Saturday, 27 December 2014

My 2014!

2014 has been an exciting year with its challenges thrown in.  Life isn't perfect so ups and downs should be expected.

The highlights must be:

  • Establishing myself as a theatre reviewer.  I'm now reviewing for The Public Reviews (Yorkshire and North East Region) and for a number of regional theatres.

 Of Mice and Men at West Yorkshire Playhouse in 2014

  • Completing and passing my CELTA (Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages).  It certainly was the hardest thing I've done which makes the achievement sweeter!

CELTA trainees, tutors and I in November 2014

  • Winning the Colleague of the Year Award at work.  It was unexpected and certainly a lovely surprise; I've got invited to the Corporate Awards Ceremony at Leeds Civic Hall which was a nice experience.  I work with great colleagues and Public Health is interesting as the work remit addresses and sought solutions for a wide range of health and social issues.

Winning Colleague of the Year Award at Work in
September 2014

  • Being at the Commonwealth Games in person at Glasgow and enjoying the netball preliminaries during my birthday week.  This is the second Games (First one was in Manchester 2002) I've attended in person and I was happy to have experienced the incredible atmosphere which added to the fond memories.

 The Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in July 2014

I've seen over 120 shows in 2014 (breaking my previous record of shows I've seen in a year).  Apart from a small handful of shows, I loved each one of them for what they are and the diverse and challenging messages that the creators intend to bring to us.

I enjoyed volunteering at Light Night Leeds in October 2014 and look forward to doing it again in 2015. 

Volunteering at Light Night Leeds (Photo Credit: Light Night Leeds)

However there has been some low lights which a couple I ought to mention:

Sadly I had to finish a friendship with someone whose behaviour and actions were a bad influence to me and now consider the person concerned a bad associate.  It's sad when this happens but it was the necessary thing for me to do.  I learnt a lot from the unhappy experience and I'm currently rebuilding the love for the show that was lost and the friendships which were strained during the time. 

I'm having issues being single and yet haven't met anyone special and this presents an emotional challenge I have to deal with day in and day out!

Nevertheless there have been more gains than pains! 

My new year's aims are:

  • Continue developing my passion for theatre locally and regionally.  Review and promote diverse and exciting shows through blogging and social media including my Facebook page Local Theatre Blogging Community.

Dessa Rose at Trafalgar Studios (August 2014)

  • Establish myself socially in Leeds, meet new friends and broaden my new interests and hobbies.
  • Secure my first paid EFL Teaching Role.  In the meantime I'll continue doing my voluntary teaching in Leeds in order to get invaluable experience.
  • I really hope someone special enters my life in 2015.  In the meantime I'll continue being me!!!

Happy 2015 everyone! Let 2015 soon begin!!!!

Dawn Smallwood
27th December 2014

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Aladdin, A Cast Pantomime (My Personal Thoughts)


I usually don't see pantomimes on stage however I was curious to see CAST's production of Aladdin this season.  My friend and I know Matthew Bugg and Tobias Oliver, writers for this pantomime, after seeing their production Miss Nightingale earlier this year.  I also know some of the creators in this production from past CAST and regional productions which I've seen and thoroughly enjoyed.  The talented production team involved motivated me to see Aladdin.

We were entertained from beginning to end soon as we were transported to Doncastistan, the fictional location for the story.  I loved how the local references were adapted to tell the story for which the CAST productions are renowned for and there is a nice community belonging for the local audiences.

There is something for everybody in the pantomime with Alan French's Widow Twanky which has the lines and innuendos for adult members of the audience and how the cast drew in its younger members to participate in the show.  The live music playing familiar songs offer the audience to create their own story of Aladdin with well known songs which fitted in perfectly the universal messages raised.

Good to see Brett Lee Roberts again after seeing him in The Glee Club last year and this year in Northern Broadsides An August Bank Holiday Lark at West Yorkshire Playhouse this year.  Great Pantomime which its package of performance, music, costumes and sets guarantees a good lighthearted and entertaining evening at CAST!

CAST's next year pantomime, Sleeping Beauty, is on next year!

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Being Transported to Neverland - Northern Ballet's Peter Pan, Leeds Grand Theatre

 Image Credit: Northern Ballet (Accessed from


My niece and I went to Northern Ballet's Peter Pan at the Grand Theatre in Leeds.   It was my niece's first ever ballet (certainly won't be her last!) and she kindly offered to share her thoughts of Peter Pan:

"Dancing was awesome!"

"Loved Wendy (performed by Rachael Gillespie)...very pretty"
"Loved the part where they were flying"
"The mermaids were awesome! How did they dance in their tight costumes?"
"The dancing showed off Tinkerbell's (played by Miki Akuta) cheeky character"
"Good when it didn't tell that they were changing the scenery"
"Loved the costumes...were absolutely amazing!"
"The set the scene and the mood.  Great expression of emotion and story"
"Loved the crocodile (performed by Mlindi Kulashe) and the dog was so cute"

In conclusion:
"I would love to go and see something like this again"
"Inspired to take up ballet again"

My niece's positive feedback on Northern Ballet's Peter Pan proves how popular David Nixon's Peter Pan is!

Based on J.M. Barrie's classic, David Nixon's production returns to Leeds for two weeks where one has an opportunity to travel with Peter Pan and friends in Never land.  Never land offers adventures up in the night and descend in uncharted lands sprinkled with fairy dust. Surprises and dangers are encountered including Captain Hook's desire to avenge Peter Pan and Tinkerbell's fickle actions impact on the magical adventure taken by all! 

The beautiful, magical and imaginative story is complemented with effortless flying, romantic encounters, intricate fights and the incredible dancing by Northern Ballet's Corphyees and dancers and with Peter Mumford's (known for his work in Hampstead Theatre's Wonderland and Almeida Theatre's Ghosts) great sets.  Stephen Warbeck's music, like the dancing, beautifully the story beautifully with each note and beat representing the diverse moods.  The clock chimes link characteristically to the original story's features.

A production one must not miss and is playing at Leeds Grand Theatre until 20th December 2014.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Catch Up With Matt Bugg

 I was able to catch up recently with Matt Bugg following his production of Miss Nightingale which toured for six weeks in Spring 2014 at a number of of venues .  He since then has co-written Aladdin,  a CAST Pantomine, and the production has just opened at CAST, Doncaster.

Matt Bugg with his sausage dog, Georgie
Photo Credit: Charlotte Murphy

Please could you share with me how you feel Miss Nightingale went? The production toured a number of venues nationwide. Are there any plans to tour the production again in the future?

This year’s tour of Miss Nightingale went really, really well.  It was great to be back on the road with the show for the third time!  And we toured for six weeks this time to a wide variety of venues across the country, including a wonderful week at the legendary Leeds City Varieties Music Hall and a riotously night at CAST in Doncaster – nothing beats a Yorkshire home crowd!  We had really lovely responses from audiences and critics right across the tour.  Alongside this we sadly still had a handful of people who felt uncomfortable with the love story in the show because it was between two men. Thankfully it was only a handful but it just makes us all the more determined that this is a show with an important message of love, tolerance and living each day as if it were your last.  We want as many people as possible to see this celebration of the courage it takes to stand up and be counted.  It also makes the wonderful feedback we got even more meaningful and touching for everyone involved in the show.  People really do seem to have taken Miss Nightingale to their hearts.  Because of this and the interest from theatres across the UK in the show we are looking at touring again next year.  Watch this space!

How have things been since Miss Nightingale? Please tell me some of the projects you're currently involved with?

Busy!  Although we did find time for a much needed week’s holiday which was lovely.  We’ve been really busy tying up all the loose ends from this year’s tour and more excitingly starting to plan for our next two shows.  It’s still early days but we’ve had a number of meetings about these and so far, I’m very relieved to say, everyone has been as excited as we are about them.  I’ve also worked on several shows for other people as either composer or sound designer.  This includes a possible new musical of a very well-known and much loved collection of children’s stories.  I can’t say any more than that at the moment as I’ve been sworn to secrecy but if it’s a very, very exciting project and I’m thrilled to be involved in it.  I’ve also been busy writing the script of Aladdin for this year’s pantomime at CAST in Doncaster.  I was MD (Musical Director) for last year’s production of Cinderella.  It was the first pantomime I’d ever worked on and I had a ball, if you’ll excuse the pun!  CAST is such an amazing new theatre, it’s only been only a year, and the quality of the work they’re aspiring to do and the support they’re getting from their audiences is truly amazing.  Artistic Director Kully Thiarai is directing the show again this year and is a joy to work with.  I love pantomime – it’s such a wonderful British, theatrical tradition.  And for most people in this country it’s their first experience of going to the theatre and for some it’s the only time they ever go to the theatre experience, so to me it’s really important that they have the best experience of live theatre they can.  It’s a responsibility to get it right because if they have a good time and they experience the unique magic of live theatre hopefully this will ignite a spark in them that will fire up into a lasting passion for live theatre.

Please could you tell me a bit about the CAST's Christmas production, Aladdin, for which you're arranging and directing the music for? How is the production shaping up? How is the musical direction going?

  Aladdin at CAST, Doncaster
Image Credit: CAST (

Well this year I’m not just the MD but also the writer of the show.  I must admit that it was somewhat odd to have spent most of this glorious hot summer working on a traditional, family Christmas pantomime!  Nevertheless, I really enjoyed it and I think it’s going to be a great show.  We wanted to capture all the essential, traditional elements of pantomime but at the same time bringing it a little up to date for modern audiences.  So, it has a strong story with lots of gags and also a strong Princess Jasmine – she’s clever, smart and most definitely an equal to Aladdin.  The music is a mixture of current chart hits and some classic pop songs.  I’ve even written one number, a comic duet for Widow Twanky and the Sultan.  The designs for the show are beautiful and I know everyone will love them as much as I do. We started rehearsals on Monday and it was so excited to finally get started.   The cast, like in Miss Nightingale are actor musicians so they will be acting, singing and playing in the band too.  They are all amazing and I know people are going to be blown away by how talented they are.  The show opens on 5 December 2014 and plays until 3 January 2015. I hope people will come and see it.

Are there any past and/or current productions you personally recommend for my readers and I? Nationally and regionally?

Far too many to mention.  If you like musicals and aren’t easily offended then go and see The Book of Mormon – it is faultless, great entertainment and a simply brilliant show. I’m also looking forward to seeing Anything Goes at Sheffield Theatres this Christmas if my panto schedule allows - their shows are always worth seeing – and was very excited that they are doing a season of plays by Sarah Kane next year whose work I love but haven’t seen for many years.

May I take an opportunity to thank Matt Bugg for his time answering the questions.  Wishing him, the creative team and cast every success for Aladdin and if you can please see this production, which is in receipt of ongoing positive feedback and reviews!