The Searchers Farewell Tour

Their sound is one that I’ve grown up hearing my parents play on their old turntable and one of my all-time favourite songs is ‘Don’t Throw Your love Away’, it’s in my top ten of all time best loved singles and would easily make it to my dessert island discs list! They may be a band who were formed in the late 50’s (20 something years before I was born!) but when I listen to their back catalogue of classic hits, I know I was born in the wrong era.

The Searchers topped the bill at the Sixties Gold Show which was one of the highlights of my reviewing calendar last year and it was there that they announced their intention to retire. I cried and it has taken me time to come to terms with the fact that they mean it! However, they’re going out with the biggest bang with almost all their tour venues sold out and limited seats remaining where tickets are still available.

Last night, at the Stafford Gatehouse Theatre, they played a 2 hour concert to a full house packed to the rafters with fans and it was glorious. The best atmosphere imaginable and I’m still buzzing now (and wishing I could beg a ticket to another gig before they wave goodbye on 31st March).

The Searchers have transcended decades and I’m not ready for them to retire yet!

The four-piece, is compiled of bass player Frank Allen who joined the band in 1964, Scott Ottoway who started drumming for them back in 2010, the extraordinary lead vocalist and guitarist Spencer James who has been with the band for over 33 years and the legendary John McNally who is the remaining founder member. I’m transfixed by the talent of all four of the boys, they’re exceptional musicians, however John McNally can’t help my draw my attention, especially when he plays the twelve string guitar. His witty retorts and banter with Frank Allen make for an entertaining evening too, in addition to their brilliant trademark sound and sing-a-long opportunities!

From popular hits such as ‘Walk In The Room’, ‘Sugar and Spice’, ‘Needles and Pins’ and ‘Don’t Throw Your Love Away’ to a couple of Buddy Holly tracks and a fantastic version of ‘Running Scared’, originally by the late great Roy Orbison – a concert from The Searchers is a real treat. I’m not ready for them to retire, I respect the fact that they feel it’s time, but that didn’t stop my bottom lip from wobbling once the final medley had been played.

There’ll never be another band like them, they’ve transcending decades and generations and will be missed by their peers and fans alike, I’m sure. If you can grab a ticket to see their final shows, you’ll not regret it, I promise. www.the-searchers.co.uk/dates

Spencer James from the band will be touring with a solo gig so make sure you buy your tickets for that, all the dates and venues are here: spencerjames.biz/spencer-james-solo-shows

Advertisements

Calendar Girls The Musical ~ New Cast : New Enthusiasm

I’ve been reviewing musical theatre productions since 2012. My love of musical theatre dates back to my wee small years when my parents took me to see a number of popular shows at either Birmingham Hippodrome, Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham or Wolverhampton Grand Theatre. Great memories remain and the buzz I reveled in at the time and on our way home afterwards while I clutched my programme and finished off any sweets we might have had left is a feeling I cherish. Inevitably there comes a point where, as a regular theatre-goer, you’ll have seen the vast majority of productions in a variety of incarnations. I reached a stale-mate with musical theatre recently, where apart from Blood Brothers which remains a steady favourite, I’ve lacked the inspiration and will to get up and go to see musicals.

The inspirational block wasn’t necessarily a bad thing as it turned my head in the direction of the Opera and I’ve been lapping up as many opportunities as possible to go to see different Operas. However, there is another musical theatre production that I have a passion for aside from Blood Brothers. I saw this particular musical twice in the West End and had great fun interviewing one of the stars of the show too, Claire Machin, Calendar Girls the Musical from the combined force of Mr Gary Barlow of Take That fame and Tim Firth is the one I’m referring to and the soundtrack from the West End cast has a regular home in our car for sing-alongs, it’s addictive!

Sarah Jane Buckley will be missed when she leaves one of my favourite musicals, Blood Brothers!

One of the many reasons that I return to Blood Brothers time and time again is that Sarah Jane Buckley has been playing the role of Mrs Lyons and understudying Mrs Johnstone. She is incredibly believable as both characters, giving beautifully nuanced performances. She’s also one of a few performers I make a great effort to support, as she has been immensely supportive of my little blogging empire. I had fully intended to see Calendar Girls the Musical on its tour before this year, especially as Fern Britton was cast as Marie, the disapproving W.I. Leader. However, I have now got yet another reason to get out there and see it – there’s a brand new cast (although Rebecca Storm and Ruth Madoc (who was one of my childhood heroes) remain) and Sarah Jane Buckley is playing the role of Annie. It’s a part which I watched Joanna Riding and Jenny Gayner play at the Phoenix Theatre, London and which I had my eye on for Sarah Jane to play, funnily enough, I knew she’d fit it brilliantly.

I loved The Girls when it ran at the Phoenix Theatre in London’s West End

So, with midlands tour dates on their list and not only Sarah Jane Buckley on the cast list, which is a draw in itself for me obviously, but also Sue Devaney who I loved in ‘Dinnerladies’ and Julia Hills of 2 Point 4 Children fame joining the line up – I need to go and see the show again (and again!). My enthusiasm for the show has been renewed of course, but also my enthusiasm for musical theatre off the back of my palpable excitement. The buzz is back and I’m raring to see more musicals because I’m so enthused about the tour of Calendar Girls. Of course, when you’re a fan-girl, as I am, and your best-loved performer is taking on a new challenge, that in itself is always quite a moment. Sarah Jane will embrace the role of Annie and make it her own, that’s my totally biased view… I can already imagine her singing ‘Scarborough’. I can’t wait!!!

I can’t wait to see Calendar Girls the Musical again – ‘Sunflower’ is one of my best loved songs from the show

When it comes to any production, be it a musical, a play, a television series or even a film – we all have our favourites in the various roles and there’s no denying that the West End cast of ‘The Girls‘, as it was called then, were outstanding. From Sophie Louise Dann to Claire Machin to Michele Dotrice and indeed Joanna Riding – each and every one of the girls and boys in the cast put their heart and soul into the show. However, I hope that all the theatre fans out there who have a passion for the show as I do will give the new cast a chance. I think they’ll be a force to be reckoned with.

With the announcement finally out there today that there’s a new line-up in the offing to get behind those buns, I’m just so happy that my musical mojo is back! Bring on a year of musical theatre trips in 2019!

If you want to book tickets for the tour, you’ll see the current cast until the gang head to Southend. I’m sorry to have missed out on the chance of seeing Fern Britton, however from Southend onwards I predict a new magic in the air for this amazing piece of musical theatre.

calendargirlsthemusical.com

Photo Credit: John Swannell

Entertainment Views Interview: Florence Cady – Star of Crucible of the Vampire

Crucible of the Vampire was released in cinemas yesterday and it looks set to be a thrilling piece of cinematography. Actress Florence Cady plays the role of Scarlet in the film and I caught up with her to find out all about the character she plays and why she thinks that vampire movies have stood the test of time.

Florence Cady as Scarlet

Thanks for chatting to Enertainment Views, Scarlet. Tell me about Crucible of the Vampire and what attracted you to be part of it?

Crucible Of The Vampire is a Gothic Vampire Thriller set in present day Shropshire in a large country house. Stylistically, it draws from classic British horror of the 1950s and 1960s, along with modern Korean and Japanese psychological horror. I was attracted to the idea of playing a strong, multi-faceted female character. It was a great opportunity to get my teeth into (excuse the pun) a complex, dynamic and varied role. I was also drawn to the idea of doing my own action scenes, including: horse-riding, fight scenes and a dance sequence. It is not often that you get the chance to play a lead role and also do your own physical work.

What are the strengths and quirks of your character?

Scarlet is a strong character both physically and mentally. She is extremely powerful and incredibly manipulative, but this is born out of her inner anxiety and feeling of isolation and entrapment. Scarlet initially appears to be a petulant child, and then she develops into a dangerous seductress and manipulative psychopath. She has a strong character arc and a deep secret. She is very volatile and becomes intensely angry at the flick of a switch, which can be quite sinister. But, she is also very playful and girlish at times. She is a dreamer, driven by her fantasy of escape. Our director, Iain Ross-McNamee was brilliant at allowing us the space for our characters to develop whilst also having a clear vision of what he wanted Scarlet and Isabelle’s relationship to be like.

Official Trailer

What’s your favourite scene from the film?

I think my favourite scenes to film were the action sequences choreographed by stunt co-ordinator, Justin Pearson. Katie and I worked with Justin to learn the fight scenes, almost like a dance sequence. It was quite exhilarating to chase each other down the corridors at night, whilst trying to get the moves in the right order, which became second nature after a short rehearsal period. I also enjoyed learning the dance sequence set in the ballroom, which was choreographed by Vikki Burns. The room had such beautiful natural light and it was a great space to work in. In preparation for the role, I went back to barre classes to refresh my ballet, and I stretched daily to ensure I was prepared for the short rehearsal period on set with Vikki.

Any particular memories from making the film?

I have lots of fond memories from making the film. It was a fantastic opportunity so early on in my career, and also a chance to escape London and live in the beautiful Shropshire countryside. One particular memory I have is of shooting the dream sequence on a gorgeous white stallion. I remember at one point the horse-handler saying to me ‘there are 18 acres of land here, and he hasn’t had a gallop in a while, so don’t get too confident!’ Luckily the horse was very well-behaved, and I manged to stay upright. It was a challenge to try and remain calm, get the horse to do as it was told, whilst looking elegant and serene.

What’s your best loved genre of film?

I’m a big fan of Film Noir. I wrote my dissertation on Women in Film Noir, looking at the on-going fascination of the femme fatale from the classic noir of the 1940’s onwards, to neo-noir from the 1970’s to present day. I’m fascinated by the elusive archetype of the femme fatale and the distinct visual style of the ‘genre’. Our film shares one of its key themes: the blurred lines between fantasy and reality, which we used to explore the dreamlike quality of certain parts of the film.

Why do you think that Vampires hold such fascination for film fans?

I think Vampires hold such a fascination for films fans because they are an archetype that instantly conjures up a strong image of a dark, brooding, charming and sexually provocative character. They also represent the disparity of how a person can appear to be one thing, but are completely the opposite. As with Scarlet in the film, at the beginning we wanted to make it feel like she was just a troubled, tormented soul driven by her desire to escape her life confined to her parent’s house. Vampires are often lonely, isolated characters and I think all humans can I identify with that feeling at some point in their life. They are also fascinating because they are superhuman, extremely powerful and can live for hundreds of years. They transcend the ordinary.

Why should we all watch Crucible of the Vampire?

You should all watch Crucible of the Vampire because it has garnered rave reviews at major festivals, including Starburst International Film Festival which called it “an engaging story that is both broodingly ethereal, visually eloquent and thoroughly enjoyable.” It is an intense, provocative and disturbing horror that will make you uncomfortable at times and challenge your perceptions, harking back to the classic British horror of a by-gone era.

Thanks to Florence for an insightful interview.

Crucible of the Vampire is in cinemas 1st Feb and on Dual Format (DVD & Blu-ray) on 4 Feb 2019 from Screenbound Pictures

Blood Brothers ~ Malvern Theatres

Blood Brothers, the musical that has had a special place in my heart for a long time – it will always be a five star production in my eyes and has yet to deviate from that honour. Each time I see it feels like watching again for the first time as it’s easy to find something I may have missed on other occasions.

If you don’t know the story let me enlighten you… the action is set in Liverpool where class difference has never been more prominent and centres around Mrs Johnstone, her family and struggles. She was married but he scarpered as soon as the number of children she was having almost rivaled that of a football team. With twins on the way and the welfare threatening to take her kids away she reluctantly strikes up a bargain with her well to do employer, Mrs Lyons. Splitting up her twin boys, Mickey grows up with the big boisterous family and of course, Mrs Johnstone as his mother, whereas Edward is raised by Mr and Mrs Lyons, with Mr Lyons remaining in the dark about the reason why his apparently barren wife has born him a son. As the lads grow up, having met each other and become friends when they were age 7 (nearly 8) there’s a love triangle developing with a girl called Linda and the class divide is set to catalyse fatal consequences.

You’re bound to have heard a number of the timeless songs; there’s ‘Tell Me It’s Not True’, ‘My Child’, ‘Easy Terms’ and ‘Marilyn Monroe’ to name a few. Linzi Hateley plays the iconic role of Mrs Johnstone, taking over from Lyn Paul, she’s made the role her own. Mark Hutchinson plays Edward (Eddie) and his years of experience in the part are very telling, it’s almost like a second skin for him. Robbie Scotcher is a moody, shadow-dwelling narrator, the power of his vocals wows and he possesses extraordinary stage presence. Daniel Taylor will always be my Sammy, the tantrums are show-stopping and there’s always a splash of real menace which hints at what the future holds for the character. Danielle Corlass gives another flawless performance as Linda. Tim Churchill is as superb as always, excellent as Mr Lyons and hilarious as the milkman cum gynaecologist. The ensemble are also as strong as ever with Graham Martin reducing the audience to tears of laughter with his performances as the Judge and the two vastly different teachers. Amy-Jane Ollies also shines as Donna Marie and Miss Jones. Andy Owens never fails to give a wonderfully funny portrayal of the nerdy pal, Perkins.

Last night belonged, for me personally, to Sean Jones as Mickey and Sarah Jane Buckley as Mrs Lyons. That’s because it was the last time that I was to see them in the show. They’re both bound for pastures new and with Sean having 15 years under his belt it’s going to be rather strange getting used to a new Mickey. Sarah Jane joined the cast in 2016, but it’s no secret that I was already a huge fan (and still am a huge fan!) as I loved her as Kathy Barnes in Channel Four’s Hollyoaks. As Mrs Lyons she has surpassed my expectations, adding an extra something special to the ‘bridesmaid’ of the female roles. I was also lucky enough to see her play Mrs Johnstone as she has understudied the part, and her performance still resonates now. One of my favourite experiences in the theatre.

Sean Jones IS Mickey, so although I’m certain the new one will be fantastic and find his feet, I’m sure the loss of Sean from the cast will be felt keenly. Wishing both of them all the best for their future roles anyway – which I know they will both be amazing in. Look out for them, and indeed catch them in one of the venues that they will tour to with Blood Brothers before they finish. This is the first of their four remaining weeks with the tour.

All in all, Blood Brothers is one of the best nights at the theatre you could wish for, miss it at your peril! If you want to catch it at the wonderful Malvern Festival Theatre, it plays there until Saturday 2nd February: blood-brothers

Photo credits: Robert Day

National Television Awards 2019 – Musings of an attendee…

Another National Television Awards ceremony has passed and it was an interesting, slightly controversial star-studded evening.

As an entertainment blogger with big love for all things telly and a working relationship and indeed friendships with a few familiar names from the small screen, I like to attend the awards whenever possible. I was a regular attender of the National Television Awards during the good old days when the Royal Albert Hall was the venue for the event. This year saw my third visit to the show since the move to the O2 and the extortionate charge to meet the celebrities on the red carpet came into being.

I’m often asked if it’s as good to be there as it looks on the telly and whether it’s worth paying for a ticket to go etc. The honest answer is that you do get a better view on your television at home, however I also believe that everybody should experience it at least once. Had the ceremony and set up remained the same as during Sir Trevor McDonald’s tenure – then I wouldn’t have hesitated to recommend that everyone with a passion for television pays a visit and indeed for a ticket, if they can. Every trip to the O2 for me has been widely different, however what stood out this time was the number of people in the audience who were going in and out of the auditorium at regular intervals and not during commercial breaks. This was disruptive to the evening itself for us members of the public. It’s no mean feat going up and down those stairs all the time either, they must have had a great workout!

The basic charge before fees for a red carpet ticket which includes a seat at the ceremony itself is £120. Prior to the move to the O2 it was free to attend the red carpet before and after the ceremony. There was a degree of scrambling which was kept under control by stewards, however on the whole it wasn’t a bad experience and helped to build up the excitement and anticipation before we piled into the venue itself. During commercial breaks inside the Albert Hall the nominees would make their way over to have photos with us and sign autographs too. It felt like we were all in it together, actors, crew members, directors, producers and us, the viewers.

As it’s an awards ceremony voted for by the public, back in those days it truly felt like the public got something back for supporting the various television shows. If you didn’t have an opportunity to see your favourite celebrity before the show or during, there was always a good chance that you would meet them afterwards. Indeed I was able to arrange to meet friends who were nominated and we’d easily find one another amongst the throng. On all three occasions that I’ve been in the audience at the O2 it’s been impossible to meet any nominees in my social and working circle.

So why the big change? Security risks are heightened of course due to a vast number of reasons and social media and all its pitfalls have also added to the mix. There are a few ‘fans’ out there who troll celebrity social media accounts and they could be loose cannons on occasions such as these I expect. It’s such a shame though because the event which I have always loved being a part of now feels like an us and them situation – those who are on TV versus those who aren’t. Separated and kept under lock and key by more security staff than you can shake a stick at – and you’d be wise not to shake a stick or you’d find yourself back on the tube before the stars were in their seats. Which wouldn’t be difficult! At the Royal Albert Hall the nominees were always seated well in advance of the show going live. At the O2 it’s almost more entertaining to watch the celebrities being herded in, rather like cats, than it is to watch the show. As you will no doubt have spotted on your screens this year, they are seldom in their seats ahead of the show being broadcast.

Although there is a notable barrier between Joe public and the television greats, there are a handful of stars who like to boogie with the warm up man and get the crowd ready to party. This year Brendan O’Carroll and Jennifer Gibney aka Mrs Brown and Cathy Brown were having a dance and cheering with the audience before Dermot came on to do his thing. Last year we had Ruth Langsford and Alison Hammond strutting their stuff. The various television theme tunes are blasted out and we can see footage from the red carpet to spark our enthusiasm. It’s after that I feel the show becomes something of a damp squib.

The positive side of the night for me personally is that I go with friends and we have a brilliant time. This year we were treated to a ‘red carpet’ make over by Bobbi Brown UK in John Lewis and Partners, Oxford Street ahead of the show and spent our time enjoying a good catch up. It is what you make it, and if you want to spend the big bucks to meet the stars on the red carpet, the opportunity is there. It’s not what we’re keen to do but it would certainly be an experience not to be forgotten I’m sure. You can book tickets for next year so if you feel it’s time to see what all the fuss is about and see the inside of the awards for yourself, book now: www.nationaltvawards.com/

Photo Credits: National Television Awards/ITV

National Television Awards 2019 – My Highlights

The dust has settled on another National Television Awards – the free bar for the nominees and their plus ones has been pounded, the ticket holding members of the public have finally felt able to put their shoes back on (I saw many a fellow attendee with sore feet, clutching their inappropriate choices of footwear in their hands!) and the winners are all admiring their spectacular trophies I expect. Did you vote in this year’s National Television Awards and did your favourites win?

Here’s what I thought of the various outcomes and I’ll let you in on who I had my money on in each category too… (when I say money, I do mean Monopoly cash – just so you know and so my husband doesn’t fly into a blind panic if he reads this!)…

Factual Entertainment: Paul O’Grady: For The Love of Dogs

I voted for this show, I think its stood the test of time and like many members of the British public, I love animals and want to see them living their best life. Paul is an inspirational guy and as a presenter with such as passion for dogs, the combination couldn’t be better. A much deserved win!

Quiz Show: The Chase

Another show I voted for, I love Bradley Walsh as a presenter, I think the banter between the various chasers and the contestants is good entertainment value and I think the format is very watchable. It has long been my favourite quiz show. Happy viewer and voter!

New Drama : Bodyguard

Of course it was, and of course I voted for this. BBC One has needed a gripping drama of this quality to up its game with so many channel choices out there. Richard Madden was a top choice to take the title role and I will never forget the first episode, edge of my seat and almost on the floor! An unsurprising winner.

Drama Performance: Richard Madden

Did I vote for him? Why yes you nosy devils, I did indeed! He’s not been on my radar before Bodyguard but he’s on it now and will remain so for a long time to come. A humble winner who couldn’t have been better cast in such a prolific role, long may Madden reign!

Talent Show: Strictly Come Dancing

Yes I voted for Strictly! It’s one of my all time favourite shows and I thought last year’s was one of the bet years they’ve had so far. They seem to be able to do no wrong as they also won last year. I’m just gutted that none of the judges made it to the shortlist this year.

Comedy: Peter Kay’s Car Share

If I had been putting money on National Television Awards winners I’d have been steaming ahead by now as this was another of my choices. Peter Kay developed a comedy in Car Share that we’ve not seen anywhere else and it never failed to tickle me. The episode featuring the monkey will be a memory I’ll always laugh out loud at. It was the last time that the show would be eligible as it has come to a close now, so it’s lovely that they won and great for Peter Kay too as he’s been off the scene.

Newcomer: James Moore

I don’t think I’ve ever felt so elated when a winner has been announced at this show. James Moore has been such a terrific addition to the Emmerdale cast and I wouldn’t have voted for anyone else. He made a fantastic entrance to claim his trophy and he’s raising the profile of actors with a disability. I hope he stays in the soap long enough to be in the running for a best actor award in future years.

Daytime: This Morning

I think I’d be hard pushed to think of a better winner, This Morning trumps all the other nominees every time and was naturally on my radar to vote for with Eamonn Holmes and Ruth Langsford being two of my all time best loved presenters. I do wonder if the public vote for it just so they can watch a hungover Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby the next morning though…

TV Judge: David Walliams

I have to admit that I failed to vote in this category when the shortlist was announced as I wanted Shirley Ballas from Strictly Come Dancing to be in the running. David Walliams is extremely entertaining but his choices of act on Britain’s Got Talent to go through are usually slightly off the wall and not necessarily the same choices I’d make. So although he was probably one of the best shortlisted nominees in that category, I was a bit disappointed. Sorry! It also broke my winning streak, but then I was never in the running for this one with my beloved Ms Ballas out of the picture!

Drama : Peaky Blinders

I didn’t vote for the show, I’ve never watched it, however I can see why it won as I know the following are strong and committed. I had a dilemma as to who I voted for as I support Casualty and the cast, but I adore Call The Midwife, so I was torn. I went with the latter but all my work colleagues went with the former!

TV Presenter: Ant & Dec

I voted for Bradley Walsh, let’s get that out there straight away before I dissect this controversial little nugget. Had Dec been available to vote for by himself in this category, I might have considered voting for him. Ant very graciously and rightly announced that the award belonged to Dec so no hard feelings as far as I’m concerned. The public awarded it to them and assuming the vote counting was correct, that’s the end of it. I’m pleased for Dec.

The Bruce Forsyth Entertainment Award: I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!

Yes, a worthy winner and the one I voted for. I’m back in the game! However, I have to admit it would not have been my choice in previous years. This year the king of jam roly poly, Harry Redknapp made it unmissable for me and I really enjoyed the combination of Dec and Holly Willoughby, which I wasn’t sure would be the best before the show started. Worthy winner!

Serial Drama Performance: Danny Dyer

My vote went to Emmerdale’s Emma Atkins however it was a tough decision and I had considered putting my vote Mr Dyer’s way. He livens up Eastenders that’s for sure and the recent storyline he’s been at the centre of has had me glued. So although Emmerdale’s Charity Dingle pipped it for me personally when it came to voting – Mr Dyer was never far from the radar either.

Serial Drama: Emmerdale

They’re on a winning streak as they won last year too. Coronation Street received my vote this year however Emmerdale were always a close second. All the soaps have upped their game at some point over the last twelve months and should all be congratulated for hard work, excellent episodes and continually entertaining us. Well done Emmerdale, with all the episodes you lot churn out you deserve the recognition. For a full list of winners and more highlights check out the official website for National Television Awards and you can also book tickets for next year’s show: www.nationaltvawards.com/

Photo credits: BBC and National Television Awards Official Website

The Snowman ~ Birmingham Repertory Theatre

Star rating: *****

It’s the stage spectacular that’s certain to make you feel like you’re walking in the air with its feel-good yet beautifully moving story, choreography and music. In its 25th anniversary year, the live version of the stage show based on the Raymond Briggs classic is heart-warming and brings tears to the eyes in equal measure!

The atmosphere of the piece is created from a combination of stunning ballet, beautiful, believable characterisation and the strength of the story alone which is told so brilliantly by the utterly incredible cast. The stage version dovetails with the film in that we follow the friendship between an over-excited boy waiting for Christmas and even more enthralled to see its snowing. His glorious snowman comes to life in wondrous fashion as the pair embark upon a marvellous adventure. Together they make a formidable team as they combat a cat attack, encounter dancing fruit from the fridge who limbo dance and even brave a trip to mum and dad’s bedroom to dress up the frozen wonder. However it’s when the pair take flight into the night sky that the piece reaches its crescendo. The party that ensues with a selection of other snowman, animals and Father Christmas himself can’t fail to put a smile on your face. Punctuated by the sensational music and lyrics from Howard Blake.

Martin Fenton astounds in the title role, he plays the Snowman as if he were wearing a second skin and every move is measured, precise and engaging. Lewis Chan gave a superb performance as the boy, the chemistry with Fenton was stunningly palpable. Ruben De Monte was extraordinarily impressive as Jack Frost, commanding the stage and leaving us under no misapprehension as to who the baddie of the piece was. The penguins were my favourites though, comical, exact movement and a real double act – kudos to Ami Tollin and Kimberly Lawrie.

A family evening out at the theatre doesn’t come in any better packaging than this – it’s the perfect post-Christmas treat. Book your tickets to see The Snowman now: www.birmingham-rep.co.uk/

Borg vs. McEnroe – Film Review

The rivalry between tennis greats Björn Borg and John McEnroe was one for the ages and it was no doubt made for theatre. Here were two of the sport’s finest — both immensely talented and massively driven by the pursuit of greatness. But one, McEnroe, was fierce and volcanic; the other, Borg, was suave yet stoic. They were fire and ice, perfect dance partners for the sport of tennis.

That rivalry is the one Borg vs. McEnroe revisits over three decades later. Directed by Danish filmmaker Janus Metz Pedersen, Borg vs. McEnroe is a biographical sports drama that chronicles what is arguably one of the sporting world’s fiercest — and most evenly matched — rivalries. The biopic revisits a compelling clash of titans, and it does so with aplomb (though it is not without its flaws).

Borg vs. McEnroe illuminates the essence of Borg (played by Sverrir Gudnason), whose ice-like demeanour concealed an inner cauldron fuelled by a burning desire to win and a manic obsession for detail. The Guardian notes that Gudnason is remarkable in this biopic, and that is a accurate observation. The Swedish actor recreates in compelling detail everything that made his compatriot a tennis legend, and in doing so nearly steals all the thunder from Shia LaBeouf, his equally talented co-star.

LaBeouf doesn’t disappoint either as McEnroe. The biopic redefines McEnroe’s character, making a case that the American’s gifts were also his curse. McEnroe has been widely reviled for his hot-headed, tantrum-throwing ways, but Borg vs. McEnroe contextualises this volcanic temper. It wasn’t so much that McEnroe was forever full of vitriol; rather, his outbursts were manifestations of his own burning desire to win and his own manic obsession for detail. To this end, Pederson juxtaposes the two icons in a different light far apart from the fire vs. ice comparisons. The film’s message, it seems, is this: Despite their outward differences both players have a lot more in common than meets the eye. Those commonalities, in turn, are what made this Borg vs. McEnroe the rivalry that it was.

If anything, though, LaBeouf, despite his riveting performance, is left underused, and not by his own doing. The Independent’s review of the biopic rues this very same aspect, noting how Ronnie Sandahl’s screenplay hands the lion’s share of screen time to Gudnason. It is not a bad call per se, especially given Gudnason’s own spotlight-stealing greatness; but LaBeouf himself boasts acting pedigree, and he sure could have used more screen time.

Now, for the match point: Borg vs. McEnroe is an ace of a film, with a climax that artfully recreates the epic 1980 Wimbledon finals between the two icons. This biopic is an enthralling look-back at a tête-à-tête that remains the standard bearer for a sport that has had plenty of rivalries. The most recent of these rivalries, in the estimation of tennis great Pete Sampras, is the one between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, whom Sampras says “carried the torch for a couple of years” — in much the same fashion that Borg and McEnroe did from 1978 to 1981. Ranked 1 and 3 in Coral’s list of highest earning tennis players, Federer and Nadal have faced off 38 times (16 times more than Borg-McEnroe), with 24 of those showdowns for a championship.

While the Telegraph’s Charlie Eccleshare hails Federer-Nadal as one of the sport’s greatest rivalries, making a strong case that the two “have taken tennis to new heights,” the film thinks otherwise. Borg vs. McEnroe illustrates how the rivalry between Borg and McEnroe was one of a kind, and sheds light on what made it the true greatest rivalry in tennis.

Image Credit: Pinterest

Guest Post from Mary Williams

Maid Marian and the Merry Men ~ Worcester Swan Theatre

Star rating: *****

One of the best pantomimes I’ve had the pleasure of seeing this season – Maid Marian and the Merry Men at Worcester Swan Theatre. Last year’s version of ‘Sleeping Beauty’ which saw my little boy and I visit the theatre for the first time, was a real revelation so I was looking forward to this season’s effort and it absolutely did not disappoint.

Chris Jaeger, who is Chief Executive and Artistic Director at the theatre, has written the script and it’s a traditional one through and through yet cleverly doubles as a modern day take on the art of pantomime. With Maid Marian at the helm instead of Robin Hood, the show has moved with the times whilst keeping the usual quick-fire gags, opportunities to boo the baddie aka boo til you’re blue and audience participation encouraged at all times.

The story is not dissimilar to the well-known tale of Robin Hood and he does feature in the show, however incarnation is based around a feisty, independent Marian. She’s under the protection of the evil Sheriff of Nottingham who’s squeezing taxes out of the local residents and desperate to marry off Marian to Guy of Gisborne so that Marian’s money will stay in the Sheriff’s family. Cunning eh? Meanwhile there’s a half-soaked Friar Tuck eager to re-join Robin Hood’s band of merry men, Dame Ginny is on hand for madcap antics together with Willy the Wally and there’s Robin himself of course, he’s a bit of a dim-wit and head over heels in love with the leading lady. No I don’t mean Dame Ginny, she’s on the search for a husband from amongst unwitting male members of the audience. Watch out! The merry men are a bit on the young side, so they’re helped (or hindered) by the other characters as they endeavour to bring about the downfall of the Sheriff of Nottingham and help Marian to shake off Guy of Gisborne too.

Genevieve Lowe is extraordinary as Maid Marian, she’s a performer de force and her vocal ability is stunning. Tom Riddell gives a humour-filled performance as Robin, he had the audience on side from the outset. Heidi Gowthorne was a fabulously sparkly Fairy, quirky and gentile in equal measure. John-Robert Patridge shone as Dame Ginny, ably filling the shoes of Ben Humphrey who directed this season’s extravaganza but was notably absent from the pinny. Patridge was hilarious in the role, Humphrey was missed but his personal stamp on the overall show was evident. Jamie Kwasnik made the role of Friar Tuck his own and his comic timing was superb. Wilf Williams managed to make Guy of Gisborne a dashing yet clumsy oaf who was completely under the spell of the Sheriff. Charlie Ryan was quite the clown as Willy the Wally and his facial expressions alone were comedic. Liz Grand commanded the stage as the Sheriff of Nottingham, fierce, no-nonsense and extremely happy to receive as many boos and jeers as possible, she is a one of the jewels in Worcester Rep’s crown.

All in all, it’s a fast-paced, humour-packed affair with exceptional scenery, excellent choreography and a lot of fun for all the family. The musical numbers all fit in brilliantly with the plot and there’s a fantastic disco medley to put you in that party mood.

If you want to try and get your hands on a ticket before Maid Marian and the Merry Men closes, you can do so here: Worcester_Live

Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: