Theatre Review: A Day in the Death of Joe Egg

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I love 60s theatre, so when I was offered a ticket to review A Day in the Death of Joe Egg, I jumped at the chance. Peter Nichols’ play details how a couple cope with bringing up a severely disabled child, a subject that is close to my heart, being both a parent of children with special needs and having many friends in similar situations.

I came away from the play with mixed feelings. It’s a difficult subject to cover, especially as a comedy, and the cast did well to elicit numerous laughs from the audience while treating the material with the respect it demands and deserves.

The standout of the show was the guy who played Brian. Sadly, I didn’t catch his name, but I have fond memories of his performance as Blackadder in the open air festival a couple of years back and he was perfectly cast as the disillusioned teacher using humour to cope with an incredibly difficult situation. His portrayal was complex and sympathetic, drawing you into the story.

It has to be said that without Brian, the play would have lost a lot of its charm. Sheila, his wife, was solidly played and the first half worked well as we learned about the couple’s marriage and how they found out about their daughter’s disability and the impact it had on their lives.

The second half saw the cast expand to include Brian’s mother and a couple Sheila met through her amateur dramatics. This gave the opportunity to introduce further opinions on what Sheila and Brian ‘should’ be doing and the pressures the faced externally as well as internally, but I found that the performances were flat compared to the first half. Perhaps Brian was just that good.

Overall, though, it was an enjoyable performance of the quality I’ve come to expect from Everyman Theatre. The show runs until Saturday at the Chapter in Cardiff, including a Saturday afternoon matinee, and it’s well worth going to see.

Tickets are still available here: http://chapter.org/joeegg

 

Theatre Review: ‘Allo ‘Allo

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I have a sneaky little confession to make. I hated ‘Allo ‘Allo when it was shown on television. I’m not sure why we ended up watching it almost every week, but I just didn’t understand why people saying the same things over and over again was so humorous. So when I heard that the Cardiff Open Air Festival Everyman was including it in its line up this year, I was a little dubious about whether I’d enjoy it or not.

Clearly, some things get better with age, because I absolutely loved it! Perhaps it was nostalgia at play or maybe I just understood the jokes better – and it has to be said that it was a lot racier than I remember – but there was something wonderfully entertaining about hearing those classic lines again. When Rene (Paul Williams) uttered those immortal words “You stupid woman!”, the entire audience joined in, a very special moment of camaraderie.

If, unlike me, you’re not old enough to remember the series, ‘Allo ‘Allo, told the story of Rene Artois and his café. Over the course of 9 series, Rene’s life becomes increasingly convoluted, as his café becomes the hiding place for two British airmen, as well as a stolen painting called The Fallen Madonna with the Big Boobies and a forgery of said painting. Meanwhile, Rene is also having an affair with his two waitresses, one of whom is a member of the Resistance sent to protect him from the German, while his wife bemoans the fact that he is no longer interested in her and channels all her pent up frustration into cabaret performances of dubious quality. On top of that, he has to deal with various factions within the Germans and pressure from the British resistance. As Rene so aptly put it at the beginning of the show, whatever he does, someone’s going to shoot him!

Although it’s all terribly complicated, the TV show always summed up previous events, which worked really well on stage, so even if you weren’t familiar with the story, you’d quickly pick up what’s going on. However, I do wonder whether this is the right kind of show for a younger audience. I cracked up when Peter Harding-Roberts sidled onto stage, lifted up his glasses and said “It is I, Leclerc!” not everyone found it so funny and I guess if you didn’t already know that this was a character with a history of disguises, all looking the same and all equally abysmal, there wouldn’t be any reason to laugh. A lot of the humour does rely on familiarity with the characters and catchphrases and I don’t know if that can be successfully encapsulated in a couple of hours.

 

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Having said that, I had an absolute blast. It’s always tricky dealing with such an iconic show and the cast didn’t just look like their original counterparts; they did just as great a job of bringing their characters to life. My personal favourite was David O’Rourke as Herr Flick, but then I always did love the uptight Gestapo officer who managed to be terrifying yet hilarious at the same time. His Tango solo was a particular highlight for me.

If you were a fan of the TV series, then you’ll love this production. It’s rollicking fun, from start to finish!

With thanks to the festival for providing me with a complimentary ticket in exchange for an honest review.

Theatre Review: Beauty and the Beast

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I took one very excited 8 year old daughter down to the depths of Cardiff this morning to see Beauty and the Beast at the Everyman Open Air Theatre Festival.

Based on the Disney film of the same name, the show features most of the musical numbers from the film and presents a slightly edited version of the story, perfect given just how many small children were watching. Running at just over an hour, there were no tears or tantrums from the transfixed audience.

When Charlotte Tonge (Belle) started singing the first song, I initially thought she was miming to the film’s soundtrack. Yes, she was that good and it set the bar high for a production that didn’t disappoint. My daughter is a huge fan of the film, so she was always going to be especially critical of any stage production, but apart from complaining that she wanted it to be longer (always a good sign!), she said that it was “pretty awesome” as well as “amazing.” She loved Lumiere the best and she cracked up at Lumiere yelling at the Beast (Ben Joseph Smith) to dance with Belle.

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There was some amazing group choreography and the staging was very nicely done, albeit a little heavy on the smoke machines at times! The Prince’s transformation into the Beast involved the clever use of curtains and costume and the costumes for the Beast’s staff were beautifully done. If you love the Disney film, you really won’t be disappointed – Be Our Guest  and The Mob Song were truly spectacular and the vocals were highly impressive throughout.

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The leads were all very strong, but I felt that the real stars were in the supporting cast, with Helen Flanagan (Mrs Potts), Ethan Price (Lefou) and Kerry Dwyer (Lumiere) the stand out performances for me. There were some definite future stars in the making on the stage.

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All in all, it was another exceptional performance from the Everyman Theatre Festival and it’s left me very excited about going to see As You Like It, next week.

I urge you to get tickets while you still can – with only a week left of the festival, you’ll be kicking yourself if you miss out!

5 out of 5 stars!