Woman In Black Review

Civic Theatre, Darlington – 23 January 2015


Since its first performance in 1987 The Woman In Black has been terrifying the audiences of UK. Written by Susan Hill and adapted by the late Stephen Mallatratt this play within a play entertains and frightens in equal measure, drawing on the imagination of the audience to produce shocks and scares.


Telling the story of Arthur Kipps, old Arthur (Malcolm James) takes the unnamed actor (Matt Connor) through his spine chilling tale. Young Arthur is given the job, by the firm of Solicitors he works for, to travel north to sort out the affairs of the late Alice Dablow. Visiting her house, cut off by tides and sea fret, Arthur experiences far more than he bargains for.


With James taking on the various bit parts of characters along the way and Connor, at times, acting a monologue, we are treated to a genuine spooky experience.


Special mention must go out the sound and lighting directors because its partly their fabulous setting that helps to build the atmosphere, the elderly theatre also lends itself to the effect. But it really is the power of the imagination that is the main clincher in this tale. Sitting in the auditorium, petrified, surrounded by people audibly screaming is an experience in itself.


Its a show worth seeing twice, the first time to be scared witless and the second to take in this magnificent story and to watch the reactions of the people around you

Treasure Island Review

National Theatre Live – 1st broadcast Thursday 22nd January 2015


Bryony Lavery’s inspired re-imagining of Treasure Island is a true wonder to behold. Big and brash, wonderfully acted but the star of this production is undoubtedly the magnificent set. Making full use of the Olivier rotunda we saw the Hispaniola in full glory in the first half and the tunnels of the island in the second. The stars by which the route was plotted filled the ceiling and Lizzie Clachan and Bruno Poet must be congratulated on their vision and their staffs abilities to bring it to fruition.


Jim (Jemima) Hawkins is brought to life by Patsy Ferran and Arthur Darvill brings charm to the villainous Long John SiIver but Joshua James as half mad cheese loving Ben Gunn is outstanding too.


James, who argues with himself as if he were in his own chat show, is one of the original features of the production. Tim Samuels’s doleful Grey – a pirate so colourless that no one ever recognises him – is another. But a difference worth noting is Ferran as Jim: “Be you boy or be you girl?” “That be my business.” And Captain the Flint the parrot remotely controlled is a triumph


Although in the National for the Christmas period this is not a pantomime. Its rough and rugged with body parts, blood splatters and pirates – all of them bad, mad and dangerous to know. Treasure Island is daring, scary, fast paced and has moments of (black) comedy.


Its an exciting romp promoting a children’s story to classic theatre but this not children’s theatre and is well worth a visit to the National Theatre or your local cinema to see an encore performance

Queen and Adam Lambert Review

Queen and Adam Lambert. Metro Radio Arena, Newcastle. Tuesday 13th January


From around 30 minutes before the show began the spot lights started to slowly move around the stage and a low reverb from a guitar started. The closer to the start of the show the faster the lights moved and the guitar got louder until there in silhouette stood Brian May. Then all lights off, pitch black and full light and into One Vision.


Brian May is, of course, a musical genius. His 6 minute guitar solo to lead into Tie Your Mother Down was outstanding as was the drum off, deliverance style, between father and son Roger and Rufus Taylor.


Adam Lambert is the first to admit he is not Freddie Mercury, there could only ever be one. But he has an amazing voice, and his campness and flamboyance have an echo of the immortal Mr Mercury. His showmanship complimented rather than imitated. Who else would have a chaise longue and drink champagne?


And Freddie himself did show up to sing. In the first song One Vision he did his “I had a dream. When I was young. A dream of sweet illusion. A glimpse of hope and unity. And visions of one sweet union” etc. During a Brian May solo version of Love of My Life up popped Freddie to help lead the singing and of course no one else could sing Bohemian Rhapsody and it was amazing.


There were songs I hoped to hear but didn’t and there were songs in there I wasn’t expecting, The Fog On The Tyne being the main one – but as a homage for the first night of a tour in Newcastle what else would you sing?


The show ended with Adam Lambert in the trade mark crown singing We Will Rock You followed by We Are The Champions and an instrumental version of God Save The Queen and it was done.


The stage and the lights were awesome. The stage was the shape of a Q with a large O with lights on it and the stick of the q was a path on to the main stage. They are very fond of red as a background colour but with a vast array of lights producing amazing patterns it was difficult to concentrate on the music with the lights hypnotising you. They were inspiring, I only wish I could produce such a show. With the sound and lights matching perfectly it was almost a son et lumiere with the narrative of the Queen back catalogue.


In a dream come true I finally got to see Queen and in a night of high voltage entertainment I was totally blown away. If you missed it you missed out but if you get the chance go and see this spectacular show

Jersey Boys Review

Jersey Boys – Empire Theatre, Sunderland

Posted by: The Reviews Hub – Yorkshire & North East 



Book: Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice

Music: Bob Gaudio

Lyrics: Bob Crewe

Choreographer: Sergio Trujillo

Director: Des McAnuff


It’s easy to see why Jersey Boys is such an award winning and popular musical. It’s a feel good night out and jam-packed with hit after hit. Seeing this musical for the first time you may be fooled into thinking you’re unfamiliar with the songs, but once you hear them, they are all recognisable.

Long before Bon Jovi put New Jersey on the map, the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons tells how the boys from the wrong side of the tracks rose to stardom. One of the most successful bands in pop history, they were inducted into the Rock &Roll Hall of Fame and sold 175 million records – while still in their twenties. Jersey Boys is a rags-to-riches Cinderella story, the tale of four young boys who try to break out of their poor, crime-ridden neighbourhood by starting a band. Fast forward a few years, and they are playing to thousands, selling a hundred million records. The money and the girls are rolling in. But Jersey Boys looks beyond the number one records, to the realities of fame and a life permanently on the road. Neglected families, angry mob bosses and the internal politics of four egos sharing the same space eventually catch up with the boys; tough for them, but fascinating for us.

The cleverest part of Jersey Boys is the structure. As founder member Tony DeVito says at the start:

The show is split into Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter, giving each band member a chance to tell the audience their side of the story; all of them working their way into the audiences affections. Regardless of their various differences, we know and care about Bob Gaudio, Tony DeVito, Nick Massi and Frankie Valli, and it’s that which gives their song lyrics extra resonance.

On press night, the phenomenal Matt Corner took the rôle of Frankie Valli, showing a perfect falsetto, dance moves and an ability to engage the audience. All four of the ‘Seasons’ get a chance to tell their part of the story. Stephen Webb has the rôle of Tommy DeVito, the small time crook and successful talent spotter whose risk-taking both propels the band to success and puts them in danger. Sam Ferriday is genius song-writer Bob Gaudio, capturing the essence of the two-minute pop song. Lewis Griffiths takes the rôle of Nick Massi. They’re believable as a group where loyalties, tensions, support and occasional betrayals take them through failure and success.

Before the pantomimes take over, get yourself down to the Empire for a guaranteed night of pure enjoyment. A true story with the familiar falsetto tunes and a night of singing and dancing, you will leave the theatre with a smile on your face.

Recommended to all.

Horrible Histories – Barmy Britain Review

Horrible Histories: Barmy Britain – Civic Theatre, Darlington

Posted by: The Reviews Hub – Yorkshire & North East 



Writer: Terry Deary, Neal Foster
Music: Matthew Scott
Director: Neal Foster

The Birmingham Stage Company presents Barmy Britain in Darlington. Rog (Gary WIlson) and Rex (Benedict Martin) have to convince parking wardens Esmeralda (Laura Dalgleish) and Queenie (the divinely vocal Alison Fitzjohn) that Britain is Barmy or they will get a parking ticket.

The audience are taken on a trip through time with themes all will recognise, including Boudicca singing ‘I Will Smash You’ to the tune of ‘We Will Rock You’ to the Romans. Phil Spencer does an episode of Location, Location, Location in Lindisfarne with the Vikings and a date between Edward Longshanks and William Wallace is arranged during an episode of Take Me Out. At this performance, a child from the audience was cured of the plague in Wales, while everyone sang a happy song about the symptoms. Blue Peter interviewed a very petulant Henry VIII and Elizabeth I posed as “Betty from London” for Undercover Boss. In a shock revelation, she discovers the executioner doesn’t get paid but does get to keep the clothes of his victims, and that the whipping boy was punished for a Prince’s mistakes as it was an offence to touch royalty (and the Groom of the Stool held the highly prestigious job as Royal Bottom Wiper).

The second half is brought to us by 3d Bogglevision, for which the audience are invited to wear special glasses. Again, we are treated to a very busy Guy Fawkes who (very thoughtfully) spared time tonight to take part in Who Wants to Blow up Parliament, where he has the options to phone a friend, go 50/50 or ask the audience if we think his plan to blow up parliament will succeed.

Barmy Britain takes us from Guy Fawkes to Charles I and II via Oliver Cromwell and an episode of TOWIE starring Dick Turpin and the Essex Gang. There’s even a jaunty tune about being hung at Marble Arch called ‘The Tyburn Jig’.

The show doesn’t miss a beat, as it quickly moves on to a hip hop break dancing Queen Victoria (known as Vicky with a V and Albert with an A). Forward in time to the 1st World War, and the victor decided by way of a WWE wrestling match, but rather beautifully poignant as it includes the dropping of CGI 3D poppies as a sign of respect among the comedy.

We finish on a high as Queenie and Esmerelda agree that Rog and Rex are right and Britain is indeed off-its-rocker barmy, ending with a chorus of Barmy Britain to the tune of ‘If You’re Happy and You Know it’.

Barmy Britain is fast, fun and educational. We learn the Celts put severed heads in rivers as a gift to the Gods, and Longshanks was so called because he was over 6 foot tall and Henry VIII ordered the execution of 72,000 people.

Billed as suitable for ages 6 to 106, the show is fantastic. Borrow some children and get to the Civic before Sunday to see it. It’s a win-win situation, you will love the show and the kids will love you for taking them. Monty Python meets Pantomime via the GCSE History syllabus – this is a show not to be missed!

April in Paris Review

April in Paris – Civic Theatre, Darlington

Posted by: The Reviews Hub – Yorkshire & North East 



Writer &Director: John Godber

We swap October in Darlington for April in Paris – a bitter sweet, painfully realistic view of married life from the pen of the multitalented John Godber.

Al and Bet, played by Joe McGann and Shobna Gulati, are a northern couple stuck in a rut. Married for 28 years, together by habit but falling apart. Struggling to adapt to an empty nest, Bet spends her little wages on scarves and magazines to make herself feel good, while Al paints since he lost his job after 30 years as a builder. A shortage of money brought on by redundancy, means their lives have become mundane and claustrophobic. A magnificent set by Pip Leckenby, with excellent lighting from Graham Kirk and sound by Colin Pink, reflects the futility and spiral into depression of their dreary, grey, drab and uninspired lives. And, as they separately strive to find some inspiration and meaning, their ongoing banter though highly amusing for the audience and delivered with perfectly-timed gestures and loaded-one liners, teeters dangerously close to dislike.

Is an unexpected win of a romantic trip to Paris enough to inject the spark and vitality back into this souring relationship?

Godber’s unique observational comedy transforms us from a sad life at home, via a vomit ridden ferry crossing to a vibrant, colourful exciting Paris and as they relax, they talk and the romance of the city enters their souls. But all too soon it’s over and they are back in their sad lives of existing rather than living, but things have changed. After a trip abroad Bet is happy to see the UK in a different light but Al, who hadn’t been abroad before, now wants to explore. His mundane pictures are now vibrant and his outlook is positive.

In this updated play from 1992, the two actors share a stage for two hours as the warring couple transform into butterflies from their safe, but mundane cocoon. While little has changed in society this show is poignant, dysfunctional, awkward and thought provoking. April in Paris is well worth a visit.

A Murder is Announced Review

A Murder is Announced – Civic Theatre, Darlington

Posted by: The Reviews Hub – Yorkshire & North East 



Writer: Agatha Christie
Adaptation: Leslie Darbon
Director: Philip Stewart

Set in 1950, we arrive at the home of Letitia Blacklock (Jo Castleton) on Friday the 13th to the announcement in the Chipping Cleghorn Gazette that “A Murder is Announced”. The murder is due to take place at 6.30pm at Little Paddocks that very evening. Taking care to prepare food for the villagers who are bound to just ‘drop in’, neighbours gather at 6.30pm and the scene is set for the imminent murder.

This should be a wonderful introduction to an ingenious spider’s web of deceit and plot twists. Just when you think you’ve cracked it, there is another startling revelation added to turn the plot on its head. Sadly, explanation too often gets in the way of dramatic tension and there were forced efforts to get through as much dialogue as possible to clarify the narrative.

The subsequent investigation by Inspector Craddock (John Hester) reveals subtle clues and slips of the tongue throughout the performance give hints that should be picked up, if attention is paid to all the dialogue throughout.

There are some horrendous caricatures of 1950’s middle classes, but thankfully some shining stars too. Jane Shakespeare’s glorious overacting as Middle Eastern maid Mitzi was fabulous and Louise Jameson’s interpretation of Jane Marple was interesting, although, it is hard to suspend the disbelief to imagine youthful and glamorous Jameson as an elderly spinster.

Any devotees of Agatha Christies intricately plotted books or the classic BBC adaptations starring Joan Hickson as Miss Marple might want to avoid the Civic this week. This version is at best confusing when following the twists and turns of the plot and sadly doesn’t convey this classic Agatha Christie whodunit at its best.

The Play That Goes Wrong Review

The Play That Goes Wrong – Civic Theatre, Darlington

Posted by: The Reviews Hub – Yorkshire & North East 



Writer: Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, Henry Shields

Director: Mark Bell


Some of you may have been unlucky enough to be in the theatre when things go wrong – a fluffed line, a missed entrance, a prop that misbehaves, or scenery that seems about to collapse (and occasionally does). However in this side splitting play that truly does go wrong, we have all these and more besides, providing you with a loud laughter show by the Mischief Theatre Company.

Even before the play properly starts there’s loud “perilous” music, and a handful of backstage “crew” desperately trying to fix props and put the finishing touches to a failing set. A poor unsuspecting member of the audience is actually pulled up to hold a shelf and a door and sweep the floor. It’s a large room in a country house with painted rows of books in painted bookcases and a picture of a roaring fire in the grate.

As the title suggests, the play depicts an incompetent production staged by the fictional Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society – a student production of a fictional murder mystery, ‘The Murder at Haversham Manor’.

To achieve maximum comedic effect, the actors have to achieve the task of convincing the audience they are actually amateur thespians prone to novice mistakes.

It was obviously set up to be a shambles, but instead of sitting through a poor murder mystery, with a production which was clearly awful, we got to be in on the joke and party to the farcical goings on.

Everything that can possibly go wrong does. Bits keep falling off the set, so that by the end of the evening it collapses completely. A mistake in the props department means that instead of coloured water for whisky the cast have to make do with white spirit. The snow occasionally billowing in from outside is actually huge chunks of confetti. There’s a mishap with a stretcher so that the corpse of the first murder victim has to try sliding off stage without the audience noticing – and so on and so forth. With some of the stunts looking quite dangerous.

The interaction with the audience was a fabulous part of the production and it extended to a member of the “crew” (Rob Falconer) running around in the bar and auditorium during the interval with a squeaky toy, asking if anybody had seen his dog.

In the first scenes the “corpse” of Charles Haversham (Greg Tannahill) refuses to lay still. The two actresses who ended up playing Florence were hilarious, Charlie Russell gave an over the top performance as the desperate wannabe, and Nancy Wallinger as a stage manager who steals the show, when she is violently infected with the performing bug when standing in for the unconscious lead. The facial expressions of Dave Hearn, playing the gormless Cecil Haversham, who laughed at his own jokes and clapped along with the audience when he did something impressive, deserve a special mention. Playing Inspector Carter (Shields), Thomas Collymore (Lewis) and Perkins (Sayer) the writers have produced perfect characters and how they manage to keep on acting through the show, as it literally falls down around their heads, is a joy to watch.

The constant ridiculousness produces a full on hysterical reaction to the big set-pieces, and the whole the production is so funny, the laughs are so fast you barely have time to come up for air between them all, making it uproariously enjoyable.

Carnaby Street: The Concert Review

Carnaby Street: The Concert – Civic Theatre, Darlington

Posted by: The Reviews Hub – Yorkshire & North East 



Based on an original idea by Carl Leighton-Pope


It was a bit of a shaky start to the concert as the band scampered on to the stage looking terrified. The audience then sat stony faced during the first song which was one of the original songs from Carnaby Street the Musical. The songs then jumped into a medley from the Kinks and the audience soon warmed up back on familiar ground with the music.

The Carnaby Street Band made up of Dan Smith, Mike Slader, Greg Clarke, Jake Buckley and Sandy Grigelis played song after song and tune after tune effortlessly and with real enjoyment. With multi-disciplined musicians, the keyboard player played drums, the drummer played guitar, the guitarist played Keyboards and they all sang. The only criticism of the music is that in some cases it drowned out the voices, particularly when the girls were singing. Aimie Atkinson and Lucy Hope Borne both had stunning voices that deserved to be heard, so the music could have been turned down a notch and the girl’s microphones turned up to full.

With over 30 songs from the 60’s, the show flowed through mods and rockers and flower power. The audience were enthusiastic and clapped during the first half but, with the majority of the audience of an age to have been in the disco’s and clubs dancing to the originals of these songs it was a reserved auditorium. However after the half time drink and Santogen infused ice creams, the whole place perked up and were up and dancing in the aisles and in their seats. A rather wonderful moment was when a man with downs syndrome got the chance to sing “Satisfaction” when the singer jumped off the stage to sing with him. His face radiated pure joy and it was a simple act from the singer that meant so much to the young man.

The most outstanding moments were a haunting rendition of the Beatles classic ‘Here, There and Everywhere’ and some outstanding interpretations of the songs of the iconic Dusty Springfield.

The clothes were fabulous, the staging simple with a back drop proclaiming the legend “Marquee” and the songs were well played and well sung. The band reminded us at every moment they were the Carnaby Street Band and they were part of Carnaby Street the Musical which would be back on tour in the autumn and we could buy Carnaby Street the Musical CD’s in the foyer.

If it tours in your region it’s a fun night out.

20th Century Boy Review

20th Century Boy – Empire Theatre, Sunderland

Posted by: The Reviews Hub – Yorkshire & North East 



Writer: Peter Rowe

Music &Lyrics: Marc Bolan

Director: Gary Lloyd


Sensitively written by Peter Rowe, 20th Century Boy chronicles the tragically short life of glam rock star Marc Bolan, the flamboyant front man of T-Rex, from his school days through to his untimely death just before his 30th birthday.

The audience are treated to an interesting story as well as great songs – and they’re all there: ‘Metal Guru’, ‘Get It On’, ‘Ride A White Swan’, ‘I Love To Boogie’, ‘Hot Love’, ‘20th Century Boy’ plus a few that may be new to you. From Bolan’s hippy days through to the success of T-Rex and the effect on is health, the story unfolds from the point of view of his son; Rolan Bolan (Luke Bailey) who is trying to get to know his father through the eyes of those knew him best as he died when he was just two years old.

Many chunks of dialogue are built around chats to his grandmother Phyllis passionately played by Sue Jenkins with other characters conveniently pop up to fill gaps in the narrative timeline, including a wonderful gruff Yorkshire roadie who is clearly impressed because he didn’t say “f***”

Rolan’s search to get to know his father is also a ‘rite of passage’ to find himself. Living in America with his mum Gloria, who suffers from the after effects of the accident that destroyed her singing career and from the guilt that she killed Marc. Rolan doesn’t know his family, his background or simple things like his dad was still married to someone else.

Throughout the play we see England’s cultural identity, like Bolan’s, change; from the stylish mods to the hippy movement of the 60s, through to the rise of Glam and its inspirational punk attitude

Anne Vosser has expertly cast this show. Warren Sollars has captured the on stage persona of Bolan perfectly, Sollars looks, moves and importantly sounds like the man himself.

Well supported by both leading ladies, Donna Hines as Gloria Jones and Lucy Sinclair as June Child show an outstanding performance in numbers like Teenage Dream and Dandy in the Underworld where they comment on events through song. With help from Rolan and Phyllis and Tony Visconti played by the very talented Andy Coxon.

There is no weak link in the strong cast; Katia Sartini in particular shines in her dual rôle of Helen Shapiro and Chelita Secunda. With the expert direction of Gary Lloyd they bring the tale to life with the necessary grit, passion, tenderness and drama which overall shows that Bolan’s life is worthy of being made in to a musical.

Under the musical direction of Ryan Alex Farmery, the band create that bass rich deep sound so synonymous with T-Rex and live musicians are essential for this piece.

This is not just a show for fans of T-Rex and Marc Bolan. It is a touching and entertaining show that will have you reaching for some vinyl and perhaps a feather boa and some leopard print.

There are some moments that are a bit contrite and some that are a bit cheesy, but it’s a true story told sensitively and full of timeless classic songs. The show ends with a mini concert of the most well-known stuff and it’s so infectious it’s hard not to be up on your feet singing and dancing by the end.