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Bang Bang was originally a turn of the century French farce written by Georges Feydeau inspired by life, 'We all live through farcical situations without losing our interesting personalities. Did I need more?' It was revived in 2017 by John Cleese (he of Monty Python origins) adding what he does best in restructuring smattering silliness and it played at Colchester. Jump to 2020 and Exeter Northcott have taken it into their cultural smorgasbord and it's having a jolly good week's run under the wing of
Director Daniel Buckroyd.
There is a veritable amount of comings and goings here and the doors of the fab art nouveau set certainly get a good seeing too. See,that's the crux of a good farce lots of innuendos -cue one example, watch as the main character Duchotel (Tony Gardner) strokes his shot gun with such affection, its no wonder it doesn't go off. The actress Tessa Peake Jones(forever Del boy's wife in Fools and Horses) is his devoted wife Leontine she is stoical and constant throughout and is trying to be led astray by her husband's friend the Doctor,played by original cast member Richard Earl; who declares moments of undying love and yes, really bad poetry to woo her which is best served cold in its book to stable that wobbly table leg. The wife is wracked with guilt at the mere thought of being unfaithful, but the doting doctor persists planting seeds or indeed splitting hares and rabbits in Leontine's head and now she is convinced her husband ishaving an affair and not off 'hunting '
as he claims - evidence supports this he returns home with said hares and rabbits together he claims to have shot ( the kind doctor informs her that these two would never be in the same territory)on a regular basis. The clever writing comes to the fore here and there is more than meets the eye.
So, what should she do ? A moral dilemma indeed. Of course these things never end well as the farce continues with other characters popping up just to put the spanner in the works as bed hopping and a bedroom chase,hiding in the wardrobe (but of course, its right in there with hiding under the bed) ensues between the nephew, the husband, the doctor, Quasimodo, his wife, a french floozy concierge played by ex Corrie star Wendi Peters... well you get the picture. It's all in semi decent fun and a few swear words are blurted out in an ad lib style and some asides to the audience just to give us all a little poke. The swivel sets are a marvel and creative movement was a practical nice touch. Special mention to the lighting adding the magic moments and creating intimacy. There were plenty of giggle moments here, but also a sense of repression and not quite letting go with these characters and some over the top moments could have done with more Va Va Vroom to reach a crescendo (there was one) but I left wanting more chaos, more of Duchotel's leg bending and squirming. I wanted him writhing on the floor. More door slamming. More hat hitting with a cane. Let the Farce continue.
Tip: do check out the new Sennheiser App for assisted hearing.
Walking with God
Walking with God
Written by Midge and Rosie Mullin
Performed by Substance and Shadow Theatre St Nicholas Priory, Exeter
Walking with God is brave. Whitechapel, London 1888 Jack the Ripper had claimed victims, women of the night, forsaken and mutilated. London was in the grip of terror.
As we entered the Priory off an ancient Exeter alley we were led to a crypt and plunged into a perfect setting for such a tale and a tipple of fine ale from The Exeter Brewery pop up fortified our nerves. We were given a Victorian big old penny; my first thoughts were these were used to keep the eyelids of the dearly departed closed. Fortunately, not in this case as we were swiftly relieved of these as an entry fee into the upstairs room; an intriguing stone carved room with lead glass panes and uneven oak beams. We were now in the presence of her Majesty Queen Victoria played by Ronnie Kerswell-O’Hara, she was not amused and broke through the fourth wall giving us indignant stares as the fumbling audience claimed seats but then stood abruptly on her command- how rude we are! We listened as audio played insisting that the Ripper be stopped and found. Be seated.
The play draws on a limping, old inspector Swanson played by Midge Mullin (could this be his Swansong -can he catch the killer?) and his exhaustive attempts to track the devil that lurks in smog riddled London and his thread leads him to suspect John Williams Smith Sanders played by Al Wadlan a surgeon. Smith Sanders delves into circumstances beyond his control and finds himself locked up at Digby mental asylum, Exeter governed by a stern nurse (Rose Mullin) who interjects with vital clues… a book, a telegram. Smith Sanders finds himself there writhing, coiled like a python no doubt drug withdrawal after a curious ‘friendship’ with a fellow lodge member operatic singer Stephen Adams; played proudly by Richard Pulman, who may not be all that he appears to be. Swanson is conflicted as he is a masonic lodge member too and this clouds his judgement. In one scene he is tormented by a dancing vaudeville gory body of one of the victims as his inner turmoil reaches a crescendo. The play fixes on the last victim Mary Kelly played to a tee by Jola Pawlikowska; the most horrific eviscerated victim, no doubt as the Ripper had the privacy of her room to take his time, unlike the others in a dark alley.
The play drops clues throughout and it’s not till near the end that the old penny drops and not at the end that we are surprised.
What makes this play is the atmosphere, it was cold as we perched but somehow this added to the uncomfortable content and clever lighting portrayed suspicion and menace. It was spooky. A distorted projection introduced us to the victims and a droning underscore did not overshadow the prime performances. Costumes were authentic to the time including tiny Masonic lapel badges. Actors made use of the narrow space and the intimate setting of the Priory lends itself to this type of genre. Props were used efficiently grapes, rings, a diary, old paper, phone. Adams as a narrator in parts was a nod to M.R James or Poe recounting a story and was a valuable addition and lures us into a false belief that he may be trustworthy or maybe he isn’t. I will let you decide his fate…
Substance and Shadow excel at this sort of thing and they have formed a good link with the Priory, bringing out the dead so to speak.
Running 7 and 9 pm 19th -21st and 27th -29th November 2019
THE TELL TALES
Tell Tales was an enjoyable intimate evening spent listening to two storytellers tell six folk parables from all corners of the earth from how the Vulture in Nigeria became bald to fingers of fire from New Zealand to Demons in Miami continuously being cast out by Angels and how Islands in Scotland are a backbone of a Dragon and best not to mention the Elephant in the room ...just in case he passes judgement. The tales had interludes of African solo drumming which added to the simplistic clean nature of the event. These traditional tales are a direct nod to the age old tradition of stories and folklore. The last tale was one of sadness as we as a population of people need to keep telling the stories of our wise forefathers, look after our World or they will have no space to thrive and so die and may come back and seek revenge...climate change anyone? Traditional fables like this rely heavily on the earth around us and the animals and their anthropomorphism in these tales is testament to that.
My only reservation is that I would have liked to have taken my children to this as a day event and for the evening tales to have taken on a more mature twist.
'If ever we needed to hear our forefathers speak, now is the time – Tell Tales keep it alive'
HYDE AND SEEK
Most of us know the Jekyll and Hyde story. Quiet scientist wants to be strong and concocts a potion to transform himself tries to keep it under control - fails miserably.
So this story written by Ben Oldfield with the addition of innovative tweaks such as projection and light/sound effects all controlled by one performer (Michael Tonkin-Jones)with a curious use of foil on the soles of his shoes and foil tramlines on the floor that acted as triggers. Tonkin-Jones played all 7 characters marauding through them all with menace and mischief in mind. Grimacing under ever changing swaying spotlights triggered by an unseen force. The stage was set in an old vaudeville theatre with slightly odd characters coming back and forth with clever use of a just an old white sheet which was multi purpose.The play pivots around poor old Albert the stage hand/caretaker and his loyalty to his master it does not linger on duality as with the novel but employs something different and unique. We had some comedic touches with ventriloquism and puppetry reaching a crescendo at the end with a series of police puppets getting a seeing too which had the audience in laughter and do look out for the Punch line at the end. Excuse the pun.
'An intimate scary close quarters clever tech spec production.'
A Flat Packed Theatre production -touring now
Reviews by TCR Radio -Mid Devon CIC November 2019
Creative Culture South West hosted a weekend of events in conjunction with The Barnfield Theatre,Exeter including improvisation acting and mobile phone filmmaking. Creative Culture South West also hold regular singer/songwriter, comedy and spoken word events for anyone to have a go and have a platform.
Their next event is Burlesque on the 27th November
L'AVENUE DU PARADE presenting THE DIAMOND DOLLS
The Merry Wives of Windsor
Hillersdon House Cullompton.
Thursday 11th July
Director Amanda Knott
“Fie, fie, fie! cuckold! cuckold! cuckold!”
T’was a balmy summer evening…The sheer pleasure of outdoor theatre is the natural setting and the slightly riskiness of the weather – will it? won’t it? We indeed had a few drops half way through and the experienced audience had packed not just prosecco but ponchos, brollies- used just briefly. The droplets bringing light relief during a very hot week, yes, I’m still talking about the prosecco. We settled with the handsome backdrop of Hillersdon House behind the players which has undergone extensive refurbishment with sweeping drive, ponds and immaculate gardens which were kindly open to let attendee’s preamble. The house sits atop rolling hills looking along to Cullompton.
Running a radio station, we have a keen ear and will we or won’t we hear? The solid brick-built house stage set served well as it threw the actors voices forward as they stood on solid slabs this all helps! Many outdoor theatres have voices that are lost and the production is comprised unless shotgun mics are used to lift it.
This production was set in the jive time fifties with polka dot dresses and musical interludes and was a shortened version of Shakespeare’s farce written to delight Queen Elizabeth 1 in 1600 approx. at Windsor. It has stood the test of time and it is quite hard to follow as there is a lot going on! But ultimately it sees the downfall of a very greedy Sir John Falstaff; a fat Knight and his plotting to lure two merry widows into falling in love with him and him offloading their money amongst some other subplots which were narrowed in this production. Of course, it all unravels and the ladies and their husbands trick him. Expect his downfall to include a muddy soaking, a few well-placed kicks and mischievous fairies! The woodland scene was a delight at dusk; a perfect setting with deer roaming behind us (on cue)and a large one on stage I shall say no more!
As with any Shakespeare play it’s the sheer volume and pace of words that actors need praise it’s an interesting piece for that time as the women are the main movers in this and have equality (albeit in Shakespeare time all the actors were men)
Thora Pedersen, Roxanne Eastaugh and Harriet Birks all share the roles of Mistress Ford, Mistress Page and Anne Page –aided in the conspiracy by professional actor Rosalind Williams playing Mistress Quickly who loves her money. Falstaff (Oliver Heaton) is soon put in his place or a very oversized laundry basket! Ed Watterson was switching in his two roles – Ford and Fenton with sophistication. Mark Shorto a professional actor had his work with not one but four characters! Page, John, Pistol and Peter Simple in which he entered and exited to great effect either via the huge French doors or stage right with a prop or two! It was highly amusing and confusing as any romp should be and the audience were chuckling away at the merriment.
Amanda Knott has delivered a fast paced and accessible fun play here which is concise and effective. It has toured in some idyllic settings too, which is the fourth wall making a unique evening even more enjoyable even with a drop or two!
Friars Gate, Exeter. Tel: 01392 277189
Summer for children upcoming production
Cautionary Tales for the World’s Worst Victorian Children –
Tales of death, doom and destruction! 50 minutes of telling tales and fun
Exeter Fringe Festival at Exeter Phoenix 27 July 2.00 pm, 28 July 11.00 am and 29thJuly 7.00 pm
The Lady Vanishes
Touring until July 27th2019
Queen's Theatre, Barnstaple
Written by Sidney Gilliat, Frank Launder (1936)
Director Roy Marsden
Dramatically the curtain lifts and the stage set is dominated by Third Reich Flags above a smoky railway station while a disconnected group of weary travellers are informed there is an avalanche, they will be delayed. It is 1936 Nazis and espionage are gathering forces across Europe and a Nazi Commandment struts across the stage as others scurry from him. An enigmatic old lady Miss Froy played here by Juliet Mills (daughter of Sir John Mills) befriends the young vivacious Iris Henderson after she receives a bump on the head (played by Lorna Fitzgerald fresh from her exit as Abi on Eastenders) aided by musician Max played by Matt Barber (Downton Abbey). There follows a classic cat and mouse game as Miss Froy disappears.
There are dead ends and red herrings overseen by the collected, mysterious Dr Hartz played by Maxwell Caulfield (Dynasty, Grease 2) and humour with the classic bumbling English toffs, both cricket mad Charters (Robert Duncan) and Caldicott (Ben Nealon) But who should Iris believe and who should believe her?
Any fan of Agatha Christie would gobble this up. The original story had the Hitchcock treatment in 1938 with Margaret Lockwood playing Iris and Miss Froy played by May Whitty. There has been numerous remakes since but not a lot comes close to Hitchcock and the authenticity of the time the screenplay was written and the political undercurrent of that time.
This touring adaptation by Anthony Lampard is clever. The stage set could easily have been a West End production, the sound effects throughout fizzed and the lighting moody and thought out. The scene stealer was the revolving carriages. My particular pleaser was the cast and their positioning throughout and making use of the space; each stage is different and adapting to that is paramount. Speech wise, yes it would have been helpful to mic everyone up as most of the audience were over 50 and with that hearing does get impaired! However most of the cast were proficient at projection and there were some pretty serious side ambient microphones. It's a large theatre with 700 seats.
I felt spoiled to be watching this at The Queen's in Barnstaple on a rainy weekday afternoon and this, the only Devon stop on their tour. This is all great news considering both this theatre and The Landmark in Ilfracombe shut their doors suddenly in 2017 and went into receivership. Their future uncertain. A ripple went out in theatre circles and a saviour was found with Parkwood leisure on board until a tender went out to secure the next generation of audiences. Selladoor venues won the bid; an international events company for the next 10 years. The programme and shows already have been inspirational - Sir Ian Mckellen reopened The Landmark with his touring show last month and with lots more planned ...watch out for Lulu, Paul Merton, Francis Rossi and Jethro all while still maintaining the community ethos with local productions too at its beating dramatic heart.
A Ken Wright Production www.kenwright.com
Tiverton Community Arts Theatre
COLDPLACE (Coldplay Tribute)
This is the second year running TCAT welcomed Coldplace back down from
'Up North' to Wow 'Us Southerners' . Could they do it again on the budget?
The real Coldplay spend thousands on their productions so it's a tall order for these guys headed up by Shane Crofts portraying Chris Martin. The audience are all sitting and it's a cool reception to start with. It's the start of the Easter holidays numbers are inevitably down, the guys seem nervous, Could they top last year's performance?
The stage is colourful, the piano sits, the pom pom garlands sway.
It's a Headful of Dreams, an anthem to kick things off. Lights, cool video projection -more people arrive... it's Devon time. The audience respond an older crowd than last time, as I said the thirties brigade are no doubt kicking themselves to miss this as they are telling their kids to get to bed while visiting distant relatives!
Then swiftly followed by the classic Yellow from 2000. I was there in Brixton at this, their first ever big gig just as they were hitting their stride, what a time that was. The boys continued with Every teardrop is a waterfall, The Scientist and half way through people now up from their seats for my favourite Paradise (into tiesto remix) then all brought down again for a more mellow last set with
Always in my Head, Magic, Princess of China, Lost (Shane solo on piano) all with amazing video back projection and strobe lighting and some front stage fizz effects! Pretty impressive for a show in Tiverton. These guys have played some pretty big venues and we are flipping lucky to have this high calibre quad visiting us at Tiverton Community Arts Theatre.
The second half really comes to life the standing area now packed, all dancing or is that
pogo jumping well I did too but my heart... just can't take the excitement,
but I lasted the whole night and did not sit down once! It's really rocking with the opener
of Politik and confetti canons going off! What a show. Followed by In my Place, Clocks, Midnight, Charlie Brown - we’re building, we’re building now the dance floor is packed ... into > Hymn for the Weekend that's it...job done, all singing all dancing, arms waving. The boys have bit back big time, Shane is on the floor and then jumping on the piano, even getting the youngest audience member up on stage...where does he get the energy! These four work so well together. Then onto the closing tunes with Fix you, Viva la vida, Adventure of a Lifetime -great back projection animation - confetti again and more smoke.
Encore we can't let them go ...
Us against the World, Something just like this, A Sky Full Of Stars and Up & up.
In my opinion - brilliant as good and as consistent as last year -
I know how hard this can be to come back for a second time after your first success -
well done guys.
TCR radio MidDevon www.coldplace.co.uk
Comedy Hall (TCAT) Steve Lodge interviews comedian
and Parkinson's sufferer Paul Mathew-Archer
Director Tom Stabb
Amendments or should it be Apersonments as this play is a play that really does not 'do' labels. Set in an office, this one hour and 10 minutes fast one act play with 2 'persons' performing on the floor. The Exeter based company have been enjoying a local run and are off to Barnstaple Theatrefest in June and Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August.
An employee John played by Al Wadlan has been called into his department head office by the over zealous Kenneth played by Matt Roberts to respond to an
accusation complaint query non specific well you get the point. Every wording can be misconstrued and you are not allowed to refer to women as such or men as such, but colleagues in the work environment. Kenneth tries to maneourve each word according to company policy, for their fear of being sued or not being politically correct. The company like to 'present an alternative viewpoint with democratic tact ...we do not disagree'. The use of clever word manipulation was punctuated with Kenneth's dramatic hand gesticulation and if he felt John was getting out of line to defend his 'action' of simply working late with a 'colleague' and indeed swear -he flagged a yellow card and then a red, much to the amusement of the appreciative audience. The continued use of humour served to fill the 'sarcasm chasm' and the audience certainly understood the ridiculous of it all and how it is really happening everywhere, despite this being an exaggeration of the issue. Even a gift of wine and chocolates as Kenneth pointed out, could be viewed as sexual harrassment; not just a nice gift to show appreciation as John viewed it. Ultimately Kenneth thought a gift voucher from a little retailer known as Amazon would be the safest option.
Overall a nice tidy compact piece of writing and would work well as an extended piece with yes, you guessed it a
woman girl lady non binary man I mean another work colleague to mix things up into a farce.
The point of the piece is to stop dumbing down our beautiful language confining it to a linguistic prison and fair play to Middle Weight Theatre for being brave.
The Cygnet Theatre Exeter
Russian Culture Through Music
There is something about this theatre that has intrigued me for years; it's nestled away in an attractive and quaint part of the city, a stone's throw away up from the Quay and Southernhay in Friar's Gate. It was established in 1980 in an attractive old building as a drama teaching school which still forms its core of purpose today. It's a community and touring theatre too. I'm ashamed to say I have not visited before. I learn of events there after they have been and gone, or just life has got the better of me and thwarted my attempts.
As part of our STAGEDOOR show and 'diversity focus in arts' here at the radio, the Russian Culture evening appealed and did not disappoint. The theatre is small approx 100 tonight attending, however the seats are moveable and can be added too or taken away, so it's a flexible multi use space with warm wooden flooring and I am sure when there is a production in the round it really comes alive and you the audience are the fourth wall.
Tonight the action was on the floor, the whole space was intimate and you felt part of something special. It reminded me of The Tobacco Theatre in Bristol a great community arts venue too. Sir Ian Mckellen visited The Cygnet last year to watch 'The Long Mirror' by J.B Priestley and was very encouraging “In future, when I am asked what an aspiring actor can do to advance their hopes for a career in live theatre, I shall recommend applying for a place at The Cygnet.”
The quartet of performers tonight were Sergei Kosov a prize winning virtuoso balalaika player, his daughter Ekaterina Shetliffe a concert pianist who was playing on a grand piano tonight, Iryna Llnytska mezzo soprano and Yulia Northridge Violinist all classically trained at music academies.
They enchanted with some recognisable composers such as Rachmaninov and Tchaikovsky with Iryna performing the Aria of Olga from the Opera 'Eugeni Onegin' which gave me goosebumps - after all how often is access to Opera available in Devon in a community theatre? It's something I am not familiar with and tonight was educational and informative with anecdotes and stories about the composers and some Russian culture interweaved through. The stringed instrument the Russian balalaika adding depth and authenticity to various compositions in particular the traditional folk music which was energetic and then into juxtaposition with more classical pieces providing a rich contrast. More contemporary composers were in the showcase too such as Rozhkov which I particularly enjoyed and Shalov. The costume changes and other details such as a display of Russian Dolls painted as former and current presidents and a little girl dressed in traditional costume handing out programmes gave a sense of pride for the performers in their motherland and heritage. It was a privilege to be part of this and their dedication, passion and politeness shone through. The performance was well orchestrated my only criticism would be to use a microphone when talking as myself and other people were straining to listen to the stories (hands cupped on ears).
We were treated to a performance of our national anthem at the end but I can't help thinking it should have been 'The State Anthem of the Russian Federation' by Alexandrov!
Want to support local arts then sign up to their newsletters even more so now as due to recent data restrictions a lot of supporters that were on a system could have been removed if your mailbox seems a bit light -do sign up again.
The next performance at The Cygnet is The Merry Wives of Windsorby William Shakespeare March 27 28 29 30 and April 3 4 5 6 Performances at 7.30 pm
March 30 and April 6 at 2.30 pm wegottickets.com/cygnettheatre
15thMarch 2019 www.cygnettheatre.co.uk01392 277189
One For Sorrow ...Exeter St Nicholas Priory
One for Sorrow. Substance and Shadow Theatre.
Two for joy
Three for a girl
Four for a boy
Five for silver
Six for gold
Seven for a secret never to be told…
Down a dark, dark alley, through a creaking oak door and ancient steps into a room within the oldest building in Exeter -St Nicholas’s Priory, ushered into a cellar with a stone coffin. We were watched over by stuffed magpies, a faint waft of folklore rosemary was soon lost by bubbling mulled wine and the muffled chatter of strangers assembled, waiting.
So, time was called and we trudged upstairs a motley intimate audience of approximately 40 into the great hall an oak beamed, plaster worked open space with wonky floorboards sparsely lit with flickering fake candles (health and safety). The story unfolds, a reworking of a classic Victorian melodrama of the ‘missing bride’ many old great houses lay claim to the story of a bride who plays hide and seek on her wedding day but mysteriously vanishes.
Contemporary writer Kate Mosse tells her own version in her short story The Mistletoe Bride from 2013. But, there is a bit more going on here condensed into one hour with a repeat show at 9pm. We have the mad woman in the attic scenario with a nod to The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman from 1892 whereby, ‘hysterical’ women were confined to quarters and treated as chattel, their only solace was their diaries. The play touches on seances with the intriguing glass harmonica reputed to drive the player and listener stark raving mad and a candidate for a lunatic asylum or monastery as in the character Ignatius’s case. To summarise the main characters are a very young new (second) wife marrying a ‘man old enough to be my father,’ his brother and a narrator who doubles as a friend and adviser. There is a wedding, the bride disappears.
During the performance there was clever use of audio visual with back projection of a filmed scene that complemented and added another layer to the story with sound effects of clocks ticking and a melodramatic haunting song of the old nursey rhyme on which the story is based One for Sorrow which in this version culminated in a mass slaying of 7 magpies.
The actors made use of space and few props in which less is more as the venue is the ultimate setting and prop here. The actors were authentic in their roles Thomas played by Richard Pulman made a suitable stoic dominant groom, Ignatius the brother was played by co-writer Midge Mullin a creepy individual with physical presence who will keep you guessing and the doomed bride by Fern Stone and her end scene I can assure, will resonate. Nathan Simpson plays a good hand of God and narrator controlling the action and ending the performance well with subtle touches and mastery. Director and co-writer Rose Mullin should feel proud of her period piece; a classic Winter’s night ghost story. My only quibble is to have more of the ‘ghost’ appear and glide subtly through a scene with minimal lighting and more silence to taught Thomas further.
This is the second outing by Substance and Shadow Theatre the first venue was the equally eerie Tuckers Hall a stone’s throw away. They have produced
something well rounded and intriguing to Exeter and its heritage and complement their venues well with a synergy that is commendable and admirable.
This is what independent local theatre should be about.
TIVERTON COMMUNITY ARTS THEATRE www.tivertontheatre.com
OWDYADO THEATRE- TOURING www.owdyado.co.uk
TWISTED TALES REVIEW
Anyone who’s anyone has to be aware of the cult of Inside No 9, right?
The BBC series of darkly comic tales, which just before Halloween outed a botched live scare show or did they? You need to watch it and then watch it again. Or shall I take you back further to a time before digital … The Twilight Zone? From the sinister 1960’s. Well you get the idea. It’s how the minds of Cornwall based Owdyado Theatre tick and (tock) and what you can unexpect.
They returned again to Tiverton this week after last year’s fab cool-based thriller A View from the Edge. It’s a treat to have innovative theatre visit us in Tiverton and the company have been touring for a long time from John O’Groats to well, it must be Land’s End.
Despite the long run they came to us fresh and passionate and did not disappoint.
The performance is a trilogy, vignettes – 3 tales all written by different writers and that is apparent in style and delivery. The cast is three talented, engaged switched on actors who do a darn fine job of jumping from each tale with a quick interval between each one. The stage scenery revolves well and a good use of space is used on the floor, compact and tight with sound effects and effective lighting evident in play one Vindicta Games paramount to the action at the moody end. Vindicta Games is based on the popular locked escape rooms where you have to solve the clues to get out. An omnipresent voice of God presides over 3 hapless players; without a clue as to why they are there just an invitation, very Agatha Christie so far, but will there be a murder? You will just have to go and find out. There is guilt, a pink Moose, a dodgy Alexander O’Neal track and a teensy bit of revenge. Enough said.
The Second tale Will you still love me Tomorrow is well, I got it straight away as I am familiar with the tail. But was not expecting the end! Kenneth is in a flat all day with bandaged hands so far so intriguing, he awaits his ‘Goddess’ to return. She does and is tired, he does not stop declaring his love and that was before he had an ‘accident’ on her bed. There is a threat to their relationship how far will Kenneth go to see off his competitor? Or will he be replaced? The writing here is very like a short story (written by Jon Welch)
and it’s good to see it come to life with Daniel Richards and Charlotte Bister playing
the two roles who also wrote tale one.
The third outing is Bilbo and the Blue Bear written by Brett Harvey. How cute when we first see Bear and the classic scenario of goody two shoes children’s presenters. But
surely there cannot be darkness lurking under primary coloured arts dungarees and saccharin smiles? Who is the mastermind to murder here? We learn how to smash teeth
(unless they are false) to avoid identification and how to remove blood from a crime scene; which is much easier if the murder takes outdoors. Full of hints and tips from your
favourite presenters. There is a lot of energy in this play and highly passionate performances by Dan and Charlotte with Chloe Endean controlling the callers as they call in with
their questions. A good well-rounded last play. It was a pleasure to watch these guys do what they do best delivering a balanced round of 3 twisted dark tales with not an
inkling on how they would end up! That’s a skill. Catch them touring again in the Spring of 2019. Oh, and here’s a CLUE: BAD BEAR.
The Drowsy Chaperone
Tiverton Amateur Operatic Society
New Hall, Tiverton
Director Jo Wilson-Hunt
A departure from the usual fare from this stalwart society of Tiverton theatre dating back to 1947 with many known classic productions such as The Mikado, Carousel and The Sound of Music under their belts. The Drowsy Chaperone is gamble some might say but a gamble well worth taking as Director Jo Wilson-Hunt seems to have pulled this off and knows her stuff and how to manage the ‘mayhem’ that ensues in this production - there is a lot going on! It’s a parody of classic rag time musicals and a mix up of Midsummers night dream or other such witty Shakespeare romp where confusion and sabotage rein complete with comic gangsters. Think The Producers, Anything Goes, Thoroughly Modern Millie and well you get my gist as to the genre of this play and kinda what to expect.
The play was originally written by Don Mckellar and Bob Martin (played admirably by Tom Eaves) for his stag do to Janet Van de Graff (played here magnificently by the young Alice Wilson -Hunt) and it is primarily a marriage farce with mixed love interests and farcical attempts to corrupt the ‘gay marriage’ which is not what gay meant in 1928! It’s a full-on play interlaced with music, mayhem and dance overseen by the melancholic narrator the ‘Man in Chair’ played with aplomb by Daniel Kilshaw controlling scenes enthusiastically with us. It is set in the 1920’s and is a play within a musical within a play confused? You should be with the ‘Man’ presiding over shenanigans as a fourth wall siding with the audience. We are privy to his thoughts. He reminisces over his favourite (fictional musical) and it comes to life on stage (via his dowdy flat to a show palace) with the man wryly making comments and thoroughly enjoying himself, plonking on the record from The Drowsy Chaperone and sharing with us the audience his favourite bits. It is very funny and tonight the audience were rolling in the aisles myself included. The cast were strong and kept up with energy of the play well including chorus. It’s a production in its history that has won many theatrical awards (5 Tony’s) and toured extensively since its conception back in 1998.
It comes to life here in Tiverton and what a treat to have this in our town. The sheer amount of songs in this and the way the cast performed is demanding and credit to them all and to the orchestra with 21 musical interludes! The 3 versions of flapper fun number ‘Show off’ were fab. It’s a large cast and each member should be proud to achieve this and by going out on a limb Tiverton Amateur Operatic Society should be proud of what they achieved here tonight. The set design, lighting and sound all worked well as sometimes the New Hall can be a little hard to hear in but cast projected to compensate. I came with no expectations and an impromptu invite to review. I left with expectations exceeded. For a fun, mayhem ridden, funny time with industrious performers do check this out on till Saturday.
A Bunch of Amateurs
By Ian Hislop/ Nick Newman
Director Vickie Mogford
New Hall -Tiverton Dramatic Society
A farce co -written by Ian Hislop he of ‘Have I Got News for You’ fame it’s quite satirical in that this play has a Shakespeare vein running throughout dare he compare himself to the Bard? Well he does of course and it’s a subplot of King Lear in this play and a day of reckoning for the main protagonist an ageing American action hero Jefferson Steel (played with aplomb by Rick Barfoot) his fall from grace and his wake -up call that could have been his swan song as we see him wise up and form a relationship with his estranged teenage daughter played here by Sofi Gale complete with age related stroppiness.
Jefferson is used to the fine things and arrives not at Stratford upon Avon as he is led to believe but in a sleepy Suffolk Stratford. They are desperate to keep going and need an oomph factor to do this, hence their requests to stars to tread the boards to raise their profile. Jefferson is the only one to take them up on this or was it his agent? He is marooned by said agent and has to accept it and deliver, forced to realise his current lack of prowess and options not to mention a costly divorce settlement.
He reluctantly forms an allegiance with the players but still can’t get his head around the fact they do it for free. Clare Maughton plays the director Dorothy and eventually the love interest for Jefferson, after seeing off the sex starved B and B owner Mary played appropriately by voluptuous Alison Harris and the sweet Lauren wife of their only sponsor a local brewery; who is mistakenly named as a love interest played by Louise Chudley. Confused? You should be, it’s a romp complete with a rather amusing scene in the bedroom where Mary is horrified to witness some simulated ‘massage’ with Lauren which ultimately reaches a climax in the end scene with paparazzi being ‘tipped off’ by a jealous Nigel (David Keating) who just wants the ‘Lear’ role for himself as his ego is on a par with Jefferson -culminating in one funny scene with some jousting with a frilly umbrella.
As with Shakespeare we have a fool or fools and Hislop does not disappoint here we have a vigilant Health and Safety officer/actor Denis played by stalwart Jamie Barker complete with various eye- popping gags and a fantastic entrance when supplying the ‘limo’ to Jefferson as per his request – his Granny’s mobility scooter. It’s these touches that bring the play to life and interestingly enough the sound effects of bodiless journalists firing questions too. The play has tableaus and at the end of each, an actor performs a mini soliloquy to us the audience, which has the effect of intimacy and drawing us in.
There was plenty of movement on stage and positioning carefully thought out with lighting to reflect this. The backdrop was a painted interior village hall wall and it did well to cover the whole play’s run thorough. As with all amateur dramatics cost is an issue and being creative go hand in hand. My one moment which I found could be tweaked was the amount of flashing lights in the paparazzi scene with Jefferson, although there was a disclaimer put up maybe to announce this or lessen the flashes. Sound wise to lower the mics to boost a couple of the actors or radio mic them as some dialogue was lost. Director Vickie Mogford has done a fantastic first job as directing it’s no mean feat as this play is dialogue heavy, fast and a lot going on. Tiverton Dramatic Society do a grand job at all levels delivering quality theatre to a growing local audience and I would urge anyone to get involved from acting to selling programmes!
Tip: Do check out the 2008 film ‘A Bunch of Amateurs’ Jefferson Steel is played by Burt Reynolds a film chosen by the Queen for a royal screening.
Macbeth, National Theatre, Waterloo, London.
Director Rufus Norris
Staging up to 30 productions each year.
Live Event Cinema Tiverton May 10th Merlin Cinemas
Macbeth’s adaptations thrive in ‘times of suspicion, paranoia and fear,’ could this be one of the reason that tonight’s performance in The Olivier Theatre was heaving. After all, just days earlier we saw a Russian spy ‘poisoned’ by chemicals near a Sainsbury’s in Salisbury. Has much changed since this play was written by Shakespeare in the early 1600’s? Or just metamorphosed into something else. This bloody play centres on conspiracy and prophecy, instigated by a fated meeting on a heath. It is after battle and Macbeth and Banquo find themselves surrounded by 3 ‘weird sisters’. They greet him with 3 titles, one he has and the other two are a mystery to him. He is curious and it strikes something in him and he thus goes on a killing spree to ensure those titles; culminating in the death of the now suspicious Banquo, the King and the ultimate suicide of his Lady Macbeth amongst others.
The set was the real star here, which complemented the synergy between the actors. There was not a ‘stand out’ part which is a credit to all those involved, from the underscore drone music adding dramatic intrigue to dialogue heavy parts to subtle lighting with the witch on the moveable hill to the height and majesty of the poles that heads were tethered to and witches dangled from.
The opening scene was sudden, the battle culminating in a bloody beheading. The scene was not 1600’s Scotland but more a current dystopian place- a hybrid of recent Iraq/Syrian troubles. The witches made themselves known. The set had height, depth and layers and multi-functional. It moved and most of the action was on a revolving turntable and what was enjoyable to watch was the freeze frames when an actor was in dialogue, the cast all froze as the spotlight fell on those talking or in monologue. Macbeth’s ‘room’ was a concrete pillbox, apt considering the war environment the play is set in and served well its purpose with a subliminal look out slit set in the wall. The play was rife with spies, treason espionage and witchcraft; a sure-fire gimmick to get bums on seats during the time it was written with witchcraft trials being popular and a general fear about women who had power and knowledge. This is evident in the manipulative Lady Macbeth played by an oxymoron (petite/powerhouse) in Anne-Marie Duff who on hearing of the witches’ prophecy sets a plan in motion and lures Macbeth on to do the deed and kill King Duncan; played admirably by a sprightly Stephen Boxer. Macbeth played by Rory Kinnear alternates between a warrior stance and insecurity in his role which adheres well to his state of mind, as we see him fall down, in particular after Banquo’s murder. Macbeth becomes fixated on the fact he and his wife are barren and he will not let any other ‘seed’ go to the throne and Macduff played by the truly authentic Patrick O’Kane sees his children murdered as a result of the deluded Macbeth and his hired assassins. He ultimately seeks revenge on Macbeth.
Some light relief in the ‘knocking scene’ with Ted Danson lookalike Trevor Fox playing the all-seeing Porter with a thick as syrup Northern accent. Most Shakespeare plays including his tragedies have humour or double acts to appease all the audience and Macbeth is such a dark tale that the audience needs a little lift and it works well here. The celebratory disco was engineered well and served to add another layer to the production, adding a backdrop to treason talks between Macbeth and his lady.
My one disappointment was the ‘dagger scene’ it was suddenly upon us; it felt rushed and it needed more atmosphere and slowness to it. Macbeth grasps for a metaphysical dagger ‘is this a dagger I see before me’, with more technology a hologram or projection could have worked here and for Macbeth to be in a more possessed state. Again, with the night walking scene with Lady Macbeth just before her suicide, she seems too calm and not quite agitated enough, ‘out damn spot’.
The witches were a tour de force and floated through the space well, taking over with echoing shrieks and sheer dank presence. Dead doll limbs and body parts hung about their middles like souvenirs. This was neatly wrapped up in the psychedelic crescendo at the end where Macbeth encounters them again, weaving around him like tentacles as things fall apart. More weird sisters join them oscillating on the hill with doll’s faces as masks on the back of their heads in a macabre end scene where Macbeth finally loses his head to revengeful Macduff ‘he of not woman born’.
Overall this was a powerful world class performance remaining true to its origins but in a dystopian military future where rulers are usurped at the earliest convenience, delivered by actors and producers at the top of their game.
The National Theatre supports Live Event screenings and Merlin Cinemas facilitate this at Tiverton with a screening on 10th May of this production booking online.
C.Bushnell for STAGEDOOR on TCR Radio
The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
by Robert Louis Stevenson
Adapted for the stage by Nick Lane Music by Tristan Parkes
TIVERTON COMMUNITY ARTS THEATRE
Doctor Henry Jekyll is a good man. Successful within his field and respected by his peers, he’s close to a neurological discovery that will change the face of medical science forever. However, his methods are less than ethical, and when a close friend and colleague threatens to expose and destroy his work, Jekyll is forced to experiment on himself, whereupon something goes very wrong…or very right. And suddenly Jekyll has a new friend, the brutal Edward Hyde.
A thrilling adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s dark psychological fantasy, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde immerses you in the myth and mystery of 19th century London’s fog-bound streets where love, betrayal and murder lurk at every chilling twist and turn. Gripping, stylish and thought-provoking, this is unmissable theatre. Go on. Treat your dark side!
Recommended for age 11+ Running time: 2 hours (plus interval)
TCAT in Tiverton were fortunate to be on the end leg of this touring new adaptation of a classic gothic tale. Many shows sold out up and down the country. It was Black Eyed Theatre’s first visit to Tiverton the nearest we have had them was a fantastic Frankenstein delivered at the Tacchi Morris theatre in Taunton last year (please click online for our review) so Victorian Gothic is what they do best (They are touring Sherlock Holmes this autumn). What makes this period so evocative? The attention to detail in costumes always has my eye and the Victorian period is portrayed well here with long frock coats, bodices and tie and collars. Dr Jekyll’s (Jack Bannell) use of an ivory topped walking cane which serves him as a cripple also serves him as a bludgeon; battering to death an unfortunate soul. The symbolism of this crutch is the story and is in every scene a constant reminder that both personas rely on it. Dr Jekyll is an ill man, a scientist with knowledge in mind which soon turns to menace -he relies on his cane and comes to resent it.
Ultimately, he meets Eleanor (Paige Round) a feisty Irish songstress married to his friend Lanyon played by Ashley Sean –Cook. Jekyll is attracted to her, she learns of his experiments and encourages him to try harder, taunting him like a Lady Macbeth. He takes the potion quite swiftly- this is more than a documented scientific experiment. It’s his chance to play God. He is transformed into Mr Hyde a strong, evil persona that manifests itself in the gloomy claustrophobic chambers of Jekyll. As time goes on his sense of moral compass waivers. An attack happens firstly on a London prostitute losing her eye and then Hyde seeks more, to quench his thirst he batters to death a gentleman -enjoying it, revelling in it. Jekyll’s voice of reason is lawyer Utterson played by the seasoned Zach Lee pragmatically throughout. It is not until the end scene we see him falter in the very dark rooms that Jekyll commits suicide and Utterson inherits the property. There is no redemption.
All of the action takes place on one set; a cornucopia of Victorian doors, chairs, boxes and drawers all serving their multi functionality. One scene sees a drawer pulled open and a sheet pulled out to act as a shroud over the murdered victim; then suspension of disbelief as the shroud is pulled up to ‘see’ the corpse. Chairs are thrown about to portray Hyde’s strength and fury. There is even a ‘rat’ in a box. Fog pervades the set it hangs about throughout the whole play -never lifting once. Subtle spotlights focus on the actors and we can see Jekyll lurking in the wings- observing. There are some well thought out songs and sound effects which add dimensions to the performances, we can hear what they are saying due to well-placed mics hanging from overhead. There are 4 roles and the actors are covering 16 parts -no mean feat. The movement on stage is one of the highlights and was a strength enabling all the audience to bear witness to tonight’s proceedings. Bannell’s double portrayal of the protagonists is commendable and he deftly switches from one to the other assuming his stance from hunched shuffling Jekyll to a defiant confident Hyde. Paige Round plays both Eleanor and the prostitute and was a pleasure to watch as she controls Jekyll with her ‘encouragement’ and two simple words ‘Show me’ which lead to the ruin of Jekyll. The role of Eleanor was not in the original book and her presence in this serve as the real catalyst in provoking this situation to its ultimate demise with ‘Black Wasps’ taking over Jekyll, so only Hyde remains. The simple trickery of slowing down the scene is which the murder is committed works well and is a credit to the acting skills of those involved and great directing. It is the scene where there is no going back and his fate is sealed. The book is on the School curriculum and it was good to see local students coming to watch the performance with their English teachers on a dark, wet night in post snowy Tiverton who, hastening to add ‘there is no Eleanor in the book’. The theme remains the same though- can there be good and evil residing together? That would be a resounding no in this case and very well put.
C.Bushnell for TCR Radio STAGEDOOR
The Plough Arts Centre, Torrington, Devon
Johnny Hates Jazz
On the evening of the 6th October Clark Datchler, the singer-songwriter of Johnny Hates Jazz returned to his old home county of Devon for an acoustic show at the Plough Arts Centre, in the stunning rural setting of Great Torrington. In this intimate venue on a softly lit stage, Clark Datchler was joined by producer and engineer Mike Nocito on bass and supported on acoustic guitar by Marcus Bonfanti.
Johnny Hates Jazz origins date to the early 1980’s when Clark Datchler and Mike Naocito met at RAK Studios in London when Clark became lead vocal in the band Hot Club working alongside another original member of Johnny Hates Jazz, Calvin Hayes. In 1983 Hot Club released a single on the studio label and performed at the London Marquee Club, after which RAK Music executive Mickie Most signed Clark as a solo artist. It was he who suggested that Clark work with a young highly regarded producer and engineer at RAK Studio’s, Mike Nocito. Clark began to write new material, the first of which was ‘Shattered Dreams’. His father Fred, an accomplished Jazz musician, listened to the song as it was being written, and predicted it would be a success. On performing a showcase at London’s legendary Jazz venue, Ronnie Scotts the group was signed to Virgin Records. ‘Shattered Dreams’ was released in early 1987 and became a top ten international success. It was followed by four other worldwide hits, including the anti-war anthem ‘I don’t want to be a hero’, ‘Turn back the clock’ (featuring Kim Wilde on backing vocals) and ‘Heart of gold’.
Throughout the evening the audience was taken on a journey through the life story of Johnny Hates Jazz using many of their most iconic songs taken from the number one smash hit album ‘Turn Back the Clock’. The skill it takes to stage this show does not spring out of nowhere during the evening Clark would often tell mesmerising, carefully crafted stories onstage, pausing songs for as long as ten minutes to do so. Performing radically stripped-down
renditions of the songs, plus personal revelations. And even after a twenty-five-year absence songs taken from the highly-anticipated follow-up album Magnetized that show Datchler has not lost his talent for incredible tracks such as ‘The road not taken’, inspired by the Robert Frost poem of the same name and ‘You Belong To You’ on the theme of equality.
Johnny Hates Jazz are continuing the thirty-year celebration of the number one multi platinum selling album ‘Turn Back the Clock’ with tour dates across the United Kingdom including performances in Glasgow, Birmingham and the O2 in London.
Tickets can be purchased at http://johnnyhatesjazz.com/#tour, do not miss this opportunity to see one of the last and best electronic bands to emerge from the 1980’s
Darren N. Henson, 2017. On behalf of TCR Radio.
Steve Lodge chats to Joel Dommett & Luke Honnoraty
The Oak Room Tiverton 10th March
The beautiful Oak Room played host to NZINGBETH! An innovative and entertaining theatre production representing a collaboration between The Bluebirds, Storytree and Four of Swords companies.The play proposes a profound meeting between two warrior Queens from two contrasting cultures. Our Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Nzinga of Angola.
Both lived across the 1600's time period, brought together onstage, through the medium of Dr John Dee's magical mirror.Sasha Cohen and Gloria Lawrence take on the mantle of these contrasting characters presenting an enigmatic and proud dynamic. Both challenged by their counterpart, their clash produces a rush of royal incredulity and rare historical information. Rich Elizabethan costume and authentic music by Ben Tallamy support the integrity and atmosphere of the piece.
This historical clash of characters is presented through precise vocal games and physical theatre techniques, these are supported by live compositions of Tudor music and African drumming.The Queens' find common ground in confronting a Portuguese enemy amongst humorous onstage battles around etiquette and taste.
The exploration of the piece then deepens to challenging notions of nationality, gender and power. This is made accessible by the direction and writing of Philip Kingslan John who deftly manages to balance; drama, information and entertainment for the audience.
Characters develop and personal sacrifices are explored resolving in an enduring harmony. The company manages to bring an entertaining lightness and skill to subjects of gender, power and nationality.
This is an entertaining, informative and adventurous piece…rich and exotic... like the contents of a Tudor merchants galleon!
NZINGABETH is currently gaining momentum, touring nationally. See www.nzingabeth.com for details.
Matt Lawrenson interviews...
'A View from the Edge' by Owdyado theatre productions
TCAT theatre, Tiverton.
Defender of the Dead
by Sian Williams a Boiling Kettle production
STAGE DOOR, theatre, arts