Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Superbly funny Oddsocks production of Wind in The Willows

There are times as a reviewer that you see a production that is so alive with invention, humour and surprise that you are very conscious about spoilers. So I hope that I am not giving too much away when I say – expect the unexpected and expect to laugh your socks off at Oddsocks wonderfully inventive touring production of Kenneth Grahame's beloved story of riverbank folk Wind in the Willows. This fantastically funny version is adapted for the stage for Oddsocks by Andy Barrow and produced by Elli Mackenzie. Lucy Ward has been commissioned to provide the original music played live by the five performers.

Elli MacKenzie, Joseph Maudsley, Andrew McGillan, Dom Gee-Burch, and Rosamund Hine make up the small but beautifully versatile ensemble. They work so well together there often seems to be many more actors inhabiting the stage than there actually are. The delight they seem to share in performing the Oddsocks comedic style with each other and the audience is infectious. Wind in the Willows played by this daft and talented ensemble makes 'being silly' into an art form. Even their van parked outside the theatre bears the logo 'driven by laughter'.


All of the actors play different roles as the well loved characters, Elli MacKenzie as the easy going but shy Mole (loved the squeaks of terror in the Wild Wood), Joseph Maudsley delights as a very charming Ratty as well as playing four other parts including the funniest gaoler ever! Andrew McGillan is perfect as Toad, bright green wig, bandy legged and enthusiastically bound for trouble wherever he hops. McGillan's scenes where he steals the car are comedy classics. Dom Gee-Burch brings a gravitas to the play as the sensible Badger and even gently berates an audience member for getting up to go to the loo! Gee-Burch is also wonderfully believable as a horse pulling the caravan. Finally Rosamund Hind has a series of seven quick change roles and even pops up as the little seen Otter character. This is a production where all the players work extremely hard in keeping up the momentum and daftness but seem so laid back about it you relax with them.

Back projections help move each act to a new vista and I am not going to tell you how they row across the stage in a boat called Baby, drive a car down a country lane and crash it and bring a full size steam train into the tiny Guildhall Theatre on Derby's Market Square. If you want to grin all the way home and revel in Oddsocks inventive madness. Get along to the Guildhall this week (until 31st January) but don't go via the Wild Wood! Aaaargh!

Wind in The Willows is touring until February 21st. Next stop The Gaiety Theatre Ayr (Feb 14th) 01292 288235 and then Alnwick Playhouse Northumberland 17th February - 21st February. 01665 510785. Catch it while you can!!!!

Production photos by Hope Ward – Brown.

Oddsocks Facebook Page


Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Graeae Theatre Company, Derby Theatre and Dundee Rep Ensemble present Blood Wedding

Graeae Theatre Company, Derby Theatre and Dundee Rep Ensemble present

By Federico Garcia Lorca

In a new version by David Ireland

Directed by Jenny Sealey

This spring, a radical new take on Federico Garcia Lorca’s Blood Wedding, co-produced by Graeae Theatre Company, Derby Theatre and Dundee Rep Ensemble will be touring to Derby Theatre, Beacon ArtsCentre, Greenock, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich and Liverpool Everyman after opening at Dundee Rep Theatre (4 – 14 March 2015).

Graeae’s Artistic Director Jenny Sealey MBE directs David Ireland’s modern day re-telling of a classic which is fuelled by searing lust, love and rebellion. When young lovers are overrun with passion and defy their families, the consequences are fatally heartbreaking as a wedding party turns sour and two families are torn apart.

All performances of Blood Wedding include a creative combination of BSL interpretation, captioning and audio description. The cast is made up of Deaf and disabled actors and non-disabled actors.

Graeae’s CEO/Artistic Director Jenny Sealey MBE says “Someone once said to me ‘Lorca did not write Blood Wedding for people like you (Deaf and disabled actors) to be in it’. Graeae, Dundee Rep and Derby Theatre beg to differ and challenge that statement with our adaptation by David Ireland, placing a glorious diversity of people centre stage, all of whom have a right to be there to claim their stake in the narrative.”

Tickets are now on sale at all venues.

The play contains scenes of an adult and sexual nature and strong language.

Recommended age 14+. Schools and colleges interested in booking, please contact Gemma Nicol, for further information.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Girls Like That at Derby Theatre. A chat with Hannah Johnstone


Yesterday I caught up with Hannah Johnston  in the busy marketing department of Derby Theatre. Second year theatre arts student Hannah is currently in the midst of learning how to market and sell a play through sterling advice from professionals at one of the East Midlands top regional theatres. As part of her studies at Derby University Theatre Arts department  she is very much involved in a new production of 'Girls Like That' by Evan Placey. She said that so far it has been a brilliant experience but before embarking on the journey of arts marketing she had no idea how much work was involved. Hannah added "The professionals like Heidi McKenzie and Caroline at Derby Theatre are amazing and just when I think I have done my job they come up with even more ideas on how to promote a show!"

Hannah continued by telling me of her experience of being interviewed on BBC Radio Derby the other day.  "It was really interesting but scary for a first timer like me. I seemed to have a constant lump in my throat! Saying that I came away thinking that I had done a reasonable job and the next time I will have some idea of what to expect. Actually, it was exciting!"

Placey's play explores what happens when a fictional sixteen year old girl called Scarlett posts a naked picture of herself online and through modern media means it goes viral. Rumours run wild and everyone in the school pecking order is quick to judge. Scarlett finds out that she has no true friends as the friends she has grown up with become her worst enemies. However, when a picture of a naked boy pings its way through cyberspace the reaction is not the same. The play examines the fragility of friendship and the pressures on the digital generation. In the Derby University Theatre Arts production the cast runs to thirteen and the production is on the main auditorium stage. Booking can be achieved through this link on the Derby Theatre website. On the Friday morning there is a free performance for school parties but hurry as tickets are going very fast. Age guidance 13+

In our very interesting chat Hannah was keen to make people aware that the themes of the play have a deep link into celebrity culture. This was especially true as some years ago when certain female celebs naked photos from previous relationships were hacked it all became a big scandal and perceived as an invasion of privacy by many. Interestingly enough this new interpretation of morality gained ground even though the people affected had chosen to be in the public eye. The concept of the viewer being the 'one in the wrong' not the celeb for taking the photo was different from the interpretations of the past. Hannah said that when she did her research she found information going back to 1984 when Vanessa Williams was the first black Miss America. As a younger and unknown woman Vanessa had taken some naked photos of herself that were eventually taken up and published by the Penthouse magazine and Vanessa was forced to relinquish her title. Another Vanessa ( a young starlet for the Disney Corporation) had a similar circumstances and was forced to apologise for her exposure. Hannah thought that the moral journey and people's reactions to female and male photographic exposure had taken a different turn and these themes are explored in Placey's thrilling play 'Girls Like That'.

I asked Hannah to tell me a bit about the playwright Evan Placey. Hannah: " It says on the back of the script that he is British Canadian and the play was originally performed at Birmingham Rep toured and finished its original run at West Yorkshire Playhouse in 2013. It was done recently as well so I have been able to see how that performance was marketed and see how that could help market our production at Derby Theatre. It was done at the Unicorn Theatre in London and I had the social media side of that to look at too. They did a pre-show trailer as we have and I was interested how they used technology to promote the piece that is about 'exploiting' technology in a bad way. In our trailer we wanted to bring out the spite and bitchiness of the girl characters in the play."

We went on to discuss other plays such as Pilot Theatre's Antigone and a brilliantly done production of Spring Awakening produced by Headlong Theatre both of which really showed off how theatre can be enhanced through accentuating the storyline and themes through invention and technology especially to engage a modern young audience.

 'Girls Like That' looks to be an explosive production at Derby Theatre (Thursday 5th to Saturday 7th Feb 2015) and Hannah Johnston's growing skills as a newly confident marketing person and promoter will no doubt be a challenge and time to be proud of. I look forward to reviewing this show on press night

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Thanks for a great 2014. Here's to this year!

2014 Highlights: Having the chance to talk to and interview Warwick Davis, Joe McGann, Shobna Gulati, John Godber, Brian Conley, Johnny Pusztai, Howard Brenton and Marcus Romer with Roy Williams. Also having great mates in Rick and Janette Martindale , Cibele Ponces Alvarenga, Lena Maier, Thorsten Feldmann, Carsten Thein, Markus Kűnstler, and Paul Johnson and Fariba from Sardines Magazine. You guys at Sardines have made my year with all the opportunities to write and to be professionally published.
Thanks to the The Public Reviews for all the chances to review theatre and shows across the East Midlands. Your exacting standards make my writing better and my theatrical eye keener. Many thanks.

Especial thanks to all at the Jakobus Theatre for hosting my first professional show ‪#‎greetingsfromthetrenches‬ and all at the Theater Die Käuze for supporting it. Of course it wouldn't have happened with the fun and professional work of my great friend Emma Brown. Hopefully see you in Leiden again this summer honey.

Some new friends have entered my life in 2014 not least the wonderful Kev Castle. Many thanks to Jo McLeish for your great support likewise to Heidi McKenzie and all at Derby Theatre especially to Sarah Brigham to access to your rehearsals and to witness your directing styles.

For all the hundreds of followers and readers of my two blogs and I wish you all a wonderful 2015 and can't wait to see what is around the corner to excite you all through my writing.

Finally thanks to all my colleagues at work who are genuinely interested to see me do well. You know who you are and I appreciate it. xx
Happy New Year all.