived throughout Scotland - most recently in 2007 at Pitlochry. Set a few decades after the 1707 Acts of Union, this sparkling comedy in the vein of Sheridan focuses on a love triangle, the battle of the Scots and English tongues, and political satire.

Justice, Englishman and Charlie.jpg

Kevin McMonagle, Tom Durant-Pritchard, and Finlay Bain

Girzie Carmichael (Jenny Lee) is forced to live in an Edinburgh tenement with her niece Kate (Leigh Lothian) and her servant Jock (Lewis Rae) because her country estate has been confiscated for the family's support of Bonnie Prince Charlie. Whilst trying to prevent her estate from being sold to an Englishman, she does her best to marry Kate off to the anglophile Charles Gilchrist (Finlay Bain) who considers Scotland provincial and backwards in comparison to the epitome of style and and progress: England. Kate is not impressed with the pompous fop. She prefers the dashing Captain Simkin (Tom Durant-Pritchard), an English officer and a gentleman who will eat even the most indigestible cakes to please a lady. Meanwhile Charlie Gilchrist tries to bribe his way into the British Parliament. He does not see himself as a lawyer like his father, the honorable judge Sir Charles Gilchrist (Kevin McMonagle), but fancies himself a politician. But the Nabob (Andrew Loudon), recently returned from East India, has the same aspirations and, possibly, better connections.

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Finlay Bain, Robert Bradley, Andrew Loudon, Richard Stirling, and Kevin McMonagle

The production has an excellent cast and a skilled director in Jennifer Bakst. The satire could be a bit more acerbic and the show faster paced but it makes for a very funny performance nonetheless. Finlay Bain is hilarious as the would-be dandy Charles Gilchrist, who looks down on Scots who cannot speak proper English. His idea that the feisty Kate should be able to speak perfect English before he can even consider marrying her meets with little appreciation by the bride-to-be, a charming and self-confident Leigh Lothian. Kevin McMonagle convinces as the somewhat grouchy judge Sir Charles Gilchrist who has little patience with Charles junior's ideas. Jenny Lee is endearing and funny as the eccentric Girzie who treats the somewhat incompetent Jock, a great comic performance by Lewis Rae, more like a friend than a servant.

An entertaining evening out.

By Carolin Kopplin


Until  27th September 2014

Finborough Theatre , 118 Finborough Road, London SW10 9ED

Telephone:020 7244 7439

e-mail: admin@finboroughtheatre.co.uk

www.finboroughtheatre.co.uk

 

All photos by Ciaran Cunningham.