Sunday, 31 May 2020

THEATRE REVIEW: Performance, by Philip Ridely - online world premiere

This week's Philip Ridley fix was brought to us courtesy of actor Steve Furst. Yet another world premiere online monologue, and yet another absolute delight. This time though, was the first time I have actually laughed quite loudly at the screen. Ridley showing yet another side to his talents by writing an affectionate and humorous Mickey-take on the profession.

Here we see Furst as an actor, not the modern warts-n-all type, but the type that we tend to call 'act-ors' or even worse, 'luvvies', although that second nickname has been tended to be misappropiated by those wishing to add a certain 'campness' or 'feyness' to the meaning. Not here, it was old-school actor through and through. Wiebke Green once again directed the monologue with skill and great attention to detail and nuance, and Furst showed great presence (even behind a computer screen).

This was a 'performance' - or should I say, an actor apologising that he entered badly and then proceeding to spend the rest of his allotted time apologising for it with anecdote and expostulating. This was an act in itself, and (apologies for the misquote) even without the requisite lighting, props, costume, set and other paraphenalia with which an actor of his standing would normally be accustomed, he was still expected to perform.. indeed the show must go on. And it did (or didn't) with a bang (or a whimper of a technological hitch).

Touching and hilarious this was accurately, sympathetically and perfectly portrayed. Loved it!

Reviewer - Matthew Dougall
on - 30/5/20

NEWS: Dive Index's 'Waving At Airplanes' is out today.

Dive Index's Waving At Airplanes is out today; watch the music video for the title track via Backseat Mafia

STREAM: Waving At Airplanes -
Spotify / Apple Music

WATCH: "Waving At Airplanes" (ft. Natalie Walker) dir. by Emily Eckstein -
Backseat Mafia / YouTube

Regarding the track/video, Will stated: "The album title was floating in my head while I was sketching out these new songs - Waving At Airplanes - the childlike ritual that’s optimistic yet futile, hoping that you just might be seen. After sending Natalie the demo, I mentioned the title and it must have triggered some inspiration because she came back and said, Do you have a title track yet? Thankfully I didn’t. I loved the way her lyrics portrayed that same sentiment through the eyes of a child.

It seemed like the perfect song for an animated video because we could steer it into a fantasy world. The simple story line loosely follows the arc of the song but rather than a child, it tells the origin story of a paper airplane - being folded by a gust of wind, becoming aloft, learning to fly and going on a journey experiencing life in the air and sky.

I was so lucky to find Emily Eckstein, a super talented animator who did an amazing job creating this world and bringing this little paper airplane to life."

Waving At Airplanes, the fifth full-length from electronic composer/producer Will Thomas’s collaborative Dive Index project, provides an immersive and delicately nuanced exploration of both the human condition and the condition of humanity.

With vocals shared between Natalie Walker (of trip-hop collective Daughter Darling plus an extensive solo career) and critically-acclaimed English multi-instrumentalist Merz, the album marries memorable melody to evocative mood in equal measure. This time Thomas set specific parameters to his ever-exquisite sound design, sourcing almost everything (percussion included) from modular synthesizer. The only exceptions are some piano, acoustic guitar, and occasional extraneous sounds – nail gun, jackhammer – that leaked into the studio and were embraced into song.

Waving At Airplanes takes its title from the overtly optimistic act of seeking the fleeting attention of passing strangers for the sake of sheer connection – a wonderfully unjaded action confined to the very young and the very lost. Other themes on the album include missed connections (“Window to Window”), desert beauty (“Pristine Wilderness”), artificial intelligence (“Wish I Had A Pulse”), contentment with what we have (“Bruised and Beautiful”, “Near Enough”), and the current political climate (“We Can’t Change The Channel”, “19 Fools”).

Co-written and produced by Thomas and mostly recorded in his studio near L.A.’s Laurel Canyon (with Merz contributing remotely from Joshua Tree), Waving At Airplanes was mastered by Mike Bozzi at Hollywood’s legendary Bernie Grundman Mastering. The record is at once an audiophile delight and, warmed by Walker’s finely-grained timbre and Merz’s emotive expressions, a reassuringly visceral expression.

Walker and Merz also contributed to Dive Index’s lauded second album Mid/Air, while other past Thomas collaborators on the project include Joseph Arthur, Mark Gardener (Ride), Ian Masters (Pale Saints), and Simone White. Thomas has also released multiple minimalist electronic albums as Plumbline, including two Roger Eno collaborations, as well as composing film scores, modern dance pieces, and developing sound installations.

NEWS: Nicole Atkins' new single, 'Italian Ice' is out now!


Nicole Atkins has released her critically-acclaimed new album 'Italian Ice' today on Single Lock Records, a Muscle Shoals-recorded celebration of hometown summers on the Jersey Shore and the carefree sounds of the AM dial. At turns a French electro wonderland, an Asbury Park funhouse and a journey through her own lucid dreams, Atkins channels influences from symphonic pop to garage punk on an LP she’s described as an “acid trip through my record collection.”
For the 'Italian Ice' sessions, Atkins gathered a group of her “best musical friends” at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, who just so happen to be Jim Sclavunos and David “Moose” Sherman of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, The Dap-Kings’ Binky Griptite and drummer McKenzie Smith (St. Vincent, Midlake), along with Spooner Oldham and David Hood of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. Co-produced by Nicole and Ben Tanner (Alabama Shakes), 'Italian Ice' also features special guests Britt Daniel, Seth Avett, John Paul White and Erin Rae, and songs co-written with Hamilton Leithauser, Daniel and Carl Broemel.
Italian Ice is available here:

Nicole will continue her Alone We're All Together weekly live-stream series with a special album release party on Saturday 30th May at midnight BST, featuring the likes of Britt Daniel, Binky Griptite, Chris Isaak and JD McPherson amongst others.
Watch 'Alone We’re All Together' HERE


AM Gold
Mind Eraser
Never Going Home Again
St. Dymphna
Far From Home
A Road To Nowhere
These Old Roses
In The Splinters
Buy 'Italian Ice', including on 180 Gram Audiophile Black and limited-edition Translucent Ruby vinyl HERE

Friday, 29 May 2020

NEWS: New dates for hit musical RENT at Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester

Hope Mill Theatre announces rescheduled dates for
revival of RENT plus full creative team

It will run Friday 30th October to Sunday 13th December 2020

Hope Mill Theatre in Manchester has announced rescheduled dates for its production of RENT, plus full creative team.

Due to the current Coronavirus outbreak, the venue has been closed since 17th March and has had to cancel or postpone all scheduled productions until further notice.

RENT, directed by Luke Sheppard, was due to open in July, with rehearsals beginning in June, however the musical will now open on Friday 30th October and run until Sunday 13th December 2020.

The venue has taken the decision to reschedule the run of RENT should they be able to open later this year, which they hope to be able to do.

All audience members who have already booked for the run of RENT have been contacted about exchanging tickets and refunds. 

Hope Mill Theatre would like to make it clear that it will only open If it is safe to do so and will comply with any government regulations given to venues. The venue will continue to review the situation as it develops.

William Whelton, Executive Director of Hope Mill Theatre, said: “These are extremely difficult and unsettling times for our industry and there is still a lot more clarity needed for venues.

“It is still unknown whether or not we will be able to open later this year, but we are staying hopeful and positive that we will be able to. As such, we must continue to look ahead and make plans. If we can reopen, it is vital that we have content to present – and I know this will be an incredible production.

“We will be making sure our audiences, staff, cast and production team feel safe and confident to be able to attend and work in the venue and we are planning at the moment for every eventuality, including the continuation of social distancing and making sure that all necessary risk assessments have been carried out.

“If we feel at any point that it is not safe or economic to reopen then we will review this decision. It would also be irresponsible for us to not anticipate a further postponement of this production in the current climate.”

Luke Sheppard, Director, said: “When the time is right, we are more committed than ever before to bringing RENT to the Hope Mill Theatre. The strong themes of love and hope that drive the piece have never felt more vital. The production we have planned will be a celebration of what it means to experience live theatre, and I look forward daily to sitting in this amazing space on opening night”

RENT’s creative team has also been announced: Director Luke Sheppard, Choreographer Tom Jackson Greaves, Musical Director Katy Richardson, Set & Costume Designer David Woodhead, LX Designer Howard Hudson, Sound Designer Paul Gatehouse and Casting by Pearson Casting.

Artwork by Feast Creative.

Casting to be announced soon.

Rent is a rock musical with music, lyrics, and book by Jonathan Larson and is loosely based on Puccini's opera La Bohème. It tells the story of a group of impoverished young artists living, loving and working in Manhattan's East Village, under the shadow of HIV/AIDS.

The show premiered off Broadway in 1996 before moving to Broadway later the same year. The show has been staged all over the world, including in the West End in 1998 and in 2005 was released as a motion picture. It features hit songs such as RentWithout You, La Vie La Bohème and the iconic Seasons of Love.

RENT was originally produced in New York by New York Theatre Workshop and on Broadway by Jeffrey Seller, Kevin McCollum, Allan S. Gordon and New York Theatre Workshop. Musical Arrangements by Steve Skinner, Music Supervision and Additional Arrangements by Tim Weil, Original Concept/Additional Lyrics Billy Aronson and Dramaturg Lynn Thomson.

Presented by arrangement with Music Theatre International (Europe) Limited.

Twitter: @Hopemilltheatr1
Facebook: Hope Mill Theatre

NEWS: New Fiddler On The Roof film in development.

A new film of 'Fiddler On The Roof' is being made.

The classic is being remade with the Hamilton director overseeing the shoot

A brand new film version of the iconic classic 'Fiddler On The Roof' is in development, according to reports. Revealed last night in Deadline, the film will be directed by Thomas Kail (the original director of Hamilton and director on Fosse/Verdon) with a new screenplay by Steven Levenson (Dear Evan Hansen).

The original stage show, which follows Tevye the milkman, his wife and five daughters as they face oppression in Tsarist Russia, was directed and choreographed by Jerome Robbins, with music by Jerry Bock, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick and book by Joseph Stein. It won nine Tony Awards including Best Musical after it first premiered in 1964. It went on to be adapted for the silver screen in 1971, directed by Norman Jewison, where it won three Oscars. 

More news to follow when it becomes available. Watch this space.....!

NEWS: The Seagull and A Doll's House will both reopen it has been confirmed.

The Seagull with Emilia Clarke and A Doll's House with Jessica Chastain to be rescheduled

The shows will go ahead in the West End at a later date

Two major West End productions will return once venues reopen, it has been announced.
Jamie Lloyd's productions of Anton Chekhov's The Seagull, adapted by Anya Reiss and starring Emilia Clarke and Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House, adapted by Frank McGuiness and starring Jessica Chastain, will be presented "as soon as we can get back into the theatre".

Dates and full casts for the shows are to be announced.

Lloyd said today: "This is, of course, an incredibly challenging time for everyone, but we are looking forward to presenting our season to audiences in the future. I'm thrilled that Emilia Clarke and Jessica Chastain will lead The Seagull and A Doll's House as soon as we can get back into the theatre. We also remain committed to offering thousands of £15 and free tickets, together with our unique education work and our exciting new Emerge scheme, as soon as the season reopens."

The director has also confirmed that the Emerge scheme will continue, providing mentorship for aspiring creatives. The company will remain committed to offering 15,000 free tickets for those with limited access to the arts, and 15,000 £15 tickets for under 30s, key workers and those receiving job seeker's allowance and other government benefits.

The Seagull has design by Soutra Gilmour, lighting design by Jackie Shemesh, composition and sound design by George Dennis, costume supervision by Anna Josephs, props supervision by Fahmida Bakht, associate Direction by Jonathan Glew, associate design by Rachel Wingate, and Stuart Burt CDG as casting director.

A Doll's House features design by Gilmour, lighting design by Jon Clark, and composition and sound design by Ben and Max Ringham.

NEWS: Joseph's West End return put back by 12 months.

Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat moves West End run to 2021

The Really Useful Group and Andrew Lloyd-Webber have announced that the planned 2020 run of 'Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat' has been moved by exactly a year to 2021.

The piece will play a 10-week season at The London Palladium until 5 September, with all existing tickets moved to the same seats for next year – all times will remain the same.

Jac Yarrow will reprise the title role of Joseph and Jason Donovan will return to play Pharaoh, after they both performed in the musical last summer in a production that marked 50 years since the piece was first released as a concept album.

Andrew Lloyd Webber, who composed the numbers for the show and owns the venue, said that: "The team and I are working hard behind the scenes to get the world's most beloved theatre The London Palladium open and entertaining audiences this autumn. We will leave no stone unturned in our efforts to find a safe route to provide access both backstage and front of house."

Further casting for 2021 is to be announced.

NEWS: A new production of 'The Last Five Years' musical to be produced in isolation and streamed online.

The Last Five Years production to be filmed in isolation and streamed online

A new production of Jason Robert Brown's 'The Last Five Years' will be filmed in isolation and shown over three nights at the end of June online.

The piece will be directed and star Lauren Samuels as Cathy alongside Danny Becker as Jamie. Samuels previously played the part at Chiswick's Tabard Theatre in 2010.

The piece follows the pair's relationship as it falls apart over half a decade and includes numbers such as "Still Hurting".

It will run from 27 to 30 June online at 7.30pm. Tickets are priced at £8.

NEWS: Highly anticipated run of new productuion of Hello Dolly in The West End postponed.

Unfortunatley, the new production of Hello, Dolly! in the West End, starring Imelda Staunton and directed by Dominic Cooke (Follies), has been postponed.

The Jerry Hermanscore is based on Thornton Wilder's 'The Matchmaker', and first debuted on Broadway over 50 years ago.

The story follows the socialite Dolly Levi who tries to find love for herself and everyone she knows, and includes numbers such as "Put On Your Sunday Clothes", "Ribbons Down My Back", "Before the Parade Passes By", "Elegance", "It Only Takes a Moment" and "Hello, Dolly!".

The show still plans to run, but with "new season details and all further information to be announced at a later date".

For fans of Imelda Staunton, news just in that she will star in Seaon 5 of TV's 'The Crown'. 

NEWS: US band Sports release new single, 'Tell You Something' today.

"Tell You Something"

Release date: Friday, May 29th 2020

Airplay Date: Friday, May 29th 2020

Split between Los Angeles and Norman, OK Sports, comprised of Cale Chronister & Christian Theriot, have been refining their infectious, funk-laden electro-pop sound that they first began to craft together in grade school.  The band’s debut LP, Naked All The Time (2015) and it’s follow-up, People Can’t Stop Chillin (2016) delivered a slew of critically-praised singles including: “You Are the Right One,” “Panama,” “Whatever You Want,” and “Someone You’d Rather Be Dating.” The band returned in 2018 with their first full-length album, Everyone’s Invited,  a vibrant twelve-track offering that received acclaim from Pitchfork, Pigeons and Planes, and Ones To Watch, in addition to earning plays on KCRW’s Morning Becomes Eclectic and Spotify’s New Indie Mix playlist.
With the release of “Tell You Something” (out MAY 29 - on embargo til then!), the band marks its first new single since 2018.  With more than a year spent writing and recording the single, the result is an experimental and innovative track effortlessly blurs the lines between synth-pop, indie-funk, and psychedelic rock.

The single can be downloaded via the following links....

NEWS: New podcast inspires young people to kickstart career in culture.

LOOKOUT: Creative Careers Podcast
New six-part series invites a host of experts from across the creative industries to inspire young people from diverse backgrounds to kickstart a career in the arts

Insta & Twitter: @LOOKOUTBrighton | #LOOKOUTpodcast | | Trailer
Launching on 3 June, the weekly podcast series aimed at 16-24 year olds will welcome the likes of acclaimed experimental theatre maker Tim Crouch who recently co-wrote BBC 2 hit Don’t Forget the Driverco-founder of independent record label Tru Thoughts, Rob Luis and TV and film 2nd Assistant Director Helen Fraser who has worked on Hellboy and BBC’s Dracula among other projects.
Ranging from Being an Artist With Victoria Melody, to Producing with Ruby Glaskin (executive producer of Milk Presents), listeners can expect to find out more about what goes on behind the scenes and how to get there. Alongside interviews, the podcast will feature music from producer and multi-instrumentalist J-Felix whose eclectic blend of boogie, p-funk, disco and soul has seen him take to the stage as the support act for Hot 8 Brass Band as well as perform a DJ set at Glastonbury.
For the past two years LOOKOUT has worked with young people aged nine to 18 offering mentoring with professional artists, workplace visits, creative industry-led workshops in schools and creative collaborations between artists of all ages. The new podcast will be available via major platforms so young people anywhere will be able to tune in and hear about careers they might not otherwise have considered.
Recognising the boundaries which can prevent young people from choosing the creative industries including financial and social barriers as well as a lack of careers advice and guidance, LOOKOUT: Creative Careers Podcast is the latest strive to open up access to creative opportunities, highlight transferable skills and provide support and encouragement along the way. The series has been made and presented by Ben Lintott, a 19-year-old from Brighton, who was a LOOKOUT mentee last year.
Ben says “Working on the LOOKOUT podcast has helped me develop my skillset in a medium which I had little-to-no experience in beforehand. I am immensely proud of how the podcast has turned out and thful to all those who gave their time, guidance and/or resources to it.”
Louise Blackwell, Charlotte Vivian and James Barton set up LOOKOUT to address a lack of access to arts and the creative industries for young people. The UK Cultural Industries contributed £111.7 billion and 1 in 11 jobs in 2018 (, June 2019) yet due to reduced arts education, parental perception, lack of representation and poor recruitment practices, barriers for young people from diverse backgrounds make it difficult to enter the creative industries.
LOOKOUT Co-Director Louise Blackwell says “Barriers to having a creative career are significant. We think now more than ever it’s important to offer young people confidence and let them know it’s okay to keep pursuing their dreams. We hope this podcast series offers some encouragement to those wondering what to do next.’’
Release schedule:
Weds June 3rd            Freelancing with Rifa Thorpe-Tracy, Rosie Powell and Charlotte Vivian
Mentor and diversity champion Rifa Thorpe-Tracy alongside Brighton based photographer, filmmaker and editor Rosie Powell speak to LOOKOUT co-director Charlotte Vivian.

Weds June 10th           Film & TV with Helen Fraser
2nd Assistant Director Helen Fraser shares insights from her extensive experience spanning films such as High-Rise (2015) and the small screen, with credits including Victoria (ITV, 2016) and Dracula (BBC, 2019).

Weds June 17th           Music with Bobby Brown and Rob Luis
Rob Luis co-founded record label Tru Thoughts in Brighton in 1999 which has since expanded to include a sister office in LA and released over 120 albums ranging from dub and hip hop through to folk and soul. Manager Bobby Brown has worked with artists including Elli Inrgram, overseeing major publishing and record deals and collaborations with artists including Chase and Status, Will Heard & Jordan Rake. He currently looks after rap & production duo Frankie Stew & Harvey Gunn who had two sold-out UK tours in 2019.                 

Weds 24th June           Being an artist with Victoria Melody
Award-winning British artist Victoria Melody has a background in fine art and makes theatrical shows, performances and films mainly focusing on Britain’s pastimes, passions and tribes.       

Weds 1st July              Theatre with Tim Crouch and Louise Blackwell
Tim Crouch is an experimental theatre maker, writer and director whose work has toured extensively nationally and internationally. He has collaborated with venues including the Royal Court Theatre, National Theatre and Traverse Theatre and recently co-wrote BBC 2 hit TV series Don’t Forget the Driver. In this episode, Tim will discuss his career with LOOKOUT’s Louise Blackwell, an experienced theatre producer and facilitator.

Weds 9th July              Producing with Ruby Glaskin
Ruby Glaskin in an independent producer and co-director of Milk Presents, who had a hit show at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2015 with Joan, which has since toured extensively. Ruby’s experience as a producer spans theatre, dance and live art.

The podcast series is supported by Propellernet and funded by Arts Council England via National Lottery, Brighton & Hove City Council, Sussex Community Foundation and the Chalk Cliff Trust.

NEWS: Clown Funeral turn to radio plays after cancelled tour

Theatre Company Clown Funeral Turn To Radio Plays After Cancelled Tour Dates

This summer West-Midlands based theatre company Clown Funeral were due to continue the national tour of their new show A Pattern of Bad Behaviour after initial success at London’s VAULT Festival and Worcester University. 

Following the closure of theatres due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the rest of the tour dates have been postponed. In the meantime, the company have made their back catalogue of shows available to stream for free on the company's Youtube channel. So far 2017’s The Murderer has been viewed over 3000 times. They’ve also produced an online playwriting workshop in collaboration with Pegasus Theatre in Oxford. Left Luggage is the latest way the company is keeping connected with each other and their audiences during these stressful times, as well as providing an exciting challenge to work in a new medium. 

Left Luggage is a series of new radio plays published as a weekly podcast. An anthology-style series, each episode is self-contained in its own strange and exciting world where anything can happen. Using the company’s signature style of exploring the human corners of inhuman worlds, stories range from the chaotic misadventures of a frog named Alan to a post-apocalyptic cookout in the last restaurant on earth. Recorded remotely from the performer’s respective homes, the podcast has been produced, edited and voiced as a collaborative effort among all seven members of the company. 

“We’re not letting lockdown dampen our creativity, we’re turning the disappointment of cancelled shows into the opportunity to work in a brand new format” - Sam Thorogood, Actor. 

New episodes are released every Wednesday and are accessible via the podcast hosting platform Anchor and on streaming service Spotify. The show is currently being distributed to other podcasting platforms and will be available elsewhere shortly. The first 3 episodes are available now, with the fourth episode The Narrator available on May 27th.

NEWS: Lighthouse writer celebrates birdsong in lockdown poem. - The Lighthouse, Poole.

Lighthouse writer celebrates birdsong in lockdown poem  
Inspired by the return of birdsong as a consequence of lockdown, Lighthouse writer-in-residence Jack Thacker has written and recorded a new poem, The Night Office. 
The piece represents what happens when the nightingale’s song is slowed down to suit the iconic bird’s metabolism. 
“This is time, if you like, as experienced by the nightingale,” says Jack in his introduction. 
“If the lockdown has taught me anything it is that under the right circumstances, slowing down can be an opening up – I think it certainly improves our ability to listen.” 
Since September, Jack has been involving himself in all aspects of life at Lighthouse and responding to what he has heard and seen, publishing his work through the writer development agency Artfulscribe as part of the DO: Write literature development project in Dorset, supported by Arts Council England. 
That all changed of course with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic and the closure of all cultural spaces. 
“I’m now the writer-in-absence at Lighthouse,” he notes. “Like many others I’m working from home at the moment and while that has brought many challenges and certainly changed the nature of my work it has reminded me of the presence of birds and birdsong in our lives.  
“In the spirit of that small upside to the lockdown I’ve recorded a poem about that master of birdsong, the nightingale, the bird that sings in the middle of the night and the namesake of the new hospitals that sprang up around the country.” 
Jack’s poems have also appeared in numerous online and print magazines including PN Review, Stand and The Clearing, as well as on BBC Radio 4. He recently completed a PhD on contemporary poetry at the Universities of Bristol and Exeter and now teaches English at Bristol. 
See Jack reading The Night Office on YouTube. 

THEATRE REVIEW: It Is Easy To Be Dead - Trafalgar Studios, London.

It can sometimes be easy to forget the real people behind all the statistics and numbers. Charles Sorley was killed in action when he was just twenty years old. With VE Day having just passed not so long ago, it is important to remember the times of the devastating World Wars and keep the memory of soldiers alive.

This drama was written by Neil McPherson and directed by Max Key. The play told the tragic story of Aberdeen born, Charles Hamilton Sorley who was killed in action during the First World War. Sorley was studying in Germany when the war commenced and was temporarily imprisoned as an enemy alien. He was one of the first to join the army in 1914. His letters and poems were only what his parents had left to remember him by. Back then, there wasn’t the instant and technological communication we have now. Borrowing the words of Sorley’s vivid writings and combining this with songs from the period, “It Is Easy To Be Dead” was a theatrical biography of his brief life filled with hope, joy, and potential for the future. A personal timeline cut short by the futility and horrors of war.

The cast, in order of appearance were: Elizabeth Rossiter as the Pianist, Hugh Benson as the Singer, Tom Marshall played the father called William, Jenny Lee portrayed the mother named Janet, and Charles was played by Alexander Knox. Knox’s performance as Charles Sorley brought out his youthful sense of adventure with a subtle naivety. This characterisation was rather repetitive though throughout the first half. The other aspects to Sorley’s personality were revealed later in the second half when he was thrown right into battle as “cannon fodder” in the trenches. Another side to Sorley was also shown in one scene when Sorley interacted with his parents, William and Janet. It was clear that the two men refused to display too much emotion and maintain the British “stiff upper lip”. Most of the time, Knox broke the fourth wall and narrated the story as Sorley, communicating the facts and events that took place. But, all this left more to be desired regarding further exploration of the personal relationship with his parents and the nature of his friendships with fellow comrades.

On the other hand, I liked how McPherson played with the presentation of the poetry and letters. In addition, Key had acknowledged the small size of the set and the intimacy of the auditorium and used that to his advantage. Rather than attempting to re-create the vast scale of a terrifying and ear-splitting battlefield, Key placed an emphasis on the visual and auditory production elements to transport us to No Man’s Land in our imaginations. I couldn’t experience the intimacy of the space myself because I was watching this on YouTube, however I could only imagine this would have enhanced the experience, perhaps making it more immersive. The close proximity of Sorley to his mother and father onstage, despite being in two contrasting locations, really hit home the brutal reality of the separation and constant worrying. On a separate note, the filming of the production could have been smoother, at one point the camera panned to the right rather haphazardly.

Designer, Phil Lindley had constructed a cosy Study Room set full of little details completing the World War One period aesthetic. The set included: a desk, a book shelf with precariously stacked books, and a stained glass window. It was gorgeously lit with nuanced, bright, and naturalistic lighting but expectedly everything was darker in the second half. This was when Rob Mills’ video designs and projection could, quite literally, have the time to shine when the war time footage was projected; showing troops marching and bombs exploding. “Pack Up Your Troubles” is a catchy and classic war time song which appropriately featured mid-way through. Sound Designer, Nathan Hamilton did a tremendous job of recreating the petrifying and cacophonous sounds of war.

In conclusion: “It Is Easy To Be Dead” was educational, perceptive, and well done. This production is ideal for anyone studying History or English Literature. It was a story about growing up, experiencing traumatic times, and asking ourselves: “Why did they have to die?”

Reviewer - Sam Lowe
on - 37/5/20

Thursday, 28 May 2020

ONLINE CONCERT REVIEW: The Barn Presents: The Music Of Finn Anderson. - The Barn Theatre, Cirencester.

Established in 2018, The Barn Theatre in Cirencester has been entertaining the masses throughout the lockdown and predicts a loss of £250,000 as a result of its, hopefully, temporary closure. With shows streamed online, since fairly early in the lockdown, they have recently started streaming concerts to celebrate the work of British composers of Musical Theatre, as part of the ‘Behind The Barn Door’ series and have been raising donations through their #SaveOurBarn campaign. This time in The Music of,it was composer-singer-songwriter, Finn Anderson.

First, whilst the concert was great, with great variety and diversity, I was slightly aggravated by the platform as, throughout the hour-long concert, I was subjected to adverts 12 times! Might I suggest that they consider options. Apologies if it is something at my end but I don’t think it is as this hasn’t happened to this excess on other streams. Nonetheless, the concept is great and the set up of the video is of good quality and well-thought out. It is a shame we don’t get to hear from all of the performers in interview form but it worked. Hosted by The Barn’s Producer, Jamie Chapman Dixon, with Finn Anderson present to discuss his work and how some of the performers felt and interpreted the songs we watched them perform, as prerecorded clips, we gleamed insight into his writing style, inspiration and how the performers have been coping with lockdown.

Dixon had come across Anderson in 2013 when he was putting on/had put on a show called ‘Streets’, which we hear a song from later in the stream. First to sing however was Rebecca Jayne Davies (whose credits include 'Half A Sixpence' and 'Jersey Boys') who had randomly met Anderson backstage in The Barn’s wardrobe department during a run of 'Daddy Long Legs', before they worked together there straight afterwards for 'A Christmas Carol'. Whilst researching him, she came across music from ‘Islands’ which he disclosed has an album-in-progress. Whilst discussion covered a song called ‘Hitchcock’, which is the only piece of the stream that is not from a musical, a song of heart-break, that piece was the second piece to be performed, by Nicholas McLean. Davies’s song was ‘Taking On The Government’ from Finn’s musical about an amateur allotment group who are against the local council’s plans to regenerate the area and develop the land - as she says: “so perfectly British”. It is performed in a well-spoken tone and passionate, it wouldn’t be out of place in a Calendar Girls-style show and is vaguely erotic (ish) if that’s how you interpret fertile ground and plenty of room to grow (maybe, just me and my friendship circle).

As mentioned, Nicholas McLean (whose experience includes 'Wicked', 'Avenue Q' and 'The Book Of Mormon') was next with ‘Hitchcock’. Played out like a film, the piece states that the plot can’t be twisted like a Hitchcock film as it's (about) real life. Next was Claire-Mare Hall (who has been in 'The Grinning Man', 'The Wicker Husband') with ‘Use To Say’ from Anderson’s 'A Mother’s Son', an upbeat duet with Rosalind Ford ('Once', 'The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button' and The Barn’s production of 'Just So') - as Nicky Evans was ill - but, as it was recorded, I did wonder whether Hall had to lip sync along to herself but it was a nice performance. Christina Bianco then sang ‘Sophie’s Apocalypse’ - a very apt piece considering the current pandemic. She really got into the part and, apparently, if there world were to end, cynic Sophie would indulge in hot chocolate with everything on it, and a muffin, as opposed to her usual skinny latte and an apple.

Next was Emmanuel Kojo ('Show Boat', 'Oklahoma', 'Girl From The North Country') who sang ‘Garden In My Mind’ from the aforementioned allotment musical which now features rehabilitated ex-offender Neil who finds solace in gardening to help his mental health. Incidentally, Kojo has found the lockdown a godsend as he has found time to reflect and refocus and think about himself and gather his thoughts. Brienne Keller ('Spring Awakening') gave us her rendition of ‘Chip Vn’ from 'The Bow Maker', which features explicit language, as we are made aware of prior to listening, and is around Lara and her experience of nothing going right along with the fact that wood brought from Brazil (hence some Portuguese lyrics) to Scotland is not good enough. Oliver Ormston (who was in 'Back To The Future' as it premiered its tour literally the day before the lockdown started, and has also been in 'The Addams Family' and 'The Book Of Mormon') introduced and performed ‘Snow Storm’ which was also included in Anderson’s musical 'A Mother’s Son', which Anderson was in Chicago prepping for a production of at the start of the lockdown. Sadly the song was cut from the show but Ormston gives a beautiful performance of it, before ‘Strictly Come Dancing' winner Joanne Clifton ('The Rocky Horror Show', 'Flashdance') sings ‘Flick The Switch’ from Finn’s first solo album, which he recorded when he was just 16.

Rising star and Drama School student Ella Young was discovered by Dixon on Twitter and was honoured to duet with Olivier-award-winner Matt Henry MBE for ‘300 Feet’, a love song from Anderson’s 2013 production of 'Streets', set on a roof top, 300 feet in the air, where two lovers are pursuing a secret relationship and both have conflicting views on how/whether to progress to the next step. Finally, we were treated to Danielle Hope (winner of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s search for Dorothy for 'The Wizard Of Oz' and has also been in 'Rock Of Ages', 'White Christmas', 'Les Misérables') who sang ‘Change Of Plan’, where she really got into the character’s head.

I am unsure what order the end ‘credits’ were in and I would have liked all of the cast to be included in the opening ‘holding screen’ but that didn’t distract from the concert which was thoroughly enjoyable. The next concert in this series will be The Music of  'Loserville' writer, Elliot Davis.

Reviewer - John Kristof
on - 26/5/20

Wednesday, 27 May 2020

PODCAST REVIEW: The Coliseum's Mini-Podcast: Episode 2: Off Out - The Coliseum Theatre, Oldham.

Oldham Coliseum's second podcast installment came in the form of three monologues written for a competition hosted by the Coliseum's Learning And Engagement team to find local writers under 21 who could be inspired by the words "off out" - ie: the once-daily trip out of our homes during the lockdown. The Coliseum received many submissions but only three were chosen to be recorded.

The first was 'Like Dad, Like Duck' by Joe Walsh, and performed by Jake Talbot. Here a youth revisits a small lake that he hasn't visited since his dad died. He talks to the duck about his situation, about how he and his mum are coping. It's frank, honest, open and sympathetic, with a touch of humour in there too.

The second monologues was 'A 60 Minute Adventure' by Adele Barnes, and read by Natasha Davidson. For me this was the most compelling and poignant of the three. There was a directness in here that hit me quite hard to be honest. It was difficult for me to finish listening to it due to a rather large lump in my throat and a whelling up of my eyes. In this story, the schoolgirl turns right from her house instead of left. She always turns left, everything is left. But today she turned right and found a tree up which she climbed and surveyed the area around her. There is a beautiful line towards the end saying how she now was able to see things differently. By keeping her distance, she has become closer.

Finally it was 'A Birthday In Quarantine' by Freya Williams, and performed by Sona Nisa. Here the protagonist bemoans that she is unable to go out and do things with her friends, that even the act of celebrating her best friend's birthday means delivering a present to her dooorstep and chatting to her two meters' apart.

The podcast finished with 8 short jokes read by 8 people who have worked at The Coliseum in recent times.

Whilst The Coliseum's doors remian closed, these podcasts are a way of still bringing quality theatre to us, and we all hope that we will be able to return to the theatres again soon. In the meantime however, in order to try an keep the cogs turning, theatres would welcome any donations you are able to give. You'll find details of how to do this on The Oldham Coliseum's website.

Reviewer - Matthew Dougall
on - 26/5/20