Tag Archives: Jonathan Norris

The Seagull – 3 Stars

The Seagull

The Seagull

The Tower Theatre

Reviewed – 8th November 2018


“The company succeeds in conveying the narrative with a clear voice and creating emphatic and well-fitting roles”


Previously a place of worship, subsequently a female only gym, the broad octagonal expanse of Tower Theatre’s new home in Stoke Newington has plenty of potential for a set designer, especially one tasked with creating the numbing sense of distance demanded by The Seagull. For this production of Chekhov’s bleak comedy of imperfect relationships and mediocre talents stranded in the middle of nowhere, Rob Hebblethwaite creates a wide, painted landscape across the back of the hall, to set up an opening scene in which Konstantin (Dominic Chambers) stages a play outdoors with the sweet, young Nina (Rachael Harrison) hoping for the approval of his self-centred mother and her entourage.

After a strong opening, aided by Michael Frayn’s accessible translation and more particularly by Chamber’s excellently natural and rounded performance, this production starts to wane a little, but the amateur nature of the company is not without strengths. Chekhov’s characters are often better inhabited rather than performed and Tower Theatre’s long experience and large pool of members allows for some precise portrayals. As Sharayev, Richard Pederson is enjoyably boorish; Sorin is all too aware of his life’s inconsequentiality while perversely proud of his modest achievements, and Jonathan Norris manages this piteous balance effortlessly well. Even the tiny part of Yakov is entirely occupied by Alistair Maydon, stomping around like a man unaware of being on a stage. The more expressive central roles of Arkadina (Lucy Moss) and the successful writer Trigoran (David Hankinson) are harder ones in which to create the eerie naturalism that Chekhov’s dialogue allows. Both characters feel forced to start with, but they eventually settle down to deliver some compelling scenes; Moss and Chambers work together beautifully as the mother tends the son’s wounds and the way Hankinson as Trigoran succumbs knowingly to his own vanity and into Arkadina’s clutches, is engrossing.

Though this is Julia Collier’s directing debut at the company, her experience in pantomime brings unlikely benefits. There is no sense of holding back on costumes (Lynda Twidale) or movement (Lindsay Royan) and the clarity of characters and storyline is refreshing. Her approach does the audience the favour of making the dialogue and therefore the relationships (or lack of them) easy to follow. The show could improve; the play’s delicately told but heart-rending story of Medvedenko and Masha, for example, seems to be missing in plain sight, but if the combination of am-dram and Chekhov gives you the chills, this production could give you a fresh perspective of both. The company succeeds in conveying the narrative with a clear voice and creating emphatic and well-fitting roles.


Reviewed by Dominic Gettins

Photography by Ruth Anthony


The Tower Theatre

The Seagull

The Tower Theatre until 17th November


Previously reviewed at this venue:
To Kill a Mockingbird | ★★★½ | October 2018


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Review of Nell Gwynn – 4 Stars


Nell Gwynn

Bridewell Theatre

Reviewed – 7th December 2017


“Wardlaw is simply charming as Nell. She easily carries the weight of the title character with ferocity, grace and always a cheeky look in her eye.”


Nell Gwynn is Jessica Swale’s 2015 play about the famous English actress and mistress of King Charles II. Written originally for The Globe Theatre starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw with a subsequent West End transfer starring Gemma Arterton, this amateur production directed by Roger Beaumont brings heart (if not polished professionalism) to Blackfriars.

Grace Wardlaw is simply charming as Nell. She easily carries the weight of the title character with ferocity, grace and always a cheeky look in her eye. Wardlaw will be snapped up by the West End very quickly if casting agents are paying attention. Having seen the original production, it’s not unfair to say Wardlaw gave original Nell – Mbatha-Raw a good run for her money. I can certainly see her playing Nancy in Oliver! in the not-to-distant-future.

James Dart (King Charles II) has an excellent time swanning about the palace in tights, playing at royalty, and his relationship with Nell is sweet and touching. Simon Brooke is a gorgeously camp, scene-stealing Edward Kynaston. In kimono and wig-cap, Brooke’s comic timing and physicality leave him as an audience favourite. Felix Grainger is spritely and enthusiastic as tortured playwright, John Dryden. And Valerie Antwi comes into her own in the second act playing the comical serving lady and reluctant actress, Nancy. (Although, it did feel uncomfortable that the only non-white member of the cast was a servant, particularly given the original non-white casting of Gwynn in 2015).

The show suffered from an unfortunately mistimed party above the venue, meaning quieter moments were lost in the background noise – a reminder that however good the acting, it’s often the venues that let amateur productions down.

The action takes place over several locations around London meaning the ensemble/stage hands had their work cut out for them. Scene changes were sometimes slow, but were peppered with characterisation like ensemble member Alice Boorman getting increasingly frustrated picking up Dryden’s discarded pages. Director Beaumont also provides an elaborately designed set complete with Royal Box. I felt it would have benefitted from a simpler, stripped down set with additional lighting as the combination of the set and costumes felt too busy for a small stage.

The live band led by Musical Director Jonathan Norris provided nice accompaniment in the musical numbers (particularly the catchy ‘I can dance and I can sing’), however some notes went astray as the show went on.

This show was far from perfect, but like Ms Gwynn, it had charm, wit and gusto.


Reviewed by TheatreFox

Photography by Richard Piwko


St Bride Foundation [logo]


Nell Gwynn

is at the Bridewell Street Theatre until 16th December



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