Cookies at Theatre Royal Haymarket

Cookies by Emily Jenkins
Theatre Royal Haymarket, Haymarket, London SW1Y 4HT
Sunday 29th October 2017, 3pm and 6.30pm

Anti-Cyber Bullying Initiative taken to next level as Celebrity Ambassadors
and Cookies cast announced

The world premiere of Emily Jenkins’ pioneering new play Cookies is being supported by Lily Allen, Ted Reilly, Maddy Hill and Lady Viola Grosvenor, who will act as Ambassadors to the Cyberscene Project – a venture which uses theatre to tackle cyber bullying.

Cyberscene is an inspirational theatre initiative which supports the health and wellbeing of young people affected by cyber bullying. Through a series of theatre-based workshops, the project has explored the key concerns and issues facing young people in today’s digital landscape, collaborating with 120 students across four London colleges.

25 of the original 120 students will perform alongside a cast of established actors in Cookies, directed by Olivier Award nominee Anna Ledwich. Cookies explores the risks faced online, how their effects can accumulate beyond control and how solidarity can be found in a combination of online and offline interactions. Shedding light on sexting and revenge porn, as well as showing the devastating effects of repeated and accumulative verbal abuse through text messages and online comments, Cookies clearly illustrates the rampant nature of online communications and the serious legal and lasting implications which thoughtless
behaviour online can have. While looking both at the positive ways young adults socialise and learn online, the play also touches on the negatives of the internet, including grooming, catfishing and radicalisation, helping to explain the extremes that can happen behind the anonymous screen.

Lily Allen, Ted Reilly, Maddy Hill and Lady Viola Grosvenor will each take on a role in supporting the students involved with the Cyberscene Project by listening to their experiences, taking part in the Cyberscene workshops, offering advice and helping raise awareness of these issues.

For Lily Allen, the project is a chance for people to talk more openly about their online experiences. She says: As someone who’s well aware of the potentially distressing aspects of being online, I’m thrilled to be working with and supporting the Cyberscene project and such a vibrant, inspiring group of young people. I believe that allowing them to tell their stories and share them so widely through the play Cookies will equip us all with the tools to combat the adverse effects of cyber bullying head-on.

Ted Reilly, familiar to many as ‘Johnny Carter’ in EastEnders, met the students involved to hear their experiences of cyber bullying which inspired Cookies. He comments: Theatre has an unrivalled power to advocate change by creating communities of impassioned people ready to challenge your perceptions. Watching such vibrant, enthusiastic young students working together, listening to each other and learning from each other was totally inspiring.  Their experiences of cyber bullying will be immortalised in a script which will go on to be spoken by others and which will hopefully inspire a wider awareness into some of the digital issues facing them. This is exactly why I’m so proud to be part of Cyberscene.

Cyberscene has been created by the Theatre Royal Haymarket Masterclass Trust in partnership with The Pureland Foundation and children’s charity Kidscape. The project has been delivered under the artistic guidance of renowned British theatre director, Jonathan Church CBE.

The Kings of Hull Review

Hull New Theatre – 3 October 2017.  Reviewed by Catherine McWilliams.

3***

John Godber’s new comedy skillfully weaves Hull’s history over the past 50 years with that of Malcolm and Becky King, who are celebrating their golden wedding anniversary. We see the family’s ups and downs and falling outs. The falling out mainly revolving around sporting rivalries, in this case the rugby league rivalry between Hull Kingston Rovers and Hull FC (the Hull equivalent of Manchester City and Manchester United) – what do you do when your children announce they don’t support Rovers? Add in family moving across the river to the posh suburbs for even more friction.

The comedy is set at Malcolm and Becky’s “surprise” anniversary party with Ruby and the Vinyl providing the music. The cast tell the story of the family over the past 50 years and full of local references and jokes that were thoroughly enjoyed by the audience. From references to prison riots to music and back again to those local sporting rivalries. The trauma of the floods in 2007 leading to the joy of the trip to Wembley to see Hull City win a place in the Premiership for the first time and the joy of seeing Hull on the up with its City of Culture status.

Throughout it all Malcom King (Martin Barrass) is giving us his take on life, one that doesn’t always tally with that of his family, talking to us as if we are also guests at his anniversary party. Uncle Trev (Robert Angell) likes a drink and is more than happy to share his version of the story too, usually one that doesn’t agree with his brother’s version!

Ruby and the Vinyl’s music is superb throughout, specially written for the production by Ruby Macintosh. Her songs relate to Hull’s story over the past 50 years. Her song about the river was particularly moving.

This is a gentle comedy full of the poignancy and the joys of 50 years of family life, but one that is not overly sentimental.

Son of a Preacher Man Review

Grand Opera House York – until 7 October.  Reviewed by Michelle Richardson

4****

Featuring the hits of the iconic 60’s singer Dusty Springfield, a brand new musical Son of a Preacher Man has arrived at the Grand Opera House in York this week.

Son of a Preacher Man is set in the present day and tells the tale of three strangers, generations apart who are drawn to the site of former Soho joint The Preacher Man, the place to be seen in the 60’s. The trio, Kat (Diana Vickers), Alison (a youthful Debra Stephenson) and Paul (Michael Rowe), hope to seek advice about love from ‘The Preacher Man’. Paul was one of the “crowd”, now wanting to reconnect with an unrequited lost love from back then. Alison is a widowed tutor with feelings that she can’t decide are truly appropriate. Kat has just lost her grandmother, who was full of stories about The Preacher Man and has been delving into the world of online dating, only to be snubbed by “the man of her dreams”.

They are instead greeted with his son Simon (Ian Reddington), who with the help from the wonderful Cappuccino Sisters, runs a coffee shop which is sadly lacking the spirit of The Preacher Man. Simon is quiet, meek and living under the shadow of his father, but at the same time unable to move forward. After much persuasion he seeks to channel the spirit of The Preacher Man to give the lovesick strangers The Look of Love.

Directed and choreographed by Strictly Come Dancing’s Craig Revel Horwood, the show does have a feel good factor and features some of Springfield’s best known songs, I Only Want To Be With You, Nowhere To Run, Anyone Who Had A Heart and of course the title track Son of a Preacher Man.

Former X Factor contestant Diana Vickers has successfully made the transition into musical theatre, appearing here in York previously with The Rocky Horror Show, performed well with a strong vocal performance.

After a strange noise on stage Debra Stephenson had a fit of the giggles and couldn’t help herself, try as she might, apologising along the way, we did not hold it against her. The audience could not help but laugh along with her, and I must say a lot of admiration of the rest of the cast who carried on regardless.

Michael Rowe’s rendition of “I Close My Eyes and Count to Ten” with the Cappuccino Sisters, was sung with such passion that I just have to mention it.

All of the relatively small cast worked hard, some playing various instruments as well as singing and acting. They all looked like they were having a great time, which certainly made me feel that I was having a good time. Though the story was a bit silly and lacking at times I thoroughly enjoyed it and I was not the only one, listening as I was leaving the venue, to the comments of “what a great show”, ”wow, I really enjoyed that” etc.

So, as we now appear to be in the thick of autumn Son of a Preacher Man gives us an entertaining night out.

Alice Barlow announced for UK tour of Son of a Preacher Man

ALICE BARLOW ANNOUNCED FOR THE UK TOUR OF SON OF A PREACHER MAN FROM 2018

Alice Barlow will star in the heart-warming new musical Son of a Preacher Man, playing the role of Kat from 16 January 2018.

Best known for her roles on television, with credits including Coronation Street, Swipers, Drifters series 1, 3 & 4, Benidorm, Banana, Staff Room, Casualty, Crime Stories, Hollyoaks, and was also a contestant on The Voice, Alice will perform at Darlington Hippodrome for a one week run from Tuesday 6 – Saturday 10 February.

Featuring the soulful music of Dusty Springfield, with a book by Warner Brown and directed and choreographed by Craig Revel Horwood, Son of a Preacher Man embarked on a national tour in September 2017.

Featuring the greatest hits of Dusty Springfield, including “The Look Of Love”, “I Only Want To Be With You”, “Spooky” and of course, the classic “Son Of A Preacher Man”, this sparklingly funny and sweetly touching new musical by internationally renowned writer Warner Brown will have you laughing, crying and singing your heart out to some of the greatest songs ever written.

Directed and choreographed by Strictly Come Dancing’s Craig Revel Horwood, Son of a Preacher Man comes to Darlington Hippodrome for one week only. You only want to be with us!

Choreographer Craig Revel Horwood said:

I am delighted to bring to life for the very first time this wonderful story created by Warner Brown, with soulful songs from the legendary Dusty Springfield’s iconic music catalogue. I hope that audiences in Darlington will come to love this warm-hearted and uplifting new musical as much as I do.’

Son of a Preacher Man is at Darlington Hippodrome from Tuesday 6 – Saturday 10 February.

Tickets* are priced from £27. *Includes £2 restoration levy

To book contact the Box Office on 01325 405405 or visit www.darlingtonhippodrome.co.uk

 

Things I know to be True Review

Quays Theatre, The Lowry, Manchester – 3rd October.  Reviewed by Julie Noller

5*****

Things I know to be True, a beautifully written play by Andrew Bovell. Full of emotion and wonderfully performed by a hugely talented cast. From the outset you are drawn into the dysfunctional yet totally normal family ‘The Prices’. I was curious to watch the audience around me, I had noted they were mostly younger and keen to keep notes obviously it’s a school project. A quick glance towards the end of the play told be they were all enraptured, eagerly leaning forward to follow this story to its conclusion. Word of warning, the play starts with loud music and flashing lights, don’t look into the lights, for the next ten minutes the whole stage will be covered in black spots. We start the play where it also ends Bob Price wondering if he should answer that late night call, we’ve all been there!

Each character has their time in the spot light, a chance to tell their story. Rosie Price (Kirsty Oswald) the youngest of four children. Is on a gap year sightseeing tour of Europe. She suffers a broken heart and runs home to the protection of her family. To her mother Fran (Cate Harmer) family is everything, she prides herself on knowing her children but shes bored, she’s nearing retirement but doesn’t want to spend her time with her husband Bob (John McArdle) who we watch tend his garden and see his roses bloom, he’s a quiet unassuming man who has a working class pride in family and helping his fellow man. Does he notice Fran is bored, does he show his children his love for them. We’re never quite sure. Their other three children each with their own life and problems are also still attched to family by strings that twist and turn. Mark Price (Matthew Barker) the eldest. It’s fascinating to see how family life impacts on his plans and wishes. Fran his Mother disowns him, Bob doesn’t know quite what to say and Rosie thinks only how it will impact on her life. I was shocked, how many times have we thought ‘what will I do, what about me’ without actually acknowledging the person stood infront of you. Pip Price according to Fran is like her but stronger (a tell tale sign theres a secret or two there) She, much to Frans disgust escapes the boredom of family life to try to seek herself in Canada, Bob tells her to do what makes her happy. Ben Price who the others say is Frans favourite, struggles with Bob, his Father. You sense he wants approval but for what? Fran still washes his shirts, he drives a flashy car and then his world collapses around him, lies and stealing have led to a life of drugs and running away from his family yet he always ends back in the loving arms of Fran who will know what to do, she always knows what to do.

The Play is slick and fast paced, slightly chaotic. But I couldn’t see it working any other way. I loved the way the table and other props moved around the stage, Pip managed to sit on the chair just as it was pushed across the stage. Bobs garden and roses were growing, blooming, even tended during the interval by the cast themselves. My favourite parts were the movement pieces – you can’t call them dance moves but they show the family leaning on each other, lives intertwined as you would expect, its visual. We would laugh at parts we recognised from our families, we each gasped and nodded at things we know happen. We would look at each other in the audience and say ‘how did they see inside my house’. I knew in the interval that tears would come, you just knew this family we were witnessing fall apart yet be totally average were facing heartache. However I don’t think any of us saw just what the heartache would be. Death is a sad subject to see. The tenderness of Bobs children caring for him, dressing him. When he’d cried out in such primal grief, I inhaled. I wiped my eyes when Rosie cried out ‘I just want my Mum’ I felt every word, I’d said every word, My own grief replayed. I heard the ladies behind me sniffling and quietly sobbing, on lights up the ashen faces of the young boys, the girls quietly embarrassed turned away with tears streaming, replayed a story of humanity. I thought nothing of standing to my feet and applauding an exceptional play, full of human understanding and the way family life plays out neither perfect or faultless. Please go and watch this play and make sure you take plenty of tissues.

The Plains of Delight Review

Bread & Roses Theatre.  Reviewed by Claire Roderick

3***

Merde! Theatre Company’s The Plains of Delight delves deep into the absurd to tell a story that could have sprung from the imagination of the lovechild of Beckett and O Henry.

Mac (Gary Cain) and Mona (Laura Perry) sit on the same bench every day. The pair are surrounded by rubbish, and the noise of the wind never stops. She reminisces about their past in Ireland as he describes an idyllic life in the South American mountains to his blind wife. Writer Colm Molloy gives Mona’s words a poetically nostalgic melancholy in stark contrast to Mac’s almost monosyllabic responses. Only when describing South America does his language develop, but his tone betrays the emptiness of his words and his despair as he keeps his wife’s dreams alive. The repetitiveness and pointlessness of their life is stressed as they sit, but neither seem willing or able to change. So far, so Waiting for Godot, with beautifully still and measured performances from the pair.

The winds of change really begin to howl when Alfie (Bex Sian-Jane Evans) and Jarry (Arsentiy Novak) burst onto the scene as these bizarre and threatening characters cajole and bully Mac into conversation as Mona sits sleeping. As Mac is swept along by their brutal energy, the truth about his circumstances is revealed, and he somehow enters into a bargain that will change his life. Evans is (quite rightly) completely over the top with her portrayal of the unhinged Alfie and Novak’s Jarry is weirdly sweet but repellent, in a surreal take on PTSD after their wanderings in the wasteland.

Writer/director Colm Molloy has created an interesting piece, with the jarring language of Alfie in stark contrast to Mona’s passages of lyricism. The crucial scene where Novak gets his chance to shine is well done, but is just a little too long. I know the lines were “The words keep pouring out till eternity”, but it did begin to feel like that’s what we were set for. Just a few less repeats and the audience wouldn’t lose interest. Of course, that could be just what Molloy was aiming for, to hint at Alfie and Jarry’s future and the possible effect his constant stream of words could have on their relationship, but for me a trim would help the flow of the narrative.

The Plains of Delight is a brave debut for Molloy and Merde Theatre, and is well worth a look. A company to keep an eye on in the future.

Cilla Review

Mayflower Theatre Southampton – until 7 October 2017.  Reviewed by Jo Gordon

5*****

Being a smidge over forty, I only have memories of Cilla Black beaming out of the TV on family favourites such as Blind Date and Surprise Surprise so was not really aware of her former life until ITV’s 2014 drama and have taken a great interest in her rise to fame since.  This production begins way back in 1960 when Cilla (Kara Lily)  was known as Cilla White and worked as a coat check in girl in the now infamous Liverpudlian venue, The Cavern.  Encouraged to sing at every opportunity by her friends, which included the Beatles and a smitten young man called Bobby (Carl Au), she was beginning to get noticed and after an introduction to Brian Epstein (Andrew Lancel) things started to look up.  With her first single not making it to the top spot would Cilla be the superstar she was craving ?

There are many stories intertwining throughout this show.  We follow Bobby’s struggle with wanting to be by Cilla’s side while yearning for his own success in the industry and being cast out by his father for loving a catholic girl. Cilla’s parents, John White (Neil Macdonald) and “big Cilla” (Pauline Fleming) having to let Cilla fly the nest despite their concerns and Brian Epstein’s struggle with his homosexuality, drink and drugs.  The Beatles have their path gently being told in the background amongst other pop superstars of the day.  The scenery and prop usage is outstanding and you feel like you are actually in the cavern back in its heyday with the music pulsating through your very being! Throw sequins, dancers and brilliant tunes into the mix and its a suburb night!

Kara Lily is the perfect choice to play Cilla, her amazing voice and stage presence are outstanding and she should be recognised as a star in her own right.  The whole cast do a fantastic job of bringing to life the story of how a young girl from Liverpool rose to become the highest paid female on British television and our National Treasure.

I give it a full 5*****, a heart warming, toe tapping production.

UK premiere of JUMP OUT OF SKIN arrives at Pleasance Theatre next week


Jules Verne’s 80 Days Around the World Review

Salisbury Playhouse – until 7th October 2017.  Reviewed by Jo Gordon 

5****

Most of us are aware of the story that is 80 Days Around the World, from reading the book, watching the many films or for those of a certain age, a cartoon starring a variety of talking animals! I was incredibly intrigued to see how such a full and fast paced story would be brought to life on stage … I was not disappointed! Eight Actors,123 characters, six trains, five boats, a Circus act, a storm and one Elephant captured the audiences imagination for the whole show. The use of the few props, lighting and background music was nothing short of genius and watching the Elephant take shape took my breath away. I won’t spoil it for you though!

Set in 1872, Andrew Pollard portrays an excellent Phileas Fogg, a rather stiff man who knows how he likes his tea, sticking to the time and gambling at the Reform club which is what got him into this adventure in the first place, betting other members £20,000 that he could indeed travel around the world in eighty days, departing by train on 2nd October to return by the same time on 21st December. Setting off with newly employed valet, Monsieur Passpartout (Michael Hugo) a hugely lovable, extremely energetic and funny Frenchman, they begin their adventure. It certainly isn’t a smooth one , not helped by the fact a rather unscrupulous Scotland Yard detective called Fix (Dennis Herdman) is hot on their tails believing Fogg to be the Bank of England thief and carrying out various underhand acts to get his man. Along the way Fogg and Passpartout rescue a young Indian woman named Aouda ( Kirsten Foster) from a certain death who then accompanies them for the rest of the journey.

With multiple rail issues ( we all know how frustrating those are!), missed connections and weather of the worst kind all while Fix is doing his best to make things difficult, will Fogg make it back to London on time? A beautiful production portraying how friendship and love can conquer all along with a will to succeed despite adverse situations. Watching it on the very day that Fogg began his journey made it all the more magical for me and I was hooked from the word go!  Everyone needs a Passpartout in their life to head off on an adventure with.

a well earned 5 ***** production.

NINA SOSANYA TO JOIN SURANNE JONES AND JASON WATKINS IN A NEW WEST END PRODUCTION OF THE AWARD-WINNING PLAY FROZEN