Tag Archives: Joshua Chandos

Merry (Christmas) Men

ROBIN HOOD

The Attic Theatre, Stratford upon Avon, Friday 16th December, 2022

You might think the intimate performance space at Stratford’s Attic Theatre would be too restrictive to stage a pantomime.  Well, you’d be reckoning without the genius of Tread The Boards’ resident writer-director John Robert Partridge.  He puts the focus on his cast of six to deliver all the conventions of the art form, supported by the tech crew, and quite frankly, we are too busy laughing to miss grand-scale spectacular scenes which other, larger venues can accommodate.  Partridge frames the story how we would expect: a fairy in a pink spot, the villain in a green… but because it’s Robin Hood, we don’t know precisely what the plot will entail, unlike the more well-worn pantomimes, and this adds freshness to the production.

Opening the show and winning us over instantly is Florence Sherratt as fabulous Fairy Fabulous, friendly and funny, contrasting sharply with Joshua Chandos’s marvellously wicked Sheriff of Nottingham.   Chandos is darkly camp and never short of hilarious – and he has the best hair.

Emily Tietz’s Maid Marian is no shrinking violet, with her movie-star looks and a valiant spirit; while Dan Grooms’s Robin may be a long time coming but is definitely worth the wait.  For all his posing, posturing, and knee-slapping, it is Robin who must be rescued from the Sheriff’s clutches by Marian and the others.

Those others: Silly Willy – Dominic Selvey is a lovable buffoon with an indefatigable supply of quick-fire one-liners.  When he gets three volunteer children from the audience for a rendition of Music Man, he’s on a steep learning curve!   Playing Willy’s mother, Dame Tuck, is Pete Meredith, a consummate panto dame, cheeky bordering on bawdy, and sporting a range of eye-wateringly garish outfits as the show goes on.

The songs are mainly lifted from Disney, with a touch of ABBA; there’s a wonderful send-up of the Bryan Adams mega-hit, Everything I Do I Do For You, and an exciting climactic swordfight between Robin and the Sheriff while Dame Tuck belts out her best Bonnie Tyler.

Adam Clarke’s set design comprises a stylised forest backdrop complete with a real tree trunk, the branches of which stretch across the ceiling.  The set is rendered multi-purpose by Kat Murray’s lighting and the dialogue, proving you don’t need elaborate scenery to evoke location and atmosphere.

There’s plenty of audience participation.  This reviewer was picked on to be Dame Tuck’s ‘boyfriend’ and it could have been worse!  I think I got off lightly…

A riotous, fun-filled evening and an affordable seasonal treat.  As a measure of every panto, I glance around at the nearby children in the audience to see if they’re enthralled.  And tonight they’re lapping it up.

Magical.

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Full of beans: Dominic Selvey gives us his Silly Willy, with Pete Meredith’s Dame Tuck behind

(Photo: Andrew Maguire Photography)


Man-made Man

FRANKENSTEIN

The Attic Theatre, Stratford upon Avon, Saturday 15th October, 2022

Back in 1818, young Mary Shelley invented the science fiction genre with her gothic novel that deals with those little things like creation, life and death.  By creating life and thereby usurping God, Victor Frankenstein then shirks his responsibilities as a creator.  His creation, unguided, has to find his own way in the world.  Thus, the Creature represents the human condition, floundering while God insists on being an absentee father.

This new adaptation by Catherine Prout hits all the right plot points, even with a scaled-down cast of characters.  The rather verbose dialogue is true to the style of the Shelley original and does a lot of heavy lifting when it comes to conveying a sense of the period.

Dan Grooms is an impassioned if youthful Victor, adept at showing signs of high distress both physically and emotionally.  I wonder if his pre-recorded narration would be better done live as he potters around in his laboratory.

He is more than matched by his Creature, in a towering performance from Alastair Oakley, who is imposing and innocent, ferocious and frightening, while also being pitiful.  It’s a remarkable portrayal.

This central pair is supported by a versatile ensemble.  The mighty Robert Moore is charming as Victor’s BFF Henry, and brings a touch of humour as farmer Felix; Matilda Bott is devastating as the wrongly-accused Justine; Phil Leach brings gravitas as Victor’s dad, and warmth as blind De Lacey; Joshua Chandos impresses as Captain Waldman to whom Victor unfolds his tale; while Lily Bennett does a bang-up job of making too-good-to-be-true Elizabeth sympathetic rather than soppy.

Adrian Daniel’s set has something of a steampunk aesthetic, all ropes and chains, dials and switches.  Lit by Kat Murray, it becomes a versatile and atmospheric setting for the play’s many locations.

As ever, director John-Robert Partridge makes the most of the Attic’s intimate space.  Characters roam around in blackout, menacing the front row.  Sudden screams and loud noises keep us on edge, as the gruesome tale weaves its fascinating spell.  Even the scene changes are eerily done.  It all flows smoothly and creepily – apart from some teething troubles with a recalcitrant table top that threaten to hold up the action!  With today’s matinee being only the second performance of the run, I’m sure these minor problems will soon be ironed out.

Production values are high – special shout out to Sue Kent’s make-up work on the Creature – proving that with the right treatment, the familiar fable still has the power to intrigue, provoke and shock.

Like Victor’s Creature, this spellbinding show is extremely well put together.

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Dan Grooms as Victor Frankenstein (Photo: Charlie Budd)