Thursday, 28 July 2016

Oliver: Millennium Forum Youth Theatre Group

Earlier tonight saw the premier of the 2016 production from The Millennium Forum Youth Theatre Group in Derry. The ninth youth musical is none other than the infamous 'Oliver'.
The group have said: We aim to combine inclusivity and excellence in a full scale summer production for young people. With a cast from all over the North West, the youth musical is a free platform for local talent as well as a stepping stone towards further development in the theatre. The young people involved have trained and rehearsed for over a month. Some of these youth are regulars on the stage having been involved in many of our productions over the years; while some are taking to the stage for the very first time. All of them have enjoyed their experience, over the last month, availing of the mentorship of professional theatre practitioners, for free, as part of the Millennium Forum's continuing Youth Programme.
Our world is rather gloomy and rife with hate at the present time, but tonight all that was forgotten. A 'small pleasure' was indeed enjoyed by all at tonight's performance. As Una Morrison, Nancy, sang 'small pleasures, small pleasures/who would deny us these?', we really were allowed to forget the bloodshed that is tormenting the world today.
Oliver himself is living in harsh conditions and being encouraged into a life of crime. He's threatened by an East End villan, witnesses a murder, and yet provides us with a truly uplifting experience. When the stage delves into the 'Food Glorious Food' ensemble, we know there is no such thing in those dishes and yet we couldn't help but tap and sing along in the audience. We were continually inspired throughout tonights performance.
The fantastic Robert Kelly excelled in his role as Bill Sykes. Lucas Levy stole it for me as Fagin. The Artful Dodger, Malachy Kitson, was superb. It's unfair to single out any one person from the stage tonight. They all excelled in their role.
However one cannot take it away from the wonderful performance and voice of Sioda McKay, Oliver. Cute, talented, and at all times delightful, he really did own the Derry stage earlier.
Fagin and those around him deny themselves small pleasures, and only believe that 'in this world, one thing counts: in the bank, large amounts.' I feel it's important in the modern day that we must surely side with Nancy in that it really is, 'A pretty fine life'. A positive stance must always be taken.
We learn from Oliver that 'good really does win in the end'. We learn to be positive and honest at our front. Some people can cause so much pain in our life but that does not mean we should lose faith in humanity. Humanity consists of good-hearted people in majority: few evil can't make it malicious and dirty. When Mr. Brownlow thought of taking Oliver out of the evil world, all evil couldn’t harm him at all, and he did it. Therefore we must be positive.
A pretty fine production this surely is. A pretty fine local production that could easily be transported to the West End. A pretty fine production that allowed us, the audience, to forget about the trouble and strife that is seeping through our world and just enjoy a couple of hours of sheer entertainment at a very professional level.

I'm totally blown away tonight in that Derry's Millennium Forum can produce a show with local youth of this calibre. The only downside of tonight was that the Derry audience failed to give this exceptional cast a standing ovation. Because they deserved it. To say it was a 'smash hit' show is an understatement. This was musical brilliance at its best. Huge well done one and all.
Oliver runs at Derry's Millennium Forum until Saturday night, 30th July. Go along and see: you really won't be disappointed.


Thursday, 7 July 2016

The Jewel Box Festival

The Jewel Box Festival sums itself up as 'a collection of the brightest musicians, singers, artists, writers and chefs on the spectacular coastline of Inishowen, Donegal.' For all of us Donegal folk, this is a real delight and something to really look forward to in just over one weeks time.
This festival will take place at Carnagarve mansion house, Moville,which has been derelict for years on Saturday July 16th. 
The festival is being organised by Sarah McGuinness/Townsend (Derry born), a veteran of the music scene, theatre production, documentary film-making and comedy club promotion.
Sarah Townsend was nominated for an Emmy Award for her 2009 documentary Believe: The Eddie Izzard Story – an unfolding film about her then partner.
The Irish News recently said that "The Derry-born woman's current film Noma: Forgiving Apartheid follows Noma Dumezweni, the Royal Shakespeare Company actress and recently confirmed Harry Potter star, as she makes an emotional return to the South Africa she fled as a child and meets her father for the first time. Having won favourable reviews at film festivals last year, it's due for a wider release in newly extended form next year."
Now later this month McGuinness is taking on a whole new challenge: promoting a boutique festival in her now hometown of Moville, here in Inishowen, Co Donegal. This is scheduled to take place on July 16 and will  incorporate art, literature, comedy and gourmet food.
Artists scheduled to perform on the day include , The 4 Of Us, English comedienne Luisa Omeilan, true crime writer Tony Thompson, author Garbhan Downey (Derry) and poet Jenni Doherty (Greencastle and Derry), with cookery demonstrations from top Irish food experts Emmett McCourt and Cameron Carter.
Inishowen is a prime spot for a festival such as this and McGuinness has the potential to turn this into an annual festival and one which might even compete with such as 'Glastonbury'. She recently told the Irish News "Ultimately, I would like to see Jewel Box become the new Glastonbury." How wonderful would it be to have our very own Glastonbury right here in Inishowen?
Jewel Box will also feature art exhibitions by McGuinness's sister Jane Townsend and aunt Sheila McClean, while McGuinness herself will also perform songs from her forthcoming new album So Many Fires,.
2016 is set to be the inaugural Jewel Box event but it has the potential to grow and showcase all that this area has to offer in the line of culture. This area really is a hive of cultural activity and Jewel Box will only serve to heighten this. 
The Jewel Box festival will be staged on Saturday 16th July at Carnagarve House Moville and tickets alongside further detail are availble at are only 300 available, don't miss out on your chance to part of this event. It really shall be the start of something huge to come.