William Shakespeare’s famous tragedy, Macbeth, is presented with a contrasting comical approach by Tap the Table productions at the Blue Orange Theatre. For Tap the Table’s fourth production, the audience is transported to rural Scotland where a minimal cast attempt to present all 42 characters through fast-paced costume changes and multi-rolling in an updated plot line for modern audiences. In this new adaptation, the audience truly are presented with “one of the Bard’s most well known plays as something completely different.”
Overall the company presented a nice twist on this classic tragedy and the plot changes made proved the company's astute awareness of Shakespeare’s excessive use of irony and foreshadowing within his plays and this enhanced the comedy well. Ashlee Sopher undoubtedly brought something comically new to the role of Macbeth and presented an innovative interpretation on the Bard’s classic villain hero. At times the production felt quite basic, with a lack of set, technical elements and unsure comedy - some bizarre moments occurred in Act One where it felt like the actors were pushing for laughs and continuing the comedy further than intended.
Contrasting the initial comedy, Act Two explored a lesser-known theme within Macbeth: depression and mental illness. Cleverly punned into the title 'Macbeth Gone Mental,’ the theme of mental illness became the core of the narrative in Act Two. This was explored through the use of soliloquy moments where the audience were hit with some strong anecdotal monologues, detailing experiences of depression and mental illness in modern society. Therese Robinson excelled in these moments and nicely linked into her role as Lady Macbeth in the following scenes. The exploration of Lady Macbeth's mental health was fascinating as a concept, but the execution was at times confusing and lacked consistency. It felt very much that the mental illness aspects were compartmentalised into Act Two, but not properly explored in Act One. Nevertheless, this was a great concept and worked well in following scenes where Macbeth’s ignorance to his wife’s illness reflects our 21st Century society’s ignorance to depression.
To overcome the limited cast, it became apparent that the production would rely heavily on tech and set. The fast-paced costume changes were mostly completed by another two in the cast (Wayne Ingram and Thomas Liversidge) and although the costume changes helped the narrative of characters well, with a lack of set elements and limited tech it was still, at times, rather hard to follow the setting. As someone who knows Macbeth very well, even I was left confused as to where we were for certain moments. There's scope for more to be done with set and tech to enhance the strong concepts behind this show.
Despite this, Tap the Table presented an interesting concept that brought a new light to Shakespeare’s classic tragedy in celebration of his 400th Anniversary year. Supported by the University of Northampton, there are plans for Tap the Table to continue the tour of Macbeth Gone Mental across the UK so keep up to date for future news at tapthetable.com.
I have often heard it said that Little Shop Of Horrors is not a show for youth groups…”the music is too demanding”, “it’s too gruesome for children”; they said. A show celebrating murder and a man-eating plant is surely not an appropriate topic for a youth production? Right? Absolutely not! I have often heard it said but never agreed, and thankfully the KODYS production tonight backs me up completely! Not only did the youth company onstage deliver a slick, convincing and highly-skilled performance this evening, they had their mixed age audience thoroughly engrossed from start to finish. From the oldest adult to the very youngest toddler, the whole audience was enthralled and even a severed head getting a lot more stage time than intended could not make it too gruesome for the young audience members!
It is true that this is a very demanding show musically. The close harmonies mixed with tricky lyrics and relentless rhythms make it a challenge for even the most experienced of performers. The KODYS cast took it all in their stride however and under the direction of Musical Director Russell Painter delivered some very impressive vocal performances throughout.
Leading the singing from the opening scene Olivia Darks, Lily Orchard, Jessica Richards, Hannah Perry and Imogen Roff made a great impact as the group of five glamourous street urchins. The group had a great chemistry between them, although they can afford to smile and let themselves enjoy it a little more! Excellent solo performances later in the show from Hannah and Jessica too.
Josh Haywood was a suitably nerdy but gentle Seymour who was well-matched with Jessica Brett’s confident Audrey. The pair gave very strong individual performances and worked well together, particularly in the difficult duets in Act 2.
They were well-supported by Ella Hanks – a wonderfully expressive Mr Mushnik, and Louis Wharton as the sinister Orin Scrivello, while Julian Richards brought a suitably menacing presence to the Voice of the Plant.
It is always the sign of a good production when the list of names that deserve credit goes on and on. Even those taking on minor cameo roles attacked them with energy and excellent characterisation, with Vicky Licence, Faith Dickenson and Maisie Wilson shining in their solos in The Meek Shall Inherit. A special mention is also due to Evan Mancrief and Dan Richards for their puppetry skills.
This production of Little Shop of Horrors forms part of a programme celebrating 100 years of Kidderminster Operatic Society. The youth company may have a way to go before they celebrate their own centenary year, but if the performances onstage and the reactions of younger siblings in the audience tonight are anything to go by, I am certain that Kidderminster has a bank of fresh new talent they will be drawing on for many years to come.
Since the amateur rights for Sister Act have been released it has undoubtedly proved a popular choice amongst theatre groups across the country. Having seen numerous productions in the past year, it is clearly a show that pulls in the crowds and looks like a whole lot of fun to be a part of.
The energy never dropped in Guildhall and Three Spires joint production of this joyous show. It had the audience raising their voices as they whooped throughout and there was an exciting buzz in the air.
Overcoming some rather noisy microphone feedback interruptions, the entire cast weren’t fazed at any point and exuded a professionalism that should be highly commended. At the end of the day, these things happen and it was all handled very well.
Speaking of the cast, they were a sheer delight. The ensemble beamed, with beautiful harmonies and there was impressive work put into some of the arrangements that sounded stunning. Vocals on the whole were truly brilliant, with goose bump moments to boot.
Alanna Boden stepped into the shoes of Deloris Van Cartier for a second time, having previously performed at the Garrick last year. She thrives in the role, with her powerful voice, sass and pinpoint comic timing, it seems she was made to perform this part. A particular highlight was the spine-tingling moment she sang a captivating rendition of Sister Act.
Other commendable performances came from Michelle Checklin as the despairing Mother Superior, the ray of sunshine which was Lucy Rushton as Sister Mary Patrick, the piercing voice of Rachael McDonnell as Mary Robert and the thoroughly hilarious Karen Staton as Sister Mary Lazarus.
Although a female-led production, the gents certainly made their mark. Yet again, great vocals all round, Ian Meikle was excellent as the endearing police officer Eddie.
The 'crooks' of the piece stole many of the laughs throughout the night. Steve Bingham, Connor Clemens, Dan McGranaghan and Casey McKernan were suitably sleazy with Bingham's deep, rich vocals in When I Find My Baby and the latter three coming into their own in Lady in the Long Black Dress.
This show is billed as a 'divine musical comedy' and the company more than achieved this. From the show-stopping Raise Your Voice to the stripped back solo moments it was an enjoyable production the company should be utterly proud of.
Congratulations to the company and creative team, including Steve Bingham (Director), Richard Taggart (Musical Director) and Julie Bedlow-Howard (Choreographer) on a great show!
Be prepared for some fun as Calamity Jane by BMOS plays the New Alexandra Theatre. This classic Wild West musical was portrayed well by a likeable cast, playing until Saturday 18 June.
Faye O’Leary was wonderful as Calamity Jane: a great accent, powerful singing voice and devil-may-care attitude (watch out for those gunshots!) made her truly a delight to watch. She was paired well with Wild Bill Hickock (Alistair Joliffe), their banter and transitioning relationship engaging and believable.
Carys Wilson came across well as the charming and loyal Katie Brown and matched nicely with Lieutenant Danny Gilmartin (Mark Walsh); both enchanted in Love You Dearly with lovely harmonies and good chemistry.
As Francis Fryer, Jake Genders gave an utterly fantastic performance, with a pleasing rendition of Ev’ryone Complains About The Weather followed by the hysterically funny Hive Full of Honey which had the audience howling and crying with laughter. Henry Miller (John Spencer) and Rattlesnake (Pat Price) also came across well in their respective characters as the constant worrier (used to good comic effect) and lovable drunk.
The leads have a highly supportive chorus, whose enthusiasm shone through for the vast majority of the show – a couple of the dances missed a little energy, however this was more than made up for with rousing chorus numbers, highlights being Windy City and The Deadwood Stage.
For a story with a very quick second half with not much action, the cast dealt with this very well (along with a few minor delayed microphone and lighting issues), throwing themselves wholeheartedly into the second act, maintaining their energy and ensuring the story was not lost and the emotional journeys of the two couples fully explored and shared with the audience.
A very enjoyable production with catchy songs and great humour and romance, grab your tickets before they sell out – Whip Crack Away!
The Birthday Party is Harold Pinter’s first play and this production is the first major touring revival in the 21st Century, brought to the stage by London Classic Theatre.
We join Petey and Meg at breakfast in their shabby seaside home, their life is mundane and full of routine. This is all about to be shattered as they are expecting two surprise guests at their ‘boarding house’. Stanley, their lone current boarder, eventually comes down for his breakfast. He is irritable and confrontational, even more so when he learns of these two new additions to the house. When the two strangers arrive, Goldberg and McCann, the purpose of their visit is unclear. That is forgotten when Meg announces it is Stanley’s birthday and Goldberg proposes a birthday party. From here the story descends further into confusion, fabricated stories, alternative names and a dark humour.
There are strong performances throughout from the whole cast. Meg (Cheryl Kennedy) appears to be in a world of her own sometimes, her timid mannerisms adding to the effect. The mysterious duo of Goldberg (Jonathan Ashley) and McCann (Declan Rodgers) provide a contrast to the dull surroundings; Goldberg is smooth and charming with a dark edge while McCann appears on the edge of losing control. The partnership and chemistry of Ashley and Rodgers is shown perfectly in the well timed ‘questioning’ scene where the script is fast-paced and at times bordering on nonsense. Gareth Bennett-Ryan plays the ranging sides of Stanley very convincingly; his performance in the latter half of the play is disturbingly realistic.
Although there were many confused faces leaving the theatre, I am sure fans of Harold Pinter will approve of this production. The performances and production values are solid. For newcomers I feel it is a good introduction to his work. Coventry is the last stop on the tour, catch it while you can.
Rocky Horror is undoubtedly a cult classic. Attracting people from far and wide, it has one of the most exceptionally dedicated fan bases. This recent UK tour yet again proves that the show has lost none of its saucy appeal.
With audience participation in bucket-loads it made for a superb evening of entertainment. Norman Pace as Narrator drove the story along hilariously well, coping with the audience quips that flew at him left, right and centre. His excellent comebacks and the odd moment of corpsing added an extra spark to the evening.
The duo of Kristian Lavercombe as Riff Raff and Kay Murphy as Magenta was genius! They delivered stunning vocals, with Lavercombe stealing many a laugh for his uproarious characterisation. Sophie Linder-Lee's Columbia also garnered many a giggle through the night, Dominic Andersen made for a eye-pleasing Rocky and Paul Cattermole enjoyed funny cameos as Eddie and Dr Scott.
Richard Meek and Diana Vickers were perfect as Brad and Janet. Crisp vocals in abundance, they impressed as a fabulous duo. Particular highlights included Touch a Touch a Touch a Touch Me and Superheroes.
Liam Tamne made for a deliciously dirty Frank-N-Furter. With a confident swagger he thrilled as he performed Sweet Transvestite and delivered a beautiful rendition of I'm Going Home.
Half the fun of this production is the audience interaction and it was a superb evening to venture out and see this in full force. Rocky Horror truly is a show not to be missed. Ladies and Gentlemen, grab your corset and high heels, and prepare for an evening of thorough filth and hilarity at the Wolverhampton Grand this week.
Youth Theatre's are undoubtedly thriving with talent throughout the Midlands. What is even more impressive is that each group I see, they push themselves to another level and last night was no exception.
The Harlequins Drama Group received a rapturous reception as they performed the ultimate theatre classic, The Phantom of the Opera in the heart of Redditch last night.
The sheer professionalism of the show oozed from the beginning. It was a monumental achievement that the whole cast and crew can be whole-heartedly proud of. Overhearing comments such as 'just as good as the West End' and 'phenomenal' really puts into context how superb this production was.
No one faltered and it was perfectly cast. Taking on the title role with unrelenting power was Eric Lopez. Commanding the stage he delivered an utterly captivating performance. The control in his voice gave goosebumps and paired with Emily Bedford as Christine, they were certainly forces to be reckoned with.
Bedford was compelling throughout and left audiences spellbound with her beautiful voice. The equally talented Dylan Hartnell was brilliant as Raoul and the trio exuded experience beyond their years.
Other standout performances of the night came from Laura Nicholson as Carlotta, providing much of the comic relief (alongside the excellent duo of Josh Harper and Sam Whitehouse as Andre and Firmin) they all shone.
Every single person on that stage deserves a mention, but suffice to say that this truly was a magnificent show and it was a joy to be able to witness such a stunning production.
Creatives and backstage clearly worked exceedingly hard behind the scenes as well, with a rousing band under the direction of Tom Porter, delicate choreography from Cassie Rivett and outstanding direction from Jonathan Boxall-Southall, this will be a show I won't quickly forget.
Through the combination of music and dance, this ballet adaptation of the classic novel Jane Eyre immediately grabbed the attention of the audience.
During the prologue we meet Jane, surrounded by figures interpreting figments of her imagination. Presenting her fears, frustrations and insecurities, they trip her up, block her path and confuse her.
Costumes instantly set the scenes, helping the audience to follow each of the characters throughout and as the story begins we are shown the difficulties placed upon orphaned Jane.
Hannah Bateman (Jane Eyre) manages to powerfully express Jane’s emotions during her journey whilst successfully presenting Jane as the strong female lead that she is well known for. Whilst Mlindi Kulashe's (Rev. Brocklehurst) strong stage presence resonated through his performance.
The story evolved seamlessly through all the scenes with imaginative use of the stage, backgrounds and props. Some scenes were particularly striking artistically, especially the creative use of silhouettes. Other instances of this included the composition of a number of chairs and candles which were used to set the scene of Jane’s time at Lowood Institution. The penultimate dramatic action of fire was visually powerful, with striking dancing.
Aesthetically pleasing throughout, the use of both foreground and background action allowed for a fully immersive experience. The dancing was impeccable and complemented the story well; it made this dramatic performance effortless to watch.
Characters were portrayed well, making it easy to follow and it was clear how much time and effort had been spent on this production. With a lengthy applause, I can confidently say that it was very well received.
So whether you’re an avid ballet fan or considering seeing your first one, this is one to watch.
Fresh from its performances at the Brighton Fringe Festival and prior to its appearance at the Edinburgh Fringe this August, Love Hard present their newest play The House On The Hill at the Old Joint Stock, Birmingham for a one-off preview performance. For just an hour, the audience is transported on the journey of an American family who move to rural Scotland to live on the ominous ‘House on the Hill’. What ensues is simply genius and ends with a rather unexpected twist… followed by yet another macabre gag.
Firstly, the two actors (Tyler Ross and Jacob Lovick) must be applauded on their ability to not only present over 30 characters between them but also for their quick-witted improvisation skills. These moments became rather key to the plot and although corpsing was inevitably expected, it did somewhat add to the intimacy of the performance and made it specific to that audience – one particular moment involved a gag where Jacob spontaneously pulled out a mango which caught his co-actor by surprise and caused a few moments of respite away from the plot before moving back to the fast-paced tale.
Juxtaposition was also key to the comedy of the play with moments of utter hilarity contrasted with some particularly fear inducing ‘walkie-talkie’ moments. There was a moment where all the lights went down as the priest performed a religious act on the house and it was so cleverly put together with just the two actors that it felt as if there were lots more people in the room and really was frightening.
The technical elements of the play were simple and consisted of lots of sound effects, which played in turn with the comedy to support the 2 actors who held the show. Few lighting cues were used but were fairly effective in shifting the scenes from day to night and to, at times, add intensity to the play. The tech was completed by a line of hanging carnival bulbs above the stage to set the scene of the Scottish pier and I suppose one thing that would have been nice to see in addition, would have been an integrated set and quick costume changes. This is something that similar small cast, improvised productions, such as the 39 Steps, does particularly well and increases the comedy of the piece hugely. However for such a small space, the actors substituted the lack of set well with their clear characterization and use of accents to move us through the story.
Thank you LoveHard for such an enjoyable evening of comedy and sadistical frights. If you didn’t catch it in Birmingham, then be sure to see LoveHard: The House on the Hill at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 4-20 August.
Beyond Caring runs until 11 June at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre; it promised dark undertones from the outset and certainly delivered.
Being led to the stage itself rather than the usual plush seating was refreshing, and coupled with being directed through the 'staff' doors to get to our seats it allowed us to immediately immerse ourselves in the background of the story of the cleaners.
From what initially appeared a seemingly mundane and innocent set-up of the cleaners carrying out their daily duties quickly descended into a horrifying behind-the-scenes view of others' struggles, concealed behind their everyday façade. The transition from suitably awkward conversations with long silences and trivial remarks to the very emotional journey and finale was expertly carried out by the talented cast, who collaborated very well together to create utterly believable characters.
Each had strongly defined personalities to live up to, and all did consistently well: Ian (Luke Clarke), bossy, arrogant, self-important; Susan (Kristin Hutchinson) timid and submissive, swiftly turning to panicked desperation; Grace (Janet Etuk) eager and positive to begin with and descending to the crumbling and fragile husk of herself we see in the finale.
James Doherty as Phil was cheerfully quiet and docile, blossoming beautifully into the caring father figure in his later interactions with Grace, a stark contrast with the abrupt change in his persona during his 'brief encounter' with Becky, played by Victoria Moseley; loud, volatile and gloriously Liverpudlian.
Lighting and sound were used to great effect to enhance the unnerving uneasiness: single strip lights flickering, bold blackouts, the almost constant background hum of bright strip lighting, with the highlight being in the end sequence, the lights gradually dimming during an intense repeated sequence of clanging buckets, sloshing water and manic scrubbing, expertly creating a sense of being enclosed and overwhelmed with pressure. The realism was further extended with a commendable use of props; the only slight criticism would be the layout of seating resulted in some moments of action being missed and some audibility problems.
Despite this, Beyond Caring is thoroughly intriguing to watch, and to reflect on afterwards and certainly warranted the completely full audience it had. Alexander Zeldin, the cast and crew should all pride themselves on devising and successfully performing such a unique, yet relatable story.
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