Brett Herriot Review

The Night Watch, King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, Review

The Night Watch, King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, Review

**** 4 Stars

Theatre at its best!”

Following in the wake of the Man Booker Prize winning book and the critically acclaimed BBC adaptation, Sarah Waters story of forbidden love in the darkness of war torn London of the 1940’s comes to the stage for the first time and visits the beautiful King’s Theatre Edinburgh for a run.

The storyline is told in reverse starting from 1947 and moves back to 1941 the height of the blitz featuring the fragmented lives and the strange interconnections between Kay( Phoebe Price) Helen (Florence Roberts) and Julia (Izabella Urbanowicz), three lesbians; Viv(Louise Coulthard), a straight woman; and Duncan (Lewis Mackinnon), her brother, whose sexuality is ambiguous. The war, with its never-ending night watches, serves as a horrifying counterpoint, a backdrop and metaphor to serve as a constant reminder of the morbidity that surrounds life and love.

The power of Water’s original writing is captured beautifully in Hattie Naylor’s adaptation and directed with emotional detail by Alastair Whatley none more so that from an ensemble cast who deliver excellent performances throughout. Special mention must go to Price as Kay who does deliver an emotional and powerful performance in equal measure. The same is true of the real highlight of the production, Lewis MacKinnon turns in a tour de force performance as Duncan that’s superbly judged and keeps all eyes focused on him as he allows emotions to overwhelm him. Its theatre performing at its finest.

David Woodhead’s evocative set and costume design combined with Nic Farman’s beautifully understated lighting design takes us right inside the heart of London in the war years. This is further bolstered by a stunning sound design by Max Pappenheim that brings to life Sophie Cotton’s compositions that fuse evocative soundscapes with classic standards like, A nightingale in Berkley square and adds real class to the show.

The only thing keeping it from a fifth star is in the pacing, at times there does feel like a slight drag is developing and some fine trimming may aid eradicate this and make the play over all more capturing throughout.

The Night watch is indeed a play from a historical view point that says much to todays generation, the hurt and pain of the needless loss of war was felt beyond heterosexual couples, long before legal rights were won, The LGBTQI plus community suffered to, even more so for feeling a love that many deemed wrong and illegal. This play puts a strong context to that pain, and it’s felt across the foot lights and well into the audience. It’s a piece which truly touches the viewer and for that it makes this theatre at its best.

So get along to the King’s Theatre Edinburgh and be transported back to London in the war years for a play which will touch your heart.

The Original Theatre Company and York Theatre Royal Present, The Night Watch, King’s Edinburgh, Runs until Saturday 19th October, for Tickets go to : https://www.capitaltheatres.com/whats-on/the-night-watch

Brett Herriot Review

We Will Rock You, Playhouse Theatre, Edinburgh, Review

We Will Rock You, Review

*** 3 Stars

The music of Queen is the winner in this new production!”

The west end smash hit, that opened at the Dominion Theatre in 2002 and went on to enjoy a 12 year run, before closing is back, touring the UK in a brand new production that does deliver on the music but sadly misses the mark a little on the overall product.

Written by Ben Elton and featuring 24 hits of the might gods of Rock “Queen” this was always a tongue in cheek show telling the story of a group of Bohemians who struggle to restore the free exchange of thought, fashion, and live music in a distant future where everyone dresses, thinks and acts the same. Musical instruments and composers are forbidden, and rock music is all but unknown.

This 2019 version of the show sees a change to Elton’s book with the characters of “Pop”, “Meat” and “Macca” all dropped and replaced with “Buddy”, “Oz” and Macca Disappearing completely. This isn’t new to the show as there have been several changes to the script over the years.

Performance wise across the board, they are excellent with Ian McIntosh as “Galileo” really showcasing his rock vocals and excellent timing especially opposite Elena Skye as an earthy “Scaramouche”. In the role of “Buddy”, which s clearly just the “Pop” character given new life is Michael McKell who delivers a Mick Jagger soaked comedy creation, he is underused in act 1 but really gets great stage time in act 2 especially when he covering for technicians appearing on stage!

Where this production falls down is in the setting, set design from Stufish entertainment sees giant video screens brought to the extreme with moving decks and blocks used. However, its clear there is still work needed as more than once technicians could be seen securing the set at various points. Towards the end of the second act to see stage crew take to the stage to haul a motor bike off whilst “pop” covers for them says a lot. Also, the set hasn’t been properly masked so seeing into wings is fairly easy.

Director Cornelius Baltus does deliver though by putting the music of queen at the heart of the show, this production does still retain all the charm of the original. The actual video that’s used through out the show is excellent and gives an even more futuristic dimension. Added to Rob Sinclair and Douglas Green fulsome lighting design which goes from delicate to full out Wembley stadium rock concert motif with ease, this is show that aims big.

Ultimately, it’s the music of queen that’s the winner in this new production and if they can master the set then a real treat for a new generation is with in its grasps. For the moment We Will Rock you reminds you of how the show transcended the musical theatre and enriched the legacy of Queen and makes this well worth the ticket price! So, head to the Playhouse!

Queen and Phil McIntyre Entertainment Present, “We Will Rock You”, Playhouse Theatre Edinburgh, Runs until Saturday 12th October, UK Tour Continues for tickets go to: https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/we-will-rock-you/edinburgh-playhouse/

Brett Herriot Review

On Your Feet, A New Musical, Festival Theatre, Edinburgh Review:

On Your Feet, A New Musical, Review:

**** 4 Stars

Salsa Latin Fever and lets an enduring love shine”

Following a hit run in London and success across the Atlantic, On Your Feet is on the road around the UK and comes to Edinburgh’s Festival Theatre for a run.

Telling the story of Latin pop cross over superstar Gloria Estefan and her husband Emilio’s astounding success from the early days of Cuba to forming of the Miami Sound Machine to solo success. It’s a story of Cuban culture, true love and coming back from a horrifying coach crash.

Taking on the role of Gloria is Philippa Stefani who simply radiates charm and passion in equal measure especially in her vocals and she whips her way through the Estefan back catalog including Anything for you Conga, coming out of the dark and the mega hit, Rhythm is gonna get you. Her husband Emilio, played by George Ioannides during Act 1 and due to indisposition taken over by Sharif Afifi during Act 2, both actors brought a deep sense of truth to the part and brought to life the understated real life persona of Emilio but also let the truth of his passion for Gloria and there family shine through.

Alexander Dinelaris Book is detailed in charting the Estefan journey and never shines away from the lows that came amongst the most incredible high and deals with the pain of Gloria’s recovery from the horror crash with a great deal of truth and Humanity. However, that said it does feel slightly over long and some trimming may have served the show better.

Acclaimed west end and Broadway Director Jerry Mitchell brings his well developed and expertly executed touch to the show combined with Sergio Trujillo Latin infused Choreography which is truly the highlight of the entire production.

David Rockwell’s Scenic Design serves the show well however its heavily brought in on the Festival Stage to the point its completely surrounded in black clothes, however it does put Musical Director Danny Belton and his excellent 7 strong band on stage on a moving platform that allows them to blend with the action when needed and deliver the epic concert style finale with real style.

Kenneth Posner’s Lighting Design is truly epic, with enough lamps to light up Live Aid it’s a dazzling affair especially in the pacer numbers and its clear they have brought the west end on tour with this rig. It is also further boosted by Darrel Maloney’s inventive projection designs which are peppered throughout the show.

Ultimately, On Your Feet is more than just a normal jukebox musical thanks to its story that captures the life of a global superstar who until now has seen her journey undocumented, that’s all changed now with a production that’s filled with Salsa Latin Fever and lets an enduring love shine.

So get on your feet and conga to the box office for a night of musical joy.!

Jamie Wilson and Gavin Kalin Present, “On Your Feet”, Festival Theatre Edinburgh, Runs until Saturday 12th October, UK Tour Continues for tickets go to: www.capitaltheatres.com/whats-on/on-your-feet

Brett Herriot Review

Cats the musical Alhambra Theatre, Dunfermline, Review:

Cats the musical Review:

***** 5 Stars

The Memory truly did live again!”

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s break out success of the early 1980’s was Cats, staged at the New London Theatre (now the Gillan Lynne named after the chorographer of Cats and so many others) this isn’t a musical, it’s a song cycle based on the poems of T.S Elliot, there is very little in the way of leaner story line, instead it’s a patchwork of individual stories told as the cats seek to make the journey from the jellicle ball to the Heaviside layer and be reborn to bigger and better things.

The amateur rights have only very recently after nearly 40 years become available and have some severe restrictions, companies are not allowed to stage the show in a rubbish dump, or costume it in anyway that mimics the original, its therefore a stealthy challenge to undertake and one of which Limelight truly excels!

Director and Choreographer Kenny Christie working closely with associate Director/Choreographer Elinor Burns have set the show in the roof tops of the Alhambra albeit a London Alhambra and thanks to the set design of Christie, Bobby Mitchell, Bob Mitchell and Mark Lister it breath fresh life to the show and adds an additional sparkle that makes it shine.

Performances from the cast are uniformly excellent as they work hard in both physical dance elements and vocal numbers to create 40 unique Cats that pervade the stage throughout the show. Special mention must go to Haig Cruickshank as “Munkstrap” whose rich voice and strength of personality is a real bonus to the role, and it radiates across the footlights. The same is true for John Ramsay as “Skimbleshanks” the railway cat, a song which is full of joy and lightness and one of which Ramsay delivers in style. The Central role of “Grizabella” the stray tabby, shunned by the other cats and longs to live the memory in the moonlight is played by the simply divine Fiona Mackenzie who takes on the legend of Elaine Page and delivers a “Griz” that’s truly all her own. Her performance of Memory ultimately stops the show with its power and intention, truly musical theatre at its best.

This production features the original take on “Rum Tum Tugger” not the reimagined “Rap Cat” of more modern professional productions, performed here by Fraser Jamieson his first song has such poor diction and clarity it was impossible to understand any of the lyrics. However, he did recover to deliver a paunchy support in “Magical Mister Mistoffelees”

Another sparkling highlight is “Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer” played by Fraser McLoughlin and Jenni Bangs this is a powerhouse duo blending strong vocals and impressive physical skills in a joy de Vere performance.

Christie’s and Burn’s choreography is spot on, never replicating the original but drawing rich inspiration and allowing a delicate sense of feline humanity to pervade the roof tops of this show, its charming, heart warming and often emotional to watch and makes this production of Cats worth everyone of its five stars.

The cherry on the cake of this show has to be Fiona Mitchell’s and Judith Davidsons outstanding costume design, yes, the spandex is back but this is a wardrobe look for a new generation of cats and they should be commended for there excellence. Combined with Jonnie Clough midnight laden lighting design and Paul Gudgin’s 12 strong orchestra Limelight have well and truly delivered a slice of west end musical theatre to the Alhambra Stage.

Long may Limelight continue to push the boundaries of theatre in the fife region and beyond and they have announced the will follow cats with perhaps Lloyd Webbers greatest work, Sunset Boulevard. Going by this spectacular were the memory truly did live again, audiences are in for a sure-fire treat!

Limelight Productions present Cats the Musical, The Alhambra Theatre Dunfermline, Run Ended

Brett Herriot Review

Annie the musical, Playhouse Theatre, Edinburgh, Review:

Annie the musical Review:

**** 4 Stars

The Sun really will come out tomorrow!”

The Timeless story of the little girl orphaned in depression Hit New York City of the 1930’s has been cherished since it first came to the stage in the 1970’s. Now Acclaimed producers Michael Harrison and David Ian present a revival of the 2017 London production of the show.

With Birds of feather star Lesley Joseph leading the cast as Miss Hannigan this is truly a production of Annie for a new generation with a production concept from Colin Richmond that owes much to the “RSC’s” Matilda with the same stylish deployment of a set that uses the adage of Jigsaw Pieces as a metaphor for Annie trying to put her life in both its past and future together.

Joseph simply excels herself as the baddy of the story forced to work in a job looking after kids she clearly hates but would rather have the money than nothing at all, with great timing and a strong comedy ability she delivers well even if her accent does take a wonder every now again becoming more Chigwell the Manhattan.

As Annie the delightful Ava Smith smashes her way to success with the audience standing to greet her at the curtain call, these are stage kids with three different sets of kids used across the run to cope with the demands of the production and special mention must go to Alex Bourne who returns once more as Daddy Warbucks who continues to bring deep charm, a great voice and presence to the part as he transform’s Annie’s life.

Acclaimed Artistic director of The Curve Theatre Leicester Nikolai Foster helms this current production of Annie and delivers an intelligent, entertaining and joyful take on the timeless story and uses the cast to their full potential with the ensemble working hard to produce the people of New York and beyond.

The sparkling addition to this current tour is the simply stunning 9-piece orchestra under MD Daniel Griffin it’s a highly polished, rich and full west end worthy sound that drifts beautifully from the Pit to the auditorium. Its aided by Richard Brooker crystal clear sound design that brings touring theatre to a new standard.

Annie remains a timely and timeless musical that continues transcend time and audiences keep returning to enjoy its charms. This winning revival does much to embrace the very best of the heritage of the show whilst giving it fresh life and for that it should be applauded.

For a classic musical delivered in a contemporary way you won’t go wrong with Annie as she dreams of the sunshine that will come out tomorrow!

Annie the Musical, Playhouse Theatre Edinburgh, Runs until Saturday 5th October, UK tour Continues. For tickets go to: www.atgtickets.com/shows/annie/edinburgh-playhouse/

Brett Herriot Review

Still Game Live, The Final Farewell, SSE Hydro, Glasgow Review:

Still Game Live, The Final Farewell, 

**** 4 Stars

The Final Farewell is a truly fitting celebration of all that is good about still game

Twenty two years ago in 1997 two elderly pensioners, Jack Jarvis and Victor McDade made their debut at the Edinburgh Fringe festival to an audience of just 8 people, fast forward to 2019 those same two pensioners are taking there final bows in front of 10,000 plus people each performance as the final curtain of a Scottish comedy institution falls its creators Ford Kiernan and Greg Hemphill have gone back to the very roots of “Still Game” and delivered a master class in pathos driven comedy.

There will be no plot spoilers here but this final set of shows picks up from where the final BBC television episodes left off and an aged Boabby the Barman (Gavin Mitchell) asks “Look who it isnae!” and thus starts the final adventure for Jack (Kiernan), Victor (Hemphill), Isa (Jane McGarry), Winston (Paul Riley), Tam ( Mark Cox), Boabby (Mitchell) and Naveed (Sanjeev Kohli).

What set this production apart is its clearly the end of the road for the characters, and the show kicks off with the arrival of two of “Chewin The Fats” star characters. The still game story started to develop more fully in chewing the fat with small sketches that was grown into a full comedy series that has changed the cultural landscape for good. There are nods to chewin the fat through out the show, as the creators look back at all that they have achieved over the years.

The stellar cast are joined by a 16 strong ensemble as well as surprise guest appearances from a raft of actors who have delivered equally special Still Game Characters. Director Michael Hines has beautifully transposed everything that’s good about Still Game from the tv to the vast expenses of the hydro always ensuring no matter where you sit you will always be part of the action.

There are several musical numbers in the show, all comedy driven and musical director, Tom Urie (who himself is known for playing Martyn in the tv show) delivers well and all the songs add momentum to an already well paced show.

The Final Farewell is a truly fitting celebration of all that is good about still game, comedy that’s drawn from situations we all see in our lives, whilst never taking shots at any individuals or groups its mature, understated and deeply gifted writing that has brought a group of pensioners (played by a much younger cast) to national attention. The affection that’s held for still game will be forever cherished even if there are no more episodes or further stage shows.

A fully committed cast, a sparkling script, expert direction, and above all else the love that everyone connected with the show has ensures this is truly an unmissable final farewell to the pantheon of the Still Game Universe.

The Universal truth is, age comes to us all, and as long as we embrace that and never give up then perhaps, we too can truly be Still Game.

Still Game Live! The Final Farewell, The SSE Hydro, Runs until Sunday 13th October. For tickets go to: https://www.thessehydro.com/events/detail/still-game-live-1

Brett Herriot Review

A Taste of Honey, King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, Review:

A Taste of Honey,

**** 4 Stars

A reflection of the power to shock!”

At its premier in 1958 in Joan Littlewoods powerhouse “Theatre Workshop” at the theatre royal Stratford, Shelagh Delaney’s, A Taste of Honey, shocked with both its content and powerful performances and for the first time bringing the lives of the men and woman of the working class north to the theatre going population of the south and beyond. This is one of several productions that gave us the kitchen sink drama and ultimately laid the groundwork for continuing dramas like Coronation Street.

A Taste of Honey is set in 1950’s Salford. It tells the story of Jo (a stellar and human performance from Gemma Dobson), a seventeen-year-old working-class girl, and her mother, Helen (Jodie Prenger at the very top of game), who is crude and sexually indiscriminate, selfish but under it all there is a heart that’s survived the hurt and pain. Helen leaves Jo alone in their new flat after she begins a relationship with Peter (an eye patch wearing touch of villainy from Tom Varney), a rich lover who is younger than she. At the same time Jo begins a romantic relationship with Jimmy (a fine turn from Durone Stokes), a black sailor. He proposes marriage but then goes to sea, leaving Jo pregnant and alone. She takes in her friend and now lodger, Geoffrey (Stuart Thompson), who assumes the role of surrogate father. Helen returns after leaving her lover and the future of Jo looks set to enter the same circle of heartache endured by her mother.

This is indeed a stellar cast at work with both Prenger and Dobson shining as they plough through the gritty barbs and real life asides that make this all seem so very real, they bring to life a true connection the transcends the stage and drives this mother and daughter relationship home to the audience. Tom Varey’s take on Peter is everything it should be, a homophobic, chauvinist that’s easy to hate. The highlight of the show is Stuart Thompson’s Geoffrey and openly gay man in deeply heterosexual times. Making his entrance singing “mad about the boy” it’s a delicate and light performance for a character who longs to experience fatherhood, love all the things we long to have in our own lives.

This production is revival of the National’s 2014 original and retains the three-piece jazz band with David O’Brien on keys, Alex Davis on double bass and George Bird on Drums. The music richly enhances the piece whilst never distracting from it and band whilst onstage never intersect the action and often simply blend with Hildegard Bechtler almost industrial but 50’s rich set.

Combined with Paul Anderson’s lighting design and music from Benjamin Kwasi Burrell its clear director Bijan Sheibani has brought a human touch to the show.

That being said what made “Honey” stand out originally was its power to shock, mixed raced relationships, homosexuality where taboo subjects in 1958. In 2019 we take so much of the aforementioned as accepted in modern society. A taste of honey has become more of a reflection of the power to shock.

Theatre will always be the truly last uncensored space and we need to be reminders of the shows and production that changed the theatrical landscape A Taste of Honey justifiably stands amongst the best of them.

The National Theatre Presents, A Taste of Honey, King’s Theatre, Edinburgh. Runs until Saturday 28th September. UK Tour continues prior to west end transfer. For tickets go to: https://www.capitaltheatres.com/whats-on/taste-of-honey