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Review: Time Tours: The best of times, the worst of times…….

Entertainment / Sun 10th Mar 2024 at 08:04pm

THE great thing about MHP Theatre is their determination to create. They will try to be as original as possible.

Time Tours, written and directed by Jack Downey, was a bit of a hit and miss affair. However, we will always forgive MHP as they always strive to be original. So in many ways they get a pass.

This was twelve individual scenes capturing historical characters. Some worked. Some didn’t. But they had a go. It was a touch Horrible Histories for adults.

It began with our tour guide played by Eve-Marie Florence Downey. In fact she was half tour guide/half warm up woman as she really got the audience enthused.

There are no bad performances from Chris Millington and he kicked off proceedings as Sir Isaac Newton making a claim for being injured at work. This was a funny sketch, a good line about gravity and brought the best out in Chris.

We had Gem Colton as Florence Nightingale. There was a cracking Mary Seacole line but we are not sure we got this one. It was wonderfully performed but it was one of those where we think the audience were a bit bemused as well.

One of the stars of the night was Adam Thomson. His Brutus giving a wedding speech was a neat twist. In fact that summed up a lot of the vignettes. There was often a little fresh angle to make each scene stand out.

The next two didn’t work for us. Eve-Marie Florence Downey as Joan of Arc. This was not the actresses fault. Eve-Marie had already opened proceedings as the tour guide. That brought out the best in the expressive Eve but this, a bit like her moustache, just didn’t really stick.

We also think Alyssa Upton got the short straw with Cleopatra. Again, not the fault of a really good actress. More the fault of an undercooked script.

However, Ginny Elliston got things back on track with a mad Boudica. She was definitely channeling her inner “Killing Eve” and lit up the stage.

At this point may we praise the lighting, staging and the use of sound and vision.

The first half ended with a perfectly repeatable Queen Victoria and Prince Albert with Helen and Michael Rees. Good acting, good punchline but it never really caught fire.

The second half was much stronger. It was helped by a scene stealing Marie-Antoinette by Linda Helm-Manley. This type of role is really Linda’s strong suit and she filled the stage, using the audience so well.

This was followed by more Chris Millington as William Shakespeare conducting a “clear the air” press conference. Again, a really good idea and some good tabloid hackery by Gem Colton.

Gem and Alyssa got a chance to ham it up as Lord Byron and Dr Polidori. With tales of Dracula and shenanigans, this was really well acted and you now felt they were on a roll.

Fanny, Annie and Dick could have sunk with trace but Ginny, Helen and Michael’s depiction of three artistos slightly underwhoend by the whole trip was a funny concept.

And finally, Adam Thomson ended on a high with a Freudian Freud.

Our tour guide, Eve-Marie wrapped up proceedings with another cheeky turn. You did go away with a smile on your face as this was a play why its heart in the right place.

In some ways, it felt like a work in progress and with some they might have gone back to the drawing board.

To be fair the audience seemed to enjoy it. We know people left it having had a good time. And MHP Theatre seemed to really enjoy what they were doing. That’s infectious.

We hope you will see this as a constructive review. If all our reviews are simply cheerleading then they lose their resonance.

We loved MHP’s Twelfth Night, Bureau of Unopened Letters to name just two. This was just a little underwhelming.

Over the past two weeks, our team of theatre reviewers have been at a wide variety of productions in Harlow: As She Likes It; This May Hurt A Bit; Victor Esses. As well as mainstream acts in Theatre 1 of the Harlow Playhouse such as Genesis Connected, Made in Tennessee, to name just a few.

It is good to see the expressive arts in such good fettle in Harlow.

Our sister paper, YourThurrock wishes there was such variety in that borough.

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