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Tag Archive | "Richmond Theatre"

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Review: See How They Run, Richmond Theatre

Posted on 25 March 2014 by Jemma Anderson

See How They Run

As the brainchild of TV and film veteran Warwick Davis, the Reduced Height Theatre Company has landed at the Richmond Theatre proving that even though the company may be petite in height, their energy is certainly not in short supply.

See How They Run was written by Philip King in 1944, and played in the West End the same year that World War Two ended. Designed to keep British troops’ morale high, just as five years of conflict was coming to an end, the hilarious farce provided a welcome burst of laughter to those in London.

What prompted Davis, founder and producer of the company, into putting on the show he says, was that actors of reduced height never have quite the same acting opportunities as others. This 60-year-old play is the perfect tonic for them all; it showcases their talents brilliantly, and yet there is never humour to be found in the fact that the company are all short actors.

The set, designed by Barney George, has been scaled to suit the average height of the cast (4ft 2inches – Davis being the shortest of them all) and it shows the living room of Reverend Lionel Toop (Davis) and his wife, Penelope. As a typical British farce, reverends, maids, German soldiers and retired actors all play a part in this mayhem of mistaken identities and timely mishaps.

Rachel Denning as Penelope takes the majority of the show on her shoulders, embracing the much-loved play’s words and delivering with brilliant comic timing. Her pairing with Phil Holden whilst they reminisce about bygone days as actors is a treat. Jamie John, Jon Key and Francesca Papagno all contribute hilarious performances to the show’s mayhem, as they desperately cling to their sanity, but Francesca Mills should especially be applauded for her comic timing, and her characterisation of Ida the Maid, quite possibly stealing the show.

Veterans of the business, Raymond Griffiths, Peter Bonner and of course, Warwick Davis, contribute some finely tuned acts, regularly having the audience in stitches with their melodramatic performances.

Directed by Eric Potts, the show has a boundless energy from start to finish, and, in a theatre style notoriously difficult to get right, it hits all the high notes.

Whilst flicking through the performers’ profiles, I couldn’t help but notice the breadth of their professional roles; most including dwarves in pantos, Munchkins in The Wizard of Oz, and goblins in the Harry Potter film franchise. But what the Reduced Height Company have shown is that it shouldn’t be restricted to roles because of its stature, but rather be thrust into the limelight a bit more, because it can most definitely hold their own.

See How They Run is playing at the Richmond Theatre until 29 March. For more information and tickets see the ATG website.

Jemma Anderson

Jemma is currently studying Drama, Theatre and Performance at Roehampton University. Between studying and reading about theatre, she also watches and reviews as Editor-in-chief of the Drama Department's newspaper, The Call.

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Review: The Pride, Richmond Theatre

Posted on 29 January 2014 by Jemma Anderson

The PrideFollowing on from its massively successful run as part of the Trafalgar Studio’s Trafalgar Transformed season in 2013, Jamie Lloyd’s The Pride is embarking on a mini-tour of the UK. With much media coverage of human rights violations occurring in Russia (and elsewhere) ahead of the Winter Olympics next month, this production of The Pride is a carefully constructed revival that is both topical, contemporary and brilliantly written.

The play fluctuates between ’50s London, when homosexuality was deemed illegal, and its 2008 equal – where its characters celebrate gay pride. In their respectable, ’50s family home in Pimlico, husband Phillip and his wife Sylvia invite her colleague Oliver round for dinner. Whilst Oliver speaks of an epiphany, it becomes apparent that Phillip is struggling with his attraction to Oliver; later on in the play he takes drastic action in admitting himself to a clinic to try and ‘cure’ his feelings. In their contemporary counterparts’ world, homosexuality is much easier to speak of. Openly gay and proud, (and sharing the same names) Phillip and Oliver negotiate their way through a relationship that is fraught with affairs, role-playing and quite obviously, love.

Writer Alexi Kaye Campbell’s play was originally performed at the Royal Court in 2008, but its themes and ideas surrounding changing attitudes to sexuality and searching for the courage to be yourself is still profound today. Its educative writing suggests that everyone can live the life they want – and that one should not repress one’s identity or sexuality. Its scene changes between the two time periods highlights the battle already overcome, and also the imperfect present that is still being fought: is character Oliver really any happier in his oppressed skin than in his liberated, flippant one?

It is a script that is also very funny, mostly in the form of Mathew Horne’s (Gavin and Stacey, Bad Education) characters, which include a role-playing Nazi prostitute. The other three actors also grace the Richmond stage with perfect performances throughout the evening; Al Weaver as Oliver, giving a fast paced exuberance but honesty throughout his two equal characters, and matched by Harry Hadden-Paton’s controlled yet ferocious Phillip. As the only female of the company, Naomi Sheldon does well to stand her ground but shines particularly during her turn as hurt wife Sylvia, having discovered her husband’s passionate love affair with her colleague.

The set (designed by Soutra Gilmour) is simplistic but effective. A large, battered old mirror reflects the action and Campbell’s characters right back onto its audience – the representation of society and a cosmic link between the two time periods.

Whilst taking their curtain calls, the cast brandish signs saying ‘To Russia with Love’ – a movement that provoked some serious affection from its audience – and which give this brilliantly-written play a real sense of purpose. Brilliant direction, acting and writing make this one of the most affecting plays I’ve ever seen and if all theatre is as good as this in 2014, I’m going to have a seriously incredible year.

The Pride is playing The Richmond Theatre until 1 February, before embarking on a UK Tour. For more information and tickets see the Pride website.

Jemma Anderson

Jemma is currently studying Drama, Theatre and Performance at Roehampton University. Between studying and reading about theatre, she also watches and reviews as Editor-in-chief of the Drama Department's newspaper, The Call.

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Review: Peter Pan, Richmond Theatre

Posted on 12 December 2013 by Izzie Leach

Peter Pan Richmond Theatre

When Christmas lights and cold weather descend on Richmond Theatre it can mean only one thing: pantomime time. This year it’s the well-loved Peter Pan, reimagined in the swashbuckling glory of pantomime. There are the dancing pirates, the walking of the plank and ‘planking’ itself, not forgetting the standard medley of Guns n’ Roses and One Direction to greet you as you take your seats. And of course, there’s Henry Winkler (OBE) – the Fonz, as he is more widely known – as the villainous Captain Hook.

J.M. Barrie’s tale is well-known and well-loved, and while the iconic characters were present in the pantomime, the essence of the story was a bit jarred. While the pantomime was all high-kicks and confetti, the magic of childhood and believing in fairies was ushered quietly into the wings. The fault of one too many reality show references, maybe.

That being said, in one word this pantomime was fun. The atmosphere was great and there was an infectious festive energy in everyone. Kids giggled and cheered. One actually shouted “I’d like to see you try!” back at the Fonz. A favourite of mine was the sword-fight between Peter Pan and Captain Hook, because of course, no epic battle is complete without the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack in the background.

Winkler as Captain Hook was one of the focal points of the show, proven by the repeated Happy Days references and the tumultuous applause. And what a fantastic villain he was. He engaged every member of the audience, child and adult alike, and perhaps one of the greatest moments of the show was when he strolled out to a revival of the Happy Days theme tune.

Throughout the cast, the level of acting and singing was strong and consistent. Donna Hines and Witney White as the mermaids delivered the standout vocal performance and Kiruna Stamell as “the Tinker Bell to challenge expectations” was great and innovative.

The true source of entertainment value, however, was the set design. Atmospheric, showy and impressive, the backdrops lit up the stage and brought the visual performance up a fair few notches. The costumes as well were fantastic and fun, perfect for a pantomime.

Yes, there were the not-so-great (and worse) moments of over-used references and tired puns. There were the questionable song choices that didn’t really fit – Tiger Lily and her tribe inexplicably singing ‘Roar’ by Katy Perry – the drawn out audience interactions, the cheap shots at humour. Yet despite it all, it was fun and mostly entertaining – from a pantomime, could you ask any more?

Peter Pan is playing Richmond Theatre until 12 January 2014. For more information and tickets, see the Richmond Theatre website.

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Review: The Pitmen Painters

Posted on 09 August 2013 by Alice Weleminsky-Smith

The Pitmen Painters

How do you create a hit play? Take your last successful piece of writing, change a few details and make it into something new! Anyone who has not yet seen Lee Hall’s brilliant play The Pitmen Painters could be forgiven for thinking that he has done just this – on paper it seems like a very obvious reworking of his knockout film-turned-musical Billy Elliot. But in reality, although the plot seems similar, The Pitmen Painters is of a very different ilk.

The Pitmen Painters, which is based on a true story, focuses on five miners in the 1930s who decide to try and better themselves by taking weekly education classes at their local Workers’ Educational Association. Last term it was evolution, this time it’s art appreciation. However, when their middle class teacher Robert Lyon discovers that they have never actually seen any real art before, he realises that a traditional approach won’t work. How can they appreciate art when they have absolutely no foundation of what art is? The answer: create the art themselves. And so begins the story of The Ashington Group, a real-life group of miners whose foray into painting made them into some of the most important Modernist artists of the period.

It’s all starting to smell a bit familiar isn’t it? Okay so it’s about art rather than ballet, and it’s about a group of adult miners rather than the son of a miner, but it has the same message right? Absolutely not.

The main and crucial difference between Billy Elliot and The Pitmen Painters is that Billy Elliot is not about ballet. Yes Billy does ballet and it’s a main part of the plot, but really is it that important? It could have been anything. If Billy had wanted to be a painter or a writer rather than a dancer, the plot wouldn’t have changed very much because the focus is on Billy’s life and how he escapes his working class roots. But The Pitmen Painters is the complete opposite. The main focus here is art. Art is what drives the pitmen and art is what drives the play – it is as much a lesson in art history and art appreciation as it is a work of art itself.

And it is this, I think, which makes it so fantastic. The best plays are those which make you want to do something afterwards – you become invigorated or excited by a new idea or angry about something and want to change it, and what I really wanted to do after seeing The Pitmen Painters was pick up a paintbrush. And that is a truly remarkable thing.

The play is also fabulously funny. It really is a laugh a minute – so much so that lines of dialogue were sometimes lost amongst the deafening sound of a whole theatre cracking up at once, but it still somehow manages to be extremely serious and poignant. You feel as if the pitmen had written it themselves – yes they had tough lives and these are talked about, but really they are just trying to bumble along through life in the best way they can, with laughter and friends and socialism and art. The actors are fantastic, but there are no standout performances simply because it is such an ensemble piece – every performance is almost perfect and the five pitmen in particular balance each other beautifully.

I could find things to fault about The Pitmen Painters but I just don’t want to; I really absolutely loved it and I urge you to go and see it. Now excuse me whilst I go and paint something. It really is that infectious.

The Pitmen Painters is on tour, playing at Richmond Theatre in London from 5 – 10 August and then at the Grand Theatre in Swansea from 19 – 24. For more information and tickets, see the National Theatre website.

 

Alice Weleminsky-Smith

Alice Weleminsky-Smith

When Alice is not busy pretending to study for her Drama and English degree at the University of Birmingham, she can be found making films with the student television station Guild TV, producing and directing theatre, writing for A Younger Theatre and What’s Peen Seen? and eating vast amounts of cheese

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