THE CAT IN THE HAT returns to London for festive season at Pleasance Theatre

Paul Taylor-Mills presents





Following a run at the Pleasance Theatre, Islington in 2014 and two sell-out runs at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the acclaimed stage adaptation of Dr Seuss’s The Cat In The Hat will return to London this festive season from Tuesday 6 December 2016 to Monday 2 January 2017. On sale now.

From the moment his tall, red-and-white-striped hat appears around the door, Sally and her brother know that the cat in the hat is the funniest, most mischievous cat they have ever met. With the trickiest of tricks and craziest of ideas, he turns a rainy afternoon into an amazing adventure. But what will mum find when she gets home?

Based on the much-loved book by Dr Seuss that has captivated generations of readers, The Cat in the Hat is a lively and engaging first theatre experience for young children aged 3+.

‘Triumphs as the maestro of mischief’

The Stage

The Cat in the Hat is presented by Paul Taylor-Mills, who recently became Artistic Director of St. James Theatre, which will be relaunched as The Other Palace in February. Paul’s recent productions include the Olivier Award-winning In The Heights (King’s Cross Theatre), The Last Five Years (St. James Theatre), Side Show (Southwark Playhouse) and Carrie: The Musical (Southwark Playhouse, winner of the 2016 WhatsOnStage Award for Best Off West End Production).

Dr Seuss’s The Cat In The Hat, based on the book by Dr. Seuss, was originally produced in 2009 by the National Theatre of Great Britain, and adapted and originally directed by Katie Mitchell. This production is directed by Lillie Collier and designed by David Shields. It is presented through special arrangement with Josef Weinberger Plays Ltd on behalf of Music Theatre International (MTI).

Twitter @CatintheHat_UK | #CatintheHat




Carpenters Mews, North Rd, N7 9EF

Press Performances:   Friday 9 December, 10.30am/1.30pm, Saturday 10 December, 11.00am/2.00pm

Performance Times:   10.30am/11.00am and 1.30pm/2.00pm (see website for daily schedule)

Tickets:                        £7.00 – 12.50

Box Office:                  020 7609 1800|


Final Perks Boards Train at King’s Cross Theatre





paul-hawkyardPaul Hawkyard will have the onerous duty of making sure the last train leaves King’s Cross Theatre on time, when he takes over as Mr Perks in the Olivier Award-winning production of Mike Kenny’s stage adaptation of E. Nesbit’s novel The Railway Children – Live on Stage from 23 November 2016 until 8 January 2017, when this critically and publically acclaimed show must come to an end. This follows more than two glorious years of performances at King’s Cross Theatre, where it opened on 14 January 2015, following previews from 16 December 2014.  

Paul Hawkyard is best known for the popular Cbeebies programme Old Jack’s Boat, in which he plays the character Ernie Starboard and co-stars with Bernard Cribbins, the original Mr Perks. His theatre credits include A Christmas Carol (Rose Theatre), War Horse (New London/National Theatre), Birdsong (The Comedy Theatre), Oliver! (London Palladium), Mamma Mia! (Prince of Wales Theatre), South Pacific (National Theatre), Les Misérables  (Palace Theatre), Jesus Christ Superstar (The Lyceum Theatre) and Miss Saigon (Theatre Royal Drury Lane).

Also in the cast of The Railway Children are Caroline Harker as Mother, Felicity Houlbrooke as Bobbie, Jack Hardwick as Peter, Louise Calf as Phyllis, Lindsay Allen as Mrs Perks, Peter Gardiner as Doctor/Butler, Connie Hyde as Mrs Viney, Shaun McCourt as Jim, Blair Plant as Father/Schepansky and Moray Treadwell as the Old Gentleman, with Adam Collier, Helen Brampton, Alan Drake and Julie Gilby. The children’s ensemble is made up of four teams of ten children aged between 8 and 16.

A purpose built 1,000-seat theatre, complete with a railway track and platforms, and with a state of the art air conditioning and heating system, was specially created for this production on King’s Boulevard, behind King’s Cross Station, a site which has been loaned to the production for the duration of the run by Google.  The York Theatre Royal production, which is in association with the National Railway Museum, features a live steam locomotive and a vintage carriage, originally built in 1896.

Directed by Damian Cruden, the Artistic Director of York Theatre Royal, with design by Joanna Scotcher, lighting by Richard G. Jones, music by Christopher Madin and sound by Craig Vear, Mike Kenny’s adaptation of The Railway Children was first produced by York Theatre Royal at the National Railway Museum, York, where it enjoyed two sell-out and critically acclaimed seasons in 2008 and 2009. The production then opened at Waterloo Station in the former Eurostar terminal in July 2010, where it again played two critically acclaimed sell-out seasons and won the 2011 Olivier Award for Best Entertainment, before opening in Toronto in 2011 in a temporary theatre built at the base of CN Tower in Roundhouse Park.

The Railway Children tells the story of Bobbie, Peter and Phyllis, three children whose lives change dramatically when their father is mysteriously taken away.  They move from London to a cottage in rural Yorkshire with their mother, where they befriend the local railway porter, Perks, and embark on a magical journey of discovery, friendship and adventure.  But the mystery remains – where is Father, and is he ever coming back?

2016 marks the 110th anniversary of the publication of Edith Nesbit’s much loved classic children’s book The Railway Children, which has subsequently been adapted for the stage and screen, most famously in the 1970 film version directed by Lionel Jeffries and starring Jenny Agutter, Bernard Cribbins, Dinah Sheridan and Sally Thomsett.

The production is presented in London by Tristan Baker & Charlie Parsons for Runaway Entertainment, Oliver Royds for BOS Productions and Sue Scott Davison, in association with York Theatre Royal and the National Railway Museum.



King’s Cross Theatre

Goods Way

King’s Cross

London N1C 4UR

Booking until                       8 January 2017

Running Time                      2 hours 20 minutes (including an interval)

Box Office                            0844 815 7121                   

Tickets                                 £25.00-£49.50, with 25% off for Under 16s (Premium Seats available at £59.50)

                                            From 31 October 2016, 5,000 tickets are available from £10 at select performances, with 25% off for Under 16s




Twitter                                 @TRCKingsCross / @KXTheatre



Performance Schedule:         Wednesday at 2.30pm & 7.30pm

                                               Thursday at 2.30pm

                                               Saturday at 1pm & 4.30pm

                                               Sunday at 2pm & 6pm

*Extra performances:          1pm on 24 November & 1, 8 December (no 2.30pm performances on these dates)




Monday 19 December               1pm & 4.30pm

Tuesday 20 December               No performance

Wednesday 21 December          1pm & 4.30pm

Thursday 22 December              1pm & 4.30pm

Friday 23 December                  1pm & 4.30pm

Saturday 24 December              No performance

Sunday 25 December                No performance

Monday 26 December               1pm & 4.30pm

Tuesday 27 December               No performance

Wednesday 28 December          1pm & 4.30pm

Thursday 29 December              1pm & 4.30pm

Friday 30 December                  1pm & 4.30pm

Saturday 31 December              2.30pm

Sunday 1 January                      1pm & 4.30pm

Monday 2 January                     1pm & 4.30pm

Tuesday 3 January                     2.30pm

Wednesday 4 January                2.30pm

Thursday 5 January                   No performance

Friday 6 January                        No performance

Saturday 7 January                    1pm & 4.30pm

Sunday 8 January                      2pm

Blood Brothers Review

Grand Opera House, York.  7 November 2016.  Reviewed by Michelle Richardson

WOW!!! What a rollercoaster of a ride.

Playing to a packed audience this is the first time that I have seen Blood Brothers in all its entirety, I had only previously seen snippets through my son’s drama pieces at school.

Written by Willy Russell, it tells the story of twins, separated at birth, who then grow up on different sides of the tracks, only to come back together with tragic consequences.

Mrs Johnstone, Lyn Paul, who I am ashamed to say that my first thoughts that she was too old for the part, but she was absolutely fantastic. It was amazing to see how much she really aged over the last part of the show, and her singing was so emotional. I have since learned that she has been voted the definitive Mrs Johnstone and has played the part regularly for the past 20 years. I cannot now imagine anyone else as Mrs Johnstone. Anyway getting back to the story, Mrs Johnstone is left abandoned with 5 kids by her deadbeat of her husband, to find out that she has twins on the way. She loves her children, but her world is falling apart around her, in steps Mrs Lyons, Sarah Jane Buckley, with a solution. We see Mrs Lyons downward spiral fuelled with paranoia and jealously.

We follow Mickey, Sean Jones and Eddie, Mark Hutchinson, through the years, coming together, becoming Blood Brothers and ultimately leading to heartache. Jones was great and very animated playing the 7 year old, but nearly 8 Mickey. We see him grow up and then plummet in the depths of despair. He portrayed Mickey with such good characterisation, that we believed him at any age.

I must also mention the narrator, Dean Chisnall. His presence for virtually the whole show really gelled everything together and his vocals were superb, I could definitely watch him again.

As an audience we laughed, we cried and we jumped in surprise. After a well deserved standing ovation I left with a WOW!! What a fantastic show, I would recommend this to anyone and I have been doing so already.

Playing at the Grand Opera House York until Saturday 12th November and touring throughout UK.

Crimes Against Christmas

New Old Friends present

Crimes Against Christmas

A cracking Christmas comedy crime caper inspired by Christie.

The Lichfield Garrick, 9 – 31 December 2016

Theatre Royal Bath Ustinov, 3 – 7 January 2017 

Crimes Against Christmas is a comedy thriller for an adult audience. The plot is loosely based around Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None with an apparently random group of people mysteriously invited to a Christmas party on a remote island. Once on the island, the guests start to die in suspiciously Christmassy ways: Pipers whilst piping, Lords whilst leaping, Maids whilst milking – and guest of honour Peter Artridge doesn’t like the look of the rope in the pear tree one bit.

An alternative Christmas show to conventional panto, it features a host of characters brought to life by just four actors, sweeping the audience along with a fast based narrative and enough hints (and red herrings) to have them wondering just who the villain is to the very end. Basically it’s Agatha Christie meets 12 Days of Christmas meets 39 Steps.

New Old Friends are a theatre company dedicated to creating original comedy theatre, founded in 2008 and run by husband and wife team Feargus Woods Dunlop & Heather Westwell. Previous shows include Silly Songs of Shakespeare, Anti-Panto! and Mate. In 2014 & 2015 New Old Friends took their adaptation of Anthony Horowitz’s The Falcon’s Malteser on two national tours and also to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2015, enjoying sell-out shows at the Pleasance and great critical acclaim. During the fringe, after a chance conversation via Twitter, the company met Lichfield Garrick’s artistic director Tim Ford and the collaboration for Crimes Against Christmas began.

Tim Ford, artistic director of the Lichfield Garrick says: ‘We are delighted to be co-producing with New Old Friends this Christmas as we love their work and ethos and feel the partnership is a perfect complement to the work we are trying to develop and create here at Lichfield.’

Director Craig Sanders studied at Rose Bruford College and has established himself as a director who creates playful, imaginative and strikingly visual theatre. His most recent production, an adaptation of Kafka’s The Trial, was a sell-out success at Hope Mill Theatre in Manchester and Summerhall in Edinburgh this year, winning two prestigious awards for ‘Best Adaptation’ and ‘Best Newcomer’. This production can be seen at HOME theatre, Manchester in January 2017 as part of PUSH. Previous directing work includes shows at Buxton Opera House, Sheffield Theatres, Oldham Coliseum, Southwark Playhouse, Derby Theatre, and The Lowry.

‘Those dark, chilly, wintery evenings present the perfect atmosphere for either some Christmas glitter and sparkle or a really good thriller, and this production gives you the best of both worlds! Unlike most shows this winter, Crimes Against Christmas is for adults only which opens up some brilliant opportunities to be wickedly funny, mildly cheeky and gloriously unsuspecting tomfoolery.’ – Craig on Crimes Against Christmas.

The show is proudly ‘Made in Lichfield’ with all rehearsals taking place at the Garrick. The company are passionate about regional theatre and are committed to casting local performers where possible. The Lichfield Garrick Theatre is both a receiving and producing house and hosts a wide range of touring UK and International productions. In the last twelve months over 130,000 people have seen performances there. The Lichfield Garrick has produced an annual Christmas production every year since opening. Since 2015, under the artistic directorship of Tim Ford, the venue has started to develop a programme of new work, supporting emerging companies and artists and has developed new relationships with companies with a view to co-produce and tour productions in the future.

New Old Friends and Lichfield Garrick co-produce Crimes Against Christmas with support from Theatre Royal Bath & Natural Theatre Company and the support of Arts Council England.

@newoldfriends | #CrimesAgainstChristmas |

Running Time: 90mins plus interval | Suitable for ages 14+

Company Information

Directed by Craig Sanders                           Designed by Carl Davies

Lighting Designed by Liz Porrett              Musical direction by Paul Dodgson

Perfomers: Heather Westwell, Feargus Woods Dunlop, Dan Winter and (midlands native) Jonathan Maclean.

Listings information

9 – 31 Dec 2016                Lichfield Garrick Theatre (not 12-14, 19 or 25) Castle Dyke, Lichfield WS13 6HR 8pm (4pm matinees – please see website for details) All tickets £20 | 01543 412121

3 – 7 Jan 2017                    Theatre Royal Bath’s Ustinov Studio Theatre Royal Bath, Sawclose, Bath BA1 1ET 8pm (Sat mat 5pm) Tickets £14/£10 | 01225 448844



@PetitsTheatre / #FirstHippo /


Today, Les Petits Theatre Company have announced the full cast and ten further tour dates for the world premiere of the stage adaptation of David Walliams’ The First Hippo on the Moon. The cast includes Dominic Allen, Alice Bounce, Caroline Bowman, Owen Jenkins and Rosie Nicholls.

The First Hippo on the Moon will now tour to over 40 UK venues, beginning at the Royal Hippodrome Theatre, Eastbourne from 13 December 2016 until 7 January 2017. In addition to previously announced dates, production will also visit Rhodes Arts Complex, Mcmillan Theatre, Theatre Royal Windsor, Crewe Lyceum, Eastwood Park Theatre, The Hexagon, Broadway Theatre Letchworth, Curve Leicester, Grassington Festival and The Lowry. The full list of tour dates can be found in Notes to Editors.

The production has been adapted for the stage by Les Enfants Terribles and Les Petits’ Artistic Director Oliver Lansley whose recent adaptations have included the immersive dining experience Dinner at the Twits and Alice’s Adventure’s Underground. The puppets for The First Hippo on the Moon have been created by Nick Barnes and Finn Caldwell who have previously collaborated on War Horse and The Lorax. The First Hippo on the Moon is suitable for children aged three and up.

Based on David Walliams’ original children’s book with illustrations by Tony Ross, The First Hippo on the Moon is an explosively funny space adventure which sees the enormously rich Hercules Waldorf-Franklin III and ingenious Shelia compete to be the first hippo to make it to the moon.

David Walliams has taken the literary world by storm and his brilliantly funny stories are adored by children the world over. He has achieved unprecedented critical acclaim and quickly developed a reputation as a natural successor to Roald Dahl. His books have been translated into over 45 languages and sold over 9.5 million copies in the UK alone. One of his most successful titles Gangsta Granny was adapted for the stage in November 2015 by Birmingham Stage Company and continues on tour until January 2017.

Dominic Allen trained at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. His theatre credits include The Crucible and Sleeping Beauty (Bristol Old Vic), Forty Years On and Peter Pan (York Theatre Royal), Fable (Greenwich Theatre), Lorca is Dead (Belt Up Theatre, Southwark Playhouse), The Atlantis Project (Belt Up Theatre, Punchdrunk Enrichment), Sherlock Holmes: A Working Hypothesis (Flanagan Collective) and, for Les Enfants Terribles, The Fantastical Flying Exploratory Laboratory.

Alice Bounce began her career in cabaret and clowning and toured the UK and Europe in an all-female vaudeville clown troupe after completing her Masters in Physical Theatre. Alice’s theatre credits include Dinner at the Twits, Alice’s Adventures UndergroundThe Marvellous Imaginary Menagerie (Les Enfants Terribles), Treasure Island, The Ice Queen (IPA Productions), The Box (Flipping the Bird), The Imaginarium (Petersham Playhouse), Bearskin (Arcane Productions), Chairman Ubu (Battersea Arts Centre), Prospero’s Tavern (Boom Boom Club/Time Out) Travels with Grandad (Pickled Image), The Apocalypse Gameshow (The 3k Cabaret), Silent Night Unholy Night (Time Out) and Alice in Wasteland (Pyratrix Circus). In addition to her work on stage, Alice’s Assistant Director credits include The Marvellous Imaginary Menagerie and Time Portal.

Caroline Bowman is both a performer and puppet-maker who works across theatre and film. Caroline graduated from the Royal Central School of Speech & Drama in 2010 and began working with Blind Summit shortly after; she is currently the designer and head maker for Puppets With GUTS.

Caroline’s previous theatre credits include War Horse (West End / National Theatre), operating the head of a giant hydraulic Captain Hook in the London Olympic Opening Ceremony and the international tour of Charlie & Lola’s Best Bestest Play (Watershed Productions). As a maker, Caroline has worked with Nick Barnes on projects which include building a five metre long Phoenix puppet which flew through the Royal Albert Hall (BBC), Mr Popper’s Penguins (Pins and Needles Productions), The Lorax (Old Vic) and The First Hippo on the Moon (UK Tour). In addition to this, Caroline has worked in the Puppet Hospital on several stop-motion films, including Fantastic Mr Fox.

Owen Jenkins trained at The Oxford School of Drama. His theatre credits include The Game’s Afoot  (Les Enfants Terribles), 139 Copeland Road (Abbey Normal Theatre), The Marvellous Imaginary Menagerie (Les Enfants Terribles, UK Indoor and Outdoor tour), Goosebumps Alive(The Vaults), Broken Windows (Pleasance Courtyard, Camden People’s Theatre), Trouble (Soho Theatre), Machinal (Pegasus Theatre), Epoch Film Noir, 1950 and 1985 (The Vaults), Jungle Book, The Snow Queen (both Image Musical Theatre UK Tours) and Typos (Etcetera Theatre) which he also co-wrote.

Rosie Nicholls is a recent graduate of Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. She is part of the Draft community at Theatre N16 in Balham that develops and stages new writing and is also a member of the Young Artist Lab at Stratford East Theatre Royal, where she was written and performed her new play Solo. Rosie’s acting credits include Captain Flinn and the Pirate Dinosaurs 2: The Magic Cutlass (Les Petits) Draft 1,2 and 3 (Theatre N16), Rapid Write Response (Theatre503),Love for Love (Bristol Old Vic), Woman and Scarecrow (Brewery Theatre), ROAD (Circomedia) and Sauce For The Goose (West Country Tour).

The First Hippo on the Moon has been adapted for the stage by acclaimed theatre company Les Petits following their hugely successful production of Captain Flinn and the Pirate Dinosaurs. The creative team at Les Petits have also worked on Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax at The Old Vic and the National Theatre’s productions of Elephantom, War Horse and Raymond Briggs’ The Bear. Les Petits was set up as the sister company to Les Enfants Terribles whose work includes Dinner at the Twits, The Game’s Afoot, The Trench, The Vaudevillains and Olivier nominated Alice’s Adventures Underground. 




a39b3980c629b50b_800x800arTO OPEN AT
JUNE 2017


Following a highly-acclaimed pre-West End engagement, producer Jamie Hendry announced this morning that the major new musical THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS will open in the West End at the world-famous London Palladium. Previewing from 17 June 2017, the production will open on 29 June 2017.

The production is currently playing at the Mayflower Theatre, Southampton until 20 November 2016 following its premiere at Theatre Royal Plymouth.

Leading comedian, actor and presenter Rufus Hound stars as the amazing Mr Toad in this spectacular new musical based on Kenneth Grahame’s much-loved classic which reunitesDownton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes and Olivier Award-winning composer and lyricistGeorge Stiles and Anthony Drewe. Full casting will be announced shortly.

Jamie Hendry (Producer): “Following wonderful receptions in Plymouth and Manchester where The Wind in the Willows has delighted adults and children alike, I’m thrilled that a wider audience will be able to share in the joy of this glorious new musical at the London Palladium.”

Hendry also confirmed that he would be continuing his pledge to provide readers of all ages the opportunity to enjoy The Wind in the Willows by sending free copies of Kenneth Grahame’s novel to every school and library in London. He added “I am a firm believer that our most classic novels should be freely available for everyone to enjoy. I hope that readers will fall in love with Grahame’s story as much as I did, which ultimately led to the commissioning of this musical.

Julian Fellowes (Book): “For my adaptation of The Wind in the Willows, which I have loved since I was a boy, to play the London Palladium, the most famous theatre of my childhood, is to bring together two of my life-long favourites. It’s a dream come true, really.”

George Stiles & Anthony Drewe (Music & Lyrics): “It’s so thrilling to be coming to one of London’s greatest theatres with this brand new version of The Wind in the Willows. We’ve had a joyous time working again with Julian Fellowes and writing a score that celebrates this quintessentially British classic in all its eccentric glory.”

This riotous comedy follows the impulsive Mr Toad whose insatiable need for speed lands him in serious trouble. With his beloved home under threat from the notorious Chief Weasel and his gang of sinister Wild Wooders, Toad must attempt a daring escape leading to a series of misadventures and a heroic battle to recapture Toad Hall.

Featuring eye-poppingly beautiful design, exuberant choreography and a gloriously British score, The Wind in the Willows brings an explosion of anarchy, humour and heart to the world-famous London Palladium.

Tickets will be available from £15, with reduced price preview performances. There are no booking fees on tickets booked directly with the theatre.

Produced by Jamie Hendry, MJE Productions and Josh Gilinski, in association with Theatre Royal Plymouth, THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS is directed by Rachel Kavanaugh with choreography by Aletta Collins, design by Peter McKintosh, lighting design by Howard Harrison, sound design by Gareth Owen, wig & makeup design by Linda McKnight, orchestrations by Chris Jahnke and David Shrubsole and musical supervision by Simon Lee.


The London Palladium
Argyll Street, London W1F 7TF

First Performance:             Saturday 17 June 2017
Opening Performance:       Thursday 29 June 2017
Booking Until:                   Saturday 9 September 2017

Performance schedule:      Monday at 7pm, Tuesday – Saturday at 7:30pm
                                        Tuesday & Saturday at 2:30pm

Tickets from:                    £15

Book online:           
Book by phone:                0844 874 0665

Groups:                            0844 412 4650

Facebook:                       \WillowsMusical
Twitter:                          @WillowsMusical
Instagram:                       \WillowsMusical

Griff Rhys Jones Interview by Brian Donaldson

griff-rhys-jones_0166_photo-by-steve-ullathorneGriff Rhys Jones will be performing his new show Jones and Smith at CITY VARIETIES, LEEDS on TUESDAY 8 NOVEMBER. For more information and tickets visit

How would you describe Jones And Smith?

“It’s more of a talk than stand-up: I’m not announcing that ‘here I am on my own now and soon I’ll be doing the O2!’ I really love playing arts centres and intimate places and talking about whatever people want me to. It’s a theatre show or a chamber piece, it’s not a parade.”

And what is it essentially about?

“It’s really just to tell some stories about a double act and how that works. As time went gone on, it was always Smith and Jones, it was always Mel and Griff, so there’s an element of irony in the idea that this is Jones and Smith. Also, when Mel died at 60, it was a bit of a shock to all of us. I never expected to be 60 myself, not because I thought I’d die before I got there, just that I didn’t think it was time to be 60 yet. And so that comes along and then Mel dies and you think ‘wow, wait a minute, this is a new chapter; am I ready for this’? The first half is about Mel dying and the second is about being in your 60s. I won’t be doing the same show twice because there are many stories to tell and I’d like to try those out.”

How would you describe your relationship with Mel?

“It was a rollercoaster ride with us where you were liable to smash into something at 90mph, but it had an entertaining side where we travelled the world doing stupid things. On tour, we’d share a dressing room together and Mel would be smoking cigars, taking his socks off and generally spreading himself about like a bear in a cave and I’d be sitting in a corner trying to read my Plato. Later on, it was more like something out of the United Nations or like a relationship with a brother: we could communicate through grunts and we could wrestle each other, but we wouldn’t necessarily discuss emotional things.”

Would you describe it as like a marriage?

“Yes, though the sex in a marriage would be better. Along the way Mel was astounded as much by me as I was by him. It was a bit like when he died; I was very angry because I couldn’t believe that It was necessary for him not to do what I had done such as to start running and giving things up to live longer.”

You were clearly different people with different perspectives, but what did you have in common?

“We were entirely different but the point I’d make is that we had very similar tastes in what we found funny. Like any relationship, if you don’t somehow have shared values then it’s difficult to do anything together. Mel had the loyalty of a water buffalo and he’d be 100% behind me if I was having a neurotic fit about something. We had a sort-of arrangement where I wrote a significant amount of material and looked after the writers, production and design, made sure taxis were there to pick us up, thought about our agenda and about our futures. Whereas Mel . . . well, he didn’t do any of that.”

Sounds like being on tour with Mel might have been a little chaotic?

“It was a different world from where I am in now: it’s amazing how many of those stories begin with ‘I was in a taxi’. We were thrown together as a couple and we had these bargepoles between us and went our separate ways at the stage door. We’d split up and take turns on having dressing room no 2. Mel didn’t care, but it was just me: I couldn’t listen to ‘I Built This City on Rock N Roll’ 20 times but that was Mel’s favoured way of relaxing and it would also involve people that Mel had met down the pub joining him in the dressing room before the show.”

At what point did you start thinking that you might do a show about you and Mel?

“For the last few years I’ve done various audience-with type shows on many different subjects. I did the Slapstick Festival in Bristol where they show silent stuff and old comedy, which was where I came in. We’d made a pilot about 20 years ago and I took that along to show it and told some stories about Mel and about being in a double act. So, that’s where all this came from. But really, I just love talking to audiences.”

Where do you see your place in the British comedy firmament?

“Not The Nine O’Clock News had almost been and gone by the time the Comedy Store had come about, so we didn’t really associate with alternative comedy. The first series we did was on BBC2 and then it moved to BBC1 where the remit was to be more middle of the road; we were successful there and picked up bigger audiences and as a result we probably went on too long. But you do what you can and not what people expect you to do. But I don’t lie awake at night worrying about whether I was alternative or mainstream.”

Disney’s The Lion King Announces Next Dedicated Autism-Friendly Performance for June 2017


Special performance to be held on
Sunday 4 June 2017 at London’s Lyceum Theatre

Disney UK today announced that its production of THE LION KING will hold a dedicated Autism-Friendly Performance on Sunday 4 June 2017 at 1:30pm. This follows the success of previous such performances designed to make the show more accessible for those affected by autism. In line with the announcement they have released a short video here looking at how the Autism-Friendly Performance is created. Tickets are now on sale.

Disney’s THE LION KING staged the West End’s first dedicated Autism-Friendly Performance in April 2013, working closely with The National Autistic Society, the UK’s leading charity for autistic people and their families. THE LION KING has now staged three such performances in London and one in Edinburgh during the show’s UK tour.

Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how people perceive the world and interact with others. More than 1 in 100 people are on the autism spectrum, including an estimated 700,000 people in the UK. Although everyone on the autism spectrum is different, people may be under or oversensitive to sounds, touch, tastes, smells, light or colours, which can make everyday life extremely challenging. They can also find social situations and unexpected changes a challenge, which can sometimes lead to extreme levels of anxiety.

Understandably, a visit to a musical on the scale of THE LION KING in London’s busiest theatre could prove an overwhelming experience for a significant number of people in the UK who are autistic.

These dedicated Autism-Friendly Performances of THE LION KING include modifications to the booking process, performance and the theatre environment, including:

  • The theatre’s foyer includes designated quiet and activity areas; staffed by experts in autism throughout the performance should anyone need to leave their seats
  • Slight adjustments are made to the performance itself, including the reduction of jarring sounds or strobe lighting that face the audience
  • The cast of THE LION KING along with Lyceum Theatre box office and front of house staff have been given training to understand the needs of an audience made up of adults and children who are autistic
  • A specific website has been set up for this performance, linking to a dedicated booking page. The website includes a downloadable ‘visual story’ to help people with autism understand the process of a visit to the theatre, thus aiding their comprehension of the experience and reducing anxiety by explaining each step from arriving in the foyer to the final curtain call

Audience members can find out more information and purchase tickets  Tickets are sold at a specially reduced rate and can be selected on a virtual map of the auditorium.

Disney’s award-winning musical THE LION KING is now in its 18th triumphant year at London’s Lyceum Theatre. Since the UK premiere in London on Tuesday 19th October 1999, THE LION KING has entertained over 13 million theatregoers and remains the West End’s best-selling stage production. It is currently the sixth longest-running West End musical of all time. Tickets are currently on sale until 30th April 2017 for individuals and 1st October 2017 for groups.

Julie Taymor’s internationally-celebrated stage adaptation of Disney’s beloved animated film premiered on Broadway in 1997 and has now been seen by more than 85 million people across six continents. Nine productions are running concurrently around the globe. In addition to the record-breaking productions in London and New York, The Lion King can currently be seen in Hamburg, Madrid, Tokyo, Mexico City, Shanghai, Scheveningen and on tour across North America.


UK TOUR / @HairsprayUKTour


Today, producer Mark Goucher has confirmed that following the phenomenal success of the recent UK tour, the smash hit production of Hairspray will embark on a further major tour opening on 16 August 2017 at Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff. The big, bold and beautiful production of this much loved musical comedy will visit more than 30 venues across the length and breadth of the UK and Ireland until early summer 2018. Star casting will be announced in due course.

Producer Mark Goucher said: “I am incredibly proud of this production of Hairspray and thrilled that it will be travelling the country again. The universal appeal of this heart-warming show has continued to delight us all, with families and musical theatre lovers alike packing out theatres night after night.”

Featuring the iconic music and lyrics by Academy Award, Tony and Emmy winning duo Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, the production will tour to Cardiff, Dartford, Dublin, Blackpool, Sunderland, Glasgow, Birmingham, Leicester, Buxton, Belfast, Aylesbury, Carlisle, Bradford, Guildford, Plymouth, Southampton, Sheffield, Aberdeen, Nottingham, Bristol, Edinburgh, Inverness, Manchester, Milton Keynes, Liverpool, Hull, Llandudno, Canterbury and Southend.

Hairspray is directed by Paul Kerryson, with choreography by Drew McOnie.

It’s Baltimore 1962, where Tracy Turnblad, a big girl with big hair and an even bigger heart, is on a mission to follow her dreams and dance her way onto national TV. Tracy’s audition makes her a local star and soon she is using her new-found fame to fight for equality, bagging local heartthrob Link Larkin along the way.

Hairspray is a musical based on the 1988 film of the same name which starred Divine and Ricki Lake by cult filmmaker John Waters. With music and lyrics by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman and book by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan, Hairspray originally opened to rave reviews on Broadway in 2002 and subsequently won eight Tony Awards. The production opened in London at the Shaftesbury Theatre in 2007 and won four Laurence Olivier Awards including Best New Musical. Proving to be an international success, Hairspray has also opened in South Africa, Japan, South Korea, China and Dubai. Following the musical’s phenomenal success on stage, a film of the musical was released in 2007 which starred John Travolta, Michelle Pfeiffer and James Marsden.

Arrows & Traps Shakespeare Rep – Twelfth Night and Othello Review

Upstairs at the Gatehouse 1 – 19 November.  Reviewed by Claire Roderick

Take it from me, if the sign says “Arrows & Traps Theatre Company presents…” you are in for a theatrical treat. With a fantastic track record of innovative Shakespeare productions, this repertory season presents Twelfth Night and Othello, two very different plays, but both dealing with the chaos of falling in love.

The same set is used for each production, and director Ross McGregor has made the most of The Gatehouse’s wide stage, with specific areas – a garden, a bedroom and a third versatile space for town/fight scenes. This means that scenes and speeches can be intercut seamlessly by a lighting change, rather than characters exiting and entering, and maintains the narrative pace effectively.

Twelfth Night sees shipwrecked Viola landing in Illyria, thinking her twin, Sebastian, has drowned. Disguising herself as Cesario, she goes to Duke Orsino’s court and becomes his agent in his romantic pursuit of Olivia. But Olivia falls in love with Cesario, who in turn loves Orsino. Meanwhile, Olivia’s uncle and his friends plot the downfall of priggish Malvolio, Olivia’s steward, by convincing him that Olivia is in love with him.

Shakespeare’s bawdy comedy is given a deliciously earthy treatment, with the lustful longings of the characters played with relish by the cast. Making Antonio (Spencer Lee Osborne) and Sebastian’s (Alex Stevens) relationship sexual brings a fresh angle to the play, giving Sebastian a more mercenary and less heroic outlook than usual, and both actors bring a subtle sensitivity to their roles. Pearce Sampson’s foppish Orsino moons amusingly after Olivia, but his attraction towards Cesario culminates in abruptly ending wrestling matches that are delightfully played by Sampson and Pippa Caddick – a fantastically feisty performance toying with body language and gender expectations. Cornelia Baumann’s Olivia just needs to get laid in a great comic performance, and Adam Elliott manages to gain the audiences sympathy as uptight Malvolio – making him not just a social climber, but showing true feelings towards Olivia. Tom Telford and David Grace, as Sir Toby and Sir Andrew make a great comic duo, with definite shades of Laurel and Hardy, ably assisted by Elle Banstead-Salim as Maria. These three actors excel in physical comedy, and steal every scene they’re in. Lloyd Warbey gives Feste, the fool who hides his wisdom behind dreadful wordplay, just the right hint of world weary cynicism, and is devastatingly good revealing his unrequited love for Maria by singing songs by The Proclaimers and The Police. The musical theme that repeats throughout the play is haunting and Pascal Magdrier’s arrangements of modern and Shakespearean songs around the melody is clever and engaging.

Full of deft and daft comedy and engagingly performed, this production manages to breathe new life into Twelfth Night, allowing the company to bring their comedic talent to the fore. Fantastic.

Othello isn’t quite such a barrel of laughs. Othello, a Moorish general in the Venetian army marries Desdemona, who is disowned by her family. The promotion of Cassio puts Iago’s nose out of joint and, already convinced that Othello has bedded his own wife, he plots Othello’s downfall and the murder of Cassio.

To be honest, I always thought Othello was a huge prat with sociopathic tendencies, but Spencer Lee Osborne gives the character a hugely sympathetic vulnerability. This Othello, confident and self-assured in military matters, cannot seem to believe that someone like Desdemona could ever really want him. His gullibility and suggestibility under the onslaught of Iago’s lies are completely credible as you watch Osborne’s quivering lip and fidgeting fingers. This is a true man-child that just doesn’t know how to cope with a strong woman, making his sudden violent outbursts even more shocking. Pearce Sampson gives Iago a Northern charm, but quickly allows the audience glimpses of his bitter and malicious mind. His asides to the audience come as the other actors freeze, which is most effective during the attack on Cassio. Pippa Caddick’s Desdemona is flirty and assertive, and she handles Desdemona’s growing confusion and disbelief convincingly without histrionics. Cornelia Baumann’s Emilia is largely silent, finding her voice and strength as the deception unfolds in a wonderfully nuanced performance. As Cassio, Adam Elliott is true officer material, and the moment he shares with Osborne in the final scene just took my breath away.

The fights are balletic rather than realistic, and the climatic sequence of movement involving the whole cast as Othello strangles Desdemona, while not quite reaching the emotional intensity of the company’s portrayal of the death of Macbeth earlier this year, is wistfully magical and almost cinematic.

Any company that can make me tell my friends to go and see Othello – my least favourite Shakespeare play – must be something special. I bored my friends silly raving about this production!