Thursday, 31 May 2018

Review: Monogamy

Hey readers!
It's time for my review of Monogamy!
Throughout all of May, I had seen several posters for 'Monogamy' plastered all over buses across Richmond. After seeing Monogamy advertised so often, I chose to do some further research into it and found that it seemed to be a rather interesting play. Additionally, the lead actress in this production was West End star Janie Dee, who I had seen months before in the National Theatre production of Follies, in which she was nominated for several major awards. As a result, I was rather eager to see Monogamy whilst it was stationed at Richmond

Monogamy centres around Caroline Mortimer, the nation’s favourite TV cook. Caroline has it all - a sparkling career, a big house in Highgate, a (golf) loving husband, smart kids and the best kitchen money can buy. But beneath the immaculate furnishings, studio lighting and away from the glare of the ever-present cameras - Caroline must face the looming collision of living a private life in the public eye. Monogamy tells us the tale of what happens when the cameras turn off and the truth comes out. I found all of the characters within Monogamy to be utterly fascinating. Each and every one of them are deeply troubled, all facing some of life's most difficult hurdles. The dynamic created by these characters were particularly interesting, and the interactions between them made for fantastic viewing. The play is centred around a dysfunctional family, which I'm sure almost all of us can relate to. Whilst all of our lives may not be quite as dramatic as the events that take place within the play, Monogamy perfectly captures the essence of how living in a dysfunctional family could be. There are a wide range of themes explored throughout the duration of Monogamy, including: alcoholism, religion, marriage, extra-marital affairs, mental health difficulties, sexuality, autism, drug abuse issues, as well as depression. All of these topics were handled very well, with playwright Torben Betts capturing the essence of each issue quite realistically. Not only does Monogamy cover some very serious issues, but the play also features comedy throughout. I would personally list Monogamy as either a dark comedy, or a tragicomedy. There are many comedies that I have found funny, and yet it is rather rare that I am left laughing out loud. I am pleased to say that Monogamy was an exception to the rule. I was in stitches throughout large portions of Monogamy; the comedy really appealed to my sense of humour.

The cast of six were extremely strong, gelling with one another brilliantly and creating a greatdynamic between them. In the lead role of Caroline Mortimer is Olivier Award winning actress, Janie Dee. There is no doubt that Dee is perfectly cast in this role. She is extremely funny to watch, providing endless laughter for two and a half hours. I particularly liked her final monologue at the end of the play, which I thought was delivered perfectly. In the role of her alcoholic husband Mike, was Patrick Ryecart. Ryecart has absolutely impeccable coming time. His portrayal of a 'drunk and old fool' appeared to be so true to life and I found his performance to be utterly hilarious. As their son, Leo, is Jack Archer. Archer is extremely convincing in his portrayal of Leo, and seemed to be completely perfect for the role. As Caroline's drug addicted assistant Amanda, is Genevieve Gaunt. Amanda is a character with many sides to her, and Gaunt portrayed all of this different sides to her flawlessly. At the beginning of the play, Amanda is required to impersonate a Swedish accent, at which Gaunt was excellent at, leaving the audience in stitches! In the role of Caroline's builder Graeme is Jack Sandle. Sandle gives the audience an all round sensational performance, and his chemistry with Janie Dee is brilliant. Last, but by no means least, is Charlie Brooks as Graeme's mentally unstable wife, Sally. Brooks gives an outstanding characterisation for Sadly, a woman who is clearly suffering with severe mental health difficulties. Her monologue in which she rants about the problems she faces on a daily basis was phenomenal; it was one of the highlights of the entire play.

Whilst I know that Monogamy may not be everyone's cup of tea, I personally felt it was one of the best plays I have seen throughout 2018. Playwright Torben Betts achieves the difficult task of balancing comedy with tragedy, as well as tackling some difficult themes. Monogamy was thoroughly enjoyable and I wish it the best of luck in its run at the Park Theatre!

The featured star of Monogamy is, drum roll please... JANIE DEE!

With such an excellent cast, this was by no means an easy decision, however I ultimately chose Janie Dee for featured star. Dee is a completely captivating actress. Whenever she enters the scene, she maintains a strong control of the stage. After seeing her perform in both Follies and Monogamy, it is clear that she is a very versatile actress!

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

The choice to give Monogamy a four star rating was quite easy for me. I loved every minute of it and would happily see it again!

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

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Review: Bat Out of Hell

Hey readers!
It's time for my review of Bat Out of Hell!
I had hoped to see Bat Out of Hell when it was first at the London Coliseum in 2017, however I sadly never got around to seeing it before it closed. Luckily though, this year it has returned to London's West End and I finally had the opportunity to see it on my Birthday weekend!

Bat Out of Hell is a jukebox musical that features the songs from American musician Meat Loaf's infamous Bat Out of Hell trilogy of albums. The only song from these albums that I had previously heard of prior to entering the theatre was the title song, 'Bat Out of Hell'. I was experiencing all of the other music within the show for the very first time, and I am thrilled to be saying that I was truly stunned by the music, particularly the ballads. The score is undoubtedly extremely unique; the melodies, as well as the lyrics, are really something else. For me personally, the highlights of the score are: 'Bat Out of Hell', 'For Crying Out Loud', 'Dead Ringer for Love', 'It's All Coming Back to Me Now', and last but certainly not least, 'I'd Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That)'.

Bat Out of Hell is set in a post-apocalyptic Manhattan, which has now been re-named Obsidian. The show follows Strat, a mutant who will forever be 18, who leads a group named The Lost. Strat ends up falling in love with a girl named Raven, the daughter of Falco, the tyrannical ruler of Obsidian. I personally feel that the book could have been a little stronger, as it came across as being one of the weaker elements of the production. There were moments throughout the play where the story grew a little perplexing, and there were portions of dialogue which seemed to be somewhat awkward. Whilst the music is undoubtedly the main feature of the show, I feel that improving the book would still help in improving the show.

In the leading role of Strat is gifted performer Andrew Polec. I was left amazed with the amount of energy that Polec was able to maintain throughout the show; despite having both a physically and vocally demanding role. Andrew Polec also happens to be an exceedingly talented singer. By Polec's side is Christina Bennington in the role of Raven. Bennington is an incredibly captivating performer; she upholds a strong command of the stage throughout. She too also has a beautiful voice. Rob Fowler, as the tyrannical dictator Falco, is an incredibly phenomenal singer. He has a large stage presence, giving him the power and status required for a character such as Falco. At the performance I was at, Hannah Ducharme was understudying in the role of Sloane and she was tremendous. Had I not had prior knowledge that Ducharme was an understudy, I would not have guessed. Finally, I feel that Danielle Steers as Zahara is more than worthy of gaining a special mention. Steers' voice was outstanding and her duet with Wayne Robinson of the song 'Two Out of Three Ain't Bad' was sensational.

The set design, which has been created by John Bausor, was among the largest I had ever seen on a West End stage, therefore allowing Bat Out of Hell to portray several different locations effectively. To fully describe the extent to how large this set design was, not only did it include a life size car, but it also featured a pool! The different layers of the set looked particularly remarkable. The modernistic costume designs, which were also crafted by Jon Bausor, were also exceptionally well designed and the large variety of colours worked well. My only criticism for the design aspect of the show would have been the sound design, due to the fact that a fairly large portion of the songs within act one had been difficult to hear properly throughout the duration of act one. This however seemed to be resolved in act two though, and there were no longer any issues. The choreography, which has been done by Emma Portner was sublime, and all of it was carried out tremendously well by the sensational ensemble.

The featured star of Bat Out of Hell is, drum roll please... ANDREW POLEC!

Whilst this was a very strong cast, Andrew Polec seemed to be the obvious choice for featured star. The level of energy that he maintained throughout the show was like nothing else. He is an incredible singer and his renditions of all of the songs within the show were utterly remarkable. 

Now for my final verdict on Bat Out of Hell. I give Bat Out of Hell...

Despite some issues with the book, the music was absolutely incredible and both the cast and the designs were exceptional. Therefore, I have taken the decision to award Bat Out of Hell with 3 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

Monday, 28 May 2018

Review: Quiz

Hey readers!
It's time for my review of Quiz.
In recent months, James Graham has become one of my favourite playwrights. Having seen Graham's other hit plays, 'This House', 'Labour of Love' and 'Ink', I was very eager to see his brand new West End play, entitled 'Quiz'. As a celebration of my Birthday weekend, I finally had the opportunity to see it.

Set in April 2003, Army Major Charles Ingram, his wife and a 'coughing accomplice' are convicted for cheating on the hit TV show 'Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?'. The evidence against them is damning. All of Britain is gripped by the sheer audacity of the plot to snatch the £1,000,000 jackpot. But was Charles Ingram really guilty? That is for the audience to decide. I knew nothing of this real-life scandal prior to entering the theatre, so it was fascinating to learn about it. It may have seemed like a petty crime to some, but the effect it had on the nation is truly shocking. It is an extremely interesting case, and it is easy to understand as to why Graham felt the desire to write about the matter. In a trial such as this one, there are strong arguments to be made for both the defence and the prosecution. Throughout the play you are endlessly second guessing as to what the verdict should be, and it is still unlikely that your mind will have been made up by the end of the play. Not only does Quiz tell of a riveting story, but it also features a wide array of themes, such as democracy, a free press, class divides and the idea that we are all being watched by an audience. There is a lot of hidden symbolism within Quiz; it would be a fascinating text to analyse.

Quiz uses audience interaction like nothing I had ever seen before. Audience members are taken up onto the stage to compete in different game shows (I myself competed in a game of 'The Price Is Right' onstage against two fellow audience members), a pub quiz takes place in which the audience can form teams and work together in order to win the prize of a 'Quiz' poster signed by the whole cast, and last but not least, all audience members are given finger buzzers in which they are able to vote in matters concerning the play. Throughout the show, it felt as if, we, the audience, were being treated as fellow cast members. Throughout all my years of theatregoing, I had never experienced any type of audience interaction such as this; it made for a really engrossing experience.

The set design, crafted by Robert Jones, did an excellent job of capturing the essence of the original quiz show sets, helping to emphasise the reality of the play. I particularly liked the use of the neon cube, as well as the revolving stage. The lighting design, created by Tim Lutkin, was phenomenal and among the best I have ever seen in a play. The lighting design seemed to play a large part in creating an intense atmosphere. The use of video screens placed throughout the theatre, which were designed by Tim Reid, were rather unique and made for a nice addition to the production. Finally, I was also quite impressed with the sound design, which had been done by Ben and Max Ringham. It is rare that I notice the effectiveness of sound design, but this was clearly an exception.

The featured star of Quiz is, drum roll please... KEIR CHARLES!

This was an exceedingly easy decision to make; Keir Charles undoubtedly stole the show with the multiple roles which he performed. The range of abilities and skills that Charles demonstrates on stage is astonishing. Having seen Keir Charles multi-role in A Christmas Carol in January 2016, I continue to be amazed by his ability to portray such a wide range of characters efficiently. 

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

My decision for Quiz was between a three star rating and a four star rating, however I eventually chose four stars as I feel this productions should definitely be commended for its originality and creativity!

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

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Review: The Winslow Boy

Hey readers!
It's time for my review of The Winslow Boy.
With no formal plans for my weekend, I decided to take a look at Richmond Theatre's website to see if there were any interesting shows playing within the near future. The Winslow Boy was playing over the weekend, so I took the decision to look at the reviews for this production. On the whole, it had received a very positive response, so I went and saw The Winslow Boy.

The Winslow Boy follows 14-year-old Ronnie Winslow, a boy expelled from the Royal Naval College for alleged theft. His father, Arthur Winslow, is convinced that Ronnie was wrongly accused. After acquiring the talented lawyer Sir Robert Morton, Arthur doggedly pursues the case, which becomes a sensationalised public story. As the case wears on, the Winslows' finances are drained, adversely affecting the older Winslow children. I personally found the story of The Winslow Boy to be utterly gripping. It was one of those plays where I simply could not take my eyes off of the stage for a moment. I was left transfixed. Throughout the play, I was so eager to find out what would happen next, and as a result, the time that I was in the theatre flew by. The themes tackled in The Winslow Boy are particularly interesting. The story includes subject matters such as justice, doing right in a world of wrong and feminism. The way these themes are presented are interesting; no matter how difficult the battle gets, the characters never stop on their quest to do right, something which, according to Sir Robert Morton, is different from justice.

The cast in this production of The Winslow Boy are of the highest quality. Leading the cast as Arthur Winslow, the head of the Winslow household, was Aden Gillett. Gillett was exceptional in this role. He had a clear command of the stage throughout, always making his presence known . As his loving daughter Catherine, was Dorothea Myer-Bennett. I would personally argue that it was Myer-Bennett who totally stole the show. She gave a truly captivating performance. The character of Catherine was particularly interesting, and it was great to see her progression as a character and her future ambitions. Dorothea Myer-Bennett really does excel in this role. As the Winslow Mother, Grace, Tessa Peake-Jones was outstanding. Peake-Jones was utterly hilarious, and showed clearly the different thoughts and feelings that Grace Winslow has throughout the duration of the play. Another stand-out cast member that I feel is worthy of a special mention is Timothy Watson, as their lawyer, Sir Robert Morton. Watson has a magnificent stage presence. Every time he enters, he is contributing greatly to the show. He portrayed all of the different sides needed to portray the character excellently.

The set design, which has been crafted by Michael Taylor, was also excellent. It was beautifully detailed, making it all feel very true to life. From the moment I entered the theatre, I was awestruck by this set design. The costume design, yet again created by Michael Taylor, was also brilliant. All of the costumes were very fitting for the time period.

The featured star of The Winslow Boy is, drum roll please... DOROTHEA MYER-BENNETT!

This was a difficult choice between Aden Gillett and Dorothea Myer-Bennett, however after contemplating this decision, I eventually chose Dorothea! The way Dorothea built up her character was excellent, and the final scene in which she appeared in was truly exceptional. Dorothea Myer-Bennett was the one that stole the show!

Now for my final verdict on The Winslow Boy. I give The Winslow Boy...

I was choosing between three or four stars for The Winslow Boy, however I ultimately chose four stars, as I decided that there isn't really anything I can fault this production on. It was a solid brilliant production!

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

Sunday, 6 May 2018

Review: Witness for the Prosecution

Hey readers!
It's time for my review of Witness for the Prosecution.
Witness for the Prosecution had not originally been on my radar in regards to theatre shows, however I later found out about it after it had been nominated for the Olivier Award for Best Revival of a Play. After this nomination, I did some further research into the play and took an interest in it, so several weeks later I finally went along to see this acclaimed production of Witness for the Prosecution.

This production has a setting far from anything that I had ever seen before. This production has been staged at London's County Hall, the former meeting place for the Greater London Council. Where the councillors once met has now been transformed into a theatre, newly created for this production. With certain adjustments made inside the building, it has now been transformed to look similar to the Old Bailey (The Central and Criminal Court of England and Wales). Therefore, you as audience members are looking upon a life-like court trial. This immersive setting is utterly breathtaking. Throughout the play, you feel as if everything around you is actually real, and you are watching a real life court trial take place. It truly is astounding. As soon as you enter the building, it genuinely feels like you have stepped into the Old Bailey. This is additionally supported by the astounding set design, which was created by William Dudley. Through Dudley's phenomenal designs, it is still possible to show different locations when the play requires it, despite remaining on the court room stage.

Witness for the Prosecution tells the story of Leonard Vole, a man who is accused of murdering a widow to inherit her wealth. The stakes are high. Will Leonard survive the shocking witness testimony? Will he be able to convince the jury of his innocence and escape the hangman’s noose? Only time can tell. There is a large amount of suspense created throughout the show, leading the audience to wait anxiously on the edge of their seats. Agatha Christie's ingenious way of writing leaves the audience to second guess everything that is said and everything that is done. As I've come to learn, when it comes to an Agatha Christie play, there is not a single character to be trusted! The ending, which I wish not to spoil, is done in a particularly interesting manner, and I for one was left thunderstruck.

Witness for the Prosecution is filled with the highest quality of acting. In the role of accused murderer Leonard Vole, stars Harry Reid. Reid is particularly good in this role, being able to demonstrate a range of abilities needed to show the different sides to the character. As his loving wife, Romaine Vole, is Lucy Phelps. Phelps gives an all-round excellent performance, but the highlight of her portrayal is, without a doubt, her life-like German accent. Having German relatives, I know a good German accent when I see one, and I am pleased to say that Phelps' was entirely accurate and believable. Portraying Defence Barrister, Sir Wilfred Robarts QC, was Richard Clothier. Clothier is extremely believable in the role, providing the confidence and intellect needed for a Defence Barrister. He was exceedingly well suited to the part.

The costume designs, which have also been created by William Dudley, were sublime. They were very well suited to the time period that the play is set in, creating yet another layer that helps to transport the audience to this particular setting. They appeared to be extremely authentic, with the court official's costumes notably realistic.

The featured star of Witness for the Prosecution is, drum roll please... RICHARD CLOTHIER!

The decision to choose Richard Clothier for featured star came with ease; he truly was phenomenal. Clothier was tremendously believable, giving an extremely natural performance, as well as having very good dialect. Despite being in a sea of strong actors, Richard Clothier, undoubtedly, gives the stand-out performance in Witness for the Prosecution.

Now for my final verdict on Witness for the Production. I give Witness for the Prosecution...

Witness for the Prosecution is certainly worthy of its 4 star rating; it provides an unforgettable experience in a unique setting, all whilst being very entertaining.

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

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Review: Much Ado About Nothing

Hey readers!
It's time for my review of Much Ado About Nothing.
Having not actually made any formal plans for my weekend, I decided to take a spontaneous theatre trip to the Rose Theatre in Kingston to see the Shakespeare classic: Much Ado About Nothing. I had intended to see a production of Much Ado About Nothing back in December 2016, but sadly I had never gotten around to it and ended up missing it. Luckily, a year and a half later, I was once again given the opportunity to see it.

The action of Much Ado About Nothing takes place over the course of several days, when a man known as Don Pedro arrives with his followers to the estate that is owned by his dear friend, Leonato. Don Pedro has been victorious in a fight against his own half-brother, Don John, who has now reluctantly agreed to join forces with him. The director of the piece has chosen to go for a modern take on it, setting the play in Sicily, Italy. As opposed to being soldiers fighting in a war, the characters have been transformed into Italian mafia members. I often critique modern takes on Shakespeare, as in a large number of cases I find that they simply do not work. However, I am thrilled to say that, in this case, the decision to modernise the production worked brilliantly and the idea was in fact ingenious. I imagine that it is a fairly big risk to chase an ambitious idea such as this one, but I am confident that it has paid off. The introduction of these new themes into Shakespeare's work has helped to heighten the darker elements of the play. It provides an interesting and new perspective of Much Ado About Nothing that may have previously not been seen. Considering that, as of late, I have criticised modern retellings of Shakespeare, it was fantastic to have been proved wrong. The direction and staging, which has been done by Simon Dormandy, was, without a doubt, a highlight of the entire production. Dormandy has done wonders with this piece; it is truly one of the best directed pieces of Shakespeare that I have ever seen.

The cast of Much Ado About Nothing is led by Mel Giedroyc in the role of Beatrice, known to many as being part of the comedy duo 'Mel and Sue'. Giedroyc excels in the role, with utterly hilarious facial expressions throughout. By her side is John Hopkins, in the role of her enemy and potential new friend, Benedick. Hopkins is outstanding in this role, and was hysterically funny. Giedroyc and Hopkins make an absolutely phenomenal double act. Additionally, two other cast members that stood out were Peter Guinness in the role of Don Pedro and David Rintoul in the role of Leonato. Guinness provides an extraordinary believable and naturalistic performance, whilst Rintoul is extremely funny, giving an all-round brilliant performance.

The set design, which has been created by Naomi Dawson, is marvellous. It was extremely detailed, being exactly how I would have imagined an Italian spa to look like. It was clear that a vast amount of effort had been put into it. The costume design was, for the most part, outstanding. The costumes which particularly stood out were the one's used for the party scene, in which we see the characters dress up as pop-culture figures such as 'Batman' and 'The Hulk'. My only criticism for the costume design is that I was not too sure on the costumes used for the police, as I was left somewhat puzzled as to what the purpose of them had been. The additional music that has been added to this production, which includes both pre-recorded and live music, worked tremendously well. This music helped to create the perfect atmosphere for the play.

The featured star of Much Ado About Nothing is, drum roll please... JOHN HOPKINS!

The decision for featured star was a fairly difficult choice between Mel Giedroyc and John Hopkins, however I eventually chose to award John Hopkins with the title of featured star. This production of Much Ado About Nothing was a perfect opportunity to show off Hopkins' strength as an actor. He was utterly hilarious and had me in stitches during numerous scenes.

Now for my final verdict on Much Ado About Nothing. I give Much Ado About Nothing...

I was wondering as to whether I should give Much Ado About Nothing three or four stars, but I decided that ultimately, the ingenious decisions taken with this production have made it worthy for a four 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.

-The Reviewer