‘The Producers’ (The Festival Theatre: 23-28 March ‘15)

“David Bedella and Louie Spence brought a frivolity that couldn’t be outdone.”

Editorial Rating: 5 Stars: Outstanding

If there is one thing Mel Brooks never fails to do, it is to entertain. To the average person, on hearing the premise of a political satire including a failed Broadway producer, a musical homage to Adolf Hitler, nymphomaniac geriatrics and a cross-dressing director, it would be inconceivable to enjoy any show remotely related. But the average person would be wrong. Brooks created a genuine comedy masterpiece that is as absurd as it is entertaining, and as politically questionable as it is uplifting.

Director Matthew White has created something spectacular in his touring production of The Producers. His cast are well-shaped in their roles; the entire performance was slick and musically, under the direction of Andrew Hilton, they were faultless.

Set and costume designer Paul Farnsworth delivered a spectacle bedecked in glitz and glam worthy of a Broadway show. With touring productions it can often be the case that set is left too minimalistic to fit every venue, but Farnsworth created a masterpiece on wheels. Max Bialystock’s office was the most impressive set piece with Broadway memorabilia piled high without encroaching on the stage space available – a most impressive feet.

Cory English offered a stellar performance – his comic timing was slick and he completely owned the stage as his madness – driven in equal parts by a desperate need for money and success – led him down darker, murkier paths, dragging the fresh-faced, naïve Leo Bloom behind him.

Jason Manford’s role saw him shine in the spotlight. His portrayal of the nervous dreamer Leo Bloom was highly entertaining – his attachment to his blue blanket and quirks were hilarious and Manford really embraced the manic side of his character.

The blossoming love between Leo and Ulla that grew throughout the show was reminiscent of a pre-pubescent unsure footing on the ladder of love and it was brilliantly matched with Tiffany Graves’ unabashedly sexual Ulla who carried an air of innocence through her clumsy grasp of English which contrasted greatly with her side smirks and comfort in skimpy outfits. Graves’ vocal performance was incredible too – definitely an attribute to flaunt.

As if there wasn’t a strong enough comedy factor already; double act David Bedella and Louie Spence brought a frivolity that couldn’t be outdone – their overtly camp exuberance was aided by sequins, glitter and a troupe of openly gay production team members that left a definitive feel of

Mardi Gras in the air. Bedella’s outrageous portrayal of a gay, sequin-wearing Adolf Hitler in Springtime for Hitler was hysterical and increased the political satire tenfold. In fact, the entire number was fantastically put together. The choreography was sharp and clean, the costumes were as over the top as ever and the stage design was downright dazzling.

The Producers is, in my opinion, a massively underrated piece of musical theatre gold. It is crass without being crude, it is fast-paced without being dizzying and the musical numbers are big and bold but not ridiculous – despite the sparkly swastikas.

While there are very few morals to be learned from this story, there is still a beautiful friendship at the heart of it that can be seen blooming in the unlikeliest of places – they do say showbiz is cutthroat, but not in this case. There is a poetic symmetry between the teachings of Max to Leo and the camaraderie and chemistry shared between seasoned stage performer Cory English and rising star Jason Manford.



Reviewer: Amy King (Seen 24 March)

Visit the Assembly Roxy Bedlam Church Hill Theatre Festival Theatre King’s Theatre Other Pleasance, Potterrow & Teviot Summerhall The Lyceum The Stand Traverse archive.


‘The Gondoliers’ (Pleasance: 17 – 21 March ’15)

fr. Eleanor Crowe as Gianetta with Harry McGregor as Marco; with Lydia Carrington as Tessa and Sean Marinelli as Giuseppe, behind.

fr. Eleanor Crowe as Gianetta with Harry McGregor as Marco; with Lydia Carrington as Tessa and Sean Marinelli as Giuseppe, behind.

 “The lovers glide through their united vocal performances”

Editorial Rating: 4 Stars:  Nae Bad

Director Thomas Ware and Assistant Director Lucy Evans set out with a vision to create a modernised version of Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic opera The Gondoliers and by the King of Barataria do they succeed! The costumes ooze Fifties glamour and glam their way through prestigious St Mark’s, ‘Oxbridge’; for St Mark is the patron saint of the original setting, Venice. Geddit? We have a show worth seeing.

His debut on the maestro’s podium saw Musical Director Steven Segaud coaxing a sound from the cast that can only be described as stunning. Conducting a 30-piece band and a cast of 33 takes great skill and his hard work paid off. The eleven-strong male chorus is perfectly matched by their female counterparts. The combined choral sound is magical and the principals more than hold their own when on their own.

Gilbert and Sullivan are notorious for weaving multiple devilishly intricate, wordy melodies that can trip up even the well-seasoned EUSOG trouper, but this cast were as quick lipped as they were quick witted. The overall sound and lasting impact more than made up for any bum notes from the band pit or stage.

Set Designer Isobel Williams and her team deserve mention for the unembellished stage design. It was most effective – using silhouettes is a clever way of determining location without having to build separate sets for the two cities and the bridge-turned-platform was also a great asset to the stage dressing; adding both height and opportunity for fun entertainment, should the need arise. What’s more, the gondoliers could then pass through ‘behind’; noticeable but unobtrusive – the audience catching no more than a glimpse of a hat, a head and an oar: a most effective direction.

Dominic James Lewis and Lucy Gibbons as the Duke and Duchess of Plaza Toro. Photos: EUSOG

Dominic James Lewis and Lucy Gibbons as the Duke and Duchess of Plaza Toro.
Photos: EUSOG

The added references of pop culture to the script did add to the hilarity of many a situation – most notably the larger-than-life Duke of Plaza Toro and his wife, the Duchess; portrayed by Dominic Lewis and Lucy Gibbons. The evident cracks in their marriage and need for lavish pomp and ceremony resulted in expectant chuckles from the audience as soon as they appeared on stage – such a reaction cannot be misconstrued. The pair’s comic timing and natural awareness and reaction to the other’s antics made for a great laugh.

Harry MacGregor and Sean Marinelli took to the roles of gondoliers Marco and Giuseppe, respectively, with an ease and camaraderie that was a joy to watch on stage. While the brothers’ vocals may not always have reflected their unity, their acting certainly did, especially when acting through technical glitches and finding love. The pair’s love interests, Eleanor Crowe and Lydia Carrington, made easy the chance to revel in G&S splendour – as Gianetta and Tessa; these sopranos worked their instruments well to produce a beautiful sound, and as a quartet, the lovers glide through their united vocal performances.

The most convincing love entanglement springs between Casilda, daughter of the Duchess – and newly made Queen of Barataria – and Luiz, a serving man. This tricky, class conflicted, love was fantastically conveyed by Ethan Baird and Ellie Millar; the pair’s pathetic battle against their feelings was poignantly funny – this poignancy only made more bitter sweet by the mellow melding of the pair’s vocals. Millar rose effortlessly through the high notes and was complemented perfectly by Baird’s rich tenor. And as with all Gilbert and Sullivan fairy tale-esque romances, the queen gets her king, strife is resolved within Barataria and Baird shows he suits both bowler hat and king’s garb.

All in all, farce and fancy that epitomizes what it means to be a Savoy Opera where life’s a pudding full of plums. Tra, la, la, ha, ha, ha, et cetera.

nae bad_blue

Star (blue)Star (blue)Star (blue)Star (blue)

Reviewer: Amy King  (Seen 16 March)

Visit Edinburgh University Savoy Opera Group here.

Visit the  Pleasance archive.

‘Bitter Sweet’ (Discover 21 Theatre: 27 Feb -1 March ’15)

Bitter Sweet 2

“Distorted Love”

Editorial Rating: 3 Stars: Nae Bad


That’s the first word that springs to mind when looking back on the journey followed in Bitter Sweet. Writer and Director Kolbrun Bjort Sigfusdottir created a show that saw reality and fantasy twisted and contorted into a near horror story.

The venue, Discover 21 Theatre, was a perfectly intimate venue that provided closeness to the action that was necessary for this performance to deliver its full impact.

The set was simple, yet detailed. The hints of Steig Larsson’s influence on the script were mirrored in the set – his books featured on the shelves of the bookcase and were reflected in S’s character traits. A small fold-out sofa that sat stage-right was used in a variety of ways that kept the action from becoming too similar and repetitive.

Technically, this play was slick. The music was well-fitted to the rising tensions and served to heighten emotions – both loving and dark. The tone of the scene changed with the lighting cues which was a clever technique to keep the course of the play as disjointed as the relationship.

Both Kate Foley-Scott and Ben Blow tackled this difficult script with a tenacity that is commendable.

Depression and its effects on love feature heavily in this show. Foley-Scott was completely convincing in her portrayal of a manic depressive. Her pleads to be hurt were difficult to watch but impossible to look away from. Her character, known only as S, was desperate to feel anything, while inflicting nothing but pain on her partner. Despite her small stature, Foley-Scott offered a huge performance that was warmly received by the audience.

Ben Blow approached this play masterfully. His constant switching between the softly spoken, sensitive boyfriend and the angry, resentful, jilted lover was fascinating to watch. Blow owned the stage in both roles and that made for confident performance, even the most controversial scenes between the couple were grimly tenable.

The sensitive subject matter of sexual violence left the audience reeling; perhaps it really was too vivid and coarse. A less abrasive way to introduce the idea could have been to perform the scene in a black-out so only the voices could be heard. In all honesty, one scene was too graphic and uncomfortable to the point where it was unwatchable.

It would be wrong to say that this show was enjoyable – what with its dark content – but it certainly grips you. It was a shame that the audience were so few in number, but their appreciation for the performance was genuine and well-deserved.


nae bad_blue

Star (blue)Star (blue)Star (blue)

Reviewer: Amy King  (Seen 27 February)

Visit Discover 21 theatre here .


‘Sister Act’ (King’s: 18 – 21 February ’15)



Editorial Rating:  4 Stars: Nae Bad 

‘The Bohemians’, established in 1909, are one of Edinburgh’s major amateur musical companies.

Sister Act was one of the first DVDs I was ever given as a child. There was always a magic to the film that I adored and Whoopi Goldberg never failed to have me dancing and singing along with the other nuns. Cheri and Bill Steinkellner adapted the Whoopi Goldberg classic for stage; something I am so glad they did. Bohemians’ director Colin Cairncross took on the challenge, bringing to the stage a production full of vivacity and talent. For an amateur production, this show really did impress.

Ian Monteith-Mathie took on the role of Musical Director for this production and worked with Alan Menken’s music score to create a beautiful sound from the performers – the harmonies in the full cast numbers were incredible. His orchestra carried the cast through the show in funky rhythms and soulful melodies.

Niloo-Far Khan took a walk in Whoopi’s shiny heeled boots as Deloris Van Cartier and commanded stage with ease. Vocally, her performance was faultless and she gave great gusto to her character. Her on-stage rapport with Mother Superior – portrayed by Dorothy Johnstone – was as entertaining as it was electric. The pair shone in the spotlight as they battled to prove the other wrong before finally reconciling their differences. Johnstone carried a wisdom about her that was evident in both action and song and her protective instincts towards the nuns shone through. It was truly delightful to witness the transformation of the choir of nuns – the resulting musicality from the hard work of Deloris (and Monteith-Mathie) raised hairs on the neck. It was, for lack of a better word, divine.

Officer Eddie Souther lamented that he “Could Be That Guy” and if he was referring to a talented singer and a joy to watch on stage, then Gareth Brown certainly was “that guy”. His soft, awkward character was greatly set against the imposing Curtis Jackson. Padraig Hamrogue’s portrayal of Curtis was reminiscent of the black and white gangster movies – his menacing demeanour coupled with a bluesy bass range created an imposing mobster who demanded respect through fear. His three henchmen, Joey, TJ and Pablo juxtaposed his dark humour by lighting the stage with their comical desperation to please their boss. Thomas MacFarlane, Lewis McKenzie and Andrew Knox really threw themselves into their characters and greatly entertained the audience with their antics – their song, “Lady in the Long Black Dress”, was hysterical, offering the comic trio a real chance to hustle the limelight.

The show was bathed in colour. The costumes – a superb effort from Jean Wood and Liz Kenyon – were fantastic; Lighting Designer Jonnie Clough filled the stage with a complex programme of spotlights, colourwashes and dazzling effects. The set design from UK Productions Ltd, although perhaps too large and busy for the stage space, was certainly impressive in its detail. This production was full of glitz and glamour; even the nuns were able to lose the basic black habit for something a little (or a lot) more colourful. The cast raised their voices and they raised the roof. This was an uplifting performance and a fantastic show.

nae bad_blue

Star (blue)Star (blue)Star (blue)Star (blue)

Reviewer: Amy King  (Seen 18 February)

Visit ‘The Bohemians‘ here

Visit the  King’s Theatre archive.


‘The Vagina Monologues’ (Teviot: 11, 13 -14 February ’15)

v monologues

“No hiding.”

Editorial Rating: 4 Stars: Outstanding

Let’s talk about what it means to be a woman, and let’s be real about it.

That is the message of The Vagina Monologues from Edinburgh University’s Relief Theatre.

There was no hiding from the awkwardness of the topic. Director Rachel Bussom was not about to allow for the comfort of anonymity that an audience can revel in, cloaked in darkness and removed from the stage space. This theatre-in-the-round was intimate and uncomfortable and sobering. A lack of props kept this show from feeling like a staged event. Instead, it took on the live and shameless persona of an organic story-telling. The close proximity to the actors in a brightly lit room created a close connection; a sense of shared identity regardless of age or gender.

Sex is a common theme in theatre, but sexuality is more obscure. Obscurer still is female sexuality in all its forms. Not today. Today, women were talking, or in the case of Julia Carstairs they were shouting, about vaginas and everything that comes with them.

For instance: hair. Martha Myers’ exasperation and resignation shone through as she hit home about the societal pressures attached to expectations of body image  – something Julia Carstairs’ first monologue, “My Short Skirt”, energetically pulled apart.

The combined efforts of the narrators, Ella Rogers, Caitlin McLean and Maddie Haynes, along with Marina Johnson’s statistical ‘Factbook’, kept the show current and hard-hitting – an impressive task considering the original show premiered nineteen years ago and society’s views on women and womanhood have changed since then. That this strong production is dedicated to the transgender community is also properly noteworthy.

Carstairs’ second monologue, “Cunt”, was a valiant attempt to reclaim a word used solely now as a derogatory term. Her exploration of sound, language and pace was invigorating and allowed a positive humour to surround the controversial language. That humour was carried on by En Thompson who offered a passionate performance in honour of her “Angry Vagina”. Her bluntness and frustration was eye-opening and tore through long-accepted notions of what womanhood means and entails.

Her anger was shared and increased tenfold in a gut-wrenching performance by Kirstyn Petras who fiercely conveyed the utter devastation of the Bosnian women who had been interviewed by playwright Eve Ensler after being subjected to the horror of rape camps. Petras pulled no punches, emulating a loathing that raised hairs and drew tears – the pain so tangible and the truth unbearable.

Jezneen Belleza may have been talking about vaginas, but her performance certainly took a pair of brass ones. As “The Woman Who Loved Vaginas”, she discussed the life of a sex worker with an honesty and intensity that, despite some more uncomfortable moments, made it impossible not to watch, listen and laugh. She lightened the mood with comedic re-enactments and did so with a grace that kept the story from becoming farcical. Instead, her frank analysis reached deep into the beauty and magic of female sexuality.

Both Isobel Dew and Siân Davies tackled sexuality and body image in a kinder manner – managing to capture the incredible feeling of self-discovery, and the subsequent elation, in a beautiful way. Sophie Harris, too, carried an air of hope in her phoenix-like rising from such a dark place to a position of acceptance and learning. Meanwhile, Ruth Brown’s impressive embodiment of generations gone by in her recollection of “The Flood” brought an endearing humour as well as a sense of pity and despair to the play. For Danielle Farrow it is the sheer beauty of womanhood and nature that matters as she recounted being present for the birth of her granddaughter. Her testimony was infectious and heart-warming.

Leaving the venue, I felt elated and empowered. This  is an inspiring production that entertains, empathises and educates. Bussom, assistant director Mary McGuire and sole male of the team – producer Jacob Close – bring together a group of really talented women who do themselves, and all women, justice.



Reviewer: Amy King  (Seen 11 February)

Go to Relief Theatre at EUSA here

Visit the Potterrow & Teviot  archive.


‘The Real Inspector Hound’ (Bedlam: 28-29 January ’15)

Real Inspector Hound

“…utterly absurd and completely entertaining”

Editorial Rating: 3 Stars: Nae Bad

A buzz of excitement rippled through the café during the wait for the doors to open. Inside the auditorium the audience is greeted with the strains of period music and a spotlight trained on a man in an armchair with a notebook to hand, who would later be introduced to us as Moon, played by Ben Horner.

As can be expected of any of Tom Stoppard’s work, The Read Inspector Hound is a wordy script with many a tricky speech to deliver, which at times proved a challenge  – but not one the actors were defeated by – and a journey for its audience that can be difficult to follow. Director Cameron Scott was brave to tackle this play but his addition of updated jokes including Real McCoys – the crisps – and a myriad of highly comical moments from his cast proved that he was more than capable of handling such a project.

This murder mystery play-within-a-play delved with ease into the absurdity of the human condition and the blurring of lines between what is real and what we desire to be real , drawing the audience in and gripping them from the very beginning with the fast pace and rapidly building hysteria.

The production team’s terrific set design included patio doors, a very large Persian rug and two tables, one holding the drinks, the other waiting for the drinkers. The elevated pair of armchairs, occupied by Moon and his most respectable reviewing counterpart Birdboot, brought to life by Finlay MacAfee, worked well to maintain the separation of reality and imagination – at first.

As a duo, MacAfee and Horner were most convincing; Moon’s nervous disposition and Birdboot’s self-righteous air coloured the play throughout and their back-and-forth monologues were highly entertaining.

Leyla Doany gave a great performance – her busybody Mrs Drudge’s facial expressions, dusty white hair and reactions to the goings on around her kept the stage alive with comic ridicule.

The suave Simon Gascoyne – a smooth delivery from Leopold Glover – and his scorned lovers had the audience in hysterics; both Lady Cynthia Muldoon and Felicity Cunningham proved they could hold their own against the stud. Liss Hansen and Heather Daniel’s respective characters certainly appeared to take some satisfaction in the slaps they delivered so soundly.

Capturing madness and mayhem in his enigmatic performance, Joseph Macaulay’s manic portrayal of Inspector Hound was impressive in its crazed delivery. The long-winded speeches and wrongful assumptions were delivered with a high energy and conviction of character. His deer-stalker, binoculars and wellington boots were comic props used to their fullest potential, much like their owner.

To add to the further absurdity, the casting of Megan Burt as Albert, who was masquerading as the crippled brother Magnus, brought comic timing and a most-amusing manoeuvring of Magnus’s wheelchair. Her adorned beard was a favourite in the costume department. The big reveal at the close of the play – that Albert is also the real ………….. – stays true to the whodunit nature of this bizarre adventure.

A special mention must also be given to Liam Rees who arguably had the most difficult part to play of all – the corpse. How he was able to lie still and play dead surrounded by the onslaught of commotion, without so much as a twitch and a chuckle, is beyond me.

Technically, this production was slick. Jack Simpson’s work on lighting and sound effects did enhance the action with the constant ringing of the telephone (with the cut cable!) and dramatic spotlights at every opportune moment.

As the story unravelled and reviewers Moon and Birdboot are sucked into the madness of the play, the action and pace built and built to a dizzying climax, ending in death and further confusion. Stoppard always keeps you guessing.

The production team – Cameron Scott, producer Tabitha James, stage manager Jonathan Barnett and tech manager Jack Simpson, evidently put a lot of energy into creating this show and their hard work most certainly paid off. All in all, as a reviewer reviewing a play of reviewers reviewing a play, I must admit this show was utterly absurd and completely entertaining.

nae bad_blue

Star (blue)Star (blue)Star (blue)

Reviewer: Amy King  (Seen 28 January)

Visit the Bedlam archive.


‘The BFG’ (Royal Lyceum Theatre: 28 November ’14 – 3 January ’15)

Photo: Tommy Ga-Ken Wan

Photo: Tommy Ga-Ken Wan

“This is where dreams is beginning…”

Editorial Rating: 4 Stars: Outstanding

This is the Lyceum’s Christmassy adaptation of Roald Dahl’s ginormous classic. Its message is of humility and caution, all intertwined, and it’s very enjoyable. I loved Dahl’s children stories and still do. It was therefore a delight to hear David Wood’s success in retaining the whimsical language for this play within a play and to see director Andrew Panton realise it all on stage.

What better to represent the many rooms of childhood imaginings than a doll’s house? That’s designer Becky Minto’s large doll’s house across the breadth of the Lyceum’s stage and there’s a 00-Super gauge train track going around it, just as would be expected of any child’s play room. However, arguably the most enchanting aspect of the set is the BFG’s cave and specifically the hanging shelves that are lowered into view, adorned with jars of multi-coloured dreams. Simple but so effective. And there are the bright and innovative costumes to match. In and out of onesies, dresses and tops; on and off with hats and shoes; all changed at a quick pace – a pace wholly in keeping with the never-ending imaginations of children. One of the most impressive costumes in the wardrobe is the Queen’s – a majestic Claire Knight – whose wellie boots are topped with fur and whose royal emblem is emblazoned on a red gilet.

An integral part of this production is its combination of live music and pre-recorded sound effects. The cast’s rounded musical performances only serve to further enchant a spell-bound audience. The hard work of Claire McKenzie – musical director and composer– is evident in polished but yet playful performances. Her marriage of jaunty Scottish rhythms, fiddles and drums with children’s nursery rhymes and kazoos is expertly balanced.


Any decent toy box has its puppets and they are brought out to play big time in this production. The medium provides much comic input as well as creating numerous characters in the hands of a small cast. The puppetry is an original and attractive feature and gives literal form to the make-believe on stage. Robyn Milne’s infectious giggle and expressive performance brings the Sophie doll vibrantly to life whilst Lewis Howden’s mysterious and magnificent BFG is not so much scaled down – except for those ears! – as uplifted. Clumsy on his feet and tripping over his gobblefunk speech this BFG warms the hearts of the audience.
Children and adults alike respond happily to the energy and enjoyment of the performances and repeated ‘whizzpopping’ had the children – and many adults – giggling with glee. This is, after all, a treasured story that seems to have lived a lot longer than its thirty-two years might suggest. There is wonderful fancy evoked here, escapism and delightful nostalgia.

“Human beans is not thinking giants exist.” Well, after this great big and magic production this human bean thinks otherwise.



Reviewer: Amy King (Seen 3 December)

Visit ‘BFG’ at the Lyceum here

Visit our Assembly Roxy Bedlam Church Hill Theatre Festival Theatre King’s Theatre Other Pleasance, Potterrow & Teviot Summerhall The Lyceum The Stand Traverse archive.