**** (4 Stars)
Birmingham Rep, 26 January 2016
In an interesting and original depiction of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Lucy Guerin and Carrie Cracknell combine both text and movement to create and dark and unnerving atmosphere.
This is further achieved by a simple yet effective set design showing severe perspective and creating the sense of claustrophobia and confinement amongst the audience. The lighting adds to this intensity often using blackouts to spark the audience’s imagination during scenes of action and violence and using bright lights in order to create a supernatural atmosphere during sequences using the witches. Creepy and unnatural movements were often used in scenes of confusion or in order to represent the presence of the witches though the dancing was sometimes a little excessive and sometimes made the play feel static.
John Heffernan made for a very believable Macbeth with clear intent to all his words. I also enjoyed how he took the role in a new and creative direction showing a balance between justice and evil in Macbeth’s actions. Lady Macbeth was played by Anna Maxwell Martin who I felt work well alongside John Heffernan in order to portray an loving yet twisted relationship between the two characters. Nicholas Burns showed an interesting portrayal of a harsh Duncan with no morals or redeeming features, however as Macduff, though the majority of the part was played and delivered well, his reaction to the death of his children and wife lacked emotion. This was made up for by the role of Lady Macduff played by Cassie Layton making the scene of her death tragic and moving for the audience.
The play was of a high quality, keeping the audience’s attention throughout and adding many twists to the well-known tale. I enjoyed it as I found it entertaining and thought provoking and would recommend it to anyone who may want to watch it!
Macbeth is a Young Vic Production, touring to Birmingham Rep and HOME Manchester. Photo: Tristram Kenton
Also marking the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death at The REP is King Lear (19 to 28 May) staring acclaimed stage and screen actor Don Warrington in a co-production with Talawa Theatre and the Royal Exchange Manchester, plus experimental theatre company, Filter, who bring their radically-cut, fast-paced version of Shakespeare’s much-loved comedy Twelfth Night (12 to 16 April).
***** (5 stars)
Shaftesbury Theatre, London - Thursday 23 October, 2014
Memphis is the story of the birth of rock 'n' roll, and a tale of two people trying to achieve their dreams set against the backdrop of 50s America and the brutal segregation of that time.
The show opens with a high-octane rip-roaring song and dance number that sets the tone for the entire piece abd this high energy remains throughout, only subverted during the more sombre, delicate moments, which are handled expertly by the performers. The show also uses some clever devices most notably a sliding skateboard to remove singers when the radio dial is changed during the department store scene.
Beverley Knight is incredible as Felicia; her vocal range and ability are as good, if not better as anyone I've seen in the West Eend... Yes, she is a recording artist but she is also without question a true leading lady. Killian Donnelly is also exquisite as the rebellious tour de force that is Huey Calhoun. Playing the role with all the charisma and punch that it so desperately requires.
The choreography is strong, the dancing breathtaking and the band is incredible. Other standout performers are Jason Pennycooke (Bobby) and Tyrone Huntley (Gator) who offer truly flawless performances that made me both laugh and cry.
The piece gives a candid representation of the division and hardship that was evident during that period in history and the writing, direction and delivery handle and serve it impeccably.
Whether you love the blues or not (and who doesn't?) all in all this is a show I would implore you to see. It received a rapturous standing ovation and never has it been so richly deserved.
Memphis is currently playing at the Shaftesbury Theatre, London. Book now: http://www.memphisthemusical.com/
**** (4 Stars)
Shaftesbury Theatre, London - Thursday 23 October, 2014
There was an air of excitement and expectation at the opening night of Memphis at the Shaftesbury Theatre and the London Premier did not disappoint.
Set in 1950s southern America in an era of racial hatred, segregation and violence, Memphis follows the story of a small-time DJ, Huey Calhoun, and his dream to share black music with his radio listeners. “White people won’t listen to black music” was the protestation from radio station owner, Mr Simmons. But of course, station ratings go through the roof as the catchy rock and roll music transcends racial divides.
Stunning harmonies, infectious rhythms and fantastic choreography are executed with skill and style. The eagerly-anticipated performance from Beverly Knight does not disappoint. Knight’s heartfelt portrayal of the conflicted star-singer Felicia Farrell is notable, fortifying and enriching with her breath-taking vocals. Killian Donnelly also gives a standout performance as the loveable rogue with charming quirkiness and offbeat comedy.
Not only a quality piece of West End entertainment, Memphis is rich with socio-political history and does not shy away from the horrific acts and injustices of the time. At times, the message of racial harmony is preaching to a converted cosmopolitan London audience, nevertheless, the song "Say A Prayer", which brought a close to Act One certainly made me sit up and listen. Huey and Felicia have been attacked by white mob for their interracial relationship, and in the chaotic aftermath, Gator (Tyrone Huntley) - a young man, mute since his father was lynched - breaks his silence with a beautiful message. "Say a prayer that change will come" resonated with the ongoing racial, religious and sexual discrimination that still troubles human-kind in modern times.
Far from the many juke-box musicals that crowd out the West End, Memphis is full of original hits, vibrant choreography and a story that will hook you from start to finish.
Memphis is currently showing at the Shaftesbury Theatre, London - tickets can be booked here: http://www.memphisthemusical.com/
*** (3 Stars)
Southwark Playhouse, London - September, 2014
Set in the vibrant city of San Francisco in the rock ‘n’ roll year of 1963, this remarkable show follows the complicated relationship of the eager young Marine, Eddie Birdlace, with the gentle, charming waitress, Rose. Along with his fellow Marine chums, ‘The Bees’, Birdlace embarks on his final night out, before leaving for Vietnam the following morning. Their journey takes them on a whirlwind ride, they’ll never forget.
The story is told effortlessly by the talented cast and flows smoothly through Benj Pasek and Justin Paul’s beautiful music and lyrics along with, YMT's Catfish! The Musical’s own, Lucie Pankhurst’s, quirky and bright choreography. Although the show as a whole takes time to gather momentum, once it does you won’t want it to ever end! Each performer is as dynamic as the next and the chemistry between the entire cast was a joy to watch, both on and off stage. Combining a great balance of emotional solos along with high-energy group numbers, the show offers a splendid variety for the audience.
The wonderfully witty book, by Peter Duchan, questions the need for war, highlights the strain it causes on relationships and humans’ natural instincts; yet has the ability to make the audience both laugh and cry uncontrollably. I feel the show really captured the essence of the camaraderie war brought upon young men, against the realistic fear it held in the hearts of young women. Although it’s set in San Francisco, 1963, I feel the messages portrayed are universally relatable and current.
Located in the intimate Southwalk Playhouse Theatre this show is only available until Saturday 13 of September. Therefore if you’re in need of a stimulating, moving, fresh and captivating evening, book your tickets now!
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