Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Review: September in the Rain at Derby Theatre. (on tour)

It is a great sign of comedy when the performers get laughs before they have even spoken a word and so it is at the very start of Godber's play about a pair of married pensioners looking back to the 1950s and reflecting on a succession of holidays at the same B&B year after year in Blackpool. As the actors John Thomson playing husband Jack and Claire Sweeney as his wife Liz shuffle across the stage set of a sea front at Blackpool the Derby Theatre audience are already giggling away.

The laughter grows and grows through the play as Thomson and Sweeney become their characters younger selves and chat with the audience about how they feel about the happy experiences and marital frustrations they go through at Mavis's B&B on Woodfield Road in Blackpool and en route to their holiday destination. Both Sweeney and Thomson are very adept at mimicry and throughout the play they temporarily become other comic personae like the landlady Mavis, a bad tempered haulage trucker and most hilarious of all – the sewer man. Thomson's telling of the story of the people gathered around a sewer drain to watch a large piece of excrement float by is classic comedy and comic timing. Both performances are very strong and likeable.

John Godbers characters, Jack and Liz are based on his parents and he says that he assumed that they went back to the same place every year for 50 years because they were attracted to the West End shows that played there, the appearance of variety acts and TV stars in end of pier shows, the beautiful sands, the famous tower and ballroom and the circus. Apparently not – they went to Blackpool after going to Scarborough in the first year of their marriage and his father discovered that the east coast air gave him asthma, something that Blackpool didn't seem to do. As Godber says “The randomness of life continually leaves me agog!”

The terrific writing and the playing of the characters has a real human warmth which the Derby audience fully appreciated as Liz and Jack were constantly bickering with each other and teasing one another as couples often do. Sweeney with her underplayed Liverpool accent and Thomson with his no-nonsense Yorkshire accent and mannerisms create characters that are like chalk and cheese and for all their faults and stubbornness you can't fail to love them. Their relationship is very believable and each character have their flaws so soon the comedy becomes a drama as the heavens open and they part company whilst rowing. You genuinely wanted to rush back after the interval to discover what happens next. There is a third character in this theatre piece and that is the character of Blackpool depicted here with a wonderfully realistic set complete with sand on the steps, strings of gaudy lights and the famous Blackpool tower in the misty background. You almost expected a seagull to fly across the stage.

The near to capacity audience lapped up every emotional minute whether they were laughing at Jack trying to erect the deckchairs (superb comic timing by Thomson) or sympathising with Liz as Jack storms off after a particularly vicious and unexpected argument and I suspect that many of them left the theatre with a cathartic and nostalgic feeling of a shared experience and an umbrella up and ready for the – all too real - October rain.

Originally posted on The Public Review website.

Monday, 21 October 2013

A Christmas Carol script by Phil Lowe now available as an ebook for £3.99

On the back of my most popular blogpost by far on the actor/writer site I have now published a script of A Christmas Carol through Blurb. The ebook downloadable version is £3.99. See link above.

There have been over 1660 hits on this blogpost about the Christmas Carol production.

On the whole I found Blurb a good site to work with in self publishing although their are a few annoying spacing errors and one typo in the body of my script. However it is good to have the theatre piece published for sharing. The details are in the back of the book for contacting  re royalties and performance rights. I am contactable at

Phil Lowe

                            Roger Newman as Scrooge in the Lace Market Theatre production.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Review: God of Carnage at The Lace Market Theatre. Nottingham

Director Graeme Jennings has made a terrific job of bringing to life this one act play by Yasmina Reza (English translation from the original French by Christopher Hampton) at Nottingham's premier amateur theatre - The Lace Market Theatre.

God of Carnage is about the breakdown of two supposedly sophisticated and successful couples after they meet to politely discuss the potential solution of their young sons fighting and the resultant missing teeth of the young son of the Hunts - in whose modern and stylish house we meet the protagonists and remain in their company for the duration of the play.

The set design is of a very modern apartment based on a black and white hop scotch pattern and it serves the play perfectly with the designer, Emma Pegg, creatively following through on Reza's staging notes of ' a living room, no realism, nothing superfluous. With some colour highlights this is a monochromatic world that according to the excellent programme notes "alludes to the barely concealed conflict between the characters." Deliberately, only the two artfully arranged vases of flowers and the red carpet and cushions bring any bright colour to the set.

Easy going Michael Hunt (Hugh Jenkins) tries to reason things out with Alan and Annette Raleigh and attempts to form a friendship with Alan through recognition that all boys fight and that it is part of the growing up process. Alan Raleigh superficially goes along with this man talk but is constantly at the beck and call of his mobile phone. Fraser Wanless plays the arrogant Alan to perfection. This is no one dimensional character portrayal however. Wanless subtly switches his role from mood to mood whether he is speaking his business demands down the mobile phone or temporarily comforting his wife Annette (Emma Nash) after she has been dramatically sick on stage. He controls and commands the stage with Alan's persona and is the master of wry humour.

Photo by Mark James.

This is a demanding four hander and the performances are very professional especially from the actresses Sarah Taylor and Emma Nash playing the wives. The women go through a vast array of emotion throughout the play and Taylor and Nash bring out very truthful performances through their body language and barely controlled emotions that go from socially polite to sudden outrage and lack of control.

Hugh Jenkins plays the most sympathetic character in Michael Hunt, a man who just wants to keep the peace yet finds himself getting out of control with a toxic mix of problems including his mother constantly calling up for health advice and his weird decision to set the family hamster free to fend for itself in the wild. He valiantly tries to cope with all this, alongside the trauma caused by his son being attacked and injured by another boy. Jenkins plays the sympathy card well with this well rounded character, always at the ready with the hair drier to fix every disaster.

                                                              Photo by Mark James

On the surface the play could be perceived as a serious polemic on the breakdown of social morals caused through lack of compassion, uncivil and  selfish behaviour, stress and exacerbated by too much rum and it does have this in the background but the evening's entertainment was that of laughter as the characters descended into ridiculous childish behaviour. There are some fantastically funny situations and lines and the actors worked them to perfection. This is another 'must see' at the Lace Market Theatre.

The performances run until the 19th October.

Tickets can be booked online or by ringing the box office. Lace Market Theatre link.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

God of Carnage next week at the Lace Market Theatre - Nottingham

I am really looking forward to going to the Lace Market Theatre next week to see their production of God of Carnage - a high energy comedy about parents behaving badly and directed by the talented Graeme Jennings.

Yazmina Reza's multi-award winning play is a hilarious and savagely funny comedy of modern manners. The translation from the original French is by Christopher Hampton.
Plot: When a playground fight between two boys results in one of them losing his teeth, both sets of parents decide to meet and resolve the matter. But as tensions rise the gloves are soon off and the God of Carnage reigns supreme as they descend to the level of wilful children themselves.

Tickets are available through this link.

Production dates: 14th -19th October plus matinee on Saturday 19th.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Review: Go Back For Murder. Derby Theatre.

Playing at Derby Theatre this week the - Agatha Christie Theatre Company - presents a brand new production of Christie's classic murder mystery, Go Back For Murder.(touring)

The plot revolves around Carla Le Marchant (Sophie Ward) who has returned from Canada to investigate the death of her imprisoned mother, Caroline. The death has taken place in prison, twenty years after Caroline's conviction of killing her husband and Carla's father - Amyas Crate (Gary Mavers). Carla's late mother, Caroline, has left her daughter an intriguing legacy - a letter professing her innocence. This we learn by voice over in the very first minutes of the play.

This is a fast paced 'whodunnit' that will delight fans of murder mystery stage adaptations and Agatha Christie and given the interval chat about who the murderer could be the audience clearly revelled in the plot and action on stage.

The plot unfolds, illuminates and deceives and the play begins with a determined Carla Le Marchant anxiously trying to uncover the truth behind her father’s murder by poisoning with the help of Justin Fogg (Ben Nealon) who is the son of her mother’s original defence lawyer. Christie controversially left Hercule Poirot  out of this one.

In the first act events take place at several locations in London, the arrangement of which is very well done by quickly executed scene changes and dramatic lighting. Gradually, we attain insights into the individual characters that were at the scene of the murder some twenty years previously at Alderbury House. The acting throughout was good and some deliberately hammy. Lysette Anthony was deliciously over the top as the older Lady Elsa Greer.

With the help of Justin, Carla manages to entice all the suspects back to the house where we witness a reconstruction of events that took place leading up to the 1948 murder in the second act. Stories unfold, twists and turns in the tale are abundant and there are more red herrings than in a kipper factory.

The staging design is simple and the lighting effects work especially well and gave a clarity to the plot that could have got confusing initially. The 1960s jazzy soundtrack helps create an atmosphere of time.

Could the murder have been committed by either of the brothers Philip and Meredith Blake (Robert Duncan and Antony Edridge) who had both been secretly in love with Caroline? Or maybe it was the dead man’s feisty opportunist mistress Lady Elsa Greer (Lysette Anthony) Of course no Agatha Christie play would be complete without an old fashioned governess, in this case a tea drinking Miss Williams admirably played by (Liza Goddard) and adding a little high spirited youth to the cast as the elder daughter of Caroline we have Angela Warren (Georgia Neville) in her professional debut. Each of these likely suspects, try to convince of their innocence with their own plausible version of events on the fateful day.

'Go Back For Murder' directed by Joe Harmston, is Agatha Christie at her best, a delicious play from her late years, well performed by a top notch cast and - as you'd expect - keeps us guessing until the very end. All could be guilty of the murder, but only one of 'em did it!

Monday, 7 October 2013

Derby Theatre recieves Lottery funding to enhance experience for deaf and hard of hearing patrons

Press release.

Derby Theatre receives funding to  enhance performances for deaf  and hard of hearing patrons
Derby Theatre is delighted to have received funding from both the national Big Lottery fund and locally-based Derbyshire Community Foundation to  improve deaf access at the venue.  
The joint funding, in the region of £10,000, has funded the installation of a brand new  digital system in the theatre, top quality headsets and induction loop aerials. The new equipment will enable and enhance a visit to the theatre for deaf and hard of hearing patrons, ensuring Derby Theatre is even more accessible to a wider audience. 
The brand new digital system and equipment will replace, and improve on, the existing infrared facility for patrons when seeing performances at Derby Theatre. The new Digital RF headsets are of the highest quality and offer crystal clear sound from every seat in the auditorium. For audience members with their own earphones, they can simply plug them into a discreet body pack where sound is then amplified through the new digital system. Patrons who prefer to use the T switch on their own hearing aid, there are induction loop aerials also available, which are worn loosely and comfortably around the neck.  The assisted listening sets work on digital RF frequencies, the same clear, sharp sound as a digital radio, so no longer will interference be received when another audience member walks in front those wearing them or those using the service turn away from the stage 
Debra Chantrill (Customer Services Manager, Derby Theatre) said:  “We are thrilled to have acquired these sought after grants from both organisations and I would like to say a big thank you on behalf of the theatre and our audience members. I know it will make a huge difference to many, especially those who may re-discover their enjoyment of theatre, simply through being able to hear the performance more clearly again through the equipment we have been able to acquire. Our aim is always to make theatregoing as accessible to, and as enjoyable for, as many people as possible and we are confident that the new system and equipment will do just that, for existing and potential new visitors to the theatre who may require this service.”   
As part of the application process, Derby Theatre consulted with a number of people involved in locally-based CamTAD, an organisation who campaign for tackling acquired deafness, to ask for their support, advice and feedback on the proposed application. CamTAD members said that a new system, which would help people with hearing difficulties to hear performances more clearly, would enable them to regain their confidence in visiting the theatre again. Speaking of non-reliable hearing systems in general, one lady said that she felt a part of her life was missing, by not being able to enjoy theatre as much as she would like to and that she hoped we were successful in our bid so that she could see performances secure in the knowledge that she will be able to comprehend the action once more.    
Headsets, body packs and loop aerials can be acquired from Box Office free of charge on arrival at the theatre and, in most cases, do not need to be booked in advance.  
For anyone wishing to test the new equipment, before doing so on a performance night/day, please call Debra Chantrill on 01332 593946 who will be more than happy to arrange this with you. Or simply call into Box Office and ask for Debra.