Thursday 23 March 2023

Eugenius!, Turbine Theatre | Review

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

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

Wednesday 22 March 2023

The Way Old Friends Do, Park Theatre | Review

The Way Old Friends Do
Park Theatre

The Way Old Friends Do is a heartwarming play set to the backdrop of ABBA, that has you feeling an array of emotions and having a really good time. Written by Ian Hallard and under the expert direction of Mark Gatiss we are taken on the journey of music, friendship and found family.
The talented ensemble cast that bring each character to life in a charming way. Rose Shalloo is a complete stand out, continually bringing an infectious energy and providing some of the most endearingly humourous moments. James Bradshaw and Ian Hallard give well thought out performances and have an excellently witty chemistry with one another.

Janet Bird's set design is simple but effective, allowing the focus to remain on the actors and their performances. The revolving set cleverly transforms to a number of rooms whilst maintaining the ABBA-ness of it all.

This is a heartfelt play explores themes of love, loss, and friendship in a way that feels both universal and deeply personal. The story is filled with moments of both joy and sadness, that feel mostly natural and have you invested in the lives of the characters. The second act does suddenly take a turn to drama and comes across somewhat rushed, without enough development to truly hit home but overall things are well paced, and it's a sweet tale that celebrates friendship.

Overall, The Way Old Friends Do is a production that I highly recommend. It's a touching, well-crafted play that will stay with you after the final curtain call and have you wanting to create your own ABBA tribute group!

Reviewed on Tuesday 21st March 2023
photo credit: Tristram Kenton

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

Saturday 18 March 2023

Further Than the Furthest Thing, Young Vic | Review

Further Than the Furthest Thing
Young Vic

The Young Vic's current revival production of Further Than the Furthest Thing is somewhat adventurous, with some redeeming qualities; but ultimately it's piece that falls short of providing any truly moving or effective moments. The production has some visually stunning aspects and some really impressive performances, however, the pacing and overall coherence leaves much to be desired, and has you exiting the theatre feeling somewhat dazed.

Zinnie Harris’ 1999 play tells the tale of a remote island who's peaceful world is upended by the evils of the wider world. Based on the 1960s history of Tristan da Cunh, the source material provides some interesting insights but the script itself is disjointed, and often makes the story hard to follow. The themes of colonialism and displacement are important, and there are some comments which really stand out, but the overall execution lacks depth and nuance and keeps any solid points from being made. The transitions between scenes are also clunky and disrupt the flow of the play, leading to a sense of confusion and continual detachment from the characters.

Furthermore, the sound design and lighting choices are often distracting and do not add to the overall experience. At times, the sound effects are overly loud and jarring, while the lighting feels gimmicky and unnecessary. Soutra Gilmour's set offers some moments of visual excitement. The clever projections make the piece feel almost like an immersive art installation and the revolve allows all angles to be shown to the audience, but there's never enough oomph to really bring the show to life.

That's not to say the performers don't do a solid job with what they've been given. Jenna Russell especially gives a captivating performance, bursting with charm and charisma. Gerald Kyd is mysterious as Mr Hansen and Cyril Nri has some of the best character development, as well as great chemistry with Russell.

Overall, Further Than the Furthest Thing has some admirable aspects, but they are very much outweighed by the weaknesses in the production. It's truly a tale of two acts, which could work on their own but the general lack of cohesion really hinders the strong messages trying to be portrayed. While it may appeal to some theatre-goers, I personally found it underwhelming and would not recommend it as a must-see performance.

Reviewed on Friday 17th March 2023
photo credit: Marc Brenner

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

Wednesday 15 March 2023

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

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

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