4 STARS 16TH OCTOBER 2020
Originally conceived by Robert Shrock and then written by a gamut of accomplished writers, Naked Boys Singing is a pure hoot. With the opening number entitled Gratuitous Nudity the audience knew what they were getting into. This is not smut – or even vulgar – this is a celebration of the human body, the beautiful male form in all its guises, shapes, colours, ethnicity, tall, short, thin and podgy – we never use the word fat.
Rambunctious, raunchy and racy, the six gentlemen – namely Liam Asplen, Nick Brittain, Daniel Ghezzi, Kane Hoad, Daniel Noah and Jensen Tudtud are totally immersed in their respective roles and the fact they are naked does not distract from the skill each of them have in executing their craft. The group harmonies are tight and very polished and when the guys perform their individual numbers they are allowed to exhibit their total talent. Certain songs, The Bliss of the Bris for example, are comedy gold, landing right on the entertainment target.
High camp combined with beautiful melodies made the whole thing zip along with a zeal and zest that has to be applauded. Stand out was Nick Brittain whose command of his role with his renditions of his solos Mr Entertainer and Robert Mitchum, both very clever ditties, were performed with a tailored elegance.The whole thing works because of a very well planned running order of the songs, changing the pace and mood and going someway to explain the characters that were singing them, perhaps far more than if the actors were delivering spoken lines.
The comedy element of the show is exceptional, especially the number I Beat My Meat, and with the clever use of props, just makes the ensemble number complete. There is also a romantic vibe applied and when a certain style of music is lampooned, in this case the light operetta world of Gilbert and Sullivan, this is a glorious send up.I totally enjoyed Naked Boys Singing and what is achieved here is a fabulous attempt to ask an audience to unwind, relax and enjoy a rip-roaring night of theatre that can only put a huge grin across your face. Keats said: ‘A thing of beauty is a joy forever’; he was correct!
Photos by NatLPho
5 STARS 12TH DECEMBER 2020
Gareth Joyner – aka Myra Dubois – is a true talent not only as a performer but also as a writer. Gareth’s script for this year’s Garden Theatre at The Eagle pantomime, FROSTBITE – Who Pinched My Muff?, is a pure hoot. A laugh out loud rip-roaring riot from a very accomplished cast who were quick to get from a very responsive audience, immediate cheers and hand claps.
The narrator and Fairy Snowflake played by Kingsley Morton was sensational, with her delivery of Joyner’s script full of tongue-twisting rhymes proving that she has a great comic skill.
Other cast members were Bessy Ewa as Greta, Tom Keeling as Bergermeister Kai, James Lowrie as a very funny Lumiukko and Shelley Rivers as Garbo. All showed they can hold their own with each of them so in tune with each other, their performances truly added to the magic of the show.
But special mention has to be made of Nathan Taylor as Demon Frostbite and Dereck Walker as Dame Herda Gerda whose performances were off the Richter scale with their time together on stage a joy to watch. Truly hilarious scenes which showcased what seasoned professionals they both are. They gave exalted performances as all the rules and regulations of panto were observed: sight gags, ad libs, asides to the audience and making it work where the eagerly anticipated audience’s involvement was handled with a magnificence that once again showed how talented these two are.
With direction by Robert McWhir the whole show was a masterful execution of how an adult panto should be presented. Bravo indeed to all concerned!
Frostbite is a breezy delight. Zany, zesty, zealous and with an ardent polished ensemble cast that made this show one of my most favourite shows of this year.
4 STARS 25TH OCTOBER 2020
For me the sign of a good comic is that they draw from and perhaps even rely on what has happened to them in their lives and with Mr (Doctor) Adam Kay that is most certainly the case.
He arrived on stage in full PPE kit, clean but nor sterile with an immediate delivery of material as sharp as a surgeon’s scalpel. His humour is relaxed with a laid back subtlety to it tinged with an acerbic style.
Kay means business and the delivery of his 70 minute set is full of quips and observational remarks as he recalls his years as a junior doctor working his way up through the ranks and quoting from his dairies. His anecdotes and how he explains what a doctor actually does were presented with the very clever use of song. Taking Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah and turning it into a running gag where audience participation was called for and we were more than prepared, after some gentle coaxing, to sing along as he changed the lyrics to the anthem.
Kay know how to work a room and despite recalling some tender and tragic events that he witnessed as a doctor he also told of crazy times and that people’s misfortunes were, and could be, incredibly funny.
Of course the whole Covid debacle came up and he asked us to celebrate the NHS and the people working in it. The last five minutes did have Kay putting across his political point of view and I could not chastise him for that.
A memorable night of sublime theatre where Kay’s skill as a wordsmith was clearly on show.
5 STARS 8TH DECEMBER 2020
Now – post lockdown – if there was ever a play worth the wait, it’s Paul Harvard’s mesmerising GHBoy.
This is about the expanding party scene in London’s East End and the snowball effect that is happening to the scene. Young men are unexpectedly dying but who is the killer? Here Harvard is very clever; the main character in the play, Robert, knows who that is, but the audience don’t know for sure who the perpetrator is. The play was inspired in part by the serial killer Stephen Port.
Robert is played by a very enigmatic Jimmy Essex who is never off stage and is perfectly cast. His brooding stage presence is phenomenal as he displays a whole gamut of powerful emotions dealing with the death of his father and his own inner demons associated with substance abuse and infidelity.
Marc Bosch who play Sergio, Robert’s boyfriend and then fiancée is equally strong bringing to his role a strength of purpose, fervour and determination as he fights to protect their relationship and help Robert get on with his life, and to realise he may be losing the battle.
GHBoy is thought-provoking stuff where Harvard explores many relevant issues – such as that temptation can be an exciting aphrodisiac. Staged with the audience on three sides, this totally adds to the majesty of the production. Director Jon Pashley’s approach is audacious, and it’s the slightly erratic nature of his direction linked by Tony Simpson’s lighting and Rona Castrioti’s sound, which is designed to bring a brutality to the way the scenes are played out as the story unfolds.
Special mention to Sylvester Akinrolabu who plays various roles and gives a gripping and menacing performance as he exploits Robert’s vulnerability for his own sexual gratification. Also all credit to Aryana Ramkhalawon as Jasminder who is not the token ‘fag hag’ but a true friend to Robert. She just wants him to be safe and secure and her scenes with Jimmy Essex have a darkly comic overtone to them that works extremely well.
Buffy Davis as Debbie, Robert’s mother, just wants the best for her son and values the fact that he wants to help her paint her front room and bring some kind of normality, if only briefly, back into her blue-eyed boy’s life. Another key character is Simon played by a very watchable Devesh Kishore who plays the psychiatrist given the task to solve some of Robert’s problems.
Harvard challenges convention as he explores the fact that the human mind can contain abstract thoughts.
This is a very masterful look at the need for self-fulfilment and expression. There are some classic scenes within the writing such as whether you declare your HIV status when forming a new and hopefully long term relationship, but that dialogue is always apt and relevant.
GHBoy is vital modern theatre and I urge you to get your ticket now.
5 STARS 9TH DECEMBER 2020
It’s abundantly clear that the creative partnership of writers Jon Bradfield and Martin Hooper, with director Andrew Beckett, have the knowledge and skills to stage an adult pantomime – and with this year’s offering Above The Stag have scored a massive hit.
With a stellar cast that all possess fabulous comic timing led by Anthony Rickman as Dick, Tom Mann as Alex Fitzwarren, Briony Rawle as Queen Rat, Matthew Baldwin as Sarah – who happens to be a master of the ad lib – and Chris Lane as Fitzwarren, the audience knew they were in for a raucous time. Despite having to adhere to social distancing (with a gap of two seats between each audience member) this did not prevent the inevitable cheering and booing of the villain.
With original songs by Jon Bradfield, the flavour of the panto was truly set – crude, rude and pure smut! And it’s high praise indeed as with the dialogue it all rhymed; truly impressive composition.
Innuendos galore and the very clever use of suggestive props gave the whole show a punch – and this all added up to a serious attack on the funny bone! This pantomime is very well written and the running gags of all things associated with Covid, and the way this government has handled the pandemic, makes this production very current.
I can honesty say the ‘wit’ of this show can most certainly be found in ‘Whittington’.
A wonderful seasonal treat; you must see it.
4 STARS 15th OCTOBER 2020
It’s very clear that the Above The Stag producers have a penchant for staging good work and with Jonathan Tolins’ Buyer & Cellar this is indeed the case. Originally slotted to run back in March – then you know what hit and all that ensued – but the wait has been worth it.
Aaron Sidwell plays Alex More, a struggling out of work actor recently fired from Disneyland, living in L.A., who lands himself a job working in Barbra Streisand’s basement, organising and chaperoning her legendary street of shops. A literal shopping mall which real life Streisand has created beneath her Malibu home, full of her memorabilia.
This is a very funny monologue with director Andrew Beckett getting from Sidwell a performance full of passion and panache, coaxing out of him that little bit of extra razzle-dazzle as he moves around the stage with a controlled excitement which explains his character in great depth and detail.
This is perfect casting with Sidwell enigmatic and clearly relishing in the fact he is now performing in front of a live audience albeit socially distanced.
Sidwell’s rhythmic and fluid delivery of the piece including all the very necessary Yiddish, Jewish, Hebrew references and at times factual mentions about Streisand’s life – add totally to the magic.
This is a look at the art of adoration with Sidwell as More reflecting on his own aspirations and how he sees his life shaping up with or without a boyfriend.
As gay men are we predisposed to like women like Barbra, Judy, Cher, Liza, Diana, Marilyn, Madonna…? Who can say for sure but it’s not such a bad thing to idolise someone who brings joy to the world, even if we also like to find out all the nitty gritty of these human beings and what makes them tick.
Aaron Sidwell is at the top of his game with a very strong grasp of the material.
The play’s poster states: ‘One man’s adventures in Barbra Streisand’s basement’ and it was; a charming and at times a very moving and poignant look at celebrity, and how we all want or need to live our lives.
Photos by PBG Studios
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