All posts by Sarah Louhichi

An American and The Cursed Child

London has millions of visitors every year, a fair amount of them see at least one West End show. Here’s what an American Harry Potter fan thought of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

By Lori Gilchrist

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Lori Gilchrist just before she stepped into the Palace Theatre | Sarah Louhichi

To be fair, I’ve read the Harry Potter books twice, seen every film multiple times, own the DVD’s and have joined Pottermore – All hail Ravenclaw and Thunderbird. That being said I was angry when Albus was put into Slytherin House in the book version of the play. So I’ve got some bias, I’ll admit that. But I was excited to see the play, though not sure if I’d really like it. It had a lot to live up to especially after paying premium prices at the theatre for premium seats (row D, seat 9). With this play, the theatre doesn’t allow scalpers (‘second-hand ticket broker’) tickets and if you’re lucky enough to find tickets from ATG or Nimax last minute, you take what you can get, pray for the Friday 40 or go home empty handed. £250 is a lot of money for one play. But was it worth it?

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Lori Gilchrist before the Part 1 | Sarah Louhichi

In a word the play is “Awesome” and definitely worth the money. Being close to the stage I was able to see facial expressions and even Harry’s scar. The staging was inventive and surprising. Today a lot of plays and musicals use a single set and the viewer is expected to use their imagination. Not here, the staging reflected the flavour of the Potterverse. Without giving anything away, there’s definitely magic and love in this production.

I’m not familiar with English stage actors, but had seen Alex Price in Father Brown previously. For Americans, sometimes we have problems with West End productions due to unfamiliarity with the different accents and dialects and therefore lose some of the meaning of the play. I had no issues here; it’s very understandable. And for those lacking in Potter knowledge, the story isn’t hard to follow.

You could tell that the cast was respectful and loved the characters they played. The acting was just right, though sometimes I felt Anthony Boyle (playing Scorpius) was a little over the top, but he won me over by Part II. The actors playing Ginny (Poppy Miller), Hermione (Noma Dumezweni), Harry (Jamie Parker) and Draco (Alex Price) reflected the adult characters perfectly, showing the imperfections of adulthood and the doubt of parenthood. Sam Clemmett (playing young Albus Potter) played the bratty little brother we sometimes wish we didn’t have. Real emotions, rationales and actions were exhibited here. If you took away the magical bits, the basic story would still work.

New York gets the play in 2018 but when it will come to Los Angeles, who knows? So if you’re coming to London and you love a good story, I strongly suggest you book tickets when you’re booking your airfare. I wasn’t disappointed. All Hail Cursed Child.

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The Enchanted | Review

★★★☆☆ Pharmacy Theatre, The Bunker

An intense and brave tale of evil, the death penalty and the human inside a monster.

The Enchanted
The cast of The Enchanted | Dina T.

The play based on the novel by Rene Denfeld looks at the person behind a murderer and the death penalty. Waiting for your death on death row is lonely. Arden is mute and as he waits for his day, he listens and watches an investigator trying to save some of the prisoners from their deaths. While doing so, she uncovers the sad and disturbing past of some of the ‘monsters’ in the maximum security prison.

The choreography by movement director Emily Orme, conveys a sense of helplessness and sadness that carries throughout the whole play, with an eerie undertone through the music.

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The Cast of The Enchanted | Dina T.

The stage and background are completely white and chalk is used to draw on it. However sometimes it doesn’t have enough of an impact as the light blue colour of the chalk gets lost easily.

The use of puppetry shows a certain vulnerability each of the characters have, it’s done so delicate and creatively it adds to the aesthetics of the show. However, the puppets are always used during narration, therefore they have to compete for the audiences’ attention with the actor on stage and it looses its impact slightly. It would’ve worked better if they had been on stage by itself.

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Corey Montague-Sholay (Arden) | Dina T.

Corey Montague-Sholay who plays the narrator and Arden, a silent killer is captivating. He captured the essence of his character and the play so well, it’s beguiling and so compelling that it would probably work with just him telling the story of all the other characters.

The Enchanted runs at The Bunker until 17 June.

Dealing with post-show depression

Devastated fans explain what happened when their favourite show left the West End for good.

Sunny Afternoon closing night. Image by Harold Pinter Theatre
Sunny Afternoon closing night |Harold Pinter

“I’m missing a huge part of my life. I used to have somewhere to go to, knowing it would make me happy and feel good, I don’t anymore,” said Jessica Gray, 26.

Whether you’re a musical or play lover, London’s West End offers a wide range of shows: from the emotional Les Misèrables, to a juke box musical like Jersey Boys and Agatha Christie’s Mousetrap, the longest running show in London, there’s something to satisfy everyone’s tastes.

Every show accumulates a fan base with the musical becoming part of their life, developing friendships with supporters as well as cast members, following the show to other events and creating social media fan accounts becomes a normality.  So, what happens when a show closes?

Sunny Afternoon has grazed the West End for the two rock ‘n’ roll filled years. Not only has it accumulated a huge fan base, it has also won four Olivier Awards and has been praised by many stars, Mark Hamill being one of them.

In August 2016, the hit show on the rise and stardom of iconic English band The Kinks embarked on their first UK Tour, with the West End cast doing their last performance on October 29th 2016.

Below, three very dedicated followers shared their experiences.

Deborah Gilpin

Deborah Gilpin on stage at her 50th show with part of the cast I Image by Deborah Gilpin
Deborah on stage at her 50th show with part of the cast |Deborah Gilpin

Deborah,28, undoubtedly set the record for seeing the most shows within the Sunny Afternoon fan base, hitting the mark at 279 times.

How involved were you with Sunny Afternoon?

Deborah Gilpin: I ended up seeing 279 shows, although I’d have liked to reach the 300 mark.

Throughout her visits, Debbie quickly became friends with other regular audience members, together they started a Twitter fan account. “We just wanted to bring people together initially, then this year we’ve tried our best to promote the second cast as they seemed to be getting less attention, which led to the Cast Member & Understudy of the Month awards,” said Debbie.

How are you coping with the show leaving the West End?

I had no idea how to cope with it at the beginning, my plan was to make the most of it being there, enjoying every minute of it and waiting to see how everything went afterwards. Luckily I have my theatre reviewing keeping me busy. I’m waiting for more of the actors (from both casts) to get new jobs or announce gigs, I’m going to follow them on their new projects. Plus I’m excited to see what the tour is like, I’m planning to see it once it reaches a venue closer to me.

Ksenia Nemchinova

Ksenia Nemchinova outside the Harold Pinter Theatre. Image by Ksenia Nemchinova
Ksenia Nemchinova outside the Harold Pinter Theatre | Ksenia Nemchinova

Ksenia,30,  travelled to London from Russia a lot, seeing the show 122 times: “Being a Kinks fan, I’d been following the development of the show since its first workshop in December 2012.

“I fell in love with Sunny Afternoon and there was no turning back. I’m also co-running the fan page with Debbie and Jess”.

How you’re feeling now and how you’re trying to cope with its ending, do you have a special plan for that?

Ksenia Nemchinova: I’ve never been this attached to a show before so it’s not easy to process and to cope. Sunny Afternoon may not be in London anymore, but I’ve seen the touring production several times and I have grown to love them dearly, so it’s definitely not the end for me, the tour will keep me going for another few months.

And after that, who knows? The show may be back in London again, maybe if we all wish really hard…

Jessica Gray

Jessica Gray with part of the cast at the stage door. Image by Jessica Gray
Jessica Gray with part of the cast at the stage door | Jessica Gray

Jessica has been following the show since its very beginning: “I first saw Sunny Afternoon at the beginning of October 2014.

“I had been invited to review the show for my blog, and became a fan immediately.”

“I started a fan page first on Twitter and then on Facebook and eventually I made arrangements with the show’s marketing company for an official Sunny Afternoon Challenge Week to happen.”

“During it, we would attend every show over a week and blog about it daily, with a new challenge being assigned to us every day.”

What are your plans now?

Jessica Gray: I’m actually leaving London – not exactly because of the show closing, but I’d be lying if I said that it didn’t make my decision a lot easier. I’d like to see the tour again, however following it around the country isn’t an option for me. I’d mostly like to see what actors from the West End production do in the future in terms of new shows.

The world doesn’t end when a show ends. There are different ways to cope with it, whether that is concentrating on other shows, supporting the cast members in new projects or trying to stay away. Even when the show has ended, you’ll always have the memories. Not to forget the cast recording.

Alice’s Adventures Underground|review

★★★★★ Les Enfants Terribles, The Vaults

Alice’s Adventures Underground is an unmissable production that has created the most imaginative way of telling a story.

ALICE'S ADVENTURES UNDERGROUND. Richard Holt 'Hatter' and Philippa Hogg 'March Hare'. ©Rah Petherbridge Photography
Alice’s Adventures Underground | Alex Gilbert

Upon arrival, it feels like walking into a different, whimsical world. Before the performance has even started, you find yourself in awe by the creative design and themed (and strong!) cocktails. Once the journey begins, it’s up to you where it will lead. Alice’s Underground Adventure is unlike anything I’ve seen at The Vaults.

Instead of watching the story unfold right in front of you, you’re part of it and not only that, it’s like stepping into it and you decide where the adventure will take you. Depending on what route you choose, either shrink by taking a drink or grow by having a sweet, you steer your journey through Wonderland.

The Queen of Hearts has turned so evil, chopping off people’s heads for anything. An underground group grows and tries to ignite a revolution…Will you be part of the secret revolution? Or will you be on the Queen’s side?

Be wary that if you’ve come with someone you might not end up with them, as groups are split throughout the production. This is done by picking a playing card and depending on the suit you have chosen, you have to complete a different secret mission.

ALICE'S ADVENTURES UNDERGROUND. Philippa Hogg 'Alice'. ©Rah Petherbridge Photography
Alice in Alice’s Adventures Underground | Alex Gilbert

The design and details are the most interesting thing about this immersive production. You could go several times and still find new things and discover details about this incredible underground world that you haven’t seen before. Besides the creative set up, the actors (or interactors) are the other wonderful thing. Not only do they stay in character the whole time, they also interact incredibly well with the audience. They have an off-the-cuff humour and the talent to improvise, which you find endearing.

Another amazing thing is that the cast switches roles, so if you come twice you’re likely to see different people play different characters. Combined with the different story lines, it’s possible to go several times and still experience something completely new.

by Al Overdrive
Alice’s Adventures Underground | Alex Gilbert

The best part about this adventure is that you’ll actually feel like you’re part of it, you’re making a difference in the story. It’s almost heartbreaking leaving the characters and Wonderland behind. The intricate details of the production won’t leave your mind, even after leaving the venue.

Alice’s Adventures Underground runs at The Vaults until 23 September 2017

@AliceUnderLDN

Pluto | Review

★★★★☆ Moonchild Theatre Company| Baron’s Court Theatre

Moonchild Theatre Company stages an impressive first production of a new play that captures many important issues in today’s world, by personifying likeable planets, comets and moons.

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Liam Joseph (Pluto) and Charlotte Price ( Professor Furtham/ Charon) |Moonchild Theatre Company

The New Horizons probe lands on Pluto in 2006 and brings bad news for the planet, who is currently having a party which no one has turned up to, except for his best friend Charon. The probe that arrives bears news from NASA telling PLUTO that he’s no longer a planet. He’s now labelled a ‘Dwarf Planet’ which throws Pluto into total chaos, “I’ve been conned into hosting my own funeral”. He’s confused about his identity and has only Charon (and a stripper she hired), to cheer him up and help him to understand.

“Pluto: The subject of much confusion,” as his friend Charon puts it, is mirroring people in our society who have things decided for them, often by men in power who cannot even begin to understand their situation.

The production touches on a fair amount of social and political issues, maybe too many to completely be sure of its message. The staging is sparse but it works, due to the dark walls of the tiny Baron’s Court Theatre, giving you a feeling of deep space.

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Liam Joseph (Pluto) | Moonchild Theatre Company

Callum O’Brien takes Pluto and turns his story into a perfect metaphor for issues such as labelling others, accepting people for who they are and feeling lonely. His direction is clear, fresh and ideal for millennials who would love to see their first play but are daunted by big Shakespearian productions.

The stripper scene is hilariously awkward. The overall humour of the play manages to cover up many of the issues and problems in today’s society.  Liam Joseph’s Saturn impression is brilliant and draws the audience on his side. He brings Pluto to life and turns him into a character that you like instantly. He’s not just a planet but a man with a heart and soul.

Charon, played by Charlotte Price is extremely gripping and intriguing. You find yourself hanging to every word during her monologue about her friendship to Pluto. She simply leaves you wanting more.

Pluto might not be as smooth sailing as a West End production might be, but as a brand new play, it definitely is a strong first production for the Moonchild Theatre Company who’ve managed to capture the current issues perfectly.

Pluto runs at Baron’s Court Theatre until 23 April and will transfer to the Cockpit Theatre from 14 August until 17 August.

#iheartPLUTO @MoonchildPluto

Moonchild Theatre Company: “The Planets have aligned for us”

A new theatre company has landed in London. The Moonchild Theatre Company is staging its first play Pluto at the Baron’s Court Theatre, starting 18 April.

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Charlotte Price (Charon/ Prof. Furtham) and Liam Joseph (Pluto)

The two co-founders Liam Joseph and Callum O’Brien met as Front of House staff at the Harold Pinter Theatre. Liam, whose background is theatre and acting and Callum who studied film, teamed up and not only co-found their theatre company but also created their first production. Callum wrote the script and is directing the play with Liam producing and starring in it. They both have a passion for space and astronomy and are interested in current affairs; socially and politically. Liam had already paid for the space at the Baron’s Court Theatre, so he asked Callum to write him a play.

“Pluto was an alignment of planets”, says Callum.

“When I was writing about space, at the same time I was reading an article on North Carolina passing a law in 2016 that makes you use the bathroom that you were born into. So, if you’re transgender that causes confusion. It was passed by a bunch of people who would never see the effect it would have on the community.”

He continues: “I was thinking about space and I was thinking about this story. People who have had their identity defined by people who do not know them and it’s quite similar to Pluto, who was a planet but is no longer a planet and it was defined for “him” based on people who have never been to the planet. I took these two stories and married them and we’ve created this unusual piece of work, but it works.”

“It could mean a lot of things to a lot of people, we deal with politics, we deal with friendship, depression and you could take it literally and it could be a story of planets.”

The two criticise the London theatre industry. “A lot of shows nowadays cater to a very specific or older audience.”

Callum adds: “I think new writing can cater more towards a millennial audience. A lot that Pluto deals with is frustration, your voice has been stolen from you, your agency has been deprived, you cannot speak out for what you want to and it reflects the way millennials are portrayed as; numb observers.”

As director, Callum wants to make Pluto and turn it into an iconic object that could be the “figurehead of the LGBT cause.” However, he is worried about trying to tackle too many issues in their production. “We run the risk of writing something that could be about everything and nothing.”

Unlike many other theatre companies, Moonchild Theatre Company caters to millennials; “I’d rather make theatre accessible, but a lot of shows follow the older generation, and the tickets are so expensive.”

“All great artistic movements cater to the young and it’s foolish to overlook them, they will inherit the world one day. What you teach them now, that’s what they’ll take with them later in life and if you can get them interested in theatre and art now, hopefully there will be a future for art, especially in a world with an administration that cut art funding and pride things like guns and war.”

Looking at the news and everything that’s been going on recently the play seems to “come at the right time. I think there’s something happening right now, something is going to happen soon, the young people are beginning to regroup and feel there is this slight injustice against something.”

The two recount how everything has happened at the same time and how the timing of meeting at the Harold Pinter couldn’t have been better. “It’s like a volcano, everything has come at once, LGBT communities, Trump and technology. It never would’ve happened hadn’t we worked in the theatre together. Liam and I wouldn’t have met. Charlotte Price, who is also in Pluto also works at the Harold Pinter as front of house, so does Aimee Leigh the production manager and Giuliana Davolio the set designer for Pluto.”

“We’re incredibly lucky to work in such a supportive venue”

Their manager Rachel is interested in what their doing, as well as ATG. “It makes it worth what we’re doing, to know that your manager is interested in what you’re doing outside of work, it’s really warming and quite rare, not many theatres have that kind of support. She’s been so nice, she’s let us put the flyers around the building and helps us put them in other theatres as well”, says producer Liam Joseph.

“It’s encouraging to know that someone in such a high position cares about new writing and helping her staff .”

The rehearsal for the play is going well according to Callum. Even though this is a stressful time, he finds it rewarding. “It’s the most interesting learning curve for me, knowing how to develop the script. All four of us have fine tuned it and arranged it and moulded this play to be something that we all want to be part of.”

In the future the team wants to create and produce theatre as well as film. “We also want to look at merchandising our company, because we feel like we’re very sell-able”, says Liam. “We’ve got a cool logo.”

“Creatively we would like to go off in every branch in media and art.”

After Pluto, the theatre company will potentially put up an exhibit of pictures from Pluto’s set and production in an art gallery in Camden. “That’s what interested us, because theatre is never looked at through still images, with the exhibition, you meet theatre and film in the middle.”

Help Moonchild Theatre Company stage their first production and donate to their IndieGOGO page.

IndieGOGO from Liam Joseph on Vimeo.

Pluto transfers to the Cockpit Theatre in August. It’s running at the Camden venue from 14 August until 17 August and is part of the Camden Fringe Festival.

#iheartPLUTO @MoonchildPluto

Chinglish | Review

★★★★☆  Johanson Productions, Park Theatre

David Henry Hwang returns to the Park Theatre with his European premiere of Chinglish. It explores the contemporary issues of doing business between two different cultures, East and West.

Chinglish Production PhotosCredit: The Other Richard
Lobo Chan (Cai Guoliang), Candy Ma (Xi Yan), Windosn Liong (Bing) and Gyuri Sarossy (Daniel) | Richard Davenport for The Other Richard

Andrew Keates directs this laugh-out-loud comedy, that starts with Daniel doing a presentation on poorly translated Chinese signs. “To take notice of safe: The slippery are crafty” and “Fuck the certain price of goods” pull the audience in with laughter in the first few seconds of the play.
Daniel, an American, wants to start a business arrangement with China on the behalf of his company ‘Ohio Signage’. When he meets Peter, an English teacher, he employs him as his business consultant.

Peter has lived in China for over a decade and gives Daniel advise on how to close a deal with the Chinese. The one important thing he says, is taking the time and trouble to build a relationship and understand the customs of the Chinese people in order to be successful.

When Daniel meets Xi Yan, the Vice-Minister for Culture, secrets are uncovered and a forbidden relationship begins.

Chinglish Production PhotosCredit: The Other Richard
Duncan Harte (Peter Timms) | Richard Davenport for The Other Richard

Gyuri Sarossy and Candy Ma are an ideal leading duo who bounce off each other perfectly.

The theme of the play looks at the language barrier between different cultures, as well as how to make business deals. A plethora of funny incidents occur over the duration of the show, which makes it so relatable, we’ve probably all encountered the problem of trying to communicate with someone who doesn’t speak our language. It also goes deeper – as it seems that everyone has something to hide from each other, and it shows the nature of making business decisions.
The staging is incredibly clever, by using a closet-like backdrop with small doors that open in different sizes and ways -transforming the stage into something completely different for each scene.

Chinglish - Candy Ma and Gyuri Sarossy (courtesy Richard Davenport for The Other Richard) 2

Gyuri Sarossy (Daniel) and Candy Ma (Xi Yan) |Richard Davenport for The Other Richard

Chinglish runs at the Park Theatre until 22 April.

@ChinglishUK, @ParkTheatre