Thursday, 25 May 2017

REVIEW: Evita at MK Theatre

Evita at Milton Keynes Theatre

23rd May 2017



Originally a hit West End Musical with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice, Evita is currently running in Milton Keynes Theatre. The story follows the life of the Argentine leader Eva Duarte who married Juan PerĂ³n.

I was unsure of the story of Evita, and found it a little hard to follow at certain points, however after reading the synopsis after the performance, I feel they portrayed the story very well.

As this used to be such a popular West End show, I don’t think they could cut any corners when it came to reproducing it for the tour. This is still very much a West End show – just a bit handier to get to in Milton Keynes.

The cast were very strong and all sang very well. You could really feel the emotion of all the scenes as the play went on, although there were times when the music drowned out some of this singing. Perhaps this is why the story was hard to follow as some of the words for muffled by the music.

The set was also fantastic, with lots of changes to signify the different areas and moods despite only having a few on stage items.

Evita is running at Milton Keynes Theatre until 27th May.
Tickets from www.atgtickets.com/Miltonkeynes or telephone 0844 871 7652 (booking fee applies)

Thursday, 4 May 2017

REVIEW: Mamma Mia at MK theatre


Mamma Mia at Milton Keynes Theatre

Wednesday 3rd May 2017


It's great when a professional show comes to MK from the West End. Mama Mia has already enjoyed great success so it’s no wonder they are booked in MK for nearly three weeks. This gives many more people the chance to see this great feel-good show.
We all know it's the story of a girl who wants to find her true father among three possible flings her mother had 21 years ago. The film of course is beautifully set on a Greek island but the stage setting did much to create a bright blue mood with the use of lighting and a quite simple stage set. But Mama Mia isn’t about the plot (!!) but more about the songs and the dancing. Ideally you have to be an Abba fan (and who isn't?) to enjoy this musical.
The characters were very much look-a-likes and act-a-likes to the original film actors and that seemed to work well with the audience.
The audience were happy to be taken back to the seventies, Abba style, with the silver costumes and platform heels along with the cast who seemed to be having a ball. The audience all agreed it was jolly good fun.
Helen Hobson played the main character Donna and was ably supported by her two comic friends Rosie and Tanya ably played by Gillian Hardie and Emma Clifford. Lucy May Barker played the young Sophie. I did however struggle with the casting of Phillip Ryan with his strong Scottish accent playing her beau Sky. But that aside, the other male actors Jon Boydon, Jamie Hogarth and Christopher Hollis all brought something different to their characters.
The show runs at MK Theatre until the 20th May.
Tickets from www.atgtickets.com/Miltonkeynes or telephone 0844 871 7652 (booking fee applies)

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Oh here we go, it's voting time - again.


Oh here we go, it’s voting time - again.

By Ian Roberts


So an election on Thursday the 8th of June eh? Who’d a thunk it? Is that what we call a gigantic u-turn or has our Prime Minister just been lying to us all along? She herself said that we have far more to concentrate on and that we would not be having any snap elections in this country any day soon, and she said it many times.

And yes she’s right on one bit at least, haven’t we got enough to be getting on with without her using this opportunity *and the opinion polls* to further her own agenda at the expense of the country and its citizens, or are we still subjects? Nothing ever fails to amaze me about this Government, on the one hand they say there are much more important things to concentrate on and that we have to focus on leaving the EU, and then in her other hand she reads the opinion polls, her ego gets the better of her and she thinks “forget the country and what the people need, let’s call a snap election” - and all this just at a time when the whole country is sick to the back teeth with politics, referendums, and elections, haven’t they divided us enough already? It really makes no sense at all for the everyday taxpaying working people of this country to be dragged into yet another election. And it certainly doesn’t take into consideration what the people of this country need right now, it’s a total disrespect and disregard for the whole working population of this country. So are the Tories putting themselves and their own personal interests before the good people of this country once again? Oh shock horror...

Now i’m not here to tell you how to vote and I’m sure you wouldn’t take any notice of me anyway, but there are many who will do just that and try to tell you exactly how to vote, most of them will be on the television or in the newspapers, so be careful what you absorb from these “experts” who all have an agenda. They are of course pointing out that Labour are a long way behind in the opinion polls and saying that they are not a credible opposition, but I’m not so sure about that, for one thing what is a credible opposition? Is it an opposition party who believe in the exact same policies as the Government and agrees with them all of the time on almost every issue? Because if it is then that’s dangerous, it’s also very undemocratic, and that’s not good for anyone, certainly not good for this country and the people, surely what we need is a broad choice of policies to vote on? I think credible opposition is an opposition party who have formed their own opinions and have set out on a course very different to the Governments, a party who want to change things from what the current regime have in place; austerity, massive cut backs and enormous tax breaks for the super rich for example? We don’t have to have austerity and massive tax breaks for the rich, it’s a political choice, and the Tories have absolutely chosen this path of the rich getting richer whilst the rest of us face austerity and cut-backs. Surely an opposition party should be opposing that? Surely they should have at least one opposing position to the Government? And regardless of opinion polls and false news Jeremy Corbyn at least seems to have many different policies to the Tories, now that’s got to be healthy in a democracy hasn’t it? Otherwise we end up having all of the political parties exactly the same, we then have no choice or chance of changing things and that stinks of fascism, and we don’t need or want that kind of right-wing ideology in our country. So opposition should be a party who oppose, and Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party certainly oppose fascism and this Conservative Government, of that there is no doubt, and that’s a good healthy democracy for all of us and proves that we do indeed have a credible opposition regardless of the opinion polls - who are rarely correct anyway. And I did read recently that since Jeremy Corbyn became the Labour leader their membership has gone ballistic and they are now the largest political party in Europe, and apparently it’s still growing, in fact I’ve been told that every single time Jeremy Corbyn speaks in public he picks up new supporters, is he the real JC? The real deal? Well all the mainstream media outlets who love to tell us all what to think seem to hate him, I guess his threat to collect all the taxes that they owe this country doesn’t help him much, so it’s little wonder that every news station and newspaper attacks him relentlessly, so maybe he’s doing something right after all? Now surely the Tories must be worried about all that? Especially the false news backfiring on them? And I think they must be because they have only given Labour seven short weeks to mobilise and ready themselves for a massive General Election, I’m sure Teresa May knew exactly what she was doing when she was holding back for so long from triggering article 50 then quickly calling a snap election and giving the opposition just 50 short days to get ready for the biggest fight that they have had in generations, that to me stinks of fear, so maybe they know more than they are letting on and they are calling this snap election before Jeremy Corbyn picks up another million supporters? I’m sure the Tories have been plotting and getting ready for this election for many months in advance, so are they more worried than they are letting us know? This election might be much closer than the media are telling us. So don’t believe all you see and hear in the press and on the tv and don’t believe all that the politicians will tell you either..

So who and what is there to believe? All I would say is listen very carefully to what ALL the leaders of the political parties say, do not listen to what “political commentators” want you to think, only ever listen to the words that come out of the mouths of each party leader, then vote for the person who makes the most sense to you based on their words and not the television and newspapers political “experts” views, these “experts” will only try to sway your opinion, so listen carefully and vote with your heart and not your voting history, it’s far too important this time for that nonsense, and you owe it to yourself and our future generations to listen carefully and vote wisely, vote because you like what you hear from the leaders mouth and not what your mate at work tells you or what you hear in the pub, and never vote on what you see and hear from the so called “experts” on the television and in the newspapers, these “experts” all have reasons for wanting you to vote they way they tell you, so only ever listen to what comes out of the party leaders mouths and nothing else. And when you hear one leader constantly attacking another it’s usually because they have nothing more to offer, it’s childish name-calling, insulting to your intelligence, and a waste of your time to listen to it, any leader who constantly attacks the other and makes comments about their political rival being unfit to run our country is exposing themselves as having no real policies or any answers so they resort to childish and spiteful name-calling in a desperate hope that you’ll believe them. And don’t get fooled by the lies; who remembers the massive lie about the NHS getting £350 Billion a week once we leave the EU? ..which of course was retracted by those who spouted out the lies on their bus once they got the votes they needed. And then a very recent and massive lie was told by Teresa May herself on the day she was announcing this snap election, she said that if you vote for her in this General Election it will strengthen her position when she enters negotiation talks with the other heads of European countries regarding Brexit - that’s a blatant lie, it will not strengthen her position whatsoever, no matter how many votes she gets in this countries General Election it will have no sway at all on other EU countries and their leaders positions regarding us leaving the EU, the other countries leaders who will be negotiating with us will not care two hoots how many votes she gets, and it will certainly make no difference to the negotiations, so that was a lie, but I understand why she lied because Teresa May will be fighting this election solely on Brexit, you can forget all about the economy, the NHS, education, the pensioners who are about to lose even more money, massive youth unemployment, the housing crisis, child poverty at an all time high, and even tackling the poison of tax avoidance - because Teresa May has, she’s thrown all of those really important issues straight out of the window and all she will be selling herself on is Brexit, she’ll have no care for the other massively important issues that need dealing with right now, it’s going to be all about Brexit, and she’ll be hoping to attract all the Brexiteers over to the Tories whilst forgetting the real needs of the people of this country, and that is shameful and also arrogant in thinking that you will be fooled so easily into voting on a single issue, any Prime Minister of our country should be dealing with the real serious issues that we are facing and not using Brexit to gain your vote, it is unforgivable, uncaring, and it stinks of arrogance. And I think it’s really dangerous for our country to have someone who is so uncaring and arrogant representing us in the EU negotiations, anyone who has ever entered into any negotiation will undoubtedly know that throwing around demands and telling everyone how strong you are will get you nowhere quickly, the people who you are negotiating with will not take kindly to arrogance and hard Brexit demands and that’s a fact, so flexing muscles and shouting out about how strong you are is the last thing we need from a Prime Minister, we need someone with diplomacy, intelligence, and a sense of equality to represent us in the EU negotiations to enable us to come away with a deal that suits ALL of us and not just the few, we need someone who can make friends not enemies, we need to work with our European neighbours not shout out demands, otherwise we will come away with nothing, and that’s not good for our businesses up and down this country.. Oh and be careful of Ukip’s continued and outrageous lies too, they will be fighting this election based on immigration - yet again, and surely we now all know that if we want our own British people to have free movement to work in Europe then we have to sign up to the free movement agreement that the EU has, the Conservatives confirmed this after the referendum vote, sadly not before, so whether we’re in the EU or not if we want our citizens/subjects (never quite sure what we are anymore) to work in the EU then we have to allow EU citizens (that one is correct, they are citizens) to freely move around here in the UK for work, and that’s a fact, so when Ukip bang on about closing our borders and that there’s far too many foreigners in our country please be aware that they know the facts too, so they are lying to you to grab a vote or two, and that’s possibly all they’ll get. And then there’s the poor old FibDems oops sorry I meant the LibDems, will they jump into bed really quickly with the Tories again if they get the chance at coalition? Will they then go back on their promise of fighting Brexit as they shamelessly did in the last election about University tuition fees? I wouldn’t bet against it, and neither should you. So there will be many lies told during this election, be careful what you believe, and only listen to what comes out of the leaders mouth, listen carefully to what they want to do with the country and what direction they want us to take, and if you do that then you’ll be doing yourself a massive favour and hopefully the rest of us a favour too. We do need change in this country, now whether you want that change to come from Brexit or from a change of Government there is no mistake that we’re in a real mess and we need massive change, we desperately need a new direction, we also need some hope, and we need someone with a vision to show us the way forward that works for ALL of us and not just the few. And you and I get the chance to make that change on Thursday June 8th, so vote wisely.

Oh, and locally our ten week guitar workshop at The Olney Arts Hub has come to an end culminating with some of our students getting up on stage at The Two Brewers Easter Fun Day to sing and play the four songs that they have learnt in just ten weeks, I was so proud of them all, it was a massive honour to share a stage with them, they have worked so hard and have now got a firm grip on the basics of strumming a guitar and singing songs they love, they can now easily move forward and learn lots more songs with all the basic chords they have, and if they now want to take the guitar further we at The Olney Arts Hub can then move them into ABRSM approved lessons where they can learn the more intricate and technical side of the instrument, but they have the very basics and when it gets tough learning their scales they can always fall back to the fun side of strumming and singing a song or two, it just makes the life of learning an instrument easier if you can play a tune or two and have some fun doing it. So what now? Well we’ve decided that we’ll carry on with the guitar workshops every Saturday morning from 10.30am until 11.30am but we’re now going to have it as a drop-in centre where we’ll choose a song a week to learn as a group, so you’ll have to know the basics to join us, it’ll be pay-as-you-go £10 for the hour. Our absolute beginners guitar course for those who want to learn how to play will now be from 11.30am until 12.30pm on Saturday mornings and of course it’s also pay-as-you-go £10 for the hour, but please be aware that any under 16’s who can’t afford to pay then don’t worry we’ll teach them anyway and that’s for both workshops, we also have a few spare guitars in the Hub that have been kindly donated to us, so if you’re quick in letting us know that you’d like to join us then you can borrow one if you don’t have a guitar. Contact me here: ian@ianrobertsmusic.org

We can also now offer piano lessons with a wonderful local teacher who’s joining us, so every Wednesday we will have available 30 minute piano lessons from 3.30pm until 7.30pm so book your lessons soon as they will go quickly. And then in the summer we have a fantastic brass teacher joining too, add to that the drama lessons, the magic lessons, and the many other workshops that we have coming up and you’ll see that The Olney Arts Hub is really taking shape now. If you’re a teacher of the arts and you want to get involved then please do get in touch, and if you’re looking to learn any of the arts then please also get in touch with us, if you’d like to hold music or any of the arts workshops then please contact us here: The Olney Arts Hub, Clickers Yard, Olney MK46 5DX Telephone: 01234 241357 or email ian@ianrobertsmusic.org

Please also be aware that if things are a little tough financially at the moment then The IndieGo Collective Charity will pay for any school children 16 or under who want to learn and join in with any of the classes, courses or workshops, we don’t want any child to lose out, certainly not because of money, so contact us here: www.theindiegocollective.org and be assured that your personal information will be kept in the strictest confidence.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Nobody Puts Baby In The Corner!

You’re in for a delight at MK theatre this week, where you will be transported back to the summer of ’63 with the classic story of Dirty Dancing adapted for the stage.
The stage set was sublime – 3 key pieces that twisted and turned to transport you across the Kellerman Resort as we follow Baby, Johnny and friends on their whirlwind dancing shenanigans. Couple that with excellent lighting and some special effects you’ll be hooked from start to finish.
I can’t quite believe how perfect the casting was, the characters were uncannily like the leads from the original movie (Baby, Johnny and Billy especially). So many of us are fond of the movie, knowing the famous phrases and words to most of the songs, that it was great to be so familiar with the stage performance even though we hadn’t seen it before. And yes, she carries a watermelon!
A bit of eye candy for the ladies when we see more than we bargained for from Johnny and then the final scene where they make the lift perfectly had the audience cheering.
Dirty Dancing runs until 29th April at Milton Keynes Theatre

You will not want to miss this one. Tickets available from www.atgtickets.com


Thursday, 20 April 2017

REVIEW: Casanova at MK Theatre

Casanova

A ballet by Kenneth Tindall, with music by Kerry Muzzey and performance by The Northern Ballet with The Northern Ballet Sinfonia at Milton Keynes Theatre 19th April 2017.




Giacomo Casanova 1725-1798, was born in Venice, however aside from his sexual reputation and his imprisonment in the Doges Palace, Casanova was a very well travelled and intelligent man. Living in Paris, London, Russia and travelling all over Europe he had various occupations during his tumultuous career:- a trainee priest, musician, a spy and a writer. He died at Dux Castle in Bohemia now the Czech Republic.

This ballet is played out in Venice for the first act and Paris for the second in the court of Madame de Pompadour.

We were unsure what to expect from our visit to MK Theatre as this is the ballet world premier tour, however the whole performance was exceptional. The combination of music, dance and story telling was quite extraordinary, it possessed an ethereal and lyrical atmosphere.
Led by Giuliano Contadini as Casenova all of the exceptional dancers carried the story with great ease and agility, ably assisted by the fine playing of the orchestra.

The costumes and stage set played an important part in the overall atmosphere of the performance and added greatly to this exceptional ballet. As usual the sound quality at the theatre was crystal clear and the volume just right.

We would heartily recommend this ballet to both lovers of more traditional ballet as well as those who prefer more new wave performances. We would certainly go to see it again in the future as there is so much to watch and listen to.

On at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday 22nd April. Tickets from www.atgtickets.com/Miltonkeynes or telephone 0844 871 7652 (booking fee applies).

Thursday, 6 April 2017

REVIEW: Lord of the Dance Dangerous Games at MK Theatre

Lord of the Dance Dangerous Games at MK Theatre

4th April 2017

 



Having only seen bits of River Dance when the show originally became famous, I was wondering how they would fill two hours with Irish dancing without the audience getting bored or the show becoming a bit repetitive.

The basic story of Dangerous Games is a tale of good versus evil. The Lord of the Dance represents all things good but has to fight against the evil Dark Lord and his Dark Disciples. This story telling seemed to be lacking in the first half of the show, which consisted of several dance scenes that didn’t appear to link together apart from the Little Spirit character that would appear now and again. There were also a couple of bits of singing, but again, these didn’t seem to fit in with the rest of it. The second half was better and seemed to tell much more of a story and it was easier to follow each dance act as they flowed together.

Despite the confused story telling, the performances from each character were very good and exactly what you’d expect from a Michael Flatley show with plenty of dancing and variations on the classic River Dance theme which kept the attention of the audience throughout.

The stage had no decoration, however a large screen filled the back of the stage and the images being projected onto this changed with each dance scene. Although the visuals looked dated, it gave more atmosphere and effect and portrayed the mood of the dances well.

Overall, a bit of a confusing start but it redeemed itself in the end.

On at Milton Keynes Theatre until Sunday 9th April. Tickets from www.atgtickets.com/Miltonkeynes or telephone 0844 871 7652 (booking fee applies)

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

REVIEW: Shirley Valentine at MK Theatre

Willy Russell’s Shirley Valentine. Starring Jodie Prenger. 

Milton Keynes Theatre March 27th 2017.



Having seen the film with Pauline Collins we weren’t sure whether this performance was going to be solo, as originally written, or with more cast members as per the film.

However, Jodie Prenger certainly stepped up to the mark with a solo performance that was par-excellance.

Blessed with a most brilliant and witty script her comic timing was spot on, and properly carried Willy Russell’s excellently observed narrative of a woman’s life, from the circumstances that he had observed during his time working and then running his own ladies hairdressing salon in the 1970’s.
 
The play is set in two scenarios:- Shirley’s kitchen at home, where we learn about her history and how trapped she feels with her current circumstances as a wife whose family have now left home, living with a similarly trapped husband who has a strict regime for his home life (i.e. it’s Thursday so it must be steak and chips night and will not deviate from this).

The scene is then moved to on to the beach in Greece, where she has escaped with a friend, without telling her husband. She feels that here she has at last got away from her ritualistic life and found freedom and the person she was before her marriage. To the point where she has jumped out of the check-in queue to return back to the UK, and she now has a job in Costa’s bar with whom she had a short term fling just after she arrived in Greece.

As we leave her, she is sitting on the beach waiting for her husband to walk by, as he has now arrived in Greece to find her.

Jodie portrays Shirley with great enthusiasm and a vibrant personality and makes this a most entertaining performance. A great evening. 

On until Saturday 1st April. Tickets from www.atgtickets.com/Miltonkeynes or telephone 0844 871 7652 (booking fee applies)