The Taming of the Shrew Review

Jack Studio Theatre 18 July – 5 August.  Reviewed by Claire Roderick

The Taming of the Shrew is one of those plays that can cause bitter arguments. I have met many women who are adamant that the play should not be performed anymore, citing its misogyny and scenes of subjugation, torture and reprogramming. My argument that there are some really funny parts just doesn’t wash. Unlike the Globe’s Irish set tragic version last year, Lazarus Theatre have embraced the Christopher Sly framing structure to present a boisterous and funny adaptation that never lets the audience forget that they are watching a play within a play, designed to teach a sexist drunken idiot the error of his ways.

The fun begins before you enter the theatre, with festival bunting and fake grass adorning the entrance as the cast push past you laden with tents and deckchairs. As always with Lazarus, there is lots of relaxed preshow audience interaction, before Sly makes his entrance.

Staged in the round, the audience become part of the show, given props and lines, with this enjoyably relaxed atmosphere allowing much louder and spontaneous reactions to some of the more sexist lines than you would usually hear in a Shakespeare play. The bartering over Bianca becomes like The X Factor, with the audience waving flags and cheering for their favourite suitor, and the disturbing scenes where Kate is tamed are played at top speed, and for laughs. Director Sara Reimers ends on an act of defiance and power, as the always dignified Kate (the wonderful Charlotte Dowding, whose facial expressions say as much as Shakespeare’s words) and the female cast show their contempt for how they are treated by the men.

The strong cast all give energetic and physical performances, with CJ de Mooi chewing the scenery to hysterical effect as old Gremio, and Matthew Foster so good as Petruchio that you actually want to slap the him. The loyal servants, Tranio and Grumio are played brilliantly by Evangeline Dickson and Rachel Smart, giving their respective cleverness and oafish brutality an interesting new spin.

There was a little too much unnecessary smoke effects at times, but that is my only gripe, and, I suppose that inhaling dodgy strange smoke gives the production a more realistic festival atmosphere.

With The Taming of the Shrew, Lazarus Theatre have done it again, re-imagining a classic play in a modern, exciting and joyful production that cannot fail to bring a goofy smile to your face.

Sheep Review

The White Bear, Kennington – until 5 August 2017.  Reviewed by Brian Gordon

The White Bear is an intimate venue with no more than 40 people above this idyllic idol pub in South West, London. Nothing fancy, just seating platforms, great sound and lighting and no stage. The audience can feel and breath the performance. There is nowhere for the performer to hide.

Sheep is the tale of Dexy (Sexy Dexy to a friend) who has struggled with sleep for 20 or maybe 21 nights…! Written by David Cantor whose previous writings have seen family fun in My Family and more adolescent frivolity in 2 Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps, this more sartorial production takes the audience in to the dark mind of the insomniac.

Dexys travels through the night see his infatuation for the lady in the red dress developed via his interactions with the overly sexualised Leo and the less than exciting Vic. Is Dexy asleep or could this all be a dream or is there more to this nigh than anyone would expect…

Ciarian Lonsdale’s portrayal of the insomniac Dexy is bolstered by the energetic performance of James Groom as Leo. Ridiculously sexualised and costumed in a more than brave way he spends the evening between being balls deep in social pollen and the articulation of the threat from hybrid polar bear monkeys on 70s DJs released on to the underground at night. Leo develops a penchant for resolving Dexys sleep problems, but not always within Dexys more conservative traits in mind.

It seems Dexy has more problems with sleep than those relating to lavender oil, duck down pillows and dolphin song…Vic has an aversion to frothy layers on a brew, what English man wouldn’t and a desire to get back to his night bus. But only once the board games are done and the Nigerian traffic wardens have fended away the polish builders…Or are the saboteurs…! Is the night to unravel.

Darkly funny this twisted story is delivered as the story beyond all stories with the cast delivering with passion and panache. The writing is deep and yet light in its delivery of a darker message, made humorous by the team of creative and talented artists. David Cantor could not get further from My Family than the inclusion of the discussion point of which Cranky to take to an orgy….But in context, it’s a pretty valid question…!

This production might get lost on a larger stage but the nature and narrative of the story, along with the superb delivery of the cast provide a lighthearted view of the consequences of stealing from Jesus Romero and the ever-present threat of Italian and Spanish Restaurants colluding…

The God of Hell Review

Theatre N16 12 July – 5 August.  Reviewed by Claire Roderick

Craft Theatre’s production of The God of Hell is a timely and provocative satire that will spark much debate. Sam Shepard’s “take off on Republican fascism” may have seemed over the top in 2005, now the laughs are tinged with the uneasy feeling that this sort of thing could well be possible from the present POTUS and his team.

Emma and Frank’s rural isolation in Wisconsin is broken when old friend Graig Haynes shows up. Hot on his radioactive trail is Welch, a government agent who will not rest until Haynes is found and taken back to a secret Colorado base. In Welch’s world, the government are in complete charge, with no checks and measures to prevent them doing whatever they like for the “good” of the US, whether the public like it or not. Hmmm…

Director Rocky Rodriguez Jr. has infused the short play with cartoonish humour, with Abigail Screen’s monochrome design adding to the surreal tone – kitchen appliances and furniture having a distinctly Flintstones vibe. The tension and sense of paranoia is ratcheted up in the first part of the play, with twitchy and volatile (literally) Haynes providing more questions than answers for the increasingly nervous Emma. The last scene, where details of horrific torture and programming are revealed – male audience members were squirming through their laughter – descends into sometimes bemusing surreal comedy, but the play ends on a satisfying note thanks to a wonderful performance from Helen Foster as Emma. This isn’t Shepard’s best play, with desperately unsubtle dialogue at times, but the sentiment is sincere and extremely relevant today.

Helen Foster makes Emma completely believable in the early part of the play, nailing the settled boredom and growing desperation of the farmer’s wife, and the accent. Craig Edgley is a hoot as Frank – dim and benign until he sells his beloved heifers, while Ryan Prescott is strong as Haynes. Thomas Throe does well as Welch, but this pivotal character is sometimes a little underwhelming for my tastes. If Rodriguez’s intent was to make him a bland everyman then he’s hit his mark, but for me, there was never enough smarmy patriotism as the flag salesman or cold-eyed fanaticism in the latter stages to match the tone of the other performances.

Craft Theatre’s take on The God of Hell is an amusing and interesting production that will certainly give you lots to think about – well worth a look.

The Wedding Singer Review

Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield – until 22 July.  Reviewed by Dawn Smallwood

Based on the 1998 smash hit film, starring Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore, The Wedding Singer is embarking on a current UK Tour, which includes a stop at Sheffield’s Lyceum Theatre. Set in the 1980s, the story is about Robbie Hart (Jon Robyns) who sings at weddings. He is ditched by his fiancée, Linda (Paris Green), on their wedding day and subsequently falls in love with Julia (Cassie Compton).

The musical premiered on Broadway in 2006 and was nominated for a Tony Award. The audience is invited to join Robbie’s life journey of emotional ups and down – he is in the company of two friends and bandmates, Sammy (Ashley Emerson) and George (Samuel Holmes) and also Julia (Compton) and her best friend, Holly (Lucie Jones).

With a focus on 1985 there are numerous references from the 1980s and societal issues which were considered taboo then but not today. The hairstyles and clothes (via the costumes) reflect the decade’s fashion and the sets on the stage travels back in time.

The Wedding Singer is packed with show stopping musical numbers, composed by Matthew Sklar and written by Chad Beguelin. These include the catchy pulsating Saturday Night in the City – all set to a disco beat with glittery lighting and smoke. There is the materialistic All About the Green, the liberal Single and the committed Grow Old with You which is sung convincingly at the end by Robyns and Compton.

Robyns and Cassie lead this stellar cast who do an excellent performance under the direction of Nick Winston. A special mention must go to Ruth Madoc, known for her role as Gladys Pugh in Hi-de-Hi. Her presence as Rosie radiates throughout and doesn’t go unnoticed. Her memorable act with George (Holmes) in the rapping Move That Thang in the second act is formidable.

A feel good musical with energetic non-stop action throughout. It is light-hearted with a combination of contemplation and a guaranteed evening of laughter and nostalgia.

Addams Family Review

Mayflower Theatre, Southampton – until 29 July.  Reviewed by Karen Millington Burnet
We arrived in Southampton to torrential rain, thunder and lightening criss-crossing the sky – a wonderfully atmospheric start to The Addams Family; we were in the mood for a great family outing! Arriving at the front door to the Mayflower soaked to the skin we discovered we had turned up to the wrong night but the Mayflower once again pulled out all the stops and found us great seats in the Stalls; there really is not a bad seat in the house. Consistently this theatre really puts its guests first.
The production opened to the gates to the family house and Les Dennis’ Fester setting the tone and standard, introducing the family to the audience to the iconic Addams Family theme tune. Special praise for the orchestra who really engaged the audience from the start and very soon we were all clicking our fingers! Frankly, Fester was the man of the match though his top spot was challenged by Cameron Blakely’s Gomez who helped maintain a steady clip and by Lurch with his excellent comic timing and wonderful bass solo. Samantha Womack’s Morticia was excellent and sang beautifully, however, there was something which just didn’t finish it all off for me; it may have been me, it may have been the weather, it may have been the odd mishap (we think there must have been a malfunction at one point when the stage action didn’t match the sound effects) or it may have been a few of the weaker characters (such as Kerry Hope Fletcher’s Wednesday) who just let down a cast of generally huge talent. The Chorus were excellent and top marks to the Wardrobe for their efforts: great costumes. My 13 year old son was critical of the Tech Crew – by which I think he meant the lighting team – as the lights seemed to miss the characters at critical moments.
Once again the interval ice cream was a delight!
We really enjoy our visits to the Mayflower and hope to return again soon and frequently – in fact, the Theatre itself (the staff – who looked after us as we arrived sodden, the security personnel who checked us in at the beginning and the management) are the real stars of the evening. A huge thank you to them once again…

Disco Pigs Review

Trafalgar Studios 12 July – 19 August.  Reviewed by Claire Roderick

20 years after its British premiere, Disco Pigs still packs a punch. Under John Haidar’s inspired direction, Enda Walsh’s story about an intense and unhealthy relationship pulsates with energy and bravado.

Pig (Colin Campbell) and Runt (Evanna Lynch) are celebrating their 17th birthdays. Born on the same day, in the same Cork hospital, they are closer than brother and sister, sharing their own language and excluding others, even their families, from their own bubble of reality. Pig is happy being with Runt, whether drinking and dishing out beatings as the self-proclaimed king and queen of Pork City, or huddled in their bedrooms watching Baywatch and Wogan. Runt, however, is beginning to want something more in life, something different and real.

Walsh’s script (delivered in strong Cork accents that bring a magic to the more poetic moments, and a guttural intensity to the violent encounters) is stunning – with the infantile rituals of the pair feeling like a CBeebies version of A Clockwork Orange and drawing gasps of laughter and shock from the audience. Interspersed with the chaos of the night are quiet and lyrical introspective descriptions and musings that allow glimpses of the lost souls beneath the lairy veneer. Walsh captures the turmoil of adolescent emotions in a wonderfully stylised but recognisable way.

Colin Campbell is phenomenal as Pig – changing from innocent puppyish charm to rabid thug in a heartbeat in a powerful and utterly convincing performance. Evanna Lynch is equally impressive, full of energy and especially strong in Runt’s imaginings of a different sort of life. The pair have fantastic and generous chemistry, never competing for the spotlight, and allowing each other their moments to shine. Their physicality is exhausting, and movement director Naomi Said has developed wonderful routines to help tell the story. The miming and sound effects may grate on some members of the audience, but it all felt true to the naivety of the pair’s parallel world, and Richard Kent’s design – bare black stage with intricate and sympathetic lighting changes – conveys the voluntarily imposed isolation of Pig and Runt. They are the only things that matter in their world, except for their quest to get into the Palace Disco, where Campbell gives a gut-wrenching performance as Pig runs through the whole gamut of emotions.

The 20th anniversary production of Disco Pigs is bloody brilliant – beg, steal or borrow, but GET A TICKET.

Twilight Song Review

Park Theatre – 12 July – 12 August.  Reviewed by Claire Roderick

Kevin Elyot’s final play is a time twisting tale of forbidden love and lost chances that will keep you enthralled from start to finish. Set in the sitting room of a Victorian villa, Twilight Song jumps between the 1960s and present day as the characters’ web of secret liaisons and shattered dreams are unravelled.

The play begins in the present, with cocky estate agent Skinner valuing the house for Barry and offering extra services. An offer which Barry is keen to take up, as his mother is out for the afternoon. Back in the 60s, Isabella has settled for marriage with boring and placid Basil, and is pregnant with their first child – Barry (although this doesn’t stop her necking gin whenever possible). With the help of Uncle Charles, they have bought the villa and have employed a gardener recommended by Charles’s good friend Harry. Over the evening, the older men’s true past relationship is revealed, although Harry hides behind the façade of his happy family life.

Director Anthony Banks allows Elyot’s bittersweet and funny script to shine, and the cast’s timing has the lightest touch – the beats and silent looks convey as much as the lines. There are many laughs, but the overall tone of the play is lonely regret, with the life of Barry being no happier than that of Charles and Harry before homosexuality was decriminalised. James Cotterill’s design is stunning in its simplicity, with the patio doors lit beautifully as the sun sets. The lighting and sound during set changes is inspired, with an initially puzzling, but ultimately satisfying character exit included.

Bryony Hannah impresses as Isabella, full of repressed passion as a newlywed, and full of bile as the bitter old lady in the present (no aging makeup thank goodness, just dim lighting and a croaky venomous voice). As Barry/Basil, the wonderful Paul Higgins brings a depressed Alan Bennett vibe to the character of Barry, completely changing when he gets the chance to fill his hypodermic. Adam Garcia is suave and sexy as Skinner, and dangerous and sexy as the gardener, making the most of this pivotal role (and he sings!). Philip Bretherton and Hugh Ross are fantastic as Harry and Charles, with Bretherton’s stiff upper lip denial cracking subtly and Ross bringing a lump to your throat as the more flamboyant but heartbroken Charles.

Twilight Song is a wonderful theatrical treat, a story beautifully told, sensitively directed and expertly performed.

FIRST LOOK Rehearsal images – Oliver Twist Created For Everyone Aged Six and Over

CASTING AND COMPLETED CREATIVE TEAMS ANNOUNCED FOR
DICKENS UNCOVERED: A TALE OF TWO CITIES AND OLIVER
TWIST CREATED FOR EVERYONE AGED SIX AND OVER

Bringing two of Charles Dickens’s most popular stories out in the open as part of the 2017 season at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, Dickens Uncovered celebrates the greatest storyteller of London life.

Casting and completed creative teams have today been announced for A Tale of Two Cities (7 July – 5 August), a new play by Matthew Dunster adapted from the original novel, and Oliver Twist created for everyone aged six and over (17 July – 5 August) adapted by Anya Reiss especially for families.

“I am delighted that this group of 32 talented performers are coming together to reimagine these two iconic London stories. For those of us who read them alone at home, at school or on the tube, I hope we can reclaim them anew together in the Park. For those who only know them as titles, then let us take you on a trip back to the nineteenth century blockbusters, via 2017. This is Dickens uncovered for everyone.” (Artistic Director, Timothy Sheader)

Director Timothy Sheader has assembled a company of 21 actors to re-tell Dicken’s A Tale of Two Cities: Lydia Bradford, Sean Cernow, Claire-Louise Cordwell, Marième Diouf, Patrick Driver, Nabil Elouahabi, Lorna Gayle, Lewis Griffin, Nicholas Karimi, Nicholas Khan, Andrew Koji, Kevork Malikyan, Francesca Mills, Jude Owusu, Tim Samuels with Aliya Ali, Evie Buxton, Mia Dalley, Foyinsola Ighodalo, Kaitlyn Kou, and Olivea Puci sharing the children’s roles.

Developing their programme of work made especially for families, Caroline Byrne directs Oliver Twist created for everyone aged six and over in daytime performances alongside A Tale of Two Cities. A cast of 8 actors, Robyn Cara, Rina Fatania, Danny-Boy Hatchard, Michael Hodgson, Daniel Hoffmann-Gill, Gbemisola Ikumelo, Shaun Mason and Angela Wynter play multiple roles, with Tia-Lana Chinapyel, Lewis Fernée and Jordan Nash alternating in the title role.

Design for both productions is by Fly Davis.

The completed creative teams also include, for A Tale of Two Cities: Liam Steel (Movement Direction), Lee Curran, who received an Olivier Award-nomination for Jesus Christ Superstar (Lighting Design) and Christopher Shutt (Sound Design). For Oliver Twist created for everyone aged six and over, the creative
team includes Lucy Burge (Movement Direction), Joshua Anio Grigg (Sound Design) and Joe Dieffenbacher (Physical Comedy Direction). Casting for both productions is by Polly Jerrold.

 

Lyric Hammersmith and LIFT announcing Fatherland dates

Fatherland
Created by Scott Graham for Frantic Assembly, Karl Hyde and Simon Stephens
Booking opens today at the Lyric Hammersmith and as part of LIFT 2018

Today booking opens at the Lyric Hammersmith and LIFT for Fatherland, which opens at the Lyric in May 2018 as part of the Lyric’s Spring/Summer 2018 season and LIFT 2018. This bold new production, by Scott Graham, Karl Hyde and Simon Stephens, focusing on contemporary fatherhood in all its complexities and contradictions, premiered at the Royal Exchange Theatre as part of Manchester International Festival.

This intensely physical production is performed by a 13-strong cast who will be joined by the Chorus of Others, a cacophony of voices, specially formed as part of Fatherland, for the production at the Lyric. Fatherland features exclusive songs and music written by Karl Hyde (Underworld) and Matthew Herbert.

Inspired by conversations with fathers and sons from the three co-creators’ hometowns across England, Corby, Kidderminster and Stockport, Fatherland explores identity, nationality and masculinity. In a vivid and deeply personal portrait of 21st-century England at the crossroads of past, present and future, Fatherland is a show about what we were, who we are and what we try to be.

Commissioned and produced by Lyric Hammersmith, LIFT, Manchester International Festival, Frantic Assembly and the Royal Exchange Theatre. Supported by PRS for Music Foundation.

Creative Team
Co-Author & Director Scott Graham
Co-Author & Composer Karl Hyde
Co-Author & Writer Simon Stephens
Designer Jon Bausor
Lighting Designer Jon Clark
Co-Composer & Music Producer Matthew Herbert
Sound Designer Ian Dickinson for Autograph Sound
Choreographer Eddie Kay
Dramaturg Nick Sidi
Casting Director Anne McNulty CDG

 

Booking Information
Lyric Hammersmith
Lyric Square, King Street, London, W6 0QL

Lyric Hammersmith
Tickets 020 8741 6850 | www.lyric.co.uk | No booking fee

LIFT
Tickets 020 7968 6808 | www.liftfestival.com

Fatherland
Friday 25 May – Saturday 23 June 2018
Mon-Thu & Sat 7.30pm; Fri 8pm
Also Sat & Wed 2.30pm (excluding Sat 26 May & Wed 30 May. No performance on Mon 28 May)
Free First Night: Friday 25 May at 7.30pm. For more information: www.lyric.co.uk
Previews: Saturday 26 – Wednesday 30 May 2018
Press Performances: Thursday 31 May at 7pm
Preview Tickets: £15, £20 | Tickets: £15, £20, £25, £35, £40.

Musical tribute to Jo Cox

Batley & Spen Youth Theatre Company

 Amongst the many tributes to the MP for Batley & Spen, Jo Cox, who was murdered just over a year ago outside her office, none will be more appropriate and memorable than HEAR THE PEOPLE SING.

 

Jo loved the theatre and her favourite show was LES MISÉRABLES.  In her Yorkshire constituency town, the musical will be performed by the newly formed Batley & Spen Youth Theatre Company in a pop-up theatre space donated by Oxfam. Jo Cox worked for Oxfam for 8 years, so nothing could be more fitting than the generous donation of a local Oxfam warehouse for these performances.

Newly formed Batley & Spen Youth Theatre Company has held auditions for LES MISÉRABLES, in which over 100 young people aged 13-19 from the immediate area will perform and work backstage. The creative team includes West End superstars in their own right: Nick Evans (Director); Donna Munday (Producer); Steve Moss (Musical Director).  In addition the team includes Julie Hobday (Choreographer) and Vivienne Buckley, Artistic Director of West Glamorgan Youth Theatre Company.

Alongside LES MISÉRABLES, the company is devising a companion piece called MORE IN COMMON (directed by Vivienne Buckley) which celebrates the values Jo Cox stood for: togetherness, collaboration, comradeship, equality. And for both shows, members of the young company’s production team will be able to shadow the experienced West End creative team in an intensive learning process during the three week rehearsal period.

Former actress Tracy Brabin, a friend of Jo’s who is carrying on her campaigning work as the new MP for Batley & Spen, has offered huge support and encouragement to this project, saying: “This is a phenomenal opportunity for Batley & Spen and I know our young people are going to grab it with both hands. It’s no secret that I am passionate about the arts and the career opportunities they bring. Culture can be a powerful force for change. I have complete faith in our local organisations and Nick Evans’s professional team and I am working hand in hand with them to enable the project to happen.”  Tracy is the Patron of Batley & Spen Youth Theatre Company and HEAR THE PEOPLE SING.

 

Kim Leadbeater, Jo Cox’s sister, said: “The performance of LES MIS at the heart of Jo’s constituency using local school children will be something of which she would have been very proud. It is very touching and well thought out and our family would like to thank all involved.”

Fee Gilfeather, head of retail brand for Oxfam, said: “We are delighted to be hosting these performances in Oxfam Wastesaver, our textile sorting house in Batley. Not only did Jo Cox work for Oxfam in her early career, but many of the team here met Jo when she visited the site as their MP. Indeed there are still many colleagues across the Oxfam family who will always remember Jo with love and admiration. This is a wonderful tribute to her memory and a great opportunity to bring together the local community to celebrate all that Jo stood for.”

Batley & Spen Youth Theatre Company is a registered charity and a limited company. It has five highly experienced Trustees whose experience spans theatre producing and management, finance, legal, charity and community work and creative industries. The company has already received significant local backing and support.

Thanks also to Sir Cameron Mackintosh, who has generously granted the rights to perform LES MISÉRABLES School Edition along with practical and financial support and to Oxfam for the pop-up venue.

 

BOOKING INFORMATION:

Dates and Times of Performances

Les Misérables

Weds 9 August at 7.30 pm

Thurs 10 August at 7.30 pm

Friday 11 August at 2.30 pm

Friday 11 August at 7.30pm

Saturday 12 August at 7.30 pm

More in Common

Sat 12 August at 2.30 pm

 

Venue

The Jo Cox Theatre, Oxfam Wastesaver, Mill Forest Way, Grange Road, Batley, Leeds WF17 6RA

 

Ticket Prices and How to Book Tickets

Tickets will be available in the week of 10 July.  Details can be found at www.wyp.org.uk

West Yorkshire Playhouse is generously providing Box Office services for the performances. Tickets can be booked online, by phone or in person at:

West Yorkshire Playhouse, Playhouse Square, Quarry Hill, Leeds LS2 7UP

0113 213 7700 (Box Office)

Tickets from £8. There is a £2.50 transaction fee per booking (not per ticket). The fee applies to all phone and internet sales, but not face-to-face bookings.

For more information about the project please visit: www.hearthepeoplesing.com

To donate please visit: https://www.justgiving.com/campaigns/charity/bsyct/hearthepeoplesing