May 23rd, 2012

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Some Like It Hip Hop, ZooNation Dance Company, Peacock Theatre, Sadler's Wells

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This feature was originally posted in October 2011 but I am re-running it because I was at Sadler's Wells tonight, I picked up their new Autumn 2012 brochure, and I found out that "Some Like It Hip Hop" is returning to the Peacock Theatre in September 2012. I loved this production when I saw it last year and I am highly recommending it to everyone, and in particular to people with children and teenagers, especially if they are interested in dance.

Cut and pasted from the Sadler's Wells website:

ZooNation Dance Company "Some Like It Hip Hop", Peacock Theatre
Thurs 20 Sep 2012 – Sat 13 Oct 2012

ZooNation’s Some Like It Hip Hop was one of the most successful new shows to hit the West End last year, wowing audiences and prompting widespread critical praise, five star reviews and standing ovations with its infectious “wit, heart and magnificent energy” (The Independent). Already following in the footsteps of its phenomenal 2006 smash hit Into the Hoods, Some Like It Hip Hop unites truly sensational dancing with a typically clever and engrossing storyline.

Fast becoming a modern classic, the show makes a triumphant return to the Peacock Theatre for a limited run before it sets off on its first UK tour, having been nominated for multiple awards including two Oliviers and a South Bank Award. With a nod to Billy Wilder’s film and Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, it tells a comical tale of love, mistaken identity, cross-dressing and revolution; all played out in ZooNation’s trademark style of hip hop, comedy and physical theatre.

Directed by Kate Prince, Some Like It Hip Hop also features ground shaking original music by Josh Cohen and DJ Walde.

For more details on the production and to book tickets follow the link:

Raks's Reaction


I see a fair amount of dance but I rarely write about it because I am not really qualified to do so (I did both tap and ballet when I was a little girl but gave both up before secondary school). However, that said, there is no way I was not going to talk about THIS!

The energy levels for this show are off the scale. The dance is street, urban and cool (old fogey language - I am an old fogey!). The tricks that some of these dancers can perform are mind-blowing. There is live singing which is out of this world. Unlike a lot of contemporary and modern dance, there is a real story, with a proper plot, told in this piece.

It spoke to me for a range of reasons. The hero loves books, yet is not portrayed as a "geek". The character is played by Tommy Franzen, one of the real stars of the show, and the piece shows that reading broadens and enriches your mind. Women dress up as men, because they are no longer allowed good jobs in the real world. They do this and the problems this leads to are comically portrayed. It clearly shows that women are the equals of men and as good as men (which of course we are!). It speaks about urban protest, revolution and standing up against authority for your rights (come on the revolution!). It has "LOVE". It speaks about family - especially the father/daughter relationship - and single parenting. And it has more to say about Grief and what it can do to a person than Mike Leigh's Grief at the National Theatre (I am being 100% sincere here). It is packed to the brim with energy, passion and ideas. The audience reception both through the piece and, specifically, at the end, where there is a proper grand finale was the like I have not seen in a West End Theatre for a long time (this was because there were a lot of young people in the audience and a lot of BME people in the audience). This is the sort of theatre and the sort of show I want to see on full-time in the West End, alongside all the other long-running muscials. Also, just like One Man, Two Guvnors, it shows people that theatre is fun and a great night out for all the family.

I am highly recommending this show to people with children and teenagers, especially Black boys and young Black men. This is not a "Black" show as such, but the vast majority of the dancers and singers are Black or mixed race, and the show has a lot of Black attitude and culture built into its DNA. It definitely has Black energy and passion running right through it. It shows these young people that Black and mixed race performers can be the leads on a West End stage. I want children and young people to see theatre that makes them feel alive and happy and that makes them want to become performers on the stage. This show is it! It will show boys and young men that dancing is hip and cool and not just for sissies. That you can be a real man, testosterone filled, and yet dance like an angel, and that this is something to aspire to, not denigrate and laugh at.

On a personal level, recently there was a project manager post advertised at a small charity which specialised in boxing and martial arts. I have no issue with martial arts. I have a huge issue with boxing. After a lot of soul-searching, I did not put in an application. Whilst I appreciate boxing can teach you disicpline, keep you fit, give you a positive and constructive outlet, teach you respect for authority and provide you with good role models, boxing's goal is to hit someone else's head so hard you knock them out. Over time this causes irreparable brain damage. How could I promote and support that? This is what I would want to promote and support and sell. High energy, creative, mind-blowing dance, that knocks the audience off their feet and delivers a standing ovation every night. I want children and young people to perform not box (sorry, as usual, I have got on my soapbox!).

I will get off my soapbox and say - I am highly recommending this to children and adults alike, it is a fun night out for all the family at the theatre, the dance and the music is mind-blowing, and the issues dealt with make you think and use your mind. Book to see it now!
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Chariots of Fire, Hampstead Theatre

Image of Harold Abrahams winning the 100m in the 1924 Olympics courtesy of Mary Evans Picture Library.

Cut and pasted from the Hampstead Theatre website:

Chariots of Fire, Hampstead Theatre

Adapted for the stage by Mike Bartlett
Directed by Edward Hall
Until 16 June 2012

Bring me my Bow of burning gold;
Bring me my Chariot of fire!

1924. The Paris Olympic Games.

A devout Scottish Christian runs for the glory of God. The son of an immigrant Lithuanian Jew runs to overcome prejudice. Two young track athletes who live for the beautiful purity of running and who prevail in the face of overwhelming odds.

Based on the extraordinary true story of Eric Liddell and Harold Abrahams, Chariots of Fire is an Olympic tale of hope, honour and belief.

Mike Bartlett is bringing one of the most thrilling Olympic stories to the stage for the first time in a dazzling new adaptation from Colin Welland's original screenplay (His plays include 13 for the National and Love, Love, Love for Paines Plough). Directed by Hampstead Theatre's Artistic Director Edward Hall, Chariots of Fire promises to be the theatrical event of our Olympic year. Award winning designer Miriam Buether will be transforming Hampstead Theatre into its very own stadium giving an immersive experience that evokes the 1924 Paris Olympics. The production will also feature the music of the legendary Vangelis score with additional live music and arrangements by Tony Award winning composer Jason Carr.

For full production details and to book tickets, follow the link:

James McArdle as Harold Abrahams and Jack Lowden as Eric Liddell
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Raks's Reaction

I saw this at a preview on Saturday 19 May (it had its press night yesterday) and it totally and utterly blew me away. I thought it was one of the most amazing things I have ever seen at the theatre. It made my heart race and stop dead at the same time!

I originally booked to see it purely because London is hosting the Olympics this year. I am not going to a single London sporting Olympics event (I will be watching at home on my telly, like most people, or at All Souls on the big screen). But I had booked to see this as this was my way of paying tribute to the fact that London is hosting the Olympics this year. This is the closest I am getting to the London Olympics! If you are not able to get the Olympic tickets that you want, I highly recommend coming to see this as an alternative; being a theatre not a sports fan, I would argue that this is way better!

The first thing I wanted to talk about was the staging. I can honestly say that I think the staging is quite simply the best I have ever seen. As the audience walked in, everyone commented on how the theatre had been transformed into a stadium. It really looked and felt like a stadium.

Over the course of the show, the stage becomes many things, including the closed and closeted world of Cambridge, and all the settings are 100% believable and convincing. The staging totally transported me to that time, that place and that world, be that Cambridge, Scotland or Paris.

There is a great prologue to the piece with the actors all on stage, warming up. Stretching, preparing, jogging, running around the track, all set to music. I loved that!

Which brings me onto the second thing that I wanted to talk about, the actors. The acting across the whole ensemble was exceptional. It is unfair to single people out but I am going to give a special shout out to a few of the actors who spoke to my heart. Jack Lowden. I have never seen him before in anything and he just blew me away. He really conveyed a young man, torn between his passion for running and his family/family duties and responsibilities, who was steadfast and resolute in standing his ground and sticking to his principles ("I won't run on the Sabbath"), even in the face of pressure from HRH Prince of Wales. James McArdle was excellent. He played Agathon in Emperor and Galilean and so, like all the actors associated with that production, will always have a special place in my heart. Finally Sam Archer, who I have seen many times in a range of productions for New Adventures, was also exceptional; he always is.

The energy and excitement that the actors put onto the stage was phenomenal. This was especially true of all the "races" that were shown, right from the dash around the College Quad to the 100m and the 400m at the Paris Olympics. The staging is such that the track snakes right round and through the audience so that the actors are running at full tilt right by you as an audience member. This is a real thrill! And the constant firing of the starting gun never failed to make me jump every time it went off, even though I was expecting it!

There is a lot of music, singing and dancing in the production, which I was not at all expecting. James McArdle can sing very well! The music was usually live and all of it was fun and energetic. The music and dance ranged from waltzes, to "Three Little Maids", to Scottish music and dancing!

This is probably the closest you can get to immersive and interactive theatre in a theatre of this size. Obviously, if you are in a smaller space, or you are promenading etc, it is easier to get the audience interaction going, and for the audience to feel a part of the piece. I really felt a part of the piece, I was totally involved and engaged from the off, and actually I was desperate to get on the stage and join in! (don't worry, I didn't!). The audience in this show are part and parcel of the piece, they create the specific energy of the show on the night that they are seeing it.

The finale with both the Chariots of Fire theme tune and Jerusalem playing really spoke to me, bringing a tear to my eye and tugging at my heart. It really meant a lot to me. (I joined in singing Jerusalem; I couldn't resist; it is my favourite hymn of all time! Then again I used to join in with reciting The Lord's Prayer at the end of Emperor and Galilean!).

I gave the production a standing ovation. That was on a preview and that was the first time I saw it. I could do no less; to have given anything less than a standing ovation would have been a travesty.

I saw the original Chariots of Fire film on or around its original release date in the early 80s. I have only ever seen it once. I had considered re-watching it as homework for this production. In the end I decided not to. I am glad that I made that choice. It allowed me to come to the piece fresh, with no preconceived ideas or notions. It also meant I let the piece carry me with it, rather than knowing too much where it was going to take me. All of that was to the good. I will re-watch the film later in the Summer.

In a nutshell, mind-blowing and amazing. Truly exceptional. I know you might think I have been saying that a lot lately but I have to tell it like it is!

Once the production has closed at the Hampstead, it will be transferring to the Gielgud Theatre in the West End. The run will start on the 22 June and it is currently booking through until 10 November. For more details and to book tickets for the show's run at the Gielgud, follow the link:

Jack Lowden: Go Jack Go! Run like the wind!
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