Interview - The Cast of Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour

Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour, Lee Hall’s smash hit musical play, has been entertaining, startling and moving audiences around the world since it debuted at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe back in 2015. Having played to audiences in places like America and Australia before transferring to the West End, the sweary Olivier Award winning comedy has a somewhat irresistible appeal.

Sitting backstage at the Duke of York’s Theatre, the cast reflects on the reasons why Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour has been so successful, and shares their own personal experiences with the play…
Frances Mayli McCann (Kylah), Caroline Deyga (Chell), Isis Hainsworth (Orla), Dawn Sievewright (Fionnula), Karen Fishwick (Kay), Kirsty MacLaren (Manda)
Photo credit - Manuel Harlan 
‘Everybody remembers that point in life of being a teenager on the precipice of adulthood, and not really knowing what tomorrow’s going to bring…’Frances Mayli McCann muses. ‘We found when we took it round the world, to Australia and America, that same universal story resonates.’

Aside from its relatable plot, what’s fascinating about Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour is that it’s a piece of theatre which portrays women in such a brutally honest light, showing both the good and bad in each of its six main characters. As Karen Fishwick puts it, ‘there are definitely no shows that represent women the way that we represent them, which is strange because we represent them in a very real way.’ Dawn Sievewright adds, ‘When we did the press night they did this really amazing thing where they talked to quite a lot of people in the business just after they came out, and women just couldn’t believe the sense of joy and empowerment. They can’t believe that 6 young women plus 3 women in the band do this, it’s actually ridiculous.’ As empowering and moving as the play is, it does seem ridiculous that it’s considered scandalous just because it features young women drinking, swearing and engaging in a few family unfriendly conversations. ‘People walk out of our show all the time. We had 18 people walk out in one night,’ Sievewright continues, ‘people think we’re pushing boundaries but actually we’re just telling normal stories.’

In a show featuring such a variety of different characters, all with such relatable issues, and realistic bonds, it’s interesting to think about how the actors’ personalities shaped the story. Caroline Deyga describes that ‘in the auditions they asked everybody, out of all of the characters, who they related to most, and all of us that are playing these parts, all said these parts, which probably says a lot about how much we relate to these characters, because we sort of felt drawn to them, and so did a panel of people that were auditioning us’. It’s also exciting to consider how the actors’ input in the initial rehearsal process will have shaped the show in its future iterations. Deyga enthuses, ‘that’s really exciting as well, that parts of you will always be in that character’.

As Kirsty MacLaren says, ‘As an actor you very rarely get a chance to come at a piece of theatre that’s a skeleton that you get to really invest in, and you get to play with, because normally you come in and the design’s already set and the script’s set, where as in this you got to come in and play as actors, you got to have fun every day at work and make this piece of theatre together’. That sense of creating a piece of theatre as a group is absolutely prevalent in Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour, a play which focuses largely on portraying the immensely strong bonds felt between friends. Interestingly, although 5 of the 6 cast members have been working together from the very beginning of the process, Isis Hainsworth made her professional stage debut when she joined the show for its transfer to the West End. ‘Before I came in, I was so scared,’ Hainsworth expresses, ‘they’d been together for so long, and I’d heard so much about it and everyone said it was the best thing they’d ever seen, and I was like oh shit, but then I came in and I met them and they’re all super lovely, and made me feel at home’.  

But with so many critically acclaimed productions on stage in London right now, why should audiences come and see Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour above anything else? Caroline Deyga has a pretty persuasive answer… ‘It’s as much an experience as it is a piece of theatre. And if you get shocked by it and you walk out then that is an absolutely credible thing to feel. Sorry we made you think.’ She adds with a smile, ‘but to have that strong response to a piece of theatre doesn’t come along all the time, so come and take advantage of it while it is here!’ And isn’t that as good a reason to go to the theatre as any?

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Review - Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour (Duke of York's Theatre)

'Let's go f*cking mental!' scream the unruly catholic schoolgirls of Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour as they're set free from the confines of their quiet hometown for the day. Ferried into Edinburgh for a choir competition, the rowdy friends shed their stuffy uniforms and embark on an unforgettable day of drinking and partying. Hooches are downed, friendships are tested, and each girl is confronted with the realities of their lives, and their futures beyond high school. 

The cast of Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour
Photo credit - Manuel Harlan 
Best known for writing the screenplay and subsequent stage adaptation of Billy Elliot, Lee Hall has adapted Alan Warner's book The Sopranos into an exuberant and uninhibited play, which bubbles with youthful abandon. Featuring a cast of 6, who play a multitude of different characters in addition to their named roles, and an additional 3 musicians, Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour is brought to life with relentlessly energy which it's impossible not to be totally drawn in by. 

It's so heartening to see 6 female characters on stage, all of whom have completely different, and perfectly defined personalities. Far from dainty school girl stereotypes, each of the choir girls of Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour as feisty, fleshed out and relatable as the next one. It's almost cathartic to see such realistic depictions of young women on stage. 

In addition to Lee Hall's magnetic book, as a play with music Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour benefits from some spine tingling musical performances numbers, performed by the blazingly talented company. Most notably, their adrenalized rendition of ELO's Mr Blue Sky is so energetic, peppy and audacious that it's impossible to resist. 

Most notably though, is that what's so magical about the story is how unremarkable it is in the grand scheme of things. Yes, in real life it's unlikely that 6 school girls could fit so much drinking, chatting and emotional cleansing into one day, but the way the girls interact within the play, the antics they get up to and the struggles they face are far from unheard of in schools up and down the country. Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour portrays young women at their most unguarded, and subsequently each character feels completely real, each action totally justified. 

At times the play feels almost like a rock concert, with blaring music, frenzied choreography and performances which frequently border on manic. It's a full throttle hour and forty five minutes, which jolts its audience through hilarious highs and crushing lows, and never lets up, even for a second. Unmissable is most definitely the word to describe Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour. It's a swirling riot of unbridled teenage spirit which will have you laughing one minute and crying the very next. Grab a ticket, and get ready to go f*cking mental!

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Interview - Natasha J Barnes (Funny Girl)

Prior to her high profile stint in the Michael Mayer directed London production of Funny Girl back in 2016, rising star Natasha J Barnes may not have been a household name, but there’s a good chance that London based musical theatre fans had already encountered the actor. Having made her West End debut in the relatively short-lived London production of Spring Awakening, also directed by Mayer, Barnes’ previous musical theatre credits included Heather in American Idiot at the Arts Theatre and Svetlana in Chess at the Union Theatre. ‘I did every school play, local poetry competitions, anything I could get my hands on’ the actress expresses, explaining how her love of performing began at a young age. ‘The passion grew from there really, into Theatre studies a-levels, NYMT, YMT and open auditions. An open audition is how I booked Spring Awakening’.

It’s been 6 years since the fateful audition which catapulted Barnes into a professional career in the theatre, and now she is starring as Fanny Brice on many of the stops during Funny Girl's UK tour, sharing the role equally with actor Sheridan Smith. 

Barnes was cast in the ensemble of Funny Girl when it debuted at well-loved off-West End theatre the Menier Chocolate Factory in 2015. However, when the show transferred to the West End in early 2016 Barnes was called upon to temporarily replace Sheridan Smith, after Smith was forced to take a break from the show for personal reasons. Thankfully the public welcomed the up-and-comer with open arms, and Barnes received plaudits from audiences and critics alike. ‘The support I got at the Savoy was unbelievable, from the company, the press, the audience, my family and friends; it was completely overwhelming but it helped me to be bolder and develop my own version of the character’ explains Barnes, who recalls ‘that character evolved over that time into something that sat better inside me, and re-discovering that this year has been really exciting.’

Musical theatre aficionados are undoubtedly aware of how iconic the role of Fanny Brice is. Originated by superstar Barbra Streisand in both the 1963 Broadway production of Funny Girl, and revered 1968 big screen adaptation, the self-professed “greatest star” is a plucky protagonist like no other. ‘Barbra Streisand is a masterclass. Her voice has so many colours and the way she uses the dialogue and music is fascinating to me’ says Barnes who, like so many performers and fans alike, describes herself as ‘a massive fan’ of the 1968 film which introduced mass audiences to songs such as I’m The Greatest Star, Don’t Rain on My Parade, and People, the latter being Barnes’ favourite song in the show. ‘I love singing that song. It's a simple moment but such a defining, human part of the story’ she says of the song, which has become something of a musical theatre staple. In fact, the role of Fanny Brice has topped the dream role list of many a musical theatre performer, whether aspiring or accomplished. The character's life is filled with hope and joy, but besieged with tragedy and heartbreak too. Such an interesting journey, accompanied by Jule Styne and Bob Merrill’s music and lyrics, makes Brice a fascinating powerhouse of a role. ‘I still have moments during the show where somewhere behind the character I light up singing those melodies’ Barnes reveals.  

Natasha J Barnes and Darius Campbell in Funny Girl
Photo credit - Paul Coltas
It’s clear that despite the vocal and emotional demands of the show, as well as the logistics of touring, Barnes is having a great time working on the Funny Girl tour. Describing the touring experience, she says ‘the audiences are different at each venue, they bring a flavour of the community and culture in with them and relate to different parts of the show in different ways. It's always a fresh feeling stepping out onto the stage’. And as if she wasn’t busy enough already, her debut album, which Barnes describes as ‘very personal’ and ‘a step away from musical theatre’, is due to be released in September 2017 as well.

Theatre lovers will undoubtedly be rushing to their nearest tour venues to catch the 5 star production of Funny Girl as it entertains audiences up and down the country. In the words of the star herself, Funny Girl is ‘a slick, glittering, West End quality show with real heart and humanity at the centre of it. It's got laughter and tears and music and movement and it's a wonderful way to escape for the evening!’

Find out more information about the 2017 Funny Girl tour by visiting

Review - Alice's Adventures Underground (The Vaults)

We're almost halfway through 2017, and London has already seen so many brilliant pieces of theatre, from searing new plays to joyful musicals, and everything in between. However, if audiences are looking for an artsy night out which offers something a bit different, then the answer to their theatregoing dilemma lies in The Vaults underneath Waterloo station, in the sprawling and fantastical world of Wonderland. 

Richard Holt (Hatter) and Phillipa Hogg (March Hare) in Alice's Adventures Underground
Photo credit - Rah Petherbridge 
Yes, the 2015 Olivier Award nominated Alice's Adventures Underground is back, and very literally bigger than ever. The vast and labyrinthic world of Wonderland has yet again been brought to vivid life in an incredibly ambitious piece of immersive theatre which will inspire awe in all who dare to venture down the rabbit hole. 

Audiences are shepherded into Wonderland together, via a room filled to the rafters with eerie Victorian curio. After taking the plunge into Wonderland itself they are met by non other than the White Rabbit,  and are soon siphoned off in different directions, after either eating a growth inducing sweet or drinking a shrinking potion, and subsequently being sorted into a suit (either hearts, diamonds, clubs, or spades) which they swear loyalty too throughout their time in Wonderland.

There are dozens incredible and eclectic characters inhabiting Wonderland, each of which is brought to life through the use of outlandishly designed costumes and makeup, as well as some impressive puppetry. No matter which route is taken, or which suit is selected, audiences are bound to have a blast as they are lead into the bizarre and nonsensical world of Wonderland, and treated to a number of memorable performances, such as a gravity defying gymnastic routine courtesy of Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, a sombre musical number performed by the Mock Turtle, and even an invitation to join the Hatter, Dormouse and March Hare for tea. 

If only there were enough time to visit every single room, and interact with every single character within the story. Happily though, each group of audience members is taken on their own individual journey, and given enough time in each room to really take in the wondrous world which they are permitted to inhabit, if just for a short while.

Whilst wandering through the unfathomably numerous rooms, each of which are filled with an almost unbelievable level of detail in set design, lighting and sound design, it's almost impossible to imagine how many different rooms there are to explore within the production. Of course the individual paths of each group overlap occasionally, but for a large portion of the time audiences embark on journeys within relatively small groups, and rarely cross each other. 

There really is nothing else in London right now quite like Alice's Adventures Underground. The multitude of different potential paths through Wonderland make it a truly unique piece of immersive theatre which audiences will want to lose themselves in again and again. 

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Review - The Red Shoes (UK Tour)

Inspired by the 1948 film which took inspiration from a Hans Christian Anderson fairytale of the same name, Matthew Bourne's sumptuous ballet is a treat for both fanatics and cautious first timers. The Red Shoes tells the story of a young woman named Victoria Page, who dreams of becoming the world's greatest dancer. It explores the pressures she feels as a rising star in the Ballet Lermontov, where she is overseen by possessive impresario Boris Lermontov, and pursued by struggling composer Julian Craster. It's a dark and enchanting adventure, featuring themes of passion, ambition and obsession, which is guaranteed to set hearts racing. 

Ashley Shaw as Victoria Page in The Red Shoes
Photo credit - Johan Persson 
Matthew Bourne has deservedly earned a reputation for creating unique and unexpected new takes on classic tales, from an all-male Swan Lake to The Car Man, a steamy updated adaptation of Carmen, and so it comes as no surprise that The Red Shoes is just as thrilling. Every scene is filled with gorgeously choreographed moments, such as a whimsical scene set by the beach in glamorous Monte Carlo, and a circus strong man number which takes place on stage at a low rent variety show in a dingy London theatre. Every scene, and every bit of choreography perfectly evokes the time and location, which gives the whole production a vintage charm. 

Lez Brotherston's gorgeously chic costumes and lavish and versatile sets help to further define 40s epoch, and give the The Red Shoes an opulent aesthetic. Each character has their own defined personality, which is imbued into the choreography and externalised in their costumes, with each dancer in the Ballet Lermontov possessing their own totally individual look. 

Taking on the role of Victoria Page, Ashley Shaw is a graceful dancer who portrays both the young dancer's great talent and her vulnerability expertly. Her character goes through a spectrum of emotions, and Shaw's talent as both a beautiful dancer and a wonderfully emotive actor is spellbinding to behold. Similarly Dominic North as Julian Craster, an aspiring composer and Victoria's love interest, instantly enamours the audience to him, and portrays his character's emotional journey with plenty of vitality. In fact every single character is so clearly defined that at any given moment on there's a little character interaction that could easily go unnoticed, which serves to give the whole production a bustling energy and urgency. 

Much like the eponymous red shoes themselves, Matthew Bourne's ballet could easily go on and on entertaining audiences forever. A glittering triumph which will bewitch audiences from beginning to end, The Red Shoes is a truly unmissable.

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Review - Don Juan In Soho (Wyndham's Theatre)

The legendary figure of Don Juan has been moulded and remoulded a thousand times in order to fit a multitude of different ideas. Patrick Marber's take on the seductive lothario sees DJ, a middle aged gent with zero regard for the men and women around him, attempt to elude the brothers of a woman he pursued, married and then promptly abandoned, as they try to persuade him to abandon his womanizing ways. The events of the play are overseen by Stan, DJ's hapless chauffeur and servant, who only sticks to his job because he is owed tens of thousands of pounds in unpaid wages. 

David Tennant in Don Juan In Soho
Photo credit - Helen Maybanks
Marber's adaptation plants DJ as the villain of the piece, objectifying women (and, on some occasions, men), emotionally manipulating his servant, and mercilessly tricking and teasing whomever he pleases. He's a terrible example of a human being, and yet alluring and almost impossible to hate, despite Stan's frequent pleas that the audience does not succumb to his charms. 

As the eponymous philanderer, David Tennant is very much the star attraction. Charming and charismatic, Tennant makes even the most audacious actions seems less affronting. Admittedly he seems to lack the truly mean streak which the script alludes to, but he makes for a beguiling villain nevertheless, as he casts an alluring spell over everyone he meets, and even has the audience wrapped around his finger by the end of the play. Sharing much of his stage time with Adrian Scarborough's Stan, the pair make an interesting double act, with Scarborough acting as a mouthpiece for the audience by commenting and drawing attention to DJ's never ending barrage of misgivings. 

The production design is slick enough, but for a play set in seedy Soho, is all seems a bit clean and safe, with only a little glimpse into the bawdy neon lights and inescapable pulsations of Soho nightlife granted towards the end. Additionally Don Juan In Soho seems to be lacking in several other areas. The production features multiple dance numbers which feel underpowered and out of place, some of the jokes are rather tasteless, and the final scene seems to come from an entirely different and much more otherworldly play. 

The somewhat juvenile jokes also grate after a while, and a scene in which DJ attempts to bribe a homeless man into blaspheming against Allah feels decidedly misjudged, mean spirited and just plain uncomfortable. And of course, the sleazy way in which DJ regards every woman he meets is hard to defend. Of course, he is the villain of the play and so it is understandable that his actions may come across as inappropriate, but Marber's script tries so hard to endear the audience to him, even giving him a redemptive monologue towards the end, in which he bemoans the new generation's self centered and social media obsessed lifestyles, despite his criticisms seeming tired and overdone.

A bizarre and bawdy dark comedy saved by the winning performances of Tennant and Scarborough, Marber's Don Juan In Soho lacks a certain darkness and subtlety, but is a fairly entertaining night in spite of its pitfalls, as long as audience members aren't too easily flustered. 

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Interview - Charlotte Kennedy (Les Miserables)

Actor Charlotte Kennedy may currently be starring as Cosette in the West End production of mega musical Les Miserables, a role which most sopranos would kill for, but she's not your typical stagey musical theatre star. 

Labelling herself as 'an underlying stagey', the Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts graduate decided on a career in musical theatre as a teenager. 'I didn't really start until I was about 15. I played the cello since I was 7 and I'd had singing lessons, but I hadn't actually done musical theatre until quite late on' she says of her early musical interests. But although she may have entered the world of musical theatre much later than many other young actors, the deciding factor behind her transition into musical theatre was very similar to others. 'I did a show and got the bug and it changed it all for me'.

Having graduated from a top drama school, Kennedy joined the cast of Les Miserables, where she originally covered the role of Cosette, before eventually taking over as the principle, a responsibility which she says she found 'quite daunting' to begin with. Having been on the West End for 32 years, Les Miserables' characters are totally iconic, and Cosette has definitely been played by a number of hugely impressive musical theatre names, including Rebecca Caine, who originated the role in 1985, and Amanda Seyfried who appeared in the 2012 Tom Hooper film adaptation. The character certainly has an interesting history, but Kennedy reveals that this element did not really weigh on her mind when she first took on the role, stating that 'in a way I was so nervous that I didn't really think about the part that I was playing, and how many people had played it before'. Far from dwelling on past iterations of the part, she explains that 'it's lovely to be able to find new things with it, and do it differently to the ways people have done it before, and put my own stamp on it'.

Les Miserables is undoubtedly an exciting show to be a part of, and it certainly has its super fans too, but what is it that has made the show so popular, and kept audiences coming back? Kennedy has a pretty good idea, explaining that 'I think a lot of people can relate to it. If you look at what's going on in the world at the moment I think that Les Mis is very relevant. It's about an uprising, and people fighting for what they believe in, and I think in the world right now there's a lot of that'.

Kennedy also reveals that her favourite part of the show is One Day More, the unmistakably powerful and poignant song which brings the curtain down on act 1. 'I love One Day More because even though Les Mis has the main characters like Jean Valjean, Javert and the Thenardiers, One Day More is the only part of the show when everyone is on stage'. Quick to label the show as an ensemble piece, Kennedy praises the song, and the way in which it brings the entire cast together. She explains that 'there are amazing solo performances but without the ensemble the show would just not be the same. It's such an ensemble piece that it relies so heavily on everyone else, and that's why I love One Day More. Everyone's there. Everything comes together.'

It's obvious that Charlotte Kennedy is having a fantastic time starring in Les Miserables, and so when considering what she might like to do once her time in the cast comes to and end she admits that 'to be honest I'm just making the most of this at the moment because I never thought that I would have this opportunity. But I'd love to do all of the big soprano roles like Glinda or Christine. One day that would be something that I'd aspire to do.' 

Who knows what will happen when tomorrow comes, but for now you can catch Charlotte Kennedy as Cosette in the West End production of Les Miserables. To find out more information about the show visit

Album Review - Golden Days (Kerry Ellis and Brian May)

The 13 year long professional relationship between Kerry Ellis and Brian May has certainly been a busy one. The unlikely pair have worked together on numerous musical collaborations in the past, and are now back again with a brand new musical offering in the form of Golden Days, an album which combines Ellis' unmistakable vocals and May's musical expertise in exciting and somewhat unexpected ways.

West End leading lady Kerry Ellis is perhaps best known for her multiple appearances as Elphaba in Wicked, both in London and on Broadway, meanwhile Brian May may be most recognisable as the lead guitarist of Queen. The pair's collaborations began after Ellis starred as Meat in We Will Rock You, the bizarre smash hit Queen jukebox musical. Since then they have worked together on multiple projects, including Anthems, Ellis' debut album, which May produced. 

This April sees the release of their most recent album. Undoubtedly a diversion from the songs which the musical theatre star's fans may expect, Golden Days includes a couple of reimagined show tunes, such as If I Loved You from Carousel, which is without doubt a highlight on the album. A perfect melding of Ellis' voice and May's musical expertise, the easy going and melancholy musical classic is a nice respite from the more unrelenting 'retro-psychedelic' songs, penned by Ellis and May, which feature heavily on the album. 

The pair have certainly defined their own unique musical style. Combining powerful rock vocals and a more relaxed musical accompaniment, the whole of Golden Days has a very retro sound. Love In A Rainbow, the opening number which Ellis and May wrote themselves, is a great example of this. While it is not the most enrapturing song on the album, it does set the tone of Golden Days absolutely perfectly, telling listeners exactly what to expect from the 13 track long album. 

Other standouts include I Who Have Nothing, a classic soul hit which Ellis' gruff and growly vocals add intensity and drama to, as well as Parisienne Walkways, guitarist Gary Moore's signature song, which acts as a great showcase for both Ellis and May's strongest fortes.

It's a shame that at times Ellis' voice sounds slightly overproduced, and while this does not divert from the obvious natural talent of the vocalist, it seems unnecessary and a little distracting. Additionally, while it's clear that May and Ellis' songwriting is solid, a couple of the tracks do sound quite similar to one another. Similarly, the inclusion of such notable songs as Born Free and Can't Help Falling In Love is lovely but feels like space wasted on an otherwise atypical tracklist. 

While it may not be for everyone, fans of Ellis and May's past collaborations will no doubt love Golden Days' invigorating and unconventional sound. With covers of musical theatre staples, soul classics and a couple of completely new original songs, there's certainly variety and talent to admire. 

Golden Days will be released on 7th April 2017. Order your copy from Amazon here

Review - Out Of Order (UK Tour)

Playwright and actor Ray Cooney is celebrating an unbelievable 70 years in show business, and what better way to do it than with an updated version of his award winning 1990 farce Out Of Order. Having enjoyed a long run on the West End and bagged the 1991 Olivier Award for comedy, it's clear that, at least 25 or so years ago, Cooney's own brand of farcical comedy was hitting the spot for some. Unfortunately though, in 2017 Out Of Order has lost the charm it must have once possessed, and feels decidedly stale. 

James Holmes and Andrew Hall in Out Of Order
Photo credit - Darren Bell
Starring a cast of well-known faces such as Andrew Hall, Shaun Williamson and James Holmes, the comedy follows the antics of Conservative junior minister Richard 'Dickie' Willey, as he attempts to cover up an affair with Jane Worthington, a typist for the Labour Party, after a body is found wedged in the sash window of their hotel room. Hijinks ensue of course, and as the slimy politician tries his best to cover up his indiscretions as best he can, more and more people are dragged into the mayhem. Misunderstandings, malfunctions and mistaken identity give Out Of Order plenty of promise, but unfortunately the play never really elevates above its predictable beginnings, and as such it becomes a trouncing slog, with an overblown runtime padded by unsavoury jokes, and plenty of sexism and homophobia thrown in for good measure. 

The fact that the play begins by introducing the audience to 'Mr Willey' should be all the warning anyone could need that Out Of Order's brash humour isn't exactly for everyone. Certainly plenty of mileage is gotten from the unfortunate surname of the smarmy politician protagonist. The production may boast an updated script, which brings the political aspects of the play into 2017, however while references to May, Corbyn, Trump, and Twitter come thick and fast, all in all Out Of Order feels hugely outdated, with its broad, in yer face, and decidedly unmodish jokes not helping in the slightest. 

Slightly troubling for this updated version is the misogynistic language and content, which jars considerably in 2017. All three female characters are presented as nagging annoyances who double up as sex mad fanatics, ready to jump into bed with the first man who asks. Additionally, and equally uncomfortably, laughs are elicited from the outraged gasps of the hotel's stuffy manager, when he mistakenly believes he has discovered two men engaging in a sexual act in a hotel room, and subsequently insists that they leave. It's clearly meant to be a bit of fun, but comes across as mean spirited for the most part.

The success of companies like Mischief Theatre has proven that there is still very much an appetite for farce when done right, but Out Of Order has sadly not been given a sharp enough update, and feels decidedly out of place in 2017. The star cast perform gamely, and throw themselves into the chaos, especially in the second act, but when all is said and done this painfully old fashioned comedy is pretty indefensible.

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Review - The Wedding Singer (UK Tour)

Based on the hit 1997 movie, which starred Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore, The Wedding Singer is a laugh a minute musical comedy with tons of poppy 80s inspired songs which are guaranteed to leave audiences clamouring for more! Directed and choreographed by Nick Winston, this new UK tour stars Jon Robyns as the eponymous wedding singer Robbie Hart. Robyns is joined by a top notch cast including Cassie Compton, Ray Quinn and Roxanne Pallett. 

Cassie Compton and Jon Robyns in The Wedding Singer
Photo credit - Darren Bell
Set in 1985, The Wedding Singer follows one time aspiring rock star turned wedding singer Robbie Hart, who is deterred from singing after being left at the altar by his fiancee Linda, but subsequently sparks up a friendship with waitress Julia, the girlfriend of a smug wall street banker.

Jon Robyns is the perfect actor to lead such a fun musical. Singing and dancing with relentless energy, he's exceedingly watchable as the down-on-his-luck musician, and shines during the show's comedic moments. Memorably the showstopping number Casualty Of Love sees Robbie lead an eclectic group of wedding guests in a song and dance number so audacious that it totally annihilates a poor couple's wedding reception. The number is gleefully irreverent, and a real high point in the show.

Starring as love interest Julia, Cassie Compton's cutesy portrayal is extremely likable too, and together she and Robyns form a couple which is impossible not to root for. Roxanne Pallett is also impressive as Julia's pink bob sporting friend and fellow waitress Holly, and showcases some high octane vocals during the first act's closing number Saturday Night In The City, meanwhile Ray Quinn is suitably slimy as Julia's fiance.

Nick Winston directs with precision, ensuring a swift pace which emphasises the nonstop madcap fun of the plot. Jokes and 80s pop culture references, knowingly sprinkled throughout Chad Beguelin and Tim Herlihy's book, are gratefully received, and only help to further enhance the cheesy over the top tone which is maintained at all times. 

To further intensify the fabulously 80s world of The Wedding Singer, Francis O'Connor's costume design accurately emulates the thrift shop chic trend of the time. The whole show exudes a bright, kitschy aesthetic which really helps to amp up the nostalgia, and will no doubt have people wondering why crimped hair ever went out of style? 

It's not going to change the world, but there's absolutely no way audiences will leave The Wedding Singer without mega watt smiles on their faces. A party which no one will want to leave, this show will have fans dancing down in the aisles!  

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Review - The Commitments (UK Tour)

Set in 1986, The Commitments tells the story of a group of restless young Dubliners who come together to bring soul music to the people of Dublin. Based on Roddy Doyle's popular novel, which was adapted into a film in 1991, The Commitments enjoyed a two year long run on the West End despite receiving a mixed critical response, and is now bringing soul to theatres around the UK on it's very first tour.

Brian Gilligan as Deco in The Commitments UK Tour
Photo credit - Johan Persson
Whether or not The Commitments can be considered an enjoyable show is all down to what exactly audiences are hoping to gain from it. If a gritty drama about life in 1980s Dublin, combined with all the bells and whistles of a mega West End musical hit, is what's sought after then unfortunately the show may disappoint. However, if audiences are looking for a jukebox musical packed with a litany of toe-tapping tunes then The Commitments is just what the doctor ordered.

There are, of course, a few technical elements worth admiring. Soutra Gilmour's sets, whilst lacking some of the gears and cogs which made the show's West End predecessor stand out, capture a sort of homespun warmth amid the dour concrete and laminate of 1980s Dublin. The atmosphere is fuelled by Jon Clark's gig-like lighting design, which gives the show's biggest musical numbers a bit of extra impact.

But it is impossible to ignore the fact that what The Commitments lacks is a juicy, compelling plot, and its absence really does affect the show's overall pleasurability. The Commitments' band of pugnacious wannabe musicians are portrayed well by the cast, whose musicianship is equally impactful, but they're given virtually nothing to do and nowhere to go, and as such their seemingly never ending cavalcade of pub brawls and gratuitous effing and blinding gets tired quickly. A lack of character development for supporting characters is also noticeable, which is a shame, as the entire ensemble work tirelessly throughout the show. The lack of plot translates to a slightly lagging pace, but the cast do their best to combat this with their energetic performances. 

Andrew Linnie is convincing as Jimmy, the band's passionate leader, and The Commitmentettes are played with vigour and bite by Amy Penston, Leah Penston and Christina Tedders. However, the show really belongs to Brian Gilligan's Deco, whose transition from slob to manic frontman with an ego problem is perfectly handled. He makes the most of each second he is on stage, bounding around and delivering suitably soulful vocals almost nonstop. The show's song list is full of instantly recognisable classics, and while they often do little to move the story along, they're definitely highlights. 

The best really is saved until last though, with Brian Gilligan stirring the audience to clap along to familiar crowd-pleasers like Mustang Sally and Try A Little Tenderness. There's no doubt that The Commitments goes out on a high. It's just a shame that the high follows a pretty slow couple of hours. Much like several of its scrappy protagonists at various points during the show, the stage adaptation of The Commitments is all mouth and no trousers. 

Interview - Jon Robyns (The Wedding Singer)

Actor Jon Robyns has had a long and multifarious career in theatre. Known to many for originating the dual roles of Princeton and Rod in the West End transfer of Avenue Q, or as Enjolras in the 25th anniversary tour of Les Miserables, more recently Robyns' theatre work includes alternating the role of Huey Calhoun in the West End production of Memphis, and starring as Caractacus Potts in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at the West Yorkshire Playhouse.

This year Jon Robyns is starring as Robbie Hart in the UK Tour of The Wedding Singer, a musical adaptation of the 1997 film which starred Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore. Like many of the audience members who are flocking to see the new tour, Robyns saw and loved the film when it was first released, also caught the theatrical adaptation when it last toured the UK in 2008. Explaining what drew him to the show he says 'I loved the music, and I thought it was very clever'. The musical features new music and lyrics by Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin, in addition to several songs from with original film, which were penned by Adam Sandler and Tim Herlihy. With a familiar title, fun and frothy story and excellent tunes, The Wedding Singer is a difficult show to fault in terms of entertainment value, and subsequently, Robyns says, 'when the producers approached me to do it there was no hesitation at all'. 

The Wedding Singer first appeared on stage in 2006 when it debuted on Broadway and was subsequently nominated for a Best New Musical award at the 2006 Tonys. Since then it has toured the US and the UK several times, in addition to a number of other international productions in countries like Australia, Japan and Germany to name but a few. With such an impressive record, it seems obvious that this new production would be received just as well, but, of course, with such a variety of touring theatre on offer, and with audiences tastes constantly changing, nothing is certain. 'The thing is, when you’re rehearsing a show you don’t actually know. You kind of get an inkling for that the people you’re working with are brilliant, or the material is great, or that it looks or sounds great, but until you put it in front of an audience you don’t know.' Robyns explains when discussing whether he got a sense of the show's potential for success during rehearsals. Thankfully though, The Wedding Singer has received a slew of positive reviews, and excellent word of mouth as well. 'We’re very lucky that we’ve had such great creatives, people that knew what was going to work and what wasn’t' Robyns articulated, adding 'I’ve been really lucky to be doing such feel-good shows that people want to see'.

Jon Robyns and the cast of The Wedding Singer
Photo credit - Darren Bell 
The current touring production of The Wedding Singer started life at the Leicester Curve in February of this year, and is due to tour the UK until October 2017, and this isn't the first time Robyns has worked with creatives at the Curve. In April 2016 he starred as Harvard teaching assistant Emmett Forrest in Legally Blonde, and then took on the role of Philadelphia police officer Eddie Souther in Sister Act, alongside pop star Alexandra Burke. He spent the latter half of 2016 touring with Sister Act before leaving to rehearse and subsequently tour The Wedding Singer. 'Every show has its challenges, and getting it into different size theatres with different size auditoriums and sounds systems can be a challenge, but the joy of a new town discovering a show always makes up for it' says the actor of his busy schedule, summarising that the experience of moving on from one tour to another so quickly has been 'difficult and wonderful all at once'.

A fan of Guns and Roses and Michael Jackson, Robyns has found that he's discovered a lot more 80s music since his involvement with The Wedding Singer began, explaining that 'the music in this show pastiches 80s stuff really well, so I wanted to know what it was pastiching. It’s a wonderful era for music and I think the show captures it really well'. But does the actor have a favourite song in the show itself? 'Somebody Kill Me, a song taken from the film, which Adam Sandler wrote, just because he’s a comic genius and it’s a perfect opportunity to just let rip. I really love those moments'. 

Adam Sandler's connection to the role of Robbie Hart is undeniable thanks to his original performance in the film, therefore some audiences may be wondering how the stage adaptation may compare, but Robyns is quick to reassure audiences that as good as the film is, the stage adaptation has its own merits. 'A movie is an interesting entity that I think people sometimes have trouble letting go of, but the stage adaption and the movie are different enough so that everyone can relax into it', he clarifies, adding that 'the writers have done such a great job of coming up with such a 3D character in the script, so as the actor it’s never your job to create what the character is in its first instance. It’s just your job to interpret what the writers have given you, for an audience. As long as you stick to what’s true in the script then you’re fine'. 

Clearly Jon Robyns is having a great time bringing The Wedding Singer to audiences around the UK, and is quick to praise director and choreographer Nick Winston for his trust in the cast. Speaking of one particular scene in which his character ruins a couple's wedding day, Robyns recounts that 'the only direction I was given by our incredible, wonderful, loving director Nick Winston was "just go and show off". I do whatever comes into my head each show, which is very liberating and fun!' 

It's heartening to hear the actor speak with such enthusiasm about a show, especially as his keenness matches that of audiences. In addition to the great reviews, The Wedding Singer's twitter feed is full of retweets from satisfied audience members, singing its praises. Robyns is eager to express just how varied the audience has been so far, and how it's a show for everyone. 'It’s a brilliant date night show, and we’ve also had quite a few hen nights, it’s a really good show for friends to come and watch. It’s a thoroughly feel-good show. It’s not going to challenge you deeply, or make you think, it’s just thoroughly enjoyable', quite rightly adding that ‘there’s no war, there’s no death, it’s not Les Mis. It’s going to make you happy walking out and I think that’s as valid a reason to go to the theatre as any.’ 

It sounds like audiences are lapping up The Wedding Singer. Touring until October 2017 there are plenty of chances to catch it at a number of big venues around the UK. Visit for more information and to book tickets. 

Review - Ugly Lies The Bone (National Theatre)

Titusville, Florida, aka 'Space City USA' is such a vital element to Ugly Lies The Bone that it could almost be considered a character itself. The history of the city is integral to Lindsey Ferrentino's new play, and serves as a harsh contrast to the idyllic virtual paradise which protagonist Jess retreats into upon her return from a third tour of Afghanistan, as part of her recovery, after being severely injured by an IED.

Ralf Little and Kate Fleetwood in Ugly Lies The Bone
Photo credit - Mark Douet
For the last 50 or so years the city of Titusville has been inextricably linked to the NASA space programme, booming when NASA had missions on the go, and crashing every time the government cut its funding. Ugly Lies The Bones sees Jess returning to Florida in the summer of 2011, just as NASA is preparing to launch its final shuttle. The shops and restaurants are unfamiliar, unemployment is high, and on the verge of getting even worse, Jess' mom is suffering with Alzheimer's and her ex boyfriend is married to someone else. While Jess, who spent over a year recovering from severe burns in a hospital in Texas, and must walk with a metal walking frame due to the tightness of her scarred and grafted skin, is desperate to cling to the past, everything and everyone around her is moving on. 

Thus Ugly Lies The Bone, an excruciating examination of the ways in which humans deal with pain and trauma, begins. Jess escapes her mundane, unfamiliar Floridian lifestyle by entering a virtual reality based on the very real SnowWorld VR system, a pain reduction technique used to distract burn victims while their bandages are being changed, which has been proven in some tests to be more effective than Morphine. The VR becomes a necessity to Jess and her rehabilitation, and to emphasise its importance designer Es Devlin has moulder the stage into a large, grey quarter sphere, reminiscent of a giant VR visor. When Jess enters her virtual reality, her world is mapped out onto the set, with impressive projections by Luke Halls. The visuals of Ugly Lies The Bone are among the production's most impressive features! 

The play is also impeccably cast, with Kate Fleetwood giving a fierce performance in the role of Jess. She's at her most impressive when she stands alone on stage, exploring her virtual world or getting to grips with her physical one. One particularly devastating scene sees Jess strip off to her underclothes and pull on a dress as she prepares to spend with her ex boyfriend Stevie (Ralf Little is endearingly flappable in the role) watching a shuttle launch. The scene is agonisingly drawn out, and Fleetwood's stiff, restricted movements, combined with her minuscule hums of agony, make it almost unbearable to watch. Meanwhile Kris Marshall is hilarious as Jess' sister Kacie's seemingly classless, yet underestimated boyfriend, and Kacie herself is brought to bubbly life by Olivia Darnley. 

It's a shame in a way that while the play spends a lot of time exploring its characters and their interpersonal relationships, it still feels like there's more probing to be done by the end. The exquisitely complex dynamic between Jess and Stevie is fascinating, but feels unfulfilled. There are too many compelling plotlines crammed into the 90 minute run time, and as such some of the raw and emotional elements teased at end up a little bit tame. Nevertheless though, Ugly Lies The Bone is a remarkable visual affair, and Kate Fleetwood's stunning occupation of Jess deserves much adulation. 

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Review - Honeymoon In Vegas (London Palladium)

The London Musical Theatre Orchestra have done it again! After the success of their last two musicals in concert, their track record is bolstered further by their most recent offering, Andrew Bergman and Jason Robert Brown's Honeymoon in Vegas. For the first time LMTO's founder and principal conductor Freddie Tapner offers up the baton to a guest maestro, and who better to lead an orchestra in a concert performance of one of Jason Robert Brown's most recent Broadway outing than the main man himself?

Maxwell Caulfield, Samantha Barks and Arthur Darvill 
Honeymoon in Vegas is nothing if not good old fashioned entertainment. Based on the 1992 film starring Sarah Jessica Parker and Nicholas Cage, it follows the exploits of Jack, a man haunted by the ghost of his marriage averse mother, as he tries desperately to pluck up enough courage to propose to his girlfriend Betsy. After an ill-fated game of poker sees Jack down $58,000, he's forced to offer up Betsy's company to smarmy gambler Tommy Korman in lieu of payment, but when Korman whisks Betsy off to spend a weekend in Hawaii Jack must do whatever it takes to win her back. It's a madcap romp featuring ghostly apparitions, shady henchpeople, and more skydiving Elvis impersonators than you can shake a stick at, and of course all of the adventure is tied together by the music! 

The London Musical Orchestra delivers a polished and professional performance in every respect. Made up of a combination of experienced orchestra members as well as passionate musicians in training, it's clear that the entire cohort share a passion for playing, which seeps naturally into the atmosphere. The dazzling orchestra perform with gusto, and are joined onstage by an exciting cast of West End vocalists, who help to bring the concert to life. In the role of Jack, Arthur Darvill proves himself yet again to be a real musical talent. After his high profile run as Guy in Once the Musical both on Broadway and in the West End a few years ago it's great to hear him performing musical theatre material again. Hopefully it won't be long until he's back on stage in a starring role once more. Meanwhile in the role of Betsy Samantha Barks is given ample room to show off her incredibly versatile voice. Shining in songs like Anywhere But Here and I've Been Thinking, she leaves audiences wondering if there is anything she can't do. 

LMTO's Honeymoon in Vegas also boasts a scene stealing supporting cast including Rosemary Ashe, who makes the most of her scenes as Jack's deceased mother Bea, Maisey Bawden as sultry Hawaiian guide Mahi, and Simon Lipkin, who doubles as a corny lounge singer and an overly enthusiastic Elvis impersonator. Lipkin brings down the house twice with the impressively sung When I Say Vegas as well as hilarious Elvis parody song Higher Love, in which he is accompanied by the entire male ensemble, who lip curl and hip thrust like their lives depend on it! 

It's such a treat to hear the music, and dialogue, of such an irresistibly joyful musical coming to life, if only for one night, on a West End stage. The orchestra's passion is contagious, the vocalists are first rate and it's such a thrill to see Jason Robert Brown conducting his own work. For musical theatre lovers there really is nothing else to rival the London Musical Theatre Orchestra, and with two further concerts lined up in the coming months there's plenty for fans to look forward to. Given how quickly they have achieved notoriety it's going to be a real thrill to see what other projects may be on the horizon. 

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Review - The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (UK Tour)

It's been 5 years since The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time first bounded onto stage at the National Theatre. An adaptation of Mark Haddon's ever popular novel, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time has enjoyed just as much acclaim as its source material, having bagged the Olivier Award for Best New Play in 2013, along with 6 other Olivier Awards including Best Sound Design, Lighting Design and Set Design. With such prestige, it's easy to understand why the show is currently embarking on its second UK tour. 

Scott Reid and the cast of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time UK Tour
Photo credit - Brinkhoff Moegenburg

The play follows Christopher Boone, a fifteen year old boy with Asperger Syndrome, who finds his next door neighbour's dog murdered one evening and decides to try and find out who is responsible, despite his father's objections. Simon Stephens' adaptation does well to maintain many of the elements that made the original text so compelling. Christopher's investigation is intriguing, but it's his relationships with others which drive the play to deep emotional depths. 

The lead role of Christopher Boone is a challenging one, both emotionally and physically, and so the stamina and agility of actor Scott Reid must be acknowledged. Christopher's relationship with his parents is very much at the forefront of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, and actors Emma Beattie and David Michaels do a terrific job of portraying two sides of a family torn apart. The play does not shy away from the tests associated with raising a child with Asperger Syndrome, and in fact, some of its deeper emotional weight stems from the audience witnessing Christopher's parents' distress. Nevertheless, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is all the better for its honesty. When Christopher shares his dreams for the future (to complete his A levels and then go to university and finally become a scientist) he asks his mentor whether she thinks he can do anything he wants to do. Her silence is more than enough to wrench the guts of the captivated audience. 

Bunnie Christie's award winning set design is a brilliant addition to an already excellent play. Although it is rather calculated and clinical, reflecting Christopher's passion for maths, when it comes to life it is a marvel. Appearing at first to be rather basic, a brightly lit square box surrounded on 3 sides by black video projection screens, it soon becomes apparent that the stage is much more multifaceted than first imagined, with multiple hidden doors, cupboards, and even a full desk sliding out of one of the back panels. The set is also littered with hundreds of LED lights, which work alongside the aforementioned video projection to create a sort of tech based wonderland, inhabited by scarpering dogs, where prime numbers fall as precipitation. There are several instances where all of the play's technical elements come together and are combined with fluid movement pieces choreographed by Frantic Assembly's Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett, resulting in some eye popping and electrifying sequences.

Pacey and full of surprises, it's hard to imagine a play more polished than The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Simon Stephens' adaptation perfectly balances the light-hearted with the heart-breaking, resulting in a painfully beautiful play which is nigh on impossible to fault. A must see!

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Review - Fantastic Mr Fox (UK Tour)

In the wake of the Brexit vote, Fantastic Mr Fox's musical adaptation feels particularly apt. The story of a family of foxes (joined, in a deviation from the original text, by a litany of other forest dwelling friends) who steal from a trio of hapless shotgun toting farmers, has been a popular bedtime favourite for over 40 years, but feels as if it could have been written as a direct response to the state of the nation right now. The fox hunt which dominates one half of the plot of Fantastic Mr Fox is masterminded by Farmer Bean who enlists the help of local landowners in an attempt to take their valley back, meanwhile Mr Fox learns that despite his reservations, he and his subterranean pals are stronger together.

Greg Barnett as Mr Fox in Fantastic Mr Fox
Photo credit - Manuel Harlan
A strong ensemble cast bring Dahl's well-loved roster of characters to life, with the charismatic Greg Barnett perfectly pitching Mr Fox's swagger and bravado, and Richard Atwill excellently doubling as both the dead eyed scheming Farmer Bean and the drunken Rat who guards Bean's cellar. 

Roald Dahl's trademark grotesqueness is less prominent in Sam Holcroft's adaptation, but it is there nevertheless, especially embodied in Farmer Bean, whose obsession with foxes is the most entertaining subplot (after shooting off Mr Fox's tail at the beginning of the show he proceeds to sniff it and use it as a polishing cloth for the barrel of his gun before eventually attaching it to a Rambo-esque headband, tearing off his shirt and howling up at the night sky). Of course, there's plenty of broad humour for the younger fans to enjoy, but the often sharp and witty writing provides parents with plenty of laughs too. It's a shame that the farm raids undertaken by Mr Fox and friends feel a bit flat at times, but the finale complete with laser beams, a brilliantly choreographed motion sensor evasion routine, and a terrifying red eyed guard dog, is a high energy success. 

Music by Arthur Darvill is hit and miss; with songs spread rather sparsely throughout it doesn't seem right to label Fantastic Mr Fox as a full blown musical. There are however a couple of undeniably jaunty pop tunes scattered throughout, which capture the energy and vivaciousness of the show overall and are performed with vigor by the onstage band, dressed in cobalt blue bird costumes.

Tom Scutt's vivid design, dominated by clashing oranges and blues, gives the production an ultramodern feel, and yet it maintains a somewhat homespun aesthetic. The set is adorned with bits and bobs from the human world, and the woodland creatures costumes are unmistakably human, and yet perfectly encapsulate their animalistic essence. The fox family are dressed in neon orange sportswear, whilst Badger models a black and white football kit, and Rabbit, dressed in a full body leotard, looks just about ready for her next zumba class.

With laughs, adventure, and a couple of great morals, Fantastic Mr Fox is unmistakably Dahl. A little tame now and then, but a good night out with the family nevertheless. With the likes of Matilda and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and now Fantastic Mr Fox, popping up on stage, it's surely only a matter of time before the next Roald Dahl page to stage adaptation. Esio Trot could make a sweet chamber musical, or how about a rock opera based on The Witches? The opportunities are countless! 

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Interview - Greg Barnett (Fantastic Mr Fox)

A brand new musical adaption of children's bedtime classic Fantastic Mr Fox is currently touring the UK. Adapted by playwright Sam Holcroft as part of the Roald Dahl centennial celebrations in 2016, the show is directed by Maria Aberg and features music by Arthur Darvill and lyrics by Darvill, Holcroft, Darren Clark and Al Muriel. 

Greg Barnett as Mr Fox in Fantastic Mr Fox
Photo credit - Manuel Harlan
Of course, Roald Dahl's works have become popular subjects for stage adaptation in recent years, with both Matilda and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory having made waves in the West End and overseas. Clearly Dahl's work remains as popular today as always, so such now seems like as good a time as any for the wily Mr Fox to make his stage debut. 

'It has a nostalgic effect on all the adults we speak to after the show' says actor Greg Barnett, who is currently starring as the eponymous Mr Fox. Barnett has been touring with the show since it premiered last November at the Nuffield Southampton Theatres. A co production with Curve, Fantastic Mr Fox promises to be fun for all the family, a sentiment which Barnett confirms, saying 'it's very much for everyone, everybody goes out having enjoyed it'. That's certainly something which many shows based on Roald Dahl books seem to have in common. It's impressive that the story of an anthropomorphic fox's attempts to outsmart three horrible farmers should be a tale which attracts such a wide variety of audiences. In fact, Barnett says that he thinks of the show as 'like a Pixar Movie or a Simpsons episode where the little ones get the humour on one level and the adults get it for a totally different reason' but, Barnett emphasises, 'they're all laughing at the same gag'.

The cast of Fantastic Mr Fox
Photo credit - Manuel Harlan
The show is undoubtedly suitable for the whole family, a testament to Dahl's original story, which remains as popular and relevent today as ever. 'Whenever I speak to people and tell them what I’m doing they say it’s one of their favourite books, or they say "my little boy or my little girl is reading that in school at the moment!" It seems to be one of those books that’s in everyone’s psyche.' Barnett explains, also confessing 'It’s one of my favourite Roald Dahl stories'.

But what's it like to play the famous role, notably taken on by George Clooney in the 2009 Wes Anderson Fantastic Mr Fox movie? Barnett is largely unfazed by the perceptions audiences may have based on the film, of course 'it makes life a bit harder when you’re in the role George Clooney played, but we’re so different to the film that it doesn’t feel like a burden'. He is, however, under no pretences about the responsibility the production has to do the characters, and their story, justice, musing 'It’s a massive thing to take on because it’s so iconic'. But audiences shouldn't be worried, as Barnett is quick to praise the creative team, as well as his fellow actors, who were 'willing to play, and find the fun and the truth within the writing, which had already done most of the work for us to be honest'. 

Undoubtedly Sam Holcroft was tasked with a daunting challenge in adapting the words of one of the most celebrated children's authors of all time, but Barnett says that when reading the script he knew he wanted to a part of the production, because 'anything to do with Roald Dahl is going to be fun to be involved in' and 'the adaptation that Sam Holcroft has written is just absolutely stunning, a really lovely modern take on the original Roald Dahl book', so die hard Dahl fans have nothing to worry about!

It seems as if Fantastic Mr Fox is in great hands all round. Greg Barnett's passion for the show is evident as he enthuses that 'it’s got a feelgood factor' and 'a nice fresh, vibrant energy that really lifts you up'. With such a devoted cast, and an impressive creative team, Fantastic Mr Fox seems a worthy project to commemorate 100 years of Roald Dahl.

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Review - The Full Monty (UK Tour)

Fans of the 1997 cult hit rejoice! Screenwriter Steven Beaufoy's stage adaptation of The Full Monty is just as riotous and racy as its film counterpart, with plenty of gags and an uplifting ending that will have audiences cheering and whooping in their seats!

The cast of The Full Monty
Photo credit - Matt Crockett
For those who are somehow unfamiliar with the critically lauded film, set in post-industrial Sheffield, The Full Monty tells the story of six out of work men who decide to form a striptease act as a way to make money. The idea is the brainchild of Gaz, an ex-steelworker struggling to  pay child support, who ropes in his best friend Dave, a former crane operator, and his young son Nathan, and together the trio recruit a ragtag group of down on their luck gents to complete the Chippendale-esque line-up.

The story lives or dies on the believability of the bond between its ensemble cast, and thankfully The Full Monty tour is cast excellently. The fellowship of the characters is reflected in the brilliantly believable chemistry between the actors, who work together very well, and manage to avoid falling into the trap of just impersonating the iconic performances of their onscreen counterparts. While hardly a dead ringer for Robert Carlyle, Gary Lucy, star of soaps such as Hollyoaks, Eastenders and The Bill is charmingly scrappy as Gaz, while Kai Owen is dynamic and convincing as Dave, who has his relationship and body confidence issues. The pair's bromance is extremely true to life, and it's refreshing to see such a heartfelt friendship portrayed on stage. 

The rest of the cast is just as brilliant, with Andrew Dunn's pitiable straight man Gerald getting plenty of sympathy as well as his fair share of chuckles, and Louis Emerick giving a downplayed but hilarious performance as Horse, meanwhile Anthony Lewis is thoroughly endearing as suicidal security guard Lomper and Chris Fountain is a great final addition to the line-up as confidant and well-endowed Guy. The group bare all, both literally and figuratively, as not only does The Full Monty tell the story of a group of wannabe strippers, it also touches on some enduringly pertinent issues such as homosexuality, depression, suicide, worker's rights, and body image. Despite the frivolity of the main story, the undercurrent of bleakness and insecurity which marred the late 1980s is very much apparent. Despite this The Full Monty is first and foremost a cheeky but never lascivious feel good story with tons of laughs and buckets of heart. 

There's a unique and irresistible nostalgia elicited from plays like The Full Monty, set at a time when life was incredibly rough for a large number of people, and featuring a bunch of normal folks from working class backgrounds who band together to make the best of a bad situation. This has been played out time and time again, with another similar notable example being Billy Elliot which achieved widespread success at the cinema and in the theatre too. But the sense of community portrayed in shows like Billy Elliot, The Full Monty and many other stories, is timeless. 

In this day and age, when the country seems divided yet again, The Full Monty is a great reflection of the solidarity which people can almost always rely on in times of need, making a tour of this particular show timely indeed. The play doesn't really bring anything new to the table, so fans of the film should adjust their expectations accordingly, but it is great fun nonetheless, and with plenty of cheekiness dispersed throughout, it has its fair share of fresh laughs and a big finish which does not disappoint! Hot stuff indeed...

Review - Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (UK Tour)

Almost 50 years after its premiere, Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber's Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is still as popular as ever, attracting audiences of all ages and playing to full houses up and down the country. The titular dreamcoat is currently being sported by X Factor winner Joe McElderry, who returns to the role this year after a stint in 2016. He stars opposite Lucy Kay, a Britain's Got Talent alumni best known for her classical singing, who takes on the role of the narrator.

The cast of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
Photo credit - Mark Yeoman
Joe McElderry's clean cut look and radiant grin make him a perfect teen idol Joseph aesthetically, but it's his excellent voice which make McElderry's turn as the eponymous dreamer so commendable. His show stopping rendition of iconic ballad Close Every Door on its own is almost worth the price of admission. It's just a shame that at times the production's zealous band overpower vocals, making the sung through musical slightly harder to follow. 

There are some really brilliant numbers in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Of course everyone is familiar with Any Dream Will Do, but Jacob and Son, and One Less Angel in Heaven are also earworms worth mentioning. Lloyd Webber has certainly always known how to write a catchy tune. The show is full of toe tapping numbers, in musical styles ranging from country to calypso! There's even an Elvis Presley inspired rock and roll number for Pharaoh in act two, as well as a rather fun Charleston inspired number. The various music styles, and accompanying props and costumes, make the whole show extremely bizarre, but also help to create a fun party atmosphere. 

Although at some points this production does seem a bit cheap and cheerful, amid the dizzying myriad of lights, corny '90s boy band choreography, and blindingly bright costumes, the slightly outmoded elements are scarcely noticeable. 

Of course, this production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat isn't perfect, not least because the musical itself is hardly a musical theatre masterpiece. In fact, it's a total cheese fest with lots of posturing, jumping up and down and inviting the audience to clap. However, at the end of the day it's good clean family fun that will no doubt provide many youngsters with their first taste of musical theatre, and which continues to be a beloved show to both theatre fanatics and casual audiences. It's hard to criticise a show as joyful as this one, and so regardless of its outlandish unconventionality, and economical production design, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is worth seeing at least once! 

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