Miss Julie: **** (4 Stars)
Black Comedy: ***** (5 Stars)
Minerva, Chichester Festival Theatre - 15 July, 2014
Rebecca Lenkiewicz's adaptation of Miss Julie (originally written by August Strindberg) proves to be intense, intriguing and volatile. Rosalie Craig brilliantly portrays the eccentric, temperamental and demanding Miss Julie, daughter of the Count of the Manor house, (previously played by Maggie Smith at the Chichester Festival Theatre). Between her terrible tantrums, Craig shows the dangerous uncertainty of her own self worth. This comes to light as Jean (Sean Evans), a valet, takes full advantage as their forbidden love affair leads to the couple unable to continue living in the Count's manor house. Their plan to move to Northern Italy to run a hotel seems their only way of escape. Meanwhile, Kristen (Emma Handy), the cook, observes the madness of the situation, being the voice of reason and aptly shows the struggle the lower class.
Director, Jamie Glover, previously credited as an actor at CFT proves to know exactly how to please the audience as the Farm Workers' drunken dance was equally bawdy as it was a refreshing relief from the complications between Miss Julie and Jean's conflicting intentions.
The entire cast performed wonderfully and as the relationship between Miss Julie and Jean is at the core of the performance, both Craig and Evans should be credited for such a strong performance. Between Miss Julie's tantrums she shows how insecure and unsure she is of her own self worth as her submissive attitude toward Jean allows him to take full advantage of her. The chemistry between the actors was fascinating. A very strong performance by both the cast and creative team.
Following Peter Shaffer's prior success of Black Comedy at Chichester Festival Theatre, Director Jamie Glover, provides a fantastic evening where I left totally exhausted after laughing so hard for the entire performance. Glover's Black Comedy is the best comedy I have seen as I was continually laughing like a hyena throughout and close to tears on many occasions.
The stage is set in Brindsley Miller's (Paul Ready) apartment in mid 1960s South Kensington. When suddenly an electrical fuse blows and the characters are set in complete darkness. Glover had obviously spent a vast amount of time making sure the cast were realistically lost in the dark which each cast member did tremendously.
Ready's performance as Brindsley was fantastically hectic and a flawlessly terrible host at his cocktail party. As Brindsley awaits a millionaire, George Bamberger (Samuel Dutton) to arrive to purchase one of Brindsley's sculptures. Brindsley also has to conceal antique furniture from which he stole from his neighbour; Harold Gorringe (Shaun Evans) who was brilliantly snooty. Brindsley's girlfriend Carol Melkett (Robyn Addison) had an impressive squeaky voice, which added one more element to her fabulous character. Brindsley's elderly neighbour, Miss Furnival (Marcia Warren), stood out with her brilliant random drunken rant which had me rolling in my seat.
I wish I could say each character stood out without rewriting another cliché but truthfully they all did, each cast member had such a strong comedic presence; all I can suggest is that it is a must-see!
Miss Julie / Black Comedy are running at the Chichester Festival Theatre until 9 August - book here: http://www.cft.org.uk/5014/MISS-JULIE-BLACK-COMEDY/623
*** (3.5 Stars)
Salisbury Playhouse - Friday 28 March, 2014
The Worst Wedding Ever has the audience in fits from the start. Before even entering the auditorium a live band in the foyer creates a light-humoured atmosphere setting the scene for the evening. It then transpires that the band would be masking the scene changes throughout the performance and the songs cleverly entwined with the plot and on each appearance they would emerge from another area of the stage; even bursting out of the garden shed at one point! They enable the upbeat atmosphere to be maintained throughout the production and meant the audience were constantly entertained.
Chris Chibnall is the highly accredited writer of this production, having also written ITV's hit drama Broadchurch. It is the exquisite script that enables you to feel relaxed and at ease, with no forced jokes having you squirming in your seat.
Chibnall plays on stereotypical family traits, which cause the audience to erupt with laughter because the family often found themselves in dilemmas all-too familiar! Nevertheless, towards the end of the play a more sincere tone is adopted and very current issues began to appear, such as gay marriage and the ever rising costs of marriage. The script has you laughing because of its witty content, yet simultaneously feeling the characters’ pain.
The beautiful naturalistic set is a treat for the eyes and built on the naturalistic family environment the script played on, again successful as it drew the humour closer to our familiar.
It goes without saying that it's the skill in the actor’s delivery of these humorous lines that had you laughing in your seat. Carolyn Pickles who plays Liz, the mother, captures the fussy, interfering nature of her character, whilst Rebecca Oldfield, who plays Alison, has the audience in stitches after her incident in the porterloo! However, some accents are not sustained it is easy to fall into the trap of over-exaggerating your character with comedy and occasionally this is the case, meaning the naturalism is lost, which actually was where the true comedy lay.
Nevertheless, The Worst Wedding Ever is a superb production, with a brilliant cast and beautifully sculpted script.
The Worst Wedding Ever is playing at the Salisbury Playhouse until 19 April 2014. All the info is here: http://salisburyplayhouse.com/page/worst-wedding-ever
**** (4 Stars)
Richmond Theatre - Monday 24 March, 2014
First premiered in 1945, British classic post-war play See How They Run returns to theatre almost 70 years later produced by the newly-formed Reduced Heights Theatre Company, run by television and film actor, Warwick Davis.
The play still remains very farcical with a lightning quick pace from start to finish, filled with slap-stick elements that are perfectively timed, coupled with an array of dead-pan punchlines, which keeps the laughter soaring throughout. The cast may all be of reduced height but their energy levels and their ability to deliver fast and snappy gags was of a high standard.
Davis plays the unfortunate Reverend Lionel Toop who is challenged by characters Lance-Corporal Clive Winton played by Phil Holden, Reverend Arthur Humphrey played by Jamie John and the intruder played by Raymond Griffiths, which all played a big part in the chaotic elements of the play. Other characters include Lionel’s wife, Penelope, played by Rachel Denning and The Bishop of Lax played by Jon Key who were the less farcical and more serious characters of play that frequently delivered impeccably timed, dry-humoured punchlines keeping the show more grounded. Penelope goes up against a loud and energetic maid called Ida and a posh, elegant Miss Skillon who were all integrated into the silliness of the story successfully with their own comical mishaps.
See How They Run is currently on tour around the UK. Details here: https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/see-how-they-run/richmond-theatre/
*** (3 Stars)
Richmond Theatre, London - Monday 3 March, 2014
Audiences coming to watch Nikolai Foster’s interpretation of Morris Panych’s The Dishwashers have no doubt been drawn to see David Essex take to the stage once more, this time in the rather unglamorous role of a tough but weathered dishwasher contemplating life and all it has to offer.
He is joined by Rik Makarem as Emmett the vexed but enthusiastic “new boy”, a once high-flying banker who has fallen from grace, and Andrew Jarvis as Moss, a terminally ill old man desperately trying to cling on to his job and the only thing he holds dear.
As the curtain rises on Matthew Wright’s impressively detailed and true to life set, the audience are under no illusion as to where they are to be spending the next two hours – the downstairs of a fancy restaurant home to those hard-working but often forgotten titular characters so integral to a restaurant’s success.
However, it is a shame that, at times, this brilliantly-crafted set is the most attention-grabbing feature of the performance, as the pace occasionally slows to one too akin to a real dishwashing environment and is only exacerbated by a lack of both character and plot developments.
Nevertheless, there are some strong performances; David Essex mostly accomplishes the balance between humour and poignancy, and his convincing stage presence is easily matched by the comically sound Andrew Jarvis, whose characterisation is nothing short of superb.
However, be it his performance or his character’s writing, there is something not quite right about Rik Makarem’s Emmett, whose potential comic moments seem mostly to fall flat and who comes across as a little irritating – but then perhaps that is the intention.
Therein lies the real problem with the play; for all its funny and challenging moments, it is hard to get a solid grip on just what Panych is trying to say.
There are most definitely comments on social class and the human condition, but unless one is really attuned to them, these slightly unclear messages may well be swallowed by the slow pace and absence of plot developments.
For those who can keep with it, The Dishwashers has some interesting insights to offer and some thought-provoking moments to think on, but unfortunately, for others hoping for more of a journey, it may well be as dull as dishwater.
The Dishwashers is currently on a UK Tour. Check out the details here: http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/the-dishwashers/
***** (5 Stars)
Regent Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent - Monday 3 March, 2014
This upbeat, energetic and thoroughly entertaining Jukebox Musical tells the story of the legendary Rock ‘n’ Roll star Buddy Holly’s rapid rise to fame in the 1950s, following his journey to make the music he wanted, his way.
The cast of exceedingly talented actor/musicians, fronted by Roger Rowley as an exceedingly convincing young Buddy, effortlessly pulls off slick changes of scenes and characters, working well together to create a piece that is both very funny and heartfelt. The show confronts issues such as racism in America during this time and what it was like for Buddy Holly, a geeky-looking white man, to be so successful writing and recording ‘black’ music. The live music generates the rich, authentic sound of the recording studio sessions and the live shows Buddy Holly and The Crickets played to great effect.
Buddy features classic songs such as “That’ll Be The Day”, “Peggy Sue” and “Johnny B Goode” as well as “Shout”, “Chantilly Lace” and “La Bamba”. If the audience were not tapping their toes throughout, they were certainly out of their seats and dancing by the finale as the second act is almost entirely performed as a concert in which the audience are encouraged to sing and dance along. The lighting design by Darren Coopland is especially impressive in this section as the vivid and vibrant display really creates the atmosphere of a 1950s touring Rock ‘n’ Roll show.
Although the Buddy Holly musical back catalogue may have evaded the ears of younger generations, it nevertheless does not diminish just how entertaining and catchy his hits were. Buddy is 2 hours 25 minutes of feel-good energy and excitement that is infectious, no matter what your age or experience of Rock 'n' Roll music. A must see!
Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story will be showing at the Regent Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent until Saturday 8 March. Buy your tickets here: http://www.atgtickets.com/venues/regent-theatre/