Brett Herriot Review

An Inspector Calls, Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, Review

**** 4 Stars

“Timely and Timeless, Truly Remarkable Theatre! 

The National Theatre’s on London’s South Bank transcended theatre in 1992 with Acclaimed director Stephen Daldry’s Landmark production of JB Priestley’s classic Thriller, An Inspector Calls, enjoying major success at the National before enjoying runs at the Aldwych and Garrick theatres in the west end. Daldry would revisit the production in 2009 which saw further runs in the west end at the Novello and Wyndham’s Theatres. It’s that production, which is now touring the UK and calls at the Festival Theatre for a week’s run.

Telling the story of a long draw out night in the family of the Birling’s an upper class family at the tail end of world war two in blitz barraged London of 1945, a gentleman claiming to Inspector Goole arrives at their door disturbing a dinner party to question them over the suicide of a young girl, the family are faced with confessions of the soul, the secrets long since buried and the reality that not everything is as it seems. 

There have been several productions of the play over the years as was much derided as a pot boiler until Daldry transformed the play thanks in equal parts to its casting and Ian MacNeil astonishing design that truly opens the play up and takes us into the heart of the story making it both timely and timeless.

This current tour features a simply stellar ensemble cast with Liam Brennan as Inspector Goole turning in a fine Scottish ethereal performance with a delivery that drips the words every line off the lips and into the audience’s mind. As Sybil, Arthur, Sheila and Eric Birling are Christine Kavanagh, Jeffery Harmer, Chloe Orrock and George Rowlands respectively. They deliver a master class in dysfunctional family plumbing the depths, driven by love and the need to protect but ultimately leaving them all caught in the crossfire and hurting, its riveting to watch. The cast is rounded out by Simon Cotton as Gerald Croft and Frances Campbell as Edna. 

Director Daldry really gets to grip with both performances and productions elements with MacNeil’s Design being simply breath taking, with the set lurching off the stage as the rain pounds down its wonderfully evocative. The production is boosted by Rick Fisher delicate and intricate Lighting design coupled with Stephen Warbeck’s musical score giving depth. Sebastian Frost’s sound design is effective but there were some glitches on press night with sound balance and delays on the mic’s which are minor quibbles but were none the less noticeable.

Overall, this inventive production is as fresh now as it was in 1992 and mesmerises the audience especially in the tail end of act three (all three acts run together, there are no intervals) and reminds us all of the power that beautifully stage, classic British drama can have and that it still holds its place with modern day audiences. Truly remarkable theatre!

PW Productions Presents “An Inspector Calls”, The Festival Theatre, Edinburgh,  runs until Saturday 4thFebruary 2023, For further info go to: https://www.capitaltheatres.com/whats-on/all-shows/an-inspector-calls/58

The Production will visit the Theatre Royal, Glasgow from the 23rd to the 27th May 2023.

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Brett Herriot Review

The Steamie, The Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh Review:

Has True Heart and Stellar Performances

**** 4 Stars

For Thirty Five years, Tony Roper’s master piece “The Steamie” has stood the test of time and found its place in generations of Scottish audience’s affections, for its fine blend of humour, laughter and touching heart rendering pathos. 

This play with songs by David Anderson has transcended popular culture thanks in part to the 1987 Scottish Television production and the numerous professional productions that have toured over the years. It’s also a cherished favourite for Am Dram Companies.

Now following the critical success of 2022 “Sunshine on Leith” producers, David Ross and Tommie Travers in collaboration with The Brunton Company return to the Brunton Theatre with a brand new production and its show with genuine heart and love at its core.

Set on Hogmanay of 1950 in the Carnegie Street Steamie in central Glasgow, Four women come together to carry out the final washing of the year and while the wash the clothes they also put life through the ringer as hopes and dreams are explored and the reality of their lives is accepted and all of it done with smile and laugh never far away.

The Steamie is tight five hander and this production boasts a superb cast with Caroline Hood delivering a pithy but true “Magrit”, the sublime Norma Kinnear as the warm hearted and hilarious “Dolly”, Melissa McNaught brings innocence and truth to “Doreen”, Sarah Lindsay’s “Mrs Culfeathers” is everything and more. They are joined by Gary McGregor who turns in a fine comic performance as “Andy”.

Director David Ross truly understands his source material and has brought together a tight knit company who radiate warmth across the footlights as the audience revel in the comedy. The only minor things to be said is the cast accents place this Steamie firmly in Edinburgh and while the Glasgow references come thick and fast hearing the Edinburgh accents gives a slight sense of jarring. Also with such a comedy heavy play the cast need to embrace the audience laughter,  enjoy it for a moment then move on. On a couple of occasions lines were lost as the cast moved to quickly on while the audience roared.

Musical Director Tommie Travers, delivers the goods with all David Anderson’s witty songs in place, and in a rare treat “Magrit’s” wonderful “to be a woman” is delivered in its musical form and not the monologue as used in the TV version. This production includes excellent underscore and musical choices and adds real value to overall result.

A faithful Steamie set is lit beautifully with an understated touch by Craig Dixon and a crisp sound design by Cameron Watson adds quality. Lesley O’Briens costume design evokes the 50s with ease and the technical elements combine to add a professional finish to the overall production.

Everyone connected with this production should be justly proud, a complete sell out run before the curtain rose on the opening night and this Steamie that has true heart, stellar performances and most importantly a script where the mere mention of “Galloway’s Mince” brings a joyful recognition.

If you can get a return ticket snap it up and take a dander doon the Steamie in this fine fine production from Ross, Travers and the Brunton.

The Steamie, The Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh, Runs until Saturday 28th January 2023 SOLD OUT for return tickets go to: Information about Show: The Steamie: Website (thebrunton.co.uk)

Brett Herriot Review

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the Festival Theatre, Edinburgh Review:

A sparkling diamond of a panto

***** 5 Stars

What do you do when the home of Edinburgh’s Pantomime, namely the King’s Theatre closes for a two and half year major renovation and the good people of Edinburgh still need there panto fix? You move the regular panto gang to the simply beautiful Festival theatre; give them a spectacular London Palladium set, stunning costumes and a divine comedy script. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is a sparkling diamond of a panto that ensures Edinburgh holds the crown for the best panto in Scotland!

Written by Harry Michael and Allan Stewart with additional material from Grant Stott and Jordan Young, the legendary regular team of Allan Stewart “Nurse May”, Grant Stott  “Lord Lucifer of Leith” and Jordan Young “Muddles” have truly delivered on the challenge of super charging the Kings panto while it’s on temporary loan to the Festival theatre. While the plot takes a back seat the story is still there and woven cleverly and clearly through the show and sits perfectly with the plethora of sketches that makes this a true variety spectacular.

Allan Stewart proves again why he is true panto royalty with his legendary Dame Nurse May bouncing on stage full of energy and with an outrageous collection of frocks. He is on a mission to get Edinburgh laughing and boy does he deliver. His onstage chemistry with Grant Stott is unmatched in British theatre, a relationship born of trust, respect and love; its warmth flows over the footlights. Stott once again is the baddest baddie in town although he has a fellow villain this year in the form of “Queen Dragonella” played to evil perfection by Liz Ewing. Stott’s Lord Lucifer is essentially the “man in the mirror” but evil to core, and I’ve never heard such resounding booing that filled the auditorium its only Stott’s vast experience that keeps it under control. Every panto needs a silly laddie, Snow White has “Muddles” played with sheer comedy joy by Jordan Young, he charms the kids with his “Hiya Pals” shtick but also has the adults roaring especially in a joyous adlib moment that even got Allan Stewart roaring with laughter.

Clare Gray returns as “Princess Lavinia” daughter of the evil queen, although she secretly harbours a good heart hers is the transformational journey of the show and she delivers it in style and her legendary father will be looking on proud that his legacy continues. Brian James Leys makes his Edinburgh début as “Prince Hamish” his rich tenor voice adding charm to his dashing Prince. Edinburgh born Francesca Ross makes her Professional Debut as “Snow White” and while underused she makes every moment on stage count.

A super charged show needs an equally impressive supporting cast so joining the stellar line of principals is the “magnificent seven”, Josh Bennett, Scott English, Andy Herd, Kyle Herd, Fergus Rattigan, Craig Salisbury lead in style by the wonderful Jamie John as “pop” his affectionate tribute to our first minister brings the house down and his blending of comic timing with the flawless Allan Stewart is a master class to watch.  They cast grows even further with a ten strong ensemble also added to the production who bring polish and style to Karen Martin’s beautiful choreography.

Production wise this is a pure west end affair, Ian Westbrook’s simply beguiling set was created for the London Palladium and it sparkles even more on the Festival stage especially under Howard Hudson’s triumphant lighting design that ensures not only the stage is lit up but the stunning festival auditorium glows too. Mike Coltman’s costume design is exquisite and oozes luxury class in equal measure. Special mention must go to Duncan McLean’s Video and Projection design with additional design by Ryan Dewar which really does add magic to Snow white. Speaking of magic those boys at Twins FX have wheeled the big guns out with no less than four massive special effects being deployed this year that leaves the audience gasping.

Director Ed Curtis helms what has to be the biggest pantomime ever attempted in Edinburgh and thanks to the regular team once again raising the bar this show truly delivers a slice of the west end in the heart of Scotland’s capital. Snow White has already secured its place in the Edinburgh panto legacy and you won’t see a better panto in Scotland this year.

It’s already confirmed that the Festival Theatre will host panto in 2023/24 but the title remains under wraps for now, but the challenge is already on to top this year, which is the most joyous of pantomime adventures that delivers real bang for your buck! So what you waiting for! do what you must to Heigh Ho your way to the Festival Theatre for those gold dust tickets!

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the Festival Theatre, Edinburgh Runs until Sunday 22nd January 2023 for tickets go to: The Panto: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (capitaltheatres.com)

Brett Herriot Review

Jack and The Beanstalk, The London Palladium, Review:

Truly a Giant Spectacle!

***** 5 Stars

Following a tough two years post pandemic where the legendary London Palladium paid tribute to pantos past with Pantoland at the Palladium, the creative team that have given London’s west end a new golden age of pantomime return with brand new pantomime extravaganza, and its truly a Giant Spectacle!

2022 sees a return to full out bells and whistle panto at the Palladium with a gorgeous brand new set from Mark Walters that transports us from Argyll Street to the stars and rainbows of cloudland high above. The set sparkles under Ben Cracknell’s epic lighting design that not only brings out the best of the gorgeous set but also the stunning auditorium of the palladium.

For such a dream setting you need a dream cast and the regular palladium panto team are back in spectacular lead by Julian Clary as “Spirit of the Beans” with outrageously decedent costume design by Hugh Durrant, Clary is in terrific form! Ensuring he gets ever double entendre from the script as he keeps reappearing as every kind of bean it’s possible to have. Clary comedy judgement is faultless ensuring laugh out loud moments or both kids and adults alike.  

Making her second Palladium panto appearance is Dawn French as “Dame Trot” who brings a Cornish twist to her dame who rules Thames by the twist with a warm heart and earn every penny for her massive tax bill which drives her back into Pantoland.  Making her palladium panto debut is Alexandra Burke as “Mrs Blunderbore” wife of the giant, Burke gets the boos with ease but also the cheers with that magnificent voice.

Paul Zerdin and Puppet Sam are back with such a unique speciality act and the most surprising song sheet ever seen in panto. Gary Wilmot is returns in a frock as “Queen Nigella” and his “list” song ability is put to the ultimate test and its sublime. Beloved Nigel Havers also returns, and this time he actually has a role “King Nigel” but the usual stick is in full flow and its wonderful to see that Havers never takes things too seriously and is fully willing to send himself up.

Joining the regulars are Louis Gaunt as “Jack Trot”, Natalie McQueen as “Princess Jill” and darling of the west end Rob Madge as “Pat the Cow” the campest and funniest panto cow who successfully steals the show!. As if the principal cast wasn’t good enough they are joined by a 16 strong ensemble who deliver Karen Bruce full powered and stunning Choreography with ease.

Producer and Director Michael Harrison has created the most family friendly of the palladium pantos to date since they were revived in 2016 but ensures the magic and spectacle put the palladium as the best panto in the country. Supported by the boys at Twins FX you’re going to see the biggest beanstalk in all the land as it erupts from the stalls through the roof of the palladium itself.  Harrison ensures spectacle is balanced with classic panto sketches’ and “if I were not in pantomime” and the “bogen by the sea” sing a long are tested and true.

The cherry on the cake is Musical Director and the Palladium orchestra delivering a full and rich musical accompaniment that guarantees a winning panto for all the family and to this Mike Coltman and Teresa Nalton’s dreamy costume design and you have a sure fire winner of a show!

While the story is there in the palladiums Jack and The Beanstalk it’s obvious its a variety spectacle on which the Palladium was built and it keeps the audiences coming back year on year and truly delivers value for money especially as the top seats come in at a hefty £150.

Michael Harrison has already confirmed panto will return to the palladium for Christmas 2023, you won’t find a better Jack and the Beanstalk anywhere else in the country this year which makes the journey to London let alone securing a ticket worth it! So what you waiting for? Head for the Palladium and the most magical of adventures! 

Jack and The Beanstalk, The London Palladium, Runs until Sunday 15th January 2023 for tickets go to: Palladium Pantomime | Jack and the Beanstalk | The London Palladium

Brett Herriot Review

Cinderella, The Theatre Royal, Newcastle Review:

**** 4 Stars

“Simply Beautiful!”

For 17 years Newcastle Theatre Royals, panto dream team of Danny Adams and Clive Webb have reigned supreme, accompanied for 15 years by the most glamorous of Dames Chris Hayward and its now time for teams fourth production of the fairy godmother of pantos, Cinderella, and they only way to mark this long running record is to bring the critically acclaimed London Palladium production to the heart of the Northeast and what true joy of a panto it is.

The fairy tale story if fully intact with Danny Adams delivering a high energy and hilariously funny “Buttons” where he gets the energy to turn in such physically demanding role is astounding especially on Saturdays where its plays three times a day. Adams brings the child out in all of us and reminds us of the joy of innocence that panto exudes. Clive Webb as “Baron Hardup” seems refreshed this year, make each moment on the stage count and although it’s clear the “12 days of Christmas” routine is exhausting for him, he can still deliver in spades. 

Returning for his second year is the simply gorgeous and divinely voiced Joe McElderry as “Faerie Godfather” a nice twist that works well and Joe showcases not only his singing skills but his comedic acting abilities and truly shows what a talent he is. That said for the second year running, the use of jokes regarding his sexuality are simply not needed and are in no way in the vein of pantomime and make for a rare error of judgement from the production team. 

All goodies need a baddie and this year for the second year running Chris Hayward is bad, very very bad as “Baroness Volupta” and he simply wonderful, getting the balance spot of on, achieving boo’s with ease but always ensuring not go too far. His costumes and wigs are spectacular and with confirmation that Chris will revive Dame Rita for next year’s Pinocchio it seems the North Easts most glamourous and beloved Dame will return to the good side. No Cinderella is complete without a pair of ugly sisters and Kylie Ann Ford as “Vindicta” and Christina Berriman Dawson as “Manupulata” bring the wickedness in spades and blended with pure hometown charm make them a winning pair.

Wayne Smith is back again as “Prince Charming” his suave good looks and fabulous vocals make him an audience winner and his winning of Cinderella heart is utterly charming. Oonagh Cox takes on the title role of “Cinderella” and while she is underused, she is everything a Cinderella should be and makes every little girls dreams in the audience come true. 

Mick Potts is back in harness as the “Idiot” except this time round he is playing “Dandini” but its clear it’s just the “idiot” role again, but he does deliver it with consummate style and brings a rich tradition of slapstick to proceedings. Also joining the cast to give an injection of street dance are “Flawless” in the role of “The Princes Royal Guards” and their appearances go down a storm as crowd pleasing sparkling moment. The production also features a eight strong ensemble who deliver Choreographer Ashley Nottingham’s excellent dance numbers with style and grace. 

Production wise this show is simply beautiful Ian Westbrooks stunning London Palladium set, while it may have been brought in a bit to make it fit, looks gorgeous on the Theatre Royals stage as does Mike Coltman’s and Teresa Nalton’s Costume design and they all sparkle under Ben Cracknell’s outstanding lighting design. Richard Brookers sound design is accomplished and ensures musical Director Michael Bradley’s five strong Orchestra truly rock the audience to the core. 

It’s clear to see why the Theatre Royal Newcastle’s pantomime is the jewel of the North East, Director Michael Harrison is a local lad who has never forgotten his roots despite his enormous success, his care,  dedication and sheer passion for pantomime is palpable and he ensures the ongoing golden period of the panto dream team forever embraces new generations of panto audiences and with the news the venue will have a totally brand new show next year a new chapter awaits. 

For now, be sure to grab a gold dust ticket for the most magical pantomime of them all!

Crossroads Pantomimes Presents “Cinderella”, The Theatre Royal, Newcastle, runs until Sunday 15thJanuary 2023, For further info go to: https://www.theatreroyal.co.uk/whats-on/cinderella/