The Pajama Men Just the Two of Each of Us at Arts Theatre

Originally published at lastminutetheatretickets.com.

The Pajama Men is a comedy duo comprised of Shenoah Allen and Mark Chavez. The two met in high school in Albuquerque, New Mexico while auditioning for an improv team and have been developing their own special brand of comedy ever since. This show, Just The Two of Each of Us has already thrilled audiences at the 2013 Edinburgh Festival Fringe.pajama-men

As the lights dim, we cast our eyes on the sparse stage filled only with two chairs, a keyboard and a guitar. The Pajama Men enter wearing pyjamas (Pajamas in US English), as you would expect, with comfortable socks in strong colours. What follows starts out as the two standing there throwing out dry and deadpan lines, before starting what appears to be a sketch comedy, switching rapidly between characters and situations, one more bizarre than the other.

We have people running from beasts, actors warming up, a medieval king with his servant, a rather awkward date due to the frequent failures of a fake arm, a larger than life man with a motorcycle to whom everything is ‘Too easy!’, cops, horses, a gay couple having a ridiculous argument and eventually a monster – it’s impossible to really describe as it’s pure physical comedy. The two play with accents, different voices, sound effects and situations that are absurd. One scenario is two characters in a boat – one passed out, the other one rowing. The rower makes the sound of something dropping into water, he has lost his oar. Another is a conversation between two horses where one gets a bit more friendly than the other one appreciates.

The Pajama Men are joined on stage by a musician who sets the musical backdrop to their crazy antics, and somehow manages to not draw attention to himself by cracking up at the madness in front of him – which is more than I can say for the Pajama Men themselves, who frequently crack each other up. Of course, when you have a show that relies this heavily on improv, unexpected things will always happen. This is a show that clearly evolves night by night, and the two comedians push each other as far as they possibly can. One has to wonder if it eventually will go that one step too far and lose the audience by being too self-indulgent in the improv, but I suspect if that ever did happen, they’d manage to reel themselves back in and continue on down the narrative path.

Because there is a narrative, all the crazy threads start coming together and you realise not only is there a storyline, but the image on the show poster is a very accurate depiction of the show. The Pajama Men are playing with little figures like children, creating a bizarre but charming world that is at the same time unreal and very logical. It’s a bit like the kind of story a child might write with their toys that are from different sets and don’t really go together in an obvious way, but they’ll make fun out of it anyway. The show is a bit like that, it’s two grown men playing, and we get to watch. It’s a funny and odd show, somewhere between stand-up comedy and a play. It’s not for everyone, but if you like dry, deadpan humour with characters and physical comedy, you’ll have a really good night.

The Pajama Men – Just The Two Of Each Of Us is playing at the Arts Theatre for a limited season until November 23rd. The show is just over an hour and has no interval.

The Pajama Men Official website www.pajama-men.com

Arts Theatre http://artstheatrewestend.co.uk/

 

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Review of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory musical Theatre Royal Drury Lane

Originally posted at Lastminutetheatretickets.com

The story of Charlie and The Chocolate Factory is well known from the beloved children’s novel by Roald Dahl: a poor, malnourished child living in destitute lucks out and finds a golden ticket to visit the magical world of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, after which his life will never be the same again. This new musical adaptation playing at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane has music by Marc Shaiman, and lyrics by Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman, a book by award-winning playwright and adaptor David Greig and is directed by Sam Mendes, also known for his hugely successful movies including Skyfall and American Beauty.charlie-choc

After a delightful animated introduction to how chocolate is made, we start the show with young Charlie Bucket rifling through trash looking for treasures to take home to his family. The young actor is wonderful and does a great job with the character, although it would have been nice to see some more complexity to Charlie who is poor and hungry. His relationship with his family, including the four grandparents sharing a bed, is wonderful and believable. The storytelling scene which includes bed choreography is very enjoyable and the grandparents are wonderful. You don’t really get the sense that this is a family that is suffering from poverty and hunger until the weary parents of Charlie return home with no money.

The family watches the news of the golden ticket with its forthcoming prize to five lucky children on a television set that is powered by electricity generated by Charlie’s father peddling on a bike. Behind the Bucket home set appears a massive television, that opens to reveal each of the four finders of the golden tickets from around the world. This section is in part very funny – Mike Teavee’s mother is especially wonderful – but is also a bit too long. The kids are great to watch but it is at times difficult to make out what they’re saying, in particular the two that are rapping who are hard to make out.

As four tickets are found, Charlie falls into despair, that no stories or comfort from his parents can get him out of, and you feel for this young couple who are struggling to keep seven people alive on very little money. The duet by the parents where they both sing that the other would know how to make them feel better is one of the most moving moments of the show, and this number more than anything brings their desperate situation more to the surface, something the show otherwise takes a very shallow view of.

But wait! Lady luck drops a pound note and Charlie buys himself a chocolate, which as we all know contains the final golden ticket. It is finally time for what we’re all here to see, Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.

The biggest problem for the show is that we have to wait far too long for Willy Wonka to appear, which he doesn’t until the very end of the first act. He is however worth the wait, and is every bit as mental and magnificent as you expect. Douglas Hodge as Wonka is charismatic and unhinged, at once genius and a bit frightening.

The second act is our visit to the chocolate factory, where one by one the children don’t listen to warnings and end up in trouble they will never quite recover from. I will leave it to the audience to discover how the show solves how to shrink a child and put him into a television, make another into a massive blueberry and get a third to be attacked by squirrels, suffice to say it’s really well done and the audience loved it.

The ensemble of Oompa-Loompas is hilarious. The actors are adult normal sized actors with some magic applied to them to make them look half their size. Every one of them is bursting with energy and joy, and with great choreography you enjoy every moment they are on stage. There are great moments from the minor characters as well, as Mike Teevee’s mother gets more neurotic through the visit to the factory, her eventual breakdown and dance with the Oompa-Loompas is a thing of beauty.

This adaptation for the stage is stunning to look at. The sets, from the detailed mess of the Bucket household to the outstanding rooms in Willy Wonka’s factory are some of the best you can see in the West End today. It was movie magic for the stage, with great detail and care. The audience was awestruck at moments, particularly when a paper plane flew across the room. So simple, and so effective.

But with all its magic, the show seems a bit too shallow, especially in how it approaches the poverty of the Bucket family. In our present time where poverty is becoming a bigger issue, sitting in a West End theatre where it’s played for laughs seems cruel. Instead of being impressed with how the Bucket family are coping with their lot, you never get a feeling that this is a family that is actually starving, which is very clear from the book, where Charlie has the first of two chocolates in a manner of inhaling it, because he is so hungry he can’t slow down.

Sure, this level of reality doesn’t work well on an evening out with the family, and the audience jumped to their feet for a standing ovation at the end of the show, which is something you don’t often see on a Monday night. All in all it’s a solid show, and the second act is a lot of fun, which not even a delayed start due to technical problems could bring down.

Category: Musical, Review  2 Comments
The Living Room at Jermyn Street Theatre

Originally posted at Last Minute Theatre Tickets.

The Living Room tells the story of a young Catholic woman who after her mother’s death goes to live with her elderly family members.Poster for Bloody Poetry at the Jermyn Street Theatre

The story starts with the arrival of Rose and Michael, the executor of her mother’s will who is a married man in his 40s. It becomes apparent immediately that the two are lovers, a fact that does not fail to register with Rose’s relatives, the strict Helen, her sister Teresa and their brother James, a priest who is in a wheelchair. Helen is determined to keep the two apart.

The chemistry between Rose and Michael is vital to make this story believable, and sparks truly fly between the two. At one point Rose sucks on Michael’s finger, while looking up at him with eyes that sparkle with desire, and the way they keep sneaking touches behind people’s backs feels realistic despite the age gap.These small intimate moments have looks filled with promises and you feel they are just one touch away from losing control and ripping each others’ clothes off.

The oldest character, Teresa, is masterfully played by Caroline Blakiston. Teresa is kept in the dark about what transpires around her for most of the play, and while her confusion is part comic relief that works, there’s a gentle desperation to her when she realises she is being kept in the dark. Teresa is in ways the heart of the play, the gentle soul that finds strength and when she finally takes charge, it is powerful to everyone around her.

Diane Fletcher’s Helen is a very complex character who appears trapped by her religious piety and fear of death. She displays a strong need to control everyone around her, and manipulates Rose into staying with the family. You have to wonder how she grew to become like this, and if she has the capability of opening up to grief and fully dealing with emotions, which appears to be what she fears the most.

But the meat of the play is with Father James. His conversations with Rose, which are increasingly honest and without judgement, are at the same time thought provoking and amusing. Rose attempts to shock him, but as a Catholic priest who used to take confessions, he has heard everything and instead of talking down to her he challenges her and makes her think. Unfortunately that’s the last thing Rose wants, she wants to be told what to do. You feel for Father James, who wants more than anything to be able to help someone again, and has gotten a second chance to be useful by being there for Rose.

In some ways, Rose is a very passive character. She is determined and strong against her Aunt Helen, but when it comes to love she is inexperienced and naive, and when she can no longer hide from the reality of the consequences of her affair with a married man, she cannot cope.

Every character goes through a journey of growth through the play, and as you leave the theatre you find yourself wanting to stay a bit longer and see what happens to all of them next. There are many questions left unanswered, just like in life. It isn’t wrapped up with a neat and tidy happy ending, instead you feel you’ve seen something that at the core of it feels real.

If there’s one thing to criticize, it’s the odd choice of having the actors sitting with their backs to the audience  during some scenes.  It’s more difficult to grasp a character’s thought process when you don’t see their faces. It also takes away some of the magic when the paralysed priest keeps moving his legs under the blanket. But these are minor nitpicks on an otherwise very interesting and engaging production.

The Living Room was written by Graham Greene in the 1950s, and this is the first major revival of the play.

Review by Tori Jo Lau

THE LIVING ROOM by Graham Greene
Directed by Tom Littler
Set Design by Cherry Truluck
Lighting Design by Tim Bray
Sound Design by George Dennis
Costume Design by Emily Stuart

CAST:
Caroline Blakiston, Emma Davies, Diane Fletcher, Tuppence Middleton, Christopher Timothy and Christopher Villiers.
Primavera has assembled an outstanding all-star cast for this revival.
Christopher Timothy, well known for his roles as James Herriot in All Creatures
Great and Small and Mac McGuire in Doctors, plays Father James Browne, Rose’s uncle.
Her aunts Teresa and Helen are played by distinguished actors Caroline Blakiston (Brass and, previously at Jermyn Street Theatre, Black Bread and Cucumber) and Diane Fletcher (House of Cards).
Rising star Tuppence Middleton (Tormented, Cleanskin, and the BBC’s forthcoming The Lady Vanishes) makes her theatre debut as Rose.
Mr and Mrs Dennis are played by Christopher Villiers and Emma Davies, both widely known from their extensive television and stage work.

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The Great Crafts Giveaway

I’ve mentioned on twitter and facebook that I’m about to move again, and because I don’t think it’s the last time, I’ve decided to do a serious cull. The result is that I’m giving away craft supplies.

This post will be very image heavy.

Rules: preference will be given to IRL friends. I’ll give away for free to people who can meet me in person. Otherwise I’ll send to you if you pay postage.

Please tweet or email me if you’re interested in any of the stuff in the pictures.

more…

Category: Random  10 Comments
What I’m doing with my life

I don’t particularly blog much anymore, and there’s a good reason why, I just don’t have time. Every now and then I sit down and look at how much I have going on and it feels a bit mental. This is not a boasting post, it’s just letting you know how nuts it actually is.

It’s February 18. So far this year I’ve..

  • Attended an open dance day with four dance classes
  • Completed 21 exercises of the 30 day shred
  • Seen 4 plays and 2 musicals
  • 3 ballet classes
  • 3 tap dance classes
  • 2 acting classes
  • 6 musical theatre rehearsals
  • 2 English language improvement classes
  • 3 private acting lessons
  • 2 private singing lessons
  • Had the flu

Things I’m doing before Easter

  • Auditioning for a cabaret night
  • Performing at a student showcase
  • Rehearsals with the musical theatre company every Monday
  • 3 booked singing lessons
  • 2 booked private acting lessons
  • 2 tap dance classes
  • 5 group acting lessons
  • 3 group ballet classes
  • 4 spoken English group lessons
  • Seeing 1 play, 2 musicals and Kristin Chenoweth
  • Going to Test Bash in Brighton
  • Completing the full 30 day shred programme

I know. It’s completely worth it though.