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David Porter » Reviews


Spamalot - lots of fun

Spamalot – lots of fun at the Lowestoft Players’ own theatre

by the Lowestoft Players

at the Bethel Theatre, Lowestoft

Review published in the Eastern Daily Press, 12 September 2016 and The Lowestoft Journal, 16 September 2016

Spamalot, ‘lovingly ripped off’ from the ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail’ movie, is a joyful feast of fun, surreal madness, random allusions from history, politics, literature, in a knock-out panto-cum-musical.

Lowestoft Players, in the run-up to their 50th anniversary, create a stunning evening out with brilliant costumes, terrific music, exquisite choreography, quality singing, professional standard direction/production and outstanding performances.

It seems unfair in such an ensemble of monks, minstrels, guards and girls of the lake to single out individuals, but Chris Darnell as King Arthur perfectly catches the buffoonery while Beth Lewis shines as the diva in a part she was born for – she is just divine, dahling!

Other star turns, many multi-roling, include Ian Carter as a Baldrick-like dogsbody; Stephen Clark, Chris Penn, Tom Guttridge and Dave Evans as the strangely assorted knights; Martyn Field as the hilarious French Taunter and Tom Holt as Not Dead Fred.

The famous number is ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life’ but ‘You Won’t Succeed on Broadway’, ‘Whatever Happened to My Part’, ‘I’m All Alone’ and ‘The Song That Goes Like This’ are catchy and fantastically well done.

David Porter

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Sister Act

Sister Act from the Lowestoft Players

Sister Act from the Lowestoft Players

Sister Act at the Lowestoft Players at the Marina Theatre, Lowestoft

Review published in the Eastern Daily Press, 9 June 2016 and the Lowestoft Journal, 17 June 2016

Sister Act, the hit film-inspired musical, is the perfect vehicle for the Lowestoft Players’ summer show with its high energy, implausible story line that lends itself to daft comedy antics, rocky music and unadulterated fun.

It’s a team triumph for the multi-award winning Players who grab its opportunities with both hands from directors and principals to chorus/ensemble, from musicians and stage crew to the terrific dance routines, some based on Motown.

Lauren Nevill beats the challenge of the gangster’s moll who, while seeking sanctuary in a nunnery, sets the church on fire with her singing and racy ways. Judi Mars is the perfect straitlaced Mother Superior.

Hoodlum Jimmy Atkin’s sidekicks (Ian Carter, Dave Evans and Tom Holt) are hilarious. Cameos from veterans Deanne Dickson as a nun and Stephen Wilson as a monsignor are perfectly shaped. Cop Stephen Clark’s torch song is a classic.

In an ever-increasing riot of colour, the nuns’ chorus is fabulous with Beth Lewis standing out with her explosive energy and Issy Anderson as the dynamic postulant.

We are blessed that the Players make such a habit of performing brilliantly!

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The Analogues

The Analogues on stage

The Analogues on stage performing ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ as the Beatles’ never did – live!

The Analogues in Magical Mystery Tour at the Norwich Theatre Royal, as part of the Norwich and Norfolk Festival 2016

Review published in the Eastern Daily Press, 25 May 2016

The Analogues are a musical wonder from Holland on a mission to bring the actuality of Beatles’ songs alive. The Norwich debut on their UK visit fairly rocked the Theatre Royal.

To hear the Beatles’ studio songs starting with the 1967 ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ that they themselves never performed on stage played live and authentically was a truly magical experience.

To have the multiple layers and arrangements of a variety of songs presented after painstaking research and acquisition of amazing vintage instruments was to discover a whole new dimension of the Beatles’ music and to appreciate in full just how innovative they were.

And they are still inspirational. A packed audience from different generations appreciated classics such as ‘I am the Walrus’, ‘Penny Lane’, Strawberry Fields Forever’, ‘All You Need Is Love’ and the evocative ‘Fool on the Hill’ from a sublime ensemble of wind, brass, violins, cello, piano, guitars, drums and vocal solos and harmonies.

There were old slides and movie footage along with psychedelic effects and a display of backlighting to add to the all-round visual impact, but it was the sheer joy of the music that stirred memories, ideas and spread joy as the soul soared.


This review also at the EDP site.

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Wild Life

Wild Life, breaking boundaries in the Festival

Wild Life, breaking boundaries in the Festival

Wild Life
at the Norwich Playhpouse as part of the Norfolk and Norwich Festival 2016
Review published in the Eastern Daily Press, 21 May 2016

Wild Life is both a company and the apt title of a piece that takes the breath away – genre-defying, boundary-busting and the most innovative work I have seen so far this year.

The performers should be named as these young local singer-songwriters and actors are going places – Megan Blair, Anna Carter, Lucy Grubb, Noah Horne-Morris, Kate Maguire Buck, Sophie Mahon, Aphra McSherry-Birley, Elliouse Marie Moss, Poppy Rae Read and Hannah Websdale.

In a refreshing, amusing and fun concert like no other they present a narrative about making a show about themselves and in so doing perform their reflective, angry, joyful and original songs about their young adult lives in the contemporary world.

There’s always something going on – technology, sound, images, physicality and even a craft table. A giant pin board is covered during what overall is a mix of postmodernism and a good old 1960s-style Happening with a dash of perfomance art and some surrealism.

This one is not to be missed under any circumstances.

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Nikolai Galen

Nikolai Galen

Nikolai Galen

Nikolai Galen
at The Norwich Playhouse as part of the Norfolk and Norwich Festival 2016.

Review published in the Eastern Daily Press, 19 May 2016

When one time frontman for The Shrubs Nikolai Galen (then, Nick Hobbs) became
smitten by the songs of the Belgian singer, songwriter and actor Jacques Brel,
he looked about for a style and a forum for translating and interpreting some
of the huge catalogue.

And he found it. Acapella, spoken-sung poetry, free-improvisation, recitation,
performance – all in a one-man show alone on stage with a microphone and a
commanding presence that touched the heart, that puzzled and reflected life in
equal measure.

Songs such as ‘If You Go Away’, ‘Amsterdam’ and ‘Seasons in the Sun’ may be
familiar to British audiences, but Brel’s influence on artists as diverse as
David Bowie, Marc Almond, Scott Walker, Dusty Springfield and Celine Dion
speak to a wider legacy and Galen added his voice to the tributes.

Touching the heart with often dark melancholy, hope and pure love, he reached
‘hopeless, hopeless people’ asking ‘why do men grow tired of life?’ with the
high-points being a disturbing love plea, ‘Don’t Ever Leave Me’ and the
devil’s triumph, ‘All’s Well’.

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Teddy Thompson and Kelly Jones

Teddy Thompson a few years back

Teddy Thompson a few years back

Teddy Thompson and Kelly Jones

at Norwich Playhouse as part of the Norfolk and Norwich Festival 2016.

Review published in the Eastern Daily Press, 18 May 2016

When two outstandingly talented, versatile and personable singer-songwriters
join forces, the result is spectacular.

In Englishman Teddy Thompson, with his folk, country, rock-grounded voice
and American Kelly Jones with her unique vocals of many shades, we have a
formidable pairing.

In that same top league occupied by the Alison Krauss and Robert Plant
partnership, this pair presented mainly their own songs in perfect,
all-encompassing harmonies affording us an intimate sharing of relationships,
heartbreaks and life.

Sometimes dueting together, occasionally solo and sometimes backed by a
four-piece band of rich musical giftings, Thompson and Jones’ mix of country,
folk, rock, alt-country and pleasant personal musings between songs made a
rivetting night out.

Support came from Sunny Ozell who added yet more musical strands to the kaleidoscope of genres. After one 12-bar blues sequence she summed it up with, ‘such a tight structure, but such profundity.’

All that foot-tapping, smiling, reflective and beautiful harmony and variety was an inspiration and epitomised what this festival is all about.

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Habeas Corpus

Alan Bennett in 1973, the year he wrote Habeas Corpus

Alan Bennett in 1973, the year he wrote Habeas Corpus

Habeas Corpus
by the Open Space Theatre Company at the Seagull Theatre Lowestoft

Review published in the Eastern Daily Press, 9 May 2016

Habeas Corpus – a legal term meaning ‘have the body’ – is a classic farce from the pen of master writer Alan Bennett with a dash of absurdism, clever and witty word plays and some social comment on the 1960s thrown in.

Norfolk/Suffolk touring ensemble Open Space bring the formula to life and laughs as the randy, aging doctor (Peter Sowerbutts in fine world-weary, cynical form) attempts to seduce an attractive young patient (Samantha McAtear) while keeping it from his frustrated wife (Yves Green), no slouch herself in the hanky-panky stakes.

There is a stage full of absurdist characters – hypochondriac son (Jake Kubala), a pompous, sex obsessed rival doctor (Simon Evans), a flat-chested spinster (Eleanor Marshall) who buys false breasts and a salesman sent to test them (Bob Good).

A sex-mad vicar (Tim Hall); a stereotypical upper-class lady with a past (Annie McClarnon) a house cleaner as the chorus-commentator (Pat Parris) and a sad depressive (Alan Huckle) who is trying to hang himself, complete the splendid cast.

David Green directs excellent summer fun for the light evenings.

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The 'Forgotten' beach in Suffolk

The ‘Forgotten’ beach in Suffolk

by Stuff of Dreams Theatre Company at the Seagull Theatre, Lowestoft

Review published in the Eastern Daily Press, 23 April 2016 and The Lowestoft Journal, 29 April 2016

Forgotten is a play about Suffolk poet and ‘self-improver’ George Crabbe, who told tales of the East Anglian coast and its people but who’s been neglected by history.

His major poem Peter Grimes which runs through Crabbe’s creative mind and the play was reworked by Benjamin Britten in his more famous opera, yet it stands as his legacy of fine story-in-verse of the turbulent 1750s to early 1800s in England and beyond.

Stuff of Dreams are a Norfolk-Suffolk based ensemble who offer platforms for new stage writing. Ray Rumsby’s study is a complex, tightly drawn reflection of Crabbe’s style of keenly observing poor people, capturing their tales, personalities and realities of their often brutal lives.

Company founder Cordelia Spence is developing into an innovative and boundary-changing director. She’s served by a talented, versatile cast (Nick Murray Brown, Neve Doyle, Hayley Evenett, Kiara Hawker and Thomas Wingfield) who tackle dozens of parts in exquisite multi-roling.

This atmospheric evening sits us on the beach with Crabbe and his people who deserve not to be forgotten.

Check out Stuff of Dreams Theatre Company site and blogs by the actors in Forgotten.

Two other reviews of mine on their work:

Rope (2013)

Love Left Hanging (2013)

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Love Changes Everything

Love Changes Everything

Love Changes Everything

Review of Love Changes Everything, performed at Lowestoft Community Church, 16 April 2016 and written for LCC members’ newsletter. Published in the Lowestoft Journal, 29 April 2016

The title of this special outreach event was not just a clever use of a great musical theatre number from Lloyd Webber’s Aspects of Love, but an apt description of how the love of God working through people changes things for the better.

West End stage star Tabitha Webb performed a range of musical theatre classics from several shows and some Christian songs along with a couple she wrote herself. Her outstandingly pure voice and professionalism shone through – she is a woman at ease using her God-given talents for the pleasure and benefit of others.

The choir from East Point Academy joined with a beautiful medley of songs and they accompanied her superbly in a moving performance of one of her own songs, Halfway There.

Interviewed about the energy, commitment and perseverance needed to be a performer – and now co-writer and director of her own musical about the Bible, Love Beyond – she told some amusing stories from behind and on stage, particularly from Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables, where she played leading roles.

Videos from her visits to central Asia and India as ambassador for Interserve brought home to the packed audience the needs of others in lives very different from those we enjoy in Great Britain.

The event was in aid of Interserve, a Christian missions charity working among slum dwellers, the homeless, the disabled, the hungry, the disenfranchised, orphans and trafficked women and children.

It also raised awareness of how artists such as Tabitha and Interserve workers seek out the unloved, neglected and uncared for to serve them with healthcare, motivation, education, entertainment and carry the love of God for his created people directly to them in harsh, hard environments.

It was moving, challenging and entertaining in equal measure – the perfect evening.

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Urinetown is all about the control of public toilets!

Urinetown is all about the control of public toilets!


by Sound Ideas Theatre Company, at the Maddermarket Theatre, Norwich

Review published in the Eastern Daily Press, 8 April 2016

Urinetown is an unlikely, even unfortunate, name for a musical, but this
show addresses the price of water after a disastrous drought, state-supported big business raising the cost of going to the toilet and how people finally rebel.

It absolutely fizzes throughout, revelling in a postmodern setting with the exuberant company in mixed period costumes. The well-played music is eclectic (jazz and gospel among genres), songs are fiery and punchy and the whole thing is a gigantic parody of musicals, love stories, politics and theatre itself.

The inspirational Sound Ideas Company have secured the East Anglian premiere for this wonderfully dark tale with a moral. Jon Bennet is the sinister, leather-clad police officer/narrator; Mark Wells the stuffed shirt big boss. April Nash is the little girl whose story book fantasy the whole thing may be.

Joseph Betts, Chris Barrett, Daisy Wilson, Jake Champion and Genevieve Plunkett as the boss’s daughter who joins the protesters lead a strong ensemble in this brilliantly crafted comic nightmare where ‘everyone uses public amenities to take care of private business,’ but private business owns the amenities.

Thoroughly recommended.

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