Desire Caught by the Tail Review

Bread and Roses 17 – 20 August
V22 Gallery 21 August
Bow Arts 25 – 26 August
Reviewed by Claire Roderick

Award-winning company LUXE’s production of Pablo Picasso’s Desire Caught by the Tail is a curate’s egg of a piece. A curiosity rather than a thing of beauty.
Picasso’s play is absurd, surreal and has no discernible plot. With characters called Bigfoot, Tart and the Onion and PA introductions of each part’s title (“The dismemberment of Bigfoot and the cannibalisation of lust” was particularly memorable), the main themes of the play seem to be hunger, lust and loss. I think.

I did begin to think I wasn’t intelligent enough to be in the audience after the very abrupt ending, but, walking out, one lady admitted that she hadn’t understood a single sentence, and the floodgates of befuddlement opened. The general consensus summed up by “That Picasso, he was having a laugh, wasn’t he?”

Director Cradeaux Alexander’s decision to rotate the roles around the (very game) cast of  four adds to the confusion. Simple props held by the actors show which role they are playing, but rather than make an artistic point, it instead highlighted some weak links in the cast. (Although I am sure that the stumbles will smooth out during the run.)

There are some wonderful poetic lines – “I lit the candle of sin with the match of her charms” and some weirdly hypnotic moments  – monkeys chomping nonchalantly on carrots, and it could well be genius, or a genius taking the mickey.

Part 3 – the edible aspects of lustful musings sees Bigfoot waxing lyrical about the Tart as the cast cut cake and distribute it to the audience. Apparently I was not alone in suffering cake anxiety during this scene. The poor actor could have been reading the telephone directory as we went through jealousy – they have cake!, self-pity – why does everyone have cake but me?,and finally joy – I HAVE my cake. One lady even stopped a passing actor to ask her for a fork! So I suppose that if hunger is a theme, then we actually understood that bit. Phew.

The charmingly shambolic props and design make the production feel like an art school presentation, and it is all very reminiscent of video installations that have puzzled me in galleries.

Perhaps that’s where this belongs.
But then there wouldn’t be cake.
I understood the cake.

Sing Hallelujah! Sister Act at Leeds Grand Theatre next week

image005 (1)SING HALLELUJAH!  





An all new production of the hit musical comedy SISTER ACT, starring Alexandra Burke, directed and choreographed by Craig Revel Horwood will be at Leeds Grand Theatre for one week only from Monday 22nd to Saturday 27th August 2016.


Director and Choreographer Craig Revel Horwood said: “I am truly thrilled to be directing and choreographing this all new production of Sister Act, a show I fell in love with when I saw it a few years ago.


Alexandra Burke said: “I’m over the moon to be given the opportunity to play the wonderful Deloris in Sister Act. It’s such an iconic role and a part I’ve always wanted to play. I love touring the UK and I’m thrilled to be working with Craig and his amazing creative team.”


Based on the smash hit movie starring Whoopi Goldberg and Maggie Smith, SISTER ACT tells the hilarious story of Deloris Van Cartier, a disco diva whose life takes a surprising turn when she witnesses a murder. Under protective custody she is hidden in the one place she won’t be found – a Convent! Disguised as a nun and under the suspicious watch of Mother Superior, Deloris helps her fellow sisters find their voices as she unexpectedly rediscovers her own.

For more information on Leeds Grand Theatre’s coming season, and to buy tickets, visit

Sister Act is at Leeds Grand Theatre from Monday 22nd to Saturday 27th August 2016

Tickets are on sale now priced from £22.50RV to £48

Book online at or call Box Office on 0844 848 2700

RV=Restricted View. Prices include £3 booking fee. Calls cost 7p per minute + your company’s access charge.

Wendi Peters, Dave Willetts and Kerry Ellis to star in Wonderland






Music by Frank Wildhorn     Lyrics by Jack Murphy


Book by Jack Murphy & Gregory Boyd     UK adaptation by Ava Eldred





End & Broadway leading lady KERRY ELLIS guest stars in select venues…




TV and West End star Wendi Peters, much loved for her acclaimed portrayal of Cilla Battersby-Brown inCoronation Street, will headline the upcoming 2017 UK tour of Wonderland as Queen of Hearts alongside musical theatre favourite Dave Willetts, who has previously starred in tours of South Pacific, 42nd Street andSeven Brides for Seven Brothers, as White Rabbit.


West End and Broadway leading lady Kerry Ellis, best known for playing Elphaba in the West End and Broadway productions of Wicked, will guest star as Alice in select venues around her concert commitments. She will appear in Edinburgh, Sunderland, Birmingham, Bromley, Woking, Manchester, Wimbledon, Bristol, Brighton, Liverpool, Stoke and Milton Keynes.


Completing the principal cast are Stephen Webb as Jack / White Knight, Natalie McQueen as Mad Hatter, Kayi Ushe as Caterpillar, Dominic Owen as Cheshire Cat, Ben Kerr as March Hare and Carolyn Maitland as Alternate Alice / Mad Hatter. They are joined by an ensemble comprising Sharif Afifi, Toyan Thomas Browne, Divine Cresswell, Jessica Croll, Francesca Lara Gordon, Benjamin McMillan, Bree Smith, Benjamin Yates and swings Lewis Easter and Collette Guitart.


Following sold out seasons in Tampa, Texas and Tokyo, the multi Grammy, Tony and Drama Desk Award nominated Frank Wildhorn’s Wonderland debuts at the Edinburgh Playhouse from Friday 20th to Saturday 28thJanuary 2017 ahead of an extensive UK tour.


In addition to the previously announced dates, the inaugural UK tour of Wonderland has added Swansea and Bournemouth to its nationwide schedule, both of which will be on sale soon.




Hailed by the New York Times as “inspirational”, Wonderland is an enchanting musical adaption of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, with a huge heart, a medley of magic and a whole lot of wonder. Here a timely and touching story of love in all its forms, it’s an adventurous exploration of who we are, who we want to be and the power of everyday magic in our lives.


In the tradition of the best stage musicals, Wonderland boasts a catchy score full of songs from Frank Wildhorn, writer of pop hits including Whitney Houston’s ‘Where Do Broken Hearts Go?’ and theatre classics including ‘This is the Moment’ from his internationally acclaimed show, Jekyll & Hyde.


Wendi Peters has worked extensively on both stage and screen, but it was the iconic role of Cilla in Coronation Street which truly made her a household name. Her appearance led to her being asked on numerous TV programmes such as Celebrity Sewing Bee for Children In Need, Celebrity MastermindThe F Word with Gordon Ramsay and Celebrity Masterchef, where she reached the finals. Wendi currently plays regular character Cook Jenkins in BBC’s Hetty Feather. Alongside her screen work, Wendi is in much demand as a stage actress with recent credits including Hatched ’n’ Dispatched (Park Theatre), Oh What a Lovely War! (UK Tour) and White Christmas (Dominion Theatre).


Dave Willetts is one of the UK’s foremost musical theatre stars having played numerous leading roles including Jean Valjean in Les Misérables (London and Australia), Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera(London and Manchester), for which he won the Manchester Evening News Award for Best Performance, Old Deuteronomy in Cats (London), the title roles in Jesus Christ Superstar (London and Europe), Sweeney Todd (UK Tour) and Sunday in the Park with George (UK Tour), Max Von Mayerling in Sunset Boulevard (London), and Adam Pontipee in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Emile de Becque in South Pacific, Julian Marsh in 42nd Street and Professor Callaghan in Legally Blonde (all UK Tours). Dave has also made many international concert appearances, including performances at the concert halls of Monterey, Mexico City, Los Angeles, Rotterdam, Munich as well as the Royal Albert Hall. His latest album, Once in a Lifetime, celebrates 25 years in show business.


Kerry Ellis is the leading lady of her generation. Her extensive theatre credits include Grizabella in Cats, Nancy in Oliver!, Fantine in Les Misérables, Ellen in Miss Saigon, Meatloaf in the original cast of We Will Rock Youand Eliza Dolittle in My Fair Lady, as well as Svetlana in Chess in concert at the Royal Albert Hall alongside Josh Groban and Idina Menzel. As well as her theatre career, Kerry performed her own solo tour around the UK culminating in a sell-out performance at the London Palladium and the release of her own self-titled album. She also continues to tour and perform all over the globe with her long time writing and performing partner Queen’s Brian May. The pair are due to release a new album early next year.


Produced by Neil Eckersley, Wonderland has music by Frank Wildhorn, lyrics by Jack Murphy, book by Jack Murphy and Gregory Boyd with UK adaptation by Ava Eldred. It is directed by Lotte Wakeham (Associate Director of Matilda, West End & Broadway), with musical supervision by Jason Howland (Beautiful, West End & Broadway), choreography by Lucie Pankhurst (Dogfight at the Southwark Playhouse), set design by Andrew Riley (Songs for a New World at the St James and Flight at Opera Holland Park), costume design by Grace Smart (2015 Linbury Prize winner) and lighting design by Tony Award nominee Nick Richings (current UK tours of Priscilla Queen of the Desert & The Rocky Horror Show).




Neil Eckersley presents




Music by Frank Wildhorn

Lyrics by Jack Murphy

Book by Jack Murphy & Gregory Boyd

UK adaptation Ava Eldred


Directed by Lotte Wakeham

Musical Supervision by Jason Howland

Choreography by Lucie Pankhurst

Set Design by Andrew Riley

Costume Design by Grace Smart

Lighting Design by Nick Richings


UK TOUR 2017


20 – 28 Jan

Edinburgh Playhouse *

0844 871 3014

30 Jan – 4 Feb

Sunderland Empire *

0844 871 3022

6 – 11 Feb

Birmingham New Alexandra Theatre *

0844 871 3011

13 – 18 Feb

Southend Cliffs Pavilion

01702 351 135

20 – 25 Feb

Oxford New Theatre

0844 871 3020

27 Feb – 4 Mar

Grimsby Auditorium

0300 300 0035

6 – 11 Mar

York Grand Opera House

0844 871 3024

13 – 18 Mar

Bromley Churchill Theatre *

020 3285 6000

21 – 25 Mar

Derry Millennium Forum

028 7126 4455

27 Mar – 1 Apr

Belfast Grand Opera House

028 9024 1919

3 – 8 Apr

Woking New Victoria Theatre *

0844 871 7645

10 – 15 Apr

Blackpool Opera House

0844 856 1111

18 – 22 Apr

Southampton Mayflower

023 8071 1811

24 – 30 Apr

Manchester Palace Theatre *

0844 871 3019

2 – 6 May

New Wimbledon Theatre *

0844 871 7646

8 – 13 May

Bristol Hippodrome *

0844 871 3012

16 – 20 May

Aberdeen His Majesty’s Theatre

01224 641 122

23 – 27 May

Lowestoft Marina Theatre

01502 533 200

30 May – 4 Jun

Brighton Theatre Royal *

0844 871 7650

6 – 10 Jun

Torquay Princess Theatre

0844 871 3023

12 – 17 Jun

Liverpool Empire *

0844 871 3017

20 – 24 Jun


On Sale Soon

26 Jun – 1 Jul

Llandudno Venue Cymru

01492 872 000

3 – 8 Jul

Glasgow Kings Theatre

0844 871 7648

10 – 15 Jul

Stoke Regent Theatre *

0844 871 7649

17 – 22 Jul

Milton Keynes Theatre *

0844 871 7652

24 – 29 Jul

Swansea Grand Theatre

On Sale Soon

14 – 19 Aug

Bournemouth Pavilion Theatre

On Sale Soon


* Kerry Ellis will guest star as Alice in these venues. The role of Alice for all other venues is yet to be announced.



For more details & online booking:







Frank Wildhorn


Neil Eckersley


Lotte Wakeham


Ava Eldred


Lucie Pankurst


Andrew Riley


Grace Smart


Nick Richings




Wendi Peters


Kerry Ellis


Stephen Webb


Natalie McQueen


Kayi Ushe


Dominic Owen


Ben Kerr


Carolyn Maitland




Sharif Afifi


Toyan Thomas Browne


Divine Cresswell


Jessica Croll


Francesca Lara Gordon


Bree Smith


Benjamin McMillan


Benjamin Yates


Lewis Easter


Collette Guitart




  • Bompas & Parr and 40FT Brewery are creating a bespoke beer, Mr Twit’s Odious Ale, using yeast swabbed from Roald Dahl’s writing chair
  • Brave guests attending Dinner at the Twits can also expect enticing aperitifs by Bompas & Parr garnished with nettles, thistles and scented helium balloons
  • The banquet will include Glowing Hug Tight Glue, Treasures of the Compost Heap and Bird Pie – Your Night of a Thousand Claws
  • The Muggle-Wumps’ Downside Up Cocktail Cavern will offer questionable cocktails and tantalising tinctures at The Vaults from 6pm daily


Dinner at The Twits Bird Pie.jpgThe award-winning team behind the Olivier Award-nominated smash hit Alice’s Adventures Underground and The Game’s Afoot, in association with gastronomic wunderkinds Bompas & Parr, are delighted to announce further menu details and casting for Dinner at the Twits, a gloriously gruesome interactive theatrical dining experience from 4 September – 30 October at The Vaults, London.

Bompas & Parr are working with 40FT Brewery to create a bespoke beer for Dinner at the Twits, Mr Twit’s Odious Ale. With the permission of the Roald Dahl Estate, they have taken a swab from Roald Dahl’s writing chair, from which they will culture the native yeast and use it to brew all the beer for the event.

Mr Twit’s Odious Ale will be brewed to the Polish Grätzen style with oak smoked wheat malt – but instead of the original Grätzen yeast, the beer will be fermented with a standard ale yeast followed by a wild yeast recovered from Roald Dahl’s writing chair for a secondary fermentation. A light golden colour with a relatively high carbonation, Grätzen is sometimes known as Polish Champagne.

Harry Parr, of Bompas & Parr, said: “A surprising number of our previous activations have been inspired by Roald Dahl in some way or other – from our chocolate waterfall, to our boat ride on a lake built above Selfridges, to our Artisanal Chewing Gum Store – so it’s been a delight to work directly with the Roald Dahl Estate and, indirectly, one of the best loved storytellers of all time, in his centenary year.

“By incorporating wild yeast cultured from inside Roald Dahl’s writing chair in our beer to accompany Dinner at The Twits, it feels like we are injecting his own dark humour and effervescent sense of fun into the brew.”

Steve Ryan, of 40FT Brewery, said: “We’ve been lifelong fans of Roald Dahl and so it’s an honour to be collaborating with our friends Bompas & Parr to create this beer together.”

Oliver Lansley, of Les Enfants Terribles, said: “Creating the world of the Twits is a dream come true for me. Roald Dahl is the reason I fell in love with stories as a child and it’s not hard to spot his influence on all of Les Enfants Terribles’ work. We are thrilled to finally be collaborating with real life Willy Wonkas Bompas & Parr, and we can’t wait to invite you all to this deliciously disgusting dinner party.”

Every guest will be treated to 90 minutes of entertainment from the worst hosts ever, as created by Les Enfants Terribles theatre company. Curious canapes and prickly cocktails will be served straight from Mr Twit’s ghastly garden.

Twits Garden Spritz cocktail by Bompas & Parr. Dinner at the Twits. Credit Florence FairweatherThe Twits Garden Spritz consists of wild nettle and thistle-infused Aperol, wild strawberry vermouth, prosecco and soda, garnished with nettles and thistles – straw optional! – while The Terrible Shrinks is a Roly Poly Bird berry and orange vodka topped with soda, garnished with a scented helium balloon.

The Terrible Shrinks cocktail by Bompas & Parr. Dinner at The Twits. Credit Florence FairweatherInternationally renowned for creating compelling, inspiring and highly memorable gastronomic experiences, Bompas & Parr have developed a menu to intrigue the adventurous and tantalise the tastebuds. The banquet will include Wormery LIVE, Glowing Hug Tight Glue, Treasures of the Compost Heap, Bird Pie – Your Night of a Thousand Claws and Bloater Paste, all washed down with half a bottle of superb bag-in-box wine from St. John Wines and followed by perilous puddings.

Premium ticket holders will also receive an additional fizz cocktail on arrival prepared by the mixologists at Bompas & Parr, a bar of Mr Twit’s personally smoked chocolate, a cup of Mrs Twit’s home brew in the Muggle-Wumps’ Downside Up Cocktail Cavern and a copy of the limited edition Dinner at the Twits programme, which includes exclusive recipes from Bompas & Parr.

Artisan chocolate bars will be provided by the renowned chocolatiers Rococo Chocolates, who are creating a very special smoky chocolate bar for Mr Twit. Mr Twit’s Beardy Bar will combine Rococo’s scrumptious house blend of milk chocolate with (freshly beard picked) cereal, banana, yoghurt, lapsang souchong tea and honey. Any Twit would love it!

Mr & Mrs Twit will graciously open up the Muggle-Wumps’ Downside Up Cocktail Cavern in The Vaults to those too timid to try their culinary cornucopia. From 6pm, come in and relax in the Muggle-Wumps’ topsy turvy turnabout world with questionable cocktails and tantalising tinctures.

Mr Twit will be played by Chris Barlow. Chris is a highly skilled actor and puppeteer with a wealth of experience across stage and screen. His theatre credits include Flat Stanley (Hull Truck/Polka Theatre), Pirates of Penzance (Illyria) and Robin Hood (Oxford Playhouse). Most recently, Chris puppeteered various characters for Series 3 of the Working Title productionYonderland and some of his work can also be seen in the Warner Bros. feature film, Jack the Giant Killer.

Mrs Twit will be played by Lizzy Dive. Lizzy has previously worked with Les Enfants Terribles onThe Fantastical Flying Exploratory Laboratory and Alice’s Adventures Underground. Her other theatre credits include Twelfth Night and The Tempest for Aquila (USA No 1 Tour), The Merry Wives of Windsor (Illyria) and The Pier (Oxford Playhouse).

Les Enfants Terribles’ previous work includes multi-award-winning, international stage shows, including The Trench, The Terrible Infants and The Vaudevillains.

Dinner at the Twits is produced by Les Enfants Terribles and ebp, with delicious gastronomy from Bompas & Parr, in association with Creature of London, directed by Emma Earle, adapted by Oliver Lansley and Anthony Spargo, and designed by Samuel Wyer.



Dinner at the Twits
The Vaults, Waterloo
4 September – 30 October 2016
Press performance: Wednesday 14 September at 19:15
Tickets priced at £80-£110 available from / 0844 248 1215
90 minutes, no interval
Minimum age 16+. Under 18s must be accompanied by an adult.
Some dietary requirements will be catered for if notified in advance, please contact [email protected]


Tuesday & Wednesday: Standard: £80 Premium: £100
Thursday: Standard: £85 Premium: £105
Friday & Saturday: Standard: £90 Premium £110
Sunday Brunch: Standard: £75 Premium: £95
All prices will include a £1.50 booking fee on the website

Standard tickets: Over 90 minutes you will be given a prickly cocktail aperitif, eat gruesome hors d’oeuvres, hunt for concealed canapes, brave a baroque bird pie banquet and potentially perilous pudding in the windowless dining room, all served with ½ bottle of wine or non-alcoholic drinks.

Premium ticket: Premium ticket holders will also receive an additional fizz cocktail on arrival prepared by the mixologists at Bompas & Parr, a bar of Mr Twit’s personally smoked chocolate, a cup of Mrs Twit’s home brew in the Muggle-Wumps’ Downside Up Cocktail Cavern and a copy of the limited edition Dinner at the Twits programme, which includes exclusive recipes from Bompas & Parr.


Groups of 10 or more benefit from a reduced booking fee of £1 per ticket.

Groups of up to 9 people are able to book their tickets online. Larger groups must be booked by calling 0844 248 1215.

Exclusive bookings

Exclusivity of the show at Premium rate can be booked for 80 people. Tickets must be booked on 0844 248 1215. Tickets include banquet, wine or non-alcoholic drinks with dinner, two cocktails, programme and chocolates.


Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturday evenings:
6pm, 7.15pm and 8.30pm
Saturday matinees:
12pm, 1.15pm and 2.30pm
12pm, 1.15pm, 2.30pm and 3.45pm

The Muggle-Wumps’ Downside Up Cocktail Cavern
The Vaults, Waterloo
4 September – 30 October 2016
Free entry and open to the general public
From 6pm – late
Tuesday – Saturday



●      After a sell-out first festival in 2015, Women Centre Stage returns to celebrate more and better roles for women in UK theatre.

●      Women Centre Stage: Power Play will take place at Hampstead Theatre on the 20th November 2016.

●      Supporters include Dame Janet Suzman, April de Angelis, Rebecca Lenkiewicz, Ann Mitchell, andLucy Kirkwood.

Sphinx Theatre has today announced that WOMEN CENTRE STAGE: POWER PLAY will be taking place on the 20th of November with a full venue takeover of Hampstead Theatre.

 Edward Hall – Artistic Director, Hampstead Theatre says I’m delighted that Hampstead Theatre can offer its support by providing a platform to keep this urgent and important festival going from strength to strength.”

Women Centre Stage aims to inspire and create mainstage roles for women, re-energising the English theatre repertoire with female-centred and female-driven plays by male and female artists. Recent research shows that just 39% of onstage performers 36% of directors and 28% of writers were female in UK theatre venues between 2012 and 2014* proving the festival is still a vital and practical response by one of the UK’s leading companies in the field.

Women Centre Stage will be taking over every space in Hampstead Theatre on the 20th of November and will feature six programmes throughout the day including leading writers, actors and companies from across the country in curated mixed bills of showcases, scratch and work-in-progress.

Last year’s festival WOMEN CENTRE STAGE: HEROINES included work by Timberlake Wertenbaker, Barney Norris, Rona Munro, Roy Williams, Rachel De-lahay and Charlotte Josephine amongst many others. It also saw partnerships with Bolton Octagon, KALI Theatre, Watford Palace Theatre, GRAEAE and Inspector Sands. This year’s festival will build on 2015’s high-impact, high profile debut with an expanded programme from some of the most exciting emerging and established artists across the UK, all exploring women centre stage.

Long-time collaborator of Sphinx Theatre and acclaimed playwright April de Angelis says “The festival encourages writers to think women into the centre of their stories, to ascribe them agency and to create significant relationships between female characters.”

Founded in 1973 Sphinx Theatre Company has been at the vanguard of promoting, advocating and inspiring women in the arts through productions, conferences and research for over 40 years, led by artistic director Sue Parrish since 1990. Work includes premieres of April de Angelis’ modern classic Playhouse Creatures, Pam Gems’ The Snow Palace & Bryony Lavery’s Goliath, plus the Vamps Vixens and Feminists andGlass Ceiling conferences with the National Theatre, Young Vic, Southbank Centre and West Yorkshire Playhouse.

Children of Eden Review

Union Theatre 10 August – 10 September.  Reviewed by Claire Roderick

25 years after its original West end run, Children of Eden returns to London in a magical new production. A musical based on stories from the Old Testament may not sound too promising to some, but with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz (Wicked), and book by John Caird, this is a sublime piece of storytelling that side-lines the religion and explores what it means to be a parent.

Creating the world, Father (Joey Dexter) is like a child with a new toy, but the excitement he shares with Adam and Eve as they name the animals is soon replaced with frustration as Eve begins to ask too many questions and gives in to temptation, eating the forbidden fruit. Adam is forced to choose between Father and Eve, and leaves Eden, banished forever by their vengeful Father.

In the wilderness, Cain and Abel are born, and Cain has obviously inherited his mother’s inquisitive nature. He longs to explore beyond the waterfall, but Adam has forbidden this. Father secretly visits Cain and Abel, telling them that they are his hope for the future now, and promising to make them wives. But Cain refuses Father’s offer and disobeys Adam, resulting in a confrontation that ends with Cain killing Abel. Father watches all of this in despair, and decrees that Cain’s descendants shall all be marked to show their wickedness.

Many generations later, Noah has followed Father’s instructions to build an ark, and has found wives for two of his sons from the tribe of Seth. Japheth however is in love with Yonah, who wears the mark of Cain and should be left to die in the flood. Smuggling her onto the ark, he risks the wrath of his family. Father watches Adam deal with his son’s disobedience as they hope desperately for an end to the rain.

The mistakes of each generation, with parents trying heavy-handedly to protect their children from harm are accompanied by repeated musical themes that become increasingly poignant as the show progresses. The emotion boils over in The Hardest Part Of Love, where a despairing Father listens with growing realisation and acceptance to Noah singing about the joy and pain of being a parent, joining in with the line “children start to leave you on the day that they are born”.

Joey Dexter is full of energy as Father, equally strong in both light and dark moments. Stephen Barry as Adam and Noah has got one hell of a voice that packs in tons of emotion, and Natasha O’Brien is simply fantastic as Eve – full of gymnastic innocence and curiosity – and Mama Noah – stealing the show with her ballsy performance of Ain’t It Good? and making the most of her comedy moments. Guy Woolf as Cain and Japheth also stands out – embodying the frustration and rebelliousness of the characters with skill and belting out his numbers with aplomb. The whole cast give wonderful performances, making the most of Lucie Pankhurst’s unfussy choreography.

The simple costumes – all muted tones with a touch of colour added to portray events and times – and minimalist set work brilliantly together. The tree of knowledge is a tower of brown paper with some twigs sticking out of the top, and the ark is shown with just a few planks of wood. The wonderful puppets and headpieces to portray animals and birds are all made from natural materials of muted tones and are glorious in their simplicity, but lots of the animals are represented through dance by the cast and are instantly recognisable – there’s even a unicorn! The snake dance, tempting Eve to the tree is a brilliant piece of choreography involving most of the cast and will bring a smile to the face of even the most jaded observer. I must admit that the child puppets did creep me out a little, but the charm of puppeteers Daniel Miles and Guy Woolf eventually won me over.

Nic Farman makes the most of Union’s brand spanking new lighting rig, bathing the stage in delicate colours that enhance the story sympathetically.

The music is wonderful – with a range of genres included. There are full on big Broadway tunes, Bluesy numbers, hints of Gospel, but they all gel together and no number feels out of place or a filler. The cast are especially strong in the unaccompanied harmony sections, and musical director Inga Davis Rutter and her musicians are a very talented bunch.

Director Christian Durham has created a stunningly beautiful production. Children of Eden feels fresh and has a charming innocence that many musicals lack. There aren’t many shows around that make you feel this good, and I urge you to get down to the Union to see it.

The League of Youth Review

Theatre N16 9 – 18 August.  Reviewed by Claire Roderick

Ashley Pearson’s energetic update of Ibsen’s play for Riot Act transfers the action to the UK in modern(ish) times – talk of investing in the world wide web, and excitement over the Eurotunnel are gently riffed.

It’s the Christmas party at ice wholesalers Norway, Inc. (A nice price for a bag of ice), and the drunken revels are interrupted by newcomer Sten Stensgard, fresh from the Dublin branch. Reading the mood of the room after a badly received speech praising the ex-CEO, Henry, he is soon rabble rousing and declaring “the death of prevailing office politics”, forming The League of Youth with the disgruntled staff. Sten’s reputation as a “politico” has proceeded him and Henry agrees to a meeting. Sten has soon charmed Henry and changes tactics in his quest for power. Niall Bishop is horribly believable as Sten, switching from twinkling eyed charm to viciously threatening in the blink of an eye. The killer moment is when, surrounded by the entire cast screaming at each other in various arguments, Bishop sits down coolly, adjusting his cuffs and gently smiling as he admires his work.

Director and designer Whit Hertford’s set is simple and effective, with furniture arrangements demarcating different areas, and lighting changes as certain areas are entered (although the strip lighting is proving problematic in the men’s toilets). The traverse staging adds to the intimacy of the piece, creating a feeling of gatecrashing the parties and making the louder confrontations much more uncomfortable. Whitford’s assured no-frills direction seems to have brought out the best in his cast, with natural and funny performances all round.

Pearson has kept the spirit of Ibsen’s play, but has made it fantastically foulmouthed and funny. The errant brother Erik is now a coke head layabout, and Jak Ford-Lane is enormous fun sneaking around numerous parties, smuggling bottles out with his partner in crime Dana (Sukh Kaur Ojla) like naughty schoolkids, and having a hysterical chat about wimples. The various marriage proposals Sten makes in the original are replaced with a business-like office quickie with a board member and a toe-curlingly funny declaration of love for the CEO.

Fieldbo’s final speech, delivered wonderfully by Sean Earl McPherson, does hammer home the play’s message rather heavy-handedly, but it is done with such charm that it doesn’t rankle. The pleas to overcome voter apathy, stop being swayed by rhetoric, disbelief at allowing unelected representatives to sit in positions of power, and the acceptance that “the electorate are not always trustworthy” all brought smiles of recognition to the audience’s faces, as did his call for a revolution that seemed highly unlikely. Just as in Ibsen’s time, the power of personality and empty promises are chillingly attractive to voters.

I was a bit dubious about sitting through Ibsen on a sunny evening, but this is a truly refreshing piece of theatre. Riot Act’s revamped League of Youth is funny, relevant and well worth seeing.

Matthew Herbert presents A Nude Review

Camden Roundhouse – 10 August.  Reviewed by Claire Roderick

Matthew Herbert’s latest album “A Nude (The Perfect Body)” is comprised of recordings of the sounds of a naked body recorded over 24 hours. With tracks entitled Is sleeping, Is grooming, Is eating and Is coming, Herbert manages to transform sounds we hardly notice into a stunning soundscape.

Ron Arad’s Curtain Call is the perfect space in which to experience Herbert’s piece. Entering the ring of silicon rods, Is Sleeping played – snores and subtly introduced sounds that invite you to sit on the floor and relax in this intimate space. As the piece progressed, images of male and female bodies were projected onto the rods, producing a wonderfully immersive experience, and as the sounds of brushing teeth grew into a train-like frenzy, naked dancers became visible outside the curtain, acting out the actions of the body. Up until this point I had admired, rather than enjoyed the music, but the beats of Is Eating were brilliantly realised, being probably the most conventional section, and the remainder of the performance built brilliantly to a fantastic climax – literally.

The sounds of eating an apple morphed into something reminiscent of a gun battle, followed by a calmer, haunting section where the spotlight fell on the dancers as their huge silhouettes were displayed on the rods. Music from toilet sounds shouldn’t be a good idea, but Is Shitting, after the smiles of realisation, soon becomes all about the music, not the instrument.

Quieter sections had the dancers grabbing handfuls of rods and peeking through into the space – a little creepy – and then the increasing tempo was matched by the dancers running frantically around the outside of the curtain, pulling the rods as they moved, creating an almost hypnotic ripple around the space, finally breaking through to the centre of the ring and running around through the audience.

Sitting outside the curtain with his team and a bank of electronic gismos, Herbert oversaw the whole thing with great skill. I don’t think I’ll be buying the album, but the visual and aural experience in such a fantastic setting was uplifting, almost ethereal, and one that I’ll never forget.

Support act Lail Arad, daughter of Ron, performed next, after a short interval – and this structure worked brilliantly, as her quirky songs would have created a very different mood to “Is Sleeping”. Arad’s set from her new album “The Onion” opened with a poem comparing a relationship to a 5 year bath, and accompanied only by her acoustic guitar, she proceeded to charm the socks of the remaining audience with her bittersweet songs and pithy lyrics. Now THIS is an album I’ll buy! Using the curtain to great effect, her set was accompanied sensitively by images of a pen writing her lyrics, ink blots and water, turning the installation into a more relaxed and cosy space.

Two very different acts, both exceptional, and a wonderful night of music.

Losers Review

Rosemary Branch Theatre 2 – 14 August.  Reviewed by Claire Roderick

The lengths that people are willing to go to for 15 minutes of fame, and the enjoyment audience’s feel from watching their humiliation, are explored brilliantly in this fantastically funny show.

Four university friends, impatient for fame (“People like Joey Essex really inspire us”) and rejected by every reality show, devise their own game show to record and send to a talent scout, who only has a slot for one of them in his new project.

The fearless cast play characters that are instantly recognisable to anyone familiar with X factor interview clips – there’s even a “Who is the most tragic?” round where the contestants have one minute to share their sob stories with the audience. Playing as hysterical caricatures at first, as the rounds progress and forfeits become more extreme, each actor reveals a little more of the deeper need and desperation of their character. The giggles at their friends’ misfortunes eventually become awkward winces of discomfort and shame. The audience, armed with voting handsets, is responsible for selecting the winner, and loser, of each round. When it gets to the stage where spit, catfood, a staplegun and a belt have all been used to inflict punishments, howling with laughter at the loser’s fate begins to feel very wrong, and very uncomfortable. (Although one audience member did shout out the useful suggestion of using the buckle end of the belt, so I may be a little over sensitive!)

And this is where this silly show transcends the naff, cruel, voyeuristic nature of a gameshow – The well thought out characters and situations and quick improvisational skills provide an ultimately sad picture of today’s fascination with talentless fame, and also makes the audience take a long, hard look at themselves and their attitudes. We’ve all sat at home laughing at deluded people arguing with Simon Cowell, or at contestants suffering through humiliating and painful gameshows – “Endurance” anyone? – but when you can hear the click of that staple 5 feet away from you, and smell that catfood, and there is no camera pan away from the victim’s face after their humiliation…

But don’t get me wrong – personal angst aside, this is one of the funniest shows I’ve seen this year. You will wince, squirm, gasp and gag, but above all you will cry with laughter.

The Past is a Tattooed Sailor Review

The Old Red Lion 2 – 28 August.  Reviewed by Claire Roderick

Simon Blow’s great-uncle Stephen Tennant, one of the “Bright Young Things” told him “not to forget me when I’m gone.” Blow’s response is this, his first play, fictionalising their relationship.

Joshua, the poor relation in a privileged and wealthy family, befriends his Uncle Napier, encouraged by builder boyfriend Damien hoping for an inheritance. Napier, lounging in bed for years, cannot accept his aged state, escaping into memories of his golden youth. The house is haunted by the spirits of young Napier and his over-indulgent mother (yes – it’s all her fault). And that’s about it. There is a slight build-up of tension revolving around whether Napier will write a will naming Joshua as sole heir, but nothing else really happens, just an arch, insouciant glimpse of Napier’s past, and a lot of navel gazing from Joshua. And I mean A LOT. This is the main problem – Joshua, orphaned and without inheritance, is a whining pain, as self-centred as Napier, but nowhere near as likeable. Jojo Macari does his best with the role, but Joshua is only bearable when he’s with Damien or Napier. But perhaps that’s the point.

The relationship between Joshua and Damien is the heart of the play, with Macari at his best when playing alongside Denholm Spurr. Spurr oozes charisma and makes the slightly seedy Damien the most human and relatable character on stage. As young Napier, Nick Finegan has obviously studied Anthony Andrews in Brideshead, and is suitably aloof and hedonistic. His scathing interactions with old Napier are one of the highlights of the play.

Uncle Napier should be a magnetic, fascinating creature, but is written as a name dropping, poetry spouting, vain and petulant old man. Bernard O’Sullivan has some wonderful funny lines that could come straight from Maggie Smith, but has a lot of work to do to convince us that Napier is anything other than an entertaining and frustrating old uncle. The name dropping doesn’t come to much either – any juicy anecdotes that would be of interesting peter out into nothingness – I will give Blow the benefit of the doubt and say that this is by design to emphasise Napier’s fading health, but I’m not quite sure. Blow’s language can be glorious, but there are times when he swings erratically between sharp staccato statements (mostly Josh having a moan) and lyrical phrases. There are times when you feel Blow has shoehorned a particularly good line he can’t let go of into a completely inappropriate exchange.

The set is simple, with moveable screens covered with paintings of sailors moved back by the cast to reveal Napier lying on his chaise longue. Scene changes are quick, but get a little tedious – if the audience suspends belief to accept two ghosts, surely trust them to accept that the front of the stage is a different space to Napier’s room. Jeffrey Mayhew’s does a fine job directing, but shows a little too much respect for the debut playwright, not cutting some scenes that added nothing to the narrative, and tidying up some messy dialogue.

The Past is a Tattooed Sailor is a promising, if slightly self-indulgent, debut full of nostalgia and bittersweet but ephemeral charm.