Reviews from Paul's pen

Reviews from Paul's pen

30/10/2019

In a village near a forest


Review by: Paul Towers, 30/10/19
In a village near a forest by ‘Funmi Adewole
Performed by ‘Funmi Adewole
Upstairs @ The Western, 30th October 2019

“‘Funmi Adewole is a storyteller, a relater of parables.”

‘Funmi Adewole is a storyteller, a relater of parables especially those from Lagos in Nigeria. The stories themselves are mythical, simplistic tales meant to teach those less well educated in a way that they can relate to. Much like religious tracts they are not literal but fairy tales wrapped round truths.
Adewole uses much physicality as she fills the stage with characters.
Her method of storytelling would be absolutely ideal for middle school children, especially those in an African and Afro Caribbean community.
Tonight we had tales of tortoises, greedy rich people and avaricious housewives, all hiding a lesson in life.

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

28/10/2019

Priscilla Queen of the Desert


Review by: Paul Towers, 28/10/19
Priscilla Queen of the Desert the Musical by Stephen Ellliot and Allan Scott
A Mark Groucher, Jason Donovan, Gavin Kalin, Matthew Gale & Laurence Myers production with Nullarbor Productions & MGM on Stage
Curve 28 Oct to 2 Nov 2019

“a first rate cast and a joyous soundtrack”

When the original film opened in cinemas in 1994 it was a low budget Australian picture celebrating drag queens. Coming as it did right at the beginning of the resurgence in drag shows in the wake of such cult classics as Victor/Victoria, La Cage Aux Folles and Torch Song Trilogy and of course the iniquitous RuPaul of Drag Race fame, originally a disco singer.
The premise of the film, and ultimately of all subsequent stage versions, is how two drag queens and a post op transsexual embark on a journey right into the centre of Australia aboard a rickety old bus, the titular Priscilla. Their adventures along the way bring them into contact with some very red-necked, bigoted, isolated communities along with some surprisingly tolerant indigenous peoples.
The film benefited from soaring vistas filmed from helicopters and smart editing of multiple costumes.
I saw a touring production in 2014 and it was, to be charitable, rather mundane. This current version is anything but. A huge number of costumes keep the dressers rushed off their feet as the ensemble swap characters at an amazing rate. Then we come to the main characters. Many of the musical numbers are either provided by or enhanced by the Three Divas (Rosie Glossop, Claudia Kariuki and Aiesha Pease) whose Supremes-like vocals soar above the rest of the cast.
Of course the main characters Tick/Mitzi (Joe McFadden), Bernadette (Miles Western) and Felicia/Adam (Nick Hayes) drive the story along. Tick is conflicted by the sudden knowledge that a drunken mistake in his past has provided him with a son; Bernadette has just lost the love of his life (well, at least for this year) and Felicia/Adam just wants an adventure. It is Adam who persuades his mother to finance the trip and they naively set out from Sidney for the great outdoors.
The leads are massively supported by an ensemble of 12 amazing dancers/singers/actors who switch from drag queens to rednecks in a matter of seconds, or so it seems. Choreographer Tom Jackson Greaves has created a lively, energetic background to compliment the action while director Ian Talbot handles some of the more un-stageable elements with aplomb. Kudos have to go the designers, Charles Cusick-Smith, Phil R Daniles and Richard Weeden, for a very adaptable set and an amazing bus.
The production is packed with 80’s songs, some familiar from the film, others not so much. The Abba continuum from the movie has been replaced with Kylie references and songs.
This version has West End production values, a first rate cast and a joyous soundtrack to send you out into a cold winter night with a spring in your step.

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







25/10/2019

Boar


Review by: Paul Towers, 25/10/19
Boar by Lewis Doherty
A co-production by Lewis Doherty, The North Wall and Nottingham Playhouse
Curve – 25 October 2019

“set in the incredibly imaginative world of Dungeons and Dragons”

Theatre is all about imagination, imagining a story before your very eyes. Belief has to be suspended and you should be drawn into the world that is being created. The very best theatrical story tellers can  perform this miracle without impressive scenery, without multiple costumes and without lots of props. Lewis Doherty is an up and coming exponent of this genre.
I was really impressed by Doherty’s show, Wolf, last week and didn’t  think he would be able to top it. But, by taking his material in a different direction he has topped it.
Boar is set in the incredibly imaginative world of Dungeons and Dragons and, yes, there are dragons and dungeons along with a multitude of characters all conjured up by a single actor, the very talented Lewis Doherty, on a bare stage with just a clever soundtrack and incredible lighting.
The story is the old old tale of a princess captured by a dragon and an aging king desperate for her to be rescued. However, maybe taking a little inspiration from Shrek, there are loads of incidental characters contributing to the narrative, many slotted in purely to raise a laugh. This production is huge fun with many laugh out loud moments and plenty of amazing sound/light/vocal effects.
I loved the way Doherty came full circle and referenced Wolf in the final minutes of the show.
This was a great way to spend 60 minutes escaping from a damp and dismal Friday night.
I am really looking forward to seeing what Lewis Doherty comes up with next.
Full details of future performances can be found on his website.

http://www.lewisdoherty.com
Curve – https://curveonline.co.uk
First published on Western Gazette

22/10/2019

A Taste of Honey


Review by: Paul Towers, 22/10/19
A Taste of Honey by Shelagh Delaney
A National Theatre production directed by Bijan Sheibani
Curve 22 – 26 October 2019

“still very relevant today”

Surprisingly Shelagh Delaney wrote her first play, A Taste of Honey, in 1958 at the age of just 19. Right up until her death in 2011 her output was prodigious encompassing stage, film, TV and radio. However nothing really outshone her debut and it is still very relevant today even though it sometimes suffers from being lumped in with the Angry Young Men and kitchen sink dramas of the period.
The current production, while still set ‘up north’ is firmly based in Salford in the 50’s. Poverty and deprivation abound and Helen (Jodie Prenger making a welcome return to Leicester’s Curve) is a blousy single mother with a very erratic sense of parenting; her daughter Jo (Gemma Dobson) fights with her tooth and nail and, at 18, repeats her mother’s mistake and gets pregnant with a sweet talking black sailor, Jimmie (Durone Stokes) who subsequently abandons her. Her salvation is gay friend Geoffrey (Stuart Thompson making his professional theatre debut) who sees her through her pregnancy despite the abuse heaped on him by Helen’s boyfriend Peter (Tom Varey). The script is scattered with racism and homophobia as was prevalent at the time.
Prenger, as expected, grabs her role of the dissolute mother and runs with it, tearing up the scenery when needed and proving she is way more than the musical theatre star we all know.
The script highlights the abject poverty so many lived in at the time but it is laced with lots of laughs. Some of the lines are almost Wildean.
Director Bijan Sheibani has taken a creative decision to put a live musical trio of piano, bass and drums onstage and these provide the backing for the various scene changes which are creatively choreographed in a half light. Every time a new character was introduced they sang a bit of a song which defined the character.
The set was an appropriately gloomy, moody, grey jumble of pillars and walls. As virtually all the action takes place within the cockroach infested flat it just needs the furniture to be moved around to suggest the passing of time.
A Taste Of Honey is at Curve until Saturday 26th October and then continues to tour until it hits London at Christmas. Details at https://tinyurl.com/y53hjnt5

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














18/10/2019

Wolf

Review by: Paul Towers, 18/10/19
Wolf by Lewis Doherty
A Lewis Doherty & The Northwall presentation
Curve – 18/10/19

“an amazing one-man play spoofing American cop shows”

Patrick Wolf is a cop. A cop on a mission. A mission to get revenge for his partner Jay Walker’s death. The streets of Shadow City won’t be safe til he finds the murderer.
Actor, writer, comedian and extraordinary actor Lewis Doherty is a local lad from Nottingham and has created an amazing one-man play spoofing American cop shows. With just a black stage and a stool he populates his world with more than 30 characters.
From the moment he walked into one of Curve’s intimate rehearsal studios Doherty had the audience in the palm of his hand. Murder, mayhem, cyborgs and a multitude of  instantly recognisable characters took us deep into his fantastical tale of a good cop’s pursuit of truth. His very physical performance, along with an uncanny ability to create sound effects, drew us into the mean streets of Shadow City.
An atmospheric soundtrack of music and sound effects are seamlessly bound to his on stage antics as we follow fights and car chases around the city and up and down multi storey buildings with humour and tenacity.
Doherty doesn’t make his hero too serious and regularly allows the audience into his self awareness of parody.
Some of the characters we meet are sometimes only a sentence or two long but Doherty makes each one fully rounded. Some of his elaborate vocal effects and physicality were reminiscent of Jim Carrey’s The Mask. High praise indeed.
While Wolf was only on for one night as part of Curve’s New Work Festival Boar, the companion piece, is on next Friday, 25th October, and is not to be missed.
The New Work Festival runs at Curve til 26th October and features performances from new artistes along with various support workshops. Full details are on the website.

http://www.lewisdoherty.com/
Curve – https:curveonline.co.uk
First published on Western Gazette

17/10/2019

Ruby and Cedar


Review by: Paul Towers, 17/10/19
Ruby and Cedar by Alison Dunne
A Fishhouse Theatre presentation
Upstairs @ The Western, 17 & 18 October 2019

“Where were you when man first stood on the moon?”

Fishhouse Theatre is the new in-house theatre company at Upstairs at The Western and Alison Dunne is one of the lead directors of the company and an accomplished playwright.
On the 20th July 1969 man first set foot on the moon. However, before that could happen both America and USSR launched several orbiting space missions. Probably the most memorable astronaut was Russia’s Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space. His best friend was also a cosmonaut, called Komarov. Together they had code names of Ruby and Cedar.
Thousands of miles away two sisters are brought up in the West Midlands and also called Ruby and Cedar. Not entirely surprisingly these sister grew up obsessed with space and astronauts. As they bickered and fought their way into adulthood they resolved to meet up every year on the anniversary of the inaugural moon landing.
Alison Dunne’s poignant play sets the story of the girls’ growing up against the narrative of the flawed initial Soyuz mission.
Therese Collins as Cedar and Blue Merrick as Ruby beautifully play the bickering but ultimately fiercely loyal siblings as they choose separate career and lifestyle paths. With changes of lighting and accents the pair also play various Russians and Americans as the story unfolds.
Ruby and Cedar plays at Upstairs at The Western again on Friday, which is lucky as Thursday was sold out, and continues the tour it started in June 2019. Details on Fishhouse Theatre’s Facebook page.

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

15/10/2019

Cabaret


Review by: Paul Towers, 15/10/19
Cabaret by Joe Masteroff, music & lyrics by John Kander & Fred Ebb
A Bill Kenwright presentation
Curve 15 – 19 October 2019

“an eye popping re-imagining of  this 1966 musical standard

First off completely forget the Liza Minelli film. While the songs are roughly the same the story is infinitely darker and more brutal.
It’s 1931 Germany, as the second world war creeps closer and the Nazis are gaining ground in Berlin, their jackboots squashing the Jews and gays.
At the infamous Kit Kat Klub the decadent and debauched patrons are still partying like nothing was happening. Sally Bowles, legendary English singer, is taking to the stage with her raucous routines compered by the outrageous Emcee, ringmaster to this nightly exhibition of hedonistic indulgence. In walks naïve American novelist Cliff who immediately embraces the excesses available. Taking a room at Fraulein Schneider’s boarding house he suddenly finds himself with a not completely unwelcome room and bed mate, Sally.
Director Rufus Norris, of the National Theatre, has worked with  designer Katrina Lindsay to create an eye popping look to this re-imagining of  the 1966 musical standard. Forget the Hollywood schmaltz of the 1972 film this goes back to the early book and we get a very gritty, satirical vision of pre-war Germany
John Partridge as the Emcee is a revelation. Highly camp but with a vicious edge, he is the ringmaster of all the fun-poking at the Nazis’ expense. He whips the audience up into the mood for fun in the cabaret club, only for the reality of the outside world to bring us down to earth again.
Partridge is very well supported by Kara Lily Hayworth as Sally Bowles, back at Curve after her show stopping performance as Cilla Black a year ago. Charles Hagerty as Cliff, the naïve American, has returned to the role after touring with it in 2017. Fraulein Schneider is played by the legendry Anita Harris (somehow aged for the part). The ensemble, fantastic dancers well served by Javier De Frutos’ amazing choreography, play lots of minor roles as well as being scene shifters and absolutely outrageous acolytes to the Emcee. The live band at the back of the stage gives depth and immediacy to the whole evening.
There are still tickets available for the rest of the run but do bear in mind that, due to some nudity, it is only really suitable for over 14s


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