Monthly Archives: August 2017

King Lear ~ The Globe Theatre

King Lear runs at The Globe Theatre until Saturday 14 October, book your tickets here: King Lear Tickets

Star rating: *****

Many productions of King Lear have emerged over the past twelve months, however from my personal point of view, this version resonated more keenly and Nancy Meckler’s direction emulates my own feelings when I read the play.

Of course, Lear is a tragedy, following the title role’s descent to madness which he self-catalyses when he pits his three daughters against the other and send his youngest away when she is unable to articulate her feelings in the same elaborate way that her elder two have done. For the most part this incarnation is portrayed as a tragedy, however it’s appropriately punctuated with comedy to enhance the equilibrium of the piece. Characterisation from each member of the cast felt natural, beautifully synchronised and there’s a strong sense of unity amongst the strong ensemble – even when characters’ paths are divided.

The set lent itself to the splendour of the Globe’s stage, so basic and stripped back that it laid way for the space itself to take the lead. There was a desolate council-estate feel to the backdrop, it set the tone for the piece and costumes added to the theme and ambiance created.

Emily Bruni was a strong and fiery Goneril, her feistiness was all consuming yet the nuances in her performance were engaging. Similarly, Sirine Saba as Regan was a force to be reckoned with, her facial expressions alone told the audience of her hatred for her foolish father. Saskia Reeves’ performance as Kent was inspired, vulnerability, sensitivity and an underlying sense of loyalty which the character battles with. Reeves was captivating in the role and has an extraordinary stage presence. Loren O’Dair gave a stunning performance as the Fool, incorporating her musical talent and with a Pierrot-style which made so much more of the part than merely a comedy aide. Ralph Davis brought great physicality to the role of Edmund, he connected superbly with each character whom he interacted with. Kevin McNally was surely born to play Lear, the sheer swiftness with which he delivers each radical character trait, remarkable in itself. The chemistry with his three daughters is palpable and although his frailty is not highlighted until later in the play, the suggestion is subtly present from the outset, kudos to McNally’s portrayal and ability. A finer Lear I have yet to see, especially as his comic timing is an asset, which would be wholly unexpected from such a piece and such a character.

The Globe’s King Lear strikes the perfect balance of tension, trauma, violence, devastation and comedy – all of which dovetail to produce an innovative version of the Bard’s famous tragedy. If you’ve never seen it on stage, this would be a perfect introduction, if you’ve seen previous productions, this one has plenty to offer and is worth giving your time to.

 

Images: Marc Brenner

 

 

 

 

Trust Me, Series One, Episode Two ~ Review

Here’s Chloe Buckles, our wonderful television Guest Reviewer to sum up the latest episode of Trust Me…

As Cath Hardacre’s pretence as Dr Ally Sutton begins to unravel, viewers are left wondering who’s going to be the first to realise she isn’t who she says she is? Or will she actually be able to make it work?

The web of Cath Hardacre’s (Jodie Whittaker) lies is getting even more complex and tangled as we dive into the second episode of this BBC mini-series. We visit the A&E department briefly in this episode as Cath clearly now is at home in her new role. And occasional slip-up or mispronunciation of a word is all that can tell her apart from her other A&E doctor colleagues – all of whom love this new doctor who takes times to talk to and care for her patients like no other doctor they’ve seen before.

Ally (JODIE WHITTAKER) – (C) Red Productions – Photographer: Mark Mainz

In this episode we focus in on Cath’s newly formed relationships with co-workers and new-boyfriend Andy Brenner (Emun Elliott). But it’s these relationships that look like they could be her unravelling, as well as her past sticking its nose in and coming back to haunt her. However, she does manage to get HR off her back by obtaining (at long last) a fake passport for herself in Ally’s name.

Returning to her routes in Sheffield to visit her ailing dad, Cath makes plans to see former partner Karl (The Inbetweeners star Blake Harrison) who seems to have his life back on track and is keen to kick start the relationship between them and spend time with his daughter, Molly. Of course, not only is Cath now in a new relationship with colleague Andy, but Karl has no idea of what she’s currently up to – taking on the identity of her best friend. However, if anyone, I think Karl might be the most sympathetic to her situation and probably the only person that we’ve met who would keep up the pretence on her behalf.

Another concern for Cath is pesky journalist Sam Kelly (Nathan Welsh) who’s following up the story of neglect of patients at her former hospital. Desperate to be the one to expose what’s going on, he’s tracked Cath down at her new place of work and was dangerously close to spotting that she no longer goes under the name of Cath Hardacre and is masquerading at best friend Ally. Telling him she needed a fresh start, and allowing Sam to believe that Karl abused her, Sam eventually promises to stay away and leave her to her new life. I’ve got a feeling we’ll be seeing more of him though.

Ally (JODIE WHITTAKER) – (C) Red Productions – Photographer: Mark Mainz

Attending a conference with colleague and line manager Brigitte Rayne (Sharon Small) was where another strand of this massive lie was likely to be pulled apart, as a former work colleague seemed to recognise Cath. These excellent scenes gave us some welcome insight into Brigitte, who so far seems to be a stressed out and a not very well respected boss, as well as naïve to how Cath is pulling the wool over her eyes. The scene shared between them outside was particularly well done as Brigitte tells Cath of how she neglected to spot sepsis in a young girl, because she wanted to finish her shift and go home, and the result of which was that the young girl died. A powerful scene that showed some insight into Brigitte’s character and also, I’m sure, made Cath realise how much she is playing with fire with patients lives.

The final relationship threatening to uncover Cath’s secret is her new relationship with colleague Andy Brenner. He’s already worked out that something is amiss after speaking to a friend of his who knows the real Ally Sutton. And when he intercepts a call about Cath’s dad we can see something is beginning to click into place for him as he reaches for the trusty internet for answers. Will he be able to work out what Cath has been up to? And if he does, is there any hope for their relationship?

Oooh sounds like gripping stuff, Chloe – and don’t forget you can catch Chloe’s own blog over at Inept Ramblings Blog

The Hollow ~ Stoke Repertory Theatre

The Hollow ran at Stoke Repertory Theatre until Saturday 12th August, look out for more from United National Theatre Productions, soon.

Star rating: ****

Not one of Agatha Christie’s quickest paced stories, The Hollow has always been an arduous story for me to engage with, personally. This production was no different from that perspective, however this is completely attributed to the script and not the performances or overall presentation of the piece.

The set instantly transported the audience to the 1938 grandeur of Sir Henry and Lady Lucy Angkatell’s estate. It offered splendour and the perfect backdrop for murder and intrigue, plenty of exits for swift, hasty retreats, too. The introduction of the various characters, basically compiled of suspects-to-be and victim(s)-to-be was time consuming yet necessary and I instantly enjoyed the chemistry between Sir Henry (Guy Siner) and Lady Lucy (Jenny Hanley). The pair appeared to steer the action between them and the combined experience of Siner and Hanley did not go unnoticed. Siner was superb as the bumbling gentleman of the manor, despairing of his ever matchmaking wife, whom Hanley portrayed brilliantly.  So, with a Christmas gathering arranged, cousins aplenty arriving to stay (Edward (Nigel Peever), Henrietta (Cathy O’Reilly) and Midge (Suzanne Kendall)), together with Dr Christow (Tim Churchill) and his anxious wife, Gerda (Deborah Cornock), it’s only a matter of time before someone is due to exit stage left before the second half. There’s also the small matter of a well known American actress who has taken a cottage merely yards away, Veronica Craye (Annie Bailey) and has history with the good Doctor. As does Henrietta with whom Dr Christow is having an affair. Of course, once the inevitable murder takes place, there’s always the suspicion as to whether the Butler did it – in this case the all-seeing Gudgeon (James King) or indeed whether Inspector Colquhoun (Graham Martin) is all he’s cracked up to be.

Tim Churchill plays the rather cocky Doctor with bolshiness and just enough humility to gain some sympathy, albeit short-lived. I felt that Nigel Peever played Edward interestingly, with a combination of a chipper happy-go-lucky persona versus a very unhappy man. Graham Martin picked the pace up when he appeared as the Inspector in Act Two and spoke volumes with his facial expressions. Annie Bailey made for a sultry Veronica Craye and Suzanne Kendall played Midge in ideal stark contrast, shy, timid even, yet incredibly frustrated. One of the stand out performances emulated from Deborah Cornock as Gerda, a complex role indeed, with more layers than it may initially appear.

I’m looking forward to the next production, And Then There Were None and I’m delighted that David Mansell will direct this too, he certainly has an eye for the nuances of Christie’s work. A thoroughly enjoyable experience at the theatre.

 

Trust Me, Series One, Episode One ~ Review *** GUEST BLOG ***

Chloe Buckles, a member of Team Break A Leg has very kindly offered to review the new series on BBC One, ‘Trust Me’. We love a guest blog from Chloe, so here she is to tell you all about the show which stars the new Doctor-to-be.

Lovely Chloe, who is one of our treasured Guest Bloggers

With Tuesday nights rapidly becoming a prime time for the BBC to show it’s latest mini drama series, plus the added surge of interest in actress Jodie Whittaker as the new Doctor Who, Trust Me is, in my opinion, a piece of ‘must-watch’ TV. And this first episode of the series didn’t disappoint…

So, Who is the Doctor here? Well, one thing’s for sure, Cath Hardacre (Jodie Whittaker) is not. When we first meet her she’s a capable and caring nurse, frustrated by how the system is letting not only her, but more importantly, her patients down. After toying with the idea of taking her concerns to the press, she eventually does the ‘right’ thing and keeps it in house. Unfortunately, her own conduct has been called into question and tables are quickly turned with Cath’s job now on the line.

Losing her job, and watching her best friend Ally Sutton (Andrea Lowe) get ready to jet off to New Zealand for her new life, you see the idea ignite and formulate in her mind – she could become her best friend. An A&E doctor. I’m not sure that when Ally said she’d do anything for Cath, she meant let her steal her identity!

Ally (JODIE WHITTAKER) – (C) Red Productions – Photographer: Mark Mainz

With so much against a character, who is painted to the viewers as honest and capable, you do feel for Cath. However, her decision to then steal her best friends identity didn’t entirely sit right for me – a hugely drastic decision with potentially enormous consequences for a situation that I didn’t feel was desperate enough, especially given that she is a good character who clearly cares about the quality of care of her patients.

Regardless, what follows is a highly anxious time with Cath masquerading as a qualified doctor, now in Edinburgh having moved from Sheffield. Despite doing her research, Cath is quickly overwhelmed by the pace and complication of an A&E department – apparently not just anyone can do it even with some YouTube tutorials! I felt genuinely uncomfortable, and not just at watching that foot be pulled back into place, but at the concern that she may get it wrong. A rabbit in the headlights. Her time in resus was particularly frightening and reminiscent only of a bad dream – where you are put in a situation where you have absolutely no idea how to respond. This is credit to the exceptional writing and directing, which made the scenes so tense and uneasy to watch as a viewer.

Despite Cath quickly becoming comfortable in her new role, especially in minors, huge cracks are already forming in her plan (which at its heart is simply to give her daughter, Molly, a better life). I look forward to seeing where this is going and, inevitably, how it all unravels as her past life catches up with her.

Trust Me airs on Tuesday at 9pm on BBC One.

 

Chloe blogs at Inept Ramblings Blog

Spotlight On… Writer & Star of Bucket, Frog Stone

Thanks for chatting to Break A Leg, tell me about Bucket, the inspiration for it and if you had actors in mind for the roles when you wrote it…

I had been toying with the idea of writing something for Miriam and myself to play in together and started to develop that when my father died. He had cancer and died very quickly, three months after his diagnosis. There was no time for any bucket list, no time to really reconcile. Grief, parent-child relationships, how death throws light onto ones life and how the bloody awful can also be bloody funny when you need that relief and indeed release … well that inspired BUCKET. I knew Miriam and I would be able to get that chemistry and complication of an odd couple yet funnily similar looking mother daughter pair. I have never seen this version of mother daughter attempts at bonding on screen yet I know how true, and truly difficult, it can be. And people have written to tell me what it meant to them, so that’s wonderful. 

What led you into a performing and writing career?

I always loved it and mucked about as a kid but opportunities were not very forthcoming at school. I didn’t go to a private school, we had no theatre or real drama teachers But when I went to university I ended up in Footlights (Cambridge comedy club) and did a lot of plays too. An agent saw me performing at The Edinburgh fringe and I started from there. It took me a while longer to become a professional writer, to believe that I could or should. But I wrote live sketches and progressed to radio and then a play or two and then met some tv people and ideas grew. You have to keep going but it is very tough and there is no roadmap! 

What do you think the challenges of comedy are?

Comedy is personal. If you like it it is good, it has worked. If you don’t like it, then it will seem like it is bad. People are extremely possessive and judgemental about it, because in some ways the only criteria one can measure it by is : do I find it funny. So you have to know that as many people won’t like it as do probably. And when you are new it’s a challenge. But if you have performed live you know your way around a joke, you get to know what it is that YOU do that’s fun and works and  that’s all you can do – give your voice. You can’t be lazy with comedy. You need to work at making things as good as they can be, adding jokes, removing them to help something else land. And some days it just doesn’t work, whatever you do the timing is off. But you also need to trust your instincts. Lots of people in TV will chime in with notes and opinions. 90% of these will be wrong. How do I know? Because if people behind desks knew everything then every comedy would be perfect and please everyone – and that’s impossible. 

Which performers and writers inspire you?

I am always inspired by anyone making their stuff and getting it out there! I know that even if I don’t like or love something it will have great merit to others, it will touch someone or brighten a day for someone else and that is what counts. Personal taste? I devoured everything comedy as a child, loved Victoria Wood and French and Saunders, more recently Tina Fey and lots of US stable mates. Julie Andrews has incredible timing, so did Bette Davis. I liked old time Woody Allen, a lot of that darker, wordier thoughtful humour I found in books actually, Muriel Spark is a favourite. But I haven’t ever tried to copy people , I couldn’t compete and also I am what I am! We all crave new voices don’t we? Ones who might give us what we don’t get from whatever is ‘hot right now’…. 

What’s next for you?

I am typing this from the set of a movie actually! Where I have been drafted in as a script consultant on jokes and stuff! I think it’s secret ish right now but it’s a Hollywood film, shooting in UK… I recently went out to the US to meet assorted TV people too. I loved the enthusiasm and support over there. But I would also love to do some more theatre over here, go back and work my muscles properly for a bit!  

Any advice for budding comedy writers?

Don’t let the bastards grind you down! Keep writing, make sure it’s your thing and not a version of something else that people tell you it should be. Perform live lots if you can, trusts your instincts and remember: it’s meant to be fun but it will feel painful! 

Thanks to Frog for a fantastic interview, looking forward to seeing more of her work in the future!

 

Spotlight On… Kosmas Mylon from Leapfrogtown

Kos Mylon is bass guitarist in the band, Leapfrogtown – Break A Leg have been following the band closely as they develop new tracks and prepare for future gigs and festivals. Here, Kos talks about his career in music and what life would be like without music.

Thanks for talking to Break A Leg, tell me about Leapfrogtown and what the challenges and highlights are of being part of the band.

First of all I’d like to thank you for inviting me for the interview.  It is great to be part of the band. We have spent a good time together working on songs and recordings in the studio and we have played a few shows. We are working hard in updating our repertoire with new material as we want our fans to get updated regularly with Leapfrogtown music. Apart from playing music, a typical Leapfrogtown day consists of having endless conversations about every little thing that can be possible. You have to come and join us for a day in the studio to understand what I’m talking about! There is a good relationship and understanding between the band and that’s the most important reason for me to be happy being a part of the band.

What is/are your favourite track/s and what brings this/those to the forefront of your mind?

My favourite Leapfrogtown track is ‘Love you more’ from the latest band’s EP, I can easily listen to it 40 times in a row and I cannot get bored. It touched me straightaway from the first time we played it together in the studio, it has something about the melody and of course the great lyrics by Chris.

What key elements must a piece of music have to inspire you?

Whatever the style, the arrangement or the structure of the piece-it has to talk to your soul straightaway. You definitely get these vibes when you’re listening to an artist that really enjoys what he/she is doing. On the other hand, it is also subjective, so I can say that for me it’s easier to listen to a song there’s lot of guitar playing inside because I was raised listening to music in which the guitar is prominent within the songs. So it is automatically becoming a standard for me because of that reason. This is not always the case though, for example, if I want to get away at times I love to listen to Indian traditional music.

Who are your musical influences?

I was raised listening to Blues, Country and Rock music and mainly those styles have influenced my approach to guitar and music over the years. I have to mention Duane Allman, John Fahey and Jimmy Page as my first guitar idols and Iron Maiden as the band that got me into the guitar for the first time.

What led you to become a guitarist? Did you learn to play from a young age?

I first picked up the guitar when I was 11. My friend’s brother who was 18 at that time was a big fan of Rock and Metal music. So it happened that way and I ended up listening to Iron Maiden CD’s and video cassettes. When I first saw them live on the video I was ecstatic. How did this band have that huge sound and how would it be possible to learn how to play like them? My parents bought me an electric guitar and that’s how it started. I can still remember buying the Metal Hammer magazine and looking in the ‘musicians wanted’ section of it, I wanted so much to play in a band but I was very young back then. 2-3 years later I was very lucky to have lessons with a very good Rock guitar teacher, who I owe a lot to in my career and I played in a band as a guitarist for the first time when I was 15.

What do you think your life would be like without music?

Sometimes it works good for me to take a break out of music for a small period of time. Then I can get back stronger physically and mentally. But for living without music generally-well I haven’t tried it but I’m sure it will be weird!

Finally, sell the band to me, why should everybody listen to Leapfrogtown’s sound?

If you like authentic Rock bands then you must listen to Leapfrogtown. And if you like seeing adrenaline high live bands then you should come and see us in our next show!

Thanks to Kos for his time and a great interview, here is an example of that adrenaline, watch the live in-house gig played in March this year.

Visit the band’s website to find out more and keep up to date with their news: Leapfrogtown Website

Spotlight On… Director of Pageant, Bill Russell & Star of Pageant, Miles Western

The Flash Point Group presents:
PAGEANT
August 10th – 25th, London Irish Centre, Camden Fringe

Pageant, London Irish Centre and Poole Lighthouse, Aug-Sep 2017 – casting release

Here are Break A Leg’s exclusive interviews with director of the show, Bill Russell and one of the actors, Miles Western:

Thanks for talking to Break A Leg, Bill. Tell me about the piece and your vision for it.

Pageant is a farce which examines how concepts of beauty are sold to (foisted on?) women. Having men play the female contestants puts that in high relief. This is not drag, which I would define as men commenting on the fact they are dressed as women. Here they are playing the characters for real, kooky though they may be.

Did you have initial ideas about casting and what you wanted actors to bring to the piece?

I have directed the show a number of times in wildly different circumstances and with many different actors. I look for highly skilled musical comedy performers who can sing, dance and hold stage like stand-up comedians because they are out there on their own a lot. When I directed the show in the fringe and West End in 2000, Miles Western won the Olivier Award for his portrayal of Miss West Coast. I very much wanted to work with him again and asked him to play the emcee this time.  I did cast this production on line. First they submitted videos. Then for final call-backs they were with the choreographer and music director in a rehearsal studio in London performing to me on a mobile on Facetime from New York.

What do you hope the audience will take away from the production?

I think people come to the show expecting it will be a hoot. But I hope they leave saying, “That was such a gas. But I never expected the theatrical values to be so strong – the acting, the singing, the dancing, everything about it was of very high quality.”

Have rehearsals altered your initial thoughts, at all?

I’m answering this before actually starting rehearsals. Actors always bring new and surprising discoveries to the process and I look forward to that.

What would you say to encourage people to buy a ticket?

One of the most consistent comments we get are people saying their faces hurt from laughing so hard. I can pretty much guarantee people will have a good time.

Finally, any advice for budding directors?

Be well-prepared but open to accidents and the unexpected. And casting may not be everything but it’s damned close.

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Thanks for talking to Break A Leg, Miles. Tell me about the piece and your character.

I play the role of Frankie Cavalier, host and emcee for the evening. I aim to play him as a character who relishes the attention, lights, camera and applause but in truth …really needs the gig!! Bookings are fewer and fewer for him these days so he jumps at this opportunity and dives straight in. There is a sense of old style glamour about him…but Reno rather than Hollywood.

What was your initial impression of the script?

My initial impression was a long time ago in 2000 when I was first in a production in London but then I was playing one of the contestants. I recall thinking how hilarious this show could be in the right hands and with quality performers. Fortunately that came true then and will again come true this time.

Was it easy to translate from page to stage?

Rehearsals are yet to begin but Frankie has to make sure he doesn’t mix his contestants and their talents up…it’s a fast paced, ever-changing show, so I need my wits about me.

Did you have any ideas about what you wanted to bring to the role?

There are six strong defined characters when it comes to the girls….I have to match them to bring the whole piece together but I’m the real link for the audience so I need to woo them with some  charming cheese or cheesy charm…I’ve yet to decide.

 

What would you say to encourage people to buy a ticket?

In this country we don’t have a tradition of Pageants as they do in the US but we are a savvy people and know roughly how they work but to experience one is something else, especially one where men are playing the girls! The whole thing is done with genuine affection and with great comic effect! Also though, these girls are seriously talented and I would hope the audience really appreciates what they do as well as laughing solidly for 90 minutes!

Wishing every success to the team with the show!

Road ~ Royal Court Theatre, Sloane Square

Road runs at the Royal Court Theatre until 9 September 2017, book tickets here: Road Tickets

Star rating: ***

As a text and synopsis, I was familiar with this play however I had not previously seen a production on stage. Jim Cartwright has written and John Tiffany has directed a piece which may be set in the eighties (and was first produced in 1986) but the setting reflects present day and the poverty-stricken times under a Conservative government. Perhaps the choice of cast is not so reflective of what a street in Lancaster would resemble nowadays – otherwise all the elements are there demonstrating how little has changed from the eighties to the noughties.

Cartwright’s script is atmospheric in itself, the personalities of each character who all represent a different failing of society are there in the text. His clever blend of mocking humour and dark mirth combine to create a play which requires thought on the part of the audience. Although perception may vary and the piece is open to interpretation – Tiffany offers a predictable yet capacious take on it.

The set speaks volumes by itself, dour, drab and minimal – the perfect backdrop for a pitiful insight into a drunken night out and about and indeed, indoors on a northern Road. The use of the glass enclosure which appeared ‘as if by magic’ from beneath the stage and provided the ideal view into many homes that the audience were invited into. I took the ‘people who live in glass houses’ proverb from that choice of gimmick. Which, given the context, is apt and offers a transparent deeper meaning.

It’s narrated by Scullery (Lemn Sissay), he lords it about with his bottle of Rum, keeping an eye on the goings on. On the whole, he seems to mope about interfering and bantering with the other residents. I found his voice to be almost a little too gruff at times and I wondered about the casting choice. I was particularly impressed with June Watson as Molly, Watson gave a beautiful performance, showing Dementia to be a lonely, isolating condition yet providing moments that were easy to giggle at. It’s fair to say that the audience giggled with her as opposed to at her. Liz White and Michelle Fairley also provided a fine double act as mother and daughter. Mike Noble was particularly notable, all three of the roles that he performed were considerately and intelligently portrayed. I feel that the areas in which the piece failed to resonate and gel with me personally were where some cast members played multiple roles and their performances were not necessarily consistent.

The production left me with questions, which I had wholly expected, I always interpret Cartwright’s work on varying levels. However there were certain scenes that required too much thought on my part, and from that point of view, I feel there was something lacking which prevented me from engaging as well as I might have.

If you know the play and you’ve seen an incarnation of it before, I recommend you go and see for yourself. If you don’t know the play and you’ve not happened upon Cartwright’s work before, it might provide a good introduction. However, an open mind is certainly required for this one, take away from it what you will!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo Credits: Johan Persson

 

City Of Champions ~ London Theatre Workshop

City Of Champions has just completed a run at London Theatre Workshop, we will keep you informed of any future runs.

Star rating: *****

New writing can be hit and miss, however this gruelling sensation of a piece has emerged from the Theatre Lab into a production after just shy of 6 years in the making. Written and directed by Steve Brown, it has a solid beating heart at the hub, with branches feeding in which offer the audience glimpses of strong friendships, broken relationships, chequered pasts and shocking, gritty reality.

Amy Burke as Mary-Celeste and Joel Arnold as Laurie

The story centres around Laurie Munro (Joel Arnold), he was a Hollywood teen sensation in the his day but now we find him residing in a ‘shed’ at his co-star and best friend’s house in California. Eighteen stays in rehab and a heart condition, exacerbated by Viagra are the sum total of the remains of a so-called glitzy lifestyle which hides a harsh and sordid truth. His friendship with Lonnie (Joe Southall) is the only stability he has, they have a bromance of sorts and each has the other’s name tattooed on their bum cheeks! Although Lonnie is unaware to begin with that Laurie actually has gone ahead with his side of the tattoo bargain. Lonnie’s wife, Amy (Ellie Ward) is both supportive and desperate for a baby, therefore seeing the back of the ex toast of Hollywood would suit her. It’s evident that she is Lonnie’s rock, but his loyalties are often divided. Then there’s Barbara Munro (Maggie Robson), Laurie’s mother whom he rarely addresses as ‘mom’ or ‘mother’, preferring to call her Barbara. Akin to a small child who has found out their parents’ first names and thinks it’s clever not to call them mom or dad. Laurie and Barbara’s relationship is damaged, almost beyond repair, however, ever the manager (which seems to have taken priority over her being a mother) Barbara is chomping at the bit to have her son out there and working again. One of the jobs on offer involves Laurie seeing and working with the director of one of the films for which he and Lonnie were (and to some extent still are) household names. James Hudson Philips (Ian McCurrach) holds much responsibility for the state of Laurie, today – his intentions towards young ‘beautiful’ people were not merely work driven. A saving grace in the form of Laurie’s old flame, Mary-Celeste (Amy Burke) arrives on the scene seemingly just in time.

Joel Arnold as Laurie and Ian McCurrach as James Hudson Phillips)

The fact that the horrors described as the story unfolds have so much truth in them was a squirm-inducing factor for me, the realisation that a wardrobe test was not just a wardrobe test and that this became the norm will haunt me for a long time to come. The story is heart-breakingly current with Operation Yewtree still prominent let alone Corey Feldman’s interview which Steve Brown cites as one of his initial ‘inspirations’ for this piece. Joel Arnold’s performance as Laurie is remarkable, he struts around with the swagger of a star, makes light of situations and takes every opportunity to take the Mickey. Yet when the occasion calls for it he steadily and stealthily reveals each of the broken man’s vulnerabilities. The chemistry with Joe Southall as Lonnie is incredible, such a believable relationship and it’s quite something to watch him unravel from the apparently glued individual that he has re-built himself as. Ellie Ward is a joy to watch as Lonnie’s easily put out wife, Amy – she’s filling the voids in his life but unaware of why the voids are there. Amy Burke is stunning as ex child star Mary-Celeste, her two-hander scene with Arnold was one of the many standout moments in the piece and the emotion that she injected into her performance gave a myriad of edges to her character. Ian McCurrach as James Hudson Phillips was skin crawlingly creepy, I cringed because his performance was so on point that it was easy to forget that he was playing a part! I’m shuddering to think of it now, and that’s exactly how I should be feeling. Maggie Robson’s performance as the mother from hell, Barabra, was so watchable that my one complaint with this otherwise (in my humble opinion) flawless script was that I would have liked to have seen more of her. Testament to the way in which Robson portrayed her I’m sure. Simultaneously cold with a hint of care which was far too little too late, it was easy to see how the relationship with her son had become irreparable. There was a fire in Robson’s eyes when she addressed Laurie and considered the future, with the events of act two bringing about changes in the character which were subtle and poignant. To the point in fact, where I felt some unexpected sympathy, a performance de force from one of my favourite actors.

I hope that there will be a chance for a wider audience to see this important and eye opening play, I’m so glad that it’s been take out of the Lab!

 

Spotlight on… Star of Funny Girl, Zoe Ann Bown

Funny Girl has a few UK tour dates left and you can book tickets here: Funny Girl Tickets

Zoe Ann Bown is an actor who first appeared on my radar when I saw the recent tour of The Sound of Music last year. I was delighted by Zoe’s performance, she stood out for me for all the best reasons. I was so excited to discover that she had moved on to play the role of Mrs Meeker in Funny Girl. It’s another fantastic role for her and the show is sensational, review from Break A Leg is here: Funny Girl Review

After watching yet another stunning performance from Zoe, I felt it was time to invite her to go under Break A Leg’s ‘spotlight’ so without further ado – here she is:

Thanks you so much for talking to Break A Leg, Zoe, tell me about Funny Girl – how has your experience been so far?

It’s lovely, I hope it comes across to you all how much we’re enjoying it, it’s so much fun. Every performance is the same in that we get a standing ovation at the end whether we have Sheridan or whether we have Natasha in the cast. So that’s wonderful and we have a lovely time in between, too.

How familiar were you with the show before you took the role?

I had seen it in the West End, I saw Natasha and two of my friends were playing Mrs Meeker and Mrs Strakosh. I thought oh yes I think I could play one of those parts. Low and behold when I came out of The Sound of Music there was an audition to play one of them.

Have you got a favourite scene or a favourite musical number in the show?

I love the mirror ballet and the song that leads into it, The Music That Makes Me Dance – it’s so moving and then we get to do something that isn’t straight acting, we’re being memories and the rest of the way through we’ve been real characters. Of course there’s also the fabulous ensemble doing their tapping en pointe, I enjoy watching that every performance.

Going back to The Sound of Music, can you describe your experience on that show for me?

It’s one of my favourite shows and I was taken to see Julie Andrews in the movie when I was a little girl. I’ve done the show a number of times now but each time I get to play a different Nun and Sister Margaretta is definitely my favourite Nun. In my interpretation she’s totally on Maria’s side without reservations. Sister Margaretta is like everyone’s favourite granny! She just loves Maria and probably every other novice too.

What do you think has been your most challenging role to date?

I did a fringe play where I played a large role in a play called How To Build A Better Tulip, I was in nearly every scene so I didn’t have a moment because I was straight back on again. That is certainly quite challenging.

Zoe Ann Bown in How To Build A Better Tulip – Tabard Theatre. 2014

What led you into a performing career?

I always wanted to be an actress right from when I was a little girl, but I thought that everybody in the world wanted to be an actor so I didn’t really do anything about it, I barely did the school play. I was quite shy as well. I went to University and studied English and Drama but I didn’t intend at that point to become an actress. I took a year off after University and joined an am dram group and one of the directors said “you should be an actress, why don’t you just do it” and the penny dropped, I decided that was exactly what I was going to do and I went to drama school. I have never regretted my decision at all.

When I ask the advice of actors for any budding performers they always say do it if you can’t imagine yourself doing anything else, would you say the same?

I totally endorse that, I always said that if I found anything else I enjoyed doing more I would go like a shot, but I never have and to be honest I’ve never looked.

Finally, what would you say to encourage people to come along and see Funny Girl?

You will have an absolutely fabulous time, if you’ve seen the movie you’ll love it because it’s the story you know and the songs you know and if you haven’t seen the movie you’ll know the songs anyway! It’s a theatre story isn’t it, a showbiz story showing the sadness behind the scenes. It’s a beautiful production too, visually it’s stunning.

Huge thanks to Zoe for her time, wishing her and the rest of the Funny Girl team all the best with their final stops on the tour.