***** (5 Stars)
Theatre Royal, York - Tuesday 29 October, 2013
Peter Shaffer’s comedy double bill from 1962 still has class and charm, holding the audience’s attention every second of the way. The two stories are compelling and lovely to watch; both quite different but with the common theme of love.
The Private Ear is set in a musky London bedsit where reclusive Bob, normally used to giving his full attention to his record collection calls in a favour from a savvy friend to help him treat his date, the beautiful but shy Doreen, to a slap up meal.
The Public Eye takes place in a swanky London accountancy office where uptight Charles is confronted by Julian, an eccentric private detective hired to investigate his young wife’s infidelity. Bob expects help. Charles expects proof. But in this darkly comic double bill, nothing is as it seems.
The whole cast are incredible and characters are played to their full potential. Steven Blakeley particularly deserves a mention. In both acts it is easy to feel connected with his character: the first was Bob, who you couldn’t help but feel sorry for, and the second Julien who was an absolutely hilarious character with a realistic personality and sense of humour.
As well as the acting the set is pretty impressive, especially when changing into the next play at the start of the second act (you really saw the magic of theatre at that point!). The costumes are stunning and very fitting for the period of the play and the feel-good music really compliments the piece. From Ted dancing around to the radio to Bob conducting his record player!
I absolutely loved these two pieces and would have happily paid to see them again and again!
You can follow The Private Ear The Public Eye on Twitter: @PearPeyetour
Actress and YMT alumna Charlotte Ritchie chats to us about her experience with YMT as well as what it's like working in television.
Charlotte appeared in YMT's production of Red Hunter back in 2005 and can now be seen on Channel 4's comedy series Fresh Meat where she plays Oregon. Since leaving us, she has gone on to receive a degree in English and Drama at Bristol University as well as being part of the pop-opera group All Angels (who have sold over a million records).
Tell us about your experience of YMT
I distinctly remember the auditions being terrifying and fun at the same time. At the time I found it quite scary, the idea of meeting and working with people I’d never met before, but you really get into it if you throw yourself in, and end up having such a good time.
Did YMT help you at all, and if so in what ways?
Yes, it did. I just finished doing my first professional play and I only realised when I started the dress rehearsal how useful all the preparation before - in organisations like YMT - had been. I didn’t go to drama school, so YMT was my preparation and I have learned a lot about stage craft from the creative teams there.
Do you still keep in contact with any YMTers?
I do! Every now and again we meet up, and I often bump into ex-YMT members on new jobs.
What have you done since YMT?
I went to Bristol to study Englsh and Drama. I fell into music after YMT, singing in a group called All Angels for 6 years, during my A-Levels and Uni. I got properly back into acting professionally a couple of years ago, just as I graduated and started Fresh Meat.
Could you tell us about how you got your role in Fresh Meat?
I auditioned for the programme about 3 weeks before they started filming – I was really lucky to get in at the last minute. The audition came from my agent at CAM. I got my agent after being seen in a short film I acted in when I was 15.
What’s it like working in television?
It’s very, very different from stage, both in the way you act and in the way it's made. I love doing both, I think! TV is great especially because of the speed you work, and the extra production values that you come into contact with like cameras and crews. And the free Lunch is a real bonus...
Who would you love to work with?
I’d love to work with…. Lots of people! But possibly one of the pythons from Monty Python? Or someone like Julie Walters. You’d learn so much just from being in the room with them.
What is your dream role?
My dream role would be to go back in time, change sex and re-shoot Back to the Future where I could play Marty McFly!
What advice would you give to our young people interested in a career in television, film, or theatre?
I would just say get as much experience as possible. The more you act, and sing and train - even in a non-professional environment, or with a brilliant organisation like YMT - the better you’ll be when you get a role you audition for. In addition, put on your own work if you can, at fringe venues, with your friends, and invite people along to see you. The main thing is just doing as much of it as you can.
We wish Charlotte the best of luck with the new series of Fresh Meat, which is on Channel 4 on Mondays at 10pm!
** (2 Stars)
Salisbury Playhouse - 2 November, 2013
The Recruiting Officer is a Restoration Comedy written by George Farquhar and was first performed in 1706. It is a bawdy comedy of bed-hopping and meddling servants, set in the military town of Shrewsbury at the beginning of the 18th century.
The production captures the style of Restoration Theatre, incorporating period instruments to entertain the audience during the scene changes. Similarly the costumes mirror the era: the men in extravagant wigs and the ladies all bust and bustle. The production uses a multi-functional set with revolving sections that could be adapted for each scene. However, the simplicity of the set did not enhance my understanding of the plot line and although the costumes mirrored the era, the actors did not embody them to full effect.
This style of theatre and period of writing is challenging to a young audience and it is sometimes difficult to follow all the twists and turns in the plot. However, the audience clearly understood the raucous jokes. Confusion was exacerbated by the fact Plume dropped the end of several lines, thus leaving me further mystified to the plot’s progression. The production lacks pace and energy and unfortunately the night we attended Kite had to be played by one of the creative team who stepped up to the task at very short notice and I feel this must have affected the overall pace of the performance that evening.
Nevertheless, the actors worked well off the audience, Emma Williams in particular capturing the excitement of Melinda's character, without falling into the trap of exaggerating or becoming too flamboyant – a common issue with this style of theatre. The cast did capture the eccentric nature of Restoration Theatre, yet a more exciting set and diverse direction was needed to maximise the comic potential of the script.
The Recruiting Officer is at the Salisbury Playhouse until Saturday 23 November, 2013 - tickets can be purchased via the website: http://www.salisburyplayhouse.com/page/the-recruiting-officer
Photo: Keith Pattison
**** (4 Stars)
The Lowry, Manchester - 31 October, 2013
Casual Violence present the completely original comedy, The House Of Nostril.
The engaging animated beginning, thanks to The Whole Buffalo, introduces the audience to laughter within the first few minutes.
There, lives the Nostril family of Papa Nostril, Charlie Nostril, bizarre uncle Gideon, a group of cockney chimney sweeps and a stream of other memorable characters who assure a tale of voodoo dolls, goblins and other silly sketches.
Charlie (Alex Whyman) is the absolute highlight of this production with an uncanny comedy factor comparable to that of Jack Whitehall. His performance is closely matched by Luke Booys, who also plays multiple roles, but most notably cockney sweep Frank Turncoat.
At times, the actors are over dramatic but it is soon forgotten by horrifically hilarious moments which are plentiful. Not a minute passes without a hint of the witty dry humour that is seen throughout. Their style is very comparable to a David Mitchell and Michael McIntyre type comedy. Even the backdrop acquires laughs by the end of the hour.
With obvious downfalls that have ruined many productions, Casual Violence take these missteps, and produces them into comedy gold.
With a larger production team, The House Of Nostril has the potential to be a huge success.
**** (4.5 Stars)
Regent Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent - 28 October, 2013
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical Cats is based on T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats and tells the story of the Jellicle Cats who reunite with their leader, Old Deuteronomy, once a year to celebrate their lives both as a tribe and as individuals.
This award-winning show, first staged in the West End in 1981, still remains a hit right up until this day. After watching the superb opening night, it is safe to say that this musical will definitely not be using all of its nine lives any time soon.
As the show is sung-through (no spoken dialogue) the story relies on the expressive cat-like movement and acting of the performers. Director Trevor Nunn alongside choreographer Gillian Lynne set the movement superbly, ranging from moments of captivating simplicity to mind-blowing gymnastic and ballet tricks. The cast did not fail to deliver with confidence or energy as they prowl and pounce across the stage as well as out into the audience.
The cast’s articulation whilst singing is phenomenal, especially from the duo Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer who manage to effortlessly three successive slick somersaults. However, it must be mentioned that at times, words are not executed precisely and notes are not always acute during company numbers ¬– but then again that could be excused as it is technically a cat’s chorus!
Webber certainly challenges both cast and orchestra in tackling the complex irregular metre of many numbers. Sophie Ragavelas undoubtedly steals the show as Grizabella in her dazzling and tear-jerking performance of “Memories”. Her pristine voice and acting talent shine as she sings in the spotlight of longing to go back to a past that held hope and happiness.
Visually, the show is extremely impressive even though the scenery remains the same from beginning to end and with floor is decorated in a collage of newspapers and advertising leaflets.
The lighting is extremely colourful and exciting and uses hanging light bulbs, which extended out into the auditorium. It is a nice touch that the colour of the lights change depending on the mood and pace of each scene.
For those that enjoy much dance and singing combined with magic and high-energetic storytelling then this show is definitely not to be missed. As the cast sing the final spine-tingling harmonies and the orchestra play their last chord, it is fair to say that the goose bumps spoke for themselves.