Friday, 31 July 2020

ONLINE THEATRE REVIEW: Bare E-ssentials #3: With A Vengeance - Encompass Productions

Encompass Productions is based in London, and, like all other companies, normally produce work on stage, live, in front of audiences. We seem slowly to be returning to that - and hopefully it won't be long before things are fully up and running again - but in the meantime, many companies have turned their attention to the digital / computer age in which we live as a means of continuing to produce and transmit theatre to us all. It's a hugely noble and noteworthy endeavor, and most companies are doing so in order, like Encompass, to ask for a small donation so that the company survives the lockdown and comes out the other end. Perhaps because I have now watched so much online material, I have now arrived at the point where I no longer get any thrill at all by sitting in front of a computer screen watching essentially theatrical performances in a film medium. Also, the quality of both technology and performance has varied drastically from barely watchable to ultra-professional, and so am now also somewhat wary about what I choose to watch online.

Encompass Productions' online playlets and monologues are always enjoyable though; and despite the company giving the directors and performers no financial help to produce their shorts, they still manage to bring a certain quality and professionalism from the choice of setting / background, to what they wear and any props etc. All of these, due to our coronavirus circumstances must have been provided for by the performers themselves from their own homes.

The four productions on offer in the third of their lockdown series Bare E-ssentials (note the obvious pun in the title from their normal Essentials!) were a very mixed bag, comprising two monologues and two duologues. I have to say though that the order in which they were shown was well-considered as they did indeed get better as they went along.

We started with a rather too long duologue called 'Rules' by Lucy Jamieson. In it we see two best friends chatting candidly about their sex life, STDs, and the possibility that one of them has caught chlamydia from the other's brother! It should have been sharp, snappy and humorous; a slice of realism, hedonistic 20-something lifestyle, but instead the narrative became entrenched with detail, unnecessary lines and no real tag-line to finish. It was a nice idea, but would have greatly benefitted from a dramaturge's eye-casting.

Following this was 'Stones Around My Neck', the first of two monologues, this one written by Emma Dawson, and performed by Deborah Garvey. An up-tight, prim upper-middle-class lady who continually worries, forces herself to come to terms with the less-than-perfect doings of her husband and her daughters. Performed in a very 'Talking Heads' style, the monologue became progressively darker and was handled nicely by both director and actress.

The most comedic of the four came next, with 'The Chair' by James C Ferguson. The humour was a times very American - no kidding right? it was written by an Amercan! - but was hugely surreal, along the lines of those 1950's sci-fi horror B-movies, whereby the chair is an alien and has eaten the guests! There's a great turnaround at the end, and it's a nicely written piece sensibly handled.

For me though, the final piece of the evening was the most satisfying. A monologue written by Jacquie Penrose and called, 'Listen', this was a dark, heartfelt, and very moving piece about love, and about highly possessive / mispaced jealousy. This kind of 'control' behaviour is well documented when a young man treats their girlfriend or fiancee in such a manner, however, here a very interesting twist was given as it was the female who was spying, prying and trying to control and be overly possessive. The lighting and style of delivery including a slightly pixelated quality of video was also exceptionally well thought through as it added an extra dimension to an already tight script. This script too has a kind of horror B-movie quality to it, as well as a hint of Noir. But it is Amelia Perillon's superb delivery combined with Liam Fleming's sensitive direction which makes this paranoia-filled script breathe so much life.

Reviewer - Alastair Zyggu
on - 29/7/20

NEWS: Lighthouse, Poole announces Bedtime Story Competition winners

Lighthouse to showcase bedtime story competition winners online  

Having been overwhelmed by entries to its first bedtime story writing competition Lighthouse, Poole’s centre for the arts, is to commission three winning stories to be performed in its weekly Sunday evening Bedtime Story video on Facebook. 
The competition was part of the ‘It’s All About You!’ #Lockdown-themed creative engagement programme at Lighthouse and was open to writers of all ages. The entries covered an incredibly diverse range of styles, but an unofficial shortlist of ten was selected for consideration by the judge – arts journalist Donald Hutera whose work has appeared in The Times as well as many other publications and websites around the world. 
All of the entries showed, to varying degrees, imagination and flair,” he explains. “Finding perfection, an elusive and even illusory quality at best, wasn’t a major issue for me. Rather, a combination of skill with words, plus a sense of fun or adventure, would do quite nicely, thank you very much. 
“I love words and language as a tool to convey ideas and feelings, and to spark the same within others, but there’s an additional understanding I brought to the selection process. As a performer and public speaker, I like to think that I’ve developed some solid instincts about what constitutes a ‘playable’ piece of writing. And so for me ‘judging’ Bedtime Story was based not only on my response to the words I was reading, and how artful their order and arrangement, but also how engaging they might be when delivered aloud.” 
And the winners are: 
Party Animals by Diana Morrissey. “A playful, quick-witted rhyming text that might work a treat especially, but not at all exclusively, for young listeners.” 
Saving Bindi by Susmita Bhattacharya. “A longer and more traditionally literary choice, is brought to life via a vivid shipboard setting and its central characters, a pair of dynamically contrasting siblings. I suspect it could have a special appeal for ages eight or nine.”  
The Pants Snatcher of London by seven-year-old William Howlett. “A short, original and audacious satirical comedy that flirts with topicality (Boris Johnson and the Queen feature). It’s also slightly naughty. And it was written by a child. While it might seem particularly suitable for age five and up, please note that it made this seasoned 63-year-old laugh out loud.” 
Party Animals story will be performed this Sunday 2 August from 7pm by Dorset theatre maker Michele O’Brien, with Saving Bindi on 9 August performed by Lighthouse writer-in-residence Jack Thacker and The Pants Snatcher of London on 16 August performed by Lighthouse Associate Artists Black Cherry Theatre. 
The winners say: 
Diana Morrissey: “Im thrilled to bits and can't believe Ive been selected! I am so looking forward to listening to Michele bringing my story to life on Sunday. Its wonderful to have this recognition for my story, and Im very grateful to Lighthouse for this opportunity as I believe Party Animals would make a colourful, fun and slightly naughty picture book!” 
Susmita Bhattacharya: “I’m absolutely delighted that Saving Bindi has been chosen as one of the winning stories. This story is inspired by my husband’s experience as a cadet on an oil tanker, when a dog stayed back on board as the ship sailed away. He insisted on saving the poor dog by hauling him onto one of the tugboats and ensuring that the dog was reunited with his master. 
Karen Howlett (for William): “This is brilliant news and we are so proud of William. He has just got home from holiday club and heard the news and he said: I am really happy and amazed about winning and really excited to see my story come to life. I can't wait to see it on Facebook on the 16th! 

NEWS: Chickenshed host West End Mamma Mia masterclass Sunday evening, as a fundraiser.

On Sunday, 2 August at 7pm, West End actor, Helen Anker will be giving a  Mamma Mia Masterclass with a live Question and Answer session after the workshop.  If you have any questions about any aspect of performing or backstage life with Mamma Mia please email in advance or during the workshop.

Before lock-down Helen was performing in the UK National Tour of Mamma Mia.  She will be sharing routines in her role of Tanya from Donna and the Dynamos.  She will also be teaching the choreography and singing sections from Dancing Queen, Waterloo and the show finale – it will be tremendous fun for all the family.  The evening is suitable for all ages and all abilities.

The evening will be live streamed from this page all you need to do is click on this URL link at 7pm on Sunday 2 August. If you have

Helen is presenting this evening to raise money to #KeepChickenshedSafe and there is NO ticket price. However, you can make a donation in advance to ‘attend’ and you are very welcome or donate whatever you can afford on the night, if you enjoy it.  All you need to do it go to the Just Giving site on the link above and donate.  Everything you donate will go to Chickenshed!

Helen is an extremely successful actor, renowned in both the UK and the United States.  She has had a wonderful and successful career in Musical Theatre for the past 28 years.

Helen trained at White Lodge, The Royal Ballet School and Bird College and started working in Musicals in The West End immediately after leaving College. She went from the original cast of ‘Crazy For You’ straight to ‘Cats’, followed by small roles in ‘Fame’, “Hard Times’, ‘Oklahoma’ (with Hugh Jackman) then leading roles in ‘Contact’, ‘On The Town’, ‘Beautiful and Damned’ and ‘Parade’.

Helen has also worked in many Regional Theatres around the UK , before gaining a Green Card to move to The USA where she opened in a new production of ‘Promises Promises’ on Broadway in New York City.  She then played many wonderful roles in Theatre across the country and roles in some Television shows and danced in Films for the next 8 years.

On returning to London after living and working in Los Angeles, Helen performed in Cats at Kilworth House in a reinvention of the show…. then landed the role of Tanya in the UK and International tour of Mamma Mia! which was where she was performing until this time.

Helen and Chickenshed hope that you enjoy learning sections from Dancing Queen and Waterloo from the finale of the show!

Wednesday, 29 July 2020

NEWS: New weekly theatre radio show hosted by West End performers. "Sit In The Stalls".

UK Radio Network launches a new weekly theatre radio show - ‘Sit in the Stalls’ hosted by West End performers Reece Kerridge and Claire Learie

Sit in the Stalls is a brand new weekly theatre radio show hosted by Reece Kerridge and Claire Learie which brings the theatre world directly to you.

Friends since 2015, Reece (The Book of Mormon - West End and Shrek the Musical - UK Tour) and Claire (Our House - Union Theatre and Universal Studios, Japan) love all things theatre and can’t wait to share this new and exciting journey with you all.

Each week, listeners will be able to choose the Musical of the Week, there will be music from all the best musicals, interviews with guests from across the theatre industry, games and - of course - plenty of laughter. The show airs every Sunday from 2pm - 4pm and you can keep up to date with the show on its social media platforms @sitinthestalls.

“We are so excited to be able to bring you two hours of stageiness on Sunday afternoons at UK Radio Network. When we heard about this opportunity on UK Radio Network we jumped on it as we both have a passion for not only theatre but also presenting. So to be able to combine to two felt like a dream come true!”

• First episode to be aired Sunday 2nd August on UK Radio Network (
• Every Sunday 2pm - 4pm
• Social media links on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook (@sitinthestalls)

NEWS: The Stranglers announce new dates for UK tour

Unfortunately, due to the ongoing Coronavirus Pandemic and restrictions on live concerts, we need to consider everyone’s welfare and therefore have no choice but to defer the planned autumn UK tour until the spring next year. The tour will now take place from late March to the end of April.
As you can imagine, with numerous other artists wanting to reschedule their tours in that period, the dates available at the venues were limited and this has meant that, in some cases, the equivalent day of the week to the original date wasn’t always free. For example, the original Friday and Saturday at Glasgow have now become a Thursday and Friday instead, with Aberdeen moving to the Saturday. Sadly, the Cardiff Motorpoint Arena show has been moved to the Cardiff Great Hall instead due to availability issues but all the original dates have been rearranged with the addition of a new gig in Warrington. The two Brixton shows on the 16th & 17th of April mark the exact 44th anniversary of the band's first headline shows at the Roundhouse on the Rattus tour back in '77. Tickets for the original dates are all valid for the rescheduled shows and, for Glasgow, a Friday ticket will now be for the Thursday and Saturday for the new Friday date. Special guests will be Ruts DC for all dates.
The tour, which is dedicated to Dave, kicks off on his birthday, the 29th of March, in Lincoln. It was also decided that the tour should finish at the Corn Exchange in Dave’s adopted hometown of Cambridge, a fitting finale to the tour.
Apologies for any inconvenience that the rescheduling of the tour causes but circumstances are clearly out of our control. See you on the road in 2021.

NEWS: Imaginarium Theatre release 'Seven Ages Of Care' film.

‘The Seven Ages of Care’ is a poetic film created by Imaginarium artist Holly Blue, inspired by Shakespeare’s ‘Seven Ages of Man’ speech from As You Like It and community responses to a series of online questions about Care during the Covid 19 lockdown.  Members of the community submitted video footage which was woven together with Holly’s poetry into this beautiful commemorative film of an emotional time.

This project was created by Imaginarium Theatre for the Heart of Glass ‘Compendium of Care’ and was supported by Knowsley council, the Shakespeare North Playhouse and Arts Council England.

To coincide with the release of this poem and film, Imaginarium are also re-releasing All the World’s A Stage; originally commissioned in 2016 to commemorate Shakespeare’s 400th anniversary, it was filmed in various locations around Prescot town centre and is another great example of how a community can come together to create a moving piece of art that can stand the test of time.

For more information contact Tish Cartlidge-Hughes
Telephone: 07732 770367

NEWS: New Shakespeare Drama School launches in Liverpool.

Shakespeare Drama School in Prescot launches Online

Imaginarium Theatre, a theatre and community arts organisation based in Prescot in Knowsley, (Liverpool), are launching the Imaginarium Drama School in partnership with the Shakespeare North Playhouse and the Royal Shakespeare Company Open Stages. 

The Drama School will be available (initially online) to all ages with classes for children, young people, and adults at low prices to ensure that they are accessible to everyone. This summer there will be 5 Zoom courses led by Michael Corbidge, Senior Voice and Text Director at the RSC and lecturer at Rose Bruford Drama College in London with Imaginarium Associate Artists.
Courses include masterclasses, audition training and CPD for professional actors and emerging professionals, an Introduction to Shakespeare for total beginners, and fun Shakespeare Movie Maker courses for 7-17 year olds. There will be new courses announced soon for the autumn term.

Artistic Director Gaynor La Rocca said “To create a professional drama school with classical training that is accessible to all and rooted within the community has been our ambition for some time. We intend to offer courses at Cockpit House in Prescot just as soon as it is safe for us to do so, and from 2022 we will be based in the new Shakespeare North Playhouse. In the meantime, our online Zoom courses will allow us to increase our reach both locally and across the globe.”

Drama School courses are available at the introductory cost of just £20 for a four-week course, 90 mins per week.  FREE TASTER sessions will take place from Tuesday 28th July, with courses beginning from Monday 3rd August. For full details of courses and to book online go to

For more information contact Communications Manager Tish Cartlidge-Hughes / 07732 770367

NEWS: MIF's The Factory welcomes its first million visitors.

NEWS: Apocalyptic: The Neutrinos sound for a new world.

Apocalyptic, The Neutrinos soundtrack for a new world

Welcome to Apocalyptic. Smile, it’s your turn.’

Even as we start to emerge tentatively from lockdown, scientists and the prudently wary caution vigilance to avoid a second spike of Coronavirus infections that could potentially be more devastating than the first. Further danger comes as the pandemic has pushed concerns around climate change from many people’s agendas.

Mindful of all this, art-rock maverick malcontents The Neutrinos invite you to go with them to experience their latest extraordinary vision, the awesomely powerful new song Apocalyptic, released for download from 30 July on Wet Nurse Records via Shellshock and available from all usual download platforms.

Apocalyptic will also soundtrack a new video from the band, commissioned for a live stream by Norwich’s uncompromising Outpost gallery which will be premiered at 7pm on release day, 30 July at 
After the premiere the video can be seen at and

The song itself blends deep, darkly disturbing beats with drums from the depths of dystopia and disturbing, shreddingly ominous guitars, an insistent yet almost out of reach, tambourine and a playful lyric extolling the listener to join them on their travels to… Waikiki and Honolulu?

‘It’s an improvisation on the end of days, the end of things yet perhaps the beginning of new things. It’s playful, it’s our notional visit to Waikiki and Honolulu – but by way of Cromer’ said vocalist and guitarist Mark Howe. ‘We’re all leaving and Apocalyptic is just a little paean to us all disappearing into the sea, back into the sea, the lovely sea, where we all originally came from.'

Bassist Jon Baker added 'Apocalyptic - it’s inevitable and inexorable, it’s about ceasing to be in the way that we know.'

Promo listen here, see below for media download details.

The Neutrinos have been collaborating with senior academics in the field of climate science to create a special version of their multi award winning KlangHaus show to be performed at Glasgow’s United Nations CoP26 Climate Conference in November, now inevitably postponed until 2021. Singer Karen Reilly however has revealed that they are ‘currently examining ways that it may be possible to stage some live events before the end of the year’. Watch this space!

KlangHaus has been hailed as 'A total game changer' by The Guardian and 'truly outstanding’ by The Daily Telegraph with over 100 sell-out London Royal Festival Hall shows under its belt. The band has performed their 'sexy urgent energy' (Time Out New York) in New York, around Canada, mainland Europe and numerous UK dates. 

The Neutrinos’ irrepressibly adventurous nature has led them to perform on boats, in complete darkness at The Sainsbury Centre gallery, in a former horse hospital, a bus depot, a disused small animal hospital, a former Inland Revenue Office and a vast furniture depository. They have made appearances at the Bloomsbury Festival and the Festival of Love in London, Manchester/Liverpool’s In The City music convention, North by North East, Toronto, Exit Festival in Serbia and Norfolk & Norwich Festival. They have recorded in Berlin’s legendary Funkhaus and their music has been used for underground film soundtracks and throughout the feature length Channel 4 documentary The Trials of Amanda Knox.

The Neutrinos are: Jon Baker bass, synths and vocals; Mark Howe vocals and guitar; Jeron Gundersen drums and percussion; Karen Reilly vocals and percussion.

Karen Reilly and The Neutrinos are available for interview; contact Steve Forster as above for availabilities. Images and a 320kps mp3 of Apocalyptic can be downloaded from Lossless files available on request.

The Neutrinos: Apocalyptic, Wet Nurse Records WN0013
Released 30 July 2020 via all usual download platforms, distributed by Shellshock 

NEWS: An imaginary theatre company produce an online series of videos - Welcome to The Lockdown Theatre Company.

Rohan Candappa presents:
The Lockdown Theatre Company
A newly founded imaginary theatre company unites performers from across the country in an online video series of 20 films made during the first 16 weeks of lockdown
Written, directed & produced by Rohan Candappa
Available on YouTube, new shows weekly here
London Calling: 7th September 2020 7pm (Press preview link available)
@LockdownTheatr | #lockdowntheatreco
A new theatre company has been founded by million-selling author turned Edinburgh Fringe performer Rohan Candappa to support, nurture and pay actors left struggling when the theatres closed. The ongoing series of 20 episodes, some of which are already available online, cover a huge range of topics. They range from the complexities of running during lockdown, to a forgotten British death during the Korean War, and will work towards a finale this September with London Calling, a 17 minute monologue performed by Guy Hughes in which the city of London itself draws a parallel between the virus it’s lived through in 2020, and the Blitz it suffered in 1940. The piece was inspired by news reports that the weekly fatalities caused by Covid-19 at one point outstripped those in the Blitz at its peak.
London Calling will be released on 7th September – the 80th anniversary of the start of the Blitz – and contains previously unheard lyrics written by an ARP warden at Strand Station in 1940, set to music by Guy Hughes who is also a composer for the Royal Shakespeare Company in 2020. The lyrics were found in a scrapbook once owned by a family friend of Rohan Candappa which also includes personal correspondence from theatre luminary Noel Coward.  
The Lockdown Theatre Company was created in response to both the lockdown and the cancellation of this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe, which Rohan has attended and performed at for the last four years. All the films have been self-taped by performers under socially distanced measures and rehearsed on WhatsApp. They feature performers from across the UK and as far afield as New Zealand. The project has been funded from money allocated to Rohan’s budget for a 2020 Fringe show, supplemented by a crowd-funding appeal on Kickstarter and Facebook.
Rohan Candappa said, “During the lockdown I wanted to create work that made you think, made you laugh, and made you feel something. I also believed this simple form of film-making meant you could produce work that responded to, and reflected on, the Covid Crisis as it was happening. There are so many good actors out there who struggle to get work at the best of times, and I wanted to support them both financially and creatively in these most challenging times. Putting together and broadcasting a new monologue each week has been tough but I hope what’s been created is, in part, an archive of the strange days we’ve all been living through”.
Writer, Spoken Word performer and best-selling author Rohan Candappa is the founder of The Lockdown Theatre Company. He previously worked in advertising, then wrote 16 books including The Little Book of Stress, Picklehead and Rules Britannia, with over a million copies sold. After being made redundant in 2015, Rohan turned the experience into his first spoken word show, How I Said 'F**k You' to the Company When They Tried to Make Me Redundant, which he performed at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2016.
Series highlights
Full series can be viewed here:

Some suggested highlights include:
‘Solitary’ – A Geordie baby, waiting to be born, contemplates her lot. With Georgia Ncholson. (11 mins)
‘Hill 235’ – Korea 1951. A forgotten war. A forgotten battle. A forgotten death. With Josh Harper. (12 mins)                   
‘Park’ – A lyrical exploration of the world of parks. Shot on a phone during the lockdown in parks in and around Edinburgh. With Sarah Macgillivray. (14 mins)
‘Curving The Run’ – A young woman reflects on running during the lockdown. And on what she’s running  from. A film about mental health. With Nicole Miners. (12 mins)
‘London Calling’ – A film about two Blitzes London has lived through. One in 1940, one in 2020. The film draws parallels. And pulls few punches. With Guy Hughes. (17 mins). Released 7 September, advance link available for press on request.