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May 4th

MAMMA MIA! - Milton Keynes Theatre

By Louise Winter

Reviewed 3rd May 2017

MAMMA MIA! poster

Oh, what a delightfully uplifting evening! The Milton Keynes audience collectively skipped out into the cold night, warm and energised by the Greek sun and sing-a-long finale! Truly an international stage phenomenon; running in the West End for almost twenty years, and a film adaptation which is still the highest worldwide grossing live-action musical film, MAMMA MIA! is cross-generational and resonates on a number of levels. This touring production is just wonderful and well worth a visit if you can get a ticket; MK was jam-packed last night with an enthusiastic, vocal and appreciative audience.

Judy Craymer creator/producer has said it was difficult to convince people initially that the play was to be an original story using ABBA songs and not the story of the band itself.  Incredibly, this particular play is so established that it is seems hard to imagine there was ever any doubt. Strikingly female-centric with the respective love lives of mother and daughter on show, it is also a story of a mother’s love for her daughter and the poignancy of that relationship. Craymer states that she noticed the songs by ABBA’s writers Bjőrn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson ‘fell into two generations: younger more playful songs such as ‘Honey, Honey’ and ‘Dancing Queen’ and more mature, emotional songs such as ‘The Winner Takes It All’ and ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You’ – the latter in the style of story-telling, conversational songs that can be interpreted as between two people or the dialogue of inner turmoil. They might be ‘pop’ songs but there is so much more to them and this is what creates the synergy between the story, the songs and the performances in this production; credible, honest actors here tell stories through poignant and meaningful lyrics. There is an integrity at the heart of this show and ABBA’s music is universally loved, as evident both on stage and in the auditorium last night.

MAMMA MIA - Donna, Tanya, Rosie

Photo by Brinkhoff Mögenburg

A strong cohesive cast, led by Donna (Helen Hobson) and Sophie (Lucy May Barker), are obviously having a blast every night and are spot on with dramatic and comic timing. Hobson is sexy as hell and Barker is charming. Both have strong voices and a lovely on stage chemistry – believable as mother and daughter. Their performance of ‘Slipping Through My Fingers’ was emotional and touching. 

MAMMA MIA! boys

 Photo by Brinkhoff Mögenburg

Sophie’s ‘fathers’, Harry (James Hogarth), Bill (Christopher Hollis), and Sam (Jon Boydon’ are perfect. Donna’s ‘girl group’ friends Tanya (Emma Clifford) and Rosie (Gillian Hardie) are a complete hoot. Their rendition of ‘Chiquitita’ created guffaws and snorts from the stalls and ‘Gimme Gimme Gimme’ and ‘Take a Chance on Me’ were laugh out loud funny; reminiscent of ridiculous elements of French and Saunders in their prime.

MAMMA MIA! Hobson and Barker

Photo by Brinkhoff Mögenburg

The ensemble, a young and very dynamic group, are strong of voice, exceptionally fine of figure – particularly the young men(!) and exuberant from start to finish. Setting and staging is straightforward and refreshingly uncomplicated, costumes a combination of flippers, flares, sequins and sandals, choreography (Anthony Van Laast) cheeky and superbly executed and the live band led by Richard Weedon are superlative. 

MAMMA MIA! stags

Photo by Brinkhoff Mögenburg

All in all, a perfect night out!

 

MAMMA MIA! is at MK Theatre until Saturday 20th May

Box Office: 0844 871 7652 (bkg fee)

Groups Hotline: 01908 547609

Access Booking: 0844 872 7677

Online Booking: www.atgtickets.com/miltonkeynes (bkg fee)

 

May 3rd

Everything Between Us at the Finborough Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

Dysfunctional siblings: Teeni (Katrina McKeever) and Sandra (Lynsey-Anne Moffat)

It horrifies me to be a human being.

David Ireland's dark comedy actually premiered in Washington DC before it went on to Belfast and Scotland in 2010. Produced by Solas Nua and Tinderbox Theatre, it won the Stewart Parker Trust Award, BBC Radio Drama Award and the Meyer Whitworth Award for Best New Play. It now receives its London premiere at the Finborough Theatre.

Just as Sandra Richardson prepares to take her seat on the newly formed Truth and Reconciliation Commission for Northern Ireland at Stormont, her long-lost sister Teeni storms in and punches the South African chairwoman in the face whilst hurling racial abuse at her. Sandra manages to drag Teenie into an empty, windowless room to calm her down. - Obviously this is not a realistic play or else Teenie would have been arrested by security and detained long before she could even come close enough to the chairwoman to attack her.

Sandra is a respected politician and the Protestant representative on the Commission at a crucial time in Northern Ireland whilst Teeni has just returned from Stavanger, Norway, where she lived in isolation, building ships. The two sisters have not seen each other in eleven years and it soon becomes clear that there is no love lost between them. As they fight and argue through years of unresolved conflicts, their relationship resembles the situation in their own country - or any country where fanatics try to torpedo any effort of peace and reconcilliation.

The two-hander focuses on the volatile Teeni (a tour-de-force performance by Katrina McKeever), who gets far more time to display her outrageous personality than her sister Sandra - shifting from stand-up comedy to pitiable loneliness before she erupts into another tirade of racial hatred. Sandra (an impressive Lynsey-Anne Moffat), who seems to have the patience of a saint, mainly listens but her character is not limited to being a goody-two-shoes. Although Sandra believes in reconciliation, she has dark thoughts and unresolved issues of her own, but Sandra is in control whereas Teeni is completely unpredictable.

The confrontation between the two sisters shows the difficulty of putting your past behind you. Both grew up as Irish Protestants, their father an Ulster Defence Association fighter who was murdered when they were children. Yet whereas Sandra is trying to overcome her prejudices and their violent history, Teeni's hatred remains unchanged: "Finians aren't people."

David Ireland seems to be an expert in using black comedy to dissect the irrationality of fanatics. His play Cypress Avenue, last year at the Royal Court, featured an Ulster loyalist who wanted to take revenge on his 5-week old granddaughter because he thought she looked like Gerry Adams.

Everything Between Us is not quite as shocking as Cypress Avenue, and Teenie's stand-up comedy act goes on longer than it needs to, but it is still a compelling play, sensitively directed by Neil Bull.

By Carolin Kopplin

Until 16th May 2017

Finborough Theatre

Box office: 0844 847 1652

Running time: 70 minutes, no interval

Photograph by Tristram Kenton.

May 2nd

Twelfth Night at the Blue Elephant Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

If music be the food of love, play on.

The theatre company Original Impact draws upon performance art, popular culture and current affairs to create original work and is now presenting a modern, musical production of one of William Shakespeare's most popular plays. 

Sam Dunstan energetic production turns Illyria into a party island, defined by the words "To beer or not to beer (that is the question)" sprayed on the backwall. Duke Orsino (Andi Jashari), confident ruler of Illyria, is lusting after Olivia (Eve Niker), whose melancholy mood after her brother's death could not feel more out of place. Thankfully, she can count on her steward Malvolio (Timothy Weston) to calm her senses with his sombreness in this sunny paradise.

Sir Toby Belch (Joshua Jewkes) resembles a western tourist who has partied too long on Mallorca, complete with beer gut, sunglasses and white socks, whilst Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Dinos Psychogios) is turned into a rather hopeless DJ. Maria (Alexandria Anfield) is a self-confident bar maid and adored by Sir Toby for her wit. 

After an impressive storm scene that sees Katie Turner's Viola stranded on Illyria, Viola dresses up as the cheeky rapper Cesario, but she still looks very much like a girl. However, her scenes with Eve Niker's Olivia work very nicely as there is real chemistry between the two actors.

This is a very physical show with live music and a lot of slapstick. The songs have all been updated with Sian Eleanor Green's Feste emulating Whitney Houston and Andi Jashari's voice booming across the auditorium. There is no room for Elizabethan harmonies among selfies and mobile phones.

The cast speak Shakespeare's verse beautifully and the performance is entertaining, including many funny ideas. However, I felt that Sam Dunstan could have brought more to the production, there is little depth although Shakespeare's play offers so much to explore.

A fun night out.

By Carolin Kopplin

Until 6th May 2017 at the Blue Elephant Theatre in Camberwell

Running time: 2 hours plus a 15-minute interval

May 1st

The Cardinal at the Southwark Playhouse

By Carolin Kopplin

Opponents: The Cardinal (Stephen Boxer) and Duchess Rosaura (Natalie Simpson)

Do not I walk upon the teeth of serpents?

The Cardinal was one of the last plays performed before Oliver Cromwell shut down the theatres. Considered one of James Shirley's finest dramas, this satirical revenge tragedy features two strong and witty opponents - the Cardinal (Stephen Boxer) and Duchess Rosaura (Natalie Simpson), who are equally weighted. The play pays reverence to some of the best-known revenge tragedies, most of all The Duchess of Malfi.

The Cardinal uses his influence on the King of Navarre (Ashley Cook) to arrange a marriage between the Duchess and his nephew Don Columbo (Jay Saighal), a fierce warrior who is presently fighting a war against Arragon. The Duchess, however, prefers the more refined and honorable Count D'Alvarez (Marcus Griffiths), and has no intention of marrying a brute. She writes to Columbo, asking to be released from the marriage contract. In his fury, Columbo almost kills the messenger - Antonio (Timothy Speyer) - but in his exaggerated self-esteem comes to think that the Duchess is just taunting him because she misses him so much. Antonio returns with the required release and the Duchess marries Count D'Alvarez. But Columbo returns on their wedding night and murders the Count, swearing that he will kill any future husband of Rosaura's, just as he killed D'Alvarez. Thanks to his war record and his influential uncle, Columbo remains unpunished. The Duchess becomes the ward of the Cardinal and is presumed to have gone mad. Meanwhile Colonel Hernando (Phil Cheadle), who has been publicly humiliated by Columbo, also seeks revenge against the Cardinal and his nephew.

Justin Audibert's production emphasises the satire in Shirley's text and the cast make the most of the dark humour in the play, creating a great rapport with the audience, who are frequently addressed in crowd scenes. The performance begins with a monologue by the Cardinal, played with smooth malevolence by Stephen Boxer. Natalie Simpson's Duchess Rosaura matches the Cardinal in wit and cunning. Phil Cheadle's Hernando is seething with restrained hatred which is finally released in his duel with Columbo, played as a rough brute by Jay Saighal. Timothy Speyer is a joy as Rosaura's amiable secretary Antonio.

The audience is welcomed by the smell of incense as they enter the auditorium. The stage is bare, yet resembles a grand hall or a cathedral (design by Anna Reid), also thanks to the sound design by Max Pappenheim, who composed the atmospheric music. The actors are wearing period costumes with matching weaponry, also beautifully designed by Anna Reid.  

Despite its length, Justin Audibert's atmospheric production is fast-paced and entertaining throughout, including a breathtaking sword fight (devised by Bret Yount) and a stunning masque, choreographed by Natasha Harrison. 

By Carolin Kopplin

Until 27th May 2017

Southwark Playhouse

Running time: 140 minutes including one interval

Photo by Mitzi de Margary

Apr 30th

Late Company at the Finborough Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

Todd Boyce, Lucy Robinson, Lisa Stevenson, David Leopold, Alex Lowe

You don't want an apology. You want blood.

Written by 28-year old Canadian Jordan Tannahill, this play deals with the suicide of a gay teenager who was bullied by other high school students in small-town Canada where homosexuality is still something that should be kept a secret. 

Debora (Lucy Robinson) and Michael Shaun-Hastings (Todd Boyce) are expecting guests for dinner. The table is beautifully set, with a bowl of flowers as its centrepiece, but Debora is not satisfied. Pacing around the table, she eventually disposes of the napkin rings because they might be too formal for the occasion. One year after the suicide of their 16-year old son Joel, the Shaun-Hastings have decided to meet with the high school bully, who was responsible for Joel's death, and his parents to find closure. Michael, a conservative politician, is not enthusiastic about this meeting but Debora, an artist who works in metal, tries to clear the negativity: "We're receiving and bestowing, Michael." But their guests are already forty minutes late.

When they finally arrive, Bill Dermot (Alex Lowe) explains that they are late due to an argument with his wife Tamara (Lisa Stevenson) - he shares Michael's skepticism regarding this meeting and did not want to go. Tamara, however, is eager to come together to achieve harmony and "put things behind them". She has been exchanging e-mails with Debora for some time and feels there can be reconciliation with Debora. Unfortunately, Tamara forgot to mention that her son Curtis (David Leopold) is allergic to shellfish so Curtis has to do with a sandwich and a few grapes whilst the rest of the dinner guests are having shellfish pasta.

Although Debora and Michael are trying to remain civil, the atmosphere is fraught with tension. Tamara soon switches from water to wine.

Curtis (David Leopold) reading his apology to Debora (Lucy Robinson)

Zahra Mansouri's beautiful set extends into the auditorium, placing the audience inside the dining room with the cast. As soon as the Dermots arrive, there is palpable tension. Debora seems calm and composed but there is bitterness and fury under her thin layer of civility. Tamara is longing for forgiveness and reconciliation. Michael, always the politician, is trying for the middle path whereas Bill proves to be even more of a bully than his son Curtis, who remains rather quiet during much of the evening, but is actually the most intriguing character.

Michael Yale's sensitive production about grief, forgiveness and reconciliation is almost painful to watch as two families are trying to find closure after a terrible tragedy. The play, which features an outstanding cast, shows that bigotry and intolerance also run in the family and dissects the relationship between sons and constantly absent fathers.

A gripping production that should not be missed.

By Carolin Kopplin 

Until 20th May 2016

Finborough Theatre

Box office: 0844 8471652

Running time: 70 minutes without an interval

Photo credit: Charlie Round-Turner

Apr 27th

Jane Eyre @ The Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury

By Yvonne Delahaye

Jane Eyre

Written by Charlotte Bronte and published in 1847, this tale of the eponymous heroine Jane Eyre, has frequently been adapted for film, radio, television and theatre, and has inspired a number of rewritings and reinterpretations.

Four years ago, Director Sally Cookson got the green light from Tom Morris, Artistic Director of Bristol Old Vic, to devise a two-part version of this classic novel.  Sally says ‘the film’s portrayal of Jane has missed the point.  This is a clarion cry for equal opportunities for women, not a story about a passive female who will do anything for her hunky boss. I was struck by how modern Jane seemed – her spirit and strong will, her peculiar and brilliant mind striving for personal freedom to be who she is, lashing out against any constraint that prevents her from being herself.  She was exactly the sort of person I wanted to be.’

With the help of Mike Akers (dramaturg), Sally began the process of devising a new piece of theatre, focusing not only on the Jane/Rochester relationship, but Jane’s early years living with her spiteful aunt, being sent to a Christian school and her coming of age.  It took 8 weeks of collaboration with a group of actors to devise the two shows, enabling them to get to the heart of the story and characters in a theatrical way. 

Following the run of the two shows, the Artistic Director of the National Theatre Rufus Norris invited them to take their version of the show to the NT.  They agreed to distil it into a single show, retaining its epic quality, but honing and tightening to make a more intense experience, which runs to around three and half hours with interval.  

Nadia Clifford, gives a powerful performance of emotional depth and insight in the title role.  The ensemble cast work their socks off to play a variety of roles, including a rather lovable dog who made me smile whenever I saw him.

The wooden set with a series of levels and ladders worked very well to represent the various locations throughout the show.  It’s certainly an exciting and innovative piece of theatre that captures your imagination, even if some of the devices appeared rather stagey.  The only few things I found jarred were Mr Rochester’s swearing when he first met Jane (not sure if that was in the book?!) and the decision to include Noel Coward’s song ‘Mad About the Boy’ and Gnarls Barkley’s ‘Crazy’, which both seemed out of place.

Jane Eyre runs at The Waterside until Saturday 29th, with further tour dates and booking details on:

http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/jane-eyre-2017/

Reviewed by:

Yvonne Delahaye

26/4/17

 

@yvonnedelahaye

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

www.atgtickets.com

0844 871 7652

Booking fee applies

 

Apr 19th

The Wedding Singer - King’s Theatre, Glasgow

By Cameron Lowe

Jon Robyns and Cassie Compton lead a talented cast in a musical adaptation of the hit movie.

 

Marriage may be going out of fashion but romance will never die.  So it came as no surprise that Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore scored a huge hit back in 1998 with the celluloid version of “The Wedding Singer” featuring the perfect union of slushy love story and nostalgic 80’s comedy.  Who would have guessed, though, that this almost formulaic movie could become a fantastic 21st century musical?

 

The show is remarkably true to the original movie including all of the quirky characters, retro comedy and tear inducing romance.  Robbie (Jon Robyns) is a wedding singer who believes in the perfect match.  Together with his band, “Simply Wed”, he seeks to contribute to each couple’s perfect day.  He meets waitress, Julia (Cassie Compton) at one such wedding and unwittingly falls for her.  Julia becomes engaged to her greedy, straying boyfriend just as Robbie is dumped by his bizarre rock-chick girlfriend.  Robbie loses his faith in love but, together, Julia and band mates Sammy (Ashley Emerson) and George (Samuel Holmes) make him believe in true love once again.

 

Jon Robyns played an affable Robbie with his clear vocals hitting the high notes and fitting the requirements of the role perfectly.  He was supported by a great cast.  Cassie Compton was the definitive ‘girl next door’ who would never be swayed by 80s greed.  She certainly delivered the sweetness of the role and ably sang many memorable numbers … but, as written, the character is a little 2 dimensional and it needs a performance twist to lift it out of the ordinary.  Roxanne Pallett took a night off but was energetically replaced by Tara Verloop as Julia’s waitress friend, Holly.  Tara rocked this soundtrack layering on talent and verve like it was going out of fashion!  Ray Quinn did his substantial fan-base proud as greedy trader, Glen with an unerring nasty-boy character portrayal.  “All About The Green” was certainly a highlight. Ruth Madoc earns a mention as Robbie’s scene stealing Grandma Rosie.

 

Among the ensemble, the stand out performer for me was Mark Pearce.  His characterisations lifted scenes throughout the show with every appearance delivering a new ‘face’.  A little more of this from the cast would lift the show to a new level.

 

Set and lighting were eye catching and very effective. Scene changes were slick – although some remnants of props from previous scenes were occasionally left onstage – a serious theatrical “no-no”.  The pacey and surprisingly varied (considering the era) original score was delivered with flair but the sound balance occasionally overpowered some vocals.  Recognisable chords and riffs from the music and movies of the time delighted those of us old enough to remember the 80s as something other than the ‘decade that style forgot’! 

 

This is a delightful uplifting musical which ticks all the boxes to produce a monster hit.    I rate it up there with the likes of “Footloose” and “Sunshine on Leith”. 

 

LISTINGS INFORMATION

King's Theatre Glasgow:

Tues 18-Sat 22 April 2017

Tues & Thurs, 7.30pm

Wed, 2.30pm & 7.30pm

Fri, 5pm & 8.30pm

Sat, 2.30pm & 7.30pm

Box office: 0844 871 7648 (bkg fee applies)

 

Apr 16th

The Crucible at the Richmond Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

 Crucible copy.jpg

Is the accuser always holy now?

Written by Arthur Miller in 1953 as a response to the communist witch-hunt, The Crucible is seen as a metaphor for McCarthyism as there were obvious parallels between the witch-trials in 17th century Salem and what witnesses were subjected to in hearings conducted by the House Unamerican Activities Community (HUAC). The cause was later hijacked by Senator Joseph McCarthy, who needed a patriotic platform that would generate enough publicity to guarantee his re-election. The play has never been more relevant than today when one can easily detect the strong parallels between the community of Salem - a society in the midst of great change and anxious about the future - and the political climate in the US and the UK. 

In the Puritan New England town of Salem, Massachusetts, a group of girls is detected dancing in the forest by the local minister, Reverend Parris. Parris’s daughter Betty, has since fallen into a catatonic state. There is talk of witchcraft and Reverend Hale, a specialist in this field, has been asked to come and investigate. Parris doesn't believe in unnatural causes but he is scared that his enemies might harm him over his daughter's improper behaviour. Abigail Williams, who led the dancing party in the woods, convinces the girls not to admit anything. Abigail had a secret affair with John Proctor, a respected local farmer, whilst being engaged in his home. She was consequently fired by Proctor's wife Elizabeth. Abigail still desires Proctor but he regrets his adulterous behaviour and fends her off.  

 

A separate argument between Proctor, Parris, Giles Corey, and the wealthy landowner Thomas Putnam soon ensues. This dispute regards land deeds and money with Putnam trying to grab Corey's land and to dictate the terms in Salem because of his wealth whilst Proctor argues that it is up to the community to make decisions. As the men argue, Reverend Hale arrives and examines Betty. Hale then demands to speak to Tituba. After Parris and Hale interrogate her, the panicky Tituba confesses to communing with the devil, and she hysterically accuses various townsfolk of consorting with the devil. Suddenly, Abigail joins her, confessing to having seen the devil conspiring and cavorting with other townspeople. Betty joins them in naming witches.

C9O9vuLXcAQn1Rx.jpg

Reverend Hale (Charlie Condou) having a friendly talk with John and Elizabeth Proctor (Eoin Slattery and Victoria Yeates) 

A week later, 14 people are locked up in prison because they were "seen with the devil" by the hysterical girls. At first only vagrants and eccentric old women are denounced as witches. John Proctor is reluctant to go to court and inform the judges about Abigail's character when Mary Warren, their servant arrives, and informs them that Elizabeth had been accused of witchcraft but the court did not pursue the accusation. Shortly thereafter, Giles Corey and Francis Nurse come to the Proctor home with news that their wives have been arrested. Officers of the court suddenly arrive and arrest Elizabeth. After they have taken her, Proctor browbeats Mary, insisting that she must go to Salem and expose Abigail and the other girls as frauds. 

680D98F29FF-F314-69E4-D755C6EB15FCE38E.jpg

Betty Parris (Leona Allen) and Abigail Williams (Lucy Keirl) having a vision

Douglas Rintoul's production is very fast-paced, which sometimes works against the tension of the play. Occasional stage directions, such as "The curtain falls" and "He conceives himself much as a young doctor on his first call" (regarding Reverend Hale), that are projected onto the wall can be amusing but I found them rather distracting.

Victoria Yeates gives a touching performance as Elizabeth Proctor but is rather subdued, which is especially noticeable in the important final scene between Elizabeth and her husband. Charlie Condou is very good as Reverend Hale who comes to regret his hasty judgment. Lucy Keirl convinces as Abigail Williams and Jonathan Tatler is excellent as Judge Danforth as he manipulates naive witnesses so their statements suit his agenda. Diana Yekinni impresses as Tituba, helpless in her low status as a slave and afraid for her life, and Augustina Seymour is very good as both Mary Warren and the dignified Rebecca Nurse.

The minimalist stage design by Anouk Schiltz consists of a panelled wall and a number of trees which works well for this play. However, the costumes seem to derive from various periods over the past few centuries without any consistency whatsoever. Unfortunately, this is also true for the accents. It is doubtful that a small Puritan community would entail accents from Ireland, Cornwall and Buckinghamshire. Yet is is possible that these minor points show the universality of the play.

An impressive production of a powerful play. 

By Carolin Kopplin 

The next stop of the tour will be Brighton from 24th April.

Tickets: http://uktheatrenet.ambassadortickets.com/whatson/aspx28

Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes including one interval

Photo Credit: Alessia Chinazzo

Apr 13th

More twists and turns than an acrobat on acid - Mindgame at Malvern Theatre

By G.D. Mills

In Anthony Horowitz’s country house asylum for the criminally insane, things are not as they seem. The presiding doctor is more psychopath than psychoanalyst, the writer more comfortable with a scalpel than a pen in his hand, and the nurse’s increasingly febrile interjections hint at a terrible secret. 

Dr. Farquhar entertains a visitor, a writer collecting information about a serial killer who dwells in the asylum. Most of the drama swivels on the shifting relations between the two male characters and the slowly dawning suspicion that the inmates are running the asylum. Andrew Ryan’s Styler is an athletic, ambitious writer pitting his apparently sluggish wits against the avuncular, patrician Farquhar, played ably by Michael Sherwin.  

This psychological thriller takes on its highest form when elements of surreal menace (a tinny tanoy arbitarily emitting snatches of screechy symphony, for instance) and Pinteresque absurdity (when a long list of increasingly bizarre sandwich options are offered) creep in. But this is a genre piece more than anything, and so with a perfunctory twist here, and an obligatory turn there, it is especially gratifying when the final revelation puts paid to the sneaking suspicion that some of the plot ends don’t quite tie up. They do, very neatly as it happens 

Set in the doctor’s office, Sarah Wynne Kordas' deceptively static set begins to ennerve you. Are those beautifully manicured gardens through the window beginning to recede? And is that portrait slowly transmutating into something altogether more sinister? 

Delivering more twists and turns than an acrobat on acid, Mindgame with keep you guessing right to the end.  

 
Catch it now.

Visit  http://www.malvern-theatres.co.uk/events/event/mindgame/