Reviews from Paul's pen

Reviews from Paul's pen


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


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


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