Persuasion Review

The Rosemary Branch Theatre 4 – 22 May.  Reviewed by Claire Roderick

Bryony J. Thompson has done it again. 200 years after Jane Austen completed Persuasion, Thompson’s adaptation condenses the novel into a short but very sweet production.

Anne Elliot, persuaded by her family to end her engagement to Frederick Wentworth because of his lack of status and wealth, is reintroduced to him nearly 8 years later, when his sister becomes tenant at her family home. Against a backdrop of family gatherings and outings, Anne and Wentworth cannot politely avoid each other, and eventually she begins to hope that he still has feelings for her.

There is a lot of toing and froing in this story, but Thompson’s adaptation sets out the events clearly and cleverly. The cast of six carry the narrative style admirably, and speaking in the third person continues the illusion of a book brought to wonderful life. Sticking to the clean lines of her Jane Eyre, Thompson’s set is simple, with a plain hessian backdrop, white props and white costumes. You don’t really notice any of this after a while, you can’t take your eyes off the actors.

Rose McPhilemy is sublime as Anne – stoic and sensible, but with a bubbling undercurrent of suppressed humour – her long suffering smiles at the audience as the sillier characters do their stuff are delightful. Philip Honeywell’s Wentworth is dashing and makes you question Anne’s sanity at giving him up. His awkward smiles/grimaces around her melt subtly into true smiles as the play goes on, and when he reads THAT love letter… Their wonderful chemistry keeps a frisson of tension, even as dizzier characters take centre stage. The rest of the cast take multiple roles, but my favourite moments were when they acted as Anne and Wentworth’s internal voices, debating their feelings and decisions much more interestingly than a straight monologue. That being said, they were all great in their other roles! Charles Musgrove becomes a period version of Tim Nice-But-Dim in Adam Elliot’s comedic hands, and Tom Hartwell brings Admiral Croft to booming life but shows a more subtle touch with Captain Harville. Sarita Plowman and Beatrice Rose perform similar vocal tricks to distinguish their characters. Plowman makes Mrs Clay all blinks and faux girlish giggles, changing to a deep honey toned voice for the matriarchal Lady Russell, and Rose’s Mary is a hoot – squealing and hyperventilating, even her walk is funny.

Although concise, this gorgeous production remains true to Austen’s book, and is full of wit, charm and romance. If Bryony J Thompson could work her way through all of Austen and the Brontes please, that would be lovely.

Threesome Review

Union Theatre 3 – 14 May.  Reviewed by Claire Roderick

Sam (Chris Willoughby) and Kate (Gemma Rook) are stuck in a rut, so meet Lucy (April Pearson) for a threesome, hoping that this will give their relationship a boost.

Laboratory Theatre Company’s production of Jamie Patterson’s play begins with a film clip (Sam and Kate scouting for girls in a club, Lucy taking them back to her place) and title sequence which initially puzzled me, but when the actors finally came on stage, and began to question their choices, the contrast between the abstract idea on film and the reality of the situation in the flesh was laid bare.

Lucy’s views on sex shock Kate, who doesn’t really seem to enjoy talking about sex, let alone doing it. Lucy has a different effect on Sam, with him trying cocaine and eventually performing the most inept striptease ever seen. The comedy mostly comes from Sam and Kate’s reactions to Lucy and her suggestions, and Sam’s attempts to smooth things over, and there are plenty of laugh out loud moments. Even though there is plenty of strong language, the play has a strangely wholesome feel, finally celebrating the settled, unexciting life that Sam and Kate have together.

Willoughby plays Sam as an innocent man-child, filling silences with misjudged comments, and making the audience giggle with his facial expressions and gestures – think David Brent’s younger, sweeter brother. Kate is the trickiest character, stiff and sharp at first, but Rook portrays her relaxing into the situation with subtly growing warmth and heart. Pearson basically gets to talk filth all night – with relish. Lucy’s views on life are superficially hedonistic – it would have been nice to see a glimpse of what lay underneath, but with a running time of 60 minutes, Patterson has kept the character somewhat 2 dimensional.

Threesome doesn’t really have much to say about life – but if you are looking for a damn fine comedy full of filth, cuteness and a little dancing, this is well worth a look.

The Buskers Opera Review

Park Theatre 5 May – 4 June.  Reviewed by Claire Roderick

Wow. What a show.

Dougal Irvine has updated John Gay’s Beggar’s Opera, slamming it into the summer of 2012. Peachum has become a corrupt newspaper mogul, Lockitt is the buffoon, dad-dancing, Mayor of London, and Macheath is an “artiste” busking and stirring up anti-capitalist feeling with his group of well-meaning but useless protesters – the 99%ers.

This isn’t biting satire, but it is very funny, with digs at the media, social media and capitalism. The bleak reality that nothing has really changed since 1728 when John Gay wrote The Beggar’s Opera is slightly overdone, but not overbearing. The script is all delivered in rhyming couplets, which could have become annoying, but was done with an occasional wink to the audience and such energy that it felt just right. Macheath’s lines include a lot of apologies and critiques of bizarre happenings on stage, keeping the audience in the palm of his hand during weaker plot moments. Irvine’s lyrics are just brilliant – he gets funnier with a tune. The use of different styles of music, and the insertion of a scathing line in the middle of a sweet song keeps you on your toes, and every number is memorable.

With a set consisting of scaffolding poles and cardboard boxes, Lotte Wakeham’s production is all about the performances. The cast are all fantastic – with strong and versatile voices. George Maguire struts around the stage like a rock god, and sings like one too, oozing charisma even when Macheath is in a downward spiral. The standout performances come from Natasha Cottriall as Lucy Lockitt – full of text speak and MIC mannerisms while she delivers killer rhymes – and Lauren Samuels as Polly Peachum – superbly dippy as she worships the holy pigeons. Their numbers are brilliant, especially Sadder Than Me – a vocal duel that has Polly bemoaning the state of the world, whilst Lucy remembers the trauma of a broken Playstation – the range of styles in that single number is mindblowing, ending with a full on soprano screech off. Amazingly, this musicality is produced with simply keyboards and guitar, with cast members joining in with cello and cajon when needed (acknowledged in the script!)

The Buskers Opera is a wonderful show – full of fun, politics, murder, great songs… and pigeons. A must see show – get your ticket today.

Footloose The Musical Review

New Wimbledon Theatre 2 – 7 May. Reviewed by Claire Roderick

On paper, I should have loved this musical. But I left disappointed, feeling as if I’d watched some low budget daytime movie on Channel 5.

Based on the 1984 film, Footloose tells the story of Ren McCormack, who leaves Chicago with his newly separated mother to move in with his uncle in Bomont, West Virginia. Ren clashes with the locals, especially Rev Moore, who oversees the town council. Following a fatal accident, dancing is banned in Bomont, but Ren takes his friends, including Rev Moore’s daughter Ariel, to a dance hall out of town, and they decide to hold a dance of their own. They need the council’s permission though, and Ren must try to find common ground with Rev Moore.

This is a deliciously corny story, with comedy pal Willard for Ren to coach in dance and love, and the production is cheesier than aisle 3 in Waitrose, especially the Legs and Co. style choreography, but it just didn’t feel like a coherent show. Adapted from his own screenplay by Dean Pickford and Walter Bobbie, the script is pretty standard fare, with some great one liners, but it is the musical numbers that let it down. Apart from Footloose (full of energy and fun), Holding Out For A Hero (belted out with glee and VERY tongue in cheek), Let’s Hear It For The Boy (hysterical) and a couple of other familiar songs, the remainder are forgettable, with awkward rhymes and trite lyrics, especially the numbers that are meant to be deep and meaningful. Perhaps the show’s creators should have leaned more towards a jukebox musical and used the entire film soundtrack? As it is, the elements just don’t gel.

Director Racky Plews’ decision to use actor-musicians is a gimmick that doesn’t quite work, the only payoff being during the town council scene. The cast are mostly talented musicians, but this aspect just got a little messy, with one poor girl clutching her instrument silently all the way through a slow number.

The cast did well with the material they had to work with – Luke Baker is a livewire Ren, a great little dancer and with a nice comedic touch, especially in the scenes with his mother (Nicky Swift – a hoot in every role she plays in the show. Just watch her skate!), Hannah Price has a lovely voice as Ariel, and just about manages to keep the audience’s sympathy with her difficult character before we hear her backstory. Nigel Lister and Maureen Nolan are landed with the worst songs in the show, but do a fine job. Joanna Sawyer’s Rusty (what a voice!) and Lee Brennan’s Willard provide the heart of the show with their sweet, ridiculous romance, but I have no words to describe Brennan’s performance. Don’t get me wrong, he still has a lovely husky voice, but his acting choices seemed to be inspired by Scrappy Doo, Gary Coleman and the Firey gang from Labyrinth. Funny at first, but bizarre, and he is either going to stab himself with that toothpick or dislocate his jaw if he keeps that chewing action going throughout the run.

Perhaps if I hadn’t seen the film so many times I might have been more impressed, but I wasn’t feeling the joy of the rest of the audience as they got up to dance at the end (to songs from the film). Footloose the Musical is a decent enough show, but it just lacks that class and sparkle that would make it great.

Brideshead Revisited Review

York Theatre Royal.  Reviewed by Marcus Richardson

A perfect novel loved by many, and it even had its own TV series, so it seemed great that it was coming to the stage. I was excited to go and see this world premiere of the play and I had high hopes as previous York Theatre Royal work I’ve seen was outstanding and entertained me thoroughly, however this was not the case. I enjoyed the acting, the stage and the style of theatre; where it let me down was the plot, well the adaptation, it took far too long for anything to happen.

The death of Lord Marchmain (Paul Shelly) took far too long and I felt very bored whilst waiting for him to die, it took 20 minutes, and by the end of his life I felt no emotions because I was so bored. I found the first half much more entertaining than the second, this was because of the events in the play and the eccentric character of Sebastian (Christopher Simpson) who made the first half a much more enjoyable which as he spiced the plot up and provided drama and sexual tension. A great shout out to Shauna Snow who played all male characters of Rex a Canadian, Bridey the eldest of the Marchmain children and Kurt a German lover of Sebastian. She played each of the characters very well. The multi-role was one of the greatest displays I have ever seen, with character changes on stage, she still made the characters believable.

The stage itself was very clever and minimalistic with a back from of moving black panels and hidden trap door of the floor of the stage, these hidden trap door had items in like wine glasses, and other props that made for a quick and effective scene change, I loved the stage as it created this blank canvas to which it relied on the actors to make the audience believe the world they were in, it was a great contrast to the acting its self as the character were quite naturalistic except of Sebastian as he was so outlandish. I enjoyed certain parts of the play but for me it didn’t entertain me and I left the theatre disappointed and let down. I have to feel sorry for the director Damien Cruden as I think he did an excellent job but the material he was given was poor and slow. It will be on tour across the UK and will be coming back to theatre royal in June time.

Saucy Jack And The Space Vixens Review

King’s Head Theatre 29 April – 21 May.  Reviewed by Claire Roderick

Islington transforms into Frottage III for this cult classic, and the atmosphere in the tiny theatre is perfect for this show. Saucy Jack’s sleazy bar is staffed with colourful characters dreaming of a better life, but the shadow of the Slingback Killer looms large, picking off cabaret acts one by one. Sounds like a job for the Space Vixens – their mission is to fight crime and liberate the universe through the power of disco.

Over the top acting, pouncing on audience members, innuendo-laden script, fabulous costumes and a thumping disco beat – a perfect night out.

Every song is wonderful – Fetish Number From Nowhere and Park My Bike are hysterical, and the barnstorming Glitter Boots saved My Life and All I Need Is Disco just make you glad to be alive.

The whole cast are fantastic, with great voices – the antics of the frankly insane Tom Whalley as Dr Willy von Whackoff will have you howling with laughter, and from the moment they appear in a blaze of light, the Vixens, Jubilee Climax (Jessie Birkett), Anna Labia (Lorna Hall) and Bunny Lingus (Zoe Nicholls) own the stage in their glitter boots whilst toting hairdryer guns. Ashton Charge is a very sweet Sammy Sax, and Kristopher Bosch’s Mitch Maypole is like the Duracell bunny dancing around the stage. Hugh Stubbins’ Jack is fantastically slimy, but strangely appealing, even in that vest. Sophie Cordwell James is a tiny but tough Chesty Prospects, and Caspar Cordwell James is born to play Booby Chevalle.

Saucy Jack is a spectacular show, full of energy and filth, but with an underlying sweetness urging you to follow your dreams. Once you’ve seen this, you’ll want to be a Vixen too… or maybe you’ll go and buy some cling film?

Brilliant – go and see it.

A Kingdom For A Stage Review

Chelsea Theatre 28 April – 7 May.  Reviewed by Claire Roderick

Celebrating the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, Tony Diggle’s new play has great potential – it just needs some judicial trimming.

In the Heavens, Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, Christopher Marlowe and George Bernard Shaw spend their time bickering over each other’s work. Shakespeare summons Puck to take him down to London in 2016, and writes a new play about the dealings in the City.

These sections are very entertaining – the angel supervising the characters makes Phil Mitchell seem sweet and gentle, prompting some great reactions from the cast. The interplay between the players is amusing, with pompous Shaw lecturing and criticising Shakespeare’s characters constantly. Shakespeare’s visit to modern London, showing that nothing has really changed, despite his amazed reactions to the city skyline works well. The performance of his 38th play is a highlight – with characters including Enterprise, Bonus, Treasury and Small Investor – lampooning board meetings and corporate greed in Shakespearean verse.

Where the play falls down is in the scenes depicting Shakespeare’s life in Stratford – long rambling scenes between Shakespeare’s father and Anne Hathaway, and then Shakespeare and his daughter stop the flow of the production. We learn about his hoarding malt and his daughter’s naughty husband, but these scenes feel like they should be in another, less interesting, play.

Jonathan Coote is great as Shakespeare, at his best when using Shakespeare’s own words. Sue Appleby’s Puck is airy and alien, and Caitlin McMillan’s predatory Mephistopheles prowls around the stage like she owns it.

The strengths of A Kingdom For A Stage outweigh its weaknesses, and this has the beginnings of a fun and interesting play.

Joseph Review

York Grand Opera House, 26 April 2016.  Reviewed by Michelle Richardson

Well what can I say about Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat?

My friend and I were fortunate enough to go along to the opening night at the Grand Opera House in York on Tuesday. Neither of us had any idea what we were about to see. We thought it was just going to be a biblical story with a few songs, after all everyone has heard “Any Dream Will Do”. How wrong we were! All I will say it is bizarre and I cannot believe it has been around for over 40 years and I had not heard about how unusual it was.

Essentially it is a biblical story but with country and western, French and calypso themes thrown in, and who can forget Elvis? The story is basically about Joseph, who is the favourite son on Jacob, much to the disgust of his 11 brothers, who then sold off into slavery.

With Joe McElderry, X Factor winner from 2009, playing Joseph it was a camp and colourful show from beginning to end.

Lucy Kay, runner up on Britain’s Got Talent, was the narrator, on stage throughout. She did a wonderful job guiding us through the story with some strong and powerful vocals. Joining her on stage at all times were the Joseph Choir provided by Stagecoach Theatre Arts School, York, who did themselves proud and supported the cast well.

The brothers and handmaidens put on an energetic show with their comic timing, costume changes, singing and dancing. Look out for the inflatable sheep, made us giggle.

We then came to Elvis??!! Emilianos Stamatakis is making his UK debut as the Pharaoh/Elvis. He did a great Elvis impression with all that hip swinging and stage presence.

Joe McElderry put in a solid performance as Joseph. I was pleasantly surprised by his vocals, they were rather good, after seeing him on X Factor I thought he was going to be a bit wishy washy, but I was wrong. His singing of Close Every Door was outstanding and was the definite highlight of the show for me.

I’m still a bit baffled by it all, but what do I know. The packed audience loved it and they gave a standing ovation at the end and we all got up and boogied along with Elvis? and the cast.

Joseph is on at The Grand Opera House York until Saturday.




Living the Nation’s History since 1348

The Charterhouse, set deep within stone walls in the heart of Clerkenwell, is a remarkable assembly of historic buildings dating from the 14th century.  Over the years it has been a religious site, a grand Tudor mansion, a school and, as it has remained for over 400 years, an almshouse. In November 2016 parts of the Charterhouse will be open to the public for the first time in its 660 year history, revealing to the public the great story of this sprawling urban oasis at the heart of London.

With its partner the Museum of London, the Charterhouse is creating a new museum within the Tudor mansion, as well as a Learning Centre and an exhibition space, which will tell the story of the Charterhouse and its role in key moments in English history, using artefacts from its own collection, together with others from the Museum of London and other collections. This new facility will bring to life the history of the building, highlighting its place in national affairs and securing its future.

The story of the Charterhouse is the story of our nation. It begins in 1348 during the Black Death when the land was used as a burial ground for victims of the plague. In 1371 the Charterhouse was built and a Carthusian monastery flourished on the site. Elizabeth 1 convened the Privy Council here in the days before her coronation in 1558, and James 1 followed her lead by staying at the Charterhouse prior to his coronation. In 1611 Thomas Sutton, a wealthy businessman, bought the Charterhouse and established the foundation that now bears his name providing a home for up to 80 Brothers: ‘either decrepit or old captaynes either at sea or at land, maimed or disabled soldiers, merchants fallen on hard times, those ruined by shipwreck of other calamity’ and for 40 poor scholars (which became Charterhouse School).

The story lives on. Large parts of the buildings were damaged in the Blitz of May 1941. Yet it was faithfully restored and is now home to over 40 Brothers.

Sharon Ament, Director of the Museum of London said:

I am thrilled that the partnership between the museum and the Charterhouse is proving so successful and that the Revealing the Charterhouse project is now a reality. We will be working even more closely with this remarkable site that has played such a key role in London’s history to ensure that it becomes an irresistible destination for visitors when it opens its doors to the public in the autumn. We are particularly looking forward to supporting the Charterhouse in creating an inspiring learning programme for thousands of school pupils from London and beyond.”

The museum, cafe and Learning Centre will be accessed through Charterhouse Square, the site of a medieval plague pit. The square has been re-designed, inspired by its 18th century layout, by Todd Longstaffe-Cowan (author of The London Square (Yale 2012) and Gardens Adviser to Historic Royal Palaces. The reconfigured Square will lead visitors to the new public entrance to the Charterhouse designed by Eric Parry Architects(EPA), who were responsible for the renewal of St Martin in the Fields and the Holburne Museum in Bath.   EPA are also designing the City’s newest skyscraper, 1 Undershaft.

Sir Michael Graydon, Chairman of the Charterhouse, said:

I am very proud to be the Chairman of the Charterhouse at this important moment for the charity.  My fellow Governors and I are custodians of one of the nation’s longest standing and most noble charities and we look forward to opening our doors and revealing some of the remarkable history to visitors from all corners of our nation and from the world.”

Eric Parry, EPA said:

The invaluable lesson of the Charterhouse is the continuity, relevance and adaptability of its architecture, in a city context that would be astoundingly incomprehensible to its founders.”

This is a project funded by the HERITAGE Lottery Fund and a range of other generous supporters including Helical Bar, Charles Hayward Foundation, The Wolfson Foundation, Christian Levett, The Schroder Foundation, The Lyon Family Trust and The City Bridge Trust amongst many others.

Darlington Civic Theatre – Tell Me On A Sunday


Following her acclaimed performance in the Watermill Theatre production of Calamity Jane, Jodie Prenger is to step into Andrew Lloyd Webber and Don Black’s classic musical, Tell Me On A Sunday which will visit Darlington Civic Theatre in May.

Jodie Prenger shot to musical theatre fame after being crowned the winner of TV’s I’d Do Anything, winning the role of Nancy in Oliver! She went on to enjoy success in a long list of box office and critical hits, from comedy One Man, Two Guv’nors to the classic musical Calamity Jane last year.

Tell Me On A Sunday charts the romantic misadventures of a young English girl in New York in the heady days of the 1980’s. Brimming with optimism, she seeks success and love. But as she weaves her way through the maze of the city and her own anxieties, frustrations and heartaches she begins to wonder whether she’s been looking for love in all the wrong places. This iconic musical, with a wonderful original score, features the chart-topping Take That Look Off Your Face and title track Tell Me on A Sunday.

Originally conceived for television, Tell TMe On A Sunday has been performed by many legendary musical theatre stars including Marti Webb and Sarah Brightman. This new 2016 production directed by Paul Foster includes an intimate post-show chat with Jodie about life, love and playing the role of Emma.

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s numerous awards include 7 Tonys, 3 Grammys, 7 Oliviers, a Golden Globe, an Oscar, 2 Emmys and the Richard Rodgers Award for Excellence in Musical Theatre. Don Black is an Oscar winning lyricist (Born Free) and penned numerous James Bond theme tunes, and chart hits Michael Jackson’s Ben and Lulu’s To Sir With Love.

Tell Me On A Sunday is at Darlington Civic Theatre on Thursday 5 May, 2016. Tickets* are priced from £28

To book contact the Box Office on 01325 486 555 or visit

*All ticket prices include a £1 restoration levy