Monthly Archives: December 2017
West Yorkshire Playhouse
7 December 2017 – 27 January 2018
This play is a dramatisation of the much loved children’s book by C S Lewis. Portraying such a well-known and involved work was bound to be an ambitious project, and it did not disappoint. At 2 hours 45 minutes long, it had the potential to lose the attention of its audience, but the length was unnoticed due to the enthralling nature of the spectacle. It is aimed at ages seven and above, which seemed about right. The audience was involved in the show at times, and the young members in particular appeared to enjoy this. This participation was helped by the choice of theatre in the round.
Because of the fantastical nature of the story and the restrictions that come with a theatre production, a compromise needed to be made regarding the grandeur of the special effects, staging and costumes. This balance between having enough of these and relying on the imagination of the audience was perfect. The set was sparse but key props were used and handled faultlessly by the actors – for example, white sheets representing snow, the wardrobe door, the method by which the Turkish delight appeared.
The costumes were brilliant and rang true to the book, particularly those of the beavers and Mr Tumnus. The White Witch’s costume was spectacular and actress Carla Mendonca masterfully portrayed the notoriously frightful character. Puppetry was also used to represent some of the creatures – such as the professor’s cat, the mice and, at times, Aslan. The puppets were handled beautifully and were very effective; the mice in particular.
Throughout the performance, movement and lighting was used to create the atmosphere. There were lanterns across the whole ceiling of the auditorium, and these went on and off and changed colours at significant times, proving to be simple yet effective and involving. The movement used to simulate the initial train ride went on a bit too long and became forced, but this was outweighed by the excellency of the other simulations – such as walking through the rooms of the vast house, travelling through the wardrobe and through the coats, riding in the sleigh, flying on Aslan. Last but not least, the cast should be commended; there was not a weak link. Cora Kirk (Lucy) and Ira Mandela Siobhan (wolf Maugrim) stood out tremendously.
All in all, this is a fantastic piece of theatre. There are themes and lines that are still relevant to life today – for example, the quote “trees have ears and eyes” resonates with today’s concerns about security cameras, the prying of big social media companies and the general threat to privacy. Everyone should see it.
Reviewers : Georgie Blanshard and Lucy Clark
Oran Mor / The Tron
The Oran Mor, Glasgow
27th Nov – 30th Dec
Script: Stagecraft: Performance:
For the past few months, The Mumble’s chief ambassador to the Oran Mor’s benevolent-in-so-many-ways Play, Pie & a Pint paradigm, David G Moffat has reviewed every single theatrical offering. Not wanting to go an entire season without tasting a piece & a pie, I cashed in my CEO chips & went Westside for Cinderella 2: I Married a Numpty. I was partaking for the first time in one of Glasgow’s startlingly native creative outputs, the brandy-imbued blancmange that is the city’s adult pantomime. All the boys & girls in the audience are grown up, but in the psyche of us all there is a mimesial box of affection just waiting to be opened by colours, sounds & dodgy puns. Thus, once the opening number had told us, with rather well-toned vocals, that pantomime’s ‘not just for wains anymore,’ I was ready to rock.
Written & directed by the erstwhile & perennially pretty Morag Fullerton, I went on to witness a slightly slapsticky, mostly amsuing boozecruise through the modern morphing of Commedia d’ell Arte. The comedic archetypes on this occasion are the cerebrally Blackpoolesque Auntie Etta (surname Dick), played by local lad & long time donjon of screen & stage, Dave Anderson; Joanne McGuinness as a fun & feisty Cinderella, Clare Waugh as her ugly sister, Wan-Tooth Winnie, & the high-status thespianity of John Kielty, who played both ‘shag-shag-shoot-shoot’ Prince Charming & the bumblingly beautiful, childrens’ presenteresque Buttheid, the rivals for Cinderella’s affections in love.
In fairy tales, perhaps the most unbelievable aspect is the notion that people live happily ever after, & so it has proved to be in Cindereallaworld, where the class divide between her & her posh prince is soon tearing at the tether with gold-plated or rotting teeth. As for the tradition, all the trimmings are there. Bouncy, chorus-catchy sing-a-long songs; the love potion motif, one I remembered from my last panto, sometime in the 1980s in Manchester, with my gran’s works from Burnley; there was speaking bluebird puppetry; the ‘O yes I did, O no you didn’t,’ sonic pendulum; the finale sing-song tonguetwister rolled out on a big canvas at the back of the stage, & so on. The script was snappy, native & of course, satirical, in the popular contemporaneity way. Auntie Etta had the best lines, especially her, ‘I feel like a chameleon traversing a kilt,‘ & her comments on acquiring the proper vestiges of minor celebrity ever since her niece married into royalty – these days she gets to call out bingo numbers in Partick Burgh Hall. The other three actors all gave top-grade performances, especially John Kielty who not only played two parts here, but is also starring in the Citizens panto, Hansel and Gretel, in the evenings. Overall, I Married a Numpty looks, sounds & feels great, & with the use of radio mics is one of the best immersive experiences I’ve ever had at the Oran Mor’s PPP. Unfortunately for most, the thing is completely sold-out, but if you are one of the lucky ones who has a ticket, you’re in for a treat. FOUR STARS.
ALICE IN WEEGIELAND
The Tron, Glasgow
Dec 1st – Jan 7th
After the Oran Mor, I intended to do a spot of Christmas shopping for the family, but in fact only visited Fopp & a couple of charity shops near the theatre where I rather selfishly bought stuff only for myself. I’m sure I am not alone in feeling an abject terror in buying ‘just the right thing’ for one’s loved ones at Christmas, & find comfort & solace in buying personalised tat instead. I then drove up to my pal’s house in Riddrie for a meal & a nap – Glasgow is soooooo exhausting – before returning to the city centre & the Tron for the second panto of the day. As soon as I arrived I realised this production would also be catering for children. Two groups of brownies – a 22 & a 48 according to the usher – had filled the auditorium to capacity. ‘Wooaah, wooaah, wooaahh,’ I thought to myself, this panto was written by Johnny McKnight, whose Wendy Hoose I reviewed at last year’s Fringe, & which was, one would say, unsuitable for children.
I need not have worried. McKnight has created something straight out of the Alexander Makeev school of Panto. In St Petersburg in the 1980s, Makeev began experimenting with dance, clowning & drama to create a style which appeals to adults & to children alike. Alice In Weegieland is a perfect example of the model, whose colloquial, lyrical comedy is downright genius. The story is based, of course, on Alice in Wonderland. ‘Do you wanna come down & have a swatch?‘ asks Scott Fletcher’s slick, red-haired, camptastic Knave of Hearts. Alice agrees, played calmly & cutely by Daisy Ann Fletcher, whose recent failure at ballet class has sent her spinning headfirst into the metaphorical depths of redemption. Down the hole, Alice soon finds that the playing cards of Lewis Carrol’s made-up land have been replaced by chip-tossing, sweet-chucking burberry chavs. ‘Welcome to Weegieland,‘ they sing to the fun musicality of just-by-the-stage, orange-suited musical maestro, Ross Brown, ‘where we work hard for cash in hand.’ ‘Welcome to Weegieland,‘ they sing again, ‘where drinking outside has been banned!’ Then enters the brilliant, street-shuffling, glitterblinging, jittery Doormouse, played with sublime authenticity by Jo Freer. Next up was Julie Wilson Nimmo’s Catterpillar, Catty P, whose remarkable costume was just one of the many aesthetic gems that made up the joyously twinkling dramaturgical tiara that crowned McKnight’s superlative-pregnant panto.
The star of the show, & of probably the theatrical year as far as I am concerned, was Darren Brownlie. Both his characters were in drag – Frauline Rot the ballet teacher, & the Queen of Hearts, & both were beyond brilliant. Through his decisive, supernova performances, & all the rest of the oomph & bumph of pantomime in its prime, Alice in Weegieland is a glossy explosion & riotous romp through Glasgow’s ‘otherverse.’ Occasionally, I found that the subplots were clung onto a tad too much, the re-explanations spoiling the flow somewhat, but the show is a full 2 hours long & the time needed to be filled. A couple of cuts here & there & we would have a masterpiece on our hands. A few seats are still available for Alice in Weegieland this year, not many mind, & it is worth travelling to from all parts of Scotland to watch with, I’d say, kids above the age of 10. FIVE STARS
30 Nov – 31 Dec
“Imagine a time…” begins the narrator, setting the scene of a bustling city on Christmas Eve. On stage, Christmas Eve shoppers rush around, buying that last-minute trimming for the next day’s festivities, wishing each other a Merry Christmas and young children skip excitedly, bursting with anticipation of presents under trees. It could be the present day. But we know its not — we’ve come to see the well-beloved Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” and hear again the story of one Ebenezer Scrooge and how his miserly ways are turned around by the three spectral visitations from the past, present and future. It’s as familiar a recipe as Christmas pudding, right?
Dundee Rep’s production, skilfully adapted for stage by Neil Duffield, takes a fresh pull at this Christmas cracker. And what a treat there is inside! It’s Ebenezer, the zero-hours boss, the protean anti-society capitalist, the nemesis of workers everywhere, as a woman! Not a gender-bending pantomime dame, but a real hard-nosed, iron-hearted woman. And Scrooge as a woman, so utterly black heartedly played by Anne Louise Ross, has slipped a nip of something enlivening into the familiar, and the result is a truly magical mix of fun and song – even some literal shocks – for young and old alike.
The opening night of Dundee Rep’s Christmas offering was a joyous event. The ensemble cast recreated the familiar tale with a loving respect for the original story, interweaving the action with superb medleys of Christmas carols throughout, and the audience, young and old alike, joyfully joined in with the singing.
The cast play well together, turning up both the humour and sentimentality of Dickens’ original story to just the right temperature. All the old favourite characters are lovingly recreated; Bob Cratchit, Jacob Marley, Mr and Mrs Fezziwig and Tiny Tim, played by Oliver Mulholland and Harrison Hughes, pulled on the heart strings perfectly. Look out for the mischief made by the ghosts with Scrooge’s bedtime routine!
Settings and costumes were evocative and expressive and detailed, making the whole event a delight for the eyes as much as the heart. Scene changes happened with brandy-butter smoothness. The audience were magically transported with Scrooge and her ghostly guides to scenes from the past, to discover just how she came to be so mean, then whisked away to see happy Christmas revellers mix in the present and on to a dark foreboding future that, like a Christmas pudding, had a real flaming topping!
Take a young person to see this wonderful, faithful production, or just go see it yourself and believe in the power of Christmas – for a while at least!
Reviewer : Mark MacKenzie