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Launch of Splash! at Royal & Derngate, Northampton

This Tuesday I attended the launch of a brand new initiative in the arts to help disabled children get greater access to the field and improved job success. Based in the East Midlands and covering Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire and Northamptonshire, the Northampton event was the central stop of a day of events. With the group set off from Leicester in the morning before heading down the waterways towards Northampton, they stopped over at the brand new University of Northampton Campus on the banks of the River Nene. Following this, the Northampton launch took place in the Royal Theatre, before then finally heading to Nottingham for the evening launch.

By the time the Royal stage event was reached, things hadn't totally got to plan timewise, so a little late, the event began. Following a brief welcome from Royal & Derngate artistic director, James Dacre, The Mighty Creatives chief executive, Nick Owen, launched into an explanation of what was planned.

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Review of The Lovely Bones at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

It's a few years since I read Alice Sebold's novel The Lovely Bones, a story which tells the tale of Susie Salmon, and her murder and her observations and attempts to control events from Heaven. However, even after this many years, I still remember it for being the source of many manly tears. Therefore it was with some trepidation that I set foot in the Royal part of the Royal & Derngate to see this touring co-production with Birmingham Repertory and Northern Stage. I needn't have worried, as although the story remains much the same, Bryony Lavery's adaptation heads towards the comedy and more relaxed aspects of the story if that is possible of a tale of a murdered 14-year-old.
Lavery and director Melly Still do attempt to unsettle their audience immediately though, launching into a sensory overload of light and sound as we get flashes of things to come in a stylish opening. We have already at this point, seated in the auditorium, been treated with a little of wha…

Review of The Producers at Trinity Theatre, Tunbridge Wells

You need a pretty special show to justify a 120-mile journey, however, I was assured that this production of Mel Brooks' The Producers at Trinity Theatre, Tunbridge Well, was worth that effort. In the end, it more or less was very worthwhile.

The Producers, from the mind of Mel Brooks, first appeared as a film 51 years ago, and much later became this musical in its debut on Broadway in 2001. It tells the story of the unscrupulous theatre producer Max Bialystock, far away from his successful days and now a flop master as the Opening Night lyrics "We've seen sh*t, but never like this" suggest.

As Bialystock, the artistic director of Trinity, John Martin, steps into the role, and his brilliant performance from start to finish is a dream. Commanding the large and challenging role, and although there are many highlights of his performance, Betrayed for me is one of the most simply delivered and yet most entertaining pieces of the show. His comic timing is brilliant throu…

Review of Blackbird at Bonkers Playhouse, Kettering

Seeing Blackbird by David Harrower, presented me with my first visit to Bonkers Playhouse in Kettering. Opening just this year, it has become the home to Bonkers Theatrical, a group set up in 2009, and the cosy little venue also plays host to a wide range of touring productions, including those from White Cobra and Next Page Productions. It's a smart and really lovely little venue, complete with bar, seating of up to 40, and an impressive stage and bar area with some innovative ideas. However, what of the play?

Blackbird by David Harrower is a tough and gritty little piece, a ninety minute one act, but here split in a nice location. Una has found, by accident, Ray, who 15 years earlier had sexually abused her. He then a 40-year-old, her, just 12. It's an uncomfortable premise to form a play from, however, the sharpness of the writing, while definitely making its audience uncomfortable, never makes it unwatchable.

What it does need though are two performers of some ability and …

Review of The Crucible at Royal & Derngate (Underground), Northampton

A few weeks ago I headed down to London to see this years graduating University of Northampton BA Actors perform Arthur Miller's classic The Crucible, and while it was generally spotlessly performed, as expected, the staging of it was tremendously dull, offering little stimulation beyond just the words being said. It made a classic, quite dull as a result. There was no such issue with The Actors Company production, staged in the atmospheric Underground space, and directed with such style and flair by Fay Lomas, to make Miller's play unrecognisable from that London version.

Based around the Salem Witch Trials in Massachusetts, Reverend Parris (a tough uncompromising performance from Steve While) comes across a group of girls dancing in the forest. When one of the girls, Betty (Laura Green), falls into a coma, events spiral out of control for many of the residents of the town, as accusations fly. Soon, Judge Danforth (Sue Whyte) is on the scene, and the lives of the residents a…

Review of Flashdance - The Musical at Milton Keynes Theatre, Milton Keynes

For the second week running, the Milton Keynes Theatre is overrun by a wave of eighties nostalgia as Selladoor's production of Flashdance The Musical follows hot on the heels of An Officer and a Gentlemen. However, is it nice to have more of that classic decade upon the stage? The answer mostly is yes, despite the fact that the story driving Flashdance is that light and flimsy at times, you just have to sit back and watch the dancing and the bright colours to get you through.

Welding genius, Alex Owens, has her sights set for a bigger thing beyond this tired and struggling factory in Pittsburgh.  Hoping to take her dancing beyond Harry's bar, she plans to make big, via Shipley Dance Academy.  Then, also drifting into her life comes Nick Hurley, who initially unknown to her, happens to be the factory bosses son, the scene is set for romance.

Flashdance has a generally excellent cast led with a tremendously good performance from Joanne Clifton as Alex Owens. Those familiar with …

Review of The Woman Who Cooked Her Husband at The Playhouse Theatre, Northampton

During the interval of The Woman Who Cooked Her Husband, last weeks production at The Playhouse Theatre Northampton, I got involved in a conversation between a couple sitting next to me. The lady was very much of the opinion that the play was a comedy, while the gentleman, had formed one that it was a tragedy. They were joking of course in the conversation, but it did highlight the differences that Debbie Isitt's dark comedy might have between the sexes. And also now perhaps the passing of time. When this was written in the nineties, Isitt's play was a forthright feminist play, heralding the championing over of the ladies over the man. One the ex-wife plotting to cook him, the other, the new lover, potentially already very tired of him after just three years.

The husband, Kenneth (Jem Clack) elopes initially in pursuit of sex with Laura (Diane Wyman), after his nineteen years of marriage with Hilary (Corinna Leeder) has become tired and passionless. Then later, he elopes secr…