Reviews from Paul's pen

Reviews from Paul's pen

18/04/2019

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin


Review by: Paul Towers, 18/04/19
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis De Bernieres, adapted by Rona Munro
Directed by Melly Still
A Rose Theater, Kingston  and Birmingham Rep co-production
Curve 13 – 20 April 2019 and then touring

“a 3 hanky tear-jerker”

When the novel of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin was first published in 1994 it was a moderate hit, especially with readers of romantic fiction. However it was the film starring Nicholas Cage and Penelope Cruz that cemented its reputation as a 3 hanky tear-jerker. The stage version has lost none of its emotional pull and, along with vivid depictions of the war in the Greek island of Cephallonia, you walk away drained.
Dr Iannis lives on the beautiful, peaceful island with his daughter, Pelagia, who is being courted by fisherman, Mandras. All things being equal she will eventually marry her fisherman and live fairly happily ever after.
But, this being 1941, war looms ever nearer as Italy and Germany invade the island with devastating effect. Many of the locals are killed, Mandras has gone off to fight and Pelagia falls, against her better judgement, for the handsome Italian Captain, Corelli. As with all the best romances difficulties stand between the lovers but it all sorts itself out in the end.
A stellar cast is led by Madison Clare as Pegalia, Ryan Donaldson as Carlo, Ashley Gayle as Mandras and Joseph Long as Dr Iannis. In the title role of Caprain Corelli is Alex Mugnaioni. The ensemble are almost balletic in their manoeuvres as they change the props and play the various villagers and soldiers.
Much needed lightness is provided by Luisa Guerreiro as the goat (you have to be there!) and Elizabeth Mary Williams as a pine martin (I know, but again you need to see it)
The staging is simple but very effective. A large crumpled sheet of metal hangs just above the stage providing an innovative surface for various lighting effects which compliment the visceral sounds of war and earthquake.
For anyone who is a fan of either the book or the film this is a must see production and continues to tour til at least June. Full details at www.CaptainCorellisMandolin.com

www.Curveonline.co.uk
http://ptheatre.blogspot.co.uk/












11/04/2019

Zigger Zagger


Review by: Paul Towers, 11/04/19
Zigger Zagger by Peter Terson
A Made At Curve production directed by Mandeep Glover
Curve Studio 11 – 13 April 2019

“hugely talented cast of mostly under 15’s”

Back in 1967 new playwright Peter Terson penned this definitive illustration of the psychology behind football club worship and the resulting hooliganism for the National Youth Theatre.
I remember seeing the BBC production in 1967 and was struck by the visceral reality of working class tribalism in a way that had never been seen on television at the time.
Specifically designed for the theatre, and especially youth groups, it works best with a large cast and a fairly bare stage. With Curve’s backing the set is a lot more than minimal giving the large cast of 27 from the Curve Young Company 12+ plenty of room to people the community of fans.
1960’s teenager Harry Philton (William Hutchins), only son of a single mother (Ethan Tannahill), has drifted through school with only his Saturday visits to his beloved football club with best mate Zigger (Max Strong) to look forward to. Zigger is a less than perfect influence.
Harry has reached that point at school where he has to make a decision as to what his future will be. He toys with the army but fails the medical. Is football to be the only worthwhile thing in his life?
The hugely talented cast of mostly under 15’s show lots of promise for the future of  young actors and several will, I am sure, make their mark both locally and nationally if they so wish.
Zigger Zagger is on at Curve until Saturday 13th April

www.curveonline.co.uk
First published on Western Gazette

Pictures by Matt Cawrey




09/04/2019

The Addams Family


Review by: Paul Towers, 09/04/19
The Addams Family by Marshall Brickman &  Richard Elice, music & lyrics by Andrew Lippa
A LOPS production
Leicester Little Theatre 9-13 April 2019

“spooky and macabre”

The Addams Family sprang from the feverish imagination of Charles Addams, a graphic artist in 1930’s New York. As a sideline to his main job of doctoring corpse pictures, he amused himself with suitably dark one-frame cartoons. Eventually they were collated into a book and published. One book was called  Addams and Evil and The Family was born.
In 1962 a TV producer saw the potential for the characters to become a sit com, albeit a bizarre one.. It took 2 years but eventually ABC in America broadcast it and it ran for 2 seasons spawning copies like The Munsters.
In the 90’s the brand was resurrected for a couple of feature films in 2007 and finally made it to Broadway in 2010 as a musical which toured in the UK from April to November 2017.
LOP’s amateur production includes all of the original characters, even Thing, the disembodied hand, makes a  cameo appearance on the interval animated backcloth.
Uncle Fester (Neil Prior doing a very credible impersonation of Christopher Lloyd) serves as narrator. Morticia (Alexandra Elliot) and Gomez Addams (David Lovell) are the proud parents of Wednesday (Danielle Cherise Smith) and Pugsley (Carla Smith cast trendily gender blind). Lucas Beineke (Matt Barton) is Wednesday’s fiancĂ©e.
The set is suitably spooky and the macabre costuming sets the mood .
An onstage orchestra is hidden behind a projection screen which, innovatedly for the Little Theatre, has animations for scene changes
The Addams Family is at The Little Theatre until Saturday 13th April

Leicester Little Theatre - https://www.thelittletheatre.net/
First published on Western Gazette

26/03/2019

The Comedy About A Bank Robbery


Review by: Paul Towers, 26 March 2019
The Comedy About A Bank Robbery by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer & Henry Shields
A Mischief Theatre production
Curve 26 – 30 March 2019

“an evening of laughs and spills”

For anyone who has seen The Play That Goes Wrong or Peter Pan Goes Wrong you know exactly what to expect from a Mischief Theatre show and Bank Robbery does not disappoint.
This time a step has been taken away from the premise of the amateur drama group’s mishaps into the realm of American caper films.
The opening scene is very reminiscent of a Brian Rix farce but brought right up to date with a superbly written and acted cross talk routine executed at speed and to great effect. From there the mishaps pile higher and higher as our dozy trio, newly released from jail, try and organise the theft of a diamond from the local bank (OK don’t try and follow a plot, just revel in the extraordinary silliness of it all). Along the way there are impossibly unbelievable mistaken identities, lots of slamming of doors, fold up beds and physical comedy. Oh, and don’t forget the seagulls. Very important plot points!
The scenery, designed by David Farley, is a logistical marvel as it slides on and off, folds in and out and, unusually for a Mischief Theatre show, doesn’t fall over.
The second half has two of the most inventive set pieces I have ever seen on stage. A gravity defying routine whereby we look down on an office seems impossible; the other stand out scene involves a Mission Impossible style heist from the ceiling of the bank as three people descend to snatch the diamond.
The cast, especially the main actors, are very physical and never missed a stunt or punch. Fight director Kevin McCurdy must have had his work cut out choreographing it all.
Liam Jeavons as Mitch Ruscitti, Sean Carey as Sam Monahan and Jon Trenchard as Warren Slax lead a very hard working and talented cast of 14
Right from the moment the lights went down the laughs started and didn’t stop til the curtain call. Mischief Theatre lives up to its name with an evening of laughs and spills.
The Comedy About A Bank Robbery is at Curve until Saturday 30th March but there are only limited tickets remaining so book as soon as you can.
First published on Western Gazette














23/03/2019

Janet


Review by: Paul Towers, 23/3/19
Janet by Helen Ainsworth, directed by John Mowat
Upstairs @ The Western, 23 March 2019

“surreal and off the wall puppetry

In amongst the regular evenings of poetry, spoken word and improv Upstairs at The Western has booked some quite surreal, off the wall shows. Janet is one such entertainment.
Helen Ainsworth is a puppeteer who specialises in using everyday things as well as traditional puppets to tell stories. John Mowat is a performer/director and has been working with Helen for 5 years. Together they appeal to both adult and child audiences. Janet is definitely for the grown ups.
Set in a kitchen Helen manufactures characters from utensils and bread dough to tell the tortured tale of the union between an over-critical mother (Premium French Flour) and a less than faithful father (a 1950’s milk churn). After nature takes its course Janet, a lump of bread dough, is the result. Despite her refusal to follow her destiny and a torrid encounter with Derek (a rolling pin) Janet ends up as a very nice round of cucumber sandwiches which the audience very much appreciated.
Ainsworth, hidden behind an over large chef’s hat and dressed in chef’s whites, uses an array of accents to tell the story as well as making a typical baker’s mess all over the floor.
Future performances and details of other shows can be found at www.helenandjohn.co.uk/

Upstairs at The Western http://upstairsatthewestern.com/
First published on Western Gazette

Company 2019


Review by: Paul Towers, 21/3/19
Company by Stephen Sondheim
An Elliott & Harper production
Gielgud Theatre until 30 March 2019

This is a superb re-imagining of a classic Sondheim musical”

When Company was first written by Stephen Sondheim and George Furth in 1970 it tapped into the post war imperative of needing to repopulate the population decimated by various wars. Bobby’s continuing bachelor-dom was seen to be socially irresponsible. When the show was updated in the 90’s it showcased the pursuit of the impossible dream of perfect  couple-dom by highlighting that all of Bobby’s friends, couples, had less than perfect relationships despite their outward looking fulfilment.
Fast forward to 2018 and director Marianne Elliott decided to radically change the dynamic of the narrative by making Bobby a girl.
Watching the current production it makes perfect sense. Women are, these days, much more aware of their ticking biological clocks and their friends are naturally concerned that they don’t miss out on a family.
I last saw Company in 2015 and this time round I found it so much funnier. Director Elliott has found so many more funny lines and bits of business in the production.
The show is completely balanced and no one person is allowed to outshine the others. This is a feat in itself when you have such veteran Broadway and West End stars  as Patti LuPone and Richard Fleeshman heading the cast alongside Rosalie Craig.
Each couple has the opportunity to take their turn in the spotlight while Rosalie Craig as Bobbie dodges their entreaties. Her beautifully comic asides and looks through the fourth wall are reminiscent of Fleabag and are used to instantly convey her exasperation and sometimes downright incredulity at her friends’ antics. Her feeling of being pulled in every direction is superbly illustrated in one scene where there are 4 Bobbies as well as the original looking in on an amazingly choreographed piece of mayhem.
Bobbie’s last three boyfriends, flawed in different ways, illustrate her frustration at searching for ‘the one’. Andy (Richard Fleeshman displaying an unbelievable physique) is the more than slightly camp over-thinking trolly dolly; PJ (George Blagden) is disillusioned with city life, finding it dirty, fast and unforgiving; Theo (Matthew Seadon-Young) is, possibly, ‘the one’ who got away when they both admit they wanted to marry each other when they previously dated.
Sarah (Mel Giedroyc) and Harry (Gavin Spokes) permanently bicker as she diets and he goes dry. Their arguments result in an hilarious marshall arts fight where they throw each other around the room.
Jamie (Jonathan Bailey) and Paul (Alex Gaumond) are planning their gay wedding but Jamie has wedding day jitters and brings the house down with the hilarious Getting Married Today. Not only a linguistic feat but an acrobatic one as well.
Joanne (Patti LuPone), oft divorced, is realistic about what makes a relationship works. Or not. She also brings the house down with her show stopping rendition of The Ladies Who Lunch
The set by Bunny Christie is a marvel of light boxes slid and interlocked like a Rubiks Cube. Lighting by Neil Austin ensures that the audience’s attention is always in the right place.
This is a superb re-imagining of a classic Sondheim musical


http://ptheatre.blogspot.co.uk/

05/03/2019

Madagascar The Musical


Review by: Paul Towers, 5/3/19
Madagascar The Musical

A Selladoor Family & Hartshorn-Hook production

Book By Kevin Del Aguila Music & Lyrics by Geoge Noriega & Joel Someillan

Haymarket Theatre , Leicester 5 – 9 March 2019

“loud, bouncy and bright.”

One of every child’s favourite movies to watch on a rainy Saturday morning is the madcap Madagascar, the tale of four animal friends who escape from New York’s Central Park zoo and find themselves in the tropical paradise of Madagascar.
Based on the original Dreamworks animated movie this is the live stage version currently touring nationwide.
The cast is led by 2016 X Factor winner Matt Terry as Alex in a variety of animal costumes as they sing and dance their way to ‘freedom’.
Alex is a lion and as such is the king of the zoo, with an ego to match. His best friend is Marty a slightly camp zebra and along with ballsy hippo Gloria and Melman the neurotic giraffe they break out of the safe zoo for an adventure. Unfortunately they get captured and shipped off the Madagascar.
This is a perfect introduction for young theatre goers, loud, bouncy and bright with a storyline that doesn’t need to be followed too closely and is stuffed full of songs, including the eponymous ‘Move it, move it’. It has the added advantage that the halves are not too long so fidgety children won’t get bored.
Along with the adult skinned actors there are a load of cute puppets, penguins, marmosets and chief villain, King Julien.
I wish I could give the supporting actors their due credit but I wasn’t supplied with a programme or cast list. You will just have to go and see for yourself, and I recommend the show for every child and their adult. They will have a blast!

First published on Western Gazette