Category Archives: Musical

Review, Branwen: Dadeni, A Wales Millennium Centre & Frân Wen Production, by Gareth Williams

 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

A turning point? Branwen: Dadeni certainly feels like it. This “epic new Welsh language musical” heralds a potentially exciting new era for the nation’s theatre. Why? Because it is by far the most ambitious, large-scale theatre production in the Welsh language yet. Testament to what can be achieved when the might of Wales Millennium Centre meets the creative ambition of Frân Wen. It is no understatement in describing the show as worthy of a West End run. The culmination of a long-held confidence by some that our culture is worth investing in.

Adapted from The Mabinogi, this new version exports the mythic weight of the original into a bold and contemporary style. The result is a classic piece of theatre, Shakespearean in size, but with a cutting edge that makes it feel fresh and new. The musical element is a key component to this: a combination of choral tradition, music hall operetta, Sondheim-influenced harmonies and Disney-inspired ballads. Seiriol Davies has not been afraid to draw from the wide pool of musical theatre history and infuse it with Welsh character to create a score brimming with personality. The result is a captivating story. An absorbing commentary on power, family and history that could have been heavy or dictatory but has, instead, been generously and lovingly portrayed.

The costumes fit nicely with each of the characters: from the flowing dresses of the idealist Branwen (Mared Williams) to the army-like uniform of her renegade half-sister Efnisien (Caitlin Drake). So too, the choreography captures beautifully their contrasting personalities: particularly the swish swooning of Matholwch (Rithvik Andugula) in the presence of a buttoned-up Bendigeidfran (Tomos Eames). It is in the songs though that this royal cast of kings, queens and consorts really comes to life. And when one hits the right note, the emotional affect can be overwhelming. Take the tale of the snowfall for instance. The way that Mared gently presses her vocal against the window through which her character witnesses such a scene. So poignant and hopeful, it brings a tear to the eye. Or Gillian Elisa’s vivacious solo, in which her character runs roughshod over the King to proclaim where true power lies. It is delivered with such abundant force as to raise a rapturous applause from the audience.

These are moments which are memorable not just in the context of the show. They make an indelible mark on the mind in the way that some of the best musical theatre productions do. Finding yourself driving home with lyrics still playing out in your head. Fingers tapping the melody on the steering wheel. Feelings still flowing through your body as you go to bed. This is a sure sign that Branwen: Dadeni has in some way been a success. It certainly lays down a marker for future work, which is as challenging as it is inspiring. At a time when investment in the arts is in danger of falling, may Branwen: Dadeni be the start and not the end of something.

Reviewed on the final night at Pontio Arts Centre in Bangor by Gareth Williams

Review The King and I, New Theatre Cardiff by Jane Bissett.

 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

This is the first time I have been to the theatre since lockdown and this was a most wonderful reintroduction. There is nothing that compares to live theatre and this opportunity did not disappoint and I would certainly recommend this musical to everyone.

When composer Richard Rodgers and lyricist-dramatist Oscar Hammerstein teamed up they became the greatest musical partnership of all time. Their influence and innovation to theatre musicals has been celebrated the globe over.

This production of The King and I comes to Cardiff following a critically-acclaimed season at The London Palladium where it was no surprise that it was a sell out!

From curtain up the audience was transported and transfixed to another world far from the mundane. For many the bench mark for this elaborate musical is the 1956 film with screen performances of Deborah Kerr (Anna) and Yul Brynner (King Mongkut).

The West End’s Annalene Beechey and Broadway’s Darren Lee did not disappoint with their interpretation and performances that transported us to the Siam of Margaret Landon’s novel Anna and the King of Siam on which the musical is based.

The story follows Anna, a widow, and her son as they travel to Bangkok, where Anna has been assigned as a tutor to the King’s children. Anna soon finds herself having cultural clashes and differences with the King whilst endearing herself to both the children and the king’s many wives.

The Royal children were a delight, completing the illusion of being in a far country at a different time.

There are also the side stories of star crossed lovers and references to slavery. These must be viewed in context but the female narrative cannot be ignored and gives additional depth to the story as a whole.

The stand out actor for me was Caleb Lagayan, who excelled as a truly believable Prince Chulalongkorn. His voice was powerful, captivating and commanded the stage.

From the golden age of musicals, The King and I is one of the greatest, with what many would consider one of the finest scores ever written.

Many in the audience seemed to genuinely find it difficult not to sing along to the familiar songs including Whistle a Happy Tune and Shall We Dance.
Tony Award-winning director Bartlett Sher and his internationally renowned creative team created the atmosphere of old Siam. The wonderful full-scale orchestra led by Christoper Munday, must be given credit for keeping us spell bound all evening, even before the curtain rose.

A truly memorable evening I would recommend to everyone.

Shrek the Musical, Wales Millennium Centre by Kate Richards

My 10-year-old son went to a drama camp over the summer holidays where, outnumbered almost 10 to 1 by the girls, he was relieved to learn a couple of scenes from Shrek the Musical having endured a little too much ‘Frozen’ for his liking. He came home from camp and spent several evenings on YouTube watching extracts from the show, so was delighted to see it was coming to the Wales Millennium Centre and asked if we could go.

The show started almost 15 minutes late with no explanation – which isn’t ideal for a long production aimed at children on a school night, but these things happen I guess.  In the opening scenes we learn a little about how our green heroes came to be living alone in a steamy swamp and a dragon-guarded tower respectively. This backstory adds credibility to the unlikely love story between a princess and an ogre and the ultimate moral of the story – not to judge a book by its cover! My son was delighted by the colourful costumes and humour of the displaced fairy-tale creatures that found themselves wandering unwelcome into ‘ogre territory’.  Worthy of note was the acrobatic Pinocchio whose dancing was far from ‘wooden’ and a Christmas elf/Gingerbread man with one of the best singing voices I think I’ve ever heard on stage.

We were quickly introduced to the other hero of the story – Donkey. This character is to my mind, one of the most memorable and humorous animated characters in the Disney/DreamWorks genre, so a pretty hard act to follow, but I’d say that Brandon Lee Sears did an admirable job. Looking somewhat like an animation himself with his energetic and exaggerated, sometimes discordant movement as well as a good approximation of Eddie Murphy’s voiceover as Donkey, Brandon was well cast. That said, one of the aspects of the show that I did find a little odd, was the strong American accents affected by most of the rest of the cast. Granted it would be hard to conceive of a convincing Shrek without his Scottish accent – but I did find the combination of that, with the microphone and the extremely loud music, made the lyrics of the opening songs a bit difficult to decipher. For other characters however, I am not sure why it was necessary to have such exaggerated American accents.

The sets and costumes were as colourful and high quality as you would expect from a high-budget, big-name show and made for the spectacle I had been hoping for, and the storyline was kept simple (though almost to the point where I thought they could have shaved off a couple of minutes to reduce the length of the show and the resultant squirming in the seat next to me towards the end!) The dancing rodents were lovely to watch, and the tap dancing a rare treat these days, but in all honesty, they didn’t add a great deal to the story.

It was good to see that the show didn’t rely on projection for the dragon, as could so easily have been the case, and I am sure that many of the audience will have delighted in both the puppetry skills and the vocal range of Cherece Richards – certainly the audience members around me did! 

For me Joanne Clifton stole the show somewhat as Princess Fiona.  Her vocals turn out to be almost as good as the dancing skills for which she is renowned but actually that brings me to the one thing I felt was missing slightly. It took me a while to figure out what for me, stopped the show from going from a good night out to a really memorable experience that I’d want to see again – and that is the lack of some catchy songs.  I read somewhere else that this musical lacks a really powerful soundtrack and I must agree.  It’s clear why the advertising only references ‘I’m a Believer’ because that really is still the best song of the show, and no others have had the stand-out qualities that mean they are heard outside the confines of the theatre unlike other kids musicals such as (love it or hate it) ‘Let it Go’ or ‘Defying Gravity’.  I did enjoy both the performance and the sentiment of ‘Freak Flag’ and the ‘sing-off’ between Shrek and Fiona in ‘I think I got you Beat’ but I didn’t come out of the theatre singing them in my head as I sometimes have from other performances. For me it’s definitely the sound that held the show back from getting a 5-star review. As with most things in live theatre and cinema these days –my son and I found the entire production a little too loud. At the start, the volume definitely prevented me from hearing the lyrics in Anthony Lawrence’s opening songs, and at times when the whole cast was singing together it felt a bit more like a fight to be heard than a cohesive harmony.  In reality I don’t think it made any real difference to the volume, but my son commented on there definitely being no need for the additional handheld microphones in the final number.  It does make me wonder if sound technicians really consider younger audience members when setting the volume of productions because it is a consistent complaint in our family that everything is just a tad too loud to be comfortable?

So, was it an enjoyable evening out?  Absolutely! Is the standard of performance that which you’d expect from a big-name show?  Totally! Is the storyline easy to follow and are the characters closely recognisable as their animated counterparts for younger fans of Shrek? Definitely!  So there was very little not to like – the cast can’t be held accountable for the lack of any really memorable songs, but they definitely weren’t afraid of delivering the songs they have, in big voice, and it was clear that many of the audience around me love the show and have seen it more than once.  How else do you get a capacity crowd on a Monday night in November?

Review Sister Act, Wales Millennium Centre by Rhys Payne

 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Those who are familiar with the iconic 1992 movie will know that the movie is headlined by the incredible Whoopi Goldberg as the fugitive singer turned nun. As this is such a recognisable movie/character the pressure is on for anyone who not only spear heading the show by stepping into the role of the fabulous Dolores Van Cartier however Landi Oshinowo did not seem fazed in the slightest! Landi seemed to be most comfortable during the more vocally centered aspects of the role as her beautifully soulful voice suited the aspiring club singer character flawlessly. Their rendition of “Fabulous Baby” was crammed full of fabulousness and extravagance with the lead character balancing the comedic side of the song with vocal endurance wonderfully! 

What worked incredibly well about this production is that Lesley Joseph, who played the stuck in her ways and head of the Covent mother Superior was an almost total contrast to the Dolores in this production. Her powerfully moving rendition of “Here Between These Walls” was not only a treat for the ears but also explored the importance of community which will be forever a very important thing! This character could be considered as the stereotypical, caricature of how you would expect a nun to act/behave. This obviously clashes with the extravagance of Dolores and caused these two characters to have an instant conflict from the moment they stepped into the church.  This contrast was purposefully exaggerated in the enth degree which made the inevitable change of ways even more powerful.

The closing moments of the show sees Mother Superior come to her senses as she literally jumps in front of a bullet for the ‘thorn in her side’ and finally accepts Dolores as a certified sister. This moment was followed by the other nuns forming a human shield around Dolores hiding her from her gun wielding boyfriend which was very emotionally powerful to watch!

My favourite character by far in this musical production would have to be the clumsy yet lovable Lt. Eddie Souther (played in this production by the amazing Alfie Parker) whose sole responsibility is making sure that Dolores is safe from her murderous ex-boyfriend. However, this compassion and care for the singer doesn’t not just purely come from a place a professionalism as we discover that during their time in high school together Eddie had a crush on Dolores. This childhood bond means that Eddie has almost given up all hope of a potential relationship but there is still some hope left within the officer’s mind! My favourite sequence in the entire show came during the spectacular “I Could be That Guy” where Eddie talks about stepping up from this bumbling office to a serious crime fighter. The highlight of this song came with Eddie tore off his boring office outfit to reveal a sparkly disco-centric suit only to then tear this off to yet another plain office outfit! In the middle of this sequence dancers flooded the stage to launch into a spectacular dance routine that the audience absolutely went wild for! After all this had happened Eddie hilariously stumbled down from the table, he had scaled up to be the centre of attention (where he deserved to be) as the scene turned back to the day-to-day running’s inside a police centre which again had the audience in howls of laughter!

My personal highlight of the production was the fact that from the moment the ensemble stepped into the stage to the moment they left, every single one showcased the most outlandish and over-the-top characters I have ever seen! Raise your voice is the song where the nuns finally come together (under Delores’ supervision) and realise they can actually sing and out on a performance that isn’t a boring, old fashioned church hymn. This number builds itself in such a way that each character is allowed their own individual moment to flex their comedic muscles and shine, but it was the moments when the spotlight was not on them that really made the show for me. Whether it was facial reactions, hamming up the choreography or interacting with one another, it kept the world alive and made for a very exciting watch!

I thought that the church medley sequence was not only wonderfully staged but also exactly performed. As the nuns are performing their usual Sunday hymns (albeit of a higher quality than normal) they suddenly burst into a high energy medley of Dolores’ biggest hits! The physicalisation of each character in and out of the spotlight was amazing and meant that everywhere the audience looked there was something going on without it being too distracting from the main narrative. One of the greatest vocal performances in the number would have to be Lizzie Bea (who played the easily excitable sister Mary Roberts) during their rendition of the life I never had which was incredible. Every single audience member was instantly moved to tears as the character talked about missing out on the more rebellious moments in life due to be confined in the church. Even though I have never personality taking a vow of service, we all still have regrets that we wish we took and so seeing a character talk openly about these was very powerful to watch!

At an almost antithesis to the nuns, Dolores’ criminal ex-partner Curtis (played wonderfully by the talented Ian Gareth-Jones) and his gang of incompetent sidekicks. What is somewhat strange about these roles is that despite being a criminal gang, the majority of the numbers contain a massive amount of comedy which had the audience laughing alongside them. Their performance “when I find my baby” simultaneously talked about how Curtis is going to beat/kill/attack etc. Dolores when he finds her but also utilised a very love-struck musical motif. The intense violence and adoration contrasted beautifully and had the audience laughing as the number progressed! Throughout all of their performance the gang maintained the most over-the-top, cheesy grins known to man which again added the unusual comedy undertones of the role. Due to the criminals and nuns being so diametrically opposed, you knew that when they finally come through something spectacular would happen and that’s exactly what went down! The scene of criminals trying to intimidate and threaten the nuns obviously go as planned but the number was choreographed in such a perfect way! The nuns were able to overcome the invaders with very little physical force through a sequence of slapstick-esque rope moments so when Curtis entered armed with a gun the entire mood flipped upside down! This sudden and drastic change of mood only served to amplify the emotional moment preceding moments of the human shield!

Overall Sister Act the musical managed to capture the majority of the magic from the movie with a few minor tweaks for stage purposes. It was crammed full of hilarious comedy moments with numerous powerful and moving vocal performances. I do have to say that one of my least favourite scenes involved Dolores riding a bicycle taxi while being perused by the struggling criminals as it did look somewhat strange until the closing moments when two of the villains began rolling down the stage to show the bicycle was moving forward!

I would rate this production 4 out of 5 stars!

Review, Steven Sondheim’s Old Friends, Gielgud Theatre, London by James Ellis

Photo credit: Danny Kaan

 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

If ever there was a more perfect introduction to the work of Steven Sondheim, it is Old Friends. Carefully arranged by Cameron Mackintosh, the evening is a complete triumph, the spirit of Broadway and of the man himself lies in every note.

If I’m very much mistaken, most if not all of his shows are crammed into this spectacle. All his retrospection, the machine gun lyrical delivery, the tender phrasing and punchy musical gustro all frequent his heaven sent show. You really can’t belive your luck when sat there and seeing this career which spanned decades go by, we only lost Steven not long ago and even his last musical has just opened in New York.

I’ve less love for Into the Woods, though here Bernadette Peters made for a hilaroius Red Riding Hood, aside the sexed up Mr Wolfman from a marvellous Bradley Maden. Much billing has gone to Peters and I can see why. It is her innocnet and infecious voice that reels you in, a delight upon closer inspection. I did hear perhaps a voice crack or two, though these were during the big, ballsy nunmbers, though I have no complaints. I love her. Lets not forget her Send in the Clowns and Losing My Mind as well!

Lea Salonga, most famous as Kim in Miss Saigon, also gets meaty ballads and rowdy numbers all over the place. Her passion got the audience in a state of rapture. The familar face of Bonnie Langford also impressed with strident vocals and good comic timing. Janie Dee might just be my favourite persona on the night, her Ladies Who Lunch a total highlight, The Boy From… another thrill with a few refrences to Wales, which got me in a whooping mood, perhaps I was the only Welsh in on the night?

Clare Burt and Christine Allado were in fabulous company, more treats along the way. Gavin Lee getting heaps of solos and duets with quick wit and vocally well paced. Jason Pennycooke coming into his own with the frantic song Broadway Baby from Follies, another triumph leaving me quite dizzy. Joanna Riding and Damian Humbley were even more joys in the cast, their many musical moments spread out over the evening. A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, his first musical as both composer and lyricist, got a piffy flutter though remains slightly overshadowed by what would follow. 

Photo credit: Danny Kaan 

Jeremy Secomb as Sweeny Todd faired well in the demands of the roll, perhaps the most operatic of Sondheim’s whole oeuvre. Time spent with Gypsy and Everything’s Coming Up Roses was affirmed and I am so glad they included it. Pickings from West Side Story and Dick Tracey also help up well, the later an Oscar winning turn. Merrily We Roll Along has found fame since its first flop, the title song of the show coming from his musical. Its remains the best moment in Merrily and used as an encore was perfection. Beyond catchy.

Sunday in the Park With George might be one of his best, used an a first act ender was finely poised. Company holds up, the Not Getting Married song was another outstanding corker Passion and The Mad Show I know less of and I note the lack of Assassins and Pacific Overtures too.

See it. My word, just see it.

It runs till 6th January 2024

Review: Everybody’s Talking About Jamie by Gemma Treharne-Foose

 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Press Night 23 October 2023

“A riotously upbeat tale for our times….” 

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie (playing at the WMC until the 28th October) has had a meteoric success since the original documentary about 16 year old Jamie New (who wants to be a drag queen) was introduced to us on our TV screens in 2011. Since then, we’ve seen a musical, an award-winning world tour and a movie starring Richard E Grant and Sharon Horgan. Attending the opening night in Cardiff with my teenage daughter, I wondered if the setting of much of the play (in a typically grim British state school) would chime with her or potentially be shot down as a sad attempt by Millennials to capture Gen Z culture…never an easy line to tread!

It’s the kind of premise that would make a Daily Mail reader’s head explode. We have a gloriously camp 16 year old Jamie New who daydreams of stardom as the next big thing in the Drag scene. His accomplice, a Muslim, hijab-wearing Pritti Pasha (Talia Palamathanan) is his best friend and wing-woman. Supporting his bold and some might say outrageous career aspirations while maintaining her own moral and religious code, the friendship represents the kind of unity and integration that we all wish for. This is never too forced, or too jarring in its earnestness. Talia Palamathanan’s voice is absolutely sensational and her solo number ‘It means beautiful’ (by Dan Gillespie Sells) is stunningly delivered and I saw multiple folks around me wiping away the tears at the end of the number.

Huge credit for first-class character work and rapport with the audience must go to Shobna Gulati as Ray and stand-in Georgina Hagan (who was replacing Rebecca McKinnis as Jamie’s Mum Margaret New the night I attended). Georgina’s two solo tracks “If I met Myself Again” in Act 1 and “My Boy” in Act 2 were truly some of the best numbers in the show. Georgina’s vocals gave me goosebumps and although I’m not usually a fan of sequences with contemporary dance peppered into some scenes, Georgina’s emotional delivery took the whole scene to the next level. The dancers accompanying her were superb – it helped to tell the story and made Georgina’s incredible vocals even greater.

Some of the set-up for Jamie’s big reveal may remind you of Billy Elliott (young Northern lad overcomes toxic and stifling masculinity and a troubled father-Son relationship to follow his dreams, plucky ‘Diamond in the rough’ family members will rally around to support him when it really counts, etc etc). But this show, though perhaps formulaic in places, manages to simultaneously pack in a great story, outstanding choreography, quality songs and a great set. I wasn’t a huge fan of the visuals on the screens behind the stage set – it made the overall look and feel a little ‘commercial-like’ or trying to be like MTV or a swishy campaign when the action and performance on stage really is enough to carry the show…no glossy brand-like photography needed!

Hot on the heels of the incredible Layton Williams who played Jamie New in 2019 (and is now fox-trotting across our screens in BBC’s Strictly), is Ivano Turco. Ivano’s performance as Jamie is spectacular. Sometimes when you listen to the original soundtrack to popular musicals, it can feel like it’s not possible to improve on this ‘original recipe’ – and no disrespect to anyone on the original soundtrack but Ivano’s silky smooth voice is like honey. His approach to the songs is beautifully soulful and his relationship and interaction with Georgina Hagan as his Mum was lovely.

My daughter and I LOVED this show. We listened to all the songs again on the drive back home and we’ll be closely following Ivano’s career – he’s destined for a glittering future. This is a gloriously upbeat tale for modern times and it’s a dopamine booster. Highly recommend it!

Review, Merrily We Roll Along, National Youth Music Theatre, Southwark Playhouse Elephant by James Ellis

Photo credits: Konrad Bartelski

National Youth Music Theatre can righty be proud over an alumni of star studded names over the year, who all passed through performing with them. In my first time seeing them and in the new Southwark Playhouse, I stumbled over to see them take on a Sondheim rarity.

Based on the play Geroge Kaufman and Moss Hart, this musical version of Merrily We Roll Along was a notorious flop on Broadway. Yet it has found some sliver of popularity with some cracking songs and with Sondheim, who passed last year, now is the time to go out and see his stuff. Expect clever songs, lighting quick delivery of lyrics (also by him), earworms galore and a refreshing twist on what a musical should be.

This story of Frank Sheppard and Charley Kringas, a composer and lyricists combo on the up, must have been quite cathartic for Sondhiem, looking back on work he did with Leonard Bernstien and Jule Styne. His role with them was purely the writer of lyricist and no doubt the former composer would have been a memorable working environment. Demons are let loose here, the leading lady Mary Flynn, the guys good friend and Frank’s wife later on. The show goes back in time, the lack of chornological order would have proved quite bold back in the 70s, no doubt. We see success, to flops, to their humble beginnings.

It is pretty dated in some respects. The orchestration, some cheap harpsichord keyboard riffs and outdated stereotypes/jokes go against the show. Though the quality of the songs are very high, they remain moving, funny and insightful. I’d pluck out Old Friends as a favourite, very catchy and a nice three hander about the trials and tribulations of friendship. The title song has some charm, though not really a flabergasting find. It’s a Hit, Our Time and Bobby and Jackie and Jack also stand out for various reasons, mostly their quick wit, topical nature and effective sound world.

I respecfully won’t mention this young cast by name, they are rising stars for sure (with a few from Wales to boot!). I was impressed by the very effective American accents aquire for these roles, sounding like the real thing. Humour and sad bits were demonstrated with a formidable punch. The leads had a good peppy attitude as well, the ensemble also quick and alive. Director Katherine Hare and crew should be proud with their efforts putting this on. Libby Todd on sets and costumes harked back to the era, uncluttered moments would lead to hefty scenes and the wide space was used effectively. Not an easy piece to slap on any stage, I’m sure. Side note I would have loved a much earlier start time. We didn’t get out of the theatre till 10:45pm and sorting out public transport in the big city at that time can prove grueling.

It may have its flaws but it’s a big, busy show for youngsters to do today.

Review: Potty the Plant, Little Big Stack, Ed Fringe, By Hannah Goslin

 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

It could entirely be a coincidence that I feel there has been a lot of puppetry this year at Fringe. Not that I’m complaining – there is something naughty yet comical about turning cute, cuddly puppets into something darkly comical.

Potty the Plant, taking on the adult puppet movement seen by Avenue Q, is the story of anthropomorphic plant in a doctor’s surgery, who helps to uncover the mystery of missing children but also explores his unrequited love for the nurse.

The staging itself is extremely professional – a whole set has been created to create the surgery feel, still using elements such as a bed pan or a wheelchair when a new scene is created, giving that satirical nod to amateur theatre but also not investing too much is lots of extras. The costumes are simple, just where they need to be, with a fancy-dress-esque approach to Dr Acula’s costume as our undercover vampire. The comparison between this less polished aspect to the very well created set only adds to the comedy.

The songs are well constructed and performed very well, drawing satire from musicals and from the narrative with ease. They have adult aspects to them and this is of course comical and in line with this adult approach. The performers are perfection, without a step wrong and the whole performance runs smooth as butter.

Potty is also well created, adorable and cute. Sat mostly on the table, further comedy is drawn from his handler, stuffed under the table and when they bring him out and on stage for another scene, he plays a part so well, as if he isn’t there but also, fully in character. Potty as a puppet is limited to his reactions and facial expressions, but, somehow, the puppeteer does this so well, using silence, beats and a little over-exaggeration which at times makes his reactions very clear but sometimes it’s a real subtle look that you can just tell is there. These in themselves provide endless humour.

However, the narrative felt a little lost to me. As the name of the show, Potty features only minimal in the story-line. Of course, it needs to be set somewhere and I guess it makes sense in a doctor’s office. But when they go on a true crime spree, detecting the story behind the missing children, the nurses dating life and lack of success, it all feels quite mismatched and almost another story, with Potty just a small accessory. It felt as if more could have been made about Potty, his story being told a lot more and him having more of a spotlight in the performance.

Potty the Plant is a fun concept, dark and full of humour. It’s a good production to see and recommended if you’re looking for something easy and to sit back to watch. It only felt that Potty wasn’t our main star and that the story needed to work out what it really wanted to be about.

Review: Bowjangles: Dracula in Space, Ed Fringe, By Hannah Goslin

 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

If you have walked up and down the mile, you more than likely will recognise this quartet. Armed with string instruments, their street performances are beautiful concertos but in the basement of the Patter Hoose, they tell the story of something much more sinister….

Only kidding! Dracula in Space is as comedic and ridiculous as the title suggests. A part musical, part comical satire, Bowjangles, former Spirit of Fringe Award winners, bring a twisted tale of space exploration and classic horror fable.

The narrative is hugely self aware, and plays upon each person, the fringe and classical music. A moment of classical composer puns descends into the very niche and commentary is made about it. They also play upon how hammed up they have made the story and the characters, and it works well. Moments of slight corpsing happen but it’s almost unrecognised, fitting mostly into the ridiculous and silly nature of the production, but is also forgiven because it purely adds to the humour and shows that they enjoy what they do.

The original songs and beautiful and perfect playing of instruments is literal music to the ears. They harmonise perfectly and bring a more elevated edge to the musical genre, also somehow making this fit the narrative effortlessly.

The costumes and staging are also brilliant – basic yet well formulated, it is all used to its best ability but also creates its own theatrical and comical humour throughout. There’s a sense of slapstick humour and again, this is so well done that it all just works. A true blueprint for comical musicals.

Bowjangles: Dracula in Space is comical, silly in all the greatest ways and also makes you feel more sophisticated with the classical music soundtrack.

Review: Hello Kitty Must Die, Alchemation, Ed Fringe, By Hannah Goslin

 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

I think such a gripping title as Hello Kitty Must Die would entice anyone into what this production may be about. And it for sure wasn’t what I expected.

Hello Kitty Must Die is a feminist musical, combating the patriarchal stereotypes in the female and Asian communities but also throwing in dark humour and a bit of… murder.

This musical takes the said stereotypes, giving examples but turning these on their head, with a satirical but unapologetic approach. As a non-asian person, it was interesting and eye opening to hear how Asian women are treated in their own cultures as well as western cultures. The mixture of the two, including the opportunities in both, compete with one another and this transpires on stage, satirically making fun of these but subtly highlighting the issues with these thoughts.

As a musical, the voices are beautiful, powerful and harmonise well. However, I find with a lot of musicals, and those particularly in smaller venues, that the music often overpowers them and so some of the words were missed for me. Catchy in rhythm, they just lacked what was obviously important commentary on the story-line and the feminist opinions.

The actors were brilliant and those who were not the main character did well to jump and change into different characters throughout, embodying these physically and vocally. However, the story begins to be a commentary on how particularly Asian women are expected to be perfect, virginal and live for their husbands. When the narrative somewhat changes to a murder spree, it feels disconnected and a little out of the blue. The moral is in essence that any woman, especially a stereotyped Asian woman can take back their control and be above white men, but it felt a little of an abrupt narrative tact to take. There was no shock to it, nothing surprising with the ending and left us wanting a lot more.

Hello Kitty Must Die is fun, it is professional and full of talent in the singing and acting, but felt a little lost in what the narrative was meant to achieve.