High Society, The Old Vic.

High Society is a really beautiful production, in the literal sense. Staged in the round once again at the Old Vic its small set makes the most of the in the round setting, and of the ensemble who conduct perfectly choreographed scene changes. From the opulent living room to a pool the world of High Society is created.

Opening with a half concert half sing-along with Joe Stilgoe, it was clearly going to be a different take on the classic musical, and it is real treat of a production. I’d seen the musical once before, but never the film. Unfortunately aside from a vague recollection of crossed wires and ill-advised love matches within rich Americans I had little memory of the plot. As it turns out the plot is sometimes a bit hard to keep track of (despite not being extensive) as keeping track of who is who or who wants to be with who or who knows who is who can be a little confusing. Or perhaps I was just blinded by scene changes. Either way it doesn’t actually matter because the Old Vic’s production is a gloriously staged version of a good old fashioned musical.
A highlight for me, as ever, was Jamie Parker who is given a great deal of comic work to do as Mike Connor. It’s great casting for Parker, although doesn’t let him show off his singing talent as much, which is as always a shame. Credit also should be given to Richard Grieve, who does lovely things with the overlooked (in every sense) role of George Kitterage. Meanwhile Rupert Young does excellent work as the romantic lead Dexter,  bringing life to what could end up as a rather flat romantic lead. Also all three leading men (because it really does feel like an ensemble piece) know how to work the old fashioned suit. The leading men doing stellar work, for me however the women stole this show Kate Fleetwood is a force to be reckoned with as Tracy, but also gives the character depths that could easily be missed or glossed over. 
The musical itself is a bit dated, and a fair criticism of the material might be why to care about the comings and goings of some rich folks and their marriages. However it is a charming musical with a lot to say about people in general (regardless of how many boats they may have).

What the Old Vic also delivers is a stunning production. Using a dynamic ensemble, cast as the staff within the house, stage one of the most visually stunning productions I’ve seen in years, without any of the flashy bells and whistles of a big-budget West End Musical. I’d love to see the Old Vic keep this up and stage more musicals, and stage them in this way. In particular the in the round setting gives a perspective and intimacy that many musicals staged across the river lack. I love a big flashy musical, but I also love a classic twisted into something a bit different and High Society manages this.  

I’d urge anyone so seek out this classic musical, the material speaks for itself-there’s a reason classics are classics. However the twists on the classic format that the staging and direction give allow the production a breath of fresh air. It runs until 22nd August so grab a ticket. Ticketing tip too, the ‘restricted view’ seats in what was the stage area are barely restricted at all and have an excellent view as well as being close to the stage. 

In sort of unrelated news, epic ‘celebrity spot fail’ my friend an I were sat opposite John Major and utterly failed to notice…


Everyman Festival: Blackadder III

Last night the 2015 Everyman festival opened in style with Blackadder III. It’s a tough job opening a festival but Blackadder’s hilarious Regency England adventure was perfect for the first night. 

Firstly though, a confession: I’ve never seen Blackadder. 

I am the turnip head

Well I’ve seen bits. And I’ve seen quite a bit of ‘Blackadder Goes Forth’ because I used to use it teaching Year 9 History. But other than that…the odd clip here and there…I know the gist of it but have no clue really. But actually this was a blessing, because aside from an obvious awareness of who played who on TV I have little to compare it to, so could just sit back and enjoy the laughs. And of those there are plenty. 

Comedy is difficult. Comedy is made even more difficult when the audience already knows the jokes (aside from me obviously). So absolute respect to the cast for bringing to life much loved characters in their own way. Brian Smith as Blackadder and Peter Harding-Roberts as Baldrick in particular for taking on iconic roles and giving them their own spin. The entire cast is both hilarious and talented, special mention to Osian Llewelyn Edwards and James Pritchard for services to over-acting-as-actors in a play. 

Edwards and Pritchard Thesp it up

Additional praise must be given to the inventive stage design, that allows a simple wall to be transformed into various locations. The ingenious use of doors also as ever offers opportunity for more comedy. Costumes too are delightful, with wigs and fake facial hair galore! Who also doesn’t enjoy a man rocking a nice pair of stockings? 

Blackadder the Third is a hilarious piece, with a lot of fun (mainly, as ever at poor Baldrick’s expense). What is also has that makes it an excellent opener to the festival is an undercurrent of political commentary fitting for this year. It’s also equally reassuring and disturbing to think that politics in fact never changes! 

A brilliant opening night to the Everyman 2015 Festival, Blackadder is sure to sell out so I urge you to get tickets asap!

And not forgetting the rest of the festival-I’ll be blogging and tweeting from all of them:

Blackadder the Third – 24th June-4th July
Sweet Charity- 8th-18th July 
As You Like It 22nd July- 4th August 

Don’t forget to join in via social media: 


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Memphis lives in me.

Firstly credit to my friend Jen for getting up at an ungodly hour, and braving a slightly scary day seat queue for this one.

I’ve seen Memphis twice now, once in New York and again in London. Both times I confess it was really to see the leading man (Adam Pascal and Killian Donnelly respectively) but both times I’ve been really surprised at how much I like the show.

Memphis, if I were to describe it, is a darker, more adult Hairspray (interestingly this was the last thing I saw at the Shaftsbury in London too)  It deals with many of the same themes, from a similar era. But Memphis has a darker edge, and it’s central characters are older, their experiences less sunny, the outcome also less cheery. Perhaps it’s because I’m a cynical grown-up I actually prefer Memphis’ take on race-relations in America.

Taking place in, funnily enough, Memphis, the story centres on Huey, an somewhat unsuccessful and unlucky young white man, who has a passion for ‘black music’. Huey breaks convention to go to Black clubs, and then defy authority to play what his boss calls ‘race music’ in a department store, and is subsequently fired. Huey goes on to blag his way into a radio station, and through playing ‘race music’ becomes the most successful radio DJ in Memphis. In the process he is forming a relationship with (black) club singer Felicia. Their relationship against the backdrop of the 1950s South, ends up having serious consequences for everyone. And without giving everything away, Memphis doesn’t end on a fairytale ending.

When I first saw Memphis I appreciated this honesty of depiction. That the white boy couldn’t just sweep a black girl off her feet and live happily ever after. As a historical piece that would be a betrayal, and tragically as it turned out just this week, even in contemporary America these themes resonate. I don’t want to dwell on these issues here, partly because such discussions deserve their own space. But in a week where Black Americans were murdered in cold blood, in 2015, the attitudes, the dangers, that Memphis shows a glimpse of, are still so tragically not far away. That’s why I appreciate that Memphis doesn’t gloss over these elements, and that it also doesn’t make things easy for it’s characters. I’m not claiming it’s a hard hitting political drama, but if anything Memphis shows that a piece of theatre doesn’t have to be that in order to still have resonance and truth.

History and politics slightly to one side, Memphis is also a well put together piece of theatre. Musically it’s not the strongest new piece of recent years, but the score is solid, inspired by Blues and Rock and Roll, it sounds very much of the era it is set. Personally I’d have preferred more balance between leading man and leading lady numbers, with it being weighted in favour of the latter.

The best part of Memphis for me remains the reason I bought a ticket: Killian Donnelly. My theatre nerds will appreciate when I say there are those times, those shows where you just go and fall in love with an actor. Not their character, not them as a real person, just them as a performer. Sometimes there’s just that extra bit of theatrical magic when everything falls into place. He’s an actor who was born for musicals, and not only is his voice glorious, he has that particular musical theatre acting skill that’s rarer than you’d think. It’s the kind of performance that makes you just fall for an actor’s talent regardless of the type of role. I’d urge anyone who can to see Memphis before he leaves in a few weeks. Or failing that Kinky Boots later in summer. An actor whose talents that I’ll long be admiring. And yes, ok, fact that he’s a tall, bearded Irishman is doing him no harm at all.

Memphis is a great smaller musical with a serious edge. It’s ensemble is excellent and hardworking and everything from staging to choreography is slick but not overbearing. And although I’ve urged anyone thinking of going to see Donnelly before he leaves, if that’s not possible head to an understudy performance- some true musical theatre talent in Jon Robyns and Rachel John as well.

Here’s a sneak peak of ‘Memphis Lives in Me’


Everyman Festival Preview

I’m really excited that to kick off my new re-vamped theatre review blog I’ve been invited by Everyman Theatre in Cardiff to be one of their bloggers for the summer festival!

A lot of people in Cardiff will be familar with the Everyman theatre festival which happens every summer. For those who aren’t every year Everyman sets up home for an outdoor festival of theatre including Shakespeare, Musical Theatre, Comedy and a children’s show-meaning there’s something for everyone. This year the company are back in Sophia Gardens with four great shows:

Blackadder the Third – 24th June-4th July
Sweet Charity- 8th-18th July 
As You Like It 22nd July- 4th August 

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast 25th July – 1st August

Blackadder the Third follows on from last year’s hilarious Blackadder outing for the festival. For those whose Blackadder knowledge is sketchy, this installment sees Blackadder in Regency England as a Butler-with of course help from Baldrick at his side- at the court of Prince George.
Oh and if you’re after an additional giggle, and keen on helping a good cause Saturday 27th June 3.00pm & 8.00pm performances will be a Charity Gala Event in aid of Comic Relief and will feature a special guest from BBC Wales Today!

Following that it’s musical time, and being something of a musical theatre nerd I can’t wait for Cy Coleman’s classic Sweet Charity.  A classic American musical set in 1960s New York, Sweet Charity is always a fun song and dance filled performance. And of course includes the classic ‘Hey Big Spender’ and for those (like me) who’ve ever had to learn it, the impossibly difficult but impossible to remove from your head once it’s in ‘Rhythm of Life’ (I do apologize for anyone who spends the rest of the day singing it now…) Sweet Charity runs Wednesday 22 July – Saturday 1 August and tickets are available here;

Shakespearean offering this year is As You Like It set in 1915 for this production where Rosalind, escaped to the forest of Arden teaches a disguised Orlando about love. A great introduction to Shakespeare for anyone who is wary of the Bard, and a firm favourite among Shakespere aficionados too. 

Finally there’s something for younger audiences-and involving young thespians, in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. Designed for, and performed by younger audiences this is a Disney classic that’s great for the little theatre goers, and with morning and afternoon shows is a great family trip as well.

If all of those shows weren’t enough, this year the Festival also has two special ‘Sunday Nights at the Festival’ evenings. On the 28th  June, Forte present One Night Only, an evening of songs from your favourite films and musicals and on 12th  July,  57 Chevy line up with the ultimate 50s and 60s show. 

I’ll be blogging about each of the main shows as the festival unfolds, and you can follow me, and the festival on twitter bellow. 


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