Tag Archives: Anthony Spargo

United Queendom

★★★★★

Kensington Palace

United Queendom

United Queendom

Kensington Palace

Reviewed – 2nd March 2020

★★★★★

 

“a fabulous and thoroughly enjoyable journey”

 

If you are lucky enough to have a ticket for this sold out show you are in for a treat. If you don’t have a ticket try and get a return.

Kensington Palace is the venue and, when you arrive, you will discover that you have been invited to the birthday party of King George the Second. A feast of delights awaits you! Will you meet the King? Or maybe Queen Caroline? You will definitely see them, and you will also see Henrietta Howard, the Queen’s mistress, and a host of characters from the Georgian court. The Necessary Woman, played by the irrepressible Christina Ngoyi, will escort you to the entrance to the palace. She will probably explain that her job is emptying the many chamber pots that are scattered around. She will be shooed away by Deven Modha, as the Lord Chamberlain, the most important of the King’s staff, as he will no doubt inform you. You’ll pick up a glass of wine, and the revels will begin. At the bottom of a grand staircase you will suddenly by surrounded by a flurry of skirts and wigs as courtiers appear and mingle with the crowd. You will be taught how to bow or curtsy, and maybe hear some hints of scandal. Senesino, the renowned court musician and composer will play virtuoso violin and, later, you will hear his beautiful counter tenor as he sings an aria that echoes and floats down the King’s staircase. James Hastings plays him with such sublime talent, and such wonderful theatricality, that you won’t want the music, to stop. Some of you will be given a golden envelope and ushered away to visit the King’s inner apartments. I don’t know what will happen to the rest of you, as there are two ‘tracks’ to the show and two different experiences. One thing is certain; you will have a fabulous time, whichever way you go.

We were treated to some hilarious court mischief, exposed to factions supporting the King or the Queen, and invited to a salon, where the women of the court hosted such great thinkers as Isaac Newton to talk. Deborah Tracey’s vibrant Salonnieres and the fusty old fashioned Duke of Newcastle, brilliantly played by Richard Holt, disagreed about whether the earth is round of flat. On the way round the palace we come across the Countess of Hertford, a supporter of the Queen, who wears men’s clothing and raps up a storm. Lucy Reynolds clearly has fun playing her, and is a joy. We discovered that Lord Harvey is rather a naughty boy, especially when he is with Miss Vane – Stephan Boyce and Nadia Sohawon really are deliciously scandalous in these roles. And yes, we met the King and Queen and, of course, Henrietta Howard. Lavinia Co-Op is archly camp George II, and Miranda Heath and Yasmin Keita, as the two women central to this story clash and face off like two birds of paradise in a sparkle of jewels and a ruffle of feathers. But is it possible that this ‘Queendom’ could be united? is there, perhaps, another way of doing things? You’ll just have to go and see it to find out. If you can get a ticket.

The costumes are glorious, the wigs and make-up a flamboyant delight. And the music is divine. Susan Kulkarni, Victoria Stride and Patrick Neil Doyle respectively are a dream team of creatives. Nadia Sohawon’s choreography adds to the mix, which manages to be both historically accurate and contemporarily relevant, lit with touch of magic by Pablo Fernandez Baz. And all brought together into a fabulous and thoroughly enjoyable journey through one night in the Georgian court by director Christa Harris. Amid all the uproarious glee we learned a lot too. Unmissable.

 

Reviewed by Katre

Photography by Gail Harland

 


United Queendom

Kensington Palace until 30th March

 

Last ten shows reviewed by Katre:
The Legend Of The Holy Drinker | ★★½ | The Vaults | January 2020
Beige | ★★★★ | The Vaults | February 2020
Gypsy Flame | ★★★ | Network Theatre | February 2020
In My Lungs The Ocean Swells | ★★★★ | The Vaults | February 2020
Killing It | ★★★★ | Network Theatre | February 2020
La Cage Aux Folles | ★★★★ | Park Theatre | February 2020
Life And Death  Of A Journalist | ★★★ | The Vaults | February 2020
Spree | ★★★★ | The Vaults | February 2020
The Upstart Crow | ★★★★★ | Gielgud Theatre | February 2020
Time And Tide | ★★★ | Park Theatre | February 2020

Click here to see our most recent reviews

 

Sleeping Beauty

★★★★★

Greenwich Theatre

Sleeping Beauty

Sleeping Beauty

Greenwich Theatre

Reviewed – 11th December 2019

★★★★★

 

“an incredibly rich and vibrant affair that will fill you with a sense of well-being while making you laugh again and again”

 

Every year Andrew Pollard brings his remarkable pantomime to Greenwich Theatre, and every year it surprises and delights. The stories may change, but the essence remains the same – a hilarious and audacious roller-coaster of a show. Sleeping Beauty is another great victory for this supremely talented writer, actor and director.

Forget the usual panto formula. While Pollard clearly loves the genre and pays homage to its key elements – not least, by embodying the archetypal Dame – his take on the form is refreshingly different and he makes Sleeping Beauty work on multiple levels. For children, it’s excitingly full of colour, adventure and impressive pyrotechnic effects, with appealing interactive moments – such as being handed magic moon rocks and urged to throw them at the stage. For adults, it’s a feast of cheeky wit with a very funny script that weaves in local and topical references (Plumstead, Blackheath, Nigel Farage, Prince Andrew) alongside plenty of daft innuendo. It’s a treat to watch the actors trying to make each other laugh, going off-piste and breaking the fourth wall.

The scenes are interspersed with – and often built around – wonderful pop music. There are adaptations of songs by The Beatles, Chic, Boney M and The Proclaimers, among others, played live and loud by the small in-house band led by Musical Director ‘Uncle’ Steve Markwick.

The story veers wildly away from the classic fairytale, but just about retains enough of the key elements to justify the title. Ewan and Anastasia, the young couple at the centre of the plot, are confidently played by Regan Burke and Esme Bacalla-Hayes. Theirs is not a typical boy-meets-girl situation. With the help of a kindly fairy, Ewan finds himself transported from the London of 1969 to the Russia of 1869. Masquerading as ‘Major Thomas’ – you can see the David Bowie connection a mile off, and sure enough they include ‘Space Oddity’ as one of the songs – he falls in love with the daughter of Tsar Ivan the Slightly Irritable. But Anastasia is bewitched and left to sleep for 100 years by the evil villain Rasputin. The ‘mad monk’ is wonderfully brought to life by the ultra-charismatic Anthony Spargo, who knows exactly how to get the audience hissing at him and his dastardly plans.

Quickly dispensing with familiar Sleeping Beauty motifs, the narrative races off into a gloriously ridiculous saga about travelling through time and space, plus a thread about Greenwich Theatre itself as way of celebrating its 50th anniversary. Indeed, Ewan is based on Ewan Hooper, a real-life local actor who saved the theatre from demolition in the 1960s.

One of the highlights of each annual pantomime is the spectacle of Andrew Pollard’s outlandish costumes, which defy gravity and belief, so special credit must go to the team of wardrobe designers. Utterly inspired visuals in which adults are turned into babies also support several moments of comedy that go beyond merely funny or clever to approach a sort of surreal high art.

Only one criticism: at times the music is too loud and drowns out the dialogue. It’s not the sort of show in which you need to hear every word, but it is a shame that a few of the jokes are lost for this reason.

That point aside, this is an incredibly rich and vibrant affair that will fill you with a sense of well-being while making you laugh again and again.

 

Reviewed by Stephen Fall

Photography by Robert Day

 


Sleeping Beauty

Greenwich Theatre until 12 January

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
One Last Waltz | ★★★ | March 2018
Eigengrau | | August 2018
Outrageous Fortune | ★★★ | May 2019
Skin in the Game | ★★★★ | July 2019

 

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