it’s all about me…and mostly Reviews

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Swallows_Amazons_Mark_Carline1

Swallows and Amazons

Until August 26

Storeyhouse, Chester

www.storyhouse.com

3*

It’s a wonderful thing, children’s imagination, truly fantastic, and boundless. And for adaptations of this book, you certainly need to channel your inner child. That said, last time I saw a production, it was set in the attic; this, written by the acclaimed Bryony Lavery, has the undoubted advantage of

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Bigimages

The Big I Am

Until July 14

Everyman
https://www.everymanplayhouse.com/

3*

Peer Gynt? I know nothing.

And to be honest, not much wiser now except I don’t believe I should like to know him, for a worse anti-hero you are unlikely to meet. That he has

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Shrek: The Musical    

Liverpool EmpireShrek5a096c19-e350-436c-8cf7-68e8c0a864a8

June 13-23

On tour until January 6

4*

What a pantomime – is it really possible for such a transformation, to make a cartoon film into a successful musical? Hell, yes. After all, if somebody can run the gamut from nun to doctor’s wife to royalty… Princess Fiona has you wanting to google another word for ‘feisty’, and you’re full of

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A Little Night Music

May 5-July 8

https://www.storyhouse.com/

4*

Musicdownload

Some people may feel that a musical is a lot of songs interrupted by the plot whilst others suspect it’s the plot which has t o endure people bursting into song all over the place. Sondheim, bless him, always seems to get it right, perhaps not least in

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April 10-14

On tour until June

Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella

Liverpool Empire

www.liverpooltheatres.com/empire.htm

Reviewed for North West End; a version of which is on their website: www.northwestend.co.uk

4*

Cinders39826_full

On tour until June

A little bit disco, a little bit rock n’ roll – as Catherine Jones, Liverpool Echo’s Arts Editor pointed out to me: ‘Not really ballet at all. It’s Matthew Bourne. It’s a show.’

And so it is.

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Shipdownload

April 10-14

The Last Ship

Liverpool PLayhouse
https://www.everymanplayhouse.com/

On tour until July

www.thelastshipmusical.co.uk

A version of this review is on the Northern Soul website:

https://www.northernsoul.me.uk/review-the-last-ship-everyman-liverpool/

4*

You could say it looks like Sting’s ship has come in with this production… yes, far too many maritime metaphors spring to mind, rather as words and language do for Adrian Sanderson (Charlie Richmond), the intellectual docker. And there’s a fine line between archetype and stereotype, so we also

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March 27-31

Hard Times

Liverpool PLayhouse
https://www.everymanplayhouse.com/

On tour until May 26

www.northern-broadsides.co.uk/hard-times/

3*

Oh dear, turns out this does what it says on the can. As it happens, a long time ago, my son, a huge Dickens fan, suggested the book would serve as an excellent introduction to the Great Man although not at all sure I did read it. But what do I know about Dickens? Precious little probably, and to generalise: cariactures rather than characters; bizarre nomenclature; inclination to sentimentality; sorrowful demises.

Northern Broadsides, perhaps not surprisingly, have chosen to frame this adaptation using circus scenes, and thank goodness for that, because their trademark use of music at least helped to liven things up. The remaining scenes take place largely in the Gradgrind and the Bounderby households – and there’s an apposite choice of name; not giving too much of the game away to note a link to ‘bounder’. Going one step further, they are abundant, what with flaky Tom Gradgrind, the chancer, Mr Harthouse and creepy Bitzer, the odious Mrs Sparsit being the female version.

Scenery and props are pretty minimal, likewise, special effects, but the costumes, from the prosperous to the poverty stricken, are well done, and particularly attractive for the showgirls.What is distinctly unattractive is the exploitation of the remarkable Louise Gradgrind (lovely performance from Vanessa Schfield), oppressed by father, then by husband. The audience actually hisses Bounderby’s initial approaches when she is, as Mrs S describes her ‘a chit’. And, finally, having always gone well out of her way to help him, disgracefully ungrateful brother, convincingly played by Perry Moore. Other undesirables include Howard Chadwick as the bombastic Bounderby, and Andrew Prince, who does however pull off a conflicted Gradgrind exceedingly well, and probably in contrast to the blustering chap Rutter may well have been in a seemingly tailor made role – ah no, wait a minute; spoilt for choice, perhaps he’d have gone for Bounderby in the end? Back to Mr Prince, who manages to gain our sympathy when realizing the error of his ways, as well as in virtually adopting Sissy, a spirited performance from Suzanne Ahmet; in effect, we get two heroines for the price of one.

The first half didn’t half seem to go on a bit, to the extent that the subplot was somewhat hard to follow and thus not particularly gripping, with Steven Blackpool, although admirably played by Anthony Hunt, and Rachael (Victoria Brazier), in a doomed relationship. But a strking transformation into Mrs Sparsit, whom it was cheering to see get her comeuppance; an obsequious sneak, yet convinced she was so superior to all those around her. Meanwhile, Darren Kuppan dishes out a double blinder; two different kinds of repulsion as the despicable on the make Mr Harthouse and weirdo Bitzer.

Although everything picked up a touch later on, just enough to earn 3*, tha’ts mainly on the strength of Northern Broadsides: good company, shame about the play, basically. But fair enough, they must be nearly as popular as Dickens himself, and even if I found this a bit of a tedious evening, vibrant enough to go down well with the audience.

Reviewed for North West End; shorter version appears on their website: www.northwestend.co.uk

www.northwestend.co.uk

March 6-10

Cilla

The Musical

Chester Storeyhouse

https://www.storyhouse.com/

On tour until November

4*

A production based on a National Treaure could alas, end up bland, perhaps boring. After all, nobody ever had a bad word to say about the

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March 13-17

On tour until April 21

The Little Matchgirl and Other Happier Tales

Liverpool PLayhouse
https://www.everymanplayhouse.com/

4*

Not too bold a claim, saying that many Knee High productions are pure magic. And not too great a step to their coming up with something based on

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Reviewed for North West End

www.northwestend.co.uk

February 20 -24

Sunset Boulevard

Liverpool Empire

www.liverpooltheatres.com/empire.htm

On tour until April

3*

Some shows, you automatically assume you know everything about them, and so does everybody else; here, the lines about the movies getting smaller and being ready for a cose-up. It’s a surprise then to find neither musical numbers, nor story for that matter, seem familiar. Correction: the plot

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