Mary Woodward Review

Scottish Ballet: Cinderella, Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, Review:

Scottish Ballet   Cinderella

**** 4 stars

I wonder if Christopher Hampton is in a time warp, and hasn’t realised he’s creating ballets in an age which is accustomed to Matthew Bourne’s ballets and expects a more continuous story line and costumes that don’t look as though they come from mid-way through the last century… mind you, this ballet was first created for New Zealand in 2007: maybe it’s simply showing its age, like the rest of us.

This is a little harsh but oh dear … the Fairy Godmother [who first came out of the undergrowth, gave her god-daughter a pumpkin and disappeared again] wore what looked like a governess’s costume in a very drab greyish colour.  Her rose fairies were equally frumpy with pink skirts and green tops that did nothing for them – or me.  At the ball, the guests were dressed identically, the men in evening dress, the girls in dull pink and black frocks, with which the sister’s acid green and bright pink dresses clashed horribly – but maybe this was the intention?  Cinderella and the prince were lovely in silver and gold but why was she the only one in a tutu?  And don’t get me started on the grasshopper and moths in the garden scene –they were straight out of the pastiche ballet in the middle of MB’s Swan Lake but without the permission to laugh or even giggle because everyone else was taking things so seriously!

There were slight twists to the classic Cinderella story.  On her mother’s death Cinderella plants a rose bush in her garden, which she visits when she can: when she leaves the ball, she drops a sparkling slipper, but retains a silver rose the Prince has given her.  The Prince orders copies of the slipper to be made and sent out throughout the kingdom – but still takes the original with him as he hunts for his beloved.  The wicked stepmother finds and destroys Cinders’ remaining slipper, and the one the Prince brings with him somehow manages to fit Tall Stepsister.  He is about to accept her as his bride when he sees that Cinders has the rose, and it all turns out well…

The characters are excellent – especially Kayla-Maree Tarantolo’s short Stepsister, who had a fabulous comic sense and way more heart than her taller sister, and richly deserved to end up with her one of the Prince’s Best Friends [Evan Loudon and Thomas Edwards].  The other one’s reluctance to dance or have anything to do with Tall Stepsister was obvious, but not overdone.  Grace Horler’s tall Stepsister was as mean as her heartless and greedy mother [Marge Hendrick], while Cinderella’s father [Christopher Harrison], though loving, sought comfort in alcohol and stood by while his daughter was cruelly treated by her new family.  I felt very sorry for the grasshopper [Jamiel Laurence] and the moths [Constant Vigier and Bruno Micchiardi], who did the best they could but were fighting a losing battle with their ridiculous costumes: the tailors and cobblers made a much better job of their cameos.  The corps did a good if slightly ragged job, and the Prince and Cinders [Barnaby Rook-Bishop and Sophie Martin] were technically superb – one amazingly high lift somehow corkscrewed down into an impressive hold: but I guess (a) I’ve been spoiled by a recent diet of Matthew Bourne, Ballet Rambert and the Trocks and (b) I’m not a ballet expert and so don’t appreciate the finer points of what I see [no pun intended].

What were the bits I really liked?  The row of legs as the Prince went by with the sparkling slipper… the rose moon which first bloomed in the garden and watched over Cinderella when she was at the ball… the dressmakers’ dance with Cinders and their tape measures as they made a ball dress for her… and the lovely transformations from house to garden.  It was a delight to have a real, and huge, orchestra making a very good job of the Prokofiev score – and unusual to see them applauding their conductor as he left the pit to go on stage and receive his applause.

The story was well told, and the loneliness of both Cinderella and her Prince were subtly shown, especially when the rest of the action was frozen and the main protagonist showed their isolation from the people around them.  I usually love Scottish Ballet and really enjoy their shows: I enjoyed the storytelling but got bored when it was interrupted by some ‘show-off dancing’.

There was a delighted ‘aaah’ from the audience when finally the happy couple went to the garden and rose petals showered down on them, and plenty of warm applause both during and at the end of the show.  It may have failed to excite me, but most people were delighted and went home happy – the woman next to me saying she’d been transported into a wonderland she’d not experienced since she was eight years old.  Go and see it and make up your own mind.

Scottish Ballet Presents, Cinderella, Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, Runs until  30th, December, for tickets go to: https://www.capitaltheatres.com/whats-on/sbcinderella

The production will then tour to Glasgow, Aberdeen, Inverness and Newcastle.

 

Review by Mary Woodward.

Mary Woodward Review

McGonagall’s Chronicles, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Review

McGonagall’s Chronicles (which will be remembered for a very long time)

**** (4 stars)

Originally presented as part of Oran Mór’s Play, Pie and Pint series, and back by popular demand, Gary McNair’s play more than justified its return.  I arrived very late, and sat all alone on the back row of Trav 1, so was somewhat divorced from proceedings: had I been sitting lower down, I think I would have given 5 stars: the audience certainly loved it.

A simple set – a chair in front of a fireplace, with three claymores of graded size [akin to flying ducks] beside it and the mounted heads of a unicorn and a stag above it – in front of which a man with a HAT speaks to us of the tragic life and death of the self-convinced World’s Greatest Poet whom the rest of the world regarded as a laughingstock.

The Traverse’s winter offering is presented in rhyme as tortuous and torturous as McGonagall’s own, exquisitely delivered by McNair himself, ably supported by Brian James O’Sullivan and sound designer and composer Simon Liddell.  I was impressed by O’Sullivan’s chameleon-like ability to represent any number of civic dignitaries, editors, critics, and Ordinary People while also providing, with Simon Liddell, the musical background to this tragic story.  And all credit to McNair, who manages to marry the absurdity and comic potential of the appalling rhymes and highfaluting sentiments with the pathetic story of the man who refused to accept his failings and persisted in believing that the world would finally recognise his genius.

What on earth made McGonagall do it?  A poorly-educated weaver, child of weavers, who left school at the age of seven, tried to escape the poverty trap [sprung upon him and the other weavers of Dundee when machines took the work away from the men, women and children who had previously prospered] by writing poetry, or at least what he thought was poetry: a collection of lines of random length and with little attention to rhythm, metre, grammar or syntax but with a RHYME at the end of each line.  Criticism didn’t deter him; abuse and missiles hurled at him while performing his poems didn’t stop him.  He walked to Balmoral to try to read his poems to the Queen, he walked to London in the hopes of finding the fabled gold that paved its streets, he even crossed the Atlantic to try to make his name in America – all to no avail, as he died in poverty and was buried in a pauper’s grave in Edinburgh.

And yet… we remember his name, when his contemporaries are forgotten, his poems are studied in universities, and it’s impossible to cross the Tay rail bridge without remembering the 96 people whose death was commemorated in what is possibly his most famous poem.  Do we laugh at the deluded madman, or applaud his irrepressible drive to write despite all the mockery and abuse?  McGonagall Societies host McGonagall Suppers, and wherever poetry is found, there too will be his name: and if that’s not fame and recognition of a very unusual form of genius, I don’t know what is!

You’ll laugh, you’ll cry: if you sit on the front row you can throw the things you will be given – and if you sit further back, you can always bring your own eggs, tomatoes, cabbages or worse.  The run is short – don’t miss it!

McGonagall’s Chronicles, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, run ends 15th December, For tickets go to: https://www.traverse.co.uk/whats-on/event-detail/1525/mcgonagalls-chronicles-(which-will-be-remembered-for-a-very-long-time).aspx

 

 

 

Brett Herriot Review

Cinderella, FTH Theatre, Falkirk Review:

Cinderella, Falkirk Review:

**** 4 Stars

delivers a warm and Big heart pantomime with level of spectacle that Falkirk will not have seen before”

Imagine Productions makes its debut at the FTH Theatre in Falkirk (once home to the televised FCYT pantos for many a year) with the greatest panto of them all Cinderella and they succeed in delivering a warm hearted and fun production.

Telling the age-old tale of Cinderella (Christie Gowans)who goes from Rags to Riches after overcoming her evil stepmother (Sally Howitt) and worse ugly sisters  and finding her prince (Adam Morgan) with a little help from Buttons (John Winchester) and her Fairy Godmother (Barbara Bryceland).

As is traditional for Imagine theatre pantomimes, this is a story and plot driven show with added comedy and a very special effect that sees the transformation scene truly take flight. Performance wise its an interesting one. Fairy Babs (Bryceland) has a true warmth of personality and that big voice that saw her achieve much on TV’s X factor and the Voice, however she is being helped with a lot of technical panto magic with the lines. That said it’s a remarkable challenge for a cabaret vocal performer to take on the task of leading a panto company so full credit to Barbara for delivering with the charm and personality and drive that see’s the audience take her to there hearts.

Sally Howitt’s Baroness Demonica owes much to her River City Character Scarlett but is well delivered and a consummately professional baddie. Talking of baddies, this show shines with Craig Glover (Sadie) and Derek McGhie (Senga) ugly sister double act. With on the ball comedy quips, big costumes and the ability to break the forth wall with ease, these two truly make this Cinderella Shine.

Elsewhere Gowan’s Cinderella is sugary sweet and pitch perfect making every little girl’s dream in the audience come true, as a performer she also carries Adam Morgan’s Prince Charming vocally, while Morgan has great acting presence his vocal isn’t always on the button, but he succeeds in getting his talent across.

John Winchester’s “Buttons” is charming and wins the audience over from his first appearance and his double act with Dandini “Scott Watson” is also winner especially during the song sheet. Special mention must go to ensemble member John Aitken, his performance is completely polished and delivered with gusto yet never truly pulls the focus, its always nice to see a gorgeous and dedicated performance turned in from the ensemble.

Director Stuart Bird has delivered well on Alan McHugh’s script although the show does run a little too long and could do with pruning down especially the song sheet which runs it course long before the final “Double Speed” finale. Laine Baird’s Choreography ensures the entire space is used and the colour and variety that dance brings to panto is truly explored. Musical Director and Arranger Darren Webster ensures classic pop tunes like “Make your own kind of music” sits well with up to date hits from “The Greatest Showman”.

All in All, this production delivers a warm and Big heart pantomime with level of spectacle that Falkirk will not have seen before, so get yourself along and grab those tickets as the magic will be over by the stroke of midnight on Christmas day.

The Falkirk Community Trust and Imagine Theatre Presents, Cinderella, FTH Theatre, Falkirk, Runs until Monday 24th December. For tickets go to: http://www.falkirkcommunitytrust.org/whats-on/events/search.aspx?q=cinderella

Mary Woodward Review, Uncategorized

Fisherman’s Feast, Scottish Storytelling Centre, Edinburgh, Review:

Fisherman’s Feast

***** (5 stars)

Donald Smith, Director of the Scottish Storytelling Centre welcomed us to an evening celebrating the first ever ‘St Andrew’s Fair Saturday’.  In a world obsessed by consumption, with Black Friday and Cyber Monday a recent memory, and at a time of global uncertainty with challenges presented by climate, migration, war and prejudice, it was good to come together and celebrate Scotland’s welcoming of diversity and the shared cultures that unite us, while raising awareness of the group that the Storytelling Centre is supporting this year – the Multicultural Family Base in Coburg Street.

The evening’s format was simple – entertainment, first course, entertainment, second course, closing entertainment and farewell – and it was excellent.

Gerda Stevenson, poet, songmaker, singer, musician and so much more read some of her poems from her most recent collection, Quines, which pays homage to the many remarkable Scottish women from Neolithic times to the 21st century, whose stories are told by a narrator, the protagonist, or someone/ something that was part of her story.  We heard from Maggie Dixon of Musselburgh who was hanged for the alleged crime of killing her illegitimate child, but startled everyone by knocking on the lid of her coffin at her wake in the Sheep’s Heid in Duddingston and emerging alive.  Under Scots law she was regarded as dead, and couldn’t be hanged again [huge cheers].   A young girl, daughter of a Scottish slave owner who brought her to Scotland, spoke about winning a prize for penmanship at the age of twelve, and the Horsehead Nebula commented on the Dundonian astronomer who discovered her, but who the records ignore.  Gerda ended her contribution with her song aye the gean blooms from her latest album, celebrating the turning cycles of the world.

We were then treated to an outstandingly good fish pie – St Andrew was a fisherman, after all!  There was plenty for all, and the greedy among us made sure the dishes were returned empty…  It was the perfect opportunity to get to know our table companions – the ice was broken between us as we passed plates around to be filled, rather than each sitting in front of our own plate, not needing to communicate with anyone else.

Carlos Arrendondo began part two.  He’s a poet, musician and songmaker who fled the harsh regime in Chile in 1974 and sought refuge in Glasgow.  He reminded us that displacement is not one-way: people have been forced to leave Latin America and Africa, but plenty of Scots have moved the other way, and there are many Scottish surnames in Patagonia, Chile, and Argentina.  In una nuvel blanca, written in his early days in Glasgow, Carlos speaks to the cloud that’s floating freely in the sky.  It accompanies him everywhere and shares his loneliness: there is no freedom for the people left behind in Chile.  An inhabitant of Dungavel spoke movingly of their “Welcome to Scotland” after the horrors they had experienced in fleeing their homeland – refugees flee from wars instigated and supported by nations in the West who then turn their backs on the people whose plight they have created.

Anne Spiers then spoke of the Multicultural Family Base [mcfb]. It’s a family support agency which is doing amazing work available to everyone who arrives in Scotland, regardless of their country of origin or their reason for coming.  [See their website www.mcfb.org.uk.]   Anne spoke movingly of the work mcfb do with people of all ages, and was most grateful for the Storytelling Centre’s championing of them.

Popular culture brings people together, and one of the most common links is the telling of stories.  Brilliant storyteller and Kenyan Scot Mara Menzies began by telling us her own story which began in Kenya and through an incredible chain of circumstances ended in Glasgow.  She told us the story of the young, well-intentioned chief of a tribe, whose mother kept nagging him to get married: with the help of his barber and a supposedly magic mirror, the perfect wife was found – but would she consent to marry the chief?

We were left hanging in the air but consoled with the advent of our dessert and the opportunity for further conversation with our fellow diners.

Donald then reminded us that St Andrew was both a traveller [around the Black Sea, probably not as far as Scotland] and a very good social bridge-builder, bringing people to meet Jesus, bringing Greek visitors to meet his early followers.  He was also the one who got the party going when a hungry multitude had assembled to hear Jesus: Andrew was the one who found the lad with five loaves and two fishes…  He’s the obvious choice for our patron saint, embodying Scotland’s culture of welcoming and making connections between the diverse peoples who arrive here.

Mara Menzies returned to tell us how the wild cat came to live indoors, raising the roof with her concluding revelation of “the most wonderful creature in the world” with whom Wild Cat chooses to live.  Carlos sang a moving lament for all the people and places he has had to leave and how “maybe being alive is the greatest miracle of all”.

The whole evening was enormous fun and a joyful celebration both of the resilience of the human spirit and the warmth of the welcome Scotland can offer to the people who seek refuge here.

Brett Herriot Review

Beauty and the Beast, Kings Theatre, Edinburgh Review:

Qdos Pantomimes Present Beauty and the Beast, 

***** 5 Stars

Beauty and the Beast is a slice of the West end on stage in Edinburgh,

For the first time since 1946, Beauty and The Beast is back as the King’s pantomime and what a triumph it is. A much-anticipated panto classic was expected but for the regular panto trio of Stewart, Gray and Stott matters took an unfortunate turn with Andy Gray having to withdraw due to ill health.  However, with Gray’s blessing the show must go on and my word what a show it is!

Telling the tale as old as time of a Prince Callum who ignores the wishes of a poor beggar woman who is an Enchantress (Jacqueline Hughes) and cast’s a spell leaving him as The Beast, living in Auchtereekie Castle with Mrs May Potty (A sublime and on the top of his form Allan Stewart) when Belle (Gillian Parkhouse) arrives at the castle with her inventor brother Dougal (Daniel Cullen) she finds herself falling in love with the prince inside the beast. The only problem is the evil Flash Boabby (Grant Stott, outdoing himself this year) a vain malcontent has set his sights on Belle and the story is set for the most spell binding of Pantomimes.

Beauty and the Beast is a unique panto as its completely plot driven but in the magical hands of Allan Stewart and Grant Stott the King’s annual extravaganza reins supreme. High lights include an ingenious front of cloth “Sushi” gag that has the audience in hapless laughter. A pure belter of “sing the lyric” sketch all mixed in with the big song and dance numbers.

Allan Stewart shows just why he is regarded as the country’s best dame, he has truly upped his game this year working at a phenomenal rate kicking off with a twist on the Greatest Showman’s “This is me” as he rises from the depths of the pit of the kings! His comedy timing is on point especially in the inventive shopping trolley gag. Stewart also shines in some impressive frocks, Aunty May is indeed in fine fine form. Stewart is matched in comedy foil by Grant Stott who is given extra stage time this year especially in the comedy sections. We even get to see a flash of his Boabby behind a fig leaf in a clever strip routine.

The ensemble also gets to shine especially Parkhouse’s “Belle” who is cast into the sushi gag and almost makes it all the way through without laughing. Cullen’s Dougal the Inventor is used sparingly but does allow the show to have one of its legendary flying effects produced by those boys at Twins FX’s.

Qdos’s set truly sparkles under Matt Clutterham’s Lighting and with Richard Brookers impressive sound design the production boxes are ticked in style. Director Ed Curtis along with Choreographer Alan Harding assisted by Sharon Harding have taken the challenge of loosing a start of the show and delivered a show which ranks right up there with the London Palladium.

Beauty and the Beast is a slice of the West end on stage in Edinburgh, and the magic of pantomime truly sparkles, Allan Stewart should be justly credited for helping to create an ongoing golden period of pantomime as he also writes the show. Audiences will always remember those wonderful days of Stewart, Gray and Stott! And worry not the three are back together in 2019 as Goldilocks and the Three Bears has been announced already.

For now don’t be a beast, get to the King’s and grab those tickets for a Beauty of a pantomime!

The King’s Edinburgh and Qdos Pantomimes present “Beauty and the Beast”, The King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, Runs until Sunday 20th January 2019. For tickets go to: https://www.capitaltheatres.com/whats-on/beautyandbeast

Brett Herriot Review

Jack and the Beanstalk, The Brunton, Musselburgh, Review:

Jack and the Beanstalk:

**** 4 Stars

“Pantomime Magic Has Returned to the Brunton in Style”

2018 see’s a new writer and director in John Binnie taking the helm of East Lothians premier panto after last years lack lustre Beauty and the Beast, The Brunton had a lot to do to climb the peeks of Pantomime and this production of the classic fables sets them well on course for true panto magic.

The age-old tale of Jack (Ross Donachie) his mother, Dame Mither Mandy Moo Moo ( the utterly sublime Graham Crammond) and in this version of tale Jack’s sister Jilly ( Eilidh Weir) and their family cow Daisy (Hayley Keating and Sean O’Brien).  The family have hit hard times and are struggling to pay the bills on the house and daisy’s pasture to the evil giant who sends his wife (Wendy Seager) to collect the rent. Added to the mix is Prince Nice Labels ( Ewan Peatrie) a fashion diva who is willing to give up the labels for the love of Jilly. The plot is set for a big adventure of good verses evil and everyone looking for their happy ever afters.

Binnie has added a few unique touches to the story removing “Fleshcreep” as the baddie and installing the wonderful Wendy Seager as the Giant, Giants wife and other characters, she has a big voice and big talent and gives a performance that allows the audience to boo easily. Her “Gold Finger” is a special moment in the show. This production is truly the Dames Show and Graham Crammond makes his return to the Brunton with a bang and a flawless performance that generates laughter both from his performance and array of costumes. Ross Donachie’s Jack is a charming and thoughtful take on the character and shows real acting quality although his vocal prowess isn’t as strong as it should be especially in his solo number you can’t help but be charmed by him.  The best vocals of show must go to Ewan Petrie’s Prince, he brings a gorgeous hunky look and honey-soaked voice and charm that make him endlessly watchable.

Joining Binnie in the production team is Tommie Travers marking his fourth year as MD. He delivers with skill ensuring up to date pop numbers mingle easily older classic tracks like eye of the tiger. Travers greatest achievement is his underscoring, every scene comes to life with all the major characters having their own musical motif it’s a wonderful atmospheric achievement for the show. However, that said Travers would be served by the addition of a small band rather that just his keyboard and laptop driven backing tracks.  Choreographer Stephanie MacAulay delivers well utilizing the space, the small principal cast and team of babes drawn from the community.

Costume and set design by Robin Mitchell and the students of Queen Margaret University really ensures the Brunton brings tradition back to their panto and all costumes are fabulous although the Dame’s final costume looks half-finished and not the knock your eye out epic scale that a good Dame should get for their finale.  Mitchell’s Sets show the theatre to its very best especially  under Laura Hawkins Lighting design and a quality sound design from Cameron McFarlane ensuring all the boxes production wise are delivered in style.

This is a marked improvement of a pantomime although Binnie’s references could do with updating, Cracker Jack hasn’t been on British TV since 1984 so it soars above the kids heads as does many of the more adult minded jokes. All in All, panto magic has returned to the Brunton in style, so gets those tickets and join Jack and the gang for the biggest of adventures.

The Brunton Theatre Presents “Jack and the Beanstalk”, Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh, Run’s until Saturday 5th January 2019 Tickets from £14 go to www.thebrunton.co.uk/events

Brett Herriot Review

Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Theatre Royal, Newcastle, Review:

Goldilocks and the Three Bears, 

**** 4 Stars

The Greatest Show on Earth!”

The Theatre Royal’s dream team of Danny Adams, Clive Webb and Chris Hayward mark their 12th year of creating  magic in Newcastle’s biggest pantomime by straying away from the classic titles like Cinderella and Aladdin and tackling the less well know and further less performed Goldilocks and the Three Bears but they succeed in creating a unique spectacle of fun and razzmatazz.

Goldilocks as a story on its own won’t sustain an entire pantomime so the entire story is transposed to the Circus, this is the tale of Haywards “Dame Rita Rington” owner of Rington’s Circus with Goldilocks (Laura Evans) as her daughter joined by Danny the Clown (Adams) who longs to be the star of the show and win Goldilocks love, coupled with Rita’s husband The Ringmaster ( Webb). They have a winning non-animal circus, but the bills are stacked high and they face ruin unless the star of the show can bring in the audiences. They come across the bears during a walk through the Forrest. These are special bears they can talk and when the Evil Baron Von Vinklebottom (Steve Arnott) wants them for his evil animal circus.

The Story frame is contrived and a little weak, but it allows Adams and Webb (both circus performers out with panto season)  to truly shine at what they do best. Also, Adams takes a step back and doesn’t fully lead the panto, but the entire company come together for an ensemble show.

The big flying effects are also given a rest this year and are replaced by some incredible Circus acts from around the world including The Great Juggling Alfio who is rather gorgeous and presents both two juggling acts that are breath taking alongside his Acrobatic Pole Act. He is joined by the Skating Medini who will blow you away with their skill. The final circus act is the petrol fuelled madness that is the Berserk Riders that has the Audience gasping in wonders.

Michael Potts returns as “The Idiot” an act that seemed tired last year but in Goldilocks fits in well and Potts has truly upped his game and injected real comedy acting into his routine this Year. As the show gets into high gear, Danny Adam’s once again raises the bar with nerve jangling walk on the high wire and demonstrates why he is leading superstar in panto and he will be driving the Theatre Royal panto for years to come.

This year also see’s a gorgeous and inventive Set from Ian Westbrook that sparkles under Ben Cracknell’s lighting design that see’s the entire auditorium decked out in festoons. Award Winning director Michael Harrison has as special place in his heart for Newcastle and always ensure the very best production for his home town before he sets off to direct the London Palladium. For a fun, fast paced and unique panto book those tickets now for the Greatest Show on Earth.

Qdos presents Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Theatre Royal Newcastle, Runs until Sunday 20th January 2019 for tickets go to: https://www.theatreroyal.co.uk/whats-on/panto-goldilocks