Acorn Review

The Courtyard Theatre 4 – 29 October.  Reviewed by Claire Roderick

The myths of Persephone and Eurydice are re-imagined in Maud Dromgoole’s new play, Acorn.

My knowledge of Greek myths generally extends to watching Clash of the Titans and Troy, but my friends told me to expect something about fruit and a snake. Thankfully Dromgoole has written characters that are thoroughly modern and recognisable, and the mythical element is a subtle background. Confidently directed by Tatty Hennessy, Acorn is full of humour, both acerbic and sweet, and it will definitely make you think twice about the stories you tell your daughters.

Persephone is a junior doctor, exhausted, abrasive and lonely. She has strict rules about her interactions with patients and has set scripts and voice tones to use when speaking to the sick, who generally annoy her – although she quite enjoys palliative care, understanding the dying better than the rest of humanity. Deli Segal, in NHS scrubs and bearing her clipboard like armour is fantastically spiky as Persephone, making the most of the almost Asperger like comments about other people and their strange emotions, and ensuring that her underlying vulnerability is never forgotten.

Eurydice is preparing for her wedding – an informal occasion in the woods, with no interference from her parents. Her relationship with her parents is strained, and she appears naive and almost childlike, equating her life story with that of Snow White, and chasing her happy ever after. Lucy Pickles, in Grecian style wedding dress, has the showier role, portraying a child, teenager and adult with equal conviction and credibility, and a wonderfully natural and expressive performance.

The characters tell their stories through monologues, interspersed with consultations where Eurydice portrays Persephone’s patients – all frustrating the doctor with their idiosyncrasies, but all providing strands to enhance the women’s stories: The River Lethe, the wicked stepmother’s mirror…

The shared monologues, delivered with impeccable timing and chemistry, are brilliantly written and very, very funny. The biggest laugh out loud moments are the places where you really shouldn’t be laughing – the death of Persephone’s mother, and Eurydice being bitten by a venomous snake. A third story is told through audio, with Trevor Fox giving Luke MacGregor his words of wisdom about becoming a woodcutter. This strand seems incongruous at first, but as the play progresses and it becomes clear what is going on, its inclusion adds a devastating emotional impact to the final moments of the play. Dromgoole brings the stories together cleverly creating a tender but shocking ending. These aren’t wispy Greek nymphs, these are smart, funny, well-crafted characters that you actually care about, even in the play’s short running time.

The design is simple and effective, focussing the attention on the actors, and the projected images of Snow White, Disney, musicals and children’s TV while Eurydice dances is a lovely touch, showing that her expectation of finding, and being saved by, her own Prince Charming is perfectly understandable when you think about the media messages bombarding young girls today.

My only quibble is that Acorn isn’t long enough – I could have spent hours in the company of such beguiling characters and enchanting storytelling.

Inside Rehearsals for the 20th Anniversary Production of RENT

xrentrehearsalw300h200-jpg-pagespeed-ic-9peuidpcwyRENT stars Lucie Jones (The X Factor finalist, Elle Woods in Legally Blonde at Curve and Cosette in the West End production of Les Misérables), Layton Williams (Billy in Billy Elliot and original Young Michael Jackson in Thriller Live in the West End, Simon in UK Tour of Matthew Bourne’s Lord of the Flies, Stephen in BBC’s Bad Education and the 2015 feature film of the same name), Ross Hunter (We Will Rock You, Legally Blonde, Drew in Rock of Ages and The Book of Mormon in the West End), Billy Cullum 350x234xrentrehearsal3-jpg-pagespeed-ic-om0qeqtatx(Matilda, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in the West End and Jesus Christ Superstar at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre), Philippa Stefani (Daniela in In The Heights at King’s Cross Theatre, I Can’t Sing! and Wicked (Original cast) in the West End) Ryan O’Gorman (Les Miserables and Billy Elliot in the West End) and Javar La’trail Parker (Showboat at the New London Theatre).

350x234xrentrehearsal4-jpg-pagespeed-ic-hyzr-gfcfbRENT is directed by Bruce Guthrie with Choreography by Lee Proud, Set Design by Olivier Award-winner Anna Fleischle and Musical Direction by Phil Cornwell.
RENT is produced by Robert Mackintosh and Idili Theatricals Limited, in assoc350x234xrentrehearsal9-jpg-pagespeed-ic-swuhdvdln0iation with Theatr Clwyd.

Autumn Season at The Grand


At the end of this month Leeds Grand Theatre begins its Autumn/Winter Season welcoming a host of music, drama, dance and comedy that will take us right up to Christmas.

With goth-tastic timing, The Rocky Horror Show kicks off the season on Halloween! A favourite with the Leeds audience young and old – it has been touring for over 40 years and shows no signs of slowing down – there are few shows where audiences dress up and join in on the scale of Rocky Horror; expect fishnets stockings, basques, red lips, great music and a high energy show as innocent sweethearts Brad and Janet stumble across Frank N Furter and his gang of strange yet sexy characters. Starring Coronation Street’sCharlie Condou as The Narrator and S Club 7 star Paul Cattermole as Eddie/Dr Scott.

Jason Donovan, who coincidentally played Frank N Furter at Leeds Grand many years ago, returns with a very different role in Million Dollar Quartet opening on Monday 7th November.

Million Dollar Quartet is based on the true story of the one-off, impromptu jamming session starring Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis that took place at the famous Sun Studios in 1956. Donovan takes the non-singing role of the legendary record producer, and owner of Sun Studios, Sam Phillips who is credited with not only making each of the young men famous but also getting the four stars together for the only time.  As Philips he narrates the story supported by outstanding performances from ‘Jerry’, ‘Elvis’, ‘Johnny’ and ‘Carl’.

Girls Aloud star Sarah Harding and Hollyoaks actor Andy Moss come together to recreate the famous pottery scene in a new production of Ghost The Musical; a love story featuring murder, deception, a ghost and a wonderfully over-the-top psychic  the production has music by Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart and a script by the original film’s writer Bruce Joel Rubin.

Starring Eastenders’ Jesse Wallace and John Partridge with Emmerdale’s Hayley Tamaddon, Chicago isbased on real life events back in the roaring 1920s. Nightclub singer Roxie Hart (Tamaddon) shoots her lover and along with cell block rival, double-murderess Velma Kelly, they fight to keep from death row with the help of smooth talking lawyer, Billy Flynn (Partridge) and overseen in prison by the corrupt matron ‘Mama’ Thornton (Wallace).

In 1997 a British film about six out-of-work Sheffield steelworkers with nothing to lose took the world by storm becoming one of the most successful British films ever made; the story of The Full Monty still resonates today.  This stage production stars Leeds own actor, Horsforth boy Anthony Lewis (Emmerdale),Gary Lucy (Footballers Wives),  Andrew Dunn (Dinnerladies), Louis Emerick (Brookside), Chris Fountain(Hollyoaks, Coronation Street) and Kai Owen (Torchwood).

Bringing the party atmosphere to Leeds in time for the festive season The Commitments brings soul to The Grand on its first time out of London.

This is the story of Jimmy Rabbitte, a young working class music fan, who shapes an unlikely bunch of amateur musicians and friends into an amazing live act – the finest soul band Dublin has ever produced.  Based on the film of the same name The Commitments is full of humour, soul and fantastic music.  StarringCoronation Street’s Kevin Kennedy (Curly Watts) and cast from the original West End production includingBrian Gilligan, reprising his starring role of Deco, and Andrew Linnie as Jimmy Rabbitte.


Radio 2’s Musical Theatre mogul Elaine Paige presents a ‘stripped down’ gig on Sunday 11th December and on Monday 12th Rock Legend, Queen guitarist, Brian May teams up with another Musical Theatre starKerry Ellis in for an evening of acoustic music in The Candlelit Christmas Concert.


The Grand’s resident company Northern Ballet take their usual Christmas spot at the theatre and this year present Beauty & the Beast bringing the classic fairy tale to life inin a kaleidoscope of colour and set to a score played live by Northern Ballet Sinfonia.

Dr Evadne Hinge returns in The Dowager’s Oyster this November

November 22nd – November 26th 2016, The So & So Arts Club

Ageing spinster Dr Evadne Hinge makes her operatic comeback this Autumn in comic opera The Dowager’s Oyster at the So & So Arts Club. Best known for performing with her cabaret partner Dame Hilda Bracket (now deceased), Dr Hinge is dusting off the old tiara and giving it one last whirl in Louis Mander’s rip-roaring Carry-On of a “kiss-me-quick whodunit” comic opera, which had a first outing at the Arcola Theatre earlier this year.

Cynthia and her aged mother, the Dowager, are holidaying on the French island of Oleron. Cynthia’s fiancé can’t join them – he’s on his own journey of discovery with a secret gay lover in Morocco. But when Cynthia and Dowager bump into old friends, gossip abounds and confusion ensues. It isn’t long before events are spiralling out of all control…

Hinge and Bracket, in their heyday, were the darlings of the London cabaret circuit, but it was their 1974 Edinburgh Fringe show that took them from the likes of the Royal Vauxhall Tavern into the glittering West End. This was followed by national tours; radio and TV performances; as well as their own BBC2 show, Dear Ladies.

Composer Louis Mander studied at The Royal College of Music and The University of Birmingham. His inaugural double-bill The Mariner and The Clown of God was well reviewed at its premiere in Islington in 2011. Scenes from his full-length opera The Life to Come, to a libretto by actor and writer Stephen Fry based on an EM Forster short story, were performed to considerable acclaim at the Britten Theatre, London in July 2013. Mander provided the soundtrack for the film My Beautiful White Skin, by award winning director Stuart Gatt, for 6th International Films in Summer 2014.

The Dowager’s Oyster premiered at the Grimeborn Festival at the Arcola Theatre this August.






Rupert Young and Keith Allen Complete Casting for the Iconic Psychological Thriller directed by Anthony Banks

Coming to Richmond Theatre from 6 March 2017

One of the greatest thrillers of all time Gaslight returns to UK theatres starring kara-tointon-headshotthe celebrated stage and television actress Kara Tointon. Kara plays Bella Manningham, memorably portrayed by Oscar winner Ingrid Bergman in the classic 1944 film adaptation. Rupert Young of BBC 1’s Merlin joins Kara as husband Jack Manningham and the multi-talented Keith Allen is cast in the role of Detective Rough. The UK tour opens at Birmingham’s New Alexandra Theatre on January 6 2017

While Jack Manningham (Rupert Young) is on the town each evening his wife Bella (Kara Tointon) is home alone. She can’t explain the disappearance of familiar objects, the mysterious footsteps overhead or the ghostly flickering of living room gaslight – is she losing her mind? Does the terror exist in her imagination or are dark secrets living in her home? The surprise arrival of retired Detective Rough (Keith Allen) leads to a shocking discovery that will shake her respectable Victorian marriage to its core.

A highly suspenseful play, Gaslight is written by one of the 20th Century’s most renowned British writers, Patrick Hamilton whose works also include the chilling Rope (1929) successfully adapted for the screen by Alfred Hitchcock.

In the tradition of heavyweight thrillers from Hitchcock, Christie or Priestley, Gaslight is a genre-defining, all-round elegant masterpiece.

Leading lady Kara Tointon has received universal critical acclaim for her West End stage roles including Eliza Doolittle in Pygmalion. Further stage credits include the West End revivals of Alan Ayckbourn’s Absent Friends and Relatively Speaking. Television credits include winning the 2013 series of BBC television’s Strictly Come Dancing; ITV’s hit costume drama Mr Selfridge (where she played the title character’s daughter alongside real-life sibling Hannah) and most recently portraying Maria for the ITV production of The Sound Of Music Live! in December 2015.

Rupert Young stars as Jack Mannigham and is best known for portraying Sir Leon in the BBC drama series Merlin. His previous television work includes episodes of Doc Martin, Foyle’s War, Hotel Babylon, The White Queen, Doctor Who and numerous others. He notably starred in the film Dirty Filthy Love, a 2004 Television Film alongside Michael Sheen. He also performed in Cole Porter’s classic feel-good musical, High Society at the Old Vic to high acclaim. He has most recently performed in While The Sun Shines, for Bath Theatre Royal.

Keith Allen joins the cast as Detective Rough. His Theatre credits include: The Homecoming (Trafalgar Studios, London), Smack Family Robinson (The Rose, Kingston), Comedians (Lyric Hammersmith) Treasure Island (Theatre Royal Haymarket), Flanders Mare and Glastonbury; The Celebration and The Room (Almeida Theatre/NY); The Homecoming and Murmuring Judges (National Theatre).Television roles include: Bodyfarm (BBC), My Mad Fat Diary (E4), Uncle, (C4) Robin Hood (BBC), Treasure Island and The Runaway (Sky), Death in Paradise, Between the Lines (BBC); Undercover (Dave); The Runaway (Sky); Great Night Out (ITV1), Detectives on the Edge of a Nervous Breakdown (writer and director); The Comic Strip Presents: The Crying Game (writer and director); The Comic Strip Presents: The Yob (writer); The Bullshitters (writer). Film credits include: The Kingsman: The Golden Circle; Eddie the Eagle; Long Time Coming; Hector; The Last Showing; A Good Night; 24 Hour Party People; The Others; Trainspotting; Shallow Grave. Keith has also written and directed the following documentaries: Little Lady Fauntleroy; Unlawful Killing; You’re Fayed; Michael Carroll: King of Chavs; Keith Allen’s Tourette de France; Keith Allen Will Burn in Hell and Keith on Keith.

Director Anthony Banks’ credits include Dennis Kelly’s DNA (National Tour); Bryony Lavery’s Cesario and More Light, Lucinda Coxon’s The Eternal Not and Michael Lesslie’s Prince of Denmark (National Theatre); Snoo Wilson’s Pignight (Menier); Mark Ravenhill’s The Experiment (Soho Theatre & Berliner Ensemble); Tennessee Williams’ The Hotel Plays; Patrick Marber’s After Miss Julie (Theatre Royal Bath & National Tour). Anthony was an associate director at the National Theatre until 2014 where he commissioned and developed one hundred new plays for NT Connections.

A tense and hugely satisfying evening of great British theatre, this new production of Gaslight is one not to be missed.

Gaslight will be produced by Ambassador Theatre Group and Smith and Brant Theatricals.



image002Joshua Andrews and Peter James present




The thrilling new stage play from the No.1 Best Selling Author




At Richmond Theatre from 13 March-18 March

laura-whitmoreLeading television presenter Laura Whitmore will star in the next thrilling stage adaptation of multi-million selling author Peter James’ Not Dead Enough.

Following Peter James’ 11th consecutive Sunday Times No.1 in the UK Book Charts and the huge sell-out success of The Perfect Murder and Dead Simple on stage Not Dead Enough receives its world stage premiere in January 2017 ahead of a UK tour.

No stranger to theatre, Laura Whitmore’s acting career began at a young age with the Leinster School of Music and Drama in Dublin. In the very same year that she completed her Diploma in Performance with a special honour for her final performance she was chosen as the new face of MTV Europe. Laura is best known for her work as a presenter for MTV, The Brits and I’m a Celebrity Get Me Here Now. She is currently gracing our screens on BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing and is excited about her imminent return to acting.

Laura Whitmore said: “I’m a huge fan of Peter James’ books and so honoured to be cast as his Cleo for her first theatrical outing. Peter has created a strong character in Cleo Morely and I can’t wait to sink my teeth into the role. I’m also unbelievably excited to work with Producer Joshua Andrews and Director Ian Talbot. Before I trained in Journalism, I studied Drama and played some great roles including Lady Macbeth and Annie in All My Sons! I have been waiting a long time to return to acting and for a great role like this to come along, so I can’t wait to get on stage around the UK and of course Dublin with Not Dead Enough.”

Peter James said; “The characters in my Roy Grace novels are very precious to me and I have a very clear image of each of them in my mind. In bringing my work to the stage, I’ve tried hard in the casting, masterminded by Josh Andrews, to find brilliant performers who bear a strong resemblance to my vision of the characters – to lift them truly off the page. The moment I met Laura Whitmore and she began reading a scene from the play I had that deep thrill of knowing we had found my absolutely perfect Cleo – the way she looks and the warmth and energy she radiates – just perfect in every way.”

Not Dead Enough is the third novel in the award winning Roy Grace series and now becomes the third play in his box office smash hit and critically acclaimed stage franchise. James has been acclaimed as ‘one of the most fiendishly clever crime fiction plotters’ (Daily Mail) and his brilliant international bestselling Roy Grace novels have been published in 37 languages and sold over 18 million copies worldwide. His latest novel, Love You Dead, enjoyed 3 consecutive weeks at No.1 in the Fiction hardback charts, a new record for Peter who is also the 2016 recipient of crime writing’s highest honour, the Diamond Dagger.

On the night Brian Bishop murdered his wife, he was sixty miles away, asleep in bed. At least that’s what he claims. But as Detective Superintendent Roy Grace continues to deal with the mysterious disappearance of his own wife, he starts to dig a little deeper into the chilling murder case and it soon becomes clear that love can be a dangerous thing.

Following the nationwide success of The Perfect Murder with Shane Richie and Jessie Wallace earlier this year, Not Dead Enough reunites Peter James with theatre producer Joshua Andrews, the Olivier award winning director Ian Talbot and award winning playwright Shaun McKenna.

Further casting will be announced.


Spend election night with Donald Trump as the world heads for TRUMPAGEDDON!

King’s Head Theatre in association with Jay Bird Productions presents:

October 16th – November 8th 2016, King’s Head Theatre

Simon Jay’s “remarkable satiric performance” (British Theatre Guide) as Donald Trump comes to the King’s Head after a critically acclaimed run at the Edinburgh Fringe. As the American presidential election comes to a head, come and quiz the most dangerous man in politics about what’s next for the world – because if he gets his way, he’ll be in charge of it.

“expertly surfs a wave of disdain for political correctness (…) a confident and sometimes brutal ad-libbing ability” ★★★★ The Scotsman

580,963 people signed a petition to ban Donald J. Trump from entering the UK. Yet he’s here in London in all his horrifying glory. Immerse yourself in Trump’s vision of the world before he blows it to kingdom come. Witness the way he works an audience up into a fervour, ask him all the burning questions and see what a world would be like if The Donald was president. From five-star writer and performer Simon Jay, this absurdist satire of the next US President is as demented, hysterical and disturbed as the man himself.

“there is no doubting the humour and wit of the piece, which rolls along at breakneck speed from beginning to end” The List

Trumpageddon was originally presented at the Edinburgh Fringe, and after numerous 4/5 star reviews returns in the final lead-up to the American election, including a special election night performance on Nov 8th. Actor Simon Jay performs as Donald Trump, using his own lines in a part-improvised performance that demands questions from its audience and doesn’t follow a script – much like the man himself!

Simon Jay says “This is so out of my comfort zone. I’m the antithesis of him, really – a gay, liberal, English socialist who usually prefers playing women. If you hear some of the things he says, it makes you recoil. By taking them verbatim out of his mouth and into the mouth of this Trump caricature, hopefully it will expose just how ridiculous and dangerous his views are.”

THE WILD PARTY starring Frances Ruffelle at The Other Palace from February 2017

Paul Taylor-Mills presents

Michael John LaChiusa’s


With Frances Ruffelle as Queenie

Directed and Choreographed by Drew McOnie

At The Other Palace (formerly St. James Theatre)

From Saturday 11 February to Saturday 1 April 2017


frances-ruffelle-as-queenie-in-the-wild-party-photo-credit-fern-berresfordMichael John LaChiusa’s The Wild Party will receive its first major London production at The Other Palace, playing from Saturday 11 February to Saturday 1 April 2017, with a press night on Monday 20 February. Directed and choreographed by 2016 Olivier Award winner Drew McOnie and starring Tony Award winner Frances Ruffelle, The Wild Party will be the inaugural production at The Other Palace, formerly St. James Theatre, when it reopens in February 2017 as the newest addition to The Really Useful Theatres Group and a home for new musical theatre.

Set against a backdrop of Manhattan decadence and 1920’s excess, The Wild Party tells the story of Queenie and Burrs, a Vaudeville showgirl and a Vaudeville clown whose relationship is marked by vicious behaviour and recklessness. In an attempt to salvage their toxic union, they decide to throw a party to end all parties. The guests are a vivid collection of the unruly and the undone: a cocaine-sniffing bisexual playboy; a washed-up boxer; a diva of indeterminate age; a fresh-faced ingénue; and a handsome Valentino who catches Queenie’s roving eye. The jazz and gin soaked party rages to a mounting sense of threat, as artifice and illusion are stripped away. But when midnight debauchery turns into tragedy, the revellers must sober up and face reality. After all, no party lasts forever.


Frances Ruffelle will play Queenie. Frances is perhaps best known for originating the role of Eponine in Les Misérables in the West End and on Broadway, winning a Tony Award for her performance. Her many other stage roles include Dinah in the original company of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Starlight Express (West End), Roxie Hart inChicago (West End), Frastrada in Pippin (Menier Chocolate Factory) and the title role in Piaf (Leicester Curve). Frances has recorded four solo albums and performed her solo shows at the Menier Chocolate Factory, the Garrick Theatre, the Crazy Coqs and New York’s 54 Below.


Frances said: “I discovered the amazingly edgy, jazz-infused score to The Wild Party about 10 years ago. Many West End producers have tried to get the rights with no success, but luckily for me, the composer Michael John LaChuisa was in the audience when I was performing my solo show in New York.  We were introduced after the show and I asked him why the show hadn’t been seen in London. He just said: “You are my Queenie, it’s yours”. It really is a dream come true, and I’m now working hard preparing for a role that I know will be demanding but hugely rewarding. See you at the party!”


The Wild Party will be directed and choreographed by Drew McOnie, who received the 2016 Olivier Award for Best Theatre Choreographer for his work on In The Heights (King’s Cross Theatre). Drew will direct and choreograph the European Premiere of Baz Luhrmann’s Strictly Ballroom at West Yorkshire Playhouse this Christmas, with other recent choreography credits including Jesus Christ Superstar (Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre), Bugsy Malone (Lyric Hammersmith), The Lorax (The Old Vic) and Oklahoma (UK Tour). Drew is also the Artistic Director of The McOnie Company, for which he recently created a new dance-thriller version of Jekyll and Hyde at The Old Vic.


Based on Joseph Moncure March’s narrative poem of the same title, The Wild Party originally opened on Broadway in 2000 with a cast including Toni Collette, Mandy Patinkin and Eartha Kitt. The production received 7 Tony Award nominations, and a Grammy Award nomination for its composer and lyricist Michael John LaChiusa. LaChiusa is one of the most prolific writers for the American musical stage, with works including Hello Again(1994), Marie Christine (1999), The Wild Party (2000) and See What I Wanna See (2005). He was nominated for Tony Awards for his book and score for The Wild Party and Marie Christine, and for his book for Chronicle of a Death Foretold.


The Wild Party is produced by Paul Taylor-Mills, who has today been announced as the new Artistic Director of The Other Palace.  Paul’s recent productions as a producer include In The Heights (King’s Cross Theatre), The Last Five Years (St. James Theatre), Side Show (Southwark Playhouse) and Carrie: The Musical (Southwark Playhouse).


The Wild Party has music and lyrics by Michael John LaChiusa and a book by George C. Wolfe and Michael John LaChiusa. It is directed and choreographed by Drew McOnie with musical direction by Theo Jamieson(Funny Girl, West End), set and costume design by Soutra Gilmour (Dr Faustus, Urinetown, The Commitments, West End) and lighting design by Richard Howell (Jekyll and Hyde, Old Vic). Casting is by Will Burton. It is presented by Paul Taylor-Mills by arrangement with R&H Theatricals Europe.


Further casting is to be announced.


Twitter: @TWP_London

Undead Bard Review

Theatre N16 2 – 13 October.  Reviewed by Claire Roderick

2016 has been a busy year for academics – celebrating the 400th anniversary of the death of the great writer Cervantes… and a little known hack from the Midlands. Honestly, avoiding Shakespeare this year has been impossible, with what feels like 400 different productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream popping up, and every man and his dog having a go at one of his plays. Even Selfridges got in on the act, with Beatrice and Benedick disrupting innocent people’s shopping experience.

Robert Crighton’s superb one man show Undead Bard takes a sideways look at the enduring appeal of Shakespeare by “exploring his afterlife”.

The first half of the show, “The Shakespeare Delusion” takes the form of a spoof lecture by the very intense Professor Ashton. The professor’s research into the question of authorship begins gently but rapidly descends into lunacy as, between brilliantly outrageous proofs and theories about why Shakespeare couldn’t have written any of his plays, we watch the professor descend into paranoia about roaming gangs of violent intellectuals and listen in giggling disbelief as snippets of his disastrous personal life seep into the lecture. Crighton’s portrayal of the awkward and pitiful academic is touching and hysterical, and he exudes enough frantic energy to power the national grid.

In part two, “Shakespeare: The Ever Living”, Shakespeare’s spirit enters Crighton’s body when he performs the Rite of Mumm-Ra. Anyone who can shoehorn the ThunderCats into Shakespeare deserves plaudits, I’m just thankful Snarf didn’t pop up. What follows is a meandering but entertaining riff on Shakespeare’s contemporaries, with some modern Elizabethan insults, and a surprisingly deep and insightful analysis of originality referencing classical education and Garfield the cat. “Why can’t you let me die?” wails Shakespeare, after a particularly salient section about audiences wanting the familiar and not new writing. Crighton never stands still, inhabiting a character somewhere between Derren Brown and Noel Edmunds, but funnier.

The two halves complement each other, rather than form a coherent whole, but these are two different pieces of writing with a similar theme rather than two acts of the same play, a fact that Crighton makes very clear.

Crighton manages to make this show educational as well as funny, including lots of facts and actual theories about Shakespeare as part of the comedy. The Shakespeare Delusion would be a genius addition to any Shakespeare conference in that tricky post-lunch session.

This is a show for Bardophiles and Bardophobes alike. Love him or hate him, you just can’t avoid old Will this year, so just roll with it and go to see Undead Bard for a night of literature, lunacy and Lion-O.

Sunny Afternoon Review

REVIEW: SUNNY AFTERNOON (Sunderland Empire) ★★★★★

October 5, 2016 

For: West End Wilma


Olivier Award winning SUNNY AFTERNOON rocks into Sunderland this week. A jukebox musical based on the life and music of The Kinks. Like THE BUDDY HOLLY STORY and JERSEY BOYS before, it’s a tale of dreams and aspirations, complex contracts, volatile relationships and, ultimately, success in the face of adversity. Written by Ray Davies and Joe Penhall this show is far better than a mere tribute evening, though it includes lots of Kinks classic hits, songs like You Really Got Me, Lola, Waterloo Sunset and Dedicated Follower of Fashion, it gives you a strong sense of period and also well-drawn characters that evolve with the band.

The Kinks were certainly no strangers to drama; not only did they have the ultimate sibling rivalry but they also had the ‘distinction’ of being the first British band to be kicked out of America. We follow the boys from the brink of their discovery in 1964 through various trials and tribulations for the next 15 years or so. In the first half, the stage backdrop is covered in amplifiers — it is like being in a vast recording studio. Then comes their first visit to America and the back wall is covered in the Stars and Stripes. Ryan O’Donnell is exceptionally good in the central role of Ray Davies. Mark Newnham is suitably manic as Ray’s brother and bandmate Dave. Garmon Rhys plays shy bass guitarist Pete Quaife and Andrew Gallo plays drummer Mick Avery .

The music is clearly the strongest part of the production, not a surprise when there is such a brilliant back catalogue to choose from. However, it wasn’t just guitar heavy rock, there was some sweeter and subtler songs; an a capella version of Days had some beautiful harmonies, as did Too Much On My Mind, a touching duet between Ray and his wife Rosa. It was all backed up by a brilliant live band and some superb on-stage musical performances from the cast.

It’s easy to see why this swept the boards at the Oliviers, it’s not a typical fun and feel good show, there are dark parts and a sense of heavy realism but it’s that realism which makes the show what it is – a kind of triumph over adversity. In Sunderland until Saturday 8th it’s not just worth a trip to see the show it’s worth a repeat trip to see the show again because it truly is so good.