2 April 2024

Edward Scissorhands @ Theatre Royal Newcastle

There's nothing like a Sir Matthew Bourne/New Adventures production to escape reality and be transported to a different world. This time it was the beloved fairytale gothic world of Edward Scissorhands, from the incredible imagination of Tim Burton and screenwriter Caroline Thompson.

Edward discovers his hairdressing skills

Magical moments from the much-loved movie were re-enacted so beautifully - Edward's amazing topiary creations magically come to life, Edward's creation of the angel ice sculpture of Kim (Winona Ryder's character) in the falling snow - I had full body goosebumps at these points. To be honest I could barely write anything during the show because I was so captivated by the movement and the emotion the dancers conveyed. Danny Elfman's haunting score alongside new music by Terry Davies captures the quirkiness of the timeless, suburban setting, Edward's childlike wonderment and the danger/threat as Edward becomes more intertwined with the other characters.

Ice Sculpture magic

The set created by Lez Brotherston was really beautifully done - the suburban white picket fence world of Hope Springs, the gothic mansion where Edward was created, his impressive topiaries, Kim's teenage bedroom - you are truly transported into the world in the film. The costumes (also by Brotherston) are exquisite -  I was blown away when the bushes started dancing and wondered how they could see through the headpieces! 

In the big ensemble scenes like Salon Edwardo, the Barbecue and the Annual Christmas Ball there are so many cast members involved and so many mini stories going on - it's a real treat for the eyes and senses.  Liam Mower is pretty much indistinguishable from Johnny Depp in terms of movement and perfectly capture his naivety and outsider energy. Kerry Biggin was mesmerising as Kim and Stephanie Billers was perfect as the predatory, seductive Joyce Monroe.

(Please be aware that this is a dance performance, I think the person behind me expected a play version of the film and didn't realise that there was no dialogue). 

The topiary come to life

Edward Scissorhands is at Newcastle Theatre Royal until April 6th 2024. Click here for tickets (tickets from £28).

8 January 2024

A Christmas Gaiety - The Glasshouse

When I first heard about a show at the Glasshouse combining drag and the Royal Northern Sinfonia I nearly spat out my tea; then my second though - what a genius combination! A Christmas Gaiety is already a popular festive show in San Francisco, so it made sense for conductor Edwin Outwater and Drag Legend Peaches Christ to bring the show to the UK. The show went down so well at the Royal Albert Hall last year that luckily they decided to bring it to a Northern audience! 

The RNS conducted by Edwin Outwater, Tim Nelson and Peaches Christ (Tynesight Photography) 

I knew that Drag Race royalty Baga Chipz was on the bill, but days before it was announced that Drag Race Season 5 finalists Tomara Thomas and Michael Marouli were also appearing. Their addition made total sense due to the North East dominating the top three places (unfortunately Ginger Johson was performing in London that night). Regular Gaiety performer Le Gateau Chocolat was ill, but thankfully local drag queens stepped in at the last minute. 

Tomara Thomas reading 'Twas The Night Before Christmas

My jaw hit the floor when host Peaches brought out adult film star Teddy Bryce in nothing more than a posing pouch and A LOT of tattoos. It was fun seeing some of the RNS squirm a bit at points (especially when he put a ball gag in Peaches' mouth and rode her around the stage like a horse/lap danced an audience member) but I imagine the musicians were secretly loving the chance to do something so different! 

The self-appointed "Most Famous Woman in Britain" Baga Chipz channelled Shirley Bassey and belted out Goldfinger, not an obvious Christmas choice but it suited the venue - I didn't realise that her voice was that good! The Queens that stepped in due to illness were honestly a revelation - Ruby Murry is massively talented and blew the audience's socks off with her operatic voice. Gladys Duffy's unique baritone take on Walking In The Air was hilarious. I was a bit shocked when bona fide opera singer Tim Nelson came out to sing as a result! 

Gladys Duffy (Tynesight Photography) 

Tomara Thomas reading 'Twas the Night Before Christmas was something I didn't expect but worked because it was so preposterous, and Drag Race Runner Up Michael Marouli got everyone in the festive spirit with (2023 Christmas No 1) Last Christmas. The highlight of the night was the dirty version of the Twelve Days of Christmas, where at points I couldn't believe what I was singing in the same place where I go to hear Prokofiev and Mozart. 

The Finale 

It was definitely NOT a holy night with the innuendos flowing and I'm sure it's the first time the audience there has collectively moaned at the crack of a whip. It was a hilarious, magical and zany night - I really hope A Christmas Gaiety becomes an annual tradition at the Glasshouse - what a way to celebrate queer culture and chosen family. It was probably the best night out I had over the festive period and completely put me in the Christmas spirit(s). 

Take a look at the Glasshouse's 2024 Programme here - https://theglasshouseicm.org/whats-on/

20 September 2023

2:22 A Ghost Story @ Theatre Royal Newcastle

I don’t often review anything remotely to do with ghosts or horror (and have to watch horror films during the day to be able to cope) so I was hoping that 2:22 A Ghost Story wouldn’t mess up my sleep for a week. I had seen the play promoted a lot on Instagram over the past year – stars such as Cheryl and Laura Whitmore have been cast members but thankfully I somehow managed to avoid finding out too much about the plot. If you’re heading to the Theatre Royal this week try not to read spoilers!  

The play is set in a renovated old house recently bought by new parents Jenny and Sam. Lauren, Sam’s old Uni friend and her new boyfriend Ben have been invited round for dinner. We find out that Jenny' been having a pretty stressful week whilst Sam was on a work trip – she’s hearing things in her daughter’s bedroom at the same time each night. Sam is a sceptic who likes to explain everything away with logic and science, much to the frustration of his wife. Lauren and Ben are more open to things that bump (or thud) in the night. Understandably Jenny gets angry about not being believed and asks everyone to stay up until 2:22 to confirm that she’s not imagining things. The clock ticks by as stories are shared, tensions become high and the night gets scarier and scarier. 

Photo by Johan Persson

Louise Lytton (Jenny) does a great job of conveying the fear and confusion of someone who’s being haunted, and Nathaniel Curtis (Sam) is convincing as a know-it-all cynic who would rather be right than support his wife. Charlotte Boyd brings comedic value as Lauren, a brash American who likes a drink. And Joe Absolom (Ben) provides a believable counterpoint to Sam as someone who has grown up around ghostly happenings and vigils/seances.

Kudos to the set, lighting and sound designers who create a low-level sense of threat from the get-go and some pretty decent jump scares! I met some women who go to vigils in scary properties around the country. So who knows, I could be ghost hunting in a stately home at some point soon, all because of this brilliant play!

2:22 A Ghost Story at is Theatre Royal, Newcastle until Saturday 23rd September – buy tickets here.

14 August 2023

A COLLECTOR'S STORY: A Private Collection of Vivienne Westwood @ The Bowes Museum

I'm currently feeling very old. I remember previous fashion exhibition at the Bowes Museum - Vivienne Westwood Shoes, the fabulous YSL exhibition and Catwalking which don't seem like they happened that long ago. Then I realised that the shoe exhibition was in 2011, and YSL in 2015 and Catwalking in 2018. Where on earth has the time gone? I've always been so impressed with the quality of fashion exhibitions there, and am eternally grateful for the fact that I got to meet Pierre Berge, Yves Saint Laurent's partner at the opening event for his show. And it's nice not to have to travel to London all the time. 

The latest fashion offering is small but perfectly formed. A Collector's Story: A Private Collection of Vivienne Westwood charts a ten year period of Westwood's illustrious career between the mid 80s and mid 90s. Two of her collections are the main focus: Mini Crini (1986) which combined Victorian crinoline construction with the modern mini-skirt (as well as championing underwear as daywear), and Storm in a Teacup (1995). The collector is Peter Smithson, who started collecting her clothes in the 80s after visiting her celebrated stores and seeing them on the Clothes Show (reboot please). 

Experience twelve outfits and a wide range of accessories alongside objects from the Museum's 50,000 strong collection (to give Westwood's work historical context and showcase her encyclopedic knowledge of tailoring throughout the ages). You can find out more about her major influences - tartan, Harris Tweed (there are two impressive outfits from her 87/88 collection of the same name), the V&A and the Wallace Collection, Britishness and the Queen, punk and even Minnie Mouse, amongst countless styles throughout the centuries. It's interesting to see a piece of 19th century body armour next to a sleeve from a jacket she created which closely imitates the sections and joins. Other crowd pleasers include a black velvet catsuit from AW 90/91 and a tartan outfit complete with bustle from AW 94/95. 

I especially enjoyed seeing the crinoline skirts which created the silhouette of the 1850s and were inspired by Empress Eugenie of France. The corsets are a joy to behold, straight out of the 18th century but using lycra stretch panels instead of lacing for more comfort. I also really liked the salon print denim jacket and shorts from the Salon collection (1992), constructed from a print of a room with luxurious 18th century furnishings. The room is similar to those of John and Josephine Bowes which can be seen in the museum. Peter's favourite piece is the slashed denim jacket and jeans with a smock shirt from the collection Cut, Smash and Pull from S/S 1991, probably influenced by a 17th century doublet, but you're certain to have your own favourite. 

We all know and love the iconic orb logo, which is the main focus of her accessories. There are many covetable examples here - earrings, rings, necklaces and brooches from a range of her collections. Her shoes never disappoint - there are some cool platforms on show here alongside her popular Melissa plastic range. The hats include the iconic Harris Tweed crown and Bride of Fortune beret. 

I love that Smithson was passionate about keeping the exhibition in the North, and with a collection of around 100 full outfits as well as many other pieces, I'm keeping my fingers crossed for a larger exhibition at some point. And praying for a major retrospective to celebrate Vivienne's peerless work so everyone can appreciate her immense talent, skill and intelligence. 

Thank you to Rachel Whitworth, Curator of Fashion and Textiles for talking us through the exhibition. 

The collection is on display until 4th February 2024. To find out more/buy tickets click here