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Review of The Strange Tale of Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

The Strange Tale of Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel is perhaps the perfect antidote to the troubled times we are in, harking back to when things were perhaps simpler and mass media and the press were less in your face. Not to say that bigshot Charlie Chaplin didn't make a name for himself in more than just the movies he made. This though is a warm show, filled with love.

This show is based on the very real tale of the 1910 ship heading course for New York, which aboard were Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel, unknown, but part of Fred Karno’s music hall troupe, and destined for different, but very major futures.

Told by an Idiot's production with Theatre Royal Plymouth (and Royal & Derngate and Unity Theatre) breaks down the tale of the voyage of the SS Cairnrona with intriguingly created flashbacks of the life, generally of Charlie Chaplin. Therefore along the course of the voyage, we see Laurel's moment as understudy to Chaplin, the birth of Chaplin (brilliantly realise…
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Review of Everybody's Talking About Jamie at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

Everybody's Talking About Jamie apparently, so this new musical leads us to believe, as it continues its first UK tour launched just a month ago. The musical written by local boy done very good Tom Macrae alongside Dan Gillespie Sells and Jonathan Butterell has been playing to packed audiences and rave reviews since launching in 2017, first in Sheffield and then in London, so we need to talk about Kevin's (aka A Small Mind) thoughts.

Jamie New has a dream, a dream not many 16-year-olds harbour. He dreams to be a drag queen. However, while his mother Margaret and her best friend supports the idea and encourages him to live the life he wants, others including his father and school "bigshot" Dean think other things. However, when Jamie meets shop propriety Hugo, he finds his dreams may well become reality.


Everybody's Talking About Jamie is proper theatre, feelgood, sharp writing and clinically but also nicely nuanced direction and choreography from Kate Prince. It i…

Review of Band of Gold at Milton Keynes Theatre, Milton Keynes

After what seemed an age, it was a delight to finally have a play to see at Milton Keynes Theatre, following an abundance, of admittedly very good musicals. So, was this turn towards straight play with Band of Gold, a sparkling gem, or something you might have picked up in Ratners?

Gina is down on her luck, short of money, recently split up from her husband and trying to look after her child while dealing with the loan shark she has fallen into a trap with. When she meets Carol and Anita through the course of her new job as a cosmetics seller, perhaps a very dark but profitable world may open up to her.

Back in 1995, Kay Mellor's Band of Gold became a huge success on television offering groundbreaking roles for the likes of Cathy Tyson and Samantha Morton, and this play, written by Mellor herself follows the storyline in condensed form, of the first series. Unfortunately, any regard for the quality of this original series is lost in the wake of this broken and poorly created play.…

Review of The Last of the Pelican Daughters at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

Although I did slip into The Royal last year to see this production of The Last of the Pelican Daughters ahead of its Edinburgh Fringe adventures, I didn't put fingers to keyboard and review it. So, as it happened to be back and refreshed from its successful run there, it was time for another viewing and finally what I think of this show from the creators of the incredible Education, Education, Education?

The four Pelican daughters gather at the home of their late mother to celebrate what would have been her birthday, and also a little "discussion" of her estate, fuelled by more than a little resentment of second daughter Storm and her hope for the money to be shared "fairly". Add a mix of many lurking family resentments and the scene is set for what is a comedy, but also bitterly sad at times as well.

So, first things first, this latest offering from The Wardrobe Ensemble is a long way from the sharpness, skill of characterisation and sheer incredibility of Edu…

Review of The King and I at Milton Keynes Theatre, Milton Keynes

While I have now managed to see quite a few stage productions and some films of the works of the pairing of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, The King and I, their 1951 musical (their fifth together) has passed me by. So, fresh to story, and mostly fresh to the tunes, did this captivate the way this classic show should?

Anna Leonowens travels with her young son Louis to Siam to teach English to the many, very many, children and many wives of the King. While there she hopes to influence the King and get him to bring his country up to date and follow perhaps the more open world of the Europeans.

A quick glance at the programme of The King and I signals that this performance is going to be in quality hands, with both Annalene Beechey and Darren Lee as Anna and the King sporting remarkable biographies. It shows as they are quite amazing throughout the show. They form an amazing partnership together with their both very strong in character personalities sparking off one another de…

Review of Curtains at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

Curtains comes with much to live up to, created by the legendary pairing of John Kander and Fred Ebb, no less than Cabaret and Chicago among their work, this was their final show working together before the death of Ebb in 2004. It also forms what on paper looks a brilliant concept, a "musical whodunnit". So, does it fill with intrigue and thrills, or does it end up being more of a whocares?

When Jessica Cranshaw, star of Robbin’ Hood!, a musical set for Broadway, is murdered onstage, detective and not shy of the stage himself, Frank Cioffi, arrives to solve the case. Can he solve it though without getting distracted by the cast and the thrill of the greasepaint?

First and foremost with Curtains is that it looks fabulous. The set from David Woodhead evokes the look of the theatre perfectly, simple and effective. Added to this costumes from Gabriella Slade look sublime as well, making it a visual delight, all creating the era extremely well.

Elsewhere perhaps the strongest pa…

Review of The Comedy Crate - 20th February 2020 at The Charles Bradlaugh, Northampton

In my theatrical exploits, I have rarely ventured into the world of the theatre of standup comedy, often due to a mixture of terror at being targetted in the audience, partly due to the concern that I will have an evening of not getting the comedy, and also the fact that wise people keep telling me, you can't see anything. Therefore my comedy to date has been a mixture of the occasional, I saw them on the TV and liked their stuff variety, or that I am stalking Sara Pascoe once again.

However, on the night of 20th February 2020, I found myself in the Charles Bradlaugh pub (more familiar to me as my Monday night quiz haunt) and attempting to convince those I was with to sit as far away from the stage as we could.

As it happened we ended up in a neutral zone of not at the back but also not at the front, in the nether region where the lighting doesn't quite show the horror upon your face as you are caught in the glowing lights of the mischievous comic out for audiences blood.

Uns…