An Exeter Northcott Theatre Debut
A New Farce Written by John Cleese
Based on Monsieur Chasse by Georges Feydeau
Directed by Daniel Buckroyd
A Farce Extremely Well Done – Bravo!
What an honour it was to watch John Cleese’s New Production of Bang Bang! and meet the man himself. Cleese has been heavily involved during the creative process, subsequently spending a lot of time in Exeter, much to the delight of many a fan.
Press Night went off with a Bang as the Super Talented Cast made farce look easy; expertly transporting the audience to a bygone era of delightfully devilish French Farce. Bang Bang! is an adaptation of Monsieur Chasse by the much loved and well know playwright Georges Feydeau.
Cleese’s adaptation emanates a sense of realism in the storytelling, thus making it more relatable to contemporary audiences. It manages to steer towards naturalism rather than the absurd and is not overly crude, using clever wordplay in its rich tapestry, creating a comical masterpiece.
Tessa Peake-Jones’ is a woman wronged. Her angry growl had me in stitches. Needless to say Tessa does an amazing job at playing Leontine the female lead.
Her husband Duchotel, played by Tony Gardner, finds himself in various comical conundrums. Watching him attempt to wiggle out of tricky situations and into Leontine’s good books is hilarious, especially the physical comedy near the end of the play. Tony also has an infectious, endearing laugh and you cannot help but love him, although he is a philanderer!
Wendi Peter’s cameo is superb; a real stand out in the show, enabling a slick set change, which felt like pure magic. This clever trick allowed cast to change set without a break, thus keeping to the formulaic two act shows modern audiences are accustomed to.
Vicki David as maid Babette has some superb one liners and often helps set the scene.
Comic timing was on point. Beautiful costumes and elaborate set add to the richness of the production.
Overall, Bang Bang! has a strong cast propped up beautifully by a stella production team. Daniel Buckroyd has done a splendid job in directing.
Highly recommend watching Bang Bang! On at the Northcott Theatre until 15th February before embarking on its UK Tour.
Camilla Joyce ~ former Express & Echo Reviewer ★★★★★
Beauty and the Beast ~ Exeter Northcott Theatre
Press Night 4th December 2019
“A Very Enjoyable Evening.”
This year’s Pantomime was a Sensory experience from start to finish; from the foyer to the
auditorium, lots of fun photo opportunities and themed pop ups were to be found. The
welcome from staff emanated the warm glow onstage.
It was a little unusual to see Artistic Director Daniel Buckroyd glide onstage dressed in a glittery pink jacket, beret and set of wings to give an opening speech. Initially it seemed as though he was simply greeting guests on press night, however it soon became clear that he was there to step into the shoes of Dafynn Lansley who was cast as Cupid, but unfortunately was taken ill.
Daniel did a splendid job of what proved to be quite a key narrative role for the festive pantomime. Not only did he have to set the scene many a time, but was onstage for a
majority of the show and had several songs to sing.
Beauty and the Beast predominately focuses on narrative and storytelling through song, more than big dance numbers. Song choices were refreshingly different with a real emphasis on the show’s theme of Love. The live orchestra did a wonderful job accompanying cast.
Characters are warm and relatable. Cast were strong and well chosen. The supporting ‘Young Company’ are split into two teams and it was Team Rose on that evening; they were fantastic. Ensemble scenes were smooth with timely transitions. Pacing was great all round.
Costumes and set glistened beautifully.
Martin Ramsdin as Dame Betty Bon Bon was superb and really made the Panto memorable. His comic timing is spectacular.
The odd local reference went down well with the audience. Classic panto scenes featured, but somehow managed not to feel old and overdone. Adults and children alike delighted in saying those magical words “It’s Behind You!”
In Summary it is a classic tale of Love and Woe conveyed wonderfully through a top notch cast and creative team. Will Good triumph over Evil? You’ll have to find out for
yourselves. Beauty and the Beast is on at the Northcott Theatre until 5th January 2020. Grab your tickets while you can for a fun evening full of laughter and plenty of sing-alongs!
Camilla Joyce ~ former Express & Echo Reviewer ★★★★
The Lady Vanishes by The Classic Thriller Theatre Company ~ The Northcott Theatre 28th October 2019
on the film Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, written by Sidney Gilliat and Frank
Directed by Roy Marsden
Adapted by Antony Lampard
Designer - Morgan Large, Lighting Designer - Charlie Morgan Jones, Sound Designer - Dan Samson, Choreographer - Chris Cuming, Fight Director - Richard Leggett
An Enjoyable Production with some Excellent Performances and Innovative Staging.
Set in 1938 where war is on the brink, there are dangerous undertones throughout; Nazi soldiers patrol the train where a woman vanishes without trace during the journey and passengers deny having seen her. Iris does not rest until she finds out what has happened to Mrs Froy, enlisting the help of fellow passenger Max. Several sub plots enrich the story with twists and turns aplenty.
After the establishing scenes, which were a little slow to pick up pace, train sequences that followed were riveting.
Set design is fabulous. Train scenes are cleverly staged, along with intricate carriages and restaurant cart transporting us back to luscious luxury travel.
There are some great comical lines in the play and the story makes for an intriguing drama with gripping moments in line with the thriller genre.
Action scenes are humorously surreal. Some are frighteningly accurate with jumpy moments. The beauty of a live audience is the audible appreciation accompanied by shocked gasps during a unique shared experience, creating a sense of camaraderie reminiscent of war times.
Rosie Thomson was fabulous as Margaret and Frau Kummer. I particularly liked the character of Margaret – Rosie is humorous and very believable. Top class performance.
Charters and Caldicott were played beautifully by the wonderful Denis Lill and Ben Nealon respectively.
Natalie Law did well to convey 3 characters differently - that of Blanche, Stewardess and the Nun.
In summary, an intriguing story told in a Classic Drama style with Thriller elements and Surreal moments.
Recommend this Production for an Enjoyable evening of High Quality Entertainment. On at The Northcott Theatre until Saturday 2nd November: https://exeternorthcott.co.uk/calendar/the-lady-vanishes/
And tours thereafter: https://www.kenwright.com/portfolio/the-lady-vanishes/
Camilla Joyce ~ former Express & Echo Reviewer ★★★★
An Intriguing and Interesting Adaptation with a Twist Ending. Set Design was Magnificent.
Part Thriller, part Murder Mystery - a Moving Drama and Coming of Age Story. There are some lovely moments with Human Nature and Emotions at the core.
The play opens with impact and volume, grabbing audience attention. We see heroine Susie Salmon, played well by Charlotte Beaumont lured away by her predatory neighbour Mr Harvey and subsequently murdered. The murder is portrayed through a mix of realism, physical theatre and special effects.
Susie’s family and friends handle their grief in different ways and Susie herself has a hard time letting go and moving on.
The story is well written with poetic language at the forefront and Sylvia Plath cited in an amusing scene with quirky character Ruth, played expertly by Leigh Lothian. Ruth was my favourite character. There is a beautiful scene where Susie temporarily embodies Ruth to be with her first love (Ray Singh) and Ruth sings by the reeds, cleverly concealed in a ghostly manner. Leigh’s voice was stunning. Leigh also plays Susie’s younger brother Buckley. She is great in both roles.
Cast did a fantastic job multi-roling and performing movement sequences along with some songs. A great ensemble effort and commendable crew.
Set is superb. A large mirror is the backdrop reflecting action onstage; it can also be seen through at certain times, creating some really clever effects. Pre-set is a large swamp with algae, and reeds near the back of the stage. A chalk rectangle is soon created, symbolising the line between heaven and earth. There are moments when the lines blur. Their take on this transition is fascinating and also heart-warming, especially when the family dog Holiday can see Susie - themes of unconditional love with pets are explored.
For me, the focus at times was pulled in too many directions without fully exploring the narrative. Some parts of the story were glossed over and others perhaps lingered too long. Presumably this is par for the course, in editing a book to put onstage. Occasionally there were diction and projection issues, but this no doubt will iron out during the run. It was their first night in the space.
The play is Well Worth Watching. Expect some jumpy moments and emotional ones.
The Lovely Bones is on at the Northcott Theatre until Saturday 5th October: https://exeternorthcott.co.uk/calendar/the-lovely-bones/
Then continues its tour: https://www.huwparmenter.com/the-lovely-bones
Camilla Joyce ~ former Express & Echo Reviewer ★★★★
Malory Towers by Enid Blyton - Northcott Theatre
Malory Towers is Spellbinding. A Must See!
What a way to kick off the Autumn season at the Northcott Theatre. I laughed, smiled lots and shed a tear. Breath taking and awe inspiring; theatre at its best.
A story about friendship, values and growing up. The play opens in the modern day, plummeting back to a post war era and to Malory Towers all girls’ school on the spectacular Cornish coast.
Magic onstage emanates that of Enid Blyton’s books, which have proven to be timeless classics. Emma Rice has done an excellent job translating these books to stage, creating an engaging concise narrative with innovative storytelling techniques.
Cast were absolutely fantastic. Pacing, comic timing and energy levels were on point.
They even treated us to a song in the bar area during the interval, followed by 'bossy Gwendoline' (Rebecca Collingwood) ordering the audience back to their seats.
Sheila Hancock’s voice over for Headmistress Miss Grayling was warm and engaging, working well with the silhouette projected onto the school backdrop.
Music and vocals were wonderful with some beautiful harmonies. Acoustic numbers and swing songs were a joy to listen to. An eclectic musical mix with live piano, harp and other instruments. Fantastic compositions by Ian Ross.
Set design was out if this world, reminiscent of captivating West End shows I saw as a child. Full of surprises, the set is compact, versatile, multipurpose and incredibly detailed.
Animation was stunning, befitting of the dream sequence. Every detail in the production has been thought out and executed with a unified artistic vision. The production team have excelled themselves.
Worthy of its standing ovation. I could watch this show again and again and still be blown away by its magnificence.
Touring to Manchester then Oxford after its run at the Northcott Theatre:
In the last week I have seen some Truly Amazing Theatre and it has been
an honour to be involved with the Festival in a Reviewer Role. I had the
pleasure of joining Sarah Gosling this evening (Friday 2nd August)
on her Arts and Culture show on BBC
Radio Devon. I reviewed some fringe shows live on air and spoke all things Exeter Fringe Festival. Listen here (Interview in the first hour): https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p07gb83r
For more Fringe News as it happens see @ActressCamilla on Twitter and @CamillaJActress on Facebook.
For Exeter Fringe Listings
It is so hard to rate the shows as they’ve all been fantastic in their own rights. Here is the low down of all the shows I’ve seen so far.
The Unbound SketchbookUnbound Theatre Company
(Alistair Sanderson, Gareth Johnson, Hannah Rogers, Pete Benson &
An Entertaining Hour of Sketches
take audience through various characters in a multitude of scenarios with lots
of laugh out loud moments and great accents. Good pacing and nice Radio Sitcom
style music to aid scene changes
A personal favourite was the’ Overactors Anonymous’ sketch at the end of the show, which was slightly longer than other scenes. Knowing a lot of thespians and treading the boards myself, I am only too familiar with actors using their outdoor voices indoors!
Unbound Theatre are a great troupe: https://www.qpc.org/qpcpage.aspx?t=2&p=18&/Unbound
Really Want to Hurt Me – Flaming Theatre Company
Written & Directed by Ben SantaMaria
Performed by Ryan Price
Absolutely Stunning – Top Class Theatre
Honest & Insightful
From the opening sequence when Ryan bounds onstage, lip syncing perfectly to the stunning 80s soundtrack I was hooked. 75 minutes flew by and I didn’t look at my watch once.
Set in Topsham, Devon – the story centres on a schoolboy battling with his sexuality in the 1980s. He tries dating women, but alas it doesn’t work. He joins a theatre group, which proves extremely cathartic, nicely echoing the audience watching the piece onstage, with a special meaning to the thespians and creative among us.
Writing, Directing and Acting were on point. Excellent Lighting and Sound further enhanced the show.
Audience reaction was extremely positive and audibly appreciative throughout.
Not to be Missed: https://www.flamingtheatre.co.uk/
Lucky: Songs by Kylie - Michael Griffiths
Songs were vibrant, moving and varied; involving the audience in sing-alongs and also plucking Exeter’s very own Jason from the crowd to duet with Michael on the song Especially For You.
Michael’s shows are not to be missed. For Tour Dates & Appearances in London see: https://www.michaelgriffiths.co/
The Geneva Convention of Human F**ks
Eager Spark - Twitter @EagerSpark
Written & Directed by Charlie Whitworth
Before Brexit kicks in, three blokes decide to do one last grand tour of Europe to sample all the forbidden delights. The characters are played by fantastic female actors Marina O’Shea, Primrose Bigwood and Chloe Hatherley.
During the pre-set the 3 actors sit on chairs preying on women as they take their seats, nicely setting the scene for what is about to commence. The next 45 minutes convey a brutally honest story in a humorous and poignant manner. The piece is well-paced with some hard hitting subject matters centred around sex work in foreign countries. The 3 men have different views on whether they feel morally okay with what they are doing and whether their next trip should be to Africa where the female age of consent is11.
Writing, directing and acting were on point. I highly recommend Eager Spark’s work and this play in particular.★★★★
Eager Spark – Twitter @EagerSpark
Written & Directed by Charlie Whitworth
Rebel was funny and informative. Estelle Buckridge and Meg Nellie expertly led the audience through female political history from 1919-2019. It is no surprise that women have been objectified throughout the ages, although Thatcher’s reign in the 1980s seems to avoid media speculation on what she is wearing, meaning things got better briefly in terms of objectifying women and have now reverted back. The actresses convey the facts well and portray different characters through props and simple costume changes. Music adds to the comedy and helps to set the scene.
There were 2 surprise readings of new plays before Rebel began. Content and Youth were workshopped with the audience. Charlie Coldfield read Youth in a warm and engaging way. It would be good to see that play expanded upon with other actors playing the parts that were added via audio.
An impressive, humorous and moving hour of theatre with 2 talented actors multi-roling. It was immersive, fast paced and innovative. A testament to good writing when you can be laughing out loud one minute and moved to tears the next. Excellent story and twist.
Fantastic show full of fun, great music and a strong story with a few twists and turns. It was more about pensions, the closing of BHS and relationships than the menopause and would appeal to people of all ages and of both sexes. Good preview show. Perhaps mics could be used to ensure all the fabulous writing can be heard, especially in the songs. Some performers seemed louder and clearer than others.
International Joke Off ~ Barnfield Theatre 26th July 2019
A Great Start to the Exeter Fringe Festival.
The only information I managed to find about the International Joke Off prior to the show was on the Exeter Fringe website. It was good to go in without any pre conceived ideas or spoilers and enjoy the evening.
Richard James was a fabulous compere, improvising and interacting with the audience in a likeable and quick witted manner. He had his work cut out with one raucous group; expertly handled. Perhaps the setting of Barnfield’s main auditorium helped to dissipate a lot of the usual heckling and rowdiness akin to stand-up performances.
Comedians Alf from Devon and Richard Lindesay from New Zealand form the dynamic duo on which the International Joke Off is based. The two go head to head competing for applause from the audience for their jokes written in advance about topics presented by followers of the Facebook page. They also wrote jokes on the night on topics given by the audience. This section forms the finale of the show.
Before preparing for the finale, Alf and Richard perform their own ten minute slot. Alf used giant props in his comic storytelling. Richard plays the flute and another nostalgic instrument, adding excellent comic value. Alf’s style is reminiscent of slapstick whilst Richard has a laid back approach incorporating humorous musical elements into his set.
Whilst the 2 comedians are backstage writing new jokes, two local comedians Riordan DJ and Abi Clarke each did a 10 minute set. Their styles were more anecdotal, juxtaposing nicely with Alf and Richard’s predominately one liner styles. It was good to see local talent utilised giving them a chance to shine in the Spotlight, very much in keeping with the ethos of the first ever Exeter Fringe Festival.
Abi Clarke’s set was entertaining and appealed to everyone in one way or another. Some of the jokes were a bit age specific initially, being targeted at people in their early 20s and based on her own life experience. Any women who are brave enough to venture into stand-up comedy deserve massive respect, as it is still a male orientated domain.
Riordan DJ was hilarious from start to finish. He had excellent pace and delivery. His confidence and stage presence were fantastic. Like Abi, Riordan DJ is only 23 years old - to be so effortless in stand-up at that age is quite a feat.
The whole team did amazingly well, especially in the heat and non-air conditioned theatre. Highly recommend seeing any of the 5 comedians work.
For more information on the International Joke Off’s whereabouts, see: https://www.facebook.com/internationaljokeoff/
For Exeter Fringe Listings see: https://exefringe.co.uk/
Camilla Joyce - Former Express & Echo Newspaper Reviewer
Educating Rita by Willy Russell ~ Exeter Northcott
A Timeless Classic. Wonderfully Witty.
One of the Best Plays I’ve seen in a long time.
Educating Rita is one of my favourite plays of all time and this production really does it justice. Willy Russell is such a talented writer and this play is a masterpiece with only 2 characters captivating the audience throughout.
The iconic 1983 screenplay with Julie Walters and Michael Caine is perhaps more widely known than the play itself. These are big shoes to fill as an actor. However, the play brings a beauty and perspective of its own, focusing on the rich story, with action taking place in one room – Franks’ office.
Stephen Tompkinson plays despondent tutor and poet Frank superbly, perhaps even better than Michael Caine in the film version. His characterisation, pacing and humour are second to none.
Jessica Johnson did a great job at portraying bubbly hairdresser Rita, complete with certain mannerisms and physicality.
Rita is like a breath of fresh air to Frank who is tired of the limited education system, stripping people of character and expecting everyone to think the same. Rita is hungry to learn as much as possible on the Open University course and Frank who has more interest in alcohol than teaching is the tutor assigned to her.
The two form a close bond, at times bordering on the romantic side and at other times appearing like good friends or father and daughter.
Rita is wise and balanced. She has humour and a good perspective on life. Frank is intelligent, but jaded and he tries to save Rita from a fate common to the highly educated. He is bored and destructive, choosing to waste his poetic talent, finding solace in alcohol. His relationships suffer as a result.
It is a fantastic exploration and representation of different classes and the education system. A strong message that resonates throughout and is summed up nicely at the end is that education gives people choice, although it is conformist, something Frank bucks against – it opens doors and this is very important to Rita. She realises that people are not as happy as they seemed from 'the outside looking in'. We discover towards the end of the play that her new friend Trish tried to kill herself. Rita wittily observes that Trish spends a lot of money on health foods trying to prolong her life and half the time trying to kill herself!
There are plenty of laugh out loud moments, thus magnifying pathos; testament to Russell’s sophisticated writing.
The piece is well directed. I particularly liked the part in Act 2 where Rita sits in Frank’s chair, emanating ‘the student becoming the teacher’ and perhaps surpassing her mentor.
Both acts were as strong as each other, not dropping in pace. The ending is heartwarming.
Set is well furnished with book cases full of books, large windows overlooking the campus, different chairs and a desk, with lots of detailing. Scene changes were well done with music and lighting effects signifying the passing of time. There is a good use of staging throughout.
Highly recommend this production of Educating Rita. It is an excellent
homage to a fantastic play and talented playwright. Acting, Directing and Set Design
are all top notch. It is on until Saturday 29th June at Exeter
Northcott Theatre: https://exeternorthcott.co.uk/calendar/educating-rita/
The Tour Continues Thereafter: https://educatingrita.co.uk/
Camilla Joyce - Former Express & Echo Newspaper Reviewer
Dead Dog in a Suitcase (and other love songs)
Kneehigh with Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse
"Explosive, Loud & Invasive. Musical Marmite."
The show is a divisive one – you’ll either love it or hate it.
The story takes place in what appears to be a timeless dystopian world. Current politics, pollution and corruption all play a part.
A shocking start sees a dog shot dead before our very eyes. Even though the title suggests this is likely to feature, it is an uncomfortable watch as an innocent soul only capable of unconditional love perishes before us. Macheath has been hired to shoot Mayor Goodman and whilst he does the deed he also shoots his realistic looking pet (puppet) dog.
The ending is extremely loud and powerfully invasive. I felt like the show ‘happened to me’ in a lot of respects, cleverly mirroring politics where the audience are effectively like sitting ducks.
Cast were a strong talented ensemble, singing and playing instruments faultlessly. There was an eclectic mix of music, covering a lot of genres, including sea shanties, punk and rap!
Set is impressive, making for brilliant stage pictures. The wings were open with entrance, exits and costume changes visible in keeping with Kneehigh’s trademark transparent style.
Stand out performers were Angela Hardie as Polly Peachum with her wonderful vocals and Dominic Marsh as loveable rogue Macheath.
Georgia Frost is great as Filch and has an excellent comical song, involving sliding down a pole with her arm in a sling!
Comical moments juxtaposing with serious topics made it all the more poignant. The piece would have benefited from more of these sharper contrasts.
The show felt too long. It could have been succinct at an hour and 15 thus gaining more impact, or the second half could have been 20 - 30 minutes less. Some parts of the production lacked pace, diction and clarity with elements being too abstract for the narrative to flow. Choreography could have been tighter also - when it was on point it worked really well and there are some entertaining dance sequences. Most of these issues are down to being the first night in the venue and will improve as the run continues.
I am a fan of Kneehigh’s earlier work, such as The Red Shoes and Tristan & Yseult where smaller casts shone with innovative storytelling and breath-taking physical theatre.
If you like Punk, Anarchy and Abstract / Avant Garde Theatre then this is the show for you. It is on at the Northcott Theatre until Saturday 22nd June: https://exeternorthcott.co.uk/calendar/dead-dog-in-a-suitcase-and-other-love-songs/
There is no doubt that Kneehigh are a very Talented and Cutting Edge Theatre Company. For more information see: https://www.kneehigh.co.uk/kneehigh-shows/
Camilla Joyce - Former Express & Echo Newspaper Reviewer
Written by John O’Connor & Merlin Holland (Oscar Wilde’s Grandson)
Directed by John O’Connor
European Arts Company
An interesting insight into the Life and Trials of Oscar Wilde – the Man behind the Writing.
As the audience enter the auditorium, music plays and the stage is set, complete with luscious red carpet, chairs at either side and a red curtained backdrop. The curtain cleverly acts as a projection point for photographs to be viewed.
Oscar Wilde was married with 2 children and the author of 4 successful plays at the time of the trials. He appears relatively calm throughout most of the questioning, then the realisation of losing his children and going to prison sink in, becoming a plausible reality.
Wilde initially says he is 38 during the trials, soon changing to 39 and then ‘well into his 40s’, thus making what he is being accused of far more predatory and exploitative. Wilde is very likeable and quick witted; it is clear he has a way with words, however as the trials continue and he is worn down cracks begin to appear in the façade.
Repeatedly Wilde’s work is attempted to be used as evidence against him, particularly The Picture of Dorian Gray. He insists it is art and is purely expressional. There are plenty of witty lines and laugh out loud moments during the play when Wilde defends his work and his taste in other writing, including berating the solicitor for not reading an excerpt with the right 'artistic delivery' it deserved.
A favourite witticism was when Wilde states he is in fact an Irishman and not an Englishman in response to his honour and conduct being under scrutiny.
The Accusation pursue a class and education line of questioning, to highlight sodomy occurring with Wilde and the young boys. Wilde insists they were friends and he simply liked their company, saying they were vibrant and fun. The mention of class sounds prejudice at first, but soon the reasoning becomes clear and is partly what helps to convict Wilde.
John Gorrick plays Wilde brilliantly. His poise and height give an air of elegance to his wonderful stage presence.
The cast of 4 actors are strong and multi-talented. With the exception of Gorrick, all of them play several characters sometimes using accents to differentiate. Benjamin Darlington was fantastic in his multi-roling particularly as one of the young boys in court giving evidence – it made for a compelling watch.
I would like to have seen more use of levels and tension in the first half. The second half is a lot more theatrical in its presentation. The first half struck me as being naturalistic and verbatim, with excerpts from the courtroom.
The play is a fascinating watch, whether you know a lot about Oscar Wilde and the trials or not. Catch the play on its tour:
Camilla Joyce - Former Express & Echo Newspaper Reviewer
The Three Musketeers – A Comedy Adventure
Le Navet Bete and Exeter Northcott Theatre present
Director – John Nicholson
Choreographer – Lea Anderson MBE
Set Designer – Ti Green
"A Must See. Le Navet Bete never fail to disappoint with their
retelling of Classic Tales."
The piece starts naturalistically with the group of 4 actors introducing themselves as lifelong friends and talking briefly about the story before energetically launching into multi-roling 30 characters.
An ambitious play, which was as educational as it was humorous. The story is well told with handy recaps to ensure the audience are still following.
Characters were individually defined. Transitions were so smooth and expertly done, you barely notice them changing an item of clothing whilst transforming into another character through accent and mannerisms. It was reminiscent of Kneehigh Theatre when the actors changed costume onstage in plain view.
Le Navet Bete break the 4th wall several times adding to the comedy. Humorous highlights include a fight sequence in the style of a computer game, the big fight scene near the end of the play with added dance flair, a rendition of Wild Horses and the Duck scene complete with audience participation.
Lighting effects cleverly juxtapose old and new for the photo shoot scene in
1606 when wannabe musketeer D'Artagnan is born. This juxtaposition continues throughout. Traditional meets modern with a hilarious duel arranged by the Coop bins!
Set design represents ‘boys at play’ with a large tree house type sculpture comprising of different levels. These levels served to change location easily and also add a sense of danger and excitement. The very top of the structure had crown / royal outlines, which worked well for scenes involving Queen Anne.
The pre interval song between Constance and D'Artagnan was moving and well sung with beautiful harmonies.
The Three Musketeers debut has been well received and got off to a strong start at the Northcott Theatre. The production is bound to go from strength to strength and gather pace throughout the run and its tour.
Le Navet Bete held a Q&A after the show, which was inspirational and informative. Young pupils from a local school had lots of questions and were clearly impressed by the piece.
Highly Recommend Le Navet Bete’s work. Their Energetic, Comical and Innovative adaptations are always a pleasure to watch.
Exeter Northcott Dates: https://exeternorthcott.co.uk/calendar/the-three-musketeers-a-comedy-adventure/
Company Website: http://lenavetbete.com/shows/the-three-musketeers/
Camilla Joyce ~ former Express & Echo Newspaper Reviewer
The Mousetrap by Agatha Christie
UK Tour – Exeter Norhcott Theatre 6th May 2019
Director – Gareth Armstrong
Producers – Sir Stephen Waley-Cohen & Adam Spiegel
Agatha Christie is the queen of the hugely popular whodunit genre. The Mousetrap is no exception with its twists and turns. The play was engaging from start to finish and the ending has a delightful twist. Audiences are asked to keep the secret, so fear not – there shall be no spoilers, only a taste of what to expect.
A young couple welcome guests to their new Guesthouse called Monkswell Manor. A Detective turns up to investigate a local murder and there is an unexpected guest. Mollie and Giles Ralston realise they know very little about the people staying under their roof and indeed what their significant other has been up to.
Distrust and suspicion soon permeate the group.
Christopher Wren, played fabulously by Lewis Chandler is the first guest to arrive. He is very likeable and joyful with a carefree demeanour, which seems to put the other guests on edge.
Mrs Boyle is a very strict character, impressed by nothing and an ex Magistrate. Gwyneth Strong portrays her well.
The news reports on the wireless mention a dark blue overcoat, hat and a light coloured scarf spotted on the killer. Comically all the characters arriving have the very same type of overcoat, hat and scarf, making them all prime suspects.
The set is superb and impressively detailed, particularly for a touring production. It looked like a stately home. The drawing room is well furnished; complete with fireplace, sofa, arm chair, table and chairs, rugs, stone steps leading to the bedroom and a large window.
The grandiose window is a focal point. Snow can be seen on it during the blizzards, as well as changes in the weather and times of day.
Sound effects and lighting are cleverly orchestrated to add to the ambience.
In a lot of respects the play follows the formula of a classic murder mystery, however as always with Agatha Christie, there are some hidden surprises adding to the richness her writing is known for.
In summary, it is an excellent play well worth watching. Cast gave stellar performances and it is well Directed and Produced.
The play is on at the Northcott Theatre until Saturday 11th May, before continuing it’s tour:
Camilla Joyce ~ former Express & Echo Newspaper Reviewer
The Merry Wives of Windsor
- Cygnet Theatre, Exeter
By William Shakespeare
Director – Amanda Knott
The Merry Wives of Windsor is a timeless classic and a much loved Shakespearian comedy. What a Merry show indeed. Entertaining from start to finish, the students did really well to bring this merry tale to life.
The Merry Wives entrance is vibrant and energetic. Their conversation is very natural, making the complex language easier to understand. Thora Pedersen and Harriet Birks play the Wives brilliantly throughout, with excellent comic timing. It is refreshing to see women at the forefront of the piece, having pivotal roles, thus being quite ahead of its time. The two women plot against Falstaff who has a big plan of his own to get his hands on their husbands money through wooing the women.
Initially Oliver Heaton looks too young and amenable to be Sir John Falstaff; however any hesitation soon dissipates, as he embodies the character, padding and all! His movements are bold and his voice is strong, as are his expressionisms.
Ed Watterson was fantastic as Ford and Fenton. His soliloquies were well delivered with great pacing.
The iconic ‘Laundry Scene’ was hilarious. Physical comedy was on point. It was very farcical. Jealous rage builds to a comic crescendo.
The beauty of an intimate space like the Cygnet theatre is being able to see the actors’ facial expressions, adding depth to the viewing pleasure.
Young actresses had cameos as fairies in the park scene near the end, which was a lovely surprise. The actresses that night were 3 sisters called Vera, Valentina and Violeta. They say their names as part of the scene, adding a personal touch.
Set and costume were superb. An old fashioned chequered floor is the staple piece of set, with different chairs and benches being brought on and off by characters. Scene changes were seamless and well-choreographed.
The 1950s theme worked wonderfully and made for aesthetically pleasing stage pictures, as well as providing an upbeat soundtrack.
The Cygnet Theatre are very ambitious in the plays they choose. The students have come on leaps and bounds since the last time I saw them, which is credit to the high quality training.
The show reopens in July and is well worth watching. Plenty of laugh out loud moments and creative storytelling techniques feature in this much loved classic. A fantastic ensemble piece.
Camilla Joyce ~ former Express & Echo Newspaper Reviewer
BalletBoyz: Them / Us – Exeter Northcott Theatre 1st April 2019
Them - Collaborative
Choreography / Devised by BalletBoyz
Musical Score by Composer Charlotte Harding
Us - Choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon
Music by Cult Singer / Songwriter Keaton Henson
The show is made up of two halves, with two
contrasting dance pieces set to wonderful music.
Them opens to beautiful string music with dancers emanating bow and arrow type movements, setting a clear, sharp aesthetic onstage. Costumes have a modern feel, juxtaposing with the classical overture. Bright tracksuits fill the stage, highlighting clean lines and choreography perfectly in sync.
A large hollow cubed frame can be seen at the back of the stage. This soon becomes a moving part of the routine, taking on a character of its own, sometimes with a sinister feel. The dancers swing from it reminiscent of gymnasts expertly keeping their balance, as well as perching on the corner when it is at its highest onstage making for an invigorating watch. Tempo increased and lighting changed, creating a dramatic scene, changing direction in the flowing narrative.
When a solitary performer was in the cube, it reminded me of the much loved music boxes with a dancing ballerina.
It was good to see the dancer’s personalities shining through in their expression; their love of dance and performance was infectious.
Soft blue lighting and calming sea sounds start to bring the piece to an end. Gentle forward movement of the cube implies the world and people keep on moving and the tide is still turning.
Us had a transitionary feel. It was like the dancers were in limbo, stuck between two worlds, exploring a true sense of self and connectivity to one another. Choreography was physically closer during this piece.
Heavy footsteps provide a beat, interlaced with silence and evocative music. There were more lifts, connection and clever pendulum effects.
Us was my favourite piece; I daren’t take my eyes off the stage in fear of missing pivotal moments. The duet towards the end was simply stunning. The dancers delivered this beautiful story with bare torsos, showing well sculpted and defined muscles, making for clearer movements, adding to the tender narrative.
It was my first experience seeing the wonderfully talented BalletBoyz and I would definitely watch them again and recommend their shows.
There are 2 performances left at the Northcott Theatre before the show moves to Chester to its next Tour Destination: https://exeternorthcott.co.uk/calendar/balletboyz-them-us/
BalletBoyz Website: https://www.balletboyz.com/whatson
Camilla Joyce –former Express & Echo Newspaper Reviewer
The Comedy About A Bank Robbery ~ Exeter Northcott theatre
A Mischief Theatre Production
Written by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields
Tour Directed by Kirsty Patrick Ward
Originally Directed by Mark Bell with Mischief Theatre
It’s so good, I’ve seen it twice!
Explosive and high paced from start to finish; the touring production of The Comedy About A Bank Robbery is of the same high standard as the West End production at the Criterion Theatre. The two could be mistaken for the same play with the same performers, as the trademark characteristics are portrayed faultlessly.
The title does not fail to disappoint. Action centres on a robbery of an expensive diamond with plenty of double crossing and hilarity.
The play is a mixture of farce, comedy of manners and the absurd. It is extremely well written and delivered with excellent comic timing.
Ashley Tucker as Ruth Monaghan was excellent. The character of Ruth is one of the most likeable and Ashley did it justice. Liam Jeavons played bad boy Mitch Ruscitti brilliantly. Julia Frith portrayed Caprice Freeboys very well - look out for the bedroom scene in the first act; physical comedy is on point. Caprice miming to Sam Monaghan is hilarious and as funny as the first time I saw it. David Coomber plays Neil Cooper marvelously and much funnier than I remembered in the west end show - his British accent as the understudy and constant references to amateur dramatics are priceless.
The whole cast were fantastic and extremely in sync. Characters are fun, larger than life with great accents and creative storytelling techniques. Costume matched the west end show and characters ageing up were done well.
Set was impressive, being wheeled on and off and opened up along with entertaining songs to ensure smooth scenes transitions. Singing is an unexpected added bonus that gives the show an edge. Not only are the songs humorous, but they are well sung. The church scene in the second act has some wonderful harmonies.
I was intrigued to see how the company would stage the vent scene. At the Criterion they climb through a vent, which is fixed into place around the proscenium arch. The touring show have cleverly adapted this scene to be along the front of the stage with the same clever ‘sideways office view’ from the vents. An amusing scene along the back wall is brilliantly staged and choreographed.
A couple of the scenes were a little hard to hear with diction and projection, mainly when the ensemble play the same type of character at a very fast pace. Otherwise a faultless production, which was very well received. The audience were as raucous as the action onstage, applauding well delivered lines and physical comedy.
Mischief Theatre are an innovative company going from strength to strength since their humble beginnings in 2008, selling out theatres as their reputation precedes them.
Superb writing, directing and acting. Top Class. A Fantastic Play. Well Worth Watching.
Camilla Joyce ~ former Express & Echo Reviewer
Rita, Sue and Bob Too ~ Exeter Northcott Theatre 5th March 2019
Out of Joint Theatre Company
Written by Andrea Dunbar
Directed by Kate Wasserberg
The show has an explicit, powerful
and uncomfortable start. Bob drives babysitters Rita and Sue home, diverting to
a quiet place on the way back to teach them the ways of the world. Both girls
fall for Bob’s charms and let him have his ‘wicked way’ with them. There is
partial nudity, making it an uncomfortable watch, as theatre is more realistic
than film. There are no special effects to sensationalise what happens, thus
making it more powerful and realistic. The scene happens quickly and is
interlaced with humour, adding to its sense of realism and naturalism.
A love triangle ensues. The girls are mature in many ways, but lack emotional depth and understanding, which is apparent when they disregard Bob’s wife’s feelings and giggle about what they are doing.
Rita has a conscious whereas Sue seems emotionally detached. We do not see Rita’s home life nor do we hear much about it. Sue’s parents argue. Her mother fiercely protects Sue and stands up to her aggressive father. It appears to be a volatile, dysfunctional home life, leading to Sue’s urge for adventure and escapism.
Bob mistreats women and is misogynistic. He uses charm, control and at times aggression to get what he wants. Female camaraderie and loyalty prevail at the end – a nice note to finish the play on.
The cast did a stellar job at portraying this simplistic, yet fascinating story. It was well acted and directed – pacing and projection were fantastic. Strong language does not seem too brash or offensive with soft northern lilts.
Andrea wrote the play at the tender age of 19. Intelligence and sophisticated writing permeate the play. The story is as powerful and moving now as when it was first put onstage in the eighties.
Succinct at 1hr 15 minutes, the play is captivating and time flies by. Scene changes were smooth with actors carrying chairs on and off set for the next scene. There are short movement sequences at the end and beginnings of a few scenes. They were a little confusing. It would have been good to see these expanded upon, or left out as they did not seem to make a lot of sense. The smoke machine was a little distracting too.
Audience were invited to a Q&A after the show, during which the passion for the writer and play emanate from the cast and Director. They were a friendly, welcoming group.
Rita, Sue and Bob Too is well worth a
watch. Be prepared for strong language and partial nudity, which is well
choreographed and tastefully done. It is a timeless classic,
exploring lives of working class families.
Camilla Joyce ~ former Express & Echo Newspaper Theatre Reviewer
Turn of the Screw ~ Exeter Northcott 28th March
Adapted by Tim Luscombe
Producer Dermot McLaughlin
Director Daniel Buckroyd
It is a fascinating story and one that has captured imaginations through the ages, being retold through many a form, including television and film versions.
The pre-set was unsettling, reminiscent of The Woman in Black with dust sheets covering furniture. The stage looked, dark, creepy and ominous.
The Governess applies for a job with Mrs Conray, quickly discovering there is no position available and Conray is not who she says she is. Through a series of flashbacks we see the events of Bly through the eyes of The Governess challenged by a grown up Flora posing initially as Mrs Conray. The Governess looked after an 8 year old Flora and her brother Miles some years back, ending in tragedy.
The Governess appears to have been gradually terrorised by the children and by the unseen. It is unclear as to whether the children frightened her or whether there were supernatural elements at play. It is also ambiguous if The Governess suffocates Miles or if he is overtaken by unseen forces. In this adaptation it looks as though it was The Governess who accidentally smothers Miles so he cannot breathe. Also, the children seem far more innocent in this adaptation than others I have seen.
Janet Dibley’s portrayal of The Governess is cool and calm, thus pointing towards her being the guilty party and maybe having some underlying psychopathic tendencies. Perhaps she tortures the children? Or is unable to bond and be close with children? Her reaction at the end of the play to the fact that perhaps what she saw was not real and it may be her fault, in turn abusing the children and killing Miles points towards her being unaware and she seems genuinely distraught.
Mrs Grose, played wonderfully by Maggie McCarthy seems to have no ill intent or ulterior motives and really holds the play and performers together. She was the glue of the piece and did a stellar job. She was relatable and authentic.
Amy Dunn portrayed her younger character well through the flashbacks. Perhaps a little more angst and emotion about her brother could have been shown as an adult. As Mrs Conway, transitioning to older Flora, it did not quite seem believable that she was angry at The Governess or intimidating. She seemed too nice. That scene could definitely be amped up to create tension and a transition to the sinister. Perhaps these were just first night issues that will be balanced out.
Elliot Burton was creepily charming as the Uncle hiring The Governess and a little disconcerting as the younger Miles, which was no doubt a Directorial decision. Although it is 1840, his dress as a young child was very mature, thus making him look like a small adult, making his role a bit unsettling.
There seemed to be a few teething problems tonight, taking away from the suspense and affecting pacing. This will most likely dissipate throughout the run. The show has great potential and the story is still a strong one, being relevant throughout the ages.
Having seen The Woman in Black, I thought this would be equally as terrifying, however apart from a few jumpy moments it was not scary. There were some clever lighting and sound effects. The recreation of a playful scene by the lake with Flora and The Governess was beautifully done - light, sound effects and acting were on point.
Movement was well choreographed by Cressida Carre. There was a good use of levels and space.
The set was well furnished with eerie
jagged edges, reminiscent of Tim Burton films. Out of tune violins add a sense
of unease as did the cold air in the auditorium. I would like to have seen more
effects used to add to the suspense. Theatre can be really terrifying, more so
than film, with live effects, including actors walking through the audience
like they do during The Woman in Black. The rocking horse was good
and seemed to have a mind of its own. Some of the timings were a little out,
with sound, lighting and moving furniture, which is bound to be a first night
In summary, it is a classic tale well told and has great potential to be a really good play filled with tension and suspense. It is a story that leaves the audience a little shell shocked, analysing each character and the events at Bly.
Camilla Joyce ~ former Express & Echo Reviewer