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REVIEW: Wuthering Heights at Theatre Royal

Wuthering Heights

Theatre Royal

Emma Rice returns to Brighton Festival with her new company Wise Children with this wonderful production of Wuthering Heights. Set on the wild and windy Yorkshire Moors is tells an epic story of love, revenge and redemption. Rescued from the Liverpool docks as a child, Heathcliff is adopted by the Earnshaws and taken to live at Wuthering Heights. He finds a kindred spirit in Catherine and a fierce love ignites. When forced apart, a brutal chain of events is unleashed.

The singing in this production is astonishingly good, full bodied, passionate, gripping us in its emotional tension, throwing us up and holding us carefully in the depth of the lows,  Lucy McCormick  and Liam Tamne  lead the company their voices possessing and filling the spaces of the Theatre Royal and are excellent along with atmospheric background vocals and movements being provided by a trio of voices providing interesting reactive to the action unfolding before then.

The diverse cast give us a real insight into the different worlds of Brontës masterpiece  along with the use of puppets for younger kid characters  with different actors speaking, allowing a textured feel to the projection. It feels much ‘bigger’ than it is. The scene transitions are astonishingly slick and fluid, the whole set seems to shudder, heave and suddenly we’re elsewhere, elsewhen.  I’m a fan of a slick set, and the props and level of details bringing atmospheric touches to every moment of action on stage.  Doorways and windows being represented in writhing, turning portals, experiences from both sides, allowing for some fun physical acrobatics.

There are some bonkers abstract props, I adored the chairs on chairs on wheels, but even these abstract touches are given meaning and weave themselves into the whirligig of activity on the stage, the books on broomstick birds delighted me.

Director Rice gives us a cast in top form, who glide, sing, dance, jump, place and act with a refined grace which renders everything feeling natural and unfolding in front of us for the fist time. For those who are new to Bronte work, or know if through film or parody or Kate Bush the narrative can be a touch slow to speed up, but once the tension is building, it’s a pumping wheezing full-speed-ahead engine of narrative direction.  Time is flexible in this production allowing the stories of key characters to be explored in break out scenes which allow us to understand their actions later in their lives.

The dancing is on point and precise throughout, with the whole cast turning moments into delights and shining in their own ways, you often hear of a ‘toe tapping’ musical, Heights is that, with the whole row in the stalls alongside me tapping away with the dance number, the band members interweave their playing with interacting with the dancers, giving an authentic tavern or village fete feel to the action. It’s a real whirl of movement and music.

We are served a wonderful big dramatic ending to the first half which leaves the audience stunned and not quite sure if it is time to seek refreshments.

With most of the action taking place inside the houses from the books, Wuthering Heights being the most famous one, we are given a dark staging of old spaces. There are times when this can obscure some of  the action . The sound effects are good with big impacts, the storms of the moors being evocatively represented, with the winds and rains forcing themselves in when the doors were opened.

There’s some light audience participation, a lovely moment one of the case dancing and shimming along a row in the stalls, to the audiences’ delight. The same actress playing a rather eccentric character, the son little Linton became a real stand out character with weaving the audience into the action, gently picking on people and filling the space with bizarre movement.  Death is treated in an interesting way, a Dr walks on with a blackboard with the departed  named on, following on from the confusing plot explanations at the beginning, a rather fun poke at Bronte’s mass of interwoven characters.

It’s nice to see credit given to stage staff and production crew at the end of production and just highlights the cooperating and coproduced energy that this thrilling ensemble bring to the theatre.

If you’ve not seen Emily Brontë’s masterpiece on stage, then witness it here transformed into a powerful, uniquely theatrical and musical experience, with Rice’s trademark playfulness and attention to detail.  This is a brilliant performance of precise choreography, full on show tune celebrations , some reflective moments of defined melancholia, a set that thrills and rich colorful Victoriana and African influenced  costumes. This spicy melange of talents are all drawn together by Rice’s direction allowing you to sit back, allow your attention to be enthralled and royally entertained.

Till 21st May

more info or to buy tickets see the Brighton Festival Website here:

 

 

 

REVIEW: The Marian Consort – Brighton Festival

All Saints Church, Hove

Friday May 13th at 8.30pm

The Marian Consort in the sublime magnificence of All Saints Church in Hove was a wonderful pairing, the acoustics of this marvellous church allowing the resonant rolls of sound that the overlapping harmonic voices of the Consort generated.

The programme  combined the breathtakingly melancholic requiem setting of Schütz’s Musikalische Exequien from 1635 with specially commissioned work by David Fennessy which were interlaced to be performed in response to the austere brilliance of Schütz’s music.

It’s a beguiling combination of music and style Fennessy’s new work bolding picking up motive’s and echo’s whilst holding it’s own space and place. I was enchanted in the ways that the singer’s used Fennessy’s new pieces to answer the plaintive lyrical articulations of the requiem, adding depth to the reflection of the music. The crisp annunciation of the funeral German was precise and allowed the music to follow the complex changing patters of single voice and ensemble. The pairing lulled me into a reflective state of contemplative bliss and the concert passed in the blink of an eye which seemed to last for eternity.

I adore the opportunity to bliss out and as I was wrapped in the pure voices of the consort, bouncing ideas of mortality and immorality  back and fore, over and under, though and part of, my mind dissolved into the complexity of this extraordinary masterpiece. It’s pairing of chant and solo, or harmonic and single voice, of pairings and sharing is sublime, evoking a strong sense of belief and humility before struggles of fate and destiny. With Jan Waterfield & Peter McCarthy’s mournful and perfect continuo playing this was a treat, as dusk fell and the voices rose, my soul fluttered.

An evening of  evocative and thrilling singing perfection in the theatrical architectural brilliance of All Saints.

Full details of the concert here on the festival website site

 

Rory McCleery, director

Alexandra Kidgell, Elspeth Piggott, soprano

Martha McLorinan, Judy Louie Brown, alto

Will Wright, Chris Lombard, tenor

Jon Stainsby, Chris Webb, bass

Jan Waterfield, Peter McCarthy, continuo

 

More info on the Brighton Festival, which runs to May 30th, here

 

BOOK REVIEW: ‘The Satyrs Kiss: Queer Men, Sex Magic & Modern Witchcraft’ by Storm Faerywolf

The Satyrs kiss

QUEER MEN, SEX MAGIC & MODERN WITCHCRAFT

Storm Faerywolf

The Satyrs kiss is a book tailored to queer men practicing modern witchcraft,  a gay grimoire which offers a thorough remoulding of traditions in an empowering, queer centric, sex positive way. Reflecting the practice of the author and of many men who seek an empowering spiritual space which fully sees then, and celebrates their sexuality and channels its power.

Traditionally there have been forms of witchcraft which have placed a great emphasis on fertility and the balance of male and female. The books intention is to address this heterocentric perspective and suggest an updated way for Queer men to support their pagan practice.

This is not an entry level or  beginners’ book on the subject of modern witchcraft, but a book for men who are already some way along their spiritual journeys. If you have read The Spiral Dance by Starhawk or anything from the Reclaiming or the Anderson Feri Tradition then you will have a good grounding and be able to fill in the gaps.  Storm Faerywolf is a Warlock and a well-known and respected practitioner with a few solid books on this subject behind him and a diverse online presence.

This practical guide empowers everyone who identifies as male to take his rightful place at the centre of his own universe, honouring the unique qualities that set him apart from the mainstream. Emphasizing the importance of sexuality in Witchcraft, this book features a variety of methods for celebrating sex in a magical way. The exercises are straightforward and easy to perform and deftly include working with many familiar symbols regularly used by Queer communities (the rainbow and the triangle for example)

In depth and from a pagan perspective he explores gay archetypes such as bears and drag queens, and also examines queer gods and ancestors. Faerywolf brings an understanding of historical pagan tradition to this book, parsing and explaining the development of ideas and rituals, exploring ways of making them fully inclusive and removing sometimes centuries of bias and deliberate erasure of queer lives.

The traditional wheel of the year is enriched with extra dates dedicated to people and events which are important in LGBTQ history. The book would have benefited from examples  of seasonal ceremonies, especially for Beltane which has often been celebrated in quite a heterocentric way and are often Queer men’s first contact with pagan rituals.

There is a refreshingly frank and uninhibited exploration of using sexuality in magic and as part of a spiritual practice, emphasizing the importance of sexuality in Witchcraft, and  featuring a variety of methods for celebrating Queer sex in a magical way.

There is a wide, fun and well written section of the book providing unique spells. The prose is engaging, many written in fun poetic form and the spells address many issues and dilemmas faced by gay men.

The book is aimed at Queer men, but as the author themselves explains cis gay men will probably be the ones who find it the most accessible. Other men on the queer spectrum may need to adjust the material from time to time, but with a flexible deconstructive approach to the many rituals in this book, this would be an easy undertaking for a confident Queer pagan and the book supports this empowering person-centred approach.

With a comprehensive foreword from Christopher Penczak, a leading light in the American metaphysical communities, this book offers insight and practical suggestions for a Queer man who seek a spiritual avenue to explore, anchored in empowering ritual, which reflects their own lived experience. Faerywolf serves up a really useful book with a lot that can be used to queer up any pagan tradition and satisfy the passion in your soul with a queer-centred exploration of magical philosophy, history, rites of passage, and sex magic.

Out May 2022 £22 large paperback, e-Formats.

For more info or to order the book see the publisher’s website here:

BOOK REVIEW: The Whale Tattoo by Jon Ransom

The Whale Tattoo

Jon Ransom

When a giant sperm whale washes up on the local beach it tells Joe Gunner that death will follow him wherever he goes. Joe knows that the place he needs to go is back home. Having stormed out two years ago, it won’t be easy, nor will returning to the haunted river beside the house where words ripple beneath the surface washing up all sorts of memories.

Ronson’s captivating prose tangs and stings the mind like wet shorts on a cold beach, words are picked up by the howling wind of his narrative and thrown against your eyes, gritty, harsh utterly British, you squint, your eyes water, or are they tears? This is not the Norfolk of boating brochures, this is Constable dragged by a coughing Maggi Hambling through the mudflats at low tide and left for the wind to slice.

There’s no let up to this grinding grey misery, an everyday existence scraped with rage from the rusting rotting locations of these flat marshlands, and then his sun comes out and his prose washes everything in the most brilliant forensic light, squinting in the beauty revealed in such authentic detail hurts, the many strands of this story rippling like sunlight on the waves, bouncing and tumbling in and on each other, but relentlessly coming in, there’s no escaping the tide and in this book Ronson’s deep connection to time and place stakes us out at low tide, as his books ominous sucking grey water rises around us.

Will we drown or float, or urgently gasp breath as the treacherous story sucks us down in a sentence to sit amongst the dead who so populate this landscape.

There are far too few books of working-class gay life, and few celebrate the emotional depth of Queer lads like The Whale Tattoo does, allowing this small-town boy to grow to a man and although berated by life and refused opportunity by resentful family, society or love still finds precious moments to cling on to and rise to the surface of this murk.  Joe is an amazing Queer character, fully fleshed out, we live in his mind, feel each hesitation and grasp with his hands on reeds and rotting logs to keep buoyant in this landscape dominated by anguish & loss.  We feel the vibrant lust of Joe’s sexual experiences, the urgent, furtive grubby warmth and his longing and recognition of the brief moments of intimacy he shares with Tim Fysh an old lover and local fisherman. We feel his bold hopes, we know his thoughts, the books’ narrative drumbeat keeps us close to him, next to him, feeling his breathing, anticipating his thoughts. It’s disturbingly intimate but feels utterly authentic.

The glint in protagonists Joe’s difficult life, unbalanced by the stresses of grief and coping as best he can is the power of his resilience, it’s like a shimmering nacres layer hidden under rough mussel shells, a caustic polish revels this audacious grasp of the power of redemption.  We feel this lad struggling for identity and connection in this churning, ebbing world, his only constant on the tides the River and it’s imagined brutally honest voice.

The book is alive in the hands, no easy read, it wriggles and tries to leap away from you. I had to put it down more than once as a sentence took a turn into the brutal crepuscular silence and the rough marsh came for me. I laid down and wept.

The book is a magical exploration of grief and love, but so rooted in a physically real world as to shock. I’m sure every time I opened it, I could hear the seagulls wheeling overhead and smell the tang of brine. Ronson’s remarkable ability to capture a moment of beauty wrapped up in fractured unreliable memories of lives lost is a disturbing delight. As we learn more of Joe’s relationship with his Father, his dead sister who he still talks to every day, and his longing, lust and love for Fysh, his lover. It’s complex and reflects, hugging the stillness of silent rockpools in moments which feel like they are eternal, before crashing down into sexy opportunistic reality. The world unfolds like fronds of buoyant seaweed once more afloat and waving. What seemed piles of green reeking weeds reveal their natural beauty. This is an unforgiving book, with no excuses offered up in its observations of this young Queer lads’ hard life, but deep in the belly of Ronsons Whale we are offered the redemption of hope and the story takes us by the hand and pulls us up and out of the abyss.

Dear Reader, it’s been a while since I’ve been left so raw by a book . The Whale Tattoo made it to my permanent book shelf, and sits there now whispering to me, telling me the water is warmer than it looks, pop a pebble in my pocket, that we all drown in the end, some in water, some in tears and a few brave souls in narratives, for without love, what is there?

Out now £9:99

For more info or to order the whale tattoo see the publisher’s website here:

REVIEW: Unchain Me Brighton Festival

Unchain Me

Brighton Festival

Unchain Me is inspired by Dostoyevsky’s novel, The Possessed, in which a provincial town descends into chaos as it becomes the focal point of an attempted uprising orchestrated by a shadowy conspirator, who disappears as soon as the seeds of revolution are sown.

Kitted out with tablets strung round our necks, we wait, hobbled with a clunky interface and a GPS which doesn’t work, the tech is woefully underused and with all the talk of direct democracy, there is a missed opportunity to see it in action via voting on our tabs. We move from attic to back room, disused space to impressive museam storerooms, filled with history and dusty stuffed birds and all the while we are told personal stories of struggle, against poverty, crime, the unfairness of a system rigged against you, people making choices, for good, to fight, it feels like an experience in radicalisation Disney style but there’s little engagement with the members of my group/cell.  The actors implore us to believe them, to trust them, but offer up little when challenged to do so outside of the rigid narrative that is the engine of the piece.

From a heart-breaking story of family tragedy and the twisted products of our prisons systems we end up in a room with an Elizbeth Fry mural, ah I think, prison reform, but no it’s not even referenced, a choir sings in a back room, actors have urgent conversations about trusting us – as we look like a pretty inoffensive group of Canadian ramblers – it’s not a big ask, but we get bundled off again.  Asking folk to navigate the South Lanes with a GPS which doesn’t work is pretty daft, but the actors shepherd us along anyway, making the maps redundant.

It’s a pretty passive experience, low on detail and the ability to probe, we watch someone kidnapped and menaced, mostly complicit in their harm, we meet a bloke in a pub, we listen to radicalised young people talk of lost childhoods and a system which crushes them, we look around and admire the baroque and rococo back rooms we find ourselves in. We stay silent.

This is billed as a site response immersive experience and if you’re not familiar with Brighton then I imagine this will bring an extra sense of peeking behind the scenes, of secret connections and layers of history, of being smuggled around the city in the fabric of its grand buildings.  A feeling of paranoia is generated, everyone is watching everyone, who can really be trusted, although this can be easily misinterpreted. Panoptic can segue to pervy with a wink. The fit bloke, in the very tight jeans and a chequered shirt outside the Theatre royal wasn’t cruising me after all, although he might want to reconsider that level of intense unbreaking eye contact on a Brighton street in the evening…

We end up in a swanky reception, all the groups gather  who have had different but similar experiences are there, we are there to meet the Governess, a neo liberal politician sitting atop a pile of privilege and money, her family having owned this city for 400 years.  Fictional, but very real in other places, a few Dukes in the UK spring to mind…. She talks about the good things’ wealth has brought to us, good citizens of Brighton, a trickle-down economy, and is aggressively questioned by the younger people in the groups, our contacts, our unreliable narrators. They raise ugly question of homelessness, poverty, lack of investment, crony capitalist, rentier exploitation and scour her responses by pointing out the fabric of the city is founded in exploitation, slavery, misery and the purchase and sale of human lives.  Dostoevsky said ‘What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything? Taking a new step, uttering a new word, is what people fear most.’

Here is feels  like something might happen, real change posited, some real action, in this glossy room with the Neo Liberal Fiona Bruce and her peach satin two-piece and bolero jacket, perfect hair and professional smile, soothing us with lies we feel the angry call of change from a stolen generation, the tension mounts, we are asked our views, virtually none in the audience respond, just silent, dumb voyeurs of our fate…. Then we’re treated to a Dynasty style sibling face off, ending in tragedy and a distinct lack of dénouement. (Devenir gris) 

As we are ushered out once again, in small groups, through different doors, we gather in a room of screens, many people; agents of the state telling the exact same story. A line of talking heads give us narratives of how families, people and children are failed by the institutions means to save them; health care, education, social housing, justice. Hurt people hurt people. Maps on the walls show countries ripped apart by civil war and internecine conflicts.

Is this it? We leave. In our own groups once again. Grasping for some kind of meaning in a fractured narrative, struggling to underneath this layer of lies and the worship of lies.  I’m unimpressed.

As Dostoevsky wrote ‘But I always liked side-paths, little dark back-alleys behind the main road- there one finds adventures and surprises, and precious metal in the dirt.’, for some that’s enough, the journey is all and with UnchainMe dreamthinkspeak provide us with a distracting journey through the city, giving us glimpses into lives and meaning, passions and privilege, providing uncomfortable questions about what our own comfortable living situations are based on, but no recommendations for how to change or ideas for personal agency and very, very little action. As I wandered off into the night I reflected perhaps that was the point, to make us see how our inaction, or feeling of powerlessness allows those with agency to exploit us.  Unchain Me succeed in that, mission accomplished.

For more info or to try and book tickets see the festivals website here: 

REVIEW: The Rise and Fall of Little Voice @ Theatre Royal Brighton

The Rise and Fall of Little Voice

Theatre Royal Brighton

Jim Cartwright’s hit play gives us a charming fairy-tale of an evening, but like most fairy tales tis a play about being Grimm up’north;  a heart of gold surrounded by the social misery of lives unlived, frustrated and forever disappointed, and even with the slightest whiff of happy endings it still leaves me chilled.

The small cast act their hearts out and are supported by two very simple sets; a cut away back-to-back northern terraced house opened to us like a dolly house and a simple but surprisingly effective drop down working man’s club variety act curtain.

Christina Bianco embodies LV, her voices and voice carrying the night up and out of the hum drum night to night existence of its drab characters and into a stella realm of touch perfect clarity and delight, her performance in the second act lifts the whole play up onto another level and one can only hope for it to stay there. Alas we don’t.  Bianco’s YouTube career as an uncanny mimic is perfectly reflected here on stage and her acting holds its own with her convincing portrayal of a withdrawn almost silent girl harmed by her unhappy family life.

Shobna Gulati portrayal of brassy life loving, borderline alcoholic mother Mari Hoff’s to LV’s whisp of a daughter is a tour de force in the swinging roller-coaster of life with a manic alcohol-dependent working-class woman. Gulati doesn’t play for sympathy and her character is a manipulative, angry, desperate person, but we get to see the broken tenderness at her core, the damage wrought by abandonment and although unredeemable Gulati allows the broken dreams of Mari to evoke empathy with us. At points she’s positively Shakespearean in her rage at life’s lot, had the bard harked from Oldham…

Fiona Mulvaney’s Sadie is fun, played with a hint of opportunistic menace and delight but with real charm. With little dialogue Mulvaney’s physical comedy spoke wonders, but I winced at many of the dated & unpleasant jokes aimed at her appearance, Ian Kelsey’s tricky , double dealing Ray Say is greasy and charming and his manipulation and grooming of LV to do his bidding is genuinely creepy.  There’s some light comic relief and emotion connection provided by Akshay Gulati’s Billy and the Phone engineer from James Robert Moore. William Ilkley as northern club owner and stage host Mr Boo is wonderfully fun evoking a perfect working man’s club ambience in the rather camp foofoo surroundings of the rococo Theatre Royal, the audience adored him, all nudge nudge, but no wink wink it was an interesting contrast to the ingrained misogyny in of the rest of the writing.

The setting of the play in the tough socially challenging times of working class 1980’s reflects todays hard times, it’s a savage representation of working class hopes smashed, and lives wrecked by early deaths, unspoken desires and alcoholism.  It feels like two plays have met in a bar, got a bit drunk, and forgot to untangle, when it shines Little Voice is brilliant and Bianco’s voice lifts the play way way up, but then when the miserable grubby grasping family drama restarts again, we lurch onwards into despair and hopelessness, no amount of gurning or great acting can save us from that. It’s a curious combination, like flicking between Xfactor and Corrie endlessly, and it left me feeling slightly disturbed as I wandered into the night.

My companion was delighted by LV’s reinterpretations of the great singers of the past and giggled at lots of the mucky metaphors slung around the dialogue. The audience seemed to adore the performance, with the crude northern sweary types and the simple silent glamour of hearing Bassey, Streisand, Garland and Piaf on stage providing plenty of entertainment.

Until Sat 30th  Theater Royal Brighton.  For more info or to book tickets see the Theatre Royals website here

REVIEW: Private Lives @ Theatre Royal

Private Lives, a comedy of manners by Noel Coward, sees a romance revisited between divorced and estranged Elyot and Amanda after they unexpectedly meet each other while both on honeymoon with their respective spouses.

These are sharp brittle people with rapier wits who replace the ennui of their lives with constant sparing.  The relationships, although viewed through the lens of this period piece  still resonated with the majority heterosexual audience, with a lot of laughter from people who may have seen the tensions, frustrations and coping strategies within their own long-term relationships reflected on stage.

The acting in this tightly written piece is wonderfully accurate and on point. Entitled accents, dreamily drifting around, privileged teasing, chauvinism and colonial arrogance are all on show, and skewered by dialogue and studied pose. There’s plenty of laughter, physical comedy and the funnies are delivered with style. I’d forgotten how nasty the play becomes in the end and there’s some brutal exchanges as the narrative moves on. Nigel Havers and Patricia Hodge sparkle and spark in their dueling, each as fabulously bad as each other, and each convincing in their portrayal of people allowing destructive battling passion to  rule hearts and minds. Natalie Walter and Dugald Bruce-Lockhart as the rather naive, younger and much less experienced respective new spouses, Sibyl and Victor serve up delightful anxious, whining foils. Aïcha Kossoko as the maid Louise brings big laughs to a small part and a touch of sophisticated sarcasm as ‘the help’ who’s seen it all, her eye rolling was perfect.

As an examination of a negative relationship generating long-term bickering and the decent into frustrations of hurt people who hurt people it’s fascinating, as a period piece of witty British theatre it’s delightfully and flawlessly presented and as some gently theatrical entertainment it still maintains its power to shine. This 90 year old script shows its age in places but with a slight change of emphasis some of the out of date attitudes are presented in a less flattering, daft light. A comedy should generate laughter and there was plenty of that at the Theatre Royal last night and the audience seemed very pleased with the performances on stage.

It’s interesting to note that Nigel Havers still generates a breathy appreciation from the female audience when he appears and his suaveness and charm is full beam from the off,  but the whole cast were received warmly by an audience.

It’s a three act play and works well in the theatre royal, the second set a breathtakingly beautiful piece of Parisian Chinoiserie and  Art Deco furnishings, lighting and decoration done with impeccable taste and period details. A really wonderful set which works to underscores the voluptuous decadence of these two wonderful dreadful protagonists.

The ending always feels a bit rushed, but here is done with perfect comic timings by Havers and Hodge, the ruthlessly polite exchanges of rigorous incivility over petit déjeuner seriously funny, followed by their tennis playing attention, sitting on the sofa watching with rising delight as Sibyl and Victor’s disagreement dissolves into vicious personal observations, spiteful abuse and ultimately violence is a highpoint of the show.

A period delight, executed with humour and panache and certainly one for Cowards fans or anyone interested in a certain type of arch, camp dialogue driven relationship comedies with a delicious vicious core.

Theatre Royal, Brighton  until Sat 16th April  

For more into or to book tickets see the Theatre Royal Website here

REVIEW: Dr Who – Time Fracture

Dr Who : Time Fracture

Unit Headquarters

London

Time Fracture is a fully immersive, very Queer freindly space where you can discover elements of a Dr Who storyline and see a host of your favourite aliens, characters, enemies and monsters.

To talk in detail about what happens at a good immersive experience always spoils it, so I’ll not be doing that. It’s easy to review a show done so well, with a committed quick-witted cast who all work hard to ensure that everyone is included, but not hassled into taking part. If all you want to do is watch it happen around you, then that’s possible, although my companion, (who had said that’s what he wanted to do), was soon swept up into the action by his own enthusiasm and some gentle encouragement from the charming Gallifreyan guides.

There are some peculiar elements in the event, but then Dr Who is a pretty odd show in the way it often deals with moral and emotional problems that can’t ever have an easy resolve. Time Fracture sticks with that, so don’t expect an easy answer in this show, but do expect to be challenged and have to do some thinking about what you will (or won’t do) to save the Universe.

Costume and sets are fun, with superb attention to detail papering across the faint cracks, high production values always help tip the audience over into participation in any kind of immersive experience and in a world like Dr Who where people are often passionate fans with deep connections to the places, plots and characters presenting them in an engaging way will help support a fun experience.  After an intro, and some frenetic scene setting,  we all make choices on where to go, ending up in a different part of the story which quickly start to melt together. This is done with humour but with a real narrative tension, keeping us focused in having to discover what’s happening and finding out the ‘thing’ that need finding.  There’s a large off-world market ( with a bar)  full of characters  from the last 15 year of Dr Who, who all may, or may not, hold important elements of the plot.

It’s gloriously confusing chaotic fun,  the well-trained team gently helping the action along, making sure everyone feels included and getting a few key folk to engage more deeply.   There’s an odd lack of agency here, but as most of the folk were invested in the Dr Who universe this didn’t appear to be too much of a problem for them, but it annoyed me slightly as the experience continued.

I really enjoy teasing actors in character in these immersive experiences, I was impressed by the quick-witted improvising skills of some of the crew, the Sister of Khan was a wonderfully unrufflable engagement taking all the daftness thrown her way and rolling it back, all wrapped up in the timey wimey nonsense. Delightful!

Half way through the show there’s a break,  we are gently moved into the next space, and basically locked into a large intergalactic bar for some real drinks and toilet stop, it’s an interval with a show!  As the bar jumps though space we get serenaded by two blue glittered singers who were exceptional. We sipped a cocktail and singers Imelda Warren Green and Khadija Sallet seduced us with their amazing range and emotional connection. A lyrical languid smoky blues version of Radio head’s ‘I’m a creep’ really impressed us.  It was an unexpected treat to have such superb singing thrown in alongside the Whovian fun and really added to the value of the experience.

My companion; a newish Whovien (who sports a rather flashy tattoo of the Tardis swirling though the time vortex on his calf) enjoyed himself. Felt confident to take part, and engage with the characters, plot and often pointed out details that he’d noticed.  There were some Old Skool Dr Who fans, people up for silly fun, Super Fans- their gaspingly delivered knowledge of intricate plot detail was handled deftly by the (outclassed) actors and a few young people. This wide range of experience of the Whovien universe is knitted together by talented space management, plot development and keeping groups small and in touch with a key characters.  We all did different things, had different experiences, but in the same spaces. When done well immersion is exciting, TimeFracture is genuinely thrilling. There is always a nagging feeling of missing out, when so much is happening around you.

For the finale we are all brought back together, with our different worldviews, depending on our journey through the different worlds. This sets up a final audience experience which has a wonderfully empowering (and soppy) pay off.

In fine Dr Who fashion we find out that what we need has always been part of us, and our journey has only made us stronger. It’s a lovely dénouement, with more than a nod to the cultish nature of the fan base, I wondered as I chanted for a rather dark scenario of universal annihilation if this was really what I’d signed up for.  It all works out in the end – of course – this is Dr Who so there’s no spoiler there, but there are some light scary moments and we jumped out of our skin once.

At the end we get to wander around part of the set, grab some photos ( all photography and filming is banned throughout the experience which not only keeps the action secret but also stops a lot of daft posing around. ) it’s a gentle way to wind down after a  tense two hours storytelling, packed with interest.

TimeFrature is a stand out experience for any Whoovian in your life, it’s all helped along by some cool screen based appearances from the 1st and current Dr, which allows a charming contrast of personality and Galifrean psychology, and almost all of the other previous Dr’s make some kind of onscreen appearance. This is a fun event for anyone who enjoys being thrown into a well-crafted world, or rather 17 different worlds with 13 possible storylines populated by believable, well-acted characters living in a real-time space created with attention to detail. As you’d expect it’s an inclusive show, very Queer friendly, disability inclusive and with care given to include people who may be shy or need some extra discreet support to get the very best experience.

We left happy, grinning into the bright spring sunlight, thrilled by seeing Cyberman, Daleks, a rather fun Ood and a range of more creepy Dr Who aliens……. whatever you do, don’t blink!

The show is extending its successful run now through to September 2022.  For more info or to book tickets see the website here

 

Rare Rainbow Dolphins spotted off Brighton coast

A Rainbow Dolphin off Brighton Beach

A pod of Rainbow Dolphins has been spotted out to sea close to the West Pier off Brighton Beach this week.  Dr April Phouul of the Cetacean Underwater Nautical Tracking Society said that although its highly uncommon to see these common rainbow dolphins so far north in the English Channel that the sightings are not that unusual, they often get reporting of sightings from the ferry captains at Newhaven although it is unusual to have them come so close to shore.

Dr Phouul, an internationality recognised expert said this time of the year the sea is unseasonably warm, coupled with very low spring tides caused by the recent full moon and the jellyfish the dolphins feed on have been colonising the warmer Sussex waters. It’s the bright pink colouration of the jellyfish that produces such an amazing natural rainbow colouring in the skins of the dolphins combined with an increase in their hormones due to their early April breeding season. Rainbow Dolphins form same sex pairs to look after the young in their pod, this behaviour is very common in the animal world.

The Rainbow Dolphins have been seen for the last three days enjoying  the very low tides just around the West Pier which is bringing them into contact with people who are exploring the exposed foreshore.

Scene magazine reached out to Professor Uni Korn, marine biologist at Sussex University to explain what people should do it they come across these marvellous creatures whilst swimming or paddling out. Professor Korn warned the public that these were wild animals and were not to be approached, they are highly territorial and if they have young with them will attack. Prof Korn said ‘Beware these Rainbows are fierce!!  There have been recorded attacks by Rainbow Dolphins on people on paddle boards and people using highly coloured inflatables.”

Professor Korn said only last year two people who had paddled out from a beach in Devon on a large inflatable flamingo were attacked by a  pod of fierce Rainbow Dolphins who surrounded the scared people hissing loudly and slapping their tails on the water.  Professor Korn said if you find yourself cornered by a pod of these fierce sea mammals then the best defence is to squeal as loud and high pitched as you can, as this can confuse and scare them off.

You can see an amazing film of the pod of Rainbow Dolphins captured by local fisherman just off the coast of Brighton here.

Dr Phouul said if anyone is lucky enough to catch sight or film any of the Rainbow Dolphins to email them on April1st@phouul.com

REVIEW: Beautiful @ Theatre Royal

Beautiful

The Carole King Musical

Theatre Royal

Brighton

The main problem with this charming jukebox musical  is that Carole doesn’t really have an exciting life, she marries young, has two lovely children, phenomenal success and an unhappy marriage before shedding the hubby, moving to the sun-drenched California and becoming and international singer songwriter sensation who defines an era. Not a lot of narrative struggle and at times the action on stage felt like a lost episode of Laverne & Shirley, including the accents. A musical needs the protagonist to journey, to struggle, a coming of age, but with Carol we see a well-loved singer having a pretty good time of it really, from early success, followed by hit after hit.

Beautiful – tour – 2022 Production photos taken on the 28th February 2022, at Curve Theatre Leicester, Directed by Nikolai Foster

Long before she transformed into a chart-topping music legend, she was an ordinary girl with an extraordinary talent. Beautiful tells the inspiring true story of King’s remarkable rise to stardom, from being part of a hit song-writing team with her husband Gerry Goffin played tonight by Tom Milner who sung wonderfully, to her relationship with fellow writers and best friends Cynthia Weil, payed by Seren Sandham-Davies with energetic dappy charm and Jos Slovick’s Barry Mann, his voice seriously impressive. I hadn’t realised that King and Goffin had written so many famous tracks, it’s an impressive back catalogue of catchy tunes.

Beautiful – tour – 2022 Production photos taken on the 28th February 2022, at Curve Theatre Leicester, Directed by Nikolai Foster

It was fun and the all singing, all dancing,  musical instrument playing young cast give us a fine engaging performance with some stand out singing and dancing from this well rounded ensemble.

Beautiful – tour – 2022 Production photos taken on the 28th February 2022, at Curve Theatre Leicester, Directed by Nikolai Foster

It’s all cosy, comfy serving up a pleasant enough theatrical experience. I was disappointed that I didn’t cry, I adore Kings music and am a pushover for the right narrative nudge in a well written musical, embracing that feeling of welling up in the stalls, but tonight with all the right pieces in place I didn’t feel emotionally  connected to anything happening on stage.  Plenty of smiles though, from the happy, high energy cast who did their best to thread some silk & gold into the threadbare tapestry of the plot. The tensions in the central relationships on stage are played for laughs apart from the unhappiness at the heart of King & Goffins’ marriage, which are skimmed over, hinted at, or happen off stage. It’s so light touch as to barely register as action.

Beautiful – tour – 2022 Production photos taken on the 28th February 2022, at Curve Theatre Leicester, Directed by Nikolai Foster

There’s no real beating heart to this musical, just plenty of music, sung, played and performed with charm and verve by the cast but I didn’t feel connected or moved at the Theatre Royal. The rest of the audience seemed enamoured by the show, giving the cast a standing ovation at the end, my companion enjoyed themselves showing particular admiration for the on point dancers and their sharp coordination.

Beautiful – tour – 2022 Production photos taken on the 28th February 2022, at Curve Theatre Leicester, Directed by Nikolai Foster

Staging and lighting worked well in the confined spaces of the Theatre Royal, with the action taking place in a large off-Broadway musical studio of the early 60’s and 70’s which doubles up with cork board sliders and wheeled sofas for various spaces with a delightful ease.  Strong lighting and possibly the most dry ice I’ve yet seen in a show, allowed the atmosphere to highlight the music. We followed the pretty spectacular growth of Kings career with the swift comings and goings of plenty of music from those times, presented in shortened vignettes for our amusement, the girl and boy groups costumed with chic apparel.  There’s a lot of music stuffed into those two and a half hours, a little more action might have kept my attention.

Molly-Grace Cutler as Carole King is touching, she’s totally there,  filled with charming vulnerable and  buoyant hope, it’s a beguiling performance, hinting at the steeliness at Carols core and her tenacity to be heard on her own terms, and the second half focuses more on her music than the AWOL plot. Cutler gives us her version of King, the music is recognisable, arranged but it’s sung as Cutler, full of passion, it’s a lovely performance not a pastiche.   We end at Carnegie Hall, with an empty emotional dénouement but the most charming of musical performances, and learn nothing of the decades of Kings achievements that lay in front of her.

Beautiful – tour – 2022 Production photos taken on the 28th February 2022, at Curve Theatre Leicester, Directed by Nikolai Foster

I left unsatisfied, slipping away in the damp Brighton night with the audience on their feet clapping along to the cast funky encore, milking it.  I adore Carole King, her music is evocative of a certain period of my life, here the music is presented with care and love, performed well and the cast are uniformly engaging, but though they really did try to make it, Somethin’ inside has died, And I can’t hide and I just can’t fake it, Oh, no, no, no, no

For more info or to book tickets see the Theatre Royal’s website here:

Until Sat 2nd Theatre Royal Brighton

You can read more about the national tour and full company details here

 

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