Faulty Towers Dining Experience

The President Hotel located in Russell Square is currently the home to The Faulty Towers Dining Experience. Situated a few minutes walks away from Russell Square tube station it’s conveniently located for a West End night out.

For fans of the BBC television comedy Fawlty Towers, the immersive experience is a must. Three of the main characters’ charm, entertainment and at times spook us as their antics are all in keeping with the popular comedy series.

The script encompasses many of the lines and quotes from the original series. Where we see Manwell telling diners that “he comes from Barcelona” Basil’s fateful betting slip debarked and Cybil pis are permanently disappointed with her husband’s lack of professionalism. Even Manwell’s friend the rat makes an appearance. Let’s just hope the hotel inspector doesn’t arrive.

It is fair to say from watching this evening’s cast that close attention to the mannerisms and voices of the original cast have been studied at length to perfect. From the hyena-style shrill of Cybil’s laugh, Manwell’s literal take on instructions for example “roll on a plate” where he forward rolls over the side plate to his fast shuffle walk through the restaurant and Basil’s exaggerated walk and blunt disposition towards all the dining guests take centre stage. Suspending your disbelief is easy as you become completely absorbed into the chaos and feel you were truly experiencing a visit to the iconic hotel.

Although the performance has been brilliantly scripted when interacting with the audience their ability to improvise on their feet without stopping the flow of the evening was suitably impressive. At times you could see the cast were desperately holding in their laughter while delivering some excellent comedic one-liners and unlike the original Basil Fawlty, the actor taking on the role remains professional throughout.

Over the watchful eye of one of the hotel managers, the evening’s food service ran smoothly. Despite the chaos created by Basil. Sat at tables laid out for ten dinner guests. Service began with a delicious broccoli-based vegetable soup, followed by half a chicken, roast potatoes and a delicious medley of ratatouille-style vegetables, I cannot tell anyone what the dessert was as after one mouthful I decided it wasn’t to my taste and left it.

It was a fantastic night out and many of the evening’s dinner guests were celebrating birthdays and special occasions. Although be warned if you disclose this information to the cast you will become part of the action for a few moments. For more information on the dining experience or the hotel please use the links below.

Five Stars

http://www.faultytowersdining.com/london

https://www.torquaysuitetheatre.com/

https://www.imperialhotels.co.uk/hotels/president-hotel

Misconnections written by Nicolas Ridley.

Life changes direction without our complete awareness until it’s often too late to avoid the consequences, which then unfold before us quite rapidly. It’s not until they take place that you know whether these changes will be positive or negative. Pack a Punch Players bring to the stage three short plays jointly titled Misconnections. Which focuses on three scenarios where events take place leaving those affected by them stunned.

Double Bubble serves up the most delicious breakfast surprise. Gina (Fiona Tong) and Lois (Dee Sadler) have unspoken history surrounding Lois’s ex-boyfriend Bruno, whom Gina enticed away from her. Gina is surprised when Lois agrees to meet for coffee and hopes they can rekindle their friendship. This appears to be possible well on the surface perhaps. However, Lois’s revenge has been premeditated and calculated leaving Gina astounded, abandoned and bewildered.

Each of the three short plays follows similar themes dealing with broken relationships of various degrees. Gardening Leave watches middle-aged, Bob (Stephen Omar) struggle to come to terms with losing his well-paid position and finds himself now living off his high flying wife Fiona ( Dee Sadler) and desperately attempting to build his life back to where he formerly was using his wife contacts to achieve this. Titus Returns introduces the separating couple Robin (Mike Duran) and Jennifer ( Fiona Tong) we join them as they are splitting their belongings before Robin finally leaves their shared flat. The only thing left that the couple appears to have left in common is their cat, Titus. So, where does the cat eventually end up?

The cast of four is part of the newly formed London based Repertory Company, Pack a Punch Players. Claiming to offer “a witty diversion” away from the stress and price hikes currently dominating many people’s lives at the moment. I agree with their statement and found myself laughing awkwardly at certain times. Although the cast performs multiple roles within the production each character is independent of the last and suspending your disbelief is easily achieved.

Director Sarah Lawrie brings Nicholas Ridley’s short plays to the stage with charm and sensitivity. Even those who have blatantly made bad life choices aren’t condemned or ridiculed, just served up some of the karma they deserve. However, Is it too late now for any of them to change? There’s only one way to find out.

Performing at The White Bear Theatre in Kennington between 7th-11th June. Please use the link below for further information.

Four Stars

https://www.whitebeartheatre.co.uk

Bleak Expectations by Mark Evans.

Found on the outskirts of Newbury in Berkshire. The Watermill Theatre has been an established venue since 1967 and has grown in popularity since it first opened its doors. With the fast-flowing stream of water running underneath the building, you can watch it flow as you walk through into the main Theatre auditorium and you can see the disused watermill still on display. The Theatre is surrounded by beautifully maintained gardens next to the river, with an abundance of idyllic qualities to make a trip to the Theatre feel even more magical.

Anthology Theatre productions and David Wolstencroft have adapted the BBC Radio 4 comedy production Bleak Expectations and bought it to the stage. Its cast of nine brings many of the famous Charles Dickens characters to life with a twist away from their usual narrative surroundings.

Narrated by Nicholas Murchie in the role of older and wiser Pip whose now Sir Pip Bin. He explains the family’s tale of riches to rags and returns to riches which are marred with death, heartbreak and evil wrongdoings. Accompanied by his two younger sisters Poppy Bin (Caitlin Scott) and Agnes Bin (Alicia Mckenzie) who throw in many points about the inequality women faced at the time. We watch as the Dickensian novels are entwined together while Pip from Great Expectations remains the focal protagonist.

The cast of nine transition quickly between the range of characters within the storyline and prepare to suspend your disbelief when the actor who plays Pip’s Mother (Alicia Mckenzie) at one point is very briefly married to him in another role. Adding to the comedic pathway which runs throughout the performance.

Bleak Expectations is humorous, bawdy and has many particularly well-scripted comedic moments. The comedy relies heavily on the audience’s engagement and it’s an absolute delight to watch the cast appearing to enjoy the play as much as the audience.

I was suitably impressed by the tower of books stacked to the lefthand side of the stage, when it was first used as part of the performance as a ladder to get to the top of the stage I felt a “hold my breath in” moment as it honestly doesn’t look that safe. Although I wouldn’t mind trying it out.

Being familiar with many of Dickens’s characters to start with is quite useful in a multilayered play such as this one although it’s certainly not a prerequisite when it comes to enjoying it.

Director Caroline Leslie has successfully given Bleak Expectations a new platform in which audiences can watch and enjoy some of their favourite characters from the radio production come to life on the stage.

For more information about Bleak Expectations, future productions and ticket sales please use the link below.

Four Stars

Photo credit Pamela Raith.

https://www.watermill.org.uk/

Dirty Dancing, The Movie in Concert.

Marking the 35th anniversary of the popular iconic film Dirty Dancing written by Eleanor Bergstein which starred the late Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey. Dirty Dancing, The Movie in Concert came to the stage and is now on tour wowing audiences around the globe.

The quartet of singers accompanied by the highly accomplished band has brought the memorable music of Dirty Dancing to the front of the stage while the audience delighted in watching the digitally remastered version on the big screen at the back of the stage.

This has been my first experience of watching a film set to a live band and singers, which certainly excelled my initial expectations. I wasn’t sure how much the live music and stage lighting effects would distract me from the enjoyment of the film, but it wasn’t to be the case it evoked an engaging atmosphere. Lionsgate Entertainment has created a perfectly balanced and in sync production.

The audience is actively encouraged to sing along throughout the performance and to join in with the parts they know. However, it wasn’t the raucous audience participation I had anticipated. The tone was considerate and appreciative. Those who attended genuinely appeared to want to take pleasure in having the privilege of being able to watch the film on the big screen once again.

One thing is for sure this production has left a lasting positive impression and we all had the “Time of our Lives” tonight as we revisited Dirty Dancing and enjoyed the accompanying music dialogue. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend anyone to go and watch this production especially if you are a fan of the original film.

For further details of the ongoing worldwide tour dates, ticket bookings and future performances taking place at Hammersmith Apollo please use the links provided below.

Four Stars

https://www.dirtydancingontour.com/tickets-tour/dirty-dancing-in-concert-dirty-dancing-in-concert

https://www.eventim.co.uk/city/london-181/venue/eventim-apollo-hammersmith-15134/

Chicago.

A scene from the International Tour of Chicago The Musical @ Milton Keynes Theatre. (Taken 10-03-2022) ©Tristram Kenton 03-22 (3 Raveley Street, LONDON NW5 2HX TEL 0207 267 5550 Mob 07973 617 355)email: tristram@tristramkenton.com

New Wimbledon Theatre presents the latest touring production of the “sleek and sassy” successful West End musical Chicago. Set in the heart of 1920s America. The inner moral compass has virtually vanished, underground clubs were a common part of the social landscape and literally anything goes.

Roxie Hart (Faye Brookes) finds herself in prison standing trial for the inconvenience shooting of her latest lover Fred Casely ( Joel Benjamin).  Once inside the doors she soon learns that doing the crime doesn’t necessarily mean she will have to do the time. Velma (Djalenga Scott) whose double murder charge wins her the “top dog” position inside the women’s prison is threatened by the fame-hungry Roxie and the battle to see who can woo the press and be acquitted first begins.

Watching the power struggle between the rivals is slick and entertaining. However, they are also in competition for the attention of Matron “Mama” Morton (Sheila Ferguson) whoever can win over the public and press brings her more notoriety as an outstanding prison boss. Although we know they are both guilty and inside of murder their abundance of talent, charisma and charm find you rooting for them to be cleared of all charges and get back out onto the stage performing where they belong.

Famous classical tenor Russell Watson joins the cast in the role of the sleazy corrupt lawyer Billy Flynn. With outstanding vocal performance, he was every bit the sleazy celebrity lawyer you would expect to see. Who obtains impressive results inside the courtroom for his clients and manages to clear those who are blatantly guilty of their crimes in front of a jury.

Choreographer Gary Chryst alongside original choreographer Ann Reinking recreates the passion and atmospheric allure you would expect to find inside a 1920s showgirl venue. The ensemble precision and attention to detail are superb. Plus for me anyone who can perform the splits is extremely impressive yet to see several dancers do them in sync was fabulous.

The Orchestra dominated a large proportion of the staging. Doubling up at times at part of the stage for the cast to perform upon. Musical Director Andrew Hilton’s performance at times became part of the Musical. Adding another dimension to the mesmerising visual achievement.

The music alone is one of the draws for watching Chicago from the toe-tapping famous songs “All That Jazz” and “Razzle Dazzle”. My favourite number is “Cell Block Tango” which introduces the ladies and their crimes who are residing in the prison.

Chicago is running now until Saturday 21st May. Please use the link below to check availability, book tickets and find out what’s coming up next at New Wimbledon Theatre.

Four Stars

https://www.atgtickets.com/venues/new-wimbledon-theatre/

Don Giovanni presented by Welsh National Opera.

DON GIOVANNI WNO CARDIFF MILLENIUM CENTRE, 16th February 2022.

Don Giovanni began life in 1630 in form of the drama El burlador de Savilla which translates into The Seducer of Seville by Spanish playwright Tirso de Molina. It certainly lives up to its title as he boasts over 2000 conquests during his travels. Its first documented staged performances began on the Prague stage in 1787.

The Welsh National Opera have bought to stage one of the most famous Mozart operas Don Giovanni. Featuring in tonight’s performance was Duncan Rock in the role of the murderous, womanising, arrogant protagonist Don Giovanni, alongside Joshua Bloom as Leporello his faithful and ill-treated servant and “black bookkeeper”. Rock certainly didn’t disappoint with his strong performance and outstanding voice used to beguile and woo the ladies into a false of security for his lustful means.

As soon as Meeta Raval entered the stage in the role of Don Giovanni’s wife Donna Elvira I knew we were in for an amazing performance. Her voice echoed through the large auditorium and she didn’t falter throughout the entire performance. Her presence and grace befitted the betrayed and aggrieved wife, an absolute pleasure to watch.

Designer John Napier created a bleak gothic dramatic grey backdrop of high walls adorned with many detailed carvings. They formed the backdrop to the churchyard, city walls and the banquet hall. The precision and timings were superb.

The final scene for Don Giovanni isn’t as dramatic in this version as compared to some productions of Don Giovanni that I have previously seen. However, I put this down to the fact that this is a touring production. Although the impact of him being dragged into the gates of hell still delivers a powerful image.

My final words have to congratulate the outstanding conductor Frederick Brown who led the Welsh Opera orchestra throughout the evening. Such a pleasure to have experienced.

https://wno.org.uk/site/privacy

https://www.mayflower.org.uk/whats-on/wno-don-giovanni-2022/

I Couldn’t Do Your Job by Charlotte Blakemore and Hannah Fayers.

Written during the countries lockdown I Couldn’t Do Your Job explores through a series of frank and relaxed interviews conducted by Alan Emrys in the crew’s staff room. He is collecting research to write a play to honour his father who was a lifelong paramedic. He wants to gain an inside understanding of the work and situations faced by the team of five paramedics, in the hope of understanding his father better too. Although their experiences are generally shared each of them explains how the job affects them personally.

Jake Turner in the role of Aidan uses “ambulance humour” throughout his description of his life as a paramedic. In his story about the deceased patient’s pizza, I found myself agreeing with his actions. One of his call-outs was to a deceased gentleman. While he was there the pizza that the patient had ordered and paid for arrived, while waiting about 45 minutes for the police to arrive he ate it. In all fairness, it would have been a waste of food otherwise. Aidan’s a very likeable character who I would happily trust if I needed assistance.

Ambulance services to the vast majority of the population are there on the end of the phone when we require medical emergency assistance. However, the five paramedics openly discuss the range of mental health situations they attend where there’s nothing they can do to help, lonely older people who want to chat and the dangerous situations they are left with when the police are too busy.

Blakemore and Fayers have bought to stage a balanced and fair insight into the working life facing paramedic teams across the country. Highlighting the lack of support offered to those traumatised by some of the horrific situations they face every day of their working life. PTSD can go untreated and the “shelf life” of many paramedics is usually quite short due to stress.

It still feels like a work in progress during certain scenes. Although the cast is strong and likeable and the storyline reflects the in-depth research that has taken place by the writers. Highlighting the lack of support for this profession is important and needs to be addressed by the government. This play comes with a list of trigger warnings, which isn’t surprising as they attend to people generally during the worse moments of the patient’s lives.

For more information on the theatre company and the Pleasance Theatre please use the links below.

Four Stars

https://mobile.twitter.com/@icenitheatre1

https://www.pleasance.co.uk/event/i-couldnt-do-your-job

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown.

Credit: Johan Persson

From The Louvre to Westminster Abbey with a host of stops in between. The Da Vinci Code covers much ground in the quest to break the codes and uncover the mystery surrounding the “holy grail” and the cruel sacrifice style killing of the Louvre curator Sauniere (Andrew Lewis) which takes place in the Louvre basement.

Robert Langdon (Chris Harper) and Sophie Neveu (Hannah Rose Caton) appear to meet by chance after her Grandfather’s body (Sauniere) is discovered. Framed for murder, Langdon is confused by the claim and only Neveu knows he is one hundred per cent innocent, she just needs to prove it, while keeping Langdon safe at the same time. Can Sir Leigh Teabing played by veteran actor (Danny John-Jules) help crack the codes?

Credit: Johan Persson

The rapport between Caton and Harper on stage is flawless. Caton takes on the role of the strong female protagonist and appears to effortlessly take charge in the ever-changing confusion of the unfolding situation. Her strong presence is confident and reassuring as this complicated murder mystery unravels before us.

Credit: Johan Persson

Josh Lacey delivers a chilling and at times heart-stopping performance as Silas, the devoted and loyal Opus Dei follower. With numerous scars of self-harm prevailing over his body along with the chained leg torture device which he tightened several times on stage, blood dripping down his leg. The attention to detail has bought this tormented character very much to live on the stage.

Credit: Johan Persson

The interchangeable scenery and incredible film projections allowed the cast to be transported quickly around the streets and iconic buildings and paintings of Europe. With the odd flight thrown in too, the fast-moving clouds certainly aided my suspension of disbelief as they flew across the Channel.

I highly recommend this staged adaptation of The Da Vinci Code by Rachel Wagstaff and Duncan Abel, alongside the superb talents of director Luke Sheppard. This staged version maintains the storyline of the original book where the codes come thick and fast and the dialogue is clear and concise allowing you to follow the storyline with ease.

Please use the link below for tickets and further information about this production.

Five Stars

https://www.mayflower.org.uk/whats-on/the-da-vinci-code-2022/

Eating Myself by Pepa Duarte.

Latin American performer and writer Pepa Duarte delivers a heartwarming and emotional performance as she explores her lifelong love/hate relationship with food and the lengths to which she is prepared to go in order “not be fat” those are her words not mine.

Duarte’s performance recounts her earlier life growing up in Peru with her mother and two older siblings. With her Mother at work and her Father, well wherever he was. Her main role model was her Grandmother. It was extremely moving at times as she frankly explained her inner feelings of never thinking that she was actually “wanted” or “accepted” by her family.

Food and cooking focus heavily within this play. Duarte takes time during the play to cook what appears to be a rather odd selection of ingredients together throughout the performance in a terracotta pot on a single hob. The recipe was her Grandmother’s soup dish that she cooked on a regular basis.

It was the first time I have experienced an actor cooking in the Theatre auditorium and the smell of the soup was rather mouthwatering. If you’re lucky enough you might even get a taster at the end of the performance.

Director Sergio Maggiolo captures the essence of Duartes writing and cookery themes. I especially liked the use of the dining table on wheels as the main prop. Duarte incorporates it perfectly and highlights why it is often referred to as the prominent furniture item. Most homes have a dining table and it’s invariably where families gather to share their days news and a “hearty” meal.

For more information about this production and future plays at The Kings Head Theatre please use the links below.

Four Stars

https://kingsheadtheatre.com/whats-on/springboard-eating-myself

About 500 by Simona Hughes.

About 500 written and directed by Simona Hughes balances humour, anger, hurt and depression in a sensitive, caring and informative manner. While exploring the scarcely openly discussed subject of infertility and the devastating impact it can have upon intimate relationships and friendships while taking a destructive toll on women’s mental health.

Thirty-six-year-old Clem (Stephanie Fuller) enters the stage launching her unused, discarded eggs across the stage and haphazardly into the audience. Each one represents up to now a sigh of relief that her life has not been “interrupted” by bringing another life into it. Adamant that she doesn’t want children will meeting Luke (Dickon Farmar) change her opinion about this or will it be too late?

Ruth (Joanna Nevin), Clem’s longstanding good friend’s ability to fall pregnant with ease makes the situation between them tense at times. I found Clem’s behaviour towards her friend irritating yet uncomfortable as she navigates her way through the emotional waves. It was clear to see just how deeply upsetting it was for her to see Ruth go through a pregnancy knowing that she was never likely to share that experience.

Fertility is a ticking time bomb that dominates a female’s life from the first day she starts her period. Spending at least ten years, in the beginning, trying desperately not to get pregnant just in case “it might ruin your life” followed by the agony for some as they realise that pregnancy will be forever out of reach for them.

Anyone effected by the subjects discussed in this review, I have attached two website links below who offer support and help.

For more information about this production and future plays at The Kings Head Theatre please use the links below.

Four stars

https://kingsheadtheatre.com/whats-on/springboard-about-500

https://www.@about500.com/

https://www.kingsheadtheatrepub.co.uk

HelpLine

Support line