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Yeasayer get the blood moving in seafront sell-out

Digital, Brighton: Yeasayer

There was something distinctly underground about Yeasayer’s gig at Digital. It was more than the atmospherics provided by the King’s Arches venue, formerly the Zap Club – maybe it was that shared sense of being in on a kind of music that defied categorisation, swooping across boundaries like a gleeful swallow.

Chris Keating and Ira Wolf Tuton in action

Showcasing material from their 2007 debut All Hour Cymbals and plenty from new release Odd Blood, the band struck an immediate rapport with the crowd, that had lead singer Chris Keating bantering with the front row and bigging up local cult eaterie Bill’s.

Yeasayer’s music is propelled by the precise, tight drumming of Ahmed Gallab, coupled with the sinewy bass of Ira Wolf Tuton, and the foundation these two lay down that allows the music to hop from electro-rock to dub, from psychedelic wigout to gospel-style chants.

Chris Keating provides a charismatic front man, all waving hands and jerking torso snaps one minute, minutely adjusting his box of tricks the next. Standing where we were, guitarist Anand Wilder was a hidden voice and presence, but the effect of the whole was electrifying and at times hypnotic.

The harmonised and at times almost falsetto chanted choruses on some songs tipped Yeasayer towards Polyphonic Spree and even Fleet Foxes territory, but just when the pop idiom threatened to take over, something left field popped up and dragged it back to the edge. A good place to be.

Inevitably, the well-loved Sunrise was part of the encore (“we don’t usually do encores”) and the sold-out crowd drifted out onto the seafront with smiles on their faces. One solid bass note went through my entire body – now and again it’s the kind of therapy you need.

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Review: Hay Fever – Chichester Festival Theatre

Chichester Festival Theatre: Hay Fever by Noel Coward

If you’re in need of a lift, make sure you catch Hay Fever at Chichester – it’s a hayfever1delight.

First of all, there’s the script. It doesn’t matter a jot that there isn’t really any plot to speak of in this Twenties romp, when you have Coward’s elegant, witty dialogue to entertain you.

Second, and very close behind, there’s the cast. It’s quality from start to finish with Diana Rigg (as ageing actress and flirt Judith Bliss) and Simon Williams (grumpy writer David Bliss) leading the way, and receiving sterling support from experienced performers Guy Henry (stiff and awkward diplomat Richard Greatham, who daughter Sorel admires), Sue Wallace (put-upon housemaid Clara) and Caroline Langrishe (socialite Myra Arundel, mooned after by son Sam), alongside newer faces Laura Rogers (daughter Sorel Bliss), Sam Alexander (aspiring artist Simon Bliss), Edward Bennett (hopeless goof Sandy Tyrell, yearning for Judith) and Natalie Walter (flapper Jackie Coryton, who David plans to ‘study’).

The interplay between the characters provides much of the entertainment, as a quiet weekend at the Bliss household’s country home turns into a manic relationship mix-up as each has an uninvited guest coming to stay. Whatever the hopes and dreams each had for the stay, they are soon turned on their heads by the determined eccentricities of the Bliss family, at times almost oblivious to their guests.

They row, they argue and show appalling manners all round. Yet they are as quick to make up as a family as to fall out, and the family unit’s strength is clear by the end – despite the effect they have on their guests.

Coward’s writing touches on a number of deeper questions, from class to the search for truth, and while the brilliance of the dialogue and the relationships between the different characters at times disguises this, there is much to be savoured in a production that lifts the spirits – and give you plenty to think on.

Nikolai Foster’s direction is high quality, as you’d expect, and the production features a superb set by Robert Jones.

The production runs until 2 May and you can book tickets online at www.cft.org.uk or by calling  01243 781312.

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Review: Brief Encounter – Brighton Theatre Royal

Brighton Theatre Royal: Brief Encounter

I’d love to know what audiences make of this imaginative, entertaining production of a romantic classic.

There was a huge amount to enjoy: high quality performances from a versatile, talented cast; imaginative staging that saw performers step into and out of backdrop film projection; jaunty and sometimes unexpected arrangements of classic Noel Coward songs; and much more comedy than I was expecting.

We felt thoroughly entertained by a Kneehigh Theatre production it was very hard not to feel charmed and captivated by. The staging and sets effectively took us back into wartime Britain, and excellent musicianship and harmonies on display made it a musical treat as well.

However, I do wonder whether the romantics in the audience drawn along because of the classic David Lean film with Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson will feel slightly hard done by. The comic tone of many of the cast performances – which were hugely entertaining – at times threatened to pull the rug from under the tender, yearning scenes between principal characters Laura (Hannah Yelland, complete with terribly cut glass English accent) and Alec (Milo Twomey, all flapping raincoat and doctorly charm).

brief-encounter-51Because of this the choreographed moves of the ensemble complete with film backdrop of crashing waves became almost parody-like due to being repeated just a little too often.

Maybe I’m nitpicking though, because it was overall a thoroughly entertaining show – with standout performances from the whole cast, particularly Joseph Alessi, as both cheeky chappy Albert and dull-but-kind husband Fred, and Beverley Rudd as teabar giggler Beryl.

With the musicians mingling with the audience before the start and setting the tone with some jazz-lite Coward songs, the ambience was excellent throughout, mixing vaudeville and music hall with fast-moving storytelling.

I do wonder, though, whether the romantics would have liked to have laughed rather less and cried rather more.

Book until Saturday (25 April) on 08700 606 650 or online at www.theambassadors.com/theatreroyal

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Alien plant horror musical – bloomin’ marvellous

Brighton Theatre Royal – Little Shop of Horrors

While not by any means a sell-out, it was a hugely enthusiastic crowd that welcomed Little Shop of Horrors to the Theatre Royal on Monday.

The tongue-in-cheek musical based on Roger Corman’s classic 1959 B-movie

Audrey and Seymour in action

Audrey and Seymour in action

certainly delivered a high quality evening’s entertainment, with a stack of class performances from its talented cast.

A lovely period set got everyone in the mood, as hobos and street girls established the vibe for Skid Row, and the superbly voiced Ronettes (Nadia Di Mambro, Cathryn Davis and Donna Hines) kicked proceedings off.

The trio’s powerful voices, superb harmonies and street-wise persona were one of the highlights of the evening.

Former Doctor Who Sylvester McCoy put in a delightful character performance as Mushnik, failing owner of the Skid Row flower shop, and while his voice was often no more than adequate, he more than made up for it with his timing and stagecraft.

Clare Buckfield, star of Dancing on Ice and best known for her role in 2Point4 Children, was excellent as blonde bombshell Audrey, flower shop worker and abused girlfriend of sadistic dentist Orin Scrivello (Alex Ferns). She had a strong singing voice and brought real presence to the role.

Damian Humbley did a great job as Seymour, the downtrodden shop lad who discovers an alien plant he christens Audrey II as a tribute to the object of his affections. My only quibble with him was that he didn’t really look geeky enough to play the Seymour part, but I guess no-one’s likely to match the Rick Moranis geek look.

Alex Ferns was superb as the pain-loving dentist Orin Scrivello – although it’s such a peach of a part you wonder who wouldn’t relish playing it – and also gets the chance to deliver some quick-change character parts later in the piece as the plant’s fame grows as fast as its hunger.

Audrey II was voiced powerfully by Clive Rowe – fantastic singing voice – and his pupeteers Andy Heath, Brian Herring and Iestyn Evans deserve special mention as the alient plant grows to take over the stage in monstrous style.

Fantastic music from the band, and a lovely revolving set added to the show and left the audience clapping along with the theme song at the end.

This is a superb production that deserves packed audiences – don’t miss it!

Go HERE for tickets

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