Tag Archives: Comedy

Review: How to Win Against History by Gemma Treharne-Foose

 

5 Stars5 / 5

If you’ve never heard of the 5th Marquess of Anglesey or Henry Cyril Paget – that’s exactly what his family intended to happen when they erased him from their family history by burning every photograph and possession relating to his life.

Based on true story, this completely original production pieces together the charred remains and distant memories of the 5th Marquess of Anglesey – a cross-dressing dandy who inherited the keys to the kingdom in Victorian Britain, but lived fast and died young.

At one time the richest man in Britain, he rejected the duties of his title to live an outrageously opulent and controversial life, putting on elaborate plays, building over the chapel on the family estate to build a theatre and tour Europe with his ‘Electric Butterfly Orchestra’ – with himself as the leading artist, of course.

This is a fabulously foppish flight of fancy that will have you belly laughing from lights up until lights down.

The Marquess of Anglesey was an unapologetic narcissist, who if born in more recent times would no doubt be the subject of a gaudy commercial deal, a magazine spread or a reality TV series. But although the production pokes fun at the story, it is never cruel.

How to Win Against History is a high-camp, high energy extravaganza, subverting the almost homoerotic goings on within public schools, the aristocracy and the Empire.

Starring Seiriol Davies who plays (or should I say ‘slays’) as Henry Paget, this show chasses, minces and shimmies its way through his back story, shining a light on the social awkwardness of Victorian times, the absurdity and pomposity of theatre and the sheer hilarity of being a square peg in a round hole.

Matthew Blake plays the part of Paget’s right hand man – the Victorian west end actor Alexander Keith and the pair have incredible chemistry and comic timing. Every movement, sigh and flick of the hand is played up and milked for laughs.

Imagine a show featuring Lawrence Llywelyn-Bowen’s lovechild on acid at Mardi Gras, mashed up with Monty Python, Downton Abbey and Ru Paul’s Drag Race. That wouldn’t even come close to how remarkable this is.

Despite the madcap silliness and outrageousness though, it’s a show with substance and heart. Seiriol Davies has created something quite heartfelt and poignant, the music and lyrics are sharp and clever and the incredible vocal performances of the trio on stage meander from genre to genre.

You really want Henry Paget to win and the way audiences are responding to this production shows that in the end – he has.

Some lights are too bright to ever be distinguished.

Review Happy Death Day by Jonathan Evans

Happy Death Day is a black comedy with pieces of a genuine horror mixed in, essentially Groundhog Day meets Halloween. From that you can already guess the main problem with the movie, it lacks a distinct personality. It is quite good at times and blunt at others but the overall product has a tonal problem that leaves you coming out of it not sure with what you just saw.

It opens with a girl named Theresa waking up in a college dorm room, she is hungover and can barely remember the night before, she goes about her day and things happen that establish that shes popular but not very nice. It is also her birthday, which she doesn’t want people to know or acknowledge herself. She heads out for the night, while on her way a figure appears and stabs her to death. She then wakes at the start of the day and must relive the day of her murder over and over again.

Jessica Rothe plays Theresa. She fulfills everything that the script requires her to do well. She screams very high and loudly, she comes off like a spoiled rich kid, there are other moments that call for her to be funny etc. She does a solid job in the movie.

The killer is dressed entirely in black with a cartoon baby face mask. A good design that is both distinctive and easily recognisable. It may become iconic and then again it might not, but credit goes to creating an easily registrable visual.

With any kind of teen movie as well and having a plot where repetition is a main theme naturally there is a montage sequence. It is stuff like this that clashes with the overall movie. Are we meant to always be laughing or genuinely feel frightened for out main character? At the start we do, then it becomes a case of “ow dang it!” then near the climax we’re meant to feel for her again.

This is a spoiler free review but I will say that the two main questions I had while watching the movie were (obviously) how is all of this happening? And how does the killer seem to always magically track her down? We get answers to none of these.

The concept is fine and the execution is good at times as well. However it’s stereotypical portrayal of teens and suffering from either not knowing what it wants to be or wanting to be too many things it becomes pieces of a solid work rather than a whole. If there are no better offers at the cinema then it isn’t a waste, but is also only worth one watch.

Jonathan Evans

Review The LEGO Ninjago Movie by Jonathan Evans

 

3 Stars3 / 5

I am shocked that an obvious big budget toy commercial are able to create such fun and well made (pun intended) movies. The LEGO Movie was number one on the year it was released and earlier this year I had a blast watching The LEGO Batman Movie. Now we have another and surprise I’m excited for it.

After an introductory opening sequence in live action we are transported to a LEGO constructed world and the city of Ninjago, where on a regular basis (daily) evil forces merge from a nearby volcano and attempt to conquer it, lead by the all black, four armed Lord Garmadon (Justin Theroux). Luckily for the cities inhabitants there is a group of ninjas with giant mech’s to fight and win against them.

In the forefront is the Green Ninja, Lloyd (Dave Franco), Red Ninja (Michael Pena), Blue Ninja (Kumail Nanjiani), Silver Ninja (Abbi Jackson), Black Ninja (Fred Armisen) and the White Ninja (Zack Woods) who’s probably a robot for some reason. They all have their special power and design of giant robot as well as distinguishing personality but as the movie goes on they get lost amongst other things. The ninjas are revered by the towns people but it turns out that in his civilian life Llyod is Garmadon’s son (da-da-dah!). This leads to regular hate, blame and judgement from nearly all the other civilians.

Another character is Master Wu played by legendary martial arts star Jackie Chan. This is doubtless the role where Chan is having the most fun, how can he not when he is given a script with so many funny lines. He is the martial arts master that teaches the ninjas how to better themselves. But he comes out with either too blunt or too cryptic ways of going bout it. He is also amazing at laying the flute.

All the other movies have had the initial presentation of a crazy colourful world with comedy at a fast passe. However through the watching it is revealed that there is an emotional center to it that ties the movie together. Here it is the father son relationship between Lloyd and Garmadon. About how a father and son can become astray and the outward devastation that can cause. It’s just presented with larger than life scenarios and jokes tying it together and there’s nothing wrong with that.

The comedy is very tongue-in-cheek and that is the overall style that these movies have adopted. Having their source material and playing within it but never be beyond poking fun of the world or archetypes they have.

The animation still embraces the limitations of the real plastic of the LEGO pieces however they allow themselves some more lapses than the other movies animation. They unhinge the arms from their sockets, squash some other pieces and have water instead of a vast amount of moving blue pieces. It’s a valid artistic choice to make but the previous movies commitment to the real limitations was so impressive that this somehow feel like a letdown.

Something I feel is a drawback for the movie is that it doesn’t have much access to as many resources as the previous LEGO movies did. The first had the entirety of the franchises that LEGO has worked with and Batman had not just the Dark Knight but a a bunch of other DC lore to bring in.

Even if this isn’t as good as the other two movies to come out this ones still fun with a lot of talent and enthusiasm put into it. There is so much creativity put into the setting it up  and has an emotional core that ties it all together.

Jonathan Evans

 

Review Around The World In 80 Days by Jane Bissett

5 Stars5 / 5

By Jules Verne

Adapted by Laura Eason

Phileas Fogg is a mysterious and wealthy man who while at his London club wagers his life’s fortune that he can circumnavigate the globe in 80 days.

Joining him on this mad cap and most impossible adventure is his loyal french valet, Passepartout. Leaving Victorian London behind they race against time and tide to fulfill their undertaking and to ensure that they return home in 80 days to the hour for Fogg to win the wager.

This production is a wonderfully funny romp around the globe with Fogg as our leader and Passepartout as our guide. From the exotic subcontinent to the American Wild West over land and sea there are laughs a plenty and audience participation. The fast moving pace leaves you almost breathless and it is impossible to believe that the 125 characters you see on the stage are only played by a cast of eight!

The energy of this magnificantly talented cast is inspiring as they move from trains to boats, across land and even travel by elephant!

There is also a daring rescue,four fights, three dances and two circus acts and they even manage a wedding!

The highly skilled performances for the non-contact fights including slow motion was punctuated by sound effects and comic timing which looked effortless. This was stage craft at its very best and the action just went on and on.

Director, Theresa Heskins, has achieved the impossible by bringing the world to the stage and the cast and creative team rose to the challenge of bringing it all to life by the use of stage, props, lighting and sound.

Whilst this was truly a whole cast performance, Michael Hugo as Passepartout was outstanding. He had the audience joining him on stage and off to great effect laughing at him, with him, and also at themselves.

This is a truly enjoyable show for which you need to take along your inner child and leave your inhibitions as home.

Prepare to go on a journey that will see you laughing your way around the world and leave you wanting more.

At the final curtain, when the cast returned to the stage the beaming smiles were a clear indication that they, the cast, had enjoyed performing as much as the audience had enjoyed the performance.

Around the World in 80 Days plays at Cardiff’s New Theatre from;

Tuesday 19 September – Sunday 24 September at 7.00pm

Thursday, Saturday and Sunday Matinees at 2.30pm.

For further details or to book tickets call the Box Office on 02920878889.

Review: Hairspray, Wales Millennium Centre – By Eloise Stingemore

5 Stars5 / 5

Hairspray is back and bigger than Tracy Turnblad’s hair. It’s louder than the Corny Collins show at full volume. It’s a big bouffant of a musical!

Set in 1962 Baltimore, Tracy Turnblad, a big girl with big hair and an even a bigger heart, is on a mission to follow her dreams and dance her way onto national TV with The Nicest Kids In Town. Tracys audition not only makes her a local celebrity, she sends sales of Ultra Clutch Hairspray through the roof and bags local heartthrob Link Larkin. However, when Tracy uses her newfound fame to fight for equality, it puts her at loggerheads with Velma Von Tussle the producer of the show but also mother of the show’s “star” teenager, Amber Von Tussle, jeopardising her place on the show and her freedom.

From the opening vamp of “Good Morning Baltimore,” to the final chorus of the finale, “You Can’t Stop the Beat,” the shows score a mixture of bubble-gum pop to rhythm and blues is irresistibly catchy. Rebecca Mendoza shines in her professional debut as Tracy whereas Edward Chitticks plays Link Larkin with the right amount of cool that manages to capture your attention and make your heart flutter every time he is on stage. As for Layton Williams who is best known as Stephen Carmichael in the hit BBC Three show Bad Education, he presents a dazzling array of dance skills all whilst crafting a touching relationship with Liard-Bailey’s Penn. However, it is the coupling of Mat Rixon and Norman Pace as Edna and Wilburn Turnblad that gives the show a fantastic comic spark. Their duet of “Your Timeless To Me” was delivered to perfection and Pace body language had the audience in stitches, which makes it shame that the audience saw so little of the two together during Kerryson’s production.

The show features an impressive variety of costumes by Takis from the fabulous ’60s fashions Tracy and Edna get from “Mr. Pinky’s Hefty Hideaway”, to Corny’s comical red sequinned suit, and, of course, the giant hairdos sprayed with the titular product. However, Takis’ reliance on a projected backdrop to capture the Civil Rights protests meant at times the stage felt slightly bare but nevertheless did an excellent way of demonstrating the two sides to American society at the time.

Hairspray is full of colour, soul and free spirit that defined the 60s. It is the ultimate feel good show and judging by the amount of smiles in the foyer as people left the venue they didn’t want the beat to end.

Hairspray opened in Cardiff on August 16, 2017, with a tour around the UK until June 2018. Tour dates and ticket information available can be found here: http://www.hairsprayuktour.com/tour-dates/

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review Shirley Valentine by Jane Bissett

3 Stars

Shirley Valentine is a middle-aged housewife who talks to the wall. She is married to Joe and has been a faithful wife and mother. Stuck in the rut of an unfulfilled marriage of routine and domestic drudgery she longs for another life.

Shirley’s best friend Jane, who is unattached since she discovering her husband in bed with the milkman, seems to enjoy a carefree existence and is able to experience a world that Shirley can only dream about.

This however, changes when Jane books a holiday to Greece and not only invites Shirley but gives her the tickets so as to make her decision more difficult.

Of course Shirley wants to go but how does she tell Joe, a man who for the whole of their married life has considered their annual holiday to the Isle of Wight – abroad.

Whilst the holiday is only three weeks away, Shirley struggles with her desire to change her life and become Shirley Valentine once more and leave drudgery behind. As a wife and mother she is caught up in being the constant in the lives of her family and wonders if she should go at all.

Eventually, she decides that she cannot let this opportunity slip away, whilst also knowing that if she tells Joe he will throw a fit, talk her out of it and tell her how stupid she is being.

So confiding in the kitchen wall, to whom she constantly chats, she plans to accompany Jane to Greece.

With all her domestic plans in place, Joe’s meals cooked and in the freezer, her mother coming over to defrost and microwave for him, Shirley buys new clothes for the new her that will go to Greece.

On the day of departure Shirley leaves by taxi and her adventure begins.

Once in Greece Jane hooks up with a man and Shirley spends the first few days by herself. She enjoys the freedom of not being at the beck and call of anyone else and she spends her days exploring the island and soaking up the sun and culture and slowly but surely a new Shirley is reborn – Shirley Valentine of her youth has returned.

With the scales peeled from her eyes she sees the people around her in a new light. The holiday makers at her hotel and the local population, Shirley has gone ‘native’.

Her transformation is complete when she meets Costas, the owner of a local tavern, who helps her fulfill her dream of drinking wine by the sea in the country where the grapes are grown.

Promising not to take advantage of her, the following day he takes her out for the day around the islands in his brother’s boat. The experience is life changing for Shirley, bolstering her confidence in herself and her attractiveness.

On the day of departure, as they are stood in the airport check-in queue Shirley realises she cannot go back to her old life and with the shouts of Jane and fellow passengers following her “come back!” she walks out of the airport and away from her old life and into a new one as she decides to stay in Greece and ask Costas for a job.

When she gets to the tavern Costas is already ‘chatting up’ the next woman, but Shirley hasn’t come back for Costas she has gone back for herself, the youthful, carefree, adventurer who was buried deep inside and who has finally emerged.

Now working evenings at the tavern, Shirley has fielded several phone calls from Joe demanding that she come home. Now, he has decided that his only course of action is to go to Greece to bring her back. Shirley on the other hand has no intention of returning and is sure that Joe will pass her by before recognising her as the happy changed woman she has become.

Shirley Valentine is the creation of writer Willy Russell. She is a manifestation of the 1960/70s middle-aged woman who married young, brought up a family and supported her husband.

Playwright Willy Russell was brought up in Liverpool surrounded by a family of strong women. At the age of 15 he left school to work at a womens’ hairdressers before returning to education and his career as a writer. It is clear that his observations of the women that surrounded him have had an effect on his writing as he has captured their essence as well as the secret dreams and aspirations of women of this time perfectly.

As a one-woman play Shirley Valentine is a triumph of female characterisation. As Shirley, Jodie Prenger skilfully develops her personality as the play unfolds and she tells her story. As she works her way around the kitchen and talks to the audience and of course the ‘wall’ you are drawn into her world and even the younger theatre goer gains a greater understanding of the life she leads and the life she dreams of.

It did feel as if it was a little bit of a slow burn, but this character could not have been rushed as she bared her soul and inner dreams before us.

Prenger’s portrayal of Shirley was a realistic and believable one. The audience was biased towards women, it has to be said of a certain age, who were empathetic to the character and her situation. The unsuppressed laughter at Shirley’s description of her life and encounters was encouraging as you realised that the audience ‘got it’.

Glen Walford has directed this production with the imagination and skill that you would have expected given her directing pedigree.

Although there are only two scene locations both felt familiar. The kitchen, the heart of the home, and the beach in Greece. I particularly liked the subtle lighting effects that gave movement to the sea it added to the atmosphere without distracting.

If there is one take away moment it has to be watching Prenger actually cooking chips’n’egg on stage, and as the lights dimmed for the next scene I couldn’t help smiling to myself as a male stage hand came on to clean the kitchen area. Something that her Joe would have been horrified at seeing, but then I wondered, would any of the younger women in the audience have even noticed?

Prenger did not disappoint as Shirley and received a well deserved standing ovation for giving us two hours of sheer pleasure.

Shirley Valentine plays at Cardiff’s New Theatre from;

Tuesday 27 June – Saturday 1 July at 7.30pm

On Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday there are performances at 2.30pm.

For further details about the show or to book tickets call the Box Office on 02920878889.

Review Service Episode Four: Fire Walk, Cardiff Fringe by Kaitlin Wray

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4 Stars4 / 5

After the success of Episode Three: Taking Stock, I saw at the start of my Cardiff fringe theatre festival, I was excited to watch Episode Four: Fire Walk. I was not disappointed in the slightest. The story line was even crazier and funnier than the first one. The writing  by George Infini is incredible, he knows exactly what will make the audience laugh.

One of the great things about this show and Episode 3 was the little sketches at the beginning. It sets the scene and gets you right into the show straight away. The ‘forbidden’ romance between Steven and Gene, played by Grant Cawley and Isabelle Paige escalated even more. It got to the point where Gene had to ask for Gavin’s help, played by Sam Harding. This whole interaction was hilarious and got the audience fully immersed with their romance. All actors stayed true to their characters from episode three and it felt like I was watching a series. For episode four there was an additional character called Marshall acted by Jonathan Dunn. His character fitted perfectly with the old manager, Jackie, played by Susan Monkton. They worked as a double team which felt the need to torment the restaurant staff in every way possible. They were a perfect combo that had some marvellous quirks added to their characters.

Even though it was a short comedy it told a great story and the ending left us wanting to see more. This is a well collaborated group where everyone has put in their time and effort into creating a great performance. It was wonderfully directed by Steve Bennett who added even more comedy moments to the already remarkable writing. I thoroughly love the collaboration between Infini Productions and A Clock Tower Theatre Company. I will be looking out for them in future productions.

Review Return of The Grumpy Old Women- Fifty Shades Of Beige, St Davids Hall by James Briggs

 

5 Stars5 / 5

 

Returning after their sell-out Spring 2015 tour the Grumpy Old Women are back to share their Grumpy tales and tips with the nation. Award-winning comedian and original star of Grumpy Old Women Jenny Éclair is accompanied by fellow recruits Susie Blake (star of Mrs Brown’s Boys) and Kate Robbins (Singer and star of Casualty). Before I go on with the review, however, I must mention I cannot go into too much detail as to the tales told with my review because as Jenny Éclair said “What goes on in Grumpy club stays in Grumpy club”.

The Grumpy Old Women

Landing at St David’s Hall in their shed from outer space the grumpy old women, spacewalk onto the stage complete with space helmets and uniforms to a momentous applause from the audience, unsurprisingly the audience was mainly made up of women, with just a few men dotted about the auditorium. Given that I was possibly one of the youngest in the audience and being male I still felt as though I was able to relate to the topics they discussed – mind you having a Mum the same age as the Grumpy Old Women did help!

The Grumpy Old Women talked about a wide range of subjects that any person was able to relate to including a guide to nagging, how to get a roof rack put on a car without your husband moaning, dancing at weddings and pole dancing. Props littered the garden set and were used to brilliant effect during the show and even included a gigantic pair of pants and a BBQ.

The show is very clever in that it can be talking about a topic and then the lighting will change and you are plunged into a mini sketch. The sketches highlight the brilliant acting skills of all the Grumpy Old Women. The amazingly funny script really worked well for the stars and left the audience in stitches and in my case tears streaming down my face. I really like the fact that all of the comedy was good clean fun with very little use of bad language. When the language was used however it was delivered with fantastic comic timing.

The second half of the show sees them return to the James Bond theme which sparked a debate into why there has not yet been a female Bond. With the current news of Daniel Craig’s decision not to carry on playing Bond there is no better time than now to consider the possibilities of a female actress playing Bond and the three Grumpy women are obviously showcasing their talents to play Jane Bond.

For me there were two stand out moments in the show that were utterly hilarious, the first of these was when team Grumpy took part in ‘Grumpy Come Dancing’ based on the hit BBC show which had the audience in hysterics especially with Susie Blake’s pole dancing performance. The second stand out moment for me was the posh version of The Jeremy Kyle show, the writing was amazing and Kate Robbins impersonation of Jeremy Kyle was brilliant and even mimicked the way he lies on the step and goes up close to the faces of the people on the show. The content of the Jeremy Kyle sketch is also fantastically funny due to it being based around a mother complaining ‘My son will not practice the cello’.

At the end of the evening the audience gave a well-deserved standing ovation. Anyone who watches this show is guaranteed to have a fabulous night and will most definitely be leaving with an aching jaw from laughing so much. This really is a must see show that should not be missed and is most definitely the best night out I have had in a long while.

Return of The Grumpy Old Women- Fifty Shades Of Beige is currently on a UK wide tour and all of the dates are available via this link- http://www.grumpyoldwomenlive.com/