Friday, 3 March 2023

Fisherman's Friends The Musical (Tour), Richmond Theatre | Review

Fisherman's Friends The Musical (Tour)
Richmond Theatre

When a group of Cornish fisherman got together to sing for fun, little did they know they'd become successful professional musicians, or that they'd be the subject of a film and now a musical. Fisherman's Friends The Musical is based on the lives of the people in that group, and the community around them in Port Isaac. It's a story about friendship, family, the sea and those who spend their lives working on it.

When former record company employer Danny (Jason Langley) visits the village and hears the men's singing, he makes it his mission to get them a record label, and restore his own reputation in the music industry. Aside from a few minor plots, that's really all the show is about and as it's pretty predictable at times it can drag. However, in lulled moments there's always a rousing sea shanty round the corner to buoy you back up.

Whilst the show is definitely more song than script, under the direction of James Grieve the cast do a fabulous job of conveying the emotions and bringing the Cornish community to life. James Gaddas takes the wheel as the un-appointed boss and voice of reason; often interacting with witty one liners and providing a path for the story to take.  On the opposite end of the spectrum, Jason Langley is the cheeky chappy full of swagger and is so entertaining as well as endearing. As his love interest Alwyn, Parisa Shahmir is a vocal siren. Her voice is hauntingly melodic and she has the nuanced acting chops to match it.

Lucy Osborne's dockside set with Johanna Town's atmospheric lighting perfectly brings to life the seaside town, seamlessly transforming into the inside of the pub and later. The rocking sea feels completely realistic and there are some very impressive moments when the men are out fishing.

Fisherman's Friends the Musical is not the most exciting piece of theatre but it's got heart in heaps and is a very wholesome way to spend a couple of hours. A story about community and friendship, the whole piece is really down to earth and is a real feel good show.

Reviewed on Thursday 2nd March 2023 by Olivia Mitchell
photo credit: Pamela Raith

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

Thursday, 2 March 2023

Sylvia, The Old Vic | Review

The Old Vic 

Following its 2018 'work in progress' run, Sylvia has returned to The Old Vic, this time as a fully staged production. Telling the story of Sylvia Pankhurst- the daughter of the supreme Emmeline Pankhurst, leader of the Suffragette movement- the show is a fresh look at history, that feels inherently British in all the best ways.

The titular role is played by the utterly charming Sharon Rose, who gives a masterfully intimate performance, as well as showcasing her fantastic vocals. Sharon is really impressive at showing the gradual growth of Sylvia, as she finds her voice and what she stands for and feels continually authentic throughout. The character of Sylvia come across in a very relatable, endearing way and really allows the audience to root for her- a very special feeling.

This performance saw the debut of Hannah Khemoh as Emmeline Pankhurst. Really coming into her own towards the end, Hannah gave a commanding performance, with great vocals and really shone in moments when the whole family came together.

Completing the Pankhurst family are Ellena Vincent as Christabel and Kirstie Skivington as Adela, both of whom give impressive performances and show some wonderful character development. Kelly Agbowu is absolutely fantastic as Mrs Flora 'The General' Drummond, giving a truly commanding performance that's superbly entertaining.

A complete standout role, is Jay Perry as Winston Churchill, giving a performance which is so so enjoyable and witty that you can't help but side with him, even when he's stamping on the Suffragette movement! As his wife Clementine, Verity Blyth is a dream. Her beautiful voice soars around the auditorium and her witty, sweetly conniving performance is so enjoyable to watch. Rounding out the Churchill trio is the matriarch, Lady Jennie, played at this performance by Jade Hackett who is equally as strong, and provides some really unexpected moments that have the audience in the palm of her hand. Both Alex Gaumond and Sweeney provide vocal moments as Kier Hardie and Silvio Corio respectively.

This is definitely a show where the cast really take the forefront, with costuming and sets that are fairly simplistic, but that work exceptionally well. Andrzej Goulding's animation and video brilliantly add dimension to the show, whilst Natasha Chivers' lighting is both emotive and exciting. Combined with Ben Stones' set and costume, the show is a visual delight; at times almost feeling like a film. The black and white majority, combined with splashes of red is incredibly striking.

Whilst this is a musical which excels in many aspects, there are parts which don't quite hit the spot. At times the dialogue is somewhat clunky and some characters don't get enough development to be truly effective. Even Sylvia herself, only really comes into her own towards the end and it takes a bit too much time for her story to get going. The end of the show comes across rushed, with loose ends suddenly being tied up and Emmeline's character doing a complete 180. Of course the show is based on real events, but as it covers so many years, some moments don't get the justice they deserve, whilst others get a bit too much. However, musically the show is choc-a-block with fun, fiery moments. Kate Prince, Josh Cohen, and DJ Walde's score is exciting and multifaceted. The lyrics and musical styles, paired with the great humour that's woven in, feel perfectly British and are truly effective. 

Sylvia is an innovative production which does a mostly great job at telling the story of some really powerful women. There are parts which come out of nowhere and moments when you feel a bit awkward, but at the same time you can't help but enjoy yourself! For the faults it has, this show remains a really fun night out, that boats a top notch cast and has a lot of charm.

Reviewed on Monday 27th February 2023 by Olivia Mitchell
Photo credit: Manuel Harlan

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

Someone of Significance, The Vaults | Review

Someone of Significance
The Vaults

Last night I attended a performance of Someone of Significance at The Vaults and unfortunately, it was one of the weaker shows I've seen at the festival. It basically chronicles the life of two business people and the issues they have when mixing work, politics and their social lives. In theory it could be entertaining, and whilst there are occasional moments and pieces of social commentary that make you think, overall it doesn't offer much and fails to really nail home any enduring messages.

The two hander written by Amalia Kontesi, is led well by Funlola Olufunwa (Rosie) and Simon Bass (Brad) who bring some elements of charm to their characters. The duo's chemistry isn't particularly strong but they do a good job of bringing the story to life, and have brief sparks where they really bounce off one another well. Unfortunately they've not got much to work with as the script itself is lacklustre and fails to be engaging. The pacing of the play is also quite slow, which make it difficult to maintain interest, even with it only being an hour long.

Additionally, the technical aspects of the production leave something to be desired. The lighting and sound effects are often out of sync with the action on stage, and the incessant costume changes between every scene feel completely unnecessary and take you out of the action continually. These issues are frequently distracting and make is very difficult to fully immerse yourself in the story.

Overall, while the show has some interesting moments, it never really develops any ideas enough and as a whole is an aggressively fine production. In its current form, the play doesn't feel like it has much to say. It would be much more interesting if it further developed its exploration of classism instead of trying to be a love story. The underwhelming script and strange scene changes definitely need tweaking to make any future versions of this show memorable enough to recommend.

Reviewed on Wednesday 1st March 2023
Photo credit: Vasiliki Verousi

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

Caligula and the Sea, The Vaults | Review

Caligula and the Sea
The Vaults

Caligula and the Sea is a beautiful theatrical experience, that really works within the setting of the Vaults Festival. The play does a good job at immersing its audience in a vivid and surreal world, and expertly brings scenes to life with minimal set and just a few well-crafted props. The performances are great, with each actor bringing a unique energy and presence to their role.

Noah Silverstone as Caligula has both a childlike innocence and an unstable menace that works well to bring the mad Emperor to life; his guard, friend and confidant Cassius played by Felix Ryder is pretty nicely nuanced and has some well thought out character development which works well, and bodes well for future iterations of the play. Early on, Caligula meets Neptune (Riko Nakazono), God of the sea, who he makes a deal with for absolute power. Riko's performance is mystical and a lovely addition to the story which is dark and thought-provoking, delving into themes of power, corruption, and the consequences of unchecked desire.

Under the direction of Yuxuan Liu, Caligula and the Sea is hugely impressive in both technical aspects and staging. Fiona McKeon’s set design and visual aesthetic bring about striking visuals, from a forceful storm to a disappearing tide; it continually transports the audience to a world that is both familiar and otherworldly. The show's use of lighting (Hannah Bracegirdle) and sound (Aaron J Dootson) is particularly impressive, creating a haunting and evocative atmosphere that lingers long after the performance has ended. Also noteworthy is the use of puppetry, designed by Silverstone, that moves so well and adds an element of true interest to the show.
Whilst a lot of the show works, there are elements that need a fresh sweep over. The short running time means that in trying to cram in an epic story which spans many years, a lot doesn't have time to be properly explored and the nuances which work so well at the start, cannot be retained throughout. Beginning with Caligula’s exile, his rise to power and through to his eventual assassination, there's a lot to be seen and some of the more moving and effective aspects, such as Caligula's relationship with Cassius don't have time to be really developed. This means that there are some pacing issues and in attempting to say a lot of things, the show loses an overall moral or key plot point so the audience leave unsatisfied.
There's a lot of good in this show and with some edits it could certainly become a hit. While the play can be challenging at times, it is ultimately a rewarding and interesting show. Good performances and really strong theatrical elements make it a solid production.

Reviewed on Wednesday 1st March 2023

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