Tag Archives: Theatre Royal

REVIEW: The Book of Mormon – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s musical satire on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, The Book of Mormon, is finally in Glasgow after a postponement due to a little thing called COVID.

Premiering on Broadway in 2011, winning nine Tony Awards and after running in the West End for nearly a decade, its reputation precedes it, but you’d be wrong to judge without seeing for yourself. On the surface crude, cruel and pushing the envelope, it is certainly not for the easily offended, but dig a little deeper and it is so much more than that.

Two hapless, polar opposite LDS missionaries, the wide-eyed, idealistic Elder Price and the pathological liar Elder Cunningham, are sent on their two-year Mormon mission to a remote Ugandan village. Suffice it to say, the locals aren’t exactly welcoming them with open arms. Added to that there’s the AIDS crisis, famine, poverty and a despotic warlord for good measure. Of course, there are the inevitable ‘journeys’ everyone embarks on to find one’s true self, all done with a tongue planted firmly in the cheek.

It is a musical that heavily relies on shock and surprise, and it would be churlish to give away the funniest scenes. There are laughs on laughs and foot tapping tune after tune, all delivered by a knockout cast. Principal among them are Conner Peirson as Elder Cunningham, who steals every scene he’s in; the beautiful-voiced Aviva Tulley as Nabulungi and Jordan Lee Davies wrestling gloriously with his homosexual urges as Elder McKinley.

It’s clear that the whole thing has been written with affection by Parker and Stone and of course, musical theatre royalty Robert Lopez (Avenue Q, Frozen, Coco) there is no way that it could get away with what it does, if it were purely cruel rather than impressively clever.

It is a giant juggernaut of a show and serves up a slice of unashamed satire that’s much needed in our easily offended world. If you needed any other reason to see it, ask yourself where else will you see Genghis Khan playing guitar with the Devil onstage in Glasgow on a weekday night?

Runs until 26 November 2022 | Originally published at The Reviews Hub

NEWS: GIOVANNA FLETCHER, CLIVE MANTLE AND GEORGE RAINSFORD TO STAR IN WISH YOU WERE DEAD

Producer Josh Andrews has announced the lead cast for the UK tour of Peter James’ Wish You Were Dead: George Rainsford, will star as James’ famous detective DSI Roy Grace, alongside Giovanna Fletcher who will star as Cleo Morey and Clive Mantle, who will star as Curtis. Leon Stewart will return to the role of DS Glenn Branson.

The show visits Glasgow 28 March – 1 April 2023 at the Theatre Royal

The world stage premiere of Wish You Were Dead follows five successful stage plays and the critically acclaimed smash-hit primetime ITV series ‘Grace’, which are all based on the best-selling novels by the UK’s number one crime author Peter James. This will be the sixth stage adaptation of James’ novels -making it the most successful crime thriller stage franchise since Agatha Christie.

Adapted exclusively for the stage, Wish You Were Dead kicks off a major nationwide UK tour in February 2023 at the Churchill Theatre, Bromley. The production will then travel to a selection of top theatres across the country until late July. Tickets are on sale now from PeterJames.com.

Giovanna Fletcher is a hugely successful author, podcast host and Queen of The Castle after winning I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here in 2020, Giovanna’s theatrical credits include 2:22 A Ghost Story and Ivanov in the West End and she also appears in the feature film The Boat That Rocked.

Clive Mantle’s extensive range of credits across theatre, film and television, include an Olivier Award nominated performance in Of Mice and Men. He is perhaps best known for his TV work in shows such as Casualty, Holby City, Game of Thrones and The Vicar of Dibley and is also an award-winning children’s author.

George Rainsford has for the last nine years, been playing series regular Ethan Hardy in Casualty on BBC One, for which he won the Inside Soap Award Best Drama Star 2017. Other Television credits include Holby City and Call the Midwife and his numerous theatre credits include productions at the National Theatre, RSC and the Old Vic.

George Rainsford said: “I can’t wait to be part of a theatre ensemble again and delve into Peter James’ thrilling criminal underworld. Getting to play Roy Grace, his most renowned detective creation, will be a huge honour. I am excited to meet audiences from all over the UK, and share with them some enthralling, edge-of-your-seat entertainment!”

Clive Mantle said: “I’m looking forward to terrifying… I mean entertaining… audiences up and down the length and breadth of Britain with ‘Wish You Were Dead’. Full of suspense and drama, there will be  many funny moments too during the course of a captivating evening. There’s a clue there for starters. Roll up, roll up, all you amateur sleuths. Can’t wait to see you all.”

Giovanna Fletcher said: “I’m really looking forward to appearing on stage as Cleo in this brand new play, and excited to work with George and Clive – two wonderful actors I’ve heard great things about. As a novelist, I know how important the characters I create are to me, so I’m thrilled Peter James has entrusted me with this wonderful role, in what is another brilliant and gripping story from one of the greatest masters of crime thrillers!”

Writer Peter James said: “I am beyond thrilled with the wonderful star cast that we have assembled for the world stage premiere of Wish You Were Dead. I love the fact that so many people create their own image of my characters but for me, George, Giovanna and Clive are all inspired interpretations of how I see Roy Grace, Cleo and Curtis and I am equally thrilled that Leon is returning to play Branson again. It is going to be very exciting to work with this great group of actors and I can’t wait for them to give audiences around the country, a thrilling, fun and hugely entertaining night at the theatre.”

The stage play of Wish You Were Dead follows DSI Roy Grace and Cleo Morey as they take a much-needed holiday together. They are hoping for a few days away from their dark worlds of murder and the mortuary. But their dream escape turns out to be the holiday from hell, as the past comes back to haunt them.

REVIEW: South Pacific – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

Unlike other works of the period, Richard Rodgers, Joshua Logan and Oscar Hammerstein II’s 1949 musical South Pacific, has largely stood the test of time. Originally written with the intention of sending a strong progressive message on racism, it also benefits from a re-imagination in this incarnation originally staged at Chichester Festival Theatre in 2021. There are re-orchestrations, the introduction of a prologue, additional music from the 1958 film version and most importantly, a fixing of the racial overtones and elimination of the ethnic stereotypes in the characterisations of Bloody Mary and her daughter Liat.

Set during World War Two on an island in the Pacific, it is essentially two intertwining love stories; Ensign Nelly Forbush (Gina Beck) falls for older plantation owner Emile de Becque (Julian Ovenden) but despite the strength of her feelings, Arkansas native Nellie struggles to accept his mixed-race children. The tandem love story is that of Princeton educated, US Marine Lieutenant Cable (Rob Houchen) and Tonkinese woman Liat (Sera Maehara), and the pressures on their mixed-race relationship.

The set is simplistic, projections on a corrugated back drop with different scenery rolled in and out, and no less effective for it. The lighting too is gorgeous and atmospheric. It all provides a darkness that the subject matter warrants and a suitable back-drop to the talent on stage.

From the first swelling bars of this lush-sounding orchestra to the final notes, this is a work of infinite quality, it simply oozes perfection from every pore, there is not a weak link among this large and hugely talented cast. Gina Beck is suitably perky as nurse Nelly and a rich-voiced Julian Ovenden is perfectly pitched as a more realistic, well-rounded, less caricature Emile. Instead of swanning around in a white linen suit, this Emile looks as if he might actually work on a plantation in the south Pacific. The male chorus are unmatched in the memory of this writer, the sound they create is simple sumptuous, and the female cast give them a good run for their money. The two child actors who portray Emile’s children are again, much more realistic, less stereotyped. The casting overall, couldn’t be better.

That such subject matter, and songs like Carefully Taught, shone a light at racism in America in 1949 is brave indeed, but there’s a discomfort to some of the material to 21st Century ears. Of particular note, is the re-orchestration of the usually saccharine Happy Talk, sung by Bloody Mary (Joanna Ampil). Here it is a pleading tune of desperation at the fate of her daughter and the American serviceman, instead of a silly ditty written (in a now uncomfortable to hear) pidgin English.

Almost every aspect of this production is to be lauded, from its design, its re-imagination, re-orchestrations and ultimately its astounding cast. This is a production not to be missed.

Runs until 8 October 2022 | Image: Johan Persson

Originally published at The Reviews Hub

REVIEW: 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

« Older Entries