Reviews from Paul's pen

Reviews from Paul's pen

17/04/2020

Curve onLine



In these unprecedented times theatres all over the country are doing their bit to keep us informed and entertained during lockdown. Curve has announced a programme of digital activity which includes new online content for audiences as well as sharing past work digitally.
The recent campaign called Rainbows of Curve has called for people around the world to share their Rainbows of  Hope images with the theatre by emailing them to thewonderfulwizardofox@curvetheatre.co.uk. These images will ultimately form part of the set design for Curve’s Christmas production of The Wizard of Oz.
Many theatres have released screenings of past productions and Curve was in the vanguard of this initiative and has screened both Memoirs of an Asian Football Casual and The Importance of Being Earnest already. Just these two productions have been viewed by over 17,000 people worldwide. Joe Orton’s What The Butler Saw is scheduled to be screened this weekend (7pm April 19th). More titles will be announced in coming weeks.
Curve in Conversation is a series of interviews conducted by Curve Artistic Director Nikolai Foster and posted online. These will be with a whole host of creatives with links to Curve including writers, actors and others.
There will also be Instagram Live Q&As to give audience members the opportunity to ask leading figures in the industry questions every Friday at 4pm.
Curve Young Company are being asked to send in videos of their theatrical exploits at home during lockdown to communication@curvetheatre.co.uk
Curve is also launching a series of Bedtime Stories read by actors like Cathy Tyson and Mark Peachey. There will also be activities packs available inspired by previous Made At Curve family shows like the recent Giraffe’s Can’t Dance.
Lots more information about upcoming events and how to access activity packs is available at www.curveonline.co.uk
Mention should be made of the fact that Curve is  a registered charity and relies on box office takings and community support. In these straightened times they would appreciate any donations that you care to make to help them through these tough times. Details are on the website.
The Show Must Go onLINE, so support your local theatre in any way you can.



09/04/2020

Bleach - the audio drama


Back in 2018 I was lucky enough to catch Dan Ireland-Reeves' award winning play Bleach.
This is the story of gay sex worker Tyler Everett who gets involved in a scene that is often both sordid and dangerous.
Writer and performer Ireland-Reeves has adapted his stage play into an audio drama for these self-isolating times.
Bleach is an uncompromising tale told in strong, unflinching language so is not for the faint hearted


04/03/2020

Billionaire Boy


Review by: Paul Towers, 04/03/20
Billionaire Boy by David Walliams, adapted, directed and lyrics by Neal Foster. Music by Jak Moore
Produced by The Birmingham Stage Company
At DeMontfort Hall 4 – 8th March 2020

“David Walliams’ latest touring show”

Following on from his successful stage adaptations of Gangsta Granny, Awful Auntie and The Boy in The Dress David Walliams’ latest touring show is The Billionaire Boy.
Joe (Matthew Gordon) is twelve years old and the son of a self made multi billionaire single father (Jason Furnival). Rather than the love and attention he craves his father showers him with money and material things. Desperate for a friend he transfers from a posh school where he was bullied for having the wrong accent to a comp where he is bullied for being rich. Life doesn’t get any better.
The script is full of schoolboy toilet humour with a few gags especially for the grown ups with their teenagers
The set is, appropriately, made of stacks of loo rolls, the product that made Joe’s father rich. It is a jigsaw of  cupboards and cubby holes which serve as locations.
The cast of  nine work very hard singing and dancing.
Billionaire Boy is at DeMontfort Hall until Sunday 8th March. Tickets are still available

DeMontfort Hall http://www.demontforthall.co.uk/
http://ptheatre.blogspot.co.uk/


03/03/2020

The MP, Mandy & Me


Review by: Paul Towers, 03/03/20
The MP, Aunty Mandy and Me By Rob Ward
A Made at Curve co-production with Emmerson & Ward
At Curve: 3-4 March 2020

“This is a tour de force of acting”

For the third year running Rob Ward has been an integral part of DMU Pride. Previously he presented his award winning Gypsy Queen but this year he brings us a new Curve commissioned show, The MP, Aunty Mandy & Me, a darkly comic tale of a socially awkward gay boy stuck in a northern town backwater who is desperate for a loving relationship.
Dom thinks that  being an Instagram Gay influencer is the be all and end all of his life but he struggles to get past the 100 likes for his posts. His social anxiety is under control, sort of, so long as he takes his medication. But sometimes he forgets and has an ‘episode’. He tries, he really tries to meet guys. He goes to the gym but never gets picked up. His love of trains is the only real passion in his life. Until he meets the MP. He makes Dom feel good about himself and, if we are being honest, Dom allows himself to be groomed for the self worth he now feels, even if some of the things asked of him are not to his taste Of course being groomed is not a novelty for him. His druggy mother has also groomed him to follow in her footsteps into substance abuse calling her seemingly never ending supply of MDMA her Aunty Mandy.
Rob Ward has produced a very funny, thought provoking play about coercion and the things we are prepared to do for love, or at least what we perceive to be love. This is a tour de force of acting as Rob switches at alarming speed from character to character, male to female, drunk to stoned, all with many laugh out loud moments and sudden descents into pathos, all littered with innuendo and northern vernacular.
Direction by Clive Judd and a very apposite soundtrack designed by Iain Armstrong it all comes together to highlight some of the pitfalls of modern gay youth. This should be required viewing for all LGBT youngsters today

Curve https://www.curveonline.co.uk/
First published on Western Gazette


26/02/2020

Curtains


Review by: Paul Towers, 26/02/2020
Curtains by Rupert Holmes with music & lyrics by John Kander  and Fred Ebb
Produced by Dlap Entertainment, director Paul Foster
At Royal & Derngate, Northampton – 25 – 29 February 2020

“a good hearted, undemanding evening of laughter”

Kander & Ebb are best known for such musicals as Chicago, Cabaret and New York, New York (a favourite of mine) but Curtains is less well known, probably because it is much more light hearted.
Curtains is set in 1959 Boston. A low budget theatre company are trying to stage a new musical version of Robin Hood transposed to the Wild West. When the less than competent leading lady drops dead on stage it turns out to be only the first of a series of deaths. Enter Lieutenant Frank Cioffi (Jason Manford in fine voice), a frustrated amateur performer, sent to investigate what turns out to be a murder.
The show skips back and forth between the rehearsal room and the stage as the show’s composers (Ote Oduba and Carley Stenson) and the director (Samuel Holmes) try and whip the songs into some sort of shape. The show’s producer, Carmen (Rebecca Lock giving Ethel Merman a run for her money in the belting out a song stakes) is determined the show must go on as she has ploughed her life savings into it.
Meanwhile Lt Cioffi prowls around interviewing people while trying to inveigle himself into the show. Several murders later and, in true Agatha Christie style, the detective explains all the improbabilities and the culprit is caught.
Kander & Ebb obviously had huge fun with the musical numbers including What Kind Of Man? which pokes fun at theatre critics and It’s A Business which faces the harsh implication that show business is a business, not an art form. A couple of the numbers are deliberately bad to fit in with the story, which is hilarious and many of the lyrics have some wicked lines in them which, if you don’t listen carefully, you miss. There is also a lot of black humour, especially about the actress that drops dead on stage.
Curtains is out on tour after a successful limited run in the West End and is a good hearted, undemanding evening of laughter and spectacle from a hard working cast.
Curtains runs til Saturday 29th Feb. Tickets still available.

Royal & Derngate https://www.royalandderngate.co.uk/
http://ptheatre.blogspot.co.uk/




20/02/2020

Musik


Review by: Paul Towers, 19/2/2020
Musik by Jonathan Harvey & The Pet Shop Boys
A Cahoots Theatre Company presentation
Leicester Square Theatre 5th February – 1st March 2020

“the inevitable standing ovation was never more appropriate”

Oh my! Frances Barber, reprising her role as Billie Trix from Jonathan Harvey’s cult classic, Closer To Heaven, is sublime in the role of the disillusioned, faded cabaret star who just won’t give up. She spits out her frustration in a monologue that takes aim at notable influencers in her long and complicated life. Sharp arrows of bile are aimed at targets from Madonna (“that bitch stole my eyepatch!”) to Donald Trump (“I could have been the First Lady by now”), Andy Warhol (“I invented the soup can”) all in a deliciously acerbic aside as she prowls the stage snorting lines of coke and emptying a bottle of Jack Daniels. Imagine Patsy Stone let loose on a very adult audience only even funnier.
Inbetween her ranting and raving she brings us some songs from her past. She starts to sing Mongrel in that 40 a day throaty rasp as she walks through the auditorium and staggers on stage. From then on we are subjected to a torrent of filthy anecdotes, outrageous name dropping and the most hilarious ‘cabaret performance’ you are likely to see on any stage.
In the hands of master comedy writer Jonathan Harvey Billie Trix is a subversive portrait of degeneracy while The Pet Shop Boys have provided her with some outrageous songs that could never be in safer hands than those of the extraordinary Ms Frances Barber.
This limited run show is only on til 1st March and I really couldn’t imagine any other performer than Ms Barber being able to pull it off. As Billie stumbled off the stage to For Every Moment the inevitable standing ovation was never more appropriate

Leicester Square Theatre - https://www.leicestersquaretheatre.com/
http://ptheatre.blogspot.co.uk/




Come From Away


Review by: Paul Towers, 19/2/2020
Come From Away, book, music & lyrics by Irene Sankoff and David Hein
At Phoenix Theatre, London: 31st January 2019 onwards

“not the emotional sob-fest I expected”

On 11th September 2001 hell rained down from the skies as terrorists flew planes into New York’s Twin Towers and The Pentagon. Henceforth known as 9/11 this resulted in airspace over America to be shut down. 38 international airplanes were forced to divert and they landed at the tiny town of Gander in Canada’s Newfoundland. Come From Away is the story of how this little community dropped everything and set about making almost 7,000 displaced souls as comfortable as possible for the five long days the emergency lasted. Considering that the population of Gander was barely 10,000 this was a remarkable achievement.
On a bare stage with just chairs and a few tables, the cast of  12 bring the entire population of both town and planes to life with each actor playing several roles, switching character and often accents with just a change of jacket.
Much praise has to go to Howell Binkley’s lighting design which is integral to following who is singing. The entire cast sing and move as one as the story flows from one person to another, especially when the stage revolves and you get a glimpse into the life of multiple people in quick edits.
While the back story of the terror attacks is only mentioned in passing there are still plenty of laughs to be had over the different cultures clashing.
Like so many new shows, especially musicals, social media tends to over-hype them  and this is the case with Come From Away for me. I found the story well told by very competent actor/singers, the onstage band were great as was the Celtic inspired music. The staging was imaginative use of a minimal set and the light and sound were great. However this was not the emotional sob-fest that so much online comment had me expect and I found the running time of 1 ¾ hours without an interval way too long. I enjoyed the show, it was informative and entertaining but I couldn’t emotionally connect with it. I am obviously in a minority.

Phoenix Theatre https://tinyurl.com/r2kyn67
http://ptheatre.blogspot.co.uk/