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Archive for July, 2016

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“Joy in it’s purest form,” says the poster for this show – I think that’s an understatement. This show is simply delightful, and absolutely flawless.

For anyone who does not know the story, it is set in New York in the 1950s. Gambler Nathan Detroit (here played by Maxwell Caulfield) is trying to find a location for his floating craps game, but is struggling to find the$1000 dollars he needs to pay a local gangster the rent to use his location for the game. To add to his woes, Adelaide (Louise Dearman), Nathan’s fiancee of 14 years has got tired of waiting for them to get married and is putting the pressure on.

Enter compulsive gambler Sky Master (Richard Fleeshman), who Nathan sees as his ticket to $1000 – knowing that Sky can rarely resist a bet, Nathan bets him that Sky can’t take a girl of Nathan’s choosing to Havana for the night. The rub is that the girl that Nathan picks is Sarah Brown (Anna O’Byrne), a local missionary who has little time for gamblers and sinners, and is certainly not someone likely to fall for Sky…

I don’t mind admitting that I had extremely high expectations for this play – I love the film, which featured Marlon Brando as his most beautiful as Sky Masterson, and Frank Sinatra is fine voice as the seedy but loveable Nathan Detroit. This production exceeded all my hopes – I can honestly say that I loved every minute. The four main leads were all excellent- Sky is a character who is both something of a bad boy, but who is also a gentleman and reveals depth of character. Richard Fleeshman was perfect in the role – lovely to look at, with a super singing voice, and perfectly embodied the character of Sky. He was paired perfectly with Anna O’Byrne who had the most beautiful voice, and was wonderful as Sarah Brown.

Maxwell Caulfield and Loouise Dearman were also both excellent and extremely funny as hopeless gambler Nathan (who needs to be both exasperating to his long-suffering fiancee, and endearing to the audience) and ever hopeful Adelaide. In fact, were it not for the fact that the rest of the cast were so terrific, Louise Dearman would have stolen every scene. She has a great voice, spot-on comic timing and the warmth the character needs.

Special mention to Jack Edwards as Nicely-Nicely Johnson, who delighted the entire audience with his spectacular rendition of Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ The Boat – just one of the many musical numbers which featured splendid choreography, excellent singing and so much colour and energy that you couldn’t help but be swept along.

If there was one thing I could change about this show, it would be that I wish I had bought tickets for more than one performance. Simply fantastic on every level.

(For my review of the 1955 film, please click here.)

 

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Set in Snow Hill, London, in 1936, this books tells the story of newspaper reporter Johnny Steadman, who gets an anonymous tip-off that a policeman at Snow Hill Station has been killed. However, when he asks other police officers about it – including his best friend PC Matt Turner – nobody will corroborate the story, and Johnny is told to leave well alone.

Wanting to get to the truth of the matter, he keeps digging and the discovery of a gruesome murder scene makes him only more determined. But soon it becomes apparent that there is a web of corruption being spun to cover up a number of horrific violations, and Johnny ends up fighting not only for his own life, but also to save the lives of those closest to him…

My thoughts

This book was certainly not what I was expecting. What I had thought it would be was a psychological thriller with a scrappy but good-hearted protagonist. I was half-right…Johnny did make for a fairly likeable main character. He is certainly the most well drawn character of the plot – the rest are drawn with fairly broad strokes and more than a little stereotyping.

The story itself was considerably more gruesome than I had expected. The murder scene which Johnny stumbles upon as described above, was particularly unpleasant, and the plot revolves heavily around male sexual assault and violation (no spoilers here; this part is made apparent fairly early on) and subsequent cover-up.

However, for all that the story flowed pretty well and I found myself reading large chunks at a time.

Overall, I would have liked a bit more characterisation – I never felt that we got to know Matt’s wife Lizzie, or Johnny’s colleague Bill as well as we could have done and it might have drawn me in a bit more if I had been able to invest more in the characters. Nonetheless, based on this book I would probably try more by this author.

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This RSC production of Shakespeare’s delightful comedy (one of my personal all-time favourite plays) is nothing is not ambitious. As well as professional actors, it also features several amateur drama groups taking turns playing the rude mechanicals – themselves amateur actors – for a number of performances at a time. Schoolchildren from various schools also feature as fairies in the forest. Rehearsals with the amateur groups were often done via the internet rather than in person, so all in all definitely an unconventional way of putting a performance together.

Having played in Stratford initially, the play then toured the country before returning for another run at Stratford, which is where I was lucky enough to see it. So does the experiment work? Well…yes, most definitely.

This play actually incorporates three separate but interlocking stories – the young lovers Lysander and Hermia run away together to the forest, having been banned from marrying by her father, who wants her to marry another young man named Demetrius. Demetrius is in hot pursuit of the couple, but he himself is pursued by Helena, who is in love with him despite his lack of interest.

Meanwhile, fairy king Oberon and fairy queen Titania are at loggerheads and Oberon decides to cast a spell on her, which results in her falling in love with a most unexpected character…

And the rude mechanicals, a bunch of amateur performers are rehearsing a play which they hope to perform in front of Duke Theseus and his new bride Hippolyta at their wedding. But when Oberon’s right hand ‘man’, chief fairy Puck gets involved, events take a strange (and hilarious) turn.

First of all, a note about the Rude Mechanical actors – if anyone has any fears that amateur means not very good, then fear no more. The Tower Theatre company, who were the company on stage for the production we saw, were more than able to hold their own against the professionals in this production. The play within a play that the mechanicals perform is farcical and it must be hard to play at being incompetent. However, these actors completely won the audience over, and also generated some of the biggest laughs.

The staging is wonderful – with costumes and a set that suggest a 1940s period, minimal but very clever scenery and some wonderful jazz music provided by live musicians on either side of the stage, it is a visual delight.

I loved the four young lovers – Jack Holden, Mercy Ojelade, Chris Nayak and Laura Riseborough as Lysander, Hermia, Demetrius and Helena respectively are all wonderful. If I’m nitpicking I would perhaps say that Laura Riseborough delivered some of her lines so quickly that it was occasionally hard to understand what she was saying, but generally speaking all the scenes with the four of them (or any combination thereof) were extremely funny, particularly the aftermath of Puck mistakenly causing Lysander to fall in love with Helena, where Demetrius and Lysander face off against one another, while Hermia and Helena find themselves at loggerheads.

Chu Omambala was a terrific Oberon – slinky like a cat, with a melancholy demeanour (after all, he and his beloved Titania are having some serious relationship woes) – he cut a fine figure in his classy white suit. Ayesha Dharker is beautiful and radiant as said Titania, and I loved the chemistry between the pair at the end.

Another relationship with amazing chemistry was that of Oberon and Puck – played by Lucy Ellinson in a scene-stealing performance. Ellinson prances and dances her way about the stage, with wide-eyed mischief and playfulness. Truly, it’s hard to take your eyes off her when she is on-stage, as she channels 1920s silent film stars such as Charlie Chaplin with her exaggerated but graceful movements.

Overall, this was a hugely enjoyable production, and one which I would highly recommend to fans of Shakespeare, or indeed anyone with a passing interest.

(For more information about this production, please click here.)

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One day in Melbourne, happily married mother-of-three Cecilia Fitzpatrick finds a letter in the attic with instructions on the envelope from her husband John-Paul, telling her that the letter should only be opened in the event of his death. With John-Paul being very much alive, Cecilia is naturally curious about what the letter might contain, and wrestles with her conscience over whether or not she should open it…

Meanwhile Rachel Crowley living in Sydney, school secretary and grandmother to two year old Jacob, is reeling from the news that her son and his wife are planning to move to New York and take Jacob away from her. Rachel’s daughter Janie was murdered 28 years earlier and nobody has ever been brought to justice and it seems that Jacob is her only joy in life. But Rachel has her own idea about who killed Janie…

Tess O’Leary is – she thinks – happily married to husband Will. So she is devastated when she discovers that Will and her cousin/best friend Felicity have fallen in love. She decides to get away and goes to visit her mother in Sydney, and tries to put her life back together…

My thoughts

This book started out fairly light-heartedly, but soon developed into something of a mystery. Like Cecilia, I was eager to find out what was in John-Paul’s letter, but I actually ended up guessing the contents before the story revealed them. However, while I was initially disappointed because I thought I had guessed the ending of the book early on, it transpired that the story was less to do with the mystery behind the letter, and more to do with how the characters coped with what was in it.

The first few chapters threw a lot of seemingly unrelated characters out and I generally prefer stories that let you get to know characters gradually rather than all at once, but it didn’t take long before the different relationships between the characters were peeled away. I felt extremely sorry for Rachel, who had been living in a kind of limbo since Janie’s murder, and I also liked Cecilia and Tess. However, a lot of the other supporting characters annoyed me (unfortunately, husbands generally do not come off well in this story!) The ending did take a surprising turn, and I wasn’t entirely satisfied with it, but to say why would be to reveal spoilers and I definitely think that this book is better read with no knowledge of what it is to come.

It’s definitely a quick read – the writing flows really well and the story moves on at a quick pace, keeping you alert to what might be coming next. Based on this book, I would definitely try more by Liane Moriarty and would recommend the book to fans of drama or thrillers.

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