Top marks for the History Boys at the Wolverhampton Grand

ALAN Bennett’s multi-award winning masterpiece, ‘The History Boys’ proved to be an excellent choice for this year’s first venture into in-house production for the Wolverhampton Grand.

Picture by Tim Thursfield. s

The clever script, based on Bennett’s own schooldays, is set in a fictional Sheffield grammar school in the early 1980s and concerns a group of history students studying for the Oxbridge entrance examinations. Three teachers with very different styles – Hector, Irwin and Mrs Linott – tutor them.

Ian Redford gives an absolutely outstanding performance as Douglas Hector – radiating warmth, joy and a touch of insanity to the role of the eccentric and sad schoolmaster who is unsure of his sexuality and where he actually belongs in society. His life is ruined when he is reported for fumbling with a boy travelling pinion on his motorcycle.

Picture by Tim Thursfield. s

Before this incident though, through the ambitions of Felix, the hard-nosed headmaster (a spot on performance by the seasoned Jeffrey Holland) Irwin – a supply teacher with a track record of success through ruthless methods – is employed to teach alongside Hector. It turns out Irwin (Lee Comley) too is a latent homosexual, a fact that does not go unnoticed by the all-seeing history boys.

The third teacher and the only female in the cast is the foul-mouthed yet compassionate Dorothy Linott, played with an amusing balance of ‘plague on all academics and ‘we can do this’ approach by Victoria Carling, which cleverly makes the character three dimensional.

All of the boys bring different strengths to the class of students on their voyages of discovery. Jordan Scowen exudes charisma as the handsome, wise-beyond-his-years Dakin, Frazer Hadfield makes much of Scripps, the calm piano-playing collaborator and Dominic Treacy makes the perfect, overweight, ‘cheeky chappie’ Timms.

Picture by Tim Thursfield. s

Thomas Grant is outstanding as the young, gay Jewish Posner who worships Dakin, Joe Wiltshire Smith turns in a sometimes scene stealing performance as the athletic, non-academic Rudge, James Schofield does well as the opinionated Lockwood, Arun Bassi makes a poignant job of Akthar the Muslim and Adonis Jenieco completes the class as wannabe actor Crowther.

Picture by Tim Thursfield. s

Jack Ryder directs with a passion for the play and his superb knowledge of pace and timing is obvious, moving the action as he does through monologues, back stories and time zones, teasing and pleasing, dutifully following the complexity of Bennett’s storyline whilst making us care about every single participant.

The set by designer John Brooking comprising a cycloramic movie screen above the stage and a flowing series of space creating walls beneath it, make for a continuous journey.

Jack Ryder also directed the film made using the cast plus pupils of Thorns Collegiate Academy in Brierley Hill, which appears on the screen and underpins and expands the action seamlessly.

This ‘History Boys’ is a magnificent achievement for the in-house company and I hope the Wolverhampton Grand gets the full houses it deserves.

The History Boys runs at the grand until February 22.

Click here for times, tickets and more information.


Review by Euan Rose.

Heart-warming stuff as ballet-master Bourne brings his Red Shoes to Brum

EVERY TIME I see a Matthew Bourne production, there is a small part of me that wonders how he can possibly top his previous show.

After more than 20 years of choreographing spectacular ground-breaking ballets, how can he find a way of engaging us and taking the genre to new heights?

I’m happy to say that The Red Shoes does not disappoint – hooking the audience from the moment the curtain opens and keeping us on the edge of our seats right up to the collective audience ‘gasp’ of the final scene.

Picture by Johan Persson. s

The story is based on the classic 1948 film by Pressburger and Powell, which starred Moira Shearer as the dancer who coveted the red ballet shoes only to find that once on her feet, she could not stop dancing, eventually sending her into a spiral of despair.

The original Hans Christian Anderson story is typically gruesome in its ending and this production manages to retain the shock-factor too.

The cinematic surrealism perfectly reflects the film and the characters are beautifully drawn with their movements instantly conveying their personalities.

This is a true ensemble production – with every dancer giving their all and not one superfluous or out-of-sync step.

Picture by Johan Persson. s

The action largely takes place in a ballet theatre switching seamlessly between on-stage and back-stage through the ingenious set (from long-time Bourne collaborator Lez Brotherston) which includes a suspended proscenium arch that glides and pirouettes almost as much as the dancers below.

Add to that the subtle, pin-point accurate lighting by Paule Constable and Brotherston’s stylistic costumes and the whole show is visually stunning.

The evocative music score has been assembled from film music of the era written by Bernard Herrmann, most notably his orchestral scores for Farenheit 541 and Citizen Kane which adds to the filmic quality.

Interestingly, as Matthew Bourne explained in the Q&A that followed the show, the cast rotate in the roles, so that in one show they could be playing a principal role and the next be part of the corps-de-ballet.

This helps to keep performances fresh and constantly evolving.

or this reason, I am not ‘naming-names’, instead referring to the characters in the story.

Picture by Johan Persson. s

Vicky Page is the girl who dreams of a career as a ballet dancer and eventually is spotted by ballet impresario Lemontov, who becomes besotted with her. He takes her into his ballet company, along with her boyfriend, Julian Craster a struggling composer, who is writing the score for a new ballet ‘The Red Shoes’, inspired by Vicky.

‘Vicky’ is sublime – dancing with a passion and intensity that both delights and awes.

Lemontov is suitably controlling whilst Craster perfectly conveys the angst of the struggling artist.

There is plenty of humour to lighten the intensity – from cameos within ballet chorus, a delightful seaside scene when Lemontov’s company arrives in Monte Carlo, to the hilariously seedy music hall dance act that Vicky is forced to perform with when she leaves Lemontov in pursuit of love.

The ‘Red Shoes’ ballet-within-a-ballet that Craster has created for Vicky is simply stunning; the set transforms to stark black and white giving a film noir feel.

The devil that offers Vicky the red shoes is suitably slimy and menacing, the ‘storm’ scene as she descends into madness breath-taking and the pas-de-deux she dances with her lover from beyond the grave totally heart-breaking.

Matthew Bourne ensures he is in the audience for every first night on a tour – with that level of commitment and attention to detail and there is no danger of the show ever getting stale.

It is heart-warming to see a capacity audience enjoying ballet on a wet Tuesday night in Brum – bravo to Matthew Bourne and his New Adventures Company for making ballet so accessible without compromising on artistic integrity.

It received a long, well-deserved standing ovation.

Matthew Bourne’s Red Shoes runs until Saturday.

Click here for times, tickets and more information.


Review by Johannah Dyer for Euan Rose Reviews

More carats needed to entice new audiences to Alex’s Band of Gold

KAY MELLOR is renowned as a powerhouse writer who has brought gritty, northern humour to stage and screen for quite a few decades.

Her TV series ‘Band of Gold’ was watched by millions back in the 1990s and now, a quarter of a century later, she has revisited her much-loved  Bradford sex-workers in a stage version.

Picture by Ant Robling. s

The cast comprise ‘soap royalty’ and the audience had come to pay homage to their heroes from Eastenders, Coronation Street, Emmerdale and Hollyoaks – plus X Factor winner Shayne Ward thrown for good measure.

‘Anita’ is the mature hooker-come-pub-singer, who at the start of the play is only ‘doing’ one chap – her married, overweight boyfriend who pays her rent and furnishes her flat in return for sex.

On press night, Anita was played by Virginia Byron, standing in for the indisposed Laurie Brett – ‘Jane Beale’ from Eastenders.

Picture by Ant Robling. s

Other ladies of the band of gold are ‘Carol’, the house proud mum who dispenses bleach and sex in equal quantities – though thankfully not at the same time – and is played with humour and gusto by Emma Osman, Gaynor Faye – Emmerdales’s Megan Marcey and Kay Mellor’s real life daughter – is ‘Rose’, the tough Queen Mother of the patch, to whom all who work ‘The Lane’ must pay a street tax, completing the line-up is Sacha Parkinson as Gina who takes up the oldest profession after failing to make enough as an Avon Lady to pay off a nasty loan shark.

Olwen May plays  Carol’s mother ‘Joyce’ and steals the female acting honours for me by bringing in an extra touch of realism to her role.

There are some familiar names and faces on the male side too, Hollyoak’s Kieron Richardson plays Carol’s abusive ex-husband Steve with a whisky bottle permanently in his right hand, Coronation Street’s Andrew Dunn plays the seemingly nice guy, Councillor Ian Barraclough, whilst two more ex-Corrie chaps Mark Sheals and Steve Garti play Anita’s misogynistic provider and Curly the chicken farmer with a foot fetish and a bad rash.

Picture by Ant Robling. s

In addition there are very strong male performances from newcomer Joe Mallalieu as the menacing loan shark Mr Moore and the said X-Factor star Shayne Ward in the small but memorable role of Inspector Newall, the caring copper.

Kay Mellor directed as well as wrote the drama, which has more of a screen than stage feel about it,  comprising of a myriad of small scenes moving from a variety of flats to a karaoke pub, street corners and other places. So fast in fact that there is little time for character development or to become engaged in the storyline other than superficially.

I realise these are a cast more used to being mic’d than having to project, but so loud were the radio mics they wore that it was like listening to a TV set on full blast for the hard of hearing.

This coupled with deafening music destroyed any chance of subtlety. A fight scene went badly awry but that may have been a one-off and down to the enforced cast changes.

The set by talented designer Janet Bird involve the use of sliding dark semi-transparent flats/legs to create an atmosphere of street corner seediness.

This brings a degree of order to the almost constant cacophony of location changes. However, the sparseness of the furnishings doesn’t quite work sympathetically in the overall concept.

Fine when you’re cutting from scene to scene on film, but jarring when it’s  got to be done practically on stage – makes for switching off, not tuning in.

There is no doubt that Kay Mellor is a huge talent and she has assembled quite a formidable team for this production.

For me though, it is lacking in detail and is not a joined-up stand-alone drama.

Fans of the series might be content but new audiences may not be so engaged.

***Review by Euan Rose.

Crescent’s Victorian Gaslight burns brightly in the darkness

‘GASLIGHT’ is a ‘cop’ show – not as in the cops and robbers sense but a ‘creaky old potboiler’ that rears its head every decade or so.

What made folk have nightmares back in 1934 when Patrick Hamilton’s melodrama/thriller first graced the stage, should surely today be dismissed as more farcical than fearful.

Enter director Stewart Snape who is obviously on a quest to prove that Gaslight can still thrill without the need to drag it into modern day, nor must you pay homage to the era in which it was written, but merely to do the job the writer intended with a team that is up to the task.

Picture by Graeme Braidwood Photography. s

By team, I mean a fusion of cast and creative, which has certainly happened here – resulting in a show, which exudes theatrical excellence.

The excellence begins with the set design from Colin Judges where he has created a Victorian residence in the Ron Barber studio complete with flock wallpapers and tiled floors, a practical fireplace, dark voids where danger lurks and a second floor that isn’t there – yet we look up and see it above the coving that ends in blackness.

Judges’ set is complemented by furniture and properties of the finest detail sourced by a team comprising Andrew Lowrie, Paul Forrest and James Browning

Lynn Hems adds to the realism with her lighting design ensuring that the gaslight lamps dim and glow. They become inanimate cast members, whilst the musical neck-hair-raising soundtrack composed and performed by Brendan Stanley, coupled with haunting sound effects from the desk of Ray Duddin makes for auditory perfection.

Picture by Graeme Braidwood Photography. s

Snape himself gives a master class in theatrical pace. He allows a table to be laid without a word being spoken, content for us to hear the swish of the tablecloth and the chink of china. He allows us thinking time – but when the action hots up he never leaves us waiting for one door to open when another closes – that is a literal. He knows that a dead ten seconds on stage is ten minutes to an audience.  Pace is everything and is the difference between taking us on a journey and sending us to sleep.

Jake Benson makes a good job of playing the iconic baddie as the loathsome, misogynistic Jack Manningham, who is on a mission to drive his poor wife Bella insane whilst the cad himself consorts with music hall artistes and actresses.

Ilana Charnelle Gelbart’s performance as the said Bella is superbly measured – initially she brings an air of dutifully ‘knowing her place’ then adds depth piece-by-piece until she finally springs out of her box like the proverbial Jack.

Picture by Graeme Braidwood Photography. s

Charlotte Thompson is deliciously naughty as housemaid Nancy who has designs on getting into her master’s pants, whilst Zena Forrest’s silky voice brings comfort through the chaos, making her ideal as the good maid Elizabeth.

Finally to Colin Simmonds as Inspector Rough – he is the real deal in every sense. When Rough asks Mrs Manningham to look him in the eyes and believe him, we do. Simmonds takes us from mirth to melodrama and then back again. His performance is simply a joyous experience.

It’s so pleasant when you are not expecting too much from a show and it turns out to be something special. In summary, ‘Gaslight’ – which could so easily be clunky – is triumphant and gets five well-deserved stars from me.

Gaslight runs at the Crescent Theatre’s Ron Barber Studio until Saturday, February 8.

Click here for times, tickets and more information.

*****Review by Euan Rose.

The play that’s Asking for It to be talked about

‘ASKING For It’, adapted for the stage by Meadhbh McHugh in collaboration with the show’s director Annabelle Comyn from Louise O’Neill’s devastating novel, is as much a conversation starter as it is a powerful piece of theatre.

Although the play is set in Ballinatoom in West Cork, Ireland, its central theme of sexual consent is as relevant here in Birmingham (where the UK premiere took place last night at the REP) as it is anywhere in informed society.

Picture by Ros Kavanagh. s

The central character of Emma is a feisty, opinionated and beautiful 18-year-old schoolgirl who is horrifically gang-raped and dehumanised by local college football heroes at a party whilst she binges on a lethal cocktail of drink and drugs. She is debased, abused, photographed and then dumped on her own doorstep to be discovered by her appalled parents.

Emma – an all-consuming powerhouse performance from Lauren Coe – tries to take legal action but rather than receiving a sympathetic reception, community and society questions how much of a victim she really is. Was she a willing participant or, as in the show’s title; ‘asking for it’?

The cleverness of the writing is that although Emma is not particularly likable, we like her all the same. She wears an unseen crown, is put on a pedestal by her mother and admired by the boys. She leads a somewhat charmed life and is not particularly tolerant of others, yet when we are asked to be tolerant of her – we are!

Picture by Jed Niezgoda. s

Paul O’Mahony’s quite amazing set starts off as the sparse interior side of a giant garage door – before transforming into a series of celluloid shapes to become the home, the school and the party house. It is multi-levelled and allows for giant projections as part of the storytelling.

Act one chronicles the events that lead up to the party. Piece by piece we are introduced to the nastier side of teenage angst, bravado and sarcasm. When the incident happens, the set allows it to be shown honestly and brutally without reliance on too much graphical acting; the projected implications and sounds are enough to induce total revulsion at what is occurring.

Act two opens with the set moving hydraulically to create a walled kitchen complete with a glass roof. Black rain trickles permanently down the glass and is as dark as the mood on stage as the family unit spirals into disintegration.

Dawn Bradfield oozes believability in her descent from euphoria to manic depression as Emma’s mother. Simon O’Gorman is her mild-mannered father – mild that is until he too explodes.

Picture by Jed Niezgoda. s

Liam Heslin dominates the second half as Emma’s brother Bryan who is the only family member that wants her to go all the way to trial – partly because he wants to save face with his own friends and partly because he feels guilty he didn’t protect her ‘that’ night.

Despite the excellence of directing and staging there is a dip of around 20 minutes in the second half, which could do with some pruning. Nothing much happens for too long. Bryan breaks the mood and from them on it once more becomes compulsive watching.

The press night audience comprised mostly those of us of the silver fox age group, which was a shame, as I believe this is a play every young person should see.

Overall the cast and creatives of this Landmark/Everyman production do a sterling job in breaking down that fourth wall twixt them and us – to the point where when it came to the walkdown, it seemed impolite to give a standing ovation. Subdued applause seemed to say much more – we were stunned into silence by what we had witnessed and ready to start those minefield conversations among ourselves on our journeys home.

Asking for It runs at The Rep until February 5.

Click here for times, tickets and more information.


Review by Euan Rose.

Super Saunders a natural as Madame Arcati in Malvern

NOEL Coward is quite rightly referred to as ‘the master’ when it comes to flamboyant comedy.

Coward was loved for his wit and personal sense of chic as much as writing.

Blithe Spirit, his 1941 comedy about ghosts and the afterlife, has made many a generation chuckle.

I confess to having a personal affinity, as it was the first lead role I played on stage nigh on half a century ago. It’s so true what they say about long-term memory as I remembered every word.

In truth, it is a little dated which is probably why director Richard Eyre has changed the tone somewhat away from the classic ‘Rex Harrison’ film version. Rather than ‘chaps’ being dominant and women more decorative, here Charles is portrayed as petulant and the ‘weaker’ party.

For anyone that doesn’t know the plot, Condomine is a playwright who is planning a new work about a fake medium.

As part of his research, he ropes in his second wife Ruth and friends Dr and Mrs Bradman in order to hold a séance with local a medium attempting to call up the dead in the Condomine’s sprawling country house.

Unfortunately it works all too well and back from beyond comes Charles’s very beautiful but impish first wife Elvira.

What follows is a huge back-story of mid-life male crisis where Charles’s misogynistic menopauses are sorely tested by the agendas of both wives living and dead.

Here, Jennifer Saunders holds court as the medium in question, Madam Arcati.  Saunders makes the part very much her own, with her frumpy, dumpy, legs akimbo, TV cop ‘Vera’ meets (sadly deceased) fat lady chef Clarissa Dickson Wright approach.  She is absolutely fabulous in the role and I defy anyone not to chuckle at her antics.

The verbal husband-bashing does become a little dull at times and more of a support act for the scenes of supernatural hilarity.

Geoffrey Streatfeild is convincing as the playwright husband, as is Lisa Dillon as his second wife Ruth – Emma Naomi brings a Jean Harlow quality to spectral first wife Elvira – resplendent in translucent blue flouncy frock, Simon Coates plays Dr Bradman like a doctor of that bygone era, who will come to your bedside if you can’t get to him. Lucy Robinson plays Mrs Bradman, his dutiful wife, with just the right air of class superiority.

With the exception of Saunders’ triumphant Arcati, Rose Wardlaw stands out as Edith the maid. She is immensely watchable and makes the most of her every moment on stage.

Anthony Ward’s lavish, double-storey set complete with a huge library looming over the lounge, works perfectly and provides the ideal space for Paul Kieve’s illusions. Elvira pops up all over the place – out of thin air – clever stuff indeed as is the show ending where the ex-wives conjure up a tornado.

To me, as good as this Blithe Spirit is (and it is very good indeed) it could be even better – maybe the talented Mr Eyre will add a few tweaks and cuts to some of the wordiness before it opens in the West End.

Hope so, but regardless the ‘house full’ signs are up in Malvern and no doubt the same will happen in London.


Review by Euan Rose.

Excellent ecclesiastical comedy as the Vicar of Dibley comes to Birmingham’s Crescent Theatre

THE VICAR of Dibley remains one of the most loved TV sitcoms of all time even though, apart from a few Christmas specials, it ceased running on the BBC as a series back in 1998.

At the time it was conceived by Richard Curtis and Paul Meyhew-Archer, it was highly topical, following hot on the heels of the first ordination of women vicars into the Church of England.

Picture by Graeme Braidwood Photography. s

It was written for Dawn French who became synonymous with the role and also starred the late Emma Chambers who won best TV comedy actress for her portrayal as French’s assistant verger, Alice Tinker.

Add to these two a cast of characters as clearly defined and much loved as those in ‘Dad’s Army,’ following in these hallowed footsteps in a stage version is indeed a very hard act to follow.

Picture by Graeme Braidwood Photography. s

I am delighted to say director and script adapter Kevin Middleton pulls it off quite admirably – paying homage by making all the characters copies of the original, piecing together a script of the best loved moments and creating a one-ness with it all by linking it with a whacky choir.

Keith Harris’ set design of two distinct acting areas – the parish hall meeting room stage right and the vicars home stage left – works quite beautifully and linking them with a third area created by flying in the tab and a stained glass window on the apron ensures that the action is seamless.

On the acting front, into those giant ecclesiastical shoes steps Katie Merriman as said female Dibley vicar Geraldine Granger. Happily they fit like Cinderella’s glass stilettos – she is chirpy, quirky, cuddly and comforting from the moment she walks on stage through to the final curtain.

A stellar cast supports Merriman, Katie Goldhawk brings naivety and buffoonery in bucket loads to the eccentric Alice making her the perfect comedic foil, John Whittell struts pompous parish power as chairperson David Horton whilst Joseph Harper is mannerism- precise as his downtrodden son Hugo.

Completing the principals are Tony Daniels who plays Jim no-no-no- no-yes Trott with infectious mumbling, Alan Bull as the amiable minute – taker Frank Pickle, Simon King is splendidly naughty as the sex-mad local farmer Owen Newitt, Janet Cunningham endearing as hippy happy knitter Letitia Cropley and Angela Daniels puts in a nice cameo as parishioner Mrs Bartlett.

A special shout to the magnificent ensemble choir featuring a rare, reluctant singing stage appearance for Crescent’s resident musical director Gary Spruce – two child soloists raising a smile in Anastasia Bridgewater and Brady Honeyghan and a doff of the cap to the show-stealing cameo from Christopher Arnold as the baton-waving drag-race-perfect guide to coarse acting choirmaster.

I am sure the company will make allowances for laughter pauses having witnessed their first night response and also raise their rehearsal room audibility to hit the back row of the main house as performance confidence kicks in.

This is a fine company, another great Crescent show, VoD devotees get what they hope for and newbees will be instant converts. Tickets for this production at Birmingham’s Crescent Theatre are scarce  – chase them with haste.

The show runs until next Saturday, February 1.

Click here for times, tickets and more information.


Review by Euan Rose.

Today’s climate crisis enables Earthquakes in London to have its intended impact

MIKE Bartlett’s ‘Earthquakes in London’ premiered at the National’s Cottesloe Theatre  back in 2010.

This was of course pre-teenage Swedish activist Greta Thunburg’s apocalyptic tidings – for which Bartlett must be immensely grateful in giving his epic tale more relevance and a new theatrical lease of life today.

James Lees directs this Birmingham Ormiston Academy Year 13 production with great gusto and uses the script that moves from 1968 to 2525 as a blank canvas to throw everything at it from the physical to the surreal, embracing ballet and buffoonery along the way.

If Lees had budget to match his ambitions, then the technical effects would probably have huge carbon footprints all over it, making Greta gnash her molars. As it is, he has to be content to work with basic staging and properties and rely on the talents of his cast to join up the dots. They don’t let him down!

The plot follows three sisters Sarah, Freya, and Jasmine played by Daniella Burridge, Abby Doubtfire, and Megan (No not that one) Murphy respectively, as they attempt to navigate their dislocated lives and loves.

Their back stories are played out alongside that of their dysfunctional father (Matthew Rousseau), a brilliant scientist, predicts global catastrophe through environmental disaster but takes corporate bucks rather than spilling the beans.- therein lays the path to personal self destruction.

Elder sister Sarah is a Cabinet Minister in a coalition government and a convert advocate of ‘environment before economy’ policy, middle sister Freya is heavily pregnant and growing increasingly depressed about the uncertain future her child is being born into, whilst Jasmine the youngest sibling, is a rebellious teenager who likes to shock.

Bartlett’s script is not without flaws; it is more than a tad over complicated, long, bitty and flitty – moving as it does back and forth in time and story lines.  On the plus side outside of the main theme of climate change the play admirably offers interesting takes on other difficult topics, including suicide.

‘Earthquakes in London’ is though, very much a play for today, which is tackled commendably in this production. The company work as one – maintaining the pace throughout and being mindful of fellow actors, always sharing not dominating the space.

Whilst there were no weak links, special shout outs from me go to the very watchable Daniella Burridge  for her complete believability as Sarah and to Bella Christon for her engaging and charismatic portrayal of tomboy Peter.

I read that there is a national professional tour production due to take off within weeks – I hope the director got to see this excellent BOA show and took some notes.

Review by Euan Rose.

Brum’s Alexandra set alight by charismatic Bodyguard

DESPITE it being around for many years, this is the first time I have seen the stage musical of ‘The Bodyguard’.

The fact this new version reunites Alexandra Burke with the role that launched her stage career back in 2014 was another reason for catching this tour whilst her amazing voice is in it.

Picture by Paul Coltas. s

I was not disappointed – quite the opposite – this is one wild ride of a show with a bit of everything woven into it like a theatrical tapestry.

The score offers up some terrific numbers including such classics as ‘Greatest Love Of All’, I’m Every Woman’, ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’ and of course the legend that is ‘I Will Always Love You’.

The book is a very clever adaptation by Alexander Dinelaris of Lawrence Kasdan’s original screenplay for the 1992 movie – starring the late great Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner.

Picture by Paul Coltas. s

Kasdan also wrote screenplays for ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ and ‘Raiders Of The Lost Ark’ and is known for writing challenging special effects moments. Dinelaris has carried this into the stage show with a multitude of effects from the first moment when a gunshot reverberates around the auditorium demanding attention.

The set moves in and out and up and down, with fire, smoke and lighting effects to grace the biggest rock concert arena. There are film effects on a giant gauze and settings that move from Beverly Hills mansions to the Oscars by way recording studios, log cabins, karaoke bars and more; all effected smoothly and in the blink of an eye.

This show demands a huge technical crew and a masterful stage manager.

Take a bow, Jamie Capewell! On press night when there was a fire cannon left burning on stage after the opening number, our hero didn’t clear the auditorium and send us out to wait in the cold, but made the right call. He stopped the scene, sent on crew member with a hand held extinguisher, sorted the problem and restarted the scene from the beginning to rapturous applause. Capewell by name and cope well by nature.

Picture by Paul Coltas. s

Back to the review and the magnificent presence that is Alexandra Burke as superstar Rachel Marron. She simply oozes charisma, makes you dizzy with those high notes and thanks to that ‘Strictly’ training, now taps her toes and kicks her legs with the best in the business.

Burke is well supported by Ben Lewis as the bodyguard himself, Frank Farmer. Lewis looks and moves like someone you’d really want in your corner if the chips were down. He is convincing and draws you in to what he is thinking.

Craig Berry makes a splendid job of Rachel Marron’s security man, Tony Scibelli, Emmy Willow adds much as the Diva’s PA and sister Nicki Marron (complete with awesome vocals) and young Riotafari Gardner was totally captivating in his turn out of the six youngsters playing the part of Rachel’s son Fletcher.

Picture by Paul Coltas. s

Phil Atkinson is magnificently deadly as the stalker, giving us many a moment of chills down the spine.

The production is directed by Tracy Lane who has joined up all the artistic dots admirably and the superbly tight orchestra is under the baton of its keyboard playing MD, Michael Riley.

This is a big, bold, brash show that makes no apologies for being totally in your face from the get-go. It also has the bonus of a walkdown that is a mini-show in itself.

I loved it! Tickets are like gold dust apparently – my suggestion is to go prospecting for them.

The Bodyguard is at the Alexandra Theatre until next Saturday, February 1.

Click here for times, tickets and more information.

*****Review by Euan Rose.

Disappointing script fails to bring Frankenstein to life in Malvern

AT A TIME when the artistic world is crying out for more acclaim for women in the arts, a new version of a classic written by a woman and directed and designed by women should be welcomed. Especially when the plot concerns a female writer tackling the male dominated arena of gothic drama.

I refer to the latest rewrite of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein by Rona Munro. Unfortunately the monster, which has scared us for decades, has got somewhat murdered rather than lost in translation.

Munro has Mary Shelley writing her monster mash on stage – and there in lays the rub. There is confliction between the tale of her writing and the tale itself so that what starts off as an interesting concept with a few humorous asides descends all too quickly into tediousness.

Not that Eilidh Loan isn’t good as Mary Shelley, she puts in a fine performane; no, the fault is in the pretentious over-writing.

Picture by Tommy Ga-Ken Wan. s

Loan is supported by a cast that do as they have been directed by Patricia Benecke and it is not their fault that it is hard to care about their individual or collective journeys.

The set and costumes by Becky Minto are stark black and white. A double-storey building where the actors climb white trees to reach the upper level is clever but confining. Everything is done in small spaces. It’s like looking into an open dolls house, but without the wonderment.

Coming on the heels of some excellent stage Frankenstein’s in recent years sadly this version pales into insignificance. Theatre should make us suspend belief and leave us screaming for more, not begging for mercy.

Storm Brendon, which raged as we left the theatre was far more scary.

Tickets range from £17.92 to £34.72.

Call the box office on 01684 892277 or click here for more information and tickets.


Review by Euan Rose.