April 10, 2017

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

by phoenixdrew

in Productions

If we shadows have offended, think but this and all is mended….

After years of successful Phoenix Productions, Principal Phil Dale’s spin on William Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ was one to be anticipated. Featuring a cast of many current and ex-phoenix pupils, the show was praised in an overwhelming fashion after its four-show festival inspired extravaganza at the end of March.

MSND 29With an exploding portable toilet, a mud fight, and endless outrageous comedy, audience member Ian Penson reviewed the show as “the funniest, rudest and most skillful production” also commenting “Just as I imagine Shakespeare would want it played. Excellent fun”. Similarly, Micheal Casson stated “The presentation was entirely faithful to both the spirit and the original text”, whilst Simone Murray commented “I laughed until my face hurt”. To their surprise, students from local schools were also engaged by the performance, one student exclaiming “It wasn’t what I expected at all. It was so fun and not boring!” which is what the cast and creatives were aiming for.

MSND 128With a few months of rehearsals, 4 very contrasting ‘Lovers’ were imagined, 2 opposing ‘festival headliners’ were created and 6 wacky and hilarious Mechanicals were unleashed. Not forgetting the very mischievous, yet perhaps slightly dodgy Puck, played by Grace Johnstone. When talking about the process, Grace said “I thought Puck would be the classic mischievous fairy, but the part can be anything you make it. Besides, once I got that crazy costume the madness came naturally!”.

The aesthetic design of the whole production, designed and lit by Rob Dyer, also impressed with its colorful clash of industrial and wild elements. Despite a lot of consideration and thought going into the layout; the metal towers entwined with foliage, along with a mud pit surrounded by grass and woodchip created the festival feel, while cast members enjoyed using their litter to decorate the set.

MSND 105The final show on Friday the 31st went out with a bang and a standing ovation after its comical success. The reception was so good that Director and Producer Phil Dale is considering the opportunity of touring the show, to carry on making Shakespeare accessible to all, in today’s society.

See below for a link to videos and photos from the rehearsal process and show.

Click here for pictures

Click here for videos

9500 more people can now successfully ‘Lean and Dab’

Following the consistent success of the annual Phoenix Pantomimes, this year’s Cinderella completely smashed Box Office records, becoming the largest selling show in the history of the Rhodes! With the Company’s reputation, along with the introduction of ‘motion posters’ The Rhodes convinced 9500 audience members to attend during the 40-show period, watching the magic unfold through, song, dance, slapstick comedy and enchanting puppetry.

“Why on earth anyone would go elsewhere when we have this talent in Bishops Stortford”- Toni Elford

IMG_6025_DxO © Acabashi Malvern HostickThe cast featured many current and ex-Phoenix students, one of which was Georgia Collins who played the Principle girl for the third time running this year. Alongside her was; Joseph Vianna as Buttons, teaching everyone to ‘lean and dab’, as well as Buck Braithwaite playing Prince Charming in his Rhodes debut. Charming’s sidekick, Drew Gregg as Dandini entertained with his constant enthusiasm, whilst Ugly sisters, Daniel Boulton and George Jack, kept everyone laughing with their childish brawls. Not forgetting Phil Dale who took on the role of the petrifying Principle of the ‘Hard Up school of Dance’ and Wicked Stepmother.

On receiving overwhelming amounts of positive feedback, Phil explained “We were so pleased with the response from audiences spanning such a huge age range. It really seemed that our production of Cinderella, proved to be proper entertainment for the entire family. The puppets proved to be a big hit- as always, and we are already planning on how they can be incorporated into next year’s production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.”

IMG_6481_DxO © Acabashi Malvern Hostick

It’s obvious when reading through reviews that it wasn’t just one reason why this year’s pantomime directed by Phil Dale and Stevie Doherty was so well received. With a “cast…as always, brimming with enthusiasm and flair and overflowing with confidence”, “a healthy dollop of innuendo” and “special effects…well beyond what you might expect” – (Muddy Stilettos), numerous factors made Cinderella such a hit.

The spectacular set, made by Malvern Holstick looked beautiful against costumes designed by Jules dale, while lighting designer Rob Dyer, only enhanced this with his ideas and ambition. The brand-new laser equipment impressed everyone bringing a new dimension to the ballroom scene, giving it a real current energy. Aiding this- and improving year by year- was the flawless choreography by Katie Barker-Dale which was so vibrant and up to date, in order to match the diverse music that was mixed and edited seamlessly by Ross Simpson.

“The scene at the palace was epic.  I can honestly say that I think it’s probably like no ball scene you’ve ever seen — like none I’ve ever seen, certainly.” – Muddy Stilettos

IMG_6140_DxO © Acabashi Malvern HostickDespite all the special effects, including the reveal of the white sports car that would take Cinders to the ball, the younger audience members were captivated by the mice puppets that appeared to help Cinderella! The chorus brought the puppets to life to create a magical image that was such a hit with younger family members. Being such a success, we hope to bring this enchanting aspect to next year’s Pantomime in an even more spectacular fashion!


For pictures and full reviews of Cinderella, see below.

Click here for pictures

Muddy Stilettos Review

Moral messages are the order of the day

In August 2016, 27 kids participated in Blast “SuperHeroes Revolution” and 39 in Boom! “The Existential Caterpillar”. It was a summer filled with creativity with a mix of Phoenix Students and kids new to the world of Phoenix.  Two entertaining shows were created by a wonderful group of people, making Blast!’s 18th birthday a year to remember! Both shows had important moral messages. Blast! had the message and slogan “#youhavethepowertochangethings” whilst Boom! had “Be yourself. Not who you think you should be”. These messages were essential to the shows and the spirit of the weeks of creation.






On the first day of Blast 2016, every participant had to pitch an original Super Hero character with the aim to find the four strongest characters to lead the major plot elements in  the show. This led to some amazing offers including Potato Man, Chorizo Fire and The Answer. With the aim to provide origin stories for the four leading heroes the cast set about devising in their groups, assisted by Katie Barker-Dale, who also provided choreography, former students Rhiannon Jenkins and Drew Gregg as well as Phil Dale, Phoenix Director and Founder. Conor O’Sullivan provided film and visual elements for the show and Adam Amor created the music, with the catchy Electrobeat drum number being an engaging aspect of the performance.

One of the most significant aspects of SuperHeroes Revolution was the guerilla theatre plan of taking 27 superheroes out into the streets of Stortford to spread the word of the catch phrase #youhavethepowertochangethings. This was an incredible experience with loads of random people getting involved from all different generations. Despite being asked to leave the Stortford Shopping Centre (Whoops! Too much fun being had!), the outdoor experience was fun, with lots of the community actively getting involved.

The show ended up being a hilarious culmination of music, dance, devised scenes and film, really capturing was makes “Blast!” Blast! It was a show that oozed fun and brought a group of people together to create something special. Special commendation must go to Phoenix Student Josh Copsey for being the 3rd recipient of the annual Chiara Sanfilippo Memorial Award for being an excellent participant and bringing lots to the entire week. Well done Josh!

Click here to see the Vlogs of the creation of Blast!

Boom! 2016 told the story of The Existential Caterpillar, an original story written by Phil Dale about a caterpillar searching for the meaning of life. The show was a funny and heartwarming culmination of joy, with the kids playing different characters that The Existential Caterpillar meets across her journey. The week consisted of a mix of fun drama games and a focused attitude to put together the show on the Friday night.

The week was led by Katie Barker-Dale, assisted by Connor Linden, who provided arranged cover songs for the show as well as the original finale song “Be Yourself”. Ex-student Rhiannon Jenkins and current students Ollie Stacey, Joe Llewelyn, Eve Leng and Matthew Goodeve  helped during the week to help bring the show to life. Ollie and Joe created some simple and yet stylish costumes that really brought something to the show! Conor O’Sullivan provided the film and visual effects for Boom! and this gave the kids the opportunity to work on video and with a greenscreen.

The message “Be yourself. Not who you think you should be” gave the performance a heart and soul and we are very proud of all the kids who worked hard create a 45 minute show in 5 days.

Click here to see the Vlogs of the creation of Boom!

Both Blast! and Boom! have been extremely enjoyable and we cannot wait to see what next year will bring!

To see photos of the productions, click below!



Auditions for Cinderella Sunday 10th July 2016

This December, at the Rhodes Arts Complex, Phoenix Theatre Arts will be producing the largest scale Pantomime ever performed at the Bishop’s Stortford venue.

Cinderella 2016 will feature a brand new False Pros which will replace the one that has been used for the last 6 years. Built bespoke for the Rhodes Venue, the new False Pros has been designed and painted by Malvern Hostick who will also return to paint the set for Cinderella. Phoenix are already full speed ahead with Cinderella. Set designs, music ideas and trying to re-imagine the classic story of Cinderella are all part of the action currently happening at Phoenix. We want Cinderella 2016 to stand out not only from the previous Phoenix iteration, but from every other version of the tale.

“With tradition at its core, Phoenix Theatre Arts enhances its reputation with this seasonal gem” – The Stage (Jack and the Beanstalk 2015)

The audition details have been released on the Phoenix Website which will give all the information. On Sunday 10th July there are open auditions for the production. Phoenix are not only looking for a large chorus of both Junior and Senior age, but a collection of principal characters ranging from Ugly Sisters and Buttons, to the titular character herself. We are looking to cast a strong group of older boys and girls to be part of the senior chorus to play a variety of characters and be part of big song and dance numbers.

The production will run from the 10th December 2016 to 7th January 2017 with weekly rehearsals running approximately 10 weeks before the opening night. This means we are looking for the most committed and passionate people to be in our production, from the smallest Junior Chorus member, to the oldest principal.

We hope to see as many people as we can auditioning on Sunday 10th July to make this year’s Pantomime, Cinderella, the biggest and best one yet!

Click here for more information.

“The musical set pieces are quite brilliantly staged, alive with clever parodies and some truly splendid original songs” – The Stage (Dick Whittington 2014)

April 2, 2016

The History Boys March 2016

by phoenixdrew

in Productions

A performance showcasing the young talent of Phoenix

At the start of February 2016 eight boys and four adults started the rehearsals for Alan Bennett’s award winning play, The History Boys. A month and a half later the show played for a five night run at the Rhodes. The production appealed to a varied cross-section of theatregoers including several school groups as well as an older audience who would have had first-hand experience of the 1980s setting. The adult cast were praised, but  it was clear that the triumph of the production was the casting and performances of the eight Phoenix Theatre School Boys portraying the group of Yorkshire Lads.

“A young group of actors take on the schoolboy roles, riffing off each other in classroom debates on history with performance chemistry and speed that is a joy to watch…” -The Herts and Essex Observer

Throughout the rehearsal period the boys developed Yorkshire accents, learnt French, arranged songs and developed characters that the Herts and Essex Observer said allowed Alan Bennett’s style to really shine through. Joseph Vaiana played the confident Dakin, the love interest for Joe Llewelyn’s comic and tragic Posner and the fascination of new teacher Irwin (Jack Downey).  Drew Gregg portrayed the Catholic Scripps, the go between friend of Dakin and Posner. Gregg and Llewelyn also delivered the majority of songs throughout the play varying from Gracie Fields and George Formby. 2015 Panto comic Daniel Boulton appeared in the role of the simple but ambitious Rudge whilst Will Edden, Tom Capon, Will Saunders and George Jack delivered fast and natural performances as Timms, Lockwood, Crowther and Akhtar. Both Boulton and Edden were mentioned as stand-outs in a review by Anne At the Theatre.  The chemistry of the boys really shone through on stage, giving the classroom scenes a rhythm that was a joy to watch. The production featured trained actors Matthew Ward, Jeremy Small and Sue Last as the charismatic but broken Hector, the power hungry Headmaster and the no-nonsense Mrs Lintott, respectively.

“Do yourself the favour of a thoughtful night of theatre by heading back to school” – The Herts and Essex Observer

The set was designed by Douglas Heap, built by Trevor Paveley and painted by Anna Stamper who recently painted the sets for Peter Pan and Jack and the Beanstalk. The set was a simple and appealing design, located in a class room with posters of art, history and culture completely covering the walls. An inventive addition was to have the set hide the motorbike that Hector rides in the play, allowing for a big reveal at the beginning and end of the production. Lighting design was provided by Rob Dyer and combined with the direction of Jeanne Stacey, the world within and outside of the classroom walls was brought to life. With a brilliant response from those who saw the production, The History Boys showcased the talent that Phoenix Theatre Arts has to offer.

To read all the reviews for the production, see the links below:

Herts and Essex Observer, Anne at the Theatre

To see all of the photos, click here.

February 11, 2016

Phoenix takes on the Nation’s Favourite Play!

“The History Boys” is in rehearsal phase! After previous critical success with Laurel and Hardy and Bouncers, 2016 brings a new production for Phoenix Theatre Arts, Alan Bennett’s “The History Boys”. Voted the Nation’s Favourite Play in 2013, it is no small task to take on this beloved text. Directed by Phoenix Youth Theatre Director, […]

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January 18, 2016

The Show Must Grow On!

Jack and the Beanstalk is a triumph! The annual Rhodes pantomime, produced by Phoenix Theatre Arts, returned with a record breaking bang that shattered the sales records held by previous pantomimes.  With an exuberent ensemble working together to bring the magical tale of Jack and the Beanstalk to life, the result was a fun and […]

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