REVIEW: A ‘Feast of Fun’ ★★★★ Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em, Richmond Theatre

I remember my mum and dad watching the classic television show Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em when I was a child. And although I didn’t understand all of the jokes, I do remember finding it very funny, if not a bit strange.

The 70s TV show – by Raymond Allen – inspired Guy Unsworth to write an adaptation for the stage, which is currently touring the country and has brought some mayhem to Richmond Theatre this week.

The comedy play takes on a single episode in the life of the ill-fated Frank Spencer – played by Joe Pasquale. His ever-tolerant wife Betty has discovered she is pregnant and at the same time Frank is pursuing a new career as a magician. A cacophony of catastrophe ensues when his mother-in-law and her new beau arrive for dinner and the BBC turn up to do a feature.

Everything that can go wrong does; mother-in-law gets legless on homemade wine, the house falls apart and the dinner blows up, but the great thing about this and the original television series is the heart warming human story at the centre. We’ve all felt a bit like Frank Spencer at one time or another and Joe Pasquale does a great job of capturing the anxiety and sensitivity of the character.

That said, one of the things I remember so well about Michael Crawford’s portrayal of Frank Spencer, apart from the classic beret and trench coat, was the awkward physicality and athleticism and Pasquale doesn’t fully grasp the physical comedy side with his performance.

Sarah Earnshaw brings some real warmth and composure to the role of Betty however, while Susie Blake is absolutely hilarious as the rampant, sloshed mother-in-law. There is also great support from David Shaw-Parker as the kindly Father O’Hara, Chris Kiely as the wet behind the ears Desmond and Moray Treadwell, who dual roles as the pompous Terry Luscombe and slightly seedy David Worthington.

Simon Higlett must be congratulated for the set design, which helps to add slapstick fun and Jenny Arnold for the choreography; the final sequence with the three Franks on the stairs and the finale routine to Mud’s “Tiger Feet” are a real highlight.

I can see how this wouldn’t be for everyone; lots of the humour is a bit dated and rather silly, but if you’re after an easy night out watching amusing and familiar characters, you’ll enjoy this feast of fun.

Some Mother’s Do ‘Ave ‘Em continues to tour the UK. You can find all the information and tour dates here.

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Review: ‘Will leave you questioning your own mortality’ ★★★ Duet for One, Richmond Theatre

Society often discusses the meaning of the phrase ‘quality of life’ and more deeply the meaning of life itself, but for most, these are merely superficial hypotheses rather than issues meaningfully thought out.

Tom Kempinski’s two hander Duet for One – which is running at Richmond Theatre this week – seeks to investigate these theorems by giving us insight into what it’s like to have an important part of our lives taken away.

The play is set in a psychiatrist’s study (with all of the obligatory accoutrements, including a lavish chaise lounge, thanks to a majestic design by Lez Brotherston) and depicts a series of appointments with a former virtuoso violinist. Stephanie (Belinda Lang) has been a musician since a young age but after being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, her glittering career has come to an abrupt end. The exchanges are disquieting and yet at the same time humorous in what feels like a competent and truthful journey of acceptance.

Lang is excellent as the spoiled performer, who initially tries to hide her grief for the loss of her vocation, while Oliver Cotton as Dr Feldmann spends more time reacting rather than acting until the final instalment, but when he launches into a dialogue about the meaning of life, comes into his own and displays some real sensitivity.

It takes a bit of getting going, with Lang’s character pretty unlikable for the most part but it’s worth the wait; act two is a really interesting character study which will leave you questioning your own mortality.

Duet for One runs at Richmond Theatre until 28 October.

We talk to Jack Ellis about the ultra scary ‘Wait Until Dark’ at Richmond Theatre

Audrey Hepburn earned an Academy Award nomination for the 1967 psychological thriller Wait Until Dark, writes Nicky Sweetland.

But fans of the film will soon be able to experience Fredrick Knott’s terrifying play – upon which the screenplay was based – when a new production embarks on a nationwide tour next week.

The play, which is set amidst the social turbulence of 60’s London, stars Oliver Mellor (Coronation Street) and Karina Jones (The Vagina Monologues and Crystal Clear) alongside Jack Ellis (Prime Suspect and Bad Girls) who took some time off from rehearsals to tell us about the new production.

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The play follows the story of Suzy, a blind woman who, left alone in her apartment, becomes embroiled with a group of conmen hatching an elaborate scam and Jack explains, “It’s a fantastic piece made better by the fact that we have Karina Jones, who is a blind actress, playing the Audrey Hepburn part. I think it’s the first time it’s ever been done. I think, were we to do it with a sighted actress, it might be slightly dated but having Karina adds a huge amount of poignancy and a totally different feel. It underlines disability and our attitudes towards disability.”

With her husband removed from the house, Suzy is left to fend for herself but with the phone line cut and the house plunged into darkness, how will she outwit her tormentors?

“Weirdly she becomes more and more resolute as the play unfolds.” Jack said.

Jack Ellis is perhaps best known for playing the dastardly prison guard Jim Fenner in the ITV television series Bad Girls. His previous theatre credits include A Clockwork Orange, Richard III and Hamlet (all for the Royal Shakespeare Company) but he was most recently seen onstage in the acclaimed UK touring production of Shawshank Redemption.

Jack, once again, portrays an unsavoury character in the new stage production of Waiting For Dark, which is often quoted as one of the top 100 scariest films of all time.

“Fans of the film will love it, but I think they’ll get a lot more from it. The film is just a scary film and this has got a lot of comedy in it as well.” Jack tells us, “It’s a bit like the Woman in Black, meets Hustle, meets Harold Pinter, meets the scariest film you’ve ever seen, particularly at the end.”

Waiting Until Dark will run at the Richmond Theatre from 4 – 9 September 

Martin Shaw returns to the Richmond Theatre

Martin Shaw leads the cast in the timely UK premiere of Gore Vidal’s award winning political thriller about ambition, political scandal, ruthlessness… and the race for the white house.

Written before the battles of Trump vs Clinton and May vs Corbyn, Vidal’s drama of dirty politics never seemed more real or relevant. At a time of political chaos, The Best Man mirrors the often surprising results of campaigning and the unscrupulous world of politics.

Two opposing presidential party candidates are neck and neck in an unscrupulous battle for the nomination. The only thing that separates the esteemed ex-Secretary of State and his newcomer populist opponent is an endorsement from a respected ex-President. But where does compromise end and corruption begin? And who in the end will be proven to be “the best man”?

One of the UK’s most respected actors, Martin Shaw, rose to stardom in the late seventies in The Professionals, launching a career that has hardly seen him out of the limelight. He is best known for starring in the multi award winning BBC drama Judge John Deed and more recently Inspector George Gently. On stage, his revelatory performance as Lord Goring in Peter Hall’s production of An Ideal Husband earned him a Tony nomination and the coveted New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award. Other West End triumphs include the acclaimed Twelve Angry MenAre You Lonesome Tonight? and A Man For All Seasons. He returns to the stage in a role made famous by Henry Fonda in the award-winning film adaptation of The Best Man.

Born into a distinguished political family, Gore Vidal was a prolific writer known for the waspish wit, which peppered his essays, novels, screenplays and Broadway plays. Among his most famous works are Myra Breckinridge and Lincoln. The Best Man premiered on Broadway in 1960 and was nominated for six Tony Awards, including ‘Best Play’. Vidal adapted it into a film with the same title in 1964 starring Henry Fonda,Cliff Robertson, and Lee Tracy who was nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of the crafty ex-President. The play received a major revival on Broadway in 2012 starring James Earl Jones and Angela Lansbury, and earned two Tony award nominations including ‘Best Revival of a Play’.

The Best Man will visit Richmond Theatre as part of its UK tour from Monday 2nd – Saturday 7th October prior to a West End run. 

Richmond Theatre set to host London première of Northern Ballet’s The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

Northern Ballet has reimagined John Boyne’s bestselling novel The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas in a heart-breaking new production. The first full-length dance adaptation of this world-famous story, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas will have its London première at Richmond Theatre on Tues 6 & Wed 7 June 2017.

Telling the story of an unlikely friendship blossoming through the disturbing events of World War II, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas sees a child’s innocent curiosity lead to a devastating conclusion. Previously adapted for a 2008 film by Miramax, this world-first dance adaptation will be choreographed by Northern Ballet’s Artistic Associate Daniel de Andrade. It will feature an original score by Oscar-nominated composer Gary Yershon, sets and costumes designed by Mark Bailey and lighting by Tim Mitchell, with Dramatic Coach Patricia Doyle completing the creative team.

The original storytelling ballet company, Northern Ballet is renowned for creating bold new work challenging the
perceptions of what stories can be told through dance. With its company of exceptional dance actors, Northern Ballet is adept at bringing challenging and provocative stories to life through dance.

Daniel de Andrade says, ‘ I was challenged to develop new storytelling techniques which reflect the first-person perspective of the book without shying away from representing the stark reality of the story’s setting. I was very conscious of doing justice to the tension between darkness and innocence in the original, without sanitising the awful events at its heart.

Author John Boyne comments: ‘ Having already seen my novel The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas adapted for film and theatre, I’m excited to see Northern Ballet’s adaptation for dance. As a writer with two left feet, I will watch with fascination and envy the skill, grace and elegance of the performers on stage. I have no doubt that the Company will only enhance my work with their particular talents.

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas will be at Richmond Theatre from Tues 6 June – Wed 7 June