Tag Archives: Theatre Royal

Educating Rita – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

There’s an undeniable affection for Willy Russell’s 40-year-old, Pygmalion-like drama Educating Rita, from the great British theatre-going public. Originally commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company and staged at what is now the Donmar Warehouse, it saw a much-loved and much-lauded film adaptation in 1983 starring Julie Walters and Michael Caine.

The story of 26-year-old, married, Liverpudlian hairdresser Rita (actually Susan) and her foray into the world of academia on an Open University course, and her tutor Frank, a career academic faded and jaded by university life, seeking solace in drink, this OU tutorship paying nicely for his alcoholic fix. Each feeds from the other: Rita’s world expands as she is exposed to the bohemian lifestyle of the students and Frank is energised by Rita’s lust for life. Each shines a light on the other: some truths are exposed, some assumptions shattered and inevitably, both Rita and Frank undergo changes, not necessarily for the better.

Four decades on (admittedly with a bit of updating from Russell himself for the 21st Century and this 40th anniversary tour) it still feels relevant, maybe depressingly so. Is it really still as hard for working class women, or those living in poverty to better themselves as it was in 1980? The ‘them and us’ world so prevalent then, is frighteningly familiar today.

Jessica Johnson and Stephen Tompkinson reprise their roles from the last national tour. Tompkinson’s natural hang-dog expression is perfectly suited to the world-weary Frank and he has time and time again proved himself to be one of the country’s most adept stage actors. Johnson’s Rita (Susan) is hugely likeable but her accent wavers frequently and her projection is such that it leaves you straining to hear much of her dialogue. That said, it is deservedly a British theatre classic, and still well worth watching.

Image: Robert Day

This post was originally written for The Reviews Hub

 

REVIEW: God of Carnage – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

As with her almost universally acclaimed 1994 play Art, Yasmina Reza’s God of Carnage is another comedy of middle class manners. This time, as it was in Art, the behaviour of the seemingly sophisticated adults involved descends into something akin to a playground fight, all the more ironic, as that’s precisely what’s brought them together in the first place.

Alan and Annette’s 11 year-old son Henry has had two teeth removed, incisors to be precise, by fellow pupil Freddie. The two sets of parents meet in that frustratingly PC way to civilly decide what action should be taken to facilitate the children having “a reckoning” and to teach them about “the art of co-existence”. As the alcohol is increasingly imbibed, the adults’ best intentions go by the wayside and the mud starts to get slung and everyone’s true colours come to the fore.

Reza has a masterful touch at highlighting the foibles of the middle classes and delivering them with a punch, but it needs a strong cast to deliver. As author Veronica (currently writing a book about Darfur) Elizabeth McGovern is seemingly the voice of reason, pushing the apology/reconciliation agenda between the two boys. Household goods salesman husband Michael (Nigel Lindsay) doesn’t quite fit seamlessly into this middle class idyll, a bit rough around the edges his loyalties are tested and exposed as the evening progresses. McGovern takes a little while to hit her stride, but she ramps up the emotion and elicits the laughs as the piece reaches its conclusion. As always, Lindsay delivers an absolute masterclass in comic acting, each word and action perfectly timed, as does Simon Paisley Day as driven lawyer Alan, when not throwing well-timed barbs, he’s barking advice to his clients down his constantly ringing phone, the ever-impressive Samatha Spiro as “wealth manager” Annette, is, as always, on-point.

The dialogue is as expected, razor sharp, Reza knows her audience well, and while this couldn’t be described as cutting edge, it is hugely entertaining, escapist fun, scratching the surface of the well-polished veneer of the middle class. Well worth an evening of your time.

Review originally written for The Reviews Hub

REVIEW: SIX – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

Divorced. Beheaded. Died. Divorced. Beheaded. Survived.

Aragorn, Boleyn, Seymour, Cleves, Howard, Parr.

Six women, six British Queens, reduced to six words in a rhyme.

Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss give sassy 21st Century voices to these six Tudor queens.

Written in ten working days, Six the Musical has been an eye-watering, head-spinning success since its appearance in 2017 at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, where it was performed by the Cambridge University Musical Theatre Society. Since then it has had a UK tour, several runs in the West End, been produced Off-Broadway, had a US tour, a run on Norwegian Cruise Lines that will continue to 2022, and will appear on Broadway, Australia, Canada and in Chicago and Minnesota in 2020. It is currently on its second UK-wide tour.

It is a sassy celebration of womanhood as these Queens get to reclaim their own her-story 500 years on. Long defined by who their husband was, it’s now time to tell their own tales.

Inevitable comparisons will be made with theatrical juggernaut Hamilton which also mixes 21st century music with historical subject material. However, Six manages to plough its own original and irresistible furrow. Staged like a mash-up between a stadium concert and a musical, it blends spot-on humour and cleverly delivered history with a refreshing dose of self-awareness. Each Queen gets her chance to stand centre stage and state her case in an X-Factor style competition to see who had it worse at the hands of the infamous Henry. These women are here to kick ass and tell all. This they do in an array of musical genres, a blend of pop, rock ballad, R&B, soul and electro euro-pop (the hysterical Kraut-rock/House mash up Haus of Holbein) and all backed by an all-female band, The Ladies in Waiting.

Each of the six women playing these six queens is thoroughly talented and shine equally, a rare and wonderful thing to see on stage and despite the competitiveness, it’s ultimately a show of sisterhood. This is a girl gang you really want to join.

After the defiant intro number Ex-Wives, Lauren Drew (Catherine of Aragon) starts the ball rolling with the sassy No Way followed by Maddison Bulleyment’s hysterical Anne Boleyn delivering the Lily Allen-ish Don’t Lose Your Head, including the lyrics: “I tried to elope but the Pope said ‘nope'” and “everybody chill, it’s totes God’s will”. Lauren Byrne (Jane Seymour) tugs at the heart-strings in the power ballad Heart of Stone. Shekinah McFarlane (Anna of Cleves) gives us the Rhianna-like Get Down and delivers the laughs with: “I’m the Queen of the castle, get down you dirty rascals” when ‘exiled’ to a life of luxury and independence after her divorce from Henry. Jodie Steele delivers Katherine Howard’s All You Wanna Do, with defiance, the lyrics make you question (in light of the #MeToo movement) has anything really changed for women in the past 500 years? And sheds new perspective on how she has been remembered in history. Athena Collins brings the women’s stories to an end absolutely beautifully with Catherine Parr’s Beyoncé-like torch song I Don’t Need Your Love. Each of these woman has is a power-house vocalist and could tear up any stage. That said, the songs they are asked to deliver are hard not to love and as catchy as hell. The rousing Six and Megasix mash-up brings the house to its feet to get down at the end.

Carrie-Anne Ingrouille’s choreography is sharp, original and modern, and perfectly executed by the cast. Gabriella Slade’s costume design is Ariana Grande does Tudor and it works fabulously, as does Emma Bailey’s simplistic but effective, concert-style set design and Tim Deiling’s rich lighting.

The face-off between the women is definitely a twisted sisterhood, they each fling the other’s sob story back in their faces, but this show of fierce womanhood is utterly irresistible. The dawning realisation by each woman that they only claim their place in history because of the man they married, reduced to: “just one word in a stupid rhyme” is actually heart-breaking. Thankfully they get “five more minutes” to set the record straight and send the audience to the street on an absolute high.

The succinct story telling packs a punch and the compact 75-minute running time is audience friendly. Marlow and Moss prove again that HISTORY + MUSICAL THEATRE = HIT. They have successfully distilled 500 year-old history into a perfect piece of entertainment for the 21st Century. Having seen it several times now, Six remains one of the best things out there and stands up to repeated viewings (something this reviewer is never keen on).

It’s a welcome breath of fresh air in a fog of tired, relentlessly touring, mediocre musicals. Get a ticket while you can, you won’t regret it.

Runs until 10th November 2019 at the Theatre Royal, Glasgow

review originally published at The Reviews Hub

REVIEW: Tosca – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

Sumptuous, stunning, shocking, and still sensational, Anthony Besch’s production for Scottish Opera of Giacomo Puccini’s once decried, but now beloved, “shabby little shocker” Tosca, still has the power to stir almost 40 years on. As evidenced by the packed house, this ninth revival, is as popular as ever, and rightly so.

Now widely utilised, but ground-breaking in the 1980s, was Besch’s re-setting of the work from the Napoleonic era to 1940s Fascist-era Rome, and the production looks and feels as fresh and relevant as the moment it first appeared.

As the curtain rises on Peter Rice’s glorious set there is an audible gasp from both those new to this production and those in the audience welcoming home an old and much-loved friend from its extensive travels around the globe. The magnificent realisation of the church of Sant’Andrea della Valle, is truly breath-taking, never more so than in the Te Deum, where the splendidly clad clergy and congregation bring the curtain down on the first act. The representations of Scarpio’s office in the Palazzo Farnese and the ramparts of the Castel Sant’Angelo are just as magnificent and historically accurate.

Puccini’s sublime music sounds strikingly modern and almost cinematic throughout, and the orchestra under the baton of Stuart Stratford sounds majestic, managing to strike the perfect balance of power without ever overwhelming the singers.

Natalya Romaniw is an out-standing Tosca, seamlessly marrying her stunning vocals to beautifully measured and highly convincing acting skills. Roland Wood is an assured Scarpia, but it is Gwyn Hughes Jones as Cavaradossi who is the knock out of the evening, never was a voice more perfectly married to a role, he is truly stunning.

This is a five-star, breath-taking production in every respect, and the perfect example of what opera can and should be.

Runs until 26 October 2019, then touring to Inverness, Aberdeen and Edinburgh.

For more information visit Scottish Opera

IMAGES: JAMES GLOSSOP

 

 

REVIEW: What’s in a Name – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

Matthieu Delaporte and Alexandre de la Patellière’s 2010 play Le Prénom was a hit of such magnitude it spawned not only a big screen French version in 2012 but a German film incarnation in 2018. Jeremy Sam’s translation, What’s in a Name? has arrived in Glasgow and proves to be a class act from start to end.

It’s the present day in a trendy double height loft conversion in Peckham, teacher Elizabeth (Laura Patch) is throwing a dinner party for her brother Vincent (Joe Thomas), brash, flash and with more than a hint of a Thatcher-era, boy-made-good bravado; all three-piece-suit, slicked back hair and ill-concealed misogyny. Vincent and his partner Anna (Louise Marwood) are about to become parents, lecturer husband Peter (Bo Poraj) and childhood friend Carl (Alex Gaumond), a trombonist with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, round out the company.

The revelation by Vincent of the name he intends to call his expected son, turns tiny tensions into a torrent of tirades, as every petty resentment  from the past thirty years surfaces. The accusations and recriminations fly, and some pretty big secrets are revealed.

What’s in a Name may be the typical upper-middle class intellectual, philosophical fare that the French typically love, but this fast, furious, and funny social comedy, is a welcome breath of fresh air. The witty, rapid-fire dialogue shines a light perfectly on a certain strata of bourgeois British society and the “pseudo intellectual pick and mix” of values they hold. It’s all enhanced by a knock-out cast who deliver the linguistic gymnastics with class and flair. A touch of class for the autumn theatre season.

Image: Piers Foley

Originally published at The Reviews Hub

REVIEW: Scottish Ballet’s The Crucible – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

American choreographer Helen Pickett seals her reputation as a masterful creator of narrative ballet in her adaptation of Arthur Miller’s seminal play The Crucible. Teaming up with Scottish Ballet, themselves with a not-too-shabby reputation for staging classic American literary works (2012’s A Streetcar Named Desire), together they deliver a gripping, unsettling, goose bump-inducing work.

The prescience of the subject matter is in itself chilling, that a work written at the height of the Cold War and set at the Salem Witch Trials in the 1690’s, has a relevance in 2019, is shuddering to acknowledge.

Pickett’s choreography is refreshingly original, a blast of beautiful, lyrical modernity set against a historic backdrop. Her background as not only a dancer, but accomplished actress, has reaped dividends in this work. Each character is clearly defined, and the choreography is sufficiently emotive, nuanced and descriptive enough to drive the narrative.

Emma Kingsbury and David Finn’s design, dark and claustrophobic, is almost a character in itself and the wonderfully named Peter Salem’s score is a knock-out, pulsating, atmospheric, the sense of foreboding building throughout. It is notable in its perfect reflection of time and place, and is played gorgeously by the Scottish Ballet orchestra.

This is a company of universal quality and the entire work is danced with conviction, Barnaby Rook Bishop shines as John Proctor as does Bethany Kingsley-Garner as his wronged wife Elizabeth, who has matured into a beautifully nuanced dancer, Claire Souet is explosive as the vengeful manipulator Abigail and Katlyn Addison’s powerful, exquisitely danced Tituba is a delight.

This explosive work is a thrill from start to end, a fitting and unmissable addition to Scottish Ballet’s 50th anniversary season.

Runs until 28 September 2019 | Image: Jane Hobson

REVIEW: The Exorcist – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

It’s a work that’s polarised audiences in both book and film form, and now, almost fifty years after William Peter Blatty’s best-selling novel first appeared, the stage version arrives in Glasgow on its first national tour. Is it a horror classic? Is it satanic porn? Is it even suitable for stage adaptation? What can be in no doubt is that many audience members will arrive in the auditorium with a certain set of expectations: will there be head-spinning? projectile vomiting? masturbating with a crucifix? Yes, yes and, err yes.

Inspired by a real 1949 case in Maryland, simply, it’s the story of the demonic possession of 12-year-old Regan MacNeil, daughter of actress Chris, and the repeated attempts to cure what ails her, moving from the worlds of science to religion, ultimately ending in the titular exorcism.

While claiming to explore some bigger themes: faith and disbelief, doubt and courage, it is ultimately an opportunity to be scared witless in the name of entertainment, and the largely solid cast (save for the inevitable adult over-playing a twelve-year-old child in an already over-the top role) and Anna Fleischle’s dimly lit design, complimented by Adam Cork’s soundscape, all help to enhance the sense of creeping tension. It’s a little flabby, even at a short 100 minute running time, and it never matches the nerve-shredding tension of the movie version, but there are sufficient scares to get the blood pumping.

What it does achieve to its credit, is attracting a fresh set of theatre-goers, and provides a welcome relief from anodyne plays and a glut of perpetually touring musicals.

Runs until 21 September 2019 | Image: Contributed (previous production)

This review was originally written for The Reviews Hub

REVIEW: Scottish Ballet’s Wee Hansel and Gretel – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

Scottish Ballet present “a wee version of a big ballet”, a perfectly distilled version of their family favourite Hansel and Gretel, specifically aimed at children aged three to eight.

A dangerous (well, mildly perilous but age-appropriate) adventure into the deep dark wood with the inquisitive siblings – Wee Hansel and Gretel faithfully follows the traditional tale: there’s the worrisome witch, her mysterious raven companion, the magic forest and the enchanted gingerbread house.

The addition of a narrator (James Siggens) who presents a rhyming introduction to set the scene and explanation of the unfolding action, is a neat touch. He engages the audience from curtain up with a whole heap of audience participation, including magically controlling the lights, much to the amazement of the tiny theatre-goers.

Set to the music of Engelbert Humperdinck, recorded by the Scottish Ballet Orchestra, the production includes students from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. The tutu-clad trio provide the traditional costumes expected by the mini-ballet buffs, though these three tutus on stage are vastly outnumbered by the gloriously clad audience who are decked in their best ballet finery for the occasion. In the role of Hansel, Constant Vigier is, as always, a safe pair of ballet slippers and his Gretel, Alice Kawalek is a star in waiting.

This 50-minute tiny treasure of a production is small, but absolutely perfectly formed. The run time is ideal, the storytelling judiciously edited to fit in everything it needs to shine. It captures and keeps the attention for the entirety of the performance and provides a satisfying morning’s or afternoon’s entertainment for adults and children alike. More of this please!

The tour continues until October :  Glasgow tomorrow (Sunday 14 July) 

For complete touring dates and venues visit: scottishballet.co.uk/event/wee-hansel-gretel

Images: Rimbaud Patron

 

REVIEW: The Lady Vanishes – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

Relatively obscure British crime writer Ethel Lina White’s greatest legacy is her 1936 novel, The Wheel Spins, two years after publication Alfred Hitchcock directed the film The Lady Vanishes, widely regarded as one of British cinema’s greatest works, based on her book. Through the decades popular adaptations have appeared both on TV and film. This time it’s the turn of the Classic Thriller Theatre Company who bring the timeless tale to the stage.

It’s Austria, 1938 and Nazism is on the rise. Socialite Iris Henderson (Lorna Fitzgerald) is travelling back to London to marry, more for her fiancé’s title than for love. Before climbing aboard the crowded and already delayed train home, she receives an accidental blow to the head. She’s helped aboard by kindly, former governess Miss Froy (Juliet Mills) and the pair strike up a conversation on board, but Iris soon falls asleep. On wakening, Iris finds Miss Froy has disappeared and all her fellow travellers deny ever having seen her. She enlists the help of engineer and part-time musicologist Max (tonight played by understudy James Boswell) to get to the bottom of the mystery of the vanishing lady.

With a cast of curious characters including two cricket-loving Brits (stage veterans Robert Duncan & Ben Nealon), a suspicious Austrian doctor (Maxwell Caulfield), an Italian magician (Mark Carlisle), a stuck-up London lawyer and his mistress (Philip Lowrie & Elizabeth Payne), a Nazi officer (Joe Reisig) and a nun (Natalie Law), The Lady Vanishes mines every trope of the golden age of crime and proves that classic mysteries never go out of fashion. Also evidenced by the fact the theatre is packed on a sunny Monday evening in summer.

From the opening scenes on the station platform in Austria, through the train journey, back home to Blighty, Morgan Large’s set (coupled with Charlie Morgan Jones’ lighting) manages to conjure up the feel of Hitchcock’s black and white masterpiece. The 13-strong cast are solid, with understudy Boswell managing to shine brightest.

This is a well-constructed production, that, though undemanding, provides a thoroughly entertaining, escapist evening of entertainment.

Image: Paul Coltas

This review was originally written for The Reviews Hub

REVIEW: Leah MacRae – My Big Fat Fabulous Diary – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

It takes a brave actress indeed to decide to create your own solo show and take it on the road, especially an already successful one. Leah MacRae is well-known and loved as Julie in Gary: Tank Commander, Ellie in the Scottish soap River City and the lead in the spoof 50 Shades of Maggie, so you think she’d rest on her laurels. To lay bare your embarrassing teenage diary musings with the world and open up about your daily struggles with fat-shaming, and rejection in your industry, takes courage, even if it is couched in a musical comedy show.

The first impression of MacRae is that she is a fearless, bold, bigger than life personality, un-moved by the criticism of others, and to a certain extent that’s true (she bounds on stage looking like a bubblegum pink pantomime fairy), she even says: “if I were a size 10, I’d be a complete w****r”. However, as we scratch beneath the surface to get to the real message behind these stories and songs, there’s a world of hurt that’s had to be overcome. MacRae is here to spread the word about us all being a bit kinder to each other, that however positive a face we present to the world, these constant barbs and the constant career rejection because of your size, does hurt. That we should embrace and have confidence in who we are, whatever we look like. To never give up on our dreams. She hysterically cites Victoria Beckham as her unlikely inspiration, but maybe not for the reasons you’d think!

Split into two acts, there are few theatrical conventions the Glaswegian powerhouse doesn’t cover: there’s drama, lots and lots of comedy, funny songs, heart-breaking songs, big ballads, a mix-tape section!, dancing and a ton of banter with her hometown audience. While the first act is a mixture of all these, the second becomes a bit more reflective and the mood does take a bit of a dive, until we end with the ubiquitous This Is Me from The Greatest Showman.

There’s some good material here, but there’s a feeling it’s not all it could be. MacRae, talks about constant comparisons to fellow Glaswegian Michelle McManus. McManus has had her own one-woman show, also autobiographical, also funny and also featuring some knock out hits. While MacRae is a talented comedy actress, McManus is a natural born storyteller with an innate comic timing that can’t be learned, and an ability to gauge exactly what makes a perfectly pitched show. MacRae possibly needs some outside eyes to take this raw material with great potential and make it a knock-out from start to finish. There’s also the issue of nerves. MacRae is home, not only in front of her local fans, but her family and friends, and the pressure shows. She looks nervous and as a result the dialogue comes out so fast that it’s impossible to hear a lot of it from anywhere above the stalls.

It’s easy to warm to MacRae, this is an entertaining evening and it’s great to hear her unleash her big voice at full force, but there’s a lot of potential that’s not being fulfilled. Hopefully, there’s more to come. If this is the first version of her stage show, I can’t wait to see the next.

Leah MacRae continues to tour until June. See her website for details.

« Older Entries