Reviews from Paul's pen

Reviews from Paul's pen

26/03/2019

The Comedy About A Bank Robbery


Review by: Paul Towers, 26 March 2019
The Comedy About A Bank Robbery by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer & Henry Shields
A Mischief Theatre production
Curve 26 – 30 March 2019

“an evening of laughs and spills”

For anyone who has seen The Play That Goes Wrong or Peter Pan Goes Wrong you know exactly what to expect from a Mischief Theatre show and Bank Robbery does not disappoint.
This time a step has been taken away from the premise of the amateur drama group’s mishaps into the realm of American caper films.
The opening scene is very reminiscent of a Brian Rix farce but brought right up to date with a superbly written and acted cross talk routine executed at speed and to great effect. From there the mishaps pile higher and higher as our dozy trio, newly released from jail, try and organise the theft of a diamond from the local bank (OK don’t try and follow a plot, just revel in the extraordinary silliness of it all). Along the way there are impossibly unbelievable mistaken identities, lots of slamming of doors, fold up beds and physical comedy. Oh, and don’t forget the seagulls. Very important plot points!
The scenery, designed by David Farley, is a logistical marvel as it slides on and off, folds in and out and, unusually for a Mischief Theatre show, doesn’t fall over.
The second half has two of the most inventive set pieces I have ever seen on stage. A gravity defying routine whereby we look down on an office seems impossible; the other stand out scene involves a Mission Impossible style heist from the ceiling of the bank as three people descend to snatch the diamond.
The cast, especially the main actors, are very physical and never missed a stunt or punch. Fight director Kevin McCurdy must have had his work cut out choreographing it all.
Liam Jeavons as Mitch Ruscitti, Sean Carey as Sam Monahan and Jon Trenchard as Warren Slax lead a very hard working and talented cast of 14
Right from the moment the lights went down the laughs started and didn’t stop til the curtain call. Mischief Theatre lives up to its name with an evening of laughs and spills.
The Comedy About A Bank Robbery is at Curve until Saturday 30th March but there are only limited tickets remaining so book as soon as you can.
First published on Western Gazette














23/03/2019

Janet


Review by: Paul Towers, 23/3/19
Janet by Helen Ainsworth, directed by John Mowat
Upstairs @ The Western, 23 March 2019

“surreal and off the wall puppetry

In amongst the regular evenings of poetry, spoken word and improv Upstairs at The Western has booked some quite surreal, off the wall shows. Janet is one such entertainment.
Helen Ainsworth is a puppeteer who specialises in using everyday things as well as traditional puppets to tell stories. John Mowat is a performer/director and has been working with Helen for 5 years. Together they appeal to both adult and child audiences. Janet is definitely for the grown ups.
Set in a kitchen Helen manufactures characters from utensils and bread dough to tell the tortured tale of the union between an over-critical mother (Premium French Flour) and a less than faithful father (a 1950’s milk churn). After nature takes its course Janet, a lump of bread dough, is the result. Despite her refusal to follow her destiny and a torrid encounter with Derek (a rolling pin) Janet ends up as a very nice round of cucumber sandwiches which the audience very much appreciated.
Ainsworth, hidden behind an over large chef’s hat and dressed in chef’s whites, uses an array of accents to tell the story as well as making a typical baker’s mess all over the floor.
Future performances and details of other shows can be found at www.helenandjohn.co.uk/

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

Company 2019


Review by: Paul Towers, 21/3/19
Company by Stephen Sondheim
An Elliott & Harper production
Gielgud Theatre until 30 March 2019

This is a superb re-imagining of a classic Sondheim musical”

When Company was first written by Stephen Sondheim and George Furth in 1970 it tapped into the post war imperative of needing to repopulate the population decimated by various wars. Bobby’s continuing bachelor-dom was seen to be socially irresponsible. When the show was updated in the 90’s it showcased the pursuit of the impossible dream of perfect  couple-dom by highlighting that all of Bobby’s friends, couples, had less than perfect relationships despite their outward looking fulfilment.
Fast forward to 2018 and director Marianne Elliott decided to radically change the dynamic of the narrative by making Bobby a girl.
Watching the current production it makes perfect sense. Women are, these days, much more aware of their ticking biological clocks and their friends are naturally concerned that they don’t miss out on a family.
I last saw Company in 2015 and this time round I found it so much funnier. Director Elliott has found so many more funny lines and bits of business in the production.
The show is completely balanced and no one person is allowed to outshine the others. This is a feat in itself when you have such veteran Broadway and West End stars  as Patti LuPone and Richard Fleeshman heading the cast alongside Rosalie Craig.
Each couple has the opportunity to take their turn in the spotlight while Rosalie Craig as Bobbie dodges their entreaties. Her beautifully comic asides and looks through the fourth wall are reminiscent of Fleabag and are used to instantly convey her exasperation and sometimes downright incredulity at her friends’ antics. Her feeling of being pulled in every direction is superbly illustrated in one scene where there are 4 Bobbies as well as the original looking in on an amazingly choreographed piece of mayhem.
Bobbie’s last three boyfriends, flawed in different ways, illustrate her frustration at searching for ‘the one’. Andy (Richard Fleeshman displaying an unbelievable physique) is the more than slightly camp over-thinking trolly dolly; PJ (George Blagden) is disillusioned with city life, finding it dirty, fast and unforgiving; Theo (Matthew Seadon-Young) is, possibly, ‘the one’ who got away when they both admit they wanted to marry each other when they previously dated.
Sarah (Mel Giedroyc) and Harry (Gavin Spokes) permanently bicker as she diets and he goes dry. Their arguments result in an hilarious marshall arts fight where they throw each other around the room.
Jamie (Jonathan Bailey) and Paul (Alex Gaumond) are planning their gay wedding but Jamie has wedding day jitters and brings the house down with the hilarious Getting Married Today. Not only a linguistic feat but an acrobatic one as well.
Joanne (Patti LuPone), oft divorced, is realistic about what makes a relationship works. Or not. She also brings the house down with her show stopping rendition of The Ladies Who Lunch
The set by Bunny Christie is a marvel of light boxes slid and interlocked like a Rubiks Cube. Lighting by Neil Austin ensures that the audience’s attention is always in the right place.
This is a superb re-imagining of a classic Sondheim musical


http://ptheatre.blogspot.co.uk/

05/03/2019

Madagascar The Musical


Review by: Paul Towers, 5/3/19
Madagascar The Musical

A Selladoor Family & Hartshorn-Hook production

Book By Kevin Del Aguila Music & Lyrics by Geoge Noriega & Joel Someillan

Haymarket Theatre , Leicester 5 – 9 March 2019

“loud, bouncy and bright.”

One of every child’s favourite movies to watch on a rainy Saturday morning is the madcap Madagascar, the tale of four animal friends who escape from New York’s Central Park zoo and find themselves in the tropical paradise of Madagascar.
Based on the original Dreamworks animated movie this is the live stage version currently touring nationwide.
The cast is led by 2016 X Factor winner Matt Terry as Alex in a variety of animal costumes as they sing and dance their way to ‘freedom’.
Alex is a lion and as such is the king of the zoo, with an ego to match. His best friend is Marty a slightly camp zebra and along with ballsy hippo Gloria and Melman the neurotic giraffe they break out of the safe zoo for an adventure. Unfortunately they get captured and shipped off the Madagascar.
This is a perfect introduction for young theatre goers, loud, bouncy and bright with a storyline that doesn’t need to be followed too closely and is stuffed full of songs, including the eponymous ‘Move it, move it’. It has the added advantage that the halves are not too long so fidgety children won’t get bored.
Along with the adult skinned actors there are a load of cute puppets, penguins, marmosets and chief villain, King Julien.
I wish I could give the supporting actors their due credit but I wasn’t supplied with a programme or cast list. You will just have to go and see for yourself, and I recommend the show for every child and their adult. They will have a blast!

First published on Western Gazette

04/03/2019

The Girl On The Train


Review by: Paul Towers, 04 March 2019
The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins, adapted  by Rachel Wagstaff & Duncan Abel
A Simon Friend, Ambiln Partnership & Josh Andrews presentation
Curve until Saturday 9th March 2019

“thrilling as the wait for a Southern Rail commuter service.”

The book by Paula Hawkins was a bestseller within a couple of months of being published in 2015. It was made into a film in 2016 and became a stage play in 2018.
While the book, apparently, was a multi layered psychological thriller the stage version is plodding, boring and uninspiring.
Rachel (Samantha Womack) is an ex-commuter who continues to take the train into town long after she has lost her job and looks in other people’s back gardens fantasising what her life might be like. It is while voyeuristically eavesdropping that she notices neighbour Megan (Kirsty Oswald) kissing a man who is not her husband. So far very Hitchcock’s  Rear View and Agatha Christie’s 4.50 to Paddington. Megan disappears, presumed dead, and Rachel selectively remembers being in the vicinity of the last sighting. Already I am bored rigid.
As the ‘curtain’ rose there was a scene with ex-husband Tom (Adam Jackson-Smith) in Rachel’s pig sty of a flat to, I suppose, show what an alcoholic slob she is. I never really got to the bottom of why Rachel was so central to finding the killer and why her drinking was so important. I won’t spoil the ending because for a whodunit I really didn’t care whodunit.
The laborious script only came to life in the last 10 minutes by which time I had lost the will to live. It was only saved by the occasional flashes of humour which appeared to be accidental rather than scripted.
All of the cast were quite adequate actors, most of them were actually able to project past the first 10 rows in the stalls.
The set was the most exciting thing in the whole production with imaginative lighting (most of the time) and a suitably atmospheric soundtrack. Although it was unclear why the therapist’s chairs came down from the ceiling on cables rather than slid across the stage like everything else.
All in all The Girl On The Train was as thrilling as the wait for a Southern Rail commuter service.

Tickets for the rest of the week are available at www.curveonline.co.uk
First published on Western Gazette








01/03/2019

Feel


Review by: Paul Towers, 1/3/19
Feel by James Lewis
Produced by Mitchell Reeve, directed by David Brady and performed by Anthony Fagan, Gabrielle Nellis-Pain, Emily Costello, Colin Hubbard
Upstairs @ The Western, 1st & 2nd March 2019

“emotional, funny and very believable”

A double bed dominates the stage. It is made, ready for action. Two couples’ lives intersect, burn brightly for a while and then fade.
Nick and Karen have been on the same train platform for months but, in the typically British way, have never spoken. Until the day they both end up on the same bench. Karen, irritating and bored with life, bugs Nick til he relents and actually has a conversation with her.
Naomi and Jamie meet in a bar and, drunkenly, stumble back to his flat. In the preparation for the inevitable tumble under the duvet Jamie finds the emotion overwhelming so they sit up all night talking. In fact they spend weeks talking. Just nothing more.
Each of the four, in their own ways, are damaged. Nick has major health issues which he tries to ignore; Karen is stuck in a boring job because she is too scared to chase her dreams; Naomi has shut down emotionally after the death of her father and Jamie is just neurotic. Each of them tries to mend their relationships when really they should be mending themselves first.
This is a beautifully scripted drama of two parallel couples trying to sort their lives out. Creative staging means that the action alternates between the couples like a split screen. The scene changes are beautifully choreographed so that props and furniture can be moved and placed in near darkness.
The acting is superb, emotional, funny and very believable.
Feel is on at Upstairs at The Western again tomorrow, Saturday but with very few tickets left.
More information about the ongoing tour can be found at http://www.proforca.co.uk

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