Thursday, March 22, 2018

John Scott: Delusions - Alphabetti Theatre - Review

John Scott - Delusions
Photo from 

Alphabetti Theatre
Wed 21st March

John Scott's gig on his mental health doubled up as a showcase for students of his stand up course. Each night involves several comedians new to comedy, some doing their very first gigs. They were impressively cohesive and funny,  and if you hadn’t been told it was their first time doing stand up you might not even know it.
John Scott briefly MCed the acts before coming  himself in the second half to do his one hour show (which featured at Edinburgh Festival last year).
It was a witty, clever, political and very polished performance. He delved into his mental health history with a great deal of tact and really gave the audience an insight into having a mental health condition His own condition is bipolar disorder type one, a diagnosis I share, so I can highly relate to the things he was talking about, such as hypomania, feeling like you are Jesus and self harming thoughts.
I thoroughly recommend this show if you're in need of a good belly laugh and have ever wanted to know more about what it's like to suffer with a mental health condition.
Playing Thursday and Friday this week at 9pm.

Frank Cromartie Murphy
Find more info about John Scott at:

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Review - Jeeves and Wooster in Perfect Nonsense - Royalty Theatre

Jeeves and Wooster in Perfect Nonsense
Royalty Theatre
19th March 2018

Jeeves and Wooster in Perfect Nonsense is based on the story "The Code of the Woosters" written by P G Wodehouse in 1938. It takes the form of a play within a play as Bertie stages a dramatic representation of the recent events at Totleigh Towers.
It begins with Bertie introducing his idea of the play, which is to be a One Man Show performed by himself. After all, he says, how hard could it be? It very soon becomes apparent that it is considerably harder than Bertie had imagined and he calls on his Butler Jeeves to assist. Fortunately the ever resourceful Jeeves, knowing the shortcomings of his master has anticipated the problem and made arrangements in the form of scenery, and supporting actors. Or to be precise, supporting butlers. He has recruited fellow butlers Seppings and Wilkins to play themselves, and all the other characters in the play - including the female characters. And so we are set up for a play with wobbly scenery, terrible wigs, and unconvincing acting as the two butlers find themselves having to play several characters, often at the same time. They exit suddenly stage left to return seconds later sporting a wig, or a hat, or a frock. It provides for some ridiculous and hilarious moments, most of which are scripted, though on the first night quite a few were not quite, and there was a lot of opportunity for ad libbing, as props refused to co-operate, costumes malfunctioned and the actors swapped character so quickly they confused even themselves!

This is not classic Wodehouse as you might expect it. The script may well use his erudite words but most of the laughter comes from the physical humour. James Errington as Bertie has the challenging job of  keeping the narrative going for the entire play, not so easy when your scenery misbehaves and your fellow cast members are in danger of corpsing. He copes admirably with the trials the performance throws his way. There are quite a few moments that may, or may not, have been scripted, and some that certainly weren't. It's a tribute to Errington's presence of mind that he was able to negotiate his way through all of them and transform them into assets to the performance.

John Seymour plays Jeeves with the most convincing sang-froid of a truly great English butler. Dead pan throughout almost all of the proceedings, he allows himself only the slightest show of disdain, a tad more disgust at one point, and just a touch of butler-ish smugness when required.

The stars of the show however have to be Seppings and Wilkins who swap between characters at a frenetic pace. I think they and the rest of the cast can be forgiven for occasionally forgetting which one they were meant to be playing. Now, pay attention - Lee Wilkins plays (slightly confusingly) Wilkins, Sir Watkin Bassett, Madeline Bassett, Gussie Fink-Nottle and Stiffy Byng. The scene where he has to be both Sir Watkin Bassett and Madeline Bassett at the same time is a classic. Thom Kelly plays Seppings, Proprietor (of the antique store  - a rare silver cow creamer is integral to the story, but you will need to see the play to find out how and why; it is simply beyond the scope of this reviewer to even begin to explain the rest of the plot), Butterfield, and Wooster's Aunt Dahlia. He nails each one but his Aunt Dahlia is an absolute triumph.

The lighting and sound crew are spot on - most notably when the scenic malfunction required a discreet blackout! The set and costumes are a mix of simplicity and ingenuity, adding authenticity and humour to the play.

There is a lot going on in this play, and Alex Goodchild has set himself quite a challenge for his directorial debut. Judging from his comments in the programme and the obvious fun that was being had on stage, I suspect directing this lot may have been not dissimilar to herding cats and mostly it has worked. It may not be entirely perfect. There is a certainly a lot of nonsense. But, it is very funny, entertaining nonsense.

Jeeves and Wooster will be perfecting their nonsense until Saturday 24th March. Get along to it.

Denise Sparrowhawk

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Preview - Jeeves and Wooster in Perfect Nonsense - Royalty Theatre


The Royalty Theatre will continue their 2017/18 season with The Goodale Brothers’
sparkling comedy, Jeeves and Wooster in ‘Perfect Nonsense’.

Based upon the works of PG Wodehouse, this brand-new adaptation follows Bertie Wooster as he attempts to play match-maker with the drippy Madeline Bassett and his friend Gussy Fink-Nottle.  Luckily his valet, Jeeves, is on hand to assist – and hopefully prevent Bertie from having to marry Madeline himself.

Director Alex Goodchild says, “It's been such a pleasure for my first directorial role to be with such a classic and cleverly written comedy. Couple that with such a comedically gifted cast, and the process has been a laugh a minute. If the audience enjoys the show even 10% as much as I've enjoyed directing it, then they'll be in for a great night.”

PG Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster stories have enjoyed enormous popularity over the years, notably inspiring a television series starring Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie.  This adaptation by the Goodale Brothers won the 2014 Olivier Award for Best New Comedy.

John Seymour and James Errington
Credit: Royalty Theatre
James Errington leads the cast as Bertie Wooster, with John Seymour playing the inimitable Jeeves.  Lee Wilkins and Royalty debutant Tom Kelly complete the cast.

The play comes just a week after the Royalty Theatre scooped the top award at the inaugural Durham and Sunderland One-Act Play Festival at Arts Centre Washington. Their entry, Too Faithed, by local writer Lee Stewart, goes through to the regional semi-finals in May.

Plays remaining this season are Jeeves and Wooster in ‘Perfect Nonsense’ (19-24 Mar), Temple (25-28 April), Move Over Mrs Markham (21-26 May) and The Wind in the Willows (25-30 June).
 Tickets can be booked via or on 0333 666 3366, and are priced at £8 (£6.50 concessions).

Spoon Theory/Rat Boy - Live Theatre - Review

Spoon Theory & Rat Boy Double Bill
Live Theatre
13th Mar 2018

Live Theatre's third Elevator Festival runs this week showcasing new plays by rising new talent.
The opening plays tonight are two very raw stories presented in very different ways.

Spoon Theory is the story of a couple struggling to come to terms with a drastic change in their lives when Belle is critically injured in an accident on the eve of their honeymoon. It is a slow paced, painful journey as they negotiate their way through emotional and practical problems, slowly piecing their lives back together. The impersonal horror of the benefits system adds to the struggle - sapping Belles's energy and using up precious spoons. Written with insight and empathy by Bex Bowsher. Actors Lisa Eagleton and Graham Hornsby capture the frustration and despair of a couple who have had their lives shattered by a random event, while Steven Blackshaw provides the darkest of black humour in his cameo roles representing the DWP "help" line and various other less than sympathetic officials who hinder their progress. The ending is a heart-rending mix of hope and resignation for Belle. She knows there will never be enough spoons.

Rat Boy, by contrast is a fast paced, frantic cartoon of a play. with larger than life characters but once again, struggling to survive in a system and society that has failed them. Set against the background of drug culture and rave music Rat Boy tells his story - a tale of abuse and neglect. But woven into it is the love of a mother for her son, and the loyalty of friends. It is a dark tale prevented from being overpowering by the cast's energetic, humorous portrayal of the array of bizarre characters. The rap style is simple - echoing child's nursery rhyme with it's rhyming couplets - but the imagery is vivid and visceral. The dark, episodic scenes put me in mind of a graphic novel.

These two plays have similar themes - broken relationships, the failure of society and the system, isolation,  they are raw and painful but dealt with in completely different ways. Each one is a powerful piece of theatre.

As well as Spoon Theory and Rat Boy, Elevator Festival presents other works in progress, plus workshops and discussion events. Live Theatre continues to push boundaries and support new and exciting writing. Elevator Festival runs until  17th March. Details on the website at

Denise Sparrowhawk

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Wind in the Willows – People's Theatre - Review

Wind in the Willows

People's Theatre
Wednesday 7th of March 2018 

So this was my very first review of the year and I couldn't get into the theatre as the main door wasn't working for me. But at last I managed to get in and only missed a few minutes of the show.

We all know the story of Wind in the Willows having read the book as a young child, (I skipped the boring bits). I was excited to see it come alive on stage at one of the best locally run theatres in Newcastle.

The stage was set! And I have to say that the stage design was amazing and helped tell the story on every level.
Ratty the posher one of the 4 main was played by Sam Hinton who had met Mr Mole (Moley) - is the naïve little one was played by Emma Jane Richards.
You could say Paris Hilton could be the human Mr Toad, self absorbed, reckless, played here by Roger Liddle who for me gave the character all the energy that was needed.
But the star of the show for me, was Mark Burden whose comical performance playing Albert the Horse was fantastic and I hope to see him in more shows (even if he is a brummie).
It was a good, fun show and something that everyone should be proud of but I'm not sure it will live long in the memory.
Directed by Anna Dobson.
On until 10th of March.

Reuben Hiles

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Talking Heads - Gala Theatre - Review

Talking Heads
Gala Theatre, Durham
6th March 2018

Without doubt when going to see anything by Alan Bennett you know the writing will be good. For Talking Heads, the question would be whether the production team and cast are up to the job. As the name implies - there is a lot of talk and not much in the way of action - would the team be able to keep the audience's attention for two hours with just three monologues? That's a lot of talking by the three cast members!

It begins well with an intriguing, minimalist stage set - a room, viewed cornerwise, with a door and huge window and a triangular carpet - these will be the staple pieces of the set throughout. The way they are angled gives a sense of a diminishing perspectives - the asymmetric door and window frame, and the triangle of carpet draw the viewers eye towards the back of the stage. And as the three stories unfold, the view from the window changes to echo their situation.
Added to this are pieces of furniture relevant to each story, so we begin with a bed and a kitchen chair for Graham in a Chip in the Sugar. Susan talks at a solid table in the vicarage kitchen for  A Bed Among The Lentils.  And finally Muriel sits in splendour in her armchair surrounded by the furniture of her country house in Soldiering On.

The three stories follow three very different people, from different social backgrounds, but they each
share a sense loneliness, of not quite fitting in. Bennett writes with such empathy and compassion, 
creating finely observed and achingly realistic characters, to explore themes of mental health, isolation, family and community. He picks out the weaknesses and strengths of people and weaves them into the stories. They are populated with a wealth of instantly recognisable characters, not just just the three on the stage, but the ones that feature in their stories too.

The three cast members Ross Waiton, Zoe Lambert and Judi Earl give jaw-achingly funny, and heartbreakingly believable, portrayals of  Grahame, Susan and Muriel as they negotiate their own individual life puzzles. Three beautiful depictions of the sadness and resilience of human nature in the face of a society that is at best indifferent and at worst antagonistic towards them.

Talking Heads is a great production - it is funny, and sad, and challenging and sadly, still as relevant today as it was when Bennett first wrote it. But this is not a tragic tale! because we are not those sort of people. No matter that there is a chip in our sugar, we will soldier on like the troopers we are!

It plays until Sat 10th March.

Denise Sparrowhawk

Monday, February 26, 2018

Morrissey -Review- Newcastle Metro Arena

Newcastle Metro Arena
Friday February 23rd 2018

I love Morrissey. Three decades later and still going strong so I make no apologies for what therefore may or may not be a totally biased account of the night.

I never got to see The Smiths live.  Gutting yes, but maybe for the best as I'm not sure how my young mind would have coped with the enormity of seeing my idol in the flesh and surrounded by the devoted, passionate and demonstrative throng that made up the audiences. I'm pretty sure I would have been among the many who tried to get onto the stage for a hastily grabbed  touch of the man himself and never washing my hand again.

In the 90’s I was lucky to see Morrissey twice at Newcastle City Hall and I managed to get tickets right near the front. I was close enough to see his belt (I know) and what an atmosphere that was. Yes it was a seated event but the seats only served for people to stand on and shout and scream his name. I can only liken it to being in a cult with everyone trying to meet their leader. No, I didn't try to push my way right to the front and get on stage such was the frenzy that surrounded me.

I never went to see Morrissey live after that, preferring instead to appreciate him and his music from afar until the opportunity arose to go to Newcastle Metro Arena. I was to be in the standing area. Immediately I thought do I want to join the many, the still die hard fans, queue early and try and find a place as near to the front or do I hang nearer the back where the vibe maybe slightly less maniacal.

I'd read on forums and reviews beforehand that security, as well as outside for obvious reasons, is also tighter inside too so stage bombing was no longer the norm or even possible at the current gigs.

Whilst listening to the latest album Low In High School, I poured over set lists of the last few gigs he played, read reviews and commentary about song choices and atmosphere, soaking it all in building myself up before the night of the concert.

When the day arrived my excitement was off the scale, I arrived at the arena stood in the foyer and heard many people give a heartily and happy woo hoo we are here and will soon be seeing Morrissey as they entered the building. Was great seeing people of all  different ages in attendance and the variety of Smiths and Morrissey t-shirts and quiffs was amazing.

An announcement came over the tannoy that the show would soon be starting so for people to make their way into the arena. This was my cue to find my spot for the night and what a brilliant one I had, right next to the sound man so the metal barriers gave me somewhere to rest my elbow and I had a great clear view of the stage with no one in front...perfect.

I knew there was no support band. Instead, and as with more recent Morrissey tours a video is shown, a compilation of videos and film clips ranging from The New York Dolls The Sex Pistols and a very questionable cover of How Soon Is Now by tatu.

Then as soon as that finished away went the curtain and there he was, YEEEES,  Morrissey opening up with ‘I Wish You Lonely’ to a huge cheer from the crowd. I was surprised that he didn't open up with the Elvis cover ‘You'll Be Gone’  like he had on other nights but there you go.

With regards to his setlist, yes there was a lot from the last album but this was an album tour having only been released in November. It wasn't a Morrissey sings The Smiths or a greatest hits tour either. I personally enjoyed the mix of songs he played and we still got to hear a few Smiths songs ‘I Started Something I couldn't Finish’ and ‘How Soon Is Now’ (one of my favourite of the night and received one of the biggest cheers)

Great cheers and a full crowd singing along with gusto to every word came when Morrissey's first single ‘Suedehead’ was played, as did the beautiful ‘Everyday Is Like Sunday’

Songs from the current album included ‘When You Open Your Legs’ along with  single ‘Spent The Day in Bed’ were well received as was the jokey comment from Morrissey about after the concert he was going to a nightclub in Darlington and along the way he might be killed to which he'd say this to them then began the song ‘If You Don't Like Me, Don't Look At Me’

Morrissey's voice seems to get better with age and certainly didn't disappoint, on stage he owned it along with his mic lead whipping dancing technique and the crowd on his side when he said “Whatever Happened To The Likely Lasses”
He also reached out and quickly  grabbed a few peoples hands whilst performing too (I wonder if they'll ever wash again)

The screen behind showed either film footage or a picture which changed with every song, from the character Jason King, the Meat Is Murder cover to THAT picture of Margaret Thatcher a policeman on a horse and a baton and along with a spectacular light show (part of which someone described as the shape of Blue Peter badges) all added to great visuals.

The sound is apparently never great at the venue and infamous for its poor acoustics but I found there to be no major problems that night. I could hear everything I needed to and the whole band was mixed well.

He introduced the band members and long standing guitarist Boz Boorer got a huge cheer. The show finished with ‘English Blood, Irish Heart’ as an encore and a flurry of scrummage at the front when Morrissey whipped off his shirt and threw it to the crowd (I wonder how many pieces it was shredded into) and that was it, a topless Morrissey exited the stage

I had a fantastic night and it was the best I've ever seen him, a brilliant atmosphere and I could see all around me people dancing singing along and enjoying it all whether first time seeing or a veteran of Morrissey shows.

Being vegetarian I appreciated and welcome that Morrissey makes his shows meat free i.e no meat allowed to be brought in or served at the venue
(even Lady Gaga wouldn't have been allowed to enter in that dress)
After all it is only for one night, but I can't help wonder how many people got a dirty kebab on the way home 😁

Till next time (which I do hope there will be)

Belinda Bekki-Winter

Friday, February 23, 2018

The Blue Electric Wind - People's Theatre - Review

The Blue Electric Wind
People's Theatre
22nd Feb 2018

The Blue Electric Wind is a new play written by Brad Birch. It was commissioned by the National Theatre's literary department to be a piece specifically aimed at young performers. It is a play "about memory, bravery and growing up."

A group of school children notice strange things happening to people in their town, memories begin to fade people forget little things at first, then bif things, then the people fade away themselves - they become blank. And they don't realise it's happening to them. It's left to a group of teenagers to try to solve the problem before it is too late and everyone fades away.

But these teenagers are not friends - they are from different peer groups and don't really like each other. They'll have to learn to trust each other, forgive each other, and find a way to work together or all will be lost.

Beneath the stark and eerie set of wires and strange flickering lights, this group of young actors recreate the banter and bickering of teenagers, the joking, the bragging, and the awkwardness.
They each hold their own on stage, deliver their lines with confidence and skill. If there are a couple of missed cues or stumbles they are covered with expert ease so barely noticeable. Some adults
lack such skill. There are some long and complicated speeches for some of the characters - there's quite a bit of technical sounding science stuff and some amusing nerdy science fiction stuff. I can't tell you more about that - you'll have to go see it on Saturday to find out.

Assured performances in an interesting and intriguing play.

The Blue Electric Wind plays until Saturday 24th Feb.   

Photo Credit Paula Smart

Denise Sparrowhawk