Review: Tiger Bay, Wales Millennium Centre

Rather fittingly, my first ever visit to the magnificent feat of civil engineering that is Cardiff’s Wales Millennium Centre was for new musical Tiger Bay (Y Sioe Gerdd). And not just any musical, one based in and on the very area where it is playing, the docklands of Tiger Bay at the turn of the century, when the industrial revolution sent shudders through every level of society. Socio-political unrest not being known for getting the crowds in though, book-writer Michael Williams has fashioned a multi-stranded narrative with truly epic ambitions.

So there’s coal men fighting to improve working conditions, African immigrant labour complicating the picture by undercutting them, racism emerging as an ugly thorn, child labour being abused, suffragettes agitating for the vote, and the richest man in the world (the Third Marquess of Bute) who has turned to crystal balls to try and find his missing son. What emerges is a prototype vision for a multicultural society in all its myriad complexities and inequalities, connected in an all-too-human way by circumstance and some stonking great choruses. Continue reading “Review: Tiger Bay, Wales Millennium Centre”

Re-review: Yank! A WWII Love Story, Charing Cross

“I know it’s difficult to imagine it now
Here in a world that’s going mad
But picture the two of us

On some lazy day
When bombs away
Is just a game kids play”

Not got too much more to say about the gorgeous Yank! A WWII Love Story that I didn’t already say in my rave review from the beginning of the run (but blimey how those lyrics up top resonate in a different way now!). It’s been great to see the show getting such good reviews and fantastic word of mouth, not the easiest of things for an original new musical to achieve, and I always knew that I’d be paying a second visit to the show before it finished. You’ve got a couple more opportunities yourself and as if you needed any more convincing – here’s a video of the lovely Andy Coxon singing one of the show’s more emotional numbers. 

 

Running time: 2 hours 20 minutes (with interval)
Photo: Claire Bilyard
Booking until 19th August

Review: Yank! A WWII Love Story, Charing Cross

“We’re in a battle we never planned”

Seeing Yank! A WWII Love Story on the day that the streets of London were thronged with people celebrating Pride made what was already a strong show into a properly special occasion. Joseph and David Zellnik’s 2005 musical was first seen in the UK at Manchester’s Hope Mill Theatre which, with its collaborations with Aria Entertainments, has fast become a real fringe powerhouse (their production of Hair also transfers to London later this year) and with James Baker’s assured direction and James Cleeve’s rapturous musical direction, it is easy to see the love happening here.

Yank! was written by the Zellniks as a deliberate homage to the musicals of the 1940s but it is a Second World War love story with a difference. Beginning as a rites of passage tale for the barely 18 year old Stu who finds himself drafted into the army in 1943, the story grows in stature as his first real taste of the outside world is accompanied by his tumbling head over heels for his handsome fellow conscript Mitch, the revelation that those feelings are reciprocated, and then the crushing realisation of the impossibility of living their lives as proud gay men, whether within the army or without. Continue reading “Review: Yank! A WWII Love Story, Charing Cross”

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”

Album Review: The West End goes MAD for Christmas

“I don’t need to ask for much this Christmas”

One of the more worthwhile festive releases this year is also pleasingly one of the more interesting. The Make A Difference Trust brings together the British entertainment community and its audiences to raise funds to support people living with HIV and AIDS and with The West End Goes MAD For Christmas, has brought together a host of new musical theatre champions to offer up a compilation of Christmas songs that offer a fascinating alternative to the age old carols and standards that proliferate at this time of year.

And producers Nikki & Joe Davison at Auburn Jam Records have done a brilliant job in matching composers to performers across the eight songs, curating pre-existing tracks and new, and shining a light on some serious talent. The plaintive simplicity of Stuart Matthew Price’s self-penned ‘This Christmas’ is characteristic of much of his oeuvre of classic songwriting, Gina Beck’s crystalline soprano dances beautifully around the timeless melody of Alexander S Bermange’s ‘Praying For You’ and Nadim Naaman‘s ‘A Soldier’s Christmas’ treads an equally emotive path, sung charmingly by Gerónimo Rauch and Naaman himself.

Continue reading “Album Review: The West End goes MAD for Christmas”