Gangsta Granny 17.5.2017 (Birmingham Stage Company)

GangstaGranny

“Ben is bored beyond belief after he is made to stay at his grandma’s house. She’s the boringest grandma ever: all she wants to do is play Scrabble and eat cabbage soup. But there are two things Ben doesn’t know about his grandma.

1) She was once an international jewel thief.
2) All her life, she has been plotting to steal the Crown Jewels, and now she needs Ben’s help…

A hilarious and heartfelt story of old age, adventure, stolen jewels and swimming the Thames, and another Number One bestseller.”

From the off “Gangsta Granny” draws the audience in, with silly dance moves and multiple wafts of cabbagey fart. The set is fantastic in its versatility, reminiscent of a Rubik’s cube. Although I am a little old for this kind of show (and was possibly the only adult at the theatre not accompanied by a child..awkward!) I thoroughly enjoyed it, and it clearly went down well with the many giggling small people scattered around the theatre.

I have to point out Benedict Martin, who plays “Dad” and “Mr Parker”. He, quite simply put, is the cringiest, creepiest man I have seen in a long time! I found myself wincing at his Dad dance moves, and howling at his nosey neighbour antics. Sublimely weird and embarrassing. My other star this evening was Davesh Kishore, who plays “Raj” and “Flavio”. Two totally different characters, but both massively likeable in their own way. He brought a true comedy flavour and upbeat energy to the show, involving the audience and upping the tempo during the dance show section.

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Gangsta Granny keeps the audience engaged throughout its 2 hour run, and manages to remain dynamic without losing momentum. The leading lady Gilly Tompkins (Granny) and leading gent Ashley Cousins (Ben) are a believable double act (despite their differences in opinion around cabbage) and remind the audience that people aren’t “born old”. I found the show feel good without becoming sickly, and enjoyed the constant multi-sensory stimulation. Although there was some of the obvious Walliams silliness, the show relayed an important message about our behaviour towards elderly loved ones. Be prepared for laughter, farting, poo jokes and even an appearance from the Queen!

As usual, thanks so much Aylesbury Waterside Theatre for the tickets.

Gangsta Granny is on for the next few days, check out this link to get your tickets:

Gangsta Granny

King of Pop (The legend continues) 10.5.2017

“​This incredible production stars the world’s leading MJ tribute artist Navi who is joined by Michael Jackson’s iconic guitarist – Jennifer Batten. 

… Jennifer has teamed up with Navi for an unforgettable experience – taking fans closer than ever dreamed to an original MJ concert.”

Whenever I watch a show that has the word ‘tribute’ in its advert, I get a little nervous. Although it is 

“an act, statement, or gift that is intended to show gratitude, respect, or admiration”

rather than a carbon copy of the original, there’s enormous pressure in delivering a production associated with the name Michael Jackson. Love him, hate him, or whatever in between, you have to admit the guy was a phenomenal showman, and a true legend during his 50 years on earth. 

 

The show opens with the band taking their positions, as a video of Navi and Michael runs in the background. I found it a bit strange as it seemed to be trying to convince the viewer that this Navi guy is absolutely amazing and the closest link to the world of MJ.. Surely we would tell that from his performance and the show itself?!

 

I’m a bit of a cynical reviewer, and the first few songs didn’t see me swinging from the rafters. As usual with anything ‘tribute’ I was struggling to get into the groove – it’s a challenge for me to transcend beyond the literal! Just when I started thinking about my choice of interval beverage, a change in energy occurred. The delectable Jennifer Batten made her way on stage, reminding me that I too could have hung out with rock stars and travelled the globe. .. If only I had taken grade 4 violin and oboe more seriously!

The atmosphere switched, the audience got a little wild, and the riffs were spine tingling. I began to find my ‘tribute vibe’ , and although I wasn’t quite as enthusiastic as the MJ superfan to my left I began singing along, and indulging in some rhythmic clapping. My attention was piqued by one of the male dancers during the show, as he offered tightly choreographed moves alongside a killer smile! He gets my vote as a new member of the Dreamboys in 2017 that’s for sure.

 

Overall a great night for audiences of any age, but I was extremely disappointed that the earth song didn’t make the final cut!! Navi is amazing as an MJ lookalike, and has a crotch thrust to rival the late master himself. My only confusion was around the singing… Was he miming? I had anticipated live singing, but it seemed more like the band playing to a backing cd with Navi miming/singing alongside? (Again, here enters my ‘tribute’ *confusion..) Definitely a fantastic evening out for Michael Jackson fans, and despite my reservations I ended up warbling along shamelessly by the end. Thank you Aylesbury Waterside for a fantastic evening out!

 

Check out upcoming shows at the theatre using this link :

Aylesbury Waterside Theatre 

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time 7.2.2017

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time (TCIOTDITNT) follows the investigative adventures of a teenager “Christopher” who describes himself as having ‘behavioural problems’. The play is an adaption of Mark Haddon’s 2003 book by the same name, and has won multiple Olivier and Tony Awards.

My first experience of TCIOTDITNT was back in 2003, when my college chose to read the book as part of our English Literature class. Although i have been made aware now that Christopher’s condition is not specified, when i read the book a staggering 14 years ago it was considered a ground breaking fictional insight into the challenges of living with autism/asperger’s. 

The play introduces Christopher Boone (Scott Reid), and the revelation that Mrs Shears’ (Eliza Collings)  dog has been murdered (he was called Wellington by the way). The opening scene uncovers Christopher’s struggles with ‘fitting in’ and understanding unspoken societal rules, highlighting how intolerant our world is of anyone ‘different’. The police officer made me cringe – a shining example of someone not knowing how to approach or converse with someone displaying unusual behaviours or learning needs. 

I absolutely adored the relationship between Christopher and his father, Ed Boone (David Michaels). I was blown away by the emotionally charged scenes, and the depiction of a relationship ripped apart by love, frustration, guilt, lies and a wish to ‘make everything better’. One of my favorite scenes was insignificant terms of special effects, but had a lasting impact on me.  In this scene Christopher and his father were talking about the rain, and Christopher explains how all the water in the world is connected. Christopher’s words were so incredibly poignant, and his father’s face spoke a thousand words… irritation, mild amusement, pride, wonder, peace, acceptance…

The play builds an intricate picture of Christopher’s ecosystem and his black and white view of the world. The National Theatre exceeded all my expectations in giving the audience a comprehensive insight into the workings of Christopher’s mind, and the chalk/blackboard set was a decadent sensory experience. 

I was truly amazed at how inventive a performance could be, and the lighting/sound team must be commended for their perfect timing throughout. On occasion both the visual and audio could be overwhelming – a clearly deliberate manoeuvre to give the audience a taste of life through Christopher’s eyes. The scenes in the train station and underground were amazing, truly captivating and slightly terrifying. Observing the sadness, distress, anxiety and communication failures left me uncomfortable, but for all the right reasons.  The script was cleverly devised to inject humour throughout and i liked the occasional reference to the fact that what i was watching was infact a play rather than the here and now!


I was thrilled to see so much physical theatre throughout the entire performance, Christopher imagining life as an astronaut had me grinning from ear to ear. What an incredibly well thought out, synchronised and fun way to get inside the brain of a 15 year old. The entire cast worked in perfect harmony and unison to mimic the movements of train journeys and many other daily actions were made so special and unique during the show.  I had read a disclaimer about no animals being harmed, which i took to be a joke! There is a good reason for this statement (which i won’t share so the surprise isn’t spoilt!) but i will say i was relieved to realise that Christopher’s pet may not have actually been in its carrier the entire time he was travelling through London!

One of my favorite shows in a long time. What a treat.  A heart wrenching, grin inducing, beautiful, reflective piece of spectacular modern theatre. A must see!!!

This show is on until 11th Feb 2017 at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre. Click link below for ticket info 

https://new-www.atgtickets.com/venues/aylesbury-waterside-theatre/shows/the-curious-incident-of-the-dog-in-the-nighttime

Saint Petersburg Ballet: Swan Lake 2.2.2017

“Combining classical training and technique, and accompanied by a full orchestra, the company’s magical performances of the best loved Russian ballets have won them international acclaim.

Swan Lake is Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece, a tragic tale of love and betrayal with an instantly recognisable score.  This is the epic story of Prince Siegfried and his love for Odette who, tricked by the evil sorcerer Von Rothbart and his daughter Odile, would rather die together then live apart.”

Music: P. I. Tchaikovsky
Libretto: Vladimir Begichev, Vasily Geltzer
Choreography: Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov

Ballet may be an acquired taste, but it was great to see kids, couples and pensioners taking their seats at the Waterside this evening. I was looking forward to an evening of live music and twirly arms, luckily i was not disappointed! Saint Petersburg Ballet Theatre was founded in 1994, and is the only classical ballet company in the world completely independent of government financial aid or sponsors funding. I must admit my last brush with Swan Lake had been watching “Black Swan” on dvd some time ago, so i had to shake Mila Kunis from my mind to get me in the zone for tonight’s production.

One of my favourite performers was the jester, who brought plenty of personality to the opening scenes with his quirky movements. He managed to link characters together and lighten the story without becoming overbearing and tacky. There was also one particular chorus member playing several parts who caught my eye with not only her incredible dancing but her stunning good looks too – not that any of the ladies dancing were unattractive by any means! The leading lady playing Odette (who’s name I’m afraid i won’t be typing as my phone seems to take offence to the spelling of most of the cast surnames!) was breathtaking, a true mistress of her art. Her fragility and grace mesmerised me throughout the entire show, and was offset well by her colossal leading man. Although on a technical level (not that i actually know what I’m talking about) Prince Siegfried was bang on the money, i couldn’t help but wonder why he had been chosen for the role. He was a good foot taller than anyone else on the stage, and it made for a peculiar aesthetic against the delicate splendor of his peers. Generally i don’t believe in bashing people for the way they look, but in this instance his height distracted me. 

The entire performance was fluid, engaging and effortless, although I’m sure anyone who has ever danced on pointe will verify the hours of gruelling training and bleeding feet that will have taken place beforehand. If i have to criticise i would say there were occasions when i thought the dry ice may have been overused slightly judging by the full on fogging of some front row audience members! It was worth it though, as the curtain lifting on virginal white swans in the mist was breathtaking. 

In conclusion a fantastic evening, which left me feeling relaxed and glad i swapped TV for a few hours of culture. 

Swan Lake is at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre 2nd – 4th February 2017. General Tickets: £15.00 – £32.00 + Booking Fees: £1.90 – £2.90

The Twits 24.1.2017

Mr. and Mrs. Twit are the smelliest, nastiest, ugliest people in the world. They hate everything – except playing mean jokes on each other, catching unsuspecting birds to put in their bird pies, and making their caged monkeys, the Muggle-Wumps, stand on their heads all day. But the Muggle-Wumps have had enough.

I have been an avid Roald Dahl fan for as long as i can remember, so to see The Twits on the 2017 Aylesbury Waterside Theatre list was a dream come true! After an arduous week (oh hang on…is it only Tuesday?!) a few hours of revolting fun was just what the doctor ordered.  I was a little nervous, as any book fan understands, that the original would be poorly represented in its updated form. 

The story begins outside the Twit residence, with an introduction to get the audience warmed up and involved in the action. The ensemble/chorus/music makers/story tellers/dancers/acrobats are an incredibly talented bunch, sticking on the right side of happy clappy. They play instruments, sing, and introduce the grubby, grotty, truly foul stars of the show… Mr and Mrs Twit. The set works perfectly, with the little details of the caravan (and Mr Twit’s pants…) extracting gasps of delighted horror from the young and old alike. I was struck by the combination of simplicity and thought that went into make this production so slick and pleasurable – showing that true theatre is so much more than big budgets and special effects. Mr and Mrs Twit are wonderfully cringingly disgusting, just as Roald Dahl intended.  The show is perfect for all ages, with enough audience participation to keep smallies entertained without driving biggies bonkers. In my opinion The Twits is what children’s theatre is all about – funny, engaging, unpredictable and a credit to its talented, hard working cast. Although there is no skimping on props, i am pleased to see an element of audience imagination is required, forcing the xbox generation to buy into the story. A toe tapping, nose crinkling, grimace inducing, laugh-out-loud 8/10 from me.

Tickets are available for the rest of the week at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre…go and pay The Twits a visit if you dare!

School of Rock 16.11.2016

A story of no hopers, geeks and stifled creatives, unexpectedly brought together to learn life lessons and build friendships through the medium of music. 🌟🌟🌟🌟


I was very fortunate to be offered tickets to attend School of Rock this evening by www.boxoffice.co.uk (thanks guys!) and so used the opportunity for a hump day excursion with my ‘surrogate’ mummy Mary. It had been a ropey Wednesday after very little sleep due to illness, followed by a flat car battery which nearly resulted in the train departing for London without me! Upon arrival at the New London Theatre no one could find tickets reserved for me, so I ricocheted from the box office windows to the press stand as advised, and was spoken to very rudely by the woman in charge of ticket distribution for “proper” writers (which I was made aware did not include me!) Not an ideal way to begin an evening of fun but no matter (the mindfulness is clearly working as I didn’t kick off, even managing to chuckle at the prospect of two hours train journey without seeing the show!!)  In the end the tickets were located and I was ready to enjoy the evening ahead. 

The Musical has already received several very good reviews, which is no surprise given that it is an Andrew Lloyd Webber production. My main concern was whether the kids would come across as likeable, as I have very low tolerance for over inflated theatre school luvvies. 

The opening scene introduced our hero Dewey, and his original band. The blonde lead singer made me grin immediately, a parody of so many rock icons and singers rolled into one. Although not entirely relevant I must congratulate him on his legs with particular reference to his thighs – bravo sir! He had magnificent vocals and a confident demeanour, which carefully contrasted the (deliberately) terrible lyrics he sang.

Dewey Finn (David Fynn) was the very essence of Jack Black from the 2003 film and yet managed to make the part entirely his, which is admirable given the magnitude of Mr Black’s success. His voice, mannerisms and exuberance throughout were captivating and encapsulated the lovable rogue persona perfectly. He was energetic and endearing without becoming irritating or too much of a caricature. 

I would be here forever if I took much time to deliberate the vast strengths of the performers in detail, and so will consolidate as best I can. The comedic timing throughout the show made sure there were no slow patches, and the cast were all absolutely spectacular. The spikey, starched characters of Rosalie Mullins (Florence Andrews) and Patty Di Marco (Preeya Kalidas) worked in sparkling tandem with the eccentric  David Fynn and under the thumb Ned Schneebly (Oliver Jackson) to produce a well rounded and relatable story for a varied audience. 

I was extremely impressed by the quality of the children in tonight’s show. They were refreshingly talented, with no hint of obnoxious stage school attitude. It appeared that they were loving every minute and were professional to the last detail, and must be credited for making the show so incredible. When they were rocking out in the second half I looked up and was thrilled to see that the band (as in backing instruments behind the scenes) were taking their break by applauding and supporting the young musicians on stage – wonderful camaraderie. The sets were brilliant, cleverly used in many different ways to keep the audience guessing. The songs were toe tappingly catchy, I particularly liked the one introducing the school, and “stick it to the man!”

The only things I can critique are that during one or two songs I lost some lyrics – a combination of loud live music and speedy singing! The other comment I have is that during the final scene I was slightly blinded by the extra lights which were bright and shining right into my eyes. I didn’t find the theatre staff as friendly as other places I’ve been (see my ticket issues at the beginning and also the slow service without a smile at the bar) which is a shame but no reflection of School of Rock.

The final scene was a real climax, a true crescendo rather than the damp squib that some shows use to conclude when all the big guns have already been brought out. I left the theatre tonight feeling uplifted and grateful for such a fun filled evening – one of the best shows I’ve seen for some time. 
If you would like to buy a ticket I recommend getting them from: http://www.boxoffice.co.uk/arts-and-theatre-tickets/musicals/school-of-rock-musical-tickets.aspx

I’m off to bed!!! Tab x