#Review of Anno Domino By Alan Ayckbourn – Observational Audio Play at its best – rated 5 stars @Ayckbourn @thesjt #Play #LockDownTheatre #AnnoDomino


Anno Domino

By Alan Ayckbourn
Rated: 5 stars *****
Available Now Until 25th June

After listening to Anno Domino, I decided I would write a review for it. Discover the cast, synposis and review, then at the bottom, the link where you too can listen in this fabulous play. There are also captioned productions available. The Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough, does ask that if you would like to donate, then feel free to. 

This is an online theatrical treat to behold, which is an online exclusive for The Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, intorduced by Paul Robinson, the Artistic Director Not only is the play written and directed by Alan Ayckbourn, but it is also starring him alongside his wife, actor Helen Stoney. They play 8 characters ranging from 18 to their mid 70s. It marks Alan’s return to professional acting 56 years after his first stage performance. Since then he has written and directed plays such as:

     Ten Times Table               Life of Riley                    Seasons Greetings
                              Bedroom Farce                   The Norman Conquests                                                             Birthdays Past, Birthdays Present
                                                     and many more              

This, however, is a momentous occasion as it is the first time Alan Ayckbourn has acted, written and directed in the same show.

Heather Stoney is known for shows such as:

Z Cars              Raw Meat         Masquerade and more…

Anno Domino         Anno Domino         Anno Domino


Play List of characters and cast

Alan Ayckbourn  plays Ben, Craig, Razz (Raymond) and Sam 
Heather Stoney plays Ella, Martha, Cinny and Milly
Stephen Joseph Theatre Production

Synopsis

Sam and Milly are gathering the family together for their 25th wedding anniversary dinner at their favourite local bistro.

They’ll be joined there by Sam’s parents, Ben and Ella; his sister, Martha, and her new partner, Craig, and Martha’s son Raz. Also present – and she’s definitely caught Raz’s eye – is trainee restaurant manager Cinny.

But Sam and Milly have some life-changing news to share.

As the family prepares for the big event, we catch a glimpse into each of their living rooms and lives. Every couple has their tough moments: Anno Domino asks what happens when the strongest of us falls apart. How do our actions ripple out and affect those we love?

Review

The dominos (people) that stood upright in the certainties of life start to wobble. It’s a great premise and name to show how people can start to fall and if you imagine the domino effect, how one domino affects the next and the next and so on, this is what this play shows very deftly, with people. There is humour, sadness and cause and effect spanning throughout the different generations. It’s a masterful and observational of human life.

The play starts with Sam and Milly’s silver wedding anniversary. The getting ready to go out is full of humour and what everyone can relate to, supposed lost handbags, the fussing around the teen son, Raymond who is too into his music. They have a big announcement to make to Sam’s family. The lead up to it is well executed and revelations come out. It is nuanced as conversations play out about what  couples do as life moves onwards to different life stages. It has everything that Alan Ayckbourn is a master at, when creating a play for the stage. This medium of online has not affected his writing, directing, acting at all. His wife Heather Stoney also plays her characters very well and the 2 have made this fabulous play come to life, and I should think, that’s no mean feat. The actors really do move seamlessly and convincingly between the age ranges and characters.

In the first act, listeners get to know the characters pretty well and the people the main characters know, with that sublime humour throughout.

Act 2 takes place in the garden, where plants and family bonding occurs.
There’s really interesting and sage advice to Raymond (Razz). It’s eloquent and also cleverly layers in a bit of background to characters.

Things get a bit heated over very strong, definite, but differing opinions are formed between some of the character.

In a twist, revelations about relationships come out and come to a head and bit by bit, the domino effect happens from a sole event.

In another twist, there is some heartwarming moments to be had in the play.

Link to the website –

Listen Here

 

Humble Boy By Charlotte Jones – outstanding, joyous, poignant and funny @OrangeTreeTheatre #Theatre #CharlotteJones #PaulMiller #Review #JohnathanBroadbent #BelindaLang #PaulBradley #SelinaCadell #RebekahHinds #ChristopherRavenscroft #SimonDaw

Humble Boy
By Charlotte Jones
Rated 5 stars *****

There is/was a podcast with Charlotte Jones about Humble Boy, shown at the Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond. Unfortunately there isn’t a filmed version of the play.
Humble Boy is just the most terrific play that I keep hoping to tour, but the director Paul Miller always seems to be busy, maybe one day as steps were being made in Edinburgh at one point after I asked if an Edinburgh theatre may get it. It’s a long story… so onto the play that I think is just so wonderful and that thought has never left nor has it changed.

Nominated for 7 Off West End Awards
Best Female Performance Belinda Lang – 2 Point 4 Children, Duet For One and more…
Best Male Performance Jonathan Broadbent
Best Supporting Female Selina Cadell – Doc Martin
Best Supporting Male Paul Bradley – Holby City
Best Set Design Simon Daw
Best Director Paul Miller
Best Production

My husband is dead and my only son, who has grown fat and strange, has just run away from his own Father’s funeral. I’ll be fine. Fine. At least those bastard bees are gone.

Felix Humble is drawn back to his family home after the death of his father, a biology teacher and amateur beekeeper. There in the garden he finds his waspish mother Flora, her downtrodden friend Mercy and suspiciously ever-present local businessman George Pye, whose daughter Rosie was once involved with Felix. A luncheon is arranged…

Felix is an astrophysicist who discovers that solving the riddle of his emotional life is considerably more challenging than the quest for a unified string theory.

Paul Miller directs Paul Bradley, Jonathan Broadbent, Selina Cadell, Rebekah Hinds, Belinda Lang and Christopher Ravenscroft.

Humble Boy headshots.jpg

 

Review

Humble Boy is just so much fun, poignant, emotional, clever with a 5 star cast. This is a play that I saw pre-blog and now, as The Orange Tree Theatre have been highlighting it, it seems wonderfully right to write about it and really just to say how brilliant it is.
It is poignant and the wit of the characters is just perfect. Belinda Lang was just as brilliant as I knew she would be. I had seen her on stage before in Duet for One and was so taken by her acting, so I knew a trip to London to see this, whilst visiting a friend, was going to be worth it. We were so lucky to have front row seats. For those who don’t know; The Orange Tree Theatre is off the WestEnd in Richmond, London. It is a small round theatre. The stage is on the level of the front row (we actually had to walk on the neatly cobbled stones that created a path, that was part of the set to get to our seats) and the seats do practically go almost all the way round the circular stage. The price was incredibly good being off the West End, so sitting on the front row, as brave as it was of us, as an actor once said, was a “real treat”.

The set was amazing, it was all set within a garden and some, if not all the plants were actually real, we were super impressed. The play starts with humour and some rather fun dancing with Paul Bradley’s character and Belinda Lang’s character, who is waspish and both are full of life.

Felix, played by Jonathan Broadbent, ensures, that you feel sympathy with his character. Felix is a largely unsuccessful guy in his 30s, and a university lecturer and has a passion for Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and Quantum Physics. His father, was a biologist with a passion for bees. A beehive that was accidentally destroyed by Flora, a vain woman who has just had a nose-job (played by Belinda Lang). She is “Queen Bee” in the community and her son is somewhat of a disappointment to her. I know, it doesn’t on paper sound like it would be amusing, but with quick quips and the acting make it so.

All the characters meet for a picnic lunch and suspicious goings on occur with the foodand more dramatic, yet shocking humourous and more poignant scenes play out, courteous of Selina Cadell’s character – Mercy as she serves up her husband’s ashes within her gazpacho after being in a bit of a tizzy and well, you can imagine how much more so when it is realised what’s been done!

Christopher Ravenscroft played the gardener well, with an air of mysteriousness about him.

The play is emotional and poignant and yet full of humour about life, death and bees.

Every single cast member were strong and absolutely wonderful and exceeded all expectations in their parts and all those nominations were well-deserved.

My 5 stars are not swayed by anything, including that I was incredibly lucky to have met the cast, a moment I will always treasure, as I do with any actors I have ever been lucky to have met. It really is, on merit, from the writer to the cast, to the production team etc, an excellent play and definitely up there in my top 5 plays that I’ve ever seen. If theatres ever re-open and this tours on a proper UK tour, especially with the same principle cast, it would be amazing to see again.

The Sound of Music @OfficialALW #TheShowMustGoOn #YouTube #OnlineEvent #VirtualTheatre #Review #Musicals #TheSoundOfMusic

The Sound of Music
By Andrew Lloyd Webber and Rodgers and Hammerstein
Rated: 4 stars ****
Available on You Tube Now
until later on Sunday

The Sound of Music

“Raindrops on roses” certainly goes with the weather today. Perhaps battered roses where I am with the ferocity of of the wind and rain. It’s a good day for staying indoors and watching a bit of online theatre instead of to “Climb Every Mountain”, that can wait until things are safe again to protect each other and ourselves and the NHS. So, hopefully everyone is well and able to keep dry and can enjoy that aforementioned song and many others.

It is as the film is, jolly and upbeat, but with the dark undertones of war brewing and the Nazis wanting to occupy Austria. The film still rules, but the stage version has pretty good performances too and when you know all the songs like Doh-Re-Mi to learn your scales and the fun I am Sixteen Going on Seventeen and the emotional Eidelweiss, they’ll be sure to cheer up the day, at least for a little while and see if you too can enjoy some “Favourite Things”. On that note I’ll bid you “So long, Farewell” for now until a book review on Sunday about a book that everyone is finding hard to put down, it is that good.

For now you can find The Sound of Music on You Tube on The Show Must Go On channel. It is available from now until some time on Sunday.

By Jeeves by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Alan Aykbourn @OfficialALW @Ayckbourn #ByJeeves #JeevesWooster #PGWodehouse #Musical #Farce #VirtualTheatre #Theatre #Stage

By Jeeves
By Andrew Lloyd Webber
And Alan Ayckbourn

Rated: ****

I just love theatre and I’ve wanted to see By Jeeves for a long time now, based around the characters of the famous P.G Wodehouse books – Jeeves and Wooster. This is a Musical/Play and it is jolly entertaining. The music was composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber and directed by Alan Aykbourn, both who are masters at their craft. Andrew LLoyd Webber with his music and Alan Ayckbourn with his plays/farces.
The cast includes Martin Jarvis and all the cast play their parts splendidly well. You can buy it on DVD, listen to the soundtrack and see small previews on You Tube. It’s worth a watch. Below you will see the synopsis and review.

By Jeeves cover

Synopsis

At a benefit gala to raise money for a new church steeple, Bertram “Bertie” Wooster is preparing to take the stage. The banjo-playing star is thrown for a loop when he finds his banjo has been stolen! Bertie’s faithful manservant, Jeeves, suggests Bertie tell the story of his adventure to Tot leigh Towers to entertain the impatient audience. Bertie recounts to the audience how he became embroiled in the romances of several dim-witted members of the privileged class. With mistaken identities, romantic entanglement, and the adventures of the upper class, By Jeeves is the quintessential British musical farce.

Review

I just had to write about this play because it simply won’t leave me alone. I have had the song “Half a Moment” stuck in my head for a couple of days now. Anymore and I’ll have to play it on Spotify or play it on my keyboard, since I have the music for it. It is actually a really good song though, as are all the songs in this musical.

This musical, perhaps because it also has Alan Ayckbourn, who is a playwright and an incredibly skilled one at that, is partly play and partly musical. The two mediums meet together and actually rather well. It makes this unique in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s body of work to date as it isn’t song after song to convey the story. It is the spoken word with some background music and songs within it, which together, masterfully tell the story which is based on the books of Jeeves and Wooster by PG Wodehouse. It is very funny, and I do hope one day it will be revived and do a proper UK tour. It’s a play within a play (if you’ve been following my blog recently, you’ll see there’s perhaps a bit of a trend in that here. It does seem to work very well). I feel it would do well to be on tour, when the virus is over and all is safe (it will be one day), as we have The Play That Goes Wrong, which has now got quite a body of work that is incredibly successful and By Jeeves, which came long before that team, is a bit like that, but with all the Jeeves and Wooster humour within it.

There’s fun with props in a clever way and songs that are memorable – more than just Half A Moment. There are clever lines and musically, notes brilliantly forged together, as you would expect. It is all in all feel-good and entertaining as there’s mistaken identities and romance all on a fun adventure that is also done so well with parts addressed directly to the audience. It’s a farce that is done well, so I have absolutely no idea why on earth it should have been a flop when it opened in London, except slightly over long, but not by much. Perhaps it should have toured and could have been more of a success that way with different audiences, or perhaps it was to do with timing, who knows, but what I do know, is it is jolly good and quite simply spiffing.

I watched this online. There are tracks on Spotify and some previews around on YouTube. Do watch out for Cats on You Tube via The Show Must Go On. It is free, but you can donate money to the actors’ fund if you so wish as they are all totally out of paid work at the moment. This is a kind thing Andrew Lloyd Webber is doing to help us stay at home or to stay alert, depending on which part of the country you are in and to help actors too.

I thank Andrew Lloyd Webber and the cast and production team for putting this on and for introducing new people, like myself who had never seen it before and always wanted to, to have that opportunity to watch it and for keeping little snippets of it around. It is also available to buy on DVD.

Andrew Lloyd Webber is working on a new musical – Cinderella and is busy writing the orchestrations of it, as well and his team doing a marvellous job entertaining us all and keeping us all informed on Twitter – @OfficialALW is where he and his team can be found.

 

Love Never Dies by Andrew Lloyd Webber @OfficialALW #BenElton #LoveNeverDies #AndrewLLoydWebber #FrederickForsyth #GlennSlater #Theatre #Review #VirtualTheatre #Musicals #Books

Love Never Dies
By Andrew Lloyd Webber
Rated 5 stars *****

Love Never Dies

Today I present a review of the sensational follow up to Phantom of the Opera – Love Never Dies by Andrew Lloyd Webber. This was a virtual event. Like most musicals, there was also a book produced too. This is however primarily a theatre review, but would give you an idea too as music, lyrics and the written words in a book collide for both art forms.

Composer – Andrew Lloyd Webber

Lyrics – Glenn Slater

Book written by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Ben Elton and Frederick Forsyth.

Synopsis

The year is 1907. It is 10 years after his disappearance from the Paris Opera House and the Phantom has escaped to a new life in New York where he lives amongst the screaming joy rides and freak-shows of Coney Island. In this new electrically-charged world, he has finally found a place for his music to soar. All that is missing is his love – Christine Daaé.

Christine is struggling in an ailing marriage to Raoul. She accepts an invitation to travel to New York and perform at a renowned opera house. In a final bid to win back her love, the Phantom lures Christine, her husband, and their young son Gustave from Manhattan; to the glittering and glorious world of Coney Island, not knowing what is in store for them…

Review

A couple of weeks ago I watched Love Never Dies by Andrew Lloyd Webber on You Tube. It is the sequel of Phantom of the Opera and is every bit as stunning and attention grabbing as The Phantom of the Opera. It got some bad press, but certainly would not from me. It is set on Coney Island. For those who do not know – Coney Island is near New York and was a place that gained a reputation for fun fairs, circuses, and freak shows. Today, this doesn’t really exist quite in that form, but there does seem to be a fun fair and eateries.

The Phantom has moved from Paris to Coney Island and seems to be controlling it with all its glitz and mystique, but still has an obsession with Christine. The singing is beautiful, the music and lyrics works so well for the story that is being told. There are bits of music and song reminiscent of the times in the opera house in Paris in the first musical about the phantom, but there are plenty of terrific original songs to whet your appetite and really get into as well. The musical is full of life when showing the circus. The set is always sumptuous and at times has an element of fun to it, although always dark. The atmosphere that is created fits every mood and absolutely fits with the storytelling.

There’s shocks and surprises and some almost edge of your seat scenes. This is a musical that swept me away with it and grabbed me and took me into every dark corner, every bit of romance and every bit of emotion. If this is ever on stage, when things return to normal (which they will someday), it would be absolutely be quite the spectacle to see.

I was slow off the mark writing about this. Other life things took over, so it is not available on YouTube anymore, but there are previews and it is available on DVD. So, not all is lost. That is the positive, that you can indeed still watch this spectacular musical.

Andrew Lloyd Webber, every Friday for 48 hours has got creative and kind and is putting on You Tube many of his musicals and concerts under The Show Must Goes On. Pay or do not pay into the actors’ fund, that is up to you. It looks like Cats is the next musical to be streamed.

Review of the Outstanding – The Habit of Art By Alan Bennett #AlanBennett #TheHabitofArt @OriginalTheatre #MatthewKelly #DavidYelland #Theatre #VirtualTheatre #VirtualEvent #Review

The Habit of Art
By Alan Bennett
Rated: 5 Stars *****
Available now online

The Habit of Art Poster.jpg

I have been watching some online theatre because I’ve been missing theatre performances and stage doors. The Habit of Art by Alan Bennett is one of the terrific plays I have seen being streamed and you can too.This production marks the first ever revival of the play and I am so pleased it has been revived. On the poster it says “La
It is with great thanks to Alan Bennett for giving permission to stream his play that should have been touring and to The Original Theatre Company and cast and all those behind the scenes for also allowing this to happen. I only hope that one day theatres will re-open and that proceedings will be normal someday in the not too distant future and touring will re-commence.
I have a link after my short review.

The Playwright and Cast


Alan Bennett      Matthew Kelly    David Yelland
Alan Bennett                Matthew Kelly                       David Yelland

Playwright – Alan Bennett is one our greatest and most celebrated playwrights, with a cavalcade of stage and screen blockbusters including The History Boys, The Lady in the Van, The Madness of King George and Talking Heads. He is applauded as a genius for his sharp character observations and treasured for the way he beautifully balances wit, wistfulness and compassion.
Director – Philip Franks

Matthew Kelly – Olivier Award Winning (Of Mice and MenToast and Pride and Prejudice)
David Yelland (Chariots of Fire and The Crown)
Veronica Roberts (Tenko, Peak Practice)
Robert Mountford (Anita and Me)
John Wark (Dead Sheep)
Jessica Dennis (Henry Vand The Tempest, Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre)
Benjamin Chandler (Passing From The Third Floor Back).

Synopsis

In The Habit of Art, Bennett gives us a play about a meeting between the poet WH Auden and the composer Benjamin Britten.

Exploring friendship, rivalry and heartache this multi layered masterpiece examines the joy, pain and emotional cost of creativity.

Review

Wow!!! Alan Bennett is a clever, genius playwright as lots of people will know. This play is absolutely brilliant. It is actually incredibly funny and poignant, even more so than what I first thought it would be. It is also thought-provoking at times as it explores life. I was going to see this in Edinburgh, but it got cancelled as lockdown occurred. I thank The Original Theatre Company for putting it online.

Matthew Kelly gives an outstanding performance in what is a play within a play as does David Yelland as WH Auden and Benjamin Britten as they portray the relationships between them and their lives. This is however also a play within a play, as I’ve said and so, this is where it also gets very funny because this is what they’re trying to do, is rehearse to get the play about these 2 men to its showtime stage. So, there’s the trying to get the lines just so and the little squabbles about things and the silent relenting to directions and the trying to get points across. So, it’s as much about the relationships between the cast and behind the scenes people as it is the actual poet and musician they are trying to portray. It all sounds more high brow than it actually is.

The emotion, the relationships of different kinds, the pain and the rivalries are captured tremendously in every word, in every nuance in the tones of voices. There’s the real sense of WH Auden and Benjamin Britten still wanting to produce great works like in their real heydays and the need to work together. I’ll leave it to viewers to watch to see if they manage to collaborate or not. 

There’s also the emotion and sometimes the frustrations of backstage people too as they try to get things just so for the actors and direct and so and so forth. Some of this is really poignant too, as well has having some humour, as you get a glimpse into that part of life.

 The actual play and the rehearsal go seamlessly together because the timings and the writing is also so outstanding. I will say that what you absolutely have to remember is to forget present day sensibilities, WH Auden and Benjamin Britten lived in very different times. I honestly cannot praise this play enough. I had a fabulous time watching it and I am sure many others will too. I hope one day it will be able to tour up to Scotland again. 

Just below is the link that will direct you to the page of the play itself. This is a paid performance whereby you pay whatever you can. Actors, backstage and front of house are all out of work just now and I must say this play is definitely worth paying some money for the privilege to watch it. It really doesn’t have to break the bank. You will get more directions online as to how to watch.

You can also watch The Croft too, all under that one payment. It comes directly afterwards. I will review this too. At the time of writing this review, I am yet to see it. I must say that it does sound very good too and very different in contrast to The Habit of Art.

Click Here For The Play

The Habit of Art Poster