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Wednesday, 31 July 2019

Preview: Three Shorts at Newcastle Alphabetti


Three writers. Three directors. Three short plays.


Three Shorts
Newcastle Alphabetti Theatre
Tuesday 3rd – Saturday 7th September 2019

Alphabetti Theatre opens its Autumn season with the premiere of Three Shorts, a triple bill of short plays by writers Elijah Young, Sam Neale and Allison Davies, presented as part of the Just Write artist development scheme. Directed by Karen Traynor, Natasha Haws and Stan Hodgson, these selected scripts have journeyed from rough drafts to fully-formed pieces, and are now brought to life.

NASA Lie The Earth is Flat No Curve
By Elijah Young
Directed by Karen Traynor
Performed by Paula Penman & Eleanor Chaganis
"How would you not want to know? That's just being ignorant."
"No offence Amy but if anyone is going to expose government secrets I don't think it's going to be you. Maybe you should sort your own shit out first."
It’s 5am and Sharon and Amy are waiting outside work for a cab home. Sharon hasn’t worked at the club for long, and this chat over some Pom Bears is the first meaningful conversation the pair have had.

Familiar
By Sam Neale
Directed by Natasha Haws
Performed by Christina Berriman Dawson & Brian Lonsdale


"Years I'd been free of you. Full, actual years.
And now I'm right back, wallowing around in the pain of it...
And do you know what? It's comforting, familiar."
Can we ever be truly free from someone who is a part of us?
This piece explores power and the boundaries of romantic relationships. Contains themes that may be upsetting to some.

Object Permanence
By Allison Davies
Directed by Stan Hodgson
Performed by Kylie Ann Ford & Rob Kirtley


"They say you can be anything you want. On the telly, an' that. Just believe, work hard.
And if you fancy being a zero hours wage slave then they're absolutely right. Otherwise, bollocks."
Tez is one of life's 'invisibles', struggling to balance a low-paid job that she doesn't care about with everything else she has on her plate, including her Dad. And then the questions begin.

Creatives:
Directors: Natasha Haws, Stan Hodgson, Karen Traynor
Dramaturg: Ben Dickenson
Producer: Esther Fearn
Stage Manager: Chloe Ribbens
Designer: Rosie Bristow
Sound Design: Thomas Tyler

Content warning: please note that these plays handle sensitive and challenging issues.

Tickets are currently on sale via the Alphabetti Theatre website: www.alphabettitheatre.co.uk/547-three-shorts

Preview: Live Theatre announces its new season


Live Theatre announces its new season
Joe Douglas, Artistic Director, Live Theatre introduces the season by saying: “Our new season is bursting with Live Theatre’s own productions, shows created through our comprehensive Artist Development programme and some of the finest new plays touring the UK. At Live Theatre we aim to entertain and give audiences a fresh take on the world around them, so come join us by the Quayside... Theatre is Live!" 


Sell out Live Theatre hit Clear White Light returns
Live Theatre’s sold-out hit show of 2018, Clear White Light, a gothic musical inspired by Alan Hull’s time working at St. Nick’s psychiatric hospital in Gosforth, returns by popular demand from Thursday 19 September - Saturday 12 October. Charlie Hardwick, Joe Caffrey, and many of the original cast reprise their roles performing some of Lindisfarne’s most popular hit songs, played live on stage by Ray Laidlaw and Billy Mitchell of the band. This hard-hitting play explores mental health and coincides with the 150th birthday of St. Nick’s Hospital in Gosforth, where the play is set.

Joe Douglas, Artistic Director
Two special events accompany Clear White Light this autumn. In the first of a series of Live Icons Talks, at 4pm on Sunday 22 September, actor Charlie Hardwick, lead in Clear White Light and former Emmerdale regular joins Live Theatre's Artistic Director, Joe Douglas for a conversation about her relationship with the theatre and some of her favourite roles.

Former Lindisfarne band members Ray Laidlaw and Billy Mitchell bring their show, The Lindisfarne Story which celebrates Tyneside's favourite group through anecdotes, rare video and unseen photographs, and of course many of their hits played live. The Lindisfarne Story is at 8pm on Sunday 29 September & Sunday 6 October, following the 4pm performances of Clear White Light.

Ask Me Anything back for a full show

Following its fantastic previews The Paper Birds and Live Theatre co-production Ask Me Anything returns to Live Theatre from Thursday 30 January - Saturday 8 February 2020 ahead its national tour. This immersive theatrical experience with live music, mischief and mayhem explores what different generations can teach each other. 

The Mark Thomas Project

Mark Thomas
Comedian, activist and one of the UK's most irreverent, satirical and popular performers, Mark Thomas, takes over Live Theatre for four days of workshops, talks, interventions and performances from Thursday 14 - Sunday 17 November as he becomes one of Live Theatre's new Associate Artists. Mark will present three shows, including A Lecture – Don’t Tell ‘Em It’s Theatre reflecting on his career, a new work in progress 50 Things About Us looking at national identity, and The Manifesto in which he creates a People’s Manifesto with the audience. He will also mark the first anniversary of the UN Special Rapporteur’s enquiry into poverty in the UK with Reading the Report, and hold a Public Conversation on Child Poverty.

Edinburgh Fringe Hit Shows
Direct from the Edinburgh Fringe, are a number of Edinburgh hit show shows hand selected to come to Live Theatre’s stage.
Based on Cora Bissett's teenage diaries, What Girls Are Made Of comes to Live Theatre from Wednesday 4 - Friday 6 September direct from its second Edinburgh Fringe run. The play charts the true story of her rollercoaster journey from 90s indie-kid hopeful to wised-up woman featuring a killer set list.
Having won awards at both the Edinburgh Fringe and Adelaide Fringe, powerful and uplifting play about triumph over adversity Build A Rocket comes to Live Theatre from Wednesday 2 - Saturday 5 October. Yasmin is a bright 16 year old from a small seaside town. In an instant, her world is turned upside down when she becomes pregnant. Can the thing that threatens to ruin her life actually be the thing that saves her?
Trojan Horse following the real-life stories of Muslim teachers and governors who were accused of plotting extremism in Birmingham schools, a local story that hit the national news, comes to Live Theatre from Tuesday 15 & Wednesday 16 October. Adapted from the testimonies of those at the heart of the UK Government’s inquiry, critically acclaimed theatre company LUNG (who brought The 56 to Live Theatre in 2016) investigate what really happened. Live Urdu translation is available on both performances. A discussion with Prof. John Holmwood, one of the expert witnesses in the Trojan Horse case, joined by a panel of experts, will take place after the show each night.

It's True, It's True, It's True, tells the story of how a woman took revenge through her art to become one of the most successful painters of her generations on Tuesday 22 & Wednesday 23 October.  Based on surviving transcripts, the play dramatises the 1612 trial of Agostino Tassi for the rape of baroque painter Artemesia Gentileschi and was a run-away success at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2018.

The Political History of Smack And Crack, an angry, funny love song to a lost generation, chronicling the fallout for communities crushed by the heroin epidemic at the height of Thatcherism comes to Live Theatre on Tuesday 11 & Wednesday 12 February 2020.

Have an Alternative Christmas at Live Theatre

Live Theatre has a two alternative Christmas shows, for ages 14 upwards this year. Bonnie & Fanny's Christmas Spectacular is night full to the brim with festive frolics from side-splitting sketch troupe, Your Aunt Fanny and glitter throwing drag trio, Bonnie and The Bonnettes from Thursday 12 - Saturday 14 December. 
Infamous cult comedy quiz show, Mixtape is back with a stocking load of new Christmas sketches and a mash up of Mixtape favourites from throughout the eras for four nights from Wednesday 18 - Saturday 21 December. Live Theatre has supported the artists involved in creating both shows through its artist development programme, and all-female comedy group Your Aunt Fanny started life at Live Youth Theatre.

Both shows will made great Christmas party night out. Live Theatre’s events team can arrange for pre-show drinks and a buffet, and interval refreshments in one of Live Theatre’s historic rooms, and tickets to see one of the Christmas shows, creating a unique festive night out for groups of friends or colleagues.

Other Visiting Theatre Shows
Terror From The Skies, on Friday 20 & Saturday 21 September is a new show, told through storytelling, about society, friendship and the things we hold dear about the places we live, and part of the Bridging The Gap bursary and regional tour.

Northumbria University MA Theatre & Performance Students present their Final Showcase on Friday 27 & Saturday 28 September, as part of the creative partnership between Live Theatre, and Northumbria University

Under Three Moons on Friday 25 & Saturday 26 October about friendship and growing up arrives, is a new play from Box Of Tricks, the same company that brought hit play Sparkplug to Live Theatre in the spring.

Following its preview in Elevator Festival 2018, Nuclear Future, returns on Friday 25 October to shine a light on how one person's actions can lead to catastrophe for the whole planet.

McGonagall's Chronicles, written and performed by Gary McNair and directed by Live Theatre Artistic Director Joe Douglas, on Wednesday 6 & Thursday 7 November honours the late great Dundonian Poet, Sir William Topaz with bad verse and terrible rhymes.

One Under by award winning writer, Winsome Pinnock on Tuesday 12 & Wednesday 13 November is an evocative play about the power of guilt and the quest for atonement, in a new version from acclaimed theatre company Graeae.

Returning to Live Theatre for one night only before starting its international tour is Gypsy Queen, the unconventional love story between two fighters on Wednesday 20 November. 
Festivals
Live Theatre’s festival of up and coming talent, Elevator Festival, returns from Wednesday 11 to Saturday 11 March 2020, showcasing some of the best new theatre.

Other Events
Live Theatre opens its doors, and behind the scenes on Sunday 22 September for Heritage Open Day Tours, which are free, but booking essential.

Author Ann Cleeves, creator of TV detective Vera is in discussion in Tea Talks, presented by NE14.TV on Saturday 7 December.

Live Theatre extends its popular Live Tales sessions to young people under 7s and their families in Live Tales Family Fables workshops on Sunday 27 October, Sunday 15 December & Sunday 16 February 2020 to encourage talent and creativity to develop and flourish at every level.

Open working space, Open Undercroft has been extended to be open every day when the theatre is open. Artists and freelancers are invited to use the historic space on the theatre’s ground floor, and a series of Open Undercroft Talks include with guests from the programme, and about creative opportunities at Live Theatre.

On The Web:
Website: www.live.org.uk
Twitter & Facebook: @LiveTheatre                
Instagram @LiveTheatreNewcastle

Tickets:
The new season of shows and events at Live Theatre are now on sale. For more information and tickets call Live Theatre’s Box Office on (0191) 232 1232 or see www.live.org.uk.

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

Preview: 55th Billingham International Folklore Festival of World Dance.


International dance festival is the pearl in Billingham’s cultural oyster

In just under three-week’s time Billingham will be the hotbed of international dance as the world descends on the Tees Valley town for one of the country’s longest running cultural dance festivals.

Between 10th and 18th August Billingham will be totally transformed whilst hosting the 55th Billingham International Folklore Festival of World Dance.   

 Brazil - Photo: Danielle Cutler
Billingham will open its arms and welcome a host of different countries, who will be showcasing for audiences an eclectic mix of traditional cultures, dances and costumes.

The countries bringing their treasure chest of customs to the region will include Brazil, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Georgia, Ireland, India, Slovakia, South Korea and the United Kingdom.

There will be an opening and closing ceremony, festival arena shows, an ice-skating spectacular, a special flash mob movement, a night of Indian food and dance, and a host of children’s workshops.

China - Photo: Danielle Cutler
The theme of this year’s Festival is ‘Follow Your Dreams’ with this in mind a large majority of the events are being inspired by one of the world’s leading figure skaters, John Curry OBE, whose work drew inspiration from a combination of ballet and modern dance techniques. He would’ve also been celebrating his seventieth birthday.

 Colombia
The ice-skating spectacular is entitled, The Creative Spirit of John Curry, and will star three of Europe’s hottest ice dancers Mark Hanretty, Vanessa Bauer and Nina Ulanova – all have appeared in the hit television show “Dancing on Ice” alongside Torvill & Dean.

The Billingham International Folklore Festival of World Dance is being supported by Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council and Arts Council England through its National Lottery Project grant. 

The festival programme has been devised by Artistic Director Olga Maloney and Balbir Singh of Balbir Singh Dance Company.

South Korea - Photo: Danielle Cutler
The Festival isn’t solely exclusive to the Town as it will be hosting special events in Stockton (ARC Stockton Arts Centre), Middlesbrough (Middlesbrough Town Hall Crypt) and in Darlington (town centre).

Here’s a taster of what traditional and contemporary dances will be wowing the audiences in August? (Visiting Group / Dance type)

Brazil:  Grupo Folclórico Aruanda / Samba               
China:  Shenzhen Arts and Culture Association / Traditional Chinese Classic Dance
Colombia:  Fundacion Danza Libre Bogota / Traditional Folklore (including Salsa Columbiana)
Costa Rica: Grupo Folklorico “Costa Rica” / Salsa & Swing Criollo

Georgia:  Ensemble Bagrati / Traditional military inspired dance
India / UK: Balbir Singh Dance Company / Indian Kathak
Ireland: Absolutely Legless Irish Dancers / Celtic traditional
Slovakia: Folk Ensemble Šarišan / Traditional & Contemporary
South Korea:  ULSAN High School of Arts / Traditional Fan and Farmers’ Dance

 Irish & Indian Dreams
Balbir Singh Dance Company and Absolutely Legless Irish Dancers
Olga Maloney, Artistic Director of Billingham International Folklore Festival of World Dance, said: “The atmosphere in Billingham promises to be magnificent.  The whole town will be transformed by live music, dance, colourful costumes and cultures from around the globe.  We have over 300 volunteers giving up their time to ensure everything runs smoothly.

“The festival has become part of Billingham’s fabric and people look forward to the celebrations year-on-year.  We are now marking fifty-five years of bringing this wonderful event into people’s lives from school children to grandparents and aspiring dancers to tourists visiting the region.  We really do entertain and educate everyone who experiences the occasion.  

“The festival is not only respected in England but within international circles Billingham is regarded as a front running destination for delivering world dance to new audiences.  The Creative Spirit of John Curry is a great example of how we are looking to bring dance influences from different areas to make new contemporary pieces, and to have some of the world’s top performers lined up to show off their talent is exciting beyond belief.  We are always proud of the festival’s achievements and never forget where our passion, ambition and dreams are rooted!”

Other festival highlights include ‘Scenes of Childhood’ [family concert], ‘Love and Spice’, ‘1001 Dreams’, ‘Irish & Indian Dreams’ and a flash mob movement inspired by Don Quixote the Olympic medal-winning routine by legendary figure skater John Curry. 

Also keeping a local North East connection Newcastle-based Eliot Smith Dance will feature heavily in the programme.

The Creative Spirit of John Curry will enjoy its world premiere performances at Billingham Forum Ice Arena on 16th and 17th August before heading over to Sheffield on 20th August to be staged at iceSheffield.

The festival kicks off on Saturday 10th August with the stunning opening ceremony, when the international dancers will march through Billingham town centre towards the Festival Arena – where people can sample a free taster of what audiences can expect during the festival.

Tickets:
For all festival ticket information including prices, times, locations, workshop details please visit www.billinghamfestival.co.uk  The website also contains a box office facility where people can book their festival tickets online. Alternatively, people can call the Festival office on (01642) 553 220.


Preview: Rocky Horror Show at Newcastle Theatre Royal

Blue’s Duncan James Is Ready To Do The Time Warp Again As The Rocky Horror Show Arrives Into Newcastle 


The Rocky Horror Show
Newcastle Theatre Royal
Monday 5 - Saturday 10 August 2019


One of the world’s favourite rock ‘n’ roll musicals – The Rocky Horror Show – is bringing fun and frivolity to Newcastle Theatre Royal next week with Strictly Come Dancing’s Joanne Clifton and Duncan James from pop phenomenon Blue starring in the much-loved and outrageous production.

Simon Button caught up with Duncan James ahead of his appearance in Newcastle to discuss all things Rocky Horror


What made you say yes to playing Frank-N-Furter in The Rocky Horror Show?
It’s been a dream role of mine for a long time. I heard they were doing The Rocky Horror Show and I think Frank-N-Furter is one of the best roles you can play in musical theatre. It’s such an iconic role and the show has such a loyal following. It’s such a wonderfully written show and I thought ‘Wouldn’t it be great to play Frank?’ I rang my agent and said ‘I hear they’re casting The Rocky Horror Show, can you get me an audition?’ He did and so I went in, did the audition and got a recall. When I went back I said to myself ‘I’m gonna get this’ and I did. I was really lucky because I fought off lots of competition from other well-known actors who were up for the part. I was like ‘No, no, no, this is my part!’ so when I got it I was really proud of myself.

What are most enjoying about playing Frank?
Everything! And of course he has one of the best entrances in musical theatre. The reaction you get from his opening number Sweet Transvestite is amazing because it’s such a great song and you come out in a cloak, then take the cloak off to reveal his really out-there outfit. It’s a great moment.

Can you relate to him in any way?
For me it’s more about having fun rather than relatability. The part of Frank-N-Furter is so twisted and so dark and that’s such fun to play. I mean, he’s essentially a psychopathic doctor who wants to create a man for his own pleasure and he’ll kill whoever gets in his way. Coming from Hollyoaks where I got to play a serial killer I thought it’d be great to then go and play Frank - to explore that dark, twisted mind again of someone who is living on the edge, someone who isn’t afraid to do what he has to do to get what he wants. That kind of character is really fun to play.

Presumably with this role you’re very comfortable in heels?
I am, yes, and I love getting dressed up every night, putting on the corset, the fishnets and heels. It’s such an empowering moment because when I walk out on that stage I feel huge compared to the other cast members. I feel like I’m towering above everybody and instantly I get that sense of command that Frank has. [Laughs] And of course I’m not shy so I love strutting round. I’m really embracing it. Also, I have a bit of a fascination with drag queens and drag artists. I’ve become a huge fan of RuPaul’s Drag Race. It’s like my number one guilty pleasure. I cannot miss an episode of any of RuPaul’s stuff.

Do you do much ad-libbing in response to the audience shout-outs?
There’s none of that from me. The only person who’s allowed to do that is The Narrator. They are the only ones who get to heckle back. I can do an eyebrow raise or a little smirk because, apart from The Narrator, Frank is the only one who’s allowed to acknowledge the audience.

What sort of shout-outs have you had so far?
There’s a lot of rude stuff and I get to do a scene in bed with Ben Adams from A1. So it’s two boyband members in a bed, which is quite funny and prompts quite a few amusing shout-outs.

Why do you think The Rocky Horror Show has endured?
I think it’s down to the genius of Richard O’Brien. He created The Rocky Horror Show back in the 70s when it was really taboo to talk about certain subjects and having a man dressed up as a transvestite was unheard of. It was like ‘What on earth is this Tim Curry guy doing?’ It was banned in some countries because they thought it was completely wrong and it had a tough start because a lot of people didn’t know how to take it. A lot of people found it in bad taste but that was a sign of the times, of course. As attitudes towards sexuality, sex and transgender issues have changed we’ve become a lot more open-minded and liberal, haven’t we? It’s fantastic that we now embrace shows like The Rocky Horror Show. It’s great that this show in particular has stood the test of time. It seems to be getting bigger and bigger, with more and more people getting dressed up to come see it as well as knowing the story and shout-outs. The show gains more and more fans every time it goes out on tour.

When it comes to musical theatre, what have been your favourite roles?
I’m really lucky that I’ve gotten to do so many great shows. I loved playing Billy Flynn in Chicago. That’s a great role and I was lucky enough to play him again in the West End revival last year. I got to work with Alexandra Burke, who I adore, and we had great chemistry together. I loved playing Tick in Priscilla because it’s one of the most incredible, most liberating roles. Me having a child and being a gay man, I really related to the character. And The Rocky Horror Show is really good fun. It’s one of those shows where you get on stage every night and just have a really good time. It doesn’t feel like having to go to work and the audiences love it. The music is great, Frank’s words are so delicious and the way the story is told is just brilliant. I’m living my best life right now.

Do you have any plans to work with Blue again?
Definitely. As long as people want to come see us there’ll always be Blue. We’re very lucky that we get to travel all over the world. We get to play sold-out arenas wherever we go and we get to have these amazing trips away. We were in Bahrain recently then we went to Singapore and Malaysia, which was wonderful - to be able to travel to these countries with my friends and get up on stage and sing songs that everybody knows.

When it comes to theatre, do you have any pre- or post-show rituals?
This show consumes quite a lot of preparation with the make-up, the wig and everything. I have my little routine of doing my make-up, getting the wig put on, getting into the costume and then I’m on stage. There’s not a lot of time to think or prepare. After a show I take it all off then spend up to an hour at the stage door signing stuff and having pictures with everybody. There are always so many people at the stage door, which is lovely and I always want to make sure to give time to everybody. By the time I get home after that it’s like 11.30pm and I’m knackered.

What’s the one thing you couldn’t be on tour without?
My pillow goes everywhere with me. I cannot sleep in a hotel room without it because I can’t stand those horrible synthetic pillows you usually get. I have a proper old-school, feathered, heavy pillow which goes with me everywhere.

You’re bringing the show to the Theatre Royal, Newcastle. Does it have any significance for you?
I’ve got loads of Geordie friends, through doing various reality TV shows, and I’ve spoken to my mates from Geordie Shore and they say they’ll all be coming along to see the show. I’m excited about that.

Photos: Richard Davenport

Tickets:

The Rocky Horror Show plays Newcastle Theatre Royal Monday 5 - Saturday 10 August 2019 with evening performances at 7.30pm (Mon – Thu) and 8.30pm (Fri & Sat) and matinees 5.30pm (Fri & Sat). Tickets from £19.00 can be purchased from the Theatre Royal Box Office on 08448 11 21 21 (Calls cost 7ppm plus your phone company’s access charge) or book online at www.theatreroyal.co.uk.

Monday, 29 July 2019

Preview: Ian Waite and Vincent Simone – Act Two at Newcastle Tyne Theatre


Strictly Come Dancing stars bring brand new show to Newcastle
Ian Waite and Vincent Simone – Act Two
Newcastle Tyne Theatre & Opera House
Tuesday 26th May 2020

Join Strictly Come Dancing stars Ian Waite and Vincent Simone as they bring their wonderful old-fashioned variety show with dance, comedy and song, to Tyne Theatre & Opera House on Tuesday 26th May 2020.

Ian Waite and Vincent Simone
‘Ian Waite and Vincent Simone – Act Two’ follows the roaring success of The Ballroom Boys’ 2019 show. The dancing duo’s 2019 show received numerous 5 star reviews and was called a “world class” (The News Letter) “hugely entertaining night out” (Crawley Observer) – making ‘Act Two’ a must see!

Ian and Vincent will be accompanied by their stunning dance partners and together will perform world class routines including the Viennese Waltz, the Foxtrot and the Rhumba. Vincent, as the master of Argentine Tango, will also deliver another incredible performance of this routine.

In addition to the amazing dance routines, audiences can also look forward to beautiful costumes, gorgeous lighting, and comedy from the hilarious pair. There will also be spectacular songs as the duo are joined by a world class singer.

VIP tickets are available for this special performance. As well as having the best seats in the house and a signed print, every VIP ticket holder will have the chance to meet Ian & Vincent for their chance to get an autograph and take a photo with the Strictly Come Dancing stars before the show. An unforgettable night for any ballroom dancing or Strictly fan.

Theatre Director Joanne Johnson said: "The last time we welcomed stars of Strictly Come Dancing to our stage was for Ian Waite and Natalie Lowe’s stunning ‘A Touch of Class’ show. It was hugely popular, and it’s a pleasure to welcome Ian Waite back, this time with the talented Vincent Simone, for what will no doubt be a memorable evening.”

Tickets are priced: £26.50 - £34.50. VIP tickets £60.50 (limited availability, includes best seats in the house, meeting Ian & Vincent for photo and autograph opportunities & a signed print)
Tickets available now from the theatre box office and online from Eventim UK: http://bit.ly/TYNEAct2 #Ad  


Saturday, 27 July 2019

REVIEW: Shrek the Musical at Newcastle Tyne Theatre

Astravaganza Entertainment present: 
Shrek the Musical
Newcastle Tyne Theatre & Opera House
Wednesday 24 - Saturday 27 July 2019 
I almost didn’t get to see this production, but I was really glad I managed to squeeze it into Saturday afternoon.  Having only seen the cartoon film, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  What I got was a superb afternoon of entertainment.

The lively and varied score by Jeanine Tesori, with the book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire, added an extra special element to the Shrek story.  This was beautifully played by an excellent orchestra, under the baton of the talented Mark Thompson as musical director.
The rest of the creative team, Liam Glendinning, Producer; Kathleen Knox, Choreographer and, of course Andrew Fearon, Director brought this lovely modern fairy tale to life brilliantly for a very appreciative audience.
As I was unfamiliar with the show I was pleasantly surprised to find myself smiling all the way through.

There was a large cast and there wasn’t a weak link anywhere, even down to the ‘weenies’ who danced their little hearts out.

An extremely talented principal line up performed with enthusiasm and energy. Markus Sayers-Franklin was an adorable Shrek, wringing every ounce of emotion from the role. Nathalie Baxter, as Princess Fiona gave us faultless vocals. Gareth Lilley had the audience rolling as he shuffled around the stage as Lord Farquaard and James Forster was an absolute tour de force as Donkey. If I didn’t know better, I’d think he had been lifted directly from the cartoon!
I did feel for the cast. They must have been cooking in their costumes, many of which were ‘fat suits’, on the hottest week of the year. 

The main principals were ably supported by many minor principal roles, so many that it is impossible to name all who are worthy of a mention. Suffice it to say the entire cast gave everything they had to their performances and should all be proud of what they achieved.
Choreography was well executed and enhanced the production, costumes, and wigs, were excellent, giving the show a very colourful look.  Makeup was masterful, the set worked extremely well, even the trees were choreographed, or so it seemed as they whizzed back and forth assisting with scene changes - very effective.  Atmospheric lighting from Paul Oliver and razor sharp sound from Jo Mellor completed the onstage elements of the production. Of course, the backstage crew must also take a bow as the production never faltered and that doesn’t happen without that unseen army of workers.
To bring a production of this standard to the stage is very much a team effort and I congratulate every single person involved. Apologies if I have missed anyone who should have been mentioned.

It is a much used cliché, when discussing amateur theatre productions, that it was of such a high standard that professionals couldn’t have done any better but, in this case, the cliché just happens to be true. Bravo Astravaganza!
Review by Val Shield
Photography: Signature Times Photography