REVIEW: Astley’s Astounding Adventures – New Vic – Newcastle-under-Lyme


“Astley’s Astounding Adventures” at Newcastle-under-Lyme’s New Vic is an outstanding show that effortlessly caters to a diverse audience with its impeccable performances, creative ingenuity, and breathtaking circus displays that delve into the rich tapestry of local history. It’s a spell-binding experience that manages to captivate from start to finish.

The New Vic’s in-the-round theatre has been ingeniously transformed by Set Designer Laura Willstead, creating a seamless integration of performance space. The addition of new wooden boards lining the stage’s perimeter is a subtle yet effective touch that enhances the overall atmosphere, immersing the audience in the world of Philip Astley.

The production does an impressive job of offering a fairly comprehensive retelling of Philip Astley’s life. The only minor critique being a slightly slower start. However, this minor hiccup is quickly overshadowed by the sheer brilliance of the rest of the production. “Astley’s Astounding Adventures” sheds light on a local hero, Philip Astley, whose significance in history often goes unnoticed. The show beautifully showcases the life of a man who played a pivotal role in shaping the entertainment world, bringing his legacy to the forefront of our attention.

The entire cast of the production deserves nothing short of applause for their exceptional performances. The cast includes Nicholas Shaw as Clown / Sir Prickling / King, Danielle Bird as Patty Jones, Darcy Braimoh as John Astley, Gareth Cassidy as Clown / Alfie Burrell, Adrian Decosta as Charles Hughes, Michael Hugo as Zipper, Siu-See Hung as Clown / Young Philip / Dibdin / The Little Military Horse, and Nicholas Richardson as Philip Astley.

Photo credit: Andrew Billington

Philip Astley takes centre stage as the protagonist, and Nicholas Richardson’s portrayal is nothing short of exceptional. As the protagonist, he carries the weight of the show with remarkable skill and authenticity, following Astley’s journey from local hero to international impresario. His acting is marked by emotional depth, allowing the audience to connect with Philip Astley on a profound level.

Danielle Bird’s portrayal of Patty Jones is a testament to her versatility as an actress. She exhibits a remarkable range of characterisation, bringing Patty’s character to life with authenticity and depth. Her ability to navigate her character’s arc, from the early moments of her journey with Philip to the challenges they face together, is truly impressive.

But it’s not just their acting prowess that stands out; Richardson and Bird’s execution of aerial silk performances adds a jaw-dropping visual element to the character. Their breathtaking acrobatics make for a compelling and emotionally charged performance that leaves a lasting impression.

Siu-See Hung’s contribution to “Astley’s Astounding Adventures” is multifaceted and delightful. Her range of characters showcases her comedic timing and her unwavering commitment to each role. Even in smaller parts, Siu-See brings a sense of authenticity and vivacity to the stage. Her ability to seamlessly transition between different characters and infuse them with unique personalities is a testament to her acting prowess. Her performances contribute significantly to the humour and dynamics of the show, making her an integral part of its success.

Adrian Decosta’s portrayal of Charles Hughes, the antagonist of the story, is nothing short of fabulous. His acting skills shine as he brings this complex character to life with authenticity and conviction. Charles Hughes serves as a formidable foil to Philip Astley’s heroics, and Adrian’s performance adds depth and tension to their interactions. His presence on stage is commanding, and he plays a pivotal role in driving the narrative forward.

The circus performers, Rafiq Ffinch-Shah, Joseph Hamilton, Tamzen Moulding, and Lee Partridge, undoubtedly greatly enhance the show with their awe-inspiring acts. Their immense talents and skills capture the wonder and amazement of the circus and enable this production to succeed through their integration with the actors and narrative.

These actors and performers, along with the rest of the cast, come together to create a harmonious and captivating ensemble that elevates “Astley’s Astounding Adventures” to a truly unforgettable spectacle. Their dedication, talent, and ability to connect with the audience on both emotional and visual levels contribute immensely to the success of the production. Their performances make the story of Philip Astley and Patty Jones come alive, leaving a profound impact on everyone fortunate enough to witness this remarkable show.

Photo credit: Andrew Billington

The show expertly strikes a perfect balance between theatre, circus, and storytelling, resulting in a truly delightful spectacle. This harmonious combination keeps the audience engaged throughout, and the result is nothing short of mesmerising.

Every creative element in “Astley’s Astounding Adventures” is masterfully executed. The costume design, lighting effects, choreography (especially the super impressive fight scenes), and pyrotechnics contribute significantly to the show’s overall brilliance. Credit goes to the designers, including Lis Evans (Costume Designer), Daniella Beattie (Lighting Designer), Beverley Norris-Edmunds (Movement Director) and Alex Day (Sound Designer), for their exceptional contributions, as well as the hard-work of the incredible costume and prop department at the New Vic.

The talented musicians, including trumpeter Cameron Lockett, Musical Director and violinist Farhaan Shah, percussionist Sophie Smith, cellist Eleanor Toms, and trombonist Miri Wallich, further enhance the performance. Their contributions add depth and emotional resonance to the musical experience, perfectly complementing the on-stage action and showcasing their vast array of talents. Furthermore, the cast’s incorporation of sound effects adds an extra layer of authenticity to the show’s audio dimension.

In conclusion, “Astley’s Astounding Adventures” is more than just a show; it’s a spectacular experience that combines history, theatre, and circus to create something truly extraordinary. This production, with its outstanding performances and creative brilliance, is a must-see. Don’t miss the opportunity to witness this remarkable showcase of local history and talent. Kudos to the entire team for their brilliant work once again – the New Vic remains a hub of theatrical excellence!

Astley’s Astounding Adventures is playing at the New Vic until the 21st October. Tickets available here.

Photo credit: Andrew Billington






4 responses to “REVIEW: Astley’s Astounding Adventures – New Vic – Newcastle-under-Lyme”

  1. Elizabeth Leslie avatar
    Elizabeth Leslie

    A jolly good review

  2. Ian Jenkinson avatar

    I have seen many good shows at the New Vic but this exceeded them by a long margin. Clever staging, spectacular performance, and timing, by the cast. A well-deserved standing ovation at the end of the Borough Council’s VIP evening. Well done the New Vic !

  3. Lynda avatar

    Absolutely phenomenal fantastic best Iv seen well done everyone

  4. Janet Wright avatar
    Janet Wright

    Saw this show with friends and we all thought it was outstanding, incredible, amazing….. just the best, the talent is beyond words.
    Took my 11 year old grandson on last night, he thoroughly enjoyed it all, was just amazed at everything, and I again, was awed by the sheer brilliance. Thank you all involved, one of those shows that stays with you for ever and ever.

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