A review by Bernie Whelan for EXTRA! EXTRA!



Waterloo East Theatre presents

Come Chat With Me

Sarah Redmond interviews Chris

Ellis Stanton


Waterloo East Theatre

April 17, 2011





Sarah Redmond jogged on stage in a Lycra suit as if on a detour from the London Marathon, except she was wearing sparkly heels and a medal actually belonging to Chris Ellis Stanton from a childhood track event. It wasn't just her heels that sparkled as she introduced the audience to her trepidatious but capable pianist Dan Jackson in 'the pit' at the side of a stage carpeted in fake grass, sporting a park bench and other garden furniture. Her bright, breezy entrance was most welcome in the cold, dank, rather damp smelling railway arch which houses Waterloo East theatre. After a chat with Dan on piano and a few jokes at his expense, Ms Redmond warbled her way delightfully through a suggestive opening number, demonstrating her own musical proficiency and getting the audience well warmed up for her guest.

The idea is to have a kind of Graham Norton style chat show with guests from West End theatre productions, although as Sarah Redmond archly noted, Graham Norton reads from an autocue and she has to make do with rather less high tech equipment. However, she did produce a laptop in order to grill Chris Ellis Stanton with questions on Chris Ellis Stanton, very few of which he could answer correctly until he realised the answer would be either Dick or Willy. She is hopeful that she will soon get an automated leader board to publish the results of her timed charades competition, in the style of Top Gear's competition to see which guest can drive the fastest lap.

You get the picture, it's tacky fun, 'tongue very firmly planted in cheek' in Sarah Redmond's own phrase. Chris Ellis Stanton seemed shy for a West End musical star with porn star good looks greatly appreciated by a predominately gay male audience, particularly when he had to strip to his underpants in order to demonstrate a quick change into a chicken outfit, aided rather incongruously by a very young teenage girl volunteer. Not that the girl was anything but delighted with her role and the reward of a posy of flowers Stanton had made in another timed task.

This is theatre infected by the virus of reality television, where audience concentration is thought to be unsustainable without the frantic interspersing of timed games with gossip, songs and more serious discussion of the demands made on performers in the West End and, more crucially, the quality of what appears there today.

Chris Ellis Stanton is a charming and talented performer. A feast for the eyes and ears, he is indeed so beautiful to look at that he could outplay Brad Pitt as Achilles in Troy without trying. Not only does he look like an angel, but he sings like one too. He brought songs from his own experience of performing and his personal favourite from Oklahoma, also demonstrating how a different arrangement can revive old classics like 'That's Why The Lady is a Tramp'. He patiently allowed Sarah Redmond to put him through a series of trials - the fact that they both worked on Stripper provided a certain rapport which made things comfortable for them and the audience. His infant child was a vociferous member of the audience, this was distracting when he cried, but charming when he punctuated the last song with shouts of 'that's my daddy!'

I'm not sure if this will take off. Word of mouth might drum up a bigger audience, particularly as those in attendance for Chris Ellis Stanton were willing to make contributions in the tradition of Saturday night television shows like Fantasy Football. Whether this genre can successfully migrate to quite a different medium, a remote and challenging space in south London is a long way from a television studio and even further from the sofa, remains to be seen. If anyone can do it, Sarah Redmond can. She is Lady Bountiful with the custard creams, sweets and Vaseline, but it is the crack of her Frankie Howard style caustic wit which will keep this show on the road, if it has the wheels to keep on rolling.

Tiffany Graves nextSunday night
Waterloo East Theatre, Brad Street, London SE1 8TG
Sun: 7.30pm
Tickets: £10
Box Office 020 7928 0060

Copyright © EXTRA! EXTRA All rights reserved