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Welcome to Rewrite This Story, here you'll find all things Theatre, Music, Arts and Culture! Created and curated by Olivia Mitchell, we share the latest stagey news, reviews, interviews and more!
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In Clay, The Vaults | Review

Friday, 27 January 2023

In Clay
The Vaults
Reviewed on Friday 27th January 2023 by Olivia Mitchell 

A sweet tale of a female artist, specifically a potter/clay creator, in 1930s France, In Clay follows our protagonist Marie-Berthe developing her love of creating as well as looking at a few of her relationships and ultimately, the way she strives for and eventually defines, success.

Rosalind Ford takes the helm of this one woman show and does so with glorious affect. Not only does Ford play Marie-Berthe, but also a number of side characters such as her best friend Henrietta and her teacher Jean-Charles, all of whom you truly feel have entered the stage. With the noise of next door's performance and the rattling trains overhead, your attention could easily wander but Rosalind does a stellar job of keeping you engaged throughout. Her vocals are also gorgeous and an absolute treat to listen to.

Aside from the performance, the star of this show is the lovely music that is typically and gloriously French. Jack Miles and Rebecca Simmonds's songs completely embody French-cafe, pre/post war vibes and are so fitting to the story, with an especially wonderful scat section that really mirrors the freedom of art. A couple of the songs feel abruptly/imperfectly ended and could do with a slight rework but overall they're very smooth and the clever lyrics are so witty and compelling.

It's also impressive that there's a live four-piece band on stage, a sight not regularly seen at the Vaults, but Matt Herbert on keyboard, Rhiannon Hopkins on bass, Daniel Kemshell on guitar and Auguste Janonyte on violin do a great job and add even more to the feeling of being in France in the throngs of the creative, artistic circles.

For a 60-minute show, Rebecca Simmonds' book is surprisingly detailed and sleek; telling Marie-Berthe's story in a pacey fashion that never loses momentum or lacks emotion. From love to the pain of loss, a whole spectrum of life is explored and there's a wonderful celebration of fragility and putting yourself back together after you fall. Grace Taylor's direction allows the story to be told in a way that still feels free and spacious given the confines of the Vaults and Sorcha Corcoran's set design adds visual interest as well as mirroring the emotional turmoil on display in the piece.

All in all In Clay is a short, sweet, well-moulded show that with a few more tweaks on the potters wheel could be perfect. A great opener to the 2023 Vault Festival, it will be a treat to see how this musical progresses.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane (Tour), New Victoria Theatre | Review

Thursday, 26 January 2023

The Ocean at the End of the Lane (Tour)
New Victoria Theatre
Reviewed on Wednesday 25th January 2023 by Olivia Mitchell 

One of the most moving and stunning pieces of theatre, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is currently making its way around the UK on a tour that is truly a must see. Based on Neil Gaiman's book with the same name, the play is a complex story which deals with the concept of memories and how we carry them with us, as well as forgetting them. A visual and emotional masterpiece, it's an intriguing tale which has many magical realism elements that are transferred to stage so well by Joel Harwood's adaptation and Katy Rudd's expert direction.

The show was originally staged at the National Theatre and many of their trademark features and overall aesthetic are completely woven through. From the start you are immersed in a world which is dark but enticing. Fly Davis' stunning set really embodies those childhood memories of imagining what spookiness lies just out of sight. A minimalistic moss covered design provides the backdrop for some moments of pure magic, where chiffon becomes an ocean and clever stagecraft movement (Steven Hoggett) is transformed into out of this world beings. There's also great contrast between the father's home which never truly feels complete since his wife passed and the nightmare world which is dark and loud.

The fantastical elements of the show feel strangely natural while still being awe-inspiring. Jamie Harrison's illusions are so well pulled off and are authentically magical and the balance of magic and genuine heartfelt moments is perfect.

Perpetually moving, the play perfectly captures grief and the painful fear that your lost loved one is being replaced and erased. These emotions are intensely portrayed not only through the action on stage, but via Jherek Bischoff's imposing and enchanting music which is utterly cinematic and combined with Ian Dickinson's sound design- so powerful. Alongside Paule Constable's lighting design, the whole thing is a masterclass is storytelling and theatricality.

As well as all of this, the cast of outstanding performers imbue every moment with sincerity and vulnerability. Keir Ogilvy really taps into the innocence of childhood whilst bringing to life the Boy who is struggling with the pain of losing his mother. As his Sis Laurie Ogden is fantastic at portraying her need to be loved and noticed through her's, and her families pain. Charlie Brooks fulfils that need as the chilling, omnipresent Ursula who is really what nightmares are made of. Trevor Fox as Dad has some really emotionally challenging scenes which are brought to life incredibly well. Finty Williams, Millie Hikasa and Kemi-Bo Jacobs have excellent chemistry as the Hempstock trio, and individually give wonderfully strong performances as well as coming together to provide some humourous moments. The rest of the ensemble work as one entity to bring the whole world to life with complete fluidity and power.

A spectacle of a show in the most quiet and beautiful way, The Ocean at the End of the Lane embodies everything that makes theatre so magical and is moving in all the best ways.

Allegiance, Charing Cross Theatre | Review

Thursday, 19 January 2023

Charing Cross Theatre 
Reviewed on Wednesday 18th January 2023 by Olivia Mitchell 

The Charing Cross Theatre is one of the best venues for showcasing a variety of interesting musicals, and thankfully it’s currently playing house to George Takei’s brilliant show, Allegiance. Having last visited the venue to see From Here To Eternity, which chronicles the lead up to the Pearl Harbour attacks, this moving musical felt like a very fitting follow on.

Inspired by Takei's life, Allegiance tells the story of over 120,000 Japanese Americans who were thrown into internment camps following the attacks on Pearl Harbour in 1941. The musical is a timely one indeed and really highlights an awful part of history. A "legacy project" for Takei, it's clear that a lot of time and love went into making it as sweet as it is.

Now this is by no means a flawless musical but it is full of emotion and drama that keeps you invested throughout. Marc Acito, Jay Kuo and Lorenzo Thione have written a book which is multi layered, taking into account history, family drama, romance, humour and heartbreak, and is well paced with a good amount of build up and tension. At times it gets a little bit confusing but is continually an easy show to watch.

Kuo's music is not particularly memorable but has some lovely moments as you're watching. Given the subject matter it's surprisingly upbeat, and despite not having any ear-worms, it is suitably stirring and enjoyable to listen to. Group numbers are especially effective and there's also a nice mix of styles and vocal inflections. Andrew Hilton and Charlie Ingles' orchestrations highlight the intense emotions well.

It's always a treat to see how the Charing Cross theatre is transformed and Tara Overfield Wilkinson's staging is extremely well done.  The stage becomes a variety of settings, from a moving train to a battlefield and each setting feels completely realistic. The continual motion of the set pieces and the actors throughout makes the whole thing flow so seamlessly and it's very impressive how large the stage feels.

Cast wise this show has a uniformly strong group of performers who completely give themselves over to the story and create some splendidly magical moments. Earning applause when he enters the stage Takei is an endearing and commanding stage presence who brings different shades to the characters he plays and does a stellar job of taking us through the family saga. As Takei's younger self (Sam) Telly Leung brings such warmth and charm. It's a treat to see him on a London stage and especially to hear his wonderful voice fill the arches of Charing Cross. 

Megan Gardiner showcases equally beautiful vocals as the nurse for the camp and there are also excellent performances by Aynrand Ferrer and Masashi Fujimoto who both bring great depth to their characters. Ferrer's voice is particularly stunning as she performs her solo moments with impeccable clarity.

Whilst this is a show about the atrocities which happened in 1941, it's surprisingly uplifting and often celebrates love and community. There are some tear-jerking moments at the end but overall this is a really heart-warming piece of theatre that deserves to be seen.

photo credit: Danny Kaan

Moulin Rouge! the Musical, Piccadilly Theatre | Review

Wednesday, 18 January 2023

Moulin Rouge the Musical 
The Piccadilly Theatre 
Reviewed on Tuesday 17th January 2023

A tale of two halves, Moulin Rouge the Musical is both a spectacular spectacular and a chaotic conundrum. Based on the 2001 film of the same name, it tells the story of fated lovers Christian and Satine, who despite the hardships which surround them, just want to be free to love one another. This musical adaptation takes elements from the film but also puts an extreme jukebox spin on the whole thing.

The real issue with Moulin Rouge is the clunky, all over the place book, which, especially in act one, feels basic. Random lines of dialogue are interspersed with pop songs that come out of nowhere and elicit awkward laughter from the audience; and the show feels confused, as if it can’t decide whether to lean into the comedy or try to be a serious show. There are also a number of side character arcs woven in to further the plot, each of which feel too random and under-developed to really elevate the show in any way. The heart of the story is Christian and Satine love and it would be more effective if we only followed their story.

However, on the other side of the coin, the musical is a visual masterpiece which completely astounds. It's the epitome of razzle dazzle, and the set certainly the most spectacular in the West End right now. Derek McLane has created a sumptuous backdrop which has details hidden in every corner of the auditorium, from the elephant who towers over, to the mini Moulin Rouges embossed in the golden decadence of the facade. Paired with Catherine Zuber's divine costumes, you really couldn't ask for more in terms of aesthetics.

Also, after a pantomime-esque Act One, the musical really steps up a gear. In Act Two the stakes get higher, the performances get more intense and it really becomes the show you'd expect. As leading man Christian, Jamie Muscato is absolutely glorious, serving divine vocals throughout and also bringing a charming, comedic side to the role. Crazy Rolling is a superb stand out moment, as is El Tango de Roxanne, which includes both breathtakingly good vocals, and fantastic dancing by Amy Thornton and Elia Lo Tauro

Both Ben Richards and Matt Rixon as the Duke and Harold Zidler respectively, are good as the 'baddies' but do lack a darker level of menacing that would really add to their performances. As Satine, Melissa James has some great moments, especially her duet of Come What May, a moment where I felt things levelled up and I became much more invested in the story.

Perhaps the most effective part of the musical are the group numbers where the ensemble come together with upmost energy to perform Sonya Tayeh's abundant choreography. The opening Lady Marmalade number is particularly impressive and there's no denying how talented this cast are.

Overall, a three star act one, a five star set, and a four star act two make this a distinctly middle of the ground show and there's definitely elements of style over substance, but when it's good, it's really good and worth seeing for the Act Two opening number alone.