Wednesday, 30 April 2014

At Lakeside Nottingham. A Darker Shade of Fado with Nuno Silva. Review.

A Darker Shade of Fado with Nuno Silva at Lakeside Nottingham

Review: 29/04/2014.

A Darker Shade of Fado is billed as a dance piece in which contemporary dance and Fado are inter-twined. Fado is a traditional type of song, frequently melancholic and soulful and mainly from the Portuguese city of Lisbon. Nuno Silva's 'A Darker Shade of Fado' is certainly no tourist style entertainment but instead a hot bed of passion entwined with eroticism, wistfulness and downright danger. Even as I type I feel that should be hitting the keys harder in a slowly pulsating dramatic manner, pausing for a while for to underpin my words with silky eroticism exemplified by a loving caress of my laptop screen. Mopping my fevered brow, I continue...

The dance work uses three dancers and a superb live musician (Sabio Janiak). Principally we have the creator Nuno Silva as Spirit – a malevolent tour de force – a flickering mess of possessed muscular and taut limbs – occasionally inhuman and predominately Succubus or Incubus preying on and manipulating the forces of love and mistrust between the seemingly sweet and innocent 'Woman' (Stephanie Dufresne) and the gentle 'Maker' of string instruments (Matthew Lackford).

All is played out amongst a foreboding stage palate of darkness, light, shadow and billowing back lit smoke with occasional ambient candle light. The stage is often divided up into quadrants through the effect of a large window frame cast onto the playing area. The dance pieces regularly contain themselves within a particular quadrant and the physical entrance by a performer into a space is signalled by music cleverly combined with sound effects such as the trembling of an excited/nervous heart beat. As the second half brings itself to a dramatic close the terrifying figure of a rampant bull (Matthew Lackford) overtly challenges the dominance of the all controlling Spirit.

Nuno Silva dances brilliantly and stuns the audience with his ability to sing in the poetic Fado style whilst intensely enraptured in the fiercely emotional dance dialogue between his tortured spirit self and that of his victims. This is a supremely talented man at the very pinnacle of his artistic game and at times appears to be almost sucking raw energy from the air to continue in his mis-deeds.

Stephanie Dufresne is equally brilliantly deft in contemporary dance and conveys lightness of body phenomenally, as well displaying unexpected contradictions in emotional conditions between her character and the potential lover in Lackford's 'Maker'. There is the push and pull, tease and counter tease but also due to the 'Spirit's' twisted whims we get a contortion of all of the emotions vividly expressed in dramatic dance by the talented Dufresne.

Lackford's gentle but deep concentration of character as 'Maker' allows even the scraping of the interior of a section of an unmade guitar to be of a tranquillising dramatic focus and interest. His character shows itself as meticulous in work and is literally thrown off centre by a romantic curiosity as exemplified by the dancer's back slides and twists yet becoming more evidently recognisable moves toward forwarding a new and exciting love relationship with Dufresne's 'Woman'. Lackford's work grows rapidly in strength throughout the work and he finally comes into his own as the terrifying bull.

From all the dancers there is a tremendous energy and agility throughout and a deep focus on the intentions of Fado. This is a fantastic dance work created by Nuno Silva that will stay with the capacity audience well after the final echoes of the traditional Fado songs and con-temporised dance fade away from the physical stage.

Phil Lowe

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Review of Cats at Nottingham Royal Concert Hall

Wednesday 16th April 2014

Based on Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats by TS Elliot and adapted by Andrew Lloyd Webber and originally produced by Cameron Mackintosh with the Really Useful Theatre Company, this production of Cats from David Ian Productions in association with Michael Watt electrifies the Nottingham Concert Hall stage!

The junk yard set is much wider and taller than the original London set and whilst there is no revolve and reveal in the opening act 'Jellicle Songs for Jellical Cats' the magnificent width of the Royal Concert Hall stage allows for more exuberant dance and staging of the Cats stories throughout. I actually preferred this setting to the tight space in the New London Theatre which had intimacy but some cramped discomfort in seating. So to the show itself;

This company have kept in all the popular cat characters, dynamic dances, drama, humour and music of the work so regular theatre goers and Cats lovers – including the excited group of ladies in cats ears behind me – plus people new to the musical, won't be disappointed. Though this time round on its eagerly awaited visit to Nottingham the sound scape is phenomenal and the live orchestra music has a slightly more rock feel in some numbers. Each of the members of the Cats ensemble shine in their own right and every word of the songs and speech throughout is crystal clear. The dance and movement throughout is ultra fluid whether flying through the air or slipping into place amongst the junk on the set. All of the tall junk filled walls of the set were used with great imagination and the lighting effects are breathtakingly atmospheric and beautiful.

In any production of Cats the success is down to ensemble slickness, dance and characterisation talents and the ability to sing to a very high standard whilst dancing and of course to the rendition of its most famous solo song – Memory. In this touring production we are lucky to have the superb talents of West End star Joanna Ampil playing the forlorn cat Grizabella and her rendition of Memory is utterly superb.

It is sometimes a complaint that some modern musicals have little in memorable tunes to hum as one leaves the theatre. Not with this revival. As I leave the theatre I am surrounded by audience members smiling like the cats who have got the cream and children singing and dancing out of the exit!

Runs at Nottingham Royal Concert Hall until Saturday 26th April.

Lace Market Theatre. Review of Till Eulenspiegel - Reloaded.

As part of the theatre exchange between Nottingham's Lace Market Theatre and two German theatre groups from Karlsruhe, a second theatre piece was shown by Theater Die Käuze on 16th and 17th April 2014. This was Pascal Paul Harang's fresh and colourful reinterpretation of a selection tales of the legendary prankster, Till Eulenspiegel. The production drew in some near capacity audiences.

Theater Die Käuze performed the piece, Till Eulenspiegel - reloaded in an eclectic mix of styles through the mediums of story telling, dance – modern and ancient – drama and broad comedy. The piece was broken up into a fractured spectrum of short scenes covering the life of Till from his birth to his death.

There are over fifty stories surrounding the impudent trickster and Pascal Paul Harang has wisely cut the work down to less than half that amount for his theatrical presentation. The cast of thirteen work as an ensemble throughout with Mathis Harang and Joshua Wetterauer playing the boy Till in different performances and showing off their individual dance skills as well some fine acting.
The charismatic Viktor Müller plays Till as an adult and does so with an edge of comic malevolence coupled with charming wit. He is seen as almost literally dancing rings around the characters that persecute him and on whom he takes his wicked revenge.

The ensemble worked well together considering the different practicalities of the Lace Market stage compared to the much smaller stage at the company's theatre in Karlsruhe. There were over thirty parts in all and all were clearly delineated. The piece was costumed in a mix of modern and historical to show how the stories of Till are still relevant to society today. Till himself was always in red to illustrate his position as an outsider.
Till Eulenspiegel sought to illustrate the foolish nature of mankind and their innate snobbery and this was particularly well illustrated in the paintings scene where the buyers were practically orgasmic in their vocal gasps whilst looking at a blank wall and fooling themselves they could see wonderful commissions. I liked the touch with the red noses especially.
Some English was injected into the piece and there was an authentic conversation between Viktor Müller and Marius Schmidt as the clown. Their protracted conversation was well acted, well spoken with local references and drew a round of applause from the audience but I was technically unsure where this conversation fitted into the piece.

There was an interesting use of visual styles and creative application of live sound effects plus the benefit of surtitles for the English speaking audience. All in all a thought provoking piece vigorously performed by Theater Die Käuze from Karlsruhe.


Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Boeing Boeing at the Lace Market Theatre -a review.

Boeing Boeing by Marc Carmoletti and performed by the Jakobus Theatre from Karlsruhe rocked the Lace Market Theatre stage last night. It is a joyous romp!
Any concerns that it would all be in German were quickly thrown out of the window by the arrival on stage of the main character Bernard seen as an older man (an appealing performance in English by Bernd Hefer). Hefer talks retrospectively about events that happened twenty years ago and in doing so cleverly introduces the characters and briefly gives us a flavour of the comic events about to unfold from his memories. He returns three times to continue the retrospective.

In the first scene we discover a younger Bernard, a wealthy architect, at breakfast with Janet an air steward from the USA. The handsome Bernard is played with great charm and devilish wit by Carsten Thein and he is happily enjoying his passionate relationship with Janet until the arrival of Robert – an old school friend. Almost immediately Robert is smitten by the lovely and sexily confident Janet performed beautifully by Magdalena Meier and thus begins one of the many songs in English that carry the story along, gives variety, and enhances the play for the English audience.

After Janet leaves for her next flight Bernard tells the gullible Robert - played to comic perfection by Markus Künstler – of his love triangle of three air stewardesses, Janet from the USA, Jacqueline from Air France and Nadja from the Russian Aeroflot. Initially Robert believes this deception to be amoral but his head is quickly turned when he finds himself involved with the three beautiful women himself and is often out of his lustful depth. But true love never does run smooth, especially in this popular farce.

Added to the crazy mix is Bernard's housekeeper Bertie - a wonderfully controlled and realistic performance by Ute Wilde. Complicit with Bernard's philandering ways Wilde tries to set the stage with new props giving the illusion that Bernard only has one lady in his life. With the stress of the various air stewards comings and goings, now speeded up and out of Bernard's control with the advent of the faster Boeing 747s, she takes to drink and flirts with the hapless Robert. And so continues the hilarious chaos as yet another stunning girl enters in the shape of Air France stewardess, Jacqueline. Jacqueline is performed by Hannah Schwall with stylish sang-froid.

The main cast of six from Jakobus theatre are very talented actors and their love of this show shines through every madcap second they are on stage. The half dozen songs such as “That's Why The Lady Is A Tramp”, “Come Fly With Me” and “Someone To Watch Over Me” are competently done and work very well within the structure of the play. The choreography, be it through dance or movement is spot on. If one were to single out the performance of the evening it would have to be Lisa Bossert's Nadja. Bossert makes her character – uniformed in fiery red – a dynamo of lust and Russian temperament and does so with great comic effect!

In true farcical style the characters are flying in and out of doors with perfect timing and the brave German company are supremely confident in handling the amorous clinches as well entertaining the audience with their high quality acting and great theatrical physicality. It is spoken in German but the mainly English audience at Nottingham's Lace Market Theatre laughed throughout and lapped up the farcical antics. On leaving the theatre I over heard one member of the audience asking if the group were professionally paid actors. Boeing Boeing is directed with panache by Andreas Rüdenauer.This is part of an amateur twinning event between the Lace Market Theatre and two amateur theatre's in Karlsruhe and their standards are extremely high. They should be very proud of this show at the Lace Market Theatre and I look forward to Till Eulenspiegel by the Theater Die Käuze, later in the week

Boeing Boeing performs Monday 14th April and twice on Tuesday 15th April.

Till Euelnspeigel performs Wednesday 16th April and twice on Thursday 17th April.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Warwick Davis at Derby Theatre. See How They Run review.

'Hits the stage running!'

Currently on tour across the UK Warwick Davis's talented group of actors (The Reduced Height Theatre Company) hits the Derby Theatre stage running with their fantastically silly farce – See How They Run by Philip King.

Originally written and played in the 1940s this production stays true to the period style with its costumes created by Top Drawer Costume Service and set designed and adapted by Barney George who recently created and designed the set for Derby Theatre's theatrical triumph – The Odyssey.

Of course, as well as the popularity of the farce that has been performed around the world since its conception the main draw for this show is the versatile and talented actor Warwick Davis, known mainly for his roles in film and television and now on stage live. The audience laps up every moment he appears as Reverend Toop and he is very funny throughout, especially so when skittering through the vicarage in his undies. When broad comedy is done this well it seems almost effortless but I know from talking to Warwick that an awful lot of hard work has gone into making the production the soar away success it is. The wonderful cast seem to be having as much fun as the audience.

The delight of this production is that plot wise it allows the remainder of the cast to shine whilst Toop is temporarily locked away in a cupboard with a drunk Miss Skillon (beautifully played by Francesca Papagno). Davis wanted the production to show off the talents of his actors and it does so in spades.

There are lots of memorable performances including Rachel Denning as Penelope Toop the former actress and flirtatious wife of Rev Toop. Her scenes with Phil Holden as Lance Corporal Clive Winton are comedy heaven as are her caustic comments about the interfering Miss Skillon.

The comic hit of the show has to be Francesca Mills as Ida the Maid. Every time she appears and disappears and quickly re-appears again through some entrance or other her stage presence shines out and her Ida must be rated as one of the funniest performances I have ever seen on stage. If should a thing were possible I think that there must have been a collective grin from the audience at each of her comical arrivals. Her timing is spot on and her expressive and 'farcical' body language is hilarious.

With a cast of nine the Reduced Height Theatre Company set the stage on fire with their energy. Davis has compiled a cast of experienced actors such as the marvellous Jon Key as the frightfully flustered Bishop of Lax and Raymond Griffiths as the German intruder. Alongside these theatre stalwarts he has Jamie John as a slightly camp Rev Arthur Humphrey and multi-talented Peter Bonner as the blustering Sergeant Towers. The play is directed with gusto by Eric Potts.

One of the signs of a super show is that you are still giggling the day after seeing it. I think I will be giggling for weeks. Here's to the entire cast of the Reduced Height Theatre Company and to their next success. Run to the box office and get your tickets now before it sells out. Run!!!

Runs at Derby Theatre from 7th April until 12th April.

Friday, 4 April 2014

At the Lace Theatre Nottingham. Till Eulenspeigel performed by Karlsruhe's Die Kauze group

As part of The Lace Market theatre partnership the Die Kauze theatre of Karlsruhe will be playing at the Lace Market Theatre for three performances. 16th to 17th April 2014. Tickets are free but of a limited capacity and need to be booked through the box office 0115 9520721 or online

The performances will be in German with surtitles.

Emma Pegg - aspiring set designer talks to Phil Lowe

On Tuesday 1st April I met up with aspirant set designer Emma Jane Pegg to talk her about work within the design world and her ambitions in theatre design.

Phil: Hi Jane tell me about your new theatre group, your own ambitions, and what's happening on Friday.

“On Friday it's a launch party for a new company that myself and a few friends are trying to set up. It's called Arts Iconic and it's an idea by a friend called Nick Newman who writes, directs and acts. He came up with the idea of having a company that produces its own theatre work that also has an online presence where we can promote art that we see other people do and so on Friday we have an open meeting which we are inviting people to. This is at The Peacock pub on Mansfield Road. The meeting is to explain what we are and I'll be bringing some of my set models of previous designs and we'll have a leaflet and we hope that it be a good networking event as well.

There are a couple of possible projects coming forward both written by Nick one of which we will be putting on in Nottingham at Lee Rosie's. Sylvia Robson is one of our resident actors with our company and also Steve Conlin and we are in talks with a member of The Gramophones to get our third actor.

The next thing that we should be doing, that we know about so far, is in the autumn, hopefully around Halloween, and this is a play inspired by a short story by Edgar Allen Poe called The Fall of The House of Usher. We are planning a kick starter campaign to raise some funds for that and this is the first time we have been involved in anything like the fund raising aspect. Interesting and exciting times.”

Phil. Sounds good. Since you did the excellent set design and helped practically for the Lace Market Theatre's production of God of Carnage what's happened since then?

“Well, that was one that I designed on my own and I've applied for another Lace Market play next season which is Bedroom Farce by Alan Ayckbourn. I'm also trying to help with painting there and the next project I've got coming up is Happy Days. Mark James is painting the cyclorama for that and I'll be helping out with that in the next month or so. I just think that it's a good way to build up more experience and meet more people in the theatre as well.”

I suggested that Emma might like to get in touch with Janine Forster of whom I wrote in a previous blog post and publication of The Boards. Janine is a former Lace Market Theatre member who went off to study a set construction course. I also suggested doing some research on 'Set One' a set making company in Derby who design, make and provide sets for shows all over the country

Phil. What did you study for your degree?

“Of late I was looking at RADA's theatre design masters and thinking in the back of my mind that I would love to apply for a masters at some point. My degree ? I did Architecture at Nottingham University and previous to that I did a foundation course at art college because I wasn't sure exactly which way to go with my arts and sciences qualifications and I was thinking Fine Art and during that year, based on my interests and qualifications, I finally plumped for architecture. The first three years on the degree are known as part one and then you do a year or two in a professional work placement. At that point I was really thinking 'is this what I want to do?' so I thought I'd try working in urban design which is a slightly different but related field.

I'd moved away for a while then I returned back to Nottingham and by that point I thought that I'd definitely want to work in set design. Actually, all along I'd had a growing interest but, maybe because of the school I went to, I felt that I should do something academic and narrow my choice down straight away. During one summer at university I did a one week short course at Central St Martins. Their set design for theatre course was full at the time I went to book so I did their set design for film and television course. There were about fifteen to twenty of us in the group that week and probably about half of them had studied architecture and I thought maybe it's not that far removed from set design! I got to know the lady that ran the course and she was the production designer for 'This Morning' and from that I was able to work there for a year and I still go back and do occasional freelance days when they need someone and that experience, that role, was and is as an art department assistant. Again that was slightly different but within the same field.

I've always wanted to do more theatre related work so I've tried to do as much theatre watching as I can and I keep a little diary in which I note down every production that I see and my views on the set design and how the actors work within the actual physical set. I also do sketches of the set and try to learn little tricks that designers use and the way that they do set changes.

Set models for Lace Market Theatre production of Gods of Carnage. Copyright: Emma Pegg


When I moved back to Nottingham I applied at the New Perspectives Theatre in Basford to be involved in what they now call Emerging Perspectives. They run a training program for people who are interested in becoming theatre makers. Theatre makers based in the East Midlands, that is. We are talking actors, writers, composers, designers, and so on. The year I did it it was called Step Up Creatives and that was the second year that they'd run the program. So I applied and I got it and there were twelve of us altogether. Throughout the year, starting in September to the following July, we met every third weekend at their headquarters and they'd run a workshop in improv or drama games and we learned a bit about speech projection too. It was quite interesting for me because I'd never done any acting and also for me, being quite shy, it was interesting to be in a small group and learn a little about what other practitioners do. After all, the sets you design are eventually peopled by actors. The set isn't an isolated part of the production. It's integral, so therefore it's important to have at least some knowledge of other theatre makers and their roles in the arts. I feel that this particularly true of any creative team headed by the vision of the director. One production of say, Bedroom Farce for example, may have completely different set design style to another.”

Phil. That's true. I've seen a fair few European theatre productions of plays familiar to me and the choice of set design has radically changed the style and presentation format. Clearly the arts all have different avenues of approach, theatre included.

“ Yes, you're right Phil, I think that's what they were trying to encourage at New Perspectives; the importance of being interested in what everyone else is doing theatrically. Plus you get to start to learn another technical language of expression. I read your blog post about your experiences at Derby Theatre and the technical rehearsal of The Odyssey. Barney George designed the set for that, didn't he? I want to learn as much as I can. It's fascinating.”

Phil: So what is on the cards for you right now Emma?
“I'm making some sketch models at the moment for the proposed show, Usher's Fall, and I just want to get some of those to a level where I can present them even as rough models on Friday so we have a design table for people to see our work as well as us talk about it. For three days a week I work at Amtico which is an interiors company. They make flooring and I create design work for them on a freelance basis, usually about three days a week. I work out new tile formations that they can then find different ways they can cut their products and make differing patterns. It all feeds into the design work and I do poster designs for theatre productions. I like to do as much as I can practically, to build up my art and design work portfolio. You learn quite a lot from all these different areas of design and architecture does prepare you for many other areas of design in a way. Particularly the way in which it was taught at Nottingham University. Our course was more arts focused than engineering focused and you learn so much about design that inter-links between the various artistic disciplines out there.”

Phil. Did you learn about qualities of materials? For example the cutting of different things like stone, wood, plastics and such.

“Yes we did do a bit of that. Then again quite a lot of that is self study and I like that. I'm a very hands on person too. Making models to scale is another discipline and finding the correct materials to build is really interesting and sometimes a challenge. It is a very precise art.”

Phil. Well thank you for your time today Emma. It's been fascinating. Good luck with all your new ventures and the launch on Friday.
Emma Jane Pegg's blog can be read HERE.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Boeing Boeing at the Lace Market Theatre 14th and 15th April 2014

As you will see from this promo video for Karlsruhe's talented Jakobus Theater, they are visiting Nottingham for the week 13th - 19th April and will be performing Marc Camoletti's classic farce Boeing Boeing in German. There will be an introduction in English before each performance (14th/15th April).

I had the great pleasure of seeing this show at the Jakobus theatre in central Karlsruhe last summer and it was a hoot. You don't really need to be fluent in German to thoroughly enjoy this comedy with songs. The tickets are free but you do need to reserve seats in the small theatre space at the Lace Market Theatre Nottingham.

0115 950 7201

A separate promotion will follow for Till Eulenspiegel also performing as part of the theatre twinning event.

Phil Lowe

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Derby Theatre. Gecko's new work Institute. A MUST see!

Review for Institute by Gecko Theatre at Derby Theatre.

Institute is Gecko's sixth creation in ten years. The company creates each new show by building on their established working methodology of physical exploration through movement and dance and wonderfully inventive theatrical invention.

Using many different people as source material for Institution Gecko spent a year developing the work around the notion and practice of 'care' and Amit Lahav (creator) invited a group of inspirational artists, support workers, patients and carers to explore care in a fresh new way in order to create this masterpiece of modern dance theatre.

Exploring themes of emotional fracture and disconnection and human reliance the four male performers are electric in their dance work. The piece may start as a funny romantic dinner for a man and an imaginary woman but Institute soon shifts the amusement swiftly to one side as the man's mental landscape slowly starts to disintegrate. He is joined by a stressed work colleague in the foreboding nightmare office of towering old filing cabinets and ghostly architectural models. From the cabinets appear cleverly constructed set pieces and the drawers open up to release a haunting Pandora's box of light and sounds from the past. The whole piece takes invention further than one would imagine possible through exaggerated theatrical dance and particularly through the part featuring connecting rods attached to the dancers. There is humour scattered throughout and, conversely there are startlingly animal-like distorted grunts of despair and agony from a contorted patient in a white bed gown that alarm and unnerve. Gecko's already brilliant reputation for extraordinary theatre has sky rocketed into the heavens in this astounding new work.

Men morph into women; bodily progression turns to regression and twists back upon itself in a flailing of limbs; emotions are presented as desperately raw and in turn, surprisingly gentle. European languages feature throughout as part of a complex sound-scape.A restaurant set is cleverly shifted around the stage as part of the macabre and often terrifying movement. Institute is ninety minutes of total dance/theatre and utterly engaging and thrillingly performed by the amazing performers, Chris Evans, Amit Lahav, Ryen Perkins Gangnes and François Testory. The energy of the piece is astonishing and the guys still manage four curtain calls after the performance.

Full credit must also go to the brilliant technical collaborators, Rhys Jarman and Amit Lahav for the set design, Chris Swan and Amit Lahav for the atmospheric lighting design, Nathan Johnson for the Sound design and Dave Price for the original music.

Currently playing at Derby Theatre until 5th April.