Category: Acting


Image result for Pink Ranger gifWhen I was a child I was obsessed with Power Rangers. Many weekends were spent high kicking and karate chopping in the garden attacking imaginary Zed Putties. My favourite ranger was the Pink Ranger. I thought she was awesome and kick-ass. I didn’t even think about her suit colour or the fact I was a different sex to her.

I just thought she was great.

My mum and dad did not approve and I was bluntly pushed towards the blue ranger with all the subtlety of Rita Repulsa’s transition to Dad-Eye-Candy in the new film. (Whole different blog post there.) But regardless of what my parents thought, I still thought she was great and, in a very child-like way, she was a bit of hero for me (until I grew out of my Power Rangers phase).

And then as I got into my teens the Doctor came along, bringing with him a range of heroes and role models for me to fantasise about (Errm…excuse me. Not like that.). How awesome was Rose? Loyal and quick-thinking. Donna Noble – hilarious, sensitive, self-less and selfish at the same time. Awesome characters – I wasn’t going to pretend I didn’t like them just because I’m a guy.

I was sixteen when Torchwood started and I was instantly obsessed. Part of the pull for me was the relatable characters – including Gwen and Toshiko, both fearless and flawed, making terrible decisions but fighting their way back on top and learning from their errors, however painful.

I didn’t think that because they were women I shouldn’t admire them. And who wouldn’t want Storm’s powers in X-Men? She’s brilliant!

So, my point is, it shouldn’t matter what gender your favourite TV character is. I’ve got girls in my class who love Spiderman, but somehow that is a bit more acceptable in society than a boy who likes Wonder Woman or Elsa or Clara Oswald. It shouldn’t be. One girl in my class LOVES Doctor Who, she’s actually obsessed with Matt Smith and David Tennant. If a six year old child is able to look past gender then so should adult fans of the show. A female Doctor has been on the cards for long time and, judging by how incredible Missy turned out to be, I’m looking forward to seeing Jodie Whittaker’s take on the time lord. A role model is a role model and gender should not be a factor. We admire these characters for their personalities and their responses to various situations, so there’s no reason we should be discouraging boys from watching Doctor Who now that the main character has changed sex.

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Oh. My. God.

48hours left.

Months of planning and prepping and rehearsing have led us to this week. We’ve spent today on a last minute hunt for props and costumes before having our final rehearsal.

Everything is as ready as it will ever be. A tree has been erected in the dinner hall and the PE cupboard is now home to Excalibur.

With just one full day left before the performance, the children are far more relaxed than the staff (which is how it should be!). Although today’s performance was not quite as energy-fuelled as other rehearsals, the children have worked hard to put this production together and I’m sure they’ll dazzle for the school and their parents on Wednesday.

Strangely, for me, an odd calmness settled over me today. I’ve got faith in the children to pull it off but it’s also oddly comforting to know that I only have to days left to worry about anything performing arts related! Bring on the show!

Drama and performance is a passion for me so I was really pleased when I was asked to take over the Performing Arts club. We’ve got a bunch of very talented and enthusiastic children this year, and they’ve been working super hard since January to put together a show based on (a topic of their choice) Welsh Myths and Legends.

We’ve seen everything – from costume confusion to corpsing to totally improvised dialogue! Now we’ve got two weeks left until the performance date. Rehearsals are going well but that anxious ‘oh-my-goodness-two-weeks-left’ feeling is starting to trouble me. We’ve got a child who doesn’t know how to yawn, a tyrannical barber’s wife and I’m having to give lessons in villainy at lunch time. The children have done a fabulous job at learning their lines so I’m not too concerned about that, but I am concerned about what I can do to aid their performance. They’ve worked tremendously hard – fashioning a story, a script and creating some brilliant performances – so they deserve the best support they can get. So it’s a shorter blog post from me this week, because I’m neck-deep in music-editing, prop-sourcing and set-designing.  Wish us luck!

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There are two inspirations for this week’s post. The first is a festive memory, so let me take you back to Christmas Day 2016. Picture the scene:

Christmas dinner has been eaten. We’re all crashed out in the living room, Grandad flicking through the channels with the remote control. He stops at a cartoon meerkat and warthog. It’s Disney’s The Lion King. We’re all enjoying watching Timon and Pumba through the fuzzy full-of-food-ness when my Nanna pipes up. ‘What on earth have we got this on for? Load of rubbish…’. Me and my brother are obviously horrified. It’s The Lion King! Although our efforts are in vain, we try to convert her. We explain that it’s a classic that we watched as children and she sighs ‘Well, you’re not children now. I prefer things for adults. So should you.’ (My Grandad took a lot less convincing and he was soon gripped by Simba’s saga.)

Alright, she might have a miniscule point but my argument is – children’s films can be enjoyed by anyone. Some of the classics might seem fluffy and sickly on the outside but they are actually works of art. Someone’s livelihood has gone into creating this piece of film. The superficial piece of fluff my Nanna saw is actually the end product of many people’s hard work, so to class it as unworthy of adult attention isn’t very fair.

Many children’s films carry very grown up themes and dark moments, especially those that have taken inspiration from traditional tales. Look at Hercules, for example, Meg sacrifices her soul to the underworld. In Robin Hood, the villagers are being taxed into poverty. In Pinocchio the orphan boys are promised paradise and turneImage result for pinocchio gif donkeyd into donkeys! Some of these tales can be pretty grim (Pun fully intended. I make no apologies). And anybody who doesn’t cry during the first ten minutes of Up is simply inhuman. In The Princess and the Frog, the Ray the firefly dies! That’s right, Disney heartlessly kill off a character and audience members have to just get over it, whatever age they are. I was twenty when I was forced to watch the characters of Toy Story 3 accept their death in the incinerator and the tears still dripped from under my 3D glasses. Of course, before that, we had The Lion King, where Simba is led to believe he has killed his own father and lives with that guilt for years before learning the truth. Dark stuff for children to handle but they do so all the same. It might give us a few nightmares when we’re younger but it armours us for real life. The world isn’t sweets and bubblegum.

It’s a fact that as adults we get bogged down by all the life-stuff like careers and relationships and paying bills, we forget to let our imaginations stretch. Sometimes, opening your mind to a fantasy film is the perfect form of escapism. Sometimes after a day of work, when I’m flicking through my on-demand movies, I don’t want a gritty thriller that’s going to make me think. I want something that’s going to be visually appealing, some catchy tunes and perhaps a bit of magic on the side. That’s when I’ll unashamedly head for the family movies section.

Anyway, now that I’ve shared my Nanna’s disgraceful lack of movie taste, the second inspiration for this post comes from my favourite Disney film *drumroll* Beauty & the Beast. As I child I was desperate to be Lumiere. I love everything about the cartoon from the characters to the music so I was so excited to see the live action version this week (my review – perfect. My favourite character was the wardrobe. I’m only disappointed the wardrobes in my bedroom aren’t as fabulous.) Watching the new version transported me back to my childhood but I could also appreciate it from another point of view. I noticed the new variations on the score, beautiful visuals, easter eggs and subplots – stuff I might not have spotted as a child. Incidentally, this new version included Disney’s first ever ‘gay moment’ and first ever interracial kiss. So, in the world of film, it’s groundbreaking. Not bad for just a kids’ movie.

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Alright some of the old Disney stuff can hardly be seen as feminist (Cinderella and Ariel both changing in order to get a man? oi vey!) but a lot of these films can give good lessons to both children and adults. If you look at some of the more recent films, realistic relationships and moral dilemmas are being explored more and more. Big Hero 6 has the main character dealing with death twice. Up explores moving on after the death of a loved on. Frozen has Anna and Elsa realise they don’t need to marry princes, and instead the focus is on their sibling-love for each other. Things still aren’t perfect but the movie world is making small steps towards sending healthier messages to our children.

So I suppose I’m saying don’t judge a book by its cover….OR a film by its poster. Films for children were made by adults and it’s important we acknowledge the end product because some of them are works of art. Don’t be put off by their label. Release your inner-child, let your imagine run wild and be free!

Oh, and never diss The Lion King in front of me.

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So it’s back. I always forget just how much I’ve missed Doctor Who until those opening titles of a new series roll out.  Series 10 kicked off on Saturday with the introduction of a brand new companion – Bill Potts. After the initial intro clip last year I wasn’t too sure about Bill. She came across as a bit too cartoony and goofy and I could see her being very annoying very fast. However…(wait for it….rare moment coming up) I was wrong. Bill definitely made her mark in her premiere episode – showing that she was an intellectual match for the Doctor and adding a fresh new dynamic on board the TARDIS.

Bill is a new kind of companion. She sees things from a view point we’ve not had before. (She even asks the classic question in a different way – ‘Doctor what?’) She is refreshing for many reasons but mostly because of her humanity. I loved Clara, but by the end of her run if felt like she was saying the same things over and over again. The same quizzical expression. The same sarcastic comments. The same sort of cutesiness. Bill is different. Bill isn’t afraid to call the Doctor out on his faults – which of course Clara was happy to do too – but I can imagine Bill doing it with a bit less sass. She’s honest, grounded and flawed. She’s just a bit more human! The ways she’s written comes across so naturally. Perfect qualities for a classic companion. Bill also had one of the best introductions to the TARDIS, with the lights slowly booting up as the camera pans out…..only for her to liken it to a kitchen (its’ true) and a lift (also true). In her first episode she experiences heartbreak as she is forced to let Heather go. Her strength, complexity and emotional depth in these scenes are promising. It’ll be interesting to see how her story unfolds…

One thing that did stick out as odd was the re-appearance of Nardole. Nardole seems to have just…happened! Probably due to the large gap between his introduction in the 2015 Christmas special and his more recent appearance last Christmas.  Nardole just doesn’t quite seem to work yet. Still, I’m hopeful a satisfying explanation as to why the Doctor has him sticking around will be revealed as the series rumbles on. Though at the minute it does sort of feel like Moffatt is keeping him so he can kill him off in the finale (he’s promised it will be a ‘bloodbath’.)

The Pilot demonstrates one of the shows keys themes – regeneration. Doctor Who has the gift of being able to overhaul everything once things start to get a bit stale. It’s great to keep things fresh and allow a ‘stepping on’ point for new viewers….but what about old viewers? Doctor Who has gone through a lot of changes over time, particulary since it’s return in 2005, and next year will see the show have a new Executive Producer, a new Doctor, a new look and possibly a new companion. So did we really need this new revamp so soon? Sometimes the constant changing between series’ can be off putting to those who want to immerse themselves into a story they have already invested so much in. It can be a bit frustrating when the reset button keeps being pushed. Take Capaldi’s Doctor, for instance. This is only the beginning of his third series and he has transformed so much. He’s gone from grouchy and dangerous to a wise old grandfather figure. What happened to the snarling beast Moffatt promised after Matt Smith’s regeneration? I’d have liked that process to take a little longer, to have really been explored. It’s a shame this is to be Capaldi’s last series as his Doctor hasn’t really had much chance to shine.

So, overall a good opening episode but I’m hopeful for a bit less re-booting and a few more references to the show’s history in future episodes. Having pictures of River Song and Susan on the Doctor’s desk was a nice touch. The new TARDIS dynamic is going to give us some interesting moments in the lead up to Capaldi’s exit. I think it’s gonna be a good one.

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Right, it’s official. I can’t stop buying theatre tickets. I’m seeing six productions before June and already looking for summer productions. I’ve been keeping up to date with West End productions lately and I noticed The Harold Pinter Theatre has become the first to request that audience members do not eat or drink during its performance of Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf?. Apparently Imelda Staunton, who plays Martha in the production, is very much against people eating in theatres and has cited it as distracting and rude behaviour.

I must admit, I’m with Imelda. When you think about it, it’s an odd notion. ‘You just stand there and speak and I’m going to watch you whilst I eat popcorn.’ As someone who has dabbled with treading the boards, I can imagine just how infuriating it must be to be mid-monologue, only to have the tension broken by someone opening a bag of Doritos. Imelda apparently said she can’t understand why people can’t go a few hours without eating. Again I agree. It seems to be the norm to see people piling into theatres carrying bags of sweets and crisps and whatever-else, but really they have paid for a ticket to watch the play. Not shovel Rolos in their mouths. In most cases people would have perhaps gone for dinner beforehand too so….why all the food? I can understand an interval ice cream and I’m certainly pro-water. The last thing the actors need is to put up with one of my unfortunately timed coughing fits so I always make sure I have a bottle of water with me.

Imelda’s comments reminded me of something I’ve often thought when visiting the theatre. Whatever happened to Theatre Etiquette? I’ve been going to the theatre since I was a child and I was always aware there were some rules. No talking being rule number one. But in some productions I’ve been to lately, people just don’t seem to care! They’ll gladly and loudly chat to their friend, sometimes about the price of the programme, sometimes about the view (or ‘I can’t hear what she’s saying! Can you?’) and is there anything more annoying than someone providing their friend with a running commentary? (‘That’s the brother she thought had died….)

Another important rule – Make sure your phone is switched off. I went to see Stig of the Dump at the Open Air Theatre in Chester last summer. One man in the audience was talking so loudly to the people around him that we thought he was part of the production! Then, just as the story was really kicking in, this man’s phone rang….and he answered it! Not only that, but he continued the conversation for a good two minutes before an usher politely asked him to stop…and he shushed her! I’m sure you can imagine the huffs, puffs and glares coming from our corner. Ooh it makes me furious just thinking about it!

Thirdly, and I’m aware this might be a personal preference, but I always thought of the theatre as a place you visit in your best clothes. I’m not talking tux and ball gown, but certainly smart/casual. I went to see Joseph last year and I was shocked at how many people had rocked up in tracksuits. TRACKSUITS! It’s also worth mentioning that at this performance of Joseph a bunch of people in front of me were singing along! Cue sighs, tuts and eyerolls from G. I prefer to save my singing for outside the theatre and let the performers do their job. I also prefer to shut up and allow the people around me to enjoy listening to the trained singers. Surely, it’s a mark of respect. These people are performing for us, putting themselves all out there and sometimes going through horrendous emotions. The least we can do is not dress like we’re going to a gym class.

I say bring back theatre etiquette. Oh, and next time you’re at the theatre, particularly if you’re sitting behind me, don’t eat, don’t talk, don’t sing and for God’s sake make an effort!

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Warning: Spoilers within as well as references to explicit material.

Hello. My name is RebelliousG. And I would like to share with you the most amazing show.

In principle, The Book of Mormon sounds like it should be a pretty dull show. A musical about Mormons? Really? You’d be forgiven for guessing this show is an elaborate plot to promote the religion but, for those uninterested in changing faith, have no fear. This show is anything but an advertisement. And it’s certainly not dull. With tongue placed firmly in cheek, The Book of Mormon tells the story of smarmy, self-absorbed Elder Price and his loveable, clueless fellow missionary, Elder Cunningham, as they are deployed to Uganda on a hopeless mission to convert a village of agnostic Africans.

The opening Image result for book of mormon londonnumber welcomes us to the pristine and innocent world of Mormon friends as they practise their perky greetings. It’s a full on cheese-fest that’ll win anyone round immediately. It all goes a bit pear-shaped when, after dreaming of being sent to Orlando, Elder Price is packed off to Uganda and saddled with Elder Cunningham to dampen his mood further.

This is where things get a bit….explicit. The Mormons arrive in Uganda and meet a bunch of hapless missionaries who have yet to recruit anyone to the church, but stay positive by ‘turning it off’ – a useful technique of switching off all negative feelings, told wonderfully though a big tap number. Turn it off is the definition of a showstopper. Tap-dancing Mormons singing cheerfully about turning off their guilt, grief and suppresse
d sexuality. What more could you want? It’s topped off with the quickest costume change I’ve ever seen.

Another stand out number is the ‘Hakuna Matata’-esque, Hasa Diga Eebowai, sang by the Ugandan villagers on the Elders arrival. Don’t be fooled though, the writers knew exactly what they were doing with this one. At first it sounds like the Ugandans are singing a message of jolly perseverance to an INCREDIBLY catchy tune, but the true translation of Hasa Diga Eebowai is soon revealed to the horrified Mormons as a great big eff-you to God. It then descends into a barrage of explicit insults at the ‘heavenly father’ which, annoyingly (well…OK…not really), is a bit of an ear worm. (You’re really gonna have to try hard to get this tune out of your head!) The lyrics might be enough to force even the most open-minded person to cringe but the message of Hasa Diga Eebowai is actually a powerful one. The villagers have to deal with genital mutilation, awful living conditions, the threat of a war lord and the AIDS outbreak. A powerful line from the song sums it up

‘If you don’t like what we say,

Try living here a couple days.

Watch all your friends and family die,

Hasa Diga Eebowai!’

Some people might judge this musical number as offensive and I imaginRelated imagee this is the point where people might walk out (two people did in our performance) but if you put yourself in their shoes, you can see where their lack of faith has come from. The song actually does
what theatre is supposed to – it makes the audience challenge their ideas and empathise. I loved it!

From a show that tackles topics such as rape, FGM, violence and intercourse with amphibians, it has a really warm heart. The show never cruelly mocks Mormons or their beliefs, nor does it preach to the audience. Elder Price collapses under the strain of his new environment, and even endures having his book inserted somewhere very painful in another darkly comic moment, and it’s Elder Cunningham who emerges the hero. Although he lies to the villagers and spices up the Book of Mormon by ‘taking the holy word and adding fiction’, such as threats of the fiery depths of Mordor and being struck down by Boba Fett, he gives them something to believe in which gives them strength. Whilst Elder Price might lose his faith, he, as well as the other missionaries and villagers, are given a new one. The Book of Mormon promotes the power of Belief and how, whatever you choose to believe in, it can help you through the toughest situation.  We’re also given the message to ‘take one day at a time’ and not worry about life after death.Image result for book of mormon london hasa

KJ Hippensteel was delightfully cheesy as the ‘all American prophet with the Donny Osmond flare’. It must be hard to find the balance between face-punching arrogance and endearing naivety but Hippensteel treads that fine line perfectly as Elder Price. David O’Reilly gave us some side-aching moments of comedy as Elder Cunningham and you could tell he was enjoying every minute of being on stage. Another reason the show is such is a hit is that its main characters are poignantly human and flawed. They both make mistakes, whether that’s lying or, in the words of Jesus, just being a dick. There are moments when you know you shouldn’t like them….but you still do! Alexandra Ncube is a power house as Nabulungi (or is that….Neutrogena? Or Nutella? Or Nigel Farage?), giving us some sweet moments with Elder Cunningham and tingles as she sings her heart out in Sal Tlay Ka Siti. I’ve also got to mention Stephen Webb who gave an excellent performance as the secretly gay Elder McKinley, with subtle comic timing, never over-doing it.

The show is held together tightly by an excellent supportive cast. The Mormon missionaries are a joy to watch, whether they’re tapping in Turn it Off, high-kicking in hell during Spooky Mormon Hell Dream or breaking our hearts as they prepare to leave the village after a disastrous mission. The actors playing them gave a masterclass in being a dazzling ensemble with eye popping footwork and super-quick costume changes.

So, The Book of Mormon comes with the highest recommendation. Put any preconceptions aside, they’re not needed. This is a refreshing piece of theatre that pulls out all the stops and shocks in all the right places, for the right reasons. You’ll be tittering at the dark comedy for a long time afterwards, just as you’ll find yourself singing about the most inappropriate things at the photocopier at work the next day. But it stays with you for other reasons too. Beneath all the grimness and cynicism is a very warm heart and an important message. Plus it’s got a kick-ass soundtrack.  The worst thing about seeing this show is the desperate urge to see it again!

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The Mitchells. Synonymous with Albert Square and utterly unconquerable. Fearless, loyal and unafraid to meddle with the wrong side of the law. They are the ultimate soap family and nothing can beat them. Or so we thought.

In 2007, the Mitchells were rejuvenated thanks to the arrival of Ronnie (Samantha Womack) and Roxy (Rita Simons). Cousins to Phil and Grant, the Mitchell sisters shook up the square in new ways the infamous Mitchell brothers couldn’t. Roxy was a feisty party animal who caused trouble wherever she went, but it was her icy older sister Ronnie who became an iconic character.

One my favourite storylines was Ronnie’s secret daughter. Little information was released about the story beforehand so it packed more punch as it unfolded on screen. I was genuinely moved when Danielle died in Ronnie’s arms and I think Sam Womack’s performance was one of the best the show has ever seen.  She proved this wasn’t just a one off when Ronnie tragically lost her second child on New Years Eve and swapped her baby with Kat’s. Although this wasn’t the most plausible storyline, Womack portrayed it with every ounce of truth and watching her subsequent breakdown was captivating. Image result for ronnie roxy

Then there was the New Year’s Day 2015 car crash which saw Ronnie almost die and spend the next six months in a coma. It seems every time Ronnie gets a chance at happiness something tragically takes that chance from her.

But Ronnie’s most tragic scenes aired on New Year’s Day 2017. After an almost sickeningly blissful wedding to Jack, several heart-warming moments with her sister, Roxy, and the first moment of true motherly love from Glenda, Ronnie tragically drowned.

For this little Mitchell fan, this was an act of cruelty too far. Ronnie has been through everything – the loss of a child, heartbreak, rape, blackmail – and now, on the happiest day of her life, she drowns next to her sister, in a swimming pool. A swimming pool! After everything she’s conquered she is beaten by a big puddle. To me, she is a character deserving of a much better exit. Although visually, the episode was really well made with some beautiful imagery, what really shone through was the writers/producer’s dislike of the character. I understand that a new producer wants to put his stamp on a show, but killing off an iconic character steeped in history seems to me to be a huge mistake. Surely, it would have been more forward-thinking to send R&R packing back to Ibiza for a few years so we can have them back one day.  But instead, we were given ten minutes of gruelling scenes, starting with Ronnie balancing precariously on the roof of the wedding venue, the writers taunting the audience over her impending death. Then, we have to watch Ronnie suffer one last tragedy – the death of her sister, the person who means the most to her. As Ronnie dives in to try to rescue Roxy, her wedding dress prevents her from resurfacing (I know!). The harrowing underwater screams and flailing had me watching through my fingers and, although millions raved about the ‘twist’, was it really that entertaining? Was it worth the years of entertainment from these characters we have lost?

At risk of sounding like a misery, I’m going to say a big fat no. It wasn’t worth it. Killing off Ronnie was a huge error by the producers (die-hard fans have learned this lesson from Kathy and Pat) and a decision they’ll definitely regret in years to come. Ronnie was beautifully flawed and a real tragically heroine. She was a character that had grown a lot over her ten year stay in the square, but she certainly had plenty of stories left to tell. It’s worth mentioning that we’ve also lost the fabulous Glenda, who will have no reason to return to the Square once her daughters are buried. There’s also little chance of seeing the mysterious Andy again and it feels like the whole Danielle/Archie era, one of the strongest in the shows history, will now be forgotten.

Instead we get to see Jack suffer the trauma of burying his wife whilst the other characters in the Square barely recognise R&R are gone. Judging by the poor reaction from around the Square, the new producers couldn’t wait to get rid, and in a few weeks time, it will be like Ronnie and her sister never stepped out of that taxi in 2007. What an injustice to two of Walford’s leading ladies.

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Last year I was totally won over by NBC’s live broadcast of The Wiz. In fact, I’m pretty sure I sang Brand New Day all over Christmas (complete with dance moves). So I was pretty excited when they announced this year’s live production was Hairspray – especially as I spent some time as a teenager obsessed with the show. Just to make me even more eager, Queen Kristen Chenoweth (of Wicked fame) was cast in the role of Velma.

So Friday night arrived, I’d resisted watching any clips on youtube so I could get the full first-viewing experience and the verdict was: pretty good.

There were a few problems with this production but nothing to stop it being an enjoyable bit of fun with a very important message. Firstly, some of the new dialogue seemed a bit forced and cheesy. Hairspray is a naturally funny show, but some of the new ideas made it appear like the production team were trying too hard. I also don’t think Kristen was given enough to do.  I know I’m biased (because I really do bloody love her) but she has a lot of talent and I was waiting for her to be really showcased. (Don’t even get my started on how angry I am that they cut her bow). I felt like Ariana Grande was used as the star vehicle. I’m not saying Ariana was terrible, I’m just not sure the production company realised just how much talent they had in the ensemble cast. However, the main issue with Hairspray live was the ad breaks. I honestly felt like I was watching ad breaks interspersed with bits of Hairspray. I don’t know if NBC or ITV2 were to blame but it really was ridiculous and it killed any momentum.  Image result for hairspray live

Casting Harvey Fierstein as Edna, reprising his role from Broadway, was a nice touch and I loved the little references to the Hairspray canon. (Ricki Lake making a cameo, a plumbing company named after John Waters). The final number, You Can’t Stop the Beat, is meant to have audiences dancing in the aisles (or in this case, their living rooms) and, thankfully, it did. It was definitely a high point of the show, along with anything Jennifer Hudson sang and Welcome to the 60’s.

What is most striking about Hairspray is its relevance. It’s been almost 30 years since the original movie and its themes and messages about diversity and segregation are still important. Hairspray reminds that we are all equal – regardless of race, size, gender, interests etc. – and any one of us is capable of achieving any goal. It was a much needed tonic for 2016 and, after the dreadful few months our World has had, I can’t think of a more perfect show to end the year with.

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Rent is twenty. Still brutally relevant, it’s hard to believe it was written over twenty years ago.Lucky enough to see the opening night of this anniversary performance, I wasn’t prepared for what was about to happen, having only seen the film version previously. However, what I saw was possibly the best theatrical experience in a long time.

To say the cast and crew have worked hard on this production would be an understatement. It’s clear a lot of love has gone into this show and their commitment and talent oozes out of every corner – from the intricate staging and choreography to the harrowing performances from the cast.

From the opening song we are immersed into the harsh environment of the characters in a way that is almost overwhelming. The aggression of the first song gives a clear message that this is not going to be a fluffy musical. Part of the beauty of Rent is its grit and rawness. With regular references to time running out and death, it’s hard not to be moved by Jonathon Larson’s lyrics. The pain in Collins’ words during the reprise of I’ll Cover You, sung powerfully by Ryan O’Gormon, is almost too much to bear. Anyone who doesn’t feel his anguish as he belts ‘when your heart has expired’ is made of stone.

Perfectly cast, each ensemble member shone, but a special mention has to go to Layton Williams who was absolutely kick-ass as Angel. Reinventing Angel’s song Today 4 U, he slayed with sheer sass, a killer strut and phenomenal high kicks and splits. Williams turned this song into a showstopper.

Other highlights include the Tango Maureen (sharp, slick choreography), a whirlwind La Vie Boheme  and a poignant performance from Philippa Stefani as Mimi during Goodbye, Love.

In the film, Over the Moon strikes as odd and a bit jarring, but Lucie Jones totally made it work in the stage show, complete with puppets which went down very well with the audience. Amongst the tears, there are some genuinely funny moments, subtly played by the cast. (‘Hey, Mark, remember this?’ as his ex-girlfriend Maureen mimes sucking from a cows udder. A natural moment that proves just how well the ensemble work together.)

This production is special. It has stayed with me since I left the theatre in a way that not many productions can achieve. The memorable performances beautifully depicted how, yes, life is bloody hard but, somewhere, there is hope. Considering this was an early performance, the quality was close to perfection, with only a few minor glitches with sound and lighting which will no doubt be ironed out during the next performances. Rent is beautiful, harrowing and joyful all at the same time, with stellar performances from a talented cast. It fittingly celebrates the show’s legacy and that of its creator Jonathon Larsen, and is a testament to just how important Rent is twenty years on.

Forget regret, or life is yours to miss.