Friday, 15 July 2011

Daniel Bryant reviews 'Dinner' by Moira Buffini at the Lace Market Theatre, Nottingham from 9-14 May 2011

As I sat viewing the stage and waiting for the house lights to dim, there was a certain sense of deja vu... a substantial dining table the principal element of a shadowy minimalist set ... was this a revival of Festen? These superficial similarities dissolved as the play got under way and Paige (Kareena Sims) used and abused her web-sourced Mephistophelean waiter (Marcus Wakely), the striking scarlet of  her frankly breath-taking costume creating other demonic undertones. High production values were evident from the start, with Mark James' set design enhanced by Rose Dudley's lighting plot; the combined effect prophetically suggestive of a Last Supper, perhaps as depicted by Francis Bacon. The diners were clearly in for an uncomfortable evening, with Lars (Chris Sainty) firmly in Paige's sights and the hapless Wynne (Ali Patrick) never likely to see eye-to-eye with her hostess. It was also apparent that director Graeme Jennings had chosen a cast that could do justice to the playwright's satirical intentions; by the time Sian (Nicky Ubhi) and Hal (Adam Roberts) appeared from the symbolic off-stage fog, the audience was showing an appreciation of the comedy and keen to discover what culinary delights Paige had in store for her guests. An uninvited (and possibly nefarious) caller, Mike (Chris Reed), filled the remaining empty chair and provided something of an Everyman commentary on the other diners' shenanigans.

The part of Paige dominates the play and Kareena Sims had both the stage presence and command needed to sustain the role as she mocked self-regarding Lars and their guests. As the main recipient of her venom, Chris Sainty's depiction of a less than original thinker, regurgitating atavistic mantras, hit the mark while Ali Patrick's Wynne contrasted humorously with svelte and sophisticated Paige and Sian.  As Sian, Nicky Ubhi portrayed the TV news anchorwoman with aplomb, deftly fielding barbed questions as to whether she was a 'proper' journalist (while doubting it herself) but increasingly exasperated with her partner's boorish ways. Adam Roberts was convincing as the complacent Hal, called to account by Paige for his adulterous misdeeds, while Chris Reed's Mike was another well-judged and endearing performance. Marcus Wakely's almost silent waiter was a suitably sinister attendant on the diners, reminiscent of the footman from Sartre's Huis Clos.

Moira Buffini has developed a reputation for using comedy to make serious points but, on the strength of this piece, it's not just satire; there is something of a morality play about it. It was my impression that both the director and cast had understood this and succeeded in highlighting that aspect of the play through thoughtful and effective characterisation and delivery. With fine contributions from wardrobe, properties and technical departments, this production will stay in my memory as some of the Lace Market Theatre's best work.

Daniel Bryant

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Cast photographs for 'Into the Woods' by Stephen Sondheim at Lakeside Djanogly Theatre, Nottingham from 6-9 July 2011

Into The Woods
Music & Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Book by James Lapine

At Lakeside Djanogly Theatre from 6-9 July 2011, Nottingham.

This amateur production is presented by arrangement with Josef Weinberger Ltd. On behalf of Music Theatre International of New York.

Directed by Martin Berry, who’s produced such recent gems for Lace Market Theatre as Sweeney Todd and Mod Crop the Musical, this is a first music theatre production for Lakeside involving a community cast including some of Lakeside’s senior youth theatre members.

Stephen Sondheim’s magical fairy tale takes the timeless tales of the Brothers Grimm and gives them a dark and humorous twist. Journey into the magical woods with Cinderella, Red Riding Hood, the Wolf, the Witch, Rapunzel and even Milky White the cow to find out what happens when familiar characters find themselves in unfamiliar circumstances. Winner of several Tony, Drama Desk and Critics Circle Awards, Into The Woods is recognised as one of Sondheim’s finest and most popular show.

Alison Hope - The Witch/Cinderella’s Mother
Bethan Seller - Milky White
Damien Ebanks - Baker
Danielle Amie Easter - Florinda
Dee Whitehead - Cinderella’s Stepmother
Dermot Randall - Mysterious Man
Hannah Hall - Steward/Granny
James McAndrew - Rapunzel’s Prince
Kathryn Belmega - Little Red Riding Hood
Laura Kaye Thomson - Cinderella
Laura Rose - Lucinda/Rapunzel
Linda Croston - Jack’s Mother
Mahesh Parmar - Narrator
Nicola Bilton - Baker’s Wife
Ritchie Stainsby - Jack
Tom Beynon - Cinderella’s Prince/Wolf