Rhiannon Reflects on…immersive theatre

#Tweetingit – Rhiannon’s reflections in 140 characters

Immersive theatre – however we got so immersed, give it a go, there’s something out there for everyone

I blame Deirdre Rachid. What was is about that storyline that got the nation so riled up and wanting to actually get involved in the show?

Over the last decade or so, we have been given control over all forms of entertainment which we partake in. We vote for the next pop stars, the next person to appear on the Royal Variety Show, what dish someone is going to have cooked for them or the outcome of a storyline on a soap. Computer games “remember” the decisions you make and these decisions affect what experience the player has in the next edition of that game.

Just like in these games, in immersive theatre, everyone can have a different experience depending on how much is expected from them and how much they are willing to put into it. Every person who plays these games, has a slightly different experience.

Has it been decided, or have we decided, that we must have control, some sort of interaction, over the entertainment we are enjoying? We must be completely immersed in it, we can’t just sit back and watch what is going on in front of us.

When I was younger, there were much more simple versions of this immersive style -“pick your adventure” books – “turn to page 15 if you want to take the blue drink, turn to page 84 for the red one.” And then the drama unfolds depending on your choice. I was always concerned, however, that the more exciting option was available on the other route. Is this the problem with immersive theatre too? What if you choose “incorrectly” and you don’t see the best. Would it be better for a writer to tell you what the “right” option is and let you experience it?

Now, I have to say, I love immersive theatre and, in my book, there isn’t enough of it, but I do understand why some people don’t. You never know what you’re going to be faced with, how much you will be expected to do or to what extent you will be immersed. Youmebumbumtrain have done a show where you are the star; going around the rooms on your own and experiencing various different situations; being interviewed, running an exercise class, getting thrust into a working kitchen. What is the theme, the story, the point? What if the situation you are faced with, completely throws you?

I guess it depends on the type of immersion you experience.

Immer_city immersed their audience in their show, Wyrd, weeks before the “real” performance began. Facebook and Twitter profiles were set up for the characters, “pre show” events such as hen and stag do’s as well as false websites with clues about what you were going to experience. And then on the day, the performance began in the pub, meeting the cast to have your palms read, learning the backgrounds of each of the characters – if you were willing to question them.


It wasn’t necessary to have read everything or even to throw yourself in at the deep end and join in fully in the performance, but it certainly helped and really made for a fantastic couple of weeks of entertainment.

My review of Wyrd: http://the-void.co.uk/theatre/wyrd-487/


The Drowned Man has been incredibly well received but there are still a handful of people who just don’t get it – possibly not helped by the fact that one person might say that they were involved in a naked rave, that they found the roof top bar, that they were hurried away into a caravan to watch someone put their make up on.…. and yet what did you see? None of this? How can you possibly have got the same experience, did you miss some of the show, something important which made the whole thing make sense?

Some immersive/promenade shows just ask you to walk around and look into theatre spaces and watch what is unfolding. The immersive bit here is just that you are moving around. This was the case at St Pauls Church in Covent Garden where Iris Theatre put on various shows including “Alice in Wonderland” and “Julius Caesar”

My review of Julius Caesar : http://everything-theatre.co.uk/2013/07/julius-caesar-st-pauls-church.html


So what are we in for next, how can these companies go even further? Upcoming immersive shows include an overnight performance of Macbeth where the audience get to eat with the Macbeths, sleep in their rooms and watch as the story unfolds overnight. Rehearsals have begun and everyone who is going has started to receive their passports for the event. There are still some tickets left and I truly think this is going to be one of the most interesting immersive shows that there has been for sometime. Get your tickets before its too late. http://macbeth.in/collections/Macbeth and follow them with #RiftMacbeth on Twitter.

Also, part of the Festival of Theatre (LIFT 2014) is  “Roof”. Occupying a purpose-built ‘panoramic performance space’ on top of the car park opposite the National Theatre, it has been conceived by the mastermind of the incredibly successful “Ring”, David Rosenberg. Ring used clever panoramic headphones to create an incredibly unique  and almost  hallucinogenic experience, and set completely in the dark. Roof is set to be just as exciting.

My review of “Ring” http://www.whatsonstage.com/off-west-end-theatre/reviews/03-2013/ring_868.html

So back to the start of this reflection, to explain my first comment. I don’t know when this immersive theatre malarkey began. What it with Deirdre Rashid going to prison in 1998 in Coronation Street? “Free Deirdre” placards and protests being carried out by viewers. They wanted to get completely involved, have a say in what happened and immerse themselves in the storyline. Have we created this phenomena of immersive theatre ourselves?


Some people think theatre is becoming “too immersive” whatever that means. I have to say, I disagree. There is still plenty of “straight” theatre out there if that’s what you want and you needn’t attend these sorts of shows if they aren’t for you. Don’t like ballet? Don’t go. This is exactly the same – just another genre of theatre. As I said, I absolutely love immersive/promenade theatre and think everyone should at least give it a couple of tries. I cannot wait for my next installment (Rift’s Macbeth)

Let me know what you think.


Wasted – November 2013

Marlowe Theatre Studio – Canterbury

Writer: Kate Tempest

Originally posted: http://www.thepublicreviews.com/wasted-the-marlowe-studio-canterbury/

#Tweetingit – my verdict in 140 characters

4* – Kate Tempest is an incredible poet and writer. A poignant look at our relationship with alcohol and wasted opportunities

“A play by the UK’s most exciting performance poet and rapper.” This may not sound like everyone’s’ cup of tea, however, having seen Wasted at The Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury, all I can say is – WOW.  Debuting as a playwright, Kate Tempest has written an extremely poignant, thought-provoking and moving piece about the difficulties of growing up.

On the 10th anniversary of their friend’s death, the story surrounds three protagonists; Charlotte, Ted and Danny who are dragging themselves kicking and screaming out of their teenage years into ‘the real world’. They are battling with the dramas of normal, boring life – feeling suffocated in the cosiness of their relationships, disillusioned with their ordinary jobs and wasting their lives getting wasted following missed opportunities.

Seemingly aimed very much at teenagers and university students; the majority of the tour dates are at Student Unions, this isn’t just about student life – in fact, it is even more relevant to those no longer in the depths of youth. Every part of life has its struggles and Wasted is written in such a way that it is applicable to those much older and younger than the characters on stage.

At 26 the characters still want to have fun but realise that if they get too drunk on a Saturday then their Sunday is wasted, they can’t clean the house or go to Ikea to pick curtains and then they’re back to the monotony of work the next day. It is also hinted at that this doesn’t change later on, there’s other responsibilities; kids, grandchildren, elderly parents – without saying it and making an exhaustive list of woes throughout life, Kate Tempest has hit on all of this while making it relevant to the entire audience

This isn’t all doom, gloom and misery though. There are some genuinely funny and touching moments which ensures that the audience don’t just sit feeling desolate. The nice things of being in your late 20s are alluded to and even the characters seem to realise by the end that it isn’t the end of the world that they aren’t rock stars, extremely wealthy or unable to change the world.

Not content with just writing a great script, Tempest and her team have created a feast for the senses. To compliment her words, technology is used to enhance every part of the play. Emotional monologues are heightened by close ups of the actors faces on a large screen – expressing the feelings which perhaps are suppressed on stage, the screen also creates much of the set throughout the play – a park or rave. The lighting by Angela Anson is simple but extremely affective, while Tom Gibbons’ and Kwake’s music is moving and continues to add to the endless levels of intensity within this show.

Poetry is scary for a lot of people but Tempest’s clever use of language to create this urban style of verse makes it all so easy. The language is very strong in places but in no way does this feel gratuitous. Kate Tempest is a true craftswoman – carving out stunning verses which can be understood by anyone and moulding a wonderful story to compliment the poetry with transitions between the two not feeling in any way unnatural. This can also be very much tributed to the incredibly talented cast, Cary Crankson, Alice Haig and Bradley Taylor, who work with the verse and pros with ease, finishing one another’s sentences and taking on the lines very naturally. Nothing feels forced, no words are used just because they fit. Everything which is written and said is there for a reason, it is sincere, beautiful and honest. This is an innovative, modern and completely unmissable play ranking high above the rest. You will not feel that your evening has been wasted – book a ticket for this play.

Brian Blogs – There was a time….

Brian is a friend and colleague who is a keen theatregoer and has recently started reviewing.

His contributions to this blog will revolve around reminiscing on times gone by in theatre.

Episode 1

#Tweeting it  – Brian blogs in 140 characters

Changing theatre attitudes – people eating, sleeping, talking, turning up late. Sure you wouldn’t fancy a night in front of TV the instead?

There was a time……when going to the theatre was an event, an occasion to savour and everyone dressed to impress, but there’s now been a seismic shift in the way which many people dress and behave. Back in the day, my parents would drag me kicking and screaming to the theatre. As a 10-year-old, I didn’t see the point of dressing up, but their pre-show ritual was always the same. Mum would paint her nails, get her best jewellery out and put her favourite frock on. Dad would polish his shoes, iron a shirt and put his only suit on. It all seemed a trial to me, but now I realise what an important lesson they taught me. Going out? Then get dress up! Send a message out! And that was exactly what people did. Film stars had their red carpet, we had the theatre. It was our chance to glimpse at how the other half might have lived.

But, fast forward 40 years and what have we got? Jeans, t-shirts, combats, trainers, tourists in fluorescent jackets with rucksacks, catching the Wednesday matinée of the Mousetrap, ’Hey Martha we’ve got another box to tick before we fly back home.” Don’t call me xenophobic, but why can’t they leave a bit more time and pick their luggage up from the hotel afterwards? Sure, I’ve been guilty of the grunge look occasionally but only because no one else seems to bother anymore, but that doesn’t make it right. Theatres are itching to force the issue, but they fear a stringent dress code will scare the punters off and then the game’s up. Or is it? I think theatres should call our bluff, it won’t kill us. I wouldn’t suggest we go down the Royal Opera House route of ball gowns and dinner jackets, but just ask for suits and dresses or something smart to be worn. People would accept it.

Allow me to briefly charge off at a tangent here; through a girlfriend, I managed to get a ticket for Robbie Williams ‘swing while you’re winning’, a one-off gig at the Royal Albert Hall in 2002. It was strictly black tie and if you weren’t dressed appropriately you didn’t get in. Nobody baulked at the idea of formal dress. We really pushed the boat out that night and travelled by white stretch limo. The dress code just felt right. Ok, not strictly theatre but the principle still holds good.

There is of course a flip side to my argument. Do theatres have any right to dictate how we dress? No, absolutely not, we have liberty to dress how we please. Office workers could argue that they wear a suit during the day, why should they have to wear one in the evening? I can’t reasonably argue against this because they do have a point. The question dear readers is whether culture = formality? Can we only offer culture with strings attached? Is it fair to make people so uncomfortable they feel like the proverbial dog’s dinner? It might just boil down to personal style, if you feel good in threads then you’ll look good and you won’t mind dressing up. To others, it’s a complete anathema and they would only wear a suit for major life events. It’s interesting to note that many pubs in the West End, bar customers in jeans and football shirts. Ok, this might be more about excluding warring football fans, but the West End is trying to set a standard that makes London the place to be. Maybe there’s a compromise here? What about restricting casual wear to matinees and Sunday performances. Or, how about making casual wear available for discounted tickets only? As always, it’s about degree and perspective.


Should we expect more from audiences or is it just limiting the masses when it is already an expensive night out?
Should we expect more from audiences or is it just limiting the masses when it is already an expensive night out?

There was a time….when the ‘fourth wall’ in theatre was an imaginary wall covering the front of the stage, well now the fourth wall has been replaced by a virtual plasma screen and people will use this ‘screen’ to eat, sleep and talk their way through a performance. They might as well be at home watching TV. I’ve sat next to people eating peanuts, crisps and meat pies, peanuts being the worst; 10 minutes working their way through a bag of KP and then another 20 minutes sucking their gums. I saw the Official Tribute to the Blues Brothers once, a show big on audience participation and we were jumping up every five minutes. I can’t describe the terror etched on the face of a woman who tipped an open bag of Revels into the aisle and then got on her hands and knees to retrieve them. One gentleman slept through most of Sweeney Todd. It was only when he started snoring that someone actually woke him up. Even more annoying is incessant chatter, about Mark’s operation, Joanne’s boyfriend, the price of diesel, the colour scheme for the nursery – come on guys there is a time and place for everything surely? And yet nobody complains. We’re strangled by that wonderful British trait of tolerance – dirty looks and the odd tut is about as bad as it gets.

Then there are some who treat the theatre as a night out at the pub. I saw the Dame Edna Everage experience at the Strand Theatre. We were in the back row of the upper circle, commonly known as the angels and also the cheapest seats in the house. Dame Edna quickly dubbed us “the paups”. Problem was if you leaned forward you had to hold onto the back of your seat – or else you’d fall out. One guy, who’d been severely imbibing forgot to do this and fell out and somersaulted down two rows landing in a lady’s lap. I did wonder whether Dame Edna, ever the anarchist, planted the drunken angel for effect? I later saw him being ripped to shreds by his wife in the foyer, so I doubt whether the subterfuge would have lasted that long….

(side note – see what Dame Edna expects from her audience at http://www.express.co.uk/news/showbiz/415344/Dame-Edna-Everage-expects-the-best-for-her-final-stage-tour)

“I don’t want to stand on that stage and see dirty sneakers, horrible jeans with holes in the knees and T-shirts.”

Dame Edna Everage

My final rant is reserved for ‘Mr Disturbance’, you know the one who always arrives late, wants to leave early and wants to get to the bar 5 minutes before the interval? Of course 5 minutes before the interval, you often get the showstopper, the foot-stomper, the 11 O’clock number, the tune you’re going to be whistling on the train home at 11pm – well the number of times I’ve missed that because Mr Disturbance wants to avoid the crush at the bar. Of course he couldn’t pre-order a drink like most sensible people because he was late – he was looking for a parking space wasn’t he? There are words for these people…

So what’s the bottom line here? Go to the theatre, but have some sense of occasion, remember where you are, have a drink, of course, but you want it to be a special night and it will be a great night before, during and after the show! Final shout goes to my parents. They introduced me to the theatre, taught me how to behave, how to dress and gave me my sense of style (if I’ve got any at all!)

Rhiannon Reflects….on Miss Saigon – 4 days

#Tweetingit – Rhiannon Reflects in 140 Characters



I have been listening to the music from Miss Saigon, for as long as I can remember. I know the songs (and all their harmonies, much to the annoyance of everyone around me) off my heart; I listen to it when I am angry, sad, happy – there is not a time when listening to Miss Saigon doesn’t make everything better.

When I was about 4, my parents got their glad-rags on and, much to my disgruntlement, went off, without me, to see Miss Saigon.  I seem to remember not really understanding why I wasn’t going; it was my favourite musical afterall (These Rhiannon Reflects are showing what a madam I was when I was a child)

A few years on, I went to see it for the first time. Having just Googled when John Barrowman was in it (I believe he was the first ‘Chris’ I saw beginning my lifelong love of him), I would’ve been about 8. Perhaps I was a bit young for the show considering the content but I don’t think I really knew what was going on for a lot of it.  I was with my dad who loves the show about as much as I do. We got to the end and were both sobbing and we left the theatre still crying. The second time I saw it, I was at an age where I really got it. I was a wreck. Three songs in, knowing what was coming up, I was crying. The people around me probably thought I was somewhat unstable. In the years since then, I have seen it another 5 times, all bar one, with my dad.

We have extensively debated the show – that’s right, we have actually had debates about it. For instance, when thy first changed Ellen’s song from “It’s Her or Me” to “Now That I’ve Seen Her”, we were horrified. What did they do? Ellen now seems more reasonable and understanding. I am not sure I would be terribly happy to be visiting the first love of my husband’s life…AND HER CHILD. The change in song changed the way I had always seen Ellen and I wasn’t sure why they have done it. I am still not sure, and everything I hear “Now That I’ve Seen Her”, it annoys me.  But now, they have done the unthinkable and, rather than going back to the original, there is a new song. Ok, I get it, things have to change, we have to move on, but cutting a whole song? Thankfully, they have done it with, as you can see above, my least favourite song but what might this do to Ellen now? I am hoping that this change makes more sense and makes Ellen a more rounded character – I can but wait and see.

I am beyond excited about going to see the new incarnation of Miss Saigon – but disconcertingly I am going on my own…lets hope the 7th time is the time it stops effecting you emotionally and I will be tear free…I think it highly unlikely but, for the sake of those around me, I can but hope.

Have you seen it in previews? Let me know what you think.

New Musical comes to St James Theatre, London

It hasn’t been a great time for musicals in the last year or so; Viva Forever, I Can’t Sing, Stephen Ward, From Here to Eternity and Love Never Dies all closing but here comes a new musical for just a few short days to tease your musical taste-buds.

Picture Perfect: A New Musical explores love and relationships using the songs of award winning Scott Evan Davis.

Josh is graduating college and preparing for his future. Always unlucky in love, he ponder whether he will ever find the one for him. Ellie is on her gap year from her law degree and isn’t sure if she is making the right decisions either professionally or personally. Josh’s parents are also at a turning point in their lives as Harry, Josh’s father, begins an affair with a younger woman. Is anything Picture Perfect?

Picture Perfect stars the incredible talents of Charlotte Wakefield. Having just seen her in A  Spoonful of Sherman at St James Theatre,   I can attest that her voice is stunning and I have no doubt that she will be just as good  good in this production too.

She stars alongside many other West End favourites including Helen Robson ( Mama Mia and Sound of Music) and Jerome Pardon (Les Miserables)

For more information and tickets, go to http://www.stjamestheatre.co.uk/events/picture-perfect/

For my review of A Spoonful of Sherman please go to https://playhousepickings1.wordpress.com/2014/05/18/a-spoonful-of-sherman-april-2014/


A Spoonful of Sherman – April 2014

St James’ Theatre Studio

Originally Posted: http://www.whatsonstage.com/london-theatre/reviews/04-2014/a-spoonful-of-sherman-st-james-theatre_34264.html

#Tweeting it – My Verdict in 140 characters

4* This will take you back to your childhood – whatever age you are now. I defy anyone not to have a smile on their face during this show.

The Sherman Brothers are two of the most famous songwriters in film history. I doubt there is a person alive who can’t at least hum a song from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang or who doesn’t think about “A Spoonful of Sugar” whenever they’re cleaning. But what may be unknown is that the Sherman family have been writing songs for three generations and during “A Spoonful of Sherman” the audience are taken on a wonderful trip down memory lane and treated to an amazing cornucopia of some of the best of the Sherman family’s talents.

A Spoonful of Sherman features top West End singers, Stuart Matthew Price , Greg Castiglioni, Charlotte Wakefield and Emma Williams alongside Robert’s son Robbie – who is himself a writer of musicals. Robbie narrates the evening with a clear sense of pride. If you have a renewed interest in the Shermans following the recent Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson film, Saving Mr Banks about the making of Mary Poppins, A Spoonful of Sherman and the wonderful family stories about them really rounds off the tale perfectly. The heartwarming stories about his family, from Al Sherman, his grandfather, to his uncle and father Richard and Robert Sherman and on to his own life, really give a personal touch to the evening. Projections of family photos and memories of their lives give extra feeling and emotion to the songs as well as a wider understanding of how the songs and lyrics came about. It brings a new meaning to many of the lyrics when you understand their backgrounds and this makes the evening that little bit more special for the audience.

The most important part – the singing – is also rather beautiful. The quartet aren’t “just” singers but musical stars themselves. This brings a bit of vigor to these timeless classics as they interact with one another and really perform them, bringing the characters to life for just a moment. All of the company are fantastic singers and there isn’t a moment that is not enjoyable. However, the star of the show is the incredible Emma Williams; the original stage Truly Scrumptious. She has the most beautiful voice, she captivates the audience and adapts her voice wonderfully for the various styles of songs.  Having spoken to Robbie Sherman after the show and having Williams in the company is rather special for him. His father was big fan of hers and so Robbie believes this would have made him particularly happy – especially when she sings the shunned from the stage musical “Lovely Lonely Man” – one of Robert Sherman’s favourites.

There is something for everyone in this chronological skip through the Sherman songbook. Firstly are Al Sherman’s songs, some of which may be lesser known by the younger audience members but are still quite lovely. There will still be a few which most people will recognise including Lets Get Together from The Parent Trap. Next up are all the favourites from The Sherman Brothers themselves including a medleys from Mary Poppins, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Winnie the Pooh and The Jungle Book. Don’t worry, all your toe tapping favourites are in there and you can even have a bit of a sing along. Finally are the compositions of Robert Sherman, some of which are from his musical Bumblescratch. Songs from three generations provides the perfect completion of the story of the Sherman family.

It was interesting listening to the songs out of the context of the musicals and also listening to them properly as an adult. The lyrics are quire stunning and the expertise and immense talent of The Sherman Brothers shines through. Their songs are powerful and emotive – they’re not all about sickly sweet Disney themes, these songs really are beautifully crafted. One particularly emotional moment was when Robbie Sherman took to the piano to play River Song from Tom Sawyer, written for him by his father.

I am not going to pretend that you will enjoy this if you are not a fan of Disney musicals or of the Sherman Brothers. You will not be turned around from disliking that sweet style that they produce. However, if you love a bit of nostalgia, enjoy flying a kite, singing with orangutans, feeding the birds or wondered what the wonderful thing about Tiggers is, you will have a Truly Scrumptious evening at A Spoonful of Sherman. Leaving the theatre with a spring in my step, I don’t expect my sugar rush from this evening to be over for sometime.

Translunar Paradise – November 2013

The Marlowe Studio, Canterbury


Music: Kim Heron

Originally posted http://www.thepublicreviews.com/translunar-paradise-the-marlowe-studio-canterbury/

#Tweetingit – My Verdict in 140 characters

5* Beyond stunning – there are no other words for this show.


The audience leave the theatre in silence. The women wipe away the mascara and try to blot their red eyes while the men puff out their chests and try to pretend that it didn’t effect them. It is absolutely astounding that a production with no words and done purely with physical theatre and mime, can have the sort of affect on you that Translunar Paradise has managed to have on an entire audience. Ad Infinitum’s fantastic production takes you through the life, death, enduring memories and fervid love of a couple, tackling the loss of loved ones, of youth and of the person you once were.

The synopsis in the program of this play does not do it justice. Portraying the lives of a couple who have been together through good times and bad, the story confronts the subject of what it is like to go through bereavement at an old age; losing the person in your life you have loved most, the person you have been through everything with and whom you have rituals and habits with. Left alone following the death of his wife, the elderly man has to learn how to cope.  With the help of his wife (not really a ghost but a more of a presence) he learns to let go of her and work out how he will function without her. In turn this allows her to leave as well; her mind at rest that he is going to survive.

There are only two performers who play the couple in both their early and later years. The use of some extraordinary masks, which despite being unmoving, had endless emotion coming through them, and the impressive physicality of the actors – minute shakes in their hands, slight unease on their feet and then the complete opposite for their younger roles, means the audience are completely sucked into the story.

The sound was incredible and it was all done with nothing but an accordion and the musician’s voice. The accordion served as a way to push the story along; it was a clock, the wind, breathing as well as producing resplendent melodies and beautiful wordless vocals. Each song had a theme which led the audience to understand what era the characters were in and whether we should expect a happy or sad moment.

Mention physical theatre and people roll their eyes. Trust me: there should be no eye rolling her. A mixture of interpretive movement, physical theatre and mime allows the audience to see this couple of dancing through their lives together from their first meeting to their final moments. This production is brilliant because it explains the simple things which affect people when their partner dies in a way that words cannot. For 60 years he has got out 2 cups from the cupboard and poured for both himself and his wife. Now she is gone, what does he do with the other cup? This is a feeling which is indescribable so they don’t try to. Words would not work here. Yes the significant moments are seen; their first meeting, a heart breaking loss, her getting her first job, him going to war, but this isn’t about the big things. Instead it is the day-to-day stuff which one must continue on with despite having lost their loved ones.

Despite being extremely sad it is also heart-warming. There are some achingly funny moments tinged with sorrow – as she steals her cup from the table to stop him from continuing with his rituals, much to his shock. The relationship between the characters , their playfulness and their understanding of one another after a lifetime together, is still evident despite the grief they are both feeling having lost one another.

The Marlowe Studio have really never let their audiences down with the quality of productions they have hosted. Having seen four shows there, I have been blown away each and every time by the effect the shows have had on both me and the rest of the audience. The close proximity to the stage and the ability to bring the audience into the performance by way of clever sounds, lighting and sometimes even smells, ensures a very different theatrical experience to that in a larger auditorium and Translunar Paradise is just the next level of brilliance brought to this theatre.  

Just mentioning his lone tea cup after the show brought tears back to my eyes. An unbearable image so perfectly portrayed. This show was highly praised when it was at the Edinburgh Festival and it is quite understandable why. Yes the narrative is a tad predictable but it really does not matter. Yes it is sad, but the tears are worth it. Go to see this show – if for nothing else but to realise physical theatre really can be a beautiful and powerful art form if done as well as Ad Infinitum have.

Finding Joy Review – March 2014

The Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury 

Music and Sound Editor: Janie Armour

Writer and Director: Rachel Savage

Originally Posted: http://www.thepublicreviews.com/finding-joy-marlowe-theatre-canterbury/

#Tweetingit – My verdict in 140 Characters:

5* An emotive, stunning piece created and performed by an extremely talented writer and cast. Dialogue-less mask work at its best.


A fully masked play with no dialogue about dementia? Well that sounds like a harrowing night out – but I promise, this is a play which is more than worth the tears.

If you ever ranked types of theatre with mime firmly at the bottom, Finding Joy will change your mind completely. I was certainly one of those people who would never have considered going to see a mime/mask performance but in the last few months, I have seen two fabulous productions, including this one, and I wont look back.

Finding joy is the touching tale of 83 year old Joy. She’s suffering from dementia but it’s happening pretty slowly. At times, she is as playful and alert as she has ever been and then those moments hit where she is confused, lost, out in a road on her own with no idea how she got there or who she is.

Her unlikely savior is her rebellious, drug taking grandson who realises that he can help her and becomes, not only her carer but also her friend.  The love between the two main characters is portrayed beautifully.

In lucid moments, she is a bit of a trickster, playing practical jokes on her grandson and daughter for her own amusement. These moments are made even more poignant when a few minutes later she is putting a card in the fridge or rubbing toothpaste on her hands before bed.

Told with no words, just a beautiful soundtrack echoing different periods of Joy’s life, the magic of this production is the incredible story telling through mime alone.  The unmoving masks, created by Russell Dean, somehow have expressions; you see them smile, sigh, look sad or look confused.

Vamos are masters at what they do this production emphasises that they have managed to secure their place as one of the best full mask companies around. They certainly know how to pack a punch, never shying away from the difficult or sentimental moment but balancing them brilliantly with touching and tragically funny moments. When Joy is sat with her grandson and his friends watching football and decides the cushion is a hat – they all join her – why not?

Some people may not appreciate some of the stereotypes – the uncaring nurse in the hospital or loud music playing, drug taking youths but when using mime and masks, it is difficult to remove such stereotypes or add in subtleties without losing the meaning.

Clever writing and talented actors have managed to create a show which will make you laugh while tears pour down your face; seamlessly going between the two extremes is not an easy feat to achieve.

It got to the end and I was surprised it was over so soon. So many shows leave you pleased that it is finally the end; not Finding Joy. Content in that world, watching the story unfold, it was sad to see it end – although I was running out of tears to cry.

This is no longer running at the Marlowe but is on tour around the country until June 12th 2014

See http://www.vamostheatre.co.uk/shows/finding-joy-2014?4 for dates


Rhiannon reflects on……..my biggest theatrical disappointment

 #Tweetingit – Most disappointing theatrical moment. (6 year old me + Jason Donovan crush) + (“Joseph”- Jason Donovan)  = tantrums and lifelong scaring

It was 1992, I was I was 6 years old and completely in love with Jason Donovan. For my brother’s birthday, our neighbours had given me an unbirthday present – a prized possession which I believe, somewhere, I still have: A Jason Donovan video. I probably drove both my parents and brother insane, constantly watching it, making up dances and learning the songs off by heart. Every time I saw him tap Kylie on the nose during “Especially for you”, a pang of something which, which now as an adult, I understand to be jealousy, coursed through me. I also had the Joseph and the “Any Dream Will Do” official video and was desperate to be one of the “aher ah”-ers.

But all was to end well – I was going to go and see him In Joseph. Dad had organised a trip to London and my crush would be but feet away from me (ok quite a lot of feet…and quite a distance down as we would be in the upper circle but closer than a cliff in Australia in the “Too Many broken Hearts” video)

Jumping from foot to foot, I waited for my dad to finally be ready to leave the house ( this is a continue theme with my dad) and proceed on the, seemingly, never-ending journey to London from Littleport.

When we finally got there, I was rushed into the theatre,( almost certainly running late) probably because my parents were trying to ensure I avoided seeing the posters. Out of the corner of my eye, I glimpsed a program. And that was it, my life was over. Six years old and it couldn’t possibly get any worse. I was not here to see Jason Donovan at all – the person who would grace the stage would be that man in broom cupboard who spends his time talking to a gopher.

Little did I know
Little did I know

Now, obviously, I took this very well. As a child, I was nothing but a complete angel and would never have a full-blown tantrum at something which, in retrospect, wasn’t that much of a big deal. After all, this was a treat, we were in London at the theatre – not many of my friends had been given that opportunity at such a young age.

That is clearly a lie. I seem to remember – although my dad and anyone else who was in that theatre and had their experience ruined by the huffy child behind them – I threw the biggest of diva strops. Why on earth would I want to see Phillip Schofield rather than Jason Donovan?  I was not a happy bunny – and worst of all, my parents knew it wasn’t going to be Jason Donovan. To be fair to them, there is a possibility that when they had booked the tickets, it still was going to be Jason Donovan as he left suffering from exhaustion however, at my tender age, this kind of reasoning was not going to help the situation. I don’t know when the grumpiness stopped or, as I am writing this now nearly 22 years on, whether it ever did, but I seem to remember both the show and Phillip Schofield were very good.

The title of this post is a little misleading as, looking back now, I am very pleased I got to see Mr Schofield in Joseph as I am now a big fan. But I was only six and so  had few theatrical experiences, let alone disappointments so at the time, this easily made the top spot. I  still wish, however, that I had heard Jason Donovan sing “Close Every Door” live and I am not sure that this will ever be a possibility.  Finally, on the topic of Jason Donovan, I am still horrified that he was kicked out of Harrods. How could they do that to Jason? Unbelievable!  Clearly as a six-year-old I was rather sensitive


Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake

Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake

The Marlowe Theatre Canterbury

Director and choreograher: Matthew Bourne

Set and Costume Designer: Lez Brotherston

Lighting Design: Rock Fisher

Sound Design: Ross Brown

Music: Pyotr IlyichTchaikovsky

Originally Posted: http://www.thepublicreviews.com/matthew-bournes-swan-lake-marlowe-theatre-canterbury/

#Tweetingit – My verdict in 140 Characters:

5* A stunning, strong and intense take on a classic. Bourne doing what he does best; creating breath-taking, modern ballet for all to enjoy


Matthew Bourne made his name telling contemporary versions of the classics; his world war II take on Cinderella and a bold re-imagining of the ballet classic, Sleeping Beauty, cramming what is usually not much more than a show piece, with dynamic choreography and a clear narrative line and most famously his powerful, provocative and totally original interpretation of Swan Lake complete with an all male flock of swans, breaking the boundaries of classic style and fashioning a partnership of ballet technique with modern style Matthew Bourne’s productions are like no other ballet. Little pointe work and not a tutu in sight are the first clues to this not being your typical classical ballet. He creates something completely different, something awe inspiring.

Narratives and storytelling are Bourne’s M.O, and he never scrimps when it comes to this side of things. He is very aware of audiences, his aim is to break down the “language of dance”, create new ballets with wide appeal and win over the public. This was certainly the case with Swan Lake, there was no doubt as to what was going on and, judging by the standing ovation, the audience were definitely won over.

The story revolves around a young Prince, emotionally bereft and unsuitable for his public role, he torments himself with his failure and inability to perform his royal duties. With little support from his mother, the queen, and craving love and attention he discovers a new world to inhabit and receive the contact and acceptance he desires – almost a modern ugly duckling

For the first forty or so minutes, however, there is not a swan in sight and actually, very little which resembles ballet as you would know it. Having seen some of these dancers before and knowing their skills and grace, I was itching for them to do what they do best. But these first moments were not about just the dance; the story needed to be woven, each individual thread being placed just so to ensure that the audience were completely drawn in and captivated and entranced by the Matthew Bourne spell.  During the early parts of the performance, there are also some wonderfully comedic moments – the Queen and Prince going to see a ballet with the Prince’s ditzy girlfriend. Matthew Bourne appears to mock classic ballet with its over the top movements and often non-sensical stories.

Finally swans appear. Swan Lake swans usually conjures and image of beautiful graceful women in tutus gliding and twirling across the stage with elegance. Bourne creates a different and actually more realistic version, created by strong, muscular and, for most of the performance, extremely sweaty, men. When the prince approaches the swans, it seems almost like they are a fraternity with an initiation ceremony to fulfil. He won’t be accepted without a fight. They breathe together, they move in unison, almost performing a martial arts kata. They twitch their heads and arch their necks, it is powerful, strong and quite aggressive.  The movements capture the real life version of these beautiful but potentially vicious animals.

There is not a dancer on stage who can be criticised  but a couple of the ensemble stood out; from the men, Luke Jackson was a powerful presence on stage while Katrina Lyndon from the female ensemble was sultry in her princess roles.

And then there are the two leads whose stunning movement makes you hold your breath and feel everything they feel. Liam Mower’s Prince is clearly suffering emotional torment, battling with his feelings desires and inner thoughts. His movements tug at the audience’s emotions while Jonathon Ollivier’s commands the stage in his role as the formidable and passionate Swan. When the Prince and the Swan dance together, it is mesmerising and beautiful making you hold your breath and feel everything they feel. Matthew Bourne has stated that this is often seen as homoerotic but that surely it is actually just erotic? I didn’t even view it like that; these dances, sex unimportant, moved together beautifully, in harmony with real feeling, telling a beautiful story.

The finale is a climatic extravaganza. The vicious and menacing swans take no prisoners as their jealousy of the Prince becoming the favoured one of their alpha male gets too much and they brutally attack him in his bed. The lighting and set add some incredible extra atmosphere during these moments too.This truly chilling, magnificent and ferocious performance is not to be missed.  It doesn’t feel like your “typical” ballet – it is certainly something quite wonderful and over 20 years since it first appeared at Sadler’s Wells it is still as astonishing as it ever has been. Ballet fan or not, I implore you to go to see any of this truly magnificent choreographer’s work.

Matthew Bourne returns to The Marlowe Theatre this September with Lord Of The Flies, featuring eight professional New Adventures dancers as well as 25 local boys in a brand new production of William Golding’s classic novel. For full details, go to marlowetheatre.com.

Beyond the Blurb: Want to see where I sat and where to eat and drink before the show?


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