Sound Symphony @ The Studio at Festival Theatre

Image contribution:
Brian Hartley

Director and Lead Artist Ellie Griffiths

Performers/Composer Sonia Allori, Greg Sinclair, & Shiori Usui

Paying tribute to the sculpture of music, Sound Symphony has a keen interest in involving its audience in the sights, feels and environment of creating music through their own bodies, and the show accommodates a variety of senses for the whole audience.

Beyond hearing, touch has a tremendous input in what makes the production enticing. We aren’t just sat down and blasted with melody; instead the young audience can stand, wander and, vitally, get a tangible grip with the make-up of the symphony. They feel how they can make their own harmony, learning how varying textures create the show’s sounds.  

Every detail, from the accompanying visual story to the pre-show introduction, has been researched and conducted by a dedicated team who display a wealth of understanding. Ellie Griffiths should be proud of the level of work involved, something extended to the rest of the production group.

Greg Sinclair’s musical direction guides us through an assortment of instruments – slowly deconstructing a symphony into bare parts. Sinclair, Sonia Allori & Shiori Usui begin as a trio performing classical melodies. Gradually they break apart, adding a performance element as Sinclair’s snobbish attitude looks unkindly on the attempts to make tunes from paper and spoons.

Costume changes and vivid colours adding visual elements to the production alongside aural. All three musicians interact with the audience in a respectful manner, allowing the audience to determine the level of interaction. As for the score itself, the presentation is more important than the finished composition. It is designed to encourage as much as it is to enjoy. As a piece of music, it has merit, the evolving melodies bring a variety to the audience which keeps them engaged. Overall Sinclair’s composition is versatile, pleasant and accessible for the young audience.

Griffiths’ production brings a much-needed form of music to audiences who deserve it the most; the ability to freely express oneself by putting themselves on the stage – to feel the vibrations of the cello or hum of the speaker. Sound Symphony is greater than a modest orchestral experience, reassuring every sound as beautiful which should reverberate nationwide.  

Review originally published for The Skinny:

Production touring:

An Evening of Eric and Ern @ King’s Theatre

Image contribution:
Eric & Ern

Performed by Ian Ashpitel & Jonty Stephens

There are few great double acts, and none hold quite the same place in the hearts of the nation as Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise. Proficient in puns, the unfortgettable maestros of timing live on and on and on in An Evening of Eric and Ern.

A veritable pick ‘n’ mix of their best-suited gags for the touring production, the show has a sketch everyone will remember. Even those who didn’t live to see the pair will have some sense of recognition twitched by either Mr Memory or the pair’s duet of Bring Me Sunshine.

Writers and performers Jonty Stephens (Eric) and Ian Ashpitel (Ernie) forgo parts of the narrative dealing with Morecambe’s passing and Wise’s subsequent stint alone for a two-hour run crammed full of humour, song and dance. For fans, there is a deep emotional link. An immense wave of nostalgia fills the theatre as the audience smirk before jokes – already knowing each punchline.

It takes a frosted heart to not be thawed by the sunshine given off by Stephens and Ashpitel. The joy, evident in the faces of the pair, shows that this isn’t so much a job for them but a tribute. The audience interaction, natural flow in delivery and acknowledgement of flubs, technical issues or rowdy fans all work towards a pleasant experience.

Rather than imitate, Ashpitel and Stephens replicate the duo in an astonishing manner; every aspect has been studied, honed and perfected, whether this is visually or vocally but most notably in comic timing and delivery. Their proficiency shines in everything from the tiny facial tics as Stephens askews Morecambe’s signature specs to Ashpitel’s song sequences.

Despite solid performances, a fine selection of routines and charming guest singer Shona White, the production suffers from losing its original narrative. So much heart is lost in the removal of Ernie’s tenure alone, the passing of Eric and the more unique interactions that the pair have. The jaunt down memory lane is enjoyable, but it falls short in offering something new.

An Evening of Eric and Ern is everything you suspect it to be – a magnificent embodiment of Morecambe and Wise’s greatest sketches presented by accomplished performers. It neglects, though, to do little more than this.

Review originally published for The Skinny:

Production Touring: