Stunning one-man show heads to the Fringe

Gosh! : The Bill Murray

gosh! follows the story of twenty-something Joe Hayward (Loyd) as he leaves his job in insurance and tries to make it in the comedy world. What follows is a series of sketches detailing the trials and tribulations Joe goes through as he struggles to put together his one-man show.

Highlights include a surreal audition in which he has to act like a lonely, sad tangerine; a one night stand with a mop who has a penchant for Matilda; and awkward conversations with his Mum’s new boyfriend Tin (yes, Tin) who more than anything wants to make a joke about a lady with a foot for a nose.

Faced with the challenging task of bringing multiple characters to life, Kit Loyd (co-writer and performer) delivers an impressive performance of which he should be immensely proud. His characterisation is consistent throughout, giving each character a convincing personality even though several of them only appear in voiceovers offstage. The physical control Loyd exerts over his body is also something to be lauded – it has been some time since I saw someone contort their face and figure to such good effect. 

Hamish Clayton (co-writer and director) also deserves much credit. The blocking was well thought-out, changes in the lighting were used sparingly but effectively, and each song choice felt deliberate and made sense for the scene in question. Probably the most impressive aspect of Clayton’s directing was in the show’s pacing. High-octane, physically exhausting scenes were interspersed with more low-key, emotional moments that always seemed to arrive at just the right time, leaving the audience feeling like they were riding at the crest of the gosh!’s wave rather than being swept away underneath it. 

As we emerged from the theatre, awestruck and merry, my prevailing thought was that gosh! is just the kind of show that would do excellently at the Fringe festival. It is a dizzying, adrenaline-fuelled triumph, and I will absolutely be returning to see it when I visit Edinburgh in August. 

Sam Rietbergen

Details: gosh! Runs 4-28 Aug, 20:50, Just The Tonic at The Mash House – Just The Bottle Room


Mountains on the stage

The Climbers: Theatre by the Lake

The world premiere production The Climbers is coming to Keswick’s Theatre by the Lake this summer (17 June to 16 July) – a celebration of all things ‘climbing and mountains’ with a spotlight on the biggest of them all, Everest (Chomolungma in Tibetan). 
Alongside the production, Theatre by the Lake is bringing the great outdoors into the theatre with a range of events and immersive experiences, so audiences and visitors can truly step inside the world of the show. These include a photography exhibition by renowned local photographer Stuart Holmes with photos from his time on Everest, an audio installation called ‘What is your Everest?’ in which people share the biggest challenge or fear they want to conquer, and two very special events.
On July 2, TBTL will welcome Rebecca Stephens MBE for a pre-show discussion about her summiting of Everest, and there will a post show discussion on July 8 with Carmen Nasr, writer of the show and Dr Jonathan Westway.
Rebecca Stephens was the first woman from Great Britain to summit Everest in 1993. She then went on to become the first British woman to scale the Seven Summits. Rebecca said: “Ed Hillary once said that no-one would be interested in Everest again, once it was climbed. How wrong he was! I’m thrilled to be coming to the beautiful Lakes to see this intriguing Everest drama played out on stage.”  
Rebecca’s talk will be chaired by Matt Le Voi of Lakeland Mountain Guides. Matt, also a passionate mountaineer, lives locally in Cumbria and runs both a local guiding business and an international one, LMG Treks and Expeditions, that takes people to Everest Base Camp.
Rebecca’s talk will be from 5-6pm on Saturday 2 July. Tickets to this event are free to The Climbers ticket holders, subject to availability, but must be booked in advance. To book for the Rebecca Stephens event, on it’s own, tickets are £10.

Well, don’t we all?

Split Infinitive: I Heart Michael Ball

It’s the 10th bi-annual meeting of the Michael Ball Appreciation Society and Alex, their founder, has a special surprise to mark the occasion.

Alex has been obsessed with Michael Ball since he was a young boy, when he first heard The Very Best of Michael Ball in his brother’s car. Just as the conductor directs his musicians, Alex orchestrates a fiendish plan to finally meet the blue-eyed boy from Bromsgrove.

I Heart Michael Ball, written by Alexander Millington, is a one-hour one-man show exploring themes of grief and obsession through audience interaction.

I Heart Michael Ball is supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.

Split Infinitive is a Lincolnshire-based theatre company comprising Helen and Alexander Millington, and dedicated to creating original; pieces of performance. Their aim is to explore the connection between performer and spectator, and the relationships we create throughout our lives.

And the ultimate accolade? “Everyone needs to see Alex Millington in I Heart Michael Ball!” (Michael Ball)

Dates & Ticket Details

17th May 19:00 & 18th May 14:00 and 19:00 – £10

The Lantern @ ACT as part of the Brighton Fringe Festival

30th -31st July 12:30 – £10/£8

The Quarry Theatre as part of the Bedford Fringe Festival

5th, 6th & 7th August 17:30 and 6th August 13:30 – £10

The Etcetera as part of the Camden Fringe Festival

All Girl Band

For one night only at the Phoenix Arts Club, All Girl Band takes to the stage for an evening celebrating femme fatales, divas, and gals just being pals, through musical theatre hits of the last 50 years.

It’s a joyous and sometimes riotous event to celebrate summer and all that’s fun, flirty and fabulous.

The show is presented by Catapult Theatre London, an emerging company aiming to provide a fresh twist on theatre by engaging with imaginative artists. Their previous work, Proud 2 Be Here and The Kids Are Alright, were well-attended and enthusiastically received.

Says Director Carys Wynn: “Catapult is a company run by five fierce women – so what better way to celebrate this than by showcasing the talents of some of our female company members? Our industry is tough, especially with so many talented women competing with each other for so few roles, so we wanted to perform together to uplift each other, rather than tear each other down.

“That’s my kind of feminism, anyway! All Girl Band is a celebration of that, and it really is about having as much fun as possible in perfect harmony.”

Phoenix Arts Club, June 13, 7.30pm. Tickets and details:

Motherhood, and an ode to gin

Mothers Ruin: The Park Theatre

HOW do you bring the complex relationship of motherhood to light hearted life in cabaret?

One woman definitively answered this in her new one woman show last Friday and Saturday nights at the Park Theatre, London. Jenni Winter has a sparkling stage presence that’s leveraged by her talent at improvisation on piano and her vocal range.

This new play promised music and laughter – and delivered – with audience participation gently enforced. We filled the ‘bucket of blame’ with glee and sang along to the catchy chorus of ’Mother’s Ruin’ – an ode to gin.

And yet Winter brought through poignant themes of love, the challenges of motherhood in the modern age and loss alluding to her own childhood and experience of motherhood. Is everything ‘Mum’s Fault’?

The eponymous bucket held grievances about mums written down by audience members and aired in an improvised response (in impressive timing) by Winter on keyboard.

There were deeper lines drawn from history – why do we hear speculative tales of the bad motherhood of a murderer like Jack the Ripper, but no such critique of the father? And why are the mothers of our heroes – not celebrated: who was Florence Nightingale’s mum, anyone?

Winter drew on these examples to seek to explain the pressures on mums in times past to present. Two sprightly back-to-back numbers with a sharp edge interrogated Supermum status: “The mums who have it all,” followed by “Katy at number eighty” – was she really the perfect empowered mother or had ‘having it all’ been too heavy a price to pay?

A frank look at the rise in alcohol intake on mums through lockdowns culminated in the show’s theme tune ‘Mothers Ruin’ (full audience participation ensured this ear worm persisted in audience’s head for days). The segue toward childhood reminiscence was subtle, but by ‘Time to go to bed,’ a notable key change in emotion had occurred, and in the last sweet number, ‘Keep Smiling,’ there were few dry eyes left in the house. We look forward to the wider tour of Mother’s Ruin

Rebecca Robinson

Never too young to visit a theatre

Theatre by the Lake, Keswick

Theatre by the Lake has a brilliant programme lined up for children and their families to enjoy during the school holidays.

It’s Hot, It’s Not by Reckless Sleepers is a brilliant 45-minute non-verbal show packed with fun, silliness and giant beach balls. It’s aimed at children age 2+ who love splashing around in puddles and running around in the sunshine.

Ever found yourself being asked the big tricky questions by your little one? Things like: Why is it that sometimes I’m hot but you’re cold? Why are there puddles and sometimes not? How can it be sunny and rainy all at once and also not at all? And if it’s summer here, why is it winter there? Then bring them along to this bright and bouncy show that explores the weather in all its forms and delights in discovering the world anew.

If you’ve got older children, then there’s something wonderful on offer for them during the holidays at the Keswick theatre too, with Fettle & Fable Theatre Company’s fast-paced, uplifting Inkonjane, The Lightning Bird, for children age 6+. It’s a beautiful tale that’ll take you from Keswick to South Africa and back again, told through puppetry, music and song.

Jenna awakes one day to find the swallow that usually nests outside her bedroom window has disappeared, so she decides to find out where her little friend has got to. This takes her on a incredible adventure, following the swallow’s migration through grasslands, mountains, cities, rainforests, rivers, seas and even as far as the moon.

Inkonjane was made in collaboration with South African artists including renowned musician Eugene Skeef and featuring the voice of Zanele Ndlovu as Nolwazi. Money from the production helps to support the ongoing work and development of the Novulakuvaliwe Library based in the Eastern Cape of South Africa.

For Box Office and ticketing 

017687 74411

Forgiveness on the stage

Aphiemi, Golden Goose Theatre, Kennington

The Greek ἀφίημι  (a-phee-mi ) meansto set free, to send away, to let go. Here in Vicki Berwick’s re-imagining of Aeschylus’ The Libation Bearer, set in Northern Ireland, Oliver arrives at his family home, twenty years since he was last there.

He finds the home unchanged, and his younger sister Lainy now caring for their elderly mother. Bad memories of their childhood come flooding back and Oliver asks for his sister’s help in bringing some peace to their lives, but for this he will need the ultimate forgiveness from his sister.

Berwick says: I wanted to write a play about forgiveness and turned to the plays of the ancient Greeks for inspiration. I really love seeing the modern day through the framework of these ancient stories, and how often, what can seem over the top in these worlds, is only as bad as the news in modern day headlines. ”

Opening at the Golden Goose, Kennington, on May 24, this Pathway Theatre production is directed by David Frias-Robles, and will be performed by Simon Grujich, Kelly Long and Claire Lacey.

Pathway Theatre is the creative team behind the acclaimed Scratch That Itch new writing nights at the Vaults, Waterloo. David Frias-Robles is co-founder of Myriad Entertainment alongside Simon Evans, writer/director of STAGED for BBC, Netflix and Hulu.

It runs from May 24 to May 28, and is recommended for over-15s. Tickets and details:

Charlie Chaplin stars again

An unusual staging at Manchester’s great Home venue will see a performance by Manchester Camerata playing live to the screening of Charlie Chaplin’s famous silent movie, The Kid.

The Kid © Roy Export S.A.S

Widely considered one of the greatest films of the silent era, The Kid is a 1921 silent comedy-drama film written, produced, directed, and starring Charlie Chaplin. The opening title “A comedy with a smile–and perhaps a tear”, sums up its perfect blend of laughs and pathos.

The story begins as a young mother abandons her new-born baby with nothing but a note in his basket. The Tramp (played by Chaplin) inadvertently finds the child and takes him under his wing. The Tramp and the Kid, partners in crime (literally!), develop an irreplaceable bond. Five years pass and the Kid’s mother reappears on the scene, putting the pair’s relationship in jeopardy.

A 16-piece Manchester Camerata orchestra brings to life this all-time classic with an emotive musical score written by Chaplin himself.

Theatre Magazine said at the time (1921): “Chaplin’s new picture, The Kid, certainly outdoes in humor and the special brand of Chaplin pathos anything this popular film star has yet produced. There are almost as many tears as laughs in the new First National release–which proves the contention that Chaplin as almost as good a tragedian as he is a comedian. The Kid may be counted as a screen masterpiece.”

Home, First St, Manchester. Thurs June 16

Details and booking:

A staple of American theatre arrives in London

Eleemosynary – meaning charitable or the giving of alms – is a staple of American theatre but this is its first venture across the pond – but hopefully not the last.

Moving backwards and forwards over about 30 years, this short three hander follows the relationship between Dorothea, a self-declared eccentric; her repressed and complicated daughter Artie, and Artie’s daughter Echo, a child prodigy who controls her chaotic life by becoming a Spelling Bee champion.

Photo: Lidia Crisafulli

The performances from the three actors are exquisite, a true ensemble working beautifully as a unit yet managing to also stand out individually. Georgia Dixon as Echo, the child prodigy, manages to do that very difficult thing of making us totally believe in her as a child – even at one point a three-month-old baby; she has an innocence and simplicity that is incredibly endearing.

Kathryn Crosby as Artie gives a stunning performance of great depth, subtlety and truth, her face a constant picture of grief, confusion and anger at the antics of her mother Dorothea. A special mention must be made of Jennifer Wiltsie as Dorothea, a monster of a mother who is the gentlest of grandmothers – the wonderful duality of the character is perfectly pitched by Ms Wiltsie, who moves us to laughter and dismay in equal measure and at the flick of a switch can go from loveable eccentric to terrifying gorgon. It is truly a pièce de rèsistance.

The whole piece will make you laugh and think. The direction by Charlie Barker brings the ensemble together wonderfully and I’m so pleased that she and Persever Productions have bought this piece to the UK. Long may it continue to be performed.

The UK premiere of this delightfully witty and moving piece run at Waterloo East Theatre till May 22.

Louise Belvedere

The musical of a feminist fight-back

KAOS: 9 to 5

When 9 to 5 came to the Broadway stage in 2009, it was already a work of social history. The film version dated from almost 30 years earlier, so here’s a musical that really is an anachronism.

And a strange choice for today in many ways. Even though it’s about the triumph of female solidarity over a bullying, misogynistic, sexist creep of a boss, it’s telling that “back then” the “girls” (ouch) were driven to consider the most extreme of retaliations (including death by poisoning!). The law wasn’t on their side, and “Me, too” was something you said if ice creams were being offered around.

But the world WAS like this. And it was a world without social media, without the internet, without even electronic typewriters, so there would have been many in the Keswick audience with no idea what was meant by carbon paper, or Maxwell House coffee.

So it took some talent to literally take us back in time, and the KAOS cast have that in bucketloads. Here, directed by Peter McQueen, with Colin Brind as MD (and technical co-ordinator Chris Briggs) and the enthusiastic choreography of Jenni Hutchinson, this determined team brought every ounce of sparkle to the award-winning Dolly Parton classic. And if not all of them managed to perfect an American accent, there was forgiveness a-plenty among the appreciative crowd.

At the heart of the feminist fightback are the three feisty office girls. Violet, played by Colette Gaizely, is the single parent with a teenage son and constantly-thwarted dreams of being promoted and advancing her professional status. Doralee (Amy Hall) is the luscious and unwitting Barbie-doll character, happily married but unable to prove her worth as anything other than a glamorous decoration (though very capable of putting down the most extreme advances of her lecherous boss). And then there’s the new girl in the office, Judy (Jenni Hutchinson) freed (though she doesn’t realise it) from an overpowering husband, constantly apologetic, but learning to find her confidence through female solidarity and friendship.

They are a brilliant trio, with wonderful voices and perfect on-stage chemistry, real stars among an excellent cast.

Stealing the show on the male front is James Manning, playing the odious “bullying, misogynistic, sexist creep of a boss” Franklin Hart with almost worrying verisimilitude. Such characters DID exist, still do exist, wrapped up in their own self importance and unable to see how the world is laughing at them.

For that is Manning’s forte here, putting in a comedic performance of excellent timing, switching from bombast to pathos (especially when being tied up, literally, by his staff.)

The cast is a smaller one than KAOS normally use, because of restrictions still in place when they began rehearsals. Similarly, to reduce the numbers of people in and around the stage area, the live orchestra was located remotely in the Studio Theatre, connected by live audio and visual feeds.

Plays at Theatre by the Lake until Sunday May 8.