19th Mar2017

Stepping Out (Theatre)

by timbaros

The cast of Stepping Out. Photo credit Ray Burmiston‘Stepping Out’ steps into the West End again but it’s on the wrong foot and it’s not a very exciting show.

First staged in the West End in 1984 and running for three years and winning an Evening Standard Comedy Award, ‘Stepping Out’ was then made into a 1991 movie starring Liza Minnelli. It now returns to the West End in a new production starring Amanda Holden and Tracey-Ann Oberman among others playing characters from various backgrounds who attend a weekly dance and tap class. They also meddle – no surprise – into each others personal lives. Holden is Vera, a wealthy woman who seems to have nothing better to do because her whole life revolves around her husband who apparently spends lots and lots of time with their teenage daughter. Then there is Oberman who plays the brash Maxine, and who gets all the best lines in the show. Anna-Jane Casey is Mavis, the dance teacher who is a bit frustrated, not only because her students can’t dance but also because she’s got issues in her personal life (Tamzin Outhaite had to pull out of this role temporarily because of a broken foot). So ’Stepping Out’ centres around the seven women (and one man – Dominic Rowan as Geoffrey) plus the piano player (a wonderful Judith Barker) as they dance and talk but then get the opportunity (of a lifetime!!!) to perform at a charity show. Wow, how exciting! Will they be ready for the show in time? Will one of the students not drop her hat like she’s done many times in rehearsals? Will more dark secrets come out and, god forbid, will one of the woman pull down the towel where Geoffrey is changing behind to add a bit of excitement to this show because this show has no excitement at all?

It’s The Full Monty without the monty! Sure, the women do their best to get ready for the big charity show, but it’s hardly worth our time. We really don’t get to completely know, or sympathize, with the characters, and only a couple are likeable (Sandra Marvin brings a bit of sass to her role as the token black woman – Rose), and Oberman is wonderful, but there’s not really a whole lot to love in this production. Rowan is one note – not at all attractive or likeable as the lone man – he’s a widow but it would’ve been nice to put him in some sort of romance with one of the ladies. Written by Richard Harris in 1984, with this version directed by West End producer wonderwoman Maria Friedman, ‘Stepping Out,’ which will be playing at the Vaudeville Theatre until June 17, 2017, probably won’t last that long. Do yourself a favor and just step right past the theatre.

For tickets, please go to:

02nd Jul2016

1984 (Theatre)

by timbaros

Andrew Gower in 1984 Credit Manuel Harlan.jpgGeorge Orwell’s classic book 1984 was not always going to be easily transferable to the stage. But a new production of it has just opened at the Playhouse Theatre.

If you’ve ever read the book (either in school or for leisure), you will know the story. Written in 1949, when the year 1984 seemed like a long way off, Orwell wrote about a world where, simply, big brother is watching everything you do, everywhere you go. It’s like the present day North Korea where the government dictates how and where you will live your life, but it takes it to a bit more extreme in that anyone with an individual thought or who speaks bad about the government is punished, it’s a totalitarian state.

The protagonist of the show is Winston Smith (bravely acted by Andrew Gower). He knows and understands that the world he lives in is bad, cruel, harsh. And he really hates it. He has put his thoughts onto paper, an illegal act if there ever was one. But there’s lots more to this complicated story, on the surface and underneath, and to explain it would be to write a very long explanation.

But in summary, Smith has an affair with Julia (Catrin Stewart) and it all goes wrong for both of them. You see, they thought that a secret bedroom they were shown by a shopkeeper was free of surveillance, but it wasn’t. They’re rustled up and taken to prison where they are interrogated, and the shopkeeper turns out to be a spy for the government. Smith is labeled a ’thought criminal’ and is tortured, and comes face to face with his self-confessed worst nightmare – rats.

A production of 1984 was produced by Nottingham’s Headlong Theatre company before embarking on a UK tour in 2013 and then had a sell out run at the Almeida Theatre. It’s a show that’s hard to watch. The story, and characters, are a bit complicated and not very well understood; we seen them but don’t really know who they are. And perhaps that’s the point. But it takes shock theatre to all new levels with lots of blood in the torture scene (the woman next to me had her eyes closed), and the use of very bright strobe lights used intermittently during the play which is very jaring. But it’s Chloe Lamford’s sets that keep ‘1984’ in it’s time period – it’s a minimalist world where total surveillance is common. Credit goes to Directors Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan for putting together a show from a book that’s been described as complicated at best. And Gower gives an amazing performance as the literally tortured soul who is punished for his thoughts.

If you can stomach a production of 1984, then this is well worth the effort. If you’re looking for something a bit lightheated, then this show is not the show for you.


24th Feb2016

War of the Worlds (Theatre)

by timbaros
A scene from The War Of The Worlds by Jeff Wayne @ Dominion Theatre (Opening 17-02-16) ©Tristram Kenton 02/16 (3 Raveley Street, LONDON NW5 2HX TEL 0207 267 5550  Mob 07973 617 355)email: tristram@tristramkenton.com

A scene from The War Of The Worlds by Jeff Wayne @ Dominion Theatre
(Opening 17-02-16)
©Tristram Kenton 02/16
(3 Raveley Street, LONDON NW5 2HX TEL 0207 267 5550 Mob 07973 617 355)email: tristram@tristramkenton.com

London’s Dominion Theatre has been invaded by aliens causing massive destruction with people fleeing for their lives.

Well, on stage that is, not out on the streets. It’s the newest production of ‘War of the Worlds’, previously shown at the O2 in 2014 to much greater and better effect. In the smaller confines that is West End theatre, ‘War of the Worlds’ and it’s aliens, the village and the villagers are all munched together on the small stage. It’s presented as a multimedia experience with a good portion of the show on video screens hanging above and in the back of the stage. Also on the stage is the man himself, composer Jeff Wayne, with his very large 22 piece orchestra, split into two sections. And then we have our narrator – Liam Neeson – whose image pops up (or down in the case of his video screen coming down from rafters) every few minutes explaining to the audience what is happening.

Billed as ‘Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of the Worlds,’ the show took close to 40 years to reach the West End, and we are graced with the presence Wayne conducting. It’s his music to the famous H.G. Wells dark victorian tale about earth being invaded by aliens that is the highlight of the show. So for two and one half hours, the audience is meant to be immersed, spellbound and scared of what’s taking place on stage, but they’re not.

What’s happening on stage is a mess. While Wayne and his orchestra are in excellent form, the narration, the story and the action do not live up to the hype. Neeson’s screen image goes up and down up and down so many times that it became very very annoying to a point dreading his next appearance. And his narration is a bit hard to understand and hear because of his accent with the noise and chaos taking place on stage. His job is to tell the story, but we can also see the story happening right before our very eyes. And it’s in front of our very eyes where we see the cast running aimlessly back and forth on stage, falling, getting back up, frightened by the aliens (on the video screens no less), and lots of flames. They, and us, are pummelled with flashing lights and high pitched sounds meant to hark the arrival of the aliens. Then an actual mechanical alien walks on to the stage, looking like an extremely large piece of shiny metal with legs – it’s not scary at all. It actually looks unrealistic and silly. And we don’t get to know the characters. David Essex is the star draw who plays The Voice of Humanity, while Daniel Beddingfield pops in to sing a nice song every now and then. But “The Way of the Worlds’ is a show that’s all over the place and I was very disappointed because I was expecting to be immersed, spellbound and scared. Unfortunately, I was none of them.

17th Sep2015

The Sum of Us (Theatre)

by timbaros

GffcPytSRz50E5plbN9oLHH-ma7n4Xx4I5yg75BTlyo,Exrjx2ZQT6MSd-N2VrZTiZF6evDd3UaDtDeuSzFdFWQ,-9_GH5YYFTxekWyxmiy5jYg7XK7JnrJ-7oZojIWCGNM-1A father who loves and accepts his gay son is the theme of the new play ‘The Sum of Us.’

In 1994, a young Russell Crowe played the gay son in the movie version of ‘The Sum of Us’ which was originally staged as a play in New York City in 1990. Now a new version of the play ‘The Sum of Us,’ which has never played in the UK, has just opened at the Above the Stag Theatre in Vauxhall.

Harry (Sephen Connery-Brown) is a forty-something widower raising his twenty-something young son Jeff (Tim McFarland), who happens be gay. Harry is not bothered about his son being gay, he actually encourages Jeff to go out and meet other guys, to enjoy life while you can while you are young. And Harry doesn’t mind when Jeff brings other guys over to their home. Jeff is good-looking and athletic with a very positive look on life, but he says there’s a space in his heart that is empty, a space that could be filled by another man. When he meets someone he likes (Greg – played by Rory Hawkins), he’s immediately smitten. But it’s Harry who interrupts the two young men who are on the couch getting to know each other. Harry says a bit too much about Jeff, and their close father and son relationship makes Greg feel insecure about his own relationship with his father. Meanwhile Harry, after being a widower for a number of years, also starts dating – he feels like it’s time to get out there and meet another woman. And he does. Her name is Joyce (Annabel Pemberton), and her and Harry are getting on like wildfire. But when she learns that he has a gay son, she just can’t accept this. Firstly she’s angry that Harry didn’t tell her when they started dating, secondly she just can’t accept gay people at all. Even after Harry proposes to her, she just doesn’t want to see him anymore. So thus we have a father and a son who both yearn to be with someone yet obstacles get in their way. And as Harry tells Jeff, he is the sum of us, the sum of him and his late wife, and the sum of his grandparents and great-grandparents. Actually, we are all the sum of us, and this is the message of the play.

Above the Stag Theatre really sets the bar high on this one. Their previous shows had names such as ‘Rent Boy: The Musical’ and ‘Bathhouse: The Musical.’ However, they have now produced a play that is serious, heartwarming and very well-acted. The Sum of Us is a story that most gay men may not relate to; who can say that their fathers have whole heartedly accepted their homosexuality. But the play, written by David Stevens, who also wrote the film version and the original play version, successfully combines the son’s and father’s search for love and the close relationship they have with each other. And in the end, the message is that we all want someone to love and someone to love us, no matter whether you are gay or straight. Connery-Brown is great as Harry, as is McFarland as Jeff. They have a real rapport as father and son, and even resemble each other a bit. Hawkins and Pemberton are fine as the other halves, who may or may not wind up in the men’s lives. The set, down to the details of the1990’s script, cleverly goes from a living room to a park, in this cute theatre that is nice and cozy with a bar to match.

The Sum of Us is playing at Above the Stag Theatre until October 4th. Tickets can be bought here:


Buy tickets now – it’s selling out fast!

06th Dec2014

Made in Dagenham – Theatre

by timbaros

Made-In-Dagenham-2-Photo-Credit-Alex-James-1Gemma Arterton is terrific as a mother of two small children who rally her co-workers to strike for equal pay in the West End’s newist musical Made in Dagenham.

Rita O’Grady (Arterton) works in a Ford factory in Dagenham along with some very colorful co-workers. These include tiny Sandra (Sophie Isaacs) who has a huge singing voice, wanna be airline pilot Cass (Naana Agyei-Ampadu), and sassy Barbara (Sophie Louise-Dunn).

Management at the factory have deemed the women unskilled workers, which means lower and not equal pay, and they are not happy about it. So Rita becomes the unexpected spokeswoman for the group, affecting her relationship with her husband Eddie (Adrian Der Gregorian), who is not happy that his wife is practically never home now to mind him and their adorable two small kids.

Rita is mentored by union rep Connie (Isla Blair), but when she gets sick, it’s up to Rita to attend official union meetings, meet government officials, and, ultimately, to speak at the Trade Union Conference, is at the end of the show.

Made in Dagenham doesn’t veer too far away from the film of the same name that was released in 2010. But the film worked much better as it was able to take the story to a real factory, to show the women protesting outdoors, to meetings in government building, making the era that it represents (the late 1960’s) more realistic. There are quite a few faults with this musical stage version: a plot about Rita’s son being caned in school goes nowhere, jokes by Mark Hadfield playing a buffoonish Prime Minister Harold Wilson are so bad – and mostly misogynistic, and Isaacs, who has such an amazing singing voice, only gets to sing one song in the beginning of the show, and she is wasted during an awful bit in the show that is supposed to be a car commercial. And the American boss of Ford (Steve Furst) is portrayed as a singing cowboy, complete with cowboy hat and and a good ole U.S.A. song called, appropriately enough, ‘This is America,’ just plain awful.

However, Rupert Gould’s sets are amazing. The reproduction of a car factory is always in motion, down to the very minor details, including the nuts and bolts that go into the cars. The acting by the whole cast is very good, but what they are given to work with is a musical with not one memorable song (music by David Arnold), and a book (by Richard Bean) that doesn’t have much of a story.

21st Jul2013

Private Lives – Theatre

by timbaros


The play Private Lives has more lives than a cat. Written by Noel Coward in the 1920s, it had its debut at London’s Phoenix Theatre in 1930 to rave reviews, and starred Coward and Laurence Olivier. The next year it opened on Broadway. 83 years later, Private Lives is still making the rounds, now at The Gielgud Theatre, and again, it is a hit.

The story is a very simple one. Newlyweds Elyot and Sibyl (Toby Stephens and Anna-Louse Plowman) are on a hotel balcony in Deauville talking about their future together, and discussing Elyot’s previous marriage. In the room next door to them are Amanda and Victor (Anna Chancellor and Anthony Calf), also newlyweds enjoying one of their first nights together. Separating both couples on the balcony is a small partition, and wouldn’t you know it: Elyot and Amanda used to be married, and in a very volatile relationship.

After arguing with their respective partners over very minor matters, Amanda spots Elyot on his balcony. Coy, shy and nervous at first, Amanda speaks to Elyot and not too long later, jumps over the partition to be with him. They share a drink, reminisce about their marriage, have a few laughs, and before you know it, they decide in a ‘will they or won’t they’ moment, to run off together to Paris where Amanda has a flat that her new husband knows nothing about.

Once in the flat, they act like honeymooners all over again, loving and laughing, and then arguing and fighting, just as they did when they were previously married. Finally, they have their biggest fight and things could not get any worse, and in walk Amanda and Victor. The fighting between Elyot and Amanda continues, and also ensues between Elyot and Sibyl and Victor and Amanda. Who is going to end up with whom? You have to wait until the end to find out.

Considering that Private Lives has played in the West End several times in the past 13 years (most recently at the Vaudeville Theatre in 2010 with Kim Cattrall and Matthew Macfadyen), this version of the play, a transfer from the Chichester, has opened to rave reviews and will be talked about for years to come.

Chancellor upstages everyone in the cast; she can tell a joke, pout when needed, give out a big laugh when necessary, and dance and flail her arms memorably. Her chemistry with Stephens is very palpable, very real, that it makes it believable that she could fall in love with him all over again. Her eyes flutter, her gowns (and robe) drape over her like she is a star, and a star she is. Stephens is able, somewhat, to keep up with her, firstly as the man whose second wife is seven years younger than him, to believably falling back in love with his ex-wife, smouldering in one moment and then vile the next. Calf and Plowman are second fiddles to the main two actors. They are able enough, but this is Chancellor’s show, and they know it.

The set design, by Anthony Ward, is luscious. The balcony in the first act is gorgeous, but when the play switches to the Paris flat, we see exactly what we expect: a flat decorated in French style, from the checkerboard floor to the paintings on the wall, very detailed and lovely to look at. The script is funny, witty, dramatic; all you could ask for in a Noel Coward play.

Given the fact that everyone who watches this play has a great time, it should be no surprise Private Lives is still going strong, some 70 years after it began.


Review originally published by The American and copyright Blue Edge Publishing Ltd. – please click on this link to view