Nicky’s Showbiz Diary: The fabulous freedom of freelance

It’s been another fun-filled week, but I have to say the heat and humidity in London has played a part in how I have scheduled it.

The beauty of being freelance is that I don’t have to be chained to a desk in an office for most of the week. It takes discipline, but for me, it’s the best way to work.

I’m a bit of a free spirit and if I’m in the right mood, I can write reams and reams of entertaining and eloquent copy. If my brain is having one of its flighty days however (which is usually when I’m overtired or stressed) writing even the most simple sentence feels like I’m giving birth.

This means I have to allow myself breaks and as a lover of the outdoors, I often move my ‘office’ around, depending on how I feel.

After a near fainting on the train into central London on one of the hottest days this week (I had to do the whole head between my legs thing and it was very embarrassing), I decided to take my office to Greenwich Park. I had some appointments in Greenwich later in the day and so spent five hours mooching around in the sun in between writing.

It’s a great bit of London and offers the city, some greenery and the waterside, which, as someone who has lived by the sea for many years, always makes me feel calm.

Anyway, I watched a couple of show’s this week. The first was Woyzeck at the Old Vic Theatre, starring Star Wars’ John Boyega. A strange play, that was, like lots of the stuff at the Old Vic, a bit too worthy. I had hoped after interviewing writer Jack Thorne that it would be a bit more insightful to the plight of vulnerable working class people who join the forces, but it was very much written from a middle class perspective.

I also watched a new play called Miss Meena and the Masala Queens, a show about a drag club in Birmingham. This too was bitterly disappointing and had none of the glamour of the real world of drag.

I wasn’t disappointed by the third show I watched however, when I popped along to see Wicked for the 27th time, with standby Elphaba Alice Fearn on gloriously good form. Alice is being given the role fulltime from July and I think she has the potential to be the best ‘Green Girl’ the West End has ever seen.

With deadlines in Dorset and my sister visiting from Australia, I will have fewer theatrical exploits next week, but I am journeying down to the Exeter Northcott Theatre to see Death of a Salesman for the first time and I’ve got a couple of interviews on the cards.

I’m also back to rehearsals for Spamalot after a couple of weeks off and I’m looking forward to setting the first few scenes.

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Review: “A hilarious display of stage wizardry and slapstick showmanship”★★★★ The Play That Goes Wrong, Exeter Northcott

Anyone who has been involved in live theatre knows the thrill. The excitement that at any given point something could wrong and that each time you set foot on the stage it’s as if you are stepping over the precipice. Mischief Theatre has made an art form of the impeding misadventure, which befalls those who embark on making theatre.

Their first foray into the world of disaster performance The Play That Goes Wrong has gained a plethora of plaudits and recently received a Broadway Transfer. The production, which is still packing them in at the Duchess Theatre in London’s West End is also enjoying a hugely popular nationwide tour and is delivering buckets full of hilarity to the Exeter Northcott Theatre this week.

We are called to witness Cornley Polytechnic Drama Club’s attempt to stage a 1920s murder mystery entitled Murder at Haversham Hall. As you can gauge from the title of the production, everything does not go to plan and with a catalogue of mishaps and misdemeanors the show erupts into a hilarious display of stage wizardry and slapstick showmanship.

The panic felt by a company when a production doesn’t go to plan is perfectly illustrated with pregnant pauses and terrified faces from the excellent ensemble cast, who expertly deliver an intricate team performance. Alastair Kirton as Cecil, and Katie Bernstein as a very willing stagehand really stand out, but the interplay between all of the cast members is first-rate.

Nigel Hook’s astonishingly adept set design provides the platform for some heart stopping spoofs and the ingenious detail on each prop makes even the smallest mishap become a hilarious scene-stealer.

The continuous fast paced and silly physical comedy may not tickle everyone’s funny bone, but for those who like their slapstick in large helpings, this is a must see.

The Play That Goes Wrong at Exeter Northcott Theatre until 20 May 

Review: “An interminably engaging stage show, which is sure to lift the spirits”★★★★ La Strada at Exeter Northcott Theatre

Federico Fellini’s film La Strada became a cult classic after winning an Academy Award over 60 years ago and the cautionary tale, set in the unforgiving world of an Italian travelling circus has been reinvigorated to make a visually impressive and heart-warming stage show, writes Nicky Sweetland.

The new musical adaptation – which follows Gelsomina (Audrey Brisson) a poor urchin, who is sold by her mother to a thuggish circus strongman – is touring the UK prior to a run at The Other Palace and if the performance at the Exeter Northcott Theatre is anything to go by, Londoners are in for treat.

Director Sally Cookson has taken the classic film and created a piece of theatre which is faithful for those who loved the original, but somehow also manages to add a new dimension to trajectory of the tale.

Gelsomina is abused by her master, the brutish Zampanò (Stuart Goodwin) until she finds inner strength thanks to encouragement from an adorable circus fool (Bart Soroczynski).

In a story, which takes audiences on a journey of love and loss, Sally Clarkson’s perceptive interpretation almost sees the servant become the master, so the inventible tragedy has an even more powerful implication.

Much of the peripheral action is depicted using actor/musicians to create both the backdrop and the musical accompaniment, which cleverly brings the community feel of a circus troop into the fore and means there is a familial comfort even during the most traumatic moments.

Set on a wooden plinth, the 13 strong ensemble also utilise the props to create a circus tent, shoreline and even motorbike from the most simple objects and with Benji Bower’s haunting melodies, you’ll be transported to world where cruelty is offset by benevolence.

It’s the lead cast who really must be given praise however, with Audrey Brisson giving a slightly streetwise edge to the otherwise wholesome Gelsomina and Stuart Goodwin perfectly balancing Zampanò’s brusque exterior with his tormented soul.

It’s worth the ticket price just to see Bart Soroczynski’s unicycle routine, which is not only technically exceptional, but is performed with such an endearing charm, that you can’t help but fall in love with his Fool, Il Matto.

Thrilling and triumphant this adaptation of La Strada marries the traditional with the modern in perfect measure and the result is an interminably engaging stage show, which is sure to lift the spirits.

La Strada is at Exeter Northcott until 6 May and will run at The Other Palace from 30 May until 8 July