Is Theatre A Dying Art Form?

Written by Sophie Reed

Earlier this week an article written by Stuart Heritage caused anger throughout the musical theatre community. The article was in response to the announcement of the cast of BBC’s 6 Part version of Les Misérables. Heritage said he was thankful for the BBC for the adaptation of Victor Hugo’s novel that doesn’t have the ‘annoying singing.’ The most dreaded line was ‘theatre is a dying art form.’ This statement shocked and angered actors and fans alike, even I had a few words to say about it. This is what encouraged me to write this. There is so much you can write about it, you can’t fit it into a single tweet, or a thread.

There was a time, I believe, when it could be argued that theatre was a dying art form. Where musicals on the West End and Broadway were barely lasting a year. If I were to put a date on the most recent decline, it was probably around mid to late 2000’s. Maybe it’s because the shows weren’t good quality, or maybe even that audiences weren’t interested in seeing shows at the time. Right now, the West End is solid. We have shows that are staying because of the popularity with the audience. I can name loads off the top of my head: The Lion King, Wicked, Phantom of the Opera, Thriller, Les Misérables, Kinky Boots.

The dedication of the fans makes all the difference. Especially when the musicals have been on the West End for a long time. I’m taking from my own personal experience here. Although I had seen musicals before then, the musical that made me fall truly and deeply in love with musicals was Phantom of the Opera. My mum is a big fan of the musical and even saw the Original Cast 7 times! Seeing the show justified why she was so captivated by it. Because My Mum was in her late teens/early twenties when these ALW and B&S musicals came out, like so many people, their children grew up with the songs and now we have a whole new generation of fans who have now grown up and now seeing shows.

I really think I can’t do this post without talking about Hamilton. It took the world by storm and interested people that wouldn’t listen to musicals and because they like Hamilton, they listen to other musicals. Hamilton has brought in more people into the community. Also, how can you say Theatre is dead when Hamilton is sold out until May? Like, seriously?!

Original Broadway Cast

Hamilton

It’s not just musicals, The Mousetrap, The Woman in Black, The Play That Goes Wrong. All Plays that have been running on the West End for more than a couple of years. The Mousetrap is the West End’s longest-running show. Yes, plays don’t usually have a long run, but there still are some that stick. Even The Ferryman, which opened last year is doing amazingly well!

Yes, the recorded performances and film adaptations have probably stopped people from seeing the stage show, however, there is nothing like the exhilarating thrill of live theatre. The film sometimes encourages people to see the show live, because the film will always be different to the musical.

I wanted to write a response to this statement because it made me really think about my degree. I’m studying Film and Screen Media. This degree doesn’t just teach me about Film and the Media as a whole, but question it. Even though I’m looking forward to the adaptation of Les Misérables and I do watch live broadcast television, it can be argued that live television is a dying art form. Everything is going online, Netflix, Amazon Prime, IPlayer. People don’t want to sit in front of a television and watch normal TV.

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Charlie’s Top 10 Shows of 2017! 

By Charlie White

So this year I have been lucky enough to see some incredible shows and trying to rank them  has been one of the toughest decisions ever! But here we go, my top 10 shows of this year are…

10: The Wild Party

The Other Palace

A rather adult themed show involving a group of people in the 1920s throwing a party which got a bit out of control (to put it lightly). I think the general concept was good and the people were great, just didn’t really have enough substance for me.

9: Priscilla Queen of the Desert

Courtyard Theatre, Hereford

A fun loving heart warming story which tells the tale of drag queens making there way across australia to perform their act. But for one of them, there’s a slightly more personal motif for heading on the road. Even though this was just an amateur production, the talent was amazing and it was such a fun show with all the cheesy hits you know and love.

8: The Wedding Singer

Touring

I managed to see this on tour with the wonderful Jon Robyns playing ‘casualty of love’ wedding singer Robbie Hart who gets his heart broken on his wedding day. He then meets a certain young woman who might just be able to fix it…whilst helping to plan her wedding! Classic 80s vibes and really enjoyable show (plus Jon Robyns is super talented and hilarious in this role).

 7: Mamma Mia

Novello Theatre

Using the great well known Music of Abba, this show takes us on a journey to a Greek island where a young girl is about to be married, but before she does , she wants her father to walk her down the aisle. The problem is, she has invited all 3 possible dads! Great night out with all the Abba hits and loveable characters with a heart warming story.

 6: Aladdin

Prince Edward Theatre

The classic Disney tale of the diamond in the rough who goes from ‘street rat’ to Prince Ali and shows Princess Jasmine a whole new world whilst trying to stop the evil doings of the royal advisor, Jafar. Great show stopping numbers like Friend Like Me, this is a perfect pick for the younger ones.

 5: 42nd Street 

Theatre Royal Drury Lane

With the biggest cast in the West End, 42nd street is a spectacle of dancing feet as they try to get to Broadway but with the leading lady Injured, can they convince newbie Peggy Saywer to step in and wow the audience. The sheer size of this cast makes it very impressive with toe tapping numbers like lullaby of Broadway, it’s a definite crowd pleaser.

 4: Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour

Duke of York’s theatre

When a group of young Scottish girls go to Edinburgh for a choir competition, they decide to see what sort of trouble they can get up to (the answer is quite a lot). But whilst beautifully singing classic songs from ELO, we see how each of the girls find themselves as we witness this journey of discovery. The music was a great accompaniment to the story and the harmonies were spot on!

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 3: Half A Sixpence 

Noel Coward Theatre 

Years after Arthur Kipps leaves his childhood sweetheart to work selling haberdashery, his life changes when he discovers he’s come in to a large amount of money. Living the life of luxury, he courts a fine young lady from a wealthy family. However, when he is reunited with his childhood sweetheart, he wonders if he’s made a mistake. I actually thoroughly enjoyed this show, Charlie Kemp really does shine and the energy in this show is fabulous!

 2: The Toxic Avenger 

Arts Theatre 

A town called Tromaville in the state of New Jersey has a new smell in town..it’s giant vats of toxic nuclear waste! So who will save New Jersey? Melvin ferd the third! After being tossed in to the nuclear waste, he came out a ‘big green freak’ but luckily he’s in love with a visually impaired librarian (thank God she’s blind!) and he uses his new found powers to save the town from Jersey girl mayor Belgoody and the toxic nuclear waste. This show was so hilarious my cheeks actually ached from smiling and laughing so much and David Bryant did a fantastic job with the soundtrack.  Click here to read our full review of The Toxic Avenger!

 1: Lizzie the Musical

Greenwich Theatre

The infamous story of Lizzie Borden and the unfortunate death of her father and step mother told in unique way. With a cast of just 4 incredibly talented women, a fantastic rock score goes alongside this gothic mystery based on a true case of what might have happened in the House of Borden. I have to admit I was a bit unsure when I first went to see it but by the end I absolutely fell in love with it. The girls rocked it with insane voices,  a unique story and it’s such a shame it didn’t get a longer run. Click here to read our full review of Lizzie The Musical!

Nathan’s TOP 10 SHOWS of 2017!

By Nathan Deane

Ah, yes. The time has come for us to look back on what we saw in 2017 and put together our top 10 of the shows we saw.  I’ve been working on mine for the past week, and now I’ve seen my last new piece of theatre for the year, here’s my top 10!

10: tick, tick…BOOM!

Park Theatre

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“tick, tick…BOOM!” is Johnathan Larson’s autobiographical musical, often overshadowed in the success of his other musical, Rent. The production was directed by Bronagh Lagan, produced by Aria Entertainment and Joe C Brown, and starred Chris Jenkins, Gillian Saker and Jordan Shaw. This production was immersive, minimal and wonderful. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.

9: Bananaman: The Musical

Southwark Playhouse

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Based on the comic strip and animated TV series, Bananaman tells the story of Eric Wimp, an average schoolboy, who turns into a superhero (the titular Bananaman) whenever he eats a banana. Directed by Mark Perry, produced by Sightline Entertainment and starring a large cast, the show is brand new for 2017 and was an extremely fun, camp and silly night out.

8: Hair

The Vaults

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Back for it’s 50th anniversary, Hair tells the tale of a tribe of hippies in New York’s Central Park. This production was fresh, vibrant and extremely fun. Read my full review of Hair here.

7: Lady Day At Emmerson’s Bar and Grill

Wyndham’s Theatre

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Starring the incomparable Audra McDonald, Lady Day shows us one of Billie Holiday’s very last concerts before her death in the 60’s. The show is painfully beautiful, and Audra’s performance as Billie Holiday was truly spectacular. The play made me cry, laugh and feel many different emotions. I was lucky to have been able to see the show twice.

6: Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

Apollo Theatre

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One of London’s newest musicals, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie tells the true story of Jamie, a 16 year old boy who wants to be a drag queen and go to prom in a dress. The story was relatable, emotional and often funny. John McCrea is a real star in the making, and Dan Gillespie-Sells’ music is catchy and modern.

5: The Toxic Avenger

The Arts Theatre

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Taking the mick out of superhero movies is a tricky game, but The Toxic Avenger does exactly that. And it’s hilarious. Read my full review of The Toxic Avenger HERE!

4: The Wild Party

The Other Palace

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Gin, skin, sin and fun are four words to describe this devilishly delightful show. This show was sexy, emotional and…wild. The cast were sensational, and Michael John LaChiusa’s music is terrific. It tells the story of Queenie and Burrs, two love-birds stuck in a relationship going nowhere. To spice things up a bit, they throw a party fuelled by bathtub gin, sex, and cocaine. It also features themes like murder, racism, and various other things…some worse than others.

3: Pinocchio

The National Theatre

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Colourful, wonderful, and magical. This show can brighten even the darkest winters. Read my full review of Pinocchio HERE!

2: Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour

Duke of York Theatre

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What happens when 6 Scottish schoolgirls go out on the town in Edinburgh before the nation’s biggest choir competition? Well, that’s what Our Ladies is all about. The fiery cast of 6 girls backed by a 3 piece band, singing songs ranging from Mendelssohn to ELO made hairs stand on end. The story is wonderful, it’s not just about girls getting wasted, it’s about discovering yourself in your teenage years. And that’s a tricky thing to get right, but Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour did it beautifully.

1: Lizzie

Greenwich Theatre

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4 women singing killer rock and roll songs in tight leather whilst telling the story of American murderess Lizzie Borden? Sounds epic. And this show was epic. Only playing 20 performances means only a small handful of people got to experience this fierce production. Let’s hope it gets a revival soon! Read my full review of Lizzie HERE!

REVIEW: Mad On Her @ Above The Arts Theatre, London

Reviewed by Rhiannon Templeman-Horton

An 80s Jukebox musical sounded like it would be a great night, so I decided to give ‘Mad On Her’ at the Arts Theatre, a go.

Mad On Her is based on a range of 80s songs, where a man falls desperately in love with a girl on a night out at Lynn’s Bar. His then fiancé Cindi appears to ruin things for Donna, a fashion designer wannabe.

I would say that there are a few tweaks for this show, as it’s their first performance at this location, but after seeing the show, I learnt that they had already done a run on the Fringe and in Manchester, and people have picked up on the same things.

From the very beginning of the show, a lot of things went wrong. A mic was dropped, and although one actor remained in character to pick up the mic and give it back to the one who dropped it, the one who dropped it made it obvious that it was a mistake. The mics were an issue throughout the whole of the first act. I would usually understand this if the actors managed to carry on without the mics and project without breaking character, but this is something they didn’t manage to do. I feel that the mics were an unnecessary prop, and because of the small space, they could have worked without. They relied far too much on having a mic there, that they didn’t have strong enough voices when they weren’t working,

However, Laura Wilson who played Cindi, I would argue, saved the show. After feeling awkward through much of the first act, she came on with a very strong performance. She has an extremely powerful voice, that brought the house down, and although her acting was extremely over the top, it suited the character well and got a lot of laughs from the audience. She played the desperate ex-lover perfectly and added comedy to the show. Phoebe Rose White is also another actress that stood out with her performance. She made some strong acting decisions that made the show feel less awkward and uncomfortable.

The ensemble were all incredible dancers, but a critique I would make against the amount of dance they did is that it drowned out the main characters and made the story within the show a sideline. Also, due to the small space within The Arts Theatre Studio, I was nearly kicked multiple times in the face by one of the dancers, making me feel a little uncomfortable.

Something that added to the uncomfortable feeling I felt during the show, was the performance from James Colebrook as Rikki. He was given some very powerful songs, that he didn’t have a strong enough vocal ability to sing. He also only acted when he had dialogue so that when there was a pause, you are waiting for some action, as you see no response from him. This was similar to Sarah Watson who played the role of Donna, yet she was good at acting when she wasn’t distracted by the mic not working. She has a very strong voice in the higher range, but when she was in the lower end of her range, it sounded like her voice had lost all strength.

The characters were very forgettable, as they didn’t say the character’s names very clearly, so I ended up not knowing who the characters were, and what their relevance was to the show. There was a moment when Phoebe Rose White was singing to comfort Donna, but she was standing on the other side of the stage, barely lit, and this completely took you attention away from her and onto the 3 girls on the other side of the stage that were only sitting on the floor, and trying to comfort Donna. It would’ve been best if she was with the 3 girls on the other side of the stage and lit, to create a connection.

This show is not a show I’d recommend seeing, as I feel like the performances from the main cast were very dead, and the performances from the ensemble were so big that the main cast looked even worse.
3-stars
Mad On Her runs until the 3rd of December at the Above The Arts Theatre, within the Arts Theatre London. Tickets here.

 

 

 

Mad On Her! Is Back In The Heart of London

Feast your eyes upon the glamourous and glitzy cast of “Mad On Her” – 80s Jukebox musical, say Mad On Her fast- you’ll get the gimmick, Mad On Her is back after a successful short tour around the UK’s top Fringe venues including Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester, and is ready to take The Heart of London by storm.
Mad On Her will play Sundays in November and December at the Above The Arts Theatre, Leicester Square, from the 5th of November to the 3rd of December, and the line up is through the roof. (5th November is Sold Out!)

Mad On Her Principal Cast includes  Emmerdale’s Sweetheart Kelsey Beth Crossley, X Factor/ Loserville’s Sarah Watson, Jade Johnson (CBBC’s Worlds End), James Colebrook and West End Power-House Laura Wilson, joining them are Jordan Todd (BGT semi-finalist) Dani Acors (Jesus Christ Superstar) Brooke Havana Bailey (Billy Elliot) Simone Kite (Moulin Rouge) Sara Latif (BBC Bollywood), Emily Shuck, Hollie Steel and Phoebe Rose White (Rent).


Mad On Her – 80s Jukebox Musical takes you on a journey through all your favourite smash hits of this ‘Glamtastic’ decade. Get your Gladrags on and Glitter up as Donna and Tina party through the nightlife and drama of 1985.
Donna, ambitious and stylish, is climbing the ladder of success. Finding ‘Mr Right’ is the last thing on her mind – little does she know he could be just around the corner.
Tina, with her big hair and big heart, is the disco diva of the boulevard. As Donna’s best friend she sets out to play cupid. Step into the nostalgia of the neon lights and “Get ready to party the night away.”

Written, Produced and Directed by Ashley Luke Lloyd.
Co-produced by Sam Ohlsson for BlackDeer Productions and Co-Written by Koryann Stevens Delves.

Tickets from £16.

https://artstheatrewestend.co.uk/whats-on/mad-on-her—80s-jukebox-musical/

In Conversation with KATY LIPSON of ARIA ENTERTAINMENT

Interview lead by Nathan Deane

From Page To Stage is a London based musical theatre festival showcasing brand new musicals, featuring staged readings, concerts, snippets of new shows and one fully produced musical by Aria Entertainment. Click here to read more about FPTS on The Thespians Blog, and click here to read about the amazing cast at this years FPTS.

The Thespians Blog were invited along to an event at The Other Palace, marking the opening of the 5th year of FPTS. This included watching some amazing performances from the new Burt Bacharach and Steven Sater musical, Some Lovers (tickets here), which looks absolutely fantastic. We also got to watch a performance by Miiko Toiviainen from the new musical XY (tickets here), which also looks amazing.

Amongst watching the amazing performances, we got to sit down with the woman behind the festival, Katy Lipson. Katy is director of production company Aria Entertainment and has produced many fan favourites, including Lizzie, The Addams Family (UK Tour), and YANK! (Off-West End). 

From Page To Stage 2017 Launch

Steven Sater (book/lyrics – Some Lovers), Chloe Carrington (Dinostory and Chicken Little), Gemma Wardle (Some Lovers), Ben Richards (Some Lovers), Jenna Innes (Some Lovers), Aaron Kavanagh (Some Lovers), Gloria Onitiri (Showcase), Miiko Toiviainen (XY), Katy Lipson (Producer – From Page To Stage).

You’ve worked with Burt Bacharach before, you did Promises, Promises back in February, so what is it like working with Bacharach again but with a completely now show that’s never been produced?

Maybe I’m playing this too casual, but I guess I feel extremely lucky to be presenting in the same year, but a new musical that’s never been put on in this country and never had a production before in the US. He’s one of the most iconic living writers thanks to this 50 year career he’s had. The songs are amazing, they’re really, really beautiful. The sound is as commercial as some of his early hit songs. I’m just really keen to see that we get this show right and move this show on. I’m more focused on nailing it and getting it right, we all want it to be successful and we want people to connect with it. If Burt was coming over I guess I would be nervous about that performance, but he’s not coming over for this first performance but he will come over when we do the show for a full run with a press night. Steven Sater’s wonderful to work with, he’s a great book writer and lyricist, he wrote Spring Awakening which was a game changer for musical theatre and one of the shows that I love, and I feel just so incredibly lucky!

Promises, Promises has some iconic numbers like “Turkey Lurkey Time” which has iconic choreography and everyone knows it, is there going to be anything as iconic in Some Lovers?

I think you’ve got some hit songs in there in a different way. Turkey Lurkey was famous for being quirky but I think there are some hits in here because they’re stunning. We’ve got some hits like Say a Little Prayer and I’ll Never Fall In Love Again and I think the album will become a hit album, rather than a song. It is an album of love songs, and it’s very arty. I assume people will get lost in the music and love it!

 This is your fifth year doing FPTS, how has the festival changed each year?

I’ve become more ambitious and more savvy and my reputation is higher so each year more and more industry come, more  and more venues come, more and more work is submitted of higher standard, I reach out to more and more established writers as well. We wouldn’t have had a Burt Bacharach musical five years ago. I raise more and more money, get more recognition. We moved from The Landor Theatre from the first two years to the Tristan Bates Theatre and now we’re at The Other Palace so I’ve learnt a lot more. I’ve learnt more about who I want to collaborate with and what I want to get out of it. Whereas in years one and two I’m establishing a brand, something that people recognise as an investible festival, whereas now we’re  starting shows out on the right track.

You’re working with Paul Taylor-Mills, another producer, whilst you’re in The Other Palace, so how has that worked out?

So Paul and I didn’t actually work together. It’s just our festival. Andrew Lloyd-Webber invited us to The Other Palace and Paul saw the repertoire we are doing but we’re an outside company that are coming in and rent the theatre, but with Andrew’s support. We all want the same things, new musicals and a safe space for new musicals to flourish and to present them.

You’re a really innovative producer, you’ve got an iconic musical which is touring right now (The Addams Family), and you’ve done Lizzie which isn’t so traditional with a blistering rock score, you’ve done Burt Bacharach, he’s only written two shows and you’ve produced them both, and this year you’re doing Hair. It’s just been leaked that you’re selling tickets to a clothing-optional performance. How did that performance idea come about?

We were approached by a naturist group. They said “oh my god you’re doing Hair and in this intimate theatre, would you consider doing a clothing optional performance?” This group had been trying to get other theatres in Westminster to do it and they all said no but we said ‘why not?’ So we made a private link that you could only buy tickets for if you were sent. Somehow, it leaked out and so we told the press that we were offering this performance. Hair is a show about being liberated, it’s a show about free love, it’s a show about having a free sexuality, free with your identity, free with who you’re marrying, interracial marriage. It’s amazing. If you see Hair, you’re going to love it. So we’re doing it for one performance and if it’s successful,  we’ll do another it’s as simple as that!

Have you had a favourite musical you’ve produced?

I think a new musical I did called Return of the Soldier was very special because it was brand new and I really, really loved it. I’ve loved doing some of the cabarets I’ve done. Also Jerry’s Girls, the Jerry Herman musical. I absolutely adored putting one two of my biggest shows so The Addams Family and The Mystery of Edwin Drood, which I did in 2012. And also my latest show, The Toxic Avenger, which is absolutely mental. It’s so fun. Before Toxie (The Toxic Avenger) I didn’t do any comedy in my shows but to hear an audience erupt in laughter is an amazing feeling. My portfolio is so diverse like with YANK! which is an incredible show about the officers in the army falling in love and gay rights to Toxie which is completely un-PC and hilarious, then to The Addams Family which is a caricature of these iconic characters to Burt Bacharach. There’s no point of strategy, you gravitate towards pieces you love and they really take off and you think ‘Oh. Okay. I need to make room in my life now to make the most out of it.

 

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Hair at the Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester

I’d really love to thank Katy Lipson for sitting down and talking with me.

From Page To Stage festival runs until the 3rd of September 2017 at The Other Palace in London. For more information and tickets, click here. 

 

REVIEW: Soho at the Peacock Theatre

Reviewed by Zoe Rogers

On Wednesday May 10th I attended the press night of Soho at the Peacock Theatre in London. Soho is a mix of dance, gymnastics, and circus skills following a character through a day and night in Soho. The show features iconic areas and places such as Soho Square and China Town. The show was open to the general public as well as press and so mostly felt like attending a show as normal, with an added official photographer wandering around and a backdrop for photos to be taken against.

I had no idea what to expect from the show before it started, but as we entered the auditorium the sound of a tube creaking along was played, setting the audience up for the first scene. I thought this was a good introduction to the show, instead of having generic music playing. The first part of the show was set on a tube and as soon as it began I realised this was not your typical show. A hugely diverse cast with people from the UK to Australia graced the stage covered head to toe in colourful and exciting outfits. It was immediate to me that this show would be full of life, talent, and pizzazz.

Each performer had a specialist skill to add to the performance such as handstands, martial arts, and trapeze skills which meant that nothing seemed too similar to another part of the show. A highlight for me was Leah Wolff from Canada who’s talent was the aerial hoop. Whilst she performed in most of the other scenes, the scene in Madame Jojo’s where she was the focus point was absolutely astounding. All throughout the show I was wowed by the ability each performer had not only in their skill but in the other areas they featured in, and the way they brought their talent to the stage and made it theatrical and engaging to watch.

The two acts of the show were broken down into day time and night time, with each act being split further into certain activities for that time of day. During the show I realised that all the performers were taking on different roles within each section other than Alessio Motta who’s character stayed the same throughout as we followed him through 24 hours in Soho. Whilst I enjoyed the narrative and thought it was done in a clever way, it took me a few scenes to realise we were following him instead of each scene being unrelated. Each scene was really different and I found some more interesting than others based on the content of each one and the skills that were used. I really felt engaged in the Soho Streets scene in act 1 with all the different characters and their interactions with each other, however the following scene in the Gym was much less interesting for me as I felt it seemed much more simple and less vibrant than the previous scene.

Each scene was full of music, some specially composed by Peter Coyte for the show, and other music by popular artists. I thought this worked well as it meant every now and then you would recognise the song but it wasn’t so frequent that it was distracting. The coreography along to the music had been carefully planned out and to great success.

Overall, although I found some parts of the show less engaging than others, I thought it was a very clever, talented, and enjoyable show with a round narrative starting and ending on the tube. It was a very welcome change from my typical theatre visits and a great introduction to the world or circus skills and gymnastics on stage.

4stars

 

In Conversation with circus performer DANIEL ASH about his upcoming show “SOHO”

Interview lead by Charlie White

On Friday 5th May we were lucky enough to be able to get an interview with a cast member from the innovative new show Soho (at the Peacock Theatre until 20th May), Daniel Ash. In the show Daniel’s main number is a drag aerial act.

So how did you get involved with the show?

” I was doing a circus degree at the National Centre for Circus Arts. This time last year Stufish came to the school and worked with us in our second year to do a Workshop of the show. This is where we made the first version of the show which was 40 minutes then over the last six weeks we’ve been in France turning it in to an hour and half long show. I came in to circus quite late, I actually did a science degree first.”

So what got you in to the Circus then?

“Well I’ve always loved acting growing up but I always thought I should try and get a proper job. When I left Sheffield University and finished the degree I just wanted to follow my passion so I became an actor and I did a lord of the flies tour. Then I did a cabaret course at the Roundhouse for 18-25 year olds where I worked with Marisa Carneski. I also, in Soho did a stripper competition, so the combination of these two things got me in to cabaret and stripping so the last four years I’ve been on the cabaret scene with loads of different acts. I do quite a bit of drag as well, but then I saw circus cabaret show Limbo at London Wonderground and I watched the circus artists and I thought I want to do that so I started doing evening classes. Six months after that I auditioned for circus school and got in.”

So what is the main number that you’re involved with in the show?

“Throughout the show I’m a gym boy in the Gym scene and I’m in the Berwick Street Market scene but my main number is in Madam JoJo’s in the second half. It’s a really famous cabaret club that’s been going for years with Burlesque Dancers and it got closed recently because of gentrification. Quite a lot of gay places are being closed as well for the sake of building high rise flats or something. So yeah in Madam JoJo’s I play a drag queen and I do an aerial silks number to Etta James ‘I wanna make to love to you’. The training has been quite intense with the heals on the equipment it’s very tiring and the outfit is very elaborate. I have feathers on the shoulders and big blonde wig, and I have to do my make up in twenty minutes which is quite scary.”

Where do you see this show going in the future?

“I think Stufish are hoping to take this on a world tour, which will be amazing. I’ve always been really passionate about the show, like when Stufish came to the school it was obviously right up my street with the whole drag act.”

Did they scout you or did you have to audition?

“They held auditions recently but when they came to the school, they worked with our year for the workshop, but with this version they had to do auditions. So I was in the original but with this version I had to audition. It’s a really important show, though, because a lot of places like Soho and Hackney Wick, where I live, there’s a lot of stuff being knocked down, lots of flats, lots of clubs and places where I used to perform, a really iconic gay club in Vauxhall that shut down. Someone recently said to me “Soho used to be a real hub for the gay community” but it almost feels like the gays are less visible, if you know what I mean, because places are being shut down…I feel like this show is really important and a really important celebration of Soho. I worked with someone who told me that Soho was a great community for the gays, but Soho is a great mismatch of gays, straights, lesbians and queers so the show is a celebration and warning of “try not to kill off the culture” or “don’t get too much into capitalism”. We need to protect and celebrate districts like Soho.”

What, roughly, is the story of the show?

“The story follows a “Lost Man”, he’s from abroad and come to London and he gets lost in Soho. The beginning it’s this really big, spectacular opening. The audience is presented with a train heading towards them and there’s a big commuting scene with people flying through the air and it’s pretty mad.”

Why do you think people should come and see Soho?

“I think people should come and see Soho because there aren’t that many shows out there that will blow you away ten times in the space of an hour. Every scene, there’s a spectacle. There’s an amazing trapeze couple from Montreal. There’s me, a drag queen on silks. You’ll see things that are really amazing. It’ll blow your mind. It’s a wow a minute show. It’s like a cabaret, as well. There are so many acts in the space of an hour so it’s totally worth the money. The projections are amazing, also. It’s a beautiful piece to watch.”

Any words of advice for aspiring performers?

“Never give up on your dream. It’s never too late. People will tell you it’s too late, it’s not! I was sat in my sister’s car, age 24, I actually cried because I just started doing acrobatics and I couldn’t do a cartwheel. I thought “If I can’t do a cartwheel now, it’s too late.” I can do a cartwheel now! I can climb the silks! I can do flips and dangerous stuff. With the right training, you can do anything. I know someone who started circus aged 28 and they’re still going aged 45. Never give up! It’s a long road but i’ve been doing it for five years now and a lot of it is not a lot of money or long hours but it’s all worth it when it pays off. It’s better to be happy and have less money, definitely.”

The world premiere of SOHO – it’s not just a place, it’s a state of mind…..

SOHO – a thrill ride of circus, street and theatre performance re-creating the exciting, edgy and voyeuristic world of London’s Soho!

Saturday 6 May – Saturday 20 May 2017

THE PEACOCK Portugal St, London WC2A 2HT

Performances: Tuesday – Saturday at 7.30pm (no performances on a Monday)

Saturday matinee at 2.30pm (no matinee on 06/05/17)

Sunday performances at 2pm and 6pm

Tickets: £25 – £35

Ticket Office: 020 7863 8222 or www.peacocktheatre.com

REVIEW: The Life at Southwark Playhouse

Reviewed by Nathan Deane

This review may be slightly late, the show may have a few weeks left, BUT this is a show not to be missed.

The Life tells the story of the seedy underworld of New York City in the 80’s, most prominently it tells the story of Queen, a prostitute, and her failing relationship with ex-soldier Theodore. The songs are woven together by small sections of dialogue and acting.

The book, by David Newman, Ira Gasman and Cy Coleman (revisions by Michael Blakemore) doesn’t stand out at all in this piece. It’s a needed piece of the show, and the show couldn’t flow without it but it was just so dull. What does stand out about the piece are the songs. The music and lyrics, by Cy Coleman and Ira Gasman really express the characters in a very tasteful way, yet the music doesn’t take away from the energy of the gogo dancers, strippers and prostitutes.

The most memorable song from the piece was “My Body” which is sung by the prostitutes, Chi Chi, Sonja, Carmen, April, Tracy, and Queen, played by Jalisa Andrews, Sharon D. Clarke, Aisha Jawando, Charlotte Reavey, Lucinda Shaw and T’Shan Williams, respectively, about how their bodies are their own properties and how they choose to use it (in this case, selling it) is not anyone else’s business. I found this number extremely empowering and I’ve not heard prostitutes being talked about in such a positive way in musical theatre. I loved it.

The standout performance for me was T’Shan Williams as Queen. She played the role with such great emotion, and she made the most of what was, essentially, a bland script. Her vocals were seriously on point in all of her songs and I couldn’t fault her performance whatsoever.

The other awesome woman in this performance was Sharon D. Clarke as Sonja, an aging prostitute who realises “the life” isn’t what it used to be. Her vocals were sensational and she really made the part her own throughout the piece. She was comedic when she needed to be as well as serious during the darker moments of the show.

Cornell S. John played Memphis, a ruthless and brutal pimp to the ring of prostitutes. He was horrifying, and sitting front row I could really the tension on stage whenever he walked on. His vocals, again, were really something and he had the right mix of frighening and funny.

The choreography was another extremely strong part of the show. From the very beginning we’re introduced to the bustling streets of New York and the dancing was brilliant. Excellently choreographed by Tom Jackson-Graves, each little part of choreography was insanely detailed, from a shoe shine to a strip club.

Director Michael Blakemore returns to The Life after directing the show on Broadway way back in 1997. The direction was brilliant…from what we could see from it. The direction was really focused towards the front so anyone sat on one of the sides like we were usually gets the back of heads or sides of faces, however we could tell what the performers were doing because of their body language and that was an extremely strong point I felt throughout the whole show. Blakemore has directed them to have such amazing body language so that even when the character isn’t singing, dancing or saying anything you could tell exactly how they were feeling.

Overall, this show was brilliant. A little bit rough on the edges but it is very worthy of a West End transfer and if it doesn’t transfer they’ll be getting some very angry emails from me. Don’t miss this phenomenal show.

Nathan xoxo

The Life runs at Southwark Playhouse until 29th April 2017. 

REVIEW: Lizzie @ Greenwich Theatre

Reviewed by Nathan Deane & Jasmine White

The original Danish production of Lizzie opened to nothing but five star reviews – but does the show transfer well to British audiences?

Steven Cheslik-Demeyer, Alan Steven Hewitt and Tim Maner’s heavy rock musical is based on the real life case of Lizzie Borden – who is considered America’s first murderess. She was trialled and acquitted for the murders of her father and stepmother in their home in Fall River, Massachusetts. The musical explores Lizzie’s relationships with her sister, Emma Borden, her neighbour and supposed lover, Alice Russell, and her maid, Bridget Sullivan…and no-one else.

That’s right, not even her parents are characters in this show – there are only four women. And boy, do they kill it. Danish actress Bjørg Gamst plays Lizzie Borden herself and she does it perfectly, during the first act with the shy, sheltered girl and the second act as a killer in love with the attention she’s getting. Her first song, This Is Not Love, she sings about her relationship with her father, with very poignant lyrics, especially about how he “touches” his daughter. Lizzie breaks at the end of act one, ending with the brutal slaughter of her parents (excellently portrayed by two pumpkins stuffed with spaghetti and jam among other things). She plays the break down with such passion that those poor pumpkins are all over the front row by the end of the act. Her Danish accent is very noticeable but she brings it on board as part of the character, making it work.

US-Born Eden Espinosa plays Emma Lenora Borden, who is the mother figure of Lizzie, explained in her first song “Sweet Little Sister”. Emma leaves halfway through the first act and returns at the beginning of the second act. Eden is fierce throughout the show, and her character is always upright and proper. But Emma is also rude to anyone who isn’t her sister. Her act two belter “What The Fuck Now, Lizzie?” has Eden singing a song with so many f-bombs it’s surprising it’s not a world record.

Bleu Woodward plays Alice Manely Russell, Lizzie’s next door neighbour and supposed lover. Alice is a secretive young lady, who explains to the audience very early on that she is besotted with Lizzie. Her biggest song, “Will You Stay?” was delivered with brilliant emotion and her voice echoed through the walls and into the hearts of the audience. Lizzie and Alice share a small, lovely kiss at the end of the song, and by the beginning of act two, they both go off stage to share some naughty fun. Alice’s emotion is captured perfectly in every song she has a main part it. During the second act, Alice is scared but also attracted to Lizzie. She betrays her love for Lizzie in court and speaks against her.

Finally, Jodie Jacobs plays Bridget Sullivan (sometimes called Maggie by Miss Emma and Miss Lizzie). Bridget is a mischievous, comedic narrator character. Whilst Alice is always trying to stop the main action happening, Bridget is always there to make sure something does happen, no matter what. Bridget turns some of the sadder parts of the show into comedic moments, and Jodie Jacobs delivers lines and action extremely well. During the song “Why Are All These Heads Off?” she shows extreme energy as she bounces around the stage.

The four girls together provide powerhouse vocals. From the opening number, we can tell that their voices blend extremely well. The voices shake the house along with the amazing music, provided by a six-piece rock band. The music really stands out and brings the story well into the 21st century, with rock styles varying from hair band rock to screamo. Victoria Bussert’s amazing direction was suited to each cast members style and personality. This show is a great night out, you will be jamming in your seat. A flawless production, it showcases the best that London and Denmark have to offer in a collaborative production with Aria Entertainment and Fredericia Teater.


Lizzie is running at the Greenwich Theatre until the 12th of March.