Reviews from Paul's pen

Reviews from Paul's pen


Calendar Girls


Review by Paul Towers, 14/6/2022

Calendar Girls by Gary Barlow & Tim Firth

Directed by Kieran Whelan-Newby

A KW Productions presentation

At The Little Theatre until Saturday 18th June 2022

“a wonderful mixture of pathos and comedy”

I first saw Calendar Girls back in 2018 when it toured to DeMontfort Hall. I was impressed with the production but I do feel that Kieran Whelan-Newby’s direction has taken it to a new level, especially the comedy.
The show was always a wonderful mixture of pathos and comedy but I don’t remember so many laugh-out-loud moments in 2018. The entire cast have managed to find both physical and textual comedy absent previously. Two characters’ drunken performances stand out. James King’s schoolboy Danny was a beautifully timed stumbling almost prat-fall alcohol fuelled teenage embarrassment while Tracey Holderness’ uptight Ruth singing the praises of her vodka bottle brought to mind Mrs Overall in all her glory.
The entire cast were all superb and in fine voice, each being fully rounded characters on the page.

The set, a Yorkshire hillside, is a work of art and, with the expert lighting design by Andy & Alex Crooks, it serves for the various locations. A live band of five led by musical director Felix Surbe fills the auditorium and allows the various singers to give full voice to their emotional numbers.

I have been a fan of Kieran and his production company since seeing his A Slice of Saturday Night back in 2014. Each subsequent production has got bigger and more professional. Calendar Girls does not buck the trend.

If you want a fun, uplifting night out at the theatre you won’t go wrong with this show.

Calendar Girls is on until Saturday 18th June and is a LDS fundraiser



Maggie May


Review by Paul Towers, 7/6/22

Maggie May by Frances Poet

Directed by Jemima Levick

Produced by Curve, Leeds Playhouse & Queens Theatre, Hornchurch

At Curve til Saturday 11th June 2022

“a rollercoaster of emotions; laughter, tears and sadness”

Oh my, what a rollercoaster of emotions; laughter, tears and sadness. This is what living with Alzheimer’s is like for sufferers and their nearest and dearest.

Maggie May (Eithne Brown), the titular character, is a retired school dinner lady and cares for husband Gordon (Tony Timberlake) who is himself recovering from a stroke. Maggie writes notes to herself all the time, she needs to keep track of what she needs to do. It is only when she enlists the help of best friend Jo (Maxine Finch) to fill in her mobile phone calendar that the extent of her memory loss is apparent to those around her. She has been keeping her Alzheimer’s diagnosis to herself to avoid worrying everyone. It is apparent that this is a family trait and son Michael (Mark Holgate) has inherited it and his bottling up of his feeling has led to the loss of his previous girlfriend. New beau Claire (Shireen Farkhoy) does her best to help him open up and becomes a valuable ally and friend to Maggie.

A beautiful set comprising a whole rig covered in notes hovers above the action to reinforce  Maggie’s need to keep track of everything. An ingenious set of tables and beds slide in and out along hidden channels as required. At one point the mechanism got stuck and we had a 5 min break to fix it. A very apt metaphor for the tricks the disease plays on the memory.

All five actors give impressive performances of this emotion filled play. Eithne Brown, of course, leads the company with astonishing acting that swings from joy to heartbreak and back again. Very early on we are shown that, for her, music is the key to bringing her back from the darkness and into the sunshine again. Brown and Timberlake have a great rapport and cheerfully sing all sorts of songs from their past.

The script by Francis poet is exemplary with very clever references to Harry Potter and the Dementors as a way to explain how the disease drains the very soul of a person until they are left an empty husk.

Most enlightening for those of us who have not yet had to deal with dementia is the way Maggie will stop hallway through a discussion, the lights will dim and she will give voice to her frustrations to the audience.

Set designer Francis O’Connor has created a wonderful background for the story and Chris Davey’s lighting ensures we can follow Maggie through her journey

Maggie is in Curve’s Studio until Saturday 11th June. Go and see an entertaining and educational piece of theatre that everyone should experience.





Review by Paul Towers, 6/6/22

Cluedo by Sandy Rustin based on the screenplay by Jonathan Lynn

Directed by Mark Bell

Produced by Kilimanjaro Theatricals, Gabriel Creative Ptnrs, The Acarca Group & Lively McCabe Ent.

At Curve til Saturday 11th June 2022

“an hilarious, over-acted piece of nonsense”

This is “a British play based on an American play, based on an American film, based on a British board game”. The board game we can all probably recall from family Christmases of yester year. It was invented in 1949 and this production wisely retains the period feel. Reminiscent of a spoof of an Agatha Christie country house murder Cluedo plays it for broad (very broad) laughs right from the beginning. In Jean-Luke Worrell as the butler, Wadsworth, the production has found a positive master of physical comedy. Unsurprisingly Worrell cut his West End teeth in The Comedy About A Bank Robbery. Michelle Collins’ understudy, Meg Travers, was on as Miss Scarlett and Georgia Bradley took Mrs White’s part.

The set is a typical multi-doored country house but with a twist. Various parts of the walls open out like origami to reveal other rooms. This makes for much well choreographed entrances and exits to good comic effect.

Obviously I am not going to say whodunnit, even if I was completely sure who did do it. Which I am not. Suffice to say this is an hilarious, over-acted piece of nonsense which will leave you giggling to yourself as you stumble out into the summer night

Cluedo runs at Curve until Saturday 11th June and then continues to tour