Wednesday, June 27, 2007

"Detainee A" - June 2007

Back at The Arches again for Ankur Productions 'Detainee A'. This had already provided much hilarity in our house due to my complete inability to pronounce its title. Hopefully the actors would be better at delivering their lines. Statler phoned in sick for this one with man flu, so it was left to me to represent View From the Stalls.

An original work is always a gamble, you go in blind and especially when it's a company you've not seen perform before. The premise was interesting - how would a Glasgow family react to the arrest of their son for suspicion of terrorism, and how would it impact on their lives, and those around them. Unfortunately real events have shown how both mistaken arrests and viable threats exist around us today.

Based on a screenplay by Ankur participant Shahid Nadeem and adapted by Vivien Adam this was a tightly focused look at the arrest of Ali Malik (Susheel Kumar) largely set around the family home over what seemed a short timespan. We're introduced to the characters quickly and easily, with the youngest family member Salim (Omar Raza) narrating whilst others freeze around him (something Statler would have loved). Ali, the annoying older brother; Yusef (Tagz Nazeer) the 'dead cool' brother's best friend and Rukhsana (Sharita Scott), the politically aware older sister. The other protagonists weave in and out and the framework of relationships is clearly drawn.

The ensemble cast of community performers and professional actors worked well together and performed well in the difficult acoustics of The Arches, with Sarita Bhardwaj and Sanjeev L. Chitnis as Ali's parents giving particularly emotionally strong performances. The story telling device of silhouettes in the background was effective, with live music adding to the general atmosphere. Unfortunately some of the more dramatic moments didn't work for me. The police raid in particular felt weak, and didn't convey enough of the fear, confusion and anger that armed police bursting through your door at dinner time would cause. I also felt that the sense of violation as your home and family are placed under the microscope was an opportunity missed. Yes we learned secrets about Ali, but the cynic in me believes the family wouldn't be treated so kindly.

The smaller touches are what lifted this for me. Things like unthinkingly and well meaningfully saying to a Muslim that you 'Owe them a beer', a gesture that upsets the outsider who sees it as particularly insulting. Simple but effective illustration of how mis-perceptions arise when come at from different cultures. Again the dilemma of a father who has to accept his son is either a terrorist, or is following an innocent course of actions, but of which is father doesn't approve.

In the post show discussion we were asked what we had taken from the play. A lot of laudable sentiments were expressed and deep and meaningful comments on the state of the world were mentioned. Maybe my consciousness is beyond raising, but for me the message was simpler than any of that. It was that families are largely the same regardless of culture, with parental pride and disappointment in equal mix and children who are both eager to please and wanting to be different at the same time.


Monday, June 25, 2007

Theatre reviews - What are they for?

The last few weeks have seen number of spats amongst theatre folks and professional critics, and most recently with AA Gill suggesting that the print media's current crop of theatre reviewers don't have a sufficiently entertaining writing style. Lyn Gardner has already given a good response, and although I'm concerned by the energy being expended on this that could be used more creatively, I think it does raise an interesting question - What are theatre reviews for?

At View From The Stalls we've always been quite clear about what we aim to do, and it can be pretty easily summed up as giving a genuine reaction to the theatre we see. We aren't in any way academic or have a vast knowledge of theatre - we're just your average theatregoers. We don't analyse performances in great depth, discussing themes and motifs, our reviews usually focus on a "What was good / What was bad" format, but hopefully in sufficient detail to give an idea if the show is worth seeing and also with the aim of providing constructive feedback to those involved with the production.

Gill suggests reviewers would benefit from following the lead of restaurant critics and being sharper in their writing, and while websites like the West End Whingers are a joy to read, to encourage print reviews in this direction would likely lead to reviews with a wonderful turn of phrase at the expense of a fair review of a show. Surely the purpose of a review is to convey information about the production, and the reviewers reaction to it - witty comments and put downs have their place of course but should never be the driving force of a review.

So, what do you want from a review - to be entertained by the reviewer or just to be given a fair idea if the show will entertain?


Saturday, June 23, 2007

"We Will Rock You" - June 2007

This one needs a little context before I dive into a review of it, as it's a little outside our usual field of theatregoing. As any regular readers know I'm not a great fan of musical theatre, and although I like a bit of Queen it wouldn't be enough to get me along to this one - certainly not all the way through to Rothes Halls in Glenrothes. But this was a little special in that it was being put together by the folks at the Scottish Theatre Forum as a one-off production for a short run. Having followed the development of the show on the Forum, I had to see the final product.

It's important for me to stress that as always, this amateur production is reviewed to the same standards as a professional performance, so please keep that in mind as you read this - along with the fact that I really don't do musicals. Okay... deep breath...

I loved this. There, I've said it... I loved just about every minute of this. I spent nearly three hours with a silly grin on my face. Now let's just take it as a given that the "plot" is a bit of a nonsense designed around the songs, but does anyone go to see any musical for the plot? And the sharpness of the dialogue makes up for any shortfallings, although this being a matinee performance, many of the parents around us were trying hard to stifle laughs rather than having to explain to their kids what was so funny.

Musicals are about the performances - singing, dancing and acting, and my major issue with musicals tends to be that the acting that takes a back seat - but there were no such worries here. It was a great ensemble with good work from the chorus, but the principals each deserve a mention.

Andrew Doig as our hero "Galileo" produced a suitably frantic and at times bewildered performance but it was his vocals that really stood out - particularly with "I Want To Break Free", "Under Pressure" and "Bohemian Rhapsody".

I'm sure most people will leave the performance talking about Kim Shepherd's singing as "Scaramouche" and while it was absolutely wonderful I think that actually does her a disservice. I hope people also remember her acting performance - the subtleties of awkward movement, her facial reactions to others, and her comic timing - all top class. Musically, she absolutely nailed every song and her duets with Doig worked brilliantly.

The pairing of Susan Burnett as the evil "Killer Queen" and Glen McGill as her enforcer "Khashoggi" were both excellent with Burnett making the most of "Don't Stop Me Now" and "Another One Bites The Dust". McGill equally so, with "Seven Seas of Rhye" but he also brought a great deal to the production with his acting skills and sheer stage presence.

Jason Roseweir and Jennifer Singer owned the stage as the rebels "Britney" and "Meat", with their rendition of "I Want It All" being one of the show's highlights, indeed Roseweir's absence from the second act was the only disappointment of the production. Despite impressive vocals and very physical performances they were both expressive throughout. Singer's dancing background shone through and she produced a stunning vocal for "No-one But You (Only The Good Die Young)"

Mark Grieve provided great entertainment as "Pop" delivering some of the shows best lines, and his "These Are The Days of Our Lives" hit the spot. He was also the driving force behind this production happening at all - so much of the credit for the whole show goes to him.

This being a big scale production in every sense, the technical aspects also need commented on. Set design added to the feel of the piece, the lighting was some of the best I've seen in a long time, and video projection was also well used. Despite a couple of sound drop-outs, for the most part the levels were good and the live band on a side stage really added to the experience.

I can't quite say that I'm a convert to musical theatre but I'm certainly more open to giving it a go under certain circumstances, and I'd certainly rush back to any future STF shows or shows featuring some of those I saw today once they return to their usual companies. This was great, great fun and the audience thoroughly enjoyed themselves - so much so that I find it difficult to imagine the energy levels both on an off stage for the final Saturday night performance.

"We Will Rock You", "Guaranteed to Blow Your Mind" it said on the posters - yep, pretty much.

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Galileo, Scaramouche, Meat and Britney

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
"We Will Rock You"

Pictures courtesy of Stagepics - Online gallery of production images and an extensive CD of WWRY images available for purchase.


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Edinburgh Fringe 2007 Preview - Part 2

Post updated with links to individual reviews.

We've already outlined our initial plans for the Fringe in our Preview post, but after a more in-depth look at the programme I've picked out a further 5 shows that I'll be attending at the Festival without Waldorf's company (thanks to the benefits of a day job with flexi-time).

Fin Kennedy's "Mehndi Night" (review now posted) performed by a group of Bengali teenagers centres around the night before a traditional Bengali wedding. I enjoy reading Fin's blog but would always have wanted to see this as I love a glimpse into other cultures, although the promise of a free samosa and cup of chai helped.

As well as "Yellow Moon", David Greig also has a new work being performed - "Damascus" (review now posted) which promises "laughter, romance and tragedy" - what more could I ask for?

"The Butler Did It!?" (review now posted) with QMUC students mocks Agatha Christie style whodunnits - a genre that just isn't mocked enough. Hoping this will provide some light relief.

With "Killer Joe" (review now posted) takes us into the world of "trailer trash" which has so much potential I'm trying not to read too much about the show beforehand - I want to go into this without any idea what to expect, although "darkly comic" is always a description that will get my attention.

FourthAngel are a new company and there was just something about "Turn Me To Stone" (review now posted) that caught my eye - yep okay, it was that "darkly comic" label that got me again.

That probably concludes our plans for the 2007 Fringe - 16 shows in total, although there are plenty of other shows we would like to see see but sadly can't make work in our schedules, often due to them having fairly limited runs. In particular, "Tiny Dynamite" still hasn't made our plans - its 9.30pm start time is just that little too late for a comfortable return to Glasgow.


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

"Women Beware Women" - June 2007

After enjoying the RSAMD production of "The Winter's Tale" earlier this month we decided to book up for their production of "Women Beware Women" by Thomas Middleton which they described as a companion piece to Shakespeare's, also staged at The Arches. Although for the most part a different cast from "The Winter's Tale", comparisons between the two productions are inevitable.

With a narrative as contrived as "Women Beware Women" and family dysfunction worthy of any soap opera, it was always going to be difficult to play it straight, and in many ways it would have been more successful if they had chosen to ham it up and play it with a knowing nod to the audience. As it was, it seemed to lack any nice touches to lift it above the ordinary, and even the 1930's outfits added little.

Maria Nobauer as "Leantio's mother" and Emma Lambie as "Livia" gave the strongest performances of the night, well pitched for the small space and their silent interactions during their chess game were great to watch. Ashley Smith as "Bianca", who we had seen previously in "Spanglebaby", had some strong moments as the wronged woman, but her character's mood switched too quickly in the writing for the acting to make credible. Anneika Rose was given her moments to shine as "Isabella" with her dancing and singing, but they seemed out of place rather than fitting the character of the production.

Sadly many of the male cast suffered, to a greater or lesser extent, of delivering lines at a volume far higher than required in the small stone walled venue. While not at an uncomfortable level it did remove a lot of subtlety from the performances, although Allan Lindsay and Stuart Martin as "Sordido" and "The Duke" gave performances more appropriate to the venue.

This wasn't a bad production, but truth be told there wasn't a great deal of joy to be taken from it either, and it does have to go down as a disappointment.


Monday, June 11, 2007

Yes, It's Festival (Tips) Time Again

I'd previously jotted down some notes last year as to how to get the best out of a Festival trip. But as we've just started sorting out what we're seeing this year (2007) (edit: we have now posted our picks for 2008), it seemed like a good opportunity to be lazy and repost the same thing again revisit it.

Tip 1
Edinburgh is a long way away. Just ask any Glaswegian, it's practically foreign at the best of times (salt & sauce - that's just wrong), and during the Festival it's even weirder. However it's actually only 50 minutes by very regular trains, that even tend to run slightly later for our convenience during August. So if you don't feel like paying £200 per night for an Edinburgh box room, staying in Glasgow wouldn't be the end of the world. One thing to watch with the trains is that they don't always stop at the stations in between, so you might need to go all the way to Glasgow, then back out again.

Tip 2

Take a carrier bag/rucksack/black bin liner. No matter how determined you are not to end up with flyers advertising trapeze artiste nuns reciting Dickens (TM View From The Stalls - it's our idea), it's easier just to give in and accept anything someone tries to give you. The alternative is a 5 minute conversation explaining how you would really love to see their show if you had time/money/full frontal lobotomy (delete as appropriate), and the possibility of seeing a grown person cry.

The leaflets do also have a purpose. The best one we got last year was a fancy fan shaped one - which was actually damn good as a fan. Even if you're not lucky enough to get one that good, A5 thick paper waved in front of your face can be quite refreshing. Very few venues have air conditioning.

Tip 3
Following on from above the weather has to get a mention. You will need (in no particular order) waterproof shoes, sandals, sunglasses, jacket, umbrella, sun cream. You get the idea. The weather can be unpredictable, so dust off your Scout/Guide motto - 'Be Prepared'. Venues can be some distance apart, and sitting through something in soaking wet clothes is never fun. However, depending on the show, there might be no objections to removing those clothes (hey - if it's a selling point for some shows, why shouldn't the audience get in on the act).

Actually forget the umbrella. You'll either be wading through so many people you'll end up removing someone's eye, or it'll be too windy. There's always a local pub to take shelter in.

Tip 4
Planning your day might be useful. Venues can be spread quite a distance apart, and finding out you've got a 30 minute walk to get to the show that starts in 5 minutes time can be a little unnerving. And you just know that it will be the one show you really wanted to see, and paid a small fortune for tickets. It's at times like this that a good deodorant will be appreciated by the people who are sitting next to you.

Venues are also packing performances in, so overuns are quite common. You can't rely on things starting, or more importantly finishing, on time.

Tip 5
Don't panic if you're at a loose end. Remember those leaflets we talked about up there? You could actually read them and pick something out at the last minute. You might even get the tickets cheaper or even free. Remember though - it might be a hidden gem, but if it's too cheap it's usually for a reason.

Also remember that you've got to eat.

In other news, the annual search for the best Fringe titles has started (NB best titles, we're passing no comment on the shows).

It's a close run thing at the moment between:

Xenu is Loose! Cower puny Humans as the Dark Prince of the Galactic Federation rains Atomic Death once more upon your Pitiful Planet - The Musical!


A (Gay Disabled Transexual) Love Story Told to a Ticket Inspector at Alton Towers.

Please let us know if you find any better than those.


Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2007 Preview

We've trawled our way through the newly launched paper version of the Fringe Programme which is also available online at We've already got a few things booked, and can comment on some returning productions we saw last year, and we'll also add more shows as we book tickets.

Nonsenseroom's premiere of "James II" by Douglas Maxwell looks like being a popular one - already highlighted by Lyn Gardener of the Guardian (several days after we'd booked tickets mind!). The setting at Rosslyn Chapel is a magnificent addition to the production but make no mistake, it's the quality of their previous productions of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and "The Canterville Ghost" which we makes this top of our list of things to see. In particular we recommend paying the extra to attend a Special performance which includes a light buffet, post show Q&A and a tour of the chapel. Review now posted

Last year Richard Thomson's "Rebus McTaggart" was our only show that we picked after reading it's reviews and we weren't disappointed. After the plaudits and awards from 2006 he's back again, both with a limited run of his original show and also with a follow up - "Rebus McTaggart: Crimewarrior". We'll be making sure we book early for this one as demand is certain to be high. Review now posted

"The Bacchae" is technically part of the EIF rather than the Fringe, and we won't be attending the Edinburgh run anyway, but an NTS production starring Alan Cumming was always going to get our attention, so we booked months ago to see the Glasgow run at the end of August.

David Greig's "Yellow Moon" is being brought to the Festival by TAG following their production last year which we caught at the Citizens. It's currently been nominated for 2 CATs awards - Best New Play and Best Play for Young People. I had some issues with its "issues" but loved it's pace, direction and style.

Waldorf has been keen to see the play version of "Blood Brothers" for some time, so we were pleased a while ago to discover on the STF Forum that Lauder Studio Theatre were putting it on at the Festival. Review now posted

"Venus as a Boy"
made it into our plans based largely on the NTS involvement and its timeslot fitting nicely in our schedule. (Review now posted)

The concept of Rogue Shakespeare Company's "Love's Labour Won" and the promise of free chocolate was more than sufficient to get our attention, and the reviews from 2006 seem impressive. (Review now posted)

"Pit" is a bit of a punt that caught our interest but staged at the Traverse and put on by The Arches Theatre Co we should be on fairly safe ground here. (Review now posted.)

"Emergence-See" with it's tale of a slave ship arriving ghostlike in present day New York is the show that has intrigued me the most so far. But with such promise comes expectations - a dangerous thing to have at Festival time. (Review now posted)

The idea of the four horsemen of the apocalypse mellowing and having second thoughts about bringing on the end of the world also has a strong appeal for me. However an 11:30am start time may prove to be a little of a handicap for Touch Wood Theatre's "Armageddon and Fishcakes" Review now posted.

While the thought behind "45 Minutes" isn't groundbreaking there's a lot to be said to making the most of a basic concept, and tying "what would you do if the world was about to end?" with the Iraq WMD 45 minute claim is a nice touch.
Review now posted

"The Psychic Detective" had our interest anyway, but staging it in a "theatre truck" and name-dropping the involvement of "Black Watch" designer Laura Hopkins clinched our attendance at this one. Review now posted.

Feltonfleet school return with their production of "Lord of the Flies" that impressed us in 2006. A fairly straight version of the tale but with a remarkable young cast.

There are of course other shows that we hope to catch but don't fit in with our current schedules. We are keen to see them but at the moment due to limited runs and time restraints we can't arrange other shows around them to make an additional trip through to Edinburgh practical. If things were different these shows would definitely have featured in our plans - Fin Kennedy's "Mehndi Night" and Edinburgh Graduate Theatre Company's production of "Tiny Dynamite"

Just added "Kirsten O'Brien: Confessions of a Children's TV Presenter" to our plans. We're sadly old enough that we are only familiar with Kirsten's work in passing, but we're hoping she's going to confirm what we always thought about kids TV presenters. Review now posted

Update - 20th June: We've now managed to pick out another 5 shows to attend and given a bit of info in our Edinburgh Fringe Preview - Part 2


Sunday, June 10, 2007

"The Wonderful World of Dissocia" - June 2007

It would be unfair to write a review of the NTS production of writer/director Anthony Neilson's "Wonderful World of Dissocia" without a bit of a preface on how we came to see it. As we've discussed in our "Are You Positive?" piece our reviews are normally of shows that we've specifically chosen to see, and have spent our own money on the tickets. While all that is technically still true for our visit to "Dissocia" it isn't quite the full story...

"Dissocia" had already played at the Tron in Glasgow earlier in the year, but we'd given it a miss. It just sounded a little too "off the wall" and surreal, without any prospect of rewarding message or meaning. However, on reaching London, and thanks in part to some sterling publicity generated by Neilson, "Dissocia" managed to kick up quite a bit of noise as it fiercely polarised opinions among both traditional critics and the London theatre blogs. Our interest piqued, we started to regret that we weren't able to contribute our own thoughts, but even then we wouldn't have gone to the effort of seeing it when it finally reached the Traverse in Edinburgh unless other events had meant we had to be in Edinburgh while it was playing. So there you go, please bear in mind when reading the review that we didn't approach the show with quite the same level of enthusiasm as most of the productions we see.

At the beginning of the play we meet "Lisa" (Christine Entwisle) and join her in her travels to the "land" (state?) of Dissocia. Reviews regularly describe Dissocia as being like Oz or Alice's journey in Wonderland, although I think Cuckoo Land from "Jamie and the Magic Torch" is a much closer comparison. We go on to meet a string of characters representing mental characteristics in what is apparently meant to be "darkly funny" but is neither funny enough or dark enough to have much of an impact - I think I grinned twice and laughed once in what is a gravely overlong first act. There are a couple of nice set pieces but the feeling as the first half came to an end was undoubtedly of disappointment.

The second act sees a massive and welcome change of setting as we return to reality, where "Lisa" is being treated in hospital for her breakdown. Staged in an enclosed box-like room with a clear front wall we see and hear her interact with doctors, nurses and family members. The Act has two stars - Entwisle finally given a moment to act rather than perform, and designer Miriam Buether. The setting is truly hypnotic and it seemed impossible not to be transfixed by it, in part due to the effective use of sound/lighting.

Act Two is a remarkable piece of theatre, but even then it isn't Neilson's dialogue that has an impact - at least not as much as there is potential for. Questions are raised about attitudes to mental illness and in particular the reluctance of patients to self-medicate but there isn't a great deal of depth to the discussion. The other problem Act Two has is Act One. Although some of the information and metaphors from Act One do carry through to "reality" there simply isn't enough to have made sitting through the first Act worthwhile, and with a bit of tweaking Act Two could stand perfectly well on its own.

Other than Entwisle, the performances were all sufficiently strong but without any standing out. I'm pleased to have seen the show so as to appreciate the discussions it has provoked, but on a personal level it disappointed me. During his promotional phase Neilson made claims that new theatre should be more "entertaining" (like Dissocia) but I'm afraid this didn't reach my entertainment threshold and I was neither amused nor particularly thought-provoked. Shame really.


Wednesday, June 06, 2007

"The Shewing Up of Blanco Posnet" / "Lysistrata" - June 2007

This was a double bill of one act plays performed by students from the GCNS Acting course who we had seen previously performing "Teechers". In front of an audience largely of family and friends they were on fairly safe ground, but as objective outsiders how impressed would we be? Once more our standard reviewing policy applies for these student productions - comments will be based on the same standards as expected of a professional production.

Before getting to the reviews - well done for the spoken instruction before commencing that everyone should check their mobile phones were turned off. We also noticed that latecomers were only admitted at a suitable break in the show. Other theatres should take note!

"The Shewing Up Of Blanco Posnet"
This short play by George Bernard Shaw appeared to have been left largely intact for this production. Its story of an alleged horsethief and his attempts to avoid the noose at the hands of the townsfolk was well told with Scott Fletcher putting in an impressive performance in the title role. We're a little unclear on who performed some of the other roles as they were dual cast, so we'll refer to them by character (for the record we saw Wednesday night's performance). "Feemy" was played particularly well as was the Sheriff apart from an incorrect line but I'm not sure the cross gender casting of some roles really worked other than for a couple of cheap laughs. The chorus of women was at times a little too shouty/screechy and some dialogue was lost, but Heather Roberts played her part in a more restrained natural style and was much the better for it.

The "hoe down" segment was similar to one we had seen recently in "The Winters Tale" but while there it was a surprising piece of fun, here it seemed to be included without real reason and was definitely overlong.

In general the acting of the wider cast was of a good standard and they definitely played to the audience. As a whole the performance was enjoyable enough with Fletcher's performance the highlight, but I suspect it may have struggled a little in front of a more objective audience.

This was based on the tale by Aristophanes but with a modern and localised adaptation by Director Deborah Carmichael who deserves great credit for the success of the performance. This really was "Monty Python does Greek mythology" with more than a touch of "Carry On..." with strong innuendo but was undeniably wonderful. Agnieszka Bresler gave a strong performance as "Lysistrata" as she tried to end a war by persuading the womenfolk to withhold their favours from their husbands until a peace treaty was signed. In early scenes Laura McLaughlin looked set to steal the show in her WAG role of "Kalonike" but as Laura Szalecki came to the fore later as "Myrrhine" it became clear that what we had was a very strong ensemble cast. Both the set of Old Men and Old Crows worked well for the most part and had their moments to shine while there were nice touches involving the Constables and later the Herald and Ambassador. David McNay as the Magistrate produced a wonderful performance that was a joy to watch - if he can sing he was born to play Frank'n'Furter in "Rocky Horror" and I want to be there when he does.

As the show nears it's conclusion we have a dance set piece which left the audience grinning and later the full cast burst into John Lennon's "Give Peace a Chance". It was a wonderful and powerful moment of theatre which literally left my spine tingling - every bit as much as it did during "Black Watch". This is very rare for me and is a real indication about how good this performance was - I have no doubt this show would have gone down well with a completely objective audience.

I'm not sure if these students are now finished, but if so good luck to them all, and we hope to see them in future productions.


Sunday, June 03, 2007

'Broken Glass' - June 2007

We've been a fan of Rapture Theatre for a while, and have seen their last few productions at the Citizens' Theatre. This year they made their debut on the main stage there with 'Broken Glass', unfortunately we were out of the country, so made the trip to Greenock Arts Guild instead.

One of Arthur Miller's later plays, it focuses on a Jewish couple, the Gellburgs, in New York during Hitler's rise to power and in particular Kristallnacht (the broken glass alluded to the in the title). Sylvia Gellburg becomes paralysed, attributed to nervous hysteria by her doctor, and the play tracks her treatment and the revelations about her and her husband's relationship that arise as a result.

This is the end of a long punishing tour for Rapture, but I'm glad to say the performances remained fresh despite them zigzagging Scotland. In particular the dynamic between Sylvia (Fletcher Mathers) and her physician (Lewis Howden) and husband (Stewart Porter) worked well.

This is the third performance we've seen Stewart Porter in (The Rise and Fall of Little Voice and The Collection (also Rapture)) and another strong performance as the increasingly pitied Phillip Gellburg was delivered. It's always interesting to see an actor in different roles to get a true idea of the abilities. We've now seen him act with a Scottish, Bolton and New York accent. Like the rest of the cast he coped with the accent well.

The Scottish premiere of a play set in 1930s New York with a large focus on the events in Nazi Germany is a slightly strange choice for Rapture but it's relevance comes from the relationship dynamics.

An enjoyable evening, and it's nice to see a company that's so committed to finding out audience views, and knows how to market itself. Every Rapture performance we've been at we've seen both Michael Emans (director and founder) and Lyn McAndrew (designer and actress) front of house and handing out comment cards and interacting with the audience. The programmes are always full of the info and interest - a lesson could be learned, in particular by the student productions we've seen.


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While the DNS settings are updating access to the blog might be intermittent, things should settle down in the next day or so.


Saturday, June 02, 2007

"The Tempest" - June 2007

Northern Broadsides reputation for innovative productions of Shakespeare was the driving force behind our seeing "The Tempest" at The Citizens. The trademark northern accents were present and worked well enough but were in fact the least innovative aspect of this production by a hugely multi-talented cast.

A quick look at the stage strewn with musical instruments and it was clear this would be something approaching "The Tempest: The Musical". In fact it was somewhere in between a musical and conventional Shakespeare with large portions adapted into song while others, mainly the Prospero segments, were played straight. Many of the cast took turns to play the various instruments including some very interesting work with a double bass. Largely because of the vibrancy of the set pieces the dialogue heavy portions did drag at times and quickly the play's "comic relief" became the most interesting element for me, which is a little unfair as if the whole play had been a plainer production I'd have been perfectly happy with it.

The cast are all strong including director Barrie Rutter as Prospero, Sarah Cattle as Miranda, and a special mention for Tim Barker's Gonzalez. But this show is well and truly stolen by our threesome of Michael Hugo as a Gollum-like Caliban, Simon Holland Roberts as the drunken Stephano an Conrad Nelson as a wonderfully camp Triculo. It was an absolute joy to see these three at the top of their game, and great credit to Rutter for giving them the licence to give such crowd-pleasing performances even at the risk of putting his own performance in the shade.

I'd happily see future productions although I might be picky as to which plays.