Anne-Marie Piazza

Trained at The Bristol Old Theatre School


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Winter at the Watermill

The Watermill Theatre’s Christmas show, The Prince and The Pauper is a lively new adaptation by Chinonyerem Odimba of Mark Twain’s classic story of confused identities with music and lyrics by Tarek Merchant.

Featuring a multi-talented cast of actor-musicians, The Prince and The Pauper is directed by The Watermill’s Associate Director Abigail Pickard Price. The show is designed by Katie Lias, with lighting design by Tom White and sound design by Philip Matejtschuk. The Prince and The Pauper is suitable for ages 4+.

The full cast is David Fallon (The Prince), Stacey Ghent (Bette), Loren O’Dair (Nan), Anne-Marie Piazza (Lady Whatsit), Tendai Rinomhota (The Pauper) and Hayden Wood (Father Canty/The King).

Two young dreamers with very different lives long for change. The Prince is bored of royal life, of endless parties and rules and grown-ups. Most of all, he hates the grown-ups and wishes he had friends his own age to play with. Outside the palace walls in the bustling streets of London, a young girl who loves to play music and dance, dreams of escaping her humble life to perform for the finest people in the city.

When their two worlds collide, the Prince and the Pauper embark on a thrilling adventure beyond their wildest imaginations. Switching places to live each other’s lives, will they ever be the same again?


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New Audiobooks Out Now

The next audiobook in the Jennifer Asheley’s series is out, following the exploits of cook and amateur sleuth Kat Holloway investigating a “Death in Kew Gardens”.

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Here’s what they say about the story “In return for a random act of kindness, scholar Li Bai Chang presents young cook Kat Holloway with a rare and precious gift – a box of tea. Kat thinks no more of her unusual visitor until two days later when the kitchen erupts with the news that Lady Cynthia’s next-door neighbor has been murdered.

Known about London as an Old China Hand, the victim claimed to be an expert in the language and customs of China, acting as intermediary for merchants and government officials. But Sir Jacob’s dealings were not what they seemed, and when the authorities accuse Mr. Li of the crime, Kat and Daniel find themselves embroiled in a world of deadly secrets that reach from the gilded homes of Mayfair to the beautiful wonder of Kew Gardens.”


“You, Me and Everything” written by Helen J. Rolfe and recently recorded for Dreamscape: “Have you ever had to make an impossible choice?Lydia and Theo face the unthinkable when a knock at the door changes everything. As Lydia begins to pick up the pieces, not every part of the puzzle fits together as neatly as it did before, and as she discovers the truth about the man she loves, she finds herself stuck in limbo. When Theo finally wakes up from a coma, Lydia is faced with a heartbreaking dilemma. She has a history with him, the man she thought she’d spend the rest of her life with, but has too much happened to be able to forgive and forget?”

 

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Audiobook Review

What a joy to find a review for an audiobook I recorded in 2011 and to find it won an Earphone Award with AudioFile Magazine (making me a double Golden Earphone Award winning narrator.

These seven ghost stories were written specially for Naxos AudioBooks, and the production is first-class. Excellent writing and perfect narration are a common thread among the tales of historical ghosts, an accident-prone ghost, and spirits from ancient Egypt. Sean Barrett offers a perfectly tuned narration of “The Clumsy Ghost.” Gorgeous classical music adds to the atmosphere and presentation. In “Unable To Connect,” Anne-Marie Piazza portrays a girl whose dying mother tries to reach her on a phone with a ringtone from SWAN LAKE. The music adds to the heartbreak. Each casting is sublime, all dialogue is smooth and clear, and the narrators are memorable. The stories, which also touch on bravery and lost opportunity, are ideal for family listening.

 

 

 


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Swallows and Amazons – York Theatre Royal

Photographs: Anthony Robling

★★★★☆

The York Theatre Royal’s take on this well-known story, directed by Damian Cruden and John R Wilkinson, is packed with charm. Adults playing children – so often an occasion for cringing – is pulled off by a uniformly excellent cast. Their travels take them all over Katie Sykes’s flexible set, which conjures both the magnificence of the landscape and the intensity of the children’s imaginations.

But the real highlight is the soundtrack, composed by the Divine Comedy’s Neil Hannon. Played on stage by the actors, the music is full of complex harmonies and playful rhymes, with lyrics that trigger snorts of laughter from the audience. In one particularly memorable example, “duckling takes to water” is startlingly paired with “mindless slaughter”.

(The Guardian)

★★★☆☆

So much is charming about this stage version that to pick holes in it feels like being a spoilsport… the songs, by Neil Hannon of the Divine Comedy, are liltingly lovely, the lyrics spiked with his trademark tart wit. And this production, co-directed by Damian Cruden, York’s departing artistic director, and John R Wilkinson, shimmers with innocent wonderment and the happy holiday glow of long childhood summers.

The performances, though, are winning, with Khogali wistful and vigorous as Titty and Anne-Marie Piazza and Rachel Hammond as the bloodthirsty piratical sisters making a hugely entertaining and robustly earthy contrast to the more decorously behaved Walkers. You can’t help wishing there were rather more to it, but it’s as warm, sweet and soothing as a bedtime cup of cocoa.
(The Times)

★★★☆☆

There’s something endearingly old-fashioned about this tale of children playing at being pirates. Yet Edmundson’s version still manages to feel contemporary, helped no end by a typically witty and winsome score by The Divine Comedy’s Neil Hannon.

A cast of adult actors play the children’s roles in a production that is, first and foremost, a celebration of childhood and the power of imagination.

It’s Anne-Marie Piazza and Rachel Hammond who prove most popular with the young audience as the “Amazon pirates”, complete with one of Hannon’s catchiest songs as their theme tune.

(The Stage)

Performed by Cruden and Wilkinson’s company of nine actor-musicians on myriad instruments, from euphonium to violin to cello and glockenspiel, under Kieran Buckeridge’s typically joyous musical direction from the keyboards, the mellifluous songs are but one pleasure of this summer holiday drama for children and grown-up children alike.

The Amazons, sisters Nancy and Peggy (Anne-Marie Piazza and Rachel Hammond), are punkish northerners, free spirited, rougher, tougher and funny. The contrast works a treat; all excel, not least when improvising sailing boats.

(York Press)

 The show aims to take you back to your summer holidays, and provides lots of enchanting music too!

The musical expertise of the company is outstanding… Anne-Marie Piazza (Nancy, Captain of the Amazon) is much loud and brash, with a wonderful singing voice to match! The musical skill is to be not only enjoyed, but admired also.

Furthermore, it is the musical instruments which dominate the stage and its design.

The musical aspects are certainly the highpoint of the production, and it’s no surprise that the songs were composed by The Divine Comedy’s Neil Hannon.

(NorthWestEnd)

John R Wilkinson and musical director Kieran Buckeridge refer to gig theatre and concept albums in their programme notes—and they’re by no means overselling this aspect of the show. Neil Hannon’s compositions, in Buckeridge’s fine arrangements, underpin the whole evening, performed with immense flair by the whole cast on a bewildering array of instruments.

The resulting songs are intricate and compelling, with counterpoint, harmony and syncopated rhythms constantly offering surprising and delightful twists.

…The cast members all have beautiful, versatile voices which soar through some very demanding arrangements.

….The Amazons, played by Anne-Marie Piazza and Rachel Hammond, at times threaten to steal the show entirely. As the pseudo-enemies of the piece, they certainly get the best songs: they revel in hyperbolic and bloodthirstily comic couplets such as “We’ll cut out your gizzards with a blunt pair of scissors for starters / Use your skull as a cup and your lily-livered guts for garters”.

…Overall there is so much to love about the performances, the staging and the gorgeous music that it is well worth a visit, for imaginative explorers young and old.

(British Theatre Guide)

The incredibly skilled cast of actor-musicians is completed by Anne-Marie Piazza as Nancy, Rachel Hammond as Peggy, Ellen Chivers as Mother and Ed Thorpe as Mr Jackson and Policeman, not to mention Buckeridge himself as the ostensibly intimidating Uncle Jim (better known as Captain Flint)….Piazza and Hammond provide riotous laughter as the bloodthirsty Amazons,

(Arts York)

Arthur Ransome’s classic children’s novel Swallows & Amazons comes to the stage of York Theatre Royal this summer. Five of the cast – Anne-Marie Piazza, Alex Winfield, Ellen Chivers, Kiernan Buckeridge, William Pennington and Laura Soper – answer questions about sailing, adventurous holidays and what their character is really like (York Times)

★★★★★

A taste of adventure, childhood innocence and endless days spent

The cast of nine, played instruments, sang and of course acted. The Amazon Pirates, who are the Swallows arch enemy, at least at the start, are two sisters, Nancy (Anne-Marie Piazza) and Peggy (Rachel Hammond). Both do a great job of creating their persona as ruthless ‘pirates’. These two provided the audience with a lot of the comic element within their roles.

The whole cast were strong and each actor made sure the performance went smoothly as possible. The interaction between all the cast is wonderful, and the six who played the children were 100% believable.… I could not find fault in any of the actors, they all delivered splendidly, with such talent.

… I loved how the cast played instruments, sung and acted too, it kept things lively and made sure the children in the audience didn’t get too bored. The show also used a few bird puppets, with the cast stepping in to control the birds at different times.

(Fairy Powered Productions)

The Amazons, Nancy and Peggy, are more straightforward. They make their first raucous appearance, clambering from the Dress Circle in full fig as pirates, and from then on Anne-Marie Piazza and Rachel Hammond have a great time roistering around in fine panto style.

There are many incidental delights in Swallows and Amazons, not least the puppets of birds, but the outstanding feature of the production is the quality of the music. Neil Hannon’s songs are cleverly varied, sometimes witty, sometimes memorable, but always smartly integrated into the dialogue.

(The Review Hub)

 

Performed by a supremely talented ensemble, who are also the house band and skilled puppeteers, the intimate staging means the audience also feels part of their gang and had they handed us one of their catapults we’d have probably taken on Captain Flint ourselves.

(Yorkshire Post)

What an absolute delight York Theatre Royal’s summer show, Swallows and Amazons was, an action-packed adventure, and a fitting farewell to Artistic Director Damien Cruden who co-directed this, his last production with John R Wilkinson, after being at the helm for 22 years.

The children (all played most convincingly by adults) took us with them on their adventures all over designer Katie Sykes’ beautifully spacious set, which created a mood that captured the memory of childhood holidays, and a heady sense of freedom.

The playfulness of the bobbing boats, and the naughty bird puppets was a joy to experience, as was the enthusiasm of the children, particularly young Roger (William Pennington) whose character you couldn’t help but take to your heart.

Music Director Kieran Buckeridge, along with his crew, ensured that this quality production was like “a wonderful live gig“ demonstrating actor-musicianship at its very best, and no doubt inspiring young audience members to take up an instrument.

The swash-buckling scene involving Swallows and Amazons and amongst other things, a hilarious cushion fight, was a real highlight, summing up the sense of playfulness created throughout the whole show.

A delightfully imaginative, uplifting production, perfect for a family treat in the summer holidays

(Pocklington Post)

Much to my disappointment (but not surprise), their favourite song comes from the ballsy and brilliant Amazons warning the Swallows that they will chop off a leg ‘without any anaesthetic!’. Feisty pirates indeed, and the perfect contrast to the rather more sensible Swallows. When quizzed, our children all confirmed that they would much rather be Amazons than Swallows. No surprise there.

… Our nine-year-old said he would have liked more pirate action – by which he probably means fighting – but he was full of praise for the actors and particularly enjoyed the more exuberant second half. But it was our seven-year-old who left the theatre buzzing with excitement, declaring ‘it was amazing’ to anyone who asked. Delightful, funny and thoroughly enjoyable, it’s a show that truly appeals to the whole family. Climb aboard!

(Little Vikings)

Neil Hannon of The Divine Comedy fame composed the music and from the very first scene, it’s clear that the story will be told not only through the acting skills of the fine cast, but also through song and their musicianship. There is at least one musician on stage at all times, often several more, with all of the cast demonstrating an array of fine talents on any number of instruments.

..This is very much an interactive play, with the cast entertaining the children beforehand and popping up at various points in and around the audience, and looks set to win over the hearts and minds of a whole new generation over the next few weeks in York.

(On Magazine)

The soundtrack though, which is nothing short of wonderful, only complements the sheer talent and energy of the actor-musicians carrying out his, Cruden and co-director John R. Wilkinson’s vision for the show. The tracks are playful, fun and rather than detract from the show, really add value to the performance. A few recent York Theatre productions have felt musically forced, rather Swallows and Amazons thrives under it’s musical direction.

The nine actor-musicians are flawless across a range of instruments and musical styles;

I loved this rendition of a classic tale; whilst the story and the script hasn’t been updated to reflect the modern day, it was actually rather nice to have that escape to the past and into a traditional theatre-scape for a couple of hours. The closeness and the intimate nature of the staging enforced this further and you really do feel a part of the children’s adventure throughout.

(Halfway 2 Nowhere)

The cast play the children beautifully, with wide-eyed innocence yet without the need for stereotypes and silliness. The direction from Damian Cruden and John R. Wilkinson shines here.

Anne-Marie Piazza and Rachel Hammond as Peggy play the great comedy duo Nancy and Peggy, drawing plenty of giggles from the audience with their bolshy fall-outs.

The play is a delightful one, though the music composed by Neil Hannon could do without so many reprises.

(One Play More)

There was a powerful use of instruments throughout. The music added to the performance and was blended perfectly. The casts ability to include the instruments was spellbinding to watch.

The use of space in the theatre was phenomenal. The stage and beyond was used throughout which captivated my ten year old and me! These times when the actors came off of the stage often unexpectedly were our favourite parts.

We loved the Amazon sisters, Nancy and Peggy. They were strong and determined northern sisters not afraid to fight for what they believe in.

(Unicorn Puffs and Rainbows)


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Wind in the Willows Reviews

Wind in the Willows at the New Vic Theatre, Stoke

The show opened on 17 November 2018 and ran until 26 January 2019.

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★★★★☆

An immersive show for the under-fives strikes gold and acts as a primer for Peter Leslie Wild’s inventive and boisterous main stage production… a show in perpetual motion. As economical in its theatrical means as it is inventive, it finds deft ways of expressing complex pieces of business.  For one of the great highlights of the show is Matt Baker’s score, gorgeously sung and played by an impassioned ensemble. Varying from ravishing a cappella harmonies to New Orleans jazz, the music takes on early 20th-century forms such as barbershop and tango, even carrying a suggestion of the Russian revolution when the woodland creatures seize Toad Hall with strident cymbal crashes and urgent accordion beats. In a show that is whimsical but not twee, it adds to the rich communal spirit.

 (The Guardian)

The cast of accomplished actor-musicians begins with a haunting acapella song that rouses Alicia McKenzie’s anxious and naive mole from slumber. This is engaging and innocent family fare, performed with aplomb. (The Stage)

It’s gentle, charming and whimsical, a perfect festive outing for people of all ages…heart-warming affirmation of the value of friendship that runs throughout. As you would expect from a New Vic production, the cast all multitasked. The music was another high point for me. It fit perfectly with the period of the book and added to the timeless quality of the show.  Anyone of any age could enjoy Wind in the Willows. There’s absolutely nothing half so much worth doing as going to see it.   (Stoke Sentinel)

There are seven others in the cast who play lots of other parts – I think the quick-change dressers should take a bow – and everyone sings or plays a musical instrument.

(Northern Soul)

The New Vic brings to life a timeless tale, creating a magical experience for audiences of all ages…  And the beauty, as ever, in any New Vic production is that the theatre-in-the-round setting brings the audience up-close to the action.  This is a tale of courage and friendship, with a dose of danger, too (which children and adults alike can revel in).  Plus, in between their lines, the cast took their shifts playing musical instruments (an impressive display of multi-tasking, in our opinion). The original score, composed by Matt Baker, is a delight and fits perfectly with the story. (Yeah Lifestyle)

Grahame’s characters are so beautifully drawn, casting them is key; and in this the New Vic has thrown away the clichéd form book. This production determinedly avoids the anthropomorphic trap. The actors act like humans, with only a carefully managed tail to remind us otherwise.  Matt Baker’s music is exquisite throughout. Instruments seem to pop up everywhere … playing a repertoire ranging from a gentle soft shoe shuffle (ideal for messing about on the river) to a big Weasely Kurt Weil-style number. But it always steadfastly references the story’s Edwardian roots.  (Shropshire Events & Whats On Guide)

A tale of friendship, strength and determination, acast of 11 actor-musicians take us from the river bank to the Wild Wood.  The amazing thing about the production is, despite the fact that you have to use your imagination, it really feels like you’re watching Mr Toad storming through the streets of the Wide World in his motorcar. All 11 of the actor-musicians give impressive performances, switching between singing, dancing and playing instruments, they create an atmosphere that is hard to forget. (Staffs Live)

The Wind in the Willows brings enchantment, adorable characters in mysterious settings and a sprinkling of snow for a delightful Christmas play at the New Vic. Imaginations are allowed to run wild.. A fabulous story, superb stage setting and fantastic cast – who between them also perform live music – makes Wind in the Willows a must see at the New Vic.  (Baba Baboon) 

★★★★☆

Within moments you enter the magical world.  The direction was also on point, using the set and cast to full effect. Unbelievable stagecraft always accompanies a New Vic Production and it was great to see Director Peter Leslie Wild continue that trend whilst adding stamping his mark in other ways…and there wasn’t a weak link in this group of actor-musicians. It’s always impressive when the actors produce their own music, but even more so when it doesn’t affect the flow of the performance or take energy away from the main action on stage.  (At The Theatre)

★★★☆☆

 Time and effort has been devoted to creating just the right atmosphere and “look” for each scene and it pays off. The characters are resplendent in their Edwardian costumes, set off by some pretty fabulous tails and ears, designed by Lis Evans. The cast are suitably bonkers.  The staging has a relaxed feel to it, with characters often sitting just off stage, watching the action with us. It is especially inventive the way the musicians stroll on and off stage, often becoming animals themselves. I have never seen a fox play the saxophone, but there is always a first — especially when you are visiting the Wild Wood. (TheTimes)


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The Road Behind, The Road Ahead

10th-12th October 2018

Chipping Theatre

The Road Behind, The Road Ahead is a unique project created by The Theatre Chipping Norton to explore the history of the Suffragette movement, and what it means to us today. In the age of #metoo and gender pay disputes, female equality remains one of the most hotly debated questions of our day.

Join us for an evening of rarely-seen drama from the Votes for Women movement – a stripped back production of short plays and songs that helped to shape public opinion and remain relevant, gripping and funny to this day.

The live performances are partnered with a thought-provoking photographic exhibition and originally commissioned pieces of sound-art and music that reflect on the experiences of equality from a range of contemporary women from across Oxfordshire. From teenagers to retirees, students to professionals, children to working mums, join us to reflect on how far we have come, and how far we still have to go.

Thursday 11th at the Old Fire Station, Oxford there was a post show Q&A, attending were:

Professor Senia Paseta. Senia is Co-Director of Women in the Humanities at Oxford University whose current area of research is the history of women and political activism in the Britain.

Dr Naomi Paxton. Naomi is a performer, writer and researcher whose doctoral research explored the world of theatre professionals to the suffrage campaign. She edited the Methuen Drama Book of Suffrage Plays. Naomi is Knowledge Exchange Fellow at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London.

Dr Sos Eltis is an Associate Professor in the English Faculty, Oxford University, and a Fellow and Tutor in English at Brasenose College, Oxford. She has written a number of articles on women’s suffrage literature and theatre, as well as articles on Shaw, Coward, Pinter, Beckett, gothic and sensation literature.


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The Wits: Read Not Dead

Sunday 30th September saw the rehearsed reading of the 17th century play The Wits by William Davenant at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, Shakespeare’s Globe. It was first performed 1634 and published 1636 and had a rocky start. Initially, because of its oaths and explicit language, Sir Henry Herbert (Master of the Revels) was incredibly unhappy about it and it took the intercession of King Charles I for it to be allowed.

Thankfully, due to the work of our wonderful cast expertly directed by Read Not Dead regular Martin Hodgson, our Sunday afternoon audience also loved it.

The Read Not Dead rules are as follows: Actors rehearse the play on a Sunday morning and present it, script in hand, to an audience later that afternoon.

The performances are instinctive, adrenaline driven and inventive. Actors and audiences alike share in the excitement of reviving these forgotten plays that definitely deserve to be Read Not Dead.

Synopsis: Eager to live like fashionable gallants, Elder Pallatine and Sir Morgalay Thwack plan to woo London women and fleece them of their wealth. Elder Pallatine meets his match when his younger brother joins forces with Lady Ample and set about tricking him with ridiculous/hilarious consequences.

Supposedly Lady Ample represents a restoration feminine ideal, that of a woman who is equal to man in every way. In fact her parting shot, when she suggests marriage to the Elder Pallatine, is that he will agree that she has far more wit than he does. I found her an utter joy to play and would only have wished for a proper run to really sink my teeth into the character.

Read Not Dead’s are a wonderful opportunity to bring back rarely seen plays and throw them onto stage with energy, very little preparation but a lot of joy. And this was no exception.