The Mystery of Irma Vep Review

After months of anticipation, I finally got to see The Mystery of Irma Vep on stage at the Pieter Toerien Theatre at Montecasino and I was in hysterics.

 Get in the right mood by listening to this ambient music while reading this.

Opening Night

#IrmaVepSA Play
The kinds of attention to detail that does so much more than set the tone

I was invited to an exclusive gala evening that didn’t disappoint. The foyer was decorated in a spooky Victorian style, including a coffin with a mummy on display. The dimly lit reception was illuminated by candles that were scattered all over the place in true Victorian fashion. Speaking of fashion, the dress code for the evening was ‘Victorian Chic’. I love to dress up so I enjoyed that touch because not many shows worry about the dress code. For me, what you wear is just as much a part of the experience so I was keen to participate. Most people didn’t go all out but some people dressed to the nines wearing top hats and tailcoats or corsets and feathers, which really added to the experience.

Guests were welcomed with a complimentary programme, new Cadbury Roundie and glass of wine. After mingling with the other theatre-enthusiasts we were ushered to our seats in a dimly lit theatre accompanied by creepy music to set the mood.

The Play

The Mystery of Irma Vep is a satire of several theatrical, literary and film genres, including Victorian melodrama, farce, the penny dreadful, Wuthering Heights and the Alfred Hitchcock film, Rebecca.  

#IrmaVepSA Set
The Mystery of Irma Vep set as guests arrive

Set on a remote manor called Mandacrest, the audience soon finds out something is amiss. Between the horrors of a marauding beast terrorising the estate and the looming presence of the recently deceased former mistress Irma Vep, matters become awkward in the extreme for Lord Edgar and his new wife, Lady Enid.

The cast of two, Jonathan Roxmouth (The Phantom of the Opera, Sunset Boulevard, West Side Story) and Weslee Swain Lauder (Sweeney Todd, Call Me Lee, Starlight Express) play the 8 distinct characters in the story. Not only are these two actors extremely gifted performers but the swapping of characters and costumes was remarkable. Their comedic timing and overall performances had the crowd in stitches from beginning to end. The story is intriguing and hilarious at the same time, which makes for quite a unique experience.

The staging and blocking of each actor was coordinated impeccably as they seamlessly transitioned between luny characters. The intricate wardrobe design by Pierre du Plessis, scenic design by Nadine and Louis Minnaar and lighting design by Oliver Hauser played key roles in immersing the audience in the story.

The show came together flawlessly and was a real crowd pleaser. If you like to laugh, then you’ve got to see The Mystery of Irma Vep. The production will be on at Pieter Toerien’s Theatre at Montecasino from 5 to 30 July and at Theatre On The Bay in Cape Town from 2 to 19 August 2017. Make your booking at Computicket and like the production’s Facebook page while you’re at it. Be sure to use the play’s hashtag on social media – #IrmaVepSA.

#IrmaVepSA 2017

Have you seen the show? What were your thoughts?

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An Honest Review of Janice Honeyman’s 2016 Pantomime

I haven’t been to many pantomimes, but the ones I’ve been to I’ve enjoyed. Unfortunately, I’ve got to admit that this year’s Janice Honeyman production of Robin Hood and the Babes in the Wood was a bit of a dud for me.

Theatre review

Wins:

The sets were incredibly done – something you can’t fault these productions on is the amount of work that goes into designing and creating the costumes, props, and sets. In terms of production, the play was top notch.

Reference to topical news – as we’ve all come to expect and love, the classic fairytale was brought to life with humour, and often made reference to recent news and pop culture in clever ways. Incorporating recognisable popular songs was also a lot of fun.

The villains were great – the characters were so over the top and hilarious that they really stole the show. More than the characters were the actors who brought them to life. Both the male and female villain were perfectly cast, which made all the difference.

Losses:

The storyline was weak and ridiculous – there was no even semi-logical format for the story. Not only that, but the story was unnecessarily complicated with ‘plot twists’ that didn’t make a significant impact to the story, while others could’ve easily been explained but weren’t. In addition, certain parts of the story were absolutely random. The main villain is conquered by the random appearance of characters from pop culture that he has a phobia of… Surely there are more creative ways of concluding the story.

Robin Hood was by no means a hero – although Robin Hood is the main character of the story, his merry men seemed to do most of the rescuing, and as mentioned, he didn’t defeat the main villain in the end either.

I’m all for productions aimed at a younger audience, but this year’s pantomime was a disappointment. That’s not to say there weren’t elements I enjoyed, but overall I expected more. Usually, there is something in it for children and adults alike, but Robin Hood and the Babes in the Wood seemed to not quite fit into any category. Let’s see if Honeyman can defend her title as the pantomime queen in 2017’s production.

Final thoughts: If you go to watch the pantomime every year, go and see it, but lower your expectations. If it’s a first for you, rather give it a miss. 

Singin’ in the Rain Review – South African Tour

The stage production is based on the 1952 film, vastly considered one of the greatest on-screen musicals of all time. I’ve loved the music and story from Singin’ in the Rain ever since I saw it years ago. When I heard it was going to be on stage, I knew I HAD to go and see it.

Thanks to a little help from a friend, I managed to get tickets to the opening night of the first Johannesburg performance of the show. From the moment you near the theatre, you know that it’s going to be a memorable occasion. Dozens of umbrellas are used as decor and even the ushers dress the part in yellow raincoats!

fantomdan reviewThe show was incredible! The production is packed with elaborate costumes, catchy music, stunning lighting, and of course, the rain! Not only were the technical aspects flawless, but the amazing vocals and world class choreography demonstrated that local talent is very much alive and well in South Africa. The months of planning and rehearsals come together effortless resulting in a truly mesmerising experience.

Would I recommend the South African tour of Singin’ in the Rain? Yes! Absolutely. Whether you’re a fan of the movie or know nothing about the story, I guarantee that you will leave the show having loved every minute of it. You are so immersed in the music, dance numbers and story that you feel like you have been transported to another time and can’t help but leave in good spirits.

The entire experience was so amazing that I ended up going again for the final show and the experience was just as magical. Should you get the chance to see it on a stage near you, I recommend you make every effort to see it.

Final thoughts: The translation onto stage was spot on and showcased South African talent at it’s best. 

Want to see more? Watch the video below of my experience at the opening night of Singin’ in the Rain at The Teatro at Montecasino: