***** (5 Stars)
Grand Opera House, York - Thursday 13 February, 2014
After a sell-out tour in 2012, British comedy singing trio Fascinating Aida, have returned for another UK tour. Charm Offensive is a satirical cabaret piece created and performed by the company that was founded by member 'Dillie Keane' in 1983.
The set consists of a black grand piano centre stage and numerous types of lamps neatly positioned around the performance space. However, do not be fooled by the elegance of these visuals, the show in fact involves what can only be described as a group of wild, raunchy females singing about their opinions of life as a middle age woman in 2014.
Dillie Keane, Adele Anderson and Liza Pulman have worked together and created a performance that includes cleverly written songs about a wide range of current issues in the world such as flooding, immigration, Miley Cyrus, and Facebook, as well as some more personal songs. If you are a long term fan of the group don't be put off by the word ‘personal‘, each song still delivers the wit and naughtiness they have been creating for the past 3 generations.
Each member of “Fascinating Aida” has absolutely outstanding vocal abilities, and as a team their harmonies throughout the show are absolutely perfect, particularly within the “Bulgarian Song Cycle” a collection of hilarious haiku’s sung acapella in an authentic yet very over the top style. To think that the women themselves created each note and lyric is out of this world.
The audience members of the York Grand Opera House were in hysterical laughter throughout the whole evening, the lyrics within the show are harsh and rude but at the same time very relatable to the opinions of the audience member. If describing the show to someone briefly the best way to do it would be to say that it is like watching a sung through version of the news, but told from the perspective of members of the British public.
The show is recommended for adults and pensioners and is definitely not suitable for anyone under the age of 16 due to the language within the show. The performance promises laughter from start to finish and is faultless, it deserves a definite five stars out of five.
*** (3 Stars)
Unicorn Theatre, London - Wednesday 12 February, 2014
Chris Thorpe’s Hannah takes on quite a challenge in adapting Christopher Marlowe’s Dr Faustus for a young, modern day audience; especially when you add in the complication of it being written in traditional verse form.
In just 75 minutes, the audience watches 11-year-old Hannah’s seemingly ordinary day take a dark turn, when, feeling abandoned as her mother leaves for work, she cries in exasperation that she would give anything to be the centre of the world. Unfortunately for her, this wish is granted by her pet lizard turned devil, Dave, for the “small price” of her soul, and she is plunged into an unfamiliar world of difficult choices, power and responsibility, in which she, and the young audience, must question herself and everything she knows to be true.
This journey of self-realisation all takes place in our protagonist’s bedroom, a fantastically realistic set adorned with boy band posters that must surely resonate with the young girls in the audience, and lead them to imagine themselves in Hannah’s place. The quality of the physical set is only surpassed by the incredible and innovative lighting and projection work from David W Kidd and Andrzej Goulding respectively, visually adding a little, yet crucial, leavening to an aurally dense production.
The performances from the four-man cast are reasonable. Although the handling of verse is sometimes shaky from certain members, Ian Keir Attard gives an assured and versatile performance as Dave, whilst Rhys Rusbatch in the Chorus role overcomes the potential difficulties of delivering verse form sublimely, and both are comically sound. Kae Alexander in the title role does have the liveliness of a child, but her execution is inevitably hampered simply by being an adult. It is a shame that the weakest aspect of the performance is undoubtedly the lacking relationship between mother and daughter, with Irma Inniss’ characterisation feeling somewhat forced at times, as it detracts from a potentially poignant ending.
The show is advertised as 11+, which seems reasonably apt, although both the subject matter and dialogue are undeniably heavy, and may be too difficult for younger audience members. Nevertheless, for others this production is stimulating, and certainly has some important messages to take away.
For the most part, however, Hannah does indeed succeed in rising to its own challenge, and most definitely leaves its audience feeling just as challenged.
Hannah is playing at the Unicorn Theatre until Sunday 9 March: tickets can be purchased here: https://www.unicorntheatre.com/whatson/8/more-dates
*** (3 Stars)
Richmond Theatre, London - Monday 10 February, 2014
First produced in1930, Black Coffee is Agatha Christie's first piece written for the stage - a quintessential English country estate is thrown into chaos following the murder of eccentric inventor Sir Claud Amory, and the theft of his new earth-shattering formula.
Joe Harmston's production strikes a fine balance of being both thought provoking yet light hearted; it doesn't take itself too seriously, making it very easy and enjoyable to watch. We're introduced to the characters pretty quickly, which is great as the fast pace keeps your attention. There's also plenty of jokes that keep the audience entertained throughout.
The cast works well together, particularly Robert Powell as the indefatigable Hercule Poirot and Olivia Mace as Lucia Amory - the accents, however, often need some work.
Simon Scullion's design is simple but effective; it doesn't need to be overcomplicated so it frames the action really well and Douglas Kuhrt's lighting compliments the entire production.
Black Coffee is an entertaining piece by the Agatha Christie Theatre Company that doesn't take itself too seriously - all in all a great night at the theatre.
Black Coffee is touring the UK - for the full list of dates head to: http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/agatha-christies-black-coffee/
**** (4.5 Stars)
Salisbury Playhouse - Friday 7 February, 2014
Written in 1938 by Patrick Hamilton, Gaslight is a psychological thriller that will keep you gripped until the very end. With its roots in Victorian melodrama the play explores the darker side of human nature in the domestic environment; ‘where innocence is menaced by evil'.
It is also a fascinating reflection of the claustrophobic life many Victorian women lived, imprisoned in the house by their husbands, where the intimate details of their marriages were observed and analysed by domestic staff.
Laura Pyper reveals these constraints and the mental suffering of Bella Manningham by developing a clipped accent and nervous mannerisms, at times resembling the manner of a child seeking approval, rather than a wife in charge of a household. Daniel Pirrie, as the husband, captures the menace and brutality of Mr Manningham. The patronising tone he adopts when speaking to his wife reflects the dominance of the male in the nineteenth century. However, in this curious domestic world it is impossible to know who is telling the truth – husband or wife – and the subservient comments of the staff add further mystery and suspense to the performance.
An enclosed environment is created with the use of an industrial lowered ceiling that hangs ominously over the room. Occasionally footsteps can be heard from above which enhance the suffocating and mysterious atmosphere. The lighting effectively casts eerie shadows about the auditorium and green lights are also used to add to the haunting effect. Gaslights are a focal feature of the set and throw very little light onto the stage, mirroring the audience’s hazey understanding of the facts. My colleague even thought there was a temperature drop and chill in the air at one point…
Gaslight is a chilling production and Mrs Manningham’s plight remains in our thoughts long after the curtain falls.
Gaslight is running at the Salisbury Playhouse until Saturday 1 March 2014 - you can book tickets here: http://salisburyplayhouse.com/page/gaslight
WE ARE 10!
As YMT turns 10 years old, here are some lovely tweets we received. Thank you so much to everyone for all your support over the last decade - long may it continue.