MADAME BUTTERFLY at the Everyman, Cheltenham

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. . . I would feel pretty sure that Madame Butterfly would be considered the world’s favourite opera. It is the most tuneful with some of the prettiest songs in the whole opera canon and has the most tear-jerking ending . . . From the moment Olga Giorgieva entered over the little wooden bridge she held the stage. She sang beautifully and had an innocence and a coquettishness that made her heart-breaking downfall all the sadder.

THE ODYSSEY at Circomedia, Bristol

Mark Bruce Company 'THE ODYSSEY' photo by Nicole Guarino

Mark Bruce’s vision of this cultural foundation stone is dark, violent and sexy. The story of Odysseus’s return from Troy starts with his leave-taking from Penelope and their newborn son, Telemachus (Wayne Parsons) who we meet again, twenty years later, as an adult. Mr.Bruce has developed a style that incorporates dance and a kind of dumb show. But here is no series of melodramatic tableaux; rather flights of gymnastic abandon and vigorous purpose . . .

OF MICE AND MEN at the Birmingham Rep

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Adapted from the original 1937 novella, Of Mice and Men follows “bindlestiffs” George Milton (William Rodell) and Lennie Small (Kristian Phillips) as they seek casual farm work in Soledad, California during the Great Depression. George is smart and strapping, but restless, while Lennie is mentally disabled, large, and physically strong. Together they dream of one day living “offa the fatta the lan’” and tending to rabbits.

Beatlemania at the Everyman, Cheltenham

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So how does Beatlemania measure up? Can you, with half-closed eyes, imagine you are at a concert of the Fab Four? Well, to be perfectly honest, if you concentrate on the right of the stage, you can. Visually John Lennon is incredibly believable and George Harrison is quite acceptable and so is Ringo. Paul McCartney less so although his voice is absolutely convincing. They recreate the Beatles’ sound to perfection using the same guitars and amplifiers . . .

AVENUE Q at Bristol Hippodrome

The Cast of Avenue Q. Photo Credit Matt Martin Photography (3)

Online reviews for this show range from ‘I have been to see Avenue Q three times and STILL came out desperate to see it again,’ to ‘Favourite moment: Leaving at interval.’ While not quite falling into the second category, I have to admit it failed to appeal . . . Yes there were some catchy, quite witty if moralistic songs but the whole thing relied heavily on our remembered love of puppetry classics such as Sesame Street and The Muppet Show, and that’s where it fell down for me.

REEL LIFE at the Ustinov Studio, Bath

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I’m always encouraged and delighted when a writer finds some fresh way of getting their ideas across, some novel way to use the empty space and offer the patient audience a new key to somebody else’s world. Alys Metcalf’s new offering is a stride in the right direction . . . The scene is a small riverside jetty where Jo, a writer and recovering cancer patient, is trying to teach herself to fish . . .

THE HOURS BEFORE WE WAKE at the Wardrobe, Bristol

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Tremolo Theatre’s The Hours Before We Wake is a little gem of a show, multi-faceted and polished to perfection. It begins in balletic slow-motion, with a young man swimming in dangerous waters. After evading snarling monsters he triumphantly dons a superhero cape and… wakes up. It is 2091 and almost all is well in Ian’s world . . .