Posts Tagged ‘Kelly Price’

I caught the world premiere of Jake Brunger & Pippa Cleary’s musical adaptation of the late Sue Townsend’s book in it’s home town of Leicester just over two years ago (https://garethjames.wordpress.com/2015/03/23/the-secret-diary-of-adrian-mole-aged-13-34-the-musical) so it’s good to report that I liked this London premiere even more. In a smaller space, trimmed by 20 minutes, with what seemed like a more unrestrained production and more energetic, infectious performances, it was a lot more fun.

Tom Rogers’ set is an extraordinary use of space, changing quickly from kitchen to bedroom to school and other locations, props turning up from all over the place. Luke Sheppard’s staging seems much more sprightly and the pace never lets up. A year in Adrian’s young life speeds by, through parental separations and reunions, falling in love with Pandora, being bullied by Barry, writing the school nativity play and the Royal Wedding. This is 1981, of course.

Benjamin Lewis is sensational as Adrian; a perfect characterisation with deadpan delivery and superb comic timing. Dean Chisnall has hot-footed it over from Working at Southwark Playhouse and makes a terrific dad, with Kelly Price excellent as mum. John Hopkins turns in a great cameo as neighbour Mr Lucas (and makes a hilarious schoolgirl with gymslip, pigtails and moustache!) and there’s a delightful pair of seniors in Gay Soper’s grandma and Barry James’ Bert Baxter. The whole ensemble seem to be having the time of their lives and it’s infectious.

I will be astonished if this doesn’t transfer, but I hope it isn’t scaled back up too much as it’s simply perfect as it is.

Catch it at the Menier if you can.


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The Sam Wanamaker Playhouse is cornering the market in biographical plays with music about musicians. First Thomas Tallis (back later in the year), then Farinelli (transferring to the West End), now Nick Drake’s play about the birth of Handel’s Messiah, and it’s lovely.

The play takes us from Handel’s receipt of the libretto from his regular partner Charles Jennens (who seems to have conceived it), through his trip to Dublin (escaping the poor reception of his last opera in London), meeting the sister of rival composer Thomas (Rule Britannia) Arne and ‘casting’ her in The Messiah despite the fact she was more of an actor than a singer, to the successful Dublin première of his masterpiece. It’s all presided over by Crazy Crow, a porter by day and a body-snatcher by night, who acts as a narrator.

It’s a surprisingly light and humorous affair, though that takes nothing away from the quality of the storytelling; indeed it adds to it. The addition of Handel’s uplifting music, beautifully played by a five-piece ensemble under Chad Kelly and beautifully sung by a small choir of ten (benefiting from both the intimacy and the acoustic of the SWP), casts a wonderful spell over the whole thing and makes it even more captivating. David Horovitch is great as a somewhat grumpy Handel with Kelly Price very good as actress / singer Susannah Ciber. Sean Campion is the comic heart of the play as Crazy Crow (and others, including Jennens) a role which glues the play together.

It was ever such a short run, only a handful of performances; surely like the others it it must return or transfer.

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