Friday, February 23, 2018

The Blue Electric Wind - People's Theatre - Review


The Blue Electric Wind
People's Theatre
22nd Feb 2018

The Blue Electric Wind is a new play written by Brad Birch. It was commissioned by the National Theatre's literary department to be a piece specifically aimed at young performers. It is a play "about memory, bravery and growing up."

A group of school children notice strange things happening to people in their town, memories begin to fade people forget little things at first, then bif things, then the people fade away themselves - they become blank. And they don't realise it's happening to them. It's left to a group of teenagers to try to solve the problem before it is too late and everyone fades away.

But these teenagers are not friends - they are from different peer groups and don't really like each other. They'll have to learn to trust each other, forgive each other, and find a way to work together or all will be lost.

Beneath the stark and eerie set of wires and strange flickering lights, this group of young actors recreate the banter and bickering of teenagers, the joking, the bragging, and the awkwardness.
They each hold their own on stage, deliver their lines with confidence and skill. If there are a couple of missed cues or stumbles they are covered with expert ease so barely noticeable. Some adults
lack such skill. There are some long and complicated speeches for some of the characters - there's quite a bit of technical sounding science stuff and some amusing nerdy science fiction stuff. I can't tell you more about that - you'll have to go see it on Saturday to find out.

Assured performances in an interesting and intriguing play.

The Blue Electric Wind plays until Saturday 24th Feb.   

Photo Credit Paula Smart

Denise Sparrowhawk

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Let us make it up to you -Review- Alpbabetti Theatre

Let us make it up to you
Alphabetti Theatre
Tuesday 20th February

This was the inaugural gig of let us make it up to you, the improv fabaganza, one of two monthly nights of improv at Alphabetti. The format of the show is split into three thirds the first third involving the house band the hang. The second third of the show involved local improv group Spontaneous Wrex and the third third (that’s a mouthful) involved nottingham improv duo the clones.

Owen Scrivens and Alex Fradera co founders of the new night introduced us to the delights of improv to come. Carefully and amusingly introducing us to the art of improv. Next up all the acts get on stage and we are told a story improviser at a time with different styles of story telling such as choose your own adventure and horror, simultaneously other improvisers acts out the story, which was quite amusing.

Next up the house band the hang, four improvisers led by Alex and Owen who initially took suggestions on what might influence their characters in a bar scene. Suggestions included curling, a knife, hogwarts and a cow. The improvisers did several long form scenes using these suggestions to create a narrative. There was quite a lot of stabbing and drinking in these scenes and you couldn’t tell that first time they had performed it. Very amusing.

Before the break the audience were told to do some drawings to inspire scenes for Spontaneous Wrex to thread into narrative, which they did quite seamlessly. Starting off with an apathetic depressed but environmentally concious dog called Tommy, being underwhelmed and some goldfish and a bomb with feet. Which was a hilarious narrative that ended in space, it was as convoluted and cathartic as it sounds.

In the final third We had guess spot the clones from Nottingham. They took some interesting suggestions from a reluctant audience, including Chlamydia, a windfall and what seemed to be the theme of the whole night friends that are friends not ‘friends’. The clones did two scenes and each played two characters, sometimes interacting with themselves, which can be problematic, but they made it work. We initially started in a car with two friends arguing and the revelation that one of the men’s ex was going out with the other friend. Then we arrive at a gathering with the lady in question and the guy she had an affair with to make some awkward scenes, including the resistance of polygamy. The Physicality felt very real and the interactions were very dramatic and believable and funny to boot.

Finally everyone came back together before the end of the night to do an imprompt song with Owen on Guitar. With a suggestion from the audience of a song about wedgies, which was as you would expect quite catchy, wedgie, wedgie wedgies. This was a great start to let us make it up to you and shall be here at Alphabetti every month with a different line up.

Up coming dates : 28th March (wed), 6th april (fri), 5th may (sat)

If you love improv be sure to check out :

4 1 night only on Saturday the 24th February @alphabetti Theatre

Open heart theatres class showcase on Wednesday the 28th February @ the bridge hotel

Say what improv jam come along and get involved Sunday the 4th march / 1st april @ prohibition

The Cult Of Dave -Review- Alphabetti Theatre

The Cult of Dave
Alphabetti Theatre
February 21st-23rd 2018


Magician Dave Alnwick’s magic show is his attempt to create his very own cult. He’s already onto a good start with Newcastle United being part of his fanbase, you might also be able to hire him yourself for your own event. Dave aims to convert people to everything Dave with his array of tricks and skills, the majority of which focus on his card tricks. Dave has an unbelievable amount of charisma and as he later admits is he feels like a leader, which is a good thing when the entire show is about him. He used very few props, just several packs of cards, a pen and a drawing board to explain his ideas and philosophy. He reminded me of comedian Dave Gorman throughout the show and I kept thinking of Ed Sheeran songs while he was performing, I guess it’s like the Harry Hill’s philosophy that all bald men look the same, but for ginger men.

He didn’t waste any time in wowing the crowd and dived straight into several card games, even throwing the audience off by suggesting ways he might of done the trick and then disapproving them. He had cards coming out of his mouth at one point, even got a guy to go through his pockets to reveal a single card and moments later he pulls out lots more cards. He used the majority of the crowd at some point in this process, dragging several members on stage with him. So if you like getting involved this show is for you. For the big finale he writes on a business card and seals it in an envelope giving it to a kid in the front row for safe keeping and gets the audience to pick numbers from a variety of combinations, which will later add up to an unknown number.

He likes to talk us through his thinking and informs a lot of the items around the magic he performs. He manages to guess which shape audience members are thinking of, by working out which volunteers are lying about various questions, such as what is your mothers maiden name (you are half way to accessing someone’s account if you get that!), to find out who has the card with a symbol on. Next he tries to guess someone’s card (from a full pack of cards) using psychological methods, splitting up each card type into different psychological profiles, such as leader (Dave’s type), optimist and another two types. He even teaches another audience member how to read someone’s card (and he gets it right)

In the finale he attempts to play a game of poker with two audience members using one pack of cards splitting them and memorising half of pack, then getting the volunteers to order the rest of the cards for him to eliminate them leaving just five cards for each person without looking at the cards. Before everyone goes he talks about his merchandise (join the cult of Dave) and does his big reveal of what he’s been working towards all through the performance.

I found this show very entertaining and my attention was always on the show. It would have been nice if he had done less card tricks and more of the mentalist / mind reader type of magic and other magic types, but it was captivating all the same. He’s a born showman and will no doubt only increase on his cult following in the next few years.

Hamlet - Northern Stage - Review

Hamlet
RSC at Northern Stage
20th Feb 2018

Simon Godwin's Hamlet is a revelation. No sign here of any stuffy classical Shakespeare, the play bursts  onto the stage in a riot of noise and colour - drums, chanting, singing, clapping, dancing...costumes that are exquisitely shaped and coloured, bright prints for the queen, bold suits and ties for the king and the courtiers, camouflage fatigues for the soldiers.

Lorna Brown plays the beautiful Queen Gertrude with elegance and grace, while Clarence Smith struts and swaggers as the new King Claudius, preening like a peacock and exhibiting all the lustful inclinations which so disgust his nephew. In contrast to their peacock feathered preening, Hamlet appears in black and grey, hands shoved into pockets of a hoodie, still mourning his father he stands apart from the court, the only one not rejoicing at his mother and uncle's marriage. Paapa Essiedu fills the role of Hamlet with such grace and presence, from his righteous anger at the unseemly speed of the marriage, to his antics feigning madness, his performance is captivating.

This is a play of contrasts -  from the colourful revelry of the court, and the travelling players, to Hamlet's dark brooding anger. From the sweetness of Ophelia's relationship with her father Polonious (Joseph Mydell) and brother Laertes (Buom Tihngang) and the beauty of her love for Hamlet set against his own distrust, and the lustful relationship between the king and queen. After her father's death, Ophelia's madness is absolute and real, and could not be further from Hamlet's controlled mimicry of madness. Mimi Ndiweni's depiction is utterly convincing, as she veers from childlike singing, to wretched wailing - a million miles from the happy, carefree girl she was in the earlier scenes.

Throughout the production the performances are outstanding, even down to the scene changes which seem almost choreographed. The whole production is dynamic and energetic. It's a masterpiece and a privilege to watch.

Hamlet plays until 24th February and is quite rightly sold out!

Denise Sparrowhawk


Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Showstopper! The improvised musical -review - Northern stage 

Showstopper! The improvised musical @ Northern stage February 17th 2018

Showstopper! the improvised musical is an improvised show with a musical theme, made up of a collective of musicians. Improvisers and a director. This five star Olivier award winning act were making their début performance in Newcastle having toured the country in addition to their annual Edinburgh festival run. Tonight's performance consisted of five performers, two musicians and a director as an eight piece act from over twenty players in their overall collective.  

The stage was quite minimal, but used effectively. The show started subtly with a telephone ringing on stage, which was reminiscent of a scene from 60s classic batman and dealt with in a similar way. The director then had a pretend conversation with his boss about needing to write a musical by nine thirty (which ended up finishing at ten, due to unforeseeable circumstances explained below) It was at this point the director offers the audience the chance to make suggestions that will help create the show. Two guys called Ben made suggestions that received luke warm support in the end the location selected by the audience was Greggs, another suggestion of Whitley Bay (not Whiby bay which was mistakenly heard by one of the cast) was also used. Various musicals were selected to inspire scenes, such as the rocky horror picture show, sunshine on Leith, the book of Mormon, Hamilton and South Pacific. 

Once all the suggestions were taken the play began. The costumes looked believable as Greggs attire, as we met two sisters working at Greggs, longing to meet the Gregg of Greggs, double g. The girls wrote him a letter inviting him to come and see them in Whitley Bay. There was great chemistry between the two sisters, we then saw another scene with Gregg of Greggs the baker double g and his two sons with an amusing song about how disappointed Gregg was in his two sons. One son good at icing the other a fondue fancy expert. It was at this point, the play needed to be halted due to illness of a member of the packed crowd, who seems to have fainted . After a short delay and checking the lady got the attention she needed the play resumed. 

In the next scene the girls were at Whitley Bay arcade playing hook a duck and eating hot dogs and candy floss. Whitby bay was mistakenly said by one improviser and this was used as a game and played upon many times in further scenes , which is something I love about improv, making the mistakes an important part of the show. Gregg enters with his two sons and after flirting with Gregg, the girls turn their attention to the two sons. After some more songs the girls and boys bond and both of the men propose before we head into the half time break. 

After the break more suggestions were made by the crowd including making it more Geordie (even having the girls teach the boys how to be more Geordie using hilarious songs to illustrate being more Geordie, including phrases such as “away pet” and references to PJ and Duncan) other suggestions were made such as going to Byker, this show was very heavy on North east references. The story progressed with the couples falling out due to one of them being already married to the others fiancée. We then see the couples fighting (a great fight scene) splitting up and inevitably getting back together at the end of the play. Susan Harrison had two main parts, as well as being one of the Greggs workers sisters, she also played Greggs wife, who seemed one minute to be dead and the next just estranged, but that’s improv for you, changing your mind about what’s important in the scene is a good way to make it more interesting. My favourite quote from the show being From Lucy’s character one of the sisters “This was suppose to be the bay of dreams, not the bay of shit.” 

Overall this was a great show, professionalism all the way through, even after the show had been paused due to illness in the crowd. The acting, singing, improvising and even dancing were top notch. All the Showstopper’s were on their A game, Susan Harrison and Lucy Trodd particularly on great form and I would thoroughly recommend this show when it comes back to the north east on it’s never ending tour.   


Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Rabbit Hole - Review - Royalty Theatre

Rabbit Hole
Royalty Theatre
19th Feb 2018

David Lindsey-Adair's Rabbit Hole won the 2007 Pulitzer prize for Drama. The synopsis sounds a little bleak. A couple coming to terms with the death of their son are faced with the news that the wife's sister is pregnant, and the teenager who caused the accident that killed their son wants to meet them. You might expect therefore a rather grim exploration of a family in freefall, trying, and probably failing, to come to terms with their grief. You'd be wrong. This is a sensitive and sympathetic portrayal of a family on the verge of disintegration, each member floundering in their grief, desperate to find a way through. It is a story told with compassion and gentle humour, with characters who are carefully observed and drawn.

Under the direction of Lee Stewart this small cast don't put a foot wrong. Corinne Kilvington is utterly believable as the grief-stricken mother Becca, struggling to live in a house full of memories. A homemaker in a home that has had its heart ripped from it, she tries to cling on to normality by baking for and nurturing other members of the family, while slowly removing the too painful evidence of her son - taking his drawings down from the fridge, sending his dog to her mother, giving his clothes to charity. In contrast her husband Howie (Ryan Rowntree) clings to the memories, watching the last video of Danny at the park, reliving the day over and over. Rowntree gives a very natural and unforced performance.

As the two try to cope in their own way they find themselves pushed apart, unable to accept the other's way of grieving. Emotions naturally run high and cracks begin to appear in their relationship. Will they manage to repair themselves and each other, or will their life together fall apart?

Into this come Becca's sister and mother. Izzy (Abbi Laidler) is the younger sister: irresponsible, a little wayward, and pregnant. We see her gradually become the voice of reason in the play. Nat (Anna Snell) the girls' mother, drawing on her own experience but causes only more pain and anger with her well meaning but untimely advice. These two actors perfectly capture the difficult relationships between mother and daughter, and older and younger siblings.
Finally we meet Jason - the teenager who caused the death of their child. Ben Gettins gives a heartfelt performance as this young man on the cusp of adulthood, trying to come to terms with the consequences of his actions.

The set is clean and uncluttered, changes in lighting mark the end of each scene with precision, and carefully chosen music adds to the overall feel of the play. The cast give incredibly assured and moving performances.

This an impressive production and one of the best I have seen here. The buzz of conversation at the interval and as people were leaving the theatre suggests I am not the only person to thinks so.

Rabbit Hole runs until Sat 24th February and is definitely one to see. Tickets are just £8.00 and available on the ticket hotline 0333 666 3366 or online at www.royaltytheatre.co.uk or at the box office before the show.

Denise Sparrowhawk

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Preview - Blue Electric Wind - People's Theatre

The Blue Electric Wind 
by Brad Birch 


“First you just forget things, little things, things you’ve done, things you’ve said. 
Then you forget who you are. 
And then …” 

When people at school start forgetting things, Scott wonders if he’s the only one who’s noticed. He and some of the school’s misfits seem to be the only ones who can see what’s happening.  

The weather is weird, football is cancelled and everyone gets detention because the teachers keep forgetting what they’re doing.  

The pupils must join forces to try and work out what is causing everyone in town to lose all sense of who they are. Should they hide and save themselves, save the ones they love or risk it all and tell everyone what is really going on? 

THE BLUE ELECTRIC WIND is play about why we remember what we do; about bravery and growing up. 
This is the third time the talented Young People’s Theatre have participated in the National Theatre Connections Festival and they are excited to share with you this funny, dramatic and entertaining story especially written for teenage performers. 

The fifteen young actors in the play are aged 13-17 and for some of them this is the biggest role they have ever taken on. With director Sarah McLane, everyone is working hard in rehearsals ahead of bringing this new play to the main stage in February and to Northern Stage on 10th May.

  
Writer Brad Birch’s previous plays include Black Mountain, which recently opened at the Orange Tree Theatre in London after premiering at the Edinburgh Fringe, The Brink and Even Stillness Breathes Softly Against A Brick Wall. Last year he was awarded the Harold Pinter Commission and recently completed the Channel 4 Writers’ Scheme. 

The Young People's Theatre is a youth theatre for 11-17 year olds where weekly drama workshops enable  youngsters to take part in, and discover more about, all aspects of theatre, staging three or four productions each year, giving all of the members the opportunity to take part both on and off stage.

The People's Theatre believe that theatre helps young people develop confidence as well as theatrical skills, and is a great way to make new friends from across the region. For more information on the group and if you’d like to join, please head to peoplestheatre.co.uk 




Last year the Young People’s Theatre celebrated its 50th year and some of members have gone on to work professionally in theatre and the arts, including comedian Ross Noble who is currently starring in Young Frankenstein in the West End. 

Photos by Paula Smart
The Blue Electric Wind 
DATE: Thursday 22 – Saturday 24 February 2018 
TIME: 7.30pm 
VENUE: People’s Theatre, Stephenson Road, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE6 5QF 
TICKETS: £10 (Concessions £7) 
TELE: 0191 265 5020 
www.peoplestheatre.co.uk  


Friday, February 16, 2018

Bankers - Alphabetti Theatre - Review

Bankers
Alphabetti Theatre, Newcastle
15th February 2018 7PM

“As a company, Write On Tap aim to make work that is culturally aware and politically relevant” writes producer Becci Sharrock of Bankers.

Ten years after the Northern Rock collapse this theatre production, written by 4 emerging North East playwrights, looks at the issues, the aftermath (including the ever increasing usage of food banks), and even the possibilities beyond the present day. 

The theatre was packed (some people had to stand it was so well attended) as the show began. For research and inspiration, they had spoken to food bank volunteers and clients, ex Northern Rock employees and academics - some of whose words could be heard playing through the speakers. Statistics, both informative and more tongue in cheek, were displayed on a screen behind. This changed and updated throughout the different scenes.

The f
our stories performed by local actors, ranged from an unapologetic banker looking to expand on his social portfolio, a couple caught in the crisis when Northern Rock crumbled, to 2 families' first hand experience of food banks. They gave an informative and entertaining look at one of today's very current and real facts of life. I found it very interesting and informative and whilst certainly the subject matter is a serious one, it was written and told in a realistic and believable way, that got the message across without being patronising or preachy in any way. There was lots of topical humour interspersed throughout. 
I found this a great balance of telling a story and giving information.

Alongside the show Write On Tap are also running a special campaign in partnership with Alphabetti Theatre and Newcastle’s West End Foodbank, encouraging audiences to support the foodbank. It aims to fill Alphabetti’s lift with donations from Tuesday 13th February to Saturday 24th February. Donations can be dropped off during the theatre's opening times.

The following items are requested for donation *tea bags *instant coffee *sugar (500g) *cereal *pasta *milk (UHT or powdered) *fruit juice (long life) *tinned tomatoes *tinned vegetables *tinned fish *biscuits/snacks *tinned rice pudding *rice *tinned fruit

Alternatively if you wish to make a financial donation via a regular direct debit go to https://newcastlewestend.foodbank.org.uk/give-help

Belinda Bekki-Winter

Bankers showed for two nights on Thursday 15th and Friday 16th February at 7.00pm as Pay What You Feel shows. Hopefully people felt a lot. 

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Breaking the Code - Review - People's Theatre

Breaking the Code
13th Feb 2018


The impact of this show begins as soon as you take your seat – the stage is set with box shelves with typewriters and other paraphernalia each side of the stage, in perfect symmetry against a backdrop of oversized dials, dramatically lit, and at the front a single bare table and chair.

As the play starts a man – Alan Turing - enters, sits at the table and positions himself prone, one arm outstretched across the table, his head resting on the arm, he rests motionless as broken sentences, music, and electronic noise blare out in a cacophony of sound. This sound, harsh and abrasive will mark change of each scene as time switches between each flashback of Turing’s life.
The scene changes are swift and almost clinical as the cast and crew move props swiftly and silently in almost choreographed movements.  

From the very first line uttered Richard Jack holds us spellbound with his sympathetic, compassionate portrayal of Turing. The first scene is his interview with the police officer Mick Ross, reporting a burglary in which very little of worth has been taken. It becomes increasingly obvious that there is more to the burglary than Turing is admitting, and Detective Ross grows increasingly suspicious. You can feel the undercurrents of distrust and anxiety between Turing and Ross as the questions become more pointed and the answers unsatisfactorily vague. And yet it is also filled with humour – as is the whole play. It deals with such heart-breaking injustices and yet it is not at all self-pitying. It portrays Turing as a bright, intelligent, passionate, and compassionate man. A truthful and principled man. Lacking social skills, he appears gauche and awkward at times and yet is transformed when he speaks of his work, of the love of mathematics and philosophy.  Jack’s delivery is impeccable. From the young, adolescent Alan to the older, jaded man he is utterly believable.

The supporting cast all give excellent performances, but acknowledgements should go to Adam Kadow as Christopher, Richard Gardner upholding the law as Detective Ross, and  Eileen Davidson endearing as Turing’s mother. Steve Robertson is outstanding as Turing’s gruff, forgetful boss at Bletchley. While Nathan Hussain as Ron leaves us wondering whether he was a good guy or a bad guy – louche, charming, but dishonest.  

Breaking the Code is a funny, emotional, heartrending play. It seems horrific to us now that a man who was instrumental in helping end the Second World War should have been so hideously treated – act two really only hints at the difficulties that Turing encountered before and after his arrest. He is a national hero and yet was ostracised by the very people whose freedom he helped to win.

I wonder, did he take a bite of the poisoned apple to escape a life he felt was untenable,  hoping a charming prince would save him, or did he do it, knowing he had achieved all he could in the circumstances, and would finally join his prince, the boy he had loved, and who had inspired his entire life’s work?

This is the best performance yet from The People’s Theatre. It runs until Saturday. You should not miss it.

Denise Sparrowhawk