Tag 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.

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

Signed, Sealed, Delivered: A Tribute To Stevie Wonder


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

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.

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

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.



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.


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.


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.


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.

Same Time Next Year


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.


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.


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