Wonderman

Theatre Bouquets 2016

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We’ve been lucky enough to see some amazing theatre again in 2016. Here, in order of viewing (and with the benefit of hindsight), are our favourite productions of the year.

Hangmen – Wyndham’s Theatre, London

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An excellent start to the year’s theatrical viewing, Martin McDonagh’s play was absolutely superb: funny, frightening and thought-provoking with an outstanding central performance by David Morrissey.

The Girls – The Lowry, Salford

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This was the biggest surprise of the year for us: on paper, it sounded a million miles away from the sort of thing we usually enjoy, and we went along reluctantly. But it was a truly delightful production – flawlessly realised.

The Merry Wives – The Lowry, Salford

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Northern Broadsides version of The Merry Wives of Windsor was a rambunctious, irreverent take on the tale, with the inimitable Barrie Rutter clearly relishing the role of Falstaff.

I Am Thomas – Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh

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A strange and eclectic production, telling the tale of Thomas Aikenhead, the last person in Scotland to be hanged for blasphemy, this was essentially a series of vignettes and musical interludes, with an ensemble taking turns to play the eponymous role.

King Lear – Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester

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Michael Buffong’s King Lear was a tour de force, a gimmick-free yet undeniably modern production. Don Warrington was well-cast in the central role, but it was Pepter Lunkuse’s Cordelia who really stood out for us. She’s definitely one to watch!

Stowaway – Home, Manchester

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Analogue Theatre’s troubling tale of a stowaway falling from a flying aeroplane and landing in the car park of a DIY store was fascinating, depicting a moment where worlds collide and understandings begin to take root. A thought-provoking, political play.

Royal Vauxhall – Underbelly Med Quad, Edinburgh

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A quirky and irreverent musical, telling the true story of when Freddie Mercury and Kenny Everett dressed Princess Diana in drag and took her to the Royal Vauxhall Tavern in London for a night out, incognito. We loved this production.

Wonderman – Underbelly Potterrow, Edinburgh

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Based on the short stories of Roald Dahl – and incorporating a true incident from his eventful life – Gagglebabble’s collaboration with the National Theatre of Wales was a sprightly mix of drama and music with a deliciously dark heart.

Cracked Tiles – Spotlites, Edinburgh

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This beautifully crafted monologue, written and performed by Lorenzo Novani, was the downbeat tale of a young man who inherits a Glasgow fish and chip shop from his father Aldo. Novani was quite staggering as Riccardo.

Dear Home Office – Underbelly Med Quad, Edinburgh

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This was the story of unaccompanied minors applying for asylum in the UK, performed with touching vulnerability by eight refugee boys. The play was an amalgamation of the performers’ own experiences, blended with fictional accounts. A raw and truthful exposé.

The Suppliant Women – Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh

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It’s a rare thing indeed when you go into a theatre and are treated to something unique – but that is the word that kept coming to us, as we sat entranced in the stalls of The Lyceum, watching David Greig’s production of The Suppliant Women. Truly brilliant.

Grain in the Blood – Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

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A real one-off, this was a stark, unnerving chiller, at once contemporary and classical, with dialogue that was taut and ultra-modern in style, all fragments and silences and unfinished thoughts. This was a complex, angular, unwieldy play – a fascinating watch.

Jack and the Beanstalk – King’s Theatre, Edinburgh

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By far the best panto we have ever seen, this was a standout production, with fantastic performances from King’s Theatre regulars Allan Stewart, Andy Gray and Grant Stott. It brought the year to a celebratory end.

Susan Singfield

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Edfest Bouquets 2016

 

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31/08/16

It’s been another amazing August for us at Bouquets & Brickbats. We’re exhausted after a month of non-stop theatre and comedy! We have seen some absolutely fantastic stuff, covering a huge range of ideas. Here’s our pick of the best we’ve seen at this year’s Fringe:

Drama Bouquets

  1. Neontopia / Wales Millennium Centre – A Good Clean Heart by Alun Saunders
  2. Aurora Nova – The Blind Date Project by Bojana Novakovic
  3. Rainbow Class by Vivienne Acheampong
  4. Gaggle Babble / National Theatre Wales – Wonderman by Daf James
  5. Something for the Weekend – Royal Vauxhall by Desmond O’Connor

Monologue Bouquets

  1. NJC Productions – The Way the City Ate the Stars by Will Greenway
  2. George Dillon – Stunning the Punters (& Other Stories) by Berkoff, Sproat and Dostoevsky
  3. Lorenzo Novani – Cracked Tiles by Lorenzo Novani
  4. Impi Theatre Company – The South Afreakins by Robyn Paterson
  5. Berk’s Nest – Vaudeville by Tom Neenan

Stand-up Comedy Bouquets

  1. Bridget Christie – Mortal
  2. Sarah Kendall – Shaken 
  3. Loyiso Gola – Dude, Where’s My Lion?
  4. Garrett Millerick – The Dreams Stuff is Made Of
  5. John Robertson – Arena Spectacular

‘Ones to Watch Out For’ Bouquets

  1. Phosporos Theatre – Dear Home Office
  2. Chris Dugdale – Full Circle
  3. Flabbergast Theatre – Tatterdemalion
  4. Teateri – Evil by Jesper Arin
  5. Amy Howerska – Smashcat

Wonderman

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21/08/16

Underbelly Potterrow, Edinburgh

Based on the short stories of Roald Dahl – and incorporating a true incident from his eventful life, Gagglebabble’s collaboration with the National Theatre of Wales is a sprightly mix of drama and music with a deliciously dark heart. Though musicians are onstage throughout the show, it’s somehow not so much a musical as a comic drama with songs. These days, Dahl is best known for his children’s books, but anyone of a certain age will be well aware of his parallel career as the author of comically disturbing stories with a ‘twist in the tale.’

In 1940, young airman Roald Dahl is rushed to hospital after crashing his plane in the Egyptian desert. He has serious facial injuries and is suffering from temporary blindness. Swathed in bandages and pumped full of drugs, he begins to hallucinate – and the hallucinations take the form of several of his most successful and grotesque short stories – including Man From The South, for my money one of the best stories ever written.

This is a brilliant ensemble piece – the script and lyrics by Daf James are witty and entertaining, the music by Lucy Rivers is delightful and the seven-strong cast perform faultlessly in their multiple roles. The one hour and five minutes zips by in a trice and if there’s a single disappointment here, it’s simply that it’s over so soon.

One delightful image – sheets of paper blowing around the stage in the rush of wind from an electric fan, stays with me as I leave the theatre. Wonderman is aptly named. This is a fabulous production.

4.8 stars

Philip Caveney