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Feb 27th

Hindle Wakes

By Kirstie Niland

The Octogan Theatre, Bolton

Hindle Wakes is a good old Lancashire yarn, set in a fictitious town just before the First World War. It focuses on two sets of parents and their offspring, Fanny Hawthorn and Alan Jeffcote, who are discovered to have spent a secret weekend alone together.

To make matters worse, Fanny is a weaver at the local mill and Alan is the mill owner’s son. Their fathers have been friends since they were boys but that doesn’t make it socially acceptable. Even worse, Alan is engaged to Beatrice, the daughter of local bigwig, Sir Timothy Farrar.

Oh dear...there’s going to be trouble at mill.

Fanny and Alan have gone separately to Blackpool during Wakes Week, the annual holidays when all of Hindle’s workers down tools. After meeting up they decide to disappear for what would now be known as “a dirty weekend” in Llandudno. Their friends cover for them but a tragedy alerts Fanny’s parents to the truth.

Once their secret is revealed Alan is pressured to marry Fanny and there ensues a series of funny, touching and frustrating conversations involving both families, which result in Fanny turning him down. It’s great to see Colin Connor in a more light-hearted role as Beatrice’s father after some of the intense characters he’s played recently. His portrayal of a well-to-do man about town who sees nothing wrong with such an indiscretion - until he fears it will impact on him financially - has perfect comic timing.

Tristan Brooke puts in a fine performance as the feckless Alan, and Natasha Davidson is utterly believable as the feisty weaver who puts him in his place. Between them, the cast play out the social conventions stereotypical of the day with aplomb.

The simple set echoes their differences, beginning with a sparse gathering of furniture for the Hawthorn's home, which expands to become a more luxurious layout for the Jeffcote's.

When Stanley Houghton wrote Hindle Wakes in 1910, not only was it unusual to have a working class woman as the main character, but one with a Northern accent who sees no problem with a pre-marital fling would have been unheard of. Therefore the play caused plenty of controversy when it was first performed in 1912.

While today's audience may have chuckled when Fanny was branded a “hot blooded little wench,” who was “jolly immoral,” in those days this carry on would not have been a laughing matter. Yet we see Fanny earn a grudging respect from Alan’s Mother, and even praise from the spurned lover himself: “You’re a damn good sport.”

 

As Alan sets off jauntily to see if his ex-fiancée will take him back, and Fanny remains content with her freedom, we applaud the spirit of independence which was well before her time – you go girl!

Meanwhile the men, as ever, remain perplexed about women, as Jeffcote muses: “And these are the creatures that want us to give them votes!”

Outrageous!

Photographs by Ian Tilton

Hindle Wakes is on until 21st March.

Tickets: £26.50 - £10, discounts available including SEASON TICKETS, groups, schools and young person's £5 tickets. Available on 01204 520661 or at www.octagonbolton.co.uk.

Nov 16th

Shawshank Redemption

By Kirstie Niland

Blackpool Winter Gardens Opera House

Until Saturday 19th November

“Sometimes kid, you gotta suck it up,” declares a seasoned inmate.

And at Shawshank that can mean literally anything, from everyday bullying to being gang raped or murdered for being honest. The irony and injustice of being incarcerated under corrupt rule is something most of the inmates have come to accept. Even the resourceful prison “fixer” Red refuses to have hope.

But not Andy Dufresne. Despite being innocent yet condemned to a double life sentence for the murder of his wife and lover, Andy brings hope and meaning into the inmates’ lives while playing the long game, anchored by the vision of Rita Hayworth - and a rock hammer.

The Academy award-winning movie, based on Stephen King's novella Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption has been adapted by Owen O’Neill and Dave Johns for the theatre. I was keen to see how the legendary movie would work on stage.

I wasn’t disappointed.  Under the direction of David Esbjornson, the play unfolds like a pop-up book as the characters spring up into action, pent up energy bursting through their denim uniforms, ready to battle through the often terrifying pages of life inside a maximum security prison.

There is no curtain up, just lights up, and we are thrown violently behind bars to the sound of deafening bangs, clunks and clanks. Spotlights skim the towering prison walls and surround the prisoners, with new arrivals stripped of their clothes and former lives, the old hands preparing to greet or beat them. The Opera House, with its high ceilings and expansive stage, is perfect for the imposing Shawshank set.

As with all famous films, there’s always an urge to want the cast to look like the screen actors, which calls for a suspension of disbelief. Morgan Freeman’s Red and Tim Robbins as Dufresne are both daunting acts to follow, no matter how talented the cast. However, committed and confident performances from London’s Burning star Ben Onwukwe and Eastender’s heartthrob Paul Nicholls took my mind off the original, and focused it firmly on these two accomplished artists, and the characters' journey through a drama about friendship, loyalty, isolation, regret, and hope - as the men deal with the flickering reality of a light at the end of the tunnel.

This is not a show where secondary characters blend into the background. Every single cast member contributes something important, presenting us with an excellent portrayal of the extremes of prison life. In one moment you witness a man clutching the pages of Lady Chatterley’s Lover amidst howls of laughter; in the next there are howls of pain at the murder of a man who died because of his naivity and loyalty. And then there is panic and pathos in one of the most heart-breaking scenes; the attempted suicide of the oldest inmate Brooks, the institutionalised prison librarian who cannot face being released into the outside world. In these moments I forgot the original and became immersed in the live action in front of me.

Some aspects deviated from the film, which as a huge fan I would have preferred to remain true to the original, but they did not detract from how impressive the production was overall.

For the Opera House, Shawshank Redemption is a successful foray into some serious drama in between the hit musicals, and I would highly recommend it. Be it the film or stage version, this is a story that never gets old, and neither does Dufresne’s motto of “Get busy living or get busy dying.”

So go and see it while you can J

The Shawshank Redemption will run at Blackpool Opera House from Monday November 14 to Saturday November 19 and tickets are on sale now from www.wintergardensblackpool.co.uk

 

Photograph courtesy of Blackpool Winter Gardens

Nov 18th

Half A Sixpence - Noel Coward Theatre

By Douglas McFarlane

Half A Sixpence

 

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

 

 

 

 

Dec 2nd

The Vagina Monologues at the Richmond Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

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I can’t do this. I can’t talk about down there.

Considered a celebration of female sexuality and the bible for a new generation of women, Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues has been performed in cities all across America and around the world. It has inspired a dynamic grassroots movement--V-Day--to stop violence against women. Witty and irreverent, compassionate and wise, this intriguing play was based on interviews with over 200 women about their memories and experiences of sexuality. “At first women were reluctant to talk," Ensler writes. "They were a little shy. But once they got going, you couldn't stop them."

Clare Buckfield, Vicky Entwistle and Hayley Tamaddon toured with the latest production of this play. It was advertised as “The Ultimate Girls Night Out” and a girls’ night out it was, there were hardly any men present. The play is a mix of comedy and tragedy and there should, of course, be plenty of laughs. However, it is possible to make the audience laugh without being completely over the top. The show was mostly performed as broad comedy with Vicky Entwistle shouting “My vagina is angry” across the auditorium. There were a few quiet and intense moments when the subject turned serious. When Clare Buckfield recited the monologue based on an interview with a woman from Bosnia - “My vagina was my village” - without any fake sentimentality, this was very powerful indeed. But the humour was too broad for my taste and the exaggerated American accents did not help. Sometimes less is more.

By Carolin Kopplin 

The tour has now ended. 
Dec 2nd

Announcing an Evening with Brent Spiner

By Carolin Kopplin
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Brent Spiner is best known for playing Data on Star Trek - The Next Generation but he is a versatile and multi-talented performer who started his career in the theatre and appeared in many Off Broadway and Broadway productions. His film credits include Out to Sea with Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, The Aviator with Leonardo Di Caprio, Introducing Dorothy Dandridge opposite Halle Berry and Klaus Maria Brandauer, The Phenomenon with John Travolta, and the blockbuster Independence Day. Lately he could be seen in The Big Bang Theory, Young Justice, and Warehouse 13 and heard in Generator Rex and Robot Chicken. Spiner is also an excellent singer, having performed in a variety of musicals on Broadway, such as A History of the American Film, Big River, The Three Musketeers, Sunday in the Park with George, and as John Adams in 1776, for which he received a Drama Desk Nomination. More recently he portrayed Don Quixote in Man of La Mancha at the Freud Playhouse in Los Angeles. He has also released two CDs – Ol’ Yellow Eyes is Back and Dreamland, a “musical of the mind” and was one of the creative minds behind the tragically funny web series Fresh Hell in which he also played the leading role.
 
Always looking for new challenges, Brent Spiner has now devised a cabaret set featuring live music and stories about his life. This should be a highly entertaining evening indeed.  

If you live near Portland, Oregon, I suggest you make your way to the Roseland Theater.
 
By Carolln Kopplin
 
On 11 January 2014 only.

Further information:
Dec 7th

Cinderella – King’s Theatre, Glasgow (until Sun 6 January 2013)

By Cameron Lowe

Glasgow’s King’s Theatre deliver another fairytale performance with an all-star cast in “Cinderella”.

 

Cinderella Glasgow Kings

If you are ever in doubt over the magic of Christmas you have only to step inside the King’s Theatre in December.  When the onstage fairy waves her wand and hundreds of children (and adults) around you gasp with delight your faith in all things good and magical and Christmassy will be restored!  The Kings Theatre has, once again, created a magical formula of laughs, songs, costumes, dance, glitter and downright silliness to ensure that everyone who experiences it leaves the theatre happier than they arrived.  Even in the midst of the post credit-crunch blues, that feeling is priceless!

 

Karen Dunbar leads a talented cast in the role of Mrs. McConkey (rhymes with donkey) / Fairy Godmother.  Karen Dunbar is undoubtedly the funniest woman in Scotland and seems completely in her element onstage in panto.  She delivers the Glasgow patter with fluid ease and the audience hang on her every word like Santa on his sleigh ... “laughing all the way”!  Ms. Dunbar also happens to have a great singing voice which is well exploited in this production.  Gavin Mitchell and Gordon Cooper support brilliantly as Pixie and Peaches (the ugly step-sisters).  Their characters were deliciously repulsive but this was backed up by superb physicality which the young audience particularly enjoyed.  Panto newcomers Des Clarke and Jenny Douglas delivered on all counts as Buttons and Cinderella with Ms. Douglas providing beautiful vocals to compliment the role.

 

Writer, Eric Potts, delivers a classic pantomime script with a combination of a gazillion one-liners backed up by a few brilliantly executed “gaps”.  The gaps are part of panto tradition where the writer sets up a situation and then leaves a ‘gap’ in the script for the actors to fill with ... whatever they feel like!  Watch out for the Honey Cocktail ‘gap’ in the second act ... I can’t remember having laughed so hard!  Fifteen minutes of pure ad-libbed joy!

 

From a production standpoint the audience get every penny of the ticket price in value with fabulous costumes, solid set and more glitter than a discount card shop!

 

Don’t miss your chance to catch some classic family friendly fun at The King’s this Christmas!


Review by Cameron Lowe 

Listings Info:

Cinderella

Friday 30 Nov - Sun 6 Jan 2013 (please call the box office for full details)

 

Signed Performances: Thu 13 Dec 1pm & Wed 19 Dec 7pm

Audio Described Performances: Wed 19 Dec 1pm; Fri  28 Dec @ 7pm

Captioned Performances Mon 17 Dec 1pm & Thu 27 Dec 7pm

Ticket prices: £9 – £25

Box Office: 0844 871 7648 (bkg fee)

Schools and group bookings: 0141 240 1122

ONLINE BOOKING (bkg fee)

Apr 21st

Company - A Review by Oliver Valentine

By Luke Tudball

COMPANY                           Ye Olde Rose and Crown, Walthamstow.

 

Company at Walthamstow’s Ye Olde Rose and Crown theatre pub is a must for all musical theatre lovers. It will delight Sondheim fans and may even convert those new to his work into avid disciples.

Modernised to the age of computer dating by All Star Productions, Company shows that finding the right companion is just as difficult now as it has ever been. The story follows the journey of Bobby, a single man just turned thirty five and under pressure by his friends to find a long- term partner. Various viewpoints on the subject are presented in a series of short scenes that generally show the less than ideal aspects of commitment.

Aaron Clingham’s musical direction is spot-on. In the intimate venue it was close-up and personal, and it was thrilling to hear stunning harmonies so near that they actually vibrated through your body. The cast are at their most effective when singing as an ensemble, and it was a joy to hear perfect renditions of songs likeSide By SideCompany and other classics that make this Sondheim musical so remarkable. Nevertheless sometimes the band were very loud, and occasionally the lyrics and vocals of solos were drowned out by the backing.

Sebastian Rex’s mostly tight direction showed an imaginative use of the oblong performance area, and there were some nifty moves for the livelier numbers. However Rex is clearly not a fan of the power of stillness or the economy of movement. At every opportunity he has the cast physicalising. His favourite move had the actors flailing their arms about their head and body in what looked like a bizarre fusion of voguing and the YMCA dance. And the intimacy of Barcelona was completely destroyed when a dancer suddenly appeared from under the bed doing a contemporary piece like a crazed fairy on Viagra.  I am sure it was meant to represent something deep and meaningful but it was often very distracting and contributed little to the numbers.

Company not only has exceptional songs but a great book by George Furth which allows the cast to showcase their acting skills. All performances are good but it is the women who really carry this production. Claudia Morcroft is brilliant as dizzy trolley-dolly April, Alix Dunmore gives a dazzling performance as Amy the manically reluctant bride and Julie Ross is utterly compelling as Joanne. Of the men Joe Scheffer is outstanding as Harry.

As a person who rarely goes beyond zone two the schlep to Walthamstow seemed tantamount to going to the outer Hebrides, and whoever planned the eight o’clock  start leading to a very late closing time clearly has no idea how difficult it is to get decent public transport from this venue at night. In fact I only got half-way home before the promised trains decided not to appear. During this emergency I was forced to stay over unexpectedly at friend’s house and spent the evening raving about the show, while singing badly the entire repertoire to him. Get a ticket while you can.

 

OLIVER VALENTINE                                  Box Office: 0208 509 3880
Dec 12th

Aladdin at the Theatre Royal Windsor

By Clare Brotherwood

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With a lineup featuring celebrity chef Rosemary Shrager, Britain’s Got Talent runner-up Kevin Cruise, ex-Blue Peter presenter Peter Duncan, and puppet Basil Brush, the cynic in me wasn’t looking forward to this year’s Windsor pantomime. But how wrong I was - oh yes I was!

After 20-odd years of reviewing several pantomimes each Christmas I confidently declare that this is among the best I have ever seen.

OK, Rosemary Shrager didn’t have much to say as the domineering Empress, but what she did say made us - and her downtrodden spouse the Emperor, played by Michael Winsor - sit up and listen. Peter Duncan veered between being too nice as Abanazar to being downright creepy, and then there’s the star duo - Kevin and Basil.

From the moment Basil Brush made his entrance the whole audience were shouting ‘boom boom!’ As Genie of the Lamp he added a new dimension to the role, doling out his usual cheek and quick wit. It’s amazing how, after 40 years, a puppet can have audiences eating out of his hand… paw? fake fur?  - but we were all smitten - and smiling.

The same can be said for Kevin Cruise. With orange tan, blond wig and dazzling white teeth, he looks pretty cheesy, but this man really knows how to work an audience, and as Wishee Washee, a wannabee inventor and explorer, we all loved his enthusiasm and energy. He’s not the best singer around but his charisma and talent for entertaining makes him a sure fired hit. Now in his fourth Windsor pantomime, this year he has taken on the role of creative consultant - which is, perhaps, why this production is so special. Steven Blakeley, who plays a marvellous Widow Twankey and also writes and directs the pantos, is brilliant, but this year’s production really went up a few notches.

There are some glorious and memorable moments in the show - and on the opening night, not all rehearsed! I wouldn’t have missed for the world seeing Kevin Cruise and Steven Blakeley sliding about on foam, to be followed by Peter Duncan making an entrance as the evil Abanazar, only to slip on the foam and fall flat on his back. And Steven Blakeley flaying around in mid-air on the end of a wire in the final scene was hilarious.
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There were plenty of laughs too to be had from the innovative and energetic Twist and Pulse who, as PCs Hip and Hop, combine street dance and comedy, while romance, good looks and tuneful voices are in abundance with Giovanni Spano as Aladdin and Jasmine Gur as the princess.

With dance routines, both funky and international, great music under the direction of Lindsey Miller, a flying carpet, a camel called Camilla, a mummy, and audience participation, this fast-paced, hilarious pantomime is one not to be missed.

Boom boom, Basil!

Aladdin, Theatre Royal Windsor

Aladdin is at the Theatre Royal Windsor until 5 January. Box office: 01753 853888

www.theatreroyalwindsor.co.uk
Aug 5th

Agatha Christie - Murdered by the sound guy

By Douglas McFarlane
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Yes it's true. Read on for a performance with a difference.

Firstly, I was excited.  As a reviewer, I don't often get time to read all the details of a performance in advance and headed off to the Richmond Theatre knowing I had to review an Agatha Christie play.  Great news, clearly a classic and as the Richmond Theatre always has a great choice of perfomances, what could go wrong ?  

When I arrived I noticed a familiar setting. There were several old style microphones in a row with spotlights on them. Some seats in the background and a table full of sound equipment that you'd normally find in a radio play. I remembered the exact setting when I performed in War Of The Worlds in Glasgow.  It was definitely exciting as a performer though I remember thinking that it may not be as exciting in the audience and working hard at my performance to give it my all and ensure it was as entertaining. This included improvising my own comedy routine with the microphone which worked well and brought the house down.  Well, got a few belly laughs anyway. 

So how was this production going to ensure a radio play captured their audiences attention ?   I was about to find out.

A nice way to engage an audience is to get on stage while they are taking their seats.  Meandering around and preparing for the radio play while treating the audience as the real audience of the radio play. Nice touch I thought. Jenny Seagrove and then Tom Conti, two well known and accomplished acting talent were the chosen guests at this performance.  Perfect.  Tom did his acting training in Glasgow, and Jenny was always on our TV's when I was a lad, so another big tick in the box.

As I settled into the first of three Agatha Christie plays, they had captured my attention.  My mind was on a journey as I took in the nuances of doing a radio play, while having the sounds played out in front of your eyes. Doors knocking, steam trains coming into a station and champagne glasses chinking at a party. All done to excellent timing and perfection.  What a delight for the ears and mind and I was enthralled.

The second of the plays came around quickly and in the first half of the performance and it kind of went downhill for the audience at that point. This was no longer a radio play, it was a musical interlude accompanying in the background. Well, it was supposed to be in the background. 

I noticed that I couldn't hear what Tom Conti and the other actors were saying.  I thought it was supposed to be like that and it would somehow resume into a normal dialogue. The audience started to get restless. Two people in front of me started to murmur. The two women next to me started to murmur louder. The audience started to get more and more agitated. Then, finally a guy stood up from a few rows behind me in the stalls and shouted out "WE CAN'T HEAR YOU OVER THE PIANO". 

Well, to have someone shouting out that loud in your play must be a nightmare.  Tom Conti was clearly startled. His part of the dialogue had conveniently come to an end.  He immediately got his composure back, and walked off stage at haste. When he came back on, he had a chat with Jenny, who was presumably wondering what was going on.  Jenny then walked off stage while Tom went back to his microphone and continued the dialogue. 

A few minutes later, the sound mixing was readjusted and the radio play continued at a normal level and the audience relaxed a little.  It had however, ruined the night.  Having missed most of the setup of the characters and storyline of the second play, it was impossible to re-connect with it.  The entire audience must've been the same and I heard a lot of chatter about it during the interval break.

I have to say, that Tom Conti did a fantastic job coping with it.  A top actor like him, taking on board audiences direct comments, and then taking action was very professional and heartwarming to see. We all felt for him, and I'm sure he must've been quite annoyed. For me, I questioned where the director was.  Why was he not in the audience. Did they have a run through prior to the performance ?  I didn't think it was the first night, but it felt like a technical rehearsal wasn't undertaken if something as basic as sound levels weren't checked.  

Another irksome thing for me, was with another accomplished actor who I won't embarass by naming and shaming. She was clearly very good at what she was doing and efficient at all the sounds she had to undertake and crisp in her delivery of dialogue with differing accents. However a basic mistake she made throughout the play was to have her script above her shoulders and practically hiding most of her face for the duration of the plays. It got worse and at one point we could see none of her face at all.

By this stage I had lost interest. I was going to walk out but persisted. Even if it was just to see what else I could find wrong with it. 

A truly remarkable performance for all the wrong reasons. Next time, get it rehearsed, get it technically checked and give the audience their money back. Tickets aren't cheap and I know a lot of people would've been thoroughly disappointed if that was their big night at the theatre with their friends and family.

As we left the auditorium, I noticed the sound guy in a box at the back with his head in his hands.  Poor guy, he knew he was heading for a tough discussion with his director. Whenever he decided to pitch up at a performance.

It's at Woking this week and Brighton next month. Go at your peril, and if you do, please remember it's not a traditional play. It's three radio plays performed  in front of you.

Review by Douglas McFarlane

Jan 7th

The Nutcracker - Moscow City Ballet - Lyceum Theatre

By Paul Tyree

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The Nutcracker

By Moscow City Ballet


Lyceum Theatre - Sheffield



What oh what to say?

Undoubtedly there must have been people within the audience that enjoyed this, (although I can't think why) as they were clapping at the end, but I have to say that if ballet as an art form ever dies then it will be precisely this sort of production that finishes it off.

Poorly staged - three backdrops a bare stage but no set of any kind.

Poor costumes - the Santa and the Wizard costumes being the real lows of the evening. (Dumbledore lives, but Santa looks to be on his last legs!)

Horrible choreography - twirling and pointing but no connection to the story whatsoever. In fact if you don’t read the synopsis in the programme (assuming you’re wealthy enough to buy one that is) then you will probably be completely lost in the first five minutes.

Sloppy and half hearted dancing - one poor tall calumphing redheaded principle dancer could hardly get off the ground and at one point nearly fell over, causing a sharp intake of breath from the audience. Even the main characters were falling out of lifts and struggling to maintain holds and positions. 

Acting ability – none! Not one of the ballerinas whether male or female managed to express a real emotion throughout the entirety of the production. Your average 5 year old would have managed to convince more than this.

All in all this was without a doubt the worst ballet that I have ever seen and what made it so much worse was that the company all looked so bloody pleased with themselves, even though this was only ever third rate at best.

The first ten minutes of this ballet are probably an object lesson in not how to tell a story.

The must have been 25-30 people all dancing around interminably in crowd scenes, mugging and pulling various faces at each other without anything actually happening. In fact this theme of ‘just dancing around without a purpose’ carried on throughout the evening.

I am aware that this is probably what most people would define as a traditional ballet, but at various points there were up to 18 female ballerinas on stage with absolutely nothing to do. No purpose, no impact on the plot or story.

This style of ballet and indeed of choreography probably amazed back in the 1800’s but if ever any company needed to be brought into the 21st century then it is without a doubt Moscow City Ballet.

This was simply uninvolving and most damning of all utterly pointless. No one would have been uplifted or amazed. No hearts would have sung, no tears shed as the story was so vague and utterly without meaning or depth as to render the telling of it more of a history lesson than a reason to enter a theatre.

At best you could say the plot involves an old man trying to seduce a young girl with gifts and getting a bit upset that she still prefers to play with toys instead of him. (Admittedly, it’s not the most forgiving of interpretations, but if you didn’t know the story and simply watched this ballet then that is probably the interpretation you would have come away with).

Most galling was how the principle dancers expected applause whether their efforts deserved it or not. They came time and again to the front of the stage their self satisfied faces gleaming with arrogance and self congratulation that we had been lucky enough to witness their jumps or pirouettes. They even went so far as to have the curtain lifted for a second bow at the half, which caused me to stop and laugh at their sheer cheek as I was hotfooting it to the bar.

What oh what to say indeed!?

AVOID AT ALL COSTS!!

(This too is their 25th Anniversary – and on this evidence I would heartily advise that they don’t go for 26. Maybe time to hang up those tutus, have a vodka and remember the good times eh!)

On the up side this bunch of chancers must be the best advertisement for Northern Ballet yet!

Northern Ballet will be performing Cleopatra at the Lyceum Theatre in Sheffield from Tue 25th – Sat 29th March. I haven’t seen it yet but on tonight’s evidence I can already highly recommend it. Northern Ballet – for when you want your ballet to touch your heart and make you glad you saw it!! Northern Ballet – for when you still expect a ballet to tell a story!! Northern Ballet – for when you expect great staging and costumes!! Northern Ballet – for when you want great choreography and ballerinas that can dance!! Northern Ballet – ballet for people who exist in the 21st century. Northern Ballet – (did I mention they’re on at the Lyceum in March) – Book now for Northern Ballet!!  Not sure I can make it any plainer than that.