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Youngsters take on new show for latest performance

Talented youngsters will be taking on a new show when Norfolk Youth Music Theatre stages its latest production.
Director Adrian ConnelI was recently tipped off about a show, The Battle of the Boat, that had just been written and was yet unpublished. It had some performances by the National YMT at the Rose Theatre in London to trial it.
He said: “After contacting Ethan Maltby, the composer, to discuss performing the show I realised we had both gone to the same school and Ethan grew up three miles from where I did. It also turned out that I had been his chaperone in Edinburgh in the 1980s when he was a 16-year-old percussionist in the National YMT playing for Whistle Down the Wind. I knew his mother and a trombonist who regularly plays for the Norfolk YMT had played for the Rose Theatre production of The Battle of Boat.”
(The cast includes Aylsham High student Eleanor Diss, from Briggate, Isobel Holroyd, from Aldborough, Megan Howlett, from North Walsham and Mabel White, Aylsham.)
The Battle of Boat is a courageous tale of a group of children trying to find their place in a world at war in 1916. Frustrated by their inability to join the soldiers in battle, the children decide to do whatever it takes to help in the war effort.
However, they soon have to tackle their own conflict in the form of a local gang of bullies who will stop at nothing to see every plan they form fail.
Adrian said: “It’s heartwarming, funny, emotional and exciting and a true celebration of the steadfast British spirit that shone through during WW1.”
The script uses the language and emotions that young children use, particularly from the wartime era. It’s deliberately simple and littered with the nonsense youngsters get up to. Despite its innocence the music is extremely difficult.
Maltby and co-writer Jenna Donnelly began their writing partnership in 2010 with a commissioned piece for the opening of the Kent Youth Games. They went on to write the percussion-musical DrumChasers in 2011, narrated by Stephen Fry.
The show will run November 1-4 at the Maddermarket Theatre, Norwich, 7.30pm nightly, with a 2.30pm matinee on the Saturday. Tickets are £12, concessions available.
Norfolk YMT is taking the show to the Edinburgh Fringe in 2018.

REVIEW: Dancing at Lughnasa, Maddermarket

Dancing at Lughnasa, a play by Brian Friel and performed by Norwich Players, had its opening night on Friday at the Maddermarket Theatre in Norwich.

The action takes place in Donegal, a remote corner of rural Eire, on a warm day in August 1936. It centres on the five Mundy sisters, the aunts and mother of seven-year-old Michael, in the house they all share near the small town of Ballybeg.

Life is very simple, the sisters live a hard but on the surface a satisfying life. The outside world is brought into their lives with a radio they nickname Marconi.

While Marconi’s battery lasts, the sisters enjoy music, dancing and the popular songs of the day. They are enthusiastic dancers and need little prompting to fling with joyous abandonment around the small kitchen. Then, two men come back into the quiet lives of the Mundy sisters – Father Jack, the priest who is their older brother and has been in Uganda for most of the lives of the sisters and, briefly, Gerry the father of Michael. Lughnasa is the name of the celebrations surrounding the bringing of the harvest home.

It has pagan roots mixed in with the rituals of the Catholic church, with which they conflict. The story of the action is strung together by the older Michael , Philip Rowe, who narrates from his memory of the time but as he also knows what the future held for all the characters its tinged with sadness and some regret. Altogether an unusual production which had us thinking about events long after the evening had ended. Well done Norwich Players a sensitive portrayal of an unusual drama.

Kevin and Sandra Stone

If you’re after a show that has everything, this is for you.

Norwich Theatre Royal hosts Willy Russell’s award-winning, long-running musical, Blood Brothers.

It follows the story of twin brothers, Eddie and Mickey, who were separated at birth during the 1960’s in Liverpool.

Their lives were at opposite ends of the spectrum, one being raised by a wealthy middle-class family ¬- and the other in a life of trouble and poverty. One of the brothers has an amazing life of luxury, while the other has very little to his name. Having grown up as friends but never known about each other, they find themselves realising the truth in a devastating twist of fate.

The cast remained the same throughout, playing the characters from 7 years old (or nearly 8 according to Mickey), right through to adulthood. Cleverly showing the vulnerability of being a carefree child, to the severity of having to deal with adult life.

Sean Jones (Mickey) and Mark Hutchinson (Eddie) played the roles of the boys, with all ages of the characters being executed in a realistic and moving way, showing a real contrast.

Lyn Paul played the twins mother, Mrs Johnstone, and had a real motherly presence throughout, not to mention her amazing vocal talents that suited this character perfectly.

Dean Chisnall narrated the show, with the most captivating vocals. Although he was subtle with his stage presence, he was always there to tell the story in a demanding way. A real star of the show for me.

The minimal set had everything it needed to set the scene and show contrast between the boy’s lives.

Blood Brothers was the first show I ever saw in London’s West End as a school girl and it has made a huge impact on me ever since, it gave me my love for musicals. Nearly 20 years later, I was hopeful that it would make as much of an impact on me now as it did back then, and it definitely didn’t disappoint. The story of nature vs nurture develops in a wonderful yet heart breaking way. It will strike a chord with anyone, no matter what age or background, there is something for everyone to take away from this story.

If you’re after a show that has everything, this is for you. From laugh out loud moments, to touching scenes with tear jerking devastation. There is no other show like this. Not one person still in their seat as it came to an end, and I’m sure not a dry eye in the house.

Blood Brothers will be running at Norwich Theatre Royal from now until 23 September.

Tickets available here http://bit.ly/2xdMGRr

Amie Croxton

Go behind scenes at the Auden, Holt, this weekend

The Auden Theatre at Gresham’s School in Holt is hosting an Invitation Day on Saturday, September 23, to give people a look behind the scenes.

Members of the public are invited to explore the venue and discover what goes on backstage, meet some of the theatre team and learn just what it takes to put on a great show. The event is free.

The team will be giving a guided tour of the theatre, including the dressing rooms which have played host to an array of local, national and international performers including Lesley Garrett, CBE and the late Sir John Hurt. There will also be complimentary refreshments.

The Auden Theatre hosts a diverse range of events and performances from rock concerts to pantomime and is open to the public all year round.  View the full programme at www.audentheatre.co.uk

The foyer will be open from 11am and theatre tours start at 11.30am and 2pm. Email wmetcalfe@greshams.com with a preferred tour time or telephone 01263 713444.

Fairy story gets a new twist in the park

Lost children, wicked witches and houses made of sweets will be in North Walsham Memorial Park in August.
Expect catchy songs, larger than life characters and a plot with a twist as New Stages will present a new adaptation of the classic fairy story Hansel and Gretel, written by show director Joseph Ballard.
Joseph said: “Hansel and Gretel is a great story and we’ve given it a bit of a twist to present some family theatre for free in the park.
“It’s great to be able to inspire the local area with live theatre through our regular classes and our performances in town and I hope the community will come and support us.”
Actors will be accompanied by members of North Norfolk Youth Theatre, who will play some of the children who have been captured by the greedy witch. Andrew Burrell, 12, and Megan Howlett, 17, who both live in North Walsham, will play the title characters.
North Walsham Town Council has also supported the project to bring free theatre alive in the summer holidays.
The show will take place on Wednesday, August 9, at 2pm and 6pm in the park. Audiences are advised to bring seating or blankets and a picnic – just don’t eat the children!
You can also see Hansel and Gretel at Worsted Festival on July 29 and 30 in the display ring.
New Stages are also presenting the North Norfolk Youth Theatre Summer School for 8-17 year olds on August 21-23 and 26 in North Walsham. Some places are still available and you can find more information on their website – www.new-stages.co.uk.
 

 

Sheringham theatre’s tribute to movie legend Sir John Hurt

The acting talent of the late legend Sir John Hurt is being celebrated on the community theatre screen which he launched.

Sir John officially opened the digital projection system at Sheringham Little Theatre four years ago.

The actor, who died aged 77 in January lived in North Norfolk and was a supporter of the venue’s film and stage drama work.

During a week starting on Friday (May 26) the theatre will show a short season of some of his best work including an early role in the Tudor classic A Man for All Seasons, and leads in the poignant Elephant Man and spy drama Scandal.

Theatre director Debbie Thompson said: “Sir John was a great supporter of our theatre, and we miss him very much, so we wanted to remember him through screening some of his best films at a place we know he was fond of.”

Sir John visited the venue regularly to chat to the actors appearing in the summer repertory drama season and during a launch event for the local-filmed movie In Love with Alma Cogan, in which he played a theatre manager.

He also played a “part” as the pre-recorded voice of the Magic Mirror in its Snow White pantomime in 2013.

Debbie added: “We are also hoping to display photographs of Sir John during his visits here – and would invite any members of the public who have memories or anecdotes involving Sir John to share them with us in a memory book we have in the foyer.”

Send any pictures or memories to: Sir John Hurt Memories, Sheringham Little Theatre, 2 Station Road, Sheringham, Norfolk, NR26 8RE or email debbie@sheringhamlittletheatre.com (The theatre cannot return original photographic prints, so please send copies – or scan and email them as 1 to 2MB jpegs).

Tickets for each film are £5 through the box office on 01263 822347, or visit www.sheringhamlittletheatre.com

Sir John Hurt showing old and new technology when he launched Sheringham Little Theatre’s new digital projection equipment in May 2013.
PICTURE: RICHARD BATSON

 

 

The perfect ‘Soul Sister’ act!

I can’t even begin to explain how full of soul, fun and talent this show is.

Directed and choreographed by Craig Revel Horwood, this show is based on the hit movie starring Whoopi Goldberg. Alexandra Burke who plays the iconic main character, Delores Van Cartier, had some big platform shoes to fill, and she did not disappoint.

The story follows a young aspiring singer in the late 60’s that saw her love interest murder someone and so had to go into hiding. She was placed into a convent to take cover as a nun. After joining the parish choir, she soon realised that her vocal talents were needed, desperately. And this was the most hilarious journey…

How the nuns managed to sing so badly, and so out of key on purpose is completely beyond me. It was just brilliant.

When you have the singing ability that the full cast have, I really respect how difficult it must have been to perform in such a way. The shining stars in these scenes were Sister Mary Patrick, played by Susannah Van Den Burg, and Sister Mary Robert played by Sarah Goggin.

There wasn’t a huge cast which made everything far more intimate and from start to finish the whole team just worked perfectly together. There was a real variation of characters that completely complemented each other.

Throughout the whole show, cast members on stage were seen playing the musical instruments. Not only were they singing and dancing, they were the orchestra too – it was something I’d never seen before but really brought home how talented these people are.

The male roles were so charismatic and spot on too – I particularly loved Eddie, played by Joe Vetch.
With amazing choreography there was non-stop energy from start to finish, even in the ‘slow motion’ scenes – keep your eye out for these, watching the male actors faces during these scenes really had me laughing.

Alexandra Burke has no bounds when it comes to being a soul sister – she has the look, the moves and my god does she have the voice, perfect casting for this role.

You could see that the whole cast had a blast during this performance as they all left the stage still singing and dancing, with big smiles on their faces – as were the audience during a well-deserved standing ovation.

I’ve seen many musicals but this one for me had it all; from tears of laughter to real goose bump moments from the exceptional vocals.

The show is on until Saturday May 6 and you can buy tickets here: http://bit.ly/2pAMMfu

-AMIE CROXTON

Alexandra Burke as Deloris Van Cartier in Sister Act

REVIEW: Running Wild is ‘a feast for eyes, ears and emotions’

The Children’s Touring Partnership took to the stage in Norwich last night with Running Wild, an adaption by Samuel Adamson of the Michael Morpurgo book of the same name.
This was a feast for the eyes, ears and emotions. Laughter, sadness and at times fear are felt through the scary rainforest adventure of of nine-year-old Lilly. The story has a serious message of both animal conservation and relationships and love, between humans and animals – elephant Oona, who is puppeteered by four people,  orangutans, a tiger, a crocodile and rainforest birds.
The audience is totally immersed into the sights and sounds of the Indonesian rainforest. The clever set design and lighting along with the sound effects add to the experience. The physical theatre skills of all the puppeteers was pure genius. You literally watch them breathe life into the puppets… they actually come to life before your eyes. I became so invested that I no longer saw the puppeteers.

The movements, motion and animal sounds are created by the cast and you just know that they must have spent hours watching and researching real animals in order to recreate and mimic.

A special mention must go to 12-year-old Annika Whiston, who played the lead role of Lilly and rarely left the stage. She portrayed the role beautifully and with great maturity. Every emotion and relationship she had I felt, bringing me to tears, more than once, much to my own daughter’s horror.

Morpurgo was inspired to write this modern-day Jungle Book by the real-life story of Amber Owen, who was on holiday in Phuket with her mother and stepfather in 2004, and enjoying an elephant ride on the beach when the Boxing Day tsunami hit.  The elephant ran inland and saved her life. When the author read of Amber’s story, he said it was “the one bit of hope amid the destruction”.

The production will be working during the tour to support the Born Free Foundation’s global elephant conservation projects.

There has been great take up by schools with a number of performances throughout the day times but it is most definitely not just for children.
There are still tickets available, if you have not seen it then I urge you to make the time. I promise you will not be disappointed. It will make you laugh and possible cry but most of all it will make you think.

A must-see piece of theatre.

 

Running Wild is on until April 29. Wed, Fri and Sat 7.30pm, Wed & Sat 2.30pm, Thur 11am. Tickets £7-£21.  BOX OFFICE 01603 630000.  www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk

 

KIM and RUBY CHAMBERS

 

 

 

 

 

Pictures: Dan Tsantilis