Friday, 29 June 2007

Mojo Mickybo - Traflagar Studios

Mojo Mickybo by Owen McCafferty
Trafalgar Studios: 27th June – 21st July
Directed by: Jonathan Humphreys
Reviewed by John Roberts – Teacher

This production was first seen at the Arcola Theatre in March of this year, and has now become the first show for the theatre to get a west end transfer, and does this show deserve such a transfer? You bet!

Mojo Mickybo written by Owen McCafferty tells the story of two boys growing up in Belfast during the summer of 1970 blissfully unaware of the troubles of the sectarian violence that is going on around them, instead they opt for some adolescent fun of playing Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Rolling down hills and trying to avoid attacks from local bullies “Gank the Wank” and “Fuck Face.”

McCafferty has written a play that has very dark undertones, whilst still giving the audience plenty to laugh at. Director Jonathan Humphries who is only 22 should be congratulated, this is a play that has real pace, pathos and humour; it is so tight, that to squeeze in anymore energy and emotion you would have to use some serious lubrication!

Martin Brody is a likable Mojo, full of young teenage naivety and sensitivity, Brody just needs to make more of a difference vocally between the 7 or so characters that he plays throughout the piece, at times they seemed to merge into one, but never the less this is a little picky for what otherwise is a fantastic performance, but it is Benjamin Davies (Mickybo) who is the real ‘Tour-de-Force’ of this piece. It is easy to see why Davies won the Olivier Award for best new comer in 2001. Davies’ stage presence is electrifying; he demands the audience attention with his perfect comic timing and physicalisation, he could have had the audience eating out of his hands.

Mark Friend’s set lends itself to the play simply but effectively with a subtle but telling divide of colours representing the troubles that lie in Belfast.

It’s great that this play has been given a west end transfer – one that it thoroughly deserves, its just a pity that over the course of its run in the west end its only going to be seen by the equivalent of a sold out show at the Victoria Apollo. This show has legs and if it doesn’t use them to go on tour in the very near future then it’s a travesty.

Mojo Mickybo runs at the Trafalgar Studios until 21st July for more information visit or

Photos by Stephanie Schaerer,

Thursday, 28 June 2007

Kismet - ENO at the Coliseum

ENO at the Coliseum Theatre: 26th June - 14th July
Directed by: Gary Griffen
Conductors: Richard Hickox and Simon Lee
Reviewed by: Jeffrey Mayhew - Drama Teacher

As frothy entertainment goes Kismet has a lot going for it. Whilst this 1953 musical hasn’t the conscience of Showboat, say, or the intellectual weight of a piece like West Side Story there is plenty therein to please most West End aficionados. The original play by Edward Knoblock is solid, and a great success itself from 1911 onwards. The exquisitely lyrical music of Borodin has been plundered with some tact and discretion by Robert Wright and George Forrest and the lyrics are no sillier than is par for this style of course. The “oriental” kitsch is, at best, a wonderful opportunity for designer campery. So a good night could be had by all.

Sadly this was scarcely the case for me at the Coliseum, and I am first in the queue when it comes to good hearted, simple and entertaining nights out. This was in no way the fault (or responsibility) of the performers. These were uniformly a joy. The gravitas of the older men was a real treat – superb characterisation and dark velvety tones from Donald Maxwell’s Omar and Graeme Danby’s Wazir. Michael Ball as the shifty Jack the Lad poet drove the shaky plot onwards with extraordinary verve and energy and his Frankie Laine bravura powered over fine orchestral playing under Richard Hickox. Sarah Tynan and Alfie Boe were classic juvenile leads, attractive, sweet voiced and utterly engaging. Touches of louche humour and decorous decadence were added by Julian Curry and Faith Prince as the master brigand and the wife of wives to the Wazir. Much decent Carry On meets Gilbert & Sullivan business with nubile slave girls, well toned slave boys and mock hideous cruelties that never actually transpire. The chorus singing throughout enough to knock a camel over. So far so good and something towards top of the range seats at £75 a pop and a mortgage on a thimble full of nuts.

What went wrong was the setting and attendant production elements. Perhaps the highly credited Ultz (and I refrain from nervousness at the single name) was playing a deeply clever game to which I (and presumably much of the audience) were not privy. It could just be that the whole shebang with its nastily draped curtains, cardboard cut out red sets, its sometimes limited opportunity for levels and often desperately constrained acting areas was a brilliant lampoon of all that is fascinatingly awful in the village hall panto. When the production team joined the performers on stage at the end I did think this was confirmation of this and that after a call for quiet the committee, the stalwart ladies who made the tea and Frank for the loan of the field for parking would all get their due recognition. Watching our artistes navigating their way round the set and standing in dispirited lines (there were an awful lot of lines) was very depressing and the fact that there was often little to light meant that the leads were liberally follow-spotted throughout in the teeth of time, season and logic. The costumes seemed an afterthought and our sympathies went out to the dancers (wasn’t there some trouble there?) who often seemed hampered visually and spacially. Far more sadly irritation at what I saw in front of me started me thinking (I am otherwise prepared to be reasonably shallow) about the subject matter, the constant Baghdad references in a brash piece of Americana and all those things any decent chap on the town shouldn’t be troubling his pretty head with. Lovely radio, pity about the picture.

Kismet Runs at the Coliseum until 14th July for more information visit

Photos by Tristram Kenton: Top - Michael Ball as A Poet: Middle- Alfie Boe as The Caliph & Sarah Tynan as Marsinah: Bottom - Faith Prince as Lalume

Sunday, 24 June 2007

Women on the Verge - Oldham Coliseum

Women on the Verge by Marie Jones
Oldham Coliseum Theatre : 21 June - 14 July
Directed by Natalie Wilson
Reviewed by Greg Kelly

The first thing to point out in this review is that I am a 22-year-old bloke going see a play about the trials and tribulations of being a middle age woman. Not mention one of the main issues in the play being ‘The Dreaded Change,’ The Menopause! I really didn’t know what I was letting myself in for. However, when watching the play I aimed to look at this piece objectively. (If that’s at all possible!)

Women On The Verge is a three handed comedy piece. Nice & simple! Susie Baxter plays Anna (Lovable character obsessed with Daniel O’Donnell), Kate Layden plays Vera (hard faced, cynical woman & bitterly unhappy not to have found love) and finally Thomas K Lappin plays Fergal (Daniel O’donnell parody), amongst other characters.

The Set design was simple and put to good use. Each of the cast members performance was strong in it’s own right. Although Kate Layden at times stutterd over her lines & Susie Baxter had a tendency to over-act. Women On The Verge is a comedy drama and it lived up to that. It was funny in parts, with some very good one-liners. (Which frequently came from Anna & Vera). Their relationship and friendship on stage was strong. There was clear chemistry between the two characters. The first appearance of Fergal was subtle and precise. As the play develops we began to see more and more of this pivotal character.

The main problem with the first Act and indeed the second Act was the use of music within the piece. In no shape or form before watching the piece was I given the clue that it was a musical. In Act 1 Kate Laydens character breaks out into song. It was almost comical for the wrong reasons. It didn’t seem to fit at all with style of the play and it was highly contrived. This occurred a second and third time in Act 1, by each character in the piece. Not only was the problem that it didn’t seem to fit in with the style of the piece, but that they were all very average (borderline poor) singers.

The script throughout was comical and witty. The first Act passed by quickly without seeming to drag. Act two had a completely different feel to it. It was a different setting and appeared to be a dreamlike sequence. Within this sequence Anna & Vera had visions of certain people in their lives. All these visions were played by Thomas K Lappin. The audience were very receptive to his versatility. However, I felt the five characters he played could have been more defined vocally. There was no differentiation between the 5 characters and his main character, Fergal.
As the play comes to its conclusion, Vera unexpectedly finds love with Daniel O’Donnell, I mean Fergal. Also, predictably Anna and Vera have learnt more about themselves etc…and their strong friendship remains.

Women On The Verge is a good piece with both strong and weak moments. The play looks at the issue of menopause and middle age without trying to tackle any issues, but merely highlighting them in an often comical fashion. If not for the unintentional comical singing, Women On The Verge is a play (musical) worth seeing. It’s fundamental principal is to entertain and both the audience and I on leaving The Oldham Coliseum would of agreed that it achieved that end.
Women on the Verge continues its run until the 14th July for more information please visit

Photos show: Kate Layden as Vera and Susie Baxter as Anna and Kate Layden and Thomas Lappin as Vera and Fergal:

Cats Paw - Kings Head Theatre, Islington

Cat’s Paw by William Mastrosimone
The Kings Head Theatre, Islington: 11 June – 1 July
Directed by Noah Lee Margetts
Reviewed by John Roberts - Teacher

Cat’s Paw is set in Washington DC, within the disused warehouse and secret base of Eco Warrior group Earth Now. 5 weeks since they kidnapped local man David Darling (Kenneth Jay), Earth Now’s rebel leader Victor (Noah Lee Margetts) needs more attention for his campaign to stop people polluting the countries fresh water supply, so with the help of Cathy (Jessica Knight) a fellow member of Earth Now they kidnap one of Washington’s finest news reporters (Kosha Engler) to come and help their cause by interviewing them.

Cat’s Paw has been performed in America regularly since it was first written by Award winning writer William Mastrosimone in 1984 and reworked in 1996 and it is this version that gets its UK Premiere and is perfect for the intimate surroundings that the Kings Head provides bringing the audience right into the middle of the hostage situation; you can’t help feeling part of the ordeal from the very moment you step into the auditorium until the show reaches its climatic ending ninety minutes later. Cat’s Paw is a political play that at its core makes us look at the way we treat the earth and the people that are part of its design.

Noah Lee Margetts who also directs, plays Victor who demands the stage with his strong presence and demeanour, Kenneth Jay’s David Darling is played with a warmth that we as an audience instantly sympathise with but it’s the female cast who provide the real talent. Kosha Engler held the political fort together as TV Journalist Jessica, Engler’s performance was tight with a real thought of character, the pace of her lengthy dialogues were executed with near perfection. but it was Jessica Knight as Cathy who provided the show with a strong supporting role coming into her own in the last 15 minutes of the play with a performance that is, powerful, emotional and touching, in a nutshell Knight’s performance was simply stunning.

Cat’s Paw isn’t without its flaws though, at times the pace dragged, perhaps this is due to the director taking on the lead role as well and not having the objective outside eye that is perhaps needed with such a heavy political piece, and when the pace did pick up it was played at times so fast that lines started to slip and dialogue got mumbled.

New Line Maverick Stage Productions have produced a show that has real of the time relevance, it is thought provoking and has a strong message to each and everyone one who watches, but perhaps a 12 noon timeslot on weekends/3pm slot on weekdays isn’t the platform that this show should be in or deserves.

Cats Paw continues at the Kings Head Theatre until 1st July for more inofrmation visit

Monday, 18 June 2007

Song of Singapore - Octagon Theatre, Bolton

Song of Singapore by Allan Katz, Erick Frandsen, Michael Garin, Robert Hipkens and Paula Lockheart
The Octagon Theatre, Bolton: Thurs 14 June - Sat 7 July 07
Directed by: Mark Babych
Musical Director: Howard Gray
Reviewed by: Stephanie Rowe - Nanny

I went along to watch this performance not really knowing what to expect, I was told it was a musical set in a bar in 1941 Singapore and was expecting something along the lines of Miss Saigon.

Upon entering the theatre I saw the stage was set for a type of Cabaret evening with a bar set up in the corner, It was a very average type bar with a swing band fronted by Rose of Rangoon, a very forgetful thou mysterious femme fatale. Things liven up when a customer is killed under suspicious circumstances and the police chief is more interested in what he was carrying than who murdered him and why.

Before the show started the cast came out early and started to put the audience at ease and in the mood by playing Jazz before the show began.

The show turned out to be excellent and nothing like I had imagined, it was a comedy with each character telling their story through the songs, in the style of Jazz and the Blues, I have to admit, even though I am not particularly a fan of this genre of music, I found myself tapping my foot and singing along to the reprises..

The set and costumes by Richard Foxton were very in keeping with the times and were simple yet effective. The lighting was superb, but the sound quality did vary during the performance and at times when Rose was singing, you had to strain to hear her voice over the other cast members.

Each cast member of the company also played a musical instrument, a form which is becoming more and more popular in Rep theatre nowadays, and it was good to see Musical Director Howard Gray also treading the boards as Freddie S.Lyme, Other stand out performances came from Andrew Schofield (Spike Spauldeen), Nick Lashbrook (Hans van der last) and Christopher Fry (Bones / Mysterious Man) each playing their various characters with a panache that is sometimes missing in a stage performance. A disappointing performance from Matt Devereaux who played three parts, and managed to make them seem like they were all one and the same. Ruth Alexander-Rubin carried the role of Rose exceptionally well even with the twists that take place to her character throughout the show.

Chah-Li played by Emily Grace was very overpowering with her presence and even when seated at the bar to the side of the stage managed to draw your attention to her instead of what was happening on stage. She has a great talent and working with this cast she will hone her skills well which at the age 19 will set her up for a great career.

It would have been nice to have seen Tayo Akinbode and Francis Tucker take more of a part in the show instead of just playing in the background.
The director Mark Babych and musical director Howard Gray leaving the negatives aside have created a show that leaves you feeling light hearted, relaxed with the feeling that you have defiantly had a fabulous and exotic night out.

Song of Singapore runs at The Octagon Theatre, Bolton until the 7th July for more information please visit
Photos by Ian Tilton: Top - Ruth Alexander Rubin (Rose), Andrew Schofield (Spike), Emily Grace (Chah-Li)
Bottom - Nick Lashbrook (Hans), Matt Devereaux (Kurland), Ruth Alexander Rubin (Rose)

Monday, 11 June 2007

Appologie to Primevera Productions

Here at the we try and check out the factual details of all reviews as thoroughly as possible before a review is published, it is with regret and sincere apologies that at the time of going to publish the review for Primeveras 'No Thoroughfare' at the Kings Head Theatre there were several errors with the Review and we would like to take this opportunity to clear some issues.

All the Forgotten Classics Season by Primevera Productions at The Kings Head Theatre are all 'Rehearsed Readings' and states this fact clearly on all Publicity material and websites. all Tickets for these performances are £7 & £5 (concessions for this series are for University Staff, Equity Members, Under 25's and OAP's) a significant saving compared to normal £25 ticket price at the Kings Head.

I once again apologise for any information that was in the original review that was misleading and caused offence to all those involved in producing this series.

Sunday, 10 June 2007

Trance - The Bush Theatre

Trance by Shoji Kokami
The Bush Theatre: 6th-30th June
Directed by: Shoji Kokami
Reviewed by Mark Valencia - Teacher

A tragi-comic three-hander about mental illness… minimal white décor… we’ve been here before, surely? Certainly somewhere very like it; but, new as it is to British audiences, Shoji Kokami’s play actually predates Joe Penhall’s Blue/Orange by several years. Sadly, though, Trance is not in the same league as that subtle and mercurial play.

Kokami himself directs this English language début of a serpentine tale that has proved enduringly popular in his native Japan since its 1993 premiere. He is a director who knows his craft: the pace and vigour of his productions are exemplary, and he is well served by a trio of actors all of whom brings idiosyncratic qualities to their roles. This is canny casting for a play that deals above all with three isolated and fractured personalities, each of whom is trying in vain to reach out to the other two.

The sense of disconnection is intensified by differences in acting styles. As Masa, apparently the most damaged of the characters, Stephen Darcy gives an appropriately edgy but downbeat performance around which the other two whirl in fevered counterpoint. Meredith MacNeill imbues the role of Reiko, Masa’s long-term friend and short-term doctor, with a gallery of entertaining vocal tics and facial twitches that come perilously close to scenery-chewing. She gets away with it, despite the intimate scale of the Bush space, because her technical skill is so great and her stage presence consistently sympathetic.

Overacting of an altogether more flamboyant kind is required of Rhashan Stone’s Sanzo, alias “Sylvia Stallone”, drag artist. For most of the play Stone flounces fruitily and spouts every camp cliché in the book. This showy gay caricature is Trance’s Achilles’ heel, though, because when it comes to screaming queens with a heart of gold British audiences have been there, done that, bought the strappy top. Alas, we are called upon to warm to and care about a derivative stereotype whom Kokami patronises lazily. Maybe cultural differences are a factor (comedy can be a notoriously poor traveller), or maybe Trance arrives on these shores already too dated for contemporary sensibilities; but, for all Stone’s enthusiastic advocacy of the role, Sanzo’s posturings are a bore.

Shoji Kokami stages his play with a lithe assurance and confidence in his material. His expert use of mime allows a prop-free stage to appear cluttered with all manner of crockery, bed linen and cigarette butts, and the intangible nature of these imaginary objects makes a satisfying complement to the central idea of the piece.
If I have been coy about describing the plot, it is to safeguard the play’s surprises. Kokami’s story twists and turns as he debates the nature of sanity and the desperate plight of lonely individuals in a crowded city. His dramatic tricks catch us off guard several times (even though his primary deceit is semaphored rather too obviously during the early scenes), yet the play ends with a disappointing whimper as inspiration falters. Whatever it was about Trance that captured the spirit of the age in nineties Tokyo, a great deal of it has been lost in translation.

Trance runs at The Bush Theatre London until the 30th June for more information visit

Saturday, 9 June 2007

Bollywood Jane - West Yorkshire Playhouse

Bollywood Jane by Amanda Whittington
West Yorkshire Playhouse: 2nd -30th June
Directed by: Nikolai Foster
Choreography: Zoobin Surty
Original Music: Grant Olding
Reviewed by Lyndsey Holmes

Yorkshire is about to host the International Indian film Academy Awards, and Bollywood Jane, which is part of the fringe festival for this event, is the perfect show to get you in the mood!

Bollywood jane tells the story of a girl who flees her home with her mother and lands in Bradford, where she meets Dini who sweeps her up into a world of Bollywood fantasy.The writer, Amanda Whittington, has created a moving play, with very real charaters and a gritty northern storyline, but credit should go to young director Nikolai Foster who has managed to seamlessly blend the action with huge bollywood dance numbers. Not an easy task with a twenty strong community chorus!

The chorus, some of whom have never danced or acted before, are transformed into a bollywood company thanks to the training and choreography of Zoobin Surty. They mastered the bollywood moves and danced passionately, with each and everyone of them thoroughly deserving their place on the stage. As each bollywood scene is meant to be a dream or fantasy of title character Jane, using a community chorus worked brilliantly, these are real people Jane could have seen on the streets of bradford and it is convincing that the close community around her are whisked into her dreams as she becomes a Bollywood star!

A special mention should go to Nichola Burley who plays Jane. She dances beautifully as she weaves through the chorus and plays out her own bollywood love scene. Bollywood Jane marks Nicholas professional stage debut but this performance is sure to secure her a brilliant theatre career. Her acting was phenominal. She managed to captivate the audience and take them through a rollercoaster of emotions, having amazing chemistry with all five of the other lead roles. Particularly moving were the scenes between Jane and her mother Kate, played by Katherine Dow Blyton.

The cotumes, set (Colin Rischmond), lighting (Guy Hoare), Sound and Video (Mic Pool) only enhance the performance further, particularly in the musical scenes, where an explosion of colour transports you to Bollywood.

It is impossible to watch these scenes without moving and it was obvious from looking around that most members of the audience were itching to get up and dance. My only critisism of the show is that it was over too quickly, although it ran at around two hours, I wanted the all singing, all dancing finale to go on into the night!

Bollywood Jane runs at The West Yorkshire Playhouse until 30 June, for more information visit

Babes in Arms - Chichester Festival Theatre

Babes in Arms by Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart & George Oppenheimer
Chichester Festival Theatre: 29 May - 7 July
Directed by: Martin Connor
Musical Direction by : Mark Warman
Choreography: Bill Deamer
Reviewed by Linda Hutton - Accident & Emergency Receptionist

A rare opportunity presents itself for musical comedy lovers to see a new adaptation of Rodgers and Hart’s Babes in Arms at the Chichester Festival Theatre. This latest version is based on the original script, which was a big success on Broadway, and on George Oppenheimer’s 1959 adaptation. The original score is also used as the basis for the first-rate new orchestrations.

Originally written in 1937 it follows a predictably cheesy story line about a group of young people who try and put on their own show in The Old Barn, next to the Cane Theatre in Cape Cod. The 1939 classic movie version with Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney is remembered for the line ‘Let’s put a show on, right here in the barn!’ This gives a lovely link to the current production with Lorna Luft, daughter of Judy Garland, taking the leading role of Mrs Phyllis Owen.

The exceptionally talented cast created many unforgettable moments with Billie (Donna Steele) giving outstanding performances of ‘The Lady is a Tramp’ and ‘My Funny Valentine’ and alongside Val (Mark McGee) in ‘Where or When’. Baby Rose Owen (Sophia Ragavelas) cartwheeled her way into our hearts with her cringing portrayal of a young starlet brought in to save the day in a small town show.

Choreographer Martin Connor is to be congratulated on the tremendous dance routines especially the tap routine of the talented trio of Irving (Ashley Day), Ted (Darren J Fawthrop) and Peter (Charles Ruhrmund), which drew the loudest and most sustained applause from the audience during the entire show.

The simple yet effective set lent itself to the seamless scene changes and faultless lighting. The cast were skilfully directed by Martin Connor making the most of the large open stage and even at one point swinging from the rafters! This certainly is a show with a delightful feel-good factor you can take the whole family to see.

Babes in Arms Runs at the Chichester Festival Theatre until 7th July for more information visit

Photos by Catherine Ashmore

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

No Thoroughfare – Kings Head Theatre

No Thoroughfare by By Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins
Directed by Tom Littler
The Kings Head Theatre - Islington
Reviewed by Sarah Brown

No Thoroughfare, Dickens’ only stage play written with his friend Wilkie Collins, was billed as part of The Kings Head ‘Forgotten Classics’ series – and rightly so. It is nothing short of scandalous that this play is not a regular on the London stage. The script is sparkling and Primavera, the company which produced this performance, are to be congratulated for bringing it to life again.

This is a rehearsed Reading and as I found it extremely distracting that the actors constantly had scripts in hand. On occasion they confused their lines and although they coped with this masterfully and used it to add to the comedy this would have been funnier if the tickets had been cheaper.

Even with scripts some performances did stand out. David Cardy as ‘Mr Joey’ was wonderfully cynical and world weary. I particularly enjoyed his head-shaking fulminations against the fact that his new employer had changed the name of the old firm and how this would bring bad luck. This was a theme which ran throughout, to great comic effect.

Similarly Loo Brealey as Marguerite was a lovelywide-eyed ingénue with some deliberate OTT romantic gestures. She was a great foil to John Sackville’s ‘nice but dim’ George Vendale who blindly persists in taking his greatest enemy for his friend.

No Thoroughfare could have been great if only it had been staged as a proper play.

The Forgotten Classics Season (all rehearsed readings) by Primavera Productions continues at The Kings Head Theatre over the next few months for more information visit or for more information.
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