Friday, 29 May 2015

Snow White by Harlow Ballet: Review

Now, I know what you're thinking. Ballet? Really? And you're probably right. I'll be the first to admit that I am not the worlds biggest ballet fan. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy it and I admire ballerinas everywhere for the astonishing things they can do, but seeing The Nutcracker at the Royal Opera House at the beginning of the year did not thrill me-although that may have been the poor seats, for which I am, once again, sorry for!

So going into Harlow Ballet's production of Snow White I had this in the back of my mind. However no sooner was it there then it was annihilated, abolished and ignored because I loved it! The production, choreographed by Hayley Burns was truly excellent!

The story stuck to the original fairy tale, as opposed to Disney's adaptation, so there were no little dwarves running around! Instead, Snow White, performed by Emily Bird, was accompanied by the Huntsman, who Joe Bishop conveyed excellently, and a group of rebels, who rounded the group off especially well. They also managed to put their stage combat skills to the test, taking on the Raven Army of the witch, Ravenna, who Claire Hickles shone as, in what was an excellent finale! 

Groups of dancers made up the King's Court, a nearby Village and a bunch of Fairies who arrived to guide Snow White, stretching the story beyond the central characters and truly transporting us into the magical land in which we were a part of.

It is without any doubt, therefore, that I say that this was the best ballet I think I've seen. I thoroughly enjoyed myself from start to finish and I look forward to whatever Harlow Ballet has in store for us next! 
Snow White's final performance is on Sunday 20th of April at Harlow Playhouse, starting at 2PM. Tickets cost £15 and are available on 01279 446754

Monday, 11 May 2015

Inside Job: Review

Spain is a haven for criminals, or so Brian Clemen’s Inside Job leads us to believe. The thriller was the latest production by the Moot House Players, running for three days last week.

When confronted by the gorgeous Suzy, Larry, a professional safe cracker and criminal, thinks he has hit it big – all he needs to do is steal the diamonds from her husband’s safe and run away with her to Rio. That is until Alex, her husband, also asks Larry to kill his wife in order to gain her £100,000 life insurance. Multiple plot twists that could only be found in a Clemen’s thriller ensue before an unexpected conclusion.

Dan Powell’s direction was spot on, ensuring that the pace was kept throughout. As well as directing, Powell played Larry which he did equally well. He combined well with Kevin Smith, as Alex, to create some particularly humorous moments. Kerry Rowland put in an equally strong performance – even managing to surprise me with the sheer amount of time that she can lie dead for!

The professionalism of the cast was clearly evident as they were word –perfect and clearly knew their direction like the back of their hand. It was also nice to see the players elevate their level of effects, all operated excellently by Claire Quley, with a very impressive pyrotechnic being let off at the end of the first act!

Whilst the script itself was not the best written, often digressing and over-explaining simple plot elements, the cast put on a solid performance of a popular genre with the Moot House audience. I look forward to seeing their next offering – Pygmalion in July!


Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Comedy of Errors: Review

It is often said that you cannot take Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors seriously, and this is the same in Jeanne Stacey’s production. She adopts conventions of the silent film era – using slapstick comedy, melodramatic gestures, intense physicality and some truly excellent reactions – in her direction for Harlow Theatre Company to bring the farce to life.

The play revolves around the separation of two sets of twins who are reunited as a result of a series of seemingly coincidental events in very quick succession, concluding in both a marriage and a reunion!
The cast were made up of past and present students of Phoenix Theatre School, and worked very well under Stacey’s guidance. Will Saunders and Daniel Boulton played the two Antipholus’, with both portrayals being distinctive enough to create different types of humour, but similar enough to notice, in hindsight, that they actually were twins.

Their confused wife was the excellent Katie Miller, who played the alcohol dependent and hilariously scatty Adriana. Molly Jenkins was her servant, Luciana, and the pair’s onstage chemistry was superbly funny.

Drew Gregg was the scheming goldsmith, Angelo, who stood out with a thick, yet clear, accent throughout and some great physicality. His nervous twitch worked similarly to Rhiannon Bates’ boundless reactions, with both ensuring that they embodied their characters throughout.

Joe Llewelyn, Ollie Stacey and George Jack all multi-roled well, with Llewelyn’s portrayal of the rather plump kitchen maid, Luce, being particularly notable.

The two stand out performers from the production, however, were Will Edden and Joseph Vaiana who played the twin Dromio’s. They were bold and energetic throughout and deservedly took the final bow.

Rob Dyer’s simple set design worked very well in conjunction with Stacey’s directorial vision, and the projections detailing the scene and the context were very effective; perhaps more so than in any production I have seen utilise such a method before. The costumes were very apt for each character and helped us to imagine the true farcical nature of the plot.

It was clear that this production was created very collaboratively between the director and the cast in order to make a really fun piece of theatre. The script was adapted to just the right length and made this a comfortable ninety minutes of playful acting.
Tickets for Harlow Theatre Company's production of The Comedy of Errors are available on 0844 8700 887 and runs from the 6th May - 9th May 2015.

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Bugsy Malone: Review

Set in 1920s Chicago, Bugsy Malone takes influences from the lives of mobsters like Al Capone and Bugs Moran, before mixing them together with a cast full of kids and the infamous splurge guns. As Scott Baio, the original film’s star put it, “you couldn’t ask for a better first big gig!”

Brilliant Theatre Arts have brought their production to the Harlow Playhouse for a four-show run, emphasising the “immersive/interactive” nature of the performance. As soon as I walked through the theatres doors, I was greeted by a stern look from two pintsize police officers and rushed away with my head bowed low to collect my ticket.

This form of welcoming committee worked well, however, later on in the performance, it become irritating and distracting as cast members appeared through doorways in the corner of my eyes before running down a flight of stairs and darting off down another exit without contributing anything to the performance, and having to stand up in order to allow actors to barge through the seating. As a director, I appreciate that David Jenkins, who directed the production, has a vision that he wanted to achieve, however it often distracted from the main action taking place on the stage.

The emphasis for this production was, as it should be, on the talented cast.  Guy Trundle was Bugsy, playing the slick smooth-talker well, often appearing as one of the biggest on stage despite the fact he was physically one of the smallest! George Ellaway and Eddie Woodley had excellent on-stage chemistry as the crime fighting duo of Captain Smolsky and Officer O’Dreary, and employed this to very humorous effect. Jenkins and producer, Lee Ellaway, did well in ensuring that the cast were comfortable in expecting laughs and playing off of the audience.

Phoebe Mary Duffy was very good as Tallulah, seemingly intent on stealing Bugsy from Blousey, played by Elyvia Palmer who had an excellent voice. The stand out performance, however, belonged to Lucy Lawson as Fizzy. Her rendition of ‘Tomorrow’ was better than in the original film, and the accompanying dance with Gracie Leader was seamless.

Amanda Black’s choreography was clever and incorporated the entire cast, including the younger performers, combining well with Matt Evans’ musical direction particularly well in ‘Down and Out’.
The set, designed and built, by Chris Musgrave from Set Blue Scenery and Sandra Urwin was possible one of the most ambitious I have seen of a youth theatre production, working really well, especially in providing multiple exits at varied levels whilst Emily Brown’s lighting worked very well in depicting location.

Admittedly, I found it difficult to buy into Jenkins’ directorial vision and believe it actually hampered the performance; however, the more conventional elements of the show worked well. The entire cast of Bugsy Malone showed off their talents and their energy and commitment throughout was admirable.
Tickets for Bugsy Malone are on sale for their performance on the 3rd of May 2015 at the Harlow Playhouse on 01279 446754. More information on Brilliant Theatre Arts can be found here