Cast announced for World Premiere of The Savage by Carnegie-Award-winning author David Almond at Live Theatre, Newcastle

Thursday 30 June to Saturday 23 July 2016

A Live Theatre Production: World Premiere

The Savage
Written by David Almond
Directed by Max Roberts
Associate Director Jamie Jackson
Designed by Alison Ashton
Original music by Beth Brennan

Choreography by Lee Proud

Audio Visuals by NOVAK

The cast have been confirmed for the World Premiere of The Savage adapted by Carnegie Medal-winning author David Almond from his illustrated novel, and start rehearsals at Live Theatre from today (Tuesday 31 May).  The Savage is David’s first full length commission for Live Theatre where its World Premiere between Thursday 30 June to Saturday 23 July 2016.

Dean Bone, a regular at Live Theatre takes on the lead role of central character Blue. Dean has performed in Live Theatre in Rendezvous, Write Stuff and The Heights and has also appeared in Vera (ITV), The Dumping Ground and Wolfblood (BBC).

Other cast members Adam Walsh, Dani Arlington and Kate Okello make their debut appearances at Live Theatre. Adam Walsh originally from Spennymoor performed in War Horse at the National Theatre and previously appeared in Skellig – the Opera, also written by David Almond at Sage Gateshead. Dani Arlington from Teesside starred in the film Soulboy, and has appeared extensively on stage. Kate Okello, originally from Gosforth is a recent graduate of Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts.

Max Roberts, Artistic Director said:

“In order to realise David’s beautiful adaptation of his own novel we decided to recruit an ensemble of young actors, all originally from the North East who can all act, sing and dance. Their energy, talent and charisma will deliver David’s compelling narrative and music and movement as well as stunning visual effects will create a magical and engaging theatrical experience that will appeal to all ages.”

The Savage it is an uplifting contemporary fable about creation and renewal, wildness and civilisation. It shows the importance of creativity in finding consolation, redemption and fulfilment in the world around us. The novel is popular for reading in schools and also used discuss behaviour with young people.

David Almond, said:

“It’s a real thrill to be working with the great Live Theatre, to bring this story to vivid life in Newcastle, right on the banks of the river. Tyneside is my literary heartland. It’s where my stories, my dreams and my language come from, and it’s where the strange, scary, tender savage was born.”

Max Roberts, Artistic Director, Live Theatre added:

“It’s great to have a writer of David’s quality and reputation writing for Live Theatre. I’m very much looking forward to bringing David’s play to fruition moulding his rich lyrical writing with music and beautiful settings that will appeal to a wide age range of audience.”

 

In the play, Blue Baker wants to write a story. After the death of his dad and to escape the unwanted attention of Hopper, the neighbourhood bully, Blue imagines a ‘truely wild’ character – full of anger, adventure and thoughts of revenge. Life is dark and complicated and so is Blue’s story. Helped by his friend Elaine, his mum and baby sister Jess, he tries to discover where life starts and the story ends.

The Savage has been commissioned to coincide with the launch of Live Tales, Live Theatre’s new writing centre for children. This new strand of Live Theatre’s education programme is an extension of its successful playwriting initiatives for young people. Live Tales will offer creative story writing sessions to pupils aged 7-12 from September 2016.

Max Roberts added:

“David’s enthusiasm and support for Live Theatre has been enormous. We have commissioned The Savage to mark the opening of Live Tales, our new children’s writing centre, of which David is a champion.”

A series of events accompany the play including two free talks for audiences. In Live Tales Introduction, David Almond will discuss the importance of children’s writing and creativity, with Christina Castling from Live Theatre’s Education & Participation team, and discuss the plans for children’s writing centre Live Tales, of which he is a champion, following the 2pm performance of the play on Saturday 9 July. In a Meet the Writer EventDavid Almond and Director Max Roberts discuss the making of the play, and transforming the story for the stage, after the 7.30pm show on Tuesday 12 July. David will also be available for book-signing after this talk. Both events are free but booking is essential. David will also lead aWild Writing Workshop between 11.30am and 1pm on Saturday 16 April, at Live Theatre. Participants will be encouraged to lose their writing inhibitions and explore their imagination to discover their inner wild writer. The Wild Writing Workshop costs £10, £6 concs and is suitable for young people age 9+ and adults.

Free 90 minute Telling Tales Workshop are available for educational groups visiting daytime performances of the Savage at 2pm on Wednesday 6 July, 10.30pm on Tuesday 12 July, 1.30pm at Tuesday 19 July (also a captioned performance) and 10.30pm on Thursday 21 July (which is also designated as a relaxed performance for young people with special educational needs). Workshops have limited places and must be booked in advance.

The Savage is a family friendly play suitable for ages 9+ and is at Live Theatre, Newcastle from Thursday 30 June to Saturday 23 July. Tickets forThe Savage cost £22-£10 full price, £16-£12 over 60s concessions and £15-£6 for other concessions. For more information or to book tickets visitwww.live.org.uk or contact Live Theatre’s box office on (0191) 232 1232.

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Mamma Mia! Comes to Leeds

MM_GlassBlue_1LineLogo_With Strapline

THE FIRST UK TOUR OF THE WORLDWIDE SMASH HIT MUSICALMAMMA MIA!

COMES TO LEEDS GRAND THEATRE

TUESDAY 30th MAY – SATURDAY 8TH JULY 2017

TICKETS ON GENERAL SALE FROM WEDNESDAY 1ST JUNE 2016

The first ever MAMMA MIA! UK Tour will come to Leeds Grand Theatre from Tuesday 30th May – Saturday 8th July 2017. Tickets go on general sale on Wednesday 1st June 2016.

MAMMA MIA! is Judy Craymer’s ingenious vision of staging the story-telling magic of ABBA’s timeless songs with an enchanting tale of family and friendship unfolding on a Greek island paradise. To date, it has been seen by more than 60 million people in 50 productions in 16 different languages. MAMMA MIA! The Movie is the highest worldwide grossing live-action musical film of all time.

From West End to global phenomenon, the London production of MAMMA MIA! has now been seen by more than 10% of the entire UK population. It is one of only five musicals to have run for more than 10 years both on Broadway and in the West End, and in 2011, it became the first Western musical ever to be staged in Mandarin in the People’s Republic of China.

With music & lyrics by Benny Andersson & Björn Ulvaeus, MAMMA MIA! is written by Catherine Johnson, directed by Phyllida Lloyd and choreographed by Anthony Van Laast. The production is designed by Mark Thompson, with lighting design by Howard Harrison, sound design by Andrew Bruce & Bobby Aitken, and musical supervision, additional material & arrangements by Martin Koch.

Creator and Producer Judy Craymer said: ‘MAMMA MIA! is such a joyous show, it’s really thrilling to be bringing it to Leeds for the first time and for audiences to embrace its heart-warming story and the irresistible songs of ABBA. It’s a perfect treat for all ages and we look forward to sharing the fun with Leeds!’

Casting will be announced in due course.

The MAMMA MIA! UK Tour is produced by Judy Craymer, Richard East & Björn Ulvaeus for

Littlestar in association with Universal and NGM.

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Sean Foley to direct new West End productions of Ronald Harwood’s The Dresser and Molière’s The Miser, produced by Mark Goucher

  • Producer Mark Goucher today announced plans for two new productions for the West End
  • Sean Foley is to direct a prestigious revival of Ronald Harwood’s The Dresser and Molière’s classic comedy The Miser
  • A stellar range of actors including Griff Rhys Jones, Reece Shearsmith and Ken Stott will appear
  • Tickets for the West End run of The Dresser go on sale Wednesday 25th May at 10am and tickets for The Miser go on sale Thursday 26th May 2016 at 11am

 

Director Sean Foley who has recently enjoyed sell out success adapting and directing The Painkiller in the Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company season of Plays at the Garrick will, starting this autumn, under producer Mark Goucher, direct two new productions in the West End.

First will be a revival of Ronald Harwood’s much loved play The Dresser. Starring Ken Stott and Reece Shearsmith, the play tells the heart-breaking story of an ageing actor-manager and his long-suffering dresser as they struggle to keep the show on the road against the backdrop of a down-at-heel regional theatre in wartime. First performed in 1980 in the West End and on Broadway, the play was in 1983 made into a multi award-winning film starring Albert Finney and Tom Courtenay. This new production of The Dresser will play at The Duke of York’s Theatre previewing from 5th October with a press night on Wednesday 12th October following performances in Richmond, Brighton and Cheltenham.

In early 2017, Griff Rhys Jones will return to the London stage to lead an ensemble cast in a revival of Molière’s classic play The Miser which has been newly adapted by Sean Foley and Phil Porter. Best known for his television work, Rhys Jones is making his return to the London stage after five years where he is widely recognised as one of the country’s great comedic performers. The Miser will be presented at Bath Theatre Royal and Richmond Theatre, prior to opening at the Garrick Theatre on Wednesday 1st March 2017, with an opening night on Monday 13th March 2017.

Sean Foley is an award-winning actor, writer and director. He co-founded The Right Size, creating over 10 original comedies for the theatre including the Olivier Award-winning and Tony-nominated production of The Play What I Wrote (Best Comedy 2002), Do You Come Here Often? (Best Entertainment 1999), and Ducktastic! (Albery Theatre – Best Entertainment nomination 2006). As director his work includes The Painkiller, Jeeves and Wooster in Perfect Nonsense (Best New Comedy 2014), The Walworth Farce (The Olympia Theatre, Dublin), the multi Olivier-nominated The Ladykillers (Liverpool Everyman, Gielgud Theatre, UK Tour), A Mad World My Masters (Royal Shakespeare Company & Barbican), What The Butler Saw (Vaudeville Theatre), The Painkiller (The Lyric Theatre, Belfast), Arturo Brachetti – Change (Garrick – Best Entertainment nomination 2010) , The Critic/The Real Inspector Hound (Chichester Festival Theatre), The Armstrong and Miller Show Live UK Tour and I Can’t Sing! (London Palladium). Foley’s first film Mindhorn will be released this autumn.

Mark Goucher has previously collaborated with Sean Foley on the hugely successful production of Jeeves and Wooster in Perfect Nonsense which played in the West End and on tour and is currently under option for a Broadway season.

The Dresser is to be co-produced with Mark Rubinstein Ltd and Jonathan Church Productions in the first production for Church’s new company after leaving Chichester Festival Theatre.

The Miser will be produced with long term producing partner Mark Rubinstein Ltd.

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Palladium Concert Performance of New British Musical

BRAND NEW BRITISH MUSICAL “EUGENIUS!” TO HOLD ITS WORLD PREMIERE AT THE LONDON PALLADIUM THIS JUNE IN CONCERT PERFORMANCE

STARRING

WARWICK DAVIS

DAVID BEDELLA

AMY LENNOX

AND SUMMER STRALLEN

WITH NARRATION BY MARCUS BRIGSTOCKE

A concert premiere performance of the new, original British musical EUGENIUS! will take place on 29 June 2016 at the London Palladium. This exciting and innovative musical is produced by (and stars) actor Warwick Davis. Joining the Harry Potter and Star Wars favourite will be a host of musical theatre stars including double Olivier Award-winner David Bedella (In The Heights, Jerry Springer, The Opera, The Rocky Horror Show)Amy Lennox (Kinky Boots, Legally Blonde)Samuel Holmes (Mrs Henderson Presents, Spamalot) and Summer Strallen(Sound of Music, Love Never Dies). Comedian Marcus Brigstocke will join the cast as the Narrator and Brian Blessed will provide a guest voiceover.

 

Set in the 1980s, EUGENIUS! is a classic love story between two teenagers, Eugene and Janey. She is in love with him, but he always has his head inside a comic book – so much so that he actually writes his own comic about a superhero. Against the odds, Eugene’s creations take him to Hollywood and he becomes the unlikely hero of his own intergalactic battle! The musical has an original score based on the sounds of the 1980s, with a story which hilariously merges real life and the intergalactic world of the comic book.

The book, music and lyrics for EUGENIUS! have been written by Ben Adams and Chris Wilkins. The concert premiere performance will be directed by award winner Ian Talbot and Olivier Award nominee Michael Jibson. Choreography will be by Aaron Renfree and Nick Winston. The sound designer for the performance will be multi-award winner, Gareth Owen. Lighting will be by Andrew Ellis, with musical supervision by Steve Power and musical direction by Nathan Jarvis.

 

Producer Warwick Davis said, “We are really excited to be bringing a brand new, original production to the London stage. The performance on 29 June will give the audience a chance to experience this new ‘80s-inspired musical before it is staged in the West End as a full production next year. We have a hugely talented cast and production team, and the music is just phenomenal. We look forward to sharing our work with the first, lucky audience at the London Palladium this June.”

 

EUGENIUS! will be presented in a concert version for one night only at the London Palladium on Wednesday 29 June 2016.

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Derren Brown: Miracle

DERREN BROWN: MIRACLE AT LEEDS GRAND THEATRE 

Back by phenomenal demand the multi-award winning master of psychological illusion returns to Leeds Grand Theatre with his most daring show yet, DERREN BROWN: MIRACLE.

Gracing the stage with his brilliant showmanship and infectious charm, Derren Brown delivers an evening of mind-altering genius. Witness the wonderment of one of the world’s most renowned live performers; a dark manipulator of magic and mind control, a miracle man for modern times.

This is the last chance to see Derren live on stage in the UK for the foreseeable future, he reveals: “It’s been 14 years of touring, and that’s with writing a new show every 2 years. I may do something overseas for a change, but nothing major here in 2017. After that I’m not sure. I love touring so I don’t imagine I’m stopping for good quite yet. But a break would be lovely.”

This is Derren’s seventh show since 2003. He has toured every year since then. He has won two prestigious Olivier Awards, for SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES (2006) and SVENGALI (2012). His last show, INFAMOUS, was universally acclaimed by critics and the audience alike.

 

Derren Brown Miracle is at Leeds Grand Theatre from Monday 30th May to Saturday 4th June

 

Tickets are priced at £42.50 and £44

 

Book online at leedsgrandtheatre.com or call box office on 0844 848 2700

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ARTHUR MILLER’S NO VILLAIN EXTENDS WEST END RUN

EXTENSION AND NEW CAST ANNOUNCED FOR

ARTHUR MILLER’ S FIRST EVER PLAY

NO VILLAIN

AS IT PREPARES TO TRANSFER TO THE WEST END

 

PRODUCTION WILL NOW RUN AT TRAFALGAR STUDIOS UNTIL 23 JULY

Following the critically acclaimed, sell-out world premiere at The Old Red Lion in 2015, Arthur Miller’s first ever play, No Villain, will play for an extra two weeks, due to huge demand for tickets, when transfers to the West End on 14 June. It will play at Trafalgar Studios 2 until 9 July, with a press night on 20 June. Directed by Sean Turner, with design by Max Dorey, lighting design by Jack Weir and sound design by Richard Melkonian, the previously announced cast will include David Bromley as ‘Abe Simon’, Nesba Crenshaw as ‘Esther Simon’, Kenneth Jay as ‘Grandpa Barnett’, Stephen Omer as ‘Roth/Dawson/Man’, and George Turvey as ‘Ben Simon’. Alex Forsyth will join the company as ‘Arnie’ and Michael Lyle will join as ‘Frank’. Helen Coles will return to the company as ‘Maxine’.

 

Over six days during spring break 1936 at the University of Michigan, a twenty year old college sophomore wrote his first play, No Villain. His aim was to win the prestigious Avery Hopwood award and, more importantly, the $250 prize he needed in order to return to college the following year. Miller won the award, and the subsequent one, but the play was never produced.

 

My first attempt at a play, rather inevitably, had been about industrial action and a father and his two sons, the most autobiographical dramatic work I would ever write.

– Arthur Miller

No Villain tells the story of a garment industry strike that sets a son against his factory proprietor father. Here, Miller explores the Marxist theory that would see him hauled before the House Un-American Activities Committee years later.

This remarkable debut play gives us a tantalising glimpse of Miller’s early life, the seeding of his political values and the beginning of his extraordinary career.

Director Sean Turner said, “I am thrilled to be continuing my journey with this remarkable play in the West End, it’s been an absolute pleasure to make and see audiences respond to, I am delighted that many more will be able to discover Miller’s playwriting roots, the same way I did two years ago.”

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DISNEY’S ALADDIN EXTENDS BOOKING INTO 2017 – PREVIEW PERFORMANCES START TONIGHT AT PRINCE EDWARD THEATRE

DISNEY’S ALADDIN EXTENDS BOOKING INTO 2017

PREVIEW PERFORMANCES START TONIGHT AT PRINCE EDWARD THEATRE

With 315 hours of rehearsals now complete; 68 tonnes of scenery hung at the Prince Edward Theatre; and 337 custom-designed, hand-made costumes created from over 1,225 varieties of fabric, adorned with millions of Swarovski crystals, Disney’s new musical Aladdin will begin previews in the West End tonight.

Ahead of the very first performance in the UK, Disney Theatrical Productions has announced that Aladdin has extended its booking period into 2017. Tickets for the spectacular production are now on sale for performances up to and including 11 February 2017. Aladdin’s official opening night will be on Wednesday 15 June. For further details please visitwww.aladdinthemusical.co.uk

Dean John-Wilson plays the role of Aladdin alongside Jade Ewen as Jasmine in the new musical based on the classic Academy Award®-winning animated film. Broadway cast member Trevor Dion Nicholas makes his London stage debut as Genie and is joined by Don Gallagher as Jafar,Peter Howe as Iago, Irvine Iqbal as the Sultan, Nathan Amzi as Babkak, Stephen Rahman-Hughes as Kassim and Rachid Sabitri as Omar.

Aladdin features the timeless songs from the 1992 animated film as well as new music written by Tony®, Olivier© and eight-time Academy Award winner Alan Menken (Beauty and the Beast, Newsies, Little Shop Of Horrors). With lyrics from Olivier Award and two-time Oscar® winnerHoward Ashman (Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid), three-time Tony and Olivier Award, three-time Oscar winner Tim Rice (Evita, Aida), and four-time Tony Award nomineeChad Beguelin (The Wedding Singer), and a book by Beguelin, Aladdin is directed and choreographed by Tony and Olivier Award winner Casey Nicholaw (The Book of Mormon).

Now in its third record-breaking year on Broadway at the New Amsterdam Theatre, where it has been seen by more than 1.5 million people, Aladdin’s global presence has grown to four productions on three continents. It opened at Tokyo’s Dentsu Shiki Theatre Umi in May 2015 and had its European premiere in December 2015 at the Stage Theatre Neue Flora, Hamburg.Aladdin will open in Sydney, Australia in August 2016.

Previous Disney stage productions in London have included Shakespeare in Love and the Olivier-winning productions of Beauty and the Beast, Mary Poppins and The Lion King, which is now playing its 17th year in the West End.

Aladdin is designed by Olivier and seven-time Tony-winning scenic designer Bob Crowley, five-time Tony-winning lighting designer Natasha Katz, Olivier and two-time Tony-winning costume designer Gregg Barnes and sound designer Ken Travis. Casting is by Jill Green CDG.

The production team also includes illusion designer Jim Steinmeyer, hair designer Josh Marquette and makeup designer Milagros Medina-Cerdeira. The music team is headed by music supervisor and music director Michael Kosarin, who also created the vocal and incidental music arrangements, joined by orchestrator Danny Troob and dance music arranger Glen Kelly.

ALADDIN

Prince Edward Theatre
28 Old Compton St
London W1D 4HS

Box Office number: 0844 482 5151
www.aladdinthemusical.co.uk

Facebook: Aladdin London
Twitter: @AladdinLondon
Instagram: @AladdinLondon
#AladdinLondon

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Open Air Theatre’s PRIDE AND PREJUDICE to tour the UK with Felicity Montagu as Mrs. Bennet

Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre

Presents

PRIDE AND PREJUDICE

by Jane Austen

in an adaptation Simon Reade


Touring the UK from September 2016

With Felicity Montagu as Mrs. Bennet

Following sell-out performances in 2013, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre’s acclaimed production of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, adapted for the stage by Simon Reade, returns this year to close the 2016 Summer Season ahead of a major UK Tour in September. Opening at the Churchill Theatre, Bromley, the tour will then visit Norwich, Cambridge, Salford, Leicester, Woking, Truro, Birmingham and Richmond, with further dates in 2017.

Pride and Prejudice is the third Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre production to tour the UK, following their smash hit productions of To Kill a Mockingbird in 2014/15 and Lord of the Flies in 2015/16.

Felicity Montagu will play Mrs. Bennet. Perhaps best known for playing the long-suffering PA Lynn inI’m Alan Partridge, a role she played in both the TV series and the 2013 film Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa, Felicity was most recently seen playing Mrs Mainwaring in the 2016 film remake of Dad’s Army.Other notable roles include Perpetua in Bridget Jones’s Diary, Caroline Bosman in ITV’s Doc Martin and Sue 2 in BBC’s Nighty Night. Other film credits include I Want Candy and Confetti, and other television credits include The Durrells (ITV), Mapp and Lucia (BBC), and three series of Hank Zipzer (CBBC). On stage, Felicity has starred in Quartermaine’s Terms alongside Rowan Atkinson (Wyndham’s Theatre),The Shaughraun (National Theatre) and Angels in America (National Theatre).

One of the most universally loved and quintessentially English novels of all time, Pride and Prejudicetells the story of the Bennet family and their five unmarried daughters. A family of humble means, Mr. and Mrs. Bennet see the perfect opportunity to improve their social standing when the wealthy Mr. Bingley and his eligible friend Mr. Darcy move to the neighbourhood. But while Bingley takes an immediate liking to their eldest daughter Jane, the dismissive Darcy instantly clashes with the Bennet’s headstrong second daughter, Elizabeth. As the Bennet sisters haplessly search for love in Jane Austen’s ultimate romantic comedy, it is Mr Darcy who unwittingly finds his match.

First published in 1813, Pride and Prejudice has remained one of the most popular novels in English literature, selling over 20 million copies and spawning numerous adaptations, most notably the 1940 film starring Laurence Olivier and the 1995 BBC adaptation starring Colin Firth.  The Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre production of Pride and Prejudice was first staged in 2013 to celebrate the 200thAnniversary of the novel’s publication.

Pride and Prejudice is directed by Deborah Bruce, whose theatre credits include The Mysteries andHelen (Globe Theatre); Ingredient X and Made of Stone (Royal Court); Scarborough (Edinburgh FringeFirst Award, Assembly Rooms/Royal Court); Blame (Arcola / York Theatre Royal) and Mrs Warren’s Profession (Bristol Old Vic). It is designed by Max Jones, whose credits include The Crucible(Manchester Royal Exchange); The Tempest (Globe Theatre); The Merry Wives of Windsor (RSC) and Of Mice and Men (West Yorkshire Playhouse). Costume design is by Tom Piper, who designed the iconicBlood Swept Lands and Seas of Red poppy installation at the Tower of London, commemorating the centenary of the outbreak of World War I. His theatre design credits include Red Velvet (Tricycle Theatre and West End); Love For Love (RSC) and The King’s Speech (UK Tour).

Pride and Prejudice is adapted for the stage by Simon Reade. Simon is currently Producer for Filter Theatre, and was previously Artistic Director at the Bristol Old Vic where he directed his own adaptations of Geraldine McCaughrean’s Not the End of the World and Michael Morpurgo’s Private Peaceful, which has played in London and on tour extensively.

Further casting is to be announced.

“A perfect Pride and Prejudice: skittish, comical, easy on the eye and moving”

Daily Mail

 

www.PrideandPrejudicePlay.com

Facebook.com/PrideandPrejudiceThePlay

Twitter.com/DarcyOnTour

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Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know: The Scandalous Life and Fast Times of Lord Byron Review

Leicester Square Theatre 24 – 28 May.  Reviewed by Claire Roderick

Now, I must admit that I don’t know much about Byron. I’ve watched the film about Lady Caroline Lamb, heard a few poems and read about the scandals, but that’s about it. Luckily you don’t have to be an expert to enjoy this show.

Leicester Square Theatre’s lounge is ideal for this intimate show. As you walk in, what looks like the local upper class drunk is sitting at the bar, but as the doors close, he gets up and introduces himself as Lord Byron.

Paul Huntley-Thomas prowls around the lounge in tails and proceeds to read one of his poems while standing precariously on a chair. This is a world weary, inward looking Byron, moaning about people only remembering him for a few of his poems, regaling the audience with scandalous tales, and questioning the whole illusion of fame and legend.

Funny, shabby and charismatic, Huntley-Thomas plays Byron with great charm, making scathing comments about the venue while flirting outrageously with the audience. He reacts brilliantly to unexpected noises and the moment he noticed twins in the audience was fantastic.

The evening is full of laughs and caustic humour, and Byron’s political views are highlighted, with a great joke about the future of Greece. There are some beautiful quieter moments where Byron’s whole aspect changes as he describes his dead lovers and daughter. The section where he reminisces about Shelley’s death and the ghost story challenge that led to Frankenstein is followed by a barnstorming reading of “Darkness”.

45 minutes is too short a time to be in the company of such a great character, played so well, and it flies by. Apparently you can book Lord Byron to attend your own soiree – that would be fun.

A wonderful show – well worth a look.

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Becoming Hattie Review

Leicester Square Theatre 24 – 28 May.  Reviewed by Claire Roderick

Becoming Hattie is a fantastic one-woman show, with a powerhouse performance from Ashley Christmas.

As Jo, Christmas presents an outwardly strong actress with great ambition, but stuck in bit part roles as cleaners because of her size. Jo is bubbly and loud, full of enthusiasm and love of life, so her emotional reactions to snide comments and jokes about her weight are all the more moving. Jo tells of the first time, aged 8, that she saw Jacques on TV, in “Sykes”. There was a woman just like her, and people were laughing with her, not at her.

We get a snapshot of Jo’s career, including the fantastical background stories and names she gives characters such as “Domestic number 8”. The moment she has with Sherlock and her tabard character dance are superb. Her frustration at always wearing tabards is taken out on her awful agent Cinda. Cinda has a sociopathic child, Aslan, and she is always having Joyce Grenfell moments shrieking at him – simply wonderful. And then she gets the chance to play Lady Macbeth…

Hattie Jacques’ life is introduced by using audience members to take part as Desert Island Discs hosts – a lovely conceit. The difference between smooth, sophisticated Hattie and bubbly Jo is played beautifully by Christmas. Jacques’ marriage to John Le Mesurier and her affair with John Scofield are explored – with tear-jerking speeches explaining her choices, and a gorgeous story to her son ending with her warning him to never throw away a diamond.

Both Jo and Hattie are shown suffering from being type cast because of their size – with contrasting, but equally effecting responses to the casting directors. Jo’s climactic rant when she is reading for the part of Hattie Jacques is devastatingly raw and powerful.

This is a show that tackles the serious issue of prejudice and diversity with skill, charm and humour. Christmas has the audience in the palm of her hand from the moment she walks on stage, and her energetic and charismatic performance makes this a sure fire hit.

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