Thursday, 25 October 2018

Review: Manon



***Contains spoilers – most of you will already know this famous story and we find it best to know the story before watching a ballet***

This week, the English National Ballet is in town performing Kenneth MacMillan’s Manon. With Jurgita Dronina as Manon, Isaac Hernandez as Des Grieux and Ken Saruhashi as Lescaut.

For those of you that do not know the story of Manon, here’s a quick summary. Young, penniless student, Des Grieux meets the beautiful Manon and they fall in love. Manon’s brother, Lescaut has other ideas and persuades Manon to choose the wealthy Monsieur GM instead. Lescaut makes a bargain with Monsieur GM but before he can introduce him to Manon, she has run off to Paris with Des Grieux. They have a passionate affair before Monsieur GM and Lescaut arrive and Manon is enticed to becoming the wealthy man’s mistress; Des Grieux is left distraught. In Act II Des Grieux is looking for Manon and is convinced to cheat at a poker game to get Monsieur GM’s Money and the lovers run off again and prepare to escape Paris. They are interrupted by Monsieur GM, a beaten Lescaut and armed policemen, panic ensues, Lescaut is killed and Manon is arrested. Act III takes you to New Orleans where Manon has been deported with other prostitutes to be sold as servants. Des Grieux has followed Manon to try to protect her but the Gaoler has taken an interest in Manon and forces her to please him. Des Griex breaks in, kills the Gaoler and the lovers flee. Lost in the Louisiana swamp, they are trapped, delirious and haunted, eventually the strain and anxiety is too much for Manon who dies in her lover’s arms.

As with most ballets, it is a simple story of love and loss which makes it fairly easy to follow what is happening which of course in ballet is portrayed only through the dance without dialogue or song. The dancing truly was mesmerising and there were some incredibly talented dancers on stage. From the leads to the artists of the company, each character was a joy to watch and they all played a critical part in the story and setting the scene.

The stage was one of the simplest sets that I’ve seen but was very effective with huge backdrops, a few props, lighting, smoke and stunning costumes. The orchestra were fantastic and as always at Milton Keynes Theatre, the sound was tremendous!

A highly recommended ballet whether you’re a ballet old-timer or a newbie, you will thoroughly enjoy it.


For tickets, head to www.atgtickets.com

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Benidorm comes to Milton Keynes!




This week, MK Theatre welcomes Benidorm, bringing the Spanish Costa Blanca sunshine and the colourful characters that come with a bit of sun, sea, sand and sangrias. With many of your favourite original cast members including resident lothario come barman Mateo played by Jake Canuso, Janine Duvitski as Jacqueline, Sherrie Hewson as the Solana’s Manageress Joyce Temple-Savage and Shelley Longworth as Sam. Not forgetting Tony Maudsley as Kenneth and Adam Gillen as Liam who between them run the useless, hardly-ever-open hair salon Blow & Go.

What can I say? Benidorm is like Marmite, you either love it or hate it and, like marmite, I love it! I hadn’t actually ever seen a single episode of the ITV series (started 10 years ago!) until earlier this year, when I happened to binge watch all 10 series on catch up. There was just something about the weird, rude, slimy, chavvy, snobby, funny and nasty characters that warmed me to the show – either to laugh at or relate to!

Essentially, the show is about a run-down, badly managed “Four” Star hotel in Benidorm. The hotel’s posh manageress is up against a team of lazy, immature, party-loving staff and guests that are even worse. Desperate to keep the hotel above ground, and keep that fourth star hanging on, Joyce Temple-Savage has her daily battles with everyone. Mateo is more often found flirting with the guests than actually working the pool bar, Kenneth spends his nights partying and days hungover rather than running the salon whilst Liam frantically picks up the pieces and Jacqueline…is, well…Jacqueline and although she misses her late husband Donald dearly, she has many fond tales to tell of the Middlesborough Swingers Association. Sam seems to go out of her way to annoy Joyce and the rest of the staff either don’t speak English (much to the British clientele’s dismay) or are as much use as a chocolate teapot.

The stage was fab. It brought the set to life including the Solana’s reception, Blow & Go salon, pool side and Neptune’s perfectly! I loved the quirky little songs and dance routines in between the scenes which included a tongue-in-cheek dance about sleazy Spanish waiters for Mateo’s entrance and the brilliant love ballad by Gay Derek (Damian Williams). The only thing missing was Les (or Leslie), Liam’s Dad and Mateo’s best friend. A loveable Geordie transvestite who usually has his head together, unlike the rest of them, but he’s currently serving time for tax evasion (which those of you that watch the show will already know).

The whole cast clearly had fun on the stage and we had a great evening as flies-on-the-wall at Benidorm’s naffest hotel.


For tickets, head to www.atgtickets.com

Monday, 30 July 2018

Review: Shrek - The Musical at MK Theatre

Shrek - The Musical at Milton Keynes Theatre

Shrek is an ideal musical to take your children along to in the school holidays. It's a professional production all singing and a bit of dancing. The story draws on many of the characters from our well known fairy tales that children would enjoy recognising as many as they can. 
 
Shrek has quite a pantomime feel which  is well known genre that has stood the test of time. There are many themes such as our definition of ugliness and I particularly liked the song about who had the worse childhood. There were plenty of laughs and fortunately some adult jokes to keep the older members of the audience amused.
 
The stage effects and lighting were excellent. The dragon will certainly give the children a fright (till they get to know her!)  
 
The key characters of Shrek (Steffan Harri), Fiona (Laura Main), Donkey (Marcus Ayton) and Lord Farquaad (Samuel Holmes)were played brilliantly. My favourite character has to be Donkey and certainly had some of the best lines. Lord Farquaad knew how to play up to the audience but thankfully didn't come across as a totally evil villain but more a likeable rogue with some height issues.
 
Shrek is on at MK Theatre until the 5th August. With reasonably priced tickets it's an opportunity to experience some cooler air in the auditorium and entertain the kids in the summer holidays.

Tickets from www.atgtickets.com/Miltonkeynes or telephone 0844 871 7652 (booking fee applies)

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Review: Flashdance The Musical at Milton Keynes Theatre


Who doesn’t love an 80’s classic filled with some foot-tapping and all-out-maniac-dancing? Flashdance The Musical is at Milton Keynes Theatre this week until 21st July and it won’t disappoint you.

Based on the 1983 smash hit movie, Flashdance starring Jennifer Beals as Alex. The story follows Alex Owens (Strictly’s Joanne Clifton), welder-by-day, exotic-dancer-by-night on her mission to get into a real dance company. Along the way, we meet her boss/boyfriend Nick Hurley (Ben Adams of boyband A1) and her colleagues and friends as they cope with their own struggles and successes.

It’s a fantastic feel-good story with a classic moral of just going for it – follow your dreams. Joanne Clifton is utterly incredible with some of the most energetic dance routines I’ve seen. The whole cast and ensemble were brilliant and it was a thoroughly enjoyable show to watch. I did feel that the show had a few slow-burning filler scenes that it could have done without and I wasn’t a fan of the American accents – can we just have English accents?! That being said, the show more than makes up for it with lots of great scenes with songs such as Maniac, What A Feeling, Gloria and I Love Rock And Roll and of course the iconic scene with the water. I wish that scene was a bit longer with more build up – seemed to be over quite quickly but it was still fantastic.

The stage set was really interesting and forever moving around which kept the audience on its toes. There were also some awesome 80’s outfits!

The show ended with a full audience standing ovation, lots of clapping and a boogie whilst they did a few super-energetic and encores!



For tickets, visit www.atgtickets.com