28 Aug

LOOT *****

Aline Waites
26 Aug (2 days ago)

to reviews

by Joe Orton
At The Park Theatre
It is difficult to believe that this was shocking in the sixties because of its jokes about religion, sex, murder, and the Police. Its run of the mill comedy these days. Somebody in the audience mentions Tarantino.!
But It is in fact a deliciously outrageous black comedy and crackling with wit. Joe Orton was a worthy successor to Oscar Wilde and one wonders what would have happened had he not been murdered shorty after this jet-black load of sacrilegious fun was written. It is a ruthless satire on the obsession of death and the fashionable attitudes of sorrow.
It is an elegantly devised black and white set. With a prominently displayed Roman Catholic cross. The most important piece of furniture is a table on which resides a coffin with wreaths planted on top and around it. This coffin is occupied by the corpse of Mrs McLeavy- a lady who has been lovingly attended by the nurse Fay McMahon who in addition to her nursing abilities has also a neat line in consolation for husbands – the good man Mr McLeavy.
Fay McMahon as played by the amazingly gifted Sinead Matthews, starts up the whole play by reporting on what is happening in the house of death. ‘Have you thought of remarrying?’ she asks the grieving husband. He replies that he would like to get the funeral over first. She remarks that she thinks a couple of weeks would be long enough.
The son Hal (Sam Frenchum) with his best friend Dennis (Calvin Demba)  – who works next door at the funeral parlour – have robbed a bank and they decided the coffin would be a really good place to hide the spoils and the previous tenant  is bundled into the closet.
The boys have just managed to heave the corpse into the cupboard when Christopher Fulford – a strange man in a Trilby hat enters calling himself Truscott, a minister of the local water board. He is of course a psychotic policeman – the living image of the one who had arrested Joe a short time ago – a perfect example of the author’s disgust at institutions who seek to control and inhibit individuality.
Orton had taken all his bad experiences and his obsessions against authority and turned them into a exceptionally funny farce. It is a happy change for the audience to enjoy truly witty dialogue – something that happens rarely in the twenty first century.
Some inconsequential bits of previously removed dialogue have been replaced in the script. The production was performed with a real body as the corpse which had not been allowed before. Anah Ruddin, the actress was remarkably flexible as she was asked to be thrust into so many awkward positions, but her plight in the production gave it an extra  slapstick element – wonderfully orchestrated and irresistible.
Michael Fentiman has made a wonderful job of this, the Orton fiftieth anniversary.   It is a delight from start to finish.


Brian Rix

20 Aug

AND NOW Brian Rix. We started a theatre in Kilburn/Maida Vale in the seventies called ‘The Broadway’. The theatre was haunted by a ghost who walked across the stage on his knees. The theatre had been built inside another, bigger theatre so the stage was higher up. The ghost was walking on the original stage. There was a door up to the Gods. The cleaners wouldn’t go up there, but it was fascinating. It had a strange sound like echoes of ghostly music and chorus singing. There must have been some explanation but we never found out – it was very interesting.
At the weekends it was used as a Bollywood Theatre. There were queues outside the theatre as we left on Saturday night and they were all locked in until Monday morning. At least that is what we ere told – but we never saw anybody go in or out once the movies had started.
Another plan he had was to use the Regent Theatre to do our shows, but we turned it down because there was no bar!!!
Then he became a Lord and concentrated on his campaign for mental health.

she that plays the queen. interview with aline waites.

19 Aug



18 Aug

13 the musical
At the Ambassadors Theatre
Music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown
Book by Dan Elish and Robert Horn
13 has a degree of sophistication which is staggering in a teenage show. Delightful music, athletic choreography and a witty script. It is played with an entire cast of teenagers.
The BTA is a remarkable organisation that trains young people to perform in musical theatre. Not only do they get expert training in this most disciplined of genres but they also get a chance to appear in the West End alongside professional performers. They are the ensemble and they dance up a storm in the choreography of Ewan Jones He also directs the show with such expertise that every single joke – and there are many – are played with total aplomb and sincerity.
The professional actors take it in turns to play the lead roles, so one can only comment on the cast of the press performance.
Milo Panni plays the leading role of Evan. Milo is a young man with terrific singing voice, perfect comedy timing and already a veteran of stage and film. He plays a boy of nearly thirteen who is about to have his bar mitzvah. He wants it to be a success and invites all his friends, but is devastated when his parents’ divorce, and he must leave his much-loved New York to live in a remote town in Indiana. His ambition now is to find a new lot of friends to invite to his big party.The local bully and sex king Brett (Lewis Ledlie) is terminally stupid and a bully, but Evan needs friends so plays along with him, and his followers.
This production has a classy team. Patrice, Evan’s girlfriend is played by Madeline Banbury an actress who achieved stardom at the age of eight. Archie a young man suffering from a terminal disease is played by the marvellous Ethan Quinn who practically ran away with Ragtime at the Charing Cross Theatre. In this he is a brave kid who laughs at his disability and manages to steal every single scene. The local sexpot is played by Isabella Pappas who was nominated for an Olivier Award last year.
There are so many wonderful professionals about to appear regularly in our lives in the future. And the high standards among the ensemble proves that there is a lot of talent we still have to discover.
With musical director Chris Mo and his musicians, the songs are delightful and carry the story beautifully, the lighting and sound are perfect and the set by Tom Paris is simple and cleverly fashioned from the current show at the Ambassadors
This is a show to see, to love and to enjoy.

Madhav Sharma wrote this on facebook

11 Aug

Anyone who knows anything about the community of ‘Good Companions’ will know that Aline is a writer, producer, entrepreneur, performer, enabler, and still as beautiful as ever, and it is people like her who should be celebrated as ‘the backbone of the profession’. More than most, she has contributed in so many ways in the field of entertainment. Personally, her Victorian Songbook published by Michael Joseph, her celebration of music hall and pantomime, at the Pindar, and her mellifluous voice for years on the radio (remember her ‘Gwen’ in ‘Mrs Dale’s Diary’?), are truly memorable. Her latest oeuvre ‘She That Plays The Queen’ has just come out, and is available on Amazon.


4 Aug

Pinocchio at the Ambassadors Theatre ****
Book by Brian Hill
Music and Lyrics by Neil Bartram
Adapted from Carlo Collodi’s classic tale
The wonderful British Theatre Academy employs the talents of over 250 young people during the summer.
This year it is Pinocchio – it has two professional actors who appear in every showing. Martin Neely as Geppetto and Lizzie Rees as Blue Fairy/Narrator are widely experienced actors with exceptional singing voices and perfect diction. Lizzie Rees is a lovely Blue Fairy – the reincarnation of Gepetto’s beloved late wife. And Martin Neely is an attractive and lithe Gepetto. The BTA are fortunate to have the talents of these professional actors who are a wonderful example to the children that make up the rest of the cast and the ensemble
On the press night Pinocchio was played by Nathaniel Purnell who shares the role with Lucas Cooper. Purnell is a bigger Pinocchio than expected but manages to play a child in his scarlet shorts and his dancing is exceptional. He gives a performance that is equalled by the charismatic James Sampson as Lampwick, the naughty boy, who is sadly missed when he turns into a donkey but happily that same fate does not apply to our hero.

The two villains Fox and Cat are portrayed by the very tall Zane Heath and the tiny Tilly Hopkins. They work well in their duets – numbers like the seductive ‘Money Grows on Trees’. The dancing puppet twins are sweetly played by Jessica Brown and Alice Bonney
There are some marvellous set pieces. The Terra di Ragazzi is a great number. ‘The Land of Boys’ is where Lampwick takes Pinocchio to get away from school and interfering grown-ups and it is rendered by the entire company dressed as boys.
This is a musical comedy of an Italian children’s book rather than a Disney version and it is remarkably unpatronizing. The songs are tuneful even if bits of them are nicked from Sondheim and Hamlisch. One wonders about the copy right on these songs, but as one has been singing them ever since the show happened It is probably more of an advantage to the masters than to the undoubtedly catchy music of Neil Bartram.
I was a little put off by the mention of Puppets, but the ones used are very stylish and they only happen at the very beginning of the show. Handled by Tabitha Knowles
This is an elegantly constructed performance and is just as fascinating to adults as to children. I have seen a couple of excellent Pinocchios recently and this was definitely the best.


27 Jul

By Lee Tannen
At the Arts Theatre
The Extraordinary thing about the TV series I LOVE LUCY is its longevity. It ran from 1951-1957
Having spent seven weeks in the US at the beginning of the year. I watched re runs of Lucy every morning on T.V, and apart from a little mental adjustment for political correctness, it is just as endearing and funny as it was then. Lucy was a female clown, and her husband Desi Arnaz was a perfect foil for her idiocy.
In this play, we find out that the pompous Desi was a drunkard and a womaniser and the ditzy Lucy an intelligent and well organised woman – just the opposite of the characters they played.
As director Anthony Biggs says Lucille Ball was a trailblazer. A woman with her own TV studios, married to a Cuban and still working in her seventies. All unusual for the nineteen fifties.
But this play takes place ten years before her death in 1989 and concerns a true love story between her and a young gay man Lee Tannen. Tannen is the author of this play about their sometimes-passionate relationship. She relied on him as escort, confidant, and backgammon player, a game neither of them played very well
Lee Tannen’s story began when, as a devoted fan of the Lucy shows, he found out that he was distantly related to her and took advantage of this to meet his idol. This led to an extraordinarily close relationship. Even though he had a long term special other on the opposite side of the continent, his affair with Tom never got in the way of his friendship with Lucy.
Sandra Dickinson is an American actress who made her life here in England. Her portrayal of the great comedienne is uncanny and completely believable. Her love for the young man is palpable and her frenzied rage when he opposes her is thunderous. This is a portrait of one highly respected, powerful lady and the young gay man who loved her. Tannen is played in this production by Matthew Scott a young man who has just finished in “An American in Paris” on Broadway. They are the only two performers on stage and they have great rapport
The play was produced earlier at Jermyn Street Theatre, and it was so well received that it has transferred to the Arts theatre. What is interesting about this first night of the transfer is that so many of the people in the audience had already seen the play before and they came to enjoy it again. I was in the audience on the press night at Jermyn street and sat next to the author, very much aware of his wrapt attention to the show as he noted every laugh, obviously still planning a future production. I felt a bit like a joke tester.
So, like the others I saw it again and am happy to say I Loved Lucy – and still do. She died in 1989. But through the respect paid to her by Lee Tannen and the excellence of this production, Lucy is alive and well – very funny, very moving and to be seen at the Arts Theatre
This is a love story without sex but no less powerful for that.