Category Archives: Theatre reviews

Top five Christmas shows in Bristol, 2013

1. Super Sam and Mega Max save Christmas at the Brewery Theatre – until 5 January

A beat-boxing, breakdancing equivalent of the Hangover, for toddlers, with a Christmas theme. Lots of fun for little ones and adults.

2. Antarctica at the Bristol Old Vic – until 4 January

As beautiful as a wildlife documentary by David Attenborough but with thousands of bubbles and an owl-a-bear within touching distance. Wonderfully accessible for all ages. (Review)

3. The Last Voyage of Sinbad the Sailor at the Tobacco Factory – until 12 January

The adventures of Sinbad the Sailor who keeps getting shipwrecked. (Review)

4. Cinderella at the Bristol Hippodrome – until 5 January

This year’s pantomime brought to Bristol by the Hippodrome. Louis Spence, Suzanne Shaw and Andy Ford. Not loved by Bristol Culture but sounds lots of fun. (Review)

5. Se7en Dwarfs at the Wardrobe Theatre – until 22 December

The most brilliant satanic twist between Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Se7en. (Review)

super sam and mega max

Se7en Dwarfs, Wardrobe Theatre

se7en dwarfs“Sner” White has lived her whole life in the shadow of her Disney namesake who for generations let down feminism with her weak behaviour. Kicked out of home at 16 by an evil stepmother she became a sexy and strong police officer who is just a little overemotional. This weakness led to her dismissal from the force while investigating the “12 days of Christmas” murders and shooting the suspect. But now the murders have started again and Detective White is needed once more.

While you might think that a production based on Snow White crossed with cult film Se7en is probably not quite easy on the stomach, the irreverence and humour of Se7en Dwarfs is beyond what you can imagine. The creativity of the production is brilliantly fun and utterly surprising when you consider the tiny theatre in which they are performing. (It’s very small.)

Emma Keaveney-Roys as Detective White is colourful and brash while sounding like a cross between a northern truck driver and a beautiful deposed princess. Adam Blake as Detective Bramley could have possibly carried off the whole show on his own but it was nice that he had the others with him too. Vince Martin did a beautiful job as musician and mouse. Oh and corpse.

The play is riddled with Snow White puns and pulls off some great genre-jumping with its Raymond-Chandler-esque Noir, Christmas movies, Leslie Nielsen-like deadpan ridicule and nursery rhymes combined with fairy tales. Definitely one for Jasper Fforde fans and for Prince ones.

Don’t miss it. This is the one Christmas show that should have its own feature film.

Se7en Dwarfs is Playing at the Wardrobe Theatre until 22nd of December, 2013.

Mayfest, May 16 to 26

Here’s one of my favourite things to do with Mayfest shows: pretend that they apply to people from various parts of Bristol. For example, while walking down East Street the other week I wondered how the people walking through there would react to Hook, Skip, Repeat: being invited to use brightly coloured rope and a giant crochet needle, to help weave eye-catching spider’s web-like creations. It’s free.

How about Turning the Page, to who would this be most suited?

Imagine if your well-thumbed, outdated guidebook could talk. Think of the stories it would tell about the places it’s been, the characters encountered and narrow escapes along the way.
Through this intimate installation you are invited to investigate a series of clues hidden within a guidebook that magically come to life as you turn the pages.

How do books act as repositories of treasures and triggers of memories? When we read a book, do we leave something of ourselves in and on its pages?

I imagine that it would be magical for everyone although I may be a little biased as it is taking place in the library.

There’s something about some art installations or plays that make me think that it’s all designed for white middle-class audiences and then I read their program and realise that I am more than white and middle class.

Without trying to sound pompous (and failing), the human experience beyond labels is what the artists find as well and it was Brand New Ancients I thought of I as walked passed betting shops

The gods are in the betting shops, the gods are in the café,
The gods can’t afford the deposit on their flat …
Winged sandals tearing up the pavement,
Me, you, everyone, Brand New Ancients.

(Kate Tempest
Friday 17 – Saturday 18)

Mayfest brand new ancients

There’s also one where you are advised to only sign up if you are not afraid of heights and don’t have a heart condition. Goodness.

The Great Spavaldos

Mayfest runs from May 16 to 26 and there are many things to do – see Programme.

The Mousetrap, Bristol Hippodrome

The 60th year of the Agatha Christie‘s the Mousetrap sees the brilliant murder mystery go on its first tour outside London and land in Bristol. “It’s like a Midsomer Murders” someone said during the interval, “a bit hammy, a bit old-fashioned but fun” said someone else and they had almost no idea while still being spot on.

If you love the ITV3 repeats of Miss Marple and Poirot and the quality of Midsomer Murders when Barnaby was still Barnaby then you will love the Mousetrap.

This is the play that started the rest. There is depth to the characters, a quality to the story that makes you lean in and pay attention and wonder who exactly did it. There must also be some kind of magic that allows the audience to be still mostly ignorant to who was / is the murderer after 60 years and over 25,000 performances.

A guest house is snowed in and a murderer is among the guests. This is a fantastic whodunnit and not one to be missed. When you do go you will be asked to keep the secret of the murderer locked within your heart. For all murder mystery fans I can think of no bigger honour.

For some star-studded action, Bruno Langley from Coronation Street plays the young, newlywed guesthouse owner Giles Ralston, who has recently opened, Monkswell Manor. The rest of the cast are equally good and the stage sets are wonderfully authentic. The couch and armchairs, fireplace and wooden panelling make it look just like a movie set.


Other reviews: Bristol Culture

Runs until May 4 at the Bristol Hippodrome

Ferment at Bristol Old Vic

With swearing, some sexual content and adult themes, Bristol Ferment returns to the Old Vic with its two-week long showcase and producer Emma Bettridge’s first public foray into this twice-yearly festival.

Bristol Ferment is a strange creature which works, often very informally, with the wide-ranging community of artists in Bristol and across the region. Some of the work is just the bare bones of new ideas and other pieces are almost ready to be called “finished”.

“Ferment Fortnight gives people a chance to see work as it emerges and to tell us what they think of the work we’re presenting” says Emma Bettridge so this is a rather wonderful opportunity for the audience.

Highlights from the two weeks include: The Wasp, the first twenty minutes of a play by London’s writer of the moment, Bath based Morgan Lloyd MalcolmAblutions, a new show from award-winning FellSwoop Theatre, based on the first novel from US writer Patrick deWitt (writer of “The Sisters Brothers”) and Ours was the Fen Country, a piece of dance-theatre from Dan Canham whose last Ferment show 30 Cecil Street toured internationally to huge acclaim.

This year there is a designated Ferment bar, The Cellar Bar which promises to be an underground saloon of all things Fermentified, and on the first Saturday, Coopers’ Gallery will be transformed into a mini farmers market.

If you need even more encouragement to visit Ferment, there is a price offer of five shows for the price of four. Oh and make Ablutions, 19 July, one of your five – it’s the one that includes the sex and swearing.

Bristol Old Vic
Wed 18 -Sat 28 July.
Times vary
0117 987 7877

Twitter: @bristolferment, &

Phantom of the Opera, Bristol Hippodrome

Amazing an audience who are by now probably over-familiar with the decades old production rife with synthesized warbling notes can’t be easy but last night the sheer perfection of the production triumphed over the familiarity of the story.

An opera house changes hands and the new owners, Monsieur Firmin & Monsieur Andre, find themselves dealing with a demanding ghost who not only wants a salary, has the prima donna’s nerves on the verge of snapping but also has a penchant for a delicate young thing, Katie Hall as Christine Daae, who he has been tutoring. The ghost, who we know to be John Owen-Jones as the phantom, also promises disaster should his tutee not gain the leading role. Things take a turn for the worse when Christine is reunited with an old love, Simon Bailey as Raoul, and her attachment to the Phantom starts weakening.

The show weaves back and forth between the productions the characters perform on stage, what goes on behind the scenes and then what goes on behind even that in the Phantom’s secret lair across a lake below the theatre. While the thought flashes by of how intriguing and creative it is to put a lake beneath a theatre, the brilliant way in which the scene was staged is just staggering.

In one scene, the transition from Christine’s changing room to the Phantom’s lair is a seamless turn of the stage and involves a magical appearance of steps out of nowhere. The warnings in the theatre about the use of flashing lights, gunshots, pyrotechnics and fire play out during the production. There is no mention of flying glass, however, so when jagged edges flew out from the chandelier, there was much relief that the glass was just a type of silicon. The shock was real.

Beautiful costumes, so vibrant and elegant and colourful and sensuous in ways that costumes shouldn’t really be sensuous but goodness me if one of the last scenes with Hall on a table and with legs around the Phantom’s waist wasn’t as steamy as Romola Garai talking about a pint of stout. That could have been why one of the patrons somewhere at the front started sobbing but no one could be quite sure.

The standing ovation in its Mexican wave fashion of starting with Hall’s appearance but climaxing with Owen-Jones’ gesturing and bow was resolutely adamant. The audience knew they had just witnessed a masterpiece in action that was so breathtaking that many of them probably didn’t wonder why Christine needed to find her freedom with a man when trying to escape a (male) monster to whom she was led by her father’s advice. Something to think about away from the mesmerizing production perhaps because it is certain that you will be too caught up by the flawless rendition which the cast and crew provide to wonder about it on the night.

Runs until June 30

Spamalot, review

Monty Python’s Spamalot has nothing to do with the internet or the status of your inbox. It is set over 1000 years ago and is a musical, which in its own parlance ‘farts in the general direction of other musicals’.

Lovingly ripped off from the performance of Monty Python and the Holy Grail it provides not only a parody of the Arthurian legend but also of other musicals and more often than not, of itself, too. The jokes and the witticisms will be familiar to Monty Python fans but there are twists and new additions and most of all there is the fun dancing and self-mocking songs such as The Song That Goes Like That Is.

The crowd are suckers for the classic set ups and they riproared with laughter and recognition at the knights of ni and then the knight who insisted he was merely suffering a scratch as he lost both arms and legs.

There was a dig at Samantha Brick and some praise and reverential singing towards the mighty fine city that is Bristol. You’d think the crowd would be a little more cynical, seeing as most of them were in their upper middle ages but perhaps they don’t get out much.

Marcus Bristocke, as King Arthur, and his companion Patsy, better known as Mark Fowler from Eastenders or Todd Carty, were the big names who got themselves put on the posters outside the theatre. They were ok but were massively upstaged by the rest of the cast.

The glamorous Bonnie Langford, as the Lady in the Lake, hammed it up with her magnificent voice and stole the show from a lot of the other performers. The dancers from the ensemble with their stunning costumes were quite spectacular and the dancing from the rest of the knights was very well done so some well deserved praise to choreographer Jenny Arnold.

Kit Orton as Lancelot was outrageously and wonderfully fantastic as the French Taunter who told King Arthur that his master already had the holy grail. What a giggle. He was great throughout the show and his energy never seemed to let up.

Great costumes, great choreography and so much fun. Spamalot is destined to be one of the best productions at the Hippodrome this year and remember, it is not about the internet, it is because they eat spam a lot. See?

At the Bristol Hippodrome until April 28.