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The Dock Brief

Reviewed by: Elaine Chapman @elainec46302904

Review date: 28th Mar 2020

With the closure of all the Theatres during the coronavirus outbreak and the country lockdown. I reviewed the last production performed at The Cockpit Theatre of “The Dock Brief” which had been filmed especially for reviewing purposes. It was a somewhat unusual experience and although it’s been nice to be able to review from the comfort of my home it definitely is not something I wish to do for any length of time. As the only thing that it’s really highlighted to me is how much I’m missing not going to the theatre and reviewing first-hand from the live experience.

The Dock Brief is a two-man production written by the late Sir John Mortimer the Barrister and playwright whose most famous work has to have been “Rumpole of the Bailey”. The story is based around the relationship between the accused known as The Unsuccessful Criminal Mr Fowle(Kingsley Fowler) and his bumbling Unsuccessful Barrister Morganhall (Matthew Vernon). These two actors appeared to have an excellent connection on stage which for a production heavily reliant on dialogue it is definitely crucial.

Henpecked husband Fowle the seed shop owner has been accused of murdering his adulterous wife of 40 years. Fowle simply wants to plead guilty and get on with his jail sentence. However, Morganhall has other ideas and wants to clear his client’s name in order to help him become famous. Which would help him increase his client list at the same time which currently stood at the grand sum of One, Fowle?

Morgenhall confesses to Fowle early on that he is his only client. Which should really have raised concerns to the accused about his ability as a Barrister. This fact becomes more apparent throughout the performance as Morgenhall devotes an awful lot of time to his client, far more than I imagine a Barrister would have time for.

Glovers performance of the defendant was extremely believable and alongside his main role, he also plays a host of other characters in minor subplots mainly in the form of conversations building up to the time of the crime. These ranged from a policeman, shop owner to a Judge.

Each of the scenarios acted out during their role-play ends in a not guilty verdict. The failing Barrister certainly has an extremely high opinion of his own ability and appears desperate to make his mark in the justice system and become well known. While trying to coerce his client into following his instructions onto what to say actually happened.

I especially enjoyed the range of voices that Glover gave to each of the additional characters which allowed them to take on a persona of their own during each of their brief appearances. He certainly gave a very entertaining and interesting performance.

The filming quality was pretty good on the whole although the glaring lights often obscured the two actors faces. However, the sound quality was extremely good and both actors were very clear and concise speakers.

The company hopes to take this back to the stage once restrictions are lifted and I would be very pleased to accept an offer if they were to invite me back to see it once the production returns to the stage.

Four Stars

Kingsley Glover as The Unsuccessful Criminal
Matthew Vernon as The Unsuccessful Barrister
Director David Tudor.

See the full review here


Posted on 29/03/2020


Am I Happy Yet? By Jack Hesketh

Reviewed by: Elaine Chapman @elainec46302904

Review date: 4th Mar 2020

I was fortunate enough to first see the first draft of this incredibly moving play at the Six plays in the one-day event led by Threedumb Theatre at the Tristan Bates Actors Centre on Saturday, February 9th 2020. One the plays that really stood out for me was Jack Hesketh’s preview production of “Am I Happy Yet?”. I was extremely moved by his powerful performance that I was incredibly keen to see and review his revised version.

The outlined story hasn’t changed a vast amount. The stages of additional props add to the atmosphere of his story visually. The born and bred Glaswegian man isn’t quite to ready to use the title “man” yet. A newspaper story about a 19-year-old man involved in an accident sends him spiralling into a crisis about his own title. In his early twenties now he does not recall walking into adulthood.

With a lot of anger and swearing, he fights to keep his “young lad” identity. Who actually gave him this role if man? Is he ready to be the grown-up that the title suggests? This brought me into questioning myself as to whether any of us really prepared to become a responsible adult.

The uplifting entrance to “Mr Blue Sky ” by ELO certainly lulls you into a false sense of security of the happy expectations you might be expecting to see. However, what it does deliver is an honest in-depth monologue recognising and dealing with the demons he is suffering from depression and anxiety.

The revised hour-long production debuted at The Lion and Unicorn in Kentish Town. The intimate setting of this Theatre brings a harder-hitting point across during the emotional outbursts, which the man experiences and allows Hesketh to be nearer to the audience. At times I felt he was talking directly to me instead of the audience.

Director Coral Tarran has bought out the best in Hesketh’s piece and as she says herself “we need pieces like “Am I Happy Yet?” to help kill the taboo of depression and anxiety”. Something I firmly believe this piece is managing to achieve.

The flair Hesketh has shown in this work both in writing and performance has the making of a very promising future for him. I am very much looking forward to seeing what he does next. Gems like this do not come along every day.

Four Stars

The play runs from Tuesday 3rd to Friday 6th 7.30-8.45pm please use the links below for further details.

See the full review here


Posted on 05/03/2020


This Queer House by Opia Collective

Reviewed by: Elaine Chapman @elainec46302904

Review date: 3rd Mar 2020

This piece starts as soon as you enter the theatre by one of the actors walking along the lines mapped out on the stage. The movement is in the style of a clockwork doll. The play has been based upon a poem by the Poet Oakley Flannagan.

The couple Oli and Leah who feature throughout the performance have inherited an old house from Oli’s relative which is now in desperate need of renovation. Which means only one thing, it’s the perfect time to get a dog.

The house happens to have at least one demon living within its walls. From what I can decipher the spirit living within the house could easily have been the devil as the character was dressed predominantly in red.

The spirit appears to struggle with the concept that the couple living within the house now who identify themselves as part of the LGBTQIA community and have turned their back on the “normal ” couple specific roles and have chosen to be equal. Although as time goes on the roles start to become gender-specific much to their disgust we especially Oli, which result in arguments. Which poses an interesting question of “how do we break the social constraints in the modern world?” You must decide that for yourselves.

As the Builder starts to knock down the walls while renovating the house it appears as a juxtaposition against the frustrations of the couple as they are trying to be themselves rather than fitting into a social opinion about what is deemed as being “normal”. I must stress that this is only my interpretation.

This piece is still a work in progress, there are some of the themes which run throughout the performance that will really benefit from being tightened up and made clearer. This will allow the audience to follow the story easier and understand where the company are trying to lead you.

The Opia Collective is a group of female and LGBTQIA artists. The cast of three in this production Liv Ello, Humaira Iqbal and Lucia Young are very strong performers who certainly work well together. Each of the three actors had an extremely strong presence on the stage.

When I studied Queer Theory back in early 2004 the overall message that always stuck out to me was the fact that nothing is indeed normal. For something to be deemed as normal by the masses, you realised that in another person’s opinion they feel that it is a queer way of living to them. A rather confusing outlook at first which actually makes perfect sense once you start to look deeper into the concept.

Overall the Opia Collective has some very interesting ideas and by this piece alone you can see that they are not afraid to challenge their audiences. I will be very interested to see what they do in future productions.

Three Stars.

For further information please visit the website links below.

See the full review here


Posted on 03/03/2020


Don’t talk to Strangers

Reviewed by: Elaine Chapman @elainec46302904

Review date: 2nd Mar 2020

Billed as a “rom-com set at warp speed” in their press release Hot Cousins performed their debut production “Don’t talk to Strangers” at the Vaults in February 2020. Based on the 1977 project “The Voyager Golden Record” by Carl Sagan at NASA where he wanted to summarize all of humanity by recordings on a record. Sending it out to the universes beyond ours to contact alien lifeforms.

The cast of four Ally Poole, Elana Binysh, Madeleine Lewis and Stephanie Fuller bring together the monotony of television interviews which take place after someone enters the public eye. In this case the love story between Carl Sagan and Anne Dryan. We enter during the honeymoon period which descends into a darker reality as the public becomes bored and dig around for the nastier side of human nature.

Taking an event from the historical archives and bringing it to life for another generation through Theatre form is often a real tribute to the people originally involved. I had certainly never heard of him before now and will be taken some time to read more about him in the future.

Hot Cousins claim that they draw on the “surreal and trashy” for their ideas. They are definitely elements of both within this production yet they manage to add to a touch of humour and class at the same time. You just have to watch out for where it is.

The alien dressed in a baby pink all in one with a crash helmet as pictured above tries to make contact with the humans. The group of three are so absorbed in themselves they fail to see it. It’s very often the case that humans fail to see what is right in front of them. It was hardly surprising that it was only as the alien became more human in appearance that the group began to pay attention to its presence on the stage.

The golden record is actually now 13.8 billion miles away in space and should it ever be discovered nobody who was originally involved with it will still be alive. With my greater understanding of Sagan’s personality after reading more about him, I think he too would have really enjoyed this entertaining production about this part of his life too.

Three Stars.

See the full review here


Posted on 03/03/2020


Feel More

Reviewed by: Elaine Chapman @elainec46302904

Review date: 28th Feb 2020

Since the Proforca Theatre team started in 2016 they have produced a collection of plays which concentrate on human interaction, social observations and difficult emotional situations people find themselves in on a daily basis. “Feel More” has been based on the successful original play “Feel” by James Lewis.

The latest production is a series of seven individually performed monologues where each character has a separate story dealing with the feelings and emotions derived from each of the characters personal circumstance.

Director Jess Barton along with artistic director David Brady has brought together seven individual short stories by seven writers each one delivered by different actors. Each performance and story was unique although the core of each tale was the deep-rooted feelings and emotions that as human beings we very rarely share to the outside world. A challenging production for any director to bring together. Barton deserves to be very proud of this achievement.

Each character had a different story to tell James Lewis’s, Ryan (Luke Dayhill) the patient waiting for a heart operation facing the possibility that he was going to die. Ollie George Clark with Ellie(Kirsty Cherrett)talking about her daughter dying in an abstract way through her musical career although this piece felt unfinished to me. Ivy(Aimee Kimber) by Jack Albert Cook who talks about the despair of being single, love of ginger nuts and tea and falling for her female flatmate. Gabrielle Nellis-Pain’s unusual take on grief through Kimmy(Jimin Suh) who uses a blindfold to deprive herself of sight in order to be able to reach out and see her deceased Father and Adam(Paul Waggott) by Kim Scopes the voice-over recording artist for the delayed train announcements. I could feel my anger raised during this one through the experience of hearing them when I am delayed travelling.

The piece that stood out to me from the seven was Ali’s story written by Georgie Bailey. He explains the despair he felt at being abandoned by his father at Christmas. The family stopped celebrating after that and while at a loss one Christmas, he meets Joss outside a homeless shelter who encourages him to come in and help. The energy for life and his love of this time of year breathes new hope into Ali’s life. As with all the monologues in this production, the ending isn’t happy ever after but then in the real world what really is.

It brought back personal memories for me from working in a homeless shelter during the Christmas period. It is surprising how happy the atmosphere usually is in a shelter over Christmas. An experience I would recommend to anyone to try at least once.

Using the Iconic four coloured chairs at the back of the stage which have become the signature feature for this collection of plays. Whenever I see the four chairs on the stage I am prepared to be pushed out of my comfort zone and know that at times I will be challenged emotionally.

I can highly recommend this new collection of plays and that every production I have seen by Proforca has been of a very high standard. One word of advice when you see any of their pieces take tissues and prepare yourself to feel.

Four Stars

For more information on this play and future productions please use the links below.

From Tuesday 25th-Friday 28th February.

See the full review here


Posted on 29/02/2020


Autoreverse at Battersea Arts Centre

Reviewed by: Elaine Chapman @elainec46302904

Review date: 6th Feb 2020

The combination of Argentinian history told through a collection of recorded tape cassettes from her family archives Florencia Cordeu explores how her family identified what and where home was after they fled Argentina for a new life in Chile.

The large collection of various tape recorders spanned the generation of Cordeu’s lifetime. Wearing a white chemist’s suit she entered the stage and switched each one on in what appeared to be a random order. You soon discover that the suit and gloves she later wears are to preserve the old cassette tapes.

Autoreverse takes its name from a function used by cassettes. Cordeu explained in detail how this worked. I am still not completely sure how it works though. One thing I have learned from this production is that tape cassettes only last for about thirty years and the ones she plays are around forty years old. Therefore the next time she plays one it could be the last.

For memories as precious as hearing her families voices on the tapes I am sure they are now all on digital and what we were hearing was that version. Cordeu is extremely fortunate to have these tapes to take with her through life and this production brings her family back to life again.

The collaboration between director Omar Elerian and Cordeu have created a usual but heartwarming production. The combination of family recordings with Cordeu’s translations and a selection of old family photos she brings a part of Argentinian history to the stage. Immortalising her family in this performance with so much love and respect for who they were. It was an honour to have shared the experience.

Four Stars.

See the full review here


Posted on 07/02/2020


The Legend of the Holy Drinker by Hunch Theatre

Reviewed by: Elaine Chapman @elainec46302904

Review date: 3rd Feb 2020

The Legend of the Holy Drinker has been adapted from the book of the same name by Joseph Roth written in 1939. Where it tells the story of Andreas a homeless drunk who discovers he is now an illegal immigrant who has served time in prison. His luck changes when he meets a businessman on a bridge in London who gives him £1000

His good fortune continues for the final three weeks of his life where he finds further fortunes, reunites with old friends, girlfriend and enjoys some of the happiness he has been missing for a long time.

For each of the Hunch Theatre productions that I have now been to see the stage is dressed with minimal props. Although the ones they use are very effective. The large piece of frosted plastic that covers the vast section of the stage can be viewed in the photograph below. It serves various purposes throughout the play. From the cover used over Andreas at the start of the play to being used for bed covers in a later scene where Andreas is in bed with his ex-girlfriend.

Andreas isn’t a horrible character. The way in which he has been portrayed takes a sympathetic look at his circumstances and even though he has broken the law he isn’t a threat to the outside world. He was driven to crime by jealousy and rage for the love of a woman which brought him into the life he now leads.

Four out of the five cast members dressed in black-tailed coats with black trousers as they first walk down onto the stage at the beginning of the production it gave the impression of undertakers coming to collect a body and taking him off to the mortuary. Setting the scene as you watch you watch the sad tale unfold. Sadly this story is a harsh reality for many people living on the streets.

The microphone is used an awful lot through this production. It’s used to emphasise emotions as the cast move further away or closer to the microphone depending on what effect they require. It appears to be a very simple technique but to be able to master using a microphone so effectively takes an awful lot of skill and talent.

Hunch Theatres talent for taking a lesser-known foreign book and translating it into English for a new generation of theatregoers is highly commendable. The storyline is clear and despite the story being over 80 years old, the subject matter is still very much present in our society today.

For more information on this production and Hunch Theatre company follow the links below.

Four Stars

The Legend of the Holy Drinker

See the full review here


Posted on 03/02/2020


First Time

Reviewed by: Elaine Chapman @elainec46302904

Review date: 2nd Feb 2020

The one thing a vast amount of human beings share is that we all have a “first time”. For many of us, it’s a life-changing experience as we finally come of age and explore another side to ourselves. However, how many of us relive this event every day? Well, 15 years on and Nathaniel Hall just can’t seem to let his go.

Hall has put his writing and theatre-making skills to good use and has produced this very powerful and heartfelt production. Reliving the moment he discovered that his life would dramatically change forever.

The story in First Time is told through the first-person narrative and comes directly from the heart in this moving, passionate and extremely emotional rollercoaster tale. The autobiographical and frank story tells his audience in warts and all story about when he contracted HIV, his diagnosis and the long hard journey he has taken to be in the place he is today.

Although his life-changing catastrophic diagnosis throws him into the unknown world of HIV and NHS waiting rooms. What I really admire is Hall’s attitude towards his diagnosis although he obviously hit the depths of depression with his description of the drugs and alcohol abuse, you never hear any self-pity or “why me” utter from his lips. Although nobody could blame him if he had.

The production is billed about how he is “staying positive in a negative world” and although it’s a tear-jerker in some places and I heard sniffles around me as audience members hold back the tears. There are so many positive messages to take away from his performance too.

Nathaniel is a genuinely talented actor, writer and likeable guy. Life can deal with some of the nicest people the cruellest of hands. Yet with a lot of coloured pills, a touch of powder and a large dose of comedy the ignorance surrounding the one-time death sentence disease he invites us to learn about the advances in HIV treatments and the care given by NHS staff to help patients through their life changing event and treatment. It’s definitely time that everyone becomes properly educated in the facts. The world needs more incredible ambassadors like Hall.

Five Stars.

See the full review here


Posted on 02/02/2020


Chicago – High School Edition by Act One

Reviewed by: Kev Castle @CastleKev

Review date: Friday, 31 January 2020
Iveshead Theatre, Shepshed

The musical is the story of Roxie Hart who is married to wimpy Amos Hart, but has a lover, Fred Casey, who one night pops round and ends up being fatally shot by Roxie. She is arrested and jailed where she runs into Velma Kelly, who becomes a rival on just about every front.

Mama Morton, who runs the women’s prison, negotiates a deal with high flying, hot-shot lawyer Billy Flynn to get Roxie off the charge, which puts Velma’s nose out of joint as she is no longer the centre of attention. How fickle is Flynn and the media world? Well this musical answers that!

But surely I am preaching to the converted here as there can’t be many people who have not seen the film “Chicago” which starred Richard Gere, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Renee Zellweger, so you all know the outcome of this glitzy musical packed with razzle dazzle.

Yasmin (Roxie Hart) grew as the musical went on, becoming ever more powerful as she demanded more from her audience, A brilliant singer and dancer and very entertaining to watch.

Georgia (Velma Kelly) really looked the part, and I loved the wig and her costumes. A powerful singer and talented dancer, and as Velma, she demanded that all eyes be on her.

Will (Billy Flynn) oozed just the right amount of smarm and self importance for this role. I can see a prospective character actor in Will.

One section I was looking forward to was "They Both Reached For The Gun". this is not the easiest of songs to perform, and if you know the song, or have seen the song performed, you'll know why. Will and Yasmin absolutely smashed this piece, and I could not hide the smile on my face at the end of this song.

Alex (Amos Hart) got the audience on his side as the doormat that is Amos Hart. Again another excellent character actor who also showed brilliant vocal talents in his featured song, "Mr Cellophane".

Ruby (Mama Morton) showed she was the boss. What vocals she gave in the awesome "When You're Good To Mama"

Charlie (Fred Casey) managed to inject a bit of comedy into this role with just a raise of his eyebrows and a wink, extracting laughs from the audience.

The ensemble had obviously worked hard, and looking at them you can see the enjoyment they gleaned from what they were doing, and that made us enjoy their enjoyment. Now with there being so many in the ensemble, and great to see some lads in there with as much enthusiasm as the girls.

Every year, when I attend Act One's productions, I always seem to be drawn to one particular actor or dancer or singer in the ensemble. One that you seem to notice just a little more than the others,and on Friday night there was a young man whose precise armography and his choreographic skills really caught my eye. Mixed with such enthusiasm for what he was doing, Kyle, I feel has a great future on the stage.

This is by no means any sign of disrespect to any other ensemble member because I could see the immense amount of work every single performer had invested in their parts, and they were amazing to watch.

Produced and Directed by Adrian Dobson, he has delivered something very special with this show. I have had the pleasure to see several of Act One's productions and every show manages to raise that bar a little higher every time.

I've also had the pleasure of spotting the talents within these Iveshead theatre shows and have seen them blossom into local actors who have frequently taken their talents to a higher level. All this thanks to the dedication of people like Adrian.

Choreographed by Wendy Spencer, she has yet again brought out these young people's inner talents. The tap section was delightful and Velma and Roxie's finale ("Nowadays") was pure Hollywood.But Wendy did not do it alone as she was assisted by Helen and Danni Starkey and Shelley White.

The twelve piece orchestra sounded great headed by Carolyn Necklen, and loved hearing a banjo in there (Richard James). Bright, brassy and bouncy with plenty of razzle as well as dazzle.

With this being the High School Edition, I was not expecting to hear "Cell Block Tango", due to some of the more adult details within the lyrics, but fair play to everyone for delivering an amazing version of this and delivering it with a mature presentation. There are however some songs that do not appear in the movie soundtrack, which I had forgotten about, so there was a lot of music to get through which made the flow non stop.

Loved the costumes (Lorna North), especially Velma's and Roxie's.
Loved the Lighting Design (James White) and the Set Design.
The sound could have been a tad louder in parts for the mics but i still caught every word, so I ain't gonna moan about that.
Kevin Spencer must also get a mention for his stage management and keeping everything flowing and the pace up.
Many people will also know that i love accents, and I am so pleased to announce that every single actor kept that American accent constant throughout. i was well impressed.
This cast had me razzled dazzled by their talents, and it's as clear as cellophane that these stars will continue to shine bright in the coming years.

“Chicago” is at Iveshead Theatre in Iveshead School, Shepshed until Saturday 1 February.

See the full review here


Posted on 02/02/2020


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