Jamie Wilson, Jonathan Church Theatre Productions and Gavin Kalin are delighted to announce that Julian Ovenden will star as ‘Emile de Becque’ throughout the Sadler’s Wells season and UK Tour of the critically acclaimed, landmark Chichester Festival Theatre production of RODGERS & HAMMERSTEIN’SSOUTH PACIFIC alongside the previously announced Gina Beck as ‘Ensign Nellie Forbush’.
Julian and Gina will be joined by fellow members of the original Chichester Festival Theatre company; Rob Houchen as ‘Lieutenant Joseph Cable’, Joanna Ampil as ‘Bloody Mary’and Sera Maehara as ‘Liat’.
The production opens at Manchester Opera House on 16 July 2022 with tickets available here.
Chichester’s Artistic Director Daniel Evans, will once again direct Julian, Gina, Rob, Joanna and Sera as they reprise the roles they played to enormous critical and audience acclaim at Chichester Festival Theatre in the summer of 2021.
South Pacific | Manchester Opera House | Sat 16 Jul – Sat 24 Jul 2022
I feel lucky that I’ve not watched Fatal Attraction via Film or in the theatre before. It allowed me to have a completely clear slate and no comparison when writing this review.
Fatal Attraction by James Dearden follows Alex Forrest (Kym Marsh) as she takes us on an absolute roller-coaster of emotions ending in becoming unhealthy obsessed with Dan Gallagher (Oliver Farnworth) all resulting from a one night stand.
The play had an extremely strong start, drawing me in with a spotlight on Dan Gallagher. His voice was clear and crisp and had a way of silencing the audience into their seats. It also started, light, upbeat and with Dan Gallagher in a happy marriage to Beth (Susie Amy). I sometimes struggle to gauge what’s going on in the beginning of a play and what relationship the characters have but the stereotypical marriage between the two was clear from the start and portrayed nicely on stage.
The set was almost black box theatre. Simple yet effective. The simplicity encouraged the audience to use more of their imagination and focus on the actors. It also permitted incredibly smooth scene changes. Video calls were used to transform the story from the 1980’s to modern day. I felt this was not needed and took the focus away from the dialogue and flow of the play. It felt awkward and pardon the pun, staged. However, I can understand that it is difficult to bring every scene of the film to the stage, these calls were a quick interject to keep the story moving.
There was an incredible amount of background noise used which set the scene but again took away the focus from the actors. I felt they had to work twice as hard to carry the scene along. This sometimes came across rushed and their accent fell now and then.
Speaking of which, it is difficult enough to see facial expressions on stage without a lump of hair constantly covering an actor’s face. This meant the actors body language had an even greater role to play. At times this disappointingly did not match the dialogue. There were uncomfortable movements, especially walks off stage and jarred hand gestures throughout.
One of the most iconic scenes in the film fell flat in the stage adaptation, when Dans wife Beth discovers her daughters pet rabbit has been boiled alive. I’m not certain how I would react if I found a cute bunny boiled on my stove, but I it wouldn’t be a single scream.
In comparison, Marsh put buckets of detail into her performance as Alex. The dialogue and scenes she had to deliver were undeniably challenging but she managed to make me feel compassion for her even at the evillest parts of her actions. Her approach to the character was not only exceptionally clever and thought through but made me constantly question her motives. Was she just ill and been taken advantage of or was she a calculated woman with hatred for men running through her veins?
The ending to the play allowed me to interrogate two different scenarios in my mind. This permitted ongoing questions after leaving the theatre. The street was filled with different views and endings, it clearly provoked debates and conversations during and after.
Fatal Attraction is on at the Opera House until Saturday 26th February tickets available here.
It goes to show that a good joke will always stand the test of time, funny is funny, no matter if it’s a gag told today, or one well over 90 years old and judging by the reaction of the audience tonight, they lapped up the sly asides, and caustic put downs of Noel Coward’s Private Lives which gets another run 92 years after it was first performed.
Private Lives is the debut production of the Nigel Havers Theatre Company. It seems fitting that Havers should turn out for his first production along with the theatrical force of nature that is Patricia Hodge. They play former sweethearts Elyot and Amanda. Long divorced, the pair find themselves honeymooning at the same time. Elyot with his new bride, Sybil whilst Amanda is with new husband, Victor. Not only are they at the same hotel, but they are also neighbours as they share a balcony.
As Elyot and Amanda reconnect again it’s apparent that the spark between them is still there, however if the passion is still there, so are the reasons the couple separated – jealousy and petty squabbles. As Elyot and Amanda decide to elope to Paris and give their relationship one more chance, what will become of them and their jilted partners?
Havers is clearly having a ball as the ‘cad’ Elyot, a role he was born to play – a chance to flex his comedic muscles. Throughout tonight’s performance on several occasions, it looked like he was going to burst out laughing, which somewhat added to the charm, and all done with a twinkle in the eyes. Equally good is Hodge, who gets the lion’s share of the best lines which she delivers with acerbic glee. The pair have tremendous chemistry together and great comic timing.
They are supported by the equally impressive Natalie Walter, as Sybil and Dugald Bruce-Lockhart’s Victor as the suitably irritating jilted other halves. Despite being ‘the other ones’ in this quadratic formula, Walter’s Sybil is naive yet spirited. Whilst Bruce-Lockhartas’ Victor comes across as a decent yet insecure chap. For the production to work you have to care about all four characters which you do, despite their many (many) flaws.
In addition, there is a scene stealing cameo by Aïcha Kossoko as the french speaking maid Louise, who adds to the chaos.
When Noel Coward wrote Private Lives in 1930, he saw himself in the lead playing alongside a contemporary of his, Gertrude Lawrence. At the time of writing Coward was 30, clearly this production sees our characters at more advanced stages of their lives. The change works tremendously well as there is an added ‘‘growing old disgracefully’ dynamic to proceedings whilst also proving that no matter how old we get we can all still drop a ‘clanger’ from time-to-time.
There is a sixth character and that is the fabulous set design of Simon Higlett. There are two settings the production, the first being hotel exterior, complete with a balcony which Higlett has managed to resemble the tier of rather garish wedding cake. The second is a beautiful, luxury apartment in Paris.
The production does have its flaws; two scenes where the warring couples strike each other seems out-of-place, even if played out for comedic effect. On the whole, an interesting examination of the perils and pitfalls of relationships. A superbly acted, polished, fun night at the theatre, and a cautionary tale that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.
Private Lives is at the Lowry until 19th February. Tickets available here.
“So, did y’ hear the story of the Johnstone twins? As like each other as two new pins…”
I mean if you haven’t…where have you been!?
Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers seems to have been around forever, be that in the West End, touring or internationally for over 30 years and yet still maintains it’s huge magnetic pull, attracting repeated audiences and new ones alike.
Set in 1960’s Liverpool, Blood Brothers is the all engrossing and poignant tale of the Johnstone twins, ‘Mickey’ (Josh Capper) and ‘Eddie’ (Joel Benedict), who are painstaking separated at birth, by their struggling single mother Mrs Johnstone (Nikki Evans). Whilst one is given away to Mrs. Lyons (Paula Tappenden), the other is kept, highlighting just how different growing up on the opposite side of the class system can be. This story sees the coming together of love, friendship, social circumstances, superstition, destiny and their fateful consequences…
It’s now the middle of February 2022, and yet again we are still reminded of the ‘fateful’ consequences and uncertainty of making theatre in a pandemic, as for this evening’s performance there were a couple of last minute on the day cast changes, with Mickey being played by Josh Capper and Sammy by Pete Washington. It has to be said whilst both did a fantastic job fitting into the company seamlessly, special kudos must go to Capper for not only stepping into one of musical theatre’s most iconic shoes to keep the show alive, but also managing to do it successfully with the style, verve and charisma that is needed to pull off the role of Mickey.
Setting the scene of down-trodden council estate 1960’s Liverpool, we see the ensemble cast flourish. In particular Tim Churchill’s hilarious turn as the ‘Milkman’ and quick change to the ‘Gynaecologist’ is a crowd pleaser. It’s these scenes that light up the stage, beautifully juxtaposed and offsetting the audience for what’s to come later. Musically the ensemble numbers are really enjoyable and allows for a welcome escape, with ‘Kids’ Game’ and ‘Bright New Day’ being two of the highlights.
Malone’s band are faultless and the score provides some great songs. Mrs Johnstone (Nikki Evans) has the best of them, her beautifully rich, empathetic voice is perfect for the role and we feel all her emotions through it, particularly with her powerful rendition of the iconic ‘Tell Me its Not True,’ which is a show stand-out and devastates the whole auditorium.
Whilst Tomson’s production is sharp, slick and polished, with all aspects of the production extremely well crafted and excellently brought together, one could argue that this production is pretty much a carbon copy of the countless Bill Kenwright productions that have come before it and doesn’t necessarily bring anything new to the table. But the question is does it need to? After all there’s a reason Blood Brothers has stood the test of time both in the UK and internationally. It’s longevity is due to the grit and soul at the heart of the show, which however many times you watch it, is still there posing the same relevant questions about the same prevalent collective issues; be that the social class system or mental heath. This production still remains punchy, laugh-out-loud funny, heartwarming and heartbreaking all at the same time.
The ultimate standing ovation show, Blood Brothers has a bit of something for everyone. Whether you’ve seen it 10 times or you’re a first timer, Russell’s long standing smash-hit classic certainly makes for a wonderfully entertaining evening at the theatre.
Blood Brother’s runs at the Palace theatre, Manchester until Saturday 26th February tickets available here.
Back in July 2021 Artistic Director at the Octagon Theatre, Lotte Wakeham, chose The Hound of the Baskervilles to open the revamped theatre in Bolton. Directed by Wakeham, it proved to be a smart choice, as it received huge critical acclaim and was the perfect way to showcase the talent at the Octagon. On the back of its success the production is now undertaking a nationwide tour hitting The Lowry, Quays Theatre this week for a run of shows that will delight and entertain!
Under the stewardship of UK tour director, Tim Jackson and adapted for the stage by Steven Canny and John Nicholson, the plot remains faithful to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original. Sherlock Holmes and faithful companion Dr Watson are recruited to investigate the mysterious death of Charles Baskerville. Has Baskerville fallen victim to the infamous Baskerville curse that has befell so many of his ancestors, or is there a more rational explanation?
Those expecting a faithful and straight laced reworking of this classic tale are in for a shock. This is an innovative, funny and downright absurd reworking of one of Conan Doyle’s best loved works. Within the opening five minutes our trio of actors break ‘the fourth wall’ and directly address the audience to explain that for both artist and financial reasons the three of them will bring all the characters to life.
What follows is a comedy masterclass from the three leads, Nial Ransome, plays it relatively straight as the rather dim-witted Dr Waton, whilst Jake Ferretti and Serena Manteghi are a force of nature, as they undertake the majority of the character swapping, with Ferretti playing Sherlock Holmes, as well as various suspects. Whilst Manteghi, plays the role of Sir Henry Baskerville, the heir to the Baskerville fortune, and the next in line to be ‘bumped off’, as well various other Baskerville family members and three subtly different Dartmoor Yokel’s.
The script in conjunction with energetic performances of the three actors is the main strength to show. Paying homage to silent cinema, slapstick and the ‘whodunit’, Canny and Nicholson have taken Conan Doyle’s to be frank ridiculous plot and ramped it up to 11, allowing for even more absurdity, from OTT accents (not Canadian as Manteghi as points out), dance routines, and farce. Often throughout the show I was reminded of the productions of the Spymonkey theatre company, albeit a more toned down, child friendly version.
This is a fast paced, fun filled at times surreal show, which gives an irrelevant take on this world famous piece of literature. The only rational explanation is to go see the show at your nearest convenience!
The Hound of the Baskervilles is on at the Lowry till Saturday 5th February. Tickets can be found here.