Reviews from Paul's pen

Reviews from Paul's pen

31/05/2017

The Graduate


Review by: Paul Towers, 31 May 2017
The Gradute by Terry Johnson from the novel by Charles Webb
Curve & West Yorkshire Playhouse co-production
Curve 20 May – 10 June 2017

“surprisingly funny.”

Sometimes art mirrors real life and current local events make the story of The Graduate especially resonate with the people of Leicestershire at the moment.
A predatory older woman is the fantasy of many a teenage boy. But the reality tends to lead to a whole heap of trouble. France’s current President seems to be the exception that proves the rule.
In the case of Benjamin Braddock, gauche 20 year old virgin, his induction into adulthood by the alcoholic, frustrated Mrs Robinson very nearly spoils his chance of true happiness with someone who actually understands his almost autistic character.
This story of corruption and degradation could so easily have been mind numbingly tedious but the script is littered with great lines and hilariously awkward situations. While Catherine McCormack as Mrs Robinson has all the best one liners, knowingly smiling as she pulls her plaything’s strings,  Jack Monaghan as Benjamin wrings great laughs from both physical situations and spot on timing of pauses.
Directed by Lucy Bailey there is great use of audio visuals to show Benjamin’s fantasy world and his being torn between mother and daughter.
The set by Mike Britton is a mass of swirling net curtains with a bed which dances around the stage.
Whilst the first half  shows Benjamin being drawn deeper and deeper into the bed of  the bored, predatory and lascivious Mrs Robinson,  the second half features a rather surprising and effective fight as Mr Robinson, confronted by his cuckold, proceeds to smash his way through doors, a la The Shining, in an attempt to emasculate Benjamin.
It struck me that watching the 1968 film you missed so much of the comedy of the stage play by virtue of not having an audience to laugh along with.
The Graduate is at Curve until 10 June and continues to tour. Full details of future dates at http://bit.do/dt3De
First published in Western Gazette














28/05/2017

The Simon and Garfunkel Story


Review by: Paul Towers, 28 May 2017
The Simon & Garfunkel Story by Dean Elliott
Maple Tree Entertainment production, Sam O’Hanion & Charles Blyth
DeMontfort Hall 28 May 2017

“timeless music beautifully performed”

One of the first albums I ever bought when I started work was Simon & Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water, which sold over 25 million copies and dominated the charts for 3 consecutive years. So going to DeMontfort Hall for this sold out show was especially poignant.
The Simon and Garfunkel Story charts their musical career from their inauspicious pairing in a group called, believe it or not, Tom & Jerry, to the pinnacle of their joint careers in 1970 with the release of Bridge Over Troubled Water. Although they have come together a few times since, famously in 1981 for a ‘Concert in Central Park’, their partnership never regained its previous heights and the close friendship that had been forged in their teen years was forever broken by the time they parted in 1970.
This show is really a journey through those incredible years showcasing their music. There are no hard hitting revelations; no dirt dug and aired; no personal tit bits, just timeless music beautifully performed.
As Art Garfunkel, Charles Blyth has the ethereal, other worldly look and amazing high voice of  the duo while Sam O’Hanion as Paul Simon has the solid, capable face of the writing powerhouse in the relationship.
While neither guy is supposed to be the singers’ doubles, happily they bear a slight passing physical resemblance. But then they start to sing and you could be back in the sixties or listening to an original album. Charles Blyth in particular has an amazing, crystal clear voice that breaks your heart.
The Simon and Garfunkel Story is touring. Details can be found on www.thesimonandgarfunkelstory.com
First published on Western Gazette



26/05/2017

Ordinary Days

Review by: Paul Towers, 26 May 2017
Ordinary Days by Adam Gwon
A Four Wheeled Theatre production with Abigail Piper, Alexander Clifford, Charlotte Chambers and Edward Spence
Upstairs @ The Western, 26 & 27th May 2017

“romance, pathos and humour”

Ordinary Days is a tale of four New Yorkers in their 20’s and 30’s, two pairs who, it has to be said, appear mismatched.
Claire and Jason (Charlotte Chambers and Edward Spence) have been together for a year; Jason thinks it is time to commit further by moving into Claire’s apartment; Claire isn’t sure if she is ready to give over half her closet space and all that entails.
Meanwhile Deb (Abigail Broad) is stressing over her missing notebook which contains the research notes for her thesis, which is due in. Warren (Alexander Clifford), the dorky eternal optimist who wanders through life waiting for ‘the big picture’ to present itself, finds Deb’s notebook and returns it to her in a disastrous meeting in the New York Met.
We watch as Claire & Jason split up only to realise they are destined to be together while Warren and Deb, against all the odds, end up together.
Adam Gwon’s music and lyrics, obviously influenced by master songsmith Stephen Sondheim, are a beautiful mixture of romance, pathos and humour. This makes them not the easiest of music to sing but this talented amateur quartet are more than up to the task with just Andrew Smith at a keyboard in a corner of the stage to accompany them.
Ordinary Days is on at Upstairs at The Western again on Saturday 27th May 2017 but is sold out. Check their website for possible returned tickets
Details of Four Wheeled Theatre are at www.fourwheeled.co.uk

First published on Pub Theatre Blog and Western Gazette

16/05/2017

The Red Shoes


Review by: Paul Towers, 16 May 2017
Matthew Bourne’s The Red Shoes
A New Adventures production based on the 1948 film inspired by the original story by Hans Christian Andersen
Curve 16 – 20 May 2017

“special as only Matthew Bourne does”

Every now and again I get asked to review something which I just know I will like.
When it is a Matthew Bourne production I know it is going to be something special.
Coming out of tonight’s performance of his The Red Shoes I felt wrung out, emotionally drained. But, you may say, it is only dancing.
Saying that a Matthew Bourne piece is ‘just dancing’ is like saying that Leonard Cohen is ‘just a singer’
If you were judging the show on just the dancing you would be more than satisfied but Bourne’s New Adventures productions, especially when touring, are masterpieces of visual spectacle. The set alone is worthy of anything you would see in London’s West End with a motorised red velvet curtain mounted on a gallery which has a life of its own as it swoops and glides around the stage depicting first front of cloth then backstage, doors, walls and endless partitions. Huge flying pieces of scenery drop in and out to suggest various locations. Added to this physical set is the immensely imaginative lighting. The follow spot is almost a character in its own right.
As is to be expected from the renowned choreographer the ‘serious’ dancing is entertainingly interspersed with camp, comic set pieces and, completely without any dialogue, he manages to convey the shallow bitchiness going on behind the scenes of the touring ballet company. There is even a fantastically bad version of the sand dance as performed by Wilson, Kepple and Betty (only without a Betty).
A hugely talented company of 25 dash back and forth off set changing into seemingly dozens of costumes
While I would implore anyone with even the faintest interest in dancing, and especially the parents of any teenage girl with ballet aspirations, to get to see this masterpiece I fear that you will be out of luck this time round in Leicester as the week is completely sold out with, I am told, a waiting list of 200 for returns.
It is, of course, continuing to tour and full details are found at http://new-adventures.net/the-red-shoes/tour-dates

First published on Western Gazette