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La bohème: Preview

Bohème Bounces Back 

La bohème: Preview

Instant Opera at Normansfield Theatre, Teddington from 28th – 30th January 2022

Preview:  Opera critic Thomas Forsythe discusses Instant Opera’s forthcoming production of Puccini’s La bohème with its Artistic Director Nicholas George

TF:     Good evening, Nick.  I hear there is some exciting news: one of the cast of La Bohème has just become a father (for the first time), a fortnight before opening night.

NG:     Good evening, Thomas.  Yes, wonderful news and a tonic to the entire cast in these challenging, tough times.   Between you and me, I already have the new arrival down as a potential member of the Instant Opera Chorus… If he can sing half as good as his father, we’ll be well served!

TF:     That’s marvellous news, and just in time for a double celebration, as Instant Opera’s own “new baby” is due at the end of January, a second generation La bohème, reviving the successful 2019 production.   Can we expect a clear family resemblance between the two productions?

NG:     Completely. It’s a carbon copy of the original production, which sold out weeks before the opening night back in 2019 and was enthusiastically received.  We may add one or two surprises here and there, but what is also exciting is the fabulous cast of new singers that have joined some of the original cast – the audiences are in for a treat!

TF:     Instant Opera’s La bohème is set in 1970’s Amsterdam, not as envisioned by Puccini and his librettists, set in Paris in 1830.  Why the change of location?  Will the atmosphere be different?    

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Raymonda

Lyricism by Lamplight

Raymonda

by Tamara Rojo after Marius Petipa, music by Alexander Glazunov

English National Ballet at the London Coliseum until 23rd January,

World Premiere production. 

Review by Mark Aspen

The Crimean War in the mid-1850s is now best known for the charge of the Light Brigade.  By why should it be known for an act of heroism that proved futile?  Probably because this war first saw both honest open reporting and the advent of war photography, with the appointment of Roger Fenton as the first official war photographer. 

Fenton’s photographs are one of many inspirations for Tamara Rojo’s new honest and open choreography for Raymonda and the setting for its sublime World Premiere production.  Indeed designer Antony McDonald’s set is a series of tilted photo frames and the colour palette variations on the sepia of early photographs, muted and richly mellow.  All is atmospherically enhanced by Mark Henderson’s lighting designs.  Moreover, we have an on-stage photographer of the period (Giorgio Garrett) who re-dances the last move as his shutter clicks.  This works surprisingly well, since, as with all ballets, there are episodes and set-pieces, and these shout to be captured on photographic plates.  Somehow this makes the narrative more immediate, real and impelling.

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Dark Sublime

Subliminal Messages?

Dark Sublime

by Michael Dennis

Progress Company at Progress Theatre, Reading until 22nd January

Review by Nick Swyft

How many young gay men would take the trouble to track down Jacqueline Pearce, who played Servalan in the 80’s science fiction series Blakes 7? Actually, probably quite a lot, and if you are one of those, this play is definitely for you.  Read Dark Sublime for Blakes 7, and you’re there.

It is about the relationship of one such fan with his idol.  The actor in question, in the world of the play, is Marianne Hogg (Melanie Sherwood) who played the evil Ragana in the series Dark Sublime.  It is, however, more about Marianne and her issues, than it is about the fan, Oli (Dean Stephenson).  Marianne lives with a female companion, Kate (Ali Carroll), and their unstable relationship provides a brooding backdrop to the action, which Oli inadvertently draws out.

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The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

A Lion in Winter

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

music and lyrics by Irita Kutchmy, based on the novel by C.S. Lewis

Step on Stage Productions, Youth Theatre at Hampton Hill Theatre until 15th January

Review by Andrew Lawston

The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe is a great choice for youth theatre.  Aside from the enduring popularity of CS Lewis’s original novel, the central four characters are children, and many of the supporting cast are talking animals or mythical creatures.  The story can be told in a big-budget Hollywood production, but with the book’s emphasis on the characterisation of the four Pevensey children, it’s equally possible to envisage a tiny fringe adaptation with a cast of half a dozen.  Or, indeed, Irita Kutchmy’s musical version, as we’re seeing tonight at Hampton Hill Theatre.

C,S, Lewis

From the opening ensemble number, the eponymous The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, however, it’s clear that Step On Stage Productions are committed to a huge undertaking.  The song sees most of the numerous young cast on stage as evacuees being waved off to the countryside by parents.  Laden with suitably scuffed suitcases and gas mask boxes, the large ensemble sings with gusto, before the action switches to the Professor’s house, with its staircase, landing, and of course the eponymous wardrobe.  The Professor is played by Nils Collin, who looks marvellously comfortable in his country house, pipe in his hand, relaxed and thoughtful.  He later also operates Aslan and provides the lion’s voice, in a contrastingly energetic but equally compelling performance.

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Alice in Wonderland

Going For It 100%

Alice in Wonderland

by the PTC Writing Team from the story by Lewis Carroll

Putney Theatre Company at the Putney Arts Theatre until 8th January

Review by Denis Valentine

Alice in Wonderland is a newly written and produced play-musical by the Putney Theatre Company and offers an interesting, and at times innovate, take on the delivery of the classic story. 

With a big ensemble cast there are many strong performances which really bring to mind the classic elements and recognisable character traits that one might hope to see when going to Wonderland.  Frances James offers a very likeable Alice and hits all the right notes as our confused but strong-willed protagonist. 

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Alice Bounces Back

Fresh Pot of Mad Party Tea

Alice Bounces Back

Putney Theatre Company at Putney Arts Theatre, until 8th January

Thomas Forsythe investigates

“You mean you can’t take less. It’s very easy to take more than nothing.”   So says The Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland.  

Putney Theatre Company has almost taken this as its motto for the company of its own Alice in Wonderland, a musical version of Lewis Carroll’s much loved enigmatic story, written by the PTC Writing Team. 

By mid-December, excitement was at its peak as the Putney Arts Theatre’s resident company, Putney Theatre Company, was ready to journey with Alice and with everyone’s favourite wacky, weird and wondrous characters, on a rumbustious, rousing and rowdy ride   through Wonderland. 

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Matilda the Musical Jr.

Heart-Warming Joy

Matilda the Musical Jr.

by Denis Kelly, based on the story by Roald Dahl, music and lyrics by Tim Minchin

Dramacube, Hampton Hill Yellow Cast at Hampton Hill Theatre until 20th December

Review by Millie Stephens

Millie Stephens is one of our younger reviewers, this review being written the day after

her sixteen birthday.  Millie trained with the Rose Theatre, Kingston.

Dramacube’s production of Matilda the Musical Jr, was impressive and lived up to their high standard, particularly with the young age of the casts this year, as young as seven years old.  I reviewed Sunday afternoon’s Hampton Hill Yellow Cast. 

I thought that the set and costumes by Hannah Calarco and the production team were amazing.  The opening set with a backdrop of book cases and flying books was wonderfully designed, with ABC blocks to give stage props to stand and sit on.  I especially thought Miss Trunchball’s costume and makeup was convincing and comedic, adding an extra layer of professionalism to the production. 

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Matilda the Musical Jr.

Impressive, Authentic and Magical

Matilda the Musical Jr.

by Denis Kelly, based on the story by Roald Dahl, music and lyrics by Tim Minchin

Dramacube, Twickenham Blue Cast at Hampton Hill Theatre until 20th December

Review by Eleanor Lewis

There are challenges to putting on any children’s show, but to stage a production of Matilda, with five separate casts, during a global pandemic with all the restrictions that involves and the possibility of another national lockdown at any moment, really deserves Respect with a capital R.

One of the most endearing things about Dramacube’s young actors is that they don’t make their audience nervous.  Matilda is a great show but not the easiest to do, there are some relatively sophisticated themes running through it and it takes some skill to present Tim Minchin’s outstanding lyrics as effectively as possible.  None of this is beyond Dramacube’s students: they make their exits and entrances professionally, they know their lines (and have probably been trained in what they might do if they forget them).  Their characters talk to each other, not into the air, and what they sing and speak is clearly heard.  Put simply: they know what they’re doing.

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Ellie and Starlight’s Christmas Adventure

Christmas Post

Ellie and Starlight’s Christmas Adventure

by Kenneth Mason, originated by Sarah Watson.

Silvercube Media Group in association with Dramacube Productions at Hampton Hill Theatre until 24th December

Review by Celia Bard

Ellie and Starlight’s Christmas Adventure marks another quest for a little Yupik girl called Ellie and her imaginary friend, Starlight, the polar bear.  Ellie, her family and village have moved higher into the mountains in order to escape the rising sea level caused by global warming.  However, there is a problem.  It’s Christmas, and Ellie is afraid that Father Christmas won’t know that the village has moved and that when he arrives to deliver presents to the children, all he will see is water and no sign of the village in evidence.  Ellie and Starlight, after a lot of thought, decide that they must travel to the North Pole to let him know of their new address and to give him the Christmas list of presents that Ellie has written.  The journey is treacherous, and the pair must overcome a number of dangerous obstacles before they arrive at their destination.

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Matilda the Musical Jr.

West End Re-Packaged

Matilda the Musical Jr.

by Denis Kelly, based on the story by Roald Dahl, music and lyrics by Tim Minchin

Dramacube, Twickenham Green Cast at Hampton Hill Theatre until 18th December

Review by David Stephens

Having seen the RSC’s spectacular production of Matilda the Musical twice now (once was not enough for my, ahem, children), it was with great excitement that I attended Dramacube’s version at Hampton Hill Theatre on Saturday evening.  Upon arrival, I was informed that tonight’s show would be performed by the Twickenham ‘Green’ cast and that the main roles of Matilda, Bruce, Mrs Wormwood, Miss Honey and Ms Trunchball, would all be played by the ‘B’ stream.  Flicking through the programme, one immediately realised the magnitude of Dramacube’s undertaking, with no fewer than five different casts set to perform the production over a four day period and with many of the main roles being interchanged between different performers on a nightly basis. 

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