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South Bristol Reviews

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 

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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