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Rich Pickings on The Lion King


Photo courtesy of Disney

Jon Favreau’s masterful direction keeps up a breathtaking pace with magnificent use of CGI to both develop the photorealistic characters and the superbly visual African backdrops. It is, of course, a real tearjerker, especially at King Mufasa’s untimely death and his son Simba’s desolate exile. But there are some real feel-good moments too, such as Simba’s warthog and meerkat buddies who have him eating bugs and loving it too.

The soundtrack is also particularly notable, with the original’s score given a new life to great effect. And although we all know and love the narrative the twists and turns of the re-make are constantly surprising. The attention to detail is simply immaculate allowing you to view each part of the vast 70mm IMAX 3D projection to find some lovely carefully crafted touches.

One word of warning though, despote being a real visual feast for all the family, the very little ones may find this too much of a demand for their attention. But otherwise this endearing and charming piece of cinematic excellence is engrossing for young and old. There are also some seriously scary moments with Scar and his mob of hyenas a stark contrast to the cute Simba, both young and old.

The use of 3D gives the show a real impact with fantastic realism and many startling moments that make you really feel the movement of the camera and its character subjects. By the end you really feel you have been a rites-of-passage journey that is both cathartic and immensely enjoyable. Disney do it again in their current trend to remake their animated back catalogue into live action classics.

Reviewed by Rich Jevons at National Science & Media Museum, Bradford. Click here for current listings.

DeNada Dance Theatre: TORO – Beauty and the Bull

toro pic

TORO is subtitled DeNada Theatre’s Beauty and the Bull and gives a sideways nod to the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale. It is inhabited by a girl, a bull, two brothers, two men, dragimals (animals in drag), a lipsyncher croon and four matadors. The first act is set in a prostitute’s parlour, somewhere in colonised South America. The Girl (Emma Walker) is sprawled out on the stage prior to the action and is then subject to violent abuse which she almost seems to acept.
But such submission is a long way from Carlos Pons Guerra’s intentions; rather the show focuses on the misuse of male power and the discrimination faced by the LGBT community. The movement is very violent throughout with menacing stances and threatening thrusts. The costumes frequently are taken from vogue and drag culture as well as the more traditional matador outfits.
The soundtrack plays a big part in emphasising the crafty choreography and sets the Hispanis scene perfectly. Barnaby Booths lighting uses frequent chiariscuro and in the second act the crimson red curtain adds to the seedy tone one may find in vogue or circus. Despite the violence there are also sensitive and sensual moments even if there is always a frightening atmosphere too.
O think TORO succeeds in its aim to combat homophobia and xenophobia as well as providing an intense and absorbing ensemble performance with Emma Walker standing out for what is almost an endurance test over the two acts. Disturbing but illuminating also.
Review by Rich Jevons at Stanley & Audrey Burton Theatre, Leeds on 14th April 2018. See for info on this and their forthcoming show Mariposa.

St Peter’s Singers: Bach’s Mass in B Minor


As I sat in my small flat on Good Friday I was at a bit of a loss as to what to do with myself when I wondered if Leeds Minster had any events. I was thrilled to find that St Peter’s Songers of Leeds were performing Bach’s Mass in B Minor. St Peter’s Singers are most definitely a jewel in the crown of Leeds’ cultural scene and conductor Simon Lindley truly a man of God.
With the National Festival Orchestra at the height of their powers and soloists Claire Stafford, Lucy Appleyard, Claire White-McKay, David Brown and Quentin Brown giving outstanding performances this was a performance par excellence.
The Mass in B minor (BWV 232) by Johann Sebastian Bach is a musical setting of the complete Ordinary of the Latin Mass. The work was one of Bach’s last compositions, not completed until 1749, the year before his death. Much of the Mass gave new form to vocal music that Bach had composed throughout his career, dating back (in the case of the “Crucifixus”) to 1714, but extensively revised. To complete the work, in the late 1740s Bach composed new sections of the Credo such as “Et incarnatus est”.
Simon Lindley’s incisive programme notes give the audience a good back ground to the piece and having the Latin translated keeps the piece accessible and absolutely profound. This is music that reaches heights of religious ecstasy and the Sanctus in particularly captures this bountiful beauty perfectly.
See for upcoming dates by this highly talented group.

Still Alice @ West Yorkshire Playhouse


Still Alice is based on the debut novel by Lisa Genova published originally in 2007 and subsequently a best-seller for Simon & Schuster. It then went on to become adapted for the big screen in 2014 starring Julianne Moore who received an Oscar in the role of Alice. The current adaptation for West Yorkshire Playhouse is by Christine Mary Dunford as part of Every Third Minute Festival of theatre, dementia and hope.
Director David Grindley focuses on a family in crisis coping with Alice’s early-onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Alice is a 50-year-old professer of linguistics at Harvard University with a succesful academic career throne into array by her illness. Her husband John is a research scientist still looking for a career break and finding it increasingly difficult to get to grips with the changes in Alice’s psyche.
They have two children: Tom following a career in law and happily married with a child on the way; and Lydia, an aspiring actress and something of a black sheep in the family. The fact that Alice as an academic has been seriously rational and logical makes dementia all the worse for her to handle. Ruth Gemmell as ‘Herself’ is Alice’s inner voice that frequently makes sense of the scenarios where alice is been overlooked and talked over.
The vivid authenticity of the play benefits from consultation with Wendy Mitchell who, despite dementia, produced the blog Somebody I used to Know. Jonathan Fensom’s set is initially quite cluttered but is gradually honed down until it is just Alice and John sitting on deck chairs, indicative of how Alice’s mindmap has been transformed.
David Grindley’s direction is masterful with fine attention to detail, and whilst it is an excellent ensemble performance, it is Sharon Small as Alice who shines brilliantly with verve and veracity. Although this piece will have particular resonance for those with family or friends living with dementia, for all of us it is a moving testament that, despite being frequently painful (in a cathartic way) is ultimately a ray of hope in the darkness.

Until 3 March at West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds.

Reviewer: Rich Jevons

REVIEW: imagine if – You Forgot the Mince @ Interplay Theatre

thumbnail_Prince Plockey and Francesca Joy in YOU FORGOT THE MINCE (Imagine If photographer Chris Gardner)_p

Emma Roberts reviews imagine if’s play You Forgot the Mince at Interplay Theatre, Leeds.

This play follows the traumatic and tumultuous dynamics of an abusive relationship between a young couple from Leeds, Rosa and Nico, played by Francesca Joy and Prince Plockley with Ursula Mohan playing Rosa’s “grandma”.

From the start of the audience is gripped in the thrilling rapture observing what feels initially like the innocent intensity of a new love connection.

Joy and Plockley play the characters Rosa and Nico with eerie precision showing the quick shift from the hedonistic connection to dangerous liaison. With intelligent choreography, set, lighting, and musical score designed to seize your attention as you bear witness to the intense sexual tension between Nico and Rosa.

You are swiftly led into the darker deepening spiral of a co-dependent relationship, in which both Nico and Rosa become isolated into a world marked by equal amounts of sudden bursts of passion and violence. This leaves you questioning how to think and feel.

Joy and Plockley’s playing of Rosa and Nico interactions during each scene are perfectly composed to reflect the painfully haunting traumatic toxic mix unfolding between Nico and Rosa of mental pain arising from a lack of maternal contentment, loss and grief that proves unbearable for all the characters. The intensity of the gritty and raw emotion creates explosive scenes leaving you reeling following this roller coaster ride of a play.

Joy and Plockley boldly lead the audience with this intensely energetic, frenetic, performance, taking you to the depths of desperation, pain, anxiety, fear and rage, with the intention of raising your awareness of the complexities of human relationships.

The audiences was left stunned and evoked left to contemplate their own inner conflict at the end of show, left feeling both compassion for Nico’s character and Rosa’s grandmother who becoming an innocent victim in the couples destructive dynamic.

Rich pickings #Best of 2015

It has been so hard to select these twelve shows to represent the year just gone but I have selected my personal faves that have to be treasured and exalted for their talent and excellence. Thanks to all of you who made this possible.



White Christmas @ West Yorkshire Playhouse


‘an all-singing, all-dancing bubble of festive fun and hope’


Phoenix Dance Theatre – Mixed Bill 2015 @ West Yorkshire Playhouse


‘lives up to the high bar Phoenix Dance Theatre have set for cutting edge dance theatre’


Northern Broadsides – King Lear @ Viaduct Theatre, Halifax


‘another triumphant tour de force for Northern Broadsides’


Northern Ballet – Sapphire Gala @ Grand Theatre, Leeds


‘an evening of national and international importance for the dance world’


Opera North – Carousel @ Grand Theatre, Leeds


‘a ravishing revival that gives a rousing rendition of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic’


Stella Grundy – Rise & Fall of a Northern Star


‘a powerful performance with verve and veracity’


Beryl @ West Yorkshire Playhouse


‘a deeply moving and emotional production’


The Railway Children @ National Railway Museum


‘a fantastic family show that is as intelligent as it is moving’


Northern Ballet – 1984 @ West Yorkshire Playhouse


‘an immaculate and immersive production that will remain redolent with many of us for years to come’


Testament – Blake Remixed


‘an outstanding and innovative production’


154 Collective – Under the Bed @ Theatre in the Mill, Bradford


‘a compelling and compulsive piece of theatre’


Snow White @ Lawrence Batley Theatre

snow white

‘delightfully funny tour de force of a show.. a supreme success’

Roll on 2016!

Rich pickings #December 2015

Here are the Rich pickings for December. As you will see it has been mainly a time for pantos (Oh no it hasn’t!) with some excellent dance as well. Thanks to all who made this such a smashing month!

Jack & the Beanstalk @ Alhambra Theatre, Bradford

Billy Pierce photo Nigel Hillier

Panto veteran billy Pearce features for the 17th time in this year’s Bradford Theatre production with a star-studded cast including Lisa Riley (Mandy Dingle from Emmerdale), John Challis (Boycie in Only Fools and Horses) and Jake Canuso (Matteo in Benidorm) offering strong support…

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Robin Hood & the Babes in the Wood @ City Varieties Music Hall, Leeds

robin hood2

From the makers of last year’s excellent Dick Whittington – the Rock’n’Roll Panto comes another successful production with highly talented actor-musicians mixing traditional panto antics with some powerful rock anthems…

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Snow White @ Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield

snow white

This innovative reinvention of the classic Grimm brothers’ fairy tale is very much set in Yorkshire with the seven dwarves replaced by ex-miners in a brass band…

Cinderella @ Rotherham Civic Theatre
cinderella rotherham
Given the excellence of last year’s Aladdin, this year’s Rotherham Civic panto by Shone Productions, Cinderella, lives up to high expectations…
Aladdin @ Harrogate Theatre

Harrogate Theatre continues its revered reputation as a panto producer of excellence with this year’s Aladdin, the story of a Peking lad made good…

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Northern Ballet – The Nutcracker @ Leeds Grand Theatre


This revival of David Nixon’s The Nutcracker lives up to all the highest expectations of a Christmas show par excellence…

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Badapple Theatre – Farmer Scrooge’s Christmas Carol


As part of its Theatre on Your Doorstep programme, Badapple Theatre’s festive offering is remarkable for its ability to tour to some really hard-to-reach locations, in this case Nun Monkton, near York…

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Akram Khan – Chotto Desh


The title of Akram Khan’s scintillating show for a solo performer, Chotto Desh, means literally ‘small homeland’…

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Jack & the Beanstalk @ Grand Opera House, York

jack goh.jpg

Now in its 17th year, the New Pantomime Production’s show at the sumptuous Grand Opera House in York lives up to high production values…

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Rich pickings # November 2015

It’s been quite a month including 90s flashbacks, existential ennui, black power propaganda, Christmas crackers, postmodern polemics, a filmic succès de scandale, anarchist utopias, scary wonderlands, a literary gentle giant and the first of the panto madness! Enjoy!

Happy Mondays: Pills ‘n’ Thrills And Bellyaches 25th Anniversary Tour @ O2 Academy, Leeds


Happy Mondays have reformed to tour for the 25th anniversary of the seminal Madchester album Pills, Thrills and Bellyaches. It is the original line-up of Shaun Ryder who keeps his act together on vocals, Paul Ryder providing some pumping bass, Mark Day with razor-sharp guitar, Paul Davis providing some magical keyboards, Gary Whelan keeping it tight on drums and Bez, of course, just being the court jester, including a new balancing act. The sensational Rowetta lifts the sound with some epic awesome supporting vocals…

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Pilot Theatre: Outsiders @ Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield


This is a revisiting of the existential classic novel by French writer Albert Camus. The original book became a signifier for outsiders the world over, who identified with the ennui of the main character and it influenced The Cure song Killing An Arab back in the late 70s. Writer Emtaez Hussain has preferred to omit the main character of the Camus classic, replacing him with two significant female characters: namely, the murderous Maursaut’s fiancé, Marie (Lou Broadbent with a very convincing French accent), and the Arab victim’s sister, Sumaya (an incisive Sara Sadeghi)…

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Selina Thompson: Dark & Lovely @ Theatre in the Mill, Bradford

Photo Francesca Tennant

Selina Thompson’s one-woman show begins with suggesting a premise: ‘Hair is just hair’. Then this very notion is explored, questioned and eventually negated. But all this is done in an incredibly personal and audience-friendly journey. The set consists of an enclosure made of hair which she dubs a ‘tumbleweave’ and we are offered a glass of rum punch on the way in too as well as being able to explore the weird igloo…

The Night Before Christmas @ West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds


Amy Leach is the director who brought us the hit children’s show Little Sure Shot at West Yorkshire Playhouse. So it was with great anticipation that we approached her yuletide offering. And it didn’t disappoint. At first we wonder how stubborn Carol (Rose Warlaw) will ever get into the Christmas spirit as she sends her neighbour packing and plans for an early night on Christmas Eve…


The Future Is Not What It Used To Be @ Delius Arts Centre, Bradford


It is three totally absorbing acts for the price of one at the Delius Art Centre in Bradford in an event to augment the radical exhibition Notes from Technotopia at the University of Bradford’s Gallery II. The evening started with Andy Brown and Nathan Gibson’s short film Melt Shop. This corrects the erroneous notion that steel is no longer made in Sheffield and environs. The film shows living evidence that steel production is stronger than ever before, albeit in a totally different form than in previous decades…

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Pasolini @ National Media Museum, Bradford


Like the work of Italian filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini, Abel Ferrara’s biopic is a succès de scandale in its investigation into the last few days of the director’s life. He is presented as a militant Marxist and surrealist writer, not afraid to shy away from putting the wildest fantasies of the Marquis de Sade on screen in his notorious Salo…

Inventing the Future @ 1 in 12 Club, Bradford


Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams’ illuminating and radical new book Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World Without Work is as ambitious and global as its title implies. It looks at the political left’s ‘emancipatory visions’ to date with the notion of technology as a liberating tool. It notes the changes brought about in democracy through the internet and social media giving voice to individuals around the world, but still maintains that this democracy is ‘in disrepair’…

154 Collective: Under the Bed @ Theatre in the Mill, Bradford


Under the Bed is a compelling and compulsive piece of theatre that benefits from the mother-daughter roles played by Leanne Rowley and Emily Mallaghan, the latter a real revelation and perfectly natural choice for the role. Having a minor play the young Alice, practically abducted by her distraught mother from the parental home to a house full of dark and dank mysteries and fear…

Ian McMillan @ Ilkley Literature Festival


TSOTA’s Rich Jevons meets Bard of Barnsley Ian McMillan at Betty’s Tea Rooms before his show as part of Ilkley Literature Festival. They talk about his search for the real meaning of Yorkshire, writing about your own experiences, working with cartoonist Tony Husband, hosting The Verb, writing groups, podcasts and audio books…

Dick Whittington @ Wakefield Theatre Royal


After the success of last year’s Beauty and the Beast Wakefield Theatre Royal presents a tour de force of an ensemble performance. Daniel O’Brien’s script plays to the very corniness of its jokes while Rhiannon Hannon’s direction keeps the action quickly paced but not rushed. Indeed there are some gushing romantic moments that Jodie Steele as Alice Fitzwarren relishes…

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Rich Pickings #June

Finally catching up with me blog, here are the shows from June!

The Producers @ Leeds Grand Theatre


The Grand Theatre has done it again! Following the fluffy fun of last week’s Jeeves & Wooster, comes another cheerful feel-good piece of touring theatre. This adaptation of the Mel Brooks film is all-singing, all-dancing, with an ensemble performance that reaches over and above the high bar set by the West End and Broadway.

Interview with Saint Etienne’s Sarah Cracknell


Rich Jevons takes a trip to Holmfirth to talk to Saint Etienne’s Sarah Cracknell who this month releases her new solo album ‘Red Kite’ and plays at City Varieties Music Hall, Leeds.

The Rise & Fall of Little Voice @ West Yorkshire Playhouse


The mutually beneficial creative partnership between West Yorkshire Playhouse and Birmingham Repertory Theatre Company continues in this magical and marvellous revival of Jim Cartwright’s social realist tragi-comedy.

Manasamitra: Shivoham


Manasamitra is a Yorkshire based arts organisation delivering a range of South Asian and cultural experiences in traditional and innovative ways. Their touring work Shivoham is a musical experience that seeks illumination from within…

Interview with Ben Castle:


Interview with George Costigan


George Costigan may be best known for his racy role as Bob in the film version of Rita, Sue and Bob Too, though his theatre credentials vie with his screen work for top spot on his CV..

The Rise of the Falling Moon @ Bradford Festival


Leading Bradford theatre company Northern Lines’ final production, The Rising of the Moon, written and directed by the prolific and greatly talented Javaad Alipoor, is as radical in form as it is in content.

Interview with Javaad Alipoor:


The Rise & Fall of a Northern Star @ Theatre in the Mill, Bradford


To an intro of Bowie’s ‘Heroes’ Stella Grundy takes to the stage to depict her character of Tracey Star. And right from the off it is important to say that, although this show has autobiographical elements to it and is presented in a documentary style, it is intended as an ironic parody..

The Woman in Black @ Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough


The Woman in Black succeeds where the recent stage adaptation of another Susan Hill novel, The Mist in the Mirror, failed. The latter relied upon flashy, hi-tech hijinks, which were stunning but failed to shock and scare. This performer-friendly show is in a different league.

Beryl @ West Yorkshire Playhouse


Maxine Peake’s Beryl started its life as a radio play for BBC Radio 4 before being commissioned by West Yorkshire Playhouse for a stage version to tie in with last year’s Tour de France.

Quite a month, I’ll try to hit my monthly deadline for July, including my first commission for the Yorkshire Post! Watch this space!