Saturday, 22 October 2016

'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang', Glasgow King's Theatre, 19/10/16

Written for Backstage Pass:

Based on the movie co-written by Roald Dahl from a book by Ian FlemingChitty Chitty Bang Bang follows the adventures of eccentric inventor "Caractacus Potts", his children "Jemima" and "Jeremy", and "Truly Scrumptious" as they strive to save and repair the eponymous automobile only to face off against the dastardly "Baron Bomburst", who wants "Chitty" for himself, together with his child-hating wife "Baroness Bomburst", who have kidnapped "Grandpa Potts" and whose kingdom, "Vulgaria", is kept clear of children by the monstrous "Childcatcher".

The production is  surprisingly realised and is bright and vivacious throughout with lively direction by James Brining and amusing choreography by Stephen Mear. The sound design needs some more work and better balancing but the orchestra is sharp and the costume and scenic design by Simon Higlett is charming and witty and amply supported by Simon Wainwright's Video projections which contain some of the most brilliant visuals raising the production's standard beyond the norm.

As "Caractacus Potts", Jason Manford proves to be a most amiable, warm and engaging musical performer, radiating confidence in both acting and singing and he is stirringly supported by Charlotte Wakefield as "Truly Scumptious" who lends an air of sophistication to proceedings with a glorious voice to match.  

Andy Hockley as "Grandpa Potts" is suitably dotty and endearing and is a fine example of how well the show is cast (for the most part) although it's unfortunate that Phill Jupitus is remarkably lifeless at times as the "Baron" and appears rather bored when not mugging, making Claire Sweeney's job as the "Baroness" all the more trying. Thankfully she is more than up to the task and manages to keep their onstage scenes alive whilst shining all the more brightly because of it. Her "Bombie Samba" is something of a star turn and she deserves it.

Jos Vantyler's "Childcatcher" truly is the stuff of nightmares and he is gloriously evil in the part and it really is a shame that he is not used more throughout the production (why was he not let loose among the audience in his search for children, for example?).

Sam Harrison and Scott Paige threaten to steal the show as "Boris" and "Goran", respectively, and their double act as the agents of "Vulgaria" is a highlight of the production. 

In any show featuring child actors they always shine brightly and this is true of Elliot Morris who plays "Jeremy" and Darcy Snares who plays "Jemima" and whose engaging personalities and verve are in clear evidence throughout.

It is true that the production has a few flagging moments and could do with some judicious musical trimming in the first act but this new touring version of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang does fly confidently and does so better executed than expected.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

When is a 'UK' tour not a 'UK' tour?

Okay, this is going to be a bit of a rant but ti is something that increasingly annoys me:

Over recent years a number of touring production have advertised that they are commencing a 'UK tour' when, in reality, the said tour is touring only one constituent country of the UK (usually just England) or - perhaps even worse - a small part of one constituent country.
Now, in my eyes, when you hear someone say 'UK' you think of Great Britain and Northern Ireland i.e. England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales - the four nations that make up the United Kingdom. Even if you say 'Britain' or 'British tour' then one would normally think of the four nations.

Yes, there are those less intellectually inclined who think the 'UK' of 'Britain' constitutes little more than England (and vise-versa - there are those who say 'England' when, in reality, they mean the United Kingdom) but when it comes to business - even the one called 'show' - one would assume a professional attitude would be assumed and that accuracy would be paramount.
So it is with increasing irritation that I come across a production which peaks my interest and lures me in with the notion that they are touring the UK - i.e. the four nations - lulling me into thinking that, even if they're not coming to my city (I am fortunate to make my home in the largest city in Scotland), they will be touring somewhere near me, at least somewhere in the country in which I call home (in this case Scotland). But, when one looks at the actual dates and venues of the said tour, it turns out that rather than visiting all four nations the production is only visiting one or two. It's bad enough when an announced 'UK' tour omits only Northern Ireland but when a production is only touring one country then I feel duped. Surely using the term 'UK tour' is false advertising when it not a tour of all four countries?

There have been occasions when a proposed 'UK' tour advises that 'further dates are to be announced' when, initially, one or two countries are omitted and this is later rectified when additional dates are added. But this is not always the case and  one or two countries never receive the tour and I have contacted productions previously over this.

To me, if a production and its producer knows that the tour is only touring particular countries then it should be advertised as so (what's wrong with being honest and advertising as an 'England tour', 'Regional tour' or 'Welsh tour' etc.?).

The reason I bring this up is because the response I received from the Twitter account of the current production of 'The Boys in the Band' when I brought this notion up seemed to be rather flippant in my eyes. The full conversation (so far) follows:

Touring productions are important to me because theatre (art in general) is vital to society and the more variety there is available to people around the nations, the better. It isn't always easy leaving your local area to go and see a production that interests you; there are the cost implications, the time factors, not to mention that, for some people, their health prevents them from making the necessary journeys. So, bringing a production to a wide audience is always a plus.
Just labeling a production correctly will ease the irritation I feel. Sure, I'd be a bit annoyed if a production wasn't coming anywhere near me, but if it's advertised as an 'English tour' (or such) then I wouldn't be so annoyed as when I look into the venues for a 'UK' tour to find it is, in fact, only touring England.

I know I go on a bit, and I really don't like to rant, but sometimes it's good to vent.

Enjoy your days and enjoy the theatre that's available to you!