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Circus of Horrors

Marina Theatre, Lowestoft Review published in the Eastern Daily Press, 3 March 2005 Circus of Horrors A circus of horror may seem like a contradiction in terms, and this was indeed a whole mix of deliberate contradictions. It was a concoction of the Rocky Horror Show, Frankenstein, the Victorian freak show, a surreal end-of-pier variety and Madame Tussaud’s chamber of horrors roadshow with The Danse Macabre. Grateful to have taken my seat before the abuse of the warm ups was directed at latecomers, I never relaxed into the show. But that was the point. A large versatile cast, complemented by a powerful light display and thumping live rock music, assaulted the audience with physical theatre, offbeat comedy and some stunning genuine circus skills. The six-inch nail driven into the nose, the sword swallower, the ladder of swords, … Read entire article »

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The Smallest Person

Trestle Theatre Company at The Cut, Halesworth Review published in the Eastern Daily Press, 20 September 2004 The Smallest Person An audience suspends disbelief and gasps as the skeleton of a nineteen and a half inch child moves in her glass case – tribute to the dark power of masks, music and puppets. Trestle’s unique style grippingly serves this play about the death and burial versus dissection of Caroline Crachami in Georgian England. We are left uneasy at the treatment of the sick and deformed. Masks limit expression, yet on the faces of the talented company, there is more emotion in a simple gesture or muted cry than would seem possible. The child is a tiny puppet operated by¬† a performer in clear view – yet the pathos still says more than words. Rich in humour, … Read entire article »

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Three Pinter Plays

Norwich Theatre Royal Actors’ Company at The Forum, Norwich Review published in the Eastern Daily Press, 20 June 2009 Three Pinter Plays Rehearsed readings of three of Harold Pinter’s political pieces in support of Refugee Week is not everybody’s cup of tea. Pinter’s anger against injustice, corruption, power and torture rings out. It’s Norwich Theatre Royal Actors’ Company with the Norwich Writers’ Centre and the excellent Roger Lloyd Pack in the lead roles and Kirsty Bushell and Patrick Kennedy in fine form. One for the Road is a terrifying dance of the powerful around helpless victims. Owen Mustard is the boy whose parents are arrested to be tortured. Ashes to Ashes is a questioning into her past between a man and a woman he presses for details. It’s uncomfortable. It has a sparse harshness with … Read entire article »

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City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Festival Chorus and City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra at St Andrew’s Hall, Norwich Review published in Eastern Daily Press, 4 May 2009 A successful orchestral and choral concert hangs on many strands – fine music played outstandingly, a chorus with a range of quality voices, a rapt audience and a setting that allows it to soar to inspire listeners’ spirits. St Andrew’s Hall was the ideal location. The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra opened the evening with Mendelssohn’s Symphony No 3 in A minor, “The Scottish”. Their professionalism, versatility and virtuosity never cease to impress and make listening a joy. Inspired by a walking tour of Scotland, particularly the ruined Holyrood Chapel, Mendelssohn captures the lightness and the dark Celtic broodiness building to the thrill of the fourth movement. This speaks of clan warfare … Read entire article »

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Blood Brothers

Great Hall Theatre Company at the Assembly House, Norwich Review published in Eastern Daily Press, 25 March 2009 Blood Brothers Yes, it’s Blood Brothers, the story of twins separated at birth, in love with the same girl, by Willy Russell. Yes, it’s the Great Hall Theatre Company performing in the round. No, it’s not the musical version in its long-running West End guise; but it’s very good all the same. It rattles along at a cracking pace, partly through the narrative and tight writing, but equally by the direction from Vic Young, using the arena staging to real effect. Debbie Dance creates the mother, Mrs Johnstone, who gives away one twin, with a convincing, moving emotion mixed with Liverpudlian earthy humour. The twins, Myles Hague and Tom Girvin, are superbly cast, with their different upbringings highlighted well. They convey … Read entire article »

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Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf

Sewell Barn Theatre, Norwich Review published in Eastern Daily Press, 25 April 2009 Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf Oh the games people play! Many will remember the the 1960s’ Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton shock film of the relationship between a long married couple and their ‘son’. This stage version in the audience-proximity of the Sewell Barn puts us right in among the tension as dialogue overlaps, tempers fray and the very edge of tolerance is reached. George (Noel Jones) and Martha (Cassie Tillett) torment each other like cat and mouse and include their younger visitors, Honey (Louise Humphrey) and Nick (Andy Cowan). It’s all cruel, verbal, personal and generational sparring through merciless games as the long night wears on, fuelled by alcohol and weariness. It’s powerful stuff, not only directed superbly by Jenny Hobson, but … Read entire article »

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The Threepenny Opera

Theatre Paradisum at the Playhouse Theatre, Norwich Review published in the Eastern Daily Press, 22 January 2009 The Threepenny Opera Fans of Brecht’s theatrical ideas, novices in the art of ‘making strange’ (verfremdungseffekt) and those who enjoy a classic parody with music should catch The Threepenny Opera. The bare walls of the stripped Playhouse stage are ideal for great racks of costumes to serve as scenery. Actors, ‘presenters’, change in view and pull off that difficult trick of separating emotion from their demonstrations of their roles. Theatre Paradisum are a mainly local group. From the opening of the much-abused Mac the Knife, the audience is in safe hands. Weill’s music is interpreted with flair, songs punctuate narrative and the whole achieves Brecht’s aim of provoking thought, yet is highly entertaining. It’s a commentary of corruption endemic to … Read entire article »

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One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Black Ram Theatre at The Cut, Halesworth Review published in Eastern Daily Press, 9 September 2009. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest Some straight plays from earlier periods can seem irrelevant to now. This from the Sixties is about sanity and madness and resonates well with how things are today. Set in a mental institution, it shows how people are not necessarily insane if they don’t fit into the system or society. It’s about being independent and free. New inmate McMurphy (Russell Turner), an instinctive rebel feigning lunacy, comes into immediate conflict with the rule-bound rigidity of Nurse Ratched (Claire Bibby). Other stock, crazy characters include the elective deaf-mute Indian Chief (Thomas Renshaw) who finally releases McMurphy from earthly life, after he’s been lobotomised to conformity. After a hesitant start, it builds well, with supportive, well … Read entire article »

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