Saturday, 29 February 2020

Review: Aamira and Gad

Hey readers!
It's time for my review of Aamira and Gad.
On this adventure, we meet Aamira and Gad, each belonging to an opposing side of the conflict and brought together by a sudden loss. Aamira is a storyteller, the role passed from Mother to Daughter and now that her mother has passed away, it is her turn. Gad thinks of himself as the hero of his own story, stepping into the standard-issue boots his brother left behind. When the two meet they begin to question the narratives that shape their lives, and question who their true enemies are. What stories do the archivists salvage? And what stories do they erase? Together with Aamira and Gad, the audience will go on an immersive adventure to solve a mystery and build a better future.

Throughout my many years of theatregoing, I have never encountered anything quite like Aamira and Gad. To refer to it as distinctive would be an understatement; it was dazzlingly unique. The show is highly inspired, and should receive commendation for its spellbinding creativity. It's a very ambitious piece of theatre, and such ambition certainly pays off. I do not want to spoil the show for readers who have yet to see it, but I can promise that you are likely to be blown away. Story-wise, Aamira and Gad primarily explores attitudes to war and conflict, inspired by experiences of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. In particular, it shows the way in which war and conflict is viewed through the eyes of a child. The exploration into this viewpoint felt authentic, and the naivety of youth was well conveyed. Aamira and Gad also explored the ways in which governments often try and turn communities against one another. This message was particularly impactful, showing how easy it is for governments to indoctrinate young children. The show has a central message of hope though, and tries to display a number of ways in which we can overcome hatred and fear in order to unite. Aamira and Gad undoubtedly has a number of important messages at its core, and its overarching moral themes of unity and hope are rather powerful.

The entirety of the cast were excellent, however the two leading performances were particularly striking; in the role of Aamira was Demi Wilson-Smith, whilst in the role of Gad was Emma Zadow. Both actors really captured the innocence of childhood within their characterisations, and portrayed the roles faultlessly. They were very convincing as young children, and proved to be very effective through their movement, physicality and facial expressions. Additionally, both performers were very engaging, and they each had an outstanding stage presence.

The puppetry, created by Katherine Stuart-Scobie, was extraordinarily well designed, with the 'Archivist' puppet being especially impressive. The life-size puppet conveyed a real sense of menace, and proved to be rather intimidating. It therefore proved very effective, and really added to the piece. It was also cleverly manoeuvred by a talented group of puppeteers. In relation to creativity, the lighting design, by George Ormisher, was also rather striking. It was successful throughout at altering the tone and mood of the show, and was therefore extremely effectual.

Now for my final verdict on Aamira and Gad. I give Aamira and Gad...

Aamira and Gad is a remarkable piece of theatre, and I was stunned by its ambition and creativity. There are also a handful of really good performances to be witnessed here, as well as some incredible designs.

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 Basic Theatre Reviewer

Review: Mary Poppins

Hey readers!
It's time for my review of Mary Poppins.
When Jane and Michael, the children of the wealthy and uptight Banks family, are faced with the prospect of a new nanny, they are pleasantly surprised by the arrival of the magical Mary Poppins. Embarking on a series of fantastical adventures with Mary and her Cockney performer friend, Bert, the siblings try to pass on some of their nanny's sunny attitude to their preoccupied parents.

In this production, Zizi Strallen stars in the titular role of Mary Poppins; a portrayal that is beyond outstanding. In the words of her character, Strallen's performance is "practically perfect in every way". She had an excellent characterisation, perfectly balancing Mary Poppins's elegance with the desired friendliness needed to convey warmth. In addition to this, Strallen's skills in relation to singing and dancing are equally as impeccable. By her side is Charlie Stemp, as Bert, in what is yet another faultless performance. Stemp is filled with charisma from head to toe, and has a truly infectious energy. He has a real presence about him, and often lights up the stage upon his entrance. Stemp also has a rather unique skill set, and is a true triple threat; he is an excellent actor, a superb singer and an outstanding dancer. In particular, his tap dancing abilities are extraordinary. Charlotte Breen and Samuel Newby, who portrayed Jane and Michael Banks at the performance at which I attended, were incredible. Both actors barely ever left the stage, meaning that they were onstage for close to 2 hours and 30 minutes; this in itself is rather remarkable. They were just as talented as their adult colleagues, and were an absolute delight to watch. They too were exceptional in relation to their acting, singing and dancing. A special mention must also be given to Claire Machin as Mrs. Brill. Machin was utterly hilarious in this role, and had excellent comedic timing throughout.

The musical score includes songs from the film by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman, with additional music and lyrics by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe. The score was magnificent, and there are a number of really catchy tunes to be found within it. Both the old classics, such as 'Step in Time', and the newly written songs, such as 'Practically Perfect', are sublime. Additionally, the musical score was bolstered by first-rate orchestrations, which were masterfully put together by the late William David Brohn. Despite Brohn's passing, his legacy continues with his work on Mary Poppins.

The scenic design, by Bob Crowley, was tremendous. The designs are primarily big and colourful, which really suited the tone of the production. The backdrops almost felt like a picture book that had sprung to life, which enhanced the show's playful nature. The choreography, by Matthew Bourne and Stephen Mear, was spellbinding. It was thoroughly upbeat throughout, further adding to the mood of the show. The big production numbers were particularly stunning, and the ensemble carried all of these out faultlessly. In particular, the musical number 'Step in Time' was absolutely magical, and featured some of the best tap-dancing that I have ever witnessed on a West End stage. The illusions, by Paul Kieve and Jim Steinmeyer, are equally as beyond belief. I will not spoil anything for those who have not yet seen Mary Poppins, but I promise that you are likely to be blown away.

Now for my final verdict on Mary Poppins. I give Mary Poppins...

Mary Poppins is a true spectacle, and can be enjoyed by the whole family. There are a number of really outstanding performances to be seen here, and the creative aspects are utterly spectacular.

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 Basic Theatre Reviewer

Friday, 28 February 2020

Review: Everybody's Talking About Jamie (February 2020)

Hey readers!
It's time for my review of Everybody's Talking About Jamie.
Jamie New is sixteen and lives on a council estate in Sheffield. Jamie doesn’t quite fit in. Jamie is terrified about the future. Jamie is going to be a sensation. Supported by his brilliant loving mum and surrounded by his friends, Jamie overcomes prejudice, beats the bullies and steps out of the darkness, into the spotlight. I had previously seen Everybody's Talking About Jamie in December 2017, and was overjoyed at the opportunity to see it again over two years after my first encounter with the show.

Telling the tale of an outsider seeking acceptance, Everybody's Talking About Jamie follows a narrative that I personally find to be rather moving. Despite the obstacles that the main character, Jamie, faces along the journey, it is a thoroughly uplifting story, and you are likely to leave the Apollo Theatre feeling elated. No matter what your background is, I'm sure that many will be able to relate to certain elements of the story, which makes it all the more touching. The relationship between Jamie and his Mother, Margaret, is a particularly striking aspect of the story, and remains at the heart of the show. The bond between the two characters is really heartwarming to watch, and is beautifully portrayed through the musical number 'My Man, Your Boy'. Additionally, in relation to its book and story, Everybody's Talking About Jamie deserves a lot of praise for its originality. The show is inspired by real-life events, and is therefore not based off of any other source material. The idea to build a story based on this concept was inspiring, and really does make for an intriguing narrative. As a result, there can be no doubt of Everybody's Talking About Jamie's immense creativity.

The musical score, with music by Dan Gillespie Sells and lyrics by Tom MacRae, is outstanding. Ever since first seeing the show over two years ago, I have listened to the original cast album on numerous occasions, and yet the music never gets old. There are a number of really catchy tunes amongst the musical score, and they make for great listening. The songs are all rather modern, which was aptly suited to the tone of the show, and the vast majority are extremely upbeat. There are also a number of slower ballads, which are equally as well-written. Among these include 'He's My Boy', which is a truly wonderful song.

The entirety of the cast were all excellent and, rather endearingly, they all really looked like they were enjoying themselves when onstage. In what is his debut role on a West End stage, Noah Thomas recently assumed the role of Jamie New and provides a solid portrayal. The most striking aspect of Thomas's performance was his dancing, which was well and truly outstanding. In particular, his high-kicks were utterly exceptional. At the performance I attended, Gillian Ford portrayed Margaret New; a role she was outstanding in. She was very believable as the caring Mother, and her rendition of 'He's My Boy' was an absolute showstopper. The number brought the house down, clearly evidencing that she had the audience in the palm of her hands. Sejal Keshwala, as Ray, was also a highlight of the show. She too felt very credible in the role, and really inhabited the role flawlessly. Additionally, special mentions must also be awarded to Leon Craig, James Gillan and David O'Reilly, who portrayed Sandra Bollock, Tray Sophisticay and Laika Virgin; the trio of drag queens. They all had phenomenal comedic timing, brilliant presences and really made good use of their limited stage time. Fantastic performances all around!

In relation to creative aspects of the show, the choreography by Kate Prince is marvellous. The choreography is energetic and snappy, and effectively conveys the upbeat mood of the piece. In addition to this, all the big dance numbers were faultlessly carried out by an ensemble of skilled and gifted dancers.

Now for my final verdict on Everybody's Talking About Jamie. I give Everybody's Talking About Jamie...

Everybody's Talking About Jamie is an outstanding piece of theatre; it has a great story, and features a remarkable musical score. This is a show that would likely prove very hard to dislike.

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 Basic Theatre Reviewer

Wednesday, 26 February 2020

Review: The Prince of Egypt

Hey readers!
It's time for my review of The Prince of Egypt.
Featuring songs such as Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey's hit "When You Believe", plus "Deliver Us", "All I Ever Wanted" and "Through Heaven's Eyes", The Prince of Egypt is based on the book of Exodus and tells the story of Moses, who was born a child of Israel, and brought up in Egypt after he was found by Pharoah's wife in a wicker basket floating on the Nile.

For the most part, The Prince of Egypt follows somewhat of an interesting narrative. The book by Philip LaZebnik is far from perfect, but the story itself is intriguing. The central relationship between the two princes, Moses and Rameses, proved to be rather compelling and I enjoyed seeing the different ways in which this relationship changed and developed throughout. The relationship was often strong, although at points proved rocky, and this was portrayed well. Another element of the story that I was rather fond of was the way the show incorporated a number of historical and Biblical references. The story of Moses is a tale that I had very little knowledge of prior to watching the show, so I appreciated the way in which The Prince of Egypt opened my eyes to this significant part of history. On the downside however, there were portions of the story which felt rather dragged out. There are certain scenes that appear too prolonged, causing them to lose their emotional impacts. This was particularly evident at earlier points in Act Two, which did feel somewhat drawn out.

In relation to the cast, the two stand-out performances came from the female leads of the piece: Christine Allado, as Tzipporah, and Alexia Khadime, as Miriam. They had truly beautiful voices, and their songs were an absolute delight to listen to. In particular, their duet of 'When You Believe' was utterly spellbinding. This proved to be an overall highlight of the production, and was a real show-stopper.

Among The Prince of Egypt's imperfections are the costume and scenic design; both of which could have been greatly improved. Both the costumes and sets were rather disappointing, and looked somewhat amateurish. Considering that this production is intended to be a big theatrical event, The Prince of Egypt would have really benefitted from more satisfactory designs. The Dominion Theatre is extremely large in size, which in turn meant that the scenic design often got swallowed by the theatre's large stage. On the positive side of things, the strongest creative aspect was arguably the choreography by Sean Cheesman, which was well and truly marvellous. I did however feel that the big production numbers could have been somewhat longer as, despite their excellence, they felt somewhat short. In addition to that, an increased amount of large production numbers would likely have been beneficial, as they did feel too few and far between. I also greatly admired the orchestrations, which were granted by August Eriksmoen. All of the orchestrations were done perfectly, and this aspect was also well amplified by a strong sound design, created by Gareth Owen.

Now for my final verdict on The Prince of Egypt. I give The Prince of Egypt...

This was a difficult verdict to make, however I ultimately decided to award The Prince of Egypt with three stars. Whilst it does lack in effective scenic and costume designs, there are handful of excellent performances, and the choreography and orchestrations are both excellent.

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 Basic Theatre Reviewer

Sunday, 23 February 2020

Review: My Brilliant Friend

Hey readers!
It's time for my review of My Brilliant Friend.
When the most important person in her life goes missing without a trace, Lenu Greco, now a celebrated author, begins to recall a relationship of more than 60 years. First meeting on the dangerous streets of postwar Naples, friends Lila and Lenu experience turbulent social and political change, from the rise of the Camorra to the sexual revolution and the transformation of their neighbourhood, city and nation. Even as life repeatedly tries to pull them in separate directions, they remain inextricably bound to one another.

My Brilliant Friend is primarily a play that focuses on interpersonal relationships, including friendships, marriage and family relations. This two-part play, which lasts a grand total of 5 hours, showcases a time period spanning 60 years, and in the process portrays a varying number of different relationships. It's absolutely fascinating to see the way in which these relationships develop over this length of time, and as the play concludes it feels as if we have been on a real journey. At the centre of the play however is the unlikely friendship of Lenù and Lila; two friends who meet at an early age, spend much of their childhood side by side, and later rely on one another through signifiant portions of adulthood. Both Lenù and Lila are intriguing characters, and their unique friendship made for both an engrossing and moving story. The pair have somewhat different personalities, and yet they are still able to come together and form a strong partnership. Their initial friendship as children is rather endearing, and it is fascinating to see the way in which it evolves as time goes on. The story of my Brilliant Friend also serves as a vehicle to explore a number of other themes, such as the social upheaval in Italy that has taken place throughout the last century. The play explores these topics authentically and with great care, and it was interesting to learn the ways in which Italian culture has developed in recent years.

The entirety of the cast were excellent; the piece required multiple actors to portray a handful of different characters, which in turn allowed them to show a great range of skills. Additionally, as a result of the play having to show the characters through a prolonged period of time, the cast often had to portray a number of different stages of life. The performers all did this masterfully, and the natural progression of the characters was evident throughout. In the leading roles of Lenù and Lena are Niamh Cusack and Catherine McCormack respectively, both of which gave truly outstanding performances. Their characterisations were flawless, and they marvellously showed the development of their respective characters. Cusack and McCormack had wonderful chemistry with each other, and their friendship felt highly believable.

The set design, by Soutra Gilmour, was minimalist, but proved to be effective throughout. It was used in a very creative manner, and was good at displaying a wide variety of different locations. Another element of creativity which shined was the use of puppetry, designed by Toby Olié. Whenever the play depicts acts of atrocity or violence, puppetry is often used in place of the actors. This idea was ingenious, and it seemed to allude to the idea of an 'out-of-body experience'. I had not seen puppetry used in this way before, and I therefore commend the show for its inspired ideas.

Now for my final verdict on My Brilliant Friend. I give My Brilliant Friend...

My Brilliant Friend followed an intriguing story, featured a remarkable cast and showed signs of genuine creativity. It was simply all-round outstanding.

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

Thanks for reading!

-The Basic Theatre Reviewer

Saturday, 22 February 2020

Review: Leopoldstadt

Hey readers!
It's time for my review of Leopoldstadt.
Vienna in 1900 was the most vibrant city in Europe, humming with artistic and intellectual excitement and a genius for enjoying life. A tenth of the population were Jews. A generation earlier they had been granted full civil rights by the Emperor, Franz Josef. Consequently, hundreds of thousands had fled from the Pale and the pogroms in the East and many found sanctuary in the crowded tenements of the old Jewish quarter, Leopoldstadt. It was not to last. Half a century later, this family, like millions of others, had rediscovered what it means to be Jewish in the first half of the 20th century.

Leopoldstadt is an extremely moving piece of theatre, covering a number of extremely important topics such as The Holocaust and antisemitism. The play spans over 60 years, and provides an accurate depiction of what life was like for people of the Jewish faith in the years leading up to, and after, the Second World War whilst living in Austria. It is quite a powerful piece of writing, and certainly supplies the audience with food for thought. The different subject matters were well explored, and their depiction felt both genuine and nuanced. As well as the overarching themes of the play, Stoppard also explores concept of identity as well, and how people in society often have a tendency to be ashamed of, or deny, their heritage. Such recurring themes were intriguing, and benefitted from strong dialogue. The ending of Leopoldstadt, which explicitly deals with the casualties of the Holocaust, was particularly impactful, and makes for a very strong closure. The ending is, arguably, the highlight of the show and was really quite striking. It is undeniably heartbreaking, but also highly thought-provoking. My only criticism of Stoppard's writing in Leopoldstadt is that it was, at times, extraordinarily confusing. The storyline is arguably extremely complicated, with a vast amount of different characters and a number of overlapping storylines. As a consequence of this, it was sometimes hard to follow every single intricacy of the story.

The cast of Leopoldstadt consists of 41 performers, including both adults and children, which may very well be one of the largest theatrical casts that I have ever seen. All of the cast members were absolutely outstanding, and there were a number of superlative performances. There was not one weak link among the cast, and each and every one of them were truly excellent. A special mention must be awarded to Adrian Scarborough however, who portraying the character of Hermann Scarborough gave a particularly moving performance, and was outstanding.

The scenic design of Leopoldstadt, by Richard Hudson, was excellent. It served the play really well and felt very true to life. Hudon's design was extremely detailed, and at times it almost felt as if it were a painting that had come to life.

Now for my final verdict on Leopoldsadt. I give Leopoldstadt...

Whilst somewhat confusing at times, Leopoldsadt is an undeniably an intriguing piece of writing. In addition to that, it also has a remarkable cast and an outstanding set design. 

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

Thanks for reading!

-The Basic Theatre Reviewer

Wednesday, 19 February 2020

Review: The Misadventures of David and Sam

Hey readers!
It's time for my review of The Misadventures of David and Sam.
Join farmers, David and Sam, under the watchful eye of their rumbustious Gran, as they courteously portray to you their untold and epic adventures at VAULT Festival, in the flesh, at Waterloo. They don't promise facts. They don't even promise to get to the end of the show but there's nothing to fear and nothing to lose because Granny Barbs will be there and she always keeps us them on the straight and narrow. Always.

The main attraction of The Misadventures of David and Sam comes from its stellar cast, consisting of three extraordinarily talented performers: Liam Cullen as David, George Wing as Sam and Michelle Pittoni as Granny. Throughout the play's hour-long running time, they all brought boundless energy from beginning to end, delivering remarkable performances in the process. Each actor showed a great range skills and versatility, and the different accents and characterisations depicted were all marvellous. A point at which this was particularly prominent was during Cullen's hilarious portrayal of 'Helga', a young and naive Austrian girl, which may very well have been the overall highlight of the entire show. In relation to the show's comedic elements, the performers all had outstanding comic timing, and each joke appeared to land very well with the audience. Cullen, Wing and Pittoni all had great chemistry with one another, and their talents all complimented each other's nicely. As well as interacting well with each other, the way in which they interacted with the audience was also interesting to see. Their spontaneous encounters with certain audience members was delightful, and was seemingly bolstered by strong improvisational skills.

The play is primarily a comedy, and is filled with endless jokes from beginning to end. The show advertises itself as a show designed to appeal to the whole family, and I would argue that the writing did in fact achieve this. There were jokes that could resonate with people of all ages, and it was evident throughout that both children and adults alike were laughing in hysterics. There were a number of extremely clever pop culture references, and I particularly enjoyed the brief allusion to the infamous 'David's Dead' moment from hit reality TV show 'Celebrity Big Brother'.

The Misadventures of David and Sam makes use of traverse staging, which I thought worked rather effectively. This style of staging allowed us to see other audience member's reactions, which proved to be almost as entertaining as the show itself. There was genuine laughter and amazement from the audience of all different ages, and that was really nice to witness. Everyone seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves, which serves as a clear testament to the show's quality.

Now for my final verdict on The Misadventures of David and Sam. I give The Misadventures of David and Sam...

The Misadventures of David and Sam was an absolutely joyous occasion, and can be enjoyed by people of all ages.

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 Basic Theatre Reviewer

Saturday, 8 February 2020

The Basic Theatre Awards 2019/20

Hey readers!

On the 5th of February, I celebrated the fifth anniversary of The Basic Theatre Review. In order to celebrate this, I can confirm that the Basic Theatre Awards will be returning for the fifth consecutive year.

For those unfamiliar with the awards, they were first launched in 2016 as a celebration of the blog's first anniversary, and have continued yearly as a result of popular demand. In these awards, I nominate a selection of my favourite shows and performances of the year, and consequently ask my readers to help me choose the winners. The awards often prove to be light-hearted fun, and I look forward to seeing what this year's results will bring.

2019 has brought more great theatre in both the UK and the USA, and I hope that this is evident in the nominees. A full list of nominees will be published on my Twitter account (@TheReviewer23), so feel free to check that out as well.

If there is a performer or a show that you are rooting for, then please spread the word. There will most likely be shows on this list which you may be unfamiliar with, but not to worry! If there is a category that you wish not to vote in, then simply leave that question unanswered.

Here is a link to vote:

Good luck to all of those nominated!

-The Basic Theatre Reviewer

Sunday, 2 February 2020

Review: tube

Hey readers!
It's time for my review of tube.
Tube follows two strangers who sit next to each other in an empty carriage when their train stops in a tunnel and doesn’t move again. It explores their relationship in this less than ideal situation, as they find comfort and strain in each other. This unique piece gives you an honest look into the emotional and physical impact people can have on each other, and the lengths they will go to for the ones they love.

The concept of tube is an intriguing one, and unlike anything I have seen in quite some time. The piece is very unique, skilfully blending reality with the surreal. The story is extremely layered, with dozens upon dozens of hidden meanings and metaphors throughout. Large portions of the play are purely symbolic, and I am sure that different audience members will draw different interpretations from its narrative. The most impactful message from the play however was, arguably, the examination of compassion within today's society. Approximately half-way through the play, 'The Man' momentarily departs from the scene around him and directly addresses the audience. He criticises and condemns the way in which mankind are obsessed with smart-phones, and goes on to say that this has caused a universal decrease in human empathy. There may a lot of truth to this belief, and the way in which the matter was addressed was rather effective. The ending of tube was also rather impactful, and proved both shocking and unexpected. Whilst it does feel sudden, it works quite well and could be interpreted in a number of ways.

The two characters featured in tube, named 'Rachel' and 'The Man', were both extremely compelling. The play attempts to condense all the stages of a life-long relationship, both good and bad, into a story which spans only a few days, and uses these characters as a vehicle to do so. As a result, an interesting dynamic between these two characters was crafted out, and there was really strong character development as the play went on. Despite having one or two flaws, both characters proved likeable, and I felt myself rooting for them.

The direction, by Bobby Standley, was also strong. Despite the fact that there were frequent changes in relation to reality and the surreal, as well as the emotional state of the piece, each scene flowed well into the next. In addition to this, I also admired the decision to include music within the piece. Throughout the show, 'The Man' delivers a number of live musical performances, which I felt proved beneficial in breaking the dialogue up. Recorded music is also used in some places, which also worked well.

The two cast members, Michaela Carberry and George Damms, worked exceptionally together and bounced off another well. They had excellent chemistry, and complimented each other's talents nicely. Carberry was highly believable as Rachel, and showed versatility throughout. She masterfully demonstrated the wide range of different emotions that Rachel undergoes, and gave a well and truly outstanding performance. Damms was also remarkable, and brought a lot of energy to the stage. The highlight of his performance comes with his monologue to the audience, during which he was filled with fire and passion throughout.

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

Tube was a unique piece of theatre, and I admired its ambitiousness as well as its creativity. In addition to this, the two leading performances were both excellent.

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 Basic Theatre Reviewer