REVIEW: The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe - The Landmark Theatre 21/05/14

27/05/2014

To me, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe is a story I've loved growing up, and it being such a classic and well-loved tale made it seem a more difficult choice for a theatre production. Which of course meant that watching North Devon Theatres' Make the Move Drama Students put their own twist on the performance was a necessity.

I spent Friday analysing poetry for my English Lit exam, and as much as I love English I was more than ready to swap it for drama that evening. With the use of a very minimalist set, a wardrobe, a small wall walkway and the occasional props of a few blocks to provide height the Make the Move students somehow managed to create what was a very realistic and believable performance.

The performance began with a boy, who then went on to play the Professer, telling the story of the history of Narnia along to the mime skills of two of his peers.
We were then introduced to the four Pevensies, whose actors were so true to character it shocked me.
The performance told the story of Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy who found the world of Narnia at the back of a wardrobe. It was full of humour, provided in heaps by the young Rosie Copp playing Mrs Beaver and her motherly charm earning her plenty of cheers during the curtain call.

What stood out to me the most throughout the performance was the creation of Narnia. Rather than having to change any of the set, a number of students in white clothes and a white mask all came together to create the image of the tree's, Mr Tumnus' house and other parts of Narnia through still images, movements and dance pieces. These students also assisted in the sound throughout the night, through the use of bells that strongly complemented the rocky backing music played as the White Witch patrolled the stage. The White Witch who was very small came across as a very powerful character to match her backing music through her dynamic voice, quirky acting skills and the use of building blocks to create levels in height.

To see people as young as 9 performing infront of an audience was really great, but even greater to see how they worked well and interacted with the older students. Each person had an important part to play and it was nice to see how everyone was incorporated so well into the performance. Those making the set were just as important as the four playing the Pevensies themselves.

Lighting and costumes were used to their full advantage all the way through the performance, and were often used together. Each time there was a transition between the human world and Narnia, the use of blue whirring lights and a quiet tingling music was a backing to the voices of the four children scrambling in the wardrobe. Further on in the play the use of an explosion at the front of the stage helped assist a frozen Mr Tumnus switch costumes from a statue to his living form- and to tell the truth I am still unable to work out how it was done. The whole switch over felt truly magical. They then furthered the magical touch with the rise of Aslan, in a truly beautiful costume. Both Aslans costumes were very realistic, though only the head of a lion. They also put a lot of effort into the costumes of statues, which could easily have been real and seemed to resemble Doctor Who's Weeping Angels which really gave me the chills.

The Make the Move Drama Students came together to produce a performance that had a feeling of such warmth and integrity it left me smiling for the course of the journey home. I had my worries that there was a possibility the play would drag and I would be left waiting for my favourite scenes having already known the story but this was not the case at all. They all came together to form a show that preserved the old traditions of Narnia mixed in with their own unique twists.

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe is among a variety of
plays performed 
at North Devon Theatres and are all well worth
the watch. (Website)



REVIEW: Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap - The Queens Theatre 09/05/14

11/05/2014

NO SPOILERS ARE INCLUDED IN THIS REVIEW.

What's more loved that a ripe and juicy whodunnit for the people of Britain to really get their teeth stuck into? Not much that's for sure.
The poster for The Mousetraps diamond
anniversary tour.
For me to reveal the ins and outs of Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap is classed as the equivalent of treachery in the performing arts industry and from my knowledge slip-ups have somehow been avoided. After running for 60 years, and earning the title of the continuous longest running play in history, we must come to the conclusion that those at The Mousetrap across the years must've been doing something right. And that they have.

After a long week at school and suffering with the consequences of exams, I had never been more ready than I was on Friday night to leave my world behind and visit The Queens Theatre in Barnstaple to become engrossed into the world of others; which is exactly what I did encounter.

The Mousetrap began with what can only be described as a typical setting for a murder mystery- a secluded guest house shut off from the world around them, a murder in the midst of a snow storm and 8 equally able characters who each seemed to have come right out of a game of Cluedo were left to provide us with red herrings and the most untimely situations to set your mind whirring. It really gave me a thrill to hear the whispers of those around me, each one mulling over possible outcomes. The engagement in the room was really incredible.
As for the murderer- who really would have expected it? But I am to stick to my word, and on request of the murderer at the final curtain call, I'd like to hope that me, and everyone else in the room will keep the secret and allow the legacy of The Mousetrap to continue.

The first scene begins in the newly opened guest house of Giles and Mollie Ralston, a very classic setting with four doors, plenty of stairs and hiding places which provided an image of the house continuing off stage. Here Giles and Mollie are waiting upon their first new arrivals, as a radio report blares out the news of a murder. The police are searching for a man of average height, wearing a dark overcoat, light scarf and soft felt hat. We then learn to discover that Giles Ralston and two of the other visitors - Christopher Wren and Miss Casewell - also own items of clothing that fit this description.
As the performance continues, we encounter the perfect recipe to a murder mystery: an uncountable amount of red herrings, and heaps of foreshadowing- both brought together with some classic humour that had the whole audience in laughter.

The first act does seem to drag slightly with the obvious use of pointless lines to set the audience in the wrong direction. Fortunately the arrival of Detective Trotter, who ski's in to warn the household that another murder is foreseen to take place there brings with him the now turned sinister tune of three blind mice, the secrets of those involved confided in others, and the murder of another key character.

If Act 1 was a tease, it had nothing on Act 2. Every few minutes my view on who was the murderer would change, was it the foreign Mr Paravincini who appeared from the corners in the manner of a vampire? Or the young Miss Casewell, whose troubled past was hindering her future? Or maybe the sarcastic Giles Ralston, who had been to London on the day of the murder and neglected to tell his wife? To find that out, you really must take a visit because for me to commit the crime of revealing the ending of The Mousetrap may lead to my own murder by those who have worked so hard to get it where it is.

The use of a variety of different tension-building techniques were so well used throughout The Mousetrap. The original murder was revealed to the audience during the first minute of the production, portrayed through the use of a scream at the repeated shout for police. Developing the murder in complete darkness gave the scene much more of a twisted tone and assisted in revealing very little to those watching. The repetition of the tune three blind mice made me and many others cower a little at how it could be made so eerie, and the use of lighting to assist in forming such an eerie atmosphere was well used to its advantage. Leading up to the murder the lighting seemed to darken as night came closer in, before being switched off completely during the murder at the end of the first half. After the murderer was revealed, I also realised how the darkening of the lights had also occurred at one other point in the performance. This was a key moment of foreshadowing that I feel slightly ashamed to not have picked up on.

The Mousetrap is a slick and well-though out production, this aided fully by the simple but effective directing of Ian Watt-Smith and a very strong cast of eight. My favourite character throughout being the cleverly named Christopher Wren, (played with ridiculous enthusiasm by Ryan Sanders) who lead to uncontrollable laughter due to his eccentric, childish personality. What really impressed me about Saunders is his ability to keep up his character all the way through the course of the performance. I found it impossible to believe that such a character was not real to life, and as the eight cast members gave their final bow and instructed us to keep the secret of The Mousetrap I was astounded to see that out of character Saunders seemed to be a different person all together.

Overall, the play had my mind in over-drive mode for the whole evening, was swift and very understandable. Everything was used to its advantage and other than small sections during the first half where you are naturally waiting eagerly for something big to happen, the whole performance was thoroughly enjoyable and well worth the trip.
The Mousetrap is among a variety of plays performed
at North Devon Theatres and are well worth
the watch. (Website)


The Doctor Who Experience - 26/04/14

02/05/2014

Two years ago I was lucky enough to visit the Harry Potter Studios in London to walk around the set of the films. 
This year, I had an equally incredible day. I was lucky enough to visit the Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff. I find both these things quite ironic and funny, mainly because a fair few of the people my age are going through the stage of having house parties and getting drunk which is their kind of fun. My kind of fun is getting overly excited and walking round the sets of films and tv shows that I've devoted my life to- that's just how I am I guess.
No, Craig is not meant to be doing the macarena, in fact he is flying the
Tardis of course!
So, this year I decided the overdue trip to Cardiff was one that I couldn't wait for any longer. My parents agreed, we booked the tickets and all of a sudden 3 months went as quick as 3 days and it was April the 26th.
Who would have thought I would have enjoyed
getting attacked by a cyberman ??
We left early in the morning, and after some heavy persuasive skills I managed to get my parents to switch off radio 2, yawn, and listen to each of my five Arctic Monkeys CD's. Classic. Eventually we arrived, and parked up before continuing to walk a short distance across Cardiff in the hope that we would come across the Experience without getting lost. 

Cardiff was absolutely beautiful, it was right by a stretch of water so there was a breeze which could only mean I had to put up with my hair attacking my face. There was also a carousel playing music that can only be described as naff. But overall, it had a really nice atmosphere and was full of interesting monuments.

Fortunately the hunt for the Experience was a short one and it wasn't long until we were inside. After a tuna baguette in the cafe, we lined up in the queue for the beginning of the tour, surrounded by a few cases of different props from more recent series'. [Shown on the left.]

After a short wait, it was our turn to go begin the experience. The first half an hour or so of the experience was all interactive, and cameras or any form of video recording was not allowed to make it be spoiler free for those to follow.


- FEEL FREE TO SKIP THE NEXT PART IF YOU ARE HOPING TO VISIT THE EXPERIENCE SPOILER FREE -

After being lead into a room and watching a short video clip, a crack in the wall in front of us identical to Amy's opened and we were lead through. The interactive section of the experience started off on Starship UK, the ship in series 5, episode 2 housing the whole population of the United Kingdom. We were shown some key artefacts before alarms went off and there was a security breach. Suddenly a video recording of Matt Smith in the Pandorica appeared on the screen, and he then made the Tardis appear in the corner of the room.

We were then instructed to walk into the Tardis and around the barriers were 8 different leavers. I was in front of the leaver which said 'Dynamics'.

We were then ushered out of the Tardis, and guided through a series of situations involving some old foes and some new ones, two of which being the Weeping Angels and the Daleks and in addition an incredible 3D recording which will make any cinema experience to follow look measly in comparison.

The use of moving floor simulators, lights, sound and visual clips all complement each other to create some great tricks and movements, and very realistic videos create the image that you really are in outer space.

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The first ever interior of the Tardis.
After this adventure, you are lead through into an amazing display, with each Doctors costume and a description on the side. There were cabinets of each sonic screwdriver, recreations of the inside of three different Tardis' and a green screen with dress up costumes [Picture at the start.]

The whole lower floor of the exhibition is very spacious, with plenty of room for many to walk around. You are able to get up and close with most of the displays, and each one was easily accessible. Older and more new companion costumes are on display, as well as some different Torchwood items and a identical replica of K9.

The upper floor was the villains display. Two of my favourites showed the character and image development of the Cybermen and the Daleks which I thought were particularly intriguing. 

















Upstairs each of the villains were accompanied by video clips, replicas of the costumes belonging to Billie Piper in the 50th anniversary, and Clara Oswald in the Christmas special.

There was a great wall full of stills from across the years, paper models of sets, and three different Tardis' with their Doctors costume on a model outside.

After an explore of  both upstairs and downstairs the whole experience lasts up to about three hours depending on in how much detail you want to look around. After that you can go through to the gift shop, full of posters, t-shirts, mugs, DVD's and any other merchandise you can think of.

I bought both a poster and a audio book read by Catherine Tate of one of Donna and David Tennant's Doctors adventures, as I do like to listen to audio books to help me get to sleep some nights.

Overall the whole exhibition brought something that I watched regularly on screen to real life, displayed up close, bringing together the whole history of the show through the use of props, costumes and interactive clips. Each recreation of a costume or set felt so real and I had a truly great day.