Express Gilbert & Sullivan Review

Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield – 26 June 2021

Reviewed by Sally Richmond


To me, a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta should explode with jouissance, be injected with sharp humour and accompanied by the most delightful tunes that serve up a tasty dish of the absurd  – and in this case – that dish was a pork pie!  What may sound even more ludicrous is that the complete works of Gilbert and Sullivan could be performed in a tight 75 minutes but they were and brilliantly done so!  Performed by Charles Court Opera’s, at the wonderful Lawrence Batley theatre, Huddersfield (where a very warm and covid-friendly welcome was received)  the G & S Express truly brought the foolish follies of the Victorian age to life! 

On board the G & S Express we meet an enigmatic gentleman, Poirot, who persuades the waitress, Bridgette, to serve him the quintessential afternoon high-tea despite it being late in the evening.  The complaints about the pork pie are forewarned here and later on, the tea trolley is discovered massacred – shock horror – call the police!  But, who could have committed such a terrible crime?  There are some clues left on the trolley and Poirot takes it upon himself to solve this most farcical mystery.  

Throughout the next 60 minutes we meet a whole host of characters from the Gilbert and Sullivan collection and who through the most comical of portrayals, invite us to observe the English class system with all its:  insane constraints, Victorian gender roles and culture, excessive nationalism and the peculiar customs of the natives within this era (is it still relevant today one must ask?). 

In this production, the parody and satire were pin-sharp and the plot so cleverly crafted that all the operas were woven together and formed the most witty and whimsical narrative.  All three performers (Matthew Kellett, Catrine Kirkman and Philip Lee)  the most energetic and exuberant recitals with smooth and flawless transitions into a whole host of characters.  Each cast member had outstanding vocal ranges and how they constantly switched into different personas and regained the continuity of the story was exceptional.  This of course could not have been achieved without the pianist (Musical Director David Eaton) who was a master at work and the powerful engine running the machine – first-class!  

Charles Court Opera’s G & S Express is major coup of riotess jollity, silliness at its best and just the ticket to raise your spirits as you won’t fail to enjoy the sparkling melodies and hilarious joke-packed japes.

My Son’s a Queer, But What Can You Do? Review

Turbine Theatre, Battersea Power Station – until 17 July 2021

Reviewed by Elizabeth J Smith


My sons a queer, but what can you do? Well, what you can do is be their biggest supporter and encourage them to believe in their dreams and help them make those dreams come true.

Rob Madge found fame in 2005 when they landed a role in the revival of Mary Poppins, they have gone on to have an outstanding West End career. But this journey started long before then and this show tells us how.

Some may say this is an indulgent, ego massaging exercise, I would say not on your nelly. This is a show about struggling for acceptance of who you are and what you want to be. How the love of a family can change how you see the world and how the world sees you.

Through family videos Rob shows us that from a very early age they loved to live in the world of imagination, even when doubters like their teachers criticised their behaviour. How with a few bits of material, wool wigs, an old curtain and the living room anyone can pull off a major production to rival Disney.

Showered by the unconditional love of their parents, grandparents, aunties and cousins allowed Rob to direct, write and star in many a living room extravaganza. Which we are privileged to see.

From the opening scene Rob’s joyous face lifts your spirits and carries you along on a journey of love, hope and reflection.

The staging is compact and cosy. You are in the living room watching the show. You are part of the family. Sharing the in jokes. Feeling the love.

When I was a child I would dress up in my Mums wedding dress and pretend to be a princess, while watching the old Saturday afternoon film, this show reminded me of that and I think it’s not too late to live out my dream of doing the weekly shop dressed as Giselle from Disney Enchanted.

If you want to feel uplifted after lock down and feel enveloped into a loving family this little show will do that for you.

Well done Rob can’t wait for the teenage years!!

Giffords Circus The Hooley Review

Chiswick House and Gardens, London – until 11 July 2021

Reviewed by Heather Chalkley


Since the year 2000 when Nell realised her ambitious to create a village green circus, Gifford’s have never disappointed. The combination of art, jeopardy and humour creates a traditional small circus vibe, with an added delightful and different storytelling twist each season. The Hooley was dreamt up by Director Cal McCrystal and produced by Nell’s niece, Lil Rice. A magical fairyland seems fitting for the first year without the founder Nell and also their 21st anniversary.

Those familiar with Gifford’s will be pleased to know some of the firm favourites continue to entertain, with Tweedy bringing new comic routines as a leprechaun – it suits him! Nancy Trotter Landry makes a comical fairy for him to team up with. As well as producing the show Lil lends her beautiful voice to some Irish ballads and raucous ceilidh, foot tappers. The New Revolution Troupe provide ample jeopardy, despite their pixie suits! By far my favourite act of the night is Jonny Grundy and Manuel Artino on the ariel hoop. Their dance training shines through in the grace and beauty of their movements, as they position themselves into impossible, strength-based frames. The audience is almost silent throughout and then erupts into a foot stamping, roar of applause.

Gifford’s artistic team and front of house, create the sensation of walking onto a village green, with beautiful wooden food wagons and plenty of hospitality. Whatever your age, you will be captivated by the other worldly feel of The Hooley. I am sure Nell Gifford is looking on, proud of the heritage she has established.  

The Last Five Years Extends and Moves to the Garrick Theatre






Jason Robert Brown’s Drama Desk Award-winning musical, The Last Five Years, will now be opening at the larger Garrick Theatre for an extended limited season, previewing from 17 September, with an opening night on Thursday 23 September and now running until 17 October 2021.  Directed by Jonathan O’Boyle, Molly Lynch and Oli Higginson will reprise their roles as Cathy and Jamie, following a critically acclaimed run at Southwark Playhouse last year and a highly successful worldwide stream with  This will be the first time the musical will have had a significant run of length in the West End.

The production at Southwark Playhouse was nominated for eight Offie Awards and won two for Best Director and Best Musical Production.  Oli Higginson was nominated for a Stage Debut Award for his performance as Jamie.

The Last Five Years is an emotionally powerful and intimate story about two New Yorkers who fall in and out of love over the course of five years.  The musical’s unconventional structure unfolds as Cathy, a struggling actor, tells her story in reverse, from the end of their turbulent relationship, whilst Jamie, a literary prodigy, tells his story chronologically from the spark of their initial meeting. In the musical, the two characters meet only once, at their wedding, which falls in the middle of the show. 

Jonathan O’Boyle’s new actor-musician production has the actors on stage at all times and playing the piano to add a new narrative dimension to the story, accompanied by a four-piece band. 

Brown’s cult classic musical was first seen in 2001 and ran off-Broadway in 2002. It was turned into a film in 2014 starring Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan.

Molly Lynch made her professional debut in the West End in ENO’s production of Sweeney Todd starring Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfl.  She then played the role of Chava in Grange Park Opera’s production of Fiddler on the Roof, also starring Bryn Terfl.  She played Betty in the UK Tour of Sunset Boulevard starring Ria Jones and Danny Mac and most recently appeared in The Light in The Piazza starring Renee Fleming at the Royal Festival Hall.

Oli Higginson’s previous theatre credits include The Haystack at Hampstead Theatre, Maggie & Ted at White Bear Theatre, Napoleon Blown Apart at Arcola Theatre and The Assassination of Marcus Garvey at Theatre 503.  Most recently, he has been seen in the Netflix hit series Bridgerton and in BBC1’s The Pursuit of Love.

The creative team, led by director Jonathan O’Boyle, includes choreographer Sam Spencer-Lane, set and costume designer Lee Newby, lighting designer Jamie Platt and sound designer Adam Fisher.  Musical director is Leo Munby.  Casting is by Jane Deitch.

The Last Five Years, written and composed by Jason Robert Brown, was originally produced for the New York stage by Arielle Tepper and Marty Bell and originally produced by Northlight Theatre, Chicago.  It is produced at the Garrick Theatre by Katy Lipson for ARIA ENTERTAINMENT, Eilene Davidson Productions, Edward Prophet, People Entertainment Group, with Dan Looney, Adam Paulden and Jason-Haigh Ellery for DLAP GROUP, David Treatman and Max Johnson.  General Manager and Assistant Producer is Chris Matanlé for Aria Entertainment.  The original Southwark Playhouse production was produced by Katy Lipson for Aria Entertainment, Edward Prophet and People Entertainment Group.


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17 September – 17 October 2021

Garrick Theatre

2 Charing Cross Road

London WC2H 0HH

Performances: Tuesday – Saturday at 8pm, Thursday, Saturday & Sunday at 3pm*

*4pm matinee on Saturday 18 September and 6pm matinee on Sunday 19 September

Running time: 90 minutes

Tickets: from £20

Box Office: 0330 333 4811

Iconic British sitcom THE GOOD LIFE receives world premiere stage production






A brand new stage adaptation of beloved British sitcom THE GOOD LIFE will tour the UK this Autumn. The new comedy by Jeremy Sams, is based on the classic television series by John Esmonde and Bob Larbey which entertained countless millions in the 1970s. Directed by Jeremy Sams, this world premiere production will be the first time that the iconic characters of suburban neighbours the Goods and the Leadbetters will be seen on stage.

Starring actor, comedian and presenter Rufus Hound as Tom Good, THE GOOD LIFE will open at Theatre Royal Bath on 7 October 2021, before dates at Cheltenham Everyman, Salford Lowry, Oxford Playhouse, Cambridge Arts Theatre, Malvern Theatres, Richmond Theatre and Chichester Festival Theatre. Full casting for the production is still to be announced. 

Remember the Goods – Tom and Barbara, suburban eco-warriors? And their next-door neighbours Margo and Jerry Leadbetter, desperately trying to maintain the Surbiton status quo? Jeremy Sams’s comedy leads the well-loved characters (not forgetting Geraldine the goat) through uproarious  adventures, some old, some new and often (even today) hilariously familiar. This new play celebrates a time when, whatever our differences, we still managed to get on with our neighbours.  

Beloved BBC sitcom THE GOOD LIFE ran on British television from 1975 to 1978 starring Richard Briers, Felicity Kendal, Penelope Keith and Paul Eddington.

Jeremy Sams‘s directing credits include the National Theatre’s 2000 West End and Broadway revival of Noises Off, the West End musical Spend, Spend, Spend, the international tour of The Sound of Music and Oklahoma! at Chichester Festival Theatre.

Rufus Hound is an award-winning actor, comedian and presenter equally at home with roles on screen including Doctor Who, Cucumber, Hounded and on the stage including One Man Two Guvnors (Theatre Royal Haymarket), What The Butler Saw (Theatre Royal Bath / Leicester Curve), Don Quixote (RSC), Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (Savoy Theatre London), Present Laughter and Neville’s Island (Chichester Festival Theatre) and his award-winning role as Mr Toad in The Wind in the Willows (London Palladium, UK tour and cinema broadcast). 

Fiery Angel presents THE GOOD LIFE. A new comedy by Jeremy Sams based on the TV series by John Esmonde and Bob Larbey. Directed by Jeremy Sams with Set and Costume Design by Michael Taylor,  Lighting Design by Mark Henderson, Sound Design by Fergus O’Hare and casting by Ginny Schiller CDG.

Theatres Trust comment on third round announcement of Cultural Recovery Fund

In response to today’s government announcement about the third round of the Cultural Recovery Fund, I’m pleased to share a comment from Jon Morgan, director of Theatres Trust:

Theatres Trust is pleased to see the announcement of the third round of Cultural Recovery Fund with the final £300m now confirmed by government.  The CRF has been a lifeline for the sector. We understand that applications are due to open shortly and it is essential these additional funds swiftly reach theatres who have been impacted by the delay to step 4 as well as supporting theatres during the rest of the year as they navigate the return to full audiences. 



Grammy-nominated Pussycat Dolls member Kimberly Wyatt will make her theatrical stage debut by joining the cast of Hilary Bonner’s scandalous thriller Dead Lies.

RED Entertainment is thrilled to announce that Kimberly Wyatt will join the previously announced Clive Mantle (Casualty, Holby City, Game of Thrones), Harriet Thorpe (Absolutely Fabulous, Wicked), John Lyons (A Touch of Frost, The Mousetrap), Jacqueline Leonard (Coronation Street), Patrick Pearson (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) and Ashford Campbell (9 to 5 the Musical, Dreamgirls, The X Factor)

The UK tour of Dead Lies will open at the Queen’s Theatre, Barnstaple prior to its first National Tour.

Kimberly Wyatt will play the role of Kate in Hilary Bonner’s brand-new thriller Dead Lies.

The Pussycat Dolls member was scheduled to embark on a world tour with the band this year, due to the ongoing COVID pandemic it has been postponed. This, on the other hand, has allowed her to pursue her acting career by joining the cast of Hilary Bonner’s thriller. This is Kimberly Wyatt’s first stage piece. Wyatt’s is no stranger to acting, being a series regular on BBC/Netflix show Almost Never in the role of Sasha Small.

“I had been looking to do a play for some time and had read multiple scripts but couldn’t find a character that I really wanted to create. Then I was sent the script for Dead Lies and as soon as I started to read it, I was totally drawn into its world of lies, murder and sexual indiscretion. I could not put the script down and read it from start to finish in the blink of an eye, I was totally gripped.” – Kimberly Wyatt

Kimberly, known from The Grammy-nominated girl group, sizzled onto the pop scene in 2005 with their debut album PCD and had a string of hits, including Don’t Cha and Stickwitu, both of which reached number one in the UK charts.

Kimberly has since branched out from her popstar beginnings, joining Adam Garcia and Ashley Banjo as a judge on the hit Sky1 UK show, Got to Dance and being crowned Champion on the BBC’s Celebrity Masterchef.

On joining the cast of Dead Lies in the feisty role of press secretary Kate Compton, she is to Peter George (played by Clive Mantle) what Alistair Campbell was to Tony Blair.

“Kate is in the centre of all the drama, she’s really sassy, switched on and is hugely influential in the political arena.   She is very much like a Dominic Cummings or even Alastair Campbell figure but thankfully she has the style of Carrie Johnson” – Kimberly Wyatt

The world premiere of Hilary Bonner’s psychological thriller Dead Lies embarks on a national UK tour in autumn this year starting at Queen’s Theatre Barnstaple from 14 – 19 September 2021. It will continue with weekly engagements at the Forum Theatre, Malvern (21 – 25 September), Lichfield Garrick (28 September – 3 October), Pomegranate Theatre, Chesterfield (5 – 9 October), King’s Theatre, Portsmouth (19 – 23 October) and Peterborough New Theatre (26-30 October). More venues to be announced shortly.

Dead Lies is written by Hilary Bonner and directed by Joe Harmston. The cast is Clive Mantle, Kimberly Wyatt, Harriet Thorpe, Jacqueline Leonard, John Lyons, Patrick Pearson, Ashford Campbell.

ABBA MANIA kicks off UK tour with outdoor concert series Sounds in the Grounds | July – August 2021

ABBA MANIA heads on the road for Sounds in the
this summer
Saturday 10th July and Saturday 14th August 2021

Following a critically acclaimed West End run, ABBA MANIA will tour as part of the Sounds in the Grounds concerts this summer. This exciting series of live outdoor concerts will see audiences enjoy a choice of best-loved bands from designated, socially distanced picnic patches in a spectacular setting. The perfect party as we head past the final stages of lockdown, ABBA MANIA will bring to life ABBA’s last ever concert in an exhilarating two-hour production celebrating the timeless joy of their songs.

Stepping back into the platform heels of one of the most famous pop supergroups of all time will be acclaimed performers Rhiannon Porter (Finalist, Eurovision: You Decide 2018; Les Misérables 25th Anniversary Production, O2 Arena) and JoJo Desmond (Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake; Lead Vocalist, Doctor Who Live, UK Arena Tour). Joining them is Edward Handoll (BIG The Musical, West End; Saturday Night Fever, UK Tour), and Loucas Hajiantoni (One Night of Tina, European Tour).

Featuring the Swedish supergroup’s irresistible music, fantastic costumes and electrifying staging, this concert is perfect for life-long ABBA fans and newcomers alike. Dig out your platforms and enjoy all your favourite hits including Mamma Mia, Voulez Vous, Dancing Queen, Winner Takes It All, Waterloo, Fernando, Does Your Mother Know, Super Trouper and many more.

Producer Todd Littlewood comments, After a fantastic run in the West End, we’re so excited to bring the feel good music of ABBA to audiences across the country, for a showstopping singalong. An evening of electrifying song and dance is the perfect tonic to the past 15 months, and we can’t wait to celebrate with the audience.

Also joining the production will be previous ABBA MANIA cast members Tamsin Stewart (Romeo & Juliet The Musical, West End; Taboo, West End) and Duncan Walsh Atkins (Musical Director, Showstopper: The Improvised Musical) in the roles of Director and Choreographer, and Musical Supervisor, respectively. They will both be dusting off their flares and saying ‘Thank You For The Music’ as they return to celebrate an evening of Euro-nostalgia.

Supporting the cast will be the magnificent ABBA MANIA band who have delighted audiences across the world. Paul Gregory (The Book of Mormon, West End, UK and international tour; The Lion King, UK tour) will lead on drums with Dan Hall (The Drifters, UK and Ireland tour; The Blues Brothers, UK and Japan tour) on bass guitar and Anders Rye (The Blues Brothers, UK and Ireland tour; Rat Pack, world tour) on guitar.

ABBA MANIA has delighted more than three million audience members since its formation in 1999, performing over 3,000 live shows in 30 countries across the world – from Germany to Tahititi, Sweden to Venezuela, USA to Australia. For the first time since 2002, West End audiences will have the opportunity to relive the iconic era when ABBA ruled the airwaves.

Following the Sounds in the Grounds dates, ABBA MANIA will be heading to The Legends Festival, followed by a full UK tour this autumn. There will also be a 55-date US tour, a debut Russian tour and a 25-date arena tour in France throughout 2021 and 2022.

With on your feet, toe-tapping, arms in the air hits from start to finish, this is a girl’s night out. And bring the fellas cos they’ll love it too!
(★★★★★ Theatre Reviews Design)

ABBA MANIA is everything you would hope for from an ABBA Tribute show- packed full of ABBA hits, high energy, great vocals from the cast and most of all so so so feel good
(★★★★ Musical Theatre Musings)



Orange Tree Theatre today announce OT Extraordinary, a live event raising money for the OT Recovery Fund, supporting the company’s return following the pandemic on Sunday 18 July at 6pm. Hosted by Mel Giedroycthe evening features a variety of musical performances, comedy and spoken word with guests including Zia AhmedJanie DeeThe IDolls and Ashley Zhangazha.

Alongside the event, there will be two raffles. Audiences do not have to be attending the event to participate in the raffle.

The first raffle contains a selection of prizes available including:

  • Dinner or Lunch for two at Novikov Restaurant & Bar
  • A pair of press night tickets for While the Sun Shines at the Orange Tree Theatre
  • ‘Sit and Stay’ professional photograph package for a canine friend
  • A pair of press night tickets for Rice at the Orange Tree Theatre
  • Round of drinks with Orange Tree Theatre’s Artistic Director, Paul Miller and Executive Director, Hanna Streeter at the Orange Tree Pub
  • Pair of press night tickets to a theatrical blockbuster at the Bridge Theatre
  • Five-course tasting lunch for two at the Bingham Riverhouse
  • Backstage tour of Orange Tree Theatre
  • Pair of press night tickets to see the world première of Zoe Cooper’s play The Flock at Chichester Festival Theatre

Buy your tickets here:

The second raffle is a chance for the winner and a friend Zoom with Bafta Award winning actress Aimee Lou Wood and Bafta Award nominated director Ben Taylor from the Netflix Series Sex Education. Buy your tickets here:

The OT’s Recovery Fund is raising support to help the renowned theatre return to a producing powerhouse with emerging artists at the heart of its programme.

Orange Tree Theatre


1 Clarence Street, Richmond, TW9 2SA

Box Office:

Price: £75 (general) / £125 (VIP)

A VIP ticket includes a pre-show reception hosted by OT Ambassador Samantha Bond from 5.30pm and the opportunity to meet the artists while enjoying a glass of bubbly.