Category: Theatre reviews

The Wider Earth at The Natural History Museum

https://www.kxtickets.com/whats-on/the-wider-earth

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Something wonderful has transformed the Jerwood Gallery at the Natural History Museum. Not only are you transported to a world of inexplicable beauty, you travel in time to meet a 22 year old Charles Darwin on his epic journey of discovery.

Story

Written by David Morton, Wider Earth details Charles Darwin’s five year survey voyage upon the HMS Beagle. Today, Darwin’s theory is widely accepted and faces very little challenge. However, the journey Darwin takes is not simply one of discovery. Morton uses the play to emphasise the challenges Darwin faced, not only of his personal faith but the reaction of others as the diversity between Religion, faith and Science becomes a catalyst for potential social change.

The mystery, the awe inspiring vision and the violent opposition that Darwin faced is all within Morton’s commentary. Not only that, Morton seamlessly alludes to the slave trade and abolition within the realms of religion in order to pose undisputable arguments at to why we are all equal, despite our differences.

Production

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The set it quite simply breath taking. From the opening recitation of Genesis, to the final moments in which Darwin returns home from his voyage, every part of the set it utilised. The revolving centre piece is used throughout the 2 hour production as buildings, the Beagle and even the exotic island landscapes. The lighting and video backdrop only add to something that is already perfect. Between the recreations of Darwin’s scribbles and the blue wash the production uses to recreate the ocean, you will be transported and immersed in Darwin’s world.

I would not be able to write this review without mentioning the one thing that reduced me to tears. The puppetry is out of this world. from the smallest butterfly to the turtles, from the movements to the interactions; the only thing that could have rendered me more in awe would have been in they’d placed an actual new born hippo in my hands.

Casting

The cast of seven are who really sold this play to me. It’s nearly 40 minutes before the audience witness their first puppet animal. but they are the icing on the already beautifully constructed cake. The people on the stage allow me to have an emotional attachment and a connection with a historical figure that I’ve respected for so long.

Bradley Foster brings a curiosity and passion to the biologist and naturalist that everyone knows. There’s a joy and boyish charm in Foster’s role that breaks down the wall between the man and the theory. The conflict between Darwin’s faith and the questions his exploration raise is raw and unapologetic, and is only solidified by the relationships we experience. Notably those of his beloved Emma, played by the delightful Melissa Vaughn who helps bring life and character to many of the puppets we meet, and Captain Fitzroy, played by the incredible Jack Parry-Jones whose handsome frame brings a level of authority and passion to the Captain who dissolves throughout the play as his mission doesn’t quite go to plan. Marcello Cruz plays Jemmy and provides some of the most heart breaking scenes either side of the interval.

It is Matt Tait who held my attention throughout; with his husky Scottish tones that sooth the soul and bring authority to Fitzroy’s second in command, Wickham. He also has an amazing ability to bring to life the puppets he controls. The highlight is the bird that soars around the stage.

Andrew Bridgmont, and Ian Houghton round out the cast and play multiple roles on land and sea. Without them, we would not see the inspiration behind Darwin’s curiosity. They both bring charm, joy and humour to the play and ensure I’ll be coming back for another viewing.

Providence at The Vault Festival

Providence

Story

The biography/bibliography of H P Lovecraft, the one hour, two-man play charts the highlights and pitfalls of the master of Sci-do; H P Lovecraft.

From his strange relationship with his mother, to his racist tendencies, Providence holds nothing back as Edgar Allen Poe joins Lovecraft for a look through his life after first act suicide attempt.

Between historical references are fictional reenactments of some of H P’s famous works that culminate in Lovecraft’s demise.

Cast

Simon Maeder is as wonderful as ever. He is able to bring about an infectious humour, that is largely due to his ability to disarm, charm and frighten and the switch of a single facial muscle.

Normally seen as part of Superbolt productions, Simon is able to hold his own on a small stage with only one other person to bounce off. It’s fascinating to see Simon take on yet another persona that is vastly different from those seen in Edinburgh Fringe favourite’s Jurassic Parks and Mars Actually.

Dominic Allen is a wonderful comedian who is able to change characters with ease. As his personality changes mount up to interact with Simon’s Lovecraft, it’s easy to see the attempt at differentiation is almost unnecessary; which adds entirely to the humour. He was able to rattle through accents with delightful ease, but it was when playing Poe that Allen seemed at home.

Production (lighting, music, staging)

The staging was minimal, but effective. It allowed emphasis to be placed upon other aspects.

The lighting was tone perfect and played upon the gothic nature of the plot. My favourite sequence used the bare brick of the Vault’s archway and red lighting to draw upon the fear of the audience.

However, it was the music that truly drew this piece together. I know very little about Lovecraft considering I’m a Sci-fi fanatic and it was only through my love of Rick and Morty that I even discovered ‘Lovecraft’ was an author and not a sub genre of sci-of itself. This said, the music used would, to me, be the very definition of Lovecraft.

I would love to insist you all go see this hauntingly brilliant production. Alas, tonight was it’s last performance. However, the Vault festival is still running and there are plenty of things to see. Also follow Superbolt Theatre for new about up coming Productions.

Review- Julius Caesar @_bridgetheatre

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Director: Nicholas Hytner
Staring: David Calder/ Ben Whishaw/ Michelle Fairley/ David Morrissey

Story
A play of two parts, the first deals with the political unrest in Caesar’s Rome and the coup that it inspires. The successful assassination leads to a second half fueled by civil war between Brutus’ exciled rebels and Marc Anthony’s coalition army.
It’s a simple story in its progression but this allows for the complexity of politics to be highlighted and emotions, vengeance and violence to run high.

Cast
I’d be lying if i said I didn’t buy a ticket to the play for the cast. Who could stay away with even one of the names that have been HBO staples over the years?
It’s been commented upon many times how good British talent is on American tv and there’s no better place to see it than in a contemporary Shakespeare, complete with interactive groundlings.
It’s hard to say anyone stood out, as the entire cast worked in such harmony that no one stood alone.
David Morrissey’s Marc Anthony did have me hoping he’ll work with Hytner again and bring the character’s other tragedy to life. Morrissey truly brought his all for the second half of this 2 hour play, ensuring no one missed, or wanted, an interval.

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears; I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.

When it came to Anthony’s iconic speech , Morrissey delivered it with such an understated grief-ridden power, he gave a new lease of life to what could be considered a tired and over used line.

Ben Whishaw is a delight, as always. Having seen Whishaw own the stage in the intimate setting of the Almeida theatre, it was good to see that he plays well with a bigger cast too. His character, Brutus, is a wonderful, flawed but well intended and Whishaw draws on the inner turmoil to pull the audience in further.

Production (music, set, costume, lighting)
The newly opened Bridge Theatre is really something else. This is a new age of theatre and it’s filled with endless possibilities. The current production is presented as an immersive promenade; allowing the traditional groundlings of the Globe to establish a crowd within the Forum’s of Rome.
The costumes bring proceedings out of Rome of old, and establish it instead in a world devoid of time with current political undertones. Without spoiling anything, I would advise people wanting to see the performance to buy Promenade tickets and arrive in plenty of time to spend at least 15 minutes prior to performance starting inside the theatre proper.
Props are used sparingly and well; just wait for the scene change and how the props are utilised near the final act of the play. The lighting is obtrusive at times, which adds to the tone.

 

Never have I ever seen such an ingenious production that has me considering tickets for the following day.


Julius Ceasar plays at the Bridge Theatre until 15th April with an NT Live performance broadcast in cinemas on 22nd March. Buy your tickets here

Pinocchio

Pinocchio

The National Theatre

2.12.2017 (2nd Preview performance)

Story

The story sticks very close to source. For me, having not read the book, that’s the Disney movie.

The songs, however, seem out of place but find new homes that fit well within the production.

It always has been a dark tale, and this interpretation is now exception. Even the joyous laughs and giggles from little ones can’t avert your mind from the evil that follows Pinocchio or the pain Geppetto feels.

Cast

It’s a wonderful ensemble of talented actors and puppeteers with stand out performances from Joe Idris-Roberts and Audrey Bisson who play Pinocchio and Jiminy Crickey respectively.

Idris-Roberts gives his all, and is anything but wooden as the young puppet on a mission to become a real boy. On, or off strings, he will charm you and disarm you. It’s Idris-Roberts who has me gearing for a second viewing.

Then there is the wonderful and playful Audrey Bisson. She plays and operates Jiminy Cricket; Pinocchio’s conscience. She has a delightful sense of timing and humour, bringing a wonderful and playful tone to the play.

Production (music, set, costume, lighting)

This was a beautiful set that used the lighting to give the audience a sense of size.

The use of puppetry was quite simply breathtaking.

The highlight for costumes for me was the Fox. Such a stunning outfit, complete with platform shoes to provide added height.

I hope to see this play again before it finishes in March.

Grahame of Thrones – Charring Cross Theatre

Grahame of Thrones – Charring Cross Theatre
29th September
Tickets
From the website: 

In this critically-acclaimed theatrical journey through the Seven Kingdoms, direct from sold out shows in London’s West End and Australia, avid ‘Thrones’ fan Graeme just wants to recreate his favourite fantasy saga on stage – aided and abetted by his best friend Paul and the girl he used to fancy at school – Bryony. He doesn’t quite have the same budget as the TV show, or as many cast members, or the performance skill required, but he’s sure George RR Martin would approve – and that’s what matters. But when news reaches them that an influential theatrical producer is in the building, Graeme decides that this could be his big break – as long as nothing goes wrong …

See it before the inevitable lawsuit!

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Plot
In a wonderful send up to the Seven Realms, three actors take on multiple parts to entertain the Broken 4th wall audience and win their investment for a theatre production of HBO’s hit show.

As we see the hits from the six seasons (tip: get yourself caught up if you intend to go) the three member troupe break character to add their own drama to the narrative.

It’s a pacy little bigger, filled with laughs and visual gag that will keep you chuckling long after you’ve left the theatre.

Cast
Representing the many dialects of Westros is a hard job, but somebody has got to do it. And do it they do. It’s a strong trio of players; John Luke Roberts, Ross Spaine And Nic Damont

It is Nic Damont Of the Twins MacCarbe who steals the show recreating Sansa’s first period and the demon birth from the Red Priestess. Both brilliantly set up and performed.

Staging
It is clear that it is a production from the Fringe. The staging is sparse, but the props are number-some and played for laughed… just wait until you see the puppets.

Do check it out when you can. I think it might just ease the wait for S7.

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child #theatrereview #Han

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

I remember the first movie coming out and experiencing my first taste of disapproval from my mother. (Okay, okay… not my first, I was going for a dramatic nostalgic effect)
She was sat at our dedicated chair for the phone; a phone seat if you will. Talking to my nan, telling her that I had been to see Philosopher’s Stone four times.
I thought it was funny to correct her; I held up 6 digits proudly. Uh oh; big mistake. At the time, I boiled it down to ‘wasting’ money, but I think it was more about the fact that she hadn’t known where I was. It begged the question; what else was I doing? (Literally, nothing)

So, what would my dear mother make of me seeing Cursed Child six times with a seventh already booked? Aside from the fact that she would be having kittens with me living in London in the current climate… yeah, I wouldn’t be telling you how many times I’d seen it.

Why is it a show that I keep going back to? Am I a Dumbledore; blinded by love of Potter? Am I someone who just can’t say no, or is there something more to this theatrical production?

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Story

The story starts at that famous (infamous to some) epilogue; Harry is seeing his two sons off to Hogwarts.
Albus Severus Potter is our protagonist for Cursed Child and we are taken on his adventure; making friends, fixing problems of the past and finding his way out of his father’s heavy shadow. He’s helped along the way by Scorpius Malfoy who also has a cross to bear and issues with his father and Delphi; a woman who helps them on their quest.
It’s trade mark Potter with some wonderful reveals and surprises, and I would advise anyone who has yet to see it, to avoid reading the script.

Cast
Original Cast

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There were so many of the cast that were spot on that I was incredibly worried about when the production planned to recast. The core three were brilliant and Jamie Parker particularly as Harry Potter was dream casting in the highest regard.

However, my special mentions have to go to Alex Price and Anthony Boyle who played Draco and Scorpius respectively. They were amazing, Boyle’s Scorpius was a comic genius and the geek in us all. Never have I ever fallen in love with a literary character so quickly. His pain and passion billowed off the stage in waves.

Price As Draco put the character in a whole new light. I did have an understudy for one performance and it was at that point I realised Alex Price Was MY Draco. Not only that, I had a bit of a crush on Draco.

Second Cycle Cast

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Again, a very strong cast with too many people to mention. However, I will explore my favourites.

Both Thomas Aldridge and Rakie Ayola as power couple Ron and Hermione were a particular favourite of mine; while one scene in the ministry fell flat at the performance for me, they give their all and that scene perhaps pales because of how well the previous actors played the parts.

Aldridge wins my heart for his ability to change my opinion of his incarnation. When I saw the cast announced, I was adamant he wasn’t Ron. I was gladly mistaken; he had the humour, charm and flaws of an adult Weasley. While my crush has not wavered from Draco, despite the change of actor, there’s a little bit of love now there for Ron too.

Anyone in doubt of the casting of Hermione just need to see the beautiful, wonderful Ayola in the role. Noma Dumezweni did indeed do a grand job, but for me Ayola Is the embodiment of Hermione. She has the firmness that Noma presented, but she balances this with a softer expression of knowledge the passion.

Samuel Blenkin as Scorpius is excellent, especially considering the large shoes he had to fill. I was a bit concerned at the beginning and was worried that he would over play the nervousness. Boy, was I wrong. The first act of the second part can sometimes feel like the weakest part of the whole play; however, Blenkin adds something I can’t put my finger on. It’s wonderfully refreshing.

 

Production (music, set, costume, lighting)

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All of the production is of the highest quality I’ve ever seen in a play. At times, it is like seeing literal magic on the stage; sets change seamlessly making the most of props and costumes to add flare to the proceedings.

The lighting is something to marvel; it hides as much as it reveals and allows you to immerse yourself in the world. Just keep your eye out for a battle between Harry and Draco; it’s every fan’s dream.

The music, Instrumental editions of songs by Imogen Heap are stunning and immersive. Those of you expecting J Williams’ iconic tune will be sorely disappointed, but there is no place for it amongst the emotive melodies

Dracula. Mr Swallow: the Musical.

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When waiting for Keiran Hodgson’s French Exchange at the Pleasance, I got talking to the man behind the bar. I already had tickets to Dracula at this point, but I knew nothing about it. I was filled with excitement when this man insisted I was in for a treat when I saw it.

At only an hour long, as the opening number informs, I’ve never laughed so much in my life. It unfolds as a dress rehearsal for a Dracula musical, many of the players breaking character to the utter delight of the audience.

Nick Mohammed plays Mr Swallow, the high maintenance scene stealing Dracula. He engages the audience with a rib tickling energy that just has to be seen to be believed. A totally gem of a scene was the introduction of a ‘much needed’ additional character. Who ever is able to make a Scouse accent funny without having to rely on the cliques is true talent in my eyes. Yes I’m biased, and currently a little homesick, but everyone around me found it equally as funny as I did.

Playing Mr Goldworth and Van Helsing, David Elms adds a reserved calm to the delightful chaos. Early on, his involvement is mainly offstage, but as the dress rehearsal progresses and Van Helsing is introduced to the story he has more time on stage.

The previously mentioned Keiran Hodgson plays Jonathan, the invested and committed actor who wants his moment to shine as Bram Stoker’s solicitor Harker. While Harker/Jonathan never quite gets out of Dracula’s shadow, Hodgson is able to steal a number of scenes, including the one line run-through of his solo song that he vehemently fights for.

Joanna Grace is amazing as the female component of the four-piece. This woman has an amazing voice and a thought struck me when she belted out her solo; she is perfect for Wicked’s Elphaba. Her presence on the stage is commanding and a true joy to watch.

A special mention must go out to the five piece live band; Becca Tudor, Ed Zanders, Jack Cherry and Ben Hartly. Timings of all the players were perfect and it added to the overall feel of the play. There was a moment where I believe Ed Zanders was drawn into a conversation about the tempo of a song- genius.

As the hour draws to a close I had to admit, the barman was right; it was a joy to watch this group of professionals have such fun on stage. I intend to watch it again before it closes (28th Feb) and I would encourage anyone else to do the same.

Dracula Tickets
http://sohotheatre.com/whats-on/dracula

David Elms will be appearing at the Invisible Dot for the Saturday Night Show: 7th March and 18th April
http://www.theinvisibledot.com/search?query=david+elms

Keiran Hodgson will be appearing at the Invisible Dot for the New Wave: 19th March and 16th April
http://www.theinvisibledot.com/events/330-the-new-wave

Camp- Etcetera Theatre, Camden

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“You feel good as you are. Fair enough. I won’t challenge that. A lot of people don’t. They sign in here. We don’t force them. And they feel understood. They feel themselves after years of lying. Why should you take that away?”

Camp is a fictional comedy-drama based on the true account of a gay-to-straight conversion camp. Evangelical Jessye from Springfield, Missouri is in charge of the first British outpost in Caerphilly. Scott is a Welshman struggling to cope with his hidden homosexuality. And Stuart is a Londoner whose cynicism about everything makes you wonder why he came. But all is not as it seems, and no one’s secrets can stay in the closet. Will the camp survive?

               ~ blurb from Etecetera Theatre website

This is the play that finally caused me to get my act together and set up this blog. I don’t think for a second I have a mass of followers, but I still need to get the word out somehow. This play needs to be seen and for that to happen; it needs another run and for like minded people to know about it. A tweet of one line from the play allowed me to convince two people to abandon plans to see James McAvoy in The Ruling Class. Hopefully I can repeat the process with this review.
Focusing on a number of days at a UK conversion camp, the hour long play follows three men down a rabbit hole of discovery, deception and disaster. It’s a three man play with a sparse, well utilised, set.

Tom Scurr plays the reluctant Stuart and he does it with an amazing charm and a beautiful, yet reserved, unravelling when frustration gets the better of him. It is in the final act, however, where he gets to shine by taking the floor to address the issues brought into focus by the proceedings of the play. It hadn’t hit me before, but this man would make a perfect Rimmer if they ever rebooted Red Dwarf.
Jess Jones is Scott, Welshman chatterbox who is nervous about his conversion. Jones is able to bring a perfect balance of innocence, comedy and a hint of desperation in his portrayal. He is a delight to have on the stage, even if he was the man to reduce me to a blubbering mess after stealing everyone’s hearts with his humour.
Finally, Jessye is played by River Hawkins. Jessye is the ideal man to both Scott and Stuart, but for two very different reasons. Hawkins works well with both Scurr and Jones, but it is when he is retelling his ‘outing’ as a teen that he is able to bring a true vulnerability to the part and ensure every eye is on him.

What I love about this play,is that it has something to say and it does it with heart, courage and a good smattering of laughs. I truly left the theatre knowing I was on the right side of progress, even if the final act made me cry. It also contained what was quite possibly the hottest scenes I’ve yet to experience on the stage, reminding me it doesn’t matter what age, gender or sexuality you are; passion is the key.

The final lines must be given to the writer/director Anthony Simpson-Pike who created this work. This play is truly amazing, truthful and hard hitting, it is something that has created a bench mark for all other theatre to meet.

Keiran Hodgson- French Exchange

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As I am writing this, I am torn. On the one hand I want everyone to know this amazingly talented yet profoundly modest man’s name. The fact that Keiran Hodgson in one performance was able to knock Eddie Izzard off the top spot of my favourite comedians (something Eddie has held unchallenged for 15 year) says it all.
On the other hand, I don’t want to share. I’m selfish and I want to guarantee I can get tickets to this man’s work whenever I need cheering up. However, I think that’s out of my hands.

The show itself is an hour of multiple characters interwoven seamlessly ( my third viewing was spent watching his distinct movements and stance from one character to another) to narrate Keiran’s travels to France with his school in 2003.
From the opening explanation of Mrs Cook ‘I want to be memorable’ he has everyone hooked. You all know the teacher; a little bit odd, a little bit too much, but totally wanting the best for her kids.
Fifteen year old Keiran spends the time writing French poetry that impresses no one (except the audience of course. Particularly this one, who now regrets French being something I gave up on that first ever lesson back in 1997), avoiding the advances of MISS Robison and teaching the French how to speak Yorkshire.
As it draws to a close and Keiran says goodbye to his host family, we discover some implications to his actions throughout the holiday. It leads to the most heartwarming and brutally honest conversation any of us would like to have with our younger self.

While there are too many highlights to mention ‘grow your sideburns it makes you look like- never mind’, ‘what’s a Burtis?’ and ‘welcome to Besancon..’ Being among them, It is the entrance of the ‘girl’ who join them on the trip that will have everyone in stitches and begging for an encore.
An honourable mention has to be give to the character of Curtis. Everyone knows someone like Curtis, every teacher has a Curtis, yet Kerian’s depiction is funny, fresh and far from cliche that other comedians would present.

I am unaware of any repeat performances of this particular show. To date I have seen three separate performances since it’s return from Fringe and I have laughed as long as hard I did the first time. While you potentially unlucky people may not have chance to see French Exchange, I am writing this review in the hopes that you will all follow him like he’s one of the Beatles.