Kenny Miller

REVIEW: And Then There Were None, Dundee Rep Theatre

The world’s best-selling mystery novel of all time. Over 100 million copies sold. For more than 70 years Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None has baffled, thrilled and entertained generation after generation – and still the ending is a well kept secret! Christie’s mystery is being elegantly brought to life at the Dundee Rep Theatre by a strong ensemble cast and direction by Kenny Miller.

 
Invited to an isolated island, ten strangers arrive for a party they cannot escape from. Accused of past crimes, the guests are disposed of one by one, their deaths conveniently paralleling the deaths featured in the grizzly British Nursery rhyme Ten Little Soldier Boys. With no Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot on hand to solve the mystery, the surviving guests must use their own instincts to discover the identity of the murderer and save themselves from being another little soldier boy smashed to the floor. 
 
Miller’s design is simply stunning, complete with an elongated window overlooking the crashing sea and centred with a mirrored bar providing an endless supply of liquid for the diminishing party of guests. Miller’s production is a visual treat and, accompanied by Ross Adam Brown’s music and sound design, sets the hauntingly decadent tone of this masterpiece. 
 
This production is delivered with an equal  balance of comedy and thrilling suspense. In several instances, members of the cast are seated at the edge of the stage with their back to the audience – presumably blocking views for those sat at the front of the auditorium and certainly making it increasingly difficult for those sat towards the back of the auditorium to hear the lines being delivered on stage. 
 
The Ensemble has been granted special permission to reinstate the denouement of Christie’s novel for this production thus restoring the chilling impact of And Then There Were None. However, as the auditorium plunged into darkness in the final seconds of the play, one couldn’t help but feel slightly unfulfilled by the seeming uncertainty of the ending. 
 
Regardless, And Then There Were None is an evening of murder, mystery and plenty of gasps from the audience. Will any guest get out alive? Find out at the Dundee Rep (until 29th March 2014).
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REVIEW: Peter Panto and the Incredible Stinkerbell, Tron Theatre

Fresh from the success of their production of Blithe Spirit in Perth, Johnny McKnight and Kenny Miller front the creative team behind this year’s Tron theatre pantomime: Peter Panto and the Incredible Stinkerbell; a show of fun, fairies and flatulence.
 
Peter Panto is a boy from Riverland. One evening he accidentally loses his shadow. He later returns to the Darling’s household, with his best friend Stinkerbell in tow, to collect his shadow and is helped by Wendy, the eldest of the Darling’s three darlings. He soon convinces Wendy to travel to Riverland where we meet his long time enemy Captain New Look and her (yes, her) sidekick Chai Thai. In true panto style, mayhem follows. There’s poison, knives and looks that could kill all night long, providing a night of laughter and great entertainment.
 
Johnny McKnight has written yet another panto that’s brimming with local humour, a fantastic set of songs and a wonderful cast. The script includes playful references to the King’s Theatre, Karen Dunbar and even Janette Krankie. Of course, panto lovers can expect the traditional aspects of pantomime such as cast members playing multiple roles, an altered plot line to suit the location of the show (who knew pirates hung out at the Blue Lagoon?) and, of course, audience participation. Not only has McKnight included all of the familiar traits of panto, he has created a modern show that appeals to all age ranges. Ross Brown has written an all-new set of songs for Peter Panto, all of which are catchy and show off the abilities of those on stage.
Peter Panto marks the return of several Tron panto veterans: Darren Brownlie, Sally Reid, Anita Vettesse and Helen McAlpine and, of course, there are also some new faces in the form of Louise McCarthy and Laura Szalecki. Together they form a very strong cast that are oozing with talent.
 
Reid gives a wonderful performance as Stinkerbell, Peter’s loving sidekick who can never quite admit her true feelings. She engages well with the audience, instantly pulling us into the show and getting lots of laughs for her elaborate descriptions of the flatulence that makes her so proud.  McAlpine is Peter Panto, the boy who never grows up. She possesses an attractive singing voice although it must be admitted that her enthusiastic shouts to the audience may have been a tad too loud from time to time. With this small issue aside, McAlpine delves into the role of Peter and gives it all she’s got. She also briefly plays the unenthusiastic Nana in act one, the Darling’s small and furry maid and babysitter who truly believes she’s seen better times in her career. Tron newcomer McCarthy provides a hilarious “West End” Wendy and fits in perfectly amongst her cast mates, her accent gaining more and more laughs as the night advanced. This ballet loving Wendy is full of energy and also brings a very sweet singing voice to the show. Brownlie, the only male in this cast, briefly plays Mr Darling and then, once we have been transported to Riverland, he becomes the hilarious and down to earth Chai Thai who provides plenty of one liners and Glaswegian slang. Not only a great performer, Brownlie is the choreographer for the show and stands out during many dance routines, dancing in heels with ease as he blends into the almost all female cast. The performance of the night was from Anita Vettesse who shines equally bright as Mrs Darling and Captain New Look. Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of this year’s Tron panto is that the villainous role of Captain Hook we are all familiar with has been transformed and glamorised into a female role that Vettesse thrives in. Both her speaking and singing voices are strong and unique; Vettesse is instantly likable. It’s unusual to see a villain get such a large cheer at the curtain call and this actress certainly deserves all the praise she receives.
       
Grab your tickets, some wings and your eye patch whilst you still can – I predict a sell out show!

REVIEW: Blithe Spirit, Perth Theatre

“One rap for yes, two raps for no”
Blithe Spirit is a rapturous success!
 
With a beautiful Art Deco set and extravagant costumes Blithe Spirit is visual splendour, transporting the audience to 1940’s Perthshire where struggling writer Charles and his second wife Ruth hold a seance led by Madame Arcati – the local medium who’s not quite as in touch with the spirit world as she thinks she is. Arcati contacts Elvira, Charles’ first wife, and brings her back to haunt the house where she once lived and of course, Elvira being her twisted self, she is only too happy to cause a little havoc.
 
Having heard that the setting of this production had been relocated to Perthshire, I had my doubts. Could this show possibly meet the standard of the 1945 film version of Blithe Spiritthat I was so fond of? The moment I entered the curtainless theatre I was greeted with the gorgeous set and several cast members busying themselves on stage – in character – as they prepared for the evening’s entertainment. Any worries were immediately cast aside: this show was already a hit in my book.
 
Anita Vettesse provided a truthful, powerful and sometimes hilarious portrayal of Ruth. Suddenly, the dull character that I found forgettable in the film became the interesting and exceedingly memorable character I was rooting for as I watched the plot develop on stage. Drew Cain was an excellent Charles, the man stuck between his two wives. Again, I found myself becoming fonder of Charles as the story advanced. Sally Reid starred as the mischievous Elvira, the role that is easily the most memorable for anyone who has seen the film. Reid’s performance on occasion echoed that of Kay Hammond, the original Elvira of both stage and screen, but she also made the role her own – it’s safe to say the audience enjoyed her portrayal of Charles’ ghostly first wife. Anne Lacey provided a barrel of laughs as the hilarious yet serious Madame Arcati. From her wacky costumes to her haunting rhymes, Lacey embodied Arcati in every way. A special mention must go out to Scarlett Mack who had the audience giggling before the show even started as the goofy, clumsy and loveable maid, Edith.
 
Johnny McKnight, the director of Blithe Spirit has, along with Kenny Miller’s designs and Kevin Treacy’s lighting, created a wonderful production of the Noël Coward classic that I will cherish for many years to come.
 
I may have travelled 120 miles to see this show but the glamour, the laughter, the talent and the wonderful experience has convinced me to return to the show for its penultimate performance on the afternoon of 16th November.
 
If you live in Scotland and are looking for a fantastic night of laughter, splendour and ghostly goings on then Perth Theatre is the place to be!