Brett Herriot Review

The Play That Goes Wrong, King’s Theatre Edinburgh, Review

**** 4 Stars

true comedy perfection ”

The Olivier award winning West End and Broadway comedy smash hit has been missing from the UK venues for too long thanks to the pandemic, at a time when laughter is needed more than ever, the mischief team are back in Edinburgh for the first time since there 2018 visit to the Festival theatre.

Telling the story of the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society whose most recent successes include the acclaimed productions of the Lion and the Wardrobe and musical hit Cat! Are debuting their new play “The Murder at Haversham Manor” a 1920’s Murder Mystery. As the title suggests this amateur production is beset by an onslaught of calamities that ultimately ensure that the play goes wrong in a spectacularly funny manor!

Writers Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields have truly captured the heart of amdram, mixed it with split second comedy timing and visual special effects to create a little bit of belly laugh inducing theatre magic.

Tour Director Sean Turner has put together a stellar ensemble company comprised of 12 gifted comedy actors who bring to life a plethora of characters who can bumble dialog, improvise and create often physically violent comedy with ease and really makes this production shine.

Where this production truly glows is in the quickness and delivery of the comedy, simple ideas like the butler repeating his lines so often the cast go around in circles for a solid 5 minutes growing ever more frustrated as the audience are reduced to helpless laughter is pure joy to watch.

The show literally zips by at such a pace it must be the quickest 2 hours of theatre in creation as the set falls apart literally amongst exploding light bars and as the cast drink white spirit as the stage crew have lost the whiskey its true comedy perfection that will send you home from the theatre with aching limbs from the laughter. 

The decision for it to play the King’s this visit is a masterstroke, the old lady of Leven Street adds a warmth and intimacy to the production that gives it a whole new level of enjoyment. It’s clear by the curtain call speech how glad the company are to be back at work. The audiences are as luck to have them back too! The Play That Goes Wrong is a true comedy tour de force and once seen is totally unforgettable. 

Mischief Theatre Productions Present “The Play That Goes Wrong”, Kings Theatre Edinburgh, Until Sunday 7th November for tickets go to https://www.capitaltheatres.com/whats-on/the-play-that-goes-wrong

Mary Woodward Review

Scottish Opera, The Gondoliers, Festival Theatre, Edinburgh Review

a wonderful mixture of real pathos and sparkling good humour

**** (4 stars)

Another first – this time sitting in a theatre with a real live band in the pit: all very socially distanced, but there in front of our very eyes was the Orchestra of Scottish Opera, a welcome sight after so long without them.

The overture began, and we were instantly transported to Venice, the music spilling over with joy, sunshine, and the rippling waves of the Venetian lagoon.  A chorus of contadine – country maidens – eagerly awaits the arrival of their two heartthrobs, completely ignoring the love-lorn chorus of gondoliers surrounding them.  Marco and Giuseppe Palmieri arrive and announce their intention to marry, asking to be blindfolded while they choose their brides and ending up paired with Tessa and Gianetta.  Everyone rushes off to celebrate the nuptials.

The Duke of Plaza-Toro arrives with his wife, his daughter Casilda, and his drummer, Luiz.  Casilda is informed that she was betrothed in infancy to the infant son of the King of Barataria, who for his own safety grew up in the family of one of Venice’s gondoliers – the Palmieris.  The old king is now dead and the Grand Inquisitor alone knows who is the new king – but when asked, is forced to confess he doesn’t know whether it’s Marco or Giuseppe.  For the moment, both men will have to reign in Barataria while Luiz goes to track down the royal nurse, Inez, who will be able to identify the true heir.

There are now three very unhappy ladies – Casilda, who is in love with Luiz, and Tessa and Gianetta, who are not allowed to go to Barataria with their newly-wed husbands.  Marco and Giuseppe, though staunch Republicans, swiftly determine to establish a kingdom where everyone is equal. The Plaza-Toros arrive and swiftly set about teaching the two men “proper royal behaviour”. Tessa and Gianetta turn up, only to discover that one of their husbands is a bigamist.  The Grand Inquisitor appears with Inez who reveals that she placed her own son with the Palmieris and raised the royal prince herself – it is Luiz who is the king.  Casilda is thus already married to her beloved, and the gondoliers are able to return to Venice with their loving wives.

This Savoy Opera is one in which no one character gets to dominate, and many are afforded a chance to shine.  In this sparkling production, Arthur Bruce’s Antonio had his moment in the sun very early on.  William Morgan and Mark Nathan’s Marco and Giuseppe obviously thought very highly of themselves, but did it so charmingly it was impossible not to like them: they did a particularly splendid job of being half a king each in act 2.  Ellie Laugharne and Sioned Gwen Davies made a lovely pair of contadine.  Catriona Hewitson was a wonderfully imperious and touchingly human Casilda in a fabulous frock with a skirt seemingly made of chain-mail, her eye-patch and manner suggesting kinship with Verdi’s Princess Eboli.  Richard Suart made an endearingly down-at-heel Duke of Plaza-Toro, while his Duchess [Yvonne Howard]’s extravagantly wide costume spoke volumes about the run-down state of their finances.  Dan Shelvey’s Luiz was a dab hand with his drum and had his moment of glory when his drab costume was pulled apart to reveal a fittingly regal white satin outfit.  Ben McAteer was a suitably grisly Grand Inquisitor [with overtones of a camp John Cleese] and Cheryl Forbes’ Inez had a field day with her brief, tortured cameo revealing her nursling’s triumphant accession to the throne.

One of the joys of this show for me was the growing number of young singers who are, or have been, Scottish Opera Emerging Artists – many of them products of what is now the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.  Their energy and enthusiasm lit up the stage and augur well for the future of opera in Scotland.  The production was full of life and colour, and Isabel Baquero’s choreography was a delight to watch – my personal favourite was during the full ensemble clapping and stamping cross-rhythms in dance a cacucha, which we got to hear a second time at the close of the show.  The Gondoliers is full of musical magic – outstanding number after outstanding number, with the quintet in a contemplative fashion topping the bill for me with its calm, pensive underpinning each character’s dramatic outpouring of emotion.  

The Savoy Operas lampooned many contemporary ills, and the tradition of updating some numbers continues – the Duke’s extremely witty and politically apposite second-act aria being greeted with wry laughter and loud applause.  I was questioning the need for supertitles in an opera being sung in English to an English-speaking audience – but I have to confess that, particularly in this aria, it was enormously helpful to have the rapid-fire words readable as well as audible!

The Gondoliers is a wonderful mixture of real pathos and sparkling good humour, presented exuberantly by Scottish Opera’s soloists, chorus, and orchestra under the baton of their talented head of music, Derek Clark.  I was delighted to learn that a film of this production is being made.  If you aren’t able to get to see the live show, make sure you don’t miss the film – it will go a long way to lightening the drab winter months while also displaying the fantastic cornucopia of talent currently on display at Scottish Opera.

Scottish Opera, Gilbert & Sullivan The Gondoliers, Festival Theatre, Edinburgh Runs until Saturday Nov 6th; for tickets go to: https://www.capitaltheatres.com/whats-on/so-the-gondoliers The Production will visit Eden Court Theatre Inverness and Hackney Empire London.

Brett Herriot Review

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, the Musical Review:

Joyous, Gorgeous and Magnificent piece of musical theatre

***** 5 Stars

27 years after its Broadway debut, Disney Theatricals have brought their special brand of magic back to its first globally successful stage musical adaptation. Beauty and the Beast for the last few years was produced by another UK based producer with luck lustre results so it’s clear from this  gorgeously sumptuous new production that Disney have embraced the success of the Live action film and put it on stage with truly magical results.

Director and Choreographer Matt West has delivered Rob Roth’s new production in style, with effortless story telling blending with pure Broadway dance numbers that would make Busby Barclay proud. “Be Our Guest” starts big, gets bigger and even bigger still until its dripping with pure musical theatre goodness that rightly has the audiences applauding long and hard.

The cast are first class, Courtney Stapleton’s “Belle” is everything and more than you could want from the character with gorgeous vocals to match. Stepping into the role of the Beast is alternate, Alyn Hawke who gives the heartless prince doomed forever to live as a Beast incredible light and shade as the Beast learns to Love, Hawke plays it with gusto. Forming a polished comedy double act Gavin Lee’s “Lumiere” and Nigel Richards “Cogsworth” are a pure joy, with faultless timing and give the production true comedy joy de verve.  Special mention also goes to Sam Bailey (yes she of x-factor fame) who proves her worth as “Mrs Potts” and gives her performance of “Beauty and the Beast” all the charm and warmth it needs to melt even the hardest of hearts.

Speaking of Mrs Potts, the originator of the character Dame Angela Lansbury lends her voice to the prologue which sets the show off in sparkling form. The principals are joined by a driven and strong 14 person ensemble.  Every single performer plays there part amongst the many smaller characters with style.

This new production features a stunning scenic design from Stanley A Meyer which is supported by Natasha Katz lighting design and a pure west end worthy sound design from John Shivers. These core production values are boosted even further with Darrel Maloney’s absolutely stunning Projection and video design for the show. If that were not enough Ann Hould-Wards Costume design is the cherry on the cake, borrowing heavily from the live action movie these costume are pure quality and knock the eye out adding the extra layer of sumptuousness this stellar production deserves.

The music is delivered in an equally high standard from a 10 piece pit orchestra under the baton of resident MD Jonathan Gill. This is the final Scottish stop for the Tour for the moment hence its lengthy Run at the Playhouse.

Since reopening the Playhouse have truly brought out the big guns to attract the audiences and this production of Beauty and the Beast is a joyous, gorgeous and magnificent piece of musical theatre that truly proves that Disney has brought back the magic to a tale as old as time!

Grab those gold dust ticket before the magic leaves the Edinburgh Playhouse!

Disney Presents Beauty and the Beast, The Musical, Edinburgh Playhouse, Runs until Saturday 27th November. For tickets go to: https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/disneys-beauty-and-the-beast/edinburgh-playhouse/

Mary Woodward Review

Nady McGregor: A New Life, A Play, A Pie & A Pint, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Review:

**** (4 stars)

I wouldn’t have believed you if you’d told me that a musical about post-natal depression could be funny – but this is what Andy McGregor has achieved with his new show. 

Jess and Robbie are all set to move forward in their amazingly busy but exceptionally fulfilling work life – Jess aiming to be head of the primary school in which she teaches, Robbie confident that the latest game app he is developing will be the hit of the century.  All is set fair – the present head is finally talking of ‘her successor’, and Nintendo are showing interest in Robbie’s game: so why is Jess suddenly loathing gin and craving fish fingers?

Yes, she’s pregnant: and while both Jess and Robbie are initially terrified, they come to believe that “it won’t affect our lives / it might actually be good”… but things have a nasty habit of not working out the way we plan, and this certainly proves true for our happy couple.  Instead of a comfortable hospital birth, the baby decides to come so quickly he is born at home, and despite trying strictly to adhere to the routine laid out in the cult book Good Mother Bad Mother, Jess and Robbie’s comfortable life slowly disintegrates.

I don’t want to reveal the tap-dancing surprise that emerges from under the sofa, but suffice it to say the new baby is not just an immobile wee bundle of joy but a living personality with his own take on what’s going on.  Robbie’s increasing involvement with Nintendo means that Jess is caring for their baby all on her own, and increasingly unable to cope.  Robbie makes the “right” soothing noises, but these simply aren’t enough and the situation builds to a desperate climax.

Katie Barnett’s Jess is a frighteningly accurate portrayal of a young woman tipping over the edge of sanity as she struggles to cope with caring for her baby through a rising tide of sleeplessness, anxiety, and a growing certainty that she’s simply not a good enough mum.  Gavin Jon Wright’s Robbie is a warm caring man whose mind is elsewhere as he pursues what he sees as his duty, trying to get his game accepted by Nintendo so that he can provide for his family, and blind to all the warning signs his partner is displaying.  Alan Orr is simply brilliant as the eagerly anticipated, initially welcomed but increasingly monstrous-seeming baby whose comments on his parents’ words and actions add much-needed humour to their situation.

The musical numbers are brilliant: honestly revealing feelings that women/ new mums are not supposed to feel or express – it’s meant to be all loving maternal euphoria, not a downward spiral into despair.  Jess gets some wonderful rants – who said being pregnant was sexy and fun?; I should be feeling love but I don’t and Why is my career down the drain but yours isn’t? – and gives us graphic descriptions of labour, sleeplessness, and the black thoughts that come unbidden and unwanted in the sleepless night.

There is a happy ending – but I couldn’t help thinking of all the women who don’t have loving, caring partners and for whom the downward spiral only ends in tragedy.  Andy McGregor has written and directed a stunning show which uses music and humour to publish a stark picture of the reality many women face: being expected smilingly to cope and portray a beautiful sexy ‘yummy mummy’ when they are clinging to sanity by a thread.

Nady McGregor: A New Life, A Play, A Pie & A PintTraverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Review: run ends Sat for tickets go to: https://www.traverse.co.uk/whats-on/event/ppp-a-new-life

Mary Woodward

Mary Woodward Review

A Play, A Pie & A Pint, Lorna Martin: Rose, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Review

**** (4 stars)

One of the things I most love about the Play, Pie, Pint series is that it’s beginning to fill the woeful gaps in my knowledge of the history of the country to which I moved in 2005.  Rose not only does this but speaks out loud and strong against the still-prevailing culture of male dominance which persists in regarding women as second-class citizens who should know their place and not attempt to do things “that only men are allowed to do”.

Rose is a celebration of the indomitable spirit of Rose Reilly who, with her mate Edna Nellis defied the archaic, misogynistic culture prevalent in the Scottish Football Association in the 1970s and refused to accept the ban on women playing football – a ban which was imposed worldwide in the early 20th century and which every country but Scotland had by then lifted. 

Prevented from playing in Scotland, she and Edna went to Europe when still in their teens, and played professionally first for Reims and then Milan: success after success followed, and in 1984 Rose played for Italy and won the World Cup, beating West Germany in the final.  Soon after, she was proclaimed the best footballer in the world – but it wasn’t till 2007 that Scotland began formally to recognise her amazing talent which, had she been a man, would have made her a household name decades previously.

Christina Strachan gave an outstanding performance in this one-woman show, perfectly capturing the many characters playing their parts – good and bad – in Rose’s story, and leaving us with a picture of a lively, energetic woman who refused to be prevented from following her passion and playing football professionally.  The audience became deeply involved in her story, laughing with her, crying with her, becoming furious with her and celebrating not only her success but also the courage with which she rose above the pettiness of the opposition and simply proved all her critics wrong.

The run is almost a sell-out – there are still some tickets left for Friday lunchtime: but move fast, blink or you’ll miss this uplifting story of the gallus wee lassie from Ayr who simply refused to take no for an answer or confine herself to the straitjacket in which men felt she should be confined.

A Play, A Pie & A Pint, Lorna Martin: Rose, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Run ended.

Mary Woodward