Lauderdale House on Highgate Hill has a built reputation for quality, with regular cabaret seasons showcasing the talents of some of the best performers in musical theatre. Constructed in 1582, the venue’s primary function is as an arts and education centre attended by over 65,000 visitors each year. The grounds provide a wonderfully atmospheric setting for two productions this August, The Wind In The Willows and Much Ado About Nothing, both presented by Shooting Stars Theatre Company.
Directed by Helen Crosse and presented on the tea lawn, Much Ado features a sprightly and hugely energetic cast of twelve who inject passion and zest into the work, which has been updated to recent times. With drunken soldiers in modern combats singing Jerusalem, an alcohol-laden beach party and the outdoor summer feel, the traditional setting of Sicily could just as easily be applied to Cyprus or any other ’Brits abroad’ holiday island destination. There is a real feeling that each of the characters are there to have a good time.
The two couples are well cast and evenly balanced. Tabitha Becker-Kahn sets the standard as Beatrice and is great value, never flagging for a single moment. Beatrice is always a great role to play and here, Crosse has allowed Becker-Kahn the freedom to make the part her own, injecting a degree of enthusiasm that lifts the entire production. Her on-off partner, Michael Totton as the testosterone-laden, lifelong bachelor Benedick is a good match, their respective eavesdropping scenes being a highlight; the agile Totton uses the audience as good cover in an amusingly camp display and seems to be everywhere at once, while Becker-Kahn delights by borrowing hats and scarves to gain disguise.
Joe Sargent’s Claudio is truly ‘one of the boys’ and would be totally at home in any army barracks, there is a lot of male-bonding here! It’s no wonder that he falls for Hero (Emily Grace-Hyland), with her sugar-sweet looks and gorgeous curls. Their first wedding scene is particularly well delivered, both parties giving passionate performances.
As the sun sets over the trees of Waterlow Park and a clear blue sky with not a building in view, it’s easy to imagine you’re anywhere but London. This delightful venue, with the players performing on the lawn in front of you, easily takes you to realms beyond the capital. The occasional aeroplane overhead induces thought to pastures beyond the horizon, providing a perfect backdrop to the story as it evolves, transporting you to far-away places, maybe even to the port of Messina.
Both productions are suitable for all ages but with short runs for each, there is only limited opportunity to enjoy their unique experience this summer. Tickets are still available, make the effort, bring a rug and picnic if you wish or there is outdoor seating available should you prefer. I’d not been before but I’m already looking forward to returning.
- - - - - - - - - -
By Gareth Richardson
Much Ado About Nothing - 22nd to 26th August, 7pm, £12
Wind In The Willows - 26th & 27th August, 2.30pm, £6.50
Lauderdale House, London, N6. (nearest tube Archway)
One of several adaptations produced this year of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel about 1920s opulent decadence is unfortunately anything but. The Great Gatsby Musical, not to be confused with the likes of Gatz that was playing in the West End until recently, feels unfinished. Written and directed by Linnie Reedman, The Great Gatsby Musical felt more like watching a workshop of a show than a fully formed piece.
In such a small space with hardly any set to speak of, bar a piano and some moveable chairs, the whole thing came off as under-rehearsed. The musical numbers, composed by Joe Evans, were largely forgettable and all the ensemble efforts, except the tango-inspired ‘I Bet He Killed A Man’, had eggy lead-ins and (when present) shoddy harmonies. The most frustrating problem with the songs was that they neither informed us of anything we didn’t already know about the characters within the scene, or did anything to further the story. They were numbers which could be removed from the piece without affecting the continuation, which surely defeats the object of creating a musical in the first place? I want to hear the innermost thoughts of the character which cannot be expressed through just words, not a little jazz-infused ditty that could be a stand alone tune outside the confines of the show. It is also a show which illustrates that the recent craze of using actor-musicians is not always a good idea.
That being said, there were some performances that deserve some plaudits. Raphael Verrion stood out as the best in show, despite Nick’s role as the ‘narrator’ of sorts and not the ‘star’. He may not have had the strongest voice, in the one solo allowed him, but his acting was subtle, consistent and his character was the only one who truly felt believable. If he had been but a little broader and muscular he would have been a fantastically charismatic Gatsby.
Matilda Sturridge’s Daisy Buchanan, permanently open mouthed and whispy of voice, is a nice take on the character. She feels too young and wholesome to be playing the role, but she does it with conviction. Her voice is of the same ilk as Florence of ‘The Machine’ fame which is very listenable but not very period appropriate. She does whole-heartedly act her socks off whilst in song however.
Often it is a player in a smaller, less-pressured role who steals the limelight. That’s the case here with Alyssa Noble shining in her comedic role of Lucille. She may not be the strongest of singers, but it is almost unnecessary when the rest of her performance makes her so watchable throughout.
If the rumours that The Great Gatsby Musical has big ‘in town’ aspirations than there is a huge amount of work to be done by all involved. The only way I can see a transfer happening is with a new score, a new book, a new set, new choreography and a largely new cast. The ‘Rather-Disappointing’ Gatsby then, if you will.
- - - - - - - - - -
By Tom Norman @Tom_Norm
7th Aug - 1st Sep 2012
King’s Head Theatre, London, N1.
When William Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan penned the Pirates of Penzance I doubt they envisioned such a production as Sasha Regan’s all-male escapade.
Pirates of Penzance, or The Slave of Duty, premiered in 1979 on consecutive days in Paignton, England and then New York to discourage those who managed to evade copyright by performing “pirate” versions of G&S’ previous operetta HMS Pinafore. The production opened in London the following year and ran for 360 performances.
Sasha Regan’s All-Male G&S shows have achieved cult status and considering there have only so few that’s pretty high praise indeed. Pirates opened in 2009 at The Union Theatre before transferring to Wilton’s Music Hall for a sold out 6 week run and then a fortnight at Kingston’s Rose Theatre. It was at the Rose that the Pirates were spotted by overseas investors and plans were put in motion ready to raise the main sail and set off on their voyage to the other side of the world two years later.
Sasha Regan takes the helm once more as Director and also Co-Producer, alongside Ben De Wynter (Regan De Wynter), of the down under production steering the tour of Oz. Sasha’s directing credits include such infamous shows as Sweeney Todd and Cabaret, and of course more recent all-male jaunts Patience and Iolanthe, the latter of which broke the 12 year box office record at Wilton’s Music Hall in 2011.
Original Choreographer Lizzi Gee is back onboard with a plethora of West End, Fringe and International credits under her belt including Buddy, Million Dollar Quartet, Hair and The Sound of Music.
Taking his maiden voyage with this particular production is Musical Supervisor Michael England. Having recently supervised Patience at the Union Theatre, England is no stranger to the fierce falsetto of an all-male cast. Michael England’s credits abound having musically directed West End productions of Les Miserables, Phantom of Opera and Jerry Springer to name but a few. England also conducted the opening weeks of Cameron Mackintosh’s 25th Anniversary Tour of Les Miserables and the new cast recording.
Familiar faces Steve Miller (Design) and Robyn Wilson-Owen (Lighting Design) are also back on deck for the revival of this award winning production.
Six of the original shipmates will also join the international cast with Alan Richardson reprising the role of Mabel, for which he received People’s Award for Best Actor in the Off West End Awards 2011. Michael Burgen returns as the Pirate King’s right hand man Samuel, Lee Greenaway and Stewart Charlesworth will be donning their frocks as Connie and Edith, and Raymond Tait and Adam Lewis Ford are back as cover Sergeant of Police and Sisters, respectively.
The production will be touring Australia throughout October and November culminating in a three week run at The Sydney Theatre. Before they raise the anchor and set sail you’ll be able to see the Pirates in full swing, and no doubt acrobatic action, at the Hackney Empire from 26th - 30th September 2012.
For more information and booking details visit www.piratesisback.com.
Follow the swashbucklers on Twitter @PiratesOnTour
PIRATES OF PENZANCE
Top price seats £15 (was £27.50)
Book by 31st Aug. Use code EARLY BIRD PIRATES
- - - - - - - - - -
Preview by @BenVivianJones
In the same way that the Finborough Theatre itself punches well above its weight in the size-to-quality ratio, An Incident At The Border successfully tackles rather a lot of humanity’s foibles in quite a short space of time.
Originally a short piece designed to fit into a lunch time, the now extended version of this play by Kieran Lynn is set in an unnamed country on the day of its independence from a neighbouring land. Olivia (Florence Hall) and Arthur (Tom Bennett) find their romantic afternoon in the park takes an unexpected turn when the disputed new border between these nations is redrawn right through the centre of the bench on which they sit. The border, which is being delineated in red-and-white striped parcel tape by newly appointed border guard Reiver (Marc Pickering), leaves Arthur stranded on the wrong side of the lines, with no processes for repatriation having yet been put into place by Reiver’s bureaucrat superiors.
The line between Olivia and Arthur - as they stand inches apart, but in separate countries - becomes both a physical and metaphorical border, giving rise to each of them having to decide which of their own lines they are prepared to cross for one another and how much they are prepared to risk in the process.
Tom Bennett delivers character-comedy gold as Arthur, and Bruce Guthrie’s clean and simple direction of Lynn’s script also deliver him some of the finest moments in the show. His unwittingly frank assessment of Olivia’s conversations about her own “emotional well-being” is delivered with a bewildered and tongue-tied resignation, and his happy-go-lucky, duck-loving creation is a joy to watch throughout.
Florence Hall is a feisty Olivia, who is, at times, rather too forthright to make Arthur’s decision whether or not to cross back over the line all that hard to make. However, her strength of will and desire to become more “involved” are a great foil to Arthur’s apathy and Reiver’s idiocy and there are some fascinating moments between Olivia and Arthur as the plot develops beyond just the tape line and forces them to consider their feelings for one another and their own ideologies.
Marc Pickering as the newly appointed border guard delivers another strong performance, balancing the vulnerability of Reiver with the newly-found sense of importance that comes with his uniform and radio. From being the buffoon of the piece early on, there are some genuine and poignant moments of pathos as his character tries to break free and make a stand.
This play is an insightful comment on group-think, the so called political and non-political classes and the ways in which we all draw our own boundaries through life, and it is exceptionally well handled in Bruce Guthrie’s production.
- - - - - - - - - -
By Jamie Read @VoiceTeacherUK
Sun, Mon + Tues from 22nd July to 7th Aug 2012
Finborough Theatre, London, SW10.
While many will keep a casual eye on world affairs, the conflict in Syria may not be the most appetisingly interesting subject for most fringe theatre-going folk in the capital this summer. A brave step therefore that the Finborough should stage their current weekday play and with impeccable timing as things have turned out, for people are being killed in their fight for democratic freedom at the very moment you may be watching the production. While the gunfire roars in Damascus and elsewhere, this work topically allows an insight into the enormous effect that civil uprising can have on the lives of ordinary folk. The use of television screens to run news reports adds another dimension to the piece without excessive intrusion.
These are real life stories, experiences of oppression and graphic scenes of torture. The whole play is based on verbatim reports from witnesses and those who have suffered first hand at the treatment administered by the Stalin-like regime of the ruling Assad family. The first act is engrossing, for here the playwright invests highly in the characters as individuals, offering a wholesome insight into what makes them tick and the horrors that some have suffered. Among those introduced are Quataba, played convincingly by Adam Youssefbeygi. He is punched, kicked and whipped in harrowing scenes of torment and a great display of stage combat, his yells send shivers down the spine. Ahmad (Gareth Glen) tells how they were forced to meet via Facebook since it is illegal for groups of more than seven people to congregate in person. This is a virtual revolution as much as a physical fight. Parallel experiences are fused together, forming a central core of discrete, moving and personal tales which are cleverly blended together to form a connected whole.
A war-torn second act, concentrates firmly on battles across the country and is somehow less piercingly disturbing since one on one private agony is replaced by the united and widespread collective misery of the whole nation. The fate of those already met continues to be tracked, together with new characters including journalists and a Liverpudlian photographer played by Paul Crawley. Killing, massacres and murder feature highly in a blaze of sound and flashing lights. As the country spirals into anarchy, one character asks “What Did Britain Do?” There is no positive response.
An excess of blasts and gunshots becomes a bit tiresome and a period of intense flashing lights irritates rather than entertains, but for a rich insight into the relentless world of martyrs and mayhem, chaos and confusion, terror and grief, this play delivers.
- - - - - - - - - -
By Gareth Richardson @BargainTheatre
17th July - 11th August 2012
Finborough Theatre, London, SW10.
It’s hard to discover what Mr. Kolpert is all about without a deep delve. The King’s Head Theatre website is vague and general, with a hint of storyline though void of detail. The press release likewise and the programme totally barren. Therefore expect the unexpected must be the caveat and go with an open mind. A large and locked trunk, placed off-centre, forms the basis of what turns out to be a black comedy translated from German. Two couples at a dinner party, except there is no party to speak of and definitely no dinner prepared. Cue a bewildered pizza delivery boy and much talk of a dead body. Include lots of swearing and more than a little nudity for absolutely no reason whatever. Throw in a game of Botticelli and you have all the ingredients.
This play could be funny, except director Rachel Valentine Smith has made all the characters over-act, presumably to provide emphasis in a quest for laughs. Regrettably this strategy proves counter-productive and instead quickly becomes tedious. It’s hard to believe in any of these folks although occasionally that matters not in comedy. Indeed sometimes that is the very element that makes it work; John Cleese found perfection in Faulty Towers afterall, but here it falls a long way short. Damian Lynch as the temperance architect Bastian Mole who borders on schizophrenic, for instance, certainly lays on the violence and bad temperament well but chiefly in a shocking manner rather than humorously. Likewise, Ralf Droht (Edward Fulton), although more engagingly amusing, still somehow misses the mark. Both try hard, but appear hindered by heavy-handed direction. They are not helped either by a cumbersome script which relies on recycling the same few gags. You can only laugh so many times at a misunderstood telephone conversation about a take-away pizza order for example, otherwise the joke wears a bit thin, however much it is reinvented. Or does it? Perhaps I’m wrong about the script, for Mr Kolpert was afterall, well received Upstairs at the Royal Court in 2000 with Richard Wilson at the helm.
Violence and murder feature heavily as might be expected, but never with a wholesome sense of subtle macabre to turn this production truly black . The resulting combination of much projectile vomiting, thrown food and copious stage blood is pretty gruesome however, but makes for a very slippery stage during the second half, causing the cast a few slips but thankfully never a fall. My advice is not to sit in the front row with good clothes or nice shoes on and don’t even think about asking what’s in the trunk!
- - - - - - - - - -
By Gareth Richardson @BargainTheatre
15th July - 5th August 2012
King’s Head Theatre, London, N1.
Open for 23 performances and with rave reviews gushing over its sophistication, Gatz is the latest ‘must-book’ for the flush London theatre-goer. It is not a conventional play, being an 8-hour word for word reading of the Great Gatsby, set on the stage of the Noel Coward theatre, and performed by 13 actors from the ERS theatre group of New York. Yes, 8 hours; 3 intervals.
‘But you’ve studied American Literature, you must know this?’ - so said my mother as we sat down. I explained that ‘study’ was pushing it for a term of English Literature A Level in which I read the set texts I was told to, and that F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic had not come up. So I didn’t sit down to Gatz aware of the writing or the story, unlike the majority of people in that night. If you find yourself in my position, I’m afraid I can’t recommend it.
Hours pass slowly as the narrative crawls by. The pleasure of a book is that you can put it down, and the pleasure of theatre is watching people acting. Here you have a man reading a story out and fairly soon a random set of fellow office workers playing roles for people they are nothing like. To begin with the characters pop in out of the recital, but by act three they are standing about waiting for the adjectives for their behaviour to be read out. So you can’t put the book down or watch anyone acting. Not a happy medium; unless you think of mass as entertainment.
Newspaper reviewers have glowingly commented that Gatz showcases F. Scott Fitzgerald’s prose, but for me it’s more a weakness than a strength. Where the stale narration (‘he said’, ‘she said’) would so obviously be cut in a conventional adaptation, here it is not; conversely there are moments when the actors are being highly distracting on stage, causing irritation that you cannot focus. With the huge visual limitations of the dull office and the unadapted costumes, it’s hard to conjure the scenes in the story without listening accurately to the narration.
Traditonally you’d name drop some actors at this point, but I’m afraid there’s little to say. The narrator deserves praise for reading out the novel without much of a break; although his intonation and tone make concentrating tedious. The rest, well; with no acting in a conventional sense I found none made much impression. I also didn’t understand why such underwhelming acting was chosen for the role of Gatsby, for whom presumably we are supposed to care for.
Seats remained filled more than I expected as the hours passed. I suppose at £75 a throw it’s a bitter pill to swallow to conclude your time could be better spent. I must be honest in saying that after the end of act three and over six hours in, I could take no more. I was now watching people shuffle around the stage but focusing on the behaviour of the breathy man and fat sweet-sucking woman behind me, listening to the story had become a stress-inducing chore and that isn’t what either reading or going to the theatre should be about.
- - - - - - - - - -
By Piero McCarthy
8th June - 15th July 2012
Noel Coward Theatre, London, WC2.
Is it something they put in the water in Southwark and Lambeth? These two inner London boroughs certainly punch far greater than their weight when it comes to musical theatre at fringe venues. A succession of quality and in some cases, award-winning productions, have formed from seeds that germinate here and the latest to join the pedigree is Mack And Mabel at Southwark Playhouse, produced by Danielle Torento. Director Thom Southerland and choreographer Lee Proud give a feast for the eyes with a hard-working and eager cast keen to deliver.
Norman Bowman impresses immensely. His role as movie-maker Mack Sennett is totally believable, I bought into him from the first second and that remained with me until the last. His strong voice, presence and posture fills the cavernous auditorium and although perhaps the story has no happy ending, he ensures the audience leave with a smile on their faces. Laura Pitt-Pulford is the cherry on top of the sundae as Mabel Normand, the sandwich delivery girl who makes it big in silent movies after Mack spots that something special in her. Although affinity with her character takes a short while to mature, by the time Pitt-Pulford gets to her big solo ‘Wherever He Ain’t’, she has the room hanging off every word she sings. Aptly seeming to come from nowhere, taking everyone by surprise, just like Mabel does herself.
Jerry Herman’s score is one of his strongest and must be a pleasure for Michael Bradley to work with as Musical Director. A large, unseen band add to the ‘big production’ atmosphere. There are many ensemble numbers, freshly delivered by a company that is clearly enjoying every minute, building to a crescendo with the marvellous dance number ‘Tap Your Troubles Away’ gloriously costumed in the favoured art deco gold and black of the 1920s and delightfully choreographed by Proud. Not an easy task on the uneven and dusty concrete floor, which presents problems even with judicious use of tap boards, but nonetheless the end result is worthy of all the effort.
This is a busy production on many levels, with a perfectly cluttered design to represent the randomness of a US movie studio. The decision to use a wheeled step tower is inspired and adds not only height but gravity at key moments in this well-executed drama of love, fame and (lack of) fortune. Then, of course, there are the Keysone Cops for which this musical is possibly best known. The build up to their second act arrival is maybe the only point in the show which isn’t quite working as well as it might. A flurry of slapstick activity immediately before the police enter doesn’t really reach the degree of amusement it could; but just as that becomes apparent in come the cops and suddenly hilarity takes over with the glorious ‘Hit ‘Em On the Head’ routine, with masterful comic timing. Every element looks so easily delivered but you can be sure it’s taken hours to perfect.
The combination of great music and lyrics, charming direction and crisp choreography make it a must-see for any musical theatre fan this summer.
- - - - - - - - - -
by Gareth Richardson @BargainTheatre
5th July - 25th August
Southwark Playhouse, London, SE1.
“Are there any burlesque virgins in the house?”
The first question we are asked by our beautiful compere, Miss Coco Dubois, superbly played with charm and sass by Joanna Woodward.
I am ashamed to say that I, indeed, was a burlesque virgin and the reason is plain. I have always believed it would simply not be for me. As a strong minded woman I have always secretly thought that it was just a (slightly) classier version of stripping with dirty old men looking on therefore I would feel uncomfortable and quite frankly hate it from start to finish.
I am happy to report, I was completely and utterly wrong.
Burlesque, or certainly burlesque to this high standard, is an art form. Performed by some of the most beautiful women I have ever seen, their bodies are their temples, and watching them move and dance in beautifully crafted costumes is nothing short of breathtaking. There are some rather raunchy moments, however what The Hurly Burly Show manages to do with ease is mix these seamlessly into lighter, comedic encounters, which really makes the production shine as it instantly gives the girls a likeability factor…which with those bodies is no mean feat! The production values are stunning, absolutely exquisite costumes and set make the piece come to life and invite you in. By the end of the show, no one wanted to leave, it felt like we’d only been there 10 minutes when in reality we’d been there two hours.
What I genuinely loved most is even though for the vast majority of it the girls are wearing next to nothing, think sequined nipple tassels and crystal G-strings, you forget that they are pretty much naked, as you are stunned by the feminine athleticism of their bodies. These women are truly magnificent, watching such skilled dancers move whilst seeing their bodies genuinely create the movement is what makes it an art form, rather than a strip show. This is where the show’s strength lies for it’s a show for everyone, most of all women to celebrate the beauty of the female form, and let’s be honest, a woman’s body is a beautiful creation. One particular Hurly Burly girl Rachel Muldoon, who is given the accolade of ‘head’ girl, is absolutely fabulous and whenever she is on stage it is very difficult to tear your eyes from her. She has what many performers lack, and that is, old-fashioned star quality.
Another highlight for me is a contemporary dance sequence between two girls, which stood out as beautiful choreography from additional choreographer Adam Murray.
Leading lady and creator of the show, Miss Polly Rae, has done herself proud and obviously worked very hard in creating this show and quite rightfully giving her the forum to become the British Dita Von Teese. This show has achieved so much, earning its West End status, and I genuinely think it should be given a longer run.
- - - - - - - - - -
By Sally Bowles
2nd July - 22nd Sept 2012
Duchess Theatre, London, W1.
The illusive @westendproducer’s Search For A Twitter Star reached its climax at the Lyric Theatre. Not one but two potential stars have been selected from an original entry pool of over 650 hopefuls. Ten finalists battled for the title in a full-on West End live final, delivering one song each before an audience electronic vote decided the winners. Judging panel Louise Dearman, Mike Dixon, Gemma Lowy Hamilton and David King gave a fair amount of praise and a lot of criticism after each contestant had sung. This was really ‘rabbit in the headlights’ stuff, stood alone on the large stage, listening as their entry was picked apart, while an audience of fans, industry professionals and the plain curious looked and listened uncomfortably. Reading journalistic criticism of a production in the privacy of your own home is one thing and can be pretty unpleasant if the review goes against you, standing there on stage in full public view as your solo performance is publicly dissected is quite something else. This is lonesome territory and definitely not for the feint hearted.
While some of the hopefuls have received professional theatre school education via traditional routes, others are just embarking on that path and for several, this was their first time ever on a West End stage. Without exception, the achievement of getting through to the final ten is one to be proud of but for those yet to be formally trained, it’s quite remarkable. Particularly given that they won’t have made those all-so-important industry contacts which come by working ‘in’ the profession, which must surely have made mustering sufficient support to get through the initial public voting stages online, a very difficult task. Quite extraordinary then, that eighteen year old contestant Felipe Bejarano (@FelipeBejarano_) with no such qualification and making his debut on a professional stage, should win the male title. For him, this truly is the stuff that dreams are made of and a great start to one’s career. His crowd-pleasing performance of Jason Robert Brown’s ‘Someone To Fall Back On’ demonstrated great dynamic range and stage charisma, together with a natural warmth.
Kara Bayer (@karabayer) works in theatre, but having studied textiles and costume design she too has no traditional performing background and is currently a wardrobe assistant with Garsington Opera Company. Nonetheless, her gutsy and convincing performance of ‘Taylor The Latte Boy’ earned her a nail-biting place in the final four, along with judges’ favourite Alexandra Da Silva (@alexdasilva27) and Benjamin Vivian-Jones (@BenVivianJones) who had also enchanted the audience enough to make it to the very last hurdle with ‘The Man That Got Away’ from A Star Is Born and ‘Stranger In This World’ from Taboo, respectively. Kara took the female crown after a tense sing-off.
Guest appearances from Louise Dearman, Associated Studios and Patch of Blue Theatre Company provided light relief as the voting rounds took place.
With the winners announced by presenter Aled Jones, Jon Lee and Kerry Ellis gave duets with each; no doubt a stunning experience for both Felipe and Kara who stepped up to the mark admirably.
And then, some six months or so after it all began, Search For A Twitter Star was complete. Are we any the wiser to the identity of @Westendproducer? Well, a rather distinguished-looking male could be seen sat somewhat aloof in a box throughout the evening, complete with laptop, teddy bear and a huge bottle of Dom. He was never introduced to the audience, though he did take a bow. Could that really have been him? The mystery, it seems, is not totally over yet!
Contestants (in order of appearance)
Jason Broderick @Jason_Broderick
Bindy Baker @BeeBopBind
Elliot Clay @elliotclay
Alexandra Da Silva @alexdasilva27
Mikey Wooster @MikeWooster
Kara Bayer @karabayer
Felipe Bejerano @FelipeBejarano_
Sarah Gies @Sarah_Gies
Benjamin Vivian Jones @BenVivianJones
Emily Barker @Emsbarker
- - - - - - - - - -
By Gareth Richardson @BargainTheatre
9th July 2012
Lyric Theatre, London W1.
The last time I gave the Trojan War any thought was sat in a year 9 history lesson, so I knew that attending an open air production of The Oresteia Trilogy of Aeschylus would be an educational experience, if nothing else.
The trilogy begins with the story of The Trojan Horse. Aimed at a younger audience, The Scoop, a delightful open air space on the Southbank, filled up very quickly with families. This production, directed by Phil Wilmott, is free of charge to the public, making it accessible to everyone and perhaps encourages younger people to expose themselves to theatrical experiences that they otherwise wouldn’t. The cast relies heavily on these junior audience members to interact with during the show, breaking the fourth wall and involving them in some of the scenes. Using catchy songs and modern slang, the story is told in a way that is easy to understand, also using minimal staging and basic costumes they manage to create a believable world in which Menelaus (John Last) and friends storm into Troy to rescue Helen (Latoya Lees) from her misogynistic and self-obsessed captor, Paris (Jordan Lee), using a few bits of driftwood and an owl puppet called ‘Noctua’ (operated by Amy Murray), who saves the day. Parts of the show seem a little Blue Peter-eqsue at time, but whether this ‘over-acting’ was a conscious effort to engage the kids or not, it doesn’t detract from the overall charm.
Notable performances are Natalia Campbell and Nicholas Corre. Both boast the best vocals and are the most captivating in their portrayals of the fickle wife of Agamemnon, Clytemnestra and the camp servant Sinon respectively. The latter performs a particularly great comedy solo ‘What have the Greeks ever done for us,’ which received the biggest applause of the evening.
The second part of the trilogy, Agamemnon, focuses on the title character’s return from the Trojan War to find his wife, the previously mentioned Clytemnestra, not as loyal to him as she once was. This is treated as a serious play, and is rather intense in comparison to the first part of the trilogy, but allows the same actors to show some real depth as performers, and again, Natalia Campbell is the star of the show as the tortured wife who goes slowly mad dealing with the fact that her husband murdered their first-born child. It works very well, despite a few uncomfortable moments when Cassandra, Agamemnon’s prisoner, experiences prophecies where the God Apollo uses her body to give messages to the other characters. I found it slightly over the top and hard to take seriously but other than that it was an interesting, if less entertaining, sequel to the first part.
Sadly, Orestes, the third and final part of the trilogy was rained off ten minutes into the performance, but the beauty of free theatre like this is that it is easy to go back another time to catch it.
Despite my initial reservations it turned out to be a delightful, gritty and suitably comedic production that left me with a smile on my face…and feeling considerably more intelligent than when I arrived. It’s fantastic that great theatre like this, executed with such professionalism and class, can be accessed for free by people who could not otherwise afford to experience it, and I for one will be going back to see what else The Scoop has to offer in the future.
You can see The Oresteia Trilogy of Aeschylus every Friday, Saturday and Sunday night throughout July, free of charge, at The Scoop.
- - - - - - - - - -
By Caroline Cronin @CazCronin
5 July – 5 August 2012
The Scoop, London, SE1.
Who is @WestEndProducer?!
This is the question that has been circling the Twittersphere since last November, when a mysterious user started commenting about the theatrical world on the social networking site. The anonymous tweeter has enjoyed dropping hints that he is no other than Sir Cameron Mackintosh, but according to sources Sir Cameron is not much for technology…or is this yet another ruse? Although WEP has not been unmasked, and reportedly won’t be for a long time, Twitter’s very own Phantom has amassed over 18,000 followers in his 8 month reign.
WEP announced the online competition months ago and it has seen hundreds of entries, over 12 hours of footage submitted for the West End talent contest via YouTube. 20 men and 20 women were chosen as quarter finalists who were then voted for on Twitter to reach the semi finals 10/10. The judges revelled in choosing a Wild Card resulting in 11 men and 11 women in the semi finals who then submitted specifically recorded songs to become 1 of 10 finalists, 5 male and 5 female. All voted for via Twitter.
The 10 finalists will now compete head to head in a live concert at the West End’s Lyric Theatre, currently home to Thriller, with singer, actor and Radio 2 presenter Aled Jones as the evening’s host. Aled has starred in shows such as Joseph and the Technicolour Dreamcoat and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, he will also join Lorraine Kelly as co-host on ITV’s soon to be relaunched Daybreak.
The competition will be judged Louise Dearman, who will provide the finalists with a demonstration on solo singing, and other respected industry professionals: West End and TV Musical Director Mike Dixon, West End Agent Gemma Lowy-Hamilton and International Theatre Producer and Secret Millionaire David King.
A potential leading man and lady will be chosen by the audience and judges from the evening’s performances, who will then get to duet with West End stars Kerry Ellis and Jon Lee.
The #searchforatwitterstar LIVE finalists have attracted considerable support from the West End community with the generous donation of prizes and good luck video messages being posted daily by leading West End performers and show casts (see separate post for video).
“This is a very serious talent search - to find genuine and new theatre talent,” said @westendproducer. “It will also be a marvellous evening, and a world-first; an entire tweeting show. I’ll drink to that! #dear”
It is produced for @westendproducer by Tony Green, who is reuniting the creative team behind the recently sold-out Children of Eden gala concert - Director Drew Baker, Musical Supervisor James Draisey and Production Designer Ben M Rogers.
West End Producer will also be making an appearance, with tweets projected live throughout the show, sipping Dom accompanied by his Valjean teddy no doubt.
For tickets and more information visit: www.searchforatwitterstarlive.co.uk
The opulent baroque splendour of Hampton Court Palace makes a dramatic setting for Aphra Behn’s restoration comedy The Rover, presented there in conjunction with Artluxe. Thought to have been a tribute to King Charles II, the play features a Naples carnival and follows the love and lust of two sisters Florinda and Hellena. The first and eldest is being forced by her brother to marry against her will; the other is bound for convent life and intends securing the maximum amount of fun she can before becoming a nun. “There is no sinner like a young saint.” The carnival offers both girls a chance to meet other men more suited to their tastes. From then on, a battle of wits and suitors takes place as the action streams through many Palace rooms, halls and apartments.
Having been greeted in the quadrangle with the words “You are the beautiful” I thought our luck was in, until realising that far from being complimented, we were merely dividing into groups. Ours, ‘The Beautiful’ consisted of around forty people, ushered carefully through the gardens and into a plain room to witness the beginning of what became a vividly acted and highly sexed performance by a sizeable company of escorts, dancers and pleasure seekers supplementing the main players. Although written in 1664 this is no dusty old relic of a story, for these folk knew how to enjoy life! Every act seems sexually charged. Seduction, illicit meetings, intercourse, male masturbation and rape are just a few of the scenes that engross the passing audiences. All are graphically demonstrated but nothing is overdone.
Huge golden inflated penises arranged in formation prove a distracting yet amusing sight in one of the Palace’s large halls. A large curtain made of condoms draped down a stairwell and folks pleasuring themselves in a bedroom full of blow-up dolls illustrate the design team’s imagination, for this production is a feast of glorious confusion for the eyes. Costumes are a delight, suitably lightweight for easy removal. The traditional formality of state rooms desecrated by alien sex objects is completely over the top but its effectiveness is inspired. You know it’s naughty, you know it’s bad but intrigue draws you on for nothing is repulsive or too shocking. A feast of podium-mounted, scantily clad members of both sexes offering themselves for sale to the highest bidder provides further entertainment. The audience solicited to part with coins provided upon entry, with payment being the encouragement required to receive the various services upon offer.
Beatriz Romilly plays the brazen Hellena beautifully, with a sparkle of mischief that announces immediately “I’m no nun!” Daniel Weyman compliments well as her enticing partner Willmore. Promenade productions such as this are however, full ensemble works and this cast shines in that regard. Inevitably there are quieter moments, lapses of action as the the crowd moves from one location to another but keep on your toes because the story will not wait long for you. The atmospheric final scene is an exception though as the Escorts flurry to get cushions and carpets filled with onlookers before commencing.
And then, abruptly and unceremoniously, it’s all over. The cast afterall have trains to catch, just like the rest of us.
- - - - - - - - - -
By Gareth Richardson @BargainTheatre
2nd - 8th July 2012
The Baroque Apartments, Hampton Court Palace, KT8.
The creative team behind last year’s critically acclaimed, multi award-nominated revival of Jason Robert Brown’s Parade now bring you Mack and Mabel.
Mack and Mabel explores the romance of movie director Mack Sennett (Norman Bowman) and his screen star Mabel Norman (Laura Pitt-Pulford) in the early days of motion pictures. Although the original 1974 Broadway production, book by Michael Stewart with music and lyrics by Jerry Herman, was nominated for 8 Tony Awards, the critics claimed Mack and Mabel’s mysterious love story got lost amongst the glitz and glamour of turning a bittersweet tale into a full scale musical comedy during a period where rock musicals were dominating.
Director Thom Sutherland has been given permission to make extensive changes to the piece.
“We have been granted permission to alter the script for the show. This has included cutting characters, removing songs and changing the dramatic ‘device’ in which the story is told. Most importantly, we have been allowed to rewrite the ending.
“The heart of Mack and Mabel lies in the turbulent love story between the two characters and has been previously been hidden behind the glamour of Hollywood and a lavish Broadway musical. By turning Mack’s camera around, we are asking the audience to look past the lens and beyond the films he made and focus on the world behind the camera, which shows us the truth, not the musical fantasy, that their tragic story deserves.”
Mack and Mabel will run for 8 weeks in The Vault at Southwark Playhouse from July 5th - August 25th.
This revival is directed by Thom Sutherland, musically directed by Michael Bradley and produced by Danielle Tarento in association with Southwark Playhouse. If the history of this team is anything to go by then Southwark will be sizzling this summer with another sold out smash.
The cast also includes: Jessica Martin (Lottie Ames), Stuart Matthew Price (Frank), Richard J Hunt (Fatty Arbuckle), Jody Ellen Robinson (Ella), Steven Serlin (Mr Kessel), Peter Kenworthy (William Desmond Taylor), Anthony Wise (Eddie) and Jessica Buckby, Natalie Kent, Nikki Schofield, Ryan Gover, Paul Hutton, Jonathan Norman.