***** (5 Stars)
Theatre Royal, York - Tuesday 18 February, 2014
Based on the screenplay by Mark Herman, Brassed Off is the story of a tight-knit mining community. It follows the uncertain future of the town mine, and the future of the employees, exploring their lives before and after the closure of the mine whilst focusing on the importance of their brass band.
As expected John McArdle gives an incredible performance, especially in the final scene (not giving too much away). Andrew Roberts-Palmer, Kraig Thornber, Gilly Tompkins and Helen Kay work so well together that energy just radiates off the stage, substantially starting the second half where both couples are drunk and end up swapping partners, which just becomes hysterical without a dry eye in the house.
There is also an incredible connection on stage between Clara Darcy and James Robinson, which makes their love story somewhat believable even if slightly exaggerated at times.
The presence of the York Brass Band is simply mind-blowing! The sound hits the audience directly and is a hell of a lot better than any recorded music they play in-between the scenes. In a way, the band completely up-stage the actual acting itself, but a lot of credit goes to the actors.
The set design is simple and hardly changes throughout, with the mine always in view. It is impressive how so many different environments are shown without having to use any elaborate sets or having to conduct huge set changes.
Brassed Off is a brilliant production perfect for York, with Yorkshire vs Lancashire jokes and sly digs at the late Margaret Thatcher. And although considerably younger than the majority of the audience, I enjoyed it just as much as the little elderly lady sat next to me who at the end of the night turned to me and exclaimed, “Well that was cracking!”
Brassed Off is playing at the Theatre Royal, York until Saturday 1 March and will embark on a tour. Full details here: http://theatrecloud.com/brassed-off/tour-info
January and February saw YMT's largest-ever national auditions tour where we auditioned over 1,300 incredibly talented young people!
After 27 audition days in 24 cities all across the UK, now begins the monumental task of deciding who will be placed on one of our exciting summer productions.
We would like to thank everyone involved in putting together our auditions tour: young people, parents, practitioners, office staff, theatre staff and everyone else! Thank you!
Here are some tweets and photos of the journey:
**** (4 Stars)
Grand Opera House, York - Tuesday 18 February, 2014
You can never be too far away from a great rock 'n' roll musical when The Buddy Holly Story is in town!
The musical, now in its 25th year, is based around the life of the young singer Buddy Holly, showing his successes and downfalls as he climbs the ladder of fame.
The curtain opens to reveal a simple yet effective stage layout that is used to its full potential. Swift fluid changes in scenery, enhanced by the addition of musical instruments and radio stations playing 1950s music, making transitions almost unnoticeable. With names of Radio stations such as KDAV appearing as if by magic, Matt Salisbury the director of has really developed the life of the rock 'n' roll legend into an outstanding piece of musical theatre. This will undoubtedly keep the legacy of Buddy Holly alive, bringing laughter and joy to all those who come to watch.
Roger Rowley playing Buddy brings to life the great vocals of the singer and believability in his performance. The whole cast’s American accents are strong and remain this way throughout. Impressive lighting transforms the Opera House into a realistic 1950s rock 'n' roll concert and for a few well-known songs such as "Peggy Sue" and "Every Day" the audience did not hesitate to join in.
Overall The Buddy Holly Story is an enjoyable production to watch and take part in, I would greatly recommend it to people of all ages. Buddy Holly will remain in our hearts for making rock 'n' roll music what it is today.
Buddy is currently on tour. For more information and to book tickets: http://www.buddythemusical.com/
***** (5 Stars)
The Lowry, Manchester - Monday 17 February, 2014
Claudia Hampson, our protagonist, is a popular historian played by Jane Asher. Now in her seventies, Hampson is terminally ill and planning her best work - a history of the world. A strong, independent and beautiful woman, she looks back throughout her life, before, during and after WW2 and we discover the many characters and significant events that have brought her to this point today. There's Gordon, her adored brother; Jasper, a charming untrustworthy lover who is the father to her daughter, Lisa. Then finally we meet Tom, a passionate man who is Claudia’s true love. They met and lost each other during the El Alamein campaign when she worked as a war correspondent.
The set is a hospital bedroom with five plain wooden chairs and eight digital panels, which provide smooth transitions and keep the piece on track. It provides us with dates and images of location to help Jane Asher with her narrating of her events. The lighting is similar throughout and only small changes are made to show different locations and moods.
Moon Tiger is just outstanding and director Stephen Unwin puts in an incredible amount of effort to make this piece interesting and lively. There are so many fascinating and complex characters to explore and discover. Jane Asher gives the audience total commitment to the character and a the performance you can’t forget.
The first act starts brilliantly but because it is so heavily spoken by Jane’s character Claudia, it starts to fall flat and on one level lacks excitement. However, it picks up at the end of the first half when we are introduced to Tom and their passionate romance. The second act is packed full of heartfelt emotions and brilliant climaxes. The explosion is the biggest shock near to the end of the piece and makes the whole audience jump: a complete shock.
I highly recommend this piece to anyone who gets a chance to see it. Jane Asher gives a brilliant performance with her five co-actors, and the production is in one word, outstanding.
Moon Tiger is running at The Lowry until Saturday 22 February before embarking on a Tour: http://www.thelowry.com/event/moon-tiger
Photo: Simon Annand
*** (3 Stars)
Regent Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent - Monday 17 February, 2014
Despite being one of Agatha Christie’s lesser known works, Black Coffee is a whodunit murder mystery that keeps the audience guessing. Written and set in 1929, the play takes place in the library of the affluent Amory family’s country home where head of the household, inventor Sir Claude Amory, hires the Belgian detective Hercule Poirot to discover which of his guests has stolen his precious secret formula worth a sizeable fortune.
With themes of lies, secrecy, thievery and murder, the audience is gripped from the start and welcome the comic relief delivered in the form of witty one-liners, which are not as evident in Christie’s more famous stories. Liza Goddard in particular stands out as Sir Claude’s aged sister, Miss Caroline, a lovable lady who finds comfort amongst the drama in her knitting.
The cast of thirteen, led by Holby City star Robert Powell as Poirot, has a good dynamic, complementing each other well. Occasionally, however, accents slip and diction becomes lazy, ultimately making it difficult to decipher some of the dialogue.
The set is simple yet beautifully designed with art deco features, which were very popular during the 1920s. Again, the period costume design fits well while also reflecting the personalities of the characters.
With two 10 minute intervals breaking up the three acts, the audience has time to discuss and make predictions of their own as to who committed the crimes and for what reasons.
There is no doubting Black Coffee is an enjoyable classic that is suitable for all, however, younger audiences may find it a little outdated as the humour especially is not as relevant today as it was when it was originally performed.
Black Coffee is currently on a national tour. Tickets can be purchased here: http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/agatha-christies-black-coffee/