Titus Andronicus – Don’t eat the pie!

The Rome Season from the RSC so far has been incredible, with their productions of Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra, so I had very high hopes for Titus Andronicus. My excitement levels had also been building since it had been announced that David Troughton would be taking the lead role. There are two reasons why this is big news for me: 1. (confession time) I am a huge Archers fan, and 2. (a more grown-up reason) he had been brilliant in King Lear as Gloucester, really making you believe that his eyes had been plucked out.

It was with great excitement that I arrived at the theatre; I was keen to see where this adaptation would take us. As it happens, it more or less brings us bang up to date – maybe a little worryingly so, considering the current situation in parts of the world, but the story does move seamlessly into the 21st century.

There are of course themes of conflict, power, wealth, deception and revenge; in fact, it is a very hard-hitting tale and maybe not one for the faint-hearted. The acting throughout from the whole cast was stunning; you were mesmerised by what was unfolding in front of you, even if at times it is slightly uncomfortable viewing. For me, it does contain one of the best acts of revenge in any Shakespeare (and possibly in any tale) but so as not to spoil it too much, I will simply warn you not to eat the pie – especially if it is being served to you by Titus himself!

This production was again a credit to the whole Royal Shakespeare Company and all the people it takes to bring such a production to the stage. It was truly brilliant and an excellent third installment in the Rome Season and a thoughtful reflection that the issues in modern-day society are not that far removed from those of thousands of years ago.

Coriolanus is the fourth part of this Rome Season, and I am excited to see what that has in store for us later this year.

The Wind in the Willows – Musical

Growing up, The Wind in the Willows was one of my favourite stories. So, when I spotted that a musical adaptation was heading to the London Palladium for the summer holidays, I had to grab a slice of the action.

The Twitterverse had also dropped so many hints about the show that, by the 3rd of August, my excitement was off the scale. Stiles and Drewe were providing the tunes, Julian Fellowes had written the adaptation, and Rufus Hound AND Gary Wilmot were starring – Exciting!!

Our seats were at the front of the upper circle; my favourite seats in the theatre. They give you a perfect view of the stage and it is easy to dodge the safety rail.

From the moment the first note was struck, you were transported from the city of London to the Riverbank. I and everyone around me had a massive grin on their face as we met the inhabitants of the Riverbank and Mole met Ratty.

The story unfolds as you would expect with Mr Toad and his speedy adventures, and the love of his friends, resulting in a very happy ending. Via some incidents with the Wild Wooders, and scrapes with the law, of course.

The performance of each member of the cast was wonderful. Fabulous singing and dancing all round and everyone looked truly happy to be on that stage. However, there has to be some special mentions for the amazing Mr Toad, played to full comic potential. Badger was a true mentor to all the creatures that he encountered. And Chief Weasel was the perfect baddie that you love to hate (well, only a tiny bit); he does also seem to have the catchiest tunes. Overall, though, it was a true team performance that had the audience enthralled.

In fact, it is all so fabulous that the cast recording has been on repeat since seeing the show. I cannot get enough of the songs and memories of this wonderful show.

This really is a musical for all ages, and if you have a chance to catch it, I would really recommend it – it is one of the best shows I have ever seen. Thank you to every single member of the cast, orchestra, creative team and theatre staff who made the whole thing such a wonderful experience.

 

Miss ‘Standing Ovation’ Saigon

I love a musical and therefore could not pass on the opportunity to see Miss Saigon when it landed at the Birmingham Hippodrome this month.

Now, I am going to be honest, I was not fully aware of the details of the story. I had an idea that it involved the Vietnam War and it was famed for a helicopter (the way that Les Mis is famed for a barricade), but that was about as far as it went. And I am, in fact, glad that was all I knew, because nothing could have prepared me for the intensity of the love story that unfolded before my eyes – and the powerful ending.

I was mesmerised from the moment the first note was struck. The performances were stunning by every single individual on the stage at all times. You felt the emotions of every character as the story develops. The songs are so powerful, almost choral in places, and are a real attraction of the play.

The set was unbelievable and so versatile. I fully understand why the helicopter is such a talking point, as it really adds to the passion of the one moment that changes the paths of Kim and Chris forever…

The show fully deserved the standing ovation, as everything was wonderful: the performers (with special mention to the leads), the musicians, the lighting – the whole thing! In fact, I have not stopped thinking about Miss Saigon since I left the theatre; I can certainly see why it is a favourite of so many theatre-goers.

So, is Miss Saigon one that makes it onto your favourite musicals list?

 

 

Vice Versa – The Royal Shakespeare Company

As you may have realised if you are a regular reader of this little blog, I am quite a fan of The RSC and their work. Usually, it is all about their adaptations of Shakespeare, but recently I have decided I need to give some of their other work a chance (after all, ‘Wendy and Peter Pan’ and ‘Matilda’ are two of my favourite shows and they were brought to life by The RSC). So, when a friend asked if I fancied going to the theatre, I jumped at the chance to see ‘Vice Versa’. And, how can you say no to £16 tickets?

Vice Versa has been created as part of the Rome Season (which sensibly includes ‘Julius Caesar‘, ‘Antony and Cleopatra‘, ‘Titus Andronicus’ and ‘Coriolanus’) and it is an absolute joy of comic theatre. I can say without reservation that we laughed from start to finish, and were rather delighted that, despite being set in Ancient Rome, it was in modern English.

Vice Versa is ‘a new Roman comedy by Phil Porter, inspired by the plays of Plautus, and it is sheer comic genius. The cast, with their epic comic timing and clear enjoyment of being on the stage, bring this play to wonderfully raucous life for the audience. The tale is mainly told by Dexter, a slave, played by Sophia Nomvete (a wonderful comic actress) as the farce unfolds to ensure that the ever-so-vain General Braggadocio gets his just desserts after kidnapping Voluptua (played by Ellie Beaven – I slightly fan-girled at this, being of the generation of ‘The Wild House’ and ‘Down to Earth).

The laughs just keep coming all the way through the play; it reminded me of the good old-fashioned comedy of the Carry On films, as there are some slightly cheeky jokes. However, it has also carefully observed the current world around us to make some very pertinent comments about the madness that is the world we live in.

The musicians are also a brilliant part of this play, especially as several end up on the stage during a wonderful scene with the monkey (I’ll say no more…), as they provide the wonderful atmosphere and sound effects for the comedy that unfolds on stage.

This is really one of the most feel-good productions I have ever seen. Everyone involved is incredibly talented at bringing all the joy of theatrical comedy to the audience – the laughter was infectious in the theatre. I do not believe that anyone there did not leave without a huge smile on their face – because we certainly did.

Vice Versa is playing at The Swan in Stratford-Upon-Avon until the 9th September, so catch it if you can!

An American in Paris – You can’t take that away from me!

The memories of ‘An American in Paris‘ certainly won’t ever be taken away from me – what a beautiful, toe-tapping show!

Saturday, a friend and I ventured to the Dominion Theatre in London to see the much talked about show, ‘An American in Paris’. I will be honest that I did not know a lot about this show other than I heard good things and I knew it had been a film with Gene Kelly I had always meant to see but had never quite got around to (it has certainly shot to the top of the to-be-watched list now!). I, also, knew that it was the music of Gershwin so surely it was not going to disappoint – and it didn’t.

From the moment the first note was struck, you were enchanted with the set and the cast. The most beautiful choreography is used throughout the show to send you dreamily to post-war Paris and join the adventures of the three men trying to find their place in the world after the events of the years before. And the set, wow: such simply seamless transition from scene to scene with the most wonderful muted colours of the always romantic Paris. You cannot take your eyes from the stage even for a moment! Lise’s ballet scene in Act 2 is one of the most beautiful pieces of dance I have ever seen; I was truly mesmerised by the talent of every member of the cast on the stage.

Through all of this, you find yourself rooting for every character, whatever their story. However, you know in your heart of hearts that only one of the ever so charming men, Jerry, Henri or Adam can get the girl (and, let’s be honest, you will all agree that it is the right one in the end, as it is Lise’s heart desire). It certainly is a happy ending!

I think one of the things that also made the show so enjoyable for me was the number of people there who were clearly huge fans of the film and were reliving all their happy memories of it. I am sure that any fan of the film will not be disappointed by this production in any way at all.

This really is a wonderful traditional musical that I would recommend to anyone in a heartbeat. It only leaves the big question – what to see next and can anything beat this?

 

6 Months Blogging – Happy Half Birthday!

S0, 6 months ago today, Bookworm and Theatre Mouse was born. It was an idea that I had been thinking about for a while but I did not have the confidence to launch it until a good friend, Hayley from Home, encouraged me to give it a go and told me she would read it (so I knew I had one reader if nothing else!). I am so glad I did – and here are 6 reasons why…

  1. A chance to share what I love: Books and theatre are my passion and have been for a long time. It is a joy to be able to share my thoughts with you all about both of these subjects, and hopefully encourage other people to enjoy them too.
  2. The support of people out there: The messages on Instagram and Twitter that let me know that people have liked what I have written and visited my little blog.
  3. Discovering so many fabulous things: It has been a joy to check out other blogs and some great online companies that have a book, paper or theatre focus. There are so many talented people out there. Especially Ashley King for letting me have a sneak peek at his latest project ‘Witch for a Week.’
  4. Trying something new: This blog has encouraged me to look beyond the things I know I love and try new genres and styles. It has been a pleasure to see amazing plays that I wouldn’t have necessarily tried before, and discover brilliant authors and unforgettable books.
  5. A chance to do something different: Hobbies are so important and this is a great one. It also means that I find inspiration from the amazing community out there for my other hobbies (Harry Potter cross stitch is one of the best so far).
  6. Looking to the future: The chance to keep developing this blog is something I look forward to every day, learning new things and adding more little stories – bring on the next 6 months!

Coppelia – A Dancing Doll

Cinderella was such a inspiration earlier in the year that my Mum and I could not turn down the chance to see the Birmingham Royal Ballet’s version of Coppelia. Recently, my Mum had been reminiscing about a 1970s production that she saw at Sadler’s Wells which was even more reason why we had to go and see the 2017 production at the Birmingham Hippodrome. We were not disappointed!

Coppelia is a happy and light-hearted ballet. It is a magical tale about Dr Coppelius and his misguided desire to bring his beautiful doll Coppelia to life. There is charm and gentle humour in the tale that will appeal to all.

This production did not disappoint at all – from the moment the curtain went up, the atmosphere was electric. You can see the enjoyment on the faces of all the fabulous dancers as they dance the beautifully choreographed steps. They tell the story with every movement and every action, and you are fully engaged in the stage. The music performed by the orchestra helps bring a magical atmosphere and tells the story with skill.

The Birmingham Royal Ballet has certainly reignited my passion for dance – especially ballet – and I hope to catch many more of the productions they put on in the future.

 

Spamalot

Having grown up in a household that often recited Monty Python jokes (the most common being ‘Are you Mary Queen of Scots?’ – which gets repetitive when you are a history geek), any opportunity to see Spamalot can not be missed.

On Friday 26th May, we went to see this very show at the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry. It was production of this marvellous musical put on by the Coventry Musical Theatre Company, a local amateur theatre group. However, you would not – for even one moment – have thought that this was anything less than a fully fledged professional group. From the moment the curtain lifted, the laughs started and there was clearly a lot of passion for their craft on the stage. King Arthur led his band of hapless knights (with the ongoing support of Patsy) with all the merriment and japes that you’d expect when you see the title ‘Monty Python’s Spamalot’. The musical numbers were performed with skill and the dancing beautifully choreographed. The support from the orchestra added to the atmosphere – and also added a little interactive comedy from the wider troupe.

A highlight, which I am sure you will not surprised by, was the audience all singing along to ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life’; you felt the buzz of excitement as soon as the first chords were struck.

The overall production was wonderful and I can not praise it enough. I am really looking forward to seeing what else Coventry Musical Theatre Company has to offer in the future.

Tommy – He sure played a mean pinball

So, I knew Tommy was a Pinball Wizard and that I would be treated to some wonderful tunes from ‘The Who’, but that was about it when a lovely friend and I arrived at The Birmingham Rep on Wednesday evening. I must confess we were both as clueless as each other, however by the end of the show, we had both been blown away.

The production of ‘Tommy’ came from The New Wolsey Theatre Ipswich along with Ramps on the Moon. Ramps on the Moon works towards developing the chances of employment and artistic opportunities for disabled performers (please visit their site to find out more, as I do not feel that I can do their work justice).

So, the story of Tommy, the Pinball Wizard, was, of course, told through the tunes of ‘The Who’ and the amazing artistic skill of the company. The use of sign language, that was at times skillfully choreographed into the lovely dance routines, was seamless. The complementary skills of the different actors moulded the narrative together and you could see the enjoyment of all involved.

The musicians were wonderful and clearly threw themselves into channeling their inner ‘Who’ to bring joy to all. The passion for their craft was clear, especially with the rendition of ‘Pinball Wizard’ (more than once).

When this wonderful production reached its conclusion, there was one of the most deserving standing ovations I have ever witnessed. I urge you to catch the ‘Tommy Tour’ if you can to see why.

I certainly now know that there is much more to Tommy than being a Pinball Wizard.

Antony and Cleopatra

After the bar had been set by Julius Caesar, I had very high hopes for Antony and Cleopatra and…it did not disappoint. Antony and Cleopatra is a gorgeous, golden production and is still flying the flag high for the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Rome season.

The settings for this production are the ancient civilisations of the Roman Empire and Cleopatra’s Egypt. The scenery is amazing as it seamlessly moves between kingdoms and the action. It, also, clearly connects to the Caesar production in the current Rome season. The music fully supports in creating the atmosphere for the destinations and the story as it unfolds.

There is no mistaking the Queen of Egypt in her stunning, shimmering costumes. Josette Simon plays Cleopatra with real elegance and perfect humour. Antony Byrne is a commanding Mark Antony and together they play out the true passion between the two lead characters. The rest of the cast perfectly support the central characters as the plot picks up pace. It is always wonderful seeing the ensemble of actors move from one play to another demonstrating their true versatility.

For one of the longer of Shakespeare’s plays, you are hooked from the moment the stage erupts into life with a dance scene in Egypt until the tragedy of the final closing scene, played out beautifully by all those involved.  The intense applause was well deserved for all involved (on the stage and behind the scenes) as the lights signalled the end of the performance.

The next stop will be Titus Andronicus and, if the first two plays are anything to go by, I absolutely can not wait.