Chris Leicester Chris Leicester Chris Leicester Chris Leicester
       
         
         
 
REVIEWS
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Hurricane Hill - 2013

"Hurricane Hill certainly remain in my memory for weeks to come. Should you get a chance to see this play in any potential future performances, you should look forward to it immensely."

Sebastian Gahan 19/10/2013

"Slasher" Kincade – 2010

‘"Slasher" Kincade is a play that is cut back to the bare minimum where imagination runs riot. A brilliant evening of live entertainment and theatre at its rawest best.’ **** What’s on stage 16/4/10

‘On a stark black set with just two chairs the two characters hold the audience’s attention, and draw you in to their predicament ...... a compelling piece of theatre’  Chester Chronicle 15/4/10

‘Slick production is a play of our times......The scenes are slick and to the point, leaving the audience keen to know what comes next as the background story unfolds.’  Hackney Gazette 6/5/10

‘moments to savour .....a personal and mature piece of theatre.’ Extra Extra 4/5/10

‘Leicester is also an accomplished director and blends clever lighting and physical theatre to bring his plays to life. .... Leicester has a good command of natural, fluid dialogue, while his characters are both lucid and recognisable.’ The Stage 10/5/10

 ‘impressive acting’ Camden New Journal 13/5/10

The Baby Box - 2008

 "The Baby Box opens on two adopted sisters, Glenda and Yvonne, in their first meeting in over 12 years….Sarah Finigan as the edgy and rebellious Yvonne really tears her heart out and is played well next to the brilliant Joanna Watt as the sensible and angry Glenda.
With the chemistry of such a beautiful text and believable acting, the spell is indeed cast and it becomes a very revealing and emotionally involved piece. At the end, we are left empathising hopelessly for a woman struggling to find her identity and make amends with her past.
A good play to see as textually and directorially it was ambitious…it will have the more hardened of us sniffing into a handkerchief... The power of Leicester’s writing combined with the wonderful acting talent really carries the play through to the very end, providing an engaging watch without being too schmaltzy or nostalgic. The Baby Box is a happy medium between adventurous and traditional that will appeal to many, and have even more running for some Kleenex."  Allan Taylor, Extra Extra

In Chris Leicester’s new drama, two women who were adopted as infants by the same unstable and abusive mother have reacted differently as adults, one hiding in the seeming normalcy of denial, the other very aware of how damaged she is. Flashbacks and revelations of present traumas expose the scars both women carry.
The strengths of the play lie in individual scenes such as the sisters’ uncomfortable reunion and the surprisingly successful meeting of one with her birth mother, as well as the intense and expressive performances of Sarah Finigan and Joanna Watt in the central roles... Director Stephen Henry is to be credited for guiding his actresses to their strong performances. Gerard Berkowitz, The Stage

Baby boom exploding in midlife crisis.
"Director Stephen Henry solves the problems of short scenes in various locations by starting the play as if in rehearsal, with scripts lying handy, minimal props, virtually no costume and a stage-manager ever-ready with tea and stage-directions. It also matches the provisional sense Yvonne has about her own reality, though the limited-budget doesn’t allow much sense of change when basic lighting takes over, the action flows independently and stage-management is edged to the sidelines, and then offstage. The point is Yvonne never has the security of feeling at home anywhere, her memories focus on her feelings. When a table-top becomes an attic prison, what’s significant is the memory of fear...It needs quick-wits to keep up with where and when we are, but this intricacy reflects Yvonne’s tangled mind, the search for somewhere to anchor herself."  Timothy Ramsden, Reviewsgate

"Naturalistic, gritty writing – reminiscent of Mike Leigh." James Cooper, Camden new Journal

Bits of jigsaw fit neatly together ****
"The beginning is deliberately low key. Two actresses are sitting at a table with their scripts open, they say their lines, turning the pages when necessary and the stage manager sits on the side, reading out the stage directions.   
As the play continues, the characters gather confidence, dispose of their scripts and the full story unfolds little by little like a traditional thriller. Clue after clue is presented until all the pieces join together like a jigsaw puzzle.
We are exploring the life of Yvonne in an exceptional performance by Sarah Finigan.
Her sister, Glenda  is played by Joanna watt, who also does all the female parts - including their disturbed adoptive mother, Yvonne's birth mother, and her little daughter. She manages all these roles effortlessly with the minimum of stress and the maximum of effect.
The lone masculine actor is Iain Peacock who plays the male characters. These are rather ineffectual - nowhere near as strong as any of the females. Although written by a man and directed by Stephen Henry, this is a story for and about women.
When the play starts, we are In Glenda's house, the area is crawling with policemen.
Glenda arrives home to find that her sister, Yvonne, newly released from prison after 12 years for murder, has let herself into the house and is desperate for accommodation.
Glenda, is understandably reluctant, but eventually is forced to listen to the whole story, which is told in tiny bursts - jumping barriers of time and place until eventually the whole truth emerges.
Some of the stories are very painful - especially those of the mother and baby home. There are no conclusions drawn, and the audience is expected to make its own judgments on the situation.
Leicester's writing is confident and powerful and he has a disturbing story to tell.
Stephen Henry's direction is sure and inventive and the actors work together with an almost embarrassing honesty which is assisted by the naturalistic dialogue.
Once the play gets into its swing, there is no doubt that here are real people living out an appalling set of circumstances.
Aline Waites, Hampstead and Highgate Express, 6th March 2008.  

Review of The Baby Box ****
"Very strong topics powerfully performed" by Catarina Toscano for remotegoat on 20/03/08
The Baby Box is a dramatic story about a family's secrets and pasts.
It starts with a rehearsed reading - asking for the audience's imagination and focus in the actors to fill in the set and lights. However, after a while the play develops into a performance with lights, set, costumes and acts. It is interesting as it seems to grab the viewers' attention to the acting and the text in the beginning but it also makes us realise the importance of the lights and music to deepen the strength of the text and the acting.
Yvonne (Sarah Finigan) breaks in Glenda's (Joanna Watt) house one evening unexpectedly after 12 years without seeing each other. Whatever happened in each others lives they don't really know until that night...
In fact, not only Yvonne breaks into Glenda's house she also breaks in their unrevealed past. A troubled past haunted by their mother's illness and a quite mysterious father - whose role is not very clear - becomes known in a rhythmic and poignant text.
Among moments of strong argument, physical violence and reencounters, the play also has us a beautiful and touching moment: the magic carpet travel. It is a unique moment of beauty and dream where a mother and a child travel in their imagination tied to a teddy bear. And it is brilliantly performed by Watt: with her eyes wide open and innocent smile. Here contrasting heavily with the other characters she has been acting throughout the play - the two mothers; the adult sister; the social worker... Amazing and yet a very convincing transformation!
What begun as an encounter of two sisters that haven't seen each other for many years slowly reveals a tale about their family, their past and their origins. Good, interesting and quite strong.


The Fourth Wall - 2005

‘I am liar,’ says the earnest man in a jacket and roll-neck jumper. ‘You’re all liars too.’ It’s us he’s talking to, in the guise of a drama school tutor lecturing his students. The play that follows is an illustration of his thesis – drawn from Stanislavsky – that acting is all about accessing true emotions from one’s own past. When the play proper begins, three actors, Sam and Alan, older, and Rob, younger, are in mid-performance. Rob suddenly, and disastrously, gets distracted by the audience (lets his ‘circle of attention’ widen, in the jargon), and rushes off, with an agonised Alan in swift pursuit.
For the reasons behind this debacle, writer Chris Leicester takes us into the near and distant past, to the fraught and sometimes comic atmosphere of the rehearsal room, and the bitchy and intimate conversations of the pub afterwards. Deteriorating relations with their camp, over-earnest director are one thing, but there is a cloud over Rob (an impressive Chris Carney) that drags the play out of the homely circle of the theatre into the world of news headlines. Director Paul Braithwaite has chosen a bare-stage setting for Leicester’s slightly duplicitous mystery story, and he keeps the tension tightly ratcheted until the final scene. Best of cast is Kevin Brannagan, as the guilt-ridden Sam, who achieves moments of mesmerising naturalism in this empty room that Stanislavsky would have applauded.****Jonathan Gibbs  TIME OUT 16TH MARCH 2005

When on stage, an actor is torn between the experience of being himself playing a part and the part he is playing.
As observed by Stanislavski, this duality is central to Chris Leicester’s clever, acerbic, unpredictable play about a play undermined by the life going on around it.
It denies us the satisfaction of coherent action and hands us the challenge of difficult, life-like material. Lies and supposed reality are barely distinguishable but Leicester avoids the self-conscious clichés associated with plays obsessed by their own artistry.
The darkest of secrets are combined with lightness of touch and we learn to forgive the play’s bumpy texture of a succession of short scenes played out against a nonexistent set.
An all-male, unlovely cast is headed by Paul Braithwaite, who is the real-life director and onstage player of one Joe Raymond, a late, great practitioner of the theories of Stanislavski.
Raymond’s legend dwarfs the inadequate Richard (Robert Martin), a director with no control over his actors or his nerves. Effete and out of touch, Richard raises pitying laughter from the audience. His cast of Sam (Kevin Brannagan), Rob (Chris Carney) and Alan (Roy Carruthers) is far grittier. Leicester’s plain, strong writing provides them with set pieces to test their acting skills.
Rob takes us into a murderous dream and Alan relives a near-death experience as, according to the methods of Stanislavski, the actor draws on make-believe genuine suffering to bring conviction to his fictional part. The Stage – 16th March 2005 – Barbara Lewis

Stanislavski encouraged his students to draw from the well of their own experiences to bring authentic emotions to their acting roles: ‘The Fourth Wall’ examines the fears and motivations of three actors urged by their obnoxious director to delve into these real-life experiences, no matter how traumatic. ‘Rob’ runs off stage on the opening night and fails to turn up on the second, and we are led backstage through the tangled series of events and the disclosure of secrets too painful for him to relive. The acting is near-flawless, and the succession of short, sharp scenes is confusing at first but evolve into an original, challenging and unpredictable play featuring dark and comic moments. tw rating: 4/5  THREE WEEKS. 8th August 2005

 

Mafioso - 2003

This was originally called  The Last Train, but Storm Theatre Company and writer/producer Chris Leicester changed the title of thier play for the Fringe, presumably in a bid  to lure legions of The Sopranos worshippers out there. Such devotees will not be disappointed.
Set in the hard knocks, twist-or-the-blade milieu of London's East End rather than New Jersey, this has all the usual suspects of gangster drama - violence, betrayal, underwrold dynasties and a botched robbery - with expletive-heavy dialogue flciking between humour and menace with sadistict twitchiness.
Jumping back and forth in time around a disused underground station, the scene of many gangland slayings in the past, we see the bear-like Boxer and his youthful protege, Tommo taunting and threatening Davy, a former associate who has committed some unspoken act of treachery and must now pay the price. Providing a detached, though increasingly relevant monologue, is George, a nurse on a ward ridden with the dying and the wretched, recaling an encounter with one of the estate's most notorious.
There is very little original here, with the sins of the father condemning unbalanced, psychotic manchildren to continue cycles of violence, but it's still expertly crafted and extremely well peformed. No one in the cast puts a foot or rabbit punch wrong. Chris Carney is great fun as Scouse scally Tommo and Kevin Brannagan dominates every scene as the bruising, bullying Boxer. Director Paul Braithwaite shows convincing fear as Davy, and Roy Carruthers Celtic George gives both depth and an oddly Terry Wogan-like wryness to the proceedings. 
Very much for fans of the genre but if you are one of that number, beg, borrow or knee-cap for a ticket.
**** Jay Richardson.  THE SCOTSMAN.  11the August 2003

 

Swaggering through a dark, disturbing world.
In a disused tube station, there’s a confrontation between ruthless gangland boss Boxer, the Mafioso of the title and Davy, a member of a rival gang.
B oxer is a bully, contemptuous of weakness and hell bent on meting out his own brand of punishment, the type where right and wrong never enter the equation.
But just how has this confrontation occurred? Is it just another banal case of conflicting interests, or is it something much deeper?
As the play progresses, it takes us back and forth in time, pitching the audience headlong into the seedy, sordid world that these criminals inhabit, showing how allegiances are formed and how a tiny fissure can lead to irreparable breach of trust. Boxer, Davy and the Liverpudlian, Tommo are ostensibly mates, carousing and cursing together, planning a jewellery heist, that when bungled, provides the play’s one scene of broad comedy.
In a series of scenes ranging from the darkly comic to the inescapably poignant, the bonds uniting the trio are explored and the background for the showdown laid bare.
Superbly acted with the sort of razor sharp nuance that makes the world of these characters entirely credible, Chris Leicester’s play both disturbs and disarms, its final moments of pathos all the keener for the swagger that precedes it. **** Amanda Hodges. EDINBURGH EVENING NEWS. 12th August 2003.

Gritty drama from the underground
Before the house lights have even gone down, you have to give Storm Theatre’s ensemble full credit for performing as such an ungodly hour, and resisting the temptation to chuck in frontal nudity and other scenes of a sexual nature. Initially, Chris Leicester’s drama about a group of lowlifes gathered in a disused tube station is reminiscent of that Steven Berkoff parody in  The Tall Guy . Yet as the peice progresses and the macho bravado gradually gives way to revelation and pathos, the character's demons are graphically, powerfully communicated in flinty dialogue by the engergetic cast. Worth waiting up for. **** Allan Radcliffe. THE LIST.  21st August 2003. 


   
 
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