**** (4.5 Stars)
Minerva Theatre, Chichester - Friday 1 May, 2014
'Bitterly charming' is how I would describe Stevie By Hugh Whitemore. Yet it is equally a delight to witness such fantastic performances from the cast trio of Chris Larkin, Lynda Baron and the eponymous protagonist, Stevie, played by the enormously talented Zoë Wanamaker (who is also YMT's Patron!). Stevie’s pessimistic view of life and gritty humour is enormous fun; I couldn’t think of anyone better for the job than Wanamaker.
The play takes place in Stevie’s home at 1 Avondale Road, Palmers Green, London where she resides with Aunt (Lynda Baron). Stevie Smith, spends a lot of her time after work as a secretary, eating Battenberg cake and Ginger Nuts with her Aunt and writing poetry part-time. Her existence seems bleak and uninteresting to the naked eye yet her moving poetry shows pain and vulnerability as she reflects upon the comfort of her inevitable death.
The set is realistically cosy and welcoming with charred edges showing how Stevie’s personality would have seemed slightly 'rough around the edges'. Commendations have to be awarded to designer Simon Higlett for such a beautiful set.
Director, Christopher Morahan, aptly gives the script such wonderful justice and creates a brilliant night of dry and dark humour yet shows so much heart through the characters. The bitter-sweet ending left me with chills for the rest of the journey home, what a masterpiece of theatre!
The wonder of poetry is that it can spark discussions that can continue for hours on end, yet if poetry does not float your boat, the performances alone are worth seeing!
Stevie is playing at the Minerva, Chichester until May 24 - book your tickets here: http://www.cft.org.uk/5014/STEVIE/621
Photo: Alastair Muir
In its 10th year Youth Music Theatre UK has prepared an explosive summer season of groundbreaking international work in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Strap in as we give you the breakdown of the shows, merchandise and competitions you can expect to see appearing over the next few weeks!
Follow our new Instagram channel to get sneak peek into the rehearsals of our upcoming shows, a unique insight into the creative workings of YMT and the inevitable office selfies.
Follow us here! http://instagram.com/ymtuk
Over the next few weeks we’ll be running regular competitions where YMT members will have the chance to win exclusive merchandise, goodie bags and theatre tickets.
We will also be launching our ‘7 Second Musical’ challenge! Where we’ll be seeking out the smartest, funniest or maddest way to tell the story of a popular musical in 7 seconds. More information to follow soon!
We’ve got a brand new range of YMT hoodies, T-shirts, badges and much more for you to get your hands on!
Summer Season 2014
23 Jul 2014 to 26 Jul 2014, Belfast: Lyric Theatre
This July the thumping sound of Drum ‘n’ Bass cascades down the corridors of Dunsinane. An ominous beat reverberates through the dank fog of YMT's dystopian reimagining of Shakespeare's perennial horror story Macbeth.
Utilising Garth McConaghie’s fierce electric score alongside Stuart Harvey accomplished direction, the young cast bring a new twisted take on the things that could conceivably go bump in the night.
31 Jul 2014 to 01 Aug 2014, Aberdeen: The Lemon Tree
Harvest Fire ignites an explosive fusion between the spectacular energy of America's Burning Man Festival and Scotland's own harvest celebrations. Within this vibrant collision of traditions the boundaries between death and re-birth are tested with visual relish.
Harvest Fire is a crackling new work created by director Lewis Barfoot as part of the Aberdeen International Youth Festival.
15 Aug 2014 to 16 Aug 2014, Plymouth: Barbican Theatre
The Dance Connection is a vibrant devised performance, combining breathtaking choreography, mesmerising movement and immersive vocal soundscapes. The score steps light-footedly between captivating classics to pace-pumping pop, with the invigorating infusions of Gaelic song and jazz.
All these elements are intertwined to create an intricate and spectacular tapestry of movement and sound not to be missed.
15 Aug 2014 to 16 Aug 2014, Belfast: The MAC
The first of YMT's new Triptych Programme, commissioning new work from young female composers, Triptych (2014) gives young performers from YMT auditions the chance to work with some of the most exciting and innovative emerging composers in the UK and from abroad.
The programme brings together three emergent female composers from around the world. The template for this groundbreaking new work comes from the poems of one Northern Island's foremost female writers, Sinéad Morrissey.
16 Aug 2014 to 17 Aug 2014, Halifax: Square Chapel
This is a chance for young women to experiment with cutting-edge musical theatre, devise new work and explore what it means to reach womanhood in the 21st century.
23 Aug 2014 to 24 Aug 2014, Berkshire: South Hill Park Arts Centre
Launching a major international collaboration, YMT will be developing the stage version of the international bestselling book Ali & Nino. The story remains a testament to the strength of love in a war-torn world.
The performance will be a multilingual maelstrom of Georgian polyphonic singing and Persian mugham. Performed by a talented international cast; this promises to be one of YMT’s most ambitious projects to date.
28 Aug 2014 to 31 Aug 2014, Kingston: Rose Theatre
A new, dangerously addictive music has entered Discworld! Performer Imp Y Celyn (literally translated as ‘bud of the holly’) finds himself the unwitting poster boy for this intoxicating trend. We follow Imp and his eclectic ensemble through their glamorous yet short lived musical career, as they attempt to harness the new ‘Music With Rocks In’.
Directed by Luke Sheppard, (Associate Director RSC's Matilda), adapted by stand-up comedian Andrew Doyle with original music from WhatsOnStage Award-nominee Craig Adams (LIFT, Thérèse Raquin), and choreographed by Off West End Award-winner Cressida Carré (Titanic).
29 Aug 2014 to 30 Aug 2014, Plymouth: Barbican Theatre
In Geraldine McCaughrean’s award-winning tale a frighteningly zealous and single-minded Noah, battles against the apocalyptic elements. Family conflicts, stowaways and rogue reptiles combine to craft a captivating storm-forged story bound to leave you gasping for air.
We hope to see you all there!
***** (5 Stars)
Salisbury Playhouse - 30 April, 2014
The new touring production of Betty Blue Eyes provides an evening packed with laughter and wholehearted fun. Don’t be alarmed by the pig on the programme as there is much more to the musical than a puppeteered pig and light-hearted songs!
Set in 1947 post-war Britain, the musical tells the story of a humble chiropodist, Gilbert Chilvers and his ambitious wife, Joyce. The piece deals with the hunger that consumed Britain in the 1940s as rationing continued long after the war. It is not only hunger for food that dominates the thoughts of this small Yorkshire town, as the hunger for social status underpins the actions of the characters. The witty lyrics and catchy melodies mask the darker elements of the script and demonstrate how singing was vital for the upkeep of moral.
The chorus moved seamlessly and the ingenious choreography captivated and wowed the audience. Haydn Oakley found the sensitivity of Gilbert Chilvers and the audience warmed to his nervous disposition and jittery habits which Oakley personified faultlessly. Amy Booth-Steel also embodied Joyce’s vigour and determination for social status, both physically and in her wistful solo number "Nobody".
Although the acting and movement are superb, it is the ingenious script and delightful score that make the evening. The simplicity of the characters who find themselves in outrageously funny circumstances is where the true comedy lies. In no other musical would the audience be so infatuated by a pig, helped of course by the catchy tune of "Betty Blue Eyes", which allows you to fall willingly into this absurd story.
Overall, a thoroughly enjoyable evening, with a talented cast and a score that leaves you singing for days.
Betty Blue Eyes is currently on a UK Tour - full info here: http://www.bettyblueeyesthemusical.com/tour/
***** (5 Stars)
The Lowry, Manchester - 30 April, 2014
Thumbs up for this production!
There has been so much work and effort put into the production and it shows how committed the three actors are, especially as they play variety of characters! The transitions of each scene are clever and smooth by using clips of relevant and period music. The show is on the last leg of its tour and I can say I have not laughed so much.
It appeals to all audiences as it's a fun-filled comedic play, written by John Godber, and it is mainly targeted to young students aged 15+ due to its use of explicit language.
The performance is very Brechtian in style as the actors use small pieces of costume, accents and body language to transform into different a characters. Everything is distinctive and the production has a brilliant message at the end when Salty expresses to Mrs Parry about how the world doesn't care and how he can't have another chance at school because he's only just realised the importance of a good education.
The play starts and ends on a high. The blend of serious and comical characters keeps the play on its tiptoes and therefore there's never a moment when the show feels flat. Trupele Dorgu, Peter McMillan, and Amy Thompson have such brilliant focus and motivation, which helps them achieve their quick changes in characters, and quick wit, which has a great impact on the audience.
This is a DEFINITE MUST SEE! It is a brilliant interpretation of the play and I recommend anyone to see it if they have the chance!
Teechers is playing at the Lowry, Manchester until Saturday 3 May, 2014.
*** (3 Stars)
Grand Opera House, York - Tuesday 29 April, 2014
Ben Elton has created an amusing story of a geeky young man in Detroit who sells his soul to the devil for Rod’s. He is then transformed into a go-get ‘em wannabe star with a never ending list of girls, but in danger of losing the one he genuinely loves.
From the moment the York audience entered the theatre the Rod Stewart ambience was set - paper sailors hats are handed out on arrival and with everyone in a great mood it was time for the show to begin.
After the curtains had risen to a somewhat messy start the show really gets going with great vocals from all the cast including the star Ben Heathcote. Also, a special mention must go to Michael McKell, who has the audience hooked with his perfect comic timing in his role of Stoner - an eccentric cockney rocker who crosses paths with Stuart on his road to stardom. Former Sugababe Jade Ewen, who plays Dee Dee, shows off her faultless singing voice and acting skill during the whole performance and really shows what she can do.
Throughout the show there are a variety of well-performed and choreographed dance routines, which fitted in well with the 25 chosen Rod Stewart songs that made it impossible not to tap your feet along to some of the classics like "Stone Cold Sober", "Do ya think I’m Sexy?" and "Maggie May".
The end song “Sailing” got the audience standing, swaying and crying while wearing their little sailor hats. This song brought back memories for the old and created new memories for the young.
All in all, what started messy ending with perfection for this performance of Tonight’s The Night.
Tonight's the Night is currently on a UK Tour - full info here: http://www.tonightsthenightontour.co.uk