Looking back at my original biography section on here I can see how far my writing life has gone. With two Edinburgh Fringe seasons behind me and a huge variety of Theatres visited things have grown beyond my wildest dreams.
I now write for my own blog, London Theatre Reviews and Broadway Baby. On top of this I am an Off West End Senior Assessor and throughout lockdown helped turn the Oncomm into a success and watched Scenesaver become a huge success. Recently I was on the panel to vote for Scenesaver production awards. It has been an amazing journey and I am looking forward to the Theatres reopening next week (from 17th May 2021). My original introduction is underneath as a reminder to myself of just how far I have come. Long may it continue.
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I am an English graduate who loves the arts. However, I do battle with dyslexia and when I make any errors it is not deliberate. I am a fourty something, mother of 4 who wants to try my hand at writing reviews. All blogged reviews are my personal opinions. Any event blogged I will have personally attended. If you like my work please feel free to share it or if you would like a review written please message me on email@example.com
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When it comes to major global problems can they actually be resolved within an hours performance? Could mans best friend have the answers? Perhaps in “A Dog’s Solution” some of these important questions will finally be answered.
Beyonce introduces herself as she opens the play. Explaining how and why she is now living on the streets. A series of unfortunate events along with her Mum’s lecherous new boyfriend left her with little choice but to leave the extremely overcrowded two-bedroom flat which the family of seven shared.
As the interval comes to an end the meeting of minds come together in the shape of the newly formed “World Government” due to the questions raised come from the audience each show will be slightly different although common world problems are likely to be repeated for example global warming, hunger and overpopulation.
A host of characters appear throughout the performance. Mainly in the guise of members of the public busily walking past on their way to work. All of which stop either to create a diversion or chat on the phone. However, due to being a short play some are left undeveloped and left me wondering what they were doing in the play.
The overall message and ideas to debate and discuss world global problems in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic are worthwhile and worthy of debate. Although sadly the message within the hour-long performance gets lost along the way and apart from raising some good ideas, nothing takes place.
With some work and tightening up of the script and possibly fewer characters, there is a great idea waiting to come out inside the play although it’s all rather confusing and the dialogue isn’t always clear as the play stands at the moment.
First filmed during lockdown the original series of five short plays were filmed and available on YouTube. There are four short plays featured on the staged version, one of which made its debut. These pieces are firmly based around the “human connection” and how some people react in stressful situations, mind games and situations encountered by some.
Beautifully performed by Madhav Vasantha gave a convincing performance of the drunk and violent Man Ray. Who has found after an accumulation of events with his ex-partner finds himself homeless? Despite being a character that you might not like his love for his dog Bella is heart rendering.
Vasantha’s performance directly broke the fourth wall talking to the audience from the position of living on the street. Right down to begging for change as he made his way onto the stage. One audience member thought he was genuinely asking. Outstanding performance.
Chains directly address the effects of coercive control and the firm grip that a perpetrator will hold over their victim. The fear, urgency desperation in Laura’s (Marie-Claire Wood) voice when she finally realised the time after spending a short length of time out for a drink with her friend.
Her anxious body language and aggressive tone towards her friend struck a chord with me. It was clear that she would be facing arguments and abusive behaviour once she finally got home.
When we spoke afterwards, Jayne explained to me at the end of Chains that she “hopes to open people’s eyes into the trauma caused to somebody in this situation”. As a society, there is still much work to be done to raise awareness. There is a clear trigger warning on the programme.
Woebot the voice-activated “Alexa style” voice activation system called Joy (Carmen Ali) who knows more about Matt’s (Calum Robshaw) loves and life than he appears to. After Jessica and Matt finish their relationship. He is feeling lost and alone. Taking the day off to gather his thoughts and mope. Joy takes charge of his day and he finds out more about his past relationship than he ever suspected. Leaving him feeling slightly disturbed at Joy’s announcement.
Part two saw the debut performance of the new play by Jayne Woodhouse, A Perfect Crime where Jess (Kayleigh Rainton) and Matt (Neil Gardner). As lockdown fever kicks in the couple are at the point of annoying boredom. Matt wants to binge-watch a cop drama and Jess wants to go out for a walk.
As the story unfolds Jess describes how easy it “might” be to perform the perfect murder and get away with it after all there was a local unsolved murder a few years ago which never had any leads.
Performed on stage at Brown Street, The Chapel Nightclub in Salisbury. It is an absolute delight to finally see life returning to venues across the country that have been closed for many months. Stages back in use, the buzz of an audience and performers no longer banished to working online.
Writer Jayne Woodhouse and director Calum Robshaw led the Q&A session afterwards. Expressing how much it meant to the entire team to be back on stage and the difficulties they had faced while performing rehearsals over zoom. One very clear thing is that everyone is thrilled to be back in business.
Hopefully Lost Souls will be taken on a tour at some point in the future, where others can also enjoy these short plays. With four in one night, it’s excellent value for money too.
For more information on Lost Souls and other work by the company please use the link below.
Salisbury Playhouse reopens its doors with September in the Rain by John Godber. Liz (Nicola Sloane) and Jack Munroe (Ian Kelsey) fondly reflect with love and humour their holiday memoirs spanning thirty years of annual visits in September to the seaside town Blackpool. The couple looks back on the good and bad times they have had together as a family as well as on their own.
Jack is a man of few words much of the time and shares snippets of his bleak working life in the mines. The lack of conversation leaves Liz frustrated with him at times and they frequently break out into squabbling. One of her main upsets are bought about by his lack of public affection and she certainly knows the right buttons to push to make him jealous and allow her to know he still cares.
Kelsey and Sloane’s on stage relationship is a reflection of the off-stage chemistry I saw when I interviewed the couple during their rehearsals. An intimate two-handed show such as this requires two actors who have a close working rapport such as these two do to bring the layered text to life believably on stage.
Sloanes performance in one of the couple’s memories in which she takes on the role of their daughter Pamela in a holiday talent competition is superb. From the thumb sucking, nervous child poses, to the innocent younger voice alongside her mannerisms and behaviour give an incredibly plausible portrayal of their daughter.
The set built by Tim Reed and Daniel Gent provides a nostalgic setting for the couple’s trip down “holiday memory road” complete with a run-down looking bench, which doubles as a bed and two sets of stone steps familiar to seaside towns. Their attention to detail is realistic and outstanding. Which has been completed by set painters Rod Holt and Sally Holt.
Director and Salisbury Playhouse Artistic Director Gareth Machin certainly has chosen the perfect play for reopening the Playhouse in September. A superb and moving start to their long-awaited opening season.
On occasions like these, I am reminded as to why I enjoy going to live Theatre. Their performances are absorbing and I felt a slight pang of sadness when the play ended. I thoroughly enjoyed watching their holiday stories. It reminded me of being a child and shown old family holiday photographs by grandparents as they reminisce over days gone by.
For tickets and more information about September in the Rain please use the link below. It’s playing from 16th September until the 9th October 2021.
Salisbury Playhouse reopens its doors on September 16th with the funny and heart-warming John Godber play. Which has been Especially chosen by the Theatres artistic director Gareth Machin smaller cast will help reduce the chances of covid cases.
The two-hander play follows the thirty-year marriage between Liz and Jack Munroe. The couple spend a week every year in September visiting Blackpool where they have disastrous holidays year after year. The play by John Godber has been chosen specifically for the Theatres relaunch after the long closure where we saw Covid-19 bring live Theatre to a complete halt.
During their rehearsal lunchtime break I was fortunate enough to catch up Nicola Sloane and Ian Kelsey to find out what they have been up to during the pandemic and their thoughts on their upcoming roles as Liz and Jack Munroe.
After months in lockdown, I asked both actors if they managed to get any work during that time?
Nicola explained about working in Leeds, where she had self-isolated for two weeks before starting the recording. To then spend most of her stay in Leeds confined to a hotel room. “You couldn’t order any food” and “the only thing available for breakfast had been a bacon roll without butter just a very basic service. Very simple to try and stay secure”.
Ian’s experience had been far stricter when he had worked in Dublin. The “covid police” were out in force making sure people were two metres apart, gelling your hands all the time he explained and strict curfews were upheld. The whole experience was “strange” and “it wasn’t very nice as it wasn’t the friendly experience being on the jolly film set that it usually is”
How are you finding the new way of working in Theatre?
As Ian explains Salisbury “are writing their rules as they go” strictly taking temperatures, asking people to wear their masks and keeping two metres part. Both Nicola and Ian feel very safe working in Salisbury and have extremely high praise for all the staff work there. As they both agreed “its great to be back on stage”.
Have you worked together before?
The natural relaxed relationship I saw between the couple led me to ask if they had worked together before, as they certainly appeared to be old acquaintances. However, laughing and joking they explained that until they had gone for dinner the first night, they arrived for rehearsals they had never met before. Nicola had heard of Ian before and was keen to work with him. She jokingly tells me that he had probably never heard of her before. Even if that was the case he has now.
What drew you both to agree to perform in this play?
Ian laughed and said “the pay check” straight away. I am sure there’s some truth in that answer too. However, Nicola laughs at him and says “No, it’s the opportunity to perform this fantastic two-hander. The script is funny, touching and a real joy to be performing”. Ian explained that he has always fancied performing a John Godber play and he tells me that when his agent offered him this opportunity after halfway through reading the script he was sold and agreed.
If the couple I met off stage are as entertaining and funny on-stage Theatre goers are in for an incredibly funny and entertaining performance. I look forward to reviewing September in the Rain on press night, Friday 17th September.
If you live in the Salisbury area and feel confident to return to live Theatre, then a trip to see the couple in September in the Rain sounds like a great way play to watch. If the rapport between these two lovely actors is as good on stage as I witnessed off stage audiences are in for a fantastic play. The comedy throughout this play will hopefully raise the spirits of the returning audiences as much as it has for Nicola and Ian.
The Memory of Water begins as three sisters, Teresa (lucy Black), Mary (Laura Rogers) and Catherine (Carolina Main) get together in preparation for their Mother, Vi’s (Lizzy McInnerny) funeral. Set in her old bedroom throughout the performance I felt it kept the focus centred around the reason they are all there and gave the play an intimate setting.
Torn apart by years of secrets, tantrums and uncomfortable silences each of them has different recollections of the shared memories from their childhood. Right down to the death of the family cat. As with many siblings bickering where each one believes that the other was treated better or favoured.
Alzheimer’s tears families apart as the patient lose sections of their memories in stages. Slowly taking away the person they were one memory at a time. Writer Shelagh Stephenson allows the sufferer a voice during the play. Combining Vi’s fading memory with the three daughters differing childhood memories. Which meant we get an insight into all sides of the family members stories.
Mike (Adam James) gives a brilliant performance in the role of the married man who has been seeing Mary for five years. The intimate scenes between the pair came across as natural and heartfelt. The death of Vi brings up emotions and conversations that have been buried for too long and finally need to be addressed by the couple to move on.
The conversations which take place between Vi and Mary open up an insight into how their Mother had felt about her three daughter’s. As a mother of two daughters, I recognised the feelings of being closed out of their lives at times and not being included in their conversations.
The exceptional quality of actors in The Memory of Water allows Director Alice Hamilton to bring this sad and heartfelt family death to life as everyone affected by it deals with their grief differently, as the three siblings demonstrate. There are some slightly surreal moments at times, comedy, anger, tears and laughter but surely that’s all part of being a family. Warts and all parts which writer, Stephenson has managed to capture with an air of compassion.
Playing from 9th September to 16th October 2021. Use the links below for further details and how to buy tickets.
Yorkshire, known for its Dales, Emmerdale, Last of the Summer Wine and Tea. Yet, a meeting place used by Hitler and his Cronies to regroup? No, not so much. We watch as Ay Up, Hitler is set “down the pub” with an array of Yorkshire accents, lots of warm beer drunk (mimed) and donning the flat cap. Writer David McCulloch has certainly put the Ay Up into Hitler.
Himmler (Michael Grist), Goebbels (Marcus Churchill) and Goring (David McCulloch) reconvene in a small village somewhere nestled in the Yorkshire countryside as they await the return of their leader Hitler (Peter McCrohon). Ready to rebrand and attempt a come back they feel it’s the right time to put the history books straight.
As Hitler meets up with the newly generated Boris Johnson another role performed by the talented Michael Grist. The audience hears the lightning crashes and whirs of electricity as Johnson comes to life behind the screen, reminiscent of the scene from Frankenstein as the monster in Mary Shelley’s famous gothic novel comes to life.
Blundering and “baffooning” onto the stage waving two union jack flags and mumbling the odd words like “Brexit” and “vote” in a haphazard exaggerated manner as Johnson often does it wasn’t hard suspending your disbelief that he had just been assembled.
Joined by ex-US president Donald Trump (Hannah-Cait Harrison). Hitler is “treated” to this glorious meeting of minds with a baffled look on his face as you can see him questioning, however, did these two men get into power and could lead their countries. Although it’s impossible that a meeting like this could take place its thought-provoking ideas led me to wonder what a powerful dictatorial would make of these two rather character style politicians. Probably with bewilderment, disgust and a touch of ridicule.
Described in their programme as an “anarchic pantomime, in the worse possible taste” it is certainly a fitting description of what I have watched. There’s no mention of “he’s behind you” but there is a sort of pantomime dame on offer though.
They certainly won’t change anything historically. However, the cast offer humour, bad taste jokes and plenty of laughs throughout the hour-long production. Resident artistic director for Blackbox Theatre, Chris Hawley has bought Gamma Ray’s debut production to stage.
As larger Theatre’s start to reopen their doors to capacity audiences again, after many being closed since March 2020. New Wimbledon Theatre has opened its doors with the West End smash hit production Waitress. Gala night saw press and familiar television faces from Fay Ripley, Danny Walters and Claire Sweeney to name but a few take their seats for a superb night of musical entertainment.
Starring Lucie Jones as Jenna and ex busted star Matt Jay-Willis in the role of Dr Pomatter. The book by Jessie Nelson tells the story about Jenna’s escape from an unhappy violent controlling relationship into the happier life that she works extremely hard to achieve. Alongside her are the two fellow waitresses Becky (Sandra Marvin), Dawn (Evelyn Hoskins) and the long-suffering diner manager Cal (Christopher. D.Hunt).
Taking sugar, flour and butter pies are whipped up in abundance for sale in the diner. Jenna inherits her gift of baking from her deceased Mum who taught her everything she knows in the culinary department. While growing up the family kitchen was their safe place to retreat to when her Father was having yet another violent episode.
Music and lyrics by Sara Bareilles are performed by the cast members and accompanied by the highly accomplished Waitress Band. Jenna was given a standing ovation after her outstanding powerful performance of “She Used To Be Mine” which she thoroughly deserved.
It’s refreshing to watch a performance where the happy ending isn’t predictable which empowers the female protagonist into an independent solvent position. She reclaims her life and builds the life for herself and her daughter that she whole heartedly deserves.
Without seeing the original musical when it was running in the West End I didn’t have anything to compare the revamped touring production to and was able to review it from a fresh perspective without preconceived ideas or expectations. It’s a really good evening’s entertainment packed with some very good musical numbers. Ingenious pie creative names and catchy songs. Now playing at the New Wimbledon Theatre until 11th September 2021 as part of their UK and Ireland tour.
GAYATRI The Royal Queen Consort of the Majapahit Kingdom, is an intriguing performance piece set to traditional Indonesian instruments composed by Franki Raden. Adapted from the Nagarakertagama Javanese literary manuscript narrating the story of Majapahit Kingdom during its peak glory days under the reign of King Hayam Wuruk written and directed by Mhyajo (Mia Johannes).
This performance follows GAYATRI The Royal Princess, evolving and growing while attempting to preserve the memory and legacy of the King, her late Father. Steeped in historical references a further understanding of the original storyline would be somewhat helpful and recommended if you have the time. Although as a stand-alone piece its graceful dance movements and easy to follow subtitles explaining the storyline is fascinating and brilliantly scripted.
The beautiful costume worn by Princess GAYATRI in contrast to the monochrome setting allows audiences to follow the main character without any confusion. Her rich gold dress is stunning and highlights her wealth and social standing above the rest of the cast.
Although advertised as an Opera it isn’t set in the traditional Western style of an Opera many viewers would expect to see. Yet set in the style of a historical Opera from the origins in which the storylinehas been adapted from.
The large cast in this production is unusual for a Fringe Theatre performance. However, if they were to travel and perform with the complete company I can envisage a powerful and impressive live staged production which would have audiences drawn into the storyline following the Princesses tale and in awe of the stunning period costumes created by Kleting Titis Wigati.
Although the Edinburgh Fringe has now finished. The links below will allow you to read the synopsis published on GAYATRI.
Intricate Rituals watches Siken, an immature love forlorn University Student stuck in a quandary as to whether he should tell his straight best friend Owen that he is secretly in love with him.
What does happens when you fall in love with your straight best friend? Surely honesty would be the best policy or is it? Writer/Director Seth Douglas poses the question in Intricate Rituals and the audience can decide for themselves whether Siken makes the right decision or not.
Combining love, relationships and a self-indulgent young adult we witness the lengths to which Siken is prepared to go to achieve his obsession. After tragedy strikes, Siken turns to a set of rules called intricate rituals of a (black magic) spell to achieve this and finally speak to Owen and tell him exactly how he feels. What are the odds of this working?
The idea of bringing a loved one back from the dead is an interesting plotline for a play and has real potential with a strong lead actor could be bought very much to “life.” However, the lead performance in tonight’s show fell flat in many areas and even when trying to suspend my disbelief it didn’t work for me.
This production of Intricate Rituals bought to the Edinburgh Fringe has two casts, the other being a female-led performance which sadly I wasn’t able to fit into my schedule to watch to compare fairly. Although from the couple of reviews I have read through it appears to have been received favourably.
Clementine Bogg,-Hargroves created and performs Skank at Edinburgh Fringe 2021 in the Pleasance Courtyard. Meet Emma, a self-confessed recycling guru who is desperately searching for the right bin in which to deposit the baked beans tin into that she has been carrying around with her!
Emma is stuck in a mundane job, dealing with equally mundane co-workers, a mixture of unhealthy one night stands and balancing the up and downs of her mental health, tinnitus and anxiety.
When Emma is called back to the Doctors after her recent smear test. The events that take place afterwards were realistic and honest from the fear of finding out what is wrong with you, to the initial panic that you might have cancer, to the uncomfortable and wincing scene in which she attends a colposcopy appointment. Oh and Ladies, please attend regular smear tests, they are extremely important and can save your life.
With panic podcasts at the ready co-director, Zoey Barnes plays her part in bringing this heartfelt production to stage alongside co-producer Mark Ashmore. Emma’s story is far more common than many possibly realise and one that raises awareness about how important it is to ask for help and look after your mental health.
One thing that is clear throughout the entire performance is that Emma isn’t a sleazy or unpleasant person aka a “Skank.” She’s an educated, caring and very considerate lady who just deserves a break in life.
Skank is currently in the development stage to make its debut on to the screen. I for one would be interested to see how this would make the transition and would want to watch it and would recommend it to others.
With Edinburgh Fringe 2021 coming to a close there are limited performances left to watch Skank. Hopefully, it will continue to be performed in other venues.