PREVIEW MUSICAL THE KING AND I Edinburgh Festival Theatre, Wed 14 Dec–Sat 7 Jan

He played conflicted bisexual courier Ferdy in This Life, portrayed a tyrant in controversial dub punk opera Gaddafi and recently returned to Albert Square as the ruthless but charming father of Amira in Eastenders.

Seldom one to resist a challenge, next month Ramon Tikaram swaps the East End for Edinburgh as he steps into the well-heeled shoes of the King of Siam in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s enduring musical, The King and I. ‘At first I thought, six months touring over Christmas,

maybe not; but who could pass up the chance to play the king?’ laughs Tikaram between rehearsals. ‘Like most people, I had seen the magnificent Yul Brynner play the lead as a boy, so I had to think, can I bring something new to this?’

The repressed love affair between the king and the widowed English governess he hires to teach his children has enjoyed a lasting legacy, with its memorable score (‘Getting to Know You’, ‘Shall We Dance’ etc) and multiple, lavish reinventions on stage and screen. It’s a role Tikaram was born to play. The son of a Fijian-Indian British Army soldier, he grew up on an Army base, and spent much of his time singing and dancing his way through ‘a world of made-up stories’. Recent turns on the West End stage suggest he has the pipes and presence to master the part.

‘I’m excited,’ he says. ‘It’s a fascinating time in history

and a story that still has relevance today.

‘The king has brought this woman into his life and is fascinated by her and her intelligence, yet he’s somehow immoveable because of what his traditions have taught him. His resistance to Anna is central. It’s that great relationship, set in this amazingly lavish, regal setting, which helps take the audience on a journey; and I’m looking forward to going on that journey with them.’ (Anna Millar)



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REVIEW MUSICAL SOUTH PACIFIC Theatre Royal, Glasgow, until Sat 19 Nov ●●●●●

Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Pulitzer-winning musical set in and around a US naval base during World War II includes so many songs that have become standards that the plot seems almost surplus to requirements. You can almost feel the smiles of recognition all around you as the orchestra strikes up the opening bars of ‘Some Enchanted Evening’ and ‘Happy Talk’. Yet, Bartlett Sher’s production, based on a Tony-scooping New York revival, places a refreshing emphasis on character that heightens the sense of drama in these numbers.

Aspects of the story remain problematic. The native islander characters provide little more than background to the predicaments of the Americans. But Sher at least tackles the racial tensions in the story head-on while an ironic minor-key version of ‘Honey Bun’ near the end reminds us of the still- raging war. Samantha Womack and Alex Ferns are sufficiently spirited as Nellie Forbush and Luther Billis to make you forget their Eastenders pasts, Jason Howard and Daniel Koek provide strong support as Frenchman-gone-native Emile de Becque and Lieutenant Cable respectively while Loretta Ables Sayre is outstanding as Bloody Mary. (Allan Radcliffe)

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REVIEW CLASSIC THE CRUCIBLE Cottiers Theatre, Glasgow, until Sat 19 Nov ●●●●● REVIEW ADAPTATION THE LITTLE MATCH GIRL PASSION Traverse, Edinburgh, Tue 22 & Wed 23 Nov. Seen at Tron Theatre, Glasgow, Fri 11 Nov ●●●●●

Pored over by students across the globe and regularly revived, Arthur Miler’s The Crucible is an audacious choice as Strathclyde Theatre Group’s first production as an independent company following the closure of the Ramshorn Theatre earlier in the year due to university cutbacks.

Deborah Mair’s production sticks faithfully to the text, which details the Salem witch trials of the 1600s and their impact on the local community. Miller explores a small town’s paranoia and fear as characters turn against each other, panicked by the threat of witchcraft in their midst.

Although pivotal characters like John Proctor

(Gerry Hay) and Reverend Parris (Peter Lamb) are strongly acted, some of the other performances are somewhat stiff. The range of accents within the cast proves confusing, and the pace of the production moves lethargically at points over the three-hour show. The lack of excitement is all the more frustrating given the ever-intriguing nature of the subject matter and the clear amount of hard work that went into staging such an ambitious play. (Lauren Mayberry)

Amid Victorian clutter ram’s skull, case of butterflies, mangy toy dog on wheels four comfortable-looking individuals in deconstructed versions of period dress sing the story of a barefoot lass selling matches on a freezing night. Above them, the flock wallpaper gives way to a glass- fronted upper stage in which the match girl, caught in a trap of poverty and inevitablity, dances the same simple movements over and over again. David Lang’s The Little Match Girl Passion Hans

Christian Andersen’s narrative in the format of Bach’s Saint Matthew Passion requires an extraordinary staging. The piece, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 2008, is a perfect candidate for Theatre Cryptic’s ‘music you can watch’ treatment. Yet, while Lang’s fragmented, overlapping score is safe in the hands of Nicola Corbishley, Clare Wilkinson, Christopher Watson and Jimmy Holliday, Emma Snellgrove’s movement is surplus to requirements. Lang wrote in the third person, without including the match girl’s voice. A grown woman in a raggedy dress going through her motions is a layer too much. (Anna Burnside)

17 Nov–15 Dec 2011 THE LIST 113