News: Samuel Barnett, Janie Dee, Emma Williams and more join Bard From The Barn Series 3

The Barn Theatre’s third and final series of Bard From The Barn reveals a cast that includes Samuel Barnett, Janie Dee, Emma Williams, Seraphina Beh, Maanuv Thiara and more 

The Barn Theatre and Aaron Sidwell have announced the cast and creatives for the third and final series of their re-imagined Shakespeare series, Bard From The Barn.

The digital theatre series will return for a five-week series which reimagines William Shakespeare’s work to a modern-day setting. Continue reading “News: Samuel Barnett, Janie Dee, Emma Williams and more join Bard From The Barn Series 3”

News: The Barn Theatre Presents – The Music of Gus Gowland

The Barn Theatre has announced an all-star West End line up for their sixth virtual concert, The Barn Theatre Presents: The Music of Gus Gowland, which will celebrate the work of musical theatre composer Gus Gowland (Pieces of String – one of the few shows that I actually watched online during lockdown).

The concert, which will be hosted by Barn Theatre producer Jamie Chapman Dixon, is the sixth edition of the Barn Theatre in Cirencester’s virtual concert series, The Barn Presents:, which celebrates the work of British musical theatre writers. Continue reading “News: The Barn Theatre Presents – The Music of Gus Gowland”

News: Bard from the Barn announced

The Barn Theatre in Cirencester have announced a new Shakespeare series which sees the Bard’s beloved monologues reimagined to fit into modern day lockdown amid the coronavirus pandemic. The series will release a new monologue every weekday to the Barn Theatre’s FacebookYouTube and Twitter accounts, beginning 20th April 2020.

The series, which is co-produced by actor Aaron Sidwell, director Hal Chambers and the Barn Theatre, forms part of the Barn Theatre’s free Behind The Barn Door streaming service, which airs on their FacebookYouTube and Twitter accounts. The series is production co-ordinated by company stage manager Emma Smith. Continue reading “News: Bard from the Barn announced”

Review: An Evening with Matthew Strachan & Guests, St James Studio

“You’ll enjoy the thrill because you can”

There’s an event at the St James Studio in a couple of weeks called Sunday at the Musicals which has over 20 female singers coming together to celebrate the world of musical theatre, showing off what can be achieved in the freedom of the one-night cabaret form. Which just goes to point up the relative disappointment of a night called An Evening with Matthew Strachan & Guests which just managed the two, with one song a piece.

Strachan is a composer of considerable credits (as per Wikipedia) but has the ignominy, or perhaps renown, of being best known for writing the theme tune to TV show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. And as we discover throughout the couple of hours of his show, there’s much more to his back catalogue, with time spent in Nashville writing for others providing an anecdote or two to accompany the material. Continue reading “Review: An Evening with Matthew Strachan & Guests, St James Studio”

Review: The White Feather, Union Theatre

“With principles come responsibilities”

It is perhaps a tacit admission of the complexity of the timeline (1914-2006) of new musical The White Feather that it is explicitly spelled out in the programme, each song accompanied by its time and place which isn’t always abundantly clear from the production, directed by Andrew Keates. Ross Clark and Keates’ book has an admirable scope in trying to draw together narrative strands around cowardice in the Great War, the condition we now know as post-traumatic stress disorder, female emancipation, closeted homosexuality, the comparative merits of Ipswich and Paris… but in this short space of time at the Union Theatre and with insufficient clarity, can’t quite do them all justice.

The main story focuses on sixteen year old Suffolk farmer lad Harry Briggs (a suitably petulant Adam Pettigrew) who enthusiastically signs up for the army in 1914, pretending he’s three years older in order to make the cut, but who is soon emotionally brutalised by the horrors of war and the inability of the armed forces to recognise the problem. Executed for cowardice, like over 300 other Allied soldiers, it is left to his sister Georgina (a focused Abigail Matthews) to embark on a lengthy fight for a posthumous pardon, one which also traces her own journey through the troubled times of a country at war and a society in the midst of great upheaval. Continue reading “Review: The White Feather, Union Theatre”

Review: A Winter’s Tale, Landor

“A sad tale is best for winter”
 

The last two adaptations of William Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale (Propeller and the Unicorn’s recent version) have left me rather distraught with their takes on this problem play, and Howard Goodall similarly had me reaching for the tissues with his Love Story and last year’s revival of The Hired Man at the Landor Theatre. So it’s safe to say that there was a certain degree of expectation as I returned to the Clapham North pub theatre to see the final preview of Goodall’s latest project, A Winter’s Tale – a musical inspired by Shakespeare’s play with a book by Nick Stimson. 

The first act is just glorious. This Sicilia is a dark, military world and this is obvious from the off with a magnificent multi-layered opener of goose-pimpling intensity which sets the scene perfectly. Pete Gallagher’s Leontes and Alastair Brookshaw’s visiting Polixines make a fine pair of kings, all good-natured joshing until Helen Power’s Ekaterina enters the scene to persuade Polixines to extend his visit whereupon the red mist of vicious jealousy descends on Leontes with devastating consequences for all concerned. Goodall’s swirling melodies and impassioned lyrics are ideally suited to this emotional whirlpool and all three leads excel, backed up by a large but impressive ensemble who bear witness to the tragic consequences of Leontes’ blinkered viewpoint. Continue reading “Review: A Winter’s Tale, Landor”

Review: The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe, 360 Theatre

“You know, Aslan, I’m a little disappointed in you”

Aiming to be one of the theatrical events of the summer (although it has always seemed more of a Christmassy story to me), Rupert Goold has turned his customary directorial flair to his own adaptation of CS Lewis’ quintessential English classic The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. But in choosing to mount this production in the threesixty theatre in the grounds of Kensington Gardens, a rather unforgiving purpose-built circular tent, the show faces an uphill struggle from the start to try and create the sense of theatrical magic and wonder that is needed to transport us through the wardrobe along with the four Pevensie children. NB this was a preview performance.

The show is clearly aiming to be a family-friendly spectacular, the varied inhabitants of Narnia are evoked through a cross between Lion King puppetry and Cirque du Soleil physicality – imaginatively done if that’s your sort of thing, though readers of this blog will know it is not mine, at all – but the soulless atmosphere of the space leads to a rather sterile feel which the cast rarely overcome. Even Adam Cork’s music fails to get the pulse racing (the website says ‘the production is a play but does feature some live music and a pre-recorded fully orchestrated soundtrack’ so we’re clearly in “play with songs” territory rather than fully fledged “musical”) as the rather anodyne songs make little lasting impression and the muddy sound design meant there was precious little lyrical clarity. Continue reading “Review: The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe, 360 Theatre”

Review: The Hired Man, Landor

“No greater pleasure than work done well”

The Hired Man was Howard Goodall’s first musical, setting Melvyn Bragg’s story of turn-of-the-century everyday rural Cumbrian life to a score inspired by Kurt Weill but primarily influenced by English choral and folk music. Based on events that happened to Bragg’s grandfather, the plot revolves around farmhand John Tallentine, his wife Emily and their family during a period of considerable social and economic upheaval as agriculture declines, pit mining advances and the shadow of the First World War threatens everything and everyone.

Though the scope of the story is huge, taking in a significant chunk of British social history, it is actually intimately told by focusing in on this single family and how the larger events impact their daily lives. In this respect, Andrew Keates’ production at the Landor is a great match of venue and material as we are taken right into the heart of this story and the struggles of its tightly-knit society to find just a little daily happiness as they work the land whether through a pie and a pint in the local or breaking marriage vows. Continue reading “Review: The Hired Man, Landor”