La Voix Conquers Southbank

★★★★★

Written by Daen Palma Huse

Photograph by Daen Palma Huse

Photograph by Daen Palma Huse

If you are looking for an evening of entertainment that will have you shake with laughter and strike you with big vocals, look no further: La Voix’s show is for you. Drag star La Voix is humorous, talented, wildly entertaining and gives us stand-up comedy at this year’s Spiegeltent as part of Southbank’s Underbelly Festival that even had the most reluctant members of the audience lose their stiff upper lip. With a non-stop show she delivers musical numbers with great calibre and presents the best of the grand dames of show-biz including Dame Shirley Bassey, Judy Garland, Tina Turner and Liza Minelli. A little pinch of politics is mixed into the performance with that certain je ne sais quoi that only a drag queen could bring to a stage.

Photograph by Steve Burt

Photograph by Steve Burt

One of the reasons why La Voix captures the attention of the audience for the entire duration of the show is that she takes on songs, both past and present, that resonate through having perfected her adaption of vocal characteristics and body language of the great singers. La Voix is not an impersonator, she does not need a “Cher”-wig to make us feel like Cher just burst on stage, which makes for an accomplished performance. After recent Eurovision acts that had us collectively losing faith in live performances, La Voix gave us reason to believe again. Bravo! 

La Voix can be seen throughout the 2019 tour Live, Loud & Fabulous. For more information visit www.lavoix.co.uk

Rochelle Rose stars in Selina Thompson’s salt. at The Royal Court Theatre

★★★★★

Written by Daen Palma Huse

Rochelle Rose in  salt.  photographed by Johan Persson

Rochelle Rose in salt. photographed by Johan Persson

Whenever I am sitting at the theatre and realise that the cast delivering to a packed auditorium consists of three talented actors, I am astonished. A theatre performance without musical numbers, without an overbearing set, without dance, without supporting acts; this requires the combined talent of very enthusiastic and devoted performers. With salt it is a different story yet: not three, not two, but only one single brave actor carries the play in a performance without break. This one actor is Rochelle Rose, who shows commitment to the story, devotion to the performance and a great tactfulness for timings and transporting the audience through time and emotions.

Rochelle Rose in  salt.  photographed by Johan Persson

Rochelle Rose in salt. photographed by Johan Persson

Rochelle Rose in  salt.  photographed by Johan Persson

Rochelle Rose in salt. photographed by Johan Persson

The play, written by Selina Thompson, centres around the artists’ own journey to retrace the route of the Transatlantic Slave Triangle from Europe to Africa to the Carribean, which she embarked on in 2016 on a cargo ship. Thompson’s body of work concentrates on the politics of marginalisation, and in salt. she starts unpacking concepts centring around colonialism, capitalism and the diaspora. What sounds like blunt criticism at first is in fact a considered comment on society today, which gains momentum through Rose’s performance this year at The Royal Court Theatre after having won various awards in previous performances including The Stage Edinburgh Award, the Total Theatre Award for Experimentation and having been shortlisted for the Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award.

A topic that might make parts of the audience feel uneasy is relevant not only for the UK’s current state of affairs and coming to terms with its past, but carries crucial importance on an international level. The story moves from critique to personal experiences told by the author through the actor who has us hanging on her lips for the entire duration of the play. We are taken through many emotions, connecting to the story and relating to our own lives. It is through the nuances of joy, nostalgia, sorrow, dejection and reflection that we intimately connect to the story. Poetic and honest, Rochelle Rose’s performance in Selina Thompson’s play is one not to miss. Salt. leaves us with a lasting impression.

The applause at the end of the play was strong, although I would have expected the audience to react more enthusiastic. In hindsight I believe the audience remained captured even after the performance had finished, with Rochelle Rose sitting by the exit of the auditorium with a basket of pink chunks of salt for the audience to take away as a reminder; “To take it is a commitment to live, a commitment to the radical space of not moving on, and all that it can open.”

salt. is written by Selina Thompson, performed by Rochelle Rose and directed by Dawn Walton. It runs in the Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Upstairs Tuesday 14 May – Saturday 1 June 2019. Click here for more information.

Fanny and Stella Strike Again

★★★★

Written by Daen Palma Huse

In a humorous and highly entertaining performance, the comedy Fanny and Stella written by Glen Chandler returns to Above the Stag Theatre in Vauxhall after sell-out performances in 2015.

Fanny & Stella_Poster image 1.jpg

The story about Fanny and Stella is based around true facts. Ernest Boulton and Frederick Park were more recently titled “The Young Men Who Shocked Victorian England” by the Guardian. The cross-dressers were quite openly walking the streets of London and ultimately were charged with “the abominable crime of buggery” in 1870. They became known as He-She Ladies and it came to a very public trial with newspapers raging.

Tobias Charles and Kieran Parrott, as Fanny and Stella, carry the show at Above the Stag Theatre with an effortless quality throughout, including carefully crafted vocals and theatrical performance. The set of the show is simple and traditional, perfect for the play. When walking into the auditorium before the show commences, we are greeted by Mr Grimes in Victorian costume, played by the talented Mark Pearce. He continues to slip in and out of roles as the story of the play unfolds, each one of them played convincingly and with the conviction of a true entertainer.

Overall, the show emulates the mood of the time the play is set in and for the duration of the performance we feel teleported into a Victorian theatre with an enthusiastic public that is lusting after sensational entertainment, an itch that will be scratched. Hats off also to Carole Todd for creating a choreography yet again that elevates the play and connects the music and vocals with fitting movement.

“Fanny and Stella – The Shocking True Story” runs until 2nd of June 2019 at Above the Stag Theatre, 72 Albert Embankment, Vauxhall, London, SE1 7TP

For more information click here.

Tobias Charles and Kieran Parrott, as Fanny and Stella, Above The Stag Theatre, PBGstudios

Tobias Charles and Kieran Parrott, as Fanny and Stella, Above The Stag Theatre, PBGstudios

Tobias Charles and Kieran Parrott, as Fanny and Stella, Above The Stag Theatre, PBGstudios

Tobias Charles and Kieran Parrott, as Fanny and Stella, Above The Stag Theatre, PBGstudios

Mark Pearce, Above The Stag Theatre, PBGstudios

Mark Pearce, Above The Stag Theatre, PBGstudios

Mark Pearce, Above The Stag Theatre, PBGstudios

Mark Pearce, Above The Stag Theatre, PBGstudios

 

 

 

The Picture of Dorian Gray

Written by Daen Palma Huse

Daniel Goode as Basil Hallward and Jonathan Wrather as Lord Henry Wotton

Daniel Goode as Basil Hallward and Jonathan Wrather as Lord Henry Wotton

One of the most notable pieces of writing by Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray has been adapted many times after its original release in the late 1800s. When the novel appeared, many voices were outraged. The Daily Chronicle reported:

“It is a tale spawned from the leprous literature of the French Décadents – a poisonous book, the atmosphere of which is heavy with the mephitic odours of moral and spiritual putrefaction n– a gloating study of the mental and physical corruption of a fresh, fair and golden youth, which might be fascinating but for its effeminate frivolity, its studied insincerity, its theatrical cynicism, its tawdry mysticism, its flippant philosophisings, and the contaminating trail of garish vulgarity which is over all Mr. Wilde’s elaborate Wardour Street aestheticism and obtrusively cheap scholarship.”

Many of the terms used in this review are coded terms for “homesexuality” – a word that was only about to enter public discourse. Substantial cuts in the story had subsequently been made in many of the publications of the work that was to follow.

Jonathan Wrather as Lord Henry Wotton Gavin Fowler as Dorian Gray

Jonathan Wrather as Lord Henry Wotton Gavin Fowler as Dorian Gray

A new adaptation that is currently being shown at Richmond Theatre raises questions about how to approach a novel that has been reinterpreted many times and how something can be offered to the audience that is entertaining and at the same time offering a subtle contemporaneity and relevance to its viewers.

A passage that had been deleted in previous versions of the published novel included the speech by the painter Basil to Dorian in which he confesses his adoration:

“It is quite true I have worshipped you with far more romance of feeling than a man should ever give to a friend. Somehow, I have never loved a woman.... From the moment I met you, your personality had the most extraordinary influence over me.... I adored you madly, extravagantly, absurdly. I was jealous of everyone to whom you spoke. I wanted to have you all to myself. I was only happy when I was with you."

The new adaption of Dorian Gray on show at Richmond Theatre has deleted parts of this particular passage, too (“I have never loved a woman.”). The adaptation deletes several homoerotic references of the original novel altogether – and unfortunately the slight lack of personal tension between characters results in a disjoint between actor’s performances.

Samuel Townsend as Romeo and Kate Dobson as Sybil

Samuel Townsend as Romeo and Kate Dobson as Sybil

The two most recent notable characterisations of Oscar Wilde’s twisted character on screen are a Dorian Gray created by John Logan and played by Reeve Carney in the visually beautiful series Penny Dreadful (2014-2016) that is already cold and unapproachable by nature of his doomed relationship with his own portrait - and equally, the Dorian Gray directed by Oliver Parker in 2009 displayed a gothic quality transpiring through a seemingly unchanging façade of youth and beauty. In both adaptations, this façade starts to crumble and ultimately draws Dorian Gray into nothingness with a theatrical effect.

The adaptation by Tilted Wig Productions, Malvern Theatres, and Churchill Theatre including Jonathan Wrather in the cast certainly had big shoes to fill, and the creators somewhat seem to have taken on more than they could digest within the timeframe of an evening’s theatre play. The stage set is a rustic apartment and changing lighting suggests changes of location, from the painter Basil’s studio to a backstage room to Lord Henry’s living room and Dorian Gray’s own residence. Whilst changes of location are made clearly, the use of set, props and costume are traditional. What thus comes as a surprise are coloured light and contemporary dance intervals in the second half of the play that aim at creatively indicating Dorian Gray’s state of mind. Whilst the play starts to explore some interesting angles to reinterpreting the story, it does not embrace one approach fully.

Richmond Theatre is a beautiful Frank Matcham theatre. Built in 1899 as the Theatre Royal and Opera House, it was refurbished in 1991. The inside of the auditorium embodies the aesthetic of the late 19th century, a perfect setting for the play.