Annie 14.03.2016

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First of all, I have a bit of a confession to make. I have never seen Annie at the theatre before tonight, or ever attempted the film. The shrieking ginger orphan has never interested me particularly…sorry musical lovers. Before you close the window tab in disgust please hear me out. I decided I would give tonight a go, and I’m SO PLEASED I did!

Even before the house lights went down I was intrigued by the set, which was colourful and refreshingly modern. I won’t discuss the plot too much, as any self respecting ‘Annie’ fan will already know it, and going in blind actually worked really well for me! The show opened with an incredible energy and the children sang and danced their holey little socks off. I generally avoid any theatrical production with children in it (other than the beloved Christmas Panto of course!) but I cannot praise them highly enough for their honed vocals, concise choreography and professionalism. Lesley Joseph played a comical and debauched Miss Hannigan, which worked wonderfully throughout, although I liked her too much to find her truly evil! Maybe it was our shared love for gin.  There were loads of set changes and I can’t commend the cast enough for how slick they were with the transitions. They were all really well written into the scenes and made sure the audience stayed interested. The whole show flowed beautifully and is a real credit to everyone who worked so incredibly hard to make it smooth. The lighting,  props and wardrobe were top quality, and I feel that this production has very little to improve upon. It is rare to find such a consistently strong cast, who truly looked as though they were loving every minute of the show. I have to admit to a slight crush on Rooster (Jonny  Fines) which I will attribute to his top quality singing, dancing and convincing ‘bad boy’ swagger. Alex Bourne was a powerful and loving Mr Warbucks, beautifully combining his business man persona and his softer, more fatherly side.

This is a fairly brief review but really all I can say is that this is what theatre is truly about. I was unsure  I would enjoy this evening, but the performance embodied everything I would expect from a high calibre show. More if I’m honest. One of the best shows I’ve seen in a long time, and I wish its cast and crew lots of well deserved success.

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Private Lives 7.3.2016

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The opening scene introduces  Sibyl (Ritchie) and Elyot (Chambers), and it becomes quickly apparent that these are not your average newlyweds. She – the neurotic bride, eager for validation, and He – the sophisticated, slightly distant groom. The energy soon increases with the arrival of the quintessentially British Victor (Teverson) and his new wife Amanda (Rogers). The comedy is well delivered through clever timing and physicality, and allows the actors to show off their skills. There is a fantastic mixture of deadpan antiquated tetchiness from Teverson, rauchiness from Rogers, emotional ruffles from Ritchie and cheeky charm from Chambers.

The first half sees an impressive set change which is very smoothly executed, and the actors certainly make the most of the stage space. It is worth noting that there are two acts during the first half and one during the second, which therefore means the first is substantially longer.  Possibly some of the ‘lovey’ declarations were a little on the repetitive side (especially for someone lacking my tolerance for the sloppy stuff), although seemingly this is what Coward had in mind to represent the nature of the relationship between Elyot and Amanda. There was a little dip in energy towards the end of act two, but this was startlingly revived before interval! The second half is substantially shorter, but draws the audience in as relationships recover and fall apart in the blink of an eye. Given the size of the cast it is commendable that the actors maintain such animated performances, reaching an impressive crescendo in the final moments of the play.

Despite being written several decades ago, Private Lives has transferred well to modern day. The subject matter of relationships is one that fascinates us all (and in fact some of the plays content wouldn’t be entirely out of place on the Jeremy Kyle Show!)  and I found myself able to sympathise with the plight of the characters. The star of the show for me has to be Teverson, who embodied the archaic yet kindly nature of Victor with an underlying conviction throughout. If you enjoy a play that is thought provoking, risque and a little tongue in cheek then Private Lives is for you.