The Bentley Brook Brewing Co. – Lumsdale Valley, Peak District

The Bentley Brook Brewing Co. is a gem of a micro brewery, situated in Lumsdale Valley. I stumbled across it whilst discovering the peak district and was impressed by the set-up for such a young business.

On a recent trip to the peak district, I was on a mission to head to three different breweries or taprooms. Basing ourselves near Buxton turned out to be a genius move then as we visited Buxton Brewery, headed to the Redwillow Taproom in Buxton, and Thornbridge…oh wait, no our plan was to visit Thornbridge but through some exceptionally bad planning, the brewery was closed. I then scoured Google for something else nearby, and stumbled across The Bentley Brook Brewing Co.

We headed there on the Sunday, driving deep into Lumsdale Valley. The brewery is located just ahead of Lumsdale Falls, and it’s easy to miss if you’re not looking for it. With space for about 30 to sit, it defines microbrewery as you are sat amongst the brewing equipment, bar and bottle shop, all in 1 and a half rooms. I would, really, call it a glorified home-brew set-up and I was therefore not expecting much from the two beers that were on that day, March of the Gladiators and Down Dale, but I was proved wrong.

Greeted with a smile, a range of excellent beer snacks, and those two beers on, I was instantly in love with the small brewery. Only having two to choose from compared to the previous day at Buxton and Redwillow was actually perfect; a half of each, a bottle to go and I’d be satisfied.

I started with the March of the Gladiators (Untappd Rating: 3.52), a 4.3% ABV Golden Ale, named with a nod to the local football team Matlock Town. This was explained to me as their flagship brew, the one brewed most and the most popular, even served now and again down at the ground. It was earthy, flat but after a few gulps, started to flourish. There were fruity flavours I couldn’t quite make out, but it was fruity enough to mask the floral notes (which personally I can’t normally stand). The unfiltered ale was unbelievably easy to drink; the hop:malt balance was spot on and I would have happily sat and drank it all day. Did it set the world alight? Absolutely not, but judging it for what it is, it was a solid beer.

Next up, the most popular choice in the brewery whilst we were there, Down Dale (Untappd Rating: 3.58). Not in the core range, this 4.7% ABV Pale Ale, went down an absolute treat. Again, unfined and unfiltered, it was easy-drinking but also packed with hoppy, fruity flavours. Flatter than expected for a pale ale, it took a bit of getting used to, especially when comparing to some other pale ales out there in the local area. It was decent though and certainly my partner’s preference of the two. It lingered on the tongue with citrus and hoppy flavours; it was a nice aroma and overall, very drinkable.

To takeaway, and I’m drinking it as I write this review, I took a bottle of their Mic. Hop (Untappd Rating: 3.75). Part of their core range, the hazy pale is their most hoppy, citrusy beer they’ve brewed and it’s noticeable drinking it. Unlike the other two which feel like they were brewed in the small room in Matlock, Mic. Hop tastes like a beer that could have been made by bigger commercial breweries such is the quality. At 5.3% ABV, this one has more bite, and more flavour than the others and I am a bit gutted I only took one bottle away with me.

If you are ever over in the area, head to this little place. It’s great supporting independent businesses and you won’t regret your trip. With 2 beers generally always available to drink and a host of their own bottles and guest cans in the fridge, there’s plenty of choice. Card and cash accepted and they open on weekends 11-5pm.

The Beers Ranked

1. Mic. Hop – Pale Ale – 5.3% ABV Untappd: 3.5

2. Down Dale – Pale Ale – 4.7% – Untappd: 3.25

2. March of the Gladiators – Golden Ale – 4.3% – Untappd: 3.00

https://www.bentleybrook.co.uk/

REVIEW: Bad Decisions – Chasing Deer

Band: Chasing Deer
Track: Bad Decisions
Time: 2:55 minutes
For fans of: Shinedown, Hozier, Tom Walker
H2N Rating 72/100

The UK’s answer to Shinedown have arrived with Bad Decisions, their most ambitious and complex effort to date.

When I first heard Chasing Deer in 2019 when they released Unstoppable I thought, “nice, this is nice” and I compared them to a soft, less musical Walk The Moon. I then listened back through their catalogue of tracks released during 2018 that formed their debut record Hands On and instantly knew they were much much more than that.

Chasing Deer are a band that don’t fit a genre. Not a single one anyway, but with the release of Bad Decisions, they have at least taken a step towards defining a sound that I think could help them into the mainstream (if that’s where they want to be). When you listen to the record, combined with Unstoppable and now Bad Decisions, it’s clear that the band are going down the mid-tempo, stadium anthem, sound, and with their latest release, they’ve hit that brief perfectly.

“You can’t erase the chemistry, but I know all the things I did wrong.
Betrayed your loyalty.”

Hailing from the UK’s capital, Rob and Adam, have created something really listenable with Bad Decisions. It screams Shinedown; it could fit right on their latest record Attention Attention, and that is a huge compliment being in my top 5 global artists. There’s percussion depth, synths, a commanding vocal and above all, Tom Walker-esque keyboards which are all the fashion right now. Lyrically, this one cuts deep too, “I loaded the bullet you etched with my name”, isn’t typical of what would be expected when just listening to the track, so there is certainly more to this duo than many might think.

Bad Decisions spans every sound that’s popular in UK pop-rock right now and when combined, makes for something quite special. Coming in at under 3 minutes, I want more though, and feel this could have been a true epic with a long bridge or a solo dropped in somewhere, but that isn’t the Chasing Deer way. Bad Decisions is a big step away from where the duo were a few years ago and carrying on this trajectory would be absolutely the right decision.

H2N Ranking Score
Originality: 14/20
Lyrics: 18/20
Complexity: 13/20
Catchiness: 11/20
Stadium Filler Rating: 16/20

Merch and music: https://chasing-deer-store.myshopify.com/
Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/6dYpvLzQD7hengPe9uhize

REVIEW: I Want It All – Blackwaters

Band: Blackwaters
Track: I Want It All
Time: 2:36 minutes
For fans of: Libertines, Babyshambles, FIDLAR
H2N Rating 76/100

Sheffield’s Blackwaters release follow-up to indie anthem Two Time Lover. I Want It All is loud, fast paced and up there with their best work to date.

So with the country in almost lockdown, I’ve taken it upon myself to try and review a band with every letter of the alphabet. I kicked off last week with Autopilot, now, Sheffield’s Blackwaters who recently released their short, punchy track I Want It All.

At 2:36mins, this is a fast-paced belter of a number that combines the best of garage rock with the style of lat 00s Carl Barat. Sold? Thought so. The band are a few years on now and did take some criticism early on for sounding too similar to some indie-rock bands gone by, but with the release of I Want It All and Two Time Lover the Sheffield band have made a big statement of originality.

It’s mature, it’s exciting and from the off, Max Tanner (Vocals) brings his unique sound to the track on top of a punchy riff. The guitars throughout drive this track through its 156 seconds and despite being so short, had depth in the lyrics and the music that set it aside from anything the four-piece have put out before.

Now it would be lazy journalism to just compare these guys to the Libertines; but despite a revival of Doherty and co, there really hasn’t been a band that manages to span indie/garage genres like they did, until Blackwaters came about. I Want It All is already one that you can tell is going to be a live-set highlight, and it takes me back to the first time I ever saw The Libs live on stage.

Blackwaters are a very good band. With lyrics in their catalogue spanning issues of youth, ethics, freedom and politics now and again, they are already pushing the boundaries of the genre. Yes they’re here to make statements, but they do it in an anthemic, rather than an abrasive way. I Want It All signals the start of a big year ahead for these guys and it’ll be good to see how they progress as having seen them live earlier in the year, I know this is just the edge of what they can achieve.

H2N Ranking Score
Originality: 17/20
Lyrics: 17/20
Complexity: 14/20
Catchiness: 13/20
Stadium Filler Rating: 15/20

Photo Credit: Dave Carpenter

REVIEW: Brain Cell – Autopilot

Band: Autopilot
Track: Brain Cell
Time: 3:57 minutes
For fans of: Killers, Sundara Karma, New Order
H2N Rating 69/100

In an attempt to review a band starting with every letter in 2020, I thought it logical to kick off with the letter A and there was no better band to choose than midlands outfit Autopilot who recently released new single Brain Cell.

Featuring Andy Hopkins formerly of The Enemy, the three-piece have taken a big stride in developing their sound with Brain Cell. In 2019, they released Glass of Gold which didn’t quite hit the mark for us at Halfway 2 Nowhere, but with one play of Brain Cell, all was forgiven.

From the start, the synth hook kicks in and when the verse begins with the vocals of Jack Schofield you just know this is going to be the band’s best release to date. They have a kind of sound that mixes the best of indie-rock, sort of K’s-esque but with their synth and bass driven sound, they could have been plucked right out of the late 00s, think Hoosiers or Alphabeat.

To say the track is anthemic would be a step too far, but the choruses and that synth hook I keep coming back to are certainly signals of where this band are heading. At the 3 minute mark the track drops into the instrumental bridge which, I imagine, live is the standout part of the Autopilot set.

Throughout Brain Cell, you get the feeling this is just the start for this band. The soaring vocals are complemented with musical ingenuity, but the key to it all, it’s catchy as hell. Taking a step back to 2018 when they released Invincible, this should have been the follow up – it’s natural progression and I like the direction they’re taking. Watch this space, Autopilot are coming.

H2N Ranking Score
Originality: 13/20
Lyrics: 13/20
Complexity: 12/20
Catchiness: 18/20
Stadium Filler Rating: 13/20

STAGE: Ghost Stories – Grand Opera House, York

Almost ten years ago, Andy Nyman and Jeremy Dyson launched Ghost Stories on the world and since, it has gone from strength to strength with global tours getting rave reviews, and an award-winning film with Martin Freeman. This week, Ghost Stories is in York at the Grand Opera House and I urge you to go and be scared.

Writing a review without revealing any of the stories or plot isn’t easy. When booking tickets for the show through the website, you had to tick a box ahead of the show to say you’d read the disclaimer that came with Ghost Stories. Those of a nervous disposition shouldn’t attend the show; me being me, I thought this was excessive, how scary can theatre really be?

I’ve been to see the Woman in Black, and similar reviews are written, similar disclaimers are in place, but when seeing that at the Theatre Royal last year, I was disappointed, largely due to a poor audience and a room far too big for horror – but the facts were, it wasn’t scary; so I came into Ghost Stories thinking it’d be a good piece of theatre, but the rest is all over the top. How wrong I was.

For 80 minutes, I was on the edge of my seat, genuinely scared for what was coming next. The Ghost Stories, three in total, were well written and combined just the right amount of humour and fear to make this not just a show, but a highly enjoyable experience. With each story, the stage is transformed into a new set, each one becoming more intense as the show goes on. Just when you think you know what’s coming next, they offer a curveball that makes you jump a little bit higher than the last time.

Joshua Higgott, playing the lead of parapsychologist Phillip Goodman, is a perfect fit. It felt like from minute one everything about Ghost Stories was real and all eyes were fixed on the theatre stage. His delivery, his performance was standout throughout. Paul Hawkyard, Gus Gordon and Richard Sutton are all believable too as their characters, and that’s the thing that makes Ghost Stories stand out versus other horrors. Every story, every character, could have been any one of us in that audience and that’s where the true fear comes in to play. The show concludes with a huge twist, throwing the entire plot on it’s head and for the final ten minutes of the show, you can feel and hear genuine fear in the audience followed by people saying “there’s no way I’m going home now” – we had to go for a drink in fairness!

Aside from the acting, the lighting and sound, were by far, the best I’ve seen in theatre. The use of audio to bring deathly silence matched by crescendos not normally heard on stage, made for thrilling listening. The combination with effective lighting was second to none; just when you think it can’t get any darker, you’re submerged into pitch black, with any audience movement or sound bringing more fear. The lighting within the stories too on stage, was spectacular and it was that audiovisual connection that made Ghost Stories as good as it was.

I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this the way I did, and it was the first time I’ve left a theatre texting everyone I know urging them to go and watch. It’s that good.

Stockton Calling announces full lineup

Stockton Calling’s Full Line-Up Announced

Stockton Calling – Teesside’s biggest and best multi-venue music festival – returns to Stockton on Saturday 11 April 2020.  Each year, venues across the town host stellar headliners, some of the most exciting national emerging artists, alongside the very best of regional acts.

Now in its 11th year, Stockton Calling had a triumphant 2019 with its largest ever capacity crowd and organisers are expecting another sell-out this year with the full line-up now announced.

Headliners include the legendary Peter Hook & The Light, the resurgent Twisted Wheel, Liverpool’s indie darlings Red Rum Club, the massively hyped Sophie & The Giants, recent Island Records signings Noisy, the incredible Boy Azooga, Stockton’s very own Tom Joshua, Welsh wizards Trampolene, and up-and-coming girl gang The Seamonsters.

Also appearing on the bill are the hotly tipped Life, The K’s, Peaness, The Lathums, Calva Louise, Paris Youth Foundation, The Mysterines and Llovers.

With over 80 acts across nine stages, Stockton Calling has carved its own niche for music lovers in the north-east by working with successful local music promoters to provide a massively diverse range of bands to nearly 2,000 passionate music fans every year. In 2020, national promoters This Feeling are on board for the first time, programming the KU2 stage.

Paul Burns of Tees Music Alliance, and one of the festival’s organisers, said:

“This year’s Stockton Calling has a really strong emphasis on bands we think are going to be future superstars. We have been trying to get Peter Hook for a while now and we’re really excited that he’s coming to play for us this year. Stockton Calling has something for every music fan and we’re looking forward to another brilliant full day of music.”

The full-line up for Stockton Calling can be found on the festival’s website and social media platforms. Tickets for Stockton Calling are on sale now and can be purchased from www.stocktoncalling.co.uk or via ARC Stockton’s Box Office on 01642 525199

Buxton Brewery – Buxton

Buxton Brewery celebrated it’s tenth birthday in 2019 and having never made a visit, decided that this year we’d head down to the Peak District and make it our first brewery visit of 2020.

Just outside the centre of Buxton the brewery is currently opened every Saturday for beer in their tasting room upstairs above the main brewery. With large windows overlooking the brewing hall it’s a nice setting to have a few beers in and try their recent brews. The brewery currently produces over 30 different beers, with 3500 litres available to brew 3 times a week, so they’re growing but continuing to brew right.

The tasting room itself had six lines on keg and a well stocked beer fridge so plenty of choice available and when I arrived, about a 30 minute walk from their town centre taproom, I saw the flights sat on the side and went for a four 1/3 beer flight. With space for about 40 people to sit comfortably, the tasting room is a good size for its location and feels busy with ten but not overcrowded with 30+.

As is standard when getting a four beer flight, I did mix and match a little the order of drinking but I jumped straight into the Buxton Blonde (Untappd: 3.47) , a 4.6% ABV Blonde Ale. This one does pretty much what it says on the label, it was a strong blonde ale that was malty, smooth and had a bitter aftertaste. Not normally a fan of continental style blonde’s (I’m more of a Farmer’s Blonde kinda guy), this was actually really palatable and I saved most of it for the end of the flight rather than drinking it all first.

Two of their beers from the core range followed Low Tor (Untappd: 3.47) a 3.8% Bitter and Shelterstone (Untappd: 3.56), 5.6% IPA. Low Tor was a good bitter and is a session version of their popular High Tor Red IPA; having had High Tor before, I was actually shocked to taste much of the same flavours. Whilst the percentage is significantly lower, Buxton have managed to retain the core malty, hoppy flavour of it’s bigger brother whilst making it a highly drinkable session bitter.

Shelterstone was a bit stronger, but even at 5.6% it wasn’t overpowering and, dangerously, I could have drank this as a session pale quite comfortably. Whilst probably my least favourite in terms of flavour compared to the other three, Shelterstone is a beer that I can imagine many would like, and its current Untappd rating of 3.56 echoes that thought. By saying this was my least favourite isn’t a negative either, it was a good beer, I’m just much more into traditional flavours which the other three offered.

Now what I just said, ignore that, as Lupulus X – Chinook IPA, was far from traditional flavours but certainly wowed me. Buxton’s Lupulus X series is their experimental single hop programme whereby they take Lupulus and combine with a different hop. Currently available are eight varieties including Ekuanot, Simcoe and my choice, Chinook. I’ve always liked Chinook in beers, the grapefruity taste isn’t overbearing but the taste and aroma are still strong. This 5.4% IPA is good, but I’d be interested in trying all of the other versions to see how it compares; highly recommended though if it’s on whilst visiting the tasting room.

After the flight, I had one can for the road. The missus had Lupulus X – Cascade which was as good, if not slightly more fruity and fun than the Chinook equivalent and I had the Myrcia (Untappd: 3.59) 4% Oatmeal Session IPA. Canned just a few days before, this was ridiculously fresh, and I was so surprised at how smooth and creamy this was out of the can. It was hoppy and light, due to the dry-hopping nature of the beer, and this was a standout. I’d love to try this on keg, but from the can it was just as strong.

All in all it was a successful visit out to Buxton to see what the buzz around the brewery was all about. The tasting room at the brewery was dog friendly which is always an added bonus and it was a really pleasant room to drink in. The flight came in at a reasonable price and £20 would allow you to have 2/3 drinks of all on tap and leave room change for some snacks. With the cans available to takeaway we absolutely did that and I’m looking forward to trying those.

The Beers Ranked

1. Lupulus X – Chinook– IPA – 5.4% – Untappd: 4.00

2. Myrcia – Oatmeal IPA – 4.0% – Untappd: 4.00

2. Low Tor – Session Bitterr – 3.8% – Untappd: 3.75

3. Buxton Blonde – Blonde Ale – 4.6% – Untappd: 3.50

4. Shelterstone – IPA – 5.6% – Untappd: 3.25

OPENING HOURS: MARCH 2020

SATURDAY 7TH MARCH 1PM – 6PM

SATURDAY 14TH MARCH 1PM – 6PM

SATURDAY 21ST MARCH 1PM – 6PM

SATURDAY 28TH MARCH 1PM – 6PM

STAGE: Alone In Berlin – Theatre Royal, York ★★★★☆

Reading the show programme for Alone In Berlin, running at York Theatre Royal until 21st March, they hit the nail on the head by saying “It’s very hard for people to imagine what it’s like to live in a totalitarian state”. Would you stand up to the regime or sit back and live your lives in true fear? Nobody really knows the answer but this stage adaptation of Hans Fallada’s novel allows you an evening of trying to understand the issues that went through people’s minds and hearts during the nazi-regime in Germany.

The show is set in 1940 Nazi-Berlin, following the true story of a courageous couple, Otto Quangel (Denis Conway) and Anna Quangel (Charlotte Emerson) who stand up to the brutal reality of the Nazi regime. With the smallest of acts, they defy Hitler’s rule, ultimately though, facing the fear and the consequences that would be expected. They write, together, postcards that defy the messages from the German government, and one card at a time, try to create change across the country’s capital.

Directed by James Dacre, the adaptation of Alone in Berlin is a confusing but wonderful mix of dark humour and drama. Rather than telling this tale in a harrowing way, Dacre allows for some lighter scenes, aided by the quality of the casting for the characters Inspector Escherich (Joseph Parcell) & Benno Kluge (Clive Mendus). It’s an infectious production that is well paced, and whilst I didn’t particularly feel the singing by Golden Elsie (Jessica Walker) added much to the show at the time, on reflection, the scene transitions were one of the strong points.

The antithesis of Charles Balfour’s lighting and Jonathan Fensom’s set is also something that elevates this production rather than just acts as background noise. The plain, simple set is challenged by bright lighting (which at times was overbearing) and you felt, in the audience, like you would have in Berlin at the time; largely dark but with bright blasts of light from bombs and riots. Very clever.

What impressed me most about Alastair Beaton’s adaptation though isn’t just the way in which the fear and tyranny comes across, but the effectiveness in making it relatable, even when the audience hasn’t lived under such a regime. By using dialogue relating to the fake news concept and the fact that government’s continue to conceal truths are all relevant in 2020, and these subtle touches added a lot to the overall production.

Co-produced by York and the Royal and Derngate, Northampton, this adaptation is one that was highly enjoyable. Reading some other reviews from writers who have read the book, there were large elements missing from the story, but as someone who was coming in blind, this worked. I was truly lost in 1940s Berlin and every line and scene, I held on to and still am a few days later.

STAGE: Crongton Knights – Theatre Royal, York ★★★★☆

Emteaz Hussain’s adaptation of Alex Wheatle’s superb novel Crongton Knights, hits all the right notes in world premiere staging at the York Theatre Royal.

Alex Wheatle’s Crongton Knights, written in 2017, is a story about overcoming the challenges of youth on the South Crongton estate. The award winning novel trilogy, has been transformed onto the stage by Pilot Theatre in association with Belgrade Coventry and it’s glaringly obvious that this adaptation is nothing short of a triumph for the stage.

Under Corey Campbell and Esther Richardsons directorship, tells the story of “the magnificent six” on their mission to retrieve a phone, Crongton Knights is a journey, a risky journey in which the six young adults encounter challenge after challenge, all of which are 100% relatable to the horror news stories we hear every day in London right now.

There are some real standout performances in the first half, namely Khai Shaw and Olisa Odele (Mackay) who bring comedy to a story that has much tension and angst. The genius of the show though comes in the decision to appoint Conrad Murray to compose the score; from the start of the show, the cast descend into beatboxing brilliance and the musical soundscape created by the actors makes the show ascend to heights and reduce to dramatic lows in ways it wouldn’t have with a full band.

The staging, developed by Simon Kenny, fits this youth, beatboxing, concept perfectly with a revolving cube offering scene changes including garages, on the bus and at a rave type scenes. It’s this combination of an excellent score and fantastic staging that make Crongton Knights so engaging. What Emteaz Hussain has done is bring to life a tale of difficulty and youth to the stage in a believable way; the humour from Odele’s “Mackay” talking cooking tips right down to Nigar Yeva’s (Saira) character struggling with the disappearance of her father – every element of the novel has been considered and it’s a joy to watch.

Photo Credit: Duncan Smith

Whether it was the sound in the first half or a nervousness on stage, there were times where the songs themselves had small flaws. I couldn’t make out several lyrics when the rapping was dense; but when the tempo dropped, the vocals, especially of Aimee Powell as Venetia, the central character, the score was phenomenal in moments. Special mention must also be made for Kate Donnachie (Bushkid) whose solo performances and energy, make the second half as strong as it is; at times the story is lost in part two, but she makes the story move and adds a different dimension to the other five.

The pace of Crongton Knights is spot on too, and between scenes, you empathise with different characters in different moments which makes it a dynamic show to watch for the audience. As someone who hasn’t read the novel, there are twists and turns that are unexpected and I was energised to see out the end of the tale.

All things considered, theatrically this is a brilliant show; where it falls down at times with the volume and speed of the vocals and the storytelling, which does get lost a bit in the second half; it is more than made up for with some standout acting performances and exceptional staging.

STAGE: Oliver The Musical – Theatre Royal York

60 years ago, one of the most told stories on the stage, Oliver! opened in the West End in London. Last week, the York Light Opera company, returned to York’s Theatre Royal, for the 60th year running to perform that very show.

Based on the classic Charles Dickens novel, Lionel Bart’s Oliver The Musical sees the streets of Victorian England come to life with the timeless story of the boy who dared to ask for more. Oliver! is a timeless theatrical production with songs known world-over and it was great seeing so many people of different ages coming out to watch an amateur theatre production on a Tuesday evening. Unfortunately though, it seemed that many left disappointed and there were several seats left empty for the second half of the show.

Now I’m no theatre critic; I’m a fan of theatre and an avid writer, so my words shouldn’t be taken as gospel, but this was the first show I’ve seen in over two years that hasn’t left me feeling anything in particular. One thing that’s so great about the York Light Opera Company is the opportunity it provides to the people of York to come together with their love of musical theatre. The production was brilliant I have to say and the staging of the streets stood out but it was the script, the singing and the way in which the story was told that made this not as enjoyable as it should have been.

One thing I did appreciate and you have to consider it always, was the choreography and the tenacity of a set of young boys and actors to nail their tracks in terms of movement. Throughout, there was rarely a foot put wrong when it came to the dancing much in part down to (insert choreographer) and the cast looked like they were having real fun which is what this is all about.

From the start though, the singing was off-key and it took simply too long to get to the, show redeeming, Fagin (Rory Mulvihill). Each scene was rather slow and compared to other versions of Oliver! seen on stage in recent times, rather behind the times and uncomfortable to watch. Mr Bumble’s scenes were rather distasteful and the lack of vision to try and make the narrative more contemporary was unfortunate.

You always take amateur productions for what they are though of course, and there were some parts that were admirable; the musicianship was on point and as mentioned, the staging was believable but with this one and the choreography was at times, almost perfect. One thing about Oliver! is everyone knows the tracks and having that in your artillery, always makes up for the times when the narrative runs slow.

Every song is a classic yet the crowd seemed muted from the off; maybe that was a fault of the audience that evening, but it certainly didn’t help. There was no sense of “wow” about the show and even Nancy and Oliver’s relationship couldn’t redeem this version. The most energetic reaction, in the first half, was when Bill Sykes’ dog Bullseye came out for the first time. Sykes” performance was solid and certainly didn’t let the side down but it was the real-life Bullseye that got people talking during the break and at the end.

This was far from a horror show, and it was a show I did still recommend to others but they had similar feelings to me. It was fine, and that was about it. For what it is, a platform for young amateurs to live their dream and have some fun, it was brilliant, and I certainly always admire anybody who gets up on stage, but maybe this was the wrong play. Oliver! seems dated, and not a show for 2020 and I am looking forward to seeing what the production crew do next year for their 61st effort!