Macbeth, National Theatre, Waterloo, London. March 2018.

Director Rufus Norris

Staging up to 30 productions each year.

Live Event Cinema Tiverton May 10th Merlin Cinemas

Macbeth’s adaptations thrive in ‘times of suspicion, paranoia and fear,’ could this be one of the reason that tonight’s performance in The Olivier Theatre was heaving. After all, just days earlier we saw a Russian spy ‘poisoned’ by chemicals near a Sainsbury’s in Salisbury. Has much changed since this play was written by Shakespeare in the early 1600’s? Or just metamorphosed into something else. This bloody play centres on conspiracy and prophecy, instigated by a fated meeting on a heath. It is after battle and Macbeth and Banquo find themselves surrounded by 3 ‘weird sisters’. They greet him with 3 titles, one he has and the other two are a mystery to him. He is curious and it strikes something in him and he thus goes on a killing spree to ensure those titles; culminating in the death of the now suspicious Banquo, the King and the ultimate suicide of his Lady Macbeth amongst others.

The set was the real star here, which complemented the synergy between the actors. There was not a ‘stand out’ part which is a credit to all those involved, from the underscore drone music adding dramatic intrigue to dialogue heavy parts to subtle lighting with the witch on the moveable hill to the height and majesty of the poles that heads were tethered to and witches dangled from.

The opening scene was sudden, the battle culminating in a bloody beheading. The scene was not 1600’s Scotland but more a current dystopian place- a hybrid of recent Iraq/Syrian troubles. The witches made themselves known. The set had height, depth and layers and multi-functional. It moved and most of the action was on a revolving turntable and what was enjoyable to watch was the freeze frames when an actor was in dialogue, the cast all froze as the spotlight fell on those talking or in monologue. Macbeth’s ‘room’ was a concrete pillbox, apt considering the war environment the play is set in and served well its purpose with a subliminal look out slit set in the wall. The play was rife with spies, treason espionage and witchcraft; a sure-fire gimmick to get bums on seats during the time it was written with witchcraft trials being popular and a general fear about women who had power and knowledge. This is evident in the manipulative Lady Macbeth played by an oxymoron (petite/powerhouse) in Anne-Marie Duff who on hearing of the witches’ prophecy sets a plan in motion and lures Macbeth on to do the deed and kill King Duncan; played admirably by a sprightly Stephen Boxer. Macbeth played by Rory Kinnear alternates between a warrior stance and insecurity in his role which adheres well to his state of mind, as we see him fall down, in particular after Banquo’s murder. Macbeth becomes fixated on the fact he and his wife are barren and he will not let any other ‘seed’ go to the throne and Macduff played by the truly authentic Patrick O’Kane sees his children murdered as a result of the deluded Macbeth and his hired assassins. He ultimately seeks revenge on Macbeth.

Some light relief in the ‘knocking scene’ with Ted Danson lookalike Trevor Fox playing the all-seeing Porter with a thick as syrup Northern accent. Most Shakespeare plays including his tragedies have humour or double acts to appease all the audience and Macbeth is such a dark tale that the audience needs a little lift and it works well here. The celebratory disco was engineered well and served to add another layer to the production, adding a backdrop to treason talks between Macbeth and his lady.

My one disappointment was the ‘dagger scene’ it was suddenly upon us; it felt rushed and it needed more atmosphere and slowness to it. Macbeth grasps for a metaphysical dagger ‘is this a dagger I see before me’, with more technology a hologram or projection could have worked here and for Macbeth to be in a more possessed state. Again, with the night walking scene with Lady Macbeth just before her suicide, she seems too calm and not quite agitated enough, ‘out damn spot’.

The witches were a tour de force and floated through the space well, taking over with echoing shrieks and sheer dank presence. Dead doll limbs and body parts hung about their middles like souvenirs. This was neatly wrapped up in the psychedelic crescendo at the end where Macbeth encounters them again, weaving around him like tentacles as things fall apart. More weird sisters join them oscillating on the hill with doll’s faces as masks on the back of their heads in a macabre end scene where Macbeth finally loses his head to revengeful Macduff ‘he of not woman born’.

Overall this was a powerful world class performance remaining true to its origins but in a dystopian military future where rulers are usurped at the earliest convenience, delivered by actors and producers at the top of their game.

The National Theatre supports Live Event screenings and Merlin Cinemas facilitate this at Tiverton with a screening on 10th May of this production booking online.

twitter @NTLive

C.Bushnell for STAGEDOOR on TCR Radio 

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

by Robert Louis Stevenson

Adapted for the stage by Nick Lane Music by Tristan Parkes


Doctor Henry Jekyll is a good man. Successful within his field and respected by his peers, he’s close to a neurological discovery that will change the face of medical science forever. However, his methods are less than ethical, and when a close friend and colleague threatens to expose and destroy his work, Jekyll is forced to experiment on himself, whereupon something goes very wrong…or very right. And suddenly Jekyll has a new friend, the brutal Edward Hyde.

A thrilling adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s dark psychological fantasy, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde immerses you in the myth and mystery of 19th century London’s fog-bound streets where love, betrayal and murder lurk at every chilling twist and turn. Gripping, stylish and thought-provoking, this is unmissable theatre. Go on. Treat your dark side!

Recommended for age 11+ Running time: 2 hours (plus interval)

TCAT in Tiverton were fortunate to be on the end leg of this touring new adaptation of a classic gothic tale. Many shows sold out up and down the country. It was Black Eyed Theatre’s first visit to Tiverton the nearest we have had them was a fantastic Frankenstein delivered at the Tacchi Morris theatre in Taunton last year (please click online for our review) so Victorian Gothic is what they do best (They are touring Sherlock Holmes this autumn). What makes this period so evocative? The attention to detail in costumes always has my eye and the Victorian period is portrayed well here with long frock coats, bodices and tie and collars. Dr Jekyll’s (Jack Bannell) use of an ivory topped walking cane which serves him as a cripple also serves him as a bludgeon; battering to death an unfortunate soul. The symbolism of this crutch is the story and is in every scene a constant reminder that both personas rely on it. Dr Jekyll is an ill man, a scientist with knowledge in mind which soon turns to menace -he relies on his cane and comes to resent it.

Ultimately, he meets Eleanor (Paige Round) a feisty Irish songstress married to his friend Lanyon played by Ashley Sean –Cook. Jekyll is attracted to her, she learns of his experiments and encourages him to try harder, taunting him like a Lady Macbeth. He takes the potion quite swiftly- this is more than a documented scientific experiment. It’s his chance to play God. He is transformed into Mr Hyde a strong, evil persona that manifests itself in the gloomy claustrophobic chambers of Jekyll. As time goes on his sense of moral compass waivers. An attack happens firstly on a London prostitute losing her eye and then Hyde seeks more, to quench his thirst he batters to death a gentleman -enjoying it, revelling in it. Jekyll’s voice of reason is lawyer Utterson played by the seasoned Zach Lee pragmatically throughout. It is not until the end scene we see him falter in the very dark rooms that Jekyll commits suicide and Utterson inherits the property. There is no redemption.

All of the action takes place on one set; a cornucopia of Victorian doors, chairs, boxes and drawers all serving their multi functionality. One scene sees a drawer pulled open and a sheet pulled out to act as a shroud over the murdered victim; then suspension of disbelief as the shroud is pulled up to ‘see’ the corpse. Chairs are thrown about to portray Hyde’s strength and fury. There is even a ‘rat’ in a box. Fog pervades the set it hangs about throughout the whole play -never lifting once. Subtle spotlights focus on the actors and we can see Jekyll lurking in the wings- observing. There are some well thought out songs and sound effects which add dimensions to the performances, we can hear what they are saying due to well-placed mics hanging from overhead. There are 4 roles and the actors are covering 16 parts -no mean feat. The movement on stage is one of the highlights and was a strength enabling all the audience to bear witness to tonight’s proceedings. Bannell’s double portrayal of the protagonists is commendable and he deftly switches from one to the other assuming his stance from hunched shuffling Jekyll to a defiant confident Hyde. Paige Round plays both Eleanor and the prostitute and was a pleasure to watch as she controls Jekyll with her ‘encouragement’ and two simple words ‘Show me’ which lead to the ruin of Jekyll. The role of Eleanor was not in the original book and her presence in this serve as the real catalyst in provoking this situation to its ultimate demise with ‘Black Wasps’ taking over Jekyll, so only Hyde remains. The simple trickery of slowing down the scene is which the murder is committed works well and is a credit to the acting skills of those involved and great directing. It is the scene where there is no going back and his fate is sealed. The book is on the School curriculum and it was good to see local students coming to watch the performance with their English teachers on a dark, wet night in post snowy Tiverton who, hastening to add ‘there is no Eleanor in the book’. The theme remains the same though- can there be good and evil residing together? That would be a resounding no in this case and very well put.

C.Bushnell for TCR Radio STAGEDOOR

The Plough Arts Centre, Torrington, Devon

October 6th 2017

Johnny Hates Jazz

 On the evening of the 6th October Clark Datchler, the singer-songwriter of Johnny Hates Jazz returned to his old home county of Devon for an acoustic show at the Plough Arts Centre, in the stunning rural setting of Great Torrington. In this intimate venue on a softly lit stage, Clark Datchler was joined by producer and engineer Mike Nocito on bass and supported on acoustic guitar by Marcus Bonfanti.

Johnny Hates Jazz origins date to the early 1980’s when Clark Datchler and Mike Naocito met at RAK Studios in London when Clark became lead vocal in the band Hot Club working alongside another original member of Johnny Hates Jazz, Calvin Hayes. In 1983 Hot Club released a single on the studio label and performed at the London Marquee Club, after which RAK Music executive Mickie Most signed Clark as a solo artist. It was he who suggested that Clark work with a young highly regarded producer and engineer at RAK Studio’s, Mike Nocito. Clark began to write new material, the first of which was ‘Shattered Dreams’. His father Fred, an accomplished Jazz musician, listened to the song as it was being written, and predicted it would be a success. On performing a showcase at London’s legendary Jazz venue, Ronnie Scotts the group was signed to Virgin Records. ‘Shattered Dreams’ was released in early 1987 and became a top ten international success. It was followed by four other worldwide hits, including the anti-war anthem ‘I don’t want to be a hero’, ‘Turn back the clock’ (featuring Kim Wilde on backing vocals) and ‘Heart of gold’.

Throughout the evening the audience was taken on a journey through the life story of Johnny Hates Jazz using many of their most iconic songs  taken from the number one smash hit album ‘Turn Back the Clock’. The skill it takes to stage this show does not spring out of nowhere during the evening Clark would often tell mesmerising, carefully crafted stories onstage, pausing songs for as long as ten minutes to do so. Performing radically stripped-down

renditions of the songs, plus personal revelations. And even after a twenty-five-year absence songs taken from the highly-anticipated follow-up album Magnetized that show Datchler has not lost his talent for incredible tracks such as ‘The road not taken’, inspired by the Robert Frost poem of the same name and ‘You Belong To You’ on the theme of equality.

Johnny Hates Jazz are continuing the thirty-year celebration of the number one multi platinum selling album ‘Turn Back the Clock’ with tour dates across the United Kingdom including performances in Glasgow, Birmingham and the O2 in London.

Tickets can be purchased at, do not miss this opportunity to see one of the last and best electronic bands to emerge from the 1980’s

Darren N. Henson, 2017. On behalf of TCR Radio. 


National Theatre


Monday 2-Saturday 7 October  

The Lyric, Theatre Royal  Plymouth

This is the National Theatre's Tour of Hedda Gabler, a new version of the script overseen by Patrick Marber. It is directed by Ivo Van Hove, the hot shot Belgian theatre practioner, who works with his long term partner the designer and lighting Designer Jan Versweyveld. Together they are renowned for the singular vision of their productions, and this is no exception. From the moment you enter the auditorium it is clear you are dealing with something more challenging than your standard drawing room Ibsen production. 

The Stage is transformed into a vast box set, with a few items of furniture and a piano centre stage with Hedda slumped across it. The lighting is subdued in pre-show with soft piano playing heard. But the uncompromising style is continued when this slams into the opening of the show as the buzz of pre-show is cut startlingly short by a sudden switch to the stage, taking the audience by surprise and leaving us catching breath.

Unfortunately, perhaps due to opening night issues, that shock was not built upon by the opening few lines, which proved hard to catch due to the sudden transition and curious lack of energy and volume on stage, but fortunately that didn't last as we were drawn into the characters and their situation.

I like to think I know Ibsen quite well, and in general productions of his plays tend to be rather similar. One could not say that of this production, which is unrelentingly harsh and uncompromising. It wrenches the play from the cosy drawing rooms of 19th Century Norway to the sparse modernity of scandic noir, and is perhaps closer to Nesbo than Ibsen in its bleakness.

However, if the measure of a great production is to make one view the play anew then this is surely a great production. There were sides to all the characters which I had never really seen drawn out so starkly and clearly. Hedda herself, always a little baffling in her lazy schadenfreude, is transformed into a terrifying sociopath undone by her own cruelty. Judge Brack, traditionally more of a fatherly figure at ease with his masculine social conventions, becomes a sexual predator who manipulatively rubs Hedda's face in her own crimes at the finish. 

Even Tesman, Hedda's husband, is different to the normal dull and stuffy character, as a thrusting and earnest young academic keenly frustrated at his lack of position and money. Løvborg, Hedda's returned former lover and Tesman's academic rival is more regular in his depiction, as is Mrs Elvsted, his lover and collaborator, but they too are much sharper than usual.

The role of Bertha the maid is also transformed by the production, she becomes Hedda's missing conscience, always present on the stage, and acting almost as an accomplice to Hedda's manipulations.

The lighting and staging serve to ruthlessly underline the harshness of the production, throwing shadows, high contrast and directional lighting across the scenes, pulling some of them almost entirely into gloom and accentuating the rampant symbolism employed throughout, the pulsating sound design also serves this to great effect. 

Overall a memorable and somewhat disturbing production, with a great ensemble performance, which will serve any student of Ibsen a hugely thought provoking feast, rendering it every bit as controversial as it was in its own time.

Steve Bush on behalf of TCR Radio - Community Radio for Mid Devon.

“I’ve no talent for life.”

Just married. Bored already. Hedda longs to be free…

Hedda and Tesman have just returned from their honeymoon and the relationship is already in trouble. Trapped but determined, Hedda tries to control those around her, only to see her own world unravel.

This acclaimed new production of Ibsen’s masterpiece Hedda Gabler comes to Theatre Royal Plymouth following a sold out run at the National Theatre. Adapted by Olivier Award-winning playwright Patrick Marber (Closer, Three Days in the Country) and directed by Olivier and Tony Award®-winner Ivo van Hove (A View from the Bridge), who made his National Theatre debut with this bold and modern new production. Lizzy Watts plays the title role of the free-spirited Hedda Gabler, one the greatest dramatic parts in theatre and regarded as the female Hamlet.

Hedda – Lizzy Watts
Berte – Madlena Nedeva
Juliana – Christine Kavanagh
Tesman – Abhin Galeya
Thea – Annabel Bates
Brack – Adam Best
Lovborg – Richard Pyros

JETHRO  Comedy Hall   20th July 2017  TCAT

- Remedies - 
A Ballad of Broken Britain
by Middle Weight Theatre

Remedies - A Ballad of Broken Britain by Middle Weight Theatre as part of Barnstaple Fringe Theatre Festival 2017

I didn't know quite what to expect, only knowing that it was a political farce and even wondered whether I would enjoy it.

But from the very first I realised we were in for a treat and an evening of laughter. For an hour we were immersed in Remedies where the two very different and very opinionated pharmaceutical assistants; David played by Al Wadlan and Martin played by Matt Roberts, held forth on a variety of topical subjects ranging from Brexit, the ill’s of modern society with single parent families, malingerers and benefit claimants probably voicing what many of us think.  

They were interrupted in their discussions by the many appearances of Justine played by Louise Mennington who was their area manager who strove to bring some order into the pharmacy, and by a handful of customers.

One got the impression that not very much was sold over the counter but that well meaning advice and occasional insults were liberally dispensed; from the phone conversation with the 93 year old Mr Rogers who needed help in the bedroom department to the jittery teenage boy desperate to buy condoms, and the middle aged lady wanting to lose weight.

I would have liked to be able to remember all the comedy, some very controversial, and wouldn't mind seeing it again. One joke was David reminded Martin that several hundred people had died because he forgot to order dental floss, and although David forgave him ‘he doubted that the victims would have done’.  Another controversial comment was that a man with the IQ of a verruca led America. Who could they possibly be referring to?

The Middle-weight Theatre Company, was founded in 2013 in Exeter by Matt Roberts and Tom Stabb.  They have toured the UK including playing at the Edinburgh fringe where they presented Insensible.

Remedies is their third production and was written by Matt Roberts who portrayed Martin and in the program it is suggested he wrote the best lines for himself! A writer’s prerogative of course.

Al Wadlan played David with a stoic controlled anger and was the perfect accomplice for the fiery Martin played by Matt, and Louise. Charlie Killen as a customer and Nicola Killen as the lady customer played their supporting roles very well. The comedy and the jokes came fast and furious from the beginning, almost a laugh a minute, yet the play was not without a certain pathos.  David took it upon himself to supply the 93 old with Viagra with very unfortunate consequences including the loss of his job.  David was very proud to be British and we heard he was adopted and was trying to find his real parents, even secretly hoping that with his name of Windsor, he may have royal connections.  But there's a twist at the end, which I'd better not reveal for the sake of those still to see the play.

The venue for the play was St. Anne’s Chapel, a beautifully restored building in the heart of Barnstaple and it is just one of the venues used as part of the Fringe Festival to host dozens of original plays and performances now a very established ‘go to’ festival relying on volunteers and sponsorship so do get involved! St Anne’s made an intimate space become a special location for this play where you became drawn into the life of the pharmacy.

This first performance was very well attended and much appreciated by all the audience throughout its duration. The play runs for the next 2 nights for more information:

Twitter @MiddleWeighttheatre

Review by G.Goldring on behalf of TCR Radio ‘STAGEDOOR’ show 

‘Supporting local theatre and performance’

Comedy Hall   
Steve Lodge chats to Tony Cowards and Mark Watson

Comedy Hall  
Steve Lodge chats to Joel Dommett & Luke Honnoraty

Matt Lawrenson chats to Steve Lodge
organiser of Comedy Hall TCAT Tiverton


The Oak Room Tiverton 10th March


The beautiful Oak Room played host to NZINGBETH! An innovative and entertaining theatre production representing a collaboration between The Bluebirds, Storytree and Four of Swords companies.The play proposes a profound meeting between two warrior Queens from two contrasting cultures. Our Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Nzinga of Angola.
Both lived across the 1600's time period, brought together onstage, through the medium of Dr John Dee's magical mirror.Sasha Cohen and Gloria Lawrence take on the mantle of these contrasting characters presenting an enigmatic and proud dynamic. Both challenged by their counterpart, their clash produces a rush of royal incredulity and rare historical information. Rich Elizabethan costume and authentic music by Ben Tallamy support the integrity and atmosphere of the piece.
This historical clash of characters is presented through precise vocal games and physical theatre techniques, these are supported by live compositions of Tudor music and African drumming.The Queens' find common ground in confronting a Portuguese enemy amongst humorous onstage battles around etiquette and taste.
The exploration of the piece then deepens to challenging notions of nationality, gender and power. This is made accessible by the direction and writing of Philip Kingslan John who deftly manages to balance; drama, information and entertainment for the audience.
Characters develop and personal sacrifices are explored resolving in an enduring harmony. The company manages to bring an entertaining lightness and skill to subjects of gender, power and nationality.
This is an entertaining, informative and adventurous piece…rich and exotic... like the contents of a Tudor merchants galleon!

NZINGABETH is currently gaining momentum, touring nationally. See for details.
Matt Lawrenson interviews...

'A View from the Edge'  by Owdyado theatre productions

TCAT theatre, Tiverton. February 2 2017

View from the Edge theatre review
View from the Edge theatre review

A View from the Edge by Owdyado theatre productions

TCAT theatre, Tiverton. February 2 2017

Owdyado theatre presented me first off with a conundrum, before the performance had even started that is how to pronounce their name. I googled it first or did I twitter? Anyhow I forget but some Japanese references popped up and I was convinced it was oriental in origin. It turns out it isn’t and the cast put us straight; it is pronounced How –Do – You- Do as in how do you do theatre? So that’s that solved. This company are from Cornwall and are resident at the Hall for Cornwall. They are touring with this production all over really including ‘up north!’ before returning back to do more performances in the West Country (check website for up to date details) Tiverton was their opening night and what a great practical space TCAT at Tiverton high school provide, with trusty volunteers on hand too there is even a bar. Unfortunately, the next show was due at the Landmark Theatre in Ilfracombe but it was only last week that we learned that North Devon Theatres had gone into administration. TCAT honoured any tickets bought for that to be valid at tonight’s performance.

A View from the Edge is intriguing. It has so many red herrings and shifting time scales that you are led up one alley and find that is going off down another. It makes for interesting watching and all of you out there who like to guess the plot will find this a challenge. It was written by 2 of the actors Charlotte Bister and Dan Richards who do a commendable job in not just the writing but the acting; switching from role to role which generally meant swapping jackets too. I wonder if during the tour they will forget whose jacket was whose?

They gave a faultless performance at Tiverton with 4 cast members. The play is noir in origin and by that I mean classic, black and white, a murder, clues and mostly set in a smoking office circa 1949 in downtown New York .Complete with the obligatory fan and femme fatale knocking on the door to Mr C Daniels (Detective) who demands 2 large ones as payment (half now, half later) to help her find her missing husband, painting and a mysterious Charlotte. The play then flits into the contemporary mind of the writer writing this piece (called Charlotte) and her struggles to finish this piece with pressure from her cast members as if she doesn’t, it will just end up as a Shakespeare play (Macbeth) which indeed it does do a bit later (but enough of that). The play centres on the actors, the dilemma of finding husband/painting and how they merge into an alternative reality throughout the piece. It has elements of ‘Stranger than Fiction’ (2006) a film starring Will Ferrell and Emma Thompson were the author actually meets the fictional character she has created and her power over him. The series ‘The Singing Detective’ also weaves through this and a bit of ‘Twilight Zone’ too.

The creative use of the set brings the era to life with office/bar/home as the actors make use of every square inch; including the blackboards which soon fill up with clues and ideas. The menacing underscore which crops up repeatedly adds to the suspense and a nice touch was the disembodied voice coming over the radio. A few murders happen reaching a crescendo and this is where it does get confusing as how is killing who and in what time dimension was that happening in? All in all an enjoyable show and there were comedic moments too which worked well and the audience tonight noted them all , there was some dancing and singing including an excellent sultry song in the bar by the gorgeous Katy Withers playing Delores.

Local talent Andy Lockyer chats to Caro B about theatre company 'Signpost' directing this year's pantomime 'Dick Whittington...and his cat' 
, past shows and the history of Tiverton.
( Our deepest 
sympathies, Andy past away in the spring of this year )

Andy Lockyear photographer
Dick Wittington pantomime
Tiverton Signpost  Club

The Spirit Whistle

Iron Moon  Arts bring you an adaptation of a M.R James story based on a possessed ancient whistle that is found and what manifests during a night at The Oak Rooms (St Peter's Street) run 7-17 Dec 8 pm check on line for up to date run times and ticket info tickets on door too. 'Original theatre at it's best with up to date multimedia'. 5*. 

Spirit Whistle Theatre Arts Local
Spirit Whistle Theatre Arts Local
Spirit Whistle Theatre Arts Local

Patterns Theatre Company

Trelah Theatre Arts Local

Vicky Davies tells us about Patterns Theatre Company from Willand; their exciting production of Treelah at Tiverton Theatre with puppetry by Chloe Baker (Petroc art student). a series of plays was produced at The Walronds in Cullompton with more to come in May 2017! Vicky is also an actress and was most recently performing in The Reunion in the New Hall. 

Vicky Patterns Theatre Arts Local
Trelah Theatre Arts Local

Defender of the Dead      

by Sian Williams   a Boiling Kettle production

Defender of the Dead Theatre Arts Local
Defender of the Dead Theatre Arts Local

Director  Sophie Gale talks to Caro B 

Reunion Sophie Gale Theatre Local Arts
Amber Pugh Film Movie Cinema

Local actress Amber Pugh talks about her role in Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children and MED theatre productions  on Dartmoor and their new production Hound of The Baskervilles The Last Wolf project.

STAGE DOOR, theatre, arts