Spotlight On… Jonah Russell

Jonah stars in Of Mice and Men which is touring  the UK at the moment, at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre from 8 – 12 March 2016 and then continuing around the country, finishing at Leicester Curve Theatre on 28 May 2016.

Hi Jonah, thanks for chatting to Break A Leg Review, How has the tour of Of Mice and Men been going so far and how are you enjoying your role of Slim?

I like playing Slim, I always wanted to be a cowboy anyway and I’m currently resisting the urge to buy a pair of cowboy boots! Slim is nicely nuanced and thinks things through, he’s good to play.

The tour is going well, the set was slightly smaller when we moved from The Birmingham Repertory Theatre to the Everyman Theatre in Cheltenham. The scene is the bunkhouse was smaller and changed the dynamics. I love the Theatre Royal in Nottingham and I’m on home turf, there. The cast are having a great time together and we’ve started playing volley ball, we have taken it seriously and have team colours etc!

What’s your favourite part of the play and why?

The opening scene that Will and Kris do (William Rodell and Kristian Phillips), they never play it the same way which keeps it fresh, it’s lovely and makes our job easier. We can add flavour to it, it’s their story and we add colour.

If you were to switch roles and play another part in the play, who would it be?

Curley’s Wife!

What made you decide on a career in acting?

My drama teacher (Mrs Redgate) said I should do it when I was aged 16, I didn’t realise you could be an actor, I didn’t know that drama schools existed, so it hadn’t been a burning ambition.

What has been the most memorable moment of your career?

Working with Katie Mitchell, working on Broadway and at The National Theatre, London. Appearing in A View From The Bridge at The Young Vic Theatre. I like to take sneaky looks at the audience, which we could do at The Birmingham Repertory Theatre and watch an audience member’s face change as they react to the performance, I think “that’s why we do it”.

What would you say to potential audience members to encourage them to see this production?

It’s a really good night at the theatre, a great classic piece of work. An exciting and vibrant play and you’ll love it!

Thanks to Jonah for chatting to us, we wish him and rest of the cast luck with the tour and you can find further tour details including information on booking tickets here: http://touringconsortium.co.uk/show/of-mice-and-men/

 

 

 

 

 

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Blood Brothers ~ New Theatre, Oxford

  • Touring, moving to Buxton Opera House from 9 – 12 March 2016
  • Spring tour finishes at High Wycombe Swan Theatre on 16 April 2016.
  • Autumn tour to start in Londonderry on 4 October 2016.

It was my third visit to see Willy Russell’s much loved production of Blood Brothers, and it’s telling when after a hat-trick of trips, I could return again and watch it another three times, at least.

The sorry tale of the Johnstone twins who were separated at birth in a bargain between two desperate women, Mrs Johnstone and Mrs Lyons, is loaded with toe-tapping and poignant musical numbers. This particular production boasted a cast who worked together as one, so seamless were their transitions that they seemed to second guess one another.

Lyn Paul as Mrs Johnstone was dream casting, she built the role up steadily and with subtlety which was mirrored as she moved through the various popular tunes. Easy Terms was outstanding, A Light Romance was beautiful and Tell Me It’s Not True hit the rafters and was a moment I’ll not forget in a hurry. Paula Tappenden as Mrs Lyons was a match for Ms Paul. She begins as a woman hell-bent on having a baby by whatever means possible and willing to pay off Mrs Johnstone to do it, slowly Tappenden leads the character to despair and performs as a ‘woman on the edge’ incredibly well. Her vocals are stunning and I expect she would also make a superb Mrs Johnstone.

Sean Jones played Mickey and he was spot on, it was almost difficult to believe that he had played the 7 year old (who was nearly 8) at the start of the show when he moved on to play the character in his older years. Long Sunday Afternoon was exceedingly well done, excellent vocal ability. Kris Harding is the best Narrator I have seen so far, brooding and almost menacing, yes but also showing much remorse for the events as they unfolded. Shoes Upon The Table is my personal favourite and Harding performed it beyond my expectations. A mention must also go to Graham Martin who played multiple roles including the father of the Johnstone kids, two teachers, a policeman, a street kid and the rather randy judge!

Miss this show at your peril, even if you’ve seen it before it still has the capacity to grab you, send you spinning on an emotional journey and, as was evident at the performance I attended, bring the audience to their feet amid rapturous applause.

Here’s the link for tickets and further details: http://www.kenwright.com/index.php?id=643

 

A Midsummer Night’s Dream ~ Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford upon Avon

With a fascinating take on 1940s meeting a surreal and magical world, Erica Whyman has directed a beautiful, melodic and hilarious piece of theatre. This has been by far my favourite production of Shakespeare’s tale of four lovers who’s lives are meddled with due to the mischief and desires of the fairy world.

This play has been dubbed ‘A Play for the Nation’, and with children from various schools joining each performance and performers from fourteen amateur theatre groups each taking on the roles of the mechanicals (including Bottom), this is a collaborative effort, indeed.

The set displayed a great deal of realism with a theatrical backdrop used, whereas the forest where love and mischief reigns supreme displayed an overriding theme of red symbolism. This worked well, especially coupled with the inclusion of the piano centre-piece (where Titania, and later, Bottom take their rest). Music, dance and frivolity is very much a part of the piece and it lends itself perfectly.

Oberon the Fairy King and Titania the Fairy Queen are played with subtlety yet grace and gentility by Chu Omambala and Ayesha Dharker. Their chemistry is poignant and bold, excellent chemistry is also noted between Oberon and Puck, who is the cheeky elf who enjoys wreaking havoc. Lucy Ellinson plays the role and she was outstanding, facial features that spoke a thousand words and hilarious audience interaction. The four lovers, Lysander (Jack Holden), Demetrius (Chris Nayak), Hermia (Mercy Ojelade) and Helena (Laura Riseborough) were superbly cast and each were notable for comic timing which moved appropriately to emotionally charged performances. Riseborough appeared to use her height to achieve some comic effect, whether it was deliberate or not I’m unsure, but it worked! Each actor brought out nuances that highlighted their differences and vulnerabilities simultaneously.

A huge pat on the back must go to The Bear Pit amateur theatre group who played the mechanicals. There was an invisible divide between professional and amateur performers, David Mears as Bottom was a joy to watch, this must surely be a role that he was always meant to play.

This is a must-see and comes highly recommended as a show to beg, steal or borrow ticket for, this year.

The production is going on a UK tour before finishing back at The Royal Shakespeare Theatre in July. Tickets for all performances can be purchased here and further details can also be found: https://www.rsc.org.uk/a-midsummer-nights-dream/the-plot

Spotlight On… Liza Pulman

Liza Pulman is renowned for being a third of the deliciously devilish trio who perform as Fascinating Aida. The resplendent Diva is leaving her cheap flight and Christmas gripes behind her, for now anyway! She’s touring the UK with The Songs of Hollywood and I had the pleasure of chatting with Liza about the show, her career and which of those naughty Fascinating Aida numbers really is her favourite?

Hi Liza, thank you for talking to Break A Leg Review, can you tell me what the audience can expect from your show, The Songs of Hollywood?

It does what it says on the tin, it features songs from Hollywood movies, all the songs we’ve grown up with, for example As Time Goes By. I’m singing with a band, who are brilliant. I’m used to performing with a piano and I love performing with a piano, but this show needs more sparkle and the band provides that.

Is there a personal favourite in your repertoire and what’s the reason for your choice?

Evergreen, it’s a simple song, one I’ve always known and never sung before. I sat down at the piano to try the song and it gets me at my centre.

I noticed on Twitter that you have an album coming out?

Yes, called The Songs of Hollywood, it’s been a voyage of discovery and I’m quietly proud of it. There are 16 songs on there.

How does your solo venture feel without your two cohorts from Fascinating Aida?

It’s different, there were three of us to pass the baton around and we’d each get some respite, I was shared responsibility. There is a sense of responsibility with a solo show, which you have to be careful not to make a negative thing. However, I’m lucky to spend my life doing what I love to do and I love talking to the audience.

What are your favourite numbers from Fascinating Aida?

Cheap Flights because it brought the show to a whole new audience and I do like our rather rude Christmas song, have you heard it?

I have and I love that one, too! So, what led you to a career as a performer?

I was surrounded by performing, Mum was an actress, dad was a writer and my sister and I used to sing at the piano as children. I trained as an opera singer to try and find my own way in my family, I love opera singing and I’m good at it but it’s not where my heart is. The training has been incredible and served me well, I like to use my voice to perform in many ways, though.

What are your ambitions for the future?

I’d like to do more solo work, I like collating material for shows and singing songs that I want to sing, it’s a luxury. Fascinating Aida plans to tour again in 2017, we will look at putting the show together at the end of 2016.

Finally, what would you say to potential audience members to encourage them to buy a ticket?

In this slightly odd time we’re inhabiting, this is a shamelessly joyous evening, there’s music from the band, moving songs that reach out and a couple of stonking frocks from me!

I’d like to thank Liza for her time, it was a pleasure to interview her and I can’t wait to review the show. Visit http://www.lizapulman.com/ and you can book tickets for one of Liza’s many tour venues.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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