Hansel and Gretel

29 May

Of course a production within the confines of St.Paul’s delightful gardens is likely to have a plus written right through it. Normally, this is the case, but this production has several things that I find worrying. There are a lot of – possibly unconscious – double entendres, which receive titters from some members of the audience but they are not encouraged to laugh. In fact, the first few scenes of this poverty ridden family are deadly serious with not a single chance for the audience to express any pleasure.
A great deal is made of the delight children have in horror but there is a way of handling it. The only sympathetic character is little Gretel played by Rosie Abraham but she gets roasted in the witch’s oven during act one. It is upsetting that the real mother is so evil so that she wants to kill her children so she and her drunken husband (Nick Howard-Brown) can use what money there is to have a good time. She persuades her husband to take them out into the forest and leave them to their fate.
To cheer everyone up there is an exceptional scene change by Amber Scarlett as a huge bunch of trees opens up to reveal the gingerbread house. The starving Hansel, (Deshaye Gayle) of course, is tempted by any kind of food and he breaks off a bit of the window frame to eat. Then it is when the mood changes to comedy as the lovely Josie Brightwell as Baba Yaga Korizima emerges through her front door and invites him inside. Then the set opens again and we are in the witches’ kitchen. This number one witch speaks in a kind of nursery rhyme verse which is very funny and Josie Brightwell makes the most of her comedy performance – to the relief of the audience after all the solemnity we endured in the previous scenes.
This is certainly the most fun scene in the entire play although even this could do with chopping down.
The plot becomes totally confused during act two. Gretel is now a fairy up a tree and Hansel is in the kitchen of another witch – I think it was Baba Yaga Gorska – or it might have been Baba Yaga Martzanna, who gave him some disgusting sick making things to eat and drink. Maybe that bit was put in for the kids.
The play needs editing and have great chunks removed. It also need to have people smile a little more. It is a heavy show, too intense. I am not a Disney fan but I do like to have one or two pleasant and/or comical characters. The only good person was little Gretel who got roasted.
This is not the Hansel and Gretel we all know and love from Engelbert Humpedinck – I missed the Sandman who could have turned up and put us all to sleep.
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THE KNOWLEDGE

13 Sep

THE KNOWLEDGE
BY JACK ROSENTHAL
At the Charing Cross Theatre
My favourite people are taxi drivers and this play is a sort of memorial to the old days when they were the sole kings of the road. The days before Uber – when minicabs were the only threat.
On a delicious adaptable setting by Nicolai Hart Hansen. The lives of four contestants study for the coveted green badge of the London cabbie. This is a trade that goes back to Oliver Cromwell and is the only city in the world with anything like it. Cabbies must learn every street, every pub, every building, every public toilet, etc. in the whole area of London. When they can satisfy the examiner about this they are given a badge – and advice to carry on learning how to work the suburbs. I have often wondered why some cabbies used to say they cannot go to an address out of town. Now I know why – they don’t know the best way of getting there They haven’t yet got that bit of knowledge under their belts.
The first story is that of Chris – a young man who has been on the dole since he left school. His girlfriend Janet persuades him to take the course. The next contestant in the group is Ted who is completely confident, has a photographic memory and comes from a Jewish family of cabbies .Gordon Weller is doing it to cheat on his wife. It’s an excuse to come home late every night completely knackered. The fourth contender is a girl, Miss Stavely who wants to do a man’s job in a man’s world to prove she can.
These guys and their partners are all trying very hard, but the biggest bugbear is the eccentric bully, Mr Burgess who seems determined to make them all fail. He is up on the second floor of the set and he calls them one by one to give them hell. He shouts their names three times, and it is amusing that they light cigarettes on the first call and stub them out on the last one.
Obviously, the script is dated but it has been left as it was to get the seventies atmosphere. Sometimes it works, occasionally it misfires.
There are a few great one liners.
‘I should have given up and had a go at ballet dancing.’
It is a good cast and it is sharply directed by Rosenthal’s widow Maureen Lipman
High nostalgia quotient and a good advert for Taxis and their recent problem fighting the Uber factor.

THE BLINDING LIGHT

13 Sep

THE BLINDING LIGHT
BY Howard Brenton
AT THE Jermyn Street Theatre.
Under Tom Littler, the new artistic director at Jermyn Street, we are expecting great things – and his first coup is his own direction of a new play by the prolific and highly respected playwright  Howard Brenton.
It is a seriously written document about the ‘inferno’ years of August Strindberg,Swedish writer/painter  –and in this play ‘natural scientist’
During several years in the 1890s Strindberg became disenchanted both with theatre and his two ex wives, and, renting a room in a squalid Paris Hotel, decided to spend his time in alchemy – finding the formula for making gold.
Cherry Trulock’s set design immediately gives the impression of madness with huge splashes of colour on the painted flats. The lighting by William Reynolds is also highly colourful and eccentric .with sudden flashes of light and blackouts in between each scene along with swirls of music (composed by Max Pappenheim). The atmosphere of Stringberg’s confused brain has been created perfectly.
Jasper Britton is a wonderful character actor. The play begins with him, with limp shoulder length straggled hair, scruffy clothes and paint covered hands that have been burnt by the acid he is using to make gold. The voices he hears constantly are his own voice and the conversations he has with himself are produced miraculously so that at first it sounds as if they are on voice over.
The play begins with an altercation between the poet and the woman who comes to clean up his sordid apartment. He manages to bar her from the bathroom because the bath is full of the sludge – one of the stages in gold making. Laura Morgan plays Lola and she is a delight throughout the play.An unbeatable combination of beauty, wit, honesty and toughness.
The two wives arrive at different times. Both are trying to get him back to work as a playwright, bring  him back to sanity and give up his life as an Alchemist. His first wife Siri played by, Susannah Harker, is a Swedish actress and needs good roles, of the kind that he used to write for her. She tries to black mail him threatening to refuse him visits to the children. The second wife Frida (Gala Gordon) is much younger and wants to take him back to Germany.
As  we all know, he recovers f rom his indisposition and goes back to writing with renewed energy.
All very splendid, but I did find that two hours was a little too long to sit still and concentrate in the warmth of the theatre.  I thought that the scene with Frida came too quickly after the one with Siri and I felt in need of an interval. This is a purely personal point of view.

DOUBT – a parable

11 Sep

DOUBT – a parable.

AW
aline waites

DOUBT a parable at the Southwark PLayhouse. *****

DOUBT – a Parable
By John Patrick Shanley
This riveting taut narrative is set in the sixties when homophobic prejudice was rife.  Sister Aloysius – the severe headmistress of a R.C.junior school in the Bronx, is positive that the charismatic priest, Father Flynn has actually fed communion wine to the only black child in the school before molesting him sexually and she wants to get Flynn exposed as a pederast.
The acting in this ‘parable’ is superb and the scene between Mrs Mullen, the boy’s mother and Sister Aloysius is probably one of the most exciting confrontations  I have ever seen. There is a completely spontaneous round of applause on her exit. Jo Martin plays this Mumsie lady with passion and the deepest love for her son. She wants him to have a good life and she has no battle with Flynn, her only desire is to get her boy to High School.  Sister Aloysius, played by Stella Gonet,  believes that what she is doing is completely correct and the will of God, although in the end she is capable of cheating to get her own way. This is yet another brilliant performance and the actress also gets a round of applause after her biggest scene. The young priest is perfectly cast and sympathetically played by Jonathan Chambers. He too is a character who believes in kindness and can admit that it is possible and forgivable to doubt the rightness of everything. The fourth character, played by Clare Latham is a young nun who loves teaching but who is beginning to be disenchanted by the older nun’s over strict attitude.
Designed by P J McEvoy, the set is composed of rostra with a central stage and steps on each side so that every scene is available to the audience.  The platforms have the look of jewels as they are cut out in shapes and have coloured lights underneath..  McEvoy has worked it out perfectly to adapt to the needs of the script.
 The beginning of the play sets up the antagonism between the two main protagonists by having them at opposite ends – just looking at each other while Flynn  gives his sermon .
Che Walker wonderfully directs, with high clarity, this is a play of great passion, diverse ethics – and above all –ambiguity. The play is exact and economical. There is not a word to spare in the entire script which is run without an interval.
This is an exceptional evening in the theatre.

jottings

9 Sep

creative people want to be perfect and therefore can take criticism even if it hurts a little they will take it on board.they kn0w it is for their own good. It is just good that somebody recognises them and takes the time to talk about them. I am now talking about sincere people who mean well. Not monsters who are not creative but want to destroy whatever they can in order to aggrandise themselves.
They also like criticism because somebody is paying attention to them – and they thing they love best is talking about themselves – especially writer. – Try looking at facebook.

OUTLAWS TO INLAWS

5 Sep

OUTLAWS TO INLAWS
At the Kings Head ****
Seven distinguished writers have each a fifteen-minute play about the history of the problems and the persecution of homosexuality, in the past seventy years.
It begins with the Queen’s Coronation “Happy and Glorious” by Philip Meeks. Four men in a private club watching and commenting on the wedding. Enter a drag queen who tells them about his encounter with the heavy hand of the law. The play exhibits the obscenity of men being hounded like criminals because they were gay. It also reminds us of how opinions have changed.
Jonathan HARVEY wrote “Mr Tuesday.” Mr Tuesday is the lover of a married man, who wants to finish the affair and be faithful to his wife and children. But when Mr Tuesday discovers that his lover is a policeman, he threatens blackmail. People in positions of authority would lose their jobs if the truth were known. This was just two years before Homosexuality stopped being a criminal offence.
Jonathan Kemp – “The reward”. Even though being gay is no longer a legal crime, it is still dangerous. A skinhead living in a council block with others of his kind picks up a black middleclass teenager. When the affair is discovered, he suffers a dreadful punishment from one of his erstwhile mates.
In “1984” by Patrick Wilde, Ayds is here and so is Margaret Thatcher. Everyone is afraid of dying even young men who have privileged positions within parliament. Was Ayds considered a punishment? Some people thought so.
“Princess Die” by Matt Harris. A Princess Di look alike wears a sequin frock, jewellery and a blond wig. When the death of Diana is announced. He takes a last look at himself, removes the blond wig and sits alone in his spangled frock.
“Brothas” by Topher Campbell. Early in 2,000 there is still prejudice. Two black boys are looking for a date. Most of the dating places say No Blacks, No Asians. So they are looking online. We see the conversations and pictures on a screen at the back of the stage.
Finally, we are in the modern day ‘The Last Gay Play” is an actual wedding. Two young men one black, one white – are getting married by a vicar in a church. Is this the end of prejudice?
All twenty roles in this extraordinary set of plays are performed by six actors, Myles Devente, Paul Carroll, Alex Marlow, Elliot Balchin, Jack Bence, and Michael Duke
They are amazing in their versatility and Mary Franklin of Rough Haired Pointer directs all the plays.

9 to 5

5 Sep

9 TO 5 The Musical
Music and Lyrics by Dolly Parton
Book by Patricia Resnick
Upstairs at the Gatehouse.
Dolly Parton wrote the songs for this. A show that is brash, busty with a loud voice just like her. The book by Patricia Resnick is about a bunch of girls working in an office and comes down heavily on the sexist, bullying, patronising male chauvinist pig of a boss, probably the biggest argument for feminine equality. Three brilliant overlooked young women manage to get the best of this most unpleasant character
The story is taken from the film made by Jane Fonda’s production company. Dolly Parton was put into the movie as Doralee at Fonda’s suggestion to give a feeling of ‘country’. Parton wrote the number 9 to 5 which became a number one hit. She then composed another 14 numbers for the musical. These are the ones we see at the Gatehouse. There were others that have been discarded. One I particularly liked was ‘Backwoods Barbie’ sung by Louise Olley as she describes herself. One remembers her famous line ‘It costs a lot of money to look as cheap as me.’ Doralee is almost raped by her boss. He thinks that is all she is good for because of her feminine looks and because she is a hillbilly and spreads the rumour that she is his mistress
Judy, played by Amanda Coutts is the deserted wife with confidence destroyed by her unfaithful husband. She is overdressed and unable to defend herself, feeling she is worthless. Pippa Winslow plays Violet, the top girl who gets most of the work done, but gets overlooked for her well-deserved promotion because the vile Mr Hart gives all the plum jobs to his golfing cronies.
The crunch comes when one of the girls find out that all the men are getting three times the salary of the girls and she gets the sack for telling the others. All women are now aware of this situation. It was always ‘vulgar’ to talk about money. Now at last people are encouraged to disclose what they earn.
It is difficult to imagine any man with so much unpleasantness as Mr Hart, but Leo Sene convinces. Hart’s one admirer is Roz who gets a great number Heart to Hart which is hilariously performed by Samantha Giffard.
The hit song 9 to 5 opens the show and it is sung and danced by the entire company and tells us what jollity to expect. It is hugely energetic and well- choreographed by Chris Whittaker and musically directed by Oliver Hance.
This is a show that can bring joy to the heart of any woman who has suffered from a controlling and humiliating male. Producer Joseph Hodges is on a mission to bring out the most powerful feminist elements in the script as he felt it has been underplayed in previous productions.
It is a joy to watch and listen to and very very funny.

THRILL ME

1 Sep

THRILL ME
THE LEOPOLD AND LOEB MUSICAL
Book Music and Lyrics by Stephen Dolginoff
The musical is based on the story of the Thrill Killers, Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb. Two handsome young men still in their teens, were both studying law. Richard became excited by the works of Friedrich Nietzsche and began to believe he, himself, was Superman, beyond the law and able to commit crimes without anyone ever suspecting. Nathan who was possessed of an obsessive love for him, agreed to sign a contract to be his partner in crime.
Their story begins with Nathan Leopold still in prison after 34 years, telling the story to the parole board. He reveals his love and sexual passion for Richard, who needs the thrill of crime to accept Nathan’s lovemaking. Richard is unable to get aroused without the excitement of breaking the law in obvious ways without ever being found out.
Nobody knew that they were responsible for the great fire in a warehouse and lots of missing precious goods that the boys, having done the robberies, just threw away. But they were nice middle-class boys and no one could ever suspect them.
Inevitably their success in fooling the law gave Richard the idea that they should commit the final crime, The perfect murder. They chose as their victim a young child and organised a false kidnap to make the crime convincing
I first saw this musical at Greenwich a few years ago and found it impressive and strangely beautiful. This time, within the intimacy of the Arcola it is even more fascinating. These characters are completely impossible to sympathise, but both are attractive and the music is strangely heatrending. It is like looking at an ugly painting and finding it beautiful.
The two young men are both handsome. Ellis Dackombe as the irresistible and cruel Richard is dashing and his appeal is understandable. Harry Downes as Nathan has the voice of an angel. It is not surprising that they got away with so many crimes – so many indeed until the very last one. Nathan had a loving father – also a judge -who would have saved him when he told the full story, but Nathan, even if it meant hanging did not want to be separated from his lover, and if not to be hanged, would settle for sharing a cell with him for the rest of their lives.
This is a musical based on a true horror story, the music is sublime and the performances could not be equalled.