The Wonderful, Theatre Peckham

REVIEW: The Wonderful at Theatre Peckham celebrates diversity and spreads  festive joy

by Romy Foster

It’s opening night at Theatre Peckham and I am one of the first to see The Wonderful performed in front of a real, live audience (they only had their dress rehearsal THAT DAY). I followed the yellow brick road through the foyer to my seats and eagerly awaited this Peckham-ised twist on the lovable children’s classic, The Wizard of Oz.

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The Magician’s Elephant, Royal Shakespeare Company

Vibrant, joyous and fun' - The Magician's Elephant at RSC reviewed - Sarah  Probert - Birmingham Live

by Michaela Clement-Hayes

Everyone deserves a happy ending, and as we head towards the festive season, messages of hope and forgiveness start to provide us with a real sense of magic. This is perhaps what the RSC is tying to do with its winter production of The Magician’s Elephant, based on Kate DiCamillo’s book. A young orphan is told by a fortune teller that he will find his sister if he follows the elephant. But there has never been an elephant in Baltese…or has there?

It’s a fairly traditional arc, with our suffering hero going on a journey of discovery, helped and hindered by plenty of interesting characters. It begins with a mesmerising opening scene. A magical narrator (Amy Booth-Steel) introduces us to the town and her sleight of hand provides ripples of anticipation and excitement around the theatre.

Our hero Peter (Jack Wolfe) is excellent. Naive and curious with an excellent voice and stage presence, he is totally believable as a young boy looking to belong. The police chief (Forbes Masson) provides the comedy, while the young couple (Melissa James and Marc Antolin) guide our hero on his quest. Antolin and James are wonderful to watch. Their chemistry is genuine, but their sadness is heartbreaking; in spite of this their concern for Peter is very natural and touching. Summer Strallen plays the ‘villain’ – a spoilt, childlike countess who is incensed that the elephant’s arrival has stopped people talking about her. But the real star is of course the elephant, which is an impressive feat of stage design and incredibly realistic. The lighting works well to create a mysterious ambiance which is effective and intense.

It’s a lovely story, with simple songs that children will enjoy and a nice sprinkling of humour for the adults. Although a good production, it feels quite safe and there’s little to make it stand out from other musicals. At times it is very hard to hear some of the actors, especially those speaking quickly. There are also certain topics that make the story very dark in places and almost unsuitable for very young audience members. That said, this is still a magical production that leaves you with a fuzzy, festive feeling of joy.

The Magician’s Elephant runs through 1 January.

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Tokyo Rose, Curve Leicester

Curve Theatre / Tokyo Rose

by Olivia Rose Deane

Burnt Lemon have taken their acclaimed 2019 Edinburgh Fringe hit Tokyo Rose on the road with a retooled cast, score and book and a good deal of anticipation. The bones of this new version of the show remain the same, telling the story of Iva Toguri, a Japanese-American radio journalist wrongly convicted of treason in 1945. As in the original, themes include xenophobia, cultural identity, and scapegoating, all with a six-strong female cast. The show opens with the high-energy and undeniably catchy “Hello America” – attention well and truly grabbed. Unfortunately, the number also represents the pinnacle of what is otherwise a flat, one-note production. The book (by Baldwin and Yoon) is generally good, retaining some of the smart, self-referential moxie that made the show charming in 2019, but is let down by the weakness of the score.

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Book Review | Hamilton and Me

Olivier Winner Giles Terera to Publish Hamilton and Me: An Actor's Journal  in 2021 | Playbill

by Michaela Clement-Hayes

Audience members don’t always appreciate the time and effort that goes into making a West End or Broadway performance. It’s a lot of fun, but it’s also a lot of hard work. The months spent learning lines, choreography and music, lengthy rehearsals, techs and previews are only a small part of it.

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Stages, VAULT Festival

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by Bryony Rae Taylor

This is an ambitious, interactive new video-game inspired musical, melding a tale of the trials and tribulations of a contemporary family with an 8-bit video game aesthetic. Each audience member is given a ‘controller’ (a bit of card which is blue on one side and red on the other), and at certain points in the narrative, they gets a say in what direction the plot turns. Towards the latter part of the show, the narrative rewinds and you see all of the alternative paths that could have been taken.

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How to Save a Rock, VAULT Festival

Image result for how to save a rock, vault festival

by Jade Pathak

What does it look like when you mix ethical, underground theatre with a Disney-esque musical that follows a heroic, Greta Thunberg-type, a gardener and an enigmatic polar bear? Well, Pigfoot Theatre show us, and it’s a whirlwind of fun for all ages with a live, whimsical score. Sharp, funny and informative, something special has been created here, and the care and love for this production is visible from every detail, from the bike powered lighting strips, to the recycled tin cans.

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Once, Fairfield Halls

Image result for once the musical, fairfield halls

by Laura Kressly

Made for a mere €112,000, Once is an award-winning, hit indie film. It’s easy to see why in the stage adaptation that has been running regularly around the world since 2011. The melancholic, Irish music performed by actor-musicians and the almost-love story set this show apart from the bold, brash showiness of musicals that stick more closely to traditional forms. It’s appeal lies in the story’s delicate balance of tapping into that tender part of the heart that sadly knows happily-ever-afters aren’t real, and the unrequited celebration of music’s power to bring people together.

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Feature | Favourite Theatre Moments of 2019

Image result for my favourite things julie andrews

by Laura Kressly

Determining a Top 10 has become increasingly troublesome what with the amount of work reviewed by guest critics and the even larger amount that we get invited to but aren’t able to see. So, rather than a more traditional ‘best-of’ list, here’s a totally subjective list of a few of my favourite things – in no particular order – from theatre and performance in 2019.

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