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Bomb Happy

Play : Bomb Happy

Venue : Pocklington Arts Centre

Dates : On tour until November 24th  2017

Review by : Julia Pattison

Bomb happy PAC Performance2017

We were very fortunate in Pocklington,  that Pocklington Arts Centre was chosen to host one of only six performances of a special new play, Bomb Happy, which brought to life the first-hand accounts of D-Day of the last five York Normandy Veterans.

Sadly, Dennis “ Hank ” Haydock and George “ Merry ” Meredith didn’t live to see the play project completed, but thanks to the dedication of writer and director Helena Fox, working closely with York Normandy Veterans, and her team of Creatives and Cast, their memory lives on.

Ken “ Cookey ” Cooke, Albert “ Bert ” Barritt and Ken “ Smudger ”Smith were guests of honour as the play was performed in front of a packed audience in Pockington. I spoke to Bert after the performance, and he said how much the play had meant to them all, because it helped to explain “ what we ordinary lads went through ”. What a wonderful tribute to the playwright and her team.

Queenie’s character ( Beryl Nairn ) was based on the experiences of the wives and widows of Normandy Veterans, and her opening and closing words brought home to us all the long-term impact that war can have on both veterans and their families.

George Stagnell was outstanding  as Ken “ Cookey ” Cooke, with Carl Wylie capturing George “ Merry ” Meredith’s,  jaunty Jack- the Lad manner brilliantly. Joe Sample was wonderfully earnest and convincing in his portrayal of Ken “ Smudger ” Smith, as were Adam Bruce , playing Dennis “ Hank ” Haydock and Thomas Lillywhite playing Albert “ Bert ” Barritt.

The simple set was most effective, as was the use of music, movement, sound and lighting. Each lad took his turn in the spotlight to tell his story ; you could have heard a pin drop as those stories unfolded.

After this unique and truly moving play, the Veterans were invited up onto the stage with the actors who had portrayed them so accurately, receiving rich applause.

“ We will remember them ”.

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The Case of The Frightened Lady Review by Julia Pattison ( York )

Play : The Case of the Frightened Lady

Venue : Grand Opera House, York

Review by : Julia Pattison

This play had all the potential ingredients for an exciting classic thriller to experience live at the theatre; a production by impresario Bill Kenwright , and a play written ( and now adapted by Antony Lampard) by Edgar Wallace who was known as “ the King of the detective thriller ”along with a cast full of well-known television names. Unfortunately, despite the actors’ best efforts, this was no thriller, and was more likely to send you to sleep, rather than keep you on the edge of your seat as anticipated.

The play was set in 1932, with the action ( well, there were certainly lots of characters walking swiftly on and off the stage! ) taking place at Marks Priory, seat of the Lebanon family. Top marks to Designer Julie Godfrey for her stunning set; a large, baronial hall of their ancestral home.

The first half was particularly tedious, with lots of shouting, and monologues and generally lacking energy, even when the first body was discovered.

The second half was a little better, with Brook ( Callum Coates ) and Gilder ( Simon Desborough )keeping us amused with their antics, “ There’s somebody listening ” made up in laughs what the play lacked in tension, but not the intention of the piece I’m sure .

Deborah Grant was wonderfully overbearing as Lady Lebanon, who revelled in lording it over everyone, particularly the hapless Isla Crane ( April Pearson ), but couldn’t give the kiss of life to a play that would have been better left in the archives.

The Last Ship Review by Julia Pattison 26.6.2018

Musical : The Last Ship

Venue : York Theatre Royal

Review by : Julia Pattison

All credit to the technical team that after a few opening night glitches, the set was shipshape, and we were set to embark on a poignant journey with The Last Ship, with music and lyrics by Sting.

The original book was by John Logan and Brian Yorkey, with the show premiering on Broadway. Director Lorne Campbell has created a new book, and along with other creatives, including Sting, who worked closely with the cast in rehearsals, has breathed new life into this intensely British musical that champions Tyneside life and the power of community.

The 16-strong ensemble, backed by the brilliant live Last Ship Band, sang and danced with gusto; the voice of the people was heard loud and clear. Sting’s songs throughout the musical covered a huge range, from foot stomping anthems to heart rending ballads such as Dead Men’s Boots, and these carried most of the story line.

Richard Fleeshman was superb in his role of Gideon Fletcher, a young man, who  didn’t want to follow in his father’s footsteps and who had left Tyneside to return 17 years later after deserting his girlfriend Meg Dawson ( feistily portrayed by Frances McNamee ). There was the spirit of hope in the story, despite the decline of the shipping industry, with Meg’s daughter Ellen ( brilliantly played by Katie Moore )being the musical phoenix that would rise from the industrial ashes.

Joe McGann, as you would expect from such a veteran actor, was excellent in his role of highly respected, stoic foreman Jackie White. Penelope Woodman stood in for Charlie Hardwick, playing the part of Jackie’s loyal wife Peggy, a real stalwart of the community who was also highly respected, and she made the part her own. The duet between them as Jack faced his final journey brought a lump to the throat.

Chorus numbers, and powerful solo performances packed a real punch. Along with a truly awe-inspiring set design by 59 Productions (which would change from girders and gantries to magical starry skies in the blink of an eye) and a passionate, energetic cast, you left the theatre with a fire in your belly and hope in your heart.

Whisky Galore

Play : Whisky Galore

Venue : Hull

 

Truck Theatre

Review by: Julia Pattison

I attended the Saturday matinee of this all-female new version of the classic Ealing comedy from 1949 based on Compton Mackenzie’s novel Whisky Galore, and what a fun, feel- good production it was too.

The design, by Patrick Connellan was truly ingenious, with sliding wooden crates that quickly morphed into various objects and locations, as well as storing important props to aid the story telling.

The cast of seven worked together brilliantly, furiously multi-roling and coming across as having the most spiffing time telling this well -known story of Scottish inhabitants on two small islands making the most of a whisky windfall when a ship was grounded on the rocks during the Second World War.

There were some delightfully comic moments throughout this zany production, as we saw a play within a play; the audience were completely engaged with the antics on stage, as well as being moved by some excellent characterisation from the cast.

You wanted to boo when poor George ( Lila Clements ) suffered the wrath of his disapproving mother ( brilliantly portrayed by Christine Mackie ), and equally wanted to cheer when she was finally fettled by some plain speaking.

Even if you weren’t a whisky drinker, you could feel the palpable joy of the islanders as they went from drought to practically drowning in whisky galore.

“ A future improved by a small sensation! ” was happy cry at the joyful wedding celebrations.

I’ll drink to that!

A Tiger’s Tale Review February 2018

Play : A Tiger’s Tale

Venue : Pocklington Arts Centre

Review by : Julia Pattison

 

It was great timing to schedule this quality children’s production A Tiger’s Tale, right at the end of the half term holiday, just when youngsters were probably feeling restless and cooped up. It was a delight to see so many families and Kids’ Clubs sat in the auditorium, eagerly anticipating the start of an adventure.

The plush velvet curtains of a square shaped wagon on the stage stayed tantalisingly still, until suddenly, a head popped up above the curtains, and the story began.

What a wonderful story it was too; those rich red curtains opened to reveal charismatic three actors who began their hour long performance by playing live music, telling the already spellbound audience that “Everybody has got a Tale”.  Owen Gaynor played Pa, Nicola Jayne Ingram his wife, Ma and Sophia Hatfield  (sporting a jaunty hat throughout ) played their daughter Titch.

Written by Oliver award-winning Mike Kenny, there was a wonderfully relaxed feel to the performance as the family deliberated about what story they were going to tell. Pa was bored with the “ ordinary ” style fairy tales, and we were gently swept along, eager to find out what story they chose to act out.

The stylised movements and choreography by TC Howard helped to keep up the pace of the performance, and there were delighted oohs and aahs from the young audience as a wicker hamper and trunks revealed treasure within, used to great effect in the storytelling. Owen is a multi-discipline circus performer who has performed all over the world and we all got the benefit of his talents as he delighted us with his balancing on an “ ordinary ” ladder, as well as juggling, and numerous other circus skills. Nicola morphed from Ma into the angry, unhappy Tiger forced to perform tricks by an unfeeling Ringmaster, then back again into loveable and practical Ma.

Sophia was a delight as earnest, compassionate Titch, who finally got her wish, and was able to adopt the Tiger’s cub who would have surely died if Titch’s family hadn’t have agreed to let her live with them.

The cub came alive in Titch’s hand, created from the most basic of materials such

Rita, Sue and Bob Too

Play : Rita, Sue and Bob Too

Venue : York Theatre Royal

Dates : ( On tour till 10th February 2018 )

Review by : Julia Pattison

 

There was much to be commended about this revival of playwright Andrea Dunbar’s second, most famous play, Rita, Sue and Bob Too, which led to the subsequent iconic film in 1987 starring George Costigan as Bob.

Presented by Out of Joint, Octagon Theatre Bolton and the Royal Court Theatre the cast of six captured the raw energy and dark humour of the bleak Bradford sink estate world that Dunbar’s characters inhabited.

Taj Atwal, Gemma Dobson and James Atherton playing Rita, Sue and Bob were most convincing in their roles; despite the fact that this was an older married man grooming, then seducing a pair of fifteen year olds the “ jump ” scenes on the backseat of the car were hilariously  awkward , unerotic and matter of fact.

The 80s tracks such as Tainted Love, and Do You Really Want To Hurt Me were used to great effect, as was the choreographed movement of props such as the reclining car seats, and the ensemble,  where laughter soon turned to tears and tantrums, involving frequent fights featuring an exchange of foul swear words, particularly from drunken Dad ( David Walker ) and his long-suffering yet strangely wise wife ( Sally Bankes ). Samantha Robinson playing Bob’s wife Michelle used great facial expressions to the audience, leaving us in no doubt that she’d finally seen through her deceitful husband’s lies.

A frank, fearless and poignant portrayal of the grim truth about growing up on a Bradford estate.

 

Working on Korean War Veteran’s story.

Having interviewed Denis many times, we’re now working together on his story. I write up a chapter at a time, then, for his ” homework ” he checks it, and edits it accordingly. A slow job, but very worthwhile – we’re getting there!