Tag Archives: Caxton Theatre

Trouble On’t Moor: Intent To Murder At The Caxtons

High on the Yorkshire moors trouble is brewing. Romantic novelist Janet Preston has murdered her husband (who happens to be a bank robber and thoroughly bad egg) and stashed his body in the study until she can find a way of disposing of it. But before she can drop it into the local tarn events take an unexpected turn and her best lain plans threaten to unravel.

Intent To Murder, playing all this week at The Caxton Theatre, is a sharply written drama/thriller from the pen of Leslie Sands (the original Inspector Frost on radio and fondly remembered in our house at least as TV’s Inspector Cluff) and, directed here by Steve Skipworth, it’s pacey and taut and the dialogue is has enough quality to allow the cast to create an air of real tension.

Caxtons debutant John Flint is convincingly menacing as bank robber George Bates and Gemma Dodds is excellent as Janet Preston, a character with whom our sympathies lie at the opening of the play but whose ruthless streak becomes more and more apparent as the piece progresses. As Larry and Chris, a young couple who are drawn unwittingly into the schemes of the main characters, Jack Scott and Tara Lidgard (another debutant) acquit themselves admirably, although without much help from the script which doesn’t give them a lot to work with.

Scene stealing awards this time go to Bruce Forster whose inquisitive and perceptive Dr Henderson is as insouciant as Father Brown, as tenacious as Columbo and as Welsh as a bag of dragons and Geraldine Godwin, who turns her considerable comic talents to the role of the gossipy cleaning lady Mrs Bunting.

Intent To Murder will keep you on the edge of your seat until the last and it runs at The Caxtons until Saturday 21st October 2017. To book tickets visit www.caxtontheatre.com or call into the Grimsby or Cleethorpes TIC Or contact them by phone on 01472 323111

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.

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.

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

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

Murder Most Agreeable At The Caxtons

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Dead Man’s Hand
Caxton Theatre
4th-11th June 2016

In an elegant and isolated villa in 1950s Italy people are dying. Thrown together apparently by chance, a group of strangers soon come to realise that their presence is in fact the result of the machinations of the mysterious and unseen Mr Konarkis.

His motives are unclear but a bloodstained note, (which arrives special delivery attached to a disembowelled fox), urges them to repent and confess their sins in order to save themselves.
Stop me if you think you’ve heard this one. We’re in Agatha Christie territory surely? With a little JB Priestley for good measure. Maybe so, but there’s a twist. Or rather there are several twists. And then some more.

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In fact this new production at the Caxton Theatre, directed by Debra West, has more twists than a bag of eels and nothing is ever what it seems. It’s a knowing and ever so slightly post modern take on a genre that has been a staple of the British stage for decades. The classic tropes of the stage thriller arrive and are dispatched as quickly as the proverbial strangers in a country villa and as the body count rises so does the tension.

Who will be next? More importantly, who will be last?

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Since it’s such an ensemble piece and because I’m terrified of inadvertently giving things away, I’m going to take the coward’s way out and simply say that the whole cast is excellent and that Dead Man’s Hand is a splendidly enjoyable evening for anyone who loves a great thriller delivered with panache and just the right mix of thrills and suspension of disbelief.

This is a play that will keep you guessing right to the end and it’s huge fun and very stylish too.

Highly recommended.

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Dead Man’s Hand runs from 4th-11th June at 7.30pm.
For tickets or further information go to www.caxtontheatre.com