Thursday, 31 May 2007

Blithe Spirit - Watford Palace Theatre

Blithe Spirit by Noel Coward
Watford Palace Theatre: 24th May - 16th June
Directed by: Matthew Llloyd
Reviewed by : Kevin O'Brien

Revived many times since its 1941 premiere, Sir Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit has sometimes been used as a vehicle for prominent actors and actresses. This production forsakes the temptation of casting a big name or two, and triumphs with an excellent cast, regardless of the relative lack of TV soap appearances between them. The reward of seeing seven actors combining to deliver one of Coward's most popular pieces at a brisk yet unrushed pace is tribute to the casting and direction as well as the skills of the actors themselves. Not one laugh fell flat, and while everyone on stage was at least equal to their part, male lead Simon Dutton deserved special praise for his portrayal of the author, widow and initially sceptical socialite Charles Condomine. Dutton played the script like a stringed instrument, and looked born to the part.

Coward wrote Blithe Spirit in a mere five days, pruning his original script of just two lines of dialogue prior to its first London performance. As such, and with the action all taking place in an affluent 1940's drawing room, it's tempting to perceive the play as a cosy, even boastful monument to Coward's virtuosity. Yet that would be entirely churlish; this remarkable feat of writing is simply the work of a great writer at the peak of his powers. The wit is as dry as a martini mixed by Condomine's second wife Ruth, while the razor-sharp dialogue underpins a gamut of devices including the centerpiece of Condomine's first wife Elvira returning to haunt Charles via a seance, various other things that go bump in the night, and even a false ending!

While in 2007 it might still be argued Blithe Spirit has been reduced to a period piece, the beautiful yet archaic language had a near full house feasting on every comic line - and there are many of them.

With this production, Watford Palace Theatre has achieved West End standards in every department. The writing, direction and cast were complemented by a beautiful set (designed by Colin Falconer) Impeccably redolent of the 1940's setting, the lounge was so cleverly designed and constructed it somehow felt conjoined with the auditorium rather than being separated from it. Highly recommended.

Blithe Spirit Runs at the Watford Palace Theatre until the 16th June for more information visit

Photos by: Pete Jones - Aicha Kossoko (Madame Arcati), Simon Dutton (Charles), Tessa Churchard (Ruth)
Emma Cleasby (Elvira), Robin Hooper (Dr Bradman), Penelope Beaumont (Mrs Bradman) & Becky John (Edith)

Lucy Porter & Jarred Christmas (2007 Edinburgh preview) - Kings Head Islington

Lucy Porter & Jarred Christmas - with Padraig Hyland
Electric Mouse Comedy Club
The Kings Head Theatre
Reviewed by: Sarah Brown

Sunday night at the Kings Head saw the kind of crowd every comedian must dream of. A host of 20 and 30 something Islingtonians, pleasantly tipsy and determined to have a good time. It was, hence, some achievement on the part of MC James Mullinger that the only laughs he drew from this affable group were nervous ones. However, being a positive kind of person I’ll dwell on the other three acts who were GREAT.

First was the honey-voiced Padraig Hyland, who presented his charming, conversational act as if he was talking to a mate in the pub. Bemoaning the terrible weather, his opening gambit was ‘Make some noise if you’re a sun worshipper’, when this drew the inevitable roar, he stated, after a suitably dramatic pause, ‘I’m a Catholic meself’. Hyland didn’t talk about anything spectacular, but his tale of his flat with no furniture (‘The contract said unfurnished and I’m not one to break the rules’) ensured that by the end of the set he really was talking to his mates in the pub.

Kiwi Jarred Christmas was next up, resplendent in massive sideburns and a bright red shirt. Jarred’s (I can’t bring myself to call him Chrismas) self deprecatory style and the playing of the foreigner card was an instant hit. ‘Superdrug,’ he said, ‘What a disappointment that turned out to be’. His enthusiasm was such that the audience were soon cheering him on. He also played to the female contingent with his line ‘No man wants a woman who’s so thin she can shop in Gap for Kids. I want a woman who eats cheeseburgers and can stick up for me in a fight.’ Go Jarred!

And last but not least, the hilarious Lucy Porter. The kind of girl you could go out and drink Pinot Grigio with. Her wide-eyed innocent look meant she got away with saying things that would seem vulgar from anyone else, but from her just sounded a bit naughty. A room full of North Londoners (and one unfortunate from Elephant and Castle) applauded her praise for the ‘posh’ north. She overheard two white lads in hoodies speaking ‘Jafakin’, one saying, ‘Sebastian, he my bred’rin but he’s well out of order cos I caught him smokin’ my weed in the conservatory’.

Porter’s stream of consciousness act meandered from one subject to another without her even seeming to pause for breath. Her description of the humiliation of having a spray tan (and being asked to lift her buttocks by the 18-year-old beautician) had the audience weeping with laughter as did the tale of her exit from the beauty salon. ‘A tramp shouted at me ‘Paki’ and I know it’s awful but I thought, that’s 20 quid well spent.’ Time prevented her from finishing her quiz on ‘love and hate’ but she promised to continue it in the bar. Bet she did as well. Lucy was trailing the show she's taking to the Edinburgh Festival so anyone heading north should definitely put the date in their diaries. Lucy's matey banter with the audience should go down a storm. Check her out for a evening of friendliness, laughter and positive thinking!

The Electric Mouse Comedy Club runs once a month on a sunday at the Kings Head, The Electric Mouse Comedy Club also runs similar nights up and down the country visit for more information

Sunday, 20 May 2007

Return to the Forbidden Planet - Oldham Coliseum

Return to the Forbidden Planet by Bob Carlton
Oldham Coliseum: 18 May -9th June
Directed by: Kevin Shaw
Musical Director: Howard Gray
Reviewed by: Lisa Whiteside - Teacher

Return to the Forbidden Planet at the Oldham Coliseum proved to be a very entertaining night. A story based upon a sci-fi, rock ‘n’ roll version of Shakespeare’s The Tempest had many of the audience chuckling at various cheesy lines, such as ‘two beeps or not two beeps’, and giggling nervously when asked to actively participate in their ‘reverse polarity’ routine! To begin with the cast and crew mix amongst the audience as everyone made the way to their seats and are then introduced to Captain Tempest, aboard his Intergalactic Starship Albatross, and so the adventure begins…

The bridge of the Albatross is where the action takes place and the design by Richard Foxton was impressive with a mix of flashing lights, video screen (complete with a guest appearance from Ricky Tomlinson) and quite a flashy airlock for the Robot Ariel (Kieran Buckeridge) to come skating through! I was somewhat pleasantly surprised with the set overall, particularly when I considered the
limitations and constraints that such a traditional style of theatre may have presented. This was supported by some very tongue in cheek direction by Kevin Shaw such as the miniature rocket that glided or should I say was dragged above our heads but did raise quite a few laughs from the audience.
The crew comprised of eight main characters and proved to be a very strong and talented bunch that was led by Justin Brett as Captain Tempest and his sidekick Bosun (Adam Keast). It cannot be denied that this was a very talented cast that had to act, sing, dance and even fight off monsters!!! I was somewhat dubious however over the quite camped up portrayal of Prospero played by Paul Kissaun, who although very entertaining, did seem to ham it up slightly too much with his asides to the audience.

Howard Grey's Musical direction was excellent and the musical talent of the cast was something that needs to be recognised, they all played a compliment of instruments from keyboard to guitar to the saxophone as they creatively cavorted and played around the
stage. I did however get somewhat distracted on occasions at the ‘doubling up’ of characters playing instruments in the background. I did feel that in an ideal world that they could have been supported by an extra few ‘crew members’ to take the pressure off them, having to rush off for their next song, after having just delivering a heart-filled speech.

The musical score was very entertaining and consisted of an amalgamation of well known songs such as ‘Great balls of fire’, ‘Good Vibrations’, Teenager in Love’, ‘Young Ones’ and ‘Monster Mash’. All of which were guaranteed to get your toes tapping and hands clapping throughout.

Overall Return to the Forbidden Planet presented itself as a very entertaining show that is well suited for people of All Ages, be warned this show will leave you humming many of the tunes for days to come. A very enjoyable night out!

Return to the Forbidden Planet runs until 9th June for more information visit
Photos - Top Right: Clara Darcey (Miranda) & Kieran Buckeridge (Ariel)
Bottom Left: Back left clockwise: Justin Brett (Cpt. Tempest) Kieran Buckeridge (Ariel) Delroy Brown (Navigation Officer) Adam Keast (Bosun) & Sam Brown (Cookie)

Wednesday, 16 May 2007

The Last Confession - Chichester Festival Theatre

The Last Confession by Roger Crane
Director: David Jones
Reviewer: Jenny Williams

Most of us of a certain age, whether Catholic or not, remember 1978 as a year of white smoke issuing twice from the Vatican, but we are less likely to remember why. After the death of Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul I was elected, but was found dead in his bed 33 days later. The circumstances of his death have never been confirmed, except that the Vatican press release was found to be largely false.

The Last Confession is a murder mystery, and with David Suchet in the lead, thoughts of Hercule Poirot are not far away. However, Suchet’s character, Cardinal Benelli, is far from the objective Belgian detective. He is a man approaching death confessing his sins to a mysterious monk, and the play is mostly flashback. Benelli is racked with guilt having allowed personal ambition prevent him from supporting the new Pope.

What really happened is not known, but who was there is known. The politics of the Vatican are complicated, and the Cardinals, convincingly portrayed by a distinguished cast, are sophisticated men using intellect and wit to resist change and maintain their status. The new Pope, played by the smiling Richard O’Callaghan, is shown to be a humble, gentle soul, determined to carry out his office as a People’s Pope, being available to his flock, and purging the Church of corruption and intrigue. There are plenty of possible suspects…

The Last Confession is a fascinating portrayal of one man’s struggle against greed and intrigue, and of another’s ambition and betrayal, familiar but fascinating themes.
The acting is excellent, William Dudley’s set is interesting and effective, the material stimulating, and the mysterious monk thought provoking.

The first act is slow, with the scene being carefully painted, but it is important and well worth the wait for the second act. The tension builds and pace quickens.
A murder mystery. A political thriller. A psychological study. What more can you want?

The Chichester Festival runs through to September for more information visit
Photos by John Haynes: Cardinal Beneli (David Suchet) & The Confessor (Michael Jayston)

Monday, 7 May 2007

Coming Soon - from a theatre near you!

Coming Soon...a brand new theatre review site that is for the public by the public. It's time for some real, honest and down to earth reviews of the west-end shows and regional theatre, if its a hit or if its a miss we will guarantee the review will be from a non professional reviewer.

if you would like to take part and be on our list to be considered for the chance to review the latest show near you then please email :
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