Chinese State Circus, Caird Hall, Dundee – Review

chindragonsI’ve been to quite a few circuses in my time, most of them featuring big drafty tents with sawdust on the floor and clowns that weren’t really all that funny, but as long as they were animal free, I enjoyed them all the same for the sake of tradition.  So I when I heard that the Chinese State Circus was visiting Dundee’s Caird Hall this week, I was curious to see how it would compare to the colourful seaside affairs that I was used to. Naturally The Caird Hall with its lovely comfy seats and central heating had its own plus points, but how would the Chinese State Circus fare against the run of the mill circuses that I was used to? Pretty damn well I’m happy to report!

My first observation was just how bloody glamourous the whole affair was. The stage was continually filled with dramatic dragons, beautiful acrobats wearing delicate gowns and fearsome martial art warriors who ripping the floor up with their slick moves. There were thrills aplenty with death defying acts and humour too provided by the Chinese State Circus’s very own cheeky monkey clown, whose mischievous antics had the audience chuckling along happily.

But the biggest difference I noted was the sheer level of skill that the performers displayed. It didn’t matter whether they were jumping through tiny spaces in the air, juggling umbrellas with their feet or contorting their bodies into weird and wonderful shapes – they looked graceful throughout, making the whole thing look incredibly easy!

The final act of the show was prime example of performers amazing abilities. Some might say that the Chinese State Circus’s jaw dropping bicycle act, which sees the performers balancing on top of each other while circling the small stage on bicycles, was just plain showing off! The only thing that I said while watching it was “please, please for the love of God, don’t fall off the stage….” I’m very happy to report that they did not!

The Chinese State Circus is currently touring the UK. For further information about the circus and to book tickets, visit: http://chinesestatecircus.com

The Cheviot, The Stag and the Black, Black Oil Tour – Review

chev-review-imageWhat can you say about The Cheviot, The Stag and The Black, Black Oil that hasn’t already been said?

When a play gets 5 star reviews from the likes of The Stage, The Scotsman and The Guardian, you know it’s going to be good, right? Right! Dundee Rep’s masterpiece is every bit as powerful as I’d heard it was, but what I hadn’t expected was to feel quite so engaged and quite so emotional, watching it.

Telling the story of the Scottish Highlands from the Highland Clearances through to the present day, the play begins with dancing, whisky and fun. But as the audience is transported back to the 18th Century the mood becomes more serious and poignant, making the hilarious black humour, interspersed throughout the play, all the more welcome.

Written as a musical drama by John McGrath over 40 years ago, The Cheviot, The Stag and The Black, Black Oil is just as relevant today as it was back then. Acted out by the superb Dundee Rep Ensemble cast, including the brilliant Ewan Donald, Billy Mack, Irene Macdougall and Emily Winter, the play looks back at Scotland’s past and asks it’s audience to act now to save our future.

Now embarking on a tour in theatres throughout Scotland, The Cheviot, The Stag and The Black, Black Oil is a must see play for every patriotic Scot. Just remember to bring along your dancing shoes and a tissue or two!

The Cheviot, The Stag and The Black, Black Oil is currently playing at the Dundee Rep Theatre before embarking on a tour around Scotland including dates in Edinburgh, Inverness, Glasgow and Aberdeen. For more information about the play and to book tickets, visit: http://cheviottour.co.uk

 

What’s Done Cannot Be Undone – Macbeth by Bard in the Botanics

c64_Macbeth(Small)It’s fair to say that Shakespeare’s grizzly Scottish play, Macbeth, is pretty well known by most. However there are still a few of us theatre fans who haven’t quite gotten round to see the Bard’s most popular play and until Tuesday evening, I was one of them.

I’d been looking forward to getting to grips with Macbeth for ages, but decided to bypass the recent film version to see it live as Shakespeare had intended us to see it. Bard in the Botanic’s production particularly appealed as it is set outside, against the dramatic backdrop of the Scotland’s skies. Unfortunately due to heavy rain, the play was relocated to The Rep at the last minute. While this was of course disappointing, the beautiful Dundee theatre venue is always a fantastic place to see any production.

Although I’d never seen Macbeth, I did know a vague outline of the story of the man who turned into monster after being seduced by the promise of power, but what I didn’t know was what led this gentle man to seek the crown at all costs.

Bard in the Botanic version of the play, directed by Gordon Barr, is every bit as bewitching as I’d hoped it would be. While the production was a tad confusing at times, with just five cast members playing multiple roles, the actor’s superb skills made sure that I was able to keep up with who was who.

Each role was played to perfection from the power hungry Macbeth played by Kirk Bage to Robert Elkin’s spellbinding witch whose demonic face haunted me for days. But it was Lady Macbeth, played by Nicole Cooper, who stole the show for me with her stunning portrayal of a distraught childless mother who had fallen into the dark side, pulling Macbeth down with her. For more information about Bard in the Botanics and their productions, please visit: http://bardinthebotanics.co.uk/

Now that I have two Shakespearian plays under my belt, I’m desperate to see more! Which Shakespeare play would you recommend? I’d love to know…

 

Review: The Lady Boys of Bangkok, Forever Yours…X

© Dean Martin Photography 2015 - www.deanmartinphotography.comAs soon as I stepped inside the Sabai Pavilion, the Lady Boys of Bangkok’s tented venue, I knew that this show was going to exceed my expectations. I’d been prepared for the show to be bordering on tacky, but when I entered the dimly lit tent I felt as if I was stepping into a very exclusive and extremely lavish nightclub. After getting ourselves a drink at the bar, we took our seats. This was my first time seeing the Lady Boys of Bangkok and I really didn’t know much about what the show would entail. But as soon as the velvet curtains opened, I knew I was in safe hands.

As the Lady Boys entered the stage I was wowed by their beauty but also by the sheer glamour of the cabaret style show. The costumes, the set and dance routines were all perfect, right down to the last exquisite detail. It was clear right from the start that this was going to be a slick and professional performance.

The show kicked off with a Kylie Medley, the best way to start any show if you ask me, followed with a fantastic set list, jam packed with party songs, guaranteed to make the audience feel good – from the soundtrack of Sisterhood and the Bay City Rollers right though to modern pop classics such as Uptown Funk.

© Dean Martin Photography 2016 - www.deanmartinphotography.comThe dance routines were so amazingly well timed that I felt like I was watching an MTV music video taking place right in front of my very eyes. The highlight for me was the Egyptian themed Dark Horse by Katy Perry which was just utterly magnificent! But I was also slightly in love with the Lady Boy’s performance of Nicki Minaj’s Starships which was a fabulous fluorescent spectacle.

There was plenty of humour threaded in there too, some of it deliciously naughty, but it never strayed too far into risqué.

By the end of the night, the atmosphere in the tent was completely electric and no one wanted the show to end. The Lady Boys of Bangkok gave the audience a night to remember and I for one, will be back again for more next year.

©Dean Martin Photography 2015 – www.deanmartinphotography.com

Lady Boys Logo - PNG

 

The Lady Boys of Bangkok are at Dundee’s Baxter Park until the 9th of July. To book tickets and to find out more about the show, visit: http://www.ladyboysofbangkok.co.uk/

 

 

 

Review: Much Ado About Nothing at Dundee Rep

MuchAdo-Artwork-650x450I’m going to start this review with a bit of a confession – until Saturday night I was kind of a Shakespeare virgin! While I have of course watched various adaptations of his work on the silver screen and read some of his plays (I went through a huge and somewhat depressing Romeo and Juliet phase during my teenage years) I have never seen any of his work brought to life on stage. Shocking I know.

So when I made my way to the Dundee Rep, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. I didn’t know the story of Much Ado, and I was a bit worried. Would I know what was going on? Would it be really long and boring? Well the answers to those questions are yes and no, and thankfully in that order. The story is an age old one. It’s the tale of a man and a woman, who are both absolutely perfect for one and other, but are just too proud to admit their feelings.

When I discovered that Much Ado About Nothing is one of Shakespeare’s comedies, I’d hoped that there would be a few laughs, but I hadn’t expected to spend most of the performance collapsed in giggles. And it wasn’t just me, the entire theatre was filled with brilliant roars of laughter.

Emily Winter was fantastic as Beatrice, the lovable but stubborn heroine of the play, but it was Robert Jack who completely stole the show, and the audience’s heart, as the hilarious Benedick. His comedic facial expressions and slapstick performance made the play for me. Of course it wasn’t all laughs, every story needs a villain and this play is no different. The darker part of the play, featuring the downfall of Beatrice’s cousin Hero (Marli Siu) at the hands of Borachio (Ewan Donald) and Don John (Ali Watt), provided just the right amount of darkness to make the story gripping as well as funny.

I needn’t have worried about the performance dragging, in fact the evening flew in and by the end of it, I’d laughed more than I had in months, years even. When I left, I heard the woman in front of me tell her companion, that Much Ado About Nothing had been so good, that she would have to come and see it again. I think I might just have to join her.

Much Ado About Nothing is at Dundee Rep until the 26th of June.