Friday, 30 December 2016

Review: The Screwtape Letters

Hey readers!
It's time for my review of The Screwtape Letters.
Originally, I wasn't too sure whether to go and see The Screwtape Letters. On the one hand, I was fascinated with the concept of the play after reading the synopsis. On the other hand, I wasn't too keen on the idea of travelling all the way to North London. I decided to keep it off my schedule and just keep it as a back-up. When booking for shows, one of them (Rent) was completely sold out. I decided to bite the bullet with the journey and went to see this production. I had very mixed thoughts about the play. The acting and creative aspects were wonderful, but there really isn't much to the play. I'll start with my negative thoughts and then finish with my positive thoughts, so that we can end the review on a high note! I am not convinced that this piece works as a stage adaption. I have not read the book by C.S. Lewis, but it is very apparent to me that there is little to make a whole stage play of. The show consists of the character Screwtape, one of the Devil's agents, writing letters to his nephew, whilst his assistant (who doesn't speak) writes it all down. The play does not tell us the nephew's response, which I think would have worked much better in this instance. Perhaps if the show had been only an hour this would've worked better, but and hour and a half of just letters grew a little tiresome. The play does very well on creative aspects, but it is let down structure wise. My only other critique is that I found certain parts difficult to follow, specifically the ending. Those who I'd recommend The Screwtape Letters for, are for those that are fans of the book, as for these people they would be able to understand everything and wouldn't worry about structure flaws. If you have plans to see it, I would advise reading the book first. Now onto the positives! I thought that Max McLean's portrayal of Screwtape was exceptional! He has an extremely hard task of keeping the audience engaged for such a long time, but he does a wonderful job. The play is an hour and a half, but thanks to his portrayal it didn't feel quite as long as it was. He truly embodies Screwtape from beginning to end, it's amazing that he had that much energy! His performance is the sole reason  why the show wasn't too bad and I would even go as far to say that a performance like that is worth the ticket price alone. Karen Eleanor Wight doesn't speak as Toadpipe, but manages to convey a character through physicality and noise. The fact she was able to convey a character without words shows me that Karen is a wonderful performer. I cannot say a bad word about these two actors. The set was simple, and yet extremely effective, with skulls on the back wall. The lighting and costume design are also perfect, in specifics, Toadpipe's costume was fantastic. With the set, lighting and costumes combined, it was able to perfectly display Hell.

The featured star of The Screwtape Letters is, drum roll please... MAX MCLEAN!

Max's performance was profoundly extraordinary. With his acting, he is even able to make the boring parts of the show interesting. I have read that Max has been doing the role since 2006 and this definitely comes across.

Now for my final verdict on The Screwtape Letters. I give The Screwtape Letters...

I give this rating because the show really does not have enough material and I'm not convinced that an adaption of the book works, the show however makes up for it with wonderful creativeness and the two leads are phenomenal. I really struggled with choosing between three and four stars here, but in the end decided to go with three. If I used half stars, this would be one of the times I would use it.

Think it should gave got a higher rating? Think it should have got a lower rating? If so comment below.

Join me next time when I will be reviewing Dirty Dancing.

Thanks for reading!

-The Reviewer

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Review: This House

Hey readers!
It's time for my review of This House.
I was absolutely thrilled to be seeing This House, as it combined two things I  love, theatre and politics. I hope to someday work in either of these two fields, so seeing a play like this was wonderful. This House's strongest aspect is it's unmissable cast. They are a truly first-rate cast. The show has some weaker moments in terms of writing, but the cast were always able to carry it through. They really conveyed as to what politicians were like back in the 70's, and to be completely honest it doesn't seem like our politicians have changed that much. The way Conservative politicians are and the way Labour politicians are is portrayed extremely well. Stereotypical Conservatives are portrayed as being snobby and selfish and stereotypical Labour politicians are portrayed as being loud and foul mouthed. There was a clear divide between the two types of politicians, and once again, things haven't really changed. Cast members who stood out were (in alphabetical order); Phil Daniels as Bob Mellish, Kevin Doyle as Michael Cocks, Lauren O'Neil as Ann Taylor, Nathaniel Parker as Jack Weatherill, Steffan Rhodri as Walter Harrison and Malcom Sinclair as Humphrey Atkins. I cannot applaud this cast enough! I thought the set was very cleverly designed, it looked extremely accurate to the actual House of Commons (although being a little smaller). The costume and lighting design also greatly helped add to the effect of the show. I had not known about the minority government in the 70's, so it was excellent to be educated on this subject. I had wondered before why a majority is needed in the House of Commons, but this play has clearly highlighted certain issues for me and has expanded my politics knowledge. It has even deepened my love for politics a bit more. I did more research about the minority government and the vote of no confidence after the play and from what I read it sounds like the play was very true to life. The best part of the show is the last half an hour. In the last half an hour, the play builds up tension, has some really touching moments and has a very dramatic ending. This is when the play really shines. I wouldn't recommend this play to anyone who doesn't know nor cares about politics. I took my Mum to the show and she doesn't even vote, so as much as she loved the acting, she didn't understand the parliamentary system. For people like my Mum, who accompany friends or family but don't know much about politics, perhaps a 3 minutes video at the beginning of the play may have helped? I think this would have opened up the play to a wider audience. I felt that there were parts of the show which were weakly written, such as the beginning 20 minutes, where I wasn't sure who was who and what was going on. As I mentioned earlier though, the acting was able to carry the show through the weaker parts. The only other critique for the show I have is a nitpick, but I wasn't overly keen on the singing in the show. It just felt a little unnecessary, but this is not a major concern at all.

The featured star of This House is, drum roll please... MALCOM SINCLAIR!

Choosing featured star was extremely difficult. I made a shortlist of 4 of the actors and honestly, it would've been easier to pick straws. After much thought and consideration, I decided to choose Malcom for featured star. He was consistent throughout and gave a truly convincing portrayal as Humphrey Atkins. Furthermore, he played what a stereotypical Conservative politician acts like. He was missed whenever he was offstage and I am very glad he was cast in this role.

Now for my final verdict on This House. I give This House...

I give this rating because the show has an extremely strong cast and great creative aspects, and this makes up for the weaker parts of writing.

Think it should have got a higher rating? Agree with my rating? Think it should have got a lower rating? If so comment below.

Join me next time when I will be reviewing The Screwtape Letters.

Thanks for reading!

-The Reviewer

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Review: Million Dollar Quartet

Hey readers!
It's time for my review of Million Dollar Quartet.
When making plans for the Christmas and New Year theatre marathon, I wasn't sure whether to add this one in. I eventually decided to go with it, because an extra musical can never hurt. This show was so much fun, I had a blast! It's the kind of show where you leave the theatre walking on air. For the last 15 minutes of the show everyone is up on their feet, singing and dancing. The atmosphere in the theatre was electric. Million Dollar Quartet showcases a stunning group of performers, consisting of Martin Kemp as Sam Phillips, Ross William Wild as Elvis Presley, Matthew Wycliffe as Carl Perkins, Robbie Durham as Jonny Cash, Martin Kaye as Jerry Lee Lewis and Katie Ray as Dyanne. They can act, they can sing and they can play instruments, there's nothing this cast can't do! They made absolute magic onstage and there were no weak links. They all really connected with their character and seemed to be very natural onstage. I cannot speak highly enough of this cast, they are outstanding! The music was long before my time (I only recognised five of the songs), but this was a great introduction into all the old rock and roll music. My favourites were 'Blue Suede Shoes' and 'Fever', which were both excellently performed. The fact that the instruments were played live onstage added a lot to the excitement, it's so great to have a cast that are so multi-talented. The sound design was flawless, the chairs were vibrating from the sound which was another factor that helped to add to the rock and roll. The costumes and lighting were also perfect, I cannot fault either of these in any way. I thought the Royal Festival Hall was the ideal theatre for this show. I know that it'll be visiting smaller venues on its tour (which begins in February), so it'll be interesting to find out how different the show is, considering the Royal Festival Hall has a capacity of 2,900. The advantage to having a smaller theatre is that it would be more suitable for the set, which looked rather small on the large stage. A smaller audience will have to be extra loud to compensate! The only negative aspect of the show is that the storyline is a little weak, however a show such as this doesn't really need to have a strong storyline as it's more like attending a live concert. As nice as a more detailed story would be, the show was so much fun that I didn't worry about this too much.

The featured star of Million Dollar Quartet is, drum roll please... MARTIN KAYE!

Martin Kaye was awesome in the role of Jerry Lee Lewis. For me, Martin stole the entire show. His acting and singing is superb and his piano playing is out of this world. He even played the piano with his feet! I've never seen someone so talented on the piano, he is a delight to watch.

Now for my final verdict on Million Dollar Quartet. I give Million Dollar Quartet...

I give this rating because, even though the show didn't have the strongest storyline, it gives the audience the time of their lives and has an unmissable cast! If it is coming to a theatre near you and if you love a fun time out then I highly recommend this.

Think it should have got a higher rating? Agree with my rating? Think it should have got a lower rating? If so comment below.

Join me next time when I will be reviewing This House.

Thanks for reading!

-The Reviewer

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Review: Cinderella

Hey readers!
It's time for my review of Cinderella.
Since the age of 4, I have visited Richmond Theatre's pantomimes every single year and for the first time last year I visited Wimbledon Theatre's panto as well. This year I decided to change things up and I visited the London Palladium's panto of Cinderella. This is the best panto I have ever seen, I have truly never seen anything like it. It has mesmerising special effects and the most famous cast I have ever seen in one show, it puts on the panto of all panto's. Now that I've seen this, I don't think I can ever go back to one of Richmond's panto's. The show is just under three hours long, but the time flies by. There have been shows much shorter than this which have felt like an eternity. I actually hadn't even realised how long I'd been watching the show, every minute was a joy. The show is absolutely hilarious, I laughed my socks off! It's the funniest show I've seen since I saw Guys and Dolls with Rebel Wilson in July. The music is great and I have heard (don't quote me on this) that the majority of the music was written especially for the show. The costumes are fantastic and are most likely the best I have ever seen for a show. Specifically, Julian Clary's costumes were stunning! The sets were fairly simple, but worked well. I also thought the choreography was done well. Onto the subject everyone who sees the show is eager to see, the cast. Paul O'Grady plays the role of Baroness Hardup perfectly and brings terror to all the children in the theatre. What I liked about his performance, is that he was a really convincing female. It wasn't an overacted dame like most panto's are, it was more subtle, but still had the fun factor. I loved his ad-lib when a child started screaming and he shouted into the audience "Calpol that little brat before I do!". Julian Clary gives a stunning performance as Dandini, a performance which is the best pantomime performance I have ever seen. In the production of Cinderella I saw at Richmond last year, I found Dandini to be really annoying, but the character certainly wasn't annoying when played by Julian Clary. He is absolutely hilarious and steals the stage whenever he appears. I watched Amanda Holden a long time ago on Britain's Got Talent when I was younger, so it was great to see her live onstage in the role of The Fairy Godmother. I was surprised to find out she has a very good singing voice. Lee Mead and Natasha J. Barnes make an astounding pair as Prince Charming and Cinderella. They have good chemistry and both have lovely singing voices (which I wish we'd heard more of). Funnily enough, out of all the 'stars' in this show, I was most excited to see Natasha performing as I'd heard a lot about her performance in Funny Girl. Paul Zerdin was absolutely brilliant as Buttons and I adored his puppet Sam. Paul is clearly extremely talented and is a joy to watch. Last but not least, Nigel Havers as Lord Chamberlin was a lot funnier than I expected. The running gag of him wanting to be in scenes never tires and got funnier and funnier throughout. All of the above cast members are phenomenal, however I was not keen on the performances of Steve Delaney who played the character Count Arthur Strong playing Baron Hardup and Suzie Chard and Wendy Somerville as Verruca and Hernia. Steve Delaney/Count Arthur Strong/Baron Hardup was extremely awkward to watch and he just didn't fit in with the rest of the show whatsoever. This character may be funny elsewhere, but this was not the place for Count Arthur Strong. Suzie Chard and Wendy Somerville clearly did their best, but became heavily overshadowed and again felt out of place. I think casting 'names' in these roles would've worked better.

The featured star of Cinderella is, drum roll please... JULIAN CLARY!

This was a really tough decision to make between Julian Clary and Paul Zerdin, but in the end I decided to go with Julian. He was unbelievably funny, I would've even been satisfied if the whole show was just Julian. He was the glue that held the show together.

Now for my final verdict on Cinderella. I give Cinderella...

I give this rating because this is the best pantomime of all time, with everything needed to make the perfect panto. I cannot wait for the Palladium's next panto of Dick Whittington, it has a lot to live up to!

Agree with my rating? Think it should have got a lower rating? If so comment below.

Join me next time when I will be reviewing Million Dollar Quartet.

Thanks for reading!

-The Reviewer

Friday, 23 December 2016

Review: A Christmas Carol (Off West End)

Hey readers!
It's time for my review of A Christmas Carol.
I've seen two other shows with the storyline of A Christmas Carol, one being the musical 'Scrooge' with Tommy Steele in 2012 and the other being a play adaption last year starring Jim Broadbent. I have also seen a few film adaptions, so I know the story rather well, which came in handy when seeing this production at the LOST theatre, as there were several issues which, if I had not known the story beforehand, would've caused me to not have much clue what was going on. This production has potential with some good qualities to it, but is let down by certain aspects of the show. I'll start with what I feel would improve the production and go on to the good aspects of this production. When I went on press night (20th December), the show seemed far from performance ready. There were several sound issues and actors forgetting their cues. These were the main issues of the show and with more rehearsals/previews these could've been fixed. It just didn't seem ready to be professionally performed in front of a live audience. The sounds issues made it very hard to understand certain dialogue and lyrics, but fortunately with my prior knowledge of the show I knew what was going on. As said in a few other reviews I have now read, the show has a very mixed ability cast, which makes things a little awkward to watch. My only other criticism would be that there were certain songs that went on for a little bit too long and could've been shortened. One example that comes to mind is the song 'Mr. Fezziwig's Annual Christmas Ball'. I genuinely think these issues can be changed and fixed and if this is done so, this would be a stunning production. Good points to the show include the lighting and stage projections. The stage projections were really innovative, not many shows use projections but they worked very well for this show. Cast members who stood out were Piers Granham as Scrooge, Richard Lounds as Marley, Joe Brown as Scrooge at 18 and Kyrana Shea as several roles. Piers Granham reminded me of Kelsey Grammar, who funnily enough played Scrooge in the TV adaption of this musical. He was missed a lot when he was off-stage (which isn't often) and I feel he carried the show from the beginning to the end. Joe Brown has such a lovely voice, whenever he was part of the ensemble he outshone all of his fellow cast members. I think he would do very well if he went for a singing career. Another highlight of the show is the wonderful tap dancing number at the end of act one, that was sublime!

The featured star of A Christmas Carol is, drum roll please... PIERS GARNHAM!

Piers delivers a great performance as Scrooge and is one of the shows saving graces. Scrooge's 'change of heart' is portrayed really well and thanks to Piers you can really see the difference in the character.

Now for my final verdict of A Christmas Carol. I give A Christmas Carol...

I give this rating because I did not feel the show was performance ready at all, it however has certain cast members, with superb lighting design and stage projections which save the show.

Think it should have got a higher rating? Agree with my rating? Think it should have got a lower rating? If so comment below.

Join me next time when I will be reviewing Cinderella.

Thanks for reading!

-The Reviewer

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Review: Love's Labour's Lost

Hey readers!
It's time for my review of Love's Labour's Lost.
As some of you may have read in my review of Ragtime, starting with Love's Labour's Lost I am doing a theatre marathon over Christmas and New Year (I have 8 shows lined up!). I was originally planning to see Love's Labour's Lost in a few days and thought I had press tickets for Cymbeline yesterday, but it turns out Cymbeline was actually for the 17th so I went up to Love's Labour's Lost to get some day seats. What a show to kick off the marathon, this revival of the Shakespeare classic is done wonderfully! The show features a top-notch cast, they all have great chemistry with each other, they fitted in like pieces of a puzzle. They were all an absolute joy to watch! Cast members who stood out were Sam Alexander as the King of Navarre, Edward Bennett as Berowne, Lisa Dillon as Rosaline, Nick Haverson as Costard, John Hodgkinson as Don Armado, Tunji Kasim as Dumaine, Emma Manton as Jaquenetta, Peter McGovern as Moth and last but certainly not least, Leah Whitaker as the Princess of France. As soon as I walked into the theatre and saw the set design, it took my breath away. The detail that has been put into the set is truly amazing. I will be astonished if the set doesn't get an Olivier nomination. I love it when such detail is put in. The costume design was also really good and added a lot to the show. The show uses a lot of music, which surprised me, but it was a delight. Even more to my surprise, the music was played by a live orchestra! It was actually the most music I have ever seen for a non-musical. Nigel Hess has done wonders with scoring Shakespeare. The music gives this old Shakespeare play new life. It's so entertaining, I was laughing throughout. It is suitable for all ages and I think would be a good introduction to Shakespeare for younger ones without any knowledge of Shakespeare. For those like myself who struggle with Shakespearean language, I would advise looking up the synopsis of the play before seeing it. Love's Labour's Lost is the perfect thing to see for those looking for some light hearted fun around Christmas time, it's the perfect Christmas treat!

The featured star of Love's Labour's Lost is, drum roll please... EDWARD BENNETT!

Edward Bennett is the life and soul of the production. He steals the stage every time he enters, he's a star! He is immensely talented and this show would not be the same without him at all. It amazes me how he remembers all of those lines!

Now for my final verdict on Love's Labour's Lost. I give Love's Labour's Lost...

I give this rating because it is a fun and entertaining show, with a stellar cast, great music and wonderful creative aspects. It doesn't quite get my 5 star rating, but it is very close.

Think it should have got a higher rating? Agree with my rating? Think it should have got a lower rating? If so comment below.

Join me next time when I will be reviewing A Christmas Carol.

Thanks for reading!

-The Reviewer

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Review: Ragtime

Hey readers!
It's time for my review of Ragtime.
With nothing planned for my weekend (and not having been to the theatre in a while), I decided Saturday would be a great day for a matinee! I have a friend in America (@broadwaybobnyc) who adores Ragtime and with an Off-West End production playing, I just had to see if it was as good as Bob had told me. My thoughts after seeing Ragtime... what a show! Everything about it is perfect, I don't feel I can put into words how well everything is done (but I'm going to try!). The show takes the audience on a roller-coaster of emotions, a lot happens! With the wonderful acting, set and score, I was absolutely transported. I know this is going to sound like a cliché, but it genuinely felt like I was there in America during the 20th Century. The set is minimal and yet the show manages to create all of New York City with it, and it works tremendously. The costumes are also fantastic and add to the realistic effect, as did the lighting design. The cast are sublime; not only are they incredible actors and singers, but they play their own instruments! Anita Louise Combe as Mother is very natural in the role, she was ideal for the role. Her rendition "Back to Before" is lovely. Aka Mitchell as Coalhouse Walker Jr. has a voice full of soul and emotion. His character largely changes throughout the play and Aka has this down to a tee. He was also fantastic on the piano! I cannot praise Gary Tushaw as Tateh enough. Tateh, in my opinion, is the character in the show that has the largest journey and Gary, from facial expressions to movement, showed the struggles of Tateh. Jonathan Stewart adds to the long list of incredible performances in this show, as Younger Brother. I have seen Jonathan in Shrek as Pinocchio and in Guys and Dolls understudying as Sky Masterson. He is an extremely versatile actor, he always delivers, no matter what the role. Finally, Jennifer Saayeng, as Sarah, has a voice like no other. Her voice is beautiful, she was definitely the strongest singer in the cast.  I felt like I really understood the thought process of every single character and throughout the show I grew to care about all of the main characters. There are many plots to the show and it is interesting to see them all intertwine. The score is spectacular and I have been listening to the score non-stop since seeing the show. I can't get the tune of the 'Prologue' out of my head! I liked the messages given by the show, especially the themes of racial inequality. It was very sad what African-Americans had to put up with back then and I know it sadly still occasionally happens today. There is nothing whatsoever to fault the show, it is 10 times better than the majority of shows in the West End.

The featured star of Ragtime is, drum roll please... GARY TUSHAW!

Featured star was such a difficult choice as there are so many extraordinary performances in this show, but in the end I decided I had to give it to Gary. Because of his portrayal, I cared about Tateh more than any of the other characters. He is definitely one of the best leading actors in a musical I have seen this year.

Now for my final verdict on Ragtime. I give Ragtime...

I give this rating because it meets every requirement for the perfect production. Great cast, great score, great set, lighting and costumes, it has absolutely everything!

Agree with my rating? Think it should have got a lower rating? If so comment below.

Join me next time when I will be kicking off my London Christmas and New Year theatre marathon with Love's Labour's Lost.

Thanks for reading!

-The Reviewer