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Showing posts from 2019

Review of The Season at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

The Season, is a Christmas show of a different kind, a warm romantic feel, without pandering to the expectations of, a warm romantic show, set at Christmas. This lively, extremely funny, and musically clever show is perhaps everything you need for a bit of November Christmas.
Dougal has come to New York to meet his father for the first time and as he lands at JFK, he is met by his soon to be auntie, Robin, and over two days, they form an unlikely partnership.
This two-hander musical is an absolute cracker of a show, written by Jim Barne and Kit Buchan, it melds an old form of story-telling with very modern concepts. As ever of a show like this, Barne and Buchan have created two perfectly balanced characters, ones that play off one another as total opposites, but the audience knows really that by curtain down, these two with have a thing. Or do we...?
What is particularly sharp about The Season, and already mentioned in my opening preamble, is that this breaks the norms of romantic com…

Review of Made In Dagenham - The Musical by the Northampton Musical Theatre Company at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

Back in 2015, the Northampton Musical Theatre Company performed Sister Act as their yearly show at the Royal & Derngate. It surpassed their own excellent South Pacific the year before, and set a benchmark for amateurs performances that have been difficult to beat, NMTC including. Over the last few years their choices of shows have been populist (bums on seats), but more than a little formulaic, and some of them sadly pretty average shows. So, with Made in Dagenham, can we now move on from talking just about Sister Act? You know something, I reckon we can.
Made in Dagenham - The Musical is based on the 2010 film which told the story of the 1968 Ford strike by the female machinists working towards an equal pay deal. Along the way, unexpected political activist, Rita, finds herself in the presence of Prime Minister Harold Wilson, and Barbara Castle among many other high flyers. Is it a battle she can win though? History already knows that answer.
Made in Dagenham is an inspired choice …

Review of Billionaire Boy at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

I feel that like at the start of an official meeting I need to make a declaration at the beginning of this review. I'm not a fan of the work generally of David Walliams, more specifically his adult humour, I find it crude and unfunny. However, Billionaire Boy was my first encounter with his work for children, long since having left that time behind. So, while I had some trepidation with what lay ahead, including of course being surrounded by sweet eating children (and adults) in the theatre, I went with an open mind.

Joe Spud is rich, we are talking real rich. Heir to his father's wealth, created by the invention of Bumfresh, a brand new way of thinking in the loo roll world, he is happily tossed million-pound cheques on his birthday. However, can being rich and having it all bring you happiness? Or do you sometimes just want a friend and not a computer to play games against.

Billionaire Boy is really rather fabulous, there I admit it. It is no coincidence actually that Wallia…

Review of A View from the Bridge at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

Although writer Arthur Miller died 15 years ago, and last published a play almost 30, he remains a force to be reckoned with, and you are probably still never far from production of one of his works, albeit one of probably just four from his back catalogue of 33 plays. If you pressed someone to choose his best, they would probably more often than not say The Crucible, because A: they studied it, or B: they have actually seen it. As for best though, maybe not. Perhaps that lies with the simpler format of A View from a Bridge, the gritty tale of immigration in the fifties. So, does this new version, a co-production between Royal & Derngate and York Theatre Royal, do it justice?

In 1950s New York, hardworking longshoreman Eddie Carbone lives a simple life with his wife and niece deep in an immigrant community. When two of her Sicilian cousins arrives, slowly Eddie's life begins to change forever.

In a theatre world where life is rarely simple anymore and directors often get ahea…

Review of Saturday Night Fever at Milton Keynes Theatre, Milton Keynes

I would like to think that whenever you were born, you would be familiar with the existence of Saturday Night Fever. If you are it would probably be because of one of three things, the tremendous music, the John Travolta strut, or the white suit. However, beyond the iconic badges like this, can Saturday Night Fever still bust the moves in 2019?

By day Tony Manero sells paint, by evening he gets it in the neck from his family, by night he shakes his impressive dance moves at nightclub 2001 Odyssey. In between, he plays for the ladies and gets into scuffs which make him limp before his big dance contest. And yes, that's pretty much the storyline there in this version, that fails to use the strands of the original film to better effect, and pursue making it a feelgood music show instead.

So, you need to decide if you want your Saturday Night Fever to be just about the music, dance, flashing lights and the opportunity for Richard Winsor as Tony to try to out pose John Travolta? If yes…

Review of The Exorcist at Milton Keynes Theatre, Milton Keynes

The 1973 film of The Exorcist is famous more for its content than its quality, and few, even die-hard fans would deny it's of its time to a certain extent. It is also a bold film to choose to stage, involving tricks aplenty and a heavy reliance on not turning the whole thing into a farce. So, does this stage version from John Pielmeier (original book by William Peter Blatty) work, or are we in for a demonic night of theatre?

The story, should you not know, is thin and relatively basic, revolving around the possession of 12-year old Regan by a demon calling himself playfully Captain Howdie. It is a sweeping statement to call it a story of satanic child abuse, but that if anything makes it clear to some of the strong content that contains within, and trust me when I say strong.

The first thing to know from this version over the 2017 original London staging (originally performed in 2012 in the US) is that for the tour it has been split by an interval, unfortunately, bar takings count…

Review of Nigel Slater's Toast at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

Sometimes in theatre, it doesn't take you long to decide if you are going to like a show or not. Like the opening of a book, whether you try not to judge, that initial moment can decide the entire evening, and with Nigel Slater's Toast, that initial moment is pretty much perfect. However, back to that in a moment.

I confess readers that I did not know of Mr Nigel Slater before this evening, much to the horror of my cooking and foodie enthusiastic companion of the evening. However, this tale of the early life of Slater, bouncing around the sixties and into the seventies, needs no knowledge as Henry Filloux-Bennett's play, based on the book by Nigel Slater himself, gives you everything you need to know.

Toast opens to the start of what is to be a glorious sixties and seventies soundtrack and a playful loving sequence of dancing kitchen units as the cast bring us into the world of nine-year-old Nigel. At home with mum, making jam tarts, and of course, waiting for that toast t…

Review of Richard Alston Dance Company: Final Edition at Royal & Derngate, Northampton

As a dynamic and enthusiastic theatre-goer, I often find myself attending the theatre seeing things that I enjoy, but also, that technically I know very little about. Dance, and in the case of the Richard Alston Dance Company, more specifically contemporary dance, is one of them. So, when these reviewing opportunities come about, I tend to fall back to type and say more whether things looked good, and I enjoyed it.

The Richard Alston Dance Company: Final Edition looked good and I enjoyed it.

However, I'll never get away with that as a review, and Sir Richard Alston and his magnificent dance company deserve more in any case.

Formed in 1994, this group has been thrilling audiences every single year with new work and for this final tour, the thrills are no less. On its stop at Northampton, the pieces performed went from the gently simmering Brahms Hungarian to the bold heartwarming Mazur, onto pace and drama in A Far Cry, and ending with a stunning collection of pieces in Voices and L…

Review of The Woman In Black at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

In the world of modern theatre, The Woman in Black doesn't need any introduction. Now over thirty years since the actors first trod the boards in Scarborough telling Susan Hill's story, through Stephen Mallatratt's stage adaptation, this show has packed the audiences in and travelled widely. When the play opened in London in 1989, few probably thought it would still be there 30 years later, but there it stays, thrilling audiences. So, it's a pretty good play, right? Let's see.
Arthur Kipps (Robert Goodale) has a story to tell, a horrific one based on his own experience after travelling to Eel Marsh House, the final home of the late Mrs Alice Drablow. To tell his story, and to relate his "five-hour" tale, he seeks the help of "The Actor" (Daniel Easton), and a ramshackle theatre, which fortunately does have a good sound system and sound engineer. So, Kipps' story can be told.
I first saw The Woman in Black five years ago, and back then, I comme…