The English language premiere of the international hit based on Daphne Du Maurier’s evocative novel doesn’t quite reach Hitchcockian heights.
The show opens with the wonderful Lauren Jones singing the most affecting and understated number of the show, “Last night I dreamt of Manderley” before the action begins in Monte Carlo. It is 1927 and the timid unnamed character is being trained as a companion and meets the suave widower Maxim de Winter (Richard Carson). A whirlwind romance ensues (blink and you’ll miss it) before they marry and he takes her to his ancestral home in Cornwall, Manderley. The second Mrs de Winter is a great disappointment to the staff, especially housekeeper Mrs Danvers (Kara Lane) who runs the house according to her beloved Rebecca’s standards. The ghost of Rebecca, the first Mrs de Winter looms large as everyone talks of her beauty and charm which they judge the unassuming new wife can’t match. Mrs Danvers campaign against Maxim’s new wife ramps up as she plays on her insecurities and the oppressive nature of the house takes its toll. The mystery surrounding Rebecca’s death is revealed and on learning of the true nature of Maxim’s relationship with Rebecca, the new Mrs de Winter finds her confidence and shows spirit as she grows in confidence and refuses to buckle under Mrs Danvers’ influence as she supports her husband in his hour of need.
Sylvester Levay’s music and orchestrations are lush and ambitious. Having never seen Michael Kunze’s German language version I can’t comment, but Christopher Hampton’s English translation is unfortunately clunky and overblown at times. The choices to sing through some parts of conversations and talk through others is slightly baffling, and the numbers that are obviously deemed IMPORTANT could do with having a few choruses trimmed. Richard Carson does his utmost in his confessional “I’ll never forget her smile”, but there is so much thrown stylistically into that song that it is hard to care about a pivotal revelation. I found it disappointing that the writers went with Hitchcock’s version of Rebecca’s death rather than Du Maurier’s original, as Maxim’s actions and his wife’s decision to stand by him are much more questionable and interesting in the original version, but the choice fitted in with this melodramatic show.
Director Alejandro Bonatto keeps the action moving amidst some awkward scene changes on a set that never seems to quite match the lofty ambitions of the show. Perhaps on a larger stage and with a bigger budget the vision could be achieved. There is some atmospheric projections and lighting that impress, but soon become overused and lose impact. The expositional numbers from the staff at Manderley are fun, and the shipwreck scene is wonderfully staged. With the cast entering from the auditorium at certain points, I can understand the choice to have the cast running everywhere when Manderley burns, but the scene becomes unwittingly comical rather than dramatic, somewhat dampening the tension. Jones and Carson have gorgeous voices and try their best to make the underwritten characters memorable, while Kara Lane channels her inner Morticia as the increasingly unhinged Mrs Danvers. Lane is delightfully creepy and imposing and nails the title song with killer vocals. Unfortunately, that song is used a little too much as a marker of Mrs D’s obsessive devotion and loses its power.
There are the makings of a wonderfully dark and atmospheric production in this material – some judicial trimming and enhancing the writing of the de Winters would help. As it stands, Rebecca is a worthy attempt with soaring music and a fine cast.
Velma Celli’s, God Save the Queens is a mix of old fashioned cabaret and humour that Ian Stroughair (Celli) delivers with his usual confident demeanour and old school wit. He unashamedly informs the crowd from the start that if they’re easily offended then this shows not for them. Of course everyone knows what they’re getting from the experience and laps up his initial banter before settling down to enjoy the show.
The thing with Stroughair is although his alter ego plays up to the crowd with his stage character and diva antics, he can of course sing and very well at that. Beginning with Florence and the Machine (Dog Days are Over) he sets a tone from the start. Peppered with classics from Queens such as Adele, Amy Winehouse and Annie Lennox, he belts out hit after hit, hitting the high notes with aplomb.
A show like this can be particularly exhausting when delivering a set of powerful hits but Celli never falters. The crowd is encouraged to get involved throughout, which makes for a great atmosphere. Some personal stories from Celli adds some depth to the performance and then after the break you’re treat to some lovely moments with special guests Jessica Steel and Stuart Allen. This leads to a particularly poignant duet between Steel and Celli, singing Sinead O’Connors, Nothing Compares 2 U, which quietened the audience as it was a beautiful tribute to the late singer. Once Celli took centre stage again, the show was then wrapped up with a fabulous Queen medley sending the raucous crowd home satisfied that they’d been thoroughly entertained.
Despite the fantastic vocals and sharp wit of Celli, I think she was let down a little with the production. The show could do with a bit more glam befitting of a night with a Queen. Celli looked fabulous but the stage setting was rather drab. The band sat behind in relative darkness, looking at times to be bored and a little out of place. A show like this needs a background that is worthy of the songs and the artist performing them, their name up in lights, some dancers possibly. Aside from this Celli thoroughly entertained the crowd and I can understand how Stroughair has won so many accolades for other performances in the past. Just next time, we need a stage that is fit for a Queen.
Fiery Angel and The Shed present the KBTC production of William Shakespeare’s KING LEAR
Additional £20 tickets will be released for Kenneth Branagh’s King Lear – available through three new schemes
Weekly lottery – 14 tickets per performance in the front row of the Stalls will be available in advance via a weekly lottery scheme
Day tickets – Additional seats in the front row of the Stalls, plus standing tickets at the back of the Stalls will be released online every performance day
Advance standing tickets – standing tickets in the Grand Circle will be released online each week for the following week’s performances
Following the sale of approximately one hundred £20 tickets per performance of King Lear, the producers today announced the planned release of additional £20 tickets via three schemes.
The Weekly Lottery, Day Tickets, and Advance Standing Tickets will all be priced at £20 per ticket, with no additional booking fees or charges.
For more information and to purchase these tickets, please visit www.delfontmackintosh.co.uk/whats-on/king-lear
Weekly Lottery 14 tickets per performance in the front row of the Stalls will be made available via a lottery process on a weekly basis.
An online lottery application process will open at 00:01am on Thursdays and close at 10am on the following Wednesday. Successful applicants will be notified at 1pm on Wednesdays and will have two hours to purchase their tickets.
Online application forms for the first draw will be available from Thursday 12 October. The first draw will take place on Wednesday 18 October for the first performance on 21 October, along with the following week’s performances.
Day Tickets Additional seats in the front row of the Stalls, plus standing tickets located at the back of the Stalls will be released online at 10:30am on the morning of each performance day for any performances taking place that day.
Advance Standing Tickets Standing tickets in the Grand Circle will be released online each Wednesday, following the weekly lottery draw, for the following week’s performances. This scheme will provide an opportunity for anyone who does not wish to participate in the lottery, or whose lottery application has been unsuccessful, to purchase £20 tickets in advance.
The production will run for 50 performances only and will have a running time of approximately 2 hours with no interval.
Curve Theatre Leicester – until 23rd September 2023
Reviewed by Amarjeet Singh
One of Kafka’s best-known works, Metamorphosis tells the story of salesman Gregor Samsa, who wakes one morning to find himself inexplicably transformed into a huge insect. Following his transformation, he is unable to work or reassimilate into normal life and thus he begins to contemplate his existence. Poet Lemn Sissay has teamed up with Frantic Assembly to bring the novella to the stage with the focus being on an economic system which forces people on to a conveyor belt of capitalism and discourages all forms of individuality and creativity.
Gregor Samsa is a salesman providing for his mother and sister and his unemployed, debt ridden, controlling father. The opening scene portrayed brilliantly the monotony of the daily grind as Samsa’s sole dialogue is a repetition of a line, and he repeats a pattern of movement coming through a door and up steps to represent his working day. This soon becomes exhausting, both for him and unfortunately for the viewer.
At times during the first half, I struggled to connect to the play, there appeared to be a battle between lyric and movement, an either or. Static or frenetic. I honestly wasn’t sure what was happening in parts. Having read Kafka, I had the context, but this was too fragmented and disjointed to decipher. The second half was more cohesive, but unfortunately some people didn’t return.
The set, designed by Jon Bauser was deceptively minimalistic. A box room, claustrophobic, perfectly portraying Samsa’s prison. Flash fashion magazines were projected on to the grungy white walls during the opening scenes. The ceiling light had a role of its own, swing, pivot, flashlight. A bed which swallowed, masked and tilted. The sinister slow move of the room made for a very disconcerting feel indeed. My only criticism would be that the audience on the peripheral seats would miss what was happening within the room as its quite boxed in.
Simisola Majekodunmi made magic with shadow work, casting images of insects on the wall, in lieu of a full insect costume and utilising harsh lights to disorientate and blind. Sudden blackouts also added to Samsa’s ability to scuttle and leap in the blink of an eye across his room. Again my only criticism would be that the audience on the peripheral seats would miss some of the insect shadow work as it could only be seen if you had front facing seats.
Felipe Pacheco as George Samsa was spectacular. He showed incredible physical strength and athletic flexibility and demonstrated Samsa’s metamorphosis as magnificently as the production enabled him to. There is a wonderful scene where he is caught up in several chairs, insect like, very clever work indeed. Louise May Newberry and Troy Glasgow were fabulous as the parents and Joe Layton played his multiple roles with gusto. Hannah Sinclair Robinson was arresting as Greta and brought some great tension to the stage, especially when there was a slight sinister incestuous moment.
The production is lyrically beautiful and when there is movement its mesmerising, but unfortunately, Metamorphosis misses the mark. It lacks direction and progressive tension and ultimately, you’re left feeling this is a rather lengthy adaptation which has only focused on some of Kafka’s genius ideas.
THE LOWRY, SALFORD – UNTIL SATURDAY 23RD SEPTEMBER 2023
REVIEWED BY MIA BOWEN
The Crown Jewels is based on a true-life historical incident about one of the most daring heist ventures in British history. Written by BAFTA nominated, Simon Nye creator of Men Behaving Badly and directed by multi-award winner Sean Foley, who is known for his work on shows such as Upstart Crow. Last night the amazing array of comedy talent, brought this production to life, at the Lowry Theatre.
This production has enlisted some of the cream of British comedy, Al Murray in his stage debut who is known for his character the Pub Landlord, Neil Morrissey from Men Behaving Badly and Line of Duty, Mel Giedroyc from the Great British Bake Off and Joe Thomas from The Inbetweeners. Other cast members include the very talented Tanvi Virmani from Life of Pi and Carrie Hope Fletcher from Les Misérables and Heathers, who had the chance to show off her undeniably strong voice.
The year is 1671, Irish Army Officer Colonel Blood, a charming and erratic figure takes on the most engaging and high-wigged of all monarchs, Charles ll, who is awaiting his coronation. Blood hatches a treasonous plan to steal the Crown Jewels in plain sight with the help of his gang of misfits.
There are some genuinely funny moments, especially during the first half where Murray interacts with the audience in his Pub Landlord stand-up comedy style. During the audience participation a gentleman is asked where he is from and he replies, ‘Royal Borough of Warrington’. Murray clearly enjoys his regal role with his flamboyant mannerisms and over-egging aristocratic vowels and accent, reminding me of Moira Rose from the American comedy, Schitt’s Creek. The funniest moments in the show comes when Murray and Giedroyc work the audience and are allowed to just improvise, because they themselves are laughing so much!
Adonis Siddique is a standout as the King’s footman, a wide-eyed and busy moustached man providing a few laughs.
You can expect a right royal knees up, kind of an evening!
Producers Jeffrey Seller and Cameron Mackintosh are delighted to announce casting for the first ever UK and Ireland Tour of the multi award-winning HAMILTON, with Shaq Taylor as Alexander Hamilton, Sam Oladeinde as Aaron Burr, Gabriela Benedetti as Peggy Schuyler/Maria Reynolds, KM Drew Boateng as Hercules Mulligan/James Madison, Daniel Boys as King George, Maya Britto as Eliza Hamilton, Aisha Jawando as Angelica Schuyler, DeAngelo Jones as John Laurens/Philip Hamilton, Billy Nevers as Marquis de Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson and Charles Simmons as George Washington.
They are joined by Simeon Beckett, Taylor Bradshaw, Cletus Chan, Kyerron Dixon-Bassey, Kyeirah D’marni, Yesy Garcia, Jonathan Hermosa-Lopez, Levi Tyrell Johnson, Honey Joseph, Akmed Junior Khemalai, Richard Logun, Buna McCreery-Njie, Mia Mullarkey, Antoine Murray-Straughan, Kiran Patel, Izzy Read, Alice Readie, Harry Robinson, Phoebe Samuel-Gray, Jasmine Jia Yung Shen, Samantha Shuma, Michael James Stewart, Rhys West, Jack Whitehead and Sian Yeo.
CameronMackintosh said today: “Jeffrey Seller and I are thrilled to introduce this hugely talented cast for the first ever UK and Ireland Tour of Hamilton.
I was fortunate to be in ‘the room where it happens’ earlier this week for the start of rehearsals and feel very proud that we will soon have two brilliant companies of Hamilton in the UK; in London at the Victoria Palace Theatre, where the show continues to break box-office records and on tour, starting at the Palace Theatre Manchester in November.
Jeffrey and I cannot wait for audiences around the country to discover, or enjoy again, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s revolutionary musical phenomenon.”
Shaq Taylor’s West End credits include playing Beast in Beauty and the Beast at the London Palladium, as well as on the production’s National Tour, Joe Scott in Girl from The North Country at the Gielgud Theatre, and Javert in Les Misérables at the Queen’s Theatre. His other credits include Herod in Jesus Christ Superstar at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, Sweet Charity at the Donmar Warehouse, Hadestown at the National Theatre, and A House Music Opera at The Young Vic. On screen he can be seen in Netflix’s Bodkin, and The Guernsey Literary Potato Peel Pie Society.
Sam Oladeinde has most recently appeared in Assassins at Chichester Festival Theatre. His West End credits Come From Away at the Phoenix Theatre, A Christmas Carol at the Dominion Theatre, The Prince of Egypt at the Dominion Theatre, The Book of Mormon at the Prince of Wales Theatre and the original West End Cast of Hamilton at the Victoria Palace Theatre. On television he has appeared in the BBC’s Casualty and Doctors and in the short film, Diary Room.
Gabriela Benedetti most recently appeared in Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club and Legally Blonde at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, having graduated from Urdang Academy in 2021.
KM Drew Boateng has appeared in Scroogelicious at Theatre Peckham, Five Guys Named Moe at Upstairs at the Gatehouse, The Color Purple at Curve, Leicester and via streaming platforms, Motown The Musical at the Shaftesbury Theatre, Hotel at the National Theatre, Blues in the Night at Hackney Empire, The Warriors at Barbican and Breakin’ Convention at Sadler’s Wells. On film he can be seen in Walking On Sunshine.
Daniel Boys’s West End credits include Falsettos at The Other Palace, The Boys in the Band at the Vaudeville Theatre, Spamalot at the Playhouse Theatre, Avenue Q at the Noel Coward Theatre and RENT at the Prince of Wales Theatre. He has appeared in the national and European tours of The War of the Worlds, Nativity! The Musical, Grease and West Side Story. In concert he has appeared in Treason at Theatre Royal Drury Lane, The Pirate Queen at the London Coliseum, Tommy at the Prince Edward Theatre and Disney’s Enchanted Evening at Hyde Park. On television he has appeared in Netflix’s Obsession, ITV’s Unforgotten and Endeavor and the BBC’s Life After Life, EastEnders, Holby City and Any Dream Will Do.
Maya Britto most recently appeared in Hamilton at the Victoria Palace Theatre, making her West End Debut. Her previous credits include The Magician’s Elephant with the Royal Shakespeare Company, the UK Tour of Tokyo Rose and workshops of Beyond The Circle and Becoming Angela at the National Theatre.
Aisha Jawando’s West End credits include starring as Tina in Tina – The Musical at the Aldwych Theatre, Martha Reece in Motown The Musical at the Shaftesbury Theatre, Beautiful a the Aldwych Theatre, The Book of Mormon at the Prince of Wales Theatre and The Lion King at the Lyceum Theatre. Her other theatre credits include Jack and the Beanstalk at the Alhambra Theatre, Bradford, Cinderella at Hackney Empire, The Life at Southwark Playhouse and the Original London cast of Fela at the National Theatre. On screen she will be seen in Universal Pictures’ Wicked and Netflix’s Sex Education.
DeAngelo Jones has most recently appeared in the ensemble of Hamilton at the Victoria Palace Theatre, as well as appearing in the Vienna production of The Bodyguard and Kiss Me, Kate at the London Coliseum with Opera North.
Billy Nevers’ London credits include Fred in Groundhog Day at the Old Vic, Francois in &Juliet at the Shaftesbury Theatre, Legally Blonde at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre and Jesus Christ Superstar at the Barbican and Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre. He has appeared in the concerts I Could Use A Drink in Concert at the Garrick Theatre, Roles We’ll Never Play at the Vaudeville Theatre and Apollo Theatre, and An Intimate Evening with Kristin Chenoweth at the London Palladium. On television he has appeared in NBC’s The Grinch Live,
Charles Simmons’ theatre credits include playing George Washington in the German production of Hamilton, and Ike Turner in Tina: The Tina Turner Musical in Hamburg. On television he has appeared on The Voice Germany, as a juror on Germany’s All Together Now and a vocal coach on X-Factor Germany.
The Olivier, Tony and Grammy and Pulitzer Prize-winning musical opened at the newly re-built and restored Victoria Palace Theatre in London in December 2017 where it continues to play to sell-out houses and is currently booking until 2 March 2024. The production continues to break records on Broadway at the Richard Rodgers Theatre, throughout North America, and commences its International tour in Manila this week.
HAMILTON is the story of America then, told by America now. Featuring a score that blends hip-hop, jazz, R&B and Broadway, HAMILTON has taken the story of American founding father Alexander Hamilton and created a revolutionary moment in theatre—a musical that has had a profound impact on culture, politics, and education.
With book, music, and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda, direction by Thomas Kail, choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler, and musical supervision and orchestrations by Alex Lacamoire, HAMILTON is based on Ron Chernow’s acclaimed biography. The HAMILTON creative team previously collaborated on the Tony Award®-Winning Best Musical In the Heights.
HAMILTON features scenic design by David Korins, costume design by Paul Tazewell, lighting design by Howell Binkley, sound design by Nevin Steinberg and hair and wig design by Charles G. LaPointe.
HAMILTON is produced in the UK by Jeffrey Seller, Sander Jacobs, Jill Furman, The Public Theater and Cameron Mackintosh.
“irrepressible wartime musical is a West End triumph” Emma John, The Guardian
“Hilarious tale makes Mincemeat out of its rivals…Before curtain I talked to a fan seeing this for the seventh time. I wondered why anyone would see the same show seven times. Now I know”
Neil Armstrong, The Mail On Sunday
“LAUGHING so hard I could barely breathe is not what I expected for a musical about a World War II top-secret plan.…the perfect invasion of the West End. Long may they occupy it.” Thea Jacobs, The Sun
“a Hamilton and Book of Mormon love child” TamsinAmy, Lifestyle and Culture influencer
“the feel-good West End musical of the summer…The reviews for the show have been ecstatic… the overwhelming impression is of hopefulness, expansiveness, possibility and joy.”
Alexis Soloski, The New York Times
65 ★★★★★ reviews and counting
Operation Mincemeat: A New Musical – 65 five-star reviews and counting – “a hilarious new musical that rivals The Book of Mormon for laughs” (Vogue), has extended its West End run for the fifth time through 21st April 2024. Operation Mincemeat follows thirty-three hugely successful years of TheWoman In Black at the Fortune Theatre.
Extension tickets will be available on general sale on Friday 29th September at 10am from the Official Box Office here
The fortnightly £25 ticket lottery continues here (next draw on Monday 2nd October). Access to exclusive perks is available via the Official Operation Mincemeat mailing list here.
Monday night ticket prices are frozen at £39.50 for the new booking period from26th February through 21st April 2024. To ensure fair access for fans tickets will be available through the Ballot here. The first draw will take place on Thursday 28th September.
Now starting to gain international acclaim including titles from the USA -“My far-and-away favorite production” (The New Yorker), Israel – “A story about the impossible that was possible…The guys who put on a show with zero budget conquered the most coveted goal of all. The mouse that roared… Fly to London now, right now” (Shlomut by Globes) and Germany –“stands out from the plethora of West End productions…The current must-see show” (Musicalzentrale), the extraordinary debut musical is written and composed by 2023 Stage Debut Award ‘Best creative West End debut’ nominated SpitLip – David Cumming, Felix Hagan, Natasha Hodgson and Zoë Roberts.
After five sold-out development runs at the New Diorama Theatre in 2019 and Southwark Playhouse in 2020, 2021 & 2022, plus an extended Riverside Studios run last summer, Operation Mincemeat: A New Musical is back.
The year is 1943 and we’re losing the war. Luckily, we’re about to gamble all our futures on a stolen corpse.
Singin’ in the Rain meets Strangers on a Train, Noel Coward meets Noel Fielding, Operation Mincemeat is the fast-paced, hilarious and unbelievable true story of the twisted secret mission that won us World War II. The question is, how did a well-dressed corpse wrong-foot Hitler?
The production is directed by 2023 Olivier Award nominated Robert Hastie (Standing at the Sky’s Edge, National Theatre – 2023 Best New Musical Olivier Award winner), following providing directorial support for the Riverside Studios run, while Olivier Award nominated Jenny Arnold (Jerry Springer: The Opera, National Theatre) continues as Choreographer. Also from Standing at the Sky’s Edge at theNational Theatre on the creative team are: 2023 Olivier Award nominated Ben Stones (Sylvia, The Old Vic) as Set and Costume Designer, Tony Award, six-time Olivier Award and Bafta Award winning Mark Henderson (Girl From the North Country, Broadway & Noël Coward Theatre) as Lighting Designer and Olivier Award winning Mike Walker (Jerry Springer: The Opera, National Theatre) as Sound Designer. Grammy Award winning and Tony, Emmy, Olivier award nominated Steve Sidwell (Beautiful:The Musical, Broadway & Aldwych Theatre) is Orchestrator and Vocal Arranger, while 2023 Stage Debut Award ‘Best creative West End debut’ nominated Joe Bunker is Musical Director. Georgie Staight joins as Associate Director and Paul Isaiah Isles as Associate Choreographer. Casting is by Pearson Casting.
Operation Mincemeat won The Stage Debut award for Best Composer/Lyricist and the Off-West End award for Best Musical Production and Best Company Ensemble. Following the first New Diorama Theatre run, Operation Mincemeat was listed in The Observer’s Top 10 shows of the year and most recently was listed in The Independent’s Top 15 shows of the year. The show is currently featured in the V&A’s Re:Imagining Musicals display, exploring how musicals have continuously reimagined, reinvented and reinterpreted themselves over time.
The 2023 Off-West End Best Musical Production Award winning returning cast (Southwark Playhouse/ Riverside Studios), David Cumming, Claire-Marie Hall, Natasha Hodgson, Jak Malone and Zoë Roberts, are joined by: Seán Carey (returning from Riverside Studios), Geri Allan, Christian Andrews and Holly Sumpton.
Operation Mincemeat is presented in the West End by Avalon (in association with SpitLip), who have supported since the Southwark Playhouse runs. The show was commissioned by New Diorama Theatre, co-commissioned by The Lowry, and also supported by the Rhinebeck Writers Retreat.
Nottingham Playhouse – until Saturday 7th October 2023
Reviewed by Jill Heslop
Written by Tom Wright in beautiful poetic prose, this play The Real and Imagined History of the Elephant Man at Nottingham Playhouse, movingly portrays the fascinating life of Joseph Merrick played sensitively by Zak Ford-Williams, who became known in history as the Elephant Man. His life began in the East Midlands, in Leicester where his parents, played by Daneka Etchells and Tim Prichett, wanted him to fit in and survive the tough challenges of working in a cigar factory. However, due to his deteriorating condition, he is unable to maintain himself and his descent into living as a sideshow “monster” begins after his mother dies leaving him to fend for himself. He eventually goes to industrial London where he ends up in hospital.
Director Stephen Bailey in this production, shows how the harsh industrial environment reflects the harsh treatment meted out to anybody who does not fit in and play their part. The inhumanity of the doctors in the ‘safe’ environment of the hospital is shown when Merrick is examined as if he is just a specimen for scientific enquiry, with no understanding on their part that he is a real person, called Joseph not John, with feelings. The chances for humour here relieve the tension with a nice relationship built between Merrick and his nurse, played by Nadia Nadarajah, who finds out that he understands everything she has been saying. BSL is here shown to be a powerful and expressive language through Nadarajah’s skilful acting throughout in her various roles. There’s more irony later as well as pointing out the danger of making assumptions about people, when Merrick is introduced to another patient, Miss Fordham, played beautifully by Annabelle Davis as one of her several roles. Zak Ford Williams in the title role as Merrick, uses his body well to illustrate the pain and inner turmoil of the character, allowing us to “Imagine” his feelings as a man. At the end of the play Merrick is given agency as he is the one who screams out to the audience “You are all monsters!” forcing us to acknowledge the uncomfortable realities of the society we live in.
The Set and Costume Designer Simon Kenny chose well, with large oppressive boxes illustrating the confinement of the character and heavy iron girders showing the danger in the big city. The decision not to use prosthetics was a clever one as our focus is always on Merrick the man while Tom Wright’s script reveals to us the physical aspects of the “Elephant Man’s” condition. The cast is composed of all disabled, Deaf and /or neurodivergent actors with over 50% of the creative and supportive team also being Deaf, disabled and /or neurodivergent which strengthens the powerful message of this play about inclusivity and acceptance. This is a searingly moving play, brilliantly acted with real feeling and integrity.
Two actors, a tired runner, and a trailer sliding into a volcano. It sounds like a set up for a joke. And the jokes are plentiful in this new production of It’s Headed Straight Towards Us at the Park Theatre. Written by Adrian Edmondson and Nigel Planer, It’s Headed Straight Towards Us takes place in a trailer (the kind you find on movie and TV sets) in Iceland where the seventh instalment of the ‘Vulcan’ sci-fi franchise is being filmed. A franchise I would gladly watch. Iceland is a place of myth, folklore and famous air travel stopping volcanoes, where the land and it’s inhabitants, elves included, are respected. I’m no scientist, but put a movie set for a most probably straight to streaming sci-fi full of has-beens and wannabes on the side of a volcano, and most likely it is going to take it’s revenge.
Huge Delavoix MBE (Samuel West) has the biggest trailer on set and is once again playing a butler on screen. Gary Savage (Rufus Hound) has one line in the film, a drinking problem that leads to blackouts, and has to sit in hair and make up for 4 hours. Gary has had a huge Hollywood career but is homeless so takes any role so he can stay in a hotel, Hugh is a character actor who always plays the same character, but can buy himself baroque sofas and cats. They are fierce rivals and fierce friends, the kind who know a bit too much about each other so there is always a barbed joke or a witty riposte. Trying to keep the peace is Leela (Nenda Neururer), a runner studying volcanoes with a passion for Icelandic folklore and tradition. Rounding out the cast is the stage itself. The trailer designed by Michael Talyor is constantly moving and creaking, providing the backdrop for the action. As an avalanche hits, and an already fragile bridge crashes into a crevasse, they are left stranded with a make up trailer’s supply of cheap white wine, and only themselves for company.
Samuel West is delightful and understated yet comedically perfect as Hugh, divorced from a wife, sober (went to AA for the networking), and sort of happy in his out gay life. He has taken up tai chi and cobbling to pass the time and be more like Daniel Day-Lewis. Rufus Hound is fiery yet poignant as the drunk star who can remember all the lines from every part he has ever played, and has a fondness for saying whatever he likes. The character of Gary at times strays a bit too close to the current news cycle, however Hound plays him with gusto, and towards the end a tenderness that is a welcome change from the shouty beginnings. Together Hound and West are a comedic treat. Nenda Neururer as Leela is a sweet breezy break from the thespy egos, and under direction from Rachel Kavanaugh, the cast keeps the pace nimble and the jokes flowing.
It’s always fun to peak behind the curtain of the film industry, and that is where the strength in this show lies. The believability of the relationships, the on set hierarchies, and the time spent between takes. It is a welcome and at times hilarious glimpse through the looking glass.
The final show in the Arcola’s Grimeborn Opera Festival 2023 is a polished and playful production of Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Mikado. Charles Court Opera’s small scale but high-quality version is set in post-World War 2 Japan. The mockery and satire of British politics and society no longer needs to be camouflaged, so the characters are all thoroughly British, with the Mikado being the governor-general and the action set inside the British consulate in Totori. Character names are anglicised – Yum-Yum is now Victoria Plum, Nanki-Poo is Charles Chauncey Drew – and director John Savournin alters a few lines, but this does not diminish the charm and joy of this production. A cast of eight and musical director David Eaton on the piano create a magical show that is simply irresistible.
Gilbert & Sullivan’s witty lyrics and uplifting music are as infectious and entertaining as ever, and the machinations of the Lord High Executioner as he tries to avoid his own death and find someone to behead while contending with the arrival of his bride-to-be’s true love are a treat to watch, however familiar you are with the plot.
In The Arcola’s compact space, Rachel Szmukler’s design is wonderfully evocative of mid-century government offices and gentlemen’s clubs. The besuited diplomats and the three little maids are a delight as the ridiculous affairs of state are manipulated to maintain the Mikado’s nonsensical laws. The entire cast are on top form, with glorious voices and wonderfully arch but also charmingly silly performances. Amongst the marvellous comedy, the slower songs are haunting and the cast’s voices soar beautifully.
John Savournin’s Peter Rush and Matthew Siviter’s Hugh Barr are the epitome of English establishment’s entitlement – smug and pompous, and slightly camp with wonderful comic interplay. Savournin also plays the Mikado with a quiet sense of power and idiotic adherence to his rules reminiscent of the command officers in Blackadder. Robin Bailey and Alys Roberts are an enchanting and very funny couple as Chauncey Drew and Victoria Plum, while Milly King and Jennifer Clark are full of mischief and glee as the other wards of the Lord High Executioner, Colin Cole (Matthew Kellett). Kellett plays the lowly tailor thrust into a position of power is as a wide boy, with wonderful physical comedy highlighting Cole’s constant plotting to keep himself afloat amongst the more polished diplomats. His little list is brilliantly modern, with the inclusion of a few individuals drawing gasps as well as laughs. Katisha and the Mikado arrive in military dress, and Payne’s performance is in the sweet spot between Miss Trunchbull and Rosa Klebb. Kellett’s scenes with Amy J Payne as Katisha are gloriously daft as he woos her and they make a fantastic double act.
Glorious voices and stellar comic performances – You can’t help but smile as this whimsical and lively production.