THEATRE REVIEWS

His Return ~ 6 One Act Plays from the Great War

Cygnet Theatre – 29th November 2018
Directed by Alastair Ganley

The Game by Louise Bryant (1916)

An excellent tale of Life and Death, Love and Youth. Life is depicted in an elegant floaty dress reminiscent of the sky and heaven. Death is a cigar smoking, trench coat wearing ‘normal’ looking man, exerting an air of superiority, looking down on the ‘weaker sex’. Death taunts Life to win the fate of 2 young lovers, but fortunately loses, with Life keeping her cool and saving the young lovers from pain and anguish.

Thora Maria Bisted Pedersen portrayed Life’s strength and femininity beautifully. Her accent was perfect to give Life a worldly feel, not tied to any one area.

Ed Watterson as Youth, a poet tired of life, was brilliant and believable to watch.

Oliver Heaton portrayed Death with all his vices, temptations and ability to lead people astray, very well.

Harriet Birks as The Girl is enigmatic, excitable and full of life.

The happy ending in this play is heart-warming, with love conquering all.


Defeat by John Galsworthy (1916)

An intriguing insight into day to day life of German and British citizens during wartime. Harriet Birks once again plays a character called The Girl, very different this time – she is a German pretending to be Russian and sleeping with men to make money. She ‘used to be a nice girl’, but is disillusioned by the war and is unable to help either side as a Nurse in the country she resides.

Ed Watterson plays The Officer with grace and sincerity. He is too much of a gentleman to take advantage of The Girl.

They have fascinating conversations of life before and during wartime.

Victory bells sound in the streets of Britain and we see the once confident, brash self-assured Girl turn into a nervous young child, singing songs from her native Germany.


The Unseen Host by Percival Wilde (1916-17)

An interesting piece about angels and ghosts set in a hospital. Some clever effects and concepts in this play. Accents made the diction unclear and hard to understand at points. An intriguing story nonetheless with imaginative yet simplistic staging.


Mothers of Men by Percival Wilde (1916-17)

Probably the most emotional of the plays, we see two women grieve for their sons and an uncertainty as to whose son has died as events unravel with a plot twist. A mother (The Caller) from Devon visits Mrs Chepstowe to inform her that her son who shares the same name may have died. Somewhat curt and tactless in her delivery, The Caller juxtaposes Mrs Chepstowe’s sunny persona; the two end up comforting one another for their mutual loss.

Roxanne Eastaugh portrays the light and shade of Mrs Chepstowe fantastically while Harriet Birks tough veneer as The Caller contrasts nicely, furthermore adding layers in the telling of the story.

The Sun by John Galsworthy (1916)

The Sun perfectly embodies the notion of ‘All is Fair in Love and War’.

Ed Watterson is natural and believable as The Soldier who returns, disappointed that his love did not wait for him.

Fights break out with potential further danger.

Accents were a little distracting in this scene, which affected the clarity and diction. An ambitious effort nonetheless.


His Return by Percival Wilde (1916-17)

A beautiful love story to finish the evening.

All actors did a fantastic job portraying this wonderful, happy event of a man returning to his wife after the war. We see insecurities surface about weight gain and worry lines and whether it will be strange to see one another again. Helen Hartley (Roxanne Eastaugh) wants to look perfect for her Husband’s return but cannot fit into her dress that he waved her off on the platform in all those years ago, remembering it fondly in his letters. Dejected, she decides on another dress, ironically he thinks it’s the same dress from the station, making for an amusing and uplifting ending.


The plays were an excellent homage of life during and ‘behind the scenes’ of the war. It was fascinating to see ‘normal’ scenarios and lesser portrayed stories.

Set was simple and effective for all plays, consisting of a box shape with gauze marking the walls and acting as entrance and exit points; chairs and tables were used for each play and set up within the box. Scene changes were smooth and quick with music to accompany them.

Current and new Cygnet actors make up a small, strong cast this year. They did an amazing job at multi-roling. I look forward to seeing what they create next. It looks to be a promising journey. 

Highly recommend seeing their creative, evocative and thought provoking work: https://cygnettheatre.co.uk/events/theatre


Camilla Joyce ~ former Express & Echo Newspaper Theatre Reviewer

* 4 Stars 


Madagascar The Musical, based on the Dreamworks Animation Motion Picture

Exeter Northcott Theatre ~ Opening Night & Press Night - 13th November 2018

Selladoor Family & Hartshorn-Hook Productions

“An Uplifting Night of Theatre”

Madagascar The Musical translates brilliantly from screen to stage, taking on a character and magic of its own.

Captivatingly mesmerising from start to finish, I couldn’t stop grinning throughout.

It took me back to watching my first musical in the West End – Captain Beaky and His Band, which was a spectacle to behold at a young age. The children in the audience tonight were truly spellbound, as were the adults undoubtedly.

All the well-known and loved characters from the film were portrayed excellently in a larger than life fashion through a mixture of costumes, face paint and puppetry.

The puppets were extremely well made and the performers moved them expertly, syncing themselves well, reminiscent of Avenue Q whereby the performers are at one with their puppets, looking similar in appearance, costume and expressionism. You find yourself solely watching the puppet at times, lost in the magic and then looking at how the performers express themselves through / with the puppet.  

Marty’s opening song was fantastic, as was the Fifty Shades of Grey reference.

The Penguins were brilliantly portrayed complete with their entrance and exit music from the film.

Brandon Gale played the role of Alex the Lion this evening and did a superb job. You would never guess he had less rehearsal time and live experience than Matt Terry in the lead role.

Timmika Ramsey is great as Gloria the Hippo and has a powerful singing voice.

Jamie Lee-Morgan plays Melman the Giraffe well, expertly moving the large puppetry neck and head.

Jo Parsons is absolutely fantastic in the role of King Julien. The audience were laughing loudly though the scenes in Madagascar.

The set was simple and effective. There are rows of zoo boxes for moving animals, creating wings and entrance and exit points as well as emanating a proscenium arch, thus making a border around the whole stage. Set and props were wheeled on to create different scenes and landscapes such as Central Park Zoo and Madagascar.

The whole production was very professional, succinct and slick with quick set changes often to music, making them seamless. Lighting and sound effects were spot on, particularly in the scene were Gloria, Marty, Alex and Melman are on a cargo ship – part of the set was moved across the stage and joined together, creating large boxes for the animals to be kept in. there was a real sense of being on-board a ship.  

There are plenty of magical moments and surprises. A monkey appears from the boxes stage left to give a humorous announcement about turning your mobiles off.

The show has so many highlights to name individually. One of my top enjoyable moments of the night was getting up and dancing to the reprise of ‘I Like to Move It’! A lot of the audience leapt to their feet dancing and clapping along to the music, staying stood up for a much deserved standing ovation.

Having seen Shrek The Musical in the West End, Madagascar far surpassed it in warmth, humour, narrative and conviction.

It is a true gift to create positive theatre, lifting audience spirits in an often sceptical world, full of doom and gloom. Kudos to Selladoor, Hartshorn-Hook Productions and the whole cast and crew for their dedication in delivering a magnificent feel good show.

Highly recommend seeing this show on the tour: http://madagascarthemusical.co.uk/

Madagascar The Musical runs until Saturday 17th at the wonderful Exeter Northcott Theatre: https://exeternorthcott.co.uk/calendar/madagascar-a-musical-adventure/

The programme is beautiful and large, full of colourful photographs and facts. It makes for an excellent souvenir of the show.

Camilla Joyce ~ former Express & Echo Newspaper Theatre Reviewer 
* 5 Stars 


Lest We Forget ~ Holsworthy Amateur Theatrical Society (HATS) – 8th November 2018

Created & Directed by Lesley and Michael Wonnacott

To Commemorate the 100 year Anniversary of the ending of World War I. 

Proceeds go to the Royal British Legion and Help for Heroes. Lottery Funded.

"Lest We Forget is Simply Stunning"

The show was absolutely brilliant from start to finish ~  A Faultless Creation.

Interlaced with local and national tributes, poetry, songs and re-enactments it was gripping throughout.

Men of Holsworthy were honoured through readings and by children placing poppies in the wreath at the front of the stage, saying “We Will Remember You”. A moving tribute to all the men who fought for their country, some not being on the local Memorial, making it extra special to receive an honourable mention in the show.

Readings and tributes were delivered with raw emotion, which was heart-warming.

Pictures of the men and other wartime photographs were shown on a projector at the back of the stage as well as cleverly projected through the auditorium, on the walls for all to see clearly.

Narrator Ken Tyrrell oozed professionalism in his suit complete with poppy and well executed delivery.  

Musical numbers were fantastic and harmonies were beautiful. It was great to see the orchestra pit open with live music and a conductor. There were also some fantastic acapella performances.

Oh It’s A Lovely War was a fabulous ensemble piece with excellent marching choreography.

Bring Them Home was a personal highlight. It was a clever song choice, edited to fit the piece and beautifully delivered, visibly moving the audience to tears.

Being close to the orchestra pit I could see the embellished music sheets with poppies, which was a nice touch. In the foyer there were photographs and memorials and the theatre was decorated outside. These little touches made a huge difference, enveloping the audience into a world of nostalgia.

In 1917 there was an unofficial truce for Christmas Day where both sides raised white flags as a sign of peace. The depiction of this moment was extremely moving. We hear offside German voices resonating through the auditorium followed by them singing Still Nacht, walking towards and onto the stage with white flags raised high. The British soldiers then sing Silent Night and the two sides come together in peace. There were projections of soccer games on Christmas day. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house!

The beautiful I’m Always Chasing Rainbows song followed.

If You Were The Only Girl in the World was performed wonderfully with men and women coupling up and swaying, looking lovingly into one another’s eyes. Poignant romantic nostalgia emanated throughout.

The sketches were fantastic, one of my favourites being ‘Women’, which detailed women’s roles in the War with humorous undertones. Women were only too aware they were being paid less for doing the men’s jobs and would have to give them up as soon as they returned from war. The suffragettes put their protests on hold to support the men. More women join from the wings to sing Keep the Home Fires Burning at the end of the scene, an excellent display of strength and comradery.

Facts about how the war helped equality for women were very interesting and how it changed the vote, albeit only for women over 30 initially who were allowed the property vote.

The ‘Letters’ scene was emotional. Over 2 billion letters were sent and received during the War. Cast read a few excerpts, some being from their own families.

Interesting and surprising facts featured as well as amusing anecdotes. Photographs of the rather flimsy planes complete with handheld guns and bombs were astounding. The song Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines that followed was well executed with a whistle accompaniment and excellent choreography.

Propaganda posters were full of manipulation and guilt to encourage men to risk their lives and not ’bring shame upon the family name’.

A group sing-along of It’s a Long Way to Tipperary and Pack Up Your Troubles was great fun. The gentleman next to me shared his song sheet, highlighting that the people of Holsworthy and HATS are very friendly and welcoming.

My Dad who is a veteran wanted to see the show and came along on the off chance there was a spare seat. He was well looked after and admitted to the performance, lifting his spirits immensely.    

After a standing ceremony of remembrance where red petals filled the stage, the finale of Lest We Forget was a perfect way to end the show. Angelic voices resonated through the auditorium, from the children involved in the show who were part of local Scouts, Cubs and Beavers clubs. At either side of the stage stood a member of the Holsworthy Royal British Legion proudly and expertly holding their flags high. The line ‘give them the peace in heaven they were denied on earth’ was poignant and all the more powerful delivered by the younger generation filled with such innocence.

Costumes, staging, props, lighting and sound were second to none. A fantastic ensemble effort.

Highly recommend the sold out show and commend the large group effort in bringing it from page to stage. 

HATS are a very talented and dedicated group: http://www.holsworthytheatre.co.uk/

Camilla Joyce ~ former Express & Echo Newspaper Theatre Reviewer 

* 5 Stars 


Thomas Cameron Second Single Launch ~ Buckland House - 1st November 2018 


What a delightful evening it was at Buckland House listening to the smooth, rich tones of Thomas Cameron accompanied by his excellent pianist Kate Robey. 


The setting was perfect for a classical music evening, oozing professionalism from start to finish. 


Thomas Cameron’s fantastic voice filled the space, which came alive with the music. 


New manager Robert Macleod from Startup Music Management was there to introduce him to the stage. 


Songs and stories whiled away the evening. Thomas led us through his journey to date, detailing how he fell into classical music thanks to his ex music teacher. Her encouragement helped Thomas push forwards with his classical music career. We have a lot to thank Val Skull for, who was there to support Thomas. 


Kate Robey and Thomas went to the Edinburgh Festival this year to perform and recounted some amusing anecdotes. 


The set list included wonderfully selected songs from musicals as well as a few modern songs with a classic twist such as Coldplay’s ‘Everglow’ and Paloma Faith’s ‘Stargazer’. 


A personal favourite was ‘Empty Chairs at Empty Tables’ from the musical Les Miserables. Not only was it delivered in a suitably theatrical fashion with characterful light and shade, but the use of pauses added depth to the song. 


In the early stages of his career, Thomas beams as he tells the audience of all the exciting events coming up and appearances on BBC Spotlight, as well as premiering his new song ‘Nothing Lasts Forever’ on BBC Radio Devon on Saturday 3rd November. 


Recorded at Real World Studios and mastered at Abbey Road Studios, the single sounded fantastic, sung live with the beautiful instrumental backing track. 


Thomas has come on leaps and bounds since I saw him at Tavistock Town Hall in March. It’s amazing how much he has achieved in a short space of time. 


Merchandise was available and there was a pop up bar selling lovely drinks that complimented the evening nicely. 


Thomas is one to watch, an up and coming talent in the world of classical music. 


Follow Thomas Cameron’s journey here: 

http://www.thomascamerontenor.com/


Camilla Joyce ~ former Express & Echo Newspaper Theatre Reviewer 

* 5 Stars 



Jack & the Giant Pumpkin ~ The Big Sheep – Halloween Panto 2018

Entertainingly Different Theatre Company ~ Written by Rob Pudner

As the audience trickle into the atmospheric show arena, nicely transformed into a cosy theatre complete with wonderful light and sound effects; Sam Pike sits on a chair reading a large scary looking book, which he dramatically slams shut to start the story. Sam led the piece well, is a great narrator and has excellent stage presence.

The Entertainingly Different team know how to make good use of the space, incorporating props, festive set dressing and using levels to keep the piece flowing and not feeling stagnant.

Treats and surprises delight audiences of this festive Panto, cleverly created for The Big Sheep Attraction featuring their very own ‘Woolly the Sheep’.

Rob Pudner as Dame Trott is fantastic. It was great to see Panto traditions such as birthday shout outs, led by the Dame.

Jessica Squire was extremely versatile showcasing her dance, accent and singing skills whilst portraying a vast array of characters - my personal favourite being the Vegetable Fairy!

Jackie Clementine was brilliant as the Giant with his booming voice and quips about his height.

Sophie Tea as protagonist Jack was likeable without being too formidable for the younger audience members.

There were some fabulous jokes, including adult humour and current references, as well as local knowledge.

The Panto was extremely well written with a clear narrative and the perfect blend of modern and traditional, appealing to all the family. Suspension of disbelief made for some very funny moments as well as wondering if certain things were ‘meant to happen’ or if it had gone wrong!   

Audience sing-alongs were hugely successful and the feel good finale ‘Always Look on the Brightside of Life’ was a lovely note to end.

Highly recommend watching Entertainingly Different creations – they are always such fun!

http://entertaininglydifferent.com/

Camilla Joyce ~ former Express & Echo Newspaper Theatre Reviewer 
* 5 Stars 



Don Carlos Review ~ 16th October 2018

An Exeter Northcott, Nuffield Southampton Theatres and Rose Theatre Kingston co-production in association with Ara

 

Written by Friedrich Schiller. Translated by Robert David MacDonald. 
Directed by Gadi Roll; Set and Costume Design by Rosanna Vize
Lighting Design by Jonathan Samuels


Don Carlos is torn apart when his tyrannical father King Philip II seals a peace deal by marrying French noble Elizabeth de Valois, the love of Carlos’ life. The heartbroken heir turns for help to his closest friend, Rodrigo, Marquis of Posa, a champion of the oppressed, who questions the monarch’s iron rule and becomes an unlikely power broker in the duplicitous court (Northcott Theatre website).


"Excellently Executed and Well Worth Watching"


Don Carlos was well worth the wait. After attending the ‘Spotlight on Don Carlos’ theatre talk in July, I was very much looking forward to seeing what new theatre company Ara had to offer.


Mirroring the ‘spotlight’ theme, the stage had several spotlights placed around and in the space with movable solo lights. The surroundings were stripped bare, allowing a wonderfully large black box to be used by the actors with no frills. Entrances and exits were clearly visible with the back wall being used to walk along, giving it the feeling of being ‘in the round’.  


There was a sense of the lights taking on a powerful presence of their own, almost humanistic in some scenes. At times they seemed to convey an omnipresence, much like the god/gods the characters allude to.


Known as 'Germany’s Shakespeare', Schiller was surprisingly easy to understand – testament to the translation, actors and director, Gadi. Although the text was classic, it had a very modern, relevant feel in its delivery.


The story is sophisticated, wise and ahead of its time. It parallels with other tragedies, reminding me of Antigone by Sophocles where there is a huge sense of right and wrong as well as binding family loyalty, and the tragedy is that of inner turmoil as opposed to external forces and bloodshed. One envisaged Don Carlos to be like Titus Andronicus; however the drama is fuelled by anguish and inner conflict rather than outward violence.


Less about an Oedipus complex and more about true love, the story centres on Don Carlos’ love for his mother who is in fact his father’s new wife. He struggles to adapt or bury feelings for the love of his life who was stolen from him. The Queen encourages him to focus his energies and passion on the country and his duties.


A delicious rich tapestry of text reminiscent of Jacobean and Shakespearean plays where audiences of the time would listen rather than watch the minimal action onstage. I found myself looking into the distance on more than one occasion, carefully listening to every single well-crafted word. 


There are some excellent pearls of wisdom and modern connotations in the rousing speech Rodrigo gives to the King about humanity. He says England welcomes refugees whilst Europe watch the suffering. He urges the King to “give men the right to think”, a fantastic advocation of autonomy rather than dictatorship.


King Phillip II portrays classic behaviours of a protagonist in a tragedy, laced with hamartia and hubris – his pride and ego make him act irrationally, leading to his downfall.

The ending is sudden, hitting the audience like a bolt of lightening, juxtaposing the relatively steady pace of the rest of the story. The Grand Inquisitor (Tom Burke) is a ghostly god like character of a higher, governing power whom arguably could be a figment of the King’s imagination.


True to the plays of the time period, the female representation is limited with only 3 female characters; however one could almost forget the imbalanced gender split with the sheer strength these women convey. Their characters are strong and outspoken. Their words carry them out of precarious situations. The Queen delivers an excellent line asking her husband if France is better for equality than Spain, making him question his misogynistic behaviour.


Silence and stillness in the play were extremely powerful. These momentary gaps in a text heavy play were mesmerising.


Samuel Valentine is enigmatic in the title lead role. His projection, energy and delivery were en point.


Tom Burke’s portrayal of Rodrigo, Marquis of Posa added a calm compassion, serving to create a well-balanced pace in scenes between Don Carlos and himself.

Alexander Allin shone with his powerful voice and strong stage presence.


The ensemble were excellent. Scene changes were slick and well timed.


Modern clothing normalised the characters, especially the royal counterparts with the setting and time period being of no particular time or place.


There were a few comical moments in the play that added some much needed light and shade.


Music complimented the action and scene changes perfectly, with upbeat / frantic music during some scenes and soft evocative violin beautifully accompanying the reading of a love letter.


Some lines were lost with lack of clear diction or projection, generally in emotionally fuelled scenes. These issues will no doubt be ironed out as it is very early in the run.


Catch this powerful and thought provoking play while you can: https://exeternorthcott.co.uk/calendar/don-carlos/ 

Camilla Joyce ~ former Express & Echo Newspaper Theatre Reviewer 
4 Stars 



Blackadder Goes Forth ~ Holsworthy Amateur Theatrical Society (HATS) – Saturday 15th September

£75 from each performance goes to Comic Relief

Hats off to Holsworthy Amateur Theatrical Society for producing such a comical, powerful and moving homage to the popular BBC sitcom Blackadder.

There was an air of seriousness in the theatre and foyer tonight, far removed from the jovial atmosphere of last year's excellent comedy Boeing Boeing. You could sense it meant a lot to the cast and crew to get this right.

Blackadder Goes Forth highlights the fact that the men who fought for their country were so ill prepared for battle and drums home the sad truth of what happened in World War I. The writing of Ben Elton and Richard Curtis is extremely sophisticated, cleverly incorporating wit and sarcasm with slapstick, whilst conveying powerful messages with a comical twist.

Stuart Davey did well to edit the script for stage and cut it down to a 2 hour show. It must have been difficult to cut iconic scenes. The adaptation worked well as a standalone story.

Davey’s portrayal of Captain E Blackadder is to be commended. He delivered comical lines well, in addition to playing the straight man for other characters, whilst maintaining the sarcastic, cynical character persona. He is onstage nearly the whole time and drives the piece.

The actors delivered an interesting mix of ‘spot on’ impersonations whilst bringing their own creative flair to their characters. Jack Lovegrove was well cast as Baldrick – his portrayal was wonderful and on point. I wanted to see more of him.

It was a great ensemble effort, both onstage and off stage.

Highlights include the General falling in love with the Variety Show’s leading lady Georgina (George dressed as a woman) and the well-executed scene to follow, between the General (Grant Fulcher) and Captain Darling (John Dixon) with the General declaring his love for Georgina, calling her Darling in a speech he has prepared and Captain Darling getting confused! The exchange was quick and well delivered. Baldrick steadfastly offering to marry the General to help George out of a tight spot was brilliant.

Blackadder giving into the Nurse’s advances with a simple “yeah alright then” was one of my favourite lines of the whole play!

The ‘firing squad’ were brilliant. There are plenty of laugh out loud moments. It is great entertainment for those who are familiar with the show and for those who are too young to remember it.

The set design was very good, with one half of the stage comprising of the war bunker, the other half being an office and courtroom and the middle part being an entrance and exit point that later expanded to become the war hospital. Perhaps the bunker could have been a little bigger as it is where most of the action is set, however it is reminiscent of the small spaces men lived in during those times.   

Lighting, sound effects and props were fantastic with excellent timing in scenes such as the pigeon shooting. The costumes were great and authentic.

Some scene changes could have been quicker – it worked with the musical interludes, but not so much with the bombing sound effects as it felt too long. The bombing is pivotal to the scenes that follow, but is a tad repetitive. Occasionally it was hard to hear some of the lines, especially with sound effects; stronger projection and sharper diction in the delivery will help alleviate this.

The scene near the end was a little long. One questions if this was a directorial decision to delay the inevitable. It is easy to forget the impending doom as it seems like the characters are invincible and not about to face uncertain death. The ending was emotional and moving.

Coupled with their forthcoming show Lest We Forget, which is raising money for the Royal British Legion, Blackadder Goes Forth pays tribute to all the lives lost in WWI. The society are marking the hundredth year since the end of the Great War.

Highly recommend this show – catch it while you can! They have 3 more dates - 20th, 21st and 22nd September at 7.30pm. More information here: http://www.holsworthytheatre.co.uk/

Camilla Joyce ~ former Express & Echo Newspaper Theatre Reviewer 

* 4.5 stars 



Thomas Cameron Concert - Tavistock Town Hall, 24th March 2018

As Thomas projects his Spellbinding Voice you feel your Troubles Melt Away and Everything Seems Right in the World.

What a privilege to attend Thomas Cameron’s Debut Concert in such a Historically Rich Atmospheric setting.

Tavistock Town Hall was the perfect venue for an evening of Classical Music. Opening the show was Devon’s Delightful Singer/Songwriter Georgia Omarah with a short set on keyboard showcasing her original material and wonderful voice.

The second act was Harpist Niamh Flynn. Niamh started with an electric harp and loop pedal talking the audience through the creative process and playing the likes of John Newman. It was great to see a contemporary take on the harp. She then moved onto the classic harp, which was breath-taking. The 17 year old expertly played a film composition including percussion and emanating a Spanish guitar. It was amazing to watch her multi-task and create a spectacularly varied soundscape using one instrument.

Owner of Entertainingly Different theatre company, Rob Pudner, was the evening’s Compere and what a fine job he did. Rob kept us entertained with jokes, stories and theatre games encouraging the audience to relax and have fun.

Thomas Cameron’s entrance was as dramatic and grandiose as the setting. Music from The Phantom of the Opera resonated through the hall, shaking the chandeliers and building suspense, until Thomas glided onto the stage singing the opening verse of Music of the Night.  His rich velvet tone effortlessly filled the room.  

Songs included Close Every Door from the musical Joseph, Summertime, Bring Him Home from Les Misérables, Moon River and All I Ask of You (Phantom of the Opera) with a modern song from one of Thomas’s inspirations Paloma Faith called Stargazer.

Between songs Thomas wove a rich tapestry, sharing stories of how he began singing classical music and revealing new tour dates and information about his forthcoming album. He was a natural onstage and at ease talking to the audience. Despite the large room it felt as though we were friends chatting in a much more intimate setting.

Thomas was accompanied by talented Pianist Kate Robey who travelled from Bath to be there and was also joined by his old Vocal Coach Val Skull for the finale of All I Ask of You. They seemed genuinely surprised and unprepared for an encore, coming back onstage to sing the last part of All I Ask of You.

It was a magical evening.

Keep your eyes peeled for this talented young man’s debut album and 2018 UK tour dates.

For further information: https://www.thomascamerontenor.com/

Camilla Joyce ~ former Express & Echo Newspaper Theatre Reviewer 

* 5 stars


Constellations by Nick Payne

Cygnet Theatre 23rd March 2018

An Endearing Scientific Love Story!

A Wonderfully Captivating piece of Theatre - extremely Well Written, with superb Acting and Directing (Ed Hulme).

What a fantastic showcase for Marissa Rowell and Damian Schedler Cruz. Concise at 70 minutes long, the play runs with no interval sustaining power and focus.

Similar to the Butterfly Effect, Constellations explores how life and circumstances can differ between the same two people simply due to the power of a word or free will.

Marianne and Roland meet at a BBQ and we see the same initial meeting played out several times with subtle changes. It takes a while to ease into this repetition, especially as the differences are slight at first. The play becomes more gripping and powerful as it gathers momentum and tackles some big topics.

Blackouts signified scene changes. Staging was minimalistic and set in the round, nicely mirroring the different universes of the multiverse.

The couple communicate solely through sign language when Marianne’s brain tumour is quite severe in one of the realities. It is breath-taking. You could hear a pin drop in the auditorium as they express their feelings in utter silence. As frustration and fear escalates, signing became more frantic adding a fascinating soundscape to an otherwise silently mesmerising scene.    

Roland proposes to Marianne with a speech about bees. A little long winded and haphazard in its delivery with an endearing message at the core, about honouring the female and how female bees live longer than males and are the workers. The bee metaphor conveys the fragility of life, nicely juxtaposing the endless theory of time in the multiverse symbolism. In one reality Roland forgets the speech, which was hilarious as we had seen it played out beforehand and had an expectation of what was to come.

Skipping back and forth in a non-linear fashion, the play is a real rollercoaster of emotions with a surprisingly happy ending.

Highly recommend seeing this excellent piece of writing in performance. You are likely to laugh and cry, whilst being fascinated with the quantum multiverse theory and develop a new understanding of bees!  

Camilla Joyce ~ former Express & Echo Newspaper Theatre Reviewer 

* 5 stars


Twelve Days of Christmas ~ Cygnet Theatre – 2nd December

By the Distraction Theatre Company

 

Fast Paced Innovative telling of a Popular Christmas Story

 

What would you do if your true love actually sent you high volumes of real live birds, maids a milking, ladies dancing and lords a leaping?!

 

Set in Victorian times with humorous modern references, cast tell the traditional tale in a dynamic way with a fresh perspective.

 

The three actors multi-role well. Graham Hill, Rebecca Gadsby and Sarah Gain hold audience attention throughout; taking us on a rollercoaster festive journey!

 

Events get more and more absurd with farce building to a hilarious crescendo.

 

Set was intricate and Christmassy.

Graham Hill delivers a funny line as his character Edward who is ‘in love’ and wants to swing around the lamppost, but “not too much” in case it falls apart!

 

Cast are extremely talented. Rebecca Gadsby is fantastic at accents and characterisation, thus adding more depth and texture to the story.

 

Music and sound effects were a little too loud compared with the dialogue, however in the small space not too much was lost.

 

With lots of laughs and plenty of audience interaction, Distraction Theatre Company will have you feeling festive in no time.  Who knows…….you may end up getting a few tasty treats!

 

Well worth watching. Highly recommend catching the show on tour and any future shows by this dynamic, innovative theatre company.

 

Camilla Joyce ~ former Express & Echo newspaper Theatre Reviewer 


* 4 stars


 Dick Whittington ~ Exeter Northcott Theatre - Saturday 2nd December 2pm

 

Co-written by Tony Lidington and Steve Bennett
Directed by Tony Lidington
Set & Costume Design by Kelly Jago

 

Festive Family Fun

 

The Northcott’s Christmas pantomime tells a traditional tale in a classic way with a few modern twists and lots of local references.

 

Nautical music in the bar before the show made for a nice prelude.

 

As the audience walk in we were greeted by wonderful set design ~ a glittery spectacle to behold, complete with disco balls and a decorated orchestra rail.

 

The first scene takes place in front of the curtain / gauze making the ‘big reveal’ of the main stage in all its glory much more magical. Costumes were elaborate and fitting for the theme.

 

Steve Bennett as the Dame is simply superb. The vegetable scene is witty and funny.

 

Moments of breaking the fourth wall and references to ‘the script’, even bringing the script onstage, were warming and humorous.

 

The local children were excellent and made a great ensemble as well as delivering their solo lines well. Although the character of Puss is a silent one, the performer was captivating throughout and a great dancer.

 

Amusingly on their adventures some of the cast become lost in a strange, faraway land……later revealed as Plymouth! Different accents would have been good for these scenes to differentiate actors doubling up and add a different dynamic.

 

Look out for Dick Whittington climbing on the ship’s mast and hanging upside down, making the audience gasp and cling to the edge of their seats!

 

Other highlights include the tidal wave scene, cupcakes and a sing along at the end.

 

Birthday announcements and a shout out to Scouts in the audience were a nice touch.  

 

The orchestra were divine and sound levels were good – cast were perfectly in sync with the music.

 

Some of the jokes were lost a little with pacing, projection and diction, but will no doubt be ironed out in no time. For the first preview the cast did amazingly well and you’d think they were halfway through the run.

 

Audience participation and interaction is top notch and will have you leaping out of your seats!


Overall, a pantomime well done with a few surprises thrown in!

 

You’re guaranteed to leave the auditorium feeling uplifted and in a festive mood.

 

Camilla Joyce ~ former Express & Echo newspaper Theatre Reviewer 

*4.5 stars


 

Twelfth Night (Or What You Will) ~ Cygnet Theatre - 16th November 2017

by William Shakespeare

A Sun & Moon Theatre Company Production

“Shakespeare at its best”

Sun & Moon theatre encapsulate the essence of Shakespeare with its traditional elements, whilst making it relevant to a modern audience and setting it in an entirely different, original time period – 1917. Twelfth Night somehow travels across the ages and is a timeless classic.

The familiar tale is recounted in a heart-warming fashion, incorporating pathos and comedy, including superbly choreographed physical comedy. Emerson Pike’s commitment to the physical comedy and energy throughout is to be admired.

Melissa Barrett was simply stunning as Viola. Mike Gilpin was very believable as Feste and funny, as well as an excellent singer and musician. The whole cast are very talented with many playing more than one instrument and harmonising wonderfully together during the songs.

Music played an integral part in the storytelling and sets it apart from other productions. Cinematic projections add a haunting beauty to the piece.

A highlight is when the twins reunite. The actors did not rush or overplay this moment; conveying raw emotion.

The play lasted around 2 hours and yet it felt as if the time flew by – testament to such a talented cast.

Highly recommend you catch this dynamic theatre company, whether you are a fan of Shakespeare or not…...you soon will be!  

Camilla Joyce ~ former Express & Echo newspaper Theatre Reviewer 

* 4 stars


Fire at the Clarence ~ The Cygnet Theatre 8th November 2017

Written by Mark Carey, Produced by Rosalind Williams, starring Cygnet students, the Community Company, Wren Musicians and the Voices in Common Community Choir.

Excellent piece of Community Theatre ~ A Commendable Collaborative effort. Bravo to the Cygnet Theatre!

The play was extremely well researched and the cast had a job to fit all the stories in!

Homage to history and people’s intricacies were conveyed through music, embodying the heart of the Hotel and… shoes! Staff who cleaned visitors’ shoes as they slept, spoke about their observations of characters and how people walked from indentations, wear, style of shoe etc. It was a fascinating insight into life ‘below stairs’ as well as the people that stayed there.

Live music took centre stage with musicians being stationed onstage throughout, as well as a pianist at the side who also sang at times, creating an eerie soundscape during haunted scenes.

Storytelling techniques were varied and interesting, involving humour, breaking the fourth wall and mixing modern with traditional. At times it was a little confusing with scenes juxtaposing and not in chronological order, but somehow this seemed to add to the rich tapestry of the hotel and the inference of ghosts’ existing alongside visitors.

Highlights include a slow motion Rugby scene, Jane Austen dance sequences and Thomas Hardy conversing with a maid at the hotel whilst penning one of his famous masterpieces.

There were some great nods to modern political figures, such as Donald Trump embodied in a historical figure. This was cleverly done.

The children were fantastic, bringing a fresh, youthful energy to scenes.

A small criticism would be that the length was perhaps a little too long. Some scenes could have been punchier to help this along. However, there were a lot of stories and history to include and understandably it must have been hard to decide which ones to feature. One feels perhaps a Part 2 could be in order.

Fire at the Clarence is well worth watching ~ whether you are local or not, you will find the origins, history and journey of the hotel fascinating. 

Camilla ~ former Express & Echo newspaper Theatre Reviewer 

* 4 stars


People, Places & Things 

Tue 31 October - Sat 4 November 2017 at the Northcott Theatre

A HEADLONG, NATIONAL THEATRE, HOME AND EXETER NORTHCOTT CO-PRODUCTION

 

Captivating from start to finish with superb set design and an immersive soundscape. A powerful piece of theatre. 

People, Places & Things is a very sophisticated show, exploring concepts behind addiction and linking them with theatre and the painful, often solitary quest of acting.

We start off watching a play with the lead actress quickly breaking the fourth wall by telling us she is ‘’just an actress’’, then she physically breaks down the wall at the back of the stage, revealing a set of seats and audience watching the show. It is such an intriguing moment and we wonder if we are in fact watching ourselves in a mirror.

The play seems to address very real, simple issues whilst tackling some darker, more difficult subjects and adding humour for that hint of naturalism, thus making the pathos more poignant.

Reality, dreams, imagination, family, relationships, social media and the modern world are all addressed. It makes us question whether there indeed needs to be ‘trauma behind addiction’ or if in fact it is a pre-requisite of our disengaged modern lives. Or, if being intelligent and over analysing leads to unhappiness. It resonates with us all on some level.

The story is gripping and keeps you guessing throughout with an ending not too dissimilar from films such as Inception. You are left wondering about the people and story long after you watch the show.

Lisa Dwyer Hogg is well cast as the lead giving a stellar physical, high energy portrayal of Emma. Andrew Sheridan gives a strong performance as Mark and is very watchable.

A strong ensemble cast breathe life into Duncan Macmillan’s excellent writing, wonderfully directed by Jeremy Herrin.  

Highly recommend this show.

Camilla ~ former Express & Echo newspaper Theatre Reviewer 

* 5 stars


Education, Education, Education ~ by The Wardrobe Ensemble

Exeter Northcott Theatre - 27th September 2017

A Wardrobe Ensemble, Royal & Derngate Northampton and Shoreditch Town Hall co-production


Ensemble theatre at its best.

Gripping from start to finish, Wardrobe Ensemble catapult us back to 1997 with flair!

From the understated opening scene to the energetic dance numbers and fast paced drama – it’s a spectacle to behold.   

Choreography was executed with pinpoint precision. Cast managed to create extraordinary moments with ordinary set and props. They multi-role with ease and scene changes are seamless. Moments where actors break the fourth wall are comedy gold.

Nostalgic nods to the 90s include tamagotchis, cheesestrings and a funky playlist. Anyone who grew up in the 90s and went to school during that time will have a fine time reminiscing; however the piece is so captivating that it appeals to all ages, covering a broad spectrum.

A strong sense of fun and warmth emanate from the actors - it seemed more a topic they were passionate about rather than a political or social statement, or theatre for theatre’s sake.

Lasting just over an hour with innovative storytelling techniques, comedy and poignancy, which are second to none. So much happens within that hour – you definitely feel you get your money’s worth. I found myself so enthralled I barely noticed the time going by. Highly recommend you catch this dynamic theatre company on tour. 

https://www.thewardrobeensemble.com/   

Camilla ~ former Express & Echo newspaper Theatre Reviewer 

* 5 stars


The Railway Children ~ Exeter Northcott Theatre – 19/6/17

Directed by Paul Jepson

Adapted by Dave Simpson and designed by Tim Bird

An enchanting family show. The Railway Children is a heart-warming classic.

Paul Jepson and Nick Brooke Ltd have reignited the traditional tale using all its original charm along with a healthy dose of humour. There are plenty of laugh out loud moments, including a nod to model trains being used to symbolise life size models. This breaking of the fourth wall and suspension of disbelief makes for a refreshing modern twist.  

Stewart Wright as Perks the Station Master is a strong presence throughout, acting as a pivotal character in the childrens’ lives as well as narrator for a lot of the action onstage. This directorial choice served to create smooth scene changes and fill any otherwise awkward gaps.

Andrea Davy is fantastic as Mrs Perks – she is very natural, funny and authentic.

Millie Turner (Roberta), Vinay Lad (Peter) and Katherine Carlton (Phyllis) are excellent as the three children embarking upon their many adventures whilst warming the hearts of Yorkshire.

Callum Goulden (John) portrayed his character brilliantly - the cheeky son of Perks, adding a much needed injection of realism and humour in the early scenes where the London family seemed staid and a little snooty. The initial sense of unease conveys a mutual feeling that they are aliens or imposters in another world so different from their own, so far away from home. We warm to them as the story goes on of course and we get to know their characters.  

The cast worked well as an ensemble, maintaining excellent pace and fluidity throughout.

Set Designer Tim Bird brought the story to life with a mix of backdrops, videography, gauze and props emanating the train station and rolling Yorkshire hills. Lighting Designer Dominic Jeffery and Sound Designer Ben Harrison add the much needed finishing touches creating ambience with dimmed lighting in the old cottage and echo sound effects for the tunnel, amongst others.  

The overall design concept will aid to the ease of the UK tour, effectively bringing the story to life for families nationwide.

Time flew by with the action gaining momentum throughout. More and more interesting happenings occur as the story progresses. A delightful retelling of a family favourite.

The play is on at the Northcott Theatre until Sunday 25th June, before heading to the Newcastle Theatre Royal from Monday 26 June

Camilla Joyce ~ former Express & Echo newspaper Theatre Reviewer 

5 Stars 


Night People & A Day in the Night of Emily Hayes ~ By Pilot’s Thumb Theatre Company - Cygnet Theatre 5th May 2017

Brave, bold, thought provoking theatre.

Both pieces were captivating in their own right; sensitively handled with an injection of humour. Night People is devised by Pilot’s Thumb theatre company, based on research and interviews with insomnia sufferers.


Night People introduces various characters with different forms of insomnia all linked with anxiety and fear. Cassie Williamson and Beth Scott Hewlett cleverly multi role with Cassie’s performance at the end being extremely powerful and moving.

A Day in the Night of Emily Hayes is an impressive one woman show performed by Beth Scott Hewlett, written & Directed by Danny Strike.

Emily Hayes is a complex character with a lot of deep seated issues that cause her insomnia. She avoids mirrors, becomes neurotic and is imprisoned in her own home with disturbing thoughts as well as some amusing inner monologues and fantasies.

Director Danny Strike explained that the piece is ever changing and it would be worth watching again at The Barbican Theatre, Plymouth on the 30th June 2017.

Both pieces are performed with Pilot’s Thumb signature white box and otherwise empty stage with an addition of a projector predominantly used for Emily Hayes.

The two pieces could be expanded upon and be stand-alone plays, or perhaps extended and set apart with an interval as opposed to running them virtually back to back with a total running time of 1 hour and 20 mins approx.

Pilot’s Thumb are energetic, captivating and a wonderful embodiment of physical and experimental theatre, tackling taboo subjects head on.

It is well worth going along to The Barbican to see these powerful plays about insomnia and how they’ve developed during the rehearsal / devising process.

Camilla ~ former Express & Echo newspaper Theatre Reviewer 

* 4 stars


 

Boeing Boeing ~ HATS Theatre, Holsworthy – 4th May 2017

A Holsworthy Amateur Theatrical Society production ~ Directed by Kay Napier

What a hidden gem HATS theatre is. A renovated cinema tucked away in the heart of Holsworthy. A glowing beacon encapsulating community spirit.

HATS building stands proudly, adorned with its personalised colours and logos and is like stepping back in time.

The magic continued inside the old fashioned theatre with its grandiose red seating. The buzz in the air was electric.

As the luscious red velvet curtains parted in dramatic style audience were greeted with an impressive well-furnished set. Five doors in a semi-circle and an entrance hall made up the shell of the room; inside was a Globe drinks cabinet, chaise long, table and chair with other homely touches for Bernard’s Parisian flat.

It is amazing what can happen in a day! We follow one man’s journey as his meticulously organised life falls apart before his very eyes with hilarious consequences.

Parisian love rat Bernard has the ‘perfect life’ – three beautiful air hostess fiancées with conflicting timetables, meaning he gets to see them all regularly without a worry of them ever meeting. However there is a new faster plane that comes crashing into his life shattering the fool proof schedule he so carefully follows.

Bernard has a surprise visit from his old friend Robert whom he quickly invites to stay, dragging him into his web of deceit. Alan Eyles (Bernard) and Stuart Davey (Robert) bounce off one another wonderfully in their panic at the women discovering each other. Stuart conveys the comedy in Marc Camoletti’s writing perfectly, adding humour to the most basic of line – transforming it from mundane to sublime.

Jodie Lawson’s entrance as German fiancée Gretchen was captivating – making the transition to bold physical comedy you would expect from a farce.

All cast had excellent stage presence and suited their characters. They do well to hold audience attention throughout with the action centred around one room.

There were plenty of laugh out loud moments hooking the audience from start to finish.

Pacing was spot on giving light and shade to Camoletti’s wonderful comic writing.

Director Kay Napier cast Boeing Boeing perfectly and brought the timeless classic to life. It has a traditional feel, yet it is still relevant to modern life.  

Actresses Sarah Leach, Ellie Skuse and Jodie Lawson did well with ‘the accents’ for their characters, adding colour and depth to the piece. Occasionally some diction and volume was lost when accents were really heavy, but this was only slight and is an occupational hazard, only serving to add authenticity to the piece and their characterisations.

Team work really shone through as the whole thing was seamless – kudos to all backstage, front of house and onstage.

Typically lasting the full two and a half hours one would hope from a night at the theatre; time flew by. I thoroughly enjoyed every moment, from the warm welcome at the venue, to the magical atmosphere in the auditorium and the fantastic performances. 

Highly recommend a trip to see Boeing Boeing while you can. It is on for 2 more nights only - tonight and tomorrow night at HATS theatre, Holsworthy.

To Book Tickets online visit:

www.holsworthytheatre.co.uk/shows.php

Or call - 01409 253826

Camilla ~ former Express & Echo newspaper Theatre Reviewer

* 5 stars


Dracula: The Bloody Truth ~ Northcott Theatre, Exeter - 1st April 2017

By Le Navet Bete theatre company - Directed by John Nicholson

One cannot help but feel a sense of unease during the opening sequence – a serene meal with classical music playing. It seems a little too calm for a show with ‘Dracula’ in the title. Needless to say the calm does not last long!  

An excellent, comical adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula told from Professor Abraham Van Helsing’s point of view. He makes a great “invisible” narrator.

Local company Le Navet Bete are exuberant, dynamic and innovative in their storytelling where nothing is predictable.

Strong multi-role performances from the four cast members captivate audience throughout.  

They effectively break illusion, knock down the fourth wall and take the audience on a rollercoaster journey. Physical comedy is well choreographed, so much so that audience are often wondering if certain things were ‘meant to happen’. Young audience members sat behind me, asked their parents continually “was that meant to happen?” and I can honestly say the adult audience members were no clearer at times than the children.

There are some really scary moments, serving to make the comedy that much more amusing.

Look out for the cheesy ‘musical theatre ending’ which is truly superb and will have you bopping in your seats and laughing out loud.

Set was cleverly purpose built, archaic in looks and reminiscent of vaudeville productions.   

The show will have you laughing (and screaming) aloud! Expect lots of twists and turns and some audience interaction.

You can catch the show at The Athenaeum, Plymouth until 15th April.

For a full list of tour dates see:

http://lenavetbete.com/tour-dates/

Dracula: The Bloody Truth appeals to all ages, full of hilarity much like the old fashioned ‘Comedy of Errors’.

Camilla ~ former Express & Echo newspaper Theatre Reviewer

* 4 stars


The Brexit Club ~ Barnfield Theatre, Exeter - 9th Feb 2017

by Substance and Shadow theatre company

Current, Relatable and Nostalgic ~ Substance and Shadow present a tale of politics, friendships and prejudice with delightful comical overtures.

Predominantly set in Pollards Pickles factory, we see how the looming EU referendum affects various characters in the working environment and in their personal lives.  

Protagonists Len Silver and Melvyn Gould are pulled in different directions by their friends and colleagues. Don Beattie bullies Len into voting a certain way in order to accept him into his friendship group; he must first become ‘one of them’. Len’s cousin Melvyn is being swayed in the opposite direction by Sid Vishnu.

Stereotypes are turned on their heads with all 4 characters being sensitively and powerfully portrayed by the 2 actors – Midge Mullin and Nathan Simpson.

Other characters are introduced through a series of audio clips and asides. These were cleverly done, although perhaps a little confusing / too many characters at the BBQ with Don and Len.

Staging was minimalist with a good use of levels throughout. Props were used on occasion along with mime, which seemed to work well and not distract from the storyline.

Plenty of great comical lines can be expected with the audience laughing aloud, including Don’s classic line: “Bananas should be bendy!”

We watch a small factory and community torn apart as a result of Brexit with common misconceptions, stereotypes and prejudices prevalent; perhaps even being the main cause of the divide. Mirroring real life where everyone seemed to have an opinion, without really knowing the full facts, as often we do not in politics. People judged others who voted a certain way, without really knowing their reasoning. Some people were too scared to vote a certain way in case of a backlash either politically or from family and friends. It certainly caused a lot of controversy - Substance and Shadow effectively encapsulate this within the piece.

The Brexit Club consists of a strong narrative; complete with warm, funny and relatable characters making it a play well worth watching. Succinct at an hour and 15 minutes, the play ends poignantly, in keeping with its theme.

* 4 stars

The Magic of Christmas ~ Rosemoor Gardens – 18th December 2016

Immersive theatre at its best - Entertainingly Different produced a lovely adaptation of A Christmas Carol, cleverly incorporating historical facts and a mini tour of the gardens.

Visitors were given songbooks and invited to sing a festive song on the terrace to get into the Christmas spirit. We were then led through the gardens, meeting different characters from the tale along the way.

Audience were encouraged to take part in a traditional dance, which was a lot of fun. Also, we sang The Minister’s Cat song, calling out words for each letter of the alphabet.

A particular highlight was meeting the traditional Father Christmas in a green suit who doubled up as the Ghost of Christmas Present. He had a basket of chocolates that children (and adults!) were able to help themselves to as they went to meet him.

Ebenezer Scrooge asked the audience if he should change his ways and what amends he needed to make. A young boy specifically highlighted the people he needed to make amends with and gave ideas on how to do that; it was brilliant to see how engaged the children were with the story.

The experience ended with snow! We all closed our eyes and wished for snow and like magic – it appeared.

The Magic of Christmas was a truly magical experience. Suffice to say, everyone felt uplifted and in the Christmas spirit.   

* 4 stars

Pantomonium II ~ Winkleigh Primary school – 16 December 2016

Devised & Performed by Entertainingly Different


The school children were extremely excited as they filled the assembly hall in an orderly fashion led by the teachers and were gripped from start to finish with Entertainingly Different’s energetic devised Pantomime.

Rob Pudner, Jessica Squire, Ryan Avery and Maria Cottrill led us through several of the best known pantomimes with their innovative and unique storytelling techniques, starting with Peter Pan.

At the beginning of the show the children find a Theatre Tradition book in the attic, sporadically referencing it whilst acting out stories from their imagination, taking on different characteristics as they go. Escaping to a land of imagination has a nice synergy with Peter Pan. 

Set was minimalistic with a multi-purpose box, chest and screen held in place with step ladders. Other props were scattered with some being brought onstage at relevant times.

Scene changes were smooth, along with character transitions.

There are many highlights and surprises in Pantomonium II, incorporating education with fun. Adult jokes and political references featured, delighting the older audience members.

Rob and Ryan were a site to behold, dressed as the Ugly Sisters from Cinderella with balloons filling out their chest area. The children were in fits of laughter as Rob and Ryan flirted with two of the male teachers.

Maria’s portrayal of Prince Charming in Cinderella was highly amusing and her ‘too busy’ Fairy Godmother character was hilarious.  

There were some wonderful songs sung with confidence by the cast, notably Jessica’s solo as Cinderella, which sounded beautiful.

Pen Pineapple Apple Pen dance and sing along was great fun.

A small critique is that some of the naturalistic dialogue was a little quiet / lacking energy at times compared with the big routines and jokes. Pacing in some of these conversational pieces and filler lines would benefit from being a little quicker.

Otherwise - a faultless and outstanding performance, which hit the target audience bang on.

Some of the children stayed for a Q & A session at the end. The dynamic group patiently answered questions about acting and the devising process, thus inspiring young onlookers.

It was fantastic to watch what the talented performers had created before they embark upon their Surrey tour. I am sure the schools and venues in Surrey will enjoy the show as much as we did that morning. 

* 5 stars


Scrooge the Musical ~ Kentisbeare Village Hall – 8th December 2016

by the Kentisbeare Performing Arts group

Director - Rob Pudner

Written by Leslie Bricusse, based on A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens  


An innovative adaptation with a traditional feel, keeping many of the elements we know and love whilst incorporating new storytelling techniques.

 

Well known songs were performed wonderfully with ‘The Minister’s Cat’ and ‘I Like Life’ being notable highlights.

 

Director Rob Pudner and Choreographer Leanne Perkins created some wonderful stage pictures, along with fantastic set design and projections, making for many aesthetically pleasing scenes. A live Punch & Judy show is a quirky addition.     

 

The Toy Shop window coming to life is a visual masterpiece. There is so much to see, bursting with vivid colour and stand out performances by all involved.

 

Positive energy emanated from the stage to the audience during big dance numbers with a delightful live musical soundscape.

 

Musical Director / Producer Alan Boxer did a fine job coordinating the many songs and performers, creating a natural seamless flow of music in the production.

 

Refreshingly, there were a lot of strong female characters and male characters played brilliantly by women and girls, thus making the traditional tale rather modern in its retelling.

 

Leonie Mickley is perfect as Tiny Tim, conveying the warmth and likeability of the character. Jessica Whitehead is great as the Ghost of Christmas Past, singing beautifully.  

 

James Wakefield is consistently captivating as Ebenezer Scrooge, successfully holding audience focus as the predominant presence onstage.      

 

Jess Fry as Bissett, the Butcher was excellent, conveying confidence and maturity. Joe McQueenie also demonstrated a similar stage presence whilst executing his role as Mr Pringle, the Toy Shop Owner. Tom Jenkins gave a stand out performance at the end of the play. The younger cast members had such confidence, nicely matching that of their adult counterparts.    

 

Overall - a superb ensemble effort with far too many fantastic performers and performances to mention individually.

 

Rob Pudner’s adaptation of Scrooge the Musical is community theatre at its best. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves, which was infectious.  Highly recommend Rob’s work and seeing what the Kentisbeare Performing Arts group have to offer next.


* 4 stars



Peter Pan ~ Northcott Theatre – 5th December 2016

Written by J M Barrie, Directed by Paul Jepson

A magical and progressive adaptation of J M Barrie’s Peter Pan told expertly through the wonderment of children’s imagination.

Paul Jepson has kept some of the traditions as well as embracing certain pantomime qualities whilst pushing the boundaries and embracing modern theatre.  

It was fantastic to see such a strong female led cast, however it was one of the last things I spotted; so encapsulated by the story was I, that I barely noticed Hook was played by a woman and most of the main roles were played by women. Testament to the casting - roles suit the actors so well; therefore it became a much subtler form of progressive theatre.

Steve Bennett was delightfully comical as Tinker Bell, embracing the pantomime tradition of a male dame figure. He was also genuine and warm as Mr Darling.

Kerry Peers is perfect as Captain Hook managing to embody a villainous character without being too frightful for children. She is also good as the children’s mother Mrs Darling.  

Macy Nyman portrays Wendy with such grace and maturity.

The Cygnet Theatre students were very good. Having watched a lot of their shows throughout the year it was fantastic to see Jake Sullivan, Scott Simpson, Marissa Rowell, Damian Schedler Cruz, Jessica Parsons and Guy Dennys in their roles for Peter Pan. They are all such wonderful and versatile performers.

Despite a few technical difficulties the cast and crew managed to keep it going very well, even adding to the performance. A particular highlight was when Laura Prior comically improvised her way out of not being secured to the strings in order to fly as Peter Pan – it made for one of my favourite moments of the whole show. The audience were willing her on and applauded her the next time she flew onto the stage. Overall the audience were very supportive of the technical difficulties and really enjoyed the show regardless. There were some fantastic standout performances as well as an excellent ensemble effort.  

Set design was superb with a wonderful synergy of having the same room throughout. The children’s bedroom is the basis for the action of the play, adapting and changing to suit the story, leaving us to question whether any of it was real at all or just a figment of imagination.  

There are plenty of surprises in store and amazing effects that had the younger audience members captivatingly spellbound, as well as wowing older audience members. It is a truly endearing tale and a family favourite that will light up your Christmas – go see it for yourself!

* 4 stars


The Woman in Black by Susan Hill ~ Northcott Theatre – 16th November 2016

P.W. Productions present Stephen Mallatratt’s stage adaptation

The Woman in Black is well worth watching to experience how live theatre can be truly terrifying. With its strong narrative, superb set design, excellent special effects, fantastic direction by Robin Herford and stellar performances by Matthew Spencer and David Acton.

Having seen the production twice at the Fortune Theatre, I was very much looking forward to seeing the touring version at the Northcott Theatre. Whilst it is almost an exact replica of the West End production there are marked differences mainly owing to the change in venue and cast. 

Humour is a predominant feature of the touring show. It was lovely to see comical moments wonderfully played out by Matthew Spencer and David Acton; notably when David plays various characters from his real life ghost story onstage. As his confidence grows, he builds momentum and really embraces characteristics of the personas he portrays.

Suspense heightens; ominous sound effects resonate through the auditorium, resulting in plenty of audible screams from the audience.

Despite having seen the play before and sitting in the safety of the back row, I still jumped out of my seat several times. There are many delightfully frightful moment and surprises in store during The Woman in Black.

Highly recommend anyone to catch a showing of the touring production and / or the original at the Fortune Theatre in London, for that extra added eerie atmosphere from the wonderful old building and to see it in all its glory at the original playing house.

* 4 stars


Dead Sheep by Jonathan Maitland ~ Northcott Theatre 5th Nov 2016

Produced by Dead Sheep Limited in collaboration with Cahoots Theatre Company in association with Park Theatre

Dead Sheep provides a captivating insight into one of the most famous moments in political history. The subject matter is relevant to the economic state today. Shifting perspective to Geoffrey Howe is a bold choice.

Paul Bradley gives great warmth and likeability to Geoffrey Howe. It was interesting to see the state of affairs from Geoffrey’s point of view, which of course is subjective.

A wonderful quote from the play – “Perception is seldom reality” couldn’t be truer, not just in everyday life, but also in politics. The public are rarely told the facts to enable them to make informed decisions.  

The entire action was centred in the House of Commons or with it as the backdrop. A rectangle that lit up in different colours made for an aesthetically pleasing addition to the set on the floor around the table and chairs.

Storytelling techniques and directorial choices were top notch in conveying the comedy as well as highlighting pathos.

Wonderfully comical moments included seeing politicians dance to ‘Under Pressure' setting the scene of 1981 and Margaret Thatcher stating no man with a beard will ever be taken seriously, not even in the Labour Party.

Carol Royle plays Elspeth Howe with such conviction and poise drawing the audience into the Howe Household where it is evident that Elspeth is a strong character who heavily influenced Geoffrey as well as supported him during their long marriage.

Graham Seed, John Wark and Christopher Villiers multi-role and change sets seamlessly, using different physicalities and accents with expert ease.

Steve Nallon portrays Margaret Thatcher extremely well, although one cannot help feeling it is a slight caricature, lending itself nicely to the humour in the play, but lacking a certain depth and realism.

Old fashioned TV sets were wheeled onto either side of the stage during Geoffrey’s resignation speech. Not remembering anything from the first time around, I was surprised that Margaret Thatcher stayed silent and left without putting up a fight.

Writer Jonathan Maitland may well have been criticised for drudging up old material that is dead and gone, ironically mirroring his chosen title. However, iconic moments in politics and history are still prevalent in today’s society, even more so of late with the recent Brexit vote and even more recent election of Donald Trump as American President.

Dead Sheep is well worth watching for an intriguing insight into one of Britain’s iconic political moments, whether you were there at the time or too young to remember; the play is politically poignant as well as providing a riveting exploration into friendships and relationships.

* 4 stars


Eurydice ~ Cygnet Theatre 3rd November 2016

The Cygnet Company showcase an interesting portrayal of the Greek myth Eurydice. Written by Sarah Ruhl with modern twists, this adaptation has some intriguing concepts.

Wonderful set design and poetically beautiful stage pictures make this production an aesthetically pleasing spectacle.

A strong cast of 7 take the audience on a journey of love, tragedy and music using an array of theatrical forms steering away from the naturalistic.

Love is a strong theme throughout. The unconditional love between Eurydice and her Father is simply wonderful to watch.

Guy Dennys is powerfully believable as Eurydice’s Father. Their bond is moving and shows us that love can conquer all. Her father teaches her how to speak and read again in the Underworld, where Eurydice goes after she dies.

Although surreal, the exploration into death and the underworld is fascinating. Once one moves past the absurd notion that there is a separate language when you die, it seems to uncannily make sense that death is a form of rebirth, so why not believe that you literally regress to a childlike state.

Greek myths often have a fight between good and evil as well as a test of faith – I would like to have seen this more strongly conveyed through the writing, acting, or a physical representation of the gods perhaps. Almanacs and faith are referred to although not fully explored and fleshed out.  

Scott Simpson’s characters had a nice synergy in their interaction with Eurydice. Scott seems far too kind and slight of build to be believable as the threatening, overbearing man who pursues Eurydice leading her to fatal and tragic consequences. However, he plays the leader of the underworld fantastically in a sinister, warped, childlike fashion.

The Stones - played by Marissa Rowell, Rosalind Williams and Damian Schedler Cruz, were an important presence in the underworld. The actors did well to talk in unison and portray the cool, detached stone like characters whilst still bringing a sense of individualism to each stone.

Eurydice may not appeal to everyone with its surreal, avant-garde storytelling techniques and alternative narrative; however it is well worth a watch if only out of sheer curiosity. Greek myths are still a predominant feature in today’s society and the catalyst can often be as relevant now as it was then. Whilst Ruhl’s adaptation does not fully embrace the modern or choose a naturalist performance form, the audience can still relate to themes of love, passion, music, the unknown and a higher power.

* 4 stars

Night Must Fall by Emlyn Williams~ Northcott Theatre 26th October 2016

An Original Theatre Company and Salisbury Playhouse Production in association with Eastbourne Theatres

As Halloween fast approaches, a trip to the wonderful Northcott theatre to see Night Must Fall is a good way to spend an evening.

With its sophisticated storyline the play keeps audiences engaged throughout. Emlyn Williams’s classic thriller is still relevant to modern day theatre goers, containing a great deal of observational humour whilst providing a rare insight into the mind of a killer.

Action is centred in Mrs Bramsom’s woodland house. During the first half we become accustomed to the characters and their daily routines. The second half gathers pace and suspense heightens with a deadly crescendo.

Set design is superb – we see into Mrs Bramsom’s home, which is cut away at the roof to reveal trees outside and the living room floor has a jagged edge interwoven with dirt from the woods.

New man in town Danny is dangerously charming, having liaisons with Dora (the maid) and melting even the coldest of hearts. He seems a likely candidate to steal a small fortune from cantankerous Mrs Bramsom who he expertly befriends, quickly making himself indispensible. During his stay he becomes the prime suspect in a murder case. Will Featherstone plays the role of Dan believably brilliantly, although physically you would not necessarily envisage him as Dan.

Alasdair Buchan plays Hubert excellently with periodic accuracy and great comic timing. Hubert tries and fails to woo Mrs Bramsom’s niece Olivia.

Overall, strong performances from a stellar cast; however, at times interaction felt forced and rushed, perhaps just teething problems of opening night. A few of the characters were difficult to relate with and warm to, such as Olivia; one can only imagine this is a directorial decision to make the contrast and indeed the comparisons with Dan that much more poignant, pointing the finger at Olivia as the potential murderer.  

Whilst the story and performances are engaging, I would like to have seen an unexpected plot twist and felt more suspense.

Ultimately, Night Must Fall is another top quality production by The Original Theatre Company delighting the audiences of Exeter with its murder mystery plot.

* 4 stars


Veronica’s Room by Baroque Theatre Company ~ Cygnet Theatre 11/10/2016

Thriller by Ira Levin

The play is extremely well written raising questions as to who is sane and who is not.

Set in one disused room, the cast do well to centre the action in that space. A barred window and dust covers over the furniture create the ambience of a horror film. The room appears to be very creepy.

Lasting just over an hour with an interval, the play is succinct. However, pacing during the first half moved too quickly, not allowing the audience to connect with the characters and plot. At times diction was lost with the accents and actors rushing lines, making it hard to absorb the story.  

The accents were a little off, but perhaps this was a directorial or cast decision to add another element of doubt into the proceedings.

The second half was a lot stronger – more seemed to happen and the performances got better and gathered momentum.

The Young Man was very well played by Ed Allenby who is consistently good throughout the piece.

Paul Cleveland who played The Man was excellent at the end as Veronica’s brother with his subtle vocal change and ability to appear younger and vulnerable through acting techniques.

The Girl and The Woman were less relatable. Perhaps this was a deliberate decision to create an element of disjointedness unlike a Naturalistic play wherein we feel a connection with characters.

The bed would have been better placed lengthways to see the violent action clearly and create a sense of discomfort. With such a wonderful versatile space as the Cygnet Theatre, I would love to have seen the staging done differently, perhaps in the round or traverse to really draw the audience into the dark tale evoking a sense of unease.

Veronica’s Room sits nicely in the Drama genre as opposed to Thriller. The pace moves far too quickly to really build suspense.

Overall - an hour well spent, however I would like to have felt the unease and suspense build to a crescendo through lighting, sound effects and slower pacing. The tale is well told with a good ending. Props to the cast, Director and crew for succeeding with the plot twist.

* 3 stars


A Pacifist’s Guide to the War on Cancer ~ Northcott Theatre 28/9/2016

A Complicite Associates co-production with the National Theatre in association with HOME Manchester

Pain and suffering are boldly explored in this colourful musical about cancer.

Despite the subject matter Exeter’s Northcott theatre was packed with curious people from all walks of life in their bid to understand this sadly common and deadly disease a little deeper, or to see what a dynamic and innovative company had produced.

On my arrival I was greeted by the friendly box office staff who handed me my tickets along with a large ‘patient folder’ containing the theatre programme. And so the journey began at a relatively early point in the evening.

Walking up to the auditorium entrance I spotted 2 large pods at either side of the theatre bar complete with headphones offering support and information to accompany the show, thus creating an immersive theatre experience through installation art.

Apprehensive and not sure what to expect, I was stunned by the set, orchestra and cast in the opening number, transfixed by the spectacle onstage. Reminiscent of high quality shows you would see in London, with a twist and heavy dose of realism.

Cast comprised of different ethnicities and physicalities - a rarity in what appeared to be a very 'slick musical' on the face of it.

Action takes place in a hospital waiting room with different set and props carried on for various scenes.

A magnificent spectacle beholds us when we first see the orchestra in all their glory revealed through the glass at the top of the waiting room corridor, taking up the entire length of the stage. Talented musicians dressed in white coats create an aesthetically pleasing vital soundscape to the play.

Lighting compliments characters’ emotions throughout, with cooler effects for freeze frames wherein heroine Emma felt vulnerable awaiting information from medical staff. Initially it is not clear whether Emma has cancer or is in denial, however it soon becomes apparent that she is there for her son who is extremely ill.

Moving and very funny at times, the first half revolves around Emma’s journey and the characters she meets along the way.

The second half could be mistaken for a different play entirely. Gone are the big musical numbers we see in the first half, in their place a mixture of abstract, avant-garde story telling with the fourth wall bravely torn down.

Sterile silence, inaudible conversations, sinister movements and soundscapes evoke concepts of the disease in true Complicite style.

In a shocking, heart-warming twist the cast are joined onstage by a real cancer victim from Exeter who shares his hopes and experience with the audience. Hands trembling he grips the microphone, emotionally reciting how he wished his mother didn’t have to see her child suffer. He proceeds to read a short rhyme whereby cast and audience repeat in a group sing along - in true musical style.

When prompted audience say names of loved ones aloud. Some people simply thought of their loved ones in this moment.

So many people are affected by this terrible disease that is often unspoken, treated like the elephant in the room. The more we can talk about it and share our experiences, the closer we become in building a support system, gaining more understanding and knowing we are not alone if we do not wish to be. 

The show's impact lingers long after watching it. Writers Bryony Kimmings and Brian Lobel deserve respect for tackling a taboo subject head on. Bryony who also directed the show cleverly addresses the potential backlash and forthcoming criticisms in her brave, honest Performance Art style through interaction with the cast via audio thus representing an omnipresent character.

Once again I marvel at the Northcott’s impressive, ever growing repertoire of high quality, innovative shows.

A Pacifist’s Guide to the War on Cancer is at the Northcott theatre until Sunday 2nd October before going to the wonderful National Theatre in London for its longest run starting on 14th October – 29th November. 

*   5 stars


French Without Tears by Terrence Rattigan ~ Northcott Theatre 22/9/2016

An English Touring Theatre and Orange Tree Theatre co-production in association with Exeter Northcott Theatre

French Without Tears is a delightful, witty exploration of love and the male and female psyches. Written in 1936 this play is as relevant now as it was then. An enchanting comedy with top notch performances and a tight ensemble cast.

The entire play is set in a classroom complete with bookcases, chalkboards strewn with French words, dining table, fireplace, arm chairs and intricate extras such as vases, food and drink, thus making the room look realistic. Characters come and go bringing news of the outside world and exciting parties to the integral centrepiece of the play.

Physical comedy was choreographed and executed to such perfection it had the audience laughing aloud more than once. Reminiscent of French farces, yet Rattigan’s style and use of language is far more sophisticated.  

At times I felt bewildered when actors spoke fluent French, thus empathising with characters in the scene that were there to learn the language.

On the surface this play appears to appeal to the middle classes with subject matter primarily linking to ‘middle class issues’. However, themes of love, unrequited passion and friendships are timeless and classless.

Audience attention is held throughout by stand out performances from a stellar cast and excellent directing.

Florence Roberts is fantastic as vixen Diana Lake who effortlessly reduces men to gibbering wrecks. Beatriz Romilly gives an emotional, heart-warming portrayal of Jacqueline Maingot who is hopelessly in love. Tim Delap is hilarious as manly monosyllabic Commander Rogers.

Paul Jepson, Artistic Director of the Northcott Theatre, has brought yet another fantastic production to the audiences of Exeter this year by hosting the opening night of ETT’s tour of French Without Tears.

With its gorgeous set design, superb direction and fantastic performances French Without Tears provides two hours of high quality entertainment. If you get a chance to catch the show on tour you will not be disappointed.

* 4 stars