awards 2016

Jeff Grant's view

IT’S not until you look back at a year and review what you have written about the performances of 2016, that you realise just how varied and exiting Midlands’s theatre remains both on the professional and amateur stages.

With such a high standard I could mention more than space allows here but instead have concentrated on productions that have remained in my memory.

On the amateur stage The Nonentities continue to be a major force in the region. I am rarely disappointed at the quality of their performances and often question the word amateur when I am sitting in The Rose theatre whilst witnessing one of their productions.

It’s not surprising then that the best drama for me was Breaking the Code in February when I personally claimed it to be ` possibly the best on any Midlands stage this week.’ Hugh Whitmore’s play on the events of Alan Turing’s troubled life and the code breaking of the Enigma machine is a complex story for any group of amateur actors to take on.

The difficult often intimate themes were handled with skill and respect with actor Richard Taylor excelling in his role as Turing. His lead seemed to influence the entire breaking the code castcast who took on the play with real grit and sensitivity and I look forward to the companies work in 2017.

When it comes to musicals one of the key elements of any production for me is simply how well the sound is produced. The Rocky Horror Show at The New Alexandra Theatre in October was memorable with Liam Tamnes take on the glamorous high heeled Dr Frank N Furter leading the cast in an excellent show. 

The cast of The Nonentities' superb Breaking the Code

However my clear choice was Let It Be. Perhaps it’s not a musical in the strictest sense but it definitely is a musical experience.  Even with a power failure interrupting the night no one was budging from their seats. The key for me was the fantastic sound management in the stage recreation of the Beatles material.

The tour has been on the road since 2012 with an often changing line up of musicians who play the fab four, so they have a plenty of time to get it right. For those who grew up with The Beatles but never saw them play, this show is the closest thing you will get to the real thing.

I would say that technically, at times, it maybe even better as the tech to sonically bring this off was just not around when the Beatles were.

On the classical and dance front the intimacy and emotion of  Olga Pericet and her Company in Sin Título, which was a part of the International Dance Festival Birmingham at The Patrick Centre Birmingham Hippodrome, was very special. This stunning evening of Flamenco was enhanced with virtuoso guitar performances from Ms Antonia Jimenez and Pino Losada.

On the alternative front there is no other venue staging the diverse ranges of acts at Cabaret XXL at Birmingham Rep. The once a month, hour long shows have grown in attendance and feature many of the capital’s leading new cabaret acts.

One of the most entertaining of these acts was Figs in Wigs. The five girl team of Rachel Gammon, Suzanna Hurst, Sarah Moore, Rachel Porter and Alice Roots, build a very original show that features their clever take on a whole range of subjects such as the art world and social media. They deliver this in the own unique and original style together with mad outfits and glittery trainers. 

 

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