Friday, 20 May 2016

Northern Ballet's Jane Eyre, World Première, CAST, Doncaster - 19th May 2016

Marking this year is Charlotte Brontë's 200th Birthday- this eagerly awaited World Première of Cathy Marston's Jane Eyre opens in Doncaster's CAST to sold out audiences.

Dreda Blow as Jane Eyre
Photo credit: Emma Kauldhar

At the beginning, in the prologue, there is a sinister and haunting atmosphere on stage reflecting the darkness and poignancy of this classic.  A woman encounters male figures who obstruct and confuse her path physically and figuratively across the moors.  Eventually she is rescued by a man and it is time for her tale to be retold....

Marston's aim is to have Jane Eyre as the focal point in the production and share with the audience her emotions including love.  Dreda Blow, a leading soloist, exemplifies this with excellent portrayal through classical and contemporary dancing.  She physically interprets well the emotive flight of Jane's 'outer and inner experiences'.

The men in Jane's life starts with her dead father; the bullying from John Reed (Matthew Koon); the self-righteous and abusive Reverend Brocklehurst (Mlindi Kulashe) at Lowood school; personal pursuit by Reverend St John Rivers (Jeremy Curnier) for self gain; and significantly falling in love with the dark and mysterious Mr Rochester (Javier Torres).  Not forgetting the D-Men, appearing in each of the scenes, who are the muses representing Jane's inner self whether its a curse or blessing.  All the named dancers portrayed the roles successfully and convincingly.  

The intimacy and true love and passion is found between Jane and Mr Rochester cannot be ignored.  The scenes build up these emotions from the slow and passionate duets by Blow and Torres and accompanied by Philip Feeney's haunting beautiful music, made up by personal and original compositions.

Alastair West's lighting doesn't go amiss.  The dim restricted lighting fits well in Patrick Kinmonth's staging with its dark and simple interior sets.  A representation of the story's nature and setting is testified - featuring isolation, loneliness, solitary and vastness of the moorlands.

Smooth transitions between the scenes with activities taking place in the background behind a cloth screen as well as on the main stage itself.  A combination of interpreting the narration and exploration of its complex emotions.

Victoria Sibson as Bertha Mason and Javier Torres as Mr Rochester
 Photo credit: Emma Kauldhar

One character certainly stands out is Victoria Sibson's exceptional portray of Bertha Mason. The character stands out wearing a red dress which must crucially suggest Bertha's instability, irrationality and vulnerability and the society's response to it.  Silence and drama reigns between her, Jane and Mr Rochester.

Marston's choreography reflects admirably the synchronisation between the dancers and its props particularly with the use of desk stools in the Lowood school scene.  Certainly an emotional and dramatic retelling of Jane Eyre - apparently based loosely on the author's personal life.

This is an opportunity to embrace this timeless classic into today's world following a well planned and executed production.  No doubt will be a regular feature on the company's repertoire now and in the future.

Friday, 6 May 2016

Film: Carol, Square Chapel Centre for the Arts, Halifax

Cate Blanchett as Carol, Carol
(Accessed from

I thoroughly enjoyed Carol for the first time at last year's Leeds Film Festival (before its general release).

Before the film, a member of staff from Square Chapel, gave an update about the Cornerstone and its development including its new cinema space.  These are exciting times for Square Chapel Centre for the Arts along with the restoration of the adjacent Piece Hall.

Carol, a critically acclaimed film, opened in 2015 at the Cannes Film Festival, starts Cate Blanchett (as Carol) and Rooney Mara (as Therese).  Carol is based on Patricia Highsmith's The Price of Salt, a ground breaking romance, and adapted for a screen play by Phyllis Nagy.

Carol is about a forbidden love affair between Therese, a young ambitious photographer, and Carol, an older woman who is going through a complicated divorce.  Set in the early 1950s and at a time where society and civil attitudes towards many things were so different than to today.  For example morality clauses could be served as grounds against defendants over custody of children in legal cases as shown in the film.  Hence the relationship between Therese and Carol has it challenges, complications and consequences.

One has to admire the 1950s art deco buildings and its cars then.  The highlight is Edward Lachman's effective cinematography.  There is considerable usage of 16 mm film and still photography in the film.  These attributes capture the slow build up and intrigue of the attraction between the two women.  Noteworthy are the close up shots, silent pauses, pictorial narratives and the prolonged glances inviting viewers to observe, speculate and conclude.

It reminds one of Brief Encounter which has a similar plot.  That film's structure is used with Carol with the same scene at beginning and at the end - though the leading characters don't narrate their stories and the slight difference is the vulnerability switched between Blanchett and Mara.

An excellent film with great direction by Todd Haynes and must say again - great cinematography!

Late Night Love, Square Chapel Centre for the Arts, Halifax

Home, They Eat Culture and Eggs Collective present Late Night Love one night only at Halifax's Square Chapel.  Firstly a four chord ballad is unveiled in the bar.  The ballad is of comprised love stories by Egg Collective's Caravan of Love which were collated from the streets of Halifax.  Audience joins in singing the regular choral lines including You feel the Love in Halifax and There's No Room for Saxophone or Romantic Overtones.

Photo credit;  Eggs Collective
(Accessed from

Eventually makes their way to the main auditorium for the main show.  They assemble cabaret style and wait in anticipation to what is about to happen.  First Night Love,based on a confessional radio show, explores the reality of love based on definitions, perceptions, expectations etc. and analyses the medium and vices used in the 1980s to define love.  The three performers dressed in black cat suits; subtly perform as messengers delivering Cadbury's milktrays, physically represent the emotional baggage love brings - its expectations, disappointments and complications and demonstrating creatively and artistically the general attitudes and reactions. These sketches are accompanied with 1980s powerful love ballads sung by Chris de Burgh, Carpenters, Celine Dion, George Michael and Simply Red.  All being summarised at the end with sharing loving childhood and family memories and listening to the radio where dedications (the audience are invited to make a dedication) and confessions are made.   

Late Night Love is metaphoric, humourous, light hearted, creative, warm but honest, powerful and serious. Love is exposed and subjected to different interpretations and leaves one more questions than answers.  Everyone is encouraged to ponder about love and how one wants to love.  There is a commonality with many; one may be lonely but someone somewhere is thinking of someone whether privately or publicly via the radio and other mediums.   A lot of fantasy thrown in this production but paints a very realistic humane picture.

Late Night Love is part of the Eggs Collective's Double Trouble Tour this year.  Eggs Collective's Get A Round is playing alongside this show on tour.  Further information can be found here.  An opportunity to analyse love in all its forms and certainly Leonie Higgins, Lowri Evans and Sara Cocker have no hesitation bringing this victoriously and intimately.

Monday, 2 May 2016

The Government Inspector (On behalf of North West End)

This was reviewed originally for North West End and the link can be found here.

Nikolai Gogol’s The Government Inspector is currently on tour visiting six theatres nationwide, including the West Yorkshire Playhouse, and they commit to supporting access theatre to disabled people.
Birmingham Repertory Theatre and Ramps On The Moon presents this satirical play, adapted by David Harrower, which is set in 19th Century Russia. It is about an unknown inspector coming to town and its residents including the Mayor (David Carlyle) anxiously prepare for his arrival; only for Khlestakov (Robin Morrissey), a civil servant, to be mistaken for the inspector.
Khlestakov pretends he is the inspector and impersonates the position. He manages to swindle money from the Mayor’s associates and some of the town’s residents and becomes engaged to Maria (Francesca Mills), the Mayor’s daughter. Eventually letters reveal Khlestakov’s true identity and the arrival of an actual government inspector.
This play is certainly a ‘comedy of errors’ and a number of themes emerge including power and class struggles, human greed, irresponsibility, and crucially the political corruption of Imperial Russia in the 19th Century.
Ramps On The Moon ensures everyone including deaf and disabled people have an opportunity to see this production. This ambitious project’s aims are to change disability arts provision across the country and for disabled people to access the theatre.
Not only the deaf and disabled people have an opportunity to watch – they have an opportunity to participate in these productions. Some of the integrated cast double up on stage doing sign language or describe audibly from a deaf artist. Ti Green’s staging tells the story coherently and yet at the same time make the stage accessible with screen surtitles and plenty of space for the cast to assemble. The set is supported by Timothy Bird’s video projections which are kinetically pleasing with key words in large and intertwined with Chahine Yavroyan’s relaxed lighting and Ben and Max Ringham’s music and sound compositions.
It is commendable for a project to promote accessible theatre. It was encouraging to see at the programmes stalls in the foyer a wide range of programmes being done in Braille, large print and the availability of audio guides.
Excellent convincing lead performances by Robin Morrissey and David Carlyle and rest of the cast didn’t go unnoticed. Clever use of comedic elements reminds one there are outstanding issues in society to ponder over which shows The Government Inspector is just as relevant today than in the past.

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

This was originally reviewed for The Reviews Hub and the link can be found here.

(Contributed image accessed from

Opera & Ballet International is taking Ellen Kent’s Carmen all over the country, including a stop at Bradford’s Alhambra Theatre.  Bizet’s tragic and convention-breaking opera stars an international cast of soloists and a critically acclaimed orchestra.
Carmen was adapted from a novel of the same time by Prosper Mérimée and also the poem, The Gypsies, by Aleksandr Pushkin.  It was first premiered in 1875 at Paris’ Opéra-Comique.  The opera has come a long way from the poor reception and controversy from its premiere then, to becoming one of the most popular operas ever staged.  Carmen is performed in many opera companies’ repertoires worldwide and has been adapted to a number of screen and stage productions.  The music from the opera is synonymous to many things to many people, especially the overture and musical numbers Habanera and the Toreador Song.
Carmen is set around 1820 near Seville in Southern Spain.   It concerns a gypsy whose beauty seduces a soldier to desperation and their encounter leads to tragic consequences.  The music is popularly emotive and the orchestration musically interprets each of the story’s characters backed by the lyrics sung.
Liza Kadelnik, a Romanian international mezzo-soprano, portrays a seductive, dramatic, manipulative and fiery Carmen.  Kadelnik excellently projects Carmen’s strong personality and passions to her suitors, Don José and Escamillo. One particular highlight is when she first enters the stage in Act one and flirts with the soldiers during the passionate Habanera.   Other enjoyable highlights are the powerful duet by Kadelnik and Vitallii Liskovetskiy (as Don José) singing Seguidilla in Act one and in Act two the Toreador Song by Iurie Gisca’s Escamillo.  The chorus supports the ensemble roles including the younger performers from Stagecoach Theatre Arts across West Yorkshire.
There are some lovely touches including a local rescue donkey and horse appearing on stage.  Ben, the donkey, makes a presence among villagers and smugglers in the first and third Acts while ABFilmhorses provides us with Caspian, a white stallion horse, whose dressage skills by the rider impresses the audience to the overture in the final Act.
The Moldavian orchestra, under the direction of Nicolae Dohotaru, plays the passionate and dramatic music with enthusiasm and to Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy’s libretto.  There is a presence of tambourines and castanets in the music which reflects the Spanish culture throughout.  The opera is sung in French with English surtitles which allow the audience to appreciate Bizet’s masterpiece in the original language as well as understanding what is sung.
Carmen is a fiery and passionate four-act production, which makes for an enjoyable evening.

Macbeth by Leeds Arts Centre

Image credit:  Leeds Arts Centre
(Accessed from

I recently saw Leeds Arts Centre's production of Macbeth.  This production coincides and commemorates Shakespeare's anniversary of his death (23rd April 1616).

Macbeth is one of Shakespaeare's well known tragedies.  At the time when it was written witchcraft and  regicide were punishable by death.  So Macbeth with these themes certainly have been appropriate.  Jealously, murder and revenge also certainly feature.

This production is certainly dark and contemporary.  Dimmed lighting is used throughout. The limited props used are suited to the tragedy and doesn't distract the audience - which excessive props can.  The costumes worn are modern and fits the staging ambience.

It is important to see the witches (performed by Ayshea Megyery, Margaret Savage and Paige Shaw) in position during some of the scenes.  It reminds one that witchcraft and witches were frightening issues when Shakespeare wrote Macbeth.

Lovely use of visuals particularly at the end of the second act, with the backdrop of trees representing the Dunsinane Woord where Macbeth fought his final combat against Macduff.

Excellent performance by the casts particularly performances from both Rick Brookes and Ruth Berkoff as the disturbed Macbeth and Lady Macbeth respectively.  All under the direction of Rich Francis.

Macbeth is certainly a favourite tragedy and each production I've seen makes me appreciate Shakespeare's mastery as a playwright with his writing style and the contextual themes considered at the time.  Certainly a lot to ponder about.  Another successful production by Leeds Arts Centre.

Sunday, 1 May 2016

WiLd, Carriageworks Theatre, Leeds - 30th April 2016

Tutti Frutti is presenting Evan Placey's WiLD this season.  Placey, an award winning writer, teams up with Tutti Frutti and Nottingham University's CANDAL to create this play on stage

Rhys Warrington as Billy in WiLD
Photo credit: Brian Slater

This one actor and one live musician play opens up the world of a vulnerable and imaginative boy who is often misunderstood.  Children with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) is often perceived as 'different', disruptive and naughty.  Billy, played by Rhys Warrington, invites the audience to see life from 'his eyes'.

The use of bees as illustrations for explaining the challenges Billy encounter 'Everything builds up like a swarm of bees' and 'words fly out and hover above me'.   He experiences exclusion and isolation along with being referred as third person in conversations between family, school and hospitals and expresses feeling of being like 'a bug in a jar with a sticker'.  When he has been given medication for his condition, he would describe the treatment for the 'bees in my brain'.

Rhys Warrington as Billy and Molly Lopresti
Photo credit: Brian Slater

The play shares his passions for keep bees physically as well as relating to them figuratively.  They are grounds for his imagination, energy and passions amidst his innocence.  It draws to how unique Billy is and how much he is misunderstood from this circles around him.

The performance is versatile and energetic.  An intimate staging with a climbing frame and a beehive, which are used effectively.

Warrington sells the show with maximum velocity, athleticism and energy with 'bees flying through the illustrations of a bees' honeycomb on a screen and illuminated 'bees' flying.  The smoke creates the poignancy of the issue with its soundscapes and music with chordal echoes of the vibraphone.  Courtesy of Molly Lopresti and Elliot Clark.

The narration is the boy's matter of fact of life and, from his point of view, he is unable to comprehend why people perceive him negatively and his family's frustration.

This excellent play, directed by Wendy Harris, hopefully will open people mind's about ADHD and seeing the young boy's point of view.  This should lead to a great understanding and awareness for people and for parents to be sought appropriate support.

Tutti Frutti will be touring regionally including York Theatre Royal during this year's Yorkshire Festival.