The Mousetrap is having its first ever national tour to celebrate its diamond anniversary. That’s almost as old as me and it’s creaking just as much. It may be old tosh but it is very enjoyable old tosh, so if you haven’t seen it already then there’s no excuse. Michael Gove would approve as the writer was British so it must be better than that dreadful foreign stuff by Arthur Miller, Aristophanes, etc.
Someone asked me if this was a tribute act. It most certainly is not: it is an intelligent, well written, well acted, one man show about the life and career of Eric Morecambe. Bob Golding deservedly earned an Olivier for this clever insight into the life and career of Eric Morecambe. I was working as a volunteer usher and the show’s producer noticed that I looked rather like Eric, so he asked me backstage to meet him and took a photo of us together. I may look a bit more like Eric Morecambe than he does but I could never capture the man so perfectly on stage. There are plenty of laughs but that is not all this show is about. There are plenty of moments of pathos and simple humanity, adding up to a brilliant portrayal of one of Britain’s greatest comedians, sympathetically portrayed by Bob Golding. You don’t need to look like Eric Morecambe, or Ernie Wise, to appreciate this. It’s on tour and I’d recommend you to catch it if you can.
This is a tremendously ambitious production by this small touring company of young dancers. Sometimes I felt they might be pushing a bit too hard, particularly in the darker aspects of the story, leaving some of the younger members of the audience who didn’t know the story a bit restless. However, there is much that is glorious, particularly the terrific dancing to folk melodies in the opening part and the courtly dancing near the end. The dancer in the role of the mermaid was excellent and I wish I could credit her but unfortunately they were not selling programmes on Sunday at my local theatre, the Beck in Hayes and her mermaid make up was so good that I can’t work out who she was from the pictures on their website. If it comes near you then please make sure that you see it and, if you are taking young children, do make sure they know the story before they go.
If you’ve heard the radio show, you’ll know that Mark travels around the country, does a little local research then tells jokes and chats about the area with local people. If you haven’t, then that probably sounds a lot less entertaining than the reality. What makes it work is that Mark is clearly, genuinely fascinated with the various localities of Britain. He’s also a very likeable, old-fashioned Socialist and can be very funny. I saw his show in Hayes which is a somewhat amorphous, anonymous area and, like most of the audience, I came from nearby rather than Hayes itself. Luckily, of the 150 minutes he was on stage, he spent less than 30 actually talking about Hayes itself and most of the rest talking about more interesting places he’s visited. Lots of chuckles and a few louder laughs: well worth checking if he’s near you. A look at his website will give you a better flavour of his humour and let you know where he’s visiting next.
Last night was apparently the UK premiere of this musical, although according to What’s on Stage it first appeared on Broadway as Here’s Love in 1963. It showed that it was the first night of the tour, starting 30 minutes late with technical hitches throughout. I am sure they’ll be sorted before it reaches the larger theatres later in the tour. Despite the setbacks, the cast and and danced with skill and enthusiasm. The audience was restless after the long wait and the editing down from the original left it a bit stop-start so it never really got the atmosphere going properly. That said, it’s good to see a nice, old-fashioned musical that made me smile and brought a tear to the eye in all the right places.
Tonight was the first full performance of this new ballet which will be touring for the rest of the year. There were some slight glitches with, for example, the backdrops but I am sure these will be ironed out very soon. The ballet itself is great fun, with some terrifically energetic dancing in the first act, good humour from the dwarves and a marvellously sumptuous final act with some excellent dancing. I would certainly recommend it, particularly as a first ballet for a young child. Sorry it’s a hurried review – it’s late and I’m out tomorrow.
My one slight criticism is that each half starts with a traditional overture with curtains drawn. This is great with a live orchestra but with pre-recorded music there is nothing but a red curtain to watch. It would be better to provide some visual interest such as the tableaux which are common now with the larger ballet companies. Do take a look at their Facebook page to see some great pictures.
This is why I love theatre. There was nothing great about the performance but Stephen Beckett is very good as the central character and the plot is skilfully crafted with twists and turns. This is the sort of thing I used to watch at my local rep. In those days, a company of actors would take on a number of plays in a season and perform them at this level. They often featured creaking plots and creaking scenery but they engrossed me in a way that cinema can rarely achieve. Do catch it if it comes near you for a simple, enjoyable night out.
It might appear very brave of Christopher Moore, Ballet Theatre UK’s director, to take on the Royal Ballet in choreographing Lewis Carroll’s story, but the two productions could hardly be more different. The Royal Ballet are superb as one would expect but this is is a far more intimate and friendly production: I have never known so many young children be so quiet, enthralled from start to finish. The furthest seat in the Beck Theatre is closer to the stage than any in the ROH amphitheatre and it was only at the end that I realised that there were just 12 dancers in the company: they all work so hard and dance so many roles.
Apart from the central role of Alice (sorry I don’t have the name of the dancer), my favourite was the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. Unlike other productions which might feature the Mad Hatter, the March Hare or the Dormouse, the highlight of this was the dancing table itself, showing just how original this production is. Now touring, this is a terrific introduction to ballet for young children and very enjoyable for old folks like me too!
Ballet Theatre UK is a fairly new company of young dancers with big ambitions who have created and choreographed this ballet themselves – it’s pretty good too (better than most of these small touring companies).
The pre-recorded music is mainly orchestrated versions of traditional carols with appropriate classics (e.g. Dance Macabre for Marley’s ghost). It’s touring, so please see it when it comes near you (see http://www.ballettheatreuk.com/ for details). I saw it at the Beck Theatre, Hayes last Saturday.