Tuesday 22 February 2022

Waitress - Review

Churchill Theatre, Bromley


Music and Lyrics by Sara Bareilles
Book by Jessie Nelson
Directed by Diane Paulus

Evelyn Hoskins and George Crawford

After a triumphant run in the West End, Sara Bareilles’ smash-hit musical comedy continues to wow audiences across the UK with this heartwarming show arriving at Bromley’s Churchill Theatre for one week only.

Waitress tells the emotional yet empowering story of Jenna Hunterson, a waitress and baker who is in an abusive relationship. The show sees her battling to transform from an anxious wife into a strong and determined woman, with ups and downs along the way.

Bromley's press night saw both first covers stepping up to the roles of Jenna and her gynaecologist Dr Pomatter, with incredible performances from  Aimée Fisher and Nathanael Landskroner respectively.  Fisher made the role her own, playing Jenna as comedic yet endearing. She had exceptional attention to detail, particularly in What Baking Can Do and It Only Takes a Taste. Her beautiful rendition of She Used to Be Mine had the audience on the edge of their seats, with the whole theatre erupting into rapturous applause almost before she could finish her last note. Landskroner’s Pomatter was full of the awkward, nervous charm we know and love, with flawless and tender vocals.
Other standout performances were from Evelyn Hoskins and George Crawford, playing the geeky and loveable Dawn and Ogie. Crawford’s Never Ever Getting Rid Of Me was comedic and witty with fantastic diction. Sandra Marvin’s Becky was hilarious and full of sass, and her powerful vocals in I Didn’t Plan It brought the house down.

Waitress is as refreshing as ever and hasn’t lost an ounce of its West End charm, despite occasional sound and lighting blips. A show that’s full of cheers and tears, often at the same time.

Runs until 26th February then continues on tour
Photo credit: Johan Persson

Wednesday 16 February 2022

Shepherd - Review


Written and directed by Russell Owen

Tom Hughes

Eric Black (Tom Hughes) is a man with a troubled past who, in search of inner peace and resolution, accepts a job offer as a shepherd on an otherwise uninhabited Scottish island. The location is a remote wilderness, and if these few words of description hint at Jack Nicholson’s performance for Stanley Kubrick as Jack Torrance, then you won’t be far off the mark. But while there is much about Shepherd (even the opening helicopter shot of a car driving into the remote hills) that hints at Stephen King’s masterpiece, this movie lacks The Shining’s shine.

As Black comes tries to come to terms with his past, he is tormented by scenes with his devoutly Christian mother (passable work from Greta Scacchi) and an enigmatic local fisherwoman (Kate Dickie), whose faith is far more dark. Ultimately the narrative here is too focussed on Black’s self-indulgent introspection, rather than a terrifying psychological horror. If there were less of his soul-searching and more (and better) graphically visual excitement, then the film would have been immeasurably improved.

Wags may spot a brief nod to The Italian Job, while a field full of crucified sheep did little more than amusingly suggest The Slaughtered Lamb inn from An American Werewolf In London.To its credit the film’s aerial and drone photography of the Scottish and Welsh landscapes is gorgeous, easily passing as a promo for those two countries’ tourist boards. But as a worthwhile horror movie, this Shining-lite, lacks polish.

Shepherd will be available on Blu-ray and Digital Download from 21st February

Friday 11 February 2022

The House On Cold Hill - Review

The Mill at Sonning, Sonning


Written by Peter James
Adapted for the stage by Shaun McKenna
Directed by Keith Myers

Debbie McGee works her magic with the company

The House on Cold Hill is a ghost story with all the traditional mcguffins. The doors creak, the pipes creak - hey, even the script creaks as Caro  and Ollie with-their teenage daughter Jade (Madeleine Knight, Matt Milburn and Hannah Boyce respectively) move into Cold Hill House, an ancient mansion with dark and haunting secrets.

There's just a hint of Ghostbusters and The Exorcist in the mix here and for those who prefer some magic with their supernatural thrills and chills there is even Debbie McGee making her acting debut as Annie, the local cleaning lady with a double life as the village medium.

The horror may be more ham than Hammer but this being The Mill At Sonning the ticket price includes a delicious meal to get the evening started. (The salmon was wonderful!) And recognising the senior demographics of Sonning’s typical audience, it is also fair to say that for the most part the mild scares are more corny than gory.

A pleasant evening's entertainment that’s unlikely to give you nightmares.

Runs until 26th March
Photo credit: Andreas Lambis

Thursday 10 February 2022

Hamlet - Review

Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at Shakespeare's Globe, London


Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by Sean Holmes

George Fouracres

"Fuck you Fortinbras!", as uttered by Claudius, is but one of the early revisions to Hamlet that Sean Holmes subjects us to in this, the first production of the play to be performed in the candlelit intimacy of the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at Shakespeare's Globe. 

At least in 1994, when Disney offered up their take on Hamlet, they had the decency to re-name their version 'The Lion King'. The artistic team at the Globe lack such grace. Their interpretation of this finest of tragedies is sloppy in its revisions with text chopped and re-written, inappropriate songs and chants introduced and amidst a general demolition of the fourth wall, audience singalongs included too. Perhaps the Globe's team had taken Shakespeare's description of his audience to heart, the groundlings being "for the most part capable of nothing but inexplicable dumbshows and noise". Either way, it is notable that no name is posted in the credits to take responsibility for this ghastly adaptation.

This Hamlet comes across as no-more than a big budget student production, a play more likely to have graced the Edinburgh Fringe, rather than one of the country's leading Shakespearean venues. At least at Edinburgh the tickets would have been considerably cheaper and the show would have been likely to have lasted little more than 1 hour, rather than the interminable 3+ hours on offer here.

Ultimately it is hard to say what is more troubling. The butchery to which Shakespeare's prose has been subject or the rapturous applause, standing ovation even, that the whooping audience bestowed upon the production. This reviewer is privileged to be familiar with the text, having seen the play on many occasions over the decades. On the night that this production was attended, the Playhouse was packed with at least two parties of of school students. What a betrayal that these young people are being exposed to, seeing Hamlet perhaps for the first time in their lives, performed at times as little more than a pantomime with so much of Shakespeare’s verse savaged.

This is cultural vandalism of which the Globe’s trustees should be ashamed. The one star rating is for George Fouracres' decent work in the title role and by John Lightbody as Polonius. The rest is silence.

Runs until 9th April
Photo credit: Johan Persson