Author Archives: yodamo

Holidays !!!

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THE MUMBLE TEAM

Are taking their annual Festive Break

SEE YOU ALL IN THE NEW YEAR 

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe


West Yorkshire Playhouse
7 December 2017 – 27 January 2018

Script: four-stars.png Stagecraft: five-stars  Performance: five-stars


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

five-stars

Exploring the Glasgow Pantosphere

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Oran Mor / The Tron
Glasgow
06/12/17


CINDERELLA 2
The Oran Mor, Glasgow
27th Nov – 30th Dec

Script: four-stars.png Stagecraft: four-stars.png   Performance: four-stars.png

IMG_7064i, Joanne McGuinness.jpgFor 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.

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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.

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ALICE IN WEEGIELAND
The Tron, Glasgow
Dec 1st – Jan 7th

Script: five-stars Stagecraft: five-stars  Performance: four-stars.png

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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.

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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.

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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

five-stars

A Christmas Carol

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Dundee Rep
30 Nov – 31 Dec

Script: four-stars.png Stagecraft: five-stars   Performance: four-stars.png


“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?

DSC_8758.jpgDundee 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.

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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

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The Weir Sisters

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A Play, a Pie and a Pint
Oran Mor, Glasgow
20-25 November, 2017

Script: four-stars.png Stagecraft: three-stars.png  Performance: four-stars.png


It’s Christmas day in Paradise and young Grace who passed away in the 1940s, is all a flutter, laying out the sausage rolls and Bristol Cream in anticipation of a very special visitor. She is assisted by her older, down-to-earth sister Margaret, who refuses to use the ‘Chalice of Vision’ to keep up with terrestrial events. She’ll only stick her face in water if it’s to dook for apples. A celestial bell announces the arrival of a third sister, the recently expired, doddery Dorothy. Difficult truths can at last be divulged and sibling forgiveness sought.

IMG_6928i Deborah Arnott, Sandra  McNeeley, Meghan Tyler.jpgMeghan Tyler is wonderfully endearing as the aptly named Grace, bringing a wide-eyed earnest innocence to the role. Sandra McNeely’s feisty Margaret delivers the best of the jokes while Deborah Arnott as Dorothy, has the saddest tale to tell. As her ancient form uncoils from her zimmer to rediscover her youthful stature (you get to choose your preferred age in heaven) her accent, for no apparent reason, mysteriously transforms from that of the Western Isles to Glaswegian???

Lynn Ferguson’s admirable play has humour, pathos and a large dollop of yuletide sentimentality that would please Frank Capra and bring a tear to old man Potter’s eye. The production is a worthy finale to Oran Mor’s Autumn Season.

Reviewer : David G Moffat

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Kind Stranger

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A Play, a Pie and a Pint
Oran Mor,Glasgow
13-18 November 2017

Script: three-stars.png Stagecraft: three-stars.png  Performance: four-stars.png


Why would someone choose to be a regular hospital visitor? Do they have a philanthropic wish to do good work, or maybe just enjoy the sound of their own voice? The eponymous kind stranger (Tom Urie) pops into a room with one bed, to find he has a captive audience as the patient is in a coma. This presents no obstacle to the jolly, wisecracking visitor, (“Hands up who disnae want a story?”) he has a bag-full of books from which he can read aloud. Tellingly his favourite is A Christmas Carol, with its supernatural tale of a life turned around and redemption attained.

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This one-man play by Matthew McVarish appears to be a straight forward account of the visitor’s life, his fear and rejection before finding love and acceptance but as he reveals more about his life, we start to question if this linear narrative is all that it seems to be. The dialogue when varying from bouncy knockabout to gloomy introspection works well but the preponderance of enlightening quotes from Hippocrates, Sophocles, Buddha, Shakespeare, Winston Churchill, Helen Keller, Anne Frank, Dolly Parton and many others, does seem a bit much, even for a well-read man. Urie puts in a fine performance as the irrepressible visitor, whose layers of brash confidence are slowly shed to reveal an unexpected sensitivity. The denouement may have you scratching your head a bit- but in a good way.

Reviewer : David G Moffat

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Lampedusa

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Citizens Theatre, Glasgow
08 Nov 2017 – 18 Nov 2017

Script: four-stars.png Stagecraft: four-stars.png  Performance: four-stars.png


I will be honest, Lampedusa by Wonder Fools makes for an uncomfortable watch. In the intimate black box that is Glasgow’s Citizens Theatre Circle Studio we find ourselves extremely close to the two actors whose interleaved monologues we listen to, but that is not where the discomfort lies. It is in Anders Lustgarten’s play, which takes the global problem of mass migration and forces us to face that it is everyone’s responsibility. He also shines an unflinching spotlight on some home grown issues: institutionalised attitudes to the poor and, he argues, endemic racism.

Stefano, an Italian ex-fisherman salvaging the bodies of drowned trafficked migrants from North Africa from the sea off the island of Lampedusa, describes what happens to bodies after days and weeks in the water. He says he gets used to the shock of finding them, but the dread as to what condition they will be in never goes away. His distress is accompanied by rage: “Where is everybody else?” he cries and when he reads of a disaster or a crisis he can predict who will be turning up on Europe’s shores next. Of those who survive he says “I resent them for their hope,” because he has none: the fish have gone, his country is a basket case.

The other protagonist, Denise, a mixed-race student in Leeds is funding her studies by acting as a pay day loan collector from people who spit on her, and racially abuse her. She is also in a vehement battle with work capability assessors over her sick mother’s clearly proven case for benefits. Like Stefano, her view of her own country and by extension, Europe, is that it is utterly broken; she will not be staying when she gets her degree. Describing herself as “mixed, mouthy and poor”, at times her impassioned speeches almost tip over into a diatribe, but a more nuanced performance (and writing) comes when her character meets with kindness. Indeed, this is the third theme of the play: kindness and friendship from the most unexpected quarters undoes both Stefano and Denise and liberates them from their bitterness and despair.

Both actors give committed performances of an exceptionally intelligent and humane play. Andy Clark as Stefano is particularly subtle and intense, while Louise Mai’s Denise is realistically brittle and angry. With music provided by guitarist/composer Stuart Ramage that is like a third voice in the play rather than an accompaniment to it, Lampedusa is that odd thing; an evening of very good theatre that will leave you feeling very uncomfortable.

Reviewer : Mary Thomson

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Meat Market

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A Play, A Pie and A Pint
Oran Mor, Glasgow
6-11 Nov

Script: four-stars.png Stagecraft: four-stars.png  Performance: four-stars.png


We live in a world where everything has a price and is usually available at the click of a cursor. So if it’s 3am and a trio of disparate characters have a rendezvous in a 24 hour gym to discuss a purchase, surely something nefarious must be afoot? Well yes but to reveal the clever conceit at the centre of Chris Grady’s thoughtful dark comedy, would be criminal indeed.

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What does mercenary Alex (Megan Shandley), tall, confident and a robust picture of health, have that could interest wee Fran (Julie Duncanson), a chanty-mouthed bundle of perspiration in a sweatshirt and joggy bottoms? Could it be the same thing that cultured, epicurean Bruce (Robin Laing) hungers for? Will his silver tongue and well argued logic win the day?

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Though earthy Fran gets the best of the stinging banter, asking follicly challenged Bruce if he’s Bruce, as in Willis, as in ‘King of the Bald Guys’, all three actors are in fine contrasting form revealing their true motivations as the action progresses and personal ethics get a workout. This is a seriously funny, original piece of drama that’s well worth stretching your legs to get along and see.

Reviewer : David G Moffat

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Zoetrope

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Venue: West Yorkshire Playhouse
Run: 2 – 4 November 2017

Script: five-stars Stagecraft: five-stars  Performance: five-stars


An extraordinary, deeply important piece of theatre, performed by the Youth Theatre, following the stories of seven young people’s struggles and experiences of mental health issues and illnesses. The performance was just over an hour long with no interval and it was thoroughly captivating from start to finish. The set, staging and the use of colours of the characters’ clothing were brilliant. Each of the seven participants of the group counselling sessions wore different coloured clothes and accessories. This was symbolic, especially as the play developed, each colour representing a different psychiatric illness, which, as well as being visually stimulating, helped the audience to understand and engage with the specific topics addressed (food, self-harm, drug abuse, teenage parenting).

The performance from the actors, despite their young age, was faultless; the utmost professionalism was observed, they worked well together and each took on their character splendidly. Characters ranged from doctors, teenagers, nurses to parents, and these were treated appropriately in regards to every aspect: the script, language and performance. Movement, music and light were used to create the atmosphere and emotion. Seamless and subtle changes meant there was no need for actual set changes and the audience was never left behind. The whole stage was used to its advantage and to create the desired emotion, for example the fast turning of the roundabout and the loud and overlapping voices to create the character’s feeling of desperation, anxiety and panic.

The research and tremendous amount of thought that went into making this piece of theatre genuine was evident. Each mental health problem was dealt with sensitively and compassionately, and the different perspectives of such illnesses were portrayed. This included the value of Mindfulness, views on meditation, and the contrasting views of self-harm between parents and health professionals. Through this play, the audience was able to glimpse the struggles and processes which people with mental ill health deal with in order to get help and support: the waiting lists, the various assessment questionnaires and scales (which were explained through a comedic skit, reminiscent of Philip Glass’s Einstein on the Beach), the misinterpretation (“chill out.. don’t take life so seriously”), the disjointedness of children’s and adult’s services (“not a transition but a bloody great full stop”).

The end of the play (involving a culmination of character Lily’s story, and the following being said: “freaks are those who can cope and can get back up” was poignant and upsetting, not least because it was unsurprising. It was thought-provoking, at times uncomfortable to watch, and sadly all too familiar, which, as Director Gemma Woffinden herself said when speaking generally, is exactly what “makes for a good piece of theatre”. Though, arguably, I would change her word “good” for “outstanding”.

Reviewers : Georgie Blanshard and Lucy Clark

 

The Burton Taylor Affair

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A Play, A Pie and A Pint
Oran Mor, Glasgow
30th October – 4th November

Script: two-stars.png Stagecraft: two-stars.pngPerformance:two-stars.png


IMG_6818i Chelsey Gillard, Steven  Elliot.jpgA huge photographic portrait of a movie star with arched eyebrows, hooded eyes and sultry lips dominates the stage. Either side of the framed picture, luxurious swathes of golden drapes glitter but little else does, in this disappointing drama by Steven Elliot featuring a reminiscing, Richard Burton (Dewi Rhys Williams) and Elizabeth Taylor (Vivien Reid). Comparisons of the couples earnings, Oscar nominations, and capacity for alcohol are ping-ponged back and forward with little conflagration, while lengthy quotes from Shakespeare and Marlow, used to illustrate their tempestuous on screen/off screen relationship, offer the best of what little chemistry the actors have.

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The female movie star seems far too young to hold her own, in a verbal joust with the mature stage actor and one wonders if Williams is reluctant to let loose the throaty Welsh grit of the full-Burton voice, for fear of extinguishing Reid’s lacklustre Taylor completely. This is a story that requires something a bit special to intrigue an audience familiar with the antics of a real-life married twosome they have seen on screen and in all probability, as characters portrayed by other actors. The play and cast deliver a muted, far from legendary, piece of theatre.

Reviewer : David G Moffattwo-stars