Lizzie Review

Greenwich Theatre 22 February – 12 March.  Reviewed by Claire Roderick

The UK premiere of Lizzie brings one of the bloodiest pieces of American folklore to the stage with blistering energy and a high-octane rock score. The trial and acquittal of Lizzie Borden for the 1892 axe murders of her father and stepmother has led to speculation about her guilt and motives. Tim Maner’s book focuses on the theories about Mr Borden abusing Lizzie, the Borden sisters’ hatred for their stepmother, and Lizzie’s sexual orientation.

With the six-piece band on stage and the show’s semi-staged action adding to the rock concert vibe, the production needs a strong cast to grab the audience’s imagination, and here they have hit solid gold.

Bjorg Gamst reprises her role as Lizzie with intense passion, looking like an angel and singing like a banshee. Her emotional range is stunning and surprising with this material, and she has you rooting for Lizzie from the very first number. Eden Espinosa is a powerhouse of sheer class as Lizzie’s older sister Emma, and Bleu Woodward is deceptively sweet as Lovelorn friend Alice. Jodie Jacobs clowns around as Bridget the gleefully mercenary maid, milking every comic moment. The power and range of the women’s voices are phenomenal, and their harmonies are fantastic.

Steven Cheslik-Demeyer, Alan Stevens Hewitt and Tim Maner’s music is thumping and frenetic, building throughout the first act into near hysteria when Lizzie finally flips – in Why Are All These Heads Off? – Lizzie’s reaction to her father chopping off her beloved pigeons’ heads is a frankly insane piece of music which ramps up the tension before the final bloody number of act 1. (During which the front row covered themselves with plastic sheets – fantastic use of stuffed watermelons as a gory substitute!)

The second act sees the cast change their Victorian costumes for rock chick corsets and leather, and sees Lizzie take control, her new-found freedom from her father overriding any fear of incarceration. The machinations of the women backing Lizzie’s varying alibi, and covering up of evidence makes for some intense and vitriolic numbers, the standout being Eden Espinosa’s What The F**k Now Lizzie? There’s even a country style jailhouse ballad that would make Johnny Cash smile.

Not to everyone’s taste, I will admit, but Lizzie is a fresh and stunning new musical that gives a gothic twist to classic rock opera and is a much-needed shot in the arm for the modern musical. GET A TICKET TODAY.

Auditions for young actors and a dog at York Theatre Royal

York Theatre Royal announces auditions for a young company and a very special dog in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall
Audition Date – Saturday 11 March 2017
York Theatre Royal is seeking a young company of two boys to play the role of Arthur, the son of Helen, in brand new stage adaptation of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Deborah McAndrew, a co production with the Octagon Theatre Bolton.
We are looking for two boys with the maximum playing age of 7 years old for the role. Only one boy will be needed per performance and the performances will be split equally between the two chosen boys. The chosen boys will be working alongside a dog on stage, so must be comfortable working with animals. The boys must be available between Monday 24th April & Saturday 6th May 2017 for technical rehearsals and performances. They will be looked after by a York Theatre Royal licenced chaperone.
We also need a very special dog to appear alongside the boys. The dog should be medium sized, border collie type working dog, who is very obedient and will take instruction from its owner.  The dog will also need to have a calm temperament and be capable of adapting to working on stage with lights and an audience.
Based on the 1848 novel by Anne Bronte, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is set in nineteenth century Yorkshire, where a mysterious young widow Helen Graham and her son Arthur arrive at the desolate estate of Wildfell Hall.
Isolating herself from the village, Helen soon becomes the subject of local speculation. Intrigued by this beautiful and enigmatic woman, a young farmer, Markham, gradually falls in love. Torn apart with her attraction to Markham and the secrets of her past, Helen finally reveals the shocking history she thought she’d left behind…
Auditions will take place during the afternoon on Saturday 11 March 2017
To attend auditions please download and complete The Tenant of Wildfell Hall audition application form available at

Narvik Review

York Theatre Royal – 23 February 2017.  Reviewed by Marcus Richardson

Narvik is a new play with songs, set in World War Two the the play focuses on a Liverpudlian man and his love for a Norwegian Girl and how their relationship is affected by the war

The performance was set in a black box studio, so as soon as you walked in all the attention was on the set and how they presented the stage, needless to say that I loved the concept of the stage of having an area that resembles a boat however there were some piles that restricted our view from certain scenes and I couldn’t see some of the actors faces at certain points

The acting was very modern with the main character Jim (Joe Shipman) starting out as a 90 year old man ready to die looking for Else (Nina Yndis), which then he goes back to the moment they first meet and it develops their story and creates this world that is torn apart by war. The other actor who played characters, Lucas Smith, became the best friend of Jim whilst he was on the boat and also his father; I have to say I found that he was very good at creating a lot of depth to each character and made sure that you could see the difference between both of them. The three actors were supported by a band of three who were all dressed as sailors in grey overalls and berets, they helped set the scene with sounds being made from the set and sing song that fit into certain scenes.

This was one of the the best productions I had seen in a while, but it was a shame from where I was sat. It started out being rather bland and very same old, but I grew to rather like it, and I loved the end with the great use of how the play plays with time and our perception. I would highly recommend to go and see this show, as it is a great case of new material and new actors

On tour around the UK





C A T   O N   A   H O T   T I N   R O O F








Sienna Miller and Jack O’Connell will lead the cast as Maggie and Brick in Benedict Andrews’ Young Vic production of Cat On A Hot Tin Roof which will begin previews in the West End at the Apollo Theatre on 13 July 2017.  With press night on 24 July, this strictly limited twelve-week run is booking to 7 October 2017.  Set designs are by Magda Willi with costume designs by Alice Babidge and lighting by Jon Clark.  Further casting will be announced at a later date.

Tickets go on public sale today, 24 February 2017, at 10am.  For this Young Vic production, there will be seats available at £10 for under 25s for each performance, booked through the Young Vic Box Office, with 75 tickets at £20 or less for every performance.

Cat On A Hot Tin Roof marks the Young Vic’s first production to debut directly in the West End and is presented by the Young Vic and The Young Ones.  Previously the Young Vic have transferred A View from a Bridge, Golem, The Scottsboro Boys, Simply Heavenly, Tintin and A Doll’s House.

The truth hurts. On a steamy night in Mississippi, a Southern family gather at their cotton plantation to celebrate Big Daddy’s birthday.  The scorching heat is almost as oppressive as the lies they tell.  Brick and Maggie dance round the secrets and sexual tensions that threaten to destroy their marriage. With the future of the family at stake, which version of the truth is real – and which will win out?


Tennessee Williams’ Pulitzer prize winning play received its world premiere in 1955 at the Morosco Theater on Broadway with Barbara Bel Geddes and Ben Gazzara as Maggie and Brick.  The UK premiere, directed by Peter Hall, opened at the Comedy Theatre in 1958 with Kim Stanley and Paul Massie in the same roles.  The 1958 Academy Award nominated film starring Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman was directed by Richard Brooks.

Sienna Miller (Maggie) trained at the Lee Strasberg Institute in New York.  She was last on stage in the West End as Patricia in Flare Path at the Haymarket Theatre and was previously seen at Wyndham’s Theatre as Celia in As You Like It.  Her New York theatre credits include After Miss Julie, Cabaret, Independence and Cigarettes and Chocolate.  Her many film credits include Live by Night, Mississippi Grind, Layer Cake, Alfie, Casanova, Factory Girl, American Sniper, Foxcatcher, The Edge of Love, G.I. Joe, Yellow and the forthcoming The Lost City of Z.  On television her credits include The Girl, Bedtime and Keen Eddie 


Jack O’Connell (Brick) was last seen on stage in The Nap at Sheffield Crucible Theatre.  His other theatre credits include Scarborough for the Royal Court and The Spiderman, The Musiciansand Just for NT Shell Connections.  His film work has garnered him multiple awards, including the 2015 EE BAFTA Rising Star Award, the New Hollywood Award and the Chopard Trophy Award at the Cannes Film Festival.  Most recently, his project Home won the BAFTA for British Short Film in 2017.  His other film credits include Money Monster, 300: Rise of an Empire, Unbroken, ’71, Starred Up, Liability, Private Peaceful, Tower Block, Weekender, Wayfaring Stranger, Eden Lakeand Black Dog.  O’Connell will next be seen on screen in Tulip Fever, The Man with the Iron Heartas well as starring in the Netflix TV series Godless.  His television credits include Skins, United, The Runaway, This is England, Dive and Wuthering Heights.


For the Young Vic, Benedict Andrews has previously directed his own version of Three Sisters, which won the London Critics’ Circle Best Director Award, and A Streetcar Named Desire, with Gillian Anderson and Ben Foster, which transferred to New York in 2016.  His first production for the Young Vic was Monteverdi’s The Return of Ulysses, a co-production with ENO – where he has also directed La Boheme and Detlev Glanert’s Caligula.  His many directing credits for Sydney Theatre Company include The Maids with Cate Blanchett and Isabelle Huppert, which toured to the Lincoln Centre Festival in New York; and Big and Small which came to the Barbican, also starring Cate Blanchett.  Andrews has also worked extensively at the Schaubühne Berlin, Komische Oper, National Theatre Iceland and Belvoir Street Sydney.  His first feature film, Una,starring Rooney Mara and Ben Mendelsohn, premiered at the 2016 Telluride Film Festival and will be released later this year.


The Young Vic, one of the UK’s leading theatres, produces new plays, classics, forgotten works, musicals and opera. It co-produces and tours widely in the UK and internationally while keeping deep roots in its neighbourhood.  It frequently transfers shows to London’s West End and invites local people to take part at its home in Waterloo. In 2016 the Young Vic became London’s first Theatre of Sanctuary. Recent productions include Simon Stone’s new version of Lorca’sYerma which returns to the Young Vic with Billie Piper reprising her multi award-wining performance in July, the premiere of Charlene James’ multi-award-winning play Cuttin’ It and Ivo van Hove’s production of Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge (West End & Broadway transfers), as well as Horizons, a season of work exploring the lives of refugees.  David Lan is Artistic Director with Lucy Woollatt as Executive Director.




Theatre:                  Apollo Theatre, 31 Shaftesbury Avenue, London W1D 7ES

Dates:                    13 July – 7 October 2017

Press Night:             Monday 24 July 2017 at 7pm

Performances:          Monday – Saturday at 7.30pm, Wednesday and Saturday matinees at 2.30pm

Prices:                    in previews Monday – Thursday £10-£55, Friday & Saturday £10-£57,

from 25 July 2017 Monday – Thursday £10-£65, Friday & Saturday £10-£67

Box Office:              Apollo 0330 333 4809

Young Vic 020 7922 2922


Twitter/Instagram:    @youngvictheatre

Facebook:               youngvictheatre

Cast announced for Chinglish at Park Theatre – March

Cast announced for Chinglish by David Henry Hwang

Park200, Park Theatre, Clifton Terrace, Finsbury Park, London N4 3JP Wednesday 22nd March – Saturday 22nd April 2017 

Gyuri Sarossy (The Rover RSC, Two Noble Kinsmen RSC, The Absence of War Headlong) and Candy Ma (Project New Earth, Chinese Arts Centre and Yellow Earth Theatre) have been announced to lead the talented bilingual cast of Chinglish. Tony Award-winning and Pulitzer Prize finalist David Henry Hwang returns to Park Theatre with the European premiere of his Broadway hit Chinglish following the sell-out success of Yellow Face (Park Theatre 2013, National Theatre 2014).

The result of an exhaustive four-month casting process, Sarossy and Ma are joined by Lobo Chan, Duncan Harte, Siu-see Hung, Minhee Yeo and Windson Liong. Producer Tim Johanson comments, So much of the joy of Chinglish hinges on East-West mis-translation, so we’re delighted to have assembled such a talented group of bilingual actors

It’s so conscientious in leading us through the maze of cultural confusion at its center — with “you are here” signs at every new twist in the labyrinth — that we’re never allowed to feel lost ourselves (New York Times).

Hwang’s hilarious comedy about the misadventures of miscommunication explores the modern difficulty of doing business between East and West. Daniel, an American, wants to pg. 2 open up China for his business. There are only three things standing in his way: he can’t speak the language, he can’t learn the customs, and he’s falling in love with the one woman he can’t have.

David Henry Hwang comments, I’m thrilled that Chinglish will receive its European premiere at the Park Theatre, who did such an excellent production of my play Yellow Face. America’s current political turmoil only serves to strengthen China’s power and influence, which perhaps makes this play even more timely than when it first ran on Broadway.

Acclaimed director Andrew Keates (As Is, Dessa Rose Trafalgar Studios) makes his Park Theatre debut.

A stage adaptation of Tarsem Singh’s The Fall comes to Portobello Market

EmpathEyes presents:

March 17th – March 19th 2017, Acklam Village Market

The Fall is a breathtaking one hour visual spectacle which blends theatre with original animations, live music and projection to unfold a story about one man’s struggle with depression and his unusual path to hope. This play is a new adaptation by EmpathEyes, inspired by Tarsem Singh’s 2006 film, also entitled The Fall.

★★★★★“Intense and powerful (…) a triumph” Fringebiscuit

★★★★★ “Physically impressive and deeply disturbing” FringeGuru

After a failed suicide attempt, a bedridden man tricks a young girl in the hospital to bring him painkillers with the intention of overdosing. He manipulates her attention by telling vibrant stories about the journeys of 5 heroes (represented by ever-changing animation on a screen behind him). As the young girl becomes attached to these characters, the man finds himself inspired by her goodwill and innocence. Yet he finds his cynicism and dejectedness seeping into his storytelling – the fate of the heroes kept hostage by his increasingly despondent mind-set.

Alongside the show there will be an exhibition on ‘Depression and Hope’ which follows the emotional journey of the play, starting with the beginnings of a mental illness, the experience when in the depths of psychosis and the emergence of hope.

★★★★ “This production will send your mind into overdrive” The Scotsman

★★★★ “Slick, sexy and utterly terrifying” The List

EmpathEyes are a performing arts company that thrives on making work that is raw, honest and has at its core the desire to collaborate with others and fundamentally challenge ourselves and audiences. Their projects stem from the desire to expose and explore the deep crevices of inequality and injustice. They have been drawn to epic stories like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The Goat, 1984 and Kafka’s The Trial and have brought these to life on stage by adding their own touch of original live music, animation, and film to the mix. They are deeply inspired by art that makes us question and not sit idle and they beckon their audiences to do the same.

Also Recognised Awards Shortlists announced and voting now open

Also Recognised Awards

Shortlists announced and voting now open

Shortlists for the third annual Also Recognised Awards have been announced by MyTheatreMates, founded by Mark Shenton and Terri Paddock. These audience-voted industry accolades celebrate talent in fields often overlooked by other award bodies. Voting is now open for all categories and closes on Sunday 26th March 2017. Cast your vote at:

The Also Recognised Awards were launched online in 2015 and include the UK’s first-ever prize for Best Musical Direction as well as other key categories, such as Best Ensemble Performance and Best Solo Performance. The Awards also uniquely put the spotlight on the creativity of digital marketing and advertising disciplines in theatre with recognition for Best Show Poster, Best Show Trailer and Best Twitter Engagement.

Terri and Mark also now work together on the annual Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards, which Mark once again hosted and Terri produced for the first time at the West End’s Prince of Wales Theatre in January. Mark is also a judge for The Offies and The Stage Awards.

Mark and Terri commented on the Also Recognised Awards, The UK has a number of theatre awards, each of which provides a unique perspective on our industry. But despite the spectrum of opinion gauged in these many prize-givings, there are still some key categories that aren’t well covered elsewhere. We founded the Also Recognised Awards to fill some of those gaps. These online awards are purely about recognising and celebrating that talent.

Nominations for the Also Recognised Awards were drawn up by Shenton, Paddock and Ian Foster, with input from Andrew Keates and Mike Dixon (the industry lobbyists who have been the driving force behind establishing creative parity for Musical Direction) and other members of the My Theatre Mates collective of independent theatre bloggers and commentators.

MyTheatreMates invites suggestions for other new award fields not already covered elsewhere. Recommendations with sufficient merit and industry backing will be introduced in future years.

Twitter @MyTheatreMates, #AlsoRecognised @ShentonStage, @TerriPaddock, @AndrewKeates, @mikedixonmusic



Murder, Margaret and Me Review

York Theatre Royal, 22 April 2017.  Reviewed by Marcus Richardson
Murder, Margaret and Me, is a ‘comical thriller’ directed by Damian Cruden. The play follows the relationship between two women Margret Rutherford and Agatha Christie, both very strong and eccentric, this gives the amazing comical essence of the show as interaction between them both is absolutely superb. It delves into the secrets they both hold and unearthing them making for the thriller side of the play.
The Acting was amazing with the cast of three, each character had their own little quirks and things that made it a believable person; it felt like I was watching Agatha and Margaret in real life, not on stage. Nichola McAuliffe played Christie in such a way that we could connect to her while also judge her as a person, for me it was her face that made the character and her laughs. Susie Blake played Margaret Rutherford an actress famous for playing Miss Marple on the silver screen, her character was very fun to watch with lots of quirks giving depth and mystery. Andrina Carroll who came rather late to the production played The Spinster who helped move the story along and giving us a back story which will fit somehow into the play.
The Set was breath taking, and definitely took the production to higher levels, with only two stage hands – you wouldn’t expect them to assemble a set on stage whilst the show is going on with such little effort, they help build and put together a rather detailed set by setting up walls to make a house and moving furniture around. This work is very typical of Damian Cruden, which I love as it gives the show another spark of creativity; this always blows the audience away.
Lighting worked very well with the set and the opening of the play proved the pinnacle of how so, with the three ladies moving around near the edge of the stage in a freeze frame as a light came upon them, in a very much Hitchcock way.
Overall the performance way very nice to watch and it is defiantly made for an older audience as some jokes I could not understand, but that should deter you from watching as I loved every second of the plot and character. The best aspect of the show was the relationship between the characters and how it evolved over time.
It is showing at York theatre royal until the 4th of March and I advise that you go and see the marvel of Murder, Margaret And Me

The Lowry announces new artist cohort for 2017

The Lowry has announced the 2017 cohort of its prestigious artist development programme.

Five companies and artists have been awarded places on The Lowry’s award-winning Developed With The Lowry programme. This year’s recipients include: Manchester-based Buddhist monk turned stand-up comedian Sam Brady; local poet-playwright Chanje Kunda; Italian contemporary dance company Igor and Moreno; London-based mask theatre company Theatre Temoin; and Berlin-based hand balancing artist Natalie Reckert.

Each will receive a cash investment and production support as they make a new show that will premiere at The Lowry. They also benefit from a year-long bespoke package of professional development funding and support as they take an exciting step forward in their practice.

For some, this will focus on helping them develop new creative skills through travelling to see other productions, taking part in international residencies or private masterclasses with leading experts. Others will focus on developing new relationships with venues, learning business skills and building their national profile.

The Lowry is also delighted to welcome two new companies into its Associate Artist programme alongside dark comedy favourites Kill The Beast and verbatim theatre company LUNG. Family theatre company Colour The Clouds Theatre Company and socially engaged theatre company Art with Heart, both Salford-based, join the Associate Artist programme after taking part in Developed With The Lowry last year.

Designed to support some of the most promising companies making work in the North West, The Lowry offers its Associate Artists a home for all their productions alongside a deep and long term commitment to supporting these companies as they establish themselves on the national stage.

Julia Fawcett OBE, chief executive of The Lowry, said: “We wanted our ‘Developed With’ programme to better reflect the full breadth of talent we can support as an arts centre and our 2017 intake reflects that shift. Bringing together a cohort that includes theatre makers, dancers, poets, and circus artists with different local, national and international perspectives creates exciting new ways to work together across the industry.

“We are proud to demonstrate our commitment to local companies through our Associate Artist programme. Our role will be to help them take their work to the next level – encouraging them to take risks, be bold and push themselves creatively while building a solid foundation for their long term career.”

Previous recipients of Developed With The Lowry include the emerging comedy star Sophie Willan, physical theatre company Animikii Theatre and touring company 2Magpies Theatre. Alumni of the Associate Artist programme include Idle Motion, Monkeywood Theatre and the international ensemble Theatre Ad Infinitum.

The Girls Review

Phoenix Theatre Booking to 15 July.  Reviewed by Claire Roderick

Gary Barlow and Tim Firth have struck gold with this delightfully British musical. Based on Firth’s film and play, the addition of Gary Barlow’s music adds extra magic to an already uplifting story.

The story of members of the WI producing a nude calendar to raise funds for a settee in the relative’s room of the local hospital is one that you’d have to have been living under a rock to not know, but the moment when Annie finds out that they have raised enough funds to build an entire hospital wing will still have you welling up. And that’s the wonderful thing about The Girls, one moment you’ll be trying to stop your bottom lip quivering, and the next you’ll be roaring with laughter. This is tragedy mixed with hilarity, with some cracking tunes thrown in.

Setting up all the characters in the first song, the glorious celebratory Yorkshire, the first act deals with John’s diagnosis and treatment for cancer, mixing wonderful comedy set pieces with Annie’s growing realisation that she will lose her husband, as he keeps joking and telling her that everything will be alright. Joanna Riding breaks your heart as she sings Scarborough and Kilimanjaro, both about the challenges of dealing with life alone. John’s death is dealt with beautifully and stylishly, as the cast slowly leave the stage to carry on with their lives, leaving Annie all alone. The sunflower motif is ever-present, and the full impact is felt in the show’s unashamedly emotional finale. Not a dry eye in the house.

Best friend Chris comes up with the idea of a nude calendar, and the second act builds up to the big shoot. The shoot and the nudity are handled with warmth and charm, with a joy that brings huge cheers from the audience at every flash (from the camera!). The subplot involving Chris’ son Danny’s Head Boy campaign and his attempts at romancing Jenny while Tommo gives him awful advice are a lovely touch, showing history repeating as he falls for a girl just like the mother he disapproves of.

The cast are wonderful, with fantastic performances from the calendar models – Michelle Dotrice as Jessie is magnificent – spitting out one liners and belting out the rousing What Age Expects with such feeling and gusto that she nearly brought the house down. And she gets to do the front bottom line! Sophie-Louise Dann is a pneumatically feline Celia – loudly and proudly shaking her stuff in So I’ve Had A Little Work Done. Claire Moore as Chris is fantastic, ending Act 1 with a powerhouse performance of Sunflower, and Claire Machin and Debbie Chazen nail their roles and musical numbers with great comic skill.

The script and lyrics are unashamedly Northern in their humour, bringing all the high emotions and fears back to everyday things that real people would dwell on. Barlow’s music is always catchy, and here it’s as if he has written something for the mums of Take That fans. (Although the younger members of the audience leapt up just as enthusiastically as the rest of us at curtain call.) There are a fair few F-bombs in the script but, sitting surrounded by WI members on a night out, I heard no tutting, just laughter. Yes, this is an all-white vision of Britain, so some may complain, but this show is about celebrating the strength and beauty of women, especially in their last phase “their most glorious”.

The Girls is one of the best British musicals I’ve seen in years. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll be humming the songs for days, and you’ll leave the theatre full of warmth and joy. What else could you ask for from a show? Get your ticket now. And take your mother.