W1A ~ Series Three, Episode One

It’s back and I couldn’t be more excited! In the words of Anna Rampton (the amazing Sarah Parish) Yes, exactly yes. I feel like I’ve waited a lifetime for series three of what I perceive to be one of the most on point comedies that the BBC has to offer. Here are highlights of what will now be my favourite thirty minutes every Monday night… joyous! And might I add, very good, very strong….!

1. Bike envy ~ Opening on the usual folding bikers is the traditional start that I anticipate just for the sheer hilarity of the exchange between Simon (Jason Watkins) and Ian (Hugh Bonneville). Simon has usually got a better bike than Ian and communicates his superiority with a simple raise of the eyebrows or twinkle in his eye. This time, Will (Hugh Skinner) has joined his bosses and also has a bike, after visibly showing his adoration for Ian’s bike in previous episodes.

2. Guildencrantz & Rosenstern ~ This pair are always a highlight around the table in the meetings where nothing is really achieved! In fact, this time around they are both becoming increasingly like their leader and idol, Simon. The random “hurrahs” were too funny! Kudos to Ivan Gonzalez and Max Olesker who play the dopey pair, there are many many employees out there who are just like these two.

3. On Yer Bike ~ Will has had a brainwave that the object of affections, Izzy (Ophelia Lovibond) has driven forward. In the usual haphazard and sly fashion, the idea has been pinched – by David Wilkes (Rufus Jones), pitched to Matt (Daniel Ings) and changed beyond all recognition. Even Jack (Jonathan Bailey) has had a hand in it. Poor Will looks crestfallen when Jack rocks up to the meeting, he sees him as a love rival for Izzy so his presence completely bursts Will’s bubble. The scary thing about the meeting, here is that I have personally been in meetings like this in past jobs!

4. Love Triangle ~ Series two ended on a love triangle between Ian, Anna and Lucy (Nina Sosanya) and it’s continued into series three. When Lucy is selected to go to the studios in Manchester and Ian is bidden to go with her, Anna soon volunteers for the excursion, too! I’m so looking forward to watching this ‘rivalry’ play out. Ian, is of course as confused as ever.

5. Fun ~ Siobhan (Jessica Hynes) is back and she’s joint CEO of a company called Fun. She’s still chucking around the word “sure” when she’s not really listening and doesn’t really fit in to the equation, not even in a company who throw a silent disco every time there’s a good idea. She’s causing endless confusion when pitching to the BBC team, as usual – especially when trying to convince them about BBC Me, which is not an innovation from her own team members. I think she hits a new high… or low when she calls Bipolar a ‘thing’. What would W1A be without her, though?

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Casualty Series 32, Episode 4 ~ Review

This week’s instalment saw Dylan’s on-going storyline with young Sanosi swerving around every tight bend going. Alicia was quite literally swerving as she took a driving lesson with Elle. Then there’s Connie and Ethan… here are the top five highlights! 

1. Dervla vs Sanosi ~ Sanosi has been the centre of Dylan’s universe since the first episode of the new series. Almost sharing a place in grumpy doctor’s heart with his beloved Dervla – but not quite in favour, when he locks the dog in the bedroom! Dylan’s face is a picture!

2. Connie’s commitment ~ Connie is still showing commitment to Ethan, demonstrated even further when she offers to help him with his OSCE revision. The bond between this pair doesn’t sit comfortably, I keep waiting for someone to crack. I feel Ethan is most likely to shout his mouth off, a loose cannon if ever I saw one.

3. ‘Elle’ plates for Alicia ~ Elle offers to give Alicia a driving lesson and is soon set to regret her decision after Alicia’s reckless motoring almost lands them in Casualty! It isn’t Alicia’s fault but it’s a miracle that she isn’t to blame. I enjoyed seeing these two characters interact, there’s a good chemistry there that needs to be explored.

4. Sanosi to stay? ~ After a disastrous attempt at reuniting Sanosi with his UK-residing Uncle, Dylan looks set to be taking care of the boy full time. I expect Dylan is a better option than a drug smuggling Uncle, but will the pair of them live in harmony?

5. Lily’s lament ~ When Iain catches Lily in the act of emailing their colleagues to announce their ‘committed relationship’ (trust Lily!) she finds a way of telling everyone face to face. Just like Iain suggested. Although I don’t expect he had a staff meeting in mind! Ah well, the secret’s out…

Photo credits: BBC

Credits

Role Contributor
Dylan Keogh William Beck
David Hide Jason Durr
Alicia Munroe Chelsea Halfpenny
Elle Gardner Jaye Griffiths
Connie Beauchamp Amanda Mealing
Ethan Hardy George Rainsford
Lily Chao Crystal Yu
Iain Dean Michael Stevenson
Robyn Miller Amanda Henderson
Noel Garcia Tony Marshall
Max Walker Jamie Davis
Jacob Masters Charles Venn
Writer Tony Higgins
Producer Gwenllian Gravelle
Director James Larkin

9 to 5 The Musical ~ Upstairs at the Gatehouse

9 to 5 The Musical stays at Upstairs at the Gatehouse until Saturday 30 September 2017 – book your tickets here: 9 to 5 Tickets

Star rating: *****

9 to 5 the musical is a show I am extremely familiar with, I always feel that it’s the ultimate feel-good show and extraordinarily empowering to women in a tongue in cheek way! No wonder, really, given that it’s essentially a Dolly Parton show. Indeed 9 to 5 is surely the track that most people associate with Ms Parton.

9 to 5 the musical is based on the popular film and features an uplifting selection of musical theatre numbers, an excellent showcase for the actresses taking the lead roles. This particular production of the show has been produced and directed by Joe Hodges and it is without doubt the best incarnation I have seen. Although the space at the theatre is limited, the best use has been made of it with a set which blends into the background, allowing the performers to lead the action. Chris Whittaker’s choreography is slick, engaging, eye-catching, doesn’t shy away from technical splendour and works brilliantly in the space.

The story revolves around three ladies who work for Consolidate, from 9 to 5! Violet (Pippa Winslow), a widowed single mum who’s ambition is to be CEO of the company, Doralee (Louise Olley), glamorous ‘dolly bird’ who is a ‘Backwoods Barbie’ and wholly misunderstood and Judy (Amanda Coutts), a divorcee-to-be who has never been employed before. Their boss, Mr Hart (Leo Sene) is a chauvinist and egotist of the highest order, he’s dismissive of Violet, rude to Judy and regularly trying it on with Doralee, even though she’s happily married. Add into the mix, Roz (Samantha Giffard) who worships the ground that the boss walks on, and sneaks around to over-hear conversations and snitch on her colleagues. When a Marijuana-induced daydream of Violet’s almost comes to fruition courtesy of rat poison versus sweetener, the three women find themselves in an unbelievable situation, with their boss held hostage and they ship Roz off to France for good measure.

Leo Sene is superbly creepy, snivelling and easy to despise – he makes the character his own and has powerful vocal ability. Amanda Coutts is perfectly cast as Judy, perpetual worrier, quoting trivia when she’s nervous and Coutts has an incredible solo in act two – “Get Out, Stay Out” which she almost spits at her ex husband, what a performance de force! Louise Olley as Doralee puts in the right balance of Dolly Parton (who played Doralee in the film) and her own spin on the character. She’s sweet with an edge and “Backwoods Barbie” is one of the highlights of the show, such a beautiful musical number which plays to Olley’s many strengths. Pippa Winslow as Violet is a match made in musical theatre heaven. Not only does Winslow sing and dance (en pointe, too!) to an outstanding, show-stealing standard – she gives the character substance and appropriately underplays her part at times. The trio of ladies have a believable on-stage chemistry which moves the show along fluidly. Samantha Giffard must also be commended on an excellent comedy performance as Roz, not too over the top but just enough manic going on to cause her to stand out for all of the right reasons.

Miss this show at your peril, watching it on a small-scale will alter your perception of the story, the intricacies are laid bare and a stronger, tighter ensemble you will be hard-pushed to find. It’s a feel-good master-piece and I would gladly watch it over and over again.

The Comedy Of Errors ~ Red Lion, Barnes

The Comedy Of Errors is produced and presented by We Are Open Bar and you can catch it on its tour by checking the website for Shakespeare in the Garden, here: Shakespeare in the Garden

Star rating: *****

The Comedy Of Errors is not only the shortest of Shakespeare’s plays, but also arguably the most humorous. This version, set in the garden of a pub (indeed, it’s toured around many pubs in the Fullers chain) is inspired in that for such a farcical piece the surroundings lend themselves superbly to comings, goings and en route costume changes.

This production is not only unique due to its setting, but is also punctuated with musical modern twists throughout and it’s fair to say that we audience members were all singing along to “Twins, Twins” long after the ‘curtain’ had closed. Audience interaction and also participation was also the order of the day and kept us all on our toes. The ‘breaks in the story to interact with the crowd did not cause the piece to lose momentum and were all appropriately place.

The Comedy Of Errors revolves around Egeon – A merchant of Syracuse who is trying to avoid execution and has recently fathered twin boys. Simultaneously another pair of twin boys have been born to a poor woman and Egeon purchases them as slaves to his boys. Soon afterwards, the family made a sea voyage, and was hit by a tempest. Egeon lashed himself to the main-mast with one son and one slave, and his wife takes the other two infants. His wife was rescued by one boat, Egeon by another. Egeon never again saw his wife, or the children with her. Recently, his son Antipholus, now grown, and his son’s slave Dromio, left Syracuse on a quest to find their brothers. When Antipholus did not return, Egeon set out in search of him.

Antipholus of Ephesus and Antipholus of Syracuse and Dromio of Ephesus and Dromio of Syracuse are soon in the midst of chaos as, Adriana – wife of Antipholus of Ephesus meets with Antipholus of Syracuse and mistakes him for her husband. Easily done when they’re identical twins! The twins are also mixed up by Angelo, a goldsmith and various other characters who cross their paths.

It’s a fast paced, punchy play and the six strong cast under the direction of Nicky Diss more than do it justice. Thomas Judd as Antipholus of Ephesus  and other characters is a forceful and steely presence yet with excellent comic timing. Equally, Chris Whotton brings humour, mirth and gives a strong performance as Antipholus of Syracuse and other characters. Jo Wickham is exceptional as Adriana with perfect clear diction, facial expressions which communicate a great deal more than the script does at times and she’s a force to be reckoned with. Vicky Gaskin and Emma Longthorne give fantastically slapstick performances as their respective Dromios and are also notable in the other characters that they take on. Jennifer Healy is remarkable in her various roles of Adriana’s sister, Luciana, she also breathes new life into the role of the Duke of Ephesus, but amongst all of the roles that Healy makes her own, it’s Angelo the Goldsmith whom I felt she characterised brilliantly. Every part that she plays is so markedly different form the other that it could almost be easy to forget that it’s the same actress multi-tasking!

I can’t wait to see more from We Are Open Bar, they have produced my favourite incarnation of a Shakespeare play this year, so far – and I’ve seen a few! Go and see this while you can and enjoy the two intervals and the food on offer too!

Jane Eyre ~ Birmingham Repertory Theatre

Jane Eyre is on UK tour and stays at Birmingham Repertory until 16 September 2017, book tickets hereJane Eyre Tickets

Star rating: *****

Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte’s well-known classic has been reincarnated on stage and screen with regularity. So, with my in-depth knowledge gathered from my A Level English Literature studies still ricocheting in my older than teenage brain, I prepared myself to watch another take on the story.

This incarnation of the tale is without doubt the best I have seen, a pleasure to watch from start to finish. The Director, Sally Cookson has captured the essence of the bleak, ‘unjust’ tale of woe with it’s bitter-sweet ending yet it’s a fast-paced, engaging production with a strong multi-tasking ensemble and musical accompaniment from David Ridley, Alex Heane and Matthew Churcher who are the on-stage resident band and also don schoolgirl outfits when the occasion calls for it!

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On the surface, the set is so extraordinarily basic that it’s difficult to imagine how it will lend itself to such an intense and lengthy piece, however the versatility of the construction is astounding. With cast members mucking in to aide with props and fluid costume changes, it’s a work of art in itself. What a team effort.

To give a brief over-view for those who are unfamiliar, Jane Eyre is orphaned as a baby, brought up by an aunt who wishes she hadn’t been born, is treated badly at school where she loses her best friend to illness and finally breaks free of her hindrances, although not without numerous set-backs.  Love and loss are at the heart of the story, with strong themes and symbolism peppered throughout.

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Jane is played by Nadia Clifford and she not only takes on the character, she becomes her. From young unfortunate to grown woman wracked with naked jealousy, every emotion is put across and I felt it all keenly. What an extraordinary actress, I can’t imagine anyone else playing Jane, now – it’s Nadia’s part. Hannah Bristow gave an equally outstanding performance, playing multiple roles and each one had a unique ‘stamp’ which allowed the audience to almost believe that they were watching a different actress to the one who had just played Helen Burns, Adele and Diana Rivers. Paul Mundell also deserves credit for the sheer number of roles he performed and especially deserves a mention for acting as Pilot, Mr Rochester’s dog! Evelyn Miller also appeared as many characters, no mean feat. I was particularly struck by Lynda Rooke’s ability to switch between the cold bitterness of Mrs Reed and the gentle, kindness of Mrs Fairfax – a joy to watch. Tim Delap is the Mr Rochester from my mind when I first read the book. Cocky, bolshie and intimidating with a good heart, regardless. Melanie Marshall gave a stunning performance as Bertha Mason, her haunting vocals added another dimension and should be recorded as a soundtrack to the show!

If you are acquainted with the story, this is a glorious version to watch, if you are not familiar with it – this would make the perfect introduction. In short, go and see it, for it does Bronte proud.

Casualty Series 32, Episode 3 ~ Review

The third episode of series 32, and what a belter it was, eh? Wow! Great continuation amongst other things – the show is a class above at the moment. Here are a few of the zillions of highlights! 

Dr Keogh ~ I have to call this one Dr Keogh – the number of times I’ve highlighted Dylan’s scenes is getting ridiculous! However, regardless of his obvious discomfort in this instalment, following his accident and the dislocation of his knee – twice, how hilarious were his scenes? When he kept telling David not to touch his leg I couldn’t contain my mirth! He is the odd-ball of the ED but the character gets better and better, kudos to the writers and of course, Will Beck. Also good continuation of the story with Dylan’s young ward.

Side-kick ~ David has become Dylan’s side-kick, it appeared to be happening gradually over the course of the previous series, but now they’re like the Morecambe & Wise of the ED! David was exceptional in this episode, I can’t help but chuckle upon recalling him falling in to join Dylan instead of rescuing him. Great work from Jason Durr, though. Popping Dylan’s knee back in must have been ‘fun’ to do!

Lily & Iain ~ We had been somewhat left in the lurch as to whether things would pick back up for Lily and Iain following their botched attempt at romance. However, when Iain ends up as Lily’s date to her cousin’s wedding, another part of their journey on the road to love is in place. Their journey to the wedding does not go smoothly, a broken down car and mud being two factors. The wedding itself is a revelation when Lily introduces Iain as a Heart Surgeon… but hearts are a running theme with these two as they bond over Lily’s choking Uncle and it gets a little steamy in the ED lift!

Ethan’s meltdown ~ Ethan has been struggling to hold it together since his deed against his brother’s murderer. This episode brought it all to the fore and resulted in him submitting is letter of resignation to Connie with a full explanation. It seems he was unable to live with effectively ‘getting away with it’.

Connie’s dilemma ~ So, Connie is placed in a sticky situation having received Ethan’s letter. What does the Ice Queen decide to do? Well, Ethan still has a job….

Iain Dean (MICHAEL STEPHENSON) – (C) BBC – Photographer: Alistair Heap

Credits

Role Contributor
Ethan Hardy George Rainsford
Dylan Keogh William Beck
David Hide Jason Durr
Lily Chao Crystal Yu
Iain Dean Michael Stevenson
Connie Beauchamp Amanda Mealing
Charlie Fairhead Derek Thompson
Max Walker Jamie Davis
Noel Garcia Tony Marshall
Robyn Miller Amanda Henderson
Elle Gardner Jaye Griffiths
Sanosi Jemal Tut Nyuot
Raquel Kovak Harriet Thorpe
Mia Kovak Aude des Pallieres
Maxine Parish Skye Hallam
Wong Oi Ling Lucy Sheen
Lee Ming Bruce Wang
Scott Ellisson Will Austin
Stan Miller Peter Benedict
Writer Laura Poliakoff
Producer Gwenllian Gravelle
Director James Larkin

The Sooty Show ~ Stafford Gatehouse Theatre

The Sooty Show is on UK tour and you can book your tickets to see the TV legend, here: The Sooty Show Live

Star rating: *****

Sooty is a television legend, so to be able to see him with his pals – Sweep and Soo on stage was a treat for not only me, my husband and the other adults in the audience who have also grown up with the little yellow bear during his 70 year career. To be able to share the show with our three year old was even better and goes to prove that the popular trio are still able to engage with audiences, new and old!

Richard Cadell is their right-hand man and he is a terrific comedian, he’s as talented at physical comedy as he is at keeping the old cheesy jokes flowing. A natural addition to the set-up and adding the comic timing required to make the show what it is.

With a fabulous ‘showbiz’ set and audience participation aplenty, the magic, humour and energy was boundless. I find it baffling that Sooty, who doesn’t ‘speak’ still draws the attention of the young theatre-goers as well as the adults. It goes to show that basic family entertainment with a simple yet effective storyline still has its place.

There are many dates on the tour schedule, so get ourselves along to see a real star on stage! Izzy Wizzy Let’s Get Busy!

 

 

HMS Pinafore ~ Malvern Theatres

The Gilbert & Sullivan National Opera Company stays at Malvern Theatres until Saturday 2 September, for all tour dates visit the company’s website: Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Company

Star rating: *****

Gilbert & Sullivan have long been a favourite of mine and I had yet to see a production of HMS Pinafore. My first experience of the opera coincided with my first experience of watching Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Company and I am happy to report that it was unforgettable for all of the right reasons.

The story is straight forward, essentially a love story aboard a ship – with all of the love matches inappropriate for many reasons, but they seem to fit in a quirky way. There’s Captain Corcoran (Toby Stafford-Allen) who is hoping that his daughter Josephine (Emma Walsh) will marry The Rt. Hon. Sir Joseph Porter, KCB (Richard Gauntlett) – but she is in love with Able Seaman Ralph Rackstraw (Nicholas Sales), who is low beneath her station. Mrs Cripps aka Little Buttercup (Mae Heydorn) is a bumboat who is lusting after the Captain, and he hankers after her in return. Then there’s Sir Joseph of course, who is flanked by his cousins and his sisters and his aunts and particularly adored by Cousin Hebe (Katie Grosset). Throw in an ensemble of sailors and cousins and sisters and aunts and you’ve got yourself a recipe for fun, frolics, mayhem and madcap adventures. All ably assisted by the National Gilbert & Sullivan Orchestra who are resplendent in their capturing of the famous score.

The production is a joy from start to finish and flawless to boot, the vocals of the ensemble alone are pitch perfect and their comic timing is on point. Mae Heydorn is wonderfully witty and engaging as Little Buttercup, her duet, ‘Things Are Seldom What They Seem’, with Toby Stafford-Allen as Captain Corcoran was one of the highlights of the show for me personally. Stafford-Allen was also superbly cast as the Captain, upright, uptight and unrelenting. Emma Walsh was beautifully gentile as his daughter, Josephine and her vocal ability is remarkable. Nicholas Sales makes quite the dashing sailor in the role of Ralph Rackstraw as he loses his heart to the Captain’s daughter. Katie Grosset as Cousin Hebe gave a brilliantly comedic performance and drew my attention throughout. The stand-out performance came from Richard Gauntlett as Sir Joseph, from his tone of voice to his physical comedy, he gave everything to the role and provided many, many laugh out loud moments during the course of the show. Simon Wilding’s Dick Deadeye was also revolting, imposing and pitiful in equal measure, a great character.

From ‘We Sail The Ocean Blue’ to ‘Oh joy, oh rapture unforeseen’, the story was regaled in rousing, hilarious fashion and against a glorious nautical backdrop. I can’t recommend the National Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Company highlight enough, I will be sure to catch them as many times as possible in the future. They provide the audience with the best possible rendition of the well-known duo’s work.

Casualty Series 32, Episode 2 ~ Review

This week’s instalment of Casualty brought yet more edge of your seat drama, I am extremely impressed with the quality of the episodes. In fact it feel as though the one-shot led the way for the show stepping up to another gear – it just gets better. Sad to bid farewell to a much-loved character, though – here are some highlights!

Robyn Miller (AMANDA HENDERSON), Jez Andrews (LLOYD EVERITT) – (C) BBC – Photographer: Alistair Heap

Horror for Robyn ~ When a fire is started with malicious intent at Jez’s place, it’s Robyn and Charlotte who are caught up in it. Jez is not at all helpful as his mind wanders back to the baby lost in the previous fire we saw him attend. It’s up to Max to rescue his sister and niece. However, following baby Charlotte’s discharge from the ED, Jez is quick to spot that all is not well with the infant and jumps to action to remedy the situation when she stops breathing. What a day for Robyn, for Charlotte and not least, for Jez.

Comeuppance for Denise ~ The fire was an attack against Jez, with the Ellisons still at large the suspect in the frame was Denise. Following a careful ploy concocted by Jez, Iain and Mickey to catch her out, Mrs Ellison was carted off to prison. The introduction of the Ellison family which began in series 31 has not ended well for any of the characters involved, except maybe for Mickey.

Dylan’s dicing with danger ~ Some of the team are still in France and following the tragedy that played out in last week’s episode, Dylan is attempting to leave France with a stow-away! David is not on board with the idea, but leaves it to unfold when Dylan informs him that he will be taking the blame if the worst happens. How they escape the authorities and get away with their plan is a mystery!

Farewell Jez! ~ Mickey is moving abroad and he wants Jez to go with him. It’s all a bit of a last minute dash to catch up with the remaining Ellison as Jez finally decides to join him, and a will they/won’t they ensues. All’s well that ends well and the pair head off in the sunset together. The sadness being that we lose Jez, and I will miss him – Lloyd Everitt is a fine actor and I hope to see him in another role soon.

Inside Soap Awards ~ Casualty are fairing well at the Inside Soap Awards which are voted for by the public, so why not vote now? Here’s the link: Inside Sopa Awards 2017 Voting Link

Categories that Casualty are nominated in….

Best Drama Star

Amanda Mealing (Connie Beauchamp, Casualty)

George Rainsford (Ethan Hardy, Casualty)

Cathy Shipton (Lisa ‘Duffy’ Duffin, Casualty)

Derek Thompson (Charlie Fairhead, Casualty)

Best Drama Storyline

Cal’s murder (Casualty)

Charlie & Duffy’s wedding (Casualty)

Helicopter crash (Casualty

Credits

Role Contributor
Jez Andrews Lloyd Everitt
Dylan Keogh William Beck
David Hide Jason Durr
Alicia Munroe Chelsea Halfpenny
Louise Tyler Azuka Oforka
Connie Beauchamp Amanda Mealing
Iain Dean Michael Stevenson
Robyn Miller Amanda Henderson
Ethan Hardy George Rainsford
Charlie Fairhead Derek Thompson
Max Walker Jamie Davis
Lily Chao Crystal Yu
Noel Garcia Tony Marshall
Mickey Ellison Mitch Hewer
Denise Ellison Lucy Benjamin
Sanosi Jemal Tut Nyuot
Cameron Hamilton Cian Barry
Hadia Maher Laila Alj
Said Guessous Nabil Elouahabi
Emile Coudert Raphael Desprez
Fida Hamad Lara Sawalha
Officer Lambert Eric Geynes
Writer Dominique Moloney
Producer Dafydd Llewelyn
Director Steve Brett

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