Thursday, 19 September 2019

NEWS: Sadler's Wells proudly announce their Spring season!

Sadler’s Wells announces its Spring 2020 season

-       Major new Sadler’s Wells Productions, Kate Prince’s Message In A Bottle with music by Sting, and the latest in the Composer Series with a focus on Nico Muhly
-       common ground[s], a Sadler’s Wells, Pina Bausch Foundation and École des Sables Production
-       Lloyd Newson’s Enter Achilles co-produced by Sadler’s Wells and Rambert
-       UK premieres of works by Sadler’s Wells Associate Artists Crystal Pite and Michael Keegan Dolan
-       BLKDOG by Olivier Award-winning Botis Seva tours the UK, co-produced by Far From The Norm and Sadler’s Wells
-       Singin’ in the Rain starring Adam Cooper makes a splash this summer

Tickets are on sale from Monday 14 October 2019 for Sadler’s Wells’ Spring 2020 season, which features three world premieres, seven UK premieres, and 12 Sadler’s Wells Productions and co-productions, as well as a host of new creative partnerships involving artists from all over the world.

Sadler’s Wells’ Artistic Director and Chief Executive Alistair Spalding said: “Sadler's Wells' mission is to make and share dance that inspires us all, and I believe our Spring 2020 season truly reflects that. It includes the world premiere of the third work in our composer series, focusing on the work of leading contemporary composers. I commissioned our New Wave Associate Julie Cunningham, our Associate Artist Michael Keegan-Dolan and American dance maker Justin Peck to create new work on the music of New York-based Nico Muhly. I am excited to see how each choreographer responds to the music and reveals its qualities through dance. The season also features great new collaborations, such as Kate Prince’s Message In A Bottle, our new production set to the music of Sting, and a groundbreaking double bill co-produced with the Pina Bausch Foundation and Senegal’s École des Sables, including Bausch’s version of The Rite of Spring set on dancers from across the African continent as well as a new work, common ground[s].”

Message In A Bottle, the spectacular new dance theatre show from triple Olivier Award nominee and Sadler’s Wells Associate Artist Kate Prince, set to the iconic hits of 17-time Grammy Award-winning artist Sting, receives its world premiere at Sadler’s Wells’ West End venue The Peacock from Thursday 6 February - Saturday 21 March ahead of a UK and international tour. The production marks the first collaboration between the theatre and Universal Music UK.

A village alive with joyous celebrations is suddenly under siege. In the chaos, three parted siblings are separated from their parents, and from each other. Determined and daring, they step out on their own extraordinary adventures. With a mix of exhilarating dance styles, dazzling footwork and breath-taking athleticism, this is the latest work from the groundbreaking creator behind SYLVIA and Everybody’s Talking About Jamie (choreography). Songs include Every Breath You Take, Roxanne, Walking on the Moon and many more.

After its run at The Peacock Message In A Bottle tours to Theatre de la Ville Luxembourg (26 - 28 March), The Lowry, Salford (1 - 4 April) and Birmingham Hippodrome (7 - 11 April), with further international dates to be confirmed.

Following Sadler’s Wells Associate Artist Michael Keegan-Dolan’s critically acclaimed Swan Lake/ Loch na hEala, he returns with the UK premiere of a new production, co-produced with Sadler’s Wells, from Wednesday 5 - Friday 7 February.

The Irish-language word mám describes the pass that connects two sides of a mountain and is the inspiration for Keegan-Dolan’s new work. Bringing together the Irish concertina player Cormac Begley, the music collective stargaze and 12 dancers from Keegan-Dolan’s company, Teaċ Daṁsa, MÁM acknowledges how life’s polarities can on occasion come together and find resolution.

The joint creators of the Olivier Award-winning Betroffenheit, writer Jonathon Young and Sadler’s Wells Associate Artist Crystal Pite, reunite once again with Pite’s company, Kidd Pivot, to turn their brilliant minds to the comic play The Inspector General (known as “Revizor” in Russia), in a new co-production with Sadler’s Wells. 

Taking Nikolai Gogol’s 1836 farce as a starting point, Pite and Young revise an archetypal comic plot to serve as the basis for choreography in a true hybrid of contemporary theatre and dance. In Revisor, which has its UK premiere at Sadler’s Wells from Tuesday 3 - Thursday 5 March, eight Kidd Pivot dancers embody the recorded dialogue of some of Canada’s finest actors, exploring conflict, comedy and corruption in the potent relationship between language and the body.

Nico Muhly’s pioneering music, played live by Britten Sinfonia, is the subject of a new Sadler’s Wells Production, in a triple bill from Julie Cunningham, Michael Keegan-Dolan and Justin Peck. The latest in the Composer Series, which partners contemporary composers with choreographers to create new works, it receives its world premiere at Sadler’s Wells from Thursday 19 - Saturday 21 March.

For this triple bill, inspired by murder ballad The Two Sisters, Sadler’s Wells Associate Artist Keegan-Dolan interprets dark folk-song arrangement The Only Tune, sung live by Sam Amidon; New Wave Associate Cunningham selects Drones, a reflection on the subtle and constant noise in most dwelling places; and a new composition, commissioned by New York City Ballet, accompanies Peck’s work for 12 dancers performed by NYCB, marking their first appearance in London since 2008. This is the third Sadler’s Wells Production in the Composer Series following acclaimed programmes inspired by the music of Thomas Adès and Mark-Anthony Turnage. The composer series was launched to challenge choreographers to respond to the music of living composers by making new work, designed to enable collaboration between leading lights in the world of music and dance, and to exchange ideas.

The idea of ‘exchange’ is central to a new two-part programme, which marks the first collaboration between the Pina Bausch Foundation (Germany), École des Sables (Senegal) and Sadler’s Wells (UK). The Rite of Spring / common ground[s], receives its UK premiere at Sadler’s Wells from Sunday 17 May - Wednesday 20 May.

Bausch’s seminal 1975 work, The Rite of Spring, is danced by a newly assembled company of dancers from African countries. In common gound[s], Germaine Acogny, “the mother of contemporary African dance” and founder of École des Sables, unites with Malou Airaudo, a former member of Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch who has performed central roles in many of Bausch’s pieces. Inspired by their experiences and history as choreographers, professors and mothers, this work created and performed by these remarkable women reflects their common ground.

The Rite of Spring / common ground[s] receives its world premiere at Théâtre National Daniel Sorano, Senegal (24 & 25 March), and tours to Centre Culturel Blaise Senghor, Senegal (28 March), Wuppertal Opera House (9 - 12 April), and Théâtre de la Ville, Paris (1 - 21 June), with more venues to be confirmed.

25 years after legendary dance iconoclast Lloyd Newson (DV8 Physical Theatre) first dragged British pub culture kicking and yelling onto the stage, Rambert and Sadler’s Wells present Newson’s reworking of Enter Achilles at Sadler’s Wells from Tuesday 26 May - Saturday 6 June.

As pertinent now as it was when first staged in 1995, Enter Achilles wrestles with the notion of masculinity, through the funny, provocative and disturbing actions of eight men during an evening in a British pub. The critically acclaimed original production was made into an Emmy Award-winning film. It now returns to the stage with a new cast, selected by Newson, in his first collaboration with another company, the world-renowned Rambert.

Enter Achilles tours to Festispielhaus St. Pölten, Austria (14 February), Théâtres de la Ville, Luxembourg (21 & 22 March) and Teatre Nacional de Catalunya, Spain (9 - 11 July).

Vital and gripping, BLKDOG is Botis Seva’s haunting commentary on surviving adulthood as a childlike artist. Co-produced by Far From The Norm and Sadler’s Wells, the Olivier Award-winning BLKDOG was originally performed at Sadler’s Wells in Autumn 2018 as part of an evening of new commissions to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the current theatre.

A genre-defying blend of hip hop dance and free form antics, BLKDOG explores the inner battlefield of an ageing artist trying to retain his youth. Performed by Seva’s powerhouse company Far From The Norm, BLKDOG searches for coping mechanisms in the ultimate hunt for acceptance. Botis Seva and Far From The Norm have previously performed at Sadler’s Wells with Breakin’ Convention and curated a Wild Card evening. Seva was Guest Artistic Director of the National Youth Dance Company, run by Sadler’s Wells, in 2018 - 2019.

BLKDOG will tour the UK in Spring 2020, visiting Warwick Arts Centre, Dance East, Midlands Arts Centre, Northern Stage, The Lowry, Nuffield Southampton Theatres City and The Point Eastleigh. It will be at Sadler’s Wells on 15 & 16 October 2020, with tickets on sale in May.

Summer 2020 at Sadler’s Wells sees song-and-dance legend Adam Cooper reprise the iconic role made so famous by Gene Kelly, in Jonathan Church’s critically acclaimed production of Singin’ in the Rain from Friday 24 July - Sunday 30 August. A smash-hit at Chichester Festival Theatre and in the West End, this irresistible show returns to London to make a summer splash. Andrew Wright’s high-energy choreography and Simon Higlett’s sumptuous set design (including over 14,000 litres of water on stage every night) combine with the charm, romance and wit of one of the world’s best-loved films. Singin’ in the Rain features the glorious MGM score including Good Morning, Make ‘em Laugh, Moses Supposes and of course, Singin’ in the Rain.

The Monument Trust supports co-productions and new commissions at Sadler’s Wells

Tickets for the Spring 2019 season are on public sale from Monday 14 October from 9am via and 020 7863 8000 and in person at 10am. Booking opens to members from Monday 7 October.

NEWS: Campaign launched to fund statue of "Fifth Beatle" Brian Epstein.


Renowned ‘Fab Four’ sculptor Andy Edwards on-board
to create unique tribute to celebrate Epstein’s legacy
A five-week campaign has been launched to raise funds to create a statue to honour the man fondly known as the Fifth Beatle, Brian Epstein.

The Brian Epstein Statue Project was officially launched today (Thursday 19 September) – which would have also marked Brian Epstein’s 85th Birthday.

The special announcement was made at the Epstein Theatre, located on Hanover Street in Liverpool city centre, to an audience of Press and special guests, including Merseybeat singer Beryl Marsden, Peter Hooton from Liverpool band The Farm, and the Lord Mayor Of Liverpool, Councillor Anna Rothery.

The Beatles’ former manager, Liverpool-born Brian Epstein, is credited with catapulting the Fab Four to global success. Yet there is no lasting tribute to recognise and celebrate the vital role he played in the band’s history, nor how he changed the face and sound of popular music. Brian Epstein made history.

However, a small group of dedicated campaigners are working tirelessly to redress the balance and create a world first with a statue of Brian Epstein funded by a five-week Crowdfunder campaign – a minimum target of £60,000 has been set.

The location for the statue has not yet been confirmed, however the committee welcomes suggestions from interested parties via social media as to where they would like to see the statue sited.

Brian Epstein owned NEMS record shop in Whitechapel. It was a lunchtime visit to The Cavern Club in the heart of Liverpool to watch a four-piece rock and roll band on 9 November 1961 which would change the course of history. Music and life in Liverpool would never be the same again. That band was The Beatles – who Brian would go on to manage.

In addition to managing The Beatles, Brain Epstein is credited to creating and developing the Merseybeat movement. He also signed a number of other performers including Cilla Black, Gerry And The Pacemakers, Billy J Kramer And The Dakotas, and The Moody Blues.

Messages of support from Brian’s Epstein family, and the Willis family representing the late Cilla Black, were also read out at the launch.

The Epstein family said: “Brian was a modest and reserved man, but as a family we are in no doubt that he, his brother Clive, and his parents Queenie and Harry, would have been immensely touched by the consistent efforts to pay tribute to his contribution to The Beatles and the city of Liverpool.”

The Willis family added: “Cilla had one true love, her Bobby – but Brian came a close second. He moulded and shaped her career, which helped her become one of the UK’s biggest entertainers. Throughout her life, Cilla kept a picture of Brian on her desk and never forgot his commitment to her.”

The Brian Epstein Statue Project committee have wealth of experience and expertise across public art, publishing, theatre production, and the local Beatles industry. Collectively they have a strong desire to ensure the project is successful and are passionate that a lasting tribute to Brian and all he achieved in the history of popular music should be created in Liverpool to celebrate his role in history.

The committee includes cultural campaigner and activist Tom Calderbank; Beatles’ fan Marie Darwin who was part of a group who campaigned for a plaque to be placed on the birthplace of Brian Epstein; Beatles’ historians, researchers and authors Kevin and Julie Roach, and son Robert; Larry Sidorczuk was the personal assistant to the late Joe Flannery, Brian Epstein’s original business partner and bookings manager; and Bill Elms, a producer of the smash hit play Epstein: The Man Who Made The Beatles, which was staged in Liverpool and London’s West End.

Author Kevin Roach recently published his latest book, Brian Epstein And The Beatles 1964: The Year That Changed The World – proceeds of which will be donated to The Brian Epstein Statue Project.

Tom Calderbank is leading the project, he explained: “We’re thrilled and very excited to unveil plans for a long overdue statue of the ‘Fifth Beatle’ Brian Epstein in his hometown of Liverpool. We aim to create a unique, beautiful and lasting sculptural tribute to Brian – a world first for one of the world’s great creative individuals.

“Brian changed the music world in an extraordinary way. He was instrumental in the development of Liverpool’s music scene, most notably with the Fab Four. His legacy is also largely unseen, even though his impact on popular culture is incalculable – Brain needs this memorial, he needs to stay amongst us and really does deserve this recognition. By raising the funds together, we will celebrate Brian together.”

Sculptor Andy Edwards has already been commissioned. Andy is best known for his iconic sculpture of The Beatles located at Pier Head Liverpool, part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Andy sculpted The Truce, which can be found in the grounds of St Luke’s Church, depicting the historic moment on Christmas Day 1914 during the First World War ceasefire when a game of football spontaneously broke out between British and German soldiers. He also co-sculpted the statue of Cilla Black on Mathew Street.

Andy has produced a clay bust and maquette to show how the 7ft sculpture of Brian will look. Visitors to the recent International Beatleweek in Liverpool were given a sneak preview.

Sculptor Andy Edwards commented: “After spending a lot of time staring at Brian Epstein’s face, I see before anything else, the charm and feeling in his eyes. I see a smile born of trust. A smile that elicits a smile back, an exchange of confidence and encouragement in what might happen. This is what I want to capture in Brian’s sculpture to share with everyone who will see it.

“At the unveiling of the statues of The Beatles, I made a silent dedication in my mind. This is for all those who love The Beatles - and for all those who don’t. The work gives a gateway to the city, just as Cilla does to The Cavern. An added statue of Brian gives the third dimension to that straight line. No longer signposts of where to go, but a feeling of mapping out in the mind and following in their footsteps. The striding visual link to the Waterfront creates more than a tribute but takes you into the bigger story of what has been achieved. We will be creating something equally as special and fitting for Brian.”

The project also has the support of Liverpool-born actor Andrew Lancel, who has appeared in The Bill and Coronation Street. He appears in a short video supporting the statue project, which was played at the launch.

Andrew portrayed Brian in the smash hit play Epstein: The Man Who Made The Beatles on stage in Liverpool and London’s West End to critical acclaim. He later played Brian again in the recent tour of Cilla The Musical  and is a huge advocate of recognising all Brian achieved.

Andrew Lancel added: Brian left us far too soon, he was 32-years-old. His contribution to the music industry, The Beatles, Liverpool and the world really was incomparable. And I can think of few people more worthy of a sculptural tribute, a statue in his home city. By making a donation to the Crowdfunding project, you have the chance to share the story of Brian and The Beatles. You can be a part of it by saying, I had a hand in making it.

“Brian’s legacy continues, he’s been inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall Of Fame. There has been movies, plays and musicals about him. But this lasts forever. It’s very special and beautiful. I’m so proud to have played Brian, and I’m very proud to support this project. To quote a line from the play Epstein: The Man Who Made The Beatles – Brian is, was, and always will be, one of us.”

Various levels of donation are also available, including the Hall Of Fame and Certificate Of Support, as well as options to purchase Beatles experiences of which the cost is donated to the campaign. Visit the Crowdfunding page for full details.

Facebook:       @BrianEpsteinStatueProject
Twitter:           @EpsteinStatue

NEWS: Strictly star Robin Windsor to play Aladdin at St Helens this Christmas.


Regal Entertainments has announced Strictly Come Dancing star Robin Windsor will join the cast of Aladdin at St Helens Theatre Royal for its festive panto production.

The dance professional replaces the previously announced former Emmerdale actor Kelvin Fletcher, who has joined this year’s Strictly line-up as a late addition after Jamie Laing had to withdraw due to injury – and is therefore now unable to appear at St Helens this Christmas.

Robin Windsor waltz’s into St Helens Theatre Royal to join a fantastic cast in Aladdin, which runs from Saturday 7 December 2019 through to Sunday 12 January 2020.

Robin’s illustrious career in dance began aged just three when his parents enrolled him in dance lessons. From the outset, he studied both ballroom and Latin, and has since gone on to compete in those genres at the highest-level representing England both domestically and on the international stage.

In 2001, Robin was cast in the ground-breaking and critically acclaimed dance show Burn The Floor, which he toured the globe with for a decade, culminating in a nine-month run on Broadway. During his time on in the show, Robin was cast as a lead dancer. He fulfilled a childhood ambition in 2013 when he returned to Burn The Floor, headlining the show in the West End.

Robin’s talent has also seen him be part of Dancing With The Stars in Australia, and So You Think You Can Dance in Holland. He was also asked to assist in the choreography for the Australian version of So You Think You Can Dance. Robin began his time with Strictly in 2010, and his partners have included Anita Dobson, Patsy Kensit, Lisa Riley, and Deborah Meaden.

Robin Windsor commented: “I love the audiences in the North-West and can’t wait to join the gang in St. Helens, I’ve heard they’re a rowdy bunch!   I’ve played the Genie in the past and am over the moon to be playing the main man “rubbing his lamp as” Aladdin this year.  I love Christmas and panto is the cherry on top – it’s so fabulous to have a show that kids, nans and everyone in between can all enjoy.  It’s usually the first time that kids get to go into a theatre - it’s so special to be part of that experience, I can’t get enough of the energy, there’s nothing like it!”  

Robin joins Olivia Sloyan, Scott Gallagher, Philip McGuinness, Jenna O’Hara, Kai Jolley, and Si Foster to complete the cast.

No stranger to St Helens Theatre Royal stage, Olivia Sloyan join the all-star line-up as Princess Jasmine. Her theatre credits include Sue in Rita, Sue and Bob Too, Tia in The Salon and both Linda and Brenda in Blood Brothers.

Kai Jolley has recently starred in the comedy, Stop!…The Play in Liverpool and St Helens and also played Steve – Head of Security in Jerry Springer - The Opera in Manchester. He will play in Aladdin as the Genie of the Lamp.

After his role of Gaston in the Beauty and the Beast at the St Helens theatre, Philip McGuinness will return as the villainous Abanazer in Aladdin.

As Slave of the RingJenna-Sian O'Hara who has played in Achy Breaky Bride will also join the cast.

And of course, no St Helens Theatre Royal panto would be complete without its resident dame, the hilarious Si Foster will be up to his usual comedy capers as Widow Twankey.

There’s nothing Wishee Washee (played by Scott Gallagher) about Regal Entertainments’ spectacular panto which will whisk audiences off to Old Peking for a genie-ous adventure this Christmas.

Join hero Aladdin as he battles the evil Abanazer and his dastardly plan to rule the world with the help of one very special lamp. With larger-than-life washerwoman mum Widow Twankey, hapless Wishee Washee, the Genie of the Lamp, Slave of the Ring and a beautiful princess, this is a show full of eastern promise.

St Helens Theatre Royal Manager, Chantelle Nolan, added: “We’re already counting down the days and weeks until we welcome Aladdin to St Helens for Christmastime 2019. We’re delighted to welcome Robin to our fantastic cast, and we’re sure with his smooth ballroom and Latin dance moves, Aladdin will promise audiences an unmissable performance.”

St Helens Theatre Royal invites audiences on a magical carpet ride this Christmas time when Aladdin flies in from Saturday 7 December 2019 to Sunday 12 January 2020.

Tickets are on sale now! Be sure to book early to avoid disappointment.

For more information, please visit:
Follow us on Twitter: @TheatreRoyalStH

Regal Entertainments Ltd presents Aladdin
Dates: Saturday 7 December 2019 – Sunday 12 January 2020
Times: Various
Tickets: From £13*

*All prices are inclusive of a £1 per seat transaction fee. On-line bookings are subject to an additional 50p per seat on-line processing fee.

Book in person at the Theatre Royal Box Office, Corporation Street, St. Helens, Merseyside WA10 1LQ (Mon – Sat 10am – 5pm). Alternatively, call 01744 756 000 or log on to:

THEATRE REVIEW: MacBeth - The Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester

“Dare to be different”

I am a huge fan of this quote and try and follow this thinking myself. I don’t like to fit into a square box, or follow the crowd, and I also like to think a little ‘out of that un-square box’. Well for me it is exactly what this production of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester encompasses. Completely different from any other Macbeth I have ever seen. Now is this a good or a bad thing? I possibly need a few more days to digest this lengthy production I witnessed last night and I am still trying to break everything down in my head. So for now, please forgive me but I’m teetering on the fence and wondering myself if this was just too different or indeed whether it was a bold, brave and worthwhile decision to give it’s audience an overtly modern, in your face loud, aggressive and almost circus like take on The Bard’s 400 plus year old words.

This Royal Exchange Production is Directed by Christopher Haydon (who I had the pleasure of chatting with after the performance). I was very interested in his motives in casting a woman, namely Lucy Ellinson as the lead Macbeth and he explained it was a very personal decision. Haydon had worked with Ellinson before and had thought she’d make a superb Lady Macbeth. Then at some point turned this on it’s head and realised in actual fact she be a perfect Macbeth. Directors often work repeatedly with people they know very well, they understand their quirks, their personalities, perhaps even their hidden vulnerabilities. I appreciated his honesty and simple reasoning to my question and to me it made sense.

To quote from Bridget Escolme, who is Dramaturg on this production, she says: “In the long history of casting women in male Shakespearean roles, there are remarkably few Macbeths. There have been a number of all women versions, but the production you are seeing here at the Royal Exchange may be the first mixed-gender professional production of Macbeth to cast a woman in the lead. What happens to the play when we cast two very different leaders - Duncan and Macbeth - as women, in a world that otherwise still seems to be male-dominated?” Food for thought indeed from Escolme there.

We are seated ‘in the round’ at the Exchange which is a theatrical space that lends itself beautifully to Shakespeare and our central focal point is a small round pond (cauldron) covered by liftable mesh triangles, individually not too dissimilar to classic witches' hats or indeed when all the triangles are lifted up collectively, a crown. However there is nothing classic about this show which starts with loud bangs and explosions, noises of war all around us in the surround-sound space, soldiers entering wearing modern combat gear pointing their automatic rifles at us the audience. Were we about to be held hostage by these gas mask-wearing beings? This starting point set the whole tone for the rest of the performance, this was no traditional Macbeth. I was reminded of Stephen Kings ‘IT’ as one cast member arrived carrying a bright red balloon, an illusion in ‘It’ created to lure its victims to their deaths!

The witches Bryony Davies, Nicola May-Taylor and Charlotte Merriam play the zaniest witches, with their mad dancing to rave music, convulsive actions, crazy comedy and each even more mardy than your typical tantrum loving two year old. I did feel at times they were too comedic. I love seeing many different takes on the witches/weird sisters in Macbeth but at times I just didn’t relate so much to this trio, though there were definitely flashes of wonderful weirdness at times and one superb touch was that all three also double-up as tight-leather-jean-wearing gentlewomen/servants of the house. A unique idea and which I think toys with Macbeth’s mind and helps to create that madness in her mind via their control and constant influence in her journey of self destruction.

I was very impressed by Theo Ogundipe and his portrayal of Banquo. Pitched perfectly with an intelligence and likeable warmth and who for me had a wonderful stage presence. Rachel Denning plays a traumatised Lady Macduff as her children are ferociously murdered. Denning also plays the Porter who gives an updated and new speech written by Chris Thorpe, which involved her interaction with various audience members. The Macbeth and Lady Macbeth (played by Ony Uhiara) duo, were played as a same sex couple, (Macbeth is referred to as Queen and wife). I feel there were hints at all the complicated emotions involved in this highly charged relationship but it never quite hit the spot. Simply put I just felt it lacked the passion, the deep psychological undercurrent. Ellinson was an extremely energetic and watchable Macbeth, and I applaud her stamina in performing to this level night after night. For me I think she peaked a little too soon into this what I felt a too long a production, [running at just under 3 hours with interval] however what did impress me was her allowing herself to be seen, really seen. She dived into a vulnerability I have yet to witness watching a Macbeth perform. Could this be a gender issue, are women (generally) able to allow themselves to be more vulnerable and perhaps as an actress the same degree of vulnerability can be witnessed more so than a male actor performing Macbeth, are they afraid to really go there? To those very dark, lonely places, to let go fully. Haydon's production is loud, it is bright, it hits you like a metaphorical tonne of bricks. The Banquet scene where Banquo's ghost appears is like something from Alice In Wonderland where guests are in macabre and animal-esque fancy dress, donning all manner of comedic masks and a game of musical chairs ensues. I thought this scene one of Ellinson’s finest.

This production of Macbeth is busy, very busy and my head was perhaps a little over-confused by the end. However some of these choices were brave, very brave and daring to be different is courageous. It’s so easy to play safe and this production certainly does not play safe, yes it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, it’s different, but isn’t that what makes life interesting. This take on Macbeth will get many talking, and I applaud the production for even trying to buck the trend of traditional Shakespeare. Diction was an issue at times, and although volume was there, enunciation was lacking during some speeches. Shakespeare is so wordy, I’m passionate about it and don’t want any of his words wasted on me. Paul Hickey plays a strong and likeable Macduff, I felt his pain on hearing of his family’s deaths and for me gave some of the best work within the cast. Also a mention to Ayanda (Yandass) Ndlovu who was excellent in her take on a youthful and highly spirited Fleance. The energy she brought was extremely watchable and her talent in physical moment and dance very much noted. A superb performance.

There are moments of great work in this play and I commend the choices made however ‘out there’ they may be. I do feel it could have been cut slightly, one note many audience members made at the end. Macbeth is notoriously the shortest tragedy yet this felt like quite a long affair. Some of the deep physiological aspects of relationships were not explored enough for me and the style and feel possibly too zany at times. However I 100% commend that this production has tried, tried hard to give Macbeth a newness, a creative edge, and a very much stylised approach to Shakespeare. We need more creatives out there who are willing to take risks and go a little ‘off book’ so for me where this may lose points in some areas it gains tenfold for its braveness and bold approach.

Macbeth is on at the Royal Exchange Theatre until 19 October

Reviewer - Mary Fogg
on - 18/9/19

THEATRE REVIEW: War Horse - The Curve, Leicester.

It’s been over five years since I first witnessed the magic of “War Horse” in the West End - managing to catch Alistair Brammer (a favourite actor of mine) in the role of Albert whilst he was the understudy. Flash forward a few years and the launch of a UK tour, butterflies appeared in my stomach at the thought of being able to witness the spectacular and astonishingly life-sized horses by South Africa’s Tony Award-winning Handspring Puppet Company. These extraordinary puppets - along with the several talented actors who form the horses - bring breathing, galloping and charging horses to thrilling life on stage. Within the first few minutes you start to stop seeing the people making all of this happen and only see very realistic horses. There really is no other show quite like War Horse! 

The story starts on the 5th August, 1912, shortly before the start of World War One, where in Devon, England, we meet farmer Ted Narracott (Jonathan Cobb) who, at an auction, bids against his landlord for a thoroughbred foal - using his mortgage money to do so - much to the dismay of wife Rose (Jo Castleton). Soon Ted’s son Albert forms a strong bond with the foal he names Joey, even managing to train him to come when Albert imitates the sound of an owl. When the Narracots’ farm suffers set backs due to poor weather conditions, Ted wages a bet that he can get Joey to plow the fields. If he wins he gets back the thirty nine guineas he paid for the horse and gets to keep him, if he looses he has to hand Joey over. Albert stops doing his other chores to train Joey and the pair win the bet. On the 5th August 1914 - Church bells signal to announce that Britain is now at war against Germany and soon all the men are sent off to fight - Albert tries to join them but at only 16 years old is told he is too young. Reluctantly Joey is sold to go to help the men travel to France to attack Germany, but is promised that he will return to Albert should he survive. 

Whilst the stage set is minimal against a black backdrop with a large ripped piece of paper raised above it which displays moving pencil sketches to set the various scenes, this works incredibly well - the intricate detailed sketches of Devon countryside, churches, houses, to running horses to the various war scenes, gives the audience the illusion of reading the book of the same name by Michael Morpugo (which the stage adaptation is based on) and the book coming to life. 

This production, in my opinion, trumps the previous West End production. There are no weak performers and the layout of Curve theatre ensures a fantastic view from every angle. Scott Miller as Albert, whom we see grow from a young lad to eventually finding a way of being part of the war as he sets off to find Joey, transitions effortlessly from young playful lad to a young man defying odds and faced head-on with a war zone. Of course though it’s the wonderful puppets and puppeteers which really make this book to stage adaptation in a league of its own From the delicate tiny birds to the crows feasting on the war victims' bodies, to the feisty goose who takes no nonsense from anyone and of course, the magnificent Joey and Topthorn. (Ironically I’m actually afraid of horses and won’t get close up to them, and if the opportunity to see these puppets up close I would probably decline because they are still too life like for my nerves!) Whilst the book itself is a popular children’s choice, I wouldn’t recommend this production to anyone under the age of eleven nor to anyone with a sensitive nature. Filled with realistic gunshots which had me jumping out of my seat on a few occasions, the fight scenes and various tragedies surrounding them are extremely realistic and therefore quite traumatic at times. 

Having had eight record-breaking years in the West End, playing to over seven million people worldwide, the National Theatre’s acclaimed production of War Horse is running at Curve, Leicester until 12th October. War Horse is truly a hauntingly beautiful masterpiece, a must see outstanding piece of work.

Reviewer - Lottie Davis-Browne
on - 18/9/19

FILM REVIEW: Water (part 3 of The Elements Trilogy) - HOME, Manchester.

The story of how this film came into fruition is extraordinary. Deepa Mehta directed the controversial Elements Trilogy: three films which explored gender inequality, violence, sexuality, feminism, and religion. With “Water” specifically, protestors destroyed the film sets and Mehta was later forced to film in secrecy in Sri Lanka. The showcasing of these films in Home’s cinema was part of “Celebrating Women in Global Cinema, Not Just Bollywood.”

This final part of The Elements Trilogy sheds light on the quandary of a group of widows in India, 1938. Forced into poverty following the deaths of their husbands. As society turned a blind eye to them, one of the women, Kalyani, breaks sacred tradition as she tries to form an unlikely relationship with a follower of Mahatma Gandhi, Narayan. The leader of the widow house made Kalyani a prostitute in order to raise money for household funds. The main character was Chuyia, who was only a child, she married but soon became a widow. She was also hastily abandoned at the bleak and impoverished widows' Ashram.

Water, in this context, was not only a religious representation for holy water and ritual washing, but the washing and cleansing of holy tradition. A landmark, societal change which allowed widows to re-marry without the stigma surrounding it.

The screenplay balanced detail, depth and insight with just the right timing and length for each scene. Religious rituals, text, prayers and symbolism featured all the way through. It was frank and direct in its critique of religion and the oppression widowed women were made to endure. One of the standout lines in the movie was when Chuyia said: “Where is the house for men widows?”

Sarala Kariyawasam was wonderful as Chuyia, you could see how she had to grow up fast under the circumstances. Her character was bright, joyful, and a little cheeky at the start but by the end there was a certain kind of sadness in her face, especially after the deaths within the story. The rest of the cast included: Buddhi Wickrama and Iranganie Serasinghe.

Regarding the acting in the film, there was little dramatic tension in the confrontations. There was plenty of opportunity for more in the screenplay. There was an older woman in the Ashram who was an auntie to Chuyia, she even asked her to call her that, her reminiscing of past, positive memories was touching. The same memory involving the eating of Indian sweets kept returning.

Moving on to the cinematography in “Water”, it was painstakingly absorbing and spectacular. Establishing shots were often wide to show off the extraordinarily beautiful and picturesque locations within Sri Lanka. On the contrary, close-ups of faces were carefully judged and included when characters faced their saddest and happiest points in the story. The film compels you to willingly suspend your disbelief into a world far different from Western Society; a world which firmly revolved around religion and faith.

Observing the Third World Country conditions, it reminded you of how lucky we are and how we should count our blessings. There were times when the moving images were glum, gloomy and grim; others were exquisite, joyous and colourful. The Festival of Colour scene was a visual highlight, the widows looked so happy despite the victimisation they faced.

Indian music and chanting successfully added another layer of authenticity to the world created on the big screen. There was live music played on screen by street performers in some scenes and a pre-recorded musical score was played throughout, featuring instruments like the Sitar, Sarod, Sarangi, Flute and Shehnai. The sound design encompassed noises of insects, the weather, chatter on the streets, and animals. It was soothing and tranquil – it could have easily sent you into a deep sleep. Nature did all the work in this engrossing sound design. 

In summary: “Water” was beautifully shot, honest and eye-opening.

Reviewer - Sam Lowe
on - 18/9/19

AMATEUR THEATRE REVIEW: The Father - Mary Wallace Theatre, Twickenham.

This was my second visit to the fabulous Mary Wallace Theatre in the picturesque town of Twickenham, just a short walk from the banks of the Rover Thames. The venue is full of character, as are the staff both at the box office and the bar where they knew most of the locals who were in attendance – there is a real community feeling about this theatre.

I have to confess to not knowing very much about the play, it is called “The Father” and was written by Florian Zeller – a French playwright who was born in Paris in 1979. The original title of the play was “Le Père” and was translated by Christopher Hampton – it has twice received the Premier Prize in France.

The story was centred on Andre (Chris Haddock), who is father to Anne (Lynne Harrison) and is suffering from dementia, albeit he is unwilling to accept this is the case. In the first scene Andre is in quite an animated state and Anne is making some accusations that her father has threated his care worker and she has subsequently quit the job. Andre denies all of the accusations but is clearly confused by the situation and cannot remember some of the more basic parts of his life.

The scenes come thick and fast as different scenarios are played out throughout the rest of play, most of which are there to demonstrate Andre’s confused state and general erratic behaviour as a result of the dementia. All of the scenes started and ended with complete darkness to increase the drama – scenes that mostly ended with Andre struggling to come to terms with his confusion and cutting a very frustrated figure.

The stage was set up in quite a simple way – a Parisian flat with a sofa and a dining table with some chairs. There were impressionist paintings on the wall, seemingly painted by Andre’s other daughter who we never got to meet – she was just another symptom of his dementia having died some years earlier in an accident.

In later scenes we meet some of the other characters, Laura (Laura-May Hassan) who is the new care worker employed to look after Andre and Pierre (Luciano Dodero) who is Anne’s new partner – as well as being the driving force behind the plan to move Andre to a care home. The dynamic between Andre and Pierre is particularly fascinating – Pierre wants to have Anne to himself and sees Andre as a distraction that their lives do not need.

The production was 90 minutes with no interval and in this case the lack of an interval is important – it would have ruined the momentum that builds through the play. There were 15 scenes and they were all in some way connected to Andre’s dementia. Some of the scenes involved humour but mostly laughs at Andre’s expense – his constant obsession with losing his watch continued to get laughs throughout.

I thought Chris Haddock was an impressive Andre, he played the part with all of the right attributes and was incredibly believable as a dementia patient. He displayed all of the anger that you would expect from a man who at times cannot remember where he is, who he is and who any of the people are around him – including his own daughter. The way the production used different actors (Peter Easterbrook and Lizzie Williams) to play the parts of Anne, Pierre and Laura was an extremely good way to demonstrate Andre’s state of confusion.

This production of “The Father” is yet another impressive output from the Mary Wallace Theatre and hugely thought-provoking. The awareness of dementia has been growing in the last few years as more and more people are affected by the disease – this production exposes the audience to the harsh realities of the disease and this can only be a good thing.

Reviewer - John Fish
on - 17/9/19