Chitty Chitty Bang Bang REVIEW


Venue: The Mayflower Southampton

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang flew straight into Southampton this week for the first stop on its road trip.  This touring production is based on the 1968 movie of the same name and follows Caractacus Potts’ journey as an eccentric inventor. I feel that this should be Chitty’s last outing as it is a bit outdated for today’s audience.

The all-star cast is led perfectly by Jason Manford, who was the best performance of the night. Manford who played Potts, the loveable father of two, received acclaim for his role in ‘The Producers’ and is the lifeblood of this production. Joined on stage by team purple, Henry Kent and Lucy Sherman, who melted the hearts of the audience as Jeremy and Jemima Potts.

Phil Jupitus and Michelle Collins who stared as Baron and Baroness Bomburst, the idiotic and childish child haters, gave cheesy but entertaining performances. The real comedy comes in the form of Vulgarian Spies; Scott Paige as Goran and Sam Harrison as Boris . The boys change the pace with their physical and accent orientated comedy.

Martin Kemp plays the pantomime villainesque, The Childcatcher. Whilst frightening some of the children in front of me, I wasn’t buying it. For such a well known star his part is tiny and not one of his best.

There are two other stars of the show. Simon Wainwright’s video designs are fantastically created and timed and combined seamlessly with the set design to create a magical backdrop. The flying, floating, rotating and honking car is mesmerising to watch and makes the production feel truly magical. Notable mention should also go to the Sherman brothers admired soundtrack including the titular classic Chitty Chitty Bang Bang along with Truly Scrumptious and Me ol’ Bamboo.

This child and crowd pleaser continues at the Mayflower until Sunday 21st before heading on it’s UK and Ireland tour.



Swan Lake – Birmingham Royal Ballet REVIEW

Picture not mine

Birmingham Royal Ballet – Swan Lake

5 Star by Charlotte Nelson

“I’ve never been to the ballet” – those were the words you would have heard me utter a few days ago. Swan Lake seemed like the best place to start and when I saw that The Birmingham Royal Ballet were back at the Mayflower, Southampton after 19 years to perform this timeless classic I jumped at the chance.

Initially I was concerned that I wouldn’t follow the story, due to there being no narration or spoken word however, this lavish rendition of this iconic ballet was so well performed that it perfectly told the story of Prince Siegfried. He falls for a Princess who has found herself enchanted by the ruthless Rothbart who has trapped her as a Swan; with the only way out for the pair being a pledge of undying love.

The dancing, to Petipa and Ivanov’s stunning choreography, was fabulous, and all the dancers were perfectly in sync with each other and wowed during some stunning solos. Yasuo Atsuji showed off a variety of different sides to Siegfried and was perfectly partnered with Nao Sakuma who effortlessly switched between Odette (Gentle and Sweet) and Odile (Vindictive). Special mention should be made to the ladies playing the cygnets who were always perfectly in sync and precise. How they all manage to stay on pointe I will never know, making it look effortless in what can only be assumed is an incredibly uncomfortable position.

Phenomenal scenery and well timed lighting make for a spectacular backdrop to this quality production; shown most brilliantly at the beginning of Act 4 when the Swans appear from underneath the mist, decked in the incredibly designed costumes. The costumes, mostly made in White, Black and Red have been seamlessly produced and help distinguish between the characters. Accompanied throughout by the Royal Ballet Sinfonia who spectacularly performed Tchaikovsky’s score; all the elements of this production come together seamlessly to provide the audience with a thoroughly mesmerising few hours of performance.

Swan Lake has finished its run at the Mayflower, however the Birmingham Royal Ballet are back at the Mayflower in Jan 2017 for Cinderella.




Venue: The Mayflower Southampton

Emma Rice of Kneehigh fame has adapted and directed this jumbled production of Rebecca ; a well-loved 1938 book by Daphne Du Maurier. Alfred Hitchcock turned his hand to creating an adaptation in the 1940’s, and each haunting production tells the tale of intrigue and jealousy.

The titular character is Maxim de Winter’s first wife Rebecca. Whilst it was never shown in the production, it is established that she disappeared out at sea a few months prior. Mr De Winter has since remarried and the new Mrs De Winter is trying to settle in to the Cornish Manderley Estate, desperate to win over its resident’s and step out of the shadow of her predecessor.

Newcomer Imogen Sage and Kneehigh Regular Tristan Sturrock do a resounding job portraying the ups and downs of their relationship, however, the adaptation is haphazard at best and its broken storytelling often left me thoroughly confused. The comedic use of a puppeteered dog and a young Welsh servant raised a laugh from the audience despite it being out of place with the dramatic and dark nature of the story; and thus stops it building to a peak. A strangely placed roly-poly, that quite frankly should have stayed in primary school PE, along with the bizarre use of freestanding windows being held up by members of the cast were beyond me.  A redeeming quality was the use of Cornish sea-shanties throughout, which the musical lover in me appreciated. The music pushed the story forward and added to the gothic and haunting atmosphere.

Rebecca is a visually stunning production complete with Leslie Travers’ astonishing set transporting you inside the Manderley estate quickly. One moment a broken boat, the next a Manderley wine cellar; the set flows from the indoors to the outdoors effortlessly.  Coupled with Tim Lutkin’s lighting design, the intensity of the Summer at Manderley is captured perfectly. I can find no faults with the set of Rebecca, it’s just a shame that the story didn’t match up to it as highly.

Rebecca is a muddled production that has resulted in equally as muddled opinions in my head. Whist this wasn’t particularly my cup of tea, there is no denying that it’s a beautifully staged production with redeeming elements; however I just feel a bit “meh” about the whole affair.


Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

Venue: The Mayflower Southampton



The sun may be the only thing shining on the French Riviera in this touring version of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is based on the 1988 film of the same name, which starred Michael Caine and Steve Martin.

Scoundrels, previously shown in the West End with Robert Lindsay at the helm, is written by Jeffrey Lane and David Yazbek and tells the story of two con-men: Lawrence Jameson (Michael Praed) and Freddy Benson (Noel Sullivan) who, along with their right hand man Andre (Mark Benton), are trying to fleece wealthy women out of their money. In a bid to determine who is the best con man and to be able to stay in Beaumont-Sur-Mer the pair place a bet on who can get 50k out of Soap Queen, Christine Colgate (Carley Stenson), first.

There’s no denying that Praed, Sullivan and Benton provided entertainment for the masses and were having the time of their lives in what was the penultimate show for the tour; but there was something missing with this production, and I felt as out of place in the audience of elderly, as the strangely placed Minion balloon looked in this 1950’s inspired musical. This musical is definitely a product of a time of “non pc” thinking; therefore I felt it was enjoyed more by the older generation.

Slapstick comedy a-plenty… Think Producers with an extra side helping of ham!  The scripting was at times offensive and I just couldn’t get on board with a scene where Freddy pretends to be disabled.

The entire cast did their best with what they were given and whilst there is no denying that Noel Sullivan of Hear’say fame and Hollyoaks’ Carley Stenson are brilliant singers, the musical has very little in the way of memorable songs. I can literally only name you one song without looking at the programme. Great Big Stuff is hopefully not stuck in my brain for all eternity, which is a shame as Sullivan can knock the socks off of a Rock Power ballad a la We Will Rock You/Rock of Ages any day of the week.

Peter McKintosh’s set is definitely a redeeming factor setting the tone and adding an extra ounce of glitz and glam to the French Riviera hotel setting.

A play not completely devoid of hope, but one that made me want to board a boat back to English shores after the first act.

The Mayflower Southampton was the last stop on the Dirty Rotten Scoundrels tour.


Lord of the Flies


Venue: Mayflower Theatre Southampton

The Regent’s Park Theatre version of Lord of the Flies is based on the 1954 novel by William Golding.  I seem to be one of the few who didn’t read Lord of the Flies for GCSE English and I haven’t picked up the book since, so I was going in with an open mind and didn’t really know what to expect.

Lord of the Flies delves into a dystopian world where a group of young boys between the ages of 6 and 12 find themselves accidently stranded after their plane was shot down from the sky. The play shows how the boys are divided into two groups – one which tries to maintain order and one which descends into utter chaos. At the beginning Ralph and Piggy (Anthony Roberts) try to call out all the survivors of the crash using a conch shell. There was some semblance of order on the island for a while until paranoia about a beast on the island kicks in and the boys begin to turn on each other.

For me the real selling point of this play is the design; Jo Bausor – the designer, Paul Keogan – Lighting Designer and Avgoustos Psillas – Sound Designer have done a stellar job at putting this production together. I would like to see how this was done in the Regents Park Open Air Theatre as I think it would bring a whole new level to the design. That being said this is without a doubt one of the most impressive pieces of staging that I have seen. Bausor’s awe inspiring set design includes a crashed plane with its contents thrown across the stage, which the children use as their playground. Keogan’s use of stage lighting was used to highlight different places on the island and separated different things that were happening simultaneously.

The cast were enthusiastic and passionate about the production which really came across; it must have been hard for the group to perform to a venue only filled to about a quarter of its capacity. Luke Ward – Wilkinson did a sterling job of leading the cast as Ralph, the charismatic leader who tries to be diplomatic.

Nigel Williams’ adaptation which may have been better as a one act play included a few updated 21st Century mod cons, what’s a 21st Century play without a selfie stick and boarding “the banter bus”, hey? To me, it just didn’t fit with the dystopian element of the production and seemed out of place. Whilst I have no problem with making classics relatable to a younger more modern audience, Golding’s classic didn’t benefit from the upgrade into the world of smartphones.

The play was lacking depth and the shock value was often lost on me. With a range of diverse themes and parallels to everyday life I was expecting the play to have more of a lasting impression on me as I left the theatre.

The production finished playing at the Mayflower on the 3rd of October before moving on to Cambridge and 16 other venues across the Country.


Priscilla Queen of the Desert

The Campest Bus to Roll into Town


Priscilla Queen of the Desert, based on the 1994 Australian film of the same name, rolled into the Mayflower on the 14th of September for a one week run. After nearly three years in the West End, this is the second UK wide tour and the second time it has enraptured audiences at this Southampton venue.

The cast is led by Priscilla’s newest member, Blue’s Duncan James as Tick. James shows off his impressive physique many a time before he goes on to don the Lycra and sequins as Tick’s alter ego Mitzi – with both parts of his performance equally entertaining.

The Musical tells the story of two drag queens and a transgender woman, who work as drag performers in Sydney. They decide to travel to Alice Springs after Tick, unbeknown to the others, tries to find them work close to his son and wife. With Tick’s hidden agenda of seeing his son, the trio, along with their tour bus Priscilla, head to the remote outback town of Alice Springs. The production highlights the trials and tribulations of going “on tour” into the  more rural areas of Australia and the homophobia that a drag act can encounter whilst presenting you with underlying messages of acceptance .

Simon Green and Adam Bailey do a sterling job as Tick’s two tour mates, Bernadette and Felicia. Note should also be made to the impressive singing imparted from the 3 divas who are suspended above all the action –providing the voices behind the lip synching drag queens.

Priscilla boasts a massive array of jukebox musical numbers including Go West,  I Will Survive, Can’t Get You Out Of My Head and Hot Stuff to name but a few – which are entertaining to watch. The costumes are equally as colourful and spectacular which adds a real energy to the performance – I’m jealous of how the cast walk and run so effortlessly in high heels, I would end up flat on my face running like they do.

There were two main things to let the production down for me and one was the set design. The Priscilla set if sent back to the garage, would fail its MOT – as it definitely needs some fine tuning. There was so much scope for impressive staging, with locations like Ayres Rock, however the cast were often just performing in front of a rickety red curtain which leads to the magnitude of Outback Australia being lost in translation.

The music/storyline ratio was slightly off in my opinion and I must admit, I didn’t really understand what was going on half the time partly through my own lack of context. I think director Simon Phillips saved the best piece of script to last with the interaction between Tick and his son – whose cuteness tugged on many a heart string!

Whilst there is room to improve, there is no denying that this musical does what it says on the tin. It is a fun, flamboyant and feel-good night out; the all singing all dancing element must win over audiences night after night. The Opening Night at The Mayflower had the whole audience on their feet and even had some dancing at curtain call.

Priscilla may be rolling into a town near you soon with dates scheduled until the end of April 2016.


Curious Incident



Venue: Mayflower Theatre Southampton

A UK Tour, with the National Theatre attached to it, automatically grabs my attention. Curious Incident of The Dog in the Night-Time has done fantastically well in the West End and across the pond over on Broadway, so there was a high bar set in my eyes and I believe it smashed it!

5 years ago I was introduced to Mark Haddon’s ‘Curious Incident of The Dog in the Night-Time’ in an A Level English class and was astounded and gripped by the story of Christopher Boone.

Now for those of you who haven’t spent a whole year of your life covering the pages of the novel in highlighter pen then the plot may be a mystery to you. Allow me to explain: The story follows Christopher, who has Asperger’s syndrome, playing detective when his neighbour’s dog is gruesomely murdered in the garden. The find leads him to make chat with ‘strangers’, make discoveries about his family and learns about bravery and honesty, all set in an academic mind full of maths equations and science.

Simon Stephens has done a stellar job translating the book onto the stage and with the help of director Marianne Elliot created the perfect all round visual production.

Chris Ashby acted phenomenally as Christopher, deserving the standing ovation he received, breaking the fourth wall and establishing a connection with the audience almost immediately. There was a real warmth and depth to his performance and his chemistry with Geraldine Alexander as the teacher was heart-warming. Frantic assembly’s movement direction added heaps to the performance and contributed seamlessly to the production.

Special note should be made to Bunny Christie’s visually stunning set design; admirably combining the simple set with more complex graphs, boxes and equations. The lighting and the video designs were spectacular and all together it perfectly encompassed the hectic goings on in Christopher’s head. The most seamless merging of sound, lighting, acting and visuals was during the train station sequence; all the cast and creatives excelled in this scene and was a standout for me.

You can certainly expect the unexpected in this production. Cast members lit only by torchlight, complicated math equation explanations, train sets, cast members in the audience and real life animals (and yes I did spend a lot of time checking Toby the rat was still inside his cage and wasn’t planning a great escape!)

Many adaptations are pitted up against their original version and most of the time they can fail to live up to people’s high expectations, but in this instance I have to say I preferred the play to the book. The hugely visual elements and staging heighten the plot and transported the audience into Christopher’s mind, something also done very well in the book.

Just remember Christopher never lies, so don’t be in a rush to leave your seats after the curtain call…

Curious Incident the tour continues onto Cornwall, Oxford and Liverpool in July and concludes its run in November 2015.


SATTF Romeo and Juliet


Venue: Theatre Royal Winchester

Apart from a brief foray into Much ado about Nothing in 2011, I’m the first to admit that I would’t often voluntarily watch a Shakespeare play after GCSE English put me through the Shakespeare ringer. Adaptations have become dry and often simply boring.

Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory’s (SATTF) production of Romeo and Juliet surpassed all expectations and broke the mould. A modern adaptation of the Shakespeare tragedy provides the perfect mix of Shakespearian English and modern themes and staging.

Now whilst I am sure that one of the world’s most famous love stories needs no introduction plot-wise, for anyone wanting a refresher here goes. The Capulet’s and Montague’s have been rival and warring families for as long as they can remember and the idea of any union between members is simply unthinkable. At a party Romeo (Montgue) and Juliet (Capulet) have a chance meeting and fall head over heels in love. The next day they get married – something that would be near on unthinkable nowadays but that doesn’t seem strange in the slightest to the young lovers. On the same day Romeo has an encounter with Juliet’s cousin and kills him, leaving him exiled. Juliet is lined up by her father to marry Prince Paris and Juliet, devastated by the whole scenario, takes a potion to make her appear dead to her family. Romeo, who is supposed to be in on the whole plan, hears of the news of Juliet’s death and goes to track her down. Juliet awakes to find Romeo dead on her lap. Distraught at the prospect of living her life without her husband she kills herself for real this time. All in the space of a few days – totally romantic right?


The casting particularly of the young teenagers that the play centres around is superb. The beginning scenes between the boys are full of energy. Paapa Essiedu convincingly plays Romeo as the charming and energetic object of Juliet’s (Daisy Whalley) affection. Whalley’s Juliet grows in front of our very eyes transforming from a well behaved and innocent daughter into a passionate bride. Significant mention should also be made to Oliver Hoare and Callum McIntyre who exude the energy and ‘ladish’ behaviour of Mercutio and Benvollio. The cast is well rounded with the edition of Sally Oliver who shines as the nurse in on Juliet’s secret love affair with Romeo.

The production really is an all encompassing one. Polina Kalinina (Director) did a sterling job incorporating simplistic yet super effective set design and lighting into the production. The set is made up entirely of a circular mirror suspended above a playground roundabout (often doubling as a weapon) which gave an extra dimension and some depth to the performance. Kalinina’s well adapted the play from being shown in the round with her ambitious use of space. Sat at the back of the stalls, nearly every member of the cast was within touching distance at some point throughout the production using the entrances as theatre space. Sound and lighting are expertly used to create an atmosphere from the second you enter the theatre.

A play for all ages and something to definitely engage teenagers and to prove the relevance and worth of Shakespeare in today’s society. This has reignited my interest in Shakespeare and am looking forward to seeing another SATTF production.

Romeo and Juliet finishes its run at the Theatre Royal Winchester this Saturday before continuing the tour to Scarborough, Derby and Salisbury.


Oh, What a Beautiful Musical – Oklahoma


Venue: Mayflower Theatre Southampton

Oklahoma was first performed back in 1943 on Broadway and has captured the hearts of many an audience over the years. It’s legacy lives on in Rachel Kavanaugh’s touring revival of the Rodgers and Hammerstein Classic which played a string of dates at the Mayflower Theatre last week.

The musical set in 1900’s Midwest America tells the story of a romance between Cowboy Curly Mclain (Ashley Day) and farm girl Laurey Williams (Charlotte Wakefield) in the story centering on Laurey’s decision of who to go to the box social with after she discovers herself to be the object of brooding hired hand Jud (Nic Greenshields) affections.

Day starts the production off with a heart-warming rendition of Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’ and with classics like  “The Surrey with the Fringe on Top”,“People will say were in Love” and the titular end song which are  sung beautifully by all involved the show has an enduring feel good value.

The production was well put together with a mix of acting, singing and stunning choreography from Drew McOnie which was particularly showcased in the dream ballet sequence. The set design, which doesn’t look sturdy at the best of times gives the stage the desired feel of being on a ranch in 1906 America. The use of props including hay bails and shotguns really adds to the feel of the production. The in house Orchestra added impressive feel that some musicals are often lacking.

The cast were perfectly chosen with Ashley Day and Charlotte Wakefield angelic voices moving the audience. Belinda Lang did a tremendous job of playing Aunt Eller and Gary Wilmot provided the comedic value of Ali Hakim fantastically with the help of Lucy May Barker as the girl who just can’t say no – Ado Annie. Particular mention should also be played to James O’Connell who played Will Parker and Nic Greenshields who sung spectacularly as Jud.

With a production that has spanned decades inevitably these revivals don’t spark as much interest as some of the newer musicals out there, whilst it doesn’t pack a punch like the Wicked’s of the world this simple musical was a refreshing change of pace. The Mayflower was the emptiest I have seen it for a production and I was one of the youngest audience members there but that didn’t hinder the performance one bit as Oklahoma was a joy to watch.

Oklahoma is touring the UK until 8th of August at a variety of different receiving venues.



‘Pass it on’ – The History Boys


Venue: Theatre Royal Winchester

The History Boys was first performed back in 2004 and quickly became a high grossing hit catapulting it’s stars into the hearts of the public. The original had stints at the National before transferring to Broadway and becoming a movie. The play has recently been dubbed “The Nation’s Favourite Play” so the Sell a Door tour of Alan Bennett’s play had some incredibly big shoes to fill.

The play set in 80’s Yorkshire tells the story of 8 History students who after successfully completing their A Levels are studying for Oxbridge Exams. The Headmaster (Christopher Etteridge) brings in new teacher Irwin (Mark Field) in the hopes on inspiring the students before the big exams.  Irwin discovers the wealth of “useless and out of bounds” knowledge that has been instilled in the boys by Hector (Richard Hope) – the somewhat eccentric, paedophilic General studies teacher. The two teachers different and often conflicting methods of teaching provide yet another challenge for the boys as they try to navigate their teenage years and try to fulfil their dreams.

The cast of young guys did a credible job of portraying the respect, friendship and comradary between the students. Posner (Steven Roberts) and Dakin (Kedar Williams-Starling) provided the standout performances with their comedic timing and attention to detail. Posner is the outlier of the group finding solace in singing whilst Dakin is the good-looking boy navigating his way through girls and sexuality. Notice must also be taken to avid church goer Scripps (Alex Hope) who clearly narrates the story through perceptive monologues to move the story further.

The production really is an all encompassing one. Kate Saxon (Director) did a sterling job incorporating set design and lighting into the production.  Libby Watson created the backdrop to the show. The back wall covered in images reflecting literature, history, culture and teenager-dom provided the perfect setting for a door with large windows which added more dimensions to the staging allowing for the story to take place in more than one area.

Whilst it is highly unlikely that any production of The History boys will be able to reach the heights of the original or create stars like James Corden and Dominic Cooper; Sell A Door’s version of The History Boys has started to bridge the gap. The History Boys Tour has finished its run at the Theatre Royal Winchester but can be seen at other theaters nationwide as they continue to travel the country to “pass it on”.