*** (3 Stars)
Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York - Friday 15 November, 2013
Performed by York Music Theatre Company
Alan Ayckbourn's play revolves around an amateur dramatics company producing A Beggars Opera. Within the cast is Guy Jones, a middle-aged man whose wife has just died. As the rehearsals progress, Guy develops a “very friendly” relationship with the Director’s wife and another cast member. The play follows his shenanigans as he works his way up the cast list.
The acting quality is varied. Ben Caswell as Guy and Richard Bainbridge as Dafydd (the Director) present their characters with ease and comedic flare. Ben’s portrayal of Guy as innocent and somewhat naive individual challenges the audience expectations of him as a philandering womanizer. Emma Dickinson and Mark Hall work well as the Hubbards. However some acting from the supporting cast is less credible and lacks real depth.
The set is kept simple with chairs and other basic furniture, which is taken on and off as required. This works well as it does not take the attention away form the acting. Similarly, the lighting and special effects are also kept to a minimum, neither distracting nor adding to the production. Hair, make-up and costume are used well to enhance the personalities of the characters.
Director Paul Laidlaw’s comedy was met with approval by the majority of the audience, who were largely of a mature age. Younger members of the audience did not appear to respond with such enthusiasm. Although the director may have intended for the play to be seen by an older generation, it would have been appreciated if it had a wider target audience.
Overall, the play is well produced and professionally performed. However, the jokes and overall length are unlikely to appeal to a younger audience.
Artwork: Mike Bryson
**** (4.5 Stars)
Minerva Theatre, Chichester - Friday 8 November, 2013
Much like the eponymous protagonist’s daughter, Cordelia, my love for King Lear cannot be expressed in words.
Frank Langella’s performance at the Minerva Theatre in Chichester as King Lear is riveting. His performance complements the intensity and minimalism that director, Angus Jackson, uses to portray this tale of deception, power and tragedy. Lear, the aging king of Britain, decides to divide his kingdom evenly between his three daughters to allow him to step down. As intentions are soon shared we discover that Lear’s daughters look to betray each other, and undermine their father’s authority, sending him into madness.
Frank Langella’s previous productions rewarded him with Tony Awards, Drama Desk awards, Golden Globe, BAFTA and Oscar nominations. After this performance it is not difficult to believe why Langella has such a collection of commendations. The entire cast breathe new life into the play to make the story seem classical yet so original in its fluidity of characters. Max Bennett, especially, gives new wind to the Son of Gloucester, Edmund, making his treachery and betrayal strangely loveable.
The crafting of the blinding of Gloucester at the end of the first act made everyone veto the tomato juice available at the bar, truly terrifying! The set design is minimal, yet very effective. The use of earthy wooden beams, unforgiving rain and hostile fires create an element of danger on stage. As too is the clever use of colours in costume design to complement the performances. Although, I would have wished Isabella Laughland to have shown more of Cordelia’s innocence in her performance, otherwise very moving.
This triumph of a performance holds much promise to be the best display of acting talent I have seen in one evening. I recommend anyone to go see this as it left me with such joy to see a play that had such passion and talent available to support it.
King Lear is on at the Minerva Theatre, Chichester until 30 November. For more information check out the website: http://www.cft.org.uk/4801/King-Lear/550
Photo: Johan Persson
** (2.5 Stars)
The Mayflower, Southampton - Tuesday 12 November, 2013
This classic retelling of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol follows the past, present and future Christmases of Ebenezer Scrooge (Tommy Steele): a miserable, selfish, loather of Christmas who transforms into an unrecognisably festive man by the end of the show.
The script is complimented by a lively score, composed by Leslie Bricusse, however the audience is not left with many memorable numbers. Scrooge has a simple, yet effectve, set involving mainly trucks and flies, which allows for the ghost characters to enter and exit in a magical way leaving the audience baffled and amazed. The transitions between scenes are slick giving the show a fast and energetic pace.
This is Steele’s eighth time playing the title role and he is very well accustomed to it. He perfectly embodies the part, presenting himself in a ‘Fagin-esque’ way and playing up to the panto-like comedy very well. However, as unfortunate as it is to say, it is clear to see that this great legend has reached the end of his prime. As the show went on, Steele frequently oscillates between a cockney and well spoken accent which at first seems to be intentional, but isn’t clear as the show progresses. Further, he very much struggles at the top of his range and therefore is unable to project the high notes above the orchestra. This being said, Steele is by no means less loved by the audience.
Vocally the ensemble is very strong with notable performances coming from Elana Martin who plays Helen/Isabel and Trevor Jary who takes on the role of Tom Jenkins. Steve Hansell who performs the role of Bob Cratchit also gives a sterling performance.
Overall, the show is a good night out and will get the children into a festive mood, but with shows such as Wicked coming down the Mayflower I wouldn’t necessarily rank it very highly.
Speaking to us all the way from Los Angeles, actress extraordinaire and former YMTer Lucy Griffiths tells us her YMT experience as well as what it was like working in the US of A!
Lucy starred in YMT’s 2004 production of Amy’s Wedding and has since gone on to appear in countless programmes! Not only was she Maid Marian in BBC’s Robin Hood and Nora in HBO’s True Blood, Lucy has also had roles in Sugar Rush, Collision, and Lewis. In 2009 Lucy made her West End debut in Tom Stoppard’s masterpiece Arcadia at the Duke of York’s and she can also be seen in upcoming film Last Summer – directed by Leonardo Guerra Seràgnoli.
What do you remember about your experience at YMT?
It was one of the best two weeks of my life. That particular audition was really enjoyable too. I went up with my friends and we just had fun! It was the first year of YMT so it felt really personal.
Do you think YMT helped you at all?
Yeah! At that time I knew I wanted to do acting as a job, but, because I didn’t go to drama school I think having an experience of performing that isn’t with a local community company but that’s also not an intense three-year drama school training is a nice segue.
Do you stay in contact with YMTers?
Definitely. I hung around with four or five people who I still see. My friend Sarah Harlington (née Hagan) studied musical theatre at ArtsEd. There’s also Ambra Caserotti who went to Mountview, Lorna Harris who went to Royal Welsh as well as Eleanor Wyld and Tom Partridge. All the people I know from Amy’s Wedding are working!
As well as stage and film you’ve done loads of TV work, how did you get into working on TV?
Well, I was being sent a mix of theatre, film and TV by my agent and I spent a lot of time auditioning. I wasn’t always successful but I kept at it and then Robin Hood came up. The audition process was quite tough emotionally because I had to wait a long time to hear. I was only 19, so it was all very new. I used to imagine what it would be like if I got it and I would tell myself, ‘don’t imagine it’! The actual meetings themselves were really enjoyable and Dominic Minghella, who wrote and produced Robin Hood, was really relaxed. It was a great experience and I really enjoyed playing the part.
How was your experience working on True Blood?
I was really struck by how friendly and excited everyone was when meeting me. I’d never really experience that before. The producers were just awesome, Brian Buckner, who has taken over running the show, really made me feel welcome.
Is there a difference between working in the UK and the US?
There’s one big difference that I notice. In the UK you get picked up and taken to the job, whereas in the US you can drive yourself! It felt a lot more normal and was actually a nice bit of freedom. Also, there is more of a dialogue between writers and actors in the US. For me, it seemed more ordinary in the US, maybe that’s because LA is an industry town. I really enjoyed that feeling.
How do you find learning your lines?
It all depends on how you work. On True Blood we were given the script on average a day or a week before shooting. We’d have a read-through as a cast, which was quite unusual as I’ve only ever experienced a read-through once at the beginning of a series. I think they shoot something like 5 minutes worth of footage a day. It’s a long process and an hour episode takes around two weeks. There’s a lot of waiting around, but so long as you don’t get bored, you’re fine. You find things for yourself to do.
Who would you love to work with and is there an ideal role you’d love to play?
I’d love to work with Guillaume Canet. He’s a French actor who was in The Beach with Leonardo DiCaprio. He’s also a director and I really enjoy everything he does. I’d love to work with him. I’d also love to work with Emma Thompson.
There are a load of films that I wish would be remade. I’ve heard that Martin Scorsese loves The Red Shoes, and so do I, so I’d love him to remake that! I think he’d do a great job. The original is great and I want more people to see it!
What advice would you give to YMTers interested in a career in film, TV, or theatre?
When it comes to auditioning, knowing the material really well is key. YMT is good way to get some training behind you if you don’t want to go to drama school or you don’t have a connection in the industry. I’d suggest trying to get an agent. In general, keeping physically fit can really help! Your body is your instrument, so you should try and take care of yourself. It’s quite a complicated business to get into, but I’m hoping this will change in the future; it should be easier for people to get into.
We wish Lucy the best of luck in her future projects and we’re so glad she was able to talk to us!
“Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.” - Plato
Got an audition coming up? Not sure what to listen to on the way to that all-important interview? Heather Welsh researches the tracks that will put you in the right frame of mind. Believe in yourself and take advice from some of the lyrics too!
Here they are in no particular order… (click on the song title to listen.)
1. “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” – Daft Punk
“Work it harder, make it better, do it faster, makes us stronger;” – do what Daft Punk tells you and you’re sure to succeed!
2. “You Get What You Give” – New Radicals
This catchy track reminds us – you get out what you put in, so give it your all.
3. “Here Comes the Sun” – The Beatles
Sunshine and positive thinking is bound to get you pretty far in life; “Little darling, I feel that ice is slowly melting”.
4. “The Middle” – Jimmy Eat World
This song is a lovely message from the US band to anyone who needs a boost. In fact, the whole song is dedicated to it; “Hey, don’t write yourself off yet. It’s only in your head you feel left out or looked down on. Just try your best, try everything you can. And don’t you worry what they tell themselves when you’re away. Live right now. Yeah, just be yourself. It doesn’t matter if it’s good enough for someone else”.
5. “Beautiful Day” – U2
“It’s a beautiful day. Don’t let it get away”. – You can’t help but smile when you hear this belter…
6. “Home” – Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros
Such an uplifting ditty, and with the cuteness to match any love song, you’ll be in just the right place for whatever your day throws at you. “Laugh until we think we’ll die, barefoot on a summer night, never could be sweeter than with you”.
7. “What a Wonderful World” – Louis Armstrong
“I see trees of green, red roses too; I see ‘em bloom, for me and for you. And I think to myself, what a wonderful world” Listening to this, it’s easy to believe the world isn’t such a bad place really!
8. “The Show Must Go On” – Queen
With a title especially relevant to you actors, singers and musicians out there, this song reminds – you’ve got to keep going, be brave!
9. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” – Nirvana
Prep for that petrifying audition? Rock out like you mean business!
10. “It’s My Life” – Bon Jovi
It’s YOUR life; grab your chances with both hands!
11. “Lose Yourself” – Eminem
Because sometimes losing yourself means finding yourself again.
12. “Beautiful” – Christina Aguilera
The ultimate song for picking yourself up after a fall – “words can’t bring you down….oh no; you are beautiful in every single way”.
13. “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” – Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell
A song about going to any lengths for someone you love, and who doesn’t feel more upbeat thinking about what people do in the name of love!? “Ain't no mountain high enough, ain't no valley low enough, ain't no river wide enough, to keep me from getting to you”.
14. “Get up, Stand up” – Bob Marley
“Get up, stand up: don’t give up the fight!”. That’s right, battle for what you want!
15. “Walking on Sunshine” – Katrina and the Waves
And finally, an optimistic song featuring the ultimate metaphor to shout out loud; “I'm walking on sunshine, and it's starting to feel good, hey all right now”.
Let us know what your favourite feel-good songs are in the comments section below!