All Star Stand Up Tour 2017 Derby Theatre

 

****

all star

 

The All-Star Stand-Up Tour returned  after a memorable 2016 show with a fresh bill apart from Kiwi  Javed Christmas, who was  moving from doing  a headline slot last year  to the more flexible  role of presenter and in between slot raconteur. Jim Tavare had been due to play the tour, but sadly he was involved in in a near fatal car crash in his home city of Los Angeles on March 6th, from which he is fortunately recovering.

Christmas was far more at home as presenter than he had been last year with just his own spot. Teasing the audience, instant comedy, sharp retorts, and one liners are clearly his forte and he was the star of the show.

First up was, fresh from Phoenix Nights and 8 Out Of 10 Cats, Justin Moorhouse. Rotund in frame, and easy going in nature, he was the perfect opener, pushing the smutometer along a few notches and easing the audience into the evenings comedy. Mike Gunn wound up  the first half and for me was the star of the show. Lanky, laconic and very funny, he was confident at ease, trotting out a familiar, but no less amusing, final gag about wedding dresses. An absolute comic delight.

After the break came  Canadian one-liner king and star of Mock The Week and Live At The Apollo Stewart Francis who unsurprisingly excelled in one liners, reducing the appreciative audience to fits of helpless laughter, with Christmas appearing again in able support.

The attraction of  show like this is that inevitably some acts will appeal more than others, but with a variety bill, there is bound to be something for everyone.

It was pleasing to see Derby Theatre almost full  for this two  and a quarter hour show with an audience which was quite different from the regular theatre going crowd, reinforcing the venue as a comedy destination for the country’s top comic talent. This thirty date roadshow continues on tour nationwide.

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Dinosaur World at Derby Theatre

****

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A children’s show, primarily aimed at the under 7’s which capitalises on the enduring love affair children, and their parents, have with dinosaurs. The dinosaurs themselves are cleverly manipulated as puppets by puppeteers coming in an impressive array of shapes and sizes.

It opens with our heroine, Miranda, being washed up on an island where strange shapes move amidst the trees, a cross between Treasure Island without the pirates, and Jurassic Park without the jeopardy. Miranda, enthusiastically and warmly played by Danielle Stagg, soon makes friends with her new companions including a Giraffatitan, Triceratops, Segnosaurus and Tyrannosaurus Rex, and gives them names, instantly humanising them for the young audience.

The puppet dinosaurs convince, as does the movement and vocalisation of the puppeteers, and before long not only has Miranda made friends with the creatures, but so have the audience, as awestruck youngsters are invited on stage to help look after them. But it is not just the lucky few invited on stage who are involved, so is the whole audience who are invited to sing a lullaby to send a baby dinosaur to sleep and alert Miranda of the impending hatching of an egg. Cleverly we are lulled into a false sense of security as a precursor to the highlight of the show, the arrival of a Tyrannosaurus Rex, announced by the dimming of lights and an ominous growl.

Director and writer Derek Bond has done a good job at providing light entertainment for young children, whilst also weaving in some sound natural history to educate as well. There were times when Miranda spoke too quickly to be readily understood, and sometimes the natural history was  beyond the school age audience. But at  fifty minutes it engages, without outstaying its welcome and the large, lifelike dinosaurs are the stars.. Jacob, aged three, and Harry aged five, loved it.  Continues on national tour.

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Evita – Wolverhampton Grand

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****

Almost four years ago, Bill Kenwright’s revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Evita” played at Wolverhampton. It was one of the best productions of the show I had ever seen, so I approached this new production, with a fresh cast, with some trepidation, topping the last show was going to be difficult. 

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Director Bob Tomson has significantly reworked the show creating something neither better, nor worse, but different. The part of the Narrator is taken by  Gian Marco Schiaretti, making his UK musical theatre debut. He is magnificent, boasting a strong voice, and an imposing physical presence which delighted the women in the audience, particularly when he strutted in a red vest top. He commands the stage in an unusually prominent portrayal of the part. 

 

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Gian Marco Schiaretti as Che the Narrator

Emma Hatton takes the part of Eva Peron having recently completed a West End run taking the title role in Wicked. It is a distinctive reading of the role. She eschews any attempt at a Latin accent , speaking and singing with a London timbre, brash and confident. “ Don’t Cry For Me Argentina” is well dispatched, but it is in a moving, “ You Must Love Me” and self- congratulatory “High Flying Adored” that she puts her stamp on the role. 

 

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Emma Hatton as Eva asks us not to cry for her

 

 

Scott Sheady has created a lavishly costumed piece to compliment Mathew Wrights lavish set. These pleasing visuals are accompanied by beautiful and stirring orchestration, in the hands of musical director David Steadman. The standard of singing both from the leads, and the ensemble is impressively high throughout, never more so than when Sarah O’Connor, as the mistress, delivers a stunning “Another Suitcase in Another Hall”

 

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Sarah O’Connor as the Mistress about to pack her suitcase

 

This story of power, politics and intrigue, although first performed almost forty years ago now plays to an audience experiencing a political world which has Trump and Marine Le Penn amongst its cast, and the life of Lady Diana spencer as context for mass adulation and hysteria. Thus, this tale of the rise of Eva Peron has worn well, and earns its place as a contemporary drama in ways that Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyricist Tim Rice could not have anticipated when they wrote it. 

The centre of gravity of this production has shifted towards the Narrator . Gian Marco Schiaretti has set a new benchmark for the role as he stalks the stage, Eva, and the story. He is no bystander or supine commentator, becoming part of the action.  

Emma Hatton in the first act, has Eva more as a girl gang leader, than closet first lady. It is in the stunning “ High Flying Adored” sequence, complete with chorus wheeling portable full length mirrors that her Peron comes into its own. In that first act, and for “Don’t cry For Me Argentina” I feared that she lacked the poise and finesse to carry off the role, but those fears were allayed as the second act races to its conclusion and she becomes Eva Peron, particularly in an evocative, poignant, tear jerking finale. As  Schiaretti thrilled his female fans in his tight vest top, so Hatton  teases her male fans with an onstage costume change revealing her stockings and suspenders.

 

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“High Flying Adored”

 

 A great show. A production which will  reward those who have seen the show before, and impress and delight those who are experiencing “Evita” for the first time. Runs till the 13th May and continues on nationwide tour.

Gary Longden

 

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Fun with Fours

 

 

Fun with Fours:

Four names I go by

1. Gary

2. Dad

3. Grandad Gary

4. Gazza

Four places I’ve lived: (really exciting

1. Sutton Coldfield

2. Cambridge

3. Alexandria, Virginia, USA

4. Leeds

Four things I love to watch on TV:

1. The Bridge

2. The Chase

3. Inbetweeners

4. Dad’s Army

Four places I have visited:

1. Moscow

2. Tangiers

3. Niagra Falls

4. Luxembourg

Four things I love to eat

1. Fish

2. Baked beans on toast

3. Spaghetti  Bolognese

4. Turkey

Four favourite drinks

1. Chablis

2. Rioja

3. Tea

4. Harris Gin

 

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Pure and Good and Right

I haven’t been to this event for a few years, but this headliner looks interesting:

PUREandGOODandRIGHT 

Open Mic Poetry Event 

This month taking place at

THE TREE HOUSE BOOKSHOP

4 The Square, KENILWORTH, CV8 1EB

Thursday, 11 May

7.30 p.m st.art

This month our headliner is the wonderful…Stephen Thomas

Stephen  is a spoken word artist who is half German and half Yorkshire meaning he’s extremely efficient with words and has very tight rhyming patterns.  In 2016, he was writer-in-residence at Writing East Midlands Writers’ Conference and he’s a  host of Poetry is Dead Good, described by the Nottingham Post as the city’s ‘premier spoken word event’.  

Inspired by fun things and interesting people, Stephen’s work is based around heavy thesaurus manipulation and making words do yoga.  He has just finished writing his first collection, Alphabet Spaghetti, which is being published by Big White Shed.  To mark the release, Stephen is embarking on a mini-tour stretching from Bristol to Newcastle of which his visit to Pure and Good and Right is part of.

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A night not to be missed!

You can book an  open mic slot on the night!

Admission £3 (£2 Student/OAP)

If you would like to know more about the night email: pgrpoetry@gmail.com

 

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Northanger Abbey – Derby Theatre

 

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Annabelle Terry as Isabella and Eva Feiller as Catherine Morland

 

 

Two hundred years after its first publication, Jane Austen’s Gothic homage is given a reboot by the Bury St Edmunds Theatre Company under the direction of Karen Simpson using Tim Luscombe’s adaptation. Veteran Simpson has masterminded the revival of The Theatre Royal in Bury boosting crowds with vibrant crowd pleasing productions, amongst them Northanger Abbey. Luscombe’s credentials gained  with his two other Austen adaptations, Persuasion and Mansfield Park, augered well for this one.

Of course 19th Century Goth and 21st Century Goth are somewhat different, then it equalled Eliza Parsons and Francis Lathom, now it equals Evanescence and Sisters of Mercy. Luscombe strips away the peripheral sub plots to concentrate on some fairly familiar themes; the melodrama surrounding the lives of the idle rich juxtaposed with the fantasy excitement of Goth drama, the idealism of marrying for love rather than money, the dangers of living a fantasy, loss of innocence, and the specious illusion of the believable.

A utilitarian, sparse, but effective three arch set, designed by Dawn Allsopp provides a universal backdrop as Bath or Northanger Abbey without too  much stretch of imagination.

The opening neatly establishes the blurred lines between the imaginary and real as our heroine Catherine plays out scenes from Ann Radcliffe’s Mysteries of Udolpho – her contemporary reference work for love and passion in the absence of Google and the Cosmopolitan problems page.

 

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Eva Feiler

 

Eva Feiler is superb as Catherine, growing from a foolish, impressionable, gullible and naïve youngster to  a woman who can stand on her own two feet with the help of the suave and gallant  Henry (Harry Livingstone) heir to the eponymous Northanger Abbey. Her earlier attempt to integrate herself with the sophisticated and worldly wise rogues of Regency Bath entertain with a touch of the Eliza Doolittle’s about her performance.

The condensed story, reduced to eight characters, shifts emphasis from light comedy to farce at times, demanding  a high level of acting characterisation, however  the tired “man dressed as a woman gag” for the early dance scene was a bit hammy for my tastes .Joe Parker relishes his bad boy role as John Thorpe. Joseph Tweedale is busy as he doubles as  both Catherine’s brother, James, and Henry’s brother, Frederick.

 

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The drop dead gorgeous Emma Ballantine

 

Annabelle Terry flourishes  as the flirtatious, manipulative  Isabella, and has the best dresses of the evening. Jonathan Hansler convinces as  Harry’s father and  owner of Northanger.

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A good adaptation, and a must-see for all Jane Austen fans. The shorter second half works better than the first which wallows just a little too self-indulgently in trivia and ephemera.  After the interval  the script shifts up a  gear, as does the company , and races to a conclusion with the ending an unwelcome interruption to some fine drama. Runs till Wednesday 12th and continues on tour.

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Highbury Theatre , Sutton Coldfield Programme 2017/18

highbury

I was pleased to see the above programme, with dates yet to be set. It is a good combination of some tried and trusted favourites, the offbeat, and obscure, here is a preview:

Hobson’s Choice by Harold Brighouse is a  1916 comedy set in 1880, change is in the air and Hobson, a man who stands for middle-class Victorian values, doesn’t like it one bit when his daughters – who work unwaged for him in the shop and do all the housework – get what he calls “uppity”, It explores  class, aspiration and the distinctions between trade and business. Rarely performed nowadays, it will be interesting to see what HT do with it.

The Trouble With Old Lovers is a contemporary  work by Angela Huth, of “Land Girls” fame. Huth has enjoyed a varied career as a journalist, TV broadcaster and novelist, as well as playwright. She is a traditional  old-fashioned writer who details the lives of ordinary people in small corners of England. She specializes in tragicomedies,  poignant , humorous explorations of the frustrations and disappointments of love. Here she intertwines two marriages, and five lovers, with inevitable consequences.

Boeing Boeing by Marc Camoletti is not a play about West Bromich Albion, instead a frequently performed 1960’s farce by France’s most frequently performed playwright about bedhopping aircrew. A still funny crowd pleaser, its success will depend upon how skilful the Director is in gripping a form and era which can slip into tired pastiche in inexperienced hands.

Lovesong by  fifty year old  Abi Morgan  intertwines a couple in their 20s with the same man and woman a lifetime later first performed in 2011. Their past and present selves collide in a haunting and beautiful tale of togetherness. All relationships have their ups and downs; the optimism of youth becomes the wisdom of experience. Morgan is a hot contemporary dramatist best known for her work on Margaret Thatcher in “The Iron Lady”. Little known, but with a fine pedigree.

Suddenly at Home  by Francis Durbridge is a thriller set in the 1960s,  with  a clever plot, plenty of action and a few red herrings thrown in to keep you guessing about the outcome right until the end. Glen Howard, is a philandering, volatile, scheming husband who wants to bump off his wealthy wife and take off with his lover.  Durbridge is a much published playwright who read English at Birmingham University and found fame on the radio, but this is the first of his stage plays.

Beryl was written by Maxine Peake for radio in 2012 and adapted for stage I 2014. Peake is best known as an actress starring as Twinkle in Dinner Ladies and for her political views as a Corbynista. This critically acclaimed play celebrates the life of unsung sporting legend Beryl Burton – the greatest woman on two wheels.

When Beryl Charnock met keen cyclist Charlie Burton she was smitten, not only with Charlie but by the thrill and freedom found on her bike. She would out-work the men in the rhubarb fields, she could out-class the cyclists on the road, and still find time to over-knit young Denise a cycling jumper (it wasn’t meant to come down to her knees!)

With her husband, daughter and cycling club at her side, she became 5 times world pursuit champion, 13 times national pursuit champion, twice road-racing world champion and still made it home in time for dinner. Very fresh on the amateur circuit, this is something of a coup for HT and will be well worth checking out.

Snake in the Grass is an Alan Aykbourn play first performed in 2002. Widely performed on the professional and amateur circuit, it is an all -female three hander about a middle-aged older sister who returns to the family home where her younger sister still lives, shortly after their abusive father’s death. A “ghost” play rather than a farce. The small cast makes it an amateur favourite, the subject matter is demanding to pull off.

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