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Daniel Evans today announces the full cast for the world première of Flowers for Mrs Harris (Wed 18 May – Sat 4 June).  Based on the novel by Paul Gallico, the new musical by Richard Taylor and Rachel Wagstaff will the final production he will direct as Artistic Director of Sheffield Theatres. 


Joining the previously announced Clare Burt (This Is My Family, A Streetcar named Desire) in the title role of Mrs Harris, Moyo Akandé (White Christmas) makes her Sheffield debut as Flower Girl/Juanita.  Returning to the Crucible stage, Anna-Jane Casey, last seen acting alongside Daniel Evans in Company, plays Violet Butterfield, with Rebecca Caine (Les Misérables, The Phantom of the Opera) as Lady Dant/Mme Colbert.  Luke Dale (Holby City) takes the role of Terry with David Durham (Jesus Christ Superstar, The Lion King) as Mayor/M. Armand.  Familiar to audiences from his role in the award-winning My Fair Lady and the UK tour of West Side Story, Louis Maskell plays Bob/Andre.  Also returning to the Crucible, Mark Meadows (High Society) plays Albert Harris/Marquis de Chassagne with Laura Pitt-Pulford (Oliver!, The Sound Of Music, Piaf) as Pamela/Natasha.  Nicola Sloane, who also appeared in My Fair Lady and Me & My Girl, completes the cast, in the role of Sybil Sullivan.

1947. London. Mrs Harris spends every day cheerfully cleaning for her clients. She wants for nothing. Or so she thinks… One day, she happens upon something that takes her breath away – a Christian Dior dress. And something deep within her awakens.

She sets out on an unthinkable quest to have a Dior dress of her own. On her incredible journey, Mrs Harris realises that she can finally let go of her past.

This is the story of one woman’s dream of achieving the impossible. This is the story of the extraordinary Mrs Harris.

Tickets for Flowers For Mrs Harris can be purchased from Sheffield Theatres’ Box Office in-person, by phone on 0114 249 6000 or online at sheffieldtheatres.co.uk and are priced from £17.00 (concessions available).  A transaction fee of £1.50 (£1.00 online) applies to all bookings made at the Box Office (excluding cash).

Write Stuff at Live Theatre Fri 4 March

Teenagers from The Northumberland Church of England Academy, Ashington have the Write Stuff


Six young writers aged 13 and 14 years old from The Northumberland Church of England Academy in Ashington, will have plays that they have written performed at Live Theatre on Friday 4 March.

The plays are part of Write Stuff, an eight week programme of practical drama and writing workshops between Live Theatre and The Northumberland Church of England Academy, which gives young teen voices a platform through theatre. This is the first time that Live Theatre has run its innovative play writing project with a school in Northumberland.


Twenty young people from the school were initially involved in the workshops that developed characters, setting, genre and improvisation.  Six of those that pitched their idea were then chosen and then supported by professional dramaturgs over a weekend residency to produce their short plays that will be performed for the very first time as script-in-hand readings by professional actors in Live’s Studio Theatre.

The plays are Casting Out by Tamzin-Mae Butler, Flight Path by Emily Robson, The Trial by Ben Stoughton, I’ll always be with you by Lauren Ballentine, Mystery and Memories by Bethany James and The End by Jack Calender.  The plays cover themes of loss and memory with post-apocalyptic survival, plane-crashing, fly fishing and alternative gaming dimensions.

Write Stuff features actors, many of whom are well known to theatre audiences in the north east, having starred in productions at Live Theatre and other theatres in the region: Dean Bone (Rendezvous & Nativities), Sam Neale (Present Tense & Nativities), Sam Bell (Cyrano De Bergerac, Northern Stage & former Youth Theatre member), Sarah Boulter (The Cinder Path at The Customs House), Judi Earl (Turning Pages), Chris Connell (The Pitman Painters, Wet House), Kylie Ford (Cyrano De Bergerac,Northern Stage), Zoe Hakin (Letters Home), Ruth Johnson (The Wind in the Willows, Northern Stage) and Michael Blair (Rendezvous).

Resident Drama Worker, Jonluke McKie at Live Theatre said:

 “It’s been amazing to see the varied and insightful ideas of these young writers, grappling with really mature themes with brilliant humour and energy. Live Theatre is committed to nurturing new talent in the region and we’ve been delighted to work with The Northumberland Church of England Academy on such an in-depth project.”

Graeme Waterston, Head of Drama at Northumberland Church of England Academy, added:

The Write Stuff project has provided students with a once in a lifetime opportunity. We have witnessed first-hand the development in student confidence and creativity. An altogether inspirational experience for all involved”. 


Write Stuff, is at Live Theatre, Newcastle on Friday 4 March at 7.30pm.  Tickets which cost £8 and £6 concessions are available from Live Theatre’s box office on (0191) 232 1232 or online at www.live.org.uk


Casting Announced for First National Tour of INVINCIBLE IA

LtoR Clockwise Alastair Whatley, Emily Bowker, Graeme Brookes, Kerry BennettFULL CAST ANNOUNCED FOR




Casting has been announced for the first ever national tour of Torben Betts’s INVINCIBLE, directed by Christopher Harper. The full cast includes Alastair Whatley as Oliver,

Emily Bowker as Emily, Graeme Brookes as Alan and Kerry Bennett as Dawn. The tour will begin at the Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds on 30 March.

Alastair Whatley most recently played Teddy Graham in the 2015 UK tour of Flare Path and Evans in the UK tour of Birdsong (Birdsong Productions/ Original Theatre Company). Other recent theatre roles include Jerome in Three Men in a Boat and The Reverend Lionel Toop inSee How They Run (both for Original Theatre Company), and the title role in Henry V (South Hill Park). Alastair is also the Artistic Director of the Original Theatre Company.

Emily Bowker is currently appearing at Salisbury Playhouse in Up Down Man, the sequel to the internationally acclaimed Up Down Boy by Brendan Murray (A Myrtle Theatre Company/Salisbury Playhouse). Emily’s recent roles include Isabelle Azaire in the 2015 UK tour ofBirdsong (Birdsong Productions/ Original Theatre Company), A Bunch of Amateurs (The Watermill), What the Women Did (Two’s Company/Southwark Playhouse) and London Wall (Two’s Company/Finborough and St James Theatres).

Graeme Brookes most recently appeared in The Tempest (Teatr Modrzejewskiej/Colchester Mercury), A View from a BridgeThe Rivals; A Slight Ache/The Lover, King David – Man of Blood (Colchester Mercury Theatre), Transmissions (Birmingham Rep), Tanika’s Journey (Frantic Assembly/Deafinitely Theatre) and The Police (Battersea Arts Centre).

Kerry Bennett recently finished playing Jess Cranham in the BBC One drama Casualty. Kerry’s theatre work includes Celia and Cora in Calendar Girls (National Tour), Cassandra in One for All (Finborough Theatre) and Natalie in The Queen is Dead (The Lowry).

With the recession biting hard, Emily and Oliver have decided to downsize and shift their middle-class London lifestyle to a small town in the north of England. One night, they open their doors to their next door neighbours, Dawn and Alan. Over the course of a disastrous evening of olives, anchovies, Karl Marx and abstract art, class and culture collide, resulting in consequences that are both tragic and hilarious.

INVINCIBLE had its world premiere at the Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond in 2014 and transferred later that same year to St James Theatre, London. It received great critical acclaim.

Torben Betts was born in Lincolnshire and studied at Liverpool University. He became the resident dramatist at Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph Theatre in 1999. Poet and dramatist Liz Lochhead said Betts “is just about the most original and extraordinary writer of drama we have.” His play The Unconquered won Best New Play 2006/07 at the Critics’ Awards for Theatre in Scotland. 2015 saw a revival of his acclaimed 2012 play Muswell Hill at London’s Park Theatre, his latest work, What Falls Apart, opened at Newcastle’s Live Theatre, and his version of Chekhov’s The Seagull was staged at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre. He has adapted Get Carter for Northern Stage in Newcastle, which opened in February this year, before embarking on a major national tour.

Director Christopher Harper is an Associate of the Original Theatre Company and directed their 2011 production of See How They Run. As an actor, he recently finished playing Benedick on a world tour of Much Ado About Nothing for the Globe, and starred as Victoria Wood’s son, Cliff Last, in the television film Housewife 49.

INVINCIBLE will be designed by Victoria Spearing, with sound by Dominic Bilkey. The national tour is produced by Tom Hackney for The Original Theatre Company and Adrian Grady for Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds.

Website: www.originaltheatre.com / www.theatreroyal.org

Facebook: TheOriginalTheatre 

Twitter: @OriginalTheatre @TheatreRoyalBSE



30 March – 2 April                     Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds                                             

                                                www.theatreroyal.org                                         01284 769505

5 – 9 April                                 Yvonne Arnaud, Guildford                              

                                                www.yvonne-arnaud.co.uk                                 01483 440000

12 – 14 April                              Hull Truck Theatre

                                                www.hulltruck.co.uk                                           01482 323638

19 – 23 April                              New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich              

                                                www.wolseytheatre.co.uk                                   01473 295900

26 – 27 April                              South Hill Park, Bracknell

                                                www.southhillpark.org.uk                                   01344 484 123

28 – 30 April                              Mercury Theatre, Colchester                            

                                                www.mercurytheatre.co.uk                                 01206 573948

2 – 4 May                                  Gala Theatre, Durham

                                                www.galadurham.co.uk                                      03000 266600

6 – 7 May                                  Stamford Arts Centre

                                                www.stamfordartscentre.com                             01780 763203

10 – 14 May                              Devonshire Park Theatre, Eastbourne

                                                www.eastbournetheatres.co.uk                           01323 412000   

17 – 21 May                              Birmingham Repertory Theatre                      

                                                www.birmingham-rep.co.uk                                0121 236 4455 

23 – 24 May                              Theatre Royal Winchester                                

                                                www.theatreroyalwinchester.co.uk                      01962 840440

26 – 28 May                              Key Theatre, Peterborough

                                                www.vivacity-peterborough.com                         01733 207239

7 – 11 June                               Exeter Northcott Theatre                                  

                                                www.exeternorthcott.co.uk                                 01392 726 363

14 – 18 June                             Festival Theatre, Malvern                                            

                                                www.malvern-theatres.co.uk                               01684 892277

Darlington Civic Theatre – Local choir to join Russell Watson on stage


A North East choir will join Russell Watson on stage as he brings his new show – Songs From The Heart, to Darlington Civic Theatre on Friday 6 May.

Russell Watson’s career to date has seen some incredible achievements; his debut album ‘The Voice’ held simultaneous number one slots in the US and UK (a world first), spending a record breaking 52 weeks at number one in the UK. Russell has sold in excess of 7 million albums and won 4 Classical BRITS.

His current ‘Songs From The Heart’ UK tour features a stunning collection of well-loved songs, plus an exclusive preview of selected tracks from his forthcoming studio album.

Russell has always been a strong supporter of community choirs, especially after his time as a judge on the BBC prime time show ‘Last Choir Standing’. Russell enjoyed being part of the show immensely and as a result, last year’s Up Close & Personal tour featured local community choirs at each show. Following the success of the choirs last year, Russell is once again inviting local choirs to join him on stage.

Russell said “Last year’s choirs brought an added energy to the show, something you can only achieve when a range of voices come together as one, and I’m delighted to have the opportunity to perform with local choirs once again this year.”

When Russell comes to Darlington Civic Theatre he will be joined by the Darlington based Vocal Soul Community Choir which is directed by Steve McGarvie.

Steve said “Vocal Soul Community Choir is thrilled to be given the opportunity to perform alongside one of the country’s best-loved entertainers. Rehearsals are going very well; it’s a nice challenge to sing pieces that are not part of our normal repertoire, in fact in a style and languages which we don’t usually perform at all! The choir are rising to the occasion and will do singers right across Darlington proud.”

Russell Watson – Songs From The Heart is at Darlington Civic Theatre on Friday 6 May. Tickets* are priced £33.50 to £45.

*All prices include a £1 restoration levy

To book contact the Box Office on 01325 486 555 or visit www.darlingtoncivic.co.uk

Regan De Wynter Williams productions present HMS Pinafore

Award-winning Regan De Wynter Williams

Productions are proud to present the UK Tour of

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Or The Lass That Loved a Sailor

By W.S. Gilbert & Arthur Sullivan


H.M.S. PINAFORE at the OffWestEnd Awards

          The award-winning company that gave you all-male productions of ‘The Pirates of Penzance’, ‘Iolanthe’ & ‘Patience’ is proud to present Gilbert & Sullivan’s fourth collaboration and first blockbuster: “H.M.S. Pinafore”, or “The Lass That Loved a Sailor”

Set in the hold of a WW11 ship, the setting allows the cast of 16 to switch between burly sailors, in the working underbelly of the vessel, to lady visitors. A playful, innovative and heartfelt production.

A simple set with a beautiful costume design by Ryan Dawson Laight have allowed maximum scope for inventive playing by the cast, whereby physicality and voice is key to telling the story.

One of the most popular G&S operas, dealing with the age old conundrum of love between social classes, Pinafore has infectious tunes and a beautifully constructed libretto, a perfect match for this creative teams inimitable style.

Hysterically funny and highly effective. G&S’s score is irresistibly delightful and utterly timeless. Performed with joy and enthusiasm.  It is so rare to see such a timeless production staged with such love and care.                                    * * * * WestEnd Frame


A joy from Start to Finish.    * * * * Public Reviews


Tickets: From £13.50

Box Office: 0844 8713024

Online Booking: www.atgtickets.com/york


UK Tour 2016

Cambridge Arts Theatre:          20th – 23

London Hackney Empire:         27th – 1st May

York Grand Opera House:       3rd – 7th May

Winchester Theatre Royal:      12th – 14th May

Beverley East Riding Theatre: 23rd – 25th May

Bridlington Spa Theatre:           26th – 28th May

Bath Theatre Royal:                    31st – 4th June

London Richmond Theatre:    14th – 18th June

Brighton Theatre Royal :           21st – 25th June

Truro Hall for Cornwall:           30th – 2nd July

Malvern Malvern Theatres:     5th – 9th July

Bromley Churchill Theatre:     11th – 13th July

Salford The Lowry:                      14th – 16th July

Shrewsbury Severn Theatre:   18th – 20th July

Leicester Curve:                             21st– 23rd July

Dynamic choreography… excellent…priceless. An extraordinary adventure.

* * * * Sam Smith of music OMH

Following the phenomenon which was Matthew Bourne’s all-male Swan Lake, another thrilling all-male version of a much-loved classic… Sasha Regan returns with one of the most popular G&S operas, following her hugely successful

award-winning all-male production The Pirates of Penzance at Cate Blanchett’s Sydney Theatre and  UK Tour

Directed by Sasha Regan

Theatre directing credits include; ‘We’re all doing Time’ (CRITICS CHOICE), ‘Chelinot’ (SUNDAY TIMES CRITICS CHOICE), Kander & Ebb’s ‘Cabaret’, ‘Sweeney Todd’ (CRITICS CHOICE) and ‘Pirates of Penzance’ (WINNER OF THE WHAT’SONSTAGE, BEST OFF WEST END PRODUCTION, 2010). After performing at The Prince of Wales Theatre for the What’sonStage.com Awards, ‘Pirates’ then transferred to the beautiful Wilton’s Music Hall and then moved to The Rose Theatre in Kingston.  ‘Pirates’ has just completed a Number One tour of Australia, including a month’s run at The Sydney Theatre.

Sasha also worked with Chris O’Dowd at The British Independent Film Awards.

Other directing credits include ‘Iolanthe’ (CRITICS CHOICE & TIME OUT’s top 10 musicals of 2010). ‘Iolanthe’ transferred to Wilton’s Music Hall where the cast enjoyed a sold-out run and broke all Wilton’s box office records from the previous 12 years. ‘Patience’ (CRITICS CHOICE).  Most recently Sasha directed the European Premiere of ‘Pipe Dream’, the musical has been nominated for both Best Production and Best Direction in the Broadway World Awards this year.

Choreographed by Lizzi Gee


Recent Credits include: Film: ‘Pride’ (Pathe dir. Matthew Warchus).

Theatre: The Winter’s Tale (RSC/ UK Tour 2013),Goodnight Mr. Tom (Phoenix Theatre / chichester /UK Tour), ‘Pipe Dream’ (Union), ‘Rocket to the Moon’ (National Theatre), ‘Love Story’ (Duchess Theatre), ‘Onassis’ (Novello Theatre), ‘Buddy’ (UK Tour), ‘Vernon God Little’ (Young Vic), All Male Pirates of Penzance – Union Theatre/Wilton’s Music Hall, and Kingston Rose, Australia 2012, (Winner of Best off West End Production Whatsonstage awards)

Designed by Ryan Dawson-Laight

Ryan is a designer for performance. His credits include set and costume design for ‘HMS Pinafore’ (Union Theatre) set and costume design for ’BLACK’ (Unity Theatre),  ‘Henry V’ (Oxford Castle), ‘Chess’ (Union Theatre), ‘IN DRAG’ (Purcell Rooms/Southbank Centre), ‘Good Morning Midnight’ (Jermyn street Theatre), set design for Le Gateau Chocolat (Menier Chocolate Factory).  Artistic Director for ‘Starting Line’, a large scale performance piece that celebrated the arrival of the torch as part of the Paralympic Games. He is currently working with Drew McOnie and his company The McOnie Group on a brand new piece called ‘Drunk’, which premieres at the Leicester Curve before making its way to the Bridewell Theatre.

Director Sasha Regan

Choreographer Lizzi Gee

Designer Ryan Dawson-Laight

Musical Director Richard Bates

Lighting design Tim Deiling

Producer Regan De Wynter Williams Ltd

Casting Adam Braham Casting


CAST To be confirmed


If you are lucky enough a show comes along that is so inventive and brilliant it takes your breath away.  Sussex Express

You can’t not enjoy it.     British Theatre Guide





Doctor Faustus announces three-week extension and full casting


Doctor Faustus poster image no details

Doctor Faustus announces three-week extension and full casting

  • The Jamie Lloyd Company’s production of Doctor Faustus will extend its run at the Duke of York’s Theatre by three weeks, until 25th June

  • Jenna Russell to play the role of Mephistopheles

  • Further casting: Jade Anouka, Tom Edden, Danielle Flett, Brian Gilligan, Forbes Masson, Craig Stein and Gabby Wong

  • As previously announced, Kit Harington (Game of Thrones) plays the title role in Colin Teevan’s version of Christopher Marlowe’s masterpiece

  • Press previews from 21st April 2016 with Gala Night 25th April 2016

Due to unprecedented demand, a 3 week extension is announced today for The Jamie Lloyd Company’s production of Doctor Faustus. Full casting has also been announced with Jenna Russell taking the role of Mephistopheles. Jade Anouka (Wagner), Tom Edden (Good Angel), Danielle Flett (Valdes), Brian Gilligan (Cornelius), Forbes Masson (Lucifer), Craig Stein (Evil Angel) and ensemble member Gabby Wong join Kit Harington.

This anarchic production of Doctor Faustus will run at the Duke of York’s Theatre, London, from 9th April 2016. Directed by Jamie Lloyd, Christopher Marlowe’s masterwork, with two acts written by Colin Teevan, is now booking until Saturday 25th June.

With Teevan’s darkly comic scenes replacing the extant middle acts (widely believed not to have been written by Marlowe), the story of this 400-year-old play will be transported to a celebrity-obsessed society of greed and instant gratification, offering a fresh perspective that chimes with our times.

Faustus makes a pact with the Devil, selling his soul in return for the ability to perform anything he pleases with the power of black magic. This fatal decision catapults him into an intoxicating world of celebrity, as he becomes a world-renowned conjuror, international heartthrob and friend of the rich, famous and powerful. But what is the cost of his insatiable thirst for wealth and fame?

The production will be designed by Soutra Gilmour, with lighting by Jon Clark, and music and sound by Ben and Max Ringham.  Movement direction is by Polly Bennett, with fights by Kate Waters.

As with The Jamie Lloyd Company’s previous productions, all tickets for Monday performances will be £15. Some of these will be made available through a special outreach scheme, targeted at schools and first-time theatregoers. The remainder will be released monthly to the public each month, and will be available online or at the Duke of York’s box office.

Jade Anouka makes her West End debut in Doctor Faustus having previously won The Stage Award for Acting Excellence for her performance in Chef (Edinburgh Fringe).  Jade has received Ian Charleson Award Commendations for Hamlet at Shakespeare’s Globe andJulius Caesar at the Donmar Warehouse and New York. Other theatre includes; Hotspur inHenry IV (Donmar Warehouse and St Ann’s Warehouse), So Here We Are (Manchester Royal Exchange), The Vote (Donmar Warehouse/Channel 4) and Moon on a Rainbow Shawl(National Theatre). On screen, Anouka’s credits include Doctor Who, Sky’s Lucky Man and Mike Leigh’s A Running Jump.

Tom Edden - Headshot.jpgTom Edden originated the role of Alfie in One Man Two Guvnors (National Theatre, West End, Broadway) for which he was awarded a Drama Desk Award and was nominated for awards at the Critic’s Circle and Tony Awards. Further theatre credits include Measure for Measure (Young Vic), Peter Pan Goes Wrong (Apollo Theatre), Oliver! (Sheffield Crucible) and Les Misérables (Queen’s Theatre). Film and television appearances include Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, Mr Turner, Cinderella and Upstart Crow.

Danielle Flett - Headshot.docx.jpegSince graduating from Rose Bruford College, Danielle Flett has appeared on stage inHatched ‘n’ Dispatched (Park Theatre), Noises Off (Old Vic, UK Tour), Vera, Vera, Vera(Royal Court Theatre and Theatre Local Peckham).  Flett has been seen on screen inSilent Witness, Top Boy and Lewis.

Brian Gilligan recently starred as Deco in TheBrian Gilligan.jpg Commitments (Palace Theatre).  Further credits include Fiddler on the Roof (Jim Molloy Productions), Songs for a New World(Mermaid Arts Centre), The Wizard of Oz (Helix DCU), The Pirates of Penzance (Festival Productions) and La Bohème (Lyric Opera).

Forbes Masson - Headshot.JPGDr Faustus marks Forbes Masson’s fourth production with The Jamie Lloyd Company. Hehas an extensive stage career including roles in Mr Foote’s Other Leg (Theatre Royal Haymarket and Hampstead Theatre), The Ruling Class, Richard III and Macbeth (all Trafalgar Studios), As You Like It (RSC Residency in New York).  Recent on screen roles include Catastrophe, Shetland and Doctors.

Jenna Russell Jenna Russell - Headshot.jpgrecently appeared in Grey Gardens at the Southwark Playhouse.  Her acclaimed theatre career includes multiple credits with the Almeida theatre including The Odyssey, The Iliad and Mr Burns as well as Di Viv and Rose (Vaudeville), Urinetown (St James and Apollo), Merrily We Roll Along (Menier Chocolate Factory and Harold Pinter) and Soho Cinders (Soho Theatre). TV appearances include Call the Midwife, The Paradise,Holby City and Minder. 

Craig Stein - Headshot.JPGCraig Stein has appeared in Carousel, Nation and FELA! (all National Theatre), Wig Out(Royal Court), Wicked (original London cast), Ghost the Musical (Piccadilly Theatre) andRent (Duke of York’s).

Gabby Wong’s theatre credits include Volpone,Gabby Wong - Headshot.jpg Love’s Sacrifice, Jew of Malta (RSC),Compliance (NT Studio), Shangri-La (Finborough), Beat My Time Machine Skipped (Soho Theatre) and Takeaway (Theatre Royal Stratford East).

Hello Norma Jeane Review  

Park Theatre  23 February – 19 March.  Reviewed by Claire Roderick

Truth or fantasy?

Lynnie is holed up in a cheap Hollywood motel after running away from her Essex nursing home. When her gay grandson Joe arrives to take her home, she reveals her secret. Lynnie is, in fact, Marilyn Monroe. She faked her death and fled to Essex, but now, in 2003, the world needs her again. Lynnie sets Joe on a quest to find 4 proofs of her story, hidden around Hollywood, before she reveals herself to the public. Joe’s responses sway back and forth from disbelief to complete faith in Lynnie’s story, and the audience is kept guessing too. Joe’s imaginary friend – the young Marilyn – is along for the ride, voicing everyone’s doubts and disbelief, while Joe begins to imagine a new life of privilege as Marilyn Monroe’s grandson.

Dylan Costello has written a beautifully emotional play, with every character, real and imaginary, yearning to be loved for who they are . Trying to sort fact from fiction in a town built on fantasies, reinventions and fickle fame gives all the plot twists and machinations an extra dimension, and the melodrama mixes coherently with lots of fantastic funny lines and ludicrous situations, making for a satisfying and heartwarming whole.

Vicki Michelle is in fine form as Lynnie. Despite a few stumbles over lines, she gives a wonderfully measured performance, full of spark and humour, but tinged with regret and hints of dementia. Jamie Hutchins gives a charmingly physical performance as Joe, portraying the frustration of dealing with a dotty old lady, and his moments of despair brilliantly. It is hard to play an icon, so Farrel Hegarty wisely avoids an impersonation, instead giving Marilyn a breathlessly nagging and sarcastic edge, which is perfect for Joe’s mindset. Her American TV host is a triumph, all the fake sincerity in glances to camera and dramatic pauses. Peter McPherson as Bobby manages to strip away the layers of bravado as his scenes progress, finally showing us the lost soul underneath with a gentleness that is in stark contrast to his early histrionics. He also takes his shirt off. Which is nice.

One character admits that “Pretending to be someone else is quite addictive.”

And so is watching performances and writing of this quality and soul

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Review

Theatre Royal Drury Lane, London – 20 February 2016

Sam Mendes’ production of the musical adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is magically beautiful, a good old-fashioned Broadway musical, with a score and lyrics from tried and true Broadway collaborators: Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman.

Most of the first half is taken up with the story of Charlie’s impoverished family, relieved by inserts of a garish TV spectacle showing the winners of the golden tickets.   You really feel for Charlie as he yearns for both chocolate and the golden ticket that will grant him entrance to Willy Wonka’s mysterious factory – and bravely bears the disappointment when it looks as though he never will.  What’s more, the scene in which he writes a letter to Wonka, makes it into a paper dart and throws it out across the audience so that it flies up into the gods is somehow more exciting and affecting than any of the more spectacular tricks that follow.  The four children who get to accompany Charlie on the tour are: the greedy Augustus Gloop  who is Bavarian, the spoilt Veruca Salt defiantly English, the gum-chewing Violet Beauregarde Californian and the computer game-obsessed Mike Teavee a product of American suburbia.

The second half is little more than a sequence of “get the brats” as Charlie’s unpleasant companions on the guided tour all meet sticky ends in the sweet factory.  Pretty much all the sets are a scrumptious treat – from a nut-sorting room populated by squirrels to the inventing room complete with emotionally unstable robots. The sets are brought to life by the army of little Oompa-Loompas, whose numbers, choreographed with natty innovation by Peter Darling, are hilariously kooky.  The various calamities are staged with panache, and the special effects involving killer squirrels and the Oompa-Loompas are highly ingenious.

Jonathan Slinger is a splendidly charismatic and disconcerting Willy Wonka, brilliantly combining jokes with a twitchy hint of the psycho, and the child performers are superb.  Slinger, despite his more edgy idiosyncrasies, does bring a real sense of humanity to the character. He’s a man clearly moved by Charlie’s politeness, thoughtfulness and caring, which makes the final bond between the two a little more believable

The biggest star of the show remains designer Mark Thompson’s startling, imaginative sets, that conjure the right Dickensian gloom for the black-and-white scenes set in the eponymous hero’s impoverished home life — where dad is unemployed, the elderly family relatives share beds and electricity to power the television is generated by cycling really hard on a stationary bicycle — but then spring into vivid 3D colour for the scenes set in the factory.

This scrumdiddlyumptious production is perfect for children and adults alike, a completely fabulous sugar coated nostalgia fest.  Go and see it now before it closes

Sunny Afternoon Review

Harold Pinter Theatre, London – 19 February 2016

Joe Penhall’s Olivier Award winning musical tells the story of how Ray and Dave Davies, ordinary lads from Muswell Hill, came to form one of the defining bands of the Sixties. And it does more than chart the Kinks’ early highs and lows using the best of their back-catalogue.

Even at their chirpiest, the songs contain an undertow of melancholic solitude. But Penhall also shows how the most delicate on-stage harmonies were accompanied by deep personal disharmonies, with Ray constantly at war with his madcap brother, Dave, or the band engaged in battles with exploitative middle-men or American unions

Danny Horn is exceptionally good in the central role of Ray Davies. His singing voice is beautiful. Making us buy the idea of Davies as an unusual, brooding creator, the off-beat, stammering Muswell Hill lad who found he was best able to express himself on a guitar.

Oliver Hoare is suitably manic as Ray’s brother and band mate Dave. Tom Whitelock plays shy bass guitarist Pete, and Damien Walsh is fabulous drummer Mick. A live band at the back of the stage helps the cast perform the songs.

Although the story isn’t massively substantial, there are some emotional moments, particularly towards the end when things really start to unravel for the front man Ray Davies. There is also a neat political subtext, as their Tory managers have to face up to the fact that heartthrobs like The Kinks are starting to become the true aristocracy.

The play works hard to set the scene, referencing other contemporary bands, although some of the jokes are a bit too knowing at times (of the ‘there’s a little band called The Who, you won’t have heard of them” ilk). The script is at its best when it is rife with tension; the turbulent end to the first half is gripping and matches the intensity of some of the high tempo rock and roll on display.

The Kinks’ records are fantastically showcased, and Penhall’s book is seamlessly smooth and sprinkled with wit. Each number finds its moment, with the biggest hits evenly spaced. “Sunny Afternoon” celebrates that euphoric summer of ’66 with a ticker tape drop to mark England’s World Cup win. “Days” becomes a gorgeous acapella nostalgia trip, and “Waterloo Sunset” is artfully de-constructed to reveal its workings as the band re-find their rhythm. Five or six songs with guttural guitar riffs rip through the theatre to thrilling effect.

Directed by Edward Hall, the show is nippy, colourful and euphoric.  The set has been designed with a long ramp running out into the stalls, enabling the action to flow constantly into the audience and back onto the stage. The scene can switch fluently from lounge or studio to hotel room or the interior of an aircraft, with dancing girls, screaming fans or a TV studio full of technicians available at the snap of a finger. The musical performances sizzle with gig-like energy.  It helps that all the cast members actually play their own instruments and even are at the back of the stage playing during scenes they aren’t involved in. It gives that rare feeling that you’re actually seeing a live band in a musical

Sunny Afternoon has to the noisiest, wildest, most fun musical in London’s West End at the moment.  Totally deserving of its awards.  Full of life – buy your ticket today

Citizen Khan at Leeds Grand Theatre

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Starring Adil Ray


Following four hugely successful BBC series Adil Ray is bringing the much-loved, self-appointed Community Leader, Mr Khan, to the stage.  His new show Citizen Khan: Everybody Knows Me is at Leeds Grand Theatre on Thursday April 28th.

Mr Khan, created and performed by Adil Ray, is a larger than life character with strong opinions and big dreams who is facing the challenge of how to make ends meet and keep his family happy.  Things would be much easier if everyone just listened to him and followed his lead; now he is hoping they finally will.

Citizen Khan is currently the most watched comedy show on British television and has been bestowed four awards by the Royal Television Society including ‘Best Performance in a Comedy’ awarded to Adil Ray for two years running.  Its success has been attributed to its family audience and its popularity with younger viewers over alternative comedies on TV.


On announcing his first ever solo live stage show, Mr Khan, Community Leader, said:

Asalaam Alaikum and ‘hello how do you do’ to all you non-Muslim peoples. Mr Khan, Community Leader, speaking. I’m very pleased to be able to get the chance to meet you all in my busy schedule. I will be informing you all on how to deal with all areas of British life; family, fashion, food, school, and of course being a good Muslim. Oh Twaddi! This is a family show so bring everybodies but please, if you are Indian (or ginger) you must sit at the back and don’t drink too much!


“This is a very special moment in the British calendar just like Justin Biebers & One Direction. As a Muslim we love to follow One Direction – towards Mecca. I look forward to answering any questions on the night too and if you’re lucky I’ll have a photo taken with you unless you’re from the tax office or immigration then you can stay at home.

Citizen Khan: Everybody Knows Me is at Leeds Grand Theatre on Thursday 28th April

Tickets go on sale on Monday 29th February at 10am

(on sale to members on Friday 26th February)

Book online at leedsgrandtheatre.com or call Box Office on 0844 848 2700