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Dido and Aeneas

Melodious Enlightenment

Dido and Aeneas

by Henry Purcell, libretto by Nahum Tate

Richmond Opera at the Normansfield Theatre, Teddington, then at OSO Arts Centre, Barnes until 15th May

Review by Vicki Naylor

They know, the people who live in and around Barnes, how fortunate they are to have the OSO Arts Centre (The Old Sorting Office) as a theatre, and a theatre bar with a restaurant, overlooking Barnes Green.  There, dogs and children play and swans rear their cygnets in and around Barnes Pond with its tall bullrushes.

This brave and innovative theatre brought us, on a rather dull, damp Sunday afternoon, an example of the early English Enlightenment, an opera in the Baroque form by Henry Purcell (1659-1695), Dido and Aeneas.

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Animal Farm

More than Others

Animal Farm

by George Orwell, adapted by Robert Icke    

Children’s Theatre Partnership in association with Birmingham Rep at Richmond Theatre until 14th May, then tour continues until 28th May

Review by Celia Bard

Human puppetry productions like Warhorse (Michael Morpurgo), The Lion King (Roger Allers and Irene Mecchi) and Equus (Peter Schaffer), judging from their continuing success in entertaining audiences, indicate a change of mind-set in adult audiences regarding their acceptance of puppetry as a major form of entertainment.  Puppetry need not be one of the things we abandon after childhood.  Puppetry origins go back a long way, as far back to Egyptian times and the discovery of wire-controlled puppets in Egyptian tombs, and to ancient Greece when productions of The Illiad were often staged with marionettes.  Mark Aspen of Aspen Reviews reminded me when in discussion about Animal Farm, that human puppetry forms and the wearing of masks are often be seen in opera productions.  So why the appeal?  Basil Jones, executive producer at Handspring says that “Human puppets do something different.  They are metaphors for our struggle to live … getting out of bed, sitting in a chair, and that these ‘micro struggles’ are released better by puppets acting as human actors themselves.”

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Glacier Lake

Icy Secrets

Glacier Lake

by Andrew Cartmel

Thursday Theatre at the OSO Arts Centre, Barnes until 8th May

Review by David Stephens

Described as a ‘thriller with hot topicality’, it was with a due sense of excitement and curiosity that we attended the premiere of Glacier Lake.  Searching for a little background information prior to attending, a quick scan of the internet revealed that, as its name suggests, this new play (written by Andrew Cartmel and directed by Conrad Blakemore) is set in the remote, lake-side escape of Otto (Colin Hill) and his daughter, Sandy (Sadie Pepperrell).  

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The Da Vinci Code

Crypto Twist

The Da Vinci Code

by Dan Brown, adapted by Rachel Wagstaff and Duncan Abel

Simon Friend at Richmond Theatre until 7th May, then on tour until 12th November

Review by Melissa Syversen

It is hard to overstate the sheer size of the phenomenon that was The Da Vinci Code when the book was first released in 2003.  It is one of the highest-selling books of the Twentieth Century and the only book to outsell it in 2003 was Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix.  It … was … everywhere!   Following its runaway success, its predecessor Angels and Demons quickly became a best seller as well, and since its release, three more books and three Hollywood adaptations, featuring Tom Hanks, quickly followed.

The interest in ‘symbologist’ and Harvard professor Robert Langon might not be as intense as it once was, but it never really went away either.  The last book to feature professor Langdon, Origin, was released in 2017 and only last year was a series adaptation of The Lost Symbol released onto streaming services.  (Peacock/NowTV).  People love a mystery thriller, so it isn’t that surprising that someone finally decided to try and bring this story to the stage.

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India Gate

Snapshots and Perspectives

India Gate

by Howard Shepherdson, in collaboration with Tajinder Sindra

The Questors Theatre and Punjabi Theatre Academy at the Judi Dench Playhouse, Ealing until 7th May, then on UK and international tour.

Review by Mark Aspen

For well over four hundred years the history of India and Britain has been inextricably linked. This year marks the seventy-fifth anniversary of India achieving independence as a sovereign country, and it is apposite that two local production companies should collaborate to commemorate the occasion with the premiere of India Gate.  Each partner has brought its own expertise and the play has a ringing authenticity, indeed much of the dialogue is in Punjabi.

During those four centuries India has become a unified country and now is powerful and influential in its own right.  However, the relationship between Britain and India has not always gone smoothly.   India Gate concentrates on two periods of history, the massacre at the Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar in the Punjab in April 1919 and the events leading up to Indian Independence Day in August 1947.  The story is told largely through the eyes of two people, Lady Emily Lutyens, recalcitrant wife of the famous architect Sir Edwin Lutyens; and Udham Singh, a Sikh zealot, who became an assassin. 

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The Misfortune of the English

All Things Considered

The Misfortune of the English

by Pamela Carter

Orange Tree Theatre Productions at the Orange Tree Theatre Richmond until 28th May   UK première

Review by Andrew Lawston

Three schoolboys bound on to the Orange Tree’s stage, full of vigour and exuberance.  One of them disdainfully removes a health and safety sign from the centre of the stage, and they proceed to tell the audience about their walking holiday in Germany.  Twenty-seven children and one teacher, who is clearly idolised by his pupils.

Schoolboy banter is largely timeless, and school uniforms don’t tend to change much either, so it takes a while before the truth of the trip sinks in.  The school trip is taking place in 1936, in Nazi Germany, just before Adolf Hitler’s birthday.

And as they narrate the start of their walk from Freiburg, and the first references are made to rain, storms, and sleet, it becomes clear that this is not the carefree stroll in the woods that the boys are anticipating.

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Rebel Without a Cause

Platonic Relationship

Rebel Without a Cause

by James Fuller, based on the screenplay by Stewart Stern

YAT at Hampton Hill Theatre until 30th April

Review by Celia Bard

Thoughts running through my head as I entered the Hampton Hill Theatre auditorium to watch Rebel Without A Cause was how a  theatre production of the play would stand up to the iconic film of the same title shown in the 1950s, a film I still remember with much affection.  Any concerns I had soon disappeared as I sat to watch events unfold just metres away from where I was sitting.  The atmosphere of the theatre, combined with the minimal set, dimmed lighting and large screen projections, all created an enthralling and tense theatre experience. 

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Sheila’s Island

Comfort Zones

Sheila’s Island

by Tim Firth

Yvonne Arnaud Theatre at Richmond Theatre until 30th April, then on tour until 14th May

Review by Daniel Wain

Billed as a “sparkling, sharp-witted new comedy akin to The Office meets Lord of the Flies meets Miranda”, this “world premiere production” is actually a rewrite of Tim Firth’s three-decade-old hit Neville’s Island.  The idea of making an all-female version of the original came from Joanna Read, director of Sheila’s Island and Chief Executive of the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford, where this production originally premiered back in February.

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The Incident Room

Ripper Gripper

The Incident Room

by Olivia Hirst and David Byrne

OHADS at Hampton Hill Theatre until 23rd April

Review by Andrew Lawston

Hampton Hill’s studio theatre has been taken back to the late 1970s.  Desks are covered with typewriters, wireless radios, and rotary dial telephones.  Female police officers are a novelty.  And there are cardboard boxes everywhere.  As Life on Mars famously asked: are we mad, in a coma, or back in time?

This new production of The Incident Room by Olivia Hirst and David Byrne recreates the increasingly desperate attempts by West Yorkshire Police to track down the so-called Yorkshire Ripper.  We are first presented with the conclusion of the case.  An arrest has been made, and Megan Winterburn and Dick Holland pack up the eponymous incident room that has dedicated years to processing the vast quantities of reports, statements, and leads connected to the case.  Despite Holland’s advice to put the case behind her, Winterburn reflects on the past few years and we flashback to 1976, with a new team assembled.

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Deluxe

Circadian Rhythms

Deluxe

Ripple

by Xie Xin with music by Jiang Shaofeng

Bradley 4:18 

by Maxine Doyle with music by Cassie Kinoshi

The BalletBoyz, at Richmond Theatre, until 19th April, then on tour until 19th May

Review by Patrick Shorrock

How much is life back to normal after the easing of restrictions is a particularly acute question for theatres and touring companies.  From the audience’s perspective, in many ways, it feels like it really is with no more than an eighth of the audience now wearing masks, on this Easter Bank Holiday Monday.  A large, but not completely packed, house enthusiastically applauds BalletBoyz’s show Deluxe and is clearly glad to see the Boyz back in business. 

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