Review: The Half Moon Shania, VAULT Festival

Burnt Lemon Theatre’s The Half Moon Shania is a riotous piece of gig theatre at the VAULT Festival

“Let’s go girls”

It’s 1999 and punk band The G-Stringz aren’t just out to party, rumour has it there’s a rep from Diamond Records in the audience and maybe, just maybe this is their big break. Burnt Lemon Theatre’s The Half Moon Shania, written by Cara Baldwin, weaves together past and present as tales of the band’s formation mix in with what impact it has had on their lives so far, all soundtracked by a raucous gig.

An ambitious work, it taps into the festival spirit well – the show did well in Edinburgh last year – as the band constantly spills off the stage to smash the fourth wall, even trying to encourage a mosh pit at one point. And Hannah Benson’s astute direction teases out just the right energy from Baldwin and her castmates Freya Parks and Catherine Davies. Continue reading “Review: The Half Moon Shania, VAULT Festival”

Review: Footloose, Peacock

“Been working so hard

I’m punching my card
Two hours for what?”
Jeez Louise, it gives me no pleasure to report this production of Footloose is among the worst things I’ve seen this year. Jukebox musicals are fine in their place, movie adaptations likewise are ever increasingly the norm but they need love and inspiration to elevate them, rather than the workaday effort and dead-eyed calculation they get here.
Perhaps its the result of coming at the tail end of over a year’s touring, perhaps it was a crowd not quite as enthused as the audience of a feel-good show need to be to give it that lift, perhaps it’s just not very good. There’s a real sense of mechanical action about the production, everything moves in the correct way but there’s zero spontaneity here, little sense of the precious ‘liveness’ of great theatre.
If you can’t get a Strallen, then book a Nolan – Maureen is the show’s strongest asset as the only cast member to really try and bring any heart to her performance. The rest just make you wish that the ban on dancing was more strictly enforced, as well as mugging as if this was a panto. By the time Gareth Gates is wheeled out to strip down to hotpants, you’ll long be wishing that you could cut loose.
Running time: never has 2 hours 30 minutes felt so much like a lifetime
Booking until 30th September, then playing Royal Court, Liverpool 30 October-3 November

Review: The Burnt Part Boys, Park

“I watch women every Sunday tend a row of empty graves
Wives of men whose bodies never left company caves”

Another quickie as I continue to catch up with the openings I missed whilst on holiday. Receiving its European premiere here at the Park, The Burnt Part Boys continues the surprising number of musicals about mining (Floyd Collins alone would have scratched the itch, never mind Billy Elliot) and true to form, is musically really quite interesting. Chris Miller’s score folds in bluegrass and folk influences as befits its West Virginia setting and is certainly the strongest part of the show.

Mariana Elder’s book follows the impact of a tragic mining disaster on the hillside community of Pickaway – several men were killed and their bodies trapped underground but ten years later, news breaks that the mine is to be reopened, causing varied responses from the sons who lost their fathers. And particularly from brothers Pete and Jake, the former stealing some dynamite from his older sibling – now a miner himself – to force his own solution. Continue reading “Review: The Burnt Part Boys, Park”