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Review of The Full Monty at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

The 1997 film The Full Monty is one of the best regarded of relatively recent British films, due to it being both a warm and emotionally strong tale, solid comedy and a wealth of acting talent, and it's no surprise that its very theme has spawned an immensely successful touring stage version. It literally overflows with the opportunity to be performed in front of a, probably mostly female, audience, well, the final scene does, in any case. However, what of the rest, and how about for a male audience member? So to speak. Well, it was time to find out.

The first thing that is apparent from The Full Monty stage show, is how faithful this is to the film. Much of the show is what you have seen if you have seen the film, but translated cleverly to the stage, it feels just that little more real and gritty as well. It opens with a nicely staged scene of darkness and flashes of a torch as Gaz (Gary Lucy), his son Nathan (Fraser Kelly) and Dave (Kai Owen) break into their former factory wo…
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Review of Cinderella by The Russian State Ballet of Siberia at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

The story of Cinderella lives strongly in most peoples memories, perhaps told as a bedtime story, or perhaps a pantomime at Christmas, perhaps less so first experienced as a ballet. It does though perhaps offer one of the best opportunities for someone to experience ballet for the first time (or the second in my case), as its immediately familiar tale allows you to not try to work out what is going on, but to experience the ballet properly from the outset.

The first thing that strikes from this production by the Russian State Ballet of Siberia is the quality of it, there is a striking full height digital projection throughout the show, which moves us from location to location with it's switching backdrop. It doesn't, as sometimes can feel, a cheap alternative to a physical set, and instead keeps the piece flowing better, with concentration purely on the dance. This projection is also neatly used as an interactive element at one point with the mirror of what Cinderella is to b…

Review of A Christmas Carol by University Of Northampton BA Actors at Isham Dark (Avenue Campus), Northampton

I can't quite remember how many versions of Charles Dickens' classic tale I have seen (maybe too many), but this dynamic, and at times, very different, version, was the second that I had seen in seven days following a Masque Theatre version the previous week. They couldn't have been more different in places, despite rigidly following the original story very well.

This production started with an uncharacteristic mingling of the cast with the audience, including a collection of non-period tunes playing (there goes #Whamaggeddon!). It has a mixture of weird and relaxed to it, and the assembled school kids certainly relished it and the mince pies, candy canes and chocolate coins that were being handed out.

As the cast disappeared at their due time, the scene is set for our narrator, Lyric Impraim, complete with dust riddled book to open the tale. She's a great performer, full of enthusiasm for the tale being told, and has a most brilliant cameo later as the turkey fetcher…

Review of Aladdin by University Of Northampton BA Actors at Isham Dark (Avenue Campus), Northampton

Five years ago, I hadn't seen a panto since I was the proper kiddie age to appreciate them, and they hadn't been something missing in my life really. Even the first few I saw as a grown-up left me mostly cold, and teeth gritted at the whole experience. However, I have now seen rather a lot of them, supporting the many groups and collections of actors that I follow, and have started to acknowledge their importance in the theatre world for both actor and first theatre contact for many a person and more importantly, child. Last year, the University of Northampton BA Actors course also got in on the act, introducing Christmas shows to the mix, one of which was a pantomime, of variable quality, as the course itself got to grips with the situation.
This year, they return to take up the challenge once again, and clearly having learnt much from last year's first attempt, bring a much more solid and smoother show to the stage, with Suzan Holder's version of Aladin directed by …

Review of Peter Pan at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

I have been invariably impressed and depressed by the two offerings of Qdos pantomimes presented at Royal & Derngate that I have seen in the last three years, with them lurching dramatically from unnecessarily adult, to perfectly judged family entertainment. There is no question that Qdos though know how to do a panto, they always complete that mental checklist of things you seek from a panto trip. So, with an equal measuring of good and bad in the past, I went with trepidation, but hope, that this year was going to be the better side of success and failure.

Thankfully it was, Peter Pan is one of the more perfect heartwarming and thrilling pantos that you could want, perhaps the strongest because of just having a tremendously impressive story to work with. It's true that this is a little less traditional at times, we don't have for instance the typical Dame to deal with. However, with its grand baddie and comic moments, it still feels very panto at all times.

Heading the …

Review of The Worst Witch at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

Jill Murphy's The Worst Witch first appeared in print in 1974, bringing its tale of an academy for witches to the first of a few generations. It was a long time before a certain boy wizard made his first appearance in a school of his own, and doesn't Emma Reeves, adaptor for the stage, know it. There are many a jibe at the HP universe in this stage version, that even I, someone who has never read or watched any of them (yes, really), could pick up.

Mildred Hubble arrives by mistake at the wrong university, a "normal" or "pleb" far removed from the rest of the students at Miss Cackle's Academy. Here she meets friends and enemies, and a certain evil twin bent on world domination.

Reeves' adaptation starts off slightly shakily as we are presented with what at first threatens to be a cheap rip-off of the mega stage hit The Play That Goes Wrong as we are introduced to the premise that this is a play put on by the students, complete with copycat stage ma…

Review of Rain Man at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

The arrival of another stage adaptation of a classic film is beginning to set me on edge now, such is the bounty of them travelling across the country. However, unlike many of them, this and the previous works of The Classic Screen to Stage Theatre Company's work, isn't a musical version as is most audience-pleasingly common, so, at least at the initial stage, this feels less forcing of the current trend.

Rain Man, starring Tom Cruise as Charlie and the Oscar-winning Dustin Hoffman as the autistic Raymond, was a 1988 film depicting the journey of discovery of an unknown brother, sent away by their cruel father soon after the death of their mother. After the father dies, Charlie learns of his brother and the fact that the $3 million inheritance has been left to that unknown brother. Kidnapping Raymond, they set off on a voyage of discovery of lost child and adulthood, and the power of family.
There are some great, if not exemptional performances throughout Rain Man, some of the…