As the Bennet sisters haplessly search for love in Jane Austen’s ultimate romantic comedy, it is Mr. Darcy who unwittingly finds his match.  Celebrating the legacy of Jane Austen in the bicentennial year of her death, Regent’s Park Theatre’s critically acclaimed production of Pride and Prejudice arrives at the Theatre Royal Spring 2017.


Adapted for the stage by Simon Reade, Regent’s Park Theatre’s production of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice comes to the region as part of a major UK tour following sell-out performances in London and tells the story of the Bennet family and their five unmarried daughters.


Matthew Kelly – has appeared several times in the West End, as the original Stanley in Funny Peculiar,  Waiting For Godot with Ian McKellan and Roger Rees, Tim Firth’s play Sign of the Times, the musical Lend Me A Tenor!  Matthews’ best known television work is probably presenting You Bet! and Stars in Their Eyes.


Matthew joins Felicity Montagu – best known for playing long-suffering PA Lynn in the TV series I’m Alan Partridge and the 2013 film Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa ­– is to play Mrs. Bennet who, alongside her husband, sees the perfect opportunity to improve her family’s social standing when the wealthy Mr. Bingley and his eligible friend Mr. Darcy move to the neighbourhood.  But while Bingley takes an immediate liking to their eldest daughter Jane, the dismissive Darcy instantly clashes with the Bennet’s headstrong second daughter, Elizabeth.


One of the most universally loved and quintessentially English novels of all time, Pride and Prejudice marks the return of Regent’s Park Theatre to Newcastle Theatre Royal following their smash hit productions of To Kill a Mockingbird and Lord of the Flies.


First published in 1813, Pride and Prejudice has remained one of the most popular novels in English literature, selling over 20 million copies and spawning numerous adaptations, most notably the 1940 film starring Laurence Olivier and the 1995 BBC adaptation starring Colin Firth.


Further casting is to be announced.


Pride and Prejudice is at Newcastle Theatre Royal from Tue 14 until Sat 18 February 2017, playing evenings at 7.30pm, matinees on Wed and Thu 2pm and Sat 2.30pm. Tickets from £14.50 and can be purchased from the Theatre Royal Box Office on 08448 11 21 21.  Calls cost 7ppm plus your phone company’s access charge or book online at

Jackie the Musical Review

Empire Theatre, Sunderland – Tuesday 5th to Saturday 9th July 2016

Jackie the Musical is a wonderfully nostalgic journey into the gentler, more innocent times of the 1970’s.  When I used to read my sisters copy of Jackie on a Thursday before she came home from school

This Jackie is 54, mother of a 19 year old David who wants to give up education to play music.  She is going through a divorce and moving house because husband of 20 years, John, ran off with Gemma.  Best friend Jill is encouraging Jackie to move on and find someone else.  Nights are spent in Frankies eating sticky toffee pudding and drinking prosecco.

After a prosecco filled evening, Jackie starts to sort boxes from the attic and discovers her collection of Jackie magazine, resulting in her teenage self manifesting in her life.

Enter blind date Max and the story can begin, with lots of wonderful 70’s songs to move the story along and some brilliant comedy moments.  Eventually Jackie realises the valuable lessons she learnt in her youth made her into the one person in control of her life – herself.

Young Jackie (Daisy Steere), who manages to bring a sense of realness to an unreal character, full of innocence and enthusiasm.   Whilst Janet Dibley’s older Jackie is more cynical, still full of hurt, not knowing where life is going.  Other strong female comic performances come from Gemma (Tricia Adele-Turner) and Jill (Lori Haley Fox), both fabulous and both under used.

The males of the show bring up the rear, Graham Bickley (John), Nicholas Bailey (Max) Sam O’Halon (Keith) and Michael Hamway (David).  But for me, star of the show was Bob Harms as Frankie the bartender – what a performance! What a voice!

The live band on stage, lead by Dan de Cruz, play us on an exquisite musical journey from David Cassidy to the Osmonds via David Essex

Director Anna Linstrom and book writer Mike James together with Set and Costume Designer Tim Shortall have ensured that the world of Jackie the magazine bursts off the stage. The magazines infamous speech bubbles, period fashions is combined with mirror-balls to ensure that Jackie the musical was imbued with fun and love from start to finish.

We’re taken back to an uncomplicated period with no mobile phones, no texting, no e-mails and no twitter! A time when teenage girls sought advice from resident agony aunts, Cathy and Claire, who provided advice on how to deal with the opposite sex, and important issues like, how to have soft elbows, and iron your hair!

This is truly a 5 star production.  Everything about the show is first class, the performances, the costumes, the set. This is a fabulous feel good night out and comparisons are going to be made with Mamma Mia.  But I think there is space for both shows and Jackie deserves a West End run if only for the Puppy Love scene.

Sunderland Empire was filled with ladies of a certain age, all wanting to relive their youth and wallow in the sea of nostalgia that came with the show.  And it was a much deserved standing ovation – which lead quite nicely into a bit of a boogie at the end

Go and see this show now and enjoy possibly the best night out this year


The Beatles in Leeds Next Week


Leeds Grand Theatre is gearing up to Twist and Shout as the biggest ever tour of The Beatles’ celebration show LET IT BE takes to its stage next week.

Let It Be celebrates the music of the world’s most successful rock ‘n’ roll band in a spectacular concert charting the band’s meteoric rise from their humble beginnings in Liverpool’s Cavern Club, through the height of Beatlemania, to their later studio masterpieces. Bursting with timeless hits, show-stopping sets, dazzling costumes – and a brilliant portrayal of the Fab Four from a talented cast of musicians – promises to continue to entertain audiences all over the country.

Derek Nicol, joint Managing Director of Flying Entertainment, commented:


“We have an extremely talented cast who have performed the show to audiences on New York’s Broadway, in London’s West End, and toured across Europe and Japan. The show’s most recent run was in Liverpool, where they certainly know their stuff when it comes to The Beatles. They truly welcomed LET IT BE into their hearts, the response was fantastic and we knew it was time to share the show with the rest of the country through a 26-venue tour spanning seven months.”


“The show will have audiences on their feet from the very start. They won’t be able to help themselves thanks to the iconic songbook from the world’s biggest band. We’re also looking forward to entertaining the next generation of Beatles’ fans.”

The show celebrates music history’s greatest ever worldwide phenomenon and is packed with over 40 of The Beatles’ greatest hits, including Twist and Shout, She Loves You and Drive My Car, as well as global mega hits Yesterday, Hey Jude, Come Together and, of course, Let It Be.

Let It Be is at Leeds Grand Theatre from Monday 11th to Saturday 16th July

Tickets are priced from £19.50 to £35

Book online at or call Box Office on 0844 848 27 00


Cardboard Citizens Announce New Tour Inspired by Cathy Come Home





This evening, at the Barbican in London, the award-winning theatre company Cardboard Citizenswill perform their one-off theatrical re-staging of Ken Loach’s seminal work Cathy Come Home.The production marks the 50th anniversary of the film and the beginning of the 25th anniversary of the theatre company who work making theatre with and for homeless people. The performance will be followed by a panel discussion, Homelessness 50 years on – what’s changed? Both the production and the subsequent panel will be live streamed by the Guardian Stage here, on the Cardboard Citizens website, by Shelter and a number of  hostels, and by various housing associations to ensure maximum accessibility.  Alongside Cathy Come Home, the company have today announced a brand new touring production for October, Cathy, based around similar themes.

First broadcast in 1966 on the BBC, Cathy Come Home depicts a young family’s slide into homelessness. The first screening of the film led to public outrage at the state of housing in Britain and became a defining cultural landmark, demonstrating the power of art to effect social and political change. The panel discussion that follows this evening will ask what has changed in the fifty years since the film was made and will be held with leading figures from politics and the charity and arts sectors, including BBC journalist Samira Ahmed, the Chief Executive of Shelter, Campbell Robb, Artistic Director and CEO of Cardboard Citizens, Adrian Jackson, Deputy Mayor for Housing, James Murray and singer-songwriter Eska. The public are encouraged to have their say in the conversation using #CathyComeHome on Twitter. The performance and panel forms part of the Institute of Fundraising’s annual Fundraising Convention from 4 – 6 July, which brings together 2,500 fundraising professionals to discuss issues facing the charity sector.

In October, Cardboard Citizens will continue their exploration of the state of housing and homelessness with Cathy, a powerful and emotive new Forum Theatre show by award-winning playwright Ali Taylor (Cotton Wool, OVERSPILL), exploring how life might be for a Cathy today. Based like the film on true stories, this timely reflection will look at the social and personal impact of spiralling housing costs and the challenges of the forced relocation out of London experienced by many people on council waiting lists. The production has been researched with the support of housing and homelessness charity Shelter and each performance will end with a debate in classic forum theatre style. The production will begin at the Pleasance Theatre in London on 11 October and will tour the UK with confirmed performances taking place in: Nottingham, Oxford, Peterborough, Colchester, Kent, Exeter, Sheffield, Newcastle, Birmingham, Croydon, Bridport, Warwick and Wakefield. Further venues and performance timings are still to be announced.

Twitter: @CardboardCitz

German mask specialists Familie Flöz: 15 years of coming to Edinburgh Fringe

One German’s perspective on how to survive Fringe: Familie Flöz is back!

Mask theatre specialists and Fringe veterans, Familie Flöz return to Edinburgh with their 2004 hitTeatro Delusio – a silent show, theatre about theatre – and company’s producer Gianni Bettucci shares their advice on how to survive August in Edinburgh (including: don’t bother with flyers and locate your nearest tumble dryer asap).

Familie Flöz presents


The art of saying everything without a single word

  • Familie Flöz returns to the Pleasance after 2015’s sell out success HOTEL PARADISO
  • World leading mask theatre specialist Familie Flöz presents TEATRO DELUSIO, 12 years after its acclaimed Festival Fringe premiere.
  • The show takes over The Pleasance’s biggest stage in The Grand between 3 and 29 of August.
  • Theatre in a theatre, TEATRO DELUSIO tells the story of three stage technicians fighting for their own happiness behind the scenes.



Established in 1994, Familie Flöz – Essen-originated and now Berlin-based physical theatre company – brings back their 2004 sell-out show TEATRO DELUSIO to this year’s Fringe to take over the biggest stage at The Pleasance for almost four weeks. The show is back on tour by popular demand after a four year break. This is Familie Flöz’s fourth visit to the Fringe, following the sell-out success of Hotel Paradiso in 2015.

From the world’s leading mask theatre specialist comes TEATRO DELUSIO, a dark comedy revolving around three stage technicians whose lives, usually hidden, take centre stage as the glamorous world of pretence blends with the down to earth life backstage in this silent show.

The efficient Bob is young, strong and unpredictable; the chronically tired and sickly Bernd is constantly bossed around and the idle, always hungry Ivan is permanently anxious not to lose control over the shows. This fantastic ensemble excels in breath-taking fighting scenes, deadly intrigues and heart-breaking arias of world-famous plays.

Familie Flöz is one of Europe’s most prolific touring theatre companies: with over 150 shows per year, they have performed in 34 countries worldwide. TEATRO DELUSIO premiered in the Arena Berlin in 2004 and toured South America, Asia and Europe.

Wordless and yet somehow so expressive, full of yearning and yet also filled with joy; this is splendid and immensely skillful character comedy. The Guardian

Every now and then, a show comes along that scoops you up from the start, whisks you along on a roller coaster ride and deposits you at the end of the track, gasping for breath and wanting to do it all again. This is one of those. Edinburgh Evening News

Live Theatre Blooms as Live Garden Opens on the Quayside

This weekend, on Saturday 9 and Sunday 10 July, Live Theatre will be officially launching Live Garden, the theatre’s new outdoor public garden and performance area, with a special outdoor promenade performance featuring some of Live Theatre’s favourite artists and writers celebrating the theatre’s past and present.


Led by performance poet and former Live Lab Associate Artist Rowan McCabe this 50 minute showcase of work will include a new short piece by current writer-in-residence Paddy Campbell called Mother Hen, Alan Plater’s monologue Wor Tony and The Great White Sharkperformed by Trevor Fox; alongside a new exciting theatrical performance called The Wild Flowers devised and performed by 35 young people from Live’s Youth Theatre working with balletLORENT and composer Scott Twynholm. The event will culminate with a performance of a new song about Live Theatre, its heritage and its future, called If These Walls Could Talk written by Jane Holman.

This new public garden will host a range of events and performances throughout the year, as well as being a social space on the Quayside for the people of Newcastle and visitors to enjoy every day.


Live Garden has been created as part of the Live Works £10.5 million capital development which will bring new revenue streams enabling Live Theatre to grow and sustain its work in the production of new plays, the development of creative talent, education and participation.


Jim Beirne, chief executive, Live Theatre said:
“This summer sees the culmination of two years of development work on Live Works and we’re delighted to be launching an exciting new outdoor performance area.


“The Live Garden Launch is a great opportunity to mark the official opening of Live Garden with a specially curated showcase that combines some of Live Theatre’s ‘classics’ with newly commissioned material, performed by some of Live Theatre’s favourite artists and writers.


“Live Garden is a beautiful public space that we hope will become a recreational addition to the area and a place for people to relax and escape the bustle of the Quayside.”


Paul James, Associate director – Education and Participation, Live Theatre said:

“We are delighted to be collaborating with balletLORENT to create an exciting piece of physical theatre for the launch of our new outdoor performance space. Live’s Youth Theatre is working with Ballet Lorent’s Artistic Director Liv Lorent, composer Scott Twynholm and dancers from balletLORENT, to produce an imaginative outdoor event which will be shown alongside a series of other performances to mark the opening of the Garden.”


Liv Lorent, Artistic Director, balletLORENT said:

“We are thrilled to be working with Live Theatre and developing a new work inspired by the brilliant and creative individuals who are part of their Youth Theatre. Composer Scott Twynholm and I are creating a physical theatre piece together with live music performed by the cast. The garden is beautiful, and is offering us a creative opportunity to develop a work exclusively to its landscape design.”


A few tickets remain for Live Garden Launch. They are free but must be reserved in advance by contacting Live Theatre’s Box Office on (0191) 232 1232 or online at The 50 minute promenade performance will take place on Saturday 9 July at 12.30pm & 6pm and on Sunday 10 July at 12noon, 2.30pm & 6pm


Live Garden will also host further events throughout the year including a Mini Mela on Sunday 17 July between 11am and 3pm. GemArts Masala Festival will culminate with a spectacular outdoor event as it brings Live Garden to life with all the fun, hustle and bustle of an Indian bazaar.


And in the autumn Live Garden will participate in the national Fun Palaces initiative on Saturday 1 October between 11am and 5pm, with workshops and performances, including puppetry and illustration, for families and young people, as well as pop up events all day with storytelling, acoustic buskers and much more.


The £10.5m entire Live Works project cost is supported by a £2.1 million grant from the North East European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) Programme 2007 to 2013, and grants from Arts Council England, Catherine Cookson Charitable Trust, Gillian Dickinson Trust, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, the Monument Trust, Garfield Weston Foundation,  Sir James Knott Trust, the Social Investment Business and the Wolfson Foundation.

Rehearsal For Murder Review

Grand Theatre, Leeds.  Monday 4th to Saturday 9th July 2016

Rehearsal For Murder arrives at Leeds Grand this week.  This is Bill Kenwright’s latest creation – The Classic Thriller Theatre Company having had a fantastic 10-year success with the The Agatha Christie Theatre Company, which sold over two million tickets.  If this is a sign of things to come from The Classic Thriller Theatre Company then Rehearsal For Murder is an exciting start.

A play within a play, playwright Alex Dennison (Alex Fearns) is left heartbroken when his fiancée and leading lady Monica Welles (Susie Amy) is found dead from an apparent suicide after the opening night of her stage debut.

With an effective, simple single set throughout the play and carefully created flashbacks to a murder believed to be a suicide a year ago to the day when the characters reunite, it keeps you on the edge of your seat.

This production is a gentle and enjoyable twist on the traditional murder mystery format.  The clues are laid out in a beautifully subtle way that become obvious with the power of hindsight, but at the time can be easily missed.

Written by the team behind Murder She Wrote, Richard Levinson and William Link and directed Roy Marsden who played PD James’ Inspector Dalgliesh for 14 years – this has whodunit royalty at the helm

Fearns carries the play magnificently.   He is excellent as the heartbroken fiance, his anger pretty much contained as he raises suspicions and tries to convince everyone a murder had been committed.

The fateful night is played very cleverly in flashback, before the cast (Gary Mavers, Anita Harris, Mark Wynter, Lauren Drummond and Ben Nealon) run through their scenes, each one supposedly flushing out a motive for the murder.

Fearns and Amy, as Alex and Monica, perform a spectacular diversion from current day to flashbacks to a year ago.

Audiences love a good thriller, and Kenwright knows how to deliver.

It will keep you intrigued and guessing to the end.


Charlie and the Chocolate Factory announces shortlist for The Imagination Awards



The shortlists have been announced for The Imagination Awards, a new competition launched by the award-winning West End production of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, to encourage creativity among inventive youngsters and budding theatre designers.

Entries were invited from young inventors aged 5-15, who were asked to invent a solution to a problem in the world around them, and from theatre designers aged 13-21.

Shortlisted young inventors include Ludwig Karg, age 6, from London. He invented a teddy bear which would detect whether food contained nuts. He was inspired by his brother who has a severe nut allergy.

Also shortlisted is Thomas Hanlon, age 9, from Sutton Coldfield. He came up with the idea of The Amazing Speech Bubble Glasses for his deaf grandfather, which would automatically translate speech into subtitles on the inside of his glasses.

And Lewis Kilner, age 12, from Sheffield, invented Supreme Robo-Legs, which would allow those who had lost the use of their legs to get about without a wheelchair.

Amber Sinclair, age 9 from Essex, suggested shoes with a GPRS signal which would automatically take you to your chosen destination.

Entries came from all across the UK in many different forms, including pictures, stories, and even short films.

The Young Theatre Designers category (open to ages 13-21) also received many fascinating, inspiring and creative entries.

The full shortlists are available at

Renowned educationalist Sir Ken Robinson is Patron of the awards with Director Sam Mendes also on the judging panel. The Imagination Awards encourage young inventors and designers to get creative for the chance to win a VIP visit and behind-the-scenes experience to the hit West End show.

The Imagination Awards are divided into two separate awards:

Charlie’s Challenge: a national award for 5-15 year olds (in three age categories, 5-7, 8-11, 12-15), looking for creative inventions and ideas which would benefit a family member.
Judges: Roma Agrawal, James Anderson, Mark Champkins, Emily Mulhall
Prize: The winner will receive an Imagination Pack full of prizes to encourage invention and creativity, plus a VIP trip to London to watch Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The school that submits most entries will receive an Imagination Workshop at their school and a talk from one of the judges.

The Young Theatre Design Award: open to 13-21 year olds across the UK (in two age categories, 13-18 and 19-21) and split into two separate categories: Set Design and Costume Design. Young designers were asked to submit an original set or costume design for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Judges: Sam Mendes, Jess Moore, Caro Newling, Mark Thompson
Prize: The winner from each category will be invited to London to meet with the creative team and watch a matinee performance of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, before experiencing the production from backstage during the evening performance.

Charlie’s Challenge was designed to be inclusive for all young people. The award encourages creativity in the classroom, and champions invention and imagination as valuable skills for any future career. The production created resources to help unlock the doors to the world of theatre, and showcase the opportunities in the arts that exist for young people interested in the process of theatre making and design.

The Young Theatre Design Award looks for those who have already experimented with set and costume design, and also seeks out aspiring artists and those with relevant skills who have not yet considered a career in the theatre industry.

The winners will be announced on Friday 15th July.

The judging panel for the awards includes:

  • Members of the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory creative team including: Sam Mendes, Director; Caro Newling, Producer; Mark Thompson, Set and Costume Designer
  • Jess Moore, Executive Director of Corporate Responsibility, Warner Bros.
  • Roma Agrawal, Structural Engineer, WSP Group
  • James Anderson, 18 year old entrepreneur and founder of Thinkspace
  • Mark Champkins, Inventor in Residence, Science Museum
  • Emily Mulhall, Animator

Since opening in 2013, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory has offered teachers numerous ways to explore the show through an educational ‘Page-to-Stage’ resource that includes activities and exercises for students to bring the musical to life in the classroom. January 2016 has seen the launch of the new official Charlie and the Chocolate Factory school workshops in the areas of drama, singing, dance, musical theatre and storytelling.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory has also provided 15 one-week paid backstage work experience placements and three eight-week paid internships through the Golden Tickets scheme, part of Warner Bros. Creative Talent, a programme of investment in skills and training for the UK creative industries.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory presented its first ‘relaxed performance’ on 19th January 2016. Presented in association with Mousetrap Theatre Projects, the relaxed performance was aimed at families with one or more children with special needs. It was designed to provide an opportunity for people with autism, learning difficulties or other sensory and communication needs, who require a more relaxed environment, to enjoy the show.

Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory has quickly become one of the West End’s most popular and successful stage musicals, and recently celebrated its 1000th performance as well as winning a London Lifestyle Award for Theatre Show of the Year, as voted for by readers of the London Evening Standard. It also won two Olivier awards in April 2014, and has broken records at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, where it has been seen by over 2 million people since it opened in June 2013. It is currently taking bookings until January 2017.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is directed by Sam Mendes. Featuring ingenious stagecraft, the wonder of the original story that has captivated the world for almost 50 years is brought to life with music by Marc Shaiman, and lyrics by Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman, a book by award-winning playwright and adaptor David Greig, set and costume designs by Mark Thompson and choreography by Peter Darling.

The Official Cast Recording album is available on Sony Records, on CD and download.

This world premiere musical is produced by Warner Bros. Theatre Ventures, Neal Street Productions and Langley Park Productions.
Box Office: 0844 858 8877
Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, London, WC2B 5JF
Booking until January 2017

Full cast announced to join Beverley Knight and Ben Richards in THE BODYGUARD

As previously announced, Beverley Knight returns to the international hit musical The Bodyguard for a strictly limited six month run West End run to play Oscar-nominated superstar Rachel Marron with Ben Richards as Frank Farmer, Marron’s bodyguard. Performances begin at the Dominion Theatre on 15 July 2016 for this strictly limited season to 7 January 2017.

The full cast comprises Beverley Knight (Rachel Marron), Ben Richards (The Bodyguard), Rachel John (Nicki Marron), Carole Stennett (alternate Rachel Marron), Mark Holden (Bill Devaney), Alex Andreas (Tony), Dominic Taylor (Sy Spector), Matthew Stathers (Stalker) and Glen Fox (Ray Court). Ensemble members are Omari Bernard, Faye Best, Pablo Ceresuela Torres, Lisa Darnell, Charles Hagerty, Emma Joy Hopkins, Ibinabo Jack, Christopher Jeffers, Verity Jones, Annie Kitchen, Phoebe Liberty, Elliot Powell, Raul Naranjo Garcia, Mary Lynn Tiep, Michael Wade-Peters, Kyle Wardlaw, Matthew Wesley, Emmy Willow and Mark Willshire. Keaton Edmund, Max Fincham, Jaden Oshenye and Mickell Stewart Grimes alternate the role of Fletcher, Rachel Marron’s young son.

Former Secret Service agent turned bodyguard, Frank Farmer, is hired to protect superstar Rachel Marron from an unknown stalker. Each expects to be in charge; what they don’t expect is to fall in love. A romantic thriller, The Bodyguard features a whole host of irresistible classics including Queen of the Night, So Emotional, One Moment in Time, Saving All My Love, I’m Your Baby Tonight, Run to You, I Have Nothing, I Wanna Dance With Somebody and one of the greatest hit songs of all time – I Will Always Love You.

Queen of British Soul Beverley Knight is a singer, songwriter and record producer who has been one of the UK’s most consistent artists since the release of her debut album in 1995. She has sold over a million albums in the UK, scoring several top 10’s and four gold certified albums as well as the platinum selling Voice: The Best of Beverley Knight. To date, she has won three MOBO Awards, an Outstanding Achievement Award at the Urban Music Awards, been three times nominated for Best Female at the Brit Awards, as well as for the prestigious Mercury Music Prize and was also awarded an MBE for her services to music and charity in 2007. Knight has presented four series of Radio 2 show Beverley’s Gospel Nights and appeared in two series of hit BBC1 show Just The Two of Us as well as appearing on stage with the likes of Prince, Stevie Wonder and Take That. In 2012 she wowed a viewing audience of one billion with a rendition of the song I Am What I Am at the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Paralympic Games. Beverley Knight originally played the leading role of Rachel Marron in The Bodyguard at the Adelphi Theatre to great acclaim in 2013. She followed this by playing the role of Felicia in Memphis The Musical at the Shaftesbury Theatre, for which she was nominated for an Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Musical, and completed a hugely successful run at the London Palladium playing Grizabella in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats. Knight released her eighth studio album earlier this month, her first in almost five years, as well as completing a solo tour across.

Ben Richards was recently seen in Hollyoaks playing Sergeant Ben Bradley, a role he played for just over a year. Previously on television he played Nate Roberts in The Bill, Bruno Milligan in Footballer’s Wives as well as roles in Doctors and Holby City. His many leading roles in musical theatre include Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls on tour and in the West End, Danny Zuko in Grease at the Victoria Palace Theatre and on tour, Tony Manero in Saturday Night Fever at the London Palladium and on tour, Jerry Lukowski in The Full Monty at the Prince of Wales Theatre, Tick in Priscilla Queen of the Desert the Musical at the Palace Theatre, Bill Sykes in Oliver at Sheffield Crucible as well as Franklyn Hart in 9-5 and Stacee Jaxx in Rock of Ages, both on tour.

Thea Sharrock’s production of The Bodyguard received its world premiere at the Adelphi Theatre in November 2012 where it opened to critical acclaim with Heather Headley as Rachel Marron and due to public demand the show’s run was extended. In 2013 Beverley Knight joined the cast and took over the lead role. The show continued to play to packed houses and released a further 300,000 tickets for sale. Alexandra Burke followed Knight as Rachel Marron in June 2014 who continues to play the role in the show’s UK and Ireland sell-out tour which completes its hit run in June this year.

Savage Review

Above the Arts Theatre 1 – 23 July.  Reviewed by Claire Roderick

Claudio Macor’s intense new play, inspired by a Peter Tatchell article, deals with the work of Dr Carl Værnet, a Danish doctor who claimed to have perfected a “cure” for homosexuality. When the Nazis occupied Denmark, they seized upon this cure and Værnet experimented on homosexuals in Buchenwald concentration camp. After the war, instead of being prosecuted by the Danish and the Allies, Værnet was protected and settled, with his family, in Argentina. Inspired by an article by Peter Tatchell on this little-known war criminal, Macor does not just give an account of Værnet’s work, but also portrays the devastating damage inflicted upon his victims and their loved ones by introducing the love story of Zack and Nicholai, which is the beating heart of the play.

Copenhagen 1940, and Zack (Nic Kyle), an American diplomat, and Nicholai (Alexander Huetson), a Copenhagen art dealer are arrested by the Nazis after being caught together on the streets. Zack is released, but Nicholai is imprisoned and sent for treatment to Dr Værnet (Gary Fannin). Keen to demonstrate his cure to General von Aechelman (Bradley Clarkson), Værnet uses Nicholai as a guinea pig for his brutal treatment, which involved injecting monkey testosterone directly into the testicles. Without anaesthetic. Not a pleasant scene to watch.

As the experiment is deemed a success, Værnet is moved to Prague and Buchenwald, and his patients are released. Nicholai is taken in by Ilse (Emily Lynne), Værnet’s disillusioned nurse, who contacts Zack, back in the US, but still desperately trying to find Nicholai.

Huetson and Kyle are wonderful as the two lovers – Huetson’s battered and broken Nicholai never quite relinquishing his humanity, and their reunion scene is simply heart-breaking.

Fannin is terrifying as Værnet – portraying the zealous self-belief and certainty in his actions without any emotion for his subjects. The only glimpse we get of the reasons for his beliefs is the story he tells of his childhood friend. But again, whatever trauma he felt, it has been channelled into his work. Lynne shows the subtle changes in nurse Ilse’s attitude towards the doctor and his methods effortlessly, and does well with this slightly underwritten character.

The play does feel a little long, mostly because of the sub plot involving the General and Georg (Lee Knight). Georg ran The Corner Light Club in Copenhagen (and made a stunning entrance in full drag – gorgeous), but the General kept him in his quarters until the war was lost. Rather than losing these scenes though, it would be better to cut elsewhere, because these characters are the most interesting in the play. Von Aechelman is not a monster, just an urbane, conflicted closet homosexual. His explanation of why men like him went along with Hitler at the beginning is particularly well written and played flawlessly by Clarkson, who manages to make the character almost likeable. Knight is full of simmering rage and dignity as Georg, with an exit line that matches the impact of his entrance. The balance of power in their relationship twists and turns to delicious satisfaction, and acts as a counterbalance to the more straightforward lovers parted /reunited arc of Zack and Nicholai. Thinking about it, these two stories highlight the idiocy, barbarity and prejudice of Værnet, the Nazis and modern bigots just by existing. Macor knows what he’s doing.

With simple set design – so effective in such a tiny space – and authentic costumes (just watch von Aechelman’s Iron Cross morph into a bling medallion), the production values are first rate. Macor’s script is full of glorious lines and heartfelt warnings about discrimination; and with a few little tweaks, this excellent play could become something truly great.