Monday, 30 November 2020

MUSIC REVIEW: London Symphony Orchestra: Bacewicz, Haydn and Beethoven. - St Luke's Church, London.

Another superb and hugely praiseworthy concert streamed live from St Luke's Church in London by The London Symphony Orchestra. They, like all of us, are struggling under enormous difficulties both actual and financial, and seeing the orchestra sitting around the church some wearing face masks, and all socially distanced from each other with no live audience is truly a heart-breaking sight. But better that than not playing at all. Better that than not having any live music coming into our homes. So bravissimo I say!

In this concert, there were three rather substantial works performed. The first of which being the most modern, and yet perhaps the most retrosepctive of the three. Grazyna Bacewica was born in Poland in 1909, a violinist and composer, and she was instrumental (excuse the pun!) during her brief 60 year lifetime in the resurgence of Polish composition after World War 2 and the role and place of Polish music in the repertoire.

Her Concerto For Strings (1948) has a very Baroque feel to the piece. Indeed it has the standard three movements (fast / slow / fast), and even utilises the idea of having a string quartet playing solo melodies within the body of the piece; an idea that was carried through from the Baroque era into the early Classical. However, the piece also has many Romantic ideas and early 20th Century ideas thrown into the mix too, so perhaps it is a modern version of an old form.

I have never heard the piece before but its thickly orchestrated, multi-layered, many-melodied second movement was very interesting.

Following this, and we go to the period in musical history the first piece took as it's inspiration, and to the music of Joseph Haydn. Here the orchestra played his Sinfonia Concertante in Bb Maj (op84). Again, the piece is in three movements (fast / slow / fast) and here we see the full utilisation of a quartet of soloists, working both as a unit and as part of the whole. 

The soloists were Roman Simonov (violin), Olivier Stankiewicz (oboe), Rebecca Gilliver (cello), and Daniel Jemison (Bassoon). 

And finally we come to the Beethoven. My father's favourite composer and so more or less every single note that Beethoven ever wrote is forever stamped into my brain as it was all I ever head on the radio when I was a child. His 8th Symphony however, was not one of my dad's favourites... or at least, I am assuming it mustn't have been, since I don't recall much of this from my childhood at all. It's almost as if this symphony went unnoticed. That, I find out, was a shame, because it is a very interesting, beautiful, and in many way atypical piece of Beethoven.

I am familiar with his eartly jocular and playful music, as well as his 18th piano sonata; but did not know that this, his 8th Symphony, was also composed in such a vein. The symphony is in 4 movements, and instead of the conventional slow second movement, there is a somewhat faster scherzando (a little joke), which has been said that Beethoven was trying to imitate the sound and rhythms of the latest invention of a metronome. The final movement too is full of jokes and surprises, including false endings and the occasional deliberately wrong-sounding note. Music purely and simply for music's sake. 

The London Symphony Orchestra sounded amazing. Social distancing and live-streaming technologies notwithstanding, it was quite an amazing concert, and the whole was conducted with obvious passion and intellect by Paavo Jarvi.

Reviewer - Matthew Dougall
on - 29/11/20

Sunday, 29 November 2020

FILM REVIEW: Finding Santa - TriCoast Entertainment

First released in 2016, this Danish animation has had a couple of titles over the re-releases, finally ending up with 'Finding Santa' 

It's a one hour + feel-good children's Christmas story, and is, in its own way, well done and although I personally didn't like the style of animation used -they looked like wooden dolls - it was consistent and worked for them. 

The story concerns an 8 year old orphan boy called Julius, who has spent the last 8 years in the orphanage doted over by the Fosterfather, much to the annoyance of the others especially a Draco Malfoy-esque Gregory and his sidekick, Squeak. Julius is a true believer in Father Christmas and makes a nativity box in the shed with his own craftwork, including a marzipan pig. He is magically transported through a portal within the box to the land of Father Chistmas and tasked with saving Christmas.. he is the only one who can do it. Krampus has "killed" the real Santa and now has taken over and forced the elves into slavery making coal to give to all the boys and girls at Christmas instead of presents. So Julius has an adventure in this wonderland and finally, of course, overthrows evil, and all ends happily ever after...

BUT... there are a few things in this film which don't sit right with me. First of all, it's quite dark. For a family friendly children's Christmas story marketed in countries that do not have the Krampus tradition - ie: The USA and The UK, children will not understand and maybe find it too scary in places. The whole business with the present-wrapping machine and having elves, Santa, Julius and Krampus all put through there and sliced into small pieces and wrapped as presents (not all.. but still) is something from a nightmare surely. Also the elves are not the happy-go-lucky fun characters that most children will know and love in both the USA and UK; but much more like the original idea and more morose and a little mean too.. very Scandanavian.

The oddest thing in this film though is the crossover of custom and tradition. The film is set in Denmark, and most of the characters are taken from Scandanavian folklore, and so would be familiar to their Scandanavian audience: Krampus, a marzipan pig (given on New Year's Day for good luck), St Joan and Kurt, reindeers made from straw, etc; so these would mean precious little to American or British children. The name changes were also odd. I noticed for example the Danish name for Squeak, and wondered why and who chose Squeak as a replacement... a strange choice. 

It's also quite unfortunate - for the UK market at least - that the English version (thankfully not subtitled but properly dubbed) is using American lingo and verbiology. A Scandanavian log cabin - very oldie-worldie, even with a gramaphone and record - in the middle of the woods with a sign and bells seems right. Then we listen to contemporary American English being spoken by them and I have to say that this jars.

The ultimate arbiter though has to be the target audience, and so I showed this film this weekend to my nephew (age 9) and my neice (age 6 nearly 7). Sadly neither truly engaged with it, became rather fidgety and bored with neither having the patience or interest to watch the entire film. The overriding comment from my nephew being "silly and boring".

Reviewer - Matthew Dougall
on - 28/11/20

THEATRE REVIEW: Crime Of The Century - Chickenshed Theatre, London.

Streamed online via Chickenshed Theatre's Youtube channel, this is a fifty minute rollercoaster ride to the other side of the street. 

Created in response to a number of fatal stabbings which affected staff, students and members of Chickenshed over the last decade or so, this is the filmed version of their 2009 cast on their stage. The production was so devised (written and directed by David Carey and Christine Niering), that it was able to, and did successfully, tour senior schools and youth centres too, and uses an 10 strong ensemble cast.

There's no real storyline as such, at least not in the conventional sense; its more of a montage taking mostly the youths own perspectives on their lives and how knife crime has had and continues to have devestating effects on their community. Dressed almost identically in the "trademark" clothing of baseball cap, hoodie and tracksuit bottoms, the predominently black cast look every bit as threatening and dangerous as any real crime gang out there. 

But it isn't just that; this is a much more thoughtful and intelligent production than that. The company uses voice-overs throughout, most of which are spoken by MPs or the white middle / upper-class who offer their perspectives as a point of contrast to the youths from poor and broken families, council estates, and troubled backgrounds. They don't seem to offer any solutions, nor do they really sympathise, they just report on the situation opining who they believe to be responsible and how they contribute to the already fraught situation. There is one very telling voice, coming perhaps half-way through "We want to help them as children, but as soon as they start to grow up, we turn our backs on them and forget about them".

It is a hard-hitting piece of community / TIE theatre written by and for the younger generation and in this respect, the piece is very loud and pulsating; the whole throbs almost continually with loud contemporary music befitting the scenario; rap, hip-hop, etc - an incessant pounding, driving the piece until the music and the piece are inseparable. Contemporary choreography forms much of the piece and their movements and physical theatre skills  - elements which I have seen used in all of Chickenshed's productions - are always excellently realised; truthful and poignant.

Certainly it is a piece of devised theatre which is full of ideas, raw energy, anger, and much can be taken from it for further discussion, hopefully sparking further knowledge, dialogues, and indeed change. 

Reviewer - Alastair Zyggu
on - 28/11/20

THEATRE REVIEW: An American In Paris - The Dominion Theatre, London.

Continuing the online series of Musicals being shown on YouTube's 'The Shows Must Go On' channel whilst the country's theatres remain dark, this weekend's offering was a recording of the 2017 London West End production of the Gershwin classic, 'An American In Paris'.

Since the middle of March (with an all too brief and somewhat pointless respite in between) our country has been in lockdown and our theatres closed. For those, like myself, who are so used to theatre being an integral and essential part of our everyday lives, this has been tough, and some small pleasure has been taken from the amount of online content that has flooded our computer screens these last few months. The quality and diversity of such offerings has different drastically, but every once in a while one shines brighter than the rest.. a true gem of a production that it transcends the mundane, and you sit, glued to the computer, as if transfixed, lapping up every single tiny nuance, every move, every breath from everyone on that stage behind your screen. Two hours and 20 minutes later it was gone, all over, and so what did I do... get myself a cup of tea, sit down and watch it all over again! Yes, this production of 'An American In Paris' was that good. 

An American In Paris started out life in 1928 as a piece of orchestral jazz-influenced classical music by George Gerschwin, which was soon picked up and turned into a ballet. It was then made the basis of the 1951 film, for which more Gershwin music (and Ira Gershwin lyrics) were composed which starred Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron. The current production of the stage musical was written by Craig Lucas, basing much of show from that film, and it is still as fresh and alive today as it was almost 100 years ago. 

The story surrounds an American GI who decided to stay in Paris and not go home after helping to liberate the city from the Nazis at the end of the Second World War. His name is Jerry (Robert Fairchild) and he finds himself in a cafe where he meets a brooding and moody composer / pianist who has also decided to stay put and chance his luck instead of going back home to the States. This is Adam (David Seadon-Young). He is giving lessons to a young, well-to-do, would-be song-and-dance man, Frenchman Henri (Haydn Oakley), and as the three strike up a friendship they also fall in love with, and woo, the same girl, Lise (Leanne Cope). This is not the conventional love traingle, but more like a triangle within a triangle, and yet, despite keeping the story light and comedic being the name of the game, this is a very emotive and dramatic story too, especially with the backdrop being a newly liberated Paris, and a place where no-one truly trusts anyone, there are still spies and what they have undergone cannot ever be undone or unseen. 

There is a slightly modern feel to this production, which works in its favour; and everything about the show is absolutely spot on. The costumes, the lighting, the brilliant set (I loved the animated sketches), the swift scene changes, the music (MD - John Rigby), and of course the impeccable and stunning choreography and direction (Christopher Wheeldon) performed by a top notch and wonderful cast.

This is pure Musical Theatre, and just what the doctor ordered to take us out of our lockdown blues! Not only was this production one of the best shows I have seen online since the beginning of March, it is also one of the best Musicals I have ever, online or otherwise!

Reviewer - Matthew Dougall
on - 28/11/20

ONLINE THEATRE REVIEW: A Funny Thing Happened In Isolation - The Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester.

With the first lines of the play being a voice-over announcing quite clearly, "Caution; the following programme contains scenes of silliness and irreverence, which some viewers may find funny.", you are left in no doubt as to the tone this gentle and amusing production will take. It's a mockumentary; perhaps a love-letter to the theatre, which makes good use of our modern technological lockdown saviour, Zoom.

Written and directed by Andy Barry, the story concerns a local theatre group whose regular meetings have been stopped due to the pandemic and lockdown, and so their director has taken to giving workshops online. These are met with derision and cynicism, despite their being quite happy to participate and continue; and as the documentary progresses we learn more about certain individuals and how they cope with lockdown and lack of theatre, as well as the love interests, intrigues and dynamics within the group itself. Some of the storylines are comedic because they are based on a certain probable given; whereas a couple simply don't seem to have any hold on reality at all, and as such fail to be funny. I think primarily of the new group member who appears to have never stepped foot inside a theatre before and has no clue about even the simplest and most basic knowledge, which is just impossible to believe someone so "dense" would join. I also doubt the theatre games mentioned and played would be funny or even understandable to anyone from a non-theatrical background. 

However, this is a mockumentary after all, and using the recognisable voice of Julie Hesmondhalgh as the voice-over and continuity for the 'film', it also places it very much within the bounds of not just Manchester but the Royal Exchange too. But it is the members of The Elders' Company who deserve the credit for this production, which came out of devising and improvisations Barry did with them prior to writing, in a similar way I imagine Abigail's Party was created. They all come across as very real, and the whole presents itself nicely in very much the way a standard BBC TV documentray might approach the same subject.

My favourite moment was watching one of the couples at home dress up, put a curtain around the TV and have drinks ready at the 'interval' when they watch a live-streamed play, filling in the atmosphere of a live theatre experience from their homes.

The realities of our current situation and not compromised, as there are moments of sadness and regret, and there is a nice message for us all: "Theatre is in us all, it's for everyone. Theatre is stories, and stories are in all of us."

Reviewer - Chris Benchley
on - 28/11/20

Saturday, 28 November 2020

THEATRE REVIEW: Death Of England: Delroy - The National Theatre, London.

Usually, it takes months to prepare for a NT Live production, but the dedicated team at National Theatre reduced that to days, because of the announcement of the second national lockdown. This quick turnaround was a fantastic effort, even when things are bleak.

In a recently re-configured Olivier Theatre, Michael Balogun gave an impassioned performance as Delroy in a new play by Clint Dyer and Roy Williams. Dyer was also the Director. Authenticity through conveying an unfiltered black British person’s experience was integral to this theatrical response to the Black Lives Matter Movement. The theatre-in-the-round staging heightened this sense of ‘no holding back’ storytelling in a literal and metaphorical political arena.  

“Keep your social racial distance please”, exclaimed a sinister automated voice in the opening moments. Highlighting how our country is divided in many ways. Set during the Coronavirus pandemic, this was a bang up-to-date story of a black working class man living in England, seeking the truth, and confronting his relationship with Great Britain. The story centered on a tragically all-too-familiar incident of racial profiling by the police, resulting in an innocent Delroy missing the birth of his baby.

Balogun’s accomplished central performance was unapologetically fiery, angry, and gutsy. His complete focus and natural ability to engage with the audience was impressive – even getting the audience to talk back to him. Breaking the fourth wall at its finest. The performance was playfully varied in tone, voice, and movement which brought the play's text to life.  

Designer, Sadeysa Greenaway-Bailey created a set made up of two catwalks crisscrossing each other. I wasn’t totally sure what it was trying to represent: maybe it was meant to be a symbol of the English flag? Or, was the set attempting to encapsulate a divided England, ultimately risking its own death? The pillars were effective because they immediately brought to mind the pulling down of Edward Colston’s statue, during the anti-racism protest in Bristol. It is estimated that Colston trafficked around 80,000 men, women and children from Africa to the Americas in the 17th Century. Several props which visually mapped out the narrative of the play were placed on these pillars. However, I think more could have been done to mark these moments.

Clinical, disturbing, and nightmarish lighting was commonly used by Jackie Shemesh throughout. Barndoors were fixed onto the front of the stage lights to shape the lighting precisely with Balogun looking like he was claustrophobically boxed in. A literal prison and a metaphorical one as a result of restrictions on civil liberties. In Delroy’s case, it wasn’t just Coronavirus restricting what he could and couldn’t do. Whenever Delroy quoted the words of another character, the lighting would switch cleanly to punctuate the change in speaker - this gave the production momentum.  

In conclusion: “Death of England: Delroy” was a timely, politically-fueled, and vital play. The text had the right balance of factual and emotional language with plenty of honesty and self-reflection. To quote Eckhart Tolle: “To reduce the aliveness of another human being to a concept is already a form of violence”. Black lives still matter.

Reviewer - Sam Lowe
on - 27/11/20

MUSIC REVIEW: London Symphony Orchestra - Lunchtime Concert - St Luke's Church, London.

A short live-streamed chamber concert from members of The London Symphony Orchestra was the order of the day, and taking their places on the 'stage' at the orchestra's second 'home', St Luke's Church, were Will Melvin (violin), Julie O'Riordan (viola), and Laure De Dantec (cello), forming a string trio for the two pieces they were to perform.

The first was a very short piece, and just the first movement (Cantus) from the suite, 'The King's Alchemist' by contemporary composer Sally Beamish. The piece is in four movements all of which take the same Fench folk song as its base, and the music is inspired by the alchemist to King James IV, John Damien, who was, by all accounts, quite an eccentric character. 

The opening movement is a short but beautifully evocative and atmospheric evocation to the morning mist slowly lifting as the temperature rises, revealing a hitherto concealed castle as it does. There is definitely a hint of 'Scottishness' to the music despite its French origins, and was very filmic in quality.

I now want to listen to the whole suite.

Following this was Beethoven's String Trio No 3 (opus 9) in C min.  Composed by a very young Beethoven, whilst still 'in-training' as the modern terminology goes. Not wanting to step on his masters' toes and follow in the usual path of writing string quartets, he decided to take the trio instead, and more or less reinvent the form. Instead of a light-hearted inconsequential piece of what might now be described as 'elevator music', he put all his skill, emotion and indeed innovation and forward-thinking into the compositions to make pieces which have stood the test of time, and when listening you can clearly hear the stirrings of the genius that was to come.

Starting with a dark and brooding opening in the first movement (allegro con spirito), it moves quickly into an inventive dance before a slow and expressive quasi-lament in the second movement. This is followed by the tradition scherzo, which is all too soon turned on its head by the clever and inventive finale, which ends, not with crashing octave chords fortissimo (those ideas were yet to come), but instead with a delightful and almost unobtrusive perfect cadence, light, clean and crisp, mezzo forte.

Played intelligently with clear skill, the three worked excellently as a unit despite the social distancing making it more difficult to hear and work from and off each other. 

Hugely enjoyable.

Reviewer - Matthew Dougall
on - 27/11/20 

NEWS: Tickets on sale for digital panto at Oldham Coliseum Theatre.


Digital offers this festive season

Although we’re all missing the Coliseum’s nationally renowned pantomime this year we’ve created some brilliant digital offers for the festive season.

Panto Digital Storytelling

Saturday 12 December – Saturday 2 January
Choose between Cinderella or Jack and the Beanstalk
Tickets on sale from Saturday 12 December

By Chelsea Morgan
Directed by Rachel McMurray
Filmed and Edited by Grant Archer

A new kind of panto magic for 2020, Panto Digital Storytelling will be available online giving you the opportunity to invite Dame Dotty Trott (actor Richard J Fletcher) or Cinderella (actor Shorelle Hepkin) into your home for unique tellings of their famous tales.

Straight off the Coliseum stage these much-loved panto characters tell their stories as you’ve never heard them before – from their own perspective. Choose from either Jack and the Beanstalk with Dame Dotty Trott or Cinderella with Cinderella herself, with access to the online video for a whole day.

Expect a few new twists in these famous storiesDoes Dotty Trott really think she’s the true Giant Slayer? Find out how tough Cinderella really had it when she reveals all the Ugly Sisters’ secrets…

Each ticket for Panto Digital Storytelling: Cinderella or Panto Digital Storytelling: Jack and the Beanstalk gives audiences one day’s video access. Much like the Fairy Godmother’s magic, access will expire each day at midnight.

Tickets are on sale from Saturday 12 December.

NEWS: Dancers 'occupy' theatre stages across Greater Manchester in new dance film

Dancers ‘occupy’ theatre stages across Greater Manchester in new film supporting underground world of freestyle dance    

Forty dancers have joined forces during lockdown to create a new short film highlighting the underground world of freestyle dance.

UNTITLED FILM will be released on 7 December under group name, I.M.PACT.

The film celebrates collaboration and community and sees the dancers ‘occupy’ eight stages across the city-region, those being: The Lowry, Manchester Opera House, Contact, The Portico Library, International Anthony Burgess Foundation, Manchester Museum, HOME & Royal Exchange Theatre.

The dancers fill the empty spaces with life and make them their home. They hope UNTITLED FILM will highlight the need of the dancers and the theatres for their audiences to return.

This is the first time the 40 performers have come together for one project – and it showcases all different styles of dance, including: contemporary, jazz, tap, afro, B-Boy, krump and commercial.

UNTITLED FILM was produced by Grace Ng, Yandass Ndlovu & Sam Arbor.

It was supported by The Lowry’s Futures Fund, HOME, The Portico Library and Contact; with in-kind support from Opera House Manchester, International Anthony Burgess Foundation, Manchester Museum and Hello Mozart.

NEWS: Chris Jarvis is going back to school on Zoom - Lighthouse, Poole.

Happy Ever After star Chris Jarvis is going back to school on Zoom 

Chris Jarvis is a class act – it’s official! 

CBeebies favourite Chris, who has written as well as directing and starring in Happy Ever After the very special family Christmas show at Lighthouse, Poole’s centre for the arts, will be making a series of video calls to local schools next week. 

"Every year I visit local schools in between rehearsals for panto and I’d like to this year because young people have had a tough time of itbut we’re having to do things differently,” says Chris who will be appearing via the magic of Zoom on Tuesday and Wednesday (1 and 2 Dec) in classrooms at Ferndown Middle, Bere Regis Primary, Kings Park Primary, Hazelbury Primary, Pamphill Junior and Atlantic Academy Portland. 

“I spend quite a lot of time in schools with BAFTA and for CBeebies and I think it’s important that young people are given something different to experience so I can talk to them about animation, or the theatre, or making things for television – although their grasp of technology is so good that some of them probably know more about it than I do! 

My mum was a head teacher and the teachers are the experts of course so I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity to do this. I regret not reading more books when I was at school, but if someone had pointed out there's not a great difference between a novel and a script for television or radio or panto – it's all about storytelling – then I might have seen things differently." 

Angus Dawson, Assistant Principal and Faculty Director at Atlantic Academy Portland, says his students are really looking forward to seeing Chris 

We can hardly wait to meet him. After such a long period of spending time at home this year our children are super excited to meet with a celebrity from the world beyond their local area. This is a fabulous chance for our children to find out all about the fascinating world of television and broadcasting, and we are very grateful to Chris and Lighthouse.” 

Chris appears in Happy Ever After as pantomime favourite Buttons to introduce a host of well-known panto and children’s storybook characters as they help Cinderella get to her next ball. 

Appearing alongside Chris are popular CBBC presenters Naomi Wilkinson and Ed Petrie with the acting and singing talents of rising stars Harry WinchesterLauren Azania and Jessica Rampling with Aaron Hunt from the West End production of Cats as Tommy the Cat and the dance talents of the locally based Steppin’ Out Academy. 

Happy Ever After is on sale now and runs from 18 December to 3 January. For tickets and information visit 

Friday, 27 November 2020

NEWS: Su Pollard returns to the panto stage at London's Playground Theatre this December.


The Playground Theatre is to re-open next week with a programme of music, theatre and a pantomime starring national treasure Su Pollard. The West London venue initially re-opened in September but was forced to close again in November owing to changes in Government guidance.  Lift Off Live, a celebratory evening of live theatre and music accompanied by cocktails, will launch the programme on 3rd December. 

Music is at the fore of the programme: A cello and piano recital with Sebastian Comberti and Maggie Cole (6th Dec), live musical comedy from Bowjangles with Excalibow (10&11 Decand an evening of Portuguese Fado music, Noite de Fados (12 Dec). 

Completing the live season, two Christmas-themed events, one for families and a second for adults as part of the Playground’s annual RebelFestive event (19 &20 Dec). A Radio Panto version of Mother Goose (script in hand but full of action) on both afternoons will star Su Pollard and Jessica Martin. Moulin Scrooge follows in the evening and will be a joyful night of dance, music and comedy for grown-ups. It is rumoured that Santa Claus may appear at the two-day event. 

New writing in the digital sphere will be available, with six showcases of short works taking place throughout December as KickItDown productions presents KickItDown’s Digital Sharing (2-21Dec). Streamed Zoom pieces and audio dramas will fill the evenings, all of which were created in lockdown by established and emerging artists. The digital programme will be offered on a ‘Pay What You Can’ basis. 

The Playground Theatre is an off-West End theatre dedicated to nurturing new talent and staging an international programme of shows. Led by co-Artistic Directors Peter Tate and Anthony Biggs, this unique space is in a former bus depot located on Latimer Road W10. Its name is intended as an invitation to theatre makers and performers to come and play, and to encourage bold experimentation with new works for the stage. Since it opened, The Playground Theatre has cultivated relationships with international companies and practitioners. To date, this has seen the venue work with leading creatives from Poland, Russia, Lithuania, Japan and beyond. 

The Playground Theatre has taken various steps to ensure the health and safety of those visiting the space. Hygiene is maintained to an extremely high standard with frequent antibacterial surface cleaning, plus regular commercial grade fogging. To comply with Covid-19 Social Distancing guidelines, tickets to events are only available in seating clusters. All patrons are asked to bring and wear a mask in the theatre or purchase one from the box office. If anyone attending a performance displays signs of being unwell or receives a temperature test that indicates they may be affected by Covid19 the venue reserves the right to refuse admission in the interests of the health and safety of all patrons in the theatre. 

@PlaygroundW10 | 

Live Shows 

Up to 20 December 2020 

The Playground Theatre, Latimer Road, London W10 6RQ 

7.30pm and 2.30pm matinees 

2 seats - £30 | 4 seats - £60 | 5 seats - £75 

Lift Off Live                                                                                                                 3 December, 7.30pm
A punchy evening to celebrate the lifting of Lockdown2 and the return of live theatre. Come and enjoy a lift off cocktail and enjoy some surprise theatre followed by amazing music performed by Carlo Rossi and the Organic Jam. A night that will lift your spirits. 

Recital for Cello and Piano with Sebastian Comberti and Maggie Cole                           6 December, 5pm
Sebastian and Maggie have been close friends and colleagues for many years. They are delighted to bring this programme of sonatas and variations to the Playground in a welcome return to playing live in an unusual and intimate space. As the year of Beethoven’s 250th birthday celebrations draws to a close, their programme will feature his music alongside works by David Popper and Anton Diabelli, two composers who write with poignance and virtuosity for cello and piano.  

Bowjangles: Excalibow                                                                                       10 – 11 December 7.30pm  

Award winning musical comedy team Bowjangles presents its most magical show so far. A theatrical, musical journey through myths, folklore, legends and a portal in a cello case in the quest to find the most priceless relic of all, a magical violin bow known as Excalibow. Expect tales of monsters, ancient gods, historical figures and characters of pure fantasy in this action-packed show, all presented in Bowjangles’ own inimitable and unique style - full of comedy, energy, and almost every musical genre you can imagine.  Suitable for all ages. May contain traces of ABBA. 

Noite de Fados/Fado Night                                                                              12 December from 5.30pm
Join us for a pre-Christmas night of live Fado music and dining inside the theatre. With celebrated singer Cristina Miguel accompanied by musicians Ze Pedro and Antonio Alves. 

The event is being staged by a new cultural organisation Alma Lusitana and will raise funds for the creation of an Amateur Lusophone Theatre Group. The project seeks to nurture authors writing in the Portuguese language among the descendants or immigrants from Lusophone countries and to promote the cultural and artistic heritage of those countries. 

RebelFestive                                                                                                   19-20 December
A two-day Christmas themed festival at the Playground Theatre. Featuring a community-led performance, a family-friendly panto and an evening of cabaret. 

RebelFestive: One Community presents a seasonal selection of shorts                       19th December, 1pm 

Stories and poems written and performed by service users from St Charles Hospital, Mental Health Unit, as part of the Playground’s on-going Well Written out-reach programme. 

RebelFestive: Mother Goose                                                               19-20 December, 3.30pm
Miss Sixpence presents Mother Goose by Philip Meeks, starring Su Pollard and Jessica Martin.
It’s 1954 and in the faded North Kensington parish of Tipple by the Thames the church hall has been condemned following a riot at the annual Christmas jumble sale. Now, church stalwart, Miss Olive Sixpence has nowhere to perform her legendary Boxing Day pantomime. Arch-rival, the thrice widowed Gladioli Moon, offers up her back parlour and a war time wireless set. Alongside Miss Sixpence’s strange nephew Neville, a timid neighbour Mr Paltry, a broken vicar and Mrs Moon, Miss Sixpence presents Radio Panto Mother Goose.  

RebelFestive: Moulin Scrouge (Over 18s) presented by The People Pile & Friends       19-20 December, 7.30pm  

A story about a time, a story about a place, and above all things; a story about a tight arse! It's time to rejuvenate, reinvent and revitalise Christmas. Delve into Santa's Sack, and meet St. Knickerless themself; reminisce about fabulous festive fables from the famous 'Fur Tree'. So, wrap up and roll around with the rambunctious rabble of the Moulin Scrouge. 

Digital Programme 

KickItDown’s Digital Sharing                                                   2, 5, 12, 16, 19, 21 December, 7.30pm   

In March 2020 KickItdown put a callout up on The BBC Writersroom. After receiving 700 submissions in total 18 final pieces were selected. KickItDown is excited to announce that it will be sharing these 18 stories with the world throughout December. Six evenings of streamed Zoom pieces and audio dramas, all created in lockdown by established and emerging artists. Tickets offered on a ‘Pay What You Can’ basis. Book through the Playground’s What’s On.  

NEWS: Cirencester's Barn Theatre announce schools digital tour of Peter Pan.


Barn Theatre have announced today that their reimagined one-man production of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan will be available for schools to live stream as part of an digital schools' tour.

The one-man productionwhich will star Waylon Jacobs (Hamilton, Memphis, The Last Five Years) from 3 December 2020 – 3 January 2021, will be available for schools to purchase streaming links to watch a live performance direct from the Barn Theatre to their classrooms.


This new take on the classic tale, adapted by Alan Pollock and co-conceived by Kirk Jameson and Nick Barstow, follows a father in a hotel room, three thousand miles away from home. Desperate not to miss bedtime, he recreates his daughter’s favourite story: an epic tale of adventure, pirates, fairies – a crocodile with gigantic teeth! – and a little boy who refuses to grow old….


The digital school tour will be available with show times on the following selected dates:


  • Tuesday 8 December at 1pm
  • Wednesday 9 December at 1pm
  • Thursday 10 December at 1pm
  • Tuesday 15 December at 10am & 1:30pm
  • Wednesday 16 December at 10am & 1:30pm
  • Thursday 17 December at 2:30pm


This latest digital announcement follows the Barn Theatre’s recent acclaimed stream of their production of Stephen Sondheim’s Marry Me A Little, also directed by Kirk Jameson, and their critically acclaimed digital co-production of Henry Filloux-Bennett’s adaptation of What a Carve Up!, directed by Tamara Harvey.


Barn Theatre Artistic Director and CEO Iwan Lewis said “We are so proud to be launching this digital schools tour. In a year that has been unprecedently challenging for children across the country we are so happy that we are able to still offer schools a chance to make their annual trip to see a live performance at the theatre, albeit virtually this year from the comfort of their classroom.”


The Barn Theatre have also announced plans to make their production available for free to stream to hospitals and care homes over the festive period.


This brand-new adaptation of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan by Alan Pollock is co-conceived and directed by Director-in-Residence Kirk Jameson, co-conceived with music by Nick Barstow, movement direction by Tosh Wanogho-Maud, set and costume design by Gregor Donnelly, projection design by Benjamin Collins, sound design by Harry Smith and LX design by Joe Price.


The Barn Theatre also have plans to run international live streams for the general public, with more information to be announced at a later date.


For more information on the digital schools tour and/or hospital and care home screening please contact


Tickets for the production at the Barn Theatre are on sale, beginning at £10 (excluding booking fee), and can be purchased at or by calling the box office at 01285 648255.