Tag Archives: Arcola Theatre

Little Miss Sunshine
★★★★★

Arcola Theatre

Little Miss Sunshine

Little Miss Sunshine

Arcola Theatre

Reviewed – 1st April 2019

★★★★★

 

“Mehmet Ergen directs the show with a freshness and inventiveness that allows the versatile and talented cast to sparkle”

 

What a treat this is. Turning a successful film into a stage musical isn’t an easy task, but this production by Selladoor manages it wonderfully. The story is true to the original and if you are wondering how the small Arcola stage can accommodate a VW van, a motel, a hospital and a Beauty Pageant, go and see it purely for the ingenuity of David Woodhead’s design.

This is one of those evenings at the theatre that has the audience buzzing and leaving the theatre with huge smiles. Some will also have a tune in their head, as there are some truly memorable songs (William Finn) in the show. The cast are excellent; this is a real ensemble piece where everyone gets a chance to shine, even those with smaller roles, such as Imelda Warren-Green who personified the old adage that there is no such thing as a small part with hilarious performances as Linda and Miss California.

For those not familiar with the film (written by  Michael Arndt), the story is about the Hoover family; a rather dysfunctional tribe, who drive from New Mexico to California so that their daughter Olive can enter a children’s beauty pageant. Olive, played this evening by Sophie Hartley Booth was the heart and soul of the show. She was hilarious, sweet and utterly captivating. Her performance in the talent competition brought the house down. Three other children, Ellicia Simondwood, Yvie Bent and Elodie Salmon played the Mean Girls, both the voices in Olive’s head that tell her she isn’t good enough and the other competitors in the beauty pageant. And delightfully mean they were.

The rest of the family each have their problems. Paul Keating played Frank, the gay uncle who has unsuccessfully tried to kill himself, with a gentle sureness of hand. Gary Wilmot’s scandalous grandpa is living on the sofa. He loves to shock, yet has real warmth and Wilmot brought a gorgeous tongue in cheek style to the role. Sev Keoshgerian managed to be very funny, characterful and convincing as Dwayne, Olive’s brother, even during the majority of the show when he doesn’t say a word. The parents, Richard and Sheryl, played by Gabriel Vick and Laura Pitt-Pulford are broke and struggling. Gabriel is optimistic about his ‘ten point plan for success,’ and expecting a book deal that never comes, but despite all the setbacks and obstacles, the family are determined to get Olive to the pageant. Pitt-Pulford sang ‘Something Better Better Happen’ with such genuine emotion that it brought a tear to the eye, and Vick’s ‘What You Left Behind’ was powerful and touching. They felt like a real family, each individually falling apart but coming together in the face of their difficulties; pushing the van to get it started, determined to finish the journey.

The two other cast members are Ian Carlyle and Matthew McDonald, who both take on a couple of contrasting roles. Carlyle is outrageously loud as the wonderfully dreadful pageant host, and equally good as the man who stole Frank’s lover. McDonald also convinces, both as the ex-lover and as the long suffering technical guy at the pageant.

Mehmet Ergen directs the show with a freshness and inventiveness that allows the versatile and talented cast to sparkle. There is a stunning live band above the stage (Musical Director Arlene McNaught) that perform their hearts out for every number. The perfect package is completed with great sound (Olly Steel) and lighting (Richard Williamson) throughout and some excellent choreography (Anthony Whiteman).

If Little Miss Sunshine gets a West End transfer, and it deserves to get one, I will be happy to say that I saw it in this smaller, more intimate space. Do go, if you can. The whole thing is a joy.

 

Reviewed by Katre

Photography by Manuel Harlan

 


Little Miss Sunshine

Arcola Theatre until 11th May

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
The Parade | ★★★ | May 2018
The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives | ★★★★★ | June 2018
The Rape of Lucretia | ★★★★ | July 2018
Elephant Steps | ★★★★ | August 2018
Greek | ★★★★ | August 2018
Forgotten | ★★★ | October 2018
Mrs Dalloway | ★★★★ | October 2018
A Hero of our Time | ★★★★★ | November 2018
Stop and Search | ★★ | January 2019
The Daughter-In-Law | ★★★★★ | January 2019

 

Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com

 

The Daughter-in-Law

The Daughter-in-Law
★★★★★

Arcola Theatre

The Daughter-in-Law

The Daughter-in-Law

Arcola Theatre

Reviewed – 15th January 2019

★★★★★

 

“Matthew Biddulph as Joe Gascoyne gave the most natural performance and almost always felt like he could have ended each sentence with a cheeky wink”

 

The Daughter-in-Law is back at the Arcola now occupying Studio 1, after a month in the smaller Studio 2 during the summer of 2018. It is one of D H Lawrence’s eight plays completed during his lifetime, although he’s more famously known for his poetry and novels. Jack Gamble’s revival some fifty-odd years since its first staging at The Royal Court in 1967 proves the central themes of marriage and family, set amongst Nottinghamshire’s mining community, are still relatable today.

Lawrence introduces us to the Gascoyne family. We have the matriarch and her two youngest sons, Luther and Joe, Luther’s wife of six weeks, the eponymous Daughter-in-Law, Minnie, and neighbour Mrs Purdy. These are the types of people Lawrence would have known well, having grown up in the mining community of Easton himself in the late 1800s. A thick Derbyshire accent (dialect coach Penny Dyer) is in full use throughout the play, which does take some getting used to, especially for southern London types. However, it does also make for great comedic moments, particularly Mrs Gascoyne’s use of colloquialisms to the young women in her sons’ lives.

Although complications to Luther and Minnie’s marriage are revealed very early on, it’s actually the relationship between the mother and her family members which draws the most scrutiny at the climax of the play with Minnie asking “how is a woman to have a husband if all the men belong to their mothers?” It’s an insightful statement delivered to sympathetic laughter, but at least one of the conclusions Minnie draws from this, that she would rather have a husband who knocks her about than one who can’t really love her, I cringed to hear.

Ellie Nunn and Matthew Barker as Minnie and Luther each show their force in the relationship in contrasting ways, Nunn verbally but Barker physically. Matthew Biddulph as Joe Gascoyne gave the most natural performance and almost always felt like he could have ended each sentence with a cheeky wink.

Each of the four acts are set in the dining room of either Mrs or Minnie Gascoyne’s homes. Louie Whitemore’s set is therefore unflashy but authentic viewed in the round. The lighting and sound also subtly, but cleverly work with the set to situate the play in both time and location. Geoff Hense complements lit candles on stage with warm orange glows. Dinah Mullen’s sound is most notable when recreating the sounds of the mine shafts in one tense moment.

This production at Arcola Theatre offers another chance to see this worthy revival, a gentle reminder that the plight of the miners did not start or end with Margaret Thatcher, and an honest acknowledgement that marriage is rarely a simple fairy tale.

 

Reviewed by Amber Woodward

Photography by Idil Sukan

 


The Daughter-in-Law

Arcola Theatre until 2nd February

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Fine & Dandy | ★★★★★ | February 2018
The Daughter-in-Law | ★★★★ | May 2018
The Parade | ★★★ | May 2018
The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives | ★★★★★ | June 2018
The Rape of Lucretia | ★★★★ | July 2018
Elephant Steps | ★★★★ | August 2018
Greek | ★★★★ | August 2018
Forgotten | ★★★ | October 2018
Mrs Dalloway | ★★★★ | October 2018
A Hero of our Time | ★★★★★ | November 2018

 

Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com