Edward Bond’s Dea Review

Secombe Theatre, Sutton 26 May – 11 June. Reviewed by Claire Roderick

Oh dear. Inspired by Greek tragedy, this play ends up feeling more like Carry On, Don’t Lose Your Head” – but with more (unitntentional) laughs.

Edward Bond is a celebrated and respected writer, and there are glimpses of profound ideas, but it is all lost in a long (very long) evening of turgid, repetitive dialogue interrupted by escalating moments of schlock horror and violence.

The play begins looking like an AmDram production. Dea’s officer husband barks lines at her while she sits silently. The initial act of violence is the only time in the play that gasps of true shock are heard. Dea smothers her twin babies and then batters them with her stiletto heel. When her husband (who looks at least 20 years too young for the role) discovers her crime, he rapes her. This scene, although breathtakingly stilted, at least builds some tension, which is immediately shattered by the stage crew struggling to fit props through the door and jingling their keys.

The action jumps forward 18 years and the war has escalated, the asylum has been bombed, and Dea returns to her husband’s house. She meets one of her twin sons, Olly (the result of the post-murder rape) and moves in. One attempted rape, stabbing, incest and another stabbing later, Dea leaves to find her other son – a soldier. There was some dialogue, but it really didn’t make an impact amongst lots of stifled giggles.

Act 2 takes place inside an army tent. A hooded female prisoner has been brought inside and the officer is trying to extract information from her. The officer, slightly mad, is obviously the other son, so eventually Dea turns up as well. Hammering home the atrocities of war, the officer orders the men to gang rape the prisoner to get her to talk. It all gets so ridiculous that, in the dramatic climax of the scene, when gang necrophilia and a son raping his mother is taking place on stage, more giggling was heard. It was a relief when a bomb ended it all and the bar opened.

Act 3 sees Dea living in a caravan surrounded by junk and talking to the decapitated head of her officer son. A deserter from his company appears and there is some decent dialogue about sanity and peace, but any stirring hope and interest in the play is diminished when the head gets flung across the stage. The giggles started again, and while Helen Bang (the most accomplished performance on show) was trying to die with dignity in what seemed like the longest death scene ever written, shoulders were shaking all around me, and not with sobbing.

Edward Bond directed this production. It is his baby, but he has made the mistake of all overindulgent parents, ignoring its flaws and seeing greatness where there is only something barely average. In the hands of a different director, perhaps some judicious pruning and better dramaturgy could result in an interesting and provocative piece.

As it stands, Dea is an ungainly, self-indulgent, awkward sequence of brutality and boredom that is memorable for all the wrong reasons.

A View From Islington North Review

Arts Theatre 26 May – 2 July.  Reviewed by Claire Roderick

This evening of political satire has its moments, but with 5 pieces by 5 different writers, the quality is variable.

The show begins with The Mother by Mark Ravenhill. Written in 2007, the piece has lost none of its power as we watch two hapless soldiers trying to inform a woman of the death of her son. Sarah Alexander is heartbreaking as the mother who launches into hysterical foul mouthed rants and tries every diversionary tactic she can to avoid hearing their words. As great as this is, this is the part of the production that, for me, doesn’t fit in. Yes, it brings home that real lives are lost because of political gamesmanship, but the final moments of dramatic and pure grief are immediately pushed aside and dismissed as the next, lighter, item begins – just like TV news I suppose.

Tickets Are Now On Sale by Caryl Churchill is a two-hander with a middle class jolly couple having a chat, which repeats with corporate slogans, soundbites and jargon replacing normal speech. A dig at corporate sponsorship, but ends up just feeling like filler as the set is changed.

The Accidental Leader by Alistair Beaton, is where the belly laughs begin. Bruce Alexander’s backbencher is in a pub quietly pulling strings and orchestrating a mass resignation of MPs in protest at their leader, who, to the party’s horror, appears to have principles and cares about more than just winning the next election. No names are used; they don’t need to be. This is what people imagine is going on in the Labour party, and the public’s opinions about MP’s motives and the influence of the press on their decisions are played with cleverly. The writing is good, but unfortunately, after The Thick Of It and Yes Minister, it needs to be brilliant to make an impact, and this isn’t quite in that league.

The standout play is Ayn Rand Takes A Stand by David Hare, with the wit and intelligence you would expect from his work. Ann Mitchell steals the show with her wonderfully languid, weird performance as Ayn Rand. At first, you’ll have no clue what is going on in this surreal white room. A Russian woman is regaling an uncomfortable looking man called Gideon with her views on selling oranges. Eventually it becomes clear that the man is George Osborne (Steve John Shepherd – managing to make Osborne seem human) and their talk turns to free market, free will and free speech. Enter Theresa May (Jane Wymark – spot on) and a gloriously absurd circular argument about free speech and May’s championing of it, as long as it doesn’t threaten “British values” begins. Rand then defends the need for immigration and free movement of labour from a purely capitalist viewpoint, but with wonderful emotion and eloquence. How Wymark reacts to all of this is brilliant.

How To Get Ahead In Politics by Stella Feehily suffers from following such a wonderful play. It’s not bad, dealing with a chief whip managing claims of sexual harassment against candidates, his devious solutions and the hypocrisy and double standards of political life, but it’s nothing we haven’t seen before. Again, Malcolm Tucker and Sir Humphrey Appleby cast long shadows.

The show ends with a fantastic song by Billy Bragg, No Buddy, No sung competently by the cast.

Directed by Max Stafford-Clark, A View From Islington North is an entertaining evening of satire, and worth going just to see Ann Mitchell ‘s amazing Ayn Rand.

Guys and Dolls Review

Grand Theatre, Leeds – 25 May 2016

I’ve never seen Guys and Dolls before so I’m not sure if I am upset this has passed me by or happy I have finally found this wonderful gem of a show.

Set in the 1950’s with some beautiful fashions and lovely costumes, Guys and Dolls tells a story of good versus evil.  Gamblers versus God.

Nathan Detroit (Maxwell Caulfield) a hustler looking for a place to hold a crap game has been engaged to Miss Adelaide, a dancer, for 14 years with no sign of a wedding.  Desperate to find $1000 he bets that Sky Masterton (Richard Fleeshman) won’t be able to take Sister Sarah Brown, the Salvationist, to Havana

Adelaide (Lucy Jane Adcock) has told her mother, in weekly letters, that Nathan married her 12 years ago and they now have 5 children and another on the way.  In “Miss Adelaide’s Lament“, she sings that she has a cold due to psychosomatic problems whilst waiting for Nathan to marry her “Just from waiting around. For that little band of gold. A person can develop a cold”

Sarah Brown (Anna O’Byrne) wants to reform all the gamblers and low life at her Salvation Army mission.  A bet with Sky gets her 12 sinners in to her prayer meeting to impress her boss, General Cartwright (Melanie Marshall).  She falls in love with Sky but like Adelaide, she wants to change him. Not realising they wouldn’t be the men she fell in love with if they change them.

The show is filled with fabulous songs and excellent choreography but it is the show stopping “Sit down, you’re rockin the boat” which captivates the show.  Sung by Nicely Nicely Johnson (the wonderful Jack Edwards), this is a joyous moment in a wonderful show

In Leeds until 28 May and on tour around the UK

Gangsta Granny Review

Civic Theatre, Darlington – 24 May 2016

This hilarious and moving story from David Walliams is a story of prejudice and acceptance.

Ben is bored beyond belief after he is made to stay at his grandma’s house. She’s the boringest grandma ever: all she wants to do is to play Scrabble, and eat cabbage soup. But Ben doesn’t know she is a Gangsta Granny.

Walliams described Birmingham Stage Company’s touring adaptation of Gangsta Granny after its opening-night performance: “A fantastic show. It’s so much better than the book!” so you can’t get much higher praise

Everything about director/adaptor Neal Foster’s approach is fun, colourful sets unfold like picture-book pop-outs, there’s a lot of music and every comic opportunity is grasped (gran’s mobility scooter is a slow-moving hoot); there’s even an up-to-the-minute gag about 5p plastic bags.  The production itself is full of vigour and the cast are rarely offstage, doubling as dancing set-changers even when they are not in a scene. All of them display great energy, which never drops

Told through the eyes of 11 year old Ben (Ashley Cousins). Each Friday night whilst his self-obsessed parents go off to ballroom dance and watch Strictly Stars Dancing, Ben is unceremoniously dumped at his grandma’s with hardly a word of hello.

There will be cabbage soup, cabbage pie and cabbage cake and Ben knows one thing for sure – it’s going to be sooooooooo boring! But when Ben discovers some gems in a biscuit tin and realises his Granny (Gilly Tompkins)  has a secret, life becomes much more exciting for both of them.  Carefully treading a moral line, the story tells us that Granny never profited from her crimes, committed them only for the “buzz” and has come to the view that stealing is wrong. Nevertheless, she has never succeeded in her dream of stealing (and returning) the Crown Jewels. Can Ben use his encyclopaedic knowledge of plumbing to help Granny pull off the crime of the century, even under the nose of Mr Parker, local neighbourhood watch supremo and busybody?

The characters are very much larger than life and almost pantomime-like, but this adds to the energy of the piece which moves along at a cracking pace and holds the younger audience members attention. Add in a slick, detailed and well-designed rotating set, some niftily choreographed scene changes and some colourful costumes and you have a rounded production which is appealing and enjoyable.

This play because it appeals to all ages and is not gender specific. It is relevant to today’s society where old people can be viewed as insignificant. This play has a comical way of dealing with this stereotype, turning it completely on its head.  Filled with laughter and farts, its funny and poignant and a fabulous night out

In Darlington until Saturday 28th and on tour around the UK

The Quentin Dentin Show Review

Above The Arts Theatre  16 – 28 May.  Reviewed by Claire Roderick

The Quentin Dentin Show is a wonderfully weird rock musical that takes a skewed and scathing look at the foibles of modern life.
Stagnating in a dead end relationship, Nat and Keith accidently summon the supernatural therapist Quentin Dentin to their flat. His methods are unusual to say the least, and just what is his hidden agenda?
The show starts quietly – as the audience takes their seats, the 3 piece band (Mickey Howard, Archman Wolfie and Henry Carpenter – writer, composer and musical director) plays waiting room muzak while 3 eccentric white clad chaacters explore the place like childlike robots. Nat and Keith are introduced, Quentin Dentin appears and the show explodes into one of the most unpredictable and insane hours of your life.
Quentin finds the couple two friends and makes them live out their fantasies – using only a battered old sofa as a prop, we are taken to art galleries, under the sea, and outer space – but nothing makes them happy, and nobody likes you if you’re not happy!
The story is basically bonkers, but brilliant – any show that includes songs about lemons, space (“there’s literally no pressure!”) and the ocean (that plays like “Under the Sea” on a bad acid trip), showcases the worst gold lamé suit ever created and makes everything that happened to Alice in Wonderland seem completely logical is a sure fire hit.
Luke Lane is phenomenal as Quentin. It’s as if someone distilled John Barrowman, Edmund Blackadder, Billy Graham, Jerry Springer and Marge Proops, added a gazillion blue Smarties and shook vigorously. He belts out his songs and is hysterical as he becomes more and more manic when his methods keep failing. His lines are delivered with sly and oily charm at first but soon he is threatening to insert stress eggs into Nat and Keith’s bodies, twitching and shouting “It’s not fascism if it’s good for you!”
Shauna Riley and Jamie Tibke are great as Nat and Keith – more an owner/pet relationship than two adults as he bounds around the set like a puppy. Felix Denton and Lydia Costello as Friends 1 and 2 are full of energy, very funny and pop up all over the place.
A fantastic production. You don’t need therapy to be happy, just go see The Quentin Dentin Show.

The Machine Stops Review

Theatre Royal, York.  Reviewed by Michelle Richardson

The Machine Stops, a dystopian novella written by EM Forster in 1909, is brought to life through Neil Duffield’s new adaptation, directed by Juliet Forster (no relation) and features a soundtrack composed by John Foxx, founder member of Ultravox.

Staged in the Studio of York Theatre Royal, with approximately 100 seats, creating a close and intimate ambience. In the middle of the stage sat a metallic climbing frame and a chair. This minimalistic set showed the dystopian nature of the performance.

In a post-apocalyptic world mankind now lives underground, each in their own individual unit, with no windows and no physical contact with anyone, everything is done through The Machine. Marcia Gray and Gareth Aled are the cogs in The Machine, acrobatically twisting and turning through the metal climbing frame, responding to Vashti’s commands. Both Marcia and Gareth showed their gymnastic capabilities to great effect, weaving through the frame. You certainly believed that they were The Machine.

We see Vashti (Caroline Gruber) taking centre stage communicating with others through The Machine via what can I only describe as a “tablet”. She is always “busy”, even though she never leaves her room, struggles to walk through inactivity, but seems content with her life. Her relationship with The Machine is the be all and end all in her existence. She is more of a machine than The Machine itself, just a piece of flesh, never moving from her chair.

On the other side of the world is her son Kuno (Karl Queensborough), pleading with his mother to come and visit, they have had no physical contact since birth. He longs to rebel against The Machine, explore above ground and breathe in the air, craving human contact. His performance shows great physicality and dexterity as he gets more desperate.

Needless to say things so go wrong and The Machine Stops!

This was 90 minutes of nonstop compelling theatre and it was great to watch. The cast of four proves that you don’t need a large cast to put on a great show.

To think that this was written over 100 years ago with notions of the computer technology, instant messaging and facetime we use today, showing the dangers of isolation and the effects upon society. It certainly sends out a chilling message.

York Theatre Royal until 4th June

The Point, Eastleigh – 8th & 9th June

New Theatre Royal, Portsmouth – 10th & 11th June

Platform Shift Festival, Budapest – 15th – 19th June

Sunny Afternoon extends to October 2016 in the West End


  • Tickets on sale now for Olivier Award-winning show’s extra dates
  • Show will celebrate two years in the West End in October
  • Fifty tickets at £19.66 for every show in July, celebrating fifty years since ‘Sunny Afternoon’ topped the charts and England won the World Cup

Due to public demand, the multi-Olivier award-winning hit British musical SUNNY AFTERNOON has announced another extension to its West End run, until 29 October 2016. The extension will take the show’s West End run past the two year mark.

This summer will also see the 50th anniversary of the release of The Kinks’ hit singleSunny Afternoon, which was released on 3 June 1966 and reached Number One on 7 July 1966 – just as England were winning the football World Cup.

To mark this anniversary, 50 top price tickets for every performance in July will be on sale for £19.66.

The critically-acclaimed new musical tells the story of the early life of Ray Davies and the rise to stardom of The Kinks. It has established itself as a firm favourite with audiences and critics alike since it opened at the Harold Pinter Theatre in October 2014, and it begins a UK tour at the Opera House, Manchester, on 19 August 2016.

Ray Davies said: “I am delighted that Sunny Afternoon is extending in the West End and starting the national tour, playing many of the same venues The Kinks played on the road. Every time I visit the West End show I see people discovering it for the first time with the performances going from strength to strength.”

Danny Horn (Doctor Who; The Dead Dogs) plays Ray Davies, with Oliver Hoare (Antony and Cleopatra, Chichester) as Dave Davies, Tom Whitelock (Times Square Angel, Union) as bassist Pete Quaife and Damien Walsh (Dreamboats and Petticoats) as drummer Mick Avory. At certain performances, the role of Ray Davies will be played by Ryan O’Donnell(Romeo and Juliet, RSC; Quadrophenia).

Full cast: Jason Baughan, Niamh Bracken, Christopher Brandon, Harriet Bunton, Alice Cardy, Oliver Hoare, Danny Horn, Gillian Kirkpatrick, Megan Leigh Mason, Jay Marsh, Ryan O’Donnell, Stephen Pallister, Charlie Tighe, Gabriel Vick, Damien Walsh and Tom Whitelock. Understudies: Alice Cardy, Lia Given, Lloyd Gorman, Vicki Manser, Kay Milbourne, Nick Sayce, Robert Took, Alex Tosh, Robbie White.

Sunny Afternoon was the best performing show at the 2015 Olivier Awards, winning four awards.  The production won Best New Musical, Ray Davies won for Outstanding Achievement in Music, John Dagleish won Best Actor in a Musical and George Maguire won Best Supporting Actor in a Musical.

Fifty years ago this year, The Kinks were sitting at Number One in the UK charts with their single ‘Sunny Afternoon’. The band’s popularity has not faded since the 1960s, with crowds of all ages filling the Harold Pinter Theatre night after night.

Featuring some of The Kinks’ best-loved songs, including You Really Got Me, Waterloo Sunset and Lola, Sunny Afternoon shows the music of The Kinks is still as popular as ever, more than 50 years since the band’s rise to fame.

Following a sold-out run at Hampstead Theatre, this world premiere production, with music and lyrics by Ray Davies, new book by Joe Penhall, original story by Ray Davies, direction by Edward Hall, design by Miriam Buether and choreography by Adam Cooper, opened at the Harold Pinter theatre on 28 October 2014. Lighting is by Rick Fisher, sound by Matt McKenzie and the Musical Supervisor and Musical Director is Elliott Ware.

The official cast recording album, produced by Ray Davies at his Konk studios, is released on BMG Chrysalis and is available to buy at http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sunny-Afternoon-The-Kinks/dp/B00NH8O7LU.

Sonia Friedman Productions commissioned Joe Penhall in 2011 to write the book based on Ray Davies’s original story. The company developed the production over the next four years, assembling the creative team and cast that presented Sunny Afternoon in 2014 at Hampstead Theatre under the direction of Edward Hall, and now at the Harold Pinter Theatre.

Ray Davies is an influential and prolific rock musician and was co-founder and lead singer and songwriter for rock band The Kinks, and later a solo artist. He has an outstanding catalogue of hits from the earliest 1960s to the present day with estimated record sales in excess of 50 million. He has also acted, directed and produced shows for theatre and television.

Joe Penhall is an award winning playwright and screenwriter. Plays include Some Voices(Royal Court), Blue/Orange (National Theatre and West End), winner of Best New Play at the Evening Standard Awards, Olivier Awards and at the Critics Circle, and Dumb Show,Haunted Child and Birthday (all Royal Court). Screenplays include Enduring Love and The Road.

As Artistic Director of Hampstead Theatre, Edward Hall’s productions includeWonderland, Sunny Afternoon, Raving, Chariots of Fire, No Naughty Bits, Loyalty andEnlightenment. As Artistic Director of Propeller, his work has toured worldwide, played the West End and Broadway and has won numerous awards both in the UK and overseas. Other theatre work includes A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (National Theatre), Edmond with Kenneth Branagh (National Theatre), Macbeth with Sean Bean (Albery), The Constant Wife (Apollo), Julius Caesar (RSC), Henry V (RSC) and The Deep Blue Sea (Vaudeville). Television work includes Downton Abbey, Spooks and Kingdom.  Edward is an Associate of the National Theatre and the Old Vic.

Fringe success story about immigration heads to Theatre N16

Hounded Theatre in collaboration with the Ugle Collective present:

June 5th – 9th 2016, Theatre N16

Hounded Theatre in collaboration with the Ugly Collective present Gabrielle Sheppard’s Leftovers, now coming to Theatre N16 for the first week of June.

★★★★ “An inventive and evocative way into a very human experience” (The Stage)

Elizabeth packs a suitcase to flee a reality she’s not ready to face. As possessions reveal her past and her daughter can’t see her own future, Elizabeth is forced to see that timeless lies soon catch up with you.

★★★★ “Stunning… more twists and turns than most Hollywood Blockbusters” (British Theatre Guide)

This romantic fairytale transports the immigration crisis on to our front doorstep through physical expression, text and an original score. Nostalgia dresses an exciting journey about love, memories, aging and fate. Collaboratively devised by the company, based on the writings of Gabrielle Sheppard, Leftovers follows the young heroine into her memories and delusions of the life she could have lived, with the family she could have had, only if…

OUTSTANDING “More than special… demands, nay deserves, continued repeating” (Fringe Review)

Directed by Dimitris Chimonas with an original design by Sara Blondal, the piece unravels with a strong visuals and physicality to provide heartwarming beauty. The companies are proud to be working with Care4Calais on this project and will be donating a percentage of the profits to help refugees in the Calais camp.

Highly Commended by Scottish Daily Mail Award 2015

Cast Announced for rarely performed Moliere at the Drayton Arms


June 21st – July 17th 2016, Drayton Arms Theatre

Critically acclaimed French theatre company Exchange Theatre are proud to announce the cast of their new adaptation of Moliere’s rarely-performed French farce The Doctor In Spite of Himself, playing in both English and French as part of the Bastille Festival 2016, which returns to the Drayton Arms Theatre this summer.

“mega-multicultural Exchange Theatre have done the unimaginable”  (Londonist on The Flies)

Directing and starring as Sganarelle is co-founder and artistic director of Exchange Theatre David Furlong (Red Oleander, Camden People’s Theatre; The Changeling, Young Vic), alongside other co-founder and executive director Fanny Dulin (A Family Affair, The Drayton Arms; Sweeney Todd, Parkes/MacDonald Productions) as Jacqueline. They are joined by Jacqueline Berces (Zorro, Le Théâtre des Variétés) as Martine, Yanouchka Wenger Sabbatini (Don Juan Last Night, théâtre l’Alchimic) as Mme Geronte, Matt Mella (In The Dead of Night, Landor Theatre) as Lucas, Leo Elso (Dusty, Charing Cross Theatre) as Valere/Leandre and introducing Anita Adam Gabay in her first production after training at LAMDA as Lucinde.

“Exchange have done a service making those plays available in English” (Reviewsgate)

In this classic Moliere affair, nothing is quite what it seems. Sganarelle is a drunk and beats his wife, who in return spreads the word that he is actually a brilliant doctor who can only work when he is beaten. Cue a stream of patients and beatings – and in spite of himself, it seems Sganarelle can perform miracles after all!

“Everything here is perfectly spick and span, well organised and genuinely enjoyable” (One Stop Arts on A Family Affair)


Starring Richard Fleeshman, Maxwell Caulfield and Louise Dearman
Following critical acclaim and announcing an extension in the West End, the Chichester Festival Theatre revival of Guys and Dolls is heading to Yorkshire, booked for Leeds Grand Theatre next week – Tuesday 24thto Saturday 28th May.
Casting for the tour includes Richard Fleeshman (Coronation Street, Ghost the Musical, Call the Midwife) as Sky Masterson, Maxwell Caulfield (Grease 2, Emmerdale, The Colbys) as Nathan Detroit, Louise Dearman(Wicked, Evita) as Adelaide and Anna O’Byrne (Love Never Dies) as Sarah Brown.
Nathan Detroit is desperate: he needs money for an illegal dice game, and he needs it fast; he has been engaged to nightclub singer Miss Adelaide for 14 years and her patience running out. Enter notorious gambler Sky Masterson, a guy who can never turn down a bet, and straight-laced missionary Sarah Brown, a doll with a heart of ice. Nathan’s wager is that Sky has to romance Sarah by taking her to Havana for dinner and in return he’ll provide a dozen ‘sinners’ for Sarah’s mission. Surely this is one bet Nathan absolutely can’t lose?
A joyous and vibrant celebration of Prohibition-era New York, Guys and Dolls first premiered on Broadway in 1950 and captured the optimism and energy of post-World War Two America. This hugely popular and multi award-winning musical, based on the colourful stories by American journalist Damon Runyon renowned for his vivid fictional depictions of the gamblers, hustlers and nightclub singers of New York, features some of Broadway’s greatest musical numbers including ‘My Time of Day’, ‘Luck be a Lady’ and the show-stopping ‘Sit Down You’re Rockin’ the Boat’. Guys and Dolls is directed by Gordon Greenberg with choreography by Cuban dancer and former Royal Ballet star Carlos Acosta and Andrew Wright whose credits include Chichester Festival Theatre’s Singin’ in the Rain.
Guys and Dolls is at Leeds Grand Theatre from Tuesday 24th to Saturday 28th May
Tickets are on sale now priced from £23 to £49.50
Book online at leedsgrandtheatre.com or call Box Office on 0844 848 2700