Morphic Graffiti, Part 30 and the Review Round Up and first Production Photos!

sherlock2sherlock4The Revenge of Sherlock Holmes! has opened! Hoorah! After a jam packed rehearsal period and a long and exhausting technical rehearsal process, the show opened (albeit 45 minutes late!) last Wednesday evening and press have been attending since Friday night’s press night. The audience response has been nothing short of fantastic and the critics appear to share the same opinion. We have brought all the current reviews together in our ‘Review Round Up’ which is below.

Apologies to our faithful blog readers for the lack of blog updates during rehearsals. The workload for everyone has been immense and everyone has barely had time to rest their eyes let alone open the laptop and type!

Both Stewart and I can only begin to thank the hard work, determination and sheer grit that everyone involved in the project has invested in the production. It is quite incredible to think that just five weeks ago we all met up for the first day of rehearsals with a bizarre idea of taking an existing piece and setting it in the world of Victorian Music Hall.

I will blog more details about the work that has gone on, but for now, please enjoy our reviews and a sneak peak at the production photos. Book your tickets now! You are not going to want to miss this!

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Here’s what the critics have said so far:

WHATSONSTAGE ****
“Treachery, turmoil, tweed!” a mantra sounded on your average night out in east London and a perfect epigram to Morphic Graffiti’s The Revenge of Sherlock Holmes!

It’s a story that Arthur Conan Doyle would appreciate, crammed full of intrigue, innuendo and irony all adding up to an appropriately wry homage to the Holmes writer. Andrea Miller playing the dame somehow manages to channel both Miranda Richardson’s Queen Elizabeth and June Brown’s Dot Branning.

These songs are certainly unique … A hilarious duet in a morgue followed by the singularly best cockney rhyming slang themed song I have ever heard intoxicate the audience and are surely a much better use of the musical form than many West End shows seem to manage.

The company certainly does not seem to need the budget of such shows either. The costumes cannot be faulted and have been clearly put together with much craft. They are paraded upon a wonderful set with plenty of appropriate trap doors and the play is eminently enhanced by working around such a ramshackle and distinctly Victorian stage.

Reviving the old music hall without simply parodying the 19th century content it once held is no mean feat, but for such a loud and proud cast, enjoying themselves and their sources, it is certainly elementary, my dear readers.

THE PUBLIC REVIEWS *****
It begins from the moment you step through the doors into the old music hall…an absolutely stunning piece of musical theatre.

There are many things that make this musical worth every penny of admission and more. Not least the fantastic detailing in both the words and music, but in the set and costumes by Stewart Charlesworth as well.

The original songs and music by one of the most well regarded theatrical composer of the last few decades, Leslie Bricusse, are just perfect and when combined with the choreography of Lee Proud bring the Victorian music hall setting to true and vibrant life.

On a more serious note, the historical authenticity of this music hall style will delight any aficionados of the form. The work itself is a near perfect transposition of the Opera buffa style into a music hall setting, something referenced with a very neat joke in the performance itself.

This is theatre that relies on surprises (of which there are many) and, of course, mystery so telling any more just wouldn’t be fair.

There are so many other reasons to recommend this show, far too many to mention. Suffice to say, Morphic Graffiti (the same company who gave us the hit Jekyll and Hyde last year), have created a stunner. It is sad to think that there may be some unfortunate people who will not get a chance to see this show before it closes.

TIME OUT
If you’re going to pay homage to Victorian music hall culture in 2013, how better to do so than with someone as popular now as he was back then? That’s precisely what young theatre company Morphic Graffiti has done in this follow up to its well received 2012 debut ‘Jekyll and Hyde’.
The joy of Luke Fredericks’s production is in the detail, from the audience banter to the puppetry, magic tricks, purpose-built proscenium arch and cardboard cut-out scenery. Played across every level of the atmospheric, authentically Victorian Hoxton Hall, it beautifully evokes entertainment from a different era.

….there’s much to enjoy, from Amanda Goldthorpe-Hall’s brilliantly hammy opera singer to a hilarious Stephen Leask ad-libbing effortlessly as the hapless Inspector Lestrade.


ONE STOP ARTS *****
Victorian venue Hoxton Hall marks 150 years with an absurdly enjoyable production of Leslie Bricusse’s Holmes musical: Morphic Graffiti, following up 2012’s Jekyll & Hyde, hit paydirt with this welcome revival into which a talented and exhaustingly energetic cast fling themselves with gusto. Slap on your deerstalker and string up your disbelief for this all-singing, all-dancing caper through the greatest Holmes case that never was.

….the joy of this show is that it’s done with exactly the right mixture of affection and irreverence to please hardcore Holmesians and ordinary punters alike.

Bricusse’s lyrics are witty, complex and sharp where they need to be, sweet when the song demands; his melodies are catchy, hummable and varied enough to retain musical interest, and his book boasts some great gags, characterful, credible dialogue and a cracker of a plot.

Luke Fredericks’s peppy, beguiling production pays homage to its venue’s history by incorporating elements of music-hall into the show, and this stylistic choice works brilliantly…

John Cusworth (Dr Watson) also has bags of charm and presence, yet despite looking like John Barrowman’s sexier older brother, he’s not just a pretty face: his cheerful, gung-ho Watson lights up the stage and garners some of the biggest laughs in songs like “Halcyon Days”, a morgue-set duet which recalls the farcical absurdism of a Mel Brooks movie.

…with Stewart Charlesworth’s kaleidoscopic period costumes and ingenious set, and the contagious air of loving every damn second exuded by the cast, it would be churlish to give this show less than five stars.

It’s rare to find a musical even non-musical-fans can love, but with its panto panache, boundless energy, toe-tapping tunes and mischievous sense of fun, The Revenge of Sherlock Holmes is it.

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FRONT ROW DRESS *****
After Leslie Bricusse (Doctor Dolittle, Willy Wonka, Victor Victoria) caught and approved of sharp new production team Morphic Graffiti’s contemporary updating of his Jekyll and Hyde at the Union last year, he suggested that they have a stab at his 1989 Sherlock Holmes musical. Director Luke Fredericks and designer Stewart Charlesworth came up with the ingenious idea of transforming the show into a music hall romp, hence the perfect marriage of material to performance space.

None of that brief synopsis does remote justice to the unalloyed joy that emanates from every pore of every member of the superb cast. Dressed in beautiful bright period costumes on cartoon-like sets they deliver Bricusse’s perky score full of tuneful ensemble numbers.

The witty cockney rhyming slang of Apples n Pears is raucously staged and choreographed by the ingenious Lee Proud and some soul-searching ballads bring pathos to Andrea Miller’s superficially blousy crowd-pleasing Mrs Hudson and Leonie Heath’s revenge hungry Bella Spellgrove.

Sherlock himself is brought sharply to life by tousle haired Colin Firth lookalike Tim Walton, always one step ahead of all around him. Walton is another of those West End stars-in-waiting with oodles of charisma and a calm centred presence when all around is artful chaos.

With a sense of history permeating the proceedings onstage and the building itself, it is impossible not to get caught up in the melodrama and fun, with even the darker moments played for laughs (yes the drug habit gets a mention, but not enough to scare the kids). Peppered throughout with classic illusions and with an interval singalong to encourage stragglers back from the bar, this is top notch entertainment for all the family, take your granny or your grandchild and I guarantee that they will love every moment. Take a date or a mate and you won’t be disappointed.

THE STAGE
Director and designer team Luke Fredericks and Stewart Charlesworth have collaborated with author Leslie Bricusse for this production and re-worked the problematic musical as a fantasia on Victorian Music Hall.

This conceit succeeds to a greater extent and the incorporation of vigorous choreography, magic tricks and stock characters instantly recognisible from the halls, go some way to reconciling the musical’s difficulties. Charlesworth’s inventive set features some charming touches.

The ensemble works extremely hard recreating the flavour of the music hall experience and there are some great moments, especially from Stephen Leask’s melodramatic Inspector Lestrade, Amanda Goldthorpe-Hall’s mysterious Signora Moriarty and Andrea Miller proves a firm favourite with the audience as a garrulous Mrs Hudson.

Tim Walton hits just about the right note as a musical Holmes, channelling a Boys’ Own enthusiasm to bring lighter touches to the notoriously sombre detective and his relationship with John Cusworth’s Dr Watson develops as a recognisable double act of sorts. Holmes’ unfulfilled romance with Leonie Heath’s playful Bella certainly benefits from a broader handling of the material and its conclusion is far more satisfying in this mould.

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REVIEWSGATE
A musical delight in a Palace of Varieties

Ramshackle, spirited and frequently very funny Luke Frederick’s staging of this old Leslie Bricusse musical suggests that it really is worth a second look.

Bricusse’s score is sparkling, his lyrics genuinely witty – there is a terrific rhyming slang Apples and Pears number – and on the face of it the show deserves a revival. It also benefits from a good cast with Tim Walton making a very dashing Sherlock, more ladies man than the usual desiccated bachelor, and Leonie Heath a delightful Bella trying to decide whether to kill or marry the man. Andrea Miller – clearly the Hoxton Hall’s resident harridan star – almost stops the show as Mrs Hudson who is presented as a man mad widow rather than a provider of comfort to two bachelor boys.


A YOUNGER THEATRETransported back to the late 1800s, the audience was treated to an intimate, hilarious performance of a play which tells the story of Sherlock Holmes’s return from the Reichenbach falls, and his readjustment to a boring society without his arch nemesis, Professor Moriarty.

Introduced by the brilliant Dr. Watson – played here by John Cusworth – we are led through an adventure with chases through London, which takes on the high spirits of the music hall era with a somewhat frenetic pace that is held together by the fantastic band which accompanies the cast – and what a cast this is. With a pedigree which names at least six West-End musicals, the cast has an impressive history – and it shows in their performances. Holmes, played by Tim Walton, is especially fantastic, encapsulating the traditional, sharp demeanour of the detective, whilst also revealing his softer side as he faces the beautiful Bella Spellgrove (Leonie Heath). Soon finding himself in deep water, however, it’s up to Dr. Watson, Inspector Lestrade and the Baker Street Irregulars to save the day.
Luke Fredericks and Nathan Jarvis, as Director and Musical Director respectively, have done a wonderful job to fill the small space of Hoxton Hall with laughter and song, perfectly balancing a comic self-awareness with the sincere desire to see a job well done.

In an age where Sherlock Holmes is in almost every direction you look, it’s somewhat nice to see a return to the stories in their original Victorian setting, with corsets, petticoats and top hats. Though the production needs polishing, which will likely come further into the run, for such a fresh idea – to adapt the play to the space, rather than attempting the opposite – The Revenge of Sherlock Holmes is a hugely exciting piece.

PLAYS TO SEE
There is one very good reason to see this Hoxton Hall revival of Leslie Brisusse’s 1988 show, The Revenge of Sherlock Holmes: Lee Proud’s choreography is the finest I’ve seen this year outside the West End, and is drilled with military precision into a more than capable ensemble.

And what of the show? Well, there are laughs aplenty in Morphic Graffiti(the producer)’s re-setting of the show as a ‘Music Hall Entertainment’, and the venerable setting of the 150 year old Hoxton Hall becomes as much a star as any single member of the cast.

The cast do sterling work with what they have been given and under the sure and witty directorial hand of Luke Fredericks make the evening an entertaining one.

Tim Walton as Sherlock Holmes is splendidly versatile in what is a physically quite demanding role. John Cusworth plays Dr Watson for laughs, but as we are watching a ‘show within a show’ this seems entirely appropriate. His eyebrows alone should be up for an Offie. Amanda Goldthorpe-Hall, dressed unnervingly like an ENO Queen of the Night by costume designer Stewart Charlesworth, brings operatic gravitas to her role as Signora Moriarty, able assisted by a charmingly ingénue-ish performance from Leonie Heath as Bella Spellgrove. Andrea Miller, in the role of sexually frustrated housekeeper, Mrs Hudson, is every bit the predatory cougar, and the principles are rounded off by a suitably plod-like Stephen Leask as Inspector Lestrade.

Praise should be heaped, however, on ‘The Baker Street Irregulars’- effectively the boys and girls of the chorus. Ryan Pidgen, Adam Pendrich, Benjamin Bond, Rachel Ensor, Nicola Martin, and Melanie Brown are the sticking tape holding this show together.