Category Archives: Theatre

Review: Northern Ballet – The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre by Lara Wadey

“As this unlikely friendship blossoms against the backdrop of the unthinkable events of World War II, Bruno’s childlike curiosity leads this poignant story to a devastating conclusion.”
I was really pleased when I heard The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas was touring, yet when I found out it was the ballet and not a play, I wasn’t as excited to see it. I have only been to the ballet a few times, I’m far more into plays and musicals, therefore this review is based on how this production made me feel as i’m not educated enough to judge ballet. I was more than happy to go with an open mind, hoping I would fall in love with it.

This new production is based on the children’s book The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by Irish novelist, John Boyne. It tells the story of a friendship between two boys, Bruno, the son on a concentration camp Commandant, and a young Jewish boy, Shmuel – the boys are divided by a barbed wire fence. Bruno doesn’t understand anything about where Shmuel lives, or who he is. To him, he’s just a new friend – a boy wearing a pair of striped pyjamas.

I knew this was going to be a dark story, unfortunately the first half didn’t grab my attention. I accidentally dosed off a few times; I’m not sure if it was because I was tired, or if I found the story line hard to follow. Personally I feel that ballet isn’t for someone that isn’t familiar with the story, as it can be really hard to understand, even though I have seen the film and knew the story, I still struggled. I had every intention to leave half way through but a friend encouraged me to go back in for the second half and I am glad that I did.

The second half was completely different, the show simply came alive and became interestingly beautiful. I loved how the set with the barbed wire looked so real; plus you could actually feel the relationship between Shmuel and Bruno, how they danced together was so moving. 

It was great to see an audience of all ages each being touched in difference ways from the powerful story about friendship – and it really stood out to me that hate is something that’s taught. 

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas runs until Saturday 10th June 2017 at the Aylesbury Waterside Theatre. Tickets are available from http://www.atgtickets.com/venues/aylesbury-waterside-theatre or call the Box Office on 0844 871 7607.


 

Review: A Judgement in Stone at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre by Lara Wadey

Building on the phenomenal decade-long success of The Agatha Christie Company, Bill Kenwright presents a new production adapted from one of the most celebrated works of the writer often hailed as the successor to Agatha Christie.

I’ve not read any of Ruth Rendell’s books, but who doesn’t like a thriller. I was looking forward to an evening with the question of ‘Who done it?’ running through my mind.

The story is set back in 1978 at the home of the Coverdale family at Lowfield Hall. The curtain rises on Eunice Parchman played by Sophie Ward, a woman who turns out to be the family housekeeper. It’s clear from the start that she finds life hard and struggles to fit in. Little did they know that after hiring what seemed the perfect house keeper, it would turn into a murder of a family of four on Valentine’s Day.

Although staged in one room, the story bounces back and forth from the current day with Detective Superintendent Vetch played by Andrew Lancel and Detective Sergeant Challoner played by Ben Nealon trying to figure out what happened; as well as taking us back to the time of the 9 months leading up to the murders taking place. The scenes went back and forth effortlessly, and not once was I confused as I followed the play.

As the play went on we soon got to know the characters and the small number of suspects, but rather than a ‘Whodunit?’ play, I would say this was more of a ‘Why did they do it?’ play.

Eunice Parchman (Sophie Ward) came across as timid and shy, yet her body language spoke volumes. All the characters, had strong personalities and we soon got to know just how much as the play unfolded. The father, George Coverdale (Mark Wynter), was a strong man, married to his second wife Jacqui Coverdale (Rosie Thomson) who was a very lively soul and between them they had two children Melinda (Jennifer Sims) and Giles Coverdale (Joshua Price).

It was a pleasant surprise to see Antony Costa playing a delinquent gardener Rodge Meadows but one of my favorite characters has to be the postman’s wife Joan Smith (Deborah Grant) who although might have had a shady past has a new devotion to the church – the scene where she was singing and dancing on the table was simply comical!

This might not be one of my favorite plays, but it captured my attention from beginning to end. According to the lady behind me, I was laughing most of the way through, so it must have done something right.

I heard a few people say they preferred the second act, but I actually preferred the first where we got to know the characters. I would have liked it better if there had been a few more twists and turns to keep me guessing all along whodunit? And I was also most disappointed when we found out who it was, and even more so when we found out the reason why.

Fans of Rendell’s murder mysteries would probably embrace this staging far more than me, and although I enjoyed the evening, it was a little sluggish to gain a newbie fan.

A Judgement in the Stone runs until Saturday 3rd June 2017 at the Aylesbury Waterside Theatre. Tickets are available fromhttp://www.atgtickets.com/venues/aylesbury-waterside-theatre or call the Box Office on 0844 871 7607.

Its Just Jokes! Comedy Show at Slug & Lettuce MK by Lara Wadey

This is the second time I’ve been to Its Just Jokes. The first time my friend and comedian Will E was performing and as always steals the show! If you’ve never seen Will E perform, make sure you put it on your ‘to do list’, as he is one of my all time favourite comedians! It’s because of this I was a little worried that the show wouldn’t live up to my expectations as Will E has already set the bar so high for me. 

When compére Elroy Welsh takes to the stage, his lovable presence, quickly gains control of the audience, which is never an easy task. I love how his character tells jokes like someone telling stories on a personal level; randomly jumping from one joke to another, making you laugh along side with him. 

The first act of the night is Aurie Styla, a comedian from London, with Jamaican and Cuban descent on his mother’s side. You might have seen him on BBC3 or BBC 1Xtra or from the comedy circuit. This is one man with a microphone who actually gets you thinking about life and direction. He touches on subjects like kids, and how money, sleep, manners are three things you lose by having them… how we shouldn’t settle in relationships and if you do not love yourself the way that you are – we can’t talk! His unhurried delivery and big smile makes him a pleasure to watch and I loved how he could laugh at himself when he accidentally hit himself a little too hard on the head with the microphone when acting out a joke. He is a naturally, funny, down to earth person; I look forward to his ‘STRAIGHT UP’ tour at the end of the year. 

Next it was hilarious to have some audience participation live on stage with Elroy, including lip syncing and one guy pretending he was Magic Mike dancing to the famous song Pony. It was a joy to see the audience get so involved, I find we are so reserved at times that it’s very rare to see people actually let go and not care like when we were kids growing up. 

After the second break and to close the show was Toju the millitant black guy, as seen on channel 4’s Balls of Steal and you will probably remember him from Britains Got Talant in 2014, where he received Ant and Dec’s golden buzzer! – The moment he set foot on stage his energy was very present, he was like a bull in a china shop. I love a comedian that is very close to crossing the line – and he was just that… as well as being spot on with all his impressions. 

The highlight of the night was my friend Tab’s face when this guy basically cringed at the fact of eating pussy… my friends face said literally said “you don’t eat pussy” so much, the whole audience kept looking at her and roaring with laughter. I guess you had to be there but it was pure gold! So, tonight we learnt from Toju that if you wanna keep your women… you gotta eat pussy!

This was without a doubt an outstanding night of quality comedy from start to finish. Even with Will E setting the bar so high, these guys nailed it! 

Its Just Jokes has been running for 8 months based at The Slug and Lettuce in Milton Keynes. If you love live comedy, then continue to support nights like this, as we are lucky to have this venue on our doorstep without having to venture into London. 

Bravo guys, we will definitely be back!

Tickets and details for future shows are available at www.itsjustjokes.co.uk 

Review: ‪King Of Pop – The Legend Continues‬ at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre

Navi as Micheal Jackson

I’ve seen quite a few Michael Jackson impersonators in my life, generally when I am on holiday where part of the entertainment is an artist impersonating him, you know one of those shows where the music draws you in and you end up staying there until the very end.

This was the first time I got to see Navi, who is regarded as the world’s No. 1 Michael Jackson tribute artist, who was hand picked by Michael himself as his official body double.

Navi has also performed at two of Micheal Jackson’s birthday parties, where I heard that even his family and friends were fooled thinking it was Micheal performing until he sneaked up behind them! Apparently his performance was so incredible they couldn’t believe it wasn’t him.

Navi is currently touring the UK, and for one night only we were privileged to have him at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre. On entry to the theatre, I was impressed to see that so many people had put great effort into dressing up; not just fans that grew up with his music, but children as young as 6 years old were rocking in Michael Jackson outfits, hats and gloves; I actually felt guilty that I hadn’t thought to bring my 12 year old along.

With all that said and Micheal Jackson setting the bar so high for anyone let alone impersonators, Navi had a lot to live up to if he were to exceed my high expectations.

Disappointingly the show didn’t win me over initially and it took me about 20 minutes to warm to the show; maybe it was that I had to get my head around the fact that it wasn’t actually MJ or maybe it just needed a more explosive opening.

However the moment Jennifer Batten stepped on to the stage with her guitar the show lit up and the screams erupting from the audience were that of a concert. For those of you who don’t know, she was MJ’s lead guitarist for 10 years; joining Michael Jackson on three sell-out world tours including Bad, Dangerous and History. I’d love to ask her how she feels about touring with Michael Jackson for 10 years and then ending up in Aylesbury with a MJ tribute artist but I guess her answer would be that she’s keeping his music alive!

Navi is obviously a very talented young man; who can easily by mistaken for MJ by his looks, mannerisms and dancing; as they were all spot-on!

Everyone in the audience were up on their feet throwing themselves into having a fantastic time and the guy next to us even jumped over the back of his seat and ran to the front of the stage to join the many others soaking up the atmosphere and dancing at the front.

It was all so very fab to see a sea of mobile phones taking photos and recording the show (we’re not normally allowed mobiles in the theatre) to take home memories from the show. Plus with everyone sharing on social media these days, how much free advertising is that for nothing!

Of course all the much loved tracks were performed, including Billy Jean, Bad, Man In The Mirror, Beat It and many more; I’m not going lie, I was disappointed that the Earth Song wasn’t performed, an encore with that at the end would in my opinion have been the icing on the cake.

The staging although basic with the band worked. The lasers and lights made it feel concert like; and the three energetic backing dancers were awesome (if anyone knows their names, please could you get in contact with me). All this plus the authentic-looking costumes, gave the show authenticity, making it a top night out and one not to be missed.

It was very clear that most of the audience knew who Navi was or have already seen him; but for the rest of us it’s probably quite clear that we will see him again. I’m now looking forward to the new film based on Micheal Jackson where Navi is playing MJ himself.

With the King of Pop no longer with us, this show is definitely the next best thing to bringing the legend back for us, our children and our children’s children.

Tickets are available from http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/king-of-pop-the-legend-continues/#overview_tab or call the Box Office on 0844 871 7607.

Review: Jane Eyre at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre

JANE EYRE UK Tour 2017 Royal National Theatre

JANE EYRE was originally presented as a two part performance at the Bristol Old Vic in 2014. This new adaption is just over three hours long, which although is a much shorter version, was long enough for me. I’m not sure I would have been able to sit for too much longer, even though it kept me totally engaged from the very beginning to the end.

The story Jane Eyre is a much loved novel by Charlotte Bronte, which was published in 1847. It tells the tale of Jane Eyre, who was played by Nadia Clifford from birth to adulthood where she meets and falls in love with Mr Rochester (Tim Delap) the master of Thornfield Hall, whilst she is the governess to his child. She learns from a very young age that in order to thrive in life she needs to be fed not only physically, but emotionally, spiritually and intellectually.

The set was not what I would have expected from a period drama. It was simple and made up of metal ladders and wood, allowing different levels to be worked with, plus a white curtain surrounding the stage giving a clean crisp box like impression. The simplicity combined with the acting and lighting worked. A massive shout out to the technical team here – you were incredible; and the music was a perfect touch. Having  the band on stage, not in your face, but enough to draw your attention as and when needed was a perfect decision. Each scene took you emotionally to the next, completely engaging and leaving you wanting more. It was incredible how they remembered three hours worth of going up and down ladders; it was exhausting to watch.

This is possibly the most beautiful play I have ever seen. It was truly brought to life by a cast of 10, who all oozed talent. I particularly warmed to Bartha Mason (Meleanie Marshall) who had a voice that not only left you smiling, but also gave you goosebumps; there was also a few well known songs thrown in that totally blended into the story line. One more shout out also has to go to Paul Mundell, who played a few roles – his role as Mr Rochester’s dog was outstanding, I couldn’t help but giggle at his happy face and waggly tail, it was so life like. Everything was brought to life by your imagination. I can’t get over how such a simple set, had you seeing horses, dog, schools, houses and so much more.

I haven’t see a production of Jane Eyre before, but I can only imagine that this is a very fresh, up to date version, attracting not only the older but also the new generation to the theatre, keeping Jane Eyre a very much loved story – it’s a show definitely not to be missed, with a little something for everyone.

Jane Eyre runs until Saturday 29th April 2017 at the Aylesbury Waterside Theatre. Tickets are available fromhttp://www.atgtickets.com/venues/aylesbury-waterside-theatre or call the Box Office on 0844 871 7607.

JANE EYRE UK Tour 2017 Royal National Theatre

 

Review: GHOST The Musical at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre

ghost

I am sure there are very few people of a certain age that haven’t seen the classic 1990 movie Ghost, a film that very nearly didn’t happen. I couldn’t remember the last time I saw the film, so I was going to refresh myself by watching it leading up to the show. But with Easter and the school holidays, time ran away and the closest I got to watching it was the movie trailer en route to the theatre; at least I was able to refresh myself with the story line. Needless to say by the time I got to Aylesbury Waterside Theatre I was excited for the night ahead, and it was clear from what felt like a sold out opening night that I wasn’t the only one.

So, for those of you that don’t know. Ghost is about a banker Sam Wheat, played by Andy Moss that you would recognise from Hollyoaks, and an artist Molly Jensen played by Carolyn Maitland. One night as they were walking home they were mugged and during the struggle with a gunman, Sam was shot leaving Molly alone to cope with his loss… or so we think; until he meets Oda Mae (Jacui Dubois) a psychic that helps Sam set things right.

We couldn’t see the stage when we went in. All we could see was a simple blue curtain, reflecting the colour of the advertising material with the quotes ‘Oh my love, my darling…’ and ‘I’ve hungered for your touch’, which of course had you humming the famous Unchained Melody song before the show even started.

You could argue that the show didn’t really get going until Sam died. But I would say that was the same with the film, as anything before Sam dying just set the scene, which of course showed us how in love the couple really were. It’s really hard to pull off such love and emotion on stage, plus with Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze setting the bar so high, yet they nailed it. Initially I thought the smiles and mushy stuff, boarded on cheesy, but as the show went on and as you got to know the characters, it worked; they worked.

I did wonder how they would adapt the film to stage and how the songs would bring the story to life. Unchained Melody was of course the famous song we were all longing to hear. I’m actually playing it now as I write this. If I was being really picky of all the 15 songs they performed there is probably only one I questioned was necessary. Actually, come to think of it,  that’s probably the only thing I would change during the whole evening, so that can’t be bad.

During Act One I caught a few people wiping their eyes; I smiled but didn’t think there was anything to get that emotional about. Then as the story unfolded and as we learned about the betrayal of Carl (Sam Ferriday), Sam’s colleague and we saw how Oda Mae got emotionally attached to Sam wanting to help him in protecting Molly, I found my emotions also running away with me.

There is no doubt that this is a very talented cast. Yes, maybe the set could have been a little more flashy at times; although the simplicity of the scene involving the Subway Ghost (Garry Lee Netley) was excellent. Maybe a few more characters were needed to get a bigger impact in the dance scenes, but these are minor details that really didn’t matter. The love and emotion between the two main characters stole the show, together with the strength, passion and emotion in their voices – they completely won me over.

For the first time ever in my life and in the three years I’ve been writing reviews I cried in the theatre; therefore the show must have nailed it to make me believe!

Ghost runs until Saturday 22nd April 2017 at the Aylesbury Waterside Theatre. Tickets are available from http://www.atgtickets.com/venues/aylesbury-waterside-theatre or call the Box Office on 0844 871 7607.

Review: Thoroughly Modern Millie at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre

milly

We kicked off the first press night of the spring season with the smash hit comedy Thoroughly Modern Millie, set in New York in 1922, which is based on the award-winning film which starred Julie Andrews in 1967, before it hit Broadway as a musical in 2002.

It tells the story of Millie Dillmount, played by professional dancer Joanne Clifton who is best known as last year’s winner of Strictly Come Dancing. Millie is a small town girl from Kansas, who ventures off to the bright lights of New York City following her dream to marry for money, instead of love – not too sure how modern that is for 1922.

Within minutes of Millie arriving in New York she has her purse stolen, and meets Jimmy Smith (Sam Barrett) who quickly feels sorry for her. To help, he writes a local hotel address on her arm, a place for aspiring actresses and orphans run by Mrs Meers (Lucas Rush).

Unknown to Millie, Mrs Meers is running a slavery business from the hotel, with residents randomly disappearing without question. I warmed to her instantly as she brought a comedy element to the show, although now and again her accent was hard to understand , but not enough to lose you. Her two workers, Ching Ho (Damian Bunhagiar) and Bun Foo (Andy Yau), went along with her underground business in hope that they would be reunited with their mother as promised. As a lot of the speech was in Chinese, a small screen was mounted at the top of the stage displaying English subtitles. Unfortunately the screen was so small I had to ask my friend if she was able to read it. 

For a musical that I was really looking forward to, I was disappointed as it lacked a certain something at the start. The first few numbers didn’t grab my attention but twenty minutes later, once we had got to know more characters and the story unfolded, I was soon eager to see what would happen next.

As the show went on it was clear to see this was a very talented cast. The powerful voices, and energetic choreographed toe tapping dance routines were fantastic, not to mention the dazzling 1920’s costumes. The costumes took me back to when I was young and wanted to dress up like that – who I am kidding, I still want to dress up like that!

Millie put all her efforts into trying to win over her boss, Mr Trevor Graydon (Graham MacDuff), a rich businessman who she planned was going to give her the life she thought she was after. He was one of my favourite characters and when he hit the bottle after having his heart broken by the gorgeous Miss Dorothy Brown (Lotty Somers) I don’t think I have ever found a drunken scene so funny, it certainly can’t be an easy part to play and in fact it felt so real that even the characters on stage began to laugh which made it all the more hilarious. 

I have to give a huge shout out to Mussy Van Hossmere (Jenny Fitzpatrick) for her incredible performance and powerful voice! She felt like the mother of the show, someone with wisdom and guidance and a whole lot of va va voom!

What about Millie? I couldn’t fault her at all. She’s the star of the show for a reason. Her energy, facial expressions and charisma nailed it for me. Who knew she could sing as well as dance? What I like is the way she pulled off the funny, emotional and love scenes; and I can imagine that many women leaving will be wanting to cut their hair into a shiny sleek bob.

Parts of the show reminded me the musical Chicago, not only because of the 1920’s theme, but also because of the scenes behind bars. I’m sure anyone who loves Chicago as much as I do can relate to that. The office tap scene was another that stood out as being on point, and even though I haven’t left humming a song, I ended up tapping my way back to the car. 

This classic, although not so modern production, will touch your heart, leave a smile on your face and a question in your heart “What would you marry for?”

Thoroughly Modern Millie runs until Saturday 1st April 2017 at the Aylesbury Waterside Theatre. Tickets are available from http://www.atgtickets.com/venues/aylesbury-waterside-theatre or call the Box Office on 0844 871 7607.