The Girl on the Train Review

Barn Theatre, Cirencester – until 29 October 2022

Reviewed by Josie Armand Smith


The Girl on the Train is a gripping mystery thriller based on Paula Hawkins international best seller and adapted by Rachel Wagstaff and Duncan Abel for the stage. 

The story starts with Rachel, brilliantly and convincingly played by Gemma Yates-Round. She is drunk and alone in her flat. She longs for a better life like the one she sees from the train window everyday on her way to work. When she learns the woman she watches has gone missing she finds herself drawn into a thrilling and dramatic mystery.  

The stage set is dark and moody. Lighting is cleverly used for passing trains and flash backs to memories and earlier moments. The convincing characters have stories that develop and revelations are made throughout the whole play. The twists and turns to the plot will have you on the edge of your seat.

The play does have an age recommendation of 15+ years due to adult themes and language.

The Girl on A Train is running until the 29th October at the Barn Theatre, Cirencester.


Hull City Hall – 29th September 2022

Reviewed by Dawn Bennett


At the launch of the Hull City Hall Classics Season, we listened to a fabulous night of some of the film worlds most classic movie scores.

The conductor, Stephen Bell, led the orchestra through 60 years of the film worlds most iconic pieces.

They started with the main theme from The Big Country composed by Jerome Morross and we were transported to The Great Plains of America in the theme to this classic 1958 western.

Next, we had the Jurassic Park Main Theme composed by the brilliant John Williams.

Award winning John Barry Out of Africa Main Theme was fabulous, the violins particularly so.

The Great Escape march by Elmer Bernstein was the next piece. We had the concert arrangement of this epic tune, and the audiences’ whistles were very much encouraged by the conductor!

I See You from the Movie Avatar was the most up to date piece of music played, composed by James Horner we were listened to an orchestral arrangement of this classic James Cameron movie theme.

We had another classic this time Schindler’s List Main Theme with the music by John Williams. Tamas Andras (Orchestra Leader) played the violin solo with such feeling you could hear a pin drop.

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Main Theme by Howard Stone took us back to Middle Earth with a rousing brass section.

Another classic John Williams composition next Harry’s Wondrous World from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone as a Harry Potter fan I could not believe this film is now 21 years old!

Finishing the first half was the epic 633 Squadron Main theme by Ron Goodwin with the fabulous brass section coming into their own.

The Main Theme from Superman opened the second half, another John Williams classic tune from the 1978 movie. The brass section introduction making this easily recognisable.

Another John Barry composition this time the Main Theme from Born Free winning the composer two Academy Awards for Best Song (with Don Black) and Best Original Score.

Changing the tone completely with Theme and Chase from Wallace and Gromit, composed by Julian Nott who also did Peppa Pig!

Saving Private Ryan Hymn to the Fallen again by John Williams was so beautifully played and very poignant.

The Main Theme from Gladiator by Hans Zimmer and Lisa Gerrard, this concert arrangement was one of my favourite pieces of the concert.

Indiana Jones and The Raiders of the Lost Ark. Raiders March was instantly recognisable as another John Williams classic.

Chantal Webster Cello solo was magnificent in Hans Zimmer’s Pirates of the Caribbean Dean Man’s Chest: Jack Sparrow.

The last piece was another John Williams epic piece. Star Wars. Imperial March, Main Theme and Princess Leia’s theme with the wonderful soloists Sarah Bennett (flute) and Alex Edmundson (horn).

Stephen Bell (conductor) really kept us informed, giving us details on the pieces, and seeing them in a different light.

After a very well-deserved standing ovation, we were treated to the 40-year-old Flying Theme from ET. My friend, who has never seen a live orchestra before, called it “awesome” and it was!

Opera North: La Traviata Review

Leeds Grand Theatre – until 29 October 2022

Reviewed by Dawn Smallwood


Opera North marks 2022 autumn season with the production, debuted in 2014, La Traviata. The opera is set to Guiseppe Verdi’s musical score and based on Alexandre Dumas fils’ La Dame aux camélias and the main character, Marie Duplessis.

Directed by Alessandro Talevi and choreographed by Victoria Newlyn, La Traviata explores the love between Violetta (Alison Langer), a courtesan, and Alfredo Germot (Nico Darmanin), a young man from provincial France. Violetta was living for her life with parties until meeting Alfredo and after some persuasion and resistance, she falls in love with him.

The relationship isn’t approved particularly with Giorgio Germot (Damiano Salerno), Alfredo’s father, and he asks Violetta to sacrifice their love for his children’s happiness and security which in turn she does. It doesn’t go down well with Alfredo, and he is determined to get Violetta’s love back. The plot unfolds where themes of betrayal, jealousy, rivalry, and vindication are unravelled throughout the three acts. Redemption and forgiveness are eventually sought between all parties but only to have met with tragedy.

Excellent portrayals from Langer as Violetta, Darmanin as Alfredo, and Salerno as Giorgio. They are supported by the rest of the strong and talented cast. Familiarity reigns for its emotive and upbeat music particularly the well-known arias, Libiamo ne’lieti calici (Brindisi) and Sempre Libera, under the musical direction of Jonathan Webb.

The staging is incredible with captivating creative designs by Madeleine Boyd with lighting and videographic support from Matthew Haskins and Gemma Burditt. The staging solidifies and transports the story of Violetta and the Parisian high society with the contrasting circumstances she lives in.

An emotional evocative opera with a tragic story of “Amore e Morte” of a fallen woman quoted in the programme by Sarah Hibberd. Sung in Italian with English surtitles, La Traviata is an opera which is worth it to see musically and narratively.

Don Quixote Man of Clackmannanshire Review

Dundee Rep – until 15 October 2022

Reviewed by Jo Gordon 


A current day interpretation of the classic Don Quixote by Cervantes, We follow The story of Don, an ageing gent who has become weary of the world he sees through his TV screen so declares himself the lionhearted chevalier he feels is needed to readdress the balance of good and evil. 

He convinces his overly chatty great nephew to join him on the quest, together, on steeds in the form of a small child’s bike and mobility scooter with swords held aloft, they head off to right the wrongs. 

Hilarity ensues, as Don drags Sandy across town and into the hills to face who and what he believes is the downfall of modern times and in the end, face his biggest fear of what is happening back home. 

All six cast members bring their characters to life beautifully, showing their fragility just as much as the humour, giving  plenty to raise both a giggle and empathy from the audience. On top of which we are given the treat of live Spanish guitarists providing the soundtrack to Dons adventure, strumming some real classic tunes if you hone in your ear.

A superb update to the original along with being hilariously thought provoking! 

The Witches of Oz Review

The Vaults until 14 January 2023

Review by Heather Chalkley


Entrepreneurial writer and director Shane ‘Shay Shay’ Konno offers a new era blend of panto and burlesque, with a hint of hunger games thrown in! Traditional panto is a story of good overcoming evil. The Witches of Oz puts a thoroughly modern twist on this theme, with gender identity, the environment, and corrupt politicians at the forefront. Often with hilarious results. The piece is stuffed to the rafters with gags!

The Munchers (the audience!) wears shades of green to reflect the glow of the emerald city. As we feast the story unfolds. As the story unfolds the Munchers vote with their boos and cheers, changing sides and sometimes mixing it up as they are making their decision. The cast sets the scene with spotlight introductions, each character maintaining their persona throughout.

Grace Kelly Miller (The Good Witch) is the compere that carries the story along, bringing shades of The Capitol elite from the Hunger Games. She carries the deceit perfectly balanced, with a desperation only those that are in too deep to see a way out of a corrupt system. Miller also raises the energy in the room with her powerful tunes.

Feyi Wey (The Wicked Witch) is the activist pushed out by the elite, desperately trying to save Oz from environmental disaster. Half her lines are Adele song titles, which the audience soon picks up on with great approval. She’s got soul! Especially as Wey really brings it with Adele power ballads. She puts a positive spin on what it is to be ‘wicked’, as in cool, hip, awesome!

Doro ‘they’ (Lily Downes) combines the sweet, dulcet tones of the original Dorothy with a rambunctious, confident, fully fledged adult, very comfortable with their gender identity. This character is a great example of how it can be for today’s young people, in their discovery of who they are. Downes wastes no time making it clear that they received help and support to get where they are.

Tin (Fizz Sinclair), Lion (Milla Sutton) and Scarecrow (Sara Nelson) are each distinct characters that carry a different facet to the message of the piece. Nelson (Scarecrow) brings a quirky mad professor feel to the part, that is embodied in the song Fire Starter – that gets the audience jumping! Sinclair (Tin) throws some great shapes and delivers a wicked deadpan gag. Sutton (Lion) gives you a great range of facial expressions, with no illusions as to what he is thinking and feeling.

The set and lighting take some skill to successfully deliver the Emerald City and Witches Mountain vibe. The Vaults is the perfect venue, with the rumble of the trains over head adding to the atmosphere. If you want a fun night out with good food, great songs and a ‘wicked’ storyline, this is the place to come. Konno is a writer to watch out for.





The English National Ballet returned last night to Liverpool with Derek Deane’s grand and long relied on production of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. It was originally devised as an arena show, in-the-round performed at the Royal Albert Hall, and then adapted for traditional theatre staging. This revival of Deane’s 1997 staging is just as big and spectacular, in every way.

I have been very fortunate to have had the pleasure of seeing the ballet Swan Lake in different countries and last night’s performance of The English National Ballet at the Empire Theatre, had me sitting in my chair, flabbergasted. It was absolutely breath-taking.

The opening Act fulfilled all my expectations with the immersive set design, costumes and choreography. As a whole, the company is outstanding, every single dancer was superb.

The Lead Principle, Erina Takahashi who performs Odette, was stunning. The technically and artistically demanding double role of Odette (White Swan) and Odile (Black Swan) is perhaps the most difficult in all ballet and Takahashi executed both roles impeccably – there is something unreal about her. She was at her most captivating in the Black Swan section.

Prince Siegfried, performed by Lead Principle Francesco Gabriele Frola, is a gifted dancer. His solo’s were outstanding; his energy and leg positioning superb. He displayed remarkable control and neatness when he landed with his jumps.

First Soloist, the sorcerer Rothbart performed by James Streeter, was brilliant and his costume magnificent. For me the true standouts of the evening, were the swan maidens, with their united discipline, stamina and focus, they were mesmerising. The performance I was looking forward to the most, was the Dance of the Cygnets and I was not disappointed, the audience celebrated with a loud cheer.

Sometimes the storytelling in ballet can be difficult to follow but in last nights performance it was very clear and easy to follow. The orchestra needs commending, as they were just amazing! The score matched the action on stage and perfectly complimented the graceful swans of the corps de ballet.

This performance has two intervals with a pause after the first act.

It is no wonder Swan Lake is one of the most popular ballets of time and this production is most definitely a delight for the dedicated enthusiast or first-time ballet goer.

Unfortunate: The Untold Story of Ursula the Sea Witch Review

The Cast, Doncaster – until October 1st 2022

Reviewed by Janina Cairns


This show tells the story of Ursula the Sea Witch from the story of The Little Mermaid. The show is a musical and a parody of the story and has Ursula, obviously as the main star. It has an age recommendation of 16+ which gives you an idea that this won’t be a fluffy family show. The basic story starts back when Ursula wanted to be a suitor for the Price of Atlantica. They have a bit of a connection, but the King frames her for murder and her heart turns cold. From there she is banished to the dark depths of the sea. Fast forward 20 years and that’s when the pact with Ariel is done. We all know Ariel gets her Prince Eric, but will Ursula? I won’t spoil the ending, so get your tickets and check for yourself.

The cast is small, 7 in total, interchanging various characters. The cast comprised of Miracle Chance (Ariel), Allie Dart (Sebastian), Robyn Grant (Ursula), Jack Gray (Scuttle), Jamie Mawson (Prince Eric), Danni Payne (Various parts) and George Whitty (Prince Triton). Robyn Grant who is also the Director of the show, has stepped in to play Ursula as their lead who was to play Ursula is unfortunately ill. Robyn did a wonderful performance. This is not surprising as I found out she co-wrote the script and lyrics. The songs in the show were catchy, original and funny.

The set backdrop was the same throughout and was 4 arcs on each side decreasing in size to represent the suckers of an octopus. At the side of the stage, visible throughout were the 3 musicians. The set looked quite effective. Throughout the show they brought various props on, quick assembly, use them, disassembly, props off. Seamless.

The show is a little rude, has subtle innuendoes and the occasional swear word. It takes a few good-humoured digs at the fact Disney is all sweetness and light but not necessarily inclusive.

This comedy has some good laugh out loud moments. The expressive performance by the whole cast was genius. I felt it gave a nod to the good old fashioned slapstick comedy of Norman Wisdom era. Their use of the puppets was very well choreographed. The costumes were totally original and well thought out.

The only thing that let it down for me, was the sound. Although they were all singing and acting well, sometimes I found the dialogue and lyrics weren’t as clear as they could have been. Not all the way through, just on occasion. Now, that could have been the acoustics of the room or possible the mic quality. I can’t say for sure.

But, in short, if you fancy a bit of sassy, saucy fun and don’t mind your childhood memories of The Little Mermaid ruined (ha ha) then go along for some light-hearted entertainment. It is well worth a watch.

Angel Review

Harrogate Theatre – Wednesday 28th September 2022. Touring until Saturday 22nd October

Reviewed by Aimee Liddington


Angel is a one woman show performed by Yasemin Özdemir which tells the story of a young girl who enters devotedly into a mission to find and protect her father in the face of ISIS soldiers. Rehana is a farmer’s daughter and an aspiring lawyer, much to her father’s disappointment (he’d rather her take over the farm). She’s grown up with a backdrop of violence and conflict and although she’s been prepared for it, she never thought she’d be faced with it herself. When trouble arrives Rehana’s innocent aspirations are ripped away from her and she is left to defend herself against an army of evil.

This story is the third in a trilogy written by Henry Naylor and first hit the stage at Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2016. Since then, the performance which is directed by Peter Doran has been seen by many audiences around the world and continues to shed light onto the lives of faceless Kurdish families who were forced to flee their homes in Kobane in 2014.

With a simple set and lighting designed by Sean Crowley and Andrew Sturley, all eyes are on Özdemir who captures the audience’s attention from her first entrance onto the stage. She bewitches the audience with her careful and considered characterisation which has been developed and crafted with elegance and passion. We see Özdemir change her characterisation throughout the performance as she goes from being charming and childlike to stone faced and hardened by the death and destruction that falls around her. At the end of the performance, Özdemir’s passion for the cause is apparent as she comes out of character to thank the audience for watching.

Everyday thousands of families are forced to flee their homes to find refuge in safety. If that’s something you can’t even bring yourself to imagine then consider coming to see this production – it’ll help you gain an insight into the lives of so many people around the world.

My Fair Lady Review

Alhambra Theatre, Bradford – until 2nd October 2022

Reviewed by Katie Brewerton


My Fair Lady is back! The classic musical is back on tour, currently mesmerising audiences at the Alhambra Theatre in Bradford. Having never seen My Fair Lady, I went in with high expectations given its popularity and longevity and I was not disappointed. Based on ‘Pygmalion’ by George Bernard Shaw, My Fair Lady opened in 1956 and has been wowing audiences since, becoming one of the most celebrated musicals ever. 

My Fair Lady tells the story of Eliza Doolittle (Charlotte Kennedy) a poor flower seller in London and Henry Higgins (Michael D. Xavier),  who makes a bet with Colonel Pickering (John Middleton). Pickering bets Higgins that he can use his skills as a linguistic professor to turn Eliza in to a lady. Can she fool the Queen of Transylvania in to believing she is a real lady at the ball and help Higgins win the bet? 

The cast is full of familiar faces with Adam Woodyatt, best known for the role of Ian Beale in Eastenders, taking on the role of Eliza’s father, Alfred Doolittle. Emmerdale star, John Middleton best known for playing Ashley Thomas for over 20 years takes on the role of Colonel Pickering and Lesley Garrett stars Mrs Pearce, Professor Higgins’ housekeeper. While these well-known starts shine, so do the rest of the cast, they are all wonderful and a special mention must go to Tom Liggins who plays potential love interest, Freddy Eynsford-Hill whose rendition of ‘On the Street Where You Live’ was phenomenal. 

Another mention must go to the wonderful set, the stage revolves to reveal a different room of the magnificent house, which the cast moving effortlessly through the rooms as the stage revolved. With a range of well-known songs, if you’ve never seen My Fair Lady you will be sure to know a lot of the music, including ‘Wouldn’t It Be Loverly’, ‘I Could Have Danced All Night’ and ‘Get Me To The Church On Time’. 

It’s clear to see why My Fair Lady has stood the test of time and it is a simply ‘Loverly’ show.

The Two Popes Review

Cambridge Arts Theatre, Cambridge – until Saturday 1st October 2022

Reviewed by Steph Lott


In recent days, with the death of Queen Elizabeth II, succession is a theme which is very much at the forefront of many people’s minds. In The Two Popes, director Fernando Meirelles and screenwriter Anthony McCarten, who wrote the screenplays for The Theory of Everything, Darkest Hour, and Bohemian Rhapsody, offer a dramatisation of what happened in 2013, when Pope Benedict XVI shook the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics by becoming the first pontiff to step down in 700 years. He was the first pope to resign since Gregory XII in 1415, and the first to do so on his own initiative since Celestine V in 1294.

This play, (which was turned into a film starring Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce), is a speculation on what might have happened behind the scenes when Pope Benedict met the charismatic Argentinian Jorge Bergoglio, who would eventually succeed him and become the current Pope Francis. For the first time in human history, the world had two living popes.

The retiring Pope is played here by Anton Lesser, with Nicholas Woodeson as Francis. The portrayal of both men is full of warmth; how diverse they are and the issues and guilt that weigh so heavily upon them, is very skilfully depicted and I very much enjoyed the contrasts between the two men.

Their big debate was concerning whether the Catholic Church should renew or transform its 2,000-year-old traditions. Both McCarten and the actors focus on the two men as human beings who find themselves overwhelmed by the huge responsibility of taking that decision. It is not clear that it is even a responsibility that they want.

Lesser’s Benedict is an intellectual and an almost innocent soul. He has less experience of the material pleasures of the world and is much more conservative compared to Woodeson’s Francis who loves to tango and watch football.

Both popes have events in their past which cause them shame and guilt. However, despite their imperfections and misgivings, one of them must shoulder the burden of the papacy.

In addition to Lesser and Woodeson’s standout performances, I very much enjoyed the depiction of their respective nuns, who are both supportive yet challenging at times. (Lynsey Beauchamp and Leaphia Darko).

I loved the set and the staging. James Dacre’s production is tender yet intense. I was moved by the sounds of ‘Gloria! Gloria!’ echoing round the stage amid wafts of incense and ethereal lighting.

This is a thoughtful and moving production and one that definitely delights. ‘The Two Popes’ is a fascinating dramatised window into the events in the lives of two men who hold unique roles.