Category Archives: Theatre Reviews

The Evening Chronicle: Young Reviewers

The Evening Chronicle in Newcastle runs a competition and writing opportunity every year, which I would highly recommend. It’s called the ‘Young Reviewers’ scheme, and it allows for up and coming journalists to get press access to events around the North East. With this access, you are expected to write a review.

The first stage is to write your own review, which you send to The Evening Chronicle when the competition is opened. Then a group of the best writers are chosen, who become the reviewer pool, for the next year.

If your work is good, and Gordon Barr, the Entertainment Editor, is impressed with what you write, then your reviews will be printed in the paper. They’re sometimes available to view on The Evening Chronicle website too.

I was lucky enough to have quite a few things published, things which I’ve linked to previously on this blog:

It’s a brilliant opportunity, because it can often take you out of your comfort zone. Obviously my main area of writing up to that point was based around a music setting, but when offered the opportunity to reviews things like ballet and comedy, I jumped at the chance.

It adds to your portfolio, and that’s always a good thing, and you get to and experience a bunch of new and cool stuff, so yeah, I’d definitely recommend it. Added to this, there is a prize for the top two writers from the reviewers pool, and I was lucky enough to come away with a notebook laptop, so that just makes it even better.

 

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Long time no speak!

I know its been a pretty long time since I updated the blog. It has been caused in part by my camera pretty much falling apart and a bunch of other stuff all happening at once. I’m going to have a look and see what the last things I wrote about were… and ill be right back!

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Ok..ok! I’ve checked.

If we go in chronological order, then the first thing I need to talk about is The Evening Chronicle.

  • The Evening Chronicle
  • Sunderland Echo
  • NCTJ Diploma in Journalism
  • Hartlepool Mail
  • Northern Echo

 

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The Awkward Squad – The Customs House Theatre (Evening Chronicle)

BAFTA winning Emmerdale writer Karin Young introduces her play, The Awkward Squad to the Customs House, South Shields. It features an all-woman cast which portrays three generations of the same family, which has been forever altered by the mining strikes and their eventual closure. We start with a family that seems to have everything, a mother about to have a community centre named after her, a rich daughter with her money loving granddaughter and another daughter who is a BAFTA winning documentary maker. But things don’t always as great as they first seem

 

Comedy plays a huge part in the production, and they have case four women who can really make a crowd laugh. Whether it is dark humour in the face of adversity or slapstick I found myself chucking on numerous occasions, along with the rest of the crowd. Barbara Marten plays the exhausted but loving grandmother, who brings a real softness to the role, whilst always portraying matriarchal inner steel. Her daughters are played by The Bill star, Libby Davison and Emmerdale Geordie, Charlie Hardwick. They really compliment and bounce off each other well and the sisterly banter is rather authentic, while the rivalry and love shown creates some believable characters.  The granddaughter is played by Lisa McGrillis, who is charming and really comes into her own as the play goes on.

 

Social media and text messages are integrated into the simple set of the house, of which most of the play takes place, with them flashing up for the crowd to read on walls or the ceiling, keeping the crowd in the loop. As well as photos and videos from the strike and closures playing to help create a mood and bring the history to the foreground.

 

There is cultural and social commentary on the new values which are being pushed on women in today’s society. Life without purpose and the idea of being a WAG as a career choice is abhorred.  Whilst the idea of a strong family unit shines brightest. As everyone will taste failure at some point in their eyes, the play shows that with family by your side, a happier future can be found.

 

Heartwarming and thought provoking, what Karin Young has created is a play which shows an otherwise unseen side to the mine closures, and the trials and tribulations of the families trying to better themselves since. With humour and wit weaved against the darker depressing results, I found it to be both charming and smartly written.

 

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The Nutcracker – Theatre Royal Newcastle (Evening Chronicle)

Nutcracker is second only to Swan Lake, when speaking of world famous ballets. The traditional story, which starts at the Edwards’ family home at Christmas time. Excitement fills the home as Uncle Drosselmeyer unveils his magical powers, treating the hall to a dance by living dolls. Before he presents Young Clara with a wooden soldier nutcracker. During the night, unable to sleep, she returns to the dining hall where the uncle is again working his magic. Where what I encountered was a beautiful and magical set of events which left myself and the whole audience spell bound.

The musical score which runs throughout the production is utterly stunning. Unsurprising when you find out that it is down to the genius Tchaikovsky. The choreography has been crafted around this so the dancers are given a perfect platform on which to broadcast their vast talent. A perfect example of this is during the beautifully choreographed battle between the now living man sized nut cracker and his army of soldiers, and the mouse king and his minions. The physical interaction between the dancers combined with the passionate music creates a vivid living story.

The rise and fall of the score creates tension, building throughout the act before reaching a crescendo which causes the stage to explode into life. Whilst the staging and lighting added another dimension to the story, working as a living piece of the production, rather than a backdrop. The stage was host to a stunning display of dancers representing Arabian Princesses, Russian dancers and beautiful flowers amongst others, giving the whole production a larger scale.

The sugar plumb Fairy, played by Martha Leebolt and her partner Javier Torres who played the Cavalier stole the show during the second act. Their passion for dance was on display for all to see, and their skill and talent exceeded even that. The rest of the performers should be just as proud, with every one of them adding to a beautiful production.

http://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/entertainment-in-newcastle/theatre/2011/11/16/review-the-nutcracker-theatre-royal-newcastle-72703-29786101/

Grease Is The Word – Empire Theatre, Sunderland (Evening Chronicle)

GREASE is best known as the iconic film, starring John Travolta and Olivia  Newton John.

But it started and continues today as a theatre production, altered to  include the best loved songs from the film, so the tunes could be enjoyed  live. From Greased Lightning to Beauty School Dropout, they are all in there. This resulted in Grease being voted the number one greatest musical of all time.

For this production, the stage opened showing the live jazz band which was  going to be playing the music behind all of the tracks, and already had the  crowds toes tapping before a word is sung. Then the floor exploded into colour as the show began, the stage filled with  the greasers, girls and nerds of Rydell High School.

The cast are so good together. I wouldn’t have noticed that the leads were  played by understudies if I hadn’t been informed beforehand. It’s a testament to the quality and depth of talent within the cast, that I  can’t imagine the original actors could have done any better. Ricky Rojas, who played the ultra-confident lead man Danny, was genuinely funny.  His stage presence meant all eyes were on him, and his dancing skills during the  High School Hop were as exciting as they were technically awesome.

Lois Urwin, who deputised the part of Sandy for the night, played the part  with every drop of innocence and dignity. Her vocal talents on display during  the ballad, Danny, sent shivers down the spine. They both managed to portray two of the most well-known characters in cinema without seeming like theatre copycat versions.

Rhydian Roberts as Teen Angel is about as perfect a casting as you can get.  He provided the angel with all the over-the-top arrogance and confidence in the  world, which caused laughter throughout the crowd as he gestured to the  audience, before his voice blew the audience away. The man can sing, that’s for sure, bringing a note of classical almost  operatic tone to the song, High School Drop Out.

The dancing was choreographed to perfection, with the girls in their brightly  coloured dresses swinging around the dance floor in perfect unison. The dynamic lighting and staging in combination with pyrotechnics and an  orchestra of sound, brought a Broadway feel to the entire production. They have  gone the extra mile and it really shows.

The show has been polished to a vibrant shine. From young to old, whether  you’ve seen the film or not, it is exhilarating, toe-tapping, singalong fun for  the entire family.

http://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/entertainment-in-newcastle/theatre/2011/10/27/review-grease-sunderland-empire-72703-29673173/#ixzz1WznN913L

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The Man And The Donkey – The Customs House, South Shields (Evening Chronicle)

If you were to visit the war memorial museum in Australia, you would come across the statue of South Shields man John Simpson-Kirkpatrick and a donkey. The events that transpired which lead to the man being honoured in such a way are laid out in this tail, which was making its world premier.

Writer, Valerie Laws and Director, Jackie Fielding have created a play, which allows for the history and its characters to shine through, without forgetting that it must be entertaining at the same time. What results from this is the accurate telling of the story of an honest young man, caught up in circumstances which would change the course of his life forever, as it is quickly forced out of his control. From the beaches of South Shields to the trenches, serving as a stretcher-bearer in the Australian army, his ingenuity saved hundreds of lives. Listing the services of a donkey, he puts his own life in danger, carrying wounded soldiers with no thought of his own safety.

The atmosphere of each location visited is distinct despite using the same set. This is achieved through clever use of lighting and music, which draws you towards the characters themselves. Even the parts of scenes without dialogue manage to engage the audience, small touches such as the slow sound of the tide breaking against the bow of the ship, emphasise the drama through the silence of the actors.

Laugh out loud moments and in-jokes for sand dancers are numerous, and allow a slight distraction from the harsh realities of war, without ever becoming farcical. A lot of credit needs to be paid to Alison McGowan who created the donkey. Its puppetry, through subtle touches and movements give it a more realistic feel than you would think, which is important as he is such an integral character within the play.

The portrayal of the protagonist by Jamie Brown is both charming and accomplished, each line he delivers comes across as believable. He is served well by veteran actor Russell Floyd, who plays his commanding officer, as well as voicing numerous historical figures, as the wider story is unfolded. Their two styles complimenting each other well. Though the whole cast seem to fit together nicely, and the play is well acted throughout.

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