Macbeth is a well known play and this production adds an innovative twist that makes it different to any previous version you may have seen.
The use of choreography throughout the play adds another dimension to the action. It is used to make the three witches more sinister and other worldly, with the angles and shapes created looking unnatural. The movement is not confined to these three characters, it is sprinkled throughout the performance and adds a sense of drama and tension. The effects created are memorable
Macbeth is a dark tale and this production reinforces that. The almost black set goes back at an acute angle giving a heightened perspective and a feeling of enclosure. Dressing the men as modern day soldiers dealing with the aftermath of a battle and the method of the murders throughout the play brings a touch of gritty realism to the proceedings. Added to all of this is the stark lighting and huge, eerie shadows created on the walls of the set.
The strong staging is reflected in the performances of the cast. John Heffernan’s Macbeth shows the transformation from loyal soldier to paranoid and maniacal king with conviction. His Lady Macbeth (Anna Maxwell Martin) is equally powerful, her madness scene was beautifully portrayed. All of the cast played their part, each drawing the audience into the story with performances that thrilled and chilled.
Although the movement and style of the production may not sit well with Shakespearian purists, I found it an interesting and intriguing depiction of the story. The effects and images created adding spectacle to the drama of the piece.
Macbeth runs at The REP until 30 January.
Opportunities to see controversial plays such as this are rare. Uncommercial and testing to audiences they are hardly seen on the regular theatre circuit and confined to easy-to-miss short runs in fringe theatres. A pity indeed, given that they very often explore deep issues and tackle sensitive topics that we are, most of us, otherwise protected from resulting in a unique theatrical experience for both audiences and actors alike.
Anthony Neilson’s The Wonderful World of Dissocia fits the bill completely. The play explores the emotional and psychological impact of suffering from a dissociative disorder, through the eyes of Lisa; taking us first through her imaginary world and then to the reality of her situation in a closely monitored hospital ward. Think of journey stories such as the Wizard of Oz and Alice In Wonderland combined with sex, violence and hallucinations and you are on the right lines. The script, although a little clumsy and unpolished in places, is at once funny, disturbing and relentlessly brutal, and in order to enable plays like this to engage with an audience there has to be a similar mix of vision, nerve and sensitivity in the way they are handled. Director Will Jackson and his team have fully achieved this in this production at University of Birmingham Guild of Students.
Taking on the demanding role of Lisa, Jess Watts never leaves the stage and is a sheer joy to watch. Her honest performance and natural delivery draw the audience in to her situation entirely. The rest of the cast take on numerous roles between them, switching effortlessly between accents and characters as they become the inhabitants of Dissocia. While some characters stand out more than others, each of the 8 strong cast have a particular moment to shine: Becky Hansell gives a hilarious performance as Britney and Matt Johnson both shocks and delights as Goat, while Satya Baskaran and Clare Horrigan bring a touching realism to their roles of Vince and Dot. Impressing throughout Zoe Head is a star in the making, standing out in the company with her clear talent for comedy.
Plays like this require risk-taking and commitment to the consequences. Choosing to stage them needs an all-or-nothing approach! In this instance, credit must be given to all the stage management team (well-deserving of their own bow at the curtain call) for coping with the demands of over 100 props, 50 costumes and having to clear up a stage at the interval of most of these props combined with copious amounts of silly string, confetti and tomato ketchup.
The production would not have succeeded without the teamwork that was evident across both cast and crew, all of whom should be very proud of what they have achieved.
The Old Joint Stock Theatre's cosy and intimate space has yet again provided the perfect setting for their latest venture, tick, tick...BOOM. Performed in memory of Jonathan Larson, 20 years since his passing, the group of professional actors only entered into rehearsals at the beginning of the week. If this is what they can achieve in one week, I can only wonder what they could produce in a month. The delivery was on point, with all three actors an absolute delight to watch.
The beauty of this theatre space means you are enthralled from the beginning and feel thoroughly part of the action. Joshua Dowen was charming and endearing as Jon, the aspiring composer, desperate for his big break. As he is fast approaching the age of 30, he hopes that his latest creation 'Superbia' will earn him a slot on Broadway. Dowen's superb voice coupled with his effortless performance shone, particularly in the emotion-fuelled number Why.
Jon's girlfriend Susan and best friend Michael were played exceptionally well by Jessica Singer and Rhys Owen. Both Singer and Owen took on a number of additional roles throughout, from Jon's Mum & Dad, to his agent who hasn't called for 6 months, each were hilariously executed. Owen was superb, stealing many a laugh from the audience and utterly compelling throughout and Singer's charismatic performance, plus her excellent voice made for a truly memorable show.
As a trio they were formidable, with crisp vocal harmonies that were a joy to the ears. The comical duets Therapy and No More were particular highlights and juxtaposed to the raw, emotional numbers See Her Smile and Come To Your Senses.
Under the direction of Adam Lacey and musical direction of Jack Hopkins, in just a week they have created a marvellous piece of theatre that is both touching, heart-warming and hopeful. A brilliant show to commemorate Jonathan Larson's life and a credit to the Old Joint Stock Theatre.
tick, tick...BOOM runs at the Old Joint Stock Theatre until 30 January.
The story may now be nearly 40 years old but nothing about The Snowman, including The REP's delightful stage adaptation, feels tired.
It's a tale of friendship, fun and ultimately loss, but above all the innocence and adventure of childhood. And if anything can capture the imagination of young children and melt even the coldest of hearts it's this. Now itself more than 20 years old, it's no wonder the crowds flock back to watch the magic unfold every year.
The show stays true to the original story while introducing some delightful new elements; most notably a series of well-placed dance routines which were performed beautifully throughout.
True to the animation the most you'll hear aside from the music is a 'ho ho ho' from Santa. In such shows the acting skill lies in interpreting the story without over-playing it and Oscar Couchman, as the young boy, managed this perfectly, producing a captivating performance. His relationship with the snowman was a joy to watch. A series of familiar and colourful characters contrast beautifully with the set's snowy background as the action moves with pace and builds to a wonderful crescendo at the close of act one with an enchanting rendition of Walking in the Air filling the theatre as the young boy and the snowman fly off into the distance.
The flying was well-executed and visually effective and the opening night was going swimmingly until a major technical error right near the end just as the boy and the snowman were taking off on their final journey.
This unfortunately led to a stoppage of around ten minutes and because it happened so close to the end it really halted the momentum built up from a series of delightful dance routines in the second act with the result that the emotional impact of the final scene was lost to those who hadn't already left.
Alas, in theatre these things happen and huge praise must go to the cast, particularly Oscar, for returning to the stage and completing the final iconic scene and then an energetic dance climax as if nothing had happened. They and the orchestra were rightly rewarded with rapturous applause. Technical glitch aside this really is a magical show.
Above all it's a stark reminder for both young and old that when you dare to put down your iPad or TV remote there's nothing quite like good old-fashioned family entertainment like this. There's no complicated story or plot twists to follow, just leave your troubles at the door, sit back and let this enchanting adaptation of one of the most magical stories ever told melt your heart.
The Snowman plays at The REP until 24 January.
Bugsy Malone is a cult classic and a favourite amongst youth theatre groups with its iconic child-led cast.
The Mellow Dramatics Youth delivered a performance of conviction as the audience is transported to 1920s New York.
Opening night nerves were quickly dissipated as opening number Bugsy Malone and ensemble piece Fat Sam's Grand Slam, shone with delightful vocal harmonies and an abundance of energy.
Dan Robb was thoroughly engaging as Fat Sam, incorporating some excellent slapstick moments into his performance. His gang of dopey wingmen were led well by Knuckles (played by Rhys Jones). Jones's comedic performance garnered many a laugh from the audience.
There were strong performances from the leading ladies, Blousey and Tallulah, played by Hannah Smith and Olivia Matlock respectively. Smith and Matlock's brilliant voices were showcased in My Name Is Tallulah and Ordinary Fool.
Calum Launchbury's Dandy Dan was suitably suave and Owen Wardle delivered an accomplished performance as the title character Bugsy Malone.
Special mention also to the harmonious Bugsy Malone singers Daisy Parker, Charlotte Coombes, Lucy Boyle, Ania Rakic, Jenny Potts and Tiffany Phillips, along with Fizzy endearingly played by Joe Beckwith.
Under the direction of Andrew Warner and Musical Direction of Sue Arthur, Mellow Dramatics Youth is brimming with talent.
Bugsy Malone runs at Brewhouse Arts Centre until 16 January.
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