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Beauty and the Beast

Magical Morality Tale

Beauty and the Beast

by Ciaran McConville, after the story by Gabrielle-Suzanne de Villeneuve

Rose Original, Rose Theatre Kingston until 3rd January 2022

Review by Mark Aspen

Wild and desolate places, like high mountains, can be places of dread, apprehension and fear.  Such a place is the setting of Kingston’s Rose Theatre’s retelling of a much retold fairytale.  Set in the high Savoy Alps between France and Italy, Beauty and the Beast represents an inaccessible place, and by metaphorical extension, inaccessible places in the human nature.   As an allegory, this would have great impact 250 years ago, but would it in the self-congratulatory cynical world of the twenty-first Century? 

Before this all sounds too heavy and analytical, you can be reassured that this is a show that all members of the family will enjoy.  Younger schoolchildren will find it exciting, once they have gritted their teeth or the scary bits, and it is indeed a gripping and enthralling show or all.  The Rose is following its tradition of eschewing pantos for its Christmas offering and instead presenting an experience embodying magic and mystery … whilst gently spilling in meaning (the thing critics are supposed to look for).

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Cinderella

Strictly Panto

Cinderella

by Alan McHugh

Crossroads Pantomimes at Richmond Theatre until 2nd January 2022

Review by Mark Aspen

What have Cinderella and Strictly Come Dancing in common?  Well, there’s dancing of course, lots at Prince Charming’s palace.  There are glittery high heeled shoes, lots of, one with half the pair missing.  Then there’s Anton du Beke, lots of, in Richmond Theatre’s glittering zinging panto.

The glittering Fairy Godmother tells us, yes, we are in Richmond, more precisely “historic Richmond”, although the opening backdrop of the Palace has gained a few more turrets since the Tudor home-from-home on the other side of Richmond Green was downsized in the Civil War.  Indeed, the sets and scenery get more magnificent as the show goes on.  The climactic gold and silver ballroom set seems to have enough rare precious metals to solve the microchip shortage.

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Peter Pan

Upcycled storytelling

Peter Pan

by Jonny Danciger

OSO Barnes, until 19 December

Review by Matthew Grierson

Once the first joke is told about Captain Hook’s lost appendage, Smee hands – sorry, passes – a clipboard to one lucky mum so she can count the manual puns. She should have been given a bingo card to mark each panto tradition, though, so capably does this Peter Pan fulfil the audience’s expectations.

For reference, Mum counts a dozen plays on ‘hand’, though she must be enjoying herself too much to keep track as I’m certain there were more. While that figure may be in dispute, there were definitely only six cast members, though they achieve the impressive feat of seeming like a full and much better-resourced troupe. Of course, Mr and Mrs Darling (Sonny Pilgrem and Maddy Page) double as Smee and Captain Hook respectively, and fruity narrator Louis Pieris is ‘coerced’ into donning the crocodile skin later on. But all six players muck in to act, sing, dance, stooge and shift the scenery.

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Babe, The Sheep-Pig

Don’t Judge a Sausage by Its Skin

Babe, The Sheep-Pig

by Dick King-Smith, adapted by David Wood

Progress Company at Progress Theatre, Reading until 11th December

Review by Nick Swyft

This is not the 1995 Hollywood spectacular.  It is far better.  In the film, all the animals were played by…  well animals, supplemented by the voices of real actors and some CGI.  Here they were played by real people, wearing beautiful animal masks made by the director Beckie Moir (look out for the cockerel in particular).

The plot of Babe, The Sheep-Pig follows the adventures of Babe (Milly Allen), who is won at a fair by the bland Farmer Hogget (Guy Nichols).  There are some great asides from Mrs Hogget (Michelle Appleby) who thinks that he is to be fattened up to provide their Christmas dinner.

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Loot

A Crime More Serious than Murder

Loot

by Joe Orton

Teddington Theatre Club at Hampton Hill Theatre until 11th December

Review by Celia Bard

For those of a certain age the play Loot always brings back strong memories of the violent death of its creator, Joe Orton, brutally murdered by his partner, Kenneth Halliwell in 1967, who himself then went on to commit suicide.  However, such memories need to be put aside when watching a production of Loot although the presence of a coffin on stage throughout the play remains an ironic reminder of Orton’s untimely death.  Knowing of the writer’s liking of black humour and irony, one suspects that the writer himself may well have appreciated the irony of the situation. 

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2.22, A Ghost Story

A Skeleton of Itself

2.22, A Ghost Story

by Danny Robins

Runaway Entertainment at the Gielgud Theatre, London until 12th February 2022

Review by Heather Moulson

“Deer-in-the-headlights moments” were what several reviewers expected of BBC’s young doyen ghost story scriptwriter when his new play, 2.22, A Ghost Story premiered last August for a two month run at the Noël Coward Theatre.  It was indeed given plenty of stars. In fact it enjoyed weeks of sell-out performances in what was described as a record-breaking run.  So confident trepidation is an understandable feeling when going to the opening of its winter revival run.

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Rumble!

David versus Goliath

Rumble!

by Yasir Senna

Razor Sharp Productions at the Drayton Arms Theatre, South Kensington until 4th December 

Review by Heather Moulson

Now, I have become very familiar with bijou pub theatres, but this venue really is a delight.  On a deceptively large stage for its intimate surroundings, Rumble!, written and directed by Yasir Senna, opens up to what could be misconstrued as a dry, corporate piece.   However, this is soon thoroughly disproved. 

Set in 2009, at a construction firm called Deveraux, Alisha faces the boardroom, and three very hostile directors, after being overshadowed by her boorish manager.  The atmosphere is one of doom for Alisha, with written warnings and poor reports, until with concise wit and cunning, she reveals a clever unbricking of a corporate wall.   

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Mother Swan

Panto Takes Wing

Mother Swan

by Tom Whalley, adapted by Andy Hale

Barnes Community Players at Kitson Hall, Barnes until 4th December  

Review by Heather Moulson

A cold winter’s night is rife for a warm welcome at a pantomime, (oh no, it isn’t!), and the introductory humorous couplets between good and evil did just that.  The boldly-robed evil Priti Snyde and good-hearted, ultra-pink Fair-Enough-Ski involved us in participation as soon as the curtain went up.  Their rapport was tangible and played with traditional gusto by Annie Collenette and Roger Hayward-Smith.

The curtain went up on Mother Swan to the strong coloured set of Barnesville, before which we were presented with its witty script.  The tongue-in-cheek delivery by the eponymous Mother Swan and her son Silly Billy set the plot.   

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To Have and to Hold

Complex Beats of Modern-Day Romance

To Have and to Hold

by Michelle Payne

Savi Creative Arts at Barons Court Theatre until 27th November

Part of The Savi Emerging Arts Festival

Review by Denis Valentine

To Have and To Hold , as part of Savi Creative Arts’ Emerging Arts Festival, is a cleverly crafted work-in-progress piece that, at its core, is about exploring issues and occurrences in modern life and it’s dating world.  As a two hander and by its use of multi-role casting, it offers a chance to see events and thoughts from multiple different perspectives and how consequences for actions can have repercussions both positive and negative that change over time.   

The play, in terms of themes, explores modern relationships from a variety of different angles.  It achieves quite a journey by having its two actors, Iwona Marciniak and John Skerritt, playing not only multiple characters but also the same characters at different stages in their lives.  At times there are very recognisable beats of modern-day dating and the problems of living in a pandemic, but the play also touches on more adolescent and coming of sexual age issues that could be straight from modern popular shows such as Sex Education

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Vendetta

Eels by the Pint

Vendetta

By David Anstruther

CD Digipak, Eel Pie Records, Twickenham

Review by Vince Francis  

Vendetta is the latest album (and the first of his own original material) of singer-songwriter David Anstruther, who hails from south-west London and is hence a local lad to yours truly.  I generally experience a combination of excitement and anxiety when I get to hear artists who are new to me, but generally I have a genuine respect and admiration for those who have the bravery to put their original work out there, regardless of my own take on it.

There is much to recommend David’s music.  He is an accomplished guitarist.  To my ear, the influence of Mark Knopfler is apparent, particularly when he isn’t using distortion.  No shame in that, in my view.  Knopfler is an outstanding player and one who is inspirational to many guitarists, including your reviewer. 

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