The Watermill continues to prove it is a very special venue , intimate and friendly but consistently producing very good quality productions and with a strong active Senior Youth Group of years 7 to 11 supported by The Sackler Trust, Principal Supporter of The Watermill's core Education and Outreach work. The latest show is a very fine adaption by Danielle Pearson of the J Meade Falkner novel Moonfleet which uses a cast of 28 to tell the story of smugglers on the Dorset coast. Written as a story telling by the Mohunes, the inhabitants of the village, who appear to draw lots from a bag to cast the main parts at the start of show. But it is an ensemble piece with lines spread throughout the large cast who are well drilled to sharply deliver them in a rhythmic poetic fashion that keeps the audience engaged and interested. Director, Heidi Bird, packs the production with interesting visual ideas to add atmosphere and bring elements alive involving the whole cast. The Graveyard is eerily created by the young actors wrapping themselves in net, the Mohunes burial crypt has the dead faces pressed into the back cloth, when items are dropped in an eighty foot deep well we see them descend from hand to hand down until they land and when the ship sinks the waves are dramatically created with a simple sheet. There is a careful and effective lighting design with good use of projected images to create church windows , rain , water reflection, and silhouetted story telling by the production manager, Lawrence Doyle. It seems a little unfair to pick out individuals in this hardworking ensemble but inevitably the leading parts get a bigger profile and rise to the challenge of the story telling. John Trenchard, the young hero of the story is played by Luke Parsons with an innocent charm and his Smuggler partner Elzevir by Frank Smith, gradually building trust with John. Opposite them are the dastardly Edgar Maskew (Asher Dunnett) out to put them down and his daughter Grace (Nina Faithfull) who falls for John. There is also a good cameo from Isabelle Klein as Aldobrand, the double crossing jeweller. However the lasting impression is of the team working together in the opening and closing scenes to narrate the story in their short sharp lines delivered with clarity and precision in their distinctive "lost boys" style costumes and together enduring the story is told with pace and energy that is a real pleasure to observe.Review by Nick WayneRating: ★★★★Seat: Stalls row F | Price of ticket: £12
April 05, 2019
We seem to be going back in time. Well, that’s certainly how I felt after leaving Agatha Christie’s Witness for the Prosecution last night, which is currently being revived for the first time in London’s West End since 1953. Director Lucy Bailey is now summoning a new generation of audiences for dury service in the unique courtroom chamber setting of London’s County Hall in an immersive, and wildly imaginative adaptation of Christie’s play.Based on a 1925 short story and screen adaptations, Christie’s play is arguably one of her most ingenious and timeless works. With the evidence stacked completely against him, Leonard Vole faces the hangman’s noose after being accused of murdering a widow to inherit her wealth. But will he be able to defend himself and prove his innocence against shocking witness testimony’s and his own wife?From the moment you set foot inside the magnificent surroundings that London’s County Hall has to offer, you are instantaneously immersed within the story that both Director Lucy Bailey, and this stellar cast are inviting you to join. Headed by Daniel Solbe (Leonard Vole), Jasper Britton (Sir Wilfred Robarts), Ewan Steward (Mr Mayhew), William Chubb (Mr Myers QC) and Emma Rigby (Romaine Vole), the cast of Witness for the Prosecution deliver every element of the production with absolute ease. From scene and set transitions, to the lengthy discussions, disagreements and text within the script, you are constantly drawn in to discover the next set of details to conclude your own personal opinion as to whether you believe Vole is guilty, or not guilty. You are undeniably hooked. To parallel it to modern pop culture, watching this plot unfold is like watching the latest addictive Netflix series, you simply just can’t stop. It’s stressful, it’s engaging, and delivered beautifully within both pace and characterisation by the entire cast. Credit must be given in particular to leading man Daniel Solbe (Leonard Vole),who recently graduated from Italia Conti, and gave a stellar performance with raw emotion, vulnerability and wickedness. Convention says that TV has cracked the code on how to portray this kind of Christie mystery, but, when staged as cleverly as this, I dare say that her play’s work better with a live audience. The key, however, lies within the setting, without which this production may not have been so gripping. None the less, if dury duty is truly this addictive, you can sign me up for a weekly service, and with court being extended until March 2020, you have plenty of time to service your sentence. Review by Adam Tipping Rating: ★★★★Seat: Row E, Seat 123
April 04, 2019
Following two highly acclaimed runs at Leicester’s Curve theatre in 2015 and the Menier Chocolate Factory in 2017, Sue Townsend’s The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole aged 13¾ - The Musical, will open at the Ambassadors Theatre for a limited season from 15 June until 12 October 2019, with a Gala Night on Tuesday 2 July. Tickets on sale from 5 April. The musical has book and lyrics by Jake Brunger, music and lyrics by Pippa Cleary and direction by Luke Sheppard. Casting to be announced.Set in 1980s Leicester, this adaptation of Sue Townsend‘s best-selling book is a timeless tale of teenage angst, family struggles and unrequited love, told through the eyes of tortured poet and misunderstood intellectual Adrian Mole. One of the most enduring comedy characters of all time, he is the hapless, hilarious, spotty teenager who captured the zeitgeist of 1980s Britain, and this critically acclaimed production brings Adrian’s story to life for a new generation of theatregoers.“Honestly. My family just don’t understand me. Perhaps when I am famous and my diary is discovered people will understand the torment of being a 13¾ year-old intellectual” Adrian Mole.Curve’s Chief Executive Chris Stafford and Artistic Director Nikolai Foster said, “It has been a great joy for all of us at Curve to see Sue Townsend’s ‘misunderstood intellectual’ flourish under the inspired writing of Jake and Pippa. We are immensely proud that, after a triumphant opening in Leicester and acclaimed season at the Menier Chocolate Factory, Adrian, Nigel, Pandora and their motley crew are now rocking up in the glitzy West End. It is wonderful to see Sue’s legacy live on and that this quirky, joyous, turbo-charged, home-grown new musical has been embraced so whole-heartedly by audiences at home in Leicester and London.”The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13¾ was Townsend’s first novel, was originally published in 1982 by Methuen, but is now published by Penguin Books. It has sold over 20 million copies worldwide, been translated into 30 languages, and spawned seven sequel Adrian Mole novels. The novels have previously been adapted for the stage, radio and television.The Townsend family said, “Sue loved West End theatre, and she loved working with Jake and Pippa on the creation of this show. We're very happy for her and Mole that thirty years after his last appearance, a new generation has brought him back.”The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole aged 13¾- The Musical has choreography by Rebecca Howell, set and costume design by Tom Rogers, lighting design by Howard Hudson, musical direction by Mark Collins, musical supervision & orchestrations by Paul Herbert and children’s casting by Jo Hawes CDG.This production is produced by Anthony Clare, Ramin Sabi, Knickerbockerglory, Mark Puddle, and Curve.Originally commissioned by Curve and Royal and Derngate, Northampton.
April 04, 2019
Club Tropicana was a 1983 hit for Wham and reflected on the then boom for cheap package tours for singles under thirties and Michael Gyngell has taken the idea to write a musical based around the music from eighties set in Club in Spain. Strangely the song itself does not find its way into the show itself. The story line is very thin; Fawlty Towers Hotel Inspector meets Benidorm Live with Manuel replaced by Mrs Overall from Acorn Antiques. Indeed, very little of this production was original. Yet the audience of mainly middle-aged women loved the show who clearly wanted to escape a night in front of the TV listening to Brexit with their families!The energetic young cast throw themselves into the show and the songs, said to be “20 of the Greatest 80’s hits”, if anything it reminds you that the eighties were not the greatest era of music! Often, we are not even given the full song, just short verses or background music while some piece of slapstick pantomime business is performed downstage. Whereas the “Rip it Up” shows seek to celebrate the music and the era, this show is a massive mickey take full of camp gay references and old-fashioned innuendo. When the girls order drinks, they are asked if they want a tight snatch or sex on the beach, the conveniently named cocktails and one young character declares “I am ready to have sex with anyone”. The plot involves a jilted groom going with his mates to the same hotel that his expected bride had booked for their honeymoon (curiously the sign switches the hotel name from Club Tropicana to Rio Grande for no obvious reason) only to be reunited in a recreation of the game show Blind Date while dressed as one of the Village People!The show headliner is X factor winner Joe McElderry playing the Butlins red coat type character as a cross between John Inman and Ted Bovis from Hi-Di-HI in a pink blazer. He has a childish charm and projects his enjoyment revelling in the role as he skips across the stage and in the final moments of the show with the Frankie Goes to Hollywood 1983 song “Relax” and into the “Megamix” (as in Joseph and the Technicolour Dreamcoat which has recently played) he brings the audience to their feet to finally get the party started.Kate Robbins is Conseula, the shaky waitress who does a very good turn in impressions including 80’s female icons Tina Turner, Shirley Bassey, Margaret Thatcher and Cilla Black under the pretence of Fancy-Dress night. Her physical comedy is good, and she does a fun routine to the 1980’s theme tune of the TV series Minder, “I could be so good for you” but she deserves a better vehicle for her talents.Another 80’s hit given the makeover is Bucks Fizz’s “Making you mind up” with the roles reversed and the boys having their shorts ripped off to reveal enhanced Union Jack underpants. Two of the best numbers are the three young girls Lorraine (Karina Hind), Tracey (Rebecca Mendoza) and Andrea (Tara Verloop) doing the Cyndi Lauper 1983 hit “Girls just want to have fun” and Serena (former Sugababes Amelle Berrabah) and Robert (Neil McDermott) as the hotel owners in the 1982 hit for Yazoo “Only you”.This is a cheap looking touring show with a poor sound mix on its first night in Woking, a rickety poorly painted set and scruffy lighting which as it evokes the style of the Eighties provides a fun, hen party style night out which at least releases us from the tedium of more Brexit votes in Parliament.Review by Nick WayneRating: ★Seat: Stalls Row K | Price of ticket: £32
April 02, 2019
Hair has had a long history both on Broadway and in the West End, with the original productions opening in 1968 and major revivals happening in 2009 and 2010. A revival opened at the Hope Mill Theatre in Manchester in 2016 with a transfer to the Vaults in 2017 and now the show heads out on tour around the UK in its 50th Anniversary. The piece opened with the introduction of Trump being announced as the new president of the United States, an attempt to try and make the connection between then and now with the shows themes and context. However this didn’t really work, the world is so alien to us nowadays that its hard to make the connection between how we protest political and social problems to how it is featured in the show. Although so many of the events are repeating, its hard to relate to because it is just so different from how we lead our lives as a society today.Its hard to tell is the problems in the show are in the writing or the direction; the show deals with a lot of racial issues which, at the time of writing, would have been shocking and unspeakable but we have moved on now and its just a little inappropriate and offensive. In theatre, we are moving along with the times but this show seems to take us back a few steps in the progression we’ve had. In saying this, we are able to see the struggle of the people trying to rebel away from the governments rules and regulations, the young generation making their own life and choices away from their parents. The pressures to conform to societies rules and ‘the norm’ is something that can be rated to today. The world is changing and this production shows the start of this revolution. The show captures the era perfectly and teaches us about the communities created at the time to fight against hate and spread love.This show has previously been at the Hope Mill Theatre and the Vaults, booth immersive and innovative spaces. We lose all of this in a traditional theatre, whilst the cast did speak directly to the audience and came into the auditorium it was only for a brief moment and felt forced. This leaves us feeling quite disconnected to the piece, especially with the directional choices, it can feel very self indulgent on stage at times. The grit and drama was lacking in the show, due to the writing and pace itmoved slowly without serving the story. It was only in the last 20 minutes of act two when most of the story unfolds and we get the drama that we’ve been craving for the past 2 hours. Let the Sunshine in really hit home and was a powerful ending to the show. The cast are very strong in this production, Jake Quickenden leads the company as Berger. His performance was cheeky and mischievous with fascinating mannerisms and personality traits that make him a mystery, he seems slightly lost in his life choices which give a great contrast in sections of the show. Daisy Wood-Davis plays Shelia and she has a fabulous voice and gives a charming performance. Whilst both Daisy Wood-Davis and Jake Quickenden are arguably the leads of the show, the stand outs are Paul Wilkins and Natalie Green as Claude and Cassie. Paul Wilkins has the most incredible voice and it is showcased perfectly in this show, he took you on a journey and through out he remained truthful and strong which read across so well to us. Natalie Green plays Cassie, whilst her character wasn’t as full as the others (due to the writing) she brings so much passion to her performance and her voice is insane, standing out in this ensemble piece. Aiesha Pease also provided stunning vocals as Dionne, her powerhouse voice was featured through the show and she blew the roof off! Maeve Black is the Costume and Set designer on the show, although the concept was initially striking and great to look at the stage has been designed almost as a fantasy utopia. Which means that the struggles and dangers of being in this community aren’t portrayed to the audience. However Ben M Rogers lighting design was stunning and took us to each place in the story. Precise and specific staying true to the pieces historical context but bringing modern twists on a lot of the scenes. Watching this production you can’t help but feel like this piece is slightly out dated, whilst we understand its message the way it is told is not relevant to our times, despite the efforts of the production relating it to Donald Trump. However a very strong cast with some of the best vocals you’ll hear in musical theatre, the piece has been given life in this new production and is a piece everyone should experience at least once. Review by Mark Swale Rating: ★★★Seat: Stalls, H14 | Price of Ticket: £44
March 31, 2019
Caleigh DerreberryI’m writing this letter from the battlefield. It’s Wednesday—well, early Thursday now—of Tech week and the show I’m working on opens Friday. I’ve slept 8 hours in the past 3 days. The paint in my hair is at least a couple of days old and I haven’t changed my clothes in a week. I can’t remember the last time I saw the costume designer without some sort of sewing in her hands. At least I’ve seen her—I asked the props designer to go find gaff tape a couple days ago and I haven’t seen her since.These are a few reasons why the survivors have dubbed you ‘hell week.’ The week before a production opens is stressful for everyone involved, and generally brings out the worst in actors and techies alike. People who are generally amiable to work with morph into angry, sleep-deprived beasts who can smell fear and coffee. A nervous air surrounds the production and whispers, “When is that going to get done?” every time the director decides to change something. And to top it all off, the show looks horrible during most of the rehearsals: actors flub their lines, the stage manager misses cues, and those lucky enough to leave do so with a nasty feeling in their gut that they’re wasting their time. And for this, I thank you. Because nothing is quite as exciting as a truly horrible tech week. Sure, I don’t remember when the last time I slept in my own bed was, but the adrenaline (and coffee—lots and lots of coffee) pumping through my veins doesn’t allow me to dwell on that. I am forced to focus on the task at hand, to attempt to do the impossible in half as much time as required. And while I will complain about this time crunch and the fact that I have no idea how to face risers in the first place, it reminds me that I love theatre.I love theatre enough to spend 6 hours squished underneath risers. I love theatre enough to not sleep for 27 straight hours. I love theatre enough to paint the entire set a slightly different shade of gray then I painted it originally. I love theatre enough to have war stories. This passion isn’t unique to me. Nothing makes a cast and crew bond quite like hell week. We might grow sick of one another, but nothing can keep us from being together on opening night—taking shots for every hold called at the last rehearsal. It’s a week where the people around you, who are tired and smelly and covered in sawdust, seem beautiful because the only thing left of them is their passion for this art form. And if those are the type of people surrounding you, you must’ve done something right with your life.At least, that’s what I’m telling myself right now, before I finish my break and complete the last 24 hours of this especially hellish Hell Week.
March 28, 2019
A much loved and classic musical, Fiddler on the Roof is once again seen in the West End after having previously been there in 2007 at the Savoy Theatre. A most recent production include a revival at the Chichester Festival Theatre in 2017, this production transfers straight from the Menier Chocolate Factory into the Playhouse Theatre. Fiddler on the Roof is set in the Russia at the turn of the century; Tevye and his wife are set to wed off their five daughters. Wanting to stick to tradition and go through the match maker to make better lives for themselves, the girls decide to go with their hearts and marry for love overpowering their faith and families traditions. In the end they are driven out by Russian government who want to clear the villages of the Jewish people, leaving them three days to pack up and leave. The families separate not knowing when, or if, they shall see each other again. This show seems more relevant than ever, living in all this Brexit mess we must remind ourself of our true values as a country. This group of people are being driven from their homes, not because they’ve done anything wrong, just because they do things a little differently. The character of Tevye also is being pulled in two directions; the traditional side and his beliefs and his families well being and wishes. We see a man, who has been taught that life works in a certain way, changing his mind due to the next generation wanting different things. He talks about how the traditions he lives by were once new, giving us the realisation as an audience that we must uphold our beliefs and embrace them but allow them to move along with the times. We have to come together and embrace each other, we may not understand one another but we are all here on this earth so lets make the most of it. Something a few people in this country and around the world could definitely learn.Robert Jones (Set Design) has transformed the stalls into the village the show is situated in; the walls covered in trees and lighting (by Tim Lutkin) that creates an atmosphere that tells you you’re about to experience something very different. However, when I looked up to the circle, the atmosphere was lost and the usual theatre layout was still in tack above us. Whether you’re sitting in the Stalls or above, you’re experience of the show could differ hugely. In this new production, directed by Trevor Nunn, it feels truly authentic with acting so subtle and believable we felt like we were there witnessing it in the village with them. The vocals were stunning however the sound seemed to be pointing directly at the stage leaving us feeling a little left out and underwhelmed by the powerful voices on stage. In an environment that is quite immersive this doesn't really go hand in hand. Andy Nyman gave a storming performance as the lead role of Tevye, he had the perfect balance of comedy and authenticity. We loved him, feared him, wanted to shake him but also knew him inside and out. This is the key to a perfect performance. Judy Kuhn gives the same qualities as Nyman in her performance, a mother torn but her family and her faith. Her material but strict manner gave a heartbreaking conflict and interesting contrast to Nymans performance. Molly Osbourne (Tzeitel) and Nicola Brown (Chava) in their professional debuts gave stunning and such professional performances, you’d think they were seasoned pros. Both had a vulnerability that was heart wrenching but a strength that also empowered. As Hodel, Harriet Bunton really is a gem in this show. Her voice was beautiful and what was a nice touch was that her voice had the classical sound needed for the show but with little contemporary moments which was interesting for this character especially. Having seen Stewart Clark in a few things, I had no idea he had a voice like that. Absolutely stunning. As a part, Perchik isn’t the best written but he truly filled it out and was perfect casting in this show. A mention must go to Adam Margilewski who really stood out, an incredible dancer amongst his fellow talented cast. However my experience was dampened by the terrible theatre etiquette around me. Usually I don’t like to comment on this as it has nothing to do with the show but my enjoyment of this production was ruined by the behaviour of those around me. Due to the nature of the show (the actors constantly walking through the auditorium) ushers are briefed to not go into the seats allowing everyone to browse instagram as they chose. A lady sitting in the box at the side of the stage even tried to take a picture of one of the actresses as she climbed through past her to sit on the ledge of her box. Loud snacks being consumed paired with the chatter of those around me actually over powered the volume of the show. The production and theatre are at fault here with the negligence of any announcements or signs saying that this is prohibited during the performance. If the show wasn’t as good as it was I would reflect this in my rating but as the show itself is brilliant I can’t bring myself to do so.In saying this, Trevor Nunn directs a fantastic a much needed revival of Fiddler on the Roof. This production is revolutionary and has come around exactly at the right time. Review by Mark Swale Rating: ★★★★Seat: J22 Stalls | Price of Ticket: £75
March 28, 2019
This production, which has recently opened at the Vaudeville Theatre, had its premier at the Globe in August 2018. Moving from the Globe can be difficult due to the nature of the space but it really feels like the company have cut a portion of the theatre and placed it in the heart of the West End.Following the story of Emilia Bassano, the ‘Dark Lady’ erased form History. A girl from a good background educated and taught to contain herself but has a huge voice needing to be heard underneath. From the tender age of 7 years old we see her grow up into a young woman and head straight through into adult life. An aspiring poet, she couldn’t have her work published because women could only have religious text published into the world. After some clever thinking she, and her students, come up with a way to get around this and start to educate Women throughout London. What this play does is wake us up. It shows us how similar our times are to then, with the links made by Morgan Lloyd Malcolm (writer) between this time period and modern day we can make the parallels between the two societies. Its amazing how far we’ve come, of course, but its also astonishing how little progress we’ve made in this huge amount of time. Morgan Lloyd Malcolm doesn’t go halves on telling you how it is, through the narration and the choice to have the lead character split between three actors we are told the struggles and challenges Emilia faced through her life. Although much is speculation and not proven in history, all of It matches up pretty well and Lloyd Malcom could certainly make you believe it! An all female cast and creative showing real diversity is truly refreshing to see in the West End, this is how to do diversity in casting! Equal opportunities but not at the sacrifice of talent, the performances in this production were stunning from every member of the ensemble cast. With the nature of this play, it is a true ensemble piece. Yes, we focus on the lead character but with the dividing of it into three and multi rolling, it makes for a fantastic and innovative ensemble piece.The three Emilias were all captivating in their performances; Saffron Coomberbrought a youthful and fresh energy but when the time was right she could flip and we were right on her side every step of the way, Adelle Leonce had the grace, elegance and confidence that a strong minded woman should carry and acting skills to astound and Clare Perkins, as the lady to take us through most of the story, held the show together and spoke with wisdom and passion that fed straight across to the audience. Charity Wakefield also gave a brilliant performance as William Shakespeare, a little less caricature than the portrayal of the other men in the play but equally as funny and heart warming. The directive choice to portray the men in a commedia dell’arte fashion was both humiliating and hilarious, showing us how ridiculous the laws were and how stupid men have been thinking they have the right to rule over a woman’s body or voice. I applaud Nicole Charles (director) in her brave and bold choices throughout, a director who is a force to be reckoned with. What this play is saying is that we need to wake up and make a change, we’ve run out of patience and we are tired of being nice. I have never come out of a show feeling the way I felt about this play. It is time to face the facts and realise the wrongs in history and change them now, our voices can be heard. Yes, the writing at times gets slightly preachy and self-righteous, but with the nature of the message and narrative we as an audience feel like we’re at a rally. I myself wanted to get up and cheer but refrained because of the theatre environment. Was I right to do so? Probably, I didn’t want to get a violent tap on the shoulder from the older gentleman behind me. But this is the feeling Lloyd Malcolm wants us to embody, the feeling that we are all in this together and we must make a difference. This play has passion, heat, intelligence, anger, fun, humour, hope and elegance. What more could you want? This is the play of the year, if there is one story you are to be told this year, its this one. Go and see it, NOW! Review by Mark Swale Rating: ★★★★★Seat: G3 Stalls | Price of ticket: £55
March 27, 2019