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

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)

February 11, 2016

Phoenix takes on the Nation’s Favourite Play!

by phoenixdrew

in Productions

“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, Jeanne Stacey, the production involves 8 boys from Phoenix Theatre School, a former student as a teacher and the remaining teacher roles are filled by trained actors involved in the production.

The vote for the Nation’s favourite play consisted of 1400 plays and The History Boys even beat classic Shakespeare’s Hamlet and contemporary plays including Jez Butterworth’s Jerusalem. What is it that has Bennett’s work in the heart of the country? The text, the characters, the emotions or the combination of these expertly crafted elements? Most likely the latter, as Bennett’s play explores something that everyone has an experience of; positive or negative, education remains with us.

Following the trials and tribulations of 8 sixth form boys in the 1980s at a Grammar School in Sheffield, we see how the students’ opinions and lives are impacted by those who teach them. With four teaching figures each with a varied opinion on what  education should be about, Bennett explores the contrast between teachers that aim to get the grades and the teachers who aim to make enriched human beings from their pupils. The original production and film made stars of the cast with Dominic Cooper and James Corden making their debut. The late Richard Griffiths played the beloved teacher Hector in the original production and film and this portrayal is one of his most iconic performances.

The play is infused with history, nostalgia and culture, questioning what makes something remain in our hearts and memories as we get older. The production is now in the rehearsal phase and there is a palpable sense of ensemble with the 12 strong cast and it is set to be both a challenging and enriching experience for all involved. Phoenix hopes that their production of The History Boys remains in the hearts and memories of both the cast and those who come to see the production.

The production runs at the Rhodes Arts Complex from the 15th-19th of March.

Click here to book tickets.

January 18, 2016

The Show Must Grow On!

by phoenixdrew

in Productions,Rhodes Pantomime

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 wonderful show praised through feedback and in the numbers that flocked to see the production.

“With tradition at its core, Phoenix Theatre Arts enhances its reputation with this seasonal gem” – The Stage

It’s a colourful, energetic and pacey affair, with costumes (especially), set designs, lighting and special effects, music and choreography gelling to form an eye- and ear-pleasing whole” – Herts and Essex Observer

Phoenix Student, Katie Miller, helmed the lead role as an energetic Jack that never lost hope in what he was trying to achieve. With former Phoenix Student Georgia Collins as Jack’s love interest, Jill, the pair created a heart-warming scenario of love and rescue. The magical story was introduced by Fairy Evangeline Rainpetal, played by Phoenix Youth Theatre Creative Director Jeanne Stacey, who captured the imagination of the audience. Phoenix Director Phil Dale returned as the somewhat hairy dame with the new name Milky Mary providing barrels of laughs for both adults and children alike. Phoenix member William Edden was the bundle of energy that was Milky Mary’s son, Silly Billy; providing a compassionate and energetic friend to the audience. Vocal tutor Duncan Rutherford returned as the panto villain, dropping the Russian accent of last year’s Ratputin, and donning the well spoken, rather flamboyant, persona of Baron Backhander. The bumbling comics, Wingnut and Spanners, were played by Daniel Boulton and panto favourite, Dan James, respectively; providing slapstick humour to make you laugh and occasionally wince. Praise must also go to first time Panto cast member George Jack, who was part of the senior ensemble, the puppeteer for Titch, the Giant’s midget son and provided the voice for our hero’s fearsome antagonist, the Giant. George also played Daisy the Cow with Phoenix Student Drew Gregg, who also provided the voice for multiple puppets including the Scottish chicken ‘Goose’. These vibrant characters were supported by a Junior and Senior ensemble made up mostly with students from the Phoenix Theatre School, so praise must also go to them.

Anna Stamper, who designed the set for the beautiful production of Peter Pan, returned as the set designer for Jack and the Beanstalk and yet again our eyes were treated. When the lights revealed the UV paint on the village set and the well that the Beanstalk grew from, the magic appeared before the audience’s eyes’.

The show was lit by Rob Dyer, who also provided a video sequence for the Beanstalk growing, one that brought Stamper’s work to life and extended it to magical heights. The script was written by Phil Dale and Conor O’Sullivan, and Phoenix Primary Drama Tutor Connor Linden wrote both the original and parody songs in the production. The choreographer, Katie Barker-Dale, provided superb choreography that both showcased the performers on stage and their incredible variety of costumes designed by Jules Dale. Directed by both Phil Dale and Jeanne Stacey Jack and the Beanstalk was both a critical and box office smash!

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

The Stage, Herts and Essex Observer, Muddy Stilettos, Anne at the Theatre.

To see pictures from  the show, click here.

September 29, 2015

Peter Pan: An Awfully Big Adventure

We believe in fairies! If you were one of the people who came to see Peter Pan at the Rhodes over the last couple of weeks then we hope you feel the same way! Bringing one of the most timeless and magical children’s stories to life on the Rhodes stage was a lot of fun, […]

Read more…
May 13, 2015

Peter Pan at the Rhodes

Get ready to be whisked off to Neverland this September! Second star to the right, and straight on till morning! This September Phoenix Theatre Arts brings you the most magical story of all time, the timeless story of the boy who never grew up. Come with Peter and Wendy to the land where anything is […]

Read more…