Reviews from Paul's pen

Reviews from Paul's pen


Dear Sir

Review by: Paul Towers, 21/6/19
Dear Sir by Ross Thomson
A Ten 29 Theatre production
Upstairs @ The Western, 21 June 2019

“What Makes A Man a Man.”

We all look back at our lives and wonder what would have happened if we had taken a different path, made a different decision.
In Dear Sir 20-something Ross writes a series of letters to his younger self showing where he may have taken the wrong path and where he maybe worried too much.
Growing up in Scotland Ross was pressured from an early age to ‘be a man’, act manly, treat women in a certain way (very appropriate for the #MeToo generation’s sensibilities). Like so many young men he allowed himself to be swept along on that false premise of what a man should be. And of course he made mistakes. Fortunately not ones that hurt anyone else. However they did hurt his mental health.
Dear Sir is a very personal examination of  how those pressures and expectations can damage you.
Alongside the letters to his younger self, Ross uses a fairy tale to illustrate how imagination, fantasy and delusion can so easily combine to throw you onto the shipwrecked rocks of life if you are not careful and mindful.
This cautionary tale could so easily have been titled What Makes A Man a Man, especially as Ross finally finds his peace as a gay man. In turns thought provoking and funny this should be required viewing for all teenagers to reassure them that it will be alright in the end, if you let it.

Ten 29 Theatre -
Upstairs at The Western
First published on Western Gazette


Our House

All pictures (c) Matthew Cawrey

Review by: Paul Towers, 30/5/19
Our House by Tim Firth, music & lyrics by Madness
A CYC, Made At Curve production directed by Alex Sutton
Curve 30 – 31st May 2019

“funny, musical and energetic.”

When the original show premiered in London’s West End in 2002 it won an Olivier Award and has toured both nationally and internationally since. It is an ideal show for young theatre groups like Curve’s CYC as it can have as large a cast as you want and there are plenty of roles for good singers and actors.
The story of the show is of  Joe Casey, a 16 year old trying to impress girlfriend Sarah. He breaks into a building development to find something to sell but the police turn up. Taking its inspiration from Sliding Doors, Joe’s life splits into two very different directions. Good Joe (here played by Sam Cooper) stays and gives himself up to the police and his life follows his father’s into prison and dead end jobs. Bad Joe (Tom Morley in fine voice) runs away and leaves girlfriend Sarah (Fae North) to fend for herself. On the face of it Bad Joe makes something of himself while Good Joe languishes in the gutter. However Good and Bad turn out not to be what you think.
There is a huge and hugely talented cast of 33 in Curve’s studio space on a versatile set that includes an onstage band. Of course none of the cast will have had the faintest idea who Madness were before they started working on this show but I hope they now have an appreciation of the musical heritage that we had in the 80’s
There are plenty of Madness songs spread throughout the narrative and each one could almost have been written for the musical. Author Tim Firth is responsible for Calendar Girls and Kinky Boots so it is no wonder the show is infused with both comedy and pathos.
This is a funny, musical and energetic trip down memory lane for those of us old enough to remember the 80’s and a musical education for millennials.
Our House is at Curve again tomorrow (Friday) with a few seats left.

Curve –
First published on Western Gazette


Ain't Misbehavin'

 Review by: Paul Towers, 221/5/19
Ain’t Misbehavin’ by Richard Maltby Jr
A Bill Kenwright production, choreographed by Oti Mabuse
Southwark Playhouse 19 April – 1 June 2019

“lively, funny, feel good show.”

Ain’t Misbehavin’ is another of those shows whose soundtrack I have had for many years and never got round to seeing a production. Until now.
The show is arguably the original juke box musical. There is very little narrative, it just lets the songs shine through. And boy do they shine.
Fats Waller was around at the start of the 20th century(1904 – 1943), so nicknamed for his immense size (ultimately some 300lbs) . Despite such a comparatively short life he had a prodigious output of songs which varied in style from pure jazz to comedy to romance. Listening to the selection made for the show you get a taste of the talent that was sadly cut short. At the time of his career there was, of course, strict racial segregation but Waller was influential in black music and musicians becoming mainstream.
The show at the intimate Southwark Playhouse space is laid out very much like a cabaret venue with a dance floor in the middle, three sides of raked seating and a stage area that is built up to accommodate the four instrumentalists, Elias Jordan Atkinson, Blake Cascoe, Mebrakh Haughton-Johnson and Ruben Ramos Medina. These are led by orchestrator Mark Dickman on piano, who sits on a dais which moves remotely on and off the performance space. The stage area is decorated in gold with lights all around.
Now we come to the singers/dancers. Wow! They sure have some moves, which is not surprising considering they are choreographed by a Strictly professional, Oti Mabuse. The two guys, Adrian Hansel and Wayne Robinson, are more than a match for the three girls, Renee Lamb, Carly Mercedes Dyer and Landi Oshinowo who get all the funny lines as well as filling the dance floor with fine moves.
This is a lively, funny, feel good show with comedy and spectacle. I defy you not to tap your feet through most of the numbers!
The thing with Fats Waller music is that on the surface it seems to be macho, showboating, bragging of the boys. But when you scratch below the surface just a tiny bit you realise that the girls hold all the cards and always win.
Ain’t Misbehavin’ is director Tyrone Huntley’s directorial debut and runs until 1st June

Southwark Playhouse


Matthew Bourne's Romeo and Juliet

Review by: Paul Towers, 17/05/19
Romeo and Juliet by Matthew  Bourne after William Shakespeare
A New Adventures production
Curve 13 – 18 May 2019

“spectacularly, energetic and innovative”

The world premier of any work is something to be proud of. When it is a new Matthew Bourne ballet and is at Curve then Leicester can justifiably preen itself and crow from the rooftops.
We all know the rough story of Shakespeare’s most popular play in his lifetime. Boy meets girl, warring families refuse to let the lovers be together, lovers die together. In these times of religious tensions the story resonates even more than usual.
Bourne has reimagined and relocated the story to Verona Institute, a place where boys and girls are segregated, kept apart by sadistic guards led by Tybalt.
The set is typically spectacular, a curved wall of white tiles with prison gates in it and a balcony running up both sides. High above the sterile main room is a huge stained glass roof which lowers at appropriate times in the story.
Prokofiev’s atmospheric score is based around what we TV addicts will recognise as The Apprentice theme and reflects the emotional turmoil that thwarted lovers feel.
A hugely talented young cast are led by Paris Fitzpatrick as Romeo and Cordelia Braithwaite as Juliet. The main villain of the piece, Tybalt, is danced malevolently by Dan Wright. As well as the main New Adventures cast of 19 there are also 6 Leicester Young Company cast members. Each stop on the tour will have similar local new artistes who will have been trained and coached by New Adventures for the last year in order to appear in this new ballet.
There is a live orchestra of 19 at every performance which adds depth to the sound of this spectacularly, energetic and innovative ballet.
The entire run at Curve sold out within hours of going on sale so there are no tickets for tomorrow’s final two performances. Your only hope is to call the box office and pray for returns. But don’t hold your breath. If you are not lucky then look at booking at Northampton from 28th May.

Curve –
First published on Western Gazette



Review by: Paul Towers, 16-May-19
Enron by Lucy Prebble
A Curve & DeMontfort University co-production
Curve 15 – 18th May 2019

“a depiction of corporate greed and avarice.”

Enron is the story, warning of what can go wrong when corporate companies are given free reign with few regulations.
Back in the 90’s Enron was a moderately successful company supplying gas to Texans. As the millennium approached and deregulation freed it from Government scrutiny it spread its influence into electricity, natural gas, pulp, paper and communications, hoping to ride along the burgeoning broadband industry. To finance all this expansion it used some very creative accounting methods to wildly over value the company. Complicit in this long term financial fraud were the management, auditors and accountants all of whom ultimately paid the price with jail sentences.
Lucy Prebble’s play, a major hit in London’s West End fared less well on Broadway and can be likened to The Wolf Of Wall Street in its depiction of corporate greed and avarice. This production is part of the continuing nurturing of talent at DeMontfort University that Curve has been committed to for the last decade.
The ambitious set, designed by Kate Unwin, of four levels created with steel poles provides the many rooms needed. It is draped underneath with lots of wires further illustrating the technology at the heart of Enron. TV screens around the upper perimeter show rolling financial reports from stock exchanges and periodically snap to live TV broadcasts of events.
The large talented cast of students performed with alacrity in a variety of costumes.
This production is directed by Jonathan Martin who has gathered around him a talented crew including sound designer Dave Norton and lighting designer Jonny Laidlow.
Enron is at Curve until Saturday 18th May

Curve –
First published on Western Gazette


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