Review: Twelfth Night, Rose Playhouse

Twelfth Night in the roaring twenties? OVO Theatre bring their inventive musical take on Shakespeare to the Rose Playhouse

“Glitter all over the room
Pink flamingos in the pool”

OVO Theatre were responsible for my first visit to St Albans with last year’s Much Ado About Nothing in the grand surroundings of the Roman Theatre of Verulamium there. This year, my travel time may have been significantly cut down but once again there’s no less history in their venue choice as their musicalised production of Twelfth Night takes place in the archaeological wonder of Bankside’s Rose Playhouse.

And also once again, there’s an intriguing mismatch between said history and the setting for the reinterpreted play. Roman ruins formed the backdrop for a 50s American diner last time around; here, the darkness surrounding Tudor stone suggests endless ocean as we find ourselves on the SS Illyria in all the hedonistic excess of the roaring twenties. A bold move and one which has its moments in Adam Nichols’ production. Continue reading “Review: Twelfth Night, Rose Playhouse”

Review: Brass the Musical, Union Theatre

Brass the Musical at the Union Theatre is a powerfully moving celebration of sacrifices made, of service offered, of music itself – beautifully done

“Just until our lads come back”

There’s a neat symmetry to the life of Brass the Musical thus far. Originally commissioned by the National Youth Music Theatre to commemorate the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, its professional London premiere now marks the Armistice Centenary. Benjamin Till’s musical, with additional lyrics from Nathan Taylor and Sir Arnold Wesker, thus serves as a powerful tribute to those who served, both at home and on the frontline.

What is particularly gorgeous about Brass is how it is suffused with the joy of music. Its power to bring people together (as in the characterful ‘Forming a Band’), its potential to lift spirits (the marvelous storytelling of ‘Whistle Billy’), its ability to express something deeper beyond just words (the haunting vocalese at the trenches). And as an expression of the musical theatre form, it works beautifully in deepening an already profoundly moving piece of history.  Continue reading “Review: Brass the Musical, Union Theatre”

DVD Review: Nativity 2 – Danger in the Manger

“You can be our Justin Bieber”

After being pleasantly surprised by how much fun Nativity was, it seemed only natural to watch the sequel Nativity 2 – Danger in the Manger when it appeared in the festive TV schedule too. Sad to say it didn’t live up to its predecessor, its attempts to replicate the formula losing much of the charm that made the first movie something of a real treasure. Writer and director Debbie Isitt returned to the improvised style that saw her company of kids and adults work without a script or advance knowledge of how the plot would unfold, but the problem lies in that uninspired narrative. 

We’re still at St Bernadette’s, but Martin Freeman’s Mr Maddens has been replaced by David Tennant’s Mr Peterson, the school nativity has been replaced by a national ‘Song for Christmas’ competition and Marc Wootton’s irrepressible teaching assistant Mr Poppy remains very much in situ. And it is the nonsense that his actions provokes that proves the tipping point here – from purloined babies and donkeys to reckless child endangerment and the very fact that he’s teaching a class alone, Poppy’s character is a huge ask even when not taking it too seriously and for me, he was too grating too often. Continue reading “DVD Review: Nativity 2 – Danger in the Manger”