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Cabaret (UK Tour), New Wimbledon Theatre | Review

Cabaret (UK Tour), New Wimbledon Theatre | Review

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Cabaret (UK Tour)
New Wimbledon Theatre
Reviewed on Friday September 22nd 2017 by Olivia Mitchell

After Germany's defeat in World War 1, the treaty of Versaille was set out to totally humiliate the nation; inflation rocketed and the economy flew into a downward spiral. This was eventually stabilised but people had seen themselves and those around them lose everything so the idea of 'seizing the day' was adopted and Berlin became a heaving Bohemian world where you lived to enjoy the here and now. This is when we are thrown into the world of Cabaret. It's 1930 New Years Eve, a young American writer, Clifford Bradshaw has just arrived in Berlin and is ready to see what the city has to offer.

The show is a full on combination of things with dance, drink and drugs taking the lead as people relished in the decadent, censorship free lifestyle. The set by Katrina Lindsay manages to be bright and dark at the same time. There are moments of intense glitz and glam with flashing lights and moving sets but also moments of dim, dark spaces which imply what's to come as the golden age passes. The rise of fascism is extremely prevalent in Rufus Norris' production especially during the chilling final scene of act 1 when the Emcee turns into a puppet master, holding overgrown children at the end of strings as he sings the Aryan folk song Tomorrow Belongs To Me.

As the Emcee, Will Young is outstanding, suitably wacky but all-knowing at once. His comedic timing is wonderful as he soars through the notes with a sinister hint always shining through. Young is certainly the star of this show and it's clear why he was asked back to be part of the tour and his balloon clad rendition of Money was the stand out performance of the production for me. 

Louise Redknapp takes on the iconic role of Sally Bowles, the British showgirl who has lost her way. Unfortunately Redknapp's performance fell flat at times; instead of showing a crumbling, emotional girl she was decadent, bold and showed very minimal signs of her struggle. At times her voice was strong but fell flat on her big number, Maybe This Time. Sally Bowles was originally written to be a somewhat second rate performer which is why she has previously been cast as an actress who can sing and opposed to a singer who can act however, Louise kind of fell in between the two and I felt a little underwhelmed. 

Charles Hagerty is strong as Clifford, developing his various relationships well. His voice is incredibly strong and his performance of Why Should I Wake Up? is a stand out moment. A large part of the action has to do with Clifford's landlady Fräulein Schneider (Susan Penhaligon) and her relationship with the local Jewish fruit seller (Linal Schultz) as their normal lives begin to be put in jeopardy. The pair are great together and their affection for one another is very sweet to see.

This show is worth seeing for Young's performance and for the bold imaginative design and choreography but it needs more oomph overall.

Legally Blonde (UK Tour), Churchill Theatre | Review

Legally Blonde (UK Tour), Churchill Theatre | Review

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Legally Blonde (UK Tour)
Churchill Theatre
Reviewed on Thursday September 21st 2017 by Olivia Mitchell

Pink, energetic and a whole load of fun, the current tour of Legally Blonde is a joyous way to spend a carefree few hours at the theatre. It tells the story of Elle Woods, a sorority girl who hatches a plan to get into Harvard Law School to win back her ex-boyfriend Warner who would rather marry someone “serious”. Once there Elle realises she’s more than just the dumb blonde she’s been brought up to be and, joined by her Greek chorus and adorable dog Bruiser, she turns the world of law upside down.

Lucie Jones is a complete triumph as Elle. Having seen her in Les Mis, a solo concert and Rent, I was looking forward to seeing how she'd take on the role of Elle and she just does it wonderfully. Her comedic timing is completely perfect, bringing laughs in left, right and centre with her various one liners, squeals and movements. Lucie’s voice is as clear as a bell, her beautiful tone rings out on every word and she is just outstanding from start to end. 

Alongside Lucie is David Barrett as the hard-working, slightly dowdy, Emmett. They have a wonderful chemistry and bounce off each other to create a believable blooming relationship. David has a lovely voice and he perfectly balances his calm and collected self with Elle's hyperactivity. Liam Doyle and Laura Harrison take on the roles of Warner and Vivienne well, both with lovely voices and good characterisation to show their development throughout. The audience were drawn Rita Simmons as Paulette as she poured her heart out at her first meeting with Elle; she radiated warmth and nailed the comedic role although her singing could've been slightly more powerful at times.

The ensemble are great and full of energy, especially during Whipped into Shape and There! Right There! both of which were stand outs of the show with the UV skipping ropes in Whipped being particularly effective. I do feel that the Greek chorus could have been developed a little more with extra emphasis on the personality of each member, but their vocals were spot on  and I loved their costumes, especially their Heathers-esque court room attire.

The choreography worked well with the piece and was energetic and fun enough to keep the momentum up throughout. The movement in There! Right There! was especially enjoyable to watch and the build throughout the piece was fab. The cheer section in What You Want could definitely be developed more to actually include cheer moves and give it more power but it was by no means unenjoyable.

I have a few reservations with the costumes purely from a picky point of view, such as Vivienne's heels being too high to fit with the frumpy look she is supposed to have and Elle's final court room suit just not having enough oomph and again being a little old-fashioned. Some of the costumes could have been updated to make them look less dated but I did enjoy the various changes and the various shades of pink!

The megamix at the end was over the top and quite unnecessary as, in my opinion it somewhat cheapens the production but it did work well to get everyone clapping along and smiling their way out of the auditorium and I certainly left feeling  warm and joyful...
though I would've anyway without the mix!!

Overall this is a really enjoyable production. It's the perfect mix of lightheartedness and a little drama, it doesn't claim to be anything it's not and it's the ideal show for a girls night out. Charming and funny it reminds us that being yourself is the most important thing and will definitely leave you wanting to channel your inner Elle... I'm finding pink, sparkly clothes this minute!

35mm: A Musical Exhibition, The Other Palace Studio | Review

35mm: A Musical Exhibition, The Other Palace Studio | Review

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35mm: A Musical Exhibition
The Other Palace Studio
Reviewed on Wednesday September 20th 2017 by Olivia Mitchell

Honestly, when I stepped foot into The Other Palace Studio I had no idea what I was going to see except that it involved photos and singing. I was correct but it was actually so much more than that. 35mm is, as the title says, a musical exhibition and whilst this probably conjures up the idea of wandering around listening to music its actually a show like any other with an audience and a stage. The difference though is that each song is based on a photograph and instead of following one story, we follows lots of individual ones in each song.

I assumed that each photo and song would follow on from one another but they are actually not linked, instead they each tell a personal tale or capture a fragment of time told through music. However, as the show progresses there are some connections as well as juxtapositions, with each song blending into one another to create the idea that we are all the same in our overall experiences. Whilst the photos may look different to our own and even abstract in some cases, the stories behind them are often very similar to each of us and the magic of music and photography is that they can capture that and hold it as a memory. These memories allow us to reminisce but also grow.

The music itself, written by Ryan Scott Oliver is an amalgamation of styles which are performed wonderfully by the outstanding cast made up of Maisey Bawden, Gregor Duncan, George Maguire, Christina Modestou and Samuel Thomas.  Each member gets a chance to shine and take centre stage with their own story and the varying emotions from joy to anger to hatred are shown wonderfully by the small but extremely powerful cast.

I particularly enjoyed 'Leave Luanne' and 'The Ballad of Sara Berry' both of which were dramatic and emotive and worked wonderfully with the quick, sharp movements of the cast. 'Stop Time' opened the show in an interesting way, with sounds of swaying and movement as if we were travelling. To me it came across as a very unique form of music with the use of unusual sounds creating an impressionistic vibe which worked well in the intimate space. The religious choral section were also stunning with flawless harmonies which resonated wonderfully in the space.

Musically the songs are complex and layered which is a great contrast to the fairly simplistic looking photos. Most of the photos by Matthew Murphy are pretty basic looking with minimal action so it's wonderful to delve into them and bring out meaning with the music.  Joe Bunker leads the six-piece band very well and pulls off each genre perfectly.

The movement is also brilliant, with sharp, quick steps which flow and pop exquisitely with the music. The studio is small but seems bigger because of how easily the cast move with one another, never seeming like they're running out of room but instead working the space and using it to add to the story.

At seventy minutes through, a unique show, a great cast and variety of musical genres you can't really go wrong and I would definitely recommend going along to The Other Palace Studio to see it.

35mm: A Musical Exhibition runs at The Other Palace Studio until September 30th.

photo credit: Brittain Photography

The Addams Family (UK Tour), Bristol Hippodrome | Review

The Addams Family (UK Tour), Bristol Hippodrome | Review

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Bristol Hippodrome
Reviewed on Tuesday 19th September 2017 by Isobelle Desbrow

Full disclosure this show is a must see for all, with a mixture of pure wit, funny lines and the occasional sexual innuendo underpinned by a fabulous musical score, everything hit the right notes, especially the actors.

The scene changes were smooth, and visually or musically pleasing, never a dull moment. The acting was exquisite, Cameron Blakely as Gomez was the perfect mix of enthusiasm and misguided sentimentality. Morticia played by the stunning Samantha Womack was perfectly caste, an incredible voice matched with brilliant characterisation. Carrie Hope Fletcher played a very powerful Wednesday Addams, with pitch perfect harmonies, she was a thrill to watch. The relationship she portrayed with Lukas Beineke played by Oliver Ormson was magical. ‘Crazier than You’ was spectacular with perfect vocals and staging. 

Without giving away too much Lurch certainly didn’t leave much to imagination with well timed movements and grunts, Dickon Gough is definitely a wonderful addition to the cast, especially towards the end!

A special mention must go to Scott Paige who stepped into rather large shoes to play Uncle Fester as Les Dennis was out for the evening. Scott was one of my highlights for the evening as he had wonderful vocals and characterisation, he brought so much to the character and I would love to see him one day stepping out into more of a leading role.

The music was well played and perfectly underpinned the drama of the  musical. The costumes perfectly brought to life the outrageous, kooky Addams family world, especially with the exceptionally detailed ancestors. Each of whom were played fantastically by the ensemble and it was clear how much character development had been done in the rehearsal room. They also added a whole other dimension to full cast pieces such as ‘When You’re an Addams’ and ‘Full Disclosure’.

Overall this show is witty, modern and leaves nothing to the imagination. With updated jokes, amazing vocals and spooktacular acting it is a must see for all! 

Cilla (UK Tour), Edinburgh Playhouse | Review

Cilla (UK Tour), Edinburgh Playhouse | Review

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Cilla: The Musical (UK Tour)
Edinburgh Playhouse
Reviewed on Tuesday 19th September 2017 by Liv Ancell

I have to start with a confession: I’m a typical millennial who’s only exposure to the life’s work of Cilla Black prior to watching this show was watching her as the feisty host of Blind Dates when I was a kid. The extent of my research before turning up to the theatre was a quick Spotify search, followed by a couple of obligatory listens. 

However, the excitement and glamour of this show not only won over the audience - the majority of which were in their 50s and 60s, turning up in force to pay tribute of to a much-loved entertainer of their days - but it succeeded in winning over my millennial heart, too.

One feature of the production which thoroughly deserves a mention is the set design, the brainchild of Gary McCann and lighting designer Nick Richings.  The show’s concentric arches lent so much depth to the Playhouse stage, while the clever use of lighting gave the audience many unexpected delights. 

From a brick-walled Merseyside club, to the red-curtained London Palladium, to a psychedelic TV set in far-flung New York: the light effects and set changes transported the audience along with Cilla on her categorical rise to fame. The changes were seamless, genius, and utterly magical, transforming the stage from a wood-panelled 60s recording studio to a street of terraced houses in the blink of an eye.

Onto the show’s protagonist. Our Liverpool legend was embodied perfectly by Kara Lily Hayworth, who not only took the whirlwind of costume changes (seriously, I lost count) in her expert stride, but a challenging repertoire of Cilla Black songs and covers (I lost count of how many songs she belted out) too. 

The audience was enraptured from start to finish by her breath-taking exhibition of ballads which ranged from rock to pop and showed no signs of flagging throughout. Mastering a 60s Scouse accent and even retaining it while singing is no easy feat, and Hayworth stunned with her performance in what must be a seriously challenging and demanding role.

Despite my no-show to the swingin’ decades of the 60s, even I was pleased to be able to recognise some of the show’s characters. The Beatles and Brian Epstein, their legendary manager, feature heavily throughout the story as contemporaries of Cilla. The show’s Beatles were so brilliantly cast that at one point my companion whispered, “That guy looks so much like Paul McCartney that it’s actually freaking me out”.

Carl Au gave an endearing performance as Bobby Willis; charming the audience from beginning to end as Cilla’s loyal companion. His solo performances are well worth the wait; in Act 2 Bobby realises his own singing ambitions and performs a lovely rendition of “A Taste of Honey”. Meanwhile, Cilla’s parents bring a comedy aspect to the show with their hilarious repeated one-liners which had the audience in stitches every time.

Her death a couple of years ago brought sadness to many hearts across this nation, and this show looks to celebrate her incredible talent. Cilla will stun and surprise you from start to finish, with its catchy tunes and rise-to-fame story. With its chintzy and glamorous sets, excellent supporting cast and jaw-dropping lead, this show will leave you awe-struck - and it certainly won’t disappoint you, whether you’re a Cilla fan or just an unwitting millennial like myself. 

Cilla runs at the Edinburgh Playhouse until September 23rd before continuing its tour.

Gate, Cockpit Theatre | Review

Gate, Cockpit Theatre | Review

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Cockpit Theatre
Reviewed on Friday 15th September 2017 by Alex Saddiqi

Written and produced by Artemis Fitzalan Howard and presented by Deadpan Theatre, Gate is based around an average Thursday morning at ‘The Gate’ in Wapping and, like every first-born child in the generations before her, Eve (portrayed by Emma Dennis-Edwards) is guarding it carefully. It’s going to be a busy day- there are four new appointments booked in. The trouble is none of the clients knew they were coming… because to reach the gates you have to be dead.

The piece is set in the round which immediately I was really intrigued by. It made the piece more immersive and I was interested on how they were going to use the space and questioned “will it be as open to each side of the audience than I initially thought it would be?”. To answer this question, I would say that the actors used the space very well and opened up to the audience as much as physically possible in the space. Dependant on where you sit in the round, some moments and visuals can be lost during certain scenes but it does open up again eventually once more. 

There was stunning detail to set which really added to the production; from the waiting room tables to the cluttered computer desk, down to the Facebook pages that were made up purposely for the show.  The use of levels was very clever and gave us a break from looking straight ahead of us and also added to the immersive feel. 

The vocals of the ensemble who were mainly situated above really resonated throughout the entire theatre and added to the vibe of the piece- the sound was stronger and more precise. Vocals and harmonies were distinctive, precise and beautiful but sometimes got lost when some overpowered others, this, however, can be easily resolved. Overall the entire company had amazing musical timing and it was a pleasure to hear them.

The piece is very humorous and Eve, a character who stood out to me is very comical throughout. She held great power and status throughout the scenes especially in the opening; showed one of the strongest character developments throughout and was my personal favourite. However, as previously mentioned, the round space meant I was blocked from seeing her face and expressions at times but she tried her best to include the people in the back in a natural way that is still true to the scene. 

Each actor crafted strong characters and kept the pace and commitment up throughout. There is a great contrast of characters and each actor bounced off each other very well which made the situation feel more real. Each is relatable in the fact that everyone in the audience would know someone like one of five of the characters and they all had their own defiant traits, quirks and personalities that were made clear to the audience exceptionally. The whole cast had excellent comedy timing and it really showed through the audiences reaction. The audience reaction/response seemed very positive and they all seemed to love the piece as well.

I found that the overall storyline was easy to follow and the piece is such a brilliant concept. It's a nice fresh take on an afterlife/religious styled piece. The backstory of the characters was well presented. We learnt more about them as the story developed and it didn’t feel like an overload of information. The build up in some scenes felt a little rushed in but the tension and objective of the scenes were held well. There were a few prop and costume mishaps but the actors all carried on and played used them to add to the comedic effect.

I would definitely recommend to see this play and I would even go as far as saying that it’s one of the top ones I’ve see this year. The company are outstanding and give a spectacular performance of a brilliant play.

Gate runs at the Cockpit Theatre until September 24th

photo credit: Lidia Crisafulli 

Deathtrap (UK Tour), Theatre Royal Brighton | Review

Deathtrap (UK Tour), Theatre Royal Brighton | Review

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Deathtrap (UK Tour)
Theatre Royal, Brighton
Reviewed on Wednesday September 14th 2017 by Melodie Hornett

Deathtrap felt a little unsteady from the offset. It opened with an unnecessary and horrifically loud sound effect. There were moments when I felt unsure of the intention - comedic or serious. The play itself is interesting and able to hold an audience throughout thanks to it’s plot twists and unexpected turns but there is a certain degree of repetition when the characters recount the events just passed. Sometimes, however, there seem to be too many twists, making it a little predictable. The very final scene feels unnecessary and unlikely, however the majority of the play works well and is highly enjoyable.

I would like to have seen stronger US dialects from the two leads as this was rather distracting. Particularly from Paul Bradley, who’s performance as playwright Sidney Bruhl was stellar, yet made unconvincing at times through slipping in and out of accent. His energy combined with his dedication to the character kept his performance afloat and he remained very enjoyable. The audience could clearly connect with his character and he is well cast in the role. 

This is somewhat of a mismatch with Jessie Wallace however. She made a good effort in the role of Myra and showed she is capable of moving away from the familiar typecasting, however there was little connection on-stage between her and Bradley. She also felt detached from the audience, not really allowing us an opportunity to empathise with her. I feel she could have been a little braver with her performance and created a stronger character. She wasn’t greatly missed during Act 2 when the character is absent. 

Sam Phillips’ portrayal of Clifford was well acted and demonstrated appropriate naivety in places. He shows great commitment to the role and is able to flick back and forth between alter-ego’s effectively. He shone out as particularly capable in this role and was well cast. 

Julien Ball as Porter is unfortunately, unmemorable. He could have made this character much more commanding even verging on sinister, yet came across as weak. 

The star performance without doubt came from Beverly Klein, who’s obvious stage background showed real command of the audience and the space she worked in. Great characterisation of Helga ten Dorp, perfect comedic timing throughout, a real joy to watch. She provided light-relief from some of the heavier scenes that was much needed. 

Technically, the sound effects were far too loud in several places and music/sound used for dramatic effect seemed cheap, uninventive and predictable. The set looked great, was functional with the appropriate weapons clearly on display and some clever trickery used during fight scenes. Interesting use of thriller film clips between scenes, with a slightly kitsch opening picture frame, concealing the projector. A little more care needed to be taken with masking on-stage trickery, such as hiding of the dagger thrown across the stage. 

Overall I did enjoy the piece, however felt that the casting of television celebrities in the majority of roles in Deathtrap was a mistake. I would recommend watching, turn a blind eye to some of the details mentioned above and you won’t fail to enjoy. 

Five Guys Named Moe, Marble Arch Theatre | Review

Five Guys Named Moe, Marble Arch Theatre | Review

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Five Guys Named Moe
Marble Arch Theatre
Reviewed on Wednesday September 14th 2017 by Olivia Mitchell

Five Guys Named Moe premiered at the Theatre Royal Stratford East in 1990, ran for over four years, transferred to Broadway and won the Olivier Award for Best Entertainment. Despite this, it's a fairly unknown musical so is an exciting addition to the London scene which is currently made up of a lot of long running classics. 

The rise of new and unique theatrical experiences is ever growing, with pop-up theatres and immersive events offering unusual theatrical adventures. Cameron Mackintosh has grabbed this trend by the horns in his new venture with the specially built Marble Arch Theatre. The theatre is simple on the outside but completely brilliant on the inside; as you walk in it's like entering the tardis. You're brought into a large 360 bar complete with a live band above and a wonderful selection of drinks to get your night started in the perfect way.

Written and directed by Clarke Peters, the show charts the story of Nomax, whose girlfriend Lorraine has left him. With no money and booze as his best friend, he meets Big Moe, Four-Eyed Moe, Eat Moe, No Moe and Little Moe as they emerge from his 1930s-style radio to guide and comfort him as they sing the songs of saxophonist and songwriter, Louis Jordan. Personally I found the story pretty pointless. At times it felt that the songs didn't really fit and I didn't feel emotionally attached enough to either Nomax or Lorraine to care whether they got back together or not. 

Despite this not so stellar story, the music is spectacular. Each song is playful, catchy, foot-tapping and filled with warmth and affection for one another. The five Moe's are energetic and throw themselves into the fast paced, jazzy pieces and choreography by Andrew Wright with joy and exuberance. The on stage band showcase the rhythm and complexity of the music well and are particularly impressive during their solo moments. 

The Moes are Four-Eyed Moe (Ian Carlyle), Little Moe (Idriss Kargbo), Know Moe (Dex Lee), Big Moe (Horace Oliver) and Eat Moe (Emile Ruddock). The Moes are banterous with one another and seem like the kind of guys you'd have an amazing night out with. They are all equal, sharing solos with one another and each having their own personalities which bounce off one another and work together seamlessly in moments of tight harmony. All five men have absolutely outstanding voices as well as sleek, sharp dance moves which are showcased in a smooth and stylish way. Similarly, Edward Baruwa is fantastic as Nomax, his effortless, strong voice soars and he manages to be emotional, funny and contemplative at times.

As previously mentioned, the venue is very cool, however, I don't feel like it's ideal for this show. The round space doesn't really add anything to the story and due to the un-raked seating there  are moments missed by the audience. I  was sat in the third row of the stalls which sounds fine but with three tall people in front and no varying levels it was very difficult to see and I often found myself craning my neck to try and see through the gaps- something which could've been avoided with even a slight rake between rows. The screens used around the sides of the space are a very nice touch but felt underused. It would be exciting to have them at other points, as long as they don't become gimmicky.

Overall I did enjoy this show though. The story is nothing special but I adored the music and it's certainly a brilliant, toe-tapping show with flawless performances all round and perfect for a fun, light-hearted night out. It you want catchy songs and first-rate singing in a very neat London venue then this is the show for you! So let the good times roll and hop along to the Marble Arch Theatre!

photo credit: Roy Tan

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