Dick and Dom in Da’ Montfort Hall: the kings of improv return for their 20th anniversary tour

Review by John Perry

Hearing the sweet sound of “bogies!” being howled from every direction was a great start to a night of nostalgia and brought a flashback moment to my childhood. It was like being in my front room at age 11 all over again. 2002 seems a lifetime ago since first seeing these household names invade our weekends. But here we are in 2023 sharing smiles again with them.

The masters of mayhem, the kings of improv and the jesters of the BBC. Da’ Bungalow provided me with smiles, laughter and escape from school. It was just a historic moment of children’s entertainment. Something you had to grow up with to understand how special it truly was.

Twenty years later – yes, 20 years – they haven’t changed a bit. Well, minus the flabby bits on their stomachs as Dick referred to them.

Returning with an all-new 2023 in Da’ Bungalow nationwide tour for their 20th anniversary of the hit kids TV show. Remember these guys are quadruple Bafta-award winning presenters. They know how to get a laugh and sell some tickets to the masses.

Besides dominating the De Montfort Hall stage with their incredible talent for cleverly immature and family focused comedy, they break the fourth wall almost constantly throughout the two-plus hours of insanity, and invite audience members to become their torture victims or as they like to refer to them, bungalow heads.

We saw arguments about if celery was a vegetable that resulted in Dom asking the audience to google the answer, mute interrogations from shy contestants with DI Harry Batt, not to mention grown adults wearing underwear on their head and dancing to the ”Pants Dance” song.

Out of context, this entire show seems utterly ludicrous. However, trust me, it makes sense in the moment. These two guys owned the era with their fantastic dry and silly humour. Nothing has changed with their stage show.

It has been years, and I mean years since I have cried with laughter. Side-splitting doesn’t cut it, they disembowelled the audiences’ funny bones and rattled them till they cackled with madness, not being able to take anymore. Then that is when they let you have a few minutes recovery with an interval. Every joke, audience interaction and mishap melded into a show that just felt totally natural. Nothing was faked. Nothing felt forced or out if place. It’s as if they never left our lives, oir our screens.

One of the many highlights was their bungalow cat, a puppet voiced by the strongest northern accent I have ever heard. He sang a song of Leicester, rhyming dry comedic lines with the audience about sites and things they visited before the evening show – referring to Richard III’s museum as the car park corpse show. That attention to detail to get a laugh is masterful. Never insulting us, just a simple tease.

Between the clapping along to memorable songs from the original TV series. The cheering from the crowd as old faces returned, and the jesters themselves pointing out the odd empty seat and need for the tour to make money. You really didn’t have time to breathe between the next infectious smirk they slammed on your face. It was rapid, witty, and outrageous comedy at its finest.

The show climaxes with Dick, Dom and all the participant bungalow heads covered in ”Creamy Muk Muk” attacking each-other as the Ace of Spades plays violently in the background. Just like the original TV counterpart. Certainly, you cannot deny the show is as advertised, and it was indeed the messiest night in the UK and I could not fault it an inch.

If you need a night of reminiscing simpler times, or just need a laugh. They captured the spirit of what made the TV show so special in mere seconds and I can confidently say there is no better comedy act in the UK right now to spend your hard-earned money on than Dick and Dom. So, go knock their door, watch out for purple carpet stains, and visit their infamous bungalow. Just make sure to bring a brolly for to avoid the mess in the front row.

The Dick and Dom tour continues until June. Get tickets here: https://myticket.co.uk/artists/dick-and-dom-in-da-bungalow-live

Rihanna’s Super Bowl LVII Halftime Show: grace, poise, and the perfect comeback

By Shaikha Rahimi

Rihanna, the show-stopping, mega-celebrity, has been long on hiatus. No tour since 2016, no live performance since the Grammys in 2018, and no album since ANTI in 2016. So by the nature of that, any appearance at any live event would be, well, show-stopping. In this case, game-stopping.

The beginning was electrifying – the kind of energy that sets the stage for the rest of the show. This was Rihanna’s perfect comeback, and it was clear from the start.

Not only did the performance mark her return to the stage after a long absence, but it also included a surprise announcement of her pregnancy, something no one knew before the performance.

Rihanna doesn’t typically perform full-force choreography, and that’s what her fans, the Navy, love about her. She performs with grace and composure, while exuding an air of cool confidence. She began the show by gazing directly at the camera with a smirk on her face, which had all the poise and power one would anticipate from a Rihanna show.

She stood on a giant LED-lit platform in oversized red overalls as Bitch Better Have My Money played, while a crew of dancers, dressed in white high-fashion hazmat suits, put on an energetic display of choreography. The monochromatic set and outfits were a clear nod to ANTI’s visuals.

It was fabulously futuristic and glam. And no one does that combination better than Rihanna.

Given the extent of Rihanna’s musical accomplishments, it was impossible to do justice to her full discography in a performance lasting less than 15 minutes. But the set powered through many of her greatest hits including Where Have You Been, Only Girl in the World, Diamonds, and We Found Love. It was a powerful mega-mix that served as a powerful reminder – she just has way too many good songs.

Rihanna isn’t only renowned for her music. The success of her brands, Fenty Beauty and Savage X Fenty, is a testament for her stand-out entrepreneurial pursuits. Over the past few years she has become more likely to promote her lingerie brand more than a new single. She probably has taken the stage in support of her brands more than she has performed her music live.

So being the entrepreneur she is, and knowing she was on one of the biggest stages there is, she conveniently found time to fix her make-up during her performance. Rihanna’s Super Bowl halftime performance doubled as potentially the greatest Fenty advertisement ever.

Her performance was met with some callous critiques, with people saying it was underwhelming and muted. It wasn’t muted, it was precise and seamless. Rihanna’s halftime Super Bowl show had all the makings of a global spectacle. Every moment and element of her performance set the stage for an iconic pop culture moment, which is vital in an age where these moments are few and far between.

She was critiqued for not performing ground-breaking gymnastic choreography, but let’s be real – I think it’s OK for a pregnant woman to take things down a notch. Her ability to balance her passion with her commitment to keeping herself and her baby healthy and safe is admirable.

Interestingly, some critics drew comparisons between her performance and that of The Weeknd’s in the 2021 Super Bowl LV halftime show, who faced no criticism despite his increasingly static choreography. It’s problematic for critics to hold women to a higher standard of performance than men. This double standard highlights the continued prevalence of sexism in the entertainment industry.

All the big names in the industry aspire to stand out, but Rihanna radiates originality with so much ease. Her halftime Super Bowl show was memorable and a perfect relaxed comeback that was befitting of the power that she exudes.

On the same giant LED-lit platform and alone in the sky, she was surrounded by a sea of mobile lights with fireworks overhead at the State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. Rihanna didn’t need a guest appearance. She didn’t need to debut an unreleased song. She shined by herself and all we saw was star quality. The power and confidence of her performance embodied the grace and poise that she is renowned for, making it the perfect comeback.

Watch the full Super Bowl LVII Halftime performance here.

Review: The Wizard of Oz at Curve, Leicester. ‘Over the Rainbow, and above my expectations’

By John Perry

The Wizard of Oz has seen many iterations since its conception into a novel by L. Frank Baum, most notably the 1939 Hollywood classic starring the late Judy Garland. Moving forward the best part of a century, Andrew Lloyd Webber redefined the classic into a stage production in 2011. Now in 2022, Curve Theatre has once again redefined what The Wizard of Oz is with their contemporary take on the tale involving deviations in characters and story to create an important version involving environmentalism.

Stepping into the Curve is an experience of its own, a modern building near the heart of Leicester, but I was still not expecting the sheer scale of production, talent, and technological achievement once I took my seat to view this fantastical performance.

The Wizard of Oz creative director Nikolai Foster brought his vision to the Curve theatre and it’s simply breathtaking. Inspired by Route 66 and the American dream, this is a new rendition of a classic that is a must-see. We all are aware of Dorothy’s adventure through Oz, her meeting characters representing her family, friends and learning to understand the importance of home through a magical experience. Here, we still get that core story but with modern twists, comedy, and heart.

You are not merely transported there; you are part of Oz for the next two hours.

The boldest surprise to me was that in the blink of an eye, set pieces meld into the stage with brilliant light shows and 3D effects. Flashes of light, dazzling special effects and environments on stage evolving. You are not pulled into the world; you are immersed into it. You are not merely transported there; you are part of Oz and Dorothy’s adventure for the next two hours.

The cast of the Wizard of Oz at Curve, Leicester. Photograph by Marc Brenner

The acting and vocal talent of the entire cast is brilliant but particularly in Dorothy (Georgina Onuorah), Scarecrow (Jonny Fines) and Glinda (Christina Bianco), phenomenal voices reverberate around the theatre space. They truly know how to pick artists here; the production team is a character of their own too. As is the band hidden beneath the stage – a live orchestra that many wouldn’t even believe was there. To the naked eye it’s simply a musical track playing unless you have the opportunity during the interval or a lucky seat at the front to peer below the stage into a pit of experienced musicians bringing Oz to life.

West End quality without the need for a trip to London is how best to describe it what is witnessed here. It features genuinely funny moments. Hearing a cast member saying “I’m a friend of Dorothy” – we all know the connotations – made the adults erupt in laughter, while Scarecrow simply leaping, falling, and rolling around the set during his introduction had the kids giggling like a pack of hyenas. An addition I did not expect was a puppet version of Toto that was handled entirely by a single crew member on stage, practical to avoid a real dog.

Aesthetically, it deviates heavily from the original to be in line more with its environmentalist take and contemporary vision, which includes Munchkin land being an industrial and dilapidated town, Emerald City representing a New York landscape and the witches of Oz riding motorcycles instead of brooms. It could have done more in terms of altering the narrative to fit this, but I expect it was a creative choice to stay truer to the original in its script.

Ben Thompson (Toto) and Georgina Onuorah (Dorothy). Photograph by Marc Brenner
Charlotte Jaconelli (The Wicked Witch of the West). Photograph by Marc Brenner

As the second half began it truly showcased more of the time and money that went into this daring new take on the classic. The production value and realism they went for was breathtaking: Emerald City having small Easter eggs on the large LED screen at the back, parodies of McDonald’s, Starbucks and even a nod to Garland herself in a Times Square-like billboard. The little things were not ignored.

The pinnacle of the entire performance must be Onuorah’s rendition of Over the Rainbow as Dorothy. A bright, positive, and soulful take on the theme to the original movie. It gave us goosebumps, and earned a standing ovation from many of the audience.

It’s for everyone. A modern take on a classical tale. A fantastic musical, with amazing vocal talent, technical expertise, music that just engulfs the audience in the moment. It was also wholesome to see a sign language interpreter present on stage for accessibility of disabled audience members. Inclusivity is important to Curve.

This production is incredible. After a pandemic delay, to find its feet like this and still be a powerhouse of entertainment. It is special. A true five-star experience and a must see for all the family this Christmas. It certainly went over the rainbow and above my expectations.

The Wizard of Oz runs at the Curve Theatre in Leicester until January 8.

Two Leicester professors are having their book published after almost a decade of hard work

By Katie McKenna

Waiting for print day: Paul Smith in his office, having completed his book.

After almost a decade of hard work, a De Montfort University professor finally has his book on the verge of being published.

Dr Paul Smith, a 48-year-old associate professor working at De Montfort University, is finally on the verge of having his media textbook published following several years of continuous work.

The book was co-authored by Dr Vincent Campbell of the University of Leicester.

“I suppose in a sense it was like a collaboration between DMU and the University of Leicester,” Dr Smith said.

“The idea came to us in a car ride about 7 or 8 years ago. We were complaining about how the textbooks back then were so old-fashioned – refusing to acknowledge recent media developments and choosing to focus on the old media instead.”

The theme of the soon-to-be-published book is how the rise of the internet has changed the shape of media – giving special attention to every major media industry.

‘We had the idea on the back-burner and worked casually on it for years – up until our publisher started to ask where the book was!

“I put a lot of work into it during the summer this year.

“I have two boys – 12 and 15. I wish I could’ve been able to spend more time with them.

“We had a family holiday planned two weeks before the deadline and we still had one more chapter to finish. My wife insisted that I wasn’t allowed to work on holiday!”

Finally, work on the book was finished and the deadline was met.

When asked about his goals with the book, Dr Smith said: “Partly, we wanted to create a book that asked interesting questions about the current state of media. But we also wanted it to be a valuable resource for all students, even if many don’t even have the opportunity to read it.”

He is already moving onto his next project, focusing on his other passion – sports media.

The British Media Industry – An Introduction is set to be released in early 2023.

TV Priest live at Firebug, Leicester: a raw, orchestral post-punk trip

Review by Shaikha Rahimi

Gone are the days where rock gigs are only about hair whipping and top-of-the-lungs screaming. From chest patting to the lyrics to swinging the microphone stand across the stage, Charlie Drinkwater draws a line between the audience and the band through emotion. And, above all, by being quintessentially TV Priest.

TV Priest’s debut album showcased who they are as a band as well as their versatility, and their second album hammered down their sound. Uppers was an unapologetic political statement and the predeceasing album seems to have traces of that, too. The earsplitting guitars and drums combined with Drinkwater’s vulnerable and honest lyricism created juxtaposition like no other.

Drinkwater, whose artistry is not limited to music, was profoundly immersed in the lyricism throughout the show. He did not stop at satisfying the audience’s ears; he brought the visuals into it. His stage presence is theatrical in a sense, and he almost innately feels the urge to act out his lyrics. “Life only comes in flashes of greatness,” he exclaimed, with his hands over his head. 

TV Priest on stage at Firebug. Image by Shaikha Rahimi.

One Easy Thing, one of TV Priest’s most known tracks, had to make it to the setlist, and the band’s ability to immerse the audience into the lyricism shone through once again as Drinkwater said: “And when you used to laugh, rooms used to open for you .. like a mother weeping.” 

He does it once again as he repeatedly patted his chest while building up the crescendo: “I need to sleep, so very, very deeply. But I am on the call, and I am waiting.” This moment was the highlight of the night. TV Priest put on a show that is well-rounded and strikes a balance between theatrical elements and rock music. I would not have been surprised to see curtains closing the show. 

With the size of Firebug’s venue in mind, it already felt like an intimate gig. But Drinkwater took the artist-fan interaction up a notch by sitting at the edge of the stage during Limehouse Cut, one of the many profound moments during the show. Contrary to the studio version of the track where Drinkwater’s vocals are low-pitched and sonorous, he howled and quavered: “Won’t you follow, follow me?” into the crowd without a microphone. Drinkwater is certainly au fait with sustaining fan interactions. “You can find us around our merch stall after the show selling T-shirts to pay for petrol,” he said mid-show. It seems transparency is not limited to his lyricism.

For the audience, this is a rollercoaster with consistent highs and no lows. It encapsulates meaningful lyricism, with zestful stage presence, and timeless sound. Drinkwater’s commitment to the vulnerability of his lyricism carried the audience through a plethora of emotions. He was clearly submerged in the guitar, bass, and drums. You could just see it in his face, and you cannot help but surrender to the intensity of their marvellous crescendos. Nothing held TV Priest back. This show was incised with energy, sensational vocals, and unparalleled stage presence.

The support act were London-based alternative-rock band Modern Woman. Their music is hard to label and is mysterious in its intent: post-folk-meets-art-rock. The layered instrumental excellence of the violin – yes, a violin – and the electric guitar with the rhythmic cymbals created a goosebump-inducing sound.

But it was TV Priest’s night: a show that felt like a raw, orchestral post-punk trip that gave the audience a thrilling adventure that was all about screeching guitars, pounding drums, and authenticity.

TV Priest’s current European tour takes in France, Belgium and Switzerland and concludes in Köln, Germany on Friday, November 25. Buy tickets at https://www.tvpriest.com.