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Unrestricted Views: Jubilee, Royal Exchange

November 18th, 2017

jubilee17f“We should all be angry. Why aren’t we angry all the time?”

Derek Jarman’s classic punk film Jubilee was released in 1977. I hated it. Bewildered and repelled in equal measure, I just didn’t ‘get it’. Forty years on, I find myself sitting in the Royal Exchange theatre to watch Chris Goode’s stage adaptation. Although aware of a definite sense of trepidation, I am also excited at the prospect of a ‘free-spirited, gloriously rude, take-no-prisoners blast of a show’ (as the publicity describes it).

The pre-set establishes an almost magical mood, and the dissonant elements signal that this production intends to be faithful to Jarman’s original, bewildering vision; the theatre is adorned with graffiti and a strange, ghostly, wordless singing echoes around the space. ‘Queen Elizabeth’ (played by Torah Willcox) sits at a desk, peering into a vanity mirror while a shabby mattress lies stranded on the floor nearby.

The first scene involves a Shakespearian exchange between the Queen and her advisor, in which the angel Ariel is invoked and appears on the stairs, dressed in true punk attire and hair-style. Then, as they withdraw to survey what follows from the First Gallery, some 1970s-type streetlights descend from the ceiling and the main characters explode onto the stage; ‘Mad’, toting her gun, ‘Angel’ and ‘Sphinx’ (two brothers) who immediately strip each other naked and roll around incestuously on the shabby mattress, and ‘Crabs’, revelling in a shopping trolley. It is loud and wild and angry and ‘in-yer-face’ – and dares us to be offended or shocked or amused or exhilarated (or all of the above.) So far, so Derek Jarman. But it is the introduction of Travis Alabanza’s ‘Amyl Nitrate’ that brings Jarman’s Jubilee into 2017. Throughout the show, Alabanza delivers some blistering political diatribes, reflecting on last forty years with icy panache and passion. Addressing the audience directly, it is also she who introduces self-awareness into the proceedings, fully acknowledging the irony of this celebration of punk anarchy and vitriol being unleashed on a polite, middle-class theatre audience.

• Continue reading at Unrestricted Views.

Live Art Alive: Jubilee Review

November 18th, 2017

jubilee17gThe interior walls of the Royal Exchange Theatre are densely covered in graffiti. The music is ramped up – this is not Royal Exchange noise levels – this is JUBILEE. The stage is set with Toyah Willcox at her dressing table as Queen Elisabeth I regally pondering the future.

This is 40 years on from her anarchic role as Mads in the original Derek Jarman film. Having seen the original as a young teenager and promptly calling one of the family cats kittens after Toyah this feels like time travel for more than just Elisabeth I. Looking around the actual Royal Exchange  theatre it feels like we could be in a time travel machine. I half expected Amyl Nitrate and her girl gang to seal in the audience with barbed wire and Union Jack flag poles.

This adaptation by Chris Goode is faithful to the original film. The production is brought up to date by references to Cameron, Trump, Brexit and music tracks like Bad Girls by M.I.A but it maintains Jarman’s messy, anarchic “have a go” punk ethic.

• Continue reading at Live Art Alive.

The Observer: Jubilee Review – Anarchy in the UK, 2017 Style

November 13th, 2017

jubilee17lWith its ‘no future’ message, Chris Goode’s riotous update of Derek Jarman’s punk film Jubilee rings true

Of course it is meant to be a mess. A coherent, rational or beguiling version of Derek Jarman’s punk picture of England, Jubilee, would be not simply a paradox but stage suicide. Sometimes Chris Goode’s new theatrical version – directed by the writer to mark the movie’s 40th anniversary next year – does feel like a sort of death. “We’ve lost a few people,” Travis Alabanza’s Amyl Nitrate pointed out, looking at the audience after the interval on press night. A bit of me went with them. But the leavers missed something. There are throughout jolts and jokes. And the swifter, more urgent second half has moments that can spin you around.

… It was clever in this anniversary of a jubilee to cast Toyah Willcox – who played Mad in the film – as a witty ruffed-up Gloriana, getting her handy magician John Dee to summon up visions, and towards the end joyously bursting into I Want to Be Free.

• Continue reading at The Observer. (Photo © Johan Persson)

North West End: Jubilee – Royal Exchange, Manchester

November 10th, 2017

nwe17aAnother five star review of Jubilee at Royal Exchange, Manchester – This one by Joe Flynn at North West End.

On the 40th year anniversary of the iconic punk film the Royal Exchange wrench Jubilee squealing and with a knife to its throat into 2017. Exploring political unrest, social inequality via themes of race, ability, sex, gender and class to name but a few, throw in a failed justice system and Jubilee highlights how our modern world has learnt no lessons from history and the real references to today’s world are tragically abundant.

The story is of a murderous subculture gang taking back control of their own desires and delivering their very own flavour of justice. They are surveyed by original Jubilee cast member and punk girl icon Toyah Willcox, playing a time-travelling Queen Elizabeth who is serenely guided by an angel to witness their turmoil and ultimate plight of selling-out. Willcox’s presence onstage was a comforting link to the bygone anarchy of the 70’s and 80’s but didn’t really feel like a crutch; Chris Goode’s adaptation is true to the original but still painfully relevant to 2017.

• Continue reading at North West End.

Financial Times: Jubilee: A Magnificently Theatrical Punk Apocalypse

November 9th, 2017

ftimes17aJubilee, Royal Exchange, Manchester — a magnificently theatrical punk apocalypse“.

Financial Times (Subscription required to read online)

Upstaged Manchester: Review: Jubilee (Royal Exchange Theatre)

November 9th, 2017

usmanc17aJubilee is a riot. From the slogans spray-painted on to plywood surrounding the Royal Exchange’s in-the-round space to the chaotic way the cast commandeer the stage, it is obvious from the start that this is no ordinary night at the theatre.

An adaption of Derek Jarman’s punk film from the 1970s, Jubilee revolves around Amyl Nitrate (Travis Alabanza) and her loose collective of societal outcasts. As Amyl, Alabanza is a revelation – her heartfelt, angry, intelligent monologues are highlights of the show and I have never witnessed someone engage an audience more skilfully.

Forty years on from starring as Mad in the film, Toyah Willcox plays Elizabeth I. She spends most of the time presiding over the production from a throne on the first gallery with very little to say, but the moments when she does speak allow for welcome periods of calm – something you won’t find anywhere else in the show.

• Continue reading at Upstaged Manchester.

Attitude: Review: Jubilee at Royal Exchange Theatre

November 9th, 2017

attitude16aIt’s always wonderful to see Toyah Willcox on stage. Often remembered solely for her pop career, Toyah is also an actress. In 1977 she filmed Jubilee, Derek Jarman’s brutal meditation on the state of a Britain that was being soaked in royalist propaganda to mark 25 years of Elizabeth II’s reign. Toyah played an orange-haired pyromaniac called Mad. In Chris Goode’s new stage adaptation and updating of Jarman’s film, she plays Elizabeth I.

The forty year in between has seen the world transformed and the sometimes progressive, sometimes violently anarchic world of punk has been utterly transcended. Reviving punk for now and updating what many regard a seminal cult classic was always going to be an enormous challenge. Goode takes it on bravely but perhaps not boldly enough.

• Continue reading at Attitude.

The Guardian: Jubilee Review

November 8th, 2017

guardian17bJubilee review – rude and raucous return for Jarman’s punk pageant

Chris Goode directs Toyah Willcox in a wild reimagining of Derek Jarman’s film about a time-travelling queen and a generation with no future

‘Welcome to Jubilee,” says Amyl Nitrate near the start of Chris Goode’s reimagining of Derek Jarman’s 1978 punk movie. The straight-talking Amyl, played on stage by the mesmerising transgender performer Travis Alabanza, tells us what to expect: “An iconic film most of you have never heard of, adapted by an Oxbridge twat for a dying medium, spoiled by millennials, ruined by diversity, and constantly threatening to go interactive.”   That just about sums it up, and if you go with the flow you will be taken on a wild theatrical experience that knows exactly what it is doing, even at its most cracked, rude and raucous. This is smart work, spikily and lovingly performed.

Toyah Willcox, who starred in Jarman’s original film, sounds cheekily like Judi Dench in the role of Queen Elizabeth I, presiding over a day trip to the future conjured by court astrologer Dr Dee (Harold Finley).

• Continue reading at The Guardian.

British Theatre Guide: Jubilee Review

November 8th, 2017

btg17aOn 4 June 1976 at Manchester’s Lesser Free Trade Hall, the Sex Pistols played a gig voted (along with Woodstock and Live Aid) as one of the most influential of all time; thousands claim to have been in the 150-capacity venue, which was less than a third full, but some of those who were went on to form massively influential bands such as Buzzcocks, The Smiths, The Fall and Joy Division / New Order, not to mention Factory Records and The Haçienda.

A year later, the Queen had her Silver Jubilee in the year Never Mind The Bollocks was released (“God save the Queen / The fascist regime”), then in 1978 punk had its own Jubilee in the form of Derek Jarman’s film of that name, starring some major punk and alternative music figures including Toyah, Adam Ant, Siouxsie Sioux, Richard O’Brien, Little Nell, Jordan and Lindsay Kemp.

Toyah Willcox returns to the world of Jubilee but this time as Queen Elizabeth I, whose magician John Dee (Harold Finley) conjures up the spirit Ariel (Lucy Ellinson) – it gets quite Shakespearean in a few places – to transport her forwards in time, not to the broken, depressed streets of the 1970s but straight to the squat of Amyl Nitrate and her fellow residents, now translated into the 21st century.

• Continue reading at British Theatre Guide.

What’s On Stage: Review: Jubilee (Manchester Royal Exchange)

November 8th, 2017

wostage16aToyah Willcox stars in Chris Goode’s 40th anniversary production

There is an innate theatricality to Derek Jarman’s cult film. A punk classic celebrating its 40th anniversary next year, Jubilee zaps Queen Elizabeth I into a destitute contemporary Britain. Buckingham Palace has been sold off to a music label and turned into recording studios. The rest of the country has been left to rot and, in the wastelands, anarchic girl gangs and queer artists run riot, shagging and killing anything in sight. They could be the sisters of Anthony Burgess’ droogs – just better dressed.

Designer Chloe Lamford turns the whole Royal Exchange into their squat. Union Jacks are strewn from the balconies. Graffiti is scrawled all over the walls so that political slogans and swearwords fight for space.

• Continue reading at What’s On Stage.

The Telegraph: Jubilee, Royal Exchange, Manchester, Review

November 8th, 2017

telegraph16aNihilism, nudity, no future: Derek Jarman’s bleak Britain comes pungently to the stage – Jubilee, Royal Exchange, Manchester, review

How do you take a defining film from the punk era and reconceive it for the stage, 40 years on, when the V-flicking message of punk was “no future”?

Derek Jarman’s 1978 vision of Britannia sinking below the waves during the flag-waving year of the Silver Jubilee revelled in images of dystopian collapse: post-industrial wastelands, dismal interiors that no yet-to-be-conceived TV makeover programme could spruce up, random acts of senseless violence. It was Beckett’s Endgame meets A Clockwork Orange, with melancholy traces of Shakespeare – and it was designed to look like the end of the world was nigh.

Yet here we now are, and many of the gobbing youths of yesteryear turned out fine, some of them doing very nicely indeed thanks to the Thatcher revolution (Malcolm McLaren, “godfather” of punk, at least had the grace and courage to acknowledge that, recalling a “failed, miserable country” before her arrival).

• Continue reading at The Telegraph.

Latest Brighton: Review: Toyah @ Rope Tackle, Shoreham

October 11th, 2017

latestbrighton17aPunk princess, pop icon, acclaimed actor and all round nice girl, well nice with a saucy edge, that’s what you get from this remarkable survivor of an industry that is notoriously destructive. Toyah steps out onto the stage with just two excellent acoustic guitar players to accompany her on a musically illustrated romp through here career. A romp that she has finely honed to create a good balance of story and song, an evening spangled with hits and lightened by incisive comments and witty anecdotes. But above all Toyah can still deliver those hits, her own and some she chooses to cover with not only conviction but with artistry. The voice is better than ever, the accompanying slides remind us of her brilliant visuals and her pithy commentary rattles along creating a compact evening of fun and great music, at times nostalgic but overall there is a sense that this is a woman who is still a valid and relevant musical force.

• Continue reading at Latest Brighton.

Lancashire Telegraph: Review: Toyah @ Blackburn

June 29th, 2017

lanctel17aREVIEW: Toyah, King George’s Hall, Blackburn

It was a show billed as classics, hits and anthems and with a full band behind her the pint-sized punk princess Toyah delivered them all with aplomb.

Of late, many of Toyah’s live appearances have been acoustic evenings where stories from her career have shared the stage with re-worked versions of her songs.

Enjoyable they may be, but this was a night of 100 per cent full-on Toyah with swirling synths, pounding drums and howling guitar.

Somehow she’s 59, but looks amazing and her energy on a sweaty Saturday night in Blackburn never once faltered.

• Continue reading at the Lancashire Telegraph.

The Telegraph: Cannes 2017: Nicole Kidman Channels Toyah

May 30th, 2017

telegraph16aCannes 2017: How to Talk to Girls at Parties, review: Nicole Kidman channels Toyah Willcox in this lifeless sci-fi flick

Derived from a Neil Gaiman short story, this must have felt like an opportunity for provoc-auteur and queer cinema hero John Cameron Mitchell to let his hair down, by resurrecting the anarchic spirit of Derek Jarman’s Jubilee and then staging a Shortbus-lite sex romp with added polymorphous perversity. If this film’s an acquired taste, so is kidney sorbet, or a sponge cake seething with live eels. You get to see Nicole Kidman, in a white electroshock wig, grapple with the part of an angry punk matriarch and yell “shut your gaping gob” at one of her minions. A substitute for Toyah Willcox she’ll never be for the life of her, but the silliness of the casting sums the film up, for good and bad.

• Continue reading at The Telegraph.

YES Magazine: 80’s Invasion Tour

March 19th, 2017

80sinvasion17cThe long awaited 80’s Invasion Tour is back and opened at the Pavilion Theatre in Rhyl on the 2nd of March. YES Mag was lucky enough to be on the guest list and what a night it was!

The show opened with Liverpool’s finest guitar duo China Crisis, who within minutes had everyone on their feet dancing to theor classic beat.

Next up the legendary (and very energetic) pop punk princess Toyah burst on to the stage with hits ‘It’s A Mystery’, ‘I Want Yo be Free’ and many more of her 80’s classics.

• Continue reading at YES Magazine/Twitter.

Shropshire Star: 80s Invasion, Theatre Severn – Review

March 11th, 2017

80sinvasion16b‘Let’s make it like an 80s school disco’, said the performers – and the Theatre Severn certainly had a party atmosphere when it came to the 80s Invasion.

Pop stars China Crisis, Toyah, Paul Young and Martika took to the stage in Shrewsbury on Tuesday, performing their nostalgic hits. Most of the shows I go to are chosen by my mum, and this was no exception. The show was opened by China Crisis, who did a great job of getting the mid-week crowd up and dancing.

We both found Toyah a real revelation, she looked absolutely stunning and had energy by the barrel on stage. She also interspersed her hits, including It’s A Mystery, Thunder In The Mountains and I Wanna Be Free, with tales of her time during the 80s. But it was her cover of Echo Beach, originally by Martha and the Muffins, that really got the crowd going.

• Continue reading at the Shropshire Star.

News North Wales: Review: 80’s Invasion Tour

March 3rd, 2017

80sinvasion16a80’s legends invade the stage at Rhyl Pavilion

The 1980s, is synonymous with big hair and big aspirations.

It was also undoubtedly one of the best decades for music. Not only did it give birth to the music video but also left us with an eclectic mix of styles and genre’s many of which can still be heard in today’s charts.

Such is the fondness for this power dressing period and its place in our relatively recent memories, 37 years on artists from the day are still singing to scores of fans up and down the country at festivals or gigs. An example of this nostalgia package – The 80’s Invasion Tour – was at Rhyl’s Pavilion Theatre on Thursday.

… A quick turn around enabled the next act Toyah to capatalise on the feel good mood. The diminutive diva, who looked remarkable for someone set to celebrate her 59th birthday, launched into her set of defiant early 80s anthems including ‘ It’s a Mystery’ and ‘I want to be free’ – enjoyed by scores of fist pumping audience members. A strong contender surely for national treasure Ms Willcox was followed by international recording artist Martika…

• Continue reading at News North Wales.

Time Out: Crime and Punishment Review

September 7th, 2016

timeout16aCrime & Punishment: A Rock Musical

Nineties kids might remember Willcox as ‘Barmy Aunt Boomerang’ on CBBC, but she had a big career in the late ’70s and ’80s with hits like ‘It’s A Mystery’ and ‘I Want To Be Free’. All her old tunes make an appearance, with some new songs too. They’re fun, but tend to interrupt the rather arch, overwrought Russian melodrama and its philosophical inserts about moral superiority, rather than complementing or enlightening it.

The adaptation by Phil Willmott (who also directs and acts in the show) has its merits and although it’s a brisk 90 minutes it feels pacy rather than rushed. All the necessary beats, from heinous act through falling in love and eventual contrition, find their moment and there are some semi-decent bits of acting in there too.

• Continue reading at Time Out. Read other reviews of Crime and Punishment here. (Photo © Time Out/Sheila Burnett)

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Attitude: Crime & Punishment Review

September 6th, 2016

attitude16aReview | ‘Crime & Punishment’ at The Scoop amphitheatre in London

Dostoyevsky meets steam punk in this bold retelling of the literary classic.

Setting a theatrical performance of Dostoyevsky’s brooding novel Crime and Punishment in a world of steam punk is a brave choice; accompanying it with a soundtrack made up of Toyah Willcox’s classic rock anthems is even braver. The production team at Gods and Monsters Theatre Company have not only attempted this, they’ve pulled it off with all the brazen authority of an axe-wielding Raskolnikov.

The classic Russian tale opens the new season at The Scoop in London, a 1,000-person sunken amphitheatre, and follows Raskolnikov as he justifies the brutal murder of a pawn broker with his belief that it was for the greater good of mankind, that by using the money he steals for good causes he has the right to go above and beyond the law. Directed by Phil Willmott, songs like ‘Love Crazy’ and ‘Who Let the Beast Out’ are intermingled with the tale, fitting surprisingly well with the heavy story and lifting it into a lighter tone that can be enjoyed more readily by all.

• Continue reading at Attitude. Read other reviews of Crime and Punishment here. (Photo © Attitude/Sheila Burnett)

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Mind The Blog: Crime and Punishment Review

September 6th, 2016

cprm16iCrime and Punishment: A Rock Musical is a semi-jukebox musical, in that Willcox’s back catalogue is raided for some of the numbers, and some brand new songs have been provided specifically for the show. Somehow it all works surprisingly well! The jukebox musical approach can sometimes make a show feel forced, as songs are shoe-horned into a storyline, but everything (bar an inadvertently funny It’s A Mystery) gels really well together. It may help if you are unfamiliar with Willcox’s work, as I am, however the themes in the chosen songs fit the feeling of the scenes in which they are included. Given Raskolnikov’s frustration & revolutionary fervour, rock music is definitely the best way to express these feelings. It’s also impressive that quite a sizeable novel can be condensed into a 100-minute show, that still has a tangible storyline running through it.

Crime and Punishment: A Rock Musical runs at the Scoop (London Bridge City) until 25 September 2016. Entry is free – donations can be made & programmes bought on the day.

• Continue reading at Mind The Blog. Read other reviews of Crime and Punishment here.

The Stage: Crime and Punishment Review

September 5th, 2016

stage16aCrime and Punishment review at the Scoop, London – ‘Dostoyevsky gets the steam-punk treatment’

Gods and Monsters Theatre has been creating exciting open-air theatre at the Scoop for the last 14 years. Unlike the cosy, enclave of Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, the venue is subject to the surrounding bustle of life on the Thames embankment and director Phil Willmott’s production employs the broad strokes necessary to attract and engage with an outdoor audience.

This year Dostoyevsky gets the steam-punk treatment. Willmott has tuned Crime and Punishment into a musical with the help of songwriter and composers Toyah Willcox and Simon Darlow.

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The revolutionary undercurrent of nineteenth century St Petersburg seems an appropriate match for Willcox and Darlow’s soft punk score and a couple of crowd-pleasing hits including I Want to be Free and It’s a Mystery sit comfortably in Willmott’s accessible adaptation.

• Continue reading at The Stage. (Photo © The Stage//Sheila Burnett)