News, Reviews & Interviews

Plebs Series 4 ~ Review

Plebs series 4 offers the usual hilarious antics and high-jinx, often wildly inappropriate and cringe-worthy antics and high-jinx! ITV2’s must-watch comedy has got it all going on again.

Stylax

This series we see the return of Joel Fry as Stylax – albeit briefly, no spoilers if you haven’t seen it yet, I’m a huge fan of Fry’s and Stylax was one of the best characters in my humble opinion. To counter-balance, Jason is introduced (played by Jonathan Pointing), he’s grown on me, it wasn’t ‘love’ at first sight, however Pointing is an engaging actor. The positive is that the regular writers, Sam Leifer and Tom Basden are still at the helm and their jokes are the making of the show.

Aurelius

Series writer, Tom Basden plays the role and I liked the way they’ve landed him at the centre of the darkest humour which borders on brutal (especially where murders are concerned) yet remains thoroughly comedic throughout. The script has been cleverly constructed and Aurelius’ continued involvement is a genius move. I’m equally impressed and intrigued by the return of many characters who previously appeared in the show. Recurring characters are the life-blood of a sitcom.

Roman Roots

The roman roots together with the silly, childish humour offers a hilarious sitcom which should still run and run. As long as the writers stick with what works and we don’t wave goodbye to too many beloved characters in the future, I’ll be a happy viewer. All hail Plebs!

Get your hands on a copy of the latest series on DVD (see the image below):

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Kiss Me, Kate – The London Coliseum

Kiss Me Kate is booking until 30 June 2018, strictly limited run – get your tickets here: Kiss Me Kate Tickets
Guest Review: Francesca Mepham 
Star rating: ****
Opera North have brought to The London Coliseum, their sensational touring production, of perhaps Cole Porter’s finest work, the Musical Kiss Me, Kate. 
Quirijn de Lang
From the moment the sumptuous Overture is played by Opera North’s incredible orchestra, conducted by James Holmes, the high energy ride begins, that you are delighted to be swept along upon. The opening number Another Op’nin, Another Show, performed by Hattie (Aiesha Pease) and the ensemble, is executed with charisma and introduces the ‘show within a show’ genre, that Kiss Me, Kate is based upon, which is Shakespeare’s The Taming Of The Shrew.
The love-hate relationship, of the shows divorced actor and director Fred Graham (Quirijn de Lang) and Lilli Vanessa (Stephanie Corley), finds its stride, when they are playing the roles of Petruchio and Kate, compared to the earlier scenes, where the fire and bite is very much solely felt from Corley. The passion in Cole Porter’s masterpiece So In love is performed separately by each character, with honesty and warmth, which they never find a way to show each other. A depiction of Petruchio ‘spanking’ Kate, was slightly uncomfortable viewing and dated, its inclusion in the production today, is rather curious.
Wit and comedy are the real highlights of this production, with Bella and Samuel Spewack’s dazzling book, with Jo Davies having kept the staging quite minimal, which works tremendously well as this a character driven show. The First Gunman (Joseph Shovelton) and Second Gunman (John Savournin), are a joyous double act, which captures the great screwball comedy of the forties era, but with a great freshness. The duo’s number Brush Up Your Shakespeare was a stand-out number of the show, as was another outstanding moment in Act Two, with Zoë Rainey’s quirky and stunning rendition of Always True To You In My Fashion as the ditzy nightclub-dancer-turned-actress Lois Lane.
Jack-Wilcox as Hortensio Zoe Rainey as Bianca Piers Bate as Gremio and Alan Burkitt as Lucentio
Will Tuckett’s choreography was shown to its full strength by the ensemble numbers most notably Too Darn Hot, which Stephane Anelli as Paul showed great charm. The real revelation of the show was Alan Burkitt as lovable rogue actor Bill Calhoun, whose jaw-dropping solo tap number was mesmerizing. Zoë Rainey also displayed great pizzaz with the choreography, giving one of the most enchanting performances I have seen in a long time, with her portrayal of both Lois Lane and Bianca.
Kiss Me, Kate is full of moments, that remind you of the magic of Cole Porter’s timeless music, when performed by a truly remarkable cast and orchestra. Opera North have a triumph on their hands, which will enthrall audiences, lucky enough to see this classy production. Wunderbar!

Photo Credits: Tristam Kenton 

Entertainment Views Interviews: Creator of TV Series, Romper Stomper… Geoffrey Wright

Romper Stomper arrives on DVD TODAY!


A QUARTER of a century ago, a film about skinhead racists running amok in Australia exploded around the world in an orgy of violence, shocking audiences with its realistic take on neo-Nazi culture and making a star of its young lead, Russell Crowe. Now, with nationalism and racism on the rise around the globe, Romper Stomper is set to return for its sequel, this time as a powerful and daring TV series, with a distinctly modern take.

Generating both critical acclaim and controversy across the globe, Romper Stomper arrives as a compelling six-part series. Following its run on BBC Three, it makes its DVD bow on 18 June 2018 courtesy of Acorn Media International.

Original writer and director Geoffrey Wright has created a new world in and around Melbourne, one inhabited by right-wing extremists, anti-fascist revolutionaries radicals and a group of Muslims caught between them. He has also revived some of the characters from the 1992 feature, played by original cast Dan Wyllie (Love My Way), John Brumpton (The Loved Ones) and Jacqueline McKenzie (The Water Diviner). They are joined by Lachy Hulme (Beaconsfield), Sophie Lowe (The Slap), David Wenham (Top of the Lake), Nicole Chamoun (Last Dance), and rising star Toby Wallace (Boys In The Trees).

Told from multiple points of view, Romper Stomper follows Patriot Blue, a new generation of white supremacists. Into their midst comes Kane, a smart, young 22-year-old with a secret past and a plan to secure his place in the group. His street smarts and winning way with words soon see him rising to the top as his band of hardcore right-wing extremists come into contact with both anti-fascist hardliners and a trio of conflicted Muslims. And as their rivalry intensifies, a wider political thriller emerges…

Series Creator, Geoffrey Wright chatted to Entertainment Views about the television series. 

Thanks for talking to Entertainment Views, Geoffrey. When you first wrote Romper Stomper (the movie) where had your inspiration originated from?

I grew up near a suburb called Pascoe Vale. It was here that a skinhead Nazi crim called Dane Sweetman murdered a man on Hitler’s birthday. It was a shock but then I noticed other skinheads with their swastikas, racist tattoos, and steel capped boots, on the local trains. I realised you didn’t have to go far to find them. Something had to be said about them so I began interviewing and recording kids who had been part of that scene but who were (more or less) out of it.  I couldn’t interview anyone still operating in it because they wouldn’t talk. From those interviews I assembled the script for the movie, compounding many events into a compressed time span.

Why do you feel now is the right time to revisit it?

With the rise of the Alt Right in the USA, the election of Trump, and  the coming of Brexit, it felt like the far right was less shy about making its presence felt. The far right was selling itself as a viable political force, not a fringe dwelling oddity.  It seemed like the moment had come when someone like Hando in the old film would look around and think ‘Mmm, this is more than interesting’.

What can the audience expect from the TV series and how will it compare to the film?

The audience can expect a new generation of extremists trying to ‘top’ or live up to the expectations of the old. They can also expect new players like ‘Antifasc’, our take on ‘Antifa’, who are the far left opponents of the Nazis and at least as physical and combative as them. There’s also some exploration of identity, whether it’s inherited or open to choice.

What are the challenges of bringing this to the small screen?

The challenges are working with sometimes very large numbers of people in very short shooting schedules, not that the film had a long shoot, either.

What do you feel the strengths of the piece are?

I think it tackles difficult material in a medium too given to political correctness. From a technical angle, it’s a well designed show that tends to avoid predictable execution in terms of camera and sound. I think it makes the most of today’s bigger screens and better sound systems. That doesn’t happen enough in TV.

Do you feel that writing and directing have an easy symmetry?

Do you mean writing and directing the same work? They can have a very clean and satisfying symmetry but directing off someone else’s writing is good too. On the series I wrote two episodes but only directed one of those I wrote. The other episode I directed was written by someone else and that can be liberating because you have (literally) fewer preconceptions. However, I do get anxious watching others direct something that I wrote.

What advice of you got for budding writers and directors?

Try and capture some kind of truth about human beings, be memorable in the process. If your work isn’t memorable it’s not worth doing.

Finally, why should we all tune in to the series?

Too much of the western world is worried about causing offence, you won’t get that fear in this show. Besides, we have some great young actors, Toby Wallace, Lily Sullivan, Markella Kavanagh, and Sophie Lowe; and some great established stars in Jacqueline McKenzie, Lachy Hulme and David Wenham.

Huge thanks to Geoffrey for his time and insightful answers – make sure you all look out for Romper Stomper which was released on DVD today. 

Blackpool Tower Circus ~ Review

You can book to see this incredible extravaganza by clicking the link: 

Blackpool Tower Circus

Star rating: ****

Circus has been a popular entertainment and art form for 250 years, now! What a revelation, and indeed a superb achievement. It deserves a few honks of a clown’s horn at the very least and perhaps a mammoth celebration, you might think? Well, Blackpool Tower Circus have produced that very celebration. It’s a spanking brand new show for 2018 and stars Blackpool Circus favourites, Mr Boo and Mooky.

With the two popular clowns at the helm, what could go wrong? Plenty, with Mooky mucking about and getting under Mr Boo’s feet, interrupting his pal’s attempts to play a full tune on the sax and of course, the age old mirror trick adding an extra dimension to their well established comedy act. It was a delight to follow the hilarious pair ‘around the world’ as we were treated to acrobatics, tricks and an astounding array of balancing acts. The talent within the troupe knows no bounds, from using a bike to increase the risk in a stunning balancing act, to using the whip in the most extraordinary fashion (and without any animals, I hasten to add). Just when you think you’ve seen it all, Storm Troopers appear and so do trampolines – mind blown! All of which is punctuated with Mooky and Mr Boo clowning around and engaging the audience in their madcap antics.

With a finale to beat all finales, the acts you’ll see will amaze, wow and astound you beyond belief. There’s never been a better time to go to see the Blackpool Tower Circus, it’s great family entertainment, although a few of the acts lost our little boy’s attention – but he is only 4 years old. If you’ve been to the Circus before, you’ll already know what a treat you’re in for and if you haven’t been to one yet, this is a fantastic one to start with. Make sure you have your photo taken in front of the green screen too!

 

Falstaff ~ Garsington Opera

Falstaff is one of four Operas in a sensational annual programme from Garsington Opera, ticket availability is limited, follow the link to see what’s on: Garsington Opera

Star rating ***** 

Sung in Italian with English subtitles, Giuseppe Verdi’s Falstaff opened at Garsington Opera last night and it was glorious. An evening of beautifully constructed, overt comedy featuring an elite cast of exceptionally talented artists. Ably assisted by the Philharmonia Orchestra, whose sound was carried effortlessly by the venue’s magnificent acoustics. This was their Conductor, Richard Farnes’s Garsington debut.

The libretto for Falstaff was adapted by Arrigo Boito from The Merry Wives of Windsor and scenes from Henry IV parts 1 and 2, by Shakespeare. The notorious, obese Knight, John Falstaff (Henry Waddington) is at the centre of the story – gluttonous to the core, in order to aid his money worries he’s plotting to have his wicked way with of two of the three merry wives of Windsor (and almost succeeds in turning the head of the third, Mistress Quickly (Yvonne Howard)). Alice Ford (Mary Dunleavy) and Meg Page (Victoria Simmonds) each receive an identical love letter from the scheming braggart, delivered by the Page Boy, as Bardolfo (Adrian Thompson) and Pistola (Nicholas Crawley) have refused to be part of Falstaff’s deception. The unscrupulous pair are quick to tip off Ford (Richard Burkhard) about the devious plan and so forms another concurrent plot. Simultaneously, Ford and Alice’s daughter, Nannetta (Soraya Mafi) is desperate not to be matched with Dr Caius (Colin Judson) and with the help of the wives of Windsor she sets out to defy her father’s wishes and ultimately unite with her true love, Fenton (Oliver Johnston).

So unfolds a twisting, tantalising tale of mischief, enveloped by elegant, engaging and wondrous scenery and versatile props. Giles Cadle has designed a frame for the action which offers a window into the period of the piece, transporting the audience back in time with a simple flourish. I was truly transfixed by the backdrop and indeed the costumes which enhanced the overall depiction.

Henry Waddington is visually and physically comical in the title role, his articulate vocals perfectly portrayed the cocky character and the fat suit added a hilarious extra dimension. Richard Burkhard’s facial expressions were as integral as his strong voice in playing the fiercely jealous husband of Alice. He has palpable chemistry with Mary Dunleavy as Alice, Dunleavy is a gentile yet impish Alice and her dazzling vocal ability shone. Victoria Simmonds was equally engaging as Meg, cautious in comparison to her fellow mischief-makers yet just essential to the counter-plot forged by the wives. Yvonne Howard is perfectly cast as Mistress Quickly, who is the intrinsic cog in the elaborate prank – she takes joyous glee in the unfolding mayhem whilst resembling Queen Victoria in her black apparel. Howard’s mezzo-soprano voice melodiously complemented the character. Soraya Mafi was delightfully naïve and inquiring as the love-torn Nannetta, impeccably paired with Oliver Johnston as her desired partner, Fenton. Mafi’s vocals will resonate with me for a long time to come, pitch perfect.

Bruno Ravella has meticulously directed a rollicking ride of a comedic Opera, while Malcolm Rippeth’s lighting design complements the natural light afforded by the remarkable, innovative venue. Movement direction from Tim Claydon is spectacularly notable and there is excellent support from Garsington Opera Chorus. If you’re not an Opera aficionado, this is a perfect introduction to Italian Opera, the comedy element alone offers insight into the synopsis. If you are an Opera buff and familiar with Falstaff, this production is absolutely worth a watch. Either way you’re in for a treat!

Photo Credits: Clive Barda

Matilda the Musical ~ Milton Keynes Theatre

Matilda the Musical is currently touring, check out the tour dates, venues and book your tickets, here: Matilda the Musical

Guest Review by Hayley Makepeace 


An amazing show from the RSC, it’s obvious why it is doing so fabulously well.

The children are the most talented I have ever seen in a production. They really steal the show. This is a musical made for children and adults alike whilst still very much retaining its roots as a children’s story. Everything about it keeps you in a child’s world…the ‘oversized’ set…huge building blocks featuring the alphabet, large swings that send the children soaring in the air across the stage, huge school gates that can be scaled. It all transports the audience to a 5 year old child’s perspective.

Rebecca Thornhill as Mrs Wormwood with Matt Gilleett as Rudolpho

Then there are the elaborate and colourful costumes that extenuate the Wormwood characters whilst Matilda is dressed plain and ‘normally’ by contrast. The set creates an imaginative child’s world with wonder, fantasy and excitement yet it is tinged with darkness mirroring the sad existence endured by Matilda.  This is a show that pulls at the heartstrings. Poppy Jones as Matilda showed us a very intelligent yet solemn, grown up but mischievous girl. A tiny girl, she maintained a stage presence that left you in no doubt who the show was about. An amazingly strong and clear voice when she was talking, a beautiful sweet singing voice that held an air of sadness but wasn’t too grown up and suited her young character.

Trunchbull (Craige Els) is a giant towering over everyone and everything, reflecting the scary darker side of life. The character was brilliantly played by the actor, Very strong and completely stood out as a character on its own against the world. I loved it when Truchbull swung Amanda (Maddie Gilbey) around by the pigtails. The scene had the effect of Amanda being swung into the audience, but then cleverly the girl fell from the ceiling onto the floor.

Craige Els as Trunchbull with Carly Thoms as Miss Honey

There were also excellent performances from Carly Thoms as Miss Honey, Matilda’s timid yet determined teacher and Rebecca Thornhill and Sebastian Torkia as Matilda’s parents, the brash Wormwoods.

A captivating and energetic production that holds your attention entirely, throughout. In fact I’ve never been at a show that seemingly passes so quickly. I loved the score and may have to purchase a CD!

Matilda the Musical stays at Milton Keynes Theatre until 30 June 2018. 

Photo Credits: Matilda the Musical Website

A Very English Scandal ~ Episode Three

On Sunday 3 June we reached the concluding part of Russell T Davies’ A Very English Scandal, and it was a cornucopia of lies, truth and underhanded dealings. Culminating in the greatest shock of all (if you didn’t already know the outcome), that Thorpe (Hugh Grant) got away with it. He was cleared of involvement in the attempted murder of Norman Scott (Ben Whishaw) and his cronies? Similarly ditto!

Frustratingly, we see that Thorpe and his side-kicks get away with their plot to kill Scott, with a Judge who epitomises the word ‘biased’, naturally excellent representation (played by Adrian Scarborough) and stoic support from Marion (Monica Dolan), Thorpe’s second wife. Although Marion must have suspected that there was more to the story than met the eye, she certainly didn’t appear to be stupid and when a letter from Thorpe to Scott was published in a newspaper (a spin doctor move from Thorpe’s advisors) – could it truly be denied? The relationship between the two could be summed up in one ‘dangerous’ word – ‘bunnies’! Of course, Ursula Thorpe (Patricia Hodge) remains in shell-shocked denial and on her Son’s side throughout. While Scott still has the backing and friendship of the aptly named Edna Friendship (Michele Dotrice). Justice isn’t set to conquer and that becomes evident as the episode progresses.

With a consistently considered and measured performance from Grant in all three episodes, a delightfully skittish and self-absorbed portrayal from Whishaw as Scott and equally an excellent performance from Alex Jennings as Bessell, this series was one of the BBC’s most gripping dramas. If you’ve missed it, you MUST catch it on iplayer, you’ll see Hugh Grant as you’ve never seen him before. Who’d have though he would be perfect casting for this real-life role? Not I!

A Very English Scandal – Catch up on iplayer

 

Collectormania 25 (Showmasters) ~ NEC, Birmingham

Showmasters run numerous events throughout the year, check out all the details here and book your tickets for their upcoming shows: Showmasters Events

Comic Cons are a must for Entertainment Views, we’d not attended a Showmasters event previously – however this show had so much to offer, we’ll be regulars from now on.

With an astronomical number of star guests signing their lives away for fans as well as posing for photographs with their eager followers, a wide variety of stalls offering memorabilia overload and some props that were out of this world – Collectormania was the place to be last weekend.

If you need any more reasons to go, here are some highlights which might twist your arm:

  1. Guest Stars – the sheer number of guest stars astounds me even now the show is over. From Richard Wilson from One Foot in the Grave (I don’t believe it!), to stars from Wrestling and Sports, there is somebody for everybody and too much choice, in fact. Where else would you get the opportunity to have your photograph taken with six ex-Liverpool football legends? Remember Danny Glover from Lethal Weapon? He was there answering questions on the main stage (a fascinating man to listen to) and meeting and greeting fans back out in the hall. There’s always more to a Comic Con than meeting celebrities, but this event really makes the most of as many fandoms as they can muster.
  2. Organisation – the crew and staff are plentiful, helpful and want everybody to have a good time. From queue control to directing fans to their desired area in the hall – these stewards are the best in the business and deserve all the praise they can take.
  3. Shopping! Comic Cons are the perfect place to find the items you didn’t know you needed in your life – or that you may not have even known about before. I often keep my eyes peeled for gifts, dealer will often give a cheeky offer or two. I am delighted with my Masters of the Universe tshirt, it is one of the best finds I’ve ever happened upon whilst in shipping mode at a Comic Con. Make sure you’ve got plenty of pennies so you don’t have to walk away from must-haves!
  4. Props galore – If cars are your bag then there were a few to get up close and personal with. From the famous blue car belonging to the Weasleys in Harry Potter to a rather cool Batman car which I think we’d have brought home if nobody had been looking! Jurassic Park was also represented which was excellent timing with the next film in the franchise about to be released. Meanwhile, if you fancy yourself as 007, why not stand next to his wheels?
  5. Family Friendly Fun  – Comic Cons are increasingly becoming popular with families, small and big kids alike can enjoy a convention and at Entertainment Views we’ve been asked for advice from many fellow parent pals about which is the best convention to start off with as their toddler would surely love this genre of event (and so would they!). Our little boy is in his element with cosplayers, in the image below he met a few furries who were game for a giggle. We’ll be recommending Collectormania as a perfect place to start, with friendly staff who go above and beyond and more famous faces than you can think of under one roof, it’s been a pleasure, Showmasters! See you soon….

 

Brian Conley – Still The Greatest Entertainer (In His Price Range) ~ Stafford Gatehouse Theatre

Star rating: *****

Brian Conley is a comedian whom I grew up watching on ITV, back in the day when we only had four channels to choose from! “It’s a Puppet” will be his catchphrase for all eternity, however catchphrases aside, as a performer and entertainer he is in a league of his own. The show he currently has on the road provides a mixture of pure comedy genius, combined with musical moments and indeed Conley can be serious to – when he’s not trying to coax an unwitting audience member into putting her hand down his trousers!

Like all of the greats, there are jokes you would associate with Brian Conley is you know his material. I know it inside out so I was slightly ahead with the punchlines, however far from spoiling the experience, his familiar humour proved to be as much of a hit today as it was years ago. He interacts with the audience effortlessly and naturally, his ‘victim’s’ are not scared to engage with him and that speaks volumes in itself.

We were treated to a number of his musical theatre characters with Conley’s velvet tones lending themselves beautifully to ‘Hush-a-bye Mountain’ from ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang‘ and what a superb surprise for him to include a performance as Fagin in the mix. Jolson was a big hit for the master of comedy and no evening with Brian Conley is complete without an excerpt or two from the show. Although no evening is complete without ‘The Devil Went down To Georgia’ either, if you know the violin trick Conley does, you’ll howl with laughter as if it was the first time you’d seen it. If you haven’t seen it before, just you wait.

There are few entertainers who are able to grab my attention and hold it for a full two hour show without any waivers – Conley held me to rapt attention and I would watch this show again and again without hesitation. Catch this tour while you can, if you miss it you’ll have missed out. It’s like watching Tommy Cooper, with a dash of Russ Abbott and a sprinkling of Morecambe and Wise. Let me tell you, you ain’t seen nothing yet!

 

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