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May 29th

Sherlock Holmes: The Final Curtain

By Clare Brotherwood

When it comes to casting for the part of Sherlock Holmes, Robert Powell wouldn’t have been my first choice.

Perhaps I live too much in the past. I still remember interviewing him in the Scottish Borders in the Seventies when he was making The 39 Steps. He had just become an overnight sensation for his award-winning role as Jesus of Nazareth and, even though he was standing at the head of a loch dressed as a tramp, I swear he was surrounded by an aura!

As for Arthur Conan Doyle’s celebrated sleuth, Jeremy Brett takes some beating.

But things aren’t always what they used to be in this new play by acclaimed playwright Simon Reade.

It’s now 30 years to the day since Moriarty - and, supposedly Holmes - fell to their deaths over the Reichenbach Falls; only Holmes is very much alive and living incognito on the South Coast when, coincidentally, a body is found on his private beach and he receives a visit from Mary Watson, the estranged wife of his right-hand man and biographer Dr John Watson.

What develops only the theatregoer will discover but, apart from a good helping of mystery, jealousy and revenge, Reade, the former literary manager for the Royal Shakespeare Company, has injected a wagon-load of humour into this quirky tale which also involves another of Conan Doyle’s interests… spiritualism. And with that come ghosts and special effects, courtesy of magic consultant John Bulleid. Even the curtain which sweeps slowly across the stage between scenes looks like a… haunting of ghosts?

The play is set in 1922 and Reade, together with director David Grindley, make the most of those revolutionary times, not as Conan Doyle would have presented it but a light-hearted entertainment nonetheless, and despite an almost bare stage except for when the action moves the familiar surroundings of 221b Baker Street.

The thread running through the production is Dr Watson’s account of the case in hand which he is transmitting to listeners on a new invention called the wireless. Timothy Kightley is the archetypal doctor: kindly, gentlemanly and somewhat bumbling, and not always au fait with modern gadgets, which adds to the fun of the evening.

As always, Liza Goddard is very much in command of her role: forthright and dominating; which leaves us with Robert Powell. I could never imagine him as the drug-raddled Holmes of Jeremy Brett, nor the animated Cumberbatch version, but then, in this production, Holmes is supposedly in his dotage – which leads us to another problem for although Powell is now in his 70s he doesn’t look or act old enough to be retired!

Only Roy Sampson, as Holmes’ older brother Mycroft, lives up to our expectations of a Conan Doyle character.

Sherlock Holmes: The Final Curtain is at the King’s Theatre, Edinburgh until June 2, and then continues touring.

May 22nd

The Case of the Frightened Lady at Milton Keynes Theatre

By Alison Smith

 A thriller by the Classic Thriller Theatre Company.

The play The Case of the Frightened Lady purports to be a thriller. It is not. It is dull and tedious. It was written by Edgar Wallace – the king of the modern thriller novel – at the beginning of the 20th century and then it may well have been thrilling, but in urce material of the play en thrilling, but the anytrethe 21st the material of the play is dated and irrelevant.

The first act is ponderous; the action takes place offstage – the murders, the screams, the affairs – and the audience is presented with much repetitive dialogue. The setting is the hall of a grand mansion owned by Lady Lebanon and her son. The doorways of this hall afford the cast the ability to exit and enter and eavesdrop continually. The story is simple Lady Lebanon (Deborah Grant) is obsessed with her family’s dynasty and so insists her son (Ben Nealon) marries his cousin, Isla ( April Pearson), although neither are keen on such an arrangement.

The play improves somewhat in the second act. There are revelations of blackmail, hidden marriages, murders in India and madness.  Finally the truth of the murders is disclosed and the culprit takes his own life – at last action on stage.

There are some positives – the setting is impressive, the costumes are appropriate and the actors all play their parts well. It is just a shame that the parts are not enthralling.

 The Case of the Frightened Lady is at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday 26th May.

www.atgtickets.com

0844871 7652

Booking fee applies

 

May 22nd

Thriller Live - King's Theatre, Glasgow

By Cameron Lowe

 

Review by Suzanne Lowe

 

Thriller Live makes a welcome return to Glasgow this week, once again entertaining audiences with iconic songs from the King of Pop.

 

More of a tribute show than a jukebox musical we are taken through the various eras of Michael Jackson’s back catalogue.  With incredible vocals, dance moves, staging and lighting this show does not disappoint.  Focusing only on his vast range of hits it does not explore the more turbulent times that Jackson had to endure.

 

Personally I preferred the original staging of the Jackson Five section at the start of the show.  While the lead vocalists were incredible I missed the crowd pleasing performance normally associated with the casting of a ‘young’ Michael.  The projection of a child singing ‘Rockin’ Robin’ with only the female dancers on stage just didn’t cut it for me and the applause from the audience would suggest this number was slightly underwhelming.

 

Led by the dynamically talented vocalist/resident director Britt Quentin - Shaquille Hemmans, Rory Taylor, Ina Seidou and Eddy Lima all gave outstanding performances bringing a unique element to each of the numbers.  I would find it difficult to single any of them out.  Truly talented people.

 

The cast of dancers performed each routine with an energy that has to be applauded.  Iconic MJ dance moves executed to perfection.  Hats off indeed to the stamina required to sustain these numbers at each performance.  Definitely one of the hardest working casts I have seen in a long time.

 

With the performance featuring a selection of Michael Jackson’s hit songs including Beat It, Dirty Diana, Bad (too many to mention really) the stand out number for me would have to be ‘Smooth Criminal’.  With perfect vocals, staging, dance and atmosphere, this number truly came together to be nothing short of spectacular.  A spine tingling moment came in the form of ‘Earth Song’.  The audience fell eerily silent as the first few lines of vocals were delivered.  A remarkable thought provoking song.  We all waited in anticipation for the title number ‘Thriller’ which was performed towards the end of the evening.  Classic moves and costumes ensured that this was worth the wait. 

 

The audience were definitely up for participating at every opportunity.  Encouraged by cast members at various intervals to get onto their feet they did not need much persuading.  Singing along and dancing this was an audience who left feeling happy and thoroughly entertained.  I would encourage you to go along and grab some of that happiness this week.

 

Thriller Live – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

21 – 26 May 2018

Evenings 7.30pm (Mon – Fri)

Saturday 4pm and 8pm

www.atgtickets.com/glasgow 

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

 

May 17th

Summer Holiday - Milton Keynes Theatre

By Louise Winter

Reviewed by Quentin Fox

16th May 2018

Summer Holiday

‘We’re going where the sun shines brightly, we’re going where the sea is blue…’ Now that’s a helluva promise to make on a less-than-balmy mid-May evening in MK, but this new production of Summer Holiday: The Musical gets us to a joyous destination even though ride is a bit bumpy from time to time. 

Based on St Cliff’s 1963 cinema smash hit, the lightest and frothiest of plots has become part of British culture and serves as a reminder of more innocent times, when to be young was to be possessed of boundless optimism and opportunity rather than weighed down with social media expectation and high rent. This background certainly makes the show a cut above often directionless jukebox musicals.

Faced with a grim, damp English summer Don and his fellow bus mechanic chums persuade London Transport to lend them a double-decker, which they kit out camper-style for a trip to the South of France. En route they rescue a plucky Brit female singing trio from breakdown hell. The gals have a gig in Athens to get to; the lads don’t need much convincing to oblige them with a lift. Add to the mix a runaway pop princess who stows away on the bus dressed as a boy (the pop princess, not the bus – do keep up) to avoid the pursuit of her pushy showbiz mum and her agent.

The show doesn’t start well: the choreography is ragged and the opening number, The Shadows’ Foot Tapper has been transformed from a catchy instrumental into a rushed nightmare of jumbled lyrics that the bus mechanics all but stumble over.

But the arrival of Ray Quinn’s wholesome Don immediately ups the game and the energy levels. Quinn is a stylish performer: a clear, pleasing voice and an athletic, graceful yet muscular dance style. He also affects one of those extraordinary transatlantic accents so beloved of Cliff and those other early 1960s icons such as Billy Fury and Marty Wilde – a real connection with the source of the show. He leads the ensemble into one dynamic and slickly performed set piece after another as well as getting the chance to belt out Cliff numbers such as Move It, The Young Ones and On The Beach that didn’t appear in the original movie.

That’s not to say he’s the star of the show. That accolade is reserved for the big shiny red bus that dominates the action and which well merited the round of applause it received from the audience. Honourable mentions, too, for Taryn Sudding as Stella, the showbiz mother from hell who handles her role with real comic aplomb, and Gabby Antrobus as Mimsie, leader of the girl trio, who impressively transforms from girl-next-door to black-clad vamp in a dream sequence.

A salute, too, for Bobby Crush as Jerry, the henpecked agent, who survived the delivery of gags that were passed over by Roman comedians of the third century BC. But in the end he got to tinkle his ivories and the audience delightedly got on its hind legs to bop to a slam-dunk finale.

Note to writers: we love the dancing, we love the songs, but the comedy needs a session in the vehicle bay before it gets its MOT and is on the road again.

Box office 0844 871 7652

http://www.atgtickets.com

Booking fee applies

May 16th

Monogamy @ The Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury

By Yvonne Delahaye

Monogamy

With a never-ending plethora of new musicals touring the UK, it’s not very often that we get the chance to see a new play.  In 1999 former actor Torben Betts was asked by Alan Ayckbourn to be his resident dramatist at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough.   His first play, A Listening Heaven, was produced there and since then his plays have been translated into seven languages and been produced around the world. Torben’s new play Monogamy was commissioned by The Original Theatre Company and this is the world premiere tour of the UK.

Delving into the world of TV celebrity, Monogamy takes a look at how the pressure of sharing your life with millions of viewers affects your family relationships.  Caroline Mortimer is the nation’s favourite TV cook, owning a big house in Highgate with her rich husband, when their son returns from Cambridge University.  Press intrusion threatens to tear the family apart, as differing values and secrets start to surface.

Award winning actress Janie Dee (Follies), plays the TV cook whose life is thrown into turmoil as she sinks into an alcohol induced haze.  The play is witty and sharp, with lots of clever laugh out loud lines especially with Patrick Ryecart giving a brilliant portrayal of Caroline’s very un-PC husband Mike.   EastEnders fans will recognise Charlie Brooks, playing a distressed wife in search of the truth about her husband’s affair.

With quirky characters and situations, I often felt I was watching an Ayckbourn play and with an endorsement from him that reads ‘Torben Betts is the most exciting theatre writing talent I have come across in may a year’, you can’t get better than that.

There were some technical problems that meant a late start and I found the play a bit too wordy at times, taking some time to get to the point, so at nearly two and half hours running time I felt it could perhaps benefit from a few cuts!  Still it’s nice to see a new play and have some good laughs.

The play runs at The Waterside until Saturday 19th May.  Further information and tour dates can be found at http://www.originaltheatre.com/portfolio-item/monogamy/

Reviewed by:

Yvonne Delahaye

15.5.18

@yvonnedelahaye

May 14th

Soap

By Trevor Gent

My review from Thursday 10th May. Sorry for the delay in posting as unfortunately I have been laid low from food poisoning after eating a burger (something I seldom do and now I know why) on the evening of the show but thankfully I am much better now.

Soap described as a breath-taking fusion of world-class acrobatics and water – bath time will never be the same again! Suitable for all ages... It's good clean circus fun!

Staged in the round as cabaret style entertainment in a tent with a stage adorned with bath tubs. The ensemble opens with the Gnarls Berkeley number ‘Crazy’ and an Opera singer too. Quite an appropriate song as it’s not normally things you associate go together.

This show is a mixture of Cirque du Soleil, meets carry on and Trumpton. Some very clever moves in an out of the bath tubs but not much Soap. However there is water so be warned, a bit like going to see the Killer Whale at SeaWorld, those in the front rows may be get wet. There are comic elements too and the audience is involved on more than one occasion. Some amazing tricks in this show and it keeps you engaged throughout (as there is no interval).

As well as the opening number Soaps live and electric soundtrack includes The Doors, Sia, Tool, Goldfrapp, Beethoven, Mozart and The Beatles - and singing live, is the Soap Opera Diva (Jennifer Lindshield - Carnegie Hall, NYC) – taking singing in the bath to a whole new level.

There is juggling too and even a striptease (a real tease) and a first for me. The lady contortionist was very good but personally something creepy about how they can do those things with their bodies, clever as it is. The Swan Lake number with the boys with just small towels covering their modesty was brilliant.

 

The trapeze finale with water raining down was mesmerizing and beautiful to watch. Brilliant entertainment and the cast mopped up too!

 

Soap continues as part of the Underbelly festival on the South Bank London until the 17th June 2018.

See website for details http://www.underbellyfestival.com

May 4th

Eddie and the Slumber Sisters at Haddington Corn Exchange

By Clare Brotherwood

I may not have been living in Scotland for very long but even before I came north of the border I knew of The National Theatre of Scotland’s adventurous spirit.

And what an adventure reviewing its latest production turned out to be.

Flagged up as the theatre without walls, NTS go out to rural communities, and it doesn’t seem to matter how far.

Its latest production, in partnership with Catherine Wheels Theatre Company, visited Haddington Corn Exchange this week, and the NTS arranged to pick up the press from the nearest railway station and deposit us back after the show (this is not included in a normal ticket!).

Not only were we transported into the countryside but also to… another planet - Planet Slumber to be precise.

At first I thought the show was going to be set during World War Two, for the Slumber Sisters, wearing US-style uniforms, began by singing, in three-part harmony, songs such as Accentuate the Positive. But although the music sounded as if it was from the 1940s it still went down a treat with the younger members of the audience.

Eddie and the Slumber Sisters is suitable for eight-year-olds upwards and is an endearing mix of music, song, magic and imagination which deals with how we treat young people when it comes to bereavement.

As the Slumber Sisters, Natalie Arle-Toyne, Colette Dalal Tchantcho and India Shaw-Smith

are not only top notch singers, they also bring empathy and comedy into the mix as they help 10-year-old Eddie (Chiara Sparkes) come to terms with her grandmother’s death.

Since losing her gran, Eddie has been having nightmares, which begin at precisely 2.17 each morning. Enter the Slumber Sisters who, in a series of bizarre but entertaining experiments, get her to face her loss and sleep soundly again.

With space-age like control towers, a disembodied hand emerging from the wardrobe, a ‘ding ding harness’ made of socks and old tights which India Shaw-Smith uses to get to Earth where she gives a hilarious impersonation of Elvis, there is plenty to entertain audiences of all ages in this 70-minute show while putting across an important message.

Eddie and the Slumber Sisters continues touring:

May 5: Galashiels Volunteer Hall

May 9: Dunoon Burgh Hall

May 12: Raasay Community Hall

May 14: MacPhail Theatre, Ullapool

May 18: Mareel, Shetland

May 23: Clarkston Hall, East Renfrewshire

May 27: Dalbeattie Town Hall, as part of the Dumfries and Galloway Arts Festival

May 30-June 3: Southside Community Centre, Edinburgh as part of the Edinburgh International Children’s Festival

www.nationaltheatrescotland.com

May 3rd

June - August Season Announced at the Finborough Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

The 150th birthday year of the Finborough Theatre building continues with three plays – Finishing the PictureArthur Miller’s final play in only its second production worldwide; But It Still Goes On by poet and novelist Robert Graves which has never been performed anywhere in the world; and Homos, or Everyone in America, the European premiere of a new American play by Jordan Seavey in his UK debut. 


The season opens with the European premiere of Arthur Miller's last play, Finishing the Picture, playing 12 June–7 July 2018. A razor sharp psychological study of an abused, misunderstood female star and the havoc her unpredictability brings to a film set in 1961, based on Miller’s relationship with Marilyn Monroe. This European premiere is only the play’s second production anywhere in the world, and is directed by Phil Willmott, following his acclaimed Finborough Theatre productions of Arthur Miller’s The American Clock and Incident at Vichy.  

The season continues with a unique rediscovery from 1929 – the never previously performed But It Still Goes on by poet and novelist Robert Graves, playing 10 July–4 August 2018 as part of the Finborough Theatre’s THEGREATWAR100 series. Influenced by the drawing room comedies of Noël Coward and W. Somerset Maugham, it explores themes of adultery, homosexuality, lesbianism, gender politics, casual sex, and inter-generational conflict, but with a surreal dark twist. This long-overdue world premiere is directed by Fidelis Morgan, returning to the Finborough Theatre following her sell-out adaptation of Patrick Hamilton’s Hangover Square, and her direction of Irish classic Drama at Inish starring Celia Imrie and Paul O’Grady. 

The season culminates with the European premiere from an exciting American playwright in his UK debut, Jordan Seavey’s Homos, or Everyone in America, playing 7 August–1 September 2018. In a supposedly ‘post-gay’ America on the brink of passing marriage equality, a first date at a New York bar starts two men on a fearless, funny and fragmented journey leading up to a historic moment of change. This raw and provocative love story is directed by award winning Josh Seymour returning to the Finborough Theatre following his sell out production of Adding Machine: A Musical

Finborough Theatre Artistic Director Neil McPherson said: “Our new season brings you three theatrical treats – the long-overdue opportunity to finally see Arthur Miller’s very last play; another of our truly unique rediscoveries with a play by poet and novelist Robert Graves that has never previously been performed anywhere in the world; and, as always, we haven’t forgotten the new - with a European premiere from an American playwright in his UK debut. This season we also offer Sunday evening performances for our productions.” 

For full information, please visit the Finborough website.  

Finborough Theatre, 118 Finborough Road, London SW10 9ED 

Book online here 

No booking fees on online, personal or postal bookings 

Box Office 01223 357851. (Calls are free. There will be a 5% booking fee.) 
Lines are open Monday – Saturday 10.00am-6.00pm 

PERFORMANCE TIMES AND PRICES
Tuesday to Sunday evenings at 7.30pm. Saturday and Sunday matinees at 3.00pm.
Prices for Weeks One and Two – Tickets £18, £16 concessions, except Tuesday evenings £16 all seats, and Friday and Saturday evenings £18 all seats. Previews £14 all seats.
£10 tickets for Under 30s for performances from Tuesday to Sunday of the first week when booked online only. 
£14 tickets for residents of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea on Saturday, when booked online only. 

Prices for Weeks Three and Four – Tickets £20, £18 concessions, except Tuesday evenings £18 all seats, and Friday and Saturday evenings £20 all seats.

May 2nd

Love From A Stranger at Richmond Theatre

By Douglas McFarlane

Love From A Stranger

"I've read everything from Agatha Christie, but I haven't heard of this", the lady in front of me in the queue said as we waited to go in.


It wasn't until I got to my seat, opened the program and read that this one was based on a short story, which was adapted into a play by Ms Christie. So, the lady in the queue was technically correct, it wasn't one of her many novels.

It was however classic Christie. We know there's going to be a murder, we just don't know who and when. One thing's for sure, we're only likely to know right at the end, despite many guesses. With many diversion tactics, murder suspects, murder victims, and where it will happen. 

One of the ladies behind me, gasped often. A flower was handed over. Gasp! A shadow passed the door. Gasp! Clearly an Agatha Christie fan, she was immersed in the story and expected every twist and turn to provide the anticipated information needed. That 'aha' moment.
It soon comes, and it's not who you suspect. It woudn't have survived that long if it was obvious.

Love From A Stranger, was well performed but the star of the show for me, was the set. It had a flow left to right and right to left, unravelling new items, closing others off, changing rooms, homes, and atmosphere every now and then. Accompanied with suitably eery music, the set complimented the story line and supported the actors, giving them a quality backdrop to take the audience on the murderous journey.

Love From A Strange is on at the Richmond Theatre until Saturday, then touring to Birmingham, Glasgow and Milton Keynes over the next few months.

 

Review by Douglas McFarlane

TICKETS

May 2nd

Creditors at The Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh

By Clare Brotherwood

We all know from today’s Scandi-TV series that, when it comes to drama, our Nordic cousins have a dark side.

But this is nothing new. Ibsen, regarded as one of Europe’s greatest writers, is hardly a barrel of laughs, and Strindberg is no different.

Although Creditors, written in 1888, is classed as a tragi-comedy, its laugh-out-loud moments are far outweighed by the melancholic characters in David Greig’s adaptation, which was commissioned by and first presented at London’s Donmar Warehouse in 2008.

Greig, artistic director of The Royal Lyceum Theatre Company, takes it seriously, and rightly so as there is nothing funny about the personalities entwined in this tale of male dominance and revenge.

Set in a Swedish seaside holiday resort, Stewart Laing’s set is as stylised as his direction. His narrow, raked wooden pontoons hardly make for easy walking, and the four girl guides (featuring Lyceum Creative Learning participants) who appear between scenes are like automatons, maybe mirroring the moving sculpture artist Adolph is making? I don’t know. They are very weird but do add colour and substance to the production.

The play begins with Adolph hauling himself out of a pool and lying half-dead on a pontoon. Nearby an older man sits reading a book, but it’s not long before he engages in conversation with the dripping wet Adolph, and things then begin to take a sinister turn.

Acting as his ‘doctor’, the older man, Gustav, questions Adolph about his marriage and his masculinity and eventually turns him against his wife. The dialogue is vicious and malicious and Adolph, a weak young man given to maladies, is given to believe that he will become epileptic if he sleeps with his wife (this is one of the laugh-out-loud moments)!

As the manipulative Gustav, Stuart McQuarrie is very much the devil on Adolph’s shoulder. His venom leaks from every pore and when we learn of his intentions all becomes plain. On the other hand, Edward Franklin as Adolph is a quivering mess of emotion. At times I wanted to cradle him as I would a child; at others I just wanted to give him a good slap!

The object of both men’s interest, Adolph’s wife Tekla, is the strongest of all three characters (though obviously not 100 per cent!) and Adura Onashile rises to the occasion with a compelling performance (though at one point she walked across a pontoon onto the stage – didn’t she get her feet wet?!).

Pippa Murphy’s sound is a bit spasmodic – one minute we hear the sound of lapping waves, the next all is silent - I don’t think the sea suddenly stops moving! And at one time it is a bit distracting. I didn’t much like the repetitive songs, either, though they did add to the atmosphere of growing insanity.

I very much like the presentation in the second act, however, involving an onstage camera-operator and a black and white screen.

Creditors may not be to everyone’s taste but it is certainly an interesting and thought-provoking study of human relationships and in this context stretches the boundaries of entertainment.

Creditors is at the Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh until May 12.

Box office: 0131 248 4848

www.lyceum.org.uk