Tag Archives: Hamilton

REVIEW: Love Me Tinder – The Town House, Hamilton

Much-loved journalist and broadcaster Cat Harvey, has her finger firmly on the pulse of West of Scotland woman (and man) in her new comedy play Love Me Tinder.

Exploring the minefield of dating in the 21st Century, it follows the story of a group of Glaswegian workmates who decide to embark on an online adventure in internet romance. There’s career girl Fiona (Cat Harvey) forever single and looking for Mr. Absolutely Utterly Perfectly Right; Nicola (Michelle McManus) the eternal good-time girl who is ready to swap parties for nappies; Cathy (May Miller), married for 40 years to Willie, who has apparently ran away with a 28-year-old Polish yoga teacher; Ryan (Liam Dolan) unaware of his sexual orientation, unlike everyone who knows him; Davie (Andrew Agnew) who is so commitment-averse he’ll date anyone and everyone “from legal to still breathing” and Davie (Johnny Mac) really Cupid in disguise, currently living in Cumbernauld and working his magic from the side-lines.

Harvey has an ear for Glaswegian patter and the naturalistic dialogue certainly strikes a chord with this largely female, sold-out audience. The laughs are sustained from start to end, and it’s no small thanks to a knock-out cast. From local cabaret star May Miller, the epitome of a ‘wee Glasgow wummin’ to TV stalwarts Andrew Agnew and Liam Dolan to panto royalty Johnny Mac and Pop Idol winner and Scottish national treasure Michelle McManus, a woman with the most enviable natural comic timing (and of course, a fabulous voice), each is an absolute gem.

Mac gets the chance to demonstrate his natural comedic talents and his exceptional audience wrangling skills, honed from years as a panto star. His fourth wall breaking turn as Cupid/Danny is warm, good-natured and laugh out-loud funny. As is McManus’ turn as the gobby Nicola. She manages to get the audience in tears with just a look, particularly hysterical is her disgust at Polish yoga teacher Klaudia stealing her big karaoke number, (which in an absolute belter of a theatrical trick) turns out to be McManus’ real-life Pop Idol winning tune ‘All This Time’.

The show is peppered throughout with party hits (you can’t not let Miller and McManus demonstrate what made them famous in the first place) and there’s even a chance for the audience to get in on the act with a rousing rendition of ‘Sweet Caroline’.

The path of true love never does run smooth, and so it is here. To its credit there’s also a large dose of reality in the mix to temper the laughs. This is a relatable, realistic portrait of love and friendship in the 21st Century and it’s delivered with real heart and soul. Hopefully there’s more to come from the pen of Cat Harvey.

REVIEW: Milton Jones and Chums – The Town House, Hamilton

The king of the one-liner Milton Jones and star of Mock the Week, Live at the Apollo and Comedy Roadshow, is touring the country with a slew of local comedians in tow. Luckily for Lanarkshire, Jones and chums are stopping off in Hamilton for one night only.

Compered brilliantly by stand up and star of Scot Squad, Chris Forbes, this is a well-curated showcase that delivers a satisfying night of comedy to the packed crowd.

Chris Forbes

Unenviably, it’s down to Edinburgh-based Gareth Waugh to open the show. Waugh is a personable and polished comedian and his self-deprecating stories have enough relatable material to get the crowd nodding and laughing along. It must be said though that for anyone who has seen him in the last few years, much of the material has been culled from his past two Edinburgh Fringe show: granny’s mad childhood games, the teenage gang asking him to buy them a carry-out and his jogging exploits to name a few. There’s also a fair amount of awkwardly familiar stories to make you cringe in recognition. It’s funny enough, and it serves its purpose as a warm up for the acts to come, but there’s nothing new or particularly ground-breaking here.

Gareth Waugh

Next up is the Santa Claus bearded and board shorts and t-shirt wearing veteran Graham Mackie. Mackie’s look may be benign and affable but his material is deceptively subversive, a combination that goes down well with the Hamilton crowd.

Graham Mackie

Second-to-top-billing falls to recent social media viral sensation Gary Meikle, whose rant on his daughter’s obsession with her eyebrows has struck a chord in these self-absorbed times. Meikle a single dad and youthful granddad at 40, delivers a knock-out selection of hugely relatable anecdotes that really do have the audience almost rolling in the aisles. What shines through is his love for his daughter and granddaughter, who provide rich material for the deft story-teller.

Gary Meikle

The wild-haired Jones is well worth the wait and the intellect behind the drolly delivered one-liners is sharp, sharp, sharp. Jones is well aware that some are so clever that they need a moment to land and his deft-touch with an audience allows this to happen.

This is really is a bumper evening of comedy, without a weak link on the bill. Each comedian is well worth seeing on their own and an even bigger treat altogether.

Milton Jones

REVIEW: Giovanni Pernice, il ballo è vita – The Town House, Hamilton

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Sicilian dance superstar and Strictly Come Dancing alumnus Giovanni Pernice is the latest TV dance pro to take his own personal show on the road and it is arguably, the best one yet.

What this stunning show, il ballo è vito (Dance is Life), demonstrates is that the TV dance behemoth Strictly suffocates the personality of its stars. As a regular viewer of the show, I would be hard pressed to express what I thought Pernice’s personality was – the tabloid gossip about a romance with his celebrity partner the only hint of the man behind the smile. In reality Pernice has a winning and highly charming personality and instead of show-boating in the limelight, he is so comfortable in his ability to shine that he creates a show in which all of his cast get a turn in the spotlight.

cast of dancers il ballo e vita dance is life gianni pernice

There is real artistry here, and under the direction and choreography of Strictly director of choreography Jason Gilkison, there’s so much that delights. The first act has a charming Italian theme, with innovative and beautifully staged classics such as: Volare, Mambo Italiano, That’s Amore and Tu Vuo Fa’ L’Americano. There’s also a funny interlude when a member of the audience joins Giovanni on stage to share some food, Lady and the Tramp style – much to the amusement of the audience. Unlike many of these contrived moments in other dance shows, Pernice’s ease with the audience and genuine charm allows him to pull it off with aplomb. The second act is a tale based on the love story of Pernice’s grandmother and grandfather set to a contemporary and classic soundtrack.

The choreography is simply stunning and the sheer speed and originality of the footwork on display is breath-taking. Pernice is truly a class apart. Mention must be made too of the excellent set and lighting (and shadow) design that enhances the choreography beautifully throughout.

Pernice shows he is a team player, more than ably supported by a team of professionals (including the highly talented Russian dancer Luba Mushtuk), he allows each their chance to shine.

There’s a wonderfully relaxed atmosphere throughout and the ease in the interactions with the audience make this show stand out. This is a classy affair, beautifully staged, and the best Stricty alumni show so far. Catch it if you can.

WHAT’S ON MAY: Buddy Holly & The Cricketers

Buddy Holly and the Cricketers

The Town House, Hamilton – Friday 12 May 2017

Time: 7.30pm

Tickets: £21.00 / £19.00 conc

25 Years of Rock ’n’ Rolling The World!

For quarter of a century, this breath-taking show has rock ’n’ rolled audiences across the globe from Cardiff to California, Barking to Bangkok and Swindon to Sweden and is guaranteed to have everyone singing along to the music and dancing in the aisles.

It stars some of the finest actor-musicians in the UK whose combined West End credits include Buddy, Lennon, Forbidden Planet and Jailhouse Rock and was endorsed as Britain’s most popular Buddy Holly act when the boys guested on BBC One’s Saturday night live programme, “The One and Only”, hosted by Graham Norton.

The show rarely pauses for breath and is, quite simply, the most compelling concert of its kind. The hits just keep on coming – That’ll Be The Day, Peggy Sue, Heartbeat, It Doesn’t Matter Anymore, Raining In My Heart, Oh Boy! – and much, much more.

Whatever the season, whatever the excuse to party, make your Heartbeat a little faster with the show that has thousands of fans the world over saying:  “I can’t believe it’s not Buddy!”

REVIEW: The Mousetrap – The Town House, Hamilton

The name Agatha Christie attached to a production is draw enough and so it proves here in Hamilton. Playing to a packed house, what started as a 60th Anniversary celebration UK tour, has now extended into its fourth year, such is the pull of the world’s longest running play, The Mousetrap.

A seemingly disparate group gather in the midst of winter at remote country house hotel Monkswell Manor. Cut off by the snow, they soon discover a murderer in their midst. One by one their pasts are revealed and dark secrets are uncovered.

Despite their years, good old fashioned murder mysteries never fail to entertain and so it proves here. Played out on an atmospheric set which sits perfectly in this delightful period auditorium, these archetypal Christie characters from the golden age of crime fiction, play out their thoroughly entertaining dance of deception.

In playing characters that are a hairbreadth away from caricature, the actors have to walk a fine line between believability and parody and some it must be said are on a surer footing than others. Luke Jenkins’ Sgt. Trotter is the stand out in this ensemble cast, imbuing the character with a gravitas beyond his years. Less successful are Mousetrap veterans Anne Kavanagh (Mrs Boyle) and William Ilkley (Major Metcalf), who both veer a little to far into exaggeration; Kavanagh in action and Ilkley in accent. While Edward Elgood’s jittery young thing, Christopher Wren and Jonathan Sidgwick’s suspicious foreigner with something to hide, Mr Paravicini are teetering on the edge of comic, they at least have been written that way.

All in all though, it still has the power to thrill and proves that there is life in the old dog yet.

 

 

 

 

REVIEW: Mad About the Musicals – Town House, Hamilton

A mixture of musical theatre favourites and some lesser known and forgotten gems, teamed with a top-notch live band and a host of talented performers, elevates Mad About The Musicals to the premier league of musical theatre concerts.

Starring theatre veteran Michael Courtney and special star guest Gareth Gates, it begins with some surprising choices from Copacabana, City of Angels and recent Broadway flop Dr Zhivago, leaving the audience impressed with the vocals but slightly unsettled that this may be the theme for the evening. Thankfully, any misgivings are soon dispelled and the initially subdued audience come alive when we get to more familiar territory. A selection of songs from Miss Saigon, in particular, Bui Doi, is met with rousing applause and a medley of Queen favourites from We Will Rock You (deftly played by the band) sends the audience into the interval with a spring in its step.

The second act is built on more solid foundations; opening on a trio of favourites from Phantom of the Opera, the hits just keep coming: Courtney delivers a spine-tingling The Music of the Night and Gethsemane from Jesus Christ Superstar and Gates unexpectedly impresses in both All I Ask of You and Heaven on Their Minds.

The whole evening is held together with good-humoured banter and complemented with an attractive set and lighting. This is a well thought out, at times unexpected, but thoroughly enjoyable evening’s entertainment.

REVIEW: NT Live Hamlet – Barbican, London

What do I think? Well, it can be boiled down to one simple sentence: an outstanding Hamlet in a massively flawed production.

There are few productions in recent history that have garnered as much press as Lyndsey Turner’s Hamlet, well I say Turner’s Hamlet, but this is very much Benedict Cumberbatch’s Hamlet, Turner’s subsequent production (Tipping the Velvet at the Lyric Hammersmith) opened last month to very little ado, and it is undoubtedly Cumberbatch’s name attached to the production that has sparked the ticket buying frenzy.

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Benedict Cumberbatch as Hamlet | Image – Johan Persson

There’s the issue of reviews being posted during the preview period (the counter argument to this being that the producers were charging full price for tickets, unlike normal practice during previews and therefore, fair game). It is also well-documented that the changes the director made with the text were not well-received, though, it seems that much of what irked the most has been removed but, does what has now been presented as the finished product, measure up?

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Anastasia Hille as Gertrude | Image – Johan Persson

Firstly, NT Live is a wonderful thing, a strange, but wonderful thing. It affords the thousands of us who didn’t get tickets to a production a chance to see what all the fuss is about, however, it can be a strange, detached experience which lacks the atmosphere and absorption that live performance provides. (I’ve also got a personal gripe about the quality of the filming which in my experience can be grainy and lack sharpness).

Opening to the strains of Nature Boy is at first thought unusual, but actually is really rather perfect, as the lyrics testify:

There was a boy
A very strange enchanted boy
They say he wandered very far
Very far, over land and sea

A little shy and sad of eye
But very wise was he

And then one day, a magic day
He passed my way, and while we spoke
Of many things, fools and kings
This he said to me

“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn
Is just to love and be loved in return”

However, this is one of the only examples of where the liberties taken with the order of the text or the directorial choices add anything to the production. It matters not a jot whether you are familiar or unfamiliar with the work, if you know it, you might spend your time as I did, trying to work out the  jigsaw puzzle of what should have gone where or you might just be plain old lost. Lindsey Turner obviously has a mind brimming with ideas, but there are too many of them and not all of them thought through or carried out effectively. I am at a loss to understand how making a work more incoherent makes it better. All those glorious and oft-quoted lines are here – just not where you expect them to be.

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Ciaran Hinds as Claudius | Image – Johan Persson

One aspect of the production which is spectacularly effective is Es Devlin’s monumental set.The sheer size and scope of it is breathtaking, it is beautiful and moodily atmospheric, so absorbing is it that it is often more interesting than what’s going on on top of it.

I can’t help thinking that the actors have been done a great disservice here, the universally outstanding cast is lost in the mire of all this trying-to-be-cleverness. The relationships between key characters don’t feel fully-formed because of all the chopping and changing and by the time the final scene comes it is rendered strangely unmoving.

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Kobna Holdbrook-Smith as Laertes | Image – Johan Persson

 

Kobna Holdbrook-Smith is a gripping Laertes, but his onstage time is limited, Sian Brooke is convincingly disturbed as Ophelia and the rest of the cast, both featured and ensemble deliver solid and often highly emotive performances.

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Sian Brooke as Ophelia | Image – Johan Persson

Cumberbatch is outstanding, it is a perfectly judged performance infused with humour as well as great sensitivity, he is at all times, even in the depths of his ‘madness’, real and entirely believable, there are no histrionics, nothing is overblown, the hurt, the sadness and the madness are utterly relatable, the biggest compliment I can give is that it is a truly ‘human’ performance.

cumberbatch hamlet red tunic

If you get a chance to see the NT Encore screenings from 22 October then do so – for all its faults don’t miss one of the greatest actors of a generation deliver a near-perfect performance. Just pray that it won’t be long before Cumberbatch returns to the stage.

NT Live information: here

REVIEW: Blood Brothers – The Town House, Hamilton

32 years on since its first performance, there are few musicals whose flames still burn as bright nor are there many shows that continue to genuinely move, even on repeated viewing, as Willy Russell’s classic nature versus nurture tale, Blood Brothers.

Now well established on a national tour that takes it all around the UK until September, it arrives in Hamilton as fresh as a daisy and with a cast performing as if it were opening night.

In Blood Brothers the story has always been the thing, and the heartbreaking tale of the Johnnstone twins, separated at birth by circumstance only to be tragically reunited, has lost none of its allure: the packed house were moved, in equal measure, to tears and cheers throughout.

blood-brothers-2014-tour

Crucial to the success of any production of this work is its cast and the current line-up has firmly established itself as one of the best. It is hard to express the quality of Sean Jones’ performance as Mickey, a veteran in the role, he manages, not only a spot-on portrayal of the character from child to adulthood, but his desire to give his all to the role means he delivers 100% at every performance. Recent graduate from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Joel Benedict delivers a rock-solid turn as middle class twin Edward as does Marti Pellow as the Narrator, and Maureen Nolan invests her all as the twins’ mother, she is in fine voice throughout and emotionally wrung-out by the end. The supporting cast are universally deserving of praise too, there isn’t a weak link anywhere.

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Mention must be made of the venue; this 700 seater Edwardian Baroque, town theatre provides an intimacy that is ideal for this show. The close-quarters drawing the audience in, making them part of the story. In previous venues (indeed Glasgow King’s Theatre in November) there were amplification issues; the ear-splitting volume at times jarring with the mood of the piece but in this venue, it was pitch perfect.

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A flawless production: both a work and a cast of infinite quality, its power remains undiminished down the years – still an absolute must-see.

Runs until Sat 21 Feb then touring until September.

 

 

REVIEW: The Incredible Adventures of See Thru Sam

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

Writer: Johnny McKnight

Director: Johnny McKnight

The Public Reviews Rating: ★★★★½

Fifteen year old Sam McTannan has a superpower, the ability to make himself invisible: invisible to the cool kids at school, invisible to his teachers and invisible to the girl of his dreams. It’s a superpower he’s really rather happy with, ensuring as it does a pretty quiet life. But one tragic day all that changes when Sam’s beloved parents Chip the Grip and Sheila the Feeler, are killed in a car crash. Sam’s superpowers desert him, placing him firmly centre stage, where he has to deflect the attention of well-meaning teachers, his nemesis Uncle Herbie and the horrific school bully Chunk, boyfriend of his teenage crush Violet.

The Incredible Adventures of See Thru Sam, this heart-breaking, thought-provoking and ultimately life-affirming play comes to us from the assured pen of Johnny McKnight and manages the difficult feat of being genuinely laugh out loud funny and deeply moving in equal measure. It has emotional pull from the very first scene, grabbing you and tugging at your heart strings, pulling you this way and that, throughout the whole 80 minute roller-coaster ride.

To his great credit McKnight never shies away from confronting difficult themes and his fine ear for comic dialogue and finger on the heartbeat of the shunned in society strikes a chord, not only with the high school students in the audience, but all of those who have survived their teenage years.

The actors are universally deserving of praise, Julie Brown and James Mackenzie take on multiple and diverse roles with ease, and manage the lightning quick changes with a slickness that defies belief. Particularly successful are Brown’s perfectly judged portrayal of Mrs. Timmins, the eccentric but well-meaning Home Economics teacher and Mackenzie’s hysterical turn as Sam’s best buddy Walrus. As Sam, James Young carries the weight of the dialogue on his shoulders and manages to switch between direct audience address and dramatic interaction with admirable skill. He is utterly and heartbreakingly convincing as the ill at ease teen negotiating his way through the minefield of growing up, grief and love.

The set design by Lisa Sangster deserves special mention. Through the stunning use of Jamie Macdonald’s ingenious animations and Kim Beveridge’s video design we are not only fully immersed in Sam’s world but also party to his innermost thoughts.

Innovative, emotive and unmissable, I defy you to leave the theatre without a lump in your throat. See it if you can.

Reviewed on 24 September then touring Scotland.