Blog Posts by Paul Johnston

  • The Commitments: Review

    Twenty-two years after the smash hit movie, 'The Commitments' are back together again in a brand new stage show.

    Adapted from his own book by Roddy Doyle, the play follows Dubliner Jimmy Rabbitte as he bids to put together the world's greatest soul band.

    Aided by veteran musician Joey, Jimmy assembles a ramshackle bunch of performers led by the troubled but talented Deco who - against all odds - manage to make sweet soul music together.

    [VIDEO: Commitments comes to London's West End]

    But then just as they are on the verge of big things - disaster strikes.

    With a setlist that includes the likes of 'Knock On Wood', 'Read Out I'll Be There', 'You Keep Me Hangin' On' and 'Papa Was A Rolling Stone', it would be easy to lump 'The Commitments' in with other big 'jukebox musicals'. However, having the band perform the tracks as part of their rehearsals and live gigs makes the songs less of a plot device and more of an integral part of the show.

    Killian Donnelly is outstanding as Jimmy thanks to an

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  • The Pride: Review

    The Pride

    'The Pride' is the latest in the acclaimed Trafalgar Transformed season and it's a very timely revival for Alexi Kay Campbell's 2008 play.

    The clever concept examines society's changing attitudes to sexuality through the lives of two sets of characters, set 50 years apart.

    In 1958 we see married Philip (Harry Hadden-Paton) and his wife Sylvia (Hayley Atwell) whose relationship is tested when the arrival of Sylvia's author friend Oliver (Al Weaver) forces Philip to confront his sexuality.

    Fifty years later we meet the sexually liberated journalist Oliver who cries on best friend Sylvia's shoulder after his boyfriend Philip leaves him due to his addiction to online sex.

    The trio of actors in the main roles are outstanding, while 'Gavin And Stacey' star Matthew Horne impresses in a series of cameos as a rent boy, lads' mag editor and psychiatrist.

    The play's dual storylines pack an emotional punch that is given an added poignancy when the cast return at the curtain call with 'To Russia

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  • The Drowned Man: Review

    A group of mysterious figures in white masks edge their way along a dark corridor, sweat dripping from every orifice. It's a terrifying sight. And that's just the audience.

    'The Drowned Man' is the latest production from immersive theatre company Punchdrunk. Subtitled 'A Hollywood Fable', it's staged across four floors of a former sorting office in London's Paddington, transformed for the night into Temple Studios.

    The Drowned Man

    We're not told a lot in advance. And we arguably don't really know a lot more by the the end.

    We do know that there are two parallel love affairs - both doomed. One takes place within the walls of a 1960s Hollywood studio and the other in a small, dusty town that lies outside. We also know that the studio has been deserted since one fateful night back in 1962.

    The experience begins with audience members packed into a lift for a few choice words from one of the cast, before being unleashed to explore this world for ourselves. And it is a world.

    The attention to detail in the

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  • Charlie And The Chocolate Factory: Review

    Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Theatre Royal Drury LaneCharlie And The Chocolate Factory, Theatre Royal Drury Lane

    Tickets for 'Charlie And The Chocolate Factory' are almost as sought after as the golden Wonka tickets that feature in the production, so we're pleased to report that this is a show that lives up to the hype.

    Bond director Sam Mendes takes on the unenviable task of adapting Roald Dahl's classic 1964 children's book for the stage in the shadow of both the well-loved 1971 film, starring Gene Wilder, and Tim Burton's less-successful 2005 movie featuring Johnny Depp.

    Here, Douglas Hodge, last seen in BBC One drama 'The Village', plays the sweet-toothed ringmaster with a sinister edge that's in keeping with the darker tone of the original book.

    Hodge has an other-worldly quality about him that would make him - take note BBC execs - a shoo-in for a future regeneration of TV's most famous Time Lord.

    The new musical stays faithful to the book as it tells the story of Charlie, a boy obsessed with chocolate who dreams of visiting the world's most famous chocolate factory.

    When he wins a golden

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  • Sweet Bird Of Youth – Review

    Sweet Bird Of Youth - Old Vic

    Almost exactly 15 years since she became a household name in 'Sex And The City', Kim Cattrall is back on the London stage in a new production of 'Sweet Bird Of Youth'.

    Tennessee Williams' 1959 play sees Cattrall cast as ageing actress Alexandra Del Lago, who has holed herself up in a hotel room after a disappointing movie role.

    The fading star (Del Lago, not Cattrall) has hooked up with local outcast Chance Wayne (Seth Numrich), who is back in his home town years after he fled after giving his childhood sweetheart, Heavenly, a sexually transmitted disease.

    Heavenly's father Boss Finley (Owen Roe) is furious when he hears Chance is back in town and vows an excrutiating punishment if he doesn't follow instructions to leave.

    This is intense stuff.

    After a slow first half, the pace picks up as the characters congregate in the lounge of the Royal Palms hotel where Chase is confronted with a grim ultimatum.

    Freed from the confines of the hotel bedroom, Catrall finally gets a chance to shine with

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  • The Hothouse – Review

    The Hothouse - Trafalgar Studios

    Fresh from his success at the TV BAFTAs last weekend, Simon Russell Beale leads the cast in a revival of Harold Pinter's dark comedy 'The Hothouse' at London's Trafalgar Studios.

    Here he stars as Roote, the flustered head of an unnamed institution, who finds himself with both a birth and a death on his hands on Christmas Day.

    'Life On Mars' star John Simm co-stars as the menacing Gibbs, who relishes in Roote's growing anxiety as the situation begins to spiral out of control.

    The play's bleaker moments are punctuated with plenty of uneasy laughs and the strong cast also includes Harry Melling, who will be familiar to fans of the Harry Potter movies.

    'The Hothouse' is the second in the Trafalgar Transformed season following James MacAvoy's star turn in 'Macbeth'.

    Director Jamie Lloyd's ingenious staging means that a select number of audience members get to witness the whole thing from the stage itself. Though that's possibly not the best place to be when the Christmas cake makes an

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  • Beautiful Thing – Review

    We're huge fans of 'Scott And Bailey's Suranne Jones so we couldn't wait to see her back on stage in 'Beautiful Thing' at London's Arts Theatre.

    Suranne Jones and Jake Davies

    The play, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary, is described as an 'urban love story' and follows two teenage boys who fall in love on a council estate during a very hot summer in the early '90s.

    Jones is brilliant as feisty single mum Sandra, particularly in her ongoing feud with Mama Cass-obsessed next door neighbour Leah (played by 'Waterloo Road's Zaraah Abrahams), firing off some fantastic putdowns that are much too rude to write about here.

    Young actors Jake Davies and Danny-Boy Hatchard give sensitive portrayals as Jamie and Ste, while 'Hollyoaks' star Oliver Farnworth provides comic relief as Sandra's hippy lover Tony.

    There are some excellent one-liners here, which is no surprise as playwright Jonathan Harvey also brought us BBC sitcom 'Gimme Gimme Gimme' and is best known these days as a regular writer on 'Coronation Street' (he

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  • Watch live: Behind-the-scenes on Emmerdale live episode

    'Emmerdale' goes live on Wednesday 17 October at 7pm with a special hour-long episode to mark the show's 40th anniversary.

    Various cast members have already spoken about the challenges of filming such a complex episode with actors having to dash between sets and bad weather potentially throwing a great big spanner in the works.

    ITV are offering fans the opportunity to see exactly that with a specially-placed cameras capturing the possible 'chaos' going on behind-the-scenes.

    You can see for yourself by watching below:

  • Soaps preview – 10 September

    It's a tough week for Izzy and Gary in 'Coronation Street', plus find out what's coming up in 'EastEnders', 'Emmerdale', 'Hollyoaks', 'Neighbours' and 'Home And Away' in our soaps preview...

  • Revamped Daybreak attracts just 100k extra viewers

    TV ratings have revealed that an average audience of 600k watched the revamped 'Daybreak' yesterday morning.

    The ratings were up just 100k from the audience who watched Kate Garraway and Dan Lobb present together for the final time last Friday.

    Aled Jones having just seen yesterday's viewing figures (Credit: ITV)


    This week's much-hyped relaunch saw Lorraine Kelly and Aled Jones taking over as the ITV breakfast show's main hosts, with Lorraine also continuing to present her own segment from 8.30am onwards.

    An ITV spokeperson told BBC News that they were happy with the revamped show and looked forward to building on initial ratings.

    'Daybreak's average audience of 600k on Monday was no match for 'BBC Breakfast', which attracted an average of 1.4 million viewers.

    ITV's breakfast show has struggled in the ratings since 'GMTV' was axed in favour of 'Daybreak' in September 2010.

    High-profile signings Adrian Chiles and Christine Bleakley, poached from BBC's 'The One Show', failed to attract viewers and Read More »from Revamped Daybreak attracts just 100k extra viewers

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