The Beggar’s Opera ~ Storyhouse Theatre, Chester

Beggar’s Opera run at Storyhouse Theatre 19 August 2017 The Beggar’s Opera Tickets

Star rating: *****

Bawdy, brutal, a rollicking good ride of a show with fantastic vocals from all cast members and a script filled with local, relevant references – making a classic piece a very current piece. The Beggar’s Opera is a musical based in 18th century Chester with a varied mixture of genres of music giving edge, energy and substance to it.

The tale of Mac (Macheath) The Knife (Alex Mugnaioni) is at the root of the plot, he’s putting himself about all over town while he’s supposedly engaged to Polly Peachum (Charlotte Miranda-Smith) and knocked up Lucy Lockit (Nancy Sullivan) yet he’s regularly cavorting with prostitutes and not Son-in-Law material as far as Polly and Lucy’s father’s are concerned. That’s because Peachum (Daniel Goode) and Lockit (Jonathan Dryden Taylor) are involved with Macheath in so much as they pocket the belongings of the victims Macheath. The fathers decide to close in on Macheath and hatch a plan to have him hung. However with two love-struck females desperate to be loved by him, the one thing that slippery Macheath has is people on his side, to begin with at least! Add to the mix Mrs Peachum, who is the epitome of Madame Therardier from Les Miserables, devoted to her husband who appears to have an inappropriate lust for his own daughter, Polly.

The set provided its own ambience and was atmospheric to the extreme, it even felt as though there was a musty stench in the air which is what one would expect from the era and location of the story. There was also an excellent array of audience interaction which was innovative in itself.

Alex Mugnaioni gave a stellar performance as Macheath, he was sly, cunning and occasionally quite ditzy in his manner which gave delightful nuances to the character. Daniel Goode was over-bearing and wickedly crooked as Peachum, he has excellent chemistry with Charlotte Gorton who played his wife as well as two other characters, Mrs Vixen and Mrs Trapes. Considering that Gorton was playing three different characters in total, I occasionally had to do a double take because she played each one so vastly differently. She’s the proverbial chameleon and an extremely strong member of the ensemble. Nancy Sullivan performed the role of Lucy Lockit with sharp comic timing combined with a level of emotion appropriate to a girl in Lucy’s predicament. Charlotte Miranda-Smith played Polly in stark contrast to her love rival, simpering, sweet and slightly dim at certain junctures! Jonathan Dryden Taylor also put in a strong performance as Lockit and he had some delightful scences with Goode as Peachum.

It’s a piece that’s stood the test of time and the fact that actor-musos were used provided an extra dimension to what was already a fantastic night at the theatre. A must-see which offers a modern take on the 18th century!

 

Alice In Wonderland ~ Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre, Chester

Alice In Wonderland runs at Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre, Chester until 20 August 2017 – book here: Alice In Wonderland Tickets

Star rating: *****

I’ve seen Alice In Wonderland in almost every incarnation, now and watching this version, adapted by Glyn Maxwell, in the glorious open air setting of Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre was a real treat. It’s set in the round with a fairly moderate space for the action to occur in but plenty of opportunities for the cast to interact with the audience and make appearances sitting beside the unwitting theatre-goers. It all added to the fun and made for an energetic, exciting and unpredictable Alice In Wonderland – and given that unpredictability is at the heart of the story, the direction by Derek Bond has proved to be exceedingly on point.

This particular version follows Alicia (Anna Leong Brophy) as she worries about going to school and is confronted with Alice (Rebecca Birch) who proceeds to chase after the White Rabbit (Tom Connor). There’s excellent use of large prop letters which form the word ‘Wonderland’ as Alice goes about her adventure, encountering all the usual suspects, The Mad Hatter (Alex Mugnaioni), a rather sporty Duchess (Charlotte Gorton), three sneering school girl flowers, the science teacher in the form of the caterpillar (Jonathan Dryden Taylor) and Humpty Dumpty (Daniel Goode), who is rather well to do and was obviously laid with a silver spoon in his mouth!

The costumes are notable, they add to the ambience of the piece and I have to add that it poured with rain during the second half and they bravely soldiered on – with Alicia becoming extremely soaked in her white nightdress! The Mad Hatter’s tea party table is also a wonder in itself and extremely cleverly assembled, so basic yet so effective.

The cast work together amazingly well as an ensemble, they’re a tight unit and all exceptional in their roles. Rebecca Birch is a fun and frivolous Alice while Anna Leong Brophy is a serious and emotional Alicia. Charlotte Gorton puts in an incredible performance as the Duchess, high kicks, cartwheels and long strides – a real physical portrayal, she also shines as Alicia’s mother. Alex Mugnaioni is wondrously mad as the Mad Hatter and Tom Connor is a skittish White Rabbit and also brings hilarious madness to the March Hair. Daniel Goode as Humpty Dumpty was one of my personal highlights, his toffee-nosed accent was such stark contrast to his appearance. Jonathan Dryden Taylor was laid back to the extreme as the Caterpillar and fantastically ditzy as the King. Most of the cast played multiple roles and were adept at putting different characterisation into each part that they performed as.

It’s a show not to be missed, my favourite incarnation of the story to date and I could watch it again and again if offered the opportunity! I recommend that you embrace the open air setting and head to Chester by 20 August!

 

Spotlight On… Actress, Charlotte Gorton

Charlotte Gorton has been working in the West End in the widest range of roles possible, but her recent casting as leopard print clad Mari Hoff in The Rise and Fall Of Little Voice at The Union Theatre may just be one of the most pivotal moments for her career. Charlotte was incredible in the role when I had the pleasure of reviewing the show, and it is my pleasure to present my exclusive interview with the Lady behind the leopard print!

Thank you so much for talking to Break A Leg, Charlotte, I loved your performance as Mari in The Rise and Fall of Little Voice, how has the show been going for you and tell me about the audition process.

Thank you and thanks for having me, I am loving playing Mari, she is a dream of a part and not a part I thought I would have the chance to play. I was nervous in case I made a mess of it, 75% of the script is Mari’s dialogue and The Union Theatre is an intimate space.

I was told that the audition would consist of one call, and I watched the film version of Little Voice to give me an idea of the character. I didn’t want to bring too much of Brenda Blethyn’s performance into it, though. I dressed ‘the part’ for the audition and that earned me some funny looks on my journey to The Union Theatre. My agent called me afterwards to say that I had a second call back, but when I arrived I was greeted with “we’re so glad you’re on board!” “you’ve got the part, do you want it?”.

Before the audition I recalled an inspirational speech that the late Philip Seymour Hoffman made: (editor’s note – I have attached the Youtube link as the whole clip is worth a watch!)

Were you familiar with the script before the audition came along?

I wasn’t and the script is actually quite difficult to get hold of. I watched the film for inspiration, Jim Cartwright is a brilliant writer. I will never forget the wonderful words that he has written.

Have you a favourite scene in the show?

I love the scene with Sadie (played by Mandy Dassa) where we dance, I love it because that came out of our own rehearsals and I think it reflects the relationship between the two characters.

My favourite is also the final scene, the showdown with LV (played by Carly Thoms) we put so much into that and I knew when I auditioned with Carly that we had something. I love the change in Mari’s character from this mum who doesn’t care about her daughter and thinks she’s found love with Ray Say, to a broken woman who’s lost everything in the fire.

little_voice1
Charlotte as Mari in The Rise and Fall Of Little Voice at The Union Theatre. Photo Credit: Scott Rylander.

You’re from a musical theatre background, what are your favourite memories from appearing in the musicals you have been cast in to date? Is there a favourite among them?

I love them all for different reasons, playing Clara in Memphis was a highlight because it’s always special when you’re part of an original cast. I loved Guys And Dolls, that’s my favourite musical, I’ve performed in that at various times, from amateur dramatics to Piccadilly Theatre with Ewan McGregor.

Equally, I enjoyed being part of the Mamma Mia cast, I was cover for Donna and I went on as Tanya. It’s good fun to do and the audience get up and dance at the end of every show.

You were in the cast of Viva Forever, what was it like to be part of the show?

To be part of the cast was amazing, what a journey, and it has a special place in my heart because it was my first performance after a seven year break. I had intended to take a year out and it turned into seven years. Despite the press reviews, it was a great show to be part of.

Have you got an ambition to play any particular role in the future?

Well, I never thought that I would play Mari, so I now feel that the possibilities are endless for an actress of my age. There are so many great role, Madame Thenardier in Les Miserables, Rosie in Mamma Mia, there are so many strong roles for women.  Writers are realising that there is a need for this.

I’d like to thank Charlotte for her time, it was fantastic to chat to her, wishing ‘Mari’ and the rest of the cast of The Rise and Fall Of Little Voice, you can still book tickets here: http://www.uniontheatre.biz/

A review of the show can be found here:

https://breakalegreview.com/2016/06/13/little-voice-union-theatre-southwark/

Featured Image: Becky Barrett Management

 

 

 

The Rise And Fall Of Little Voice ~ Union Theatre, Southwark

Performances

  • Dates
    2nd – 26th June 2016
  • Times
    Tuesday to Saturday @ 7.30pm
    Saturday and Sunday @ 2.30pm

Please note performances will take place at our current venue

My over-riding memory of Little Voice, written by Jim Cartwright, is the film version which was performed so fantastically by a well-known cast including Brenda Blethyn, Jane Horrocks, Ewan McGregor and Michael Caine. Having such respect for the film meant that the stage show had big shoes to fill.

Little Voice tells the story of the Hoff family, there’s the widowed Mari, a woman to whom spit and polish is a stranger and alcohol is a regular companion. Then there’s LV, her timid and withdrawn daughter who spends her life in her bedroom listening to records. These records are so embedded in her head that she has developed the ability to mimic the greats, such as Shirley Bassey, Judy Garland and Marilyn Monroe, to name but a few. Whenever LV becomes distressed, which is a frequent occurrence, courtesy of her mother most of the time, up the stairs she goes and the record player is switched on. LV’s talent is hidden until she’s discovered by the over-eager and leery Ray Say who is her mother’s latest conquest. Then there’s Billy, who hangs around outside LV’s bedroom window in the hope that she’ll take an interest in his light show, and an interest in him, too. It’s a heart-wrenching tale of a dysfunctional family and their acquaintances, who all lack one fundamental ingredient in their lives… love.

I was won over from the start and this incredible piece of theatre completely blew me away. The space lent itself beautifully to the action, providing the audience with an intimate insight into the fray.

Charlotte Gorton knocked Brenda Blethyn’s performance off my radar as Mari Hoff, she was raucous, simpering and bordered on disgusting at times, but left just enough vulnerability to show that she has a heart, she just doesn’t know how to use it. Ken Christiansen gives it plenty of swagger as Ray, well cast as the Jack the Lad who’s looking to feather his own nest. He brought out a likeable quality in an otherwise devious character and I didn’t see that quality, previously. I liked the light and shade that he created and I’m keen to see more of Christiansen’s work.

James Peake epitomized Peter Kay as Club Owner, Mr Boo, he worked the audience brilliantly and lightened the tone of the show at all of the right times. Mandy Dassa played Sadie and her facial expressions said it all, which is necessary with Mari’s introverted next door neighbour. Glenn Adamson played love-struck Billy with a gentile quality which was endearing, the chemistry between Adamson and Carly Thoms who played LV, was just right for the would-be romance.

Carly Thoms is an amazing talent, her capabilities seem boundless, she plays the shy and frightened LV superbly, but when she embodies LV’s various heroes, her mimicry is second to none. She can impersonate Bassey, Monroe, Garland, Maria Callas and Piaf, one after the other, non-stop and her vocal ability is breath-taking. The difference between Thoms’ performance and that of Jane Horrocks is that I already knew that Horrocks had the knack. The surprise factor that accompanied Thoms’ put her performance off the scale.

From the costumes, to the set to the casting, it’s hard to find a show that one can liken to perfection, but I believe that this show has perfection written all over it. If you’re not able to see this tremendous piece of theatre, you’re missing out on one of the plays of the year. http://uniontheatre.biz/little_voice.html  those tickets as soon as you can by following the link and enjoy!

Photo Credit: Scott Rylander

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