Review: Bored of Knives, White Bear Theatre

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Martini Rating: 🍸🍸🍸🍸

A bold and dynamic piece of new writing with plenty of grit to get your teeth into.

Written by Kitty Fox Davis and Megan Louise Wilson, Bored of Knives is a witty, affecting and truly intriguing debut piece from new theatre company FlawState. Performed precociously by Kitty Fox Davis and Molly Chesworth, the work explores the complexities of female friendships through the lense of two long lost school friends, 1 & 2. Set in their preserved childhood den at 1’s parent’s house, we are left wondering what event separated the two of them in secondary school and subsequently, what tragedy has caused 2 to return to the den in order to try and reconnect with 1. The writing itself, is a clever and wonderfully intricate trail of breadcrumbs, the pair allude to something that caused them to be separated during their school years, (with 2 having been sent to another school and 1 told to let her be), but we do not find out exactly what happened. The smatterings of references to this event, with the women finally telling each other how it made them feel and their perspectives on it, mean FlawState carefully reel their audience into the pair’s story, engaging and engendering a desire to find out more. This also wonderfully capitulates the commonalities and difficulties in maintaining female friendships in adulthood, as well as the need for sisterhood amongst women in order to get them through the tough times.

The idea of the den as the setting is so beautifully thematic. Not only does the den signify the women’s youthful dreams, it also forms a place of safety from the outside world as well as representing innocence and the loss of it. The den enacts as a time capsule, it has been preserved over the years by 1. Due to incapacitating anxiety, she finds it difficult to live in the outside world and thus spends most of her time in the sanctity of the den instead of working or socialising. By keeping it just as it’s always been, she has forced herself to stay stuck in the past with it, encapsulating herself in the time capsule. The den, thus signifying her innocence and isolation. Throughout the evening as the two women learn more about each other the den gets messier and messier, a wonderful foreshadowing of the fact their dreams will be broken, 1’s innocence gone and their future together extinguished. 1 is also shown to want to keep tidying up, demonstrating her resistance to moving forward. Kurtis Lowe’s sensational sound design woven throughout and thus breaking up the narrative, allows for not only a fast paced piece, but is a phenomenally executed, foreboding to the later revealed tragedy. Whilst Gino Santos’ creation of the den, (combined with Louis Caro’s lighting design), is marvellously labyrinthine, Santos forcing us to feel as if we are really looking into a childhood dream. Making 1 and 2’s world compellingly tangible.

The conversations broached by this piece are not only affecting, they are also exceedingly important. Wilson and Davis compassionately, truthfully, and often facetiously touch on topics such as sex and relationships, mental health and anxiety, abuse and betrayal. Causing their work to be relevant, relatable and wholeheartedly realistic, the extensive research and development phases explained in their programme notes certainly pay off. Whilst Tom Ryder’s direction is exquisite. Bored of Knives is a devastating exposé on hopes and dreams, whilst 1 is trying desperately to stay exactly how and where she is in her life, 2 is searching for a future and an escape. This pushing and pulling of alternative desires is intriguingly brought to the forefront in Ryder’s vision. Whilst 1 tidies around 2, desperate to keep things as they are, 2 mentions what would happen if she were to have a hen do and subsequently dresses up in a white dress, a subtle signifier of her future aspirations even if they are out of her reach. Ryder also includes joyful sections where the pair act like kids, their friendship seemingly mending itself as they revert back to their childhood and adolescence by wearing wigs, dressing up, singing, playing games, eating snacks and drinking, excellently contrasted by the darkness of Lowe’s sound design often abruptly tail-ending these motifs. It is these jovial moments that make the overall tragedy and betrayal so powerfully severe. Kitty Fox Davis’ meek and righteous 1, riddled with insecurities and an ingrained desire to stay where she is, is an absolute delight. Davis is comically gifted, providing both a layered and warm delivery. Whilst Molly Chesworth’s hardened 2 is remarkably spirited and tenacious, Chesworth dextrously from the off, gives the impression 2’s mind is in two places at once and thunders through the piece with some unshakeably powerful acting. Both are simply stunning performers with exceptional chemistry.

FlawState are clearly making waves and have a bright future, to find out more about them click here. Or to catch Bored of Knives (TODAY 14/12/19), click here.

 

1 – Kitty Fox Davis

2 – Molly Chesworth

Voiceovers – Max Gell, Clive Marlowe, Adam Elliott and Viv Keene

Writers – Megan Louise Wilson & Kitty Fox Davis

Director – Tom Ryder

Producer – Kurtis Lowe

Associate Producer – Kitty Fox Davis

Media & Marketing – Megan Louise Wilson

Set Design – Gino Santos

Sound Design – Kurtis Lowe

Lighting Design – Louis Caro

Review: Maisie, The Bread & Roses Theatre

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Martini Rating: 🍸🍸🍸🍸

Written and produced by Roger Goldsmith, Maisie is an emotionally penetrating, hard-hitting, must-see exegesis on grief, mental health and humanity from the male perspective.

Taking a charming look at the landscape of fatherhood regarding custody, divorce and parental separation, before buckling into a cataclysmic emotional rollercoaster, touching on suicide and psychological stability, Maisie is an incredibly powerful, full-circle, one-man show that is both affectingly and outstandingly delivered. Dan, having split up from his wife Mandy is constantly made to feel sub-standard, with Mandy showing off her new boyfriends in front of him and demanding things from him left, right and centre, but after it all, he still has his daughter Maisie. On this day, Dan is taking her to central London for a day out, her smile seems to paper over the cracks, but by the end of the trip his world is crumbling around him. With intelligible and complex direction from Gwenan Bain, Steven Blacker is a smart, enigmatic and captivating performer, bringing at tear to the eye in his poignant and endearing delivery of a dad who dotes on his daughter. His performance wondrously introduces us to several characters, particularly to Maisie herself, as he voices her playfulness we are left to imagine a bubbly six year old pulling on his sleeve. With that in mind, Blacker exhibits sensational characterisation and storytelling abilities, navigating us at an engaging and fast-pace through the crossing timelines of his retellings, dwelling on moments of disaster and delight in perfect measure.

Goldsmith’s writing of this 45 minute, epic monologue is searingly raw and impassioned, the personable feel to it allows Goldsmith to paint Dan as a universal father figure. We empathise and actually feel his glistening adoration for Maisie, as well as the bitter taste left from his divorce, (a pain he mostly hides for Maisie’s sake, particularly in response to the petty nature of his ex-wife Mandy) and then the loss in his eyes as sadness clouds his vision and he becomes a shell of a man, grief almost physically crippling him. Blacker stormingly conveys this all with his energetic characterisations, knowing looks, heavy sighs, void-like silences and held eye-contact with his audience. Bain has done a phenomenal job of building into her direction these held moments of mournful silence and contrasting motifs in which Blacker envisages and projects Maisie for his audience. The writing beautifully and symbolically coming full circle as Dan finally tells Maisie how tall Nelson’s column is, after earlier recounting how she once asked him that very question and he promised to find out. The design and direction effortlessly mimics and reflects this as Dan begins by stripping the set of most of its tools, paints and sheeting, (a reference to his job), showing that beneath it all, he is just a man, a father. Grief incapacitates him, forcing Dan to put down his tools completely, we only see him picking up the tools again once he’s financially forced back to the job and truly seems to have worked through much of his hurting. What’s underneath the sheets, paints and tools is new, signifying that he’s coming out the other end to a fresh beginning. This is all embellished by a superbly intricate sound design.

What’s so powerful and intriguing about Maisie, is the emphasis on the male perspective regarding parenthood, we do so often see from a female angle and do not necessarily delve much into what it must be like only seeing your child on weekends and not feeling as if you are bringing them up by living with them 24/7. Coinciding with some Herculean explorations into human kindness and mental health, Maisie also provides a complex divergence into the nature of thought processes and the many avenues the brain can take when in shock or grieving. Staging these particularly well.

To conclude Blacker seizes the innumerable challenge of this show, he delivers not just a story with a duplicity of characters, but a true rollercoaster of emotions from start to finish. Bain, in her direction, proves herself to be a true artist, carefully crafting the balance of Dan’s story, making sure each joyful or plaintive moment expertly lands. Whilst Goldsmith writes such a rhythmic, realistic and relatable story, that’s engaging and emotional from the offset. We hugely recommend this pocket-sized powerful piece. Maisie runs at The Bread and Roses Theatre until Saturday 8th Dec, click here to book now.

 

Goldsmith Productions co-produced by Stage Splinters
Performed by Steven Blacker
Directed by Gwenan Bain
Written by Roger Goldsmith
Technician Jordan Moffat

Review: SIX The Musical, Malvern Theatre

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Martini Rating: 🍸🍸🍸🍸🍸

****We took a trip to see SIX on tour and below is what we thought. However if you would like to read our original reviews of SIX, please click below, these decompartmentalise the delivery, content and form of the show, so for more on that, please click away…

Click here to read our review of the original Arts Theatre Workshop.

Click here to read our review of the London leg of the first UK tour, (Sept 2018).

Click here to read our review of the West End run, (inc. Vicki Manser as K Howard).

Click here to read our article on the Tower of London flash mob.

As a quick summary, SIX is both a pop concert and a musical set under the guise of Henry VIII’s six wives holding a contest to find out who will be the leading lady of their band, a position to be awarded (by the audience), to the one of them who conclusively had the most BS to deal with from Henry. Simple, right? Not quite, the show revolves around the theme of Her-story, (bringing women to forefront of history where they’ve previously been seen as secondary and their perspective ignored), the show ultimately concluding with the wives ditching the contest and reclaiming their stories. Remixing five hundred years of historical heartbreak. Noting that since the only thing they’ve got in common is their husband, grouping them together is an inherently comparative act and as such unnecessarily elevates a historical approach ingrained in patriarchal structures. (We can’t take credit for that). The point of the show being, that we shouldn’t compare ourselves to each other and that we should stick together rather than knocking each other down, true girl power at its best! A wonderful moral proposition by six Tudor Queens turned Pop-princesses.

Having seen SIX five times prior to this viewing at various stages in it’s development, there was something strikingly fresh about this tour. Carrie-Anne Ingrouille’s choreography seemed sharper and more vibrant than ever before. Whilst Gabriella Slade’s inventive, fusionist costumes appeared to dazzle especially more than usual, beautifully glinting under the lights. However, it is undoubtably this brand-new cast of six bad-ass monarchs that elevate the show to a new and fresh-feeling production. Each actor providing a uniquely different delivery to any of their predecessors, these characterisations, though idiosyncratic, prove to be expectantly comedically rich, enviously sassy and severely powerful. These six new Queens will reign supreme!

Lauren Drew’s feisty Catherine of Aragon is delivered with exceptionally powerful vocals and Drew’s signature thick Welsh accent. Adding another level of not only distinctive sass and humour, but also, a commentary on ethnicity. Though the character speaks a little Spanish during her song ‘No Way’ to signify Catherine’s Spanish heritage, whilst there are a few mentions of her being shipped over from Spain, the German ethnicity of Anna of Cleves is more expressively and consistently represented by that character’s use of German phraseology throughout. So Drew’s use of, (conveniently her own), but a different accent is intrinsically representative of Catherine’s different nationality than most of the other Queens. A simple, yet fascinating directorial choice. Maddison Bulleyment’s categorically rumbustious and cheeky Anne Boleyn is a tornado of energy and boundless wit. Bulleyment’s Boleyn is delightfully and deliberately troublesome, a twinkle in her eye throughout. Whilst Lauren Byrne’s Jane Seymour is instantaneously likeable, less plaintive but equally as affecting, her vocal quality and tonality are sensational. Shekinah McFarlane is no newcomer to Anna of a Cleves, having covered the role in the West End recently. McFarlane here, is an absolute pocket rocket, putting a feisty and energetic twist on Cleves. Her Cleves is wondrously both fully animated and hilariously ratchet. Moving on to Jodie Steele’s Katherine Howard, her version is raw and emotive, comedically vibrant and vocally powerful. Steele displaying and applying her killer vocals to Katherine Howard in true style, she instinctively conveys and contrasts K Howard’s flirty nature, with her heartbreaking moments of abuse and manipulation. An astonishing performance. Last but not least, Athena Collins’ Catherine Parr is wonderfully intelligible and astute, Collins displaying exceptional tonality and clarity throughout. She presents Parr’s heart-rendering longing for the love of her life, Thomas, with an in-numerous amount of power, weight and depth. Thus, this collective of sensational individual performers thrive in their roles as Henry VIII’s wives, yet they also blend together to deliver the severely tight harmonies and complex choreography with vigour and ease. We see them as an unstoppable girl group, as well as strong independent women in their own right.

To conclude SIX is in more than safe hands and absolutely thriving on tour, to find tickets at a venue near you, click here.

 

Lauren Drew – Catherine of Aragon

Maddison Bulleyment – Anne Boleyn

Lauren Byrne – Jane Seymour

Shekinah McFarlane – Anna of Cleves

Jodie Steele – Katherine Howard

Athena Collins- Catherine Parr

 

 

Toby Marlow – Writer

Lucy Moss – Writer / Co Director

Jamie Armitage – Co Director

Carrie-Anne Ingrouille – Choreographer

Emma Bailey – Set Designer

Gabriella Slade – Costume Designer

Paul Gatehouse – Sound Designer

Tim Deiling – Lighting Designer

Tom Curran – Orchestrator

Joe Beighton – Music Supervisor

Grace Taylor – Associate Director

Franny Anne Rafferty – Associate Director

Review: High Fidelity, The Turbine Theatre

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Martini Rating: 🍸🍸🍸🍸🍸

A stylised, retro musical, with plenty of heartbreaks and hilarity, High Fidelity at The Turbine Theatre bolsters an incredible and varied original score, insanely polished deliveries by all, an intricate set and punchy choreography. Asserting the theatre’s first musical as a must see!

Clearly stating their aim of: ‘Generating new work. Powering premieres. Re-energising classics.’ The Turbine Theatre’s UK premiere of High Fidelity is all that. Based on writer Nick Hornby’s novel of the same name, this high-flying, romantic, comedy-drama of a musical, has been re-energised for a British audience, bringing the setting back to the novel’s original location, London. The musical, which premiered in Boston before a Broadway engagement in 2006, alternatively had a Brooklyn setting. This staging as a result, gives the show an overall new and fresh feel, anglicising it, whilst of course bringing it to a British audience for the first time. As a result, High Fidelity is enviously vibrant and enthrallingly executed.

With music by Tom Kitt, lyrics by Amanda Green, and a book by David Lindsay-Abaire, High Fidelity follows record store owner Rob, a thirty-something obsessed with collecting rare vinyls, it hilariously charts Rob’s journey to self-discovery through his music collection and his lost loves. The narrative quickly denoting Rob’s talent for losing girlfriends. In response to Laura, (the love of his life) dumping him, he becomes determined to keep her off his list of ‘desert island, all time, top 5 most memorable breakups’, going on to reminisce about all of the girlfriends that he’s lost. What ensues, is a paradorical expedition which sees Rob reflecting on the past, whilst simultaneously hoping for one of the biggest romantic comebacks of all time. Though packed with humour and wit, the musical also boasts a lot of heart and vulnerability, providing a powerful look at what it is like to be a thirty-something and still figuring it out, highlighting just how much music can mean to someone. David Lindsay-Abaire’s book is consequently brilliantly constructed, his work is satirical and light-heated, yet emotionally rich. The time spent by Vikki Stone on the relocation of the setting back to London is clear, the references to Woolworth’s and places in Camden specifically, do much to give the piece a truly British sentiment and provide much more weight to the comedy from a British perspective. Additionally Tom Jackson Greaves’ direction wonderfully draws out the abundance of comedy written by Lindsay-Abaire, making High Fidelity, for its humour, a much needed form of escapism. (And by humour, we mean the laugh out loud kind of humour).

This production marvellously invites its audience into Rob’s ‘Last Real Record Store on Earth’. Engendering this through strip-lights that hang not only in the playing space, but also over the audience’s heads. So when these are initially switched on by store owner Rob, (Oliver Ormson), there is certain spark of magic that makes you feel as if you are instantly there with him, a moment that is beautifully paired with the plethora of band posters scattered around the auditorium. Yet it is the direction by Greaves, requiring the actors to move around and use the auditorium as a playing space, jumping down from the semicircular stage onto a stack of records and then the floor, that really envelops and immerses the audience into Rob’s world. As he addresses us directly, breaking the fourth wall and letting us know his internalisations, we are invited further and further into his story. In conjunction with this, Oliver Ormson makes a stellar leading man, his Rob, although a problematic and flawed character, is charming, exceedingly likeable and comedically vibrant. Ormson excels narratorially, knowing how to work a crowd with ease and as a result delivers several ‘knowing looks’ with just the right amount of intensity and hilarity, timing them perfectly. Similarly his voice is sensational, he has excellent power and tonality, perfect for such a rock-heavy role. Ormson also manages to emote the part superbly, making him a well-rounded, intelligent and truly entertaining performer, he is certainly one to watch.

Alongside Ormson, the entire company of eleven, (including him), are absolute powerhouses. Their conviction and attack is refreshingly inspiring, they deliver Greaves’ uniquely inventive and affectional choreography with ease and determination. Greaves doing well to fill, but not crowd the small space. Additionally the company effortlessly combine voices to deliver the intricacies and nuanced character of Kitt and Green’s variegated score strikingly well. The music is an eclectic and enjoyable collection of Pop, RnB, Soul and Rock inspired songs. The writers taking influence from artists such as Bruce Springsteen, Beastie Boys, Indigo Girls, Talking Heads, Aretha Franklin, The Who, Guns N’ Roses, Billy Joel, George Harrison, Percy Sledge and more. The sound therefore feels very nostalgic, the songs are ultimately original and new, yet they feel familiar, making the score a wonderful and exciting journey through music history. With this in mind, it is worth mentioning that the live band, placed just in view above the stage, are phenomenal. They provide an authentically retro-feeling sound that is big, bold and bluesy. Dan Samson should therefore be commended for his sound design to help to realise and integrate this, (his work of course replicating the sound of a record player’s stylus hitting a vinyl). Like many successful and popular musicals, High Fidelity employs a technique known as Leitmotif. This is where a certain musical style is applied to each character. As aforementioned, Kitt and Green took inspiration from several acclaimed artists, therefore they have crafted a unique and historically-inspired sound for each of their show’s characters. For example, Rob’s straight talking friend Liz is very much inspired by Aretha Franklin. Bobbie Little therefore delivers Liz’s song ‘She Goes’, with a certain Aretha Franklin-esque sass and power. Vocally, Little proving herself to be one of the best. Going back to Leitmotif, the methodology appears in shows such as SIX, Cats and Hamilton, it inevitably, as a form succeeds in High Fidelity as much as it does in those shows. The idea of Leitmotif congruently helping the composers to provided songs that are not only diversified, but reflective of the show’s theme of Rob’s passion for music, allowing them to beautifully pay homage to some of the greatest musicians of our time.

As far as the design goes, as aforementioned it ebbs out into the auditorium, but the stage itself, is designed with an innumerable amount of attention to detail and dexterity. The stage, semicircular in design is literally made to look like a record, giving it an overall thematic and retro aesthetic. Whilst, the shelving units that revolve to provide extra set pieces, are intricately littered with vinyls, they along with Rob’s till and record player, actually bring the shop realistically to life. Other movable set pieces, such as stairs and beds that slot away and almost appear from no where, are incredibly malleable and useful additions to take us momentarily out of Rob’s store. Making the design practical and compact, but ultimately aesthetically intriguing.

Having already mentioned the charm of Ormson and sheer power of Little, we cannot finish this review without commenting on the remaining individual performances as each one is equally as strong and unique, the company proving their adaptability by multi-roling successfully throughout. Carl Au’s absolutely adorable Scouser Dick, (Rob’s friend), is such a treat. Au presenting Dick’s naivety and anxieties with precision and dexterity, his song ‘It’s No Problem’ is irrefutably a highlight. Dick’s love interest Anna, is similarly played to perfection by Rosie Fletcher, she distinctively captures the character’s winsome charm and innocence, as well as her mild discomfiture when faced with romance. Au and Fletcher sharing breathtaking chemistry. Robbie Durham as Rob’s other friend Barry is severely entertaining and astute, whilst Joshua Dever’s delivery of Neil Young/Bruce Springsteen is packed with comedic excellence, Dever proving to be an ardent performer. Alongside them, Jessica Lee and Lauran Rae exude energy and excellence, pulling focus throughout, whilst Eleanor Kane is another highlight. Her delivery of American Country Singer Marie, is sensational, the characterisation and humour perfectly lands, alongside the character’s omnipotent allure. Shanay Holmes’ apple-of-Rob’s-eye Laura is a beacon of clarity, her voice is simply stunning, whilst her emotivity is strong. Finally, last but not least, Robert Tripolino’s Ian, a yogi who ‘handled Kurt Cobain’s intervention’ that Laura  evidently moves in with, is strikingly eccentric. Tripolino’s comedically rich performance is defined by his sharp wit and madcap characterisation, impeccably capturing the obliviously annoying and self-centred nature of the Ian.

To conclude every aspect of High Fidelity is flawless. From the cast, to the design, the direction and choreography, to the book and score, we can’t find a single fault, please do take the time to go and support this re-energised musical, you won’t regret it! Click here to find out more.

 

Book: David Lindsay-Abaire, (based on a novel by Nick Hornby)

Director: Tom Jackson Greaves

Music and Lyrics: Tom Kitt and Amanda Green

Lighting: Andrew Exeter

Design: David Shields

Sound: Dan Samson

Choreography: Tom Jackson Greaves

Paul Schofield: Musical Director & Music Supervisor

Vikki Stone: Book & Lyrics Adaptor

Will Burton CDG: Casting Director

Helen Siveter: Associate Director

Lewis Andrews : Music Programmer & Musician (Guitar)

Robyn Brown: Musician (Bass)

Steve Hynes: Musician (Drums)


Cast:

Oliver Ormson – Rob

Carl Au – Dick

Robbie Durham – Barry

Rosie Fletcher – Anna/Alison

Joshua Dever – Neil Young/Bruce Springsteen

Shanay Holmes – Laura

Eleanor Kane – Marie/Sarah

Jessica Lee – Ensemble/Jackie

Bobbie Little – Liz/Charlie

Lauran Rae – Ensemble/Penny

Robert Tripolino – Ian

Review: The Antipodes, Dorfman Theatre, (National Theatre)

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Martini Rating: 🍸🍸

To put it simply, The Antipodes is about storytelling.

Pulitzer-Prize winner Annie Baker has returned to the National with her newest play, The Antipodes. The narrative sees a group of people gather in a boardroom, (oddly well stocked with Perrier Natural Mineral Water), they are employed with the task of coming up with a new story, though it is never made clear exactly why and for what purpose. This satirical, absurd and intellectual exegesis, thus sees the characters tell, categorise and theorise stories over the course of the two hours. From the fantastical to the familiar, we hear how the character’s first lost their virginity and other anecdotes, as well as the plethora of historic myths and legends they are aware of, merging many of them in an attempt to come up with something new. Though the boardroom and the people in it seem familiar and realistic, as the stories become more absurd so does the play, their endless brainstorming session transgressing from the expected and known to the outlandish. The characters searching for something truly monstrous, the monsters in themselves somewhat coming to light instead.

The conceptualisation is particularly intriguing. It is as if Baker has spent her time deconstructing and compartmentalising the idea of a story, wanting to thus show what she has found, using this group of people she has created and brought together as the vehicle. For instance she refers to the belief that many have in regard to there only being so many types of stories, whether that be 6, 19, 36 or 10, (amounts suggested and explicated upon by the characters – referring to academic notions such as the ‘Hero’s Journey’ etc.). Yet she also seems to want to propose to her audience a question, is the piece she has written a story? Yes there are characters, but their true purpose for being where they are is unclear and their journey, non-existent, they remain in the same room throughout and make little progress on whatever task has been set of them, though it is important to note that time does pass, indicated by the various costume changes of Office Admin Sarah, (Imogen Doel). Furthermore, in naming her work The Antipodes, Baker is suggestive that her aim is to create something that is diametrical opposed to tradition, therefore it is an anti-story. It can can still be considered a story, but she has purposefully made it ambiguous, full of questions and surreal. Wittily, she makes charming references to the traditions of storytelling, whether that be conveying narratives through oration, painting, drawing, dictating, performing, typing or writing, going on to intrinsically refer to several institutions, from Greek myths and fairytales, to personal anecdotes and religious retellings. As well as the idea of stories as culturally relevant and at one time free/freely circulated, to them now being a paid for commodity, the irony remaining strong that we have, for the most part all paid for the pleasure of seeing, hearing and experiencing the story being presented to us now. The cogency here leads us on to question the value we give to stories particularly in a world in crisis, Baker beautifully depicting the ubiquitous nature of stories in our everyday lives and their necessity to keep us going. Therefore the writing is that of potency, intellect and acuity, Baker formulating many moments of pure hilarity, as well as those that shock, intrigue and confuse.

However the problem with the work is, that for many it is too cryptic and ambiguous. Making it very much marmite. We have to admit we did disengage and as a result, the two hours seemed to last a lifetime. Though it was the intention, the piece creates far more questions than it answers, it can feel at points desensitising and frustrating when no ripostes are given, particularly when the transgression enters the ‘chaos sphere’, with some truly unearthly moments. Yet there is a fun game to be played in spotting the numerous references Baker has crafted, paying homage to several well-known stories/myths. Her direction, alongside Co-Director and Designer Chloe Lamford is amicable. As aforementioned there are many moments of humour and stupor, which Lamford and Baker wonderfully ensure are delivered in a balanced, resolute, well-timed and provocative manner, doing a lot to really draw out the hilarity, absurdity or aesthetic conjecture provided by Baker’s own writing. Their approach effortlessly moving from naturalism, to representationalism, to Theatre of the Absurd. As far as the design goes, Lamford delivers a great sense of juxtaposition. She has dressed the nine characters as realistically as possible, they could be anyone, they are normal, everyday people. Yet her set, in contrast, is that of excess and absurdity. An excessively large glass boardroom table stretches across much of the stage and is surrounded by movable chairs, whilst the carpet is a garishly acidic orange with large geometric patterns upon it, the back left corner is coincidentally consumed by crates upon crates of Perrier water. The combination of these pieces is in itself absurd and generates an overall unusually bright aesthetic, very in-keeping with the unusual and complex nature of the piece.

Regarding individual performances, each delivery is dexterous and strong, the company proving themselves to be distinctive actors in their own right. Hadley Fraser, Arthur Darvill, Matt Bardock and Fisayo Akinade are particularly intelligible performers, full of vibrancy and clarity each able to convey the variegated nuances of their characters with wit and charm. Whilst Imogen Doel’s sprightly Sarah, is exceedingly enjoyable, her delivery is spellbindingly effervescent and dry humoured, Doel’s comedic timing proving to be razor sharp. Bill Milner’s note-taking Brian, is darkly solemn and for the most part, silent. Milner’s delivery is accomplished, sustaining just the right amount of curiosity and eldrich. Whilst Conleth Hill’s Sandy, the American in charge of the boardroom, (though evidently not the entire project), and Sinéad Matthews’ Eleanor each assert themselves as enthrallingly satirical and adept characterisations, Hill and Matthews, along with Doel, generating much of the comedically-rich moments.

To conclude, we can see and appreciate the vision for Annie Baker’s The Antipodes as well as appreciate the agility of the direction and deliveries. However the show is not for everyone, it’s Delphic and perplexing, so much so that in our case, it wasn’t our favourite. But if you want to be intellectually challenged it’s certainly worth a watch, click here to book now.

 

Adam – Fisayo Akinade.
Danny M1 – Matt Bardock.
Dave – Arthur Darvill.
Sarah – Imogen Doel.
Josh – Hadley Fraser.
Sandy – Conleth Hill.
Eleanor – Sinéad Matthews.
Danny M2 – Stuart McQuarrie.
Brian – Bill Milner.

Director – Annie Baker
Director and Set and Costume Designer – Chloe Lamford
Lighting Designer – Natasha Chivers
Sound Designer – Tom Gibbons
Movement Director – Sasha Milavic Davies
Sound Designer – Tom Gibbons
Illusion Designer – Steve Cuiffo
Dialect Coach – Charmian Hoare
Staff Director – Nimmo Ismail

Review: Lungs, Old Vic

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Martini Rating: 🍸🍸🍸🍸🍸

Bolstering explosive performances, dynamic direction and an intriguing narrative beautifully littered with visual motifs and ethical dilemmas, the Old Vic’s revival of Duncan Macmillan’s Lungs starring Claire Foy and Matt Smith, directed by Matthew Warchus, is an absolute triumph. Sharp, witty and heart-wrenchingly powerful, the performances by Foy and Smith are definitively the best you can witness in the current theatrical landscape. The pair displaying insurmountable amounts of chemistry whilst tumultuously diving into the emotive subject matter.

First performed in 2011, Lungs is part fast-paced contemporary drama, part enigmatic climate play. As an unconventional love-story where modern, politically aware and somewhat climate-conscious couple M and W wrestle with the idea of starting a family, considering the amount of carbon offsetting they’d have to do to in order to counteract it, Lungs is, in this age of Extinction Rebellion, a painfully current, urgent and exceedingly relevant piece of theatre. Macmillan however, does more than pose the extremities of the environmental crisis to his audience, he makes the issues personable. This exegesis on both global ecological issues and the attitude towards them is therefore wonderfully delivered through the lense and world of the young couple. By letting us into their world, Macmillan is able to create a realistic and relatable relationship for us to dissect and to compare our experiences to, as well as to empathise with. An intention fantastically brought to fruition in Rob Howell’s design, the actors, using Howell’s round stage to revolve around and encircle each other. The circular stage demarcating their world, the surrounding audience becoming outsiders looking in. An idea artfully enhanced by Tim Lutkin’s Lighting Design, the white over-head lights beat down on the couple as if they are under scrutiny, below a microscope or in a test facility. Not only does the lighting and shape/proximity of the stage intensify the atmosphere but the malleability allows for a quick pace and a multiplicity of locations, resulting in a dynamic and incredibly engaging piece. Two doors are propped up by mountains of plastic, the doors are metaphorical lids on single use plastic, we, just as the couple have an awareness of the carbon legacy produced by a single child, know how much waste single use plastic causes, but still allow the mass production and use of it. A powerful and exceedingly literal demonstration by Howell of widespread ignorance towards the climate emergency with the doors remaining visible throughout, whilst the actors climb, sit and lie upon them in ignorant bliss. Furthermore, though M and W show an awareness of global issues, this awareness fades over time, until they become completely unaware of current affairs, cleverly demonstrating the generational flippancy many hold in response to the climate emergency, (with climate protests in the present being led by the younger generation). The stage and realm of the play therefore, is the couple’s personal world, though they are aware of outside issues, they don’t act. The surrounding space, (the outside), is the global plane, issues on the global plane, due to political inaction are often ignored by the individual as their personal world takes priority. The idea of these two separate worlds that coincide is therefore beautifully crafted using visual references to planets, the sun, orbiting and protons centring on a nucleus.

As aforementioned, the narrative puts the idea of how much it costs the planet to have a child as one of several factors to consider in whether to add to the population or not. CO2 emission-based climate change, overpopulation and political unrest are therefore considered as much as the individual’s career, financial reasons, the desire to retain one’s freedom, as well as the consideration of bringing a child into the world as it is. An idea wonderfully demonstrated with the title of the play, Lungs, referring to the process of breathing. The characters are thus shown to struggle to breathe because of their anxieties over having a child, anxieties that could eventually lead them to choose not to. Yet, they also complain about not being able to breathe because of the pollution outside, the prevalence of the climate emergency thus providing another good reason not to procreate. But they still do, much like the act of smoking; at one point or another M and W each smoke, though they know how bad it is for them, (much like they know how much a baby will add to the global footprint but they still proceed). They begin to ignore global issues and primal urges prevail. Macmillan thus provocatively exceeds, putting ethical dilemmas in direct contrast to primal urges, using scenes of a sexual nature and perfidious behaviour to refer to a humans as still driven by primal instincts moving us to copulate and therefore reproduce. In doing this Macmillan intrinsically captures the passive and often selfish nature of many ‘climate-conscious’ individuals, though the couple are aware and do discuss the strain a single child puts on the planet, they still choose to reproduce and are ultimately shown to be complex and flawed individuals, putting their desires and instincts before their own ethics. By moving the characters to even going as far as to ask each other if they are truly good people, Macmillan brutally provides a discussion on ethics and whether humans can be truly good or bad, particularly when swayed by the personal realm.

Matthew Warchus’ delphian direction is unequivocally superior, he ensures that Smith and Foy’s characters are multilayered, emotive and resilient. The pacing Warchus has created, that moves the piece instantaneously from scene to scene and location to location with a simple look or movement from either of the actors as they tear through the Herculean dialogue, is incredibly reactive and intelligible. The flow here is enviably quick, vibrant and full of purpose, easily encouraging the audience to be attentive, as they are gently reeled into M and W’s world until they are completely invested, whilst also provocatively being ethically and emotionally challenged. Additionally the levels of comedy and wit are extraordinary, delivered in a measured, well-timed and potent manner, Warchus suitably ensures that this play truly does make you laugh and cry, sometimes at the same time! M and W are thus, two very real human beings and Warchus’ can be credited with bringing these complex, clever, comedically rich and relatable individuals to life. As for Smith and Foy, as previously mentioned their chemistry is seriously fiery and connective. Having appeared together in The Crown, this is of course to be expected, however their performances supersede the predicted. Foy is insanely talented, the raw emotion she pours into W is astonishing. She proves herself to be a divinely dexterous performer able to visibly show a character’s thought processes, sustaining a wondrous presence throughout. The clarity, power and emotional journey she provides is truly breathtaking, from naivety to heartbreak, love and loss, Foy delivers it all with ease and intensity. Her is M is a smart, loveable and piquant individual. A world class delivery. Smith similarly provides an abundance of depth, capturing the passive nature of M magnificently. His performance is strong, full of tension and expresses the almost emotionally detached side of M brilliantly, the perfect counterpart for Foy’s particularly stirring W. Smith makes M a sort Everyman, relatable, capable of love, but also flawed and somewhat un-empathetic/at times, thoughtless. An inspiring delivery.

To conclude, Lungs is the event of the season, we can’t urge you enough to watch it. It is urgent, politically charged, beautifully written, but most importantly delivered to perfection. Go, go, go! Click here to book now.

Writer – Duncan Macmillan
Director – Matthew Warchus
Set & Costume – Rob Howell
Lighting – Tim Lutkin
Sound – Simon Baker
Associate Director – Katy Rudd

Claire Foy
Matt Smith

Review: ‘Master Harold’… and the boys, Lyttelton Theatre, (National Theatre)

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Martini Rating: 🍸🍸🍸🍸

Roy Alexander Weise directs an enigmatic and strong production of Athol Fugard’s semi-autobiographical play, first performed in 1982 when white-black segregation was still prevalent. This beautifully balanced, racially charged, aesthetic masterpiece, is a resilient addition to the Lyttelton’s Autumn season.

Set in 1950, apartheid South Africa, ‘Master Harold’… and the boys explores the nature of friendship, and the ways people are capable of hurting even those they love. Following two black men Sam and Willie, who work for a white family, the play mightily tackles the unjust nature and significance of racial segregation through the innocent eyes of a child, Hally. As the boy has grown, despite his friendship with Sam, who has tried to protect him from being capable of such hatred, he has been exposed to the inherent white vs. black racism of the time and doesn’t yet realise the weight of his words. Providing a powerful demonstration of generational indoctrination and white supremacy. Sound familiar? As the present socio-political climate shifts once more to a landscape where policy doesn’t necessary favour minorities, there are many pressing and relevant parallels to be drawn between then and now, from the mentions of American and Russian relations to the dreamlike imaginings of a world defined by peace and equality, something that is now still a dream.

Fugard’s writing is endlessly beautiful, he intricately litters the narrative with visual motifs and metaphors. From the kite it is mentioned that Sam and Hally made together, (signifying a hope for a better and united future between them and their races), Sam leaving Hally to sit on a ‘white’s only’ bench, a detail Hally is innocently oblivious of, a later reference being made that they need to fly a kite together now more than ever as their relationship crumbles and racial divisions prograde a barrier between them. To the descriptions of the ballroom competitions Sam and Willie enter, the competitors never colliding on the dance floor being representative of the beautiful and seemingly impossible idea of, ‘a world without collisions’. Weise’s direction therefore lovingly perpetuates and accents the visual stimuli woven throughout, as Sam, Willie and Hally prove to be enigmatic storytellers excitedly enacting much of their various recollections as they jovially remember their past together. Then, with fantastic collaboration between Movement Director/Choreographer Shelley Maxwell and Set/Costume Designer Rajha Shakiry, (with wonderful Lighting Design by Paule Constable and Sound Design from Giles Thomas), we are cinematically transitioned from St George’s Park Tea Room in Port Elizabeth, to the ballroom as Sam and Willie glide together, powerfully demonstrating the pair’s resilience in the face of oppression. Shakiry’s detailed, intricate and vitalising design wondrously brings to life the tea room and bleak, (definitely not kite flying) weather conditions, as realistic rain pelts on the windows above throughout. The pacing of the piece is particularly strong and balanced as Sam and Willie playfully converse with Hally – attempting to do his homework, whilst keeping somewhat focussed on their work, setting about putting the tables and chairs out ready for the next day, demonstrating their subservient societal position. Also allowing for the chairs and tables to be intriguingly used as props and characters in their storytelling.

Performance-wise all three actors do a phenomenal job, as aforementioned they are keen storytellers, each of them remaining equally as captivating and strong. Lucian Msamati, (Sam) and Hammed Animashaun, (Willie) have stunning physicality and seem to have picked up ballroom dancing effortlessly, whilst their presence is determinately fierce, entertaining and passionate. Delivering exceedingly raw and emotive performances. Whilst Anson Boon’s Hally is a wonderful counterpart, plagued by teen angst and an unhappy home-life, Boon gives Hally great depth and meaningful intent, his performance likewise carries much emotion. Though Boon’s South African accent is somewhat jarring and needs a little toning down to make the character slightly more bearable.

To conclude ‘Master Harold’… and the boys is a solidly performed, provocative piece with a lot of depth and food-for-thought. It’s definitely still relevant today and masterfully/effortlessly delivered. Do go and see it whilst you still can, click here.

 

Roy Alexander Weise – Director

Lucian Msamati – Sam

Hammed Animashaun – Willie

Anson Boon – Hally

Rajha Shakiry – Set and Costume Designer

Paule Constable – Lighting Designer

Shelley Maxwell – Movement Director and Choreographer

Giles Thomas – Sound Designer

Simon Money – Company Voice Work

Joel Trill – Dialect Coach

Anthony Simpson Pike – Staff Director

Review: Big the Musical, Dominion Theatre

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Martini Rating: 🍸

If you aren’t at all interested in the underrepresentation of minorities, the perpetuating of gender stereotypes, casual sexism and racism, as well as emotional manipulation and mild domestic violence, perhaps Big the Musical is not one for you.

Based on the iconic 1988 film starring Tom Hanks, Big, first performed in 1996, follows 12-year-old Josh Baskin, who, after having inserted a coin into an unusual antique arcade fortune teller machine called Zoltar, makes a rash wish and is turned into a 30-year-old man. We follow Josh, (Jay McGuiness) as he awaits information on where another Zoltar machine is in order to wish himself back. He, in the meantime heads to New York City and by chance gets a job at MacMillen Toy Company, innocently falling for colleague Susan Lawrence, (Kimberly Walsh) in the process. Josh therefore experiences all of the pressures and tribulations of adulthood and dating. Just from the narrative alone, this seems like it would be a fun-for-the-whole-family comedy with many hilarious and relatable moments, lots of opportunities for lavish musical numbers and for the development of big, bold characters for children to look up to. However, Big in its musical format is not situated or executed well, though it does willfully include all of the iconic moments from the film.

Due to the huge digital screens that revolved and created much of the set, the show was treated to an elusively modern vibe, an incredibly cheap and tacky seeming modern vibe at that. Black bars often lining the edges of the aforementioned screens, thus breaking up the awful cartoon and panto-esque images meant to locate the scenes, with additional huge set pieces occasionally coming in at the sides. These often jolted as they moved and were unnaturalistic, unnecessary structures, resulting in a modern, yet cheap and nasty looking set that was definitely ambitious, meant to create a flashy, exciting aesthetic, but ultimately flopped. However, the 80s sounding pop-synth score with costuming and wigs that somewhat represented that era, (through they could have been more determinant of this and further developed), were elements suggestive of the same era as the film. The ambiguity with the design and content here, meant it was at first difficult to tell if the direction was aiming to modernise the piece and locate it in 2019, or not. Concluding not, as this makes the most sense and fits best with the language and subject matter, yet the prevalent of-the-era sexism, gender stereotyping and mild racism that occurs, (though passable at the time), was particularly jarring for the present audience and made us feel slightly offended and uncomfortable. Just, why was there a Saddam Hussein joke and why did it come out of a child actor’s mouth? There is already a question over the appropriateness of Big anyway, with Josh, a child eliciting a romantic relationship with the grown-up Susan, a surprising amount of laughter ensuing during the performance when she finds out Josh is 12 and worries that she is going to end up in jail, would the audience find it as funny if their genders were reversed? We think not. It was certainly painful to witness Josh telling Susan the truth and to watch her both slap him and then manipulate him by following this up with an ‘I love you’.

As far as casting, there has been some controversy over the entire adult cast being white, we don’t think a few diverse actors in each of the children’s team ensembles can save this casting choice from being totally unrepresentative of minorities. This, against the backdrop of the aforementioned poor taste joke, and highly middle-class nature of the show made for an uncomfortable and not necessarily relatable staging. We aren’t all two-dimensional, white, (mostly Male), hotshots earning huge salaries and climbing the corporate ladder. We also found a lot of issues in the direction. Big surprisingly has several funny moments that actually aren’t offensive, but most of the time the direction was so headstrong and fast-paced that a joke, or even an important plot point, hardly landed before the actors moved onto the next thing, leaving us dazed and unable to appreciate any of the comedy or trajectory. The musical even felt like it was trying too hard to be meaningful and relatable on the topic of teen angst. It was clear a lot of time and effort had gone into that, but it felt like a child’s perspective hadn’t really been consulted and came across at points as, cheesy and unsympathetic. As far as the choreography was concerned, this too was sub-par, the iconic Piano scene was fine and Jay McGuinness did get his ‘strictly moment’, but other than this there wasn’t anything that invigorating or visually exciting/challenging. Speaking of Jay McGuinness, he was fantastic and is probably what earns the martini here. McGuinness had great presence, displaying sincerity and childlike innocence in his acting, with a phenomenal voice and of course executing the choreography with wondrous passion and poise, accenting every move well. He did ridiculously well with what he was given. Matthew Kelly was also particularly charming, his delivery of George MacMillan, the toy company owner, was both warming and comedically charged. It is Kimberley Walsh’s Susan and Wendy Peters’ Mrs Baskin that are each tragically underwritten and thus fall flat. They each did well with the content and demonstrate Herculean voices, but their characters need to be fleshed out and their intents and desires more clearly communicated. This isn’t a show that bolsters inspirational and powerful women, despite Walsh’s characters’s executive position amongst many man in the business world.

Regarding the score, the sound as aforementioned, is perfect for representing the 80s, but what it does lack is memorability. We enjoyed a few numbers such as Stars, Cross The Line and Dancing All The Time. But we can only now remember a weak version of the melody of Cross The Line and we aren’t yet feeling inclined to listen to a cast recording. It was also apparent that many of the compositions were difficult to sing and therefore didn’t show off the performers voices too well. It is also worth mentioning here, that the children’s ensemble alongside Young Josh and Billy were all excellent and energetic performers, enigmatically filling the space and delivering the ensemble numbers with tumultuous power.

To conclude, we unfortunately don’t recommend Big, some stories stuck in the past, should just stay in the past. We so wanted it to be a fun and uplifting family musical that would brighten our week. We aren’t saying it had to have some grandiose moral message about social issues or appreciating the world whilst you‘re still young, but the creative execution in our opinion, wasn’t good enough to overlook the problematic subject matter. If you are at all intrigued and do however feel like catching the musical during its limited West End run, click here.

*On a side note, we were also deeply disappointed with the venue and staff. There were no visible Ushers to act as a deterrent for poor behaviour. Therefore a gentlemen in front of us was able to film at least 5 minutes of the show, periodically check his phone and listen to a voicemail message on full volume without being stopped. There was also a torrent of rustling nearby as well as shouting and whooping audience members. Don’t even get us started on the amount of people that got up to use the bathroom facilities. Not cool, Dominion, not cool.

 

 

CAST
Jay McGuiness – Josh Baskin
Wendi Peters – Mrs Baskin
Kimberley Walsh – Susan Lawrence
Matthew Kelly – George MacMillan
Lori Haley Fox – Mrs Kopecki./Miss Watson
Edward Handoll – Paul Seymour
Harrison Dadswell – Young Josh
Jamie O’Connor – Young Josh
Jake Simon – Young Josh
Jobe Hart – Billy
Theo Wilkinson – Billy
Charlie Bull
,Colin Burnicle
, Christie-Lee Crosson
, Vicki Davids
, Alex Fobbester, 
Leanne Garretty
, Stuart Hickey, Matt Holland
, Tash Holway, 
Ross McLaren
, Richard Murphy, 
Eddie Myles
, Katharine Pearson
, Anton Fosh, Gemma Fuller
, Gary Murphy, 
Katy Osborne
, Olufemi Alaka, 
Coco Cousin-Brown
, Asher Ezeguiel, 
Ellis Griffiths, Imogen Law Hing Choy, 
Noah Leggott
, Amaya Lucas, 
Cassia McCarthy
, Ophelia Parsons, 
Bailey Razdan
, Lucinda Wicks
, Chanel Zinyemba

 

CREATIVES
John Weidman – Author
David Shine – Music
Richard Maltby (Jnr) – Lyrics
Michael Rose – Producer
Damien Sanders – Producer
Paul Gregg (for Encore Theatre Productions Limited) – Producer
Morgan Young – Director
Morgan Young – Choreographer
Simon Higlett – Costume
Tim Lutkin – Lighting
Simon Higlett – Design
Terry Jardine – Sound
Avgoustos Psillas – Sound
Stuart Morley (musical supervisor) – Music

Review: Faith, Hope and Charity, Dorfman Theatre (National Theatre)

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Martini Rating: 🍸🍸🍸🍸

Poignant, heartbreaking and urgent. Zeldin paints a bleak and meaningful portrait of society’s current failings to protect its most vulnerable, crafting a piece that is rife with intriguingly resilient, complex and connective characters. Whilst Cecilia Noble at the centre gives a blindingly good performance.

As the third instalment of Alexander Zeldin’s trilogy that began with Beyond Caring followed by LOVE; Faith, Hope and Charity is a devastating culmination to the series. Offering up an emotionally volatile and gritty commentary on those surviving below the bottom line in this age of austerity, it symbiotically commends those brave enough to do the best they can with what they have for the sake of compassion and human decency, such as ensuring something so simple as a regular hot meal for those in need. Zeldin’s piece is therefore so incredibly needed and exceedingly provocative, particularly in a climate where many of us are inclined to pass something off as not our problem. We are led here by Zeldin, to admire the protagonist’s spirit whilst feeling somewhat sick and angry that we live in an age that the reality of struggling for basic necessities is so painfully real. Set in a run down community hall, the narrative follows Hazel, (Cecelia Noble) a strong-willed individual, who is singlehandedly running a soup kitchen for anyone who needs it, all without any real aid from the local council. Fighting to keep it open as the building falls into dilapidation, she, alongside Mason, (Nick Holder), an ex-criminal seeking a new start, is shown to be iron-willed, patient and attentive to her self-made community. With Mason running a new choir for them as a means by which to divert them away from their harsh realities for an hour or so.

Natasha Jenkin’s design is perfect for Zeldin’s vision. The crafted naturalism of the community hall in all of its worn intricacies, including it’s plastic chairs, over-used toys, faded notice board and rusting old-fashioned radiator, is blisteringly authentic. Giving a very real impression of a well-loved place that was once the pillar of its community but, as the years have gone by and the number of children’s parties or community activities hosted there have probably dwindled, it hasn’t really been updated or financially supported and has therefore fallen into disrepair. A wonderfully sewn in commentary on the dissipation of community spirit in society today and lack of financial support for community spaces. Jenkin’s has thus engendered this worn, outdated verisimilitude with reverence, proving her attention to detail to be insurmountable, as a gritty realism is presented before us. Her set ebbs out into the auditorium of the Dorfman Theatre, enveloping and inviting the audience into the world of the play. The water-damaged and peeling green wallpaper fading into the walls of the theatre auditorium whilst flickering strip-lights hang above the audience. This pairs well with Zeldin’s playful direction that often places his actors amongst their audience. Intrinsically complemented by Marc Williams’ lighting design, Williams choosing to light the audience when hall’s lights are on, these elements thus work arduously to pull the passive audience member into the action, inviting them into the community and to consider their own responsibility to those less fortunate.

The semantics of the play, therefore do much to build a stirringly emotional and moral commentary, giving voices to the those that we usually don’t hear from and pulling its audience in, making them part of the narrative and hopefully, voices for change. For instance, the work allows us to hear from the man who was stuck in the care system and fell into crime now trying to make a better life, to the struggling to stay afloat mother seeking help in her fight to keep her young daughter from being taken into care. Or from those old and young living from shelter to shelter, to those not provided with, or unable to afford the care they need, or to those struggling to find safety as refuges. Culminating in wondrously thoughtful and provocative writing from Zeldin. His work is not only painfully believable but gives a breadth of exposure to the struggles of society’s most vulnerable. Making Faith, Hope and Charity an observant piece, providing a much needed lesson in compassion. Though, in its tragedy, it enacts more as demonstrative reality than suggestive problem-solving, Zeldin intends to and successfully shows a gritty sensibility to promote positive change. However, the sustained naturalism is unfortunately brutally broken at pints by the scene changes and abrupt end of the piece. Periodically, the audience is plunged into darkness with very little warning and a loud soundscape ensues, making for a jarring and broken effect that is ultimately damaging to the power of narrative. And unfortunately there is no clear end or resolution, a maybe intentional move to state that something needs to be done for us to move forward, yet it was unclear the work had even ended.

Performance wise, this ensemble is a variegated and strong collective. As aforementioned, Cecilia Noble at the centre is blisteringly good, she is a raw, emotive and commanding performer, who makes Hazel a remarkably caring matriarch with her own complexities and problems, delivered with intricacy, sincerity and potency. Whilst Nick Holder is a vivid and dexterous actor, his Mason is charmingly childlike and well-intentioned. Alongside them, Susan Lynch is captivating, her performance as struggling mother Beth radiates raw emotion and is a tirade of power and pain. Much like Bobby Stallward’s delivery of Marc her son, proving himself to be a mighty and emotive performer. Standout performances come from Dayo Koleosho and Alan Williams, who are each equally smart, witty, entertaining and impassioned actors with unflinching characterisation skills perfectly displayed here.

To conclude, Faith, Hope and Charity needs streamlining, but is a powerful and visceral look at society today, with heart rendering performances and brilliantly detailed design. We thoroughly recommend it. Click here to book now.

 
Hazel – Cecilia Noble
Anthony – Corey Peterson
Marc – Bobby Stallwood
Tharwa – Hind Swareldahab
Bernard – Alan Williams
Ensemble – Nathan Armarkwei-Laryea
Mason – Nick Holder
Karl – Dayo Koleosho
Beth – Susan Lynch

Director – Alexander Zeldin
Set and Costume Designer – Natasha Jenkins
Lighting Designer – Marc Williams
Movement Director – Marcin Rudy
Sound Designer – Josh Anio Grigg
Rehearsal Music Director – Laurie Blundell
Associate Director – Diyan Zora
Company Voice Work – Jeannette Nelson
Assistant Voice Coach – Victoria Woodward

Review: Sunday Favourites: Aimie Atkinson, The Other Palace

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Martini Rating: 🍸🍸🍸🍸🍸

Sunday Favourites at The Other Palace are back with a bang! Aimie Atksinson’s offering this past Sunday was incredibly feisty and diverse, with a personable touch and of course, to top it off, her signature powerhouse vocals. Ensuring both a raucous and supportive atmosphere as each song was met with instantaneous roaring applause. Beyoncé who?

Produced by Lambert Jackson, Sunday Favourites provides fans with the opportunity to get up close and personal with their favourite musical theatre stars. Giving the performers the time and space to not only meet and greet many of their dedicated followers, but to curate and perform a unique set of their favourite songs in their own intimate solo show. Often, if they choose, the performers are joined by handpicked, special guest stars. Culminating in a effervescent early-evening of laughter, storytelling and spine-tingling arrangements of songs.

Aimie Atkinson’s show was no deviation from this. This glitzy evening included an abundance of special guests, jaw-dropping outfit changes, even some choreography and the true pièce de résistance, Atkinson’s phenomenal re-workings of songs, with beautiful arrangements and powerful yet often subtle harmonies. As Atkinson put it in her own words the evening was ‘so extra!’. From the additional little details, to the hair, to the outfits, to the shoes, to the make-up, to the voice, to the stories, she had it all in ample supply! Meticulously and carefully curating her evening with such flair, thought and precision, demonstrating that she is truly masterful at her craft.

As aforementioned the atmosphere was palpable as fans admiringly cheered with a well-deserved roaring applause after each song. The set-up and close proximity, due to the size of The Other Palace, wonderfully engendered a sense of intimacy. The blank, white frames of the Falsettos set glinting behind her, perfectly fitted in with the homely-vibe created. A rug adorning the stage beneath the drum kit, with some plant pots, a photo frame and knitted SIX-inspired dolls decorating the stage and piano, joined by a ‘Sunday Favourites’ light box and a large light up sign spelling out ‘AIMIE’ in lightbulbs. The stage, with its row of multitalented musicians and plethora of mic stands, thus looked like someone’s, slightly-extra, garage space converted for jam sessions with their band and, it subsequently felt as if we were all invited to watch. And what we got to see and hear was simply sensational. Hats off to Atkinson’s self-selected band too, who are competent performers, each playing with an abundance of zeal and in perfect synchronicity throughout. Keys: Katy Richardson (as seen in SIX), Guitar: Amy Shaw (also in SIX), Bass: Robyn Brown (also in SIX) and Percussion: Tristan Butler (not in SIX, but with a wig, he could be in SIX!).

The evening was decisively split into two halves, the first framing itself as a personable, one-stop-tour through Atkinson’s career to date. Between each song were several funny and heartwarming anecdotes to explain the process of landing each part or, how she met the special guest sharing the stage with her at that particular point, then going on to explain what the part was with a brief plot summary. Atkinson proving herself to be a proficient and humorous storyteller, able to successfully capture her audience’s attention and think on her feet, all whilst demonstrating a definitively humble nature, often finding herself taken aback by the obvious support and adoration in the room. The set in this half ultimately went as follows: Funny Girl’s Don’t Rain On My Parade (part of Atkinson’s winning set for the final of the BBC Voice of Musical Theatre), Somewhere Over The Rainbow (The Wizard of Oz), a cut song from Zorro The Musical with Arabella Rodrigo, A Million Love Songs (Never Forget) with Andy Coxon, Somebody’s Gonna Get Killed (Legacy Falls) with Amy Anzel and Pippa Winslow – accompanied by writer James Burn, Cry To Me (Dirty Dancing) with Fela Lufadeju, Breathe (In The Heights) with Genesis Lynea, Christina Modestou and Sarah Naudi, this would have been followed by All You Wanna Do (SIX) to bring us to the present day of her career, however there were moderate ‘technical difficulties’ and an interval came early, the rendition was however worth the wait! Atkinson throughout, alongside her brilliant anecdotal reminiscences, as previously mentioned – displayed her unique vocal talents and clear ability to put together an enchantingly distinctive cabaret show. Joining her on stage, Arabella Rodrigo and Andy Coxon both demonstrated equivocal vocal prowess and beautiful tonality blending with and offsetting Atkinson’s voice well. Whilst, the strength in characterisation and harmonies delivered by Amy Anzel and Pippa Winslow combined with Atkinson’s own talents to craft a strikingly hilarious and power-induced version of Somebody’s Gonna Get Killed from Legacy Falls, (the musical following a group of actors on a fictional American soap opera as they are faced with new executive producers). Fela Lufadeju similarly, helped Atkinson to deliver a sincerely soulful rendition of Cry To Me from Dirty Dancing, beginning with a spontaneous backbend that incited an overwhelming sense of WOW 👀. Finally, the four part version of Breathe delivered by Atkinson with original In The Heights London cast member Christina Modestou and Atkinson’s fellow cast members Sarah Naudi and Genesis Lynea was breathtaking. The vocals were spectacularly balanced, raw and emotive, whilst the arrangement was intricate and strong and the execution, stunning. All in all, this sing through of Atkinson’s career was mesmerising and hugely entertaining, from the ‘Lynx story’ to the end of the act, (you just had to be there).

Leading us on to the variegated and completely different second half, which can therefore be described as an antithesis to the sensational first act. It was carefully curated by Atkinson for her to, in her own words ‘do what I like’. The set here really giving the audience a glimpse into her vivacious personality. It included: A Whole New World from Aladdin with Johndeep More, Ed Sheeran’s Thinking Out Loud and Little Mix’s Woman Like Me with Genesis Lynea, Adele’s Rolling In Then Deep with Christina Modestou and Renee Lamb, the cut MegaSix and Ariana Grande’s God is A Woman with Christina Modestou, Renee Lamb and Genesis Lynea, All You Wanna Do from SIX with Annabel Marlow, Sam Pauly and Jodie Steele and an exuberant, sparkly, choreographed and dance-encouraged rendition of Proud Mary with Sarah Naudi, Genesis Lynea, Tom Gribby and Christina Dahlen. As before, this half also included a plethora of funny and adorable stories. Genesis Lynea featuring heavily here, demonstrated her truly unique voice, which is particularly rich and well-defined. Going on to then show off some accomplished rapping skills. Their duet of Thinking Out Loud, was a lovingly tender moment proving just how much these two performers care about each other. As was A Whole New World with Atkinson’s close, brotherly friend Johndeep More. More and Atkinson’s voices blending effortlessly as they gazed at each other with affection. Though Breathe was stunning, God is A Woman and All You Wanna Do tie for the best song of the night in our opinion. The vocal delivery of the Ariana Grande hit single was out of this world. Renee Lamb particularly snatched her chance to shine here, the tight harmonies and insanity of the notes hit, took this version up several notches. Yet there was a certain weight to having four generations of Katherine Howard in one place. Effervescently acted out and beautifully sung, the rendition was fresh, fun and wildly entertaining. Annabel Marlow was particularly fabulous to watch here. This half of the evening even had a brief appearance from Wolfie, Atkinson and Lynea’s German Sprintz, what a cutie! To conclude, if you didn’t see Aimie Atkinson’s Sunday Favourites, you missed out. Better luck next time friends!

Sunday Favourites are the perfect intimate opportunity to see your favourite West End performers stripped back with their own unique flair, future planned concerts include: Alice Fearn, Joe McElderry, David Hunter, Jason Pennycooke and Jodie Steele. Click here to find out more or book now.

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