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Edinburgh Festivals Cancelled for 2020!

Edinburgh Festivals Cancelled for 2020! 

As the world continues the battle against COVID 19 and we here in Scotland continue in our Lockdown lives and making social distancing a reality. The theatre world remains closed down and annual summer events continue to fall one by one into cancellation or rescheduling for later in the year.

For the last few weeks, the combined Edinburgh Festival organizations have painstakingly been meeting with officials, stake holders, performers and the city itself to find the right answer to the question, do we continue with this year’s planned festival events? The answer is sadly No.

For the first time in 70 years The Edinburgh International Festival, The Edinburgh Art Festival, The Edinburgh Book Festival, The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo and The Edinburgh Fringe Festival are cancelled for 2020.

It’s a heartbreaking time for the industry and for the city and the repercussions of this decision will be felt well beyond August. However, this is the right decision and we at ScotsGay arts commend those who had the difficult job of making this decision.

Yes August may be four months away but with those most vulnerable being shielded for 12 weeks our city and country will still be coming back to some sense of normality, there is simply no way the infrastructure and planning which takes months for every venue to go through could be achieved in the time frame that’s left.

In the bigger picture it will be a time for reflection and a chance to breath and welcoming the world to Edinburgh would at best be insensitive and at worst utter madness. A fallow year may be just what the Combined Festivals need to refocus and rediscover the true spirt that saw the birth of the festivals in the first place.

Speaking of the true spirit of the festivals, who knows where we will be in four months, if restrictions are eased and theatres do reopen, perhaps it will be a chance for local companies to take centre stage and entertain the great city that Edinburgh is, and the world can be reassured, Edinburgh and Scotland will be ready to welcome the world back in 2021.

For now, people matter, and the message remains clear, Stay Home, Protect the NHS and Save Lives.

Official Statements can be found at the following links:

https://www.edfringe.com/covid-19

https://www.eif.co.uk/festival-guide/news-and-blogs/a-message-from-our-festival-director

https://edinburghartfestival.com/news/item/edinburgh-art-festival-2020-cancelled

https://www.edbookfest.co.uk/about-us/news/festival-2020-announcement

https://www.edintattoo.co.uk/news/the-tattoo-response-to-the-covid-19-pandemic

Mary Woodward Review

Choice Grenfell Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh, Review

Choice Grenfell

**** (4 Stars)

Joyce Grenfell will be best remembered by film buffs as the toothy, angular spinster games mistress in the original St Trinian’s films. Unfortunately film makers couldn’t see her in other types of role and so film audiences never got to see her many other talents. Joyce was born into a privileged world – her aunt was Nancy Astor, and she spent a lot of time at Cliveden, the Astor’s country house – but she found an outlet for her singing and comedic talents when in 1939 she was invited to take part in the Little Revue in the West End. Her impersonations and characterisations were an unexpected hit, and she never looked back. She appeared in more revues, entertained the troops with ENSA in the second world war, wrote many books, collaborated with Stephen Potter to produce radio programmes, became a well-known and well-loved television performer, and worked with pianists Richard Addinsell and William Blezard, performing her intimate shows on stage and television all over Britain, Australia, and America.

I’ve known and loved Joyce’s work all my life – and so, obviously, had the audience at the Brunton last Friday. Suzanna Walters and Andrew D Brewis gave superb performances as Joyce and Bill Blezard, in the first half arriving at the Brunton for a warm-up and preparation for the evening’s show, and in the second half giving us a full-on, sparkling performance of some of Joyce’s best-known songs and loving, accurately-observed monologues.

The audience was quiet at first – possibly concentrating very hard on listening appreciatively – but there were laughs right from the start – when Joyce asked is this place run by the council?, when Bill complained of the nylon sheets in his hotel, and when Joyce expressed surprise that people still wanted to come and hear her in an era when others were going crazy for the Rolling Stones. Songs and monologues were interspersed with chatty conversation which cleverly gave an outline of Joyce’s career and mentioned some of the people who crossed her path, including a young Clive James and Johnny Ball.

The second half was outstanding right from the start, as both performers came in in their concert gear and moved immediately into Joyce’s signature tune I’m going to see you today. We re-encountered all our favourite characters – Lumpy Latimer, so exquisitely awkward at her first old girls’ reunion after innumerable years in the colonies; the prize worrier who simply didn’t know how to cope with having won a rabbit [still in its skin] in a raffle; the professional singer who gave up her career to look after her children while her husband globe-trotted and met up with a number of ‘good [female] friends’ – but always came home; the anxious mother on her first transatlantic flight to meet her son’s African-American wife, and hoping desperately – I just want to do it right.

The night would not have been complete without Stately as a galleon – the humorous description of women forced by a shortage of men to dance with each other – and I have three brothers, a seemingly loving celebration of a woman’s involvement first in the lives of her three brothers and then in those of their children which reveals the tragic loneliness of her servitude to these uncaring siblings. A woman’s hymn-singing worry about whether or not the gas had been left on under the saucepan of chicken bones was followed by the monologue we’d all been waiting for – Free activity period in a kindergarten class, with not only George, don’t do that…but an unending stream of little disasters culminating in the summoning of the fire brigade to release a finger deliberately stuck in a keyhole, the crowning glory of an evening we’d all been eagerly anticipating and which magnificently lived up to our expectations.

Suzanna Walters was superb as Joyce, though I was a little concerned for her singing voice which seemed to be rather strained – maybe the result of an extensive tour of this delightful show. The piano playing of ‘Bill Blezard’ was at all times delightfully impressive [looking so ridiculously easy!] but he got a special round of applause for playing while lying underneath the keyboard… The audience obviously loved every minute of the show and were sorry to see it end.

Choice Grenfell, Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh, RUN ENDED

Kieran A Wilson Review

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, Review

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie,

**** 4 Star

” this musical is a must see event”

Inspired by the 2011 television documentary ‘Jamie: Drag Queen at 16’, Everybody’s Talking about Jamie is the life-affirming musical telling the story of Jamie New, who wishes to attend his high school prom in full drag, as a outward statement of his inner self. Following an award winning transfer to the west end, a production which is still running, this year see’s the show receive its first ever UK Tour!

The musical plunges into the story of the 16 year old from Sheffield who dreams of becoming a drag queen; his emotional journey as he overcomes bullying and the prejudices he faces. With a strong cast of performers – many who have transferred straight from the West End cast – the show sparks life and energy throughout, although this is somewhat lacklustre in the first half from Leyton Williams, in the starring role of Jamie New.

Whilst Williams has gorgeous vocals and stand out dance moves, his energy lacks a little in both scene and song throughout the first act. However, his energy levels magnified dramatically in Act Two of the performance; matching those around him. Unfortunately, his overly fast rate of speech and lack of diction continued throughout both Acts, making it a challenge to understand his dialogue at points.

The role of Jamie’s mother, Margaret New, is played by the impeccable Amy Ellen Richardson, who’s stand out performance shone from the second she graced the stage. Her truly heart wrenching performance of ‘He’s My Boy’ shows real emotional connection to text, with impeccable vocals that could take easily her straight to Broadway.

Shobna Gulati is incredibly relatable in the role of Ray, playing both comedy and heartfelt emotion perfectly throughout the show. Alongside the strong principle cast; George Samson proves that he is more than just a dancer in his powerful portrayal of Dean, the story’s villain. The part of Pritti Pasha is fulfilled by Sharan Phull; who stuns the audience with her gorgeous voice in her warming rendition of ‘It Means Beautiful’.

Surprisingly, Shane Richie’s flawless acting and impressive vocals place him as the true star of the show, as he portrays the role of Hugo; allowing him to transcend into drag superstar Loco Chantelle. With a stunning transformation, the incredible Costume team’s work is evident in these scenes.

The set and props throughout the show are flawless, with scene changes carried out seamlessly and innovatively. Directors Jonathan Butterell (Original Director) and Matt Ryan (Tour Director) ensure the stage is always full of life and Kate Prince entices the audience with creative, modern and visually stunning choreography.

In summary, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie keeps the audience engaged with toe-tapping musical numbers, emotionally charged vocal performances and a cast of very talented individuals. With such a strong cast and a story that inspires many, this musical is a must see event for all ages.

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, Festival Theatre, Runs until Saturday 7th March for tickets go to: http://www.capitaltheatres.com/whats-on/everybodys-talking-about-jamie

Tour Visits Glasgow later in the year.

Mary Woodward Review

Handel Agrippina Metropolitan Opera relay, Review

Handel Agrippina

***** (5 Stars)

Agrippina was first performed in 1709, but the plot is still relevant today. The Roman empress Agrippina, wife of Claudio, wants her son Nerone to be made heir to the imperial throne, and is prepared to use any means to ensure this. Claudio, however, favours his general, Ottone, who is in love with Poppaea – who is also pursued by Nerone and Claudio. Agrippina, hearing that Claudio has died in a shipwreck, leaps into action. Lying right left and centre, she promises her sexual favours to her two freedmen, Pallente and Narciso, if they will assist her. Just as it appears that her machinations will succeed she learns that Claudio is not dead: she simply regroups, and starts blackening everyone’s characters to everyone else. People start to see through her plots, and everything begins to unravel around her – but just as it seems that she is about to receive her comeuppance, she wriggles out of everything and manages to achieve her dearest wish – her son Nerone is confirmed by Claudio as his heir. Familiar, or what???

The cast are superb. Joyce di Donato is the scheming empress, counter-tenor Iestyn Davies the lovelorn Ottone, and soprano Brenda Rae the fiery, intelligently scheming Poppaea. Mezzo Kate Lindsey plays the twitching, unpredictable, self-obsessed brat Nerone, while Matthew Rose as Claudio is at times a powerfully majestic emperor, at times a suspiciously Trump-like fool. Duncan Rock and Nicholas Tamagna make a beautifully-contrasted and gullible pair of lapdogs for Agrippina.

Aprippina’s theme song could well be I will survive – though her drive to succeed centres round her son, to whose disturbingly volatile nastiness she is totally oblivious. Joyce di Donato is more usually seen as a melancholy heroine or a steely queen: here she is allowed to give full rein to her brilliant comic powers as she manipulates everyone around her and makes it clear to us, but not to her victims, how she despises them. Only when she is alone in act two does her underlying fear of the consequences of her evil deeds appear – but it is quickly beaten into submission, and she sweeps onwards in her obsessive quest. Even when defeat stares her in the face, she can twist everything round and convince Claudio that everything she has done was to keep the throne secure for him. Yet again she triumphs: her son is proclaimed heir to the imperial throne – but during the final triumphant chorus she fails to see Nerone standing behind her with his hands reaching out for her neck…

If Agrippina’s tale is one of a lust for power that she wants for her son, Ottone’s is one of a desire for power that is easily relinquished to achieve his overwhelming need to be with the woman he loves. He saves Claudio’s life in the shipwreck, and the grateful emperor names him his heir: he is overjoyed – but power is meaningless without the woman he loves by his side. When Agrippina’s lies turn everyone against him, he is desolate – but because he has lost his love, not the promised power. When Poppaea demonstrates her fidelity, cleverly evading the advances of both Claudio and Nerone, he is overjoyed: and when Claudio, finally realising Ottone’s honesty and Agrippina’s duplicity, decrees that Nerone shall marry Poppaea and Ottone succeed to the throne, he has the courage to speak out, refuse the offered power, and ask instead for Poppaea.

All the other characters are driven by desire – Nerone wants power, but he also wants Poppaea; Claudio is also pursuing Poppaea; she, believing Agrippina’s lies, wants vengeance; Pallante and Narciso desire Agrippina and blindly involve themselves in her plots. They rejoice in others’ misfortune – most tellingly when Ottone is accused of treason: one by one they show their contempt and leave him alone in his misery, the social outcast whom it’s disaster to be seen to support.

The contemporary setting chosen by David McVicar for this production starkly reveals the immediacy of the situation and the choices facing the characters. A giant golden staircase leading to the imperial throne dominates the stage, while massive pillars display the might and power of the emperor, and provide dark shadows in which the conspirators can hide. Only once does the desire to play up the humour potentially overwhelm the characters’ emotions – in the bar scene that opens the second half, with an outstanding on-stage virtuoso performance from harpsichordist Bradley Brookshire. Poppaea’s hung-over antics rather make light of the depth of Ottone’s real misery – but at the same time one has to admire her impeccable comic timing, along with the antics of all the characters surrounding her in the bar. Nerone’s frenzied coke-snorting outburst furiously promising vengeance on Poppaea for her rejection of him was another outstanding performance, again chillingly hinting at her ultimate fate.

It’s astounding to realise that this was the Met’s premiere of Agrippina, and Joyce di Donato’s first Handel role at the Met. Handel was only twenty-four when he wrote this opera, but his understanding of character and motivation and how to display this musically was already outstanding. His ability to pace the drama and provide moments of heart-stopping pathos and genuine depth of feeling amongst the outbursts of passion and cold-blooded machinations is extraordinary when you consider how new opera was as an art form. Agrippina and Poppaea have a seemingly unending succession of bravura displays of passion, drive, and anger; Claudio and Nerone each have superb opportunities to reveal their inner desires; Pallente and Narciso each display their willingness to be led by the nose and believe Agrippina’s promises.

In the middle of all this stands Ottone, whose despairing lament soars out into the blackness that slowly encloses him when he believes himself abandoned by Poppaea, and whose delight in her proven faithfulness leads to the only duet in the whole piece as the two declare their mutual love and trust. The third deeply heartfelt piece comes, surprisingly, from Agrippina: all her plots have been unmasked, and shown Claudio the lengths to which she was prepared to go to get her son on the throne. He sits dejectedly and she sings a tender aria urging him to let go of his anger – if you want peace, my love, let go of your hate: if only she could have listened to her own advice…

A stellar cast gave a timeless and spine-chillingly accurate depiction of the lengths to which people are prepared to go in pursuit of power while Harry Bicket and the Met orchestra gave a masterclass in baroque playing and ornamentation. At the final curtain it seemed as though the entire stalls audience were on their feet – a fitting tribute to one of the most enjoyable and satisfying Met relays I’ve seen in a long time.

Handel Agrippina, Metropolitan Opera relay, RUN ENDED

Preview

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, Preview:

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

UK Tour, Edinburgh Festival Theatre, 3rd to 7th March.

Inspired by the 2011 television documentary Jamie: Drag Queen at 16 and debuting at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield in 2017, Everybody’s Talking about Jamie is the life affirming musical telling the story of Jamie New who wants to attend his high school prom in a glamourous Drag Queen outfit only to be met by Hate, confrontation from those who should love him and a new understanding of the relationship between himself and his mother.

Following an award winning transfer to the west end, a production which is still running, this year see’s the show receive its first ever UK Tour! and Jamie finally comes to Edinburgh and its beautiful Festival Theatre Edinburgh. Ahead of the opening Layton Williams who plays Jamie, fresh from his run in the Apollo Theatre, London spoke with Scotsgay Arts!

JAM_1378_retouched

For people who are new to Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, how would you sum up the storyline?

Jamie is based on a real character who was the subject of a documentary on BBC Three. I remember watching it years ago and it was about him wanting to be a drag queen and wanting go to the school prom in a dress and how his mum Margaret supported him. When he got there there was all this hoo-hah, the teachers wouldn’t let him in, then something wonderful and unexpected happened, his school mates refused to go in without him. The basics of his story inspired the musical and it’s been given a bit of theatrical razzamatazz. Our story is about a 16-year-old boy who wants to be a drag queen and it’s about his relationship with his parents – including his dad, who he isn’t much in touch with. It’s about Jamie finding himself and his drag persona and, without giving anything away, what happens when he does eventually go to the prom.

What do you see as the key themes?

It’s about acceptance. This is a show for everyone, especially for today. It’s not just for people who are into RuPaul’s Drag Race and stuff like that. The show is about a boy finding his path in life with the help of his close relationship with his incredible mum and her unconditional love for him. She loves him exactly as he is. A dad who isn’t supportive and lots of other characters that people will be able to relate to. It’s about family, friendship, trust and support. There are so many different, relatable characters in it – [laughs] although if you identify with the dad then have a word with yourself! And there’s so much diversity in the cast. The real Jamie is white and I’m not, but that wasn’t even a question for the producers and creatives – which is so refreshing and so fab, like just ‘He’s right for the role’ and that’s how it should be. Oh, and there are high heels, high kicks, drag queens, beautiful dresses, feather boas, some fantastic songs and brilliant dancing. It really is fun, funny and fabulous with a lump in your throat and a little tear.

How important is the theme of inclusion to audiences both young and old?

Very important. I get messages from older people who have been helped by the show, whether it’s helped them come out or helped them understand their children better. It does obviously speak directly to the LGBTQ+ youth but it’s not limited to one faction. So many people can relate to being an outcast or feeling different but after seeing the show they’ll feel, to quote one of the songs, there’s a place where they belong. It didn’t happen to me personally but our director [Jonathan Butterell] said when he was doing the show in Sheffield a guy came up to him, grabbed his arm and said ‘I was Dean once’ – referring to the school bully character. Some people in the audience will maybe see the Dean character and think ‘That was me’ or they might see the dad and think ‘I was homophobic’ or they’ll go ‘Everybody is celebrating this boy here so why do I have these negative feelings?’ They might get dragged to the theatre by their girlfriends or wives, thinking ‘Oh my God, what have I gotten myself into?’ then hopefully by the end of it their hearts and minds will have been opened and their opinions on things have changed.

JAM_6801_retouched

What challenges does the role of Jamie present?

It’s about the emotional journey he has to go on. Eight times a week I’m having an argument with this person, bonding with that one, having to cry about this, having to cry about that… The rollercoaster of emotions is a lot to navigate. Being 16 years old is hard. I remember being 16 with all those hormones and stuff. There’s the acting side of all that, then there are so many songs. I have to keep my voice tight and right. That’s the difficulty – keeping myself on top form all the time so when I get out on stage I slay it. I want people to have the best experience possible and that means I have to be in full health, make sure I’m rested and always prepared. That’s the nature of the job but that’s what makes it exciting because you put your whole self out there on stage.

Having played Angel in Rent this isn’t your first time in heels, is it?

No, it isn’t. [Laughs] The heels thing is a doddle now.

Do you know the real Jamie and have you based your performance on him?

Yes, I know Jamie Campbell, he’s a really lovely guy. I rewatched the documentary once I got the part. There a few things he does, like a few little dance moves, that I’ve put into the show. And with him as a person, I take some of his isms and personality traits. On the surface he might come across as someone who is really confident and fab and out-there, but as with lots of people you don’t really know what’s going on behind closed doors. There’s so much vulnerability to him. That’s something I don’t necessarily have myself. I’m always getting notes from the director about tapping into Jamie’s vulnerability. I try to stay as true to him and his story as I can because I want to do it justice. I want everyone who comes to see the show to not just get this fierce, fully-formed teenager who’s got everything sorted because then it’d be like ‘So what’s this story about?’ If I came out in the opening number And You Don’t Even Know It like ‘Bam! I’ve got this!’ then the audience would just go ‘He seems fine, what’s the point of the story?’

JAM_6948_retouched

Does the show resonate for you on a personal level?

Yes it does. I’m a queer boy from a council estate up North, so we have that in common. Me and my mum have had our moments in the past and sometimes on stage I’m thinking about the things we’ve been through. We always patch things up but families go through stuff. And my upbringing wasn’t rosy. As I say, I was a gay boy on a council estate and as much as I tried to hide it I had a few things coming my way. It’s not been the easiest ride but I put it into my art.

What’s your favourite musical number in the show and why?

And You Don’t Even Know It is fab because it’s the opening number and I get to sing and dance and do it all. Then I love the closing number Out Of The Darkness because I have my microphone in my hand and I feel like a real popstar.

What are you most looking forward to about taking Jamie on tour?

It’s about giving people the opportunity to see it who might not necessarily be able to because travelling to London is too expensive. When I was a musical-theatre-loving kid I couldn’t have afforded to get on a train and come to London. We’re bringing the show to a whole new audience and changing their opinions and perspectives and lives, hopefully. I know it sounds super-dramatic when you say it like that but we’re coming to their doorstep telling our story. It’s great that Shane Richie and Shobna Gulati from the West End cast are also with me.

JAM_7697_retouched

Is there one thing you couldn’t be on the road without?

My suitcases full of outfits and things for my dressing room, like my dolls and cards full of love and my artwork. I have to put them all out so when I come into the room I feel the love and the energy.

How hard do you think it will be to say goodbye to Jamie when the tour ends?

I can’t even think about it to be honest. I’ll have been playing this part for a good year and a half and I’ve loved every single second of it. All good things have to come to an end and I’m sure there are many more amazing opportunities waiting for me in the future but this will be something I will never forget. It’s been a life-changing job.

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie makes its Scottish Debut in Edinburgh but will also visit Aberdeen and Glasgow later in the year! grab those ticket before they sell out and discover just why everybody is really talking about Jamie!

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, Tuesday 3rd to Saturday 7th March, for tickets go to: https://www.capitaltheatres.com/whats-on/everybodys-talking-about-jamie

 

Mary Woodward Review

Rambert, Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, Review

Rambert: PreSentient; Rouge; In your rooms

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh

**** (4 stars)

I was hoping for great things from this triple-bill from Rambert, but was disappointed: the dancers were extremely talented, but whatever message they were presenting didn’t get through to me. Most of the audience, however, seemed very appreciative and responded to each piece with enthusiastic applause and loud cheers.

Wayne McGregor’s 2002 PreSentient was danced to a lot of percussive, frenzied noise with a brief interlude of surprisingly lyrical string playing, while the dancers twisted themselves into extraordinarily sinuous contortions singly, in small groups or all together, with some quite amazing lifts. Occasional moments of stillness stood out in the near-constant movement. One dancer was left alone twirling on stage as the blackout fell. I really wasn’t sure what it was all about.

Marion Motin’s Rouge, first performed in 2019, began with the stage covered in ‘mist’ through which it gradually became possible to see the curled figures of dancers. A musician on stage played electric guitar, and another had his drum kit down in the pit. Seven dancers in an extraordinary jumble of clothes emerged from the mist and began synchronised falling-down-and-surging-straight-up-again, which was extremely impressive but quite rapidly became tedious. At some stage they flung off most of their clothes: they bounced up and down together; they lay down on the floor and moved their legs; much of their ensemble movement reminded me of the snatches of pop video I try to ignore at the gym.

The mist started pouring across the whole stage in waves, looking like the incoming tide. A long neon tube on the floor glowed blood red: another one further back and high up followed suit, and at different times made patterns of light across the stage. The dancers’ interactions became increasingly cruel and violent towards each other – at one point one dancer strangled another – and the guitar and drums mirrored their increasing fury, with a noise level way beyond my pain threshold. Things calmed down a bit, the dancers twitched and wiggled and tapped their bodies with their hands before a final frenzy was drowned in a merciful blackout.

At this point I was wondering whether I could face a third piece – but I’m glad I did. For me In your rooms was the most interesting piece of the evening, created by Choreographer and composer Hofesh Shechter and first seen in 2007. It mixed spoken word with a musical score played by onstage musicians and had a lighting score that made me think of Rembrandt as it mixed varying levels of light and shadow and surrounded everything with a mistiness that was more attractive than the harsh lighting of the previous works. In the overall darkness tiny snatches of movement or total stillness, unrelated to each other emerged and were instantly gone. The invisible commentator mused on the essential chaos of the universe, the tension between it and the order we try to impose, and wondered whether our use of an ever-increasing ocean of words is in order to replace our feelings. There was much chaotic, neurotic movement, both individually and collectively: it was only at the end that one couple reached out to each other and found something that enabled them to relate positively to each other and find some respite from the individuals’ internal chaos.

The dancing was, as I’ve said, extremely impressive, and the rest of the audience obviously thought all three pieces were superb. I simply couldn’t connect with anything in the first two pieces, and appreciated, but was not deeply moved by, the third piece. Much of the dancing seemed to me more like gymnastics than dance – but perhaps it was simply expressing emotions foreign to me in a language I simply don’t speak, and using a music that is equally alien. Next time I’ll check what music they’re using before booking to see the show…

Rambert: PreSentient; Rouge; In your rooms, Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, Runs until Saturday 22nd February for tickets go to: https://www.capitaltheatres.com/whats-on/rambert

 

Brett Herriot Review

Sunset Boulevard, Limelight Productions, Alhambra Theatre, Dunfermline, Review:

Sunset Boulevard, Limelight Productions, 

***** 5 Stars

“ Teaching the World New Ways To Dream“

Widley considered to be Andrew Lloyd Webber’s finest and most complete work based on the Billy Wilder 1950 movie of the same name telling the story of the Faded Silent Movie star Norma Desmond (Played with extraordinary depth and emotion by Donna Hazelton) forgotten by the world and longing to return to her people in the dark. It’s when struggling studio writer Joe Gillis (Nick Tomlinson who gives an astonishingly understated performance that totally reinterprets the character) stumbles upon the grumbling mansion at 10086 Sunset Boulevard that the tale of Love both wanted and unwanted, broken dreams and manipulative power play starts to unfolds. All this set against the glamour of 1940’s Hollywood and the world of Paramount Studios this Limelight production is truly a world with in a world take on the story.

Director Kenny Christie has truly delivered a unique take on the show that actually has the sweeping breath of a movie live on stage that blends Norma’s world which she believes is a film in itself with that of many people who work in the Paramount Studio system living in the real world. Its that clash which leads to the dramatic collision the forces Norma to spiral into insanity and Joe left paying the ultimate price. It’s a joy to watch.

The casting is excellent with Hazelton (who has west end credits to her name and it shows) leading the company faultlessly, her Norma is unique she has forgone trying to replicate “Close”, “LuPone”, “Paige” and the many others who have brought Norma to life and instead delivers her take and its one that truly gets under the skin of “Desmond” and to watch her descent into insanity is gripping and powerful musical theatre at its best. The same applies to Tomlinson’s take on Joe and he has a warm honey voice to go with it. The same is true of Chris Tomlinson’s excellent take on Max the forgotten love of Norma’s and now her Butler who gives everything to ensure Norma is the greatest star of all. Special mention also goes to Andrew Todman as Artie Green who gives the role a Clark Gable twist and to Vicky Sharp as Betty Schaefer with her powerhouse vocals giving the character real punch

It’s not just the leads who stand out it’s the entire company, they have truly taken on the challenge of delivering a complete universe of characters and fully succeed in bringing both worlds fully to life.

Director Christie should be justly proud, his vision for the show truly flows and thanks to Elinor Burns pitch perfect Choreography which blends together period dance moves that fully opens up the story and coupled with sharp drilling the large ensemble dance pieces are delivered in style.

The true highlight of Sunset is the epic score and Musical Director Paul Gudgin has delivered in style with peerless vocals on stage accompanied by a 14 strong orchestra in the pit the ensures every note of the sweeping and orchestrally brilliant score rings out around the Alhambra magnificently.

Production wise the technically complicated set works beautifully coupled with Jonnie Clough’s excellent lighting design and Mike Somerville’s Sound design. If there is anything negative to say its in the delivery of the microphone sound to often Mic’s were late coming on and thus cut off to many lines, it’s a quibble that while not enough to loose a star does need sorted to fully give the cast on stage and audience that true west end worthy standard this show bleeds.

Limelight’s production of Sunset Boulevard is everything and more and worth every penny of the ticket price so get along to the Alhambra and watch as this stellar company truly do teach the world new ways to dream.

Sunset Boulevard, Limelight Productions, Alhambra Theatre, Dunfermline, Runs until Saturday 22nd February for tickets go to: https://alhambradunfermline.com/event/limelight-productions-present-sunset-boulevard/