A Kingdom For A Stage Review

Chelsea Theatre 28 April – 7 May.  Reviewed by Claire Roderick

Celebrating the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, Tony Diggle’s new play has great potential – it just needs some judicial trimming.

In the Heavens, Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, Christopher Marlowe and George Bernard Shaw spend their time bickering over each other’s work. Shakespeare summons Puck to take him down to London in 2016, and writes a new play about the dealings in the City.

These sections are very entertaining – the angel supervising the characters makes Phil Mitchell seem sweet and gentle, prompting some great reactions from the cast. The interplay between the players is amusing, with pompous Shaw lecturing and criticising Shakespeare’s characters constantly. Shakespeare’s visit to modern London, showing that nothing has really changed, despite his amazed reactions to the city skyline works well. The performance of his 38th play is a highlight – with characters including Enterprise, Bonus, Treasury and Small Investor – lampooning board meetings and corporate greed in Shakespearean verse.

Where the play falls down is in the scenes depicting Shakespeare’s life in Stratford – long rambling scenes between Shakespeare’s father and Anne Hathaway, and then Shakespeare and his daughter stop the flow of the production. We learn about his hoarding malt and his daughter’s naughty husband, but these scenes feel like they should be in another, less interesting, play.

Jonathan Coote is great as Shakespeare, at his best when using Shakespeare’s own words. Sue Appleby’s Puck is airy and alien, and Caitlin McMillan’s predatory Mephistopheles prowls around the stage like she owns it.

The strengths of A Kingdom For A Stage outweigh its weaknesses, and this has the beginnings of a fun and interesting play.

Joseph Review

York Grand Opera House, 26 April 2016.  Reviewed by Michelle Richardson

Well what can I say about Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat?

My friend and I were fortunate enough to go along to the opening night at the Grand Opera House in York on Tuesday. Neither of us had any idea what we were about to see. We thought it was just going to be a biblical story with a few songs, after all everyone has heard “Any Dream Will Do”. How wrong we were! All I will say it is bizarre and I cannot believe it has been around for over 40 years and I had not heard about how unusual it was.

Essentially it is a biblical story but with country and western, French and calypso themes thrown in, and who can forget Elvis? The story is basically about Joseph, who is the favourite son on Jacob, much to the disgust of his 11 brothers, who then sold off into slavery.

With Joe McElderry, X Factor winner from 2009, playing Joseph it was a camp and colourful show from beginning to end.

Lucy Kay, runner up on Britain’s Got Talent, was the narrator, on stage throughout. She did a wonderful job guiding us through the story with some strong and powerful vocals. Joining her on stage at all times were the Joseph Choir provided by Stagecoach Theatre Arts School, York, who did themselves proud and supported the cast well.

The brothers and handmaidens put on an energetic show with their comic timing, costume changes, singing and dancing. Look out for the inflatable sheep, made us giggle.

We then came to Elvis??!! Emilianos Stamatakis is making his UK debut as the Pharaoh/Elvis. He did a great Elvis impression with all that hip swinging and stage presence.

Joe McElderry put in a solid performance as Joseph. I was pleasantly surprised by his vocals, they were rather good, after seeing him on X Factor I thought he was going to be a bit wishy washy, but I was wrong. His singing of Close Every Door was outstanding and was the definite highlight of the show for me.

I’m still a bit baffled by it all, but what do I know. The packed audience loved it and they gave a standing ovation at the end and we all got up and boogied along with Elvis? and the cast.

Joseph is on at The Grand Opera House York until Saturday.




Living the Nation’s History since 1348

The Charterhouse, set deep within stone walls in the heart of Clerkenwell, is a remarkable assembly of historic buildings dating from the 14th century.  Over the years it has been a religious site, a grand Tudor mansion, a school and, as it has remained for over 400 years, an almshouse. In November 2016 parts of the Charterhouse will be open to the public for the first time in its 660 year history, revealing to the public the great story of this sprawling urban oasis at the heart of London.

With its partner the Museum of London, the Charterhouse is creating a new museum within the Tudor mansion, as well as a Learning Centre and an exhibition space, which will tell the story of the Charterhouse and its role in key moments in English history, using artefacts from its own collection, together with others from the Museum of London and other collections. This new facility will bring to life the history of the building, highlighting its place in national affairs and securing its future.

The story of the Charterhouse is the story of our nation. It begins in 1348 during the Black Death when the land was used as a burial ground for victims of the plague. In 1371 the Charterhouse was built and a Carthusian monastery flourished on the site. Elizabeth 1 convened the Privy Council here in the days before her coronation in 1558, and James 1 followed her lead by staying at the Charterhouse prior to his coronation. In 1611 Thomas Sutton, a wealthy businessman, bought the Charterhouse and established the foundation that now bears his name providing a home for up to 80 Brothers: ‘either decrepit or old captaynes either at sea or at land, maimed or disabled soldiers, merchants fallen on hard times, those ruined by shipwreck of other calamity’ and for 40 poor scholars (which became Charterhouse School).

The story lives on. Large parts of the buildings were damaged in the Blitz of May 1941. Yet it was faithfully restored and is now home to over 40 Brothers.

Sharon Ament, Director of the Museum of London said:

I am thrilled that the partnership between the museum and the Charterhouse is proving so successful and that the Revealing the Charterhouse project is now a reality. We will be working even more closely with this remarkable site that has played such a key role in London’s history to ensure that it becomes an irresistible destination for visitors when it opens its doors to the public in the autumn. We are particularly looking forward to supporting the Charterhouse in creating an inspiring learning programme for thousands of school pupils from London and beyond.”

The museum, cafe and Learning Centre will be accessed through Charterhouse Square, the site of a medieval plague pit. The square has been re-designed, inspired by its 18th century layout, by Todd Longstaffe-Cowan (author of The London Square (Yale 2012) and Gardens Adviser to Historic Royal Palaces. The reconfigured Square will lead visitors to the new public entrance to the Charterhouse designed by Eric Parry Architects(EPA), who were responsible for the renewal of St Martin in the Fields and the Holburne Museum in Bath.   EPA are also designing the City’s newest skyscraper, 1 Undershaft.

Sir Michael Graydon, Chairman of the Charterhouse, said:

I am very proud to be the Chairman of the Charterhouse at this important moment for the charity.  My fellow Governors and I are custodians of one of the nation’s longest standing and most noble charities and we look forward to opening our doors and revealing some of the remarkable history to visitors from all corners of our nation and from the world.”

Eric Parry, EPA said:

The invaluable lesson of the Charterhouse is the continuity, relevance and adaptability of its architecture, in a city context that would be astoundingly incomprehensible to its founders.”

This is a project funded by the HERITAGE Lottery Fund and a range of other generous supporters including Helical Bar, Charles Hayward Foundation, The Wolfson Foundation, Christian Levett, The Schroder Foundation, The Lyon Family Trust and The City Bridge Trust amongst many others.

Darlington Civic Theatre – Tell Me On A Sunday


Following her acclaimed performance in the Watermill Theatre production of Calamity Jane, Jodie Prenger is to step into Andrew Lloyd Webber and Don Black’s classic musical, Tell Me On A Sunday which will visit Darlington Civic Theatre in May.

Jodie Prenger shot to musical theatre fame after being crowned the winner of TV’s I’d Do Anything, winning the role of Nancy in Oliver! She went on to enjoy success in a long list of box office and critical hits, from comedy One Man, Two Guv’nors to the classic musical Calamity Jane last year.

Tell Me On A Sunday charts the romantic misadventures of a young English girl in New York in the heady days of the 1980’s. Brimming with optimism, she seeks success and love. But as she weaves her way through the maze of the city and her own anxieties, frustrations and heartaches she begins to wonder whether she’s been looking for love in all the wrong places. This iconic musical, with a wonderful original score, features the chart-topping Take That Look Off Your Face and title track Tell Me on A Sunday.

Originally conceived for television, Tell TMe On A Sunday has been performed by many legendary musical theatre stars including Marti Webb and Sarah Brightman. This new 2016 production directed by Paul Foster includes an intimate post-show chat with Jodie about life, love and playing the role of Emma.

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s numerous awards include 7 Tonys, 3 Grammys, 7 Oliviers, a Golden Globe, an Oscar, 2 Emmys and the Richard Rodgers Award for Excellence in Musical Theatre. Don Black is an Oscar winning lyricist (Born Free) and penned numerous James Bond theme tunes, and chart hits Michael Jackson’s Ben and Lulu’s To Sir With Love.

Tell Me On A Sunday is at Darlington Civic Theatre on Thursday 5 May, 2016. Tickets* are priced from £28

To book contact the Box Office on 01325 486 555 or visit www.darlingtoncivic.co.uk

*All ticket prices include a £1 restoration levy

















Park Theatre Artistic Director Jez Bond today announces its new season of work, all in association with a host of exciting and diverse producers, including four world premieres, three UK premieres, two European premieres and a London premiere.


Bond says, “As well as welcoming back names who have proven hugely popular with our audiences, we are thrilled to announce brilliant new talent who will be making their Park Theatre debuts, including Mark Gatiss and Hollywood star Anne Archer. With a mixture of plays plus two musicals – a first for Park90 – I’m delighted to announce what I am sure will be a scintillating and varied programme. The first professional show I directed was a J B Priestley play and I consider him one of the master storytellers, so on a personal note, I’m absolutely thrilled we’re presenting his lost gem as part of our season!”


A new production of The Trial of Jane Fonda by Terry Jastrow, starring Academy Award nominee and Golden Globe winner, Anne Archer and directed by Joe Harmston, opens the season, marking the show’s London premiere inPARK200. The first major revival of beloved British playwright JB Priestley’s early comedy The Roundabout takes alook at an England in the 1930s, when it seemed, just possibly, as if the social order might be changing. Mark Gatiss, winner of the 2016 Olivier Award for Best Supporting Actor, and his husband Ian Hallard star together inThe Boys in the Band, an eagerly anticipated revival of Mart Crowley’s seminal piece, which premiered just months before the Stonewall riots, and became a cult film in 1970.  Following huge critical acclaim and controversy withDead Sheep and An Audience with Jimmy Saville, journalist and playwright Jonathan Maitland returns to Park Theatre with the world premiere of Deny, Deny Deny, which tackles the topical subject of doping in sport. The UK premiere of the New York hit show The Screwtape Letters – a stage adaptation of the C. S. Lewis classic novel – makes for a subversive and alternative Christmas show to round off the year.


The PARK90 season opens with the black comedy Some Girl(s), written by multi Tony Award nominee Neil LaBute, following the story of a man who visits his ex-girlfriends in his ‘little black book’ to try and ‘right’ his ‘wrongs’, and closes with the Tony Award winning physical comedy LUV by Murray Schisgal; both are directed by Gary Condesand produced by Buckland Theatre Company.


Following his Park200 debut in January with 4000 Days starring Alistair McGowan, Olivier Award nominated playwright Peter Quilter (End of The Rainbow and Glorious!) returns to Park Theatre with the world premiere ofSaving Jason, a comedy set in 90s suburbia. American writers Stephen Fife and Ralph Pezzullo will also present the world premiere of The American Wife, about a woman trying to clear her husband’s name when he’s accused of acts of terrorism.


For the first time, PARK90 will play home to two musicals: the European Premiere of acclaimed musical The Burnt Part Boys, with music by Chris Miller, and the world premiere of brand new British musical set in London, This Little Life of Mine written and directed by Michael Yale


Last year’s best book about British theatre, according to the judges of this year’s Theatre Book Prize, was a fascinating study based on the files from the Lord Chamberlain’s Office now held in the British Library.

At a gathering of people from theatre and the book world on April 22nd, held in the historic rooms of the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, distinguished actress Dame Siân Phillips presented the prize to Steve Nicholson for The Censorship of British Drama 1900-1968 (University of Exeter Press), a story conflict and connivance involving Royal officialdom, theatre managers and some of the key dramatists of the twentieth century. Critics have described it as “forensic and fascinating” and called Nicholson “a scholar who writes with lucidity, wit, humane intelligence and grace of mind. There is no jargon in his pages, but much glorious hilarity.”

In remarks by the judges leading up to the presentation Colin Chambers, called it “The final volume of a terrific and important series in which Nicholson delivers his original research into the practice of theatre with characteristic enthusiasm. His detailed account of how theatre and the society it reflects interact is seen through the prism of censorship.”

Author Nicholson, who is Professor in Twentieth Century and Contemporary Theatre at the University of Sheffield, wins after being short-listed for this prize in previous years.

Darlington Civic Theatre – Dancing In The Streets

Civic-Theatre-Hi-Res-Logo-1-117x300CELEBRATE THE BEST OF MOTOWN

Join the original and the best celebration of Motown’s greatest hits with the spectacular, critically acclaimed Dancing in the Streets at Darlington Civic Theatre on Saturday 7 May.

Experience the energy and electricity of the motor city in a stunning production packed with hit after hit, all killer, no filler!

The talented cast and band will bring to life the infectious, melodic, foot-tapping songs with a touch of soul and style guaranteed to have you singing along and dancing in the aisles.

Expect your favourite songs made famous by The Four Tops, The Temptations, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Lionel Ritchie, The Supremes, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, Martha Reeves & The Vandellas and many more.

Dancing In The Streets is at Darlington Civic Theatre on Saturday 7 May, 2016. Tickets* are priced from £23.50 to £27.50

To book contact the Box Office on 01325 486 555 or visit www.darlingtoncivic.co.uk

*All ticket prices include a £1 restoration levy

Flanagan Collective Seeks Community Cast

York Theatre Royal Associate Company The Flanagan Collective Seeks Community Cast for The Tempest.


Three professional actors will join the community cast in a promenade performance in rural North Yorkshire.


York Theatre Royal associate company The Flanagan Collective is well known for staging innovative, site-specific productions, such as an all-female Romeo and Juliet in the 15th century St Olave’s Church and Sherlock Holmes: A Working Hypothesis in the historic Council Chamber at York Guildhall.  In September 2014, The Flanagan Collective moved home to at 17th century converted` watermill in the village of Stillington, North Yorkshire. At The Mill is a place to house artists, rehearse shows and present work. The company is now launching its first production At The Mill; an ambitious promenade production of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest and the company is looking for a community cast to join three professional actors to perform in the show.

Alexander Wright, Artistic Director of The Flanagan Collective and production director said:

We sit within such a beautiful part of the world, and it’s full of brilliant people. It’s so important for us to try and make as much work as we can with this community at the centre. Sometimes that might be as audience, as a sounding board, or as a programming team. But we want to start as we mean to go on, by creating a remarkable production with the community at the very heart of it.


The Flanagan Collective is holding workshops and auditions to meet anyone who would like to be a part of the show; whether that is actors, musicians, crew or front of house. The company is inviting people to attend one of two workshops at Stillington Village Hall on Monday 2 or Tuesday 3 May at 6.30pm.  This is a good time for any actors, musicians, helpers or other interested folks to find out more about the project.

The professional cast is made up of: Michael Lambourne as Prospero (The Great Gatsby with The Guild Of Misrule, The Railway Children with York Theatre Royal and Holly Beasley-Garrigan as Caliban (The Great Gatsby with The Guild Of Misrule, Romeo and Juliet with The Flanagan Collective) with a third actor to be confirmed shortly.

General Manager of the project Veronica Hare said:

We know how much work goes in to creating these unique events and we hope we can invite a lot of people to be a part of that journey – we have very big, welcoming, open arms.

Later that week the company is asking potential actors to sign up for a slot if they want to be in the cast and have a speaking role. Slots will be 30 minutes long in small groups on Saturday 7 May between 10am and 5pm at Crayke Village Hall and on Sunday 8 May between 12pm and 7pm at Stillington Village Hall. The company is also looking for an assistant director and assistant designer from the community.

Alexander Wright advised:

We’d encourage anyone who wants to know more, have a go or to come play, to drop us a line and sign up for one of the workshops. The worst that will happen is that you’ll have a lovely time at a free workshop! The Tempest is one of my favourite plays; it’s full of beauty and music and magic. Expect a show full of The Flanagan Collective’s trademark live music, bursts of anarchy and striking connection with the roaming audience.

The Tempest is being performed from Wednesday 15 to Sunday 19th June At The Mill in Stillington, North Yorkshire, with a community cast alongside three professional performers. Tickets are already on sale through York Theatre Royal Box Office on 01904 623568 or securely online at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk

To sign up for auditions, workshops or for more information contact Alexander Wright,[email protected]


The Bacchae After Euripides Review

Blue Elephant Theatre 19 April – 7 May.  Reviewed By Claire Roderick

Lazarus Theatre Company’s adaptation of Euripide’s tragedy is full of colour and energy.

Seeking revenge upon his mother’s sisters, Agave, Autonoe and Ino, for their lies about his mother and his parentage, Dionysus, son of Zeus, comes to Thebes. The women of the city leave their homes and go up to the mountains and revel in Bacchan rites. Pentheus, King of Thebes and son of Agave, returns and captures Dionysus, disguised as a foreign priest. Pentheus raises an army to defeat the Bacchae, but Dionysus convinces him to infiltrate the Bacchae dressed as a woman.

The production takes Euripides’ plot, gives it a modern twist – with the chorus talking about things like making fried breakfast for my family (except the vegan!), my mam teaching me how to swear – but still manages to feel authentic and not smugly “look what we’ve done to this”.

The use of lighting and music is extremely atmospheric, with deep blood reds for Dionysus and the Bacchae and clinical white for the rational and civilised Pentheus and his advisors. The Bacchae are dressed in white slips and the court in business suits, which are gradually shed as Dionysus’ influence takes hold. Dionysus is the only flash of colour onstage – in shimmering red as he prowls around.

The Bacchae’s chorus are not onlookers, but are the Bacchan horde – watching and moving around the advisors like wolves and vultures. They provide rousing drumbeats with hands and feet and throw heart and soul into their performances, managing to keep their sighs and grunts from appearing ridiculous. Nick Bladon’s Dionysus doesn’t really have much to do after his magnificent entrance – mostly sitting gleefully watching the carnage unfold, or pretending to be mortal. RJ Seeley is hypnotic as the leader of the chorus and Stephen Emery (Pentheus) is suitably stubborn and patronising. Sonja Zobel is almost childlike as Agave, and swings from mad zeal to horror just by changing the rhythm with which she is shaking – fantastic. The production has replaced Cadmus, Agave’s father, with Katrine, Pentheus’ wife (Lysanne Van Overbeek) which works, as the voice of calm reason is so often female, and Van Overbeek delivers her damning opinion of man and gods with steely dignity.

The balance of rationalism and instinct are still relevant today, when people are so willing to cite their rights but shirk their responsibilities, and of course gender equality and sexuality still stir high emotions. So even though this is a very old play by some long dead Greek bloke, it is well worth seeing. A magical modern version of a classic.

Your Ever Loving Review

Theatre N16 18 April – 6 May.  Reviewed by Claire Roderick

While people are still talking about the failings of US justice after watching “Making a Murderer”, Martin McNamara reminds us what the British establishment is capable of.

Bomb attacks in 1974 led to the conviction of the Guildford Four. Because of draconian anti-terrorism laws, they were allowed to be kept in custody for up to a week, allowing the police to coerce confessions out of them which led to their imprisonment, until their convictions were finally quashed in 1989.

Using the letters that Paul Hill wrote to his family, Martin McNamara has written an astonishing play chronicling Hill’s time in prison. Stefan McCusker as Hill has such an innocent baby face that he has your sympathy from the offset. But his performance is outstanding – explaining the slipperiness and ironies of the court procedures and prison life with a weary acceptance, while his moments of quiet despair are highlighted by his extraordinarily faraway but piercing gazes into the audience. James Elmes is almost certifiable as the rest of the world (just watch his lip synching and dancing) – dressed in black and simply adding a hat or a pair of fetching glasses, he portrays the police, politicians (a brilliant Maggie!), solicitors, priests and reporters. He manages to be hysterical, flirtatious and intimidating. Hill’s ghostings between prisons are portrayed starkly and simply by just moving his mattress from one side of the stage to the other accompanied by Elmes shouting prison orders. The prison beatings are brutal and well-choreographed, and are very disconcerting happening so close to the audience. The set is simple, with a brick wall covered in IRA graffiti for the prison, and a circus platform for court.

Using Hill’s letters to his mother and aunt obviously only portrays his view point of events, but, like any son, he is writing to convince his family that he is surviving and they should not lose hope. His comments about TV shows of the 70s and 80s are light hearted and in stark contrast to what is actually happening around him. Elmes’ reporter narrates the events in court and parliament with relish and from the establishment’s point of view. The narrative jumps around a little at the start, which confused a few younger members of the audience who had no idea who Hill was or why he was in prison, but all soon became clear for them.

McNamara doesn’t glorify Hill, including a scene where Hill explains what actually happened in the appeal court, rather than what was portrayed in the film version. Instead he just presents a normal lad in an extraordinary situation – so I have just about forgiven him for the Christ allusion during the police interrogation scene.

Your Ever Loving is a wonderful production, with an incredible cast telling a terrible story with lots of humour and humanity, and leaving you feeling just a little uneasy about whether this could happen again today.