Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Interview with Rachel Spicer

Playing the lead female in one of the most well known love stories as her debut stage performance is a great feat for Rachel Spicer.

Freelance journalist, Jemma Crowston, caught up with the 22-year-old who will be playing Juliet in Pilot Theatre’s contemporary Romeo and Juliet at Curve, Leicester next month.

“I’ve played Lady Capulet before in a college play and I’ve done some scene work and monologues but this is a pretty amazing opportunity to play Juliet in my debut stage performance,” said Rachel.

The Londoner started touring with the other seven cast members in September and will be stopping at Curve in the midlands from Tuesday March 1 until Saturday March 12 before the show closes in Buxton in April.

The award-winning company Pilot Theatre will return to the city after the success of their production of Lord of the Flies in February 2009.

Their contemporary version of the classic love story uses the original text from Shakespeare but condensed to make the play more accessible. The stage props includes stunning visuals and the set, designed by Chloe Lamford (winner of Best Set design at the 2007 TMA awards) will be filled with over 600 bunches of silk flowers to create a 21st century scene for the love story to take place.

“The flowers are a powerful element to the whole show. Flowers are quite symbolic. They can represent death but can also be a token of love,” said Rachel.

This celebrated story of dangerous rivalries and secret loves will be brought to life in a fast-moving tale which will enthuse audiences of all ages with its exuberance, poetry and thrilling action. Pilot’s unique interpretation is perfect for introducing Shakespeare to younger audiences too.

Rachel, who graduated from RADA last July, will be playing Juliet alongside Oliver Wilson plays the role of Romeo, his theatre work includes: To Kill a Mocking Bird at Theatre Clwyd and on tour; All’s Well That Ends Well (National Theatre); THE RSC Poetry Festival (Stratford and London); Much Ado About Nothing (Derby Live) and This Child (Pilot Theatre at Albany Empire and Theatre Royal York).

Rachel said, “The cast are very close after touring together for months. Some audiences have commented on this and say it shines through the performance.

“It’s great working with all these professional actors who work really seriously but we all know how to have some laughs along the way too.”

Rachel embraces the idea of a contemporary version of the play by portraying her character, Juliet, in a thoroughly modern way. She said, “The way I portray Juliet is as a typical young teenager but she also comes across as a bit tom boyish so it’s quite modern.”

Rachel, who has had small parts in TV commercials and small production films before she went to drama school, said the show is set in the 21st century and could be set anywhere. She added, “Although we’re using the original text, we all have different accents so it could be set anywhere. I wear Top Shop clothes and in the fight scenes we use knives rather than swords so it’s very current.”

When asked what her favourite scene is, Rachel said, “I love the balcony scene but also any of the scenes with Juliet and her nurse because the relationship is so special. She’s like her mother, friend and sister and she’s her only ally in the show.”

Unlike most theatre shows, this production will include a continuous cutting edge, specially-commissioned soundtrack by composer Sandy Nuttgens, which is available to download on iTunes. Rachel said, “I don’t notice the music anymore because we’ve been rehearsing with it from the very beginning. The audience will either love it or hate it.”

After the show tour finishes in April, Rachel will be working on an audio monologue production for Pilot but hopes to start auditioning again too. She said, “I’m really excited to see what’s next.”

Rachel took part in drama activities in school and out of school clubs but it wasn’t until she met an inspirational teacher when she was 16-years-old that Rachel knew she wanted to be an actor. She said, “As corny as it sounds they opened my eyes to the magic and humanity of acting and all the possibilities within it. I loved the idea of a living which you can continue learning and growing so I summed up the courage and went to drama school.”

After several parts behind the camera I asked Rachel where her passion lies: TV or stage?
She said, “I’m in love with the craft. There’s a lot of difference between being on stage and working behind a camera on set but they’re both about telling stories and that’s where my passion lies.”

Romeo and Juliet is the last performance that audience members aged 12 – 26 can claim free tickets through the scheme - A Night Less Ordinary. To take advantage of this offer join Curve Young Company by calling 0116 242 3595.

To book tickets visit

Gandhi and Coconuts

Is it better to be sane or happy?

This is the question underlining Kali Theatre Company’s portrayal of Gandhi and Coconuts.
The story, written by Bettina Gracias, opened at Curve, Leicester last night with its touching yet humorous tale of a lonely housewife’s fantasy afternoon tea with Mahatma Gandhi and the Hindu Gods Shiva and Kali.

Asha (Sophiya Haque) and Ajay (Rez Kempton) move to London from India to earn money for their family back home. But Asha’s isolation in their flat and her fear of the new world outside soon sees her mundane routine transform into a fast-moving and at time, farcical, world of colour and light.

The story shows how life can often become a routine and the couple have very traditional values of the husband working and the wife staying at home.

With today’s equality in place I felt sorrow in the pit of my stomach for Asha who had so many expectations put upon her.

Asha is home sick and idealises about the simpler life back home but it’s clear that it is the change she’s struggling to adjust to. When her husband watches the news all she hears about is the stabbings and muggings happening in their neighbourhood and when Asha experiences racism through her living room walls from her neighbour this just adds to her agoraphobia.

When Asha descends into her own fantasy world and Gandhi and the two Gods arrive for tea it’s obvious she’s not going to get rid of the trio easily.

I was in fits of laughter as Gandhi (Gary Pillai), Shiva (Robert Mountford) and Kali (Nimmi Harasgama) drank whisky, danced and fought over what was best for Asha.

The clean white paper like set used as the couple’s home was a great aid to Chris Corner’s lighting which changed colours when Asha’s fantasy friends were in the room.
Asha is happier when in her own world with Gandhi and seems numb when she has to step back into the real world to tend to her husband’s every need.

When Ajay starts to see his wife’s personality change it puts it down to hormones at first but the reality of her state of mind soon sinks in.
Ajay doesn’t understand his wife’s odd-ball behaviour but they both share a sense of overwhelming pressure and boredom through their new life in London.

This show is a must for anyone who loves a bit of insanity and creativity.
To book your tickets visit

Runs until Saturday February 26 2011.

Originally written for The Public Reviews.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Leicester Comedy Festival @ Curve

The cities 18th annual comedy festival has been in full swing for the last fortnight in various venues including the Curve where I was lucky enough to see three out of the hundreds of shows at this year’s festival.

To kick start my trio of comedy nights, I saw the unbelievable Beating Berlusconi show on Thursday, February 10.

Taking a Liverpool football fans tale and turning it into a comedy drama for stage is exactly what playwright John Graham Davies after hearing a cobbler’s story from the 2005 Liverpool championship final.

Speaking to the cobbler, Mark Radley, in January he told me the show brings out the fan in all of us and he certainly wasn’t wrong.

Living with a fella who’s mad on Liverpool I knew it’d be something he’d love and he came away wanting to put the DVD of the actual game on as soon as we got home!

The show is played out by Paul Duckworth who has an amazing talent to portray over 40 characters in the 90-minute show.

I was completely hooked into the whole drama of one young boy’s life as a footy mad fan that grew up to see his team win the European Championships despite risking his married life for the trip!

If the show returns it’s a must watch for any football fan but I think especially if you’re a red!
My second comedy jewel was the wonderfully quirky Sarah Millican on Friday, February 11.

Her random tales of shopping for baby denims and tales of being a woman were woven with audience participation.

Asking the audience questions is always going to dampen or enhance a show but luckily for Sarah we have some very odd characters in Leicester so this led to some very strange but funny antidotes!

There were similar moments on Saturday, February 12, during Milton Jones’ show when he invited the audience to join in.

Sarah’s jokes were understood by all the females in the audiences but the men were left occasionally on the side lines when it came to the intimate female innuendos.

Sarah’s Chatterbox tour continues and she hopes to be back in Leicester in the Autumn so watch out for dates and tickets!

Saturday’s comedy show with Milton was an odd ball mix of one-liners and a visit from his Grandad in the warm-up!

His other warm-up act was Kettering-born Jamie Acastor whose confident performance was refreshing in such a young comedian.

There was a moment were an unsuspecting audience member who’d just returned from the toilet was invited on stage. The consequence of his small bladder meant he was in for some ridicule!

When Milton came on to do the main act the show seemed quite fragmented because the two have a very different comedy style.

Milton’s zany look and wild eyes just made his show even more comical. And his one-liners were quick paced and often linked to other jokes later in the night which gave the audience a sense of knowing.

Here is a list of Leicester Comedy Festival shows coming up at Curve in the next fortnight:
Mark Steel
Ceri Dupree is Blonde for Danger
Comedy Heaven with Arthur Smith
Gandhi and Coconuts
LOL (Lots of Love)

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Beating Berlusconi

For all those footy mad fans out there, Beating Berlusconi, is not one to be missed according Mark Radley, whose story has become a comedy sensation on stages across the UK.

The Liverpool football supporter says you don’t have to be red to enjoy the show, which will be at Leicester’s Curve theatre this Thursday, February 10, as part of the city’s 18th comedy festival.

After following his team to an international game in Istanbul, Mark never dreamt his tales from the match would lead to an infamous story played out in a monologue to audiences all over the country.

Mark’s story talks about how he ended up sat next to Italian politician, Silvio Berlusconi at the Attaturk Stadium. After the reds equalised, Mark couldn’t suppress his feelings any longer and the pair squared up to each other. After being hauled away by security men, Mark was surprised to find he’d been mistaken for a VIP and ended up in the Liverpool VIP area.

Mark, who works as a cobbler, said, “When I got back to home I was telling my story to anyone that would listen.”

Mark was telling playwright, John Graham Davies, his tale one day when he went to get a key cut.

Mark said, “John wanted to chat about my story some more and he said it’d make a great film or TV show. I said he could use my story and since then I’ve been amazed at how far it’s gone.”

The show is played as a monologue by Paul Duckworth who portrays 40 characters in the 90-minute play.

Mark said, “The show uses my story but there’s also some drama in there which has been added in as extra too.

“It’s a show not to be missed and it brings out the fan in all of us.”

Mark will be coming to see the show at Curve on Thursday night at 7.30pm and invites the audience to come and speak to him in the lobby after the show.

To book your tickets visit or call 0116 242 3595