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Stage Reviews

The Rocky Horror Picture Show – Exeter Northcott Theatre February 16th 2017

What is Rocky Horror? It is a humorous tribute to B movies of the late 1940’s and science fiction films, it is a musical and was a fore runner in embracing many aspects of sexuality and putting it out there. The sing-a-long film gives the audience opportunity to get involved in costume, and very much a ‘grown up’ immersive pantomime experience.

 There is only one rule with The Rocky Horror Picture Show and that is dress up, LOUD! So, we did but horror of horrors some people didn’t and looked perfectly pedestrian in relation to the main throng of people that did. You may have thought that just because The Northcott Theatre is situated slap bang in the middle of Exeter University that this evening’s bonkers show would be full of students (being a Thursday and all) but no, there was a wide range of ages including our little posse of 7 (ahem, women of a certain age )

The show was originally written by Richard O’Brien as a stage production but a cult film swiftly followed in 1975, and the fact that even today this film has stood the test of time and all across the country stage productions are still touring and are magnets for legions of die-hard fans. Richard plays obsequious Riff Raff in the film- benevolent brother to the stunning Magenta played by Patricia Quinn. They are an odd pair who wait hand in hand to the transsexual Frank- N- Furter played by Tim Curry until they basically have enough of his lust to build a man with ‘blond hair and a tan’ and it all ends horribly with a very young Meatloaf ending up as ‘meatloaf’ literally. The visiting Janet (slut) and Brad (arsehole) are corrupted during their ill-timed sojourn at Frank-N- Furter's house in the middle of nowhere, because of course their car happens to break down during a storm; cliché at its best. The cast and costumes are suitably naff; however Tim Curry does look rather fetching in his basque, stockings and suspenders with better legs than me.

The sing-a-long company tour with these productions and have a live narrator alongside the film; again looking good in his stockings and suspenders. His/her job is to stoke the audience and make use of our little goodie bags. Along the way we slap our hand into a latex glove as Frank –N-Furter creates his sex god, we shout slut as Janet is corrupted and pop party poppers as Frank is coming and cry into our tissues, as Frank must go home back to Transsexual Transylvania. We were all up on our heels doing The Time Warp gyrating with feather boas forgetting about our hum drum lives for one night and a fantastic time was had by all and it certainly made a change from my usual sing-a-long which is Frozen. Just ‘Let it go!’ and I did.

A View from the Edge by Owdyado theatre productions

TCAT theatre, Tiverton. February 2 2017

Owdyado theatre presented me first off with a conundrum, before the performance had even started that is how to pronounce their name. I googled it first or did I twitter? Anyhow, I forget but some Japanese references popped up and I was convinced it was oriental in origin.

It turns out it isn’t and the cast put us straight; it is pronounced How –Do – You- Do as in how do you do theatre? So that’s that solved. This company are from Cornwall and are resident at the Hall for Cornwall. They are touring with this production all over really including ‘up north!’ before returning back to do more performances in the West Country (check website for up to date details) Tiverton was their opening night and what a great practical space TCAT at Tiverton high school provide, with trusty volunteers on hand too there is even a bar. Unfortunately, the next show was due at the Landmark Theatre in Ilfracombe but it was only last week that we learned that North Devon Theatres had gone into administration. TCAT honoured any tickets bought for that to be valid at tonight’s performance.

A View from the Edge is intriguing. It has so many red herrings and shifting time scales that you are led up one alley and find that is going off down another, a bit like a day trip to Venice off the tourist trails. That is what Owdyado are trying to do get you off the usual well trodden routes. It makes for interesting watching and all of you out there who like to guess the plot will find this a challenge, it ain't Midsummer Murders. It was written by 2 of the actors Charlotte Bister and Dan Richards who do a commendable job in not just the writing but the acting; switching from role to role which generally meant swapping jackets too. I wonder if during the tour they will forget whose jacket was whose?

They gave a faultless performance at Tiverton with 4 cast members. The play is noir in origin and by that I mean classic, black and white, a murder, clues and mostly set in a smoking office circa 1949 in downtown New York .Complete with the obligatory fan and femme fatale knocking on the door to Mr C Daniels (Detective) who demands 2 large ones as payment (hav' now, hav' later) to help her find her missing husband, painting and a mysterious Charlotte. The play then flits into the contemporary mind of the writer writing this piece (called Charlotte) and her struggles to finish this piece with pressure from her cast members as if she doesn’t, it will just end up as a Shakespeare play (Macbeth) which indeed it does do a bit later (but enough of that). The play centres on the actors, the dilemma of finding husband/painting and how they merge into an alternative reality throughout the piece. It has elements of ‘Stranger than Fiction’ (2006) a film starring Will Ferrell and Emma Thompson were the author actually meets the fictional character she has created and her power over him. The series ‘The Singing Detective’ also weaves through this and a bit of ‘Twilight Zone’ too.

The creative use of the set brings the era to life with office/bar/home as the actors make use of every square inch; including the blackboards which soon fill up with clues and ideas. The menacing underscore which crops up repeatedly adds to the suspense and a nice touch was the disembodied voice coming over the radio. A few murders happen reaching a crescendo and this is where it does get confusing as how is killing who and in what time dimension was that happening in? All in all an enjoyable show and there were comedic moments too which worked well and the audience tonight noted them all , there was some dancing and singing including an excellent sultry song in the bar by the gorgeous Katy Withers playing Delores.

Dick Whittington and his Cat. New Hall, Tiverton. Review by 9 year old Georgia.

I loved the scenery at the back and the sides, and it was really good, it was really funny and the 2 funniest were played by the Trump brothers Daddy said they were not connected to Mr Trump in America, who no one seems to like maybe as he is orange. People forgot some lines but that was funny and didn't matter. I liked the costumes and lots of dancing girls. King Rat was good I mean the baddie and he had a bossy wife. The cat was chasing the rat off the stage a lot which was her job as London had too many rats! Dick wanted to help. The fairy was funny and even had tattoos and dressed like a pink fairy and did bad funny poems and had a beard.The policemen were funny and not good at catching the rat, it was the clever cat! It was fun to stay out a bit late and see this and I would give it 4 stars! 

Around the World in 80 days

Adapted and composed for the stage by Phil Willmott and Annemarie Thomas

Taunton Brewhouse Theatre 10- 31 December 2016

 This was going to be exciting for us and exciting and a challenge for The Brewhouse this is their first in house production since the theatre shut and then reopened.

Before the curtain went up the action or lack of action had started. The ‘baddy’ Captain Kidd (played admirably by veteran Derek Frood) ) was asleep on a park bench snoring to be rudely a woken by a cavorting parade of Fogg’s sycophants wishing him well on the voyage of a lifetime or should it be a foolish whim brought on by a gentleman’s wager. The tale was written by Jules Verne in 1873 (he of 20,000 Leagues under the Sea, Journey to the Centre of the Earth) so a suspension of disbelief is required but having said that this story could certainly be the more believable of his Victorian stories.

We are transported to Paris, India, China, Japan and the Good ‘Ole U S of A! En-route the uppity Phileas Fogg is ably assisted by his cheeky French manservant Passepartout played by Tom Babbage this being his first main role since graduating from Drama College, well you could have fooled me -he commandeered the stage through most of the heavy dialogued scenes with flair and panache. Fogg played by Ross Barnes channelling Pierce Brosnan ( in his 1989 portrayal of Fogg ) was on cue as the uptight stubborn Fogg who not until the last scene does he let his façade down and open his heart to the rescued Indian Princess played by Samantha Harper who steals the show with her strong female character lead and melodic singing. Indeed the duet with Fogg ‘What do I Love?’ Was a highlight of the show and well-choreographed with comedic interludes by Miss Fotherington (Karen Davies). Special mention must go to the Swing leads Samuel Clifford and Nikkola Burnhope who worked their socks off swapping characters knitting things together seamlessly. The race against time was punchy and swift and we were transported into countries and despite the hiccups of the reoccurring baddy Kidd and escapades with elephants, fire and brimstone and a shoot-out with Jesse James the intrepid duo… well do they ?or don’t they? Win the wager and recover some stolen money and a ring in the process? Well you will just have to go and see won’t you? My two aged 9 and 12 were literally on their edge of their seats.

The set design was Steampunk in essence and very adaptable, on a circular revolving central platform that allowed for portrayal of movement and the chases that took place around it one involving the baddy Kidd was very comical. The lighting was effective and so controlled you could almost sense the time of time of day; dawn, dusk and the clock ticking. The main characters had radio mics on which is necessary in this space and I wish more venues would do this sometimes to project is not enough and words are lost. The supporting community youth cast were superb and we wish them well in their next 22 performances!

C. Bushnell for TCR Radio

The Spirit Whistle: A Christmas Ghost Story

December 8th 2016

A dimly lit, Victorian church with a ghostly pipe organ, Tiverton’s Oak Room is the perfect backdrop for a spooky, supernatural romp. It is perhaps no surprise that Mid Devon based theatre company Iron Moon Arts handpicked this venue for their latest haunting production, The Spirit Whistle.

The play is writer and director Matthew Lawrenson’s loose adaptation of Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You, a ghost story by genre-defining author M. R. James. The production honours this chilling tale while injecting folklore and myths from the Devon landscape.

Much like the story from which it draws inspiration, this production is in many ways a return to the archetypal ghost story. Yet, through an inventive blend of rib-tickling pastiche and a tailor-made script, the play is a delightfully unique experience.

After taking our seats to disconcertingly upbeat parlour music echoing from the cavernous ceiling, the show begins. We are transported to a 1920’s hotel. The play is set right here in Tiverton, and Pulman’s script is packed with nods to the region’s history from the get go. Immediately the actors relish in hammy, old-timey theatrics.

Not wholly owing to its hotel setting, the humour is at times in the vein of Faulty Towers, with the cast demonstrating a knack for physical comedy. Grace Simpson (Sarah White), a frustrated proprietor of the hotel, dances and quarrels with her guests, while the rhythmic interplay between the sceptical Professor Parkins (Richard Pulman) and the gullible Captain Deveril (Philip Kingslan John) is played with charming flamboyance.

We are introduced to Tom Sett (Benjamin Akira Tallamy), an ostentatious spiritual medium who claims to contact the dead with the aid of a large, mysterious box, which sits ominously on the stage as our curiosity builds.

While the play is largely a comic farce, packed with witty asides to the audience and fourth wall breaking gags, its humour is underpinned by something genuinely sinister. The aftermath of the First World War looms heavily over the production, and it somehow manages to create an ominous atmosphere despite its comic absurdity.

While this production has only five actors, the Oak Room itself can almost be considered a sixth cast member. The imposing, high-ceilinged hall is used to great effect. The cast traverse the oval balcony and walk amongst the audience, expertly making use of the historical atmosphere around them.

With the imaginative use of lighting cues, puppetry, sound design, projected images and Luke Jeffery’s film footage, the play delivers a multifaceted, spine-chilling escapade. At one notable point, we are spooked with a technique that would not be out of place in the West End’s The Woman in Black. Playing with our expectations, we are surprised by the play’s contrasting horror and humour.

Deceptively light-hearted, and at times terrifying, The Spirit Whistle is a playful homage to a classic ghost story, lovingly crafted for a beautiful venue.

Charlie Salter for TCR Radio

Defender of the Dead

by Sian Williams a Boiling Kettle production


Weaving up windy lanes where road signs mislead you to your destination, it is easy to get lost in this area- we tentatively crossed the border into Somerset arriving at Ashbrittle village hall. Its claim to fame is a 3,000 year old Yew tree that could tell a story or two, maybe an idea for a production here. So, yes it was a dark and stormy night leaves falling in heaps from trees and the odd house we passed with curtains drawn so not a peep of light emits. We wondered what we had let ourselves in for…

Then a light, a warm welcoming light from the small curious hall in the village , people pouring in from the neighbouring areas beginning to unwrap, turning off their torches as they entered, the popping of corks as you were told to bring a bottle, why not? How civilised. The hall was full to brimming and the village helpers had prepared lots of hot tea and biscuits for the interval. This is community spirit at its core.

The backdrop of the show was set in a field with some dangling tributes hanging of an ancient tree juxtaposed with barbed wire and a makeshift fence protecting what? A 3,000 year old skeleton has been found under a bungalow, now the powers that be must preserve this site not a million miles away from Stonehenge. Zac and his security firm have won the contract, we later find out through nepotism via an old army mate. This mate it turns out has ulterior motives and the union does not end well. The show is an 80 minute monologue delivered by a constant and unwavering performance by Bridgwater based actor Eltjo De Vries. His command of the stage is masterful and he adds interest by bringing in other voices as he recounts his life from serving in the army to this moment in time where not a lot happens and he is disillusioned. The first half his character is bolshie and full of bravado; he prefers the army way of doing things and has no time for the hippies who visit these sacred sites; indeed he thinks all archaeologists are hippies too.

It is only in the second half he begins to open up and we see a different side and his experiences serving in Bosnia have altered him; he witnessed death and near death intimately and it has shaped him. He clutches onto what he believes to be a Minoan small 'fake' statue like his lucky charm and it is this statue that will serve as a catalyst for the turn of events later. Sian Williams has created an original script that has roots in both mythology and Somerset ancient lore and shaken them up with the modern day, with a man who is as far removed from all that as possible. At first he does not get it, but there is a seed within him that grows and at the end of the play we see him being asked to attend a festival with his family and I do believe he does.

The play has had a long run since September and has two more dates in Dorset. Many interesting and quirky venues have been brought to life throughout Somerset and many villages have benefited from having accessible theatre on their doorstep even if they are a little hard to find but hey that’s part of the experience.

C.Bushnell for TCR radio



Tacchi-Morris Arts centre in Taunton bringing their 5* production of Mary Shelley's gothic horror Frankenstein,

celebrating the 200th year of the book's publication.

This production is a must-see if you're studying the book at GCSE or A-Level. There is an Education pack available.

SEE IT HERE: Tues 15 & Weds 16 Nov, 7:30pm…/blackeyed-theatre--frankenstein

….Or The Modern Prometheus as in Greek mythology; the titan Prometheus created mankind out of mud and water and then stole fire from the gods to give his creation; as punishment, Zeus chained him to a rock where an eagle pecked out his liver…

And so the story by Mary Shelley was inspired along with the 1815 earthquake in Indonesia that brought ‘a summer with no sun’ in 1816 to many parts of Europe. Mary wrote this while staying by a lake in Geneva with Percy Shelley, Lord Byron and John Polidori after completing a ‘grand tour’ of Europe. The miserable year led to dark days and darker nights- nature was in turmoil with the mighty impact of the earthquake leading to volcanic dust and the power of nature was felt like never before, it was in juxtaposition with new scientific discoveries including electricity. The writer group challenged each other to write eerie stories. Mary wrote Frankenstein, she was just 18.

Black eyed theatre productions have been touring since September and Tacchi-Morris was included in just a couple of West Country dates with their version of Frankenstein. The strong cast of 4 men and one woman worked well and some doubling up of roles was swift and seamless. The stage was the floor in front of a mixed audience and it was good to see a good proportion of teenagers; this gothic book is on the curriculum for many schools and for good reason.

The show started abruptly where we find a ship ‘The Prometheus’ grounded in an ice wasteland a huge bulking figure is seen in the distant, the next moment a man Victor Frankenstein is hauled aboard dying, but he has time. Time to tell his extraordinary tale to the captain - Walton. The format sees Captain Walton swept along with Victor during most of the performance as he weaves his tales to the Captain and how he has found himself to be at this point. We meet his friend and lover Elizabeth played authentically here and true to form. The staging is stark and there is a permanent slight fog that hangs about like a foreboding gloom, for there isn’t a happy ending to this story. The main apparatus is a wooden structure that serves as ship and a creation station for the creature. He is ultimately created as Victor searches for a power over nature after he learns of his Mother’s death. He witnesses an old oak tree being consumed by lighting. His mind is made up and he enrols at University and a professor spurns him on. The use of musical sound effects works well and is stage managed by the actors themselves. The piece is brought to a crescendo with the second half coming to life as we see expert puppetry skills in manipulating a 7ft monster around the stage. The way he is controlled is so lifelike you find yourself feeling sympathy for the devil he has been forced to become, after being rejected by his creator. One clever scene after he has become alive is the way that his chest breathes up and down you almost expect him to turn his head and pierce you with cold eyes that could see into your soul. For this monster is astute and learns about the destructiveness of mankind; he flees into nature where it nurtures and protects him. Frankenstein is played so well by the main actor and his mad hair and scruffy appearance serve him well and you are with him on his journey of self- discovery and ultimately self-destruction.

C.Bushnell for TCR Radio    

The Woman in Black

by Susan Hill

Performed by P.W Productions


The Northcott Theatre was full to the brim for the opening night of the new tour of this frightening ghost story. The play is based on Susan Hill's 1983 novella of the same name, which draws heavily on 19th Century Gothic literature. It was adapted to Theatre by the playwright Stephen Mallatrat in 1987, at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough, under Alan Ayckbourn's artistic direction. It then transferred to the West End, where it has enjoyed a 27 year run, this is a touring version of the same production. The popularity of the play has been boosted in recent years by the film version starring Daniel Radcliffe, and is now on the GCSE Drama Syllabus and the book is also popular as a set text for GCSE English, all of which contributed to a very youthful and bubbly audience, eager with anticipation.

They were most certainly not disappointed; this is a wonderful piece of very traditional Theatre at its terrifying best. The set is deceptively simple, the play is set in an empty late Victorian theatre and on the stage some old cloths hang, and a few pieces of scenery are seen as well as an off-stage entrance. The stage itself is raked from front to back, an authentic touch, rather like Tiverton's own New Hall stage, how well this show would work there! A large costume hamper and a few odd chairs share the stage area, whilst to the front a few pieces of cloth and some duck boards are left strategically.

I had not seen the Play before, though I had seen the film, so I was a little surprised at its format. This sees the storyteller, an ageing Mr Kipps, as a visitor to the theatre. He attempts to practice the telling of his story for his family and friends in front of an actor, whose services he has employed for assistance. Upon seeing his poor attempt the actor - true to form - swiftly suggests that he perform the story, playing the role of the younger Kipps, whilst Kipps himself plays all the other roles. This premise allows Kipps to grow in stature one character at a time from a timid wreck into a confident, transformed performer through the cathartic task of acting the story. This works well as a wonderful vehicle for delivering the tale, with its own sinister and most unexpected twist.

The production startled its audience through the most simple and effective use of traditional theatrical methods, the appearances of the eponymous spirit instilled absolute terror into the young audience, at times relegating the recorded screams to near irrelevance. My only slight criticism of the performances might be the couple of occasions when the performers failed to take account of the length of time it took their audience to regain its composure and concentration before continuing their dialogue. It was wonderful to see such simple effects put to use so dramatically, I had half expected all kinds of electronic trickery involving projections, mirrors, overbearing lighting and sound, automation of set, etc. But no, the subject matter was dealt with in a plain and yet utterly traumatic fashion and the few tricks employed were entirely convincing and left the audience in pieces.

My only other act of pedantry involves a piece of theatrical train spotting against the playwright, which the company cannot be held responsible for, and that is the use of 'the miracle of recorded sound' in a Victorian era theatre, no doubt it serves a convenient purpose, but it is highly unlikely such devices would or could be routinely employed at that time, though there is record of a phonograph being used to play a baby's cry offstage in a London Theatre in 1890 it wasn't until the early 20th century that more adventurous methods were being routinely used, however stage managers were very accomplished at creating 'live' sound effects for most things.

I cannot recall another production having quite such an electrifying effect on students as this one did, and that bodes well for its success up and down the country. The performers delivered a brilliant show and all involved should be congratulated for the creation of something which will most certainly inspire a new generation to the exciting possibilities of the Theatre.

Steve Bush reviewing for TCR Radio

Mon 14 - Sat 19 November 2016


Tue Schools Matinee 1.30pm (NEW due to popular demand)

Wed Schools Matinee 1.30pm

Sat Matinee 2.30pm

Join the 7m theatregoers worldwide who have experienced “The most brilliantly effective spine-chiller you will ever encounter” Daily Telegraph.

Susan Hill’s acclaimed ghost story comes dramatically alive in Stephen Mallatratt’s ingenious stage adaptation. This gripping production, directed by Robin Herford, is a brilliantly successful study in atmosphere, illusion and controlled horror.

Mon 14 - Sat 19 November 2016 nightly 7.30pm

Tue Schools Matinee 1.30pm (NEW due to popular demand)

Wed Schools Matinee 1.30pm

Sat Matinee 2.30pm

Steve Bush for TCR radio

The Forever Machine

    The Bike Shed Theatre Exeter

As part of Extreme Imagination Exeter's children's writing festival running until the 29th October - tonite saw the

The Wardrobe Ensemble show 'The Forever Machine' at The Bike Shed Theatre. Taking a gamble and taking the kids telling them 'Well, it's about time travel' as I was still none the wiser after reading the intriguing description in the eye catching festival brochure.

Not one to take the naughty offspring to any night time shenanigans I went outside our comfort zone of Tiverton and had tea in Pizza Express by the Cathedral (very nice thank-you) and boldly set forth. And boy am I , husband and kids glad we did too. The Bike Shed theatre is a quirk of genius, housed in cellars, cosy and welcoming. Kids loved the recycling of trivial pursuit cards used as tickets. I liked the look of the cocktails Hot buttered Rum anyone? I am sure Harry Potter had something similar but lacking the alcoholic part.

On with the show - a door opened a curtain draped back and we entered. The theatre is small, intimate and you immediately felt part of something special.

The two actors boy and girl, had us on the edge of our seats with high jinks and role swapping. The lighting and sound effects were the third actor here and worked very well adding to the dramatic tension as the '12 year old' Philippa was transported back through time to the Jurassic age all because she didn't like vegetables ( well yes- she was offered a vegetable surprise for her birthday treat - so I can hardly blame her!) she writes in her diary they are evil and she ADORES CAKE! We then see her being chased by a T Rex , getting an actual T Rex is a big ask here but we had some er...ahem! Sound effects here, just use your imagination. So her diary is dropped in which Philippa has written 'All vegetables are evil'. We then see her back in her time machine to approx 542 years into the future from the present day. We are in Caketopia. The evil ruler now has concrete every where no greenery and vegetables are banned and people are getting sick. Philippa now learns her lost diary from the jurassic age was discovered and taken as a prophecy into this age and cake is good, vegetables bad. She must now rush back through time to put things right. The cast delivers a fast paced, funny but message driven tale in a tight 60 minutes with not a dull moment in sight.

This play was inspired by school children from

Barnstaple in North Devon having spent a week at Farms for City Children. A charity founded 40 years ago by writer Michael Morpurgo and his wife. It enables children to get back to nature, animals and turn off that tech. But some things are slightly harder to get kids to do and that is to get them to eat their veg and refuse a chocolate cake, seriously really have you ever tried that? Let me know of any success. As for my two... Cabbage anyone?

Catch this show now until Saturday 29th 7.30 pm and 2 pm Thursday and Saturday. 7 + age range. or call 01392 726363

C.Bushnell for TCR radio

exetreme imagination

Farms for City Children

The Bike Shed Theatre

Night Must Fall

Exeter Northcott

This 1930's era play on till Saturday. A perfect piece for #Halloween for grown ups. There are treats to eat and drink in the foyer and tricks during the performance just don't ask what's in the 'hat' box, which makes a few ominous appearances unlike the poor missing woman in the woods.

The cast are superb and lead admirably by the stoically placed Gwen Taylor even when the ship is sinking she is still hunting for her chocolates so desperately. Although having been an 'invalid ' in a wheelchair the entire show, manages to leave it whilst being left alone to 'comfort her nerves'. After all why live in a bungalow in the middle of the woods where there is a murderer on the loose if there's no chocolate?

The main characters circumnavigate around this cantankerous wealthy old dear including her smart but hapless niece, her hooray suitor who will visit 'every morning before lunch' , a visiting officer of the law and her housekeeper, nurse and maid these three all bringing light humour into the piece with aplomb. The simple maid has found herself pregnant by a Jack the lad. He is invited to the house 'to explain himself' however Gwen Taylor's matriarch falls for his 'babyface' and he is swiftly employed. That's where the story starts.... Just don't go into the woods at night.

Exeter Northcott The Original Theatre Company Exeter, Devon

Night Must Fall – Exeter Northcott Theatre

When charming, smooth-talking Dan arrives unexpectedly at old Mrs Bramson’s remote woodland home he soon ingratiates his way into her life and…

C.Bushnell for TCR radio