Scrooge and the Seven Dwarves | Review

★★★★☆ The Sleeping Trees,  Theatre 503

Directed by Simon Evans, Scrooge and the Seven Dwarves is wonderfully creative and a hilarious spectacle that ignites the imagination.

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John Woodbury (Scrooge), James Dunnell-Smith (One of the Seven Dwarves), Joshua George Smith (Snow White) | David Monteith-Hodge

The Sleeping Trees trio, John Woodburn (Scrooge, Santa Claus),  James Dunnell-Smith (Mrs Claus, Wicked Witch) and Joshua George Smith (Bob Cratchit, Snow White) have created their third  wonderfully chaotic panto that keeps throwing Christmas at you until you can’t help but feeling festive.

Christmas is ruined, the Wicked Witch of the West has stolen all the Christmas spirit, so who else but grumpy, old Ebenezer Scrooge to the rescue. Mrs Clause sends him on a journey, where he encounters the seven Dwarves (played by two actors) and Snow White. A T-Rex and Mary Poppins also make an appearance throughout the show.

Meanwhile, the trio encounter their own problems. Forgetting to book the 30 actor strong cast, they, again, have to put on the whole show themselves. Will the talent agent watching the pantomime choose them to be the new Hollywood superstars?

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Ben Hales (Musician and Composer) on the far left | David Monteith-Hodge

The threesome are witty and have the ability to keep the entire audience intrigued. Playing several characters each, they’re showing versatility and the ability to create characters that stand out.

Ben Hales (Musician and Composer) perfectly plays the part of the puzzled audience member who gets dragged into the show. Chaotic at points but with a catchy and repetitive song, they bring the show home whilst you find yourself singing along and feeling excited for the holidays.

They throw Christmas at you with immense amount of insanity,  and a lot of ingenious stage charisma. All in all, this panto is the work of three incredibly talented comedian actors, making you laugh from start to finish.

 

Scrooge and the Seven Dwarves runs at Theatre 503 until Saturday 7 January 2017

Twitter: @wesleepingtrees @theatre503 #Scrooge503

Dead Funny | Review

★★★★☆ Vaudeville Theatre, Dead Funny

Terry Johnson wrote and directed an homage to comedians Benny Hill, Tommy Cooper and co. while reflecting their not so funny private lives in a laugh-out-loud spectacle.

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Official Poster (Vaudeville Theatre)

It’s 1992, everything’s a laugh. Richard is the President of the Dead Funny society and for him and his friends, Lisa (Emily Berrington), Nick (Ralf Little) and Brian (Steve Pemberton) nothing could be better than slipping famous routines of their favorite comedians into their lives and society meetings. All could be great if it wasn’t for Katherine Parkinson’s character, Eleanor (the star of the show) ruining their meeting with her cynical attitude and always infuriatingly funny, snappy and belittling comments towards her husband’s and friends’ obsessive love for dead comedians.

She’s unhappy and struggling with her own life, but she wants a baby. Desperately. All she can think about is getting pregnant and sleeping with her husband, who is pre-occupied with his own internal battles. It’s clear from the beginning that he feels rather uncomfortable in her presence and tries to avoid physical contact with her.

Their long-term friend Brian adds to the comedic value of the show. He seems to have the talent of always turning up at the wrong time or the perfect time, depending on who’s side your on. His somehow innocent characteristics makes him immediately likable.

It almost seems like you’re watching two plays at the same time. One about a struggling relationship and the other a satirical play on dead comedians, and their long-term admirers who have created the society.

Those collide when Benny Hill dies and the society holds a honorary meeting at Eleanor’s and Richard’s house.

However, if you’re unfamiliar with all these comedians, many jokes and anecdotes might easily be missed. What makes this play so funny is the mix of the cynical and admiration of old comedians and the clash of two different worlds.

The climax happens when secrets are uncovered and pies fly into faces. It’s a perfect way to celebrate iconic and traditional English comedy.

Dead Funny runs at the Vaudeville Theatre until 4 February 2017. Get you tickets here.

This Little Life of Mine | Review

★★★☆☆ Park Theatre, This Little Life of Mine

Michael Yale (Book and Direction) creates a delightful production that depicts the ups and downs of an ordinary life.

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Jonesy and Izzy are young, in love and just moved into a new tiny flat in London. They live an ordinary life, with friends and jobs. However, as normal for ordinary people, things happen. Rather their funny incidents, with their friends wanting to swing with them or showing them what Tinder is about. As well as sad moments, like having difficulties to get pregnant which puts a strain on the relationship. From the beginning of the show it is clear that this new musical has a lot of potential. With songs like ‘Hey Prince Charming’ and ‘Just one more’ ( A song about one cheeky drink at the pub turning into many), which we’ve all experienced before.

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Greg Barnett is the comedic highlight, playing Raphael the barrista and bartender.  Kate Batter has a wonderful voice and shows vulnerability playing Izzy , who’s desperate to become pregnant. Caroline Deverill shows great versatility playing a range of characters, from the best friend to the mother-in-law. Jonesy, played by James Robinson, shows a lot of heart. The duet between him and Izzy, is incredibly touching and is a perfect way to show their problems as a couple, their loss of connection and disparity. 0ayngnmu-jpg-large

Some of the characters are flawed and are missing substance. While only showing the surface, it still feels believable and their feelings and problems are easily relatable. As a millennial, I expected this show to mirror a contemporary couple’s lifestyle. However, it wasn’t modern enough for me. It was great to see references to Doctor Who or seeing them take a selfie and things that millennials do and say, but it was simply not enough. Sometimes, it wasn’t really believable either. Izzy wasn’t dressed as hip and young Londoner and not knowing what Tinder was, even if you’re in a relationship, doesn’t particularly scream millennial.

Yet, this heartfelt story is wonderfully entertaining and Charlie Round-Turner’s music makes this ordinary musical quite extraordinary.

The Little Life of Mine is currently playing at the Park Theatre until 29 Oct 2016.

1984 | Review

★★★★☆ Playhouse Theatre, 1984

An intense, powerful and somewhat traumatizing experience with fantastic performances that make this play a must see of the season.

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Winston Smith, a comrade of the outer party, opens a diary that will change his life forever. By doing so, he commits ‘thoughtcrime’ that is punished by death. He lives in a post-war world that is split into three countries, Oceania,  Eurasia and Eastasia.

The Government controls everything, what people eat, by rationing food, what they do, with constant surveillance through telescreens that can’t be turned off. Sex and love are forbidden. People are meant to dedicate their life to the party and therefore relationships are not allowed, and sex is only for the reproduction of party members. Even thinking is controlled by the government through newspeak, the language of Oceania, that decreases its vocabulary yearly and therefore ‘thoughtcrime’ will become impossible. People are brain washed and therefore don’t realise that they’re being told what to do and think.

Winston, who works in the Record Department has realised Big Brother’s control over everything and started to question his life. In the search for liberty, he meets Julia, a young comrade and falls in love. They join The Brotherhood, a secret organization by Emanuel Goldstein, an ex-Inner Party member who turned against Big Brother and is now the symbol of the rebellion. However, Big Brother is always watching.

The direction by Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan is brilliant through and through. The timing reinforces intensity of certain scenes keeping the audience on the edge of their seats. However, if you’re not familiar with the story, it takes some time to understand the storyline and what is actually happening on stage, as there isn’t much background information that explains this distorted world.

Winston Smith is played by Andrew Gower, who delivers a magnificent performance that follows his journey as a frail man, who has trouble differentiating reality from false memories to opposing a suppressive government. Catrin Stewart, who portrays Julia is an excellent addition to Winston, as a young and energetic woman who knows how to lie properly in order to survive in Oceania. The staging is not only clever and efficient but also so versatile. It makes you hold your breath. One minute, we’re in Winston Smith’s home, the next in the canteen and then at the train station.

This spine-tingling play leaves a bitter sweet aftertaste. Resonating with a world that had Snowden revealing that the USA secretly used the internet for mass surveillance to spy on people and governments.

So did George Orwell predict the future? Are we all being brainwashed without realising it? These questions stay in mind, even hours after leaving the theatre.

1984 is currently running at the Playhouse Theatre until 29 October 2016

Theatre etiquette: Do’s and Don’ts

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You’re sitting in a red velvet seat in a beautiful old theatre, awaiting a wonderfully touching play and ready to be immersed into a different world. You’ve turned your phone off and have had a glance through the £4 programme. All you need now is for the show to start, and you can enjoy an unforgettable evening. Unfortunately, others around you have a different idea of a great evening. Talking, eating and rustling with plastic bags is part of their theatre routine. Most of the time “those” people are clueless as to why you’ve rolled your eyes at them for the third time. Just in case, here are a few Do’s and Don’ts to get you started.

Don’t talk throughout the show. Yes, this should be common sense. Yet, some people still don’t grasp the concept of theatre. So, let me quickly explain this to you. A play or musical is live, there are actual human beings on stage, pouring their soul into this performance. It doesn’t only disturb other theatre goers when you suddenly have to talk to your friend about that amazing thing you did last week, just because one scene in the show reminded you of that. It might also not be a great idea if you need to explain to them what is happening on stage or translating it into a different language. That’s what a post-show drink at the pub is for.

Don’t eat your way through a bag of M&M’s or any other bag of sweets for that matter. You’re not on your couch in sweats and watching a film on a Saturday evening. I never understood the need to eat during a two-hour show, especially if there’s an interval where you have 20 minutes to stuff your face. However, if you’re absolutely starving then check out TodayTix the theatre app. They have just launched Silent Snacks, these are currently only available at In the Heights and American Idiot for a short time only. This might be a great innovation for all the snackers in the theatre.

Do get up and dance if they tell you to. A lot of shows, well musicals, have a big finale at the end of their performances. Many times, the actors encourage you to get up and dance or even just clap along. It’s a fun way to end an evening full of energetic songs and head bopping hits. So don’t be shy, nobody cares what you look like when you rock along to Lola at the end of Sunny Afternoon. It just shows the cast that you actually had a great time and weren’t dragged to the show by someone who’s a theatre enthusiast.

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Do tweet after the show. Many plays and musicals, particularly the small productions would love and need your support. Become part of a greater discussion, rather than just telling your friends about your thoughts on the show. Feel free to tweet the show and tell them how much you loved it and why, or if you enjoyed a performance by a particular actor, tweet them. In most cases, they’re happy to hear your thoughts and sometimes even reply. This is a great way to connect with the actors without waiting at stage door, as well as help promoting a good production.

Going to the theatre isn’t rocket science. People should be able to figure out that using your phone throughout a performance is not only distracting to other audience members and the actors, but also incredibly rude. The same counts for making any unnecessary noise. You want to be captivated by the performance and emerged into the world that the show takes you, without getting disturbed every few minutes.

Unfaithful | Review

★★★★☆ Found 111, Unfaithful

Director Adam Penford creates an intimate play from author Owen McCafferty, that uncovers the vulnerability of relationships in a setting that leaves no space for privacy.

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The problems couples encounter in various stages of their life’s and aspects. Tom and Joan, have been married and together for many years, both in their mid-fifties are unsatisfied with their relationship and life. The couple is unhappy and have stopped caring, or at least they think they did. When the husband confesses to his wife that he had slept with someone else, the marriage seems to fall apart. She hires an escort, whether it’s to get back at him or just to feel something for once. Peter and Tara, a young couple, both in their twenties. A clever girl, who dropped out of university and now works at the checkout of a Tesco and her boyfriend, who’s an escort. The two couples cross lives without knowing how much they influence each other.

McCafferty explores the intricate elements on life and relationships, he uses detailed descriptions of the character’s feelings, expressing them with honesty and the harsh reality of obstacles in a couples communication.

Niamh Cusack delivers an outstanding performance, with a perfect range of emotion, strong and subtle whenever appropriate but always enough for the small audience to take notice. In general, the relationships between each of the four actors is very clear through the way they talk and look at each other. The characters are very relatable, therefore it’s easy to understand and agree with their decisions. Sean Campion conveys a man who has lost passion for life and feels adrift, it’s almost impossible not to feel sorry for him. From a child star, playing Neville Longbottom in the Harry Potter series, Matthew Lewis, shows an extraordinary transition to playing a confident escort. Ruta Gedmintas delivers a brilliant performance, with her facial expressions and body language alone.

Staging is simple and uncomplicated, surrounded by the audience. The words are left to be the main aspect of the show, making the play very pure and powerful. Scenes are interesting in the sense that none of the actors ever leave the room, when one couple is on the stage the other is either sitting on a bench next to it or in a corner of it, watching and helping during scene changes. The intimate setting works well with the play and enhances the feeling of peeking into the two couples’ private life.

A truthful, real and powerful show that leaves the audience pondering about the delicacy and persistency of relationships.