Tag Archives: Everyman Theatre

Review Into The Woods, Everyman Theatre Cardiff by Lois Arcari

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4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

 

As the sun descended upon the set, previously lovely but a little bare, gloriously entwined with the trees yet sans any beanstalk motif, took on a new depth and spatiality. Now it was one with the story, the characters, the enthralling play – the whole thing blossoming in the darkness. In the second act, every element came together for a brilliant, bombastic finish, Sondheim’s ever darkly twinkling musical and the always excellent Everyman team.

The musical will always be a relevant one, but what I think makes it so durable, from when Bernadette Peter’s first blew onto the stage, to the gleefully ironic Disney adaptation, is that it warns of wishes whilst not mandating the often so elusive action. The tone is sublime, true and timeless. As we see the ordinary tales of Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Jack and The Beanstalk and more deconstructed for perhaps the first time in a mainstream way, the show will always be a looking glass for both the individual and the world around them. It has a perfect formula, which gives any players the odd situation of only being able to damn it with an almost impossible faintness, which Everyman most certainly did not.

The reliably brilliant atmosphere highlighted the dramatic tension, with the ensemble on brilliant form, and any kinks in what was the opening night were duly ironed out save one or two small problems with the mikes. The puppetry, which had been lovely but simplistic at the start, was utilised in a genuinely shocking and exciting moment, gone in a flash, the impact amazing.

One of the best to bloom through the show was Meredith Lewis’ Cinderella, with natural empathetic acting and a clear but tense voice always hanging on the edge of something, uncertain in crescendos. Her command of her vocals was probably always going to increase as the production went on, as the uncertainty of dreams turns into calloused but dependable reality.

To me, the true standout players had to be Laura Phillips, the Baker’s Wife. Her warmth, comedy and realism all made the ill fated woman perfectly likeable, her shadow looming over thus ever more painfully, and Darcy Welch, Little Red, who managed to blend the sweetness and tinge of childish cruelty in little red without either rendering the other implausible. The Wolf was the scene stealer he was meant to be, and he two princes were played with winning aplomb. Cinderella’s, played by Lewis Cook was perhaps the best, an undercurrent of whatever sincerity could be bred into such a prince making him less one note, the dominant individual ‘agonies’ of the play amplified by the smaller, subtler ones. The people that never had the chance to be a different version of themselves, the cruel prescriptiveness of the archetypal fairytale, it’s inevitable truth, and the mournful, glorious fact that no one is exempt from human fallibility.

A beautifully done production, the costume design as ever needs a mention.Whilst all costumes suited the production, the standout had to be the Witch’s hunched form, her apparent ugliness only truly shown in strangeness. The mask, meant for the furrowed lines of age, truly looked almost venetian, and her hair, odd, matted pink, again added a sense of false attributions, as she looked powerful, bizarre and captivating. The Witch herself was nice, was good…but, for those of you who know the booming song, not quite right. The acting and singing from Jo Herco Thomas were both lovely, but in a company with a baseline of brilliant talent her voice failed to dominate as her physical presence did, as she played both her anger and her tenderness a little too softly, never seeming committed to either. By no means a bad performance, it still seemed a little lukewarm for the iconic character.

This is a musical which will always retain its power. Both the overt and the quiet have their warnings reflected best when subtleties and set pieces bounce off one another. From the ambient tenseness to the beaming wit and of course Sondheim’s near perfectly written songs, this is a play for all to see if chance as in the play both our darkest and our finest magic, permits them.

Into the Woods

Everyman Theatre Sophia Gardens Cardiff
24th June – 2nd July

Book : James Lapine.

Music and lyrics: Stephen Sondheim.

Director: Jonathan Tunick.

Musical Director:: Rob Thorne.

Design: Bethany Seddon Stage Manager: Ranynore Phinnemore, Deputy Stage Manager: Dunyasha Barrow. Design Assistants- Rosie Motion, Dominic Page, Alison Sheppard, Kay Harry.

Puppet making: Bethany Page, Pascale Morrison-Derbyshire, Aimee Walting, Jen Callow

Band:Rob Thorne Jnr, Ray Dizon, Robin Hames, Jonathan Mainwaring, Simon Carter.

Costume and Makeup: Kelly Ellis, Rosie Berry, Michelle Cast: Laura Phillips, Matthew Preece, James Rockney, Darcy Welch, Meredith Lewis, Jo Herco-Thomas, Sarah Bawler, Daniel Ivor Jones and David Stephens.

Barker, Sophie Langford

Running Time: Just over two and a half hours.

Review Into the Woods, Everyman Theatre, Cardiff, by Gemma Treharne-Foose

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4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

This review was written prior to the E.U. Referendum vote

With the UK teetering on the edge of an E.U Brexit, the superb opening night of Everyman’s production of ‘Into the woods’ seemed almost prophetic: ‘be careful what you wish for’.

Set in the leafy grounds of Sophia Gardens, Cardiff Everyman have created a little haven for enjoying six pieces of outdoor theatre productions this summer. The opening night of the summer line up saw Stephen Sondheim’s notoriously wordy and complex piece brought to life by the energetic ensemble cast.

Those unfamiliar with the plot will see many familiar characters from Western fairy tales: Cindarella, charming princes, an evil witch, Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and his magic beans and the big bad wolf. Richard Tunley’s direction and Rob Thorne’s dramatic musical arrangement brings the piece to life via a live band tucked beyond the stage. There are whimsical and bohemian touches to the set, dashing costumes and beautiful puppetry (milky the cow and those pigeons…watch your eyes!). Audiences are taken on an extended musical romp through a tangled but hilarious set of interweaving stories – with a very modern twist. Little Red Riding Hood (played by the fantastic Darcy Welch) now has an attitude – and a knife – and she’s not afraid to use it!, Cindarella’s really not that bothered about the prince and the faithful baker’s wife who wants a baby has a ‘moment of madness’ in the forest with the prince.

Sondheim’s tongue-in-cheek take at the underlying sexism, cheesiness and saccharine plots of our well-known fairy tales is a thing of brilliance. There are some pantomime moments too – an added aside to the audience, a knowing look, in jokes, a moment when Rapunzel (Giaccolina Crothers) got her plait stuck in the branches of the set and the baker’s wife (Laura Phillips) doesn’t miss a beat, dashing across the stage shouting ‘I’ll help you, love!’. There are also deeper undercurrents at work here though – and we see the subtleties at work via Rapunzel and Jack’s struggle for independence from their over bearing parents (‘If you love them…you have to let go…’) and with the grass always being greener on the other side. The prince gets his woman, but even he is bored by the princess…the baker and his wife find life with a baby isn’t all that romantic!

With all the unpredictabilities of staging an outdoor theatre festival (in Wales!) Everyman has all bases covered. The audience seating area is covered, the sound and music was good – despite some police sirens and late-night revellers passing by. The weather mercifully held off. The stripped down aspect, the breeze and the general mood is just right and Everyman seems to have thought of everything, from renting blankets to keep the evening chill at bay, to Dusty Knuckle Pizza and Otley beers in the pretty, lantern-lit area outside. It is exceedingly pleasant and a little sanctuary from the surrounding city.

As darkness descends and we get into the second half after the interval, the set and surrounding trees around the outdoor venue are beautifully lit. There are some stand out moments for me, the macho squaring up of the two princes during the ‘agony’ song (with great comic execution by Lewis Cook and Tom Elliot), James Rockey’s gormless portrayal of Jack and his zero-to-hero transformation and those terrible sisters and their dark (but funny) comeuppance.

The show was epic in every sense – the length and the spectacle. Just following and listening and watching left me exhausted, there is a lot to see. But this production is stunning. I left with those dance sequences and riffs singing in my ears and beating in my heart.

Director: Richard Tunley

Musical Director: Rob Thorne Jnr

Stage Manager: Raynor Phinnemore

Production Designer Bethany Seddon

Costume Supervisor: Kelly Ellis

Wardrobe Mistress: Rosie Berry

Everyman Theatre Company, Cardiff.

http://everymanfestival.co.uk

Preview Everyman Theatre Company Open Air Festival by Lois Arcari

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To begin with Blackadder, as much as the classic, written by Richard Curtis, fondly remembered from Atkison’s well remembered turn as the titular character, and Tony Robinson’s zany Baldrick, is loved, so is the new tradition of the Everyman open air theatre company.

Last year’s open air festival gained rave reviews across the board, with talented actors, sharp scripts and scene stealing scenery that worked with the weather, time of day and naturally lovely setting of Sophia Gardens to create a memorable atmosphere throughout.

The regency version of the character holds the task of opening this much-loved festival; running until July the 4th. Praised by the ability of keeping the play as funny as before, taking a bold risk and paying it off as a real crowd pleaser.

After this institution of a comedy makes way for the new play, we are greeted by Sweet Charity, the story of taxi dancer, Charity, holding onto hope that her sleazy life can be traded for a new, romantic one, she falls for actuary Oscar, under the false pretence of being a respectable bank girl – how will he handle the truth in this musical romp, that features the iconic songs Big Spender and the Rhythm of Life.

Next is the turn of Shakespeare, with As You Like It. This comedy features the exiled Rosalind meeting her love, Orlanda in her disguise, with the complications of her gender swap played out in cutting cleverness, in a story whose appeal has stood the test of time.

From centuries to decades again, the festival is rounded out with what’s certain to be a hit with old and new alike, the junior production of Beauty and the Beast. The beautiful, instantly recognisable music against inventive costumes is a production of what many believe is Disney’s finest. With a remake due soon, and countless amounts of merchandise, and audience adoration, this is sure to be a finishing touch that will enchant audience’s.

Following from the resounding success of last year, with a brilliant new line up, and side shows on some  Sundays, such as the Forte sing alongs and free junior production of  Hamlet, this expansion of the always entertaining festival should find a spot in the time-table of any who love theatre and song.

For more information on the season check out;

http://everymanfestival.co.uk/#/list

 

REVIEW Oh What A Lovely War, Everyman Theatre by Barbara Michaels

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Oh What A Lovely War at Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff

By Joan Littlewood

An Everyman Theatre Production

Director: Jackie Hurley

Musical Director: Lindsey Allen

Choreographer: Richard Thomas

Reviewer: Barbara Michaels

Rating: [4.00]

Portraying the horror of the trenches and the politics behind World War I, Everyman Theatre’s production of Oh What A Lovely War joins the ranks of performances in memory of those who fell that have taken place all over Britain during the past centenary week.

Bringing to the stage once more Joan Littlewood’s iconic 1963 Theatre Workshop production, complete with Pierrot costumes and a backdrop of photographs from the war zones as well as staggering on-screen statements of the numbers lost in what was supposed to be “the conflict to end all conflicts” is an ambitious undertaking. Everyman Theatre rises superbly to the challenge, wisely choosing to present the piece as “A musical play,” rather than musical theatre, although where to draw the line between genres is never clear-cut.

All the more credit, then, to director Jackie Hurley for staging a performance of this profoundly moving piece of theatre, which at times gives rise to an audible intake of breath from the audience as the ever-increasing numbers of the soldiers who died are flashed on the backdrop, yet managing to present in tandem with this an upbeat element which gives a balance to the overall result.

How, indeed, could it be otherwise – despite the grim reality of the core subject matter – when you have a talented young ensemble cast that includes some excellent singers and dancers?   Songs that depict to a T both the era and mores of the time – from that of the title to familiar music hall song and dance numbers such as ‘I’ll Make A Man of You, ’ the foot-tapping ‘Row, Row, Row,’ and lump-in-the-throat ones such as ‘Keep the Home Fires Burning’ are memorable. Choreographer and nimble-footed dancer Richard Thomas has done sterling work here, as has Musical Director and on-stage pianist Lindsey Allen (despite grappling with a slightly out-of-tune piano.).

Change of mood is crucial and on the whole handled well, although occasionally erratic, as can happen on a small stage with minimal props. As the fighting escalates, military leaders thrash out the strategies of waging war, putting forward disastrous solutions that only prove them to be blindly oblivious to what is really going on, while the young soldiers who joined up with such youthful enthusiasm slowly come to realise that the “War games” are not at all what they expected.

As a sombre cloud hangs over Europe, the deafening noise of exploding shells brings a powerful sense of the grim reality of war.  Amid a number of poignant moments, the one that perhaps more than any tears at the heartstrings is Christmas Day in the trenches. The emotional impact of the sound of the German soldiers singing ‘Stille Nacht’ floating across No Man’s Land, followed by the exchange of gifts and fraternization between the two sides, is huge, giving rise – not surprisingly – to sniffs from some of the audience.

Focus of this production is, quite simply, to honour those who lost their lives while depicting the behind the scenes wheeler-dealing and obstinacy that resulted in such tragically large numbers of young men losing their lives.

In other words: War is a dirty business.

Runs until Saturday, November 15th, at Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff.