The Wonderful Wizard of Oz Review

Creation Theatre – Performances via Zoom until January 3 2021

Reviewed by Joanne Hodge

3***

There is a certain amount of irony [or an extremely sharp wit] behind Creation Theatre’s Christmas online World of Oz, brought to us in the main by green screen wizardry. You get it?

I have to say, the Hollywood blockbuster film of The Wizard of Oz has been my favourite since childhood. I even have my very own pair of Ruby Slippers [and yes, I know purists will say they should be silver]. I was therefore delighted to be invited to watch this particular version, in a year where “There’s no place like home” has never been more apt.

At just over two hours running time, I did find my attention start to wane at times, but I think was more down to my own concentration rather than a reflection on the cast or crew. Without the fully immersive theatre ‘experience’, and sat in front of a Mac screen, somewhat smaller than TV or cinema, I didn’t feel I was as fully focussed on the action as I should be. Added to the fact that other audience members [reaching a maximum of 135] were visible on my screen at all times, which did cause further distraction.

Gari Jones has done amazing work with the show. It’s never going to be easy to bring together the four main characters whilst they may actually be in four different corners of the earth, but it fitted well.

The book has been adapted for the digital age, and rather than a cyclone, Dorothy – played with a sassy edge by Chloe Lemonius in her Creation Theatre debut – kills the Witch if the East in a computer game, and is then transmitted into the game to continue her adventures. Her dog Toto, was actually portrayed by an audience member’s cat after a very brief audition, which I presume was done to add to the inclusivity of the online experience.

Through the game she encounters the usual suspects; The Good Witch [the FABULOUS Le Gateau Chocolat], Darmesh Patel’s Scarecrow, Simon Yadoo as the Lion, and Tom Richardson’s Tin Man, brought into 2020 as a computer.

Anabelle Terry’s Wicked Witch has a delightful cackle, bringing a pantomime villain-esque style to proceedings, and the shape-shifting Wizard adds a somewhat post-modern edge.

Although I did enjoy the take on the story, with its subtle changes to bring things ‘up-to-date’, I did find the psychedelic graphics and Tetris-style audio somewhat ‘loud’ at times, and at points where the characters broke the fourth wall to address the audience and crew I started to think they were experiencing technical difficulties and something had gone wrong!

Overall, I would recommend this show for anyone looking to virtually escape over the festive period, but be aware, we’re not in Kansas anymore!

Little Red Riding Hood Review

The Arts Centre, Hounslow

Reviewed by Andrew Harrison

3***

For any show during these times, I applaud theatres and companies who manage to get a production onto stage even if it’s just online. Unfortunately, this production really needed an audience in order to have a real Christmas spark. A real audience was expected until the change in tiers, so it is very unlucky for The Arts Centre.

The story of Little Red Riding Hood, in this version written by Jonathan Ashby-Rock, as also Co-Director, Producer and Prince Claus, becomes a wannabe detective. The Big Bad Wolf has escaped from prison and Little Red Riding Hood tries to discover the Wolf’s accomplice.

The set is very one dimensional, the first act comes across as a very grey forest and in the second act as Grandma’s Cottage, only slightly becomes a little more colourful. I am sure that with the lighting and the excellent costumes in real life it would have lifted the show.

The real gem here is Little Red Riding Hood as Daniella Piper. She was a delight to watch and I hope to get a chance to see her performing again when I can get into a real theatre. The rest of the cast were also superb throughout, but it is such hard work without a live audience to lift it.

Red Riding Hood is available to watch live streamed until Sunday 19 December, the show will then be available on demand until 31 December 2020.

www.theartscentrehounslow.co.uk

The Emperor’s New Clothes Review

Northern Stage, Newcastle

Reviewed by Andrew Harrison

4****

Northern Stage is one of my favourite Christmas shows and even though there was no audience allowed, they still managed to create an entertaining production with vibrant sets, bright and colourful costumes and outstanding actors.

The story originally written by Hans Christian Anderson, this script has been written by the amazing Laura Lindow, with a tight, quick paced dialogue. It follows 2 chancers, Magnus Scarper, Hannah Goudie Hunter, and Broderick Chase, Bob Nicholson, on their journeys as they accidently become tailors for King Shirley 12th, Jeremy Bradfield, who is also the composer and musical director. The 3 complement each other superbly.  Simmie Kaur, making her professional debut, pulls together some the story playing both Bogus McPhee and 1st Minister to the King. With puppetry and music this is a fun filled 70 minutes for all the family. Make sure you check out the song on the website before watching the show so all the family can join in the fun.

It might not be as good as the real thing, but this as close I have seen it become close to it.

Stream until 31st December at northernstage.co.uk

The Snow Queen Rock ‘N’ Roll Panto Review

New Wolsey Theatre

Reviewed by Andrew Harrison

4****

I joined this panto online at the New Wolsey Theatre as some audience also managed to be there in person, socially distanced of course. It may be a smaller cast than usual for a panto but the five performers work hard and are full of energy.

Writer and director Peter Rowe has created an imaginative production full of fun and excitement. Set in the village of Balbroken The evil Snow Queen, Natasha Lewis, has kidnapped Kay, Adam Langstaff.  The Dame Smorgasbord, Steve Simmonds, and Gerda, Lucy Wells, go in search to find Kay in the frozen North. James Haggie as Simon Clinkerbin, the village idiot shows some good comedy timing to great effect.

As an ensemble they work effectively well, with great singing, though not quite a full rock ‘n’ roll feel. The set is well designed by Barney George.

This show is great for young and old with comedy for all.

‘Hanging by a million threads’ – new artwork by emerging artist Sophie Fields transforms Edinburgh’s Festival Theatre

‘Hanging by a million threads’

A new artwork by emerging artist Sophie Fields transforms Edinburgh’s Festival Theatre.

Edinburgh based emerging artist Sophie Fields has created a statement of thanks to all who have supported Capital Theatres over the past few months, in her textile-based installation Hanging by a million threads.

The work is made up of hundreds of comments posted on the Capital Theatres ‘Theatre Emergency Support Fund’ crowdfunding page, and commissioned by Capital Theatres with the support of the Performing Arts Venues Relief Fund in an open competition.

The title Hanging by a million threads is quite literal, as the fabric is made up of millions and millions of individual threads woven together to give it a strong tensile form.

It links to the state of jeopardy the theatre has experienced this year as a result of closure throughout the pandemic. Capital Theatres was literally hanging by a single thread. But with everyone’s help through the crowdfunder, patron donations, money received from the Scottish Government and Creative Scotland, and the National Lottery Heritage Fund, as well as furlough being extended; all of these factors help the theatres sustain a stronger financial position over the winter until March…hanging by a million threads for now, rather than dangling in hesitation.

Inside the glass panes of the Festival theatre façade, Sophie will hang 20 individual, digitally printed curtains: Each curtain made up of stripes of colour (blue, pink, purple and orange to match the Capital Theatres branding) and featuring some of the beautiful messages, thoughts and memories from the hundreds shared by the public during Capital Theatres’ crowdfunder campaign. Other messages from the 525 submitted will be displayed on the digital screens on the ground floor, so people walking past can read the messages clearly.

Hanging by a Million Threads will showcase the charity’s gratitude to those who have supported Capital Theatres so far.

Hanging by a Million Threads will transform the Festival Theatre’s frontage until the end of January. Following which, in line with the theatre’s commitment to environmental sustainability, the intention is to transform the work itself into pouches, tote bags and pencil cases for sale in collaboration with Leith based circular business Kalopsia.

Sophie Fields is a graduate of Edinburgh College of Art. She worked as a member of Front of House staff at Capital Theatres before the pandemic and is a resident artist at George Watson’s College.

Capital Theatres, as part of its Learning and Participation programme, held a competition for freelance artists to secure a commission to create a work of art for the Festival Theatre. Artists were given a brief and two weeks to respond, 60 entered and Sophie won from a short list of 5 judged by Fiona Gibson (Chief Executive, Capital Theatres), Brian Loudon (Head of Operations, Capital Theatres), Jim Cursiter (Fine Artist), Graham Raith (Head of Electrics, Capital Theatres), Catrin Sheridan (Learning and Participation Coordinator, Capital Theatres), and Fatos Ustek (artist and former director of Liverpool Biennial).

Artist Sophie Fields said: “I was really inspired by the messages the public shared during the crowdfunder and wanted to find a way to incorporate that in my response to the commission.

“The idea of having draped textile pieces filling the front of the Festival Theatre came from the new series of activity created by Capital Theatres ‘Raise the Curtain’ which continues aspects of their community engagement work whilst the theatres are closed, together with the idea of real stage curtains opening up again in the spring. Having the curtains pulled back slightly is a symbol of hope that the theatre still exists and events will hopefully be running as normal inside soon.”

Fiona Gibson, Chief Executive of Capital Theatres said: “We loved Sophie’s idea, and the symbolism of the name of the artwork, Hanging by a million threads. It’s been a tremendously tough year for so many people involved in culture this year and being able to support an emerging artist at this time as well as invest in someone who has worked with us and knows the building so well has been a really positive and powerful experience for us all. The words of our wonderful supporters who contributed to our crowdfunder made a huge difference to the spirits of the Capital Theatres family. Those sentiments and the passion really matter to us and so it seems fitting to have them at the heart of this work celebrating us getting through this together.”

Thousands of payphones to ring simultaneously on New Year’s Day in audio artwork

Thousands of payphones across the UK ring simultaneously on New Year’s Day in large-scale audio artwork

  • Pick Me Up (& hold me tight) is a five-minute audio artwork from theatre and digital arts company ZU-UK 
  • The phones will ring at 11am on New Year’s Day 
  • The pilot on New Years’ Day 2020 saw 176 phones across Leeds ring simultaneously, and the project will return for Compass Festival 2021 

@iamzuuk | www.zu-uk.com | #ZUpickmeup 

Pick Me Up (& hold me tight) is a national project aiming to make every phone box in the UK ring at the same time: 11am on New Year’s Day. Those who pick up the ringing phone will hear a five-minute audio artwork designed to encourage us to think about our ability to listen – to ourselves, to others, to our surroundings – in a world which is growing louder by the day. At a time of year when mental health struggles can be more pronounced, especially in a year such as 2020, the audio is a gentle reminder to listen and of the power of simple connections. For those unable to get to a payphone, an online map will show in real-time all pay-phones being answered, and those that are still ringing. Theatre and digital arts company ZU-UK ran a successful pilot that took place at the same time last year, making 176 payphones in Leeds ring with the artwork. 

Whilst the exact number of working payphones in the UK is unknown, in 2018 it was recorded as 34,000. ZU-UK are currently crowdsourcing payphone numbers, and already have thousands of numbers ready for 1st January. Audiences who want to make sure their nearest phone is on the list can request a call, by nominate  their pay-phone number at: bit.ly/reqphonebox 

At a time of global isolation, the work is inspired by ZU-UK’s research into mental health, and is an invitation to think about how we listen. Leeds was selected for the pilot as the area with one of the highest suicide rates in the country. The artwork will revisit Leeds in March as part of Compass Festival 2021 with phones ringing every day throughout the festival. https://compassliveart.org.uk/  

Anna Turzynski, Compass Festival Senior Producer, said “The Leeds pilot transformed my relationship with the public phone box, turning it into a site of gentle activism and a reminder of our responsibility to take care of one another.”  

Persis Jadé Maravala, ZU-UK’s Artistic Director and writer of Pick Me Up (& hold me tight) said, “Many of us are touched, through bereavement, ideation or survival of suicide – an epidemic that has national resonance. Responding to a national crisis through a national call to action via a gentle artwork, we present Pick Me Up (& hold me tight) as an invitation to explore what kind of listeners we are and could be.” 

Formerly known as Zecora Ura and Para Active, ZU-UK is an award-winning theatre & digital arts company ZU-UK is based in Newham and led by immigrant working-class artists Persis Jade Maravala and Jorge Lopes Ramos. Persis is a disabled artist, ethnically Persian, originally from Yemen and raised in East London. Jorge was born in one of Rio de Janeiro’s largest favelas to a Polish-Romanian family. In a world where mainstream narratives normalize hate and fear, where contemporary loneliness is a new epidemic, we believe in the need for shared rituals, new narratives & experiences that empower those most vulnerable to experience and make excellent art. ZU-UK creates interactive experiences using games, performance and technology. They can happen anywhere including on your phone, in your house, on a stage, in a shopping mall or a field. Previous projects include VR experience Goodnight, Sleep Tight, the immersive Binaural Dinner Date, and #RioFoneHack at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. 

Supported by Arts Council England and 309 individual supporters (via Crowdfunding)

REUNITED CONCERT SERIES EXTENDS ON THESPIE / ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS CONCERT LANDS TONIGHT AT 8PM

PRETTY WOMAN AND DEAR EVAN HANSEN CASTS JOIN CHRISTMAS CONCERT ON THESPIE AND REUNITED SERIES EXTENDED
All I Want For Christmas Is Theatre (the fourth of Thespie’s six Reunited concerts) features over 40 UK stage stars including 2020 Olivier winner Sam Tutty and the cast of Dear Evan Hansen

  • 21 December: All I Want For Christmas Is Theatre brings together more than 40 stars of the UK stage to perform in an inspiring filmed Christmas special. A love letter to the tradition of seeing theatre with those you love during the holiday season, the concert features classic Christmas songs of all styles and heartfelt messages for audiences.
  • Two further concerts have been added to the Reunited series: Never Give Up On A Dream (31 Dec) assembles members of the London cast of Pretty Woman to celebrate new beginnings in 2021, performing select numbers from the hit show alongside classic tunes; and Together Again (7 Jan), an intimatecelebration of sisterhood starringthree artists who met as the title trio in the musical Heathers.
  • Tickets are available to households in over 100 countries and 12 currencies, with a 6-concert bundle (£50/$60) available, as well as lower prices on single-concert tickets for the two new shows when booking early (by 30 Dec). 
  • Thespie set a record for weekly usage of its platform last week, with over nineteen thousand visitors accessing the theatre resources and programming on its website, including the premieres of Girl Power and Marisha Wallace: Live At The Jazz Cafe.
  • Thespie’s original content initiative creates opportunity for theatre workers and advances Thespie’s mission to connect artists and audiences.

Theatre discovery platform Thespie today announces two more concerts in their Reunited series, as well as two dozen stars added to the line-up for their holiday special, All I Want For Christmas Is Theatre. The new artists and shows are being added following the audience response to the initial slate of artist-led programming, developed by Aimie Atkinson, Thespie’s Creative Producer and the Olivier-nominated star of Pretty Woman and SIX.

Each concert, which is crafted in partnership with the artists involved, features ensemble music performances (filmed in COVID-secure London venues), and ranges from musical theatre hits, to pop music, to favourite Christmas songs and also includes intimate interview footage.

The concerts are designed to inspire global theatre audiences, by bringing the UK’s best musical theatre talent directly to their homes. The artists collectively represent over two and a half centuries of experience on UK stages; their recent credits include The Prince of Egypt, Pretty Woman, SIX, & Juliet, Come From Away, Wicked, The Phantom of the Opera, Les Misérables, and Dear Evan Hansen.

Thespie Creative Producer Aimie Atkinson commented, “We’ve had an incredible time putting together this series of concerts and have been blown away by the level of talent involved.

All I Want For Christmas Is Theatre (arriving the 21 Dec at 8pm GMT and available on demand after) is a love letter to the tradition of seeing theatre with those you love during the holiday season. More than 40 top UK theatre artists are lending their talents to this special concert including more than a dozen Olivier Awards Winners or Nominees, including two 2020 Olivier Award Winners and four 2020 Nominees. The concert will feature classic Christmas songs of all styles, with performers from Dear Evan Hansen, Heathers, Wicked, Pretty Woman and more.

Never Give Up On A Dream premieres on New Year’s Eve (31 December 8pm GMT and on demand after) and is an inspiring concert to kick off the new year with songs from the hit musical Pretty Woman alongside pop, rock and musical theatre favourites. The concert features Jemma Alexander, Aimie Atkinson, Hannah Ducharme, Bob Harms, Serina Mathew, Rachael Wooding, Joanna Woodward and Charlotte Yorke, all from the London company of Pretty Woman: The Musical.

Thespie’s first show for 2021 will be Together Again premiering on 7 January 8pm GMT and available on demand after. Featuring artists that met performing the title roles in the London production of Heathers—Sophie Isaacs, Jodie Steele and T’Shan Williamsthe show will celebrate sisterhood with an eclectic mix of pop and musical theatre trios, with incredible harmonies and humour.

The first three concerts in the series, Unlimited: The Songs Of Stephen SchwartzOops! I Streamed It Again and Girl Power, are available on Thespie now, either as single concerts (£15/$18), or as part of the discounted six-concert bundle (£50/$60).

Single-concert purchasers will have 72 hours to watch, except for purchasers of All I Want For Christmas Is Theatre who will have 7 days to watch with their households. The Extended-Access 6-Show bundle (£50/$60) gives purchasers access to all six Reunited concerts from their premiere through 14 January, and provides a 44% discount over booking the concerts individually. All concerts remain available on demand and can be purchased after their premiere, with the same window of access (72 hours or 7 days).

The Reunited series and Thespie’s original content initiative support its work to foster the connection between artists and audiences on its theatre discovery platform. Usage of the platform in recent weeks has set records, with more than nineteen thousand users accessing the site in the week ending 19 December, which saw the premieres of Girl Power starring members of the original company of the musical SIX, and Marisha Wallace: Live At The Jazz Café, which featured Wallace along with West End powerhouse Keri Ellis and Claire Richards of STEPS.  Thespie’s first original production, The Reunion, was one of the bestselling paid theatre streaming events in the UK, selling tickets to 3600 households across 65 countries; and employed 35 live entertainment workers who received over £30k in income from the event.

Thespie founder Tyler Stoops said, “This year so many of us are separated from loved ones, and separated from the shows that we often see during the Christmas period, but we hope our show can be a beacon of hope for families and support bubbles. The artists share incredible performances, and uplifting messages about what theatre and the holidays mean to them, which we hope audiences will find comforting.”

Thespie offers listings for theatre streaming, theatre music & audio, theatre eBooks, educational resources, live London theatre, theatre news, and more. Audiences can use Thespie to stream the Reunited series and more than 400 other shows, or to discover over 1000 more resources available on other popular platforms and services, such as Disney+, Amazon Prime, Spotify and Audible.

Artists, producers and arts organisations interested in adding their show listings and theatre streaming to Thespie can learn more at https://thespie.com/submissions.

DEAFINITELY THEATRE ANNOUNCES BURSARIES FOR DEAF AND HARD OF HEARING THEATRE FREELANCERS

DEAFINITELY THEATRE ANNOUNCES BURSARIES FOR DEAF AND HARD OF HEARING THEATRE FREELANCERS

Deafinitely Theatre today announces a special project offering bursaries to support deaf or hard of hearing freelance theatre practitioners and performers during the Covid-19 pandemic. The organisation will award 20 bursaries of £1000 to support freelancers at any stage of their career to develop their practice in Spring 2021, and will provide recipients with networking and keeping-in-touch sessions to monitor their personal development.

Artistic Director Paula Garfield today said, “I know how incredibly difficult this period has been for all self-employed theatre makers, especially those who have upsettingly fallen through the funding gaps. Many freelance deaf and hard of hearing artists have been in touch with me about the challenges they have been facing during lockdown and my heart goes out to them. Thanks to the fantastic Arts Council Cultural Recovery Fund, Deafinitely Theatre is so pleased to be able to offer financial assistance to support 20 deaf freelance theatre practitioners and performers with paid time to develop their creative practice at the start of 2021. The Covid-19 pandemic continues to be an incredibly difficult period for the arts and we are determined to come out of it with brilliant work for audiences across the country to return to, with deaf and disabled theatre makers front and centre.”

Supported by the Arts Council Cultural Recovery Fund, the bursaries are open to deaf and hard of hearing theatre practitioners and performers aged 18 and over at any stage of their career. Applicants must be self-employed, not in full-time education, live in the United Kingdom and have a UK bank account.

Applications are now open, to apply please complete a written application or submit a BSL video to info@deafinitelytheatre.co.uk by Monday 11 January, midday. For the application form and full information, please visit www.deafinitelytheatre.co.uk/deaf-freelancers-bursary.