Monday, 28 April 2014

Worth a 'Sea' - Water Babies, Leicester's Curve Theatre


I saw the preview of Water Babies, a world premiere, at Leicester's Curve Theatre.  I was intrigued how Charles Kingsley's classic would be interpreted on stage after enjoying the 1978 movie (directed by Lionel Jeffries and produced by Peter Shaw) starring James Mason, Bernard Cribbens and Billie Whitelaw.  This production is loosely based on the movie.  The production's story and lyrics are written by Ed Curtis and Guy JonesChris Egan composed the beautiful memorable music for the musical.

The classic is about Tom (Thomas Milner), an orphan, who worked as a chimney sweeper, for the crooked Mr Grimes (Tom Lister).  When Tom was accused for a crime he didn't do he unwillingly jumped into the waterfall and became a water baby.  The production's modern retake is a classic that should not be taken literally.  Charles Kinsley wrote the classic at a time, post Romanticism in the 19th Century, when individual thoughts and expressions were common especially in the arts and literary circles.  Kingsley, a Reverend, used the opportunity to write Water Babies as a moral story in a religious context for education and redemption.  He was sympathetic to Charles Darwin's theory of evolution which suggested his imagination for the characters under water.  His authorial voice raised issues, such as child labour, which was prevalent in that era.

The producers engaged the character of Tom to a philosophical and liberal education during his under water adventure, which was met with enchantment, danger and uncertainty under the mentor of Mrs D (Louise Dearman) Mrs D's encouragement to Tom is to think as an individual and decide what he personally feels is best.  What struck me was the production was the illustrative use of storytelling, through and now one's fate can be decided through 'writing their chapters' as they go along instead of 'writing them in advance' with an ending.  The moral essence was that the fate was in their books (or hands) and they can wish for anything.

In order for Tom to be with Ellie (Lauren Samuel) whom he has fallen in love with, he learns and teaches life from and to the water babies and his water animal friends, Jock (Andy Grey), Terrance (Samuel Holmes) and Claude (Tom Davey) on his journey which was destined to see the Kraken (Richard E Grant).  There were dangers from the Eel (Tom Lister) and the Shark (Matthew Gent).

The staging was modern but very effective with the deep end swimming pool in one of the scenes symbolising how deep that water world is.  The special and visual effects caught everyone's attention from beginning to end and certainly a perfect aid to story telling.  This production will certainly be known as many for its sophisticated special effects.
An excellent production with an exceptional cast and a very talented creative team.  The music and numbers gave a good story to this classic's adaptation.  I was glad to have travelled down to Leicester to see the Water Babies.  A production worth a 'sea' for many reasons!

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Miss Nightingale Comes to Town!

Mr Bugg Presents...
Image Credit: Mr Bugg Presents

Matthew Bugg's Miss Nightingale is the perfect musical to be housed in a traditional musical hall in no other than Leeds City Varieties! This nostalgic musical is set in London, 1942, at the height of World War II.  The story is about Maggie Brown's (Jill Cardo) and her musical companion, George Nowodny's (Harry Walker) journey to pursue a big break on stage and developments from that point forward.

While Maggie is determined to succeed with her 'Let Me Play Your Pipe', first musical number, George yearns for Berlin and its hey days with its unique arts scene and its freedom. before Hitler came to power in 1933.  He reminisced those times in 'Meine Liebe Berlin' and the song reiterated his determination to replicate those times on stage.  Significantly, George and Sir Frank Worthington-Blythe (Tomm Coles) found a kindred spirit and began a relationship.

Miss Nightingale: Jill Cardo 
Photo Credit: Joe Armitage, Boneshaker Photoghraphy

The musical raised a number of issues especially sexuality.  The musical explores George's and Frank's relationship and what lengths they had to go through to keep it underground from the public.  Being gay was illegal until 1967 and homosexuality, it seemed, was viewed in the same light as 'the enemy within'.  The media's persecution and its propaganda reported arrests such as the high profile story of 20 men in Wales being prosecuted in 1942 for 'gross indecency'.  A lot has been moved on in this country since its legislation and with its recent introduction of gay marriages.  Sadly, there is the stark reminder how sexuality is still suppressed in a number of countries around the world and how members of the gay and lesbian communities worldwide are subject to social exclusion and stigma and in countries where it's illegal, imprisonment and a criminal record affecting their freedom in society upon eventual release.   The beautiful songs, 'Mister Nightingale' and 'Waiting' composed by Matthew Bugg and sung by Harry Walker (George) and Tomm Coles (Frank) signified their love and hopes.

Miss Nightingale can be known as 'a play within a play'.  During World War II, the theatre played a vital role to everyone especially the troops.  Music Halls were specially popular venues to housing burlesque, raunchy, slapstick and comedic entertainment.  Certainly an escapism and a boost to one's morale for an evening.  Some of Miss Nightingale's show stopping hits, 'The Pussy Song', 'Piano Man', 'The Sausage Song' and others with its innuendos guaranteed full interaction and applauses from the evening's audiences.  Women, just like Maggie, played their role supporting the war effort by 'looking lovely'.

Wars complicate people lives and lives of Maggie, George and Frank were no exception.  The story is full of emotional twists, scandals, cover ups and bribes.  To safeguard their relationship. George and Frank were subject to emotional black mail perpetrated by Tom Fuller (Adam Langstaff) as the risk of being caught was very grave.  Maggie, George and Frank faced mental and emotional challenges when they had to conform to 'cover ups' and scandals in order to appear 'acceptable' in society at the time. George, however, showed some resistance from his inner beliefs singing 'I'll Sing For No One But Myself' and a collective finale 'Someone Else's Song' with their hopes for the future, 'Call To Arms'. Life it seems is never clear cut and not black or life as one had to do what was necessary for social survival especially in war times.

Miss Nightingale (2014 UK Tour Cast)
Photo Credit: Mike Kwasniak

The multi-talented cast represented the orchestra.  It's incredible see them not just acting, singing and dancing but also playing musical instruments!  In the background Matthew Bugg, musical director, played a variety of instruments during the show which demonstrates his incredible musical talent.  The cast of Jill Cardo, Harry Waller, Tomm Coles, Adam Langstaff, Matthew Bugg and Tobias Oliver rose above to keep the spirit of Miss Nightingale alive in war time London.  The cast had the full support of is creative team including Peter Rowe (Also directed Three Penny Opera at the West Yorkshire Playhouse); Carla Goodman (Designer); David Phillips (Lighting Designer); Robb Mookhoek (Stage Manager) and Charlotte Armitage (Costumes which Matthew Bugg has an involvement with).

A fantastic evening with Miss Nightingale! There's something for someone in this burlesque musical with shares stories of expression, love, hope, courage and survival.  The UK Touring production is touring at present. Information including booking of tickets can be found here .  Please check out the recent interview with Matthew Bugg.

Sources:  From Miss Nightingale 2014 UK Tour Souvenir Programme

Saturday, 26 April 2014

A Night of Many Voices - Under Milk Wood

 Owen Teal in Under Milk Wood
Photo Credit: Catherine Ashmore

"We are not wholly bad or good, who live our lives under Milk Wood" 
- Under Milk Wood, Dylan Thomas

Dylan Thomas's Under Milk Wood is currently on its English tour, with a recent visit to York's Theatre Royal, and premiered at Clwyd Theatre in North Wales.  The Clwyd Theatre production is celebrating Dylan Thomas's centenary of this birth and 60 years since Under Milk Wood was broadcasted on the radio.

The production is not structured like a play but rather focuses on Thomas's poem and relives his 'music of his poem' with voices (Clwyd Theatr, 2014).  The poem is set in an imaginary Welsh village, Llaregyb, parallel to a similar village where Thomas grew up in.  The audience is invited to spend 24 hours observing fellow villagers who are going about their daily lives from evening of the previous day until the following one.

Guided and narrated first voice, Owen Teal (known as Ser Alliser Throne in Games of Thrones), Blind Captain Cat, Ifan Huw Dafydd (BAFTA Cymru award winner); and second voice, Christian Patterson (starred in ITV's Mr Selfridge).  The three of them introduced the number of characters who kept the spirit of the village alive by sharing their dreams and stories and  audience are kept informed.

Under Milk Wood
Photo Credit: Catherine Ashmore

"From where you are, you can hear their dreams" 
- Under Milk Wood, Dylan Thomas

Terry Hand's direction ensured the production highlights Thomas's rich poetic usage.  The dense use of visual imagery through its metaphoric descriptions of Llaregyb. Alliteration featured represents the aural imagery with its choices of words describing the village's life and livelihoods.  Adjectives, verbs and adverbs describe the village's moods and characters' inner feelings.  Double barrel words were chosen for colourful descriptions along with the consistent syllables in most of the long packed sentences and use of onomatopoeia was some of the poetic highlights. Welsh lilt and its slang consolidated the small village's life.  The poem had something for everything whether its the characters or an audience member.  Some of the songs sung were familiar, nursery rhymes, such as 'Polly, Put The Kettle On' and 'Rock A Bye Baby'.

A realistic glimpse of village life shared from Captain Cat (Ifan Huw Dafydd) sharing his poignant past memories at sea to Evans the Death (Kai Owen and starred in Torchwood) who dreams of is childhood. The villagers dreams and stories demonstrate a close knit community - villages, especially nearby industry activity output, were isolated from the main towns. This meant the villages had to be self sufficient.  Much as Thomas wanted to leave his village to pursue his writing career and his place in the parts, he must have taken pride of village life and how 'the music of the poems' raised themes of lost innocence, nostalgia of childhood and poignancy, death (Clwyd Theatre, 2014).

"Time Passes.  Listens.  Time Passes" - Under Milk Wood, Dylan Thomas

Ifan Huw Dafydd, Richard Elfyn, Katie Elin-Salt, Sara Harris-Davis, Sophie Melville, Steven Meo, Carly Morgan, Simon Nehan, Kai Owen, Christian Patterson and Owen Teal between them played Under Milk Wood's 38 characters.  In comparison to the poem the number characters have been reduced but still doesn't compromise the colourful imagination that Dylan Thomas wanted to bring to his listeners and readers.  Martin Bainbridge's simple but atmospheric staging and cleverly master lighting of Terry Hand gave an overview of the village's time of day.

A must see production which unites poetry and creative writing.  The poem demonstrates the incredible talent Dylan Thomas had and the production company ensured his talent continues to shine from beginning to the end.  Affirming Thomas as an ambassador for modern literature and a 'speaker of poetry' (Clwyd Theatre, 2014) .  Further information including booking of tickets can be found via its official website.

Sources: Photos (Credit: Catherine Ashmore and received from York Theatre Royal), Under Milk Wood Education Park (Theatr Clywd), Under Milk Wood Theatre Programme 2014

Thursday, 24 April 2014

An August Bank Holiday Lark

"The Rushcart lads are bonny, bonny lads...."

I recently saw An August Bank Holiday Lark at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds,  Written by Deborah McAndrew and directed by Barrie RutterThe New Vic Theatre and Northern Broadsides production is currently touring the UK and it was premiered in February at the New VicTheatre in Staffordshire.

The story is about a Lancashire village community celebrating Rushbearing in August 1914.  Rushbearing is part of the rural deep traditions in Lancashire and Yorkshire which links to the communities.  It's an opportunity for communities to celebrate and take pride in village traditions and values.  The year of 1914, however, is no ordinary year, with World War I looming as well as threats of increased globalisation and advanced industrial and engineering technology.  The Rushbearing is usually tied in Wakes Week though John Farrer (Squire) (Barrie Rutter) commented about people now going to the coast instead of staying in the village to celebrate.  This suggests the arrival of the railways which have made travel possible unlike before.  Many of the rushcart lads and mill workers are having to make the difficult decision to enlist in the army - known as 'an August Bank Holiday Lark'.

The play primarily focuses on the village's livelihood and all the characters narrated their stories.  There is John Farrer (Barrie Rutter) and his family; daugther, Mary (Emily Butterfield) and sons, Edward (Jack Quarton) and William (Ben Burman).  Also Mary's husband, Frank Armitage (Darren Kuppan).  I loved how Deborah McAndrew used Philip Larkin's poem, MCMXIV, to write her play focusing on the humanity in the face of unforseeable circumstances.  This is in remembrance of World War I and how the war had an impact on all members of all communities forever just like in this play.

Conrad Nelson's music and choreography kept the spirit of the Rushbearing festival alive with celebration.  The staging and lighting designs by Lisa Evans and Mark Howland respectively complimented the play's setting and its moods.

An heart rendering play with an excellent cast starring Barrie Rutter, Andrew Whitehead , Jack Quarton, Ben Burman, Darren Kuppan, Brett Lee Roberts (who I saw in The Glee Club), Mark Thomas, Russell Richardson
(who I saw in The Glee Club), Elizabeth Eves, Emily Butterfield, Sophia Hatfield and Lauryn Redding.  Highly recommended!

Further information and tickets can be booked via this website.

Sources: An August Bank Holiday Lark Theatre Programme (2014), Virtual Tourist Website (for Rushbearing)

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Let The Right One In!

Curiousity reigned seeing Let The Right One In which recently opened at the Apollo Theatre in London.  Let the Right One In (Lat Den Ratte Komma In), a Swedish vampire romance, is written by John Ajvide Lindqvist in 2004.  Adapted as an award winning film in 2010 by himself and directed by Tomas Alfredson.

 Let The Right One In

The stage adaptation is by John Thorne and directed by John Tiffany and Steven Hoggest.  Produced by the National Theatre of Scotland and the Royal Court Theatre.  The story explores two characters, Eli (Rebecca Benson), a vampire who never grows old, and Oksar (Martin Quinn), a 12 year old boy who is bullied at school.  The main attraction of the play is the extraordinary friendship between them and how loneliness, isolation and companionship were important for their survival.  It's interesting to learn that John Thorne, like the film director, Alfredson, chose to focus on the friendship of both Eli and Oksar rather than the traditional vampire story telling.

Let The Right One In, Apollo Theatre, London

Oskar, a lonely child, is constantly bullied by his peers and perseveres their persecution.  He's looking for his revenge in order to survive.  Eli, however, is a vampire who needs to kill for necessity and surviving.  Both meeting in very different circumstances forms a close loving relationship in which they look out for each other.  The play teaches them that they can have this common bond and support to ensure their survival whether physically, mentally or emotionally.  This is the same for friendships today where each individual may have totally different lives to one another.

Christine Jones's enchanting set and Catherine Yavroyan's perfect lighting portrayed the darker elements of the story with the dark forest and snow.  It pictures the right environment for the story to be told and, for example, with the trees Eli climbs the trees to demonstrate her strength of a vampire.  John Tiffany discussed how she can 'feel animalistic like part of the natural order' (Tiffany, 2013, Theatre Programme) and yet she has the innocence of a little girl being lost and vulnerable in the woods.  The character of Eli gives a chilling, dark and intriguing feel to the story and its themes raised.  Jeremy Chernick's special effects, Gareth Fry's sound and the wonderful Olafur Arnald's Music worked in harmony in the landscape and the play.

The thought provoking swimming pool scene which happened in the second act.  The scene measured the severity of bullying Oksar endured.  It wasn't comfortable to see but it makes you think what many victims of bullying are going through - maybe not physically but mentally, emotional and psychologically! The main message raised is that bullying is unacceptable and must be eliminated!

Overall an amazing play with a dark, bloody but unique setting! Adorable moving story of two different characters finding a kindred spirit between each other.  Some thought provoking messages how these can relate to society today as in this story!  Rest of the cast were exceptional including Gavin Mackay, Clive Mendes, Angus Miller, Christian Ortega and Susan Vidler.

Let The Right One In is a play not to be missed! See it while you can.  Information and tickets can be obtained via its official website!

Sources: Let The Right On In (2014) Theate Programme (for play), Wikipedia (for movie)

Monday, 21 April 2014

Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion

 Pygmailon at the Grand Theatre, Leeds

I had the opportunity to see Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion at my local theatre, Leeds Grand.  Not only it was an excellent production directed by David Grindley but I was upgraded to front row in the stalls.  Bernard Shaw wrote the play in 1912 and it was premiered on stage in 1914 just before the first world war.  There has been a number of adaptations over the last century including the musical, My Fair Lady, which is loosely based on the play.  This production is to mark the centenary of when Pygmalion, based on the Greek mythological character, is about Henry Higgins (Alistair McGowan), a phonetics expert, training Eliza Doolittle (Rachel Barry), a flower girl, to pass as a 'duchess' in High Society though the art of speech.  

Shaw wrote the play with an authorial voice to express his desire to see full equality in society without a class system where wealth, education, gender, appearances and, most certainly, how one talks are assessed.  He had seen, during the Edwardian times, the contrasts between the rich and poor.  The wealthy were getting wealthier and yet London's working class lived in some of the worse socially deprived areas.  Women, specially, had it tough in society especially with employment.  Compared to men, they would worker longer hours for poorer wages.  This led to many turning to prostitution which offered better wages and less hours.  At the time Shaw wrote his play, the Suffrage Movement, reached a crucial stage.  Women have been fighting for reforms including the right to vote.  Key players including Emmeline Pankhurst fought very hard along with increased independence since the Women's Property Act in the late 19th Century.

Like the women of the Suffrage movement Eliza Doolittle fought her right of independence by earning from her flower sales and surviving on the London streets with dignity.  It was openly demonstrated when she expressed her contempt to how Mr Higgins treated her with his experiment.  Shaw's message was making the English language accessible and he believed how this would break down the barriers.  Notable progress was made with the Education Reforms Act in 1870.

The conclusion is certainly refreshing and directed well in this production.  Eliza's progress. through the training of speech and phonetics gave her opportunities, which were rare for women, to pursue a career.  Shaw was keen that Eliza had those choices and proves that application of phonetics and speech can break up Britain's traditional systems.  Many had hoped that Henry Higgins and Eliza Doolittle would marry and live happily ever after just like the myth of Pygmalion.

This production has an excellent and talented cast with Alistair McGowen (loved his portrayal as Henry Higgins); Rachel Barry (a wonderful Eliza Doolittle); Paul Brightwell (as Colonel Pickering); Charlotte Page (Mrs Pearce and who I've seen as Christine, The Phantom of the Opera, back in 1999); James Forman (Mr Doolittle and starred in East Enders on television) and Rula Lenska (Mrs Higgins and truly a legend). The production's creative Team is made up of designers Jonathan Frenson (set and costume); Jason Taylor (lighting); Fergus O'Hare (sound) and the help of Majelle Hurley (dialect coach).

An excellent production which is highly recommended.  Further information about the UK Tour including venues can be found via the official website.

Sources:  Michael Holroyd, Mark Fisher, Professor Leonard Conolly (from Pygmalion Theatre Programme), the official website, Wikipedia (for further information about Bernard Shaw)

Sunday, 20 April 2014

A Return Visit to The Full Monty!

 The Full Monty at Noel Coward Theatre, London

After seeing Sheffield Theatres's The Full Monty in Leeds last year I was delighted to see the production transferred to Noel Coward's Theatre in London for a limited run.  Before seeing it however I was saddened to learn that The Full Monty was closing sooner than planned.  I don't understand why and still haven't come to terms with it! No fear, I'm delighted it's touring the UK from September though I'm very disappointed the production isn't visiting Leeds (I'm still hoping)! Still I'll be catching it at a city nearby as it's too much of a good opportunity to miss!

The play is based on the 1997 award winning comedy movie which is produced by Fox Searchlight Pictures and directed by Peter Cattaneo.  It starred Robert Carlyle as Gaz and the movie won the BAFTA AwardSimon Beaufoy, the screenplay writer, wrote the stage adaption especially for this production.  As many know the story is set in Sheffield, North of England, and is about six unemployed men who form a male striptease group in order to survive in the tough economical climate.

 The Full Monty at Noel Coward Theatre, London

Beaufoy focuses on the humour in The Full Monty as he did in the movie.  He discussed how humour is essential for one to deal with adversaries and its despairs of unemployment. This was the case for Gaz (Kenny Doughty) and his companions in the play.  Through the humour it touches a number of themes, predominantly unemployment, but raises the issues of mental health, debt, sexuality, one's impotence to change the predicament imposed and each individual's determination and creativity, such as stripteasing, to survive.

Sheffield is known as a 'City of Steel' and is renowned for its proud steel industry.  Like other industries across the country, the steel industry decline due to the reducing output later on in the 20th Century.  From a political perspective, at the time, there was the need for the industry to be competitive especially internationally and the decisions led to restructuring of the industry, including privitisation, and a mass unemployment.  The unemployment had (still has) a profound effect on its workers and their families and communities.  There was also this sense of pride working in an industry which spanned generations which has declined.

The reality of what happened was rather too much for one to take in and being unemployed was detrimental to themselves and their role in society.  Beaufoy said in an interview that the men were lost and not knowing what was going on with their lives and also in their city (Beaufoy, The Full Monty Theatre Programme).  Although life goes on and the city moves forward, many feel that some things will not be the same anymore.  It isn't any different today but it feels more widespread across the existing manufacturing industries and service ones.  Many out there share exactly what Gaz and company went through.

 Me with Kenny Doughty (Gaz) at Noel Coward Theatre's Stage Door

The performance I went to on one March evening was excellent, which I expected, with its super talented cast who entertained us from beginning to end.  I was laughing long after the show.  A big thanks to Kenny Doughty (Gaz), Roger Morliage (Dave), Craig Gazey (Lomper), Kieran O'Brien (Guy), Sidney Cole (Horse), Simon Rousse (Gerald) and company.  I had the pleasure meeting some of them at stage door after the show and were so appreciative though emotional with the pending show's closure.  A big credit to the creative team who made The Full Monty on stage a big success! Such as direction of Daniel Evans and Steven Hoggert's choreography; the designers, Robert Jones (stage), Tim Lutkin (lighting) and Ben and Max Ringham (sound),  The comedy was accompanied by feel good songs from Irene Cara (Flashdance), Donna Summer, James Brown, Tom Jones, Hot Chocolate et al.

See you on tour, The Full Monty!  The tour our details can be found here.

Sources: The Full Monty Programme (West End), The Full Monty Official Website, Wikipedia (for the movie information)

Being Spirited Away by Noel Coward and A Legend!

 Blithe Spirit at Gielgud Theatre, London's West End

Blithe Spirit is the second Noel Coward's play I've seen on my theatre journey.  To be honest I didn't know much about the comedic play but I was curious to learn and discovered that Angela Lansbury was reprising her Tony Award winning role as Madame Arcati this prompted me to book my ticket!

Noel Coward's play was written in 1941 and premiered in London the same year.  There has been a number of revivals in the West End and on Broadway since then including this one.  Directed by Michael Blakemore who did this production on Broadway in 2009 which starred Angela Lansbury.  The comedy take its title from Percy Bysshe Shelly's Poem To A Skylark.  It's about a writer, Chales Condomine (Charles Edward), who wanted ideas for his next book.  He invites Madame Arcati (Angela Lansbury), an eccentric medium and clairvoyant, to conduct a seance which hopefully will inspire his ideas.  From that point forward, things didn't plan the way way he wished and hoped and the seance invited the return of Elvira (Jemina Rooper), his first wife, to haunt him.  Hilarious and frustrating spirited mishaps continued throughout the play to the despair of his second wife, Ruth (Janie Dee).

It was an enjoyable comedy with an exception cast of Charles Edward, Angela Lansbury, Jemina Rooper, Janie Dee, Simon Jones, Serena Evans and Patsy Ferran.  It was truly an honour to see Angela Lansbury live on stage.  Around of applause welcomed her entrance and she was such an exceptional Madame Arcati.  Every member of the audience was happy to have had the opportunity to see her in person at the Gielgud Theatre as acknowledged from the standing ovation. Not also forgetting the talented and great creative team including Simon Higlett (Designer), Mark Jonathan (Lighting) and Ben and Max Ringham (Sound).

I always will associate Angela Lansbury with Jessica Fletcher in Murder She Wrote, a television series, and I'm still humming the series's theme tune as I'm typing this post.  She has done a number of award winning roles on stage and screen over the years including being the original Mrs Lovett in the Broadway's production of Sweeney Todd in 1979.  Truly a legend!

The production is on at the Gielgud Theatre until 7th June and ensure you don't miss out tickets can be booked via its website.

Sources:  Blithe Spirit Official Website, Gielgud Website and Wikipedia (for further information about the play)

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Fatal Attraction at the Theatre Royal Haymarket

 Fatal Attraction at the Theatre Royal Haymarket

The new play, Fatal Attraction, opened at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, in March 2014 is based on the 1987 psychological thriller movie starring Michael Douglas, Glenn Close and Anne ArcherJames Dearden wrote the screenplay (based from the British short movie, Diversion) and directed by Adrian Lyne.  The play is directed by Trevor Nunn and produced by Robert Fox, Patrick Ryecroft and Theatre Royal Haymarket productions.

As we all know the movie is about a weekend affair between Dan Gallagher and Alex Forrest who refuses to let it go.  Her refusal leads to obsession, stalking and emotional blackmail which has frightening consequences for Dan and his young family.

I was curious about the play and wonderful how the screenplay would adapt on stage.  I've heard mixed reviews however they didn't deter me and I was determined to see the adaptation with an open mind.  I love the movie but I'm more interested in the story's themes which I believed the play will highlight.  Albeit some changes especially at the end, the play kept faithfully to the movie.  I enjoyed seeing Mark Blazeley as Dan Gallagher and the 'unofficial narrator'; Natascha McElhone as Alex Forrest, a successful career woman but a troubled soul; and Kirstin Davis as Beth Gallagher, Dan's wife.  Rest of the cast were excellent. Great and effective play's staging of with a big thanks to Robert Jones (Set and Costume designer); Paul Pyant (Lighting Designer) and Paul Groothus and Ed Clarke (Sound Designers).

The changes which were incorporated were of the original script James Dearden wrote.  It was the displeasure of the movie's test audiences that prompted the producers to change its ending just before its release.  The movie's ending as we know pictures Alex as the 'villian' and Dan as the 'hero' despite the 'blip' and accepting that he had to take responsible for his actions.

It was refreshing to see the ending more neutral where the characters are neither in the right nor in the wrong and there wasn't that blame culture entirely towards a character.  Everyone took some responsibility for their actions and the reasons weren't clear cut because of mitigating circumstances.  James Dearden discussed in the theatre programme that he used the play as an opportunity to reiterate the characters, especially Alex, as he originally wanted them.  She is someone experiencing psychosis but also a troubled lonely soul who is dealing life in New York as a single woman and having a demanding career.

There is certainly a contrast of social attitudes between the movie and the play today.  Compared to 1987 there is an increased awareness of mental health including psychosis; loneliness is commonplace today; more and more people go about their lives single handedly; less dependence on people and society; and an increase in e-communications including social media.  It's felt the changes that were made for the play were appropriate to the audiences today.

 A good evening at the Theatre Royal Haymarket! Fatal Attraction is booking until 21 June 2014 and information including booking of tickets can be found via the Theatre Royal Haymarket website.

Sources: Theatre Programme, Wikipedia (for the movie information)

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

The Play That Went Wrong!

Henry Shields, Jonathan Sayer, Henry Lewis
in Mischief Theatre's The Play That Goes Wrong
Photo Credit: Alastair Muir

Literally, I mean literally the play went wrong! This comedy was on at the York Theatre Royal in April 2014.  Mischief Theatre's The Play That Goes Wrong, produced by Kenny Wax and Mark Bentley, has been entertaining audiences at theatres on its UK Tour.  This follows successful runs in the West End and great reviews at the Edinburgh Festival.

Greg Tannahill, Henry Shields, Charlie Russell, Dave Hearn
in Mischief Theatre's The Play That Goes Wrong
Photo Credit: Alastair Muir

The play in a play began when the audience were taking their seats beforehand.  There was panic and bedlam among the crew members of the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society over their last minute technical checks on and off stage.  We were asked if had seen their Duran Duran cassettes/CDs around our seats! 

The Cornley Polytechnic thespians attempt was to put on a Whodunnit, The Murder at Haversham Manor, only for them to experience unpredictable and disastrous consequences...everything one thinks goes wrong, goes wrong!  Still the cast and crew persevered and continued their attempts for the show to go on until curtain call.  The host, Chris Bean (Henry Shields), admitted his surprise why we were still in the auditorium before the start of Act 2! Even during the interval we could hear the thespians venting their frustrations...farcical throughout.  They must have eventually found their Duran Duran cassettes/CDs because the music was played for one of the scenes in Act 2 but the incorrect music!

Despite everything with lots of laughter a big round of applause was given to the cast of The Murder of Haversham Manor: Chris (Henry Shields) as Inspector Carter and host; Jonathan (Greg Tannahill) as Charles Haversham; Robert (Henry Lewis) as Thomas Colleymore; Sandra (Charlie Russell) as Florence Colleymore; Max (David Hearn) as Cecil Haversham; and Dennis (Jonathan Sayer) as Butler Perkins (will always remember him for serving spirit!).

 Jonathan Sayer, Dave Hearn, Greg Tannahill, Henry Shields, Charlie Russell 
in Mischief Theatre's The Play That Goes Wrong
Photo Credit: Alastair Muir

The crew have had their limelight too with the play's lighting and sound assistant, Trevor Watson (Rob Falconer) who was often caught napping playing and checking his mobile phone.  Annie (Nancy Wallinger) who had her fair share of stage/set disasters savoured the opportunity to step in for Sandra as Florence Colleymore who was indisposed in Act 1.   Annie was determined to keep the role which she and Sandra, once she recovered, fought for the rest of the play.

Lots of laughter BEFORE the play, DURING the interval, and AFTER the play.  A full credit to The Play That Goes Wrong creative team including the writers, Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields; the designers, Nigel Hook (set) and Rick Mountjoy (lighting); Rob Falconer's music; and under the direction of Mark Bell.

Jonathan Sayer, Henry Lewis, Henry Shields
in Mischief Theatre's The Play That Goes Wrong
Photo Credit: Alastair Muir

If you want a laugh from beginning to end, The Play That Goes Wrong is the PLAY!

Sources: Mischief Theatre and Production Photos (Photo Credit: Alastair Muir) were sent from York Theatre Royal