Archive | January, 2020


28 Jan


Welcome to Linnie Reedman, our speaker for the February Branch meeting 

Linnie is an unusually prolific writer, director and producer. One can name about twenty of her productions without even thinking about it. 

She was working as an actress, and Drama teacher when it became obvious that directing was the thing she enjoyed most, but in order to direct her own plays to her own satisfaction, she would have to start her own company. She calls it Ruby in the Dust as she likes to discover hidden jewels or less obvious elements in well-known stories. 

Her co-producer is Joe Evans a musician and composer who provides music for the productions.  

Some of her subjects have been Jacques Brel, Bonnie and Clyde, Dorian Grey, Daisy in Gatsby, Lady Windermere, Romeo and Juliet, Titania, Fairy Queen   etc. 

Is currently casting a rock version of Dorian and writing a new play. The strange affair of Herschel Grynspan. 


27 Jan

The play is set at some time in the future – We are in a crumbling office. There are four desks and four telephones. On one of the desks is a computer. Everything in the office seems to have been built during some former time – as if things have just been dragged out of a rubbish dump. There is a small kitchen and on the wall, there are hooks for the people to hang their gasmasks on.

The world outside is disintegrating. There are gales blowing and constant rain – occasional thunder and the sound of police cars.

Around the walls of the office are posters saying ‘This is the first day of the rest of your life’ and ‘Empathise, don’t sympathise’ and across the back wall there is a poster with large letters’Thought for the week’ which changes during the evening as the weeks go by. There is music playing – folk music and music from the seventies.

This is the office of Brightline – a kind of Saracens which takes place every Tuesday night where the four people in the office answer calls from those in desperate circumstances.

.Frances, thirty five years old and heavily pregnant is on one of the phones, so is Angie and twenty year old girl and Joe, a seventeen year old boy is just regarding his phone nervously as if worried it might ring. He is of course a new boy.
When the phone rings, his nervousess increases. He picks up the phoune as says ‘I am someone you can talk to’. Frances gives him a thumbs up.
Jon, tall bearded and early thirties arrives and tells them that the bridges have fallen down. They are used to these kind of statements. They do not et excited.They all work on their telephones all the time, each having a different conversation. It is almost impossible to follow any of them as they are all talking at once.
When there is a break they all play with a large beach ball, throwing it to each other. They also have smaller balls to play with. They are passing the time. It is all they can do. They come into the office once a week and face more and more devastation every time.
That is the beginning, the middle and the end of the play. LIttle things happe, the kettle blows up, Frances brings in the doughuts, They talk about the courses they are taking. Some of the callers are affecting them.
Every week the wind blows and as they come into the office they have to sraighten up the posters and the furniture that have been broken down.
Then one day the lights don’t work. They are plunged into darkness and Frances gets out a whole bag of tealights and they are lit up and spread around the place making it look even festive. By the time this happens two of the desks have already broken. Things seem to be getiting worse. But they survive. Even a little thing like the pretty tea lights bring pleasure in these hard times.

Frances is played by Jenni Maitland, we worry about her all the way through wondering if the baby will arrive by curtain call. Angie is Lydia Larson , Joey by Andrew Finnegan sand Jon by Andy Rush. The director is James Grieve – he has cast the play well and produced the eerie atmosphere along with designer, Amy Jane Cook and Lighting director Peter Small. It is a Paines Plough and heater Royal Plymouth Production.
It is a struggle for optimism in a disintegrating and depressive world.


26 Jan




Wiltons is a lovely old theatre that is always a pleasure to visit. Just a quick friendly warning, it is an old building and the heating is not as good as it would be in a more modern environment, so dress up warm in these cold Winter days. 

“Macbeth” has arrived here from the Watermill Ensemble, well known for its innovative and popular actor/musician productions and this is certainly no exception to that rule. There are guitars on and off stage and a set of drums to accompany most of the scenes. Some of the musicians actually take part in ensemble numbers.  

It is a bit of a surprise to find none of the music is of Macbeth’s time or even Shakespeare’s.   ‘The House of the Rising Sun’ sung by King Duncan is a bit of a surprise and doesn’t seem to have much meaning within the context of the play. Maybe there is a connection I haven’t noticed or maybe the actor just enjoys singing it. Anyway John Cash and the Rolling Stones are featured in the musical score. 

I am sure that the production must have been excellent on its home ground, but the acoustic at Wilton’s is just not good enough for a straight play. 

The old Music Hall simply calls out for jollity. Pirates of Penzance was a delight last year and cabaret also works well, in fact all shows there need to be directed at the audience. 

Billy Postlethwaite as ‘the butcher’ Macbeth and Emma Macdonald as his ‘fiendish queen’ are fine and well projected but some of the lesser roles do not face the audience at all times and the voices just disappear into the backcloth. 

Some of the soldier costumes were really well chosen, but I would prefer to see Lady Macbeth dressed a little more formally. For some reason mini-skirts look out of place in tragedy and the dressing gown in the sleepwalking scene was well above the knee. This may be fuddy duddy talking, but it was unappealing. 

Sadly during the first act of Macbeth on the Press Night, the actress playing Lady Macduff damaged her knee and was unable to continue. Luckily, in the audience was Emma Barclay, an actress who had recently played the role and she remembered it well. She was given a script but she worked without it. Well done Emma. This was a great piece of drama, but it didn’t do the play any favours, adding an extra hour to the running time. Just bad Scottish play luck. – An hour extra in the cold was not conducive to happiness  

I don’t think Macbeth really works at Wiltons – no matter how talented the performers or the direction. It is a gloomy setting of a dark story and I think the old theatre needs happiness and love. 

Next week the same company is to play ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and I am sure lovers and fairies will brighten up the place bringing comedy and colour which is what this beautiful little theatre needs. 


24 Jan




The Soho version of Alex Gregory’s comedy thriller is an absolute knock out – even more emotionally disturbing than before. You can be helpless with laugher at his witty script and the next minute you are holding your breath in terror as the action between these two men intensifies. 

B (Alex Gregory) a muscular young man dressed in a vest, jogging trousers and trainers arrives at the plastic covered attic room. He has paid out all his money to be hurt. In love with murder, he wants to experience the physical feelings of the victims of serial killers. He is expecting to be killed.  

The online advertisement by A (Jonny Woo) has convinced him that here is the man who can serve him, fulfil the final humiliation.  A is dressed as a business man, he considers himself the true master of professional cruelty as an art form. Believes that one day Hollywood will make a movie of his life. “Not some shitty low budget British movie, a big American movie with a Macdonald’s Tie in. Figurines of me with Happy Meals.”  

There is violence in the play, but nothing is shown. Sometimes, the men are far apart, the lights go to total blackout and there are noises of kicking and screaming. When the lights come on, the two men are back in the same positions as before. It is as if the whole thing is happening in their imagination, but it is no less frightening for that. 

It is a strange subject for a comedy. It could be off putting for audiences, but during the almost musical exchanges between the protagonists no violence is seen. Much of the comedy and fun is the author making fun of the two guys.  The over active, gay young man and the dignified but conceited demeanour of the torturer. The acting is superb, the precise direction by Robert Chevara is brilliant and sensitive. 

This is a stunning production using a dark subject to make the audience laugh helplessly.  The quality of the script, acting and direction takes you in their hands and makes you scream with laughter and gasp with terror.  

The extraordinary setting and design are by Rocco Venna. It sets out the limitations of the stage area and the back -wall is covered with plastic as well as the sofa – obviously there is an obsession with cleanliness. The lighting by Mike Robertson is cleverly worked with spotlights and fairy lights and of course the necessary blackouts. 

 The play cannot end when you leave the theatre. There is so much hidden content that you need to return to see it again or get a copy of the play text which is published by Oberon Books and is on sale at the theatre box office. 

Sex Crime is funded by the Arts Counci. 


14 Jan

Good News
The Broadway veteran of shows like ‘The Drowsy Chaperone’ and TV comedies like ‘Friends’ returns to the Coqs for a whole week with his “jaw dropping , critically acclaimed” special brand of improvised solo performances and introducing special guests each night, including an appearance from Ruth Bratt, actress and singer from ‘Show Stoppers’, the improvisation company. With him are his cheery, intrepid and totally unshakeable musicians:- namely John Thorn on keyboards, Jonny Gee on Bass and the Sophie Alloway on drums all ready to up and take off any way he decides to go.
Jason has great humour, is witty of speech, and an irrepressible sense of fun. He creates a warm relationship with an audience, has a voice that rivals any in musical theatre and jazz, and a very special something that only an artist with his unusual talent could achieve.
The audience are each given a form to fill in. No, not like the ones you have to do several tiems a day on your phone or computer. These are questions like. ‘name Three nice words’ ‘what you love to eat’ ‘your favourite town’ etc. My answer to the nice words was ‘Health, Beauty and Love’ and was amazed to hear him turn these words into a song.
The guest artist last evening was Ruth Bratt who came on first, along with the orchestra, announced herself, and talked to the audience asking people their names, where they came from etc. began by asking people for names and places Last night it was Matthew, Delivery and Tulsa… So she announced the appearance of that famous cabaret performer ‘Matthew Delivery’ all the way from Tulsa, Later on the two of them worked beautifully on some sublime duets in improvised songs.
Using the answers given by the audience last night Matthew Delivery was working at a Wetsock factory in Tulsa, went on a journey by Lifeboat to the Taj Mahal and finished up in his favourite town…Grimsby. A whole life story is conjured up in perfect song style and all ‘off the top’ of his head.
The Crazy Coqs elegant room in the heart of Piccadilly is the perfect cabaret venue for witty comedy, good natured idiocy and terrific singing. Jason Kravits is the master of all.


10 Jan

BY Thomas Hughes

At the Union Theatre.

Tom Brown’s Schooldays is a book by lawyer, Thomas Hughes published in the early nineteenth century. It was somewhat autobiographical taken from his own experiences of how the way upper class scholboys were brought up at Rugby School.
Phil Wilmott at the Union in his 2020 series of plays called “Essential Classics” begins the season with this early book but has adapted it into a later period in order to highlight the British response to the first world war.
To create the musical background he has used the work of musical director Ralph Warman to reproduce the harmonies, hymns and wartime popular songs to be sung by the music teacher and the boys in the show. Warman is a specialist in harmony and the barber shop business, so he handles the singers extremely well and himself plays the music teacher at Rugby School.
So this is the kind of place where our Tory government boys were brought up. The place is more or less run by the hateful bully Flashman – the sixth former, who roasts children on the fire and throws them out of windows. The Headmaster is Dr Arnold who has come out of retirement in order to release some of the other teachers. Dr Arnold knew Tom’s father in WW1 when he won medals for bravery. He has one strict rule. Always tell the truth. Unfortunately the boys have also a rule ‘Never tell on each other.” This means that Flashman can get away with murder and the Headmaster never knows about it but beats poor Tom for not revealing where he gets his injuries. It seems at Public Schools you are taught to keep secrets – and lie – at a very early age.
However it will be no secret to say that the young boys turned out well, defeated Flashman and all joined the Airforce in time for the Battle of Britain to the chorus of ‘I vow to Thee my Country’ etc.
I cannot pretend it works as a piece of literature, but the audience – mostly young girls of course – seem to enjoy the production and give screams of delight about the singing.
The boys all do their parts well including Hudson Brown as the innocent Brown, Alex McKeon perfectly cast as the evil but charismatic Flashman and Toby Wynn-Davies plays the severe, grumpy master Grimstead
I also very much liked Mikko Juan as Brook, the sixth former who stood up for the boys and had to deliver the final speech which he did with passion and clarity.
Well choreographed fight scene by Stephen Louis, set design by Reuben Speed and costume design by Penn OCara all do their job. .
Under Phil Wilmott’s direction the actors all work well with a very special performance by Ursula Mohan as the Eccentric housekeeper Sally. The only female in the cast.
An interesting evening in which the underdogs do rather better here than in the recent election.
Production is by Sasha Regan of the Union Theatre.


9 Jan

LEXICON – nofitstate
at the Round House ****
a circus without animals
Described as “A World inhabited by misfits. A world of Magic, Music and Laugher, where the impossible becomes possible.”
It all begins with the music. Scattered sounds from the four musicians with, brass and woodwind instruments (compete with a euphonium).
The fifteen performers begin as children sitting at their school desks, where everything is regulated and boring. Gradually someone throws open their desk, and throws torn-up papers everybody enjoys, copies and misbehaves – there is a storm of white paper.

They are full of excitement just as if they are running away to join a circus!
This is truly an ensemble company who trust each other, put their lives in each others’ hands as they climb to the sky and tumble to the ground, just avoiding inevitable death, as they do impossible conjuring tricks on a tightrope, or even on a slack rope like which is even more dangerous.
Imagine, trying to get completely undressed down to your underwear, and then dress yourself in formal DJ atrtire, all whilst riding on a unicycle. The trousers present much difficulty and much hilarity. I had a problem this morning getting into tight jeans, when sitting on a non moving chair.
On of my favourites was, the guy in a kilt who walks on a big green ball and messes about with his clarinet with perfect comedy timing.
Also the man who fools around with fire, accidentally setting light to his own shirt, all his fellow performers and everything else but managing to dowse all the flames until he finishes by juggling with multiple blazing sticks.
The Round House is a perfect venue for them. With its strength and stability It can support high standing towers and suspended metal rings suspended from the ceiling and they make good use of them. Very frightening when one swing on a trapeze right over the head of the audience.
The music and the singing is wonderfully apt and the
whole show is excellently thought out and worked by the direction team along with the performers. There are no stars – only each one of them. All achieving the impossible with humour and incredible good spirits.
If you need to see a circus with Magic, Music and Laughter, this is something special.
Lexicon is a great evening out.