Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, West Yorkshire Playhouse (Written on behalf of The Reviews Hub)

This review was originally written on behalf of The Reviews Hub and the link can be accessed here.

Image Credit: Alastair Muir (Accessed from http://www.thereviewshub.com)

On arrival to the West Yorkshire Playhouse, themed decorations and props hint that something big is about to happen, and they would be right. Ian Fleming’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is the theatre’s biggest ever Christmas show.
Fleming’s story, which the author sadly never saw published, was adapted for film in 1968 with Richard M Sherman and Robert B Sherman composing the music and lyrics.  Jeremy Sams originally produced the show for the stage in 2002, with the Sherman Brothers writing four new songs in the process.  This lavish production opens in Leeds and will be embarking on a tour playing in a number of UK towns and cities during 2016.
The narrative revolves around Chitty, the motor vehicle, who is the life and soul in terms of adventure and imagination, as well as being something of a status symbol.  It was a three-time Grand Prix winner before the First World War, only to later fall into rack and ruin before Jeremy and Jemima Potts’ (Henry Kent and Caitlin Surtess) discovery.  The valuable car is sought after by the villainous Baron and Baroness Bomburt (Don Gallagher and Tamsin Carroll) who are determined to take the car back to their kingdom of Vulgaria.
What stands out in this superb production is Simon Higlett’s colourful and breathtaking staging, perfect for the year in which the production is set, 1919.  Higlett’s staging works extremely well and uses visual and moving projections to depict the scenes, and it is a real treat to see how the car ‘moves’ on land, sea and air, thanks to these projections. The lighting and technology, courtesy of Ben Harrison, Tim Mitchell and Simon Wainwright, supports the staging well and keeps the audience’s attention and awe throughout the performance, complemented by Stephen Mear’s slick and charming choreography.
Contextual themes in the production link to the First World War: patriotism and duty evident through Grandpa Potts, while Caractacus Potts’ is fighting for survival through his ambitious inventions. There are enemies of the war, for which Vulgaria is symbolised, and quintessential British charms and traditions such as the Morris dancing in Me Ol’ Bamboo in the first act, while Truly Scrumptious riding a motorcycle and demonstrating her knowledge and capability of the vehicle, wonderfully highlights female emancipation.
The performances are outstanding, with Jon Robyns (Caractacus Potts), Amy Griffiths (Truly Scrumptious) and Andy Hockley (Grandpa Potts) leading this exceptional cast.  It is a show full of highlights, but another that deserves mention is the wonderful Team Bon Bon, an ensemble of talented children, performing and singing in perfect unison Teamwork, down in the sewers. Maximum audience participation is guaranteed, with the cast especially joining in with the infamous Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, when the car makes its perilous journey to the known and unknown.  The emotive and even hypnotic Hushabye Mountain by Potts is incredibly moving, as is the heart changing Lovely Lonely Man by Truly.  The Childcatcher (Stephen Matthews) is promised jeers and the colourful and energetic The Bombie Samba seduces one and all.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang certainly has something for everyone.  For children, it is a sense of adventure, imagination and creativity, while contextual themes are thought out by generations alike.  This is a truly fantasmagorical performance that opens up many opportunities for unique interpretation and unadulterated enjoyment. A must see this Christmas.

Film: Edward Scissorhands at Halifax's Square Chapel for the Arts

Image credit: www.film.com

An opportunity arose for one to see the screening of Tim Burton's Edward Scissorhands at Halifax's Square Chapel Centre for the Arts just before Christmas.

Fiona Black Jones, the Development Manager, firstly summarised the exciting year it has been for Square Chapel including progress for the new building and Cornerstone project.  Optimism certainly reigns in their camp with an ambition to air 400-500 films a year (equalling almost one to two films per day including its Friday morning screenings).

Onto the film, Tim Burton is legend in the world of films and this film is no exception. Based on a story written by himself and Caroline Thompson and set to Danny Elfin's music, it features Edward, an artificial man with scissors as his hands, who is discovered and is invited to live with the Boggs family. 

Edward Scissorhand's (Johnny Depp) imagination and creativity makes many friends initially but subsequently blinded innocence, misunderstanding and misfortune brings unimaginative consequences.  Only returning to the Gothic castle where he was invented could offer refuge.

This beautiful dark story features romance where Edward falls in love with Peg Boggs' daughter, Kim (Winona Ryder) who see his beauty beyond.  The film is presented in a fairy tale format, told by Kim Bogg to assumingly to her granddaughter, with a prologue and an epilogue.

Self discovery along with feelings of isolation, loneliness and vulnerability are drawn from the film and can relate to many including the producer himself,   Certainly something for everyone in this magical film.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

York Theatre Royal's Dick Whittington (and his meerkat) - 11th December 2015, The Signal Box Theatre, York

Vincent Gray as Dick Whittington
Photo Credit: Anthony Robling

York Theatre Royal takes pride in hosting their annual world famous pantomimes.  Berwick Kaler, writer and co-director of this production, is the country's longest serving pantomime fame.  His 37th appearance!

For one year only, the pantomime is playing at The Signal Box Theatre, York Theatre Royal's temporary residence, during the theatre's redevelopment.  Dick Whittington and his meerkat is a one off opportunity for panto fans to enjoy close up! The moving action takes place centre stage on a railway track following the successful The Railway Children in the summer.

Suzy Cooper, Berwick Kaler and Martin Barrass
Photo credit: Anthony Robling

Kaler is the undisputed star of the show as Paloma Polony.  As a first timer, one can see why!  His damsel qualities required for a pantomime shine through with radiant energetic interaction with fellow characters and the audience.  Not forgetting the silliness, adventure, fun and humour which are expected in pantomimes.  Rejoining Kaler is Martin Barrass (Wind in the Willows and The Railway Children) who switches contrasting roles from Willy Polony to the protective Mayor Cheapskate; Suzy Cooper, the attractive and adorable Charlotte Cheapskate and David Leonard, the villainous Herman Vermin.

Berwick Kaler as Paloma Polony and David Leonard 
as Herman Vermin
Photo credit:  Anthony Robling

The story of Dick Whittington is not literally told straight; there are the expected additional elements even a film, The Loco-Motion starring Kaler et al and BBC Look North's Harry Gration who signals Dick Whittington (Vincent Gray) to turn back!  There is a underwater feature running between the audience.  Mr Finickerty's heroism is celebrated with a song adapted from CATS' Mr Mistoffelees. Of course, as one expects, there is an abundance of comedy, slapstick and 'facts' containing familiarity, local references and innuendoes along with name mentions and greetings and thanksgiving.  Familiar tunes play and sung out in the action and all choreographed by Grace Harrington.

 Berwick Kaler as Paloma Polony and 
Vincent Gray as Dick Whittington
Photo Credit: Anthony Robling

 Dick Whittington is an experience one won't ever forget. So much laughter from beginning to end! There is the occasional jeering to when Herman Vermin and his furry but cute rats make their appearance on stage.

Mark Walters' colour and eye catching costumes and staging sets the mood for this pantomime.  The production is in its early day however bear in mind, particularly for very young audience members, that this performance ran over two and half hours including an interval.  Still this length provides first class entertainment for adults and children alike.

Should I see this pantomime? Oh yes you should! A truly a festive treat whether before or after Christmas.  A pantomime not to be missed!

Friday, 11 December 2015

News: West Yorkshire Season Launch Spring/Summer 2016 (Written on behalf of North West End)

This review was originally written for North West End and the link can be found here:

Accessed from http://www.northwestend.co.uk

A warm welcome with a festive touch was received at the West Yorkshire Playhouse’s Season Launch for Spring/Summer 2016.

James Brining, Artistic Director, and Robin Hawkes, Executive Director, gave an overview of what is in store for the next season at the ‘theatre from the heart of the city’.   Firstly they proudly announced the two awards they recently won; Alzheimer’s Society Award for Best Dementia Friendly Project.  Nicky Taylor, Community Development Manager, summarised the work they do with people living with dementia including Heydeys, a weekly creative programme for Over 65s.  The second one is the UK Theatre Award for Manager of the Year won by Gaby Paradis, First Floor Manager.  Paradis passionately explained what the First Floor team do in encouraging young people to engage and develop through the arts.

Kicking off the season, in March, is The Damn United, written by David Pearce.  The story is based on Brian Clough’s 44 day reign at Leeds United Football Club.  In partnership with Red Ladder, the artistic director, Rod Dixon, hopes the raised themes link to today and how much the beautiful game has changed, not necessarily for the better.

Jamie Fletcher and company played a musical extract from the Dancing Bear, showing in February, a production provokingly explore sexuality and spirituality side by side.
Alice Nutter (My Generation) brings Barnbow Canaries in the summer. This tragic story is shimmered with opportunities and hope for women who worked in the ammunition factories.  The question is asked in the production what the First World War really means to them.  This production will mark the centenary of the catastrophic 1916 explosion in Leeds.

Transform Festival has been held annually since 2011.  In its sixth year Transform has become an independent organisation with an ambitious art programme presented across Leeds.  Amy Letman gave an overview of the trailblazer commission and day of events which will prepare for the major 2017 citywide festival.

Parallel to the story of Romeo and Juliet, Laila The Musical, presented by Rifco, a British Asian arts company.  A video message from Lee Simpson about Opening Skinner’s Box was broadcasted.  Based on Lauren Slater’s book this interpretation explores self identity through 10 great psychological experiments and the people’s involvement. Eve Ensler’s The Fruit Triology will be premiered in April.

Amy Leach’s Kes will mark its presence next June in a number of Leeds communities following its run at the Courtyard Theatre.  Happening in the same month is the highly anticipated Sondheim’s Into the Woods, a collaborative production with Opera North.

These productions will link into some of West Yorkshire Playhouse’s incredible stories being told next season.  The launch concluded with a jive performance from A Nightmare Before Christmas, a Christmas production currently playing.  Full details of the new season including dates and most importantly tickets can be found at https://www.wyp.org.uk/ 

Sunday, 6 December 2015

‘The honour would be entirely mine if you could attend my little party. Yours Sincerely, J Gatsby’ (Guild of Misrule's The Great Gatsby at The Fleeting Arms, York)

Accessed from www.yorktheatreroyal.co.uk

The Fleeting Arms as become an unassuming members only venue for this production during December. Admittance to Jay Gatsby's party happens at the back back of the building . Guild of the Misrule's The Great Gatsby, under the direction of Alexander Wright and Jane Veysey, is a story told like none other!

The Fleeting Arms, usually an art space and pop up bar, has been transformed to Gatsby residence albeit one room used as a local drug store/reception area. The audience congregates there in anticipation of this production with drinks on sale at the drug store's pop up bar and the playing of jazz music of Irvine Berlin,and of the 1920s. The party begins when Nick Carraway (Michael Lambourne), acting as the unofficial narrator, introduces Gatsby and the high life he and his associates live up to.

With two bars at hand and many dress to impress the party commences.  There are no bystanders but the guests immerses in the story whether it is to assist Gatsby (Oliver Tilnery) in choosing what colour shirt he should wear to impress or passing on an important message from Jordan Baker (Holly Beasley-Garrigan) to Carraway.  The story is told across the building's three floors and there is something happening in every room so no one didn't feel not part of the story.  Jess Cainer's designs of the rooms accurately reflect the 1920's high society.  

Certainly immersing theatre with a combination of installation and performance at its best and flows swingingly with Gatsby signature cocktails.  On the entertainment menu is participating in games, dancing, singing and all that jazz which ensures maximum audience's interaction.  One witnesses, documented by F Scott Fitzgerald, how reputation and influence reigns Gatsby's world and not to mention excess, lust and liquor being commonplace.  All this leads to downfall whether it's personal or secular such as the Wall Street Crash at the end of the decade. 

A production not be missed where everyone tells the story whether a member of the cast or the audience.  It did feel a bit claustrophobic sometimes with the crowds, when travelling from room to room, which obscured seeing some of the action.  It feels that each audience member would certainly have a positive unique experience being told this tale in such settings not told before.

The Great Gatsby will continue to party on until New Year';s Eve and further information including tickets can be found here.

Monday, 30 November 2015

Feature: Aladdin, Harrogate's Pantomime!

Harrogate Theatres is hosting Aladdin for their Christmas pantomime.  An annual custom for many local theatregoers!

Credit: Harrogate Theatres (http://www.northwestend.co.uk)

Collaborated, for the 7th time, by David Bown and Phil Lowe and Lowe's 9th time directing a Harrogate pantomime.  There is an exciting line up with Tim Stedman as Wishee Washee for his 16th appearance in a Harrogate Pantomime.  Harrogate Youth Theatre's Hannah Margerison will play Pandora and Tom Peters will play Abanazer/Emperor of China.

Pantomimes are very popular in Harrogate so you're best booking - sooner the better! Opens from Tuesday 1st December 2015 and will run until Sunday 17th January 2016 and bookings can be made here.  The pantomime will be part of the exciting sparkly festive season for many and also marking the New Year!

There is always Dick Whittington next year if you're unable to make Aladdin!

By Dawn Smallwood
On behalf of Local Theatre Blogging Community

Ghost The Musical (Amateur Production at Leeds University Union Music Theatre) (On behalf of North West End)

This review was originally written for North West End which can be accessed here.

(Accessed: http://www.northwestend.co.uk)

Leeds University Union Music Theatre presents an amateur production of Ghost – The Musical at the University’s Riley Smith Hall. The musical is based on the 1990 Blockbuster film which stars the late Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore, Whoopi Goldberg and Tony Goldwyn.
The synopsis is about two young lovers, Sam Wheat and Molly Jenson, who move to New York City. One fateful night changes their lives forever and the only connection, from that point forward, is for Sam, who still exists in the world but as a ghost, is to employ Oda Mae Brown to forewarn Molly the dangers ahead.

The staging is simple and indeed effective throughout the performance. There is great use of the technological visuals and lighting for the backdrop that synchronises the scenes such as the moving subway train with New Yorkers, played by the ensemble, commuting during rush hour.
The creative use of sounds though loud apply appropriately for Sam’s attempts to connect from one world to another and disappearances including Carl’s are disguised with strobe lighting and smoke. The clever transition from Oda Mae Brown to Sam works in the penultimate scene, Unchained Melody dance scene.

The audience receives moving performances from the cast including the three principals; Sam McCagherty (Sam Wheat), Anna Carley (Molly Jenson) and Sophie Rush (Oda Mae Brown). McCagherty and Carley successfully ride this romantic journey with their indirect connection through the present world and the next one.

The performance begins with the optimistic Here Right Now; the heartfelt and moving Three Little Words just before that fateful moment; and Oda Mae Brown and company energetically sing the colourful gospel sounding Are You a Believer?Contrasting themes such as trust/betrayal, optimism/pessimism and hope/jeopardy are explored in Suspend My Disbelief/I Had A Life when Sam, Molly and Carl (Adam Jones) summarise their lives at the end of the first Act.

In Act II there is the rapping of Focus by the Subway Ghost and the show stopping I’m Outta Here. All these popular musical numbers set to Dave Stewart’s music and Glen Ballard’s lyrics. Of course there is the infamous Unchained Melody which is synonymous to the film.

Leeds University Union Music Theatre with its exceptional cast and talented crew has collectively put together this successful amateur production which certainly makes an enjoyable and entertaining evening.

Reviewed: 18th November 2015
Reviewer: Dawn Smallwood

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Northern Ballet's Wuthering Heights: My personal thoughts

Photo Credit: Guy Farrow
(Accessed from http://northernballet.com)

Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights is an exceptional classic loved by many.  It is known for its passionate and romantic tale between Heathcliff and Cathy Earnshaw.  One appreciates the classic later on as there are a lot of complex emotions features yet to be explored.  Wuthering Heights is a story not to be followed literally with the hope of an expected ending.  However one is encouraged to explore its complex characters and its raised emotive themes including obsession, jealously, revenge, loneliness, anger, insecurity and equality.

Northern Ballet's Wuthering Heights is visiting a few venue during its Autumn 2015 tour. Set to Claude-Michel Schonberg's music; the talented artists interpret the classic on stage with simple but incredible sets from Ali Allen and David Nixon's humble but effective costumes.  The company did an excellent job interpreting the complex characters from the novel.  Antoinette Brookes-Daw and Ashley Dixon re-enact the passion and strong emotions that Heathcliffe and Cathy had for each other with excellent interpretation and dancing.

Personally I felt something was missing from this production...I didn't feel as emotive as I expected to from the novel.  Hats off to Northern Ballet and their renowned valiant effort to reinterpret a complex classic and its characters. A lot to pack in for a two and a quarter hour ballet and perhaps there was a lot of editorial decisions being made to interpret the classic on stage in that amount of time.

Seeing this production has made me appreciate Wuthering Heights even more and the lives the Bronte sisters have had.  A revisit to the Bronte's parsonage is in order as my intrigue about the infamous sisters continue to grow.  It's the 200th anniversary of Charlotte Bronte's birth next year so I'm looking forward to seeing Northern Ballet's World Première, Jane Eyre.

Dawn Smallwood
22nd October 2015

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Gatsby at The Fleeting Arms, Gillygate, York

Guild of Misrule is bringing F Scott-Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby to this unique venue which is renowned for its art space and pop up pub.  

This production is none like it with the story being told room to room across the building's three floors.  A combination of performance, installation and maximum audience participation who make up the characters will be the production's ingredients.  Not to mention the cocktails and late nights!

The excess of excesses will be expected at The Fleeting Arms during December (From the 3rd to the 31st) courtesy of Jay Gatsby.  Supporting this production will be played by actors who have featured in a number of local productions including Romeo and Juliet at St Olave's Church and The Railway Children at the Signal Box Theatre (National Railway Museum).

Dawn Smallwood
On behalf of the Local Theatre Blogging Community

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Rambert - Alhambra Theatre, Bradford (On behalf of The Reviews Hub)

This review was originally written on behalf of The Reviews Hub and the link can be accessed here.
(Image contributed and accessed from http://www.thereviewshub.com)
Rambert brings their triple bill of works to Bradford’s Alhambra Theatre. The evening begins with Mark Baldwin’s Dark Arteries set against Gavin Higgins’ music and assembled on stage is the infamous Carlton Main Frickley Colliery Band.
Dark Arteries is a dark piece of work where stories of stories are fully expressed.  Inspired by the 30thanniversary of the 1984/85 miners’ strike, this work explores the emotive journey and livelihoods of the close knit mining communities.  Deep brass musical orchestration opens up the depths of the community with slow paced and silhouetted dancing.
Simultaneous dancing takes place by the company’s artists and movements are synchronised when performed in groups, trios and duets.   The continuation makes one think of solidarity, a strong attribute in the mining communities during tough times of change.
The final scene presents the flexibility of the dancers and their ability to create intricate positions, interpretative of the raised themes and experiences to Higgins’ musical composition.
Shobana Jeyasingh’s Terra Incognita is a piece where the dancers certainly discover their unknown habitats.  Firstly, a smoke filled stage and soundscapes of nature create an atmosphere where dancers explore in synchronisation foreign spaces and existences, which are done with slick choreography.
The dancers dance in union to the music, collectively symbolising intrigue while the subsequent heightened paces represents familiarisation.  The dancers’ nomadic existences are noticed from the simultaneous entrances and exits from the stage.
The musical shift in Gabriel Prokofiev’s composition reflects the individuals’ journeys, including their determination to embrace intrigue and suspense of an unknown place, to settling in.  This colourful and reflective piece of work encourages the audience to think literally and symbolically about their existences and purposes.
Last but not least, is Rooster, the main feature of this triple bill.  Christopher Bruce’s choreography is set to several of the Rolling Stones’ songs.  Rooster celebrates the swinging sixties with sharp and sassy courtship dances by the company.
Miguel Altunaga leads a light hearted entertaining interpretation to Little Red Rooster.  The audience is treated to a variety of dancing such as the beautiful classical interpretation by a solo dancer to Ruby Tuesday to the energetic and dynamically fast paced ensemble dancing to Play With Fire.
The red and black costumes the dancers wear reflect the figurative meanings and context from the songs, while Bruce’s choreography reflects the social changes and society during the 1960s and 1970s.
This lively work concludes Rambert’s reflective and refreshing triple bill.  Each piece of work is enjoyably unique with modern themes.  Particularly memorable are the performers who take pride in their dancing these exciting works.

Monday, 2 November 2015

Romanian Vampire at Halifax's Square Chapel - 31st October 2015

Proper Job, an award winning theatre company, presents Nosferatu at Halifax's Square Chapel.  Based on Ian McMillan's poems, the company recites numerous poems about the tale of the sailors in Bram Stoker's Dracula who made the perilous journey from Varna to Whitby. 

Image credit: Proper Job
(Accessed http://www.properjob.org.uk)

The audience are invited to observe life on deck and be intrigued with the unidentified cargo.  The atmospheric staging suits the sinister mood for what is about to happen.  

The lighting and smoke creates this suspense with the mysterious deaths on board.  The lighting and soundscapes serve chillingly the vampire's existence on ship with great use of vampire images, red lighting that represents blood and dimness which is appropriate for this telling of this dark tale.

Certainly a production remembered for its stage effects, the live music and good use of metaphoric language in the text and songs.  An imaginative approach for telling a dark tale which is something Proper Job takes pride in with their productions.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Legacies of War - Dawn, Hyde Park Picture House - My personal thoughts

(Accessed from http://arts.leeds.ac.uk/legaciesofwar)

I had the opportunity to attend this screening of Dawn on the 24th October.  Hyde Park Picture House in Leeds is the only venue in the UK to screen this unique silent film. I felt privileged and it gave me an opportunity to know more about Edith Cavell, a heroine and martyr, depending one one's view point. I'm intrigued about Cavell after seeing a mountain named after her in Canada and seeing her memorial in London.

Cavell, a British nurse, was executed on the 12th October 1915 in Brussels.  The reason for her execution was aiding the escape of Allied soldiers in German-occupied Brussels. 

Firstly experts gave presentations about Cavell and the surrounding circumstances.  It is agreed that Cavell became a focal point in public conciousness from that point until today, the centenary of her death.  There are different versions of the nurse's death and her persona was and is carried out throughout particularly in pro-war propaganda.

This silent film is produced by Herbet Wilcox, a war veteran,  Dawn initially didn't go down well particularly with the German Embassy, British Foreign Office, the War Cabinet and British Board of film censors.  It was then considered distasteful and questioned its historical accuracy.  Therefore it was banned but eventually the ban was circumvented and screened in local cinemas.

Dawn, starring Sybil Thorndike, was accompanied by live piano, played by Darius Battiwalla.  The credible film gave a humane and realistic perspective about Cavell in her nursing duties and how she cared for everyone including her enemies in her care.  Certainly contradicts the propaganda carried out in World War I.  It was an excellent screening which draws the legacy of Edith Cavell. Further information about the work Legacies of War and Gateways to the First World War do can be found here.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Opera North's Barber of Seville - Personal Account

I first saw The Barber of Seville in January 2004, an Opera North production, which I thoroughly enjoyed.  Following from this I naturally had high expectations that this production will be just as enjoyable it not more!  

Opera North's The Barber of Seville
(Photo Credit: Tristram Kenton and accessed from http://www.operanorth.co.uk) 

The Barber of Seville (Il barbiere di Siviglia in Italian) is an opera based on Pierre Beaumarchais's Le Barbier de Séville. The music is composed by Gioachino Rossini and the libretto by Cesare Sterbini.  The musical score is renowned for its greatness with its comedic elements and it certainly stands out unique.  It premièred in Rome in 1816 and hasn't looked back since! There were some characteristic links to Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro and Sondheim's Sweeney Todd. 

One can't help falling in love with its music, particularly the overture, and the English translation does not compromise the opera's spirit.  It's about Rosina and a young Count who have fallen in love.  Doctor Bartolo, Rosina's guardian, is not happy with the situation and does his best to get in the way of their love.  With hilarious and witty story twists and repercussions along the way  and help from tongue in cheek and witty Figaro and bribe accepting Basilio, Rosina and County marries.  In the end true love reigns and comically all ends well.

We had understudy for Rosina with which the artist more than excelled in the role and laughter reigned in the audience with outstanding performances from Nicholas Watts (Count), Gavan Rang (Figaro), Alastair Miles (Basilio) and Eric Roberts (Bartolo).

Russell Craig's traditional setting and costumes are unique with primary focus on the Dr Bartolo's home and Figaro's barbers underneath. It feels like a "theatre in a theatre" with guests sitting at both sides of the stage watching the story unfold and is assisted with curtain drops and backstage activity.  Even at the interval young boys were bringing in hot pasta, assumed for the guests.  The staging and direction has a down to earth feel and all supported by Opera North's orchestra and its conductor, Stuart Stratford.

Certainly one of the best operas I've seen on my opera going journey and I can't recommend this production enough.  A great review here from The Reviews Hub on its production's press night.

Please check out Opera North for more information on this production and also schedules and prices.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Brief Encounters at Bradford Interchange

Bradford Interchange, October 2015

Freedom Studios presented Brief Encounters at Bradford Interchange at the beginning of October.  Written by Rav Sanghera this play invites the audience to witness encounters between people from all walks of life beginning a school reunion, a cleaner helping a customer in need to a busy business man engaging with an asylum seeker.  

Not set from any primary theatre space with hypothetical sets but performed in a busy transport interchange.  The scenes could not appear any more authentic such as the railway platform, on a bus, in the toilets and in public spaces.  The encounters are visible to everyone where one can eavesdrop on conversations.  The conversations link appropriately with personal, social, political and economic issues that are relevant in Bradford's society today.

The transition interlinks nicely from one scene to another with the character existing and entering scenarios which the audience follows.  All done seamlessly in a public space where many brief encounters take place daily.  Stories shared in the play replicate some of the many that are replicated in real life.

Sanghera's aim is to connect people from different backgrounds and circumstances.  One cannot get a better theatrical experience with different people entering and exiting with diverse stories.  An intimate and heart warming play where one is moved from life experiences by a handful of people.  Visiting Bradford Interchange will certainly make one think of what stories are share from day to day and what life journeys the passengers are taking.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Chantry Dance Company's Duology

Chantry Dance Company, formed in May 2012, gives a contemporary approach to dance being a 'liberating art form' and brings 'freedom of expression'.  This certainly has been demonstrated in this exciting and ambitious double bill.

Chantry Dance Company
Photo credit: Chantry Dance Company 
(Accessed from http://www.chantrydancecompany.org)

Eine Kleine Nachmusik

Two's a company, three's a crowd!

This saying stuck with throughout this piece based on Mozart's famous composition.  Two dancers dance in unison while the third dancer dances independently thus making me think of that saying.  The music invites the audience to explore the dancers' personalities presented and observe their presence, relationship,identity,individualism and freedom amidst finding one's place in immediate surroundings and contextually in society.  There is an expression of challenging conformities of society and what is supposedly expected of them.

Vincent - a stranger to himself

This piece is certainly more conceptual than musical.  The dancers interpret symbolically the life of Vincent Van Gogh through his passions for women and art.  The passions are interpreted dramatically and intricately; the women in his life return to haunt and torment his emotions through the dramaturg.  The effective use of easels and canvases and the art muse (Rae Piper) reiterate Van Gogh's true passion and joy, his art. The physical movements are choreographed to a diverse range of music and soundscapes which certainly reflects the emotional journey Van Gogh faced throughout his life.  Paul Chantry beautifully interprets the Van Gogh and how the painter features in society with his relationships combining genius with compelling power.

An excellent programme with two very different pieces reflecting the spirit of CDC's ethos and aims.

Shrek The Musical - Alhambra Theatre, Bradford - Saturday 26th September 2015

I always have the pleasure taking my lovely niece to the theatre. When the opportunity arose to see Shrek The Musical in Bradford I did not hesitate to book for both of us.

 Shrek The Musical - UK Tour
(Photo credit; Shrek The Musical and accessed via http://shrekthemusical.co.uk)

I saw the UK tour production (my review here) when it premièred at Leeds Grand Theatre in July 2014.  I remember being the first in the queue when booking opened on one Friday morning in September 2013.  My efforts were awarded with a free goody bag including the film DVDs.

In the queue for Shrek tickets when they went on sale at Leeds Grand (2013)
Photo Credit: Leeds Grand Theatre

My niece's thoughts of Shrek:

"The musical was absolutely amazing! Dean Chisnall was an amazing Shrek and Bronte Barbe was an amazing Princess Fiona! I particularly like Donkey (Idriss Kargbo)! He was very funny, an amazing dancer, a brilliant singer, and the outfit was adorable.  He was an amazing actor too!  Gerard Carey did really well as Lord Farqaad.  It must have been really painful being on his knees for the amount of time! I would love to go and see it again, it was really fun to watch! All the songs were amazing and the costumes were really unbelievable! My highlight, was when the Donkey and Dragon met.  It turns out she is a really good singer!"

 Shrek The Musical - UK Tour
(Photo credit; Shrek The Musical and accessed via http://shrekthemusical.co.uk)

It was an excellent performance led by Dean Chisnall, Bronte Barbe and Idriss Kargbo.  I did notice some slight changes in the costumes but I consider this important as it keeps the production fresh.  There are comical and modern references (particularly from musicals and films) which do draw audiences in of all ages.  Shrek is a kaleidoscope of fairy tales rolled into one story about an ogre.  One can learn overall that ogres and key characters should not be judged by appearances.  Shrek will continue touring until 2016 and details can be found on the website.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

The Bogus Woman, Square Chapel for the Arts, Halifax - 26th September 2015

Kay Adshead's The Bogus Woman is touring at intimate venues across the UK.  The one person production starring Coronation Street's Krissi Bohn explores the harsh and cruel reality of asylum seekers in this country.  The asylum seekers escape a horrific journey from their country of origin only for this nightmare to continue with the country's bureaucratic and inflexible system which keeps changing with its ever changing politics! 

The Bogus Woman
Photo credit: http://www.theboguswoman.com

The play shares with the audience the appalling treatment of asylum seekers at detention centres,  their missing records including vital evidence for cases and appeals, and the everlasting formal processes and policies which are strictly followed.  This upsetting, harrowing and powerful dialogue gives one a realistic picture of what many go through when seeking asylum.  One feels during the performance that there is a glimmer of hope where the situation could lead to a indefinite leave to remain in their adopted country.  Sadly realities as explored in this dialogue for many is not the case and the horrific life journey continues on after their deportation to their country of origin.

A stellar and convincing performance by Bohn who interprets brilliantly the asylum seeker and the people involved in her disturbing life journey.  A great direction to this powerful dramaturg is done by Zoe Waterman.

The situation concerning asylum seekers and refugees is even more relevant today.  As reported in the news and media; more and more people are seeking refuge from war torn and political instable countries and this is on the increase.  Sadly ignorance prevails however hope is that many organisations are doing their utmost to make the refugees welcome in their cities and give them the support they will need.

The Bogus Woman is touring across the UK  and the schedule can be found via its website.  

Jonathan Watkins's 1984, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds

The award winning dance company, Northern Ballet, premièred for the first time, Watkins's 1984.  The world première took place at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds and was received well by the audience and critics alike.

Jonathan Watkins's 1984 (Northern Ballet)
Photo credit :Emma Kauldhar
(Accessed from http://northernballet.com)

Based on George Orwell's novel, 1984 could not be any different today than in 1948 when the book was written.  Big Brother reigns supreme as Winston Smith is watched 24/7 and any thought of freedom and rebellion is suppressed and subject to punishments and cruelty unimaginable!  This is seen parallel to lot of the political dictatorships in many countries today and even countries with supposedly more liberty is monitored indirectly by government through technology and records in order to combat the threat of terrorism and other atrocities.  1984 was written just after the Second World War and during a time of an ever changing political climate in Europe.

Simon Daw's set is thrown with Chris Davey's lighting and Andrzej Golding's video design focuses how its citizens are watched and scrutinised.  The clever use of television screens certainly control people's actions and even thoughts unbeknown to them.  This is all combined with dramatic choreography by Watkins and incredible and synchronised dancing performed by Isaac Lee-Baker (Winston Smith), Dreda Blow (Julia) and Ashley Dixon (O'Brien) with Alex Baranowski's musical composition.

This two hour production certainly provokes thinking and opportunistic reflection on how we live in society today with ever increasing scrutiny.  1984 is currently touring around the UK and dates can be found by clicking on the website.