Spotlight On… Star of The Tempest, James Lawrence

The Tempest comes to Stafford Shakespeare Festival this year, Thursday 22nd June – Saturday 8th July 2017. Actor James Lawrence performed in last year’s festival production of Othello and Break A Leg chatted to him about his experience. This year he will play Sebastian in The Tempest and returned to us to talk about his next visit to Stafford Castle.
For more information and to book tickets visit this link:
Thanks for returning to Break A Leg for an interview, James, glad to have you back again. Tell me about your role in The Tempest…
I play Sebastian, one of the shipwrecked Italians on the island. He’s not exactly a pleasant man when you first meet him and it isn’t long before he begins to take advantage of the situation in order to advance his own interests. He’s younger brother to the also-marooned King Alonso of Naples and Sebastian sees their predicament on the island as an opportunity to brutally seize power for himself. It’s an enormously enjoyable role and I get to play opposite some truly fantastic performers in those scenes, so I’ve absolutely loved my time as Sebastian so far. Eagle-eyed audience members may well spot me in a very different guise as the play progresses as well; all I’ll say is that it’s well worth paying a bit of extra attention when the goddesses are onstage…
What’s it like to be able to return to Stafford Castle in another Shakespeare play?
It’s an absolute privilege, I was here last year for Othello and it was one of the best jobs I’ve ever done as an actor. The setting of Stafford Castle is absolutely phenomenal and I cannot wait to get back up there. Not only that, but the whole Gatehouse team have been amazing during rehearsals as well; it feels as though I never left. Ultimately, it’s just great to be back and to be a part of this wonderful theatrical tradition. I can’t wait for our audiences to see what we’ve been up to. It’s great to be reunited with our creative team as well; our director Clare Prenton is among the best I’ve ever worked with and our musical director Craig Adams has excelled himself again this year with the music in the show, so it’s wonderful to be back on board with them.
Aside from it being a different play, how will this production differ from last year’s?
It’s more than my life is worth to give away some of what our design team has planned, but we’re really going for some spectacular stuff. The character of Prospero has acquired a certain level of magical expertise, so our brilliant Illusion Consultants Morgan & West have been working on some very cool magic for the show. As well as that, our wonderful designer Frankie Collier has come up with one of the most incredible sets I’ve ever seen. Last year was a visually stunning production, but she’s really outdone herself this year. Music still plays a key role in this year’s production, but it has a slightly different flavour this time around. In this production, the action largely takes place on an island just off the coast of Somalia and the music in the show definitely reflects that. However, it’s set in the 1930s so audiences can definitely expect to hear a few familiar tunes from that era as well! The whole production really is a feast for the eyes and ears.
What was your knowledge of the text before you got the part?
I’d read it plenty of times, but I’d never actually been lucky enough to work on it before. So I knew the text itself fairly well, but that doesn’t really mean anything until you get to working on it in the rehearsal room. When you do, you realise just how much there is to play with. So from an actor’s point of view, it’s been enormously enjoyable to excavate the text and explore it every day. That’s one of the things that makes working on Shakespeare so wonderful, he leaves so much up to the actor’s discretion but the clues are all there for you as well and there are always new discoveries to be made. 
Why do you think that Shakespeare’s plays remain so relevant today?
I mean, where do you start? The motivations and drive behind so many great Shakespeare’s characters are hugely prevalent in today’s society. There was something spectacularly Shakespearean about Theresa May stepping over the corpses of Boris Johnson and Michael Gove after the EU referendum last year and we now see her decline almost mirroring that of Macbeth. But for me, it’s the odd line that resonates and stays with you on a personal level and The Tempest is full of those. I think that’s what great writing does. It provides us with an escape while still holding a mirror up to our lives. These words that were written more than 400 years ago still have the power to move, inspire and thrill us; it’s hard to overstate quite how remarkable an achievement that is.
What do you hope the audience will take away from the piece?
The Tempest is an incredibly fun play with a host of wonderfully entertaining characters. But this production also has some more serious points to raise which will hopefully provide some food for thought for our audiences. While none of the characters are British, there are some very interesting parallels in the play which ought to encourage us to take a look at our colonial past and also how we perceive our relationship with some of those countries in modern times. For instance, I think the treatment of Caliban in this production could make for uncomfortable viewing for contemporary audiences, but it’s always worth reminding ourselves of some of the more unpalatable parts of our history and how they inform the kind of society we are today. 
Finally, what would you say to encourage people to come?
The Tempest is widely believed to be Shakespeare’s final play and it very much reads like ‘Shakespeare’s Greatest Hits’. There’s romance, murder plots and some of the best comedy he ever wrote. So even if you haven’t gone near Shakespeare since school, I promise there’s something in this production for you to enjoy. There are some passages which do seem to be something of a farewell from him and he died only five years after writing it, so it’s also quite poignant for those who are already fans of The Bard. With that said, while I’m a huge lover of Shakespeare’s work, the real star here is the beautiful setting of Stafford Castle.  The setting, light and yes, the weather are characters in their own right and I speak from experience when I say that it’s one of the very best ways to spend a summer’s evening. I jumped at the chance to work with our incredible creative team again and they’ve also managed to assemble one of the best casts I’ve ever been fortunate enough to work with. So come along; we’d be absolutely delighted to see you there.
Thanks James, so wonderful to chat to you again and can’t wait to see The Tempest!

Ackley Bridge – Series One Episode Two

Episode two of Ackley Bridge bounded onto our screens on Wednesday night and it was another cracking episode. The scripts are intricate and current, the characters are all fascinating and you never know what they’re going to throw in the pot next. One thing’s for sure, that hour isn’t boring and the shocks, twists and turns keep on pounding. Here are a few highlights…

Nasreen ~ Nasreen has taken to wearing a hajib in a bid to shun Missy – her mum waves it off as nonsense and the feud between the pals doesn’t even last an entire episode. However, I wasn’t expecting Nasreen to come out as gay. What a fantastic storyline to tackle though, and I feel sure that this will be handled brilliantly.

Jordan’s the daddy ~ Jordan is on the run from ‘heavies’ and he is also being pursued by the mother of his child, or so we are led to believe. He is literally left holding the baby and it’s up to Steve to help him out. We also got a glimpse of Jordan’s relationship with his father, which is surely going to be a recurring plot.

Steve’s past ~ Just happening to have a child’s car seat in his car is not what I expected from Steve when he lent a hand to Jordan. A much better option than the holdall that Jordan has his baby secreted in and also much more legal than breaking into a car to steal one! So, we now know that Steve must have a child somewhere.

Missy’s on a mission ~ When Nana is reaching for her inhaler because £80 worth of bingo winnings has gone missing, Missy and Nasreen reunite to find Missy’s mum who is suspected of thieving the cash to find her habits. Heading straight to a dodgy set-up, they easily find the culprit and thanks to Nasreen’s quick thinking, have it away on their toes with a wallet.

Mandy & Sadiq ~ The rumours about Mandy and Sadiq were planted in episode one, but this episode sees the pair in a clinch! There may be trouble ahead…

For information on the episode, the show and the cast: Ackley Bridge

Casualty ‘Do Not Sit At My Grave And Weep’ ~ Episode Review

This week’s episode has been anticipated since the fateful moment that a much-loved character was murdered – Cal (Richard Winsor) is finally laid to rest in ultimately touching scenes. Here are a few highlights:

Picture Shows: Ethan Hardy (GEORGE RAINSFORD) – (C) BBC – Photographer: Alistair Heap

Dylan under pressure ~ Dylan is still finding it tough to come to terms with Cal’s death – although he was on fire tonight with his quips and one-liners. His ‘run-in’ with Ethan was very telling though, simultaneously it was understandable that he wanted to save Ethan from the knowledge that his brother had been aware of the severity of his situation.

David ~ David has been off the radar since Robyn’s baby arrived in dramatic and traumatic scenes. However, tonight we saw him on shift and being rather tactless. When his conversation with Dylan indicated that he is still struggling with the drugs he’s taking… I felt there will be more to come from this plot, which is quite a factually accurate way of moving forward considering his condition.

Ethan says goodbye ~ Having dealt very well with a young patient who was unwittingly being treated for HIV, Ethan packs up the bag filled with his farewell ‘gifts’ for Cal and arrives at the church for the funeral. Before he can go in and see it through, he vomits following his binge on a bottle of Whiskey – nice one Ethan! His tribute and idea of packing a bag to see his brother on his way was extremely touching and fitting. Re-visiting his young patient afterwards and mentioning his own Huntington’s Disease diagnosis was a brave move. However, spotting Cal’s murderer lurking at the cemetery was not how I had envisaged the episode would end. Is Ethan going to bring him to justice?

Charlie to the rescue ~ When Ethan can no longer hold the floor and as expected, breaks down during his tribute to Cal, it’s up to Charlie to step in and pick up from where he leaves off. You can always bank on good old Charlie and he’s been chomping at the bit to do something useful in a hopeless situation.

Lily & Iain… finally! ~ I’m not going to pass much comment, except to say that this pair finally got it together. In the back of a hearse! I won’t forget that for some time to come!!

Click here for the: Cast List

Spotlight On… Human Story Theatre

Human Story Theatre secures funding and launches new play, The Fourth Dog by Oxford playwright, Zena Forster, at Offbeat Festival 2017 and beyond!

Hot off the heels of their Spring Tour of Flat 73 (supported by the Samaritans), Oxford based Human Story Theatre bring their new production of The Fourth Dog to Oxford’s Old Fire Station in July 2017, followed by a week’s tour to other Oxfordshire venues. Competing with hundreds of applicants they successfully secured a slot to open their show at Offbeat Festival on 1st JulyThe Fourth Dog is a one hour comedy about breast cancer, marital breakdown, family baggage and grieving – what could be funnier? Written by Zena Forster; Dramaturge, John Retallack and directed by Tristan Pate of Cherwell Theatre Company. Cast: Human Story Theatre’s Amy Enticknap & Gaye Poole; Karen Ford (Grange Hill); Renata Allen (Oxford Playmaker), Adrian Banks and John Tolputt.

Weddings bring the whole family together, and that’s when the problems start…  

It’s The Big Day and the Burney clan have assembled – including skeletons from the cupboard.  The bride is pregnant, the groom is unsure, the mother is stressed, and the aunt is in disgrace.  The grandparents haven’t stopped bickering for sixty years and don’t see why today should be any exception.  And the icing on the cake?  A couple of dead ancestors have turned up!  

What does it mean to be part of a family?  How does our heredity influence the way we love and hate, live and die?

Each show has a 20 minute Q&A with representatives from charities supporting Breast Cancer care. Audience members will also have the opportunity to browse ‘after thought tables’ to gain more information from a spectrum of pertinent experts from wig-makers to nutritionists after performances on 4 / 6 / 7 July.

Human Story Theatre will be bringing a Bra Bank to each show:

Deposit your used, new or surplus bras into our bra bank. Give them a new lease of life – raising vital funds for research into secondary spread breast cancer.

For more info: Against Breast Cancer

Human Story Theatre have been supported by Against Breast Cancer, Abingdon and Richmond Village, Witney. They are supporting Maggie’s Oxford. They are also funded by Arts Council England and The Lottery Awards For All.

Pip Dingle, Centre Fundraising Manager – Maggie’s Oxford says:

“We’re really looking forward to working with Human Story Theatre to have a special production of The Fourth Dog at Maggie’s Oxford. It’s great to be able to use our beautiful building for a pop-up theatre – we hope you can join us!”

Dr Nicola Winstone, Research Manager, Against Breast Cancer:

“This isn’t only an entertaining play, Human Story Theatre creates a space for discussion and to showcase relevant local organisations, and Against Breast Cancer are proud to support their latest production.”

The Fourth Dog 

1 – 11 July 2017 

1 July 12pm Arts at the Old Fire Station, Oxford. Tickets: 01865 263990

4 July 7.30pm Arts at the Old Fire Station, Oxford. Tickets: 01865 263990

5 July 7.30pm Richmond Village, Witney .Tickets: 01993 894000 Ext 408

6 July 7.30pm Maggie’s Centre, Oxford. Tickets: Maggie’s Centre

7 July 7.30pm Eynsham Village Hall , Oxon.Tickets: on the door only, pay what you can

8 July 12pm Arts at the Old Fire Station, Oxford. Tickets: 01865 263990

10 July 7.45pm The Theatre, Chipping Norton. Tickets: 01608 642350 

11 July 7.30pm The Mill Arts Centre, Banbury. Tickets: 01295 279002 

A new one hour family drama, by Oxford playwright Zena Forster.

It’s the Big Day, but the happy couple aren’t suited, the grandparents won’t stop bickering, the disgraced auntie has gate-crashed, and a couple of dead ancestors have turned up!  Breast cancer, marital breakdown, family baggage and grieving – what could be funnier?

Check out the website here: The Human Story Theatre

There’s also a promo video here which is definitely worth a watch:

Here, Amy Enticknap tells Break A Leg more about Human Story Theatre:

Human Story Theatre focuses on new plays with a health and social care issue at heart. Through research and dialogue we explore and write new material that reflects our communities’ needs and experiences. Our aim is to be accessible to all: we ‘pop up’ in any designated space, with minimal set, which means we can tour easily to any venue. We also operate a ‘pay what you can’ policy where possible. We are passionate that theatre is for all and believe by highlighting health and social care issues within our productions, that it is an exciting way to entertain and educate. For each production Human Story Theatre partners with local communities and groups relevant to the issue being explored in the play. Professionals/members of these groups then come to lead post-show discussions with the aim of sign-posting the audience to their local services.

Gaye Poole and I established Human Story Theatre in August 2016. Since then, things have evolved at quite a pace: in October 2016, in association with Oxford Concert Party, we produced a pilot of Gaye’s new play Flat 73 (about loneliness and the Samaritans) premiering at Arts at The Old Fire Station, Oxford; received funding from South Oxfordshire County Council to tour Gaye’s play Connie’s Colander (about Dementia) in November; secured a regular slot at Arts at The Old Fire Station for Scenes From… play-reading evenings; produced a Spring 2017 tour of Flat 73 ; are currently in pre-production forThe Fourth Dog by Zena Forster; have been commissioned by the NHS to write Dry (a play about alcoholism) for ‘Dry January’ 2018 and are planning a double bill tour of The Fourth Dog and The Last Dog for Autumn 2018.

We’re extremely excited about our up-coming production of The Fourth Dog:

It’s the Big Day, but the happy couple aren’t suited, the grandparents won’t stop bickering, the disgraced auntie has gate-crashed, and a couple of dead ancestors have turned up!  Breast cancer, marital breakdown, family baggage and grieving – what could be funnier?

Rehearsals start on 19th June and we open 1st July, as part of Offbeat Festival.

Gaye and I are being kept very busy in our community outreach and producing roles as well as both acting in the show. We are thrilled to have partnered with Maggie’s Centre Oxford and Against Breast Cancer on this project, and our post-show Q&As will be with representatives from other charities supporting breast cancer care too. Audience members will also have the opportunity to browse ‘after thought tables’ to gain more information from a spectrum of pertinent experts from wig-makers to nutritionists on 4 / 6 / 7 July. These ‘after thought’ / ‘break out’ events are new to us, but hopefully answer a need from our audience feedback for a further and more informal forum of discussion and exploration after the performance.

Wonderfully and thankfully we have received some funding from The Arts Council England and Lottery Awards For All, without which the production couldn’t happen. We are however, still having to crowd fund for the remaining pot of money needed!

 

From Tristan Pate, the director of The Fourth Dog

Tell me about the piece and your vision for it…

The Fourth Dog is a fast paced, brilliantly witty play but most importantly deeply humanist story. My intention is to bring to the stage a surprising and exciting production where the characters, their family relationships and their needs and desires are clear and defined, so that the audience may see themselves and their families in it.

Did you have initial ideas about casting and what you wanted actors to bring to the piece?

There is such a lot of talent among the Oxfordshire Theatre Makers, and a number of fantastic performers were already attached to the project when I came on board – indeed, that was part of the excitement of taking the play on. We auditioned for some of the roles and were always looking for actors that felt a connection to the material and could recognise the distinct ‘voices’ of each character. In terms of rehearsals, I always want actors to bring an open-ness and a willingness to explore as a company. Ultimately, this play hinges entirely on their truthfulness, and the best actors always have that in spades!

What do you hope the audience will take away from the production?

What Human Story Theatre always do so well is open up a discussion after their performances – so I very much hope they have lots of questions!

Have rehearsals altered your initial thoughts, at all?

I’m sure they will, it’s inevitable. Having worked extensively with Zena, the playwright, we have a strong idea of what we think the play might be, but the joy of theatre is that it is a truly collaborative medium, so the production we make will be the sum of all of it’s parts, and I expect to be surprised and have my ideas changed constantly!

What would you say to encourage people to buy a ticket?

New writing of this calibre always deserves support, and we believe this is a truly important contemporary play. I’d say there is a great deal to relate to if your family has been affected by cancer, as so many families have, but also if you don’t know enough about familial breast cancer, or if you’re simply moved by human stories and truthful writing, you should buy a ticket immediately. I guarantee you lots of laughs too!

Finally, any advice for budding directors?

There is no standardised route into directing. I trained as an actor, some do directing courses, some study completely unrelated subjects. I would say watch, listen and read! Go to the theatre as much as you can and consider the pieces you see, the choices each director has made. Read plays and think how you might personally interpret them. If you can, watch other directors at work in a rehearsal room. I learned a lot from working with really brilliant people, but also from observing the mistakes of others!

 

From Zena Forster the playwright of The Fourth Dog:

Tell me about the piece and your inspiration for it…

The Fourth Dog is a comedy inspired by human resilience.  The play explores the role family plays in how we cope (and don’t cope) with what life throws at us.  Set on the day of a big family wedding, it tells the story of how one family has dealt with the BRCA 1 breast cancer gene across generations from the eighteenth century to the current day.

Was it easy to put it all down on paper?

I had a very clear idea of my characters from the start – they’re a bolshy lot, so it was enormous fun pitting them against each other.

Is it translating well from page to stage? 

The Fourth Dog is a fast-paced and dynamic piece with scope for a lot of movement.  It’s been wonderful to see that physicality emerging.

How is the space lending itself to the piece?

Human Story Theatre is ‘stripped down, no frills’ theatre, their productions are designed to pop up in any space – this means minimal set and sometimes a rather small staging area. A tight brief like this forces you to be more creative – and that’s certainly the case for this production. We’ve had to come up with some truly imaginative solutions that we might not have discovered had our budget and space been unlimited.

What do you hope the audience will take away from the production?

The subject matter might be dark – breast cancer, marital strife, grieving – but this is ultimately an uplifting, life-affirming comedy.  I want people to leave the theatre feeling stronger and more hopeful.

Finally, any advice for budding writers?

Don’t shut yourself away – write less, network more.

Thanks to everybody who participated in Break A Leg’s interview, wishing you all a great run with The Fourth Dog and all future productions.

Spotlight On… Star of The Quentin Dentin Show, Shauna Riley

The Quentin Dentin Show which will be playing at Tristan Bates Theatre from 20th June to 29th July.

With a brilliant original soundtrack, live rock band and dazzling choreography, The Quentin Dentin Show, is guaranteed to make you happy or kill you trying.

Book tickets here: Tristan Bates Theatre Box Office

Here’s an exclusive interview with Shauna Riley from the show…

Tell me about The Quentin Dentin Show and your character

The Quentin Dentin Show is a new rock musical with an exciting science fiction vibe. It’s about a couple in their mid-twenties who are stuck in an unsuccessful and unproductive rut who find themselves in the hands of an all singing all dancing therapist who is determined to change their lives -with or without their permission!

I play Nat, a slightly neurotic lady who’s working a dead-end job at a pharmaceuticals company who just really yearns for a change of pace and maybe a change of life altogether!

What was your initial impression of the script?

I got on board the Quentin Dentin train way back in 2015 when it went to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and my first thought was, woah, this is weird, but in the best way possible! I had never really read anything like it – it was like a fusion of a science fiction film, a naturalistic play and a full scale musical!

Was it easy to translate from page to stage?

The show essentially begs you to release it onto the stage – the pages can’t hold it and there is simply too much energy. It’s tough in the sense of the fact that the pace is relentless and it wants you to be slick and concise, but once you hold onto the reins of it so to speak, then it’s a wild ride for both the actor and the audience!

Did you have any ideas about what you wanted to bring to the role?

Nat is one of two more naturalistic characters in the show that kinda act like a touch stone for the audience amongst the madness so I wanted her to be relatable so that people could really connect to the idea of all this madness happening to someone so very, well normal!

How does the Tristan Bates Theatre lend itself to the piece?

This show has a desire to make the audience feel as involved as possible so the Tristan Bates is perfect as it lends itself to the intimacy and at times kookily claustrophobic feel to this piece.

What would you say to encourage people to buy a ticket?

Come see The Quentin Dentin Show because you have never seen a musical like this before, you’ll be mulling it over in your mind and humming its crazily catchy tunes long after the closing number and also, there’s a live rock band on stage!

Huge thanks for an awesome interview and wishing cast and crew all the best with the run.

 

Footloose ~ Belgrade Theatre, Coventry

Footloose stays at Belgrade Theatre until Saturday 17 June then continues on UK tour: Footloose Tickets – Belgrade Theatre

Star rating: *****

Footloose as an individual track is a tune I have been familiar with and known the words to since I can remember. Footloose as a show with a full range of foot-tapping musical numbers (which I could now listen to on repeat) I was not at all familiar with, however the incarnation of the show which is currently playing at Coventry Belgrade Theatre, is now rooted as a firm favourite. Not least because this version is an actor/musician production which is no mean feat.

A scene from this must-see musical

Popular hits such as Let’s Hear It For The Boy, Holding Out For a Hero and Almost Paradise filled the auditorium and naturally, the title track had the place rocking. A personal highlight was Somebody’s Eyes which was a haunting yet catchy recurring theme and I have to give a mention to Learning To Be Silent as the harmonies were spectacular (kudos to Maureen Nolan, Lindsay Goodhand and Hannah Price).

The story is straight forward, teenage lad’s father does a runner, leaving him and his mum in the lurch. They move in with a kind uncle who lives in a small town with ridiculous rules. No dancing being one of the outlandish regulations. The tragic reason behind the town’s strict defences? A fatal car accident which resulted in the deaths of four youths, one of whom is significant to the plot. A Preacher is at the centre of the town’s inflexibility, and his wayward daughter is desperate to get out and rebel.

 

Maureen Nolan, she’s still a versatile actor and singer

Joshua Dowen as the iconic character (and young new boy in town who wants to challenge the no dancing rule) Ren McCormack, blew Kevin Bacon’s performance out of the water. A more versatile performer at the helm I couldn’t have imagined, he completely made the role his own. Hannah Price as Ariel Moore (the Preacher’s trouble-seeking daughter) was a superb match for him and I was impressed with her seamless interchanges between instruments and the heart of the action. Gareth Gates was a revelation as Willard, for more reasons than one! I expected an amazing vocal performance from him, however as an actor he surpassed himself. His characterisation was nothing short of incredible. Maureen Nolan is another performer whom I had preconceived ideas about, Vi (Ariel’s mum) was a perfect fit for Nolan and her vocal ability remains incomparable. Reuven Gershon gave a strong and extremely notable performance as Rev Shaw Moore, his solo performance in act two was another highlight. I am also delighted to have been introduced to the extraordinary talent of Lindsay Goodhand. Not only did she take on three very different roles (Ethel McCormack, Betty and Coach Dunbar) and play each one brilliantly, but I was blown away with her singing voice. When she wasn’t acting, singing or roller skating(!) she had an instrument to play.

Lindsay Goodhand, a multi-talented performer!

The set was multi-purpose and lent itself to the instruments that were an integral part of the scenery. The few scene changes required were seamless and there were a few hidden surprises too.

An audience collectively on their feet and boogeying as one to a finale mash-up, coupled with whoops, cheers and my own personal feeling that I could watch it again, again and again – is a winning combination. I needed more than one pair of eyes to watch this energetic and stellar cast giving one of the most joyous theatrical experiences. Don’t miss this show, it’s the ultimate feel-good musical and you won’t be able to stop smiling!

For Photo Credits: http://footloose-musical.com/ and you can find all tour dates and further information here, too as well as book tickets.

The Rat Pack 20th Anniversary Tour ~ Town Hall, Birmingham

The Rat Pack 20th Anniversary Show is currently on UK tour, you can find out venue information and details of how to book tickets here:

The Rat Pack 20th Anniversary Show

Star rating: ****

I was brought up on the music of The Rat Pack and I’ve rarely been in attendance at a show where I have known every song word for word. The spectacular Vegas-style show which is currently touring the UK and is now in it’s 20th year provided a superb evening’s entertainment.

The Rat Pack is of course formed of Frank Sinatra (David Alacey), Sammy Davis Junior (Des Coleman) and Dean Martin (Paul Drakeley) and a tribute show to the popular late trio wouldn’t be a tribute show without a big band. In this case the three extremely versatile performers were backed by the Buddy Greco Orchestra who were phenomenal.

As Sinatra, Alacey was everything that you would expect Sinatra to be, he sounded so much like the legend himself – I closed my eyes and I could have been listening to Sinatra himself. He gave a flawless impersonation yet is also a fantastic singer in his own right. As Sammy Davis Junior, Coleman gave a lively, enthusiastic portrayal and his soft shoe shuffle was excellent. As Dean Martin, Drakeley gave the expected ‘inebriated’ performance (Dean Martin always had a drink and a fag in his hand when he was on stage) and did tremendous justice to the late singer and actor.

The three of them bantered easily between themselves  and engaged the audience regularly, encouraging them to suggest songs they’d like to hear. It was a pity that the auditorium wasn’t as full as the show deserved it to be. The songs themselves are classics and have stood the test of time and when delivered with such precision, they’re a joy to re-visit.

Highlights included the Sinatra and Greco ‘duet’ courtesy of a recording of the late Buddy Greco and the vocal talent of David Alacey. Mac The Knife and Fly Me To the Moon were also my personal favourites and a rousing rendition of New York topped off the evening in style.

Kenny Lynch guest starred and he may be slightly limited by age but his stage presence lacked none of the Kenny we know of old. His ability to tell gags and sing classic hits never waivered – when it comes to talent, he still has it in abundance.

This is a company who all have mutual respect for one another and it shines through which was as delightful to watch as the show itself. Catch it on tour at a venue near you!

Guest review by Garry McWilliams

Ackley Bridge – Series One Episode One

Ackley Bridge looks set to be the edgier version of Grange Hill meets Waterloo Road meets Shameless! Just what Channel Four needed, with characters who have been perfectly cast and gritty plotlines that don’t shy away from the truth – bring it on say I. Here are a few highlights from what I feel is going to become one of my favourite television shows!

Alcohol & Drugs ~ dealing with underage drinking from the off and then countering it with the drugs problem that one of the mums has is a hard-hitting message. It’s also an early direct link to the reasons why at least one of the pupils (mis)behaves and is repeating a year. Simone and Missy Booth are the two in question and they are played brilliantly by Samantha Power and Poppy Lee Friar. I’m already looking forward to watching this play out. It’s painful to watch yet spectacularly current and truthful. A storyline that has been established from the start and no doubt will become a running theme.

Mixed Race & Culture ~ the merger of the two school to form Ackley Bridge Academy has brought races and cultures together. The new mix lays down the gauntlet for racial differences and as was demonstrated in this episode, shows the hand of friendship being (reluctantly) held out only to be rejected. An interesting take on what continues to be an on-going issue in this country. I suspect that the potential plots won’t back away from being close to the knuckle either.

Naughty Teacher! – straight away one of the teachers is introduced as a wayward one! Liz White as Emma Keane shows us a down to earth, free spirited educator who bends the rules and locks horns with the new head teacher. She also has an eye for the men and a disturbed, social media-happy daughter. There is so much scope with this situation, I’m rubbing my hands together with glee!!

Jo Joyner – Tanya from EastEnders we may recognise her for, or I certainly do – but she’s putting her stamp on a new and strong character with many layers. I’m going to enjoy watching her take us on Mandy’s journey as head teacher and of course, let’s see if she really is having an affair…

Lorraine Cheshire – Lorraine has to have her own mention, Patron of this website and a lovely lady – Lorraine never fails to impress me as an actor. I’m delighted to see her playing the disapproving Lorraine, she’s just the right person to portray the character who has to deal with the pesky kids. It’s also great to see Rita May (who stars in Trollied with Lorraine) starring as Nana Booth, nobody does comedy nans quite like Rita. Amazing casting choices.

Casulalty ‘Swift Vengeance Waits’ – Episode Review

It was all about Ethan this week, with the Ellisons making yet another return to the ED (they’re like regular characters now, eh? I’m getting sick of the sight of them!) there was almost a confession from the perpetrator too… Here are a few highlights:

Scott Ellisson (WILL AUSTIN), Iain Dean (MICHAEL STEVENSON), Sam Strachan (TOM CHAMBERS), Alicia Munroe (CHELSEA HALFPENNY) – (C) BBC – Photographer: Alistair Heap

Be More Cal ~ The episode kicked off with heartbreaking scenes as Ethan empties Cal’s locker, Pungent aftershave aside, it’s a tear-jerking moment as he takes hold of his late brother’s stethoscope and removes Ethan removes his trademark specs. Then there’s the confrontation with Cal’s murderer of course – #bemorecal

Charlie ~ Poor Charlie, having witnessed Ethan packing up Cal’s belongings, he’s feeling like he should be providing more support and comfort than he already is. Despite Duffy’s best efforts, Charlie boy is being very hard on himself as the self-appointed Patriarch of the ED. I think this will be a crisis that Charlie can’t do much more about though.

Lily and Iain – Fleeting nod towards this two again, Iain is still concerned about Lily following the accident that his sister caused. The romantic potential still bubbles beneath the surface!

Alicia – Who else feels a bit sorry for Alicia and also thinks that Chelsea Halfpenny is doing a cracking job with a betwixt and between role at the moment? She’s being the ultimate supportive ‘girlfriend’ to Ethan in his time of desperate need, but it’s obvious how hopeless she feels too. Plus the affair she had with Ethan was still a hot topic when Cal met his maker. Still plenty of mileage in that story!

Awards – I feel it’s worth mentioning how brilliantly Casualty are doing with award nominations and wins this year. Close but no cigar at BAFTA, fingers crossed for TV Choice and I’m confident that won’t be the last we see of mentions for the amazing continuing drama. It’s time Cath Shipton won one for her role as Duffy, though!

Casualty Cast

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