Last night I attended the Press Night for The Full Monty at The Marlowe Theatre. Originally produced at Sheffield Theatres, this show by Simon Beaufoy, manages to aptly capture every scene from the original screenplay perfectly.
If you haven’t seen the original movie, the story starts off in Sheffield in the 70’s, and tells the story of six unemployed men. From different backgrounds and with different life stories, they decide to form a male stripper act, to make money for their individual needs and reasons.
The six main characters are joined by a strong supporting cast-each one bringing the humour and emotion, we remember from the original story.
Gary Lucy, plays ‘Gaz‘, a former steel worker, and father to Nathan, struggling to find the money for child support payments, so he can continue to see his son.
Gaz’s backstory offers some of the most emotional scenes we see during the show, and Gary plays each scene, regardless of the type of emotion or humour, with ease and poignancy.
‘Nathan‘ was played by Reiss Ward, and oh my, that boy was amazing! The Mummy in me took a little time to get past the fact the other characters consistently swore in front of him, but he played the character with such confidence and certainty, I quickly relaxed and enjoyed his personal story.
Nathan is so torn, having overheard conversations between his Father, Mother and Stepfather, he’s worried he won’t be able to see his Dad anymore. His love for spending time with him is tainted by never doing anything he deems as “fun”. His joy is restored when he helps his Dad start ‘The Full Monty’ up, and he eventually becomes the only sensible person Gaz will listen to when he has second thoughts about actually dancing.
Gaz’s best friend, ‘Dave‘, is played by Kai Owen. A larger man, his story tells of his struggles to conceive with his partner, Jean. His body confidence is low, and his marital life is suffering because of this. Jean’s love for him, and how he looks, gives him the confidence to be part of ‘The Full Monty’, and Kai portrays every emotion fittingly, enabling the audience to fall a little in love with him themselves.
Louis Emerick plays ‘Horse‘, an older and slightly less mobile member of the troupe. Horse has an arthritic hip, but this only adds to his own style of smooth moves, and never deters from his enthusiasm. Limping on for his first scene during the auditions for the stripping troupe, the audience’s excitement and elation when he starts dancing are delightful to witness.
Anthony Lewis plays ‘Lomper‘, a bumbling wreck of a young man. From the get go, we see how utterly desperate he has become in life, choosing to commit suicide because he’s so unhappy. Thankfully, the scene in which he follows through with the choice to hang himself, is done humorously (even if there were gasps from the audience when he actually did it!). Personally one of my favourite characters, Andrew plays Lomper’s scenes with ease, never failing to draw us in to the emotion he’s portraying.
Andrew Dunn plays ‘Gerald‘, the oldest member of the troupe. His wife, doesn’t know he hasn’t had a job for 6 months, and she thinks he leaves for work everyday, rather than going to ‘The Job Club’. Her spending on his credit cards, shopping, booking holidays etc, means he is probably the most desperate to find a job, and when the boys scupper his chances of a new career (that gnome scene was just hilarious), he decides to join the younger members of the club and be part of ‘The Full Monty’.
Chris Fountain plays ‘Guy‘, a confident,
well endowed funny, young man who joins the troupe last, but last definitely doesn’t mean least in this case. His presence on stage, and his care and compassion for Lomper during their only private scene together, melted the audiences heart. (He also had me personally believing he was going to run up that wall and make the flip!)
‘That scene’ the whole audience waits for is just amazing. I watched as smiles-genuine smiles-crept onto each face of the cast in front of me. Their friendships and enjoyment in those stolen seconds when they catch each others eye, even up until the curtain call when they’re giggling and chatting to each other as they bow and listen to the audiences applause, is pretty adorable.
Stripping aside (even though that happened to be one of my favourite ‘parts’), the stories of each character, are told with perfect emotion and sentiment.
The actors and supporting cast members consistently kept the audience invested in their stories. You felt genuine happiness and sadness when something moving happened (and for a couple of minutes towards the end, I genuinely did forget I was supposed to be making notes and reviewing this show).
The Full Monty, is still on tour-check out where you can see it, here!
Last night, I was invited to the press night for Pride and Prejudice at the Marlowe Theatre. Originally a Regent’s Park open air theatre play, the show has three weeks left of its tour, playing another four days in Canterbury, before moving on to Liverpool, Newcastle and Cardiff. Tickets are available here for The Marlowe Theatre and here for the other venues and dates.
Upon entering the grand auditorium of the Marlowe Theatre, the audience were met with a large structure on the stage.
From the very first scene, we were enlightened to what the structure was; a rotating scene changing creation, that enabled different scenes of the play to be altered without having to change an entire stage of props.
Cast members regularly stayed in the background, changing the few props at the back half of the stage, while main cast members kept the audience captivated with their clear and precise dialogue.
Acoustically, this dialogue is obviously helped by the Marlowe’s beautiful auditorium, but the cast themselves played a massive part in getting the audience to absorb the recitation of this well known story.
Moving on to the cast, the focus is immediately on Mrs Bennet, played by the always resplendent Felicity Montagu. Felicity brings out every ounce of drama and self absorbed hilarity, Mrs Bennett radiates.
Her relationship with poor Mr Bennet, played by TV legend Matthew Kelly, is acted perfectly; their tumultuous marriage, and his tolerance and desperation of her dramatics are constantly evident. Felicity and Matthew, have a near perfect comedic timing, making the audience question whether there are two better people to work alongside each other in these two roles.
Their daughters, Mary, Jane, Kitty, Lydia, and Elizabeth, played by Leigh Quinn, Hollie Edwin, Anna Crichlow, Mari Izzard and Tafline Steen, play their individual characters with ease.
Mary and Kitty, even with their smaller roles, still have great humorous lines (and looks) throughout, and the wild child Lydia, easily shocked the audience, with her sudden change of character when she married the equally wild Mr Wickham, played by Daniel Abbott.
Daniel plays the role of Mr Wickham in the charming way the character is portrayed in the original text. A charm that Mr Darcy definitely doesn’t have.
It is no wonder In that case, why we saw Jane initially assume she had stronger feelings for Mr Wickham.
Jane and Elizabeth are the closest of the sisters-both living for each others happiness, and their devotion to one another is a constant throughout the play.
When Jane finally becomes betrothed to Mr Bingley, the gracious contentment Elizabeth has for her sisters good fortune is played out beautifully, and, throughout the play, Mr Bingley, played by Jordan Mifsud, becomes a firm favourite with the audience.
His alternative methods of thought, and the excitement he has during every task he undertakes makes him effortlessly endearing.
Tafline, who plays Elizabeth could not be more perfect for her role. Her quick wit, dry humour, sarcasm and relationship with her family, mirror my own, and, although I cannot hope to have the pure English-rose beauty Tafline possesses, her portrayal of this head strong confident character, is enough to make any independent young lady, look to her as their heroine.
Her strong relationship with her family, does not mirror the initial meeting with Mr Darcy, and their affiliation with one another is constantly turbulent and heated.
Ben who plays Mr Darcy, towers above his cast members, and, with his stern, brooding features, he plays the character with ease and poignancy.
The moment the audience had been waiting for showed us a new side to both characters. Mr Darcy softened and allowed his love to rule over his terseness, closely followed by Elizabeth admitting to her own feelings, following the kiss, both of which had the audience gasping and cooing over the romance and beauty of the scene.
Of course, Elizabeth could have had a very different life, had she chosen the interestingly eccentric Mr Collins.
Played by Steven Meo, a massive compliment has to go out to his portrayal of, let’s face it, a complete sleazeball!
For an actor to have the ability to not only make an audience cringe at the dialogue and mannerisms a character has, but to also have an excitement surround them every time they come onto the stage, is a massive talent to have-and his relationship with the unfortunate Charlotte Lucas, played by Francesca Bailey, showed us the awkwardness surrounding a relationship with this man.
Additionally to the above cast members and their incredible acting throughout, a special nod has to go to Kirsty Rider who plays the incredibly desperate Caroline Bingley.
Her affections for Mr Darcy, and her distaste for the Bennett family, are genuinely hilarious. Even her facial expressions during scenes where she had no dialogue had the audience in hysterics.
It was also a thrill to see Dona Crook As Lady Catherine De Bourgh, and Charlotte Palmer as Mrs Gardiner.
Lady Catherine’s stuck up, displeasure towards Elizabeth made her the villain of the play-something Dona revelled in at the end, when she came on to the curtain call jeering the crowd into booing her.
Mrs Gardiner, although the sister of Mrs Bennet, thankfully was anything like her sibling. Although she is supportive of her sisters self made stresses, she couldn’t be more different in personality.
A sweet lady, who adores her nieces, we can label her the wannabe Cilla Black of Jane Austen novels, in her attempt to make Elizabeth realise her feelings for Mr Darcy, when they visited Pemberley together.
Ending the show was a perfect letter scene, where the characters shared their good fortune with other members of their family.
The movement from the many members of cast, was once again, fluid and faultless, as it had been throughout.
Lights descended from above the stage, the actors took their places for the curtain call, and they were met with an incredible reception of applause (and lots of whooping).
In conclusion, this is one of the best plays I’ve ever seen, and the amazing evening was made complete, when I got to catch up with some of the cast after the show, who were all genuinely lovely.
Last night I attended the Press Night for the opening of The Birmingham Repertory Theatre’s Production of The Snowman at The Marlowe Theatre.
For those that don’t know much about The Snowman or for those that have never heard of it, here’s a little synopsis for you of the original book by Raymond Briggs.
The Boy builds a snowman on a winter’s day. That night, at the stroke of midnight, The Snowman comes to life. They go around playing with appliances, toys and other things throughout the house, all while keeping quiet enough not to wake the boy’s Mum and Dad.
They then go for a ride on a motorbike where they see many animals. The engine heat affects the insides of the Snowman’s thighs, and so they find him a freezer to cool off in. Later they take flight, over the ocean.
They continue through an arctic landscape and land in a snow-covered forest where they join a party of snowmen.
They meet Santa with his reindeer, who gives The Boy a scarf with a snowman pattern.
The morning after they get back, the sun has come out and The Boy wakes up to find The Snowman has melted. The Boy reaches into his pocket and finds The Snowman scarf given to him by Santa.
As a child, I watched this every Christmas-it was a tradition in our house. Little did I know I’d be reviewing the stage production of it 20 years later.
From the second I entered the auditorium, the festive backdrop on the stage already
evoked those Christmas memories, and, with the constant winter snow scenes, the Christmas tree in the house, and familiar music, I left full of the festivity I had only a month ago.
The first half of the show, got off to a slightly slow start, but it can’t have been slow for long, because I don’t remember the point I was suddenly sucked into the festive excitement along with the rest of the audience.
The beautiful carol singers, The Boy building the Snowman (that for a little while had me questioning if it was going to move or not because it had stayed so still for so long)! The scenery, that seemed to change the entire feel of the stage, with just one simple backdrop screen behind the constant wintry trees, and the props that were changed with ease and speed created perfect festive settings for each scene.
The absolutely awesome boys who play The Boy, had me in awe-the stamina and talent these children have is admirable.
The Snowman himself, was hilarious. The fact someone can portray humour and emotion while not speaking is incredible, and the ability he had to keep up with all of the dances and dancers around him, dressed in what I can only assume was a ridiculously hot Snowman suit, just shows how talented he is
This does lead me nicely on to the music. Although compliments go to all dancers and actors, the real emotion is evoked from the power of the music.
I was thrilled to hear prior to this event, that the Howard Blake, who, 34 years ago wrote the original music and lyrics for the to feature film of The Snowman, did the same for this stage production.
Even more thrilling was the opportunity to meet and speak to Howard in person during the interval. A thoroughly humble and gentle man, he seemed genuinely happy to discuss the show, mentioning that they’ve now done so many shows in this tour so far, Hannah Flynn, who plays Scotty Snowman, has danced as Scotty for 1000 shows!
Obviously, the most famous of all of the music in this show is “Walking In The Air“. There’s just something about that song that gives me goosebumps, and, with the Snowman and The Boy wired up enabling them to fly across the stage, it’s clearly one of the most iconic moments in this production.
Additionally to this part though, there are so many other moments that left me open mouthed.
The various animals, with their beautiful costumes, dancing in perfect synchronisation, the beautiful ballets performed by the Ballerina, the Ice Princess and Jack Frost (who did a beautiful job of being scary-the majority of the children in front of me jumped when he came on). The timing The Boy had when dancing with his peers, the “dance off” with all the different snowmen, and, let’s face it, the moment Santa came on and brought us so much joy while we watched him dance in front of us.
That same rush of joy we felt, turned to utter heartbreak when we saw The Boy discover his Snowman had melted, and, shortly after, as the last scene concluded, the sheer elation, from, lets face it, more adults than children, at the magical snow that fell around us-making it the perfect way to end this beautiful show.
I’ve come away from this production, holding dear those festive feelings, that evoked so many of my childhood memories, in the hope they will see me through until next Christmas.
If you get the opportunity to go and see this-do! It’s perfect for children and adults of all ages! The Snowman is on NOW until the 22nd of January at The Marlowe Theatre.