Sunday, 10 April 2016

Bright New Day...


 ... Well, not exactly all over again. All content will still be available, just in a new location.

It's time for this blog to pack up its bags and head over to it's new home at Wordpress. Here's the new domain: 

Show and Tell - Linking it Up

Round up, round up to what I'm hoping will be a weekly event - a show and tell of interesting links, videos or whatever other theatrical tidbits have caught my attention this week...

1. Kit Harrington and cast in rehearsal

The website Official London Theatre posted these pictures from the Doctor Faustus rehearsal room, on Wednesday - exactly 2 weeks before I head to London to see it. Needless to say, it has increased the excitement...

2.  Jesse Eisenberg's play 'The Spoils' coming to the West End

Also on Wednesday, it was announced this show would be arriving with us soon, starring both Eisenberg himself and Kunal Nayyar (Raj from the Big Bang Theory) but, given that it's quite a limited run, I'm not sure whether I'll actually get to see it. 

For those who can, though. Here's the ticket link...

3. Gavin Creel and Aaron Tveit 'Take Me For What I Am'

Musical Theatre fans both sides of the Atlantic went crazy for this video of two of theatre's hottest leading men performing the traditionally female roles of Maureen and Joanne's duet from 'Rent' at MCC Theater's Miscast gala

But what exactly is 'Miscast'? 
It's a show where performers get to sing songs from roles they would never normally be considered for. 
Check out their website for videos, photos and more info. 

4. Sierra's Motivational Talks

Sierra is not only a great singer, but full of inspirational, motivational wisdom too. She posted a video to her Facebook fanpage about 'elimating fear'. It's aimed mostly at encouraging performers to let go of their fear, but you can find relevance to any walk of life in the message.

5. Only the Brave - A new and original musical

Technically, I saw the show last week but it's stayed in my mind - surely a sign of a show which should not be allowed to disappear into obscurity? 

Take a listen to the Act One finale

Monday, 4 April 2016

REVIEW: Only The Brave

Company: Wales Millennium Centre, Soho Theatre, Daniel Sparrow Productions & Birdsong Productions 
Venue: Wales Millennium Centre    Date & Time: Saturday 2nd April, 2.30pm Writer: Rachel Wagstaff      Composer: Matthew Brind      Director: Steve Marmion


1940s Britain seeps into the soul upon entrance into Wales Millennium Centre. A band plays some swinging music, while dancers dressed in pretty floral dresses and dapper suits twirl around in time to the beat. Some hustlers sidle over and try to flog some wares. This is all part of an immersive build up, putting ones mindset very much in the era, ready to experience the musical based on the day D-Day landings.   

Writer Rachel Wagstaff and Director/Lyricist Steve Marmion have done a masterful job of bringing this complex story, based on real events and real people, to the stage in an uncomplicated way. There is quick connection to the characters, with insight into each of their personal stories. Wagstaff has a strong passion for war stories, which shines through in her considerate, thoughtful and honest story-telling. 

The company have a heavy duty of their own in this production – to give a performance that honours the memory of the soldiers they represent, to portray them as the brave heroes that they were, but more pertinently, the people that they were. That's why this story works so beautifully. It's not just cold, detached facts, it delves into the personal lives of each character. They're not just two-dimensional figures in a text book, or stone statues with plaques. Theatre has breathed life into them once more, so we can know them as people. People like us. People with personalities, hobbies, likes and dislikes, families and friends. 
Not only do the cast achieve their duty, but they excel, all showing incredible insight and sensitivity to their characters. David Thaxton plays leader of the troops, Captain John Howard, with authority and gravitas. Neil McDermott matches and balances this with his more laddish, fun-loving Lieutenant Denham Brotheridge. It is a testament to the skill of all the actors playing soldiers, that they can bound effortlessly from the demanding physical army workouts, straight into powerful songs with not a single tremor of the voice.  

A special mention must also go to Nikki Mae for her heart-wrenching performance of the robust, courageous Isabelle – a 16 year old French girl who, determined to help, relays back invaluable information that she overhears from the Nazis. Act One ends in a moving combination of poignant song and distressing scene, as Isabelle is found out and faces the consequences. That lingers vividly in the memory now, such was the impact. 

It's not all heavy hearts and tears however, for in the midst of even the darkest moments light can be found in laughter. There are jokes scattered about in the production, including a long-running one about a soldier who's always late, as well as witty one liners and what we would nowadays call 'banter'. 

While the story and the performances were intensely brilliant, the same cannot be said for the set design or general score. There were some standout songs such as the aforementioned Act One closing number 'A Band of Brothers' and the chokingly moving 'Regret and Sympathy' sung by the women, typing letters to the relatives of fallen soldiers. Unfortunately the rest of the score blurred into unmemorable blandness.  

The set design, created by Michael Vale, had some great conceptsThe use of the scaffold staircases was inspired and made for interesting visuals when combined with choreography from Alistair Davidmost memorably and strikingly in the 'landing' scene. The three layered projection was a great idea and created a depth to make up for lack of scenery... but this was the wrong show for it – too futuristic given the effort made to make everything else feel genuinely of the era 

With a little refining, this production seems destined for great things and certainly is a strong contender for a place in the West End