Reviews from shows, plays, comedies and music events.

Her Benny

Evie Kaufman and Louie Gray

What an absolute delight it was to photograph this show, and its talented cast, both adults and youngsters alike.

Every time I looked around me in the auditorium, I was struck by the awe and adulation on the faces, and at times, it wasn’t difficult to detect a tear or two as well.

The cast list was as impressive in number as the performances were in terms of talent. More than twenty adult actors and no fewer than forty youngsters made up the cast, and every one of them as accomplished in the singing, dancing and acting departments as you could possibly ask for.

The youngsters were split into three “teams” who would alternate on performance nights, so as not to impact too much on their schooling.

On the night we were there, it was Team B “Nell’s Team”, who were on stage, and the stars who shone brightest were little Evie Kaufman in the role of Nell, and Louie Gray, who was ‘her Benny’. Their on-stage presence and the magic they spun as they danced and sang, won the hearts of everyone in the auditorium. How proud must their parents have been!

The play itself first emerged twenty-five years ago from the pen of Anne Dalton, having adapted from a book by novelist Silas K. Hocking, who died in 1935.

The show if very much Anne’s baby, also being producer, director, composer and lyricist. Back then, Her Benny won “The International Quest for New Musicals” award, and has matured over the years into a fine musical that provides an insight into what life must have been like in Victorian times, when the class divide was at its greatest.

This is an absolute gem of a show. A definite ‘Must-see’.

Her Benny runs at the Royal Court, Liverpool, until February 10th.

 

 

 

By |January 31st, 2018|3 Comments

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The Scouse Nativity

Forget everything you ever read about The Nativity.

History has been re-written. And this time, the writers and soothsayers have even out-trumped the American pussy- ̶g̶r̶a̶b̶b̶i̶n̶g̶ footing president’s re-defining of the significance of Jerusalem.

The Scouse Nativity has to be the most controversial, and the most hilarious telling of that two thousand and eighteen year old story. And, it has to be said, probably no less accurately than the multitude of previous “official” versions of that particular fairy tale.

Messers Duckworth, Scholfield, Fletcher and Fletcher excelled in their comedic roles of Herod, Terry, Joseph and Jerry.

The beautiful Hayley Hampton excelled in her role of the virgin mother Mary, with the singing voice of an angel.

The voluptuous Lindzi Germain dominated the stage – or at least the air space above the stage – as she flew in and out of the plot as the fixer Angel Gabriel, and into our hearts as the brilliant comedy actress that she is.

Completing this unholy trinity is the clumsy, comical, charismatic Keddy Sutton, who had us in stitches in her role a the hapless Lil, and captivated us with her spontaneous musical impressions of Cilla Black.

All credit to Kevin Fearon who, in writing this his second Royal Court Christmas show, has maintained and built upon the unique style of “adult panto”  created by Fred Lawless seven years ago.

Credit too, to director Cal McCrystal for interpreting the script and feeding it to the seven laughter-hungry actors; and to impresario Howard Grey, who’s musical direction can transform standards onto new hilarious Royal Court magical musical standards.

I have to say, the set design is one of the best ever. It’s the first time I have ever seen a huge “pop-up” book on stage, with the actors themselves turning the pages as the story progressed.

From such fabulous performances, it seems almost wicked to pick out any one favourite. But if I had to nominate my ‘man of the match’ it would be Drew Scholfield for his portrayal of an unholy Jeremy Kyle in the final scene.  There wasn’t a dry seat in the house.

If you are a theatre -goer, this will be the best thing you’ll have seen all year. Or if you go after Christmas (the show runs until January 13th) it will be the best way to start 2018.

And if you are not a ‘theatre-goer’, do go and see this play. You will be converted.

The Scouse Nativity gets a resounding FIVE STARS from me.

By |December 7th, 2017|0 Comments

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YNWA Review – Royal Court Theatre 2017

Well that was emotional…

I can’t even say I’m a huge fan of football, but when they sang “You’ll Never Walk Alone” in the show’s final minutes, a lump came to my throat and a little dampness to my eyes. It gave me an insight to what the atmosphere must be like on The Kop when Liverpool win a major match.

In fact you could hardly hear the voices of the actors on stage, despite them being ‘miked-up’, such was the passion of the voluminous singing from the packed auditorium. Virtually everyone in the audience was on their feet.

YNWA  is a fascinating play about what is arguably the most famous football club in the world, documenting its 125 year history from 1892, when it was founded by J.K Holding, to the present day under the managerial hand of Jurgen Klopp.

Coming from the pen of Liverpool playwright Nicky Alt, the story’s highs are told with passion and humour and its lows, with empathy and dignity.  The talented cast did the script proud under the direction of Howard Gray who handled the emotive issues of the Heysel Stadium disaster and Hillsborough sympathetically, poignantly and without sensationalism.

The club’s history was told via songs from each particular era, with some of the actors doubling up as members of the on-stage band.

Regardless whether their off-stage allegiances were Red or Blue, the “team” performed and sang with the kind of skill and gusto Klopp instils into his footballers.  In the line-up were several of the theatre’s regulars, including Mark Moraghan, Lindzi Germain, Jake Abraham, Lenny Wood, and it was great to see the lovely Jamie Hampson back in the same role that marked her Royal Court stage debut when the play was first aired here five years ago.

All in all this is a fabulous play. Very entertaining, very funny and, at times, very emotional. I spotted some real tears during the telling of the dark days of ’89.  I’ve already talked about  the passion and pride felt during the finale as the whole auditorium joined in a rousing rendition of the song now synonymous with Liverpool F.C. and which gave its name to the title of this play. But when two of the football club’s legends Alan Kennedy and Phil Neal emerged stage right, brandishing the European Cup, the already established standing ovation erupted to almost take the roof off this lovely, recently refurbished, Roe Street venue.

You’ll certainly never walk alone through the doors of the Royal Court Theatre this month, because between now and October 29th you’ll be joining the ranks of thousands of avid Liverpool F.C. fans.

Tickets are from £15 and if you  book a seat in the stalls you can opt to be served a meal before the show for an extra £12. And as a bonus on Saturday 14th October, you can also watch the Liverpool vs Manchester United match live on the big screen.

YNWA gets the full five stars from me.

Click images to enlarge

By |October 9th, 2017|0 Comments

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The Royal at The Royal Court

If the symptoms you are suffering include a lack of slapstick and innuendo, well Oooh-Er matron, get yourself admitted at The Royal. And I don’t mean Liverpool’s new flagship hospital. I’m talking about the city’s Royal Court Theatre.

In fact, everyone is talking about this fabulous comedy written by, and starring, Lindzi Germain, who plays hospital tea-trolly dolly, Teresa McDonald. Additional material was supplied by Angela Simms and Lynn Francis, who respectively play Nurse Florence and the magnificently loud-mouthed and disorderly Ward Orderly, Mo McGuire.

The play is set in the very last medical ward to be evacuated at the old Liverpool Royal Hospital on the day the demolition team move in with their jack hammers and wrecking ball.

These three talented ladies have built on the foundations of the “Carry-on” comedies and taken the slapstick and innuendo to a whole new level of hilarity. Everyone else has already moved to the brand new hospital, and in the last ward to close before the demolition crew move in, they go about the business of saving lives whilst the crumbling old hospital building, quite literally, comes crashing down around their ears.

One of the lives they save is that of the grumpy nil-by-mouth-unless-it’s-alcohol patient Walter Bush, played by the inimitable Alan Stocks. With no doctor available, rookie nurse Florence, who’s training involved watching every episode of ‘Casualty’, removes his appendix to the sound of the program’s theme tune.

When the wrecking ball struck, the very convincing jaded hospital ward, became an equally convincing disaster site right before the audience’s eyes. There was no lights-out or behind-the-curtain scene shifting. It was engineered in a manner that should earn set designer Mark Walters an Oscar (or whatever awards set designers get).

Then amid the mayhem, demolition man Paddy O’Shaughnessy, played by actor Danny O’Brien, gallantly arrives on the scene, setting nurse Florence’s heart a’fluttering and ultimately becoming hero of the hour.

Sadly, one patient didn’t make it. Mrs Llewellyn died in her hospital bed just fifteen minutes into the play, despite nurse Florence’s shockingly bad best efforts with the defibrillator. Actor Phillip Hesteltine might not of had a single line to learn but must surely get the Golden Bedpan award for “Best Corpse”. He was on stage for the entire play, remaining straight-faced and ashen throughout, whilst enduring a string of hilarious indignities.

The prospect of ‘corpsing’ on stage is every actor’s nightmare. And many will tell you that it is most likely to happen while you are playing dead!

The Royal is a delightful fast-moving comedy jam-packed with wonderful one-liners, lots of action and has a great story-line running through it. All six actors did this clever script proud and were a credit to director Cal McCrystal.

The first week saw the theatre running out of seats faster than the NHS is running out of beds. So if you want an injection of fabulous fun, get your self on the waiting list now before it’s run at The Royal Court ends on the 23rd of September. Box Office

By |September 3rd, 2017|0 Comments

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Lonesome West Review

I must have seen Paul Duckworth a good half dozen or so times at The Royal Court in recent years. Yet I’ve just realised that I’d only ever seen a fraction of his zany and expressive humour.

To use the phraseology of Martin McDonagh’s dark Irish comedy, he was fecking brilliant!

He brought the character Valene Connor to life in a way lesser thespians might have been accused of over-acting. Yet here he was, a cross between the pythonesque Eric Idle and Marty Feldman without the squint, delivering his lines with impeccable timing, convincingly portraying the spoilt brat in a volatile and troubled brotherly relationship.

Coleman was the other half of this simmering sibling quagmire. Played by Keiran Cunningham, he was the quieter and less demonstrative of the two, whilst being equally as funny, and just as scary, as they squared up to each other in an intense fraternal power struggle.

Then there was the tragic Father Welsh. I kept seeing Stephen Tompkinson but I’ve been assured it was actor Alan Devally. His lugubrious lakeside monologue at the start of part two was extremely moving and quite magnificent.

The sweet young actress Anne O’Riordan played the even younger and no less sweet Girleen Kelleher, who bounced around imparting little shafts of light into the dark story-line.

As dark as this play was, the dialogue was fast and funny, and all four actors played a blinder. The Irish humour was brilliant and the accents very convincing, which wouldn’t have been a problem for  O’Riordan and Devally, hailing as they do from Waterford and Galway respectively.

4.5 ✰ 
Lonesome West gets four and a half of my five stars. It is a different type of comedy compared to the Royal Court’s usual offerings, but no less enjoyable, and one not to be missed.

In fact the only thing I didn’t like about it was that damn silly title that gives the impression you’re off to see a wild west cowboy play.

By |April 30th, 2017|0 Comments

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