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The Cunning Little Vixen by leoš Janácek

Reviewed by: Elaine Chapman @elainec46302904

Review date: 29th Nov 2019

The Cunning Little Vixen was first performed on 6th November 1924 at the National Theatre in Brno. The version at the Mayflower Theatre in Southampton was a co-production by the Welsh National Opera and Scottish Opera, performed in Czech with English subtitles. Divided into three Acts the two hours long Opera seems shorter than that as you immerse yourself into the storyline.

The stage has been divided into three sections which are connected up into one larger area and then divided to allow other scenes to be created. It looked like an aerial view of fields that you would see when you’re flying over them in a plane. The combination of colours and patchwork designs looked stunning.

The stage and the impressive scenery was built and painted by Cardiff Theatrical Services Ltd. I was completely in awe of the scatter cushions that had been placed across the stage to create the imagery of hedges and trees which are used by various cast members to hide behind on occasions.

I particularly admired the symmetry of how the cast had been directed while they were all on the stage. Director David Pountney has created an extremely good balance and it is extremely aesthetically pleasing as the equal numbers io f cast on each side of the stage allow you to see the detail of the characters costumes and facial expressions by not overcrowding the areas.

The vixen (Aoife Miskelly) as pictured above and fox (Lucia Cervoni) have been well cast and their presence on the stage commanded the roles they were portraying convincingly. The fragile frame of the dancer portraying vixen allowed her the agility to take on the traits of the cunning and nimble animal as she moved across the fields while she hunted, played and attempts to get away from the poacher (David Stout). Choreographer Stuart Hopps has done a remarkable job.

The changing lights over the landscape, falling leaves and beautiful flowers endorsed the illusion if the seasons changing. Lighting designer Nick Chelton has certainly created lighting for all the seasons.

Costume designer Siân Price certainly has an incredible eye for colours and patterns and has created two beautiful costumes for both the vixen and the fox in various shades of reds. Along with the costumes for badger, frog, hare and all the other woodland creatures which are all easily identified in the Opera. The young actor Efan Arthur William was extremely endearing as he hopped around the stage

The chicken scene where their mannerisms and clucking all sounded very realistic. The cockerel strutting around proudly was a great addition to the scene and added some humour.

Conductor Tomáš Hanus lead the orchestra through this enchanting Opera with perfect performance from every member of the orchestra. The whole production has definitely left me with a lasting impression.

The variety of scenes, cast members and the endearing musical score has bought this playful Opera to life with enchanting animals and humans attempting to co-exist within the boundaries of a small country village.

Five Stars.

See the full review here


Posted on 30/11/2019


Bench at the Edge by Luigi Jannuzzi

Reviewed by: Elaine Chapman @elainec46302904

Review date: 27th Nov 2019

Bench at the Edge by Luigi Jannuzzi provides the audience with an interesting perspective on how things might look after somebody has attempted to commit suicide. From the long-standing patients kept alive on life support machines and now stuck in an afterlife limbo, to those hovering unconsciously between two worlds as they contemplate suicide to the bullets who simply decide then and there to run and jump thus ending it all there and then.

Actor number one (Meg Lake) waits on the bench in limbo by the edge of the abyss. Connected to the hospital machines which are physically represented by lengths of string attached to woollen arm gauntlets. It is never explained how or why she is in hospital. Although I wondered by her arms if she had slashed her wrists, this is only my interpretation of her suicide attempt though.

As you approach the Bench at the Edge where is there left to go next? Actor number two (Harriet Main) explodes onto the stage angry and hurt desperately to find the edge and leave all the pain that is consuming her behind and end it all.

The dialogue between the two actors explores their past lives in sketches of detail, the other people who have passed by the bench and then go onto to discussing their futures.

Cellist Samuel Creer adds an eerie twist to the performance as he creates the sounds effects and backing music to the play. Setting the tone for the vast majority of the scenes.

Tackling mental health and suicide is never an easy topic in theatre. However, Jannuzzi has captured the fragility of the human mind with care and consideration through this very moving and thought to provoke play.

Keeping the cast all nameless in a play of this nature stops any form of attachment to any the characters. It’s harder to relate to someone who is anonymous. Although you can’t help but feel empathy towards them as their limbo in both worlds becomes difficult for them.

Directed by Kasia Rózycki Bench on the Edge combines a dark world into suicides with some light tasteful comedy moments, there’s nothing funny about the topic but the way in which the characters look at the living through comedy lenses the audience certainly benefit from some light relief.

Four Stars.

See the full review here


Posted on 27/11/2019


La Clique live in Leicester Square

Reviewed by: Elaine Chapman @elainec46302904

Review date: 26th Nov 2019

After a ten year absence, la Clique is back in London performing in Leicester Square in the custom-built Spiegeltent. Don’t be deceived by the outside of this building as once inside you are transported into the realm of mystery and intrigue ready to be entertained and amazed by the eclectic range of performers.

World-class Weimar cabaret diva Bernie Dieter is the host for the evening’s extravaganza of circus-style acts, some incredible singing accompanied by the La Clique Palace Orkestra and some jaw-dropping trapeze work. She boasts that “At La Clique we celebrate weirdness” and what an incredible celebration it is.

Vocalist Kelly Wolfgramm is an exceptionally talented singer, her interaction with the band members and the other acts demonstrated that they have a fantastic working rapport.

The cabaret acts vary from Jamie Swan’s crowd wetting performance in and out of the water-filled bath, Zoe Marshall’s aerial hair-hanging act where her hair is the only part of her connection to the trapeze rope and the suave juggling act with champagne glasses by Florian Brooks.

This show is a heady mix of performances which has absolutely nothing to dislike about it and definitely a fantastic Christmas adult production to treat yourself to. An absolutely flawless production bought together by director Craig Ilott.

La Clique is definitely one show in London this Christmas that should not be missed.

Five Stars.

For more information, performance times and tickets please use the link below.

See the full review here


Posted on 27/11/2019


Diamonds are for Trevor by Cheriton Players

Reviewed by: Elaine Chapman @elainec46302904

Review date: 23rd Nov 2019

The new comedy spoof production by the Cheriton Players Diamonds are for Trevor is extremely well thought out, with a fantastic cast and full of quick-witted one-liners.

The familiar Bond characters have been renamed which are all befitting of the spoof production, for example, Miss Spendapenny, Bigjob and Fanny Stravaganza are a taster of some of those characters starring in the play.

When James Bond’s(Craig Robertson)younger brother Trevor (Charlie Hellard) is summoned to MI6 by mistake after answering his Brother’s phone that he has left behind in the flat they share he is sent on one of the biggest missions to date which is to save the Queen (Pauline Cornter) and her corgi.

The mission Trevor has accepted has taken place due to Vladimir Putitov (John Weston) and Donald Trumpet (Mike Cornter) attempting to try and overturn the monarchy and Putitov to lay a claim to the throne as the rightful monarch.

Trumpet has kidnapped the Queen and one of her corgi’s and held them both to ransom. It’s clear to see why the Weston and Cornter were chosen for those roles as they really bought both men to life. Especially when Weston takes his top off Putin style and starts to work out on stage.

David Cradduck plays Pratt the cleaner in MI6 and a cameo role as the Queen’s husband Prince Philip. The conversation that takes place between the Prince and security is as outrageous and politically incorrect as you would expect it to be from the Prince. Apart from being remarkably younger than the Prince Cradduck’s mannerisms were extremely funny and very much in the style of him.

The film scenes which had been filmed earlier in the year are shown on the large screen at the back of the stage which allowed the production to use James Bond-style car scenes in the play and take them off on various locations to bring a touch of Bond reality to the whole production.

The Corgi is played by a soft toy stand-in. The time and attention to details when they film close-ups of the dog is brilliant. It’s been so well positioned and angled to capture body language and facial expressions that it’s really easy to suspend your disbelief and look at it like a real dog. No animals were hurt in making this production.

One of the things that make this play stand out is how much all of the cast are enjoying their roles. The attention to detail that this company always step up to never ceases to amaze me and I really enjoy going to see what they have created next.

To find out more this talented group and their past and present productions check out the links below to their website and social media pages. Remember, to book early as they are always quickly selling out.

Four Stars.

See the full review here


Posted on 27/11/2019


When The Rain Stops Falling at John Cooper Studios by Rigmarole Theatre

Reviewed by: Charles Hutchinson

Review date: 14th Nov 2019

WHEN will the rain stop falling, you may well be asking amid Yorkshire’s November floods, burst banks and Army assistance in Fishlake.

Bad news. The answer, in Andrew Bovell’s apocalyptic play, is 2039, and by then much water will have passed under the bridge in the two hours’ traffic of 41 Monkgate’s stage.

This week’s Yorkshire premiere of When The Rain Stops Falling marks the debut of Rigmarole Theatre Company, a new York venture led by artistic director and designer Maggie Smales, who directed York Shakespeare Project’s award-winning all-female production of Henry V, set at a “Canary Girls” munitions factory in the First World War.

In other words, she has pedigree for interesting directorial choices, and Smales shows astute judgement again in picking Bovell’s multi-layered mystery, spread across 80 years and four generations of one family in England and Australia, premiered in Adelaide 11 years ago.

Once described as a “poetic pretzel of a play”, it takes the form of an unbroken, non-linear staging of 22 scenes, in this case within the John Cooper Studio’s black-box design, with a back-wall montage of umbrellas, a drape of Aboriginal wall art, window frames and doorways painted white, ceiling lamps in different shades and a prominent fish mobile.

Within this framework, the cast of nine moves furniture on and off and occupants of rooms overlap as the years from 1969 to 2019 move backwards and forwards.

To help you work out who’s who, the one-sheet “programme” provides a pictorial family tree to distinguish between Gabriel and Gabriel and even a Gabrielle.

The play opens to the inevitable sound of falling rain…in the desert region of Alice Springs, Australia, in 2039, with Smales’s company standing in lines beneath umbrellas on the stage periphery and criss-crossing the floor in silent repetitive movements with soup bowls before making way for the first monologue by Mick Liversidge’s Gabriel York.

This drifting, eccentric wanderer is waiting for his long-estranged son, Andrew (Stan Gaskell), with no money, no socks and no food. As chance would have it, a fish suddenly falls out of the sky…manna from heaven in a play with downpours of biblical proportions.

Not till the end shall we see these two again, but as a lattice builds, fish, or more precisely, fish soup, will keep making an appearance, along with dining tables and references to rain in Bangladesh. This adds splashes of dark humour to the otherwise claustrophobically black, stormy days of betrayal, abandonment and destruction that unfold against a backdrop of climate change.

Bovell first heads back to a London flat in 1969, where we meet Gabriel York’s grandparents, James Coldrick’s Henry Law and Florence Poskitt’s Elizabeth, in younger days, their relationship problems heightened by the arrival of son Gabriel. Elizabeth is encountered again in 1988, still in the same flat, even more buttoned up, Gabriel (Adam Sowter) frustrated at her still declining to reveal why his father suddenly disappeared when he was only seven.

Sowter’s Gabriel duly heads to Australia to put the missing pieces together, whereupon he encounters a troubled roadhouse waitress in Coorong, Gabrielle York (Louise Henry, soon to play Snow White in Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs at the Grand Opera House).

Tragedy has struck her not once, but thrice, but you should see the play to find out how and why, as we learn still more from older Gabrielle (Sally Mitcham) and stoical husband Joe Ryan (Maggie Smales).

Smales chose Bovell’s poetic allegory ­- full of Australian culture, Greek myth, English awkwardness, French philosophy and meteorological turmoil – because it addresses “the most important question of our times”: Are we prepared to pass on the damage from the past to our children or can we change to save ourselves?

Ultimately, in a prophetic play heavy with the weight of legacy and inheritance, Bovell calls on us to change before it is too late. Smales’s excellent cast, so skilled at storytelling and largely at Aussie accents too, certainly makes the case for him.

In the words of the director, “If you like a powerful story that has something to say about who we are and where we are going, this is the one to see.”

You are also assured of a warmer welcome than Boris Johnson in sodden South Yorkshire this week. Among the drinks that the convivial bar is serving is…water, naturally.

See the full review here


Posted on 15/11/2019


When The Rain Stops Falling at John Cooper Studios by Rigmarole Theatre

Reviewed by: Anna Rose James

Review date: 14th Nov 2019

A York premiere and launch production for new theatre company Rigmarole, Andrew Bovell’s award-winning 2008 play When the Rain Stops Falling addresses the most important issue of our times: “Are we prepared to pass on the damage from the past to our children?”

Director Maggie Smales follows her successful local productions of Blue Stockings and the award-winning all-female Henry V with this emotional, layered drama telling the story of a family across eighty years and four generations. Spanning the globe between England and Australia, it takes the form of an interweaving domestic mystery unfolding as patterns of betrayal, abandonment and destruction are revealed. As horrific revelations are made, the pieces of the puzzle begin to fit together and culminate to complete the apocalyptic picture.

Alice Springs in the year 2039. A fish falls from the sky and lands at the feet of Gabriel York. It still smells of the sea. It’s been raining for days and Gabriel knows something is wrong.

Both vast and intimate, the Law family saga is a parable for the story of mankind. We are at the point of extinction, and it is of our own making. The unpalatable act of one man turns out to be a metaphor for the collective harm that human beings have wrought on ourselves and our world.

Forgiveness, atonement and requited love are the mighty, vulnerable open questions left hanging in the air after the storm.

The cast features Smales herself as Joe Ryan, Sally Mitcham as Gabrielle York (Older), Beryl Nairn (Bomb Happy; Me and My Girl) as Elizabeth Law (Older), Louise Henry (the eponymous upcoming Snow White for the Grand Opera House) as Gabrielle York (Younger), Florence Poskitt as Elizabeth Law (Younger), James Coldrick as Henry Law, Adam Sowter as Gabriel Law, and Stan Gaskell as Andrew Price, with Mick Liversidge as Gabriel York.

Smales says of the play, “It is spine tingling and devastating but crafted with delicacy and humour.” Exacting exquisite poignancy through an excellent cast completely in tune with each other, Smales employs some of the techniques used by Frantic Assembly (Things I Know To Be True) to create a physical language that is integral to the storytelling. The nurtured fragility made real by the ensemble is so affecting it leaves members of the audience rooted in their seats for several minutes following the climax. The show also features a stunning original score by acclaimed local composer Sam McAvoy and powerfully inventive lighting, making for an invigorating and rewarding piece of thoughtful theatre.

When The Rain Stops Falling is playing at John Cooper Studio @ 41 Monkgate until Saturday 16 November – further information and tickets available here. *Please note: the play contains challenging content and is recommended for ages 14+.

See the full review here


Posted on 15/11/2019


When The Rain Stops Falling at John Cooper Studios by Rigmarole Theatre

Reviewed by: Angie Millard

Review date: 14th Nov 2019

Tonight I saw an exceptional new play: memorable, poetic and resonant.

When The Rain Stops Falling is a drama about family betrayal and forgiveness spanning four generations and moving between Britain and Australia. It consists of a series of connected stories which explore the way people deal with their past in order to make sense of their future. Patterns emerge of betrayal and abandonment and the sins of the father inevitably seem to be visited on sons, The past shapes the future in this epic play which stretches from 1959-2039.

It also explores environmental themes in a study of the nature of time which couldn’t be more relevant to us today The cast begin the play sheltering under umbrellas as flooding in Bangladesh continues.

The last time I saw a play by Bovell it was Things I know to be True performed by Frantic Assembly. In this York premiere of ‘When the Rain Stops Falling’ Bovell uses complex structures to explore his chosen themes and does not shy away from controversy. Maggie Smales confronts the material presenting it to as clearly and with theatrical skill. She has vision but shows this subtly, not leading her audience but allowing us to come to terms with the facts. In order to achieve this, Smales uses the placement and movement of characters rather like a musical fugue; props are minimal and furniture is moved into place as part of the action.

The language of the play is remarkable in its use of repetition and echoed imagery. A fish falls from the sky in an end sequence and fish is used as food throughout. One mother (Beryl Nairn) and her son (Adam Sowter) share a meal of fish soup and in clipped Pinteresque dialogue repeat banalities over a meal which will subsequently make him vomit. This use of a shared reference reappears over generations as people try to redecorate their homes. They paint, clean and scrub but finally the room looks the same as it always did.

The actors have created multiple roles with intelligence and insight. The standard of acting is high and is at times painfully moving. Beryl Nairn holds a strong line as mother of Gabriel and there are poignant scenes where she is on stage simultaneously with her younger self. The younger Elizabeth (Florence Poskitt) plays the realisation of her tragedy with confused emotion and the scenes with her husband (James Coldrick) are a master class of understatement.

Their son Gabriel (Adam Sowter) acts as a link between the continents. His search for his father takes us to the York family and further loss. Louise Henry and Sally Mitcham play out a horrific plot twist with intensity and Sowter is drawn in as we knew he must be. Maggie Smales turns in a moving performance as Joe, playing across gender as the unloved partner and we all feel her pain. I imagine there were reasons for this but, personally, I would have preferred a male casting.

The play ends as it began with Mick Liversidge meeting the son he has no right to want or love and his monologues were a finely-judged acting exercise of precision and tone. We catch ourselves pitying someone we should condemn but this is family and Bovell’s resolution.

Phew! When do we leave a theatre so full of questions? This is a play which makes one confront uncomfortable facts and gives no answers but when did I last come out of a theatre buzzing?

When The Rain Stops Falling is a Rigmarole Theatre Company production now playing at the John Cooper Studio until 16 November 2019. The Director is Maggie Smales.

See the full review here


Posted on 15/11/2019


The 39 Steps by John Buchan and adapted by Chris Hawley

Reviewed by: Elaine Chapman @elainec46302904

Review date: 9th Nov 2019

Set during the winter of 1962 in a radio station Black box Theatre are about to broadcast live The 39 Steps by John Buchan. However, as the weather worsens and snow prevents all but one cast member arriving safely at the studio. Roy the caretaker and Brenda the tea lady is called upon to save the day.

The stage is interestingly dressed with two 1960s style microphones at the centre stage, a prop table to the right-hand side full of stage props which are used for the large array of sound effects ranging from a mini bellow, drinking glasses, upright bicycle pump and a pair of coconut shells.

The humour is varied and extremely well delivered. One particular scene in the outer depths of Scotland it was reminiscent of the BBC’s League of Gentlemen where you can imagine a stranger being the centre of gossip, suspicion and intrigue.

David McCulloch and Scarlett Briant’s delivery is perfectly timed throughout the performance and they never cease to remind the audience that they are still in character as the radio station staff and are just the stand-in cast.

Bruce Chattan-McIntosh in the role of Mr Richard Hanney never falters out of character. Chattan-McIntosh’s work and a vast amount of radio voice over experience shows and he really has perfected the art of radio voice work. An absolute treat to listen to while watching the play.

In the words of the fantastic cast “It’s hawfully good, what, what” and I for one definitely agree with them.

If you would like to discover who or what The Blackstone is then caught one of Blackbox Theatre’s performance while they are out and about with this extremely funny and entertaining show while it is on tour.

Tour dates are available on their website below.

Four Stars

David McCulloch
Bruce Chattan-McIntosh
Scarlet Briant
Hannah Wood-Technical Stage Manager
Chris Hawley- Director

For further details and to check out tour dates please check out their website below.

See the full review here


Posted on 10/11/2019


Soho Cinders by Stiles and Drewe

Reviewed by: Elaine Chapman @elainec46302904

Review date: 6th Nov 2019

West End stars Luke Bayer and Millie O’Connell star in the latest production at Charing Cross Theatre Soho Cinders. Where you meet orphan Robbie and Velcro aka as Sonya long-standing best friends working in his late Mother’s laundrette. Their friendship from the start is strong and with an incredible connection between the two, it’s believable, that they are extremely close friends.

Set in Old Compton Street, London the daily lives of prostitutes, city workers and homeless people share the demographics of this busy London street, all that was missing was the traffic.

The rags to riches storyline mix friendship, politics, spin doctor media stunts and family disputes brilliantly. James (Lewis Asquith) is running to be the next London Mayor and is engaged to Marilyn (Tori Hargreaves). While at the same time secretly having a relationship with Robbie.

The ugly sisters Clodagh (Michaela Stern) and Dana (Natalie Harman) are true to the pantomime genre and their characters are portraying common tarts with potty mouths to match. They are as much to be pitied as they are to be disliked. Their homophobic behaviour and treatment of Robbie leave you recoiling with some of their cutting derogatory comments towards him. Telling him in one scene to move out of the flat as “they don’t want to catch gay” not sure being happy is a bad thing to catch.

The stage is designed as two sides of street one in pink and the other blue mixed together on occasions with the colours and flags of pride which adds the bawdy colours element that you expect to see in any pantomime. As the story pulls you in at times it’s easy to forget that this is based on Cinderella and then a sharp funny one-liner reminds you that is exactly what you are watching.

Choreographer Adam Haigh’s talent was put to the test in this production with twenty singing numbers and individual dances to match it feels original and fresh.

One of my favourite numbers was “It’s hard to tell” the struggle as a straight female can be very much in keeping with this song as it’s not always obvious which men are gay and which are straight. The way in which sexuality is addressed flows naturally throughout. Marilyn addresses James’s infidelity in a mature approach it’s about the fact he cheated and lied to her and nothing to do with cheating on her with a man.

Will Keith’s production of this fantastic musical kept me captivated throughout. There is nothing to dislike or fault whatsoever and he has chosen an incredible cast who have amazing chemistry on stage from the onset and it continues that way to the end.

This musical delivers on every level and is exactly what you expect from a great night out. The musical numbers are still remaining in your head the next day. It certainly gets my recommendation as a must-see musical. Catch it while it is still on under The Arches in Charing Cross for the remainder it’s run.

Five Stars.

Robbie-Luke Bayer
Velcro-Millie O’Connell
Clodagh-Michaela Stern
Dana-Natalie Harman
James Prince-Lewis Asquith
Marilyn Platt-Tori Hargreaves
William George-Ewan Gillies
Lord Bellingham-Christopher Coleman
Sasha-Melissa Rose.
Written by Anthony Drewe and Elliot Davis.
Music-George Stiles
Lyrics-Anthony Drewe.

Director -Will Keith
Choreographer-Adam Haigh
Set Designer-Justin Williams
Production Team
Will Keith
Michaela Stern
Kyle Tovey.

The musical runs from 24th October – 21st December 2019

For general enquiries and tickets information please use the link below.

See the full review here


Posted on 10/11/2019


Great Gatsby

Reviewed by: Elaine Chapman @elainec46302904

Review date: 8th Nov 2019

The two and a half-hour long immersive adaptation of Great Gatsby has moved from Lambeth and is now performing in it’s a new venue which used to be the home of Queen Victoria’s Rifle Association in Davies Street, Mayfair.

The main event room has a backdrop featuring two art deco mirrors separated by a mock waterfall. A raised seating on the right gives the audience a great view of the dance floor where several period dances and a lot of the main action takes place. The piano is staged on the left-hand side with a glass chandelier above setting the scene of wealth and opulence associated with the Great Gatsby.

If you ever wanted to learn the Charleston here is your perfect opportunity as the cast lead you comprehensively through the steps before doing a round or two of the dance. This is just one of the interactive dance routines that take place throughout the evening. Everyone is encouraged to take part without feeling pressured.

Nick Carraway played by James Lawrence narrates the audience through the main parts of the storyline which are broken up by various scenes which are vital to the story and then groups break off into minor plots in other private rooms. As with many immersive experiences you tend to miss just as much as you see with so many sub-stories running at the same time.

The men pictured above all looked extremely dapper and impeccable in their stylish suits. The ladies looked iconic for the era and Myrtle Wilson (Hannah Edwards) in the photo below looked stunning in her purple sequined dress, with matching feathers in her headdress and up close I could see that even her lipstick matched faultlessly.

Choreographer Holly Beasley-Garrigan’s most certainly worked hard with so many different scenes to organise in this reasonably large production. I dare say she’s spent many hours in rehearsal refining the routines with the cast and it has certainly paid off well.

Directed and adapted by Alexander Wright this production is very good and the amount of work he has put into this immersive experience certainly leaves a lasting impression on you.

It’s definitely an extraordinary night out where dressing up is actively encouraged and with so much entertainment going on throughout the evening you are spoiled for choice as to where to go next. Cocktails are available in abundance from the bar so grab yourself a taste of the 1920s, Gatsby style.

Four Stars.

For more information and ticket sales please use the link below.

See the full review here


Posted on 10/11/2019


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