Ian Rankin's Rebus novels have been adapted for television in the past with John Hannah and Ken Stott taking the leading role in STV's version but Rebus: Long Shadows breaks that mould as it has been written specifically for the stage and stars an Irishman in the main role. Charles Lawson, most famously Jim McDonald from Coronation Street, takes the part of the retired Edinburgh cop and is, no doubt, glad to be back on stage after falling ill last week and missing a couple of performances.
On opening night in Malvern, he was back on form as the ex-whisky-loving ex-cop who cannot get away from his former career - however much others would like him to - when a random meeting brings back into focus a case where he failed the victim's family by not catching the culprit.
On a stage which is initially as bleak as you image the underbelly of Edinburgh to be and with haunting music to match (the sort that accompanies the equally bleak Shetland tv series), Rebus is still in touch with his former colleague - and greatest ally - DI Siobhan Clarke (Cathy Tyson) and soon he is having to deal with not one but two cases and ultimately there is only one person who can help him - "Big Ger" Cafferty (John Stahl), the man he spent his career trying to arrest. The stage is later converted into various other locations such as a club and an apartment for Cafferty and his expensive collection of fine wines, which demonstrate how well crime pays.
Pity Neil McKinven though - in addition to him playing 5 characters in the play, he is also understudy for Lawson and so had to step into that role for the performances where he was unable to attend!
The other cast members - Dani Heron and Eleanor House - play characters which are both related to the previous crimes and throughout the play are teasing and criticising Rebus as he attempts some kind of resolution and closure.
It's fair to say that the production has had mixed reviews since its premiere on the Birmingham Rep stage last month as expectations were no doubt high for this new piece of work involving a character which has been around for decades. No better reason then to go along for yourself and sample a piece of detective work which is topped and tailed by an iconic piece of mid-1970's pop music… ... See MoreSee Less
First performed back in 1954 (and rarely off the stage since then), Salad Days is a whimsical and somewhat nonsensical musical which apparently also happens to be one of the Queen’s favourites.
Written by Julian Slade and Dorothy Reynolds, this new version is brought to the stage by Regan De Wynter who are probably best known for their impressive tours of all-male versions of Gilbert & Sullivan classic operettas. For those who have enjoyed those shows, the bar is therefore already set very high for this one…
This musical, like many fantasy ones, is completely off the wall – two young graduates leaving college, fed up of their futures being determined by their families, decide to wed for convenience sake and then are handed a job by a tramp for a month looking after a piano. Nothing strange there then! But this is no ordinary piano – anyone hearing it play from the very first note is obliged to dance (well, move their body around in a very uncoordinated fashion at least) and sing. But the piano disappears after attempts by the Minister of Pleasure and Pastime to ban its disruptive music and it is only after the appearance of a flying saucer(!) that the couple can look forward to the future (a contraption which incidentally allows the most groan-worthy line in a musical when the lady Electrode claims to be the “saucer’s apprentice”...)
There’s no doubt that this is a very accomplished production of this upbeat and peppy musical with the whole cast in fine voice, Corrie’s Wendi Peters playing two roles (Lady Raeburn and Aunt Prue) and Mark Anderson and Jessica Croll as the young couple, backed up by a large cast and a trio on stage providing the musical accompaniment.
The unadulterated joy which relentlessly runs through the show and the songs (as is implied by the very title itself) no doubt epitomises a certain era of naivety and hope in post-war Britain as audiences began to enjoy themselves again. The fact that it is still being produced and playing to large audiences probably tells us something about today's society too.
Not sure what Cilla Battersby-Brown would make of it all though! ... See MoreSee Less
Alpacas, shire horses, enormous tortoises, dogs, owls - and gigantic cucumbers in the hands of Gyles Brandreth!
It can only be the Malvern Autumn Show which is certainly benefiting from a weekend of gorgeous sunshine...
Pete Phillips was there and had an impromptu chat with Gyles amongst the world-record winning vegetables which continued whilst wandering around the showground with random chats with members of the public...
Also on the interview front, the National Federation of Young Farmers' Clubs were there with their co-ordinator Cheryl Liddle in a cook-off competition, as was talented Shropshire Designer/Sculptor Nik Burns who had the most amazing creations depicting weird underwater fish as well as a brilliant life-size horse, all done in recycled/upcycled metal
The pictures tell only part of the story of Day One...
Sam and Bill are cousins and occasional grave diggers for the local church. Grumpy buggers really who are both experiencing difficult personal circumstances
And so the scene is set for the Worcester Rep’s production of Nick Wilkes’ latest play, Lost The Plot, which takes place in their small workshop where they begin by noting the contents of their pockets in a large book which has been used for that purpose for many decades prior to digging the graves
Anyone familiar with the work of Nick Wilkes will instinctively know that it will not be long before the play starts heading into unexpected and dark territory, this time based around the discovery of a wine label ”as rare as tits on a bull”. Could this be the answer to their prayers or just the catalyst for a whole new set of problems...?
This is another gem of a play – his 24th to date – and is a two-hander with Murray Andrews taking the second role in a show directed by another company stalwart, Jon Legg
“Lost The Plot” may be small in scale – small set, small cast, small studio – but it’s big on inventive ideas, humour and pathos and is perfectly suited to the intimate surroundings of the Swan's Vesta Tilley Studio. ... See MoreSee Less
A bit of Jive Talkin', a few Nights on Broadway, a lot of Night Fever and most definitely Stayin' Alive - it can only mean one thing. Saturday Night Fever is back in town!
Last at the Alex in 2015, this is a new touring version is a very enjoyable and energetic adaptation of the original film which was given, and still has, an X (18) Certificate. And some of the elements which caused that rating back in 1978 (40 years ago!) remain in this production, many of which are (hopefully) "of the time" and not representative of today's attitude to relationships, pregnancies and minorities….
That aside, it is the music which counts here and the 20-strong cast are lead by Richard Winsor in the iconic lead role of Tony Manero with Kate Parr playing Stephanie Mangano by his side. Well, some of the time anyway, for this is a flawed man who does not know what he wants out of life and love except that working in the paint store is more like a prison sentence than a career. His true love lies in dancing but he hardly has the support of his family as his brother is the "golden boy" with his position in the church. Until he decides to leave the faith.
Also on stage are the members of the excellent live band (curiously no apparent mention of them in the show's programme but they were really good) and three guys representing the Bee Gees - their presence as part of the show rather than hidden away really lifts this musical to another level as they accurately portray the very distinctive sound and compositions of Barry, Maurice and Robin
The well-crafted Bee Gee tunes were very much at the pinnacle of disco fever in the 70's and early 80's and certainly the crowd at the Alex enjoyed what they were seeing and hearing. Apart from all the well-known disco tracks, three songs in particular resonated with them (ironically neither of which were in the actual film) - Tragedy and the very much quieter and contemplative Immortality and If I Can't Have You.
The finale had everyone up on their feet as the entire cast plowed through three of the show's biggest hits, Disco Inferno, Night Fever and You should Be Dancing. Well, we were so that worked a treat!
So flares on everybody whilst the Alex becomes Disco 2001 till Saturday! ... See MoreSee Less
Next weekend it's the Autumn Show over at the Malvern Three Counties Showground (fine weather guaranteed!) so to find out what was going on there this year, Pete Phillips chatted to Show Organiser Di Walton who revealed that there will be some new faces amongst the familiar ones
Saults hail from France and consist of the Saults brothers Antoine (guitar) and Grégoire (drums) and Alex Castets on bass.
And they have moved to London from their native Bordeaux to bring their own blend of music to the UK as they have long been fans of British music going back as far as The Beatles. Which is why they were over the moon to be able to record their release Kelly Ride in none other than Abbey Road Studios...
Antoine chatted to Pete Phillips - in English! - about how the band came about