Tuesday, 26 May 2020

THEATRE REVIEW: Anno Domino (radio version) - The Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough.

Recently we have been reminded that in similar trying times in history some of the world’s greatest artists have produced masterpieces, including Shakespeare, who in quarantine wrote 'King Lear'; and Edward Munch, who during the 1918 influenza pandemic produced several paintings, including a much famed self-portrait. Now during lockdown in a bid to raise much needed funds for his beloved theatre in Scarborough, the Stephen Joseph, celebrated director and playwright, Alan Ayckbourn has written and made an audio recording of a new play, which he also performs in with his wife, actress Heather Stoney.

In the play, Ayckbourn and Stoney play four characters each, with an age range of 18 to mid-70s. It is the first time that they have acted together since Ayckbourn’s last appearance on a professional stage, in William Gibson’s two-hander 'Two For The Seesaw' at the Rotherham Civic Theatre in 1964. Since then Ayckbourn has written numerous plays becoming one of the world’s most performed and prolific living playwrights.

'Anno Domino' looks at the break-up of a long-established marriage and the effect that this has on family and friends. Listening to the play is a bit like putting on a CD of Ayckbourn’s Greatest Hits. The characters are instantly familiar from many of his previous plays, especially 'Absurd Person Singular', 'Bedroom Farce' and 'Taking Steps'. In Anno Domino, Ayckbourn creates situations that will be recognisable to many who know his work, during the course of the play his characters discuss extra marital affairs, lock themselves in outdoor sheds and respond in differing ways to varying degrees of adversity. The play begins with everyone’s golden couple, Sam and Millie preparing to host a party to celebrate their Silver Wedding Anniversary. In the lead up to the event, Sam’s elderly father Ben, (by far Ayckbourn’s best performance in the play), declares, “After the first 25 years, you grit your teeth and then stagger on to the finish line.” At the party Sam and Millie drop an enormous bombshell announcing that they are splitting up. Sam’s younger sister and parents struggle to make sense of this and the rest of the play focuses on how they cope with the repercussions it has on their own lives and those around them.

At two hours long, the play could do with some judicious editing, some scenes go on for a little bit longer than they need to and I am sure that if this play was adapted for the stage Ayckbourn would put this right. Putting this quibble aside the play is a real joy to listen to and the performances of Ayckbourn and Stoney are a delicious treat. Hopefully after this return to professional acting after a gap of almost 60 years, Ayckbourn might be persuaded to record other parts that he has created, in particular it would be marvellous to listen to him and Stoney perform some of his marathon play cycle for two actors, 'Intimate Exchanges'. Recorded in Ayckbourn and Stoney’s own home, Paul Steer’s sound mix, given present day restrictions and limitations is first-rate. 'Anno Domino' may not be one of Ayckbourn’s greatest plays, but it has a lot in it, including his customary wit and frankness that will please his many admirers. 

'Anno Domino' is available as an audio recording exclusively on the SJT’s website, www.sjt.uk.com from 25 May to 25 June. The recording is free to listen to however subscribers are kindly requested to make a donation to support the theatre through the current crisis.

Reviewer - Richard Hall

on - 25/5/20

Monday, 25 May 2020

THEATRE REVIEW: Magnificat - online filming The Chorus Of Women, Poland.

There is nowhere I can find where it might say the location of the performance in this recording, but since the company are based in Warsaw, Poland, I can only assume it to have taken place in a local theatre.

The Chorus Of Women (or in Polish, Chor Kobiet) are a group of female performers of all ages and backgrounds who come together under Marta Gornicka's direction and tutelage to perform her self-devised choral speaking episodes.

This one, Magnificat, is a 36 minute rant exploring (for 'exploring' read 'denouncing') the Catholic Church's claims over the bodies and fates of women. Gornicka has taken texts from multifarious sources including The Bible, Euripides' The Bacchae, Polish poets, The Liturgy, newspaper articles, sacred music, pop culture and recipes! and turned the whole into a piece of performance choral speaking. A cocophony of rythmic words, sound and movement empowering women, gloryfying feminism, and attacking Catholicism all in one fell swoop.

It's angry, it's powerful, it's from the heart. Starting with a guttral whisper, these 25 women speak in unison, in groups, individually, they move as one in military precision, and sometimes they even sing too, and when they do their voices are pure, clear and harmonic.

Directed live whilst they are performing is Marta Gornicka, making the whole seem either like an orchestra with a conductor, or a rehearsal. The rehearsal idea is further enhanced by their costumes. All of them wear dressed-down, comfy rehearsal gear (t-shirts and jean shorts or similar) but all in different shades of blue. And they are all barefoot. I am uncertain what message this idea of costuming was meant to represent: individualism or conformism; ordinary or unique. But it looked ragged.

The performance however was not ragged, but a polished and skilful presentation which grabbed you by the throat and made you stay and listen. Using ideas of plainchants and responses from the Catholic mass, as well as choral snippets putting a contemporary slant on them all; this whiuspering, wailing, screaming, singing, non-stop, full-force declamation won't let you exhale until they have finished telling you what they intended telling you!

Reviewer - Matthew Dougall
on - 24/5/20

ONLINE CONCERT REVIEW: The COLEction - The Arden School Of Theatre, Manchester

A two-part online concert recorded in isolation / lockdown by final year students on the MA Musical Theatre course at The Arden School Of Theatre in Manchester. The concert, cleverly called 'The COLEction' celebrated two of American Musical Theatre's greatest names. In the first half it was the music of Cole Porter, and the second, Cy Coleman.

The students were self recorded via their computers or mobiles in their own homes and had piano backing tracks to sing along to. Obviously the sound quality of such a concert is not going to be optimal (ditto lighting, costuming etc), and singing in an empty room with no atmosphere is absolutely not the easiest thing to do. I take my hat off to all of them for being able to cope with such things seemingly so easily.

For each song the students had been given a short (or in some cases not so short) dialogue lead-in to their number, which added greatly to the characterisation and placing of the song, although I feel of further benefit to the viewer, naming the Musical from which the song was taken would have been a nice idea. Fortunately there were only 3 songs in the whole concert which were new to me and couldn't place the Musical, but others would not have been so fortunate / knowledgeable.

Under Ian Good's direction and Robert Purves's musical tutelage (perhaps also his piano playing), these songs and characters were brought nicely to life, despite the circumstantial drawbacks. The first half (Cole Porter) started well with 'Why Can't You Behave' (Kiss Me Kate) sung by Lucy Appleyard, followed by the first of the three songs which stumped me. This was a fine song and given a lovely interpretation by Megan Smart. It was 'Primitive Man' from 'Fifty Million Frenchmen'.  There were 13 Porter songs in all, so I'll simply mention my 3 favourites, which were 'So In Love' (Alessia Ragno), 'Goodbye Little Dream Goodbye' (Rebecca Crookson), and 'The Right Guy' - the second song I had never heard before! (Megan Holland). Also in this selection they performed a song which I had only ever heard previously sung by a female, 'Be Like The Bluebird' given a lovely comedy run for its money by Ryan Davenport, and my all-time favourite Cole Porter song; 'Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye' sung by Olivia Hargreaves.

In the second act we moved over to the music of Cy Coleman (and no, before you ask, my all-time favourite Coleman song was not included sadly.. it's 'The Colours Of My Life parts 1 and 2' from Barnum). Again 13 songs, but this time 14 singers as we had one duet. Again, here are my favourite three from this section: 'Baby Dream Your Dream' (Sweet Charity) sung by Tilly Smith and Isabella Eades-Jones, 'Nobody Does It Like Me' (Seesaw) sung by Sarah Bailey, and 'Never' (On The Twentieth Century), sung by Megan Davies-Truin. The whole evening was nicely rounded off by another excellent performer (channelling Bernadette Peters) singing 'Lost And Found' from 'City Of Angels', (Kathryn Moon).

A very difficult ask under trying circumstances, excellently acheived. Thanks for keeping us all entertained in lockdown, and hope to see you all soon.

Reviewer - Matthew Dougall
on - 24/5/20 

RADIO PLAY REVIEW: Home by The Arden, Manchester

The play - or perhaps more accurately a collection of soundbites - is an ode to the city of Manchester. Mostly the play pays tribute to the vistims of the 2017 Arena bombing, but also embraces the many other aspects of the city which have, in the writers' thoughts, brought about the greatness not just of the bricks and mortar but the spirit and perspicacity of those who call this city their home.

The play is about 55 minutes long, and is a series of vignettes; some are diary entries, some poems, whilst others are monologues or mini-plays. The content was written and performed by 2nd year students on the MA Acting course at Manchester's Arden School Of Theatre. The narratives contained within are based on real events, and many are very heartfelt. I would be lying if I were to deny having tears in my eyes at several points during my listening. The whole was directed by Rachel Austin.

The majority of the narratives concern themselves with May 2017, and the terrorist attack on the audience leaving the Ariana Grande concert. These tales are told from all perspectives; from those directly involved, to friends of those who died, to emergency service workers, to other muslims who are hated because of this, but all send a message of hope, renewal, and a stronger more unified community.

Other stories touch upon the many great people to have come from Manchester, and their impact on the world. Emmeline Pankhurst, Alan Turing etc. as well as explaining, to any non Mancs out there, the significance of and meaning behind Manchester's iconic bee symbol.

What does Manchester mean to you? It's home.

Evocatively and sympathetically performed and edited. A worthy listen.

Reviewer - Matthew Dougall
on - 24/5/20

THEATRE REVIEW: Eclipse by Philip Ridely - online live streaming

After last week's short 2 minute, one line play, we have gone from the sublime to the ridiculous, with this week's offering. 'Eclipse' is a 56 minute monologue. The longest and most detailed to date. We were also treated to some different camera angles, a more fitting and dressed set, and the perfect costume too. Perhaps the easing of lockdown restrictions has made the filming of this particular play a little easier. What wasn't easier however was the amount of acting and directing involved to bring this piece to performance level.

I've watched it twice now, and it is incredible. Not only is Philip Ridley a master story-teller (especially in matters macabre and offbeat) but a perfect mini-team of Wiebke Green (director) and actor Mike Evans made this long and static tale so eloquent and eminently watchable.

The whole starts with an ominous ticking - I thought at first perhaps a metronome, but changed my decision to a clock after hearing the piece, and it all ends with that same sound.. a very clever and almost imperceptible way of making his story just a small part of the 'continuum'.

The story - and oh boy what a captivating story it was too - concerned an ex-teacher who had lost his husband to 'the virus' and was taking up board and lodgings in an establishment on a street which looked like "the arse-end of the universe". Times have changed since 'the virus'. People are now living in the New World Order. The old one being before children and young people started going blind in their thousands and dying of 'the virus'; the old one was before the cull of the elderly, in fact anyone over 70; the biblical alloted time-span. People are now more feral, more hungry, times have changed.

He takes up residence in this boarding house, despite it being 'hexed'. The Roman Catholic church has always had a lot to answer for, and here we see that even in this New World Order, they are even more greedy and conniving, preying on the vulnerable etc. However, in order for the 'hex' to be removed from the property, the landlord enters into a contract with the Catholic Church for them to perform a temporary exorcism which will last for 70 days. He has to pay for this of course, and if, at the end of these 70 days he is unable to pay the total amount, plus a 50% surcharge!, he must forfeit the entire property and be left to the mercies of the angry and baying mob!

There's a deus ex machina awaiting for them though, and the macabre and chilling ending is quite fitting under the circumstances of the narrative.

Evans proved himself to be a consumate and sympathetic actor with a lovely and quite charming story-telling ability. The whole put me in mind of Roald Dahl's Tales Of The Unexpected, a most excellent series of adult Jackanory stories on our TVs some years' ago. Of course we never do get to know what 'the virus' was, although a very deliberate (or if accidental, then unintentionally clever) nod was given early on in the line, "bathed in a corona of candlelight".

Superbly tight direction (even down to the length of time it was possible to watch another man enjoy eating a biscuit!) and fine and nuanced acting. Absolutely brilliant! Bravo!

Reviewer - Matthew Dougall
on - 24/5/20

Sunday, 24 May 2020

THEATRE REVIEW: Singin' For Engerland - Live online via Zoom

In the wake of lockdown, theatre has continued to entertain us, but this time from the comfort of our own homes. I have had the privilege throughout lockdown of watching a few pre-recorded theatre performances. After all, how would we cope cooped up inside for this long otherwise? But Up ‘Ere Productions brings us something completely different and more risky, a live theatre performance via Zoom. This is the first performance in a weekly series from Up ‘Ere Productions, entitled #WeeklyWatch, showing every Sunday. The money raised from this new and experimental style of theatre will go towards Oldham Coliseum, helping to keep theatre alive.

As it’s the end of Mental Health Awareness Week, the production began with a spoken word performance by Matt Concannon, a regular collaborator with Up ‘Ere Productions, with his piece entitled ‘Bubbles’. As always, Concannon’s work is poetic and almost mesmerising. One line in particular stood out to me; ‘The bubbles that used to excite me have now become bubbles of anxiety’. A powerful performance.

This was followed by the main feature. ‘Singin’ for England’ is a play from Benjamin Peel, tackling the themes of homelessness and addiction, in which we meet a young, homeless couple at a crossroads in their lives. Considering all four actors rehearsed and performed only via Zoom, never meeting in person, the chemistry between them was strong and their relationships believable. All four actors seemed perfectly cast, with Kyle Rowe as ‘Karl’, Hannah Rose Hughes as ‘Sheree’, Paddy Stafford as ‘Harley’ and Stacey Harcourt as ‘Magda’. Peel’s writing here also aided in this, taking the characters on a journey with his story-telling abilities. Peel’s writing was naturalistic with elements of surrealism and poetry. A well written play that has its viewers invested in the protagonists in the first few minutes.

Directed by John O’Neill and assisted by Jordi Williams, this must not have been an easy task. To successfully direct a new form of theatre in which the actors have a limited playing space and next to no interaction with one another is a feat in itself. However, O’Neill and Williams managed to make it work. The actors’ eye-lines and limited use of props and costume cleverly revealed enough about the characters. We were taken on an emotional journey throughout the performance.

The blending of film and theatre here via the Zoom call took a few minutes to get used to, but was a great new performance platform in which short scenes worked well and quick scene changes were possible. This success is greatly due to O’Neill who worked all of the tech for the live show, muting and unmuting actors where necessary. The attention to detail only added to the performance, such as how each actor’s Zoom name had been changed to their characters’ names. There was a feeling here amongst the viewers of eavesdropping on private and important conversations.

Although there were a few lengthy pauses and some moments of overlapping, the performance as a whole ran incredibly smoothly. This was probably in part due to the ensemble work required to pull off such a feat. I urge you to tune in next week and donate if you can. Let’s help keep theatre alive. After all, when else can you watch live theatre in your pyjamas with a takeaway on your lap?

Reviewer - Megan Relph

on - 24/5/20

BOOK REVIEW: Little Siberia - by Antti Tuomainen

Title: Little Siberia
Author: Antti Tuomainen
Publisher: Orenda Books

When a valuable meteorite comes crashing into a small Finnish town, local Priest Joel takes it upon himself to protect the precious rock worth a million Euros before it is transported elsewhere. But whilst half of the town seems to be looking to gain from the meteorite, Joel has his own problems at home; suspecting his pregnant wife of foul play. Problems that he hopes he can run away from by fending off several attempted thefts of the meteorite.

Author Antti Tuomainen has been described as the King of Helsinki Noir, and it is easy to see why in his most recent novel, ‘Little Siberia’. This novel is witty, full of humour and packed with suspense throughout. This Finnish author’s previous works have been awarded the Clue Award for Best Finnish Crime Novel as well as being shortlisted for numerous other awards. His novels have been translated into more than 25 languages, and luckily English is amongst that list.

Translated by David Hackston, ‘Little Siberia’ was written in such a way that at times the words seem almost poetic. Tuomainen’s frequent descriptions of the weather and the landscape, coupled with Hackston’s translation of such descriptions, makes for an easy and enjoyable read. David Hackston is also an award winner, having won the Finnish State Prize for Translation in 2007. It seems Hackston has translated many of Antti Tuomainen’s novels. The pair clearly complement one another, creating literature that will be remembered in the years to come, similar to that of the practically flawless ‘Little Siberia’.

Tuomainen is clearly an experienced author, knowing how to grip his readers within the first chapter and then proceed to keep them guessing until the very final chapter. It is not always easy to create suspense on the page, but Tuomainen seems to do so with ease. The same must be said for his creation of action. The few chase scenes within the novel are full of tension and excitement. And although the setting may be unfamiliar to many British readers, Tuomainen’s creation of believable characters and relationships allows us to feel at ease and connect with the characters in some way.

‘Little Siberia’ is a novel that never seems to slow in pace, perhaps reflecting the out of control speed of the town’s former rally driver within the novel. Tuomainen’s seamless blending of comedy and horror succeeds in keeping his readers hooked. A novel that, on the surface, I would not usually chose to read. I am usually put off by landscapes and settings that I do not know, sticking to those I am familiar with. But it must be said that this was a perfect example of being proven wrong. My lack of familiarity with the setting did not affect my enjoyment of the novel one bit, with Tuomainen’s descriptive language making me feel as though I was dropped into the small town itself. I could practically breathe the same air and walk the same steps as the novel’s lead character, Joel. I was invested in the protagonist’s outcome; the definitive mark of a great author.

This novel is one that can be enjoyed by all; from the novice reader to the experienced veteran. An entertaining read that can easily be consumed in just one sitting, or savoured over a long period of time if you have the self-control.

Reviewer - Megan Relph

CHILDRENS PUPPET THEATRE REVIEW: We Found A Hat - Little Angel Theatre, online.

'We Found A Hat'  is the third in a trilogy of puppet theatre treatments by Little Angel Theatre of John Klassen's books. This and the first two can be found on the Little Angel Theatre Youtube channel, and this is available to view until 7 June. The performances are free (donations always welcome!), and are aimed at very young children.

This 10 minute show is set on stage of a classical prosc arch theatre and some apt Wild West music (Jim Whitcher), (predominently guitar, harmonica and whistling) cleverly compliments the narrative.

Puppeteer Ian Nicholson not only manipulates all the puppets, but also voices the narrative too. His manner very pleasing, and it is nicely and articulately spoken with a clear voice. His facial expressions, although admittedly not necessarily a part of the show, really do help too.

The story is the same as the childen's book. Two tortoises find a hat, they leave the hat, they watch the sunset, and then dream about the hat. Neither of them daring to wear the hat because it would not be fair for one to have it and the other not.

Cleverly, clearly and concisely performed with a set and puppets designed by Sam Wilde. My only criticism in this show would be that I would have preferred the "prosc arch" of the play to have equalled the perimeter of my screen and so I would have been unable to have seen the female assistant or her rather annoyingly bare hands. Otherwise though, it was both professionally and skillfully presented and very enjoyable. Absolutely 100% suitable for their target audience.

Reviewer - Matthew Dougall
on - 24/5/20

MUSIC REVIEW: The London Symphony Orchestra play Britten, Prokofiev and Shostakovich - The Barbican Centre, London.

The London Symphony orchestra are generously showing some videos of past concerts to be watched / listened to online during the covid lockdown. They are available for free on the orchetsra's YouTube channel, but of course, like every other arts organisation trying to stay afloat during this time, they would naturally be more than grateful for any donations you could send their way.

This particular concert was origianlly performed at The Barbican Centre in London in October 2019, with guest conductor Gianandrea Noseda.

The long programme started with 5 orchestral pieces from Britten's opera 'Peter Grimes'. Starting first with his orchestral suite of 'Four Sea Interludes' and then continuing with a Passacaglia. I have to admit to not being a huge Britten fan, I've never really been able to get into his music, although I have heard the Sea Interludes a good few times now. Written in 1944 the four are taken from various parts of the opera where a scene change is necessary, and are titled, 'Dawn', 'Sunday Morning', 'Moonlight' and 'Storm'.  'Storm' is the only one of the four which really stirs anything within me at all, and only that because the music lives up to it's title. I'd never heard the Passacaglia before and so that was interesting.

Prokofiev came next, and his long and demanding second piano concerto. To play the solo piano was Denis Matsuev. Prokofiev was a piano virtuoso himself and composed this piece mostly so that he could show off. His second concerto is one of the hardest to both interpret and perform in the standard concert repertoire. Interestingly the concerto is in 4 movements and is longer than most concertos, and here, the piano is the star of the piece taking precedence over the orchestra. For any pianist to play this they don't just need to be techically brilliant, but they require huge stamina too; this is no cakewalk!

Matsuev proved to be a very passionate and intense pianist. He had a deep understanding of and connection to the music, that much was clear, although I did think that perhaps he wasn't always technically 100% accurate. This was a live perofrmance though, and so, a certain amount of human error can be overlooked. His encore, Liadov's 'Music Box' was absolutely superb, and he gave a spellbinding interpretation of this piano miniature.

The final piece in the concert was my favourite of Shostakovich's symphonies, his 6th. Perhaps the most unconventional in many ways, and yet also perhaps the most conventional too. Allow me to extrapolate. First the symphony was composed in three movements. The first is longer than the second two put together and then some, and it is a largo - a very slow and ponderous tempo. This is followed by a short allegro (a scherzo), and a short presto, a very fast gallop to the finish line. Not only this but written at the time it was, 1939, and under the scrutiny of the Soviet Anti-Russian committee, he was more than conscious of trying not to offend. He was already in bother with them, and had seen friends and colleagues taken away, interrogated and even put to death, just because the powers that be interpreted their writings as being un-Russian. And so, he conformed and made the symphony much lighter and more retrospective than perhaps he would normally have done. The music is, in fact, some of Shostakovich's most lyrical, Romantic, and even classically-based scorings, and as such, departs from the atonal dissonance of his 5th symphony, and returns to music which would have been 'acceptable' to the authorities as well as pleasing to the ears of its audiences.

The orchestra played these works with undeniable skill and it was a privilege to be able to watch an orchestra play that under normal circumstances would be too far away for me. Noseda's conducting was connected and meaningful. I liked the way he allowed the music to breath under his baton, allowing unseen colours to emerge before the next chord or sequence is expressed. He had a nack of being able to wring about nuances in dynamics which have previously eluded me in both the Prokofiev and the Shostakovich, and this greatly impressed.

I am uncertain however why the members of the orchestra were allowed to dress so haphazzardly. This looked from an aesthetic point of view very wrong. I've never seen such a lackidaisical attitude to symphony orchestra dress-code before.

The LSO's online and detailed programme notes are not only very informative but aid the listener and guide them through some rather aurally challenging music, noting what to listen out for, and providing background on the score and composers. Never an overload, just enough to whet the appetite for further reading if interested.

Reviewer - Matthew Dougall
on - 23/5/20

DANCE FILM REVIEW: Tom - Sadler's Wells, London.

I am not entirely certain what it was exactly that I watched, but I do know that it was something quite unique. 'Tom' is the brainchild and creation of Wilkie Branson, who is a choreogrpaher, filmmaker and also a Sadler's Wells New Wave Associate. It's the 'new wave' bit that gives you a clue. Tom is not your ordinary dance presentation, nor is it an ordinary film. Branson has spent a lot of his time trying to create something special, a kind of bridge between various media pushing the boundaries of filmmaking as much as possible. Perhaps it should be called a "filmed theatrical dance installion".

The entire film, which lasts just shy of 60 minutes, employs only two performers (Wilkie Branson himself and Eben Haywood), and yet the screen is it at times awash with hundreds of different people. Other times the locstions are desolate, deserted, fragmented. The film starts with a man searching for something, in an abandoned and isolated log cabin he finds it. He travels by several trains to a big city, he still feels alone, despite the crowds and the atmosphere, his brain is in pieces, and this is mirrored by the juxtaposition of narrative reality and fantasy. He travels back 'home' to the peace and quiet only to find the ground, quite literally, break apart from under him.

The film shows us Tom's "dark and affecting journey of self-discovery, touching upon issues of loneliness, isolation, mental health, and the perseverence of the human spirit." It is "one man's journey to rediscover who he really is".

The film is dark, dystopian, bleak, and offers no respite despite some, at times quite upbeat and uplifting music (Benji Bower). It's also quite repetitive, but maybe that's the whole point. It's never boring, and is intelligently put together with obvious love and skill.

It's very clever and very innovative, that much is clear, but it is also very strange. There are some techniques used throughout this film which I had never heard of before, so I looked them up; and even after reading what they were and the process necessary to create them, I was still somewhat baffled. The film uses animation, photogrammetry, chrome-key capture and projection mapping to great effect, whilst the minimal amount of dancing that is perofrmed in the film is based on breakdancing (or b-boying as it seems to be known these days).

Reviewer - Matthew Dougall
on - 23/5/20

COMMUNITY THEATRE REVIEW: Everything Is Possible: The York Suffragettes - Theatre Royal, York.

‘By pulling together, everything is possible’ is the opening card for York Theatre’s 'Everything Is Possible'. It’s a message that has become increasingly prevalent in the last few months, but York Theatre (co-producing with Pilot Theatre) take that message, add a dollop of community spirit and condense it into a production.

Bridget Foreman’s sharp examination of what it means to be a woman and the resilience of justice originally ran in the summer of 2017. Now, 'Everything Is Possible' is being streamed as part of York Theatre’s Collective Arts programme. The recording of the play, (and I’m assuming the play itself had this immersive aspect) begins outside York Minster, in the middle of a women’s march. We see crowds of people smiling, talking, dancing - several bursts of women addressing the crowd passionately - whilst a journalist reports the event direct to camera. The reporter sets the tone of the coming story by describing the march as ‘many human voices, making one voice’. The march is interrupted by suffragettes in the familiar historical attire, and past and present blend together, as the story moves into the York Theatre.

Barbara Marten takes the lead as Annie Seymour-Pearson, a respectable housewife, living in York and initially indifferent to the suffragette movement. After a shocking incident where two young girls within Annie’s family are harmed by a local man (although it is not quite clear exactly what happened, this makes the suggested incident even more disturbing), a fire is lit within Annie and she passionately joins the battle for equality.

Marten gives a stunning performance, squeezing the emotion from every beat of Annie’s journey. From one of her earliest appearances, telling her husband she has been for a ‘kick about’ with a football, we know Annie isn’t your stereotypical early 20th century woman. She is instantly likeable, and this subversion of our expectations hints at the rebel hiding deep inside Annie. Breaking the fourth wall to narrate her own story, Annie explains how she led a ‘comfortable life’ and how she felt the suffragette movement to grant women the vote didn’t affect her. At first she is indifferent to the local suffragette group, not wanting to be involved with a group that is generating so much outrage and controversy. Marten’s affable and genial portrayal of Annie is so important to the early stages of the story, connecting with the audience before they, like Annie, are thrust into the world of political activism. The scene where Annie’s indifference finally breaks is highly intense, as she discusses with her husband Arthur their apparent equality and berates a world where ‘a man is allowed to do whatever he wants because it is his right’. Her resulting declaration - ‘I want a voice’ - is a powerful turning point in the story, with Marten’s performance making it impossible for the audience not to support her.

But this isn’t just a one-note story. We see every layer of the story unravel, from the women who fight so fervently for their rights, to the men who argue their lack of such privileges (in a scene which wouldn’t be entirely out of place on a modern day parliament live feed, with plenty of raucous jeering and paper-waving). This production examines the varying attitudes, from both sexes, towards the suffragettes and their cause. As expected, there are women who strongly fought for their right to vote, but we are also shown the women who were quite happy to allow the men to make the decisions (‘Government is about men, so it should be done by men’ declares one woman rather chillingly). Reassuringly, we also get to see the male allies to the suffragettes.

Mrs Pankhurst herself looms over the production, with plenty of references to her fights for equality and her impending visit to York. Pankhurst’s presence is felt from the start, an omniscient figure of the change to come, the ripples of her actions in London evident in the city of York. There is also reference to the death of Emily Davidson, whose violent end proves devastating but motivating to the suffragettes of York.

Marten is supported by a cast of 150 community members and, honestly, their passion for this story is incredible. As we join Annie at her first suffragette demonstration in London, the tightness of the ensemble really shines through. The use of repetitive movement and projection enhances the intensity of the resulting violence. Later, there’s an eerie scene where several women from around the country share their experiences with inequality and masculine oppression. Several choral numbers, especially the closing song, are breathtaking and I’m sure would have been infused with even more power in the original staged production. It’s moments like this where the community cast really shine. Their professionalism is high throughout, which is a credit to their enthusiasm and passion for telling their story, and, of course, the guidance and support of the production team.

This production wasn’t made to be streamed, it was made to be seen live, so it would be unfair to criticize the quality of the recording. It is worth keeping this in mind though, as several aspects of the production, I feel, are sold short in the recording. For example, there are times where it’s hard to make out faces or set pieces and at several points the sound dips or the ensemble drown out speakers.

Sara Perk’s design, though sometimes not done justice by the recording, is inventive and powerful. Chalk messages are scratched across the floor and the versatile black box set lends itself to many locations. The production was directed by Juliet Forster and Katie Posner. Managing a cast of 150 cannot be an easy task but Forster and Posner find ways to tell this story effectively and creatively, drawing out the emotion and really emphasising the community spirit. Posner is developing a reputation for bold, ambitious stories that come from the heart of a community and this is no exception. Even at the end, when all cast members are on stage, joined by a choir of 80, it doesn’t feel over-crowded, it feels special. A community coming together.

The production itself isn’t perfectly polished but that is not the point. There is something powerful in the community of the present coming together to tell the story of the community of the past.

In these times of crisis, when the country is divided by politics and we are all confined to our homes, 'Everything Is Possible' is great, uplifting lockdown viewing. It reminds us of hope, resilience and the importance of perseverance.

Reviewer - Gavin Hayes

on - 23/5/20

Saturday, 23 May 2020

THEATRE REVIEW: A Streetcar Named Desire - The Young Vic Theatre, London.

The audience are in the round. They watch Blanche DuBois’s friable world fall apart from all angles in this devastating and tragic play by Tennessee Williams. Directed by Benedict Andrews, this was a Young Vic/Joshua Andrews co-production supported by National Theatre Live. Recorded live in 2014.

Gillian Anderson portrayed Blanche DuBois. Anderson is best known for staring in “All About Eve”, “The X-Files”, “The Fall”, and “Sex Education”. Alongside her, Stanley was played by Ben Foster. He has featured in productions such as: “Kill Your Darlings” and “Lone Survivor”. Completing the leading trio was DuBois’ sister Stella, brought to life by Vanessa Kirby. She has been credited for her roles in “Julie”, “Mission Impossible”, and “The Crown”.

Distressed former schoolteacher, Blanche DuBois leaves small-town Mississippi to move in with her sister, Stella and her husband, Stanley Kowalski, in New Orleans. A poignant Saxophone solo opened the play. Blanche's flirtatious, playful, and Southern-belle persona was just a social mask; an illusion to disguise her real and broken self. She began to cause difficulties for Stella and Stanley. The Kowalskis already had a capricious relationship, leading to even greater conflict in their household. DuBois craves a man to protect her at this stage in her life. She cannot comprehend how Stella, who is expecting her first child, could have picked an abusive and chauvinistic pig of a husband. When Stanley’s friends came over to the house to play cards, one of the lads, Mitch, found Blanche attractive. However, Stanley enlightened Mitch as to the kind of woman Blanche really was. What will happen when Stella visits the hospital to have her baby and Blanche and her brother-in-law are left alone?

The Kowalski’s flat was a curious design by Magda Willi. There was modern furniture but I liked how it was all rather minimal. It was housed in an industrial framework structure with an emergency exit staircase. There was something clinical, bare, and cold in the look and feel of the whole thing – like it was part flat, part institution. Here, there was no “behind closed doors” or privacy as there were gaps in the set so you could see every part of the building. This design was both practical and exposing. I wasn’t a fan of the continuous slowly revolving stage because there was no perceivable justification for it – it felt more like a theatrical trick. If the decision was regarding the audience being able to see everything as much as possible, it didn’t work because it was distracting. If the set was still and the audience had a different view depending on where they sat, it might have made the viewing experience more interesting and varied.

Anderson opened herself up in her portrayal of DuBois, her gradual declining state of mind was well judged and you felt complete sympathy for her – even if her character wasn’t perfect. None of the characters were perfect. It was an emotionally fragile and tour-de-force central performance. Equally, Kirby shined as Stella, her memorable gut-wrenching outburst at the end made the hairs stand on the back of your neck. Meanwhile, Foster’s Stanley was toxic and menacing. Worlds apart from Mitch, played by Corey Johnson, who was interpreted as a complete Gentleman with an aura of innocence about him. There is the opinion that the key to any good play is tension and conflict and there was an abundance of both in Williams’ drama. Andrew’s direction recognised the unremitting clashes between characters particularly because their temperaments were poles apart. Opposites attracted tension which made for fascinating viewing.

Sporadic transitions further fuelled the agitated atmosphere. LED lights displayed several emotive primary colours, as referenced in one of DuBois’ recollections early in the play, as various styles of dramatic music underscored the action of a scene change. The colours were symbolic of sexual aggression, uneasiness, and tenacious sadness.

Without revealing specific plot details, there was always one moment in the latter half of the play which has been argued to be the climax of the story. In this production, I felt there was a second climax because the direction in the last scene was beautifully hard-hitting. Making Blanche’s iconic line: “Whoever you are, I’ve always relied on the kindness of strangers” more heart-breaking. In retrospect, Blanche shouldn’t have travelled in that streetcar named “Desire”. Desire led to a dangerously downward spiralling path of personal destruction where reality and illusion were one and the same. The leading trio of characters didn’t have the nerve to come face to face with the truth, instead they closed that curtain to live in their own detrimental bubble of lies and fabricated stories.

Reviewer - Sam Lowe
on - 22/5/20

THEATRE REVIEW: The Sound Of Music: Live - Filmed NBC TV special (2013)

The latest in the online weekly streaming of Musicals under the banner 'The Shows Must Go On' was the 2013 filmed-for-television adaptation for NBC of Rogers and Hammerstein's perennial favourite, The Sound Of Music.

The choice of Musical was a very good one. As we move away from exclusively Andrew Lloyd-Webber shows and this series opens itself up to the whole spectrum of wonderful shows out there, The Sound Of Music was a very wise show to use to bridge that gap. Not only is it possibly the world's most famous and well-loved show (of all time!), but it is also a show with which Lloyd-Webber was very closely connected in his well-documented TV search for the perfect Maria.

I have seen this show countless times, but it was the first time that I had ever seen this NBC filmed version. In a word it was disappointing. The show had been adapted by Austin Winsberg with a new book by Howard Lindsay and Russell Crouse, whilst it was directed by Rob Ashford and Beth McCarthy-Miller. My overall lasting impression of this film will always be that it is a very poor cross, an odd compromise, between the stage show and the iconic Julie Andrews film.

I am unsure where to start in my critique of this show, since it teetered between mediocre and almost unwatchable throughout. My main criticisms must be that Carrie Underwood (Maria) and Stephen Moyer (Captain Von Trapp) were completely unsuitable for their respective roles. Moreover, Moyer is too young looking, and there was aboslutely no chemistry between them and their acting skills were sadly lacking.

Filmed on a New York studio set, there is a distinct lack of atmosphere and sadly both the directing and the choreography do little to try and assuage this. There were some very odd choices throughout this film, not least of which was changing the name of Salzburg to what sounded something like Cottbus (a city in the north of Germany).

There was very little to recommend from this film unfortunately, other than that the children were cute. If you want to enjoy The Sound Of Music, then please watch the 1965 film with which most of us will already be very familiar.

Reviewer - Matthew Dougall
on - 22/5/20

MUSIC REVIEW: John Knowles Paine: Symphony No 1 in C minor.

John Knowles Paine (1839 - 1906) was an American composer teacher and organist. He was the first American to win recognition as a serious classical composer of orchestral works, was the first guest conductor for The Boston Philharmonic, and was the first music professor at Harvard University. He was part of The Boston Six; and no, that isn't some underworld criminal gang, but a group of six like-minded composers who met regularly to discuss, collaborate and share.

Paine studied in Europe, and that is more than obvious from listening to this symphony. There is nothing here to suggest the USA in any way. If I hadn't have known the composer then I could just as easily have attributed this work to early Brahms, Mendelssohn, Schubert or Schumann. All Paine's European contemporaries and their music is very similar in style, orchestration, development, themes etc.

This symphony - on this recording played by The New Yprk Philharmonic under Zubin Mehta - is a bright, brash, and elegaic work full of lyricism and bonhomie. Tuneful, dance-like, and conforming to the compositional rules of the day. My one criticism is that there wasn't enough in the way of volume changes, it wasn't dynamically very satisfying sadly. It is music simply for music's sake, and is instantly forgettable. Mind you, I would say the same about a lot of the aforementioned Germans' music too. They were all great with harmony, melody and tunefulness, which was the modus opperandi in 1875 when this symphony was written, but most of their ouevres are lacking substance. (a purely subjective opinion I'l grant you!)

Reviewer - Chris Benchley
on - 22/5/20

EXPERIMENTAL THEATRE REVIEW: It's About Time - Arden School, Manchester. - online

The first year students on the Arden's Theatre And Peformance course gave a public showing of their latest devising, 'It's About Time'.

Filmed entirely whilst on lockdown and in isolation, these students made the best of what they had available and filmed from their own homes or nearby locations, and brought modern technology, especially Zoom, to bear to great effect and ability.

The premise of this 50 minute play was a virtual visit to a one-bedroom flat that had just become avilable in an exclusive and desirable converted mansion property. The estate agent, some of the mansion's residents, and several propsective buyers were all connected together for a virtual meeting and tour of the property. What could possibly go wrong?

The style of presentation put me in mind of the TV Comic Strip films of the 1990's. It just kept getting more and more offbeat and macabre as it went along, which also increased the comedic element too. Needless to say, but things were just not what they appeared, and everyone was quirkish or downright odd, with one or two being occult murderers too.... but I don't want to spoil the story!

Considering the circumstances under which this was written, directed and performed, the students did a marvellous job of bring about such an entertaining and original script. I have been led to believe that this script is going to be developed further and turned into a stage production for these students' final year at the school. I am now more than curious to see that end result.

The cast also managed nicely to include moments of cultural zeitgeist such as quite a good Boris Johnson impersonation, Donald Trump approved bleach, conspiracy theories, and 'lockdown meltdown syndrome'.

It would be extremely unfair of me to try and critique the acting or mise-en-scene. I was just jolly grateful to be able to watch some vibrant original new writing! The only theatre fixes we seem to be getting are videoed reruns of classics or films at the moment, so this was both very much alive and very refreshing! Huge congratulations to the whole team, and I look forward to being able to come back to The Waterside Theatre (hopefully) soon!

Reviewer - Matthew Dougall
on - 22/5/20

Friday, 22 May 2020

THEATRE REVIEW: Two Noble Kinsmen - Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, London.

Michelle Terry's opening season at the globe was an interesting one, and hit the mark with 'Two Noble Kinsmen'. The story begins with a love triangle between cousins Palamon and Arcite. It is apparently a tragedy but was played as a comedy as it was very funny and fun to watch. Now, I had no idea that Shakespeare co-wrote any plays [I know die-hards, calm down. Get off the dark web and don't order the contract killer for my faux pas] But this is by (or at least attributed to) Shakespeare and John Fletcher. It felt kind of erratic and all over the place, but I think that is the nature of the story. The characters are erratic in nature who only seem to act on impulse and self interest. 2020, It's good to see some things don't change. I have to say WOW with set design. I loved it, so natural and enchanting with leaves, grass and vines making it look like a magic forest, it really felt like something else! Also the costumes were bursting with block colours, jewel-tones and rich colours which was visually spectacular. It was all paired with tight choreography for a true spectacle. I loved the jailer's daughter [Francesca Mills] who was just a brilliant comedienne, and her tragic moment of madness [even though the audience laughed] was truly well played and your heart broke for the poor woman driven mad by love. Palamon [Paul Stocker] and Arcite [Bryan Dick] were great head to head, and really brought a good laugh to the piece. There was a lot of focus on being funny, but that left the truly sad moments being lost. I have NEVER seen this play, and really makes me want to delve into any others I may have overlooked.

Reviewer - Keziah Lockwood
on - 20/5/20

NEWS: 808 State release new single, 'Where Wye And Severn'



A charitable release, 808 State are dedicating this track and its proceeds to their friend and booking agent Ben "BK" Kouijzer. Ben has set up a Go Fund Me page in his fight against a rare and aggressive form of cancer called MPNST.

'Where Wye & Severn' was an unfinished track from the sessions for the band's recent album: 'Transmission Suite’. With a sound harking back to the band's 'Don Solaris' pastoral landscape compositions, it seemed a little out of place for their latest album. It is instead released as a one-off track today. 

‘Where Wye & Severn’ has been mixed and completed in the (early) Summer of 2020, with Ben and his positive nature and the connective all in mind. The title is a reference to the poem 'Tintern Abbey' by Wordsworth - simplified as a sentiment to "nature as a curative force”.
Out now (22 May), you can listen to / download the track here: https://state808.bandcamp.com/track/where-wye-severn
The new track follows the band’s recent announcement of a LIVE homecoming show at Manchester’s O2 Ritz this Winter. Taking place on Friday 18th December 2020, Messrs Graham Massey and Andrew Barker, accompanied by live drummer Carl Sharrocks, will play a full headline 808 State set, with support performances from Manchester-based Ghanaian/Russian/German DJ & producer maverick Afrodeutsche, plus DJ sets from Jackson Massey + Porchcrawler. Speaking about the gig 808 State said:

“So many plans unravelled during the past few weeks, and for good reason. But looking ahead, today we are pleased to announce this Hometown Xmas bash, which will be a family affair with our very special guest Afrodeutsche. Hoping we can gather safely in the winter and emerge with a fresh perspective into 2021” 

Formed in Manchester in 1988, 808 State are widely recognised as one of the prime originators and shapers of UK dance music. Breaking out with singles such as "Pacific", "Cubik" and "In Yer Face", the band also became the first electronica act to craft longform dance music albums, well before the likes of Leftfield and Orbital with whom they are often compared.
In a career of intrepid exploration now stretching across five decades, the band have released genre defining LP's including "Ninety" characteristic of their early acid house era recordings, to indie-dance crossover classic "ex:el", plus a subsequent array of uniquely boundary-pushing albums such as "Gorgeous", "Don Solaris" and "Output Transmission". In the process, they have attracted the attention of major stars including Bjork, Manic Street Preachers' James Dean Bradfield, Elbow's Guy Garvey and more, who have all collaborated with them.
In 2019, 808 State released their seventh album: ‘Transmission Suite’, the band’s first new material since 2002. Cementing their reputation as an essential act, both as scene forefathers and as torchbearers for boundless avant-garde electronica, the album was released to critical acclaim, with The Wire Magazine praising: 808 State’s music has lost none of its foreboding, finesse and power.”


NEWS: Bellsavvy's new single is all about empowerment after being body-shamed by the modelling industry

Bellsavvy is a pop singer/songwriter with a strong attitude and musical identity. Based in London and raised in Brazil, the artist knows how to combine her latin roots and European influences to create a unique sound unlike any other. Encouraged by her mother who was a well-known pop artist in the 80’s, Bellsavvy always knew music ran deep through her veins. Even during her time as an actress and professional model, she couldn't deny the undeniable connection she had to songwriting and performing and eventually took a leap of faith into exploring her true calling as a solo artist. With strong vocals, catchy toplines and a powerful edgy-pop style, Bellsavvy has a lot to say in her art. 

Starting her career with MTV Brazil singing on the show "Studio Acesso Girls MTV", Bellsavvy won over the hearts of over 1.8 million live viewers who all voted for her performance. Following her time on MTV, she was catapulted into the limelight, landing roles in movies, musicals and numerous musical projects around Europe. 

Her debut single under the name Bellsavvy, narrates her own life experiences with the modelling industry and the devastating effect it can have on your mind and body. Following a successful modelling career, Bellsavvy's body began to change and she suddenly started being rejected over and over again by casting agents. They would shame her for her change in weight and appearance and the constant denials quickly took its toll on the singer, brainwashing her into believing that her body was no longer good enough. These negative thoughts resulted in a loss of self-confidence and self-love and Bellsavvy soon had a mental breakdown. No longer recognizing herself in the mirror, she turned to songwriting to help her pull through. “Queen of My Mind” is her uplifting and self-empowering anthem about overcoming these inner battles, realising who you are, accepting it and understanding it, in order to truly be at one with yourself. She confides, “Queen of My Mind is a very personal, deep and emotional song. I wrote it about three years ago after a mental breakdown I had at the very end of my modeling career. I want others to feel the power we have when we love ourselves. Self-esteem, self-love and self-acceptance are the most powerful things we can have in us. It changes everything.” The songwriter has successfully crafted a song to show others that even when you hit rock bottom, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel and with a bit of time and healing we can become the queen of our minds.

Produced by Billboard HOT 100 producer David Lei Brandt (Lady Gaga), the compelling pop song is all about self-confidence, self-love and ultimately about becoming the "queen of your own mind". The bold new single features confident vocals, determined beats and courageous lyrics, while soaking up influences from other fearless female pop artists such as Lady Gaga, Brittney Spears and Demi Lovato. Along with elements of 80’s pop, such as Depeche Mode, Bellsavvy is able to concoct an infectious sound, putting her distinct stamp on it. 

Bellsavvy hopes to use her inspiring story to help people in need, using honest and authentic lyrics to tell her story and connect with listeners on a deeper level. Her music has been hugely supported by LGBTQ+ communities around the world - a community who can empathise with the discriminations that she has endured. With the goal to encourage others to feel strong, beautiful and uplifted, no matter what anyone else tells you, Bellsavvy is on a mission and no one can get in her way.

NEWS: West End Live to go virtual, streaming highlights online

Virtual West End Live announced

The event will see highlights from previous years streamed online

A virtual West End Live will take place on Facebook on 20 and 21 June.
With the actual event cancelled due to social distancing measures, there will be two streamed highlights videos featuring performances from previous years.
These videos will be captioned and available to watch for 24 hours after premiering on social media. Shows involved in the highlights video are to be announced, with a schedule of online activities that will happen in conjunction with the programmes to be revealed.
The event has also announced a series of online performances which will be presented for free in conjunction with Sky.

NEWS: A stage version of 'Smash' is in the pipeline!

A stage version of Smash is officially being developed

The show is based on the cult TV series

A new stage version of hit TV series Smash is in development, it has been revealed by producers.
The musical TV series, which starred Katharine McPhee (who originated the role of Jenna in Waitress in the West End), Jeremy Jordan, Megan Hilty and more, ran for 32 episodes from 2012.
The stage production will feature tunes by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman (who were also responsible for all the TV series numbers) with a book by Bob Martin (The Prom) and Rick Elice (Jersey Boys), and choreography by Joshua Bergasse (who was also attached to the TV show).
The piece, which will use some numbers from the TV series, follows writers Julia and Tom and actors Ivy and Karen as they attempt to mount a new musical, Bombshell, about the life of Marilyn Monroe.
The news was previously teased in 2015, but a release date for the stage show is still to be confirmed. Producers are Steven Spielberg, Robert Greenblatt, and Neil Meron.
Spielberg has said that the show is "on its road to Broadway".

CASTING OPPORTUNITY: Young cast search goes ONLINE for School Of Rock!

School of Rock tour announces online search for child cast

The show is looking for young rockers to star in the show

Hit musical School of Rock is launching an online search for young performers to take part in the show's upcoming tour.
The production is hoping to find singers, guitar players, bass guitar players, drummers and keyboardists, all aged between eight and 12 and under four foot ten.

Anyone hoping to apply should visit the show's site for further information:

Based on the film of the same name starring Jack Black, the piece follows Dewey Finn, a teacher who poses as his best friend to get a job as a school teacher. Lloyd Webber, Julian Fellowes and Glenn Slater's musical opened on Broadway in 2015.
The piece has a book by Fellowes, and is directed by Laurence Connor with choreography by JoAnn M Hunter, set and costume designs by Anna Louizos, lighting design by Natasha Katz, sound design by Mick Potter, music supervision by John Rigby with Matt Smith as musical director.
The production opens in Birmingham on 23 February 2021 before visiting Aberdeen, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Wimbledon, Ipswich, Cardiff, Milton Keynes, Dublin, Leeds, Newcastle, Sheffield, Bournemouth, Manchester, Hull, Plymouth, Bristol, Stoke, Southampton, Eastbourne, Canterbury, Norwich, Wolverhampton, Woking, Dartford, Southend, Liverpool, Northampton, Llandudno, Sunderland and Oxford.

NEWS: The National Theatre warns of huge staff redundancies without government support

National Theatre warns of 'a substantial level of staff redundancy' without further government support

The venue has said it may have to reduce staff costs by 20 to 30 per cent

The National Theatre's two chief executives Rufus Norris and Lisa Burger have issued a joint statement regarding the venue's staffing costs and its future.
According to the central London venue, unless there is additional support from the government, it will have to reduce its staff costs by 20 to 30 per cent. No conclusions have yet been reached, with the theatre currently going through the process of modelling redundancies.
Philippa Childs, the head of the Broadcasting, Entertainment, Communications and Theatre Union (BECTU) said in response that: "This is devastating news for all staff at the National Theatre and the wider theatre industry" and advised that the National should wait for the government to provide "clarity to how the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) will continue to operate to stop employers taking such serious decisions". It then called on the government to "step-up and urgently provide an effective recovery plan".
The Chancellor Rishi Sunak said this week that he would be providing further information regarding the future of the CJRS by the end of the month.
You can donate to the National Theatre here while it faces the "devastating impact" of COVID-19.
The statement in full:
"The National Theatre has been closed since March. Social distancing measures to control Coronavirus set to be in place for months to come, which make performing to large audiences impossible. As a result, over 75% of our income is currently cut off and we expect the financial impact of Coronavirus to extend into next year and beyond. Having undertaken extensive financial modelling, we have sadly reached the conclusion that there will need to be a substantial level of staff redundancy at the National Theatre.
"Over half our annual expenditure is on people, and while in the short-term we have used our limited cash reserves and support from the UK Government's Job Retention Scheme, a significant financial gap remains. We are calling for additional urgent Government support for the theatre sector including the NT to mitigate the loss of vital talent and infrastructure. However, we must also plan proactively ourselves to protect the future of the National Theatre as an organisation and a major creative employer. It's our duty to ensure the National Theatre remains a vital part of the UK's lifeblood for many years to come.
"At this stage we are not able to say how many roles will be affected, but we will continue to communicate with all our staff and consult with our unions as the picture becomes clearer. We appreciate this is an incredibly difficult time for everyone and it is hard to express how devastated we are to be having to plan to lose some of our brilliant workforce. The National Theatre has, from its very first days, been an organisation which has been driven by the extraordinary creativity and commitment of the people who work here.  
Rufus Norris and Lisa Burger Joint Chief Executives"

NEWS: Soul II Soul announce rescheduled 2021 tour dates




Soul II Soul have announced rescheduled dates due to the global Covid-19 restrictions for their forthcoming ‘Club Classics’ tour. 
They will complete a 14-date UK tour in 2021 starting on February 19th with an already sold out show at the Brighton Dome, and will finish at the Tramshed in Cardiff on April 24th. Their upcoming sold out headline show at London’s Royal Albert Hall meanwhile is set to go ahead as planned on November 24th 2020. Remaining tickets for the tour are available via bit.ly/SoulClubClassics 
The double Grammy Award winning and five-time Brit Award nominated British band tour the UK as they pay tribute to their legendary debut album Club Classics Vol. One. It follows from the phenomenal success of their tour of the album in 2018 with sold out shows across the country. 
The forthcoming shows promise to be an even greater spectacle with astounding production and surprises. 
During the course of their stellar career the band have sold over 10 million albums worldwide and main man Jazzie B was awarded an OBE for services to music in 2008, as well as winning an Ivor Novello Award for Inspiration, as “the man who gave British black music a soul of its own”.
With huge hits including ‘Keep On Movin’ (which sold over a million copies in the US alone) and the UK number one single ‘Back To Life (However Do You Want Me)’, Soul II Soul progressed from being one of the leaders of the 1980s warehouse scene to pioneering British black music around the world, and securing commercial success for themselves and the huge amount of artists they have influenced. 
24th – London, Royal Albert Hall **SOLD OUT**
19th – Brighton, Dome **SOLD OUT**
26th – Portsmouth, Pyramids 
MARCH 2021
5th – Birmingham, O2 Institute
6th – Nottingham, Rock City 
19th – Liverpool, Eventim Olympia 
20th – Newcastle, O2 Academy 
APRIL 2021
2nd – Hull, Bonus Arena
3rd – York, Barbican 
10th – Cambridge, Corn Exchange
16th – Manchester, Academy
17th – Glasgow, Barrowlands
23rd – Bristol, O2 Academy 
24th – Cardiff, Tramshed