Review: The Light in the Piazza @Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre

Written by Charlotte White

This beautiful show directed by Daniel Evans has finally made it’s way to London and I’m so happy I got the chance to see it. Coming to it completely new, I was absolutely stunned by the score and the incredible cast.

Set in 1950s Italy, mother and daughter duo Margaret and Clara Johnson have travelled from America to take in the beautiful sights of Florence. Whilst doing so, Clara catches the eye of Italian local Fabrizio Naccarelli and they quickly fall head over heels for each other. Margaret has always been protective over Clara and she has concerns about the relationship as there is something special about Clara which she doesn’t want to be found out.

Clara is a unique character portrayed remarkably by the much loved young star Dove Cameron. There is an effortless quality to her performance and her voice has such a pure angelic tone. It was mesmerising to watch her on stage and I think she did the score justice with her captivating vocals.

 

 

 

I was utterly blown away with Rob Houchens impressive talent as Fabrizio. His voice and range was extraordinary and he played the love struck young soul perfectly.

Renée Fleming filled the entire concert hall with her gorgeous operatic vocal stylings. She completely embodied the role of troubled, apprehensive mother and she was able to capture the different sides of the character. She took us on a journey with the role which was a joy to watch.

It was a pleasure to see Alex Jennings bring a comedic element to the show whilst also relaying the seriousness of Signor Naccarelli. Celinde Schoenmaker (Franca Naccarelli), Liam Tamne (Guiseppe Naccarelli) and Marie Mclaughlin (Signora Naccarelli) also added humour and all with amazing vocal talent.

Along with this, there is also some slightly darker more serious themes explored throughout the show. We see the struggle of a mother trying to do what’s best for her daughter and France and Giuseppe have trouble with their marriage.

The melodies and composition of Adam Guettels score are truly divine and the simple yet rustic Italian set added to the charm of the piece.

A blissful, charming, classical piece of theatre with a stellar cast, The Light in the Piazza is true form of escapism which you do not want to miss! Only for a limited run at the Royal Festial Musical Hall, Southbank centre until 5th July!

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Six and it’s relevance today

Written by Charlotte White

Six may be about the Tudor queens from the 15th-16th century, but actually many of the themes that come up in the show are still pertinent to today’s society (fortunately not the beheading part).

‘Different time back then’ says Catherine Howard, and the audience laugh as we realise in some ways, it’s actually quite the opposite. It doesn’t really hit you until that moment how certain things in fact haven’t changed much at all in some respects since Tudor times five hundred years ago.

As each of the queens tell their story, various different issues are brought up which are still poignant even today. They explain they had to go through hardships like being judged by your looks and being used by men. These are things we still see happening right now.

Many of the media outlets like magazines, television and the internet seem to have a strong emphasis on the superficial elements; size and beauty have become a big concern to most people. So, like Anne of Cleves was divorced and internationally humiliated because she didn’t look as pretty as her portrait, a lot of us are still judged on the way we look.

We also hear many stories of how women in particular are used for their bodies and are not treated with the respect a human being deserves. Men of course are also experiencing this on some level. You can see how Catherine Howard’s story of constantly being used by the men in her life is relatable in current times.

The show gives a general feel of female empowerment (girl power, woo!) which I think is extremely important for today’s young women. It teaches us to be strong, fight for what we believe in and encourages us to write our own stories.

*SPOILER ALERT* In the end the queens realise they should be known for who they are and what they’ve done not because they were married to the same man. It teaches us the importance of coming together and supporting each other which I think is somewhat lacking in today’s society.

All these things (and of course the bangin tunes) have helped Six the Musical take the UK by storm and now the world as they open in Chicago! If you haven’t I urge you to see this fabulous, empowering, mesmerising show! You won’t be disappointed!

West End Calling 2019!

On Sunday 12th of May I was generously invited to the Grand Final of West End Calling. I had previously known about the competition since my friend attended the final last year so I was very excited to see what I was in for.

What is it?

The contestants come all around the country as the first stages of the auditions held in 7 cities around the country and performed in front of a panel of West End performers. And during the Grand Final of West End Calling they perform one song to a completely new panel of judges, previous judges have included Danielle Hope, Paul Wilkins, Jamie Lambert and Lauren Samuels.

The Judges

This years judges were the two leads of hit West End show, Aladdin (Prince Edward Theatre), Matthew Croke (Aladdin) and Courtney Reed (Princess Jasmine). The panel was completed by Heathers royalty, Sophie Issacs. However, today they definitely weren’t the envy of any of us having such a difficult decision to make picking the winners. 

I was also lucky enough to catch up with them at the end of the night and ask them why a competition such as this is so important for young people and the West End community.

Sophie Issacs
“I just think it’s amazing for us to witness such amazing talent and for everyone in the same age group to experience the talent that ewe have all across the country is an amazing this to see.”

Matthew Croke
“Tonight, West End Calling is so important because of these people that want to be in the West End or do this kind of thing in the industry anything that they want to do and want to see other people that want to do this type of thing. I brings out a healthy competeetaive side of the industry but also the experience that they get that West End Calling give is just incredible. If I was their age and had something like this to go to I would be the first one to enter. It’s such a good experience for them all.”

Courtney Reed
‘Tonight is just so important because you’re giving the youths such an opportunity to get in front of some working professionals and get out and perform in front of a wonderful, loving audience who’s really rooting for them and to see where their journey goes next.”

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From Left to Right: Matthew Croke, Courtney Reed, Oscar Conlon-Morrey and Sophie Issacs

The Grand Finals!

The Grand Finals were hosted at The Other Palace. The theatre home of shows such as Heathers, Eugenius, Toast and will be hosting the UK Premiere of Falsettos.

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The Grand Final is split into two groups, the Junior Final (under 16s) and the Senior Final (Over 16s) and have thirteen contestants each.

Both shows were hosted by Oscar Conlon-Morrey who effortlessly improvised with humour and ease. I was also lucky to speak to him after the show and ask him why he enjoyed hosting the final so much.

“It’s always and absolute joy because the amount of passion they bring to the stage is incredible. This year in particular was excessive talent that we have not seen before. They were incredibly genuine, truthful performers. Lot of really exciting, new and interesting vocal qualities and style that I haven’t seen before and I genuinely think that every single one of them could have very successful careers in the industry.”

In both of the finals, the standard of the performances delivered were out of this world, however, there were a few stand out performances for myself in each of the Finals.

The Junior Finals!

In the Junior Finals, Maya Rugen who performed ‘I Love Play Rehearsal’ from Be More Chill was the first one to stand out for me. As someone who is not very familiar with the show, her performance of the song made me very interested in sitting down and listening to the soundtrack. 

In addition Phoebe Maddison with who sung the song ‘Quiet’ by Jonathan Reid Gealt. Again, I was not familiar with the song, but she really invested me in the song and her story telling, in addition, her voice is insane! 

Sasha Roberts broke my (and everyone else in the audience) heart with a stunning rendition of ‘Words Fail’ from Dear Evan Hansen. As such a popular song from such a current musical, is such a risky move however, it totally paid off with acting and vocals at a sensational level for his age.

Bibi Simpson took the competition to a different level with her rendition of ‘Green Finch and Linnet Bird’ from Sweeney Todd: Demon Barber of Fleet Street. It was the only performance of that type so it would typically stand out however, the song is a personal favourite of mine and her voice is so beautiful that I could listen to it all day. I could see her playing roles such as Christine Daae and Cosette, she has a beautiful, classic soprano voice.

3rd Place in this Round was given to Charlotte Waller with a show-stopping rendition of ‘Dying Ain’t So Bad’ From Bonnie and Clyde

2nd Place of this round was given to Sasha Roberts for ‘Words Fail’ from Dear Evan Hansen.

1st Place of this round was won by Phoebe Maddison who sung ‘Quiet’ by Jonathan Reid Gealt.

The Senoir Finals

The second round included performers from the age 16 and up. Opening the show, and setting the standard really high, was Amelia Wilkins with ‘Out Here On My Own’ from the musical Fame. The performance to me felt so intimate and personal so was immediately a stand out one for me. 

Ashley Hartley performed a stunning rendition of ‘Stars’ from Les Miserables. As the song is in my Top 3 of all time favourite musical theatre songs, I was anxious to hear his rendition, and I was not disappointed! The judges remarked that they could close their eyes and believe that that was the actual actor playing Javert and I couldn’t agree more. I can’t wait to see Ashley performing the same song at the Queen’s in years to come. In addition, his acting was so strong, despite the lack of costume and context, you would know exactly who he was playing. It was a stunning performance.

The next stand out performance to me came even before it was performed. When I saw the words ‘Megan Lapper Memory- CATS’ in the programme. I might have had a little heart attack. It’s a very ambitious song to sing, even for the most trained singers. Although I have never seen the show Cats, ‘Memory’ is an iconic musical theatre song, my Mam’s favourite and my eldest cat is named after the character who sings it. Yes, my cat is called Grizabella. I couldn’t help by feel Megan had given herself a massive challenge… Challenge? She flew through the song with so much ease, a powerful belt and an amazing outfit on a tiger print variety in homage to the show. 

In addition, another song that really stood out to me as very ambitious to sing was ‘Rose’s Turn’ from the musical Gypsy. However, Megan Keaveny Brough the house down with her performance both vocally and physically.

3rd Place was given to Bryon-Rose Brookman for her portrayal of ‘Lost in The Brass’ from Band Geeks. 

2nd Place went to Megan Lapper for ‘Memory’ from Cats.

1st Place went to Serafina Bird for ‘Wait a Bit’ from Just So.

Overall Thoughts…

Although I have not mentioned each competitor by name in this post, doesn’t mean I didn’t appreciate and enjoy each and every performance. I can see them all standing on all the West End stages, leading the shows. I can guarantee everyone that I see that the future of the West End is in safe hands.

In addition, it’s so nice that there is a competition like this out there for aspiring performers, I wish I had known about West End calling when I was an aspiring performer because I would have applied for it, and got all of my friends in musical theatre to have done so as well! 

I can’t help but feel incredibly lucky that Alex was kind enough to invite us. The work that he is doing for these aspiring performers is astonishing. I really can’t thank him enough Even a week later finshing up this blog, I can’t help but feel incredibly lucky seeing the names of future West End shows performing in front of my very eyes, already trained to perfection, so in a few years time, they’re going to be unstoppable!

I you would like to get involved in West End Calling 2020, auditions for entry are now open. Please check out http://www.westendcalling.co.uk for more information. And for all I know, I might see one (or a few) of you there next year…

Written By: Sophie Reed @misssjreed_

REVIEW: The Hired Man @ Queens Theatre, Hornchurch

Written By Charlotte White

‘A serious musical about ordinary people’ says the show’s composer Howard Goodall and it is a fitting description of Melvyn Braggs ‘The Hired Man’. Set in Cumbria 1898, it tells the story of a young newly wed couple and their journey as they set off to the countryside after John gets hired to work on the land. He is an extremely hard worker but when he decides to go away and let loose for a couple of nights hunting with his brother, things start to unravel back home. The second act then brings us a few years on and we see how their live have changed over time and the world is thrust in to chaos as the men go off to fight in the First World War.

The direction by Douglas Rintoul suited the tone of the show as it was quite a stripped back open set which allowed us to truly engage with the characters and give us more of a feel for the time it was set. He assembled an extremely talented group of Actor-Musicians with the instruments doubling up as animals and farming equipment!

A stand out for me was Oliver Hembroughs performance as John. His development of the character as the show went on was highly emotional to watch along with his superb vocal talent. Beside him was his wife Emily portrayed by Lauryn Redding who gave a raw and extremely heart felt performance. Lara Lewis and James William- Pattison were spirited and exuberant as May and Harry. A joyous portrayal was given by Lucy Keirl as Sally, her along with Lewis and William-Pattison gave a certain lightness to the production. It was a pleasure watching Samuel Martin as Isaac thanks to his likeable, mostly cheery character and Martin pulled this off perfectly.

 

 

The general tone of the show takes many different turns and there is definitely a different feel between the first and second act as to start with we see their marriage just beginning and the struggle of general day to day life alongside a tricky romantic situation. With the second act their lives are affected by prominent historical eras like the War and the mining issues.

Goodalls score is a great accompaniment to the drama of the story line as it has a combination of folky charm and elegant dramatic melodies which have a large possibility of staying in your head long after you leave the theatre.

A classic musical from 1984 revived in a loveable, enjoyable and charming way.

4stars

The Hired Man is running at the Queens Theatre Hornchurch until the 18th May after which it will move on to Hull Truck Theatre (23rd May- 15th June) and Oldham Coliseum Theatre (20th June- 6th July).

 

 

 

Review: Holy Day @ New Ohio Theatre, New York

reviewed by Annie Zeleznikow

This gritty and dark show depicts the outback of Australia in the 1850s. European settlers are beginning to inhabit more of the countryside, and this painfully truthful depiction of life during that era follows the story of 3 traveling men as they reach a small town. Nora (Leah Gabriel) facilitates the story as the innkeeper for the locus point of the show. Contrasting the Irish Nora, Linda (Chenoa Deemal) is painfully underused as an indigenous Australian woman who appears to know more than she lets on.

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The show is brought to life with the beautiful set (designed by Marisa Kaugars) that is able to seamlessly incorporate the extended red plains of the outback and the dusty and rocky terrain of a small town. The painted walls pull in the audience to this new and emerging Australia that has just begun to form and shape its identity.

This strange sort of authenticity found far from Australia was eerily familiar and reassuring to me as an Australian abroad. I was overwhelmed with nostalgia and homesickness as I watched convicts’ hike across the outback, and I could smell the country air as different characters bathed in a river. The combination of sound, colour, and staging brought Australia to life in downtown New York City.

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This violently truthful show holds no bars when dealing with the challenges that its characters face. The tension between the white European settlers and the indigenous Australian population is a central point of the show, as one character powerfully stated: “it’s a war, them or us and they know how to fight it”.  These challenging and complex characters develop through bizarre and frightening story telling. Despite this, there are moments in the show when the powerful story is overshadowed by wordy storytelling.

This haunting play highlights the genuine cruelty and unrelenting assault on indigenous Australians. The truthfulness of this play continuously presents an exhibition of needless cruelty that is indicative of the birth of modern Australia. The story’s crest weighs on the real harm that Australia has done to its native population, and finds honest pain in stressing the damage we have done to our country.

Although at times lengthy, this show proved that home is what we make of our surroundings. Home is what influences where we live, and who we allow into that space. This dark and graphic show lays foundation for excellent discussion and reflection. We must look at our actions and behaviours, see how we influence and impact others, and take responsibility for the consequences.

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Holy Day is running until the 24th of March. Tickets are available here.

 

 

Nathan’s TOP 10 SHOWS of 2018!

Written by Nathan Deane

This year I saw a lot of theatre. In all honesty, 2018 was a brilliant year for theatre, and I though I’d round up my year with my top 10 shows of the year!

Read my top 10 of shows from 2017 here.

10: Hamilton

Victoria Palace Theatre, London

Hamilton

I first saw Hamilton way back in January, a month after it officially opened in London, to mixed emotions. Yes, what was presented in front of me was beautifully written and staged, but I felt a tinge of disappointment as I felt it didn’t live up to the hype. It wasn’t until a month later when I saw it again, that I understood Hamilton for what it truly is: a magnificent work of art. I have visited Hamilton since, and it just gets better each time. Give into the hype and give Hamilton a go, I’m sure you won’t regret it.

9: It Happened In Key West

Charing Cross Theatre, London

key west

As Count Carl Von Cosel sings in It Happened In Key West, “I promise you my undying love…”. IHIKW was a romantic, macabre musical comedy focusing around the story of Carl Von Cosel and the love of his life, Elena Hoyos, as she succumbs to tuberculosis, and the relentless effort of Cosel to bring her back to life. It’s such a shame that this show didn’t release the cast recording it announced, but the show will live on in my heart.

Read my five star review of It Happened In Key West here!

8: Once

Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch

Once

I might be a little bit late to the Once train. I had to wait all this time to finally see it, and boy it didn’t disappoint. The production I saw at the Queen’s Theatre in Hornchurch was gorgeous, the intimate venue really suited the minimal style of the show. The cast were sensational, and the show left me sobbing as it ended. Let’s just say that Gold will be playing in my head for years to come.

7: Pippin

Southwark Playhouse, London

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A revival of Schwartz’s larger-than-life circus musical in one of London’s small fringe venues? Seems like a difficult task. However, it was pulled off beautifully and it payed off, as the run sold out fairly quickly. I was lucky enough to score two sets of tickets, so I could enjoy this beautiful show more than once. Once again, it was my first experience seeing Pippin, and I was enthralled from start to finish. A glorious production at the Southwark Playhouse.

6: The Jungle

The Playhouse, London

the jungle

Set in the real life Calais Jungle, a migrant and refugee camp in France, The Jungle tells the story of refugees and volunteers within the Jungle, all from different walks of life. A heart-wrenching and honest portrayal of life within the Calais Jungle, this production transformed the Playhouse Theatre to a mini Jungle within the theatre, immersing audiences as they watched the play and were served fresh naan, curry and chai tea. A beautiful and vital play that is now performing Off-Broadway.

5: Brief Encounter

Empire Cinema, London

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A truly captivating production taken away from London audiences too soon, Brief Encounter finished it’s run at the Empire Cinema on the Haymarket months too early. The story is based on the classic Noel Coward film, Brief Encounter, which is, in turn, based on the Noel Coward play, Still Life. This musical adaptation by Emma Rice and featuring songs from the Noel Coward archive was truly a feast for the eyes and ears, as the likes of Jos Slovick and Beverly Rudd serenaded each other and pranced around the stage in this gorgeous fusion of film and theatre.

4: Seussical

Southwark Playhouse, London

seussical

I’ve always been a Dr Seuss fan, and so seeing the marvellous Seussian universe come to life this Christmas at the Southwark Playhouse was truly a dream come true. Featuring performances from the likes of Mark Pickering and Scott Paige among this cast of musical theatre royalty, this hardly-revived musical captures the hearts of all that watch, from young children to the older generations, and inspires them to think that anything’s possible.

3: Six

Arts Theatre, London

six

This show, a concert re-telling of Tudor history, mainly the six wives of Henry VIII, has gripped audiences all over the country, and it’s easy to see why. Seeing the “queens” perform (divorced, beheaded-) live in front of your eyes with a wonderful pop score is truly a spectacle that everyone can enjoy.

Read Charlie’s review of Six The Musical here.

2: The Inheritance

Noel Coward Theatre, London

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A life-affirming two-part play transferred from the Young Vic to London’s West End, The Inheritance tells the story of a group of gay men who are telling their own story inspired by E.M Forster’s Howards End. An emotional, heart-warming drama showing the harsh realities of living with HIV/AIDS, this is a vital piece of theatre that everyone should see at least once.

1: Mythic

Charing Cross Theatre, London

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Greek mythology is always extremely interesting, and this updated version of the myth of Persephone and Hades captured my heart and practically every other heart that saw this show. A short 90 minute feast for the eyes and ears, this pop, rock, and even a hint of hip hop musical extended in London but closed a week earlier than expected. Good thing, though, that there’s a cast recording and it’s available for pre-order from Broadway Records now! Hopefully this wasn’t the last that London audiences have heard (and seen) of Mythic, as the world deserves to see this funny, heart-warming show.

Honorable Mentions:

The Ferryman (Gielgud Theatre), Instructions for Correct Assembly (Royal Court), Company (Gielgud Theatre), Billionaire Boy (Nuffield Southampton Theatres, City), Trainspotting LIVE (The Vaults), The Country Wife (Chichester Festival Theatre, Minerva) 

Charlie’s top 10 shows of 2018

Written By Charlotte White

2018 has been quite a year for theatre! After moving to London this year, I’ve been able to see some fantastic shows whether they’re classics but new to me or brand new theatre all together. As predicted, it’s been extremely difficult to rank them but I’ve given it a go!

Unexpected Joy- One of Aria Ents many shows of 2018, this was a last minute decision for me and I was definitely not disappointed. Such a beautiful feel good show with a heart warming story and characters.

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Quiz- This was an unexpected one for me. I didn’t know that much about the event it’s based on before hand but I was pleasantly surprised. The ending really makes you think and I was genuinely gripped from start to finish. I like how they had some comedy and interaction with the audience as well as the drama, I feel the combination worked well.

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Little Shop of Horrors- I had only seen an amateur version of this previously so was intrigued to see what this would be like. I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it. Easy watching and really fun, energetic ending.  I had never been to the Regents Park Open Air Theatre before and it’s such a lovely venue, although I think the nice weather definitely helped.

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Ruthless- A young child wanting to be a star and will do anything to get there. Such a funny well thought out show. Our young lead was out standing as was her mother and Jason Gardiner played his role brilliantly.

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Cursed Child- If you like Harry Potter even a little bit, I would highly recommend this. I was initially a bit concerned that I wasn’t going to be enough of a fan to be able to appreciate but luckily I was proved wrong. This show has phenomenal effects and is a true spectacle to behold.

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Hamilton- We all know the hype surrounding Hamilton, but personally I believe it is quite deserving of the buzz. Out of everything I’ve been lucky enough to watch Hamilton is truly a unique piece of theatre unlike any other. The cast are amazing, the score is fantastic and the show moves with such an elegant flow, there was not a flaw to be seen.

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Everybody’s talking about Jamie- This is a magical show with such an inspirational storyline and sensational score. The leading man John McCrea is honestly as joy to watch and is so vibrant and raw in his interpretation.  Quite a modern show with a very different feel to some of the classics but if you’re looking for something new I would certainly point you in the direction of Jamie.

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Mythic- This was the surprise hit of the year for me! A tale of the Greek gods following the story of Persephone, which a fair few of us are already familiar with. A brand new show with original music, the songs were so catchy and the cast were so talented. I liked how it combined an ancient tale with a modern rock style twist. Loved this show so much!

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Heathers- I had heard of this show before but didn’t know much about it until I saw it for the first time at the Other Palace. Admittedly, as soon as curtain call ended after that first time, I knew this wasn’t the end of Heathers for me and I was inevitably converted in to a bit of a ‘corn nut’.  The storyline in combination with the great soundtrack had me hooked.

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Six- From the talented new writers Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss, Six combined my two loved of the Tudors and Musical Theatre so I knew I was going to like it. What I didn’t quite anticipate was how much I was going to like it. Such a clever well thought out production with every single song sounding like it could be a hit in the charts and a cast of six incredibly talented girls accompanied by an insane all girl band. It has come so far this year and I can’t wait to see what happens with this show in 2019. I’m sure I’ll be visiting it again at the Art when it comes in January until May next year.

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Review: Briefs:Close Encounters @ Leicester Square Spiegeltent

Reviewed by Charlotte White

Prepare to board the mothership and lift off as the Briefs boys are back from the future to send us a message we all need to hear…the future is more than bright and everything will be let’s say ‘fluffing’ fine. A night full of talent, laughter and whole lot of bare cheek.

If you’ve never seen Briefs before let me tell you it’s everything you want in a drag boylesque show and more! If you think it’s all strip teases and lip syncing you’d be wrong…these boys have so many other talents! Expect to be shook as they jump and flip across the stage before juggling, hula hooping and demonstrating some serious aerial skills.

The show was lead and directed by the fabulous Shivannah aka Fez Fa’anana and he brought the house down with his incredible sass and wit. He definitely knew how to get the audience going and kept us engaged throughout the performance. Ru Paul eat your heart out.

Some jaw dropping Aerial tricks were done by Captain Kidd and Thomas Worrell who span at dizzying speeds up in the air. Not only that, but Captain Kidd proved his hips don’t lie hula hooping several luminous hoops around his body seemingly effortlessly.

We saw…rather a lot of all the guys, but particularly Louis Biggs. He showed he can juggle an impressive amount of balls (juggling balls!) and without dropping any! Being the youngest, he stood out but also his performance was amazing to watch.

Harry Clayton-Wright performed a hilarious comedic dance duet with Brett Rosengreen who did a fantastic job of lifting Harry (dressed as the female) above his head. The facial expressions and emotion from Harry managed to portray a story in a comedic fashion which got the whole audience laughing and following along with them. Brett also had a solo which delivered a special message as each layer of clothing came off, a very powerful routine.

During the show a certain rabbit by the name of Dale Woodbridge-Brown would pop up and performed his special magic trick of making alarm clocks stop ringing. This develops in to a full out acrobatic dance number which incorporated the alarm clocks and he was definitely getting in to it giving a lively and animated performance with a lot of laughs.

 

 

You could certainly tell the audience were enjoying it and that there were some fans in the audience who were clearly familiar with Briefs. In fact the person I was sat next to explained this was his third visit. In all honesty I can see why it has such a following.

The lighting by Paul Lim and music by Busty Beatz set the tone of the show perfectly and really added to the spectacle of it.

Think Ru Paul meets Cirque du Soleil. Briefs: Close Encounters is a futuristic drag circus extravaganza with something to entertain everyone. If the future really is like this, there’s hope for us yet.

Catch Briefs: Close Encounters now at Leicester Square Spiegeltent until 3rd Jan 2019. Click here for information and tickets

 

4stars

REVIEW: Hadestown @ National Theatre, Olivier

Reviewed by Nathan Deane

2018 has been the year for musicals based on Greek mythology in London, with Myth at The Other Palace earlier this year, Mythic at the Charing Cross theatre currently, then Orpheus at the Battersea Arts Centre next month, and now Hadestown at the Olivier Theatre.

Currently appearing in London’s National Theatre autumn season before transferring to Broadway, Hadestown is a musical re-telling of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, a myth that already has a fair share of theatre adaptions, and Hadestown is nothing like those.

Anaïs Mitchell, who penned all book, music and lyrics, provides a lush folk score that 7 on-stage musicians play throughout the show. Mitchell’s lyrics and book, however, are a major weakness to the piece. Both feel repetitive and boring, and would be extremely confusing if you weren’t already familiar with the myth. At times, the book felt like it was trying to drag out the myth to be as long as possible. I can’t even really remember what happened in act one.

The direction by Rachel Chavkin and choreography by David Neumann was inventive, yet minimalist and intricate. In fact, Neumann’s choreography really livened up moments in act one and the opening of act two.

The cast did well with what they had to work with. Reeve Carney as Orpheus was a stand out performance, despite having very little to do within act one. I mean, for a musical about Orpheus, there was a distinct lack of Orpheus. His act one solo, Wait For Me, was a highlight. Eva Noblezada as Eurydice provided gorgeous vocals, and worked well with what seemed to be a very under-developed and flat version of Eurydice.  Amber Gray as Persephone was incredible, with probably the best performance all evening. Her vocals and acting were wonderful, and she really brought some energy to the piece within her numbers Livin’ It Up On Top and Our Lady of the Underground.

I also enjoyed costume and lighting, designed by Michael Krass and Bradley King, respectively. Krass’ costumes were at times beautiful and bright with the character of Persephone, and yet they were simple and effective with Orpheus and Eurydice. King’s lighting was wonderful, once again often simple but helped to show setting and brighten up the mood and atmosphere of the piece.

Despite a boring, dragged out book and confusing and repetitive lyrics, Hadestown boasts a lush score with stellar performances and a gorgeous design.

3-stars

 

 

 

Review: R+J @ Access Theatre, NYC

Reviewed by Annie Zeleznikow

In this modern retelling of a classic story where men are nowhere in sight. There is a museum of sorts that explains why men disappeared. But the focus of this play is on the women, so that’s what I’ll do too. The set of R+J can be described as industrial and hazardous (designed by Marisa Kaugars). Large sheets of metal are the backdrop of the scene and surround the entire performance area. The aggressive set was an accurate location for this retelling, filled with anger and passion, it is hard to imagine this version of R+J in a set any less dynamic. The warlike set is reflected in the conflict ready direction of the play.

R (Charlie Aleman) is charismatic. The show revolves around R, and they provide a strong emotional foundation for a show that at sometimes is frantic. Benvolio (Chelsea Fryer) and Mercutio (Ania Upstill) banter with R with ease, an emotional bond is clear, as the actors move forward with the plot. Perhaps I am placing my ideas of femineity on the actors and seeing traditionally male characters as more emotional because they are being portrayed by female presenting individuals. Each thought and conclusion I made during the show has me second guessing my biases.

R+J holding eachother.jpg

R+J’s costume design (designed by Lux Haac) deepens the dark nature of the play, and the set forces the audience to imagine a different world. The inherit masculinity in the black and camouflage costumes contrasts the femininity exhibited from the actors. Even traditionally female characters, such as J (Briana Sakamoto) are shrouded in black. Although her mesh shirt exuded female energy. On the other hand, the low cost but high intellect of the set creates an entirely masculine world. The Reflective properties of the metal sheets double the cast and the audience- eerily reflecting our confused and shocked expressions back onto ourselves.

My preconceived ideas lessen lust in a gay relationship, I was shocked when I found myself surprised that two female presenting individuals could be as lustful as R and J. My idea of the traditional play, my understanding of lust and sexual desire, had been dictated by societal norms. The kissing scenes and sex scenes in this production felt so strange to me because I hadn’t thought that queer love could descend into the same single-minded lust and passion that I have come to expect in a straight couple. I think subconsciously I had made assumptions, most that non-heteronormative relationships were lustless, or less lustful. I was tested by R + J and found wanting.

Shakespeares’ sex jokes feel weird, female-presenting individuals are talking about how hard their dicks are, and how they want to sleep with different women. The jokes become poignant. A reminder of how ridiculous and segregated our genders are. It seemed bizarre for a woman to make a joke, but it was just funny (to me) in other Romeo and Juliet productions. I think this is one of the many reasons this production is so revolutionary and relevant, it highlights internal sexism and forces me to confront my prejudices. These differences are mirrored in my response to the violence in the show. It feels overly violent, and I wondered while watching, would I have felt that way if it were two male presenting individuals fighting to the death?

It feels strange for J to wait for R to take action. In this retelling, there is no fairer sex, but J still waits. In previous shows I have seen it felt natural, Romeo will go organize the wedding while Juliet waits. But when there are two female presenting individuals, why should one wait for the other to take action? They are equal. I am mortified at myself, and my complacency. The power imbalance between Romeo and Juliet in classic telling’s of the show are increasingly obvious as I watch the classic story unfurl.

At the top of Act II the show began to drag a little. This does happen (in my opinion) in almost all Shakespeare plays, so it wasn’t too outside the ordinary. What was strange and unique to this production was the confusion caused by actors playing multiple roles, sometimes in the same scene. That was truly one of the most confusing aspects of the show.

R crying seems too feminine for the character as portrayed by a female presenting actor, and again this show puts my own notions of gender to shame, as I am faced with my deeply innate response to men crying, which is to perceive them as weak. R is described as “a child and a beast” and this stood out to me. During R + J, I was faced with a lot of confrontational ideas and this line stood out to me as powerful as it was a strong and reasonable way to define a man, but not a woman.

When J is found ‘dead’, there is a single light that follows her. J is found by R, and the long soliloquy begins. I never thought about how truly toxic R’s masculinity is until a gender non-conforming individual portrayed him and he was so clearly made to look ridiculous through his bravado and self-imposed masculinity. R takes the poison and violently throws up. My response to this was that it was accurate yet entirely melodramatic. J’s demise is powerful, touching and modern. The drama feels accurate to the text, and to Shakespeare, but with a female presenting individual in the role, it felt over the top.

I have seen countless retellings of this story, but never before have I been so surprised by my response to this well-known and well-loved story. I was moved, angered, and made to question myself throughout the show. Although confronting this show is worth seeing. It might not be what you want to hear, nobody likes discovering dark and ugly things about themselves. But I feel this show justly deserves a receptive audience.

4stars