Tag Archives: Liam Mower

REVIEW: Matthew Bourne’s The Car Man – Festival Theatre, Edinburgh

Despite 15 years passing since its premiere, Matthew Bourne’s boundary pushing The Car Man is still managing to captivate, enthrall and excite audiences around the globe.

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Taking as its inspiration James M. Cain’s classic novel The Postman Always Rings Twice, and set to Rodion Shchedrin’s Bolshoi Ballet version of George Bizet’s Carmen (with additional music composed by Terry Davies) The Car Man is renowned for its no holds barred portrayal of sex, violence and homoeroticism and I’m glad to report, it has lost none of its power down the years.

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It’s the early 60’s in small town Harmony, opportunistic drifter Luca (Tim Hodges) rolls into town and changes the lives of everyone he meets. First seducing Lana (Ashley Shaw) the local garage owner’s young wife, then the timid and much picked upon Angelo (Liam Mower), he incites and inspires lust and jealousy in equal measure eventually resulting in murder, miscarriage of justice and finally revenge.

car man tour matthew bourneThe sweltering heat of the setting, story line and the sensual movement pervades the auditorium. If this doesn’t leave you hot under the collar then I’m not sure what would. There is full-frontal male nudity and frank portrayals of sex throughout but it is oh so skilfully done, never gratuitous and at all times essential to the plot.

the car man matthe bourneThe pacing as well as the footwork is perfect, the story line is driven along at a blinding pace and the choreography captivating and impeccably executed throughout. It is a visual feast scenically as well as choreographically, Lez Brotherston’s inventive transforming set and its complementary lighting from Chris Davey are wonderfully evocative.

The Car Man remains a sizzling hot sensation which still excites. Matthew Bourne really can do no wrong.

REVIEW: Billy Elliot Live! DVD

You would be forgiven for thinking that Billy Elliot is the much-loved but tired old workhorse of the West End: still pulling in the crowds but maybe lacking a little of its previous magic, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. This is a musical with enormous heart and soul, one that still has the power to move an audience and remains as thrillingly alive as the day it bounded on stage, almost ten years and 10 million ticket sales ago.

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Ruthie Henshall, Deka Walmsley and Elliot Hanna Image © Adam Sorenson

More serious and therefor ultimately more satisfying than the usual musical theatre fodder, it resists the urge to sanitise the issues it touches upon, not least the effect of the miners’ strike of the 80’s which is at the heart of the tale, but it also features: Alzheimer’s, alcoholism, feminism, the loss of a parent, the class system, domestic violence and missed opportunity.

Based on Stephen Daldry’s 2000 film, it is, of course, the story of 11 year old Billy from a beleaguered mining village in the North East of England and his battle with his striking miner father to pursue his dream of becoming a dancer.

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Deka Walmsley and Elliott Hanna Image © Adam Sorenson

Lee Hall’s raw, vivid and expletive filled script is as uncompromising as the times in which it is set. It is written with a sharp wit and an even sharper intelligence, and takes the audience on a genuine emotional rollercoaster ride. There’s no schmaltz here: every laugh wrought or tear shed by the audience is heart-felt.

The music by Sir Elton John and lyrics by Lee Hall are a veritable smorgasbord of musical styles: there’s a glitzy show tune beside a powerful anthem next to a jaunty folk tune next to a heart-wrenching ballad. There’s much to delight and keep the ears pleased throughout. A particular stand-out is the stirring “Once We Were Kings”.

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Liam Mower and Elliott Hanna. Image © Adam Sorenson

Ian MacNeil’s set design evokes life in a beleaguered mining village in the 80’s and is cleverly ragged around the edges.

The choreography from Peter Darling is inventive and energetic, and is a clever balance between the rough edged: in the burgeoning talent of Billy and the burly miners and police and the refinement of the big show stopping numbers. Darling’s originality is particularly well showcased in the astonishingly clever “Solidarity” sequence.

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Ruthie Henshall and cast © Adam Sorenson

Elliot Hanna is an outstanding Billy, his beautifully judged acting matching his sublime dancing skills perfectly. It’s easy to forget that this is a child carrying the weight of this show on his tiny shoulders, the maturity with which he pitches his performance is astonishing and is no better demonstrated in the touching relationship between Billy and best pal Michael and in the interactions with Granny. Deka Warmsley is particularly menacing as Billy’s dad and his transformation from prejudice to acceptance of his gifted son is touchingly done. The ensemble, rare for a long-running musical are of a particularly high quality, it would be churlish to single out any particular member as they are all first rate. The only gripe with the cast would be Ruthie Henshall, a West End veteran of many years standing, who is a tad vocally underpowered and has one of the dodgiest accents onstage (only to be surpassed in dodginess by the horrific attempt at a Scottish accent by one of the ensemble). One delightful and moving touch though, is the casting of the first ever stage Billy Liam Mower, now one of the country’s most highly regarded dancers with Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures, as the older Billy. The scene between the two has the audience weeping on their droves.

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Original ‘Billy’ Liam Mower returns. Image © Adam Sorenson

This is a musical that leaves an impression long after the curtain has fallen and it certainly leaves you with no mascara by the end, it is real and relatable and this DVD release is a perfect representation of a perfect show.

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The ‘Billy Mash Up’ Image © Craig Sugden

The DVD comes with a charming backstage introduction from Elliot Hana and there’s a behind the scenes ‘making of’ video too. There’s also the magical and moving ‘Billy mash-up” where 25 of the actors who have previously played Billy, including the original trio Liam Mower, James Lomas and George Maguire dance together.

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The three original Billys: James Lomas, George Maguire and Liam Mower. Image © Craig Sugden

The Billy Elliot Live! DVD will be released on Monday 24th November 2014

Title image Adam Sorenson

REVIEW: Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake – King’s Theatre, Glasgow (2014 production)

Matthew Bourne's SWAN LAKE. 15-12-20095*****

Once in a while a production comes along that restores your faith in theatre. For me Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake is that show.

Since the original production in 1995, Swan Lake has been breaking records the world over (it is both the longest running ballet in both the West End and Broadway). Now firmly established as a modern classic it returns to Glasgow with a bang at the King’s Theatre this week.

1655987_690164987702206_2014433079_nUsing Tchaikovsky’s original score and the broad plot outline, the focus is redirected from Odette/Odile to the the Prince. Doomed to a life of royal duty, spoiled and saddled with a distant, un-loving mother (with whom he has a mummy fixation), he tries to find his feet in the world: dating unsuitable women, drinking heavily and struggling with his sexuality. He longs desperately for liberty and love. Bourne’s imaginative take injects a vitality, freshness and relevance to the story along with his trademark wit.

1939766_690165437702161_2012253257_nEnhanced by the fiercely imaginative design and staging by Lez Brotherston the production remains (19 years later) superbly atmospheric and brilliantly inventive. The action moving swiftly from palace to opera house to sleezy bar to ballroom with ease. There are visual gags and artistic treats throughout but to go into detail would spoil the surprise.

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1924665_690686037650101_1044259240_nAt first shadowy fragments at the edge of his consciousness, it takes until Act 2 for the now famous male corps de ballet to appear to the Prince. The atmosphere is tangible – you can feel the anticipation grow as we edge closer to the arrival of the swans. Explosive, exhilerating and electrifying – they do not disappoint. The striking sequences of movement are finely detailed, dangerously sexual and utterly spine-tingling.

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1689010_691258464259525_1985150737_nThe superb central performance by Chris Trenfield as The Swan/The Stranger is simply stunning: strong, sensual, masculine and mesmeric. Liam Mower is in turn delicately sensitive and conflicted as the Prince.

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1779039_691771810874857_1350535719_nHeard at the interval “I never want to see a bunch of women tottering around in tutus in Swan lake again”, I can only agree – Bourne leaves you in no doubt that this is how Swan Lake really should be. He also goes some way to redressing the imbalance in ballet: it is a rare treat to see the physicality and artistry of male dancers showcased like this.

Utterly moving and exhilerating it is a rare treat for the soul.

The global phenomenon is still as radical, riveting and richly crafted as it ever was and judging by the thunderous applause and standing ovation from the sell-out audience the public can’t get enough.

This is a work that truly deserves to be called a masterpiece.