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.

One Man, Two Guvnor’s Review

One Man, Two Guvnor’s – Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield

Posted by: The Reviews Hub – Yorkshire & North East 



Writer: Richard Bean

Music &Lyrics: Grant Olding

Director: Nicholas Hytner


In a cross between Carry on and Pantomime we have the incredibly hilarious One Man, Two Guvnor’s. Full of physical comedy, slapstick, audience participation and breaking of the fourth wall.

Played originally in the West End by James Corden we now have Gavin Spokes filling the woollen suit of Francis Henshall, who acquires two different bosses, an upper-class twit and a young woman disguised as her recently murdered identical twin brother. His hilarious monologues to the audience about his gnawing hunger and mounting confusion somehow seem even funnier when a well-meaning member of the audience offers a sandwich. And he proves an absolute master at apparently spontaneous interaction with those members of the audience foolhardy enough to sit in the front row.

The rest of the cast are splendid, too, with especially winning work from Emma Barton, who is woefully underused in the first half but shines like a star in the second, as the busty book-keeper Dolly who tickles Henshall’s fancy; Patrick Warner as a silly-ass murderer Sydney, who comes over like a very bumbling and daft Bertie Wooster-esq character ; Edward Hancock as a hilariously pretentious young actor Alan; David Verrey as mastermind solicitor Harry and Jasmin Banks as Pauline one of the funniest and dumbest blondes it has been my privilege to encounter. Shaun Williamson is straight-faced funny as two-bit gangster Charlie ‘the Duck’ Clench and Alicia Davies is fantastically gruff as Rachel Crabbe who, for reasons too complicated to explain, spends most of the show in a Ringo wig impersonating her dead brother.

How much is scripted and how much made up on the spot isn’t clear. Some of it necessarily must change night by night given who gets grabbed, but the sense of mischief and mystery is a big part of the fun. This is especially true during a slapstick set piece that has you gasping with disbelief as the laughs still flow, through the fish, flames and foam.

One Man, Two Guvnor’s makes big physical demands of its cast. Michael Dylan, as an eighty something waiter Alfie, has an uncanny ability to bend himself backwards at a right angle, and to slide down walls. Spokes as Henshall somersaults over an armchair and catches a sweet in his mouth. His is an expansive, confident performance which holds all the pieces together; a scene in which he argues and then fights with himself, to the point of unconsciousness, is deftly done; half-ballet, half-slapstick

The music is quite wonderful, as we seated ourselves in the auditorium the band The Craze were already playing, and for every scene change they treated us to a song and an extended hand clapping set during the interval.

The show is quite frankly phenomenal. You need to see this show on its national UK tour because One Man, Two Guvnor’sis the funniest thing you will ever see, but be warned, the comedy is so physical and so fast you barely finish one laugh before you start another.

See How They Run Review

See How They Run – Civic Theatre, Darlington

Posted by: The Reviews Hub – Yorkshire & North East 



Writer: Philip King
Director: Eric Potts

See How They Run is a glorious farce presented by Warwick Davis and the members of the Reduced Height Theatre Company.

Written in 1945, it is a hilarious nonsense that is quite literally “Hello Vicar, whoops – there go my trousers”. With escaped Germans, Bishops, soldiers, visiting vicars and a village battle-axe, it has all the ingredients of confusion and misdirection needed for the show to be a classic.

Francesca Mills steals every scene in her rôle of Ida (the maid), her acting and physicality are perfect in every appearance and her facial expressions can say so much more than mere words could convey.

Warwick Davis plays Rev. Lionel Toop takingalmost a back seat in the show, allowing the rest of the cast to perform and shine without his obvious fame overshadowing them.

The first act is a bit slow during the amusing interaction between Rachel Denning as Penelope Toop and Francesca Papagno as Miss Skillon but speeds up in the second act, and after the interval the third act gallops to the speedy conclusion. The chase scene with Davis, Phil Holden, Raymond Griffiths and Jon Key was especially entertaining and Jamie John’s confused cleric was comical. Peter Bonner as Sergeant Towers is side-splitting in his interrogations.

Special mention must go out to the costumes and the set. They are perfect and totally in proportion for the cast who all average out around 4’2”. The set in particular is a joy. On first glance, it appears to be made for a cast of more average height, but only when the actors appear do you realise how perfect in proportion it is. Although, the acting and surroundings are so perfect, you forget the cast are short. What they lack in height they more than make up for in talent. A fantastic and hilarious night out, you won’t be disappointed.

Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story Review

Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story – Civic Theatre, Darlington

Posted by: The Reviews Hub – Yorkshire & North East 



Writer: Alan Janes

Music: Buddy Holly

Lyrics: Buddy Holly

Director: Matt Salisbury


Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story rocked into Darlington town this week. This two act show walked us through Buddy Holly’s meteoric three-year career and tragic death by way of radio D.J’s announcing pivotal plot points. Each transition is followed by music-induced scenes with all the instruments played by the very talented cast.

In 1989, Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story became one of the first jukebox musicals. It opened in London, with financial support from Paul McCartney. The show ran for 12 years in London and for six months on Broadway. Numerous tours all over the world have been mounted ever since, and this marks the 25th Anniversary tour in the 55th year of the tragically early death of the talented Mr. Holly.

Alan Janes’ story recounts the story of Holly’s rise to fame. Starting out in Lubbock Texas singing Country, Buddy rebelled to sing Rock n’ Roll getting a recording contract in New Mexico. He recorded numerous hits before his tragic death at the age of 22, including the song that started off as ‘Cindy Lou’ but which became famous as ‘Peggy Sue’, because his drummer wanted to get lucky with a girl by that name. Interspaced between the DJ’s announcements and reports, there a few acted scenes which allow characters to tell Holly that some people in Texas don’t like his songs because they sound like “coloured music”, and that he’ll never make it because he has “as much sex appeal as a telegraph pole.” There’s mention of his family’s tiling business and his mother’s desire to make sure he eats enough, but nothing else about his life before he hit the singing circuit. With the emphasis firmly on the music, the end of act one has a 10 minute mini concert that acts as a taster of what’s to come, with the last 30 minutes of act 2 being a nonstop tour-de-force concert sequence.

Glen Joseph is excellent in the main rôle. His singing, guitar playing and charming smile are a winning combination and he clearly enjoys the rôle. Jason Blackwater as the Big Bopper is completely over the top in his performance, but it works and his ‘Chantilly Lace’ had everyone singing along and joining in with “Hello Baby”. Will Pearce is Ritchie Valance and he gives a highly memorable execution of La Bamba.

The ending is poignant in its brutal simplicity, fading from the loud rocking concert to a spotlight on the guitar and glasses and a sobbing DJ telling the world of the fateful plane crash and a moments silence before returning back to the concert in full swing. The show ended with audience, the majority of which were over a certain age and had extra santogen with their interval drinks and ice cream, on their feet clapping, dancing and singing along.

Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story is produced with kind permission of María Elena Holly, owner of the rights to his name, image, trademarks, and other intellectual property.

Singin’ in the Rain Review

Singin’ In The Rain – Empire Theatre, Sunderland

Posted by: The Reviews Hub – Yorkshire & North East 



Book: Betty Comden, Adolph Green

Music: Nacio Herb Brown, Arthur Freed

Director: Jonathan Church


Singin' in the rain - Manuel Harlan

After a successful run in the West End, this critically acclaimed Chichester Festival Theatre production, which received four Olivier Award nominations and played to packed houses, Singin’ In The Rain tap dances its way into Sunderland as part of the current national tour. A riot of glorious Technicolor based on the wonderful classic MGM musical, the show does not disappoint.

Transporting the audience back to 1927, Singin’ In The Rain tells the story of when Hollywood was moving away from the era of the silent movies and into the brave new world of talking pictures. The only problem, is that one of the studio’s biggest stars has a voice that does not match her beauty.

Unfortunately, stepping into the sizable toe-tapping shoes of Hollywood legend Gene Kelly as Don Lockwood, has caused injury for James Leece, so instead we are treated to Matthew Malthouse. Malthouse sings and dances with energy and talent; an actor who can easily carry the show until Leece is back to full health. Joining him on stage, Maxwell Caulfield is studio boss RF Simpson and Paul Grunert is Director Roscoe Dexter.

The two leading ladies are polar opposites in their rôles. Amy Ellen Richardson as Lockwood’s love interest Kathy Selden has charm, innocence and a glorious voice. But perhaps the surprise package of the show, is the incredible comedy performance of former Steps singer Faye Tozer, who brings barrels of laughs in the rôle of the uniquely-voiced beauty Lina Lamont.

Stephane Anelli steals the show as Lockwood’s best friend and side-kick Cosmo Brown. With his slapstick performance of Make ‘em Laugh, he is full of comedic vitality. However, the true star of the show is the stage itself which shows off Andrew Wright’s award winning choreography superbly. An outstanding ensemble cast also each play vignette rôles as the story unfolds, dancing and singing with perfection. Their joy and energy captivates the audience right from the start.

The simple set transforms well into a studio lot, a party and cinema, but it’s during the title song where it excels itself. With a little pit that soon fills up with water, the high kicking during Singin’ in the Rain soaks the audience as well as the cast.

Catch this feel good classic while it’s in Sunderland, but be warned, if you sit near the front, it is likely you will go home considerably wetter than when you arrived.

Aladdin Review

Aladdin – Civic Theatre, Darlington

Posted by: The Reviews Hub – Yorkshire & North East 



Writer: Jon Conway

Director: David Barrow


Aladdin - Darlington Civic Theatre

Darlington Civic has a renown reputation for festive family fun and this years offering of Aladdin shows that the their reputation remains intact.

Aladdin is classic pantomime, with merriment, mayhem and mirth. Laugh out loud funny with jokes for both young and old alike. Starring The Chuckle Brothers, alias real-life South Yorkshire brothers Barry and Paul Elliott, who are almost in their 50th year of cheery, cheeky, cheesy panto antics and their good-natured double act slots as easily as ever into the pantomime world. They take part in the comedy scenes and know how to make the entire audience laugh out loud. A ridiculous scene where the two are at cross purposes with Barry’s intention to audition for the X-Factor getting confused with Paul’s attempts to design a dress is such a moment that makes the daft duo’s physical comedy so enduringly popular.

Gary Amers Aladdin has an interesting take on the rôle and once he has grown into the part he is sure to be fabulous. Better use, however, should be made of Danny Potts and his rôle of Emperor as he has great scene presence and is very under used.

Phil Corbitt is a wonderfully evil Abanazer starting the show with an explosion and a boo and a hiss. Darlington’s own Beth Stobbart is excellent as Princess Jasmine. Beautiful to look at, she can dance, act and sings sublime. Although this is her first professional show, such a great talent will help her go very far.

Star of the show is Dame Widow Twankey herself (Philip Meeks.) He romps through the evening in a range of crazy costumes and fabulous shoes, making at least a dozen changes, some of them lightening quick. His boundless energy and perfect comedic timing had everyone joining in and shouting for more and he managed to steal every scene in which he appeared

The secret that makes this panto so very enjoyable is the cast members are not just focusing on entertaining the audience but genuinely seem to be enjoying themselves. There are many unscripted moments and the Chuckles can’t seem to get through a single scene without corpsing. But the best moment must have been during a reading of Goldilocks with some very brave grown up audience members. Baby Bear enjoyed himself a bit too much and ended up falling over on the stage to great hilarity on the stage and in the audience

All the panto staples are there, cries of “it’s behind you” and shouts of “Oh no it isn’t, oh yes it is”; custard pies a plenty give us the full spectrum of a night’s entertainment. There’s comedy, dancing, some belting musical numbers and oh the costumes… everything that is needed for a fabulous family night out.