17 Oct

BY Karoline Leach
At the Tabard
Seeing this old fashioned type thriller – was almost like holiday. So relaxing seeing a play without nudity, without politics (gender or otherwise) but one man and one woman exploring their own individual lives. Both becoming aware of the dangers of each other and yet not admitting it. We are at the beginning of the twentieth century, Edwardian times. Fred Perry plays a con man. A true charmer who begins the play by speaking to the audience. He tells us that he wears handmade suits, he adopts a PR accent and a gentlemanly demeanour. But he is a predator. He finds a suitable mark – a plain girl with a bit of money. He makes love to her, proposes to her, goes through a form of marriage, spends one night making expert love to her and then skedaddles with all her money. He tells us all this without shame, with a kind of pride. He has given the girls a wonderful experience that they will never have again. He was so convincing that on the night I was there a member of the audience was moved to cry out in the middle of his speech.
Cut to the other side of the stage and there is Adelaide. Played by Natasha J Barnes, looking unusually dumpy but almost unbearably sweet as a milliner who works in the back of a millinery shop. She too talks to the audience. Tells us about her family, her aunt who left her the beautiful brooch she is wearing, which she believes is worth a fortune – and the money she is saving to do ‘something wonderful’ she doesn’t yet know what it will be. She has dreams of travelling to romantic places in Europe
The two get to know each other of course – seemingly by accident but carefully planned by George – he goes into action almost straight away saying he loves her and knows she wouldn’t want to marry him. He is not good enough for her. Hey hye, nobody can resist a line like his – more shouts from the audience. These characters are full of surprises for each other and for the audience. So many twists and flashes of danger- like something that could have been written half a century ago. As an audience I was aware that my mind was being played with, but it was so entertaining that I didn’t mind.
The setting is just right for the seedy seaside boarding house where most of the action takes place. Max Dorey has recreated the scenes perfectly and in tune with the times – a gas lantern, an iron bedstead and incorporating a wonderful fireplace with a wooden surround which must have been painted thirty years before and colourful tiles some of which are broken
Both the actors are terrific. Fred Perry as the evil seducer and Natasha J Barnes as he plain little milliner with a will of iron.
Excellently directed by Phoebe Barran.



16 Oct

At Ye Old Rose and Crown Theatre, Walthamstow
Music by Joe Brooks
Book and lyrics by Joe Brooks and Dusty Hughes
Additional material by David Firman.
The review must begin with mentioning the incredible vocal power of the cast in this show and the orchestral and vocal arrangements by Aaron Clingham.
Metropolis is based on the 1927 Fritz Lang Science Fiction Movie set in 2029. It is a strange choice for this venue. Their shows are often dependent on the happy feeling we associate with musical theatre.
It has no happiness in it. A love story that is impossible for various reasons. A megalomaniac boss and all the poor workers who work day in day out under the ground working the machinery that powers the dystopian city of Metropolis. If they stop the city will be destroyed.
John Freeman the boss resents his dependency on the workers and is trying to get his mad scientist friend Dr.Warner to invent an army of robots that will dispose of the workers and take their place.
In addition to the Workers there are the elitist people who live in high rise apartments. They are not allowed. in the underground so have no idea what is going on beneath their feet. They sing and dance and generally behave like upper class idiots. Except for one man, Steven, the son of John Freeman. Steven happens to meet Maria one of the workers who is showing the children of the workers the wonders of the town. He falls in love with her and is determined to follow her down to the factory.
This is a depressing story and it doesn’t let up nor does the music which is mostly confined to heavy power ballads. However the singing is so stunning and the orchestral and vocal arrangements are well equal to and actually even beyond the usual high standard of shows at the A and Cat It is the music and the singing which saves this show from being thoroughly depressing.
The depression is the fault of the actual script, not the creatives or cast who are all professional and efficient.
Miiya Alexandra plays a lovely Maria and Steven is Rob Herron , John Freeman by Gareth James, Dr Warner the scientist who is responsible for providing the robot is played by Kitty Whitelaw, and John Freeman’s sidekick Jeremiah is played by Alex Ely. Michael Levi is a worker who escapes for a short time but finds he prefers the company downstairs.
Metropolis is not a barrel of laughs. But it is sty lish and beautifully directed by Tim McArthur and choreographed by Ian Pyle.
The film was the cause of much controversy and was banned for a while as Communist propaganda. It is a warning that if the people in charge don’t get themselves together and destroy the class system it may be proved true.


14 Oct

At the White Bear Kennington
Adapted for theatre by Piers Beckley
Directed by Ray Shell
The stories of Gilgamesh have appeared many times in works of fiction Items in the Bible and Shakespeare can be traced back to this the earliest known great work of literature.
The poem was written sometime before 2,000 BC. It consists of twelve books written by all the great poets of the times. It seems like an almost impossible task to reduce twelve long stories into just one hour, but somehow Piers Beckley has managed it and it makes a stunning play which oddly resembles a popular TV drama.
Gilgamesh was a King of superhuman strength but of flawed personality who build the great walls to defend Uruk from invaders and defeated all the enemies of the State. After winning his world he became bored, spending his time carousing and fornicating. He claimed the Droit du Seigneur having every maiden in the country the night before her wedding. “He is king, he does whatever he wants… takes the girl from her mother and uses her, the warrior’s daughter, the young man’s bride”[5]
This offended the senses of all the citizens who were kept awake every night by his roistering and also fear for their daughters. The Gods devised a plan to find him a man who could equal him in strength and who might put a stop to this kind of behaviour. A wild beast Enkidu was taught to love and to speak by the Temple Harlot Shamhat and turned out to be a genius of reason. After fighting the King to stop him sullying one of the maidens the two heroes found that they were equal in strength and they loved each other. They set out together to rid the world of monsters.
Ray Shell directs the play and he has gathered an elegant set of creative talents. The setting is magnificent, consisting of giant drawings of the two heroes Gilgamesh and Enkidu made by 17 year old Ethan Cheek. The costumes are many and glamorous bought, begged or fabricated by Sophia Pardon; And the fight arranger is Ken McCurdy. In addition, Anthony Haden-Guest has devised cartoons of Gilgamesh scenes for the programme. These people and the talented cast all work hard to make a high class imaginative production.
Gilgamesh’s longing to become immortal was never realised in his lifetime, but stories about him have been retold so often and Piers Beckley has resurrected some of his life full of glamour and fun for the theatre. The great King became immortalised by his legend.
Luke Trebilcock is every inch a powerful, romantic and handsome king
Toby Wynn-Davies can play the wild beast one minute and a man of dignity immediately afterwards.
Nicola Blackman plays most of the villains including Humbaba. She brings her experience, her talent and her humour to everything she does
The Countesss Alex Zapak is Shamhat the Temple Harlot giving an elegant and totally uninhabited performance.
All the rest are Jaye Ella-Ruth as Siduri, Sarah Lott as Ninsun, Margaret Tully as chorus,Birte Widmann is Ishtar, and Jazmine Wilkinson is Shamash the god. They all double in other roles and provide background chanting and dancing.

lady m

13 Oct

A rehearsed trailer
At the Bread and Roses Theatre, Clapham.

Lady Macbeth is one of Shakespeare’s most well known villains. Tim Frost has written this – rather more historical play in Iambic Pentameters, very much in the Bard’s own style, but the author has thoroughly researched the actual story of the Macbeths.
He has discovered one of the reasons for Lady M.’s behaviour and the reason for her aversion to King Duncan. Here are no witches or crones, just Macbeth’s blind ambition – something his wife had not reckoned with. She seemed to have no idea of his propensity for murdering people who got in his way. Once his ambition has been fired.
Shakespeare left the subject of Lady M’s child-bearing a little ambiguous, but Frost has given her a son from a previous marriage – a son that has disappeared and who she misses all the time.
Frost is an excellent playwright and good director. He has cast well, finding a company of hardworking actors who have learned the whole script and rehearsed it for two days only. They perform this play of just over an hour with not a book in sight. The actors all said that it was easy to learn the lines because of the iambic pentameters.
The very lovely and striking blond actress Aoife Smyth plays Lady M in this production. She is seductive and charming and despite the revenge bubbling in her soul she greets her enemy with great charm and hospitality. Andrew Gallo is Macbeth – with exactly the correct bearded and masculine persona. Both the Macduff’s are charming. Lady Macduff played by Excellent actress Rosa French and she doubles as Shileas, retainer of Lady M in the ending part of the play. Stephen Emery who plays Macduff also doubles successfully as Duncan at the beginning.
Lady Macduff and Lady M are great friends and have some nice gossipy scenes. French and Smyth are a great combination both in appearance and attitude.
Finally, there is a comedy performance from Matthew Jordan as Ruaraidh major domo to the Macbeths at Glamis. He does strip naked at one point which he does without embarrassing us – as he runs to answer the knocking at the door.
This is an exhaustively well researched drama and very enjoyable played with the minimum of technical assistance – just a few lights, a couple of chairs and some sheeting is all they need to deliver a professional performance which is enjoyed by the enthusiastic young audience.
I hope that this play will get the attention it deserves. Fascinating historically especially with the deviations from Shakespeare, but as a thrilling drama in itself .

31 hours

8 Oct

By Kieron Knowles
Every 31 hours someone will kill themselves by jumping in front of a train. It is usually a man.
The action takes place on a Tuesday morning somewhere on the railways. The show begins and ends with the thunderous roar of a train passing through a station. The one that passes through a station without stopping. The one that allows a suicide to die instantly from the impact.
It is a strange curiously effective and poetical piece about the men who clean up the mess after people commit suicide by throwing themselves under a train.
I heard about this one day on the way to Brighton when there was an incident at East Croydon and all the trains to Brighton were cancelled for a couple of hours. The clean-up men were describing the scene on phone to the man on the gate at Victoria who was relaying all the gory details to me.
The play didn’t stint on the gore, but it was so beautifully acted by the four protagonists as they act out pieces of their own lives to us – things they would not admit to each other. Occasionally, they also try to get into the heads of the suicides and show how they think the guys were feeling – maybe they had sometimes felt the same. There are only four men in this play but many characters as the men take on different personalities, often making fun of people that hang around the stations.
They play around with each other, moving heavy blocks of stone from place to place, creating different patterns and using them as tables and places to sit.
The four men work at a cracking pace and the dialogue is impeccably timed with great humour. There is almost unbearable pathos which is never allowed to become mawkish.. The men must be as cheerful as possible because with such a grisly occupation they need to keep themselves sane. As they say, ‘somebody has to do it’. and ‘A job is a job after all’. The four quite brilliant actors are Abdul Salis as John, James Wallwork as Ste, , Salvatore D’Aquilla as Neil and Jack Sunderland as Doug . They are excellently directed by Abigail Graham. .
This all takes place in the Bunker, a new 180 seat theatre in Southwark. Street. The entrance is between the Chocolate Factory and the flat iron market place which is a delightful spot to hang out if you get there a bit early. You can get a drink and something to eat there and the small bar in the Bunker auditorium will sell you a small bottle of prosecco for six pounds.


13 Sep

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.


13 Sep

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.