REVIEW – Six-country cast delivers empowering Counting and Cracking at Birmingham REP

Picture by Brett Boardman. s

DESPITE having some dear long standing friends who originate from Sri Lanka, I must confess to knowing very little about this small South Asian island.

As a young philatelist, I do remember that when it was formerly known as Ceylon it had some glorious stamps. Travel supplements also marvel at its beauty and offer it up as an on/off holiday destination – depending on what’s happening there politically and its many years of civil war which destabilised and isolated it .

Currently of course the latest Sri Lankan president has fled along with others, whilst locals apparently peacefully occupy his palace, taking turns to swim in his pool.

That being pretty much the sum of my knowledge, ‘Counting and Cracking’ at the REP was therefore a massive eye-opener on many levels.

This production has transferred straight from the Lyceum Theatre at the main Edinburgh Festival to be a major part of our own Birmingham 2022 Festival.

The play is semi-autobiographical and written by Sri Lankan/Australian S Shakthidharan who also associate directs alongside fellow Australian Eamon Flack.

Picture by Brett Boardman. s

Flack is Artistic Director at the renowned ‘Belvoir’ company in Sydney.

Counting and Cracking is more saga than a simple play – it follows four generations of one family over half a century from 1956 to 2004. It flits back and forth in time and place between Sydney, Australia and Colombo, Sri Lanka.

In fairness it could be said to be a bit of an endurance test too as it runs for three and a half hours – but in my opinion what it lacks in some judicious cutting, it more than makes up for in energy, as the talented cast from six different countries combine in one glorious company.

The pivotal character to the saga is Radha, the feisty grand-daughter of Apah, an important government minister. Radha is played magnificently by both the elder, Nadie Kammallaweera and Vaishnavi Suryaprakash as the younger woman.

Radha causes consternation in the family when she refuses an arranged marriage to another politician’s son, in order to follow her heart and marry his younger – and therefore less ‘important’ – brother

Prakash Belawadi plays Apah, with natural charisma and an air of dignity that is always compelling; especially so as we witness his authority falling apart in the final stages of the Tamil-Sinhalese disputes.

There are many layers and back stories but so cleverly are they entwined that it’s not a mind struggle to keep up.

The big contrast is between Radha’s life in Sri Lanka as a wealthy politician’s  daughter and as a pregnant refugee claiming asylum in Australia.

At the start of the play we meet her with her grown up son Siddhartha, (played with endearing vim and vigour by Shiv Palekar), as she coaxes him to perform a traditional sea ritual with his grandmother’s ashes.

Siddhartha lives a happy student life in Coogee, a beach town suburb of Sydney. Like us, he learns about his heritage piece-by-piece, when a phone call across continents brings history flooding back, culminating in meeting the father both he and his mother thought was long dead.

There is some imaginative lighting from Damien Cooper, which uses every available space both on and off stage at some point and a simple but effective set from Dale Ferguson that fits all places.

A trio plays an underscore in one corner of the stage throughout the show aiding the time and continent transformations – as does the incense clouds aroma that wafts across the stage intermittently.

Part of the reason for the length of the show is that it is in three languages at times, English, Tamil and Sinhalese.

Actors translate it at the sides of the stage acting like human subtitles and making us part of – rather than apart from – the action.

A line that constantly occurs from Apah is “Two languages, one country – one language, two countries.” That, it seems, is in essence what the blood has been tragically been spilt over in all these years.

I couldn’t help thinking that when this play finishes back in 2004, it was a time two decades ago when refugees were largely welcomed into Australia, unlike today when those that do make it are held in camps on remote islands out of public view.

In fact there are so many important topics covered in this ground-breaking piece of theatre that it deserves good audiences. Because of its curtain down time, late night public transport could be a problem; so my advice is not to be put off but drive or get someone to drive you, form a group or share a taxi.

I urge all theatre lovers to make the effort – this is a unique opportunity to be part of something very special – I feel wiser and quite empowered by the experience.

Counting and Cracking runs at Birmingham REP until Saturday, August 27. Click here for times, tickets and more information

*****

Review by Euan Rose

Euan Rose reviews

REVIEW – Les Mis at Birmingham’s Hippodrome is ‘180 minutes of theatrical brilliance’

Les Misérables the musical is colloquially and affectionately known as Les Mis.  It is, of course, a legendary adaptation of Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel.

The original French musical by Claude–Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil premiered in Paris in 1980 and the English-language adaptation by producer Cameron Mackintosh opened in London five years later.

Initially Mackintosh’s show seemed to be more folly than fabulous as it garnered dire reviews from critics who said it was a night of doom and gloom that would disappear without trace.  Seems it was a five turkeys – not stars.

However the theatre going Brits love an underdog and went in their droves, adoring its songs and tale of ‘woe is me’.

Defying the critics, it has become the longest running musical in the West End.

For the few of you who may not know the story, it is set in early nineteenth century France in the period of the revolution and concerns one mans quest for redemption.

Jean Valjean is a convict released in 1815 after serving 19 years in jail for stealing a loaf of bread. He starts life anew but Javert, a police inspector, pursues him relentlessly with a personal mission to send him back to prison.

It’s really a battle of morality between a man who believes we can all change given the opportunity and one who thinks ‘once a crim, always a crim.’

I have seen Les Mis’ countless times including the West End original but never have I enjoyed it as much as this new version which is adapted and directed by Laurence Connor and James Powell.

The best way I can describe it, is that this genius pair have lifted the show from musical theatre into a new form of grand opera merged with the kind of special effects you would find in a movie.

My first shout out is for Mick Potter who has produced the best sound design I have heard on stage anywhere. You hear the subtlest vocal like a pin dropping and become immersed in the battles with bullets literally whistling all around you. I’d say Potter is the ‘George Lucas’ of the stage.

Paule Constable has designed a lighting plot that for most of the time reflects the darkness of the back stories – when the odd happier vignette occurs, Constable lets the stage explode in a bath of Technicolor.

Matt Kinley has designed a wall-to-wall set that provides a multitude of spaces from a triple-decker of moving balconies packed with ensemble to intimate areas of solitude.

There are stunning projections realised by Finn Ross, which merge seamlessly into the overall production  – not jarring as stand alones.

Ben Fergusson from a visible podium conducts a mighty orchestra doing full justice to the now classic score.

Cameron Mackintosh is known for filling his musical casts with amazing voices not soap stars and this assembly contains a mix of seasoned performers and worthy new talent.

Ian Hughes and Helen Walsh are magnificently despicable as the thieving and conniving Thénardiers.

Nathania Ong brings poignancy to the antihero Éponine and there is girl next-door naivety to the role of Cosette from Paige Blankson.

As to the two leads – Dean Chisnall as Jean Valjean and Nic Greenshields as Javert – a bouquet of salutes and bravos! They capture the characters and take us bedazzled with them on their respective journeys.

If you’ve never seen ‘Les Mis’ before then you’re in for a treat; if you have prepare to see it reborn. This is a hair-raising, jaw-dropping, heart tugging, tear drenching and uplifting 180 minutes of theatrical brilliance.

Les Mis runs at the Birmingham Hippodrome until Saturday, August 27. Click here for times, tickets and more information.

*****

Review by Euan Rose

Euan Rose Reviews

REVIEW – At Birmingham Hippodrome there’s Cher and Cher and Cher I like

‘The CHER Show’, with its  ‘A New Musical’ branding enjoyed a feverish reception from a packed house at the Birmingham Hippodrome press night.

Many were Cher fans,  there to pay homage to their diva-heroine as much as they were to see the show. Let’s face it – it’s been a long time coming as it closed on Broadway back in 2018 and hibernated through the Covid years.

Indeed it’s a glitzy business with a full throttle cast corralled to perfection by an all-star team of creatives.

Director Arlene Phillips combines with choreographer Oti Mabuse to raise the bar on the action, the neck hairs on the tunes and the sublime energy and downright raunchiness of the general bopping.

Add designer Tom Rogers imaginatively masterpiece of a set, equally the dazzling lighting by Ben Cracknell and wardrobe from Gabriella Slade and you have the ‘Avengers Assembled’.

Such is the awesomeness of the ‘Queen of Divas’ it takes three actors to fill her stilettos –  Debbie Kurrup, Danielle Steers and Millie O’ Connell each play Cher in three stages of her life, Babe (O’Connell), Lady (Steers) and Star (Kurrup). Each and every one of the trio are superb both individually and collectively.

Other principals include Lucas Rush as an endearing Sonny Bono and Jake Mitchell equally so as Bob Mackie. Sam Ferriday, multitasks as Greg Allman, Rob Camilletti, Phil Spector and John Southall.

A special shout out to Tori Scott as Georgia, Cher’s Mum.

There’s not a weak link in the hard working ‘entourage’ and the band under Rich Morris and soundman Dan Samson literally ‘Boom- Boom Shake The Room’.

Whilst everything about this show is high quality and high energy I found the book by Rick Elice a little lacking. That’s not to dispute his talents, after all this is the writer who gave us Jersey Boys and The Adams Family.

However In Jersey Boys he had the Mafia to boost the storyline – with the Addams Family it was awash with monsters, vampires and ghouls whilst Cher’s story is pretty ordinary really. Especially when people realise her first husband Sonny was quite a nice bloke and not to be confused with Tina’s wife beating husband Ike.

What Cher is all about apart from being an Icon with a capital I is a woman who wanted to do things on her own, not advised, cajoled or dictated to by men.

More empowerment seeking tweaks and less trivia in the script would add another layer  – after all unlike film, theatre is a continuous journey.

In fairness I believe this version to be far superior to the Broadway original and that the wonderful Arlene Phillips, has sprinkled her fairy dust all over it.

The walkdown is a party to which we were all invited and I left thinking not only could I watch this again – how delightful it would be to see the grand dame herself live! If she does another farewell tour – I’ll be there.

The Cher Show runs until Saturday, August 6. Click here for times, tickets and more information

****

Review by Euan Rose.

Euan Rose Reviews.

REVIEW – Brilliant Bugsy Malone at Birmingham REP takes you back to those classic childhood storylines

MY CHILDHOOD goes back to the days when we still were allowed cap guns and spent countless hours playing cowboys and Indians and cops and robbers when it was not frowned upon by the PC brigade.

It seems from the programme notes that Alan Parker devised his famous film ‘Bugsy Malone’ as a show his children could watch without being frightened or corrupted.

Instead of being a blood bath as bespoke suited-and-booted adult gangsters slaughter rivals with the rat-a-tat of bullets, Parker devised a scenario where kids play the gangsters and smother (rather than slaughter) each other with custard pie bombs and cream shooting tommy guns. When they get shot, they get up and wave goodbye ready to come back on and play again – ’til it’s last man standing.

Paul Williams makes a splendid job of providing a stage script and music to Parkers’ cinematic masterpiece and the REP along with Royal Bath and Kenny Wax have combined to produce something joyous in this latest set-to-tour production.

Gangland rivalry between Big Bosses Fat Sam and Dandy Dan in the prohibition 1920s speakeasy days, is the simple secret of the plot and gives a marvellous excuse for glittering dresses, feather boas and swanky dinner suits.

The music is steamy jazz, the vocals hitting the spot with a merry catalogue and the fact that it’s performed by a talented bunch of tots, teens and a few ensemble adults, makes it all the more magical.

There is a nice boxing back story and some boy meets girl schmultz  to break up the custard pie carnage.

On press night Bugsy was given lots of ‘cool-dudeness’ by Gabriel Payne and night club singer Blousey, by a joyous ingénue Mia Lakha.

On the creative front, director Sean Holmes has made it all pretty seamless, Jon Bausor produced a monochrome beauty of a set which provides the perfect backdrop for his ‘frock’ designs and Phil Bateman heads up the music.

Top marks go the creative talents of choreographer Drew McOnie and fight director Kate Waters.

With the wonderful bull from the Commonwealth Games billowing smoke approvingly outside the theatre doors and the city centre heaving with visitors, this production was given the perfect send off.

The REP’s Bugsy is a foot-tapping, rip-roaring, heartstring twanging, magical milk shake of a family musical.

Bugsy Malone runs at The REP until August 14.  Click here for times, tickets and more information.

****

Review by Euan Rose

Euan Rose Reviews

REVIEW: Psychological thriller ‘Eden’ – premiering at Birmingham’s Crescent – was ‘clever cat and mouse theatre’

EDEN, a brand new psychological drama from the pen of fantasy horror writer Greg Stewart, received its’ premiere this week at the Crescent Theatre as part of Birmingham Fest.

It’s a tense 90-minute thriller in which a notorious self-help guru endeavours to hone his skills on a humble self-effacing attendee at a weekend retreat. All though is not as it seems as the protagonists reel between mind games of chess and snakes and ladders.

Clever stuff indeed – just when you think it’s about to be checkmate, a snake uses a common pawn to unseat the incumbent king – or words to that effect!

Tension hung over the near capacity studio auditorium as we breathed as quietly as possible, lest we missed the next twist.

Will it be suicide, assisted suicide or plain old murder most foul?

Stewart is served well by seasoned director Jonathan Legg who wisely keeps the action minimalistic and meaningful. No one moves without purpose allowing the plot to develop cerebrally, but when action happens – it explodes!

Legg himself has two superb actors to work with in Christopher Hampson as Edgar and Oliver Hume as Mark. Neither falters vocally or physically as they relish taking it in turns to be the cat or the mouse.

What I found particularly pleasing is there was no scriptwriting ‘cop out’ – unlike other new dramas I’ve seen recently both on stage and screen. Stewart gives us a beginning, middle and end so we leave feeling sated, not cheated.

Eden will no doubt go on from the Fest to other theatres – well worth watching out for.

****

Review by Euan Rose.

Euan Rose Reviews. 

REVIEW – Treat yourselves to Tread the Boards’ perfect Pygmalion at Stratford’s Attic Theatre

WHENEVER I review ‘Tread The Boards’ at their gloriously bijou Attic Theatre home in Stratford, I wonder why I have left it so long again between visits.

After all, I always come away elated having witnessed some pure and inclusive theatre.

Last night was no exception as the company performed an adaption by Jonas Cemm of Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion with all the gusto of the ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’.

Shaw named his play Pygmalion after a Greek mythological chap. He was apparently a Cypriot sculptor who strove for perfection and when he finally created his perfect stone woman, he fell in love with her.

It is actually a very clever title and one, which aptly describes Prof Henry Higgins and his relationship with Eliza Doolittle. Her

transformation from urchin flower girl to lady of distinction has fascinated generations since it premiered in Vienna back in 1913.

John-Robert Partridge directs this show and also plays Higgins. He does the later with all the ego and narcissism of that obnoxious spoilt resident of Toad Hall. It’s beep-beep, poop-poop full throttle all the way and a delight to wallow in.

His ‘partner in cloning’ Colonel Pickering is played at completely the opposite end of the spectrum by Phil Jennings. His voice is as rich as his smile and he is as warm as Higgins is cold – they make for the perfect duo.

Emmy Coates as Eliza is the complete package as she transforms from whining fishwife to elegance personified. Quite simply Coates is the best Ms. Doolittle I have ever seen – and I’ve seen a lot over the years.

Lesley Wilcox plays Henry’s Mum – she sounds as elegant as he looks. Wilcox’s voice is like enjoying a cup of hot rich chocolate, which is to be savored every time she is on stage.

William Hayes is a suitably roguish Alfred Doolittle, Lucas Albion a likable buffoon as Freddy Eynsford Hill with Dawn Bush doubling as Freddy’s mum and Mrs Pearce, the long-suffering Professor Higgins’s housekeeper.

Cerys Evans as Clara Eynsford Hill completes the company and makes the most of her few lines.

They are a well-drilled talented bunch that never stop sharing across the curtain line, which is why I started by saying this is ‘inclusive theatre’.

The fourth wall twixt audience and cast is shattered into a thousand pieces – Joyous stuff indeed.

There are just a few performances left of Pygmalion, which is being performed in tandem with ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’.

After that come A Midsummer Nights Dream and The Three Musketeers.

Treat yourselves to a day or night out watching the Midlands’ finest fringe theatre company. Loads of choices of eateries nearby and you can enjoy a drink of cleansing ale by the river in Cox’s Yard and chat with the swans pre-show.

The show runs until Sunday, July 31. Click here for times, tickets and more information.

*****

Review by Euan Rose

Euan Rose Reviews

REVIEW – Controversial Clybourne Park at the Crescent in Birmingham is gripping stuff

DUE TO A positive test for Covid, I was a little late to see this show, which had been high on my priority-reviewing agenda, and so it was my first trip out after getting the non-contagious all clear.

It was certainly worth the wait and I only hope that with just a few performances remaining, I can encourage as many of you as possible to experience this Crescent near masterpiece.

Bruce Norris wrote Clybourne Park in 2009 for which he won both a Tony and a coveted Pullizer in America, plus an Olivier when it opened in London a little later.

In truth it is not really a groundbreaking piece of theatre – controversial – yes – dealing as it does with racism and all the other ‘isms’ you can think of, but it’s in the clever storytelling of how balances have shifted over the decades that sets it apart.

Norris is a master of his craft, a weaver of plots and purveyor of blistering scandalmongering caustic dialogue, which is an actor’s box of delights.

Joy of joys the company also get to double as the play is divided into two acts with different characters linked by a common theme namely the said Clybourne Park property, which changes from an all white neighbourhood in the 1950/60s to run down black ghetto period and back to President Obama time when it was set to become multiracial and chic again.

Director Stewart Snape always impresses with his attention to detail and once again it is the little things that gets his stamp – let’s call it ‘Snapeness’. One example is the intricacy he has directed his actors to show in something as simple as moving a trunk.

He gets players to point up its significance verbally in conversation and with guarded aside glances before we see it. We hear it thump before we see it too and when we do, he lets us know it’s heavy then teases us as to what’s inside.

That trunk effectively became as important as any of the cast, and as memorable as the bone-throwing opener to Kubricks ‘2001 A Space Odyssey’.

Besides ‘the trunk’ there are also other outstanding performances.

Liz Plumpton as apple-pie, white liberal with a small ‘l’ mum, Bev, which she contrasts with feminist lawyer Kathy in Act 2.

Then there’s Shemeica Rawlins as Bev’s compliant maid and token black buddy Francine in Act 1 and modern gutsy ‘take-no-nonsense’ Lena in Act 2.

Rawlins is partnered in both acts by Papa Annoh Yentumi (what a wonderful name) – he’s her quiet respectful know-my-place afro-haired  husband Albert in Act 1 and loud successful ‘read my lips’ Kevin in Act 2.

Paul Forest reminded me of crooner Pat Boon in Act 1 where he plays ‘all teeth and smiles’ local white pastor Jim. Boon was also a pastor in gated community Palos Verdes LA, an area I knew well in the 70s.  Forest doubles this effectively as the methodical community group leader in act 2.

James David Knapp gives two powerhouse outings firstly as Karl, the angry white neighbour who doesn’t know or care that he is a rabid, raging, racist and the bigoted, foul-mouthed Steve who is more of the same but doesn’t admit it a few decades on.

Grace Cheatle partners Knapp, firstly as his pregnant, deaf wife Betsy who is an awe of her husband and secondly as Sfeve’s pregnant and possibly soon to be ex-wife Lindsey in Act two, as she reels in horror at his stomach churning diatribes.

Lastly comes the zenith  – a commanding contribution from Colin Simmonds as Russ, Bev’s husband in Act 1. Every twitch of the eyebrow, every rumble in the throat was a joyous addition to a mighty characterisation. His journey from smile to scowl and from control to explosion was spellbinding.

Simmonds bit part character in act 2, as Dan the clearing contractor, might well have been a scene-stealer if he hadn’t been amongst such talent.

Snape designed his own production frocks and like his direction the attention to detail is exemplary.

Colin Judges set was the stuff of a designer who doesn’t cut corners in meeting a challenge. His transformation from classy suburb to run down hood is nothing short of genius. I could happily have spent the interval watching it happen if we weren’t banned from observing the witchery.

This production is theatre at its finest – it deserves bigger audiences than just the Crescent faithful. The productions in the studio just keep getting better – catch it before it closes and book for whatever is coming next.

Clybourne Park runs at the Crescent until Saturday, July 16. Click here for times, tickets and more information.

*****

Review by Euan Rose

Euan Rose Reviews

REVIEW – Rebooted We Will Rock You at the Birmingham Hippodrome – much better with a bit of a surprise

Picture by Johan Persson. s

IT HAS been 20 years since Ben Elton first wrote the book to accompany Queen’s songs and lyrics to create the musical ‘We will Rock You’.

To be honest when I saw it back then I thought the music was a sensational tribute but the book a little silly sci-fi which annoyed more than it entertained.

Picture by Johan Persson. s

Now this new version two decades on is a very different kettle of fish – whilst it is still a silly sci-fi, Elton has cleverly used world events and inventions to brush his old lamp and like Aladdin did – he’s released his genie and his genius. What was trite – now is witty and what rocked before – rocks louder.

Michael McKell as Cliff, Adam Strong as Khashoggi, Ian McIntosh as Galileo, Edward Leigh (standing in for David Michael Johnson) as Brit all rocked their socks off for us – whilst Martina Ciabatti Mennell, Elena Skye as Scaramouche and Jenny O’Leary as the Killer Queen were off the Richter Scale.

The band under the electronic baton of Zachary Flis are tight and feisty with a special shout out to guitarists James Barber and Simon Croft – oh hells bells let’s name them all they were so good, Matt Herbert on piano, Neil Murray on bass and David Cottrell on drums

If you think you know the show because you’ve seen it before – think again. Yes of course it’s still a jukebox musical but it’s now so much cleverer.

Picture by Johan Persson. s

In fact I’d describe it as a ’Pass the Parcel’ musical, as it unwraps it just keeps on giving even when we reach the walkdown where we think it’s all over – but it’s not!

Ben Elton with his director’s hat on has one big surprise left to give us. You’ll have to book a ticket to find out as my lips are sealed.

We Will Rock You runs at the Birmingham Hippodrome until July 30.

Click here for times, tickets and more information.

*****

Review by Euan Rose

Euan Rose Reviews

REVIEW – The Lord of the Dance lives up to his billing at Birmingham’s Alexandra Theatre

PRESS night of Michael Flatley’s ‘Lord Of The Dance 25’ at Birmingham’s packed Alexandra Theatre last night was actually a tick on my bucket list.

Before then, the nearest I had got was in New York a couple of decades ago when I had a note shoved under my hotel room door.

It read ‘Following your performance this evening I am calling you in for a 4am rehearsal. Do not be late – Michael Flatley.’ Obviously he had the wrong room but woe betide the dancer who didn’t get that message.

That episode should endorse everything you hear about the legend being the hardest dance taskmaster in the world – and why not?  After all he created this phenomenon – quite right he should guard it.

Unless you positively hate Irish dancing or the thought of long-legged nimble-footed boys and girls performing routines at near faster than the speed of light – then there is nothing in this show that’s not to like. For me was certainly worth the wait.

The show opens with wall-to-wall video chronicling the 25 years of continuous performance – save of course for those Covid years. Several troupes have wowed audiences in 56 countries from Estonia to Abu Dhabi  and always under his direction.

Fast forward to the end and it finishes with an ABBA style avatar performance where not one, not two but – three Michael Flatleys turn the clock back 25 years and give us a walkdown dance like nothing seen before.

In between comes dueling fiddles, beautiful singing, frame and bodhran drums, bone players, whistles and of course wave after wave of dancing feet.

Add to all this some amazing FX settings and you could be in Las Vegas not Birmingham.

Formulated it may be but it’s also a joy to let the Irish magician cast his spell. He is the Lord of the Dance say I!

The Lord of the Dance 25 runs at Birmingham’s Alexandra Theatre until Sunday, June 19. Click here for times, tickets and more information.

****

Review by Euan Rose

Euan Rose Reviews

REVIEW – Playboy of the West Indies at the Birmingham Rep is fitting on warm summer evening

CALYPSO music and a story set on an idyllic West Indian island seemed just the show to go to on a barmy summer evening in Birmingham.

A feeling which is compounded by a smile-inducing entrance to the auditorium – where the Rep’s cavernous stage had been transformed to a tropical paradise.

Palm trees surround two huge set pieces, which move together without a care in the world to form  ‘Peggy’s’ a Rum Bar, A place where you could blissfully spend the night.

This is the setting lovingly designed by Michael Taylor and lit in splendid Technicolor by Matt Eagland.

The ‘Playboy of the West Indies’ is a musical based upon the play of the same name  by Mustapha Matura – which in turn Matura wrote as a parody to JM Synge’s ‘Playboy of the Western World’.

Clement Ishmael and Dominque Le Gendre are the music composers and they plus others provide the lyrics for a mixed bag of songs. Some are joyous, a couple uplifting and some with so may words coming at you so fast that  I for one lost concentration on what was being sung about.

The same applies to the delivery of parts of the script where the accents and slang whilst being laughed at uproariously by some, others including me felt excluded from the party at times.

The plot is simple enough, in a village where nothing happens, a stranger comes to town and is hailed as some sort of anti-hero when he says he has killed his father in a fight and is on the run from the police.  Turns out his father survived and comes after him for a rematch. Our playboy is wooed by the women and booed by the men.

Durone Stokes turns in the complete performance as the stranger Ken.  He is charismatic, crystal clear and has a superb singing voice. If all the company had delivered like Stokes then this show could rise from good to triumphant.

Gleanne Purcell-Brown as Peggy and Angla Wynter as Mam Benin also turn out inclusive and carefully constructed performances.

From the programme it appears that the direction is a team effort – always a rocky road to go down – direction by committee oft ends in tears. I’m not saying this happens here because you still come out feeling happy and goodness knows that’s a rare treat in these dark days.

***

Review by Euan Rose.

Euan Rose Reviews