Sunday, 1 January 2017

My 2016 in Theatre | LittleEllieMae


Last year I posted my 2015 in theatre and with my ever-growing passion, it seemed only right to continue this year. 

Each year theatre is becoming more and more important to me and this year is no exception. As cheesy as it sounds, I now know its my life calling. This lead me to finally apply and successfully begin studying Music, Theatre and Entertainment Management at Falmouth University, hoping to get into the theatre industry myself one day. Its been one of the best decisions I've ever made- Falmouth University and my course is so perfect for me and I am beyond happy there. I cannot wait to continue my time there in the new year. I'm looking foward to seeing what else it brings me in 2017. 

Alongside the stress of applying to university, of course I kept up my passion of attending as much theatre as I can. This year I hit a personal record of seeing 42 different theatre productions and attending the theatre over 53 times. (That's nearly once a week!) I've experimented with so much different theatre this year which is what I'm most proud of. As someone who is most definitely musical theatre orientated, this year I have immersed myself with other genres such as plays, dance, comedy, new writing and youth productions which has been so refreshing and I have a new found love beyond musical theatre.

I have also had some fantastic experiences working in theatre this year. Continuing my fantastic work with the Theatre Royal Plymouth, next year brings more exciting opportunities which I cannot wait to talk about!
 Another highlight was spending the week working with Masterclass at the Theatre Royal Haymarket and TheatreCraft. I had been planning this work placement since the beginning of the year so by the time it came around in November I was delighted. It was so great to experience the working of such a large event such as TheatreCraft and the day to day running of one of the most legendary theatres in the West End, the Theatre Royal Haymarket. Check out my blog post here.

I also had the completely surreal opportunity to attend the Evening Standard Theatre Awards. Far from my usual student and work- riddled life, I felt like Cinderella as I dressed up in a fancy dress, was ushered into a room full of glitzy celebrities and handed a glass of champagne which just kept getting topped up and up. It was a complete dream to be part of such an evening and I left feeling absolutely inspired and excited about the future of theatre. Read my blog post here.

In the past years, my theatre experience has generally been confined to my hometown theatre, Theatre Royal Plymouth, as its just the easiest and cheapest option. Although this year I made sure to push my boundaries and explore more. I've visited London more times this year than I have the rest of my life! By making so many trips to London this year, I've become so comfortable there and it has further strengthened my desire to work on West End one day. I also visited theatres in Cardiff, Cornwall and Birmingham and although they were all completely different, I fell in love with them all.

My Top 10 Shows of 2016:

Billy Elliot The Musical



Billy Elliot The Musical quickly became one of my favourite musicals ever, let alone of this year. Having never had seen the show on West End, I was thrilled when the first UK tour premiered in Plymouth. I was lucky enough to attend their dress rehearsal, followed by press night and closing night. I have also since travelled to Cardiff to catch the show again this summer, totalling six visits to the show this year. Its a truly beautiful show and this UK tour is one of the best shows you will ever see. Check out my review here.

The Wind In The Willows



The highly anticipated world premiere of The Wind in the Willows The Musical made its debut at the Theatre Royal Plymouth too. It was a stunning show, with some of the best set I've seen all year. It was perfectly staged and the quirky performances were right up my street. I would love to catch it as it hits the West End next year! Check out my review here.

Miss Saigon



In February I was lucky enough to attend the last West End performance of Miss Saigon at the Prince Edward theatre. It was my first (and last) time seeing this show and it quickly became a firm favourite. This performance was particularly outstanding as the actors put 110% effort and emotion into their last show, and with special guests Cameron Mackintosh, Alan Boubil and Claude Michel Schonberg, it was the cherry on top. Miss Saigon is a complete theatrical masterpiece and I really hope I get to see it again someday. Check out my review here.

In The Heights


2016 has well and truly solidified my obsession with Lin Manuel Miranda- he is a true genius. Whilst waiting for the highly anticipated Hamilton to hit West End, I was eager to check out some of Miranda's other work. As well as watching his mini-musical 21 Chump Street, I quickly became obsessed with his first ever musical In The Heights. I saw the show three times in 2016, including a very exciting first birthday party for the show. In The Heights explodes with passion and vibrancy and includes some of the best music and dance routines I've seen. Its easily one of my favourite shows of all time- I'm very sad to see it leave London! Read my review here and my interview with Sam Mackay, who plays lead Usnavi, here.

Half A Sixpence


I was ecstatic to be invited to the press night of Half A Sixpence in November. There has been such a buzz about this show since its opening at Chichester, and now its found a firm home in the West End at the Noel Coward Theatre. It was a surreal evening as Shaun Nolan and myself were seated in our own box in the stalls and were surrounded by the likes of Queen Elaine Paige and Cliff Richards themselves. Half A Sixpence is a hugely impressive show and I was so eager to see it again, I quickly made a return visit in December. The remodelling of the classic musical with stunning choreography and fantastic performances from the actors, especially new leading man Charlie Stemp, is totally refreshing and I've fallen in love with it. Read my review here.

Rent


Rent is a revolutionary piece of theatre and one that will stay with me for a very long time. This UK tour embarked on a month long run at St James Theatre in London and I managed to see the show in December. To say that I was blown away is an understatement, It was visually stunning, with fantastic choreography and staging alike. The music is beautiful and it portrays such a hard-hitting and emotional story through Jonathon Larson's stunning melodies and lyrics. The casting for this production was perfect and the chemistry on stage was electrifying. I'm desperate to see it again.

The Last Five Years


The music from The Last Five Years is some of my favourite music ever. I could listen to its songs day in, day out, and never get bored (in fact, that's exactly what I already do!). So I was thrilled to catch the new production at St James Theatre this November. I adore the structure of this show, with Cathy's story told in reverse chronological order and Jamie's story told in chronological; Its a really interesting concept and not everyone can warm to it, but personally I think it makes a great show. The staging is very simple and all focus is put on each performer (Samantha Barks and Jonathan Bailey) who perform separately, bar one song in the show, as the emphasis of the whole production is mainly the beautiful music. Its so simple and beautiful- I absolutely loved it.

Phantom of the Opera


Although its such an old classic, my love for Phantom of the Opera has excelled this year. At the start of 2016, my friends and I were lucky enough to go backstage at the beautiful Her Majesty's Theatre before and after the show which was the most magical and insightful experience. To stand on that iconic stage and look out into the auditorium was a dream come true. I saw the show twice during the year and it blows me away every time. The heart- wrenching orchestrations and mysteriously seductive story never fails to amaze me. It celebrated its 30th birthday in the West End this year which I think is a fantastic achievement, and long may it reign. 

Guys and Dolls


I had the pleasure of seeing Guys and Dolls both on tour and in the West End during 2016. This iconic old musical has been given a new lease of life with this upbeat new production. It is the definition of a feel- good show, and both the tour and show at the Phoenix Theatre in London proved this with its impressive choreography and classic toe- tapping songs. A particular star for me was Richard Fleeshman who blew the roof off the theatre as he performed as Sky Masterson, he oozed with charm and ridiculously strong vocals. 

The Red Shoes


In November, Matthew Bourne (one of my favourite choreographers) premiered his latest show, The Red Shoes, at Theatre Royal Plymouth. I attended its sold-out opening night and was astounded by his new production. Bourne's choreography is gripping and so beautifully coveys even the most complex of story lines. A really impressive dance show. Read my review here.


As you can see, its been such an impressive year of theatre- some really revolutionary pieces continue to brace the UK stage which is delightful to see. I can't wait to see what 2017 brings!

Happy New Year!

Ellie Mae x


Disclaimer: All thoughts and opinions are my own.



Sunday, 27 November 2016

TheatreCraft 2016 | LittleEllieMae




TheatreCraft is a free careers event open to all 16- 25 year olds, presenting opportunities to work in theatre beyond the stage. The theatre industry is such a massive market and there are so many routes in other than the traditional performing route, but it can be difficult and overwhelming to say to least to search out these prospects. This is where TheatreCraft comes in: it presents a vibrant marketplace of theatre and education exhibitors, workshops lead by theatre professionals, one-to-one advice in the Ask The Experts zone and the best chance to network with others in the industry.

This year's TheatreCraft was held on Monday 14th November, when thousands of young people gathered at The Waldorf Hilton hotel. Situated at the heart of the West End 'Theatreland', The Waldorf was the perfect location to host such an event and provided the most gorgeous backdrop for the day. 


Other iconic West End venues provided space for workshops and tours throughout the day: the Lyceum Theatre, Novello Theatre, Aldwych Theatre, Theatre Royal Drury Lane and Dewynters. It really was a West End takeover for the next generation of directors, producers, writers, designers, managers, marketers.

I was lucky enough to be a part of the Media Team for TheatreCraft this year which meant that I handled the social media for the day. The @TheatreCraft Twitter account was buzzing the entire day with enthusiastic attendees, volunteers and experts sharing their experiences of the event. I loved it.


The day kick started at 10am with speeches from some of our ambassadors, including Adam Kenwright, Executive Vice President of ATG who delivered a touching and inspirational speech to the younger generation of theatre-makers. He spoke about his personal connection to theatre, mentioning his delight in watching people captured and blown into a new world, allowing them to leave their troubles behind when watching a performance. I think this is something the audience of young people could really resonate with- it is ultimately our joint interest and passion in theatre that bought every single person to TheatreCraft that day. Kenwright also explained his career background in theatre, explaining how he started out in producing alongside marketing at AKA for eight years before leaving to work at his current role at ATG. He ended his speech by urging everybody to ask five questions a day to promote curiosity, and sent the crowd on their way to do so. 


The Marketplace teemed with enthusiastic theatre- lovers. The Waldorf's Palm Court held nearly forty stalls of a variety of theatre exhibitors including Society of London Theatre, The Stage, Stage One UK, National Theatre, Global Marketing Group and many many more. Next door, the Adelphi Suite was full of theatre institutions at The Education Hub, these included Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, Plymouth College of Art, University of Winchester and East 15 and many more. The Marketplace was the perfect place to network with representatives of the industry and learn more about the different opportunities they offer. Personal favourites of mine include playing with VR headsets with Technicians Make It Happen and flicking through beautiful backstage photos in the Curtain Call book!

I also had the chance to visit some workshops myself. There were a whole range on offer, from producing, directing, choreography, backstage tours, casting, wardrobe and even virtual reality and many more. The first workshop I attended was at the gorgeous Lyceum Theatre, currently home to The Lion King. The workshop was with James Quaife and focused on developing as a producer both Off West End and West End. 

As an aspiring producer myself, I found it very interesting to hear from James, who has produced Barking In Essex, Good People, as well as Lady Chatterley’s Lover and French Without Tears with English Tour Theatre. He spoke in an extremely honest manner, pointing out every aspect of the industry in a matter of fact way. For an industry that so often gets swept up in the glitz and glamour of it all, it was refreshing to hear James' no- nonsense approach. He taught us the ins and outs of funding, networking and how to survive in such a competitive industry. 


My next workshop to follow was PR and Marketing in London and On Tour with Target Live, one of the major design and advertising companies for theatre. PR and marketing is something I thought I was fairly familiar with due to my experience working as PR assistant for an arts organisation alongside my blog work. However Target Live presented new ideas and processes for marketing a show- they talked through traditional paper methods as well as technological advancements such as social media. It was the creative ideas that interested me the most, including decorating theatres with key branding, plastering advertisements on unsuspected locations (such as ATMs) and even branded cars to carry the message! I loved finding out more about such large scale marketing for the world- renown show Dirty Dancing, of which Target Live handle. 


After chatting to a few exhibitors in the marketplace, including Curtain Call, White Light and National Theatre (check out TheatreCraft Twitter and Facebook for the live interviews we recorded).

 I headed to my final workshop of the day which was about Making a Career Out of Creative Freelancing with Roundhouse at the Novello theatre. Linda Bloomfield from Roundhouse chatted to the group about what it takes to be a creative freelancer, from freelance producing to designing and everything in between. Linda was so informative on the subject, pointing out everything from registering as self employed to how to do your taxes. She taught us the real-life skills that are essential for surviving in the industry that there's no way I would find out about off my own back. It was super useful and showed me another potential career path for my future.


And that's where my extremely busy but exciting day at TheatreCraft ended. The whole experience was very inspiring and has opened so many doors for me, in terms of future career prospects in theatre. It makes you realise the vast opportunities on offer in the sector and there is so much help and support to get you where you want to be. We're so lucky to have an event such as TheatreCraft to help. It was a fantastic experience. 


I'm so grateful to Masterclass and TheatreCraft for involving me in this awesome event. I can't wait to go back next year!

To find out more information about TheatreCraft, visit their website, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

Ellie Mae x


Disclaimer: I worked with TheatreCraft/ Masterclass on this event but all thoughts and opinions are my own. 


Tuesday, 22 November 2016

The Red Shoes by Matthew Bourne World Premiere Review | LittleEllieMae



I've been fascinated by Matthew Bourne's work for years and completely fell in love with his choreography after watching his production of 'Sleeping Beauty' a while back. I've also witnessed his fantastic work in hit musicals 'Oliver!' and 'Mary Poppins' which I adored too. So to hear that his latest production of The Red Shoes would be premiering at my hometown theatre, Theatre Royal Plymouth, I was ecstatic!

Last night I attended the opening performance of this new show at Theatre Royal Plymouth. The house was buzzing and for the first time in a while it was completely sold out which was absolutely lovely to see. 

The Red Shoes brings the Powell and Pressburger's 1948 film and Hans Christian Anderson story to stage. The show, much like the film, employs a story within a story device, and tells the tale of a young ballerina, Victoria Page, who joins an established ballet company, leading their new ballet called The Red Shoes. She and the struggling composer, Julian Craster, fall in love but is overshadowed by Boris Lermontov, the ballet impresario who also catches feelings for Victoria and controls their relationship and careers. The red ballet shoes are a motif of control, as once they are put on they will not allow the wearer to stop dancing and similarly off stage, they control Victoria's urge and desire to dance. It tells a story of the extremes an artist will fight for their work: with the composer's intense descent into some sort of madness to achieve perfection, the developing evil of the impresario and ultimately what leads to Victoria's tragic and melodramatic death. 

Its an utterly intense and gripping story that is conveyed through Bourne's choreography beautifully. I find that in some dance shows, its easy to lose the plot but this story was clear and easy to follow, even with the complex 'story within a story' structure that is so well executed by Lez Brotherston, associate designer who depicted onstage and backstage in different locations seamlessly.  

The set and staging was breathtaking. It has transformed the Theatre Royal Plymouth's Lyric stage into a glorious grand, vintage theatre with impressive red velvet curtains which revolve to depict onstage and offstage. Projections are used well to portray the array of locations in the show, from Monte Carlo to Covent Garden. My favourite use of projections was during The Red Shoes ballet at the end of Act 1: silhouettes of almost Tim Burton-esque trees and houses as well as movement of wind projected onto a massive blank canvas acted as a backdrop to the chilling story. 

Matthew Bourne decided against using the Oscar award- winning score from the 1948 film but instead chose the music of celebrated Hollywood composer Bernard Herrmann. Throughout the performance, extracts of Herrmann's film scores and concert music is used. The Currier and Ives Suite from 1935 provides perfect waltz music as well as Concerto Macabre from Hangover Square of 1945 and The Ghost and Mrs Muir. The orchestrations are powerful, beautiful and accompany the dance routines perfectly. 

The costumes are just as dazzling, with impressive traditional ballet tutus onstage (which I am obsessed with!) as well as contemporary 40s/50s fashions incorporated for the backstage segments of the show. They act as a real asset to the performance as they gracefully move with the dancers which add an extra impressive visual element to the spectacle. 

The performers were incredible. Although I think it took them a couple routines to fully warm up on opening night, they soon presented Bourne's choreography in the most impressive, beautiful and synchronized way. The routines are totally complex and the performers were completely mesmerising to watch. 

Overall, I really adored this new production of The Red Shoes. It is Matthew Bourne's ability to present such an engaging, clear story, humour and intense emotion through the power of dance that makes it what it is. The design was spectacular and the talent onstage was very impressive. It definitely deserved the standing ovation it received! I would totally recommend. 

Ellie Mae x


Disclaimer: All thoughts and opinions are my own, as always. 


Monday, 21 November 2016

Half A Sixpence at Noël Coward Theatre Review | LittleEllieMae


I was kindly invited along to the press/ opening night of Half a Sixpence at the Noël Coward Theatre. After a hugely successful run at Chichester Festival Theatre, this Mackintosh- produced show is finally bracing the West End stage where I think it’s found a firm home. 

Half a Sixpence tells H.G. Wells' story of his autobiographical novel 'Kipps' which follows Arthur Kipps, a young man who goes from rags to riches after inheriting a large sum of money from an unsuspecting Uncle. We follow Kipps’ love triangle between high society doll Helen and childhood sweetheart, Ann and his struggle with his newfound life in the upper class. 

The original production in 1963 was a huge success and launched new star Tommy Steele back in the day. However I was a little apprehensive that the show could appear a little outdated over 50 years later, but with a fantastic new creative team to boost the revival, it worked perfectly. 


New material has been added by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe with an additional eight new songs and a new book by Julian Fellowes. Alongside David Heneker's beautiful original score, Stiles and Drewe's additions fit in seamlessly. It is actually a lot the new songs that I enjoyed most, with 'A Little Touch of Happiness' and 'Pick Out a Simple Tune' proving show-stoppers of the evening. The music is truly impressive and I haven't stopped listening to the new cast recording since I left the theatre! 

To accompany the amazing soundtrack of the show, Andrew Wright gives some of the best choreography I've ever seen. Its slick and complex but effortlessly pulled off by the insane cast of dancers. I am a massive fan of big ensemble pieces and this show is packed with perfect examples, including 'Pick Out A Simple Tune', 'If The Rain's Got To Fall' and 'Flash, Bang, Wallop'. I'm glad the company have had time to develop through their run at Chichester and previews as its obviously paid off, showing off their tight routines and real chemistry as a cast. There is such a buzz of energy on stage that is totally infectious. I turned to Shaun afterwards and expressed how desperate I was to jump on stage and join in! 


It is an absolute gem of a cast where the joint effort has produced the perfect show. I'm not one for following rave reviews but I can indeed myself rave about new star Charlie Stemp. I can't remember the last time I've felt so blown away and excited by a new performer. He is completely charming in his role of Arthur Kipps and he is the definition of a triple threat. For me, it was his smooth and gliding dancing that mesmerised me most. As strange as it sounds, something that stood out to me was his incredible posture and how he utilised this to create beautiful shapes through movement. They've really hit the jackpot with this one, I cannot wait to follow his future successes. 

Alongside Stemp, other notable cast members include Devon- Elise Johnson as Ann, who gives a spine-tingling rendition of 'Long Ago' and Emma Williams who plays Kipps' other love- interest, Helen. The two leading ladies are such different characters but both are played with such finesse. Bethany Huckle plays Flo, an outgoing and loveable friend of the haberdashery boys. Huckle's performance of 'A Little Touch of Happiness' alongside Johnson was hilarious and hugely impressive due to their comedic timing with great vocals. 


I loved the staging design by Paul Brown who creates scenes of small town Folkestone as well as grandeur of Kipps' new life. The set was simple with use of an odd desk, bar, pillars but this was perfectly done to keep the attention on the performers and projections were also used as a backdrop to the story. It was the use of the five- piece revolve that impressed me most, keeping the environment constantly moving forward and was even used to enhance the sublime choreography. 

I tried to think of some critiques for this show but I honestly couldn't think of any. I am so impressed with this production... I wasn't expecting to be so blown away by it! I am already desperate to go back to watch it again! It is a truly great British musical and I hope it goes down in history.

I give this production a faultless ★★★★★.
What a triumph!

Half a Sixpence runs at the Noël Coward Theatre until February 11th.. buy your tickets now! Read further Half A Sixpence reviews at TheatreBloggers.co.uk.

Ellie Mae x

Disclaimer: I was kindly invited to this performance but all thoughts and opinions are my own. Photos are credited.



Sunday, 20 November 2016

Evening Standard Theatre Awards 2016 | LittleEllieMae


On Sunday evening I was lucky enough to attend The Evening Standard Theatre Awards at The Old Vic theatre in London. 

It was an incredibly spectacular night full of glitz and glamour and of course some wonderful theatre.

One of my favourite comedians and actors, Rob Brydon, hosted the night. He kept the award show afloat with his hilarious gags and impressions. 
He was joined by a star- studded cast of co-hosts who presented awards on the night, including HRH Prince William, Sir Elton John, Dame Maggie Smith, Orlando Bloom, Tom Hiddleston and many many more. 


Amber Riley gave a stunning performance of 'And I Am Telling You' from her new Dreamgirls venture. She blew the roof off the Old Vic... she gave the most incredible performance ever. She most definitely deserved the standing ovation that she received. Her vocals on that night has prompted me to buy tickets for Dreamgirls at The Savoy theatre ASAP!

The room was filled to the brim with celebrity names who whooped and cheered the winners all night long. I was mesmerised as I looked around the room and continued to notice more and more show-stopping names. It was the first real awards ceremony I've ever attended so it was all very exciting for me!



There was a great variety of awards on the night, showcasing the very best of British theatre and entertainment. 

The nominees and winners are listed below:

Best Actor
Winner: Ralph Fiennes - The Master Builder (Old Vic)/Richard III (Almeida)
Kenneth Branagh - The Entertainer(Garrick)
O-T Fagbenle - Ma Rainey's Black Bottom(National Theatre's, Lyttelton)
James McArdle - Platonov (Chichester Festival Theatre/National Theatre, Olivier)
Ian McKellan - No Man's Land(Wyndham's Theatre)


Natasha Richardson Award for Best Actress

Winner: Billie Piper - Yerma (Young Vic)

Noma Dumezweni- Linda (Royal Court, Jerwood Downstairs)
Helen McCrory - The Deep Blue Sea(National Theatre, Lyttelton)
Sophie Melville - Iphigenia in Splott(Sherman Cymru/National Theatre/Temporary Theatre)


Best Musical Performance

Winner: Glenn Close - Sunset Boulevard (Coliseum)

Andy Karl - Groundhog Day (The Old Vic)
Sheridan Smith - Funny Girl (Savoy) 


Best Play

Winner: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by Jack Thorne, J K Rowling & John Tiffany (Palace Theatre) 

Father Comes Home from the Wars (Parts 1,2 & 3) , by Suzan-Lori Parks (Royal Court, Jerwood Downstairs)
The Flick, by Annie Baker (National Theatre, Dorfman) 


Evening Standard Radio 2 Audience Award for Best Musical

Winner: Jesus Christ Superstar - Regent's Park Open Air Theatre

Funny Girl - Menier Chocolate Factory/Savoy

Groundhog Day - Old Vic
Guys and Dolls - Savoy/Phoenix
Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour - National Theatre, Dorfman
Sunset Boulevard - Coliseum


Milton Shulman Award for Best Director

Winner: John Malkovich - Good Canary (Rose Kingston)

Dominic Cooke - Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (National Theatre, Lyttelton)  
John Tiffany - Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Palace) 


Best Revival

Winner: No Man's Land - Wyndham's (dir Sean Mathias)

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom - National Theatre, Lyttelton (dir Dominic Cooke)

Young Chekhov: Platonov, Ivanov and The Seagull - Chichester Festival Theatre/National Theatre, Olivier

Les Blancs - National Theatre, Olivier (dir Yael Farber)



Best Design

Winner: Gareth Fry with Peter Malkin (sound design) - The Encounter (Edinburgh International Festival/Barbican)

Jon Bausor - You For Me For You (Royal Court, Jerwood Upstairs)
Rob Howell - The Master Builder (Old Vic)/Groundhog Day (Old Vic) 


Charles Wintour Award for Most Promising Playwright

Winner: Charlene James - Cuttin' It(Young Vic/Royal Court/Yard)

Jon Brittain - Rotterdam(Theatre503/Trafalgar Studios)
David Ireland - Cyprus Avenue (Royal Court, Jerwood Upstairs) 


Emerging Talent Award in partnership with Burberry

Winner: Tyrone Huntley - Jesus Christ Superstar (Regent's Park Open Air Theatre)

Jaygann Ayeh - The Flick (National Theatre, Dorfman)
Anthony Boyle - Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Palace)
Aoife Duffin - A Girl is a Half-formed Thing (Samuel Beckett Theatre, Dublin & Young Vic) and The Taming of the Shrew(Shakespeare's Globe) 


Beyond Theatre Award

David Attenborough, for his contribution to broadcasting

Editor's Award

Good Chance Theatre

Lebedev Award

Kenneth Branagh, for his plays at the Garrick

There were some fantastic and very well deserving winners this year. Some of which I predicted, and others that were a great surprise!

A few of my favourite winners include Tyrone Huntley of the Emerging Talent Award in partnership with Burberry for his role as Judas in Regent Park Open Air Theatre's production of Jesus Christ Superstar. I've been following his career for a little while now and I'm thrilled at his success. I can't wait to see him smash the role of C.C. White, opposite Amber Riley in Dreamgirls next.


The Editor's Award went to Good Chance Theatre who made a real impact on the whole night. Good Chance Theatre is a theatre company, operating in the Calais Jungle migrant camp. In a place of such despair and fear, Good Chance set up a theatre of hope. During the day they scheduled writing workshops, music lessons, dance, acting and performances. In the evenings they held communal events to bring the communities together with poetry slams, stand up comedy, acoustic sets, theatre performances, rap battles, film nights and mass chill outs. Founded by British playwrights Joe and Joe, the theatre scheme has been such a massive success in providing entertainment and most importantly a glimmer of hope to these people's lives. I found their speech incredibly inspiring and it goes to show why theatre is so so important and relevant in today's world. Very deserving winners indeed.

A theme of the evening seemed to emphasise the importance of art and theatre. In many speeches, the winners and presenters spoke out about wider issues and especially made a point to encourage the younger generation in which a handful of students cheered about in the upper circle.
 Kenneth Branagh said that there has "never been a greater need for art...to entertain, to divert and also to know that we and they are not alone. It matters.”. Andrew Lloyd Webber spoke up whilst receiving his award for Evening Standard Radio 2 Audience Award for Best Musical for Jesus Christ Superstar by directing the Government, “Can I passionately beg you to believe you must stop cutting the arts in schools.” Sir Patrick Stewart raised the issue of elitism in the industry, directing his speech towards Theresa May, he says “Some of us will have the impertinence to have ambition. Working-class scum will have ambition.”. All of which, as you can imagine, received loud roaring applause. Its nice that things aren't being swept under the carpet and during this awards ceremony, it really showed the political and social importance of the art.


The evening was surreal and wonderful. It has inspired me beyond words to be surrounded by such creative, successful, motivated people. It has proved once again that theatre is most definitely not a dying art form. Its prevalent and powerful than ever before and London is still its home. How lucky we are. 

Thanks to the Evening Standard for inviting me along to the awards. I had such a fantastic time!

Ellie Mae x


Disclaimer: I was kindly invited to this event by Evening Standard/ The Communications Store but all thoughts and opinions are my own. Photos credited David M Benett for The Evening Standard. 

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Cyberscene - Masterclass and Kidscape project announcement


The Theatre Royal Haymarket Masterclass Trust (Masterclass) are partnering with anti-bullying charity, Kidscape, to create Cyberscene - an innovative project which will use theatre to support the health and well-being of young people affected by cyber bullying.

Ahead of Anti-Bullying Week (14th – 18th November) Masterclass and Kidscape are proud to announce Cyberscene: an essential new theatre project that will work with students from South Thames College, Leyton Sixth Form College, Hackney Community College and Barnet and Southgate College to create a powerful new play which explores the impact of technology, social media and cyber bullying.

Working with director, Guy Unsworth, and writer, Emily Jenkins, the play will be scripted through a series of theatre based workshops. In this supportive environment, young people can share their stories, learn from each other and be part of an empowering project which aims to address the impacts of cyber bullying and the wider digital realm. The final production will be staged at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in March 2017.

Dame Judi Dench DBE has endorsed this amazing project- “As a Patron of the Theatre Royal Haymarket Masterclass Trust, I am delighted to lend my support to a worthwhile project which will harness the power of theatre to bring together a community of young students to address the issues associated with cyber bullying.”  

Check out the video below to find out more about this project:


I think this really is an awesome project and I'm looking forward to seeing the end results, supported by these great charities. 

If you or someone you know is experiencing cyber bullying and you would like some additional support please visit Kidscape’s website for further guidance.

Ellie Mae x

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Big The Musical European Premiere Review | LittleEllieMae


We all know and love 'Big'- the 1988 comedy film starring Tom Hanks which follows the story of a young boy, Josh Baskin, who makes a wish "to be big" and is then aged to adulthood overnight.

In 1996 the concept was created into a musical which then opened on Broadway for a total of 193 performances throughout that year. 

20 years later, Big The Musical makes it's European premiere at the Theatre Royal Plymouth. Last night I was lucky enough to catch its opening night in my hometown.

I think the heart-warming story is well suited to be a musical adaptation. It has obvious breaks in the storyline where a musical number fits perfectly and this production generally executes it well- it doesn't seem like its stopping/starting throughout which gives the entire production a comfortable flow and makes it easy to follow. The only point in the show which threw me off was when Josh's love interest, Susan (played fantastically by Diana Vickers), performed a song about her first love in 'Little Susan Lawrence' after spending the night at a 'sleepover' with Josh. I understand she was self-reflecting during this number but it dragged a little and seemed quite irrelavant. The show could've easily done without this sequence, but Diana Vicker's stellar vocals did make it somewhat worthwhile. 

The music by David Shire and lyrics by Richard Maltby,Jr was enjoyable. Each song that was performed was well formed and fit the story well (in most cases). Favourites of mine include 'My Secretary's In Love', 'Cross The Line' and 'Coffee Black' which had me tapping my feet along to the fantastic orchestra. However, as soon as I stepped out of the theatre I had forgotten the majority of the music. It was good but not very memorable at all which is a shame. 

The most memorable and exciting parts of the show for me was the ensemble pieces. The stage was very large and the cast filled it with so much energy through portrayals of everything from toy soldiers to executive office workers. The choreography by Morgan Young/ Helen Rymer was so much fun and the ensemble performed it with such skill and effervesence. 

The quality of staging was fantastic (designed by Simon Higlett). The Lyric stage of the Theatre Royal Plymouth was transformed and made to look five times bigger than usual with use of a curved stage. The use of a floor revolve was cleverly done to change sets as well as provide movement aid for the characters. The set was so intricate and life-like, alongside the use of tech screen panels to project backdrop videos. The combination of technology, traditional set, props and the revolve added so much dimension to the story and production as a whole. The design was by far my favourite aspect of the whole show.

This show was packed with an all-star cast which really intrigued and excited me. 

Jay McGuiness makes his stage debut as Big Josh Baskin and wins the audience over with his charming personality. He is fantastic at portraying the young-hearted character with great humour and boyish delight. His dancing skills were slick and he effortlessly kept up with the high-energy ensemble in routines such as 'Cross The Line' and 'Coffee Black' but I think his voice is too soft and raspy to tackle some of Josh's belter songs. The songs were big and one after another and sometimes his voice just wasn't strong enough to keep up. I'm not sure how much of it was affected by opening night nerves, and whether his voice will develop to the role more throughout the run, but his skills were more suited to the acting and dancing last night. 

Jay's leading lady was Diana Vickers who played up-tight office executive/ turned lover, Susan Lawrence. Diana surprisingly stole the show for me. She lit up the stage with her quirky and loveable character and her vocals were outstanding. She seamlessly participated in some of the dance routines too. Diana just got the character SO right, even more so than the original film character I think. What a performance. 

Other stars of the show include Jessica Martin as the humorous yet loveable Mrs Baskin, Gary Wilmot played company CEO George MacMillan- the old executive who bursts with boyish energy and Irwin Sparkes (of The Hoosiers) who nailed the role of douchebag Paul Seymour with such great comedic timing. The team of young children in the show were outstanding, especially Keir Edkins-O'Brien who played Josh's best friend and cheeky chappy, Billy Kopecki. 

Overall, I thought that Big The Musical was a great production. Its a light-hearted show that bursts with energy left, right and centre. Although I was somewhat disappointed with some of the music and singing performances, I think it has such great potential and I really hope it continues to develop as it progresses throughout the tour. 

Its here at the Theatre Royal Plymouth until 12 November then moves onto Bord Gais Energy Theatre in Dublin from 7th December- 7th January. I would definitely recommend a visit to check out this show, as it brings a much-loved story to life. 

Ellie Mae x


Disclaimer: All thoughts and opinions are my own. I have been informed that Jay McGuiness performed with a cold in this performance.