Support Your Local Theatre – A Call to Arms

It amazes me how much Coventry has to offer. Next week you have the option of seeing a musical tribute to Coventry’s past OR a local theatre take on three cut-down Shakespeare plays in one night, and win. I recommend both.

Joseph Eaton-Kent as Tim and Elizah Jackson as Sonya play the classics

Joseph Eaton-Kent as Tim and Elizah Jackson as Sonya play the classics

To my shame I haven’t been to the new B2 theatre before. I remember a Belgrade studio theatre many years ago, but nothing as flexible an open as this. Three Minute Heroes, The Belgrade Theatres revival of their 2000 production, had actors racing past my feet from all directions, using the thrust stages’ multiple entrances to full effect.

The play, while a little thin on plot, is great fun and packed full of foot stomping ska classics. Following the fortunes of five aimless young Coventrians as they decide to start a band. The plot covers most of the standard 80’s scandals. Race, extra marital pregnancy, homosexuality and unemployment all interweave with the protagonists excitement at their new-found musical revolution. There are heavy references to Coventry itself, including much that has now disappeared. References to ‘the Lanch’ and The Wedge book shop stick most in my mind.

The cast are great and look perfect. Elizah Jackson looks so much like a young Pauline Black its spooky. Fun is the best way to describe Three Minute Heroes and just like Propaganda Swing all the music is live. Anyone who has a love for the ska scene will have a great time, especially to see Neville Staples on drums. If you’re looking for a night out with all your favourite tunes and a good dose of 1980’s Coventry nostalgia this is your show. My favourite part was when Neville Staples gave a raucous rendition of Monkey Man. By this point the audience was on its feet and the stage floor itself, helplessly dancing and smiling.

Hotspur and Prince Hal

Sean Glock as Harry Hotspur and Pete Meredith as Prince Hal during fight rehearsals

At the other end of the spectrum entirely The Criterion Theatre is offering a play devoted to Shakespeare’s most famous comic character Jack Falstaff. The Criterion has often taken on plays larger and more complex than its small stage should be able to cope with and always pulls off these challenges with style and aplomb. From what I saw in my small sneaky preview they’re about to do it again.

Jack Falstaff uses edited sections of Shakespeare’s Henry IV parts 1 and 2 with a little Henry V to tell the story of Falstaff and his tumultuous relationship with Prince Hal. The young heir apparent to Henry IV has been lead astray by this gross criminal figure of fun, drunkenly roaming around the taverns and whorehouse’ of Eastcheap and fraternising with thieves. But all this changes when his father’s position on the throne is threatened.

Jack Falstaff

Craig Shelton and Nicol Cortese revive their medieval romance as Jack Falstaff and Doll Tearsheet

Whilst this massive amount of plot seems overwhelming, a steady narrator leads the audience through the story. The Falstaff character is hilarious and action-packed scenes drive the show forward. The cast is full of familiar faces with quite a few head turning performances. It’s rare to see all of Henry IV without having to see two plays. This show keeps the core story without letting it drag, and on only one ticket.

I love amateur theatre and what it brings to a community, I’ve admitted this before. The fantastic thing about Shakespeare is that you can edit and change it to bring out a different layer of a script. Putting both these things together is a delight for me. I recommend anyone to take a look at what the Criterion is playing with. They are taking a risk and from what I saw are succeeding. Tickets are available now, the production runs from the 18th to the 20th.

I believe in supporting your local theatre, be that a professional production with a local focus or a local amateur company trying something bigger. Tickets for both are on sale at The Criterion website and The Belgrade website. Book now. SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL THEATRE!

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1 Response

  1. Michael Hammond says:

    Falstaff is on until 25 October !

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