Tag Archives: Richard Kent

“Carousel” at the Arcola Theatre

A favourite musical for many, a new production of Carousel opened at the Arcola Theatre last night. Making the most of this intimate venue, with astounding up-close choreography, this is a high energy affair that does wonders to work the big scale of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s masterpiece within a small space.

Director Luke Fredericks has a clear grasp of the fantasy within Carousel. The overture is used to establish the fairytale atmosphere with an interesting air of danger surrounding a trip to the fairground. Let’s be honest, the love story of “bad un” Billy Bigelow and the innocent Julie isn’t that believable, so adding a surreal touch is clever, especially for later scenes set in the ‘backyard of heaven’.

Tim Rogers as Billy Bigelow and Gemma Sutton as Julie Jordan in CAROUSEL. Photo Credit QNQ Creative
Tim Rogers and Gemma Sutton

As Billy and Julie, Tim Rogers and Gemma Sutton seemed nervous at first but their acting was strong throughout. No easy task when you consider how many of the morals within Carousel make their characters unhappy ones for a modern audience. Rogers’ manages to make the vicious Billy sympathetic and Sutton insures Julie’s martyrdom is moving.

Joining them in romance, Vicki Lee Taylor and Joel Montague have a jollier time as Carrie Pipperidge and Mr Snow. Their sweetness doesn’t cloy and the humour is well developed. When The Children Are Asleep is a highlight, with the odiferous sailor Snow washing those fishes right out of his hair on stage. The whole ensemble is incredibly hard working. Special mention for Amanda Minihan’s spirited Nettie and a lusty rendition of June Is Bustin’ Out All Over.

Nettie’s raunchy appeal is matched at several points by earthy touches in Fredericks’ production. I normally quite fancy the clambake in Carousel – not so much this time as it seems to make everyone sick – but I can see the point of bringing the show down to earth a little. Similarly Richard Kent’s villainous Jigger makes an impression with a knowing delivery of his character.

Best of all is Lee Proud’s choreography, with a stirring combative streak and a use of circus skills that is inspired. So close is the action you might feel a little nervous if you are on the front row. Rest easy with the wonderful score, which soars under Andrew Corcoran’s musical direction. Here the coup is the presence of a harpist, squeezed onto a platform above the action, sure to please Carousel connoisseurs.

Until 19July 2014


Photo by QNQ Creative

Written 24 June 2014 for The London Magazine

“Decline and Fall” at the Old Red Lion Theatre

Decline and Fall is Evelyn Waugh’s first published novel. A riotous farce, heavy with satire, it follows the misfortunes of Paul Pennyfeather, whose relationship with the “much maligned” Lady Fortune is decidedly tangential. In Henry Filloux-Bennett’s adaptation, Waugh’s humour is given a surreal spin that adds to the comedy and creates an entertaining evening’s theatre.

Richard Kent’s design unites the worlds the hapless Paul suffers in: the college he is sent down from and the schoolroom he teaches in. The desks also stand in for his fiancée’s modernist house and, finally, the jail he is sent to on erroneous charges. Tom King’s direction controls the fun and the cast injects some inspired improvisation. From the beginning, the audience is asked to join in – this is a classroom you don’t want to be late for!

Waugh himself said that he had no technical psychological interest but that drama, speech and events obsessed him. This approach makes staging his work entertaining, but actors face the tricky task of dealing with characters that seem one-dimensional. King and Filloux-Bennett’s solution is courageous – they emphasise the slapstick and their cast embraces the strategy.

Sylvester McCoy is the star of the show, bringing his captivating eccentricity to the role of the drunken Captain Grimes and then the prison’s misguided warden. But it is the women who truly excel. Fay Downie plays Mrs Beste-Chetwynde as a wide-eyed flapper who might burst into song at any moment. Emily Murphy brings her considerable comic skill to the role of Florence Fagan, the headmaster’s autistic daughter. Combining this role with that of Lady Circumference (one of the those women who regard all athletics as an inferior form of fox hunting) is inspired.

The hardest role is the lead. Pennyfeather is a man who merely witnesses events; he doesn’t act but is acted upon. Michael Lindall performs this unrewarding role with appropriate modesty and spot-on comic timing that serves the production well. He masters a perplexed look that means you can’t help warming to him.

Pennyfeather’s eager dash to France to please Beste-Chetwynde is a lovely touch. Reappearing with beret and onions after a brief soundtrack of running feet and airplane propeller, it encapsulates this production’s anarchic streak. Any adaptation is a brave endeavour; you have to trust to the Lady Fortune that Waugh’s characters refer to – but she has done well by those at the Old Red Lion Theatre.  If you see Decline and Fall, chances are you will end up joining in with the cast and raising a glass to toast her.


Until 29 January 2011

Photo by Henry Filloux-Bennett

Written 6 December 2010 for The London Magazine