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Review: Grease, WMC By Eloise Stingemore

 

5 Stars5 / 5

 

The T-Birds and the Pink Ladies are in the building; Grease has arrived at the Millennium Centre! Featuring everyone’s favourite characters – Sandy, Danny, the sassy Pink Ladies and the groovy T-Birds, the whole gang is back together at Rydell High along with all the unforgettable songs of 1978 hit movie. The original high school musical is back and better than ever!

A talented cast comprising of Tom Parker, from the UK’s top boy band The Wanted as tough boy Danny Zuko, Over The Rainbow winner Danielle Hope as Sandy, Strictly Come Dancing’s Louisa Lytton as Rizzo and Jimmy Osmond as Teen Angel. Gave it their all as they transported us back to 1950s high-school America for a tale of true love going off the rails before finally getting back on track.

Director David Gilmore production of this well loved film is truly electrifying; neon signs, fireworks, numerous costume changes, and the car that magically transforms into a glittermobile kept the narrative flowing at a good pace. Whereas from the opening overture, the band that were clearly visible up and behind the stage were on fire, encouraging audience participation as it played through some of the shows big hits. While former Strictly Come Dancing judge, Arlene Philips, toe-tapping choreographer made you want to get out off your seat and hand jive the night away whilst shouting, ‘A-wop-bop-a-loo-bop, a-wop-bam-boom’!

Tom Parker impresses as he makes his musical theatre debut playing Danny and Danielle Hope plays Sandy beautifully. Louisa Lytton made a suitably fierce Rizzo, whereas the arrival of charismatic Jimmy Osmond as Teen Angel in the second half took the show into another stratosphere as it neared its Grease mega mix finale.

Gilmore production of this well loved classic leaves your face aching from smiling and your hands from clapping. Grease is still very much the word!

You have until Saturday 29 July to see the show. Tickets are available online and over the phone by calling 029 2063 6464.

Review: Sunny Afternoon by Corrine Cox

With speckled references to the hits throughout the storytelling, this clever writing creates an enjoyably impatient anticipation for the big numbers but also the impression that we are watching the creative genius unfold.

5 Stars5 / 5

As we’re teased with references to the iconic You Really Got Me in the opening sequence there’s already a palpable sense of anticipation pulsing around the auditorium of the Wales Millennium Centre as the cast of Sunny Afternoon prepare to take us on a 2½ hour musical journey through The Kinks rise to stardom. From the early days in North London; their debut on Top of the Pops; the infamous American tour; through to their triumphant comeback, Joe Penhall ingeniously weaves the hit songs from the 60s into the storytelling of one of the most influential bands of the era.

Our story begins in Muswell Hill, with performances by Ryan O’Donnell & Mark Newnham perfect characterisations of the often tense professional relationship between the rebellious Davies brothers, as they navigate the initial tensions to discovering the bands distinctive sound, the start of a journey which would shape a unique musical identity that would inspire generations. Throughout the evening O’Donnell, Newnham (a highlight performance), Gallo, Rhys and the supporting ensemble, blend effortlessly to recreate the iconic sound of the band, in what is a moving portrayal of both the professional and the personal lives of the band and their adjustment to the pressures of stardom. With references to the hits speckled throughout the storytelling, this clever writing creates an enjoyably impatient anticipation for the big numbers but also the impression that we are watching the creative genius unfold.

Throughout the exploration of the soaring highs and the frustrating lows the band encounter, we join the cast in a celebration of how four working class musicians from North London changed the music scene for generations to come. Dead end street, weaved masterfully into Penhall’s narrative, particularly highlighting how the bands upbringing proved an ongoing source of inspiration for Ray’s writing with the majority of the works involving similar elements of social commentary, which inevitably played a large part in their then and ongoing appeal.

The staging enables the cast to create a certain intimacy during acoustic interludes including This Time Tomorrow and Thank you for the Days, contrasted with the gig feel of the iconic All Day and All of the Night & roof raising end sequence, and quirks of the choreography and use of props lend themselves especially well to the playfulness of numbers such as Dedicated Follower of Fashion.

The universal appeal of Sunny Afternoon makes it a must-see irrespective of whether you know the band or the songs. If you know The Kinks you’ll love it, if you don’t know the Kinks you’ll love it. A feel good musical and a moving portrayal to one of the defining bands of the 60s who will continue to inspire generations to come.

Ray Davies – Ryan O’Donnell
Dave Davies – Mark Newnham
Mick Avory – Andrew Gallo
Pete Quaife – Garmon Rhys
Music & Lyrics – Ray Davies
Book – Joe Penhall
Original Story – Ray Davies
Director – Edward Hall
Designer – Miriam Buether
Choreographer – Adam Cooper
Lighting – Rick Fisher
Sound – Matt Mckenzie
Musical Supervisor – Elliot Ware

Review Blackbird The Other Room by Kiera Sikora

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All photographic credits Kirsten McTernan

4 Stars4 / 5

Set in an office break room, as unclean as their past, ‘Blackbird’ begins with Ray (Christian Patterson) and Una (Sophie Melville) on opposite sides of the small and intricate room, both wanting to speak whilst both unsure of what to say or where they can look.

With a firstly faltering light and some seriously uncertain small talk, a head-to-head confrontation begins between the two. They tell us of their past, how Una and Ray shared an illicit relationship which began and ended when Una was 12, and Ray 40, and how they both ended up here in Ray’s new life’s occupancy, after Una saw a photograph of him in a magazine. She tracked him down. And the past in put in front of them, staring at them in the flesh.

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What’s both horrendous and horribly beautiful about this play is how David Harrower has us question who the hell the victim is here. You see, Ray is not a monster- at least there was no sign of one at The Other Room for me. But his actions are undoubtedly monstrous. To abuse, a word prized from his own mouth by Una, a 12-year-old which has harmed her both emotionally and physically is evil. And there are more than a million of different kinds of evil in this world but I saw not just one on that stage, I indefinitely saw a few more. You see it seems that it is the cruelty of feelings that conjured up these horrendous events and emotional sky scrapers. Ray tells us that it was his genuine, non-tactical and uncontrollable desire to speak to Una. That ‘speaking’ lead to what they ultimately became. He would purposely look for ways and reasons to talk to Una not because he thought profusely about what she looked like naked but because he was emotionally attracted to her understanding of human feelings. Ray is likeable. Disturbingly likeable. You may well sit in the audience and see how he could be a very nice man to have a very nice chat with. He believes that Una ‘understood love’.

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But, for Una, it is that understanding of human feelings that could’ve been one of the ways in which she felt that she could and did love Ray. And it could’ve also been the reason why she thought he loved her too. From the beginning of the play we see that she is a girl who feels things on a deep and sensual level. That quality in a person is usually something that when discovered by somebody else can be a quality that helps them thrive together. But we can see here how that quality is what made her bleed for Ray. Una is delicate, a shadow of her youth who, though beautiful, is internally beaten. Seeing her at 27 with her heart pouring out of her mouth allowed us to see her as a 12-year-old. And seeing both her Ray (now 55) in the same room meant that what was put in front of us was two people who share a time that was both forbidden, but almost admittedly for both exclusively sometimes savoured.

This play is in very many senses difficult, wonderfully so under the direction of Rupert Hands who’s delicate and detailed direction compliments the script and its disorientating duologue of wretched honesty. It’s bright, bold and dissimilar design by Ruth Hall, with lighting designed by Alia Stephen and sound designed by Sam Jones commend the intricate space at The Other Room.

Christian Patterson and Sophie Melville are a credit to Harrower’s words making you throw your moral compass in a ditch and leave you wondering to the bar with no way of seeing what’s right and what’s honest.

Blackbird runs at The Other Room at Porter’s until Friday November 4th.

Prepare to be left in a concrete conflict of emotions.

http://www.otherroomtheatre.com/en/whats-on/seasons/autumnwinter-at-the-other-room/blackbird/