Brett Herriot Review

ART, King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, Review:

ART, 

**** 4 Stars

“A Comedy Acting Masterclass”

A quarter of a century since its debut and 23 years since it came to prominence in London’s Wyndham’s Theatre staring the recently departed Albert Finney Yazmina Reza’s story as adapted into the English language by Christopher Hampton returns on a UK tour starring the sublime trio of Nigel Havers (Serge), Denis Lawson (Marc) and Stephen Tompkinson (Yvan)

The comedy, which raises questions about art and friendship, concerns three long-time friends, Serge, Marc, and Yvan. Serge, indulging his penchant for modern art, buys a large, expensive, completely white painting for £200,00 Marc is horrified referring to it as “Shit” and their relationship suffers considerable strain as a result of their differing opinions about what constitutes “art”. Yvan, caught in the middle of the conflict, tries to please and mollify both of them. This is story not so much about Art and its values but friendship what bonds us through life’s journey.

The play has been a critical success for many theatre companies over the proceeding 25 years including its first Scottish production at the Royal Lyceum Theatre in April 2003 starring King’s legend Andy Gray, Forbes Masson and James Macpherson. This 2019 touring production revives the Old Vic Original directed by Matthew Warchus and sharpened and retooled by current director Ellie Jones.

The production lies totally on the shoulders of the three actors cast in the roles and combined Havers, Lawson and Tompkinson give a Comedy acting masterclass that won’t be topped. The snappy pacing of this 1 act play ensures the audience is swept along. The only criticism that can be levelled is sometimes they need to let the laughter settle before moving on to more dialog as many of the starting lines become clipped and inaudible.

ART occupies a unique place in the pantheon of theatre driven by its success and life span and the plethora of Acting talent that has inhibited the roles of the last twenty-five years, the current trio are exceptional as one would expect from talent of there calibre and truly make an evening at the theatre a real pleasure.

ART also holds a mirror to our own lives and friendships we surely all see just a little of ourselves and our own friends in the characters we see on stage, we are human, we are fallible, we cry and laugh and this play unlike others allows us to see beyond the blurring of the lines and or that its well worth grabbing a ticket and getting along to the King’s.

David Pugh & Dafydd Rogers present the Old Vic Production of “ART”, King’s Theatre Edinburgh until Saturday 16th February, UK tour continues Including Aberdeen His Majesty’s Theatre 25th – 30th March. For tickets go to: https://www.capitaltheatres.com/whats-on/art

Brett Herriot Review

Les Misérables, Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, Review:

Les Misérables The International Tour.

***** 5 Stars

“The musical phenomenon that continues to transcend time”

Even after 34 years of unbroken performances in London’s west end and numerous Tours  its remarkable that Les Mis as its affectionally known continues to sell out where ever it goes, and its just done just that at Edinburgh’s grand Festival Theatre.

This the 25th Anniversary production, created in 2009 to mark the milestone, its also headed for the west end itself taking up residency in the Queen’s Theatre following renovations and the closing of the original production. This news means that the public glare is fully on this new production which draws inspiration from Victor Hugo’s Paintings, a new stunning set design and a pacier sense of direction.

Its truly a Les Mis for a new generation whilst maintaining the heart of the original and despite a running time of nearly 3 hours it remains as riveting as ever. Set against the backdrop of 19th-century France, Les Misérables tells an enthralling story of broken dreams and unrequited love, passion, sacrifice and redemption – a timeless testament to the survival of the human spirit. Ex-convict Jean Valjean ( a blistering performance from Killian Donnelly) is hunted for decades by the ruthless policeman Javert (Nic Greenshields, who simply redefines the role) after he breaks parole. When Valjean agrees to care for factory worker Fantine’s young daughter, Cosette, their lives change forever.

This production dispenses with a turntable, and uses an automated set that brings France to life in a spectacular way, combined with projections of Hugo’s own artwork it really takes the audience inside the heart of the story and director’s Laurence Connor and James Powell have reset the pacing of the show to such an extent it zips along and the big songs are delivered to audience so captivated they watch in wrapped silence.

Performance wise all the leads excel, both Donnelly and Greenshields must be seen to be believed, especially Greenshields take on Javert, this at last a Javert that stands up to the original in every way. The same cant be said for Martin Ball’s Thenardier, which often slips out of tune and clashes a little against the excellence of the over all casting.

What really gives quality to this production is the large 14-piece orchestra under the Baton of Ben Atkinson, the gorgeous score, which has been re-arranged for the new production’s rings around the auditorium, and it’s the music that truly captures the heart, setting the audience on a journey of emotions they will never forget.

After 34 years I would be easy to think a production could run out of steam and feel dated, However Cameron Mackintosh has ensured the Les Misérables remains the musical Phenomenon that continues to transcend time. Do what you can to storm the barricades and get a ticket!

Cameron Mackintosh presents Boublil & Schonberg’s Les Misérables the 25th Anniversary Production. Festival Theatre Edinburgh runs until 16th February SOLD OUT for returns contact the Theatre Box Office. UK Tour continue. https://www.capitaltheatres.com/whats-on/lesmiserables

Brett Herriot Review

American Idiot, Edinburgh Playhouse, Review:

American Idiot, 

*** 3 Stars

“A Hope filled odyssey for a disenchanted generation”

Its hard to believe that it’s a decade since Green Days “Punk Opera” concept album, American Idiot was first brought to the stage as a sung through musical, The story, expanded from that of the album, centres on three disaffected young men, Johnny (Tom Milner), Will (Samuel Pope) and Tunny (Joshua Dowen) living in the American landscape post events of 9/11. Johnny and Tunny flee a stifling suburban lifestyle and parental restrictions, while Will stays home to work out his relationship with his pregnant girlfriend, Heather. The former pair look for meaning in life and try out the freedom and excitement of the city. Tunny quickly gives up on a city life that seemed so appealing, joins the military and is shipped off to war with a dramatic consequence that alters the direction of his life forever. Johnny’s disenchantment with the American Dream see’s him turn to drugs and discovers a part of himself that he grows to dislike, his journey sees broken relationships and the hurt of lost love truly the angst driven centre of the story.

Green Days potent music is performed by a first-class onstage band perched high above the ensuing action and Billie Joe Armstrong’s (the bands lead singer) lyrics remain as potent as ever. However, Director and Choreographer Racky Plews has made this an incredible clean take on the show. I’ve never witnessed such healthy and tanned looking junkies. The choreographic choices also jar on more than one occasion when the story and music will carry the story then less deeply choregraphed back ground action is often better.

Tom Milner brings a stark vulnerability and endlessly watchable take on “Johnny” his decent into hard drugs has the audience in rapt silence and you can’t help but root for him to come out the other side of his dance with the devil intact. Joshua Dowen’s portrayal of “Tunny” is the ultimate dramatic counterpoint and a truly accomplished performance. His ability to convey the shattering of his Army dream and facing the harsh reality he must now face is riveting and when he performs three-part harmony with his own self is a theatrical highpoint.

Not all the casting benefits the production, the ongoing trend of casting X Factor performers is wearing as thin as the  x factor show itself. Luke Friend (X Factor 2013) has the voice to pull of an effective “St Jimmy” the drug selling demi god of the show, but he doesn’t have the acting ability to bring the character truly to life leaving a clustered comedy character that lacks any form of direction.  Sam Lavery (X Factor 2017) fares far better with a subtle character of “Whatshername”  and strong vocals.

Its during the song “21 Guns” that Sara Perkins Set design and Tim Deiling’s Lighting design truly show the depth of care given to the production and these moments appear more than once in this tight and overall engrossing production. A production which will continue to entertain both Green Day fans and Musical theatre buffs in equal measure.

As the Curtain falls, its obvious how this punk opera changed the perception of musical theatre and the expression of angst that is ever more relevant into todays “Trump” America. American Idiot the show much like its concept album before it, will always be a hope filled odyssey for a disenchanted generation. This is gripping and reality driven theatre at its potentially most potent.

Selladoor Productions, Piu Entertainment and Gavin Kalin Productions Present Green Day’s American Idiot, Edinburgh Playhouse runs until 9th February the UK tour Continues Including Glasgow and Aberdeen. For tickets go to: https://beta.atgtickets.com/show/american-idiot/edinburgh-playhouse

Brett Herriot Review

Touching the Void, The Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, Review:

Touching the Void, 

***** 5 Stars

“The most triumphant,  Intense and Thrilling Theatre production to Grace the stage”

In 2003 a docudrama film based on the biography of mountain climber Joe Simpson reached critical and public acclaim, its story of human survival pushed to the ultimate limit and the life and death decision many of us will never have to make seared its way into the public consciousness. It was always deemed to be unstageable as a stage play, until now and what truly magnificent piece of stage craft it is.

Lyceum Artistic Director David Greig has taken on the challenge of adapting the book into a stage play and he has delivered an edge of your seat experience that takes you right inside the mind of Joe, played with consummate conviction by Josh Williams. Williams performance is the centre of the story, taking the audience beyond the physical endurance that would stun a mere mortal man, to right inside the mind set of Joe Simpson and what truly pushed him to survive against apparently un-survivable odds.

Joining Williams in the cast also delivering nothing less than award winning performances are Patrick McNamee as Richard, Richard Hawking was on the mountain that night taking care of base camp and was unaware of events until Simon Yates , played by the sublime Edward Hayter returns to base camp. Hayter’s performance is truly gifted as he stands high above the lyceum stage on the edge of the cliff as a snow storm blows through, it is he who must decide to cut the rope connecting him to Williams, his ability to express the agony of the decision is breath taking. Rounding out the cast is a composite character “Sarah” performed by Fiona Hampton . Sarah floats for apparently reality to a dream figure with Joe Simpson mind driving him ever forward to survive and reach base camp despite the extreme pain, fatigue he is enduring.

Director Tom Morris has truly delivered the most triumphant, intense and thrilling theatre production to grace the stage thanks not only to his stellar cast and the incredible writing of Grieg but also the gifted production team of Designer Ti Green alongside Lighting Design of Chris Davey and Composer and Sound Designer Jon Nicholls. Together they have made it possible travel from the heart of Edinburgh to the Snow Strom swept  mountain tops of the Peruvian Andes and allowed audiences to experience an unforgettable journey the searches the very soul of humanity and forces us to ask ourselves what we would do to survive above all else and fight for the very right to draw breath.

The Lyceum prides itself on delivering theatre that engages and challenges the audience and under David Grieg’s tenure and working in collaboration with the Bristol Old Vic, Royal & Derngate and Fuel, they continue to push the boundaries of what can physically be achieved and for that they should be justly applauded.

I implore you to do what you can to grab a ticket and take a seat in the splendour of the Lyceum’s auditorium then be transported to the far-flung mountain tops of Peru and then ask yourself would you survive when faced with Touching the void?

Theatre doesn’t come any better, more powerful, engaging and just sheer brilliant than this production and long may it Transend the art form.

The Lyceum, Bristol Old Vic, Royal & Derngate Northampton, and Fuel presents “Touching the Void”, The Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh runs until 16th February for tickets go to: https://lyceum.org.uk/whats-on/production/touching-the-void

Brett Herriot Review

Cinderella, Pavilion Theatre, Glasgow, Review:

Cinderella, Pavilion Theatre, Glasgow, 

**** 4 Stars

“Tradition Returns as only the Pavilion can deliver!”

The Pavilion have had a very tough year with a complete closure of the theatre for 5 months owing to the horrendous fire on Argyll Street. Thanks to the hard work of contractors and the theatre staff the iconic home of Scottish variety is back open with the greatest panto of them all Cinderella.

Its also a joy to see traditional panto back at the fore front after a strange run of “Christmas” themed shows like “ Santa Clause is Coming Town” and once again trotting out “The Wizard of Never Woz” it was beginning to feel as if the Pavilion was never coming back to real panto, but it has in a big way.

Telling the famous story of the girl mistreated by a cruel wicked step mother and even worse ugly sisters who thanks to a fairy godmother finds her prince charming and true love has become the greatest panto title of them all. Director and Producer Iain Gordon has peppered his script with comedy jewels and clever casting to ensure a fun night of panto magic for the masses who attend the “Pav” panto every Year.

Scottish favourite Liam Dolan returns to the pavilion as Buttons and brings a cute charm to the role and shines with his family aimed comedy and stands out in what must be the most usual buttons costumes seen on stage. In the title role of Cinderella is Holly Jack again a pavilion favourite and her big voice is a major bonus and ensures Cinderella is never to timid. Chris Scougal and Chris Taylor form an excellent double act as Prince and Dandini respectively but their word play sketch in the second act could easily be dropped as it loses the audience slightly and would reduce what is quite a lengthy running time. The honey voiced Alyson Orr makes her pavilion panto debut as the Fairy Godmother and she makes sure she shines in her stage time. Long time Pavilion panto baddie Joyce Falconer returns as The Baroness opposite Clark Stewart and she illicit boo’s with ease and her Doric wickedness is a panto winner.

This production of Cinderella brilliance is down to the wicked step sisters with River City favourite Stephen Purdon and professional wrestler Grado slipping on the stockings and high heels to play Boabina and Gradina respectively its pure comedy magic and the haunted bed sketch will go down in Pavilion theatre history as one of the best, the sisters are worthy of the ticket price all on their own.

Production wise the limitations of the Pavilion stage are pushed to there very limits and the Pavilion must be one of the few theatres in the UK still deploying a laser show, but for its cheesiness it really works and brings a real charm. Excellent costumes also add to the perfect panto mix.

The Pavilion pantomime will always hold a special place in the heart of Glasgow because of its lineage and its mantra of offering excellent value entertainment for the masses especially those who would not otherwise go to see live theatre. The mantra shines through the magic that is Cinderella so be sure to see it this Christmas before the clock strikes midnight.

The Pavilion Theatre Presents “Cinderella”, The Pavilion Theatre, Glasgow, runs until Sunday 13th January 2019 Tickets from £15 go to http://www.pavilionpanto.com/dates.php

 

Brett Herriot Review

Aladdin, Kings Theatre, Glasgow, Review:

Aladdin, Kings Theatre, Glasgow, 

***** 5 Stars

“Old School Panto reigns supreme at the King’s!”

Qdos are now into there second year of producing panto at the legendary King’s theatre  in Glasgow and with Stars Elaine C Smith, Johnny Mac and Paul-James Corrigan reuniting from last years “Sleeping Beauty” it’s a winning formula especially as the King’s has turned the old school panto charm on and delivers in spades.

Aladdin is the age-old tale of finding love, flying carpets and good triumphing over evil. Mix that with a plethora of local references and a mix of pop tunes and film standards and the twist of removing the dame and having window Twankey being played by Smith it’s a mix of pure pantomime perfection.

Elaine C Smith is truly at home on the King’s stage with special costumes designed for her by Ron Briggs her charm and ease with the audience on her home turf is a joy to behold. Johnny Mac as Wishee Washee continues to make the King’s his home and is truly the greatest comic to take to the stage since the late great Gerard Kelly and he joins the Pantheon of legends like, Fulton, Baxter and Logan. His comedy timing is fantastic especially when working in tandem with Paul-James Corrigan’s The Imperial Palace Guard, the sketch involving Beyoncé and her dancing girls is panto firing on all Cylinders. Speaking of Paul- James Corrigan his character acting is faultless and if anything, he deserves more stage time it’s all Glasgow banter at its best from a true comic actor giving panto his all. Every panto needs a good baddy and Abanazar is played to villainous perfection by George Drennan who earns the Boo’s with a great deal of ease.

Production wise it’s a stoater with Glasgow finally getting a Hugh Durrant set on the stage of King’s as opposed to a former FFE sets from years past and it glitters and sparkles especially under David Howe’s lighting design. Learning the lesson from last year a crisp and full sound design from Tom Marshall really brings old peeking to life. Director Nigel West and Choreographer Karen Martin really know their panto stuff and it shines across the footlights with rapid fire comedy routines mixing with west end standard dance and music numbers with ease. The finishing touch must be The Twins FX delivering an unforgettable flying carpet the likes of which the King’s have never seen before.

The over riding feeling from this years King’s panto is one of old school charm, even more so with the announcement that 2019/20 will see Elaine C Smith and Johnny Mac returning to the Kings with Jack and the Beanstalk which was last seen over 25 years ago with the late great Jimmy Logan as Dame Trot its clear that the Kings has set out to keep old school Family Pantomime at the heart of Glasgow during the holiday season. So, grab those tickets now before it’s all too late.

Qdos Presents “Aladdin”, Kings Theatre, Glasgow, Runs until Sunday 6th January 2019 Tickets from £17 go to https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/aladdin/kings-theatre/

Brett Herriot Review

Snow White, The London Palladium, London, Review:

Snow White, The London Palladium, 

***** 5 Stars

“ pure pantomime magic in all its glory!!”

The master of panto Michael Harrison and the team at QDOS pantomimes are once again back for a third year at the historic London palladium with the biggest panto in all the land, Snow White has returned to the west end in a glittering extravaganza that pays homage to both the palladium and the art of panto and its truly magical to watch.

The palladium welcomes back regular stars Julian Clary (an innuendo dipped man in the mirror), Nigel Havers (as the understudy), Paul Zerdin (as Muddles), Gary Wilmot (a premier dame turn as Mrs Nora Crumble) and star of Broadway Charlie Stemp (as Prince Harry of Hampstead). They are joined by Dawn French ( making her panto debut as Queen Dragonella), Vincent Simone & Flavia Cacace ( The king and Queen) and Danielle Hope (Snow White). As this is the palladium the stars are joined by the magnificent 7 dwarfs, a 22 strong ensemble and a special acrobatic troupe The Palladium Pantoloons.

This pantomime excels because of its writing, gifted performances mixed with a simply stunning stage set from Ian Westbrook, costumes across the board knock the eye out none more so that those especially designed by the legendary Hugh Durrant for both French and Clary, Julian’s costumes truly push the boundaries of what is physically possible to wear and knock the eyes out even for those sitting in the back row of the upper circle.

Whilst Julian Clary once again delivers a machine gun barrage of innuendo and smut its always with charm and conviction that works and shows what a team player he is. Paul Zerdin and his little puppet Sam bring the charm that ensures the children are captured from the off. It falls to Gary Wilmot as dame to produce something uniquely special especially with his “ Because you love them” a pathos driven moment of beauty combine this with “Palladium Stars” a wonderful tribute to all those stars who have graced the hallowed boards of the world’s greatest variety theatre.

The music choice of mixing a special written score with several pop numbers works its charms no end and with a 14 strong orchestra in the put its easy to hit the high note. Special effects by the boys at “Twins FX” simply take over the palladium in their grandeur and all this under Ben Cracknell’s Lighting design, Gareth Owen’s Sound Design and Duncan McLean’s Projection design means all the essential ingredients are brought together for pure pantomime magic in all its glory.

The London Palladium pantomimes are born purely of love and dedication to the art form of pantomime that has seen them win the Olivier Award. Its richly deserved and with confirmation that the Palladium will host a further three panto the legacy and tradition is secured. With Michael Harrison and qdos the challenge to improve year on year will be met for now however and for Snow White Get to the Palladium, beg, borrow or steal a ticket for the biggest panto in all the land.

Qdos Presents “Snow White”, The London Palladium, London runs until Sunday 13th January 2019 Tickets from £22 go to https://snowwhitepalladium.com/tickets/