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CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG (Review)

The Mayflower

So, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang…

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The stage version of the iconic 1968 British film is not awful. The much-loved songs by Sherman Brothers and the sensational sets coupled with stunning special effects make for an entertaining experience. Oh, and there is a flying car.

The whole thing is efficiently directed by James Brining, Simon Higlett’s design evokes the charming spirit of the original film and some of the acting is good.  Special mention must go to the Simon Wainwright’s innovative video designs, that graphically recreate the high seas escape.

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The wheels start to come off once frankly terrible Michelle Collins and Phillip Jupitus appear as Baron and Baroness Bomburst. Their relentless jokes and hammy performances strain for a laugh. The biggest frustration is the pace. However, just revving up seems to take 50 minutes and when it does it sounds like a volcanic eruption. It goes on a bit. The sluggish first act drags along at a peristaltic pace before we finally get to see the car fly.

The final result is a musical that has all the motorised competence one expects of a show but very little feeling. The best performance comes from Jason Manford. It is Manford as Caractacus Potts, who provides the show with what it mostly lacks: heart and soul. There is, however, laughter to be had from Vulgarian spies Sam Harrison as Boris and Scott Page as Goran. Their physical comedy is well timed and genuinely entertaining. The biggest disappointment for me was Martin Kemp as the not-so sinister Childcatcher. His performance is top-to-bottom rubbish in terms of characterisation and villainy.?

The second act is a fiasco; a sloppy samba section and a reprise that runs like a Ford KA and corners like a Robin Reliant. The car flying is quite something but I was left feeling uninspired by Manford sauntering in and out of the vehicle as if he’d driven a milkfloat, yet this spirited production rarely takes itself too seriously.

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Movie-musicals are not usually a good idea. Let’s hope and pray we come across again someday a new musical based on an original idea. It’s probably somewhere approaching fun. The five year old in front of me seemed to be enjoying himself. Not great, not awful. Good at times in fact. I admire Chitty’s temperament. Maybe we could all learn from Chitty. Overall I’d give it a cautious thumbs-up.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang runs until Sunday February 21. Tickets: 023 8071 1811 or visit mayflower.org.uk

Search for Meaning and the endeavour to create issue based theatre

The occasion

The Bournemouth and Poole Holocaust a Memorial Day Committee hosted it’s annual Commemoration at the Bournemouth International Centre on Sunday 31 January. The committee gave me an opportunity to stage a short devised performance piece through drama workshops with students from St.Peter’s School. Given the context of the Holocaust and subsequent genocides, we were determined to put together something that would linger in the minds of the audience. We wanted to create a piece that would be a gentle reminder about what humanity should mean so we can learn the lessons of the murky past but look forward to a brighter future.

The inspiration

My chief inspiration for the performance was a 1972 lecture by Austrian psychiatrist and holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl had given about man’s search for meaning. His speech has been a source of inspiration for me. I was keen to share Mr Frankl’s thoughts in his own words to bring alive its relevance to a modern context. The end result that you see is experiment with form and content of a traditional act of drama.

The experimentation

The stage set up can be seen as convergence of two different generations, two different periods, one taking inspiration from the other, and through movement both bringing alive the meaning of life.

Creating issue-based theatre with young people is a very rewarding process. The performance is a result of three, two hour rehearsals that took place throughout January. Working collaboratively with the group allowed the young people to be in control of the product they created. Supported by myself as facilitator with a holistic approach to the work we were making, offering not just drama skills, but linking this training to personal development, and group work. There is a strong sense of empowerment. The message that Viktor has for discovering the meaning of life is brought to life without use of any props, set or costume.

More than one visual narrative is at play, so a challenge to comprehend, but the richness in storytelling and the harmony in contrast that’s played out is very engaging. Having Viktor Frankl deliver his “Meaning of life” lecture from 40 years ago opens the door for several intriguing possibilities of time travel – a cohesive journey that tells a story of its own merit. The performance was met by receptive and supporting audience of 700 people.

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Masterclass Launch ‘In Your Hands’ Campaign

Masterclass want you to write your passion/profession on your hand and upload it to Facebook/Twitter/Instagram using the hashtag #InYourHands

Right then. Here’s a Q&A with Josh Brown (Press and Marketing Manager at Masterclass and Theatre Royal Haymarket).
To kick things off I asked Josh some questions. Josh is good at talking about Masterclass’ place in the Theatre cosmos, and how the ‘industry’ works in 2016.

Here’s how the chat went.

Hello! What are you doing at the moment?

Well, it’s been pretty hectic. We’ve just launched our new In Your Hands campaign and have been redesigning all of our marketing material to fit in with the rebrand!

Please tell me a bit about the #InYourHands Campaign.

Creating career opportunities in theatre is challenging, but I think a far greater challenge is instilling the confidence and self-belief in young people to actually put themselves forward for such opportunities. In a nutshell, that’s exactly what Masterclass’ In Your Hands campaign aims to address. We want to empower emerging theatre makers and to foreground the diverse range of career routes available within the Arts.

HI YA! Josh Brown, ladies and gentlemen.

Whether you’re working as an Actor, Stage Manager, Journalist, Director, Technician, Producer, Reviewer, Marketer etc (the list is endless!), be proud of what you do and never shy away from an opportunity because you feel under qualified or intimidated by the sheer volume of other creatives out there. Instead, rest safely in the knowledge that everything you work to achieve, really is the future of our industry.

So basically you’ve rebranded Masterclass, launched a campaign and continue to schedule some brilliant schemes and opportunities for young people and it’s not even March?

Haha! Well the rebrand has been in the pipeline for about a year now and I think all of us knew we were going to hit the ground running for 2016! It’s a really exciting time to be involved with Masterclass. The whole team work incredibly hard to ensure that the programme can offer these unique opportunities to people aged 16 – 30. This year alone we’ve offered out 3 paid apprenticeships in Design, Directing and Stage Management to work on Breakfast at Tiffany’s and, as you say, we’re just launched a new campaign – It’s relentless! I love it.

Photo credit Alex Rumford

Do you feel that too much power in the industry is held by people with little to no taste in Theatre?

Well, I think that’s probably dependant on the definition of taste. There are some wonderfully original, thought-provoking pieces of theatre being created, particularly in fringe venues, and it’s just a case of shining a spotlight onto this work for a mainstream audience.  Ultimately, it’s the responsibility of those working in theatre today to empower and inspire emerging theatre makers of tomorrow. The future of our industry really is in their hands!

 And what else do you have coming up?

On Tuesday 9th Feb, we’ve got a Masterclass with Indhu Rubasingham, Artistic Director at the Tricycle Theatre, and she’ll focus on new writing, which should be really exciting! Then on 1st March we have Ruth Sheen coming in to work on characterisation and improvisation – again, another really exciting session to be involved with!

Indhu Rubasingham (above)

We also have some really big announcements and plans for later on in the year so make sure you keep an eye on our website across the next few weeks and sign up to our mailing list!

One thing is for sure, the future of Theatre is definitely safe in the hands of these people.

N.B. Please use a solvent free and non-toxic pen!

Careers fairs: tried and tested | ArtsProfessional

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Is there more to careers fairs than free keyrings and Haribo? Careers fairs can be excellent or they can be unforgettably bad. Most are strikingly in between. But one organisation that is fuelling the industry with talent is Theatre Craft. It’s a well-established event, focused on offstage choices with a strong emphasis on training, apprenticeships and the essential ‘foot in the door’. It also happens to be one of the most interesting fairs.

If you are interested in a career in the arts, then careers fairs are a relaxed way of gaining insight. It is important not only to ‘experience’, but also to understand why the experience matters. All the world’s a classroom and events like this are about being in the room with other people and establishing yourself in a world you wish to explore.

Read more in my article about Career fairs at Careers fairs: tried and tested | ArtsProfessional

Q&A with Harriet Usher (Theatre Craft)

She was also the project manager for Theatre Craft 2015. (The Biggest Non-Performance Careers Fair in the West End)

I asked her a couple of questions

HI YA! What is the purpose of Theatre Craft?
The purpose of TheatreCraft is to open the industry and give careers advice to young people, ages 16 – 25 interested in careers beyond the stage.
Anything that is non-performance in the theatre is present at TheatreCraft. There are Q&A sessions, workshops, tours and one to one advice sessions to take part in and over 60 theatres, theatrical organisations and educational establishments in the marketplace to meet, talk to and get advice from.

What are the key changes or trends within the industry/profession?
There is an increasing focus on traineeships and apprenticeships, on the technical side of theatre in particular – which TheatreCraft, of course, champions.

Why come to Theatre Craft 2015?
It’s the biggest theatre careers event in the West End. In fact, I’m pretty sure, in the county. There isn’t really anything else like it. If you want a career in theatre that isn’t performance based, you will find hundreds of options, suggestions and like minded people all in one place. Its quite a remarkable opportunity to explore and engage – it could be the start of your career.

That’s basically a square cake isn’t it. Amazing.

What would you say to young people to get the most out of Theatre Craft 2015? 
Ask every question you have, take every opportunity. Everyone is at TheatreCraft because they want to contribute to your development and encourage the next generation of theatre makers. That’s the whole remit. The more you put in the more you get out – just like real life!

Happy 10th Birthday, Theatre Craft!

How did you get into this game? What led you to become a Producer?
I am fascinated by how it all works and the extraordinary creativity that goes into creating a production. How something gets created from scratch and all the brilliant, creative brains that are behind it are what makes this job so rewarding and fascinating. No two days are the same and we constantly get to create and re-invent. What more could you want from a career.

The end.

The Encounter, Edinburgh International Conference Centre

The Encounter

The Encounter

A new Complicite show is always a special, unique thing. This one is a gift handed to us by the theatre gods. Simon McBurney’s latest one-man show for Complicite tells the tale of Loren McIntyre (a photojournalist) and is set in an Amazonian land that marries jungle life with the twenty first century to startling effect.

This is a must-see and must-hear two hour show that adds up to landmark theatre. McBurney takes us on a metaphysical roller coaster, one that we can never be certain we are going to get off.

The Encounter

The Encounter

The stage is mostly bare with the exception of water bottles, a table, a hammer and a packet of crisps. This bold production is executed with the world class showmanship that one would come to expect with Complicite. The technology is comprised of state of the art 3D headphones that sets a new benchmark for immersive theatre.

The most striking moment comes when the two disparate parallel tales collide and McBurney trashes the stage. His cap donned, hammer in hand, like a member of Russian punk band The Pussy Riot. It’s an infinitely majestic, inspired, deranged and delicious piece of theatre. It stirred me emotionally. The lessons we learn from one another, finding our place in the world etc.

The skill and confidence with which the team have extended the parameters of their art form are quite amazing. If he retired tomorrow this would be his victory lap.

What about the writing? Well, Mr McBurney recently told Dominic Cavendish (Telegraph) ’10 days to go and no script. It’s absolutely petrifying.’ The fear was evident and justified. He stumbled over lines and unbeknown to the audience was reliant on the autocue at the back of the EICC… This doesn’t take away from the fact that this is visual and audio poetry and a show that will find its feet to truly justified five star reviews.

I’m not going down the traditional star rating route. I’d give ‘The Encounter’ a 9/10. And I’ve had a while to reflect on it so it’s a proper 9/10 rather than the sort of 9/10 I’d give to Gecko’s ‘Institute‘, which is frankly, an 8/10 at best, and even then only on a good day.

It’s an exceptional work that lands at The Barbican in February 2016. If and when you do hear/see it make sure you tell me, because this is a two-way street, you know.

Edinburgh International Conference Centre, until 23 August.

Edinburgh (a prologue)

Three weeks ago Mark Fisher (The Guardian) told me I should go to Edinburgh. I imagine it to be like Winchester with shabbier and more intoxicated people. Thanking you in advance, Fisher!

Mr Fisher

In just 48 hours I will be taking a seat at The Underbelly to watch my first show ‘Bromance’ by BMT (Barely Methodical Troupe) *swoon* at Edinburgh Fringe Festival (The largest arts festival in the world). I will be writing two features, one for The Big Issue and Arts Professional. My schedule currently contains fifteen shows over three days. *air punch*

I’ve never been to Scotland before let alone an enormous festival(!) Here, I should probably offer some ceremonial apologies in advance. As project manager for Young Critics I have been afforded a unique insight into the minds of our countries leading critics and bloggers and hope to put some of the knowledge to good use.

Expect a flurry of blog posts because if there is one thing I’ve learnt it’s that blogs are really important. They put you in touch with your reader. And it helps if the reader is plural.

Do not despair…

I HAVE AN A-LEVEL IN MEDIA STUDIES (B)

A Level in Media Studies (PROOF)

It’s fair to say that one is quite excited about witnessing the transcendent and the downright mediocre. I will be keeping a daily blog about my experiences, appreciation and affections for what’s on display at this. I suppose a de facto account of my time will follow.

Sure, I’ve booked in for some safe bets (The Encounter, Fake it ‘Til You Make It and Institute etc) however, I’m open to unexpected treasures and have left space in my schedule to seek out those hidden gems.

There is more writing about theatre criticism than ever, which is excellent for theatre. Anyway, let the fun proliferate.

*thumbs up emoji*

Young Critics Autumn Season

Young Critics

Theatre Royal Winchester is extending its industry-leading project into the Autumn season, due to popular demand. Workshops are led by national journalists and leading theatre critics. There are exciting opportunities to review shows at regional theatres and participants will be provided with mentoring and an opportunity for their work to be published in The Big Issue. A number of regional theatres have been supporting the scheme with an offer of press tickets for participants. Michael Ockwell Chief Executive of The Mayflower Theatre, Southampton said: “We are delighted to be working with our colleagues at Theatre Royal Winchester on this wonderful initiative. Informed, relevant and considered criticism is crucial to the development of arts appreciation and Issue. Mayflower Theatre is pleased to play a small role in facilitating enriching discussions for all the participants in the Young Critics scheme.’

Michael Billington

Young Critics has been attracting a stellar lineup of contributors including The Guardian’s Michael Billington: Britain’s longest-serving theatre critic. He is undeniably a fixture of British Theatre. Michael said: ” I’m delighted to be taking part in a workshop for Young Critics.. So I’m very happy both to talk about the critical trade and hand on whatever practical advice I can.”

The six week course begins in September and costs £90. The course fee includes all sessions and additional ticket offers to shows at other regional venues (including Theatre Royal Winchester, The Mayflower, Southampton, Salisbury Playhouse and Nuffield Theatre) To book call Theatre Royal Winchester box office on 01962 840440.

For further information visit http://www.theatreroyalwinchester.co.uk/

For press information please call 01962 844 600 ext. 208

Seussical (18 and 19 July)

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We did it!

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Some feedback…

“Thank you very much for such an amazing production of Seussical! We were all so impressed, the kids did an amazing job, so thanks to you, Ryan and Rob for all your time and effort. You did a brilliant job! image

“Now that I have had time to just think about the show, I wanted to repeat my
congratulations. It is no small feat to get such a level of consistent high standard
from one pre 16 age group, but from a cast covering such an age range it
was pretty amazing. I loved the fact that the ‘little people’ showed the same
level of stage discipline as the older ones.”

“It is so good to see the Young Theatre Royal going from strength to strength. We are sure this is important not just for the Theatre but for the City and, of course, the young people themselves.”

“There is a large groundswell of opinion that we are very lucky that our children can be a part of your productions.”

Onwards

Spectacular Seussical Launch on stage at Theatre Royal Winchester

Seussical the Musical Launch 

Wednesday 17 June 2015 

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Supporters were treated to a mini preview of Theatre Royal Winchester’s Summer Youth Theatre Musical Seussical this week. Seussical is a colourful musical by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty based on the books of Dr Seuss. The young people between the ages of 8-16 performed two numbers on stage to a supportive crowd.

The show is directed by me, with choreography by Ryan Grimshaw and Musical Direction by Robert Rayner. The colourful design by Hayley Spicer with costumes made by the very talented Arts University Bournemouth Students and puppets by Stuff and Nonsense with Holly Miller.

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Team FOH

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Our young people absolutely delivered the goods! The two songs were electric and true to the spirit of the production highlighting everything you would want and expect from a show that includes characters from the wonderful world of Dr Seuss, whilst promising unexpected delights.4ImDi80nQ-WItwkMhvdVLZAVrY4Y6wFjuBYSM6ZE0g4

Young Theatre Royal gives young performers aged 6 to 21 the opportunity to create theatre and perform.

Seussical will run from Saturday 18 July to Sunday 19 July 2015 and is sponsored by Darren Northeast PR and supported by Hampshire Chamber of Commerce. To book visit theatreroyalwinchester.co.uk

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Fun is good.” Dr. Seuss

Photo credit Dominic Parkes