A selection of topics that are current in Leicester’s arts scene.
Leicester Means Business
An event was held on Wednesday 26th November that brought together musicians and people from the music community, to lay down ideas, concerns, issues and thoughts about music.
Organised by Jed Spittle of Manic Music Productions, the event provided an opportunity for those present to flag up their thoughts and ideas about the contemporary music scene in Leicester.
Jed Spittle secured a contract to organise a networking series of events, the first of which was tonight’s theme of Leicester as a place to make music. Held at Curve theatre, the event attracted a range of people who were currently involved in music in some way or other.
The networking events are linked to the LLEP’s initiative that will provide a consultant to look at the Creative Industries. Result from these events will feed into what the consultant will be doing, when in post.
A project was launched tonight at the LCB Depot. Affective Digital Histories: recreating De-industrialised Place, from the 1970s to the Present includes Hidden Stories and Sounds of the Cultural Quarter, two new Apps that reveal the fascinating hidden stories of Leicester’s Cultural Quarter.
These Apps use the latest locative technology to deliver immersive experience for visitors to the Cultural Quarter. Location-specific content – sounds from the past and present, poetry, plays and narrative – is revealed as visitors explore the area, helping to re-imagine urban history.
Those attending this event were also invited to experiment with traditional print processes and cutting edge technology to create their own original art work at the New Incunable Print Shop, which is located at The LCB Depot.
The apps are products of a University of Leicester research project, ‘Affective Digital Histories: Re-creating de-industrial places, 1970s to the present’ which was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).
Following the welcome speeches from Dr Ming Lim from the University of Leicester’s School of Management , John Rance of Phoenix and Professor Andrew Prescott from the University of Glasgow, poet and playwright Carol Leeming read and performed a piece from her Choreopoem.
When I picked up the brochure for the February to August 2015 season at Curve, I had a quick flick through it. My immediate reaction was “Wow. This looks good!” But when I went to the launch event presenting some of the shows being planned for next year, I got really excited.
A panel of people presented some of the shows that are coming up next. Curve Chief Executive Fiona Allan was in the chair, accompanied by Paul Kerryson (who bows out as Artistic Director at the end of this year), Nikolai Foster (Curve’s incoming Artistic Director), Luke Sheppard (Director) and Ben Atkinson (Musical Director).
Paul Kerryson has been the Artistic Director of Leicester Theatre Trust from 1991 – first at the Haymarket Theatre, and since 2008 at Leicester’s Curve – a theatre he was instrumental in founding, and which has become the cultural heart of the city. In 2013, it was announced that Kerryson will leave as Artistic Director at the end of 2014.
Nikolai Foster is to become the new artistic director at Curve in Leicester, and plans to turn the venue into the home of new musical theatre writing in the UK. [The Stage]
Shows featured in today’s presentation
(in date order)
The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Ages 13 3/4. 7th March to 4th April. See our review.
Our County’s Good. – 16th to 18th April.
Inside Out Festival. 22nd April to 2nd May.
(where the world comes to see what Leicester is about)
Beautiful Thing. – 25th to 30th May. See our review.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. 9th to 13th June.
The Car Man – Bizet’s Carmen Re-imagined. 16th to 20th June.
(modern interpretation of the story from Bizet’s opera Carmen) with Matthew Bourne. See our review.
Calamity Jane. 30th June to 4th July.
Richard III. 25th July to 9th August.
(community theatre, auditioning in January). We saw this but decided not to review it.
Hairspray. 9th to 19th September.
5-star reviews and packed houses.
We are not going to say anything about these shows right now, because Arts in Leicester will be publishing preview articles on them in the months ahead.
If you want to know more right away, pick up a copy of the Feb – Aug 1015 brochure from Curve.
Leicester is famous around the world for Adrian Mole and King Richard III.
Other shows that caught my eye in the 2015 brochure:
Dave’s Leicester Comedy Festival. From 7th Feb to 14th February.
The Woman In Black. 16th to 21st February.
English Touring Opera. 20th April and 21st April.
Bromance. 12th May. See our review.
Northern Ballet. 5th and 6th June. (Madam Butterfly and Perpetuum Mobile)
Blood. 26th and 27th June.
Theatre in Leicester faces the challenge of attracting a multi-cultural audience.
We will be published an article soon on the chellenges facing the arts in Leicester, so watch out for our postings.
Directed by Paul Kerryson
Choreographed by Drew McOnie
Reviewed by Karen McCandless
Paul Kerryson has been making a name for himself for the high-quality musicals he has been directing since he became artistic director at Curve, Leicester.
From The King and I to 42nd Street to the world première of Finding Neverland, Kerryson produces shows that rival the West End in terms of quality while putting his own spin and mark on each performance.
The choice of Chicago to celebrate Curve’s 5th birthday was always likely to sell tickets, as the musical is hugely popular and very fun to watch. But it was also likely to be a challenge to make this version stand out from the very successful film, as well as the stage versions that run in the West End and Broadway.
What Kerryson produced was of West End standard but with some extra ‘razzle dazzle’. In the 1920s, murder is a form of entertainment in the city of Chicago (a quotation from Mama Morton). And this musical showcases is all about the (sometimes brutal) murders carried out by women, normally their husbands. It’s funny, sassy, slick and dark and features an extremely strong range of songs from All That Jazz to Razzle Dazzle to Cell Block Tango.
Chicago does an excellent job of incorporating these songs into the storyline so that they actually tell the story rather than being add ons that finish a scene. Often with musicals, a review starts off talking about the strength of the vocals. And in this production, all the cast had strong vocals with no notes out of place. The stand out performance vocally was from Sandra Marvin as Mama Morton. Quite how she managed to hold the note in her opening number so long is a mystery.
Adam Bailey as Mary Sunshine also put in a strong vocal performance. But, vocals aside, what set this show apart from the many other productions of Chicago there have been through the years is the choreography.
Drew McOnie did an outstanding job and it is his work that made this a five-star production. Every scene was intricately choreographed and thought out. The particular stand outs scenes were the introduction of Billy Flynn (Leonard) with his harem of girls with feathers, the press conference scene with Flynn and his ‘puppet’ Roxie Hart and the court/circus scenes.
Both the choreography and the direction on the circus/court scenes were brilliant and the staging was excellent. The role of the male dancers was more prominent in this production, as they had a slightly more effeminate, sexy style while also being comedic. They often cross dressed in scenes but still retaining a certain masculine air. It was reminiscent of Matthew Bourne’s casting of men as the swans in Swan Lake.
The costume department made all the outfits sexy but fitting for each scene, whether it be a press conference or in court or the baby scene. Standout performance on stage came from Gemma Sutton who played a minxy Roxie Hart. She was less naïve and innocent than others have chosen to play Hart, deciding to take the character down the route of cold, calculating and manipulative from a much earlier stage instead.
Verity Rushworth as Velma Kelly had such an air of ‘has been’ with far less sex appeal than Roxie. The scene where she was trying to convince Hart to form a double act with her dancing in the show was very funny but had desperation written all over it. Rushworth played Kelly with a real air of faded glamour. David Leonard oozed sleaze and bravado as criminal lawyer Billy Flynn and Matthew Barrow was suitably pathetic as Roxie’s put-upon husband Amos.
Curve’s production of Chicago was a triumph and a stand out show, combining spectacular choreography, excellent staging, brilliant costumer design and strong vocal performances.
(This review was originally published on Arts in Leicester in December 2013. It was re-published on 18th November 2014 as part of our archiving project.)
The Water Babies (Curve) re-published review.
Shakespeare for the Facebook generation. (Curve) re-published review of Romeo and Juliet.
Presented by Peter Shaw and Joanna Cecil for Archerwest Ltd and Water Babies Musical UK Ltd
Book and lyrics by Ed Curtis and Guy Jones
Music by Chris Egan, inspired by the film produced by Peter Shaw, screenplay by Michael Robson, based on the novel by Charles Kingsley.
Staring: Louise Dearman as Mrs Do as you would be done by, Tom Lister as Eel and grimes,Tomas Milner as the lead character Tom and Lauren Samuels as his girlfriend Ellie.
Executive Producer – Tristan Baker, casting by Anne Vosser, orchestral management by Steve Socci, set design by Morgan Large, choreography by Nick Winston. Directed by Ed Curtis. Producer – Joanna Cecil
Peter Shaw said “The idea of turning Water Babies into a theatrical musical was first suggested to me over 30 years ago by the late, great Hollywood star, James Mason …”
Orphaned teenage hero Tom is framed for a crime he did not commit. To escape capture at the edge of a waterfall, he jumps. Instead of dying he wakes up in the ocean where he encounters a new world of enchantment, danger and adventure.
To get back to the girl be left behind, Tom must face a set of challenges in the underwater world he discovers. With a set of unlikely friends – a lobster, a seahorse and a swordfish – he sets out in search of the Water Babies, a mysterious set of people who can help him to return to his own world.
Two thirds of the show is set underwater in the ocean. The cast of characters – including the three sea creatures who ride around on bicycles. Charles Kingsley’s book was about fairies – it was a fairy tale and this musical sets out to capture that spirit.
This production uses the amazing technical facilities of Curve’s stage to bring alive a story that would be difficult enough in film, let alone on a live stage. The song and dance routines reflect many of the aspects of traditional musical productions, anchoring the theatrical elements and stunning visual effects into a recognisable format. How do you represent an Eel? Costume designer Amy Jackson gives the character a lycra jump suit onesie, a large cloak and a top hat. What do you do to costumise a sea horse? Another stroke of brilliance – you make him into a french dandy with a fan and put him on a bicycle. Amy Jackson’s worked fantasy into her costumery to make sea creatures into human beings.
The set designs were cunning and inventive, designer Morgan Large wanting “the two worlds of above-water and under-water to be given a distinct visual language”, the judge in the court room scene sitting on a lifeguard’s chair and the rooftop scene using upturned boats as roofs and in some scenes we saw a submerged Victorian pier.
The show was in two acts, the first setting the storyline and Tom’s leap into the water and in the second Tom finds the Water Babies and secures their help to return to his own world of dry land, to be re-united with his girl friend Ellie.
The show offered a captivating story line about teenage self-discovery, a love story and a fantasy adventure. The lyrics were impressive and the witty dialogue was snappy. Plenty of visual and verbal humour kept the audience launching in the right places, counterposed with moments of poignancy and pathos. The sets were ingenious with a lot of moving and shifting going on and the landmark special effects (SFX) used the wonderful technical facilities at Curve (better than most you would find in the West End.)
A show suitable for an all-ages audience, it would be a satisfying experience for young and old alike. Chris Egan’s music was modern and workmanlike although there were no hit songs to whilstle on the way home (unlike the recent production of Fame at the DMH and the earlier production of Priscilla.)
The singing and dancing were of a high standard and the acting was quite good, mainly because the casting had resulting in a good line-up of artists to fit the characters.
Water Babies at Curve featured in a news item on BBC’s East Midlands Today and was the first Curve show to benefit from prime-time tv advertising (to my knowledge.)
An enjoyable show, offering plenty of entertainment. High on technical wizardry, the show presents a demanding story in a way that is about as successful as it can get for a theatre. With its real waterfall and holographic imaging, it was a superbly clever production. Solid performances from Louise Dearman as Mrs D and Tom Lister as Eel rather eclipsed those of Tomas Milner as the hero Tom and Lauren Samuels as Ellie. The trio of Lobster, Seahorse and Swordfish were scene stealers. Richard E Grant (Downton Abbey, Gosford Park, Doctor Who) played the Kraken. The show received its world premier at Curve.
I am very pleased to see that Arts in Leicester magazine is going really well.
I say that because, back in June last year, when we split off the popular music content from the Arts in Leicester magazine, I was anxious about what would happen to the viewing figures for both the sites. My fear was that the viewing figures for both sites would plummet downwards.
I am very happy to see that my fears have been unfounded and that now both sites are doing really well and both of them are attracting a growing number of viewers – both from the UK and also from countries around the world. There is nothing more exciting than to see one’s work putting Leicester on the map both nationally and globally. I like that very much.
This is largely because both this country, and now the rest of the world, are very interested in knowing what our city is all about. In the year ahead, there will be many more things that we will want to cover and which, I am in no doubt, the world in general will want to read about.
As part of my commitment to keeping this website a rich and vibrant source of material about the arts, culture and heritage, I am going to re-publish a range of articles which were previously on this site but which disappeared from view when the whole thing was revamped and given its current makeover.
These are articles that I will want to refer back to in future pieces, that I have planned, for the months ahead. Most of these are theatre reviews but there are also some articles that will link into new material that we have in the pipeline.
If you want to keep up with what is coming up here at Arts in Leicester, subscribe to our free notifications service – it will tell you what’s new every time we do a post. Look for the box headed ‘Subscribe to Artsin via email‘ on the right-hand side of the page.
We will also update the page that tells you what has been updated or amended in our pages, through our What’s New pieces.
Watch our for our annual end-of-year round-up and review of the arts, culture and heritage of 2014.
Stock up on euphoric giggles this autumn with 2Funy Comedy Show, which comes to Curve on Saturday 29 November 2014, at 7.45pm.
2Funy Comedy presents a first class night of laughs with some of the UK’s comedy circuit favourites! First on the menu is Will-E, who has appeared live at The Apollo, and as part of P. Diddy’s Bad Boys of Comedy. Then there’s Kane Brown. Fearless, bold and energetic, Kane has graced the stage of Hackney Empire and The Comedy Store, among others. Previously voted ‘Best Female Comedienne,’ UK circuit favourite Glenda Jaxson is an extraordinary talent. Last but not least, Dane Baptiste has an unmistakable stage persona that has seen him perform at venues such as Just the Tonic and Glee Club. An evening of rip-roaring comedy awaits you!
2Funy Comedy Show
Saturday 29 November 2014, 7.45pm
Tickets £15 from: 2FunkyTickets | or Curve
Ticket Office: 0116 242 3595
Please note, this show may contain strong language and explicit adult humour.