Cops by Tony Tortora

Set in Chicago during the corrupt and racial unrest of the 1950’s police department director Andy Jordan returns, Cops by Tony Tortora to stage. A play which is firmly set in its era. With racial tensions high, Mob rule rife and the corruption inside the police force ever-present we embark on what appears to be the downfall of a section of the Mob.

Harry Stanton known throughout the play as Stan ( Roger Alborough) takes his position as the oldest member of the team. His outlook remains set from when he first joined back in 1906. He is tired, suffering from a bad back and ready to retire. Except he doesn’t as all that awaits him at home is his wife and her compulsion to shop for a bargain.

The stakeouts which take place using the back wall of the stage which has been divided into two sections. First half represents the inside of an apartment sparsely decorated. The other is exposed brickwork, makeshift chairs and absolutely no heating, as the actors highlight the freezing conditions by trying to keep warm and shivering. Each section individually lit during their scenes.

Foxy (Jack Flammiger) the 22-year-old rookie has a lot to learn about life and people before he earns the right to be officially accepted by the force veterans. This is Flammiger’s debut performance in Cops. He captured the irritating and frustrating arrogance of Fox which infuriated me while watching him. He is certainly out to watch out for in the future.

The dressed stage brings together the atmosphere of the busy police precinct office, with each desk designed to match the officer’s personality from the sparse content on the Rookies desk to the chaos and clutter built up over the years by Stan.  Each with a typewriter, ashtray and telephone.

The intimate space used for this play in Southwark Playhouse brings the audience into the play and you are almost part of the action. Set and costume designer Anthony Lamble has perfectly utilised all of the available space in this theatre to recreate several smaller sets surrounding the main staging inside the police precinct.

The cast of five and the attention to detail of the set is realistic. Although sadly the only thing that let’s the “whodunnit” style play down was the script. I was left wanting to know more about the history of the Mob family they were gathering evidence of and at times it seemed to drag.


The endless supply of Doughnuts and coffee that arrived on Stan’s desk every morning by the chief Eulee (Paul Ulasiewicz) during this play were a real temptation. Southwark Playhouse would certainly sell quite a few during the interval throughout the run of the play.

Three Stars.

Photos courtesy of Robert Day.

Cast

Stan (Harry Stanton)-Roger Alborough
Rosey (Roosevelt Washington)Daniel Francis
Eulee(Paul Ulaasiewicz)-James Sobol Kelly
Foxy(William Fox)-Jack Flammiger
Hurley(Joseph Hurley)-Ben Keaton

Director-Andy Jordan.

Playing at
Southwark Playhouse from the 15th January to 1st February. Check out the link below for further information.

Cops

The Wild Flesh by Wildly Theatre.



The play opens with a series of Youtube style videos where our main character Lyra (Hayley May Muirhead) speaks directly to the audience/followers. Showing us the correct way to apply make-up, talking about body positivity and her top three life hacks. All sounds perfectly innocent and quite commonplace online these days.


Her most trusted group of four followers affectionately called the Lybaby’s who all hang on her every word and live by the rules she has set out. They are religiously guided by her and on the surface trust what she tells them to be the whole truth and nothing but the truth. When she makes the shock announcement that she has a new personal assistant Gemma (Caitlin Goman) questions start to be asked.

The rot begins to set in within the group as her former PA (lybaby) Shelly has suddenly disappeared without a trace or word to anyone. Lyra explains that she has gone away on a mission to set up another sect to gather more followers. That is until her deceased body is discovered and the police begin investigating.


The play is cleverly crafted as the audience are drip-fed the plot in an honest and harmless explanation through what appears to be helpful advice through Lyra’s channel. One of the very powerful devices the play uses is Lyra’s eyes changing during her vlogs. They become almost hypnotic and reminded of the snake Kaa from the Jungle Book. Extremely effective and quite unnerving at the same time.

For example, when Lyra claims that botox is the new cure for depression as you can have your face fixed in place with a permanent smile which aides the person to feel happy in themselves permanently, the audience is at that point completely aware of how warped and dangerous her thinking has become.

The cast of five are equally strong and deliver powerful performances that leave you feeling very uneasy as it’s closer to reality than many of us would like to believe.

Art imitating life through The Wild Flesh is a harsh reality for many young women and girls in society today as many are influenced by online vloggers similar to Lyra on the social media platform. A very real concern for many parents.

Director Tashan Gilardi has bought together with this very well scripted and poignant commentary on a darker side of the online world. As the play highlights it’s becoming a modern-day cult which can lead to devastating consequences.

Four Stars.

Priscilla Queen of the Desert The Musical at The Mayflower Southampton.

Joe McFadden winner of Strictly come dancing stars in the touring production of Priscilla Queen of the Desert alongside Miles Western(Bernadette) and Nick Hayes (Felicia/Adam) devised from the original book by Stephan Elliott and Allan Scott.

The musical is opened by three outstanding “Divas” who all have the most incredible voices. They remain present throughout the entire production and add another dimension to the stage play which the film never had. However, by introducing the Trio, it works extremely well with a stage production because it adds another singing depth to the main three characters.

The main storyline with Priscilla Queen of the Desert tells the heartwarming tale of three friends on a journey of self-discovery and acceptance. Encountering the explosive darker side of human nature along the way. Where some of the people they encounter find accepting things that they deem to “not be normal” leads to some violent homophobic attacks on the three friends.

Priscilla the bus which is used in this product has been produced in sections so you get the front driver’s cab of the bus as the main focal point and the individual dressing room sections which then make up the side parts. It’s an incredibly effective and clever way of constructing such a large item of prop onto the stage. The three friends then drive the dilapidated bus across the Outback of Australia to Alice Springs.

The musical has been brought up to date with the addition of Kylie Minogue songs added into the ensemble with many of the original hits from the film version of Priscilla Queen of the Dessert still used. As Kylie is recognised as a “gay icon” it was very poignant that she should be added into this is Australian based musical where her friend and fellow actor Jason Donovan is one of the show’s producers.

The set and costumes designed by Charles Cusick-Smith and Phil R Daniels have created a vast array of very colourful and outrageous costumes worn by the three drag artists their use of colour, large headwear with bold makeup and feathers all add to the extremely eye-catching attire worn by the three main characters.

The musical is filled wall to wall with many well-known dance floor classics It’s raining Men by the Weather Girls, Cyndi Lauper’s Girls just wanna have fun to the all-time classic I will survive by Gloria Gaynor. Extremely poignant as each of the three main characters fight to survive their own battles along the way. You really can’t help but sing along and join in as Priscilla makes her journey across Australia.

Director Ian Talbot has certainly bought Priscilla Queen of the Desert back into the limelight at a poignant time as the LGBTQ movement is now becoming supported and acknowledged as being very important highlighting that we should all live in acceptance of one another regardless of race, creed, sexuality and gender. This was supported and promoted with LGBTQ flags proudly being waved on stage during some of the musical numbers.

The evening’s performance ended to a standing ovation and people joining in with the final songs singing along, cheering and generally enjoying themselves after a fantastic evening delivered by the very talented cast. It really is a feel-good musical leaving you humming along to one of the many catchy songs as you leave the Theatre.

Four Stars.

Playing from the 13th-18th January 2020 hitch a ride on Priscilla for more details check out details on the link below

https://www.mayflower.org.uk/whats-on/priscilla-2020/

The Railway Children

The Blue Apple Theatre Company present The Railway Children based on the book by Edith Nesbit performing at the Theatre Royal in Winchester from the 10th-12th January 2020.

The stage has been designed by Mark Pyke to depict a fully functional working railway station complete with a working carriage train, you just need to suspend your disbelief. The steam train sounds effects worked exceptionally well along with the bellows of steam pumped onto the stage for additional effects.

The small house that the family move to in Yorkshire is called the Three Chimneys which is depicted by a changing sign in the style of an old railway crossing sign. This can be seen at the far right of the stage. The signs change depending on where the cast is based at that particular point allowing the audience to follow their location as the scene changes are subtle.

In the usual style of Blue Apple, the entire cast are energetic, dedicated and in the final song every single member of the cast sings along waves at the audience and you can see and feel just how much enjoyment and enthusiasm that comes from every single member. It’s an absolute pleasure to support and watch them performing on stage.

Katie Appleford who plays Roberta also known as Bobby claims that she is the favourite child of three Railway Children. She is an extremely strong female lead character and looked very much set in the time period in her royal blue dress as seen in the photograph below.

Tom Hatchett who plays Mr Perks the stationmaster delivers some very funny one-liners throughout the performance his delivery and timing for comedy are brilliant. He is a strong articulate actor who delivers his lines with a lot of power and conviction he can be seen below carrying the lamp.

Sam Dace who plays the brother Peter and Katie Francis who plays the other sister Phyllis all work together as a group ensemble as the three siblings along with their mother played by Anna Brisbane. Their father is played by James Elsworthy who only really appears at the end of the production when he returns home.

Although James he can be seen in a screened dance section where he’s dancing with the dream spirit (Amy Britt) this particular section is extremely well filmed and choreographed and the couple moves together very smoothly.

The choreography by Amanda Watkinson and Direction led by Richard Conlon is likely to bring it’s own challenges to this production working with a large cast who all have their own individual style and requirements. However, once on stage it all comes together and Theatre magic happens.

I have the privilege of going to rehearsals and watching the work in progress and I see behind the scenes too. The work and dedication that the whole crew put into working with this company are fantastic. Along with the huge amount of dedication given by the whole cast.

After the performance had finished I heard a couple of members of the audience talking afterwards saying how the last song that the cast sang at the end of the production they were still singing now and they enthused about how much they thoroughly enjoyed the play. Therefore it is not only my opinion that this company is worth going to support but it’s coming first-hand from the members of the audience.

If you are not in a position to see this particular production look out for their future shows and go and see one of those, you won’t be disappointed.

Photography courtesy of Mike Hall.

For more information on the Blue Apple theatre company and their forthcoming Productions and past Productions please check out the website link below.

http://blueappletheatre.com/

Check out the link below for The Railway Children on at the Theatre Royal until Sunday the 12th of January 2020

https://www.theatreroyalwinchester.co.uk/whats-on/

Deleted by Stephan Pierre-Mitchell

Homelessness is never an easy subject to tackle as so many people are aware that is going on around them but unless they are affected by it personally tend not to have too much to do with it or understand what goes on in order for someone to find themselves in that situation.

This short film Deleted follows the last five hours of Ahmed Sadiqqi Hussein before he is evicted from his North-West London home and becomes homeless. His circumstances as we learn have been brought on due to late payments and rigid sanctions set out by the DWP.

Incredible close-up camera work looks directly into Ahmed’s soul through his eyes and his incredibly calm demeanour before he’s about to become homeless. The audience witnesses an intimate biographical account from this very intelligent and articulate man. It’s very easy for the viewer to connect with him and feel overwhelming empathy towards him.

Although there’s no happy ending to this particular documentary film you are left with a sense that you have been privileged to have met Ahmed through the direction of Stephan Pierre-Mitchell. The intimate way in which the story unfolds in front of you allows a greater understanding of how barbaric the cuts made by the DWP are impacting on everyday lives of people that you wouldn’t necessarily suspect to be having these traumatic difficulties.

Ahmed tells Pierre-Mitchell that “I’m better off homeless than on a system so bureaucratic and dehumanising. I’d rather die on the street ” how dare a system to reduce anyone to believe that this is their preferred way to end their days. I am both saddened and disgusted by this statement.

As an active supporter in a local homeless charity, I was already aware of some of the issues that were raised and the statistics that surround homelessness and I would urge anyone to go and read up on the links below as to what actual statistics are and gain a greater understanding at just how easy it is to become homeless.

Follow the links underneath to read more on the life of Ahmed and Directer Stephan Pierre-Mitchell. Along with homeless statistics information.

https://dayswithdarnell.com/2019/07/07/deleted-from-the-system-and-happier/amp/?__twitter_impression=true

Film Documentary: Deleted directed by Stephan Pierre-Mitchell

https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/homelessness-statistics

For anyone concerned or needing advice on homelessness use the following links.

https://www.nhas.org.uk/

https://www.mungos.org/cold-weather/?utm_source=google&utm_campaign=MT_Christmas_19/20_Cold&utm_medium=cpc&gclid=CjwKCAiAjMHwBRAVEiwAzdLWGG3J1MoBvhpfXM8-CAHgEaawHU_11_Z6kDRCNMAFsF-TiOafeY7FPRoCsWAQAvD_BwE

Soho Cinders directed by Will Keith.

It’s all change down on Old Compton Street for the next three and a half weeks as we see Robbie and Velcro now take centre Stage with two new very strong and talented lead characters Matthew Mather and Livvy Evans. Be assured these two are certainly breathing new life into this fantastic musical.

Quoted directly from my original review “The rags to riches storyline mix friendship, politics, spin doctor media stunts and family disputes brilliantly. James (Lewis Asquith) is running to be the next London Mayor and is engaged to Marilyn (Tori Hargreaves). While at the same time secretly having a relationship with Robbie” the plot has remained exactly the same and second time round Hargeaves and Asquith are still as stron.

Also among the changes are one of the ugly sisters Dana by the energetic Hollie Taylor it’s hard to believe it was her night. Lord Bellingham is now played by Robert Grose. The sleazy spin doctor William George is replaced by Dayle Hodge who has the most exceptional voice hitting some very high notes with precision and brings a whole other dimension to the word spin as he manipulates Prince in his mayoral campaign.

There were plenty of first night nerves evident during the opening number which felt rather flat but as the cast relaxed and started to enjoy themselves the performance came alive and by the end it was full as much passion and energy as the original production.

The magic and friendship that was evident in the original cast between Robbie and Velcro is still very much alive between Mather and Livvy. The pair are very physical and Livvy’s dancing routines are extremely strong. She is a very accomplished dancer and actress.

Mather and Grose front of stage in the finale photo by Elaine Chapman.

Mather’s strength as an actor was evident in the end of act one beginning of act two when he was caught in the “headlights” at the Ball between his date Lord Bellingham and his lover Prince. He has been exceptionally well cast by Will Keith and has bought a stronger mature edge to the role which really works well in my opinion.

Director Keith has revamped and brilliantly revitalised these cast members for its final three and a half weeks run which ends on 11th January at the Charing Cross Theatre be sure to catch it while it’s showing.

Five Stars

Cast

Robbie-Mathew Mather

Velcro-Livvy Evans

Clodagh-Michaela Stern

Dana-Hollie Taylor

James Prince-Lewis Asquith

Marilyn Platt-Tori Hargreaves

William George-Dayle Hodge

Lord Bellingham-Robert Grose

Sasha-Melissa Rose.

Written by Anthony Drewe and Elliot Davis.

Music-George Stiles

Lyrics-Anthony Drewe.

Creatives

Director -Will Keith

Choreographer-Adam Haigh

Set Designer-Justin Williams

Production Team

Will Keith

Michaela Stern

Kyle Tovey.

Press enquiries Kevin Wilson

For general enquiries and tickets information please use the link below.

https://charingcrosstheatre.co.uk/theatre/soho-cinders

Snow White devised by Chickenshed.

Written and directed by Lou Stein Snow White by Chickenshed is performed by an all-inclusive theatre group. The production is fully signed and the signers are visible on both sides of the stage at the top of the steps which are incorporated into the scenery.

The principal storyline of Snow White is followed in this adaptation by chickenshed. However, there is not a single iconic dwarf to be seen and instead of disappearing to the forest Cinderella escapes up to highlands of Scotland where she ends up finding herself in a commune and befriends the magnificent seven.

Snow White played by Cara McInanny lives with her father Hector (Johnny Morton) who has remarried Jane de Villiers (Sarah Connolly) after the death of his wife. The roles have been reversed in this version and she has not married into money he has. De Villiers holds the purse strings due to her fame as a successful model in her younger years, therefore, vanity and retaining her good looks are paramount to her superiority and helping to maintain her egotistical opinion of herself and image.

Snow White has been adapted and bought up to date in this new work in a very clever and interesting social commentary on people’s vanity and how much some of them value retaining their good looks at any cost and like De Villiers they are influenced by the fashion and modelling industry.

The most endearing part to me of this entire production is the inclusion of anybody who wishes to act on the stage regardless of race, gender and disability where the company advertises that everyone is included and nobody is ever turned away.

At times the stage can appear overwhelming as during certain scenes it is absolutely full up by the entire cast. Everyone of them can be seen to be enjoying themselves throughout the performance

The Seven Dwarfs have been replaced by The Magnificent Seven who have already heard of Snow White’s stepmother and understand completely what she is capable of from years ago when they worked in London where she was modelling at the time. Knowing how ruthless she can be to ensure she has her own way they know how much danger Snow White is really in.

Ashley Driver playing the very glamorous person in the mirror who is responsible for delivering the bad news to De Villiers that her stepdaughter isn’t actually dead adds some Christmas glitz and charm to the part. He doubles up as the traditional pantomime dame with a modern twist.

The creative team behind the scenes is as extensive as the cast itself and I am sure without each and everyone of them this production would not have been as successful as it is. Everybody involved deserves to be proud of what they have achieved.

Set and costume designer William Fricker has created a very unusual stage setting and above the top of the stage in an arc formation with a mass of empty mirror frames to reflect the theme of “mirror, mirror on the wall…” the iconic line used in the classic fairy tale. His creative flair in the dresses worn by De Villers was absolutely stunning and complimented her beautiful long red hair a stunning pantomime “baddie “.

This production is definitely worth taking the time to go and visit the impressive but slightly off the beaten track venue. Snow White is showing from 27th November 2019 to 11th January 2020 and definitely brightens up the festive period. For more information and ticket sales please check out the link below.

Four Stars.

http://www.chickenshed.org.uk/