Tag Archives: Featured

Review: Influence (Theatre Royal Young Company)

By Megan Potterton

The Theatre Royal Young Company return with their latest production this week. Influence is on at The Drum theatre from Wednesday 21st – Saturday 24th August, and is yet another amazing example of the exceptional talent that this young theatre company brings to the stage.

Influence, written by Andy McGregor, is thought provoking, entertaining, funny and at times frightening, and the Young Company have done an amazing job at bringing its characters to life.

The play follows a group of young people who ‘enter a world of illegal data collecting and mind manipulation’ when a local boy goes missing. I will not reveal too much of the plot, as the twists, turns and shock factor of the play truly make it what it is, however the play revolves around technology, adventure, and everything not being as it seems. The writers of Influence have taken inspiration from the likes of Stranger Things, Black Mirror and The Matrix (we were given blue and red ‘pills’/Tic Tacs on our way into the auditorium) to create a story that you can’t help but be drawn into from the very moment the play opens.

Of course, it was not only the play’s plot that captured the audience’s attention on opening night. The company (consisting of a principal cast aged between 14 and 17 years old) immediately brought the play to life with their powerful dialogue and synchronised movements. They created believable and memorable characters and worked incredibly well alongside each other. Each member of the cast was engaging and energetic, adding to the plot with every interaction and facial expression made.

You could certainly feel the energy and excitement of opening night emanate from the cast. Notable performances were given from the young actresses who played Bobby Raferty and Marj Ainsworth, both of whom portrayed interesting and complex characters with what seemed like ease.

The direction, choreography, lighting and sound of this production are also impressive, and definitely play a part in creating a production that leaves such a lasting impact.

Influence is on at The Drum at the Theatre Royal Plymouth until Saturday 24th August. You can buy your tickets here: https://theatreroyal.com/whats-on/influence/#book

British Firework Championships 2019

By Megan Dibben

The British Firework Championships 2019 took place in Plymouth last week. With the amazing turn out of the weather, the outstanding entertainment and the spectacular fireworks displays, it is safe to say the two day event was a brilliant and unmissable one.

There was a lot of speculation as to whether Wednesday night would be worth attending due to Plymouth’s unpredictable weather, however many people were pleasantly surprised by the clear skies; perfect for viewing the fireworks late into the evening. Thousands of people flooded the Barbican’s narrow streets and crowded onto Plymouth Hoe awaiting the firework displays, and by 9pm it was difficult to even roam around the roads due to the amount of people who had arrived. This was an outstanding turn out, and it was lovely to see the people of Plymouth come together for a wonderful night.

The fireworks weren’t the only attraction however, as there were many local acts who performed for the crowds earlier in the evening – and they were spectacular! These included Ocean City Sounds Barbershop Chorus, a four part harmony singing group of around 50 men, Stage Stars musical theatre group and Street Factory dance group. On Thursday evening there were more fantastic performances from Plymkids musical theatre group and Natasha’s Bollywood Dance. These groups gave outstanding performances both nights, adding to the buzz of the evening and providing a wonderful build up to the fireworks displays at the end of the night.

Finally, the moment we all came for arrived, and the first bang of a firework silenced the crowds. The vibrant explosion of purple, red and blue above our heads was stunning, and for one moment everyone was looking in the same direction, watching in awe.

The competitors for Wednesday night were Nemisis Pyrotechnics, Aurora Fireworks and Phoenix Fireworks, however the third display was sadly cancelled due to technical issues. Thursday’s competitors, there were Illusion Fireworks, Selstar Fireworks and 1st Galaxy Fireworks. Selstar Fireworks were crowned the winners of the British Firework Championships 2019 the next day.

All of the displays were absolutely breath-taking however, and I think everyone who watched them can agree with me. Overall, both nights ended on a beautiful finish thanks to these brilliant competitors.

Photo provided courtesy of Will Hexter (Instagram: willh.jpg)

Plymouth Enters Government

By Tobias Chalcraft

After decades of being confined to either the backbenches or the shadow cabinet, Plymouth has now found itself with elected representation working on the government frontbenches.

Johnny Mercer, MP for Plymouth Moor View, has spent some of the last few months supporting Boris Johnson’s campaign for Conservative party leader and Prime Minister, which saw his preferred candidate secure a victory with two-thirds of the votes.

Following royal ascent to the role, the PM splashed the front pages with his new cabinet, as he replaced a significant portion of ministers from Theresa May’s government with MPs that voted for Brexit in 2016 or, like Mercer, supported his leadership bid.

The extensive media coverage and Twitter trends are hardly surprising, with the new cabinet being one of the most diverse and featuring head-turning politicians like Priti Patel, who has been put in charge of keeping our country secure through her promotion to Home Secretary, after being sacked by Theresa May nearly two years ago for holding unofficial talks with the Israeli government.

However, there is another appointment which hasn’t made as many headlines. The Prime Minister has very recently created a government office for ‘Veterans Affairs’. This comes after pressure from the man who will be leading this department, Johnny Mercer, and his collaboration with the Sun newspaper which resulted in both leadership contenders, Mr Johnson and Jeremy Hunt, promising to create a new department which prioritised our Veterans.

Regardless of if you support him or not, Mr Mercer’s role as ‘Minister for Defence People and Veterans’ is the first time that an MP representing a Plymouth constituency has entered government in decades.

After the announcement of his appointment, the Plymouth MP said on Twitter that he “looks forward” to his role, whilst also pointing out that “It’s taken four years, but we finally have an Office for Veterans Affairs in the UK”. He also offered his gratitude to Tom Newton Dunn, the political editor of the Sun, for supporting the campaign to establish this new office.

Some of his supporters will also be quick to point out that being an ex-serviceman and possessing a clear passion on this topic, as demonstrated through his declaration to stop supporting Theresa May’s government until the prosecution of Northern Ireland veterans were halted, will provide the Plymouth MP with the qualifications to excel in this role.

Critics of the new government may see this appointment as offering some comfort, with Mercer having previously said that he wishes to see a more centre-leaning Conservative party which reaches out to more young voters.

Meanwhile, Mr Mercer’s opponents may argue that by joining Boris Johnson’s government, and thus accepting the government’s aim to leave the UK with or without a deal, he has abandoned his goal to reach out to younger voters which predominantly voted to remain in the EU.

Overall, will Johnny Mercer keep his centre-leaning position and, more importantly, will he be able to bring Boris with him? Or has the offer of a government position moved his values towards those of his government colleagues?

Kinky Boots Review: Giving Toxic Masculinity the Boot

By Keiran Potter

A story about family ties and the bounds of friendship, Kinky boots is a fun but moving celebration of humanity. It succeeds in challenging the idea of what it means to be a man, in a world smothered with toxic masculinity. 

A story revolving around a young man inheriting his family business didn’t initially excite the musical theatre geek inside of me. Especially when 1000 pairs of boring brogues are introduced as a plot device. 

However, despite having very little knowledge of the show before attending. I truly loved this musical. It’s silly and fun, yet carries a real message, as great pieces of art often do. It is a political presentation of the working class and the impacts of capitalism and gentrification. More importantly,  it is a touching reflection on masculinity and powerful females, and how humans don’t have to fit into the cookie cutter mould of expectations. Kinky Boots states how the act of accepting people for who they are, is the real key to what makes a man. 

My favourite character was undeniably Lola, the real heart of the show and bringing tears of laughter and of sadness on numerous occasions, portrayed by the talented Kayi Ushe. Lola enters the humdrum city of Nottingham and injects it with her fabulosity. She makes unconventional friendships along the way, allowing the audience to learn the importance of acceptance at the same time as the characters do.

Her presence highlights the power of a pair of heels and passion. The character separates gender from sexuality and shows that all you need is some glitter and determination in order to turn a dream into a future for yourself and those around you. 

The entire cast were excellent, taking you on a real journey with each of their characters. Joel Harper-Jackson, as troubled protagonist Charlie, also deserves a special mention.  At its heart, Kinky Boots is a story about two very different men who realise that, beneath their exterior, they’re made of the same stuff. 

I don’t want to give too much away. But I will say, what an amazing message to share with numerous generations. I couldn’t help but notice the crowd predominantly full of elderly people. To see them laughing along with the numerous drag queens on stage was quite beautiful, an unfamiliar yet stunning dichotomy. 

Looking around further though, I did notice that a lot of the seats were empty. This confused me, as the show progressed and got better and better, with an unmissable moral message. Unfortunately there were just not enough people around to see it. 

I do hope that this was a coincidence and just a quiet night, as I’d hate to think it is the presentation of the characters and subject matter; of drag and breaking down gender barriers, that could have stopped anyone from experiencing this eye opening show for themselves. 

Kinky Boots was on at the Theatre Royal Plymouth from Monday 8th – Saturday 20th July.