Tag Archives: theatre review

RAPSCALLION MAGAZINE Theatre Review: The Odyssey gets the Living Spit treatment – and this time it’s Odysseus’ wife Penelope who takes centre stage in a brilliant musical comic re-imagining of the Ancient Greek saga

Living Spit’s promotional image for The Odyssey

Review: The Odyssey. Salisbury Arts Centre

Knob jokes,  comedy props and sensational singing make Living Spit’s version of Odysseus’ chronically badly navigated return from Troy a joy to experience.

Homer’s Odyssey composed some 3,000 years ago of more than 12,000 lines of poetry is enjoyably reduced down to earthy Anglo Saxon phrases in this send up of the Ancient Greek saga.

The reimagining of the ten year voyage of Odysseus (played by Howard Coggins) returning  from the Trojan War to Ithaca and his wife Penelope (an on form Kate Dimbleby) is turned on its head by the director Craig Edwards who with a deft touch begins the story sort of at the end with Odysseus’ unimpressed wife Penelope.

She dismisses the blokey bragging of her husband making it a battle of the sexes as she score points off Odysseus by ridiculing his excuses for being late home. While the drama comes from Odysseus recounting his unlikely adventures with slapstick, song and comedy props.

A still from the promotional video of Kate

Kate Dimbleby is fabulous as she first demolishes the preposterous tales but then joins in them bringing the female characters to life and rebalancing The Odyssey for the 21st century. Howard Coggins does don a recognizable Grecian costume complete with leather breast plate and skirt while Sam Mills and Stu McLoughlin use items from a fancy dress shop to suggest their various characters. We get the Cyclops in the cave, the sirens and the evil Circe who turns men into pigs but there’s no archery contest on Odysseus’ return but rather some haunting and poignant singing. There’s much humour in the meeting with his retainer Eumaeus back in Ithaca and set pieces such as the bag of the four winds given to Odysseus by Aeolus involve the audience.

Living Spit in rehearsals for the show

The double act of Coggins and McLoughlin that worked so well in their original two hander in The Six Wives of Henry VIII fuels the play’s comic chemistry while the added ingredient of contrastingly beautiful music only adds to the drama. All four sing so well with Sam Mills on keyboards and various instruments adding depth to what could be a slightly thin piece of theatre if it wasn’t for the musical content. Certainly Kate Dimbleby’s soulful voice gives class and emotion in this highly entertaining production as does the use of mics for sound effects and the voices of the Gods.

Lighting by Sarah Bath crucially punctuates the drama and Katie Sykes’ circular set is not only practical but suggests the cyclical nature of Odysseus’ voyage home in which he appears to have gone round in circles. As Penelope says on his return: “You’ll have to do better than that.” And with her help, he does.

Harry Mottram

Reviewed on October 25th, 2019.

The show is on tour:

SALISBURY ARTS CENTRE Fri 25 & Sat 26 October/ 7.30PM www.wiltshirecreative.co.uk  01722 320 333

EXETER NORTHCOTT THEATRE Mon 4 & Tues 5 November / 7.30pm www.exeternorthcott.co.uk  01392 726 363

THE EXCHANGE, STURMINSTER NEWTON 9 November / 7.30pm www.stur-exchange.co.uk  01258 475137

TOBACCO FACTORY THEATRES, BRISTOL Mon 11 – Sat 16 November / 7.30PM Sat 16 November / 2.30PM www.tobaccofactorytheatres.com 0117 902 0344

SWINDON ARTS CENTRE Mon 18 & Tues 19 November / 7.30PM www.swindontheatres.co.uk 01793 524 481

BLAKEHAY THEATRE, WESTON-SUPER-MARE Wed 20 – Sat 23 November / 7.30PM www.blakehaytheatre.co.uk 01934 645 493

For details of Living Spit visit https://www.livingspit.co.uk/

For more reviews, news and views on theatre and much else visit www.harrymottram.co.uk

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Children’s Theatre Review: More 21st century girl power than 1950s jolly hockey sticks in Emma Rice’s version of Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers in this highly enjoyable family show

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The show is a Wise Children and York Theatre Royal co-production in association with Bristol Old Vic and Bristol City Council. Pictures by Steve Tanner

Malory Towers, Bristol. Review.

Pack your suitcase, grab your hockey stick and take the train from the Passenger Shed at Bristol’s Temple Mead railway station for Malory Towers this summer writes Harry Mottram.

The cavernous building is the venue for a production of the boarding school adventures inspired and abridged from Enid Blyton’s novels. Bursting with teenage hormonally powered enthusiasm, Emma Rice’s breathless script and Alistair David’s superb choreography it is a hugely enjoyable family show. And a production that brings all aspects of theatre together to create a show that is seamless, slick and creatively contemporary. There’s no whiff of the stuffy class based society of the era it was originally set in.

Singer Stephanie Hockley on piano was given support by Vinnie Heaven on drums and Mirabelle Gremaud on harp to accompany the songs performed throughout including the Malory Towers Hymn: “A place to live and prosper, a community and a family where we build our precious futures.”

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Vinnie Heaven plays Bill in the show – seen here entertaining the girls. Pictures by Steve Tanner

Rebecca Collingwood in particular as angry bad girl Gwendoline excelled with her solos including Daddy’s Little Girl, while the cast as a whole filled the pop-up theatre with strong voices without the use of mics. Pat Ballard’s Mr Sandman was one of a number of songs arranged by Nigel Lilley that enchanted an audience that applauded each song and gave the show a standing ovation at the end. Edith Piaf’s Mon Manege A Moi arranged by Ian Ross was another set piece that blended wit, harmony and choreography with the students converting the classroom into a French bistro. A scene that also showcased Lez Brotherston’s set and costumes and Alistair David’s choreography and Ian Ross’s musical direction.

Perfect comedy timing came from Francesca Mills as sensible Sally Hope and Rebecca Collingwood’s teen rage and bullying vindictiveness as Gwendoline was so committed that when she told the audience at the interval to return to their seats they did so immediately. Versatile Vinnie Heaven doubled up as Bill and as a modern school girl in the opening scene that acted as a framing device for the drama.

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Rebecca Collingwood gives a committed performance as bad girl Gwendoline. Pic: Steve Tanner

Izuka Hoyle as the novel’s original hero Darrell Rivers gave a more realistic contemporary tone to her character given her flashes of temper and attempts to reveal the wickedness of Gwendoline. Poor Mary Lou played by Rose Shalloo had the task of being beaten, bullied and browbeaten by Gwendoline, a role she performed with a combination of comic self-deprecation and playing the victim to perfection.

Mirabelle Gremaud’s  musical and acrobatic attributes added greatly to the production as Irene Dupont and Renée Lamb as the joker Alicia added a warmth which softened some of the darker themes.

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Best friends: from left, Sally Hope (Francesca Mills) and Darrell Rivers (Izuka Hoyle). Pic Steve Tanner

The double level stage had a blank backdrop screen shaped as the school’s exterior that allowed for projections depicting anything from the railway journey to the seaside as the scenes demanded. The design blended the work of Malcolm Rippeth (lighting) Lez Brotherston (set), Simon Baker (sound and video) and Beth Carter and Stuart Mitchell’s animations.

In her director’s notes Emma Rice pays tribute to her mother’s generation of female school students who following the 1944 Education Act were given free secondary education. It allowed them to have careers and a freedom to excel in their chosen paths in life. Except of course Malory Towers is anything but a state school, but more an escapist fantasy for young readers who can immerse themselves in a parent free world. A private school for 1950s’ rich kids, a world away from the humdrum world of the average state school, most children attended. The privilege of those attending Malory Towers is skated over by Emma Rice but in fairness she does her best to give Blyton’s story  a 21st century girl power theme accentuating the culture of hope and tolerance promoted at the cliff top Cornish academy.

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The dancing and choreography by Alistair David was excellent in Malory Towers. Pic Steve Tanner

It is a drama that revels in the conflicting relationships of the girls as they each resolved their personal crisis with the help of friends and hopefully become women “that the world can lean on.”

Harry Mottram

Reviewed on Thursday, July 25, 2019.

Reviewed by Harry Mottram for Children’s Theatre Reviews childrenstheatrereviews.com

A  Wise Children and York Theatre Royal co-production in association with Bristol Old Vic and Bristol City Council.

Playing at The Passenger Shed, Station Approach, Bristol BS1 6QH.
Details at: bristololdvic.org.uk
Runs: July 19, to August 18, 2019

Age: 8+

Notes: tickets from £21 (Adults) / £14 (Children) / £75 (Family – 2 Adults, 2 Kids); 90 minutes plus interval. @Wise_Children; WiseChildrenCompany; wise_children #MaloryTowers

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Images by Steve Tanner

The show goes on tour: Cambridge Arts Theatre – 05 September 2019 – 07 September 2019; York Theatre Royal – 10 September 2019 – 14 September 2019; Exeter Northcott Theatre – 17 September 2019 – 21 September 2019; HOME 2 Tony Wilson Place, Manchester – 24 September 2019 – 28 September 2019; Oxford Playhouse – 01 October 2019 – 05 October 2019.

Children’s Theatre Reviews exists to help plug the gap in criticism and writing about theatre for young audiences. It is run entirely voluntarily, and needs support to continue covering and supporting the sector. For more details visitchildrenstheatrereviews.com

For more reviews, news and views on theatre and much else visit www.harrymottram.co.uk

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Rapscallion Magazine, Theatre Review: Crimes on the Nile – hyper fast who-dunnit spoof that is almost too fast at times

The highly enjoyable comedy who-dunnit spoof takes us to Egypt and murder on a boat

Crimes on the Nile. Tacchi Morris, Taunton

New Old Friends have created a new comedy genre of a hyper fast moving send up of the period whodunit with their improvised style and joke laced script.

The movement and choreography by Gary Sefton is excellent and the quartet of actors’ performances are brilliant in the way they slip seamlessly between a Nile tourist boat full of Agatha Christi type characters. In this spoof we head to Egypt where the detective Artemis Arinae (Kirsty Cox) has a murder to solve on a river boat full of suspects.

To follow the plot of Crimes on the Nile can be all but impossible such is the speed of the narrative but also the amount of explanations given by the protagonist Artemis. Too many words in an accent that’s difficult to catch at times means the main enjoyment of the show is the enjoyable comic acting of Heather Westwell, Feargus Woods Dunlop and Fergus Leathem along with energetic set scenes of choreographed chaos.

Some of the best parts of the drama directed by James Farrell are the set pieces such as Westwell’s three door female shouting match sequence, Woods Dunlop’s song and the opening ‘there’s been a murder’ in the dark scene. If some of Artemis’ explanations and thought processes could be slowed to very fast instead of extremely fast along with the denouement, then the story could be conveyed with more clarity.

Witty, creative and with endless comic props and in-jokes the play fits well with the series of five comedies the theatre company has so far produced. With a small cast and lots of fine details in the props, characterisations and swift changes of direction the style works better in more confined and intimate spaces. On the larger stage of the Tacchi Morris part of the attraction of the drama – its very frenetic and creative nature – is diluted.

Harry Mottram

Crimes on the Nile is on tour to May 20, 2019. Dates: http://www.newoldfriends.co.uk/crimes-on-the-nile/

Follow Harry Mottram on twitter as @harrythespiv also on FaceBook, LinkedIn, YouTube and on Instagram and www.harrymottram.co.uk

RAPSCALLION MAGAZINE – THEATRE REVIEW: vomit, violence and how to bring up your children in a lively production of Yasmina Reza’s black comedy God of Carnage at the Theatre Royal Bath

Clash of the mums: Elizabeth McGovern as Veronica and Amanda Abbington as Annette in God of Carnage

God of Carnage, Theatre Royal Bath

The knives (or rather the sharpened spears) are out in Yasmina Reza’s savage black comedy which sets two sets of parents at each other’s throats. An assembly of spears hangs above the stylish round lounge designed by Peter McKintosh in Lindsay Posner’s production of Reza’s God of Carnage. The four characters continue to plunge their savage verbal spears into each other over their petty disputes which widen into politics and beyond as the insults fly. Husband against husband, wife against wife, couple against couple.

The 80 minute clash begins when Alan (Ralph Little) and Annette (Amanda Abbington) visit the home of Veronica (Elizabeth McGovern) and Michael (Nigel Lindsay) to discuss how to deal with a violent dispute between their respective 11-year-old sons. And the fall-out never really ends although Reza moves it to the point of concluding at times only for an ill chosen parting shot to restart the arguments.

The Theatre Royal Bath production of God Of Carnage by Yasmina Reza

Reza constructs the play so that each of the four parents becomes the protagonist as they round on one or all of the others taking it in turns to trigger another round of arguments, accusations and tirades. Vomit, violence and too much rum follows as a range of issues spill out from the adults as they resort to childlike insults and clichés. From racism to homophobia and from misogyny to feminism and from moral choices over dodgy medicine to how to bring up your children Reza slips in big topics to reveal the flimsiness of society’s superficial views.

Getty nasty: Nigel Lindsay as Michael and Elizabeth McGovern as Veronica. Elizabeth is Cora Crawley in Downton Abbey

The cast convinced from the opening moment with the cracks begin to show between businessman Michael and his left leaning wife Veronica while Annette was clearly irritated by Alan’s addiction to his mobile phone. First class performances in a play that uses the awkward silences as well physical clashes and those throw away lines that have devastating consequences. It’s at times excruciating, shocking and surprising with so much fun derived from our recognition of the naked truth of how we all behave.

God Of Carnage:  Pics by Nobby Clark

So much is packed into the tightly constructed living room bust up with shocking incidents and many a home truth that the 80 minutes races through to perhaps an inconclusive finale leaving the questions raised unanswered. Unless, you agree with Alan’s analysis of life and his belief in, the God of Carnage.

Harry Mottram

Reviewed at the Saturday matinee, September 15th, 2018.

Originally written in French and set in Paris by Reza the play at Bath was translated by Chrisopher Hampton. The 2006 drama has previously won the Olivier Award for Best New Comedy and the Tony Award for Best New Play with different casts. This 10th anniversary production was part of Theatre Royal Bath’s summer season which concluded on September 15th.

A film version in 2011 was well received by critics with the title of Carnage and featured Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, Christopher Waltz and John C Reilly with a screenplay by Roman Polanski who also directed the movie which was moved to an American setting.

For more details visit www.theatreroyal.org.uk

For more reviews from Harry visit http://www.harrymottram.co.uk/?page_id=91

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