Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Gadget Show Live

The Jungle Book

A classic tale about a young boy who is raised in the jungle by a family of wolves entertained a theatre full of families last night.

The Birmingham Stage Company production, The Jungle Book, opened at Curve, in Leicester, for its five night stop.

It’s the shows fourth tour since its launch in 2005.

Stuart Paterson has adapted the well-known Rudyard Kipling story about a young boy called Mowgli, his friends Baloo the bear and Bagheera the panther and his nemesis Shere Khan the tiger.

The jungle holds many dangers for the man cub who must return to the man village for his safety.
The title of the show might have you expecting to hear songs like I wanna be like you but this is not a stage version of the Disney adaptation of Kiplings story.

Music in this production has been specially produced by BB Cooper which still had some of the audience humming his tunes when the show had finished.

Samuel Hargeaves made a perfect performance as Mowgli. His cheeky nature and adventurous attitude were apt for the boy who grew up in a world without a normal structure to life.

The scenes with Mowgli and the monkeys were a fun part of the night. This is when the silliness was brought to the stage and the classic panto cries of ‘he’s behind you’ was used to encourage the younger members of the audience to interact with the characters.
Animal expert Peter Elliot created the fantastic animal movement in the play. Elliot created and played the apes in hit films including Gorillas in the Mist and Congo. For The Jungle Book he directed the bear, tiger and monkey characters.

With most family stories there are some hidden lessons to be learnt and The Jungle Book certainly had its own meanings.
One of them came from the scene with the monkeys. Mowgli thought it would be great to have fun all the time and to never be serious but he soon realised that rules and structure are important at times too.

The stage was dressed up with vines and had a moveable mound and steps in the middle. The interludes of music allowed the characters to quickly wheel these on and off stage without too much disruption to the play.

If you’re looking for some entertainment for the family this half-term then go see The Jungle Book.

Runs until April 16.

Originally written for The Public Reviews.

Monday, 11 April 2011


If you want a night of guaranteed laughter and fun at the theatre then Spamalot is just the ticket.
The show which is described as a ‘new musical lovingly ripped off from Monty Python and the Holy Grail’ opened at Leicester’s De Montfort Hall yesterday.
Arriving at the theatre you could already hear the band in full swing and when you stepped inside the auditorium you were greeted by the colourful set which included a castle on one side and a forest on the other.

The show’s director, Christopher Luscombe, has taken the story by Eric Idle and John Du Prez and made it even more outrageous.

There’s nothing like the feeling of recognition and knowing. When the scenes from the film came alive on the stage the audience howled with laughter while reminiscing about the times they’ve no doubt watched the film.
The new scenes, however, created by Luscombe had a touch of modernity and this drew in the audience even more so. For instance, in act two we discover that Lancelot (Graham MacDuff) is gay. During the musical number, His Name is Lancelot, we see him and the dancers prancing around and his outfit would be familiar to anyone who has seen Matt Lucas in the BBC series, Little Britain.
During the Knights that say Ni scene the actors were laughing so much too and it was funny to see King Arthur (Phill Jupitus) trying to repeat the new saying that the Knight’s now say.
Another great scene at the end of act one was when the King and the Knights reached the French Castle. Patsy (Todd Carty) was left in the middle of the stage with a cow on top of him. His character is like the King’s slave and horse. He uses coconut shells to create the sound of the horse trotting. He is such a lovable character because of his simple wit and funny facial expressions.

The powerful voice of the Lady of the Lake (Jessica Martin) was amazing. Her skill for holding notes and taking them high was awe-inspiring.
Her character had a bigger role in the stage production than the film that it’s taken from. This is played on and sees her sing comical duets with Sir Galahad (Simon Lipkin) in act one and with King Arthur (Phill Jupitus) in act two.

The are a couple of scenes including the Black Knight in the forest and the killer rabbit which were ingenious. In the film these scenes see people lose limbs and I was wondering how they were going to do this on stage.
They managed to do it with such hilarity that I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t seen it yet.

In act two the Holy Grail is found in the audience and one unsuspecting audience participant was pulled on stage to be a part of the finale. This was a great touch to the show and funny to see the person squirm with bewilderment.
If you haven’t seen the film (Holy Grail) then at least expect to see silliness in abundance when watching this fanciful musical.

Runs until April 16.

Originally reviewed for The Public Reviews

Friday, 8 April 2011

East is not just East

What was sold as an alternative to the hit 90’s film East is East turned out to be a confusing muddle which left the audience less than satisfied.

East is not just East was created by Jez Simons, artistic director of Hathi Productions, and last night saw the show open at Curve, Leicester.

Speaking to Simons beforehand he described it as a ‘musical comedy extravaganza’ and promised that a Hathi show is no ordinary theatre experience. The latter was certainly true.

The concept behind the show was to depict the epic journey of one Hindu’s life across three continents.

In the film version, the Hindu community were portrayed in a somewhat negative light and so Simons set-out to tackle this with his own take on events from his research and own knowledge of the Leicester Hindu-Asian community.

The storyline for the show didn’t have a concrete thread to tie all the scenes together which made the show feel unfinished. This wasn’t helped by the lack of passion and emotion in some of the acting by the 15-strong cast.

Actor Vinay Trivedi, who played Joshi as an old man, and his son played by Chirag Patel, were the only good thing about the whole night. This duet worked well together and the scenes with the two of them were the most enjoyable because their on-set chemistry worked.

Anand Joshi, who played Joshi as a young man, was comical at times but because the story lacked a focus his actions were often unnoticed. The Indian Forrest Gump character did have some very amusing facial expressions.

The bi-lingual production sees the cast mix different languages together and at times the audience members who didn’t speak Gujarati were left feeling like they’d missed out on a joke as the rest of the audience laughed.

Music from the 70s, 80s and 90s was used to break up the scenes between the different continents and ordinarily this would have worked but the cast lacked direction and it seems practice.

Although the choreography was good there were several cast members who didn’t know the routine. The show used Curve’s studio space to perform but didn’t crowd the set with too many props. A drop down mesh screen was used to represent the memories and stories being told by Joshi at the forefront of the stage. Act one was quite light-hearted but ended on a very poignant note.

The audience were left feeling a twinge of sadness for Joshi and his mental state because they felt connected to him after listening to his stories so far.

But act two tried too hard to be a serious hard-hitting story about dementia. The sudden change in genre and the lack of tangible storylines left the audience perplexed about what was happening on stage.

The show ended with a solo performance by one of the actors who sang a very slow song. If the story had been polished then this finale might have worked but it didn’t have meaning in the end.

It’s the first show I’ve been to where the audiences’ applause ended quickly and the actors didn’t even come out to bow.

Let’s hope Hathi’s third production, Taj, steps up a mark this autumn!

Runs until April 9.
Originally reviewed for The Public Reviews

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Interview with Jez Simons

East is Not Just East according to writer and director, Jez Simons. Freelance journalist, Jemma Crowston, caught up with the artistic director of Hathi Productions about this week’s musical comedy extravaganza.

The show, East is Not Just East is the reaction from Simons and other people in Leicester following the 1999 hit film East is East. He said, “[East is East] didn’t reflect the true experience of the Hindu community particularly in Leicester. So I wanted to write something that did.”

Simons, from Enderby, is delighted to present his take on the original film which includes music from the 70s, 80s and 90s to tell the story of the Leicester Communities epic journey across three continents.

From Ahmedabad to Nairobi from Mombasa to Rushey Mead. From the red earth of India to the rockery of Kampala to the block paving of Birstall. Audiences are invited to join Hathi on a journey of a lifetime.

Simons, whose credits include writing for TV series such as Eastenders, Emmerdale and Family Affairs, said, “The story has been created from my own research and my personal knowledge of the Hindu Asian community.”

East is Not Just East is a traditional fusion of dance, drama and music. It combines Khatak dance with Marc Bolan, Raas with the Rubettes and Garba with Lady Gaga in one night!

The 15-strong cast are all from Leicester.

When asked what his favourite scene is, Simons replied, “Any scenes with Joshi in it are great. He’s a very funny character and gets up to things you wouldn’t necessarily associate with an older member of the Asian community but nevertheless these things do happen.”

Joshi, who is played by Vinay Trivedi, is a character that many Hindu’s will relate to and recognise in their own communities according to Simons.

Simons was surprised to find that some of the younger generation don’t know the history of their ancestors when he was doing his research for the show. He said, “It’s an epic tale that should be remembered and I hope everyone will enjoy it.” The bi-lingual production sees the cast mix different languages together but Simons says, “Even though they use English and Gujarati and other languages in the same sentence I think the audience will still understand what is going on from the gestures and expressions.”

After the fantastic Lalita’s Big Fat Asian Wedding production last year, Simons is excited to return to Curve. He said, “Lalita was a great hit and it’s now been bought for a show in Birmingham in the summer. I love working with Paul [Kerryson] and Curve to build up the audiences.

“Hathi Productions are like no other theatre shows so if the audience want to experience something they’ve never had before then come and see one of our shows. If you can’t make East is just Not East then hold on for Taj in the Autumn season at Curve.”

Taj will be Hathi’s third production at Curve which will tell the real story behind infamous Taj Mahal.

East is Just Not East will be lighting the stage at Curve for three nights only from Thursday, April 7. For tickets visit