The Bunker Theatre is quite the charming Fringe theatre tucked away near London Bridge, putting on varied and exciting new plays, and Chutney by Reece Connolly is no exception.The story revolves around Claire and Gregg, a well-to-do power couple (epitomizing your stereotypical Daily Mail reader) who grow an insatiable bloodlust towards animals that shakes the core of their world.Before even stepping into the theatre, Set and Costume Designer Jasmine Swan cleverly has multiple missing pets posters set up around the foyer, already creating an interest in the play before it even begins. Certainly made me excited for what I was about to see, and the minimalist set with catchy noughties pop hits playing on the radio set a very millennial tone to the play.Reece Connolly’s writing is witty, wacky and woefully Waitrose, with a reminiscence to Phil Porter’s Blink. Although the beginning was a bit clunky as we get used to the narrative style of the play, once the disturbing but fascinating plot took shape it was thoroughly compelling. Connolly’s writing is slick and keeps the jokes firing out throughout the play, barely giving you time to breathe before another painfully Middle-Class comment is made – ‘We’re not working class, we have a pasta maker’. However some of Gregg’s singing wasn’t needed and didn’t add anything to the play and felt a little eggy.Director Georgie Staight cleverly orchestrates such a quirky play by incorporating it to the minimalist set and keeping it very ‘in-your-face’ throughout, which allows the piece to breathe. The use of the stage was flawless, often creating beautiful images whilst being aware of the thrust theatre challenges, not leaving anyone with a bad view. In a play like this, both actors are absolutely essential to create a likeability with two horrible characters, and Isabel Della-Porta and Will Adolphy did just that. Adolphy as Gregg was very likeable indeed and very funny, although sometimes I felt hammed up a few lines to bring out more comedy than was always needed. However the star of the show is Isabel Della-Porta as Claire. She owned the stage, and always had you in the palms of her murderous hands. She naturally brought a Middle-Class, psychotic edge that was a joy to watch.The sound and lighting by Ben Winter and Matt Cater respectively was mostlyexcellent and really propelled the piece. The intricacies Cater uses to bring out such an exciting minimalist set makes it a visual masterpiece, especially the red light around the knives, although there was one scene where Della-Porta wasn’t properly lit nearer the beginning. Winter’s design was exciting and clever, perfect for the play (especially the subtle hums), although I would have liked there to be actual speaking from off-stage characters rather than the murmur that was produced. Overall Chutney is disturbingly charming, and coming to the Bunker Theatre for this play will definitely be a good night out! The epitome of a murderously Middle-Class thriller.Review by Adam YorkeRating: ★★★★Seat: Centre | Price of Ticket: £19.50 (Concessions £15, U30 £10)
November 10, 2018
Photography by Pamela Raith PhotographyStyle over Dance Call. "It was my audition for Dreamgirls, it was the Dance Call and they said to bring heels. I showed up in Summer clunky wooden platforms whilst everyone else was in Character Shoes."Always take a sick bag. "I was on my way to my Lion King audition, I hadn't long graduated, and I was so nervous, super late and felt sick. I had to empty my bag out so I could be sick in it. I finally turned up to the audition and got talking to this cute guy who was waiting as well, I then felt this sudden wave of nausea and in the middle of his sentence I stood up to turn around to run up the steps to the toilet and threw up all over the steps! Needless to say I didn’t get the job and never saw the guy again."Photography by Pamela Raith PhotographyIn the Closet? "I'd finally got to the end of a terrible audition and instead of walking out the door I walked into the cupboard and shut the door behind me."Always read the stage directions. "Once I managed to not read the first line of some script (it was tied up in the stage directions at the top of the page and had been written in italics) It was my line and I just stood there waiting for the reader to start talking when it definitely should have been me!"1. Don't go if you're ill & 2. Don't wear your tap shoes. "I had an audition for a show that had tap in it so I was told to take my tap shoes into my singing audition because they might want to do a little tap with me after I’ve sung. I started getting a chest infection and it had gotten so bad on the day but I decided to go anyway. (Big mistake). I also decided to wear my tap shoes into the room (second big mistake). I tip tapped my way into the room all spritely trying to cover up the fact I was ill but no such luck when I opened my mouth. I screeched and squawked my way through ‘I’m just a girl who can’t say no’ and surprise surprise they did not need me to tap after all. ‘Thanks very much, that’s all we need’ I turned and started my long tap..tap..Tap towards the door on the other side of the room. It was longest and loudest walk ever."Practice your ball skills. Photography by Pamela Raith Photography"When I was auditioning for Bend it like Beckham there was a football round. Baring in mind my football skills are horrendous; I ended up kicking the ball so hard into the audition panels table it knocked off half the stuff on the table. I was terribly embarrassed and remembered why I was in musical theatre and not football."Be able to do your 'special skills' without being nervous. "I auditioned for an American Director who decided to analyse every ‘special skill’ on my CV, when it came to Contemporary Dance he had grown particularly confused/annoyed and wanted an explanation - by this point I was so nervous rather than try to explain I just started flopping from side to side bobbing my head & bending my knees. He didn’t seem too impressed."Know your audience. "I auditioned for a well known choreographer/director a few years ago after appearing in A Chorus Line, he said, “I know you can dance but can you tap?” I replied I could. He said, “but can you REALLY tap?” I replied smiling, “yes - and I can hop on one leg too” & proceeded to demonstrate. He didn’t laugh. I didn’t get the job."Photography by Pamela Raith PhotographyIf you're a spiller, wear black. "I spilt hot chocolate down the only clothes I had with me on my way to an audition. Went into the room, cracked on the high note at the end of the song, said a rather rude four letter word starting with F, and proceeded to apologise and explain that it just ‘wasn’t my day’... I got the job though!"
November 08, 2018
Direct from its record-breaking sold-out season at The London Palladium, The King and I, the greatest musical from the golden age of musicals, is coming to Sunderland Empire, and Opera House Manchester.Set in 1860s Bangkok, the musical tells the story of the unconventional and tempestuous relationship that develops between the King of Siam and Anna, a British schoolteacher whom the modernist King, in an imperialistic world, brings to Siam to teach his many wives and children.With one of the finest scores ever written including Whistle a Happy Tune, Getting to Know You and Shall We Dance, over 50 world-class performers AND full-scale orchestra. This is a celebration of the lavish heritage of the very best in romantic musical theatre from an unparalleled multi award-winning creative team. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to witness this glorious production.Star casting to be announced!Opera House ManchesterFriday 26th April - Saturday 11th May 2019Sunderland EmpireWednesday 5th Jun - Saturday 15th JuneTickets are onsale 10am on Friday 9th November.
November 08, 2018
Tuesday 6th November 2018 marked Everybody’s talking about Jamie’s first Birthday in the West End. After having a sell-out run at the Sheffield Crucible in 2017, its transferred to the Apollo theatre later that year. Since then the show has been broadcast all around the world in cinemas and has recently announced that it has a movie version in the works. The show is based on the BBC Three documentary ‘Jamie: Drag Queen at 16’ that aired in 2011. Having not long seen the documentary, the show differs quite a lot from the original story. This, however, is not a bad thing. Theatrical license has allowed them to bring the show into 2018 and add the diversity it needs to bring it into this modern world. The show follows 16 year old Jamie New who has a dream of becoming a drag queen. We follow his struggles at school and his longing to go to school prom in a dress and his journey on becoming the performer he has always dreamt of being.It is so refreshing to see a new and original piece of theatre, that is not based on a film or a book, enjoy success in the West End. The team behind this have really created something so special and important for today’s society. Dan Gillespie Sells (Music & Orchestrations), Tom MaCrae (Book & Lyrics) and Jonathon Butterell (Director & Co-Writer) have pulled together something that is pure genius. John McCrea is a powerhouse in this role, he is just perfect in every way. He embodies the role of Jamie like it is himself and he really does capture the audience. His comic timing and vocals were just perfection, he is the star attraction of this show and you must see him before he leaves next year. Rebecca McKinnis, who has taken over the role of Margaret from original performer Josie Walker having previously understudying the role, plays the role with a subtlety and understanding that makes the audience so comfortable in her presence. Her rendition of ‘He’s My Boy’ was understated but by the end had everyone in tears. A wonderful performance. The latest star casting to add to the list in the West End right now is Michelle Visage in the role of Jamie’s teacher Miss Hedge. I struggle to believe that a careers teacher in this high school would look or act the way Visage presented herself on stage and although her basic performance skills were good she did not match up to anyone else on that stage. A mention must go to Shobna Gulati and Lee Ross who play Ray and Hugo, they both add so much humour and heart to the story that we can’t help but fall in love with them. This show features a very good ensemble of actors, with the nature of the piece they aren’t the typical ‘ensemble’ of a musical, all playing separate students and really being in the centre of the story. Although some of the vocals were slightly off, they are a fantastic company and pull together to tell the most wonderful story. This story is so important and needs to be told, a story of acceptance of one’s self and each other. Jamie doesn’t force himself, his sexuality or his aspirations on anyone but what he does is learn to be himself and accept that and others. Jamie goes through struggles in the story but what we learn is to not judge them. This is a show that needs to be visited by every single high school in the country and also seen by far more people. This is a modern masterpiece with so much heart and joy. Review by Mark Swale Rating: ★★★★Seat: R4, Stalls | Price of Ticket: £65!
November 08, 2018
LTMO under the conductor Freddie Tapner have followed up their wonderful concert version of Camelot at the London Palladium in October with a three performance concert version of Howard Goodall's Girlfriends at the Bishopgate Institute, where they are the resident orchestra. If you missed it you can buy a cast recording CD soon. Unlike Camelot where so many of the songs are well known, the music of Girlfriends written in 1985 are not as familiar and listening to the CD would certainly have helped get into the concert quicker. However once the characters and their relationships are established, we settled back to enjoy the melodic tunes and fine performances of the star studded ensemble of singers.Goodall based the story on one woman's memoirs of life in the Woman Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF); women who answered the call to join up as the men went to war. 150,000 signed up in 1941 and fulfilled a range of roles including packing the parachutes and air traffic controllers for the pilots. This is given extra poignancy by the concert narration of Group Captain Victoria Gosling, one of the highest ranking women in the RAF, who gives contextual background linked to the musical story line as well as recalling her own grandfather who was killed on his 40th mission. The story focuses on six of these women, how they adapted to the life and their relationships with the pilots. The most interesting character is Jasmine sung by Vikki Stone who expresses concern over the bombing raids on Germany after her own home town Glasgow is bombed and finds herself at odds with her fellow WAAF's and the stern Commanding Officer, Woods, played by Lizzie Wofford. In her solo song "Wake me o wake me" she powerfully and emotionally mourns the death of her brother in a convoy and then leads the company in "Flying up there" where she questions whether bombing ever achieves its aim and regrets that innocent people die.Bronte Barbe, who was wonderful as Carole King in the Beautiful tour, plays Jane and her solo number "The Chances are" is one of the best songs of the first half. Natasha Barnes who took over from Sheridan Smith in Funny Girl in West End, has great fun as Sally especially in "a bit like Errol Flynn" with Jasmine, Lou and Amy and in "We dance on" with Gareth (Chris McGuigan). Lou (Lucie Jones, Elle in legally Blonde tour) and Amy (Lauren Samuels, Jules in Bend it like Beckham) are rivals for the attention of Guy (Rob Houchen).However the concert is at its best when they sing together as a WAAF chorus asin the opening number "Jump" when they join up and feel like they are treated like cattle and in the very strong Act 1 finale where they sing of the risks pilots take and the heart break that results. Act 2 opens with the excellent up beat song "Uniform" where they sing of bursting with pride and doing their bit but it not being what we dreamed of. They work well together, sound lovely and create the spirit of the time with a minimum of effort.LTMO showcasing of Girlfriends was a very enjoyable concert and will produce a very listenable CD but more than that calls for a full stage revival where we can see the characters develop fully and appreciate the quality of Goodall's music and lyrics to the full effect.Review by Nick Wayne Rating: ★★★★Seat: Stalls Row G
November 03, 2018
Set largely in the cluttered attic of writer Hans Christian Andersen, this 90 minute world premiere by Martin McDonagh has split opinion of audiences at the Bridge; and it’s clear to see why.On the one hand the cast are good with Jim Broadbent and Phil Daniels giving strong performances as Anderson and Dickens respectively. Newcomer Johnetta Eula’Mae Ackles also shines as captive ghost writer Majory in this, her professional debut. The first scene between Anderson and Charles Dickens (repeatedly referred to as Charles Darwin) is a comedic highlight and Jim Broadbent really does carry this show.The set design by Anna Fleischle is exquisite; full of intrigue and intricacies and gave hope to a play really creating a world and setting. In truth though, the design seemed a complete waste and the utter mess of the script really let the design and actors down.With the writing, there was no clear time or place both in the story or language used and this really jarred with the design and costume. There was nothing clever or sophisticated about the text or the direction and all the elements of the production felt very disjointed.Looking to the production list and there’s an exhaustive list of credits but little to show for it on stage. For instance, there are 2 Fight Directors listed but little to no fighting. The on stage death of Press Man was so lacklustre and flimsy that this didn’t look rehearsed let alone directed. A Video Associate is credited and the efforts are shown on stage in the form of a projection of fireworks in one scene. Perhaps the too many cooksmantra has taken focus away from the writing or Matthew Dunster’s direction?There are some funny moments scattered through the text and these are well delivered by the cast, with Broadbent in particular enjoying the role of Hans, but all too often the jokes rely on shock of bad language with even the kids dropping swear words throughout. One couple left after an hour and a solo audience member boo’d during the finale –a theatre first for this reviewer! This was a production which missed the mark and didn’t deliver on expectation and is a text which, I suspect, will not be performed again. It’s a production given the green light because of McDonagh’s previous work not the quality of this text. It was a frustrating, bewildering and disappointing production which offered so much visually at the start but there was no cohesion between any of the elements. Drivel.Review by Andy Edmeads Rating: ★
October 31, 2018
The producers have set out to create a worthy educational play aimed at the pre-teens market and staged in the Natural History Museum Jerwood Gallery to add to its authenticity and reinforce its serious intent. What they have delivered is a charming beautifully staged retelling of the young Charles Darwin five year voyage of discovery on board the HMS Beagle in 1831 in which he finds his purpose in life . It is full of clever creative ideas to bring to life the places and creatures he meets as the ship circumnavigates the world.The projections on the screen above the stage are delightful, building up like sketches in his notebook and coloured in as if watercolours to set the scenes but also artful incorporating animation that brings the scene to life. We see the waves of the seas they cross and the volcanoes of the lands they visit. In a five year voyage they visit a lot of places and if anything we could see more of some of the places and his discoveries.The creatures we meet are puppets operated by the actors to create their movement. These wooden framed creatures without skin nevertheless come to life especially the amazing armadillo, friendly iguana and giant turtle. We also see butterflies and birds swooping across the set and schools of fish and whales in the sea. More than that the narrative starts to sketch out his thoughts on an evolutionary process and the survival of the fittest in a way that we can understand and see.The ship itself is half of a large revolve that dominates the purpose built stage and doubles as his Cambridge college and his father's home. The other side is the rocks he clambers across in the exploration. It inevitably means some compromises in the setting and a little imagination from the audience to visualise the location and the rapid scenes changes means the revolve is almost constantly spinning slowly round. Charles Darwin at twenty two is played with an easy charm by Bradley Fosterand he conveys the man's transition from nerdy Cambridge undergraduate obsessed with Beetles to an admired fresh thinker on the verge of a brilliant new theory. He also explores his relationship with his rather unbending father (Ian Houghton), his fiancé Emma Wedgwood, an anti slavery campaigner (Melissa Vaughan) and the Beagle's Captain Fitzroy (Jack Parry-Jones) so that on his return home we are touched by the way the relationships have changed. Along the way the play touches inevitably on the clash between Christian beliefs of the Creation versus Darwin's evolving theories and on the discovery of a photographic process by John Herschel in South Africa reinforcing the story tellers educational intent. David Horton (who wrote and directed), Nick Paine and Aaron Barton have created a wonderfully imaginative story telling play that should inspire young people to care about the world and each other and dream of making a difference.Review by Nick Wayne Rating: ★★★Seat: Row k | Price of Ticket: £19.50
October 30, 2018
With One Look’ is Gregory Hazels one man show as his drag character, Vivienne De Vil. The show is set in her living room and as the evening goes on we hear all her stories about her friends (some of the most famous Broadway divas) and Vivienne takes us on a journey to look back at some of the greatest female musical theatre numbers and greats of our time. This show is truly a celebration of these fabulous women who have shaped and moulded what it is to be a Broadway star. From Judy Garland to Lea Salonga, we go through a huge repertoire of songs filled with interesting stories about each and every superstar. This is every stageys dream, a glamorous drag queen and some of the campest and best musical theatre numbers? You’ve certainly sold me!As Vivienne De Vil, Gregory Hazel provides stunning vocals and has a presence that would make any Broadway Diva shiver in her stilettos. He knows his character inside out and from the moment Vivienne walks on stage you know you’re in safe hands for the evening.The band, led by Henry Brennan, were fabulous. They managed to make it feel intimate and classy but this wouldn’t be out of place of a much larger stage without any adjusting. The compositions were beautiful, especially the mix of ‘I’d Give My Life For You’ and ‘On My Own’. That was one of the best moments in the show and when the show gets more of a run, which it should, I’d love to see more of these creative touches that really make it unique and special. The only thing I feel that was missing from this was the connection with the audience; yes of course Hazel had us all on his side and we’d all fallen in love with De Vil by the end, but it was the tiny mistakes and comments that made it more real, witty and comfortable. First night nerves could have meant this was lacking some what but when we got those elements of personality from the performance, that was when Vivienne became a true star. I must give it to Gregory Hazel however, packing in all those facts and information whilst still trying to maintain the character was so well balanced and very impressive. This show is a true celebration of the greatest women in our industry and the challenges they’ve faced in their career. Hazel manages to bring the classic Hollywood style into the modern world and with this show, its beautiful mix. Review by Mark SwaleRating: ★★★★Seat: Unreserved | Price of Ticket: £15
October 26, 2018
The Royal Shakespeare Company’s Matilda The Musical has released new production images featuring the previously announced new cast of the multi-award winning show, which is now playing its eighth year in the West End having opened at the Cambridge Theatre seven years ago today on 25 October 2011. Hayden Tee stars as Miss Trunchbull alongside Rob Compton and Holly Dale Spencer as Mr and Mrs Wormwood, and Gina Beckwho joined the company Miss Honey in 2017. Isobel Hubble and Francesca McKeown have joined Sara Munday and Olivia Wellsin sharing the title role of Matilda. The London production of Matilda The Musical is booking until 20 October 2019 whilst the UK and Ireland Tour will be playing in cities across the country until 17 August 2019. For more information see .Matilda The Musical is written by Dennis Kelly, with music and lyrics by Tim Minchin, developed and directed by Matthew Warchus. The production is designed by Rob Howell, with choreography by Peter Darling, orchestrations, additional music and musical supervision by Christopher Nightingale, lighting by Hugh Vanstone, sound by Simon Baker and the special effects and illusions are by Paul Kieve.The full adult cast includes Alex Louize Bird, Gina Beck, Rob Compton, Holly Dale Spencer, Jaye Elster, Glen Facey, Alex Hammond, Peter Houston, Jessica Joslin, Bethany Kate, Sammy Kelly, Ben Kerr, Bryan Mottram, Malinda Parris, James Revell, Gemma Scholes, Simon Shorten, Hayden Tee, Callum Train and Robert Tregoning. The young performers who play the roles of Bruce, Lavender, Amanda and the rest of the pupils at Crunchem Hall are as follows: Lois Abercrombie, Jacob Bland, Tom Brown, Emilia Bosi, Toby Brandon, Mia Byers, Quincy Miller-Cole, Lottie Cook, Imogen Darwen, Darmani Eboji, Asher Ezequiel, Jimmy Fordham Reed, Clara Freeman Alves, Stella Haden, Jobe Hart, Noah Leggott, Archie Lewis, Sadie Victoria Lim, Henry Littell, Austen Phelan, Marley Quinlan-Gardner, Daisy Statham, Cherry Vaughn-White, Sam Winser and Rochelle Wyatt.
October 25, 2018