Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Shekinah McFarlane. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Shekinah McFarlane. Sort by date Show all posts

Wednesday 15 May 2019

American Idiot (UK Tour), New Wimbledon Theatre | Review

American Idiot (UK Tour) 
New Wimbledon Theatre
Reviewed on Tuesday 14th May 2019 by Olivia Mitchell 

Taking Wimbledon by storm, American Idiot is a maelstrom of epic performances, high intensity choreography, a killer score and fantastic acting. Taking the music of Greenday and combining it with a story about three men facing darkness and pain on their journeys to finding something they can believe in; it is a very well constructed show which packs all the right punches.

Sara Perks' design is simplistic but does complete justice to the theme and aesthetic of the show. Screens are cleverly used to show various emotions and flashbacks and to emphasise certain scenes. These also allow original American Idiot cast member Lucas Rush to be cleverly worked into the show as the Rock 'n' Roll Boyfriend, these little details make the show stand out and no doubt are a factor in keeping loyal fans returning time after time.

Tim Deiling's lighting is suitably in your face, but equally precise and emotive in the higher intensity moments of the show. Chris Whybrow also achieves good balance between creating blast-your-ears-off numbers and more acoustic sounding pieces. For a show which on the surface may seem a bit of a mish-mash, it's very well conceived and carried out.

The American Idiot cast are uniformly strong as they perform Racky Plews' choreography with bite and aggression, and give note-perfect vocal performances. Tom Milner is darkly captivating as Johnny who leads the show with spades of commitment. Milner's breakdown moment is act two is utterly superb. The audience can physically feel each others tension as Milner has mastered controlling a crowd with every breath. His well-acted and well-sung performance is impeccable. 

Sam Lavery is a vocal powerhouse who brings a sexiness and sadness to the show. He vocals are smooth and captivating. Luke Friend give a manic and electric performance with killer vocals and a performance which crackles and fizzles throughout; and Samuel Pope plays the troubled Will with sincerity and subtlety. As Tunny, Joshua Dowen gives a striking performance with a great character arc. 

Another stand out is Glenn Adamson who captures our attention whenever he's on stage and who provides particularly strong vocals in his solo moments. Alexandra Robinson, Shekinah McFarlane and Siobhan O'Driscoll are especially memorable throughout. 

Musical highlights include 21 Guns, Wake Me Up When September Ends, St Jimmy and Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life), but the whole score is performed superbly well.

Whether you've grown up with Greenday, or like me just know a few of the most popular songs, you'll certainly enjoy this raucous show. The storyline itself is pretty thin but thanks to the outstanding vocal performances and incredibly emotive and shocking scenes, American Idiot provides a fun, feisty night out. 

American Idiot runs at the New Wimbledon Theatre until 18th March 2019 before continuing its tour

photo credit: Mark Dawson Photography

Thursday 12 March 2020

Identity, Turbine Theatre | Review

Turbine Theatre
Reviewed on Wednesday 11th March 2020 by Olivia Mitchell 

Described as a "controversial and captivating masterpiece", Identity endeavours to showcase "society's negative perceptions" and highlight that being true to yourself and owning your insecurities is a way to thrive. With the constant pressures perpetually hurled at us via social media, as well as those around us, it's always important to be reminded that we're not alone in our struggles. This show certainly does that, and it's exciting and innovative in its approach.

Caitlin Elizabeth Taylor opens the piece by battling with a Polaroid camera, continually reaching and then drawing herself away from it. It's from this moment that her battle between hiding and owning her identity begins. Having composed some of the music and spoken word, it's clear from Caitlin's fierce performance that this piece is special to her. She boldly throws herself around and strikes a great balance between aggressive stress and introspective peace. 

Whilst Caitlin does an excellent job of leading the show, it's during the ensemble (made up of Callum Sterling, Tinovimbanashe Sibanda, Marina Climent and Luke Cartwright) moments when it really comes to life. The interpretive and super sharp dance numbers are effective and emotive, even if they are a little aloof at times. Visually the way they pulse and leap around stage is exciting, but the use of sound adds another layer. It isn't just the movement that's synchronised but every breath feels as though it's coming from one entity. Equally, this unison makes the moments where the ensemble fall out, even more effective. Christopher Tendai has done a great job of incorporating contemporary dance, with Afro beats to create something which looks and feels stirring.

As well as Caitlin's music, the motion is also accompanied by the incredibly soulful sounds of Sam.G (aka Shekinah Mcfarlane). Her beautifully expressive music is evocative by itself, but when combined with the choreography, a really strong narrative is created.

Over an hour, we are taken on a journey of discovery. This piece finds a solid middle-ground between in your face expression and pared back simplicity. This is in part, thanks to Charlotte McAdam's lighting which is effective throughout; especially during striking strobe light moments where Caitlin's character contorts against the black backdrop.  

Thanks to the killer cast and evident love for the work which is engrained in every moment, this is a great show to experience purely to start up a new conversation about being you. A very promising production, Identity is sure to fire up anyone who watches it and would be a great piece to showcase in schools as a subtle reminder to be a little kinder.

Friday 3 November 2023

Lizzie at the Southwark Playhouse (Elephant) Review: A Bloody Good Time

Southwark Playhouse (Elephant) 

A transfer from the Hope Mill Theatre, Lizzie boasts a cast that impresses with their strong vocals and well-defined characterisations. The performers do an excellent job bringing their characters to life and infusing the show with their energy and passion, making it an engaging experience for the audience.

The musical takes inspiration from the infamous Lizzie Borden case and the story revolves around Lizzie Borden and her sister; exploring the mysteries and events leading up to the gruesome murders of their parents. It delves into themes of murder, mystery, and the complexities of human nature, all set against a rock opera backdrop. With a gripping narrative, powerful performances, and a thrilling atmosphere, Lizzie invites the audience to step into a world where dark secrets are uncovered, and the truth is as elusive as the swing of an axe.

One of the standout features of Lizzie is the striking lighting design and stage setup by Andrew Exeter, which, particularly during the climactic moments of Act One, leave you breathless with its deathly allure. The lighting and set design effectively create an atmosphere that's visually captivating and in keeping with both the rock musical vibes, and the traditional 1800s setting of the story.

While William Whelton's choreography wields a sharp blade and  is executed very well, it sometimes feels like it's hacking away at a different story, leaving us with a tenuous connection. It adds some movement and visual appeal, but it doesn't fully meld with the narrative.

Direction wise though, Whelton has approached the show at a fun angle, melding massive arena concert energy with traditional musical theatre techniques. The energy is consistently high and despite knowing the ending, you're still on the edge of your seat, awaiting the next thrilling act. The use of handheld microphones is a cool twist on the storytelling, and hung in holsters at their sides it's almost as if the ladies are wielding them as potential murder weapons. However, when they're actually in use, it doesn't always make sense within the context of the show, I think it would be more effective if it was made clear that they were symbolising inner most thoughts or something of the like. 

This really is a girl power musical and each character in the production is well-defined, allowing the audience to connect with their individual stories and motivations. The attention to detail in the character development adds depth to the overall performance, revealing layers like peeling back the pages of a forbidden diary.

The cast deliver exceptional performances, with each woman commanding the stage with finesse. As this performance, Lizzie Borden was played by Emma Louise Hoey who seamlessly transitions from innocence and sweetness to sheer and utter madness. Her expressive eyes, and body tics convey a myriad of emotions, and every movement she makes skilfully illustrates her transformation into the manic killer fully. There's also a real level of innocence woven throughout the character and despite her gruesome act and obvious manipulation, you can't help but root for her. Vocally, Emma is marvellous, providing literal killer vocals with ease and conviction.

Shekinah McFarlane shines as Lizzie's sister, particularly in Act 2, showcasing her superb vocal prowess, that peaks and troughs in all the right places. For vocal masterclasses, this truly is the show to see. It's certainly a trend, as Mairi Barclay also astounds with her killer voice, as Bridget Sullivan. Barclay not only gets to showcase her impressive vocal range but also adds a touch of humour to this otherwise dark drama, often subtly encouraging Lizzie to commit the heinous acts in clever and witty ways, even if her motivations remain somewhat ambiguous. As Lizzie's friend Alice Russell, Maiya Quansah-Breed's performance is nuanced and heartfelt, offering a soothing contrast to the intense and rage-filled numbers that punctuate the show.

Rachel Tansey's costumes are notably well-executed, dressing the characters for their gruesome deeds and helping transport the audience back in time to the historical setting, where every outfit feels like a well-prepared disguise.

Musically Steven Cheslik-Demeyer and Tim Maner have created songs which sound great in the moment but aren't particularly memorable. Lyrically they are fast-paced and super action packed, sometimes to their detriment. So much is crammed in that you don't know what to focus on so things come across somewhat disjointed.

However, despite its minor shortcomings, Lizzie manages to transform the intimate Southwark Playhouse into a high-energy rock concert experience that's a crime of passion, making it a unique and memorable theatrical event that keeps you on edge and engaged.

Reviewed on Thursday 2nd November 2023 by Olivia
Photo Credit: Pamela Raith

{AD PR Invite- tickets gifted in exchange for honest review}

Thursday 21 February 2019

In Conversation With... Shaun McCourt | West End Live Lounge | Interview

West End Live Lounge is back at The Other Palace on March 10th for a celebration of WOMEN. The stellar line up of performers will sings songs from powerful ladies, all whilst raising money for Samaritans. I spoke to founder, Shaun McCourt about all things West End Live Lounge...

Can you tell us a bit about the creation of West End Live Lounge?
West End Live Lounge started in 2017 as an idea for a series of concerts to raise money for charity and has since grown to where it is today. I wanted to create an event which would allow West End performers the platform to sing material which was not from the world of musical theatre with a live band. There was a gap in the gig/concert circuit for such an event and I simply decided to go for it-and what an exciting journey it has been.

You’ve gone from the Union Theatre to the Other Palace Studio to the main house and each concert is getting bigger and better. What’s the next thing you’d like to achieve with your concerts?
I am always overwhelmed by the support that West End Live Lounge receives. It is great to see so many people enjoying the concerts. Without this support, its reputation would not be where it is now. The show continues to grow and there are certainly exciting plans in place for its future. However, I am going to keep the secrets for now I am afraid. Watch this space!

In terms of what I would like to achieve, my aim is to continue to produce concerts that not only entertain our audiences, but also raise as much money for charity as possible.

What’s your favourite part of putting the Live Lounge concerts together?
Though I may look slightly stressed on the day of a Live Lounge concert, I have to say that I enjoy the whole process of putting it together- from picking the theme, to casting the line-up, liaising with The Other Palace, to the day of the concert itself. However, if I had to pick a favourite moment, it would be the rehearsals and soundcheck on the day of each event. The Live Lounge band are all incredible musicians and our musical director, Sam Coates, is a genius. That moment when we are all set up and I hear the band play for the first time is really special. It is always a reminder of just how much hard work people put into making these events a success. 

West End Live Lounge has become a bit of a family. The central team is made up of Sam Coates (musical director), Will Miney (technical manager) and myself. However, all performers and musicians that have been involved become part of this family. Getting to work alongside so many talented individuals always makes this such a rewarding process.

What can people expect when they come and experience a West End Live Lounge?
People can expect a great night at the theatre. If this doesn't happen, then I am doing something wrong! A West End Live Lounge event promises a fantastic line up of incredible singers and musicians. Each concert has an exciting theme and gives the audience the chance to see their favourite West End performers step out of the world of musical theatre. 

Each concert you raise money for a different charity, how do you choose the charities to support and what do they mean to you?
Choosing the charity for each concert is always a tricky job. There are so many important charities, so rather than continue to raise money for just one, I decided that it was really important to me that each concert raised money for a different cause. For some concerts, the theme and charity often go hand in hand. There have also been times where a major event has happened in the world around the time of the concert and it makes total sense to donate the proceeds to this cause. 

If you could have any performer dead or alive to perform at a Live Lounge, who would you choose and why?
This is a tricky question! I am incredibly grateful to every single performer who has given up their time to be part of a West End Live Lounge event. They each bring an amazing talent and such a great energy to the stage. It is important to me that I continue to introduce new faces to the Live Lounge stage and that each concert offers a diverse and exciting line up.

But if I had to pick one person... 

Well...If I could get Jennifer Hudson along to sing a number, would I be excited? Absolutely!

Can you sum up in 5 words why people should come to the next West End Live Lounge?
Belting for a good cause.

West End Live Lounge tickets go on sale March 25th.

Full cast (subject to availability): Adam Bailey, Christina Bennington, Louise Dearman, Lauren Drew, Simon Gordon, Jennifer Harding, Matthew Harvey, Emma Hatton, Lisa Marie Holmes, Claudia Kariuki, Sejal Keshwala, Emma Lindars, Shekinah Mcfarlane, Kayleigh McKnight, Christina Modestou, Brady Isaacs Pearce, Lauren James Ray, Danielle Steers, Laura Tebbutt, Jennifer Tierney, Rodney Vubya.

Interview by Editor, Olivia Mitchell