Category Archives: Theatre

Neighbourhood Watch at The Caxton Theatre

If you like your comedy a little dark and with some political edge then the Caxton Players have just the thing for you this week as they present Alan Ayckbourn’s 2011 work Neighbourhood Watch.

It’s not quite satire, because the targets are too far down the political food chain, but it is an indictment of the quotidian prejudices and false assumptions that blight contemporary society. The Caxtons have been particularly prescient to put the production on during an election campaign in which the levels of so called ‘fake news’ have never been higher. The moral of the play is that if you tell people what they want to hear, which is mostly confirmations of what they already believe, (correctly or more usually incorrectly) then you won’t go far wrong.

On an upmarket estate whose back gardens offer a view down the hill to the local council estate (a place of dread for the characters in the play, filled with nameless horrors and working class people) a newly arrived brother and sister hold a sparsely attended housewarming. Here they meet a terrifying cross section of their new neighbours, including monomaniacal retired security consultant Rod (brilliantly played by Chris Dempsey), bewildered Welsh cuckold Gareth ( a terrific performance from Bruce Forster and the ill matched couple next door Luther and Magda (Kieron James and Tessa King who manage to be both disturbing and disturbed by turns).

The event culminates in a nasty case of mistaken identity, an assault and the theft of a clarinet (you didn’t see that coming), and the end result is increasing discontent on the hill, leading to the setting up of the titular neighbourhood watch.

So far so gentle but it’s here that the piece takes a surprising turn as the watch soon develops into a fascistic local policing system complete with road blocks, stocks and a public morality code. There’s a lot of sexual tension threatening to boil over too, particularly in the growing romance between Liz Drury’s sirenic Amy and Dean Wright’s Martin but there are other undercurrents too that don’t reveal themselves until later. It’s a bit like Neighbours meets 1984 with hints of Abigail’s Party in the mix for good measure and if it sounds like it’s all going to end in tears, well by Jesus it does.

All the cast are excellent and Debra West’s direction keeps the pace running just nicely so it doesn’t become too confusing and it’s certainly never dull. There aren’t many jokes as such but you’ll be hard pressed to find a more ironic and knowing piece of comedy on offer anywhere. Definitely worth a visit.

Dirty Dusting At The Caxtons

There’s an evening full of laughter for theatregoers this week as Dirty Dusting, from the pens of Geordie comedy writing team Ed Waugh and Trevor Wood and directed by John Solley, comes to the Caxton Theatre.

The play concerns the exploits of three office cleaners; the apparently worldly Elsie, (played with lashings of sauce by Geraldine Godwin), former girl guide leader Olive (whose secret sadnesses are subtly revealed by Christine Cornthwaite) and Diane Grimshaw’s leek widow Gladys, outwardly shy and naive but capable of some serious wardrobe climbing when the mood takes her (which it does with increasing vigour as the play progresses).

When their boss, the loathsome Dave, (played with hissable villainy by Jack Scott), announces that they are all to lose there jobs in a few days time there’s only one course open to them and that is to start a telephone sex line using the office phones.

It’s packed full with more jokes than you can shake a suggestively shaped stick at, some new, (not too many), some old, (quite a lot), some moderately clean, (a minority) and some unmitigatedly vulgar (quite a lot of that). In fact, not to put too fine a point on it, (ooh er madam), it’s a smutfest, a blend of the best bits of Benny Hill, Donald McgGill, On The Buses, the Carry Ons and lots of other performers and shows in a Great British tradition that stretches from Max Miller to Chubby Brown.

There are jokes about seamen, jokes about hamsters, jokes about a cockatoo and the show builds to a huge and juddering climax involving some terrifying electro mechanical frottage, a song and dance routine and a pair of Union Jack underpants.

What more could you ask?

It’s great fun and features four performances that make the most of the humour while still allowing the more nuanced elements of the characters to shine through, but it’s not for the easily offended and it’s probably not a good idea to take your kids, although depending on the age of the kids it may be the case that they’ll be the ones who are uncomfortable about being there with their parents.

All in all an excellent night of ribald laughter and long may its feather dusters tickle.

Dirty Dusting runs from April 22nd-29th. Visit www.caxtontheatre.com for further details.

Wonderland at Grimsby Auditorium

Alice isn’t a little girl any more. In fact it’s her fortieth birthday and it’s not going well. Her car has been stolen from outside her desolate tower block, she’s been fired from her job, there’s nothing in for tea and she has fallen out with her own daughter. Oh yes and her ex-husnad, with whom she is secretly still in love, is getting remarried.

Sounds like a cue for a song.

At least it does if you’re ready to be transported to Wonderland – but it’s not the old fashioned pastel hued Tenniel Wonderland we’re talking about here. It’s not Disney either and it’s definitely not Tim Burton.

This is a new, urban, technicolour Wonderland inhabited by a delightfully frenzied Cheshire Cat, a soulful caterpillar with some very chic detachable legs, a Mad Hatter with ideas above her station, a narcoleptic Dormouse, and a cunning White Rabbit who used to be a judge. There’s also a torch singing Queen of Hearts played by Wendy Peters (that’s Cilla from Corrie to you and me, and she’s in the image below) who steals the show with her off with their heads routine.

It’s full of great music too, (by Frank Wildhorn with lyrics by Jack Murphy), more pop than traditional stage musical, with a boy band number here, a power ballad there and a tea table that doubles as a disco floor. But with some of the best sets and costumes you’ll ever see this is a show that looks great and sounds great and it’s definitely well worth a visit to the Auditorium.

Wonderland runs at Grimsby Auditorium until Saturday 4th March. Tickets are available from the Auditorium website – www.grimsbyauditorium.org.uk

Animal Farm At The Caxtons

Down on the farm the animals are revolting. Mr Jones has been evicted and now spends in evenings in the Red Lion telling anyone who’ll listen that it’s not right. The pigs and sheep and cows and horses (especially the sheep) are singing as they work. Everything in the world is good.

But of course this is Animal Farm, as adapted by Sir Peter Hall from the novel by George Orwell. We all know that it’s going to go pear shaped.

It’s a brave endeavour, taking on a text so beloved by the great British public but under the direction of Gemma Dodds the Caxtons carry it off in style in this excellent new production.
Are there any other books that are held so high in popular esteem as Animal Farm? To Kill A Mockingbird perhaps and it’s no coincidence that both are stalwarts of the schools literature syllabus. For some of us these books represent our last tentative dabble in the margins of proper grown up fiction before we reached adulthood and discovered Harry Potter.

Remember sitting around discussing which of the animals represented particular individuals from the Russian Revolution? But just how much relevance to the world of today can an allegorical dissection of the failings of early twentirth century Russian communism still have?

The answer is much more than you might think. A sudden populist uprising. A leader whose appeal is based on his apparent lack of subtlety and anti-intellectualism. Established truths which change when you back is turned. As Marx himself once said “Who are you going to believe? Me or your eyes?”

Napoleon, leader of the pigs knows the power of fake news and bluster all too well. Give that pig a blonde wig and unusually small trotters and we could be on the Washington Mall for his inauguration while his fellow animals work themselves almost beyond endurance as they wait for Napoleon to make the farm so great again.

It’s a very strong production, with many of the parts taken by members of the Caxton Youth Theatre and all involved acquit themselves admirably. The three pigs are excellent; Shalei Cook’s Napoleon exudes real menace while Alice Gibbett as Squealer has the newspeak down to a tee. Stewart Dodds is a fine Boxer, imbued with the naive enthusiasm of Stakhanov and Denny from Please Sir and Mike Wilson, playing a variety of villagers, creates a series of memorable cameos without overshadowing the younger members of the cast.

The best moments of the evening come from the relationship between Clover the goat and Muriel the horse. I apologise for referring to them after the show as the cows. It was dark.Clever enough to see that things are going wrong but insufficiently strong to challenge the ascendancy of the pigs, their despair and sense of betrayal is ours too and Grace Halton and Lisa February bring exactly the right blend of anger and uncertainty to their parts, giving the play it’s moral centre.

Animal Farm is at the Caxton Theatre until Saturday 28th January and it’s well worth an evening’s worth of your time.

Aladdin: Grimsby Auditorium – review

There’s a feast of laughter, music and dance at the Grimsby Auditorium for the next fortnight when this year’s pantomime, Aladdin, takes to the stage. It’s a fun packed show with something for all the family and it’ll make a perfect Christmas treat for any child, young or old, who still believes in the magical power that can lurk in the most unassuming looking old oil lamps.

There are fantastic song and dance numbers, some ridiculously ribticulous jokes, plenty of good old fashioned slapstick, plus magic, sword fights and of course true romance. There’s plenty of audience participation too and on the night we were there the adults were shouting just as loud as the kids!

When the curtain rises we’re in downtown Peking and there’s trouble brewing on the Street of a Thousand Goldfish because our eponymous hero, the boy Aladdin, played with style and panache by Mary Viscomi, has been seen climbing the palace garden walls to get a glimpse of Lydia Rose Berties’ gorgeously irresistible Princess Baldroubadour. Unfortunately the punishment for setting eyes on her royal personage is beheading and Aladdin spends much of his time avoiding the attention of the guards. Between peeping and hiding he doesn’t have much time to put in a shift at his mother’s laundry.

There’s a terrifying villain of course in the form of Abanazar, played by Coronation Street’s Nigel Pivaro, with more cackle than you can shake a stick at, some excellent local dancers, a disco powered genie who’s ready to burst into song at any moment and, stealing all the best scenes, two locally born performers who are returning to perform in their home town for the first time, Phil Hoyles as the devastatingly glamorous washer woman Widow Twankey, owner of some of the most outrageous outfits ever to grace a Lincolnshire stage, and Gareth Bennett-Ryan as her eldest son and brother of the show’s hero, Wishee Washee (altogether now He’s quite dishy).

We went down to the opening night and had a fantastic time, oh yes we did, particular highlights being the washing of the royal smalls (rub a dub dub, scrub a dub dub and don’t let them touch the floor) and the moment when, having travelled to Egypt by flying carpet our heroes find themselves sharing a pyramid with a inquisitive mummy.

So if you fancy for taking the kids for a marvellous evening of traditional seasonal theatre then the Auditorium is your place to be until December 26th and if you haven’t got any kids then borrow some. If you’re arriving in style there’s a special raised area for parking carpets but however you get there you’re sure of a great night because this Aladdin is definitely a pantomime not to be missed.

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Aladdin is at Grimsby Auditorium until December 26th

To book tickets call Box Office: 0300 300 0035
Book on line at 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

ALL ABOARD FOR ANYTHING GOES AT THE MEMORIAL HALL

anything-goes

It’s 1934 and SS American is about to sail from New York to England with a passenger list containing assorted aristocrats, clergymen, Wall Street magnates and showgirls. Cameras flash. The band plays. But not everyone is all that they seem.

Welcome to Anything Goes – the classic Cole Porter musical currently being presented at the Memorial Hall by Curtain Up Productions under the direction of David Wrightam.

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It’s one of Porter’s greatest shows, much revived and revised over the years, but still possessing the cool art deco shine of the era of the great ocean going liners and packed with sly wit, occasional smut, terrific dancing and of course some of the greatest songs ever written. In its present form it features not only the title number but also You’re The Top, It’s Delovely, Friendship and Let’s Misbehave. You’ll go a long time before you hear this many showstoppers in one night.

The first thing you notice about Curtain Up’s production is how great it looks – both set and costumes have that 1930s glamour down to a tee – and the show is staged with considerable ingenuity, allowing transitions from the deck to cabin interiors with the minimum of fuss and maximum style.

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All the cast are in fine voice, the choreography is a sharp as you could wish and the orchestra, under Keith Weston, approach their task enthusiastically but with enough subtlety to allow the vocals and lyrics to shine through.

As Reno Sweeney, notorious torch singer and femme fatale, Hayley Wrightam almost steals the show and the fact that she doesn’t do so is testament to the fine performances by the cast as a whole with special congratulations going to Andrew Bailey as Moonface Martin – Public Enemy Number 13 and Scott Smith as Sir Evelyn Oakleigh, whose duet with Reno to Let’s Misbehave is one of the highlights of the night. Sarah Hagerup as Bonnie is another standout – as mollish a moll as any gangster could ever wish.

Altogether this show is a must see for anyone who loves musicals. Highly recommended.

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Anything Goes is at The Memorial Hall from Wednesday 16th – Saturday 19th November at 7.30pm daily and with a Saturday matinee at 2.15pm. Tickets available from Cleethorpes Tourist Information at Cleethorpes Library or by phone on 01472 323111.

TALES FROM NARNIA AT ST MARTIN’S

Narnia

Fusion Creative Bring Aslan Roaring Back To Life

It’s been a busy six months (or so) up at St Martin’s on Scartho Road but with their new production of Tales From Narnia on Saturday, Fusion Creative showed that they’re now fully settled into their new premises and that they’re prepared to make the most of the extra opportunities it affords for more sophisticated and ambitious drama than was possible in their previous home at St James’ House.

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Drawing together elements of the whole Narnia multiverse, including Prince Caspian, The Horse And His Boy and The Silver Chair, Tales brought together a cast of young people and adults, assisted by stilt walkers, an orchestra and a choir to bring CS Lewis’ magical world to life. Performances were universally excellent and since it seems invidious to single out any one performer from such a fine ensemble we’ll avoid doing so. Suffice it to say that everyone involved, from principals to chorus and including all the backroom assistants and volunteers without whose help a show like this would be impossible, acquitted themselves superbly and we’ll be looking forward with anticipation to see what their next production will be.

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Next on the agenda for Fusion is their Look Up Festival which runs from April 7th – 9th. The festival features poetry, crafts and music and culminates with a performance by legendary cabaret artist Barb Jungr. For more details check out the Fusion website or their Facebook page.

This feature also appears in The Peoples Issue 41 Web Edition

Interview: The Peoples talks to David Gest

David Gest

“My mother was called Wei Wei Nani
and my grandmother was Poo
I was always very fond of Poo Nani ….”

Interview: The Peoples talks to David Gest

Showbusiness legend and friend to the stars, producer and reality star David Gest brings his snappily titled new show, David Gest Is Not Dead He’s Alive With Soul, to the Auditorium on July 3rd. With a star studded cast including Dina Carroll, Russell Thompkins Jnr, (the original vocalist from the Stylistics), Deniece Williams, Billy Paul, Anita Ward and Fern Kinney it should be a fabulous night of classic soul and if that’s not enough for you then there’s special guest star Rose Royce featuring Gwen Dickey as well.

For those who have failed to keep their basic reality TV knowledge up to date the show’s title is a reference to an incident during the recent series of Celebrity Big Brother when confusion resulting from Angie Bowie being told that her ex-husband had died left some housemates under the impression that the spirit of David Gest had departed in the night. Fortunately for us and for the entertainment industry, rumours of his death were exaggerated.

We got the chance to speak to him at the Auditorium when he came over to talk about the new show and about the fascinating story of his life and he was on great form, wickedly funny, utterly deadpan, frank and entertaining and clearly still in love with the world of showbusiness.

The Peoples: Thank you very much for finding the time to speak to us. I’ve spent most of the morning watching you on YouTube and I have to say that I haven’t laughed so much in a long time as I did watching you explaining to Richard and Judy about your uncle Dick and Aunt Fanny Hertz and their nut farm. So can I ask you first of all, have you always had this mischievous streak that makes you spin yarns with such outrageous plausibility?

David Gest: They’re not yarns. It’s all true. These are my family stories that I’m sharing. I’ve had an extraordinary life. I wasn’t born in the United States. I was born in Taiwan. My father was a one legged fisherman and my mother was a trainee nun. My real name was Hoppity. Why you laughing?

I’m sorry. It’s a very moving story.

It is a moving story. I was adopted when I was five and I’ve never seen my birth family again.

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During your theatrical career you’ve produced some remarkable shows including the Michael Jackson 30th Anniversary Concert, Dionne Warwick’s 45th Anniversary Spectacular and the Legends Ball starring Whitney Houston. Is there any one show that you think of as being the highlight of your career, the one you’re most proud of?

The Michael Jackson show is probably the highlight. I knew the Jacksons because they were my neighbours when I was growing up and I used to go round to their house and they’d come to mine and at the time I was living in California and one morning I put on the radio and I heard the song The Love You Save which is probably my favourite Jackson 5 song and I said to myself “I’m going to reunite them just to hear that song”. So I called Michael and he said “no” but I said to him, “This is going to be special. It’s your thirtieth anniversary and you’re going to be reunited with your brothers”.

I called his assistant Franklin and said, “You gotta help me convince him” and we all took a trip to San Francisco in a coach and we went the wrong way and we almost went off a mountain and we had such a great weekend he said “Yes”. When we started rehearsals for that show and they played The Love You Save I couldn’t believe that we’d actually done it and got them together. I remember watching the show later at home with Liza Minnelli and we sat on the couch and we both said “This is really good.” Because sometimes when you do something you don’t know if it’s good or not, but there we were watching it on CBS and the next day when they said it was the highest rated show of all time, I was so proud. I was stunned. Usually when you do something you think that you could do it better if you did it again but the Michael Jackson show is a really good show.

I designed all the numbers, like Whitney, Usher and Mya doing Wanna Be Startin’ Something and Liza singing You Are Not Alone and each one was tailored to the performer. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life.

Do you ever watch it now?

I haven’t watched it in about eight years because I don’t like watching myself or my shows on television. I’ve never even seen myself on Big Brother.

Going into the jungle made you into more than just a celebrity. It made you into a much loved popular figure in this country. Do you feel the love from the British public?
I feel it all the time and it makes me feel very lucky. Earlier today we were in Hull and when we came out of the theatre and walked along the street all the builders and the passers by said “Hello” and stopped us for photographs. I have seldom known this happen in this way to anyone.

I live in this country now, have done for the past nine years, in York, and I love it. My heart is here. There’s a big difference between British people and American people. British people never talk about their money or what they have or what they do. There’s a refinement and reserve to the British and you’re so well educated. Kids know Shakespeare and your school system is so much better.

I love the British people I have never felt so at home. The way they react to me is wonderful. They come up to me and say “‘Ello, ‘ow are you?” and I say “‘Ello, ‘ow are you?” back in my bad Dick Van Dyke cockney accent. It’s great to put a smile on people’s faces and I’m humbled by it but I never expected it. I didn’t want to do I’m A Celebrity. I was forced into it. I’d been injured and had a head injury and I said “No” but my former security man said “You have to do this”. I had only ever seen one clip of the programme, with Carol Thatcher eating a bug, and I thought “I could do that”.

And I’m glad I did because it was the greatest experience of my life because I love nature and animals and snakes and I remember that I put a lizard on my hand and said “I’m going to call you Bonnie Tyler” and I started to sing It’s A Heartbreak to it and it turned blue and died.

The people on the show were great too. I was the only American and I didn’t know most of theme or what they did, but they were all lovely and I made lots of friends and had a great time.

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Let’s talk about your new show. I’ve seen you described as a new Ziegfield. Do you see yourself that way, as a master showman? And is that reflected in David Gest Is Not Dead?

I’d love to be thought of that way. I don’t think I’ve made it yet but this is a big show. It’s starts with my funeral and then everybody shouts “David Gest isn’t dead, he’s alive right here in Grimsby” and then we go into a big gospel number. And I am actually an ordained minister and when you hear me going crazy and shouting “Praise God, Praise Jesus” (at this point he slips effortlessly into character and his stage voice echoes around the room, causing everyone else present to stop talking and look sheepishly round the room as if to say “It wasn’t me, I was whispering”), well everybody listens. I have the little people of David Gest with me and they bring me luck.

Do you ever get tired of being a reality star and start to crave privacy?

Well I don’t do reality shows as much as I used to. I like the quiet life. I’ve been a celebrity and I’ve been to the expensive restaurants and nowadays I am just as happy going to a hog roast and having some meat and Yorkshire pudding as going to a restaurant and paying £80 or £100 for a meal.

Some of the towns you’re playing are quite small. Many of them have never even had a star studded Hollywood comedy named after them. Do you like playing small towns and relatively small venues?

I love it. I love it that as I come in there’s a huge car lot with miles and miles of cars. It’s great to come to a town where the port is still a part of your community.

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I noticed that you do a lot of work for charity. Do you enjoy that?

I do because sometimes people fall on hard times and it’s not because of their own fault but because their lives are out of control and if you can help people to make their own lives better that’s a wonderful feeling. And you make yourself a better person that way.

I think you’ll like it here at the Auditorium. It’s a lovely venue and a great acoustic and the audience will be buzzing. Do you have a message to the people of Grimsby and Cleethorpes about why they should come to the show?

I think they should come and see my show because I’m absolutely nuts and because they’re going to see eleven soul legends and they’re all absolutely fantastic and if they come they’ll have a wonderful night.

Thank you very much indeed.

This interview can be found in The Peoples Issue 41 Web Edition

THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE at The WHITGIFT FILM THEATRE – REVIEW

pirates

Pirates Of Penzance
at Whitgift Film Theatre
live streamed from the
English National Opera
May 19th 2015
Review by Josie-Anne Gray

I have to admit that I’ve been giddy with excitement looking forward to seeing this production over the past few weeks. I first saw Pirates when I was 19. It was at the Theatre Royal in Newcastle and it gave me a longstanding love of this silly, clever opera. I was hoping not to be disappointed tonight and I was not.

The Whitgift live streams are a wonderful opportunity for those of us in places just that bit too far from London and the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden or The Coliseum to see these great productions. Ticket prices are a factor as well so the much reduced cost of £15 is a bargain. The Whitgift Film Theatre provides a comfortable and intimate venue and the streams give the theatre an opportunity to share great art and hopefully make some money for investment in the future.

Mike Leigh’s set for the production is spectacular. It is huge, modern and bright painted in sea blues and pea greens with a great, jutting red pirate ship cutting through at what looks like quite a precarious angle for the lively opening section that contains one of the show’s great songs I Am A Pirate King. Joshua Bloom gives this pirate king verve and humour. The glorious rich boom of his voice elevates the song to a truly joyous anthem, setting the vocal standard high.

The singers with the greatest control and clarity in the opening are Bloom and Robert Murray as easily addled Frederic the apprentice. Rebecca de Pont Davies as Ruth is also spectacular in the opening with crystalline diction. I found her performance poignant and touching. As an older woman, cast out and deemed unlovable she is the shadow in a show of light and frivolity and Davies brought that very much to the fore in her performance.
I wanted the Major General (Andrew Shore) to deliver his tricky show-stopper with panache but alas it seemed to outface him and he stumbled and was just behind the music throughout rendering this notoriously difficult patter song rather shambolic. He was much better in the second half where he seemed more comfortable in his role.

Pirates has the silliest of plots and is famous for its humour, it paradoxes and its all round rollicking sense of fun. Nowhere was this more apparent than in the delicious With Catlike Tread which the company performed with gusto. If ever there was a song to lift the spirits then surely this is it.

The second half truly belonged to the Sergeant of Police (Jonathon Lemalu) whose face was obscured by the most ludicrous comedy beard and whose paunch was so pronounced he looked in danger of toppling over but his delivery was faultless and joyously absurd. He gave his role all the burlesque delight it deserves and outshone everyone except the Pirate King, which is as it should be. In that long ago production in Newcastle, I remember being reduced to crying with laughter at the Sergeant of Police and having aching sides. The effect was not quite the same but his performance was wonderfully enjoyable.

I tripped out of the theatre, not quite with catlike tread but certainly well entertained. If opera is not your thing or not something with which you are comfortable and familiar, then dipping your toe in the water with Gilbert and Sullivan is probably an excellent place to start. If you feel bold and fancy something a little darker and sexier then the Whitgift Film Theatre is streaming ENO’S new production of Carmen on Wednesday 1st July. If the trailer is anything to go by, you may need to lie down in a darkened room with a flannel on your head afterwards!

The Whitgift Film Theatre is on the web here: whitgiftfilmtheatre.co.uk and on Facebook.

This review appears in The Peoples Issue 34 Web Edition

“Some Cupid kills with arrows, some with traps.”

cupid

Love’s Labour’s Won live stream
@ the Whitgift Film Theatre
Review by Tracey Edges

The best things are the unexpected ones. The ones that take you by surprise, give you a friendly cuddle and keep you talking long after the event has passed.

I expected the pairing of Love Labour’s Lost and Love Labour’s Won (a re-titling of Much Ado About Nothing), screened live from Stratford-Upon-Avon, the home of the Royal Shakespeare Company, to be a bit stiff – more of the formal handshake variety. I was wrong.

You can find my review of the first of Shakespeare’s comedies on page 29 of this magazine or linked from The Peoples Facebook page. This was my first time at a live screening event (when a live performance is screened simultaneously to national, and international, cinemas) and I am a convert. You get a great view, you’re part of the audience (the theatre sounds are piped through the cinema speakers) and you get to see a world class performance on your doorstep, in my case at the very friendly Whitgift Film Theatre, Grimsby.

What’s not to like?

We arrived early as we got lost the first time so we over compensated. This time we won the route war (rather appropriately) and we were the first customers of the night. The box office lady was lovely and happily accommodated my wish to change seats for an aisle one. Along with our contact, James, they make a very welcoming team.

Heading for the cinema we were met with the, almost ghostly, juxtaposition of bubbling, excited audience chatter and … a totally empty cinema. We easily found our seats and settled down to wait with the theatre audience keeping us company.

Feeling that it was, surprisingly, less well attended than the first play, at two minutes to the start time it suddenly filled up and we had our own bubbling, excited audience chatter. The on screen countdown timer ensured that at 7pm, on the dot, there was a hush and everyone concentrated on the pre-show features.

To start with there was a series of old photographs. These were of post WWI nurses and hospital wards within country houses. The production was set in a country house (inspired by Charlecote Park), that had been taken over as a hospital. The play opened on a ward of injured soldiers, among them Pedro, Prince of Aragon with his followers Benedick and Claudio. Beatrice was an efficient nurse. No nonsense, independent and certainly not wishing to be a wife.

Pre-play there was also an explanation as to why the RSC Artistic Director, Gregory Doran, wanted to commemorate the Great War and suggested that Director, Christopher Luscombe set the two plays either side of it. There was also a short live interview, with Luscombe, by Suzy Klein. The interval showed a feature about the music, which was composed by Nigel Hess. These short features really do enhance the experience.

Once again, the sets were impressive and an integral part to the richness of the whole production.

In short, this is a play about love, requited and unrequited, manipulated and misdirected, for both good and bad.

There are moments of poignancy, darkness and utter farce. The scene with the Christmas tree had us in hysterics. The shining star of this performance, to me, was the brilliant Edward Bennett as Benedick who played his comedy scenes with great aplomb. A confirmed bachelor, Benedick was manipulated into believing that the feisty Beatrice, played with perfect timing by Michelle Terry, was in love with him and vice versa. This allowed them to open themselves up to begin a roller coaster of emotional self discovery until they reached the end of the bumpy ride.

The other lovers, Claudio (Tunji Kasim) and Hero (Flora Spencer-Longhurst) were a perfect foil and Nick Haverson, once again, this time as policeman, Dogberry, added his own style of bumbling clown to the proceedings.
The two plays had similarities but also had a subtlety distinct atmosphere.

Love’s Labour’s Lost, 1914, was quirkier, more sprightly, coquettish and lighter. The characters teased each other and were lighter at heart – not knowing that a war was about to break out.

Love’s Labour’s Won, 1918, had a heavier, more intense feel. The characters had lived through the horrors of war. They were both tougher but looking for love (whether they realised it, or not) and the ratio of comedy to tragedy was altered in accordance.

The finale was a joyous celebration to conclude these two perfectly adapted plays and leave you on a high.
Lost, lost out in the end and Won, won out in the end but, as an audience we won both times and enjoyed a big fluffy cuddle from the wonderful Royal Shakespeare Company.

I could already watch them both again.

Brilliant.

The Whitgift Film Theatre is on Facebook and at whitgiftfilmtheatre.co.uk

This review can also be found in The Peoples Issue 32 Web Edition