EAST IS EAST AT THE NEW ALEXANDRA THEATRE, BIRMINGHAM Theatre Run: Tuesday 13 - Saturday 17 January 2015 Performance Reviewed: Wednesday 14 January (Press Night) Reviewed by Kyle Pedley
At the risk of going there, it’s something of a charged time to be experiencing a show like East is East, given the recent political and social bubbling over the Charlie Hebdo shootings in Paris. As every Tom, Dick and armchair Harry attempts to define and dictate what Islam is and Muslims are, the answer, it seems, lies in a show set in a British Muslim household in the early 1970’s, based on a 1990’s film of the same name. It’s startling, and in a strange way quite refreshing, seeing how timeless and cyclical some of the central issues and themes are.
Mercifully,East is Eastremains confidently self-contained, and whilst granted there are the odd throwaway inferences of a ‘them versus us’ mentality to the wider British population, generally this is a show predominantly centred on a Muslim, Pakistani family dealing with a slew of issues and problems both religious and familial within and of itself. It’s infinitely more focused and compelling as a result, as proud, principled business owner George Khan (Ayub Khan Din, writer of both the play and the film) struggles to accept the changing times, personified in his six spirited, wilful and frequently disobedient children. Regimented, stubborn and fiercely proud, Khan is a skilfully written and masterfully played character - at times an aggressive, blindly ignorant borderline-tyrant, at others a whimsical, charming family man evidently trying to do best by both his family and religion in the way he has been raised and taught to do so. Neither extremity is painted as absolute, and in many ways Khan’s plight is the shows most compelling and touching thread, especially in this production. As he sits transfixed in front of his TV following the ensuing Indian-Pakistan civil war crises, a reporter cites ‘Pakistan will never be the same again’, and the analogy couldn’t be clearer. It’s the Pakistan of Khan’s home, head and heart that are just as much under attack, by the modernity and will of his own children, as any affairs on foreign soils.
JACK AND THE BEANSTALK AT THE BIRMINGHAM HIPPODROME Theatre Run: Friday 19 December 2014 - Sunday 1 February 2015 Performance Reviewed: Monday 22 December (Press Night) Reviewed by Kyle Pedley
Matt Slack teaches us midway through Jack and the Beanstalk, tongue firmly in-cheek, that the counterpart to ‘Deja Vu’ is ‘Vuja De’, aka ‘I’ve never been here before’. It’s sold as funny, but in many ways it’s a coupling sentiment that encapsulates the entire panto ethos - plenty of the familiar, lashings of tropes, essentials and audience-favourites, all thrown into a suitably barmy melting pot with the new - new faces, and incremental new approaches to the same old handful of fairytale yarns. For some, the balance is not so even, leaning on the pulling power of star wattage, the genuine fondness of the public for panto itself, or a slew of tried-and-true set pieces and old reliables in the gag department.
JERSEY BOYS AT THE NEW ALEXANDRA THEATRE, BIRMINGHAM Theatre Run: Tuesday 9 December 2014 - Sunday 4 January 2015 Performance Reviewed: Wednesday 10 December 2014 (Press Night) Reviewed by Kyle Pedley
There’s something regrettably formulaic and inevitable about most biographical actor-musician pieces of theatre of late. It’s a format that often leans far too heavily on familiarity with its soundtrack and the spectacle of a Bolan or Lennon being re-imagined and strutting around on stage, and the notable casualty comes in the form of any compelling narrative shape or use of theatre as an artistic medium in it’s own right. Truth may indeed be stranger than fiction, but when so many of these shows race through the ‘true story’ with haphazard abandon, presenting more a career ‘greatest hits live’ than a focused piece of theatrical storytelling, it isn’t hard to end up feeling your evening would have achieved the same effect in the hands of Youtube or Google. The customary ‘talented boy does good, hits the heights of fame, leads to personal/family/suffering wife problems’ second Act trope being rolled out ad infinite usually only underlines how de rigeuer and stale it has all become.
Performance Run: Saturday 6 December 2014 - Sunday 18 January 2015 Performance Reviewed: Tuesday 9 December 2014 (Press Night) Reviewed by Kyle Pedley
I will not be resorting to any cheap panto puns to open my review this year…
If you didn’t just mentally (or verbally!) shout ‘Oh yes you will’ then you may not be quite ready for panto season, but ready or not (here I come…), it is upon us, and the perfect remedy for that particular ill would be a timely visit to the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre’s Cinderella. Headlined by the master of innuendo and dry asides, Julian Clary, and featuring the signature glitz and spectacle that QDOS Pantomimes throw at all of their major productions, this festive staple is everything you’d expect and want from your Christmas/New Year pantomime, with all the trimmings and even a couple of very welcome surprises along the way.
Theatre Run: Monday 24 - Saturday 29 November 2014 Performance Reviewed: Monday 24 November (Press Night) Reviewed by Kyle Pedley
Yes, you do.
Well, that obligatory bit of housekeeping should placate the riff raff and nosey parkers, and leaves me with something approaching an intellectual and insightful review to write…. here goes nothing!
In truth, as was the case with Peter Cattaneo and Simon Beaufoy’s wildly successful 1997 Brit film on which this show is based, The Full Monty has a great deal more going for it than just the curiosity of it’s titular (titilating?) USP. Crowds will no doubt flock to the show for much the same reason as it’s in-universe audience mob the likes of the ‘Chippendales’ and likewise, and indeed on stage Monty has the added benefit of being able to do some particularly fitting fourth wall breaking and lay down the post-modern throughout. But behind the hen party hysterics and art-imitating-life cheekiness, the same fundamentally relatable and engaging, not to mention oft hilarious, script and storytelling is what really leaves an impression long after the memory of bum cheeks and beyond have faded.
THE BIG REUNION BOY BAND TOUR 2014 AT THE LG ARENA, BIRMINGHAM Tour Dates: Until Monday 27 October 2014 Performance Reviewed: Tuesday 21 October Reviewed by Kyle Pedley
“Do you all remember ‘Smash Hits’?”
“…How about CD:UK? Top of the Pops?”
If my inner teenage self hadn’t already erupted to the fore at this early stage of The Big Reunion Boyband Tour, these pitch-perfect 90’s callbacks certainly did the trick.
Catapulting off of the surprise success of the ITV2 show of the same name, this years incarnation is a decidedly testosterone-driven event, eschewing the likes of Eternal and Girl Thing (Google the latter) whom were part of the 2014 TV line up in order to focus on what the vast majority of the baying audience were seemingly there to see anyway; the boy bands. And, be it cynical cash grab or audience savvy, some of last years groups, notably so-recently-disbanded-it-couldn’t-really-be-called-a-reunion mega band Blue, have been invited along for the ride once more.