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It’s coming this Spring – A new edition of the Shakespearience

Our very successful Shakespeare event – the Shakespearience – returns to the theatre this Spring.

The new production has just entered rehearsal and promises to be very exciting.

It is the ideal introduction to Shakespeare and to live theatre in general for schools groups aged between 9 & 14.

Why not get in touch with us today to reserve seats for your school. The theatre holds 170 so you can book any size of group from 1 class to the whole theatre.

The production company is made up entirely of professional actors and musicians. Here’s a list of who is involved:

Will Henry as Henry V
Caro Breton as Mistress Quickly
Grant Shepherd as Henry IV
Debbie Bird as Mistress Page
Anna Ray as Mistress Ford
Angharad Price as Doll Tearsheet and others
Evangeline Briazza as Morton, a Fairy and Warwick
Ashley Lloyd Shaw as Poins and others
Jasper Jarman-Norris as a Page, a Boy and others
Kathleen Ross the Musical Director, and on cello.
Rebecca Waite on trumpet
Louise Kleboe on vocals
Will Summers on wind instruments
Stuart Morrell on mandolin
Richard Evans – Director and playing Sir John Falstaff
Darren Hirst – producer, director and playing the Narrator, Claudius and Puck


The production will begin to play on the 15th of May and there will be two performances each day which will take place during school hours. More information to follow soon.

A Christmas Cracker – December 2015

What: A Christmas Cracker

Who: Riding Lights Theatre Company

Where: Ravenscourt Arts, Hammersmith, London

When: December 9 & 10th 2015

This was the second annual Christmas play / pantomime at the Ravenscourt Arts theatre in Hammersmith and saw the theatre once again join forces with the Riding Lights Theatre Company from York to bring joy to the lives of an audience who were mostly between the ages of 4 and 11 with a smattering of teachers and parents.


Cracker the Dog

The play has now finished its residency in Hammersmith but we thought we would review it here as it continues to appear around the country, culminating in some performances in York, right before Christmas.

The story behind the play is surprisingly complex and a little illogical but it has to be said that since even the 4 year-olds had no problem keeping up you shouldn’t either.

After a brief introduction and safety instructions by resident M.C. (and reviewer), Darren Hirst, we were introduced to Ebenezer Sneezer (played by Sarah Jane Lee) and her/his dog Cracker (played by Cracker the Dog) who is ably assisted by Rachel Price.


Ebenezer Sneezer (Sarah Jane Lee)

It seems that Ebenezer and Cracker have no where to spend the night and so they are grateful to stumble on a barn and a blanket (even though the blanket is marked “Do Not Touch” on one side and “Deadly” on the other) as it means they have a way of keeping out of the cold on the way to doing a story-reading at a town centre event. The barn is unfriendly and smelly and it has a sign marked “No singing” on the wall.

The story continues from this opening to unfold a story of redemption in the best “Scrooge” Christmas tradition. There is a mean old woman, Mrs McGinity who owns a donkey called Deadly (don’t think too much about that blanket, it’ll give the game away) and Cracker the dog helps Ebenezer Sneezer understand the true meaning of the story of the baby King who is born in a stable.


Mrs McGinity (Rachel Price)

The stage set is clever and though simple, it is manipulated to provide all the scenes that are required. The lights provide some Christmassy glow and the actors are accomplished, energetic and witty.


Best of all as in last year’s “Goose Chase”, Ravenscourt Arts is a place where the two British traditions of the nativity play and the pantomime are meeting seamlessly. There’s lots of “It’s Behind You” but not so much that it squeezes out the true story of Christmas.


Judie Tzuke – Songs + Stories – 11 April 2015

Who: Judie Tzuke

What: Songs and Stories Tour

Where: Ravenscourt Arts, Hammersmith, London

When: 11th April 2015

On the opening night of Judie Tzuke’s first UK wide all-acoustic tour, questions were invited from the audience as they will be on every night of this long jaunt around the country.

One sample question: What do you do to keep your voice so strong for so long?

Answer: Nothing. I was once given some vocal exercises but I’m afraid I’ve forgotten them.

And there lies a mystery because Ms Tzuke’s voice is every bit as strong and beautiful as it was when many of this audience first saw her on “Top of the Pops” a few (!) years ago and many a teenage boy fell in love with her. Indeed, it still has that clear platinum sound it always had at its best. Gone are the days when being cast as a rock chick by her record label, she occasionally had to adopt an odd pitch to be heard over the full-on band. Now there is a reassuring comfort about her voice. A full maturity.

The set list for tonight has been changed up from the “secret gig” she played at this very same venue, nearly two months ago, and in the same way there are changes in the band. Graham Kearns on acoustic guitar is where Ben Mark was before and Peter Gordeno (from The Producers and Depeche Mode) on keyboards fills the spot held by Tim Deal last time.

Graham Kearns

Graham Kearns

Peter Gordeno

Peter Gordeno

Also we must mention that last time out, Bailey Tzuke was heavy with child. This time, we are told the little one (Rani) is safely backstage!

Bailey Tzuke revisits her hit "Uninvited"

Bailey Tzuke revisits her hit “Uninvited”

Opening act, Chaz Thorogood delivered, as before, a strong and competent set with some evidence of strong and developing songwriting and a nice cover of Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower”.

Chaz Thorogood

Chaz Thorogood

Song changes for the main set? Well, new songs “Soldiers” and “Venus” are in, whilst older songs like “Sukarita” and “Left Hand Talking” are given the night off. Sadly, one of the highlights of last time “The Other Side” is not present tonight but we gain “For You” as an encore.

Besides that it is the same – “Ladies’ Night”, “Bring the Rain” and “Welcome to the Cruise” from the debut album; “Enjoy the Ride” from her project with Morcheeba; “All At Sea”, “If” and “So Emotional” from more recent albums; covers of “Woodstock” and “May You Never” and a lead for Bailey on “Uninvited” and for Tallula Tzuke on “Heartbeats”. And, of course, the big hit, “Stay With Me Till Dawn” to put the cream on top of the luscious cake. All-in-all, a well rounded and thought out set.

Tallula Tzuke

Tallula Tzuke

All of this broken up by different questions from the audience (although the question about who “Liggers at Your Funeral” was about persists) and different stories.

Judie Tzuke

Judie Tzuke

So refreshing sounds in a delightful sold out venue and vocals which are a marvel at any age. Judie says the musicians on stage and the songs in the set will continue to change up as the tour unwinds so much to look forward to. What’s not to like?!


Judie Tzuke 3

Judie Tzuke – February 2015

Songs and Stories

Who: Judie Tzuke

What: Songs and Stories

Where: Ravenscourt Arts, Hammersmith

When: 20th February 2015

Ravenscourt Arts is a delightful little venue. Seating 160 with immaculate sound reproduction, great lights, an engaging atmosphere and well-thought-out design, it is a great place to host a concert. Consequently, it is the ideal place for the kind of tasty dish that was served up on Friday night.

Tonight is the “secret” launch night for Judie Tzuke’s first ever full acoustic tour in a long and successful career. There’s some joke about the “pineapple gig” that the all-invited audience seem to be in on but we don’t need to dwell on that. What we have is an acoustic set which spans the bases from the debut album “Welcome to the Cruise” right up to the as-yet-unreleased “Woman Overboard”.

Acoustic shows can sometimes lack energy and seem a little one dimensional but there’s no sense of that here. Ms Tzuke, normally quite a shy and nervous performer, is taking the brave step to tell stories and answer questions from the audience between numbers and this works well giving the whole affair a homely atmosphere.

Tonight’s band adds to that sensation. On backing vocals, we have the double of Judie’s daughters, Bailey Tzuke and Tallula Tzuke. Bailey, of course, is a chart act in her own right with her hit cover of “Uninivited” taking up residence in the British charts a few years ago.

Tallula Tzuke
Tallula Tzuke


Bailey Tzuke
Bailey Tzuke

On piano and keyboard is Tim Deal whilst guitar duties are handed to Ben Mark, who is moonlighting from his current gig as musician and composer for Take That.

Tim Deal
Tim Deal
Ben Mark
Ben Mark

The set, as we suggested, is a broad-ranging affair. It opens with the title track from that debut album and then winds its way on various stops on Judie’s career. Ben Mark’s contribution is particularly impressive, transforming distinctive hooks and melodies which are normally reserved for an electric instrument on to his acoustic 6-string with great panache on songs like “Sukarita”. Also Mr Deal produces a fetching Hammond-style sound on the song that Judie composed and recorded with Morcheeba, “Enjoy the Ride”.

But it is the vocals that are the real tour-de-force, with not one Tzuke but three taking turns on lead. A heavily pregnant Bailey delivers up a rousing version of the hit Alanis Morrissette composition which she cut with the Freemasons. Her sister, Tallula, also goes the cover route with a version of “Heartbeats” which was originally recorded by The Knife and then made into an acoustic hit by Jose Gonzalez. Judie also has some covers up her sleeve with the Joni Mitchell song “Woodstock” and John Martyn’s “May You Never” (recorded by Ms. Tzuke on her “Beauty of Hindsight” album) being part of the set. The latter sees all three Tzukes alternate on lead to stunning effect.

Judie Tzuke 2
Judie Tzuke

Most of the rest of the set is made up of sad ballads which suit the thoughtful tone of the show and Judie’s voice just right. “All at Sea”, the early “Ladies’ Night” and Bring the Rain” and the recent “So Emotional” are all here and all right on the money. One of the highlights of the nights is “Left Hand Talking” which has warm backing vocals from the girls.

“Left Hand Talking” is preceded by “The Other Side” which Judie describes as one of her best songs and it lives up to that rep.

Judie Tzuke 7

The set is rounded out by the inevitable “Stay With Me Till Dawn” with the audience responding to the artist’s request to provide backing vocals. Once more the overall effect of the song is enhanced by the warm sound maintained by the venue.

Support act, Chaz Thorogood, gave a good account of himself. Gritty vocal, gutsy guitar, and some strong compositions, he also threw in a cover of Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower” for good measure.

Judie Tzuke will return to the same venue in April and then will head out on a nationwide “Songs and Stories” tour where she promises to mix in songs from many parts of her career. If tonight’s show is evidence of what to expect you should attempt to catch her on more than one occasion during that lengthy sequence of shows.

Judie Tzuke 9

Shakespearience Too – March 2015

The Shakespearience Too!

This is the latest venture for our own production company “The Shakespearience” which Darren Hirst founded in 2009 to present an introduction to Shakespeare for young people of pre-GCSE school age.

When the Shakespearience first began to work together, it was actors, a tour bus and props but since our own theatre opened, life has been much easier.

The Shakespearience Too - Full Cast

The Shakespearience Too – Full Cast

In the original Shakespearience’s final run, Darren’s health became very difficult about half way through the organisational phase and he had to take a back seat for the actual performances so he’s very glad to be on stage for “The Shakespearience Too” as well as directing and producing.

“One question people have been asking me is why it’s called ‘The Shakespearience Too’,” says Darren, “well, to me it’s quite simple. It’s not the original Shakespeare introduction we did – this is completely new – and the original one was used more than once so this one couldn’t be ‘The Shakespearience 2’. But it’s still an introduction to Shakespeare so it is “The Shakespearience Too”. I thought the title was a funny joke and play-on-words but no-one seems to get it!”

Of the actors that were in the original Shakespearience there is only a very few returning as Darren really wanted to freshen things up and make this distinctively different.
“Richard (Evans) and I will be co-directing and acting again and Perkelt are coming back to do the music but besides that everything else is new”, notes Darren.

Even the line-up of Perkelt has changed quite dramatically since last time around with only founder members, Pavlina Bastlova and Stepan Honc still part of the band which is now based in Fulham rather than the Czech Republic!

The other actors are a varied and young cast with a surprising amount of theatre experience for their ages. All the actors are from the UK except Liam MacDonald who has joined the company from Australia.

“This time we’re exploring the characters in Shakespeare rather than particular plays, so everyone is developing a major character as well as playing smaller roles in the others’ scenes”, says Darren, “it is an interesting format and quite challenging – add to this the fact that really nobody knew each other until we started to rehearse and there’s quite an energy and frisson all its own”.

Alexander Hunt who will play King Lear and Aisha Kent who is Lady Macbeth have perhaps the most challenging parts.

In total, “The Shakespearience Too” uses 5 of William Shakespeare’s plays – “Macbeth”, “King Lear”, “Much Ado About Nothing”, “Twelfth Night” and “Hamlet”.

In addition, there are scenes that Darren has written to link the Shakespearean material and original music from Perkelt as well as them performing Shakespeare’s own ballads including one from “Othello”.

Richard Evans - actor, co-director in The Shakespearience and The Shakespearience Too

Richard Evans – actor, co-director in The Shakespearience and The Shakespearience Too

Shakespearience Too

What: The Shakespearience Too

Who: The Shakespearience Production Company

Where: Ravenscourt Arts, Hammersmith, London

When: March 2015

In 2009, I had a dream. I mean literally. I had a dream. I woke up in my hotel in Stratford-Upon-Avon with a notion that I should start a theatre company that would present Shakespeare for schoolchildren in a way that would be informative, entertaining and educational. I was in town to review a play by the Bard but I have to say that I can’t even remember which one. But I do remember what happened next.

In Stratford there is a tribute to some firefighters who died in a blaze trying to save lives. Near there I heard some buskers trying to gather money for their playing. Now in Stratford-Upon-Avon you hear many buskers but these were good. I mean really good. You can read more about them at http://www.perkelt.com .

Pavlina Bastlova - Perkelt (Woodwinds)

Pavlina Bastlova – Perkelt (Woodwinds)

I watched and listened for twenty minutes and with my dream and the music buzzing around my head like a particularly angry bee, I tried to figure it all out. I returned at lunchtime to find them still playing and when they broke for food and drinks, I approached them to make a proposal. And then found out that they could speak only limited English. Somehow or other we figured out that I wanted to take them out for dinner and bring a dictionary. This was getting crazier by the minute.

Perkelt - Stepan Honc - Stringed instruments

Perkelt – Stepan Honc – Stringed instruments

That evening I hired them to play music for a theatre company that didn’t even exist. Now I was getting way out of my depth. I had a band in period costume with period instruments and great music but no actors and this crazy idea of working with schools. The only problem was the schools didn’t know anything about my ambitions yet.

A couple of days later, I wandered into an art gallery in Sheep Street, Stratford and met a guy called Garrick Huscared who was a little larger than life. He told me about his art gallery which was meant to display only art inspired by Shakespeare and I told him about my seedling idea of a schools’ project. He wanted in. And I said I would help him to promote his art gallery.

Having seen the RSC production I was there to see, I headed home to write wise and witty words about it. I started to talk to schools and found out there was now real interest. It now had a name. I called it “The Shakespearience” – the Shakespeare Experience, if you see what I mean. By now the art gallery in Stratford had closed and Mr Huscared could no longer be involved in what I was doing but I was grateful to him because he had given me a continuation of the momentum that my dream had given me which if it was just me and my idea might have died out a little while ago.

He had also given me the name of someone I should contact who might be the guy to help me to take it forward. Richard Evans. Richard was also a large character but very different from Garrick. He is known for playing Henry VIII and is an interesting and amiable guy. We sat in a cafe in Victoria Station and talked about ideas and actors and rehearsals. A few months later we had a bus, some props, some costumes and a list of schools that wanted to see our cast of 6. It was very successful.

Richard Evans

Richard Evans

We’d arrive at a school get into costume, perform, make the kids hate Lady Macbeth or love Romeo and Juliet and then get back on the coach and head for the next school. It was hard work but fun and very worthwhile. It was very successful but we all knew that we’d probably not do anything like that again.

Darren Hirst performs for a young audience in 2010

Darren Hirst performs for a young audience in 2010

Or at least not in that way. The following year saw work take place on our theatre, “Ravenscourt Arts” and by 2012 it was open and up and running (how we came to have our own theatre space is another story). Unfortunately, my health took a battering that year and after working hard to put together the ensemble for our Shakespearience, I had to take very much a back seat for the actual run. Grim times.

Well, to cut a long story short, my health is good and we’re gearing up to provide a whole new version of the Shakespearience for our young audience as we enter our third season in March. Perkelt are once more on-board and this time with a group of songs from Shakespeare’s canon that they are currently working on. Richard is back once more and he and I will be at the helm.


Richard points the way forward


Last week saw our auditions and we’re putting together the cast. This week, bookings are open and local schools with young people aged 9-13 should get in touch and confirm their seats. It looks like it is going to be a splendid time and we believe that we have discovered some really gifted people – both those with great long CVs and oodles of stage and TV experience and those who are new to the trade but who we hope are going to be stars for the future.

Sometimes you have to work on those dreams.