Archive for August 27th, 2010


Cabaret Chordelia

Friday, 27 August, 2010

Making a Song and Dance

Edinburgh 2010 – Pleasance at Ghillie Dhu – 4-22 August 10 – 16:15pm (1.10)

The Ghillie Dhu feels like the right venue for this piece,  if ever I have to fight off a horde of marauding zombies, if ever I have to shake the dust off a desiccated corpse hide behind it for cover and make my last stand against hordes of the infected, if there is ever an holocaust of poorly defined origin – then it will be in the decayed belly of the Ghillie Dhu that I make my last stand.  Think restrained opulence and you’ll be there – plush and sensual, but air conditioned.  Which is of course the perfect setting for a spot of Cabaret of a sticky festival afternoon, is it not?

As I wait for the show to open music quietly pervades the space, the aura of a gramophone is evoked, I imagine a small boy, flat capped, on his hunkers behind the folding modesty screen at the side of the stage turning a handle, excitedly peeping at the audience.  He reminds me of myself. I used to hunker in the wings at the Pantomime, dodging backstage crew, waiting for my dad to go on as the Dame and feeling excitement pound through the curtain from the audience; I look about at this quiet shadow of that and wonder when I got so old.

The dancers and pianist arrive on stage in an understated manner befitting the venue, Kimberly Lawrie, Kathy Lloyd-Jones and Kirsty Pollock have no need to make a song and dance, their beauty transcends gender and their careful movements bely grace, poise and an unexpected eloquence which speaks to me clearly.  They communicate through movement alone and the lines of communication remain coherent for the duration of the performance.  The pianist  Ian Ryan is accomplished, delights consistently; and surprises occasionally – particularly during his brief Kazoo solo.

Singer for the evening Ian Ryan reminds me of Desperate Dan in drag and his appearance muddies the water somewhat; not, because of any lack of talent – the guy can sing – simply because his arrival affects the stage dynamics. It’s never clear whether attention is supposed to be focused on him or the dancers. This is a minor flaw which, though initially confusing, doesn’t ultimately detract from the show.

Each dance was choreographed beautifully with precise movement and plenty left open for interpretation, providing meat to the bones of what could otherwise be a dull show – this wasn’t really Cabaret, more an analysis of the format.  If you like your cabaret, fulsome, free and life affirming – this isn’t the show for you.  If you prefer a more cerebral dish – you’ll get something out of the quiet sensuality of Cabaret Chordelia in the restrained opulence of Ghillie Dhu.

The only major flaw is that there’s no unfolding story to follow from one number to the next and without this there is not enough variation captivate for long.  By the middle of the show I found myself lost somewhat – uncertain whether I had missed some crucial plot device, and unable to grasp the thread again and frankly wondering when the show was going to end.

By the closing number this beautiful piece grows stale, trapped in a  never changing moment of time, dusty like bottles on the shelves of that imagined Ghillie Dhu where I hide, hoping for the world to turn and wondering what happened to that boy by the gramophone, or the one in the wings.

Cast Credits (Alpha Order): Jonathan Gunthorpe – Singer. Kimberley Lawrie Kally Lloyd-Jones Kirsty Pollock – Dancers. Ian Ryan – Pianist.

Company Credits: Director – Kally Lloyd-Jones.  Choreographer – Kally Lloyd-Jones.  Music Director – Damian Thantrey. Lighting Design – Grahame Gardner. Guest Choreographer – Matt Foster.  Stylist – Tom Rogers.  Music – Coward, Rogers & Hart, Kirsty MacColl, Tom Waits, Charlap & George, Bacharach & David, Billy Joel, Bolcom, Burke, Malneck & Livingston, Van Heusen, Kern, Shire, Weill, Wilcox.  Artistic Director – Kally Lloyd-Jones.  Creative Producer – Kate Craik.  Marketing – Lynsey McFarlane. Press – Wendy Niblock. Graphic Design – Lotta Landelius. Production Photography – Eammon McGoldrick. Board of Directors – John Harding, Anne Munro, Kally Lloyd Jones, Severine Wyper.

(c) Stephen Redman 2010

reviewed Friday 20 August 2010


Obama Mia

Friday, 27 August, 2010

Work in Progress

Edinburgh 2010: Just the Tonic @ The Caves – 5-29 August – 13.45 (1.10)

This is of course, the real President Obama. (Or is it?)

Barack Obama has fallen into a hope-induced coma. What will we do? Find an Obama’like of course. After the obligatory opening number the action kicks off from this coma inducing premise with surprising vim and vigour and by the end of the first scene any initial trepidations have been replaced with a level of surprised and sceptical hope.

Just the tonic @ the caves is a space that hardly suits this style of show with terrible acoustics and a PA that makes Ciaran Doyle’s live accompaniment sound like the Casio keyboard my sister was presented with when she was six.  The stage itself appears out of the mist high above the audience like a crows nest, with about as much space and I sit gazing with my neck craned backwards I question two things. One the company’s illadvised choice of venue and two how the festival allows fringe venues to become slum-lords of the theatre world renting out theatre space equivalents of high-rise council owned properties with both damp and dry rot and mice and ASBO neighbours.

Some of the set pieces in this show worked perfectly with classic moments of audience misdirection contained within the direction and script, and elements of the modern school of comedy (perfected in the film Anchorman)  engendered by Eoghan Quinn’s portrayal of a womanising, stiff drinking Joe Biden.  Aaron Heffernan, who plays Charlie, who plays Obama, is good at two things – acting, and looking like Obama. Which is fortunate given that he plays an actor, who looks like Obama.

Given the size of the stage it’s reasonable to expect a choreographer to struggle but that’s no excuse for having numbers where no one in the cast can move their limbs because they are crowding each other of the stage (back to that obligatory opening number again). It’s as though rehearsals took place in a much larger space and no one thought to make the limitations of the eventual stage clear.  With forethought difficulties like this can be overcome, indeed should be. With the correct approach obstacles like a tiny stage can become just as much a stimulus for a great performance as the script, or sheet music or an interesting premise.

Happily, given the poor quality of some the musical numbers, the show as a whole is more comedy than musical and sections of dialogue are particularly snappy. Although at times the pace lapses for a moment as though the show itself is trying to remember what comes next.  In general the performance was energetic but lacking nuance, but then an audience hardly attends a musical comedy searching for nuance and hidden meaning.

The best way to sum up the performance is to say that it feels like a mid rehearsal run through – exciting because it shows promise but unsatisfying in it’s incompleteness, it unconnectedness.

The script also feels incomplete, underwoked like the first draft of a show which will eventually be great. Some of the scenes worked great others fell flat. Some of the songs worked great others fell flat. Some of the one-liners worked great others fell flat. Some of the extended gags worked great others fell flat.  This could be because there are several writer/directors credited for the show: Brianne Fitzpatrick, Eoghan Quinn, Rory Carron and Matthew Smyth.

It’s natural to want to ask – Who wrote what? – Who directed which section?  and Who assumed overall responsibility for the production? If this company can answer these questions next time out then they might be onto a winner, because there is the warmth, generosity of spirit and first signs of invention here that all musical comedy needs to succeed.

Cast: Aifric Darcy – Page  Jodie Doyle – Cynthia Brianne Fitzpatrick– JP Rachel Gleeson – Sandra  Aaron Heffernan – Charlie (Obama)Cameron McCauly – John Favreau Sam McMullen Erica Murray – FOX Henchman– FOX Henchman Paul Musiol – Will Eoghan Quinn – Biden  Richard Shaffrey – Songmaster

Written and Directed By Rory Carron, Brianne Fitzpatrick, Eoghan Quinn, Mathew Smyth. Music and Lyrics by Ciaran Doyle, Eoghan Quinn, Brianne Fitzpatrick.

Accompanist – Ciaran Doyle; Choreography – Jayne Stynes; Sound and Light Operator – Rory Carron; Costume – Emma Gleeson.

(c) Stephen Redman 2010


Jack L, A Month of Mondays

Friday, 27 August, 2010

Favourite things

Edinburgh 2010 – The Famous Spiegeltent – Monday 9, 16, 23 and 30 August, 10pm – 1 hr and 15 minutes.

Jack Lukeman. The best imperial you are ever likely to see.

The heavens opened in Edinburgh on the day of this Jack L show and failed to close again.   The bar area of the Spiegel Garden, situated outside The Famous Spiegeltent, both of which have taken up temporary residence in George Square, Edinburgh for the duration of the Edinburgh Fringe, looked a distinctly sorry and soggy site as the punters attempted to shelter from the elements before the doors to the Famous Spiegeltent opened for tonight’s performance.

Once inside this atmospheric venue, you leave the outside world and the bad weather. behind.  The Famous Spiegltent is a venue of magic and a unique  performance space.  A  circular, circus like structure of mirrors and stained glass, where you can almost feel the ghosts of a thousand memorable performances past, transporting you to a world of cabaret, torch singers, vaudeville and endless possibilities.  It is unlike any other venue at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Jack L, dressed top to toe in black, walks onto the stage holding up a battered and worse for wear looking black umbrella,  accompanied only by Dara Munnis on piano. The reason for the umbrella becomes clear as the plaintive opening chords of ‘I Think It’s Going to Rain Today’ strike up.  Perhaps the umbrella is a too obvious link to the lyrics of the song, though it certainly pays tribute to the grim conditions of the day, but this much covered, soulful rumination on human loneliness is enriched by the sparse solemnity of the musical arrangement as is well suited to Jack L rich and powerful baritone voice.  The audience, seated around cabaret style tables in front of the stage, are immediately drawn in and stay that way for the rest of the evening.

Jack L is then joined on stage by the rest of the band for a stomping version of another Randy Newman classic, ‘Lonely at the Top’.  He has already told us that this performance will contain songs from some of his favourite songwriters, such as Randy Newman and Jacques Brel, as well as some of his own material. Jacques Brel tale of randy, drunken sailors, ‘Amsterdam’, is then given a heartfelt interpretation.

It’s immediately clear that part of the appeal of a Jack L live performance is the way that he lives and breathes every song.  The antithesis of a stand and deliver vocalist, he is a showman in every sense of the word.  He comes down off the stage for some of the numbers weaving his way through the audience and round the auditorium, stopping every now and then to deliver a line to someone, as he does on his own number ‘Bedsprings’, which segues into Peggy Lee’s ‘Fever’  and later on another song, ‘Stardust’, which he performs walking around the Famous Spiegeltent with just a cute miniature accordion for accompaniment .  This is followed by a song he introduces about a boy who has gone wrong, which he self deprecatingly refers to as “my hit… Outer Mongolia”.  ‘Georgie Boy’ is a soaring number whose chorus sticks in the brain long after the gig is over, and this is followed by ‘Rooftop Lullaby’, which does what it says on the tin, a meditative  lullaby which he performs with just him and his guitar.

He gets the audience on their feet for the call and response number,  ‘Little Man’ and they stay there for the mischievous ‘Wicked Way’ before encoring with an acapella version of a favourite song of his Father’s growing up, ‘Old Man River’, his voice filling the venue with its resonance alone, before closing with a Frank Sinatra type take on another Jacques Brel number, ‘Jackie’.  As with all great shows, it feels over too soon.

The band are uniformly excellent, but there is no doubt that a Jack L gig is a showcase for his amazing voice.  He is as accomplished at breathing new life into other songwriters classic material as he is in delivering live interpretations of his own songs.  He deserves to be heard by a much wider audience outside his native Ireland than he has at present and it is to be hoped that promoters out there feel the same way.

Band Credits: Jack L – vocals and acoustic guitar, David Constantine – Guitar, Dara Munnis – Piano, Rod Gilbert – Drums, Production – Jack L.

For the Famous Spiegeltent: Sound – Siiri Metser, Lights – Liam Fraser.

(c) Ruth Morris 2010

Reviewed 23 August 2010


Waiting for Wonderland

Friday, 27 August, 2010

Camden Fringe – Etcetera Theatre, 20th August 2010 6pm (45 mins)

Left to Right: Callum Patrick Hughes (Chris), David Mowbray (Nick)

On one of the warmer August evenings of the Camden fringe, the small tightly packed Etcetera Theatre became the setting for ”Waiting for Wonderland”. The title of this new, original two-handed play, written by Rose Bruford graduate Richard J Loftus, cut across the wide range of social groups represented in the full capacity house.

The show in a black box setting opened with a pre-set of the two characters on two metal chairs. Callum Patrick Hughes as Chris and David Mowbray as Nick, portrayed two twenty-something gay men.

The characters were dressed in everyday wear; jeans, t-shirts and simple shirts, neither dull or flamboyant and not catering to the sterotype. The fast paced show started with a slight first night technical stutter, but was soon speeding along the information highways. The sound level was good, as was the delivery, making the content clear and audible. A simple lighting rig, used to add a time dimension to the scenes, gave a warm glow to the stage enabling subtle nuances to be seen.

The action alternated between “Twitter” tweets with @Nick replying to @Chris’ postings, with a speed of excution only rivalled by the fibres used to transmit tweets; and the “Narration” (in this case the characters thoughts), which served to enlighten the language and hidden meanings with a good degree of subtle comedy, which often caused a flurry of laughter in response.

Director Hayley Richards, assisted by Disa Stefans, also Rose Bruford graduates, used a minimalist approach. A simple staging device of moving the proximiny of the chairs, positioning them according to the action and psychology behind the mood, kept this two handed show on its toes.

The strength of this show was that the script had been directed to allow interpretation, through expression and body language by the two very capable young undergraduate actors; They both gave believable performances, steering their throughts to highlight a mirad of emotions and at times evoke memories. The tension created in moments of the play was almost audible and served to communicate the online relationship.

Whilst this method of modern communication can be challenging for many, “Waiting for Wonderland” showed simply how it has embeded itself into our society to such an extent that flirting takes place just as if the object of your desires is there with you. It seemed to appeal to all, regardless of age and social type, giving an insight to this modern communication and one of its uses. The only fault was a rather ambigious and seemingly quick ending, which caused puzzlement to some, but maybe that’s what the writer intended –to make us wait for an answer?

A play for all generations and genders, a most enjoyable watch.

Cast: Callum Patrick Hughes as Chris; David Mowbray as Nick

Crew: Director – Hayley Richards; Assistant Director – Disa Stefans; Writer: Richard J Loftus (@rjloftus)

(c) Katherine-Lucy Bates 2010

Friday 20th August 2010


Poetry and Spoken Words

Friday, 27 August, 2010

Hearing secret harmonies

London – Seven Dials Club – 26 Aug 10 – 19:30 (2:30)

The mics don’t work.  The Seven Dials Club is bustling so microphones would help.  Brenda Brown and Kathrin Kirrmann leap into action, assisted by a flood of eager poets.  A wall is created seemingly from thin air, separating the general bar populated with a curious but not invested public from the Poetry and Spoken Words event of the evening.  The room is mixture of poets, fans, reviewers, artists and those who encompass all of the above.  The camaraderie and excitement is tangible.  The performers soldier on; some still hold the dysfunctional mic like a familiar blanket, some eschew it entirely and, in a memorable final act, one builds a poem around the technical difficulties.

First to grace the stage is a rag tag class of poets, led by the indomitable Emile Sercombe.  Though their delivery is often hesitant and hushed the genuine enthusiasm for poetry and how it expresses the everyday in carefully crafted language radiates.  Gary Stephens’ ‘Panic Attack’ co-opts the familiar rhythm of ‘The Night Before Christmas,’ but usurps its magical subject, replacing it with a medical lament.  Charles Brown’s poetry also stands out in its simplicity of language and the powerful images it creates, particularly in ‘Looking Through.’  Their fearless leader, Emile Sercombe, sets the room alight with gasps and riotous laughter, as he dons various costumes over his Where’s Wally top, rainbow suspenders and checked trousers and leads us through the world of vengeful worms and meticulous werewolves.

The second half of the show is devoted to a series of more professional poets, who are quick to note their books for sale in the back.  The poetry and delivery is more polished, but happily the enthusiasm remains.  A particular highlight of the evening is the Perunika Trio, whose aching and pure voices blend into stunning harmonies and dissonance.  The spirit of the songs translates, even though the words do not.  That Bulgaria lies on the great divide of East and West shines though the music, as Eugenia Georgieva’s voice rises in what feels like a call to prayer.  A quick succession of brilliant and energetic poets follows.  Elizabeth Darcy Jones unleashes her vendetta against St Ives, painting herself as a seductress and witch, though her BP poem is slightly out of touch following the recent disasters.  Julie Mullen, accompanied by Cathy Flower, captures the rhythm of sex and the waves of climax in She/She.  The evening comes to a close with Alan Wolfson, a man with an astonishingly fabulous moustache and a wit to compete with the best.  Immediately he launches into a poem about the evening’s technical difficulties, calling out the broken mics, the strangely off-centred paintings and even the wall-colour.  He then parades mischievously through a series of poems with dazzling wordplay, particularly in ‘Cat Slam Rhyme Off,’ about a battle of rhymes with his cat, Otis.  The evening ends on a high and the now sated audience dashes off into the wet streets.

Cast Credits:  William Ball – poet, Brenda Brown – emcee, Charles Brown – poet, Peter Cox – poet, Sasha Dee – poet, Dònall Dempsey – poet, Elizabeth Darcy Jones – poet, Paul Eccentric – poet, Cathy Flower – poet, Lizzie Grayling – poet, Kathrin Kirrmann – emcee, Julie Mullen – poet/emcee, Perunika Trio (Eugenia Georgieva, Dessislava Vasileva, Jasmina Stosic) – a cappella music, Emile Sercombe – poet, Gary Stephens – poet, Jan Windle – poet, Alan Wolfson – poet.

Company Credits:  Director and Events Coordinator – Brenda Brown, Company – Cooltan Arts (  Organising Company – Creekside Artists (

(c) Molly Doyle 2010

Reviewed 25 August 2010