Reviews from Paul's pen

Reviews from Paul's pen

17/12/2015

Aladdin


Review by: Paul Towers, 24/8/2015
Aladdin – devised and directed by John Bale
Leicester Drama Society
The Little Theatre, Leicester 11 December to 3 January 2016

“Perfect pantomime fare for all the family”

Every year Leicester Drama Society, the resident company based in Leicester’s Little Theatre on Dover Street, settles in for the festive season with a pantomime. This year’s offering is Aladdin, the tale of a love found and lost, a magic lamp found and lost, vast riches found and lost and found again. You get the idea.
This is a production that relies heavily on corny jokes, excruciating puns, slapstick comedy, lavish costumes and pop songs shoe-horned into a wildly improbably plot. Perfect pantomime fare for all the family, especially when you get a flying carpet thrown in alongside some rather telling digs at various landmarks around Leicestershire.
An enthusiastic young audience who had, I have no doubt, over done it on the Haribo beforehand, scream and shouted on cue, booed the rather camp and villainous Abanazar, cheered the completely unconvincing Widow Twanky (which is as it should be) and obliged Wishee Washee with every catch phrase he threw at them. Some of the theatre staff seemed a little stressed during the interval when hordes of pre-school darlings ran up and down the aisles. But the minute the lights went down an expectant hush settled over even the most troublesome toddler and the magic resumed.
Whenever I go to see an amateur or ‘community’ production it always strikes me that there is such an abundance of talented performers who would never consider making a living in the theatre. The greater country’s loss is Leicester’s gain.
There were several familiar faces in Aladdin and it was great to see them broadening their capabilities. Especial mention has to go to James May’s Wishee Washee who has progressed from junior dancing to his first leading major role. Keir Watson, playing Abanazar, has been in many local productions and gives full reign to his nefarious side in the role. Joe Chamberlain and Isaac Hart as the Chinese Policemen fill the stage with both physical and verbal nonsense to great effect.
Despite some odd dropping out of the radio microphones nothing was going to spoil the show for the very vocal youngsters attending probably their first theatrical performance.

Tickets are available at www.thelittletheatre.net/whats-on
First published on Western Gazette

16/12/2015

The Witches


Review by: Paul Towers, 16/12/15
Roald Dahl’s The Witches, adapted by David Wood
A Curve and Rose Theatre, Kingston Production
Curve until Sunday 10th January 2016

“fast paced, lots of magic and comedy, great villains and music”

Roald Dahl subscribed to the belief that a children’s story should entertain and scare in equal parts. The Witches does both in spades. Put simply this is the story of how a boy saved England’s children from being turned into mice and other creatures by child hating witches. Along the way The Boy and his friend Bruno learn how to be independent and to be happy with what they have.
Roald Dahl is now best known for his children’s stories but he also wrote many adult tales, most notably Tales of The Unexpected. Adapted by David Wood, acclaimed children’s stage author, this is a perfect theatre experience for the over 7’s. With lots of pyrotechnics, flashing lights and loud sound effects it may be a little much for the average toddler.
This production is a glorious melange of everything Dahl wanted in a children’s story, fast paced, lots of magic and comedy, great villains and music.
Director Nikolai Foster has created a wacky world in a quirky set that morphs from The Boy’s house to a ship to a hotel and back and forth. The cast are superbly costumed in ever more outrageous outfits to reflect the out-of-this-worldliness of a coven of witches hiding out in a respectable south coast hotel.
As The Boy Fox Jackson-Keen has an endearing innocence and uses his ballet background to great effect as he flees up and around the scenery, back flipping his way out of the clutches of the marauding witches. All of the cast are adept at singing, playing instruments and acting and  people the stage with a vast array of characters.
Sarah Ingram as the Grand High Witch has great fun channelling Cruella Deville and every pantomime wicked queen as she desperately tries to prevent The Boy and Bruno from foiling her master plan.
I have to admit that I got nearly as much fun watching the reactions on the faces of the youngsters in the audience as I did from what was on stage. One little lad of about 8 years old on the front row was beside himself with joy when the entire cast high-fived him on their way out. What a great first theatre experience for him.

The Witches is at Curve until 10th January and then touring nationwide until at least 10 April 2016
STOP PRESS - Extra performances have been added between 15 and 17th January due to public demand.

First published in Western Gazette
(c) Paul Towers 2015

02/12/2015

Oliver!


Review by: Paul Towers, 2/12/15
Oliver! By Lionel Bart
Curve Community Production directed by Paul Kerryson
Curve until 16 January 2016

“pick a pocket or two for a ticket!”

Hurrah! Paul Kerryson returns to Leicester’s Curve with a festive treat for all the family.
In one of Curve’s renowned community projects Lionel Bart’s Oliver! Is the perfect vehicle to allow local youngsters the chance to perform alongside professional musical theatre actors. There are two teams of youngsters that allow a total of  20 aspiring singer/dancer/actors to learn their craft on stage in a professional production.
Lionel Bart’s Oliver! is taken from Charles Dickin’s Oliver Twist, a dark tale of Victorian workhouses, street thieves and murderous deeds. Despite being a musical, and a successful one at that, this show doesn’t shy away from the dark underbelly of poverty stricken London. There is lots of brutality showing the boys being cruelly beaten and driven into a life of crime. The finale when two central characters die is handled fairly explicitly but never gratuitously.
On the night I went the lead boys were played by Albert Hart and Kwame Kandekore, both very capable. Hart especially handled the very physical aspects of the role of Oliver well. Kandekore has a fine sense of comedy and a winning cheeky smile.
The role of Nancy is being played from 4 Jan by Laura Pitt-Pulford but until then the role is filled by Cat Simmons, an established actress and the possessor of a theatre-filling voice worthy of Bassey, especially when she sings As Long As He Needs Me.
Peter Polycarpou, familiar to many as Sharon’s errant husband in Birds of a Feather, has great fun with Fagin, expertly filling the shoes of Ron Moody’s film version. Special mention has to be made of Jenna Boyd whose Widow Corney, Mr Bumble’s love interest, was the proud possessor of  a most spectacular d├ęcolletage which propelled all before it. Finally we have to pay heed to Bullseye whose small role caused much merriment amongst the cast when he insisted on muscling in on the dialogue.
With a whole slew of familiar songs Oliver!  is well worth treating yourself to a ticket, even if you have to pick a pocket or two! From Food Glorious Food, through Consider Yourself to Reviewing The Situation, there isn’t a dud song anywhere.
Kerryson’s direction, Andrew Wright’s choreography and Matt Kinley’s set design combine to ensure that Curve has a sure fire winner this Christmas.

Originally published in Western Gazette
(c) Paul Towers 2015

29/11/2015

Call Me Merman


Call me Merman by Rosemary Ashe
Rosemary Ashe and Nathan Martin
Curve 29/11/15 and touring

“alone with a piano, Rosemary Ashe fills the Curve’s Studio.”

A while back Ms Rosemary Ashe was cast in her dream role, Momma Rose in Gypsy. Unfortunately the revival floundered in the planning stage but Ms Ashe was so enamoured with the lyrics that she decided to put together a one woman show featuring the songs. As she researched the background to the story she was surprised to discover that the life of the definitive Momma Rose, Ethel Merman, would make a great vehicle upon which to hang some songs from Gypsy and a selection of the huge number of Ms Merman’s back catalogue. Thus was born Call me Merman.
On a simple plain set Rosemary and her accompanist, Nathan, try to get in as many of the Broadway diva’s vast repertoire as possible. This, of course, would entail a show lasting several hours so some numbers are barely more than a line or two while others are almost the complete song.
There were lots of surprising selections. Most of us only know the few routines we have seen in Ethel’s film performances but the majority of her work was on the stage and, this side of the Atlantic, we were not fortunate enough to see much of that.
While I am no stranger to the aural delights of  a belted out Merman standard I was delighted to discover she was also the mistress of a tender love song.
Merman was incredibly lucky to have some of the greatest composers of the day create songs for her
From the moment the lights went down and Ms Ashe strode onstage the audience was enraptured as we were led through the life of one of Broadway’s most enduring stars. Not only were we treated to a battery of musical numbers but these were interspersed with anecdotes and details of her chaotic private life.
All this is done with just an upright piano and a strident voice, no amplification. Ethel would have approved!

Full details of the tour at www.rosemaryashe.com
First published on Western Gazette

22/11/2015

Saturday Night Forever


Review by: Paul Towers, 21/11/15
Saturday Night Forever
Aberystwyth Arts Centre and Joio
Directed by Kate Wasserberg, written by Roger Williams
Curve 20 & 21 November 2015

“love found, lost and friendship forged”

Saturday Night Forever is a powerful monologue of love found, lost and friendship forged from the ashes of tragedy and all told in a delicious accent straight out of the Welsh Valleys. It brought a tingle to the hairs on the back of my neck.
On a bare stage with an imaginative wall of what looks like heated radiators imbued with LED lights that move and change  colour to effectively suggest various locations, Delme Thomas’ Lee takes us on a roller coaster ride through his disastrous love life as he extricates himself from the debris of his totally unsuitable relationship with Matt. Resigning himself to Bridget Jones singledom, Lee is completely unprepared for his meeting of a new love at a party. Love  blossoms and is taken away violently one night.
By turns tragic and funny this show is on tour until at least the end of the year. Full details can be found on Facebook. Search for Saturday Night Forever Tour

(c) Paul Towers 2015

09/11/2015

The Ladykillers at The Little Theatre


Review by: Paul Towers, 24/8/2015
The Ladykillers by Graham Linehan
Leicester Drama Society
The Little Theatre 9-14 November 2015

“implausibly preposterous tale”

A couple of years ago I saw the touring version of The Ladykillers at Leicester’s Curve and was very impressed with the staging, writing and acting. Leicester Drama Society’s production is equally as effective.
The set is outrageously unbelievable with a full three story house and every technical trick needed to tell this implausibly preposterous tale of a robbery gone wrong.
The story starts with the entrance of the most OTT pantomime villain in Martin Bell’s evil Professor Marcus, the ‘brains’ behind the bank job. Swooping around the auditorium like a predatory crow he swoops out just as angelic Mrs Wilberfoce, Angela Edwards ably channelling Michel Dotrice, totters around a similar path dispensing pleasantries to audience members before removing her hat and coat and tidying it away. Mrs W, a frequent reporter to the local constabulary, is wasting more police time with imaginings of Nazi war criminals running sweet shops in Kings Cross.
Then comes the arrival of Professor Marcus and his band of ne’er do wells who are to rent the old lady’s spare room for ‘band practice’. From then on this is farce at its best. Adapted from the Ealing Studios film by Father Ted’s Graham Linehan this a joyous homage to those old black and white Alec Guiness comedies.
The main cast of  seven have impeccable timing both physically and verbally as mistakes are made and covered up, slapstick abounds. Trapped into giving an actual recital the tone deaf quartet end the first half in a raucous cacophony of strangled cat noises.
The second half, following on from exactly the closing point of the first half, gallops towards the actual robbery and the most imaginative and hilarious car chase you will see in  a theatre! Anyone who has seen the film or the play will know that the second half is a long drawn out denouement whereby the villains get their just deserts. As the characters die off in ever more absurd and hilarious ways the deliciously and misleadingly dotty Mrs Wilberforce comes into her own.
The Ladykillers is on at The Little Theatre until Saturday 14th November. As the entire run is sold out the only chance of getting a seat is to call the box office on 0116 254 0472 and pray they have had a returned ticket.

http://www.thelittletheatre.net/whats-on/the-lady-killers/
First published in Western Gazette

06/11/2015

Nine Lives


Review by: Paul Towers, 6/11/15
Nine Lives by Zodwa Nyoni
Leeds Studio & West Yorkshire Playhouse
Upstairs @ The Western, 6th November 2015

“thought provoking and topical”

Tonight’s performance of Nine Lives was prefaced with a selection of songs by The Red Leicester Choir. Last time I saw this a cappelia group of community singers they gave us a fascinating selection of almost forgotten political protest songs. This time, well it appeared that the set had been thrown together to provide some appropriate accompaniment to the main feature. Unfortunately, while the first and last numbers were up to their past standard the intervening two numbers were ill prepared, unrehearsed, erratic and uneven. Very disappointing.
After a very short break while the stage was cleared of the choir we sat back and watched with appreciation the story of Ishmail, a Zimbabwean asylum seeker fleeing the notoriously homophobic regime of his home country.
Played by Lladel Bryant this is a story of how a young man is isolated from society by his refugee status and isolated from his fellow migrants by his sexuality.
While the narrative of the piece smoothly follows Ishmail’s bewildered arrival in what he perceives to be a land of freedom through his struggles to be granted asylum and his blossoming new friendship with single mother Becks it is interrupted several times by incongruous political mantra chanting. Which is a shame because the writing is plenty strong enough without it.
Bryant shines throughout the piece, especially when the script allows him to conjure up other characters like Becks and his room mate.
This thought provoking and eminently topical tale is sponsored by, amongst others, Leicester’s City of Sanctuary, an organisation that supports refugees and especially LBGT asylum seekers.
Nine Lives continues to tour well into the new year. Full details on the Leeds Studio Facebook page

Published in Western Gazette
and Pub Theatre Blog
(c) Paul Towers 2015

04/11/2015

It's A Wonderful LIfe


Review by: Paul Towers, 4/11/15
It’s A Wonderful Life by Tony Palermo from the film by Frank Capra
A Bridge House Production
Curve, 3rd-5th November

“amazing vocal dexterity”

In 1939 Philip Van Doren Stern wrote a sweet little short story called The Greatest Gift which was made into a radio play and thence a 1946 film by Frank Capra starring James Stewart as George Bailey, a man who has put aside his dreams and aspirations to provide for his family and community.
George is pushed to the edge, literally, by the realisation that his mounting financial debts can only be resolved by his family cashing in his life insurance policy.
Looking down from heaven is Clarence, an angel who is desperate to earn his longed for wings. His boss decides that persuading George to forego his leap to oblivion from a river bridge will be ample to get Clarence his feathers.
As a strategy to dissuade George from ending it all Clarence allows him to see what his family and community would be like if he hadn’t been born.
Despite being in black and white It’s A Wonderful Life continues to be a must-see staple of Christmas TV schedules the world over.
So, how to transfer this to the stage? The solution has been to go back to its former incarnation as a radio play. The theatrical conceit is that we, the audience, play the part of the radio audience as if we were at a live broadcast in 1950’s America, complete with hilariously inappropriate but accurate commercial interludes between the acts.
A small but very talented cast of  six, plus an onstage sound effects girl, create the entire thirty two characters of the show using just their voices and a few hats. Their vocal dexterity is amazing to witness and their ability to switch instantly from part to part is astonishing. Each of the actors has to play several parts, except for Oliver Stoney who only plays George Bailey. The almost bare stage is peopled solely by a couple of microphones and a table of sound effect apparatus and yet you believe in the cold river, the snowstorm, the derelict house and our hero’s final redemption.
It’s A Wonderful Life is at Curve for one more day and then is touring nationally. Full details at www.wonderfultour.co.uk

First published in Western Gazette
(c) Paul Towers 2015

01/11/2015

The Element In The Room


The Element In The Room by John Hinton
Tangram Theatre – John Hinton, Jo Eagle, directed by Daniel Goldman
Upstairs @ The Western, 1st November 2015

“a great vehicle for getting science to the masses”

Marie Curie was born in Warsaw in 1867 and was, therefore, contrary to our perceived wisdom, Polish, although also a naturalised French citizen. She studied at the clandestine Floating University, an unofficial seat of learning for women. In 1891, aged just 24, she followed her sister to Paris where she continued her studies, conducted research and met her husband, Pierre Curie. In 1903 she won a Nobel Prize for physics with her husband and a physicist. In 1911 she won a chemistry Nobel Prize in her own name, the only person to ever win Nobel Prizes in two disciplines.
During her lifetime she discovered both polonium and radium. The latter being the basis of radiotherapy to this day. Her pioneering work in the discovery and development of radioactivity and the development of mobile X ray machines has saved millions of lives over the years.

Following on from last year’s thoroughly entertaining Darwin, this, the second in the science trilogy from Tangram, is just as much fun, just as entertaining and just as educational. With John Hinton’s winning combination of storytelling, groan inducing puns and silly songs this is a great vehicle for getting science out to the masses. The trilogy, wholesome and hilarious, should be compulsory viewing for children of all ages.

The Element In The Room, part of Tangram’s Scientriology, is touring continuously. Full tour details on www.tangramtheatre.co.uk
Review published on Pub Theatre Blog and Western Gazette
(c) Paul Towers 1/11/15

26/10/2015

A Streetcar Named Desire


Review by: Paul Towers, 26/10/2015
A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams
A Curve Production directed by Nikolai Foster
Leicester Curve 16 Oct to 7 November

“brooding and brimming with sexual tension”

Tennessee Williams’ 1947 dissection of the class system of America’s Deep South is plain to see in this story of the descent into madness of aspirational fantasist Blanche Dubois amid a fog of good ‘ole Southern liquor.

Ms Dubois, displaced from what she regards as her rightful place as mistress of the family estate by a failure to keep up the mortgage on the property, boards the titular Streetcar of Desire to seek refuge with her sister, Stellar, and her husband Stanley in a godforsaken backwater. She and Stanley immediately lock horns as blue collar worker meets wishful old aristocrat. In this pressure cooker of emotions and class warfare sexual jockeying and violent frustrations emerge driving Blanche ever closer to the funny farm.

Leading this excellent cast is ex-Eastender Charlie Brooks, a revelation as the neurotic, hysterical and fragile Blanche Dubois. Stewart Clarke as Stanley Kowalski, her nemesis, is brooding and brimming with sexual tension as the drunken, violent wife beater eating up the scenery.

The set is suitably tatty and decrepit with flickering lights intermittently lit by the unreliable local power supply; the action regularly interrupted by the deafening roar as the next Streetcar of Desire thunders past the forgotten population.

A Streetcar Named Desire is at Curve until Saturday 7 November

20/10/2015

Breaking The Code


Review by: Paul Towers, 20/10/15
Breaking The Code by Hugh Whitemore
Leicester Drama Society
Leicester Little Theatre 19 – 24th October 2015

“a bravado performance from Paul Beasley”

Breaking The Code at Leicester’s Little Theatre this week is the dramatic stage play inspired by Andrew Hodge’s book Alan Turing: The Enigma, the source material for the recent film The Imitation Game starring Benedict Cumberbatch.
This version, unlike the film, doesn’t shy away from the subject of Turing’s downfall his homosexuality and the invidious inequity of the Sexual Offences Act in the Fifties. This vile piece of legislation, viewed from our more enlightened perspective, is shown to be the destructive force which sadly ended the life of a genius who, had he lived beyond his 41 years, would have achieved even greater things. As it is he can look down from wherever he ended up and bask in the deserved glory of being the father of computing and the person who was largely responsible for ending World War Two several years early and thus saving thousands, if not millions of lives.
Paul Beasley as Alan Turing puts in a bravado performance that not only captures Turing’s social awkwardness but perfectly illustrates his brilliance and sense of exhilaration as he expounds on complex logical and mathematical hypotheses.
Written as a series of flashbacks as Alan Turing contemplates his final hour the narrative shines the spotlight on a series of incidents which led the tormented genius to bite the self poisoned apple, Snow White-like, that ended his life.
A talented cast of amateurs from the Leicester Dramas Society come together and sprinkle much needed laughter into this tale of how the man who saved the country at its ultimate time of peril was cruelly betrayed by the legal system.

Breaking The Code is on at The Little Theatre until Saturday 24th October
First published in Western Gazette
(c) Paul Towers 20/10/15

17/10/2015

She Called Me Mother


She Called Me Mother by Michelle Inniss
Upstairs @ The Western, 17th October 2015

confronts very uncomfortable issues but mixes them with humour

A 70 year old Jamaican woman sits on a borrowed stool under the arches of London Bridge selling the Big Issue. She’s not a beggar. She has a job. And a home. Well, a dingy room in the basement of a derelict house. But it is her dingy room.
She sits all day selling the magazines for £2.50 a time. Earning that £2.50 a time gives her back a little of her dignity. One of her regular customers, a young woman about the same age as her estranged daughter, gets her thinking of  how she became alienated from her one and only daughter and how she waits in vain for her to come and find her.
As is always the way, there are two sides to every story and Evangeline, as the mother, sees things very differently from Shirley. As the true story unfolds, side by side, we see how the daughter, for all her determination to avoid the mistakes her mother made, treads the same path and Evangeline is forced to face up to the horrors she has buried deep in her head.
The parallel stories converge when Shirley finally decides to try and make her peace with the mother she felt betrayed and abandoned her at 16. This is a multi layered story brought to life by two very accomplished actresses.
Cathy Tyson is a familiar face to both TV and cinema audiences from her BAFTA and Golden Globe nominated roles in Mona Lisa (with Bob Hoskins) and ITV’s Band of Gold and BBC’s Grange Hill and is especially effective in this powerhouse role written in Trinidadian Vernacula which highlights the loneliness of the immigrant uprooted and then left unsupported.
Chereen Buckley, as daughter Shirley, powerhouses her way through the emotions of being an abused daughter and wife and ably holds her own alongside the monumental talent that is Cathy Tyson.
Ms Tyson is co-founder of Pitch Lake Productions and this play is part of Black Theatre Live.
This is a play that confronts very uncomfortable issues but mixes them with humour and pathos.

She Called Me Mother is touring until at least spring 2016 http://www.pitchlakeproductions.com/tour-dates.html

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

03/10/2015

Icarus Dancing



Icarus Dancing by Rob Gee
Written and performed by Rob Gee, directed by Tara Gatherer
Upstairs @ The Western, 3 October 2015

“mental health has never been so funny”

Simon is an escaped psychiatric patient, Millie is a six year old with a mouth like a sandblaster. Granny doesn’t stand a chance. So says the publicity blurb for Rob Gee’s hilarious romp through the mental health system. That doesn’t even cover the half of it!
Simon has decided that after a year of medicated ‘normality’ he doesn’t need his pills any more and, in the resultant temporary liberation from ‘being shackled to the pharmaceutical conglomerates’ he decides to follow his perceived destiny to reclaim the throne of Egypt as Ramesses II. But first he has to escape from hospital, get into his flat and make it to the airport in time for tomorrow’s flight. What ensues is an uproarious journey which brings together three very disparate souls whose lives are changed forever. Well, mostly.
Right from the moment he came on stage and presented us with Simon, the protagonist of this piece, the audience was in stitches. Mental health has never been so funny.
Rob Gee is an acclaimed writer, poet, performer and director who has an especial interest in mental health issues and medical enlightenment in general.
More information can be found at www.robgee.co.uk
First published on Western Gazette
and Pub Theatre Blog

02/10/2015

God Save The Teen


God Save The Teen by Andrew Mulletproof Graves
Andrew Mulletproof Graves, directed by Rob Gee
Upstairs @ The Western, 2 October 2015

“how to grow up and get it all wrong”

Andrew ‘Mulletproof’ Graves is a performance poet and published writer. God Save The Teen is the story of his tortured teen years growing up in a dying mining community with a father wallowing in self pity, alcohol and cold sprout and Daddie’s sauce sandwiches and an absent mother. He survived despite getting almost everything wrong. Just like all teenagers.
This may all sound very dire but Graves manages to lace his seemingly grim youth with liberal doses of humour.
The piece opens with one of those punk verses; torturous rhyming couplets of convoluted prose. Thankfully this is only a mercifully short prologue before he launches into a series of stories of his adolescence, in turn sad and hilarious. The narrative whips back and forth throughout the 80’s and is dotted with vivid vignettes of clarity and humour.
The piece is divided, chapter-like with music from the era and mostly topped with short punk poetry verses. Not to my taste but I guess as a good a way as any to set the scene for the next story.
More information about the poet and upcoming gigs can be found on http://mulletproofpoet.co.uk/

http://upstairsatthewestern.com/
First published on Western Gazette
and Pub Theatres Blog

30/09/2015

Children of the Wolf


Review by: Paul Towers, 30/9/15
Children of The Wolf by John Peacock
Leicester Drama Society
Little Theatre, 28th September – 3rd October 2015

“psychological suspense and Hitchcockian.”

This play is certainly a world away from the Little Theatre’s often light and fluffy productions. A small cast of three portray a mother and twins as well as a few characters from the past in this powerful cautionary tale of poor choices and their repercussions.
Helena, as a flighty teenager in the 60’s, finds herself pregnant, as so many did, and resorts to the highly illegal and dangerous practice of a trip to the local back street abortionist. As was often the case the results were far from satisfactory and she gave birth to severely underweight twins, one of whom suffered brain damage due to a lack of oxygen during the delivery. As was the custom in those far off, unenlightened times the children were taken from the single mother and fostered and hopefully adopted. To cope with this Helena blotted all thought of her lost children from her mind and, due to the botched termination, was never able to be a mother again.
Fast forward 21 years and her naturally resentful offspring have hunted her down, stalked her every movement and laid a cunning trap. She is lured back to the scene of that fateful night, the occasion of the children’s conception, completely unaware that the vengeance of her aggrieved offspring awaits her.
Becca Cooper as Linda, the brains in the twindom, is a stalwart of the Leicester amateur scene and gets to show her dramatic chops as she in turn chews up the scenery and manipulates whoever she needs to. Ross Bayliss, a name new to me but certainly someone to watch, has a very physical role as the disabled twin Robin as well as playing the young Michael. Finally, as the mother Helena, Nadine Beasley is at times victim and justifier by turn.
This is not a blood and guts, violent story of retribution; rather a disturbing tale of psychological suspense in the Hitchcock style with a twist in the tale that will blindside you right at the very end.

First published in Western Gazette
(c) Paul Towers 30/9/15

24/09/2015

Bane 2015

Almost a year ago to the day Upstairs at The Western was treated to a performance of Bane by Joe Bone. This is an affectionate homage to the gumshoe movies of the old black and white days of our parents and grandparents.

Tonight we got parts 2 & 3 of the ongoing saga of our favourite gun for hire in old New York. The Beast Within, part two, explores Bane's motivations and demons while part three, Welcome To Sunnyview, shows how he is, as he himself admits, once a killer always a killer, no matter how much he tries to change.

This time the story is even funnier and more serious with deaths and double dealings galore. Author and performer Joe Bone somehow manages to shoehorn in several fantasy sequences along with what seems to be dozens, if not hundreds, of individual characters on a bare stage accompanied, as before, by composer and guitarist Ben Roe.

Littered with puns galore, a car chase and some very implausible get outs, this is an uproarious evening's entertainment made possible solely by virtue of Bone's talent.

If you ever wondered how you can show a car chase around New York city on a bare stage then you absolutely have to go and see any of the episodes of Bane currently out on tour.

Episode four is currently being polished and we have been promised a visit next year. I can't wait!

Full tour details are available at www.brucebane.com

Published on Western Gazette
 (c) Paul Towers 24/9/2015

16/09/2015

Dry Rot


Leicester's Little Theatre is home to several amateur dramatic societies in the area and this week it was the turn of Leicester Drama Society's to present their summer offering to the good folk of the shire.

Dry Rot by John Chapman is not going to 'play on your emotions or exercise your brain with deep and meaningful thoughts', as openly acknowledged by the director Penny Kimmins. What it will do is give you a good few laughs.

John Chapman was a member of Brian Rix's Whitehall Farce company and, after appearing in more than his fair share of mediocre and bad farces, decided he probably couldn't do any worse and maybe do even better. With a tenuous plot that veers wildly from Fawlty Towers to a Dick Francis novel and St Trinians implausibility this is never going to be a cerebral evening's entertainment. Set in a magnificent country hotel (great set design by Alec Davis) this is the standard collection of multiple doors, mistaken identities, shallow stereotypes and a horse! The only real surprise was the female police sergeant being played, straight, by a man.

While all the relatively small cast of 10 played their parts well the pairing of Carolos Dandolo and Ben Harris as the impossibly inept bookie and his assistant stand out. Michael Bull as Colonel Wagstaff was channeling Richard Attenborough while Tabitha Fogg's dopey maid, Beth, mooned effectively over the wet secretary John Danby (Lawrence Moreton). Peter Lakin as Flash Harry brought to mind LeClerc from 'Allo 'allo as he was bundled in and out of the secret panel hiding place.

This period farce will never be a critic's favourite but more than satisfied an enthusiastic audience.

Dry Rot is on at The Little Theatre until Saturday 19th September.

First published in Western Gazette
© Paul Towers 2015



15/09/2015

Hairspray 2015

After last years very successful production of Hairspray as part of Paul Kerryson's valedictory season for Curve he is back with a bigger, brighter, bouncier Balitmore, and this time with an all star cast led by Benidorm's Tony Maudsley, Chicago's Claire Sweeney and Blue Peter's Peter Duncan. Before it heads out into the wilds of theatreland on a one year nationwide tour we have the opportunity to see this very much ramped up, spanglier, ballsier production of a much favoured show.

The awesome voices of Claire Sweeney, Brenda Edwards and Dex Lee splendidly compliment the exhaustive, energetic choreography of the ensemble. All this is as well as the full use of Curve's extensive technical capabilities and serves to provide us with an evening of high energy fun, frolics and entertainment

For those not familiar with either the film or last year's production Hairspray is the story of Tracey Turnblad (Freya Sutton returning to the role after touring with it last year), a plus size high school student in the early 60's. Highlighting that sizeism isn't new, Tracey, considering herself an outsider anyway, takes on the issue of racial segregation in middle America. While this may sound quite a worthy subject it is given the John Waters treatment and emerges as an hilarious tale of redemption. As Tracey's double plus size mother, Edna, Tony Maudsley displays a nimble pair of feet, albeit clad in Nora Batty pop socks, and an undoubted sure touch for both broad and subtle comedy. He is ably partnered by Peter Duncan as husband Wilbur Turnblad. Claire Sweeney has great fun with the villainess of the piece, Velma Von Tussle, mother of spoiled brat Amber.

Tonight's performance ended with a well deserved standing ovation for a very cohesive cast and a luscious looking production. Hairspray is on at Curve until Saturday 19th September

Tickets available at www.curveonline.co.uk
Full tour details at www.hairsprayuktour.com

Firts published in Western Gazette
© Paul Towers 15/9/2015



24/08/2015

Company


Stephen Sondheim shows are renowned for their idiosyncratic phrasing and vocal gymnastics. Any company brave enough to take them on is either very talented or very stupid. KW Productions had a resounding success with last year's staging of A Slice of Saturday Night at Upstairs at The Western so it was no surprise that this evening's tale of a perpetually single 35 year old's friends extolling the virtues and demerits of couple-dom was just as funny, musical and energetic.

Company is one of the first concept musicals that didn't conform the to the linear dialogue format of previous shows. Linked by Robert's (Keiran Whelan) 35th birthday party, this is a series of vignettes of the lives of his ten best friends, five couples ostensibly happily married but each of them, on closer inspection, just papering over the cracks in their relationships in order to hold them together. While there are several heartbreaking moments these are counterbalanced by some hilarious set pieces. Amy's (Victoria Price) hysterical, high speed bride being one of the best. Also worthy of note is Joanne's (Karen Gordon) drunken rendition of The Ladies Who Lunch. A delicious homage to Elaine Stritch's show stopping performance, but actually in tune!

Although originally written by Sondheim and George Furth in 1970 it was updated in the early 90's to make it more uptodate. The current production is further modernised by making one of the couples lesbians. A nice touch which makes their karate wrestling scene very believable. Adding in mobile phones also allows the director, Leigh White, to poke gentle fun at the current obsession with selfies.

Throughout the evening each of the various couples take centre stage and we watch as their relationships are revealed to be much less than the perfect couplings Robert assumes.

With a huge (for the Western) cast of 14 they amazingly manage to avoid bumping into each other unintentionally and even squeeze in a couple of production numbers.

While Sondheim's cynicism of marriage and long term relationships shines through the story shows that despite the ups and downs, dramas and divorces friends are always company and company is always friends

Company is on at Upstairs at The Western until Saturday 29th August (Saturday matinee sold out) and then at Little Theatre from 2nd to 5th September.

First published in Western Gazette
© Paul Towers 2015



19/08/2015

Sweet Charity

Curve's Studio space is home to National Youth Music Theatre's production of Sweet Charity until Saturday 22nd August. A huge cast of incredibly talented (and young!) actors/singers/dancers swamped the stage with enthusiastic performances. Every single one of the actors can easily go on to a career in musical theatre, if that is their aim.

Sweet Charity is the story of Charity Hope Valentine, the eternally optimistic, uneducated dance hall hostess who desperately wants to marry someone, anyone who can take her away from the flea-bitten hell hole that is only half a step up from a cat house. Her story takes her form the bottom of the pile to, well, several rungs up the ladder. Playing the title role is local actor Jade Johnson,a powerhouse performer who easily takes ownership of the character. This 18 year old has a great future on the stage. Amongst the other stand out performances in this show is 17 year old Stuart Thompson as Herman, the club owner, a sleazy comical man who finally shows his emotional side with an hilarious rendition of 'I always cry at weddings'.

Backing up the onstage cast is a live band/orchestra of equally talented musicians, again an amazingly talented bunch of youngsters ranging from 13 to 22.

While Sweet Charity, the film, has long been a favourite musical of mine this is the first time I have been lucky enough to catch it live on stage. Staged with an adaptable 'wire frame' set incorporating Curve's very own 'dancing stairway' this colourful show with its many many costume changes is a feast for the eyes and ears and will leave you exiting the theatre with several very hummable tunes ear worming you for days.

© Paul Towers 2015



29/07/2015

Richard III

Shakespeare has always seemed to me to be one of those elitist things that it is more important to be seen at than to understand or enjoy. So it was with trepidation that I accepted a request to review Curve's current Community Production of his Richard The Third, rather an apt choice in view of his recent re-interment in the city.

Director Nikolai Foster, Curve's new Artistic Director, says he wanted to stage this bloody story against a backdrop of contemporary Russia and set on a stage depicting a bomb site. This admirably enabled the battle scenes and various assassinations to be done with modern weaponry rather than trusting a largely inexperienced cast with swords and bows & arrows. Especially in the second half there were pyrotechnics galore to highlight the uprising of warring factions and the eventual demise of the titular monarch on a Bosworth field. Creative lighting and sound fill the Studio space so you feel right in the action.

Right from the start local actor Mark Peachey's Richard commands the stage and strides the length and breadth filling it with bravado, comedic asides and finally his death throes. The stereotypical hump that Shakespeare erroneously ascribes to Richard is more accurately represented by a set of alien-like vertebrae down his back. Supported by a superb cast of both professional and amateur actors this production continues the worthy tradition of community theatre by the people of Leicester for the people of Leicester.

The inherent problems of staging in the round are compounded by the necessity of concentrating so hard to decipher Shakespeare's idiosyncratic phrasing and language. I think I managed to get the gist of the tale but missed out huge chunks of the detail because I couldn't decipher the dialogue. This is no reflection on the cast or the director. In fact Nikolai deserves a huge vote of thanks for cutting the piece down from its original 4 hours!

In essence this is a very worthy production that runs to Sunday 9 August.

I have not been converted to Shakespeare and would not go and see any other of his work. This vibrant and athletic production is probably the nearest I will ever come to an accessible work of Shakespeare. It is something to brag that I have seen despite not understanding much of the dialogue. I came away wondering if I had been seeing The Emperor's New Clothes.

First published in Western Gazette
© Paul Towers 2015



10/07/2015

Sophie @ Story City Festival

Story City is 'a festival to share stories in different forms including theatre, film, spoken word' and just about every method of entertaining and informing. The festival has been 'created by a group of local artists who want to promote new and emerging artists'. The festival contains upward of 19 performances in a variety of venues across Leicester city centre.

Tonight I was at Upstairs @ The Western to see a first public read through of Sophie, a story of abuse, loneliness and, appropriately for these troubled times, neglectful authorities. This piece has been created with the support of Off The Fence, The Western's theatre company in residence, who have provided space to work on the play and rehearse over this week.

Sophie is about many things, teen peer pressure, children having to grow up too fast and the dangers they can face at an ever younger age. Sophie is 13 years old, the precocious, street-wise child of a single parent family. Like all teenagers she alternates between being a know-it-all who has done everything and the child she still is. Her short life has forced her to face up to and deal with all sorts of adult issues, murder being one of them.

Sophie is the product of Thread Theatre company, founded by graduates of Loughborough University who strive to 'develop and produce new writing from young playwrights, concentrating on work with asocial conscience.'

It was fascinating to be sat in the audience of a work in progress . The Q&A session afterwards was very informative for both the cast and the audience. I look forward to seeing the finished work in due course.

Thread Theatre can be found on www.facebook.com/threadtheatrecompany
More can found about The Story City Festival on www.storycity.co.uk which runs til Sunday 12 July

First published in Western Gazette
© Paul Towers 10/7/2015



02/07/2015

Calamity Jane

Turning up on Thursday's matinee performance to see the wonderous Jodie Prenger whip cracking her way through this musical theatre standard we were disappointed to find that Ms Prenger was ill and her understudy, Christina Tedders, was on for her instead. Several people around me voiced their disappointment at not seeing the star but, with scant hours to prepare, Ms Tedders gave a great performance. The girl can act, she can sing and she can dance up a storm.

Calamity Jane on stage is the ultimate feel good show that retains all of the best remembered elements of the Doris Day film and gives them an edgier feel. This is, probably, a much more realistic representation of the 'wild west' than the Doris Day film and all credit must go to Curve's Nikolai Foster for his visionary direction, Matthew Wright's set and Richard G Jones' lighting.

The entire cast are what is known in the business a triple threat. That means they can act, dance and play musical instruments. Most of them masters of more than one. This enables them to do away completely with an orchestra pit and adds an immediacy to the onstage action. It also means they can add depth to the ensemble numbers

The simple, single set of an old style western show bar serves, with creative lighting, as many locations. Very imaginative use of props even convinces us of a stage coach and a railroad train!

Tom Lister (formerly of Emmerdale and the obligatory ex-soap star for all touring productions) more than fills the battered cowboy boots of Wild Bill Hickok, the only man to (almost) tame Calamity Jane

Calamity Jane is on at Curve until Saturday and then on tour
http://www.calamityjanetheshow.com/
First published in Western Gazette

© Paul Towers 2/7/2015


25/06/2015

Sister Act


Opening night of Leicester Amateur Operatic Society's annual production at Leicester's Curve was sold out, and quite rightly so. Combining the immense talents of the LAOS membership with the hugely professional support they get from Curve and you have a production that is heavenly. It is sacrilegious that this production is only on for four days. It deserves at least a week!

It was obvious from the moment that the curtain went up that we were about to see a West End standard show and we were right. For an amateur production the scenery was unbelievable, the sound amazing and the vocal talents of the cast on a par with anything you see in a professional touring show.

A show like Sister Act, classily based on the film starring Whoopi Goldberg, relies almost entirely on the casting of the main character, Doloris Van Cartier, failing nightclub singer and murder witness. Taking her first leading role, unbelievably, in Shelley Henry LAOS has struck gold . Dominating the stage she has a voice that in turn tears up the scenery and then breaks your heart. But this is not a show that can rely on a single strong singer carrying the rest of the cast and in this production we are spoilt with an array of stand out voices. Debbie Longley as Mother Superior and Tom Mottram as baddie Curtis lead a list of principal players who give way more than we could hope for in an amateur production.

Of course, Sister Act is not going to tax anyone with its tenuous storyline but that doesn't matter when the entire show is filled with sassy, uplifting vocals. The story has been transported to the 70's to enable an entirely new score to be created. It also allows for some truly awful costumes, all in keeping with the period, of course.

If by some chance you manage to get a ticket transport yourself to redemption, give in to temptation and genuflect your way to an evening of blessed enjoyment.

Sister Act is on at Curve until Sunday 28 June

First published in Western Gazette
© Paul Towers 2015



16/06/2015

Matthew Bourne's Car Man

Even while the house lights are up and the audience are only starting to trickle into Curve's main auditorium, the cast of Matthew Bourne's The Car Man are slowly populating the set and establishing both their characters and the town as though opening the garage and cafe for the day. The story is set in 60's Middle America in one of those god-forsaken dots on an unrelenting highway that seems to lead nowhere, no-one ever pauses, let alone gets off the bus. That is until Luca, the titular Car Man, suddenly appears and the carefully balanced humdrum lives of the residents are thrown into chaos.

A breathtaking story that sees gang warfare, male rape, murder and the abuse of women inveigle its way through this small town is played out on an ingenious set that constantly revolves, slides and lifts to change from Diner to Garage, to Club, to Jail within the blink of an eye. Add on top of this the sheer talent and exuberance of the entire cast and it is no wonder that this 15 year old piece has been revived again and is touring to exceptional business.

Bourne had long resisted choreographing 'yet another production of Carmen' despite loving the score. But then he came across Rodion Shchedrin's beautifully condensed 40 minute ballet version of Bizet's score and he realised he had to use it, even if he had to throw out the Carmen story. So, taking inspiration from the film The Postman Always Rings Twice, he collaborated with Terry Davies who composed the extra music in the style of Bizet and it finally became the dance story that his company love to perform.

Be under no illusion this is not a cosy tale like his Sleeping Beauty or Cinderella, this is a steamy chronicle of sexual abuse and murder. There is much violence on stage and I would say is not suitable for the under 15's.

Matthew Bourne's company, New Adventures, is far from 'just another ballet company'. His breadth of genres range from ballet to modern dance and everything inbetween. No matter which dance discipline you are interested in a Matthew Bourne production will leave you gasping with admiration for the sheer talent on the stage and the imaginative way he has of story telling.

The Car Man is a sumptuous and multi layered feast for the eyes and is on at Curve until Saturday 20 June

First published in Western Gazette
© Paul Towers 16/6/2015



10/06/2015

The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-time

It is no wonder this production collects awards like I collect nectar points! This is cutting edge theatre at its very best. A set that resembles the inside of The Matrix not only reflects the confused mind of Christopher, the central character in this whodunit, but is also used superbly to double up as scenery.

A midweek matinee is, invariably, either an OAP-fest or, as today, a school kids special. The over-excited crowd of e-numbered rugrats took a little while to settle down, and continued to titter whenever an f-word was used, but otherwise were enraptured.

The stage was set as we took to our seats with the titular dog, supine and speared by a rather nice Spear & Jacksons garden fork, centre stage. From that rather surprising start the story took off as Christopher, an Aspergers sufferer (or embracer, he would say) tried to unravel the curious incident of the dog in the night-time. With unbelievably meticulous choreography the set became in turn a bedroom, a garden, a street, a tube station and everything inbetween. The three sided set, reaching high up into the flies, is a vast electronic chalk board and LED display.

Christopher's special issues both help and hinder his investigations; unable to lie he believes everyone else is the same. His complete inability to be touched means his only tactile experiences are via a Vulcan Mind Meld-like touching of finger tips.

While the main thrust of the story, and the starting point, is who killed the dog, it soon develops into Christopher's attempt to understand social interaction with the various people in his life

While this is a tour de force for the lead actor, Joshua Jenkins in most performances but sometimes Chris Ashby, the rest of the company is paramount in making this a seamless piece of storytelling that embraces modern technology to get inside the mind of a 'different' teenager as he tries to use his unquestionably amazing mathematical and pure logical thinking to unravel a mystery and push the boundaries of his social comfort zone.

The Curious Incident of The Dog in The Night is on at Curve until Saturday 13 June and additional tickets have just been released.

© Paul Towers 10/6/2015



20/05/2015

Fiddler On The Roof

Wigston Operatic Society's annual production at Leicester's Little Theatre this year was Fiddler On The Roof, a tale of traditional Jews being evicted from their home village in 1905 Russia. The WAOS president expressed surprise in the programme notes that the society hadn't performed this show before. After seeing it I am not surprised.

While a hugely talented cast do the best they can the material is just unrelentingly downbeat. This is not an uplifting, feel-good musical. There are precious little toe-tapping tunes. Even If I Were A Rich Man, shorn of Hollywood's OTT glamour and glitz, is nothing much more than a mildly amusing dirge. There are quite a few amusing little one liners between Tevye and his wife, they are not enough to balance the rest of the downbeat story.

However, the poor choice of material can not take away from the cast their professional performance. Led by a live orchestra of 10 this huge cast of 22 don't put a foot wrong, there is not a weak cast member in the company and Ady Bales's Tevye more than fills the shoes of Topol in the Hollywood film.

Fiddler On The Roof is on at Little Theatre until Sat 23rd May

First published in Westerm Gazette
© Paul Towers 20/5/2015



12/05/2015

What The Butler Saw

It has been far too long since I have wandered up Dover Street to Leicester's Little Theatre and tonight's production of Joe Orton's What The Butler Saw by Leicester Drama Society just highlights what a fool I have been to deprive myself of the professional quality productions they put on.

Written in 1966/7 but having to wait til 1969 and the final abolition of the contentious 1737 Licensing Act and 1843 Theatres Act whereby all scripts had to be approved by a Government body, latterly the Lord Chamberalin's office, Orton's final play, probably his most outrageous (for the time), is fittingly staged almost 50 years after being written in the very theatre that Orton made his stage debut in 1949.

Maybe preempting the abolition of censorship on stage, Orton has thrown every taboo he can think of into this fast paced, outrageous farce of cross dressing, mistaken identity and even a spot of nudity. With satirical digs at doctors, psychiatrists and his especial favourite target, the police Orton weaves a chaotic farce out of Dr Prentice's efforts in covering up a potential indiscretion.

A very talented cast of six amateurs (and let me re-emphasie this, amateurs) don't put a foot wrong and the audience are laughing out loud from the off. An ingenious set somehow makes the stage look much bigger than it is and the obligatory swinging doors and french windows provide all the entrances and exits needed to compound the confusion.

It would be unfair to single out any of the actors but Paul Large and Angela Edwards as Dr and Mrs Prentice were superb.

What The Butler Saw is on at Leicester Little Theatre until Saturday 16 May. This show is not for the easily offended but will provoke belly laughs.

© Paul Towers 12/5/2015
First published in Western Gazette


05/05/2015

Billy Bow

The final show of Curve's Inside Out Festival 2015 is this glorious workshop production of Ian Friel and Andrew Fisher's Billy Bow, the tale of how an abused black English woman escapes from her alcoholic husband and runs away to sea disguised as a man. Having grown up with tales of daring do related on her father's knee, Wilhemina , a freed slave, becomes Billy and joins the wartime British Navy in, one supposes, the 18th century just as England engages with the French. Of course life under sail is far from the fantasy her Father sold her but she figures anything is better than her abusive husband. 'Billy' falls in love with a black press-ganged slave who guesses 'his' secret. This fails to be a happy ending when the poor unfortunate is soundly flogged and then thrown from the mast-head.

Act two starts off with an hilarious bawdy song by the 'Portsmouth Polls', the working girls who gathered round the arriving ships like flies round tainted meat. This provides very welcome light relief to what is, by its very nature, a largely heavy story.

Two keyboard players, one on either side of the front stage, keep the action moving along in a production that, without dialogue, bears more than a passing resemblance in style to Les Miserables. The huge cast (I counted 34) more than fill the stage of Curve's Studio. Unlike many workshop productions this one does have a backdrop (a ship's sail) and plenty of barrels and boxes to sit and stand on. The theatre itself was imaginatively draped in various ropes to convey a seagoing vessel.

This is, once again, a Curve Young Company production and is a great example of how a theatre's engagement with the local community (in this case mainly DMU) can produce some very professional work.

Billy Bow is on again on Wed 6 May. There might still be some tickets available if you are quick.

First published in Western Gazette
© Paul Towers 5/5/2015



02/05/2015

Girls With Balls

Back to Curve for yet another toe dip into the highly successful Inside Out Festival and Off The Fence's contribution to the festivities. While most of us are used to seeing productions staged in either the main auditorium or the studio, we sometimes forget that Curve was designed to be infinitely adaptable with various rehearsal spaces being available for use. Girls With Balls was snugly ensconced in Rehearsal Room 2, converted for the duration into an intimate performance studio, as we eavesdropped on two contrasting ladies' football teams and their respective coaches.

Local author and first time playwright Alison Dunne has crafted an, at times, hilarious play that tells the story of how the thriving women's football sport was killed stone dead by the FA after the Great War when it refused to let them use official pitches. This was supposedly so that the remaining men who came back from the trenches wouldn't be distracted from interest in the reignited men's game, abandoned during hostilities.

The small cast of four double up as both teams as we switch from 1971 and supposedly enlightened modern society and 1921, the between the wars struggle to retain the rights women gained during the conflict. With a one-liner strewn opening the story gradually gets darker as we empathise with the frustrations of the 1920's team fighting a chauvinistic Football Association and celebrate the bawdy bravado of the 1970's team as they embrace modern liberations. It is only in the final minutes, appropriately enough, that the seeming lack of progress is starkly illustrated. The modern women's liberal consumption of cigarettes and expletive laden dialogue starkly highlights what is both right and wrong with emancipation.

This production brings together two of Off The Fence's favoured actors, Becca Copper, last seen as Vesta Tilley in England Expects, and Jonny McClean, seen most recently in Clamber Up The Crucifix. The company is completed with Molly Waters and Jessica Noonan under the expert direction of Off The Fence's artistic director and Curve regular, Gary Phillpott. Plans are already under way for a national tour in 2016.

It has to be said that there is an awful lot of swearing and smoking from the 'modern' team but this does highlight the differences between the two eras. For this reason alone this is not something that children should be taken to see, especially when the final twist in the tale happens.

© Paul Towers 2/5/2015
First published in Western Gazette



29/04/2015

The Accordion Shop

In London, in 2011, the world went crazy for a few nights and chaos flooded the streets. Shops were smashed and looted, cars were set on fire and the Police were temporarily unable to cope. What made this situation so incendiary was that, for the very first time, social media played a huge part in spreading the word and inflaming the tension.

This is the background against which writer Cush Jumbo explores how it doesn't take much to kick start the mob but, equally, it only takes a single event to stop it in its tracks.

One day Mr Ellody steps out of the front door of his accordion shop to find the world has gone mad. Everyone has received a text message reading 'Riot. The Road. 7pm Tonight' like an episode of Dr Who where aliens call them to their demise. First the kids rush to find out what is happening and then the adults follow. The resulting mayhem quickly escalates into a full blown riot as an inadequate police force ineffectually tries to scatter the troublemakers. The, just as quickly as it rose up, it died down.

A large cast of talented youngsters create the chaotic night on a stage strewn with the mess that any inner city street is prone to.

This production is supported by both Curve Young Company and The National Theatre's Connections programme and will go on to be performed at Warwick Arts Centre. As part of Curve's Inside Out Festival it was especially aimed at teenagers and it was gratifying to see a large part of the audience was made up of family and friends; many, I am sure, in a live theatre for the first time. A very welcome added benefit of these new shows.

As the piece only lasted 30 minutes we wandered into the Lyric Lounge, the festival's FREE pop-up acoustic music stage in Curve's spacious foyer. We paused for 20 minutes to take in some mellow jazz hosted by local singer/writer Carol Leeming

The Inside Out Festival runs until 6 May. Full details at Inside Out website

First published in Western Gazette
© Paul Towers 29/4/2015



24/04/2015

Mrs Green, the musical

As part of Curve's Inside Out Festival we are cordially invited into the shambolic front room of Mrs Mabel Green, ex-soul singer, current arthritic pothead, ASBO'd pensioner and surrogate mother to various lost souls in Nottingham's Basford. Surrounded by the detritus of her past life she is sifting through it prior to a holiday, and possible permanent stay, in Spain or a return to sheltered accommodation. Surrounded by her memories and the various young scallies she mentors she is encouraged to regale them with songs from her past. Then when her old singing partner turns up and the old bitchy rivalry surfaces as the one time friends tear each other apart and then put the past behind them.

This is Nottingham's answer to Gangsta Granny filtered through Mrs Brown's Boys and The Royale Family with loads of original songs by Nic Harvey, artistic director of Sheep Soup, the production company behind Mrs Green, who also wrote the show and played keyboard and guitar onstage. Major plaudits must got to Ben Welch as the eponymous Mrs Green and Shauna Shim as Vivian De Wilde, her old singing partner. These two especially tore up the stage when they went head to head.

Mrs Green, The Musical is on at Curve again on Saturday 25 April and out on tour.More details on their website www.sheepsoup.co.uk

First published in Western Gazette
© Paul Towers 24/4/2015



23/04/2015

Shiv

I was again back in Curve's Studio space but this time for a conventionally staged piece of theatre. Shiv is the centrepiece, the jewel in the crown of this year's Inside Out Festival, and rightly so. A lavish story of a girl's lost father, a realisation of the reality of his story telling adventures and a failed love affair all played out at the side of a lake, the scene of her beloved father's shattered dreams.

An atmospheric set of a lone, shabby mattress sat on the decking beside the water is imaginatively lit to flit between the girl's Punjabi childhood and her American adulthood and back again. The story, liberally littered with Star Trek references and allusions, is in turns laugh out loud and almost tearful as old, buried secrets are realised and bared.

This play, having its European premier at Curve and produced in-house, is beautifully constructed by author Aditi Brennan Kapil and reflects the tensions of being brought up 'between worlds'. A feeling which must be resonate with many of Leicester's second generation immigrants, a pleasing number of whom were out supporting this locally cast production.

In the role of Shiv was Emily Lloyd-Sani, a Midlands bred actress working at Curve for the first time; Andrew Josh, playing Bapu her father, is fast becoming a regular at Curve; Ian Keir Attard plays Gerard, Shiv's potential love interest, and is a newcomer to Leicester. Finally Robin Bowerman plays The Professor, Bapu's nemesis, and is a welcome returning visitor to Curve.

Shiv is on until Sat 25 April in the Curve Studio.

Inside Out is in its second year and was created to showcase all manner of local-based productions and performances. A wide range of shows at very accessible ticket prices are on until 6 May. There are also a lot of free events including the innovative Inside Out Park, a mini music festival in the Curve foyer, and The Lyric Lounge, a free pop up live literature festival all day on Saturday 25 April. If any of these events inspire you to get involved there are several workshops covering dance, acting and playwriting.

Full details of all the events can be found on the Curve website at www.curveonline.co.uk

First published in Western Gazette
© Paul Towers 23/4/2015