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Mar 19th

Noel Coward’s 'Fallen Angels' - Milton Keynes Theatre

By Thia Cooper

Fallen Angels.jpg
Jenny Seagrove & Sara Crowe

When the curtain went up on Fallen Angels last night, the first thing that struck me was the magnificent scenery and lighting! It didn’t change for the duration of the play and it was beautiful 1920’s style. The subtleness of the lighting outside the windows might not have been noticed by some of the audience, but had a very positive affect on me and the friend who came with me.

Two best friends Julia (Jenny Seagrove) and Jane (Sara Crowe) are married to two straight laced, boring husbands.

While the men are away playing golf together, French ex - lover of both girls, contacts them and wants to meet up. This possibility throws Julia & Jane into a spin. Alcohol in the form of Champagne, to calm them down, is the only answer!!

Large amounts of Champagne, encourages lose talk and jealousies, kept under control over the years. These surface and with the addition of alcohol are magnified.

Will the suave, charming Maurice Duclos (Philip Battley) turn up? Speculation is rife!

When husbands make an early return confusion ensues and this is exacerbated by the arrival of Maurice. The play ends with the two ladies going off to see Maurice’s new apartment, just above them in the same building! The men know they have been outwitted, but are not sure how it happened!!

All the actors, apart from Jenny Seagrove, were of the Coward style.

Fred Sterroll, Julia’s husband, played by Tim Wallers, Willy Banbury, Jane’s husband, Saunders, (the maid with an irritating amount of knowledge about everything and everyone) were excellent. They have obviously done a lot of stage work, were relaxed and their humour natural. Their voices were clear and projected with ease.

I was disappointed with Jenny Seagrove, a wonderful actor on television. I equated her performance with opera singers trying to sing jazz. It just doesn’t fully work. She looked uncomfortable and her part didn’t flow like those of her colleagues. Her voice seemed to be shouting rather than being comfortably projected.

Having said that, the production was very enjoyable and I would thoroughly recommend it.

Milton Keynes Theatre

18 – 22 March

Ticket prices £15 - £35

(plus £2.85 transaction fee)

0844 871 7652


Oct 3rd


By Kirstie Niland
The Grand Theatre, Blackpool

George Orwell’s novel set in Oceania - a totalitarian state which is permanently at war under the rule of Big Brother - had me gripped as a student in the days before mobile phones and webcams existed. Imagine a place where everyone is under surveillance, where people can be deleted, where you are never alone, not even in your head.


I was excited to see how this could be brought to life on stage and still do George Orwell justice and I wasn’t disappointed. This is an incredible performance, which violently brings home the fact that Orwell's fearful predictions when he wrote Nineteen-Eighty Four 65 years ago have become very real indeed. We may not have the Thought Police on our case just yet but one thing is for certain...freedom is most definitely close to slavery in 2014. 

“Doublethink” is exactly how I feel about today’s Big Brother, and how it has become the norm for our private lives to be exposed, both voluntarily and unwillingly. I hate it but it’s horribly compelling. Whilst today’s all-consuming desire is to give public narrations of our life on social media, I’m sure most of us are uncomfortable with being monitored in ways we know about, like CCTV and Google, and in many we’re probably not even aware of. So much contradition.

Contemporary doublethink, terrifyingly two-faced. Just like the nightmarish scene where O’Brian, brilliantly orchestrated by Tim Dutton, exposes Winston for his willingness to commit heinous acts for the Inner Party in order to bring Big Brother down. Winston has been unknowingly filmed confirming he would throw sulphuric acid in a child’s face, admitting he is willing to do anything except be separated from his lover and partner in crime Julia. Both hero and anti-hero. Dutton conducts the audience with aplomb during the dramatic crescendo, where the lights come up and he breaks the fourth wall to include us in condemning Winston. As he cowers in the spotlight of shame, you feel not only Winston's humiliation but also revulsion that he is prepared to maim a child yet woud fulfil his own needs. You also feel like a voyeur, like you shouldn’t be involved at all.


This hard-hitting scene alone is worthy of the critical acclaim received for Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan’s adaptation of George Orwell’s dystopian novel. That, and the cast of Headlong, Nottingham Playhouse and Almeida Theatre. The eight adults and one child create nail-biting suspense and tension amidst the confusion of flashing lights, black-outs and dreamlike scenes. Matthew Spencer is entirely credible as Winston in his blend of bravery and cowardice, and Janine Harouni as Julia manages to display detachment and neediness without it seeming contradictory. In Winston's words: "only a rebel from the waist downwards."

As for the set – pure genius. The play begins in a deliberately dreary archives office filled with books, and Winston and Julia’s scenes in the back room they believe is private are played on the backdrop like an old movie from a projector. Their sudden exposure and capture surrounded by the loud confusion of white noise and blinding lights is accompanied by a jolting set transformation. Winston reappears strapped to a seat in the stark white Room 101 where he is tortured into betraying Julia, his blood a bright red splash on the set, like the scarlet dress Julia wears after she becomes his lover. Big Brother finally succeeds in deleting their bond when he threatens to let rats eat Winston’s face and he shouts: “Do it to Julia!”. As Julia says when they meet, brainwashed, after their mutual betrayal and surrender: "And after that, you don't feel the same towards the person any longer."

This production of 1984 is more than just a masterpiece of theatre, it also poses a chilling question about our own society. Is freedom slavery? Was George Orwell right in his predictions? I think he probably was. DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER!

1984 is on at the Grand Theatre Blackpool until Saturday 4 October

Tickets from £18.50 (£1.50 booking fee is applies)

Call the Box Office on 01253 74 33 39 or visit



Mar 14th

Abigail's Party at the Richmond Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

Abigail 1.jpg 
Katie Lightfoot, Hannah Waterman, Martin Marquez and Emily Raymond.

Mind you, Ange, your house is smaller than this one, yeah, because I know they are smaller on your side, yeah.

Mike Leigh's play on suburban neuroses premiered at the Hampstead Theatre in 1977 and was an instant smash hit. Suburbia has been used by many writers as a setting for their plays, Alan Ayckborn for one, but in Leigh's play the setting is the driving and destructive force, it wouldn't work anywhere else. Leigh described the new middle-class in 1970s Britain - materialistic and bourgeois. Though considered a period piece, this play is as relevant now as it was 36 years ago.

Director Lindsay Posner leaves the action in the 1970s - the set is held in warm brown and orange colours. Beverly and Laurence are expecting their new neighbours for welcoming drinks. Their old friend Susan, the divorced wife of an architect, is going to join, too, as soon as she has organised everything for the party of her teenage daughter Abigail. Laurence is an estate-agent and considers himself more cultured and educated than most people, certainly than his wife, who used to work as a beauty consultant and oozes self-confidence from every pore. Beverly looks with great pride upon her big house and all her belongings, and she is sure to let people know how she feels, including Angela and Tony. Angela is a nurse in Walthamstow and very talkative - in stark contrast to her rather monosyllabic husband Tony who works shifts as an IT operator. Beverly can't help but take the seemingly naive Angela under her wing immediately by providing some life-saving beauty tips that Angela obviously is in dire need of.

Abilgail 2.jpg
Hannah Waterman

Beverly dominates the evening. After putting Angela in her place, she proceeds to fill up Susan's glass with G&T until she becomes sick. Laurence is interrupted continuously and treated in a demeaning way. However, Laurence knows that his intelligence is superior to Beverly's who exclaims, when Sue brings a bottle of red wine as a present, "Beaujolais? Fantastic! I'll pop it in the fridge." After all, Laurence owns Shakespeare's complete works and knows his Dickens. He considers handing one of Dickens' novels to Susan so she can read a few sentences an act of boundless generosity. Susan is more interested in what is going on at her daughter's party and Beverly does nothing to calm her down. Instead she invents horror scenarios of all the things that might go wrong and then attempts to seduce Tony in front of Laurence, dancing with him in a very sensual way. 

Mike Leigh describes the shallow materialism and lack of concern for others spot on. Caged in an unsatisfying marriage, Beverly tries to find her fulfillment elsewhere - her status as a home owner and the occasional flirt. She loves Laurence in her "own way" which means that it is fine to bulldoze over him in front of their scandalised guests. Hannah Waterman is excellent as the seemingly obnoxious but unhappy Beverly. Martin Marquez convinces as the long suffering husband who loves Beethoven and art but has to cope with Demis Roussos and kitschy paintings in his bedroom. Katie Lightfoot and Samuel James are very good as the young couple who might end up like Beverly and Laurence one day. Emily Raymond conveys the bewilderment and helpnessness of Susan who finds herself caught up in perfect mayhem.

This is a satirical comedy with a message and a lot of fun!

By Carolin Kopplin
Until 16 March 2013 at the Richmond Theatre, then touring.

Richmond Theatre, The Green, Richmond, Surrey, TW9 1QJ
1 - 6 April 2013 at Theatre Royal Brighton
13 - 18 May 2013 Milton Keynes Theatre 
Apr 21st

Casanova at Milton Keynes Theatre

By Alison Smith

By Alison Smith

Casanove copyright Guy Farrow

image by Guy Farrow

Giacomo Casanova is renowned for his sexual exploits but in the eighteenth century he was famous for so much more. He was, amongst other things, a translator, a violinist, a papal knight, a trainee priest, a spy and a philosopher. Casanova’s own memoirs - not intended to be published apparently - are the reason that more is known of his sex life than his other activities. He was, significantly, an adherent to the ideas of the Enlightenment and hence a participant in a revolution of freedom of expression, tolerance of sexual differences and escape from the strictures of the Roman Catholic Church.

This ballet is adapted from the 2008 biography, Casanova, by Ian Kelley. Casanova, the ballet, depicts the man’s life from postulant to gambler to writer, from virgin to Lothario to broken hearted lover, through a series of delicious vignettes. But it is impossible to convey the richness and sensuality of the dancers, the atmosphere created by the music, set, costumes and wigs, which make the ballet an outstanding experience, in mere words.

Casanova CDB Copyright Emma Kauldhar

image by Emma Kauldhar

The curtain opens on an austere stage – gloom, chimes, an incense burner, gilded pillars, but from this moment the audience is transported into many different worlds by small shifts of stage furniture and a remarkable use of lighting (Alastair West). The music (Kerry Muzzey) is so closely integrated with the movements on stage that it becomes as one with them and each scene segues into the next seemingly effortlessly as we are transported from one location to another. And what dancers! They are skillful not only in dancing but in conveying emotion through each bodily movement; especially notable were the beautiful lines made by the male dancers’ arms when they were clad in priestly vestments.  Of course the scenes with less clothing – the masquerade, the seduction by M.M., the party in Paris, allow an appreciation of bodies which move with the fluidity of water, which are expressive and beautiful. Accolades must be given to Kenneth Tindall the choreographer. It is difficult to portray sex scenes without falling into the trap of indecency and lewdness, but Tindall’s choreography has created a world of sensuality and intimacy.

Casanova image copyright Emma Kauldhar

image by Emma Kauldhar

The most sensuous was Giuliano Contadini as Casanova. He shone in the duets and trios with both male and female partners. His relationships with Bellino (Dreda Blow) and Henriette (Hannah Bateman) expressed the joy of their close, physical contact, an intimacy very different from the relations with Madame de Pompadour and Senator Bragadin.

Casanove Courtesans Caroline Holden

image by Caroline Holden

The corps de ballet in their roles as priests, guests at the ball, courtesans and gamblers filled the stage with movement and drama ; there was the occasional mistiming but whatever their dancing expertise - soloists, leading dancers or ensmble – all portrayed a world of grandeur, hedonism and beauty, which is unforgettable.

Casanova is at Milton Keynes theatre until Saturday 22nd April

0844 871 7652

Booking fee applies


Jul 11th


By Douglas McFarlane
 Alan Cumming low res.jpg

Following acclaimed stints at Lincoln Center in New York and the Sydney Opera House, Olivier and Tony Award winner Alan Cumming completes an international theatrical triangle, arriving in London’s West End to perform his one-man musical show Alan Cumming: I Bought a Blue Car Today at the Vaudeville Theatre for eight performances only from Tuesday 1 to Sunday 6 September 2009.
Returning to the West End musical stage for the first time in over fifteen years – he was last seen in Sam Mendes’ Donmar Warehouse revival of Cabaret – Alan Cumming will remind British audiences of the sheer versatility of his talent, ensuring this UK and European première of Alan Cumming: I Bought a Blue Car Today is the most hotly anticipated show of the autumn season.
Accompanied by his charismatic and multi-talented musical director, Lance Horne, Cumming unleashes his favourite tunes, belting out celebrated hits alongside little-known gems, whilst captivating his audience with poignant anecdotes from his colourful and fantastic past. A musical journey peppered with material by Frank Sinatra, Dory Previn, Kander & Ebb and Cyndi Lauper, to name only a few.
Alan Cumming: I Bought a Blue Car Today is a true moment in theatrical history. A fleeting glimpse at a truly rare species of entertainer. A one-off opportunity to experience the thrilling diversity of his talent. Unlike any other solo show to go before it. A refreshing mix of the old and the brilliantly new, fused together in an idiosyncratic cannonball of multiple musical meanderings.
Alan Cumming has sung at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, the Hollywood Bowl, the London Palladium and the Sydney Opera House. He has had his own talk show, written a Sunday Times best-selling novel and recorded a duet with Liza Minnelli. He has performed in all genres of theatre from Greek classics to modern drama, from mega musicals to low-budget fringe. He has won Olivier, Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics’ Circle awards for his exploits on the stage. His TV credits read like a who’s who of contemporary culture.

It might even be possible that he’s been seen in quite a few films, but he wouldn’t want to boast. Alan was recently awarded an OBE. He will soon be seen in Julie Taymor’s screen adaptation of The Tempest alongside Helen Mirren and Russell Brand. He is also cast as the Green Goblin in Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark, which has music by Bono and The Edge from U2 and will be the biggest and most expensive show to ever play on Broadway when it opens at the Hilton Theatre in February 2010. His debut solo album, which is also rather cunningly entitled I Bought a Blue Car Today, will be released in September.

Lance Horne is an Emmy Award winning composer, musical director, pianist, arranger and singer. A truly multi-talented musical genius of epic proportions. He regularly works with artists including Justin Bond, Meow Meow and, of course, Alan Cumming. He also performs in his own right, and composes for film, TV and theatre as well as writing arrangements for Broadway shows. Occasionally he fronts his own band by the name of Lance Horne and the One Night Stands.
Produced by Neil Eckersley and Paul Spicer for Speckulation Entertainment, Alan Cumming: I Bought a Blue Car Today has musical direction by Lance Horne and sound design by James Tebb.
2 Charing Cross Mansions, 26 Charing Cross Road, London WC2H 0DG
For further information about Alan Cumming, visit

Tue 1 - Sun 6 Sept 2009
Tue - Fri 20.00, Sat - Sun 16.00 & 20.00
£37.50, £30.00, £25.00, £15.00, £12.50
Groups 8+ £25.00
Vaudeville Theatre, 404 The Strand, London WC2
Box Office:
0844 412 4663 (24 hrs)

Aug 1st

The Who's Tommy

By Kate Braxton

WHO...AHHHHH!  I’m not going to Fiddle About here, this production is a total Sensation. It seriously Sparks. Tommy by The Who, currently playing at Greenwich Theatre is the best thing I’ve seen in at least 10 years – and I don’t say that lightly. It’s an Amazing Journey courtesy of the team directed by Michael Strassen, and everyone with him should be very excited about forthcoming reviews. 

It’s rare to have such beautiful ‘tightness’ between a cast and crew. There isn’t a musical moment missed, the lighting and sound cues are sexily curated, thanks in many ways to the brilliance of Kevin Oliver Jones as Musical Director and chief guitarist. The set design and prop use is ingenious but not over indulgent. We don’t see one pinball machine. It’s way cleverer than that – emotional, sensitive stuff.

The cast are all clad in white, which gives a stunning visual playground for lighting designer, David Howe onto the several Freddie Mercury lookie-likies.

And on that note, the casting is inspired: John Barr as Uncle Ernie put the fear of God into me, as he should do in yellow socks and those dreadful plastic pre-cursor-to-Crocs sandals. Giovanni Spano plays Cousin Kevin with more kick than Kenickie in Grease. Captain Walker shaped by James Sinclair and Miranda Wilford as Mrs Walker provide incredibly touching moments: great voices, perfect timing required for a show such as Tommy.

And Tommy himself played by Ashley Birchall is astonishing. I saw him, felt him, touched him and it was divine.

But for me, the final winning piece is the choreography by Mark Smith. Mark is profoundly deaf and produces some of the most unbelievable scenes and moves in a show I’ve ever seen. I can’t gush any more. This is production and show wizardry at its best. Not short of a miracle. I couldn’t believe my own eyes.

Tommy is running at Greenwich Theatre from Wed 29 July - Sun 23 August 2015.

Presented by Katy Lipson for Aria Entertainment, Guy James and Szpiezak Productions in association with Greenwich Theatre

For further details:

Photos courtesy of Claire Bilyard


Oct 21st

The Perfect Murder @ The Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury

By Yvonne Delahaye


Our TV screens are awash with crime dramas with detectives trying to solve the crime, but have you ever wondered how to commit the perfect murder? Victor Smiley and his wife Joan have been married for a long time. But their marriage has reached crisis point and Victor has decided there is only one way to get Joan out of his life forever... but he’s about to get a nasty surprise... as a young Detective Roy Grace starts to investigate his very first homicide case, dark forces intervene and Grace begins to fear that nothing is quite as it seems in this entertaining dark comedy thriller.

This is the first ever stage production of the work of international best-selling crime thriller novelist Peter James – who has sold over 15 million books of his Roy Grace series and been published in 36 languages – The Perfect Murder, which spent 15 weeks at No.1 in the book charts, has been adapted by award winning writer Shaun McKenna.

Olivier Award winner Ian Talbot directs an all-star company in the autumn re-casting of The Perfect Murder. Having donned his white coat for eight series of ITV’s 1960’s hospital drama The Royal, Robert Daws, best-known to millions as Dr Gordon Ormerod, plays Victor Smiley. Robert's extensive TV credits have also seen him appear on screen as Sam Mountjoy in Roger Roger, Tuppy Glossop in Jeeves and Wooster and Roger Dervish in the award-winning Outside Edge. His extensive theatre credits include The Secret of Sherlock Holmes and Public Property in the West End and UK tours of Michael Frayn's Alarms and Excursions and David Harrower’s Blackbird, the later of which also starred Dawn Steele.

Dawn Steele has starred in numerous hit TV series including the BBC’s Monarch of the Glen, Sea of Souls and she played the hugely popular character of Alice Collins in ITV’s Wild at Heart. Other theatre credits include the lead role in The Agatha Christie Company's production of Verdict and Dawn also starred in Noel Coward’s previously undiscovered Volcano in both the West End and on tour.

They are joined by Gray O’Brien – who continues his highly acclaimed role as the loveable Don Kirk. Gray recently enjoyed an award-winning three years in Coronation Street and has also starred in the TV series Titanic, Peak Practice and Casualty as well as in the West End in Sleuth; Thomas Howes (DC Grace) who played the much loved character of William the footman in Downton Abbey for which he won a Screen Actors Guild Award and whose theatre credits include The Winslow Boy and the National Theatre Production of The History Boys and finally Romanian born Simona Armstrong, who the British public took to their hearts when she was discovered in the BBC's How do You Solve a Problem Like Maria and who now continues her run in the role of Kamila.

The play itself is very black comedy and all the performances are good, but I felt it was in need of some cutting especially in the first act.  The second scenes between Victor and Joan went on far too long and it seemed that the audience were getting restless for the plot to move forward.  The story was lifted by the appearance of Don Kirk (Gray O’Brien) looking extremely buff in just a pair of boxers and from there the proceedings progressed with unexpected twists and turns, interspersed with very dark humour.  It’s very enjoyable and should be taken with a huge pinch of salt, but I think if it was 20 minutes shorter it would be ‘the perfect play.

The Perfect Murder is produced by Joshua Andrews and Peter James, in association with Paul Tyrer and Jamie Clark at the Booking Office. Their next production – Peter James’ best-selling novel Dead Simple tours the UK from January 2015.

Book now at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre Box Office on 0844 871 7607 (bkg fee), or online at  (bkg fee)

Performances:   Mon 20 - Sat 25 Oct 
Evenings 7.30pm, Thu & Sat Mat 2.30pm
Tickets:  £10 - £32.50 when booked in person at the Box Office or for full details when booking on-line or over the phone visit (bkg fee)
Box Office:  0844 871 7607 (bkg fee)
Groups Hotline:  0844 871 7614
Access Booking: 0844 871 7677 (bkg fee)
Online Booking:  (bkg fee)

Reviewed By:
Yvonne Delahaye
Twitter: yvonnedelahaye

A light has gone out in the theatre world, as we pay respect to one of the most warm, much loved and vibrant actresses of our time.
Following the sad news of Lynda Bellingham losing her brave battle with cancer Aylesbury Waterside Theatre will be opening a book of condolence in her memory .

Lynda, originally from Aylesbury, was a firm supporter of the theatre, taking part in the ‘Topping Out’ ceremony in 2009, she also helped to launch the theatres first season in March 2010 and appeared on stage starring in Calendar Girls as part of that opening season.

Elizabeth Adlington Area Theatre Manager for Aylesbury Waterside Theatre said ‘On behalf of our staff and our customers we will be opening a book of condolences for the people of Aylesbury to share their memories of Lynda and their tributes and messages of support for Lynda’s loved ones.  We were privileged at the Waterside to have met Lynda on a number of occasions.  Our thoughts are with her family at this sad time.  She was a wonderful warm lady who will be sadly missed’

The book of condolence is now open to the public during opening hours at the Aylesbury Waterside Theatre in the main foyer.

Oct 26th

A Farewell to Arms

By Kirstie Niland
The Dukes Lancaster

“Often a man wishes to be alone and a girl wishes to be alone too and if they love each other they are jealous of that in each other, but I can truly say we never felt that. We could feel alone when we were together, alone against the others ... But we were never lonely and never afraid when we were together.”

Frederic Henry, an American Lieutenant and ambulance driver for the Italian army, and English VAD nurse Catherine Barkley lie entangled in the safety of each other’s arms on the stage at The Dukes, unaware of the tragedy that awaits them. The chemistry between them is palpable.


Imitating the Dog’s first UK adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms, based on the writer’s own experiences of the First World War, is both beautiful and brutal. The innovative use of video projection and geographical mapping breathes life into the set, featuring real WW1 footage, text from the novel and close-ups of the actors’ facial expressions to bring extra depth to the performance.

This clever projection combined with the ghostly, almost transparent set and evocative music draws the audience tightly into the drama. At times the sound effects are loud and violent, so the sound of mortar bombs as the Italians retreat jolts you in your seat. And when the rain pelts down you are reminded of Catherine’s fear of the rain and of losing Frederic’s love.

The play begins with the cast climbing through a hole in the wall of a disused hospital, as Jude Monk McGowan and Laura Atherton take their places to begin the story of Frederic and Catherine’s love affair. The other four cast members watch or operate cameras, filming scenes in between joining the set as the other main characters.

As in the novel, the perfectly groomed Frederic narrates, except here he does it to camera. McGowan is spell-binding as he tells the story objectively, then goes back into the action, allowing other cast members to continue the narration. This reflects Hemingway’s shift to other absent narrators within the novel.


The cast members move effortlessly between their roles and stay with us every step of the way. Even costume changes take place on stage, and the documentary style technique is extremely powerful. This production is like a pop-up book, the characters springing up amidst the sights and sounds of the text as they are brought achingly to life. In the final scene Frederic asks the camera operators to leave. They cover their cameras up and close the hole they originally entered, leaving an intact hospital wall in its place. It’s almost as though we are now watching the ghost of Frederic as he spends his final agonising moments with Catherine after she has given birth to their stillborn son before dying herself.

Every scene brings the unexpected, and the Italian chapters are explosively delivered with passion and subtitles. Each of the cast is so adept at switching characters, accents and languages you are mesmerised throughout. However the most compulsive part for me is the chemistry between McGowan and Atherton. From their flirtation that begins as a distraction - Catherine from the death of her fiancé, Frederic from the war - to the all consuming, obsessive love that binds them, it is all so raw and realistic.

When Frederic deserts to Switzerland, and Catherine, by then pregnant, goes with him, their strong portrayal of a couple’s loss of innocence and their total reliance upon each other feels at times too intimate to watch. Atherton’s performance in labour is frighteningly real, and the final scenes between them are incredibly emotional as the impending doom that haunts them is realised. In Frederic’s words: “This was the price you paid for sleeping together. This was the end of the trap. This was what people got for loving each other.”

Adapted and directed by Andrew Quick and Pete Brook, A Farewell to Arms is a brilliant fusion of digital and theatrical techniques which does justice to Hemingway’s novel and pulls you urgently into its pages.

This is a highly emotional depiction of the contrasting experiences of men and women during the First World War, with Frederic and Catherine at its heart, becoming completely as one before tragedy tears them apart.

Not for the faint-hearted but an absolute must-see.

Photographs courtesy of Ed Waring

A Farewell to Arms premiered at The Dukes in Lancaster and continues its tour at Cast, Doncaster from October 29-November 1; the New Wolsey, Ipswich from November 4-8; the Lowry, Salford Quays from November 13-15; Birmingham Repertory Theatre from November 19-22 and The Old Market, Brighton from November 26-29. The production tours Italy from December 2-11.

Aug 29th

Lazarus Theatre Company Presents Tamburlaine the Great at the Tristan Bates Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

Give me a map and let me see how much is left to conquer all the world!

Lazarus Theatre Company is committed to bringing classical theatre to a modern audience by fusing movement, music and text in a re-imagination of some of the greatest works. This season the company focuses on the Elizabethan / Jacobean era. After presenting an all-female Henry V, the company now tackles Christopher Marlowe's most epic work.

Marlowe's drama in two parts recounts the brutal rise to power of the 14th century Central Asian conquerer Timur, or Tamburlaine. This epic work would warrant two separate productions but Ricky Dukes has cut it down to 2 hours 40 minutes, concentrating on the first part of the epos.

The Persian emperor Mycetes dispatches troops to put a stop to Tamburlaine, a Scythian shepherd and nomadic bandit who creates some irritation with his gang of bandits. Mycetes is a weak ruler with little support from his nobles. His brother Cosroe despises him and his apathy and intends to take the throne for himself, with the support of Menaphon. Tamburlaine's troops, dressed in track suits and tank tops unlike the smartly dressed Persian army, is loyal to their charismatic leader: "Even to death we follow Tamburlaine!" Unlike Mycetes, who has inherited his power, Tamburlaine has fought his way up, rising from a simple shepherd to the leader of a victorious army. The loyalty of his fighters is absolute, with Techelles (Kate Austen) and Usumcasane (Adam Cunis) being his right hand men. In the end even Mycetes' only support, his advisor Menander, jumps ship and sides with Cosroe. The victorious Tamburlaine now focuses on Turkey and her arrogant Emperor Bajazeth. Meanwhile Tamburlaine has captured Zenocrate, the daughter of the Egyptian king, who has fallen in love with the charismatic leader. When faced with Mycetes' army, Tamburlaine promises Cosroe the Persian throne in exchange for his support. Cosroe is swayed and betrays Mycetes. Once Tamburlaine has defeated Mycetes he takes control of the Persian Empire himself reneging on his promise to Cosroe.

The stage is bare except for a row of chairs in the background with two piles of books. Tamburlaine is on the move. A company of men marches onto the stage, accompanied by tribal tunes, using aggressive gestures and steps to indicate that they are fighting a war. Women in shawls are running away from the aggressors but others join the band of warriors. Although the Tristan Bates Theatre offers only little space, Lazarus succeeds in transporting the battles to the venue. Weapons and hand to hand combat are not needed to create an aggressive atmosphere of war and conquest. As Tamburlaine's army marches on, it encounters a variety of people reflected in their attire and movement. The costume design by Rachel Dingle demonstrates how Tamburlaine's tagrag soldiers, dressed in tracksuits and tank tops change to a professional army clad in smart suits, resemlbing the defeated Persians. Neil McKeown's sound design adds to the reality of the battles being fought and won. 

Prince Plockey rules the day as the charismatic Tamburlaine whose ambition drives him to try and conquer the world. Yet he also has a sensitive, loving side as he woos the Egyptian princess Zenocrate and wins her love. Alex Reynolds gives a touching portrayal as Zenocrate as she is fascinated by her captor/lover but also feels compassion for his victims.

The first part of the production is a triumph, telling the story of Tamburlaine in a concise and exciting manner, skilfully directed by Ricky Dukes and Gavin Harrington-Odredra. However, the second part, which has been cut down to 40 minutes, feels rushed. Tamburlaine's sons never make an appearance and it feels like too much has been lost to turn this into a round production and a convincing narrative.

By Carolin Kopplin

Until 12th September 2015

Tristan Bates Theatre

Running time: 2 hours 20 minutes including an interval


Apr 13th

English National Ballet: Lest We Forget


English National Ballet: Lest We  Forget – a war quartet

Date: April 11, 2014

ENB Artistic Director: Tamara Rojo.

Collaborators: Akram Khan, Russell Maliphant, Liam Scarlett and George Williamson.


 Orchestra of English National Ballet

Conductor: Gavin Sutherland

Leader: Matthew Scrivener

Tamara Rojo’s theme of the First World War is also included in the production’s narrative, which, like a fairytale, embeds itself in the memory of each person in the audience.

‘I felt it was a subject that dance needed to visit again. .. I think dance can tackle the deep emotional feelings of war, like loss and bereavement, in a way that other forms can't.’

 She was interested in employing individual choreographers who brought something different to the table. Russell although contemporary, has a classical background, Akram, also contemporary, has roots in kathak, and Liam’s style is more classical.  All have strong identities and voices.

The idea behind the programme is to extend the expertise of The English National Ballet, and to work with choreographers whose approach isn’t necessarily thought to be straightforward. 


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Liam Scarlett's No Man's Land, the act to open the set has an uneven stage which could represent the jagged edges of a saw or an open wound, and smoke that penetrates through the pores of every person in the audience .  The imbalance creates a separation between the factory and the battlefield.  Arguably the best material is when the women engrain the visage of each man in their memory box.  The torment of the battlefield, however, is well reflected in the duets, and the Liszt piano music accompaniment.

 I am fascinated by the way in which the female dancers use their bodies in comparison to the male dancers. An example is when they wrap their arms around the men, who then transform them into the straps of a parachute.

The difference in sex is differentiated by the varying levels in staging; and

the women’s pale sky blue dresses, delicate as flower petals, work in direct contrast to the  muddy-brown cloth of the men’s wear.

 ‘I wanted to show it through the experience of the individuals, and in particular through the experience of separation. I was fascinated by the idea of these objects travelling from England to the front, by the idea that soldiers might actually be using the equipment that their wives or sisters might have made.

..I thought about all the images that epitomised the war, from the factories to the landscape of the trenches, then we let them explode into another place.’

 -         Liam Scarlett


The revival of George Williamson’s The Firebird, slotted in between the First and Third Act, has little connection to the war. But a combination of the way in which ballerina, Ksenia Ovsyanick lays her body upon the ground, and the all-in-one outfit she wears with shimmering gold dots down each side, convinces us, immediately, that she is The Firebird.  Some of the dancers are dressed purposely in gold to match The Firebird, while two of the principal male dancers are adorned with outfits that have a mottled look. One of whom I assume is a lizard.  After The Firebird appears to have fallen from grace, it is lifted into the sky by the earth’s creatures; who unite together to form a tunnel for The Firebird to pass through.

This piece may be considered by many as the odd one out but I took it to represent man’s despair versus his inner strength, which steadily mounts till he is able to support himself single handedly, and breathe healthy air once more.  The idea of ‘the phoenix rising from the flames’ as the ashes ignite all around him.


Russell Maliphant's Second Breath, although low key, is perhaps more emotionally charged. Twenty dancers reunite in a spiral chorus of loss, accompanied by recorded voices in Andy Cowron’s score; and with a rise in emotion, a pivotal moment occurs when Alina Cojocaru and Junor Souza duet as two fragile lovers, who continually attempt to reconnect.

At the start you question if the stage is, in fact, tilted as The Company sway on the spot. Their bodies twist, lift, then tumble to the ground as they fall, representing the loss of life in war.

‘I started by reading a lot of history and war poetry and the letters that soldiers wrote home about life in the trenches. All that reading has fed into the imagery I've developed with Andy Cowton (the composer) and Michael Hulls (the lighting designer). We've abstracted the imagery, taken it into a more surreal, dream-like place.

Sixty thousand men a day were dying at the Somme. .. so we have a record of the numbers in the musical landscape, we watch the movement in relation to what we're hearing.’

 -         Russell Maliphant

The space in Akram Khan’s Dust is more mythological. The chorus of women act as “warriors of the home front”, the choreography holds within it mechanical movements, along with energetic dervish whirls.

Khan can be perceived as a fallen, yet everlasting soldier; and in the final duet between him and Rojo, he is described as both ”fierce” and “true.”

 ‘war is about life and death and loss, about the most ugly and the most beautiful things we're capable of. And the first world war affected everyone.

The piece I've created is dominated by women. ..they were no longer regarded just as housewives, they were working. Although there are men in the piece they are there more as metaphors of departure and loss.’

 The mixed bill challenges the dancers, and opens the audience’s mind up to a new approach to storytelling .


 Writer © Tremayne

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