Alice’s Adventures Underground 2017

Two years after I first ventured down the rabbit hole at Alice’s Adventures Underground, I returned with some friends to make the trip again. The acclaimed show has returned for 2017, and I knew I wanted to participate again.

Everything I originally said about the production still stands: the storyline, the attention to detail, the costumes and the performances are all excellent. This time I chose the “Eat Me” route and had an experience that was very different from my first. I finally met Humpty Dumpty and the Mock Turtle, as well as the Frog Footman. Just like the first time, I had lots of fun.

My friends and I ended the evening with a drink in the bar and a quick game of flamingo croquet. If you haven’t experienced this wonderful show, please do while you still have the chance!

Read Not Dead: Mucedorus

Mucedorus is the third in the Globe’s miniseries of Read Not Dead readings, ‘Before Shakespeare’. It’s one of the most commonly reprinted early modern plays, dating from around 1590. It has been attributed on occasion to Shakespeare, although it is now generally accepted that it is not by him.

The play tells of Mucedorus, Prince of Valencia, who disguises himself as a shepherd in order to sneak unseen into neighbouring Aragon to see the princess Amandine. Romantic, comic and tragic scenes ensue until the conflict is resolved. I thought this was one of the funniest early modern plays I’ve seen, and I was especially amused by the bear scenes!

Life Mater

Life Mater is a collection of short scenes relating to the topic of mothers and maternal love, performed by The Chronic Love Dispensary at the Park Theatre. They were funny, sad, tragic, unusual and amusing by turns. They were well acted and my only criticism is that some of them were too short – I would have liked to see some of them expanded into short plays or even full-length ones.

Baba’s War

Baba’s War by Steffi Walker is an exploration of three generations of women in the same family, their progress from Poland to Scotland to England, and how war affects both those involved and their future descendants. It’s about identity, family and traumatic experiences, with Walker playing her mother and grandmother as well as herself. She switches easily between personas and makes the whole thing memorable and thought-provoking.

Performed at the Streatham Hill Theatre as part of the ‘Women and War’ season, it’s well worth seeing.

Blondel

Blondel is a musical I’d never previously heard of, but after the Union Theatre announced their production of it recently, the more I heard about it, the more interested I was. Written by Tim Rice, Tom Williams and Stephen Oliver, it’s the story of a musician at the court of King Richard the Lionheart. Richard famously goes off to the crusades, taking with him Blondel’s sweetheart, Fiona, leaving the balladeer to deal with the usurping Prince John. Eventually Blondel decides to leave England in search of both Richard and Fiona, not knowing that he is being pursued by a deadly assassin (Michael Burgen).

The best thing about the show is undoubtedly the quartet of singing monks (David Fearn, Ryan Hall, Oliver Marshall and Calum Melville) – I would be happy to watch a show featuring just them. I also loved JamesThackeray’s camp Prince John – his anthem ‘No Rhyme for Richard’ is one of the highlights of the show, as is the Assassin’s hilarious introductory number. Neil Moors is suitably regal as King Richard, while Jessie May’s Fiona is strong-willed and determined. Connor Arnold does a great job as Blondel himself, with charm and a great voice, but it doesn’t help that the character himself is a bit bland and he basically has one song, which gets a bit repetitive after a while.

The whole thing rather put me in mind of the 80s and 90s BBC classic Maid Marian and Her Merry Men. In fact, Robin Hood does make an appearance in this story, though he’s very much a peripheral character. The show has been updated somewhat, with bits of social commentary and nods to other musicals, and I don’t think you’d be able to get a better production of it anywhere. Blondel has its flaws, but it’s also great fun.

Curtains

I’ve seen several good productions by the Mitre Players, including their last summer’s musical, The Clockmaker’s Daughter. I was impressed with that, and considering I was curious to see the musical Curtains – rarely performed in the UK – it wasn’t a difficult decision to go and see it.

The show was written by John Kander and Fred Ebb, the partnership responsible for Cabaret, Chicago and The Scottsboro Boys. It has a book by Rupert Holmes. Curtains is a comedy murder mystery set in a theatre. No one is particularly grief-stricken when the less-than-talented singer and actress Jessica Cranshaw is killed at the curtain call of the opening night of a musical. However, the mystery needs to be solved nevertheless, particularly when other members of the cast and crew start getting bumped off. There are some fine performances and several memorable songs in what proves to be a hugely entertaining show, another triumph for the Mitre Players.

Murder at Brentwood Theatre

I attended a production of Murder at Brentwood Theatre at the theatre of the title on Saturday night. The play was written by Tobias Nicholls and performed by Purple Dreams productions.

The play was a murder mystery, told in flashback. It was entertaining and well-performed and, although I worried at first that it would be dominated by cliché, it actually turned out to be fairly original and unexpected. Recommended.