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Feb 22nd

Songs of Lear by Song of the Goat Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

Photo credit: Song of the Goat Theatre

 Is my heart too large for you?

Song of the Goat Theatre are an internationally acclaimed Polish company who create contemporary performance based on ancient text, music, dance and song. They return to Battersea Arts Centre with the Fringe First Award winning Songs of Lear for only a few days, following sell-out performances of Return to the Voice in 2014.

The company does not perform King Lear in the traditional way but distills the energies and rhythms in Shakespeare's tragedy and brings them to life. Director Grzegorz Bral uses key scenes from the play to create a story out of gestures, words and music: "Each song is a starting point for another ‘dramatic poem’ where the music becomes characters, relationships and events." Inspired by a Kandinsky exhibition that he saw in London, Bral paints a musical landscape of the tragedy guided by the principles of inspiration, improvisation and structure. He believes that one should not show too much in a performance, only provoke imagination.

The actors are sitting in a semi-circle, dressed in formal black clothes. Only the actor playing King Lear is wearing a coat. The production is divided into 12 episodes that build on each other, introduced and conducted by the director who remains on stage throughout the performance. The show begins with the episode "First Paradiso Number One" when the world is still in order. But then, in episode two, rumours fly that the King is going to resign and the mood changes. The third episode shows King Lear expecting his daughters to express their love for him and the tragedy commences.

The musical variety of this performance is astonishing. The actors sing as a chorus, imitate musical instruments or emit sounds that transfer their emotions directly to the audience. The angelic hymns and the strong chorus pieces reminded me of the Carmina Burana but this is only one element of the performance. Soloists sing in Latin, Polish or English and recite lines from the play in English at crucial points. I was especially impressed by Cordelia's plea to her father, one of the most powerful scenes of the evening.

Grzegorz Bral has used the essence of the play and transformed it into a painting of sound and movement that touches us deep down inside. Song of the Goat have found the emotional music of King Lear.

By Carolin Kopplin


Until 22nd February 2015

Battersea Arts Centre

Lavender Hill, London SW11 5TN

More information:

Running time: 75 minutes

Presented in partnership with the Polish Cultural Institute in London. Supported using public funding by Arts Council England.

Nov 28th

Death Ship 666 at the Jermyn Street Theatre

By Edmée Sierts

Michael Clarkson, (Rich Man) Anna Morris (Rich Lady) Carrie Marx (Holly Hobby), Andrew Utley (The Captain), Mattias Penman (The Architect), his hair, Rachel Parris (Grandma)

It is time to weigh anchor, hoist the main sail, find that there is no sail because you are on a steam ship and try very, very hard not to be embarrassed about your lack of knowledge of the nautical arts. Luckily, no actual sailing is involved as all you have to do is sit back and enjoy the tour of the magnificent Death Ship 666.

The play centres around a young woman, married to, shall we say, a rather strange technician who seems too busy plotting to get her pregnant. Of course, as luck would have it, a young architect falls head over heels in love with her and she soon figures out that she feels the same way. During their chaotic romance, two rich people are hatching an evil scheme, a young girl is trying her best to solve a mystery and a tour guide is desperately trying to finish her tour. Oh, and did I mention the American tourists, the builders trying to finish the ship after it's already left the harbour and the woman on board who is scared to death of drowning? I hadn't? Oh. Well, I did it just now so that's good at least.

One of the first things I noticed about the production is that the pace is extremely high. This is a good thing since it suits the nature of the story, which seems quite happy with the thought of throwing as many characters at you as is possible without confusing you entirely. Very often, said characters are running from one side of the stage to the other, maybe stopping once or twice to deliver some lines into the audience with the pinpoint precision of a gun firing shots. In some cases, they get together to form part of the stage as props. The stage itself is pretty minimal, but considering the nature of the performance and the size of the Jermyn Street Theatre, this is a very sensible state for the stage to be in. It should be said that the production doesn't need a lot of dress up either, since the entire feel of it comes from the dynamic performance of the actors, who wear their characters like coats they've owned since forever.

Mattias Penman (The Architect), his hair, Rachel Parris (Grandma). Photo by Simon Annand

Speaking of the actors, I definitely want to mention that their timing is excellent and their dynamic wonderful to watch. At the risk of sounding shallow, I often found myself somewhat mesmerised by the nature of Mattias Penman's hair, although I'm pretty sure that I'm not the only one. Of course, this also says something about the nature of the production and the simplicity of the costumes in general. The swaps between the various characters, and believe me when I say that there are many, is fluent and believable because of this very simplicity, and the dialogue is witty, fast paced and has some wonderful pop culture references. I would gladly share them with you, but that would spoil the surprise so I won't.

Needless to say, Death Ship 666 is definitely worth seeing and I would recommend it to anyone with a funny bone and those in need of one. Thank you for taking the tour. Brochures are available near the exit and the special Death Ship 666 merchandise can be found in duty free.

Death Ship 666

More information about the production and the purchase of tickets van be found here:

Nov 29th

Arabian Nights at the Blue Elephant Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin
Kate Millest as a bottled up genie

Prepare yourself to be bombarded with imagination!

Hammer & Tongs Theatre present their spoof on the Arabian Nights, a collection of over 1,000 tales based on stories from the Middle East, India, and North Africa, at the Blue Elephant Theatre. This show already had a successful run at the Camden Fringe and includes five exciting adventure stories featuring kings, princesses, talking animals, genies, a flying horse made of ebony as well as some new characters: a philosophising crab with a French accent and a baby giant bird.

Kate Millest, George Clarke, and Helen Forster as another genie.

As the show begins, we witness how a king discovers his wife cheating on him with a sorcerer - consequently he has her executed. In his bitterness and grief the king decides that all women are treacherous. He begins to marry a succession of virgins only to execute each one the next morning, before she has a chance to dishonour him. Eventually the vizier cannot
 find any more virgins in the realm. Schererazade, the vizier's daughter, offers herself as the next bride to end the killing once and for all - her father reluctantly agrees. On the night of their marriage, Scheherazade begins to tell the king a tale, but does not finish it. The king, curious about how the story will end, is forced to postpone her execution in order to hear the conclusion. The next night, she finishes the tale and the king calls for the executioner but Scheherazade immediately begins a new story, and the king, eager to hear the conclusion, postpones her execution once again. And so it goes on for 1,001 nights.

Suzie Grimsdick

The actors change into a myriad of colourful characters as Scheherazade keeps telling the King stories to stay alive - a three-headed genie, a monkey prince who ends up as part of a ship's crew, a gigantic bird, a swarm of bees... Jennifer Rose Lee's production is very physical and fast-paced, surprising us with new twists and turns every minute on Bethany Heaton's imaginative set - drapes lined with stars and a truly magical carpet present the playground for this highly theatrical production. The ensemble is excellent: George Clarke, Helen Foster, Suzie Grimsdick, Kate Millest, and James Weal.

Don't miss out on this fun production!

By Carolin Kopplin

Until 14 December 2013

Blue Elephant Theatre
59a Bethwin Road (entrance on Thompson's Ave)
Camberwell, London, SE5 0XT
Box Office: 020 7701 0100
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!”


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

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


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.





Dec 2nd

The Vagina Monologues at the Richmond Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin


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

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:


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


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