RUSSIAN STATE BALLET & OPERA at Cheltenham Everyman

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” . . . visually it was an absolute feast. Every aspect; the sets the costumes and the lighting were near faultless and were a joy to behold. I have to admit to preferring contemporary to classical ballet but from the moment the overture started and the curtain rose I knew I was going to enjoy it. The orchestra, under maestro Andrei Galanov, played sweetly throughout but provided plenty of oomph when it was needed. . . “

A FAREWELL TO ARMS at Birmingham Rep Studio

A FAREWELL TO ARMS at Birmingham Rep

“. . . The story follows Frederic Henry (Jude Monk McGowan) and his time fighting as an American soldier in the Italian army including and eventually limited to his relationship with English nurse Catherine Barkley (Laura Atherton) . . . Atherton’s performance is one that confounds me still, even on reflection. Is it some kind of surreptitious genius? Is she supposed to be so annoying? Is it a commentary on women, whether of the period or through Hemingway’s eyes? I would argue not, but its imbalanced nature lends itself to readings of the play (and the novel) as one that is as variegated as its audience . . . “

TOP HAT at the Bristol Hippodrome

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“A large and appreciative first-night crowd clearly transported, rising as one to cheer a sparkling band of hoofers at Bristol’s Hippodrome theatre at the end of a Top Hat delivered with gusto, and no little wit. . . Irving Berlin’s classic musical still has the power to lift us up from the despond of austerity 80 years after its massive box office success in 1930s America. All the elements are there – celebrity, wealth, (discreet) sex, love and a happy ending . . . It’s a big hit, enjoy!”

SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER at the Theatre Royal, Bath

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“Saturday Night Fever is packed with delights. The film, of course, was a huge success and much of what made that so is improved by this stage adaptation from Robert Stigwood and Bill Oakes . . . Danny Bayne and Naomi Slights can dance as well as I’ve seen anyone dance, they can both sing, they can both act and they can both sing and act and dance at the same time. . . Well done to Bath Theatre Royal for producing a show which has West End hit written all over it.”

SONGS FROM A LEDGE at the Old Joint Stock, Birmingham

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Songs From A Ledge is a new blues musical featuring original music which tells the story of the fictional blues star Maria Lynwood who is known as the ‘red queen’. . . The show is dark, witty and has heart to it. . . A bold new piece, with a clever script and score full of wistful moments. Sure, it needs some refinements to ensure it engages throughout; but the raw material makes for a compelling watch.

Punch and Judy in Afghanistan at the Tobacco Factory, Bristol

Punch and Judy in Afghanistan

The humour is often very dark, and Tranter is not afraid to tread into what some may judge politically incorrect territory: the Afghans are all seen as duplicitous, or bloodthirsty, or both; the terrified, white-flag-waving soldier is French; Nigel, perhaps representing the West in general, is hopelessly naïve. Beneath the jokes and grotesquery there is a grim seriousness, as though one is watching a surreal dream experienced by someone who has been deeply disturbed by the real-life events that it symbolises.