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Tuesday, 8 October 2019

REVIEW: Noises Off at the Garrick theatre

The Lyric Hammersmith’s production of Noises Off opens in the living-room of a picturesque country home. “HOLD IT THERE” comes the booming voice of Lloyd Dallas, played by Lloyd Owen. Dallas is the director of Nothing On which is currently approaching the midnight hour of the dress rehearsal in Weston Super-Mare. This is the first of many interruptions that threaten to derail the production.

This play-within-a-play, or more accurately a farce-within-a-farce, centres around an acting company attempting to stage a bedroom farce as their relationships and the show itself descend further and further into chaos. In the first act we see the hours slipping away as the actors try to remember their blocking and lines as Dallas pulls his hair out and the poor Stage Management team of Poppy and Tim (Anjli Mohindra and Adrian Richards respectively) struggle to keep the show afloat and their nerves in check.

The choreography of this show is an utter masterpiece. As each visitor to the house darts through a door another swings open; every character misses the others with timing so impeccable you could set your watch too it. The choreography in the second act steps up a level; axes, sardines and bottles of whiskey fly across the backstage that is now presented to us. Flowers, sheets and costumes get whipped around in a frenzied whirlwind of perfectly executed slapstick comedy and all in silence as we hear the performance take place through the doors and walls of the set which now shows us its unkempt backstage side.

Saturday, 17 April 2021

REVIEW: Cruise at Stream.Theatre (Online)

It’s 1988. It’s 2021. It’s the true story of how Michael Spencer experienced the Soho scene in the 80s.

Written and performed by Jack Holden, we are invited into a frenzied world of vibrant characters, shadowy nightlife, and sex and love. We meet Jack at 22 years old, answering the phones for the LGBTQIA+ helpline, Switchboard. From there we are dragged, kicking and screaming, through a soul-thumping story of love and loss, of joy and pain, of time and age.

Holden has penned this production with passion and precision, using his own experiences and the stories of a generation before to create a world that exists in the 80s and the present; performed in the warren of basement spaces under Shoreditch Town Hall. Holden’s use of body and voice (both speaking and his stunning tenor singing) to breathe life into a multitude of eccentric but utterly honest characters, is matched only by his exquisite command of text and language. The dialogue trips effortlessly from narrative to poetry in a way that I have never seen before.

Wednesday, 26 October 2022

REVIEW: Bat Out of Hell at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking

Jim Steinman’s rip-roaring musical is tearing up towns across the UK before its residence back in London’s West End in 2023. Featuring the greatest hits of Jim Steinman and Meat Loaf, this all-guns-blazing barrage of rock is not for the faint-hearted.

Set to the music of the multi-million-selling album of the same name, this musical is loosely based on the lynchpins of JM Barrie’s Peter Pan; ‘Loosely’ being the operative word. For those destined to witness this show, you will want to read on as I attempt to untangle the plot of this show in as few sentences as possible.

Set in a post-‘chemical war’ city which is now run by the trump-like Falco (Rob Fowler), the Lost Boys are a group of underground dwellers frozen at 18 years old and helmed by their charismatic leader Strat (Glenn Adamson). When Falco's daughter, Raven (Martha Kirby), falls in love with the leather-loving, chest-baring Strat, all hell breaks loose between the enterprising control freak Falco, and the rock ’n’ roll Lost Boys.

Sunday, 11 December 2022

REVIEW: Cinderella at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking

The Fairy Godmother of all pantomimes is back at the New Victoria Theatre Woking for the festive season, and it is a true Christmas treat for the whole family. It's the well-known rags-to-riches, magical pumpkin, glass slipper story set in Woking and full of panto magic.

This cast are just fantastic. Sarah Vaughan plays the title role and brings a graceful beauty to it. Samuel Wilson-Freeman's Prince Charming is suitably dashing and has great fun on stage; his dance break in the Act 2 opener is awesome! The Fairy Godmother, played by Jenny Gayner, ties the story together and brings festive magic. Her aura and sparkle shine through, and her levitating trick had the whole audience guessing.

Sunday, 25 April 2021

REVIEW: Soft Sessions Live in Concert at Stream.Theatre

Riding fresh from their success of song snippets on YouTube, Soft Sessions brings together 6 beautiful performers for a streamed concert.

Soft Sessions is just the perfect title for this show. 45 minutes of soul- warming vocal bliss streamed direct to your home. With song choices spanning genres and eras, there is something for everyone. But, not only that, but the songs take on a new life as they are remastered by Alex Beetschen and the stellar cast.

Aesthetically, this show combines succulent greenery with rooms that ooze rustic-chic. Soft leather and velvety voices combine perfectly in a concert performance that feels welcoming and comfortable in all the right ways. Callum Heinrich has worked some magic with the camera and editing, transitioning easily between songs and interviews, employing some wonderful trickery in the process.

Sunday, 23 October 2022

REVIEW: Marvellous at @sohoplace

Telling the story of Neil ‘Nello’ Baldwin, Marvellous shares many of the qualities of the subject himself; fun, playful, and heartwarming. The action begins with the actors introducing themselves to the audience and inviting us to watch them act out Baldwin's extraordinary life. As they start they are interrupted by Neil himself, played by the fabulous Mike Hugo. From here we are narrated through his biography with the actors cycling through the various characters in Baldwin's life, sometimes with honesty and heart, and sometimes as caricatures with a glint in their eye. This marvellous life is a whirlwind, and the playful performances on stage keep the show exciting and engaging with barrels of laughs and bundles of love. Act 2, as is to be expected in biographical works, tugs more at our heartstrings, before bringing us bouncing into 2022 by the conclusion of the piece.

The cast on Saturday evening consisted of Suzanne Ahmet, Charlie Bence, Gareth Cassidy, Alex Frost, Jerone Marsh-Reid, Perry Moore and Joe Sproulle all playing characters of their own name. The cast is rounded off with Mike Hugo as ‘Real Neil’. Every member of this company was exquisite to watch. Their playfulness and eagerness shone through, and the love they all share for each other, and for Nello, is clear and authentic. Hugo’s portrayal of Neil Baldwin is stunning and respectful and relies on vocal work and physicality that can be tiring to maintain in a production, but he manages it brilliantly. Some special mentions for exquisite performances have to go to Ahmet’s portrayal of Neils's mother, Mary, Bence’s strong and loving Malcolm, Marsh-Reid’s expertly physicalised clown, Frost’s dark and nasty Ringmaster, Moore’s young Neil, and Sproulle’s captivating energy throughout. That brings me to Cassidy. Just wait for his Graham Norton... or his Ken Dodd... the list goes on!

Sunday, 12 September 2021

REVIEW: Grease at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking

From Chicago in ’71 and Broadway in ’72 and the West End in ‘73, to the biggest box-office Hollywood hit, through two broadway revivals, five West End revivals, four tours and a TV adaptation, it's fair to say that Grease has been around the block a few times. Yet this UK tour version still manages to make the show feel fresh and exciting.

This wonderful cast are led by Dan Partridge as Danny and Georgina Louise as Sandy. Partridge truly commands the company when he takes to the stage; his presence and authority are matched only by his swagger and charm. He really comes to life in Act 2 as he gives us his heartfelt ‘Sandy.’ Louise is perfectly innocent in her part, and has a voice that would shake even the hardiest of the Burger Palace Boys. Again in Act 2, Louise’s voice tears through the auditorium in ‘Sandra Dee’— an absolute show stopper and truly magnificent to witness.

Wednesday, 30 October 2019

REVIEW: Soho Cinders at the Charing Cross Theatre

Old Compton Street in the heart of London is the setting for this modern twist on a classic tale. Robbie, the Cinderella of this story, is stuck working in a Laundrette after the passing of his mother and is forced to pay rent to his ugly step sisters. The two best things in his life come in the form of his best friend and colleague, Velcro, and his secret lover, James Prince; who incidentally is married to a woman and also running for Mayor of London.

Unashamedly camp, Stiles and Drews show takes pride in showcasing both light and dark sides of the LGBTQ+ community. From rent boys and sugar daddies to lap-dancing and simulated orgasms, Soho Cinders certainly isn’t as family friendly as its classic pantomime counter-part. That being said, the sharp wit and zinging one-liners make for some good laughs for a more age-appropriate audience.

Thursday, 24 December 2020

REVIEW: All I Want For Christmas is Theatre at

For me, theatre should always be an event. It’s an evening out where you get to sit with hundreds of like-minded people and loose yourself in a living, breathing story. But, since March, this has scarcely been possible, so most of us are turning to online performances to either watch or work on. All I Want for Christmas is Theatre brings together some of the west-ends biggest names for a Christmas concert, featuring performers from Heathers, Dear Evan Hansen, & Juliet, Six and many more. Fifty minutes of festive joy beamed directly into your home... what more could you ask for as you polish off the final few chocolates of your advent calendar?

To praise every member of the 40 strong cast would take longer than a Downing Street press conference; the burning talent on screen is undeniable and sometimes joyfully overwhelming. With rich harmonies courtesy of Musical Directors Nick Barstow and Gareth Weedon, suitably cheesy choreography and the rousing vocals of some of the UK’s greatest talents, there is little that can go wrong.

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

REVIEW: Gaslight at the Watford Palace Theatre

A play-within-a-play set in a women’s refuge, this production of Patrick Hamilton’s Gaslight boasts an all-female cast. The cast are all escaping domestic abuse at home and perform Hamilton’s classic thriller in the living room of their refuge while stage directions are read out through a microphone in true Brechtian style.

Hamilton’s writing is suspenseful and exciting whilst being somewhat predictable due to its simple structure, but this doesn’t take away from the standout performances of the night. Sally Tatum takes on the role of Bella Manningham, the downtrodden and abused wife of the man of the house, Jack Manningham (Jasmine Jones). Tatum’s performance stays honest and true throughout which is no easy task with so much fear, anger and distress in a character. 

Inspector Rough, traditionally an older gentleman, is portrayed by Tricia Kelly who tackles the confident, strong and humble Inspector with ease and joy.

Wednesday, 7 July 2021

REVIEW: Be More Chill at the Shaftesbury Theatre

Full of your stereotypical American high school students, a pulsing soundtrack, and a Japanese supercomputer that embeds itself inside people brains, Be More Chill has an air of familiarity but with an original twist. As we follow the nerdy Jeremy (Scott Folan) on his journey to become cool, the show tackles bullying, self-perception, and world domination by a SQUIP. It makes much more sense in context! 

Folan takes the lead role and tackles it well. He made fantastic acting decisions throughout, particularly in musical numbers. Blake Patrick Anderson is the standout performance of the evening for me. His voice and tone are beautiful, and during act 2 I leaned over to my friend and whispered something that I feel sums up his performance: “Every time Blake opens his mouth I get goosebumps”. This is the West-End debut for Anderson, and he is certainly a performer to watch as his career soars to great heights very soon. This pairing of young actors is a real triumph. Not only is the on-stage relationship between Folan and Anderson heartwarming, but they bounce off of each other with an energy that keeps their scenes racing along. 

Friday, 21 February 2020

REVIEW: Beautiful: The Carole King Musical at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking

It’s hard to over-state the importance of Carole King on the music industry. Over a thousand artists have covered or released her songs from The Shirelles and The Drifters to Celine Dion and Aretha Franklin. As a solo artist King has had seven Top 10 albums and has recorded some of the most well-known songs in pop history. Beautiful: The Carole King Musical follows King (Daisy Wood-Davis) as she writes, falls in love and soars to great musical heights.

The overture starts and we tumble through some of the most iconic King masterpieces in a brash medley, ending with Wood-Davis sat at a grand piano centre stage about to preform to Carnegie Hall on 18th June 1971. The production then throws us back into the midst of 1950s America to watch Kings rise to stardom.

Wood-Davis is elegant in her portrayal of King; with wonderful vocals and a great portrayal of the southern twang that King is known for. Gerry Goffin is played brilliantly by Adam Gillian. With appropriate swagger he pulls off both the high-school jock and the budding playwright and lyricist with a voice to match that of Wood-Davis. His emotions sometimes seem to come from nowhere with some less nuanced choices than the other principal cast.

Thursday, 5 December 2019

REVIEW: Sleeping Beauty at Greenwich Theatre

Everyone knows the age-old tale of Sleeping Beauty, but Greenwich theatre have stretched the traditional story and centred it around Russia, the moon, and 50 years of Greenwich Theatre… obviously.

It’s 1969 and we are introduced to a “very very Scottish” actor, Ewan (Regan Burke). As he wanders the dark corridors of Greenwich Theatre, he comes across a common item found in London theatres; A Faberge egg. He releases its magical power in the form of Fairy Faberge (Funlola Olufunwa), who waves her sparkly egg-wand and whisks him back in time to 1850s Russia. We meet the Tsar and Tsarina (Martin Johnston and writer/director Andrew Pollard respectively) and the evil Rasputin (Anthony Spargo) who has cast a spell on a mirror to rid Russia of the Tsar and Tsarina and take over the world, as every good panto villain wishes to do.

With a stunning design from Cleo Pettit, both the set and costumes have all the appropriate panto sparkle and shine with great flavours of Russia and some ridiculously tight trousers for Ewan when he accidentally becomes ‘Major Tom’ after a confusion with a costume fitting. The set consists of a huge revolve which is utilised expertly to show the passage of time during the famous 100 years sequence, and also allows the pace of the show to keep up with the short attention span of the younger audience members. 

Sunday, 22 May 2022

REVIEW: A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Reading Rep

I have had the most rare vision. I had a dream: A Midsummer Night’s Dream. A play within a dressing room within a play within a theatre… I hope you’re following! 

Paul Stacey’s adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Athenian comedy is set in a dressing room of a theatre, with the set emulating the rough-and-ready backstage areas that will be familiar to anyone who has crossed the threshold at a theatre. Dressing tables, boxes, instruments, and costume rails make up the space, with a scaffolding tower dominating the stage in front of an enormous moon. The actors arrive for work (and yoga) before the dominating director bounds in and decides to workshop his new play ‘Bottoms Dream’ which will be performed for the Jubilee. From here we go on a journey through an abridged version of the Elizabethan classic, with modern twists and feverish energy. 

The direction from Paul Stacey and Chris Cumming does away with most of the conventions that you may expect from a Shakespeare play. The actors easily move between their actor characters and their Shakespearean characters, showing wonderful distinction both between the two and between their multirole characters within the Athenian world. David Fishley’s Oberon is powerful and distinguished, and his voice resonates around the theatre with strength and heart.

Sunday, 13 June 2021

REVIEW: The Comedy of Errors at the Roman Theatre, St Albans

It’s not often you get to see a Shakespeare play in a theatre that pre-dates the Bard himself, but The Roman Open Air Theatre Festival provides that rare opportunity. A tale of twins and mistaken identities, this reimagining of the famous Shakespeare comedy fuses a modern setting with Elizabethan language and a handful of karaoke classics. 

As the story begins, we learn through a beachfront puppet show that two sets of twins are separated by a storm at a very young age. The play then goes on to see how these sets of twins happen by the same town at the same time and are repeatedly mistaken for each other to the utter confusion of themselves and the townspeople. The strange and silly plot allowed director Matthew Parker many freedoms that may have been more difficult in any other Shakespeare. 

The use of physical comedy and farcical tropes brought an additional layer of comedy and energy that invigorated the show. The performers handled this with dexterity and brilliance, really embodying the pace and the tone. 

Thursday, 5 December 2019

REVIEW: Cinderella at The Vaults

An immersive and modern take on the classic fairy-tale made famous by Disney and performed up and down the country every December, Cinderella at The Vaults was more of a Christmas party than a theatre show.

Set in a pub, the bar sits along one wall, with audience seated in both cabaret style and theatre style along the three remaining sides. We are welcomed into the pub and shown to our seats by the characters as they inhabit the venue. The actors truly inhibit their characters and indulge in playing with the audience, teasing them and welcoming them into the world.

Mike, played by Jimmy Fairhurst and taking on the usual role of Cinderella’s fairy godmother, is the host of karaoke and warms up the audience with both his dress sense and a wonderful rendition of Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree. Once the audience have had a chance to get a drink from the bar and been sniffed by Buttons the dog, the show begins as every fairy-tale should: with a rendition Bohemian Rhapsody.

Sunday, 17 November 2019

REVIEW: Poisoned Polluted at the Old Red Lion

Kathryn O’Reilly’s second play tackles traumatic and painful subjects head on. Child abuse, drug addiction and growing up are all on the agenda of Poisoned Polluted. Against a backdrop of luscious green forestry, the two sisters flashback and forward retelling the trauma of their childhoods and reliving the games, the pleasures and the memories of their past. 

Kathryn O’Reilly plays Sister, the older and more weathered of the two. She tackles Sister’s addiction and psychosis with honesty and truth, utilising her wonderful physicality to truly embody the crippling anxiety and excruciating pain that Sister experiences throughout her life.

Her is played by Anna Doolan. The more grounded of the two characters, Her is constantly reaching out to help her sibling, often with little effect. Doolan plays the desperation and the helplessness of Her with precision and clarity. The two actresses work brilliantly together to push and pull the text and embody the story.

Monday, 9 March 2020

REVIEW: Waiter, There’s a Murder in my Soup at Studio 5ive, Troubadour Wembley Park

A fine dining experience mixed with an immersive murder mystery, Waiter, There’s a Murder in my Soup is a musical farce set within the confines of Studio 5ive restaurant at the Troubadour Wembley Park. Once seated and our glasses filled, the performers begin to inhabit the space, gently interacting with each other and setting the stage for the concert of the Marchioness du Jour. The venue is busting with dignitaries, thespians and connoisseurs of the opera scene (that’s the part we’re playing) and we meet the Marchioness’ footman, the German trying desperately to pass as a Brit in post-war 1946. A scream. A shock. A cry. The Marchioness has been murdered and all six suspects are together in the room. There’s only one way to solve this, and in she bounds on her bicycle ready to crack the case; Detective Susan Gusset. 

After a few jaunty comedy tunes and an interview of each suspect the first delicious course is served. Between being fed each delicious course, we are fed more information about the murder, the suspects and their motives. Before each scene we are drawn back into the farce with a few 1940s classic songs before a peppy number brings the suspects back on to be interrogated by Gusset.

Saturday, 2 November 2019

REVIEW: Chemistry at the Finborough Theatre

The European Premier production of Jacob Marx Rice’s award-winning Chemistry is an intimate and honest look into the world of mental health and its preconceptions and misconceptions. The haze-filled auditorium is in traverse layout with the stage space being dominated by a floating rectangle of scaffolding which houses the two characters throughout. Following the shape of the scaffolding is a maze of wires and lights across the floor. The story follows Steph (Caoimhe Farren) and Jamie (James Mear) as their lives combine after a chance meeting in a waiting room. 

Farren’s depression-stricken Steph is sharp-witted and Farren seems to revel in her characters playfulness. She also masterfully tackles the intricacies of Steph’s depressive episodes with truth and an individuality appropriate for such a complex and diverse illness. 

Mear is brilliant as unipolar manic Jamie. His performance was gut-wrenchingly real and had beautiful moments of guttural pain and frustration which was painful to observe in all the right ways.

Thursday, 7 November 2019

REVIEW: I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change at the Chiswick Playhouse

It’s hard to know whether to hate or admire a musical that rhymes “thrill us” with “Bruce Willis”. I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change has book and lyrics by Joe DiPietro, who is probably better known for his work on the Tony award winning Memphis, with music by Jimmy Roberts. Originally produced off-Broadway in 1996, it has been significantly reworked and now opens the inaugural season at the newly anointed Chiswick Playhouse in its first UK performance since being re-written. This musical revue sees four actors playing a multitude of characters all singing about love, sex and dating. With so many musical numbers it’s no surprise that some are more forgettable than others, but with catchy melodies and relatable lyrics, this show has a winning formula.
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