Theatre Review: Son of a Preacher Man at the Grand Opera House Belfast

Three generations come together for an adventure back to the 60s with the soundtrack courtesy of Dusty Springfield. It should have been an audience journey of nostalgia and great music but unfortunately this production didn’t quite hit the mark for me the storyline just didn’t make sense.

It started well we met our four main characters all talented singers and performers. Some well-known faces among the cast; X-factor star Diana Vickers, Bad Girls and Coronation Street star Debra Stephenson and Eastenders star Ian Reddington. All joined by Michael Howe who has a wealthy of theatre credits under his belt. They set out on the journey as Kat,Alison and Simon who are are all seeking unrequited love , Perfect. They feel sure that somehow this journey back into Soho of the 60s will help, unsure about this but I’ll go with it.

We meet the son of the preacher man a former shadow of his fathers legacy (Reddington) and the quirky cappuccino girls played by Michelle Long,Kate Hardisty and Cassiopeia Berkeley-Agyepong. I loved their costumes and dance moves they narrate/guide the plot and sing a lot of the Springfield songs well but unfortunately this seems to happen hidden in the background below the dialogue and action.

Here in lies my first problem we came to see a Dusty Springfield musical we want to hear her big hits being belted through the auditorium, I want to sing and clap along but instead my favourites The Look of Love, You don’t have to say you love me, I only want to be with you etc. are given no reverence and they don’t match what’s happening on stage.

The story starts to take a downward spiral when we find out about the three lovers.

Simon (Howe) is looking to find a partner whom he has had a connection with many years ago, the dance piece of the two male lovers insync with Howe was actually quite beautiful. The story lost it’s significance when the audience begin to be treated like idiots! Yes we have figured out it’s a gay relationship no need to tell us and yes we do realise the 60s was a different time. Oh and it just so happens his wife has passed away and she meant nothing to him, Ok then?!

Kat (Vickers) is pining after a hunk she found on match.com but he didn’t like her. I have to admit if I found Mike the knight perfect (played by Liam Vincent-Kilbride) online I’d probably swipe right too. He is a fireball of energy on stage, dancing and working out, don’t think I’ve seen so many press ups done by an actor on stage in quite a while, he also has a great voice and accent (when we finally hear him) which would make any woman weak at the knees.

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BUT here’s my problem with this storyline; Kat is trying to trap the perfect guy she goes a little OTT and wears a skimpy waitress outfit while basically trying to give Mike a lap dance. It made me cringe A LOT!!! I’ve seen flirtation in theatre done well, check out Legally Blondes bend and snap or even Rocky Horrors blatant physical theatre but this scene just made me uncomfortable. Washing over this, the character of Mike starts off as a nice guy,fighting from women’s rights and PC terms then all of sudden he’s in a kilt and is a money grabbing player? Eh Hello what happened??

Alison’s (Stephenson) relationship problems are dare I say it, a walking cliché, she is a widow who has recently fallen for her young student but nothing’s happened (she states!). Her school boy is also crushing on her and stalking her. She teaches him English Literature so why not add in a bit of Romeo and Juliet as well. The ending of their love story had me baffled she is pained with her decision throughout the production very very quickly herself and Liam (played by Lewis Kidd) just give up and decide to change partners, what, why?! Is it just to give the audience a happy ever after?!
Ok, so now that I have the faults with the story out of the way. I have to admit there is also A LOT of choreography in this production not surprising as Craig Revel Horwood was on direction. The cast are hard working and raise to this challenge in every scene. The songs when we get to hear them are good, I especially praise Diana Vickers for the closing track Son of a Preacher Man (loved it). The staging is pretty but the transitions a little slow. However I applaud the live on stage musicians that is no easy task.

Overall I think this productions storyline left me gobsmacked and unfortunately turned the production sour for me but I could see how much work and talent the cast have. I wish them luck for the rest of the run. If you go and see Son of a Preacher Man I would love to know your thoughts, from the audience reaction on the night I attended it seems to be a marmite production your either gonna love it or hate it. Let me know where you stand.

Emer D xx

Son of a Preacher Man runs until Saturday 25th November at the Grand Opera House Belfast tickets available at http://www.goh.co.uk.

 

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Theatre Review: The diary of Adrian Mole 13 ¾ at The MAC Belfast

Adrian Mole has opened his diary once again at The MAC  Belfast, as Bruiser Theatre Company celebrate their 20th Anniversary. Sue Townsend’s adaptation with the company is a remount, as the company first performed this tale in 2005 . But Adrian Mole 2017 is fresh and bouncing off the stage full of vitality. Being an eighties child (I was born in 84) I was familiar with some of the book but have to admit I’ve never read the full text but I’m very intrigued to do so now.

The production begins with a fabulous ensemble piece, a song full of 80s flashbacks it’s quick in pace and full of iconic references from the Iron Lady to Meg and Mog. It comes in converbelt form almost like the generation game but minus the cuddly toy. The cast sing with such energy I struggle to see how they are still breathing. The song sets the mood of the tale which is to unfold before us, this is a young family in the 80s on the brink, there are strikes and cuts. Times are hard but people are still plodding on. Women want more than a part-time job and making their husbands tea. The storybook set opens and we are introduced to the main character Adrian who has taken refuge from a New Year’s Eve party in the safety of his bedroom.

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Adrian Mole is a teenager with big plans he is going to be an intellect. He doesn’t understand the fuss and commotion in life, he’s not a fan of school discos or punk but he is a big fan of Pandora. Adrian played by Adam Dougal is an annoying know-it-all, at the start of the production I felt little to no endearment for the character but as the production progressed I found he carved his way into my heart. Adam’s performance of the awkward teenager overcoming life’s challenges, spots and all captures a bit of everyone’s youth, that first school disco, that first kiss, the anticipation and want to be a grown up. He transforms on stage from a grown man to the teenager with ease and gives a heartfelt performance.

 

Speaking of heart, love is a central theme to this production, from the innocent first love of Adrian and Pandora (hearts and all) to the illicit affair with the sex god next door neighbour, which included quite a few flashes of Orla Mullans ample bosom. The five cast members (Adam Dougal,Gerard McCabe,Orla Mullan,Keith Lynch and Collette Lennon) are pitch perfect throughout and full of energy. They play a number of roles to perfection but I was particularly entertained by there backing dancer performances.

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The background of some of the musical numbers contained some hilarious go go dancers, cupids and neighbours twitching at the net curtains to name a few. This is where Bruiser excels in there own form of physical humour no script needed just knowing looks and groovy moves.

Overall the cast are entertaining, enlightening and engaging. The audience lapped up the innuendos and even the substandard poetry and if you don’t fall in a little bit in love with Adrian Mole then you have a heart of stone .

Emer D xx

Ps Congratulations to Adam and Collette (Adrian and Pandora) who get married shortly after finishing the production.

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole (Aged 13 3/4) runs until 7th Oct 2017 get tickets at http://www.themaclive.com.

Then it will be touring across Ireland from the 10th-15th October visiting Ballina,Mullingar,Lisburn,Dublin,Armagh and Derry.

 

 

Theatre Review: Jane Eyre at the Grand Opera House

A classic tale of love, tragedy injustice and poverty retold with some very clever casting, staging and modern twists. Jane Eyre a re-imagining of Charlotte Brontë’s masterpiece  a collaboration between the National Theatre and Bristol Old Vic is breathtaking and inspiring. It capture my mind,body and soul. I weeped, I rejoiced I was on the edge of my seat and I want to see more.

With an almost pounding heart beat  from the start to the end of this production, the modern soundscape (including songs such as Mad About the Boy and Crazy) mixed with a modern multi-leveled  playground set meant that the reverberations of sound coming from the stage  almost become another character in the performance.

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It was visually stunning with great tableau’s and movement pieces embodying every part of Jane’s story. Nadia Clifford maybe smalls in statute but she delivers a performance full of passion and fire. She shows Jane to be inspiring bold and a freedom fighter.

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Tim Delap whom I interviewed earlier in the month  played the perfect handsome rugged but mysterious Rochester. Troubled from the moment you meet him ,I wanted to cry out in frustration at various points of the production just wanting him to breakdown the barrier between Rochester and Jane. Delap for my brought character from the book to the stage with a new level of sincerity, showing Rochesters flaws and his hope.

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Local actor Paul Mundell brought much needed comic relief with his portrayal of Pilot the dog (which almost stole the show with the Belfast audience ) and I couldn’t help but think of a few MLAs in his other role as a fir branded preacher.

Overall this a tight cast, backed by fabulous musicians, the company have put a breathe of fresh air into a classic tale and I adored it.

Got tickets now at http://www.goh.co.uk

Emer D xx

 

Theatre Review: Angela’s Ashes The Musical at Grand Opera House Belfast

Where do I begin..forget what you have read or seen in the movie. Angela’s Ashes The Musical is a new retelling of the story. It has heart,it is genuine and it is funny as well as moving.

Based on the memoir by Frank McCourt the musical depicts the highs and lows of living in the 1930s Limerick tenements, poverty stricken and dealing with alcoholism. However interspersed with the tragedy are moments of childhood bliss, memories of Irish dancing lessons, school lessons, the first holy communion and first love. The audience is enamoured from the very first song the hauntingly beautiful Angela’s Ashes title track.

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Frank played by Eoin Cannon narrates the struggle of family life with gusto and pride, he dashes behind his fathers tail throughout the first act as young Frank and develops into the strong willed man who wants more in Act Two. Cannon is the driving force of the production and his pace,powerful voice and physicality pull the audience deeper and deeper into the tale.

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Marty Maguires Malachy brought a tear to me eye at several points throughout the production. Malachy is the “Northern Man” who struggles to do the right thing. In the film this character is depicted as a despicable human being. In the musical through Maguires depictation we see him more as being an alcoholic who is struggling to get over the deaths of his children, being unemployed and being the outsider in Limerick.

Angela played by Jacinta Whyte is almost highlighted as the scarlet lady with the use of her red costume throughout the production. Her solos and ballads are big and full of emotion. I had my heart in my throat and had to try and hide a few tears while she sang of loss and farewells.( I actually completely lost myself when the talented Clare Barrett sang about a mothers love in her role as the McCourts grandmother, be prepared bring tissues.)

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This ensemble cast are constantly moving on the practical but dark and forboding set, they are the poverty stricken neighbours, the school chums, the family, friends and foes of the McCourt family. They bring comic relief and empathy to the tale. All excel but keep an eye out for Billy Heffernan (Shane McDaid), Uncle Pat (David O’Meara) and the fantastic Irish humour which comes out of the mouth of Theresa Carmody played by Brigid Shine.

Overall I cried, I laughed, I cried some more and I was on my feet whooping and cheering for more. Go see it now because next stop I’m sure will be the Westend if not Broadway.

Angelas Ashes runs until 5th August go to http://www.goh.co.uk to grab tickets now.

Emer D xx

 

 

 

Theatre Review: English National Ballets Giselle at the Grand Opera House Belfast

On the longest and hottest day of the year the English National Ballet came to the Grand Opera House Belfast. My first impression of the company’s production of the classic romantic ballet Giselle was to be in awe. The grace and ease of the ballet dancers is to be noted. However instead of going on about how light on their feet these gorgeous, graceful ballerinas are I noticed in this production that the performance, the setting and the sheer chereography of the whole company was something to behold for example at one point there was over 20 dancers on the opera house stage perfectly dancing in time. The production team as well as the dancers should be commended the gorgeous set and lighting set the mood for this tragic tale.

 

The direction and  use of dramatic techniques like tableau and physical characterisation as well as chereography shone through.I loved the dancers mischievous glances, the flirtious little kisses and the stern warnings which crossed several faces.

As for the dancers, the lead Jurgita Dronina had me transfixed from her joyous leaps of excitement and love whilst crowned with flowers as part of the wine festival to her epic distressed heart broken movements at the end of Act One, I applauded to see her return to face Myrtha, Queen of the Wills in Act two.

The love struck Albrecht,Duke of Silesia perfectly complement Jurgita and his final scene was sure to bring tears to your eyes.

Overall these was an enjoyable, moving piece of ballet and I look forward to see the English National Ballets return to Belfast in the future.

Emer xx

Something for the weekend: Tayto Park and the new Viking Voyage

Got kids or are you a big kid at heart want to go on an adventure, visit a Zoo, visit some dinosaurs AND go on some amazing thrill-seeker rides well the answer lies in Tayto Park!!

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Tayto Park in Ashbourne,County Meath is fun for all the family. It has rides for all ages, all heights and all levels of courage.

It entertained me for a full day even though it rained; I met vikings, held a gorgeous little four year old owl. I was chased by dinosaurs in a 5d cinema and faced my fear of heights by going on some crazy rides so that is some achievement.

 

The park opened for its seventh season in April and is the gem in the Tayto Ireland business. Raymond Coyle founder of Tayto Park wanted to build somewhere to entertain all the family. He is very proud of what he has achieved so far and has plenty more tricks up his sleeve (keep an eye out for his birds of prey show and the new hotel coming soon.)

Last week he revealed the parks latest ride The Viking Voyage. I’m not the biggest fan of roller coasters but I am a water baby. So when I was invited to try out the new water based ride I apprehensively took a step forward. However walking through the Viking village complete with Viking ships,wattle fencing, thatch houses, village sound effects and viking artefacts excitement and adrenaline kicked in.

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With butterfly’s in my stomach I sat in my Viking boat surrounded by friends and colleagues eager and nervous to know what was coming next. The answer 1.7m litres of water, 3 drops; one  of which goes up 12metres and one which goes backwards. Guess what I loved it!! Its a mix of fear,fun and speed.

 

The aftermath is below, just look at my face…and that 12m drop!!!

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Overall I loved Tayto Park and will be sure to get back in the car to visit soon (takes about 90mins from Belfast)

Emer xx

Ps Heres a quick few snaps from the day.Comment and send me on your pics if you visit, would love to know how you spent the day.

 

 

 

Theatre Review: The Ladykillers at the The Lyric Theatre Belfast

An all female cast took to the stage of the Lyric Theatre Belfast this week to portray some very shady characters. The result a funny, energetic piece of farce which is sure to make even the most stern audience member laugh. Jimmy Fays direction plays homage to Linehan’s genius stage script but at the same time re-invents the play into something even more modern, entertaining and interesting. (I haven’t watched the film so can’t make reference to it but now I feel like I should.) Lines of the script are reinforced with comedic timing and repetition, meaning they are sure to be stuck in the heads of the audience forever. My personal favourite “he just fell against the dress….”

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The productions set by Stuart Marshall is in an absolutely fabulous creation with many levels and layers. Lots of space for some unique entrances and exits which just add to the drama and never disrupts the pace.

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The Ladykillers is a shining example of exactly what I love to see on the Northern Irish stage something which has wide appeal and which gets the audience to interact/communicate  with each other. Overheard at the interval lots of mutterings of isn’t this funny, I wonder if they can actually play. Basically a production that promotes a smile and giggle throughout gets a big thumbs up from me.

Although the production is a timely affair with a run time just shy of three hours I didn’t feel the minutes tick by. In fact I felt like I need to go back and watch it again, as at certain points I was concerned with the actions of characters in the background instead of the foreground and I feel like I may have missed out.

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Stella McCusker plays the polite, overly suspicious Mrs Wilberforce constantly fighting to keep her social status and to look after her beloved parakeet ; Abigail Gibbon is the crafty Professor Marcus between her physicality, her  exaggerated scarf and her natural charm she leads the rebel of unruly characters who tumble through Mrs Wilberforce’s front door.Julie Maxwell plays Harry, the OCD wide boy with the must amazing quiff but for me Jo Donnelly steals the show as the con-man Major Courtney, who seems to be a closet transvestite with no real grasp on reality but who would very quickly pull the wool of your eyes.Cheryl Fergison best known for her role in EastEnders comes across as the gentle giant One Round, an oaf who is very ignorant of the plot building around him but whom you would never want to wrong.

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With added cameos from well-known faces at the Lyric; Christina Nelson and Nuala McKeever, the tale is brought to its crescendo with somewhat of a bump in the dark.

The Ladykillers was an enjoyable night in the Lyric and it was a pleasure to see some many female characters on stage.

Emer D xx

Running until the 8th July check out further details at http://www.lyrictheatre.co.uk