REVIEWS:THEATRE The Butler (Bennett) Pleasance Theatre, London 3.5/5 It’s been described as La Clique meets Abigail’s Party with a touch of Lewis Caroll’s Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, or Cirque De Soleil for adults, so with such glowing publicity, expectations were high as I sat down to watch “The Butler”. Yet these expectations were not met, rather exceeded. From start to ﬁnish, “The Butler” has you intrigued and fascinated with the omnipresent and sarcastic butler often narrating the ludicrous happenings that were being performed by the rest of the somewhat talented Loons Circus Theatre Company. Right from the word go, the perfectly executed gymnastics and acrobat skills have the audience in awe. However it’s soon apparent that their athleticism isn’t all that this company has to offer. The story, based around a dinner party with some middle class friends, allows each performer to offer their perfectly over exaggerated characters enhancing them with snippets of speech and sound effects. With their excellent comic timing and singing, you instantly warm to the energetic and hilarious cast.
Portraits of an Actress (Charnock & Meehan) Hotel du Vin, Henley-upon-Thames 4/5 Everybody knows that you must be crazy to try and pursue a career in the arts. There is a distinct lack of funds and an extreme amount of competition. However, RoguePlay’s Kim Charnock and Lorna Meehan have spent the past few years ensuring that a career in the arts can work for them. “Portraits of an Actress” is a collection of factually based comedic sketches based around the highs an lows of a career on the stage. The relaxed setting of the Hotel du Vin suits “Portraits of an Actress” perfectly, the simplistic set (two screens) and a small stage ensure that a level of intimacy is maintained as the dynamic duo command attention. The pair, clearly close friends, share an onstage chemistry akin to that of French and Saunders. Their pally antics allows scene setups to appear nonchalant and costume changes are covered by almost improvised conversation.
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It’s not often you can say every single cast member was essential to the piece and as equally enthralling as the rest but from the breath taking Pas De Deux and Ariel Silk skills of twins Jola and Nele Siezen, to the perfected circus skills of both Daniel Lee Smith and Skye Broberg the cast really does perform. But the most notable performances come from Pascal Ackermann and Sophie Ewart. Ackermann never stops amazing the audience, from his sometimes unbelievable and astonishing acrobatic and gymnastic skills to his abilities to play the accordion, guitar, piano and singing saw, along with ﬁre eating and unicycling this man is non stop from start to ﬁnish. However, Ewart really is the glue that holds this phenomenal cast together, creating faces I never though were humanly possible, along with a voice to be desired by many singers and impressive characterisation. Ewart is without doubt the standout performer of the evening, only enhancing the rest of the stunning cast. With a well deserved standing ovation, I would advise everyone to go and see this incredible piece of theatre before it’s too late. Christopher Hall
However, it is the well-constructed sketches that ensure the pair receive more than just a few titters. After a slow start; neither “A RADA Candidate” nor “On The Dole” truly represent the pairs abilities, Meehan and Charnock get into full ﬂow. As workshop leaders - e it of the women’s or children’s denomination, both excel. Their strong characterisations clearly based on real life experience - yet it is when they play the subjects of the workshops that true talent is at the fore. Charnock is side-splittingly hilarious as she moves between a hapless worker and her council estate attendee. The swift interchange between the two never relents and laughter roars throughout the stage. As “Portraits of An Actress” draws to a close, the pair launch into an adaptation of Lily Allen’s “The Littlest Things”. Exhausted from the toings and froings of their comic masterpiece the pair once again raise the game ensuring that tongues with glee to all their friends about a wonderful night in the theatre. Jeremy Williams