The audience at The Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, were treated to a uniquely unusual evening out last night as Oddsocks presented the timeless Shakespeare classic 'The Tempest'.
Those of us who were familiar with the musical sci-fi take on the play 'Return To The Forbidden Planet' were not too surprised to see the cast dressed as members of the Star Ship Enterprise, but it is fair to say that Oddsocks definitely put their own stamp on what is reputed to be The Bard's last play. The music was there, as was the sci-fi, but it was most definitely an inceptive version which still used the original Shakespearean text whilst having all the other elements too.
It was a little startling to have settled into one's seat expecting the opening lines of this well known play, only to be greeted with the cast performing the musical classic 'The Final Countdown'! It certainly made the audience sit up, and reiterated the fact that this was indeed going to be an original interpretation.
Just six cast members played all the characters and in the main this worked in terms of the speed with which they swapped characters and costumes. The futuristic set, which remained static throughout, aided this process, and was designed most cleverly to allow the cast (particularly Ariel) to move up and down, in and out, and to perform the music on stage.
The play is set on a remote island, which is inhabited not only by the Duke of Milan, also the sorcerer Prospero, and his daughter Miranda, who landed there accidentally after being exiled, but also by some other interesting characters in the form of Caliban, a half human, half monster character, a drunken butler Stephano and a court jester Trinuclo. The Queen of Naples, Alonsa, her son Ferdinand, her brother Sebastian and Prospero's brother Antonio, who seized his Dukedom, are shipwrecked on the same island. They are separated on purpose by the faithful spirit Ariel,who serves Prospero, and Alonsa believes her son is dead. He in turn meets Miranda and they fall in love.
The play dips in and out of all the usual Shakespearean plot and sub plot lines of love, betrayal, people in disguise, master and servant relationships, and good triumphing over evil in the end.
Andy Barrow was a convincing Prospero (and also Scottie!) and had the air of authority required for a character who has been cast out by his villainous brother, lands on a planet named Babel and then is restored to his throne of Milan at the end of the play. This evil brother, Antonio, was played by Gavin Harrison and he conveyed the necessary level of nastiness required; his portrayal had an air of the Alan Rickman role as The Sheriff of Nottingham. Alice Merivale was an endearing Miranda and also doubled as Ariel with Amy Roberts and Matt Penson, which allowed for clever costume changes and movement around the set for this faithful and devoted spirit. Miranda's love interest, Ferdinand, was played by Matt Penson, and he fulfilled the role beautifully, with a nice balance of self assurance and humble attentive lover. Dominic Dee Burch shone as the cunning Caliban and also doubled up as Sebastian, Queen Alonsa of Naples' scheming brother, and Gavin Harrison doubled up as Trinculo, who was portrayed as a Droid reminiscent of CP30 from Star Wars. He had mastered the mannerisms of this latter character perfectly, which added some pleasant humour to this part of the play. Amy Roberts' interpretation of Queen Alonsa of Naples was original and delivered with conviction, and she also doubled up as Stephanie (who was portrayed as a Geordie 'lush') and also as Ariel.
The small setting made for an intimate evening and the cast interacted constantly with the audience during the performance. There was a substantial amount of ad-libbing away from the Shakespearean text and many musical numbers (including 'I Get Knocked Down' and 'Rule The World') and sometimes these two elements detracted from the text and interrupted the flow of the story lines and the production in general. They did, on occasion, seem to bring a halt to the plot line, and maybe for the casual observer, or for someone unfamiliar with the story of The Tempest, this could make following the story difficult. Due to the size of the space, the continual breaking away from the text to ad-lib in contemporary language, the audience participation and the musical numbers made for a slightly overwhelming experience which sat a little oddly at times with Shakespeare.
However nobody could deny the casts' energy and enthusiasm and the production was received with eagerness by the majority of the audience.
The Tempest runs from Tuesday 19th – Thursday 21st June 2018 at The Belgrade Theatre, Coventry.
Bearing in mind that Compton Mackenzie’s farcical and quintessentially Scottish novel Whisky Galore has been around since 1947, as well as the subsequent classic Ealing comedy film released a couple of years after (and a recent remake released a couple of years ago), there are still a lot of people who are not familiar with it – myself being one of them. But also before the show had started I could overhear people who knew the book and film yet weren’t sure how this story could be achieved on stage. Sadly this stage adaptation by Phillip Goulding does not quite make it as engaging for those new audiences as the script is incredibly wordy and it is extremely challenging to follow the plot, other than the fact that there’s a war on, and there’s a whisky shortage then suddenly…it’s (surprise, surprise) whisky galore.
I suppose this could also be due to the extra complication of setting the story as a play within a play performed by the all-female troupe - the Pallas Players. According to the programme, this troupe is inspired by the real-life Osiris Players who toured schools and civic halls from 1927 to 1963 – which possibly explains the minimal set design (by Patrick Connellan) of crates, red curtains and cardboard cut-outs to give that both old-fashioned am-dram and Brechtian style of production – much like when I saw the National’s recent Threepenny Opera by Brecht in that a lot has gone into this production to make it look like not a lot has.
But by removing the high-tech aspects of modern theatre it enhances the performances and efforts of the ladies on stage, using comic timing, physical comedy and also physical theatre with a small amount of props to creatively display different locations. And like the recent smash hit The Play That Goes Wrong, lots of the comedy comes from breaking the fourth wall and reacting to the occasional mishaps. In fact I would say this approach is like a Goes Wrong play, but going right. It is a slightly mind-boggling concept but it is pulled off well with the direction by Kevin Shaw and the seven fantastic actresses; Sally Armstrong, Lila Clements, Isabel Ford, Christine Mackie, Alicia McKenzie, Joey Parsad and Shuna Snow who end up playing a total of 26 characters (and at some points a few actresses playing just the one character). Both individually and all together they absolutely light up the stage with their funny performances.
So with all that said, this production deserves full marks for finding a fresh new way of interpreting a classic story, however as it was a comedy I was hoping to laugh more than I did. And perhaps the performers were hoping to hear more laughs from the audience too (thus prompting a funny line about a joke misfire in one scene). As mentioned it really is due to the script which lets the performance down, however the Pallas Players look like they are having an incredible amount of fun on stage and their take on this production adds cheekiness and joy that fits brilliantly with these Scottish characters and a nostalgic wartime feel to the story.
Whisky Galore runs until Saturday 23rd June at the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry.
Although this play made its premiere only at the start of last year, it feels like the subject matter of Murder, Margaret and Me and Phillip Meeks' writing sits somewhere in the middle of being a gripping modern play or an established classic. It may tilt towards the latter as we witness the rocky relationship between the iconic film star Margaret Rutherford and iconic author Agatha Christie at the time when Rutherford was cast as Miss Marple, turning Christie's stories into, as she anxiously describes early on, a "brand". Or at least the relationship might have been rocky, it is difficult to tell as the supporting character of "The Spinster" informs us that;
“The only real truth in what you are about to see is that Miss Margaret Rutherford didn’t want anyone to know the truth.”
At this point, we know we are in for a story that is full of uncertainty concerning these two well-known figures in literature and cinema, as their secrets boil beneath the surfaces. But it is also quite funny and frankly a light-hearted evening thanks to both Meeks' writing and director Christine Bland's intimate and honest production, performed terrifically by three ladies.
I admit I did go into this quite blind, as I don't really know any of Christie's work nor have seen Margaret Rutherford on screen. So I cannot make any comments on accuracy, but Ros Davies' portrayal of Rutherford is simply joyous to watch. She brings natural warmth to the role, with charming mannerisms, a sense of humour and Received Pronunciation that makes her believable as this well-known figure. But at times it is a heart-breaking performance as we learn the truth about Rutherford's back story. Davies brings a unique brilliant performance which perfectly gels with this British black comedy genre.
Mary Ruane also brings warmth to her portrayal of Agatha Christie, as her relationship with Rutheford begins as slightly bitter, only for her to turn into her friend and saviour. She naturally adopts a loving and caring persona with a hint of dark humour as she seems slightly obsessed over the fate of her characters in her famous stories and their methods of murder.
Playing various other characters but mostly as "The Spinster", Louise Price guides us through the story between these two iconic characters and dives every now and then into the scenes with them. She probably has the most stage time of the three, knitting away in a subtle but omnipresent manner.
This play however isn't without its flaws. At times I felt myself drifting off and missing parts as it does feel quite long, especially as there are only three characters in it – ideally it could’ve been a lot shorter as a one act play, opposed to two. But nonetheless this is a charming production by the company at the Hall Green Little Theatre whose efforts are well paid off throughout this marvellous performance. Whether you are a Christie and Rutherford fan or not, this play is a lovely observation of the protection of art becoming the protection of friendship with hints of nostalgia and a good few laughs along the way.
Murder, Margaret and Me runs until Saturday 23rd June at the Hall Green Little Theatre.
Murder and murky family secrets are laid bare in an entertaining and well-constructed production of The Case of The Frightened Lady at the Belgrade Theatre.
When Inspector Tanner (Gray O'Brien) is called in to investigate a ruthless murder at Mark’s Priory, the grand ancestral home of the Lebanon family, he quickly discovers that nothing is quite as it seems.
Needless to say, the story falls firmly into the 'good old murder mystery' category, and while it demonstrates author Edgar Wallace's impressive thriller-writing pedigree, Agatha Christie this isn't.
Set in the 1930s, the action all takes place against the same backdrop - the courtyard of the stately home of the Lebanons. That helps it move swiftly and, aided by clever lighting, creates a strong sense of the passage of time, but it starts to feel a little dull on the eyes in the second act.
Nonetheless, Bill Kenwright's snappy production drives the story along at considerable place and the strong cast delivers a thoroughly enjoyable show which keeps the audience guessing until the very end.
Gray O'Brien excels as the stoic Tanner and Oliver Phelps adds a lighter note to proceedings as his assistant Totti.
Deborah Grant is a terrific Lady Lebanon; capturing her tortured character's all-consuming obsession with tradition and family lineage.
Meanwhile, Ben Nealon is delightfully daft and upper class as Lord Lebanon and Denis Lill brings a very humorous dose of pomposity and grandeur to the role of Dr Amersham.
There's some good supporting performances from the staff of the household too. Philip Lowrie gets it just right as the subservient Kelver, Rosie Thomson shines as Mrs Tilling and Glenn Carter and Callum Coates make a good double team as the omnipresent and ever-shady footmen, Gilder and Brook.
There may be no fireworks (just a few extremely loud gunshots and screams) but this still makes for thoroughly enjoyable theatre.
The Case of the Frightened Lady runs at Belgrade Theatre until Saturday 15 June.
Stoke Rep Players
Nell Gwynn is currently delighting audiences at the Stoke Rep and, if you happen to be after an utterly entertaining night out, then this is without doubt the place to be. This play, penned by British playwright Jessica Swale, who deservedly won the Best New Comedy Olivier Award in 2016, is a 5 star hit.
Director, David Bryan, has triumphed with a joyous production, staged with hilarity, cleverness and with a warmth that will capture and draw you in whether you are a theatre veteran or a newcomer. It is a fast-paced play about theatrics, a love affair, the relationship between stage and audience and in conclusion results in a hilarious and colourful celebration of historical theatre life.
Set in the 1600s, King Charles II (Tom Waldron), has decreed that women may appear on the English stage for the first time. Charles Hart (Leo Capernaros), a leading actor at the theatre, spots Nell’s (Shelley Rivers) potential as an actress. With guidance and lessons from the heart by Hart, Nell, a former prostitute from London’s Cheapside, is soon flaunting her charm, beauty and assets on the main stage. She catches the King’s eye and soon after an amorous adventure ensues between actress and monarch.
Shelley Rivers as Nell seizes the part with beauty, conviction and the right amount of mischievous charm, delivering bawdy one-liners and hilarious songs to perfection, playing out the more serious and emotional scenes with gripping confidence. Her beautiful singing voice is put to the test, sometimes in cappella, and she sails through without falter.
She is joined on stage by a truly brilliant, all singing all dancing cast that includes the glorious Tom Waldron as the King, John Wicks as the baffled playwright, Ian Birkin as the impassioned director, Caroline Wicks as Nell’s very funny and full-of-character dresser and Leo Capernaros as the dashing actor, Charles Hart.
With so much talent on stage I felt spoiled - but I have to confess I was absolutely glued to Philip Jackson playing Edward Kynaston, whose very stage presence was reminiscent of a younger Rowan Atkinson. I was delighted by his very funny rant ‘no woman can play a woman as well as I can play a woman' and his was a perfect casting as his comedy timing, expressions and unquestionably brilliant performance proved.
Superb portrayals by all; Georgina Goodchild (Rose Gwynn), Dawn Huxley (Old Ma Gwynn/Queen Catherine), Angela Dale (Lady Castlemaine/Louise de Keroualle), Peter Taylor (William/Ensemble), Steven K Beattie (Lord Arlington) and Joe Wood (Ned Spiggett). Dawn Huxley’s performance of Old Ma Gwynn was particularly notable, as was Steven K Beattie’s wonderful Lord Arlington, but with actors of such talent and a show of such high standard I could bullet point an endless list of favourite moments that would stretch from here to London – so it would be better to witness this for yourself.
With a gorgeous set of drapes, red and gold half-circle of arches and royal box of the King’s auditorium, this production is heavily and luxuriously costumed by the RSC and excellently wigged. The simple charm of two musicians (Richard Foxcroft and Jane Duff) playing varying sizes of acoustic recorders is surprisingly sufficient to support the whole show, even for the big song and dance numbers, yet it does so and it creates the perfect soundscape for the era.
With excellent tech by Malcolm Rushton and Mike Adams, engaging choreography by Julie Wood and competent musical direction by Lorraine Hunter, the Stoke Rep Players have a winning team who have pulled out all the stops to ensure this show is as uplifting as it is entertaining.
A great show results in a happy audience and this audience left with a happy smile on their faces celebrating an evening well spent. Stirling!
Runs to 16 June.
Queensbridge Musical Theatre Society are celebrating their 70th year this year, what better way to celebrate than with this uplifting musical.
Based on the film of the same name, Sister Act tells the story of Deloris, a wannabe star hoping her married boyfriend will help her to hit the big time. When she witnesses a murder all of this changes as she is sent to hide in a Convent by the police. How will this materialistic party girl fit into life with the straight-laced nuns?
Leonie Hamilton storms the stage as Deloris, taking her from brash and materialistic to sister and friend to the nuns. While Mother Superior (Gilly Harris) is straight laced and reluctant to the charms of Deloris, Sister Mary Patrick (Anna Beesley), Sister Mary Robert and Sister Mary Lazarus (Sharone Williams) come around to her unusual ways of being a nun. Anna Beesley is full of energy, springing around the stage with huge enthusiasm, you can’t help but smile. A rapping nun is a sight to behold and one that raises a deserved cheer for Sharone Williams. It’s a joy to watch Hattie Starks Sister Mary Robert transform from nervous nun to confident and defiant.
The many nuns on stage created beautiful harmonies and rocking numbers complete with some energetic choreography. Quite an achievement in nuns habits.
Although the show is known for the nuns, the men of the company are not to be forgotten. The characters are defined and perfected, not only in the dialogue but also in the songs. When I find my baby and Lady in the long black dress are both mobsters songs and will stay in the memory for all the right reasons.
The leading men all had solos songs that showcased their talents, from the sweet and innocent Eddie (Liam Ryder) to the menacing Curtis (Paul Stait).
The audience were on their feet at the end of the show clapping along with the Sisters. Sister Act may not be packed full of well known songs but you are certain to have a great night out and your spirits lifted.
It is 55 years since a fresh-faced, young Cliff Richard burst onto cinema screens driving a red London Bus across Europe in Summer Holiday. The film was packed with hit songs that have become favourites for any Cliff fan ever since. Adapted for the stage in the 1990s, the zany, light-hearted story of bus mechanics taking the ultimate driving holiday across the continent, picking up girls and stow-aways en route; has delighted audiences for over half a decade and its popularity showed little sign of slowing down for the most of the audience of the current UK Tour at the Alexandra Theatre Birmingham last night.
Boasting a lively score packed with hummable songs, it is easy to see why the show works. Hits such as Do You Wanna Dance?, Bachelor Boy, Living Doll and (of course) Summer Holiday follow one after another and you certainly walk away from the theatre with a tune or two rolling around your head. Musically-speaking, the show is more than ‘just a jukebox musical’ and should be the perfect choice for a light summer’s evening entertainment.
It is unfortunate then that this particular production of the show falls short. Amongst the many audience members dancing and humming along, the number of those not returning to their seats in the second half was very noticeable. For while the young cast were evidently giving everything to the energetic routines, beneath the smiley surface there was little substance to the production values and everything hinted more towards a production company trying to turn a profit on a shoestring budget by filling otherwise ‘dark’ summer venues, rather than a team financially invested in producing a high-quality product. Admittedly, the big red bus looks impressive as it rotates around the stage; though it does limit the staging to a lot of people looking out of windows, and it appears that the budget has been focused here and on star casting, rather than on the finer details of sourcing appropriate props and costumes for the period.
In the driving seat as bus mechanic Don , TV favourite Ray Quinn is the perfec t look-alike and sound-alike for the ‘Cliff Richard’ role. His voice is perfectly-suited to bring out the best in the score and his numbers are certainly highlights of the evening. However when the music stops and the story unfolds, any credibility is lost under a forced posh accent that would seem better placed in a Jeeves & Wooster play than in a mechanic’s garage. Why he could not retain his own Liverpudlian accent – and with it his signature cheekiness which this role would benefit from – is beyond me.
Sadly, it is the lack of natural acting ability across the company that mars this production. Even the worst scripts can be made believable in the right hands, but here is a relatively good script that is poorly delivered and with characterisation that just seems forced. There are points where the wooden delivery of punch lines and some terrible European accents verging towards offensive stereotyping make for some very uncomfortable viewing.
It is obvious that Director/Choreographer Racky Plews’ skill lies more in the dance arena. The show is over-flowing with lively routines and it is here that the company shine. I suspect that it is these routines, coupled with the well-known score which will keep this production trundling along between venues this summer, however if you are looking for something that takes you on more of an artistic journey then this is perhaps not the route for you.
What makes a great song? The melody? The lyric? The performance? Almost certainly a combination of all three. But I would argue that a great song is not defined by one performance, but allows itself to be reinterpreted in different styles that can speak to different audiences.
Early in Douglas McGrath’s Beautiful- The Carole King Musical we see King audition her songs “Some Kind of Wonderful” and “Will you love me tomorrow?” for impresario Donnie Kirshner. They are presented in King’s typical singer-songwriter style, but Kirshner knows instinctively who to offer the songs to, and we then see pitch-perfect performances of the songs by The Shirelles and The Drifters. These early ‘60s vocal groups give King and her writing partner and husband Gerry Goffin their first hits, and are typical of the popular music filling the Billboard Hot 100 at the time. But both songs still work brilliantly in King’s own pared-back performances. And that is central to the success of this piece of theatre, which is so much more than “another Jukebox musical”. The songs, mostly by King and Goffin and their friends Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil are so well crafted that that they have become popular standards, and can speak to each new generation of performers and audiences.
And the song list in the show is pack full of hits, including “You’ve got a friend”, “Take Good Care of my Baby”, “Pleasant Valley Sunday” and “We gotta get outta this place” to name just a few.
The performances in this touring production are absolutely first rate. Leading the cast as King is Bronté Barbé who is tasked with portraying the singer from a fledgling 16 year old, dipping her toe tentatively in the creative waters, to the mature 29 year old woman stepping confidently onto the stage at Carnegie Hall. Barbé embodies the spirit of King fully, showing us the full range of emotions that she poured into her songs. Her voice echoes King’s slightly thin, natural, untrained sound for much of the show, but she allows us to hear the full range of her power in both “One Fine Day” and especially “(You make me feel like) a Natural Woman”.
The supporting cast is equally fine, led by Grant McConvey (at this performance) as her confused, womanizing-but-ultimately-decent husband Goffin, the spirited Amy Ellen Richardson (Weil) and Matthew Gonsalves as the hypochondriac Mann. All three act and sing up a storm, and there is real friendship and chemistry onstage between both couples.
The supporting cast work tirelessly recreating performances ranging from The Drifter and The Righteous Brothers to The Shirelles and Little Eva that all perfectly capture the sound and mood of the passing years. The design is deceptively simple, but wonderfully effective; Derek McLane’s set moving us effortlessly from small offices and clubs to TV studios and Carnegie Hall, supported by Alejo Vietti’s evocative costumes and Peter Kaczorowski’s lighting. The music is excellently played by MD Patrick Hurley and his band. And how great to see that, while not playing live, all the actors were confident when miming their instruments (indeed I suspect several of them are excellent musicians in their own right). It’s a small point, but it can be really distracting in a show with so much onstage miming when the actors don’t know what they are doing.
If you want to catch the tour of Beautiful – The Carole King Musical you will have to be quick. It is in Wolverhampton until Saturday 16 June, then it moves to the Winter Gardens, Blackpool (19-23 June) where the tour ends.
Carousel is a truly iconic musical, one which simultaneously broke the established rules of the form, and raised the bar for all that followed. Rodgers and Hammerstein had already revolutionized musical theatre in 1943 with their first collaboration Oklahoma, giving us an opening scene of a lady on stage churning butter, being serenaded by an offstage voice, rather than the traditional chorus line. In 1945 they followed that up with a much darker story of Billy Bigelow, a carnival barker who at once wants to do the right thing by his young wife Julie, but at the same time always falls short. He is shown to be an abusive husband (making this a challenging show to stage in the #metoo / post-Weinstein age), and ultimately loses his life in a bungled robbery, leaving his wife alone to bring up their daughter. Hardly the traditional fare for 1940’s audiences. Couple that with the vocal and dramatic demands of the show – the intricately written 9 minute bench scene (If I loved you), Billy’s 6 minute Soliloquy, the magisterial You’ll never walk alone – this is a daunting challenge for any amateur theatre company to take on.
So congratulations to Trinity Players for their stirring production that gained a very warm reception from the first night audience this evening. First plaudits to Daniel Holyhead who celebrated recently becoming a dad for the first time by stepping in at 3 weeks’ notice (due to illness) to learn the role of the rather prissy Enoch Snow. He copes very well with the often demanding range of the songs, and his onstage relationship with Jessamy Ashton’s sparky Carrie Pipperidge is remarkably natural, given the short amount of time they’ve had working together.
Olivia Geldard possesses a suitably warm, relaxed mezzo for the role of Nettie Fowler, and delivers the showstopper You’ll never walk alone with great poise. Indeed that whole scene is particularly well handled, being allowed to playout very slowly and naturally.
As the central couple Naomi Keeley (Julie) and Matthew Collins (Billy) are very well matched. The Bench Scene is delightfully played with charm and humour, and the darker elements of the story are not shied away from in any way. Collins is the show’s stand out performer, and really inhabits the role with a brooding physicality. It is true that he does not possess the traditional rich baritone you normally expect from a Billy, but he more than makes up for that with his honesty and intensity.
However they nearly have the show stolen from them in Act 2 by the very striking appearance of Colleen Curran. Only 16, she dances and acts the role of their daughter Louise with great passion and intensity. It is no easy feat for such a young performer to carry the weight of the Act 2 Ballet, but Curran does this with ease. She is certainly a performer to keep your eyes on.
The excellent ballet was devised by regular choreographer Leigh-Ann James, and the very well balanced orchestra (how nice to hear a full string section for once!) was conducted by MD Peter Bushby. The show was directed, in his first show in the role, by Andy Weeks. I trust it won’t be his last foray into directing.
Carousel is on a Lichfield Garrick until Saturday 9th June.
Horrible Histories - More Best of Barmy Britain. Birmingham Stage Company, Belgrade Theatre, Coventry.
Birmingham Stage Company have an unparalleled reputation for staging theatre for children and families, and in the course of the last 25 years have mounted productions based on the works of authors such as Roald Dahl, Michael Morpurgo and David Walliams. They have also produced a number of shows based on the popular children’s history series created by Terry Deary. It’s worth noting that these stage adaptations of Horrible Histories are different to the successful TV series; different sketches and songs, but no less irreverent and funny, and certainly no less poo jokes!
And the poo jokes were flying thick and fast at the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, as we were treated to a whistle stop tour through some of our country’s more bizarre moments in history. From Romans serving up fermented fish intestines as a delicacy to General Haig being quizzed by Alan Sugar about his “task” organizing the Battle of the Somme, all human life is here. And if this last sketch sounds a little insensitive, rest assured the subject is treated with delicacy as well as humour, as the writers here lampoon the idiocy of Haig’s decision, while not losing sight of the horror of the outcome.
This was the one delicate note in an otherwise lively and fun 70 minutes in the company of Romans, Vikings, Puritans, Victorians and Elizabeth I, all portrayed with wonderful agility and astonishing memory by Benedict Martin and Pip Chamberlin. Furnished with a wondrous array of coats, hats and props, they move easily between Music Hall, Pantomime and Rap, with a wide variety of stories and characters brought to life. I really don’t want to get into spoilers, but while the children will enjoy the range of songs, audience participation, and many many poo jokes, the older people in the audience (I hesitate to use the word Grownups as most of us were shouting louder than the kids!) were well catered for in sketches that borrowed from, not only The Apprentice, but also The Only Way is Essex and The Fast Show.
The junior reviewers, both history nerds and long-standing fans of the books and TV, both laughed, sang and had a great time. Maybe some audience participation right at the top of the show would have warmed the younger children up quicker – many seemed to be waiting for permission to make noise at the start. But a sing-a-long led by a Viking soon got everyone going, and 70 minutes later we really only had one question (even though Dickens wasn’t covered in this show): “Please, sir, can we have some more?”
More Best of Barmy Britain can be seen at the Belgrade Theatre until Saturday 2nd of June.
BSCs new HH show – Barmy Britain Part 4 – will preview in Telford 18-21 July before moving to the Apollo Theatre, London for the summer.
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