Originally from the Roddy Doyle book, which was also adapted into a wonderful Neil Jordan film, this is the latest touring version of the musical, The Commitments. Set in 1980’s Dublin, this is the story of a young band coming together to ‘bring soul’ to Ireland, before it all falls apart. Featuring a great soundtrack of soul songs, this has been around in some form in the UK for the last 10 years, and for good reason.
Shit-faced Showtime has returned to their London home, the Leicester Square Theatre, for their annual yuletide version of Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol. The USP of this particular Christmas Carol, to distinguish it from the other versions across the country, is that one member of the cast is completely hammered and the rest of the case have to work around and incorporate their drunken ramblings into the show. The cast also incorporate a number of contemporary songs into the narrative, which occasionally do not work, though not at the fault of their singing talent.
This December, audiences of Battersea Arts Centre are transported to the vibrant forest of Cherwood where big bad wolves, beloved outlaws and worldwide superstars run amock. This inventive mash-up of the famous childhood classics Little Red Riding Hood and Robin Hood make an unlikely but hilarious twist as we follow the townspeople being terrorised by the sheriff of Nottingham in his wicked attempt to build a car park over the village.
As autumn turns into winter and Christmas approaches, the lonely toymaker Geppetto pleads with the blue moon gleaming over his village in the Italian alps, to make him a father. Luckily, the Blue Fairy hears him and brings to life the boy-sized puppet born from Geppetto’s despair. Her gift comes with a condition, however; The wooden child Pinocchio must learn how to be good by Christmas. If he doesn’t – and Geppetto fails at parenting – then he turns back into a toy. Like the iconic Disney film, many hair-raising adventures ensue, portrayed by the fantastic cast of five.
It struck me that the journey to Dido’s Bar, through east London, past City Airport and to a warehouse adjacent to Tate and Lyle’s sugar refinery, allows us to imagine what it feels like to be a new arrival in a strange world. And this, Dido’s Bar, a reimagining and retelling of Virgil’s Aeneid, centres Dido’s narrative, namely her experience as a refugee in a foreign land.
Through his most recent play An Adventure, writer Vinay Patel proved he can masterfully sustain family dramas grappling with big themes. By sticking close to Chekhov’s original story, this adaptation of The Cherry Orchard set in the distant future does similar. A spaceship replaces the estate, but the strict social stratification with a stark disparity in privilege mirror early-1900s Russia. It’s a smart adaptation that works well in surprising ways, though the heavy use of Chekhovian, reflective dialogue and a lack of high conflict mean the story is often slow and baggy.
One of the four winners of the Untapped Award this year, an ensemble of young actor-musicians present their take on the 1920 silent film, The Cabinet of Dr Caligari. Using music, movement and narration, the cast stick pretty close to the film but curse the doctor’s victims to a Sisyphean purgatory where they must tell their story over and over again. Though the company employ a visually striking aesthetic and great music, there are some creative choices that evoke the style of an A-level devised piece.
Based on the hit 1992 comedy starring Whoopi Goldberg, this is the latest touring incarnation of this highly entertaining musical. Originally set to star Goldberg in a reprise of the role, the cast instead has the more than able replacement of Beverley Knight. Joined by Jennifer Saunders, Lesley Joseph and Clive Rowe, this revival certainly isn’t lacking firepower in the casting department.
The plot is a little thin, like in the film. Beverley Knight’s Deloris Van Cartier has to hide from her gangster ex-boyfriend in a convent, only to find herself connecting with the nuns living there. The show itself however has a lot of energy, with Saunders proving the crowd favourite because of her droll one-liners as the Mother Superior. Overall, the comic timing from the cast is certainly on point as well, and the set and majority of the songs are wonderful. Particular highlights are Beverly Knight and Clive Rowe when they are able to let loose during the musical numbers. It is fair to say that the crowd are having a blast throughout.
There are a couple of flaws in the show, unfortunately. Firstly, the song with Curtis and his goons working out how they want to kill Delores is extremely distasteful. Additionally, some of the off-colour jokes given to Lesley Joseph’s Sister Mary Lazarus are not particularly wise to include in this day and age. At two hours and 40 minutes long, it could also do with an edit.
However, despite these issues, the high points of the production turn the show into a highly enjoyable evening, It’s a fun musical running for the rest of the summer, and makes for great seasonal theatregoing.
Sister Act runs through 28 August then tours.
The Play’s the Thing UK is committed to covering fringe and progressive theatre in London and beyond. It is run entirely voluntarily and needs regular support to ensure its survival. For more information and to help The Play’s the Thing UK provide coverage of the theatre that needs reviews the most, visit its patreon.
This adaptation of the much-loved 1952 Gene Kelly film has had a very productive life as a stage musical, what with its catchy songs and tap dancing routines. This particular touring production by Jonathan Church previously ran in the West End and Sadler’s Wells so as expected, the dance has received a lot of attention. The lovely New Wimbledon Theatre where it’s on for this leg of the tour is one of the bigger theatres that lie outside of the West End on the edges of London.
Invisibility’s appeal has a new angle in this show by AKIMBO physical theatre company. Loosely inspired by H. G. Wells’ The Invisible Man, AKIMBO gives the narrative an original twist that locates the story within the millennial scene of social media, instant messaging, pub parties and nightclubs. The story stands on its own and explores themes that move away from the questions of science and ethics of Wells’ novel. As such, AKIMBO’s No One navigates (in)visibility in the digital era and offers a tragicomic thriller that starts as a detective investigation and slowly takes on a warmer, more intimate focus on an invisible man that craves connection.