School of Rock Review

New Victoria Theatre, Woking – until 2 October 2021

Reviewed by Alexandra Sykes


Based on the hit film of the same name, School of Rock tells the story of a fake teacher who enters his class of prep school students in a battle of the bands competition. 

Jake Sharp plays layabout Dewey Finn who impersonates best friend and roommate Ned Schneebly (Matthew Rowland) in order to pay his rent. Rebecca Lock portrays school head teacher Rosalie Mullins, running the school to produce future Ivy league students.

The true stars of the schow are the students of Horace Green school. As well as having to sing and dance, the children also play their own instruments, with the band consisting of Joseph Sheppard (Zack, guitar), Chloe Marler (Katie, bass), Eva McGrath (Freddy, drums) and Angus McDougall (Lawence, keyboard). Joining the band are manager Summer (Kiera Laver), singer Tomika (Angel Lucero) and stylist Billy (Logan Matthews) as well as the rest of their classmates acting as back up singers, roadies and security. 

With classic rock and pop culture references scattered throughout the show and catchy songs that make you want to sing along, such as Stick It To The Man and School of Rock, this production is the perfect show for all members of the family and should not be missed.

EnterTRAINment! Rail company supports local theatres this autumn with discounts on travel

That’s what I call…enterTRAINment!

  • UK’s largest rail company, Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) teams up with regional theatres to encourage customers to support local arts
  • New partnership offers limited-edition discount to customers who travel to the theatre by train

September 2021: This autumn, the rail company that operates Southern, Thameslink and Great Northern services, is putting local theatres centre-stage with an exciting new partnership that promises to thoroughly entertrain. Teaming up with top regional theatres across its network, the company is offering customers the chance to claim exclusive discounts on spectacular shows in October and November. 

With theatres finally being able to pull up the curtains after more than a year of closure, the rail operator is taking the opportunity to support the arts community and highlight smaller, more independent venues that will really benefit from some extra support.

Working with selected theatres – from Portsmouth, Chichester and Brighton, to Croydon, St Albans and Cambridge – GTR’s #entertrainment campaign offers limited-edition discount on top shows for those who travel by train. As the largest rail operator in the UK, GTR serves 339 stations; meaning customers can truly make the most of a staycation or weekend break when travelling by train.

Steve White, Chief Operating Officer at Govia Thameslink Railway, said: “We’re very lucky to have so many great theatres on our network. After being closed for over a year, this is the perfect time to get behind the arts and enjoy live theatre once again! We’ve partnered with venues that are easily accessible by train and we hope our customers feel inspired to visit somewhere new this autumn whilst enjoying a brilliant show.”

The #entertrainment partnership will be live from October until December. To find out more information and book tickets, visit the following websites:

Each theatre has individual terms and conditions which will be hosted on their own websites. A valid rail ticket must be shown upon arrival at the theatre.

Passagers Review

Hull New Theatre – 28 September 2021

Reviewed by Catherine McWilliams


Passagers is a train journey like no other or rather a series of journeys on different trains in very different situations and places. Hull New Theatre in conjunction with the Dance Consortium and Freedom Festival Arts Trust presented us with the gem that is Passagers, delivered by The 7 Fingers. Passagers is written, directed and choreographed by Shana Carroll, assisted by Isabelle Chassé.

The advance publicity for Passagers describes The 7 Fingers as one of Canada’s leading circus companies – this does them a disservice, this is so much more than circus. Do not expect glitter and glam and showiness, instead look out for grit and joy, wit and poignancy and utter utter brilliance.

Passagers is performed by eight extremely talented artists and skilfully interlinks different stories and journeys. It shows us that train travel is about beginnings and ends, hope and despair, loneliness and joy and at times boredom. Sometimes it is not even about where you are going but about the journey itself. There is dance, music, speech and circus skills, but the circus skills are not just there for show, they help to tell the story.

This is a fast-moving show that mesmerises and draws you in, I could feel the audience around me holding their breath at times and at one point the entire theatre gave an audible gasp. It took us through the full range of emotions and the audience were fully invested in the performance.

There was jaw dropping trapeze and silks and juggling and hoops, both on the ground and in the air, there was tumbling and dance but through it all the story lines never faltered, the characterisation is always there, whether showing fragility, joy, sheer mischief or the despair of leaving loved ones. The 7 Fingers cast have superb timing, the eight cast members becoming one as the stories ebb and flow. There is not one stand out performer, they are all outstanding and reliant on one another to perform this piece.

The back drop varied according to the journey, with a variety of films showing places passed or train carriages or the lyrics to the music, it worked beautifully with the stories. The lighting added to the atmosphere of the piece, with its clever use of dark and shadows. The music emphasised the speed of the journey and the emotion of the characters at that time. A limited range of props were used with great effect, suitcases, luggage racks that doubled as train windows, and chairs that moved around for the layout of the different train carriages.

Hull is a city at the end of the line, our lives are full of journeys of leaving and arriving and of farewells and joyful reunions, I think this made Passagers even more poignant as we recognised ourselves in this piece.

I was totally enthralled for 90 minutes and was so disappointed when it was over, I would have happily watched it all over again. I clearly was not alone in this view as the entire theatre buzzed and roared at the end of the performance with a well-earned standing ovation.

It was an incredible privilege to review Passagers, to see such talent, to sit with my mouth agape in awe, to gasp at the sheer audacity and wonder and to be drawn into the beautiful stories. This really is a must-see performance – joyous, moving, exuberant, witty and jaw dropping. If The 7 Fingers are pulling into your local theatre with Passagers make sure to buy a ticket.

9 to 5 Review

Aylesbury Waterside Theatre – until 2 October 2021

Reviewed by Susan Portman


Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5 tells the story of three workmates pushed to boiling
point by their sexist and egotistical boss. Concocting a plan to kidnap
and turn the tables on their despicable supervisor, will the women manage to reform their office – or will events unravel when the CEO pays an unexpected visit?

This hit musical was brought to the Waterside stage and the house was full of expectant people, some wearing masks (yes, Covid is still an issue) and others clearly still a little wary in general. However, once the curtain went up and Dolly Parton herself spoke via a recorded video, setting the scene, the outside world evaporated and all eyes focused on the stage.

Louise Redknapp portrayed Violet Newstead, the girl who went from ailing office lackey to self-appointed CEO. She gave a polished and slick performance, as she befriended and helped the new office girl Judy Bernley played by Vivian Panka, making her UK debut after appearing in theatres in the Netherlands. And what a debut it was, warming the audience, portraying a fragile soul in a new job. My word she can sing, and her voice ranged from soft and delicate to rich and powerful. Her relationship with Violet developed into an almost mother/daughter role and the duo became a trio when Doralee, the seemingly ‘dumb blonde’ joins the unhappy crew to exact revenge upon the boss.

Doralee is portrayed quite brilliantly by Stephanie Chandos. If Panka had the voice, then Chandos had the movement, as she strutted around the stage in huge stilettos, boobs and bum protruding in opposite directions. Her character was initially subservient to the boss but that quickly changed and the real Doralee revealed herself.

Then there was Roz Keith, the office senior, played by Julia J Nagle who has an impressive portfolio of work around the globe. Her character was not only sycophantic to the boss but she was hopelessly in love with him. She played this part so well that I really felt for her as she tried desperately to get her man. Did she? You’ll be surprised.

Franklin Hart Jr, played by Sean Needham was typical of men in the 1980’s. As the boss, it was always jobs for the boys and the women were only useful for filing, taking notes and making coffee. He was a sexist bully who treated all of the staff badly except for Doralee, who he wants to bed, but she is having none of it.

He gets his comeuppance when the three women team up to teach him a lesson. They kidnap him and prove that he has been cooking the company books, which they use a leverage to get what they want. Needham was superb as one of those loveable baddies. I felt a bit sorry for him, because he was so ignorant and a victim of his own avarice. This took consummate skill to convey to the audience but he is an excellent actor, and the audience took him to their bosom. His comedic delivery at times was priceless.

The whole cast and ensemble sang, danced and acted with energy and commitment, with each truly owning their role to bring out the very best of the characters.

The musical is raunchy in parts, and deliciously so. One does not necessarily expect a Dolly Parton musical to include a bedroom replete with gimp masks and sex toys. One lady nearby gasped at one point. It was also wonderfully politically incorrect in parts, portraying accurately as it did the zeitgeist of the 1980’s.

The costumes were set appropriately for the time. Indeed I remember wearing clothes very much like it and it really made me feel as if was back there, reliving my past.

I was hugely impressed with the stage design and lighting which vacillated from night sky or office scene to a hospital building in a flash. It was very cleverly done. The actors played their part in moving stage furniture too, but as part of each scene, which was impressive. The dance routines and choreography enthralled. There were a couple technical hitches with the microphones but it never detracted from the performance.

The audience reacted with glee. There was a warm appreciation for this rollicking performance and at the interval, one lady said she had seen the show many times around the UK but that ‘tonight was the best performance ever.’

This is Aylesbury Waterside Theatre then, a terrific venue with ample seating room, easy parking, friendly staff and excellent acoustics. You don’t need to go to the West End to enjoy professional, entertaining theatre. You can experience the feel-good factor right here. After two years being ‘locked away’ with Covid who would have thought that it would be Dolly Parton and this amazing production who would start to bring people back from their malaise?

The final number in Act I is called ‘Shine Like the Sun.’ Well they did, and after due consideration, I feel suitably confident about awarding full marks.

Priscilla the Queen of the Desert Review

Bristol Hippodrome – until 2 October 2021

Reviewed by Lucy Hitchcock


Priscilla, Queen of the Desert is back on the road for another trip around the UK, and what a trip it is too!!

We follow Tick played by Edwin Ray, Adam played by Nick Hayes and Bernadette played by Miles Western as the travel the outback of Australia to meet Tick’s son for the first time. All 3 of these main characters were played exquisitely-with such gusto and energy that you couldn’t help but smile along. Accompanied by the smooth tones of Claudia Kariuki, Aiesha Pease and Glossop, the singing will blow you away-their voices are so perfectly matched that the harmonies are delicious.

This is a perfectly cast show and Miles Western was a joy to behold. He truly embodies the female characteristics and conveyed such resilience but vulnerability effortlessly; together with Edwin Ray and Nick Hayes, this is a stunning trio. Edwin Ray excelled with his vocal agility, gliding through the songs and really pouring his all into his performance. Nick Hayes also has stunning vocals-he was able to make the audience laugh during his songs with the tiniest nuances, it was a joy! No show is complete without an ensemble and this is the most diverse ensemble I have ever seen. Actors of all shapes, sizes and ethnicities really bring home the true message of the show-to be yourself and have fun with it. I couldn’t help but start to dance every time there was a full cast number, particularly during ‘Go West’ as the energy onstage was electric!

The outlandish costumes, technical brilliance and faultless orchestrations led by Richard Atkinson created the perfect feel good performance.

So, strap in possums, Priscilla is waiting to take you on a journey-wigs not included!!

‘Groan Ups’ Review

King’s Theatre, Edinburgh – until 2 October 2021

Reviewed by James Knight


The phenomenon that is Mischief returns after the mayhem wrought by various Plays Going Wrong with an anarchic look at the most relatable subject: growing up. 

Groan Ups follows the lives of five individuals over three different periods of their lives. We first meet the group at age 6, performing ‘What I Did at the Weekend’ for their school assembly, and the characters are firmly established from the off. Bossy, spoilt Moon (Yolanda Ovide) takes charge of the presentation immediately, while hyper-active corridor-fouling ‘terror’ Spencer (Dharmesh Patel) leaves everyone trailing in his wake. New kid Archie (Daniel Abbott) is doing his best to fit in, while still showing off his intellect – he can say ‘gauche’ and proclaims himself to be precocious – and poor Katie (Lauren Samuels) just wants everything to run smoothly. Which leaves damp little dweeb Simon (Matt Cavendish) to tell us that all that happened on his weekend was that he got nits. 

They’re all simple enough characters, easily recognised from the classroom, and the play uses that to its advantage. Relationship dynamics shift around swiftly – by the time the cast ages up to thirteen, we have a rife love pentagram going on. Seeing adults play children is nothing new – see ‘Flint Street Nativity’, later re-imagined for Edinburgh several years ago as the ‘Costorphine Road Nativity’ – and writers Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields wisely shift the second act to school reunion night so the actors can play their own ages, even if they don’t act them. Moon is now ‘actualising’ a restaurant with the help of Gwyneth Paltrow’s new book and Simon, the drippy little hanger-on, is now a big businessman – in urinal cakes – and so badly wants to let everyone know how much of a success he is that he’s hired ‘Chemise’ (a criminally scene-stealing performance from Jamie Birkett) to play his girlfriend. 

Mischief is known for its farcical hijinks – and there are plenty of laughs to be had with over-sized sets that gradually get smaller as the characters age up, wordplay a-plenty, and the sheer carnage of class hamsters meeting untimely deaths (RIP Rodent Keating). Unfortunately, the play falls down when it tries to deal with weightier issues. The main drama comes from Spencer being held back a year and how it affects the rest of his life, but the handling of how that came to pass is fumbled, and a revelation for one character (easily seen a mile off) comes across as badly misjudged. Dealing with closeted sexuality and self-loathing is a difficult and complex issue that deserves more time, weight and nuance than the writers allow it here, and it leaves a sour taste. 

Overall, Mischief could do better: B+ 

When Darkness Falls Review

Yvonne Arnaud – until 30 September 2021

Reviewed by Heather Chalkley


Award winning duo James Milton and Paul Morrissey deliver a new ghost story, based on the rich history of witches, piracy and war in the Channel Islands. Stories of loves revenge and nasty Nazi’s keep you gripped to your seat, willing it to its conclusion, as it reveals itself in a spine-tingling finale. The descriptive dialogue paints scenes in your mind that are not on the stage, leaving a lingering after effect. Certainly not one for the faint hearted.

James McClelland (The Speaker) brings a sense of urgency and a dark undercurrent the moment he enters the room, becoming more impassioned as the story progresses, eager to come to the 5th and final storytelling and the reason he is there. Will Barton (John Blondell) carries a dark secret not revealed until the final scene. Barton brings a vulnerability to Blondell, with his attempt to produce a vlog and underlying the desperate protestations that there is no proof that the supernatural exists.

The set is Blondell’s (Barton) office and gives you the sense of a man in his Autumn years, trying to keep up with modern times. The special effects are mostly perfectly timed, making the audience yelp and jump. They do a great job of creating and releasing tension in equal measures.

For lovers of ghost stories, this one does not disappoint. Go prepared to be thoroughly spooked

Fourth Wall Live Announces A Series of Live Shows at the Hippodrome Casino














Fourth Wall Live are delighted to announce a series of live shows at Lola’s Underground at The Hippodrome, Leicester Square from Wednesday 6 October with shows from David O’Reilly, Joe McElderry, Hayley Tamaddon, Maria Coyne, Jo O’Meara, Kerry Ellis and Lizzie Bea, with more dates to be announced.


Wednesday 6 October – 8.00pm – David O’Reilly

Thursday 14 October – 7.00pm – Joe McElderry

Wednesday 20 October – 8.00pm – Hayley Tamaddon


Monday 1 November – 8.00pm – Maria Coyne

Wednesday 3 November – 8.00pm – Jo O’Meara

Tuesday 23 November – 8.00pm – Kerry Ellis

Monday 29 November – 8.00pm – Lizzie Bea

Further dates to be announced.

Fourth Wall Live specialises in bringing Broadway artists to the UK, previous concerts include Broadway and TV regulars Keala Settle, Laura Benanti, Sierra Boggess, Kelli O’Hara, Chita Rivera, Laura Michelle Kelly, Megan Hilty, Tituss Burgess, Shoshana Bean, Jeremy Jordan, Matthew Morrison, Erich Bergen, Eden Espinosa, Julia Murney and Cynthia Erivo. Other concerts include West End Stars solo concerts including Michael Ball, Matt Cardle, Kerry Ellis, Oliver Tompsett, Hannah Waddingham, Sharon D Clarke and Bonnie Langford.

The Hippodrome Casino is an over 18’s venue only. If you are lucky enough to look under 25 you must bring photo ID.  

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles at Richmond Theatre

Original Theatre Company and Octagon Theatre Bolton present

The Hound of the Baskervilles

by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Adapted for the stage by Steven Canny and John Nicholson for Peepolykus

Directed by Tim Jackson

Original Direction Lotte Wakeham

Cast: Jake Ferretti, Serena Manteghi and Niall Ransome 

At Richmond Theatre 2 – 6 November 2021

The award-winning Original Theatre Company and Octagon Theatre Bolton present the 2021/22 tour of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s most celebrated adventure, The Hound of the Baskervillesarriving at Richmond Theatre from 2-6 November 2021. Adapted for the stage by Steven Canny and John Nicholson for Peepolykus, in a production which was first performed at the Octagon Theatre this summer, the classic detective tale gets a brilliantly farcical overhaul in Lotte Wakeham’s acclaimed production.

A hit in the West End, this ingenious adaptation combines an exhilarating collision of farce, theatrical invention and wonderfully comic performances to offer a brand-new twist on the greatest detective story of all time, a whodunnit for all ages.

Mr Holmes, they were the footprints of a gigantic hound… World-renowned detective Sherlock Holmes and his colleague Dr. Watson are asked to unravel the mystery surrounding the untimely death of Sir Charles Baskerville. With rumours of a cursed giant hound loose on the moors, they must act fast in order to save the Baskerville family’s last remaining heir.

The cast of The Hound of the Baskervilles is Jake Ferretti (The Kitchen, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night TimeThe Understudy) as Sherlock Holmes, Serena Manteghi (Welcome To Iran, To Build a Rocket, Mrs Wilson) as Sir Henry and Niall Ransome as Dr. Watson (Mischief Movie NightThe Comedy About A Bank RobberyFcuk’d).

Original Direction is by Lotte Wakeham, Artistic Director of the Octagon Theatre Bolton who has directed sell-out productions in London, New York, and throughout the UK. The UK Tour is directed by Tim Jackson (The Season,Royal & Derngate, New Wolsey, Treasure Island, Bolton Octagon). Francesca Tennant is Associate Director. The Designer is David Woodhead, Lighting Designer is Derek Anderson, Sound Designer is Andy Graham, Costume Supervisor is Chrissy Maddison and Production Manager is Tammy Rose.

Lotte Wakeham said: “I’ve been blown away by the wonderful response to this production of The Hound of the Baskervilles; it’s been a real joy to have audiences back in the theatre, laughing uproariously every night. I’m absolutely thrilled to be teaming up with Original Theatre Company so that this production can now embark on a national tour and be enjoyed even more widely. I think it’s exactly the sort of joyful, energetic and entertaining show that audiences will be hungry for and I’m delighted to be sharing the Octagon’s work across the UK. Our top-notch cast and superb creative and technical team are raring to go, and we’re looking forward to giving our audiences a fantastic night out.”

Alastair Whatley, Artistic Director of Original Theatre Company, said:“We are delighted to be teaming up with Lotte and her team at the Octagon to bring her superb production of The Hound of Baskervilles to audiences all over the UK. After the year we’ve all had, the production is a tonic sure to make theatres buzz with the sound of laughter. It’s a show for all ages to enjoy and we cannot wait to share it with audiences up and down the country.”

Hairspray Review

Birmingham Hippodrome – until Saturday 2 October 2021

Reviewed by Joanne Hodge


This musical spectacular recommenced its national tour last night at The Birmingham Hippodrome, under the direction of Paul Kerryson, and I have to say, there were many moments that had my hair’s standing on end without any need for support from Ultra Clutch!

In her professional debut, Katie Brace shone as sweet, non-conformist, forward thinking Tracy Turnblad; her zest for life, love and equality bounced off the stage in abundance. Along with her hilarious and physically-awkward best friend Penny Pingleton [Rebecca Jayne-Davies] we follow the trials and tribulations of teenage life, through first love, independence and rebellion.

There was a certain, unsurprising comic-genius around the partnership of Edna and Wilmur Turnblad [Alex Bourne and Norman Pace], with some risqué ad-libbing between the pair causing much laughter and applause, as well as their own corpsing. An absolute joy!

It’s a rare delight to see a storyline where even the male leads are somewhat only a support act to an ensemble of feisty females, but both Seaweed and Link Larkin [Akeem Ellis-Hyman and Ross Clifton] sang and danced their socks off, with energy off-the-scale.

I have to say though, for me, the absolute star of this show was Brenda Edwards as Motormouth Maybelle. She moved across the stage with ease, providing a warm and welcoming presence to all. You felt like you’d she’d invite you right in to one of her renown Platter Parties, regardless of your colour, age or preferences. And when she sang … my gosh! The roof nearly came off. There always seems to be a certain snobbish attitude toward any ex-reality TV talent who decide to tread the boards, but no-one in that auditorium could dispute her absolute class. Her voice ranges from deep, dark chocolate tones up to the clarity of the finest crystal glass, and was pitch-perfect on every note. I could have gladly listened to her all day and night. The only additional complement I have is that my companion for the evening was very taken with Maybelle’s sparkly gold jumpsuit, but we both agreed it wouldn’t wear to well in our local!

Adding the magic of the lighting by Philip Gladwell, sound by Ben Harrison and the fabulous wardrobe and set form Takis, this really is a show not to be missed. Rat your hair, put on your dancing shoes, and give yourself over to Hairspray!