The Astonishing Adventures of Pinocchio Review

Hertford Theatre – until 1st January

Reviewed by Keiley Archer


There is nothing as enjoyable as a traditional Pantomime to get yourself into the Christmas spirit, and The Astonishing Adventures of Pinocchio does not disappoint. It follows the story of Pinocchio’s quest to transform from a puppet into a real boy, with other well-known characters from our favourite nursery rhymes cleverly woven into the tale, as well as jokes which provide humour for both children and adults.

The main foyer is decorated to create the façade of entering a travelling circus, the colourful stalls and upbeat circus music welcoming the audience and immediately submerging them in the magical world of Cricket’s Carnival. All the costumes and sets are bespoke and created especially for this production by the crew and a team of volunteers, which only makes them more impressive. The venue itself has tiered seating, so there is not a bad view in the house!

The production is led by the magnificent Josh Dorn as Pinocchio, Robert Oliver as Gepetto/Stromboli/Bobby Loggs and Mina Dahle as Jill. A particular stand out performer for us was Sam Kipling, who played Charlie Cricket, whose stage presence added an extra liveliness to the scenes. Multiple members of the cast proved their versatility as actors by taking on more than one role, which worked seamlessly within the show.

The colourful sets create the perfect backdrop for a fun filled, entertaining extravaganza. Audience participation is actively encouraged by children and adults alike, with plenty of opportunity to boo, cheer and sing along, which added to the overall enjoyment of the show. It contained everything a Christmas show should and is a performance that can be enjoyed by audience members of all ages.

This production sets the bar high for the pantomime, and I am eager to return next year for the next show by Hertford Theatre Productions!

A Christmas Story – The Musical Review

Waterloo East Theatre, London – until 22 December 2018

Reviewed by Sabrina Fancy


As a huge fan of the 1983 film ‘A Christmas story, I was excited to learn that the film was adapted for the stage. From the songwriting team behind award-winning films, La La Land and The Greatest Showman, – I had high expectations for the musical.

The story, which takes place in 1940’s Indiana, USA follows 9-year-old bespectacled Ralphie Parker and his wintery exploits in the run up to Christmas. These include avoiding bullies and fantasising about his ultimate Christmas gift – The Red Ryder BB Gun. Unfortunately, his pleas for the popular present are always met with the classic line ‘You’ll shoot your eye out.’. With Ralphie frequently at odds with his brother, cranky father and loving mother, he struggles to make it to Christmas with his glasses – and hope – intact.

To my delight, the show was very closely aligned with the film. Many of the acts in the musical were word for word from the movie and it never strayed from the original story. All of the classic lines and gags show up, including Ralphie’s big swear word, the leg lamp, and, of course, “you’ll shoot your eye out.”

It was interesting to see how one of my favourite scenes from the movie was re-created, when Flick’s gets his tongue stuck on a frozen flagpole. The scene was perfectly replicated with the addition of the Flick trying to sing while his tongue was frozen!

The cast in this production are excellent and very talented. Playing the parts of Mr. & Mrs. Parker are Simon Willmont and Lucyelle Cliffe and the narrator Jean Shepherd is Garry Freer. I thought the standout performances were from Jenny Gayner and 16-year-old Bradley Riches who played the part of the bully Farkus, who I believe has a bright future in the theatre. The other child actors were very sweet and talented.

The musical numbers in this production are stellar! The creators of this production chose to simply take the funniest moments from the movie and elevate them, by the use of song, fit for the stage. The tunes are very catchy and include: ‘It all comes down to Christmas’, ‘Red Ryder Carbine’, ‘Action BB gun’ and ‘When you’re a wimp.’

This was a fun and uplifting show. Perfect for an evening out with the family! I definitely recommend this if you are looking for a fun holiday show and it is a must if you are a fan of the film.

A Christmas Carol Review

Leeds Playhouse – until 19 January 2019

Reviewed By Dawn Smallwood


The Christmas season has arrived in style at the Leeds Playhouse and what couldn’t be more fitting is their festive show, A Christmas Carol. It is an associated production with the Hull Truck Theatre and is based on Deborah McAndrew’s adaptation. The senses arouse many on arriving at the pop up theatre with its cosy and festive ambience greeting them.

Charles Dickens’ classic tells a story of Scrooge (Robert Pickavance) who learns about the spirit of Christmas from an abrupt visit by the ghost of Jacob Marley (Joe Alessi), a former business partner, and subsequent visits from the spirits of Christmas of the past (Tessa Parr) and present (Elexi Walker). Dickens is reputed to have studied deeply each of the characters he narrates about in his classics and the character of Scrooge is no exception. This adaptation gives ample opportunity that Scrooge isn’t painted the villain or just plain “Bah Humbug” instead the ghosts relate to his upbringing and to the choices he eventually makes.

A Christmas Carol was written during the Victorian times when Christmas and its customs were being fashioned and revived as known today. Dickens, known for his social consciousness, had raised awareness through his works about the ignorance concerning poverty among families and children. As well as celebrating Christmas many had been encouraged to consider the less fortunate through the spirit of giving.

This season’s ensemble of actors, under the direction of Amy Leach, delivers a heartfelt and entertaining performance. The production is supported by Hayley Grindle’s traditional and nostalgic staging and costumes that works so well with the story telling and Josh Carr’s lighting and Ed Clarke’s soundscapes. There are some engaging songs, under the arrangement of John Biddle, and the localised references is positively refreshing.

The stand out performance must be from Walker (Ghost of Christmas Present) who successfully engages with the audience in a pantomime style and certainly convinces Scrooge to embrace the Christmas spirit through compassion and kindness. Pickavance perfectly portrays Scrooge with his positive transformation of his somewhat complex but misunderstood character.

A Christmas Carol is a welcoming Christmas present and marks the festive season. The story commemorates the revival of modern Christmas however it magically embraces its spirit and qualities which resonates the season. It is certainly a production not to be missed during the Christmas Season.


The Comedy of Errors Review

Theatre Royal, York – Thursday 29th Nov 2018 and Friday 30th Nov 2018

Reviewed by Sally Richmond


The Comedy of Errors is a highly amusing and engaging production, that is the perfect introduction to the world of Shakespeare for young people aged from 7 to 13 years. Having said that, much laughter also came from the adult members of the audience and if you are a fan of The Bard, it is definitely worth taking a trip out in this current dismal weather to catch a performance at one of the many forth coming venues – as it is almost guaranteed to cheer you up!

The Royal Shakespeare Company’s First Encounters programme is bringing a series of productions aimed at a target audience of key stage 2 and 3 and they are also working with schools, giving children an opportunity to perform in their plays. For most, their first experience of Shakespeare, brought to them by the RSC, will be something that turns them onto this area of study in the English Literature curriculum.

Full of slapstick, live music, flossing and good humour, this Shakespeare comedy appeals to a multi-age audience and my own 10 year old daughter found it very entertaining. Some explanation and background was needed before seeing the show but she laughed in the right places, so it was age appropriate.

As with all Shakespeare’s comedies, the themes of mistaken identity, mix-ups and confusion are all present in this production. A man and his wife have twins who they both call Antipholus and to heighten the confusion further, they buy twin servants who are both called Dromio! The twins are separated in a shipwreck and one Antipholus and Dromio grow up in Syracuse, one Antipholus and Dromio end up in Ephesus. The play actually begins 33 years after the births of the Antipholus twins and the hilarity begins when the Syracusian Antipholus and Dromio arrive in Ephesus and everyone seems to know who they are, including a woman who is certain she is the wife of Antipholus.

The double Dromios (Lewis Griffin and Thomas Pickles) are responsible for most of the laugh out loud moments, while Paula James as Emilia has a sound connection with the audience and makes beautiful harmonies with her sweet voice which accompanies the backing music. The whole cast, directed by Alex Thorpe, are a crew of great talent and judging by their performances at The Theatre Royal, York – are rising stars of the future.

This year, along with many other pupils within their hometowns, York High students performed in the opening sequence of the 7pm public performance at the Theatre

Royal, York and the RSC also gave a performance at their school. This pupil participation programme is part of the RSC’s continuing series of First Encounters With Shakespeare and is touring nationwide from October to December. The dramas are made up of edited versions of the plays performed using Shakespeare’s original language, which the RSC has successfully been doing for more than a decade now.

Thorpe’s cast are: Hasan Dixon, as Antipholus of Ephesus; Jessica Dyas, as Angleo/Egeon; Aruhan Galieva, as Luciana/Duke Solinus; Lewis Griffin, as Dromio of Ephesus; Rhiannon Handy, as Adriana; Paula James, as Merchant/Emilia/Officer; Nicholas Karimi, as Antipholus of Syracuse, and Thomas Pickles, as Dromio of Syracuse.

Thorpe is joined in the creative team by Amelia Hankin, designer; Eamonn O’Dwyer, music; Simon Pittman, movement; Lisa Connell, fight choreography, and Edie Edmundson, puppetry director.

The Comedy of Errors is a perfect, fantastic first experience of Shakespeare but also one that can be thoroughly enjoyed by those who are well acquainted with The Bard too.

Magic Mike Live London Review

The Hippodrome Casino – booking until October 2019

Reviewed by Claire Roderick


Fit young lads dancing around with their shirts off? What’s not to like?

After the success of Channing Tatum’s show in Las Vegas, Magic Mike comes to London ready for the party season. Before you get your knickers in a twist, Tatum only appears as the disembodied voice of the host’s imaginary spirit animal – the unicorn. The show doesn’t attempt to recreate the plots of the films, instead there’s a wafer-thin thread of a story as the host gives young waiter Michelangelo (Sebastian Melo Taveira) lessons in how to please women. Frankly, this doesn’t matter, as the dance moves of the men on stage, and prowling around the audience are all we’re here for. And the less clothes, the better. There is a lovely piece about consent and permission, with the host reminding the audience of the safe word “Unicorn” (of course!) if they ever feel uncomfortable, which highlights how far shows like this have come, alongside the cliché ridden introduction involving themed strippers and silly string that makes you squirm until Sophie and her magic mike take control.

The production is as slick and smooth as the dancers’ chests, with the guys showcasing their fabulous moves in a wide mix of styles before finally whipping off their trousers and giving a few lucky ladies what they want with lap dances involving dryhumping ranging from gymnastic to comedy gold.

The host, Sophie Linder-Lee at the show I saw, is determinedly British in her humour and innuendo, which jars a little with the swish US origins of the show, but she knows exactly how to get the crowd whooping while the guys prepare for the next set. The highlight of the show is an erotically charged dance duet from Melo Taveira and Hannah Cleeve performed under a cascade of water. Although this didn’t go down well with the entire audience. As the woman next to me said “I didn’t pay £125 quid to watch HER have all the fun!”

The prices are eye-watering for a 90-minute show, but Magic Mike is sold out for months, and new dates have been added, so this is obviously perfect girls’ night out material. The bucket sized cocktails help the atmosphere in the brilliantly designed space, and the men move around the upper gallery too so those in the (not that) cheap seats get an eyeful too. If you fork out for a VIP table or the front row, you are guaranteed lots of attention and most probably a lap dance.

If you’re looking for the full Monty, you won’t find it here – Magic Mike is raunchy fun but has an underlying sweetness about it, especially with the angelic Melo Taveira taking centre stage. A great, safe, night out with the girls

The Night Before Christmas Review

Southwark Playhouse, London until 29 December 2018

Reviewed by Lisa Harlow


This is a revival of Anthony Neilson’s twisted festive comedy. Billed as an alchemical version of South Park, Miracle on 34th Street and Scrooged, this is an alternative Christmas message for those sourpusses who reached their limit for mince pies and flammable tinsel many moons ago.

Being a long time fan of South Park, I was prepared for dark and surreal humour on the Christmas theme, and yes, profanity. And belly laughs. Yes, it was dark. There were laughs. There was certainly the surreal. But most of all, it was profane. Absolutely swamped with the profane.

‘Gary’s (Douggie McMeekin) life is shit’. There’s no other way to describe his bargain basement life than how it is billed. The night before Christmas, this lost low-life chances across a fantastical character and before long, he was drawn his skint, roaringly acerbic mate Simon (Michael Salami) and the vitriolic prostitute Cherry into his charade. Having promised Cherry the best Power Ranger for her son in return for many, many ‘favours’ yet swiping the goods for his own child, Gary finds Cherry in the most foul of festive moods.  Yet somehow her fire and most sweary thunder gives way to a far purer desire (nursed underneath the layers of rage) when presented with the chance to live a ‘better’ life. From the unlikeliest of characters she brings forth the highest of ideals of the Christmas season.

Gary’s childlike belief in the possibility of Christmas magic, in spite of how he presents in his chaotic life,is extremely charming and provides the sweet against the sour of Simon’s anti-capitalistic disdain. As it transpires, Simon’s rantings are merely a paper shell for his drooling greed when offered the possibility of a get rich quick scheme.

There’s much to enjoy and snigger at in this anarchic show and the cast blast their way through the performance, with occasional pockets peppered throughout to allow some more traditional Christmas moments of enlightenment to take place. If it wasn’t so drowned in swearing, certainly more of the humour could shine through. Recommended viewing when you’ve really reached your Christmas limit and you just need to experience a festive twist of the perverse.