Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (UK Tour at Plymouth Theatre Royal 2016) – Theatre Review

Title: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Cast: Lee Mead, Carrie Hope Fletcher, Michelle Collins, Shaun Williamson, Andy Hockley, Scott Paige, Sam Harrison, Ewen Cummins, Matt Gillet

Director: James Brining

Venue: Plymouth Theatre Royal/Touring Production.


Over the last couple of years, I’ve seen productions of West End shows being performed either in London or in local venues and, without fail,  I still get the jolt of excitement when I can come home with a glossy show programme. I love musical theatre, and enjoy spending my hard-earned money on tickets.'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang' Tour

So when it was announced that the much-loved and highly-praised West End show of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang! was touring around the UK, I knew I had to get tickets. Lucky for me, Chitty landed in Plymouth’s Theatre Royal for a week, so I took the day off from work, and equipped with a vast love for the songs and story, I sat in the theatre and watched as the fantasmagorical musical transported back to my childhood.

Adapted from Ian Fleming’s original story, and with award-winning lyrics from the Sherman Brothers, this musical really hit a soft spot for me. Ever since obsessively watching the film as a child, and wishing to be Truly Scrumptious, I knew that this production would definitely tug on the heartstrings.

Starring Lee Mead (Joseph and the Technicolour Dream coat and Casualty) along with Carrie Hope Fletcher (Les Miserable and War of the Worlds) as Caractacus Potts and Truly Scrumptious respectively, this power duo really had the voices and the on-stage chemistry to pull these characters off well. I particularly loved Carrie’s rendition of ‘Doll on a Music Box’, in which she had all the poise and voice of a real stage actress, and I must admit, I completely fell apart at Mead’s soulful version of ‘Hushabye Mountain’. The rest of the cast also took to their parts incredibly well. Slapstick duo of Sam Harrison and Scott Paige as the Vulgarian spies, Goran and Boris really had the best one-liners in the play, and provided a light and suitable relief, whilst Matt Gillet’s Childcatcher really sent chills up my spine. Ex-Eastenders stars Michelle Collins and Shaun Williamson also took the parts of Barone'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang' Tourss and Baron Bomburst well, and did a rousing version of ‘Chu-Chi Face’.

The music and the choreography was also very diverse and fitting, with a particular highlight being Mead dancing in the ‘Me Ol’ Bamboo’, I felt the dancing never took any shine or attention from the actors, but only enhanced the viewing pleasure.

But one thing that really made me go ‘Wow’ was the spectacular use of special effects designed by Simon Wainwright. The use of an actual car, along with the use of video screens was a stroke of genius, as we watched Chitty ‘fly’, ‘swim’ and ‘dive’ over Beachy Head. The video projections were also used well to illustrate the car’s original Grand Prix glory days, and gives us a good backstory into the car’s history.

This production really took my breath away for how beautifully it was directed. It was exciting, whimsical, sad at points, hilarious at others, and with a cast that really delivered on those famous songs, it is a family favourite show that any person of any age would enjoy to see.

I’d definitely recommend it.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is still touring now. Links to available dates and venues are below.

Chitty The Musical.

 

Hamlet (Royal Shakespeare Company 2016 Production) – Theatre Review.

Title: Hamlet

Cast: Paapa Essiedu, Marcus Griffiths, Tanya Moodie, Cyril Nri, Natalie Simpson, Clarence Smith, Ewart James Walters, James Cooney, Bethan Cullinane.

Director: Simon Godwin

Venue: Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-Upon-Avon


As I’ve said before, being an English student has given me the opportunity to watch dozens of adaptations, performances, reimaginations and versions of William Shakespeare’s plays. Howevhamlet_production_photos_march_2016_2016_photo_by_manuel_harlan_c_rsc_187355-tmb-img-820er, when I had the privilege to watch the 2016 Royal Shakespeare Company’s production, I felt like I was watching something entirely new and entirely different.

Although still set nominally in Denmark, the play gives us something new and takes on a west African flavour. With cultural heritage and identity crisis at its core, Hamlet is first shown at his graduation ceremony oversees, but the death of his father makes him rush home to a country that he now feels completely lost in. And with the subsequent marriage of his mother to his father’s brother (later revealed his father’s power-hungry murderer), Hamlet is completely lost in the Danish court.

For the first time in RSC’s 55-year history, the titular character of Hamlet was given to a black actor. And what a marvel he has turned out to be. Paapa Essiedu shone with all the poise and calm of a seasoned actor, but with the young age of 25 and a baby-face to match, it is clear that this young man will become something of a success story in the coming years. When he spoke the immortal and well-loved soliloquy starting with ‘To be or not to be’, it was then we saw the once-suited and smart Prince turn into something new. We watch as tears roll down his face, his eyes half-closed and as though the words are tumbling from his mind. It is then we see Hamlet’s descent into madness and despair.

The cast were all beautifully selected, and fit in their respective roles well. We see Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude (portrayed by Tanya Moodie) fall from a dignified and regal queen, into a shell-shocked mess, and Natalie Simpson’s Ophelia is sweet, suitably sassy and cocky in the first half, but distressingly unhinged towards the end. Edward James Walters also gave a chilling performance as the Ghost, as he rose in a mist of dry ice and traditional African costume, and Clarence Smith’s Claudius was sleek and well mannered. However, one of my personal favourite’s was definitely the portrayal of Polonius. Cyril Nr'Hamlet' Play directed by Simon Godwin performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company at Stratford-upon-Avon, UKi has given Polonius a new breath of life, by making him somewhat of a court jester, as well as a scatty and fussy parent.

With Hamlet, so much has been done with it in the past, it may have been challenging to breath new life into this timeless play. However, with a thrilling soundtrack of drums, limb-jerking dancing and graffiti, Simon Godwin’s Hamlet is visceral, raw and gives us a rising star who doesn’t so much as shine but blaze as our mercurial Dane.

Hamlet is at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford Upon Avon until August 13th. Book now, or see it live at participating cinemas. Visit The Royal Shakespeare Company website for dates.