REVIEW – Up4aMeet? Crescent Theatre Birmingham & Tour

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Up4aMeet? – Crescent Theatre Birmingham, 22nd July 2013

Up4aMeet? Is the finest example of a play that doesn’t take itself too seriously, is very aware of what it is, but also genuinely funny.  What could have been a production that was funny for the wrong reasons, this is a very humorous piece of theatre packed full of topical references and some very accurate observations.

The play, set in block of flats, follows the lives of 3 very different (stereotypical) gay men, their mutual friend the celebrity booker, her failing client and the new flat mate of the oldest of the 3 men.  Along with the use of ‘Cock Shop’ aka Grindr on their phones and websites to find sex and dates the action becomes farcical with cross communication, mixed identification and the need to succeed.

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COMING SOON: Wright Writes FILM! [Updated with selection process]

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Ever had that moment when you’re going through LoveFilm or Netflix and you see films or shows you’d like to watch but ‘not right now’? I seem to have this feeling pretty much everytime I go through the options, so with the summer holidays looming what better chance to actually watch those films you try to save for later.

The plan:

  • To randomly choose films or TV shows on LoveFilm.
  • To watch said film or TV show all the way through (TV shows to watch the first full episode and potentially more).
  • To either blog as I watch or write a review after.
  • To repeat as often as possible.

The aim? Well to get my money’s worth from LoveFilm to start of with, but also to give new things a try and to broaden my tastes.  Who knows – this horror hating blogger may turn out to become the biggest fan of Paranormal Activity!

Wish me luck…

 

Want to know the selection process for Wright Writes Films project? Continue reading…

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Carousel – BMOS at the New Alexandra Theatre, BIrmingham

Earlier this week I went along to see BMOS’ production of Carousel to review for WOS.  As a fan of amateur theatre, being involved in it myself, I always have hopes for companies to push themselves to their maximum ability, but to also have realistic expectations and not to take themselves too seriously.  Whether or not BMOS fit in with my personal point of view n am-dram is to be decided.  The full review can be found on the Whats On Stage website here – but for a sneak peak follow the jump…

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The Lion King is almost here!!

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So it’s almost time for Simba and co to come to Birmingham! The Lion King opens at Birmingham Hippodrome next Friday (the 28th June).  It’s the big summer show this year, running until September 28th.  Having seen the show in London I can assure you that it is a fantastic production that brings the classic film to life.  I still need to get my tickets for the tour (hint, hint to any generous readers!) but let me know what you think if you see it.

I  came across this video on YouTube – it’s by an amazingly talented guy called Nick Pitera who has done several videos in which he performs as multiple people – including a lot of Disney.  In this video, made to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Broadway production, he got a little bit of help to make a special Lion King video…. Enjoy!

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Being Tommy Cooper (Review)

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Earlier this week I shuffled down to the New Alexandra Theatre to see and review a new play about the life of Tommy Cooper.  Only knowing Cooper through seeing clips on TV and hearing things from my Dad to base my knowledge of him on, the play provided a new insight into the sometimes troubled life of an entertainment giant.

Although not really my cup of tea, the play was really good with some brilliant performances from the small cast.  I think it would have been better in a smaller theatre as the audience only filled a very small percentage of the seats in the auditorium and it may have made certain parts of the production more effective, but would highly recommend the show to Cooper fans everywhere.

My full review can be found on WhatsOnStage.com (follow this link!) and here is a small snippet to wet those whistles:

 Williams’ performance as a drunk Cooper is sublime and the closing image of the play of him slumped in a drunken stupor alone in a hotel room is moving, even if the end of the play just seems to fizzle out.

It’s also lovely when people share the review – I got a smile seeing this tweet from Ben Richards (he from Footballers Wives, The Bill and currently in 9 to 5 the Musical sharing the review!)

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3 stars

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West Midlands Theatre This Week – W/C 3rd June 2013

WMTTWThis week I’d thought I’d try to start a new feature – hopefully I’ll remember to do this weekly – showcasing some of the fantastic array of productions gracing stages across the West Midlands.  Being Birmingham based I’m in a fortunate position (literally) to get to some great theatres hosting or producing theatre of all sorts.  So new month, new blog name, new feature – kind of makes sense!

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Charlie and the Underwhelming Chocolate Factory – ONE OF THE FIRST EVER REVIEWS!!

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Last night I was part of the first ever public audience for the new musical ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory‘.  Based on the Roald Dahl classic which has spawned two films (depending what camp either one’s great the other’s not or both are great or whatever…) the musical joins Dahl’s other classic ‘Matilda‘ which has taken the theatre world by storm.  Whether or not the new Sam Mendes’ directed musical will be as bigger hit I’m really not too sure as I left the theatre last night deflated (unlike Violet) and underwhelmed by the whole thing.

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The Lady Killers – Tour

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Last month I was fortunate enough to go review The Ladykillers for What’s on Stage at Wolverhampton Grand.  An infectiously funny play with lots of dark comedic moments kept th audience riveted through out.

Full review here on the What’s on Stage website, but here’s a preview:

The Ladykillers is a hilarious evening out. Great performances from all the cast – including the slightly suspicious looking ladies, a tantalising set all with a great script and direction that will keep both the new lady killers and the old professional lady killers happy.

4 stars

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Directing Soldiering On – A Talking Heads by Alan Bennett

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I have been so blessed to have been given an opportunity to direct one of Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads monologues, and feel very lucky to have been given Soldering On as the one to make my directorial début with.  This week as we enter the week of dress rehearsals and welcome audiences to our performances I thought it’d be time to reflect on the past couple of months of rehearsals and bringing our interpretation of Muriel to life.

The Crescent Theatre is an awesome theatre – both as a building and as a company.  They’ve given me opportunities in the past to perform in a family show, a show that was so dark even the most cold hearted people may have found it difficult and also appear semi naked in a calendar due to me appearing in Calendar Girls at the start of this current season.  I’m also in rehearsals for my first Shakespeare for Merchant of Venice opening next month, but for the last few months I’ve had the chance to direct – something I’ve wanted to do for several years.

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Directing is strange but exciting.  You can read a play and imagine it in so many different ways, and your way may and will vary from another’s perception.  When you’re working with a cast, whether it be of one in this case or many, you have to try to persuade them to give your way a try and it might work, but it might not work too.  You have to be able to let go of ideas you may have had for a while to give something else a try and those things, more often than not, work better!! It’s not compromise though – both director and the cast and anyone else involved are all trying to create the best thing possible.  Ideas don’t get compromised, they get improved and they evolve.  One that has become apparent is that the role of director isn’t to dictate ideas, but to be the ringmaster of the ideas and to work out the solutions, transitions, the props and the furniture, the routes the actor takes and to discuss things through with the wonderful team of creative people working behind the scenes.

Anyhow, let’s go back to how this all started.  I originally had submitted to direct another play in the season – as did Ellaina, the director of the second monologue (Cream Cracker Under the Settee) that’s playing alongside Soldiering On. As both of us were first time directors it prevented us from getting the other play but the theatre’s art managers still wanted to give us a chance to train us up as it were.  There were two Talking Heads monologues left over from the last season and so these were offered to us.  On the same day both myself and Ellaina were both involved with the opening night of Calendar Girls, both appearing towards the end of the play and so we spent a lot of that week in discussion about which one of us would direct which and coming up with some very early ideas.

It might not be the right way to do things, but one of the first things I did was think about music.  My original idea was to use sections of Bach’s Cello Suit which didn’t last long before I considered Gymnopédie.  Both well known pieces of music which would suit the monologue quite happily.  But then by chance I stumbled upon the Cinematic Orchestra’s ‘To Build a Home’.  The first thing that struck me were the lyrics and how they reflected the general plot of the monologue and then the music had haunting tones and also managed to sound like time passing that I felt as though this was the music I needed.  I debated for a while whether to have the lyrics too but made the decision early on that it could be distracting and so instead chopped up the instrumental version to give us different variations to use throughout.

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After casting Jo Hill to play Muriel we started rehearsals and for the first few rehearsals all we did was talk. We would find questions we wanted to answer in the text and discuss them coming up with our own ideas.  These answers might not be what Bennett would want us to come to, but they helped us interpret the text for our production.  We also produced a time line detailing all the important family events and details from when Muriel and Ralph met up to the end of the monologue.  We created back stories for all the characters mentioned, some more serious than others though, but all the same important steps for us to take.  Quite by coincidence we managed to spend a full rehearsal on each scene so that by our Christmas break we had had a concentrated rehearsal on every scene and managed to run it through a couple of times. Seeing words come from a page to a performance is really quite exciting.  Jo has done a fantastic job of bringing Muriel to life and to take on constant changes and suggestions as well as bringing in her own ideas.

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It’s been apt that I have been directing a show called Soldiering On as just before the auditions I found my personal situation changing massively.  If it wasn’t for the play I don’t think I’d have hung around in Birmingham for long.  This project has at times been the one thing that has kept me going when times have got really tough and the one thing I would leave my house for on some occasions.  I remember keeping a lot to myself and it wasn’t until a couple of weeks into rehearsals when I admitted what had been happening.  The support I had from everyone – whether they know they’ve helped or not – has got me through an incredibly tough time and has kept me motivated for the future ahead.

So, tonight I go to the theatre to see the first dress rehearsal.  I cannot wait for Thursday to come along and I can share my experiences with an audience.  I’m not usually one to blow my trumpet or to self promote, but I’m so proud of what we have achieved with this and want audiences to come and enjoy the show as much as I have enjoyed directing it.  I will be a very proud director at the end of this – in fact I already am.

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Talking Heads by Alan Bennett at the Crescent Theatre Birmingham.

Thursday 21st February to Saturday 23rd February 2013 at 7:45pm
Matinee Saturday 23rd at 2:45pm
Tickets £8

www.crescent-theatre.co.uk

Rehearsal photos taken by Graeme Braidwood

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