Reviews: Miranda Hart, Ensemble 360 and The Lion King

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Our reviews of the best events across the borough this week.

Comedy

Miranda Hart, motorpoint arena, sheffield

Comedy actress Miranda Hart has made a triumphant return to her stand up roots, bringing her “What I Call, Live, Tour” to Sheffield’s Motorpoint Arena.

The fact that more and more comedians are embarking on huge arena tours shows just how popular live comedy has become; arenas are no longer the domain of rock and pop bands with their huge stage productions, with comedians regularly attracting sell-out crowds with their live shows.
Miranda’s show in Sheffield was certainly no exception.
For those not sure what to expect from a Miranda live show, you can rest assured that it’s pretty much what you’d expect from her TV series, so if you’re a fan of that, chances are you’ll love seeing her live.
There were catchphrases aplenty - who doesn’t like saying “moist plinth” - and a lot of self-depreciation on her part but what made the evening so amusing were her observations on real life.
Much like Peter Kay, Miranda’s humour tends to come from the normal, everyday events and occurrences that you wouldn’t normally think twice about.
That is until they’re viewed through the comedic gaze of someone like Miranda, whose delivery and sheer enthusiasm makes them seem so much more absurd and hilarious.
Of course, in a live setting she is just as absurd and silly as she is on her TV show but that’s part of her charm - she’s certainly not afraid to make herself look a fool and there’s something really quite endearing about that.
Miranda throws herself across the stage with wild abandon and it’s hard not to get swept up by it all.
Add to that the fact that she is cheeky without being rude and that she very rarely swears, it’s not difficult to understand how her particular brand of humour appeals to a multitude of ages, both young and old.
It also makes for a truly family-friendly night out - something you can’t say about many other comedians (except perhaps the aforementioned Mr Kay).
All in all it was a hugely entertaining evening and a welcome return to the world of stand up. Such fun!
- Kathryn Farr

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Music

Ensemble 360, cast, doncaster

First up, passion and exuberance from the five wind players in six innovative, spirited Bagatelles, transcribed by Gyorgi Ligeti in 1953 from his twelve piano Bagatelles. In turn and in magnificent blend, flute, piccolo, horn, clarinet, oboe and bassoon swoop through changing mood, tempi and dynamic, creating delicious disquiet and alarm with spiky staccato pipings, heavy accents and urgent pulsings that contrast with round, delicate melody.

Quite wonderful. And then on to something completely different in the familiar crowd pleaser, Barber’s Adagio for Strings, its haunting, trancelike ebb and flow of sorrow and lament, lit with a glimmer of hope.

Travelling from the sublime to the ridiculous, we meet Berio’s 1951Opus Zoo. It might not be to everyone’s taste, but it has interest, colour, humour and macabre charm a-plenty. There’s bubble and babble as the fox gets the chicken, desolate beauty as the fawn beholds the self-destructive folly of mankind, lots of squeak as the old grey mouse warns dancing youngsters of the intransigence of life, and raucous discord, of course, as two cats scrap till their whiskers and tails are gone.

Then it’s all change again for the grand finale and a further chance for cello, violins and viola to indulge us with rich sounds and technical splendour. Written in 1824, when Schubert knew death was on the way, the ever popular Death and the Maiden is filled with startling, dramatic contrasts. With relaxed sparkle, committed enthusiasm, brilliant virtuosity, a mighty fine programme of pieces and multiple magnificence, Ensemble 360’s debut at its new CAST Studio venue has everyone looking forward more than ever to the next concert in July.

- Eileen Caiger Gray

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Theatre

The Lion King, The Alhambra, Bradford

From the moment the theatre bursts into life with the boundary breaking and incredibly exciting entrance of the animals that make up this kingdom, the audience is taken into a theatrical landscape. What remains brilliant about Taymor’s production, travelling out of London for the first time, is that it sneaks into what looks like a brilliantly big and bold musical some seriously boundary pushing theatre devices. Several thousand people will watch contemporary dance in The Lion King over the coming six weeks, and they will love it.

That’s not to say this production is flawless. There are moments where it feels laboured, but they are occasional.

The story of The Lion King is a coming-of-age tale of young Simba in a structure borrowed from Hamlet. By its nature, the stage play therefore needs a youngster to play Simba. Jude Blake as young Simba does his best, but he can’t help the fact that he is very young and very inexperienced. That said, Nombulelo Chili is revelatory and proves the saying that there are no small parts – she makes every moment that she is on stage count.
- Nick Ahad