RED – A new work by Mischief

1 Aug

Dancing has always been one of my favourite things to watch. I’m not into classical ballet but I adore contemporary dance. Over the past one and a half years I have been paying more attention to dance companies in the UK (there are so many – I had no idea before I started looking properly) and now and then one sticks out. One of those companies is Mischief who are currently developing a new dance piece called RED.

RED explores the fairytale Little Red Riding Hood and Dante’s Inferno and is being directed and choreographed by David Lloyd.

“Told through the character of the M.C. the story follows a relationship between RED and the wolf, passionate and intense. Through the change of season the two become consumed by the nature around them drawing the male to become animalistic, controlling, manipulative and the women to become victim, fragile, lost. RED descends into madness as the male transition from boy to wolf devouring her every move. In one last attempt to save her life RED battles the wolf for her territory, axing the wolf to death. BUT did the wolf actually exist or is RED playing both roles?” (taken from Mischief’s sharing website)

Company members for RED are Darragh Butterworth as WOLF, Vinicius Salles as THE M.C / DEVIL and Miranda Mac Letten as RED.

THE M.C. / DEVIL played by VINICIUS SALLES "MIDWAY upon the journey of our life I found myself within a forest dark, For the straightforward pathway had been lost." (Canto 1 - INFERNO - THE DIVINE COMEDY BY DANTE ALIGHIERI)

THE M.C. / DEVIL played by VINICIUS SALLES
“MIDWAY upon the journey of our life I found myself within a forest dark,
For the straightforward pathway had been lost.”
(Canto 1 – INFERNO – THE DIVINE COMEDY BY DANTE ALIGHIERI)

Mischief has been sharing the development of RED via live stream over the past weeks. Please do yourself a favour and take a look at the recorded sharing of the past two weeks here: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/mischief-company-sharing

Right from the start I noticed that this is a show with a proper and clear storyline. Lets be honest, dance pieces have  the tendency to not be very accessible unless you are a) familiar with the material or b) experienced in the world of dance theatre. RED is very much still in development and everything that has been shared is just a rough first look at what will be the finished show. But everything I’ve seen so far has proven that RED is going to be an exciting new dance piece – it’s funny and scary and it will move you to the core.

"Oh, grandmother, what big ears you have!"  "All the better to hear you with."  "Oh, grandmother, what big eyes you have!"  "All the better to see you with."  "Oh, grandmother, what big hands you have!"  "All the better to grab you with!"  "Oh, grandmother, what a horribly big mouth you have!"  "All the better to eat you with!"   (Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm - Little Red Riding Hood)

“Oh, grandmother, what big ears you have!”
“All the better to hear you with.”
“Oh, grandmother, what big eyes you have!”
“All the better to see you with.”
“Oh, grandmother, what big hands you have!”
“All the better to grab you with!”
“Oh, grandmother, what a horribly big mouth you have!”
“All the better to eat you with!”
(Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm – Little Red Riding Hood)

RED is driven by a gripping plot told through dancing and acting. The three dancers are beyond talented and really bring the characters to life. I’ve been particularly impressed by the often raw physicality of the choreography. Combine this with a clever set and great music and you’ve got a mesmerising show.

Dance theatre rarely gets the same amount of support as musical theatre. And as much as I like my musicals (and I know most of the people reading this do too) I really urge everyone to keep an eye out for all the exciting dance pieces that are being performed at venues across the UK.

'A gentleman is simply a patient wolf' Lana Turner

‘A gentleman is simply a patient wolf’
Lana Turner

As for RED – take a look at the recorded sharing and if you like what you see please show your support. You can find Mischief on Facebook and Twitter @Companymischief . Do get in touch and share your thoughts on RED. The Mischief guys are really nice people and would love to hear from you.

And please spread the word and keep an eye out for all the exciting things to come. It’s not every day you get the chance to see a brilliant dance piece being developed right before your eyes.

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Jesus Christ Superstar – UK Tour (Leeds)

29 Jul

I’m not a fan of Andrew Lloyd Webber shows in general. It’s not that I properly dislike them, they just rarely appeal to me. There is one exception though. I adore the score of Jesus Christ Superstar. And if done well I think the show is a truly magnificent piece of musical theatre.

Jesus Christ Superstar is currently on tour in the UK led by Glenn Carter as Jesus. He has portrayed the role in the West End and on Broadway and also features on the Jesus Christ Superstar video (I’m guessing there is a DVD version but I actually do own it in good old VHS format). I can’t fault his singing and acting in this production. He does well with what he’s been given by the director. He is not the best Jesus I have seen but I was pleasantly surprised by his portrayal. There is no denying that he doesn’t fit the role age wise though.

Tim Rodgers is a strong Judas and the highlight of this production in my eyes. He has a great voice and manages to bring across just the right mix of anger, passion and despair.

Rachel Adedeji was off on the night I saw the show and I’m ashamed to admit I can’t remember the name of the understudy – the one time I don’t buy a programme this happens, that will teach me. If anyone can help me out I would be grateful because whoever was on for Mary Magdalene was quite simply wonderful: Beautiful clear singing voice and great stage presence, a joy to watch.

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The rest of the cast does a good job – special mention for Cavin Cornwall as Caiaphas and Alistar Lee as Annas whose performances are particularly memorable in this production.

When it comes to the score you can’t really go wrong with Jesus Christ Superstar. The staging and direction however is a different matter. My favourite production so far was a modern staging of the show in St. Gallen / Switzerland a good 13 years ago (think Caiaphas in a black suit and Judas dressed all black with a tight shirt and biker boots). This production is a traditional take on the show which is absolutely fine. What – in my opinion – is not fine is the fact that the crucifixion is stretched to unbearable length. You get to witness every nail in the hands and feet in what feels like slow motion all with Jesus screaming and moaning in agony. For me this was painful to watch and completely unnecessary for the narrative. This combined with the fact that the end of the show and the finale have been set up as a kind of resurrection scene are major flaws of this production if you ask me. It’s too much sensationalism followed by too much kitsch.

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But despite some let downs I enjoyed the show. It’s great to hear the score live and here you get a talented cast who really manages to do the songs justice.

Jesus Christ Superstar continues to tour the UK until 5th December. For more info and to boo tickets go to http://www.kenwright.com/index.php?id=1433

Gypsy at the Savoy Theatre – 11th July 2015

28 Jul

Have you ever sat in an auditorium watching a show realising you are witnessing a performance that will go down in theatre history? It’s very rare but when it happens it makes for a truly sensational experience full of wonder, astonishment and joy.

If you want to know what the above feels like all you have to do is go and watch Gypsy at the Savoy Theatre. The show opened in Chichester to rave reviews and continues to wow audiences night after night ever since it transferred to London.

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Leading the cast is Imelda Stanton as Rose. This may sound very cliché but there really are not enough superlatives to describe her performance. Imelda Stanton does not play Rose, she becomes Rose. And she does so with an amazing intensity. The moment she appears in the auditorium making her way to the stage Imelda Stanton is THERE. She truly acts and sings her heart out – with Imelda Stanton you don’t get 99%, it’s 100% from start to finish. Her Rose is feisty and calm, loud and quiet, sad and happy, angry and funny – it’s a full on rollercoaster of emotions mixed with great singing and the most tremendous stage presence you can think of.

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Lara Pulver shines as Louise and makes this production all the more memorable. Louise’s transition throughout the show is stunning to watch and Lara Pulver’s portrayal is charming and truthful.

Peter Davidson is a convincing Herbie even though he sometimes struggles to keep up with the acting force that is Imelda Stanton. A special mention for Dan Burton’s wonderful Tulsa. His „All I need is the girl“ is yet another highlight in this show. Not only is he a brilliant dancer, he also shows off great acting skills and a marvellous singing voice. A true triple threat.

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The rest of the cast are without exception outstanding. There is no weak link and it is a joy to watch such a talented group of people perform together.

Combine a fantastic cast with a great score, well done choreography and a beautiful set and you have a remarkable show that will stay in your head for weeks to come.

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If there ever was a must see musical in the West End – this is it! Or in other words: It really is Rose’s turn.

Gypsy is playing at the Savoy Theatre until 28th November. For more info and to book tickets visit: http://www.gypsythemusical.uk/

A personal message

17 Jul

I was planning to post several reviews this week catching up with all the shows I saw on my last trip to London and Leeds. However, on Monday I received a message that put a stop to those plans. At the end of last week a friend of mine sadly passed away unexpectedly.

Brian was a kind and funny man. He travelled all the way from Colorado to watch The Drowned Man in London again and again (my trips from Germany were nothing compared to his efforts to see the show!). I only saw him a couple of weeks ago on my last trip to New York. It seems unreal that I will never wait in the queue with him again pre Sleep No more, never have a post show drink in the Manderley with him again, never meet up for brunch at The Heath on a Sunday again.
He was such a vital part of the Punchdrunk community sharing his experiences in (sometimes insanely detailed) show write ups. Everyone who spoke to Brian about The Drowned Man or Sleep No More would notice how his eyes lit up when he talked about his favourite characters and performers. He once said Punchdrunk completely changed his outlook on life.

You can find Brian’s show reports in his blog: http://shuttersopen.tumblr.com/. Read them even if you have no connection to the shows. Brian’s passion and enthusiasm for the things he loved most is infectious.

I’ve decided to talk about this on here because a donation page has been set up in Brian’s memory. Every pound goes directly to Punchdrunk and so helps to support future projects that hopefully will have just as much of an impact on others as The Drowned Man and Sleep No More had on Brian.

Please take a look, give if you can or just think of Brian for a minute and share. We want the memory of Brian to live on through his love for Punchdrunk.

http://rememberingbrian.tumblr.com/

The Elephant Man at Theatre Royal Haymarket, July 9th 2015

13 Jul

If one gets the chance to see Bradley Cooper on stage in what is supposed to be the performance of a lifetime (which is what some people have been telling me) one does not say no to such an opportunity.

The Elephant Man tells the story of John Merrick who lived towards the end of the Victorian era and was abandoned by his mother because she was horrified by his disfigurement. Like probably many others I had heard of John Merrick through the well-known David Lynch movie.

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Unlike in the movie there are no prosthetics, false hunchback or any kind of make-up used in this play to portray the truly unusual appearance of John Merrick. Bradley Cooper becomes the Elephant Man simply by movement and voice. In what I found to be the most impressive scene in the play he transforms himself into John Merrick by twisting his face and body in what must be an almost unbearable pose.

And it’s Bradley Cooper that makes this play worth watching. His performance is touching and unshowy and relies on subtleties. Together with Alessando Nivola as Frederick Treves he carries the play that is let down by a rather weak book and some mediocre supporting performances.

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Bradley Cooper does a marvelous job in introducing John Merrick’s personality – his interest in people, his desire to be loved and his witty sense of humour. It’s this look into John Merrick’s mind that I enjoyed the most. Seeing the actual man behind the Elephant Man who wants but will never be able to be like everyone else and who discovers everything Frederick Treves introduces him to with an almost childlike curiosity.

I was disappointed by Patricia Clarkson’s performance as Mrs. Kendall, the high society actress who befriends Merrick. Instead of being tough and amusing I found her to be stiff and strangely otherworldly.

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Personally I think this play would have worked better as a 90 minutes piece without interval. Stretching it to one hour and 40 minutes with an interval causes some uncomfortable pauses and kills the dramatic pace. Also it appears the philosophy behind the story is more important than the actual narrative in this production. And while Merrick’s thoughts, feelings and motives are without a doubt interesting a better feel for the plot would have supported the subsequent theorising.

The Elephant Man is not a flawless production but it gives Bradley Cooper the chance to prove that he is more than a handsome Hollywood actor. His portrayal of John Merrick is one of the most convincing and thought through performances I have seen on a West End stage. And that alone is worth the ticket price (I do admit I am glad I did not pay the extraordinary premium price though).

The Elephant Man is playing at the Theatre Royal Haymarket until August 8th 2015. The run is mostly sold out but limited view tickets are available through the box office for some performances. Go to http://www.trh.co.uk/ for more info.

Guys and Dolls – Strictly limited season at the Savoy Theatre London from 10th December!

15 Jun

To celebrate the announcement that Guys and Dolls will be coming to London the production have released a very special ‘Luck Be a Lady’ animated poster.
The Chichester Festival Theatre revival of Guys and Dolls will transfer to London’s Savoy Theatre on 6 January 2016, following previews from 10 December 2015, for a thirteen week limited run which is booking to 12 March 2016.

So far two cast members have been announced – reprising their roles will be Sophie Thompson as Miss Adelaide and Jamie Parker as Sky Masterson. Clare Foster (Sarah Brown in the Chistester run) has confirmed that she is not returning to the show.

Book your tickets here: http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/guys-and-dolls/savoy-theatre/

An American in Paris at the Palace Theatre, Broadway – 2nd June 2015

15 Jun

Movie to stage adaption are a common thing in musical theatre these days. Some work well, others don’t. I am open to this kind of show but I admit when I first heard about a stage version of An American in Paris – a ballet / musical version – I was slightly worried. Not because I thought it wouldn’t work but because An American in Paris is one of my all time favourite movies. It’s the movie that sparkled my love for musicals. Gene Kelly singing and dancing was something I could watch again and again without ever being bored. But despite having doubts about this new musical production I obviously had to go see it on my last trip to New York.

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After a try out in Paris (where else?) an American in Paris opened on Broadway in April and has quickly become one of the best-selling shows in town. We all know the story of Jerry Mulligan who – after the second world war – decides to stay in Paris and make a living as a painter. In this production the story has been slightly altered to fit the new ballet theme which works quite well. I do prefer the film story but I understand where the changes are coming from.

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Robert Fairchild plays Jerry Mulligan with such grace and enthusiasm it’s impossible not to fall for him. If Gene Kelly had been a ballet dancer this is what I think his dancing would have looked like. Robert Fairchild is quite simply a gorgeous dancer and a wonderful actor and singer. Jerry Mulligan’s object of affection, the ballet dancer Lise Dassin (in the movie Lise “just” sold perfume in a shop) is brought to life by the exquisite Leanne Cope who is all around stunning.

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Lise is attached to Henri, the heir to a textile fortune who secretly wants to be a nightclub singer. Henri is portrayed by Max von Essen who gives a charming and funny performance and stands out with his exceptional voice. Jerry’s friend Adam Hochberg – an aspiring composer – is played by Brandon Uranowitz and provides some of the best one-liners in the show – dry humour at its best.

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The score is breathtakingly beautiful – from “I got rhythm” to “I’ve got beginner’s luck”, “Fidgety feet” and “They can’t take that away from me”. You will find yourself swaying along to the music and the songs will stay in your head for days to come. Combine this with an exceptional ensemble and brilliant choreography and you have a musical theatre dream. This show has everything I love about musical theatre. It’s a classic love story told through song and dance by a cast of performers who ooze charm and obviously love what they are doing.

I haven’t left the theatre that inspired and happy after watching a musical in a long time. An American in Paris will definitely leave you with fidgeting feet.

An American in Paris is playing at the Palace Theatre on Broadway. For more info and to book tickets go to http://www.anamericaninparisbroadway.com/

Help Ryan Molloy bring a 10 year dream alive

16 May

Usually I don’t use this blog to promote Kickstarter campaigns simply because I don’t want anyone to feel like I’m trying to make them spend their hard earned cash.

However, I’m going to make an exception because I think this campaign and the person running it is worth it. I’ve been following Ryan Molloy’s career for the past 7 years and I can honestly say this man is one of the most talented performer I have ever had the pleasure of seeing on stage. He’s probably best known for playing Frankie Valli in the hit musical Jersey Boys in the West End and he recently reprised the role on Broadway to rave reviews.
Apart from being a great theatre performer Ryan is also a gifted songwriter who has released several albums over the years. And now he is working on his latest release: Ryan Molloy’s Suntan, an album of original songs written and performed by Ryan and his band Suntan.

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This is where you come in. Ryan is raising funds to complete the studio recordings and launch the album live on stage at a venue in London in August.

I know this is not the first Kickstarter campaign of this kind and obviously we all don’t really have a lot of spare money. I was lucky enough to attend a private Suntan gig in March and I can assure you that if you like Ryan Molloy’s voice or funk music (or both!) this Kickstarter campaign is for you. I am quite picky when it comes to live music – I’m one of those people who usually have a few favourite songs on an album but just as many songs they will skip. Because of that gigs can be very hit and miss for me depending on how many of my personal favourites the artist will play. However, Suntan have managed what very few other bands have: A collection of favourite songs and nothing else. Their music is fresh, funky and quite simply a whole lot of fun.

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So, please do yourself and me a favour and check out Ryan’s Kickstarter campaign. Please spread the word and support someone I not only consider a brilliantly talented singer and songwriter but also a great person who deserves every success.

(Plus some of the pledge rewards are just insane and need to be seen – if anyone goes for the spray tan pledge please let me know and I will personally buy you a ticket for the album launch gig when they go on general sale!).

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/622093788/ryan-molloys-suntan-recording-the-album-and-launch

Punchdrunk Enrichment’s Against Captain’s Orders at the National Maritime Museum Greenwich

15 May

For me Punchdrunk are the most exciting theatre company around. Their immersive show The Drowned Man changed the way I look at theatre and it’s completely Punchdrunk’s fault I am spending way more money than I should on return visits to New York lately.

So obviously I had to check out their new theatrical family adventure set at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich. Against Captain’s Orders is a Punchdrunk Enrichment production aimed at 6-to-12-year-olds. I don’t really fit into that category anymore but lets face it – we all love to let out our inner child now and then.

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Without giving too much away I am going to say this about the show: It’s an imaginative, fun and captivating journey into the depths of the museum. Those of you who have seen The Drowned Man will notice some familiar smells. I don’t think I ever mentioned it before but if you like unusual and intriguing fragrances I urge you to check out Demeter or their UK website Library of Fragrance. Punchdrunk use these fragrances in most of their shows and just smelling scents like “Thunderstorm” or “Fireplace” will transport you back into their theatrical world.

Against Captain's Orders

Against Captain’s Orders combines theatre and education as the audience embarks on a hunt for 4 lost objects. Assigned to one of four teams the audience becomes the crew of the MS Adventure. The attention to detail in the set is astonishing – just try and count the number of bottles in one of the rooms, all of which have been hand filled with messages. And make sure you pay attention to any signs you pass on your way. The cast of two does a wonderful job in guiding the audience through the story, always making sure to keep the focus on the kids and encouraging them to get involved.

And Punchdrunk wouldn’t be Punchdrunk if there weren’t a few scary touches, dark corners, creepy music and, of course, a maze. Even though this show is aimed at children it is well worth checking out for adults too. Due to high demand Punchdrunk Keyholders and National Maritime Museum Members can attend an adult only version of the show on Thursday evenings. Personally I’d say this would be the perfect time to start supporting Punchdrunk by becoming a Keyholder especially if you don’t have a child at hand to take along to the regular daytime performances of the show.

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I could go on about what exactly happenes at Against Captain’s Orders but there is a reason Punchdrunk like to keep details about their shows to themselves. There is no bigger thrill than going in without knowing what to expect. So I’ll suggest that you do just that. Put on your life jacket, join the crew and go Against Captain’s Orders at the National Maritime Museum.

Against Captain’s Orders is running at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich until 31st August 2015 with special adult only performances on Thursday evenings. For more info and to book tickets go here: http://www.rmg.co.uk/whats-on/events/against-captains-orders

To find out more about Punchdrunk and their work please visit http://punchdrunk.com.

Alice Underground at The Vaults – 11th April 2015

17 Apr

For some reason I seem to end up watching Alice in Wonderland based shows a lot lately. From the stunning Then She Fell in New York to Alice: A new musical (a workshop production) to the latest immersive adaption of Lewis Carroll’s popular novel which has just started previews at The Vaults in London.

Alice Underground is a journey into the strange world that is Wonderland with all its unique inhabitants. And even though you meet familiar characters on your way this is not your classic Alice in Wonderland story. According to the show’s artistic director this Wonderland is based 150 years after Alice fell down the rabbit hole. The Queen has banned all nonsense and different factions are fighting.

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The audience decides which path to go by choosing “Eat me” or “Drink me” early on in the show. After that there is no more personal choice of where to go which makes this show less free in terms of exploring than for example a Punchdrunk show.
Without spoiling too much I can say that there are 4 different routes you may end up on but after your first choice you can’t influence which of the next two available routes you will be sent on.

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You will watch the majority of the show in a group of 14 audience members. Each group wanders from scene to scene, sometimes sharing a scene with another group right up to the huge tea party scene and the final trial. While each scene I encountered had something special and unique some moments definitely stood out for me. A special mention for the mock turtle scene which was haunting and beautiful and – even though there was no interaction involved – really made me feel like I was actually in Wonderland.

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The cast work incredibly hard yet they make the whole thing look so easy and while the show must be a logistical nightmare to put on it runs incredibly smooth especially considering I attended the third preview. Yes, there were a few timing issues but these did not take anything away from the overall experience and will surely be sorted once the cast and crew have had time to settle into the show some more.

The set is impressive and Les Enfants Terribles have made the most of the rather small spaces. It never felt cramped even though you do end up walking through some rather narrow corridors.

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Be aware that there are pieces of audience interaction, some of which you can’t really choose to avoid (I won’t say more because I don’t want to spoil too much). So if this really isn’t your thing you might want to skip this production. However, if you want to take a unique trip down the rabbit hole and meet Alice and all her wonderful friends in Wonderland then make sure to head to The Vaults and experience Alice Underground.

Alice Underground is booking at The Vaults until 30th August 2015. For more info and to book tickets visit http://www.alice-underground.com/.
Please note, there is a children’s version of the show designed for 5 to 10 year olds called Adventures in Wonderland and the Wonderland Sessions (on Mondays only) too.

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