Archive | November 2019

Rich Pickings on One Under @ Leeds Playhouse

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Photo: Patrick Baldwin

One Under is a play about suicide, where a person jumps under a train and this action is called a jumper. The opening of the play is set in Brixton train station where the set is simplistic and therefore able to absorb the props to give a different feel each time there was a scene change. The train station is a theme and connection that runs throughout the play and like life, everyone is just passing through.

The play opens with Cyrus (Stanley J. Brown) and Nella (Stenagh Govan) having a conversation about jumpers. There are two stories that run parallel to each other. One story is present day and the other is the story of Sonny’s past (played by Reece Pantry). This device is used for the audience to get to know Sonny and therefore there is more impact on an individual life lost yet still being symbolic of all jumpers.

Sonny throws himself in front of Cyrus’ train and Cyrus believes he is Sonny’s father, which is disputed in the end by Nella having photographs of Sonny’s real father. Cyrus’s character is driven to find the reason why Sonny killed himself and he is trying to go through everything at Nella’s home in order.

We are constantly informed Sonny is being chased by gangsters and is also connected with the Home Office. When he seduces Christine (Clare-Louise English), he reveals a large amount of money on his person which seems to suggest something is going on. However, mental illness would put Sonny as a paranoid schizophrenic and his suicide, a part of that illness.

Zoe (Evlyne Oyedokun), thought Sonny was ill and having an episode when he jumped. She is fed up with Cyrus trying to dig for information and is exasperated with him in the end saying,

‘It’s over Cyrus.’

Zoe says to Nella,

‘I’ve tried to make you happy’ and questions Cyrus’s friendship with her mother as she is always so miserable when she is with him.

The most poignant part is Sonny’s last words,

‘I’m waiting for a train.’

The piece was well acted, if not a little slow in places. Over all, the acting is believable and the story is interesting.

Reviewed by guest writer Jane Austwick at Leeds Playhouse, now touring see Graeae website.

Rich Pickings on Mamma Mia!

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Although this is a jukebox musical none of the songs are shoehorned into the narrative and Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus’ Abba classic compositions are absolutely superb. There is a contrast between some of the songs’ naivete and others with a wealth of emotional experience on display.

Emma Mullen as bride-to-be Sophie Sheridan is simply lovely and totally endearing. But there is a snag to her wedding plans when she finds an old diary from her mother (Sharon Sexton who excels as Donna). It indicates that her father could be one of three men – namely Harry, Bill and Sam (Daniel Crowder, Jamie Kenna and Rob Fowler). So without telling her mother she invites all three to the Greek island where she and her mother live to get to the bottom of this mystery from the past.

Mark Thompson’s design is camp and proud of it with those shiny silk bell-bottoms that spangle brightly as the cast belt out some of the best pop songs of all time. And the show simply wouldn’t work without Anthony Van Laast’s lively and inventive choreography.

No spoilers here but the wedding doesn’t exactly go to plan although I can report a happy ending which received a well-deserved ten-minute standing ovation. Back in the day I was quite snobbish about reviewing musicals, usually sending one of the interns to see the shows. However, Blood Brothers changed my mind and since then I can’t get enough. And quite right so when they can be such fun but still have emotional depth. In Mamma Mia! this is mainly the cross-generational factor which gets one thinking about the nature of love and family. A tour de force of a production with wit, style, passion and power. And my sister Sal gave it a five star rating too!

Reviewed by Rich Jevons on 31st October 2019 at Alhambra Theatre, Bradford where it runs until 23rd November 2019.