Bristol Reviews

SOUTH BRISTOL THEATRE REVIEW: sit down and prepare for a court room drama where Satan and Mother Teresa are called as witnesses in a darkly funny and thought provoking Bristol Old Vic Theatre School production of The Last Days of Judas Iscariot

Satan chats to a drunken Judas

Theatre Review: The Last Days of Judas Iscariot. The Station, Bristol

Irreverent, funny, cerebral and gripping – The Last Days of Judas Iscariot is not for the faint hearted. The drama challenges many of the Christianity’s core values such as this theological conundrum: reconciling God’s infinite unconditional love with the idea of unforgiving eternal damnation.

Set in a secular abstract purgatory courtroom in the style and language of late 20th century New York, the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School production is a refreshingly lively and entertaining take on Stephen Adly Guirgis’s 2005 play.

In a traverse setting at Bristol’s Central Youth Hub in Silver Street at The Station the audience is asked does Judas Iscariot deserve the title of the world’s worst traitor? Lawyers on both sides of the arguments put forward their evidence and star witnesses as a battle of wits takes place as insults fly and accusations are made.

The drama features dance and much movement

The case to dismiss the charge is brought forward by Cunningham, a smooth-talking lawyer on top of her brief played brilliantly by Evie Hargreaves. Against her is Alexander Uzoka played by an animated and enjoyably chaotic lawyer Usuf El-Fayoumy complete with burnt feet and torn suit since he’s on leave from down below. The case is presided over by old beyond his years corrupt Judge Littlefield (Tom Atkinson) helped by the comically enthusiastic bailiff brought to life by Josephine-Fransilja Brookman as the case flips backwards and forwards through Judas’ life in search of damning or redeeming evidence.

It is hard to pick fault with director Nik Partridge’s production since all aspects were so creative and attention grabbing from the acting to the lighting, sound, music, costumes and movement. For an audience a three-hour play is a challenge despite an interval – but that’s down to the playwright’s script – and there are plenty of plays of this length including Hamlet and Long Day’s Journey into Night.

Judas and Jesus

The ensemble cast also included dance and mime sequences which enhanced the drama with several actors playing more than one role. Yazmin Kayani’s flirtatious Mother Teresa and her more humble Loretta was a joy as was Max Guest as Caiaphas the Elder and Matthais of Galilee who makes friends with Judas. And speaking of the titular character Ajani Cabey’s portrayal of Iscariot was breath-taking in its complexity. From the child of a poor family with his prized spinning top, to sulking victim and guilt-stricken drunk and psychologically damaged follower, his was an outstanding performance.

Victoria Hoyle as Mary Magdalene, Saint Thomas, Henrietta Iscariot and Sister Glenna had her work cut out with so many roles and accents to master, as did Chiara Lari as Pontius Pilate, Gloria and Saint Peter – demonstrating the range of the cast who all seek professional acting careers in the future. A note of praise for voice coach Sue Cowen.

Simon the Zealot (Joshua Hurley) seemed to have stepped out of the set of The Godfather as he was questioned by Cunningham over his three years with Jesus in an entertaining exchange – and the Messiah himself was given a quiet dignity by Joe Usher in a telling final scene preceded by an anecdote which placed Iscariot’s guilt or innocent verdict in context by Patrick McAndrew as an average man caught out by one night of drink.

Pontius Pilate in the doc

The star role and one which he excelled at in the play was that of Satan played by Alex Cook. They say the Devil has all the best songs – well in this play he has all the best lines outsmarting and out witting Cunningham and turning the tables on his distractors. Creepy, rude and deliciously evil – no pantomime baddie – but a template for evil itself.

Open minded Christians and anyone studying theology will find the show of interest, but I suspect those of a devout belief may balk as some of the language and portrayal of the characters – but it is a play and not a biblical text.

So much to enjoy – and so long to enjoy it – with a standing ovation at the end from an almost full house. Another triumph for the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School and an advert for The Station as a central Bristol theatre venue.

Harry Mottram

The play runs to Saturday, March 12th, 2022.

Tickets from £10 at https://bristololdvic.org.uk/whats-on/the-last-days-of-judas-iscariot

Note: there is no bar or café at The Station but there are cafes and pubs nearby for the interval if you are quick. No food is allowed in the theatre as one of the cast, has an airborne nut allergy.

More at https://issuu.com/southbristolvoice 

and https://www.facebook.com/southbristolvoice/ 

Harry Mottram is the news editor of South Bristol Voice monthly magazine and a freelance journalist. Visit http://www.harrymottram.co.uk/

https://www.facebook.com/harry.speed.9275/

See https://twitter.com/HarryMottram7

https://mobile.twitter.com/harry_mottram56

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Theatre Review: Decadence. By Joe Williams

A performance of Steven Berkoff’s 1981 play, Decadence, by the “brand new theatre venture”, Misplaced, was warmly received by a good crowd at The Alma Theatre on Wednesday night (2 March).

Misplaced are an interesting prospect, formed by four actors who decided to stick “two fingers up at COVID”, “get themselves back on the stage” and “create theatre with and for those who have been absent for too long” using “misplaced” texts. Certainly their decision to resuscitate Berkoff’s text for those of us emerging from our own seclusions to make friends again with live performance is welcome. The play is extremely intense: the same two actors play two couples in rapid succession, with the adultery and shameless profligacy of the toffs provoking envious and murderous intentions in the proletarian pair. There is little let up: the scenes cut immediately from one couple’s bickering and plotting to the others philandering and gluttony; the actors repeatedly forced to turn on a dime. The posh lovers’ licentiousness and mutual indulgence is outright nauseating; so too is the grubby, guilty, vacant copulations and recriminations of their poor rivals.

The play’s depiction of class dynamics is equally raw, naked and of its time: there is no comeuppance for the cruel, racist, fox hunting chauvinists here; no sense of a moral or emotional victory for the workers, upon which as an audience of a more modern fable would almost certainly insist. If the play sets out to lampoon the affluent and opulent, the rich folks depicted within it are none the wiser, and the commoners themselves declare their losses – financial, sexual and emotional – the result of ingrained, inescapable deference rather than sheer injustice.

Misplaced manage to meet this sense of ferociousness and add a whole heap of their own. The programme for the evening carried a quote from Berkoff: “Like smoking, naturalism can damage your health.” It would perhaps be absurd to take on the play with an aspiration for subtlety or inference given, on top of everything else, it also takes the form of a series of long, rhyming, often soliloquous poems, but both Amy Tanner (as Helen and Sybil) and Ciaran Corsar (as Steve and Les) take every opportunity to dial up the intensity through unrestrained physical intimacy, unbreaking stares and an elaborate and yet thoroughly enjoyable delivery of the character’s crass, class mannerisms. They moan; they grunt; they flash legs or zip up flies to mark the start of a stanza and thrust hips to measure the meter.

Conversely, other dials are set to near zero. Lighting is stark; the stage is near bare; scene transitions are most often breathless. The production keenly accentuates Berkoff’s depiction of the grotesqueness of wealth – and the bleakness of poverty – that is so associated with the politics of the early 1980s. But, through annotations and embellishments of this postcard from early Thatcherite Britain, it also rather neatly asserts its continued relevance by reminding us of the most recent controversies experienced by The Windsors – and the contrasting obsequious and pageantry that we should anticipate in celebration of their matriarch’s big do in June. The experience is without doubt at least partly one of arresting nostalgia of the stereotypes and thinking of that era, but in also finds a way to reassert Berkoff’s revulsion for the indulgencies and injustices of social inequality in a way that a play so firmly of its time may otherwise seem too blunt persuasively to achieve. The ruling classes may have learned to wear their status with greater discretion – and depictions of a suppliant and jaundiced proletariat may now be quite rightly intolerable – but Misplaced remind us that both power and money remain firmly in the decedent hands they always have.

The production continues at The Alma until Saturday (5 March). Tickets are available at https://www.tickettailor.com/events/almatheatrecompany/621361/).  

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SOUTH BRISTOL VOICE REVIEWS: Arh! – the murderous violence of a comedy-horror play – Joe Williams’ take on The White Heart Inn at the Alma Theatre in Bristol

REVIEW. The White Heart Inn, Alma Theatre Bristol. Joe Williams

The comedy-horror of The White Heart Inn – a collaboration between Apricity Theatre, Black Dog Productions and Dumb Blonde Theatre – played to an almost full Alma Tavern Theatre last night (Thursday 24 February).

The production quickly and credibly establishes the drab, stuffy and yet somehow cosy atmosphere of a dilapidated B&B reception, which forms the backdrop for the entire play, with the owners lurking on stage as the audience arrives, fussing over their antiquated computer and doily placements. It is also then very successful at transitioning this ambiance to one of foreboding and claustrophobia as guests arrive seeking shelter from the storm raging outside – and the hostelry’s sinister backstory is gradually revealed through the interplay between the visitors’ cheerfulness and the increasingly disconcerting behaviour of their hosts.

There are touches of the BBC series, Ghosts, Mike Flanagan’s work on The Haunting for Netflix and even Sean of the Dead in the juxtaposition of the progressively minded, young, flippant and, in the eyes of the inn’s owners, debauched guests alongside both the religious zealousness of the hoteliers and the stiff conventions of an old-fashioned scary story. There is a certainly a shared sense of fun at rattling through the usual horror tropes; flickering lights; off-stage banging; failing tech; rattling chains; a group of strangers thrown together and forced to work reluctantly as a team – but who are repeatedly foiled by utterly unfathomable decisions by members to wander off alone on errands despite the threat of terrifying miseries that seem to be closing in upon them. Several good gags succeed in drawing laughter, but there are also moments that are genuinely unsettling, helped with convincingly deployed, sound, lighting and gore.

The characters unmistakably represent established dramatic types: the drunk; the conflicted henchman; the naïve spiritualist; but the actors largely avoid relying merely on stereotype, anchored by a nuanced performance by Saili Katebe as Otis. Matilda Dickinson and Russell Eccelston both also produce some deft moments of ominousness and depth, whilst Stan Elliott adeptly punctuates the gradual descent into hellishness with an dextrous, comedic performance. The intimacy of the Alma as ever leaves its own mark on proceedings, with the cast adapting well to its compact layout and the audience experiencing the murderous violence at very close quarters as it unfolds. The production concludes its South West tour at The Alma on Saturday (26 February). Tickets are available at https://www.tickettailor.com/…/almatheatrecompany/615677/.

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Colin Elmer

SOUTH BRISTOL VOICE REVIEWS: Ooh you are awful! Joe Williams’ take on Cult Figure: Kenneth Williams at the Alma Theatre in Bristol

The Apollo Theatre Company’s Cult Figure: Kenneth Williams is touring England until the end of May, and its performance at the Alma Tavern last night (Wednesday 16 February) was engaging, entertaining and well received by its audience.

Colin Elmer plays the man himself – and has done so for the company for the last seven years in both this production and Apollo’s celebration of Round The Horne. The play asks a great deal of its singular actor, and Elmer delivered a convincing and sympathetic performance throughout.

The play is predominantly a celebration of Williams and his work. Its narrative is biographical, with insight into his early working-class life in London and his escape from a bullying father and the prospect of a humdrum working life through exposure to the delights of performance through the military’s Combined Services Entertainment. Punctuated with highlights from his career – great jokes, funny stories, memorable catchphrases and recreations of his extraordinary characters – the audience also witnesses his ascent to the heights of fame and his years as a leading member of the UK’s Golden Age of Radio. It also covers the nation’s adoption of television and the effect if had on his career and explores Williams’ pride and affection for the team that created the Carry On films that he is, disproportionately, perhaps now most famous for – as well as his sadness, having not found a successful TV ‘vehicle’ in the way other radio stars were able to, over his transition  from working and beloved comedy actor to self-parodying talk and game show personality.

You could expect a biographical examination of Williams to hang from the dichotomy of his great success at making others laugh and the personal sadness of his final years – as well as the ambiguity of the nature of his death. While the production addresses this towards its close, it does not dwell on it long, preferring instead to act predominately as a celebration of Williams as a performer – and provide insight into him as a man. Elmer’s performance is a great success, particularly in his ability to ad lib and interact with the audience in Williams’ mischievous style. His tone becomes quite conversational at times as he sets up the next story, which helps bring a sense of authenticity to his delivery. He fosters an atmosphere of great intimacy with the audience which, at The Alma, seemed delighted to share in memories of Williams’ repertoire – as well as his exceptional wit, timing and cynical but sparkling percipience. But the production is more than just shared nostalgia or mimicry, enjoyable too for those of us with fewer memories of Williams’ peak.

Joe Williams

The play runs again at The Alma tonight (Thursday 17 February): more details here https://www.tickettailor.com/events/almatheatrecompany/614818/. More details of the tour are here: www.apollotheatrecompany.com/cult-figure.html.

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Photos by Craig Fuller

THEATRE REVIEW: a triumph of movement, choreography and voice – Bristol Old Vic Theatre School’s production of Pride and Prejudice includes the one essential element of Jane Austen’s novel: youthful energy

Review: Pride and Prejudice, The Mount Without, Bristol. It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a church converted into an arts centre and in possession of a magnificent interior, must be in want of a play. And so it was that The Bristol Old Vic Theatre School’s production of Pride and Prejudice, adapted for the stage by Simon Reade from Jane Austen’s novel was performed in the chilly confines of The Mount Without.

For those familiar with Bristol, the Mount Without is the former church of St Michael on the Mount Without – badly damaged by fire in 2016 – now transformed into an arts and performance space complete with a spacious bar in the crypt. Located on the impossibly steep St Michael’s Hill, the arts space and its surrounds are one of the city’s hidden secret spaces – with many steps, views and an almost gravity defying building that was once the place of worship for residents who lived up on the hill.

Photos by Craig Fuller

Pride and Prejudice is a novel thick with dialogue, furnished with large houses, expansive English countryside and a bewilderingly large number of characters. It is also one to the best novels ever written with at its heart the witty and impossible not to love Elizabeth Bennet and her opposite number and love interest the proud and aloof Darcy.

To deconstruct the narrative with its complex subplots and English landscapes, villages, parsonages and ball rooms is not a task for the feint hearted but in Simon Reade’s script the novel is boiled down to its basic stock. Coupled with Jenny Stephens’ direction this production takes the core of the story and mixes it with some of the emotion and home truths of Jane Austen’s novel. No marching soldiers, no horses and carriages and no stately homes. Instead, the cast use basic props and furniture and add the one ingredient essential for the story: youthful energy.

Photos by Craig Fuller

Played in the round this is a must for all fans of Jane Austen. True to the spirit of the novel the stories of the relationships of Elizabeth and Darcy, Jane and Bingley, Mr Collins and Charlotte, Mr and Mrs Bennet, and Mr Wickham and Lydia are played out with occasional narratives related by members of the cast to complete the story. Fast, fabulous and full of wit and humour – this is a production that hits all the right notes in their Empire line gowns and riding breaches. Eve Pereira as the main protagonist is everything Elizabeth Bennet should be: articulate, determined, independent and truthful – but also vulnerable and at times at a loss to know how the story will end. Darcy played by good looking Shivam Pallana could have done with a hot water bottle in the arctic performance space to warm him up but by the end his austere persona began to smoulder in the final snog with Elizabeth. But then Darcy is supposed to be a stiff.

An ensemble cast was at its most effective in the enjoyable dance and ball scenes and when the animated Bennet sisters raced around the space, pinching and giggling, flirting and shouting – as all teenage sisters do. Jane Bennet (Rhea Norwood) was suitable vulnerable, attractive and kind, finding the good in everybody’s character. And the other sisters were also a delight: Kitty played by Camilla Aiko was the embodiment of an Empire silhouette and mischievous sibling, Tanvi Virmani as sullen faced Mary maintained the anti-dote to frivolity throughout, and Lydia Bennet – the free spirit of the family – was played with a wonderful naughtiness by Carlie Diamond.

The novel is full of great characters – none more so than Mrs Bennet – the mother obsessed by marrying her daughters to wealthy young men. Rebecca Hyde enjoyed her role as the scatty matriarch delivering some of her one-liners with perfect comic timing. Aided and abetted by a rather young looking Mr Bennet in Bill Caple who at least had the body language of the elderly father of five and dwindling income.

The interior of the Mount Without

Mr Collins played by Josh Penrose gave a stand-out performance as the obsequious and self-important clergyman and champion of his patron Catherine De Bourgh – playing the conceited suitor to the Bennet sisters with a top hat full of pomposity.

And his patron and Darcy’s aunt and owner of Rosings Park was given a mix of Charlie’s Aunt, Lady Bracknell and Alec Guiness’ Lady Agatha D’Ascoyne from Kind Hearts and Coronets. One word: brilliant. Taylor Uttley played the unreconstructed authoritarian aristocrat straight – not for laughs or as a send-up – but as the outrageously entitled widow who famously clashes with Elizabeth Bennet in one of the novel’s and this production’s great scenes.

Anna-Sophia Tutton in her maroon gown as the voice of reason as Mrs Gardner was consummate in her role, as was at the other end of the character spectrum Tom Mordell as the dodgy Mr Wickham – full of deviousness and a cocky self-assurance. Pragmatist Charlotte (Ruby Ward) who marries Mr Collins gave a strong performance as Elizabeth’s friend – we just know she gets the better of the priggish clergyman – and Joe Edgar as the amiable and handsome Mr Bingley cut the right tone as the man the sisters all wanted to dance with.

Photos by Craig Fuller

The Mount Without has a high ceiling which is fine for music, a large performance space ideal for dance – but for theatre the acoustics can be an issue as voices can be lost – but the voice coaches did their job in Pride and Prejudice as the diction and projection allowed for almost every line to be clearly heard.

One of the qualities of this production was the constant movement and choreography. Not just in the dance sequences but in the conversations set in drawing rooms and parlours. In what could be a static drama since so much is dialogue – of probing and questioning – giving momentum to each scene was essential – as was the seamless flowing from one scene to another. The director and her assistants in Aaron Finnegan and Sofia Gallucci and movement director Jonathan Howell added so much to make this production an outstanding success.

Harry Mottram

For fans of England’s finest writer there is a Jane Austen Festival in Bath this September including drama, talks and walking tours.

The play runs to Saturday, 19th February, 2022

Tickets at https://www.oldvic.ac.uk/

South Bristol Voice is free to thousands of homes and is online at https://issuu.com/southbristolvoice 

See https://www.facebook.com/southbristolvoice/ 

Harry Mottram is the news editor of South Bristol Voice monthly magazine and a freelance journalist. Visit http://www.harrymottram.co.uk/

Also at https://www.facebook.com/harry.speed.9275/

and https://mobile.twitter.com/harry_mottram56

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The cast of Robin Hood and the Legend of the Forgotten Forest, at the Bristol Old Vic

South Bristol Voice Reviews: Wardrobe Theatre’s take on Robin Hood sees schoolboy JJ travel to the 12th century to find not so merry men in this devised story

Review: Robin Hood and the Legend of the Forgotten Forest, Bristol Old Vic

Great performances, brilliant set pieces and with a quiver full of comedy, The Wardobe Theatre’s production of their devised Robin Hood and the Legend of the Forgotten Forest at Bristol Old Vic is an enjoyable examination of the story of the outlaw of Sherwood Forest.

 As a mash-up of ideas and a send up of some of Hollywood’s film versions it also lacks some of the charm of the story as it moves away from some of the ingredients of the folk tales. There’s no archery contest and no robbing from the rich to give to the poor – and no traditional portrayal of Robin and Marion, and a distinct lack of merry men.

Apart from the obvious changes with a damaged and grumpy female Robin (Kerry Lovell) and a ferociously aggressive Maid Marion (Katja Quist) the story centres on shy schoolboy JJ (Alex Roberts) who lands in 12th century Nottinghamshire to meet his heroes. With unbounded enthusiasm he rallies the disparate band together to carry out a heist on the Sheriff of Nottingham’s castle.

As a devised play there is something of a committee feeling to the story with numerous creative ideas and in-jokes that appeal to adults of a certain age. Green tights, Kevin Costner, Errol Flynn and Disney are the butt of several send-ups which were lapped up by a disappointingly small audience. There is a pantomime feel to the show with a very pantomime baddy in the Sheriff (James Newton) but no King John or Sir Guy. One for the grown-ups but a production that may disappoint those hoping for the romance of the outlaw of Sherwood Forest.

Harry Mottram

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South Bristol Voice Reviews: Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is given a blend of the contemporary and Renaissance Verona in a lively Bristol Old Vic Theatre School production

Romeo, Taylor Uttley and Juliet, Tanvi Virmani

Review: Romeo and Juliet, Redgrave Theatre, Clifton, Bristol

Two households, both alike in dignity, in fair Clifton, where Bristol Old Vic Theatre School (BOVTS) students laid their scene, of the warring Capulets and Montagues to bury their parents’ strife in Shakespeare’s timeless tragedy of Romeo and Juliet.

The fate of the star-crossed lovers reminds us of how intolerance of our neighbours brings conflict, grief and death – and sadly all too late – eventual reconciliation.

Director Aaron Parsons gave the play a contemporary feel on Aldo Vázquez’s split-level set with a stunning mass dance sequence to illustrate the Capulet’s masked ball through Clare Fox’s brilliant choreography and the superbly staged mass knife fight scene directed by Jonathan Howell that opens the play.

Friar Laurence Patrick McAndrew, and Nurse Anna-Sophia Tutton

The tinder and gun powder was already laid for the explosive story but it is Chiara Lari’s straight talking Mercutio whose taunts spark the blood-letting that follows. Mercutio’s bating of Shivam Pallana’s portrayal of thin-skinned Tybalt ignites the narrative prompting Romeo (Taylor Uttley) to intervene with tragic consequences.

Tanvi Vermani had aged four years as Juliet from the original age of 14 to a more mature 18-year-old, but keeping the teenage angsts and hormones of one half of the titular characters. The sexual chemistry between the lovers seemed to grow as the story unfolded as their relationship built after a slightly cool start – perhaps from first night nerves – and so by the final scenes Vermani and Uttley were the grief-stricken lovers we expected.

Strong performances from Tom Mordell as Abraham and the Apothecary as well as Anna-Sophia Tutton as the nurse suggesting they both have plenty more in their thespian lockers to give. Alex Crook as Capulet, Ajani Cabey as Paris and Shivam Pallana as Tybalt projected their voices well in contrast to some of the cast whose voices at times were too quiet in the Redgrave’s auditorium.

The death of Mercutio. Mercutio Chiara Lari, Benvolio Josh Penrose

Josh Penrose as Benvolio was excellent value throughout as the voice of reason as was Rhea Norwood’s Petra Samson who sang beautifully and had real stage presence. And there was strong support from Patrick McAndrew as the Friar, Rebecca Hyde as Escalus and Victoria Hoyle as Montague.

The company are known for not just actors but designers of sets and their construction, plus lighting and sound – and so much more that goes on behind the scenes which mark out the school’s outstanding production values. In this vein special mention should also go to the costume designs supervised by Ruby Nex and Summer York, and the makers Maisie Higgins, Saskia Bath, Laetitia Gorget, Evie Akerman, Susie Pearce and Angelica Robinson along with assistants and dressers Bethany Boldero, Charly Riddett, Grace Green, Kim White, Arthur Wyatt, Elle Duncan, Jo Kenney, Shanice Dacres and costume design assistant Matthew Cassar. The costumes were exquisitely designed featuring a mix of the modern high street and symbolic Renaissance.

 A spirited production, perfect for students of the play and fans of Shakespeare in general and a reminder that the two hours’ traffic of BOVTS’s stage is much to do with hate, but more with love. 

Harry Mottram

The play runs to Friday 10th December 2021.

Tickets at https://www.oldvic.ac.uk/events-shows/romeo-and-juliet/

For more about the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School visit https://www.oldvic.ac.uk/

More at https://issuu.com/southbristolvoice 

and https://www.facebook.com/southbristolvoice/ 

and https://www.southbristolvoice.co.uk/…

Harry Mottram is the news editor of South Bristol Voice monthly magazine and a freelance journalist. Visit http://www.harrymottram.co.uk/

If you can’t make it there is another production by the Bristol Old Vic Young Company and Young SixSix of Romeo and Juliet, directed by Julia Head in January at the Bristol Old Vic in January. See https://bristololdvic.org.uk/whats-on/romeo-and-juliet

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South Bristol Voice Theatre Review: From Ealing to Severn Beach we all want to stay on Mr and Mrs Brimble’s farm in The Ministry of Entertainment’s story of wartime evacuees

Last night I thought I heard a nightingale singing in Berkeley Square. In reality I heard Kate McNab singing Manning Sherwin and Eric Maschwitz’s A Nightingale Sang In Berkely Square in Doodlebugs and Bogeymen in Bristol’s Alma Tavern and Theatre.

Much has been written of Kate McNab’s voice since she appeared in the jazz group Sweet Harmony back in the day, but the power and versatility of her golden vocals remain undiminished. Whether as sweet-heart Vera Lynn or as a sparkling Carman Miranda Kate’s performance in the five-star show is worth it just for the songs under the direction of Kit Morgan.

Wearing several pairs of underpants and smelling of pilchards Brian Milton arrives at Brimble’s farm at Severn Beach with his sister Jean in 1939 as wartime evacuees from London. Sorry – Ealing.

Approaching 20 years since it was first performed the late Joe Hobbs’ story of the brother and sister’s experiences during the war is full of period detail, wartime jokes and observations and is filled with a ration book of warmth and good humour.

Ross Harvey’s and Kate’s portrayals of young Jean and Brian are so well-tuned, with each tick, each fidget, each expression pure comedy gold, as the duo commit to each of the various personalities they encounter. Ross Harvey as eleven-year-old Brian in his short trousers and school cap doubles up as grumpy but essentially warm-hearted Farmer Brimble as well as the vicar and the comedy turn at the village hall. Kate as Mrs Brimble, the schoolteacher and billeting officer complements the stories based on anecdotal accounts of the real lives of evacuees in Bristol collected by Joe Hobbs which give an authenticity to each of the scenes. There’s a touch of the music hall about some of the sketches with the first half following the children’s journey and the second half more reflective of their experiences.

The Bristol based Ministry of Entertainment show is a mend and make do production with just a few personal props, a chair, a bench and a black box as a space and would no doubt benefit from a larger budget for sets, wartime posters and a supporting cast, but that’s not the point. The waste not want not, dig for victory production fits the wartime frugality of the times and works perfectly in the confines of the Alma’s auditorium.

For younger generations Doodlebugs and Bogeymen is an insight into Britain during the dark and dangerous 1939-45 conflict as seen through a child’s eye. For those who can recall those years or whose parents and grandparents related stories of ration books and shrapnel collections this is a delight.

Harry Mottram

The show runs to Saturday 27 November 2021, at the Alma Tavern and Theatre in Clifton, Bristol.

Tickets: https://www.tickettailor.com/events/almatheatrecompany/572795/

See http://www.ministryofentertainment.co.uk/index.html

More at https://issuu.com/southbristolvoice 

and https://www.facebook.com/southbristolvoice/ 

and https://www.southbristolvoice.co.uk/…

Harry Mottram is the news editor of South Bristol Voice monthly magazine and a freelance journalist. Visit http://www.harrymottram.co.uk/

https://www.facebook.com/harry.speed.9275/

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Blood will have blood in Bristol Old Vic Theatre School’s fast paced and superbly produced five star Macbeth

Review: Macbeth, Bristol Old Vic Weston Studio

Blood will have blood and the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School certainly took the Scottish warlord’s dagger and thrust it into the heart of the play. For Ng Choon Ping’s Macbeth is a rip-roaring fast paced production of Shakespeare’s bloody tragedy directed at pace and with huge energy.

For students of the bard this is a must-see production. Excellent diction, lines delivered with feeling and clarity, superb choreography and some gripping battle scenes. Set on a thrust stage with a central circular focal point for the action the story of Macbeth’s rise and fall from power is fittingly dressed in the late 16th century costumes of Caledonia. Apart from an Elizabethan-esque Queen Duncan (Ruby Ward) rather than King Duncan Ng Choon Ping kept the drama pretty much to the original script. All the famous lines and scenes were in there.

Joe Usher as the protagonist was suitably desperate as the drama unfolded and he enjoyed sexual chemistry with Camilla Aiko as Lady Macbeth who was more smart dinner party rather than grim gothic accessory to murder. Aiko’s style was a wife who saw Macbeth’s career prospects enhanced if only he could murder his boss rather than the evil plotting spouse pushing him towards regicide.

Banquo (an outstanding Bill Caple) had all the military techniques to defeat several Norwegian armies as did another physically strong performance from Joshua Hurley as Mabeth’s nemesis Macduff. Max Guest as Malcolm was palpably in shock on the news of his mother’s death and Alexander Uzoka as Rosse was also excellent support in the court of Macbeth with fine performances from Eve Pereira as Lennox, Phoebe Cook as Siward and Tom Atkinson as Donalbain.

Joe Edgar enjoyed himself as the porter come phallic wielding jester providing the laughs for the groundlings as he fell onto the stage in a bundle of bells and harlequin colours. And there was more humour with Carlie Diamond as Macduff’s ill fated son and Phoebe Cook as Lady Macduff as they engaged in enjoyable banter before their sudden and shocking assassinations.

And tribute too – to the sound, thumping drum and pipe music, evocative lighting (Mary Bennett), costume team, milliners and stage constructors for helping to make this a particularly memorable production designed by Choy-Ping Clark Ng.

There were some stand out and highly creative sequences such as the opening scene with the three witches: Evie Hargreaves, Josephine-Fransilja Brookman and Carlie Diamond – all quite manic and delightfully dishevelled in their cloaks, gowns and a puff of dry ice as they disappeared into thin air with magical smoke and mirrors stage craft from the large production team. The use of of the circular central focal point transformed into a pool of blood and the traditional use of trapdoors to allow for sudden appearances and disappearances all added to the drama. There was a beautifully stylised sword dance to symbolise the power structure of Duncan’s court, the hauntingly stunning and unexpected appearance of Banquo’s ghost during the feast and the realistically violent sword fights and murders with litres of blood.

Yes, blood will have blood, and in this five star production, you get the full Scottish Macbeth unseamed from the nave to the chops.

Harry Mottram

The play runs to November 20, 2021.

Tickets at https://bristololdvic.org.uk/whats-on/macbeth

For more about the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School visit https://www.oldvic.ac.uk/

More at https://issuu.com/southbristolvoice 

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Harry Mottram is the news editor of South Bristol Voice monthly magazine and a freelance journalist. Visit http://www.harrymottram.co.uk/

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