Theatre Reviews

I’ve recently had the opportunity to attend the Devonshire Park Theatre in Eastbourne, England, as part of their Ambassador scheme. One of our jobs is to write some short (200 words) reviews of the productions there. A number of people have asked to read them, and so I’m going to be adding them to this page on my blog. Not much to do with photography, but here they are anyway. I take an unreasonable and probably unhealthy delight in getting the word count to exactly 200. You may occasionally be able to see the bruises in the text where I’ve crashed into that particular hurdle. Forgive me.

Ambassador Scheme, Devonshire Park Theatre.
Rohan Van Twest
“Stone Cold Murder” 23 June 2015. 7.45pm
200 (exactly) word review

The Devonshire Park welcomes back the industrious “Talking Scarlet” with their production of Stone Cold Murder. Once again, a small gathering of a few people in an isolated building, as far away from such everyday items of modern life (like mobile phones, a regular bus service or a local hardware store) that would rapidly dissolve the impending murderous events that are about to unfold into little more than minor inconveniences. Indeed, even with the huge dollop of isolation thrust upon our characters, the plot still manages to have more holes in it than a net at the local tennis club, but this is not the kind of play that requires such scrutiny. There is suspense, the odd surprise and funny moments too. Gary Turner playing Sam Stone reminds me of the recently deceased Rik Mayall, funny and lovable as well as sinister. Twists galore keep the plot moving along – despite a script that becomes overly concerned with historical events. We may not feel as though we care deeply about these characters as we did during the recent production of “The End of the Affair” by the same company, but we were entertained on a balmy summers evening in Eastbourne.

Gary Turner and Freya Copeland in “Stone Cold Murder”
Image credit: Talking Scarlet

Ambassador Scheme, Devonshire Park Theatre.
Rohan Van Twest
“The End of the Affair”, 7.45pm. 2nd June 2015.
200 (exactly) word review

There’s no escaping it, this is a dark and somber play that deals with big and complicated issues. I was gripped. This is my sort of theatre. Mercifully free of men with guns, this play faces up to real human emotions, and the ideas that propel us through life. There were some very good performances too. In particular Sarah Miles delivers an understated performance before the interval that grows to become genuinely outstanding, as a woman trapped between the three conflicting forces in her life.
The nature of the play could be confusing, as the time line is jumbled – we arrive back at the same event more than once - but events become clearer, illuminated, not confused. We understand and learn. We are expected to keep up, to pay attention. It is refreshing, and to the companies credit (stand up and take a bow “Talking Scarlet”) that we don’t get lost. We are in safe hands. We are on the same journey as the characters.
This is not a play that will send you skipping out of the theatre at the end of the evening singing a happy song, but it will feed your mind. Highly recommended. Go see.

Ambassador Scheme, Devonshire Park Theatre.

“Ghost Train”, 7.45pm. 21st April 2015.
Aprox. 200 Word Review.

Ghost Train was first performed way back in the 1920s and enjoyed some success, having a long run in London’s West End and being made into a number of different films. Written by Arnold Ridley who later went on to become a national treasure as Godfrey in Televsion’s Dad’s Army, it has a decidedly old fashioned feel to it, that “talkingScarlet” (The Brighton based theatrical production company) have left largely untouched in this production, staying close to the original, somewhat elderly, heart of the play.
If you like your stage heroes to be strong men who look after women who will scream at the drop of a hat, then this production with it’s authentic costumes and classical set may just be the right thing for you. The cast is quite large and varied for a touring production, and the movement around the stage is handled well. The dialog has a snappy feel to it despite the play's age, and there are some scares and unexpected laughs along the way as the plot gets up steam. All this combined with seeing a few familiar faces on the stage make for a pleasant night out at the theatre, on a journey down memory lane.

Ambassador Scheme, Devonshire Park Theatre.

Peter Pan Goes Wrong. 7.45pm Tuesday 24 March 2015
Runs until Sunday 29th March.

100px PPGW-DR360

200 Words

Eight months ago, Mischief Theatre bought “The Play That Goes Wrong” to a delighted and full Devonshire Park Theatre, and now they have delivered a new offering, “Peter Pan Goes Wrong” that runs all this week. The formula is the same – a hopeless amateur dramatic company struggle to complete a production in the face of individual and collective disaster. It’s possible that some of the gags are repeated once too often, but there are so many very good things to admire here, that the occasional missed note is quickly passed over and forgiven. Some of the disasters are big and impressive, most of them are surprising and unexpected but the funniest moments come when personal tragedy strikes. There are many individual moments to cherish, but ultimately it’s the way the whole cast combine with precision to create another brilliantly funny whole that drives this production along. That they manage to do all this and still stay loyal to the heart of the Peter Pan story itself is a credit to everyone involved. If there are still any tickets for sale, and you feel like a clever, funny, knock-about night out at the theatre, do try not to miss this.

“And then there were none”, 7.45pm. 10th March 2015.
Runs until 14th March 2015.

200 (exactly) word review

The name Agatha Christie on a theatre poster tells us lots. We expect a murder, a mystery, with a twist at the end, and a resolution. We hope to be guessing in the interval, picking our suspects over our ice-cream, while also knowing that the answer is probably hidden in a plot twist that no-one will have seen coming. This production delivers all this rather well. A strong cast deal with the complexities of the plot with ease, and a simple but bold set has a feeling of quality about it, as do the understated costumes. The occasional lighting changes create an effective addition to the dramatic atmosphere too. The nature of the play, however, prevents us from being too involved with any one character, but the sense of suspense builds satisfactorily. For me, this production is at it’s fleeting best when we are asked to consider the conscience of the characters. Are they wicked, deserving to be turned into hell, or mere victims of a deranged mad man? These moments are effective, but short lived. However, if you prefer to wonder “whodunit?” as opposed to why they did it, this is a classical night out at the theatre.

Double Death, 29th July 2014. 19.45 hrs.
Runs at Devonshire Park Theatre, Eastbourne, England until the 23rd of August 2014
Then tours to various locations.

It was a dark and stormy night at the Devonshire Park Theatre last night where Nigel William’s murder-mystery play “Double Murder” was given a new opening.
This production has a familiar and traditional feel, with lots of mystery, twists, turns, a few laughs and the occasional expletive thrown in along the way. The inevitable murder happens quite late on. It’s expected that we are kept in the dark as to the murderer’s identity, but here we are also trying to work out who, if anyone, was murdered.
This is not, nor does it pretend to be, cutting edge drama, but it will keep you guessing right up to the end as the comfortably traditional Police Inspector Fergus untangles the web of intrigue created by Ashley and Max, identical twins with a real sibling rivalry problem, Lalla, a slightly batty and overly forgiving aunt (played by the rather impressive Judy Buxton, a former RSC actress) and the coolly efficient nurse Malahide. Inevitably, not everyone is quite what we thought, and with dramatic thunder and lighting crashing all around, occasional power cuts, pistol shots and treacherous driving conditions, the drama lifts us right up to the very top of the cliff edge…

Double Death 2012SMALL