Hello! And the first review of 2010

So….you kinda know what I’m going to say – there was no ‘The Best of 2009’ which in a way is sad because it means I didn’t get to mention It Felt Like A Kiss, Mother Courage, Found In The Ground, Kristen Schall and Kurt Braunohler, Spring Awakening or Cat On A Hat Tin Roof.  But on the other hand it’s always nice to start with something new – and so along with a preview of the New Year and a deeply heartfelt blog on identity in theatre – here is the first review of 2010.  A suitably tub thumping endeavour, LADS is a very pleasant way to start the New Year.

Written for What’s On Stage 09/01/10

In the land of fair Wetherspoons, four rowdy Knights of the Pub Table share their stories of beautiful (if a bit drunken) maidens and battles between (brawling) brothers. Flying under the stylistic banner of the distinctive Steven Berkoff, their tale is a full on ‘wham bam thank you mam’ production, with grotesque physicalization taking centre stage.

Jobless, Actless, Faithless and Dependable, otherwise known as Nick, Jimmy, Paul and Rich are four disparate youths bound inextricably together through the ties of friendship. Whilst heading out for a night on the tiles, they encounter all of the usual obnoxious suspects whilst embarking on a huge amount of drinking – so a standard night out in London then.

But this is not to say that this is a standard piece. Raucous and bombastic LADS is an exhilarating ride, not to mention hugely funny. Writer and director James Kermack’s spot on observations are extended into sharply crafted and theatricalised moments of chorography. The energy of his direction carries you away on the whirlwind of affectionately mundane excitement that everyone feels at the promise of a night out on the town with your pals.

Our four lads are played with great verve by Geoff Breton, Drummond Bowskill, Josh Boyd Rochford and Danny John Noonan. As they embody the rabble that these boys encounter we see greasy bosses and nasal gaggles of girls float caustically in front of our eyes. As they banter with one another the brotherly bond that ties these four Knights together is tangibly there.

Of the four it is Bowskill who steals scenes however, giving a comedy performance that would rival that of all the great buffoons. Infinitely charming Bowskill seems to sit more within a Commedia Dell Arte tradition than the Berkoff that surrounds him.

As with the autocratic Mr Berkoff however, in the midst of all this revelry it all gets a bit much. This company are forcefully leading their audience by the hand instead of inviting us to follow them and awkwardly, at points, it feels a little like an edition of Nuts with the agony aunt page at the end.

But even if Kermack falls down in the more naturalistic scenes, LADS is still a textured and confident piece of theatre which shows the emergence of a strong talent. Shakespeare it’s not, but for pure balls out entertainment, LADS is guaranteed to blow away the January doldrums.

Runs until 23rd January 2010. For more details go to the Canal Cafe Theatre


Dreamboats & Petticoats – the enjoyable musical coat hanger of the 60s.

Well after a long absence this theatre goer was whisked back into the darkened auditorium for the sugar candy coated extravaganza that is Dreamboats & Petticoats.  Based on the apparently million selling album (although neither I nor my friend had heard of it at all – I’d be very interested if anyone has?) this is simply a collection of 1960s classics with a very meagre story of teen love and a bit of rock and roll thrown in to tie it all together. 


All the greats are here from the strangely addictive Let’s Twist Again to the pulsating rhythms of Shakin’ All Over and the dulcet longings of To Know Him Is To Love Him.  All in all there are a dizzying 43 musical numbers in a piece which could only be described as the musical equivalent of a coat hanger; let those 60s tunes hang off there boys, and heaven forbid we should have any actual substance.


The tunes are jolly enough, as are the twirling petticoats and hunky dreamboats but after seeing Adam Curtis and Felix Barrett’s darker side of this sixties dream I felt it all a bit difficult to take – a cute nostalgic look at a time before globalization and commercialism were gods, whored about (ok maybe that’s a bit much, performed then) in the temple of one such commercial god? All a bit fishy really.  


But I can’t moan about this fully because to gar my grew it was actually enjoyable (well until they got mopey at the end and started banging on about love where my ‘grew’ definitely prevailed).  Like Thriller, it is hard not to be blasted away by the unstoppable force of pop music when it’s as good as these songs inevitably are.  The performances are also much better than expected with Daisy Wood-Davis’s caramel voice bringing just the right sweetness to innocent Laura and Ben Freeman well and truly shaking off his Emmerdale past in a bone hip breaking performance as the cocky Norman that would make a young Elvis proud.  Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran (with their eons of experience in such nostalgic BBC comedy gold) have produced a book which, although at times incredibly cheesy, is funny and sharp and actually makes you want more talking and less singing which can be no bad thing.


I anticipate that this is going to do very, very well.  Even this cynic couldn’t stop smiling at points, the effervescent energy of pure pop shining through – oh and I saw Cilla Black, so it can’t all be bad can it? 



Review: It Felt Like A Kiss

I’ve wanted to see Punchdrunk for the last year and a half and they’ve always somehow alluded me, until now – given a golden ticket by the lovely John Roberts I eagerly entered into a world of strange and surreal possibility and was terrified out of my wits.  Here’s my review for The Public Reviews – but with twitter like brevity – go go go if you can!

‘He Hit Me and It Felt Like A Kiss’, the haunting song by The Crystals based on singer Little Eva’s violent boyfriend is the languidly pulsating heart at the centre of Adam Curtis and Felix Barrett’s darkly hypnotising and mind freezingly terrifying ‘It Felt Like A Kiss’.  Driven by a desire to give an audience a linear experience of Curtis’ experimental BBC political film about the rise of America, Barrett has hijacked an old office block in the centre of Manchester, turning rooms from blank work spaces into perfectly preserved 1950’s/60’s bedrooms, gardens, hospital bedrooms and nightmares.

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