Review: The Borrowers – Tobacco Factory Theatres

Original review for the Reviews Hub

The Borrowers TFT

Truly T’riffic

With a pitter-patter of petite feet and a-pocketing of confectionery, paper planes, and a crisp packet for a great escape, the Factory Theatre is the magical, mischievous, pocket-sized Clock family’s giant playground this Christmas. With witty, loveably believable writing from Bea Roberts, The Borrowers is a whimsical little wonder to warm all hearts this wintertime.

Under the energetic, gentle direction of Nik Partridge, this playful adaptation of Norton’s novel is as delightfully confident and unapologetically joyful as Jessica Hayles’s tiny courageous teenager, Arietty. With her petrified father Pod (Craig Edwards) and plucky mother Homily (Peta Maurice), brave, acrobatic Arietty and the Clock family are forced to escape from their home – with the heroics of Eddie, the bashful human boy she befriends – when bleach-fanatic Aunty Val and her vacuum move in above the floorboards. It’s a cutesy yet timeless tale of compassion, family, and courage, and its perfectly pitched comic performances, particularly Lucy Tuck’s fantastically fanatical Val, fill its pockets full of mischievous charm.

There’s charm in the magic and mischief too, Continue reading “Review: The Borrowers – Tobacco Factory Theatres”

Review: Red Rope Theatre’s Frankenstein – Arnos Vale Cemetery

Original Review for the Reviews Hub

Red Rope Theatre's Frankenstein

Elegiac and gorgeously gothic

Playing God in an Anglican chapel is, like Frankenstein’s Creature, ‘fearless, and therefore powerful’. Amongst the gravestones at Arnos Vale, Red Rope Theatre stitch together and stage their agonised, magnificently imagined Frankenstein’s monster at the cemetery’s Victorian altar in Matt Grinter’s elegiac, gorgeously gothic imagining of Mary Shelley’s classic novel.

Thematically and theatrically atmospheric, Arnos Vale and the novel are Victorian artworks framed by the Ancient Greek: in its title, Frankenstein references the mythological figure ‘Prometheus’, whose actions Victor echoes in creating the Creature, and the nineteenth-century cemetery at Arnos Vale was created to echo the classicism of a Greek necropolis. And, with fingers, faces, and figures under foot, it’s frighteningly fertile ground for playing God.

Grinter’s text is poetic, with some elegantly elegiac monologues for the gifted and frugal cast of three, especially in an elegy to the mother of Danann McAleer’s guilt-plagued, grief-stricken Frankenstein, for whom death has invited itself in and will never leave. Though powerful in its poetry and fearless in the actors’ performances, there are moments that lose their power with the pacing, Continue reading “Review: Red Rope Theatre’s Frankenstein – Arnos Vale Cemetery”

Review: WNO’s La Cenerentola

Original Review: Broadway World UK

WNO's La Cenerentola

The magic’s in the music

The original Italian premiere of Rossini’s rags-to-riches opera was more morally pragmatic than magical: with a ‘goodness triumphs’ moral in its title (‘La bontà in trionfo’), Roman Catholicism restricting an unclothed foot from appearing in the performance, and nineteenth-century theatrics making transformations impractical, the music was the magic. And the music is magical, with all its coloratura, patter, and character from the principals, male chorus, and orchestra magnificently managed by Tomáš Hanus, but there’s still some magic amiss in this staging from Welsh National Opera.

La Cenerentola falls away from the French fairy tale and into the Grimm’s grotesque without a fairy godmother or twelve o’clock curfew, and Joan Font’s staging fuels the fantasy with giant mice and the suggestion that it was all a sugarcoated fever-dream danced in Joan Guillén’s garish costumes.

The opera follows in the footsteps of the fairytale Continue reading “Review: WNO’s La Cenerentola”

Review: Ellie Dubois’s No Show – Spielman Theatre

Original review for the Reviews Hub

ellie-duboiss-no-show.jpg

Thrilling athleticism and beautiful artistry

A lot of grit, graft, and grazed knees go into greatness, yet for ‘showgirls’ in the ‘greatest show on earth’ the nightly danger is disguised by grace, discipline, glitz, and offstage doughnuts. Ellie Dubois’s circus celebrates the blood, sweat, and bruises of her acrobatic ensemble and aims to articulate, through biography, the physical and psychological labour of its thrilling athleticism and beautiful artistry.

The circus is where artist and athlete intersect: in their striped-and-sequined strips, the freeform structure of the evening features the five female performers striving for perfection in their physical feats, from aerial stunts to striking contorted poses. There’s no flying trapeze or tightrope, twisting and upturning our expectations of circus as effortlessly as the tricks are executed, and though they often don’t feel ‘death-defying’, their dexterity and physicality is still exciting, especially Camille Toyer’s lyrical performance on the Cyr wheel that’s preceded by an explanation of the danger if she were to put a foot or finger wrong. Yet, there’s an assurance, from Kate McWilliam, that she won’t; after all, ‘we’re professionals’.

Even professionals have imperfections, and the physical effort it takes to achieve perfection is as much a part of the performance as the tricks. Continue reading “Review: Ellie Dubois’s No Show – Spielman Theatre”

Review: Beautiful Thing – Tobacco Factory Theatres

Original Review for the Reviews Hub

Beautiful Thing

A blissful, beautiful thing

‘Once I believed that when love came to me, it would come with rockets, bells, and poetry – but with me and you, it just started quietly, and grew… and it’s getting better.’ Beautiful Thing at the Tobacco Factory Theatres begins with a beautiful chorus of Mama Cass’s ‘It’s Getting Better’ from a community choir, and it’s everything this urban fairytale should be about: affection, optimism, and community.

Written in the nineties, 2018 is its 25th anniversary, and with age it’s grown a warm, nostalgic naivety from the nearly anarchic work it was then. It is ‘getting better’, but the heart-breaking effects of homophobia aren’t, and the Tobacco Factory’s Beautiful Thing is heart-warming, celebratory, bitingly funny, but also a remembrance of just how ground-breaking Jonathan Harvey’s work was just for being about the beauty of two gay teenage boys falling in love with each other.

And maybe it’s the absence of any ‘bury your gays’ symbolism that’s so ubiquitous in LBGTQ+ literature that gives Beautiful Thing its ‘urban fairytale’ subtitle. Continue reading “Review: Beautiful Thing – Tobacco Factory Theatres”