Category Archives: Theatre

Review And Here I Find Myself, Wayne Steven Jackson, The Lowry, Salford by James Ellis

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

A morning spent trying to get to Manchester would be met by awful train journeys and the finding of hosts. Having always wanted to go to The Lowry, I stood up to the challenge and checked out some local theatre maker’s work.

Wayne Steven Jackson’s piece And Here I Find Myself is a highly personal affair, where the abstract meets the honest, the queer meets the quest for parenthood. Wayne’s journey in seeking a child through adoption or artificial insemination has proven to be a remarkably difficult venture. His show attempts to unravel this along with life goals, disappointment along with the battle with heteronormativity.

Long strips of blank scrolls are hung from the rafters, as Wayne pops more paper on washing lines, where projected actions are given and he must follow. He jumps, climbs ladders and speaks openly about all these things that have defined his life. I could easily relate to a great deal of his truth, though I can honestly say I would not want a child in the state of the world at this present time. Speaking how holding a baby made him feel, that overwhelming love for the child proves his legitimate desire to be a parent. The law for single, gay men to adopt a child is also a very recent action and should have been done much sooner. 

Though the show is mostly there, I think some extra touches could really finish it off well. Wayne needs a head microphone when above the ladders and in other parts. Even with myself in the front row I was sure people in the back would have struggled hearing. He has a mic for the moody sequences in the back, spotlight bound on him going off on more insights and memories. The score by Jack Fleming is pretty and dark when need be, a sweet song by Katherine Myles is seasoned well in a scene after much discord. The video work by Studio 91 Media adds atmosphere, projected onto the scrolls and a metaphorical magpie (Wayne in a sort of Black Swan glow up) haunts the space for most of the show. 

Maybe I craved a bit more humour or less of an experimental veneer (though I usually live for this). I could feel I was sat with friends of Wayne, so there was also that. There is some interesting ideas here and more queer voices are truly want I want to hear now. We hope the journey’s end of this story is a child to call one’s own.          

Review Cabaret, The Kit Kat Club/Playhouse Theatre, London by James Ellis 

Photo credit: Marc Brenner 
5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Finding all the right words to talk about this superb show is an undertaking. The recovery period for it as well, can be daunting.

In what is one of the finest post-pandemic shows in London, a new version of Kander and Ebb’s iconic musical waves in the ether. From the moment you step into the Playhouse Theatre (or the Kit Kat Club as in the show) you are met with a bombardment to the senses. Cognac is offered at the door, the prologue dancers muck about in the foyer and a real sense of joy washes over you. This is a special show with some lovely padding before the main event. Very much a sense of “Welcome back!”

With a complete restoring of the theatre, the revolving stage is small and packs a lot of punch. The dancers make great use of the space, with thrilling moves and an all round sex appeal thanks to the choreography of Julia Cheng. The direction of Rebecca Frecknall should not be underestimated, the animation of this production reaches a fever pitch I’ve rarely seen on the stage. Amazing work from Jennifer White as music supervisor and director leading this immaculate bravado band. Sets and costumes by Tom Scutt are fitting of the Weimar era and have a real slick style to them. Not faired to show off some legs, thighs amongst other regions. Tis a very autumnal coloured show, cloaked in black.

What the musical is perhaps most noteworthy for is the colossal tonal shifts, with Hitler’s rise to power and the unwavering chaos this caused. The cabaret space becomes the place to express oneself though some songs also bleed I to the real life of the characters. There is little it takes to be moved by these proceedings as queer and Jewish characters become the focus of hatred and violence. These mood swings in the show are what makes it perfect, the threat of the Nazi is omnipresent as apposed to literal on the stage. Moments of panic lead to a absolutely belting dance number and vice vera. 

The cast shine eternal. Fra Fee as the Emcee is the master of ceremonies and our guide for the show. Ever the charmer, Fra has taken over from the big boots of Eddie Redmayne, talking the dream role with aplomb. 

Amy Lennox is a powerhouse Sally Bowles. I loved her little bit of screaming she did in the title song, her wry English wit ever cutting and blunt. An amazing voice never far away and her costumes, perhaps the best in show.  

Omar Baroud as Clifford Bradshaw is charming and quick witted, the plucky American writer who is taken Berlin and all it has to offer. It’s a lovely role with a big effect on the story.   

 Vivien Parry is quite touching yet also plays the spurious role of Fraulein Schneider. Her entanglement with Richard Katz Herr Schultz has some funny and lovely moments, a song about a pineapple remains a highlight. Ernst Ludwig is a challenging role due to his change in allegiances, here given up Stewart Clarke in a dashing, pristine take. The marvellous Anna-Jane Casey is both Fraulein Kost/Fritzie who was not in it enough and I was craving more. I’ve already spoken of the stupendous ensemble and band, yet I find myself mentioning them again. Their talents are other worldly.   

The Kit Kat Club is calling and you simply must accept the call. 

The new cast for Cabaret from  October 2022 includes RWCMD Graduate Callum Scott Howells & Madeline Brewer. 

Review Friendsical UK Tour, New Theatre Cardiff by Barbara Hughes-Moore

Once upon a time, in the far away land of 1994, six best friends told us they’d always be there for us. Ten seasons and 236 episodes later, and they’ve more than kept their promise: Friends remains one of the most iconic television shows ever, even almost two decades after its finale aired. It spawned countless imitators, an iconic haircut, and even its own spinoff, and now it’s reached that coveted next level of fame: its own parody musical.

Cast of Friendsical at Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2022

Produced by Brooke Mauchline Productions Ltd in association with Assembly Festival, Friendsical is a new comedy show which takes you on a whistlestop tour down memory lane via Central Perk, featuring original songs by Barrie Bignold and Miranda Larson (who also directs). Our master of ceremonies is Dr Ross Geller, who has gathered the titular BFFs together for a retelling of their infamous escapades, though its mostly an excuse to ‘pivot’ to his and Rachel’s will-they-won’t-they romance.

Cast of Friendsical at Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2022

This is a show which doesn’t so much break the fourth wall as crash a wrecking ball through it. It’s a metatextual take on a beloved medium in the same vein as Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and Galavant, with the chaotic charm of a Starkid production (the team behind the successful A Very Potter Musical). While Friends was already quite savvy and self-aware, Friendsical turns it up to eleven. There’s lots of singing, dancing, and oodles of iconic references that shows just how much love the cast and crew have for the original, from every ‘We were on a break!’ to every ‘Oh. My. God!’

Cast of Friendsical at Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2022

The multitalented cast includes Nelson Bettencourt as Ross, Sario Solomon as Joey, Sarah Michelle-Kelly as Monica, Tim Edwards as Chandler (giving a pitch-perfect Perry), Ally Retberg as Phoebe (and, memorably, Janice too), and Amelia Kinu Muus as Rachel. There are strong supporting performances by Olivia Williamson and Ashley Cavender and a fabulous guest turn by The Pussycat Dolls’ Kimberly Wyatt (Strictly Come Dancing champion Joanne Clifton will guest star on the 10th September shows). The cast are as charming and lovable as their original counterparts, whose mannerisms and voices they have down to a tee, and bring genuine heart and hilarity to every moment they’re onstage – nothing short of Herculean given the deeply sad and momentous news of Queen Elizabeth II’s passing that came in just before curtain up. The two minutes’ silence observed in the theatre was respectful and profound.

Cast of Friendsical at Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2022

The cast’s dedication and skill was both masterly and moving. If you have a passion for 90s fashion or know the words to ‘Smelly Cat’ by heart, this is the show for you. Ross, Rachel, Joey, Phoebe, Monica and Chandler have been with us for nearly 30 years, and Friendiscal is here to show us why they always will be.

Twitter / Instagram: @Friendsical

Friendsical is playing at the New Theatre Cardiff from 8 – 10 September 2022.

Review Lazarus Theatre, Doctor Faustus, Southwark Playhouse

Photo credit: Charles Flint
4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

One of the great London discoveries for myself pre-pandemic was the work of Lazarus Theatre Company. With a sensational take on Oscar Wilde’s Salome and later Macbeth, one ponders what might be next…

Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe made for great theatrical flair from this company. I expected a lot of wackiness and panache was delivered it in bucket loads. Impassioned lead actor Jamie O’Neil, works very well as the titular anti-hero, easily wooed by the devil’s messenger Mephistopheles. In a series of ever increasing mania, Faust abuses his newly acquired powers, a strange array of Pope visitations, globe trotting and an outrageous number featuring the seven deadly sins. The colourful, whiplash speed is alive throughout and the curtains used get a keen workout.

As Mephistopheles, David Angland is wickedly good, his evil glares really selling it, along with other funny moments. An amazing troupe of supporting talent have the reigns in a conveyor belt of locations and situations. A dance number after Faustus signs the deal features tight movement and the all round glowing energy that they bring throughout are more highlight. Director and adapter Ricky Dukes must be praised for this fine thing. The exceptional use of such a small space enhanced the experience making for an intimate endeavour.

Some beautiful moments saw a hark back to their Salome, figures slowly traversing through a smokey tableaux. There is a lot of this here, though it remains a pretty sight, none more so when the apparent Helen of Troy joins Faustus in relations. Money, blood and ectoplasm stain the stage and the famous plastic sheeting another nod to previous work. Sell your soul to book this.

Photo credit: Charles Flint

Doctor Faustus runs at the Southwark Playhouse till 1 October 2022.

Lazarus Theatre next production at the Southwark Playhouse will be Hamlet.

PREVIEW Friendsical at the New Theatre Cardiff 8 – 10 September

The one where Friends gets its own parody musical

Cast of Friendsical at Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2022

Produced by Brooke Mauchline Productions Ltd in association with Assembly Festival, Friendsical is a comedy musical that lovingly parodies the beloved TV show Friends. Featuring original songs by Barrie Bignold and Miranda Larson (who also directs), Friendsical will take you on a whistlestop tour down memory lane via Central Perk, cramming 10 seasons and 236 episodes into just 60 minutes!

Cast of Friendsical at Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2022

The multitalented cast includes Sario Solomon as Joey, Sarah Michelle-Kelly as Monica, Nelson Bettencourt as Ross, Tim Edwards as Chandler, Ally Retberg as Phoebe, Amelia Kinu Muus as Rachel, Olivia Williamson as Hot Girl/Ensemble and Tanveer Singh Devgun as Gunther/Male Ensemble.

And the show continues Friends’ tradition of incredible cameos! The Pussycat Dolls’ Kimberly Wyatt will make a a celebrity guest appearance on 8 & 9 Sept while Strictly Come Dancing champion Joanne Clifton will make a celebrity guest appearance on 10 Sept.

Cast of Friendsical at Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2022

The UK tour begins at Cardiff’s New Theatre on 8 September 2022. Join Ross, Rachel, Joey, Monica, Chandler and Phoebe have been with us for nearly 30 years, and Friendiscal is here to show us why they always will be.

Twitter / Instagram: @Friendsical

Friendsical is playing at the New Theatre Cardiff from 8 – 10 September 2022.

Review, Kites, LipZinc Theatre, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, By Hannah Goslin

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Coming into this production, I thought I knew what I would experience but I was in for a surprise.

Based in the time of the second world war, Kites is a tale of female friendships that grow with time, with age and within different and ever changing time periods. Kitty and Angel begin a friendship from small children and we experience with them how they become friends, take on the world through boys and travel and challenges of the time periods from the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and onwards. There is a nostalgic feel yet a tale we can relate to to some degree, no matter who we are.

Instantly, it is clear that these two performers not only have a good relationship as acting partners but that this obvious connection potentially draws from personal relationships. Female friendship is something unique, and this production adds to this by touching upon a time when women weren’t as free and liberal as they can be now days; it showcases the pressures on woman back then and how detrimental it can be to mental health and relationships.

There is a youthfulness to this production; as we travel through time with these two, we see them play and create ideas together; they dream of the moon and the world and the adventures that they can experience and we relate to this from our own dreams. We remember those days of make believe and ease of being a child. We know the feeling when life gets in the way or we have to grow up. The transition for each character is gradual and relatable.

The only issue I had was that it felt as if it lost momentum. Time is taken to establish the characters, their lives, their friendships but it becomes rushed – as if the change that they want to convey needed to be squeezed into the time frame. When it was meant to get meatier, I wanted it meaty. I wanted to feel the raw emotion and the turmoil, to see the difference and to feel the reconciliation between these old friends. But it just felt like a rushed end when it would have been nice to give more time to these emotions.

Kites is a lovely play that any friendship, no matter gender, can relate to. Setting it in a past time period echoes the challenges women faced and how, despite this, friendship begins and grows, just as it does now. I just wanted there to be a little bit of breathing space to feel more of the emotions.

Review, The Rip Current, Edinburgh University Theatre Company, Edinburgh Fringe Theatre, by Hannah Goslin

2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5)

The Pleasance are pioneers in new writing and staging wonderful productions. The Rip Current, a debut piece written by Molly Keating, featured at the Pleasance, which in itself, should be an achievement for these early career artists.

The Rip Current sees the story of Jamie as he attends Cambridge University, all the way from Scotland. But it doesn’t turn out to be everything he had worked hard for. He begins to feel disconnected to life and it leads to him delving into his past, asking the questions he longed to ask about his estranged father and finding out who he really is.

For a first production at fringe, The Rip Current is a good start to what could be a fantastic production. The concepts of growing up, of discovering your past and who you are, to family, domestic violence, Scottish culture are all great combinations and highlight many a relatable issue.

The performers clearly put their heart and soul into their characters and did well to portray with believable emotion what was needed from them for the story line. Not one broke character and therefore created extremely believable scenes and relationships.

However, this production felt as if it was still in an infant stage. This isn’t to criticise or to say that this production wasn’t any good, because it was, but it still felt as if it needed some tweaking and working on, as all great productions do in their development till they reach ultimate success. The performers perhaps focussed too much on the sheer painful emotions and so lost a little of the different emotional levels that could be experienced within naturalism.

They also made the mistake that we all do at some point in theatre of relying heavily on set and props. Much of what was put on stage seemed to function more as a way for performers to keep their hands busy, when it wasn’t necessarily needed or added to the plot. Taking away some and filling those voids with confidence in their characters and performance would avoid distraction for the audience but also help with their character and story development.

The Rip Current is very much a great starting point for this young company. All the elements are there and it is in great shape for a first production. With continued work, this production could prove to be something quite special.

Review, The Rest of Our Lives, Jo Fong & George Orange, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, By Hannah Goslin

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

I’m going to begin this review with a very strong opening. A strong, and 100% deserved opening: If there is one thing you do this year, it’s go and see The Rest of Our Lives.

The Rest of Our Lives is a post-pandemic show in some respects but it isn’t about the pandemic. It is a question of what we do after a monumental change in our lives. How do we cope, move on, return to life as we know it. How do we enjoy it and laugh, and love, and cry. How do we become us again. How do we create community again.

This brilliant show is prime example of the unique, inspirational and exquisite style of performance that comes only from the Welsh theatre and arts scene. Perhaps some bias in my admiration for Jo Fong that has stemmed since my own performance training years in Wales, I still stand by the genius and beauty behind this piece with George Orange.

The Rest of Our Lives is a physical theatre, multi-media, dance and movement piece. It is comical, warm, open and personal. There is no barrier between us and the performers – we are welcomed and treated as friends, making regular eye contact and somehow having a feeling of a personal relationship with the performers, as if we were in their living room of an evening.

Physically, the performance was abstract yet gentle and evoked any emotion from hilarity to sadness. The performers pushed themselves to the limits and broke physical and environmental boundaries without a sense of fear or hesitation. There was many a moment that I found myself crying at how moved I was at their portrayal of normal human elements such as romance and pain, and how I would soon be laughing and smiling through my tears. I didn’t feel like an audience member – I was a friend, a family member, some one close and welcomed and it was such a unique and beautiful feeling and created so simply yet mysteriously – that space felt safe as soon as we came in and I still can’t pinpoint why; the signs of a successful production.

Audience interaction is a huge part of this show and it continues the feeling of inclusion in the action, with no formality to any of the proceedings or interaction. It created an almost immersive atmosphere that you never wanted to end. Finishing the production, we are welcomed onto the stage where we dance and sing to Donna Summer and congratulate Fong and Orange. Hardly any of us know one another but there we hugged, we held hands, we sung together as if we were in Karaoke and all of it was euphoric, beautiful and special.

The Rest of Our Lives is a triumph of theatre, dance and physical theatre. It is everything and more that Welsh theatre brings to the table and is unlike anything I have ever seen. It reminds us of who we are and once were and brings us together as humans and friends.

Review, Horrible Herstories, Lost Pages Theatre Company, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, By Hannah Goslin

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

We are a nation and a current series of generations where our childhood and knowledge of history is emphasised by the brilliant Horrible Histories books by Terry Deary and the beloved show shown on CBBC (but let’s be honest: when was it ever for the kids!).

So when invited to a show that has changed this to “Herstories” I was definitely intrigued and excited. Horrible Herstories is a hilarious and unbridled take on female history, flittering between different parts of history in a sketch-show-like manner. The premise basis itself on a group of men who are all hammed up and one dimensional and hilarious versions of the gender. All called Phil, they are unaware of anything to do with women, let alone their place in history, and the mick is very much taken of them. This is where it leads to them learning just what an impact woman had and what they had to put up with.

Like any sketch-show, the sketches are small and to the point. They don’t need to be long to be absolutely side-splittingly hilarious and it was in a way brilliant to see the occasional man in the audience not quite get the quip or feel uncomfortable. It was a shake up of the comedic kind but also a political stance with no inhibitions.

The performers were all brilliant; just like the television programme, they could all turn their hand to a huge range of characters – from the typical news reporter, the egotistical man, the girly girl women. And it all worked brilliantly. They were fully in each character, supported with minimal staging and costume, but this didn’t matter; in fact I would say it enhanced this. We didn’t need sparkle and flashy theatrics; all we needed was the brilliant writing and comedic approach to true history.

As this was the last night and they had run for a month, there were moments of corpsing and if you have read any of my former reviews, you know that I love this. I think it shows the comradery of the actors, the fun they are having and as a performer myself, I know that a long run is always met by silliness and a euphoria in the end. It was clear that the performers had a great connection and were having fun, celebrating the end of a successful run of such a brilliant production.

Horrible Herstories seems much in its infant stage, but what a brilliant place it is at this point. It is witty, funny, clever and an absolutely brilliant production, that can only go from strength to strength.

Review, Tempus Fugit: Troy & Us, NMT Automatics, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, By Hannah Goslin

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Set in the basement of the Edinburgh Army centre, NMT Automatics production of Troy & Us is very apt for such a setting.

Tempus Fugit: Troy & Us is the story of a British soldier, his wife and his tours in Afghanistan. It addresses their progressive relationship from marriage, to war PTSD, to a baby and all the other bits in between. It is a raw and poignant production, mirroring the story of Andromache and her soldier husband Hector in the Trojan war, this production shows the pain of war and that this is a phenomenon that is almost as old as time.

Tempus Fugit is a combination of short dialogue meeting physical theatre and dance; the moments where we are transported into the past to look at the Trojan War are signified with beautiful mask work to break the difference in scenes. Focussed mainly around plain brown boxes that create furniture, barriers, sculptures and buildings, the performers move effortlessly between and with one another, showcasing euphoria, pain, war scenes and so much more. It is accompanied by music and storytelling recorded narrative to enhance the scene and show the juxtaposition but the similarities of the past and the present.

The performance is beautiful and there does seem to be genuine (or at least realistic) emotion and connection between the characters, whether they are the modern characters or the Ancient Greek ones. They effortlessly flick between the two and moments can be recognised that have cleverly been shown earlier on in the production, mirroring the modern day equivalent with the same movements and emotion.

However, for me, the scenes were all too quick. It felt like we flittered from scene to scene very quickly, whether that was from Troy or to the modern day, and I felt it needed a moment of stillness, or just a breathe. The fast paced nature left me wanting something meatier to hold onto for just a moment before we were catapulted to the next element. To really revel in and feel the emotion and the, what is a beautiful and painful story to engage with, it would have been nice for some different levels in energy.

Tempus Fugit: Troy & Us is a unique and interesting approach to real stories and of a kind of life only a small amount of people experience. It shows the truth of the feelings and thoughts behind war but it also needed to let us have a moment to internalise the story and feel it for ourselves.