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A musical extravaganza closes a fantastic Festival

Posted on 6th March 2009. No Comment

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ddf20poster203_resize2The Assembly Rooms, Saturday 28th February 2009


DULOG’s Improvised Musical


The programme warned the audience that “for the first (and most probably the last) time”, six students would attempt to completely improvise a musical. Hopefully from the success of their performance they will reconsider this and attempt many more, as their production of “The Chair, the Door and the Monkey named Harry”, suggested by one audience member, was surprisingly impressive.


The ensemble had obviously worked very hard preparing for their improvisation, and their work paid off – they shared the stage well, and controlled their performance so that there were little or no cases of actors speaking on top of others, which would have made for very awkward viewing. They worked well with what they were given, managing to fit in a suggested song entitled “I’m Jewish and I love it” which, although not the best song of the musical, was still entertaining.


So, in between ‘jazz hands’ sequences, fine singing, comedy and an invisible monkey, the company and the audience had themselves a plausible musical. The near-deafening applause at the end attested to how much it was enjoyed. A special mention should go to the talented Jo Cichonska on the piano who provided the music throughout. As for the actors themselves – Charlotte Peters, Matthew Johnson, Michael Shaw, Oliver Lynes and Sophie Bicknell -  it would be hard to single any of them out as the stars of the show, which I think gives them credit.


For an improvisation, there was no hesitancy or panic, and no one felt the need to take the lead – it was very much an ensemble piece. I enjoyed how the group split basically into two for two separate subplots, it varied the pace and avoided any cases of ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’ – whilst obviously giving the other group valuable time to plan their next piece of improvisation.


I imagine that even the cynics amongst the audience would have been caught up in the excitement. The fantastic opening number was derived from the suggested location from the audience, that of a sweatshop, which provided many laughs. And if that failed to convince them, then the excitable, relief-filled “It All Worked Out In The End” finale certainly would have done. All in all, the musical was well performed and well enjoyed, and I would highly recommend them to try one again.


CUBE presents… The Curators


The next performance of the night was CUBE’s drama, “The Curators” which was pleasantly surprising. The play opened eerily with a character alone on a darkened stage. She repeatedly opened a box which flashed out an ominous red light whenever she did so, accompanied by various vocal memories provided by the actors in the wings. There was a general sense of confusion amongst the audience as to what this pertained to, and what the general tone of the play was going to be. Personally I felt it opened as if it were a dark drama, attempting to be edgy in a pretentious way – but I was gladly proven wrong.


The show told Jessica’s story, a girl whose grandmother had recently passed away. She finds herself in the workspace of the Curators, individuals who extract memories from the dead and preserve them so that those concerned will not forget them or past events. Perhaps the premise of the play could have been explained a little better; the performance was definitely better than the plot. Whatever messages the group wished to portray of the significance of memory or the transience of life were certainly overshadowed by their amazing use of props.


This may sound like I’m trivialising the play, but seriously – the use of props was spectacular! Solely by using red umbrellas, the actors managed to portray scenes of Christmas (with the umbrellas as a Christmas tree), New Year’s Eve (fireworks), a birth scene, a boat journey and a tandem ride (involving a Crazy Russian Nun) amongst many others! The poignancy at the end of the drama, with Jessica’s mother (Cassie Bradley) putting up a black umbrella brought the audience back down and left them on a reflective note, but after the pause and applause the feeling was one of joy; we had been happily entertained.


DULOG’s Musical Cabaret


The final act of the night was DULOG’s Musical Cabaret, which gave the group the chance perform acts which they wouldn’t normally get to put on. The dynamic dance opening was delayed (some musical technical glitch, I presume) but worth the wait. It was sleek, sultry and tidy; all boded well for the rest of the show.


Altogether the Cabaret was relaxed, with Ben Starr popping up every so often to chat or introduce acts while the stage was being prepared behind him. We were treated to ensemble dance routines and songs, solo pieces, and stand up comedy – all tremendous fun. Charlotte Peters’ and Matthew Johnson’s solos were excellent, and the Rocky Horror Show piece is also worth a mention. The rendition of “Sweet Transvestite” was made all the more sweet by watching the hilarious Frank N. Furter trying to walk around the stage in skyscraper platform heels. For that, I applaud him!


There were, of course, highlights of the show. The performance of “Mein Herr” from Cabaret was a case in point. The vocals from the actress playing Sally Bowles were outstanding and deserved the applause it rendered, as did the magnificent dancing. One for the boys it may be argued, but I think anyone could appreciate how amazing the girls were – it was a visual spectacular. Another exceptional performance came with the solo rendition of “The Life of the Party” where the singer was accompanied only by a wine bottle and cigarette. The acting and singing in this performance was memorable, enough to make you really sit up and listen.


Personally, my favourite act of the whole night – across all three performances – was the Cell Block Tango. This iconic act from Chicago is widely popular and could easily have failed to live up to expectations, but the group delivered and delivered well. From the opening Pop, Six, Squish, Uh-Uh, Cicero, Lipschitz sequence it was brilliant. All in all the evening did not disappoint and the performers should be proud of what they produced, the three acts made for an unforgettable night of entertainment.


Amy Savage

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