The Collab Review

The Space – until 11 June 2022

Reviewed by Claire Roderick


Paddy Gormley

Written in response to revelations about social media influencers, and playing in the aftermath of the Heard/Depp trial by TikTok, Lauren Morley’s The Collab is a refreshingly unsensational play about consent and coercion.

Student Ella (Louise Lord) has an eco-lifestyle channel with just over 100.000 followers. Her best friend Kat (Maria Eastwood Krah) is a fashion photographer who helps behind the scenes mostly, unable to keep a straight face on camera. Both girls respond to Max’s call for women to take part in his project about the male gaze in art, reimagining female figures from famous paintings. Max is another influencer with over 2 million followers: a self-proclaimed feminist with a mission to make art more accessible with his Art Is Everywhere assignments. Thrilled to meet him and to receive options for the project, Ella realises that she has been sent very wholesome paintings while Kat has more risqué choices. Wanting to impress Max (Andre Frey) and perhaps challenge herself, Ella takes one of Kat’s options, The Luncheon on the Grass, where the female figure is nude.

Her views about why the painting was thought scandalous are vastly different to Max’s, who just focusses on the nudity, and their argument and Ella’s choices in the shoot pique Max’s interest. The pair begin a relationship, although Max refuses to use labels and does not want to acknowledge that they are a couple in public. The fact that this is Ella’s first relationship means that she doesn’t know what behaviours are acceptable and she makes excuses for Max’s behaviour. This is in stark contrast to Kat’s suspicions, and Ella thinks she is being overprotective of her and seeing red flags where there aren’t any because of her experiences growing up with an abusive father. The reactions to Max by the two women with hugely different life experiences is portrayed delicately and realistically, with Kat walking on eggshells trying not to alienate her friend but growing ever more frustrated as she watches Ella become increasingly isolated under Max’s influence in real life as the number of her online followers leaps. Max’s friend Brett (Clark Alexander) is thrown into the mix as a Neanderthal red herring to highlight Max’s seemingly empathetic and gentle nature, but Clark Alexander’s delightfully comic awkwardness in later scenes reveal that he is the kind and caring (and slightly annoying) friend the women need.

Louise Lord impresses as Ella – sweet and naïve, but with a steely strength underneath that is evident from the final scenes. Lord always gives Ella agency; the fire is always there but damped down whenever Max manipulates her into “choosing” to do what he wants. When Ella finally realises what Max is and what he has done to her life, Lord’s physical reaction is perfectly judged. There are no big reactions, just cold dread on her face. Maria Eastwood Krah’s Kat is also remarkable – scarred but still open to those she trusts and full of deadpan humour. The scenes between the two friends are wonderful to watch, with a lovely chemistry that makes you mourn the splintering of their relationship. Andre Frey convincingly captures Max’s narcissism – your skin will crawl as he lurches between the public smoothness to petulant pouts and fleeting glimpses of predatory sleazebag – and his hold over Ella is completely believable. The incidents are small and subtle at first, but as Ella’s popularity eclipses his own Max’s gaslighting occurs more publicly. The plot seems to move very slowly at first, making me think initially that there could be edits made, but as the first act progressed I understood that the slow burn is necessary, sucking the audience into Ella’s jolly and optimistic online persona as she was gradually worn down by Max and showing the routine comfort and need Ella felt, making the conclusion more shocking and dramatic. Astute direction by Rachael Bellis allowing Morley’s story to breathe.

The toxicity of online comments and attacks, which have become so prevalent that they are now a twisted form of entertainment for some, are shown to have real life effects on Ella, but her ultimate strength and determination to follow her dream ends the show on a positive note. Kat’s views on Picasso’s painting of his young lover are sharp, funny and on point, highlighting the freedoms and lack of consequences historically available to powerful and famous men, demonstrated in this century by the devoted support of celebrities on social media. Lauren Morley tackles that this relationship was instigated by Ella (a fact that would be weaponised online in real life) with Ella owning the fact that she pursued Max in a beautifully written and acted filmed statement to her followers. The heartfelt and clear explanation of what manipulation and coercion happened and how it felt leaves no grey areas – this was abuse. The switches from the actors on stage talking into their camera to recorded clips of the same monologues above the stage is slick and highly effective creating the sense of voyeurism and separation felt watching online rather than seeing that person as flesh and blood with real feelings.

The Collab is an uncomfortable watch at times, but light-hearted and warm-hearted moments ease the tension. There are many recognisable scenes in this remarkable play that may well make you determined to be more attentive and present for friends and family and think twice before commenting online.

Now That’s What We Call Musicals Review

York Theatre Royal – Thursday 2nd June 2022

Reviewed by Michelle Richardson


Why are we even in York, asks Le Gateau Chocolat, an Olivier award winning star, along with the “Queen” of the Alternate Drag Scene, Jonny Woo. To entertain us with their unique take on all the musicals ever written. A huge feat in a 70 minute show.

After, what I can only presume was a slight hiccup, as for the first five minutes all we got to see was an empty stage with a smoke machine blowing out and a cd playing in the background, the “ebony and ivory of drag” hit the stage with Now That’s What We Call Musicals.

Resplendent in colourful, ever-changing wigs and even more vibrant over the top outfits, full of fringe and sparkle, they dazzled their way through musical numbers from Cabaret, Cats, Frozen, Grease and many many more, maybe not quite from every musical every written, but at least a few were ticked off the list.

Le Gateau has truly an amazing baritone voice and isn’t afraid to use it, but he also isn’t afraid to make fun of his voice, mumbling past some irrelevant lyrics in his numbers, much to the delight of the audience. Woo delivers a few lip-synch numbers. His hilarious portrayal of the many characters from At the End of the Day, from Les Mis, is superb.

Within the packed show, there are numerous wig and costume changes, with even a suggestive confetti cannon being thrown in during one song. Layers of clothing are removed on stage, and we get to see more and more flesh, none more so than Woo in all his naked glory, well as good as dammit anyway.

This sure was a melting pot of musical theatre, full of vaudeville, comedy and drag. As well as asking the audience for musical suggestions, we had a sing along and by the end we were all up on our feet boogying away.

A fabulous glitzy, camp variety performance, a glorious evening of entertainment that deserves to be seen.

A Murder Is Announced- A Miss Marple Mystery Review

Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham – until 4 June 2022

Reviewed by Amy Coulson


Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller was born in Torquay in 1890 and lived an uneventful life. In 1914 she married Archie Christie, a pilot in the First World War. During this time, Agatha became an assistant in a hospital dispensary, and it was here, surrounded by poisons, that she decided to write her first detective story!

A Murder Is Announced, set in the sitting room of a large countryside house, Little Paddocks, Chipping Cleghorn. We are introduced to various residents, including the owner, Letitia Blacklock, played by Barbara Wilshere and her wonderfully innocent seeming old school friend Dora “Bunny” Bunner, played by RADA trained, BAFTA nominated, Karen Drury. They, and Mitzi, (Lydia Piechowiak) the Mitteleupopa refugee, hired cook, and resident, who was hilarious with her one liner (Thank you, you’re welcome!) and attitude, were my favourite characters to watch.

The story: an advert is placed in the local paper; a murder will take place at the house at 6.30pm that evening! The residents are baffled. Is this a joke? Should we lock ourselves away? The reaction to the advert is varied and makes for an entertaining watch as the characters play off one another. Miss Marple (Sarah Thomas), the famous amateur sleuth, visits Letitia and Bunny in light of this announcement and the star of the show gets to work, busy bodying her way around the remainder of the characters and scenes. The official inspector, local policeman Inspector Craddock, played by Tom Butcher, bounces off Marple’s wit wonderfully, and I enjoy watching them. As we find out more about each character, everyone becomes a suspect, which was good fun. I must have changed my opinion half a dozen times, but I did manage to work it out just before the big reveal (promise!).

I always talk about set design. As soon as the curtain goes up, we were immersed in a sitting room, Victorian, I think. Dark wood furniture, green walls, a picture rail with countryside scenes. The set doesn’t change and for a whodunit, it doesn’t need to. Not my style, but totally in keeping with the story and I even found myself looking around for clues.

In summary, if you are looking for a traditional whodunit, that keeps you guessing, A Murder is Announced, is the show for you! Thank you, you’re welcome!





Tuesday night at the Empire Theatre, illusionist and mentalist Derren Brown astonished the audience with an experience unlike any other. His is currently touring the UK with Showman, his first new production, in six years. His one-man-show is very impressive with a mix of suggestions, mind reading, illusions and of course showmanship!

Brown began performing in 1992, making his television debut with Derren Brown: Mind Control in 2000. He has won two Laurence Oliver Awards for Best Entertainment and made his Broadway debut with his 2019 stage show Secret. He has also written books for both magicians and the general public.

The audience (and me), have been sworn to secrecy over the content of his hugely successful show, as it needs to be experienced with no spoilers. What I can disclose is that the mind blowing journey starts as soon as you sit down. An atmosphere is created and it engages the audience through a rollercoaster world of wonder and wizardry. The key to attending any show of Brown is to keep an open mind and trust.

An important part of the show is the audience who are invited to take part throughout and leaves those on stage and in their seats in bewilderment. Throughout the show a live video is used and provides the audience with a different viewpoint, as it is projected onto the back of the stage. The sound, music and especially lighting, compliments the show and makes the experience more intense.

At the start of his show, Brown quotes PT Barnum saying ‘There is a sucker born every minute’, however his show leaves you wondering what was real and what wasn’t.

Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World Review

Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield – until 4 June 2022.

Reviewed by Kirsty Thomson


In this fast-paced, empowering musical, we are reminded that everyone is fantastically great!

The show begins in an out-of-bounds section of a museum where a new exhibition for fantastically great women is being set up. We meet Jade (Kudzai Mangombe), who has been separated from her school group, as she ventures through one of the paintings, into the exhibition. When inside, she is met by three inspirational women, Sacagawea (Jade Kennedy), Amelia Earhart (Renée Lamb) and Gertrude Ederle (Clarice Julianda). This exhibition acts as a sort of alternate dimension where Jade can meet these women from the past. The scene changes with minimal props, I noted to be particularly clever.

Jade goes on to meet Emmeline Pankhurst (Elise Zavou). The musical number ‘Deeds not Words’ was especially powerful and the choreography by Dannielle ‘Rhimes’ Lecointe gave a modern twist to the suffragettes while maintaining the power and force of their political movement. I found Elise Zavou to be particularly engaging with her eye contact and facial expressions keeping all eyes captivated on her during her performance as Emmeline Pankhurst.

Jade meets many more inspirational women along her journey in the exhibition before her teacher retrieving her at the end of the show. Kudzai Mangombe did a sensational job in the role of Jade, with exceptional energy and facial expressions throughout the entire performance. This stage adaptation by Chris Bush, of the picture book by Kate Pankhurst, had something for everyone and was inspiring to women of all ages. To add to the sense of empowerment, all of the people involved, including the musicians, were women, which I felt made the show even more powerful.

The final song was a megamix which had the audience up on their feet, clapping and dancing. This show was a fun filled explosion of colour and music with an excellent message, and I would recommend it to anyone looking for some family fun.

Chicago Review

Sunderland Empire – until Saturday 4 June 2022


Telling the story of how Roxie Hart gets away with murder with the help of slick lawyer Billy Flynn. Her time in prison with the notorious Velma Kelly, duping her ever loving husband Amos and being good to Mama Morton while in prison. It is based on a true story from the 1920’s.  I have a soft spot for Chicago the Musical, I once had to write a 3000 word assignment on Reciprocity and I quoted heavily from Kander and Ebb’s finest.  I was clearly marked by a kindred spirit though, as in my feedback I was told my essay had “Razzle Dazzle

And that is what we had in Sunderland last night – a lot of Razzle Dazzle.  Steamy, sultry and sexy – this tour of Chicago showed the show’s brilliance by stripping the production back to its bare bones, with a fabulous band on stage, minimal costuming and a few chairs. As an audience member, you get a chance to hear Kander and Ebb’s glorious score and to get the essence of Bob Fosse’s incredible choreography

Djalenga Scott shows her abilities well with a wonderful version of Velma Kelly, singing All That Jazz with vocals that are thrilling and simply wild, sexy and breathtaking, stealing every scene she is in. Until Roxie establishes herself, Velma is the big shot amongst the female felons – bitchily bossy and breathtakingly balletic. Her legs go on forever and teach us that perpendicular is somewhere else. 

Billy Flynn is the slick, consummately devious lawyer who uses the old ‘razzle-dazzle’ of sheer showmanship to wow a gullible media and promote the causes of his various- usually culpable- clients. From the first moment he appears, satirically framed by a circlet of feather boas, Flynn is at the centre of the action and you need a performer of strong presence – and persuasive charm- to carry off the role. Lee Mead oozes panache and has a rich, smooth voice that perfectly fits the character’s synthetic sincerity.

There has been some discussions recently over the role of Mamma Morton, with Gemma Collins due to make her debut at Sunderland but having to step away from the role, Brenda Edwards is due to begin the role imminently.  Instead we got Delycia Balgrave stepping up from the ensemble to powerhouse her way through the role.

Jamie Baughan is fabulous as Mr Cellophane, Amos Hart, and is definitely the most sympathetic character on stage.

Roxie is a role you’d kill for – and she does – kill I mean – in the opening scene. Billie Hardy stepping in for Faye Brookes, proved she can sing and dance her way through the role but while Roxie is devious using people as she needs them, Hardy impresses and shows great skill and talent.

The set (John Lee Beatty) is interesting with the band in a nightclub setting in the middle of the stage all the way through the show. The ultra talented ensemble are sat on chairs at the side of the stage, as if in a rehearsal room.Chicago is a breathtaking musical extravaganza that is simply brilliant. It has some catchy and wonderful songs, like ‘All That Jazz’, ‘Razzle Dazzle’, ‘Class’, ‘All I Care About’ and the wonderful ‘Mister Cellophane’. It has superb dance routines that are original and exciting. The choreography (Ann Reinking in the style of Bob Fose) oozes sex appeal with every step and is a joy to watch every step. Andrew Hilton conducts with precision and unmistakable skill, and the band (Joshua Griffith, Tommy Clayden, Mike Collen, Jonathan Mayers, Alan Hase, Simon Crick, Simon Walker, Matt Davies, Rhodri Taylor, Jamie Fathers) seem to enjoy themselves.  In short, it’s the sweetest, funniest, sexiest murder story ever.

The Wellspring Review

Yvonne Arnaud – until 1st June 2022

Reviewed by Heather Chalkley


Barney and David Owen Norris are accomplished writers and performers, so expectations are high. They didn’t disappoint with this unique piece, bravely sharing their father son relationship and how their lives have paralleled up to this point. Director Jude Christian has melded the music and dialogue in such a way that you feel part of the story, living the moments with them.

Barney and David Owen make it look easy, with calm and collected delivery of both oral and musical performance. Whether you are a fan of classical piano music or not, David Owen’s ease and confidence draws you in to timeless moments of play. Simply beautiful. The dialogue gives you just enough without being over descriptive. Weaving in a small amount of song brings to life moments beyond words. The origins of the play shone through, bringing to life the book of interviews previously written by Barney about his dad’s music. The honesty in their performance shines a light on the strong bond they have and the exemplary professionals that they are. The whole piece is like an abundant scrap book of memories brought to life.

The visual imagery gives you context and insight into their lives, with old film footage of Barney’s growing years with his dad. The image of a 2 cog clock-like time piece, showing the different places Barney and David Owen are at the same time, is a creative way to show you where their lives parallel and where we are in the story.

This is a gentle play that demands your attention, both to capture the memories and to listen to the music. Be prepared to be wowed in the most relaxed way possible!

Some Mothers Do’Ave’Em Review

Richmond Theatre – until 4th June 2022

Reviewed by Carly Burlinge 


Based on the 1970’s Classic TV Comedy by Ray Allen brings Some Mothers Do’Ave’Em to stage. 

With Frank (Joe Pasquale) in need of a job despite his efforts of searching, and with the excitement of a possible new career as a magician now on the cards. Frank prepares himself for an evening of guests to entertain and the chance of bagging himself a new job by showing his act to all! Frank’s wife Betty (Sarah Earnshaw), on the other hand is a little sensitive as she’s not so eager to let out her amazing news that they are expecting for the first time. However, with another mouth to feed and Frank having a meltdown due to lack of funds already. Will there ever be the right time for her to talk? With Frank’s Mother’s moto – A trouble shared is a trouble doubled- as well as Frank continuing to always finish Betty’s sentences -will she ever be able to get the words out! 

Jo Pasquale plays Frank astonishingly well playing the awkward, nervous, slightly bewildered character that is so very accident prone, always at the centre of a joke and without even realising it! He also plays the very dear and sweet loveable individual that his wife Betty adores. Sarah Earnshaw plays her part with gentleness and warmth playing the encouraging wife enabling Frank to somehow fit in and have placement. They act alongside each other charmingly and delightfully, complimenting each other throughout the show. 

Let’s not forget to mention Mrs Fisher (Susie Blake) the mother-in-law who isn’t Franks no 1 fan, doesn’t generally look up to him and thinks he’s a bit of a failure! She’s wrapped up in her own love life and only make the whole situation increasingly funnier, by getting totally sozzled on Franks mum’s homemade booze. This only causing more confusion embarrassment and disorder in the house. Adding more uncontrollable laughter from the audience just perfect! 

With guests now arriving and Frank getting ready to perform for his big break! Mayhem begins and a chaotic madness is presented in true brilliance that’s tremendously funny – a slapstick comedy that is totally bonkers offering so many laughs, alongside some softer moments throughout making it just a wonderfully entertaining play that is pure comedy gold. What a lovely experience to hear the whole audience roaring with laughter from start to finish.  

Accompanied by an extremely clever set showing the magnificent patterns and colours of the 70s. Featuring many brilliant gags that are matched with Frank’s character. Such disastrous furniture giving way and collapsing all around them with electrical faults that get even funnier as the show continues and awkward comedy moments at every turn. What more could you ask for!  

Wonderfully entertaining the ultimate feel-good comedy with gags galore and innuendos. Matched with a great script and a brilliant and talented cast. A set that just keeps giving rolling out the laughter from all spectators. Pure brilliance – what an outstanding remarkable and exciting show.