Brighton Rock Review

The Lowry, Salford Quays, Manchester – until Saturday 26 June 2018

Reviewed by Julie Noller


Brighton Rock is a deliciously dark drama full of suspense; it’s brilliantly adapted by Bryony Lavery from the novel originally written by Graham Greene. Full of meloncolic music that plays it’s own important part in keeping you glued to the edge of your seat whilst this thriller enthralls you, including drum beats that echo through the auditorium, mimicking your own heartbeat. The stage set up is simple yet perfectly devised by director Esther Richardson. The basic lightbulbs do just enough to light up and bring to life the right character, highlighting their story. Most actors actually double up on the parts played, for it’s a small cast. However at no point is there ever any confusion regarding just who we are watching or listening to. Most of our characters are mob based, dressed in dark depressing and almost stealth like blacks for this is the underworld of Brighton. It could be modern day if it weren’t for the dress sense that gives us the impression of Britain pre World War II You could be forgiven for wondering are we watching a whodunit? I believe it’s the sad and lonely tale of wasted lives wondering down the wrong path and how once gone astray can lead to paranoia, the mind to fall apart and ultimately spiral out of control.

Ida (Gloria Onitiri) we are introduced to first listening to a gramophone, wondering to herself or to us. She’s portrayed with devastating effect as a woman of lose morals yet our perception alters as the play gathers pace to realise she is infact the epitome of everyone’s moral conscience. Ida could well be a nightclub singer for we hear her sing on more than one occasion. She is the only voice who cries out that Fred deserves justice that something more sinister must have happened. Her trusty sidekick is Phil (Chris Jack) loyal and loving these characters make me feel like I’m watching a gritty Agatha Christie.  Like Miss Marple and her all seeing eyes Ida senses and trusts her judgement that things are about to go very wrong. She pretends to be the mother of young Rose (Sarah Middleton) to firstly gain her trust, warn her and finally save her. Young foolish, naive Rose who pretends to be seventeen instead of sixteen because it’s so grown up. Young Rose who innocently sees the good in the only boy to show her attention, wrongly and immaturely believing it love just like the movies she and every other teenage girl dreams of living in. Yet confusingly you realise she isn’t stupid, she may go about every day life in a some what haphazard manor, but this lottery called life she manages to sweetly navigate in a childlike manor, questioning everything. Sarah Middleton is almost girl guide-esque with her squeaky clean image and voice to match. It’s as if she senses that Pinkie isn’t the person he would like to be. Pinkie (Jacob James Beswick) is a child playing at toy gangsters. The question is why did he order his gang to attack and kill Fred?

Pinkie and his gang sometimes reminded me of West Side Story yet at others a very dark sociopath hell bent on domination of Brighton’s criminal underworld after deposing of former gang leader. Pinkie a character of hidden depth, like a toddler learning to walk. He hides behind bravado, tough talking, scaring those in front of him with threats of vitriol acid. You know he’s just a little boy lost in a world he doesn’t truly understand, he’s streetwise but not people-wise. Rose shows him love not in a deep caring way but almost like a puppy dog. He is young, far too young to understand all these human emotions yet the one thing he does understand is the instinct of survival. However with his flight or fight mode heading into overdrive he slowly but surely loses all control. More killings follow that of Fred aka newspaper man Kolley Kibber and ageing mob man Spicer (Angela Bain) for that one mistake can lead to further mistakes and change the course of history. The story touches on religion namely Catholicism or Romans in slang term. How the characters deal with sin, how the flesh is weak but the mind is strong. Guilt is part and parcel of being a Catholic, living to repent and praying for forgiveness. We see characters divided over faith and how they believe. Pinkie who doesn’t do confession, yet in meltdown over having to marry Rose in order to save himself from the truth she unwittingly knows. The marriage is a sham yet it’s there as clear to see that he believes marriage is forever. Rose believes God is watching.

Demon drink ruins gang member Cubitt (Marc Graham) and he spills his guts and takes Ida’s money in order to escape a life he no longer wants. As with all those American gangster films where it quite often comes down to the weak willed lawyer giving evidence. It is the case here, the police are interested and Pinkie believing he can no longer outrun the Bogey turns his own hatred against himself and pours his acid to destroy his own face. Sweet justice some may say, but he is still a child. Brighton Rock is a wonderful play that grips you from start to finish, it moves at a steady fast pace through out. I loved the use of slang, it added character yet wasn’t at all hard to work out. As the characters had pointed out if you cut open the deepest rooted gangster they would still have Brighton written all he way through like a stick of rock.

“Der Schauspieldirektor” and “Bastien und Bastienne” Review

Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club, London, 23 May.

Touring until 29 July 2018.

Reviewed By Antonia Hebbert


A double bill of obscure Mozart operas, sung in German, might sound like a looong evening, but this is a brisk two hours of fun. The singing sparkles, the spoken dialogue is in English, and the subtitles for the German sung bits are a little art form in themselves – written by Harry Percival, they bring the humour bang up to date.

Pop-up Opera specializes in scaled down productions that can be taken anywhere, from village halls to farms to a Thames tunnel shaft. Instead of an orchestra and cast of hundreds, we had Conal Bembridge-Sayers in command at the keyboard, and five strong young singers, in a set (by Fiona Rigler) that manages to be both basic and colourfully over the top. Mozart wrote Der Schauspieldirektor (The Impresario) in 1786, in between dashing off some his greatest works. The ‘story’ is an audition in which two sopranos (Sarah Helena Foubert and Hazel McBain) fight it out with stratospheric singing, tempered by the sweet tenor of Nick Allen as the impresario. It’s a farce, but the music is sophisticated.

The second part of the evening is Bastien und Bastienne, which Mozart wrote in 1768 at the advanced age of 12. Plot heavy it is not, but even at 12 Mozart was good at character and lively tunes. Two lovers have fallen out and separately seek professional help from a love guru (baritone Wesley Biggs). Laura Cheetham reveals her rich warm voice as Bastienne, and throws herself into slapstick with Nick Allen (again) as her gormless ex.

Anna Pool is the adapter and director, fully signing up to Pop-up Opera’s aim of making opera engaging, lively and easy to relate to, but authentic too. If you’re not an opera enthusiast, this is a great place to start. If you’re already an opera fan, Pop-up gets you close to the singers for an intimate musical experience that’s a treat in its own way.

This production tours south and western England until 29 July: for dates and venues see

Hull theatre company tackles dementia in new musical

Local Theatre Company Takes Dementia to Heart in New Musical

Smashing Mirrors Theatre presents latest production at Hull New Theatre

Up and coming Hull-based company Smashing Mirrors Theatre is tackling the issue of Dementia head-on in its latest production Three Emos, which plays the Hull New Theatre Studio space on 4 and 5 June.

Written by Elizabeth Godber, Three Emos is a new, one-act musical about the relationship between a girl, and her grandmother who is diagnosed with dementia. It is an uplifting tale of love and hope, often through the power of music. The story is told through the concept of the band Three Emos and features three Hull actresses, with songs by Grace Christiansen, Liam Foster (OCHO), and Karen Young (LIPA graduate), Joe Firth (Futureworks) and Duncan Riches (LIPA).

Elizabeth said: “Dementia is a huge issue in current society, but something that is often misunderstood. If we can raise awareness in any way whilst also creating an entertaining show; that will be amazing.”

Smashing Mirrors, which launched last year with The Loneliest Girl in the World and is dedicated to creating original, small-scale musical theatre, has also worked with charity Butterflies Memory Loss Support Group to learn how to become a dementia-friendly company.

Three Emos is at the Hull New Theatre Studio on Thursday 4 and Friday 5 June. Tickets priced £7 each, are on sale now. Book at the Hull City Hall Box Office, call 01482 300 306 or visit our new website


Best Seller Peter James hits No.1 again and announces the world premiere of the spine-tingling new play


Major UK tour to launch January 2019

The thrilling work of multi-million selling author Peter James returns to theatres in January 2019 with the world premiere production of the spine-tingling stage play The House on Cold Hill – The announcement comes in the week the acclaimed author hits No. 1 again in the UK book charts for the 13th consecutive time, with his latest page-turner, Dead If You Don’t.


The House on Cold Hill is the best-selling novel by Peter James – author of the award-winning Roy Grace series – and now becomes the fourth play in his box office smash hit and critically acclaimed stage franchise following the huge sell-out success of Not Dead EnoughThe Perfect Murder and Dead Simple on stage.


The House on Cold Hill is a modern day ghostly thriller that will send shivers down your spine and make you think twice about returning home to a dark, empty house after the show!


Within days of moving into the huge, dilapidated Georgian mansion in the remote Sussex countryside, the Harcourt family quickly realise that the house of their dreams hides a dark secret and that they aren’t the only residents at Cold Hill…


James has been acclaimed as ‘one of the most fiendishly clever crime fiction plotters’ (Daily Mail) and his brilliant international bestselling novels have been published in 37 languages and sold over 19 million copies worldwide.


Following the recent nationwide stage success of the Peter James plays with stars including Shane Richie, Jessie Wallace, Claire Goose, Les Dennis, Laura Whitmore, Jamie Lomas, Bill Ward and Tina Hobley, The House on Cold Hill will reunite Peter James with theatre producer Joshua Andrews, the Olivier award winning director Ian Talbot and award winning writer Shaun McKenna.


Peter James said: It has been a great thrill for me to have three stage adaptations of my work so cleverly written and brilliantly performed over the last five years, and a joy to see the huge pleasure they’ve given audiences around the UK, and overseas.


“I’m very excited by the latest adaptation, of my best-selling ghost story The House on Cold Hill, which starts on a six-month nationwide tour next January, with the same production team behind it.  


“The intimacy of theatres is particularly well suited to instilling a great atmosphere of suspense and thrills in audiences, and I can promise there will be no shortage of both with the stage production of The House 0n Cold Hill!”


Casting to be announced.



Wednesday 23 – Saturday 26 January Box Office: 01322 220000 Dartford, Orchard Theatre Website:

Monday 28 January – Saturday 2 February Box Office: 0115 989 5555 (On sale 1 June) Nottingham Theatre Royal Website:

Monday 4 – Saturday 9 February Box Office: 01743 281281 (On sale 25 May) Shrewsbury Severn Theatre Website:

Monday 11 – Saturday 16 February Box Office: 024 7655 3055 (On sale soon) Coventry Belgrade Theatre Website:

Monday 18 – Saturday 23 February Box Office: 01684 892277 Malvern Theatres Website:

Monday 25 February – Saturday 2 March Box Office: 023 9282 8282 (On sale soon) Portsmouth Kings Website:

Monday 4 – Saturday 9 March Box Office: 0844 871 7650 (On sale 25 May) Brighton Theatre Royal Website:

Monday 11 – Saturday 16 March Box Office: 01603 630000 (On sale soon) Norwich Theatre Royal Website:

Monday 18 – Saturday 23 March Box Office: 0844 811 2121 Newcastle Theatre Royal Website:

Monday 25 March – Saturday 30 March Box Office: 01482 300306 (On sale 1 June) Hull New Theatre Website:

Monday 1 – Saturday 6 April Box Office: 01702 351135 (On sale 25 May) Southend Palace Theatre Website:

Monday 8 – Saturday 13 April Box Office: 0844 871 7651 (On sale 25 May) Richmond Theatre Website:

Monday 15 – Saturday 20 April Box Office: 0844 871 7652 (On sale 25 May) Milton Keynes Theatre Website:

Tuesday 23 – Saturday 27 April Box Office: 0844 871 7645 (On sale 25 May) Woking New Victoria Website:

Monday 29 April – Saturday 4 May Box Office: 0844 848 2700 (On sale soon) Leeds Grand Theatre Website:

Monday 6 – Saturday 11 May Box Office: 0121 230 9070 (On sale 25 May) Birmingham Alexandra Theatre Website:

Monday 13 – Saturday 18 May Box Office: 0844 871 3018 (On sale 25 May) Manchester Opera House Website:

Monday 20 – Saturday 25 May Box Office: 01223 503333 (On sale soon) Cambridge Arts Theatre Website:

Tuesday 28 May – Saturday 1 June Box Office: 0844 871 7647 (On sale 25 May) Glasgow Theatre Royal Website:


Darlington Hippodrome – Full pantomime cast announced


Having wowed audiences and critics alike in last year’s festive production, Darlington Hippodrome have announced that Darlington’s own diva Zoe Birkett will be back by popular demand to star in this year’s wish-filled pantomime Aladdin alongside actor Robin Askwith, Louie Spence, Eric Potts and Liam Mellor from Saturday 8 December.

The West End leading lady, Darlington-born Zoe, will star as the beautiful Princess Jasmine having played the Wicked Queen in last year’s pantomime, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, a role for which she was nominated for Best Female Villain at this year’s Great British Pantomime Awards.

Having been propelled to fame by entering Pop Idol in 2002, Zoe quickly solidified her reputation as a stunning vocalist, actress, presenter and pantomime star. Having signed to Simon Fuller’s 19 Management at just 16, Zoe went on to headline numerous arena tours and featured on the Pop Idol Big Band album which reached number one in the album chart and went triple platinum within one year.

Her subsequent stage roles include Diva in Priscilla Queen of the Desert at the Palace Theatre, lead vocalist in What a Feeling, Respect La Diva and Thriller Live in London’s West End, Maureen in Rent at the Greenwich Theatre and Dion in the infamous musical Hair in Zurich. She went on to star as Rachel Marron in the critically-acclaimed UK tour of The Bodyguard in the role made famous by the late Whitney Houston.

Her concerts include headlining at the Royal Albert Hall, A Party to Remember as part of the VE Day 60th anniversary live from Trafalgar Square and she has sung for The Prince’s Trust by Royal Appointment of Prince Charles and Prince Edward at Buckingham Palace.

No stranger to the world of television, Zoe has presented Top of the Pops, hosted The Clothes Show Live and the live tour of Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Take Away and Strictly Ballroom in Las Vegas. Last year Zoe realised her dream by opening her very own school, The Zoe Birkett Academy in Darlington, allowing hundreds of local children the opportunity to follow in her footsteps and learn every facet of music, drama and performing arts from Zoe herself.

Completing the line-up as the evil villain Abanazar is film and television star Robin Askwith. A regular on the big screen throughout the 70s Robin went on to appear in numerous television shows including Public Eye, Dixon of Dock Green, Z-Cars, Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) and, most recently, Emmerdale, Coronation Street and Benidorm. His extensive stage work includes numerous farces including Run for Your Wife, One for the Road and Dead Funny, and the title role in Brecht’s The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui and the Child Catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Speaking on her return to Darlington Hippodrome, Zoe Birkett said: “I am absolutely delighted to be back home for Christmas and starring with Louie and Robin in Aladdin, and to be reunited with Eric and Liam playing to a home crowd once again is an absolute honour. We had a ball doing last year’s panto and I can’t wait for us to get back out there and entertain the wonderful audiences at the Hippodrome once again.”

With tickets flying out of the box office, audiences shouldn’t leave it any longer to secure their seats for this year’s must-see show. Make tickets to Aladdin one of your three wishes this festive season and book your tickets now.

Aladdin flies into Darlington Hippodrome from Saturday 8 December 2018 to Sunday 6 January 2019. For full details and to book visit or call 01325 405405

84 Charing Cross Road Review

Darlington Hippodrome – until 26 May


Rarely have I been to the theatre and watched a production that I never wanted to end, but 84 Charing Cross Road is one such show.

Premiering in Darlington, 84 Charing Cross Road tells the true story of American writer, Helene Hanff (Stephanie Powers) and Frank Doel (Clive Francis) the very English chief buyer of Marks & Co Antiquarian Booksellers .  After seeing an advert in the “Saturday Review of Literature”, Helene sends a letter for an order for some antiquarian books and thus begins a 20 year friendship conducted completely through a series of letters. There are many varied book requests – from Vulgate Latin Bibles to Love Poems, from the Sermons of John Donne to Wind in the Willows – all of which are found and dispatched by book post to America with some amazing pieces of correspondence included.

Beginning in 1949, whilst the UK was still in rationing, Helene’s generosity extends to sending food parcels to be shared among the shop staff: Christmas hampers, Easter eggs and nylon stockings.  The letters between Helene and Frank and some of the shop staff include such things as the Coronation of Elizabeth II, the Brooklyn Dodgers, many discussions about books and instructions on how to make Yorkshire Pudding.

We learn about Cecily Farr (Samantha Sutherland) who leaves the shop to join her RAF husband in married quarters in Iraq.  Megan Wells (Loren O’Dair) who goes to live in South Africa but eventually ends up in Australia. Bill Humphreys (Ben Tolley) who lives with his Aunt. George Martin (William Oxborrow) who unfortunately passes away during the play and Joan Todd (Fiona Bruce) who writes the final letter to Helene

The passage of time is marked by the shop staff playing musical instruments on stage, Christmas carols and spring songs, lively tunes about holidays and the final heartbreaking verses of Abide With Me.

James Roose-Evans adaption of Hanff’s book, Richard Beechams directions of this touching tale and the wonderful set designed by Norman Coates, make this an absolute joy of a production.  Heartwarming in its simplicity and a delight to watch. 

In Darlington until Saturday 26 May and on tour around the UK.  If you only see one show this year – this must be the one









Artistic Director of Theatre Royal Stratford East, Nadia Fall, today announces Lenny Henry to take on the role of Elmore in August Wilson’s King Hedley II as part of her inaugural season. This marks the first time Wilson’s work will be staged at Theatre Royal Stratford East.


In April, Theatre Royal Stratford East presents a Derby Theatre and Pilot Theatre co-production of Malorie Blackman’s novel Noughts and Crosses. Adapted by Sabrina Mahfouz and directed by Esther Richardson, the production opens at Stratford East on 24 April and running until 5 May.

The season concludes with a Theatre Royal Stratford East and ENO co-production of Benjamin Britten’s masterpiece Noye’s FluddeLyndsey Turner directs a new production which combines the talents of professional singers, actors and musicians with those of school children and the local community. The production opens on 3 July, with previews from 1 July and runs until 13 July.

Also going on sale today is the already announced co-production with English Touring Theatre of Peter Shaffer’s classic play Equus. Directed by Ned Bennett, the play opens on 21 February.

In addition, at every performance of every show over half of the tickets are priced under £25, with £10 tickets available for those aged under 26.

Artistic Director of Theatre Royal Stratford East, Nadia Fall, said today, “There’s just so much to get excited about as our 2019 shows go on sale today. I’m thrilled that Lenny Henry will be appearing at Theatre Royal Stratford East in August Wilson’s ferocious and timely play King Hedley II. Taking on the role of Elmore, this will be the first time that Lenny Henry has appeared on our stage and also the first time that the great August Wilson’s work has been performed here. Our co-production with English Touring Theatre of Peter Shaffer’s Equus also goes on sale today, re-imagined by the theatre maverick Ned Bennett, it’s sure to be the play as you’ve never seen it before. Young people have always been at the heart of Theatre Royal Stratford East and we hope that they and their families will enjoy Pilot Theatre’s production of Noughts and Crosses, from the celebrated novel by Malorie Blackman in a new adaptation by Sabrina Mahfouz. Our co-production with English National Opera of Benjamin Britten’s Noye’s Fludde, will see the brilliant Lyndsey Turner direct this joyous production, which combines the talents of professional artists alongside an army of local school children and community groups. It’s a brilliantly busy year ahead, designed to offer something for everyone.”


Theatre Royal Stratford East and English Touring Theatre present 


by Peter Shaffer

Directed by Ned Bennett

15 February – 23 March 2019

Press night: 21 February, 7pm

Award-winning director Ned Bennett brings Peter Shaffer’s psychological thriller Equus to the stage in a bold new production of the critically-acclaimed classic.

When teenager Alan Strang’s pathological fascination leads him to blind six horses, psychiatrist Dr. Martin Dysart is tasked with uncovering the motive behind the boy’s violent act. As Dysart delves into Alan’s world of twisted spirituality, passion and sexuality, he begins to question his own sanity and motivations in a world driven by consumerism.

Equus is a co-production between UK Theatre Award winners English Touring Theatre and Theatre Royal Stratford East.


Sir Peter Shaffers (1926 – 2016) plays include The Salt Land, The Prodigal Father, Balance of Terror, Five Finger Exercise (Evening Standard Drama Award), The Private Ear, The Public Eye, The Royal Hunt of the Sun, Black Comedy, White Lies, The Battle of Shrivings, Yonadab, The Gift of the Gorgon, Lettice and Lovage and Amadeus (Evening Standard Drama Award and Tony Award for Best Play)His plays adapted for film include Five Finger ExerciseThe Royal Hunt of the Sun, Equusand Amadeus (Academy Award for Best Picture), for television The Salt Land and Balance of Terror,and for radio The Prodigal Father and Whom Do I Have the Honour of Addressing?. In 1994, Shaffer was Visiting Professor of Contemporary Drama at St. Catherine’s College, Oxford. He was awarded the CBE in 1987 and was knighted in 2001.

Ned Bennett directs Equus. He is an award-winning theatre director, who trained at the Royal Court, the National Theatre and LAMDA. His work includes the Evening Standard Award-winning An Octoroon, which opened at the Orange Tree Theatre in Spring 2017 and will transfer to the Dorfman in Summer 2018, and Buggy Baby which opened at the Yard Theatre in March of this year. He directed the Bruntwood Prize-winning Yen at the Manchester Royal Exchange which transferred to the Royal Court in 2016, and Pomona which was commissioned by the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama and transferred to the Orange Tree, and then to the National Theatre. Pomona and Yen won Bennett the UKT Best Director award 2015. Pomona won four Off-West End awards: Best Director, Best Production, Best New Play and Best Lighting Design.

English Touring Theatre is one of the UK’s leading touring companies, winning the UK Theatre Awards Best Touring Production in 2014, 2015 and 2016. ETT works with exciting artists to stage an eclectic mix of new and classic work for audiences throughout the UK and overseas; theatre that is thrilling, popular and engaged in the contemporary world. At the heart of everything ETT does is the passionately held belief that everyone, wherever they are in the country, deserves to have access to world class theatre. In 2017 ETT toured to 40 venues throughout the UK, with productions including Sam Holcroft’s Rules for Living, Richard Twyman’s critically acclaimed production of Othello and the 20th anniversary tour of The Weir, which finished its nationwide tour this year, winning the Manchester Theatre Award for Best Visiting Production. 2018 sees the company celebrate its 25th anniversary.​ 


Derby Theatre and Pilot Theatre present

Co-produced by Belgrade Theatre Coventry, Mercury Theatre Colchester and York Theatre Royal


By Malorie Blackman

Adapted by Sabrina Mahfouz

Directed by Esther Richardson

24 April – 5 May

Press night: 24 April, 7:30pm

“Why love, if losing hurts so much?”

Sephy and Callum sit together on a beach. They are in love.

It is forbidden.

Sephy is a Cross and Callum is a Nought. Between Noughts and Crosses there are racial and social divides. A segregated society teeters on a volatile knife edge.

As violence breaks out, Sephy and Callum draw closer, but this is a romance that will lead them into terrible danger.

This gripping Romeo and Juliet story by acclaimed writer Malorie Blackman and adapted by Sabrina Mahfouz is a captivating drama of love, revolution and what it means to grow up in a divided world.

Schools workshops and free online learning resources are available alongside this production. Please see

Sabrina Mahfouz is a playwright, poet and screenwriter. Her play With a Little Bit of Luck (Paines Plough) was broadcast on BBC1xtra and performed across the UK. Other theatre works include Chef (winner of a 2014 Fringe First Award), Dry Ice (nominated for Stage Award for Best Solo Performance) and Clean (Traverse Theatre and New York). Mahfouz has a published poetry collection, How You Might Know Me, was a contributor to The Good Immigrant and has edited The Things I Would Tell You. Her first play for children, Zeraffa Giraffa won Best Production for Young People at the Off West End Awards 2018 and she is currently writing a biopic of Wiley, the ‘godfather of grime’.

Malorie Blackman has written over 60 books for children and young adults, including the Noughts and Crosses series, Thief and most recently her science fiction thriller Chasing the Stars. Her work has also been adapted for TV with the 6-part adaptation of Pig-Heart Boy winning a BAFTA and Noughts and Crosses is currently in production for the BBC. In 2005, Blackman was honoured the Eleanor Farjeon Award in recognition of her distinguished contribution to the world of children’s books.  In 2008, she was awarded OBE and between 2013 and 2015 she was the Children’s Laureate.

Esther Richardson is the Artistic Director of Pilot Theatre. She has directed over 25 theatre productions in the UK, including her most recent production of Brighton Rock, adapted by Bryony Lavery. Esther was the founding Artistic Director of Theatre Writing Partnership – a new writing development company based in Nottingham UK (funded by the Lottery and ACE from 2001 to 2012). The company was nominated for the prestigious Stage/TMA’s Special Achievement in Regional Theatre Award when Esther was running the company in 2006. Her film work includes two successful shorts, which led her to be selected for Creative England’s ifeatures scheme in 2012/13.

Theatre Royal Stratford East present


By August Wilson

Directed by Nadia Fall

17 May – 16 June

Press night: 23 May, 7pm


1980s Pittsburgh, a city in decay. Against the backdrop of Reagan’s America, King, an ex-con, is trying to rebuild his life and start a family.  He’s got hopes and dreams of opening a video store and building a new life. If only he can get ten thousand dollars together, if only he can catch a break. In his dusty backyard he plots and plans with his friend Mister, but is this all a pipe dream?


Featuring Lenny Henry as smooth-talking hustler Elmore, August Wilson’s touching and angry, King Hedley II is a quest for redemption for one man and a whole community.

Lenny Henry has been a comedian since the age of 16. He has risen from being a cult star on children’s television to becoming one of Britain’s best-known comedians, as well as a writer, philanthropist and award-winning actor.  In recent years he has starred in The Comedy of Errors at The National Theatre, Fences at the Duchess Theatre, and in 2017 he made his Donmar Warehouse debut in The Resitable Rise of Arturo Ui. He has also been a Trustee of the National Theatre since February 2016. His television credits includeBroadchurchThe Syndicate and the biographic Danny and The Human Zoo. Henry’s Production Company, Douglas Road, has achieved success in partnership with Burning Bright on the recently acclaimed The Commonwealth Kid documentary. As a co-founder of Comic Relief he was delighted to announce this year that the British Public has donated over £1billion to Comic Relief over the last 30 years. He is a strong advocate for diversity, taking his work on the subject to Cannes in order to deliver the Keynote speech launching the idea of offering tax breaks for diversity, as well as talks given in Rome to the global TV and film insider audience. Henry was chosen by Baroness Doreen Lawrence to interview three beneficiaries of the Stephen Lawrence trust at his memorial in 2018.

August Wilson (1945–2005) was an American playwright. He won a Pulitzer Prize and a Tony Award for his play Fences and earned a second Pulitzer Prize for The Piano Lesson. His other notable works include Seven Guitars, Gem of the Ocean, Jitney and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.


Nadia Fall trained at Goldsmiths College (MA Directing) and on the NT Studio’s Directors programme. Her directing credits include The SuicideOur Country’s GoodDaraChewing Gum DreamsHomeHymnThe Doctor’s Dilemma (National Theatre), HirDisgraced (Bush Theatre), R and D (Hampstead Theatre), Way Upstream (Chichester Festival Theatre), Hobson’s Choice (Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre), How Was It For You? (Unicorn Theatre), Sticks & Stones (Polka Theatre), The Maids (Lyric Hammersmith), Miss Julie (Croydon Warehouse Theatre) and Wild Turkey (Site Specific). As Associate Director, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (Gielgud Theatre), CollaboratorsThe Habit of Art (National Theatre); and as Staff Director, Rocket to the MoonReally Old, Like Forty FivePhèdre and Much Ado About Nothing (National Theatre). Fall has directed at Guildhall School of Music and Drama, the Unicorn Theatre and led participation initiatives with partners such as the Young Vic, Clean Break, Soho Theatre and the Royal Court. She is also an acting coach, supporting professional actors for film and stage.

Theatre Royal Stratford East and English National Opera present


By Benjamin Britten

Directed by Lyndsey Turner

1 July – 13 July

Press night: 3 July, 7pm


God is angry, and a flood is coming. But Noah is building a boat: wide enough and deep enough not just for his family, but for a cargo of birds and beasts, both great and small. For forty days and forty nights, this chorus of unlikely shipmates endure a mighty storm, in the hope that a new world will be waiting for them on the other side.


Lyndsey Turner directs a joyous new production of Benjamin Britten’s masterpiece combining the talents of professional singers, actors and musicians with those of school children and the local community. Marking the first collaboration between Theatre Royal Stratford East and English National Opera, Noye’s Fludde speaks of courage, redemption and the promise of a new beginning.


Benjamin Britten (1913 – 1976) was a British composer, pianist and conductor. The most significant British composer of the post-war period, Britten was the first British composer to devote the major part of his output to the operatic stage. Beginning with the international success of Peter Grimes in June 1945, his sixteen operas, which include chamber operas and works for children, are now considered repertory pieces. Other notable works include Paul BunyanBilly Budd and GlorianaThe Rape of LucretiaCurlew River and Death in Venice. Among Britten’s notable achievements outside the opera house were orchestral pieces such as the Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge, Sinfonia da RequiemThe Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra,Spring Symphony and Symphony for Cello and Orchestra.

Lyndsey Turner’s previous work includes Philadelphia, Here I Come!Fathers and Sons, and Faith Healer (Donmar Warehouse), Girls and Boys (Royal Court), Tipping The Velvet (Lyric Hammersmith), Hamlet (Barbican), Chimerica (Almeida & West End), Saint George and the DragonLight Shining in BuckinghamshireEdgar and AnnabelThere is a War (National Theatre).


English National Opera believes that opera of the highest quality should be accessible to everyone.

A national company of international standard, ENO forges ground-breaking collaborations across art forms, and our world-class productions inspire, surprise, and captivate. We sing in English and believe that singing in our own language connects the performers and the audience to the drama onstage and enhances the experience for all. ENO performs a wide repertoire of opera from classic favourites and seminal works, to contemporary titles and brand new commissions. In 2017 we staged the World Premieres of operas Marnieand The Winter’s Tale. With 2,359 seats, our home, the iconic London Coliseum on St Martin’s Lane, is the largest theatre in London. It was designed for Sir Oswald Stoll by Frank Matcham, the leading theatre architect of his day. Between April 2016 and July 2017, 346,400 people came to enjoy an ENO performance either at the London Coliseum or at another venue in London. In addition, more than 188,000 people saw an ENO co-production outside of the UK. It is central to ENO’s mission to ensure that price is never a barrier for people wanting to enjoy great opera. 42,500 tickets at £20* or less are available for performances across ENO’s 2018/19 season (around 23% of tickets to every show) and we provide great seats at significantly reduced prices to Under 30s and full-time students through our Access All Arias scheme.

We nurture talent across the entire company, whether on-stage, backstage, or in the pit; and we provide a platform for young singers to develop global careers. 80% of ENO singers and conductors are British born/trained/resident.

 For more information on ENO and our upcoming productions, please visit

Beautiful: The Carole King Musical Review

New Wimbledon Theatre, London – until May 26th

Reviewed by Sabrina Fancy


Beautiful is the story of Carole King, one of the most celebrated singer/songwriters of all time. The story itself tells of how Carole King met her husband Gerry Goffin at 16 and got pregnant. They became musical partners composing and writing lyrics together for different artists and bands at the time. Gerry who is Carole’s husband drifts away and has several affairs as he resents living a domestic life they eventually divorce. The story progresses into Carole moving finding her confidence and inner strength to perform her own music live, launching a solo career with her debut album Tapestry, which won four Grammys and has sold millions of copies worldwide.

The storyline was heart-warming story, but nothing dramatic. What sets this production apart are the performances which are outstanding and the songs are incredibly performed. I thought that the vocals were brilliant but for me the standout performances were by the shows leads.

Bronte Barbe has amazing vocals and stage presence. She has many theatre credits and was also a finalist in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ‘Over the Rainbow’ on the BBC. Gerry Goffin played by Kane Oliver Parry was previously in ‘ We will Rock you.’ and ‘ Urinetown’ always had me looking forward to when he would come on stage. The roles of Carole’s best friends Cynthia Weil (played by Amy Ellen Richardson) and Barry Mann (Matthew Gonsalves) were also very well executed with strong vocals.

I never realized how many songs Carol King was behind- 30 hit songs from the 60s and 70’s and many for famous artists. While I was not a part of this era I still recognized almost all of the songs which made the performance so much more enjoyable. Some of these hits include such hits included ‘ The Locomotion’ originally performed by Little Eva and later remade by Kylie Minogue, ‘ Take good care of my baby’ performed by Bobby Vee and ‘ You’ve

Lost that Loving Feeling’ performed by the righteous brothers. Classic songs included ‘ You make me feel (Like a natural women), You’ve got a friend and It might as well rain until September.

I loved the diversity of the cast and the costumes, while not elaborate were pretty and very reminiscent of the time. I loved how songs were cleverly weaved in to tell the story seamlessly. I found this musical to be quite empowering with an important message that even in complete despair, one can rise from the ashes and that makes you beautiful.

All in all, this was a great musical with outstanding cast performances, musical excellence and a great story. I highly recommend this production at the New Wimbledon theatre which is charming in itself and very accessible.

If you’re down and troubled and needing a helping hand do not miss the opportunity to see Beautiful at the New Wimbledon theatre.

This House Review

Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford – until 26th May

Reviewed by Heather Chalkley


A fast past tale of political shenanigans in the hallowed realms of the houses of parliament. Although staying true to the events of the government of 1974 – 79, a lot of artistic licence has been thrown in to provide humour and show human vulnerabilities. The author, James Graham, researched at length the hung parliament of that time, capturing 5 years of unique political history in little more than 2.5 hours! Wow!

Having grown up through the 70’s it was like stepping back in time, particularly the attitude towards women. The necessary strength of character of the women MPs shone through, with Labour whip Ann Taylor (Natalie Grady) and the Coventry South West MP Audrey Wise (Louise Ludgate). Male counterparts tripped over themselves to behave in their presence, whilst the women ‘found their balls’ and were more than equally matched. One of my favourite scenes is of MP Audrey Wise travelling to Westminster, to supposedly sign an apology for not towing the party line and instead slowly and steadily layed out the £20 fine, coin by coin!

The play gives you a fantastic insight into the workings of the whips office and how it makes or breaks a government. Labour Chief Whip Bob Mellish (Martin Marquez) spelled out to the newby Ann Taylor that yes she is the token female, however they all have a role within a role, whether its himself as the token cockney or Deputy Chief Whip Walter Harrison (James Gaddas) as the token northerner. They were trying to be representative! James Gaddas as the Deputy Chief Whip gave an exemplary performance, showing northern grit and a very human commitment to tradition and the party.

The hung parliament was so close that every single Labour vote for each bill counted and all the ‘others’ had to be courted and bribed into siding with them. The portrayal of Irish, Scottish and Welsh MP’s was hilarious, with all Whips on both sides running themselves ragged to solicit their votes. Labour as the working class brassy pint drinkers and Conservatives as cool as cucumber public school boys. In the darkest days, historical traditions such as ‘Pairing’ and ‘The Usual Channels’ were closed down by the Tory whips, so aged and near death Labour members had to be shipped in from all compass points in order to get the slimmest of wins. Hilarious and macabre scenes of heart attacks and suicide attempts delivered the intense pressure of the time.

The use of music to illustrate each decade was inspired and funny, especially the punk rocker V signs thrown out by the players! They were housed in the balcony of the Commons. The whole set was an impressive depiction of the House of Commons, including seats on either side for a few audience members to sit. The massive Speakers chair slide elegantly in and out of the back, making way for the two whips offices. The creative team have to be commended. The use of movement and music throughout gave the piece pace and intensity. The Ensemble were fluid and expert in their delivery. Added to this was the Speaker of the House (Miles Richardson/Orlando Wells) announcing with gravitas each MP as they entered the stage, forever present in the background.

The reflections of what we are experiencing in present day politics cannot be denied and adds a different dimension for the viewer. However, regardless of whether politics is your thing, I would thoroughly recommend This House: it has enough drama, humour and pace to entertain any audience.

Martin Kemp to star in CHICAGO in London






Martin Kemp will star as smooth-talking lawyer Billy Flynn in the multi award-winning CHICAGO at the Phoenix Theatre in London’s West End from Monday 2 July for a limited season until Saturday 1 September 2018.  The rest of the cast who will be appearing alongside Martin Kemp are still to be announced. 


Martin Kemp’s acting credits include Reggie Kray alongside his brother Gary as Ronnie Kray in the film The Krays, Steve Owen in EastEnders, and Sam Phillips in the UK tour of Million Dollar Quartet.  He is also, of course, one quarter of the band Spandau Ballet, and his book, True – An Autobiography of Martin Kemp, spent several months in The Sunday Times best sellers list.  He also appeared as a judge on the BBC’s Let It Shine, alongside Dannii Minogue and Gary Barlow.


Following a successful UK and international tour, and after a 5½-year absence from London, the multi award-winning Kander & Ebb musical CHICAGO, winner of six Tony Awards, two Olivier Awards and a Grammy, began performances at the Phoenix Theatre in London on Monday 26 March, with a press night on Wednesday 11 April.  The current booking period is until 6 October 2018. 


The cast for the first booking period, from 26 March to 30 June 2018, is led by Cuba Gooding Jr, Sarah Soetaert, Josefina Gabrielle, Ruthie Henshall and Paul Rider as Billy Flynn, Roxie Hart, Velma Kelly, Mama Morton and Amos Hart respectively.


CHICAGO originally ran in London for 15 years, making it the West End’s longest running revival.  It first opened at the Adelphi Theatre on 18 November 1997 to rave reviews and immediately became a sell-out hit.  CHICAGO won the 1998 Laurence Olivier Award for ‘Outstanding Musical Production’ as well as the 1998 Critics Circle Drama Award for ‘Best Musical’.  CHICAGO transferred from the Adelphi Theatre to the Cambridge Theatre in April 2006, where it ran for five years until 27 August 2011.  The show then opened at the Garrick Theatre on 7 November 2011, where it ran until 1 September 2012.


Since it opened in New York in 1996, CHICAGO has played in 36 countries worldwide, and been performed in English, Dutch, German, Swedish, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Italian, French, Danish, Japanese and Korean.  It has grossed over $1.5 billion worldwide and has played over 32,500 performances worldwide, with an estimated 31 million people around the world having seen CHICAGO. 

CHICAGO continues to play on Broadway, where it celebrated its 21st birthday last year, and around the world in multiple languages.  It is the world’s longest running American musical.

CHICAGO, which is based on the play by Maurine Dallas Watkins, has a book by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse, music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb.  The 1996 Broadway revival of CHICAGO was choreographed by Ann Reinking in the style of Bob Fosse, directed by Walter Bobbie, and produced by Barry and Fran Weissler.




Phoenix Theatre
110 Charing Cross Road
London WC2H 0JP

Box Office: 0844 871 7629 /

Ticket Prices: From £20.00

Performances: Monday-Saturday 8pm to 23 June, 7.30pm from 25 June, Wednesday & Saturday 3pm

Booking Period:  Currently Booking Until 6 October 2018

Running Time:  2 hours, 25 minutes (with interval)

Twitter: @ChicagoOnStage