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Showing posts from April, 2018

Review of Funny Faces at The Playhouse Theatre, Northampton

Funny Faces written by Steve Dimmer and presented by Next Page Productions bring to life an hour in the life of two British comedy icons of yesteryear. We are in a props room and then a dressing room where Joan Sims and Sid James respectively chat with us like we are occupying one dusty, cobwebbed corner of the room.

The first of the evenings solo shows is titled SIMply Joan and stars Caroline Nash. For those of a certain age, Joan Sims is and always will be the Carry On star, and while my memory of these films is fairly prominent in my mind as well, despite the series finished by the time I was around, my biggest memory of Sims comes more curiously from a role in a BBC sitcom starring Dennis Waterman titled On The Up. In this, Sims played the rather posh Mrs Wembley, who was rather fond of a tipple or two, with her show catchphrase of "Just one more" a regular feature.

It is apt that I recall my own memory of Sims here, as the shadow of drink hangs over the life of her in re…

Review of The Flying Lovers Of Vitebsk at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

Kneehigh, the Cornwall based theatre company, has created an immense recognition over the 30 years or so they have been formed, and Emma Rice, who directs here, has come out as one of the more recognisable people from the group. Here, with The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk, they, and Rice are in incredible form.

Writer Daniel Jamieson tells us the tale of artist Marc Chagall and his wife Bella as their love blossoms during some of the most turbulent times in history.

This tale, by Jamieson, first saw a life on stage over 25 years ago, back then titled Birthday (the name of a painting by Chagall, which depicts he and his wife doing their "flying"). In the original production, Jamieson played Marc, and Rice played Bella. Now many years later, Rice has taken the original and created a brand new vivid version.

It's easy to fall in love with The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk very early on, as two things occur. The first is as you are seated in the theatre, you become captivated by the…

Review of The Last Ship at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

When The Last Ship first launched as a musical on Broadway (adapted from a concept album by Sting), it was received with a mixture of reaction, most thoughts though of the negative nature, the critics especially found the whole thing far from shipshape. Here, having launched in its spiritual home of Newcastle, it arrives in very landlocked Northampton on a UK tour in a very different form. Characters have been dropped, songs have been reordered, storylines reworked, and original cast members are gone. So, whether the US audience would have been appreciative of this new The Last Ship is unknown, however, there is an incredible amount to like from this show and on Northampton opening night reactions, the audience here is liking what they see.

Gideon has returned, having taken to the seas 17 years before, leaving his girlfriend Meg behind and a strong and stable shipyard in operation. On his return, things are very different, not least for Meg, who is initially not keen on his return, f…

Review of Madame Bovary by Masque Theatre at The Playhouse Theatre, Northampton

Rosanna Lowe's version of Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary was originally commissioned by Simon Godwin for the Northampton Royal Theatre, so it perhaps seems apt, that it returns to a stage of the same town, in this new wacky interpretation from Masque Theatre.

Masque's publicity for the show, describes it as a "madcap tragedy", and for those more familiar with Flaubert's novel you shall perhaps be a little surprised by the anarchic version created here. This is tragedy played for full-on slapstick effect, and while at times it might seem overwhelming in its intensity, the ride we are taken on is a delight.

Directed by Tamsyn Payne and Alex Rex and a team of talented creatives, Madame Bovary's props and design are every bit as important as the talented cast wielding them. For an amateur production, the attention to detail is nothing short of staggering. Gloriously created books filled with delights, puppet dogs and children, mini nuns, and little baskets…

Review of The Selfish Giant at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

The Selfish Giant is a curious one. I left uplifted and genuinely happy by the whole affair, yet slightly perturbed as to whether at its heart, it was actually as good as the heart was saying.

Based on a short story by Oscar Wilde, songwriter and musician Guy Chambers has given the piece a musical workover. The Giant (played by Jeff Nicholson) has a wonderful garden which the local children love to play in. However, this is a selfish giant after all, so, annoyed by their presence, he builds a wall to prevent them from entering. The scene is set for this story of personal redemption.

Creating a sung-through musical is a challenge, and Chambers succeeds in The Selfish Giant, although perhaps at the cost of a great deal of variety to the pieces. The weakness of The Selfish Giant always lies at the heart of both lacking numbers you take with you after the show, and indeed variety. The appearance of the giant, in the pacy and deep, real deep, vocals in The Angry Giant is one clear example,…