Tag Archives: East Kilbride

REVIEW: The Browning Version – Rapture Bites – EK Arts Centre, East Kilbride

Second up in the inventively curated Rapture Bites season is Terence Rattigan’s 1948 classic, The Browning Version. Almost always guaranteed to wring a tear from even those with the hardest of hearts, it again proves so today at a packed East Kilbride Arts Centre.

Dubbed “the crock” by his students and despised for his unyielding manner and humourlessness (unlike his unfaithful, younger wife), it’s the last day of work at an un-named English public school for Classics teacher Andrew Crocker-Harris (the Himmler of the Lower Fifth) before moving to a new post. It takes a gift from one of his pupils, to prompt him to reflect on his past, look to what his future may be, and think deeply how he is going to end his tenure at the school where he has spent the best part of his life.

Rattigan’s 70 year-old play speaks to us down through the decades, dealing as it does with universal themes: our increasing feelings of uselessness as we age, the guilt of remaining in a marriage of unequal emotion, the consequence of our decisions in early life, the regret at potential unfulfilled. Michael Emans’ again demonstrates his sure hand at the helm of the production. Every subtle nuance is coaxed out of every beautifully written line. 

This is one of the most exquisitely acted productions I’ve seen in a very long time, rarely have I seen such a perfectly cast and performed piece. Robin Kingsland is a beautifully judged Crocker-Harris (I defy you not to have a glimmer of a tear in your eye near the end) as is Paul Albertson as Hunter who despite being Crocker-Harris’ wife’s lover, shows the most compassion towards him at the end. Michael Mackenzie does a fine job of demonstrating Head Master, Dr. Frobisher’s crushing insensitivity towards the departing master, but, it is Dylan Blore as schoolboy Taplow who turns in an utterly scene-stealing performance. 

Rightly regarded as a 70-minute masterpiece, this production from Rapture Theatre is as close to perfection as you are likely to see on any stage – truly out-standing and proves that sometimes an anti-climax is the most perfect way to end.

 

REVIEW: Waiting For Gabriel – East Kilbride Arts Centre

Theatre Company Running Late have written and produced a real Christmas cracker of a show at East Kilbride Arts Centre this Festive Season.

It’s Christmas Eve and a group of strangers who were once friends wait for Gabriel. A vacancy has opened up so if they want that promotion, they’ll  have to impress him. They’ve each been waiting 2000 years, have plenty of work experience and the right skills for the job so they really shouldn’t let a little friendly rivalry distract them before he arrives.

Through its comedy and the unfolding competition that ensues as Loreli (Ailsa Courtney), Cassiel (Samantha Toyer-Wright), Ariel (Natalie Clark) and Tobias (Allan Gilmour) each vie for Gabriel’s attention, it prompts us to look at how seemingly random acts of kindness come along when we need them most, how do so-called miraculous feats of human strength and endurance happen when all hope is gone. Is it because of angels? And what about these angels? What happens when their faith and hope are tested?  Is it worth carrying on? Waiting for Gabriel is an original work that, though sprinkled throughout with gentle humour, (and some top-notch singing from Allan Gilmour) eventually takes us to a place that makes us ask some pretty big questions. To its credit it does it in the gentlest, most entertaining way.

Susan Arbuckle’s set is atmospherically dressed and there are some neat visual effects and director Lorna Gold steers the events along at a admirable pace.

Much of the success of the piece is due to its talented cast who perfectly deliver their own script. There’s a surety with the material and a conviction in what they are delivering. Running Late Theatre Company look set to be a company to watch. I look forward to seeing what’s next.

REVIEW: A Life With The Beatles – EK Arts Centre

Entering to the strains of Billy J. Kramer’s version of Lennon & McCartney’s Do You Want to Know a Secret; actor Ian Sexon takes the audience on a blisteringly paced account of the life of Neil Aspinall. A man at the very heart of The Beatles’ story, a man who shared their brightest and darkest moments, a man, who, unlike almost everyone else associated with the group, took his secrets to the grave.

Aspinall went from school pal of Paul McCartney and George Harrison to trainee accountant to first ever roadie, driving his beat-up Commer van the length of the country, to CEO of Apple Corps, The Beatles’ global business conglomerate. Notably,  in helping to sustain The Beatles’ legacy, it was Aspinall who masterminded the creation of the world-wide, best-selling, Beatles Anthology documentary, three-volume double album and book.

Davide Verazzani’s A Life With The Beatles seeks to shed light on some of the most famous moments in the band’s history, most notably, the ground-breaking and quite frankly, bizarre, making of Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Verazzani’s writing grips from start to end, while you may think you know everything about The Beatles, there’s enough insight here to surprise even the most die-hard fan. There’s a perfect blend of emotive drama and clever humour. Sexon is a natural storyteller, and his performance in this one-hander is a tour de force, with only four suitcases, a smattering of props and some simple back projections, he has a hypnotic hold over the audience throughout.

This 60-minute show is a little belter, proving that sometimes smallest is best.

This review was originally written for The Reviews Hub

Image: Gary Daniell

REVIEW: Michelle McManus Reality The Musical – East Kilbride Arts Centre

The recently engaged Ballieston belle has had more than her fair share of knocks in the showbiz world, but if medals were given out for being a survivor, then Michelle McManus would surely win gold.

Well over over a decade has passed since winning Pop Idol with a landslide number of votes in 2003, and Reality: The Musical charts McManus’ roller coaster ride with fame. From her Pop Idol win and her relationship with Simon Cowell, to weight battles (an hilarious tale of ten months with healthy eating guru Gillian McKeith), being dumped by both her record company and management team, relationship troubles and the contestant struggle to find work, (she admits she even toyed with the idea of becoming “Britain’s foremost Adele tribute act”, until the global megastar lost weight “that was 80 quid lost to Vistaprint on business cards!”), her redemption as a presenter on radio and TV, and her new career in this one woman show.

For all her comedy prowess, and boy is she hysterically funny, it’s her mega-decibel voice that shines. The repartee is punctuated with matching songs from the musical theatre world: the story of her relationship with Cowell accompanied by Calamity Jane’s Secret Love and tales of relationship woes with Les Mis’ On My Own and Grease’s There Are Worse Things I Could Do, you get the idea. There are some gems among the power ballads, in particular a roof-raising rendition of When You’re Good to Mama from Chicago and Tell Me It’s Not True from Blood Brothers, a musical she wishes she had been in (getting down to the last two to play Mrs Johnston in a touring production). There’s even some audience participation in a ‘duet’ of Chess’ I Know Him So Well.

After all she’s been through, (just Google her name to experience a slice of the vitriol she’s had to put up with) you want to root for her. She’s incredibly humble about what she has achieved and genuinely moved by the audience’s response to her, and when it comes, the rendition of her Pop Idol number one hit All This Time is unexpectedly emotional.

It would seem that McManus’ life and work are now in happy harmony, hopefully this makes for more comedy and more one-woman shows.

Currently touring the country and at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August.

REVIEW: The Jerseytones – The Village Theatre, East Kilbride

With the national tour of Jersey Boys finishing in Edinburgh last week, fans of the music of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons needn’t despair. Four piece vocal group The Jerseytones deliver their own take on the fabulous hits of the 50s and 60s.

With a refreshing mix of favourite tunes from the Four Seasons, some greatest hits of the rock n roll era, a Dirty Dancing medley, a bit of Uptown Funk and a few modern classics with a doo-wop twist, it’s a programme of wall-to-wall winners with the packed auditorium at the East Kilbride Village Theatre.

The slick choreography and winning set-list are backed up by some first-rate vocals and rather than having a lead there are four fine singers here.

A thoroughly entertaining evening that is guaranteed to put a smile on your face, a song in your heart and a spring in your step – highly recommended.

REVIEW: Stags and Hens – East Kilbride Arts Centre

It’s Liverpool. It’s the 70s. It’s a Liverpool where Industry has gone to the dogs and opportunity has taken a very long ferry trip far beyond the Mersey.

Dave and Linda are on their respective stag and hen nights, unbeknownst to each other, in the same place, a trashy, down-at-heel disco in the city.

The action in Willy Russell’s Stags and Hens takes place in the toilets of the dodgy disco, where Linda and her pals and Dave (who spends the play with his head down the toilet) and his mates, ruminate on life, the universe and everything in between.

Russell is a master portrayer of the lives of the ordinary man (and woman); the clothes may be desperately dated, the jokes chronic; “love is blind, marriage is an institution…who wants to live in an institution for the blind?”, but the dialogue is natural, believable and entirely relatable and underneath the surface laughs there is a deeper commentary on working class life, misogyny, opportunity and expectation.

Inspire Theatre’s production of this little-seen play is near-faultless. Under the tight direction of Elaine Berry, the action moves along at a cracking pace and the razor-sharp dialogue hits the mark every time, but what elevates the whole production is the cast. Universally on point throughout, the cast of twelve maintain an impeccable focus and the production is replete with pristine tiny detail, from the girls’ primping and preening to the boys’ posturing, this is a masterclass in acting.

Particularly impressive are Hazel May MacGregor as the bolshy and boisterous Bernadette and Michelle Minto as the hysterical Maureen. To his great credit, Francis Lyons manages to keep the role of violent hothead Eddy completely within the bounds of reality – a role which could so easily have been overplayed and Martin Haddow elicits both laughs and sympathetic awws, as the misfit Billy. That said, this is a perfect example of exemplary ensemble acting.

This is a theatre company to watch out for, small but perfectly formed, bigger companies should take heed – quality wins every time.

 

 

REVIEW: The Maltese Falcon – Lunchtime Theatre at East Kilbride Arts Centre

The success of Oran Mor’s ground-breaking, lunchtime theatre programme has inspired similar initiatives around the country: A Play, A Pie and a Pint now has off-shoots at the Traverse in Edinburgh and the Lemon Tree in Aberdeen, Rutherglen Town Hall has been successfully running a lunch theatre programme for several years and in Glasgow’s southside The Shed in Shawlands is presenting Lunchtime Live with a pie and a drink in the ticket price. Now it’s East Kilbride Arts Centre’s turn with their own take on the genre.

First up this season is Bookend Theatre’s Radio Hour with Dashiell Hammett’s 1930 favourite The Maltese Falcon: the story of hard-boiled private eye Sam Spade and his hunt for the elusive and priceless black bird.

Presented as a 1940’s radio play, with a script based on the 1941 John Huston movie, the cast of nine successfully step in to the shoes of Humphrey Bogart, Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet and Mary Astor to evocatively bring the classic tale to life. The range and quality of the vocal characterisations is impressive and the hour running time zips past in the blink of an eye.

Included in the bargain £10 ticket price is a first-rate lunch of home-made soup, enough sandwiches to feed a battalion and tea and coffee. The soup is vegetarian and the sandwich selection caters for most tastes. The quality is excellent and the servings incredibly generous. Highly recommended for both lunchtime theatre regulars and newcomers alike, this is a quality endeavour.

Next up in the series is The Bishop’s Wife on 8th March

bishops wife ek arts centre

More info: http://www.slleisureandculture.co.uk/site/scripts/events_info.php?period=full&offset=45&year=2015&month=9

REVIEW: Jacqueline Hughes From East to West and Back – The Arts Centre, East Kilbride

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This article was originally written for and published by The Public Reviews

Currently appearing in the West End production of Wicked, Jacqueline Hughes returns to her home town with her debut cabaret, From East to West and Back Again.

Hughes starts as she means to go on, opening with the Streisand classic “Don’t Rain on my Parade” and the parade of show-stoppers just keeps coming, from “All That Jazz” to “Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries”, each selection perfectly showcasing her powerhouse voice.

As well as Hughes’ engaging personality and the welcoming intimacy of the venue, what elevates this above the run of the mill cabaret fodder is the well devised programme. There’s an eclectic mix of the classic: “Broadway Baby”; the familiar: “On My Own”; some cleverly re-worked pop numbers: “Poker Face”, “Imagine”, “Songbird” and a smattering of the downright obscure: “Alto’s Lament” and “Taylor the Latte Boy” (sung by MD Alison Rona Cleland) both by cult composers Zina Goldrich and Marcy Heisler and “An Old Fashioned Love Story” from Andrew Lippa’s The Wild Party, all of which delight. There’s a pleasing mix of solos and duets, guest performances, interaction, emotional and celebratory moments.

This is an intensely personal show and Hughes acknowledges both her roots and her beginnings as a performer, indeed one of her guests is her first singing teacher whom she cites as the person who started her on her performing career and who touchingly performs “The Look of Love” and “Over the Rainbow”. Hughes’ other guest is life-long best friend Lyndsey Gardiner, currently appearing in Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty’s. Gardiner delivers a touching rendition of  “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again” from Phantom and a stunning display of vocal gymnastics in Jeanine Tesori’s “The Girl From 14G” originally made famous by Kristin Chenoweth. Both women then sing “For Good” a touching tribute to their friendship. To her credit Hughes isn’t afraid to share the spotlight and her two special guests more than hold their own, both having their own moments in the spotlight. Mention must also be made of MD Alison Rona Cleland whose impressive accompaniment on both piano and guitar and characterful vocals reveal her to be yet another star in the making.

Hughes (and her guest Gardiner) are perfect examples of how good you need to be to even stand on a West End stage and the reality is that both of these stunningly talented performers are ensemble members. This cabaret allows Hughes her rightful place in the spotlight and with her rendition of  ”The Wizard and I” and the revelation that next year she will be understudying the role of Elphaba in Wicked after over two years in the production, hopefully, she will finally get her chance to shine and gain the plaudits she so richly deserves.