Alice: The Lost Chapter Review

Blue Elephant Theatre 23 – 24 October

Reviewed by Claire Roderick


Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland has been adapted many times over the years, with lots of shows not shying away from the adult themes of the novel. Joelene English Dance Theatre’s Alice: The Lost Chapter takes the audience down a particularly twisted rabbit hole on a dark and uncomfortable journey into Alice’s tormented mind.

Joelene English and her cast of four – Alicia Meehan, Charley Thompson, Kane Mills and Wayne Summerbell have created a sometimes-nightmarish narrative, beginning with Alice (Meehan) having her hair brushed by the red queen/mother figure in a sequence that seesaws between maternal love and a battle for power and submission. On a set resembling a weird and wonderful junk room, characters from Wonderland appear, leading her further down the rabbit hole. The rabbit is even more full of nervous energy than usual, and the Cheshire cat’s grins are more of a grimace. The Mad Hatter is even more bizarre, with moves and contortions reminiscent of Doug Jones’ best roles. Throwing himself behind the “bars” of a chair and ending up in a straightjacket, the Hatter’s mania is matched by the quieter but no less discomforting actions of Alice – constantly using her hair as curtains to hide behind or as a self-inflicted weapon to choke herself.

Alison Ashton’s beautifully lit set is full of surfaces on which eerie projections of the characters appear, and Jamie Cook’s unsettling soundscape that acts as the perfect accompaniment to the dancers’ narrative.

This isn’t an easy watch, but Alice: The Lost Chapter is an intriguingly uncomfortable and weirdly hypnotic exploration of a fragmented mind performed with passion, skill and finesse that should appeal to all lovers of dance.

Dracula Review

Hull New Theatre – until Saturday 27th October 2018.

Reviewed by Michelle Richardson


How fitting that Bram Stoker’s Dracula is hitting the stage during Halloween season, and boy does it start here. Plunged into darkness with a sudden mighty bang and flash of light, I jumped out of my skin and numerous members of the audience let out screams. Brilliant intro and a promise of things to come.

In silhouette we get to see our first look at “the vixens”, writhing, crawling about, all sinewy and creepy, the set then evolving into a train station. Jonathan Harker (Andrew Horton) is saying goodbye to his fiancée Mina Murray (Olivia Swann), before travelling to Transylvania and a meeting with Count Dracula. Mina’s close friend Lucy (Jessica Webbber) is being wooed back home, in Whitby, by not one but three suitors, the most dogged being Dr Seward (Evan Milton). Seward practices at the local sanatorium where we get to meet the wonderful and totally bonkers Lady Renfield (Cheryl Campbell), who enjoys eating mice and spiders. Harker returns from Transylvania a shell of the man he used to be, confined to a wheelchair with no idea what had happened to him. Up until this point we had not had a sighting of Dracula. Through flashbacks we see what Harker has endured, and finally Dracula (Glen Fox) makes an appearance. The first act finishes where it started with a flash and a bang, but this time we have the illusion of Dracula flying off into the audience before plunging into darkness. I honestly thought that he was going to fly out into the audience on a wire, you really have to see it to appreciate it. Dracula is fully immersed in Whitby and Professor Van Helsing (Philip Bretherton) is bought in to try and help Lucy and eradicate Dracula once and for all.

All the cast delivered good performances with Webber as Lucy and Campbell as Renfield being the stand outs for me. Campbell seemed to relish the eccentricity of her role, eating that poor mouse with glee. The vixens writhing as one on the stage at various times was also very effective, working as one.

The whole production was quite dark with the set, designed by Sean Cavanagh, consisting of large towering columns, effortlessly sliding along the stage to create anything from the sanitorium, to Whitby and Dracula’s castle. The lighting by Ben Cracknell, was superb adding to the atmospheric conditions. What really stood out though was the sound, it was all consuming, booming all around the theatre, heightening our senses, the icing on the cake. Thank you to the music and sound designer Paul Ewing, for the experience. Talking about sound, I did occasionally struggle to hear what the actors were saying on stage as they were not wearing mics, and not quite loud enough. I wander if anyone else, especially those behind me or up in the dress circle had that issue. Ultimately it was only a minor niggle.

Was I scared out of my seat? Not quite, but I did jump a few times. Not quite up to the Hammer House of Horror films that I used to love and watch behind my fingers when I was a kid.

An atmospheric show ideal for Halloween, partly set in the good old Yorkshire town of Whitby, which has it’s famous Goth Weekend this coming weekend, how apt!!

The Band Review

New Wimbledon Theatre – until 27 October 2018

Reviewed by Catherine Françoise


I went to The Band with a fair degree of trepidation. Another juke box musical plus a tribute band discovered via a reality TV show could be a recipe for disaster and there were definitely mixed reviews of the 2017 tour. All trepidation was swept aside by a fab show full of heart, great singing and some nuanced fine acting. Fine writing from Tim Firth who previously collaborated on The Girls with Gary Barlow, The Band is great fun and extremely well staged and directed by Kim Gavin and Jack Ryder.

Whoever dreamed up aiming a show at middle aged women reminiscing about their teenage years Take That band crush deserves a medal for marketing genius. Wimbledon Theatre was packed to the rafters and an audience of all ages spanning many decades, including a surprising number of men also, absolutely loved it. Much ‘buzz’ in the interval and as everyone left the theatre. The story line is simple and told in real time and flashbacks to the 90s. Five 16 year old girls mad about their boy band win a competition to see the group in Manchester. A tragedy changes their lives forever but twenty five years later they meet up again after one of them again wins tickets for a Take That reunion concert in Prague. Tim Firth’s writing is both laugh aloud hilarious but also poignant and nuanced, dealing with growing older and grappling with the loss of dreams, devastating grief and the complexities nostalgia throws up.

It is the female characters who carry the story and Rachel Lumberg, Alison Fitzjohn, Emily Joyce and Jayne McKenna are strong, feisty and very funny! Their younger counterparts Faye Christall, Katy Clayton, Rachelle Diedricks, Sarah Kate Howarth and Lauren Jacobs also do a great job, as does Martin Miller as Rachel’s long term partner and Andy Williams who is hilarious as several different cameo characters and billed as Every Dave in the programme. There are no weak links in this cast. It could have been incredibly cheesy and sentimental but they manage to keep it grounded and real whilst also being entertaining and slightly mad at times! So well directed ~ slick and sharp! Very well done indeed!

The musical numbers are wonderful of course and the five winners of the BBC’s reality TV casting show Let It Shine ~ A J Bentley, Harry Brown, Curtis T Johns, Yazdan Oafouri & Sario Solomon do great justice to the original songs. They sing and dance with energy, style and precision and there is some great choreography from Kim Gavin. Lyrics cleverly convey the thoughts of the girls as they grapple with life, and a few of the songs are sung by the girls rather than the boys which adds an extra dimension and freshness to lyrics. There are also a few unexpected and poignant moments where the girls interwove their stories as the band sang softly in the background. The 5 musicians accompanying The Band also deserve mention ~ Superb playing from all! They are mostly hidden from view but it’s great to see them on stage occasionally and I particularly enjoyed Tim Sandiford’s wonderful guitar playing. Four of the five original members of 1990s boy band Take That are billed as co-producers of The Band and they have done their legacy proud! The Band is a fabulous, funny, feel-good show wonderfully sung and acted! Highly Recommended!


Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Review

Darlington Hippodrome – until 3 November 2018


Darlington Operatic Society present Chitty Chitty Bang Bang for the autumn offering this year.  Performed on the West End and Broadway it is now licensed to amateur performers.

Based on James Bond creator Ian Fleming’s children’s book about an eccentric, widowed British inventor with a magical car, the 1968 film’s story was expanded by co-screenwriter Roald Dahl to include the inventor’s tales of the sinister empire of Vulgaria, where infants are outlawed.

The story follows the down-at-heel Potts family, headed by widower and inventor of wacky machines Caractacus (Julian Cound), Grandpa (David Murray) and children Jeremy and Jemima (on press night Matthew Scott and Alex Lennie). When they meet the enchanting Truly Scrumptious (Beth Hopper on press night) their fortunes look set to change, but first they must evade the villainous Vulgarian Baron (Leighton Taylor-Jones) and Baroness Bomburst (Hannah Teasdale), who have designs on their beloved family car and a disdain for children – personified in the creepy child catcher (Christopher McCann in a rather spectacular costume).  With the Baron’s spies, Goran (Eddie Taylor-Jones) and Boris (Nic Myers) bumbling around and the Toy Maker (Tom Kentfield-Wells) helping to save the day.

The car is unmistakably the star. The titular jalopy gets the biggest applause of the show, and rightly so.  When Chitty spouts a hovercraft undercarriage and sails away from an approaching Vulgarian battleship, the anticipation becomes palpable. When it takes wings and flies the first time, right before intermission, the crowd goes wild

Stand out moments are definitely the Murray’s Grandpa who truly embodied the spirit of Lionel Jefferies; the wonderful Myers who brings bumbling to a whole new level and Hoppers rendition of Doll in a Music Box, which was a delight to watch.

The ensemble work well under Joanne Hand’s direction, with Cameron Wallace multi-tasking and appearing in many different guises in almost every scene.  The staging works well and Stephen Hood’s musical direction meant the live band didn’t drown out any of the singing. And whilst this is an amateur production it is a good production.

What do you have to do to become a real boy? Pinocchio at The Albany

The Albany Theatre, Douglas Way, London SE8 4AG
Sunday 2nd December – Saturday 29th December 2018

What do you have to do to become a real boy? And why is doing what you’re ‘supposed to do’ so difficult?

This December, Nearly There Yet, in association with Proteus, present an astonishing new adaptation of Carlo Collodis’ Pinocchio. This series of bold adventures is an enchanting visual journey, combining captivating circus skills, music, storytelling and puppetry. Featuring a diverse company, this unique family-friendly production draws on the community spirit of Christmas.

Faced by a stint in the circus with a performing donkey, a terrible and colossal whale who could swallow you whole, and even an anglerfish blues band, Pinocchio takes you on a truly hilarious adventure bubbling with excitement, acrobatics and most of all, magic.

Bursting onto a beautiful hand-crafted set, Pinocchio, played by female lead Floria da Silvia (Light Up, Roundhouse; Brrr, Proteus; The Party, Nearly There Yet) enthrals audiences of all ages as he springs to life at the hands of Umar Butt (Artistic Associate at ARC Stockton; My Name Is, Tamasha theatre company; The Present, BBC Radio 4) as Geppetto.

Within an immersive soundscape and wonderfully tactile performance, audiences are invited to follow Pinocchio as he is led astray by the sly Fox played by Rosie Rowlands (Little Mermaid, Metta Theatre; previously performed on BBC, Channel 4 and National Geographic) and one crafty Cat, performed by Ed Stephen (part of the international arts exchange project On Mass; collaborative partner to John Berkavitch; critically acclaimed national and international Tour of SHAME).

Artistic Director Kaveh Rahnama comments, What I was drawn to the most and what I have focused on in the production is the central relationship between a father who desperately wants a child and a naïve child who has no idea of the expectations thrust upon him. Turning this story into a piece of theatre for children has been challenging, yet extremely rewarding and I feel very lucky to have worked with such an incredible creative team. Our Pinocchio uses circus, puppetry, and very visual storytelling to really transport children and their families to another place.

Pinocchio brings together ARC Stockton and The Albany to champion equality and representation in circus and to build stories with strong relationships at their core.





Up In Arms in association with Pleasance and Ellie Keel presents

The World Première of


By Annie Jenkins

Directed by Alice Hamilton 

Pleasance, Islington

9 – 26 January 2019

Up In Arms, in association with Pleasance and Ellie Keel, today announce the world première of Annie Jenkins’ In Lipstick – a new play about the power and powerlessness of youth. The production, directed by Alice Hamilton, opens at Pleasance, Islington on 11 January, with previews from 9 January, and runs until 26 January.

Things don’t change no matter how much you want them to. You try, you run away, you make things new but they’re not. Same old shit covered in lipstick.

Maud, a woman on the run from her damaged past; and Cynthia, a woman hibernating from the wilderness of the modern world. Cynthia loves Maud, and Maud loves Cynthia but now she’s beginning to suffocate. After an encounter with Dennis, a security guard at her office, she wonders if she has finally glimpsed an escape.

While Cynthia hides among YouTube videos of Shirley Bassey, a dressing up box and the McDonald’s saver menu, Maud is preparing for the greatest performance of her life. It is only a matter of time before reality shatter their cocoon of lipstick and fairy tales.

This is an observational play about the power and powerlessness of youth within the fractured life of the modern city. It combines sex, lies, damage and the stretch of our dreams.

Annie Jenkins is a playwright who was shortlisted for The Old Vic 12 in 2017. Her theatre credits include A Tinder Trilogy (Hen and Chickens Theatre), Annie’s 1000 Plays (Shakespeare in Shoreditch Festival), Lunch in My Car (Theatre N16), What about England? (Islington Mill), 50% Lesbian, 100% Scared (Park Theatre/ Bunker Theatre), Tinder471 (The Old Red Lion) and My Son is in the Kitchen Eating a Biscuit (HighTide Festival).

Alice Hamilton is a theatre director and dramaturg, and co-artistic director of Up In Arms, a touring theatre company. Her credits for the company include The March on Russia (Orange Tree Theatre), Visitors (Arcola Theatre/UK tour/Bush Theatre), German SkerriesEventide and While We’re Here (UK tour). Other theatre credits include Every Day I Make Greatness Happen (Hampstead Theatre), Echo’s End (Salisbury Playhouse), Thirty Christmases (New Diorama Theatre) Anything That Flies (Jermyn Street Theatre), Orca and Orson’s Shadow (Southwark Playhouse).

Pleasance, Islington 


Carpenter Mews, North Road, London, N7 9EF

9 – 26 January 2019

Box Office: 020 7609 1800

Twitter:                @ThePleasance

Facebook:           /ThePleasance


Tuesday – Saturday: 7.30pm

Saturday matinee: 3pm (no matinee 12 January)

Sunday: 5.30pm


Tickets: £15 – £18 (£13 – £15 concessions)

Previews:  £13

Our Country’s Good Review

Bridewell Theatre – until 27 October

Reviewed by Claire Roderick


It’s easy to forget that Sedos are an amateur company – their production values and talented casts are always of such a high standard. Sedos’s production of Our Country’s Good, 30 years on from it’s Royal Court premiere, is another stunning success. Timberlake Wertenbaker’s play, inspired by real events, tells the story of convicts and officers in 18th century Sydney.

Captain Arthur Phillip (Simon Hill) who views see transportation of the prisoners as punishment, and their time in Australia as a chance for rehabilitation and redemption suggests that the convicts put on a play. Naïve young officer Ralph Clarke (Sam Pearce) sees this as a chance of promotion and seta about rehearsing The Recruiting Officer with his ragtag cast. Attempted escapes, hangings and interference by Major Ross (John Irvine) who believes that the prisoners should be punished and suffer constantly during their imprisonment all hamper the rehearsal process.

Brian Tucker’s set is simple but stylish, evoking the deck of the transport ship and the convicts’ makeshift atsge. Beautifully lit by Adam Coppard, the sense of place is effortless. Director Chloë Robertson keeps the cast doubling of roles, with swift costume changes on stage during scene changes, accompanied by Ricky Damiani’s gorgeous music.

Wertenbaker’s musings on crime and punishment, the judicial system and class – both in Georgian England and within the convict camp – are as hard-hitting as ever, with the theme of theatre’s ability to be a humanising force always present but explicitly voiced by the tortured and despondent John Arscott (Theo Bhat) as he talks about being able to forget his life and not hating anyone when he’s speaking Kite’s lines. There is lots of meta-theatrical fun to be had with the prisoners’ complaints and questions about acting and the audience, and the cast excel in these scenes. Yes, some scenes are full of exposition and philosophical debate, but Roberts keeps the pace from flagging and the cast’s performances don’t dip at all.

There are some particularly strong performances, with Sam Pearce growing into his role as Clarke and bouncing off the other actors with sweetly awkward chemistry. Josh Yard has lots of fun as pickpocket Sideway – out-Garricking Garrick with his huge gestures and plummy tones. Jessica Withey is wonderful as Liz Morden – brimming with anger at the world, but finally seeing hope through rehearsing the play and being treated as a human being by Clarke. The confusion on her face as she is treated with decency is heart-breaking. The growing camaraderie of the acting troupe as they open up to each other and talk of their futures is believable and emotional, and the final scene is full of hope and humanity, even if it only lasts for the convicts until their curtain falls.

Sedos’s Our Country’s Good is an excellent, atmospheric production full of wonderful performances – grab a ticket while you can.

Airplays Review

Leeds College of Music – until Saturday 27th October 2018

Reviewed By Dawn Smallwood


On arrival the stage is impeccably arranged with radio microphones lining up at the front and the orchestra set in the background behind the glass shields. It gives an impression that the audience are special guests of a live radio show and excitement beckons.

BBC Radio Leeds and Leeds Playhouse jointly produced Airplays in coalition with Leeds College of Music. Airplays is a series of chosen radio dramas featuring a collaboration of new work from four Yorkshire based writers. Nick Ahad, a radio presenter, opens proceedings and four 15 minute dramas are personally introduced which are performed by six actors and three musicians under the direction of Kash Arshad. Airplays looks at theme of migration in celebration of the 70th anniversary of the landing of Empire Windrush.

The first play to begin is Emma Barnes’ A Piece of Home. It features Agata and Wiktoria (Susan Twist and Alyce Liburd), mother and daughter, and Mr Rubin (Philip D McQuillan) who poignantly share the past around a grand piano, and how in turn it unites three generations amid the tough decisions that had to be made.

Secondly is Chris O’Connor’s Exodus which is about a family (Chris Jack, Liburd, McQuillan and Twist) in Leeds who, at the height of the nuclear explosions, make the toughest decision on who gets in the boat to safety as there only two spaces left. Sarah (Liburd) who got on the boat relates the gravity of the disaster. She poignantly thinks about her remaining members of her family who didn’t join her and looks on at her new life.

A song is followed (and in conclusion) from On Hearing the First Cuckoo which is beautifully and emotively sung by Flo Wilson. The poetically rich and metaphoric play explores how one feels an outsider (Wilson) from not knowing where one belongs. The minister (McQuillan) interrogates her in detention and inflexibly painting her being an illegal immigrant because of not having the so called identity papers.

Airplays conclude with Gemma Bedeau’s Soon Come, an upbeat lively drama backed with calypso and Caribbean music, and offers an insight into the Caribbean culture. Angela (Elexi Walker) cooks dinner, amid chaos, speaks to Betty (Wilson), her sister who lives in the Carriacou, about the reality of living in another country and how she can’t find the right food to cook a Caribbean meal.

A brief but interesting question and answer session followed where the director, actors and musicians take the opportunity to share their experiences being involved with Airplays. Airplays has been beautifully done with the smooth co-ordination with the music and sounds to the spoken text aired. The broad theme of migration is explored and how each of plays though very different can relate to this. It certainly leaves food for thought and the show will be recorded during its run and each of the plays in turn will be presented in November in BBC Radio Leeds’ Backstage.

Airplays is an unforgettable production and certainly one of the most stand out unique co-productions that have ever been staged. It proves that theatre and radio work really well together and no doubt there will be similar set ups in future productions.


Get ready for Halloween and win your height in blood!!!


The York Dungeon and Festival of Fun have teamed up for a costume competition in York.


With half-term about to start and Halloween slowly creeping up, there is no shortage of spooky goings on in York. But one attraction is encouraging all visitors to don their best Halloween outfit on their trip to York, and be in a chance to win some prizes in the process.

The York Dungeon has teamed up with local costume shop, Festival of Fun, to give away prizes packages, including the winner’s height in fake blood, when they dress in costume to The Dungeon.

“We’re absolutely mad for Halloween”, says York Dungeon Marketing Executive, Simon Alnaimi, “and this year we wanted to reward our visitors who love Halloween as much as us.”

The competition is open to anyone who visits The York Dungeon in costume, all they need to do is take a picture  before or after their visit, and share it The Dungeon’s social media accounts, before the 1st November.

“As long as we can see your face, we want people to share their costume” continues Simon. “It could be in the queue, our photo area, or even the Tavern. Share it to The York Dungeon, and you might have several feet of fake blood coming your way.”

Other prizes on offer include a voucher to Festival of Fun, and other Dungeon goodies.

More details can be found at and

Cast Announced for The Mirror Crack’d

A Wales Millennium Centre and Wiltshire Creative Production


by Agatha Christie
adapted for the stage
by Rachel Wagstaff

Direction by Melly Still
Set Design by Richard Kent
Costume Design by Dinah Collin
Lighting Design by Malcolm Rippeth
Music & Sound Design by Jon Nicholls


Wales Millennium Centre and Wiltshire Creative have today announced initial casting for the first ever UK stage adaptation of Agatha Christie’s much-loved Miss Marple thriller The Mirror Crack’d from Side to SideThe Mirror Crack’d will be a European Premiere, opening at Salisbury Playhouse on 15 February before touring to Dublin, Cambridge and Cardiff. The Mirror Crack’d will have an Opening Night on 25 February.

Miss Marple will be played by Susie Blake, known as Hilary Nicholson in Mrs Brown’s Boys, Bev Unwin in Coronation Street and The Continuity Announcer in Victoria Wood As Seen on TV. Having worked extensively on stage and screen, her theatre credits include: When We Are Married(Garrick Theatre); Pygmalion (Chichester Festival Theatre); Wicked (Apollo Victoria); High Society (UK Tour); Noises Off (National Theatre); The Shakespeare Revue (RSC). Television credits include: Midsomer Murders ; You, Me and Them (UKTV Gold); Wild At Heart (ITV); Cuckoo (BBC 3); New Tricks (BBC); Mud (CBBC).

Susie Blake said: “I’m absolutely thrilled to be taking on this part, I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to play a role like this my whole career. I loved watching the great Margaret Rutherford as Miss Marple and always wanted to be her when I was growing up. I admire Miss Marple’s incredible brain and very much look forward to putting my own spin on the character with the fantastic creative team.”

Simon Shepherd will take on the role of the Scotland Yard inspector Dermot Craddock. Best known for playing the role of Dr. Will Preston in the popular ITV television series Peak Practice. His theatre credits include: Misalliance; Precious Little Talent (Orange Tree); Evening at the Talkhouse (National Theatre); Hay Fever (Duke of York’s); Duck House (Vaudeville); Posh (Royal Court/Duke of York’s). Other television credits include: Casualty, Father Brown (BBC); Tilly Trotter (ITV).

Simon Shepherd said: “Dermot Craddock is my first Chief Inspector role. Craddock interviewed me as Patrick Simmons in Murder is Announced for the BBC about 30 years ago. It was a great Alan Plater adaptation with Joan Hickson playing Miss Marple. It feels like things have come full circle! I am delighted to be working with the brilliant Melly Still again on this sharp, fresh adaptation by Rachel Wagstaff.”

The iconic Marple mystery from the world’s best-selling author of all time has been adapted for the stage by Rachel Wagstaff (Flowers for Mrs Harris, Birdsong) and directed by Melly Still(Coram Boy, My Brilliant Friend, The Lovely Bones).  

Full casting will be announced soon.

Times are changing. Girls are wearing trousers and Hollywood has come to a sleepy English village in the shape of a beautiful film star. Miss Marple is left to feel that the world has no need of her now until a mysterious death calls into question the past of all those present.  Everyone’s version of events is different.  Can Miss Marple unravel the tangle of lies?



by Agatha Christie
adapted for the stage
by Rachel Wagstaff

First performance: 15 February 2019
Final performance: 6 April 2019
Opening Night: 25 February

15 February – 9 March 2019
Salisbury Playhouse
Tickets on sale now

01722 320 333

12 March – 16 March 2019
Gaiety Theatre, Dublin
Tickets on sale soon
0818 719388

19– 23 March 2019
Cambridge Arts Theatre
Tickets on sale soon
01223 503333

26 March – 6 April 2019
New Theatre, Cardiff
Tickets on sale from 6 July
029 2087 8889