Showing posts sorted by relevance for query William Whelton. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query William Whelton. Sort by date Show all posts

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 1 March 2018

Pippin, Southwark Playhouse | Review

Southwark Playhouse
Reviewed on Wednesday 28th February 2018 by Olivia Mitchell 

Based on the real-life story of Prince Pepin and his father, King Charlemagne, Pippin tells the story of a young prince who longs to find adventure, fulfilment and passion in his life. To prove himself to his distracted father, Pippin goes to war. He finds no fulfilment there so when the Leading Player convinces him to fight tyranny, Pippins kills his father and takes over the throne. 

With music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, book by Roger O Hirson and original direction by Bob Fosse, Pippin brings spectacle, comedy and whimsy to the transformed Southwark Playhouse. Maeve Black's set complete with a false proscenium and footlight bulbs around the tongue of the stage, has transformed The Large into a magical, slightly decrepit playground of mystery.

Braving the snow, I enjoyed this production despite feeling it took a little while to get into. The story is fast paced and full of intricacies but the varying styles and scenes are a bit too much of a mish-mash to be fully cohesive.

However, the performances are stellar across the board. Genevieve Nicholas is absolutely outstanding as the Leading Player. Poised to pounce and vocally faultless she commands the stage every second she's on it. She is very dynamic alongside Jonathan Carlton in the title role who sings the role perfectly as well as having great comic timing and stage presence. The two bounce off one another and have a sort of unsettling relationship.

Mention must also go to Bradley Judge as Lewis, Pippin's brother, and Mairi Barclay as Fastrada and Berthe who both nailed the comedic side as well as providing some scene stealing vocal moments. As director, Jonathan O'Boyle has done a wonderful job of bringing the small cast together to create something electric and well as showcasing individual talents.

Choreographer William Whelton has stuck to the shows iconic past, with Bob Fosse's choreography central to the action but has brought a somewhat modern twist with some sharp, almost frantic movements at times.

Whilst the jumpiness of the book does let this show down at times, this production is like nothing else I've seen on a London stage recently and for that reason it must be applauded. The cast do an outstanding job and the razzle-dazzle of the costumes and in-your-face lights by Aaron J. Dootson do a wonderful job of wowing the audience.

For a magical, mystical, whimsical show that will surprise, make sure you get along to the Southwark Playhouse for the limited run of Pippin.

photo credit: Pamela Raith

Friday 29 March 2019

Hair (UK Tour), New Wimbledon Theatre | Review

Hair (UK Tour)
London Palladium 
Reviewed on Thursday 28th March 2019 by Olivia Mitchell 

Having first premiered in 1967, Hair doesn't have much of a story but focusses on hippies, LGBTQ+ rights, Black Live Matter, women's equality, the anti-war movement, freedom and so much more. Despite being a piece of it's era, these are issues and themes which resonate with a contemporary audience. The book loosely follows a group of hippies in New York City as they navigate life and their political views during the Vietnam War. More of a think piece and political statement, than a story, Hair successfully shows insights into real life struggles and celebrates living.

This revival which began at the Hope Mill and continued to become a semi-immersive experience at The Vaults, is now a vast production. This transfer in venue size means the show has lost some of it's authenticity and spark but retains its exciting, enthusiastic performances and energy. Natalie Green is the absolute stand out of the cast as she provides killer vocals; both belting her face off and providing glorious soprano moments. Natalie also showcases her supremely versatile acting with a number of accents and personas which are all faultless and she gives an entirely wonderful and memorable performance.

Kelly Sweeney also gives a fantastic performance in her solo moments as Crissy. After Unexpected Joy its great to see Kelly continuing on what's sure to be an outstanding career. Superb vocal moments are delivered by Alison Arnopp and Marcus Collins. As Woof Bradley Judge is well developed and entertaining to watch. 

This is an intrinsically ensemble piece, with the whole cast banding together to really create the tribe, and bring the "haggle of hippies" together. Within the ensemble, Jake Quickenden and Paul Wilkins take the lead with agility and energy. Wilkins especially, gives a performance which the audience can really invest in, as his character Claude struggles with being himself and fitting societies expectations. Quickenden gives a commanding performance but lacks the oomph to really own the stage at times, however his vocals are strong and he'll surely only get better as he relaxes into the role.

The hippie commune and various hallucinations are brought to life marvellously by Ben M Rogers' lighting which is vibrant, contrasting and superbly done. William Whelton's choreography is loose and well done, with the tribe effectively becoming one at times. The theatre is bright and hallucinatory thanks to Maeve Black's set and costumes. Streamers adorn the stage in an in-your-face manner that is dynamic and impressive.

Whilst it does drag a little, Hair is an easy watch that thrills the eyes and ears and remains relevant to this day. Outstanding performers make the most of a limited book and play to the theatre almost as if they're in an intimate space. Despite not being as revolutionary as it was fifty years ago, Hair is still an exciting piece of theatre and the rousing chorus of 'Let The Sunshine In' is enough to leave you feeling free and uplifted.

Hair runs at the New Wimbledon Theatre until March 30th before continuing its tour.

photo credit: Johan Persson