Karis Clarke

Review Posh, Joe Prentice Productions Limited, Theatr Clwyd By Karis Clarke

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Written by Laura Wade (Home, I’m Darling) and directed by Lucy Hughes “Posh” is as uncomfortable as it is funny, cringe worthy as it is poignant and outdated as it is relevant. It is everything growing up in Thatchers reign, how I imagined the titled and the privileged would behave (and could, indeed, be behaving in BoJo’s Brexit Britain). It takes mainly stereotypical “Rar Rar toffs” and rams them down your throat, stuffing you like the gritty posh pate eaten for the first course in Act 1.

10 unpleasant young men unravel in a dinning room spin on Lord of the Flies, brought down by their own self importance, arrogance and sense of entitlement.The play holds a mirror up to society and shows us the self imposed holes we place others and ourselves in. With glimpses that life isn’t all it seems…. for anyone.

Laura Wade has created in the main unlikable characters, that by the end of the play you neither like or pity. However, you do ask yourselves some questions about the world we live in. Any empathy I felt for the characters was gone this is cleaver writing – because you don’t mind disliking them – it feels right not to like them. It helps that the script is laugh out loud funny and although you may not like the characters most have them, at first, have some  likeable qualities.

The play is intensely difficult to set as in the main it is 10 men around a round dinning table – but with some clever chair placement you don’t notice. The realistic setting of the dinning room adds to the overall feeling that you are spying on a section of our society that you are not supposed to see – the idea that this behaviour all takes place behind closed doors runs through the play and the fact that director hasn’t tried to rearrange it to accommodate for the audience gives a sense we are peeping through the walls.

The cast is excellent and with a lesser the cast the play could fall flat. Joseph Tyler Todd as George and Adam Mirsty as Guy give stand out performances, but hats off to Tiger Drew Honey who earned his place on the stage as the vile Alister. Quiet in the main for the first half he simpers and simmers to the interval when he finally lets rip. This is the first stage performance for Tiger Drew, he could have opted to play it safe and play a likeable cheeky chappy, instead he has chosen the polar opposite. A gamble that has paid off, as it showcases his talent as an actor. This touring play feels like he is on an apprenticeship which will lead to bigger things.

Posh plays at Theatr Clwyd until October 26th this is a funny, gritty, peep through the curtain look at how, potentially, the privileged few get to be the privileged few, no matter what they do!!!!

Review Orpheus Descending by Tennessee Williams, Theatre Clwyd and Menier Chocolate Factory by Karis Alaina

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Tamara Harvey  – hot off her Olivier award for Home I’m Darling’ could have played safe – and ran a nice little Ayckbourn – instead she plucked a little known Tennessee Williams play that was in the main considered a flop, set in a convenience store in the Deep South of America –  no doubt she could have had her West End and Broadway, Tony Award winning designer Jonathan Fensom create a replica 1950’s American store, instead it appears she asked him to design as little as they could get away with… this could look like an ‘A’ level workshop production – a set from what’s lying around – on the surface minimal direction and caricatured characters – and in principle that is what this is – but I mean that as an incredible compliment.

Some of the best work I have seen has been from peers in workshops. The actors are able to use the words, their skill and their craft and although the characters are caricatures these actors did not act them in this way.  By being basic, the set took no focus away from the actors – yet gave them enough to do on stage, the master piece of the design was the hues of the lighting by Tim Mascall and the use of smoke – which was only noticeable by it’s absence . Finally the lack of direction – I find two reasons for noting the lack of direction one because the actors look awkward or lost on set and direction is missing – or direction is lacking because it is perfect and you feel as though you have just watched characters as the author intended. There was no apparent direction present in this play, it was perfection.

It took me a good 10 minutes to acclimatise to the tone of the play – the accents (although spot on) took some adjusting too – and a lot of information was thrust upon you from the start – this is not a play you can attend – to just half watch and unwind at the end of a long day – it is not light relief – although peppered with humours moments – in the main it is an intense reflection into the complex nature of humanity….. or lack of….

We hear  about the owners of the store (Lady and Jabe)  through the brilliant gossipy narrative of  Belulah Binnings, the main form of the light relief comes from Catrin Aaron (previous TC production  –  Little Voice) – before we even meet the couple the past 15 years of their unhappy marriage is laid bare in 10 minutes and secrets that have been hidden are revealed to the audience hinting this play will not end well. This is a clever use of narrative instantly we take sides, and as an audience we are willing Lady to know the truth.

The first part is in the main tone setting – and it sizzles with the introduction of snake skin wearing, guitar playing Val – the beautiful Seth Numrich – who honestly if he had walked off set and asked me to run away with – I would have! He wooed every woman, possibly every man in the theatre – especially when he played his guitar and sang. His character I was unsure of except until the very end – he claimed to be on a journey to reform from his past – which kept coming to taunt him in the form of the flesh baring makeup wearing Carol Cutere ( Jemima Rooper)– who  created as much hysteria in a room as the local black man, as we learn during this production. The play had a large cast who all had an important role to play – no role was small – and all expertly executed. However the main hook of the play was the heat between Lady (Hattie Morahan) and Val (Numrich) they share a lot of stage time, long looks, desire and the occasion interruption from the phone or from above – leave every word dripping with sexual tension or hidden connotation to an unhappy past (on both parts) There is a delightful scene near the end of the second half when both are truly happy and the audience is lost in that moment with them which enables the audience to be as shocked by what happens next as the Lady and Val.

Do not come to watch this play if you are after a giggle with the girls and want to see the Full Monty – watch this play because you love theatre, because you want to know what clever set design is, because you want to know how a good actor can be a great actor. Come and watch this play if you like tension and drama  – if you are a theatre student of any description you need to see this play before it heads to the West End.

I have struggled with why the play wasn’t a hit when first produced –   but my knowledge of Williams is not strong enough to judge – however if I had to comment I think Carol (Roopers) Character could be the answer – addressing racism in 1950’s America was risky but a white women defending black men in 1950’s America was perhaps too big a pill to swallow . Thankfully Sami Ibrahim and Carys Lewis (TC’s residents in writing) have brought a forgotten gem back to life and the Williams play will finally get the credit it deserves.

A brutal insight to self righteous 1950’s slavery, intensely acted, perfectly directed and dripping with sexual tension.

Orpheus Descending plays at Theatr Clwyd, Mold from 15 April – 27 April 2019. It then plays at Menier Chocolate Factory, London from 9 May – 6 July.

Review Kiss Me Quickstep, Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch & New Wolsey Theatre by Karis Clarke

Written by Amanda Whittington, Directed by Kirstie Davis

Showing Tuesday 26 – Saturday  to 30 March 2019

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5) A treat for any Strictly Come Dancing On Ice fans!!

Between September and December you can’t stay in on a Saturday night and not be intrigued by the glamour and drama of the feathers and sequins of Strictly Ballroom Whether you are a fan of the show or not everyone knows the hype that surrounds the all important accolade of making it to the world famous Empress Ballroom in Blackpool’s Winter Gardens. This is the setting for Theatre Clwyd’s latest hit offering “Kiss Me Quickstep”, a bittersweet comic insight into the lives of three amateur dance partners and their bid to be the best.

The stories of the three partners are loosely intertwined, with a sense of  rivalry, mystery and jealousy rippling underneath the surface loud enough for us to know all is not as it seems  – the story develops at a steady pace with no real surprises. The audience is left with a smile on their face, toe tapping and hand jiving with the sense that all is well with the world.

It would have been easy to have over developed characters and plot turning it more farcical than funny and creating caricatures rather than believable characters. Thankfully this talented ensemble do neither, characterisation is beautifully raw and timed to perfection – which is hardly surprising as everything about the play is about timing… even the stagehands dance with props in synchronisation. The trust and timing element is excellently displayed in a couple of costume changes on set which are risky but funny.

The set is depicted by a couple of chairs, rails and two arch lighting rigs.  The cast use a combination of movement and dance with this simple set and it becomes backstage, dressing rooms and the audience filled dance floor with ease.

It would be rude not to mention the dancing – I am a Strictly fan and for me there was just the right amount of dance any more and I think it would have been distracting from the play, any less and the sense of why they were there would be lost. As it was, it worked just fine, I did like it better when just one couple was dancing at a time as I felt the stage was a little on the small side for a three partners to be dancing, however this did not spoil the play in any way. As a bonus Theatre Clwyd Community Dancers were involved as additional dancers, this gave an extra dimension for the cast and audience to work with.

As far as rating go I am not sure I would place it as a quickstep – it lacked the bounce and speed, for me, it was more an American Smooth – it glided along elegantly, had a few high lifts and dips in the middle and ended with a peck on the cheek.

Review The Verdict, Theatr Clwyd by Karis Alaina Clarke

Middle Ground Theatre

The Verdict

by Barry Reed

Adapted by Margaret May Hobbs

Theatr Clwyd

Tuesday 5 – Saturday 9 March

Box Office 01352 701521


4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5) for this David V Goliath courtroom drama 

The Verdict stars Ian Kelsey who first found fame as 90s teen heart-throb Dave Glover in Emmerdale,  and was most recently  seen on TV as villain Vinny Ashford in Coronation Street.

 Kelsey is part of a 15 strong cast of familiar stars from TV including Denis Lill (Only Fools and Horses), Paul Opacic (Bad Girls/Hollyoaks),Christopher Ettridge (Goodnight Sweetheart).

The Verdict plays in Mold for one week only as part of a national tour, which continues at venues throughout the UK until the Summer and with the named cast it was not surprising to see an almost full house on the first night of the run. Originally a movies starring Paul Newman and James Mason it was seen as a masterpiece of the time and nominated for 5 Oscars, More than a courtroom drama the story questions human nature and the value of life.

The large cast did not disappoint and all delivered credible performances.  Kelsey was heartfelt as the down on his luck lawyer who likes the booze and the office floor more than his wife and his bed. He is engaging and convincing in his transitional journey from hard-bitten ambulance chaser to, fighter of the cause, and we follow him willingly as he takes on the Church, the Judicial system and his peers. Even in the early stages of the play he is likable and this in the main is down to Kelsey’s charm as a actor and his timing. 

Supporting him in the plot and in the play was Lill who gave a stand out performance as one time partner and the surrogate father figure. Bringing a comic one liner to almost every delivery the chemistry between the two was entertaining and believable. 

There was a clever use of drops for set changes making the simple set seem more elaborate than it was, naturalistic in style the lighting and direction was all very safe and felt a little stated in the first half – this along with the fact it was set in the 70’s made it feel overall a little dated – with more adventurous lighting and potentially setting it in modern day much more could have been achieved from this talented cast…. Especially as the main theme of the play is taking on the System, exposing deceit and showing that “No life is small” this is as relevant today as it was in 1976. 

However when the second half kicked in and the courtroom drama began the tension and the acting over rode any concerns about lighting or direction I may have been having and all I was interested in was what would the verdict be!!

Review Lord of The Flies, A Theatr Clwyd and Sherman Theatre production by Karis Clarke


5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)


Director:  Emma Jordon

Adapted by Nigel Williams

From the second I jumped out of my seat when the lights went down in the theatre I was hooked! Unfortunately I had entered the theatre with a  pre conceived idea – that I wasn’t going to enjoy this production. … because of the very thing that was creating all the hype, the all female cast. I though the gender / feminist card would be thrust down the audiences throat as hard as that of the casting of a female Dr Who! I was wrong. For the first few minutes I fought hard with myself, looking for flaws – but honestly the play just won me over.

James Perkins design was simple but effective, multi layered and stylized – it didn’t need anything dramatic the play was so well crafted it could have been performed on a empty stage.   Tim Mascoll’s clever use of light, shade and silhouettes, added to the sinister savagery consuming the Island and gave depth to the set.

The all female cast were young, playing young children / teenagers –  not an easy task – it can be very easy to over act and it looks ridiculous,  underact and the importance of the childhood is lost. This cast was spot on  – Each one showing the transition from girl to woman to savage as well as portraying Golding’s symbolism .  Piggy  rationality, Rhalp civilisation, Simon innocence, Jack, savagery, Roger evil. Each one gave a well rounded performance each one being allowed to deliver moments of humour amid the unfolding horror.

Piggy was sublime and was a treat from beginning to tragic end – the likability of Gina Fillingham’s performance only heightened the pathos felt for the unheard, unlikely heroine.  This was a stark contrast to the  hatefully personality beautifully portrayed by Kate Lamb as Jack. The timing and interaction of all the girls was strong, credit to movement director Liz Ranken who utilised the bond of the cast none more so than with –  Lowri and Mari Izzard as sisters Eric and Sam who were faultless. It was the timing and rhythm of the play that enabled the girls to work themselves into the halftime frenzy  – creating highs and lows in pace and emotion allowing the audience to catch up with the events unfolding on the stage.

It was disturbing, as a female to watch the sisterhood destroy itself –  the  book depicts the symbol the boys waiting to be destroyed by the Beast aka man- this takes on a whole different meaning when you think of teenage girls on the brink of womanhood being petrified by the beast of man!

Most of us are familiar with the story of The Lord of The Flies and the demise of  the boys left to their own devices in a world with no order – but to see females descend into the chaos of evil starting at innocent name calling and teasing, ending in death was bitter. I watched the play with my teenage son – who thought “the play was brilliant – but would have been more believable with boys as girls wouldn’t behave that way”

I disagree, as I have been a teenage girl and could fully  buy into the ugliness that transpired. With this I learned two things – casting isn’t important the quality of the acting is and boy, girl, man or woman we are all victims of humanity, with a frailty of sanity on a  knife edge between good and evil.

Once again a 5 Star production in this coproduction from Cardiff’s Sherman Theatre and Mold’s Theatr Clwyd who are back where they belong  – leading the way in North Wales Theatre.

Lord of the Flies can bee seen at Theatr Clwyd until the 13 October. The production then play at Cardiff’s  Sherman Theatre from Wed 17 Oct 2018 – Sat 03 Nov 2018



Review The Great Gatsby : A Theatre Clwyd and Guild of Misrule co-production by Karis Clarke


5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)


Transformed into the Gatsby Mansion, the Dolphin Pub, Mold was an ideal setting for the immersive production ” The Great Gatsby.”  I was fully prepared to take part ,down to my Mary Janes and headband.  I knew, I would enjoy this type of performance but I wanted to get the perspective of someone who wouldn’t. So,  I took my polar opposite friend. Her instructions to me were – “Don’t leave me on my own, don’t make me speak, sing or dance!” …… before the interval she was willingly    charlestoning, singing and chatting to the cast and loved every second!

From the second you walk up to the Dolphin you are submerged into the 1920’s prohibition era. A nice unexpected twist on entering the building instantly sets the mood. Adding to the impression of a speakeasy a community cast working as door / bar men do an excellent job of getting you ready for the drama to come.

This style of theatre is a daring concept and an element of danger lies in having the audience play a major part of your play. The reason this production worked so well is due to the skill of the cast. I cannot praise all of cast members enough. They stayed in character for the full 2 hours and somehow spoke to every audience member, making them feel like they were at an elaborate house party.They even mingled in the interval. For my performance I was engaged with the three female characters (Myrtle played  beautifully by Bethan Rose Young, Daisy, a wistful Amie Burns Walker, party girl Jordan, the engaging Zoe Hakin and George  the talented Matthew Churcher). I could not pick a standout performance as all of the cast were outstanding.

Myrtle played by Bethan Rose Young and George played by Matthew Churcher.

I Myrtle played by Bethan Rose Young and George played by Matthew Churcher. entered the spirit and attended in 1920’s dress as did many of the audience but I wouldn’t say this was compulsory. It added to the set to be surrounded by all the costumes but those in normal clothes didn’t spoil the effect and they were just as immersed in the unfolding events as those of us dressed up.  (We all learned how to Charleston and all sang along) However, this is an awesome production and I am glad we made the choice to do something different, it was certainly worth the effort! 

Clever use of curtains, lighting and subtle props made the transition from pub to mansion. Cast encouraged audience members from room to room to move the play along. I found myself up and down stairs in an small group of 5 then 2:1 with Mrytle. The script and the flawless improvisation skills meant you could respond to the intimate sessions or not. The actors were skilled enough to ask direct questions that didn’t necessarily require answers. However, everyone became engrossed playing along, I was so immersed on Gatsby’s command I found myself running up the stairs after a distraught Daisy franticly calling her name!

At times I thought about what I was missing in the other rooms and wondered if I was missing a vital part of the play. However, as the play progressed I realised this was part of the charm. Every audience member was having a unique experience. The improvisation, the random interactions all added something individual for each audience member – no one  will watch the same version of this play, ever. For that reason I anticipate audience will go back to watch again. Later chatting to my friend I discovered the things I watched upstairs were been retold downstairs, so nothing was missed. This just added to impressive nature of this production and the skills of the writer and director Alexander Wright.

If you love the theatre, the 1920’s, the Gatsby story or if you just fancy something a bit special this is a must see event. In a world of virtual reality and HD3D TV theatre has not changed – Sets have become more technical and adventurous but the idea of theatre hasn’t changed until now.  This was Theatre for a virtual age, engaging all your senses and emotions beyond HD3D. Without doubt a 5 star production and a must see.

Follow the link below to book tickets … but be quick old sport they won’t be around for long.


Adapted and Directed by : Alexander Wright

Set Design and Costumes: Heledd Rees, Lighting : Ric Mountjoy

Reviewed : By Karis Clarke




Review The Rise and Fall Of Little Voice, Theatr Clwyd by Karis Clarke


4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)


As a critic I am not technically minded, I view a play and my mind will automatically focus on  the acting ability of the cast , as my background is in performing. However it would be impossible not to be blown away by the genius set design and the technicality of this production.


Using a revolving room on a split level, and a dividing floor the design by Amy Jane Cook easily managed to give the illusion of an open dolls house. (If the dolls house was a northern council house with poor electrics and bad house keeping!) This enabled the lounge, kitchen diner and bedroom all to be in full view of the audience. With swift transitions the bedroom revolved, the living room divided and the set transformed to Mr Boo’s night club. The first transition took place just after the beginning of the second half and was met with suitable gasps of awe from the impressed full house.

It would be rude not to give credit to the lighting design, by Nicholas Holdridge although naturalistic in nature a majority of the play took place in dimly lit rooms and at one point darkness. However the clever use of street, moon, dawn and torch light ensured the actors were always well lit and the tone and atmosphere were heightened. This combination of stage and technical magic combine in the final stages of the production, not wanting to spoil the effect -Theatre Clwyd’s production does stay true to the film and they do so very effectively. A combination of smoke, lights movement and LV’s  impressions as she reaches breaking point culminates to an intense stage experience.

The cast were as impressive as the set, comic timing, physicality and delivery were strong. Each member of the small ensemble allowed each other to have stand out moments as well as ensuring they all worked well together to perform some very funny dialogue, comedic banter and duets. (watch out for Nicola Reynolds, Mari Hoff, LV’s mum and the brilliant Victoria John, Sadie, the down beaten neighbour performing “It’s Raining Men”)

This play can only work if LV can actually deliver the impressions stated – ergo this play works. It has been stated on social media that when Catrin Aaron sings its like Judy Garland is in the room. I fully agree – except Shirley Bassey, Marilyn Monroe and a host of others are there with her.

I was slightly disappointed with some of the direction of the play, continuity of stage exits occasionally seemed haphazard – this could be due to them being sacrificed for the technicality of the production – in which case I can forgive the occasions when walls are walked through – however towards the end of the play it felt like the cast had forgotten where doors were and they were just walking wherever!

Jim Cartwright’s script is undoubtedly witty and gritty and is supposed to be full of hilarity and vulgarity, however, I was waiting for the all important point when I would feel empathy with the characters, for me,  it didn’t happen. I put this down to the direction of Wasserberg rather than the acting ability of the cast. It was played for laughs and in doing so the characters became more caricatures –  that although I laughed with, I never fully connected with.

Other than this,  it was a pleasure to watch, strong female leads and the standing ovation  was justly deserved. Little Voice hits the right notes.

Theatre Clwyd, Antony Hopkins Theatre,Tuesday 10th October . Directed by Kate Wasserberg


Review Black Mountain, Co produced by Theatre Clwyd, Paines Plough and Orange Tree Theatre by Karis Clarke

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)


Thursday 13th July 2017 Roundabout Pop up Theatre

Written by Brad Birch

Starring Hasan Dixon, Katie Elin-Salt and Sally Messham

Directed by awarding winning James Grieve Black Mountain is a disturbing physiological thriller that explores the darkest side of relationships. Set over a five day period, this one act play holds the audience in the middle of its white knuckle clenched palm. With a cast of three and brimming with expression the plays world premier was in  the grounds of Theatre Clwyd in Paines Plough, Roundabout Popup theatre. With a limited space, a couple of props namely a torch and (another item I shall not name for fear of ruining the plot) and extremely clever and well timed lighting, the focus was solely on the acting.  Thankfully the actors were all highly skilled and more than capable of delivering the multifaceted characterisations this play demanded.


I don’t want to give the plot away, as I think new stories are so few and far between in the theatre they should be cherished and discovered fresh by each audience. I will say from the get go the story had you guessing – why where they there ? What was their story ?  What was really going on ? The biggest question I had constantly going on however was – who’s side was I on? This type of dilemma I have a love hate relationship with. I admire writers who can produce characters who are so much more than the words on the page – and all three of these characters clearly are. We are never given the full story – just hints as to what has happened and with one word the characters / actors spoke volumes.  Speech was both passionate yet comic, weak yet strong, emotional yet pathetic – just as it is in everyday life .

The Roundabout pop up theatre is not a big space, although cleverly designed to seat a decent sized audience the actual stage space is small, fortunately for this play the close proximately to each other and the audience only added to heighten dramatic tension. I couldn’t help thinking how the play would work on a normal stage with props and staging I don’t think anything would be gained by setting the play differently, in fact I would suggest tension may be lost if the play had ran in a more naturalistic setting.

As it was, it certainly held jump out of your seat moments, if not jump out of your skin!

The Playwright Brad Birch

Well this dish had been well seasoned and cooked to a very high standard, my only reservation was the ending – without wanting to give anything away I would have been happier if there had been a final glimpse to just tie up the ending – a sprig of parsley –  just for clarification – but that does go against the grain of how the play ran – there was something along the vein of The Tales of The Unexpected about the story, you thought you knew what was coming, then you never, then you did, then what you thought half an hour earlier turned out to be right all along!

Overall this was a very enjoyable piece of theatre made all the more exciting by the fact it is being performed in a portable theatre that can literally be popped up at the road side if needed. (I support anything that involves theatre getting to the people or people getting to the theatre).

Black Mountain will be showing at Theatr Clwyd, Mold until 21st July and after then it will be touring various venues including Edinburgh Fringe before concluding at the Orange Tree Theatre in March 2018.


For anyone who likes their drama with  a twist and sting in the tale this is a definite!




PopStarz, How Community Youth Groups Regenerate The Arts.

“Pop Goes The 80’s” @ Rhyl’s Little Theatre, Sunday 29th June 2017

The energy in the theatre as the full house audience waits for the curtain to rise can only be described as hyper.

This is pretty standard for a Jaxx Martine Popstarz Academy show – because no matter what  – you know for the next hour and a half your heart is going to burst with pride, and be blown away by the amount of hard work, dedication and talent that has gone into this show. This is not down to luck, this is clever planning and hours of dedication given by the two principle teachers Paula and Steve Duncan .

I am no stranger to this community group, I worked along with the Duncan’s four years ago in a local school on a performance workshop – the children involved were keen to have an outlet to express themselves  and there was nowhere locally for them to do it. Around the same time the Duncan’s were looking for somewhere for their daughter to attend a drama class and found the nearest one to be a 30 minute drive away – So The Duncan’s thought;

“Why not try this ourselves, give our local children somewhere they can go….. if it works, it works out, if not it’s a bit of fun”

Professional performers themselves, working the circuit as singers and presenters, they have the skills and experience needed to deliver quality workshops and an ability to bond with the children. Four years later the small group of 17 has now expanded with a growing waiting list. They have moved from performing  sharing sessions with parents to producing two shows a year in Rhyl’s Little Theatre, which despite it’s name seats a 190 plus audience.  They also perform in one off shows including “Got to Sing Got to Dance” which showcases the community youth groups from the local areas in and around North Wales joining together and performing in Rhyl Pavilion Theatre for the charity Happy Faces.  Paula has stated this was one of her proudest moments along side the children’s big production last year of a fantastic version of Willy Wonka.

This year with the help of Steve’s impressive Marty Mcfly impression we were taken back to the 80’s

The group sees children from ages 4 to 17 perform and the principles cater  for all age ranges ensuring all children appear on stage more than once – this is no mean feat…. and the show itself was well crafted, this was not just a handful of 80’s pop songs performed by some school children, this was a delightful trip down 80’s lane. Full of comedy, including sketches from TV shows, adverts and dance.  Naturally  there were  different levels of abilities, but,  this became part of the charm. For example the cuteness and humour factor was used with the younger children. Understandably four to seven year olds are not going to give flawless Broadway performances ….. but who could not enjoy watching 4 mini Ghostbusters in full kit being chased around stage by bum shaking, tongue pulling ghosts?

The costumes were very realistic –  I wanted to rush home  read Smash Hits and pop on some lace gloves and plastic beads (Madonna). Other 80’s favourites included. White T shirts, red neckerchiefs (Bros)… Red cheerleaders (Hey Mickey) Green flared shirt high blonde pony (The shake and Vac Ad) Heely rolling, cartwheeling, old ladies (Super Gran)…. to name but a few…

The confidence of the children was one of the things I took away from the night, there were several solos and duets, to stand on an empty stage and sing solo to a full house takes some doing  – this doesn’t just happen over night, this comes from having your talent nurtured , you don’t get that from reading a book or sitting on a computer. Each of the children performed to the best of their abilities all giving 100%.

However, It would be wrong not to comment on some stand out performances as there were some truly beautiful pieces, Stevie Duncan, daughter of Paula and Steve singing Fame was effortless and faultless, Lucas King (an up and coming Peter Kay) singing Bad with a bevy of beauties, A mini Hi Di Hi skit and Flashdance as a duet featuring a set of dancers. Demonstrating without doubt that this little community group delivers and is  not your average Saturday club but is a little Performing Arts Academy. .

I caught up with two of the cast back stage Lucas King and Ruby Howarth I asked Ruby why she enjoyed Popstarz, (pictured below)

“I love the group, and Paula and Steve and all the  friends I have made. I love everything we do but most of all I love the confidence it has given me”

Lucas has been with the group since it started four years ago and said’

“I really enjoy all the auditions we get to do, singing and acting is great fun, I love being on stage. I have been on stage lots of times In the last show we did I played Grand Pa Joe in Willy Wonka which was really good because it was a funny part and I love doing comedy”

For this particular production the hair on the back of your neck moment  came when the 95 strong group performed together in their finale “Man in the Mirror”  full of harmonies and emotion. You could see every child had had a blast on  stage, topped off by an tearful Paula thanking everyone and making a very valid point . Paula was 20 when she first sang on stage  – some of the children performing were babies.

That filled me with a sense of hope especially as earlier in the week I had read a disappointing article on Theatre In Education.


The article states how some community theatre groups and theatre in educational establishments would rather replace the children with professional actors or the children with more ability than the children with less   – how is that producing COMMUNITY THEATRE ??? I feel the whole point is it that it isn’t professional.  However it is the foundation for professional theatre, a place where talent can be found and grown.

Thankfully Popstarz is not that type of group and it allows all the children to shine  – this group isn’t rare, but they are not common enough. Many areas have tailor-made theatre groups for children  some even follow set programmes, which could encourage the type of performance snobbery suggested in the above article . They are  often situated in towns or cities usually after school so access to these would typically need to be by car.  Schools and local authorities do encourage instructors to come into to give taster sessions but unless what is on offer to these children can be accessed on  their doorstep – what point is there?

This is not unique, a recent study in Kings College highlights my views and suggests this type of regeneration is the way forward for art in the future, and this type of community group is, in my opinion, is where arts funding should be focused.

A  recent Guardian Article states


“Only 8% of the population makes regular use of publicly funded cultural organisations, and this small minority is wealthy and white”.

So are arts  grants working for the minority or the majority ? Are they opening doors to the arts? If they are they are still ensuring a guest list is being held – and if “your name isn’t down your not getting in.”

Instead of being helped by traditional arts grants the likes of small groups like Popstarz have to look else where for support. Another example, The Little Theatre in Rhyl, where Popstarz perform , a delightful theatre that hires out to community groups for a minimal fee, yet the building its self is in need of dire repair – and where is it turning for help – begging for votes for the Jewsons Grant scheme! Popstarz were recently awarded a grant by a local Housing Association for the good work they have done in the community .They have to fight for everything…. it doesn’t stop them succeeding …. but imagine what they could do with funding!!

Nick Wilson and Jonathan Gross report on a group of street dancers,  their story is similar to that of Popstarz.

“Several of this group first encountered break dancing at school through an instructor brought in to run lunchtime sessions. This instructor connected the students to dance sessions provided free of charge by the local authority …… They had access to space, a friendly and supportive environment and informal mentoring from more experienced dancers.

Some now earn income through teaching break dancing in schools, prisons and at children’s birthday parties; and one member of the group spent several years dancing full-time…..”

Success brings success from performing in their little youth club space to performing on a professional stage. These children have been introduced  to the theatre. Showing them that the theatre is a place where magic happens, it shows them the stage from the wings  No one can tell you how that will make you feel, you need to experience it , how can you experience it if you are never given the chance ?

Our future audiences, actors,  directors, playwrights etc, where are we going to find them and what voice will they have if they only come from one background ?  Perhaps more importantly the reason funding should be made easily accessible to community groups is because of what they are doing . Ensuring theatre survives, showing that the theatre is a place to love, out of these  children realistically maybe a quarter will continue with the arts in some form and hopefully some will continue to have successful careers as performers or may go on to teach the next generation of Popstarz. Whatever their story one thing is certain, almost all of them will hold a love for the theatre in some form and undoubtedly be an audience for the future – something that this generations theatre is sadly lacking.

If you would like to know more about Rhyl’s Little Theatre or Jaxx Martine Popstarz you can visit their Facebook pages




Review Sister Act – Venue Cymru by Karis Clarke


4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Click on the link below to listen to an audio review of this production by Karis Clarke.


This was my first outing to Venue Cymru and I wasn’t disappointed. Set on the stunning North Wales coastline the venue was alive with activity.  The atmosphere was light and expectation high as several audience members dashed around in habits!

Sister Act is the musical comedy based on the movie starring Whoopi Goldberg, and, unless you were living in a convent yourself back in 1992,  it is highly unlikely you don’t have some knowledge of the film. (It’s popularity has ensured a regular repeats on TV at least once a year since circa 1995).

The stage version, unlike the film is set in the diva disco era of the 70’s and features original music from  ALAN MENKEN,  and the general feel of the show has  Mowtown vibe that is more than fitting to the outstanding vocal talents of  the lead.

Alexandra Burke in a scene from Sister Act

But it’s not all about the star in this show.  Deloris Van Cartier is a fantastic character full of witty one liners, side ways glances and comical physicality that Alexander Burke pulls off admirably. However the ensemble made the show for me. The combined talents of the supporting cast were superior. Acting, singing dancing and playing a variety of musical instruments on set allowed for a fluidity which you can sometimes loose with  larger productions. However this cast owned the stage, literally, they knew every inch.  Their management of the stage movement is a credit to Revel Horwood’s direction.  The scene changes were flawless and were choreographed to perfection.

Credit should also be given to the set design, the main stay an impressive church interior yet with the cleaver use of lighting and props  it easily faded into the background and made the transition between church,  nightclub, street, police station and back to church with very little effort.

The musicality was, as one of the songs repeats, ‘Fab -U- Lous  Baby,’ unfortunately this was also a slight disappointment for me as none of the songs from the movie were featured. So although the end of the play saw the majority of the full house clapping and on their feet I am sure if “I will follow him” had been played the roof would have lifted. However the original score was witty, befitting and more than enjoyable.  It’s easy to see how Alan Menken has Oscars under his belt.

Stand out moments of the show were any time the “gangsters” featured. (They stole the show a little bit from the nuns).  …..Joe Vetch (playing Eddie the sweaty police officer who saves the day) singing “I could be that guy ……Sister Mary Robert played by Alice Stokoe, who had a stunning voice singing a very Disney esq type song called “The Life I Never Had”…….. and the scene when the Sisters stand together for Deloris.

All in all there was nothing not to like, the show delivered everything thing it promised. One particular moment I found touching was on the final bow Alexandra Burke broke the fourth wall and you saw her thank the audience.  She genuinely seemed to appreciate the standing ovation they received and this shone through as she skipped off stage laughing with co cast not as Deloris but as herself and within those few seconds, in my eyes I saw  true star quality.

So unless you have lead in your feet and no soul in your heart I defy you not to enjoy this 4 stars production. Unfortunately for North Wales the runs ends on May 27th but you can still catch performances around the UK up until the 3rd September check www.sisteractuktour.co.uk for more details.

Starring ALEXANDRA BURKE and Directed and choreographed by Strictly CRAIG REVEL HORWOOD, Set and Costume MATTHEW WRIGHT (based on TheTouchtone Motion Picture “Sister Act”)