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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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Eugenius!, Turbine Theatre | Review

Thursday, 23 March 2023

Turbine Theatre

After a London Palladium concert and subsequent runs at The Other Palace, the comic book tale of Eugenius! has been on the radar of many theatre lovers, and fans were thrilled to hear of the show's reworked return at the Turbine Theatre. The sweet characters and over the top tale are back like before, but somewhere along the way, the musical has lost some of the sparkle and infectious joy that previously made it such a charming production.

Eugenius! tells the story of Eugene, a self proclaimed geek who creates a comic book and gets thrown into a world of Hollywood movies and space dramas. Alongside him are his best friends Janey and Feris who are all trying to make it through school and retain their identities and friendship. With a number of witty side plots and caricature characters, there's lots to be enjoyed, but compared to previous versions of the show, there's not as much of a wholesome, uplifting vibe.

The small Turbine space which works so well for other shows, feels like a hinderance for Eugenius. There's not enough space for the show to reach its soaring potential and some of the bigger moments are squashed. This is through no fault of Andrew Exeter's set design which effectively brings the comic book world to life, as does Andy Walton's excellent video design which is wonderfully aesthetic and in keeping with the show; but nothing fully takes away from the feeling of the show longing for a larger space. Mention must also go to the really well thought out design of the foyer and entrance to the theatre which is adorned in every space with Tough Man posters, as well as comic book memorabilia and neon lights, all of which help to create an immersive experience and are a treat to explore.

Cast wise, the production is bursting with talent. Elliot Evans is endearing as Eugene, and brings a really lovely sense of vulnerability to the role whilst also providing stunning vocals, which especially soar in act two. As his partner in crime (who feels firmly in the friend zone) Jaina Brock-Patel gives a humourous performance and really leans into the comedy which is fun to watch. Equally humourous is James Hameed as Feris who is a funny character for the most part, but sometimes a bit one dimensional. The trio are strong and there are some touching moments. Their chemistry isn't bursting off the stage but they certainly do a good job and really come into their own towards the end of the show.

Dominic Andersen is fabulous in all his roles, especially as the movie star Gerhard who has some of the most laugh out loud moments in the show. As Super Hot Lady, Maddison Firth is great and her solo number is very high octane, although it's somewhat overpowered by so much happening on stage, so she doesn't truly get a chance to shine. There are also some sound issues which plague the show and mean a fair bit of dialogue is lost. The show as a whole is loud, perhaps too much so at points, but the vocals are often too quiet so we miss the talent of the cast.

The 80s-esque music that has references to lots of iconic songs, is really wonderful and you can't help but bop along to the self-aware, hilariously literal tunes. Ben Adams and Chris Wilkins have written some incredibly catchy pieces that continue to shine in this rendition of the show. They also have some sneaky cameos on bedroom posters and music videos which are a nice touch. 

It's definitely nostalgic and energetic but this isn't the best Eugenius! has been. There are some great moments but the musical never evokes the same feelings of feel good empowerment and unity that it did previously. Hopefully there will be future iterations of the show where are the stars can align to create the ultimate version.

Reviewed on Wednesday 22nd March 2023
photo credit: Pamela Raith

Girl From The North Country (Tour), New Wimbledon Theatre | Review

Wednesday, 15 March 2023

Girl From The North Country (Tour)
New Wimbledon Theatre

Set to Bob Dylan’s poetic and politically charged back catalogue, Girl from the North Country introduces us to a rabble of lost souls at Nick Laine’s destitute guesthouse in 1930s Minnesota. Laine’s wife Elizabeth, adopted daughter Marianne and son Gene live alongside a host of wayward drifters, all with their own secrets and stories to share. Connor McPherson’s book is simple yet elegant; tragic anecdotes unravel across the next two and half hours, each punctuated by a song from Dylan’s discography. The musical numbers do not necessarily move the plot forward but are instead perfectly used to capture microcosmic moments in time.

Girl from the North Country is a real character piece, allowing a talented ensemble cast to individually shine. Frances McNamee gives a heartbreaking turn as Nick’s sick wife Elizabeth, masterfully shifting between moments of lucidity and child-like tantrums. Her performances of ‘Rolling Stone’ and ‘Forever Young’ are particularly spellbinding. Justina Kehinde shines as the spirited and effervescent Marianne, whilst Eve Norris (Katherine Draper) and Gregor Milne (Gene Laine) deliver an easy, understated version of ‘I Want You’ in Act one.
Dylan’s best known songs have been transformed tremendously by Simon Hale. Many take on an almost choral quality, including a stunning acapella section which closes the show and numbers lead by the soulful Maria Omakinwa as long-term resident and Nick’s lover, Mrs Nielsen. Other numbers are jaunty and percussive, creating a wonderfully varied musical landscape.

Rae Smith’s set and costume design are austere and efficient but entirely period appropriate, whilst Mark Henderson’s clever use of recurring spotlights against a backdrop of haunting silhouettes give several numbers an almost confessional feel. Time appears to stop still as interior monologues are shared under a stark beam of light. A twenty-strong ensemble fills an otherwise sparse stage; they execute Lucy Hind’s choreography with gumption, convulsing in sync as if we’re witnessing an evangelical awakening.

This production feels prophetic, visceral and cathartic all at once. Like an open wound, it pours with the voices of the lonely and disenfranchised during one of America’s darkest decades. However, there are several revelatory, uplifting moments and welcome flashes of caustic humour. Girl from the North Country is a moving testament to the tenacity of the human condition and a truly class act.

Reviewed on Tuesday 14th March 2023 by Hope Priddle

The Phase, The Vaults | Review

Monday, 13 March 2023

The Phase
The Vaults

A new, British musical, The Phase follows four best friends and bandmates, Aziza, Rowan, Sage and Ava as they take on their Catholic school's oppressive rules which restrict them from expressing their queerness. The coming-of age musical tackles a number of issues in a short time and is a well written exploration of teenage life and identity.

The Vault Festival is a great event for shows to form and find audiences but the space, budget and time constraints don't always allow for much development. The team behind The Phase have done a great job working with these limitations and have created a musical that feels pretty well rounded and has design interest as well as great performances. The set comprises of large drawn out items such as rulers and pens that are transformed into various other things, and the band dressed as crayons complete the pencil case assortment and give the show a unique look and feel.

Led by musical director Amy Hsu, the band do a great job of leading the piece and accompanying the cast who provide consistently strong vocals. With Jocasta Almgill as Aziza, Ashley Goh as Rowan, Holly Ryan as Sage and Gracie McGonigal as Ava, the quad create a wholesome group who really support one another and give each other room to grow and be who they want to be. All four have well defined characteristics, and in a different setting there would certainly be room to flesh them out further. The occasional mic issue did mean some moments were lost at this performance but this is something that can be easily ironed out.

The Phase is a show which knows its identity and retains it throughout. Every moment is cohesive and feels quite genuinely like a school drama. There is a lot of angst and a whole host of personal struggles from anxiety to friendship, and although at times it feels a little too much, there is a sincerity sewn through which makes it a lovely piece.

Zoe Morris and Meg McGrady have created a great piece of musical theatre, that under Izzy Rabey's direction really gets to soar. It's lovely to see queer stories told that are not surrounded by trauma, and this show does a great job at highlighting the joy and community found, even when individuals are struggling. From body dysmorphia to relationship boundaries, there is so much packed into the hour long show. At times it comes across a little too dramatic, but at the same time it is very evocative of school life.

Mention must also go to how accessible the team have made the show. With sensory items available as well as chill out spaces, the whole experience embodies inclusivity and is certainly paving the way for others.

The show has just finished its run at the the Vault Festival, but there's sure to be a future life for The Phase and it will continue to spread joy via a touching storyline and absolutely killer vocals.

Reviewed on Sunday 12th March 2023

Jay Bryce on Taking Heathers on the Road | Heathers the Musical | Interview

Friday, 10 March 2023

Heathers is currently making its way around the country, on a high octane, 80s fuelled tour. Currently playing Veronica's Dad/Principal Gowan/Kurt's Dad, Jay Bryce tells us about his experience taking the show on the road and what it's like being part of a show with such a cult following...

How does it feel to be starring in such an iconic and well-loved show?
It feels such a privilege to be part of this great show and part of the Heathers Family. I’m so grateful to be working on this production. I didn’t realise the reach the show had until I joined and how much the show means to people. It is so heart-warming to be bringing this show to people around the UK and Ireland.

Which Heather would you most like to be friends with?
Definitely Heather Mac. I think she needs a good friend to look out for her and I think I could help bring out her kinder side. Plus, I’d want to get a yellow blazer to match with her.

Heathers has a really dedicated fan base, what are some of your favourite fan experiences from the tour so far?
Meeting the fans at stage door is always such a great experience. The Heathers fans are all so kind and lovely and we’ve been made to feel so welcome in the venues we’ve been to so far.

Something I’ve also LOVED is the scrunchy throw during the bows. It is so lovely and something that makes the show so unique.

What's your favourite line in Heathers?
I’m a big fan of my characters line “That was one hell of a fishing trip”. But I do love it when Veronica tells Heather Chandler to “Lick it up”. Definitely have been saying that in my everyday life now…!

Heather C is a big corn nut fan, what would your show snack of choice be?
I would love a Werther’s Original. Is that showing my age…?!

If you could bring any other film to stage, which would you choose?
I think American Pie on the stage would be absolutely brilliant. I’d love to play Jim. But I think my casting is now heading more towards playing Jim’s Dad…!

Why should people come and see Heathers on tour?
The show is just brilliant. It has energy, is fun, whilst also dealing with serious themes. Working with this cast has been such a joy and their energy and joy on and off stage is infectious.

You’ll want to come again and again to see this show.

Heathers The Musical plays at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking until 11th March 2023 and then continues its tour

photo credit: Pamela Raith