Mercury Theatre’s ‘Blackmail’

Hi all,

Here we are with the first theatre review for 2022! To kick things off with a bang, we have a murder!

Okay, not a real murder, I recently went to go and see ‘Blackmail’ at The Mercury Theatre in Colchester! This version is an adaption of the original play written in 1928 by Charles Bennett. Retold by acclaimed playwright Mark Ravenhill tells the story of Alice (Jessie Hills) a little shop girl and her not to be messed with Mother (Lucy Speed), who run a popular shop in Chelsea. Along with Alice’s fiance Harold a Metropolitan Policeman. One night something goes wrong and all their lives are turned upside down in the space of one night.

I have to say first that I thoroughly enjoyed this play! I am a real sucker for crime documentaries and shows so after reading up on the show when I got the invite I knew I was going to enjoy this show. But there are a few things that I would like to touch on here in this post that I thought made it an, even more, enjoyable experience. 

First was how realistic everything was. Thought the show the character would always like cigarettes with matches, pour cups of tea or glasses of water, cut slices of bread amount other things and this was done right. When they pour they poured the tea out of the teapot actual tea would pour out, when they turned on the tap you could hear and see water splashing into the sink! This is something I feel that shows just don’t do enough of. By performing shows in this way it makes them as accessible to the audience as possible. 

photo shows the huge two story set on stage with Alice's mother Ada (Lucy Speed) looking out the side door whilst Harold is standing in this police uniform contemplating in the small kitchen at the back of the shop.
Photo By: Pamela Raith

The use of lighting was excellent, you could see everything that was going on stage very clearly, there was some during the night scenes which were a little tricky to see, but that’s okay, as there were no major actions scenes so I didn’t feel like I was missing much. Even if you have no vision you wouldn’t miss out either as the show is mostly dialogue. My only suggestion would be is to have better contrast with the characters’ costumes between each other and the light, there were times when I struggled to pick out Alice because of the colour of her dress colour in some of the night scenes. But all of the actors’ voices are all different and unique to the character, so if you have no vision you will be able to remember who is who very easily, plus every character’s name is mentioned a good three or four times at least throughout the show, I can’t imagine it would be too much of a problem to keep track of what is going on if you have limited vision.

Photo shows Alice (Jessie Hills) and Ian Tracey (Patrick Walshe McBride) in the back kitchen having a heated confrontation, with Ian Tracey holding a bread knife in a threatening way, whilst keeping th door to the upstairs rooms shut.
Photo By: Pamela Raith

All of the cast were excellent, you could feel the emotion, stress and anxiety of all of them at various points, and you could tell that they all knew their charters very well and connected with them. It is a small cast of only four so trying to remember visually who’s who isn’t too difficult. Each character’s costume is unique to them so that will also help. 

As I said at the beginning, I thoroughly enjoy this show and would happily go and see this again, and a highly recommend you could and seat whilst you can. It has a very limited run at The Mercury Theatre from Thursday 10th March until 19th March 2022. Tickets for the show can be found by ticketing the link here. Hurry up and buy your tickets, you won’t want to miss out on this!

Until Next Time,

The VI Critic 

Andrew Pollard’s ‘Aladdin!’ at The Mercury Theatre

Hello everyone and welcome! 

I know this post has been a little time coming as I’ve not been to as many shows this year (as you can imagine with the world the way it is).  But hopefully I will be able to attend and review more shows in the coming year.
Watching a pantomime at Christmas as a theatre-goer is my favourite thing to do and this year was no exception.

Widow Twankey, Humphrey the Camel & The Emperor of Colchestaria are all sicking on a bench looking all worried and scared.
Antony Staurt-Hicks – Dale Superville – Minal Patel
Photo By: Marc Brenner

A brief overview of the show:
A young Aladdin desperately wants to become a famous rock star. 
He meets Jasmine the Emperor’s daughter, falls in love with her and resolves to find a way to become so rich that he can marry her.  Meanwhile, our antagonist the evil ‘Fabra Cadabra’ believes that she deserves all the power in the world.  Jasmine is then kidnapped.  Hoping that the ‘power of rock’ will protect him, Aladdin goes on a quest with Genie and his friends to save Jasmine from Fabra Cadabra in the “Land of the Mummies”.

Now the review!

I have been in the audience of every Mercury Theatre pantomime since 2016 but for me, this has to be the best pantomime I have seen.  So much fun, frolics and fantastic acting! This is not one to miss!
It has everything a great panto needs: sing along songs, dancing, comedy and so much laughter from start to finish.
James Hameed who plays Aladdin is a super star with a truly amazing singing voice. 
There is great chemistry between Aladdin and Jasmine (Danielle Kassaraté), as with all the cast as a whole.
I am certain that the players had a blast performing the show and this really translated well to the audience.
It was so easy to be swept up in the performance. 

Aladdin, wearing a golden and white hasten clothing, smiling holding Jasmine, who is wearing a green hasten costume.
Danielle Kassarate & James Hameed
Photo By: Marc Brenner

Once again the comedy duo that is Antony Stuart-Hicks and Dale Supervillie were on fire. 
Not being on stage for two years has not stopped them at all!  They had the whole audience in stitches.
I am so happy to see them both together again. They are an absolute joy to watch, making the night even more special!  I personally can’t wait to see the duo again, maybe in next year’s panto? (Hint hint!)

There was a great use of light and colour throughout the whole show.  Each character had their own unique colour and style, so even if with limited vision I was still able to make each character out. 

Despite my limited vision, I could not miss Widow Twankey with her over the top yet fun costumes and hairstyles.
I also found each song in the show recognisable and very easy to sing along with. 

Fabra Cadabra wearing a red glittering costume, is holding a glass ring looking all amazed.
Leonie Spilsbury
Photo By: Marc Brenner

Accessibility

Even if, (like myself) you are someone with very limited vision, I think you will have a wonderful time! 
There are some parts of the panto which rely upon visual gags but I think the show tries to make sure that you hardly miss anything, including jokes and the storyline. 

I am not sure about a touch tour this year due to health and safety regulations but I did not contact the theatre to ask.
I would like to see more audio described performances. The show is running for a few months and I feel that one is just not enough.

As I said at the beginning of the review, I have seen so many pantomimes performed at The Mercury and this is the best I have ever seen!
Tickets are selling fast, so get yours soon from The Mercury Theatre’s website: here


Aladdin is running from 27th November until 16th January 2022

Trust me when I say, go get your tickets now!

Until Next Time

The VI Critic

Ken Ludwig’s ‘Baskerville’

Hi everyone!

I am so happy to be back in the theatre again after so long out of one! As well as be able to review shows for you again!


The Sherlock Holmes stories are a collection of stories I have been a huge fan of since I was a child. I have watched and read most of the main stories and I do have my personal favourites. There is just something about Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson that just attracts them to you as any long life fan of the duo would know. can be anything from the action and suspense, to be in awe of Holmes’ genius and brilliant mind!

So When I got the option to go and review at Sherlock Holmes show I was shall we say a little excited…? Okay, I was very much excited! The story that Ken Wen Ludwig went with was the iconic Sherlock Holmes story ‘The Hound Of Baskerville’. If you talked to any Sherlock Holmes fan and ask them to name their top five stories I can guarantee this would be one of them!


‘Baskerville’ has tried to keep too original sorry as possible, however, it is slightly adapted as this show is a comedy version. Now hold your horses Holmes’ fans, I had the same thought as you originally of ‘oh dear, what have they done.’ But actually, I was pleasantly surprised!

Imagine of Holmes in a purple blazer holding a black and silver cane, looking concerned, with Waston just behind him looking at Holmes expectantly.
Photo Credit: Pamela Rath

A quick review would be, from beginning to end I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. The show is very light-hearted and caters for everyone and anyone including families and children, being the story that it is, there are some scary bits here and there and there is a lot of talk of crime, murder and death as you would come to expect, but being a comedy it tackles these subjects very well even for young children and makes enormous fun of them, but there are some serious moments in there too.


Before beginning to end the show will have you in stitches both children and adults alike! The acting from all the cast was amazing and keep in with the style and mood of the show they were going for, Richard Ede played an excellent Sherlock Holmes’ he made the character his own, not as serious and in some cases cold as I believe Sherlock Holmes to be but light-hearted and welcoming which was brilliant as it set with the rest of the show brilliantly.


Dr Waston played by Eric Stroud kept the audience well informed with the story and what was going on as Dr Waston should! He came across as more down to earth and open than Holmes, but that is as it should be. Both Eric and Richard looked great together as the famous duo and bounced well off each other! You could tell that all the cast had a close bond which is always so nice to see!

Imagine shows Holmes and Waston on the Baskerville moor at night with lanterns walking through the fog of the moors looking very alert!
Photo Credit: Pamela Rath

The use of sound was expertly done, in particular scenes which involve the hound, there were times where it felt like the hound was either behind or the side of you! That’s something I haven’t seen in a long time so well done! There was a great use of costume, during the show Dr Waston has to walk in some very strong wind so his customer was very dramatic and over the top, both for the scene and comic effect which was a great laugh. Other small comic moments make the show I real pleasure to watch and is a great night out for all the family!

People Who Are Visually Impaired: I think this is a great show for you to go and see. The use of light and colour is expertly done and I don’t think you will have any problems here. If you have very limped but some vision you might miss some of the small comic moments during the show, but these don’t take anything from the story so you wouldn’t miss anything. I would recommend either sitting in rows D or E for the best view. But if you need to sit closer to see then by all means do.

People Who Are Blind Or Have No Vision: I think you will have little problems with this show story-wise, as all the important parts of the story are narrated by Dr Waston, and most of the show has very little action. But if you would like the full effect and no to miss any of the comedy be it big or small I could recommend you book an Audio Described performance, these will include a touch tour before the show as well so you will get the full experience. Details of this can be found on The Mercury Theatre’s website under the ‘Access For All’ section. 

‘Baskerville’ is running at The Mercury Theatre in Colchester, from Friday 6th until Sunday 22nd August 2021! Book your tickets now, you won’t be disappointed! 

The Events

Hi Guys, coming to you with yet another review! Last night I went to go see ‘The Events’ at The Mercury Theatre in Colchester!

Now this show was somewhat different, in the fact that this was not in the main theatre. This was performed in the Studio at the theatre which is a much smaller space. Initially, It was quite very cosy space but as time when on it became very cramped and I personally found it very difficult to move and in the end I was afraid to move, just in case I accidentally hit the person next to me. I personally think from someone with a Visual Impairment this is not the most ideal space to watch a show because of the very limited space to move. If you are a Guide Dog owner there is very limited space for your dog to sit let alone lay down.

Let’s move on the positives, the acting from both actors was really good, the acting from Josh Collins particularly stood out. The show was very audience interactive, because of the small space all members of the cast and choir would enter and exit the stage through the audience, and even some of the acting and lines were said in amongst the audience which I thought was a nice touch. 

 

Josh-Collins-The-Events-Photography-Robert-Day-2-800x530

‘The Boy’ played by Josh Collins wearing all black clothing and headphones, looking into the distances and saying his lines.

 

Now, reading this you’re probably thinking: ‘Hang on, you haven’t told us anything about the story?’ and you’d be right I haven’t. But as always there is a method to my madness. The story, I found it very difficult to follow and understand. After spending some time thinking about this I think I have worked out why. Throughout the show, it was not very clear to me at least where the scene and characters had changed. Josh Collins, for example, played two different characters ‘The Boy’ and Claire’s partner Katrina. Now, this is nothing against Josh or any of the cast on their acting. But sadly it wasn’t until half way through a scene did I work out that this a new scene with different characters, and therefore this made it very difficult to understand the story.

But having said all that, the bits and pieces that I got about the story are as follows: ‘The Boy’ who to my knowledge has no name, wants to leave his mark on the world and feels that the only way he can do that is either through art or violence, and has he says he was not very much good at art. Therefore he decides to get hold of a gun and go on a murdering rampage and take out a whole choir and theatre teacher Claire. Claire is struggling with her own problems and trying to figure out herself and her faith. 

 

Anna-OGrady-Community-Choir-The-Events-Photography-Robert-Day-3-800x530

‘Claire’ played by Anna O’Grady, wearing a brown and dotted dress looking into the distance with the choir in the background.

 

I personally don’t think this is a show for the average Joe, just someone who enjoys theatre. I think this show is for the more mature theatre-goer who enjoys a deep subject matter, and because of the very deep subject matter, violence and swearing throughout, audience members have to be at least 15 years or older to see this show. 

Onto the ratings then:

People with a Visual Impairment: Assuming the fact that you have booked yourself a close seat to stage you will have no problem watching and understanding this show. The only downside I feel is that there is very, very limited colour throughout the show, the only colour they show in the show is grey so that could produce a problem if you rely on colours.

People Who Have No Vision: I think you will have no problem with this show at all. You might have to concentrate a little harder in terms of understanding the story, but that’s the only negative I see.

‘The Events’ is running from 2nd – 17th June at The Mercury Theatre in Colchester Essex. If you wish to know more about the show and interested in booking tickets, then you can follow this link by clicking HERE.

Until Next Time,

The VI Critic 

TheEventsLandscape-800x530

Promotional graphic. A black and white photo of a young girl sitting on a seawall looking out to sea. Written in the sea: “The Event’s by David Greig”.

Wind In The Willows

Hi,

The story of Wind in the Willows, is a story that I’ve heard about but never actually read. So when going to see this show at The Mercury Theatre, I went into the show with a complete open mind.

I got lucky enough to go to a touch tour before the show in the afternoon. For those who don’t know, a touch tour is part of the access element which most shows and theatres offer even if it’s a local theatre or London’s West End. A touch tour is where disabled audience members get to experience a full feel of the show, getting to see/feel the sets on stage and costumes that the actors and actresses wear. In today’s case, The Mercury Theatre did this very well, each actor/actress came up to each person individually and allow them to touch their costume and whilst I was doing so, the actor/actress described the item in question e.g. the item’s colour, texture and where and how it was used in the show.

They did the same with the musical instruments and some were very different and some which I had never seen before e,g, various pots and pans you would use when cooking. After they showed us the instruments, they then played a sample of a song in the show showing how the instruments are used. After that we had a questions and answers section, but no one actually asked any questions so it just ended early.

After the touch tour had ended, I then went to the ticket office to collect the tickets for the show later that afternoon. I was also lucky enough that the also gave me a discount on food and drink. Now I am not sure if that was because they knew I was press or it was part of the disabled access, but either way it was a nice touch so I will never turn that down so other theatres reading this take note! :).

The show was overall very good. The acting was of a good standard, the use of setting and lighting added to the atmosphere of the whole show. I really liked the fact that the cast played most of the songs in the show themselves, which I rather enjoyed. Every song made me smile whenever they start singing so thats always a good sign. Their was a lot of audience participation for example during the chase scene, the cast would run through the audience so to heighten the atmosphere and as a audience member I really wanted the good character to get away. Throughout the show, all the cast would use the auditorium doors as a way of entering and exiting a scene, so it made you feel like you were part of the story.

Photo (above): Photo of the stage and some of the audience before the show started.

I felt that the first half of the story during the first half of the show was a little hard to follow and understand, but the second half of the show, I had a much better understanding of what was going on story wise. The cast increased the audience participation, so in terms of that alone by the end of each scene I felt like I was part of the show, and up there on the stage with them. However, the nicest touch I felt was at the end of the show, where the cast allowed members of the audience to come up and dance with them! As soon as they announced this, most all of the kids in the audience (and I must say some of the parents) ran down the stairs and went on the stage and loved being with the cast! This is something which I believe should be encourage within shows everywhere, not just local theatre.

I would highly recommend going to see this show! If you have young kids I strongly recommend you see this show with them, they will love it! The show is very family focused, both children and parents will find moments of the show hilarious! So if you are finding it difficult to find things to do this Summer, go see this show! If you are interested in seeing the show for yourself, I will leave the website to the theatre below!

http://www.mercurytheatre.co.uk/event/wind-in-the-willows/

Trailer:

Photo (above): Theatre graphic of Wind In The Willows

Until next time!

The VI Critic