Thursday, 3 December 2009


Please note The Public Reviews will no longer be based here, all reviews past, present and future will now be hosted on our new site.

We look forward to welcoming you onto the new site!

John Roberts - Editor

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

White Christmas - Lowry Theatre, Salford

White Christmas
By Irving Berlin
Director: David Morgan
Reviewer: Iris Beaumont

White Christmas is filled with so many fantastic numbers by Irving Berlin including Happy Holiday, Sisters and of course the unforgettable title song White Christmas and a snow scene which leaves you feeling warm throughout, you can’t help but be engrossed from the start.

It is war torn Europe, Christmas Eve 1944, three soldiers are trying their utmost to raise moral and bring a little laughter into the hearts of the troops they are stationed with, when a flying visit by their General (Roy Dotrice) to wish them all a Happy Christmas comments on wondering what they will be doing in ten years time we are sent forward in time to 1954.

Bob Wallace (Aled Jones) and Phil Davies (Adam Cooper) are busy working as a double act, singing and dancing their way across America playing in many of the local theatres, where upon chance they meet Judy (Suzanne Shaw) and Betty (Rachel Stanley,) otherwise known as the Haynes sisters.

Phil is swept off his feet in love and decides by hook or crook to follow the Sisters all the way to Vermont, tricking Bob to go along with the promise of Snow – only to find when they get there it’s not as white as they had hoped and the Hotel they are booked in is ran by their old General, with the hotel close to closing a plan hatches into place and the show really begins to move.

With stunning set and costume designs, that literally take your breath away by Anna Louizos, you are already whisked away in this lavish and engrossing production and with direction by David Morgan things are kept full of pace throughout with some extra splashes of Christmas sentimentality and comic moments splashed in for good measure.

Excellent performances are given by all the cast and one really couldn’t find fault with any of them, but Louise Plowright as Martha the receptionist really shines out strong with her powerful and beautiful voice and Emily Fitton as the General’s Grand-Daughter couldn’t help but touch your heart.

I have had many excellent experiences of productions over the years at the Lowry and this is the show that tops them all. White Christmas really lifts your heart and gets you ready for the festive season that lies ahead, a show for all the family, if you are stuck for present ideas this Christmas why not buy your loved ones tickets for this show, which is guaranteed to make an impact for years to come!

Photos: Alastair Muir
Runs until Sat 9th Jan 2010

Wintuk - Madison Square Gardens, New York

Writer & Director: Richard Blackburn
Choreographer: Catherine Archambault

Reviewer: Jeff Savio

As we enter the winter season, many children eagerly await the arrival of snow. Cirque du Soleil’s seasonal spectacular, Wintuk, follows Jaime, a young boy, on his quest to discover why winter has yet to bring much desired snow to his city. Along the way, he is joined by a playful young girl, a shy man, and a wise Shaman. Together they encounter a host of colorful characters as they make their way to the imaginary arctic world called Wintuk. The plot, while fairly loose and simple, presents a fun backdrop for the fascinating action that constantly fills the stage.

In typical Cirque du Soleil fashion, Wintuk’s story comes to life with jaw-dropping stunts and tricks that are beautifully choreographed, flawlessly executed, and seamlessly integrated. The result is nonstop action across the entire stage that provides an exciting and engaging family-friendly experience. Each act – whether juggling, balancing, bicycling, tumbling, or a variety of other acrobatic stunts – pushes the limit of what you thought was possible, leaving you all the more bewildered. In one scene, a construction worker balances high above the ground on a single board stacked atop teetering levels of pipes and cylinders. In another, acrobats perform a Russian bars act, flying into the air, tumbling, and then landing gracefully on the thin bar from which they were first launched. Each act is performed in character with immense energy and ease. If the laws of gravity do exist on the stage, they seem to not apply to the actors as they perform these seemingly impossible feats that leave you on the edge of your seat, grabbing the person next to you, and asking, simply, “How?”

Wintuk’s amazing stunts and tricks are further complemented by the show’s fun live music and dynamic stage. The whimsical set is vibrant and consists of skate and bike ramps, a long tumble track trampoline, and a variety of moving pieces that bring the stage to life and allow the actors to showcase their talents. Enormous puppets and extravagant costumes, including a quartet of “dogs” that comically jump and roll around the stage, add to the unique experience. The actors perform with energy and ease, leaving you laughing, gasping, and staring in wonder.

By the end of Wintuk, audience members of all ages are left smiling and wanting more. Throughout the 90-minute show, the audience is engulfed in a fantastic Wintuk wonderland where the seemingly impossible happens all the time. Seeing, or rather experiencing, Wintuk is a great way to jump excitedly into the winter season. The action-packed, beautifully produced Wintuk is an outstanding, fun show that will please all. Ultimately, as one of the show’s closing songs explains, in Wintuk, “nothing’s missing.”

Photos: Richard Termine
Wintuk runs through January 3, 2010.

The Snow Queen - Unity Theatre, Liverpool

The Snow Queen
Writer: Mike Kenny
Director/Composer: Patrick Dineen
Reviewer: Katherine Lunney

The Unity Theatre has a 21year history of family shows at Christmas, putting a contemporary slant onto traditional tales, from The Emperor’s New Clothes to Pinocchio. This year the director/composer, Patrick Dineen, has collaborated with children’s playwright Mike Kenny and Liverpool-based theatre company Ullaloom to create a piece of theatre which is “visually arresting and filled with magical music and song” (according to the Unity website.)

I will agree with the promotional flyer that the set is visually pleasing and they have created a set which adapts to the different settings of Gerda’s journey to find Kai at the Snow Queen’s palace. The company’s use of crooked doors, an upper level platform with shadow projection, a large white sheet to represent snowstorms, and miniature lit houses are very effective at conjuring up different environments and create a great sense of movement across a relatively small space. Aside from that it is hard to find much else to compliment this production of the Snow Queen.

This production has placed a great emphasis upon its use of music and dance, and decided to focus upon the people that Gerda meets upon her search for the Snow Queen’s palace. This production choice does create the comic moments in the production with the colourful characters of the hungry polar bear, the travelling group of performers and eternally partying couple, however it does overshadow the relationship between Kai and Gerda (played by Jamie Stuart and Lauren Silver.)

My main complaint with this production is that it didn’t really know what it is; pantomime or play with songs? It used elements of the traditional pantomime, i.e. sing-a-long and audience participation, yet all of these felt half-hearted, as if any shout of ‘he’s behind you’ would have been immediately shushed as inappropriate for this Christmas play with songs. The music itself wasn’t memorable and didn’t serve to advance the plot, and the funny moments appeared to raise laughter only from the friends of the actors sat near myself who found the Russian costumes/dancing/accents hilarious.

However, I fully admit that I am not the target audience of this family production. So I went and chatted to the Liverpool Boys Brigade who told me that they loved it. Nearly all of them would give it 2 thumbs up, except Joshua Lathan - who was pulled out to dance on stage with the polar bear – who said he would give it “infinity plus one thumbs up”. Their favourite character was Kai, “ because he’s sound” with a couple liking the polar bear best. Surprisingly none of them said they were scared of the Snow Queen, although this may have been male bravado! So, the kids loved it, and you can’t ignore that – so maybe just ignore my ramblings for a higher standard of Christmas show.

Photos: Matt Ford
Runs until Sat 23rd Jan

Dreamboats & Petticoats - Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield

Dreaamboats & Petticoats
Director: Bob Tomson
Reviewer: Sarah Lyth

Billed as ‘The Greatest Days of Your Life!’ the team of Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran have written a musical that promises to rock and roll away the icy nights of Sheffield during its stay. Dreamboats and Petticoats bounces along with all the energy, passion and verve of the Rock ‘n’ Roll era and flounces through Sheffield on its jaunt direct from the Savoy Theatre in the West End.

Set in 1961, the action takes place in a youth theatre full of dreamers, singers and wannabe lovers. The heartthrob Norman breaks the heart of our Bobby as he whisks away his beautiful pin-up Sue as the boys compete for another prize...the fame that would come from winning a national song writing competition. Little does Bobby know but it is the quiet Laura who, along with her piano, who will take his music and his heart to the heights he is aiming for.

The colour, glitz and glittering lights echoed the rhythm and energy of the classic rock ‘n’ roll hits as the tunes weaved their wave through the believable narrative. From the very first song the audience were clapping and singing along, laughing and gasping and feeling the heartache in turn as the young dreamers created their music and dance on stage.

As Bobby, Josh Capper captured the aching of young people who fall in love, yearn to be free and capture their dreams. Peter Gerald used a heady mix of comedy and older wisdom to portray a father and a grandfather with many a story to tell. Clare Ivory’s Donna stood out as one of the performance’s stars who, along with Wayne Smith’s Ray, provided a depth and an edge to the story that made it all the more believable.

The musicians were in a class of their own, mixing powerful performances on the instruments with clever staging to impact the audience with the visual brilliance of the scene as well as with the immensely energetic sound. It seemed that as the visuals and the sounds were entwined, so the story and the hearts of the audience were caught up in the golden sumptuousness of the production. Every toe was tapping and every hip was shaking by the end!

This was a bright and warm production that left the audience dancing, smiling and singing their way out of the Lyceum, aware that they had experienced a truly classic treat.

runs until Saturday 5th Dec

Never Forget - Liverpool Empire

Never Forget
Writer: Danny Brocklehurst, Guy Jones & Ed Curtis
Music/Lyrics: Gary Barlow
Director: Ed Curtis
Reviewer: Jacqui Senaun

This show certainly opened with a bang. It captured the audience straight away and the audience fell silent and full of anticipation as the music started, and with it being Take That songs it was buzzing.

The show tells the story of a son, Ash (Mark Wilshire) setting out to help his mum, Babs (Penelope Woodman), save her pub from debt collectors. Ash, as just got engaged to Chloe (Aimee Atkinson) and together with her brother, Jake, (Adam C Booth) decide to enter a tribute band competition to win £10,000. They are then joined by another 3 young men, Adrian (Tom Bradley), Dirty Harry (Philip Olivier) and Jose (Scott Garnham) who are all from different backgrounds to form the Take That tribute band. The story is then told, rather slowly using either, quite long and drawn out conversations or rather more excitedly a Take That song, something with which Shameless writer and this shows Director should be able to avoid with ease,

The plot centres mostly on Ash and his relationship with Chloe. Him being lured away by a talent scout that promises him the money he needs so desperately, quicker. He then loses his friends, his mum but most importantly Chloe. The second half of the show moved faster. The band getting back together and Ash and Chloe’s relationship back of track, the song and dance scenes were exciting and superb. The actors really seemed to come to life during this half of the production and they had the audiences clapping and singing along to the songs.

The stage sets were very well designed and the changes between the scenes were effortless and well carried out, although I have to say there were an awful lot of scene changes. At one moment you were in a pub and the next in a dance studio and then back to the pub, which at times took you a while to work out what was going on. The rain scene towards the end of the first half was brilliant though, with the words never forget falling with the rain.

The Finale of the show, was by far the most exciting moment in the show. The whole Theatre were on their feet joining in with the singing and dancing and the atmosphere was fabulous and it was at this point where I did not want it to end. The children were brilliant and added so much to the song Never Forget.

Although this is just another Jukebox Musical with songs from a famous band, it was an entertaining show and is worth going to see.

Photos: Paul Coltas
Runs until Sat 5th Dec

A Christmas Carol - Birmingham Rep

A Christmas Carol
by Charles Dickens
Adaptor: Bryony Lavery
Music & Lyrics: Jason Carr
Director: Nikolai Foster
Reviewer: Rob Yates
A Christmas Carol is a classic christmas show and this adaptation is no different. Although it often features on the family circuit I would hesitate to take a young child (under 5) to this production. As a story essentially about Ebeneezer Scrooge's dreams with three very different spirits there are some dramatic scenes throughout.

The musical is ably narrated by a group of spirits who move keep the story moving forward at a steady pace. They are evident in many scenes as Scrooge meets Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas yet to come.

Brilliant choreography from Nick Winston ensured each scene that Scrooge experienced had a different dynamic and feel. Ranging from the quiet and simple choreography of christmasses past to bright elaborate dances associated with christmas present.

With some very good use of props and the space provided by a large stage each dance had a unique character that added to the story and the composition that it supported. For the performance on this night Poppy Tierney was brilliant as both Lydia Cratchit and Mrs Dabchick as she stood in for Rosalie Craig.

The performance that most caught the eye though was from Carl Au who stared as Nephew Fred, Fiver and one of the ghosts. In particular his performance as a ghost was most dramatic, and it was no surprise to read he is an accomplished dancer.

The set was clever while having all the necessary parts to ensure the scene was obvious it was often a minimalist set, with just a bed being sufficient to set the scene of Scrooge's bedroom. This was contrasted by large screens and elaborate decoration, the devil being in the detail. A clever revolving stairway functioned as Scrooge's office, and with the narrator ghosts functioning as stage hands it was easy to create two scenes one for the back and one for the front of the office.

Its no surprise that this show is clearly a family Christmas favourite especially with such a welcome ending. For an evening of high quality family entertainment it is definitely worth a visit to A Christmas Carol. I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

Photos: Manuel Harlan
Runs until 9 Jan 2010

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Petrushka - Little Angel Theatre, London

Writer: John Agard
Directed by Steve Tiplady & Lyndie Wright
Reviewer: Honour Bayes

Petrushka is a puppet with no strings whose tale of daring do has been given a vibrant make-over at The Little Angel Theatre. With a delicate piano score by Stravinsky and sweetly rhyming language by John Agard the quality of this work is plain to see as are the charming performances from the undoubtedly talented Josh Darcy, Ronnie Le Drew, Mandy Travis, Rebekah Wild. These friendly performers manipulate their charges with a skill that impresses young and old and aren’t that bad at acting themselves either.

We follow Petrushka as he escapes from his evil puppet master who has been tormenting him with an unrequited love and heads out to create a better story for himself across Europe. Along his way he meets Stravinsky, who obligingly writes him a ballet, the music of which forms the haunting score which plays throughout this piece.

A long nosed jester, Petrushka is a Russian descendent of Punch and seems to have inherited many of his mischievous characteristics; this journey is a playfully funny one even though it ends in a more serious and poignant tone. Both when he has strings and when he is free, our puppeteers imbue Petrushka with a tangible sense of self and you are swept away in his story completely.

Alongside the emotive performances the puppets in this production are beautifully crafted with the whole thing feeling like a stunningly petit Italian renaissance show. From the ballet dancer who enthrals Petrushka to her muscle bound beaux each has their own temperament and style and the attention to detail is wonderful. My favourite were the steady worker puppets who float around tidying up after the others as they watch the mayhem unfold around them, but I’m sure you will have your own special choice.

At point’s surreal ballet and at others straightforward narration it is sometimes hard to follow the story exactly but if you are prepared to sit back and delight in the sweetness of this Russian folk puppetry then it is easy not to care. As with all the shows I have seen at Little Angel, this piece works on both a child and adult level, and with all ages in the audience giggling with glee, this definitely seems to be a show that the whole family will love this Christmas.
Runs until 31st Jan 2010

Scrooge - The Mayflower Theatre, Southampton

Book, Music and Lyrics: Leslie Bricusse
Based on ‘A Christmas Carol’
by: Charles Dickens
Director: Bob Tomson

Choreography: Lisa Kent
Reviewer: Jim Nicholson

Years ago I remember seeing the original version of this starring Anthony Newley and Jon Pertwee and on leaving the theatre feeling underwhelmed but with the one positive thought that ‘Thank You Very Much’ would have fitted very nicely into Lionel Bart’s ‘Oliver’.

Well I can report that not only must I have matured somewhat in those intervening years, so to has this show. What a great night out it now is. Still the score is not the strongest and still ‘Thank You Very Much’ stands out like a true anthem, but now the book, the staging, the cast, the choreography, the set and the illusions have all come together to provide a compelling two and a half hours which culminates with even this old stager trying not to show the wife that there is a tear in the eye.

The cast are wonderful, ‘every one of them’, led by the charismatic and seemingly ageless Tommy Steele, just two weeks away from his 73rd birthday. He scowls, he growls, his face is a picture of perfection as he really captures the soullessness of Ebenezer ‘miserly old grouch’ Scrooge. He can still hold a note that many youngsters of today would kill for and that smile, is it not the cheekiest ever.

Claire Marlow as the ‘Ghost of Christmas Past’ has a glorious voice and Suzie Chard as ‘Mrs Fezziwig’ is ‘laugh your socks off’ funny. The booming voice of man mountain James Head as the ‘Ghost of Christmas Present’ rocks the house sending out a moral message heard by all. Overworked and underpaid Bob Cratchit (played by Geoffrey Abbott) is charitable to all, ‘no matter what’, and has a great rapport with ‘Tiny Tim’. Our Tim along with other members of ‘the Babette Langford Young Set’ do their tutors proud. Always cheerful the Cratchet families finest quickens the pulse and stirs the heart with his show of supreme optimism.

Barry Howard gets all the best ‘how did they do that’ moments as the chain burdened Jacob Marley. Illusionist Paul Kieve has come up with a number of scenes to keep the kids talking for weeks. Paul Farnsworth has produced a fine set, with Cheapside, London 1860 looking very, very authentic, if perhaps short of a little seasonal snow.

The choreography on the big numbers fills the stage with grown ups and kids alike and helps keep that smile on your face. Lisa Kent can feel very proud of her work here with ‘December the Twenty-Fifth’, ‘The Minister’s Cat’ and, of course, ‘Thank You very Much’ being the stand out routines.

This really is a show that has improved dramatically with time and now not only tugs at the heartstrings but certainly does the genius of Charles Dickens great credit.

Runs until Sat 5th Dec

The Line - The Arcola Theatre, London

The Line
Writer: Timberlake Wertenbaker

Director: Matthew Lloyd
Reviewer: Honour Bayes

Timberlake Wertenbaker’s The Line should to all intents and purposes be an engaging and enthralling drama. Based on the tempestuous relationship of a fiery and sexy woman and her infamous teacher, Edgar Degas, Line could have been a vibrant and passionate exploration of the master, pupil relationship or furthermore questioned the ideas of art itself. Instead what results is a tedious repetition of conflict and resolution which carries neither party further forward apart from in years.

Edgar Degas is a crotchety but deeply admired artist whose fierce house keeper, Zoe, keeps an iron grip on those people allowed to visit her precious artist in residence. Enter the spirited Suzanne Valadon, a model and ‘muse’ of such greats as Toulouse-Lautrec, and somewhat of an artist herself it transpires as she reveals her drawings to Degas. Degas, though reluctant at first, soon falls under Valadon’s spell and takes her on as a pupil in the beginning of a relationship that is to span the rest of his life and hugely influence the course of hers.

Degas is a deeply complex character who worked with and influenced some of the greatest artists in the 20th Century and Henry Goodman gives an admirable performance in the role. His is a man conflicted; an artist whose stringent beliefs lead him to cultivate the reputation as a ‘misanthropic bachelor’ that perhaps did not come as naturally to him as he wanted others to think. But he is not helped by a cumbersome script which gives him chunky passages of art theory or disconnected moments of ethereal prophetic ‘wisdom’. As he imparts these to his wilful charge, it is hard not to feel slightly cringy because they seem to come out of nowhere; would a real person speak like that?

As the charge Sarah Smart is suitably alluring although she seems to be constantly pushing too hard which lends her performance the appearance of slight desperation. Selina Cadell forms the third in this holy trinity of art with a solid turn as the sturdy Zoe but any moments of promise allowed to this wonderful actress are also kyboshed by a stodgy script. The cast though strong individually seem to find no flow collectively and the whole thing has a stuttering sense to it. Matthew Lloyd struggles to bring a continuous arc to a piece which stops and starts continuously and the whole thing feels very long.

At least William Dudley’s design is beautiful enough to distract for moments as it delicately encases the audience in Degas’ images. Translucent sheets hang everywhere, so that his voluptuous woman embrace us all with a lightness and fluidity which is so lacking from the production at hand.

For a play about a bohemian artist the whole thing feels very middle class and at times like a BBC sitcom and although there are points when Wertenbaker’s undeniable style and flair shines through, overall this is a very fudged line indeed.

Photo: Tristram Kenton
Runs until Dec 12

The Gruffalo - The Duchess Theatre, London

The Gruffalo
Writer: Julia Donaldson
Adaptor: Tall Stories
Music: Shock Productions
Director: Olivia Jacobs
Reviewer: Deborah Klayman

Since its first incarnation in 2001, The Gruffalo has been entertaining audiences all over the globe, chalking up over 3000 performances worldwide. Returning to the West End for its third successive year, the production has lost none of its original charm, and continues to delight and excite children and adults alike.

Adapted from the extremely successful book (recently named the nation’s favourite bedtime story in a BBC Radio 2 poll), Tall Stories were faced with the daunting prospect of turning a five minute book into a fifty minute play whilst still remaining true to the essence of the story and without unduly padding it out. To say they have been successful would be a huge understatement, as the piece they are presenting stands alone, incorporating Tall Stories special brand of childrens’ theatre into the existing story: melding strong physical performances with superb costumes; oversized sets; and fun, catchy songs.

The performers are excellent – confident and versatile, with the ability to include the audience without being distracted by ‘helpful heckles’ from the younger, more enthusiastic spectators. By and large the children know the story (and text) better than anyone, so their interjections are encouraged and used to move the story along, and sometimes creating some unscripted yet hilarious comic moments.

Naomi Said is a bubbly, endearing mouse, and the audience warms to her immediately. Her physicality is strong and consistent, with lovely attention to detail. She completely avoids the pitfall of making mouse a timid character – rather she is plucky and resolute – and sings and moves extremely well. Napoleon Ryan is supremely versatile, effortlessly swapping between characters and costumes and making each one distinct and delightful. Each of the predators was presented with humour, both in characterisation and costume, but it was his rattlesnake (equipped with sparkly bolero jacket and maracas) that literally had the audience rolling in the aisles. Last but not least, Alan Park was a wonderful storyteller and Gruffalo, using his comic talent to build a rapport with the audience and add to the story as it went along, adding sound effects and amusing moments throughout. After a long build up, he re-entered as the Gruffalo, and played it to a tee – not too scary for the small children, yet enough to convincingly frighten the other characters onstage. His costume was superb, and the entire audience happily joined in with the Gruffalo song towards the end.

I always feel confident taking children to any Tall Stories show, knowing that the production values and performance levels will be high, but The Gruffalo is one that will be enjoyed by any age group, so even if you haven’t got kids I suggest you go and see it – it’ll undoubtedly be the brightest 50mins of your day!

Runs until Jan 4th 2010

Confessions of a City - Sheffield Crucible Theatre

Confessions of a City
Writer: Richard Hurford
Director: Ruth Carney
Reviewer: Sarah Lyth

How well do you know the city you live in? How do you know?

I came to Sheffield a decade a ago not knowing that I would fall in love. Yes, I’ve had personal experiences of heart ache and heart break, but it was Richard Hurford’s Confessions of a City, performed in the new look Crucible Theatre, that made me recognise exactly what it is that makes Sheffield irresistible to those born here, and to newcomers like me. Sheffield is both a normal city and an extraordinary one that glitters with a dark underbelly.

Literally travelling around the theatre, able to glimpse normally unseen parts such as the Green Room that are usually out of bounds, the audience were invited to participate in the revelations made by each of the principal characters of the piece. Coming from a range of experiences within Sheffield, the people shocked, repulsed, amused and moved their audience in turn. The four included a homeless young man, an elderly resident who hailed from Crookes, a Burmese immigrant and a Polish woman trusting in the power of love. The close proximity to the actors, and the placing of the audience actually within the scenes themselves, made for an intimate and profoundly challenging experience. I heard fellow audience members discussing their relation to the homeless and to the immigrants on our streets in a new light as I sat on the bus home.

Set within the context of a tram journey around the city, we were welcomed through the new automatic doors of the Crucible by our guides. There were never any clues as to what to expect, the actors simply welcomed the audience as new members of the scene and continued on with the stories, whether it was into a party disco atmosphere or into an eerie forbidden room that wouldn’t have been out of place in a James Bond movie.

The Company portrayed a rich and diverse city, impregnated with magic, mystery and power. At times frighteningly dark and disturbing, at times beautifully heart warming and nostalgic, Confessions of a City challenged the audience to view their personal part in the daily life of the city of Sheffield. We are all intertwined and we all contribute to its essence, no matter how or who we are. Ciaran Dowd as Leonardo brutally forced us to engage with the devestation of addiction and shot it through with a colourful ray of hope. Sally Evans encouraged us to recognise that the human heart can overcome all with its trust in the power of love. Fiz Marcus’ Rita led us into a rediscovery of the power of memory within each of us, and the impact this has on our daily lives. As the immigrant Quack, Alex Tilouche guided his audience into a recognition of the blessings many of us have in having the simple gift of freedom to live without fear simply because we were born UK residents.

As the journey ended and the tram tannoy guided the audience along to one last stop, I found myself walking along towards the famous Crucible stage. We had an actor’s eye view underneath the twinkling lights of the iconic stage out towards the seats in the round. We celebrated the characters of the confessions we had experienced and they in turn celebrated the rich diversity of people in the Steel City with applause.

A truly magical experience, in a truly magical theatre, in a tuly magnificent city. Bravo Sheffield!

Confessions of a City runs at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield until Sunday 29th November 2009.

The Devil Has Quentins Heart - Birmingham Rep

The Devil has Quentin's Heart
Devised and written by Benji Reid, Peader Kirk and Ray Shell
Reviewer: Helen Chapman

A one-man musical (or perhaps dance-ical) telling the story of a Wall Street alcoholic waiting for Satan to arrive – sound bizarre? Perhaps. But it works. Very well.

The Devil Has Quentin’s Heart combines storytelling, theatre and dance in a modern tragedy, based on the Ray Shell’s novel Iced. It tells the tale of Quentin, a high flying Wall Street city boy who is desperate for success, and achieves it but at the price of his heart, and ultimately his soul. After being framed for fraud, he finds himself losing everything he has held so dearly, and struggles to hold himself together as an alcoholic living rough. The play explores his feelings of desire, greed, despair and loss, and begins to uncover the roots of his need to achieve success, with occasional insights into his upbringing and relationship with his father.

I can honestly say I have never seen a play of this kind – not just because of its original storyline. Benji Reid, partly responsible for writing the play gives an incredible performance as Quentin, portraying almost every emotion from anguish to elation. His ability to engage the audience, without a supporting cast, is impressive to say the least. Add to that the ease with which he flits between comedy and tragedy, monologue and dance, and things are even more impressive. Reid is one of the UK pioneers of hip hop theatre, and he demonstrates in this play how dance can be used to add depth as well as humour. The play isn’t particularly fast moving and there is no advancement in the plot, the variety of styles in the play however keeps you engaged. And a treat to see a quality hip hop dancer on stage.

New to me was the presence of the sound desk on the stage. Andrew Wong, responsible for the music composition, cleverly used a mix of sounds, noises and well known songs to bring the play alive. The set was otherwise fairly simple, just one room in Quentin’s house, but this in itself reflected the anxiety and claustrophobia he was feeling on his demise, the use of props highlighting the sad reality of the life of an alcoholic. A poignant scene for me was Quentin with a birthday cake, celebrating his birthday with three imaginary guests. The Devil Has Quentin’s Heart speaks pretty clearly: money isn’t everything. In fact in Quentin’s case, it amounted to nothing.

Breaking Cycles presents here an original play that will grip you, shock you and make you laugh.
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