Candoco Dance Company presents Set and Reset/Reset (Trisha Brown) & Last Shelter (Jeanine Durning)” Review

Sadler’s Wells, London – until 16 October 2021

Reviewed by Celia Armand Smith

5*****

The Candoco Dance company is at Sadler’s Wells for two nights in a thrilling return to the stage post pandemic. The first piece is Set and Reset/Reset, originally choreographed nearly 40 years ago by contemporary dance pioneer Trisha Brown and reworked or “reset” by Abigail Jager and the dancers at Candoco. The second piece is Last Shelter by Jeanine Durning, created during the pandemic. The dancers, disabled and non disabled, poetically move together, utilising every single part of their bodies.

Set and Reset/Reset is an exploration of space and movement, questioning the limits and possibilities of dance. Scored by Laurie Anderson, the sounds are jarring and paced with twists and turns. Huge movements that halt and start up again, moving between conversation and recital as the dancers fall in and out of synchronicity. The performers are always present, even when waiting in the wings behind sheer drapes, blurring the lines between visibility and invisibility in this simple and hypnotic dance.

Last Shelter utilises time and space to create an always shifting environment that captivates immediately. It starts out with no traditional score, rather the sounds of the dancers moving across the stage with various props, which soon become extensions of the human body. Stacked, placed, and organised, the tables and chairs and mics are moved around, as the performers utilise what seems like every piece of the stage. Every bit of air. There is a mic that is passed between each dancer throughout the performance as they improvise spoken word, taking up space and finding meaning in that moment.

The performers move with such fluidity yet precision in this complex and joyful celebration of the capabilities of the human body and the spaces we inhabit. At no point during Set and Reset/Reset and Last Shelter did my mind wander. These pieces of dance were mesmerising, letting the viewer question time, space, movement along with the dancers.

The Tiger Who Came to Tea Review

New Victoria Theatre Woking – until Sunday 17 October 2021  

Reviewed by Carly Burlinge  

5***** 

The Tiger Who Came to Tea the amazing book that we all know written by Judith Kerr has come alive, adapted and directed by David Wood. 

The Story of a family that when Dad goes to work the day ticks by with many visitors such as the Milkman the Postman, until The Tiger Comes to Tea!  

The first thing that I loved about this production was that the set was beautifully done and exactly like the book, that we all know and have read to our children a million times over! 

The cast gave a fantastic performance, was very enthusiastic and had the best interaction especially with the children. To be honest I had so much enjoyment watching all the children be so engaged with the cast at all times, that it put a massive smile on my face throughout. 

The dad (David Scotland) who played many parts including the Milkman, Postman and Tiger played all characters skilfully, especially with his first appearance of being the tiger and hiding from his cast members and asking the children “is someone there” with the children screaming “YES THE TIGER IS THERE”. 

Sophie (Abbey Norman) and Mummy (Lizzie Dewar) also offered great interaction and a fabulous performance that every child in the theatre loved to the full with great delight. 

Then there was more… some fabulous singing that had the whole audience joining in (including parents) and at one point the little boy sitting behind me roared on request so loud that he made me jump, showing me just how much enjoyment was had. 

I felt the need to ask my daughter at the end of the show how many stars she would rate it. She straight away replied 5***** and so that’s what it deserved. Because to be fair this show is all about the kids and the amusement for us parents, is just to see those lovely smiles on their faces which for me was the whole theatre! What a lovely uncomplicated, encouraging, fun performance to make our little ones happy. 

Death Drop Review

The Lowry, Salford – until 16 October 2021

Reviewed by Angelos Spantideas

4****

Drag queens, Drag kings, tons of physical comedy and one of this season’s most fabulous cast, that is Death Drop. It is well known, especially in queer culture the impact the Drag scene makes in arts, but seeing something so clever, written by the hilarious Holly Stars, on big stages shows why drag is a timeless art that cannot be contained and is here to stay in mainstream entertainment. With some of the most famous queens and kings in the industry right now Death Drop exceeds expectations and for 2 hours no joke is off limits which ensures chaos and endless laughter.

The story is set in 1991, at the mansion of Lady von Fistenburg located at the Tuck Island, where a collective of famous, and not so famous, personalities are invited to celebrate the 10th wedding anniversary of Prince Charles and Princess Dianna. The mystery behind the identity of Lady von Fistenburg and the stormy personalities of the guests fill the stage, exuding camp, from the staging, to the lights and the costumes. As the guests get trapped on the island due to a heavy storm, a murder unfolds and the stars embarg on the investigation of who is the murderer while the clock is ticking under the next murder happens! Will they be successful or will they find a tragic, yet absurd and ridiculous death?

With so many big personalities, it is incredible how each member of the cast, some already well known from competing for RuPaul’s Drag Race crown, does not fail to shine in their own right. Coming all the way from the US, actor veteran and alumna of the main season of Drag Race Willam and finalist of All Stars Season 6 Ra’Ja O’Hara captivate the audience with their acting and their multiple costume changes playing the two main characters of forgotten pop star Shazza, and weather girl Summer Raines correspondingly.

British Ru girl Vinegar Strokes playing the role of Lady von Fistenburg puts on an amazing show, acting and singing flawlessly, and Aussie Ru girl Karen From Finance embodies the part of the nosy and arrogant journalist Morgan Pierce. The two Drag Kings Georgia Frost, as Phil Maker,and Richard Energy, as Rich Witeman,both physical comedy geniuses, stand as proof that Drag is really a gender bending and rule defying art. The cast is completed by Holly Stars, playing not one, not two, by the three Bottomley Sisters and the audience cannot get enough of her piercing humour which in many occasions needs no script allowing for lots of improvisation.

From the costumes to the acting and the singing, Death Drop is a well crafted, fun filled comedy with the characters going through a parody of events that will make even the most serious laughing their head off, much needed now more than ever.

Rice Review

Orange Tree Theatre – until 13 November 2021 

Reviewed by Carly Burlinge 

4**** 

Credit and copyright: Helen Murray

Written By Michelle Lee – Rice is the story of Nisha (Zainab Hasan) a young ambitious business orientated executive worker who works for golden fields. A company that is the largest producer of rice in Australia. Her dreams are to become the first CEO in Australia as a woman. She is surrounded by powerful men in the office and feels undermined at times, she always puts in the hours to gain her success but struggles with making herself heard. On the other side of things, she also has a lot weighing on her mind regarding her home life and situations, she’s currently involved in a contract that could see her make millions!! 

On her late shifts she encounters the cleaner an older Chinese lady called Yvette (Sarah Lam) who cleans her office and has no problems in voicing her opinion about what annoys her and how things should be done! Yvette has her own struggles in life is a failed entrepreneur and also has many issues in her private life and although the relationship seems hostile at first. They start to begin and realise that their worlds are not so completely different after all and that maybe they are fighting for the same thing.  

Both actresses played many different roles within the play, their switches were very dramatised but done with brilliance and ease throughout. The dynamics between them was impressive, remarkable and outstanding to watch throughout. 

This production was an interesting one to watch as well as enjoyable with a lot to offer. 

NEW UK TOUR OF BEAUTIFUL – THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL – TO OPEN AT CURVE

NEW UK TOUR OF

BEAUTIFUL – THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL

TO OPEN AT CURVE, LEICESTER 28 FEBRUARY – 12 MARCH 2022

Curve, Theatre Royal Bath Productions and Mayflower Theatre Southampton have today announced plans to launch a new UK tour of the Olivier, Tony and Grammy Award-winning musical, Beautiful – The Carole King Musical, opening at Curve in February 2022.

Directed by Curve’s Artistic Director Nikolai Foster (Sunset Boulevard, West Side Story), Beautiful will open at Curve on Monday 28 February until Saturday 12 March before moving to Theatre Royal Bath from 17 – 26 March 2022 and Mayflower Theatre Southampton from 12 – 16 April 2022, with additional tour dates and casting to be announced soon.

The hit show, which ran in the West End for two and a half years before two successful UK tours, will feature a talented cast of actor-musicians performing countless classics including You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman, Take Good Care of my Baby, You’ve Got a Friend, Up on the Roof, Locomotion, You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling and exploring the inspiring true story of King’s remarkable rise to stardom.

Carole King’s remarkable music will be brought to life by Grammy Award-winning Orchestrator Steve Sidwell and adapted by Tony Award-winning Curve Associate and Musical Supervisor Sarah Travis. Choreography is by rising star choreographer Leah Hill. The creative team is completed by Set Designer Frankie Bradshaw, Costume Designer Edd Lindley, Lighting Designer and Curve Associate Ben Cracknell, Sound Designer Tom Marshall and Casting Director and Curve Associate Kay Magson CDG.

Written by Douglas McGrath, with songs by Carole King, Gerry GoffinBarry Mann and Cynthia WeilBeautiful – The Carole King Musical tells the story of the singer/songwriter before she became a chart-topping music legend.

Speaking about this new Made at Curve production, Curve’s Chief Executive Chris Stafford and Artistic Director Nikolai Foster said:

“Carole King’s body of work represents some of the greatest pop songs ever written. We are thrilled to be working on this new production of Beautiful, bringing this remarkable story and music to life with the finest actor – musicians working in the UK today. We are honoured to be collaborating with orchestrators, Grammy Award-winner Steve Sidwell and Tony Award-winner Sarah Travis, to bring King’s incredible tapestry of songs to life. We are also proud to be working alongside our partners at Theatre Royal Bath and Southampton’s Mayflower Theatre.”

Full cast, creative team and tour dates will be announced soon.

Tickets for Beautiful – The Carole King Musical at Curve will go on sale to Curve Friends from Monday 25 October, Supporters from Tuesday 26 October, Members, Groups and Access Register Customers from Thursday 28 October and on general sale from Thursday 4 November, all at 12 noon. Tickets can be purchased online at www.curveonline.co.uk or by calling Curve’s Box Office on 0116 242 3595.

Beautiful – The Carole King Musical was originally produced on Broadway and in London by Paul Blake, SONY/ATV Music Publishing and Mike Bosner.

The Dresser Review

Cambridge Arts Theatre, Cambridge – until Saturday 16 October 2021

Reviewed by Steph Lott

5*****

It is 1942. ‘Sir’, an ageing actor-manager, is struggling to complete his 227th performance of King Lear, in the face of extreme adversity which includes air raids, falling bombs and his ailing health. It is down to Norman, Sir’s devoted dresser, to ensure that the show goes on in spite of everything, as it has for the last 16 years.

Matthew Kelly is the grandiloquent yet vulnerable Sir to Julian Clary’s adoring yet bitter Norman in this evocative revival of Ronald Harwood’s play, inspired by the years Harwood spent as dresser to Sir Donald Wolfit, an English actor-manager known for his touring wartime productions of Shakespeare (Wolfit was especially renowned for his portrayal of King Lear).

The play mostly takes place in Sir’s shabby dressing room, with a flying wall sectioning off the area where we can see actors waiting in the wings to enter Sir’s dressing room. This is an intriguing room, with tatty wigs on stands, a make-up table with huge lightbulbs and a faded chaise longue. Set and costume designer Tim Shortall has managed to convey the claustrophobia and intimacy of life backstage. The tension and claustrophobia suddenly lift when we switch to the backstage area as Sir gets ready to perform King Lear and the walls ascend to reveal the action behind the curtain.

Matthew Kelly is marvellous in role, constantly oscillating between the grandiose and the pitiful. He enters, all booming voice and theatrical bluster, a distraught, aging and egotistical actor brought low by poor health and self-pity, facing his final curtain call. Sir is both powerful and crumbling, both playing and being Lear. Will he manage the 227th performance?

Julian Clary delivers an intimate and poignant performance as the power behind Sir’s throne. Clary quickly gains our sympathies in his depiction of utterly devoted, hard-grafting, underrated dresser Norman, relentlessly bullied by Sir, who faces collapse when he should be onstage performing Lear. Clary’s performance in the final stages is fine: he embodies the bitterness and sadness of a grossly unappreciated friend and dedicated employee. We are witnesses to the men’s fraught, co-dependent dynamic and there’s a poignant chemistry between the two men in Sir’s dressing room, playing the same routines and dramas over and over again as they have for so many years.

The play isn’t all about the two lead characters though. Emma Amos delivers a fine performance as Her Ladyship, Sir’s longsuffering romantic companion, giving us fleeting insights into her unhappy enduring of his tyrannical and philandering ways. Rebecca Charles is excellent in her quiet interpretation of stage manager Madge, another of Sir’s circle who has been quietly and fruitlessly devoted to Sir, and Pip Donaghy steals the scene as actor Geoffrey Thornton, who ends up unexpectedly playing the Fool.

Though primarily a story about theatre life and its characters, The Dresser powerfully examines what it means to face the fear of growing old and one’s mortality. This is a touching new production of a modern classic.

An Evening With David Sedaris 2022’ National Tour

Tour News

Kilimanjaro Live proudly presents:

Leading US Humorist, Best Selling Author & 5 times Grammy Award nominated

AN EVENING WITH DAVID SEDARIS 2022

“Sedaris ain’t the preeminent humorist of his generation by accident.”

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY

David Sedaris, humorist, bestselling author and star of Radio 4 series ‘Meet David Sedaris’, has announced a 20 date UK tour for 2022 which starts on Sunday 10th July at Edinburgh’s Usher Hall and culminates on 2nd August at Cardiff’s St. David’s Hall. The celebrated writers run includes the rescheduled dates at London’s Royal Festival Hall on 30th & 31st July and Manchester’s The Lowry on 1st August. The tour is preceded by a new book in June 2022 entitled ‘Happy-Go-Lucky’

With sardonic wit and incisive social critiques, David Sedaris has become one of America’s pre-eminent humor writers. He is the master of satire and one of today’s most observant writers addressing the human condition. Sedaris has been nominated for five Grammy Awards for Best Spoken Word and Best Comedy Album. His audio recordings include “David Sedaris: Live for Your Listening Plea- sure” and “David Sedaris Live at Carnegie Hall.” Since 2011, he can be heard annually on a series of live recordings on BBC Radio 4 entitled “Meet David Sedaris.”

His recent books are The Best of Me – a collection of 42 previously published stories and essays and a second volume of his diaries A Carnival of Snackery, Diaries (2003- 2020) and Calypso, another collection of essays, was a New York Times best-seller, and a Washington Post Best Book of the Year. The audiobook of Calypso was also nominated for a 2019 Grammy for the Best Spoken Word Album.

In 2019 David Sedaris became a regular contributor to CBS Sunday Morning, and his Masterclass, David Sedaris Teaches Storytelling and Humor, was released. There are over 16 million copies of his books in print, and they have been translated into 32 languages. He has been awarded the Terry Southern Prize for Humor, Thurber Prize for American Humor, Jonathan Swift International Literature Prize for Satire and Humor, Time 2001 Humorist of the Year Award, as well as the Medal for Spoken Language from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In March 2019 he was elected as a member into the American Academy of Arts & Letters.  In 2020 the New York Public Library voted Me Talk Pretty One Day as one of the 125 most important books of the last 125 years.

He and his sister, Amy Sedaris, have collaborated under the name “The Talent Family” and have written half-a-dozen plays, which have been produced at La Mama, Lincoln Center, and The Drama Department in New York City. These plays include Stump the HostStitchesOne Woman Shoe, which received an Obie Award, Incident at Cobbler’s Knob, and The Book of Liz, which was published in book form by Dramatists Play Service. 

The dates are as follows: 

JULY

Sun 10th                        EDINBURGH – Usher Hall

Mon 11th                       NEWCASTLE – Tyne Theatre

Wed 13th                       DUBLIN – NCH

Fri 15th                          LIVERPOOL – Olympia

Sat 16th                         BRIGHTON – Dome

Sun 17th                        GLASGOW – Theatre Royal

Tues 19th                      BEXHILL – De La Warr Pavilion

Wed 20th & Thurs 21st   LONDON – Cadogan Hall

Fri 22nd                         POOLE – Lighthouse

Sat 23rd                        BATH – Forum

Sun 24th                        CAMBRIDGE – Corn Exchange

Mon 25th                       BIRMINGHAM – Symphony Hall

Tues 26th                      NOTTINGHAM – Royal Concert Hall

Wed 27th                       YORK – Barbican

Fri 29th                         GUILDFORD – G Live

Sat 30th & Sun 31st       LONDON – Royal Festival Hall (RESCHEDULED DATES)

AUGUST

Mon 1st                         MANCHESTER – The Lowry (RESCHEDULED DATE)

Tues 2nd                       CARDIFF – St. David’s Hall

TICKET LINK: www.myticket.co.uk/artists/david-sedaris

www.facebook.com/davidsedaris 

http://www.davidsedarisbooks.com/

Home Review

Chichester Festival Theatre, Minerva theatre  – until 6 November 2021

Reviewed by Gill Gardiner

4****

David Storey’s 1970’s award winning play opens in the grounds of a neglected garden where two lonely gents exchange a rambling, amusing repartee. Whilst Harry (played by Daniel Cerqueira) seems benign, Jack (John Mackay) is highly opinionated and full of inconsequential anecdotes of his endless range of relatives. Their discussions range from the weather, the war and reminiscences of friends and family. Yet their conversation is fragmented as they barely finish each thought, which leads the audience to wonder if all is not what it appears to be.

The growing suspicion that they are patients in a mental asylum is confirmed by the arrival of two coarse, raucous women,  cynical Marjorie (Dona Croll) and flirtatious Kathleen (Hayley Carmichael)  who allude to not being allowed shoe laces and padded cells. Finally the group are joined by the slightly menacing, brain damaged Alfred (Leon Annor) who vents his pent up emotion by practicing a strong man act on the lightweight garden furniture. There are plenty of hints as to the hidden history of each of these characters but the play skilfully leaves the audience to fill in the details for yourself.

The play is funny, painful, compassionate and deeply humane and is delivered by a superb cast; ideal for a small theatre production such as the Minerva.

Merlin Review

Hull New Theatre – until 16 October 2021

Reviewed by Catherine McWilliams

5*****

Northern Ballet’s Merlin is magical, full of superb dancing, sumptuous costumes, stunning scenery and beautiful music. This is a ballet that will transfix you and transport you into another world and at times fill you with the glee of a small child.

Drew McOnie (choreography and direction) has created an amazing piece of dance, but this is a piece where all the elements fit sublimely together. Grant Olding’s music is perfect, whether crashing for a battle scene or tender in a love duet, it almost seems to drive the dance. The dance and the music fit so perfectly together I am fascinated by the process that produced such perfection – does the dance come first or the music? Then add into the mix Colin Richmond’s superb set design, deceptively simple but instantly transforming the stage from blacksmith’s forge to palace to wood and back again. Julie Anderson has created sumptuous costumes, androgynous wear for the soldiers, a simple costume for Merlin. Anna Watson’s lighting design and Chris Fisher’s illusions complete the piece with panache.

Forget any preconceptions about the story of Merlin, this is not the tale of an old wizard with a pointed hat and a variety of spells. In Northern Ballet’s production Merlin (Matthew Koon) is the child of two gods who falls to earth in an orb and is found as baby and adopted by the Blacksmith (Heather Lehan). As the story starts Merlin is 18, his country is at war, and Merlin will have to join the army. Added into the mix is Merlin’s love for Morgan (Sarah Chun) a senior general in the army, however life is not simple of course because Morgan is in love with the King’s son Uther (Mlindi Kulashe) who in turn is in love with Ygraine (Antoinette Brooks-Daw) a princess from the Kingdom of Tides, the enemy.

The music pulled you along as the action moved along seamlessly, no time to think or applaud a particular dance, the scene had changed and the action moved on.

Matthew Koon was superb as Merlin whether dancing with the exuberance of a young man or showing despair after the battle, it was always clear how he felt. The relationship with the Blacksmith was portrayed beautifully.

Antoinette Brooks-Daw’s Blacksmith was fierce but tender. Her love for Merlin shone out, together with her frustration at him! The dance with the soldiers at the palace was astonishing.

One of the stand out scenes has to be the battle scene which was danced with spears. It was absolutely breath-taking, fast and furious, at times very fierce, danced with such power and precision. I particularly appreciated that the choreography made it impossible to tell whether the dancers were male or female, they were just soldiers.

In complete contrast was the lake scene danced with a touch of humour and a nod to Esther Williams and those 1930’s movies. How is it possible to dance in such a way that you are convinced they are swimming in water? Absolutely mesmerising.

This is a piece for everyone, young and old. A proper story that will have you wanting to know what happens next, you will care about the characters. At times you will be on the edge of your seat at others gasping in awe. It doesn’t matter if you have never seen a ballet before – my friend had not, she loved it and wondered if this had spoiled her for seeing another ballet, I suspect the answer is yes!

David Suchet – Poirot and More, A Retrospective. Review

York Theatre Royal – 13 October 2021

Reviewed by Dawn Bennett

5*****

David Suchet, the actor probably best known for his portrayal of the Agatha Christe’s Poirot for 25 years, gave us in the audience an insight into his life as probably one of the best character actors there is.

David was interviewed by Geoffrey Wansell, himself an award-winning author, broadcaster and journalist who he met on the set of a 20th Century Fox film, in 1988, where Geoffrey was Executive Producer. As Geoffrey explained they have been friends ever since and this made for a relaxed, insightful journey through Davids life and career.

He took us through his early life, and how his family particularly his mum and Grandmother Elsie where very supportive of his career in the Arts.

He told us about his teacher telling his parents that he might “have a bit of talent” for being on the stage, getting a place at the National Youth Theatre at 16 and how he auditioned for Drama School and eventually, after a few knockbacks, gaining a place at London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.

David spoke of his various roles from his first at school being an oyster in Alice Through the Looking Glass, his time at The Royal Shakespeare company though to his many roles on stage and screen roles such as Freud, Cardinal Benelli, Blott and of course Hercule Poirot. He tells us how he was cast as the famous Belgian Detective, how he met Christie’s daughter and Husband and how he developed the walk, accent, mannerisms and how he had a long list of character notes that helped him turn into the Poirot that we see on screen. He explained how he stayed in character as Poirot when filming and even when the cameras weren’t rolling. We even got to see Poirot’s cane!

In the second half David gave us a masterclass in acting Shakespeare, he explained how the different ways the plays were written could come across in the speech from using words that sounded like the action they were describing like bash, buzz, hum etc (onomatopoeias) and what the voice print was. I really wish I’d had him as my teacher!

He treated us to short excerpts by Tybalt, Oberon and Shylock by just using his voice and expression and you could have heard a pin drop in the theatre. Just proving again what a magnificent actor, he is.

Finally, he showed us how he turned his voice into Poirot’s and as an avid watcher of the series I thought was just amazing.

Anyone studying acting, theatre or just a fan of fabulous acting I would very much recommend seeing Sir David Suchet if you can.