Category Archives: FEATURES

FEATURE: Tron Ambassadors Guest Reviews – Grain in the Blood

Last month I had the privilege of working with the Tron Theatre on their Ambassadors programme, delivering the theatre reviewing workshop.

The Tron Ambassadors scheme gives pupils 16-18 the chance to be behind-the-scenes at a working theatre, enabling young people to make a deeper connection with the Tron Theatre itself and gain a better understanding of the performing arts industry. As well as providing participants with opportunities to take part in workshops, tasks, and interviewing and observing industry professionals, the Tron Ambassadors also learn that these new skills are transferable to any career path they choose to take when leaving school.

As part of the reviewing workshop, the Ambassadors were asked to submit a review of Rob Drummond’s Grain in the Blood. The standard of the submissions was so high that, instead of choosing a single review to be published, Glasgow Theatre Blog is publishing them all. So it’s going to be a long post, but no apologies as these young women’s critical voices represent the future of theatre reviewing.

*Please note that some reviews may contain spoilers.

Sarah Miele - Grain in the Blood. Credit: Mihaela Bodlovic

Sarah Miele as Autumn  Credit: Mihaela Bodlovic

Grain in the Blood – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

Writer: Rob Drummond

Director: Orla O’Loughlin

Reviewer: Eve Miller

Grain In The Blood, inspired by the moral dilemma of ‘The Trolley Problem’ is an unsettling take on the often asked question – how do we decide what is right or wrong? Framed against the backdrop of a rural, pagan community approaching the harvest moon, this spine-tingling performance keeps the audience on the edge of their seats throughout.

Blythe Duff gives a steady performance as the no-nonsense Sophia, a grandmother desperate to save her little girl, and John Michie is credible as the reasonable, down- to-earth Burt, however, it is Andrew Rothney’s eerie portrayal of Issac that really carries this production. Rothney’s performance, delicately conveying the nuances of emotion felt by a prisoner on a visit home faced with a weighty decision is all too convincing, and he deftly contrasts Issac’s unpredictable nature and capacity for violence with the vulnerability of a young man consumed with guilt.

Also impressive was Sarah Miele in her role as the sickly Autumn. The blunt acceptance of a young girl who has been ill for her whole life is elegantly woven into her portrayal, as is the fun and lively attributes of a child who just wants to enjoy her life. Likewise, Frances Thorburn’s performance as the bereaved aunt who hides her grief behind a facade of aggression was faultless.

The often repeated “Verses” help to create the mysterious tone which is maintained throughout, as piece by piece the unnerving pagan rituals of the harvest moon festival are revealed. Contrastingly, this darkness was balanced with just the right amount of comedy, which prevented the production from sinking into a black hole of despair.

The innovative staging includes a sliding portion which reveals a hidden section of the acting space and provides effortless scene transition, however, one too many long silences causes the performance to drag. Up until the end of the production, the plot was a bit predictable, and ever so slightly clichéd, so this may not be the show for you if you are wanting a surprise. Although predictable, the script and characters were well written and developed convincingly.

Despite these flaws, this production was haunting, and the well-crafted script was gracefully brought to life on stage by a fully capable cast, who gave a performance that was thrilling and chilling in equal measure.

3.5 stars

Blythe Duff as Sophia Credit: Mihaela Bodlovic

Blythe Duff as Sophia Credit: Mihaela Bodlovic

Grain in the Blood – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

Reviewer: Zara Grew

Holding my ticket in one hand and the play in the other, I sat unaware of the raw emotions and intensity I was about to witness. The lights sat above me and projected a dim wash of yellow across the stage. The play ran for one hour and thirty minutes, without a break. I believe the lack of an interval was almost symbolic, as to portray that real life cannot be paused.

The play blended a perfect recipe of surrealism and a naturalistic performance style to convey its haunting message, through acting as well as theatre arts. The set was extremely interesting as at first glance it was a realistic cabin living room. However, the back wall of the room came apart revealing young Autumn’s bedroom. Autumn, aged 12 made her first appearance under the dining room table, shocking the audience and continuing to do so throughout the play due to her comical and constant use of curse words. Her gran Sophia was also a shocking character as she was a very hard to read individual, who would do anything to keep her granddaughter alive. The supporting characters Violet and Burt added both comedy and depth to the play, Burt provided comic relief in the performance yet also had a very human dilemma about the morality of the situations he faced. Violet created a humorous reaction from the audience at many points in the play, yet also made us feel deep sadness due to the loss of her sister and her isolation from the family she lives with. However the character I believe created the most tension and audience reaction was Isaac. The father of Autumn and son of Sophia had been let out of prison for a short period of time in order to help Autumn. Although he was a man of few words, I believe he held the play together as his actions forced the other characters to react in extreme measures.

The play was strung together by emotionally packed melodramatic stares between the characters, Autumn’s truthful, heartfelt narration and the frightening rituals of pagan culture. A final monologue by Autumn left the audience in tears and as the lights dimmed on the lives of the broken family and the small dolls house lit up on the stage, we were left affected deeply by that one hour and a half performance.

Andrew Rothney Credit: Mihaela Bodlovic

Andrew Rothney as Isaac Credit: Mihaela Bodlovic

Grain in the Blood – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

Reviewer: Ellie Jack

A thrilling tale built on morbid humour and questionable circumstances. Rob Drummond’s new play Grain in the Blood is jam packed with murder, illness, brooding criminals and the occasional dose of horse manure. Set on a remote Scottish farm the play depicts the lengths to which love will take us, which by the looks of it can be bloody far…

Tense from the outset, we are introduced to Sophia (Blythe Duff) a grandmother and tough talker who is desperate for her convict son Isaac (Andrew Rothney) to return home, all in the hope he can save Amber (Sarah Miele) his dying daughter. But as is life, nothing goes smoothly. With the added drama  and dry humour from Aunt Violet (Frances Thorburn) and prison minder (John Michie) the eye never leaves the stage.

From the outset, the audience is given a family and specific relationships to truly invest in and characters they can root for. Though the play centres on the dying child, Burt (John Michie) could be the character who seeks the most redemption, his character progression was one thing to keep the audience engaged, as was the foul mouth of more than one strong minded female character. Violet’s strength and determination, not to mention her sharp wit was entreating throughout.

However, the authenticity was lacking from Andrew Rothney’s performance, not quite convincing the audience of a character in continuous turmoil, more reciting lines they have learned.  Whilst Blythe Duff, Frances Thorburn and John Michie gave powerful, humorous and emotional performances that produced many a laugh and a gasp from the audience.

Orla O’Loughlin’s directing created a frosty environment both on and off stage, with quick movement and little one to one character contact, which helped set the mood. The basic set and sudden bright lighting contributed to the contrast of simple living with extremely complex situations. The sudden rise to hysteria was almost unbelievable and though entertaining, somewhat hard to truly believe.

Rob Drummond’s ending to a manic play was somewhat unsatisfying. Whilst it is completely acceptable to allow the audience to imagine or presume what follows after the curtain draws,  these specific circumstances left one shocked but thirsty for a more concise and clear conclusion.

Grain in the Blood – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

Reviewer: Claire Lamarra

Grain in the Blood, Rob Drummond’s new play at the Tron Theatre is a moving crowd-pleaser. Bleak, with the occasional laugh thrown in to provide light relief from the intense family drama taking place on stage.

The story unfolds in the harsh Scottish countryside. A prisoner is brought to the farm of a dying girl. For the outset, it is clear that the prisoner has been brought to the farm by his mother and sister-in-law to save his daughter from kidney cancer. The play centres around ‘the verses’ (harvest folk tales) which seem a comfort to some and a source of great distress to others.

The story twists and turns throughout with a pleasing one at the end. It is not entirely unpredictable, if you have seen the movie My Sister’s Keeper (2009), but a good twist no less.

The dialogue is tight and effective. The excessive use of swearing by the 12-year-old Autumn is at first shocking and entertaining. However, by the end seems like a writing device to get cheap laughs. The intenseness and volatility of the character Isaac is clearly portrayed by Andrew Rothney. Sarah Miele’s performance settles as the play progresses. As as an audience member, a mental adjustment had to be made as the age gap between actress and character was slightly too big for it to be utterly believable. Autumn’s grandmother Sophia (Blythe Duff) is a clear cut character with strong morals and a clear view of what is right and wrong compared to Isaac’s chaperone Burt (John Michie). Burt takes persuading to come to a decision on morality or the ‘right thing to do’. Finally, Vicky played convincingly by Frances Thorburn is a wild card. She has a clear view of what she wants and is willing to do anything for the people she loves.

The countdown to Autumn’s birthday throughout the play brings a neat end to the performance despite the turmoil that is taking place outside her bedroom door. It is a moving conclusion that satisfies the audience.

Overall, ‘Grain in the blood’ is a good evening out that keeps you guessing. It is visually stimulating and a story that is tense and entertaining even if slightly melodramatic at points.

Grain in the Blood – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

Reviewer: Taylor Goodwin

Rob Drummond’s Grain In The Blood is a gripping play with mystery and humour weaved throughout. The play focuses on a troubled, secretive family facing a moral dilemma.

Little is known about the family situation in the beginning and it is all slowly revealed as the story progresses. This gives an air of mystery and makes the play worth watching. The plot (although dark as it centres around an ill, young girl) has enough humour incorporated in it to provide enough comic relief to prevent the play becoming too dark all the way through.

The most powerful part of the acting is the varied volume. In particular a scene near the end with Isaac, Burt, Sophia and Violet (played by Andrew Rothney, John Michie, Blythe Duff and Frances Thorburn) where in the middle of an argument the characters go between talking calm and quietly to shouting. The changes in volume keep the scene gripping and make the acting stand out. The acting is also very consistent and the characters come to life due to this. Autumn (played by Sarah Miele) in specific has a certain calmness all through the play making it captivating as she also deals with a serious illness. This adds layers to the character, making her interesting to watch.

The design of the play also adds to the atmosphere with few, quick set changes. All of the changes are done by the cast while music plays, which adds to the atmosphere. A scene near the end is really effective when the mist and wind surround Autumn and adds more to the dark feel of the play.

The production is thought-provoking and attention-grabbing with a mixture of comedic and serious moments. Entertaining from the beginning to the end, this play contains wonderful acting and an interesting plot making it a production that could definitely be watched again.

John Michie and Frances Thorburn Credit: Mihaela Bodlovic

John Michie and Frances Thorburn Credit: Mihaela Bodlovic

Grain in the Blood – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

Reviewer: Eilidh Sweenie

Following an isolated family in a rural community, Grain in the Blood by Rob Drummond is captivating, unnerving and hilarious from the get go. The play itself is well written, giving the audience little snippets of information to build up a mysterious past event while maintaining a sense of intrigue and keeping you guessing throughout. With tense scenes peppered by genuinely funny moments and a small but strong cast Grain in the Blood is very enjoyable and interesting to watch.

All the Actors gave strong performances but Sarah Miele playing Autumn stole the show. The play’s central conflict revolves around Autumn – a little girl who is inquisitive, funny but secretly wise beyond her years. There was the possibility that Autumn could have come across as annoying or even boring without Miele, who played the character with honesty and depth resulting in a captivating performance that made you feel a lot of empathy for the little girl.

Andrew Rothney playing Issac also has to be mentioned. You find yourself liking Issac even though the reason he is in jail is slowly revealed to you and your opinion on him changes. The way Rothney portrays Issac lets you see things from his point of view, and therefore come to realise that he may not be completely evil but not completely good either, which is one of the main themes of the play.

Designed by Fred Meller, the set consists of one wooden room and various pieces of furniture that have a rustic feeling which reflects the rural community in which the play is set. The use of sliding doors adds a new dynamic to a relatively small performance space and allows a change of locations in a stylistic inventive way without the stage ever feeling cramped. However, the way the set was structured meant that the audience could see the actors entering and exiting the stage which was not very good as it distracted from the other actor’s performances.

While the scene transitions were seamless and very cool, sometimes they finished very abruptly as the scenes ended as soon as the characters had finished speaking and therefore the play felt rushed at some points. The lighting was used very effectively, with the lights changing to mimic the characters emotions and adding an extra layer to the whole performance.

On the whole Grain in the Blood at the Tron Theatre is an excellent show, which I would highly recommend if you enjoy stories with family drama, moral dilemmas and an air of mystery brought to you by some seriously talented actors.

Grain in the Blood – Tron Theatre, Glasgow.

Reviewer: Shona Russell

On the evening of the 25th of October, I had the pleasure to view Ross Drummond’s gripping thriller Grain in the Blood.

He lays the scene in a rural Scots village, where the pagan religion and old wives’ tales are widely believed by its inhabitants, creating an eerie and unsettling atmosphere within this backwards-thinking village. The dusky mellow lighting and spotlights, courtesy of Simon Wilkinson, aid the interchangeable farmhouse background created by Fred Meller, in creating a perplexing sense of uncertainty for what is to follow.

The story follows a released prisoner Isaac (Andrew Rothney) returning to his home village in an attempt to reconcile with his family after his treacherous actions sent him behind bars. Sophia (Blythe Duff) tries desperately to reconnect the family in order to save her granddaughter Autumn’s (Sarah Miele) life, which faces great danger without the help of Issac. Closely watched by appointed guardian Bert (John Mitchie), Issac is faced with his past and now the present, which forces him to make a life-altering decision for the greater good of the family, but not without the burden of his actions placed upon him by Violet (Frances Thorburn), who was greatly affected by Issac’s past criminal behavior.

Although the atmosphere is heavy with tension and an unsettling supernatural vibe, the script is bursting with wit, hilarity, and profanities, releasing a good deal of stress from the dark, noirish façade. It’s ill-mannered language and jokes provides lots of laughs amidst the confusion of the twisting, hard hitting plotline.

Autumn, a girl with an impressively colourful vocabulary despite her tender age, adopts a nonchalant attitude to the knowledge of her fast approaching death. She instead focuses on the countdown to her birthday, which seems oddly juxtaposed with the countdown to her inevitable death, evoking even more confusion and confliction. Her recurring plea for the pain to stop reminds us of her youth and how near her death she is, despite the jokes and profanities she often cracks. The audience is captivated by her story.

In 90 minutes, Drummond successfully creates an alternate community of isolated country folk, completely behind today’s idea of society. The audience is encapsulated by this tiny world and all its rituals and beliefs, however strange they may be. Bonds are formed between those who are essentially strangers, creating a sense of unity between five individuals who were once incredibly awkward and silent with each other.

In conclusion, Grain in the Blood requires attentive listening or else one would find themselves relatively clueless. That being said, the rewarding experience of witnessing the twist and turns of the story outweighs any negatives one could have. Although hard to get into at first, the big reveals, exquisite lighting and sets, and encapsulating performances make it a treat for the eyes, and I would highly recommend to anyone up for a thrilling experience and who are impartial to strong profanities, even from 12-year-old girls.

Grain in the Blood – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

Reviewer: Ciara O’Brien

I cannot begin to describe my sheer admiration for Rob Drummond’s Grain in the Blood.

From the first moment of stepping into the theatre I was drawn to the unusual set, very dim and monotone I was keen to find out what was going to happen and the show did not disappoint. The strong accents the characters portrayed their heritage and Scottish highland roots well. Although the character of Autumn, a 12-year-old girl was played by a much older actress, she conveyed the character well with a nonchalant attitude as she knew she was dying, not caring about the opinions of others. She walked with a hunched posture to show she was ill and talked in a slow breathy pace showing how young she is. Sophia and Violet were both similar in stylisation and mindset, showing that the both would give everything up for Autumn to survive, they demonstrated a good balance of pathos and humour which kept the audience entertained. Isaac I felt, was a hard character to believably pull off as his constant changes in mood and emotion would be challenging, however, the actor demonstrated this absolutely outstandingly, delivering a chilling performance bringing me to goosebumps. The comic relief style character, Burt, also delivered an exceedingly good performance and pulled off the “be funny without knowing your funny” with an unbelievable level of talent.

The set was carried on by the cast which I felt linked well with the theme of the family living off their own land and doing everything for themselves. The placement of Autumn under the table in scene one really added to the play as it was unexpected and really drew the attention and immersed the audience in her story. Her constant countdown to her birthday until her death really unnerved the audience. The show had a great balance of light-hearted satire and dark humour. The lights were very aesthetically pleasing, focusing in on centre stage and being naturalistic for the complete play. The sound effects played a key role in bringing the show together, the loud screeching of the violin music rising to a crescendo in the darkest moments of the play really kept the audience on their toes. The noises of the horse growing significantly sicker were quite disturbing and really played on the line “we are all animals” as the horse and Autumn we’re both dying simultaneously showing no matter what you are, we are all dust to dust. The verses were also quite unsettling due to how very dark and urban

The verses were also quite unsettling due to how very dark and urban legend-like they were. The relationships between the characters such as the love Sophia has for Isaac and Isaac has for Autumn, which is shown when he shuns himself to pursue her final wish. The strong language used could be deemed unnecessary by many however I feel that it was necessary to show how nonchalant Autumn was and also to convey anger in Isaac, Violet, and Sophia.

Finally, the most moving part of the play, in my opinion, was Autumn’s final monologue in which she reveals that she wanted the pain to end and her father to live on, and she was ready to sleep and never wake up brought me to tears. The subtle light shining on in the toy house after the stage faded to blackout was very effective in finishing the play and was a good way to convey a happy ending even though the storyline was dark. The hardest part for me was figuring out a negative comment as I could not spot any for the play was thought-provoking and entertaining from start to finish. It could be argued that the character of Violet blocked other characters on stage at a few points however, I felt as though this was a theatrical staging choice and not accidental and this comment is me really struggling to find any negatives in the play whatsoever. Overall the play was moving bringing many audience members to tears, and I recommend the show to everyone as it is universally acceptable with comedy,

Overall the play was moving bringing many audience members to tears, and I recommend the show to everyone as it is universally relatable with comedy, thrills, and drama. Although the strong themes and language would be unsuitable for younger children, the play really spoke to me, and I would happily go and see it again.

Grain in the Blood will be at The Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh from 1st to 12th November 2016

Tickets: https://www.traverse.co.uk/whats-on/event-detail/926/grain-in-the-blood.aspx

FROM THE ARCHIVES: Behind the Scenes as Scottish Ballet stage Matthew Bourne’s Highland Fling

Back in 2013, GTB was invited to breakfast with Scottish Ballet as they went through their morning class before the matinee and evening performances of Matthew Bourne’s innovative take on La Sylphide Highland Fling.

Here, from the archives are some rehearsal videos and behind the scenes shots of this hard-working (6 days a week!) company. Excuse the ropey camera phone video quality. Such a fabulous show – set in Glasgow – it deserves another moment in the spotlight.

Sex and drugs and rock ‘n’ roll is not the usual tag line for a Scottish Ballet production but Matthew Bourne could never be accused of being your usual choreographer and Scottish Ballet continue to cement their reputation as a company with a clear artistic vision, breaking new ground by introducing  innovative modern works alongside their vast classical repertoire.

This piece marks the first time Matthew Bourne has ever allowed another company to perform one of his works, such is his control over his artistic vision. That said, the two seemed destined to come together, Bourne’s Glasgow-set ballet finally coming home to the city and Scotland’s national ballet company.

Inspired by the classic romantic work La Sylphide, Highland Fling  is an imaginative re-working by Bourne with his usual wry twist and trademark eye for detail.

Highland Fling follows the story of James, a restless young Glaswegian recently married to his devoted girlfriend Effie, but James’ addiction to excess and desire to break free of  the restrictions and expectations  placed on him by his environment finds him in the fateful company of a beguiling gothic fairy.  As his love for the strange and beautiful sylph becomes an obsession, he embarks on a fateful journey that takes him from the mean streets and nightclubs of Glasgow into a magical world beyond reality and reason.

highland fling

 

As our (anti)hero staggers on-set and slumps to the floor against a urinal in the toilet of a Glasgow nightclub we are in no doubt that this isn’t going to be your usual ballet, but what really sets it apart, along with all of Bourne’s work, is the stunning complexity and intricacy of the choreography and the sharpness and accuracy with which it is executed. Owen Thorne’s performance as James is a testament to Bourne’s particular method of working: this is a character with a history, a back-story and Thorne manages to deliver the choreography whilst perfectly conveying the conflicted Glaswegian tough-guy persona underneath. Bethany Kingsley-Garner as the sylph is utterly other-worldly, beautifully conveying this bewitching creature from another realm. Both are ably supported by an ensemble of characters instantly recognisable to any city dweller.

highland fling scottish ballet

Lez Brotherston’s set design is a character in itself. It has more tartan than a tin of shortbread, delivering a technicolour assault to the senses, but looking beyond the obvious, witty nods to the best and worst of Caledonia abound. Brotherston also manages to perfectly evoke the eerie world of the sylphs nestled amongst the debris and detritus of a wasteland in the shadow of the Glasgow highrises.

Matthew Bourne's Highland Fling, performed by the Scottish Ballet

Part of the beauty of this cautionary tale is its brevity, at just over 95 minutes it packs a visual and emotional punch that leaves you reeling and begging for more.

highland fling scottish ballet kilt -4 matthew bourne highland fling

highliandfling_2549654b

FEATURE: Behind the scenes at the Citz – historic backstage tours

Last weekend GTB went on a field trip behind the scenes at the historic Citizens Theatre.

The Citizens’ Company, founded in 1943 by Tom Honeyman, James Bridie and Paul Vincent Carroll, was based at first in the Glasgow Athenaeum (now the Conservatoire) moving in 1945 to its present site, then the Royal Princess’s Theatre (below, opened 1878), to become what we now know and love as the Citizens Theatre.

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As atmospheric and captivating backstage as it is onstage, here are some pictures from the informative tour.

Tours can be booked on the Citz own website at: http://www.citz.co.uk/whatson/info/backstage_tours/

The tour includes tea and cake if any incentive were needed!

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FEATURE: The Jersey Boys hit town

The UK tour of the Tony, Olivier and Grammy Award-winning Best Musical Jersey Boys comes to Glasgow at the Theatre Royal for the festive season from Tuesday 8 December 2015 – Sunday 3 January 2016.

Ahead of the multi-award-winning musical hitting town, Glasgow Theatre Blog had the opportunity to meet the cast and see a sneak peak of the show this week at Glasgow’s Oran Mor.

Matt Corner will be heading the cast as Frankie Valli* with Sam Ferriday as Bob Gaudio, Lewis Griffiths as Nick Massi and Stephen Webb as Tommy DeVito**.

Seen by over 22 million people worldwide, Jersey Boys is the true story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons and their rise to stardom from the wrong side of the tracks. These four boys from New Jersey became one of the most successful bands in pop history, were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and sold 100 million records worldwide, all before they turned 30.  The show is packed with their hits, including Beggin’, Sherry, Walk Like A Man, December 1963 (Oh What a Night), Big Girls Don’t Cry, My Eyes Adored You, Let’s Hang On (To What We’ve Got), Bye Bye Baby, Can’t Take My Eyes Off You, Working My Way Back to You, Fallen Angel, Rag Doll and Who Loves You.

Jersey Boys (3) - Credit Ian Watson

The Jersey Boys (and girls) stride into Glasgow. Image Ian Watson

I asked Lewis Griffiths (Nick Massi), Sam Ferriday (Bob Gaudio) and Henry Davis (Tommy DeVito) what they thought was the secret to Jersey Boys continued success.

Lewis Griffiths: “It’s real, it’s gritty and it’s credible, it’s a show that appeals to people who wouldn’t normally go to the theatre, especially to musicals”.  Sam Ferriday adds: “The biggest thing, though is that although people might know the music, no one knew the back story of these guys, it’s turned out, that this is one of the reasons why the show has been such a hit, people are shocked by the actual story”. Henry Davis: “You don’t need to be a musical theatre fan to enjoy this show. People tell us that they’ve brought their husband, boyfriend, brother, dad and grandads, people who would normally never set foot in a theatre, to see the show and they’ve left more than pleasantly surprised. We’ve also been told that people have caught the theatre bug from coming to see the show. It appeals to such a wide demographic, it’s not just for one generation, it’s for everyone”. Lewis Griffiths: “Unlike big West End productions which have also toured, or are about to tour, shows like Mamma Mia, Wicked or Billy Elliot, this is a true story. It’s a legacy to these four men”.

Another secret of Jersey Boys’ success is the quality of its cast and it’s notoriously difficult casting process highlighted by producer David Ian: “It’s an unbelievably hard task to cast this show, any actor hoping to play Valli has to be under 5 foot 9 inches, look Italian-American, sing higher than Mickey Mouse and be able to act and dance as well as pulling off a believable New Jersey accent”, added to that, all actors vying for a part have to complete multiple auditions and a final vetting process by the real Frankie Valli and Bob Gaudio before stepping onstage.

Producer David Ian at the Jersey Boys Glasgow Launch. Credit Ian Watson

Producer David Ian at the Jersey Boys Glasgow Launch. Credit Ian Watson

With this is mind, and the shows reputation for quality control, I was interested to find out if each actor is able to bring anything of themselves to the roles of these flesh and blood characters.

Lewis Griffiths explains: “I’m the only one whose character is no longer with us, so for me I really had very little to go on. he was also the quiet man of the group. There are YouTube clips of the others, so there’s something there, but that was the interesting thing for me, I’ve had to develop my own way of playing Nick Massi. I’ve had to drip-feed my own life experience into my portrayal, and after a year of playing him, I now know when there’s either too much Lewis or too much Nick. It’s 50% the character and 50% the actor. Sam Ferriday adds, “yes, there are clips of Tommy DeVito, Franki Valli and Bob Gaudio as they are now, but few of them in their heyday, the era we’re playing them in, so it can be hard”.

David Ian with Jersey Boys (L-R Sam Ferriday, Matt Corner, David Ian, Henry Davis, Lewis Griffiths) - credit Ian Watson

Producer David Ian with Jersey Boys Sam Ferriday, Matt Corner, David Ian, Henry Davis, Lewis Griffiths – credit Ian Watson

Winner of Broadway’s Tony, London’s Olivier and Australia’s Helpmann Awards for Best New Musical, and a winner of 57 major awards worldwide, and with the UK and Ireland tour just passing its first birthday, I asked the actors how they sustained an enthusiasm and freshness for the show.

Sam Ferriday: “We’re fans, fans of the music and fans of this incredibly written play, and it is a play, a play with amazing music. I know I grew up with the music and Henry’s mum and dad were big fans, so he did too, so you never get bored with performing songs that you love”, he also adds “it’s also the closest you can get as an actor to feeling like a rock star every night”.

A true ensemble piece, each actor has their chance to shine. Having seen the show on several occasions the on-stage chemistry is always palpable, I ask if it’s the same off-stage. Lewis Griffiths says: “One of the secrets of its success is the fact that no one story or character dominates, it really is a story of these four guys and there has to be the right balance of personalities between the four of us and luckily there is”.

Jersey Boys (4) -Credit Ian Watson

Credit – Ian Watson

Touring from the very top to the tail of the UK, the actors have covered a vast geographic area, I wondered if there were differences in audiences’ reaction to the show up and down the country. Lewis Griffiths: “Yes, surprisingly we’ve had different reactions everywhere we go”. Henry Davis: “I’ve been here in Glasgow with Rocky Horror and that was mental so I’m looking forward to seeing the reaction to this”.

In a show filled with highlights, I ask if there are any stand-out moments each night for the actors. Lewis Griffiths: “For me it’s the dirty, gritty, fractious relationship between the four of them, the break-ups, the real life of it, the guts of the show, that’s what I get off on”. Henry Davis: “For me it’s the journey. The chance to tell this person’s story and, of course, there’s the segment where they go into the big three hits, you can feel the audience’s anticipation and when it finally comes, it’s great to see the reaction, but the end where you get to see the character’s reflect back on their story from the present day, it’s a great feeling as an actor to get to play that complete journey”. Sam Ferriday: “I agree about the end, some of the best writing is the end, when each character finishes off their narrative, it sums up the essence of the person and you get to see who that character really is”. Henry Davis: “It resonates with the audience, it’s the point where it really clicks together”. Lewis Griffith, “Despite everything, they all come back together for the finale and it shows it’s not about any one person, it’s all about the music they made together”.

With producer David Ian intimating that Jersey Boys’ world domination seems set to continue with proposed forays into China and Hong Kong, I ask the actors about the future beyond the show and if they have any roles they have their eye on. Lewis Griffiths: “I’ve spent four years chasing this role and I’ve finally got it so I don’t actually want it to end, but I’d like to stretch my wings and do some straight acting roles”. Sam Ferriday: “In terms of musical theatre, Book of Mormon, Elder Price, it’s just a different way of acting, that comic style, otherwise something gritty”. Henry Davis: “I want to do everything, try anything”. From the audience and critical reactions to these four young men and this incredible show, I’m sure this won’t be the last we hear from them.

Jersey Boys will be at Glasgow’s Theatre Royal from Tuesday 8 December 2015 – Sunday 3 January 2016.

Tickets are available here

*Michael Pickering will play the role of Frankie Valli at certain performances.

**Henry Davis will play the role of Tommy DeVito at certain performances.

FEATURE: Scottish Ballet… in rehearsal

Scottish Ballet present their Autumn season this week, featuring work by two of the world’s most highly regarded and original choreographers.

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Javier de Frutos with Company dancers in rehearsals for Elsa Canasta. Photo by Christina Riley

Elsa Canasta is a dark, funny and sexy evocation of the music of Cole Porter. With a touch of music hall magic, a singer who will share the stage and breathtaking partnering, the Scottish Ballet dancers will be having a ball. Choreographed by Javier de Frutos, a unique figure in the world of dance with a résumé that includes West End musicals, a Turner Prize nomination, Olivier and Critics’ Circle National Dance Awards, music videos and a full-length ballet in collaboration with the Pet Shop Boys.

Also on the bill will be Motion of Displacement by Bryan Arias, winner of the 6th Copenhagen International Choreography Competition in 2013. Arias is a young American choreographer at the start of an exciting career that is sure to propel him to the heights of his profession, Scottish Ballet is the first company to bring his unique blend of dance styles to the UK.

An exclusive commission from Scottish Ballet, Motion of Displacement will explore the causes and effects of storytelling, inspired by his own childhood memories of his mother’s journey from her native land in pursuit of love.

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Scottish Ballet dancers in rehearsals for Javier de Frutos’ Elsa Canasta. Photo by Christina Riley.

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Constant Vigier in rehearsals for Javier de Frutos’ Elsa Canasta. Photo by Christina Riley.

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Eve Mutso in rehearsals for Javier de Frutos’ Elsa Canasta. Photo by Christina Riley.

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Andrew Peasgood and Constant Vigier with Rehearsal Director Hope Muir in rehearsals for Javier de Frutos’ Elsa Canasta. Photo by Christina Riley.

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Victor Zarallo and Thomas Edwards in rehearsals for Javier de Frutos’ Elsa Canasta. Photo by Christina Riley.

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Javier de Frutos in rehearsals for Elsa Canasta. Photo by Christina Riley.

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Constance Devernay with Rimbaud Patron in rehearsals for Javier de Frutos’ Elsa Canasta. Photo by Christina Riley.

 

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Shoes in the Peter Darrell Studio. Photo by Christina Riley.

For ticket information visit: http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/elsa-canasta-and-new-work/theatre-royal-glasgow/

Pictures © Scottish Ballet 0141 333 1092

FEATURE: Scottish Ballet faces in focus with M∙A∙C

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Courtesy Scottish Ballet click to enlarge

Today’s mini post is an insight into the makeup design for Scottish Ballet’s Hansel and Gretel.

Helping to bring the magical beings of Hansel and Gretel to life is make-up sponsor M∙A∙C who have worked with costume designer Gary Harris to create the fantastical looks of each character.

“I loved Gary Harris’ designs, it was clear that make-up would play an important part in his vision” explains M∙A∙C Senior Make-Up Artist Caroline Donnelly, “with so many characters and some dancers performing more than one role, my challenge was to create looks that could be adapted easily, quickly and still look incredible.  I’ve created special M∙A∙C face charts (like paint-by-numbers for the face) and will be teaching the dancers how to recreate these looks themselves for each performance.”

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Courtesy Scottish Ballet click to enlarge

Hansel and Gretel is touring Scotland throughout January then visits Newcastle and Belfast. Details below:

Screen Shot 2013-12-19 at 12.12.35GLASGOW  – Theatre Royal 
Tue 10 Dec – Sat 28 Dec 2013
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EDINBURGH  – Festival Theatre
Wed 8 Jan – Sat 11 Jan 2014
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ABERDEEN  – His Majesty’s Theatre
Wed 15 Jan – Sat 18 Jan 2014
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INVERNESS  – Eden Court
Wed 22 Jan – Sat 25 Jan 2014
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NEWCASTLE – Theatre Royal
Wed 29 Jan – Sat 1 Feb 2014
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BELFAST – Royal Opera House
Wed 5 Feb – Sat 8 Feb 2014
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FEATURE: Three Phantoms in Kilts

Once again I find myself typing something I never thought I would – so here for your delectation are three of the most famous Phantoms of the Opera sporting our national dress. Above is Earl Carpenter and below Ramin Karimloo and John Owen Jones. It just makes me wonder what it is about actors from Phantom and their eagerness to don a skirt.

 

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