is a freely fictionalised
Seurat, the pointillist painter who died young and unappreciated in
and Lapine's 1984 musical shows him at work, principally on Un
dimanche après-midi à l'Île de la Grande Jatte.
His sketches, much enlarged, sit on easels and form the only
characters – all sorts and conditions – are brought to life and
given a backstory, as George tries to capture
the casual chaos of a suburban park – on an island in the middle of
a blank page or canvas. The challenge: bring order to the whole,
through design, composition, tension, balance, light and harmony."
a slightly forced coda, we fast-forward to the present – well,
1984, with some lovely fashions – in which George's great
grandson, also an artist, unveils an installation paying tribute
to the original painting, and later takes it to the now deserted
island, where he meets the ghost of Dot, the painter's model and
muse, as the blank canvas is gradually peopled by the figures
from the past.
Chissick's evocative production uses the moving easels very
effectively – they are internally lit for the C20 “Chromolume”
– and the lighting, as it must, helps to paint the pictures.
fantastic cast, none older than 21, copes brilliantly with the subtle
characterization and the very tricky Sondheim score. Especially
effective musical moments are the pointillist underscore for “Colour
and Light”, and the choral ensembles for the tableaux. Musical
a chamber ensemble from the keyboard, above and behind the action.
Josling makes a compelling George, splendidly
moving in his soliloquies, dealing with his detractors and, in the
opening sequence, trying to persuade his Dot to pose properly.
sung beautifully by Laura Barnard, who also brings a frail sincerity
to the elderly Marie [Dot's daughter and ex Floradora girl] in New
York, reading the great man's biography from cue cards.
the other colourful characters – the two Celestes and their soldier
beaux, the rude
boys, the American tourists – Lucy Carter stands out as the Nurse
to Eloise Kenny-Ryder's Old Lady, as does Matt Pettifor's truculent
Boatman, with his eye-patch and his dog, also done as a canvas
sketch. Adam Johnson gives an assured, and very amusing, performance
as rival artist and caustic critic Jules, while
brings an engaging warmth to Louis the Baker, Dot's eventual husband.
very welcome Sondheim revival is just one of four NYMT shows this
summer. It deserves a much longer run than this, but we can be sure
that at least some of these talented young performers will be back,
gracing the musical theatre scene in years to come.
Dream to add to the pantheon, to join the “bathroom accessories”
and the “30s
both from Shakespeare's Globe.
theme this time is fairground. It works perfectly in this space,
renowned for its chamber Shakespeare in an immersive style.
up, roll up ...” from the foyer, where you're encouraged to pin the
tail on the donkey's bottom, to the intimate performance area,
hymn on the calliope],
where there's inflatable hoopla and a card trick in
Verona meets Athens.
the main event gets underway, the gimmicks are reined in, with little
details – the candyfloss, the inflatable dainty ducks, the
goldfish-in-a-bag lanthorn – to bring us back to Dreamland, the
name picked out in fairy lights over the water.
Pearson, who has years of experience of bringing the Bard to life
within these walls, gives us a lively, physical and very entertaining
Dream. The grouping is perfectly planned, the rehearsal sequence
wickedly observed. The mischief in the wood is lively and often very
funny, the boys wrestling on the forest floor as the girls spar
verbally. Theseus and Hippolyta dance cheek to cheek, the
lovers sleep on the further shore, which does seem a little less
involving after the proximity of the Mechanicals and Titania's bower.
cast of eight, with much doubling. Not just the obvious
[Cindy-Jane Armbruster] and Theseus/Oberon [beautifully spoken by Ian
but Robert Hazle, impressive both as an aggrieved Egeus and a fussy
Quince, Rhiannon Sommers as Hermia, eloping with her luggage, and a
shy Snug, hiding behind her buoyancy-aid
casual in a tee-shirt, as well as Starveling,
Clark Alexander Demetrius, formal in a collar and tie, as well as a
hilarious Thisby. His Pyramus – their death scene endlessly
inventive – is Sydney Aldridge, pulling off the tricky double of
Helena, comfort eating when the course of true love runs less than
smooth, and Nicky Bottom, done as a sulky teen diva, slurping a
slushy, chomping on a carrot as she recalls her dream. A triumph in
the role, the most memorable female Bottom since Dawn French's
wartime Dream of 2001. Equally engaging is Elinor Machen-Fortune's
Puck; she's also an officious Philostrate, introducing the interlude
and the Bergamasque jig, before coming back as Robin Goodfellow to
bid us goodnight.
audience is frequently drawn in to the action – as confidants,
and, in the case of front-row Ricky, to play a very convincing Wall.
his new company Unfolds Theatre, producer
Pepe Pryke has
brought to Shakespeare's Bankside an enchanting summer show for all
the family – “swift
as a shadow, short as any dream...”
magical, enchanting Peter
to follow James
and the Giant Peach
in the Willows
onto the Mercury stage in the long vacation slot.
just another attempt at the increasingly popular summertime panto,
but an adaptation, by Daniel Buckroyd and Matthew Cullum (who
also shared directing duties),
which manages to seem fresh and child-friendly while still respecting
J M Barrie's original.
nursery furniture is shrouded in dust-sheets as we arrive. Simon
Kenny's set is uncluttered and inventive, shape-shifting to the
Neverland island and the deck of the pirate ship. Drawers pull out to
form beds, the crocodile is suggested by a pair of headlamp eyes
before making its spectacular final appearance.
story – quite complex for the youngest minds – is bookended by a
prologue and an epilogue in which the actors tell the story in the
time-honoured Nicholas Nickleby style. Their
boisterous play foreshadows adventures to come (except perhaps for
the farting teddy-bear).They
are musicians too, and apart from Wendy (Charlotte
and Peter, play multiple roles. This doubling is very slickly done –
the performers rarely leave the stage altogether – and is often
part of the entertainment; the Lost Boys are picked off one by one
only to re-enter moments later to swell the pirate band. Particularly
impressive character work from James Peake as Nana, a convincing
canine in fur coat and flying helmet, as well as Cecco the pirate and
the know-it-all Slightly Soiled, and
as a feisty fairy Tinkerbell and a peg-leg pirate Jukes.
himself is played by Emilio Iannucci, a winning blend of innocence
and bravado, and Pete Ashmore, a familiar face on the Mercury stage,
takes on the traditional pairing of Mr Darling and Captain Hook. Not
your average old Etonian, maybe, despite his dying words, but he
handles his cod-Shakespeare convincingly.
do believe in fairies,” whispered one little girl in our row, in a
moment of unprompted empathy. The
production is aimed squarely at children, as is only right, though
there were subtleties to satisfy the most jaded adult palate, and the
ingenious costume and scene changes help to maintain our interest.
All the magic is that special theatrical kind, where our imagination
is willingly co-opted to do half the work. Tinkerbell dances
light on the end of a long wand; Curly's kite is attached to a stick.
And, though there's no
Kirby, no Foy, the flying sequences are thrillingly done in the
simplest way possible.
is very pleasing to
see several editions of the book on offer amongst the crocodile
merchandise. And of
course, as Barrie intended, the
benefit the beleaguered Great Ormond Street Hospital.
sad and the sinister are not neglected: Peter's unwillingness to be
touched, or the “tragedy” of the ending, in which Wendy's
daughter assumes her role as mother to Peter and the Lost Boys.
Reeday's music underpins the action – there are few big numbers –
and it's fun to see the flute, the tuba and two violins shared
amongst the colourful characters.
final tableau sees Peter framed in the window, still looking out
beyond the stars to the Neverland, before the braver children in the
audience are allowed to explore the nursery for themselves, try out
the beds and peek into the delightful dolls' house where Peter's
shadow was hidden.
Shakespeare's Telling Tales at the
Sam Wanamaker Playhouse
Morpurgo's short story about musicians who survived the concentration
camps of the Holocaust comes to the candlelit Sam Wanamaker
Playhouse, with the master story-teller in person reading the role of
Paolo Levi, who shares
his memories over the mint tea, and
Alison Reid covering
the cub reporter and a host of other characters.
unique presentation is made really special by the presence of four
music stands, each with candles, for string quartet The
Storyteller's Ensemble, who punctuate the narrative with appropriate
musical offerings. They are fronted by the outstanding violinist
Daniel Pioro, playing the music that made the fictional fiddler a
household name. - “the most famous musician on the planet”.
there's spirited, witty Vivaldi for Venice, Bach for Benjamin
Horowitz the veteran busker, a seductive Czardas, Lascia ch'io
pianga, and plenty of Mozart: Eine Kleine Nachtmusik for the Camp,
and, as a finale, a concerto movement representing Levi's 60th
Birthday Concert on the South Bank, with a heartfelt cadenza from
Pioro. And not to forget the Quartettsatz for Scissors, conducted
with a comb, an early memory of the barber's shop behind
perfect blend of words and music, made more memorable by the
candle-light and the wonderful acoustic. It deserves a longer, better
publicised run – the 2018/2019 Winter Season, perhaps.
one of Michael Foreman's illustrations for the original book
Kinky Boots, Cage aux Folles, and, surely his finest hour, Torch Song
Trilogy, memorably done on this stage back in 2001.
Valentina is a newer piece, though it does revisit those favourite
Fierstein themes. Based on the
legendary Casa Susanna, it takes us back to the days – the early
Sixties – when cross-dressing was still a crime in many US states,
and a weekend retreat resort in the Catskills was a dream come true
for these “self-made women”.
dream turns to nightmare after the interval, when politics takes over
from prosthetics, and
callow newbie “Miranda” [an excellent Jesse James Lamb] flees
back to the closet.
Segeth's production has an evocative period set, on two levels,
carefully lit [Jack
And a very strong cast, beautifully
turned out in their femme frocks.
Smith is “Valentina”, facing the uncertain future of his
supported by his wife, the only GG [genuine girl] in residence. This
play is the story of their marriage, too, and the final moments are
almost unbearably poignant:
George sheds his masculine skin to the Everlys' Let It Be Me, as Rita
[touchingly played by Rachel Curren] stands confused and alone on the
stage above him.
is much fun and silliness too – the Wildean contributions of the
outrageous “Bessie” [Dave Hawkes], and
Sugar Time routine, where the faces of the wallflowers
tell their own story: there's
Terry Cramphorn's veteran Theodore, who
refuge in gay bars,listening
Willingham's Michael, who invited the
new boy, and whose put-down of “Charlotte” is one of several
powerful monologues in the piece - “Bessie”'s
uncharacteristically melancholy musings on his marriage are
darker ending is down largelyto
Barry Taylor's “Charlotte”,
a determined activist who will stop at nothing to sign Valentina's
guests up to her Sorority. The scene between Taylor and Peter Jeary's
stepping into “Amy”'s size 10s at a week's notice)
is a dramatic masterpiece, and sets the tone for the end of the play,
where an icy appearance by the Judge's unsympathetic daughter
[Catherine Kenton] reminds us of just how different attitudes were
half a century ago.
superb production of a fascinating piece – a fine note on which to
end a successful season for CTW.
EDT do best is to bring accessible, affordable dance training of the
highest standard to the county, as they have done consistently since
they took their first steps in 1975.
year's Civic showcase was as impressive as ever, with an even more significant contribution from the young men of the company. Much of the
choreography – we saw thirty numbers – is “home-grown”, like
the finale to part one, by
Zinzile Tshuma: exemplary
discipline and amazing physicality in a piece danced to Sia's Move
Your Body - “your body's poetry ...”.
O'Hara's Revolt, at the top of the show, gave us sinuous, serpentine
ensemble, as did Jacob Holme's classically-inspired Stabat Martyr,
danced to Pergolesi.
same choreographer's crowd-pleaser to Bruno Mars' 24K Magic was
followed by a lovely unaccompanied Change in Me vocal
from Georgia Clements while the huge cast put on their
knee-protectors for the traditional Knowledge [Adrian Allsop].
many other pleasures, a deliciously retro Mack the Knife [Paul
Suite to JS Bach, Ryan
to Tom Misch's Watch Me Dance, and that lovely Astaire number Dancin'
Man, choreographed by Kim Bradshaw, an old-fashioned show routine
that the dancers looked to be enjoying as much as we did, as
they left their soft-shoe footprints on the sands of time …
is a show that celebrates tradition – it's the opening number, and
the setting is a Jewish community in which culture and religion are
the cornerstones of the life of poverty lived out in rural Russia.
Daniel Evans is wise to embrace the traditional in his staging. The
costumes, the dances emphasise the Jewish roots of these villagers,
whose lives are overturned not only by revolutionary progress, but by
the pogroms which will send them on their travels – the fortunate
to the US, the less so to Warsaw. There's even a small Klezmer
the inevitable Jewish wedding.
Brotherston's striking design uses an empty stage, peopled from the
back by the displaced and the dispossessed, with their suitcases,
symbols of their search for a home, which become the bar, or the
stove, the tables and the chairs.
ensemble pieces are superbly done – three families at sabbath
prayers, the rumour-mill scene, the wedding and its violent end, and
most impressive of all, the nightmare sequence with the noisy ghost
of Fruma-Sarah [Laura Tebbutt] swooping over the bed as the fires of
hell surround the stage. The
detail is often delightful, too; in Miracle of Miracles, for
instance, the Red Sea is parted, manna falls from heaven. The
final tableau has Anatevka's refugees standing behind a curtain of
rain, on which are projected newsreel images of persecutions yet to
come. A profoundly moving, though not over-stated, reminder that
intolerance and insecurity remain real threats to many communities.
loquacious milkman Tevye
and his wife Golde are the big names here. Omid Djalili makes a very
likeable Tevye, confidently appealing to his Maker and to the
Oberman brings a no-nonsence Jewish matriarch convincingly, and
affectingly, to life – the gestures, the body language all
perfectly observed. They're neither of them great singers, and
numbers like Sunrise, Sunset suffer a little for it.
younger generation, on the other hand, are superb musical theatre
vocalists – Matchmaker, Matchmaker excellently done – though,
perhaps deliberately, the three girls are much less ethnically
defined. Emma Kingston's Hodel is very strong, as is Rose Shalloo's
bookworm Chava, who
defies tradition and family ties by eloping with a Russian soldier.
Maskell stands out as the radical teacher Perchik, bringing a breath
of revolution to the shtetel.
is perhaps the classic,
harnessing state of the art staging to recreate a lost world
suspended somewhere between history and nostalgia.
is the 1988 musical of the 1980 movie. Those
early Performing Arts alumni will be proud, or pushy, parents
now. And this class of 2017 don't always seem quite at home in this
world, where diversity and dyslexia are novel ideas. As these
youngsters will be well aware, this institution resembles
real arts education in
the same way Lerner's
Camelot does Britain in the sixth century.
it's an enjoyable bit of summer escapism, and it gives Tomorrow's
Talent a chance to show off what it does best – gifted youngsters,
professional standards, and loads of crisp, energetic
capacity crowd on opening night saw the spartan staging – the
iconic logo centre stage – gradually populated by
the kids, and the staff too – with director Gavin Wilkinson donning
a natty cardigan to play drama teacher Myers. The
show's MD is Mark Sellar, his fictional equivalent Sheinkopf played
by Joshua Butcher,
who's also the Assistant Choreographer.
auditions, fervent prayers, and then the new intake must knuckle down
to Hard Work. These fictional
hopefuls certainly score straight As for “attitude”, though
their mentality might
sometimes seem more at home in junior high.
are many standout performances: Samuel Wolstenholme's Nick – Peanut
Butter kid and Stanislavski
disciple – setting the bar high with I Want to Make Magic,
like several other numbers, by dancers. His shy Serena was touchingly
done by Hannah Gurling on the first night. Christopher Tierney made
the most of extrovert, X-rated Joe Vegas, and Daisy Greenwood gave a
strong performance as outgoing, ultimately tragic Carmen Diaz. The
enigmatic dancer Iris was engagingly portrayed by Katherine Maahs,
and Becky Hunt gave a fine, funny character study as Mabel, the
dancer who's too fond of food.
dancer and mouthy
rebel Tyrone was given a compelling performance by Paul French, his
dance moves and his stage presence both outstanding.
role of spinster English teacher Esther Sherman is a tough call for a
young actor, but Lauren Bullock came into her own with the moving
These Are My Children, a hymn to the teaching profession.
this is as much about the ensemble as the principals, and the big
numbers were all stylishly done, from the opening auditions, through
the title number, featuring
the next generation on the upper level, to the beautifully conceived
curtain calls, with Carmen resurrected atop
the yellow cab.
has happened to us?”, the siblings ruefully wonder.
stuck in confused, reclusive
routine, existing among the clutter of a lifetime in their childhood
home, their parents dead. The sister seems to dominate, mothering
her brother, feeding him on the fish prepared for Charlie Brown their
elusive cat. He takes refuge in his headphones.
Bruce's new play – inspired by a couple she observed in an art
gallery café – manages to be amusing and uplifting as well as
and Peppy's lives are turned around by a predictable incident, which
makes a crime scene of their squalid home, searched by sinister
officers in blue overalls. But just as things seem at their most
desperate, there comes salvation and a new start of sorts.
Herrin's production is perfectly judged. The design [Max Jones] is
magnificent, with a stunning scene change just before the interval.
dramatic structure is powerfully precise. Symbols are tellingly
deployed. We see the kitchen tap run free once more, the child's
smashed Harry Potter mug [magic destroyed]
is restored, the walnut spice cake is baked at last, as Daniel
realises that it's nice outside, and that there are other buses he
could take. Peppy bangs
on Charlie Brown's dish one last time, his name heading a roll-call
of the dead.
two main characters are compelling brought to life by Daniel Ryan as
the big, childlike, uncoordinated brother and
Samantha Spiro as his fussy, birdlike sister. The other characters
drift in and out – and we occasionally move next door to a kitchen
that couldn't be more different. There is some doubling – Philip
Wright is both the awful, cheery Gareth, who tries to buy the Angelis
family home for a fraction of its worth, and the helpful husband of
the lovely support worker Karen [Michelle Greenidge]. And perhaps
there could have been more – I can envisage a production in which
two actors play all the other roles. Except of course for “the
pivotal character, the eight-year-old Ben, superbly played by Rudi
Millard, is in some ways a miniature of Daniel, innocently impressed
by his feats of memory, seeking the attention and affection lacking
mother - “no smoke without fire” - who turns out to have
tragedies of her own – is Mary Stockley; the detective who tries to
coax incriminating confidences from Ben and Daniel is Matt Sutton.
their real-life inspiration, these two strange characters, and their
intriguing past lives, tend to linger in the memory. Like the
playwright, we realise how little we know of other people we meet,
and hope against hope that, against all odds, redemption and a happy
ending may still be possible.
mother's Walnut Spice Cake
[with thanks and apologies to Carol, who
This is a lovely cake that smells like winter - warm
walnuts and spices like allspice, cinnamon and nutmeg. Buttermilk
ensures that the cake is wonderfully moist. If you don't have
buttermilk, use 1 tablespoon (15ml) of lemon juice or vinegar and
210ml of skimmed milk
in place of the 225ml of buttermilk.
finely chopped walnuts
teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
teaspoon ground cinnamon
teaspoon ground allspice
teaspoon ground nutmeg
dark brown soft sugar
› Cook:50min › Extra time:10min cooling › Ready
oven to 180 C / Gas 4. Grease a 23cm tube cake tin and dust with
together cake flour, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg
and salt. Cream the butter. Blend in dark brown soft sugar and beat
until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs.
dry ingredients into creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk.
Blend in the finely chopped walnuts.
cake mixture gently into the prepared tin. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes,
or until cake springs back when you touch it lightly. Cool in tin for
about 10 minutes. Put on cake rack to cool completely. Sprinkle icing
sugar over cake before serving, if desired.
tiny unregarded gem from the complete works of Graham Greene,
immaculately performed in a small room, the last date
of its pop-up run which
has also included the public library and Pallant House.
shows, in twenty minutes, the rehearsal process, with an old-school
director and a naive
young actor. His interpretation in
a new play – new for 1981 – is giving
cause for concern. His co-stars are Dear Johnnie and Dear Ralph, whom
I remember as a lovely double-act back in the 70s. In
this play – by Frederick Privett, famous for his pauses – he
briefly attracts the attentions of Cruickshank/Sir John, between the
window cleaner and the French acrobat. His lines are restricted to
the monosyllables of the title. Cleverly, this is true of Greene's
drama also …
performances from Steve Wallace – panama hat, hip flask – as the
director [a mammoth of a role, despite the brevity of the piece] and
Matthew Hughes-Short as the keen but bemused actor.
unexpected treat – free of charge, too – part of the Festival of
O'Brien's novel, notoriously banned in 1960s Ireland, is now
re-shaped by its author into this beautiful drama, getting its UK
premiere this year on the Minerva stage.
touching tale of innocence lost, in the repressed societyof Ireland
in the 50s.
Blair's production brings those times, those places to life on a
sloping, cobbled stage.
two girls grow up in a rural community, largely untouched by
progress, and are educated by nuns, ditto. Grace
Molony as Kate and Genevieve Hulme-Beaman as her bosom
friend Baba are both
excellent, capturing the two country girls at many points along their
journey from the sticks to the big city, from
cross-strap sandals to scarlet shoes, from
naïve, flighty school girls to older, wiser young women.
Gormley is Kate's
drunken and abusive
father, Malachi, is frighteningly
believeable, club in hand, frustrated that he cannot tame his
daughter as he breaks his horses.
Yourell gives a moving performance as te young postulant, Sister Mary
– some touchingly tender moments, hinting at more than they
express, with her star pupil Kate.
has another enigmatic relationship, much darker and much more
dangerous, with Valéry Schatz's Mr Gentleman, the suave but slightly
sleazy older man.
cast play multiple roles – the German landlady and her hen-pecked
husband stand out – and Keshini Misha makes an exotic Spanish lady
– rebranded Singing Woman in the cast list.
setting is simple but highly evocative: the quayside suggested by two
ropes, the hotel room by a lampshade. And since this is Chichester,
there's real Irish rain, too.
Stondon Singers were formed back in the 60s, initially to bring the
choral works of William Byrd home to Stondon Massey.
Anniversary Concert – Byrd died on July 4 1623 – and it took as
its theme the influence of Italy, specifically Venice, on music in
in his 450th
anniversary year, we had a four-part Mass by Monteverdi, meticulously
phrased, especially in the Gloria, with a sublimely subtle ending in
Dona Nobis Pacem.
couple of his small-scale Madrigals, too, and, more obvious imports,
some spirited Ferrabosco from Musica Transalpina, a collection of
Italian works translated for the English market. And, as David
Schacht's informative introduction reminded us, there were more
tangible imports, too: flat-packed instruments for London luthiers
lively Gabrieli motet for eight voices, the text tossed around from
part to part, and beautifully sung Willaert – a Flemish import to
himself was represented by Tribue Domine, from Cantiones Sacrae –
showcasing English music for the European market – and after
Gibbons' exquisite Silver Swan, Although
the Heathen, Byrd's short
from a collection published in 1588.
Stondon Singers were directed, with
exemplary attention to detail,
by Christopher Tinker.