Tag Archives: Theatre review

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: Flashdance The Musical – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

It’s astonishing to think that 1983’s Flashdance The Movie, took over $100 million at the box office. That level of success, coupled with the fact that nostalgia for the 80s sells (as evidenced by never-ending tours of Dirty Dancing and shows such as Fame, Footloose, 9 to 5 and The Wedding Singer), means it’s no surprise that it has resurfaced, in a shiny new production for 2017.

Unlike the frothy film, with its flimsy, escapist storyline and scenes that play like a series of 1980s MTV music videos, the musical pads out the simplistic screenplay with numerous sub-plots in order to add some depth and grit (pole-dancing clubs, shattered dreams of stardom, drug abuse…)

Alex(andra) Owens (Joanne Clifton), welder by day, exotic dancer at Harry’s Bar by night, longs to pursue her dream of becoming a trained, professional dancer. In her day job at the steelworks she catches the eye of Nick Hurley (Ben Adams), the son of the mill owner. Romance, inevitably ensues, as do a series of somewhat predictable hurdles until this working class gal does good.

The plot is similar to British classic Billy Elliot that followed a few years later (only this time done with a lot more class). There’s the promise of a rousing story of working class, female empowerment here, but it’s all a bit wishy-washy to be inspirational.

Joanne Clifton is casting gold – a national favourite from her stint in Strictly Come Dancing and a member of a British dancing family dynasty. Clifton astonished many with her decision to leave one of the top UK TV shows, especially in her year as reigning champion, but she is entirely justified in doing so. She has a bright future beyond the small screen (and away from a show whose producers are notoriously fickle at hiring and firing even the most popular of dancers). Unlike her recent role in Thoroughly Modern Millie, Clifton’s voice gets a chance to really soar and her impressive American accent remains on-point throughout. It would be wonderful to see her in a show that truly showcases her considerable theatre skills.

In support, former A1 singer Ben Adams turns in a commendable performance as boss and love-interest Nick. The duo between Clifton and Adams Here and Now is an absolute corker.

The ensemble are strong and their effort is palpable, even in the auditorium. However, they are let down a bit by some less than scintillating choreography, which in the confined playing space, looks cramped.

If it’s an evening of undemanding froth you’re after then Flashdance is the show for you. Get out the lycra and leggings and catch it as it tours the UK.

REVIEW: The King’s Speech – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

From soap superstar, 80’s pop prince, through some wilderness years, to a reinvention as a star of the musical theatre scene, Jason Donovan now emerges as serious actor in David Seidler’s original stage version of The King’s Speech.

Playing Lionel Logue, the failed actor and untrained speech therapist tasked with curing the future George VI’s stammer, Donovan delivers a masterful performance of surprising depth, strength and warmth. No respecter of royal protocol Logue, torments, tortures and teases ‘Bertie’ into finding his voice.

Raymond Coulthard as Bertie: stiff, emotionally cold, quick of temper, unloved and over-looked and heartbreakingly vulnerable, is in perfect contrast to Donovan’s ‘Aussie bloke’, Logue. The bond of friendship that develops between the two men is beautifully wrought and the chemistry between the two actors a joy to watch, praise must also go to Coulthard for his portrayal of the future King’s stammer, which is sensitively and realistically conveyed.

What the play does that the big screen version does not, is provide a more expansive political background on which to set the action: detailing the behind the scenes tug of war for power between Winston Churchill and the Archbishop of Canterbury as to who pulls the strings of the “dim” second son; how they will get rid of the “empress of the night” Wallace Simpson and highlighting the fascist leaning tendencies of Edward VIII, which loom somewhat larger on stage than they did on screen. It adds more weight to the seriousness of the situation and how close the monarchy actually came to crumbling.

Played out on Tom Piper’s slickly functional, wood panelled set, which cleverly and atmospherically  transforms from royal palace, to Harley Street treatment room, to Westminster Abbey to radio station, this is a masterfully written, emotive piece of theatre which also doubles as the most beautifully told history lesson you could ever wish for.

Perfectly pitched and played, this is as impeccable a piece of theatre as you are likely to find on any stage around the UK at the moment – pure class.

Runs until Saturday 21 March 2015 then touring

This article was originally written for and published by http://www.thepublicreviews.com at http://www.thepublicreviews.com/the-kings-speech-theatre-royal-glasgow/

REVIEW: The Bodyguard – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

This review was originally written for and published by http://www.thepublicreviews.com at: http://www.thepublicreviews.com/the-bodyguard-kings-theatre-glasgow/

For a night of pure unadulterated entertainment then audiences need look no further than The Bodyguard, currently playing at The King’s Theatre in Glasgow.

Based on the 1992 Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner box office hit of the same name, Alexander Dinelaris has taken Lawrence Kasdan’s movie script and turned it into a glitzy and glamorous musical theatre thriller, replete with the 80s and 90s pop hits and power ballads of the late Whitney Houston.

Pop diva Rachel Marron (Alexandra Burke), reluctantly hires a bodyguard (Stuart Reid) when she receives disturbing threats from an obsessed stalker (played here with convincing menace by Mike Denman). The initial frostiness between the superstar and her minder thaws and blossoms into an affair, but as their guard drops, danger is still lurking in the shadows.

The show is played out on a spectacular set by Tom Hatley where projections, sliding screens and pyrotechnics are utilised to great and glamorous effect. Indeed the cleverness and slickness of the design adds to the classiness of the whole affair. The thriller element too, adds a different and welcome dimension to the show that sets it in its own little niche apart from the usual musical theatre fodder. The direction by Thea Sharrock is brisk and has a filmic quality and the whole narrative moves along apace.

Pocket rocket Alexandra Burke proves to be the biggest surprise of the evening, it is to Burke’s credit and a show of her commitment to the role, that, on initially being offered it, she turned it down in order to embark on a series of acting lessons, and it certainly has paid off here. She maintains a convincing American accent throughout and displays both convincing toughness and vulnerability as it is required. She also has an appealing warmth, that despite portraying the diva, makes you root for her throughout. At encore too she seems genuinely appreciative of the reception she gets from the audience.

Burke is more than ably supported by her fellow cast members. In particular Stuart Reid as bodyguard Frank, who is an oasis of calm and strength in the middle of an ocean of madness, and who also provides some hysterical comedy moments, and Melissa James as sister Nicki who is in possession of a beautiful crystal clear singing voice.

It ain’t rocket science, but if it’s an evening of thrills and chills and great music from a first rate cast who give their all your looking for, then this can’t come more highly recommended.

Runs until Saturday 14 March 2015 then touring

REVIEW: Dangerous Corner – Theatre Royal, Glasgow 4****

In J.B. Priestley’s Dangerous Corner, it takes nothing more than a chance remark to set in motion a chain of revelations that have devastating consequences for the guests at publisher Robert and Freda Caplan’s country house dinner party.

Opening and closing like an intricate Chinese puzzle box, the plot unravels as each guest reveals their part in the suicide of Robert Caplan’s brother a year earlier.

Priestley’s first play, written in 1932 isn’t the world-renowned masterpiece that An Inspector Calls is, but it is a work that clearly highlights the promise of its writer. Whilst in many ways the piece is very much of its time: the country house setting, the upper class at play, it is also astonishingly ahead of its time, dealing as it does with drug abuse, homosexuality and adultery, themes rarely touched upon in 1930s theatre.

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Played out against the detail-perfect Art Deco set and costume design of Gary McCann, director Michael Attenborough does a fine job of keeping the interest high in what is essentially a static piece. He does however have an easy job thanks to the top-notch cast. Michael Praed is particularly note-worthy as the debonair and devilish cad Charles Stanton, who as well as poking and prodding his fellow guests into revealing more than they they would ideally wish to, delivers his own startling revelations and elicits the lions-share of the laughs with a biting wit. Finty Williams as Caplan’s wife Freda, is effective in portraying both her own disparate emotions and the social dilemma of whether or not to serve sandwiches to her guests, one of whom may or may not be a murderer. Rosie Armstrong, assuming Kim Thomson’s pivotal role as Olwen Peel is also impressive.

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The trio are more than ably supported by familiar TV faces Colin Buchanan (Dalziel and Pascoe) as a solid Robert Caplan and Matt Milne (Downton Abbey) as Gordon Whitehouse, though at times Milne looks a little ill at ease in his transition from downstairs to upstairs as troubled (and slightly hysterical) toff Gordon.

Don’t go looking for any controversial comment on the themes that are mentioned in the play, go along and enjoy a hugely entertaining piece of theatre from a highly talented cast and a skilled director and writer.

Runs until Saturday

Tickets at: http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/dangerous-corner/theatre-royal-glasgow/

REVIEW: Strangers on a Train – Gielgud Theatre, London

Based on Patricia Highsmith’s 1950 novel (followed in 1951 by the radically adapted Alfred Hitchcock film version) Craig Warner (writer) and Robert Allan Ackerman (director) have returned to Highsmith’s original source material for this stage version of Strangers on a Train at the Gielgud Theatre in London.

Strangers-on-trainAfter a chance meeting on a train, up and coming young architect Guy Haines (Laurence Fox) and flamboyant playboy Charles Bruno (Jack Huston) make an unlikely bargain which will change both of their lives forever.

Haines, saddled with a promiscuous wife from a disastrous teenage marriage and pursuing a new love, in the form of a high society heiress, meets Charles Bruno, Bruno, directionless and in want of his expected inheritance from his much-hated father, hits upon the perfect solution to their woes. Each will rid the other of their ‘problem’.

Charles carries out his side of the ‘bargain’ but Guy begins to lose his resolve, resulting in a terrifying level of psychological pressure from the increasingly unstable Charles, culminating in a suspenseful and shocking denouement.

10341_show_landscape_large_06Tim Goodchild’s ingenious revolving set is a star in itself, rendered entirely in black and white and shades of grey, complemented by projections and an atmospheric Hitchcock-like soundtrack, it is stunning, moving swiftly between a mind-boggling amount of changes.

10341_show_landscape_large_07Huston is superb as Bruno, charming and chilling in equal measure, he appears entirely at home on stage. His increasingly claustrophobic and unhinged portrayal is fascinating with its minutely detailed mannerisms and the uncomfortable, almost incestuous relationship with his fading southern belle mother (Imogen Stubbs, giving her best Tennessee Williams) is grippingly played. Fox is marginally less convincing but his geeky, uptight Guy comes into his own in the second act as he increasingly loses control of his life.

204296_2_previewThe undercurrent of homosexuality, only hinted at in the novel is played up to good effect here. Suspenseful throughout with some nerve-shredding moments, there’s much black humour in this noir production. Fast-paced and visually striking and with a genuinely unexpected and shocking final scene, this filmic production is a welcome addition to the West End. There’s a need for more classy and mature thrillers onstage, as evidenced by the packed house here – producers take note.

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