Noises Off

Michael and I went to see a good farce last night from CUADC, with a great performance from Charlotte Reid as the incredibly stupid Brooke, bravely half-naked on stage throughout. Jason Forbes was great as Gary, never quite knowing what he was going to say and with some impressive comedy falls off stage and down stairs that looked very real.

The plot of Noises Off was quite simple: opening scene is the technical rehearsal of a play early in the morning that it opens, and watching a awful cast being dragged through their lines by their director, (well played by Ben Kavanagh) who was sat in amongst the audience (us). This is the strongest scene in the production and sets everything up well for later: Scene two was an impressive back-stage view and we see the production a month in, failing dismally as the characters fight and squabble behind stage. The farce is laid on pretty thick here. When the curtain finally falls on the ‘matinée’ performance, I thought that was the end of the show, and I would have been happy to have gone home very happy. But there was a third scene that sadly dragged for me. The stage was swung round again, and we are the audience once more for the play that has now completely degenerated. Jason Forbes’ comic falls and  Ella Writer’s (Belinda) disheveled hair were highlights.

We were slightly inconvenienced by Prince Edward visiting for the night. We had to keep seated while he came in and out. His is the patron of the theatre and his security was actually pretty low key, so I can only really complain that I wasn’t invited for the champagne  and nibbles at the interval.

Review from The TAB

From the ADC web site:

CUADC presents, Noises Off, by Michael Frayn.

This February CUADC brings a two-week run of Michael Frayn’s classic farce to the ADC stage. Billed ‘the funniest farce ever written’ by the New York Post, this production boasts a stellar cast and crew who will ensure that you are in stitches from start to finish. Guaranteed to be one of the funniest nights you’ll ever spend at the theatre, make sure you book early to avoid disappointment!

Noises Off is an hilarious comedy following the loveable cast and crew of Nothing On as they attempt to take their show from final rehearsal to final performance. The pandemonium that goes on behind the scenes, the disasters that occur in front of the audience and the incestuous relationships that breed in between are laid bare in riotous detail to the audience.

Will Lloyd, the director, be able to balance two relationships with members of the company at once? Can practically deaf old Selsdon be kept off the bottle long enough to make his entrance? How will Frederick cope in a fight when the mention of violence gives him a nosebleed?

Come along and find the answers to all of these questions and more. With seven slamming doors, six breaking windows, three near-fatal falls, and an onslaught of mistaken entrances, cues and prop malfunctions, what could possibly go wrong?

Ben Kavanagh, Noises Off
Ben Kavanagh, Noises Off

Spring Awakening

First an introduction from Wikipedia:

Wedekind’s first major play, Frühlings Erwachen (Spring Awakening, 1891), which concerns sexuality and puberty among some young German students, caused a scandal, as it contained scenes of homoeroticism, implied group male masturbation, actual male masturbation, sado-masochism between a teenage boy and girl, rape, and suicide, as well as references to abortion. In 2006, it was adapted into a successful Broadway musical, Spring Awakening.

So, this was an ambitious musical, and with a great cast. It came with a ‘Parental Advisory’ warning about the ‘Explicit Content’, which was ironic as the production featured much adult suppression of teenage sexuality.  The language and setting was set in  the 1890’s, but the score of the songs was contemporary, which made for some interesting transitions. There was some uncomfortable wriggling in the row in front of us during one of the masturbation scenes, brought off with great glee by Matt Elliot-Ripley. Everything else in the outline above was packed into the show.

Mateo Oxley was (as Holly Maguire highlights in her TAB review) accomplished and comfortable in his part—he brought great flair. Excellent vocals from Sarah Malcolm, and good (if somewhat inconsistent) performances from Theo Hughes-Morgan and James Patridge.

The low point of the show for me was the poor handling of a gay kiss. Its a pity, that for such an ambitious production, that my lasting memory may be a full theatre being led to laugh at a gay kiss. Mind you, the scene wasn’t great to start with, it was dropped in from nowhere and led nowhere. The lead actor for the scene had tended toward being comic in other scenes, and he camped and hammed up this scene beyond what it could take. To get this in perspective the only lasted one minute! Still,  I would have cut it! A redeeming end at the curtain call when Mark Linford (Ernst) and Matt Elliot-Ripley (Hanshen) held hands on stage.

I’ve chosen the photo below (from the TABs Flickr site) as an example of the great lighting.

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From the ADC web site:

Triple Loop presents, Spring Awakening
Book and lyrics by Steven Sater, Music by Duncan Sheik, based on the original play by Frank Wedekind

Winner of the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Musical and five-star rave reviews; Spring Awakening is the most exciting musical in a decade. Based on Frank Wedekind’s ground-breaking 1890s play, which was banned for over 100 years for being too sensationalist, Spring Awakening the Musical has changed the face of musical theatre forever.

Moritz struggles at school, Wendla’s Mother refuses to explain anything and Melchior is fixated on discovering everything about sex. Watch as these characters break out into rock songs, rebelling against brutal parental oppression. With a score that won the Grammy Award for Best Musical Album, the contemporary music expresses the anguish and ecstasy of discovering your sexuality.

This production is acutely sensitive, entirely uninhibited and boundlessly energetic.

Pornography

Pornography was set in July 2007, centering on the London bombings. Most of the play was delivered as monologue, which was direct and powerful—the theatre was full, but eerily silent.  What wasn’t monologue was excellent choreography, well executed. The strong cast and direction meant this was a polished production. I found the ending emotional, heightened by the good sound and choreography, and this is probably the closest I’ve come to shedding a tear at the ADC. Although didn’t quite get there.

The guy who got beaten up was excellent and quirky. The cast are all named as ‘person’ on CamDram, so I can’t tell who played who: Megan Roberts, James Bloor, Mark Wartenberg, Chloe Mashiter, Tom England, Luka Krsljanin. Well done all.

The incest scene was shocking, it felt very real as the growing lust between the brother-sister romance was developed  believably and when they gave in, it was truly shocking.

At this rate of great 11pm performances,  I’ll be moving my theatre slots later!

Tab review (febrile means feverish, if like me you need to look it up) and a fun minor ‘scandal’ in the promotion for the show.

From the ADC web site:

CUADC presents
Pornography, bySimon Stephens

London, 7th July, 2005
This city is never silent. It has a throb and pulse of its own. It feels latent. It feels charged. It feels sprung. As though something remarkable is going to happen.
In less than an hour, everything will change.
What you need to do is stand well clear of the yellow line
.”
Violently dark. Startlingly poignant. ‘Pornography’ takes us into the lives of six individuals and into the worlds that lie, in constant whirling motion, behind the face of the everyday. Through the voyeuristic and visceral, we watch them fall and fragment against the backdrop of London. A London speeding towards a shattering collision of exultation and horror, whilst we begin to realise what it means to be alive in the 21st century, and whether or not this kind of isolated, disconnected existence is really worth fighting for.

The Way Through the Woods

The first night of the theatre season at the ADC for us and we went to see  a late night production of The Way Through the Woods, by ‘The Story Teller‘. It’s a dark telling of Snow White (and the three dwarves). Good and fair review from Cambridge TAB and I agree with the comments about the narrator. Katie Alcock (the Witch) was super and powerful in her part, she carried this off with conviction. I enjoyed the mirror, with the writhing figures in silhouette and great vocals from Chigozie Nri and Hannah Walker: I don’t know how the vocals were done, but the effect was spine chilling! The dwarves were great: the hobbit-esque outfits and TweedleDum-and-TweedleDeee-inspired dialogue were great fun. I had more problems with Will O Wisp. CJ Donnelly was fun and exuberant, but too farcical for me and over the top. The singing was in general dire—singing a funeral dirge on stage probably takes a good singing voice and the cast looked rather dejected and uncomfortable as they tried their best.

Big orchestra for The Way Through the Woods. It's a dark version of Snow White apparently. Opening night tonight. http://www.adctheatre.com

Finally, lots of praise for the orchestra, who were on stage. The score was great, and it was enjoyable to see them highlight the action and taking part in the drama. I’d like to see more of this sort of theatre.

The Way through the Woods

We were there on the opening night, and hopefully the cast’s confidence increased later in the week. Great stuff, lots that could have been improved, but a really good show and exciting to see such experimental and fresh theatre.

From the ADC Web Site:

The Story Tellers presents, The Way Through the Woods, Written by Paul Cooper, composed by Ed Bell

When a bed-time story becomes unnervingly real, a young boy is drawn into a world where nothing is as it seems. Hunted by a witch and her maniacal master, he is forced to make his way in a land where children do not long survive. In the forest, a young girl flees from her evil stepmother—but are her rescuers any less treacherous?

Combining new writing and live music, The Way Through the Woods is the story of Snow White as you’ve never seen it before. With a specially composed score and a twisted take on familiar characters, this is a devilishly dark retelling of a classic fairytale.

Join our Storyteller as he summons a story fit for the coldest winter’s night. When two worlds come together, who will survive? Just how happy an ending can we expect? And how many will find The Way Through the Woods…?

The Pied Piper (Panto)

Panto time already—this year at the ADC it’s the tale of the Pied Piper of Hamelin. The star of the show was Abi Tedder, with a great character and super comic timing. She played Frau Faberge a sex-obsessed cook, whose daugher was half rat after Faberge had had a fling with the rat king. It’s a tribute to Abi’s vocal range that I thought she was a male dame—until she proved otherwise when she jumped out of a pie dressed in a negligee.

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Picture of Abi Tedder form the Facebook Page for the production.

Ben Kavanagh (who played the genie very well in last year’s panto) was good again as the Pied Piper with a wicked twinkle in his eye (and a tight pair of velour trousers). Catherine Harrison (Gretchen) has a lovely voice, and sang a beautiful solo. Tamara Astor was also good as Rudi and good with the audience. The writing was strong this year—great songs. A few bits could (happily) have been cut—the silent movie tribute in particular fell flat and Will Seaward‘s narration was hard to hear and follow (despite his fantastic powerful voice and the narration being recorded!). With a few tweaks here and there, 30 mins could have been cut from the production to make it punchier. The set was ambitious, and Abi and others entertained us through the various scene changes with great humour. I really enjoyed this. Good production cocktail in the bar this time—half price maragaritas.

From the ADC web site:

CUADC/Footlights presents The Pied Piper, by Mark Fiddaman, James Moran and Lucien Young

Imagine literally as many rats as you can imagine. Now imagine they’ve all brought a plus one. You’ve just imagined the situation in old Hamelin town. The bumbling Mayor and his lederhosened lackies are powerless to stop them, until an eccentric and mysterious trouble shooter, known as the Pied Piper, shows up.

The Piper amazes all with his rat removal skills. But when the Mayor refuses to stump up, the Piper takes his revenge by stealing all the town’s children! Hamlin’s only hope lies in a plucky, young hero and his ramshackle alliance, who together must brave the trail to the Pied Menace’s secret lair in Koppelberg Hill…

The ADC & Footlights Pantomime is the biggest, loudest and funnest show of the year, where Cambridge’s finest comedians, actors and musicians team up to blow a frankly ridiculous budget. So bring all the family along for ein über-Fest of REVELRY, ROMANCE and RODENTS.

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Passing By

Passing By by Martin Sherman was produced as a late night play by at the ADC. Beautifully acted by Jacob Shephard (Toby) and Luka Krsljanin (Simon)screen-capture.png . The characters in the play were interesting and individual and there were many, unconventional and convincing tender moments. Really enjoyable production and well worth waiting till 11pm for. The review by the TAB captures my feeling well.

From the ADC web site:

“You can’t count on anything. Last time I made love I whiplashed my neck.”

Passing By is a charming romantic comedy of an unlikely love between two men whose hearts pull them together as their lives pull them apart. The ADC presents an intimate and unmissable production of this rarely-performed, heart-warming gem from the pen of the award-winning Martin Sherman – writer of the inspirational Holocaust drama Bent and the mischievous motion picture Mrs Henderson Presents.

“One of the most radical plays ever written. Beautifully written. Quirky, funny, touching, romantic and revolutionary. It was as if a secret that had been kept for too long were finally being told. It overturned my life.

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Perhaps it will do the same for others.” (Simon Callow)

Love isn’t forever. Love is just passing by.

The Scientifically Minded

Michael and I went to see an entertaining play produced by the Pembroke Players, held at the New Cellars in the lovely Pembroke College. The Scientifically Minded didn’t get off to a great start—from the very wet ink stamped on our hands (which ended up on Michael’s jumper) to the 15 minute delayed start of the performance. The production was entertaining, with good performances from Juliet Griffin and Nikki Moss. The play didn’t really seem, to go anywhere—the students rambled, and there was a bit of drama, some of the threads followed up, others not.

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There were a few awkward discussions about suicide, pregnancy and then some fun comedy, carried off rather well by Simon Norman. The play ended and it felt a random moment to stop. Possibly the most impressive part of the production was the copy-editing of the promotion, which promised more than play delivered. The programme could have helped a little here by explaining the background of the playwright and some introduction to the form of the play. The boundaries were successfully blurred between stage and actuality—the college setting and us being about 20 years older than everyone else in the room 🙁 helped!

From the Pembroke Players web site:

A table, some chairs, and some lockers Watch as you are drawn into the hyper-realistic setting of The Scientifically Minded. In this student’s hangout, a group of under- and post-graduates discuss their lives, their loves and their futures as we are afforded a tantalising glimpse into their complex lives. Through their everyday, nonsensical conversations, we see moral and scientific issues taking root in the hearts of the students undertaking this research, as topics such as genetic manipulation and animal testing arise. This translation of Oriza Hirata‘s acclaimed play is a modern theatre experience that brings the audience into its starkly realistic world, blurring the boundaries between the stage and actuality. And as these students discuss their everyday situations and the problems of their work, they tackle fundamental ideas of what it means to live, from both a scientific and an immensely personal perspective.

Hidden Glory

An impressive 40 minute monologue from Miranda Cook as a engaging Dorothy Hodgkin. She brought Dorothy’s words and feeling to life in a direct and accessible way—speaking intimately with the audience without a break—an impressive feat. Having the play comprising Hodkin’s words and letters was a nice touch. The setting in the Old Labs of Newnham College added to the atmosphere. A great story of how, from a young girl Hodgkin was fascinated with crystals and how this led, through the war, to her solving (laboriously) the crystal structure of penicillin for which she won the Nobel Prize in 1964.

From Georgina Ferry’s web site: (Programme)

Hidden Glory: Dorothy Hodgkin in her own words is a 40-minute, one-woman show with projected images and recorded sounds. It was commissioned from Hodgkin’s biographer, Georgina Ferry, by the Oxford University Museum of Natural History for performance to an invited audience on 10 May prior to the unveiling of a bust of Hodgkin in the museum to mark her centenary (she was born on 12 May 1910). It received a second performance on 13 May in the new Simpkins Lee Theatre at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford.

The performance has been created by theatre professionals under the name Hodgkin Centenary Productions. Director Abbey Wright was formerly Resident Assistant Director at Donmar Warehouse where she worked with Michael Grandage and other leading directors; and LAMDA-trained actress Miranda Cook’s credits include performances at the Arcola Theatre, the Orange Tree and Greenwich Park, as well as new writing development for the Young Vic, the Wrestling School and Southwark Playhouse. It is supported by a small professional design and production team: Andy Reader (lighting designer and production manager), Florence McHugh (designer) and Chris Barlow (sound designer).

The script is created almost entirely from Hodgkin’s own letters and reminiscences. It covers her childhood love of chemistry experiments, her student years, love, marriage and children, and her research into penicillin and insulin. It shows how her personal and scientific lives were fully intertwined, and explores the passions that underpinned them both.

Alongside the play we have also created a small poster exhibition (with support from Diamond Light Source) that shows how X-ray crystallography has developed since Hodgkin’s day and explains its vital contemporary role in biomedical science.

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Miranda Cook as Dorothy Hodgkin. Great photo, captures the look and feel of the play really well.

RENT

Rent was excellent—the best production I’ve seen at the ADC this year. The cast were confident and polished—singing was good and the show romped along. There is a good review in the TAB (albeit written in a somewhat strange style) that I agree with: Nkoko Sekete was fab as Angel and Victoria Rigby was superb as Maureen, and did have us Mooing away within minutes! I was also impressed with her gymnastic flexibility.

From the ADC web site:

CUMTS presents

CUMTS are pleased to present Rent, the rock opera by Jonathan Larson, as their 2010 Michaelmas Musical! Based around the story of eight friends living, loving and protesting together against poverty and AIDS in New York in the 1990s, this musical captures the heart and spirit of a generation of struggling artists, addicts, and impoverished young people. As Mark begins a new film on Christmas Eve in New York, the night of Maureen’s protest against the tyranny of their local landlord, their friends and lovers gather together – Collins returns to the city, meeting an unexpected Angel on the streets, whilst Roger works on his final song after recovering from a drug addiction and the suicide of his girlfriend. Mimi, an exotic dancer, falls in love, whilst Joanne struggles to cope with the ups and downs of her free-spirited girlfriend. Decisions are made that will change the group’s lives together. But as the year goes on, and bereavement threatens to tear apart the very heart of bohemia, can this disparate group of friends, each looking to leave their mark on the world, stay together?

Join us this Michaelmas for an emotional yet upbeat tour through the New York of the 1990s. With a beautiful and breathtaking score and book by Jonathan Larson, and a fantastic amount of talent on stage, this show promises to be the one to watch this term!

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Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

My first time to see Cat on a Hot Tin Roof tonight by Tennessee Williams. Moving and powerful, the production by Double Falsehood was good. Smashing bottles and lots of shouting made for tense scenes. Simon Haines stood out as Big Daddy, and both leads, Josephine Starte and Ben Kavanagh and Maggie and Brick were good, although I heard a few comments that Josephine was hard to hear. The stage was a bit wonky and we could see backstage through several places, doors didn’t close, and the house lights were kept up for a few minutes in act 2, and the curtains were a pain—a bit more attention to detail would have created a more rounded performance. Review by the TAB (interesting comments about the use of child actors). I agree that Tamara Astor made a big presence as Big Mama, somehat too big in places where her physical presence was over-the-top and towards the comic. But she was very enjoyable to watch!

From the ADC web site:

In deepest Mississippi, a storm is brewing. It’s Big Daddy Pollitt’s sixty-fifth birthday. His family have flocked to his forty-thousand acre plantation to celebrate. But they know something he doesn’t…9fdf12c1-41a2-4423-a7d7-1a819f0f28d7.jpg

Since its Pulitzer Prize-winning premier and the motion picture starring screen legends Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor, this searing razor-sharp examination of sex, lies and a family on the brink of collapse has been universally acknowledged as a modern classic. Now – hot on the heels of an Olivier award-winning West End revival – we present some of Cambridge’s finest talent in a fresh rethinking of this hilarious, sensuous masterpiece.

“I’m not living with you. We occupy the same cage, that’s all.”

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Photo from the TAB