Tag Archives: Simon Lipkin

First Date

First Date

★★★

Online

First Date

First Date

Online stream from Crazy Coqs

Reviewed – 22nd October 2020

★★★

 

“the memorable songs and the impressive performances carry this funny and relatable take on the dating world”

 

The year is 2020, a pandemic has turned singletons everywhere horny (sound familiar?), and the musical ’First Date’ is here to find out if we can still believe in love!

In the Crazy Coqs bar we meet Aaron (Simon Lipkin) and Casey (Samantha Barks) on a blind date and setting eyes on each other for the first time. Queue a series of fantastically funny songs alighting on all the truisms of first dates from the friend you have lined up to fake an accident to the awkward pauses and who pays the cheque at the end of it all! The pair navigate small talk and their differences, to see whether this could be something. Our two daters are surrounded by a fantastic chorus who pop-up Grecian-esque as bartenders, exes, bad boys and even Google embodied!

The songs, written by Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner, are consistently brilliant. There are cabaret numbers, comedy numbers, ballads, duets and a lovely five-person opening. Accompanied by a live piano, the songs are well-written, well-sung and all great fun! The script (Austin Winsberg) between songs, however, is not up to the standard of the song writing at all. Whilst there’s some promise in there, it is overly long and slow, and needs some serious tightening up to meet the quality which is so evident in the lyric writing.

The cast are really strong, directed by Dean Johnson. They all boast fantastic voices, brought together with musical direction from John Winstone. Barks and Lipkin sing wonderfully, working hard on a slow script, although lacking in chemistry between them. Some favourite characters in the panopoly that the chorus play include Nick McLean’s Reggie and Danielle Steers’ dead grandma! The shining star of the whole show is Oscar Conlon-Morrey who is irresistibly funny in every role he plays: a feast to watch, even when he is just making comments during the internal (a lovely touch). I could’ve watch him all day.

Unfortunately the quality of the music and performers is let down by the audio (Matt Ide) and videography (Sam Diaz) quality, both of which are wildly inconsistent, so much so that they are disruptive to the piece*. The green screen backdrops are really fun and work really well, but in the space itself the lighting is bizarre and doesn’t respond to lighting changes mentioned in the script, silence buzzes, and it would be impossible to watch this through without regularly adjusting the volume up and down on your television or laptop. Given that it is presented like a film, it needs to have the basic production values of one. It is such a shame, given the quality of the actors and the material.

Production quality aside, the memorable songs and the impressive performances carry this funny and relatable take on the dating world.

 

Reviewed by Amelia Brown

Photography courtesy Lambert Jackson

 

* This show was reviewed on an advance link so sound and video quality may be improved on the released production

 


First Date

Online stream from Crazy Coqs

 

Last ten shows reviewed by Amelia:
Germ Free Adolescent | ★★★★ | The Bunker | October 2019
Before I Was A Bear | ★★★★★ | The Bunker | November 2019
I Will Still Be Whole (When You Rip Me In Half) | ★★★★ | The Bunker | November 2019
My White Best Friend And Even More Letters Best Left Unsaid | ★★★★ | The Bunker | November 2019
Potted Panto | ★★★★ | Southwark Playhouse | December 2019
The Girl With Glitter in Her Eye | ★★½ | The Bunker | January 2020
Essence | ★★½ | The Vaults | February 2020
Flights | ★★★½ | Omnibus Theatre | February 2020
Maliphantworks3 | ★★★★★ | The Coronet Theatre | February 2020
Globaleyes | ★★★★ | Online | September 2020

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews

 

Ghost Stories

Ghost Stories

★★★

Ambassadors Theatre & UK Tour

Ghost Stories

Ghost Stories

Ambassadors Theatre

Reviewed – 9th October 2019

★★★

 

“well crafted, and well performed”

 

Ghost Stories arrives at the Ambassadors Theatre in London’s West End just in time for the season of spooks and all things that go bump in the night. Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman’s show, which they wrote and directed, has enjoyed considerable success since it premiered as a co-production with the Lyric Hammersmith and the Liverpool Everyman in 2010, going on to tour around the world, and even becoming a film. The Ambassadors gets into the act right from the moment you enter the foyer, with lots of spooky sound effects and mysterious numbers chalked up on the walls. This theme continues once you take your seat, building up a nice atmosphere with the help of hazard tape and flickering worker lights. Since this is an eighty minute show without an interval, ushers are kind enough to remind the audience that if they leave the auditorium once the show has begun, they cannot be readmitted. It doesn’t hurt the sense of anticipation by making one feel a bit trapped as one sits down.

Dyson and Nyman clearly know their stuff, and how to build suspense. There are a few nods to other classic tales in this genre. Fans of the paranormal will enjoy the way in which the actors set up each story, ably assisted by a flexible set, designed by Jon Bausor, but most of all by the sound and lighting effects (designed by Nick Manning and James Farncombe, with special effects by Scott Penrose). The effects cue each shocking denouement and can be on the loud and bright side, so be warned. Simon Lipkin as Professor Goodman gives a solid performance as the academic whose career has been spent debunking paranormal phenomena. Naturally, Ghost Stories is all about the three cases he can’t explain. Garry Cooper as Tony Matthews, Preston Nyman as Simon Rifkind, and Richard Sutton as Mike Priddle all shine as the hapless protagonists of the three tales that follow. Richard Sutton gives a particularly good performance as loathsome dealmaker Mike Priddle, but all three succeed in upping the creep factor. Despite these strengths, however, so much of the success of this show depends on careful preparation of the audience, and this can feel a bit manipulative. Stories about the paranormal tend to be at their most effective when viewed in a darkened space with no distractions—such as a cinema, or one’s own living room—alone in the house, of course. There’s just a little too much distraction in the Ambassador’s auditorium with the hazard tape and the flickering lights. Fans may find the film version of Ghost Stories gives more bump in the night for your buck than the theatrical production.

But if this is your first experience of a show about the paranormal, you will probably enjoy Ghost Stories. It’s well crafted, and well performed. More experienced connoisseurs may feel that the special effects overpower the storytelling, however, and don’t give the audience’s imagination enough space to heighten the horror. Because isn’t it what we don’t see or hear, and can’t explain, that create the ultimate shocks in a world so ready with easy answers to every question?

 

Reviewed by Dominica Plummer

Photography by Chris Payne

 

ATG Tickets

Ghost Stories

Ambassadors Theatre until 4th January then UK tour continues

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
The Secret Diary Of Adrian Mole Aged 13¾ – The Musical | ★★★★★ | July 2019

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews