Underbelly Festival, Southbank – until 23 June 2019
Reviewed by Claire Roderick
In Bernie Dieter’s Little Death Club, no seat is safe, as hostess Bernie Dieter will take off her (fabulous) heels and climb over the audience to sing to/on anyone who takes her fancy.
The atmosphere inside the Spiegeltent is one of a slightly seedy, but very welcoming club with the performers milling around, posing for and chatting to the audience as they make their way to their seats.
Dieter and creative director Tom Velvick have put together a perfectly judged show full of raucous filth interspersed with mind-blowing speciality acts and some beautifully soft and quiet moments. Inspired by Weimar Republic Kabarett, this is all saucy but never cruel, with a wonderful sense of inclusion and fun.
Dieter is a brilliant host, with a brilliantly sultry rapport with the audience and boy, can she belt out a song. Beau Sargent does things with his body that will make you gasp, but what could be a retch-inducing contortion freakshow develops into a thing of beauty, and when he returns for his aerial performance, his hoop work is jaw-droppingly emotional. Fancy Chance and her hair hanging ballet is simply astounding, and Kitty Bang Bang’s fire-breathing act is a high-octane thriller. Giving the audience time to breathe and recover are the hilarious Josh Glanc as Le Mime Tipi, a French mime who REALLY hates his job, and Myra Dubois, delivering scathing insults and her own unique take on an Elaine Paige classic.
This is the perfect show to start a night out with friends, with a well-stocked bar and an obscenely talented cast creating an irresistible celebration of difference, freedom and unadulterated joy.
OVO’s production of one of Shakespeare’s most popular comedies sets the action on cruise liners in the roaring twenties. Sebastian and Viola become entertainers on the doomed SS Elysium, and Orsino is captain of the SS Illyria, with Olivia as a famous actress sailing on his ship.
This suits the tiny performance space well, with only a decorative ship’s rail needed, and the imaginative use of a reinforced piano as stage/storage for props. The audience sit as if watching the action unfold on deck, with the cold air rising from the archaeological dig site and blankets wrapped around their legs helping set the scene of a transatlantic voyage.
The crossdressing comedy is handled well by Lucy Crick as Viola/Cesario, with her discomfort in swimwear as Olivia attempts to seduce her one of the highlights of the show. As needed, all of the characters are broadly drawn, with James Douglas as the tweed wearing twit Aguecheek creating comedy gold effortlessly with facial expressions alone. Malvolio becomes Malvolia, and Faith Turner nails the judgemental haughtiness, still managing to make her sympathetic from the beginning. This is helped by the antics of Lady Toby (Anna Franklin) and her cronies all feeling forced and their laughter strained. The gender switching of both Malvolio and Toby is a little uneven, as Malvolia still adores Olivia, but Maria’s affections are switched from Toby to Fabian for some reason.
The twenties setting means that there is plenty of scope for jazz versions of fantastic modern songs from Britney Spears, Rihanna and Radiohead. This has all been done before, but the cast make a fine effort playing instruments and singing songs that feel more and more awkwardly shoehorned into the production as the play goes on. Hannah Francis-Baker holds things together as Feste, with the strongest and most natural singing performance.
The necessary cuts to fit the plot, and songs, into the short running time don’t damage the production, and the beautifully downbeat and heart-rending musical ending is a brilliant decision. I just wish director Adam Nichols had made more choices like this throughout – then this production could have been an exciting and fresh revelation, rather than a solidly enjoyable, but safe experience.
The epic struggle between good and evil comes to life as local theatre company Darlington Operatic Society start rehearsals for the musical phenomenon, Jekyll & Hyde
An evocative tale of two men – one a doctor, passionate and romantic; the other, a terrifying madman – and two women – one, beautiful and trusting; the other, beautiful and trusting only herself – both women in love with the same man and both unaware of his dark secret. A devoted man of science, Dr. Henry Jekyll is driven to find a chemical breakthrough that can solve some of mankind’s most challenging medical dilemmas. Rebuffed by the powers that be, he decides to make himself the subject of his own experimental treatments, accidentally unleashing his inner demons along with the man that the world would come to know as Mr. Hyde
Based on the classic story by Robert Louis Stevenson and featuring a thrilling score from multi-Grammy and Tony-nominated Frank Wildhorn and double-Oscar and Grammy-winning Leslie Bricusse, Jekyll & Hyde: The Musical has mesmerized audiences the world over.
The original Broadway production of Jekyll & Hyde took to the stage at the Plymouth Theatre on March 21, 1997 where it played for over 1,500 performances. Jekyll & Hyde also enjoyed two successful UK tours, one in 2004 and most recently in 2011.
Joanne Hand (Top Hat, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, West Side Story) will once again be at the helm as Director / Choreographer and Steven Hood (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Strictly Musicals 2) will have a live, 17 piece orchestra under the control of his baton.
Julian Cound from DarlingtonOS told us “following the huge success of Top Hat we are so looking forward to taking on the challenge of Jekyll & Hyde. The show is full of amazing music and will have audiences on the edge of their seats throughout. We will be using the set and costumes from a recent UK tour so it will look fabulous and with a 17 piece orchestra it will sound amazing too.”
He continued “Jekyll & Hyde is a completely different style of show from our most recent productions, it is something new and is a powerful piece of musical theatre that will thrill, astound and delight.”
Jekyll & Hyde runs at Darlington Hippodrome from Wednesday 23 October to Saturday 2 November. Thursday 31 October is a BSL interpreted performance and both Friday performances will be audio described. Recommended age 12+ Tickets are on sale now – to book call the Ticket Hotline on 01325 244659 or book online at www.darlingtonos.org.uk
Royal and Derngate Theatre, Northampton – until 11 May 2019
Reviewed by Boo Wakefield
Ghosts was originally written in Danish by Norwegian Henrik Ibsen in 1881. This new version has been translated and adapted by Mike Poulton. In some ways it’s a shame Poulton and the various translations of the play over the years have chosen to translate the Danish word Gengangere as Ghosts: firstly there are actually no ghosts in the play; and secondly, the literal meaning is “the thing that walks again” which is far more apt for what is to come – a play about lies and shame, about crushing societal hypocrisy, and about “the sins of the father being visited on his child” in the form of neurosyphilis – the thing that literally walks again. It is a rollercoaster of emotions that left the audience stunned and my husband in tears. This play is no light-hearted romantic night out nor is it for the faint-hearted. Written by Ibsen intentionally to be a slap in society’s face, it still hits hard today.
Set on the remote Norwegian island of Rosenvald, it has been raining for weeks with no sign of abating. Gloom and darkness are prevalent, reflecting the emotionally stunted and deeply unhappy lives being lived under it. The set is simple but brilliant; lit in subtle green-blue lighting with the sound of constant rain it puts us in the front room of the manor house belonging to widow Helen Alving (Penny Downie) but cleverly shows the dining room at the back of the stage through fine mesh walls where silent sub-plots can be seen. Helen’s son Osvald (Pierro Niel-Mee) has returned from Paris for the opening of the orphanage built by Helen in memory of her late husband. Pastor Manders (James Wilby) has arrived to deliver the late Captain Alving’s eulogy at the opening. Regina Engstrand (Eleanor McLoughlin) is Helen’s maid and the daughter of Jakob Engstrand (Declan Conlon), a violent drunk hired to help build the orphanage.
Over the course of the day and night before the opening, the play exposes the web of lies and hypocrisy that bind the characters and the lives to which each of them has been condemned by society’s strait-jacket. To describe the plot in detail here would be to spoil the play so I won’t. You should go and see it – it is a slick and high-quality production. If the definition of a good play is that you wake up thinking about it the next morning then this is a good play, thought provoking and emotionally powerful – just don’t expect it to leave you full of the joys of spring!
There wasn’t a seat left in the King’s Theatre that wasn’t occupied by very excitable women and men or slightly anxious looking husbands/partners.
The atmosphere was electric as everyone…. well, almost everyone awaited the start of the production. Everyone has seen the screen movie of Full Monty, and if you haven’t then why not? Set in the northern city of Sheffield it follows the lives of 6 men in particular who had previously worked in the steelworks which adorned the city skyline. That was until politics took over and many of the mighty forges where closed leaving thousands of hardworking men out of jobs.
The productions follows the lives of a small group of men, some who have been friends since childhood, others who have met at the job club and the rest who become friends when they come up with the madcap idea to become strippers for one night only, after listening to the local women go crazy over the visiting dance troupe ‘The Chippendales’ to which Gaz reckons he could do much better.
Gaz and Dave (played by Gary Lucy and Kai Owen) have been friends since childhood and worked together in the forge are introduced at the beginning of the production when breaking into the abandoned steelworks to steal a rather heavy iron girder. Alongside them is Gaz’s son Nathan (played by Fraser Kelly). Gaz is separated from Nathan’s mother who has now taken up with another man and Gaz is trying to do right by his son by is struggling financially to even make any payments for him. Hence the reason for the stealing and upcoming mad ideas to get cash.
Joe Gill (Lomper)who is very well known for his character in Emmerdale joins the cast when he goes to the steelworks to hang himself as he has no friends and generally hates his job. Thankfully Gaz and Dave stop him from doing this and they become unlikely friends and Lomper agrees to join them in learning to dance and strip.
The guys are joined by some very well known and talented actors in the likes of Louis Emerick (Horse), Andrew Dunn (Gerald) and James Redmond (Guy). Each of them having their own troubles to deal with and struggling to get by or find work and even deal with health issues.
There is not a moment in the production that the audience is not laughing or screaming for the guys to ‘Get their kit off’ and even sympathising with the characters on stage. I personally have not had such a laugh at a theatre performance in a long time. Not because it was about male strippers but because the performers kept the acting real and alive and each persons story allowed someone in the audience to resonate with what they were feeling.
‘a fantastic feel good show which will leave you smiling on the way out’
New Victoria Theatre, Woking – until 27 April 2019
Reviewed by Becky Doyle
From the moment the porch fell I was on the edge of my seat and I didn’t sit back and relax until the curtains came down. The story was intense and captivating and the actors were fantastic.
The set was simple yet effective and nothing more was needed. One criticism was the sound effects, though in the grand scheme of things this was minor. The ‘pipes’ had a somewhat questionable rumble and the final lighting strike was a more fake looking than I would have liked or expected, but other than that there really was little fault with the production.
Its hard to single out actors with such a small cast, though to their defense, I feel that it is harder to keep an audience entertained with a smaller more direct cast. Rita Simons (Caro) and Jo McFadden (Ollie) were convincing throughout and brought you into their very loving, relationship with a hint of comedy and plenty of affection. Whereas Charlie Clements (Chris) was the loveable geek who provided you with the potential twist to the story line… “DID HE? OR DIDN’T HE?”
I walked away from the show with a genuine interest in its background and the story behind the book. It’s definitely one to watch as long as your looking for excitement, tension and a look into the afterlife and its possibilities…!!
Grand Opera House York – until Saturday 27th April.
Reviewed by Michelle Richardson
Based around the hit film of the same name, this is by far more entertaining, Rock of Ages hit York with all it’s 80’s glam rock style. Resplendent in song, clothing and hair. The story is built around the classic rock bands that were around during that time, such as Bon Jovi, Poison and Journey, and rock ballads they produced, trust me you will know the majority of the tunes.
Set in LA, with the main focus being the Bourbon Room, it is essentially a love story between wannabe actress Sherrie (Jodie Steele) and wannabe rock star Drew aka Wolfgang Von Colt (Luke Walsh). They both really want to be together, but cannot express their true feelings, so end up hurting each other, going their separate ways and their dreams of success being so far from reality.
The Bourbon Room is owned by Dennis (Kevin Kennedy), most noted for playing loveable Curly Watts in Coronation Street. Once he got going as the old faded rock star, he was hilarious and could belt out the old tune. His side-kick and narrator of the show, was Lonny (Lucas Rush). Rush was on stage for most of the show and was the highlight. He was absolutely fantastic as the over the top, camp Lonny, interacting with the audience with ease, he had us all in stitches. I absolutely loved his performance, even when he lost his trousers. I must say that his performance is my absolute favourite of all time, in all the shows I have seen, so far. LOVED it.
We see father and son team, Hertz (Vas Constanti) and Franz (Andrew Carthy, with his pearly white gnashers), wanting to redevelop the strip and knock down the Bourbon Room. To try and fight the closure and raise some much needed funds, Dennis persuades rock band Arsenal and their lead singer Stacee Jaxx, to play their last gig at his venue, before they go their separate ways. Anthony Costa, formerly of Blue, has just taken over this role from Kevin Clifton. Obliviously, as in all these shows, thing all turn out right in the end, the bar staying open, even after the demise of Dennis and the lovestruck getting their act together.
This show certainly captivated the audience right from the start, though at times it sailed very close to the wind. There is quite a bit of sexual content within the show, pushing it up to over 18’s only, that I did find a bit uncomfortable at times. Some of the female costumes were sure skimpy, I never realised that shorts could be so tight and sooooo short. The objectification of the women at times also left me feeling a bit uneasy, but ultimately I worked through that and just enjoyed the show. I sound like a right prude, trust me I’m not. The whole cast were captivating and they could belt out some tunes, giving justice to the old rock ballads. The energy in the dance was quite striking, I especially enjoyed watching Bobby Winderbank and his physicality.
This is a fun, feel good show, with plenty of energy. It had us all up on our feet, singing and dancing in the finale and one I can recommend, just be warned of the sexual content.
Birmingham Repertory Theatre Announces Autumn and Winter Season 2019
· Robert Lindsay stars in Prism – Terry Johnson’s witty and poignant play about the extraordinary life of the Oscar-winning cinematographer, Jack Cardiff.
· Rebel Music, a new play by Robin French and a raucous celebration of people power, set to a soundtrack of Punk, Reggae and 2Tone.
· Inua Ellams’ applauded vivid and energetic Barber Shop Chronicles makes its Midlands debut following a world tour.
· The breath-takingly talented Blood of the Young give their unique and colourful take on Jane Austen’s definitive rom-com in an all-female adaptation, Pride and Prejudice* (*sort of).
· Stirring stories of women of retirement age shine through in Prime Time – three monologues by Maeve Clarke, Rachael Mainwaring and Rochi Rampal reflecting ageist stereotypes and deep-rooted gender issues..
· Melly Still’s uplifting and heartbreaking staging of Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones, adapted by Bryony Lavery, returns due to popular demand ahead of a UK tour.
· Mushy: Lyrically Speaking finds rhythm and voice in the true story of young man with a stammer by Pravesh Kumar and British rapper, Raxstar and directed by Ameet Chana.
· Award-winning playwright, Winsome Pinnnock, reimagines her 2005 play, One Under in a new production for Graeae, directed by The REP’s newly appointed deputy artistic director, Amit Sharma
· Hanif Kureishi’s ground-breaking 1985 film and empathetic portrait of a British Asian community in Thatcher’s Britain, My Beautiful Laundrette comes to the stage in a bold new production directed by Nikolai Foster.
· Winner of more awards than any other production in history is Stephen Daldry’s landmark production of the classic thriller An Inspector Calls, which returns having last played The REP eleven years ago.
· Director Liam Steel returns for a second Christmas at The REP with a fresh and spectacular, swashbuckling take on the classic, Peter Pan.
· Waddling back for Christmas is the delightful, Penguins – a warm and engaging story for young audiences about friendship, acceptance and the ever-changing definition of what makes a family.
Birmingham Repertory Theatre’s outgoing Artistic Director, Roxana Silbert, today announces the theatre’s Autumn and Winter 2019 season, launching a programme of familiar favourites side-by-side with new and inspiring theatre.
In her last programmed season for Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Roxana Silbert said:
“I was originally drawn to The REP by its pioneering spirit, the diversity and energy of the city and the potential of a theatre that could produce the whole gamut of work: from the epic and commercial to the niche and community, encompassed in Graham Winteringham’s inspiring building. The REP is blessed with an audience that is both open hearted and open minded and I hope that some of the spirit of the city and its people is reflected in a programme that is bursting with national and home-grown talent, alongside inventive new work across its three stages and beyond.”
The Autumn season opens with the return of The Lovely Bones (6 – 21 September). Commissioned by The REP and premiered in 2018 to critical acclaim, Melly Still returns to direct Bryony Lavery’s uplifting adaptation of Sebold’s story about life after loss, ahead of a new UK tour.
Following two sell-out runs at the National Theatre and a world tour, Inua Ellams’ acclaimed Barber Shop Chronicles (26 – 28 September) comes to The REP. Directed by Olivier award-winning director Bijan Sheibani, Barber Shop Chronicles is a heart-warming, hilarious and insightful new play that leaps from a barber shop in Peckham to Johannesburg, Harare, Kampala, Lagos and Accra over the course of a single day.
Robert Lindsay stars in Prism (4 – 12 October), Terry Johnson’s delightfully witty and poignant play based on the extraordinary life of double Oscar-winning cinematic master Jack Cardiff; the man who made Hollywood’s greatest divas beautiful and who lived a life as colourful as his cinematography. Part fact, part fiction, Prism, sees Cardiff retired and wanting to live in the past rather than remember it. Prism is a co-production between The REP and Hampstead Theatre following the play’s sell-out run in London in 2017. It opens at The REP ahead of a UK tour.
Promising an adaptation like no other of Jane Austen’s definitive rom-com is the breathtakingly- talented Blood of the Young’s Pride and Prejudice* (*sort of) (15 October – 2 November)which caused a sensation last year at the Tron Theatre, Glasgow. In a new scaled-up production, this unique and colourful take on Jane Austen’s unrivalled classic is an irreverent all-female adaptation featuring a gloriously subversive love letter to the 19th century original and a killer karaoke soundtrack. A co-production between Birmingham Repertory Theatre and Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum Theatre.
Hanif Kureishi’s iconic and ground-breaking 1985 film, My Beautiful Laundrette (5 – 9 November) comes to the stage in a bold new production directed by Nikolai Foster, Artistic Director of Leicester Curve. Set in London during the Thatcher years, Kureishi’s story of a British Asian community explores issues of sexuality, cultural conflict, gender equality, class and generational strife, all presented against a funky backdrop of 80s music and culture.
The Autumn season in the main house also includes Stephen Daldry’s landmark production of An Inspector Calls (12 – 16 November). Visionary, radical and challenging this version of JB Priestly’s classic thriller, hailed as the theatrical event of its generation, has been seen by more than 4 million people worldwide and was last seen at The REP in 2008.
For Christmas 2019 a fresh and spectacular, new staging of Peter Pan (30 November – 19 January) sees the return of director Liam Steel following his highly-acclaimed production of The Wizard of Ozlast year. Filled with swashbuckling adventure the eternal classic Peter Pan is the perfect festive show for adventurous children and those still young at heart.
Rebel Music (19 September – 5 October) is the latest play from Birmingham born-writer, Robin French, co-created and directed by Alex Brown, commissioned by Birmingham Repertory Theatre and presented in association with Middle Child. Set in the sweltering hot summer of 1976, Rebel Music is the story of three friends who are forced to navigate racial politics and social upheaval alongside their own turbulent teenage years. A raucous celebration of people power, set to a soundtrack of Punk, Reggae and 2Tone, Rebel Music will also tour to local community venues as part of The REP’s ongoing commitment to making theatre accessible to all.
Prime Time (23 – 26 October) is a new piece of theatre and the third collaboration between The REP and Women & Theatre exploring themes of women in work. Comprising three monologues by three playwrights – Maeve Clarke, Rachael Mainwaring and Rochi Rampal and featuring Janice Connolly,Prime Time explores the experiences of women of retirement age; those still working through choice or necessity, full-time carers and those embracing new opportunities for the final third of their lives.
An uplifting tale inspired by the true story of a young man with a debilitating stammer is told in a new play by Pravesh Kumar and British Asian rapper, Raxstar for Rifco Theatre Company. Mushy: Lyrically Speaking (26 – 28 September) tells the story of Musharaf Asghar who found himself at the centre of the television documentary, Educating Yorkshire in 2013. In a moment of inspiration from his teacher, Mr Burton, he started to find a rhythm in his voice through music. With his story playing out on television, Mushy became an overnight celebrity, but this was only just the start of his journey to find his voice.
A re-imagined version of One Under (19 – 23 November) by award-winning playwright Winsome Pinnock and director Amit Sharma (recently announced as The REP’s new Deputy Artistic Director) for Graeae visits The REP as part of a national tour. First produced in 2005, the re-written One Underis an evocative play about the power of guilt and quest for atonement, exploring the fragility of human relationships. When a young man jumps in front of a train Cyrus is driving, the mysterious circumstances prompt him to search for answers. One Under will include a creative combination of captioning and audio description.
Theatre for younger audiences sees the return of the delightful Penguins – a warm and engaging story about friendship, acceptance and the ever-changing definition of what makes a family. Created and directed by Paul Bosco McEneaney and co-produced by The REP, Cahoots NI and Prime Theatre the show returns to Birmingham ahead of a 20-week tour of the US.
Elsewhere theatre for children and families includes Lyngo Theatre’s What A Wonderful World (14 September) and Down in The Dumps from The Play House (5 October) and Comedy 4 Kids and Simple Politics’ How Does This Politics Thing Work Then? (26 October). Search For The Second Star (19 – 21 December)is an immersive experience developed in partnership between The REP and Open Theatre Company designed as a companion piece to Peter Pan to engage young people with learning disabilities.
The biennial BEDLAM Festival returns to get people thinking and talking about mental health through the arts. The festival is produced by The REP in partnership with Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust, Midlands Arts Centre, Sampad South Asian Arts and Geese Theatre to promote positive mental health and wellbeing with a programme spanning theatre, dance and visual arts. Highlights include two new plays which explore the rising epidemic of male suicide – The Thing(4 – 5 October) by Les Enfants Terribles and Revolving Door (8 October) by Polly Wright and the Hearth Centre, plus a third new play Playing The Game (9 – 10 October) about mothers in prison created by Geese Theatre Company using interviews conducted at a UK prison.
The REP is delighted to be collaborating with Birmingham’s Fierce Festival (15 – 20 October) in the autumn to present three surprising and provocative performances: In Many Hands by Katie McIntosh – a performance that brings the audience into a tactile, multi-sensory situation; Familiar – a twinset of performances on significant otherness, one each written by Gillie Kleiman and Greg Wohead and performed by the other, and Working With Children by Nicola Gunn – a performance essay that looks at the problem of intimacy and exposure.
As part of the city-wide SHOUT Festival is Split Britches’ Unexploded Ordnances (UXO) (16 November). Combining a Dr Strangelove-inspired performance with a daring forum for public conversation, audience members are invited to discuss the global issues of the day as the company weave in satirical insights and humour. SHOUT festival will also present a showcase of work-in-progress performances from the next generation of queer Midlands theatre-makers in Queer And Now (9 November).
Music Theatre Wales return with The Intelligence Park (4 November) – Irish composer, Gerald Barry’s first opera which premiered in 1990 at the Almeida Festival and now performed in Birmingham for the first time.
Complementing the autumn theatre programme, The REP plays host to a number of comedy one-night stands including Humble Pi – Matt Parker’s Comedy of Maths Errors (26 October) and Andy Parson’s Healing The Nation (23 November).
Inspired by Greek tragedy, Beneath The City will be performed by a chorus drawn from The Young REP and members of the theatre’s Adult Drama Company alongside refugees and asylum seekers in collaboration with Upstart Theatre (14 – 17 January).
The Autumn and Winter 2019 Season goes on sale to members on Wednesday 24 April with general booking opening on Wednesday 1 May at 12 noon.
Lawrence Batley Theatre announces three year partnerships with writer and poet Nikita Gill and ThickSkin theatre company
Lawrence Batley Theatre’s new Artistic Director & Chief Executive Henry Filloux-Bennett today announced the first ‘Storytellers’, artists who will be creating and performing work at the theatre over the next three years.
Nikita Gill is an Indian writer and the UK’s most followed poet with more than half a million followers. Her popular books include Fierce Fairytales & Other Stories to Stir Your Soul – a collection of fairy tales for a new generation, focussing on gender stereotypes and the darker side of classic stories – andWild Embers: Poems of Rebellion, Fire and Beauty. Her new book Great Goddesses will be released later this year.
Nikita will be bringing her stories to life on stage for the first time at the theatre, creating and staging work in Huddersfield over the next three years.
Nikita said: ‘This is my first foray from page to stage and I feel honoured to collaborate with the Lawrence Batley Theatre.I’m excited to tell stories for people outside the mainstream. To tell stories that put women front and centre and stories that have the power to change the world we live in.We’ve already started work on the first show and it’s shaping up to be wonderful. I’m really looking forward to sharing the magic with the people of Huddersfield and Kirklees.’
ThickSkin creates innovative and exciting theatre. The company was formed by Neil Bettles and Laura Mallows in 2010 and quickly established itself as one of the UK’s most exciting theatre companies, producing multi-award-winning productions, commissioning new writing and touring worldwide. The organisation aims to unearth new talent and engage established artists in the creation of new work.
The Lawrence Batley Theatre has co-commissioned a new play by ThickSkin which will tour the UK later this year and be performed at the theatre as well as in community centres and libraries. The partnership will then continue with new plays commissioned in 2020 and 2021.
Neil Bettles, Artistic Director of ThickSkin said: ‘At ThickSkin we have always thrived on collaboration. The partnership with Lawrence Batley Theatre is the perfect way for us to share and create new work with a wide range of people. Our work is accessible, inclusive and vibrant and aims to bring more people into the theatre not only to watch the work but to take part in making it. We create theatre that draws on many forms but at the heart we want to tell good stories. Sometimes true, sometimes fantasy, our work is always physical, visual, engaging and imaginative and has a cinematic quality that we hope inspires young audiences to create their own work.’
Laura Mallows, Executive Director of ThickSkin said: ‘I’m delighted that we’re going to be working with Lawrence Batley Theatre in the coming years. We share a commitment to developing audiences and we want to tell stories both inside and outside the theatre so that we meet new people, and hear their stories too. Working closely with Henry and his team we’re already developing two projects for 2019, and have lots of ideas about how the partnership will grow. We want to meet artists who are based in Yorkshire and create work with them.’
The two ‘Storytellers’ are the first announcements from the Lawrence Batley Theatre’s new Artistic Director & Chief Executive Henry Filloux-Bennett.
Henry said: ‘Stories have shaped the world around us for as long as we’ve been able to share them – from how we feel and grow as individuals to how we come together and develop as a community. In these uncertain times however, questioning how and why we tell stories is crucial. We are so thrilled to be working with ThickSkin and Nikita Gill – two of the most exciting and original creative forces in the country – over the next few years to respond to these questions. Developing relationships with these two ‘Storytellers’, we’ll be presenting new cross-art form work – including theatre, movement and poetry – made in and for Huddersfield, across the theatre’s three performance spaces, all with a clear aim: to reflect the times we find ourselves in, and to explore how we share meaningful stories for today.’
The autumn season at the theatre will also include Nigel Slater’s Toast, which was adapted byHenry Filloux-Bennet for the West End stage, and the Sheffield Theatres and English Touring Theatre co-production of Matt Haig’s Reasons To Stay Alive. Both shows are on sale now at www.thelbt.org
Further details on ThickSkin’s production will be announced in May with Nikita Gill’s first show announced in July. The full autumn/winter season at the Lawrence Batley Theatre will be announced in early July.
Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield – until Saturday 27th April 2019
Reviewed by Charleigh Christmas
The play Rough Crossing written by Tom Stoppard in 1984, is a comedy set aboard an ocean liner, carrying a cast of characters on a journey to make their premier in New York.
The cast is made up of a pair of writers, a genius composer, two actors and an ever faithful steward. As the cast are on their voyage, it’s not smooth sailing for them as secrets are revealed, friendships are frayed and lives are threatened to be ruined. As serious as this all sounds, the play is remarkably light-hearted and witty in it’s telling.
The play felt as though the plot was a little stretched thin in the first half of the play, and I found that where it wanted to be funny the jokes were falling a bit flat. Introduced to “Turai” played by John Partidge, and “Gal” played by Matthew Cole, they are authors on their way to New York, having four days to rewrite their ending. Both did extremely well in their roles and had subtle characterisations. The character “Dvorrnichek” or “Murphy” was played by Charlie Stemp, and was by far my favourite character of the show. He drove the story forward and his comic timing was brilliant. He was able to move around the set and actually have me feeling like he was at sea.
The first half of the play ended with a musical number, which I felt was a little out of place and felt forced.
Going into the second half the play found it’s stride. I started to feel like it was a parody of itself, and I was laughing whole heartedly near the end. Although the plot did again feel forced, and a little confusing at times. I think the idea of having “Dvornichek” almost narrating and guiding us through the story was definitely needed.
The set was simple yet stunning, and the costumes were the same. I was taking note of the magnificent props that had been sourced for this production.
I would say the cast were a brilliant set of actors, and the direction was brilliant. It was unfortunate for me that the play itself was a tad weak.