Tag Archives: Nick Sagar

Tom Gates

Tom Gates
★★★★

Richmond Theatre & UK Tour

Tom Gates

Tom Gates

Richmond Theatre & UK Tour

Reviewed – 20th March 2019

★★★★

 

“a joyous piece of children’s theatre – and is sure to bring a smile to old and new fans alike”

 

For any family with junior school age children, Liz Pichon’s Tom Gates books have become a familiar and popular addition to our bookshelves. Liz has now written and illustrated fifteen books in the series, and when I mentioned to my ten year old son that Tom Gates was to be ‘Live on Stage’, he was very excited to see how that would work. Director, Neal Foster and Author, Liz Pichon agreed that rather than base the show on one of her many books, they would create a brand new story, and so in a first for the Birmingham Stage Company, they worked together to do just that.

The story starts in the classroom: Tom has got three sad faces on the class achievement chart. If he gets four, he will not be allowed to go on the class outing to the local biscuit factory. At home, his grandparents (the Fossils) have decided to renew their wedding vows, and preparations are in full swing.

Jackie Trousdale’s set is mainly comprised of six drop down screens that have Liz’s very stylised doodles projected onto them. These go up and down as the scenes change with amazing effect. Doors and windows appear and disappear in the blink of an eye, and the rain cloud that follows sister, Delia around constantly is very amusing. My favourite scenes involved Dad (Daniel Harkin), driving Tom and his friends around town in his borrowed hot dog van, all down to a clever projected illustration and some impeccably choreographed acting.

The cast work extremely well together, many playing multiple roles to deliver a fun and cohesive script. Matthew Chase proficiently leads the cast as the titular Tom, his signature hairstyle is lifted straight from Liz’s illustrations and is a nice touch. Justin Davies and Ashley Cousins as school friends, Norman and Marcus, really capture their characters – we all knew similar people at school! Amy Hargreaves shines through as sugary classmate Amy and the emotionally charged big sister, Delia.

Some of the funniest scenes involved Ashley Cousins as Granny and Matthew Gordon as Grandad. Grandad teaching Tom to play the spoons and a wedding arch made of Zimmer frames were among the highlights. Look out for the special wedding carriage, it’s very funny and brilliantly designed.

The whole piece is woven with original music by Liz’s husband, Mark Flannery, with lyrics written by Liz herself. The songs are catchy and witty, and bring more fun to the proceedings. Tom Gates – Live on Stage is a joyous piece of children’s theatre – and is sure to bring a smile to old and new fans alike.

Reviewed by Emma Gradwell

Photography by Mark Douet

 


Tom Gates

Richmond Theatre until 24th March then UK Tour continues

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Iolanthe | ★★★★ | May 2018
84 Charing Cross Road | ★★★★ | June 2018

 

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Awful Auntie
★★★½

Bloomsbury Theatre

Awful Auntie

Bloomsbury Theatre

Reviewed – 12th December 2018

★★★½

“for the book’s fan base it is no doubt a delight to see the antics brought to the stage with imagination and charm”

 

Stella Saxby, 12-year-old heir to Saxby Hall, awakens bound in a bed at the will of her awful Auntie Alberta. Told that her parents were killed in a tragic car accident, all is not what it seems when auntie suspiciously mentions the ‘deedly weedlies’ for Saxby Hall.

David Walliams’ best selling book is brought to life by Birmingham Stage Company and the talented adapter and director, Neal Foster. With all the mischief and mayhem of Dahl’s Matilda, Awful Auntie is a dark comedy-thriller, with the mood captured perfectly in Jackie Trousdale’s marvellous staging. The gothic set features spectacular rotating turrets made for giddy chases in and out of rooms and chimneys. Puppets are creatively used throughout the play, crossing the expansive grounds of Saxby Hall to evoke the exhilarating sense of adventure of Walliams’ book. Wagner the Bavarian Owl is an exceptionally-made puppet, artfully managed by Roberta Bellekom.

Georgina Leonidas plays the resilient Stella with youthful energy and vigour. Despite her captivity and the fatal loss of her parents, Stella is rather unemotional which could explain the sense that something is missing throughout the show to make the audience really root for her. The lack of emotion becomes particularly apparent with the out of place class moral wedged on the end of the play. Despite this, scenes between Leonidas and the cockney ghost chimney sweep, Soot, have a playful innocence all set to the background of Jak Poore’s atmospheric score. The endearing, wide-eyed Soot is played humorously by Ashley Cousins, who previously starred in Gangsta Granny.

Awful Auntie Alberta (Richard James) is a Miss Trunchbull character with a sizeable dash of pantomime dame. The shrill dame voice is slightly grating in an overly-wordy opening scene that sadly falls flat. Fortunately, poo and trump gags win the young audience’s attention. The second act livens up with slapstick humour and a more villainous Awful Auntie appearing. The electrocution chamber that Stella is locked in feels slightly inappropriate but luckily only parents and not their children seem concerned about it.

Awful Auntie doesn’t quite follow in the footsteps of Gangsta Granny but for the book’s fan base it is no doubt a delight to see the antics brought to the stage with imagination and charm.

 

Reviewed by Beth Partington

Photography by Mark Douet

 


Awful Auntie

Bloomsbury Theatre until 6th January

 

 

 

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