Amadeus – February 2018

Experience: 6/10

By Peter Shaffer

Directed by Michael Longhurst

Venue: Olivier Theatre

Date: Thursday 1st February 2018

This was something of a disappointment. Given the high standard of some of his previous performances, we were looking forward to seeing Lucien Msamati as Salieri, as well as revisiting this excellent play in a different production. The reviews had been very good, although we hadn’t read any of the details, so it was only as we took our seats that the potential problems became apparent. Still, we kept our minds as open as possible and restrained our expectations: even so, I found myself revising my rating of the experience down and down again. Steve enjoyed it more than I did – he would have given it 7/10 – but we were largely in agreement with the overall standard. So was the paying public, it would seem, as this matinee was only just over half full, leaving large swathes of empty seats in the circle, rear stalls and sides.

Continue reading

Romeo And Juliet – March 2015

Experience: 7/10

By William Shakespeare

Directed by Sally Cookson

Venue: Rose Theatre, Kingston

Date: Thursday 19th March 2015

One of the lovely things about the number of Shakespeare productions being put on these days is that we get a chance to compare and contrast performances much more quickly than before. This is a fairly typical case: an early performance of one production followed a few weeks later by a completely different version with a reprise of the first one close on its heels. There were some interesting similarities amongst the many differences, and both had a lot to offer with their individual take on the play.

Continue reading

The Rape Of Lucrece – June 2014

Experience: 9/10

By William Shakespeare

Directed by Elizabeth Freestone

Venue: Swan Theatre

Date: Thursday 26th June 2014

We saw this same production three years ago and were keen to see how they were doing it now. We had contrasting opinions this time: I didn’t think the production had changed much (although the performances had naturally developed) while Steve felt it was very different and preferred this performance to the previous one. To be fair, he didn’t rate our first viewing as high as I had, a fact which, in the glow of a wonderful evening, I seem to have omitted from my notes.

Continue reading

The Amen Corner – August 2013

Experience: 7/10

By James Baldwin

Directed by Rufus Norris

Venue: Olivier Theatre

Date: Wednesday 7th August 2013

I was pretty tired today and found myself yawning a bit in the run up to the interval, but that was largely because, with a three act play, they took the interval after the second act. It makes for a shorter second half (apologies to any mathematicians out there) but it can be a long wait for a chance to stand up and stretch. Once refreshed, the final act came across as more powerful, and I was wiping my eyes more than once in the last half hour.

Continue reading

The Empress – April 2013

Experience: 8/10

By Tanika Gupta

Directed by Emma Rice

Company: RSC

Venue: Swan Theatre

Date: Monday 15th April 2013

Both Steve and I had the sniffles tonight, him because he had a cold and me because the final scenes of this new play were very moving. The play covers a lot of ground, and there will be more to come with this production which at times is a bit jumbled, but the music, singing, dancing and colours plus the splendid performances made for a refreshing take on a neglected aspect of Victorian history. We’ve found Emma Rice’s work with Kneehigh to be variable in the past, but this time she’s produced a real good ‘un.

Continue reading

Privates On Parade – February 2013

Experience: 9/10

By Peter Nichols, music by Denis King

Directed by Michael Grandage

Venue: Noel Coward Theatre

Date: Monday 11th February 2013

Fabulous! We missed an earlier performance due to train troubles, so we were really pleased to see it tonight. I thought the production was excellent, very reminiscent of the Donmar musicals this director has put on in the past, and if there was anything lacking at all I’d put it down to a somewhat patchy audience response. From comments I heard in the interval, I suspect that some of the attendees were expecting It Ain’t Half Hot, Mum – The Musical, whereas this was a much more nuanced piece, mixing satire with sexual innuendo, drama with cheesy puns. I was moved to pre-sniffles at least once, when Sylvia was being consoled by Acting Captain Terri Dennis after discovering that Steven was leaving her behind – not the done thing to bring a heavily pregnant half-caste woman back to Swindon as his bride. Dennis did the decent thing instead, so hopefully the little one will have more tolerant parents than most.

The treatment of and attitudes to the local population were all too accurate, an embarrassing reminder of Britain’s colonial past, and I felt the play had a lot in common with Oh What A Lovely War and The Entertainer. The play began with the two Malay servants hitting gongs, starting with single bongs and moving into the continuous ringing sound. This sound was used a few times during the play, but I don’t know exactly what it was meant to represent. After the concert party left the country, the final image on the screen at the back was of modern-day Singapore at night, while the two servants, now in suits, shook hands centre stage. It was quite a jump from then to now, but it worked, showing us the growth in prosperity since the British left, and leaving us to ponder how much the colonial power contributed and how much it held the local population back.

The set was basically a very run down theatre building with the pros arch towards the back of the stage, doors showing above it, and side entrances – the usual. With lighting changes and the swift arrival of furniture, the other locations were deftly set up and the screen at the back, when not covered by a backdrop, showed appropriate pictures. The costumes were excellent, especially Dennis’s outfits as he gave us his Marlene, Carmen Miranda and one other woman we didn’t recognise. His Noel Coward was good fun too (and very apt for this theatre).

The performances are the key to this show, and this production was strong in that department. I found John Marquez’s accent too strong for me and I couldn’t tune into his dialogue very well, but the rest of the cast were generally clear. Angus Wright was very good as the upright and uptight Major, producing some very John Cleese-like leg movements for one number. Mark Lewis Jones was a fine villain, Harry Hepple was very good as Lance Corporal Charles Bishop, while Davina Perera had taken over the role Sylvia, and didn’t look out of place at all. The big draw was Simon Russell Beale, though, and his performance as Acting Captain Terri Dennis was wonderful, both in the glamorous frocks and out of them, bringing out the character’s humour and showing us his caring side. We enjoyed ourselves very much, and were glad we’d made the extra effort to catch this one.

© 2013 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me

Bugle Boy – June 2012

7/10

Original concept and book by Den Stevenson

Directed by Bruce James

Bruce James Productions

Venue: Connaught Theatre

Date: Thursday 28th June 2012

One thing we were sure of before we left for the theatre tonight – the music was going to be good! And it was, too, with a fifteen-piece band on stage to give us a rich, full sound throughout the evening. Three of the band left their seats at times to play other characters and contribute vocals, while Ian Knauer and Lisa Lynch, who played Glenn Miller and his wife Helen, also sang in character. With so many on stage, there wasn’t much of set, just a large screen above and behind the band, and a few furnishings as required for some of the scenes. The actors played the train journeys on tour by carrying suitcases and  jiggling a lot, and the whole story was framed by an interview with Helen telling the story of Glenn’s life on a radio program. The costumes were all good, and with the music really getting us ‘In The Mood’, we had a great time.

Ian Knauer was fine as Glenn Miller, having just the right degree of stiffness as he stood conducting the band. Lisa Lynch’s voice was a bit harsh for me, too brassy in the wrong way, but Maddie Cole was a great singer – she did the rest of the woman’s parts – and she was the only one we could hear clearly above the band. Of course they were all miked up, but then that’s a necessity these days, and much less strain on the vocal cords. I sniffled a good deal, especially when they announced the loss of the plane that he’d been on, and also during the final montage of pictures, and quite a few other times as well; just a big softie, me. They certainly got a good response from the audience; given the average age in Worthing, that’s not a surprise, but I hope they get an equally warm welcome wherever they play – they deserve it.

© 2012 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me