A show to really immerse yourself in!

A show to really immerse yourself in!

JUST when you think you’ve seen all types of show after nigh on 30 years of reviewing, along comes Club 2B – a theatrical experience like no other.

Club 2B, Belgrade Theatre

This immersive performance not only smashes through that fourth wall but actively encourages the audience to become a part of the story and even explore the room as the action unfolds around you.

Seated at cabaret-style tables in the Belgrade’s flexible B2 auditorium, the scene is immediately set for an interesting – and intriguing – night ahead, complete with food, drink, live music and gaming tables.

First the story. It’s a bit loose to be honest. It’s a retelling of Zeus and Hera’s search for happiness via godly embodiments of historical figures such as Lady Godiva and Marilyn Monroe. Yes, you read it right!

Club 2B’s mysterious owner Z is not all he seems. This larger-than-life, charismatic figure is none other than Zeus, the Greek king of gods and men, descended from the heavens in human form and driven by his love for the goddess Hera. Taking on the form of any man or woman, we watch as their story of passion, jealousy and revenge plays out across the ages.

Berlgrade Theatre, Club 2B
Aimee Powell (Daisy) and Corey Campbell (Zeus). Photo by Robert Day.

It does take a while to get going. The snack plate (don’t skip your dinner for this) and interaction with cast members mingling at the tables, goes only so far to detracting from this, but one does find themselves wondering when the show has officially started.

The good news is, when it does, it’s worth waiting for and we are in for a treat. The talent of this small but strong cast shines through with a stunning mix of music and storytelling all around us, capturing our imaginations.

Belgrade Theatre, Club 2B

The addition of gaming tables (you are given playing chips) is a clever touch – although it’s easy to lose your focus on the action around you. Still, I won a glass of wine for my troubles so worth it!

The show is helmed by Strictly Arts Artistic Director Corey Campbell, his first developed at the Belgrade since his appointment as one of the Theatre’s three Co-Artistic Directors for Coventry’s year as City of Culture in 2021.

Iona Coburn, Meg Forgan, Aimee Powell, Charis McRoberts and Katy Anna-Southgate make up the rest of the cast but it’s Forgan’s stand-out vocal segment as Marilyn Monroe that stole the show for me – and many others – on the night. The girls also share an obvious rapport and joy in their roles, which is definitely infectious.

Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, Club 2B
Iona Coburn (Hera), Aimee Powell (Daisy) and Charis McRoberts (Godiva). Photo: Robert Day.

It’s not one for the introvert. Anyone is fair game to be pulled up for a dance or become part of the performance, but it’s part of this show’s charm.

This marks a proud world premiere for the Belgrade Theatre, running until 31st December. Tickets are available to book now by calling the box office on 024 7655 3055 or visiting www.club2b.co.uk.

Latest panto is the cat’s pyjamas!

Latest panto is the cat’s pyjamas!

PANTOMIME season is upon us and one of the best every year in my opinion is The Belgrade Theatre’s offering. And Puss in Boots has real welly.

In fact, the production’s first return to the Coventry stage since 1991, proves to be the purr-fect way of getting us all into the festive spirit.

It’s in no small part due to the talent of the show’s writer, director and Dame Iain Lauchlan who this year celebrates his landmark 25th Belgrade pantomime.

Peter Watts as Victor Grabbit and ensemble. Photo by Robert Day.

This thrilling adventure ‘tail’ follows the adventures of a crafty cat in fabulous footwear who rescues the village of Baggy Bottom on the Bog from the clutches of an evil ogre and his horrible henchman, Victor Grabbit.

Lauchlan is reunited with comedy co-star Craig Hollingsworth in the roles of miller’s wife Matilda Pudding and her would-be rap star son, Simon. The pair’s chemistry never fails to win over audiences – I don’t even mind the repetition of their refreshed scene sequences each year as they don’t stop being funny.

Joanna Thorne as Puss in Boots and Peter Watts as Victor Grabbit. Photo by Robert Day.

Joanna Thorne is back getting her claws into the role of Puss in Boots following her stint as the handsome prince in last year’s Sleeping Beauty and Peter Watts makes a suitably wicked panto villain as the Ogre’s henchman, Victor Grabbit.

The show is packed with amazing sets, crazy costumes, music, magic and so much more, plus a rather clever metamorphosing ogre to catch our attention later on. Intrigued?

And there’s a clever twist which proved effective in engaging even the older child (I dragged my 14-year-old along who ended up loving it) with the chance of a big screen appearance! A few people’s ‘ogre selfies’ tagged in to Hollingsworth’s Instagram alter ego rap character Baggy B, were shared to audiences in the second act – to riotous laughter and applause.

And the spectacular set was a fitting backdrop to the five star fun. Congratulations all round for another fun-packed festive hit.

Craig Hollingsworth, Iain Lauchlan and David Gillbrook. Photo by Robert Day.

Puss in Boots shows at the Belgrade Theatre Coventry until Saturday, 11th January. Tickets are available to book now by calling the box office on 024 7655 3055 or visiting www.belgrade.co.uk where prices are cheaper.

Suspense-filled thriller you can get your teeth into

Suspense-filled thriller you can get your teeth into

FOLLOWING their critically acclaimed UK tour and West End run of Anthony Horowitz’s Mindgame, Angela Browne Ltd return to Coventry with another compulsive psychological thriller.

Angie Smith and Mark Huckett as Mark and Sally Driscoll.

Dangerous Obsession, which was adapted into a film called Darkness Falls in 1999, is widely accepted to be writer N J Crisp’s finest psycho-thriller.

It certainly is an intense journey.

The whole story is told in the conservatory of a wealthy couple’s luxurious home where Sally Driscoll receives a gentleman caller – a previous acquaintance on a drunken night out she can barely recall.

The unassuming and courteous John Barrett slowly peels away the layers of Sally and husband Mark’s apparently perfect lives, to expose some ugly secrets.

But what exactly happened in Torquay, what is in the suitcase and what is Mark’s true role in all of this?

This new staging of the play, directed by Karen Henson, consists of a cast of just three, Mark Huckett and Angie Smith as Mark and Sally Driscoll and Michael Sherwin as John Barrett. They work brilliantly to create an intimate and highly charged atmosphere in the theatre as the answers to all those questions – and more – emerge.

Dangerous Obsession, Beklgrade Theatre, Coventry
Michael Sherwin as John Barrett.

There is suspense by the bucketful as we are, metaphorically, drawn nearer and nearer to the edge of our seats.

The acting is strong all round but Sherwin’s portrayal of the villain of the piece (or is he?) is just the right amount of sinister – a convincing and compelling watch and one I’d definitely recommend. But you’ll have to move fast as it closes tomorrow night. (Saturday)

Tickets are available to book now by calling the box office on 024 7655 3055 or visiting www.belgrade.co.uk where prices are cheaper. Book for two or more participating shows together to claim 20% off tickets.

Monster hit arrives at The Belgrade

Monster hit arrives at The Belgrade

THE talented team behind a bold new staging of Mary Shelley’s seminal 1818 gothic horror novel Frankenstein have definitely created a monster!

A monster hit that is.

This inventive co-production between Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre, Selladoor Productions and Matthew Townshend Productions has been adapted by award-winning writer Rona Munro (The James Plays, National Theatre and National Theatre of Scotland; Little Eagles, RSC), to offer a fresh take on Shelley’s groundbreaking story.

Frankenstein, Belgrade Theatre
Eilidh Loan and Ben Castle-Gibb as Victor Frankenstein. Photo: Colin Hattersley Photography.

Monro cleverly places the writer herself amongst the action, as she wrestles with her creation and the stark realities facing revolutionary young women, both in her own time and today.

An eighteen year-old girl, Mary Shelley, dreams up a monster whose tragic story will capture the imaginations of generations to come.

A young scientist by the name of Frankenstein breathes life into a gruesome body. Banished into an indifferent world, Frankenstein’s creature desperately seeks out his true identity, but the agony of rejection and a broken promise push him into darkness. Dangerous and vengeful, the creature threatens to obliterate Frankenstein and everyone he loves, in a ferocious and bloodthirsty hunt for his maker.

Frankenstein, Belgrade Theatre, Coventry
Natali McCleary as-Elizabeth. Photo: Tommy-Ga-Ken-Wan.

Eilidh Loan is a powerful stage presence throughout as Shelley, the author unpacking her own horrific tale. She heads up a small, but strong ensemble including Ben Castle-Gibb as the crazed genius Victor Frankenstein, tortured by his own dark ambition for a scientific breakthrough – and at the ultimate cost of the death of everyone he loves.

Michael Moreland delivers a solid but measured performance as Frankenstein’s Monster, who is driven to murderous rage by his creator’s failure to love and accept him. It would have been all too easy to overplay this role and turn it into something that more resembled a spoof.

The sterling performances are played out around a fittingly simple but striking static stage backdrop with eerie sound and visual effects adding to the tension.

Frankenstein, Belgrade Theatre, Coventry
Michael Moreland, Ben-Castle-Gibb and Eilidh Loan. Photo: Tommy-Ga-Ken-Wan.

This is a gripping and innovative retelling of the novel that is credited with launching the science fiction genre, fully grasping the enduring power of the well known story.

It’s one of the surprise theatrical highlights of my year so far – and most definitely comes highly recommended. See it if you possibly can.

Frankenstein shows at the Belgrade Theatre from 2-12 October as part of the B2 Season of Love and Belonging. Tickets are available to book now by calling the box office on 024 7655 3055, or visiting www.belgrade.co.uk where prices are cheaper. Book together for two or more shows in the season to claim 20% off your tickets.

Hitchcock train thriller gathers steam

Hitchcock train thriller gathers steam

ANY body of work that has iconic director Alfred Hitchcock’s name attached to it, is a must for mystery lovers.

The Lady Vanishes

The arrival of The Classic Thriller Theatre Company’s stage adaptation of The Lady Vanishes at The Belgrade Theatre this week therefore, had been much anticipated.

Based on the 1938 Hitchcock classic – ranked one of the Best British films of all time -the play takes place on a train travelling from Vienna to Zurich, where an English Socialite Iris Henderson discovers that an elderly travelling companion who befriended her at the station, has disappeared while she was sleeping.

Asking around about the missing lady, Iris is bewildered to find that all of her fellow passengers deny ever having seen her. The only person she can persuade to help her is a young musician named Max.

Iris is left to get to the bottom of what nefarious acts have been going on, with the help of Max (Matt Barber), a young man whom she outwardly detests.

The Lady Vanishes, Belgrade Theatre

Thrilling it is, Hitchcockian it is – but there are also lighter moments that relieve the tension – with a cast chock full of European caricatures, from the elderly British governess Miss Froy (Gwen Taylor), carefree young socialite (Scarlett Archer) and English cricket-obsessed toffs (Denis Lill and Bean Nealon) through to the humourless German soldier (Joe Reisig) and demonstrative Italian magician (Martin Carroll).

I can’t help but wonder if, with the passage of time, the humour plays a bigger role in the 21st century reincarnation of this story. And Lill and Nealon were central to that.

The Lady Vanishes, Belgrade Theatre

The show’s narrative can feel like its plodding a bit at times, and you sense it takes a while to really get going. But I’m undecided as to whether this is simply more to do with the Hitchcock style. Its transition to stage works well on the whole, but I do admit to leaving the theatre at the end of the night feeling a tad confused about the plot, not helped by the many scenes that take place off the train which are merely described to us. (Of course this could be just me. I am, after all, one of those annoying people who is constantly asking questions to keep up with TV plot twists!)

But the play is elevated by a capable cast – and a livelier second act.

There’s intrigue by the bucket load and you won’t go home disappointed with producer Bill Kenwright’s latest offering.

The Lady Vanishes, Belgrade Theatre, Coventry

Despite being a Hitchcock fan, somehow this film had passed me by so I wasn’t able to draw comparisons (and maybe it’s not fair to do so.). But if, unlike me, you are familiar with story, I advise you book your ticket with an open mind. Recreating Hitchcock on stage presents its own challenges but, in the main part, I would say it succeeds. It was certainly well enough received by last night’s Belgrade audience.

Personally, I’d sum up the experience as one I enjoyed, but not one I’d necessarily rush to repeat.

The Lady Vanishes plays at The Belgrade Theatre until Saturday, 28th September. Tickets are available to book now by calling the box office on 02476 553055 or by visiting www.belgrade.co.uk