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