Tag Archives: Watford Colosseum


(reviewed at the Harlow Playhouse on 9 September)

The Russian State Opera & Ballet Theatre of Komi has a new production of Bizet’s ever-popular Carmen for its autumn UK tour. Artistic director Ilya Mozhaysky sets the action around the 1920s and offers us a kind of danced dumb-show during the second half of the overture, prefiguring the menace and violence associated with its recurrent “death theme”.

Yuri Samodurov’s painted back-drops and flats have a nightmare surreal quality eachoing this. Act One is mainly whte-clad, from the soldiers’ uniforms to the shifts worn by the girls of the cigarette factory. Only Carmen herself flaunts a scarlet shawl. For the second act (Lillas Pastia’s louche tavern) red wih black accents prdominates. Black and a shrouding grey underlines the encounters in the mountain pass while the final scene flames scarlet with coal black.

The dancing is exellent (no choreographer is credited in the programme) and there is lively interplay among the chorus members in the crowd scenes. Of the principals, Evgenia Gudkova is a sultry Carmen with a strong chest register and secure top notes. Dimitrii Demidchik is a somewhat unsubtle (and therefore unsympathetic) Don José who hits all the right notes but with little sense of shading.

Michaela in Olga Georgieva’s interpretation is a far cry from the blonde-plaitd milkshop of many roductions. Yes, she’s naïve, a village girl out of her comfort zone in both Seville and the bandit-affected mountain pass. But Georgieva offers us the steel backbone which allows her to negotiate these perils and fulfil her mission each time.

As Frasquita and Mercédès, Anastasia Podzigun and Elena Lodigina make the most of the card trio in the penultimate scene. Nikolay Efremov is a somewhat under-powered Escamillo; the smaller male rôles are well diferentiated. There are always production teething troubles at the start of a tour, but Nelli Svatova’s lighting design left too many faces in shadow when singing downstage. The necessary surtitles need proof-reading.

Carmen is at the Gordon Craig Theatre, Stevenage on 10 September, the Princes Theatre, Clacton on 11 September and The Cresset, Peterborough on 13 September. Other tour dates include the Alban Arena, St Albans on 5 October, the Towngate Theatre, Basildon on 6 October and the Watford Colossem on 8 October.

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Filed under Music & music theatre, Opera, Reviews 2016

Santa Claus and the Magical Christmas Journey

(reviewed at the Watford Colosseum on 4 December 2015)

What do you do for a Christmas show if your children are just that bit too young to enjoy a traditional, full-length pantomime. The Watford Colosseum found a solution last year, and the same team is back with a follow-up show. Santa Claus and the Magical Christmas Journey takes place a year after last year’s adventure.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer has been safely corralled. The trouble this time that ever-helpful bear Muffin (who tracked down Rudolph when he went missing) has been sidelined in favour of santa-nav (the voice of Russell Grant). If your sat-nav is as provoking as mine, you can guess that things aren’t going to progress smoothly for Christmas gift deliveries.

Santa (Paul Aitchison) has two helper elves. Charlie (Dan Burgess) is the inquisitive one who Kara (Hannah Nuttall) more-or-less keeps in check. The sleigh in Rebecca Stoll’s staging is a fine thing on a revolve and there are some excellent lighting and special effects (the snow is a particular favourite).

There’s a lot of opportunity for singing along and some subtle messages as well. it’s an excellent introduction to the magic of theatre and the small carpeted and gently lit studio space means that there is nothing frightening for the smallest ones. Just a touch of magic – and we all need that at Christmas.

Santa Claus and the Magical Christmas Journey is at the Watford Colosseum until 24 December.

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Filed under Pantomimes & seasonal shows, Reviews 2015

Two new arts festivals

East Anglia at times seems to be bubbling over with arts festivals. No sooner as Pulse subsided in Ipswich than along comes Lights Up! at the Mercury Theatre, Colchester between 17 June and 12 July.

This is designed to showcase new and developed work from drama and other students as well as some of the town’s established amateur companies.Come Fly With Us opens proceedings from 17 to 20 June and is succeeded on 25 and 26 June by Christine: The Musical, Tony Franchi and Marion Wells’ take on Christine Keeler’s story; this was successfully premièred by CTM Productions a couple of years ago at Headlong Theatre.

A mixture of poetry, choral singing and instrumental music presented by the Colchester branch of the Royal British Legion pays tribute to the dead of the First World War on 27 June – Emortuus – The Fallen. The next day a cast of over 70 children and teenagers from the Theatrical Performing Arts School offer Peter Pan in the musical version by Jimmy Jewell and Nick Stimson.

21 years of the Lorraine George School of Dancing & Performing Arts is celebrated between 3 and 5 July with Summer Showtime ’15. A Mercury Studio success from last year, Stage Write’s Living With Luke, is a powerful study of a father trying to cope with an autistic son; catch it on 8 July. 9 July offers an evening of contemporary folk and blues from Laburnum Bridge with Ramon Goose and Adrian Nation.

Senior students from Theatre Fun Academy perform the new musical Milenka on 11 July. It follows the adventures of two young friends with a travelling theatre and some not-quite-ordinary marionettes. The appropriately titled End of Year Show from Stagecoach Chelmsford brings Lights Up! to a close on 12 July. Ticket prices range from £10 to £15, with concessionary discounts available.

Imagine Watford and Watford Live have, up to now, been separate celebrations for the twon. Now they have combined as The Big Festival, which runs between 20 June and 5 July. It will mix Watford Live’s promotion of local people’s artistic talent (everything from guerilla knitting – no, I haven’t come across this before either – to live music) with Imagine Watford’s kaleidoscope of international street theatre.

The Watford Colosseum is presenting Listen from 2 to 4 July. This involves music machines, sound installations and some rather surprising performances. The public are invited to play and roam as well as listen; it’s the brain-child of Graeme Leak. Care {20-21, 23-28 June) from Tangled Feet is the first of Imagine Watford’s presentations; The Strange Travel of Senyor Tonet follows (25-30 June).

Look our also for the Watford Society circus workshop on 27 June, Circus Raj and Lucas Jet Circus – both on 2 July, the aerial crane piece K@osmos by Puja! on 2 July, Citizen Squid from Puppets With Guts (3 July) and The Monotone Man (3 and 4 July), a Human Zoo Company creation. The outdoor performances are held on The Parade and the vast majority are free to watch and enjoy.

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Filed under Reviews 2015

The Tiger Who Came to Tea

(reviewed at the Civic Theatre, Chelmsford on 10 May)

It’s hard to believe that David Wood’s adaptation of The Tiger Who Came to Tea has been around since 2008. The Nick Brooke-Kenny Wax production seems to have been refurbished for the current tour; children who know every syllable and every picture from Judith Kerr’s now-classic story won’t be disappointed in seeing and hearing it all in three dimensions.

Susie Caulcutt’s set and costumes are colourful, and there’s an excellent mask and full furry body for the eponymous tiger. Benjamin Wells has the height for the part and carries off the courtly bows in greeting and farewell while allowing us that frisson which such a large non-domesticated feline needs to evoke. Wells is also the somewhat dozy father, who really does need his wife (Jenanne Redman) and young daughter Sophie (Abbey Norman) to work hard if he is to get to work on time, the doddering postman and glib salesman milkman.

We all know that the incursion of milkman and postman are there just to build up to the moment when the tiger insinuates himself into the kitchen, but it’s cleverly handled and works. Wood’s music and lyrics are a catchy as ever and suit Emma Clayton’s choreography well. Norman is a delight as the little girl who loves the toy kitten which has been her uncle’s birthday gift but is also fascinated by the tiger’s incursion.

The Tiger Who Came to Tea runs at the Arts Theatre, Cambridge between 10 and 13 May and at the Watford Colosseum 11-12 July.

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Filed under Family & children's shows, Reviews 2015