Saturday, 30 November 2019

THEATRE REVIEW: Weave - The Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool.

Weave is being performed at The Royal Court Studio in Liverpool. The seating and aisles are perfect for a one woman show like Weave, as it’s extremely imitate and gave Samantha Alton as Arabella a great opportunity to interact with the audience. ArtsGroupie had provided Weave with some funding to enable to the play to be performed at a larger venue. Margaret Connell directed Weave with an extremely creative flair and did such a wonderful job bringing the story of Arabella to life on the stage. Her direction made great use of the stage as it was utilised to its fullest potential. There was fantastic use of the aisles and the centre of the stage being used to engage with the audience. Additionally, there was so much interaction with Arabella and the audience. They were constantly entertained by her.

Weave was an original concept and story by John Maguire, who handed over to Margaret Connell and Samantha Alton to develop and workshop Weave, to create the one-women show I saw this evening. It’s such a good concept and the dialogue is very witty and full of one-liners throughout. I particularly liked how dialogue conveyed the story of Arabella, the central character in Weave.

Samantha Alton played the role of Arabella with so much warmth, compassion and energy conveying so many layers to her, which we hadn’t discover yet. Samantha displayed the funny side of Arabella, whilst also demonstrating her vulnerable side too. Her stage presence was an absolute joy and pleasure to watch, which was capivating. She was constantly displaying facial expressions, depending on her mood. She had a great way of engaging with the audience through her interaction, talking to the audience and asking questions too.

Weave followed the story of Arabella, whose comic tale of hair extensions, social media issues and her intreactions with her friends. Liverpudlian Arabella was going out in the city centre tonight, with the pure intention of painting the place red and every colour she possibly could! Weave was a dark comedy about Arabella and her possessed hair extensions. Many issues were explored such as body image and social superficiality.

The one-woman show of Arabella was her self discovery as she slowly began to realise that the false personality she portrayed online to impress random strangers, unfortunately only led her to despair, sadness and disappointment and that her real friends were those, who do not judge her through social media. The main theme of Weave is the lengths for people to go to get the perfect picture for Facebook, wearing the latest fashion accessories and clothes. There were other elements covered in Weave such as trust, friendship, image, social media, social issues and media pressure.

Weave was set in Arabella’s bedroom, which comprised of a large double bed, dressing table, a projection screen wall, rail of colourful and outrageous outfits. The set was vibrant and very colourful, which incorporated Arabella’s character incredibly well. I particularly like the projection screen wall, which demonstrated all the messages and pictures that Arabella was posting online and how she saw them too. A great concept having it, as the audience could see all the messsges and images on social media displayed. This was a fantastic visual concept to use and added a sense of realism to the play.

Arabella had several props in her bedroom from her 'rampant rabbit' to leftover pizza. Her costumes were very eye catching and colourful. Additionally, Samantha changed her clothes through the scene transitions with ease and swiftness. There were some great music choices featured in the show, such as a Whitney Houston classic, which was ideal for a one-woman show. The voiceovers during the performance were used incredibly well, which added a sense of reality television to the play.

I would highly recommend anyone going to see Weave as it’s a very funny original story tackling taboo issues such as body image, social media pressure and societal superficality. Weave had everything you would like to see in one-woman show, drama, empathy, comedy, emotions and pathos. For me, Samantha Alton was absolutely brilliant as Arabella and has created an interesting, captivating character.

Reviewer - Mark Cooper
on - 29/11/19

THEATRE REVIEW: How To Be Amazingly Happy - Waterside, Sale, Greater Manchester.

Victoria Firth brings us an amusing and vibrant one woman show, asking her audience to consider what happiness is and whether it is something that can be found in a pair of running shoes or at the bottom of a lemon drizzle cake. Firth invites us into her world with real honesty and insight by muddling her way through different activities in a desperate attempt to find happiness. She begs the question, is happiness achieved by outside forces, or can it be found within ourselves?

Her Miranda Hart-esque one hour performance invited audience participation from the onset, allowing her viewers to be completely comfortable and involved. This worked well. However, it must be said, Victoria Firth did well to ignore and at times include and use the comments from the audience that were given at inappropriate times. By diverging from the script at times to relate to the audience, Firth’s show reminded me of a stand-up comedy routine.

Firth is clearly a great comic actress; using movement, language, word cards and voice to tell her story that had me and many other audience members crying with laughter. Her performance was very animated and farcical, clearly a deliberate choice to represent her determination to be happy at whatever costs.

This comedy was contrasted with personal moments of loss and heartbreak. These were given to us in a whispered voice-over whilst Firth sat silently in a very dim light. This lack of movement was resounding as it contrasted so highly with the vibrant and enthusiastic scenes in which we see Firth running across the stage and dancing to upbeat pop music.

This well-written piece of theatre is clearly a passion project for Firth, and that really showed as she threw her whole being into the performance to give us an unforgettable experience. Firth may have been stretching the truth at times, but we can easily forgive her for that as the audience were so invested in the show and her quest for happiness.

Reviewer - Megan Relph
on - 29/11/19

THEATRE REVIEW: You Game - The Studio Theatre, RADA, London.

Ivan Murphy plays Jack Guest, a famous screenplay writer, who is struggling to hold on to his wife. 'I don’t want her, but no-one else can have her either!!' He conspires with Bella (Alice McCarthy) to stage a robbery. But is there more to this plan than meets the eye? I can’t give too much away here as the play is an edge-of-your-seat thriller, amusing at times and thoroughly entertaining.

It was a compelling first half which left us on a cliff-hanger at the interval. Excellent performances from Ivan Murphy (Best Actor in an Indie Film at the LA film awards 2019) and from Alice McCarthy (Downtown Abbey 2019). Based on the play ‘Sleuth’ by Anthony Shaffer, ‘You Game’ brings us right up to the 21st Century touching on same sex relationships, hypergamy and both heterosexual and same sex marriage. This is the twisted story of lost love, revenge and murder. The writing was spot on, witty and up to the minute.

Right up to the end of the play I was unsure what would happen. Twists and turns, surprises and deviousness along the way mean that you cannot predict what would happen at the end. I even now have a craving to hear Madonna’s 'Borderline' and get up and boogie – Jack Guest’s dance moves were great and could almost give Travolta a run for his money!

RADA Studios, is a fabulous place to see theatre. I was lucky enough to have a front row seat and so felt really involved in what was happening. The set was simple but so effective and the fact that the actors could walk behind the shelves added another dimension. The poster of Jack’ Guest’s play was a take on that famous Jaws poster and a great touch to the scene.

Sam Ra the writer of the new play “You Game” was present at the performance tonight, and she had a bubbly engaging personality. She was greeting so many loyal friends and interested parties in the audience. Before the show I chatted to one of her friends who was very excited to see the performance. RADA studios doesn’t attract so many of the regular London theatre going set so it was a revelation to be with a younger arty, trendy audience. This play was a triumph. Ninety minutes filled with a lively dialogue and fantastic interpretation by Matthew Bosley, the Director. I loved it. I almost wished there was a third part as I didn’t want it to end. I would recommend this play for anyone who wants to experience real theatre in action in a great location.

Reviewer - Penny Curran
on - 28/11/19

Friday, 29 November 2019

THEATRE REVIEW: West Side Story - The Curve Theatre, Leicester.

West Side Story has been part of the soundtrack to my life for as long as I can remember thanks to my parents’ record collection (Johnny Mathis’ rendition of “Maria” springs to mind) and O Level music classes in the 1980s which included several works inspired by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Knowing that the rhythm “I want to be in A-me-ri-ca” (six quavers followed by three crotchets) is called a huapango helped me pass the exam. So, it was with some anticipation that I arrived at Leicester’s state-of-the-art Curve Theatre for tonight’s performance.

The scene is set straight away: it’s 1957 and immigrants from Puerto Rico to New York are coming in for some harsh treatment from local gang The Jets who justify their behaviour by claiming the “PRs” have put some of their families out of work. The immigrants are drawn into the protective embrace of a Puerto Rican gang, The Sharks and it all goes downwards from there. Ellen Kane’s choreography is electrifying from the start; such is the energy demanded that we know this young cast is going to be working hard for the next two hours.

Tony (Jamie Muscato) has found work and is on the fringe of The Jets these days, but Riff (Ronan Burns) is convinced he can be persuaded back as his lieutenant for a one-off “rumble” to sort things out between the two gangs for good. It takes some doing but once a Jet, always a Jet, and so Tony goes along to the dance where the arrangements are to be made. Here he meets and falls in love with Maria (Adriana Ivelisse), a Puerto Rican who has been in America all of a month. This doesn’t go down well with her family.

Muscato’s performance is exquisite and fully three-dimensional as he adds an extra layer of vulnerability to a character already torn between his work and his gang loyalties. He has a fantastic voice, capable of seamlessly shifting from aggression to tenderness – and back again. Muscato and Ivelisse develop the chemistry between their characters and quickly they become devoted to each other. Despite being the Jets’ “Lieutenant” Tony tries to stop the rumble, an act of great courage which goes tragically wrong and results in the death of Riff and of Maria’s brother Bernardo (Jonathan Hermosa-Lopez). Tony’s fate is sealed from this point despite the lovers’ dreams of escaping together to somewhere quieter.

There is so much to this production. Michael Taylor’s set design evocatively recreates the life-expired concrete and rubbish tips of the grottier parts of New York. The corrupt policeman Schrank (Darren Bennett) and his inept colleague Officer Krupke (Christopher Wright) represent the largely impotent forces of law and order, often to comedic effect, whilst Carly Mercedes Dyer gives a glittering performance as Bernardo’s lover and Maria’s friend Anita.

It is Anita’s lie which finally undoes poor Tony. Sent by Maria to deliver a message to him she encounters ill-treatment at the hands of some of the Jets and tells them instead that Chino (Damian Buhagiar) found out about Maria and Tony’s love and shot Maria in disgust. Tony goes looking for Chino but Chino finds him first…

This is first-rate entertainment; the acting, singing and dancing are all brilliant and everyone involved deserved the ovation at the end, but it is a tragedy and three characters have lost their lives. Leonard Bernstein’s music and Stephen Sondheim’s lyrics invite us to reflect upon themes that are just as relevant to us now as they were in the 1950s, if not more so. What kind of welcome do we in our prosperous society offer to vulnerable migrants from far poorer and less-stable places? And why are so many of our young people driven into the malign embrace of criminal gangs? On the latter point the excellent programme contains an article by Leicestershire’s Chief Constable outlining the measures his force is taking to encourage youngsters to eschew the gangster lifestyle and do something more positive with their lives instead.

A superb production with a vital message – do get to see it if you can. It’s on at the Curve until January 11th.

Reviewer - Ian Simpson
on - 28/11/19

THEATRE REVIEW: Mr. Popper's Penguins - Waterside, Sale. Greater Manchester.

Mr. Popper's Penguins is based on a popular children's book written by Richard and Florence Atwater (which was adapted into a film by Jim Carrey in 2011).Mr Popper’s Penguins was brought to stage at the beautiful Waterside theatre in Sale by Pins And Needles Productions. The show tells a story of a simple man and his wife Mr (Will Kelly) and Mrs Popper (Monica Nash), who live in Proudfoot Avenue in Stillwater. Mr Popper is a painter and decorator who loves everything about the Antarctic and dreams of being an adventurer and visiting far off places. It's when he sends a fan letter to one of his heroes – Admiral Drake (Susanna Jennings) who is on a trek to the South Pole – that he gets sent a gift that catapults his life in a new direction.

A collective gasp in a theatre auditorium is always a nice thing to be part of. But when it comes from a bunch of wide-eyed enthralled young children (especially my two little 7 year old companions), it's something really very special and heart-warming. Tonight this came from the crowd the moment the wooden box sent from Admiral Drake was opened to reveal the astonishing Captain Cook, an Antarctic penguin who soon made himself at home in Mr and Mrs Popper's front room. There he was, puppet penguin in all his glory, and the kids were absolutely (and most adults) delighted.

It was Nick Barnes' puppets that really stole the hearts and adoration of the audience tonight in Emma Earle's show. The two main penguins (Captain Cook and Greta) are absolutely fabulous and are supremely expressive in the hands of puppeteers Benedict Chambers and Susanna Jennings, whose bird squawks are both hilarious and realistic.

The show progresses to the penguins disrupting the couple's lives in the best possible way, turning them from upright, everything-in-its-place type of people, to risk-takers and fun-makers. Eventually they train the penguins and their 8 penguin babies to become a Music Hall act and end up touring the world with their penguin troupe, following their sensational performance at the Palace Theatre that impressed the ambitious Mr Greenbaum.

The cast, in this 60 minute version of Richard and Florence Atwater’s award-winning book, are absolutely outstanding as they smoothly take on many characters throughout the show. The songs are also great and well performed as the cast showcased their phenomenal voices. As with all good musical theatre the songs were catchy and Richy Hughes’ wonderful and cheeky lyrics had my two little companions belly-laughing.

Emma Earle's direction is slick and seamlessly timed keeping tonight’s young audience engaged throughout. Zoe Squire's set design was simple and uncomplicated, with minimal props and staging that proved surprising at times as ice was made from white sheets, and a music hall appeared by the simple switching on of lights.

All in all this was a magical piece of family theatre that had all the right ingredients for children to immerse themselves in the wonderful world of theatrical storytelling. To sum things up in the words from my 7 year old daughter “that was absolutely brilliant mum can we watch it again”. High praise from a hard-to-please 7 year old but she’s right, it was brilliant and worthy of seeing again and again and again.

Reviewer - Victoria Wilmot
on - 28/11/19

Thursday, 28 November 2019

MUSIC REVIEW: Cigarettes After Sex - The Albert Hall, Manchester.

This was always going to be an exciting one for me and I fully disclose before you read any further that I am a HUGE fan of Texan-based ambient pop band Cigarettes After Sex. Turning up to hear their romantic, dreamy, sexy, and oft melancholic lyrics sung by the kooky Greg Gonzalez was a bit of a dream come true. Their new album ‘Cry’ has been on repeat since the day I bought it and Gonzalez (lead vocals/guitar) accompanied by Jacob Tomsky (drums) Randall Miller (bass) and Josh Marcus (keyboard) were obviously a popular choice as The Albert Hall Manchester was full to bursting with their sold out gig. An excellent choice of music venue for this four piece, which provided an atmospheric, intimate and special experience for the audience. I was offered both a standing or seated experience from the hospitable staff at The Albert Hall and opted for seated upstairs and which still provided a close up view. Due to the cosy space you always felt you were within touching distance of Gonzalez himself.

There was no warm up or support act but before Cigarettes And Sex appeared we were treated to a short black and white film which line by line, reeled off the lyrics of ‘You’re The Only Good Thing In My Life’. All this set against a backdrop of pouring rain, sensual images and atmospheric chords. There was definitely a hint at film noir and it certainly got us in the mood for what was about to come, and boy were we in for an amazing experience. I believe music is a very personal thing, what moves one soul, may not move another and that is what makes it interesting and why concerts where everyone there is moved by a particular artist or band in the same way as yourself can be such a powerful experience to be a part of. Cigarettes After Sex are unique, to know there are others who also love that uniqueness, and then all gather together to watch live is 'kinda cool' in my book. Gonzalez first appeared to huge applause from the audience and got into the set straight away. I loved that there was no babbling, just a short hello and then right on into the singing. What we were there for.

Gonzalez has the most amazing stage presence, even though the stage was eerily dark and his face was half-visible much of the time due to the smoky stage with soft lighting, he still had the crowd in the palm of his hand, including mine. He has a really quirky move where he steps forward (often to a great cheer) to the edge of the stage and just chills whilst playing his guitar for a minute or two then returns to his singing at the centre-staged microphone. I loved this little manoeuvre of his! He is an incredibly sexy (imo) man and oozes something I can’t quite put my finger on, perhaps a coolness that you wonder is it an arrogance or unapproachability..perhaps a shyness, either way he’s an intriguing artist and I like that. There is much talk of his androgynous singing voice, his actual talking voice is deep and as far away from an androgynous style there is. Though indeed, his singing voice is dreamy and soft and has been known to send people off to sleep, in a good way! In fact Cigarettes And Sex are also known to offer some of the best ‘bedroom music’ out there. I’ll leave that one to your imagination! His accompanying band members all play their part and they work so well as a team. Randall on bass was so watchable on stage and I found myself really drawn to him and his playing. Big shout out to all the members.

We were treated to some of the favourites from both their self-titled debut album ‘Cigarettes After Sex’ and new album ‘Cry’. Every song gently collided with the next, with very, very little chatter. The sound was perfect, this is a band that watching live, you could be right there at home on your own with Gonzalez playing in the background such is the brilliance of his voice. It was a simple affair with no gimmicks and with myself going in with very high expectations he surpassed them all. When you first hear Cigarettes After Sex it can take a few listens to decipher the dreamy, blended lyrics from Gonzalez, but for me it doesn’t really matter too much, they do become clearer eventually and underneath the deep bass, powerful drums and energetic keyboard it all seems to work. They closed the set with ‘Apocalypse’ from their self-titled album to great delight and even greater when they come back onto the stage after darkness fell and we had all gloomily started to think this is definitely over. A double treat for us all. Cigarettes After Sex is an acquired taste most definitely but I urge you to give them a try, you may just find yourself hooked like I was after the very first listen.

Cigarettes After Sex are back touring the U.K. early spring 2020

Reviewer - Mary Fogg
on - 27/11/19

THEATRE REVIEW: The Astonishing Times Of Timothy Cratchit - Hope Mill Theare, Manchester.

The Astonishing Times Of Timothy Cratchit is the latest in a string of brave, bold and fantastic productions from the Hope / Aria team, and brings this season's epics to a seasonal finish. With a book by Allan Knee and music / lyrics by Andre Catrini it is yet another new-to-me Musical which I have had the pleasure of experiencing this year. [2019 really has been the Year Of Musicals!] Timothy Cratchit, as most of you will have already presupposed is the same person as the Tiny Tim in Charles Dickens' 'A Christmas Carol', and this musical markets itself as perhaps a sequel to that famous book, telling the story of the now not-so-tiny Timothy as a teenager, growing up and finding his place in  the world.

It is a conventional book musical with dialogue interspersed with songs, but I did find much of the dialogue very clunky and predictable, and although the songs were in the main quite catchy, there was nothing there which really gave me the earworm I desired in order to remember the show after curtain. It's a very "nice" story:given the 'Jackanory' feel to it by having olden-day footlights at the front of the stage and having our protagonist address the audience directly as he narrates his own story as it unfolds. It goes where you think it will, and it is family-oriented and inoffensive. We see a very happy and jolly Ebenezer Scrooge doting on his ward, Timothy Cratchit, and we see him find it difficult to allow Tim to forge his own path in life and we see him visited by the ghosts and demons of his past again, and eventually a reconcilliation between them just before he passes away. We see Timothy himself first find no need of the walking stick, and then suddenly take off his caliper too to find that his leg has miraculously healed and he is completely able-bodied. He finds love, experiences friendships, and eventually finds his true metier as a theatrical clown / performer.. courtesy of the enigmatic and over-the-top Grimaldi. Yes there are a few darker and more sinister moments in the musical but they are kept to a minimum and the whole is kept very light with some humour [some of which simply didn't land this evening for whatever reason].

My misgivings with the script / story / music notwithstanding, the cast all gave excellent performances against a backdrop of seven cleverly designed mirrors which, although perhaps not optimal, and the stage management team were evidenced on more than one occasion behind them - they did make some nice effects, especially for the return of the ghosts to haunt Scrooge. I did enjoy the candelabra though, this was most effective and worked well throughout.

Heading this strong cast was an immediately personable and likeable Ryan Kopel as the (almost) 16 year old Timothy Cratchit, and we watch him grow and mature over the next couple of years from being dominated by Scrooge to blossoming as a young man in his own right. His eagerness and fresh-faced wonder at even the harshest of setbacks was lovely, and one couldn't help but warm to him and root for him all the way through. The one thing I simply failed to understand though was why he was speaking in a Scottish accent...? Act one is rather exposition heavy and still tries to hang on to the fact that these characters are developments from Dickens' creations, and this does slow it down somewhat. Paul Greenwood's Scrooge is either gushing with love and bonhomie or is tyrannically ranting and has nothing in between, but the second act sees him deterioate with age and soften more and thus become both more human and also less a part of the plot. Indeed, the more the musical steers away from Dickens the more it seems to benefit.

Michael Matus makes for an imposing and stage-commanding figure on his every entrance as the real-life clown Grimaldi. [he also had the most powerful singing voice too] His arrogance and baffoonery as well as his violent mood swings are well-placed - even his awful mock Italian accent works well to begin with. However once he is unmasked why does he still persist speaking that way? His character (or perhaps caricature) is also too big in comparison with the rest of the cast at times too. Grimaldi's circus troupe all had their own individual characteristics and made for a disparate band of strolling players befitting the era. I especially warmed to Hannah Brown's mute Momo and Dmitri Gripari's Giorgio. Helen Pearson played the dual role of Mrs Linden and Mrs Poole; one a soft and devoted housekeeper to Scrooge and the other a hard-nosed but fair and loveable landlady, and she switched with ease. Love interest was provided for in the form of chambermaid Lucy, played by Sammy Graham, and her duets with Kopel were perhaps the most memorable and more poignant of the evening.

The ensemble and smaller characters were all strong and well-suited. There was one thing however which didn't work so well for me, and that was employing actor / musicians. A seven-piece band, hidden out of sight played live throughout; however, this was ameliorated with three characters on stage who played trumpet, clarinet and violin. I am mostly very much against the use of actor / musicians in roles which are not meant to have an instrument. Sometimes however, one can either overlook and forget this entirely by being so consumed in the plot that their instruments become 'invisible' or a real virtue is made out of their having an instrument with them. Sadly neither of these instances was true for this evening and they just looked and felt wrong the whole evening. It would have been far preferable to have included those timbres in the off-stage band and had no instruments on stage.

If you're still unsure of the flavour and feel of this show, then all told the musical could be described as a complete mixture between 'Pippin', 'Scrooge', and 'Oliver!' had they been combined and written by Leslie Briscusse! The show is high energy, family-friendly and just the kind of Musical you need to put you in the Christmas spirit.. full of good vibes and of course a happy end. Hope Mill Theatre assures a warm welcome and the musical a more than pleasant diversion from the modern commercialisation of Christmas and the grey weather outside!

Reviewer - Matthew Dougall
on - 27/11/19

THEATRE REVIEW: I'm A Phoenix, Bitch - HOME. Manchester.

So, I'm trying to piece together the movie in my mind as I rewind back through "I'm a Phoenix, Bitch" devised and performed by Bryony Kimmings. Kimmings is an Autobiographical Performance Artist. As I write this, random scenes and gorgeous theatrical images are being played back in my head like a storyboard with so much food for thought. Where do I start? I suppose I'd better begin by saying this contemporary performance - part counselling session - was well worth waiting for. It was an outstanding, sincere, and cathartic piece of theatre.

Skipping back to 2016, Kimmings experienced post-natal breakdowns, a relationship with Tim barely treading above water, and witnessing her son, Frank's decline in health. After having therapy to come to terms with the last few years, in her own words she had got herself together, "and could safely make work".

The rewinding process, Kimmings told us about, is an actual therapeutic technique for managing trauma. A concept that became the creative springboard for a series of re-created films (key memories in her life) presented to us. Interweaving this was the elements of stand-up comedy, autobiographical accounts, physical theatre, and a powerful movie music score. The loud music was so emotional it made her experience palpable.

Content warnings were clearly communicated before the show. We were reminded this was a safe space and we were looked after all the way through by Kimmings with a mother's touch. We had the opportunity to hug her afterwards if we needed to.

This performance was an exemplary case study for how to devise an autobiographical performance. It was not a cringy case of exploiting the audience and performer relationship: by which I mean she has learnt so much as a person, so as a performer, she decides to patronisingly teach us self help tips on how to deal with our own mental health. Instead, it was a scenario where the personal was made political. The whole show thrived on brutal honesty and authenticity. Hence, why audience members were in tears after the show.

On stage were four covered exhibitions, representative of key moments in her life which contributed to her post traumatic stress disorder. One by one, each installation was uncovered and points in time were revisited. The presentational aspects served as a safe anchor back to the present moment after visiting those dark places. A beautiful reminder that our minds can make things ten times worse and recognising the difference between objective and inner reality forms progression to recovery. When Kimmings broke the fourth wall, we got to experience the way she is today. Even if this was a theatrical construction for the purposes of this performance, because of her genuineness her stage persona was very real - no notable difference if you'd have met her in the foyer afterwards.

Kimmings wore her heart on her sleeve making the internal, external; projecting to us the movie in her mind. In addition, she was frank about her devising process. We knew we were going to be emotionally manipulated especially through the performance's film-like quality. It was transparent that Kimmings would play contrasting, exaggerated characters of herself in the representational moments. Within this, she creatively explored various film genres such as horror and styles like Noir.

Challenging stigmas around particular issues within society has played a big part in Kimmings' programme of works over the years. Her brave, in-depth investigation into motherhood and mental health in this production is eliciting compassion and starting vital conversations. It reveals the transformative, healing power of theatre. It's the acceptance that some days you'll be swimming just fine across the water, other times you'll sink, and every now and then you'll rise like a phoenix. Thank you Kimmings for your sensitivity and tenderness. You're an inspiration to the theatre community.

Reviewer - Sam Lowe
on - 27/11/19

PANTOMIME REVIEW: Jack And The Beanstalk - Theatr Clwyd, Mold.

Theatr Clwyd have got a strong reputation for their Christmas pantomimes and so there was a lot of anticipation for what we were about to see, 'Jack And The Beanstalk: The Rock 'n' Roll Panto'. Directed by Zoe Waterman it certainly didn’t disappoint. From the moment we entered the Anthony Hopkins auditorium we were immersed in the show, cast members greeted us and interacted with the audience. These initial moments set the tone for the rest of the evening. It was fun, high energy and everything was done for enjoyment. It delivered everything you would expect from a pantomime and more besides.

The set used flies and flats designed to show the different locations from Jack's home to the Giant's home. They were bright and colourful as well as functional. My 5 year old loved the use of trap-doors as the characters of Daffodil and Poison Ivy would appear in a gush of dry ice! There were strings of lights hung throughout the theatre and little cloud lights to remind you of the ever-present threat of the Giant.

Throughout the performance puppets popped up. The golden goose was a firm favourite for my kids and its cheeky pecking and bopping along to songs brought the character to life for the younger members of the audience.

Phylip Harries as the Dame, Tabitha Trott, kept the innuendos coming thick and fast. The jokes struck a balance between those for the younger audience and those intended for the grown-ups. Never once was I worried that my 8 year old would pick-up on some of the naughtier jokes but he laughed along at the obligatory fart jokes! Her striking costumes, there were plenty of changes throughout the performance, always highlighted some part of her character or a plot point, but again reiterated the message of fun.

Adam Barlow was hilarious as Squire Simon. His rendition of “Slim Shady” on a Segway while dressed in a gold hip-hop outfit was truly comic genius, his timing impeccable, his pace flawless.

The songs came thick and fast as you would expect with a rock 'n' roll panto. The show mixed older favourites such as “I Put A Spell On You”, “Living On A Prayer” and “You’re The One That I Want” with more contempory songs such as “Shotgun” and “Thinking Out Loud” It meant neither the older nor younger audience was alienated. It also led to lots of dancing in the aisles! Both my children and myself were up boogying away to “I’m Every Woman” and “I Love Rock 'n' Roll”.

The cast really brought the fun to their performance hamming up obvious jokes, shooting us with water guns, picking on audience members to come up on stage, they worked hard to ensure we had a good time and it paid off. The live music was phenomenal and the fact that all cast members played every instrument on stage, sang, acted and danced left me exhausted. However it was more then this, you felt the whole cast were having fun, they were letting you into their inside jokes and you really felt a part of the experience. The use of local places and dipping into some Welsh language worked well and is a reminder of Theatr Clwyd's importance in Welsh theatre and culture.

I can not rave enough about this performance. I had FUN. It wasn’t life changing, it didn’t have a message, it was just pure unadulterated entertainment... and did I mention fun! I enjoyed it, my children enjoyed it and judging by the fact the whole audience were on their feet for the final number the whole audience loved it too. If you can get tickets I urge you to go and have a rollicking good time.

Reviewer - Francesca Eager
on - 27/11/19

Wednesday, 27 November 2019

MUSIC REVIEW: Frank Turner - The Opera House, Manchester

Frank Turner and The Sleeping Souls: Tales From No Man's Land

Opening to a more than usually buzzed audience by any Tuesday night standards, Emily Barker’s support set featured soul-souring vocals taking Country & Western music to an exciting new place. Quite fittingly as it turned out The Australian singer-songwriter set the tone for an evening of pure Frank Turner ear-joy with genre-bending covers spanning centuries and continents…

Taking to the roads once more in now his 21st year of touring, this exciting 2 part performance comes hot on the heels of Frank Turner’s new album, 'Tales From No Man’s Land'. Promising an evening brim-full of stories; from the plight of a Byzantine princess to Sister Rosetta, the birth-mother of rock, we were treated to the true tales of women whose incredible feats and struggles deserve to be remembered (and have for the most part gone overlooked due to their gender). Mr. Turner duly delivered each fascinating herstory with a relaxed and easy manner – which made for an unusually cosy atmosphere as the audience settled down in their lovely red velvety chairs - a little unsure at first of how to “not stand at a rock show” - to hear Tales From No Man’s Land. His first number, 'Jinny Bingham’s Ghost' conjured vividly the disposable nature of women (especially those that dared to show an independent spirit). As doomed Jinny rids herself of the violent men in her life (using a variety of imaginative and totally justified assassinations), all the while providing charity to the waifs of Camden Town, her kindness is repaid by her eventual demise in the witch’s noose in this wistful folk-rock tribute. Be prepared for some unifying singalongs in this first feel-good half.

Joining him on stage in the second half of the show, The Sleeping Souls helped shake off the comfortable reverie with an energectic re-imaging of each song- or as Turner put it, his “old rubbish [or more explicit alternative!]”- to a very enthusiastic something-eating audience! One of the set's highlights in particular was the delicious whiskey-misted Rockabilly-infused cover of “Reasons Not To Be An Idiot” which was worth the price of the ticket alone for the experience of suddenly being plunged into a Wild West Cowboy's Saloon. The simplified backdrops with logos were ingeniously designed to pair flexibly with the light show, disappearing or reflecting as needed. As a show it was full of old favourites, new anthems and a fantastic lightshow that even 'Europe' could be envious of.

Reviewer - Natalie Bowers
on - 26/11/19

NEWS: A season of BFI Musicals floods the cinema screens of Manchester's HOME over the festive period.

          BFI Musicals! The greatest show on screen

Singing and dancing its way into HOME this Christmas, this diverse and eclectic range of films specially selected by the HOME Film team celebrates the joyful, emotional but most importantly the shared experience of watching film musicals on the BIG screen.
From Gene Kelly’s famously twirling umbrella to a Sing-a-Long Calamity Jane, it’s a festive treat for cinephiles.
As well as looking at the musical genre as a way of reflecting the struggle of working class lives during the U.S. economic depression of the 1930s, our season continues our Celebrating Women in Global Cinema year-long project by looking at the work of Betty Comden, including a screening of the much-loved Singin’ in the Rain. No doubt Manchester will provide the appropriate weather.
We reference our increasingly influential Not Just Bollywood initiative with a showing of Pakeezah, one of the most extraordinary musical melodramas ever made. There are restorations and classics aplenty (our mask of solemnity slips with a sing-along version of Calamity Jane) and we have a rare 35mm presentation of Les demoiselles de Rochefort in conjunction with Bigger Than Life. We’ll be joined by various special guests for introductions. When we put on a film here, we like to make a song and dance where possible and Musicals! gives us ample opportunity to do just that.
These films have been specially selected by the HOME Film team, comprising Jennifer Hall, Andy Willis, Jason Wood and Rachel Hayward. 
Screening as part of BFI Musicals! The Greatest Show on Screen, a UK-wide film season supported by National Lottery, BFI Film Audience Network and ICO.
For more information on the film schedule visit     

THEATRE REVIEW: The Wizard Of Oz - The Playhouse, Leeds.

I arrived at the newly refurbished, and recently rebranded, Leeds Playhouse (which was, the West Yorkshire Playhouse) and was very impressed with the upgrades that they have done to the building, bringing it bang up to date, with its new stylish interior, and remarkably comfortable seats, which were great for our pre-show celeb spotting, as the cast of Emmerdale were dotted around the audience this evening, which was exciting.

The performance of The Wizard Of Oz was a very well thought-out masterpiece of classic musical theatre, in a 21st century set and stage design, all adapted to the unique stage at the playhouse, which if you’ve not been before, is a hexagon, which leans out into the audience, for a more intimate experience.

The show benefitted tonight from a bespoke set, build for purpose, with a revolving floor, and copious amounts of circular design. The early set, in Kansas, is understated, and simple (also permanent) so throughout there is barbed wire, and the silhouette of a farmhouse, but it didn’t detract from the overall image. We see the cast all in plain colour clothes, a wash of creams, beiges and browns, Dorothy is in a jumpsuit, not the usual summer dress we are accustomed to seeing. The story goes on, and the tornado is here, Dorothy’s (Lucy Sherman) family have hidden in the bunker, and Dorothy and Toto (Doris) go to hide in the house. The tornado sequence is well done, a mesh curtain dropped down, and 2 aerial silk dancers appeared. They swirled around, representing the weather, as a projector shone images on to the mesh, with buildings and farmyard tools swirling around.

Once in the land of Oz, we are greeted with a wealth of colour, as is often the case with this show, a wash of bright lights, boldly coloured costumes and of course, sequins. We are introduced to Glinda, (Angela Wynter), who instructs Dorothy of what she must do. And along the yellow brick road she goes.

This is where the show goes a bit tech mad. There was no yellow brick road, but instead, a roaming projector with an animated brick road, which Dorothy and the now puppet Toto (Puppeteered by Ailsa Dalling) head off on. Until now, the set had been backed by a large screen, covering the whole stage, showing images of clouds, and other background scenery, but that had lifted, leaving a semi-circular void, which was filled with a train carriage. As Dorothy travelled along, on one side, she met the Scarecrow, (Eleanor Sutton), who shares with her his worry of not having any brains, the set then rotates, and we are introduced to the Tin Man, (Sam Harrison), who tells of his woes of his long lost ex-boyfriend, and then we meet failed, yet fabulous boxer, the cowardly Lion (Marcus Ayton) the team is all together and off they go to find the Emerald City. Their travels are constantly troubled by the mean, yet often hilarious, Wicked Witch of the West, (Polly Lister) and their story continues as you would expect, and they do, all live happily ever after. Unless you’re the Wicked Witch!

The set as we got to the Emerald City was a wash of green and sparkles, the outer wall built of a giant circular structure, which was swung in and out throughout the rest of the show. Once revealed, there was minimal set, but what there was, was used to great effect.

There was one small faux-pas, when trying to break Dorothy out of the witch’s tower, the Tin Man swung his axe a little over zealously, and genuinely broke through the door, which then left a gaping hole in the set, which, when the projector shone upon it, there was a portion missing. I imagine, set designer, Simon Higlett was grateful for that. But, that aside, Higlett and his team have done a great job using the space and filling it appropriately.

I’ve mentioned the costumes previously, and they were remarkable. Dorothy started off as I said, in a jumpsuit, but then when they were all cleaned up at the Emerald City, she appeared in glorious colour, sporting, of course, the famous blue and white checked dress, and the amazingly shiny ruby slippers. The Lion, was dressed as a boxer, with the robe, shorts and his paws, were actually boxing gloves, designed like lions paws. The Tin Man, started off covered in rust, and then was all shiny when cleaned up, and the Scarecrow, who was now in a patchwork jumpsuit. This team was also led by Simon Higlett, who appears to have been a very busy man!

The sound and lighting team were on form tonight, showing how its done. Everything was just about perfect from them tonight, nothing was overstated, or over done, yet it didn’t seem like it was missing anything. Bravo.

Along side them was the video team, led by Simon Wainwright, who had a good night too. Most of the scenery was on screens, and enhanced the performance somewhat, and didn’t distract from the actors on stage.

The choreography was fairly sparse throughout the show, until of course, the fiendish Jitterbug routine, where the whole cast were in sync, absolutely nailing this marvellous swing sequence, Lucy Cullingford and her dance captains did a great job pulling that together, as well as the rest of the movements on stage. Bravo once again.

Until the very end of the show, when the band were shown on screen, I wouldn’t have known that there was a live band, as they were off in the depths of the stage, but led by the wonderful Tamara Saringer, the band sounded great, and the highest compliment that could be paid to them was they sounded like it was a CD playing. Wonderful playing.

Doris the dog. Doris. The dog. Bless her. A little scottie dog that stole the show whenever she was on stage. Basically, the rest of the cast were completely ignored when she was on stage, as people, being people, watched the dog wander around and comically, steal a sausage. And then, at the end of the show, when we came back from Oz, and was supposed to come back on stage, she got scared, and dragged Dalling into the wings. Bless. What was that old saying? Something about children and animals..

Director James Brining, has crafted a brilliant show here, and everyone who is going to see it over the next two months, is going to come away afterwards feeling uplifted, and elated to have done so. The cast and creatives have done a brilliant job this evening, and you all should be proud of your show.

Reviewer - Simon Oliver
on - 26/11/19

AMATEUR THEATRE REVIEW: Legally Blonde - The Theatre, Students' Union Building, Manchester.

The film of 'Legally Blonde' has enjoyed limited cult status, and these days, the musical based on that film seems to have taken over that slot. It is the story of Mailbu rich-kid Elle, obsessed with pink and the latest fashion, learning that her 'perfect' boyfriend is dumping her to travel to Harvard and a Law degree. She manages to scotch the 'dumb blonde' image by working hard and earning herself a place at the school too, all for love. However, once there, she finds that he has now got another "much more suitable" girlfriend and life is much tougher than she expected. With the help of her now best friend Emmett, she pulls through and wins the day. She realises that she is in love with Emmett and that she can be who she wants to be without having to try to impress.

This evening the students of Manchester University's Musical Theatre Society put on a very high energy and top gear performance. To be honest, it didn't get off to a very auspicious start, since we were 20 minutes late starting the show without apology, and the Council Chambers (the original name for the room we were in) was desperately hot and airless. However once the lights dimmed and the band struck up, all that was forgotten as the hugely enthusiatic cast took us through the story with their all-singing, all-dancing talents.

Every member of the cast gave their all and contributed massively to the overall success and ambience of the show. A good overall display of accent and characterisations, even from the smaller cameo roles and ensemble. I greatly enjoyed the dancing throughout, very much in keeping with the style of show, based on cheerleading moves and always upbeat. The dances were always performed excellently too.. even the young men keeping up with the sometimes quite tricky moves!

Of course the lead role of Elle Woods needed someone who could play both the archetypal 'rich-daddy's-girl-who-has-everything' and the more serious hard-nosed lawyer, and the society found this with their casting for the role. Playing opposite her was a most personable and effectively natural young man playing Emmett. His stage presence impressed and never took his character into the realms of caricature at all. Another character to impress was Paulette, the hairdressing salon owner, who sang a very poignant and heart-wrenching song only to descend into the realms of high comedy when confronted with the delivery man!

Elle's stuck-up and self-absorbed boyfriend Warner and his new fiancee Vivienne seemed perfectly matched for each other and their scenes together worked well. Whilst the law professor, Mr. Callaghan was smooth and laid-back this evening, seemingly taking much in his stride.

Where I felt this production let itself down somewhat was sadly in things technical and peripheral. The set was open and consisted simply of a door and walls - all of which had been covered with pages from glossy fashion magazines, and Elle Woods' name in lights on the door but technical gubbins and sound boxes clearly visible behind it!; as well as a raised platform to the back of the stage, left uncovered and very utilitarian. The set stayed unchanged throughout and it simply didn't speak of either the Elle Woods of Malibu (save the fashion mag reference) nor did this set look right in any other setting.. a hairdressers, Harvard Law School, a court of law etc....  We were given chairs for the hairdresser's salon, but the students stood in their classroom and the court scene was all standing with no apparent order. Different levels would have been appreciated here if nowhere else. This ultilitarian and minimlaist attitude was also carried through into the costuming and props as well unfortunately. And so the costumes were a complete hotchpotch, some working better than others but none really giving the correct impression except perhaps for the two suits that Emmett wore and Elle's final pink suit. Fast food chain plastic cups for a Harvard party were simply wrong on every level.

Also, it has to be said that as good as the band were, and they were good - they were far too loud, overpoweringly so. That is not their fault but the fault of the technicians for allowing their sound to be so loud in comparison with the singing. The balance simply wasn't right and the overall level too high.

Verdict: A high energy cast with lots of enthusiasm and talent for the more comedic elements of the story, giving their all, but marred by poor set and direction. Without a programme [apparently they had had problems and had not been printed] I cannot credit any of the cast, and most of them were new to me too so I failed to recognise them from previous productions. However, that notwithstanding, they all desereve praise and credit for their high-jinx endeavours this evening.

Reviewer - Matthew Dougall
on - 26/11/19

THEATRE REVIEW: Passionate Machine - The Edge Theatre, Chorlton, Manchester.

This was not your typical touring one-woman show. “Passionate Machine”, created and performed by Rosy Carrick, mixed single mother autobiography with quantum physics, Russian philosophy with loud and cheesy dance music, and references to almost every Hollywood time travel film of the last fifty years. Funky, comedic and mind-blowingly cerebral all at once, tonight’s performance occupied its place in the space-time continuum at the Edge Theatre, Manchester.

The sparse set contained just a multi-media screen upstage, and a metal table of books and props downstage right. Carrick wandered around a little, and entertainingly interacted with her multi-media, but primarily this was a flow of spoken words and ideas and adventure in the mind’s eye. And the audience lapped up every moment of it, travelling with her to whatever flight of fancy she wanted to bring up.

The very twisted and convoluted plot began with Carrick’s own childhood habit of writing notes to her short-term future self – “Remember PE kit” – expanding out to writing notes to her longer-term future self….. and then her future self wrote a note back. From 1920's Russia. A plot device nicked straight out of “Back To The Future III” (this reviewer likes Hollywood time travel films too…..) had a modern Russian man handing to Carrick’s character an antiquated letter addressed to her, explaining that her future self had built a time machine, gone back to 1927 to obsess over her passion for the real-life Russian poet and playwright Vladimir Mayakovsky who was alive at that time, and was now stuck in the past. The letter contained a lot of technical information and a drawing of the part of the time machine that needed fixing. Please could Carrick sort it out, and rescue her.

As Carrick’s character was an arty bohemian in Brighton, raising a teenage daughter, getting massively drunk regularly, and admiring Arnold Schwarzenegger’s abs whenever possible, this was a very big ask. In one of the best scenes, she spent a lot of time writing and re-writing an advertisement on Gumtree for a “mad scientist”-type who could help her. How else would she find such a person? After a deluge of incredulous messages from non-scientist readers – email being the modern written note - a sober and anonymous scientific-sounding person did get in touch. And I’ll let the story rest there.

At the curtain call, an exuberant Carrick said that everything in the play (apart from the time travel) was absolutely true and from her own life, and we could look at her props. I immediately was turning over the books on the props table, pages of which had appeared on the multi-media screen during the performance as part of the script. She does have an edition of a book by Yelena Mayakovskaya (Mayakovsky’s daughter), with a handwritten dedication to Carrick and a comment that she’s an “old soul.” In the anthology of Mayakovsky’s plays, there is a passage in “The Bathhouse” describing a time machine and referring to HG Wells, and the Phosphorescent Woman is a time traveller from the 21st century (presented in “Passionate Machine” as Carrick’s stranded future self.) Clever, clever, clever.

This is Rosy Carrick’s first theatrical production, and I dearly hope that she does more.

Reviewer - Thalia Terpsichore
on - 22/11.19

Tuesday, 26 November 2019

AMATEUR THEATRE REVIEW: Cleo, Camping, Emmanuelle and Dick - The Garrick Playhouse, Altrincham.

I have to confess that I had no idea what I was going to watch with this production. I remember my mum was a huge ‘Carry On’ film fan but I already felt they were dated in the mid-1980s! So how does a company reproduce a ‘Carry On’ as a play, which is relevant to an audience in 2019?... Thankfully, they did not attempt to. This original script, written by Terry Johnson in 1998 was a huge hit at the National Theatre and spans 14 years of the love affairs, successes and tragedies in the lives of some of our best known ‘Carry On’ film actors: Sid James, Kenneth Williams and Barbara Windsor. The play is a comedy and is set against the back drop (quite literally) of filming locations used during the ‘Carry On’ films. The locations are less than glamourous, in muddy fields and pub car parks and most interior scenes are set inside Sid’s leaking caravan, which serves as his green room.

Once again, the design concept of this play gave the whole production a slick and professional feel. From the brilliantly shabby-chic leaking caravan to the simple moving flats, the set was sophisticated yet uncomplicated. The costume design helped to give a sense of the ‘Carry On’ era from the ridiculous Roman soldier costumes to the spangled bras, displaying just enough cleavage to remind us of the frivolously raunchy ‘Carry On’ genre.

The reality of this was that the saucy nature of the performers on screen, was mirrored in the actors’ lives off screen and certainly between filming takes with many love affairs and fumbling moments between the sheets of Sid’s leaking caravan. . .if the script is true to reality!? But sadly, this is where I felt the production really faltered. In a post-Weinstein, post-Operation Yewtree society, there were moments where I felt extremely uncomfortable with the lecherous ways of Sid James and the young girls in his backstage caravan. I’m not suggesting they be edited out, I’m just not sure how ‘entertaining’ these moments were and might even call this entire play premature to be produced in 2019. . .remember, when it was written, there was no Yewtree or Weinstein in the media!

But credit, where credit is due, the three main actors in the cast were wonderful to say the least. Portraying such well known and loved real life actors was always going to be a tough task, but each of the performers were brilliant at portraying every well-known nuance and tick of these lively performers. Sid James, played by Mark Butt, was energetic and passionate yet full of the pathos for the unrequited love he felt for Barbara. Steven Finney’s portrayal of Kenneth Williams was absolutely spot-on in his characterisation: from the naughty cackle to the brilliantly comedic, wide-eyed facial expressions, I just loved this performance. Finally, Barbara Windsor, played by Dawn Flint was warm yet entertaining and full of the naughty charm she is known for in reality . . . just perfect casting. The main performers were supported by a sterling cast and one of which stood out for me was a beautiful portrayal of Sally, the costume girl by, Lottie Warburton. Well done all!

At four acts long, the performance did seem lengthy and I wondered if whether the farcical pace might have been lifted at points to up the energy in the first half, to make way for the slower pace in the tragic second half. One punter was overheard leaving the theatre at the end saying, “Well, it was a bit morbid!” This ‘Carry On’ didn’t try to emulate the on screen farce (although there were moments of that), but merely told the story of the actors and the lives they led and relationships they forged, whilst filming, thus creating a very touching piece of theatre which educates us that not all is what it seems.

Once again the Garrick have staged a semi-professional production of the highest standard for a fraction of the cost and in a local theatre with great facilities. The productions are always brilliantly supported by local sponsorship and perform to sell-out audiences and it’s clear to see from this one, why!

Reviewer - Johanna Hassouna-Smith
on - 25/11/19

NEWS: North London Soul Sensation Danny Toeman presents his latest dramatic new single.

Danny Toeman is a vibrant and powerful performer who seamlessly blends the classic vibes of Funk and Soul’s golden age with his own inimitable London edge, delivering a modern and fresh ‘neo-vintage’ flavour. 

The North London singer who is known for his outstanding live performances that showcase his rugged vocals and altitude-defying falsetto, creates a sound oozing with character and emotion. Along with his seven-piece band The Love Explosion, Toeman stages an electrifying show filled to the brim with feel-good funky soul, designed to make you move. 

In his latest release ‘Give It All Up (Mr Showtime)’, Toeman presents a dramatically beautiful, classic love song that perfectly captures his use of fusing vintage sounds with contemporary style. Sonically the single comes to life through colourful grooves and embellished melodies, with a ‘Torch Song’ style introduction and uplifting finish, the track lends itself to a feel-good love song. Toeman expresses how gratitude was the inspiration for the new track sharing, “This song came to me as I was travelling home from a random gig in the middle of nowhere, clunky guitar case and amplifier taking up space in the train carriage. I was thinking about the show and how despite how small it was, the audience had shown so much love for my set. I wondered what they would think if they saw me now and if they knew it was their reaction that keeps me going. So I decided to write something that would express my appreciation to them and all other audiences who’ve had a similar effect on me”. 

Influenced by the power and swagger of James Brown, the pained romance of Marvin Gaye, and the uplifting joy of Curtis Mayfield, Toeman combines his love of classic soul with modern elements, bringing a new sound of soul, whilst forging his own path into unchartered territory. Thematically his music narrates finding the sweetness in the sour and getting through the rough times with dignity. “I try and keep my music positive and aspirational, in matters of life and love, matter how hard the present circumstances. This is the message I have always found at the heart of the music I love”, admits Toeman. 

When he is not performing, writing and producing music, the musician hopes to flaunts his powerful charisma as a professional wrestler, having taken up training last year. Whether in the ring or on stage, he displays a charming eccentricity and incomparable flair that consistently captivates his audience.

To date, Toeman has performed to sold out audiences at prestigious venues such as Alexandra Palace and the o2 Arena, as well as supporting soul luminaries such as Kool & The Gang, Betty Wright, Michael Kiwanuka, and Charles Bradley. His music can also be heard in a global advertising campaign for Toyota, on Saturday Night Live and in Made in Chelsea, as well as receiving national radio airplay from the likes of BBC 6 Music’s 
Craig Charles. 

Put quite simply, there is no other artist quite like Danny Toeman. With a full album release on the horizon and a range of live dates on the way, now is the ideal time to catch an awe inspiring live performance from a true rising star. ‘Give It All Up (Mr Showtime)’ is currently available worldwide. 

THEATRE REVIEW: Priscilla Queen Of The Desert - The Palace Theatre, Manchester.

Priscilla Queen of the Desert is embarking on it's own road trip across the UK, with The Palace Theatre in Manchester being the latest stop. After hitting our screens in 1994, the Aussie musical is still as relevant today as it was 25 years ago. Full of sass, colour, some ping pong balls and catchy songs, it's impossible not to fall in love with this musical.

Jason Donovan of Neighbours fame starred in the original stage production, it's interesting to see him back here as Producer. This was my first time seeing a production of this musical, so I wasn't entirely sure what to expect. However, I wasn't disappointed, yes it was cheesy, but the cast are insanely talented and it's a joy to watch from beginning to end.

It's hard-hitting, ballsy and of course as camp as Christmas! The plot follows the story of three drag queens who decide to 'Go West' and travel from Sydney to Alice Springs in a clapped-up bus called Priscilla across the Australian outback. Each has their own demons to face and they meet characters along the way who make them question who they are. On their journey they encounter both the kindness and prejudice of humanity.

Adam/Felicia (Nick Hayes) is your typical cocky drag queen that seems to have it all, but he finds out the hard way that life isn't always that easy. Bernadette (Miles Western) has been doing drag since the others were kids and has a wealth of experience. Mitzi (Joe McFadden - 2017 Strictly Come Dancing winner) is travelling to Alice Springs to meet the child he fathered 6 years ago, but is yet to meet.

As the curtain rises the familiar chords of 'It's Raining Men' echo around the Palace Theatre. The audience are already clapping along before a note is sung - you know this is going to be a good night.
This is certainly a jukebox musical. There are camp classics such as 'Hot Stuff' and 'I Will Survive' that have the audience clapping and bopping along in their seats. None of the classics are butchered and are accompanied by a live band, so it's more than bearable to sit through.

I was pleasantly surprised by McFadden's vocals. He won't be giving Alfie Boe a run for his money but he can definitely hold a tune. I'm not entirely convinced of him as a drag queen, he just didn't seem to have the sass required to be believable as a drag performer. For me, Western was the standout performer of the night. His comic timing was excellent and delivered his lines with the brutal wit they needed. However, the ensemble as a whole were fantastic. The choreography was tight and the vocals were on point. You can tell they are enjoying every minute of it.

Priscilla Queen of the Desert is certainly a treat to the eyes, a special mention must go to those backstage who make that happen. When I looked at the programme I was taken aback to discover there are no less than five people responsible for keeping the wigs in check on the tour! The costumes are also fantastic and add to the humour of the show. The set by Charles Cusick-Smith and Phil R Daniels is clever. I especially liked how the bus came apart to form other parts of the set.

With all the madness happening on stage it would be quite easy to forget the message of Priscilla Queen of the Desert sends - in a world where you can be anything, always be kind.

Reviewer - Brian Madden
on - 25/11/19

Monday, 25 November 2019

NEWS: New single 'Roses' from Brit School graduate Gorran is inspired by Greta Thunberg.

Gorran is a London based vocalist and songwriter whose music fuses elements of dance, pop, R&B and hip-hop. Bursting with intricate, polished production, the young musician produces contemporary pop with dark undertones, which has been resonating with audiences across the globe. 
Gorran’s passion and flair for music was evident from a young age, where during his time at the prestigious BRIT School (alumni including Adele, Amy Winehouse, and Rex Orange County), he developed his distinctive sound and dynamic live show. Since graduating, Gorran has been writing and recording with industry professionals to produce original, bold and gritty pop tracks. Influenced by the likes of Post Malone, Lauv and Billie Eilish, Gorran strives to create music that oozes with real and authentic emotions. He shares, “Whether it’s sadness, joy, anger, nostalgia, fear - I just want them to feel something. I think that is what makes a great song and so that is what I will always aim to achieve”. 

Following the release of ‘Easy For You’ and ‘Hush’ which both garnered commercial acclaim, accumulating over 100 thousand Spotify streams in only a few short weeks, Gorran is now unveiling the highly anticipated ‘I Don't Love You Anymore’. The powerful, emotive ballad, supported by effortlessly classy melodies and rich compelling vocals, delivers an emotional and heartfelt anthem. Though truly poignant and agonising at its core, the song also evokes a deep sense of subconscious relief. With such a profoundly personal yet universal message, the track will resonate with everyone who has experienced the pain of heartache. 

The self-produced track, which was mixed by Gavin Goldberg (Chrissie Hynde, Britney Spears, Avril Lavigne) reminisces the story of a love lost. Gorran admits how the song helped him heal, acting as a form of therapy. “I was finding it incredibly difficult to express exactly what I was trying to say lyrically in those last few weeks of being with her - it was only once we ended the relationship that I found I was able to completely let go and properly finish the song. It really helped me come to terms with how I was feeling, and how I had been feeling for quite a while. It became clear that the verses were a poetic summary of the fundamental weaknesses in the relationship. The middle 8 was the last section I wrote, and were some of the most painful lyrics I’ve ever had to write, as I realised whilst writing it that it was one final parting note to the person I thought I loved. The song honestly means more to me than almost anything”. 

Then there is ‘Roses’. Thematically the stunning single narrates the suppression of dreams and aspirations, particularly in young girls. Originally inspired by his little sister and also greatly inspired by the likes of Greta Thunberg, the song spurs this generation to dream, act and shape our future for the better. Gorran confides, “Young women such as Thunberg are paving the way for a whole generation of people to make positive changes in our society and so it’s time we listen to them and take them seriously. I think having a little sister myself, who at the time of the writing of the song was only 12 years old, made the subject matter even more poignant for me”.

Gorran has seen success opening for KT Tunstall on her UK tour, performing to sold-out audiences across the nation, as well as having graced the stage at the legendary London Roundhouse. With the hope that his music will encourage listeners to be honest with themselves about what makes them happy and to put their mental health first, Gorran continues to produce thought-provoking and powerful music.