Sunday, 18 January 2015

TS Eliot's Murder in the Cathedral

I've been asked to promote this exciting event which will be stage uniquely at Temple Church in London on Friday 30th January to Sunday 1st February 2015.

Murder in the Cathedral starring Philip Franks is written by TS Elliott and directed by Joe Harmston - the brain child of Stephen Hockman QC who will be the future Middle Temple's Treasurer.  The production stars a professional cast of five and non professional cast of 16 who are from the British and Irish Bar.  Legal and theatrical professions unite and collaborate Murder in the Cathedral with which will be a unique event staging at an appropriate time.

Murder in the Cathedral explores themes which are so familiar today such as terrorism, religious conflicts and divisions and consequential speech which had led to tragedies including the murder of Charlie Heddo recently in France.  The story about the murder of Archbishop Thomas Beckett links similarly with the recent news.

The music is composed by Matthew Bugg, designs by Simon Scullion (sets), John Harris (lighting) and Jonathan Lipman on behalf of Angels (costumes).  The production is also supported by The Chorus of the Women of Canterbury and The Priests consisting of legal professionals.  

Further information including tickets are available via this link or call
020 7427 5641.

What I'm looking forward to seeing in Yorkshire!

With renewed energy, dedication and focus I'm really excited seeing some amazing things this season and beyond in Yorkshire as a theatregoer and reviewer.

 York Theatre Royal

In Leeds:

Leeds has a very exciting theatre scene, not that I'm biased! This season and beyond is no different.

My first trip to see a production The Carriageworks is set! I've been there many times for work events but not to the theatre!  I;m not just seeing one production but four; Leeds Youth Opera's Sweeney Todd; Sell A Door's Jekyll & Hyde; The Honey Man; and Leeds Children's Theatre The Diary of Anne Frank.

I'm looking forward to seeing Christopher Haydon's Twelve Angry Men as well as supporting Northern Ballet and Opera North at the Leeds Grand TheatreWest Yorkshire Playhouse is blessed with a line up of some incredible productions such as Mark Rosenblatt's Uncle Vanya and visiting are the Phoenix Dance Theatre, Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird and one of my favourite plays, Birdsong.  And seeing and reviewing some exciting diverse and exciting dance productions at the Stanley and Audley Burton Theatre!

In Bradford:

A number of things have been booked but the most eagerly awaited production there must be Arthur Miller's View From A Bridge.

In Halifax:

Love supporting Square Chapel and booked to see Trails of Galieo at the end of January.  There will no doubt be more productions that I will plan to see this season and beyond.

In Doncaster:

I'm a regular visitor to its lovely CAST and I'm especially looking forward to seeing a number of things including local and touring productions.  I'm eagerly waiting to see what home grown productions they have planned this year - usually around CAST's birthday in September.

In Sheffield:

I'm looking forward to checking out Sheffield's theatre scene for the first time this year and have booked to see Sheffield Theatre's Play For Time and Pride and Prejudice productions at the Crucible.  I always love a Matthew Bourne/New Adventures production so I've booked The Car Man.

In York:

York Theatre Royal will be undergoing an eight month restoration.  The theatre will have an Open Day before closing its doors in March where there are opportunities for me to pay a personal tribute to my very happy theatre going and reviewing adventures there and wishing the theatre all the best for its restoration.  I look forward to supporting this amazing theatre during the eight months when they work in partnership with other key organisations and host productions at other venues across York.  I'm looking forward to seeing Romeo and Juliet at St Olave's Church and both In Fog and Falling Snow and The Railway Children at The National Railway Museum.

I plan to pay a visit to the city's other main theatre, Grand Opera House, where I plan to see a few productions there.

It will be a busy time in Yorkshire and hope to make side trips to England's North West for more theatre fun and learning!  Never a dull moment!

2015 A New Beginning and Direction.....

 Thank you for the amazing memories, London!

I'm a very proud Leeds girl...I lived in Leeds almost all my life and I don't want to live anywhere else! 

I've decided now to fully dedicate fully supporting theatre locally in Leeds and regionally in Yorkshire.  I love the London theatre scene but now much prefer going to theatre closer to home.  I've had an amazing West End and Off West End journey from when I first saw my West End show in 1995 to seeing The Phantom of the Opera for the 75th time recently.

This means I'll be severely curtailing my trips down to London after March 2015.  I probably go once if lucky twice or three times a year in the future but a lot less than I have done for the past few years.  I now find the local and regional scene and frankly much more exciting than the London's West End!  True there are some amazing and exciting productions on in London; however I feel increasingly uncomfortable with the inflated West End theatre ticket prices, the lot shorter shows runs and short notice closures, the hyped up celebrity castings and the fandom that it brings. There's seems to be this bigger emphasis on who's in the show than the show itself!  It isn't the West End I excitingly once knew and it's something I no longer want to be part of.  On a recent trip to London I've felt more lonelier and there seems to be this increasing isolation of not belonging to anyone and anywhere!

I had a top price ticket for a West End show recently which I can get tickets for up to five shows* at a local producing theatre,  I can't justify paying ridiculous prices for seeing West End shows and the unsustainable and prohibitive travel/subsistence costs the capital demands!  I've felt unhappy that I had to miss local shows because of money going towards funding recent London trips.

In 2014 I've found pleasure seeing locally produced shows locally and regionally especially at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, York Theatre Royal and Doncaster's CAST. Seeing some exciting home grown productions have also taken me to other regional theatres I've never would have gone to such as Leicester, Oldham, Bolton and so on.  I belong more to the local theatre scene where I'm valued more as a theatregoer and as an up and coming theatre reviewer.  I've established some great contacts and opportunities with local and regional theatres and local creators. I'm very grateful for those opportunities.  I want to continuing pursuing these relationships and support all concerned with increased time and energy from now on....

Upwards and Onwards!

Dawn Smallwood
18th January 2015

*mid to bottom range tickets but with clear views of the stage

Saturday, 17 January 2015

English National Ballet's Swan Lake, London Coliseum

Swan Lake is my favourite ballet and I've had the privilege seeing a number of different productions by Northern Ballet, Matthew Bourne's New Adventures, English National Ballet and so on.  I've seen a number of productions by English National Ballet and still I'm just as excited seeing their newer productions as much as the previous ones! This production has visited three UK cities and I was so glad to have caught it at the London Coliseum.  Swan Lake in The Round was my last English National Ballet production I saw in 2013.

English National Ballet's Swan
Photo Credit: English National Ballet 

English National Ballet's Swan Lake is playing at the Coliseum until 18th January 2015.  Choreographed by a team of choreographers including Derek Deane and Frederick AshtonTchaikovsky's Swan Lake never fails to amaze and move one emotionally with its story and music interpretation! Ivan Vasliev and Alina Cojocaru, leading artists, starred as Prince Siegfried and Odette/Odile respectively in this performance.  Their incredible and intricate pas de deux(s) don't appear unoticed especially during the introductory Act II and the fateful Act IV.

The swans themselves dance in unison and beautifully particularly in Act II's Dance of the Swans.  The exquisite dancing is supported by Peter Farmer's stunning sets and Howard Harrison's lighting certainly reflect the story's characters and mood.

Cultures are represented and serenaded with dance in Act III's royal ceremony which suggest the political empires and monarch that reigned in Tchaikovsky's time.  One appreciates the diverse music representing these empires' and countries' cultures.  

Swan Lake whether the interpretation is classical or contemporary always capture everyone's heart with the prince's love for a swan queen and their fateful journeys ahead of them.  An amazing production all around!

East Is East, Trafalgar Studios, London

 (Image Credit:

Excitement always reigns for many theatre lovers whenever Trafalgar Transformed/Jamie Lloyd Productions announce their seasons.  In this case Trafalgar Transformed  Season 2 featured Richard III starring Martin Freeman and Sam Yates's East is East starring Jane Horrocks.

East is East is a comedy where a story of two different cultures clash within a family.  Written by Ayub Khan Kin who stars as George Khan, a Pakistani fish and chip shop owner and strict Muslim, and Jane Horrocks who stars as his long suffering wife, Ella Khan. They both, separately more or less, raise a large family in the North West of England.  As well as this production  there is an award winning film, by Damien O'Donnell, which has been adapted the play.  Set in 1970s Salford and not so long after the Swinging 60s which challenged and changed the social landscape forever.

George Khan wishes for his children to have a traditional upbringing.  His hope for his children to be Muslims however is short lived as they see the world differently from him and oppose his rules.  East is East explores the tensions and differences of two cultures that are raised under one household.  It's certainly a battle on both George's and Ella's part which leads to hilarious and poignant consequences.  Compromising is certainly not an option for both of them which leads to those close and dear facing difficult choices and to come to terms what is expected and what is accepted, reluctantly in some cases!

East is East has now finished its run at the Trafalgar Studios but is currently on a limited UK Tour.  A recommended comedy offering one an insight in a Pakistani and English household.

Personal Review: Happy New Year to CATS!

New Year Day brought me to CATS at the London Palladium, my first show of 2015!

Revived Production of CATS at the London PalladiumPhoto Credit: Really Useful Group (From

CATS is one of my very favourite musicals and I had the privilege seeing it on the UK Tour in 2013 and 2014 in Bradford, Liverpool, Llandudno and Birmingham.  The more I see CATS the more I appreciate Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical and the show's context.

I was curious to see the new revived production in London after a 12 year or so gap from where it was last in the West End,  I remember the memorable visits to the New London Theatre where, in 2001, I saw Dave Willetts as Old Deuteronomy and John Partridge as Rum Tum Tugger.  Speaking of the character I have to admit I was sceptical with the changes that were planned - A rapping Rum Tug Tugger! I absolutely loved the character's changes and fits so well with the personality and demeanour he has on the stage and with his feline peers.  CATS is certainly moving with the times - in the past the character concerned was influenced with Elvis Presley and Rock and Roll.  Antoine Murray-Straughan gives a first class portrayal and ensures CATS remain fresh as it was when it first opened in 1981.

Antoine Murray-Straughan in the Revived Production of CATS at the London Palladium
Photo Credit: Really Useful Group (From

London Palladium has a huge stage however no compromise was made for a bigger playground for the cats to roam and play!  I especially was delighted to see Sophia Ragavelas as Grizabella whom I saw in the role on the UK Tour in Liverpool, Llandudno and Birmingham.  As expected her portrayal of Grizabella is spot on and of the highest standard.  She brings so much depth emotionally to the character that one feels for what Grizabella was and is going through.  I saw members of cast whom I saw on the UK Tour in this production and as always they perform exceptionally well; telling the story of T.S. Elliott's Jellicle Cats through song, mime, dance and acrobats.

CATS certainly has something for everyone.  It's certainly a show you either love or hate.  For me, I was raised liking it and now reborn loving it so much! Along with Miss Saigon it's another favourite musical of mine! CATS is my greatest ever start to 2015! You can me my reviews (click on the links) when I saw it in Birmingham, Llandudno, Liverpool and Bradford.  I always have something to say about CATS!

CATS is on a the London Palladium until Spring 2015.

Friday, 16 January 2015

The Scottsboro Boys, Garrick Theatre, London

Photo Credit: Johan Persson

John Kander believes it is paramount to tell such an important story such as The Scottsboro Boys.  It is a true story about nine black teenagers who were convicted of rape in Alabama in 1931 and that they were denied a fair trail, an impartial jury and poor legal representation.  The musical explores the issues of racism, bigotry, segregation, marginalisation and injustices.

The Scottsboro Boys, a Broadway musical, received its UK Premiere at the Young Vic in 2013, and transferred to the West End in 2014.  The music and lyrics have been composed by Kander and Ebb; written by David Thompson and directed by Susan Stroman.

It is presented in a minstrel show format, a bold interpretation, which gives the musical portrayal of the Scottsboro Boys' case set from 1931-37.  The music poignantly narrated the defendants' fates and experiences with a variety of acts including intricate dancing, soulful and dark music, slapstick and comical entertainment.  Not forgetting the all important dance finale summarising what The Scottsboro Boys (a musical number) went through and the legacy following it.

James T Lane (Ozie Powell/Ruby Bates) and The-Scottsboro-Boys-Company.-
Photo Credit: Johan Persson

A very talented cast effectively brought attention to the horrific and tragic injustice the Scottsboro Boys suffered.  This began the fateful journey which began the American Civic Right Movement and the high profile Supreme Court rulings. Ultimately The Scottsboro Boys were exonerated in 2013 by Alabama's Parole Board.

The theatrical approach works superbly telling a tragic yet an important story in an imaginative and creative way.  There are some moving songs such as Go Back Home which expresses the Scottsboro Boys' wishes is to be free and live in a just world.  Certainly a thought provoking production with a story which raises issues relevant today just as it was in the 1930s.

The Scottsboro Boys is playing at London's Garrick Theatre until 21st February 2015.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Savoy Theatre, London

 Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Savoy Theatre, London

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels The Musical had its Broadway premiere back in 2005.  Written by Jeffrey Lane and based on the 1988 move which stars Michael Caine and Steve Martin.  The West End production opened in 2014 to favourable reviews after Pre-West End showings in Aylesbury and Manchester.

The story is about Lawrence Jameson, played by Robert Lindsay, a con-artist, who cons rich women to part with their money with charm.  Only for him to meet Freddy Benson, played by Alex Gaumond, and both of them try and out do each other with their scheming and swindling and romantic rivalry!

David Yazbek's show stopping music and lyrics fits nicely with the scenes, jokes and innuendos among the characters.  The admirable art deco set designs by Peter McIntosh fit perfectly with a 1950s French Riviera scene.  Howard Harrison's lighting compliments the sunshine and ritzy ambience which represents Riviera's high society.

It's admirable how Yazbek worked with Jerry Mitchell, director and choreographer, and both of them adapted the Broadway musical for British audiences with its lyrics, music and vocal arrangements and its indirect references which proves popular.

A stellar cast led by Robert Lindsay, Katherine Kingsley, Alex Gaumond and Bonnie Langford ensures everyone was entertained from beginning to end - to a performance of ritz and glamour laced with hilarious mishaps from the world of con-men!  It couldn't be housed in a better theatre such as the Savoy Theatre with its art deco interiors - perfect for a show like the Dirty Rotten Scoundrels!

A highly recommended entertaining musical continues to play at the Savoy Theatre until March 2015 and then it will go on a nationwide tour.

Savoy Theatre, London

Monday, 5 January 2015

Urinetown, Apollo Theatre, London

Matthew Seadon-Young (playing Bobby Strong) in Urinetown 
(Photo Credit: Johan Persson)
(Taken from

Urinetown, written by Greg Kotis and music composed by Mark Hollman, is a unique musical, set in a fictional future, where there is a long term drought in which water becomes scarce.  The public have to rely on pay per use public toilets to relieve themselves.  However as seen in the production those who pee elsewhere faces the risk of being taken away to Urinetown, a place of intrigue and mystery but also a place where one goes but never comes out.

This award winning Broadway musical raises a wide range of social and political messages with an emphasis on one's right to pee whether one can't afford it or not.  The story narrated with cues by Officer Lostock (played by Jonathan Sunger) with assistance from Little Sally (played by Karis Jack).

Urinetown has a loose love story between Hope Cladwell (played by Rosanna Hyland) and Bobby Strong (played by Matthew Seadon-Young) whose backgrounds could not have been more of contrast.  Social issues unanimously were raised with the fee increase for using the public amenities and many fight the right to use them for free which didn't go down well with the corrupt owner of Urine Good Company, Caldwell B. Cladwell (played by Phill Jupitus) and the authoritarian Penelope Pennywise (played by Vicki LeeTaylor) who runs the poorest and dirtiest urinal, Public Amenity No. 9.

Hollman's great musical numbers with catching lyrics tell the Urinetown tale and rising of its social issues with the disparity between the rich and the poor and evidence of greed and corruption. 

Jamie Lloyd perfectly directs Urinetown ensuring the social and political elements addressed are just as relevant today as in Urinetown.  The dark humour and tongue in cheek helps many adore this cynical, dark, surreal but amazing musical.  The staging and lighting designed by Soutra Gilmour and Adam Silverman gives Urinetown the dystopia feel which is appropriate for Urinetown and for its story.

The production received its UK premiere at St James Theatre in February and transferred to the West End, at the Apollo Theatre, in September 2014.  Sadly Urinetown has now closed in the West End but one can hope for a return or a tour at least.