Category Archives: Theatre

“I am guilty. I’m a little confused.” The Thrill Of Love at The Caxton Theatre

The words of Ruth Ellis to the off duty policeman who arrested her outside The Magdala pub in April 1955 after she had used a revolver to kill her lover David Blakely. The crime is played out in the opening scene of The Thrill Of Love by Amanda Whittington, which retells the story of the last woman to be executed in Britain.

As post war austerity draws to an end the private clubs of Soho and Knightsbridge are full of well to do punters and there is always a place for a good looking hostess. It’s a world of seedy glamour, of fast cars, strong drink and seamed stockings and the new production at The Caxtons recreates that world to remarkable effect on a stripped back stage painted prison grey and with the shadow of window bars cast over the set. There are only a few pieces of spartan furniture on stage, emphasising the similarities between the tawdry clubs around which the action plays out, the spartan bedsit in which Ellis miscarries, having been punched in the stomach by Blakely, and the condemned cell at Holloway (just pull the wardrobe aside to reveal the door to the gallows chamber).

The play investigates the damage that love can do and the suffering that some people are prepared to endure in its name. A crackly recording of Billy Holiday sets the scene and Chloey Rose as Ruth Ellis brings just the right mixture of brass and vulnerability to her portrayal of Ruth, a small town girl from North Wales who has spent the war dancing every night and hopes to move into the glittering world of British film celebrity like her idol Diana Dors.

Drawn inexorably to men who will do her harm she seems to be marked for victimhood from the start and although the play unquestionably doubts whether or not she should have died as she did it does not make her out to be a heroine or a martyr. She’s a severely damaged person, incapable of pulling herself back from the brink, as frustrating to Ruairidh Greig’s dogged, down to earth police detective as she is to her friends.

Greig’s old school copper is an omnipresent narrator/character, moving serenely through flashbacks, questioning Ellis to try to discover the truth, (particularly about exactly where she acquired the gun) and persuade her to co-operate with the many appeals for clemency launched on her behalf by others. She gives him short shrift almost to the end, by which time it’s too late.

There’s fantastic support from the three actresses who play Ellis’s friends, Marie Barker as the hard as nails and heart of gold Sylvia Shaw, Louise Blakey as comrade in arms Vickie Martin and Claire Wright as charlady and good girl Doris Judd and under the direction of Cathy Bennett-Ryan they effectively summon up the spirit of an era long before #MeToo, when casual violence against women was part of everyday life.

After a run of comedies it’s nice to see the Caxtons taking on a more serious piece of theatre for a change and we’d highly recommend a visit.

The Thrill Of Love is at the Caxton Theatre from Saturday 20th January to Saturday 27th January. Tickets available through www.caxtontheatre.com or on 01472 323111.

COLLABRO AND THEIR GUESTS BRING THE MAGIC OF THE MUSICALS TO THE AUDITORIUM

A packed house was treated to a fantastic evening of music and song on Tuesday night at Grimsby Auditorium as Britain’s Got Talent Winners and multi platinum album sellers Collabro and their guests came to town.

Opening the show was Sheffield born gospel country singer Philippa Hanna whose set showcased the songwriting and vocal skills which have taken her to the top of the UK gospel charts. Highlights of her set were I Am Amazing, taken from her 2016 album Come Back Fighting, which allowed her to show her marvellously fluid voice to maximum effect and Arrow which has a great up-beat Country vibe and an inspirational message well suited to her Christian background.

Collabro are everyone’s favourite masters of the big show tune that goes like this, starts off soft and low, and ends up with a kiss and this evening they delivered a masterclass in showmanship with a fine six piece band, elegant staging and costumes and a setlist that ranged from Les Miserables to Miss Saigon taking in Wicked, The Lion King, Phantom and lots of other modern musical theatre favourites on the way as well as pop hits like the Mumfords’ I Will Wait and a lively Don’t Rain On My Parade.

Their main set ended with Stars, the tune which first brought them to our attention and then we were treated to a fantastic encore which climaxed with a crimson jacketed December 1963 (Oh What A Night) that had the audience up on its feet and dancing to the Jersey Boys classic.

The nicest surprise of the evening was Collabro’s special guest, Mansfield born Carly Paoli who is one of those fortunate artists whose talent allows them to excel across genres. She has a cool precision that’s well suited to the classical repertoire but also the emotional expressiveness required for musical theatre.

Having fallen in love with the classic film musicals at home she studied at the Royal Northern College of Music and she’s certainly a performer whose star is on the rise, having duetted with Jose Carreras and Placido Domingo and had one of her own songs, Ave Maria, selected by the Vatican as the official song for Pope Francis’ Jubilee Year of Mercy.

She first appeared to join Collabro for a stunning Over The Rainbow and then treated us to a selection of tunes from her recently released debut album Singing My Dreams. She’s due to headline a show at the Cadogan Hall in London on February 15th 2018 – and it promises to be a great show at one of the most famous venues in the capital.

Not bad for a little girl from Mansfield who fell in love with the magic of the great MGM musicals and never looked back! We’re sure that we’ll be seeing a lot more of her in the future!

Signed, Sealed, Delivered: A Tribute To Stevie Wonder

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Grimsby Auditorium plays host to an evening of the music of the legendary Stevie Wonder.

Stevie Wonder is one of the most successful performers of the century, selling over 100 million records worldwide in a career that has spanned nearly sixty years.
If you love the man and his music then you’ll love Signed, Sealed delivered – A Tribute To Stevie Wonder.
Featuring back to back number ones including the Grammy award winning Signed, Sealed, Delivered as well as Superstition, Higher Ground, Master Blaster, Sir Duke, Part Time Lover, Isn’t She Lovely, and the biggest international hit of all time – I just Called To Say I Love You, plus many, many more!
To ensure audiences are dancing in the aisles the show features American singing superstar Lejaune André who will be joined on stage by a fabulous seven piece band, outstanding backing vocalists and top dancers.

So get ready for the wonder that is Signed, Sealed, Delivered.

To book tickets call
Box Office: 0300 300 0035
Book on line www.grimsbyauditorium.org.uk
Or book in person at the Grimsby Auditorium pay cash for no booking or transaction fees
Or call into the Cleethorpes TIC
*Booking/transaction fee may apply
Restoration levy included

Something Tells Me Something’s Gonna Happen …

If you’re a fan of 60s hits or 80s TV or if you just love fantastic music and a great show then you should take a look at Cilla And The Shades Of The Sixties which visits Grimsby Auditorium on Friday 24th March.

It’s a hugely entertaining stage show for families and pop fans of all ages, a fabulous musical tribute to the songs of Cilla Black and the many artists and songwriters who changed the world of popular entertainment during the 1960s.

The show is fronted by the effervescent Liverpudlian singer and actress Victoria Jones who, along with the Shades Trio, will take audiences on a musical journey through Cilla’s life and some of the biggest chart hits of the era.

Classic hit songs such as Alfie, Anyone Who Had A Heart, Step Inside Love and many more will also celebrate the great songwriting partnerships of the time including Lennon/McCartney, Bacharach/David, Lamont/Dozier/Holland, and Greenaway/Cook.

Victoria Jones will also take the audience down memory lane reliving some of the most popular aspects of Cilla’s stellar career such as Blind Date – which ran for a record breaking 18 years – and her own hit TV show.

It sounds like it’ll be a great show and you can see Victoria talking about what it’s like to play a scouse icon here.

Tickets are on sale now and are available from the Auditorium Box Office on 0300 300 0035. There’s more information and online booking at www.grimsbyauditorium.org.uk

The Flint Street Nativity at The Caxtons

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Blue Remembered Christmas

The Flint Street Nativity
Caxton Theatre
November 25th – December 3rd

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas and down at the Caxton Theatre the crowds gathered last night for a seasonal show full of laughter, joy and a little sadness as the Caxton Players performed Tim Firth’s Flint Street Nativity.

Many of us will have fond memories of this drama from the original 1999 TV play featuring the likes of Frank Skinner, Stephen Tompkinson and Jane Horrocks but whatever you do, don’t let that put you off going to see this production, because this is a show that benefits immensely from live performance and you’ll have to wait a long time to see anything this funny and telling in town.

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As adults playing children the cast lead the audience through the excitement and terror of a primary school nativity play, complete with classroom rivalries, distraught teachers, and the parents who remain unseen until the end of the show but are still ever present thanks to the influence, benign or otherwise (mostly otherwise), that they exert over their children’s lives.

There are plenty of laughs along the way – including some great slapstick and some of the most inspired vulgarity you’ll hear in a while. Anybody who thinks bad language is neither clever nor funny hasn’t seen this show. Comedy highlights include the arrival of twin Messiahs (and the accidental decapitation of one of them), the escape and recapture of the school newt, a foul mouthed donkey and the children’s encounter with the contents of their teacher’s handbag.

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The key to the play’s success is that it allows us to see the adult world through the prism of childhood but it’s not all laughs and ‘Oh my, the things they say”. There is also a pervading sense of compromised nostalgia and of innocence in the process of being lost as the youngsters’ conversations reveal how much of the adult world they have witnessed, how much of their parents’ lives they have misunderstood and more tellingly how much they have understood at least as well as, and probably better than, their elders. These are not children enjoying the blissful ignorance of youth that we might wish upon them. I’m not allowed to quote Larkin’s This Be The Verse in these pages but I can at least reference Crosby, Stills and Nash’s words about teaching your parents well which seem equally relevant. The parents in the play seem remarkably unwilling to learn however. Ain’t that the way of the world.

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It’s a real ensemble piece and with all the cast working so hard for each other it seems wrong to single people out for special praise so I’ll just say that George Mansfield is astonishingly funny as Herod/Joseph, Helen Riley excels as an archangel who wants to be Mary, Ian Hammond has exactly the right air of bewildered naivety as the narrator and Gary Fox, as the severely damaged Frankincense, has a compelling air of vulnerability and neglect.

It would be remiss not to add that Phil Whitfield as The Ass makes the absolute most of his swearing song. Special praise must also go to director Nadine Bennett-Wood for drawing so many disparate narrative strands together into a coherent whole.

So if you’re looking for some festive theatre that isn’t a panto (oh no it isn’t) then we highly recommend The Flint Street Nativity at the Caxtons.

Miss. Miss. I’ve finished, Miss.

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To book tickets visit www.caxtontheatre.com
Or call into the Grimsby or Cleethorpes TIC
Or contact them by phone on 01472 323111

Same Time Next Year

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February 17th 1951. East coast liberal accountant George and high school dropout Doris wake up together in a chalet at the Sea Shadows Inn beneath the all seeing and mildly disconcerting eye of a portrait of Harry Truman. On the wall is a Californian flag which refuses to hang straight. Somewhat awkwardly the two exchange life stories and gradually come to realise that they are falling in love. The only problem is that they are both happily married to other people who they have no wish to hurt and are parents of three children each.

So they agree to meet up once a year to spend the weekend together, sharing stories good and bad about their spouses and families and bringing each other up to date on family news. Over the course of the next twenty five years we see them grow and change as Doris goes back to school and becomes a successful business woman and George turns Republican.

Each year there is news to share, some good, some less so and as the world changes around them, leaving George in particular uncomprehending and resentful, and as Truman gives way to Eisenhower et al the couple find solace, friendship and the comfort of carnality in each other’s company.

Some things remain the same however and that flag never does hang straight.

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Canadian playwright Bernard Slade may not be a household name these days but a new production of his best known work, Same Time Next Year, at The Caxton Theatre, opening on Saturday October 15th offers a terrific evening of bitter sweet comedy handled deftly by director Steve Labourne and the cast of John Ferguson as George and Hayley Browne as Doris.

Together they bring the characters to life with compassion, joy and keen ears for the nuances of dialogue which make the play more than just a series of conversations. They also have the happy knack of varying the pace just enough that the action, (essentially just two people talking in a room), never seems to drag, but at the same time does not fall into the trap of histrionics or sentimentality.

Along the way there are plenty of laughs – mostly of the laconically ironic school – but there’s some excellent physical comedy as well, particularly when Doris arrives heavily pregnant (in the late 1960s I think) and if you’re looking for an excellent evening’s entertainment then this is definitely as show not to be missed.

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Same Time Next Year is at The Caxton Theatre from October 15th – October 22nd

To book tickets
Visit www.caxtontheatre.com
Or call into the Grimsby or Cleethorpes TIC
Or contact them by phone on 01472 323111

Alexandra Rex at Fusion Creative

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Uneasy Lies The Pretty Little Head That Wears A Crown

King Robert is dead. Storm clouds gather in the North. The only legitimate heir to the throne is exiled across the eastern sea. But this is not Westeros. This is Lincolnshire, albeit a mythical, mediaeval Lincolnshire created by playwright Josie Moon for her new play, Alexandra Rex, which was premiered last night, (Saturday October 1st) at St Martin’s Church by members of the Fusion Creative adult theatre group.

The play centres on an attempt by the Lords of Lincolnshire, led by the ruthless but conflicted Ashby, to bring Princess Alexandra back from Rotterdam to act as titular ruler of the Kingdom while the aristocracy carve up the wealth of the territory for themselves. Unfortunately for their lordships the young queen/king is not the pushover they had anticipated. Regular visitors to Fusion Creative may recall a recent evening with poet Helen Mort at which she dealt at length with this kind of issue and the possibility of claiming compensation.

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Aided by a quirk of Lincolnshire law the new queen decides to do things her own way and, influenced by the stories she is told by a group of refugee fisherwomen from the Yorkshire Coast, she begins by declaring a new capital offence of rape, sticking to her guns even when it means plunging the kingdom into war. Even when it comes to getting blood on her own hands, this is a princess who does not back down.

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The production showcases the growing confidence of the Fusion team and the deepening darkness and subtlety of Josie’s writing. It features fine performances by the whole cast, but especially from Charli Parkin as Alexandra, Matty Gray as Ashby and Emma Middleton as the leader of the refugee women, and it is to be hoped that this will just be the first of many performances.

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There are plenty of exciting events on the way at Fusion Creative including a visit from acclaimed poet Hollie McNish on Saturday 12th November and you can find out all about their other events and regular clubs by going to www.fusioncreative.org.uk or by visiting their Facebook page.

The Ladykillers At The Caxton Theatre

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The year is 1956. The place, a dilapidated old house on a bridge at the rear of King’s Cross Station. A friendly local bobby is patrolling his beat and he drops in on an elderly widow with regard to a report she has made that a local newsagent is a former high ranking Nazi in disguise. It turns out to be a false alarm but later that day the same old lady is visited by the debonair Professor Marcus who wishes to rent a room in which to stage rehearsals for his string quartet.

Those familiar with the classic Ealing comedy of the same name will be aware by now that we are in Ladykillers territory and the so called musicians are in fact bank robbers planning a cash raid on the station just up the road. You may perhaps be thinking that it’s a brave company that dares to take on one of the best loved comedies in British film history, especially one that boasts classic performances by Alec Guiness, Peter Sellers and Herbert Lom, (we’ll pass quietly over the 2004 Coen brothers/Tom Hanks remake) but in their new production the Caxton Players succeed admirably in making the play their own and treating the audience to an evening full of laughter.

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This version is not a straight crib from the film but a 2011 West End adaptation by Graham Linehan (of Father Ted fame) which brings back all the much loved characters and gives the company enough laugh lines and set pieces for the whole cast to show off their comedy talents while keeping the pace rattling along.

At the centre of the action are Geraldine Godwin, excellent as Mrs Wilberforce, frequently bewildered but also given to flashes of insight which eventually bring the criminals to informal justice, and Professor Marcus, played with great panache and charm by Byron Young, a very different take on the role from the Alec Guiness benchmark and all the better for that. The whole cast is on fine form, from Steve Skipworth as the scene stealing One Round and George Mansfield’s couture obsessed Major Courtney to Sam Brierley as young gun Harry Robinson and Chris Dempsey as the gerontophobic mafioso Louis Harvey. Rod Chapman’s Constable McDonald, who bookends the piece, is nicely judged and very funny.

Director Rob Till and all the technical team pull out the stops to deal with the challenges of staging a play which necessitates simultaneous action on two floors and features a geoseismic son et lumiere whenever a train passes beneath the house and the result is a triumph. It’s a play with plenty of highlights but the sequence in which the criminals dazzle a group of visiting pensioners with their avant garde playing has the style of a renaissance crowd scene and the humour of the best of Benny Hill.

The Ladykillers is running at the Caxton Theatre from Saturday 3rd to Saturday 10th September andf there are still tickets available through www.caxtontheatre.com or from Cleethorpes Tourist Information Centre on 01472 323111.

A Whiz Of A Wiz (If Ever A Wiz There Was)

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There was a fantastic night of singing and dancing last night as the Grimsby Auditorium and Lincs Inspire Summer Youth Musical – The Wizard Of Oz – took to the stage. It’s the thirteenth year of the Musical and this year’s effort was a great success despite the full cast having been together for only ten days of rehearsals.

Based on the John Kane adaptation for the RSC of Arlen and Yarburg’s film score the show is a chance to revisit all your favourite moments from the film, and to revisit some of cinema’s best loved characters including Dorothy, Scarecrow, the Cowardly Lion and the Tin Man.

It was also a rare chance to see some less well known moments that were cut from the film including the Tin Man’s back story and the Jitterbug sequence in which the Wicked Witch of The East releases weaponised dance insects (yes really) on the travellers to tire them out and make them easier to capture.

The result is nothing short of a triumph with excellent performances from the principals, a chorus that’s bursting with enthusiasm and energy, a top class orchestra in the pit and terrific sets and costumes creating a spectacle that was great fun for audience and performers alike.

The Wizard Of Oz is on for two more performances today (Saturday 8th August) at 2pm and 7pm. Tickets are available on the Auditorium website or on the door or by clicking the heels of your ruby slippers together and saying there’s no place like home.

An Exciting Autumn Season In Store At The Caxton Theatre

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We’ve been lucky enough to enjoy some excellent productions at The Caxtons over the past couple of months and we’re looking forward to many more as their Autumn season approaches. Highlights include The Ladykillers in September (Saturday 3rd to Saturday 10th) and in October there’s Same Time Next Year which runs from Saturday 15th to Saturday 22nd.

The Caxtons were founded in 1940 to provide some light relief from the depression of wartime and over 75 years later they’re still going strong, offering eight varied productions a year in their own 180 seat theatre and running an extremely successful Youth Theatre group.

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They hold a regular once a month get together – called Keep In Touch Thursdays (or KITT nights for short). New members are always welcome and KITT nights can be a great way to find out if Caxtons is for you. Check the website or social media for further details.

Caxtons Youth Theatre meets twice a week for drama games, improvisation, confidence building, scripted work and behind the scenes training. CYT works towards at least one performance a year (this year it’s Seven Deadly Sins, from Friday 23rd to Saturday 24th September) in which all youth members take part, whether on the stage or behind it. A fantastic introduction to the wonderful world of theatre!

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For information go to www.caxtontheatre.com Tickets can be purchased via the website or from NELC Tourist Information Centres on 01472 323111