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Tuesday, 15 November 2016
When was the last time you saw a play? Was it a while ago? Or have you never seen one? Well now is the time to change this with the fantastic Relatively Speaking. Relatively Speaking is a play by Alan Ayckbourne and originally written and treading the boards in the 1960’s hence this is the timeline for the play.
Greg has been dating Ginny and the first scene opens in her flat with him in her bed. Before you even hear any words spoken, the actions of Greg set the scene for humour with his bedsheet shenanigans and espressionate face. Ginny is a modern girl about town living in London. Her latest love interest is Greg, who is besotted with her but also concerned about the number of flowers and chocolates she seems to have around her flat. And even more he finds a pair of men’s slippers under her bed. Her last lover was an older man and this doesn’t help Greg’s confidence in their relationship. Not quite trusting her he finds an address which she says belongs to her parents. It is questionable why you would write your own parents address down so when she tells Greg she is going to see her parents he decides to follow her.
The Willows is a beautiful house in the country and home to Philip and Sheila. They are having breakfast in their garden. This is the address written that Greg has found and soon enough both Greg and Ginny turn up (separately) at the house.
This is a play of misunderstandings which are brilliantly executed. The ‘lightbulb’ moment as the audience realises bit by bit the truth of the situation is momentous. The laughter is infectious and the atmosphere is electric as you just can’t quite work out what will happen next.
What makes this wonderful witty play work is the delivery of the lines, executed perfectly by the most excellent cast.
Greg is played by Antony Eden who has perfect comic timing. His reactions say so much and he is very believable in the role. He opens the first scene and really sets the scene for the rest of the show. Antony is absolutely fantastic as Greg.
Ginny is played by Lindsey Campbell and gives a polished performance of the flirtatious Ginny who is not great at lying and trying to hide the real reasons why there are so many flowers and chocolates in her flat. Lindsey is fabulous as Ginny and gives a warm affable performance. Liza Goddard plays Sheila and is perfect as the dizzy blonde wife who doesn’t always get what is going on. Liza’s comic timing is wonderful and she is an absolute dream in the role. Robert Powell plays Philip and is so professional in his role. He provides humour and can be serious one moment and funny the next – all totally believable. He is a joy to watch and commands the stage easily.
The play is well cast and beautifully executed. And the sets are also impressive. There is no reason not to see this play. And relatively speaking, this is simply one of the best plays you will ever see.
Relatively Speaking is at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday 19th November.
Friday, 28 October 2016
Cats is one of the most magical musicals of all time. It is composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber and has become a classic in its own right although it was originally based on TS Elliot’s book ‘Old Possum’s book of practical cats’. There is no other musical like it and this week it is touring Milton Keynes Theatre. It is truly a joy to watch.
It is supported by a full orchestra which gives justice to the beautiful music and along with the lighting gives so much atmosphere before the performers are even on the stage. And the performers or cats come down through the audience (this is the time to buy an aisle seat!) to get an amazing up front and personal experience of this wonderful show.
All the performers have the mannerisms of cats as well as individual personalities such as kind, affectionate, or aggressive tom cats or flamboyant cats. During the show, we get to meet some of these cats and their personalities.
But let me start at the beginning. The musical tells the story of the Jellicles and we are lucky enough to see them on Jellicle choice night – a night when one cat is chosen to ascent the heaviside layer and come back to a new life. After all it is well known that cats have nine lives.
The show starts off by explaining how cats are named. We then meet several cats in turn. Jennyanydots who is a cat who just ‘sits and sits’ and then Rum Tum Tugger who is rather fickle. When Grizabella comes along, no one will touch her. She was once the most beautiful cat but now bears little resemblance to her former self. She is alone and miserable.
We then meet Bustopher Jones who is a smart cat about town. He is an elite cat and much respected. A noise frightens all the cats away and we are then met with two rather naughty cats. Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer are two mischievous cats who are petty burglars. They are funny and amazing dancers at the same time. Finally, we meet Old Deuteronomy who is an old cat and will decide who will go to the Heaviside layer.
Every performer in this show is exceptional. They can sing and dance and move just like cats. It is a phenomenon. It has the most wonderful score to the musical and includes that very well-known song Memories.
This is a show not to be missed. This show has it all. A great orchestra. A wonderful soundtrack. Very talented performers and makes for a fabulous night out. It is suitable for all ages and even I got a bit excited when the performers came into the audience.
Go see this show and escape for a few hours to another world. Cats is in Milton Keynes Theatre until 29th October.
Sunday, 23 October 2016
Penthouse And Pavement quickly became a cult album during its release 35 years ago. Its synth tracks with some very thoughtful lyrics made it so popular that Heaven 17, who were originally going to be one of several projects of BEF, was born. There is no denying they had carved a place for themselves in the early 1980’s where yuppies and mobile phones were in its infancy; where wanting to be rich and successful was an aspiration of the youth coming off the back of the dreary 1970’s with its 3-day week where punk had had its day. This was the post punk generation. This was exciting and ambitious. The ironically sad thing about Penthouse And Pavement is that 35 years later the lyrics of the polarity between rich and poor is still an issue. The issues of government taking from the poor to make themselves richer has only made the lyrics of this album more poignant. After the Brexit vote, there has been a lot of hatred pouring out … does this not sounds like: ‘Have you heard it on the News? About this Fascist Groove Thang. Evil men with racist views spreading all across the land.’ It is a warning. A warning that Heaven 17 told us about 35 years ago and yet we find ourselves on that same road.
The original album had a penthouse side and a pavement side. The image on the front is an icon of 80’s Britain. The title track, Penthouse and Pavement absolutely sums up the yuppie. ‘My career fits like a glove. Knowing no orders can come from above’. You are the boss. Let’s All Make A Bomb is another classic that we lived under the threat of Nuclear war (who remembers Threads?) ‘Let’s celebrate and vaporise’.
A big part of the genius of Heaven 17 is those wordy lyrics. Songs such as Song With No Name and Geisha Boys and Temple Girls have such a story to tell that the lyrics could be poems worthy of Wordsworth and Keats. And of course, the last song on the album went on for a very long time. The almost evangelic words of ‘I don’t care about life or the world around me – I’ve got a place to go. I don’t care what you say words cannot harm me. You’re going down below’ are brilliantly delivered by our reverend, Glenn Gregory.
To hear this album played live in its entirety is a wonderful experience. But how can you improve on a masterpiece? Martyn and Glenn have worked on this and incorporated the original songs into dance versions so the audience can not only sing along but dance along to the iconic songs. The show opens to a clip from A Clockwork Orange. This is where Heaven 17 got their name so it fits perfectly with electronic music. The energy from the audience is palpable. They sing along to every word. They sing and dance and clap and enjoy every moment. It is one of those moments you wish would never end. Alas Penthouse And Pavement only has nine tracks and they are over far too quickly. However luckily for us we get to see a performance of Martyn’s choice of song. You’ve lost that loving feeling. It is a chance for Martyn to sing with Glenn front of the stage and you can see how this friendship has lasted so long. They get on so well and it’s wonderful to see. They finish the set with a dance version of Temptation. It’s almost a shame to have a 20-minute interval as everyone is on our feet singing at the top of our voices. But then we remember we are not 20 anymore and actually we are grateful for a chance to get our voices back on track and energy to get ready for the second set of the evening – a BEF special.
BEF stands for British Electric Foundation and was originally going to be several projects of producing artists BEF is a rare and very exciting outing of well-known artists working alongside BEF to produce unusual versions of classic covers.
At this gig, we are treated to some real gems. First it is Peter Hooton from The Farm. He starts off with one we all know and easily recognise him from Altogether Now. But then he throws us a completely curve ball with a cover of Bank Robber by The Clash. He smashes that curve ball out of the park.
We are then treated to Mari Wilson and her soul voice. She sings her biggest hit, Just What I Always Wanted, which takes me right back to when my best friend performed this at school and I did all the hair and make-up. What a gem of a show this is. And Mari then performs a cover of Rescue Me. This absolutely defines her as a queen of soul. I could listen to her all night.
Finally, and an absolute highlight of the night, the original punk pioneer himself, Glen Matlock comes on with Pretty Vacant that he wrote with the Sex Pistols. It is fantastic. I may have been part of the post punk generation but I have a punk ethos and really appreciate this. Glen is amazing and I am watching in awe as he delivers ‘Oh we're so pretty, Oh so pretty. We're vacant’. Glen then really gives us a moment of surreal sheer brilliance with his next track. He covers Pharrell Williams’ Happy. It is a real juxtaposition to punk and totally awesome.
Then our very own Glenn comes on and sings Glen Campbell’s Wichita Lineman which is the first song they ever recorded as Heaven 17 (even before Fascist Groove Thang). And Glenn has been doing some Bowie covers for a while now, both with Heaven 17 and Holy Holy but this was a new one on me when he sang Ashes to Ashes. Glenn is one of very few people in the world who can deliver a Bowie song with perfection. Glenn doesn’t try to be Bowie but sings with such affection as both Glenn and Martyn were huge Bowie fans. This seeps through in his delivery and makes it worth every penny for this track alone.
The finale is a tribute to Colin Vearncombe who passed away earlier this year. He was better known by his stage name Black and due to perform as part of BEF. Heaven 17, Mari, Glen and Peter all perform Wonderful Life together and it is a really touching moment.
This is a moment in time. Stand up and be counted. Go to the show. It’s one of those you will wish you had been at. every moment is engraved in my soul. It is simply inspirational.
Wednesday, 19 October 2016
Footloose. Footloose. Kick of your Sunday shoes. We all remember the song but how does this translate to a stage musical of the 1984 film starring Kevin Bacon? The story is of Ren McCormack who leaves Chicago with his mum for Bomont, a small town in the mid west. This town is a culture shock from the big city of Chicago and to top it all off, dancing is banned. Yes, they actually passed a law to say you are not allowed to dance anywhere within the town boundaries. Ren cannot believe this and challenges it to which he is labelled a troublemaker. This is a church-going community who believe everything Reverend Shaw Moore says. He has the power over the town. And over his family, his wife Vi Moore and his daughter, Ariel.
Maureen Nolan plays Vi and she plays a very straight laced wife of the Reverend. Maureen is a million miles away from that disco hit I’m In The Mood For Dancing as she takes on the mediator between her husband and daughter. Rev Shaw is played by David J Higgins and owns the stage with his authority and presence.
Ariel has three female friends and together they are a bit boy mad. There is a similarity between their friendship and the four Sex And The City girls.
Ariel is Carrie. The leader of the pack and a woman who knows what she doesn’t want even if she doesn’t know what she does want. Ariel is played by Hannah Price who is definitely going to be as successful as Sarah Jessica Parker. Wendy-Jo is boy mad – so much like Samantha. Natasha Brown plays Wendy-Jo and makes the role her own. Rusty is a bit crazy and with her red hair is obviously Miranda but with a personality implant of Columbia from the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Rusty is played by Joanna Sawyer and has an amazing voice. Urleen is like charlotte with her dark hair and quite manner and is played by Miracle Chance.
Rusty is crazy for Willard. Willard quickly becomes Ren’s friend but is a bit slow in realising how to talk to girls. With Ren’s help this is only going in one direction. Willard is played by Gareth Gates and he absolutely steals the show. He is funny, great at physically being Willard and when he gets out of those dungarees – OH BOY! He is so fit he could be in The Full Monty! He gets a lot of the best lines as the humorous sidekick. Ren is played by Luke Baker and is great as the cool kid. He can sing and dance too. A perfect leading man.
The show has some great numbers in it including well known songs such as Holding Out For A Hero and Let’s Hear It For The Boy as well as some lesser known songs for the show such as The Girl Gets Around, Mama Says and I Can’t Stand Still.
If you want a good time and your feet want to dance, forget Bomont – get along to Milton Keynes Theatre where this show is on until 22 October.
Sunday, 16 October 2016
“Before Elvis there was nothing” – John Lennon.
I was 10 years old when the King of rock ‘n’ roll died. Even at such a young age it had a great impact. I grew up in a house full of music and knew who he was. It was the first time I had experienced a whole country in mourning, and although we have seen it again since (Princess Diana and more recently David Bowie), it left an impact. People love Elvis for different reasons. He could sing, he cared for his family and for many, including John Lennon, he changed the lives of generations to come.
One night of Elvis is actually a night with Lee Memphis King. This is an event for Elvis fans of all ages. It really pays respect to the king and everything about it is done in an affectionate way. There was no hint of bad wigs or a karaoke style show. This is a class act.
We are first offered a bit of a background to Elvis with photos of him on a big screen. It tells the story up to the ‘68 special and this is what the first half is all about. Lee Memphis King comes out in black leather and looks and more importantly sounds just like Elvis. We are treated to a range of songs from the ‘68 special including Trouble, Blue Christmas and If I Can Dream. The musicians bring their chairs into a small circle and have an impromptu chat with the audience to recreate the authenticity of the 68 special. They asked for requests and then Lee has to admit he doesn’t know the words to Don’t. He also told us the story of Blue Christmas. Apparently, Elvis hated this song so asked the backing singers to do anything they could to ruin it so it was not released as a single. The stories and interaction made the show feel intimate and that you were a real part of the show rather than just a spectator.
The second half of the show celebrates the Vegas years. This included classics such as CC Rider, Burning Love, Suspicious Minds and also some lesser known songs such as Polk Salad Annie, Its Midnight and of course Elvis’ version of My Way. They covered the American trilogy and of course finished on Can’t Help Falling in Love with You. Lee jokes that tonight was not a sell-out yet every single show of Elvis during the Vegas years was.
This is so much more than a tribute act. This is a show with personality and feeling. With great songs and a real passion for Elvis Presley. This show is made for anyone who loves Elvis – you will not be disappointed.
Saturday, 8 October 2016
I have a confession to make. I have seen Heaven 17 play live more than any other band. Their debut album, Penthouse and Pavement is in my personal top five of all albums ever. That album is 35 years old this year and that’s a scary thought. But Heaven 17 are one of those bands that you can never see enough of. They are professional and funny, sometimes reminding me of Morcambe and Wise with their banter. They can guarantee you a good night out.
So with all that in mind I headed off to the Jazz Café. These tickets were supposed to have been for an event in May but the Jazz Café has undergone a fantastic refurbishment, so the gig was postponed until October. Rule number one when you are only 5ft tall is to get there early to guarantee yourself the front row. But I was in good company with all the Heaven 17 die-hards – some of whom go to every gig and follow them around the country.
The anticipation grows and soon enough we wait no more as some BEF electronic music plays and they walk on stage. The first track is Circus of Death. Not the most obvious opening track but of course for those who don’t know, Martyn Ware (along with previous founder member Ian Craig Marsh) founded The Human League and this a rare outing for this track. The evening is pitted with THL tracks and we are lucky enough to hear Black Hit of Space, Loving Feeling and of course Being Boiled. Fans of early Human League were in their element.
Our next track is a brand new track which they have never played live before. EVER!. It’s called ‘Captured’ and the single was only released the day before so when I say brand new…I really mean it. They joke to the audience that they now have half an album of new songs so maybe by 2020 we will see an album release. And then we are straight back to classic Heaven 17 with Fascist Groove Thang. Glenn asks who would vote for Martyn as PM – everyone here would. Fascist Groove Thang, or to use its full title for extra points (We don’t need this) Fascist Groove Thang, has lyrics that are still as relevant today as they were 35 years ago. Indeed, it might be even more poignant with Brexit, a Tory Government and the USA having a possible President called Trump. These lyrics are simply genius.
What makes the gigs at the Jazz Café with Heaven 17 extra special is they perform tracks we hardly ever hear them perform. On this occasion we had Trouble and Contenders. Both these tracks have not had the recognition they deserve and are brilliant tracks. Come Live With Me has the audience joining in so loudly that although Martyn told us it got to number 5 in the charts, it really should be a number one single with the love for it in this room.
One of my personal favourites is We’re Gonna Live For a Very Long Time. It’s such an upbeat track and the electronics are so pure. And when Glenn opens his arms it’s like he is preaching to the congregation. If you love Heaven 17, you will live for a very long time! More P&P tracks included Play to Win and Penthouse and Pavement. I couldn’t be singing more loudly if I wanted to. Glenn says his favourite early Human League track was the cover version of You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling. Martyn comes out from behind his keyboard and they sing together. It’s so lovely how they interact. They obviously enjoy each other’s company and have a good laugh on stage.
During Temptation, Glenn sings with me ’Love to love you baby’ (another advantage of being front row) and mouths to me ‘Happy Birthday’. Of course this makes my day. They go off for a well-deserved break and come back on for an encore. It feels so right and proper that their encore should include two Bowie songs. It feels like it was arranged just for me as both Glenn and Martyn know I am a huge Bowie fan. Glenn and Berenice cover Life on Mars and once again the audience is so loud joinin in singing, that Glenn asks for the piano to be louder to he can hear it. I love Glenn singing Bowie. He does it justice and I know he is a huge Bowie fan too. Martyn and Billie and Rachel all come back on stage for Boys Keep Swinging. After this I show Glenn my tattoo. Don’t worry – it’s on my wrist and is a tribute to Bowie. He looks at it then tells everyone it’s my birthday and wishes me a happy birthday so the whole audience now know it’s my birthday. I don’t mind. Its lovely to feel I have such a lovely Heaven 17 family around me. It’s a double celebration as Keith and Chezzie celebrate their 50th H17 gig. They finish with Being Boiled. The first song Martyn ever wrote. It’s a fitting tribute that the last song is the first song.
And with that the gig is over – but the feeling of exhilaration continues long into the night. Of course Martyn and Glenn come over and say hello and wish me a happy birthday in a more personal setting and sign the set list with ‘Happy b-day.’
So as I mentioned – I have seen Heaven 17 live more than any other band, but this isn’t the end. I do not have to wait long as they have an upcoming tour of 35 years of Penthouse & Pavement plus BEF. This is truly heaven!
Details of the tour can be found on their website: http://www.heaven17.com/