Sunday, 25 February 2018

Review: Strangers on a Train

Hey readers!
Its time for my review of Strangers on a Train.
Living so close to Richmond Theatre, I always keep an eye out for what's playing there to check if there is anything that I am eager to see. That is how I came across the brand new production of Strangers on a Train! After reading a little about the storyline, I became quite interested in this play, so with little to do on a Saturday afternoon I went to see the matinee of Strangers on a Train.

The play begins with a seemingly innocent conversation, which soon turns into a dangerous reality for Guy Haines when he meets Charles Bruno on a train journey. Ahead lies a deadly nightmare of blackmail and psychological torment that threatens to cost Guy his career, his marriage and his sanity. His choice: to kill, or to be framed for a murder he didn't commit. I found the storyline to be very interesting and the concept that it follows is intriguing. I can only begin to imagine how fascinating it must have been to read the original book; it must have been a real page turner. For the most part, it is extremely exciting and really is enthralling to watch the story unravel. The only criticism that I have for the writing is that I felt that certain scenes were arguably unneeded, and there are several scenes which drag on a little too long. The play's current running time is 2 hours and 25 minutes, however this could easily be shortened.

Jack Ashton, one of the two co-leads, is very believable in the role of Guy Haines. The character of Guy goes through an absolute trauma, but Ashton has a subtle and nuanced response, resulting in an entirely human, and therefore believable, response. The other lead actor in Strangers on a Train is Chris Harper, who portrayed Charles Bruno, who's performance was utterly captivating. Charles Bruno is possibly the best written character in the play, due to the fact that he has many layers and there are several different ways that one could interpret the character. Charles Bruno is clearly psychotic and highly unpredictable, and Chris Harper has this down to a tee. Harper executes the character flawlessly. As a foil to these two characters is former Policeman Arthur Gerard, who is portrayed by John Middleton. Middleton's stage time is fairly limited, but he certainly leaves an impression. The highlight of his performance is, without a doubt, the monologue that he delivers before he makes his exit.

The set design has the difficult task of having to show several different locations on a fairly small stage, but the designer has been able to pull it off in an extremely innovative manner. The set design uses one wall for its set, with various sections of the wall being removed throughout the play to reveal different locations. It was extremely clever and I applaud the designer for creating such an ingenious set. I was also quite impressed with the lighting design, which I thought was extremely effective and complimented the set well.

The featured star of Strangers on a Train is, drum roll please... CHRIS HARPER!

Chris Harper's performance is truly exceptional. It is such an interesting character and there are many different ways to play it, but I personally felt that Harper had the best possible interpretation. From the minute Charles Bruno was onstage, I knew there was something unnerving about this character (and sure enough, I was right!). 

Now for my final verdict on Strangers on a Train. I give Strangers on a Train...

Whilst I found that the writing and length of the play could do with some editing, the positives majorly outweigh the negatives of this production, meaning that Strangers on a Train definitely deserves its 3 star rating!

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

Thanks for reading!

-The Reviewer

Review: Lady Windermere's Fan

Hey readers!
It's time for my review of Lady Windermere's Fan.
Towards the end of my half-term holiday, I was extremely fortunate to secure some last minute day seats to see the brand new revival of the brilliant Oscar Wilde classic 'Lady Windermere's Fan'. Where day seats are situated vary from theatre to theatre, but luckily Lady Windermere's Fan places day seat holders at the front row of the stalls, meaning I had the perfect view.

Oscar Wilde's witty play follows Lady Windermere, who has her suspicions that her husband of just under two years is having an affair with another woman. After he denies her allegations, he decides to invite the woman in question to her 21st birthday party. As anger takes over, Lady Windermere's Fan tells of a marriage marred by lies and secrecy. Lady Windermere's Fan first premiered in 1892 at the St. James's Theatre in London, where it became extremely popular. 126 years later, Lady Windermere's Fan has returned to London, and it is as fresh and relevant as ever! Oscar Wilde was clearly extremely intelligent, and this can be deducted by his writing alone. I found the hidden meanings within it to be quite interesting. Despite living in a time period where women were still seen as second-rate by some, Lady Windermere's Fan goes against female stereotypes and shows strong and independent women that are not afraid to go against the wishes of society.

Lady Windermere's Fan has a cast that is full of witty, humorous and extraordinarily talented actors. Among the cast is the one and only Jennifer Saunders, who is performing as the Duchess of Berwick. Saunders' facial expressions alone have the whole audience in stitches, and the comic relief that she brings to the play works as a nice contrast to the more serious characters of Lady Windermere's Fan. In the title role of Lady Windermere is Grace Molony, who happens to be making her West End debut. Molony is a faultless Lady Windermere, and really was a joy to watch. At her side is Joshua James as Lord Windermere, who is absolutely perfect at portraying Windermere's earnest personality. Joseph Marcell in the role of the foolish Lord Lorton is also brilliant, as is Kevin Bishop in the role of Lord Darlington, who I found to be extremely humorous; both of these actors had impeccable comic timing. Last but not least, my final special mention goes to Samantha Spiro, who portrayed Mrs. Erlynne. As always, Samantha Spiro gave a deeply moving and outstanding performance. Brining with bounds of wit and fieriness, I would argue that it was Spiro that stole the show. The remainder of the cast were all remarkable, and there were no weak links. It's an extremely entertaining production, and I largely accredit this to the cast. Having said that though, I feel that director Kathy Burke should also be applauded for what she has done with this play. By adding in various little extra parts, she has made the play even funnier than it was originally was. I hope that Oscar Wilde would be proud.

The costume designs are to best possible standard; they were absolute perfection. The sets are expertly created, and I appreciate how detailed it was. I greatly admired that Lady Windermere's terrace has been shaped like a fan; a subtle design that I only noticed at the very end of the play. The lighting design was also excellent.

Lady Windermere's Fan is the second of four Oscar Wilde plays which are to be presented at London's Vaudeville Theatre this year. Considering how much I enjoyed this play, I am eager to see the other two Oscar Wilde plays later down the line. I would urge anyone wishing to wash away those winter blues to see this play, as you are almost guaranteed to have a good time.

The featured star of Lady Windermere's Fan is, drum roll please... SAMANTHA SPIRO!

As you will have already gathered, this really was an excellent cast, and I went back and forth with choosing a featured star. Ultimately though, it was Samantha Spiro that stole the show. This is the fourth show that I have seen Samantha Spiro in and she has never disappointed. She has such a wide range of talents and I honestly do not believe it is possible for her to give a bad performance.

Now for my final verdict on Lady Windermere's Fan. I give Lady Windermere's Fan...

This was an easy rating for me to give; there is no doubt that Lady Windermere's Fan is very deserving of its 4 star rating.

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

Thanks for reading!

-The Reviewer

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Review: Iolanthe

Hey readers!
It's time for my review of Iolanthe.
Despite theatre being my number one hobby, I had never actually seen an opera in all my years of theatre-going. Whilst searching for a Saturday matinee during my half-term break, I happened to be near the London Coliseum which was showing a revival of the comic-opera Iolanthe. I then leapt at the opportunity to see my first opera and went to see it!

Iolanthe was written by the duo known as Gilbert and Sullivan; a Victorian era theatrical partnership which led to the creation of many comical operas. The bizarre story of this show follows a fairy named Iolanthe, who is banished for marrying a mortal and having his son, but when her young son wishes to marry, his fairy queen storms into Westminster to make him a Member of Parliament so he can win the girl... with chaotic consequences! Iolanthe was a great introduction to the opera genre, as it was very entertaining and it wasn't too hard to follow. It was also quite helpful that Iolanthe is performed in English! Whilst operatic music isn't necessarily my favourite genre, I still had a pleasant experience and truly enjoyed this amusing revival of Iolanthe.

There were many great things about this production, but personally, my favourite aspect of the show was its incredible designs. Firstly, the costume design is absolutely outstanding. Each costume is extremely unique, and it was clear that a huge amount of thought and dedication had gone into each and every aspect of the design. The set design is also extremely impressive. All of the sets within the show were spectacular, but the most impressive part was, without a doubt, the life-size steam train which makes its way onto the stage during act one. Both the set and the costumes were designed by Paul Brown, a previous Academy Award nominee. Sadly, Paul Brown passed away in November 2017, but I am glad to see that his legacy has lived on.

The cast were all brilliant, and there were no weak links whatsoever. In the title role of Iolanthe was Samantha Price, who is an ENO Harewood Artist. Price had a beautiful voice and played the role to perfection. Portraying her son, Strephon, was Marcus Farnsworth. Farnsworth brought bounds of energy to the stage, making his performance extremely enjoyable to watch. Starring as his girlfriend, Phyllis, is Elli Laugharne, who is also full of energy, bringing lots of fun to the show. Finally, the other cast member that I feel deserves a special mention is Andrew Shore, who performed as The Lord Chancellor. Shore's voice was truly phenomenal, and if this wasn't enough, he was also a terrific actor, making his overall performance exceptional.

The featured star of Iolanthe is, drum roll please... SAMANTHA PRICE!

The choice of featured star was an extremely difficult choice between Samantha Price, Marcus Farnsworth, Elli Laugharne and Andrew Shore. They all gave equally incredible performances, meaning that it took me quite a while to finally select a featured star. Samantha Price was very believable in the role of Iolanthe, with her physicality and voice being perfect for the character. Her voice is incredible and suits the music very well.

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

Despite operatic music not being my favourite, I still throughly enjoyed Iolanthe. It is an excellent production and its design is worth the ticket price alone!

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

Thanks for reading!

-The Reviewer

Monday, 19 February 2018

Review: Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde

Hey readers!
It's time for my review of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde.
Beginning on the 9th of February, a brand new production of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde opened at the Rose Theatre in Kingston for one week only before touring across the rest of the UK. The Rose Theatre is virtually on my doorstep, and yet I had not seen a show there for 8 years! I thought that this production looked really interesting and I was keen to return to the Rose Theatre, so I finally returned after 8 long years. Once I had arrived, I felt surprised that it had taken me so long to return the Rose Theatre, as it truly is a wonderful theatre. Sadly though, I had more mixed thoughts about the play itself.

The story follows the well-respected Dr. Jekyll, who during one of his audacious experiments trying to separate good from evil, he inadvertently unleashes an alternative personality… the fiendish Mr Hyde. As this sinister figure starts causing terror and havoc in foggy London, Dr. Jekyll must race to find a cure for his monstrous alter-ego before it takes over for good. It is a fascinating story, however I feel that it has been adapted in a rather dull manner, causing the story to feel somewhat lifeless. I became somewhat disinterested with the play on numerous occasions, and I don't believe this should have been the case. I find the storyline to be so interesting, so why did the way it has been written in this instance leave me unresponsive? The conclusion that I reach was that there is a lot of exposition within the play, resulting in large chunks becoming fairly tedious. The play is a total of 2 hours and 10 minutes, and I don't believe that it needed to be this long. There were scenes that took place which could have easily been removed, and this production could have served as a one-act play. Additionally, the writer works hard to introduce dozens of characters and subplots to the audience, which I felt prohibited me from fully understanding what was happening on this stage, causing me to become fairly confused. There were times, especially in act one, that I became a little bewildered with who each character was and what relationships they had with other characters.

Despite holding negative views towards the way this play has been written, luckily I still have some very positive views on other aspects of this production! Firstly, I thought that the cast were excellent. Led by Phil Daniels in the role of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and this cast work exceptionally well together. Each cast member held their own on the stage, with each and every one of them brining something unique and different to the play.

In addition to that, this production has been exceedingly well designed. The set design, by Simon Higlett, was extremely striking and worked to a great effect. The play has to show numerous occasions and I thought that the set handled this well. Simon Higlett has also designed the costumes, which I thought were once again excellent; they suited the Victorian time period very well. I also held the lighting design in a high regard, which serviced the show ably.

The featured star of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is, drum roll please... PHIL DANIELS!

A year ago I saw Phil Daniels perform in This House, which he was absolutely excellent in and I'm pleased to say he has once again given an excellent performance! Phil Daniels was an exceptional Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. He gave a captivating performance and was fascinating to watch. He really is such an incredible actor. Whilst I may not have been such a huge fan of the play itself, there is no denying that his performance was truly outstanding.

Now for my final verdict on Dr Jekyll and My Hyde. I give Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde...

It was extremely difficult for me to choose a rating for this production. On the one hand, I was extremely unimpressed with the way it was written, but on the other hand, it is superbly acted and is excellently designed. I eventually decided to give it 2 stars, as it isn't quite as good as some of the shows that I have awarded 3 stars to. If I did half ratings, this would be awarded 2 and a half stars.

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

Thanks for reading!

-The Reviewer

Friday, 16 February 2018

Review: Pinocchio

Hey readers!
It's time for my review of Pinocchio.
The musical version of Pinocchio was first announced to be in development in July 2015, and ever since then I have been really curious as to what this musical adaptation was going to be like. Therefore, when it began performances in December 2017, I was eager to go and see it. I am very sorry to say that Pinocchio was far from what I was expecting and I left the National Theatre feeling extremely disappointed. It pains me to say this, but Pinocchio may even be my least favourite musical of all time.

I would argue that one of the reasons that I failed to connect with this show was due to the fact that I felt there was a lack of clear direction. This actually surprises me, as the director of this production was John Tiffany, and all past productions that Tiffany has directed have bene done so to great effect. Pinocchio seems to be very unsure as to who their target audience are; on the one hand, some parts of the show are extremely juvenile, but on the other hand, there are many scenes within the play that would make many young children frightened. I was left extremely unsure as to who this production was aimed at. I came to the conclusion that it may be directed at tweens (aged 10-12), but even then, I'm not quite sure that this would have been my cup of tea as a tween either. The other main issue which contributed to me not being able to connect with this production was the way it has been written. There were large chunks of the story that failed to make sense to me and I was able to find a fair amount of plot holes. I was also left somewhat disappointed with portions of the dialogue, with many lines coming across as unnatural and unrealistic.

The cast of Pinocchio had both strengths and weaknesses, however I would like to give special mentions to Audrey Brisson as Jiminy Cricket, Mark Hadfield as Gepetto, Annette McLaughlin as the Blue Fairy and Gershwyn Eustache Jnr as Stromboli. Despite not having the best dialogue to work with, all the actors mentioned performed to the best of their ability. I would also like to give a special mention to all of the puppeteers in this production, who were all fantastic.

I held mixed thoughts on the set design, which was created by Bob Crowley. The set that is used iscertainly serviceable, but it is a little simplistic and it could definitely be expanded. They have the basics for the set and it looks quite good, but I would have liked it a little more if it had been increased in size. The costume design was a little bit 'hit and miss'. There were some of the costumes that looked excellent, such as the marionettes which are featured at the end of act one. However, there were also some costumes, such as Pinocchio's, that looked as if not a lot of thought had gone into them. I was quite impressed with the puppetry design and I thought that the facial features of the puppets had been well created, however there was a certain flaw to the puppets which left me somewhat perplexed. The puppets in Pinocchio are legless, which somewhat weakened the realism of the characters.

The featured star of Pinocchio is, drum roll please... AUDREY BRISSON!

Audrey Brisson brought a lot of energy onto the stage and into the character of 'Jiminy Cricket', which I felt increased the overall enjoyment factor of the production. Whilst I wasn't too impressed with the show, Brisson certainly made it more entertaining to watch!

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

It honestly pains me to give this rating, but considering how much I struggled to find positive aspects of this show, I decided that it would only be fair to award Pinocchio one star. Some of the shows that I have given two stars , have had a few good qualities, so it would not be fair to give Pinocchio the same rating as those. 

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

Thanks for reading!

-The Reviewer

Sunday, 11 February 2018

The Basic Theatre Awards 2017/18

Hey readers!

I am very happy to finally confirm that, for the third year running, the Basic Theatre Awards will once again return! I absolutely love holding the Basic Theatre Awards and it was wonderful to see their popularity rise last year, so hopefully we will be able to achieve the same amount of buzz this time around .

I first launched the Basic Theatre Awards in 2016 as a celebration of the anniversary of the year that The Basic Theatre Review was created. In the awards, I nominate my favourite shows and performances of the year, and I ask my readers to help me choose the winners.

2018 has been a great year for theatre, and this is reflected in the group of nominees that I have selected. I will be posting who the nominees are on my Twitter account (@TheReviewer23), so hopefully you will all already have a rough idea of who you are planning to vote for.

Do not throw away your shot to vote! Last year we reached 136 votes, so hopefully we can top that this year. If there is an actor or show you would like to win then please, please, please spread the word! If there is a category you wish not to vote in, just leave it empty. Here is the link to vote:

Good luck to all of those nominated and may the best actors, actresses and shows win!

-The Reviewer

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Review: The Exorcist

Hey readers!
It's time for my review of The Exorcist.
At the weekend, a family friend surprised me with some very unexpected theatre tickets to go and see horror show, The Exorcist. I was extremely unsure as to how I would react to this phycological thriller and, to tell the truth, I was a little apprehensive before entering the theatre, but I have lived to tell the tale!

The Exorcist, based on the novel of the same name, follows a 12 year old girl named Regan, who appears to have something deeply wrong with her. Is there someone from within her causing this? When the medical profession fails to provide answers to young Regan’s strange symptoms, her desperate mother, Chris, turns to a local priest for help. But before Father Damian can tackle what’s before him, he must overcome his own shaken beliefs, as this fight is for more than just one girl’s soul. Whilst I did not feel terrified by 'The Exorcist, I had feelings of discomfort throughout, due to some of the content that was featured. I was honestly shocked by what I saw and heard on that stage, and I had never witnessed anything quite like it. As a result of this, I was on the edge of my seat from beginning to end. I was utterly captivated throughout, staring at the stage with disbelief.

Leading the cast of 'The Exorcist' is Clare Louise Connolly, who portrays Regan, the 12 year old girl that gets possessed by an unknown being that claims to be the Devil. Regan is an extremely demanding role to play, but Clare Louise Conolly does it to perfection, giving a mesmerising performance. I found Conolly's portrayal of Regan to be eerily haunting; she was the perfect choice for the role. Portraying Regan's concerned and distraught mother, Chris, is Jenny Seagrove. Seagrove fully immerses herself into the role of Chris, resulting in an extremely believable performance full of raw emotion. Two other cast members that specifically deserve special mentions are Adam Garcia, as Father Damien Karras, and Tristam Wymark, as Burke. Both of these actors displayed very good characterisations, resulting in both memorable and interesting performances. I thought that the cast for The Exorcist were full of extremely talented actors, and it is clear that, for the most part, this show has been cast very well. Having said that, Peter Bowles, in the role of Father Merrin, came across as a bit of a weak link. In my view, the character should have been portrayed as powerful, but instead Father Merrin seemed to be lacking the passion that was needed. This may not have been the fault of Peter Bowles though, as it could have been due to the fact that the character was fairly underwritten.

The writing was extremely good at raising tensions throughout the show, and it is clear the increasing tensions is where playwright John Pielmeier shines. My only issue that I took with the writing was that certain parts of the narrative didn't quite make sense to me. Having said that, I am at a disadvantage to other audience members having not read the book or seen the film, so perhaps the playwright hoped that all of those attending the play were familiar with the story and will already have a good understanding of all of the characters. I also felt that certain parts of the structure of the play could do with slight improving, with the main example of this being the beginning.

A key part of this production are special effects, which I found to be extremely impressive and were one of the many highlights of the show! Some of the special effects left me perplexed, and I still have not been able to work out how certain special effects were pulled off. I particularly liked the set design, which was tremendously detailed. It was clear to me that a lot of thought and effort had gone into the set; it was awe-inspiring!

The featured star of The Exorcist is, drum roll please... JENNY SEAGROVE!

Featured star was a tough battle between Clare Louise Connolly and Jenny Seagrove, but after much consideration, I have decided to award it to Seagrove! Jenny Seagrove puts so much energy and emotion into this performance and it certainly pays off. Her performance of the character was extremely realistic and could not be faulted.

Now for my final verdict on The Exorcist. I give The Exorcist...

The Exorcist shocked me beyond belief, just as a physiological thriller should. Whilst having feelings of discomfort, I was hooked from beginning to end. The Exorcist is a play like no other!

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

Thanks for reading!

-The Reviewer