Rapscallion Magazine Theatre Review: comedy double act Alana and Lizzie in Nanny in a five star performance – with added pushchairs
To paraphrase Amy in the two hander Nanny after singing Ride a Cock Horse to Banbury Cross, ‘they nailed the bollocks out of that one.’ Folio Theatre’s play about two actors working a side gig as child carers has it all: pathos, comedy, arguments, song and dance and above all the trials and tribulations of a friendship tested to the limits in the sticky-fingered nappy-changing world of nannies to the rich.
The drama billed as a comedy play with songs, centres on Amy (Alana Ramsay) and Leanne (Lizzie Stables) who really want to tread the boards in Edinburgh rather then take their darling charges to Stay and Play. Set in a thrust stage in Bristol Old Vic’s Weston Studio complete with child seat, sofa and coffee table, the duo quickly establish their characters: bride-to-be Amy is wealthy, confident and ambitious, while Leanne is poor, forgetful and ‘has issues with pleasing people.’
In one of the songs, they sing of Mel and Sue, French and Saunders and the Chuckle Brothers as double acts they’d like to emulate – well they should have included themselves, as Alana and Lizzie have chemistry and charisma by the pram-full. Brilliant lyrics to Matthew Floyd Jone’s music (played live on set by the composer) a crackling comic meeting of minds and a spirit in a double act that has it all – and set to music as well.
Songs with witty choreography (Jessica Ramsey), facial expressions that make you want to laugh as they accentuate the words and emotions – and slapstick without the custard pies. Songs included, ‘There’s Music Wherever You Go,’ the audience inducing laughter of ‘The Perfect Mum I Get Things Done,’ and ‘Everything You Do Fails,’ inspired by a the less that gracious toddler in Amy’s care deemed a narcissistic sociopath after she failed to work out how to fit a Maxi Cosi 10 car seat.
The audience of mainly young women particularly liked any reference to failed mums, unappreciative partners, and earthy humour at the expense of their wealthy employers. A script by Alana Ramsey, Lizzie Stables and Jenny Rainsford that hits all the funny bones of modern life from text messages sent to the wrong person to parking tickets outside school or having to work with a hangover kept it real and kept it contemporary in a show that should be seen by a wider audience. A stand-out five-star success with added pushchairs and training beakers.
Nanny runs from Wednesday 31 January to Saturday 10 February 2024 at the Bristol Old Vic’s Weston Studio. Tickets and information at https://bristololdvic.org.uk/whats-on/nanny
For more on Folio Theatre visit https://foliotheatre.co.uk/
Rapscallion Magazine Theatre Review: cycling to the North Pole and escaping the clutches of Aunty Rose, Gerda’s journey to save Kaj from The Snow Queen is a delight at Bristol’s Tobacco Factory
‘I don’t believe in magic anymore,’ snapped Gerda’s friend Kaj, after a splinter of the evil Troll’s mirror entered his eye – and the children in the audience loved it as he went into a massive sulk stomping about the Tobacco Factory Theatre’s stage. One moment a morose teenager the next a crow or a robber Joey Hickman slipped seamlessly into contrasting characters along with the ensemble cast. It was this ability of all the cast of the Tobacco Factory’s The Snow Queen to flip in and out of character that grips from the moment the Narrator (Abayomi Oniyde) pulled a sleigh into the space at the theatre. A cast of all the talents as they switched between roles, playing various musical instruments and creating a theatrical body greater than the sum of its parts.
Joey Hickman as Kaj and Natisha Williams as Gerda were the dark and light, the positive and the negative at the heart of Hans Christian Anderson’s Christian morality fairy tale about friendship and helping each other. They took the audience on a journey of redemption and forgiveness reminding us all to be good and kind and to help others. Alex Murdoch (robber child), Samantha Sutherland (Aunt Rose) and Stefanie Mueller (the eponymous Snow Queen in her sleek white gown with its long poet sleeves) completed the troupe delighting the packed house with song, movement, visual wit, humour and storytelling.
Director Alex Byrne together with assistant Sophie Cottle created a masterclass of creative drama with special mention to Kasia Zaremba-Byrne’s choreography and movement. From the over excited crows in their mortar boards and black gowns or the grumpy and kindly reindeer, to the penny-short-of-a-shilling robbers who planned to turn Gerda into a stew, each story was unfolded with creativity and originality. All soaked up by the family audience (including the very young) who joined in Joey Hickman’s songs and some of Rina Vergano’s words as the cast made friends with those willing to engage.
Coupled with evocative lighting by Trui Malten and Jon Fiber’s sound and Dean Sudron’s production values this is a triumph of live theatre in the round. Whether it was ebullient Abayomi Oniyde’s narrator bookending the show or the frankly disturbingly creepy Aunty Rose (Samantha Sutherland) or a wonderfully innocent and unaffected Gerda as she flies to the North Pole on a bicycle made for two, this is a five star show that delights and inspires. It’s what live theatre at its best is all about.
The show runs to January 15, 2023.
For tickets and more details visit https://tobaccofactorytheatres.com/shows/the-snow-queen/
The Snow Queen is a Tobacco Factory Theatres, New International Encounter and Cambridge Junction co-production.
Rapscallion Magazine Theatre Review: Silent Faces brilliantly lampoons the block on female only productions of Beckett’s Waiting For Godot in a play that wittily takes the misogynistic decision to task
Ban women from performing your play and you become a hostage to fortune and more to the point ridicule. For ridicule was at the heart of the production of Godot Was A Woman by the Silent Faces as they sent up the late Irish playwright Samuel Beckett’s dictate that women should not perform his absurdist tragic-comedy drama Waiting For Godot.
Beckett used the law on more than one occasion to exclude women from performing the play and since his death his estate have maintained his misogynistic wishes leading to rebel productions and Godot Was A Woman. Using mainly physical theatre or as Silent Faces describe it as ‘metaphorical, playful theatre to push the boundaries of clown and physical theatre in a contemporary political context’ the cast of three opened the show with a comic phone call to the Beckett Estate in which they were put on hold as the 924th caller.
The drama explored the absurdity of having to ask permission to perform Vladimir and Estragon’s long wait with music, movement and mime as well as powerful dialogue including a potted history of women seeking to perform the play and a comic court scene. The cast of Josie Underwood, Jack Wakely and Cordelia Stevenson were brilliantly interchangeable with their Godot-esque attire of ill-fitting ragged suits and bowler hats. Their expressions, their clowning, their interaction with the audience kept the full house in Axbridge Town Hall engaged throughout the ‘tragic-comedy in two acts’ just as Beckett’s original had aimed to do.
Performed in the round with a minimalist set of a rock, some twigs and the odd prop such as a telephone the five-star production was given added power with thumping music extolling female empowerment. Nobody was going to fall asleep during the show that was for sure. And speaking to fellow theatre goers the overwhelming response to the show was ‘a bit different’ and ‘thought provoking’ and perhaps more importantly ‘entertaining.’
Unlike Waiting For Godot in which ‘nothing happens, nobody comes, nobody goes – it’s awful’ Godot Was A Woman is full of neat choreographed action, visual jokes, dance and witty and provocative dialogue as society’s cultural straightjacket on writers, performers and producers who are female or non-binary was lampooned. A pity as Waiting For Godot is compulsive viewing – not so much for its lack of action but for the dialogue between Vladimir and Estragon and with Pozzo and his slave Lucky. It’s a universal allegory of life’s futility which should be open to all performers to stage. And in tribute to Waiting For Godot the production drew on its costumes, set and style to echo the strange and ambiguous world of Beckett’s play.
Other plays such as Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar have been produced with role reversals (Julia Caesar and her husband warning her of her impending doom) and who knows perhaps we’ll eventually have a female pope one day. The idea that a playwright can specify who can perform a drama is both futile and improbable – but it has fired the creativity of the devised drama writers of Silent Faces to produce an excellent piece of theatre.
The drama was promoted by Somerset’s Take Art. For more on their productions and work visit https://takeart.org/
For more on Silent Faces visit https://www.silentfaces.uk/
To hire Axbridge Town Hall visit https://www.axbridgetownhall.co.uk/
There’s more at www.harrymottram.co.uk – follow Harry Mottram and Harry the Spiv on Twitter and Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and God knows where else.
Rapscallion Magazine Theatre Review: when licking a paint brush could mean a slow death – a compelling and stylish production of Radium Girls by the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School in a story of worker exploitation that still chimes in today’s work place
Review: Radium Girls
There’s a telling moment in Radium Girls when the lawyer Edward Marley (Tom Canavan) turns to the victim of the radium poisoning Grace Fryer (Ellie Jack) that it’s all her fault. Such is the twisted world of the legal blame game as employers try to wriggle out of their responsibilities when the work conditions kill the workers. We think of Chernobyl or Bhopal or asbestosis where the victims are only valued by the employers and their lawyers when the scandal is exposed by the press.
Bristol Old Vic Theatre School’s production of D W Gregory’s 2000 play about the poisoning of female factory workers at the United States Radium Corporation in New Jersey in the early 20th century was a well told drama directed with precision by Nel Crouch. Radium was being used to paint luminous clock and watch faces along with other domestic and military items – and to apply tiny amounts the workers used fine sable brushes to paint exact amounts – but would lick the brushes to gain a fine tip as you do with water colour painting. The resulting radiation poisoning soon led to illness and death – a story played out in this socio-economic-political drama where profits were put above health – in the round in the Weston Studio at Bristol Old Vic.
The principal characters gave polished and committed performances, supported by a large ensemble cast where the East Coast accents never faltered. Protagonist Grace Fryer (an excellent Ellie Jack) forces the story on from her beginnings as excited fiancé saving up for her wedding to a mere shadow as she battles her case in court. A journey of decline in which she sinks, is conflicted and fights eventually experiencing a tragic redemption. Her boyfriend Tom Krieder was given a believable persona by Kurtis Thompson as he changed from enthusiastic lover in denial to a young man who hedges his bets and seeks a new relationship.
Grace’s unsupportive mum who only sees dollar signs was played brilliantly by Sumah Ebele with her unempathetic expressions and cold hard stares. Ellie Jack was given strong support from Grace’s work colleagues in Lucy Pascoe as Kathryn Schaub, Louise O’Dowd as Irene Rudolph and Georgia Cudby as their supervisor. There’s a number of themes that combine to give the drama power and potency. Compliance is something that still prevents workers from complaining and whistle blowers fearing the sack. Grace admits that she always did what she was told believing what she was told was the truth. Faced with the dark reality of the absurdity of this attitude engraved into her soul beginning at home, then school and finally work it’s a moment we can all identify with.
Grace came up against formidable opposition in the form the company’s misogynist management and their lawyers who tried to silence hers and her colleagues concerns with money and non-disclosure agreements – something still current practice today. Tom Canavan gave a stunning portrayal as the lawyer Edward Markley intent on grinding down the litigating workers in court while Conor Doran as the firm’s boss wouldn’t have been out of place in The Sting or The Great Gatsby with his easy New Jersey style and accent. His wife Diane was given the difficult role of supportive partner and doubting mother by an energised and wonderfully expressive Assa Kanoute as she realises their wealthy lifestyle could have been built on an industrial crime. Another candidate for a pre-war film noir role with his suits, haircut and general Roaring Twenties style era was the on form Christopher Williams as Charlie Lee – the lieutenant to Arthur Roeder.
It’s based on a true story in which the first symptoms were spotted by the girls’ dentist who picked up on the swollen gums and mouth infections with a basic examination. In this play the dentist was played by Archie Fisher who doubled up as the luminous paint inventor Dr Von Sochocky and sauntered on stage in another scene as a rather jaunty looking cattle rancher and suitor to the ailing Grace. A gift for the nerdy, the serious and the comic.
A neat device of stage craft was made by the director of the use of microphones for the media announcing in sensational terms the fight of the girls for justice with Gaia Ashwood and Holly Hawgood enjoying themselves in lifting the mood as the reporters. And Kate Cartwright as Katherine Wiley as consumer champion and executive director of the influential and eventually powerful New Jersey Consumer’s League gave an appropriately assertive performance as Grace’s advocate.
As mentioned, the accents held up throughout – that’s a tough call in a long play – but also the body language of the cast all played bit parts and walk-ons. A board room scene where the management discuss how to buy off the victims had female actors playing male executives – body language and attitude convinced and our disbelief was suspended.
Special note for the costumes supervised by Arthur Wyatt, with milliners Rosie Gayner, Ava Harker, Bessy Mo and Lasya Purhoit ensuring period detail was followed with some stylish cloche hats, berets, and even a turban. The costume makers of Bethany Boldero, Shanice Dacres, Elle Duncan and Gracie Green also excelled themselves – with more accurate details such as asymmetrical drop pleated skirts cut on the bias and a proliferation of cardigans and the classic trench coat.
With swift transitions from scene to scene Angela Davies’ stage designs kept it simple with action played in the round with a succession of chairs and tables the main props. Willow Digweed’s lighting and Chris Monk’s sound combined to make the actors the prime focus in a story of workers taking on big money interests at a huge personal cost. Gripping from the off, played at pace in another superb production by the BOVTS and a story which resonates in today’s society where worker exploitation hasn’t gone away.
The play runs to Friday, December 2nd, 2022
Tickets and more at https://www.oldvic.ac.uk/events-shows/radium-girls/
For more on the theatre school visit https://www.oldvic.ac.uk/
New Jersey, mid 1900s. Business is booming at the United States Radium Corporation. The company’s ability to meet the growing demand for painting luminescent dials onto watches is music to owner Arthur Roeder’s ears – and why wouldn’t it be with pioneering physicist Marie Curie encouraging radium into the mainstream?
Meanwhile on the factory floor, it’s a different story. Painters Grace, Irene and Kathryn are noticing disturbing changes in the women working alongside them. Deaths are hastily explained away; but media interest is building and soon enough, many injustices are uncovered.
What unfolds is a fast-paced and shocking exploration into the workers behind a historical sensation, which impacted labour rights and health physics – but at what cost? Written with warmth, humour and dignity, Radium Girls is an unflinching tribute to the women racing against time.
Suitable for ages 11+
Produced by special arrangement with The Dramatic Publishing Company of Woodstock, Illinois
Theatre Review: Beautiful Evil Things at Bristol’s Tobacco Factory – a tour de force by Deborah Pugh on the magical (and very violent) lives of Greek Goddesses
They were a pretty violent lot: the female beautiful evil things of Greek Mythology. The murderer Clytemnestra, spiteful Athena, prophet of doom Cassandra, petrifying Medusa and warrior queen Penthesilea locked in mortal and bloody combat with armour clad Achilles. Beautiful Evil Things gives a female balance to the violence of Greek mythology.
Deborah Pugh’s one woman show directed by George Mann is a tour de force of acting, characterisation and physical theatrical story telling. It tells of the lives of some of the ancient Greek heroines and not so heroic alpha males through the gaze of Medusa whose eyes could turn anyone to stone. A master class of seamless movement and precision characterisation with a sharp script that worked in harmony with sound and lighting.
Classical scholars and those who love the stories of Greek Mythology will connect with the erudite and informative interpretation of a world whose characters’ names we feel we know such as Ajax, Perseus, Zeus, Paris, Poseidon and Helen of Troy. For those with little knowledge of the ancient world the number of stories brought to life by Deborah Pugh was a little confusing in the 75-minute show.
It worked best when Deborah made asides to the audience on the merits of the characters with contemporary references and jokes which prompted knowing laughs. After a time, there was a feeling of sameness as each violent story unfolded despite Deborah Pugh’s range of accents, voices, and sounds from screams to grunts and guttural battle cries punctuating the growing bleakness of the narratives. What we learn is how the myths and legends consistently see women as both evil and beautiful as the men are portrayed in contrast as heroic and noble despite their misogyny – after all it was men who told the original stories.
It was a paired down minimalist set in Bristol’s Tobacco Factory Theatre designed by Katie Sykes with tangled red cabling, mic stands, a red box and a microphone and stand used effectively to symbolise a double headed axe, a sword and a walking stick. All of which were used brilliantly by the actor who worked in unison with the sound of Sam Halmarack and lighting of Ali Hunter.
Ad Infinitum’s Beautiful Evil Things is pitched as a series of fabulously fearsome females from the ancient world who are just as flawed, fearless and front footed as their male counterparts. As these heroines clashed with the Alpha males of Greek mythology I needed more asides, more sending up of the absurdity of all this male violence and more feminist humour to give a little more light and contemporary shade on these Beautiful Evil Things.
The production is currently on tour until February 2023. Details and dates at https://ad-infinitum.org/
Ad Infinitum is a multi-award-winning, internationally acclaimed theatre company. They collaborate to tell stories, play and disrupt. They work with artists, activists and communities to create transformative theatre, revolutionise audiences and change the world.
Founded in 2007, Ad Infinitum is based in Bristol and works internationally, and is proud to be Associate Artist at Bristol Old Vic and The North Wall, and a member of the Cultural Governance Alliance (CGA).
Co-commissioned by Tobacco Factory Theatres, supported by Wardrobe Ensemble. Made possible through funding from Arts Council England.
Rapscallion Magazine Theatre Review: From the first performance of a play in Australia to Laurence Olivier in the NT’s ‘63 production, George Farquhar’s The Recruiting Officer still packs them in – even in a field in Somerset
Theatre Review: The Recruiting Officer. School Fields, Badgworth, Somerset
Convicts in Australia regained their self-esteem by acting in George Farquhar’s play about sex, Shrewsbury and soldiers, when the First Fleet arrived in Botany Bay, as The Recruiting Officer is a window into the cynical and nakedly humorous motives of men and women in search of love, status and money.
First produced in 1706 the Restoration Comedy is the story of officers using the recruitment of new soldiers as a chance for womanising and corruption. And the women they are after are just as wily as the uniformed protagonists. The drama hinges on misunderstandings, cross-dressing and cynical attempts to get rich through marriage with true love triumphing in the end.
Rain and Shine’s production mixes high comedy with Anthony Young enjoying himself as Melinda’s comically opportunist maid and the wonderfully foppish Rob Keeves as Captain Brazen with authentic power dressing costumes and military accessories.
With just seven in the cast director Jonathan Legg made good use of the entrances and exits, and 18th century outfits and wigs to define the stock characters. Emily Morozow was excellent value as the rich heiress Melinda and was equally committed to playing the haughty wench Rose, managing to inject a spicy venom into her character’s lines and body language.
Ian Alldis as the towering NCO Sergeant Kite barked his orders with military grade decibels while the versatile John Cooper-Evans played three roles as Thomas Appletree, Mr Worthy and Valentine Steward, defining each part with clarity.
Pippa Meekings had the most fun as the heroine Sylvia Balance who is enthralled with the handsome Captain Plume played by the dashingly good-looking Ashley Shiers by donning a moustache and breeches and returning as Jack Wilful. A handsome couple indeed.
Written more than a century after Shakespeare’s heyday The Recruiting Officer has remained a popular comedy despite the two-dimensional characters and complex plotting. It’s core theme of seeking a better life through hitching up with someone of a higher status due to their wealth and good looks is as universal as the competing contestants in ITV’s Love Island or Netflix’s Too Hot to Handle.
The public’s appetite for handsome men in uniform, glamorous women, class, romantic rivalry and love triangles remains as strong today in Badgworth’s School Gardens as it did in the National Theatre’s 1963 production with Laurence Olivier as Brazen and in Botany Bay in 1787 when the transported convicts re-discovered their humanity in performing theatre.
The play is on tour until September in outdoor venues across England this summer. For a full list, tickets and information visit http://www.rainorshine.co.uk/index.html
Pinter’s Betrayal is a neatly constructed drama of tangled relationships (all based on his affair with Joan Bakewell) and is boozy and blokish – and is a welcome return of live theatre in Bath
Blokish and boozy, Harold Pinter’s 1978 story of tangled relationships seems at once dated and yet convincing in the selfishness of Jerry and Emma.
Set in the late 1960s and early 1970s the ménage à trois features Jerry’s affair with Emma, who is married to his best friend Robert. Famously played out in reverse chronology meaning the play begins at the end and ends at the beginning, Jonathan Church’s production remains faithful to the period setting of Ercol furniture and plastic settees.
Nancy Carroll as Emma with her sweep of blonde hair and 1970s wedge heels was the believably beautiful lover of two men at the same time. Despite the snogging and declarations of love, in retrospect, neither Jerry (Edward Bennett) or Robert (Joseph Millson) seemed up to the sexual chemistry required to adore Emma. Not because of their acting but because of the misogynistic tone and out of date sexism that jars with a contemporary audience. In short it was hard to see the attraction – other than their power and privilege in the wealthy literati London scene of Pinter’s world.
Alex Eales’ rotating set allowed for swift changes from bedroom to pub, from restaurant to living room with an economy of movement and maximum of period detail. Coupled with Joshua Carr’s lighting and Jon Nicholls’ sound and music the production was a joy to behold in its style and setting.
Whether the actors wanted to get to the Garrick’s Head next door as quickly as possible for some real drinks rather than the pretend booze they knocked back on stage is hard to tell. As Pinter’s famous theatrical pauses between conversations were generally shorter than usual meaning the production knocked five minutes off the running time.
A masked up audience – only about a third of the normal capacity – appreciated the play with lengthy applause at the final curtain – the first in the Theatre Royal Bath’s Welcome Back Season. For theatre goers denied for so long live performances due to Covid-19 rules it was just so good to be back.
The Theatre Royal Bath production runs until October 31.
For more about Theatre Royal Bath visit https://www.theatreroyal.org.uk/
For details for the work of the journalist Harry Mottram visit www.harrymottram.co.uk
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RAPSCALION MAGAZINE Theatre Review: Bristol Old Vic Theatre School’s streamed performance of Shakespeare’s rarely staged play Pericles, is highly impressive and performed in Covid-19 safe conditions in a very 2020 production
Tyre escaped the devastation of the explosion at the docks in Lebanon’s capital Beirut resulting death, destruction and upheaval in the East Mediterranean country.
But the events in the jointly penned play by Shakespeare and possibly George Wilkins are no less dramatic since they involve incest, death, shipwrecks, brothels and famine. Running at over two hours the drama is aimed at the purists and those with an interest in Jacobean theatre and how it interpreted the Classical World. And it’s a showcase for the students at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School.
Slashing much of the original script this new production written by Andrew Hilton and Dominic Power, and directed by Aaron Parsons puts pace into a complex story of Pericles and his journeys. Briefly the adventurer goes on the run from the sadistic Antiochus after he twigs the king is sleeping with his daughter. He flees to another city where he marries the daughter of the ruler, before further twists in the convoluted plot in the story sees him eventually (spoiler alert) reunited with his wife and daughter.
A filmed play is a very different audience experience as the atmosphere created by live theatre evaporates in the lens of the video camera. Without the techniques of cinema in which each sequence can be filmed many times and from different angles the drama inevitably suffers. However the creative team led by Dave Taylor along with Tim Newton plus camera operators Richard Maxwell, Maya Barker and Elkie McCrimmon, did their best to keep the attention of the viewer using a variety of shots from tracking to close ups and to wider angles to reveal the action. An art form in itself the film blended (together with the work of sound editor Ollie Wareham) together seamlessly at the Redgrave Theatre in Bristol to create a production that students of the play will find invaluable.
It’s a classical production with one very 2020 innovation. I had the inclusion in the team behind the show of a Covid officer in Hebe Perry who must have influenced the design as there were several hand washing and mask wearing moments. With social distancing in both rehearsals and performance, inevitably there is a feeling of distancing in the production with the usual intimacy between actors missing. Considering all the burdens placed on live theatre by the Covid-19 regulations it is something of a minor miracle that the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School’s Pericles has been staged at all.
Presented in effectively a black box there are few props or changes of scenery. It allows the viewer to concentrate on the actors and the classical and colourful costumes (Sophia Chan and Summer York) which help to define their characters.
The titular character Pericles is played by two actors with the role split between a tousled hair Lewis McDonald in part one and a stern looking Kamil Borowski in part two as the older Pericles with both giving passion and voice to the wronged protagonist. Pericles is put through the mixer and both actors gave full voice to his emotions in this romance told in part by John Gower (Jason Keller). Pericles’ love interest Thaisa is played by a seductive Christine Fang and his lost daughter Marina by an on form Alexandra Nedved.
Highlights included some beautiful Classic Greek inspired dancing with a terrific sequence from the men in Pentapolis all choreographed by Jonathan Howell and also when Pericles accompanies the singing of Kat Reeves.
Maev Lowe as Simonida, the good Queen of Pentapolis, is commanding in her exchanges with Pericles giving an air of executive power and matronly protectiveness to her daughter Thaisa.
The fishers who help Pericles are enjoyably played in a rustic way by James Austin and Kirsten Helen while Devante Lawrence as Lysimachus, Laura Bernas as Calliope, Lynn Favin as Leonine and Siobhan Galpin as Dionyza complete an impressive cast of overseas students studying for a Masters in Fine Arts in acting at the school.
The play is on YouTube from September 22, 2020, for approximately two weeks.
The play can be viewed online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HdwjCXRl2G8
For more about Bristol Old Vic Theatre School visit https://www.oldvic.ac.uk/
For details for the work of the journalist Harry Mottram visit www.harrymottram.co.uk
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Theatre Review: From monochrome to full colour and from ‘Bah Humbug’ to ‘Merry Christmas’, Bristol Old Vic’s A Christmas Carol combines music, movement and humour in a refreshingly creative take on Charles Dickens’ story of redemption
It’s a dark and dangerous world in Lee Lyford’s steam punk inspired musical version of Charles Dickens’ novella A Christmas Carol. A world where children die from preventable diseases, families go hungry and Scrooge’s deaf clerk Bob Cratchit (an animated Stephen Collins) could be summarily dismissed for signing the words ‘Happy Christmas.’
In a full-on spectacular show laced with a witty and humour laden script by Tom Morris the Grade I listed theatre with its proscenium arch stage, decorative columns and boxes is the perfect setting for a production that revels in a murky and mysterious 19th century London.
The protagonist Scrooge played by John Hopkins dressed as a smart Victorian businessman has the best lines and gets the most laughs with his comic timing and a voice that can open a petty cash box at fifty paces. He is on exceptional form as he sweeps us along in his redemptive journey as the spirits of Christmas bring terrifying visions of his past, present and future lives.
Beginning in monochrome and ending in bright and vivid colours the drama’s designs by Tom Rogers are one of the highlights. With its backdrop of scaffolding mixed with period doors and windows, a removable Gothic stairway and an ornate four poster bed, it creates a visual feast of at turns Victoriana and modernist urban chic. Anna Watson’s lighting injects power, mood and contrast as the action moves from Scrooge’s bedside to snow swirling streets, and poignant moments with life-sized child puppets to large scale ensemble scenes where action and music are to the fore.
Gwyneth Herbert as the Spirit of Christmas Present gets the party started with a fabulous operatic voice and stylish red suit and horned white wig, together with musicians Christophe Capewell and Harry Bird in black and white carnival-esque style outfits. Marley played by Ewan Black in a Beetlejuice inspired costume seemed quite possessed in his committed and slightly manic performance while Shane David-Joseph as kindly happy Freddie added boyish good humour, Christmas cheer and short trousers in contrast to Ebenezer’s dissing of festive fun. But Freddie is also the link back to Scrooge’s beloved sister Little Fan (Rebecca Hayes) who died too young causing him to turned him in on himself and reject the outside world.
Some of the best moments are the deathbed scenes, the scenes in bed, in chairs and on stepladders – along with some real shocks like when Scrooge vanishes in a puff of dry ice and a swirling black cloak and when Marley’s face appears on the door knocker. Stagecraft at its best.
Should there have been more female actors – possibly – as although George Readshaw’s Sue Cratchit and Steve Collin’s Mrs Fezziwig were enjoyable there seemed a lack of gender balance. And were there some slightly over long sequences in places – perhaps. While is the show a bit too spooky for very young children – well it depends on the child I guess.
Mofetoluwa Akande was an emotionally charged and beautiful Belle (Scrooge’s lost love) and Rebecca Hayes was wonderfully energetic and expressive with all of her dressing room full of characters.
With children drawn onto the stage as Tiny Tim to melt your heart and the use of sign language as another break through moment for Scrooge as he changes from a penny-pincher to lovable uncle there are many enjoyably surprising moments.
Mood, movement and choreography wove the whole production seamlessly together combined with Gwynesth Herbert’s songs and musical arrangements that gave it an atmosphere that was only punctuated by the final curtain. A fabulous updated revival of the 2018 production of the adaption, about the power of love and the importance of redemption, in a refreshingly original take on Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol.
The Bristol Old Vic in at Christmas production. Runs to Sunday, January 12, 2020.
For tickets visit bristololdvic.org.uk or phone the box office on 0117 9877877.
For more reviews, news and views on theatre and much else visit www.harrymottram.co.uk
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Theatre Review: A very different Snow White at the Tobacco Factory as she wears a poncho and meets seven mathematically challenged vegan woodland people (rather than dwarfs) – but her step-mother is definitely delightfully evil
Theatre Review: Snow White, Tobacco Factory Theatre, Bristol
Step into the alternative world of director Alex Byrne’s Snow White, where vegan woodland folk can’t count up to seven and mirrors sing the truth to you about your fading looks. A place where there are no dwarfs or glass coffins and the dark Bavarian forest is represented by a few sticks designed by Stefanie Mueller and enhanced by Trui Malten’s lighting.
Creative, distinctive and politically correct this version of the tale has no obvious links to the imagery in popular culture of the Disney version of the folk story popularised by the Brothers Grimm. Instead we have an unreconstructed Tobacco Factory Theatre take on the story of jealousy, rivalry and female hierarchy told in an agreeably stripped down 21st century way.
Those hoping for a pantomime version or a glossy movie style play may be disappointed. Is it too dark or grown up for very young children to take in: perhaps. However the children watching the drama unfold looked transfixed by the protagonist Snow White’s struggle to survive in the forest as she escapes from her delightfully wicked step-mother brought stylishly to life by designer and actor Stefanie Mueller.
The strength of the production lies in its wit and humour, and the ensemble nature of the musicians who transform into the various characters as the story develops. Musical arrangements and composition are inspired and uplifting due to the work of Elliot Davis and Joey Hickman with all the musicians switching musical instruments with deft choreography.
In writer Mike Tweddle and Rina Vergano’s production the anti-hero Snow White (Jodie Davey) rejects the stereotypical version of her titular goodie-goodie domestic slave who whistles while she works. Instead we have someone who doesn’t agree with killing animals for fur and loves vegetables. Is she a bit wet – possibly – but she is a good person – as is her friend the mentally tortured hunter (Abayomi Oniyide) who struggles to obey his order to kill her.
In his notes the director speaks of boundaries, social responsibility and of each generation taking ownership of their world. So rather than just a simple story of good vs evil and female rivalry there are messages about the environment and the ethics of lifestyle. Worthy yes, a bit clunky maybe – but then this isn’t a show filled with stardust and high tech special effects. Humour and music are to the fore which enthralled the audience who gave the cast a standing ovation for the two hour long show.
Joey Hickman, Alex Murdoch and Richard De Winter completed the ensemble cast giving a fresh and amusing take on the magic mirror and those vegan woodland folk who can’t count to seven. It’s a highly entertaining and musical production which connects with the audience and also makes you think.
Snow White is a Tobacco Factory Theatres, New International Encounter and Cambridge Junction co-Production.
It runs to January 19, 2020.
For details visit: tobacofactorytheatres.com or call 0117 902 0344
For more theatre reviews and views from Harry Mottram visit www.harrymottram.co.uk and follow him on Twitter as Harry The Spiv, Facebook, Instagram and You Tube.