Review: Soap @ Underbelly Festival, Southbank

Reviewed by Charlie White

CAUTION! Be prepared to get soaked! Enough to wet anyone’s appetite for talent, Soap at the Underbelly Festival is a wonderfully bizarre mixture of skills ranging from acrobatics to opera.

Directed by Markus Pabst and Maximilian Rambaek, the show is a variety of acts all linked together by one simple item…a bathtub! It starts off with 5 rather toned performers starting their day in the bath accompanied by the beautiful operatic voice of Jennifer Lindshield. You may think that circus acts and opera might not mix, but you’d be surprised.  It isn’t opera in the conventional sense, in fact, it’s used rather unconventionally which contributed to the comedy of the piece. I think the contrast added to the show in a very effective way and added a sense of feeling to the performance.

We were then entertained by the comedic stylings of Marie-Andrée Lemaire as she picked a random member of the audience to assist on stage and have a bit of circus-themed fun. There was more comedy in it than I thought there would be which was good because let’s face it, we all need a good laugh now and again. There was also the unique skill of towel spinning which was performed without fault by Vanessa Alvarez. She had impeccable timing and strength spinning towels on both hands and feet. However, towels were not the only thing she juggled, a guitar was also thrown into the mix as she balanced a juggled it rather impressively again with her hands and feet.

 

A large part of the show consisted of beautiful acrobatics from the amazing Lena Ries, Anton Belyakov, Daniel Leo Stern, Mortiz Haase and Adam Endris Yemam. There was a particularly outstanding trio by Daniel, Lena and Vanessa who managed to tell a story just through their elegant and passionate movements. They performed with such feeling and intensity, the emotion could be felt throughout the audience. Another emotional performance was a solo form of Anton which included an impressive acrobatic routine in a bathtub but this time it was filled with water. The addition of the water made it even more visually stunning.  I also have to give a special mention to the trapeze number by Mortiz. He quite literally flew over the audience and had us on the edge of our seats with the more daring tricks he executed.

These slightly more intense moments were juxtaposed with lighthearted sections which gave the show a good balance. For example, Adam amused us with his remarkable juggling skills. He had the audience completely in awe of his juggling, not 3, not 4 but 7 balls! There were also some cleverly conducted comedic tricks among this vast array of incredible acts.

Soap is an original and unique show with innovative and creative acts which are sure to be enjoyed by all, whatever your taste.

5stars

Soap runs at Underbelly Festival until 17 June 2018. For tickets and more information, click here.

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REVIEW: Fishbowl @ Kings Head Theatre

Reviewed by Charlotte White

So we go straight in with a conversation about whether George called his neighbour Hatty over for sex or not. George is adamant there is a leak in his ceiling, but Hatty thinks there is something more going on, but is there? Or is it simply just, a leak?

Fishbowl, a play by Jenna Kamal and directed by Alice Wordsworth and Erin Blackmore is a truly simple yet quite brilliant piece of live theatre. Essentially we watch as the only two characters in the play discuss various issues at 4 in the morning.

George is played by Nick Cope who portrayed the awkward but loveable character in such an endearing way and did such a great job of showing us as the audience how everything in life can be affected by so many little things. Felicity Green took the role of Hatty and I felt her performance had such a natural flow about it (much like the play in general). I particularly enjoyed her little cardio work out dance break!

I wasn’t expecting the show to make you think about so many things in life. As the show appeared so much like a casual conversation it made it more relatable and made you reevaluate things in your own life as you were watching it. Lots of quite deep elements of life were discussed. For example, does change only come from conflict? Or can it come from positivity?
I liked the fact that these deeper moments were contrasted by witty one liners and again some great dance moves from Hatty!

Fishbowl is a thought provoking, clever, unique piece of theatre with a natural flow that makes it that much more enjoyable to watch.

REVIEW: Mirrors @ Leicester Square Theatre

Reviewed by Alex Kirk

Written and performed by Siobhan McMillan, Mirrors is a clever and humorous take on the classic Snow White story.

In Snow White, the Evil Queen discovers that there is another maiden in the land who dares to be fairer than she, and begins a hunt to kill her. In Mirrors, the Evil Queen is one of many personalities living inside the head of an enthusiastic yet entirely unoriginal and naive YouTube vlogger called ShyGirl, with a grand total of 30 subscribers.

When she is stood up by her ‘boyfriend’ (who merely uses her for sex and shows no romance at all), she becomes Shivvers – our ‘Evil Queen’ – a much more confident and down to earth character, who guides us through the story when her mirror tells her that she is no longer the most gorgeous woman alive, and begins her pilgrimage to kill her.

McMillan’s writing is clever and endearing, using mystical fairy-tale language to narrate the story, interjected with insults and stereotypes more commonly found in Facebook memes and ‘trash’ humour; the first woman that Shivvers believes is her new enemy is given the name ‘Bitchface’, and later in the play we hear all about another character’s love for chips and hummus (which was served to the audience after the show!). McMillan gives a strong performance throughout the play, in all of her characters, sometimes switching between them on alternating lines. She gives a masterclass in characterisation.

Gabi Maddocks’ direction is brilliant as well, and utilises the space superbly. The Lounge at the Leicester Square Theatre is a highly intimate space, and yet every single corner of the room is used throughout the show, thoroughly gripping your attention. The fairy-tale language in McMillan’s script parallels the fake oh-so-perfect world that YouTube vloggers pretend to have, and Maddocks’ direction heightens this further with some brilliant comedy moments – a personal favourite moment being ‘magical’ bubbles coming from a techie blowing very loudly at the back of the theatre. This is a production that is very self-aware and embraces its innocence and intimacy, and it is this that makes it such an endearing piece of theatre that will have you invested in ShyGirl’s journey.

Snow White parallels aside, I cannot compare this show to anything else. It’s thoroughly unique, totally personal, and I really enjoyed it.

4stars

REVIEW: V For Victory @ Stockwell Playhouse

Reviewed by Kayleigh Place

V for Victory starts off set in the 1940s just after the war starts between Britain and Germany and is about how the Nazis took over Jersey. I have never seen the film, read the book or watched the musical, I knew nothing about what this rendition was going to entail.

The programme took the form of a ration book which I thought was a nice touch and had a summary of the musical’s premise. I learnt upon arrival that it was the in-concert version of the musical so all emphasis was on the songs. When I entered the theatre, there was a very atmospheric 1940s scene already on stage.

The staging was fantastic, the use of the wooden crates for each scene and the transition of moving them about the stage was hardly noticeable and was conducted very fluidly.

 

They start with the open song which I cringed and flinched at as one of the actors, I believe it was Klemens Koehring, was completely off key and out of tune with the rest of the cast, I hoped that it would not be like that the whole way through! Luckily his solo was beautiful, as was the rest of his performance. I am therefore putting this down to not warming his vocal cords up properly before the show.

However, there was another song that had the same effect; Leanne Coupland, who played Judy, when she sang her solo I nearly put my fingers in my ears! Throughout there was the one note that she consistently missed and I noticed her voice wavering on some notes. It was less noticeable when the cast sang together but, being sat at the front, I could hear it rather well, unfortunately.

I do have a good point to say about the singing; the duet between Georgina Rose Hanson (Liz Edward) and Ben Eagle (Bailiff Edwards) was fantastic! The song was so intense with the overlapping lines and the cues which were so well timed, I would go back just to hear them sing it again!

Considering there was not a lot of dialogue, you could tell there was a lot cut out, everything still flowed nicely. You could see the love story between Thomas and Liz, Liz’s anger at her dad for not standing up to the Nazis for Jersey, how Captain Gunther Scheider was becoming to hate the Nazis and what they stood for because he joined the army to protect his country not enslave. I felt even though it was shortened I still managed to connect with each character, understand their backgrounds, thoughts and feelings.

One of the things the irritated me the most throughout were the costumes. They were great. The cast was dressed appropriately for the era the shoes, the stockings, the hats, the braces, everything was well thought about. But they clearly forgot their IRON! All the guy’s shirts were creased from the beginning and the girls’ dresses looking like they had been retrieved from a bag stuffed with clothes to go to a charity shop! The Captain’s Nazi jacket, although one of the items that wasn’t creased, it did not fit him correctly. You could tell that it was way too big and it looked like a child wearing his dad’s suit jacket!

The acting was spectacular especially from Aaron Bannister-Davis who played the main character, Thomas Carter. The emotion and the facial expressions he used felt like it was real life and at times I almost forgot that I was sat in a theatre. It felt as though I was his friend and I was there to help him through his pain and to stand by his side as he rose up against the Nazis to take our homeland back.

Overall the show itself was great, but there is a lot of room for improvement. I would happily see this again if I could be confident that the quality of the singing had improved. If you like historical musical and don’t mind the odd good song being ruined but are up for an emotional, heartfelt storytelling, I’d strongly recommend you see this.

3-stars

REVIEW: Banana Crabtree Simon @ Drayton Arms Theatre

Reviewed by Leyla Damirel

“Banana Crabtree Simon” – these are the three words that Alan is told to remember. These three words are also the title of a new, one-man play that I was given the lucky chance to review. The play follows the character of Alan and his ongoing condition of dementia.

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Other than that, I knew nothing of the play, and went in with an open mind, although I was intrigued as to how the actor would captivate and keep the audience’s attention all on his own – it is a great deal of pressure for one person to captivate the audience and tell a story and keep the audience interested with no other cast members to help, but CJ de Mooi (Alan) managed to capture it perfectly. His characterization is flawless – in a short amount of time, you can see an almost healthy 50-year-old man in front of you deteriorate with his condition to a man who is rapidly becoming weaker as his memory fades. At one point in the show, Alan is under the sure belief that he is once again a little boy who has just attended his sister’s funeral. The way this scene was portrayed was breath-taking – I was not watching a man perform as a man with dementia. I was watching someone who truly did have dementia. The lines between acting and reality were completely blurred.

From the word go, you’re thrown right into the heart of the story; granted this is not necessarily a high energy show, if you’re expecting grand sets and orchestrations, this show is not one for you, but if you want to truly get invested into a story and really feel something, then this is right down your street. The simplicity of the setting and the lack of ‘theatre glamour’ adds to the intimacy of one man telling you his dementia journey, and being able to see his dementia increase as the show gets on is truly something special. I feel if the play were to transfer to a larger theatre, the intimacy would fade and the effect the play had on me would be lost. The use of music throughout the show only adds to the mood – as the play becomes more intense and tense, the music builds and only adds to this; every aspect of the production of this show has been accounted for, so while at face value it may seem that this is a simple play about a man with a degenerative condition, when real attention is paid to the finer details, they can truly be appreciated and the hard work that has been put in behind the scenes which is often overlooked, can truly be noticed. A beautifully heart-breaking piece of theatre, I know for a fact I shall never be forgetting the time I went to see Banana Crabtree Simon.

5stars

Banana Crabtree Simon runs until 14th April 2018. Tickets and more information can be found here.

REVIEW: Myth @ The Other Palace

Reviewed by Nathan Deane

Only in the workshop process, Myth is a new rock musical based on the Greek legend Orpheus. The show is presented semi-staged and aims for a full run in the near future.

The show tells the story of Orpheus, a rock-star in his band The Argonauts, with bandmates Jason and Theseus. The Moirai (fates) have their eye on Orpheus and change his fate. They get his band a record label at Underworld Records overseen by Hades and his right-hand woman Medusa, tempt Orpheus with “viper”, a harmful drug, and eventually lead his girlfriend, Eurydice, away from him, leaving Orpheus to quest through the underworld to find her.

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The show was spectacular from start to finish. Before going in to the show, I wasn’t really educated on the stories of Orpheus so it was a pretty strange introduction to the myth, I’ll admit. However, I’m a sucker for rock musicals, so seeing a brand new British rock score was incredible.

The music, book and lyrics, by Sam Cassidy were refreshing and vocally challenging. While it is a rock musical, Cassidy mixed various other styles into the score, most notably rap. This made the music extremely interesting and the cast were working their asses off to sing the score perfectly, which they did.

Orpheus, played by Joel Harper-Jackson, was an extremely well-written character. He has quite an intense character arc, and Harper-Jackson plays the role perfectly. His vocals were pretty insane, and he acted the part flawlessly.

The three fates, Atropos, Lachesis and Clotho, played by Jodie Jacobs, Jodie Steele and Eloise Davies, respectively, provided powerhouse vocals throughout the show and basically narrated the story, overseeing act one and most of act two. These 3 characters were my favourites as they got the best songs and provided the tightest harmonies on the London theatre scene right now.

Matthew McKenna played Hades, the comedic antagonist of the piece. He was smooth and charming, yet truly villainous at heart. McKenna was hilarious and this role was absolutely perfect for him. His sidekick, Miss M, also known as Medusa, was played by Zoe Birkett. Birkett provided a seductive, sassy feel to Medusa and some of her lines had me laughing out loud.

Diana Vickers played Eurydice, Orpheus’ girlfriend. Vickers played the role well, providing vulnerability but also strength at points. The fact that she is hardly seen after act one is incredibly sad, as Vickers’ talent deserves to shine, but she does get to showcase, she gives everything she’s got.

This show is absolutely incredible. It’s unlike anything I’ve seen, and it’s deserving of a longer run.

5stars

Myth runs at The Other Palace until 17th March 2018. Click here for tickets and more information.

 

Olivier Awards Nominations: MY PREDICTIONS

Written by Nathan Deane

It’s not common practice to predict nominations for awards ceremonies. But the 2017-2018 theatre season in London was so great that the Olivier Eligibility is one of the best things I’ve ever seen. I feel like I have to tell everyone (is predict the right word? Oh well.) what I hope is nominated for the Theatre section of the Oliviers this year! I’ve limited myself to 3 or 4 nominations per category. These are not the official nominations; just my predictions/wishes.

Best Revival

The Birthday Party – Harold Pinter Theatre

Frozen – Theatre Royal Haymarket

Glengarry Glen Ross – Playhouse Theatre

Stepping Out – Vaudeville Theatre

New Play

The Ferryman – Gielgud Theatre

John – National Theatre (Dorfman)

Lady Day At Emmerson’s Bar & Grill – Wyndham’s Theatre

Pinocchio – National Theatre (Lyttleton)

New Comedy

Labour of Love – Noël Coward Theatre

Mischief Movie Night – Arts Theatre

The Miser – Garrick

Musical Revival

42nd Street – Theatre Royal Drury Lane

Follies – National Theatre (Olivier)

On The Town – Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre

New Musical

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie – Apollo Theatre

The Grinning Man – Trafalgar Studios

Hamilton – Victoria Palace Theatre

The Toxic Avenger – Arts Theatre

Entertainment & Family

Dick Whittington – London Palladium

Five Guys Named Moe – Marble Arch Theatre

The Hunting of the Snark – Vaudeville

Affiliate

The B*easts – Bush Theatre

tick, tick…BOOM! – Park Theatre

Room – Theatre Royal Stratford East

Disco Pigs – Trafalgar Studios 2

REVIEW: Trainspotting LIVE @ The Engine Rooms, Southampton

Written by Nathan Deane

Take any pre-conceived notions of Trainspotting LIVE and throw them away, as this play takes both book and movie and smashes them to bits.

Trainspotting LIVE is an immersive piece of theatre in a traverse environment with the audience sat on raised platforms. This allowed for the cast to interact with the audience, and they took every liberty they could to interact with every scene, including the infamous toilet scene. The play is primarily based on the book, with passages being directly lifted out of the text and placed into the play, often paraphrased.

Harry Gibson did an amazing job at adapting the source material, adapting the novel from Irvine Welsh into a punchy, non-stop 75 minute experience. Adam Spreadbury-Maher‘s direction was intimate and intense, and allowed for scene changes to occur smoothly and with minimal fuss.

Trainspotting LIVE tells the story of a group of Scottish heroin-addicts in the late 80’s. This show is filthy, intimidating, often funny and extremely well-done.

 

Frankie O’Connor played Renton, a part made famous by Ewan McGregor. O’Connor took McGregor’s performance and blew it out of the water. The arc that the character goes through is immense, and O’Connor plays it perfectly.

The piece is an ensemble piece, yet each actor in the small cast had shining moments. Finlay Bain as Tommy gave an extremely emotional performance, Chris Dennis as Begbie was extremely intimidating, James Boal as Mother Superior was comedic and quite eerie, and Rachel Anderson as Laura was often the comedic relief of the piece, lightening the often tense mood. The two actors that stood out of the ensemble for me were Andrew Still as Sick Boy and Erin Marshall as Alison. Their performances were stellar, their chemistry felt super developed and their story together closer to the end left me tearing up and shaken.

Trainspotting LIVE is an experience not for the faint hearted, but if you dare brave it, you’re in for a wild ride.

Trainspotting LIVE is touring the UK before heading to London for 2 months. For tickets and more information, click here.

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.

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!