From the Calais ‘Jungle’ refugee camp, Good Chance arrives in London this summer

From Saturday 30 July to Sunday 7 August, Good Chance will find a London home on Festival Terrace at Southbank Centre’s annual Festival of Love. Entitled Encampment, the project will unite artists from the UK, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Cameroon and Guinea. Across nine days and nights, a sweeping programme of performances and events will take place inside the iconic Good Chance Dome, direct from the Calais ‘Jungle’ refugee camp.

Encampment will offer a mixture of ticketed and non-ticketed events, all free, including theatre, art, music, discussion and workshops, featuring special guests from around the world. The dome structure Good Chance brought to Calais was made into a hub for welcome, exchange and performance by the people from the camp who visited it every day. Encampment will raise awareness of and reinvigorate the dialogue on one of the biggest human migrations in history, giving people in the UK a chance to come together to discover more and to celebrate our extraordinary diversity and humanity.

Joe Murphy and Joe Robertson, Artistic Directors and Co-Founders of Good Chance, said: We worked with the residents of the Jungle camp in Calais to bring a theatre to life every day for six months. Much was made in that six months. Theatre, yes, but also paintings, music, song, poetry, puppetry, dance, rap, circus, and most importantly friends. It was a meeting place for expression, where stories could be told or forgotten, if only for an hour or so. Everyone who stepped inside saw the power of art in life, in a place where it’s needed.

We’re proud to be pitching the Good Chance Dome at Southbank Centre this summer, and bringing with it the idea that we’re so much better, bigger and braver when we come together and listen. Together with the incredible artists who will be buildingEncampment with us, we want to offer everyone the chance to meet, mix, talk and think about what we need to do. To have fun together and become excited, rather than scared, about what lies ahead. We have an opportunity here, a good chance, to develop a big new idea of who we are. And we want to seize this moment. Join us!”

Highlights will include: a brand new devised work created by Good Chance; Lebanon’sZoukak Theatre Company’s bracing production, The Last Tablet; an exhibition of art created by residents of the Calais camp; Afghan kite-making with a special guest reading from Michael Morpurgo; a new work from the South London-based migrant and refugee-led theatre company, The Paper Project; childhood games from across the globe, compiled by Pan Intercultural Arts; art, world music and dance from the APOW! project by Refugee Youth; Nassim Soleimanpour’s haunting nomadic play White Rabbit Red Rabbit; poetry from Exiled Writers Ink and Bards Without Borders; live music from The Calais Sessions, the Palestinian Youth Orchestra, 47SOUL, Maya Youssef and Mosi Conde; platform discussions on the role of arts in humanitarian crises and on the voices of refugee women; and much, much more.

Good Chance Encampment is in partnership with Southbank Centre.

A Night of Hope
in aid of Good Chance

Stephen Daldry, Chair of Good Chance, and Quintessentially Foundation have organised A Night of Hope in aid of Good Chance, supported by ATG and Sony Pictures Television, on Monday 4 July at the London Wonderground.

With tickets priced from £60-£495, A Night of Hope features a thrilling line-up of special guests and live performances from some of Good Chance’s biggest supporters, including Tom Odell, Maria Friedman, Songhoy Blues and Giles Fraser; auction masters Stephen Daldry and Steve Coogan; alongside more incredible artists from around the world.

The gala aims to raise funds to allow Good Chance to return to Calais to re-build in the ‘Jungle’ refugee camp and to continue building temporary theatres of hope wherever the need is greatest. Good Chance Calais was unprecedented: a vital and much-loved space for freedom of expression, creativity and dignity, open for all, created for and with the people living in the camp’s incredibly difficult conditions.

Good Chance’s A Night of Hope gala committee is led by Stephen Daldry with Joe & Joe, Ben Elliot, Sonia Friedman, AA Gill, Joyce Hytner, Toby Jones, David Lan, Suzanne Mackie, Tracey Seaward, Juliet Stevenson and Caroline Villamizar Duque.

A Night of Hope in aid of Good Chance is supported by :


in partnership with Quintessentially Foundation & London Wonderground

The Quiet House Review

Park Theatre 8 June – 9 July.  Reviewed by Claire Roderick

Inspired by writer Gareth Farr’s own experiences, The Quiet House follows Jess (Michelle Bonnard) and Dylan (Oliver Lansley) as they go through IVF treatment.

The play begins with Jess waiting for Dylan to return home so that they can have sex as it is her peak fertile time. Instead he enters in an agitated state and tells a wonderfully convoluted and horrifying story about his visit to the shop. At this point, Jess already appears to be a mother, albeit to the stressed and slightly neurotic Dylan. The dynamics of their relationship change throughout the play, with Dylan becoming stronger and supportive as Jess begins to lose hope.

The reality of treatment is shown and explained unwaveringly, with repeated scenes of Dylan preparing the syringe as Jess waits silently and anxiously. But after every injection, there’s a kiss. Farr’s writing is brutally honest, with the couple turning on each other at times and sharing some bitter home truths, but the strength of their love is shown most powerfully in almost silent scenes that feel very honest and realistic. While the kitchen timer ticked down 2 minutes and Jess and Dylan watched anxiously, the audience was rapt, some were in tears. When the result was negative, there followed the most emotionally raw piece of acting I’ve ever seen. The way the actors moved and looked at each other is spellbinding and heart-breaking. I ran out of tissues at that point.

But, just like real life, the tragedy and stress is mixed up with lighter moments. Dylan and Jess are well written, clever and funny characters, and their narrative is helped along by Dylan’s boss, Tony (Tom Walker) – a kind of hybrid of Doctor Fox and David Brent, and upstairs neighbour Kim (Allyson Ava-Brown) – a new mother with no bladder control who lives upstairs. As well as being comedy gold, these characters highlight other aspects of IVF treatment. Dylan’s reluctance to tell anyone about what is going on leads to complications at work – at one stage they are convinced Jess has cancer! While Jess’ subtle underlying resentment of Kim’s motherhood leads to tension.

Michelle Bonnard portrays the physical need of Jess to have this baby with a fierce intensity and is simply stunning. Oliver Lansley reveals Dylan’s inner strength subtly as the play progresses, but still keeps that wild eyed look that may lapse into complete panic at any time. Their interactions are sublime and fill this love story with passion and hope.

The Quiet House is a funny, honest and emotional play that is brilliantly written and beautifully acted. A must see.

Leftovers Review

Theatre N16 5 – 9 June.  Reviewed by Claire Roderick

Leftovers plays with the audience, keeping you in a mildly bemused state trying to work out which parts of Lizzie’s story are real and which are fantasy.

A seemingly sweet picture book romance between Lizzie (Gabrielle Sheppard – who also wrote the play) and Harry (Christopher Adams) during an impending invasion of London plays out before the narrative fragments into 2 different strands. We see the couple packing happily for their honeymoon, and then see the same scene but with Lizzie packing to flee and Harry signing up to fight.

Lizzie falls pregnant and has a daughter (Ella Cook), or is it a phantom pregnancy after Harry’s death? We see Lizzie as an old, silent woman visited by her daughter as she plans her wedding, and begin to wonder if this is all the failing and erratic memories of a deteriorating mind, until the final moments, revealing Lizzie’s rescue on the French shore after fleeing London. The imagined lives she could have lived are the story she tells herself and the rescuers to cope with her dire situation as a refugee.

I think.

The use of rhythmic movement and the repeated shouts of “Run!” build tension and are quite unnerving, the exception being the delightfully coy sex scene involving thigh slapping and gasping. The set is basically a heap of clothes, that are moved around to great effect, but you begin not to see this, as you cannot take your eyes off the intense performances.

The cast are fantastic – and very fit (I was out of breath watching them at times), and subtly change their performances in each strand of Lizzie’s life.

Imagining the plight of refugees from London is a wonderful idea when empathy for refugees from Syria is non-existent amongst some UK residents, especially when the story is told in such an evocative and original way. A fascinating play.

THE LIBERTINE starring Dominic Cooper announces further casting

Presented by TRH Productions, Lee Dean and Theatre Royal Bath Productions

Dominic Cooper in
The Libertine

Written by Stephen Jeffreys
Directed by Terry Johnson

  • Further casting announced to join Dominic Cooper in Stephen Jeffreys’ sexually charged Restoration piece
  • Theatre Royal Bath from 31 August to 17 September, as part of the venue’s Summer Season 2016
  • Theatre Royal Haymarket from 22 September to 3 December with opening night for press on 27 September


Further cast members are announced to join the previously confirmed star Dominic Cooper inStephen Jeffreys’ sexually charged masterpiece The Libertine this autumn. Directed by Olivier and Tony Award-winning Terry Johnson, the play will have a limited run from 31 August to 17 September at Bath Theatre Royal as part of the theatre’s 2016 summer season, prior to a West End engagement at the Theatre Royal Haymarket from 22 September to 3 December with opening night for press on 27 September.

Fresh from starring in AMC’s new television series Preacher and fantasy blockbuster Warcraft,Dominic Cooper makes a return to the stage to play debauched 17th Century rake the Earl of Rochester alongside Ophelia Lovibond (Elementary, Nowhere Boy, and Guardians of the Galaxy) as Elizabeth Barry. They will be joined by Jasper Britton as King Charles II and Mark Hadfield as Etherege with Will Barton as Alcock, Cornelius Booth as Harris / Huysmans / Constable, Will Merrick as Billy Downs and Richard Teverson as Sackville with further casting still to be announced.

John Wilmot, the second Earl of Rochester is a charismatic poet, playwright and rake with a legendary appetite for excess. Yet this most ardent of hedonists is forced to reconsider everything he thinks and feels when a chance encounter with an actress at the Playhouse sends him reeling. With flair and wit, this wild romp through 1670s London offers an incisive critique of life in an age of excess.

Dominic Cooper has notable stage credits, particularly at the National Theatre including The History Boys, Mother Clap’s Molly House and more recently in Phedre alongside Helen Mirren. Cooper’s numerous screen credits include The History Boys, The Duchess, My Week with Marilyn, Mamma Mia, Captain America: The First Avenger, Warcraft and AMC series Preacher.

Ophelia Lovibond is known recently in the US playing Kathryn ‘Kitty’ Winter in CBS seriesElementary and in the UK as Izzy Gould in BBC comedy W1A. Film roles include Carina in 2014 film Guardians of the Galaxy, Shannon in 4,3,2,1, Marie in John Lennon biopic Nowhere Boy as well as roles in Man Up, No Strings Attached, Mr. Popper’s Penguins and Roman Polanski’sOliver Twist. Further Television credits include Mr Sloane (SKY Atlantic), Single (Channel 4),Messiah (BBC), The Poison Tree (ITV), Delta Forever (BBC Three) and is soon to star in SKY1’s upcoming action-adventure series Hooten & The Lady. On stage, Ophelia made her professional debut in Lucy Prebble’s The Effect (Sheffield Theatres).

Jasper Britton has most recently starred in Richard II, The Jew of Malta and as the title role inHenry IV Part I and II for the Royal Shakespeare Company, The Barbican and in New York. His additional stage work includes Race (Hampstead Theatre), The Picture of Dorian Gray (Abbey Theatre), Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (Sheffield Crucible) Fabrication (The Print Room), The Last Cigarette (Chichester Festival Theatre/West End), Fram (National Theatre), Oedipus(National Theatre), Rhinoceros (Royal Court), Private Lives (Hampstead Theatre), The Taming Of The Shrew (Royal Shakespeare Company in Washington D.C./West End), Japes (Theatre Royal Haymarket), The Tempest (Globe Theatre) and The Visit (Theatre de Complicite). Film credits include Blood, Anonymous, Morris: A Life With Bells On and The New World.

Mark Hadfield’s recent theatre credits including Richard III (Almedia), The Painkiller (Garrick Theatre), Made in Dagenham (Adelphi Theatre), Jeeves and Wooster: Perfect Nonsense (Duke of York’s Theatre), Singing in the Rain (Palace Theatre) and Thérèse Raquin (National Theatre), for which he was nominated for an Olivier Award. In addition to his extensive stage work, Mark recently starred as Stefan Lindeman in Wallander (BBC). Further television credits includeTrollied (Sky 1), From the Cradle to the Grave (BBC) and Maigret (ITV).

Will Barton’s theatre credits include Fings Ain’t Wot They Used T’Be (Theatre Royal Stratford East), Joking Apart (Nottingham Playhouse/Salisbury Playhouse), The Boy On The Swing (Arcola Theatre). He most recently starred in Toast alongside Matthew Kelly as part of Brits Off Broadway Season in New York. Television and film credits include The Theory Of Everything (Working Title), Holby City (BBC), Switch (ITV), New Tricks (BBC) and Doctors (BBC).

Cornelius Booth is currently starring as Chopper in Land of our Fathers (UK Tour / Soho Theatre). Further theatre credits include Peter Pan Goes Wrong (UK Tour), Of Mice and Men(West Yorkshire Playhouse) and The Machine (Donmar Warehouse).    

Will Merrick is best known for his roles as Alo in Skins (Channel 4) and Jay in Richard Curtis’ filmAbout Time. Theatre credits include The Ghost Train (Royal Exchange Theatre), Merlin (Royal & Derngate), Wendy and Peter Pan (RSC) and Boys (Arcola Theatre). Additional television credits include Brief Encounters (ITV), Fail (BBC), The Rack Pack (BBC), Atlantis (BBC) and Doctor Who(BBC).

Richard Teverson’s theatre credits include Private Lives (ATG Tour), The Winslow Boy (Old Vic), After the Dance (National Theatre) and The 39 Steps (Criterion Theatre). Richard is also known for his television work as Dr Ryder in Downton Abbey (ITV), Jamaica Inn (BBC), The Bletchley Circle (ITV) and Spies of Warsaw (BBC).

Stephen Jeffreys is the author of A Going Concern, The Clink and Valued Friends, which won him the Evening Standard Most Promising Playwright Award.

Terry Johnson is a dramatist and director who has won numerous theatre awards including two Oliviers as a playwright for Best Comedy and a Tony for Best Director of a Musical for La Cage Aux Folles. Other directing credits include The Graduate, Entertaining Mr Sloane and One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest.

The Libertine was first performed on tour and at the Royal Court Theatre alongside the Restoration comedy, The Man of Mode, which presented another, contemporary view of Rochester. It later transferred to Chicago’s Steppenwolf starring John Malkovich and directed by Terry Johnson before Johnny Depp took the title role in the 2004 film adaptation.

The Libertine is produced by TRH Productions, Lee Dean and Theatre Royal Bath Productions with Ilene Starger as Executive Producer.









‘I have a scream I want the world to hear’

After selling out its week-long run at the Young Vic theatre, the UK tour of QUEENS OF SYRIA – Developing Artists and Refuge Productions’ adaptation of Euripides’ great anti-war tragedy – will culminate in a West End Gala Performance at the New London Theatre on Sunday 24 July.

First staged in Amman in 2013 and the subject of an award-winning documentary, Queens of Syria features 13 female Syrian refugees, who skilfully amalgamate their own narratives of ferocious war and bitter exile with the ancient Greek text.  Opening at the Young Vic theatre in London from 5 – 9 July 2016 as part of Horizons, a season exploring the lives of refugees across all three of its stages, on film and through Taking Part projects in 2016-17, , the show will tour to the North Wall Arts Centre in Oxford, the Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts, University of Sussex, Brighton, the Liverpool Everyman, as part of the Liverpool Arab Arts Festival 2016 (a 10 day festival increasing appreciation and awareness of Arab culture), the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds as part of their Open Season, and the Assembly Roxy in Edinburgh.

Acclaimed young director Zoe Lafferty will join the production to work with the cast. Associate of Palestine’s Freedom Theatre and member of the Old Vic 12, Lafferty’s work has focussed on current conflicts, political power imbalance and situations of human rights violations, and has taken her from wars in Afghanistan and Yemen, to the occupation in Palestine, humanitarian crises in Lebanon and Haiti, and working at the heart of some of the most pressing issues in the UK.

In 2012, Lafferty crossed secretly into Syria to uncover the personal stories from the uprising, speaking to protesters, soldiers, activists and citizens on both sides of the conflict. The resultant verbatim work, The Fear of Breathing, subsequently premiered at the Finborough Theatre.

Zoe Lafferty said, “I feel privileged to work on this production that directly voices the powerful story from women that have survived war and are currently refugees. This piece encompasses the many challenges they have faced whilst being a celebration of life, a declaration of hope and an exploration of the future.”

Queens of Syria comes to the UK for just three weeks.  This will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the refugees themselves, and a revelatory experience for British audiences who will hear first-hand the harsh realities of life as a refugee.

Punchdrunk’s Artistic Director Felix Barrett has been awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List

“The visionary who reinvented theatre.” The Observer

Felix Barrett has today been awarded an MBE for his work in the theatre industry. Artistic pioneer Barrett founded Punchdrunk with colleague Pete Higgin in 2000. Since then the company has become renowned around the world for its ground-breaking approach to making theatre, winning numerous awards and thousands of loyal fans in the process and becoming a byword for all that is different from traditional theatre. The company’s practice has influenced a generation of theatre makers with its style of productions and practice.

Felix Barrett said: “It is really an honour to be given an MBE and it comes as a complete surprise. For years Punchdrunk has worked right at the very edges of the theatre sector, so to be acknowledged by the establishment is truly humbling. There are an incredible amount of people who have been with me all along the way, creating vivid and adventurous worlds for audiences to explore, and this award is something I feel I absolutely share with them”.

DREAMGIRLS announces further casting

Savoy Theatre, London
Performances from 19 November

  • Further casting announced to join star Amber Riley
  • Reduced price previews tickets from Saturday 19 November to Tuesday 13 December across all price bands including 100 tickets per performance at £15

Sonia Friedman Productions is delighted to announce further casting for the long-awaited UK premiere of Dreamgirls which will have preview performances at the Savoy Theatre from 19 November and Opening Night on Wednesday 14 December 2016.

As previously confirmed, American actress and singer Amber Riley will star as Effie White. Ms Riley will be joined by Ibinabo Jack as Lorrell Robinson and Liisi LaFontaine as Deena Jones, making up the soulful singing trio ‘The Dreams’. Nicholas Bailey will play Marty, Adam J. Bernard will play Jimmy Early, Tyrone Huntley will play C.C. White and Joe Aaron Reid will play Curtis Taylor Jr, with Ruth Brown and Karen Mav alternating the role of Effie White at performances when Amber Riley is not scheduled to perform.

The cast of Dreamgirls will also include Jocasta Almgill, Callum Aylott, Hugo Batista, Samara Casteallo, Chloe Chambers, Carly Mercedes Dyer, Joelle Dyson, Kimmy Edwards, Candace Furbert, Nathan Graham, Ashley Luke Lloyd, Gabriel Mokake, Abiola Ogunbiyi, Sean Parkins, Kirk Patterson, Ryan Reid, Rohan Richards, Noel Samuels, Durone Stokes and Tosh Wanogho-Maud.

Sonia Friedman, Producer: “It was wonderful to announce our star Amber Riley a few weeks ago. Now, having seen more than 1000 performers audition over many months, I am thrilled that we can reveal most of our Dreamgirls company. It is 35 years since its Broadway premiere, so to finally be the ones to bring it to London with our world-class creative team and incredibly talented, exciting young cast is an honour and privilege. I believe we now have the perfect team to create a sensational production that I hope will be well worth the wait.”

Amber Riley is best known for her role as ‘Mercedes Jones’ in the Golden Globe Award-winning musical comedy, Glee. Additional television appearances include playing ‘Addaperle, the Good Witch of the North’ in the NBC live performance of the musical, The Wiz and competing inDancing with the Stars, which she won in 2013. Riley’s numerous theatre credits include Alice in Wonderland, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Into the Woods and Mystery on the Docks with the Los Angeles Opera. In November 2012, she made her New York stage debut to rave reviews in New York City Center’s Duke Ellington’s Cotton Club Parade.

Ibinabo Jack’s stage credits include Legally Blonde The Musical (Savoy Theatre), The Color Purple (Menier Chocolate Factory), Little Shop of Horrors (Manchester Royal Exchange) and The Bodyguard on UK Tour.

Liisi LaFontaine was a finalist on The Winner Is (NBC) as part of a singing duo The LaFontaines with her mother Nita Whitaker. Her stage credits include Ti’Moune in Once on This island(LACHSA production), Mimi in Rent (Skylight theater) and Trisha in Dog Sees God (Skylight Theater). Her first EP titled Golden is now available on iTunes.

Nicholas Bailey is best known for playing Dr Anthony Trueman in EastEnders (BBC One) and Carl in The Archers (BBC Radio 4). Stage credits include The Duke of Burgundy in Richard Eyre’s production of King Lear (National Theatre), Gabriel in Breakfast with Mugabe (Theatre Royal Bath), Julius Caesar (Manchester Royal Exchange) and Dreaming (Manchester Royal Exchange/West End). In 2006, Bailey was a contestant on ITV’s Soapstar Superstar.

Adam J. Bernard can currently be seen in Thriller Live! (UK Tour), having previously starred in the West End production. Further theatre credits include I Can’t Sing (London Palladium), Hairspray The Musical (Asia Tour). Television and film credits Star Wars VII, Drifters (Channel 4), Random (Channel 4), Holby City (BBC), Legends (TNT).

Tyrone Huntley’s stage credits include The Book of Mormon (Prince of Wales), Porgy and Bess(Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre), Sister Act (UK Tour), Hairspray (Leicester Curve), Aladdin(King’s Lynn Corn Exchange). He was most recently seen as Gator in Memphis (Shaftesbury Theatre).

Joe Aaron Reid is currently starring as Benny in In The Heights (Kings Cross Theatre). Broadway theatre credits include If/Then, Chicago, Curtains, Ghost, Catch Me If You Can and Finian’s Rainbow. He also appeared in the NBC drama Smash for two seasons.

Ruth Brown found fame in the first series of BBC’s The Voice, reaching the semi-finals under the mentorship of Sir Tom Jones. She has since gone on to release her first UK single ‘P.O.P.’ and is soon to debut her new album, Letters of Truth.

Karen Mav was recently a contestant on the 2015 series of ITV’s The X Factor where she wowed TV audiences and judges with her take on Etta James’s ‘I’d Rather Go Blind’ and the Whitney Houston version of the classic ‘I Will Always Love You’.

Full information on performance schedules and further casting will be updated on the official website

As previously announced, Dreamgirls will be Directed and Choreographed by Olivier and Tony Award®-winning Casey Nicholaw (The Book of Mormon, Disney’s Aladdin and Something Rotten!), with Set Design by Tim Hatley, Costume Design by Gregg Barnes, Lighting Design byHugh Vanstone, Sound Design by Richard Brooker and Hair Design by Josh Marquette. The Musical Supervisor will be Nick Finlow, the Orchestrator will be Harold Wheeler, with Additional Material by Willie Reale.

Dreamgirls transports you to a revolutionary time in American music history. Dreamgirls charts the tumultuous journey of a young female singing trio from Chicago, Illinois called ‘The Dreams’, as they learn the hard lesson that show business is as tough as it is fabulous, and features the classic songs ‘And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going’, ‘I Am Changing’, ‘Listen’ and ‘One Night Only’ .

With Book and Lyrics by Tom Eyen and Music by Henry Krieger, the original Broadway production of Dreamgirls, Directed and Choreographed by Michael Bennett opened in 1981 and subsequently won six Tony Awards®. The original cast recording won two Grammy awards for Best Musical Album and Best Vocal Performance for Jennifer Holliday’s ‘And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going.’ In 2006 it was adapted into an Oscar winning motion picture starring Beyoncé Knowles, Jennifer Hudson, Eddie Murphy and Jamie Foxx.

Amber Riley and Liisi LaFontaine are appearing with the support of UK Equity, incorporating the Variety Artistes’ Federation, pursuant to an exchange program between American Equity and UK Equity.


JOANNA STRAND AND FRIENDS will perform at The Hippodrome Casino in the heart of London’s West End on Thursday 14 July at 11.00pm, in a fundraising cabaret supporting the work of The Make A Difference Trust (MAD Trust). Joanna will be joined by headline guests Gary Williams and Jacqui Tate, alongside an exciting line-up of West End performers.

Other special guest performers will include Rodney Earl Clarke, Katherine Evans, Pamela Hay, Monique Henry, Theo Jameson, Lydia Jenkins, Ria Jones, John Mclarnon, Nathaniel Morrison, Nigel Richards, Thomas Humphreys, Colette Lennon, David Shannon, the West End Gospel Choir, Worbey And Farrell, with a few more surprises on the night (line-up subject to change).

Alongside her career on London’s West End stage (The Phantom of the Opera, Master Class, Jekyll and Hyde), Joanna Strand enjoys success as a cabaret performer and regularly performs her shows at The Crazy Coqs, Pheasantry, Pizza Express Dean Street and New York venues including Feinstein’s, 54 Below, The Carlyle and Metropolitan Room.

Gary Williams enjoyed his West End debut, recreating the role of Frank Sinatra for 150 performances of The Rat Pack Live From Las Vegas at The Theatre Royal Haymarket. He has been a regular guest of the BBC Concert Orchestra for ‘Friday Night Is Music Night’ and had the honour of performing for The Prince of Wales at Buckingham Palace. He performs regularly at The Crazy Coqs and many other London cabaret venues.

Jacqueline Tate’s theatre credits include the Broadway transfer of South Pacific, Avenue Q (West End & National Tour), The Phantom of the Opera (West End) and world tours of Evita and My Fair Lady. Recently, she has appeared at the Crazy Coqs, The Pheasantry and Pizza Express Dean Street with her dueting partner Joanna Strand.

Tickets are now on sale, priced at £16.50 and £22.50 (including booking fees), and can be booked through The Make A Difference Trust here: . Doors open at 10.30pm, the event starts at 11.00pm. Ticket holders must be aged 18 or over.

All profits will go to The Make A Difference Trust.  With a legacy of over 25 years, the MAD Trust, trading as TheatreMAD, brings together the theatre industry and its supporters to raise funds for HIV and AIDS projects that raise awareness, and provide care, support and education in the United Kingdom and Sub-Saharan Africa. The Trust also supports those in the entertainment industry facing hardship as a result of a long term illness.

To find out more about The Make A Difference Trust, visit:



Odd Shaped Balls Review

The Old Red Lion 31 May – 26 June.  Reviewed by Claire Roderick

Newly promoted to the Rugby Premiership, Chiltern Colts and their star fly half James Hall suddenly become newsworthy. So when he is outed by an ex-boyfriend, the media frenzy and reactions of his team mates have a devastating impact on James. Within days, the fans even have a chant for him – much to his bemusement. Odd Shaped Balls follows James as he (and the club) tries to come to terms with his sexuality and deals with the fear that he may not be able to play his beloved rugby again.

Richard D. Sheridan’s writing is sincere and emotional, and Matthew Marrs plays all the characters with great skill and commitment. The fact that there are so many characters does dilute the impact of the play somewhat, especially in the scene where James tells his girlfriend about his gay relationship. Marrs has such an expressive face, but we only see quick flickers of reactions as he switches between the characters of Claire and James, where each character deserves longer moments.

The laughs are provided by the characters in the rugby club, and from personal experience, these are extremely well observed. Marrs gets to wheel out his accents as well-meaning coach Aidan, macho captain Matt and Jonesy, the Welshman with a long list of VERY inappropriate questions and suggestions (a good attempt that went down well with the people from East of Offa’s Dyke, but tended to lapse into Bristolian at times).

The awkward reactions of James’ parents were written beautifully, and James’ bewildered responses were realistic and effective, often followed by a moment of quiet, but all too often the pace is relentless and the play proceeds like a runaway train, where a slower, more even pace was needed.

Marrs manages the character transitions brilliantly, and manages to make you care about James. The fact that the play doesn’t wrap things up neatly is appropriate as sport attempts to become more diverse and accepting, hindered by press and social media fascination with the personal lives of stars, and there are no easy solutions.

The finely detailed set is a triumph and the lighting design is well thought out and subtle. It just seemed that this one-man play might be made richer and more well rounded with one or two extra cast members.

The Commitments direct from West End









Tickets on sale now


“The Commitments is the musical we’ve been waiting for.

So good, our critic almost weeps”

The Sunday Times ★★★★★


“This hugely enjoyable show touches the sublime. Wonderfully funny”

Daily Telegraph ★★★★


“Unstoppable fun. A big-hearted, big-night out”

The Times ★★★★


Coronation Street legend, Kevin Kennedy, is to star as Jimmy’s Da in the UK tour of the critically acclaimed musical The Commitments written by Roddy Doyle, starting in October 2016.


The UK tour will also feature many of the cast from the record breaking show’s two year run at London’s Palace Theatre, including Brian Gilligan who will reprise his starring role of Deco and Andrew Linnie who will star as Jimmy Rabbitte.


Thirty years since The Commitments first burst from the pages of Roddy Doyles best-selling novel, the world’s hardest working soul band will be going on a seven month UK tour. The smash hit musical will begin at the Churchill Theatre in Bromley on 3 October, before opening in Dublin for the first time ever. It will then travel to theatres across the UK until May 2017.

Roddy Doyle said: “The Commitments were born in Dublin, moved to London, and will soon be hopping all over the shop. I wrote the novel – invented the characters – in 1986, and it thrills me to think that they will be entertaining audiences throughout the UK and Ireland 30 years later, in 2016.”


Kevin Kennedy won the hearts of the nation when he starred as Curly Watts in Coronation Street. Since leaving Coronation Street, Kevin has regularly appeared in theatre productions including: Chicago, The Rocky Horror Show, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and We Will Rock You.


Kevin said: “After working abroad, I am delighted to be returning to such an iconic musical as The Commitments. It is a pleasure to travel around the country playing to enthusiastic audiences who love this show.”


Brian Gilligan originally played the role of drummer Billy ‘The Animal’ Mooney in the West End production.  Several months later, he was overheard singing to himself in the stairwell at The Palace Theatre and blew away the director, leading to him being cast as Deco a few weeks later.


Brian said: “I am very fortunate to be returning to a role and show that I really love. It’s gonna be exciting bringing the show back home to Dublin.”


Andrew Linnie was originally part of the West End production’s ensemble, but saved the day when the actor playing Jimmy Rabbitte damaged his knee and both of the understudies were unavailable. Despite not having performed the role before on stage, Andrew stepped up to the plate to take over that the role that evening, and received a standing ovation after just a few hours rehearsals. He then carried on playing the role for the rest of the week and got great reviews for his performances.  After performing the role in the West End, Andrew will now play Jimmy Rabbitte on the UK tour.


Andrew said: “I made my West End debut in this show and couldn’t be more delighted to be returning to play the wonderful music again.”


The Commitmentettes will be played by sisters Amy Penston, (Natalie) and Leah Penston (Imelda), while Christina Tedders (Bernie) will complete the talented trio.


Amy said: “I’m absolutely over the moon to be back with The Commitments playing Natalie. I’m so looking forward to working with some of the old gang and rock the stage together again. Not only that, but it’s a dream come true to back on stage with my wonderful sister, Leah. We’re just elated to be working together again!”


Leah said: “I’m so thrilled to be joining the cast of The Commitments, playing the role of Irish icon Imelda Quirke, which was originally portrayed in the film by Angeline Ball. I have some pretty big shoes to fill! The fact that I get to perform alongside my amazing big sis makes it all the more special. It’s going to be a tour to remember!” 


Christina said: “I have loved The Commitments since I was a little girl – my nightly renditions of ‘Mustang Sally’ were both the joy and bane of my parent’s evenings! I’m totally thrilled to be playing the role of Bernie.”


Also appearing on the tour, having appeared in the West End production, are Peter Mooney (Derek), Padraig Dooney (Dean), Sam Fordham (Mickah) and John Currivan (Billy). They will be joined by Rhys Whitfield (James), Alex McMorran (Joey), and Christian James (Outspan).


The Commitments received huge critical acclaim following the September 2013 World Premiere in London.  Opening to rave reviews, it was quickly hailed as a smash hit musical sensation.  The Sunday Times awarded the show five stars, saying “The Commitments is the musical we’ve been waiting for. So good, our critic almost weeps”. The Daily Telegraph and The Times both gave the show four stars and the Daily Mail said the show was “a fabulous fun night out”.


The show has been adapted for the stage by Booker Prize-winning author Roddy Doyle, from his original novel. Directed by C Jay Ranger, The Commitments is packed with more than 20 classic soul songs performed live on stage including: Night Train, Try A Little Tenderness, River Deep, Mountain High, In The Midnight Hour, Papa Was A Rolling Stone, Save Me, Mustang Sally, I Heard It Through The Grapevine, Thin Line Between Love and Hate, Reach Out, Uptight, Knock On Wood, I Can’t Turn You Loose and more!


The Commitments tells the story of Jimmy Rabbitte, a young working class music fan, who shapes an unlikely bunch of amateur musicians into an amazing live act, the finest soul band Dublin has ever produced. The show follows the journey of two members of a frustrated synthesiser band – the opening scene has them playing, but ignored, in a shop window – who turn to Jimmy, the local music expert, for help.


Placing a classified advert in a music paper, Jimmy auditions a number of wannabes before finalising the new line up who he names The Commitments. The humour kicks in as the band get to know each other and their instruments, and proceed through early rehearsals for their first gig. Just as they improve and begin to get a name for themselves they combust. The backing singers are all getting off with the middle aged horn playing legend, the singer has entered Eurovision, the drummer has walked out mid-gig and the saxophone player has dangerous leanings towards a jazz career.