Review – Get Up Stand Up, Lyric Theatre, London, 29th December 2022

Get Up Stand UpWe walked past the Lyric Theatre on the evening of Wednesday 28th December to see the “House Full” sign up, which I thought was a good sign (in more than one way) that there was still interest in this show; and indeed, when we turned up for the matinee on Thursday 29th December there was barely a seat available; which made me ask myself why the heck are they closing this show whilst it’s still doing such great business? I guess that’s a question for Mr. Producer; don’t ask me.

David AlburyAudiences have been Getting Up and Standing Up (although only when told to!) since October 2021 and I’m really glad to have had the chance to see this show before it closes on Saturday 8th January. According to the Nimax Theatre website, there are just two (yes, that’s 2) seats left unsold between now and the end of the run. So they’re obviously doing something right.

Bob and RitaIn fact, they’re doing almost everything right. This is a gloriously entertaining show and performed with tremendous style and warmth. Staged with intimacy, the show instantly strikes a terrific connection between the performers and the audience, with David Albury as Bob Marley introducing us all to the entire cast with whom we will spend the next two and a half hours. We watch the rise (talent) and fall (ill health) of Bob Marley, his life and loves (11 children apparently, from many mothers, so Jah certainly provided), his influence on both the music and political scenes; and a reacquaintance (if like me, it’s been quite a while since Marley has been on your turntable) with his amazing music. It’s been a full five days since we saw the show, and his tunes haven’t stopped going through our heads ever since. In fact, almost the first thing we did when we came home was to find our old copy of his Greatest Hits album Legend and listen to the whole thing without stopping.

Bob and CindyI say they’re doing almost everything right. That’s because Lee Hall’s book misses nearly every opportunity to draw the meaning out of Marley’s insightful lyrics and relate them to his life. Significant events like uniting political leaders Seaga and Manley on stage with him are quickly dipped into and then left behind. I wanted to come away from the show feeling that I knew much more about Marley the man – but I don’t believe I did. We also had another issue with the show – which was our difficulty in tuning into the Jamaican accents. Concentrate hard as we did, we still missed out on a lot of the conversations.

David AlburyBut this matters so little when you get swept up with the warmth and musicality of the show. David Albury, who has been the lead Marley performer since October, is absolutely superb as the main man. His physicality of performance, the timbre of his voice, his expression, and his sheer love of what he’s doing, overwhelm you and you’re completely transfixed by him. He’s just magnificent; and the unalloyed joy of his performance of Jamming (supported by the whole cast) that closes the first half is something that will stay with me for a very long time.

Cleopatra ReyHowever, it’s Cleopatra Rey, as Rita, who totally takes your breath away with her extraordinary vocal range and feel for the music. Her solo rendition of No Woman No Cry is one of the best individual performances of a song I have ever heard in a theatre. And her vocals on One Love are to die for. The other memorably spine-tingling moment comes from Shanay Holmes, when, as Cindy Breakspeare, she sings Waiting in Vain to Marley as he refuses to leave Rita for her. In our performance, it was young Kristiano Ricardo who took the role of Little Bob, and I loved his singing and commitment to the role – a star of the future, no doubt. But the whole ensemble are tremendous and hugely likeable; they ensure that we have a great time, and we left the theatre basking in the warm glow of pure success. I would happily see it again. They’re talking about a UK tour later this year – I’d definitely recommend it.

Production photos by Craig Sugden

4-starsFour They’re Jolly Good Fellows!

Review – 2:22 A Ghost Story, Criterion Theatre, London, 28th December 2022

Criterion TheatreA few train strikes weren’t going to stop Mrs Chrisparkle and me from undertaking our annual post-Christmas trip to London to catch up on a few shows and blitz the sales; although it did mean having to take an extra night in a hotel the night before we had intended to travel. But you don’t want to hear about our transport difficulties. You want to hear about how much we enjoyed our shows! (At least, I hope you do.)

2:22Our first show was 2:22 A Ghost Story, currently at the Criterion but shortly to be moving to the Lyric. This is (I think) its fourth reincarnation since it first opened at the Noel Coward Theatre in 2021. It’s a show that appears for a while then goes away, then comes back, then goes away again, then comes back… you get the drift… almost like a ghost re-emerging from the shadows (see what I did there?)  Each time it comes back it has a new cast which I am sure keeps the whole thing fresh and lively.

CastA bit like The Mousetrap, at the end of the show they ask the audience not to tell anyone the secret of the play, and I am nothing if not obedient. But I wouldn’t be giving the game away by telling you a little of what it’s about. New mother Jenny is decorating the ramshackle old house that she has bought with partner Sam, with one eye on her painting skills and one ear on the baby alarm. For reasons best known to her, she is still working away at gone 2am – I would have though most new mothers would be knackered long before then, but we’ll let that pass. By the time she decides to pack up and go to bed, it’s 2:22 in the morning. Cue the first heart-attack-inducing moment in the play for the audience! Jenny becomes more and more convinced that her new house is haunted but cynical Sam thinks it’s a load of old baloney. But when they have a dinner party for Sam’s old friend Lauren and her new boyfriend Ben, things start to get a little out of hand. Ben turns out to be quite the Ghost Whisperer, much to Sam’s dismay. Are there really ghosts in the house? They decide to stay up till 2:22 to see what happens….

Jenny and SamI’d heard good things about this play but I wasn’t expecting quite such a superb piece of writing. Danny Robins’ text is sharp, clever, witty, and totally honest with the audience; and he gets some nice digs in at yuppie North London home renovators too! If you want to stay ahead of the game, the clues are there to help you work it out before the final curtain. However, the play weaves such a wonderful web of atmosphere and spookiness that you just revel in the moment and don’t give a thought to what possible solution there might be to it all – making the final revelation even more of a surprise.

Sam and JennyThe whole production is excellent too, with an intriguing set by Anna Fleischle, unsettling lighting from Lucy Carter and a frankly terrifying sound design by Ian Dickinson. The terrific cast of four work together superbly well, with a variety of accents that give a heart-warming sense of inclusivity. There’s a great West End debut from Laura Whitmore as Jenny, a delightfully understated performance from Matt Willis as Ben, Felix Scott is a superbly exasperated Sam and Tamsin Carroll provides a lot of the humour as Lauren.

CastTerrific fun all the way through; and when you realise exactly what it is that has happened (right at the very end of the play) there’s a huge sense of satisfaction that everything makes sense, and all loose ends are tied up. There’s no reason why a crowd-pleaser of a play shouldn’t also be a marvellous work of art; and 2:22 A Ghost Story proves it. The new season opens at the Lyric Theatre on 21st January, and I highly recommend it!

Production photos by Helen Murray

Five Alive, Let Theatre Thrive!