Theatre reviews and roundup

Gangster No 1 The Almeida Islington
Jelly Roll Theatre Royal Stratford East
Round UpWho's on when and where

Gangster No1

I understand that Peter Bowles (of To the Manor Born and The Irish RM fame) was developing a fear of being typecast. I can report that he has successfully faced this fear head on in his chilling role as a psychopathic gangland killer in Gangster No 1, the first play by Louis Mellis and David Scinto, at the Almeida, Islington, London.

A comedy at it's blackest and verbally graphic. For the squeamish who can easily visualise, I recommend, in certain parts, putting your fingers in your ears and thanking the gods that you never learnt to lip read. For those who ear bung the plot is as follows: Freddie Mays, gangland leader "goes down" for 22 years for a gruesome murder that he didn't commit. The play follows the story from the lead up to this particular murder (there are a few) through to Freddie's release from prison. The ending has a most satisfying twist.

Unfortunately Gangster No 1 is visually lacking, apart from three highlights - the glorious facial expressions of John Cater who plays Eddie, witnessing Peter Bowles not only speaking with a convincing cockney accent but also seeing him in a vest and jockey 'Y's' and looking remarkably fit - top marks Peter!

This really would have worked as a radio play, however, all the characterisations were superb - Kenneth Colley as the sad and seedy Bent Copper, Sharon Duce as Mel, Richard Johnson as Freddie Mays and the afore mentioned John Cater as Eddie Miller.

Until October 7th at the Almeida Theatre

Box office: 0171 359 4404

Jelly Roll

Having transferred from New York, JELLY ROLL - a gentle scroll through the life of the founding father of Jazz Jelly Roll Morton, is now playing at the Theatre Royal Stratford East.

Vernal Bagneris ,who created JELLY ROLL and plays Jelly Roll Morton, takes you through the 'twenties' where Jelly Roll started his career playing piano in the Red Light district of New Orleans, in the midst of 'loads of money' and girls both of which he soon acquired along with one hundred and fifty suits, an unhealthy respect for Voodoo and a diamond set in his front tooth- definately not cool!

Founder of The Red Hot Peppers (amongst other bands) as an accomplished pianist, perfectionist and hustler he honed his musical talents and following the trend moved to New York. Through his own mismanagement he missed the Hollywood boom and with a mixture of arrogance and bitterness, along with the results of The Depression, he fell out with and tried to take on almost everyone - including the Mafia - all unsuccessfully. Three years before his death he was found playing the piano in a clip joint in Washington and persuaded to record his memories for the Library of Congress. He died in 1941 penniless and forgotten.

Jelly Roll Morton was a legend who fused the blues and ragtime influences of his New Orleans roots to define an utterly new art form and therefore, although this is based on reminiscences, I did feel at times there should be more of a celebration in foot stomping style, and cast for that matter, instead of only glimpses. Although JELLY ROLL is not without humour, some great anecdotes and at times it touches your soul. Morton Gunnar Larsen, Musical Director and deservedly acclaimed as one of the world's finest ragtime pianists, starring as Jelly Roll's hands, was red hot, as must be his fingers.

Don't be late as this runs for one hour and fifteen minutes with no interval.

Until October 14th at the Theatre Royal Stratford East, London

Box office: 0181 534 0310

Round up

This month a selection of Queens, marines, political farce, cultural tensions, a severed penis and a great deal of hand washing - a round up of everyday life!

Perverse exhibitionist Nigel Charnock, a severely talented cynic returns to the Drill Hall. Thundering through juicy highlights of his last three shows, together with some new material SECOND COMING promises to be a night of song, dance and outrageous camp self indulgence.

10th-28th October at The Drill Hall, London.

Box office: 0171 637 8270

Allow yourself to be greeted by the Marines in their tight white trousers, girls (and boys for that matter) take note - I've heard on good authority that whilst wearing this particular get-up they are not allowed to make any comment or take any action. So pinch a butt on the way in to see THE FLEETS IN a Royal Charity Gala on October 22nd, for King George's Fund for Sailors.

A remarkable cross section of stars have pitched in for this unique production with a nautical theme. There will be unbelievable renditions of all the favourites "I'm going to wash that man right out of my hair", "There's something about a sailor", "The good ship lollipop" (well worth seeing) etc. Hosted by Sir John Mills and Sir Dirk Bogarde, amongst others, the cast includes Ruby Venezuala, Haley Mills, Susannah York, Bonnie Langford, Sasha Distel, Ertha Kitt, David Soor, Claire Raynor (singing and dancing!), Miriam Margoyles, some of the cast of Coronation Street, The Royal Ballet any many, many more - not forgetting a star turn by yet more Royal Marines.

So pull on your frocks and DJ's and join Princess Marg for a truly glam night out.

Tickets start at a mere £15 and for more dosh you can enjoy a champagne reception, dinner and/or the Gala party afterwards.

Sunday October 22nd. Theatre Royal Drury Lane. Box office: 0171 494 5000

Credit card bookings ( fee paid by KGFS ) 0171 494 5060

Details & bookings for reception, dinner and party call : Jill Jokel on 0171 932 0000

Just when you thought the fun had gone out of British politics trust the Scottish to whip it back in Wildcat, from Glasgow, will be performing BEDFELLOWS, a hilarious protest against the lack of principles across the political spectrum. This outrageous musical farce includes a randy old dandy Tory, a briefcase of Semtex, a lost son, a woman candidate and a lively musical score that stretches from Dixieland Jazz to Prince.

Until October 14th at The Tricycle Theatre, Kilburn, London.

Box office: 0171 328 1000

The South African slumyards are the backdrop for Johannesburg's Junction Avenue Theatre Company's touring exciting production of MARABI. Set in 1935 it covers the tensions between the old tribal way of life and the new marabi culture with its parties, music and street gangs. Urban history combined with a wild mix of township, jazz, acapella song and marabi piano.

During October they'll be at the following venues 3rd-7th - Theatre Royal Nottingham: 10th-11th Sherman Theatre Cardiff: 12th-14th Dance House Manchester: 17th-28th Theatre Royal Stratford London.

Onto the severed penis - pause for leg crossing and wincing - HARRY & ME by Nigel Williams is on at the Royal Court Theatre downstairs. Ray Goodenough has slaved for the "Harry Harrod Show for 15 years, tracking down unusual guests such as a 'Bobbit" clone and other minor celebs, to fill dozens of seaside summer shows. But the ratings are dropping fast, Harry has turned to drink and the star guest has dropped out...

19th October-18th November Royal Court Theatre

Box office: 0171 730 1745/2554 royal court website

The Actors Touring Company are touring with an adaptation of Henry Fielding's comic drama THE MODERN HUSBAND. 18th century England at its most voracious, cruel and materialistic (aka the 1980's really). THE MODERN HUSBAND follows the tale of Mrs Bellament, who acquires notoriety in her society for loving her husband and being unfashionably faithful to him. Consequently she becomes the focus of elaborate schemes, bets, desires and devious collusions as her honour is tested.

Until Oct 7th Northcott Theatre Exeter: 10th-14th Dublin Theatre Festival: 20th & 21st Gulbenkian Theatre Canterbury: 24th-28th Connaught Theatre Worthing: November 7th & 8th The Stahl Theatre Oundle: 9th -11th Trinity Theatre Tunbridge Wells: 14th-16th Jersey Arts Centre St Helier: 17th Beau Sejour Centre Guernsey: 21st November until 2nd December Lyric Studio Hammersmith London.

And finally "washing off those spots", another Queen, of a somewhat different nature to those previously mentioned or hinted at, along with the usual crones, kings, castles, blood, betrayal, gore and war. MACBETH is being performed on a tour of the UK by the English Touring Theatre.

In October it can be seen until the 7th Darlington Civic Centre: 10th-14th Buxton Opera House: 17th-21st Poole Arts Centre: 24th-28th Hexington Theatre Reading: 31st Oct-4th Nov The Playhouse Oxford: November 7th-11th Forum Theatre Wythenshawe: 14th-18th Everyman Theatre Cheltenham: 20th-25th Theatre Royal Winchester: 28th-Nov-2nd Dec Conaught Theatre Worthing: 11th Jan-17th Feb 1996 Lyric Theatre Hammersmith London.

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