The Empty Nesters’ Show

The goodbye scene in The Empty Nesters Club

Unlike many Godber plays, The Empty Nesters’ Club is very much a niche play. But if you’re in the niche of empty nesters, you won’t be disappointed.

Since leaving Hull Truck, John Godber has, if anything, got busier. Once I made an effort to catch all his plays; now there’s so many productions coming out thick and fast I often leave it until the second tour to know if it’s worth watching. The latest show on its second tour is The Empty Nesters’ Club, a play about what happens to Vicky and Phil when their only child Millie (played by Godber’s real daughter Martha) goes to university.

Presented as a meeting of the Empty Nesters’ Club, a support group created by Vicky, she tells the story of her own daughter. The story begins with the life of typical parents of a sixth-former, working hard as a taxi service for their daughter, givng her a freedom but secretly staying awake in bed until she comes home. Being unable to resist telling everyone she’s got an offer from Oxford. (She goes to UCL instead, but that story thread will become relevant later.) All busy until the drive home from her new home – and suddenly they don’t know what to do with themselves.

This play has a similar appeal to Shafted!, which toured this time last year. Telling the story of a colliery couple after the defeat of the miners’ strike, clearly this was very popular with people who’d been there; not because it particularly took sides, but because people related to the story of what happened in the following three decades. A similar appeal is at play here: the audience was almost entirely people old enough to have been through Phil and Vicky’s experience. Continue reading

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Cyrano de Bergerac: Broadsiders know best

Cyrano and Roxane

Cyrano, very faithful to the original story yet made into their own, Deborah McAndrew and Conrad Nelson once again gift Northern Broadsides with a flawless adaptation of a classic play.

Is there no stopping Deborah McAndrew and Conrad Nelson? Although producing their plays under the banner of Northern Broadsides, the husband-and-wife team of writer and director are practically a company within their own right. Not that I think Northern Broadsides is complaining. McAndrew and Nelson have already gifted them hits such as Accidental Death of an AnarchistA Government Inspector and The Grand Gesture (as well as a good collaboration with Northern Broadsides proper with An August Bank Holiday Lark). Barrie Rutter is very lucky to have got them on board.

One thing is missing from this adaptation that is common to previous McAndrews adaptation which some fans of hers may miss. Up to now, she has transplanted classic tales to modern day settings very successfully – tales of petty despotism and political opportunism are just as fitting today as they were a century ago. This time, however, she’s opted to keep the play its original setting of Paris in 1640 at the time leading up to the siege of Arras. Our nasally-enhanced hero Cyrano is still commander to cadet Christian, and he still has the unenviable task from his beautiful and beloved cousin Roxane to do the match-making between her and the new boy in town. Continue reading

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Underground overground: what happens next?

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Womble jokes: coming soon to Buxton.

So Underground Venues lives on. After much speculation (well, much speculation from me), they have moved from their extremely popular site in the basement under the Old Hall Hotel to The Old Clubhouse, a pub just up the road outside the Opera House. This was always one of the hot favourites: plenty of venues work this way in Brighton, I gather Tom and Yaz used to run events at the Old Clubhouse prior to Underground Venues, and this option was seriously explored three years earlier when it looked like 2013 would be the final year.

Applications for Underground Venues were supposed to open two days ago, and from this I was supposed to glean more information from what this might entail. However, due to some gremlins in the system the old Pauper’s Pit information was still showing and applications had to be delayed a few days. However, from this blog post we can already work out quite a bit about what’s in store, and from this ask some questions of what happens from here. Continue reading

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Odds and sods: January 2017

Wow. We’ve made it past January and the world hasn’t ended yet. I was half-expecting the inauguration to conclude straight after the oath finished and an aide came up and opened a briefcase with a big red button in it, but no, it didn’t. This is going better than I expected. So it looks like I am going to be writing the January 2017 Odds and Sods after all.

This time, I’m going to put a bit more focus in what new works people are up to. I’ve been doing this a lot less than I would, but this January my radar of new work has been very busy. Let’s see what I’ve got for you.

Stuff that happened in January

Lena

So, starting off, something from Mark Farrelly that’s grabbed my interest. I last reported on Mark Farrelly at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe (this is coming up in the final week of the Vault festival if you’re round that neck of the woods), but it’s the play he wrote further back, The Silence of Snow, that prompted me to keep an eye on him.

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January fringe roundup

Right, no more quips about how big my backlog of reviews is. It’s January and there’s four fringe plays standing between me and a backlog of zero. This is going to be a little different to previous roundups of this kind, which isn’t quite as local as, nor as fringey as before. Here we go.

Between a Man and a Woman

So, here’s a rare departure on this blog: a review of a London fringe play. For some reason, I keep getting invited to review London fringe plays even though I live nowhere near London. By  staggering co-incidence, however, I happened to be in London (filling my annual craving for infrastructure geekery whilst tickets to London are stupidly cheap) during the run of this play from JamesArts productions. So London folk: even though I don’t live in London, feel free to give it a go. You never know your luck.

ae34a8_ff4895e3a76c4b8ca22cda3fd903e9e4mv2-png_srz_945_420_85_22_0-50_1-20_0-00_png_srzAs the theatre company name suggests, this is written by Scott James, and as the name suggests, this is a play about domestic violence within a marriage. The play begin with Tom and Polly talking excitedly about the wonderful time when they first met. Fast forward to now, and it’s a different matter. Polly’s sister is sure something’s not right about their marriage, but as someone who took a natural dislike to Tom from the start, however, her husband and other suspect believes what she wants to believe. However, she was right the first time, and when Polly starts seeing less of her sister – under pressure from Tom who ruthlessly exploits the notion that she’s got it in for him – suspicions begin to grow. Continue reading

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James and the giant talent

James and the creepy crawlies

Never satisfied with just another undemanding Christmas show for children, Northern Stage’s James and the Giant Peach is up there with the West End shows for its production value – and on a fraction of the budget.

So, here’s a new thing on this blog – a review of a show aimed primarily at children. I’ve previously reviewed family shows that have also been very popular to adult audiences, but now that I have a nephew and niece who are old enough to go to the theatre it’s time to rediscover this. I will declare at this point, I am a certified pantomime-hater. I accept they are necessary to keep theatre solvent, but I just found them depressingly garish and formulaic, especially the big commercial ones who rely primarily on big-name celebrities from soaps I never watch. If anything, the pantomimes I liked the most as a child were the ones my local amdram society put on. They were sometimes great and sometimes dire, but they were always fresh and original.

Anyway, in a pre-emptive move to ward my nephew and niece off horrible formulaic celebrity-driven pantomimes, I took them to see this year’s Christmas production at Northern Stage, James and the Giant Peach. This is not a straight stage adaptation of Roald Dahl’s classic book, but an ambitious musical adaptation from David Wood. I’m not going to give a blow-by-blow appraisal of the show, because other people are far better experts of children’s shows than me. But what I can comment on are the production values. On that front, it blows the competition from commercial pantomimes out the water. In fact, the production values are comparable with those of a touring West End production, if not better.

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What you read in 2016

I know you’re all dying to get stuck into 2017 and maybe your optimism’s buoyed by no-one of David Bowie’s calibre having died yet, but one final thing to close off 2016 is a retrospective of what you guys read the most on my site. Always interesting to see what interested you the most.

Most read articles written in 2016

So, what did I do last year that raised eyebrows one way or the other. I’m going to exclude roundups of festival fringes here because they’re at an unfair advantage for obvious reason, but apart from that, what grabbed your attention.

(Obvious caveat: by “most read” I mean pageviews, as measured by WordPress. I have no way of knowing if you read the whole article or got bored by the third sentence. Also bear in mind that articles posted earlier in 2016 have had more time to rack up views than ones published later in the year, although the most-read articles tend to have the most pageviews shortly after publication.)

http://ic.c4assets.com/brands/stage-school/80469738-41ed-4c07-916e-8498bdf9ba23.jpg?interpolation=progressive-bicubic&output-format=jpeg&output-quality=90%7B&resize%7DMost read new comment piece: I write on a variety of issues, some contentious, some mainstream, but I’ve never been able to predict what gets the most attention. 2015’s most read comment piece about Richard Herring got the top spot after a retweet from the man itself. However, this time round the most read article was almost entirely found by Google searches: Why E4’s Stage School is all your fault, where I suggested that the blame for such an appalling depiction of actors must be shared by the people, actors and otherwise, who’ve watched programmes with Made in Chelsea before. Seems there’s a lot of interest from the arts world in this abomination. Only thing I don’t know is where this article was read by people who agree with me or people who think Stage School is the best piece of telly ever. No death threats received yet, but digging my bunker just in case. Continue reading

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