Following a hugely successful run back in 2015, 'The Woman In Black' is once again sweeping through Portsmouth on this latest UK tour - and she is adamant to instil more fear in her audiences than ever before!
Essentially a two hander, 'The Woman In Black' follows the play within a play format as we meet our storytellers; Arthur Kipps (David Acton) and The Actor (Matthew Spencer). Kipps has written a story of certain troubling experiences within his life, with the purpose of having this work re-enacted out in a bid to finally 'lay his ghost' to rest. From here things start to get dark and mysterious as we are drawn deeper into the horrifying stories of Kipps' past.
David Acton and Matthew Spencer give fine performances here, fully complimenting one another as part of their dynamic duo partnership. Spencer, in particular, has a raw energy and devotion to bringing the reality of Kipps' situation not just to his own 'Actor' self, but to the audience as well.
Robin Herford was not tasked with an easy job as director for this piece. Whilst he has ultimately opted for as simplistic a set-up possible in terms of set design, costumes and props, he has clearly invested a lot of time into bringing the most out of his actors' stories and ensuring that this does not lose focus nor prominence, despite some convoluted exposition of the narrative at times.
Herford's use of simplistic effects pays dividends here, never more so than in the simple yet highly effective lighting sequence which acts as the guide to let us know when Kipps and The Actor are no longer 'acting' and are back to their respective characters.
Undoubtedly the star of the show is the titular character herself, the much anticipated Woman In Black. Evoking an extreme 'horror movie style' reaction from the audience at every opportunity she has, just a sheer glimpse of her sends the entire audience into a mad frenzy with blood curdling screams echoing round the theatre auditorium.
Bold, original and unique is the best way to simply critique this piece. Whilst some of the heavily exposition led dialogue can sometimes leave your mind wondering just when the next scare will be to keep the 'fun' of the piece going, that is of absolutely no discredit to the work of the actors nor the creative team behind this production.
If you are looking for an evening of live theatrical entertainment with scares, jumps and audience screams lurking round each corner then make sure you don't miss your chance to catch 'The Woman In Black' - but be quick...she's only in town until Saturday 1st April!
Saturday night saw the final of Totton Drama Festival 2017, with a prize giving ceremony in which the Bench Theatre Company triumphed, winning six awards.
The company performed a one act play titled Login Error written by Adam Hughes and directed by Simon Walton. It won Best Original Script; Best Director; Best Adult Actor and also was placed as overall winner for the whole festival, claiming the coveted Archie Gay Trophy.
Bench Theatre were also acknowledged with a special award for attending the Totton Drama Festival for twenty-five years and were given the Adjudicator's Award for their rehearsed reading of 'Your Forever' by Mark Wakeman.
Full details of the winners and the festival can be found on the Totton Drama Festival website which we have linked to below. Many congratulations to the Bench Theatre Company for their success and to all the companies who won in other categories.
The official trailer for the stage adaptation of The Woman In Black can be seen here, ahead of the touring production's visit to the city next week.
From Monday 27th March until Saturday 1st April, the atmospheric play, which has run on the West End for 27 years, can be seen in a professional touring production at the New Theatre Royal.
It comes in a sequence of high profile shows and an impressive line up for the recently refurbished theatre in Guildhall Walk.
The Woman In Black tells the story of a lawyer obsessed with a curse he believes has been cast over him and his family by the spectre of a 'Woman In Black'. He engages with a young actor to help him tell his story and exorcise the fear that grips his soul.
It's a formidable piece of theatre which comes highly recommended. Tickets are currently available from the New Theatre Royal Box Office.
There is now very limited availability for this week's remaining performances of New Apollo and Cop The Needle's Voice of a Pencil. Audience members are urged to book in advance before they sell out.
Written by local Cop The Needle writers John Stanton and Stuart Olesker, the play is being staged at the wonderfully atmospheric Square Tower in Old Portsmouth nightly until Friday 24th March 2017.
Voice of a Pencil delves into four decades of the fascinating and contentious issue of ‘automatic writing’ — are we in the realm of the the subconscious, or trickery?
In automatic writing, a sensitive person holds a pencil over paper and it writes, apparently without their control. There have been investigations which suggest they are genuine messages from people who have passed from this world. Can it possibly be true?
The play tells the stories of Catherine Muller, W.T. Stead, Andre Bretton, and Geraldine Cummins.
With only five tickets remaining - at the time of writing - for tonight's performance of Voice of a Pencil, it would be highly recommended to snap them up before the show completely sells out.
Doors open at 7:30pm on each of the three evenings. Tickets cost £10.00. Link to the online box office below. Alternatively, contact 02392 736 288.
Bench Theatre are to compete at Totton Drama Festival this Saturday with Login Error by Adam Hughes.
Totton Drama Festival is to be staged at The Hangar Arts Centre from Wednesday to Saturday this week and local company Bench Theatre are taking Login Error to compete. In the festival, one play is selected to compete against others in the next stage of the five total stages.
The piece, originally staged by The Bench at their annual Supernova festival at The Spring Arts and Heritage Centre, is a play about two strangers who meet in an online chatroom, yet one of them isn't who they say they are. The more the pair talk, the greater this deception grows, and both become entangled in a web of lies and deceit which may have devastating consequences.
Featuring Philip Amor and directed by Simon Walton, the company are hoping to pass into the next stages of the competiton with the exquisitely written production by Adam Hughes.
They perform on Saturday night, with the winner for the festival also to be declared once all three plays are performed.
Tickets are available for £8 for those wishing to attend. Further details are on the Totton Drama Festival website. We've linked to it below. Here at PortsmouthTheatre.com we wish them every success with the contest and would love to hear your thoughts if you saw it in its original production or attend this Saturday.
Ropes End Theatre company's production of Thursday's Child has been cancelled for its planned performances on the 24th and 25th March 2017.
It is believed the production, directed by Steve Blackham and written by local playwright Clare Campbell-Collins, has been postponed and will run at a later date.
The play is hotly anticipated following its original run in 2013. It sold out both nights it performed and, following this, has been extended and developed to a bigger and bolder piece of theatre.
When we hear further news regarding this we shall be sure to keep you informed. We very much look forward to seeing Campbell-Collins's work back in Portsmouth and hope it can be presented on stage in the very near future.
Watch this space.
Sarah Miatt heads along to Ferneham Hall in Fareham to review Fareham Musical Society's latest production: a sell-out show of hit classic musical Annie.
Annie is one of those standout feel good musicals that you can't help but smile at and sing along to. The last time Fareham Musical Society performed this show, they walked away with three awards and one of the Annie's ended up as a professional actor. It's safe to say that this production had a lot to live up to.
The chorus worked incredibly well together with enthusiasm and fantastic harmonies. Of the ensemble roles special mentions must go to the Boylan Sisters, Marie Ridley, Claire Shergill and Emily Halls who certainly made the most of their cameo roles as radio singers and Jonathan Redwood as Butler Drake who was hilariously funny whilst at the same time being very strait laced. Of course you can't have Annie without her dog Sandy and Fareham Musical Society were very lucky to get such an obedient, well behaved and beautiful Dog in Barney.
Graeme Clements as Oliver "Daddy" Warbucks was standoffish and grumpy but when his heart started to warm with Annie he was also very caring and their relationship was very believable. His comic timing was also spot on which is not something you often associate with this role. Kim Seagrove as drunk, crooked orphanage owner Miss Hannigan was very funny and her powerful singing voice belted out the song "Little Girls" very well.
Stephanie McEvoy was lovely as Grace Farrell and it was great to see her relationship with Annie develop. Whilst Stuart Frank as Rooster and Sarah Tappenden as Lily St Regis were fantastic villains of the piece.
Of course the true stars of the show are the orphans. I was lucky enough to see the Purple Team perform and rarely have I seen such a talented group. They were all in character at all times, they were enthusiastic and had clear beautiful voices. Matilda Hughes was a very cute and sassy Molly particularly good at mimicking Miss Hannigan. Eleanor Wallace was simply outstanding as Annie. Her voice was beautiful and she captured the optimistic nature of the little redhead to perfection. A true star is born.
The sellout shows proves that this is a successful production and it was very enjoyable to watch.
Popular local theatre group Collingwood RSC are to present Terry Pratchett's Dodger.
The group, based in HMS Collingwood in Fareham, is made up of serving naval personnel and their friends and families. No stranger to the works of Terry Pratchett, here they are presenting their first non-Discworld play which will take you on an exciting journey of political espionage in a version of Victorian London.
He’s cunning. He’s artful. He’s Terry Pratchett’s DODGER. A storm. Rain-lashed city streets. A flash of lightning. A scruffy lad sees a girl leap desperately from a horse-drawn carriage in a vain attempt to escape her captors. Can the lad stand by and let her be caught again? Of course not, because he’s… Dodger.
Young Dodger may be a street urchin, but he gleans a living from London’s sewers, and he knows a jewel when he sees one. He’s not about to let anything happen to the unknown girl—not even if her fate impacts some of the most powerful people in England. From Dodger’s encounter with the mad barber Sweeney Todd to his meetings with the great writer Charles Dickens and the calculating politician Benjamin Disraeli, history and fantasy intertwine in a breathtaking account of adventure and mystery.
Collingwood present their version of Dodger from 29th March to 1st April 2017. All seats are just £6 and the show begins at 7:30pm nightly in the Millennium Hall, HMS Collingwood. You can book by calling 07502 037922. The play is adapted by Stephen Briggs.
Lauren Kempton is a superbly talented actress who stars in local theatre, and notably in musical theatre with South Downe Musical Society and CCADS. Appearing this week in the incredible Dirty Rotten Scoundrels at the Kings Theatre, we're very privileged to find out more about her. The first star of our 'In The Spotlight With' feature, Lauren gives one of the most genuinely heart warming interviews we've ever featured.
Hi Lauren! Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us. Firstly, tell us a bit about yourself.
I am 29 and live in Southsea with my partner Pete, a theatre sound engineer, and work as an HR Officer at the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity. I love performing in shows, going to see shows (so I feel very lucky to live on the doorstep of the King’s Theatre!), rehearsing for shows… so it doesn’t leave time for much else! But on the odd night off, I love going out for dinner, going to the cinema, and also try and fundraise as much as possible for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust. Last year I raised £5k as part of a team skydive.
Wow! Congratulations on your skydive! What would you say is your favourite show and why?
Without question, my best experience of being in a show was playing Elle Woods in Legally Blonde. The rehearsals were so much fun and the show was an absolute dream. I had loved the film and could quote it from start to finish so playing that role was so exciting for me. On top of that, the cast and crew were top notch; it felt so special and everyone really pulled together to make that show so memorable. I wouldn’t change a thing about it.
I also loved playing Cinderella last year in CCADS Theatre’s Into the Woods: a beautiful production and a lovely part, it was probably the most challenging part I have ever had musically, so coming off stage knowing I hadn’t messed up the timing was a huge relief – and a proud moment!
What would you say is your dream role and why?
I am so fortunate to have played Elle Woods: that really was the top of my list. Since I was about 17, the other dream role has been Cathy in The Last Five Years; a beautiful show and a character who resonates so much with me. I am so excited to be finally playing Cathy in CCADS Theatre’s production in April. Jason Robert Brown’s songs are so wonderfully honest and raw and I love singing them. I am lucky enough to be playing opposite Perry Ralls who makes a brilliant Jamie.
The show really speaks to anyone who has ever been in love and that’s why I think so many people can relate to it. It is heart- warming, heart-breaking and honest… and I can’t wait to perform it!
We can't wait to see it! So tell us, who is your inspiration?
Musically, my Dad. I wouldn’t know anything about music if it wasn’t for him and we share the same taste in music (though he doesn’t understand my love for Elvis or where that came from!). He taught me what good music is and introduced me to musicals, and it was him that told me I could sing.
Locally, it is John-Paul McCrohon. I honestly wouldn’t know how to act if it wasn’t for him and I see him in every rehearsal working his magic and he just knows how to get the best out of people. He turns someone who is a good actor into a great actor, whilst effortlessly stepping into character himself. Every single time he gives a show-stopping performance.
And my female inspiration is Sheridan Smith. I ADORE her as an actress and as a performer. She is sensational at everything she does and has the ability to make every part she plays her own. I saw her in Funny Girl last year, and was astounded at how incredible she was and got to meet her afterwards and was bowled over by how normal and down to earth she was. I LOVE her.
I must mention Imelda Staunton too. That woman is perfection.
And, in non-theatrical life, it is my little friend Ivy who battles every day with Cystic Fibrosis and still goes through life with a massive smile on her face. She is the epitome of strength and puts things into perspective for me.
If you had one wish in the world, what would it be?
I really want a Chihuahua called Bruiser!
But really, I would have to say it would be to find a cure for Cystic Fibrosis.
Who would play you in a movie about your life?
I wonder if we could get Sheridan Smith to do it?! I would also be happy if Anna Kendrick would do it. A comedy actress who has played Cinderella in Into The Woods AND Cathy in Last Five Years, so we get similar roles! I also like that she is very self-deprecating, and also very clumsy and awkward – traits I also possess!
Who would be your ideal screen partner and why?
My stagey friend Kerry McCrohon would agree that it would have to be Ed Westwick who plays Chuck Bass in Gossip Girl! If he wasn’t available, I’d happily settle for Ryan Gosling, who I thought was perfection in La La Land!
Even better than Ed and Ryan though… I get to play opposite two wonderful men in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels: John-Paul McCrohon as Lawrence and Pete Westmorland as Freddy. They are both actors I admire greatly and really encompass their roles with sincerity and humour. The whole rehearsal process has been wonderful and hilarious and they really are true gentlemen.
When was the first time you fell in love with theatre?
My lovely Nan put Singin’ in the Rain on when I was very young and that was it: to me it was magical and Debbie Reynolds was the most beautiful person I had ever seen. The first show I ever performed in was Honk with Portsmouth Players 11-18 and I played a chicken called Lowbutt (perhaps this should have been mentioned within the dream role question?!?) and by then I truly had the bug and have been involved with shows ever since!
If you had to name something, what would you say is your pet hate?
I hate unsupportiveness. I am so lucky to have a family and friends who come to see every single show. I have a partner who helps me learn lines and doesn’t mind that I am out every night - he is just happy that I am happy. I find it hard when you let people know about something you are doing and they don’t want to come because ‘it’s not their cup of tea’ and I think to myself ‘but this is EVERYONE’S cup of tea!’, but you do have to try and remember that not everyone has a love of theatre (I know, I don’t understand these people either!) and you can’t force them to love it!
It warms my heart when I see members from other local societies in the audience, people who just ‘get it’ and support local theatre… no rivalry, just support and love for all things theatrical!
And you're in the wonderful comic musical 'Dirty Rotten Scoundrels' this week. Tell us about that.
It's a big production at the Kings Theatre running until Saturday 18th March. I play Christine Colgate, a ditzy heiress being conned by Lawrence (John Paul McCrohon) and Freddy (Pete Westmorland). It is SO funny, romantic, glamorous and heart-warming… it is everything you could want in a show and is honestly one of the best productions I have ever been a part of. It also has top notch choreography by Lydia Thorne and Charlotte Williams who have produced brilliantly show stopping numbers, and a great ensemble all put fantastically put together as always by John Paul. It really is a show for everyone.
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is on at the Kings Theatre until 18th March with tickets available now. Don't miss it! There are links to the Box Office for Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, The Last Five Years and a link so you can donate to the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, or find out more about the wonderful work they do, below.
PortsmouthTheatre.com would like to thank Lauren for her time and be sure to look out for features from more performers; stage crew; technicians and creatives soon.
This week sees the opening of the hotly anticipated comic-musical Dirty Rotten Scoundrels at the Kings Theatre. Performed by the multi-award winning CCADS, who presented Cats at the same theatre last year, this show is not to be missed. Funny, energetic and with so much to offer, you'll want to book your tickets for this one especially. Ahead of the show's opening this Thursday, we caught up with Director John-Paul McCrohon to find out more.
Hi John-Paul, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us. Can you tell us a bit about Dirty Rotten Scoundrels?
I can! A lot of people would have been first introduced to Dirty Rotten Scoundrels by the 1988 popular comic movie, directed by Frank Oz and starring Michael Caine and Steve Martin. It's actually based on an even earlier movie, which not so many people know, a 1960s movie called Bedtime Story which stars David Niven and Marlon Brando. And the musical version of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels was premiered in 2005 on Broadway with score written by David Yazbek, who wrote the score for The Full Monty. It came to London a couple of years ago starring Robert Lindsay and Rufus Hound. So that's its journey, in a nutshell!
For those who aren't aware, can you tell us a little bit about the story it tells?
The film and the musical tell the same story about Lawrence Jameson, who is a very slick con man who is resident on the French Riviera. He makes his living by talking rich women out of their money. He gets a bit of a shake up when [another con man] called Freddie Benson arrives in town. Freddie is a much lower-rent swindler, if you like, with a more limited range of scams at his disposal, but he has the hunger for it, perhaps that Lawrence has lost a little bit. Although initially the chemistry between them is a bit spiky, they start to work together. Lawrence starts to see Freddie as a bit of a project: he's the Eliza Doolittle to Freddie's Henry Higgins, if you like!
When Freddie gets a bit good at it, lines between them are drawn because they realised the Riviera isn't big enough for both of them. So they make a bet. The first one to get fifty thousand dollars from the Heiress Christine Colgate will win that bet and the other one has to leave town. Of course it's not as simple as that and absolute comic mayhem ensues as they attempt to one-up each other.
It sounds like tremendous amounts of fun!
The primary thrust of it really is that it is, just, I think, one of the best musical comedies there has ever been. For pure musical comedy. It doesn't matter whether you love theatre or musical theatre or not. If you do, you're going to get loads out of it, but if it is someone who doesn't go to the theatre this is the kind of show I'd recommend to them too because it is laugh out loud funny and you'll come out with a smile on your face and the laughter still on your lips.
Let's talk about the transition from film to musical. There are those who are a bit apprehensive about it, particularly with such an iconic film.
It's interesting isn't it, any adaptation of anything has to have a reason to be adapted. You have to think, for example, can the musical form add to it or enhance it. That is definitely the case here. All the set-piece comic moments people who know the film will recognise are there and they're even funnier set to music.
What makes it work on stage is the fact that, although in many ways it is a very faithful adaptation of the film, what the writers do brilliantly is they adapt it in a way that could only be done on the musical theatre stage. It has a wonderful throwback to some of the very early musical comedies, so there is that kind of comic delirium to it. It is aware it is on the stage, and there are moments where you, as audience, become aware that we are aware it is on a stage, if that makes sense.
The early rehearsal photos (displayed here) look fantastic. Looks like there is a great deal of physical comedy in this. Is that difficult to do? How much of that is pre-planned, or does it all come organically in the rehearsal room?
Bit of both really. A lot of it has the momentum of a true farce and has to be played like that. For that reason, a lot of it has to be painstakingly planned because it is so specific. But then the good thing is, once you have that framework, a lot of wonderful things just emerge. And one gag leads to another and things appear organically. It's such a discipline, doing a farce, but then it is just wonderful. Such a joy to perform.
The great thing about Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is that it goes from being set on the Riviera, and it's very stylish and it's witty, and it goes from that to being – in the best possible way – completely ridiculous! It isn't afraid to take detours down several different routes. And really that is the centre of it. It reflects the two characters; Lawrence is stylish and Freddie is crass. So you get the best of both of those types of humours, the best of both worlds, and the way they collide makes every version of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels quite unlike other types of comedies I think.
Let's talk about the score. We're guessing the music in the show is quite upbeat and feel good!
It is a brilliant score. I had seen the film years ago and I really enjoyed the film, but what really sold me on the musical version was when I saw one of the numbers, which is actually Freddie’s first big number, Great Big Stuff on the Tony Awards broadcast. It’s an absolute jolt of energy and the lyrics are laugh out loud funny. It has a go for broke vitality to it. I got hold of the recording after that and realised every song in it is just as good as that one.
I’ve known this show since 2005 really. I’ve been listening to it for eleven, twelve years now and it still makes me laugh. The audacity, the wit of the lyrics. It mixes the styling of Cole Porter and Mel Brooks. It’s so, so funny; such an upbeat show.
Without getting overtly political, it’s the sort of thing – when there’s so much around us which makes you bury your head in your hands – sometimes you need, more than ever, a show like this. Where you can go along and it is pure escapism. The music will run right through you and for two and a half wonderful hours life looks good. It’s part of this wonderful new age of musical comedies, like The Producers. These shows will last. They stand the test of time. We need these kind of shows. And we need them again now more than ever.
The show is on at The Kings Theatre from the 16th to the 18th March. Did you hire that theatre specifically?
In many ways, and in the best possible way, because this show has all those links to old musical comedy, it's a show I think that demands to be played in a big traditional house. It could technically work in other theatres, but I don't think there is another theatre locally that is better for this piece than The Kings. The Kings, with all its great associations with great musical comedies and the big stars – Laurel and Hardy played at the Kings – so to play a big comedy on that stage is very exciting. Just the architecture of the Kings continues the set.
The set is a big spectacular affair for this one. So we couldn't have done it so lavishly in any other theatre around here. I was desperate to get the rights for this and I always pictured it at that theatre. We're also making use of the boxes; the auditorium to the stage and vice versa. I think it is going to be a wonderful use of that venue.
We've heard the creative team are very strong for this production too. Tell us a bit about them.
Lousie Helyer, who has Musical Directed most of our recent musicals is back with us. She recently won the Curtain Call Award for best Musical Director for our production of Into The Woods. She's great and she'll be leading a full brassy pick band orchestra at the Kings. I'm directing it and our choreographers are Lydia Thorne and Charlotte Williams. Lydia has been our resident choreographer since 2010 with our production of Beauty and the Beast and Charlotte collaborated brilliantly with Lydia on Cats. They did a fabulous job on that, and Charlotte then choreographed Made In Dagenham for South Downes Musical Society with me, so bringing all those people together is an absolute joy and it is great to collaborate with them.
CCADS always have a strong ensemble presence too.
There are some big numbers in this and it's a sizeable cast, about 35 people. When the ensemble are not on they are changing into an entirely different persona altogether. There's a spoof cowboy western number called Oklahoma? with a question mark rather than an exclamation mark, and that turns into a wildly surreal but brilliant hoe down, and then there's the aforementioned Great Big Stuff number which is full of dashing waiters and saucy french maids and then we've got elegant Riviera based number and everything between! Limbo dancing; conga lines; it really has got a bit of everything!
Sounds incredible! We're very much looking forward to seeing it.
Overall, why would you recommend Dirty Rotten Scoundrels to potential audience members?
If you love the theatre, and you love musical theatre, come and see this. If you think you don't, then come and see this anyway because it really will change your mind. And if you want to laugh for a couple of hours, and if you want to get swept away into a glamorous exciting world that is full of humour, then come and see us at The Kings.
There is absolutely something for everyone in this show.
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is on at The Kings Theatre, Southsea, from Thursday 16th March until Saturday 18th March 2017. 7:30pm nightly with a matinée on the Saturday at 2:30pm. Rehearsal photos courtesy of the company. Link to online box office below - advance booking highly recommended.