Brown Boys Swim Review

Soho Theatre London – until 15th October 2022

Reviewed by Emily Cliff


Fresh from the Fringe, Karim Khan’s moving coming-of-age story Brown Boys Swim has taken up residence at Soho Theatre until 15th October 2022. Set in Oxford, the play follows two South Asian boys as they navigate life, friendship, social prejudice and most importantly, learning to swim ahead of the most significant event of their teen years – Jess Denvers pool party.

Beautifully set, the LED-lit poolside was magnificent in its simplicity and ability to change the entire scene. From the harsh white lights of a clothing store to the gentle blues and greens of the community leisure centre pool. The glow of the lights reflected that of the water, lighting the whole theatre in a hum of blue and green. The ambience of the pool with splashes and indistinct chatter seemed to fill the stage adding to the atmosphere created by the lights and the chemistry between Mohsan (Anish Roy) and Kash (Varun Raj)

Supburbly written, the play tackles societal issues that are all too present in the current age. The comedic timing of the production was fantastic without it seeming too forced or put on. It was delightfully charming but also serious when it needed to be, seamlessly switching between the two without feeling too clunky. The interludes during the scene changes were brilliantly artistic, however, in some parts they felt like they went on a little too long. The pool scenes, however, were beautifully choreographed.

Each character is uniquely complex in their own right. Kash can be seen trying to fit in with everyone at school and make the most of his youth whereas Moshan can be seen as the level-headed future-driven character bound for Oxford University – playing it safe. The chemistry between the two characters is fantastic, the bond between the two is one like brothers. From shared heritage to shared experiences of societal racism and Islamaphobia.

Charming and moving, this authentic coming-of-age story makes us examine the way we behave in order to comply to societal standards and how ultimately harmful that can be. This funny story is beautiful in every way, from the way it is written to the way it is performed, it certainly earned its standing ovation.

Woman In Mind Review

Chichester Festival Theatre – until 15th October 2022

Reviewed by Sally Lumley


Woman In Mind, by Alan Ayckbourn, has been brought back to the stage at Chichester Festival Theatre. This dark comedy centres around Susan (Jenna Russell), a middle-aged woman who we meet as she comes round from a concussion, having knocked herself out by standing on a rake. This incident triggers a deterioration of her mental health and we, the audience, are the witnesses as she unravels.

The Susan we meet is happy, with her charming husband, dashing brother and adoring daughter in a sunny, rose-filled garden. However, as the play progresses, we understand that this is a world she has created to compensate for her reality. The real Susan feels trapped and unfulfilled in her life as housewife to an ungrateful husband, living with her resentful sister-in-law, feeling that she has failed as a mother to her absent son. Susan is a woman desperate to be seen and heard, and to be appreciated by those around her.

Jenna Russell’s outstanding performance as Susan was committed and nuanced. She depicts Susan’s journey perfectly throughout, from mild confusion at the start of the play, to her gut-wrenching collapse at the end. She thoughtfully portrays the terror and confusion of mental illness, and where it didn’t make sense to her character, the audience was also left feeling unsettled. This was often an uncomfortable watch, but it felt like that was the point, as we joined Susan and empathised with her journey.

Matthew Cottle as Bill Windsor provides some typical Ayckbourn light relief along the way as Susan’s doctor, an outsider caught up in the family drama. The use of humour is clever, lifting the audience out of moments of darkness, and perhaps reflecting society’s tendency to avoid dealing with mental health issues head on.

The staging is excellent, at first glance the stage represents a typical British back garden. However, in contrast to the luscious rose-filled garden of Susan’s imagination there isn’t a flower to be seen. The weather is also used throughout to mirror Susan’s turbulent and sometimes stormy state of mind; the rain is particularly effective in the second half to pinpoint how far she has declined.

Woman In Mind is at times confronting and uncomfortable, but the humour sprinkled throughout stops it from becoming overly dark and it is an evening very well spent. It is a gripping and very relevant depiction of mental health issues and leaves the audience with a lot to think about.

Twopence To Cross The Mersey

St Helens Theatre Royal – until Saturday 1 October 2022

Reviewed by Jennifer Daley


As relevant today as it was in 1930’s England, Rob Fennahs’s adaptation of Helen Forrester’s best selling novel really packs a punch in portraying the impacts of social deprivation in 1930’s Liverpool.

With a cast of only 9 actors playing 48 character this really is a fast moving and cleverly directed piece. The viewer could clearly follow the plot thanks to the characters switch between portrayal and narration of their own role, often delivered with a very well received does of scouse humour to lighten the tone.

Whilst the physical appearance of Jenny Murphy’s Helen deteriorated before out eyes, powerfully we saw a young woman emerge, fighting against injustice of the political system and her neglectful upbringing in a way in which empowered her to better herself and succeed in her quest for her right to an education. With a voice packed full of emotion, her performance was truly captivating, and I found myself drawn to her every word and action.

Real, raw and authentic in its representation, at times I felt transported into real life Great Depression of Liverpool City Centre. The colloquialisms and Scouse dialect were well researched and delivered perfectly – and being a Scouser myself, impressing me is not an easy task!

A really excellent and thought-provoking watch, laced with factual socio-economic challenges, inequality and child slavery within the family. We’re all only one wrong turn from a very different life and for some, referenced poignantly, the struggle is just too much. A must see and I’m already looking forward to the sequel.

The Mousetrap Review

Theatre Royal Concert Hall Nottingham – until Saturday 1st October 2022

Reviewed by Amarjeet Singh


The weather is turning, the snow is falling in droves, Monkswell Manor and its fledging owners are expecting their first ever guests at any moment. Five in total, both expected and unexpected, but all welcome. Reports from London indicate a murderer on the loose, a phone call from the police informs the manor that they are sending someone out as investigations are causing them to suspect Monkswell Manor and its guests could be involved. Everyone is trapped in this guesthouse, they have no means of contacting the outside world, and the murderer is among them. No one is quite what they seem. They all have secrets.

Who will be the next to be murdered and why? Who are the guests and why are they at the manor? Who is the murderer and what is their motive? And here we take the bait to get caught up in this wonderful whodunnit!

You cannot imagine the theatre and not think of The Mousetrap. Penned by the skilled hand and mind of Agatha Christie, the queen of the murder-mystery, The Mousetrap is her most celebrated and accomplished play, loved the world over by audiences and critics alike. It has a skilfully written plot and holds suspense from start to finish, mainly by peppering the performance with truly comedic moments, perfectly timed and brilliantly executed. This gave the play a perfect balance of light and dark. The characters are well fleshed-out, with interesting personalities and back stories, even if told retrospectively, endearing us to them.

The set is simplistic but effective and reflects a Manor, drawing us into Monkswell. Use of lighting adds to the atmosphere, time changes and ambiance. Costumes were in keeping with the 1950s.

Tonight’s performance was superb. It was a wonderful treat to see some of British TVs big hitters from yesteryear, Todd Carty (EastEnders, The Bill) as Major Metcalf, John Altman (EastEnders) as Mr Paravicini and Gwyneth Strong (Only Fools and Horses, EastEnders) as Mrs Boyle. Although it was Elliot Clay as Christopher Wren and Joelle Dyson as Mollie Ralston who really stood out for me. However, the cast as a whole all came together to produce a hugely entertaining performance.

In keeping with tradition, there will be no spoilers, but I urge you to go see this performance of The Mousetrap. It’s fun, it’s exciting and it keeps you on the edge of your seat. Have you ever seen such a thing in your life…not yet, but hopefully soon!

Jersey Boys Review

New Victoria Theatre Woking – until 8 October 2022

Reviewed by Lorna Hancock


Jersey Boys is a bio-musical telling the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. With book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, and the incredible hits of the band, written by Bob Gaudio and Bob Crewe. The smash hit musical has won 65 major awards and as the show starts to unfold it’s not hard to see why. It follows the story of four boys from the wrong side of town, and their rise to becoming one of the most successful bands in history, selling over 175 million records worldwide, all before they turned 30.

 The musical is structured into four ‘seasons’ each one brilliantly narrated by the different band members from their own perspective, which flows beautifully throughout the production. If you think this is your usual jukebox musical, you would be wrong, as their story is just as captivating as their sensational hits.

Michael Pickering was remarkable playing Frankie Valli, with his phenomenal vocal range and a falsetto to impressively match Valli’s. From the pleasing harmonies of ‘Sunday Kind of Love’ to his mesmerising rendition of ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’ it’s quite clear his voice is truly something exceptional.

Dalton Wood plays a very believable Tommy DeVito with his flawless mobster demeanour. Along with Blair Gibson as Bob Gaudio and Christopher Short as Nick Massi, the energy and camaraderie between the group and Frankie was delightful to watch. The synchronisation of their simple choreography was very visually pleasing, and the charming harmonies they achieved together really showed us the stage was alive with magnificent talent.

When talking of talent, it came a plenty across the whole cast. However I couldn’t finish this review without mentioning Damien Winchester, playing Barry and numerous other bit parts throughout the show. With his electric energy, excellent characterisation and voice, he brought the stage to life every time he came on.

If you are looking for an entertaining experience to brighten up these gradually darkening Autumnal days, the charm of the Jersey Boys definitely won’t disappoint you. Oh what a story, and Oh What a Night!


Lyceum, Sheffield – until 1st October 2022

Reviewed by Alison Beaumont


Bugsy Malone The Musical tells the story of the rise of Bugsy Malone and the battle for power between Fat Sam and Dandy Dan. The musical is set in New York City and the characters are played by child actors. It captures a flashy world of wood-be hoodlums, showgirls and dreamers.

As all the main characters are children there are 3 actors playing each role. In the performance I saw Bugsy Malone was played by Gabriel Payne who was a cheekly little chap and had great vocals.

Blousey in this performance played by Mia Lakha had absolutely outstanding vocals and was the star of the show for me, this girl really has got an exciting future in musical theatre ahead of her.

Tallulah was played by Jasmine Sakyiama and just like Blousey played her role well and had amazing vocals.

Fat Sam (Albie Snelson) was spot on with his acting and portrayed the right amount of humour.

The orchestra could have done with being a little bit quieter as sometimes they were a bit too loud when the children were singing.

The ensemble and swing was played by young adults who added that little bit extra to this show. In particular Georgia Pemberton stood out to me. I particularly liked the boxing scene they managed to keep the skipping all in time and how they managed to move the ropes of the boxing ring without any mishaps had certainly been impressively rehearsed.

It was good to see lots of young people in the audience and as I overheard one little girl say to her mum “this has been the best night of my life ever” it shows how the younger audience were also entertained with this musical.

Well done to all the children they really are very talented.







Full casting and creative team have been announced for the new production of Michael Morpurgo’s THE SLEEPING SWORD, adapted by Tatty Hennessy, and directed by Lucy Jane Atkinson, which will play at The Watermill from Thursday 27 October to Saturday 5 November.  

‘I’m not a king or a Wizard… but I do have a story to tell’

Meet Ben Bundle. He likes fishing and snorkelling, jumping off rocks and exploring the magical island of Bryher with his friends.

But after an accident leaves Bun blind, he fears his days of adventure are over. Until one day he is swept into the realm of his favourite story, the ancient legend of King Arthur, and Bun’s world changes forever.

Get ready for a gripping adventure where a broken promise, a magic sword and a ghostly king reveal to Bun a life-changing quest of his own.

A tale about magic, mystery, hope, love, triumph and disaster, The Sleeping Sword weaves a contemporary tale of self-discovery with Arthurian legend in a way that is utterly spellbinding.

Kirsty Ferriggi (a 2021 graduate, most recently seen on stage as the lead in The Illusion of Time at the Playground Theatre) will play ‘Mrs Parsons / King Arthur’, Aarian Mehrabani (a 2020 graduate whose recent theatre credits include GUY A New MusicalNothing and Brink at the Royal Exchange in Manchester), will play ‘Bun’ and Tika Mu’tamir (a UK-Malaysian performer and facilitator who has recently toured the UK by bicycle, as part of  The Handlebards’ production of The Tempest), will play ‘Anna’.

Every performance of The Sleeping Sword will feature the use of creative captioning and integrated audio description.

The Sleeping Sword is adapted from Michael Morpurgo’s 2002 book by Tatty Hennessy, directed by Lucy Jane Atkinson, with lighting design by Alex Musgrave, sound design by Xavier Velastin, with Louise Worrall as Design Consultant, Amy Bethan Evans as Dramaturg and Visually Impaired Creative Consultant, Douglas Baker as Creative Captions Designer, and Sam Brewer as Audio Description Consultant. The Stage Management team consists of Emily Stedman (CSM), Caitlin Ravenscroft (DSM) and Amelia Costello (ASM Placement).

Amy Bethan Evans said, “Tatty put a call out for a visually impaired dramaturg for the project and I responded. When we met, I knew I wanted to work with her and that she was totally committed to turning this story into something visually impaired people could both access and relate to. We have worked on making Bun’s journey one towards acceptance of himself as a blind person and I don’t think you can do that without the input of a visually impaired artist. 

My heart belongs to children’s books and working with Tatty and Lucy on such an important project has been truly magical.”

The Sleeping Sword marks the next collaboration between Lucy Jane Atkinson and Tatty Hennessey: Lucy directed Tatty’s A Hundred Words For Snow at the Vaults 2018 before its UK tour and transfer to the Trafalgar Studios in 2019, where it received 4 Offie nominations, including Best Director and Best New Play.

Lucy Jane Atkinson said, “I am thrilled to be reuniting with Tatty to work on this incredible new show for The Watermill. Throughout the development process we have made so many exciting discoveries about the potential for accessible work, and I can’t wait to get into the rehearsal room with this talented group of actors and creatives to start playing with Michael Morpurgo’s beautiful story!”

The Sleeping Sword will run at The Watermill before heading out on tour to schools across Berkshire and Wiltshire. Tickets are priced from only £10 and can be purchased online at or by calling 01635 46044.

Ghosts on a Wire Review

Union Theatre, London – until 8th October 2022

Reviewed by Celia Armand Smith


Ghosts on a Wire is a new play by Linda Wilkinson and directed by PK Taylor. Based on the real events of the Pioneer Power Station, now the Tate Modern, Ghosts on a Wire takes you
from the publication of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein or Modern Prometheus in 1818, to the end of the 1800s where the real life costs of the new power station are becoming known.

Well researched, there is a lot of exposition that can make the story feel a bit more like a historical reenactment in a museum. It concerns the human, environmental, and societal cost of the power plant and energy itself. The rich are getting richer and the working classes are being pushed out with the implication that everyone will eventually benefit. The plot feels very topical if you dare read the news.

The play begins with Mary Shelley (Deborah Klayman), Michael Faraday (Tom Neill), Hester Thrale (Ali Kemp), and William Blake (Timothy Harker) chatting about Frankenstein and the advent of electricity in 1817. It then jumps forward in time, and suddenly we are in the 1880s on Bankside, where a new power station is being planned. There we meet industrialist and MP Lyon Playfair (Andrew Fettis) and Octavia Hill (Gerri Farrell), a social reformer and the founder of the National Trust, along with a publican and his wife, some local workers, a fortune teller, and a loved companion. It is at this point the ghosts of Shelley, Faraday, and Blake start to drift in and out of the plot, commenting on what has happened, and later providing some light relief at a seance.

The cast plays at least two characters each, cleverly swapping between them with the use of simple costume pieces and the occasional accent shift. The background projections helped place the action, and meant that the staging could remain simple and understated. The projections are best utilised when working alongside sound effects that signal when the ghosts are present and a change of scene.

Linda Wilkinson’s commentary on ruling classes placing industry and themselves above general humanity would not be out of place if it was set now. There is optimism and wisdom from William Blake and Octavia Hill, giving us hope for the future, however we know that history is destined to repeat itself.





The classic Rodgers and Hammerstein’s 1949 film South Pacific is bought alive on the stage currently touring the UK by the Chichester Festival Theatre. A powerful love story set on an island in the South Pacific during World War II.

The audience tonight were treated to such delights of iconic songs such as ‘Some Enchanted Evening’, ‘I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair; and ‘I’m In Love With A Wonderful Guy’.

The musical performances were enchanting, the choreography was mesmerising, which was all put together by Ann Yee, the theatre’s choreographer.

You are hooked from the opening scene where Sera Maehara (Liat) is dancing alone on the stage as if she is engulfed in water, she’s a young Tonkinese girl whose mother later offers her up to marry a Lieutenant from the US. You find yourself following her movements from her fingers to her toes, the lines that her body makes are 10 out of 10.

The main characters are played in this production by Julian Ovenden (Emile) and Gina Beck (Nellie) their voices are outstanding and they are real stage superstars of musical theatre.

Stage scenery and lighting went from bold bright revolving sets and flooring to the dim, romantic setting of the Polynesian Island of Bali Ha’i the latter of which you can’t help getting completely emerged within.

One of my favourite scenes for pure entertainment would have been when the song ‘There Is Nothin’ Like A Dame’ was performed by the marines, the Seabees. Amazing choreography by all the males throughout this number appreciated by the audience with such a raucous applause.

All were extremely talented although I feel that an extra mention is well deserved for Douggie McMeekin (Luther Billis) his is perfectly cast for this role, he brings laughter and comedy to his character, has a powerful voice and carries off a grass skirt and bikini bra top rather well!

All in all, soaring melodies, explosive choreography and some delightful upcoming child stars, the cast and orchestra really raised the roof this evening.

When Darkness Falls Review

Salisbury Playhouse, Salisbury – until 1 October 2022

Reviewed by Gemma Gibson


Four ghost stories, two men, one chilling secret.

Pamela Raith

I’ve never been sure whether I believe in ghosts, but for 90 minutes, When Darkness Falls had me unashamedly converted.

James Milton and Paul Morrissey’s spine-chilling production left me on the edge of my seat, drawing me into a world of dark, unproven history with endless twists and turns. 

The play begins with a stormy night on the small island of Guernsey. Here, a young paranormal expert joins a sceptical history teacher to record the first in a series of podcasts, exploring the area’s incredible folklore and paranormal history.

Starring Peter Duncan and Daniel Rainford, it doesn’t take long before disturbing tales and truths reach the surface, and the pair learn more about each other than they could have ever imagined. 

The sheer storytelling power of Rainford, playing ‘the speaker’, had the audience fully gripped and transported to that small classroom in Guernsey, and then wherever his terrifying tales took us, making us all believe that, perhaps, ghosts actually do exist. 

The haunting stories of past, present and future had the audience echoing the reactions of Duncan, playing the increasingly rattled John Blondel who, despite being only one of two men onstage, filled the space effortlessly with this big, formidable role. A history teacher clearly with a complex history.

As the speaker, Rainford’s stories of paranormal activity had the audience glued to the stage, frightened but alert and questioning. Cowering in my seat, I couldn’t look away even if I wanted to. 

The minimalistic – but cleverly done – use of sound, set and lighting not only amplified happenings onstage, but put paramount focus on the pair’s exchange of powerful stories and anecdotes. 

The dialogue between the pair anchored the production with a sense of realism, the fast pace causing emotions and pulse to run high, for both audience and cast, with every new shocking folklore tale. 

Inspired by true events, When Darkness Falls is built on powerful, electric storytelling, weaving and confusing what is real with frighteningly realistic legends yet to be proven.

The production had the audience guessing what would come next, but by the end we were all reflecting on our own history and those unthinkable, locked away moments – our own ghosts perhaps.