Soul Sister Review

Soul Sister – Civic Theatre, Darlington

Posted by: The Reviews Hub


Directors: Pete Brooks &Bob Eaton

Producers: Bill Kenwright &John Miller

Choreographer: Jason Pennycooke


Unfortunately for Darlington we were treated to an almost complete understudy show for Soul Sister, telling the story of Ike and Tina Turner. The programme is at pains to point out that the show is not an authorised biography and is inspired by the music of Ike and Tina.

Rochelle Neil plays Tina from her beginnings in the 50’s when she lived in Nutbush as Annie Mae Bullock who sang gospel in Church to the 1980’s when she found fame again. Neil has an amazing voice when singing but clearly tired towards the end of each half. The end of the first half finishes with River Deep Mountain High which lacks the power from the vocals at the beginning of the show. Likewise, the second half starts with a powerhouse version of Proud Mary but by Simply the Best at the end her voice was flagging again. Her performance and movements are distinctly Tina Turner but her acting was stilted and didn’t flow.

Chris Tummings is Ike Turner, misogynist drunk and drug taker, his violence towards his wife is legendary but Tummings characterisation is one dimensional almost pantomime-esq, not showing Ike with any redeeming features at all.

The show spans over 30 years but glosses over the most salient points of the couples years together. Ike and Tina come from an America that is still racially segregated, their music too white for the black community and too black for the white community. The couple works hard to make it big, performing up to 30 times a week even when Tina is 8 months pregnant. They eventually get their big break with the help, of the disembodied voice, of Phil Spectre. River Deep Mountain High is a massive hit in Europe where racism isn’t as severe as the states but this is almost ignored within the confines of the story.

The violence between Ike and Tina is less graphic for the stage than reality but you don’t feel the despair from the abused Tina or the relief she finds from Buddhism. Neither do we get the spiral of abuse as Ike loses Tina and fame to his dependence of drink and drugs.

The scenery is different with sliding doors passing along the stage to show the changes, while cartoon type pictures are projected on a back drop while the voice of Annie Mae talks us through her life story. Or we were treated to the live band during the song performances.

The last part of the show is supposed to be a concert and although the audience are encouraged to get up and dance only a few take up the offer, which seems a shame as it feels that the entire audience should have been up dancing in the aisles.

If you are a Tina Turner fan you should maybe go to see a Tina Turner tribute act as you may be disappointed with Soul Sister.

Bouncers Review

Bouncers – Civic Theatre, Darlington

Posted by: The ReviewsHub


Writter and director: John Godber

Designer: Pip Leckenby

Lighting Designer: Adrian Barnes


Bouncers is 35 years old this year and according to author, John Godber, even though it has been updated for this 2012 production, the essence of the show never changed. Its update was merely replacing the music. He claims you can leave the theatre and in any town and city in the UK you will see the same performance played out in front of you in the bars, pubs and clubs across the land.

Bouncers is the story of a night out from the 3 different perspectives of the girls celebrating a 21st, the lads night out and the bouncers who keep an eye on them all. The same 4 actors -Ace Bhatti, Don Gilet, William Ilkley and Ian Reddington – play all the parts with the minimum of fuss. From scenes in the hairdressers with the girls, the barbers with the boys and the outside of the club with the bouncers, we even get to see part of a Swedish porn film all in the very sparse set, with just barrels as props. It’s the excellence of the acting, the writing and the lighting that sets you in the right place. There is a powerful imagery that Godbers writing conjures: the mascara-streaked faces of a group of tearful girls are “like a miner’s back in the shower” and discarded condoms lie like “dead Smurfs” around the back of the nightclub.

We can probably all relate to the night out, getting ready, having a drink and a dance and good time. And while Godber exaggerates the scenes for comic and dramatic effect it’s all very real. But the production and the cast give an outstanding performance of a play which is a classic of its type. The cast’s rapid changes from character to character, girl to boy to man, at first makes you feel that the characters are one dimensional and little more than caricatures, but gradually individuality begins to emerge. The actors don’t receive any help from costume changes – not even the addition or taking away of a single item of clothing (except that, as girls, they have white hand bags) – so they must use body language and voice. The fact that, by the end of the play, we recognise each character even before they begin to speak is a tribute to the cast.

In the middle of all the comedy we get Lucky Eric, Reddington, and his speeches. Each of the monologues gives you a pause for thought and we are left with more questions than answers and a profound idea of our own and state of the nation’s morality. The speech at the end describing a sex scene, with the boy pounding away and the girl feeling nothing and eating pizza, hits you so hard. With Bouncers now on the GCSE syllabus you can only hope and pray that any young girls reading this will be hit by the realism and outstanding imagery and maybe not go out in next to nothing, not go out and drink til they are unconscious or maybe not go out at all and cherish their childhood before being forced to grow up too soon

Blood Brothers Review

Blood Brothers- Civic Theatre, Darlington

Posted by: The Reviews Hub


Book: Willy Russell

Music/Lyrics: Willy Russell

Director: Bob Tomson, Bill Kenwright


Blood Brothers is a haunting, beautifully tragic show, with genuine humour and pure emotion it begins at the end and then goes on to tell the story of how we got there. Currently in its last few weeks in London’s West End, the tour continues deliver the story of Mrs Johnstone and her twins, now in its 28th year.

Set in Liverpool in the seventies, Marti Pellow snarls his way through the rôle of Narrator, spreading malevolence in his rôle of Devil in human form. Even in scenes where he doesn’t speak his presence just exudes menace. His liverpudlian accent is fine for short sentences but in the longer monologues his accent travels until we are left with a very scary hybrid scouse/Scottish.

X-Factor finalist, Niki Evans, plays poor downtrodden Mrs Johnstone who makes the heart wrenching decision to give one of her twins to infertile employer Mrs Lyons, Tracy Spencer. Evans has a powerhouse of a voice, squeezing every bit of feeling out of her vocals. Her show stopping rendition of Tell Me it’s Not True takes your breath away and your heart genuinely breaks with the raw emotion in her performance.

The twins are played by Jorden Bird as upper class and indulged Eddie, the child who was given away, and James Templeton as Mickey the child who was kept. Templeton delivers an outstanding performance ranging in age over the best part of 20 years. In his hand me down jumper and ragged shorts he is genuinely believable seven year old who is nearly eight, his 14 year old is hilarious and his tragic spiral down into despair in his later years is distressing to watch. Such is the performance that you really do believe in his problems and forget that he is acting.

Olivia Sloyan plays Linda, in love with both brothers and both in love with her. But it is Mickey who marries her after getting her pregnant although it is Eddie who helps her and Mickey in the later years, leading to the ultimate disastrous ending.

The set is simple with just a row of houses and a street with a back drop of the familiar sights of Liverpool. The first half has the old run down inner city estate and the second half the fresh new start in the country. The cast use props to portray the other scenes, such has desks for school and seats for the bus and cinema.

You must take tissues with you to the performance because you will need them, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house last night and the audience in Darlington gave a rousing, deserved, standing ovation to the cast who gave many curtain calls as the cheering and clapping continued for some time.