foul pages

29 May

FOUL PAGES *** By Robin Hooper
At the Hope Theatre
Plays involving William Shakespeare are always fascinating. However his heart and his brain have been investigated by so many different writers with so many differing results that it is a joy to see him as a simple working writer collaborating with his friend The Countess of Pembroke (The impressive Clare Bloomer)who is playing host to the players escaping from plague ridden London.
Another advantage here is that the actors are all living in close contact so, like an old fashioned play there is just the one set.
However he has written it in short scenes, and it takes a while to get ones brain into the correct gear, especially as between each little scene there is a whole lot of excruciatingly loud music which I found not only annoying, but in my case actually painful.
The main occupation of Mr Shakespeare (played with dignity by Ian Hallard)is to finish his play in order to win the favour of the new Scottish King James the first. A familiar problem arises when one is writing under orders, the patron insists on undesirable alterations in the casting. The leading role is Rosalind and the leading juvenile of the company is being pushed aside to give room to the Innamorato of the King .
Of course much is made of the casting of plays most especially the use of young men to play the leading ladies and there are many slightly bawdy and very gay jokes during the whole of the performance.
The play begins as a crazy comedy, the main character being a talking dog who is the unnamed and unrecognised narrator of the action. It is a great and unusual part for an actor and it is played with lots of fun and dedication by James King. A terrific role where he doesn’t have to communicate with the actors except to get a lot of cuddles.
Clare Bloomer is an imperious countess and a lot is made of the fact that Will collaborates and takes advice from a woman, so that women had their place even though they were not allowed to perform. Peg, her maid is played by Olivia Onyehara and these are the only two women in the cast but they are strongly registered..
All the young men are absolutely gorgeous and play with great honesty, truth and wit. Lewis Chandler is the blonde beauty originally engaged to play Rosalind and Thomas Bird is his usurper. Greg Baxter plays Ed, the sweet young man who is playing Orlando and is distressed to lose his lovely Rosalind.
Probably the most comical character is that of Tom Vanson who is the highly vain and over-dressed, over-made up and over- jewelled Scottish King – and his over-butch Protector is played by Jack Harding.
All good, crazy – if sometimes confusing – fun. The edge taken off from me – and probably only me – by the horrendous noise, like being at the heart of a thunderstorm. Longed for my earplugs.

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high ridin’

17 Sep

HIGH RIDIN’
By James Hogan
At the King’s Head
It is a broken down Guest House on the West Pennine Moors. The wallpaper is peeling off the walls and there are traces of a past Victorian grandeur in the chaise longue and some of the furnishings. Stan has inherited the place, left to him by his deceased father who had previously disowned him for being queer. Ivy, Stan’s Aunt Ivy agrees with the old man’s prejudices and believes that she should be entitled – if not to the house, but to the furniture and other contents..
Ivy played by Linda Beckett is a typical belligerent Lancashire woman of around 75. She has a shopping trolley into which she puts the things that she believes belong to her including a picture she takes off the wall.
Stan. portrayed as a tough guy with deep emotional undertones by Tom Michael Blyth, catches her taking the picture. He has the appearance of a brutal working class security guard who has been in prison for GBH. He doesn’t want to give up anything to her and currently needs her out of the way. They quarrel, she eventually sneaks the picture into her trolley and rushes off.
When she has gone, Stan brings on the reason why he needs her out of the way. He has picked up, a young lad of about nineteen , high on Spice, a lethal drug. The boy, Ronnie, is in a bad way, almost unable to move. He is carrying another stash of drugs in his bag. It is important that Stan is not found with him. Any possession of dope would send him back into prison
What Stan wants is to bring the Boarding house back to its past glory and become a respected member of society. Now he is lumbered with this sweet boy – a lovely first performance by Chi-Cho Tehe, who needs to get to Blackpool and Stan has offered to take him there.
Stan needs to get Ronnie sobered up He wants to feed the boy, but he is fresh out of prison and there is nothing in the house that is not maggot ridden or turning green.
This play shows clearly the lives of two homosexual people. There is no need to explain anything. They are what they are They are not camp or ‘gay’ They are just loving, needy people. It is not an issue, simply a fact.
It is part of the Kings Head Queer season, without any kind of special pleading. James Hogan knows his subject very well. Having spent his youth living with and loving a much older man.
The play is sympathetically directed by Peter Darney and the run down set is beautifully realised by Fin Redshaw with clever atmospheric lighting by Sherry Coenen
The play and performances are riveting – an excellent play that needs to be seen.
http://www.alinewaites.com

prairie flower

16 Sep

PRAIRIE FLOWER
BY Ryan Simms
Upstairs at the Gatehouse.
Danny O’Halloran, known as Skinny Dan, born in 1936 , died in July 2005.is the subject of this play. He was a member of the London gangland. A contemporary of the Great Train Robbers and during the time of the Krays.
This play is by his son Ryan Simms. A young man who – to his father’s horror decided to go into acting. Dan was very much against him following in father’s footsteps and becoming a villain. He wanted his son to be respectable, in an office. But Ryan was fascinated in the life story of his father and wanted to play the role of his father and tell the story without making him a hero. Danny may have been a thief and a murderer, but at home he was just Dad.
Danny got into crime at a very early age, making his way robbing banks, fighting with his contemporaries, leading into murder. He knew the Krays and the first few minutes of the show outlines his experiences with them.
The show is in two parts and the second part is about his experiences in prison serving a ten year sentence and in solitary for three months. That meant living with electric light on night and day, sleeping in a cold cell ridden with cockroaches, no books, no paper to write on no pens. All he could do was sit and think and later to tell his tale to his son Ryan.
Obviously, this is a very fascinating story, but. I would have been a little happier had he not – rightly I guess – done it in true Cockney accent. My problem was that I had a lot of trouble trying to follow it. My hope that it will be recorded so I can listen at leisure without having to strain.
This is the strangest theatrical performance ever with absolutely no production values, just two chairs and lights that can only be on or off.
Ryan learnt his acting skills f rom the poor School and Paul Caister, the founder of this institution helped Ryan to develop the script and directs the play. Caister shares the stage playing himself, sitting on another chair, facing the just visible star-cloth from a previous Gatehouse production. I was sorry that he directed most of his speeches upstage.
A fascinating evening, with no frills and sometimes difficult to follow.

salad days

14 Sep

SALAD DAYS ****
BY Julian Slade and Dorothy Reynolds
At the Richmond Theatre

‘SUMMER AND SUNSHINE AND FALLING IN LOVE’
Just one of Julian Slade’s beautiful tunes with the Springtime lyrics of Dorothy Reynolds.
This is a completely bonkers show just a lot of crazy incidents, review numbers to fit in with the gorgeous songs – which are amazing – and dare I say refreshing,- in this Rocking and Rapping age.
A short reference to Teddy Boys but, apart from this, the second half of the twentieth century needn’t have happened. It is so set in the innocent and hopeful fifties pre Beatles era and before the sexual revolution. When the word ‘Gay’ meant a kind of insouciant happiness and if homosexuality existed it wasn’t ever talked about. Most people were normal and others were.. queer.
The semblance to a plot is the friendship between Timothy and Jane – two recent graduates from University worrying that they might have already had all the good times they were ever going to have. ‘When we are gone who will give all the parties?’ ‘There won’t BE any parties.’
Life as they knew it, was over. Jane would marry Lord Nigel, Timothy would go into his family business. Bravely they sang ‘We said we wouldn’t look back’. A tear inducing tune and lyric.
It is later on when they are having simply super adventures with a magic piano (yes magic, the piano ‘the one that makes you dance’)
Suddenly, Timothy acquired a piano lent to him by a tramp who offered him seven pounds a week to take care of it. It was surprising to find that it was a magic piano (yes, magic the one that makes you dance}. Now as they see all the staid and self satisfied people throwing their legs in the air, they realise that this is the Time of Their Life.
There are some lovely performances, Wendi Peters and Valerie Cutco Play the mothers of the children as well as several other roles, hairdressers, Dons, Aunts, Employers etc . And of course all dancing along with all the rest .Mark Anderson and Jessica Cross play the young ones and Maeve Byrne is especially

The semblance to a plot is the friendship between Timothy and Jane – two recent graduates from University worrying that they might have already had all the good times they were ever going to have. ‘When we are gone who will give all the parties?’ ‘There won’t BE any parties.’
Life as they knew it, was over. Jane would marry Lord Nigel, Timothy would go into his family business. Bravely they sang ‘We said we wouldn’t look back’. A tear inducing tune and lyric.

Suddenly, Timothy acquires a piano lent to him by a tramp who offers him seven pounds a week to take care of it. It is surprising to find that it is a magic piano (yes, magic the one that makes you dance}. Now as they see all the staid and self satisfied people throwing their legs in the air, they realise that this is the Time of Their Life.
There are some lovely performances, Wendi Peters and Valerie Cutco Play the mothers of the children as well as several other roles, hairdressers, Dons, Aunts, Employers etc . And of course all dancing along with all the rest .Mark Anderson and Jessica Cross play the young ones and Maeve Byrne is especially funny as Asphynxia – ion a sort of Night Club scene I think. Not sure. Of course , there is a comic policeman and a non speaking mime called Troppo (Callum Evans)
The musical director and Tramp are Dan Smith and he plays piano throughout with Andrew Richards on Bass and Joe Pickering on drums. Direction is by Bryan Hodgson and splendid loony choreography by Joanne McShane.
It is good, clean crazy fun of the kind we don’t get nowadays. Settings change by simple tracer lighting effects by Tim Deiling on Mike Lees’s magical setting.
It’s a lovely change and It is a rare treat. We come out smiling.

thriller gala 4000 performance.

14 Sep

GALA PERFORMANCE OF THRILLER
For the Prince’s Trust
AT THE LYRIC THEATRE

To borrow a line from Sweet Charity
“All I can say is WOW”
And certainly, this show is the most Wow making production ever.
It has been running for four thousand performances.
What I find most thrilling about this show, is that it seems to get better every thousandth performance, or may it is just that I forget in between celebrations how good a show it is
This special performance in aid of the Princes Trust starred Peter Andre a true Jackson fan, who sang a heartfelt version of “She’s Out of my Life” and “Man in the Mirror” for which he received a standing ovation and later also joined in several numbers with the dancers as easily as if he had been part of the show forever.
It is spectacle upon spectacle. The dancing is incredible with director Gary Lloyd’s unforgettable and innovative choreography. How he can get all those people on stage doing choreography to every number and never repeating himself in any of them. So often some of the dancers will do unbelievably impossible athletic moves. “Can you feel it?” They sing at the end of Act One. The whole audience certainly could.
The leading female soloist is the very beautiful Vivienne Ekwulugo. At the beginning she is dressed in a golden skin tight costume which shows every inch of her magnificent body, she looks like a Goddess and her voice is sent from heaven.
It is impossible to name the whole cast. Two shining examples are Haydon Eshun and David Julien both exceptional singers. Hayden who has been singing professionally from the age of nine was recently named as the most talented male vocalist in the UK..
Special mentions need to go to Xhanti Mbonzongwana who plays the young Michael of The Jackson
Five, and Kieran Alleyn, the epitome of Jackson himself who sings with Xhanti in “Billie Jean” Kieran .was the very first ‘Young Michael’ in 2009
What is so attractive about this show is the racial diversity . I was particularly impressed by a blonde girl who has a great talent for comedy. Leona Lawrenson.
But there is so much huge talent on that stage, so much spectacle, so many incredibly attractive costumes by the Shooting Flowers creative team. We feel almost smothered in a surfeit of sequins.
The set is perfect for the style of the show and it was designed by Jonathan Park. Lighting and Sound is perfect and there are many special effects by the Twins FX
We leave in a wave of euphoria and look forward to Thriller number 5,000

ABOUT LEO

10 Sep

About Leo
BY Alice Allemano
At Jermyn Street Theatre

Leonora Carrington is probably one of the best known artists in Mexico, but very little of her was known in England, the country of her birth. Alice Allemano discovered her at Tate Liverpool in a retrospective exhibition and was impressed by the volume of her work
Born and brought up in a respectable middle class family in Lancashire, She was disowned by her father when she eloped with a married man. He was Max Ernst the surrealist painter. Surrealism was not considered proper art at the time, almost pornographic, but Leonora was fascinated by it.
No time is given but it would be around 2010. A young girl arrives at Leo’s house in Mexico wanting to find out more about her life with Max Ernst.. The girl is Eliza Prentice, a would be journalist fascinated by the life of this relatively unknown woman only known to art aficionados as the girl who was the muse for Max Ernst. Something she vehemently denies. Susan Tracey gives an impeccable performance as the older Leo. She is occasionally irascible, but always retains the inner warmth and spirit of her rebellious nature.
The play is set in two time frames, the visit to Mexico of Eliza (played with a kind of excited innocence by Eleanor Wild) and the late nineteen thirties when Max and Leo were living together.
The set is clever with two areas, the main stage representing Leo’s kitchen for the scenes with the older Leo and Eliza and a raised platform which is sometimes shrouded but when the curtain is drawn, we see all is scarlet, even the scarlet dress of the young Leo for the nineteen thirties love scenes.
Here the two lovers played by Phoebe Pryce as the young Leo and Nigel Whitmey as the very attractive Max Ernst show the true love they had for each other, their squabbles and their passion. Their happiness was interrupted by the beginning of the second world war. Max was arrested by the police and was taken away from her. She went into depression and her father tried to get her into an insane asylum, but she made her getaway and fled to Mexico. Her arrival in Mexico brought her marriage and children but never interfered with her freedom and she always remained her own person.
This play is part of the Rebel season at the Jermyn Street Theatre. It is the author’s first play and it tells a fascinating story, but I felt ninety minutes without an interval was a little demanding. Like Leonora, I too would have welcomed a little escape.
The actors are all vibrant individuals and play their roles with integrity. The direction is by Michael Oakley. Maybe rather too long, but a great story well told and well played. And true to the Theatre’s task of illuminating characters who never give in to convention..

ABOUT LEO

9 Sep

ABOUT LEO
BY Alice Allemano
At Jermyn Street Theatre

Leonor Carrington is probably one of the best known artists in Mexico, but very little o her was known in England, the country of her birth. Alice Allemano discovered her at Tate Liverpool in a retrospective exhibition and was impressed by the huge amount of her work
Born and brought up in a respectable middle class family in Lancashire, She was disowned by her father when she eloped with a married man. He was Max Ernst the surrealist painter. Surrealism was not considered proper art at the time, almost pornographic, but Leonora was fascinated by it.
A young girl arrives at her house in Mexico wanting to find out more about her life with Max Ernst.. The girl is Eliza Prentice, a would be journalist fascinated by the life of this relatively unknown woman only known to art aficionados as the girl who was the muse for Max Ernst. Something she vehemently denies. Susan Tracey gives an impeccable performance as the older Leo. She is occasionally irascible, but always has the inner warmth and passion of her rebellious nature.
After the breakup with Ernst she had a nervous breakdown and was sent by her father to a lunatic asylum from where she escaped and found he r way to Mexico where she remained for the rest of her days.
The play is set in two time frames, the visit to Mexico of Eliza (played with a kind of excited innocence by Eleanor Wild) and the late nineteen thirties when Max and Leo were living together.
Here the two lovers played by Phoebe Pryce as the young Leo and Nigel Whitmey as the very attractive Max Ernst.
WE see the true love they had for each other, their squabbles and their love making. During this honeymoon period, we hear on the radio the announcement that Hitler had invaded Poland and it was the beginning of the second world War. She stayed with Max until he was arrested by the police. He was taken away from her and she suffered her nervous breakdown. Her arrival in Mexico brought her marriage and children but never interfered with her freedom and the way wanted to live. – in praise of freedom.
This play is part of the Regel season at the Jermyn Street Theatre
It is the author’s first play and it tells a fascinating story, but I felt it was a little long, ninety minutes without an interval. I too would have welcomed a little escape.
They are all excellent actors and are beautifully directed by Michael Oakley
It is a clever and very lovely set by Erika Paola Redriguez Egas. It has two stages, the main stage which is
This play is part of the Regel season at the Jermyn Street Theatre
It is the author’s first play and it tells a fascinating story, but I felt it was a little long, ninety minutes without an interval. I too would have welcomed a little escape.
They are all excellent actors and are beautifully directed by Michael Oakley.
It is a clever and very lovely set by Erika Paola Redriguez Egas. It has two stages, the main stage which is made of old wood and is Leo’s kitchen, and a raised platform, occasionally shrouded, but behind the curtain all is scarlet, even including the dress of the young Leo
It is a Bit long, but a fascinating story well told and well played

eugenius

8 Sep

EUGENIUS ****
BY Chris Wilkins and Ben Adams
AT THE OTHER PALACE
This hilarious comic book musical has returned to the Other Palace due to public demand. It already has a huge vociferous fan base , and they attend every performance recognising and cheering on their favourite characters.
The show is set in the nineteen eighties –Well – who wants to see a jolly comedy show set in the present troubled age? OK, that is one reason The more important one is that the brilliant young composers find themselves more at home with the nineteen eighties style.
As it turns out the show has the best new tunes in town, and the script is wonderfully silly..
Basically it’s a ‘geek beats all’ story. Eugene played by the ever lovely Rob Houchen is beaten up by his bullying peers, mainly for being cleverer than all the rest of them. He is no hero, it is his girlfriend Janey who beats up the bullies . Laura Baldwin plays Janey and has done through many of its incarnations. The other old timer is Daniel Buckley who plays Eugene’s best chum Feris. This character is a real audience pleaser whose appearance is greeted with roars of approval from the fans.
Eugene spends his time locked in the fantasy world of his book and his hero Tough Man. The title of Tough Man is a stroke of Eugenious, as it tells us right from the beginning that there is absolutely nothing remotely serious or sensible about this piece of theatre. The heroine is called Super Hot Lady. Which totally proves this point.
Janey, his pretty witty girl friend puts his comic story up for a competition – which it naturally, wins and the three chums take off for Hollywood where the Tough Man movie is to be made.
Once in Hollywood we have the self important director Lex Hogan portrayed by Alex Bourne in a glamorous white suit to match his luscious white hair, and his highly camp production assistant, the adorably cuddly and very funny Scott Paige. Plus some typically miscast Hollywood stars. Simon Thomas as a German accented Tough Man and Emily Tierney as the awkwardly immovable Super Hot Lady. There are also a load of fish people in addition to the characters in Eugene’s book.
Lex Hogan advises Augene ‘You gotta perform a little kiss ass’ to succeed in the movie business.
However the extra planetary stories click in and we zoom into fantasy. The creation of Tough Man is explained and Tough Man’s villainous twin brother arrives. The Evil Lord Hector played by Neil McDermott has been somehow thrown off his own planet and he is spinning around the Universe trying to find and kill his twin brother.(not sure why)
In addition to the hilarity, there are some really interesting numbers –‘Comic book king of Love’ is beautifully performed by Rob Houchen and of course the rabble rousing number which has the audience joining in – both the song and the accompanying gestures. ‘Go Eugenius’ was the one I found myself singing all the way home.
The kind of entertainment we need , directed by Ian Talbot with Darren Lloyds as musical director and produced by Kevin Wood, George Wood and Warwick Davis.
A show for all the family and kids of all ages from three to a hundred and three. Love It!