My favourite new shows of 2017

Well it’s that time of year again when I come out of blogging hibernation to write about my favourite shows of the year! Although I saw overall fewer professional productions this year than in 2016, I did manage to fit in 12 shows at the Edinburgh Fringe and another trip to West End Live. So here are my favourite new shows of the year:

Dreamgirls – Savoy Theatre, London

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This was one of my first shows of the year, and what a spectacle it was! Amber Riley was fantastic in the leading role, and the whole company worked together brilliantly to put on a stunning theatrical experience, featuring some highly impressive vocals from both the soloists and the ensemble.

The Addams Family (UK Tour) – Mayflower Theatre, Southampton

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This was the first production of The Addams Family musical in the UK, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. Andrew Lippa’s score is simply fantastic, and the cast were true triple threats, with stand out performances from Cameron Blakely and Carrie Hope Fletcher. I wouldn’t be surprised if a West End transfer is on the cards!

Half a Sixpence – Noel Coward Theatre, London

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Many people would associate this show with Charlie Stemp (who portrayed the lead, Arthur Kipps), but having experienced a flawless performance by his first cover, Sam O’Rourke, I can safely say that the show’s success was not totally reliant on one individual (as fantastic as I’m sure Stemp was in the role!). I adored this fun, cheerful show and really hope to see it again some day.

The Play That Goes Wrong (UK Tour) – Theatre Royal Plymouth

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Oh yes, a play has featured on the list!! This show was definitely one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen, and the fact that it was a touring production (with a touring set!) made it all the more impressive. I loved the way that the performance started as soon as you entered the auditorium, and it was so (hashtag) relatable for those of us who have put on amateur productions ourselves!

Showstopper the Improvised Musical (UK Tour) – Theatre Royal Winchester

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After seeing this show in Edinburgh I was so keen to revisit it – especially as it would, obviously, be a completely different show! I have so much respect for every member of the company, but particularly the band (led superbly by Duncan Walsh Atkins), who I could not take my eyes off! So. Clever.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time (UK Tour) – Mayflower Theatre, Southampton and Theatre Royal Plymouth

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Yes, it’s another play. Yes, I saw it twice. Having read the book several years ago I’ve always been eager to see this show, and it was brilliant. I got to watch two different actors take on the role of Christopher in the two different venues which was so interesting, and I also got the opportunity to go backstage (read about that here). It’s such an enlightening and eye opening show.

School of Rock – New London Theatre, London

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This show is insanely good! I love any show with talented kids in it, and this production took that to another level! The adult cast complemented the child cast brilliantly, and the relations between parents and children were so interesting and often realistic. Oh yeah, and the children formed THEIR OWN BAND. Wow.

The Toxic Avenger – Arts Theatre, London

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So this is another show that I saw in Edinburgh and loved, and had to revisit in London in its full form without any bits cut out! I thought it wasn’t possible for it to get any better, but it absolutely did!! The five cast members were all hilarious, and the ridiculous concept of the show just made it even funnier. Also, the band were on stage which is always a bonus in my eyes.

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Review – Tamar Broadbent’s Get Ugly! – Edinburgh Fringe 2017

Get Ugly - courtesy of Rebecca Pitt

It’s not often that you find a one woman show which is so hashtag relatable (sorry) to 21st century life, but Tamar Broadbent’s Get Ugly definitely manages it. The show mixes stand up comedy and musical theatre style songs to create a fluid show which certainly entertained many different audiences during this year’s festival.

The first thing that struck me upon entering the space was how intimate it was. At this Wednesday afternoon performance there was an audience of around 20-25 people, all facing the small stage area on which Tamar performed – although the aforementioned stage was already partially occupied by a keyboard! Tamar herself welcomed us into the room which was a nice touch – I liked the fact that the performer/audience divide was blurred before the show had even begun, and this was a trend which continued throughout the performance – I very much felt like the audience were Tamar’s new friends, which was such a nice relationship to form within the space of an hour.

The show features several clever and amusing songs about modern day life, specifically focusing on female problems and dating. I particularly enjoyed the musical take on the concept of ‘Facebook suicide’ and the song about dating featuring a male audience member playing the recorder was a hilarious touch. However, these comedic songs were juxtaposed by a heartfelt number about Tamar’s sister, which balanced out the audience’s emotions towards the end of the show.

The target audience is primarily young (single) women, which is understandable given that this is the demographic that Tamar herself falls into, meaning that there were some jokes and songs which were not particularly relevant to certain audience members – but this is surely unavoidable when the material has been written by one individual and is very much rooted in personal experience. But the fact that the show is so rooted in personal experience is definitely a good thing, as it makes it more authentic and real, contributing to the intimate feel of the piece which was apparent from the moment that the audience entered the performance space.

I got the feeling that Get Ugly is a show which changes every single day, depending on who happens to be in the audience – and that’s such a healthy and interesting way to approach a one woman show. It was certainly nice when Tamar referred to us as ‘a very nice Wednesday afternoon audience’, and it was such an awesome feeling to know that we, as a collective, were witnessing a show which would never be performed exactly as we saw it again. I suppose that’s the joy of a solo show in a small performance space – the audience and performer both get so much out of it.

Tamar Broadbent’s Get Ugly is such a perfect show for the Fringe. It’s interesting and constantly engaging, and I’m sure that every audience member was able to relate to and laugh about at least one 21st century first world problem! The venue, while small, is the perfect place for the show, and Tamar’s endearing, likeable and hilarious personality really shines through both her stand up comedy and her original songs. I can’t wait to see where she takes the show next.

1. So I’ve graduated… what next?

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Having graduated with a BA in Music a couple of weeks ago, I’m constantly being faced with the question: ‘what next?’. Thankfully I now have a concrete answer to that question because as of September, I have a proper full time adult job! But before that begins I’ve got a very exciting, theatre filled August – hence my (potentially silly idea) to try and write a blog post every day this month.

I’ve come to realise that this summer is likely to be my final long summer holiday, so I figured I’d better make the most of it. Having filled June and July with volunteering and working in schools to help with musical theatre projects, London trips, job interviews and flat hunting, August sees even more travelling and theatre, as well as a big birthday! First of all I’m taking part in a Youth Music Theatre UK (YMT UK) project as an assistant musical director for their show Jabberwocky, which is to be performed at the Theatre Royal Margate from 18th-20th August (plug plug plug). Having done a project with the company last summer in a lesser role I’m so excited to be involved again and have even more creative input on a fantastic piece of original writing.

I’m also going to visit the Edinburgh Festival Fringe for the first time at the end of the month too. I’ve never been before, mostly due to the fact that I live in Devon, and Scotland is a very long way away from here! However, this year I’m going to deal with the lengthy travel times to go and see lots of theatre for a few days, including some shows which my friends from my (old) uni are taking up (writing ‘old’ uni felt weird. I haven’t had to do that before… *graduate crisis ensues*).

The end of August will see me coming back down to reality from the idyllic world of theatre and moving into my new house and preparing to start my proper job. It’s been and will continue to be a summer full of massive changes… I just find it a bit weird that your whole future is mapped out for you until this point: school, sixth form, uni… but then what? I’ve always been adamant that I didn’t want to move back home after uni, and although I have done that for the summer, it’s only temporary. However, when viewing places to live and being faced with adult talk about taxes and deposits and bills and pension schemes, a very small part of me wished I could escape it all and remain a well looked after child at home! But no, I love the freedom I’ve had at uni and I think continuing that immediately is the best thing for me to do – especially as my new job is close to the city I’ve lived in for the last 3 years.

So yes, expect many a blog this month. I’m excited to chronicle all my new experiences this summer and hope that no one gets too fed up with my incessant posting!

Get Ugly! – An interview with Tamar Broadbent

Get Ugly - courtesy of Rebecca Pitt
Photo credit: Rebecca Pitt

I was lucky enough to get the chance to interview comedy writer and performer Tamar Broadbent about her show, Get Ugly! which she is taking to the Edinburgh Fringe this summer. Here’s what she had to say about it:

Hi Tamar. Your one woman show Get Ugly is returning to the Edinburgh Fringe this year. Could you tell me a bit about the show?

Get Ugly is a musical comedy about navigating newly single life after a break-up, with songs and stories about weird online dates, dodging hipsters, envying gym girls, freaking out about STDs and desperately trying to keep body hair under control. It’s about learning how to be a strong, independent woman (after figuring out what that actually means) and re-discovering your self-confidence after feeling (emotionally) like you’ve fallen bum-first in a dirty puddle.

How did the show’s premise come about? How much of it is rooted in personal experience?

 It’s all inspired by autobiographical events. When funny things happen that I believe are noteworthy, I try to turn them into songs. If they’re not a whole song, I try to turn them into a joke. For me it’s all about transforming life into lolz, trauma into un-tempo catchy tunes and a relatable lesson learned into something an audience can enjoy for an hour.

You’ve taken the show to Australia – how has the show been received so far by audiences across the globe?

At the Perth Fringe Festival earlier this year, Get Ugly was nominated for Best Comedy Show, which was incredibly exciting and made me spend ages dancing by myself on a train platform. I’ve also performed the show in Prague and Germany where it went down really well. I think certain things are universal… like heartbreak and vaginas.

How does it feel to be performing your own self written show at the largest arts festival in the world?

 Edinburgh is my favourite place in the world. I know it like the back of my foot – sort of and some bits of it still surprise me, but I’ve performed at the festival for five years running and it feels like my home away from home. To be performing this show there, having taken it across the globe and back, feels like what I’ve been excitedly waiting to do for ages.

Have you made any changes to the show for this year’s stint in Edinburgh?

I’ve added two new songs and am saying a lot of things I haven’t previously said (that makes it sound like they’re ground-breaking things – they’re not. Perhaps compost-breaking). The whole thing’s had a re-vamp and is finally where I feel I’ve always wanted it to be. I’ve very proud of the show and can’t wait to share it with everyone.

What is it like performing a one woman show every night? Does it get tiring being the solo performer?

It of course requires you to be in good shape (she says eating pizza and drinking wine) but I find performing a show that you love can give you more energy not less. I once did a student play at the Fringe that I hated and afterwards I slept until December. Now – I am very much alive and awake and not at all addicted to caffeine (stop shaking, Tamar!).

What do you think Get Ugly can teach audiences about 21st century female empowerment?

 I’m not a fan of the word ‘teach’ because I’m not sure I’m 100% qualified to impart wisdom when I still tie my shoelaces using the bunny ears method. However, I hope that Get Ugly will ‘show’ the audience that we all go through those ‘ugly’ bits of life that we hope people will never find out about, that you never see in a perfectly filtered Instagram existence. That we all have awkward, mortifying moments in life and that they don’t define us – that it’s possible to celebrate them and point and laugh at them and even turn them into songs!

I would love the show to teach that being bullied by the media, others and ourselves about how beautiful we think we are or are not is a miserable waste of time. Like many girls I grew up believing that beauty was value, and I allowed my sense of self-worth to be affected by how ‘attractive’ I thought I was, and especially how ‘attractive’ I thought other people (namely, boys) thought I was. Performing comedy was the first thing that really helped me get away from this mode of thinking and it’s something I wish I could make the teenage girls believe who I now see obsessively watching make-up tutorials on YouTube.

The show’s not overtly about this – I wanted to explore these issues and especially the relationship between appearance and female self-confidence whilst first and foremost telling a very real, human story about heartbreak and loss and, most importantly, making people laugh.

What is your favourite moment in the show and why?

At the moment, it’s a new song I’ve just added which involves an audience member that if you want to find out about you will have to come and see the show (!). It’s crazy and absurd and I love it (the audience seem to as well, which is a real plus!). My favourite moment of the show changes every day though, because the show changes every day.

Have you got any funny stories or mishaps that have happened during performances that you can tell me about?

In Australia, a guy who I’d gotten up on stage with me said, on mic, ‘there’s lipstick on your teeth, that’s why everyone’s laughing at you’. I called him a bearded c**t and we low-fived. It was all very good natured, but the irony didn’t escape me that I performed the rest of a show about how we shouldn’t care so much what we look like whilst trying after every other line to subtly tongue away a non-existent stain from my two front teeth, all the time crying on the inside.

Where would you like to take Get Ugly next?

America. Canada. Hull. Anywhere that will have me!

 Tamar Broadbent: Get Ugly will be playing at Underbelly Med Quad (Clover), Teviot Place, Edinburgh, EH8 9AG from Wednesday 2nd – Monday 28th August 2017 (not 14th) at 17:30.