Reviews from Paul's pen

Reviews from Paul's pen


Literally the best magician

Review by: Paul Towers, 25 November 2017
Literally The Best  Magician
David Alnwick
Upstairs @ The Western, Saturday, 25 November 2017

“amazes with his prestidigitation”

Dave Alnwick has aspirations to be literally the best magician. To this end he has perfected a huge range of tricks, sleight of hand and mentalist magic to prove to the world that a misspent youth can turn out right. Like a hyperactive Ron Weasley Alnwick bounds onto the stage and immediately wins round even the most curmudgeonly audience member with his infectious enthusiasm for magic and wicked sense of humour. His crazy patter, of course, is a vital part of his act as it distracts and misdirects as he amazes with his prestidigitation.
The first part of his act was a series of card tricks which built, layer upon layer, to a climatic reveal. Very clever. This was followed with a good version of the cut rope trick complete with fast paced patter. Very Paul Daniels. In the middle he regaled us with anecdotes from the world of magic and the dangers of some tricks. This led on to a neat effect with a couple of Primark carrier bags (recyclable, of course) and a rat (don’t ask). The final section of the hour was taken up with mentalist magic. Think Derren Brown. This worked very well and, in time honoured tradition, appeared to go wrong until the very last moment when the rat (keep up at the back) came into its own and provided the final denouement.
Well worth a visit to Leicester’s only Pub Theatre on a very chilly November night.

David Alnwick is constantly touring and regularly sells out at the Edinburgh Fringe. Full details at
First published on Western Gazette


Leslie Bricusse's Scrooge

Review by: Paul Towers, 24 November 2017
Leslie Bricusse’s Scrooge
A Made At Curve production starring Jasper Britton
Curve 18 November 2017 to 7 January 2018

“a magical festive family treat.”

Once again director Nikolai Foster has assembled a talented team of actors and production staff to create a magical festive family treat, although with the caveat that maybe under 7’s may find it a little loud and scary.
Scrooge is lyricist/writer Leslie Bricusse’s take on Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol. Ebenezer Scrooge is a misanthropic, miserly skinflint who begrudges the air that others breathe because he can’t monetise it. His faithful clerk, Bob Cratchit, struggles to feed his family on the parsimonious wages he gets while also trying to give crippled Tiny Tim the best life he can.
Designer Michael Taylor has created a huge set which flies and slides to create a myriad of locations in Victorian Dickensian squalor. Lighting designer Ben Cracknell not only had to ensure that all the stage was suitably lit but also had to contend with the specialist needs of the magical illusions created by Scott Penrose and the various pyrotechnic effects needed. To add to the magic Tom Marshall designed some great sound effects, especially for  the ghosts.
Now we come to the cast, for what good are all the special effects and sets in the world without actors? Jasper Britton as Scrooge makes a welcome return to Curve after his triumph in What The Butler Saw and as a newly appointed Curve Board Member. While Jasper has huge acting experience and capability, singing is not one of his greatest talents. That said he is more than capable of putting a song across and the part does not call for an operatic voice. He is superbly supported by a huge cast that has a large presence of  Curve Young Company members, many of them familiar faces from past shows. The main cast also contains several familiar faces and, of course, the obligatory soap star. In this instance Danny-Boy Hatchard (apparently from Eastenders).
The show is packed with songs, the best known is probably Thank You Very Much. As with all Dickens stories there is precious little humour in the narrative but a huge dose of salutary lessons and moralising. Once again Dickens spells out the shortcomings of Victorian England; the poverty, the unsanitary living conditions alongside the pauper’s determination to ‘be grateful for what we’ve got’.
All in all this is, despite the grim conditions, an uplifting tale of redemption (Scrooge) and familial stoicism (Cratchit) spliced together with great songs.
Scrooge is on at Curve until 7 January 2018. While there are few seats left for matinees, evenings are easier
First published in Western Gazette


Big Foot and tiny little heart strings

Review by: Paul Towers, 10 November 2017
Big Foot by Joseph Barnes-Philips
Produced by Black Theatre Live, Highrise Theatre & Stratford Circus Arts Centre, directed by Dominic Garfield
Upstairs @ The Western, 10 November 2017

“a tale of teenage angst and sudden maturity.”

Rayleigh lives in South London, the only child of separated Guyanese parents. Treading that awkward path from teen to man, Rayleigh is on the verge of falling in with the wrong crowd and ending up like his absent father when he meets Spice Girl, the woman of his dreams, and everything changes. Suddenly he has responsibilities and a child on the way.
Big Foot is written and performed by Joseph Barnes-Philips and is littered with autobiographical elements. There is an atmospheric soundtrack and clever lighting as each scene changes.
I love these one man/woman shows with multiple characters. I am in awe of the way they can switch from one to the other in an instant and convey a character with either an expression, a gesture or a simple accessory. Barnes-Philips has this talent in spades and has us instantly believing he is an old woman,  a gangsta, a teenager and a Spice Girl as he weaves his tale of teenage angst and sudden maturity.
Big Foot has been touring and future dates can be found on The script is available on Amazon

Upstairs at The Western
First reviewed in Western Gazette


The Secret Keeper

Review by: Paul Towers, 06 November 2017
The Secret Keeper by Angela Clerkin
A Clerkinworks & Ovalhouse presentation
Curve 6 – 7 November 2017

“Just because it is a fairy tale, don’t expect a happy ending.”

Every fairy tale worth its salt is a combination of morality, fantasy and horror. Angela Clerkin’s The Secret Keeper, not to be confused with Kate Morten’s book of the same name, has all those elements in a slyly satirical take on modern life, especially current surreal sexual revelations.
The Good Daughter stumbles upon the secret of making her father cast off the pall of gloom that hangs over him as he struggles to get over his brother’s death nine years ago. All she has to do is listen to his secrets and promise never to reveal them. This instantly cheers him up and he proclaims her to be a miracle worker. Very soon the townsfolk flock to her and unburden themselves, absolving their miseries. Sound familiar? Pseudo Catholicism in all its glory. One by one the Good Daughter is burdened with all their sordid secrets until one day the weight becomes too great and she blurts the whole lot out. Again, familiar ground if you follow Edward Snowdon’s leaking of US classified documents. Hypocritically those exposed go on the rampage and exact their revenge on the secret keeper’s indiscretion. As is always the case the guilty cast round for someone else to blame for their own peccadilloes.
A supremely talented cast of just 4 play 40 characters with visual invention, an imaginative soundtrack and original songs.
Angela Clerkin plays the Good Daughter while Niall Ashdown, Hazel Maycock and Anne Odeke fill in all the blanks with aplomb, swiftly changing character with barely a draped shawl or an apron.
Just because it is a fairy tale, don’t expect a happy ending.
The Secret Keeper is at Curve again tomorrow

Fiirst published on Western Gazette


Comedy Workshops Graduation Day 2017

Review by: Paul Towers, 05 November 2017
Graduation Day – Alex Hylton + support
Upstairs @ The Western, 5 November 2017

“an evening of new comedy.”

Upstairs at The Western has long been committed to supporting up and coming talent in comedy. Under the tutelage of local comedian Dan Nicholas the venue runs comedy workshops which culminate in a performance before a paying audience. While all levels of writers and performers are welcome it usually turns out to be aspiring comedians who sign up.
This year’s alumni of five proved to be talented enough to hold their own in their allotted stage spots.
Sarah Davis opened after Dan had warmed the audience up. Her confident manner delivered an hilarious stream of puns, mainly health related.
Next came Valter, a Portuguese/Spaniard who started off with the distinct disadvantage of English being his second language. However he used this to his advantage with tales of English confusion and Brexit bafflement.
Lisa Martin, pleasingly the second female on the course, had a very sure delivery and produced plenty of laughs.
Kevin Hudson, looking much like Terry Pratchett, was a self confessed grumpy old man and railed against all the things that us older people find perplexing, self service tills especially.
And talking of Terry Pratchett, the next act was billed as Death Itself (complete with flowing black robes) aka Gavin Pilchard, who had a very nice laid back delivery as he moaned about long working hours and the irritation of Mrs Death’s indecision.
To round off the evening we had Alex Hylton as the headline act. A Midlands based 22 yr old, Alex has a voice like ‘Marge Simpson in a blender’ (his words) and a very disarming self effacing style to his material as he apologises for not being more manly. Very charming and likeable. A great way to end an evening of new comedy.
The next comedy workshop course starts in January and culminates with a gig as part of the Leicester Comedy Festival 2018. Full details are on the Upstairs at The Western website.
 Upstairs at The Western
First published on Western Gazette
and PubTheatres


Jestin' at The Western November 2017

Review by: Paul Towers, 04 November 2017
Jestin’ at The Western – November 2017
Dan Nicholas hosts Tony Cowards, Alex Kealy, Bijan Barekat, Sean Morely, Danny Clives & Top Joe
Upstairs @ The Western, Saturday, 04 November 2017

“two hours of comedy for just £8”

Upstairs at The Western hosted its monthly comedy open mike night for November with Leicester’s very own Dan Nicholas as the regular compere with two headline acts and four open mike spots.
Sean Morely drew, some would say, the short straw by being allocated the first spot. Although Dan had warmed the audience up with his usual surreality, it is still difficult to be first on. Morely grabbed the experience by the throat and bravely started his spot from within the audience. It took us a few minutes to be drawn into his crazy world but he had a sure touch and played the audience well.
Next up was Bijan Barekat. His initial material trod the well worn path of the difficulties of being an Asian and travelling the world. Where he became original and quite off the wall was his take on children’s stories and how they could be updated with extreme political dogma.
The headliner for the end of the first half was Alex Kealy, a very personable posh boy with socialist political leanings.
After a quick break Dan Nicholas sprang from behind the curtains to introduce the next batch of funny men. Danny Clives had a very nice line in self deprecation, always a fertile field to mine for comedy.
Next up was Top Joe, someone I can only describe as a Welsh peculiarist. His Rob Brydon-esque ramblings jumped from subject to subject mangling his handling of English as a second language to great effect.
The final act and second headliner (remember this was all for just £8) was Tony Cowards, a master of the one-liner, Tim Vine’s slightly younger ‘brother’. The great thing about being a devotee of the one-liner is that if one doesn’t work then there are several more champing at the bit to tickle your funny bone. Coward’s material, almost completely original, hit much more than it missed.
Next month’s Jestin’ at The Western is on Saturday 2nd December.
 Upstairs at The Western

First published on Western Gazette
and Pub Theatres


42nd Street

Review by: Paul Towers, 1/11/2017
42nd Street by Michael Stewart & Mark Bramble
Music by Harry Warren, lyrics by Al Dubin
Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, London

“funny, musical and energetic.”

42nd Street, taken from the Warner Brothers’ film which in turn is based on the book by Bradford Ropes, is the ultimate backstage musical to end all backstage musicals.
The tenuous story is of an inexperienced hoofer, Betty Sawyer (here played by the incredibly talented Clare Halse), who gets to go on for the star, Dorothy Brock (surprisingly played by ex-pop star Sheen Easton), when she breaks her ankle. In the words of director Julian Marsh (Norman Bowman in this performance) she has to go out a girl and come back a star! And boy does she!
Although Sheena Easton is top billed as the ‘name’ it is Clare Halse who steals the show. This girl can sing, she can dance, she can tap faster than a machine gun! Her comic timing is spot on and she looks great as well.
As befits a West End show money has been spent on the production. There is more sparkle than an entire season of Strictly, more costume changes than a Kardashian photoshoot and a whole slew of standard, hum-along songs.
This show is topped and tailed with two amazing routines. The opening, as the curtain rises, of the entire chorus line tapping is awe inspiring. While the almost finale where a huge staircase slides forward and the dancers, clad in sparkly suits, tap their way down in formation is breath taking.
Along the way there is a great routine that is akin to the opening of the Muppet show, a large bank of rooms each containing a girl. As they  sing their lights go on and off in time to their voices. A tribute to the lighting engineer!
Another stand out visual moment is the routine where Dorothy Brock, in shadow behind a huge back cloth, shadow dances with Pat Denning, the squeeze she is cheating with behind sugar daddy Abner Dillon’s back.
On top of this there is a great moment in Keep Young and Beautiful when a large mirror comes down and we are treated to a Busby Berkley homage. Berkley, of course, was the film’s choreographer.
If you are a fan of big, bold, sparkly musicals (and who isn’t?) go see 42nd Street before it closes