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    Birdsong at New Alexandra Theatre Birmingham

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    My A Level comparative literature module was on the topic of World War One literature, and so whilst very familiar with stories of The Great War, I had somehow managed to skip actually reading Sebastian Faulks’ seminal novel, Birdsong.  Most likely because I was busy fangirling over Wilfred Owen poetry.  But I knew the impact of Birdsong as a well respected portrayal of life in the trenches, and more aptly I knew it was a long novel.  So I was interested to see how Rachel Wagstaff’s highly acclaimed adaptation wold bring a weighty story, with even weightier subject matter to life on the stage.

    Jumping between different time periods, Birdsong tells the story of Stephen Wraysford (played by Tom Kay) as he leads his men from the trenches, raw from a passionate love affair which ends abruptly.  Through clever transitions from current to flashbacks, we see how Stephen, an Englishman in pre-war France, meets and falls in love with Isabelle Azaire, played by Madeleine Knight, whose film and tv credits include credits include Poldark and Florence Foster Jenkins. Kay and Knight are a compelling duo and their performances are faultless.

    Stephen’s story is weaved in with that of Jack Firebrace, played by Tim Treloar who is simply stunning.  Jack is an ex-miner digging the London Underground system who signs up to help the war effort because they pay is better.  His father-like role in the trenches and loyal friendship with Arthur (played by Simon Lloyd) forge stronger bonds which hurt all the more when they unravel.  Whilst most of the action may centre around Stephen, both his love and torment, the heart of the play belongs firmly to Jack, whose everyman character makes his easy to identify with in a world which is anything but.

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    Discarding the 1970s elements from the novel is a sensible decision, as the play is still packed full of story but at times still feels a bit clunky transitioning from the pre-war to war period.  This is remedied in the second half when the flashbacks catch up with wartime and the actions becomes more of split narrative, which is an impressive sight.

    There is no way a stage adaptation could recreated the horrors or World War One, nor would anyone want to see it fetishised, but the play does a fine example of addressing some of the darker elements sympathetically, but without glossing over the conditions of war – shell shock (known now as PTSD), suicide, absence from family life and the sheer futility of millions of people who lost their lives.  Well timed sound and lighting means that the audience never quite feels at ease,

    Birdsong certainly won’t be a play for everyone; it’s not a feel-good kind of show, but it’s a powerful, well told story adapted sensitively and certainly a memorable piece of theatre.  If you enjoy the nuances of a well told story or have even a passing interest in World War One, then this is a must see.

    Birdsong is at the New Alexandra Theatre until 23 June, which means you’ve got no England match excuses to miss it.  To buy tickets, visit the ATG website.

    This was a press event. 

    Theatre

    Summer Holiday at New Alexandra Theatre

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    Whilst a British summer can be decidedly unpredictable, the brand new stage musical version of Cliff Richard’s iconic film Summer Holiday is guaranteed to bring the warmth of summer and put a smile on your face.

    I grew up watching Summer Holiday, a favoured film of a childhood friend.  It is the story of Don, played originally by Cliff Richard, and his friends who are all London bus mechanics.  Low on money, the group want to escape the dreary shores of a gloomy British holiday for the south of France, but lack the funds.  Don convinces London Transport to lend the group an old red London bus, which they convert to a holiday home on wheels intending to drive it across Europe.  On route, they meet a girl group whose car has broken down, convincing them to re-route their holiday to Athens, and end up with a stowaway too, a famous female singer who is incognito as a young boy. It is silly, Shakespearean and perfect example of a bygone era.

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    Theatre

    Legally Blonde The Musical at New Alexandra Theatre Birmingham

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    Oh My God, Oh My God, You Guys…after seeing Legally Blonde The Musical you will almost certainly find yourself singing tunes from the show.  It’s the sort of feel good show that will have you grinning and dancing in your chair.

    If you’re familiar with the 2001 film with the same title (although it was actually based on a book, who knew), you’ll be familiar with the story.  There are a few minor changes, but it is essentially the same story, and same heart-warming silliness that will completely win you over.

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    Theatre

    Fat Friends the Musical at New Alexandra Theatre

    Fat Friends

    Fat Friends the Musical is a feel-good play with plenty of belly laughs. (I’m sorry, I couldn’t help myself.)

    Reuniting the characters from Kay Mellor’s hit TV show, Fat Friends follows the struggles of a group of overweight friends who attend a slimming club based in Headingley, a suburb of Leeds.  Kelly has a larger-than-life personality but is struggling to fit into her dream wedding dress, lovelorn group leader Lauren is trying to find the man of her dreams, whilst Kelly’s father Fergus is just trying to keep the family chip shop open.

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    Theatre

    Rotterdam at Blue Orange Theatre, Birmingham

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    Alice is about to click send on an email to her parents to tell them she’s a lesbian, when her partner of seven years, Fiona, reveals that she has always thought she were a man and now wants to start living as one, as Adrian.

    As Adrian begins his transition, Alice wants to be supportive but is conflicted what this means for her: is she still a lesbian if she is in a relationship with Adrian, does she want to be in a relationship with him, and what about her work colleague Lelani? And what does this mean for Josh, Adrian’s older brother and Alice’s ex; will he finally move on from his own heartache at losing his girlfriend to his own sibling?

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