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Jun 20th

Summer Holiday the Musical at the Edinburgh Playhouse

By Clare Brotherwood

To be honest, I wasn’t that excited about going to see Summer Holiday the Musical.

I was barely into my teens when I saw Cliff Richard’s original film and, for me, there is no-one to beat him.

So, I thought, I’ll just wallow in nostalgia. After all, I still know all the words to all the songs: timeless classics like Bachelor Boy, Do You Wanna Dance? The Young Ones, The Next Time, Living Doll and, of course, Summer Holiday!

What I didn’t expect was to ‘put on my dancing shoes’ during the encore, clapping, cheering and waving along with the rest of the audience, including my young friend for whom the sixties belong to the history books. This production raised the Playhouse’s roof!

This really is a feel good show which brought sunshine into Edinburgh on one of its driecht days. Like Cliff’s other early film The Young Ones, it’s wholesome and fun, and gives today’s young audiences a taste of how uncomplicated life could be in ‘the good old days’!

Peter Yates’ original film script, adapted for the stage by Michael Gyngell and Mark Madigan, is about Don and his fellow mechanics who take an old London Transport bus to Europe for a summer holiday. On the way they rescue three girl singers and an American pop star who is running away from her Cruella de Ville-like mother and her agent - the only dark characters in what is a happy-go-lucky whirlwind of love and laughter. But then, maybe without them it would be too sweet?

Once I looked at the programme I knew it couldn’t fail, musically at least. Any show with Keith Strachan behind the orchestration is bound to be a winner and musical director Rob Wicks and his men do him proud.

On opening night the production was a bit slow to start, the sound echoing, but the company was energetic and enthusiastic and when Ray Quinn, in the Cliff Richard role, joined in he took the show to a different level. He may have big shoes to fill but he does a good job; throughout the show there are some lovely harmonies but Quinn’s voice is a cut above the rest and he also more than matches the dancers with his acrobatics.

Don’s mates each have their own characters. Edwin is the more sensitive member of the group but in Move It Joe Goldie really comes into his own as an Elvis sound-alike; Rory Maguire is lovable as the cheeky Cyril, while Billy Roberts is very much the cocky Jack the Lad as Steve.

Gabby Antrobus, Alice Baker and Laura Marie Benson play perfectly the dippy, giggly singers while Sophie Matthews’ American singer Barbara has extra depth, innocence and then passion.

Taryn Sudding as Barbara’s mother is a wonderfully screeching harridan; only Bobby Crush cuts a sad figure as Barbara’s camp agent with an ill-fitting wig. Famous all his life as a pianist, in the encore it was heart-breaking to see him playing a keyboard attached to the back of the bus (yes, the bus has a starring role too) that no-one could hear.

Summer Holiday the Musical is at the Edinburgh Playhouse until June 23. It then continues touring:

June 26-30: Plymouth Theatre Royal

July 17-21: Brighton Theatre Royal

July 24-28: Blackpool Winter Gardens

July 30-Aug 4: Leeds Grand

Aug 14-18: Wales Millennium Centre

Aug 23-27: Southend. Cliffs Pavilion

Sept 4-8: Dartford, Orchard Theatre

Sept 11-15: Chester StoryHouse

Sept 18-22: Wimbledon New Theatre

Oct 2-6: Stoke, Regent Theatre

Oct 23-27: Aylesbury Theatre

Oct 30-Nov 3: Glasgow Kings Theatre

Jun 20th

“Sunshine on Leith”, King’s Theatre Glasgow

By Cameron Lowe

 

Eleven years on from the first awe-inspiring tour by Dundee Rep. and with a movie release in the space between, Sunshine on Leith takes to the stage once again with a brand new production from West Yorkshire Playhouse.

 

With side-splitting Scottish humour married with true to life family drama and down to earth realism, “Sunshine on Leith” ticks every possible box for me.  I found myself bouncing from uncontrollable laughter to sadness and back again in a heartbeat!  From the familiar upbeat strains of “I’m on My Way” I was hooked again, finding myself grinning from ear to ear as I enjoyed this triumphant intelligent musical comedy drama.

 

The story follows Ally and Davy as they return from an army tour of duty and they set about picking up the pieces of their lives.  Ally is the long term boyfriend of Davy’s sister, Liz.  Liz introduces her brother to her nursing colleague, Yvonne, who is funny, bright, beautiful … but English!  Both couples are welcomed under the roof of mum and dad (Jean and Rab) who celebrate 30 years of marriage.

 

Part of the genius of this show is the way that the 3 separate love stories are interwoven with a huge back catalogue of hit songs from The Proclaimers.  The songs are not a simple headline grabbing add-on.  They each earn their place and advance the story so seamlessly that it is difficult to comprehend that they were not written for this purpose.  Throw the ‘R’ Away” celebrates the Scottish accent as the boys take a job in a call centre, “What Do You Do?” asks how Nurses should cope with the decline of the NHS, “Let’s Get Married” is an hilarious marriage proposal spoof situated in a Hibs supporters’ bar, “Sunshine on Leith” is a tear jerking lament as a family member lies in a hospital bed … the list goes on and on.  The drama is woven through with side splitting Scottish patter and down to earth characters that will speak any audience’s language.  Playwright and TV writer, Stephen Greenhorn, turned alchemist with this theatre gold.

 

This new production brings several updates to this much beloved show.  Some work well    and some, not so much.  I was delighted to see that time no longer stood still for the Henshaw family as the show was brought up to date with references to Brexit, The Kardashians and Nicola Sturgeon among others.  These bring fresh laughs and introduce the show to a new generation of fans.  The story took some tweaks from the 2013 movie; bringing in Rab’s estranged daughter (Nikki Patel) and adding extra pressure on his 30 year marriage; which unravels in a great crescendo at the end of Act 1.  Sadly, this production also handed over more of the second act’s tear-jerker songs to the chorus.  While well delivered vocally with beautiful new harmonies, this only served to detract from the hard hitting drama which was previously in very stark contrast to the uplifting first act.

 

The cast consisted of incredibly talented performers who acted, sang, danced and played instruments giving each scene a family vibe – like an old new year party singalong. Accents tended to be around 50 miles west of where they should be but that was quickly forgiven by the Glaswegian audience.  Performances were superb throughout with outstanding contributions from principals Phil McKee as Rab, Hilary Maclean as Jean, Neshla Caplan as Liz, Jocasta Almgill as Yvonne and Paul-James Corrigan and Steven Miller as Ally and Davy.

 

This is a great musical.  Get along to see it as soon as you can - Saturday night is sold out in Glasgow.  The tour makes its final stop in Inverness.

 

King’s Theatre, Glasgow

Tues 19 – Sat 23 June

Evenings at 7.30 p.m. (Saturday evening sold out)

Wed and Sat matinees at 2.30 p.m.

Box Office: 0844 871 7648 (bkg. fee) www.atgtickets.com

Tickets: £23 - £60

 

Jun 12th

Blue Elephant Theatre - Summer Season 2018

By Carolin Kopplin

Blue Elephant Theatre continues its creative mix of new work from emerging artists for all audiences. Shows this season look at the dark and light in life: the struggles, themes and stories that guide how we live and what we think. Embracing cross art form performances, this summer is the perfect time to discover or rediscover the intimate Camberwell venue. 

This is the Blue Elephant’s first season as an Arts Council England NPO and it is fitting that many of the shows are very new pieces and fresh starts; many are Edinburgh previews and some are brand new works in progress. From interactive comedy to refugee superheroes and from modern adaptations of Greek texts to clowning and dance, the scope of the season is vast, offering something for all ages and tastes.

Cassandra by Found in Translation (12th – 16th June)

What if they'd believed Cassandra?

Based on Aeschylus’ Agamemnon, Cassandra takes us on a very personal journey through some of the struggles many women face in their lives; the choice between what’s expected of them and how they feel. Touching on the themes of #metoo and #timesup, Cassandra is a fiery reimagining of a classical text which gives a voiceless woman an audience. 

Established in October 2016, Found in Translation’s mission is to take Classical stories and update them for today’s audiences. They produce work that promotes education in the arts and Classical subjects to those that don’t have easy access to them otherwise. 

Suitable for ages 16+

The Tale of the Cockatrice by Mumblecrust Theatre (17th June)

A masterclass in adventure storytelling for all ages!

Deep in the vaults of an ancient priory a hideous creature awakens. A deadly cockatrice is born! Bold knights flee in terror... Can a humble nun defeat the beast?

Multi-Award-Winning Mumblecrust Theatre present two muddle-headed storytellers, an obscure British legend, breath-taking puppetry and spine-tingling live music in this dark and winding fable for monster-lovers young and old.

Mumblecrust Theatre is an award-winning theatre company based in the South West of England. Co-Artistic Directors Katie Underhay and Anthony Burbridge came together to fill a niche in children’s theatre, where slightly older children often get left out. From this collaboration, The Tale of the Cockatrice was born.

Best suited for 7-12 year olds 

Trailer: youtube.com/watch?v=rT2ez6uvHhk

The Family Blimp by The Klump Company (21st – 23rd June)

Physical theatre, grotesque and a lick of the absurd come together as the Blimps attempt to navigate through a strange new place and meet the demands of their new-fangled community.

Let’s play Home Sweet Home, after all- there’s no place like it.

The Klump Company are a brand spanking new ensemble, fresh from internationally acclaimed Ecole de Jacques Lecoq. They could mime the knickers off your granny. They probably won’t though…

Runner Up by Robert Hesp (28th June)

A series of performance actions and choreographies by Robert Hesp responding to ideas around/the feeling of failure.

Robert Hesp is a performance artist and contemporary dancer based in London. His work frequently straddles a variety of disciplines, using the tensions and overlaps as fertile ground for experimentation.

This performance is a work in progress showing and will be followed by a short discussion hosted by the artist. 

The Croydon Avengers by Maya Productions in association with Little Mighty (29th June & 1st July)

Can three teenage refugees become the heroes Britain needs?

Regina Rump is on the rampage! A trio of masked vigilantes are sending Croydon’s crime rate plummeting. They’ve run away from their war-torn homes and are just trying to help.

But Regina’s not happy. She orders her media empire to unmask the Avengers and get them off the streets. Are they terrorists? Criminals? Either way, she thinks they’re a threat to British identity.

Then a freak accident at the Gatwick deportation centre gives the trio powers beyond their wildest dreams. Can three teenage refugees really become the saviours of a doomed nation?

The Croydon Avengers blends comic book visuals with action-packed martial arts to tell a funny, powerful story of terrorist threats, heroism and true friendship in an England that seems frightened of anyone who’s different.

Led by Suzanne Gorman, Maya Productions creates diverse theatre to create change: socially, politically and culturally. Their vision is a world where people of all ages, abilities, culture and classes have the opportunity to experience world class theatre.

Aimed at young people aged 8-14 and their families.

Boxman by Flugelman Productions (4th – 6th July)

There are more than 60 million displaced people on our planet... people who have no home

Ringo is one of them. He is a survivor, a child soldier displaced from his homeland, sheltering in a cardboard box in an inner city park. He lives in plain sight but is invisible to the city around him. But inside his makeshift ‘home’, Ringo lives a life rich with stories and songs of a childhood far away, a family tragically lost and the complicated promise of a new beginning.

Started by sisters, Edwina and Victoria, Flugelman Productions brings together writers, performers, musicians and dancers from all over the world, inspired to tell great stories. They believe that theatre can save the world. Too grand a statement? At the very least, it can make all our lives better by helping us understand a little more of what it means to be human.

Where the Hell is Bernard? by Haste Theatre (10th July)

A darkly comic depiction of a Kafka-esque future

In a city where no one plays and no one ever leaves, a box of items bounces back to Lost and Found Office. Will the officers find its owner or something more? Mixing magical visuals, movement, live song and clown, award winning Haste Theatre create a darkly comic warning for the future.

Haste Theatre an all-female, international physical theatre company which creates fantastical worlds to portray and interrogate the everyday. Founded in 2013, Haste has toured nationally and internationally to theatres and festival across the UK, US and Italy. Fusing comedy and tragedy, the ugly and the beautiful – they shock, stimulate and entertain.

The Dame by Here’s One I Made Earlier & Duncan Reeves Productions (12th July)

A seasoned pantomime dame is alone in his dressing room, unaware he is preparing for his own performance of a lifetime....

Ronald Roy Humphrey has returned to the northern seaside town where he grew up for the Christmas season, and finds himself bitterly confronted with why he left all those years before.

As he starts to excavate his past, he steps back into history; bringing to life the ghosts who once paraded and performed along the piers and promenades, removing the layers one by one until he arrives at a tragic truth he had spent his whole life trying to forget.

A lost world of seaside entertainment, old time music hall and pantomime are brought to life in this one-man show where the past and present collide, magical realism meets bleak reality, and however many masks we wear, the truth will always be exposed.

The Dame is a one man show written by Katie Duncan, a past winner of Blue Elephant Theatre's Playwriting competition, and presented as a work in development. The show is performed by her father, actor and presenter Peter Duncan who is probably best known for presenting Blue Peter in the 1980s.

An Evening, A Beginning by KAMIENSKI (19th – 21st July)

Witness the beginning

Boundaries of contemporary dance are manipulated in this physical and fast-paced double bill by KAMIENSKI., premiering two brand new works.

Trojan Horse by LUNG in association with West Yorkshire Playhouse (26th & 27th July)

Why should I continue to be tolerant?

When the world has been so intolerant of me.

A new documentary play by LUNG (E15, The 56 and Chilcot), Trojan Horse follows the real life stories of Muslim teachers and governors who were accused of plotting extremism in Birmingham schools.

Founded in Barnsley in 2012, LUNG are a verbatim/documentary theatre company who make work with communities, for communities and about communities. LUNG create work that shines a light on political, social and economic issues in modern Britain using people’s actual words to tell their stories. The company is led by Matt Woodhead (winner of Director’s Guild Best Newcomer 2015) and Helen Monks (Upstart Crow, Raised By Wolves).

Listings Information: 

Venue: Blue Elephant Theatre, 59a Bethwin Rd, Camberwell, SE5 0XT (entrance on Thompson Ave)

Nearest tube: Oval (Northern Line)

Wheelchair accessible

Box Office: 020 7701 0100

info@blueelephanttheatre.co.uk

www.blueelephanttheatre.co.uk |@BETCamberwell

Jun 11th

The Darkness or Else the Light at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

By Clare Brotherwood

Now that I am living in Scotland I am finding lots of theatrical gems in Edinburgh.

Not least of these is Strange Town, a registered charity, co-founded in 2008 by creative directors Steve Small (who created the Royal Lyceum’s education department and the award-winning Lyceum Youth Theatre) and Ruth Hollyman, who established the Festival Theatre’s education programme (and has lived in Tokyo where she set up a children’s theatre).

Because of them, each week 350 youngsters, from the ages of eight to 18, are engaged in learning theatre skills through their Youth Theatre groups, their Young Company, and their after-school drama clubs, and showcasing the work of emerging writers. And, as if that wasn’t enough, since 2011 their Young Actors’ Agency has been representing young actors from the ages of five to 25.

In their latest production, around 20 young performers have got together with writer Corinne Salisbury to create a piece about how social media makes us feel.

Who better to take us through the pitfalls than a teenage cast; no-one knows social media and its dark and light sides better than they do. On the bus home I heard someone say the production was like a school play – which is excusable. After all, it was a group of kids, only on this occasion it was a group of kids who, under the direction of professional director Catherine Exposito, were appearing on the stage of the Traverse Theatre and, later this month, the Leith Theatre and the Scottish Storytelling Centre.

Set against a black backcloth with circuit board markings on the floor, the production opens with the entrance of an aggressive group of hoodies in masks – the ‘voices’ of social media.

A mixed bunch of seven teenagers then find themselves invited to a meeting room in the middle of nowhere where a computer tells them that if they each tell their secrets everyone will be equal and there will be rewards.

What follows is how the situation affects different members of the group, especially when it ends with everyone having to take The Test which, because of their early activity on social media, predicts the lives they will leave.

It’s strong stuff, an important piece of theatre with, at the heart of it, the very generation who are part of it, telling the story with credibility and feeling.

Now I think I’ll just ditch my phone!

The Darkness or Else the Light can also be seen:

June 16-17: Leith Theatre

June 23-24: Scottish Storytelling Centre

Jun 9th

Matilda at Milton Keynes Theatre

By Louise Winter

Reviewed by Louise Winter  

7th June 2018 

WONDERFUL!  

Matilda Poster

From the fantastic floor-to-ceiling-wall-to-wall staging and lighting and the highly creative choreography, costumes and characterisation, to Minchin’s brilliantly original and engaging lyrics and music, this is a completely absorbing and immersive experience from start to finish; it is not in any way purely a children’s story. The dedication and attention to detail of Matthew Warchus, Dennis Kelly and Tim Minchin over the years of planning that went into this adaptation of Roald Dahl’s beloved story is evident in every element of this knockout show; one of the most fulfilling pieces of theatre I’ve seen in a very long time.  

On tour until Augustand for longer than usual runs at each venue, this is most definitely one of THE shows to get tickets for but they are selling very fast so act now! 

Matilda, on this night played by the exceptionally poised Poppy Jones, is the purest little sweetie. Jones, so very young, is stunning on stage playing her role without any mawkish or sugary sentimentalityMatilda waits to start school, enduring the derision and appalling treatment of her hapless parents -  Rebecca Thornill as her dance-obsessedlooks-driven mother and Sebastien Torkia as her ignorant wheeler-dealer father, who cannot comprehend how he has been saddled with a daughter and insists on calling her a boy. Thornhill and Troika are superb, both clearly having great fun with their deeply flawed characters.  

Matilda copyright Manual Harlan

image copyright Manuel Harlan

By the time Matilda gets to school she is far in advance of her peers, having read Dickens and Dostoevsky, and immediately draws attention from her gentle, morally responsible teacher Miss Honey and, unfortunately, the psychopathic headteacher Miss TrunchbullIt’s not really fair to pick out any individual among this immensely talented and consistent cast, yet special mention must be given to Craige Els who, having played the role for three years in the West End, has perfected his take on the maniacal Trunchbull and clearly relishes in her grotesque darkness; he gives depth and truth to the character’s twisted malevolence far beyond any two dimensional imagining and does not play for quick laughs.  

Matilda Manuel Harlan

image copyright Maneul Harlan

There are some superb set pieces, the gym class is magnificent and just wait for the swings! Among Minchin’s memorable score is the addictive ‘Naughty (which has been my earworm today), the beautiful, ‘When I Grow Up’, and the moving ‘This Little Girl’ among consistently fabulous songs.   

matilda Manuel Harlan

image copyright Maneul Harlan

This is powerfully creative theatre, rock solid in every aspect, fabulously entertaining, very, very funny but above all emotionally uplifting.  

SENSATIONAL! 

Matilda plays MK Theatre until 30th June then continues on tour 

Box office 0844 871 7652 

www.atgtickets.com/miltonkeynes 

Booking transaction fee applies 

Jun 7th

Love From a Stranger at the King's Theatre Edinburgh

By Clare Brotherwood

Although it has been a West End hit (albeit in 1936), with numerous radio and film versions to follow, I have never before seen Love From a Stranger.

Apparently, it rather fell into obscurity, which is unusual for an Agatha Christie thriller. Maybe it was because it was co-written by actor Frank Vosper (who fell out of a porthole on an ocean liner and drowned on his way home from the New York run in 1937!).

It is also unusual in that there isn’t a murder in the first act. In fact, it isn’t even a whodunit!

This version, produced by Fiery Angel and Royal & Derngate Northampton, is set in 1958, not the most colourful of times, and designer Mike Britton’s set perfectly reflects the austerity of the era with its earthy colours and women dressed in tweed suits. And the splitting of the set sideways to focus on different areas of the flat is novel, though it leaves the coffee table off centre!

The play is set in a London flat but it is not until well into the scene that we discover who the players are: Cecily Harrington has come into some money, is getting married and is renting out her flat. The annoying pseudo Mrs Bouquet, played by Nicola Sanderson, is her Aunt Lulu, and Mavis is her friend and sharer in the £50,000 win.

The first scene has a 50s feel - restrained and colourless, despite a lively performance from Alice Haig as Mavis - and seems overlong as Cecily (spinster material if ever I saw it) agonises over her doubts about her forthcoming wedding.

But, of course, all is not what it seems, and what starts out seemingly as a rather turgid play blossoms into one of the most psychologically frightening productions I have ever seen, thanks to director Lucy Bailey and gripping performances from Sam Frenchum as Bruce Lovell and Helen Bradbury as Cecily. The build-up may be slow but it’s worth the wait, even though I wasn’t sure, in the end, who did what!

Love From a Stranger is at the King’s Theatre Edinburgh until June 9. It then tours:

June 12-16: Theatre Royal Newcastle-upon-Tyne

June 19-23: Everyman Theatre Cheltenham

June 26-30: Theatre Royal Glasgow

July 3-7: Milton Keynes Theatre

July 1014: The Lowry, Salford

July 17-21: Theatre Royal Norwich

www.lovefromastranger.com

Jun 6th

Derren Brown - Underground at Theatre Royal, Glasgow

By Cameron Lowe

 

Review by David McCourt

 

Knowing something of how Derren’s show might go I found myself walking to the venue in Glasgow checking every sign post or advertising board for subliminal messages or suggestions of options people may be persuaded to choose during the show. In the theatre, again I couldn’t find anything that I thought would persuade me to make any unintentional choices. Or so I thought…

 

Derren appears on stage and instantly has you in the palm of his hand. His confidence on stage and presence immediately puts you at ease as he talks about the show all being about 5 secrets. The secrets (which shall remain as such) are the core of the show ... and boy what a show!

 

There are many words to describe Derren’s show. Spellbinding, Amazing, Unbelievable. It makes you question what is reality and what is fantasy. When the man is on stage, some 20 feet in front of you - totally live - there is no way there are any camera tricks or setups. It’s just not possible, he has nowhere to hide. The show is a combination of all Derren’s abilities. He is an accomplished magician and his love of magic stems from his ‘Papa’ who was, himself, a talented magician. During the show you also find out that Derren learned how to be a hypnotist so he would be more popular. After he’d become a master of both of these, he studied Psychology and has gone on to further master the art of persuasion which, in truth, he demonstrates with great affect. The show is full of good humour the odd mild profanity all of which is in context.

 

Some of the elements are simply awe inspiring; even showcasing Mr Brown's artistic skills upon occasion!  The original presentation style is a huge winner for the audience.  And all the while, Derren Brown adds seemingly random and unpredictable elements into the tricks ... and yet, the outcome is ALWAYS as he has predicted!!  Incredible.  Derren's quick wit and instant rapport with the audience keeps us enthralled even while we scratch our heads wondering how he did THAT one!!

 

Throughout the show your concentration is heightened as there are things that if you blink you will literally miss.  The banana, for example (all will make sense when you go see the show). The second half continues with more mind blowing skill. However, telling you about the main event would just spoil it for you.  So, I’m afraid, that will need to remain a SECRET!!!

If you are in two minds about whether to go to see this show ... keep one mind as a spare, as the mind you take with you will be blown!

 

Derren Brown - Underground

Theatre Royal, Glasgow

05/06/18 - 09/06/18

Tickets £22.90 - £46.90

http://www.atgtickets.com/venues/kings-theatre/

0844 871 7648* calls cost up to 7 p per minute plus your phone company’s access charge

 

 

Jun 3rd

The Hour We Knew Nothing of Each Other at the Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh

By Clare Brotherwood

If you like people watching then you've just missed the ultimate experience of your life - apart from being on the streets of Edinburgh during the Fringe Festival!

For in what was the Royal Lyceum's biggest ever production, The Hour We Knew Nothing of Each Other consisted simply of 450 characters talking a walk - and without a word being spoken.

It was staged over three nights, which is little time for something which has been in the making since January. But then it did involve nearly 100 volunteers from the Edinburgh community, so three nights was probably quite long enough for such an undertaking.

The Hour We Knew Nothing of Each Other was written in 1992 by award-winning Austrian playwright, novelist and political activist Peter Handke, who is regarded as one of the most original contemporary German-language writers, and is celebrated for creating performances uninhibited by conventional plot, dialogue and characters.

Translated by Meredith Oakes with abstract music by Michael John McCarthy, it certainly fitted the bill.

For just over an-hour-and-a-half all we saw were people walking across an empty stage. But it was so much more than that. The characters were from all walks of life and from all ages - from Moses holding up the tablet of the Ten Commandments, and Charlie Chaplin, to tradesmen, hikers, tourists, joggers, nuns and firemen. And through them we got to glimpse the lives of hundreds of people, some real, some surreal, some moving, some laugh-out-loud funny. A few were also able to flesh out their characters, such as the barman, and the super supple jogger who turned up often and must surely have a future in the theatre with his gift for mime.

We couldn't wait for the next character to appear. It was totally engrossing.

It must have been a logistical nightmare for director Wils Wilson and movement director Janice Parker, especially as the entire cast were amateurs. And sourcing the costumes would also have been a mammoth task. It looked like all the theatrical costumiers in the country had been raided!

But this prioduction will go down in history as one of the biggest shows the Lyceum has ever presented - in so many ways.

May 30th

Legally Blonde at Milton Keynes Theatre

By Louise Winter

By Quentin Fox

Reviewed 28 May 2018Legally Blonde poster

The audience at the Milton Keynes Theatre returned a unanimous verdict on the courtroom spoof-fest that is Legally Blonde - The Musical: it’s a guilty pleasure so enjoyable that it could turn us into repeat offenders.

Most people will come to this show as fans of the 2001 movie that starred Reese Witherspoon as the ditzy Californian fashion major Elle Woods who, on being dumped for someone more serious, ups her intellectual game to follow him to Harvard Law School to try and win him back.

But here’s some advice: forget Reese and the film because the stage version brings out the huge comedic power of the show to much greater effect. It’s so good that it may actually spoil the movie for you – in the best way possible.

This is a musical that shows its historical pedigree from beginning to end: Broadway smash, West End winner of three Olivier awards and then world-wide accolades. In this, its most recent iteration, cast, book and design come together in a production of preposterous pink perfection.

Laurence O'Keefe and Nell Benjamin's words and music are distinctly ‘new school musical’ with little to offer in terms of show-stopping classics but much to give in terms of witty and punchy lyrics that will have you snickering on your way home: "Keep it positive/as you slap her to the floor. Keep it positive/as you pull her hair and call her whore," the sorority sisters of Delta Nu belt out in ‘Positive’, their hymn to peppy enthusiasm; or "Gay or European?/ So many shades of grey/ Depending on the time of day, the French go either way,” sing the courtroom throng in determining the how truth of the testimony of Nikos the pool boy. It’s a high-camp zinger. You get the feeling throughout the production that the writers had a blast putting it together and the cast are enjoying themselves too – it’s infectious stuff.

As Elle, X Factor & Eurovision entrant Lucie Jones shows the warmth, spirit and optimism that fuels the fluffy freshman. She’s got a great voice that could have been genetically designed for musicals but just as important in this show is her sense of comic timing. She’s not a born dancer but she admirably keeps up with the supremely well-drilled hoofing of the ensemble.

There’s more immaculate timing, too, from EastEnders’ Rita Simons, who excels as Paulette Bonafonte, the lovelorn beautician who first becomes Elle’s BFF and then first client. It’s a role that demands both hard-boiled and soft-hearted and she well merits the cheering that greets her every number.

Bill Ward, late (and I choose that word carefully) of both Coronation Street and Emmerdale is also on top form as Professor Callaghan, whose Rat Pack-style numbers are models of slickness and power but with a splendid underlying greasiness essential to the character.

A mention in dispatches, too, goes to Helen Petrovna who does a star turn with the skipping rope as fitness guru Brooke Wyndham. Note to producers: next time her abs get their own billing.

Legally Blonde: The Musical runs at Milton Keynes Theatre at 7.30pm from May 28 to June 2. Matinees are at 2.30pm on May 30 and June 2

Box office 0844 871 7652

http://www.atgtickets.com

Booking fee applies


 

May 30th

Moliere's TARTUFFE: Theatre Royal, Haymarket

By Elaine Pinkus

I would have loved to rejoice in this exciting experiment of Moliere’s Tartuffe, billed as the first dual language production to open in the West End, but sadly I was unable to do so. Disappointingly this production failed to meet my expectations on many levels.

Sebastian Roché and Paul Anderson (l-r) in Tartuffe. Photo by Helen Maybanks 192_preview.jpeg

Sebastian Roche as Orgon and Paul Anderson as Tartuffe: photograph Helen Maybanks

Written in 1664, Tartuffe set out to expose the hypocrisy and deception of religious zealots who manipulated those desperate to dedicate themselves to religious extremism and preyed upon their gullibility and naivety.This expose so enraged the church that it banned the play and it was not until five years later that this iconic French satire was performed to the delight of its audiences and has continued to entertain. Fast forward to our current day and its central theme retains its timeless quality. Manipulation of the gullible continues as does the violence of obsession, fanaticism and fundamentalism.

Adapted by Christopher Hampton and directed by Gerald Garutti,  and supported by the Institut Francais, Moliere’s Tartuffe is set in Los Angeles. Donald Trump has replaced the role of King Louis X1V and the versatile cast perform in both French and English. There are surtitles available for the audience on three separate screens. Whilst helping with understanding, these were a distraction and I found much of my time was spent checking the rhyming metre of the French couplets, the English blank verse and whether my French A level had equipped me with the skills of accurate translation.

 

So, to the tale: Film Tycoon,Orgon, is intent on attaining religious heights. So open to manipulation is he that he readily invites into his home the penniless and manipulative Tartuffe, a modern day American evangelist whose vile and deceptive ambition is to gain the worldly goods and chattel of his host for himself at the expense of the gullible and naive householder. Both Orgon and his mother, Madame Pernelle, will hear only what they want to hear, and see only what they wish to see. Nothing can convince them that Tartuffe is not what he says he is. And they, as the hierarchy of their household, enforce it on their family, rebuking them for their lack of faith. Taking advantage of the blind stupidy of the wealthy householder, Tartuffe sets about seducing both Orgon’s wife, Elmire and daughter Mariane, whilst cheating Orgon of his worldly wealth. It is only thanks to the cunning of Elmire and the strength of Dorine, the strongly feminist housemaid, that Tartuffe is exposed and finally taken away to jail, at the command of Trump’s aide.

At this point I can only wonder why both Garutti and Hampton chose to set the play in LA. As a comedy, this works well as a setting in a parlour or comfortable drawing room. The move to LA, using a set comprising a glass cube raised above sterile flooring with only a narrow table, lost the charismatic atmosphere so necessary to this observation of a family being torn apart. Where family members hid to spy on the attempted seduction of Elmire, they now had to wander/clomp round the glass cube, rather like Winnie the Pooh pacing around his honey tree. It felt awkward, clumsy and lost the farcical comedy of the trickery. When performing within the cube, lit with interesting colours depending upon the topic at that point, voices were muffled and unclear. It just didn’t work!

And that was the problem. The entire production felt uncomfortable. The moving between French and English lost the lyrical quality of the original; the wandering around the glass cube seemed pointless and added nothing to the theatre; the performances themselves were loud and at times simply noisy. Quel domage!

 

The cast of Tartuffe. Photo by Helen Maybanks 181_preview.jpeg

The cast of Tartuffe: photograph Helen Maybanks

 

Nevertheless, Audrey Fleurot (of ‘Spiral’ fame) looked stunning in her costumes, even though they restricted her movement to an extent. Sebastian Roche(London West End theatre debut) bravely performed his role as the naive tycoon (but was the chest baring scene necessary?) and Claude Perron as Dorine was strongly assertive. Paul Anderson (Peaky Blinders fame) was making his West End stage debut in Tartuffe, taking the role of this villain. But he lacked the credibility of this character and appeared ill at ease. (Again, was his chest baring scene necessary!) 

Paul Anderson and Audrey Fleurot in Tartuffe. Photo by Helen Maybanks 248_preview.jpeg Audrey Fleurot as Elmire and Paul Anderson as Tartuffe: photograph Helen Maybanks

 

 

Ending on a note of humour, albeit puerile, at the expense of Trump, twitters and all, the performance concluded. An interesting experiment but joyful, non!

Photography: Helen Maybanks

Theatre Royal Haymarket 

18 Suffolk Street

London

SW1Y 4HT

SEASON DATES

Friday 25 May – Saturday 28 July 2018

 

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Thursdays & Saturdays: 2.30pm

 

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