REVIEW! Mating in Captivity @ The King’s Head Theatre

Flo Taylor Productions associated with We are Kilter
Mating in Captivity
The King’s Head Theatre
30th July- 4th August 

Mating in Captivity is a fast-paced and funny comedy show. Written by New Zealand writer Oliver Page, it is currently at The King’s Head Theatre for the European premiere of the play. The second night of its run saw an excited audience in the house, who proceeded to find themselves in stitches for most of the performance.

Mating in Captivity

Photo credit: Jack Whitney

The play starts off with a bang as Annie and Rob burst into their flat ready for a night of passion on their wedding night. However, what happens next is a surprise for everyone (especially Annie): as she gets ready to prepare the bed, she finds a stark naked man under the covers. As events unfold, it transpires that the man (Jacob) is not a psychopath, as she thought at first, but Rob’s long lost ex-boyfriend. There are several more surprises in store for Annie and the audience as the story develops. 

The play is masterfully directed by Ed Theakston, who insures the action is fast-paced and full of energy. The dialogue is very funny, with some outrageous jokes which had us in the audience gasping. However, it would be great to see some contrast in the play and the characters to expose the gritty reality in the story. The characters (again, especially Annie) are upset and confused at times but these moments still come across as comical. It would be great to see a different and more serious side to the action.

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Photo credit: Jack Whitney

All three actors are brilliant and there is a great relationship between them on stage. Jane Christie plays a confused and witty Annie who is not afraid of saying what she thinks. Annie has a wild side but it would be nice to see more of a sensitive aspect to this character as well. Rowland Stirling plays an anxious and chaotic Rob who is a hilarious and sometimes ridiculous character. He is very charming and you can clearly see why Annie and Jacob like him so much. Finally, there is poor Jacob, played by George Rennie, who is stuck in very awkward circumstances. Jacob is very likable and the audience feels a lot of sympathy for him. He tries to get out of the situation several times but always fails because of his lust for Rob and a hard push from Annie. 

Mating in Captivity is an excellent, outrageous comedy with an outstanding cast. It would be great to see this play developed further as I think it has a lot of potential.

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Previous review: Lovers Anonymous @ The Space

 

 

 

REVIEW! H.M.S. Pinafore @ The King’s Head Theatre

Music and lyrics by W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan
Directed by John Savournin
Music directed by David Eaton
Produced by Michelle Barnette for Charles Court Opera
10 April – 11 May 2019

One must approach a Gilbert and Sullivan production with a keen understanding of exactly what one is in for. In many ways, their operettas bridge the gap between a comic opera and what we think of as “modern” musical theatre. Often the principle reserve of the amateur theatrical society, the student musical ensemble, or unambitious independent theatre group, it is very easy to do a G&S production very poorly. Fortunately, Charles Court Opera’s production of H.M.S. Pinafore at the King’s Head Theatre is not an example of this.

(c) Robert Workman. From left to right_ Alys Roberts, Philip Lee.jpg

Image credit: Robert Workman

Subtitled ‘the lass who loved a sailor’, H.M.S. Pinafore tells the story of the star-crossed lovers Ralph Rackstraw (Philip Lee), able seaman, and Josephine Corcoran (Alys Roberts), captain’s daughter. As with all Gilbert and Sullivan productions, the core themes revolve around class, duty, love and the comedy to be found in the intersection and conflict between the three. The narrative is familiar, unthreatening and concludes ludicrously. There is a sameness to many of Gilbert and Sullivan’s operettas that leads me to forget which beginnings go with which endings, and which songs are present in which, and I have seen my fair share over the years. But every time I heard a familiar refrain strike up at the start of a song I was reminded of how enjoyable these productions can be when done as well as they are here, and I spent a vast majority of this show beaming widely at the ridiculous antics of the crew of the Pinafore and all they came into contact with.

Gaily rendered in bright, 1960s tones, replete with an interpretation of the Pinafore as nothing less than a yellow submarine, the set and costumes created by designer Rachel Szmukler were charming and effective. Clever use was made of the small space, and the low ceilings of the King’s Head make for a believably claustrophobic submarine, setting the stage for some truly excellent performances.

With a tight cast of eight and gender parity, it is hard to fault any of the performances given by the cast on the night. Particular mention must go to Joseph Shovelton’s Sir Joseph Porter, the perfect embodiment of the bombastic, patriarchal, British twit so familiar across Gilbert and Sullivan’s opuses, commanding attention in every scene in which he was present, and consistently eliciting laughs from the entire audience. Matthew Palmer’s Captain Corcoran (also played on alternating weeks by Matthew Siveter) was endearing and feckless as he was carried along by the nonsensical story and Jennie Jacobs doubling as Little Buttercup and Sir Joseph’s Sister was the master of the sideways glance to the audience and always a highlight. As excellent as all the performances were, the bravest and most effective choice was undoubtedly the casting of Sir Joseph’s Aunt, who was an absolute scene-stealer whenever she was present.

(c) Robert Workman. From left to right - Catrine Kirkman..jpg

Image credit: Robert Workman

Accompanied only by musical director David Eaton on the keys, the music was tight and the harmonies flawless, as the cast fully embraced the operatic style that the show was written in, with no invasion of a more typical contemporary or “musical theatre” tone to the vocals.

Of course there are certain cringe-worthy moments that are borne of the dated mores of Gilbert and Sullivan’s era (though, admittedly, far fewer than are present in their other shows), particularly in reference to Little Buttercup’s “gypsy blood” and the apparent oracular abilities it gives her. The question must be asked whether anything would be lost from the original script for these references to be changed or omitted, and I don’t pretend to have the answer, though we are prepared to suffer much worse in other forms of historical popular culture.

For fans of Gilbert and Sullivan, the Charles Court Opera’s production of H.M.S. Pinafore is unmissable, and for anyone who has never seen a G&S show, it is hard to imagine a more accessible introduction to the form. The production runs at the King’s Head Theatre until the 11th of May, and tickets are selling fast, so grab them before it ships out for good.

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Previous review: Thrill Me: The Leopold and Loeb Story @ The Hope Theatre

REVIEW! Sick @ Kings Head Theatre

Written and Performed by Shey Hargreaves
Directed by Molly Naylor
Supported by Norwich Arts Centre, the Norfolk Arts Project, and Arts Council England
24 – 25 May

For people whose primary impression of a hospital is the backdrop of a steamy drama, Sick is going to come as a rude but necessary shock. For people familiar with the reality of day to day on the front line (or front desk) of an emergency care unit, the stories here will be achingly familiar – both a comfort and a concern.

Writer and performed by Shey Hargreaves, based on her own real experiences of working as a clerk in the NHS for five years, this play balances personal and social reflections. There are many bleak moments in the play – we’ve all heard about NHS cuts but it’s another thing to hear about lines of bleeding patients waiting for treatment – but it was also funny, and touching. Hargreaves has great comic timing and is never boring or preachy in her presentation – she’s telling a story she cares deeply about.

Images by Mark Hannant

The play covers a range of incidents and secondary characters, brought to life in our minds’ eye by Hargreaves’ skillful voice. They, and she, develop over the course of an hour – get promoted, quit, break up, come out, form new relationships, create new life, watch people die. While we follow all these people, we never lose sight of the  unfolding crisis of the NHS. It’s incredibly scathing about the senseless and sometimes harmful austerity measures imposed by politicians who will never use the public hospital system.

Hargreaves spoke absolute truth about a broken system and made it an entertaining night out, without ever undercutting the severity of the situation. I highly recommend this show to anyone who has ever or will ever use a hospital (hint: it’s all of you).

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Find out more about the show at Hargreaves’ site.

Previous review: REVIEW! We Know Now Snowmen Exist @ The Space

East, Atticist @ King’s Head Theatre

10 January – 3 February, 2018

by Steven Berkoff
Directed by Jessica Lazar

(c) Alex Brenner

(c): Photography by Alex Brenner

Steven Berkoff’s East is a play that you can just imagine knocking people’s socks off during its debut in 1975, and still has a powerful relevance to today. It’s a riotous and profanity fuelled comedy, and a brutal take on growing up and living in London’s East End.

It’s a roar of cockney working-class dissatisfaction. Everything is heightened. The language, the characters, the emotion, the comedy. Written in a Shakespearean-like verse, Berkoff’s writing is often beautiful, often moving, and sometimes occasionally incomprehensible (in the best traditions of verse), but deftly brought to life by an exceptionally talented cast.

Jack Condon (Les) gives an exceptionally expressive and empathetic performance to an otherwise often distasteful character, while his brother Mike (James Craze) and Dad (Russell Barnett) ooze presence and hyper-masculinity.

The highlights of the show are the wonderful monologues. Hilarious, human, and often disturbing. Particularly moving was Boadicea Ricketts’ (Sylv) diatribe against patriarchal power and double standards which felt straight from heart, and sadly is not a monologue that has lost its poignancy. She gives a performance throughout the show that beautifully balances strength and sensuality with moments of touching vulnerability.

Not to be left out is Debra Penny (Mum), whose monologue was my favourite part of the show. It’s hilarious and vulgar and I’m not going to forget it in a hurry.

Jessica Lazar’s direction is energetic and vibrant, youthful and clever. The action is physical and slick, while also being layered and engaging.

I felt a little alienated by the play however, and struggled to connect with the piece and its characters outside isolated moments. This surprised me, since I enjoyed all the elements of the performance individually. I suspect it owes something to my being a recent immigrant and not quite understanding the many British references. Some of the biggest laughs went right over my head. Still, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the show as a great one to see with a drink and a mate.

 

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A Diary of a Nobody, Rough Haired Pointer @ The King’s Head Theatre

31 October – 18 November 2017

Adapted & directed by Mary Franklin
Based on the novel by George &  Weedon Grossmith

The Diary of a Nobody 2_preview

 

Adapted from a Victorian cult-classic, A Diary of Nobody follows the tribulations and triumphs of a bourgeois clerk called Charles Pooter.

The original source material was itself a novelised compilation of a collection of 1880s Punch cartoons. It’s a riotous and joyful romp, a Victorian sit-com. The play has 45 characters, all played by 4 incredibly skilful male actors to hysterical effect, with the show’s creative staging and the comic talents of the cast resulting in an extremely fun 2 hours.

There is no serious love interest or adversary. No mistaken identity or overarching ambition. Rather, we watch how Mr Charles Pooter and his wife Carrie cope with their woe-begotten son Lupin. We watch Pooter’s misadventures with the maid, the new butcher, his boss, his wife’s friend, and his garden plants.

Jake Curran, Jordan Mallory-Skinner, Loz Keystone, and Geordie Wright are engaging and hilarious performers. Some scripted moments are so kinetic they could gave been improvised, and some improvised moments so inspired they should have been scripted.

Adapted and directed by the talented Mary Franklin, it’s a joyous show. The design is wonderful. Modelled as it was on the original Grossmith illustrations, it feels sketched, the simple black and white colour scheme and pencilled-in props lending a cartoonish look that’s beyond perfect for the production.

The faults with the production lie in the play’s structure.

The show is essentially a farce in terms of its energetic, slapstick style and humour, but whereas farce builds continually from previous moments, this play doesn’t. Much like it’s original form as a serial cartoon, the play moves from gag-to-gag as Pooter lives day-by-day.  It results in a funny ‘year-in-the-life’ full of domestic scandal, but the irregular pacing and lack of any character-arcs take their toll. Characters are introduced, and then vanish again never to reappear. Disaster befalls them only for it to immediately be resolved. The show fails to build beyond the current scene and there’s no climax, making it feel a little hollow.

Having said that, if you’re just out for some light entertainment and a drink it’s well worth the ticket!

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