‘Leave your inhibitions at home’ for this classic Rock of Ages at Brum’s Alexandra

SET IN the 1980s and featuring classics of the period ‘Rock of Ages’ is full of nipple tweaking, bottom spanking and knickers off naughtiness. Best leave your inhibitions at home and join in the fun.

Rhiannon Chesterman makes a ‘wholesome as Doris Day’ job of Sherrie the rock chick wannabe.  She’s in LA to make her dreams come true where she meets another wannabe rocker Drew, played by Luke Walsh.

Romance blossoms amidst a belting jukebox background including songs from Def Leopard. Sherrie and Drew both get jobs working at a legendary Rock club ‘The Bourbon’. As it happens this is hosting a massive farewell gig for superstar Stacey Jaxx, played.by Strictly Come Dancing Star, Kevin Clifton. Clifton makes for a very tame Jaxx – he’s not in it much and he may be mild on the acting but he he can certainly belt out the tunes. I particularly liked ‘I wanna know what Love it’

Jaxx, in turn, is pursued by Rolling Stone reporter Constance Sack – a likeable performance from Erin Bell. Enter German tycoon and generals baddy Hertz together with his son Franz, nice cameos from Vas Constanti and Andrew Carthy. Hertz is trying to shut down the club, to the horror of its owner Dennis Dupree, a fabulous performance from Ross Dawes.

Lonny, Dupree’s goofy assistant and our narrator through this rock ‘n’ roll fairy-tale is played lovingly by a spot-on Joe Gash.

For me, Jenny Fitzpatrick as Justice steals the show as Venus Gentleman’s club owner. Her diva soul vocals had everyone in the auditorium on their feet every time she belted out a tune.

The premise of the misogynistic sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll plot of this show, which has been around for many years, somehow remains acceptable despite its overtones. Good-natured banter somehow tempers sexism.  Whacky plot and a wonderful cast and great music make this a fun night out, not just for rockers – something here for everyone young at heart.

Ava Fay

Euan Rose Reviews

Newly imagined dance Romeo and Juliet in Brum was full of passion and talent but would be better on a smaller stage

SHAKESPEARE’S Romeo and Juliet has spurred so many critically-acclaimed versions over the years – such as Bernstein’s West Side Story, Prokofiev’s classical Ballet score or the Leonard di Caprio film Romeo + Juliet – that it takes a very special creative vision to find something different to say. Step up Rosie Kay and her dance company, whose new production premiered at Birmingham Hippodrome this week.

This production has had a long gestation from conception back in 2015 – with planned performances delayed due to a seemingly endless series of Covid lockdowns and it must have seemed at times to choreographer Kay and production partner Birmingham Hippodrome that it would never happen.

From the opening, it is clear that this is a mash-up of dance styles from Hip-hop, Urban, Indian, contemporary and even some ballet moves. The soundtrack is also a mix of styles, incorporating both classical (Berlioz’ Romeo and Juliet ballet score) and ultra-contemporary with Composer Annie Mahtani’s original soundscape incorporating spoken word mixed with police radio reports. Herein lies the rub – such a heady and jam-packed mix of movement and music styles makes for an, at times, disjointed performance that struggles to find its flow.

The opening scene, which introduces the two rival gangs, is confusing with few visual clues to distinguish each gang – perhaps this is deliberate, to emphasise the similarities rather than the differences, but it made it hard to follow.

The party scene that comes next is similarly disjointed, until Romeo (Subhash Viman Gornia) spies Juliet (Mayowa Ogunnaike). From here on, the production finds its flow, with a beautifully handled pas-de-deux that serves to emphasise the difference in backgrounds between the ill-fated lovers – Gornia’s flowing, classical style contrasting perfectly with Ogunnaike’s more earthy, raw performance. This Juliet is a sassy, street-wise teenager, but Ogunnaike still manages to convey a sense of joyful innocence in her relationship with Romeo.

The news of the relationship spreads through the streets like wildfire and soon the gangs are back on the streets as rumours spread and escalate. Things got confusing here again, trying to follow who is who in each gang.  A frenzied fight ensues and two of the gang members are killed.  The body count reaches five by the end of the performance with of course both Romeo and Juliet ultimately taking their own lives, leaving just four gang members to mourn at a makeshift street shrine.

There is no mistaking the passion and talent of the dancers, but I felt that, rather than the huge Hippodrome stage, this production would suit a more intimate setting where you are close enough to see the sweat and feel the raw energy of the dancers.  Having said that, there is much to commend the production, which can only improve with more outings out of the confines of a covid-restricted rehearsal room.


Johannah Dyer

Euan Rose Reviews

Great to see the Birmingham REP back and ‘East is East’ at the theatre where it started

THE REP is the last theatre on my reviewing journey to open up again after lockdown and it was great to be back in their huge raked auditorium once again taking in the buzz of a full house press night.

Having said that, the front of house is in the midst of a major refurbishment and so the route from door to theatre was like walking through a boarded up building site. in mitigation no construction was of course allowed for much of the lockdown, but they need to get on with it now if they want to have happy returning audiences.

East is East started life in the REP studio back in 1996 and so that’s a good link to why it’s enjoying it’s silver anniversary revival back where it started.

Ayub Khan Din’s script must have had far more impact back then, dealing as it does with mixed race marriage and the problems this caused both with family and in society in general. Director Iqbal Khan ups the stakes with some quite shocking scenes of domestic abuse, which were only

hinted at in the original.

Picture by Pamela Raith Photography. s

The story takes place in the streets of 1971 Salford. Bretta Gerecke’s set design sprawls out across the huge REP stage, unfortunately making the Khan home appear more of a tacky stately home than a ‘Hovis ad’ terraced house. Gerecke fills it with a mish-mash of tasteless furniture – giving it the persona of an Asian  Steptoe and Son – or, in the case of the Khan and Sons!

Whilst to me the set just doesn’t work in the space, however the clever use of projection screens as a method of story telling between scenes, works very well indeed.

The cast is strong all round – led by an outstanding performance from Tony Jayawardena as George, the ‘Big Daddy’ of the house.  He wants his children raised the traditional Muslim Pakistani way, including arranged marriages, but the rest of the family have other ideas.

Picture by Pamela Raith Photography. s

Jayawardena’s vocal projection was a joy in a production where many lines from other characters were lost in the cavernous auditorium. This is not a new problem, those of us that know the theatre well are aware of the number of dreaded dead spots when it comes to audibility. Such a pity and although it may go against the theatrical grain, I am sure I was not alone in wishing on this occasion it had been a little mic – enhanced.

Sophie Stanton was warm and compelling as George’s white wife Ella. A special shout out too for Noah Manzoor as the effervescent Sajit – but good as he is, he’s actually upstaged by his ever-present grimy old parka.

Picture by Pamela Raith Photography. s

It’s wonderful to have the REP’s doors open again and this joint National Theatre/REP production has much to commend it as the season curtain raiser.

Next, I look forward to seeing a wide diversity of theatre, including new work from the artistic director Sean Foley. Like the refurbishment, his plans have had to be put on hold for too long.

East is East runs at the Birmingham REP until September 25.

Click here for times, tickets and more information.


Review by Euan Rose

Euan Rose Reviews.

Pay a visit to this bloomin’ great Little Shop of Horrors at Birmingham’s Old Joint Stock theatre

IN A FEW weeks of firsts, this was my first time walking through Birmingham City Centre from New Street Station since before the lockdowns started. I was quite taken aback by the freshness of the air and the sparseness of the traffic. Goodbye mean streets – hello clean streets.

I spied lots of new restaurants plus some old favourites on my stroll to The Old Joint Stock Theatre. Lots of places to sit as well – which I did for a while and simply watched the world go by.

In truth I felt like I had travelled forward in time, people were flying about on scooters and bikes, narrowly avoiding pedestrians and many were dressed either in suits which were fashionably undersized, or posh denim meets linen grunge.

Haircuts were something else too and dyed every colour of the rainbow.

Bear with me, there is a purpose to this long preamble to my review of ‘Little Shop’ – like most of my chums it’s taking a bit of courage to go back into town, but having now got back in the saddle I want to encourage you to do the same.

The Old Joint Stock is a splendid 100-seater studio theatre housed on the top floor of an equally splendid pub. It was actually built as a library back in 1862, then became a bank and finally one of Birmingham’s top venues serving top quality ales, food and theatre.

I have learnt to always expect the unexpected at the OJS and their version of ‘Little Shop’ was just that. The audience are housed on skid  row right outside (and sometimes inside) Mr Mushnik’s flower shop. For any of you that might not be aware of the story, it’s a cautionary tale about a talking, man-eating plant from out of space.

In this case, you can add walking to the talking as director Adam Lacey has cleverly chosen to free his plant from its pot.

Named Audrey II in homage to Mushnik’s lovely shop assistant Audrey, Number II may start out as tiny cactus but ends up as a psychopathic, botanical hobgoblin in a psychedelic jumpsuit. Matt Bond revels in the role and certainly doesn’t hold anything back – it’s like watching Freddie Kruger  on speed. Bond has the most amazing singing voice too, which adds a whole other dimension.

He is complemented by a company of great voices – individually strong, collectively awesome. Thomas Cove’s Mushnik rivals Topol’s Fiddler and Bradley Walwyn’s Orin makes the most bad-ass dentist you’ll ever see  – so glad he gets gobbled up. Hope it hurt!

Bella Bowen delightfully understates Audrey – she’s the girl next door we all should have married.

Alex Wadham makes a magical job of everybody’s favourite nerd, Seymour. Like Bond and Cove, he too is blessed with a magnificent set of tonsils.

The rest of the company applies their multi-talents to the collection of minor characters and ensemble. Hannah Victoria was quite a stand out for me in a minor role, as a compelling ‘Ronnette’.

Lacey has done his job well – the pace never sags, the show is well staged and his team is drilled to perfection. Pippa Lacey as choreographer again brings originality and sparkle to the show and Jack Hopkins musical direction simply rocks!

It runs until September 26. I urge you to book, go back into town if you haven’t already and experience something very special.

Click here for times, tickets and more information.


Review by Euan Rose

Euan Rose Reviews.

Perfect Priscilla at the Birmingham Hippodrome marked the end of the 18-month theatrical desert

HIP, hip hooray – the curtain at Birmingham Hippodrome rose again last night ending an 18-month lockdown.

CEO Fiona Allan veritably oozed jubilation as she walked to on-stage to welcome us back. The roar that greeted her was deafening and there was a nary a dry eye in the house.

Exit Fiona stage right, strike up the live band from the pits under the musical direction of Richard Atkinson and lights up on a show that has gained legendary status and a loyal following – known affectionately simply as ‘Priscilla’.

For the uninitiated, this is a musical adventure about three friends who happen to be drag queens, on a personal quest in a tour bus called Priscilla. They travel across Australia from Sydney to Alice Springs – and what a splendid journey it is!

Edwin Ray is totally captivating as the gentle Tick/Mitzi, a queen with a past that includes fathering a son he has never seen – hence the reason for his journey.

He is joined for the fun of it by the outrageous but undeniably body-beautiful Felicia/Adam (played with lashings of passion and credibility by Nick Hayes) and the ageing Bernadette – a beautifully understated performance by Miles Western, which makes you listen and care.

Whilst Tick and Adam are gay men and female impersonators, Bernadette has had a sex change to become the woman that was born inside her body – quite a daring role to include in the original film 25 years ago and way before transgender was an acceptable conversation topic.

The trio are supported by a first-class singing and dancing ensemble, plus three magical divas, Rosie Glossop, Claudia Kariuki and Aiesha Pease – all of whom have lung power to raise the roof.

I have two special hat-doffing mentions – firstly Daniel Fletcher as Bob the heart of gold mechanic who falls for Bernadette and secondly Grace Lee as Bob’s outrageous bi-polar Thai-bride Cynthia, who outrageously puts the ‘ping’ into Ping-Pong.

The  anonymous ‘creatives’ include frantic and breath-taking choreography– spot-on direction and a wondrous collage of clap-a-long, sing-a-long musical arrangements (thank you for including one my all-time favourite classics – MacArthur Park) and stunning-glittering settings plus delectable and endless sparkling tinsel, feathers and frocks.

Long may this Queen reign – absolutely loved it and exited the auditorium with an aching jaw from laughing so much; tears of pure joy in my eyes and the happy pounding music of a great band.

Never has a musical been more timely – Unmissable!

Priscilla runs at the Hippodrome until Saturday, September 14. Click here for times, tickets and more information.


Review by Euan Rose.

Euan Rose Reviews