A Critical Stage Review

Theatre at the Tabard – until 17 June 2023

Reviewer Alec Legge


The play is set in the study/bedroom of James Agate’s apartment located in Holburn the period being World War 2. James Agate was a well known diarist and theatre critic who wrote for, amongst others the Manchester Guardian and the Sunday Times. He also worked at the BBC. He was briefly married in his early life but after the marriage ended all his intimate relationships were homosexual which I only mention due to it’s relevance to the play.

The characters were played by, Jeremy Booth as Agate, Barbara Wilshere as Gwen an actress, David Acton as Leo an exiled Austrian Jew who was James secretary, and last but not least Sam Hill as Spike the houseboy. All the actors gave first class performances ,their timing being impeccable as was their dialogue. Both Gwen and Leo were also depicted as being gay.

The play itself has many funny moments most being the result of James gay activities, involving amongst others Guardsmen and a flight from a male brothel as a result of a police raid, but there are moments of real pathos as well including when James was nearly fired from his employment at the Sunday Times as a result of the tyrannical owner finding out about his gay activities, as being a theatre critic was his raison d’etre.

In respect of the pathos, I would particularly mention Leo, who was a classical pianist, describing his last concert in Vienna which caused him to suffer from extreme stage fright and being unable to play in public again. His description of what happened really tugged at the heartstrings! Gwen helping him to overcome his stage fright and perform again in public was uplifting.

Sam Hills performance as the confident, unshockable houseboy Spike, was masterful and really added humour to the play.

This is a theatre over the Tabard Public House, Bath Road, London W4 1LW, about 5 minutes walk from Turnham Green Underground Station. It is accessed by a set of steps leading up from the pub garden but with no wheelchair access. It has 96 seats on an incline so the stage in front of the seats is in full view from all seats. Unfortunately during the quieter moments of the play the voices of the pub patrons downstairs were audible which I found distracting.

Gareth Armstrong, the author, has written a jewel of a play which he obviously researched extremely well. His depiction of the homosexual elements of the play were in context with the story line and were neither shocking or sensational.

I enjoyed the play immensely and would recommend it wholeheartedly.

Ballet Central Review

Lilian Baylis Studio, Sadlers Wells, London – 2nd June 2023

Reviewed by Dawn Bennett


Ballet Central are the touring company of Central School of Ballets 3rd year degree students. The school was formed in 1982 by Ann Stannard and the late Christopher Gable CBE in London. Now under the tutorage of Kate Coyne (Artistic Director) and Hannah Rudd (Artist in Residence) they are taking part in a 14-date tour that finishes at the Britten Theatre on 13th July 2023.

Working with renowned chorographers the students perform the 6 following pieces and last night I had the pleasure of watching them.

Monotones 1 (Choreography by: Sir Frederick Ashton, Music: Erik Satie, Staging: Lynn Wallis) was danced at this performance by Nina Aizawa, Xavier Andriambolanoro-Sotiya and Nicola Kilmurry. This piece was first performed in 1966 at the Royal Opera House. The dancers were lovely to watch, their timing poise and movements were both elegant and together. The Pas de Trois was beautifully portrayed with excellent characterisation and strength.

The Two Pigeons (Choreography by: Sir Fredrick Ashton, Music by: André Messager. Staging Isabel McMeekan) was danced at this performance by Samuel Pitman and Jasmine Whitford. The dancers gave us a beautiful, heartfelt performance with lovely lines and emotion. They were very expressive and fabulous to watch.

Blind Optics (Choreography by: Darshan Singh Bhuller, Music by: André Messager) Darshan trained at London Contemporary Dance School is a renowned Artistic Director, Choreographer, Teacher, Dancer Film Director and Editor. The piece last night was brilliantly performed by the group of dancers. From music to the sound of the sea the dancers moved like water. Fluid at times and angular at others, I really enjoyed this choreography and there was movement all across the stage, I found it hard to know where to look to capture and take in all the dancing.

Mirror Mirror (Choreography by: Michael Pink, Staging: Jayne Pink, Music: Philip Feeney). The work by Michael Pink is a contemporary adaptation of Snow White that was created in 2014 for Milwaukee Ballet (where Michael is Artistic Director). This piece was fabulous to watch, it was joyfully danced with each dancer playing their parts brilliantly. Their timing and team work was excellent and the story was easy to follow and told really well with some great acting taking place.

Dextera (Choreography by: Sophie Laplane, Staging: Thomas Edwards, Music: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart). Sophie Laplane is a Franco-British Chorographer who is Chorographer in Residence with Scottish Ballet. This piece was really clever and quirky with the male dancers moving the female dancers into different shapes, moving them like puppets or mannequins, The costumes were simple and effective and really added to the piece.

The Queue (Choreography by: Morgann Runacre-Temple, a freelance choreographer from London, Music; Philip Feeney and ABBA). This piece was great fun, we know how people like to queue and how you always end up in the slow one, or the wrong one…oh and the queue jumpers! It was funny and brilliantly danced!

This show is danced by students but it is a very professional production. This is a very talented company and well worth a watch to see the dancers of the future.

Giffords Circus – Les Enfants du Paradis Review

Chiswick House and Gardens – until 19 June 2023

Reviewed by Heather Chalkley


From the colourful programme to the well-crafted scenery and opulent costumes, Nell Gifford’s legacy lives on. Nell created an award winning village green circus that has become a family to all involved. You get a sense of this as soon as you arrive at the circle of circus wagons, in the Gifford livery.

The title theme ‘children of the gods’ links to the sometimes ethereal and seemingly super-human qualities of circus performers. You walk into the big top to find a cleverly crafted 1830’s derelict theatre that holds memories of its past performers. The house band create the atmosphere for every performer, whether that be funny, full of jeopardy or love, they are part of the performance.

Every act has its own special place in the hearts of the audience, who roar their appreciation throughout. The combination of Gifford’s old friend Tweedy the Clown (BEM), the beautiful ponies, the artistry of the juggler, jeopardy of trapeze and skywalks and high energy of the acrobatic troupe and skaters, sets the scene for the magic created by the ariel hoop. The breath taking final act that brings the story together is delivered by Antony Cesar, a fifth generation circus performer that combines the beauty of dance with the gymnastics of ariel straps, in his own unique style. Sublime!

This is my 6th year in the audience of Gifford’s Circus. Amongst us are stars of TV and music, all regulars. Director Cal McCrystal and his team, his circus family, deliver a show to remember.


“irrepressible wartime musical is a West End triumph”

Emma John, The Guardian

“Hilarious tale makes Mincemeat out of its rivals…Before curtain I talked to a fan seeing this for the seventh time. I wondered why anyone would see the same show seven times. Now I know.”★★★★★

Neil Armstrong, Mail On Sunday

“LAUGHING so hard I could barely breathe is not what I expected for a musical about a World War II top-secret plan.…the perfect invasion of the West End. Long may they occupy it.” ★★★★★

Thea Jacobs, The Sun

It was announced today, 2nd June 2023, that following Operation Mincemeat: A New Musical ‘the best musical in decades – a Hamilton and Book of Mormon love child’ garnering fifty-eight five star reviews, the show has extended its West End run again by a further five weeks until 23rd September. Operation Mincemeat follows thirty-three hugely successful years of The Woman In Black at the Fortune Theatre.

The news coincides with Sony Masterworks Broadway releasing the Original London Cast Recording in the United States.

Tickets are on General Sale from the Official Box Office at OperationMincemeat.com. Priority access to the best seats is available via the official mailing list.

If you would like to enter the Operation Mincemeat ticket lottery sign-up at OperationMincemeat.com/Lottery£25 tickets are available Wednesday – Saturday. The lottery is drawn every two weeks on a Monday, with the next draw on 12th June.

After five sold-out development runs at the New Diorama Theatre in 2019 and Southwark Playhouse in 2020, 2021 & 2022, plus an extended Riverside Studios run last summer, Operation Mincemeat: A New Musical is back.

The year is 1943 and we’re losing the war. Luckily, we’re about to gamble all our futures on a stolen corpse. 

Singin’ in the Rain meets Strangers on a Train, Noel Coward meets Noel Fielding, Operation Mincemeat is the fast-paced, hilarious and unbelievable true story of the twisted secret mission that won us World War II. The question is, how did a well-dressed corpse wrong-foot Hitler? 

The production is directed by 2023 Olivier Award nominated  Robert Hastie (Standing at the Sky’s Edge, National Theatre – 2023 Best New Musical Olivier Award winner), following providing directorial support for the Riverside Studios run, while Olivier Award nominated Jenny Arnold (Jerry Springer: The Opera, National Theatre) continues as choreographer. Also from Standing at the Sky’s Edge at theNational Theatre on the creative team are: 2023 Olivier Award nominated  Ben Stones (Sylvia, The Old Vic) as set and costume designer, Tony Award, six-time Olivier Award and Bafta Award winning Mark Henderson (Girl From the North Country, Broadway & Noël Coward Theatre) as lighting designer and Olivier Award winning Mike Walker (Jerry Springer: The Opera, National Theatre) as sound designer. Grammy Award winning and Tony, Emmy, Olivier award nominated Steve Sidwell (Beautiful: The Musical, Broadway & Aldwych Theatre) is orchestrator and vocal arranger. Georgie Staight joins as Associate Director and Paul Isaiah Isles as Associate Choreographer.          

Operation Mincemeat won The Stage Debut award for Best Composer/Lyricist and the Off-West End award for Best Musical Production and Best Company Ensemble. Following the first New Diorama Theatre run, Operation Mincemeat was listed in The Observer’s Top 10 shows of the year and most recently was listed in The Independent’s Top 15 shows of the year.  The show is currently featured in the V&A’s Re:Imagining Musicals display, exploring how musicals have continuously reimagined, reinvented and reinterpreted themselves over time.                  

The 2023 Off-West End Best Musical Production Award winning returning cast (Southwark Playhouse/ Riverside Studios), David CummingClaire-Marie HallNatasha HodgsonJak Malone and Zoë Roberts, are joined by: Seán Carey (returning Riverside Studios), Geri AllanChristian Andrews and Holly Sumpton.

Operation Mincemeat is written and composed by David Cumming, Felix Hagan, Natasha Hodgson and Zoë Roberts, who form SpitLip.

Operation Mincemeat is presented in the West End by Avalon (in association with SpitLip), who have supported since the Southwark Playhouse runs. The show was commissioned by New Diorama Theatre, co-commissioned by The Lowry, and also supported by the Rhinebeck Writers Retreat.

What The Press Said:

Garnered fifty-eight★★★★★  reviews

“mission improbable is a runaway hit…SpitLip honour as well as spoof with their all-conquering espionage musical…It’s a hoot – and a marvel. It is also one of the surprise survivors of the pandemic-stricken theatre. A show that looked like a caper with a cult following is on the brink of commercial success… Its rise, in an era of juggernaut musicals, is flabbergasting…nimbly varied, expressive music, ranging from sea shanty, to jazz to hip-hop; lyrics so patteringly exact and ingeniously rhymed that Noël Coward might have flushed with envy.”

Susannah Clapp, The Observer

“a Pythonesque wartime romp that doesn’t short-change the intellect… a delight…this inventive gem of a night is in with a very good fighting chance of resounding victory”

Dominic Cavendish, The Daily Telegraph

“Pure theatrical serotonin, it’s a show that will leave you with a spring in your step”

Hugh Montgomery, Metro

“a daring, ridiculous and unapologetic piece of theatre that leaves us completely credulous in trying to understand just how on earth they created something so sensational and pulled it off… an incredible emotional range… The songs are unforgettable and all of them add to the insanity of this musical… The comedy is insanely clever and absurd; this musical is a fun space that challenges but doesn’t look to offend in the name of being funny… such an amazing experience to watch it… an incredibly well-written musical… Unfortunately five stars is the limit, I would happily give many more.”
Cindy Marcolina, Broadway World

“a real triumph… has potential to become a cult classic. Go see it now with the original cast, so you can brag about it for years.”

Sarah Rappaport, Bloomberg 

“a daring, ridiculous and unapologetic piece of theatre that leaves us completely credulous in trying to understand just how on earth they created something so sensational and pulled it off… an incredible emotional range… The songs are unforgettable and all of them add to the insanity of this musical… The comedy is insanely clever and absurd; this musical is a fun space that challenges but doesn’t look to offend in the name of being funny… such an amazing experience to watch it… an incredibly well-written musical… Unfortunately five stars is the limit, I would happily give many more.”

Katerina Partolina Schwartz, Broadway Baby

“There are some big, blowsy shows around in the West End, but this little belter is staging its own audacious invasion plan.”
 Suzi Feay, The Financial Times

“a miraculous musical that tells the entire story in a kind of accelerated farce that is part Mel Brooks, part SIX, part Hamilton with a side order of One Man, Two Guvnors.
Neil Norman, The Daily Mirror

“a little show with a very big future.”
David Benedict, Variety

“But whoof! It blew the roof clean off. Hoots and tears welcomed this ingenious, touching musical. Taut lyrics, vintage gags, a wild tale and tunes that followed me out into the night air, in hums and whistles. Perfection… An artisanal masterpiece”
Luke Jones, The Daily Mail

“At a time when London’s musical theatre landscape is flooded with film adaptations and Broadway imports, Operation Mincemeat is that rare thing: an original British musical… lyrics as smart and snappy as Hamilton and a book as silly as the greatest slapstick comedies”

Isobel Lewis, The Independent

“Sometimes the jokes hit you so quickly that you barely have time to laugh before the next one comes sweeping along….gloriously inventive musical…brilliantly evoked by a multitasking, gender-switching cast of five…The songs, given a contemporary veneer, sometimes veering into Hamilton rap territory, are crafted with infinite care…Amid the mayhem, it’s touching to see the actors pay homage to the memory of the homeless man, Glyndwr Michael”
Clive Davis, The Times 

“It’s a cause for great celebration when such a joyously homegrown, idiosyncratically British new comedy musical lands in the West End… insanely hard-working quick-change cast… The show is witty, mocking, camp and joyous, not to mention immensely tuneful – the songs are both clever and catchy… Anyone with even the slightest interest in homegrown success stories should wish Operation Mincemeat the very best of British.”
Fiona Mountford, The i

“The best show in town is back – bigger and better than ever…makes its West End debut with a bigger budget and just as much heart and hilarity. Do not miss!…The little show that roared in the face of blockbuster has executed a flawless transition to mainstream triumph with impeccable class, quicksilver shine and its trademark plucky determination to remain true to itself. It’s as fabulously funny, wickedly witty and magnificently moving as before – just with added sequins…Madcap and utterly marvellous…extraordinarily talented cast…blends every musical genre and delivers a dazzling array of pastiche treats and belly laughs, backed by the excellent live band…This show was already a major triumph, now it is sheer perfection.”

Stefan Kyriazis, The Sunday Mirror

“an exuberant, energetic, incurably daft show …wit, charm, a subversive attitude to gender, a surprising amount of pathos, and a Eurobeat number for a Nazi boyband (yes, really)…It’s an embodiment of the eccentric British exceptionalism it both celebrates and mocks…a marvellously bluff, gruff, freewheeling parody of cocksure masculinity….undeniably funny…The script is nimble; the songs riff through period genres from Noel Coward numbers to stirring sea shanties; the rhymes are inspired…This show could be just what the West End needs.” 

Nick Curtis, Evening Standard

“a fringe theatre comet that’s gathered mass and momentum… a delight from start to finish… chemistry really is off the chart…I think it’s safe to say that the operation has been a total success.”

Andrzej Lukowski, Time Out

“high-octane musical comedy hits the big time…hilarious … a glorious parade of witty stagecraft… a triumph of ingenuity… guaranteed to give your ability to grin and giggle a strenuous, much needed workout.”

Helen Hawkins, The Arts Desk

“the perfect blend of everything we want from a musical – a delightfully witty sense of humour, yet with real heart… Inventive, creative, and endlessly enjoyable – we can’t recommend this show enough. If you’ve not seen it, do yourself a favour and pick up a ticket!”

Chris Selman, Gay Times  

“A corpsing comedy that deserves its cult hit status…a deft pastiche…spectacularly successful …brilliantly funny”

Tim Walker, The New European

“the macabre yet tender musical comedy we all need…Corpses, conspiracies and constant laughs, Operation Mincemeat is a brilliant new addition to the West End.”
Olivia Garrett, Radio Times

“the zany toast of the West End”

Patrick Marmion, The Daily Mail

“If you only see one musical this year, make it Operation Mincemeat…the songs are very catchy, the script is hilarious, and the actors’ performances are tip-top. It’s innovative, moving, uplifting and entertaining and I just can’t recommend it enough.”
Ed Gleave, Daily Star Sunday

“wowing audiences with its hilarious and wildly entertaining musical”

Boyd Hilton, Heat Magazine

“a buzz louder than a doodlebug surrounds Operation Mincemeat…a kind of genius declares itself”
Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph

“Right now, it’s Operation Mincemeat that has people talking. With a huge number of 5* reviews the fast-paced, hilarious production centres around the most bizarre true story you’ve ever heard.”
Daniella Scott, Cosmopolitan

“Showcases the utterly bonkers plot in the most fantastical way… cannot recommend it enough – perfectly cast… beyond doubt one of the most brilliant, funny, captivating shows with proper laugh-out-loud moments… you won’t be disappointed”
Zara Janjua, The Sun

“They just go for it: huge facial expressions, beautifully weird delivery of lines for maximum comic effect, clownish movement… It is that balance of comedy and heart that is this show’s great strength…A brilliant spy thriller, a brilliant comedy, and a brilliant musical all rolled into one, it is exhilarating to see it hit the West End.”
Tim Bano, The Stage 

“there are resonances of everything from Hamilton and Six to Gilbert and Sullivan. There are also homages to Monty Python and Mel Brooks, and even a nod to Flanders and Swann. It feels both utterly contemporary and nostalgically throw-back. And it balances genuine hilarity with enormous heart… The five-strong cast are uniformly excellent… it more than delivers, and stands a shining example of homegrown talent – among many things it’s just so very, very British. It’s also a reminder of why these smaller West End theatres are so vitally important, and are wasted when clogged up by longrunners. But having said that, I don’t anticipate the Fortune being available again for some time to come.”

Theo Bosanquet, WhatsOnStage

Praise on social media for Operation Mincemeat:

“I saw @mincemeatlive this week and was blown away by it. Laughed AND cried. Do anything you can to get a ticket”
Dolly Alderton, Sunday Times columnist

Saw Operation Mincemeat last night in the West End. I don’t normally like musicals, but this was incredible! The funniest show I’ve seen since Book of Mormon @mincemeatlive”
Russell Howard, Comedian


Daisy Ridley, Actor

“Went to the opening night of #OperationMincemeat tonight. I saw it at Riverside Studios and loved it but the new West End staging is a real triumph. A funny, warm, original new musical, with brilliant songs and magnificent performances”
Matt Lucas, Comedian/ Actor

“Just to say, we (whole family, 10 year old up to me) really enjoyed #operationmincemeat at the Fortune Theatre. An unlikely musical, believe the hype, genuinely brilliant.”

Alex Horne, Comedian

“Saw the opening night of the brilliant #operationmincemeat last night at the @fortunetheatre1. Funny, sharp and so moving I cannot recommend it enough. @DaveyCumming, @Natasha Hodgson, @ZoeBobRoberts, @JakMalonee and @ClaireMarie612 are all jaw droppingly good. @mincemeatlive”
Reece Shearsmith, Comedian/ Actor

“Watched the musical OPERATION MINCEMEAT last night in London. Wow! If you like laughing, crying and just being thoroughly entertained… go and see it! @mincemeatlive outstanding!”

Chris Ramsey

“Fellow musical theatre pals!!! You MUST go and see @mincemeatlive if you’re in London/ I’ve not stopped grinning for two hours!”
Rosie Ramsey

“fantastically entertaining and oddly moving… and extravagantly talented cast, a gripping story, really funny and fresh.”
Al Murray, Comedian

“Well Operation Mincemeat at @FortuneTheatre1 was brilliant – genuinely one of the best things I’ve ever seen in the West End – @DaveyCumming, @Natasha Hodgson, @ZoeBobRoberts, @JakMalonee and @ClaireMarie612 are all geniuses and Jenny Arnold’s choreography was a joy”
Peter Bradshaw, Guardian Chief Film Critic

“A splendid evening at the launch of @mincemeatlive last night. Really funny, and with a huge heart. Wonderful performances all round – huge congratulations to the cast. You must be exhausted! Book now!”
Ben Willbond, Actor

“Very much enjoyed @mincmeatlive Operation Mincemeat at the Fortune Theatre last night. Funny, moving, spectacular and yet still true to its roots. Go and see it if you can!”
Richard Herring, Comedian

“Just seen the phenomenally inventive and entirely surprising OPERATION MINCEMEAT @mincemeatlive, which on its long journey from the fringe to the West End has been much enhanced but not lost its scrappy wit now that it comes with much added glitz. A palpable hit!”
Mark ShentonTheatre Critic

“This show was witty, funny and incredibly moving (after one unexpected solo I could hear everybody sniffling around me). It was mind-blowing to see a cast of only 5 people play various roles, taking on multiple accents and personalities AND having to sing and perform at that level for over two hours. I would describe it as a Hamilton and Book of Mormon love child if it were written and directed by Richard Curtis with his infectious, British charm. It was truly such a joy and I would see this show again tomorrow and take as many friends as possible with me”

TamsinAmy, Lifestyle and Culture influencer

“Hilarious, camp, innovative and covertly queer take on history. Very fun, great songs and proof that unexpected stories make the best musicals”
Jamie Windust, Gay Times

“Standing ovations 2 nights in a row! You gotta see this show! I loved it!”
Lou Sanders, Comedian

“10/10 Highly recommend Must see Best thing I’ve seen in ages. Go go go”

Grace Hopper, Kiss Breakfast Producer

“Saw the Operation Mincemeat musical at @RiversideLondon tonight and it was a joy. Go.”
David Baddiel, Comedian

“This is a phenomenal show and everyone should see it.”
Chris Addison, Comedian

“Absolutely loved @mincemeatlive. So well written, AMAZING performances by everyone in the tiny cast and most impressively of all, a musical with excellent jokes. Go see it at @RiversideLondon before the run ends on July 23rd.”
Ed Gamble, Comedian

“Just seen Operation Mincemeat at the Fortune Theatre. Might be the best thing I’ve ever seen – genuinely”
“Just saw @mincemeatlive at the @FortuneTheatre1 and it’s genuinely one of the best things I’ve ever seen. Blew my head clean off, steal a ticket if you have to”
Pierre Novellie, Comedian

“Just saw @mincemeatlive on the west end after enjoying it loads last year off-west end and wowww they have absolutely aniled it. Even MORE joyful and fun and moving and silly and brilliant. Please honestly go and see e it. Go go go go (go)”
“Cannot overstate how good @mincemeatlive is. Saw it last year, and again tonight and my god have they rose to the west end challenge. It is LIQUID JOY”
Stevie Martin, Comedian

“Saw @mincemeatlive tonight, cackled and cried. @JackMalonee singing about a lost War love is worth the ticket price alone”
Elllie O’Mahoney, Fabulous Magazine

“Far and away the greatest new British musical in years. An immaculately and farcically told true story of military deception. This is truly top-tier theatre.”
Max Shetland, Theatre influencer

“So good to see the five-star reviews coming in for the primped and shiny new West End version of Operation Mincemeat – such a big hearted, witty, brilliant show”
Alexandra Coghlan, Classical Music journalist

“OPERATION MINCEMEAT is the greatest new British musical in years. The writer/performers are magnificent and have created something hilarious, heart-warming, smart and original.”
Matt Lucas, Comedian

“It was like the camp funness of Six, the rappiness of Hamilton, the Britishy-murdery- over the topness of Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder”
Jack Remmington, Singer and Presenter

“Everyone MUST go and see @mincemeatlive – joyful, hilarious and incredibly moving. The best musical I’ve seen in years. Loved it!”
Henry Lewis, Mischief Theatre Artistic Director

“Last night I went to see Operation Mincemeat @mincemeatlive at the Fortune Theatre. To see @spitlip at this moment in time felt like watching some sort of brilliantly human machine, pummelling the audience repeatedly with their talent. It was almost brutal in how good it was”
Rob Auton, Comedian







  • World premiere of new British musical The Little Big Things based on the Sunday Times best-selling inspirational memoir by Henry Fraser.
  • Music by Nick Butcher, lyrics by Nick Butcher and Tom Ling, Book by Joe White.
  • Following his Olivier Award winning and Tony nominated production of & Juliet, and Fringe to West End hit, My Son’s a QueerLuke Sheppard directs The Little Big Things
  • Starring Ed Larkin as Man Henry Fraser and Jonny Amies as Boy Henry Fraser, with further casting to be announced
  • The first performance is on 2 September, running @sohoplace until 25 November 2023.
  • The Little Big Things is produced by Michael Harrison and Nica Burns.
  • Nica Burns said: “The Little Big Things, our first musical and a world premiere, is our fifth and final production to open in our first year @sohoplace.  It follows Marvellous, As You Like It, Medea and Brokeback Mountain which runs until 12 August. A big thank you to brilliant musicals producer Michael Harrison for bringing us this exciting project, authored by a new British musical theatre writing team and with an actor who is a wheelchair user at its heart.”
  • Tickets are on sale now via @sohoplace

Michael Harrison and Nica Burns today announce the world premiere of the new British musical The Little Big Things, based on the best-selling memoir by Henry FraserThe Little Big Things opens @sohoplace on 2 September, and runs until 25 November 2023.

An extraordinary true story about an ordinary young man.

When one moment changes everything, Henry finds himself split between a past he no longer recognises and a future he can’t even begin to imagine. As he learns to navigate this new world, can he find a way to take control of his life, and keep his family from falling apart?

Based on the Sunday Times best-selling autobiography by Henry Fraser, The Little Big Things is a new British musical with an explosive theatrical pop soundtrack in a world premiere production.

This uplifting and colourful new musical is a life-affirming story of courage, transformation and a reminder that it’s the little things that really do matter the most.

An avid sportsman and academy player with a premiership Rugby club, Henry Fraser’s life changed forever when in 2009 he had a diving accident. From that moment he had a new life to live as a tetraplegic and new circumstances to accept and adapt to. Henry’s defiance and determination to prosper against devastating odds led to him wheeling himself out of hospital a whole year earlier than predicted. Today he is a successful artist, inspirational speaker and best-selling author.   

Henry Fraser said: “There have been many things that have happened since my accident that I never thought about in life, never planned and really surprised me, in a great way. This musical is one of those moments. The guys have been great to work with and the moment they played me a couple of songs I was sold. I still can’t believe it’s actually happening and it makes me incredibly excited and nervous.”

Created by a young team of exciting theatre makers, The Little Big Things has music by Nick Butcher (Loved Before), lyrics by Nick Butcher and Tom Ling (Techies: The Musical), a book by Joe White (Blackout Songs – Olivier Award nominated), and is directed by Luke Sheppard (& Juliet – Olivier Award winner, and Tony Award nominated).

Luke Sheppard said: “After an incredible development process over the last few years, it’s a privilege to be welcoming the world to this brand-new musical premiering at London’s newest theatre. With an extraordinary true story at the centre of it and an electrifying new score, we can’t wait to bring this thrilling new production to the stage.” 

Starring Ed Larkin as Man Henry Fraser and Jonny Amies as Boy Henry Fraser, with further casting to be announced.

Ed Larkin said: “It’s an honour to be able to tell this story and be trusted with such a role. To be making my West End debut in a musical as a wheelchair user feels incredible. I haven’t seen wheelchair users in musical theatre in the UK, so I feel honoured to be a part of a cast that is telling this story and pushing the boundaries of what’s expected on a West End stage.”

Also released exclusively today is the production’s title track, ‘The Little Big Things’ – please findhere.

Nick Butcher said: “Getting to know Henry Fraser and his family has been both a joy and a key part of the song writing process. Many of our personal conversations inspired songs within the show both honouring and expanding on Henry’s autobiography. It’s a rollercoaster of a ride musically, much like Henry and his family’s emotional journey in the show.”

When Producer Michael Harrison heard a demo tape of music for a brand new musical from an exciting up and coming British theatre team, he stopped in his tracks. When he read the inspiring book it was based on – The Little Big Things by Henry Fraser – he knew he wanted to bring this uplifting and heart-warming story to the West End. By serendipitous coincidence, Nica Burns was in the process of building the first new West End theatre in 50 years @sohoplace with unrivalled accessibility. Over garden meetings during Covid constraints, Michael shared the project with Nica and together they agreed to produce this unique world premiere production in the West End’s newest theatre.


Creative Team

Music                                                 Nick Butcher

Lyrics                                                  Nick Butcher and Tom Ling 

Book                                                   Joe White

Director                                             Luke Sheppard

Set Design                                         Colin Richmond

Choreographer                                Mark Smith

Costume Design                              Fay Fullerton

Video Design       Luke Halls

Lighting Design                                Howard Hudson

Sound Design                                   Paul Gatehouse

Musical Supervisor                          Matthew Brind

Musical Director                              Laura Bangay

Dramaturg/Associate Director    Nickie Miles-Wildin

Casting Director                              Jill Green CDG 



MAMMA MIA! THE PARTY, London’s premier dining experience is extending to 3rd March 2024 at The O2, London with tickets for the new dates on sale now.

2024 marks the 50th anniversary of ABBA’s legendary performance of ‘Waterloo’ at Eurovision and a trip to Nikos Taverna on the Greek Island of Skopelos (via The O2, London) will be the perfect way to celebrate this milestone. Created by ABBA’s Björn Ulvaeus, MAMMA MIA! THE PARTY is a unique and magical experience, bringing all ABBA’s hits to life more vividly than ever before.   Over the course of four glittering hours, guests can immerse themselves in a spectacular musical extravaganza, a four-course Greek feast and an ABBA disco, all in one unforgettable evening of dancing, dining and singing!   

Since MAMMA MIA! THE PARTY opened in 2019 over 275,000 guests have been welcomed to Nikos Taverna on the island of Skopelos, the stunning location where most of the exteriors of the first MAMMA MIA! film were shot. 

The current cast performing includes Javier Rasero as Nikos, Scarlet Gabriel as Debbie, Luke Friend as Adam, Noah Sinigaglia as Konstantina, Oscar Balmaseda as Fernando, Tamara Perks as Nina, Lorraine Chappell as Kate (at certain performances), Kimberly Powell as Kate (at certain performances), Allie Ho Chee as Bella (at certain performances), Rosie Rowlands as Bella (at certain performances), Dawn Spence as Grandma, Claudia BradleyEllis DackombeJessica SpalisJamie Birkett, Caline HampartzoumianRobban Hogstrom, and Maison Kelley. The musicians are John DonovanLuke HigginsKathryn TindallSteve Rushton and Luke Roberts.

Nikos and his wife Kate run the exotic and wonderful Nikos Taverna together with their family and friends. Told through dialogue and timeless ABBA songs, a warm, romantic and funny story evolves and unfolds during the evening, taking place around the guests as they enjoy a gourmet Greek meal. The evening ends with a 1970s disco, where audience members are welcome to stay to sing and dance to ABBA’s greatest hits.

Food is at the heart of the experience and a menu has been created that delivers the finest Greece has to offer, made from the best, freshest ingredients. Guests are served a traditional mezze followed by the iconic Greek salad of fresh tomatoes, cucumber and feta. The main course of confit lamb shoulder and slow-cooked beef is served with roasted garlic potatoes, courgette peperonata, romesco and aromatic jus. For vegetarian and vegan guests, there is roasted cauliflower with a lemon-herb dressing served alongside a tomato stuffed with lentil ragout. A sumptuous Greek lemon cake served with confit orange skin and citrus yoghurt is the perfect end to this delicious meal. Vegan guests are served traditional loukoumades, delicious dough balls, accompanied by a sweet fig jam.

Guests can get the ultimate MAMMA MIA! THE PARTY experience with one of the available packages. The Platinum Package provides a Tier A ticket in a prime location, a cast meet and greet with a tableside photo opportunity, champagne on arrival, half a bottle of Nikos house wine and a MAMMA MIA! THE PARTY merchandise party pack. Guests can also upgrade their existing booking by adding the VIP upgrade package, taking their experience to the next level with champagne on arrival, half a bottle of Nikos house wine and a MAMMA MIA! THE PARTY merchandise party pack. 

MAMMA MIA! THE PARTY has music and lyrics by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus (some songs with Stig Anderson), and a story by Calle Norlén, Roine Söderlundh and Björn Ulvaeus, with the English book by writer, comedian and broadcaster Sandi Toksvig.

The London version of MAMMA MIA! THE PARTY, which originally opened in Stockholm in January 2016, is co-directed and choreographed by Stacey Haynes and Roine Söderlundh, with set designed by Bengt Fröderberg, lighting designed by Patrick Woodroffe, sound designed by Gareth Owen, costumes designed by Annsofi Nyberg, music supervision by Robin Svensson and casting by David Grindrod CDG for Grindrod Burton Casting.

MAMMA MIA! THE PARTY is executively produced by Björn Ulvaeus and produced by Sally Davies for U-Live.

The Actors’ Church announce further events with West End Stars

The Actors’ Church kicks off its sensational summer season with West End stars

Summer Season: May – September 2023

St Paul’s Church, Bedford Street, London, WC2E 9ED

The Actors’ Church has announced further events for Theatre in the Garden, its dedicated summer season filled with Shakespearean comedy, puppetry, comedy and new takes on classic tales. Eight visiting companies will bring a wide variety of innovative theatre to the Church’s award-winning gardens, marking a new era for the Actors’ Church. St Paul’s, world renowned as the Actors’ Church, lies at the heart of London’s West End. This follows Their Majesties King Charles and Queen Camilla’s visit to the Church in May, which was their first engagement since their Coronation.

Mark Robert Petty presents a series of events running throughout the summer, kicking off with Don’t Tell The Bishops! The After-Pride Concert on Sunday 2nd July at 7.30pm celebrating songs from LGBTQ+ themed musicals and classic Pop songs. The concert will raise money for the LGBT charity OneBodyOneFaith, which supports marriage equality in the Church of England. Following this a celebration of all things Wickedly Ever-Green…A Musical Theatre Celebration, which will take place on Sunday 16th July at 7.30pm, featuring 6 former stars of the musical. Completing the series is Masquerade…A Musical Theatre Celebration of The Phantom Of The Opera descends on the venue on Sunday 23rd July at 7.30pm

The Reverend Simon Grigg, Rector, comments, ‘We are delighted to have launched our summer season, with the triumph that was As You Like It, presented by The Three Inch Fools. Outdoor theatre is in our bones and this season will attest to that. But the West End also has its beating heart here in Covent Garden and we would be remiss not to celebrate Musical Theatre as part of our summer extravaganza. Our three electric concerts will delight and dazzle visitors with the cream of theatre talent, promising to produce a fabulous night of entertainment which may even see some “homegrown” talent return to the stage after a gap of over thirty years… but I of course, couldn’t possibly comment….’

Shakespeare in the Square stages Shakespeare in London’s garden spaces every summer. Their Patron is Dame Judi Dench, who is a great friend of St. Pauls. They will perform Shakespeare’s glorious romantic comedy of mistaken identity, Twelfth Night (30th June – 1st July) set in the roaring 1920s. This year’s production is kindly sponsored by Chestertons.

Tethered Wits will welcome audiences to the ultimate Jazz Age party, for an adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece of American literature The Great Gatsby (17th – 24th August). The company will then bring a fun, family-friendly story of Doctor Dolittle (18th – 24th August) to the church, using magnificent puppetry to fill the courtyard with every kind of creature imaginable.

Troubadour Stageworks will stage a fast paced, high-energy version of Romeo + Juliet (5th – 8th July) suitable for all the family. Audiences will be whisked away on a magical visit to Verona, with newly composed music and even a dance or two. The company will also present a new adaption of The Odyssey (4th – 6th August) which is full of music and adventure – the perfect way to encounter a classic at any age.

Originally created in 2015 to critical acclaim, Henry I from Rabble Theatre returns at a time when its themes resonate more acutely than ever. Henry I is written by the company’s resident writer Beth Flintoff. Rabble Theatre are known for their award-winning historical seasons and championing the forgotten women of history.

Slapstick Picnic Peter Pan (13th – 15th July) is a theatrical treat like no other as they whip up a three hander version of JM Barrie’s classic tale Peter Pan. Let your imagination soar as they dish out this timeless tale of hapless pirates, revolting children and a particularly punctual reptile…

The award-winning Illyria Theatre Company return to St Paul’s with Jane Austen’s scandalous romcom Pride and Prejudice (1st – 2nd August). It flips the traditional costume drama on its head for a whirlwind of parties, romance, and gossip.

The Three Inch Fools return after the success of As You Like It, rushed off their feet performing the legendary folktale Robin Hood (1st – 3rd September) with a production which can only be described as disastrous.

To conclude the season the HandleBards, the company of cycling Shakespearean actors, will delight audiences with their hilarious, high-octane production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (7th – 8th September). The company carry all their set, props and costumes on the back of their bikes, performing extremely energetic, charmingly chaotic and environmentally sustainable Shakespeare plays across the UK.

Fantastic full cast announced for Figure’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Opera Holland Park

Fantastic cast announced for Figure’s
A Midsummer Night’s Dream at
Opera Holland Park
Thursday 29th June – Saturday 1st July 2023, 7.30pm
Opera Holland Park Theatre, Ilchester Place, London, W8 6LU

This summer, acclaimed historical performance ensemble Figure return to London’s Opera
Holland Park after the success of their fantastically detailed (The Guardian) 2022 performance of Handel’s Serse with a fresh staging of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Unbridled desire meets magic as Figure stages Shakespeare’s celebrated comedy, accompanied by Mendelssohn’s enchanting orchestral score.

Mischief-maker Puck will be played by T. S. Eliot Prize-winning poet and performer Joelle Taylor (BLUE NOW, Tate; UK Slam poetry champion), and Bottom will be played by Jay Mailer (Boiling Point, BBC; Emmerdale, ITV). Playing the role of fairy queen of the forest Titania is comedian and actress Anna Leong Brophy (Shadow and Bone, Netflix; Last Tango in Halifax, BBC; Henry VI Part 1, RSC), and her King Oberon will be played by acclaimed British TV and movie actor Ray Fearon (Fleabag, BBC Three; Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts, Warner Bros; Beauty and the Beast, Walt Disney Studios; Macbeth, National Theatre Live), who is an Associate Artist of the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Figure’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream will star Eleanor Sutton (Wuthering Heights, Wise
Children UK/US Tour; Amadeus, National Theatre) as Helena, Hannah Rose Caton (The Da Vinci Code, UK Tour; Last Knights, Lionsgate) as Hermia, Johan Munir (Into the Woods, Theatre Royal Bath; Saving Grace, Riverside Studios) as Demetrius, and Emmanuel Olusanya (Phaedra, National Theatre) completes the set of lovers as Lysander.

The marvellous Mechanicals will be played by the following: Gail Sixsmith (The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, RSC; The Winter’s Tale, RSC) as Quince, Jordan Laviniere (Wuthering Heights, Wise Children; Everyone’s Talking About Jamie, Apollo Theatre) as Flute, Susie Coutts (Running Wild, Chichester Festival Theatre) as Snout, William Edden (Oliver, UK Tour; Les Misérables, Queens Theatre) as Snug, and Joyce Henderson (The Street of Crocodiles, Complicité; The Magic Flute, Complicité) rounding off the cast as Starveling.

Director Samuel Rayner comments, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is arguably Shakespeare’s most loved comedy but – like a fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm – the aspects of the play that seem sweet and gentle conceal the diabolical perversity at its heart. Beneath the japes, Dream explores patriarchal power and violence, restrictions on sexual freedom, and frequently questions our perception of reality

The Athenian court is a world of rigidity but, in the woods, characters are liberated from the court’s rule; it is a space where desire reigns, where conscious and unconscious experience is probed and laid bare, and where the imagination (and the mechanicals’ creativity) – which is so closely aligned with magic and love – abounds.

Our production’s fairy-tale aesthetic seeks to pose questions about our perception of reality. By using an interactive and malleable set design, where we repeatedly create and reimagine the space, we allow the surreal and the real to move side by side. The design also incorporates a 19th-century aesthetic, in sympathy with Felix Mendelssohn’s Romantic incidental music, which both accompanies and drives the drama in this production as we reunite this towering music with Shakespeare’s much-loved play





Paul Virides Productions today announces full casting for the world première production of the heart-warming, original musical Then, Now & Next, written by Christopher J Orton (My Land’s Shore)and Jon Robyns (currently playing the Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera)in a first-time collaboration for the pair. The production opens at Southwark Playhouse, Borough on 28 June, with previews from 23June, and runs until 29 July.

Julie Atherton directs Tori Allen-MartinJustin BrettPeter Hannah and Joaquin Pedro Valdes alongside the previously announced Alice Fearn. Ahead of previews, the cast will perform for the first time at this year’s West End Live on 17 and 18 June.

Joining the company are stage manager Zoe Leonard, assistant stage manager Odette Robertson, and sound technician Amber Carey. In the band are musical director and keys player Honor Halford-MacLeod, guitarist James William-Pattison, cellist Alice Luddington and percussionist Tom Bennett.

Paul Virides says today “Chris and Jon have written the most beautiful show, complemented perfectly by Ben’s stunning orchestrations. But no piece of theatre exists only on paper, and I’m thrilled at the team that have decided to jump in and join us on and off stage to give life to this 100% original, brand new British musical. Alice, Peter, Joaquin, Tori and Justin are individually and all together a fantastically talented group of people that bring so much to the table – and with Julie in the director’s chair, audiences at Southwark are in for a treat!”

Paul Virides Productions presents:


by Christopher J Orton and Jon Robyns

Directed by Julie Atherton

Orchestrations, arrangements and musical supervision by Ben Goddard-Young

23 June – 29 July 2023

Cast: Alice FearnPeter HannahJoaquin Pedro ValdesTori Allen-MartinJustin Brett

Band: Honor Halford-MacLeodJames William-PattisonAlice LuddingtonTom Bennett

Musical director: Honor Halford-MacLeod; Movement director: Alexzandra Sarmiento;

Set and costume designer: Bob Sterrett;Lighting designer: Adam King;

Sound designer: Raffaela Pancucci; Production manager: Titch Gosling;Dramaturgy: Kate Golledge; Stage manager: Zoe Leonard; Assistant stage manager: Odette Robertson;

Sound operator: Amber Carey; Produced and general managed by Paul Virides Productions.

Struggling with a difficult past, Alex Shaw is attempting to take steps forward. We follow her journey over twenty years, through two loves – young, adventurous idealist, Stephen, and the older, reliable and charming Peter –  as she gathers the scattered chapters of her life, in the hope of re-building her story and asking if she will ever be more than just “fine”.

Through Alex’s experiences, her uplifting story questions how relationships can change over time and explores what it takes to truly heal.

Accept what was. Embrace what could be.

Christopher J Orton is an actor, composer, lyricist and writer. His writing credits include My Land’s Shore, Grace Notes, The Gory Story of Edward Polidori, Dracula, This Time Next Week, B.O.A.T.S, The Road to the Port of Barry, Elephant Juice and Are you Sitting F**king Comfortably?. As an actor his credits include Tom (UK tour), The Hired Man (Leicester Curve), Spamalot (UK tour and Playhouse Theatre) and Oliver! (The Watermill Theatre).

Jon Robyns is an actor and writer. Then, Now & Next marks his debut project as a writer, and first collaboration with Christopher J Orton. As an actor, his credits include Les Misérables (Sondheim Theatre and Queen’s Theatre)Hamilton (Victoria Palace), The Phantom of the Opera (Her Majesty’s Theatre), Avenue Q (Noel Coward Theatre and Gielgud Theatre), Miss Saigon, Spamalot, Sister Act, (UK tour), Dessa Rose (Trafalgar Studios), Dickens Abridged (Arts Theatre), Legally Blonde (Curve Theatre), The Last 5 Years (Greenwich Theatre) and Dickens Unplugged (Yvonne Arnaud Theatre). He has released two albums, completing a sell-out UK tour of his most recent entitled Musical Direction.

Tori Allen-Martin plays Woman. Her theatre credits include Park Bench (Park Theatre), One Man Two Guvnors (New Wolsey Theatre/Nuffield Theatre), The Season (Royal & Derngate Theatre), Rock of Ages (UK tour), H.R.Haitch (Union and St Paul’s Church), The Hardest One (The Other Palace), Wretch (VAULT Festival), Rent (Cockpit Theatre), Hair (European tour), and Zip: A Street Dance Musical (Camden Fringe). Her television credits include Mrs Sidhu Investigates, Significant Other, Clean Break, Unforgotten, Laundrette, Here We Go, Pandemonium, The Other Half, Plebs: Soldiers of Rome, The Flatshare, Back to Life, London Kills and Pure.

Justin Brett plays Man. His theatre credits include Jack and the Beanstalk (Newbury Corn Exchange), The Snow Queen (Park Theatre), Million Dollar Quartet (Noel Coward Theatre), Robin Hood (Theatr Clwyd), Dick Barton – Special Agent, Return to the Forbidden Planet (UK tour), Beauty and the Beast (New Wolsey), Cinderella (Oxford Playhouse), Blue/Orange (Bolton Octagon Theatre), East Lynne (New Vic Theatre), The Real Thing (Manchester Library), Strangers on a Train, Arms and the Man (Keswick Theatre), My Sister Sadie, This is Where We Came In (Steven Joseph Theatre), A Small Family Business (Leeds Playhouse), The Rivals (Theatre Royal Bath), Deirdre of the Sorrows (Riverside Studios), Jinx and Other Lives (Orange Tree Theatre), His television credits include Hilary Devey’s Interns, Peep Show, Topsy and Tim, Pulling, Dombey and Son, The Queen’s Nose, London’s Burning and for film; War Horse, Gulliver’s Travels, The Fallen and Brothers.

Alice Fearn plays Alex Shaw. Her theatre credits include Come From Away (Phoenix Theatre), Wicked (Apollo Victoria Theatre), Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (Savoy Theatre), Oliver! (The Watermill Theatre), The Woman in White (Palace Theatre), Les Misérables (Queen’s Theatre), Into The Woods (Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre) and Shrek (Theatre Royal Drury Lane).

Peter Hannah plays Peter. His theatre credits include The Oyster Problem (Jermyn Street Theatre), Into the Woods (Lyric Theatre/Northern Ireland Opera), Waitress (Adelphi Theatre), The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart, The 306: Dawn (National Theatre of Scotland), Cockpit (Royal Lyceum Theatre), Greater Game, One Arm (Southwark Playhouse), Shakespeare in Love (Noel Coward Theatre), Four Play (Theatre503), A Clockwork Orange (Nottingham Playhouse) and Mock Tudor (Pleasance Courtyard). His television credits include Six Four, Unforgotten, I Hate Suzie and Doctor Who, and for film; The Serpent Queen, Above the Clouds and Mr Turner.

Joaquin Pedro Valdes plays Stephen. His theatre credits include Killing the Cat (Riverside Studios), The Lion King (UK and Ireland tour), Heather the Musical (The Other Palace), Vanara The Legend (Hackney Empire), Miss Saigon, The King and I (UK and International tour), Fanny and Stella The Musical (The Garden Theatre), Matilda, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, Red and The Last 5 Years (Manila Metropolitan Theatre).

Julie Atherton directs. Her theatre credits include Ordinary Days (Cockpit Theatre), Well Behaved Women (Cadagon Hall), Club Mex (Hope Mill Theatre), Cinderella (Capitol), Made in Dagenham (Mack Theatre), Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (Bernie Grant Arts Centre), Girlfriends, Deed Not Words (Karamel Club), Legally Blonde (Laines Theatre Arts) and The Hello Girls (St Peter’s Arts Centre).



Southwark Playhouse, Borough

77-85 Newington Causeway, London, SE1 6BD


23 June – 29 July 2023

Ticket prices: previews £16, full price £32.50, concessions £26

Julie Atherton will perform the role of Alex Shaw on 13 and 29 July 2023.

The Producers cannot guarantee the appearance of any particular artist, which is always subject to illness, injury or other unforeseen circumstances.

Twitter: @TNNmusical

Instagram: @tnnmusical

The Beekeeper of Aleppo Review

Leeds Playhouse, Leeds – until Saturday 3 June 2023

Reviewed by Sofia Robottom


This beautiful performance of Christy Lefteri’s poignant novel ‘The Beekeeper of Aleppo’ was adapted by Nesrin Alrefaai and Matthew Spangler, also known for adapting the West End and Broadway version of The Kite Runner, a novel that similarly conveys an emotional and unforgettable story following the horrific circumstances that refugees face. This timeless production, directed by Miranda Cromwell, speaks up on social issues while portraying a compassionate narrative that beautifully encapsulates human nature and explores the characters’ relationships and how they grow and develop throughout this incredible journey. There are glimpses of hope throughout, emphasised by subtle and well-delivered humour, which keep the audience invested in the characters’ happy endings.

The actors’ compassionate performances allow the audience to witness the powerful and moving story of a former Beekeeper Nuri (played by Alfred Clay) and his wife Afra (played by Roxy Fairdany) and their heroic yet catastrophic journey, trying to find refuge from the war in Syria after their hometown Aleppo was made inhabitable by brutal bombings. They are forced to leave their entire livelihood behind and dangerously make their way across Turkey and Greece, uncertain of what lies ahead but full of courage and hoping to be reunited with Nuri’s cousin Mustafa, (played by Joseph Long) an enthusiastic and optimistic man who becomes broken by the war and its inconsolable effects on his family. The nonchronological narrative allows shocking information to be withheld and revealed in a way that generates shock value. Flashbacks are scattered throughout the play, creating a disjointed storyline that reflects the impact of traumatic events on memories, also shown by Afra’s deteriorating health. In order to come to terms with the distressing events Nuri and his wife endured while seeking refuge, and to cope with the loss of his son, Nuri creates a character of a young boy who was present throughout their journey. As the couple make their way to the UK, we continue to wonder whether they will not only find asylum in the UK, but also a comfortable life where they can rebuild their relationship.

As new characters were revealed the audience was able to recognise the complex journey of fleeing from war as a refugee. The immigration officer (played by Daphne Kouma) reminds us of the treatment that refugees receive when they arrive in foreign countries and how they are often misunderstood and overlooked by the western world. This brings light to the reality of asylum seekers and the patronising attitudes of those who are supposed to offer support. We also gain insight into the stories of other immigrants for example Angeliki in Athens (played by Nadia Williams) who shares a heart-breaking and powerful anecdote, and the Moroccan man (played by Joseph Long), staying at the same Bed and Breakfast as Nuri and Afra, who takes an interest in British customs.

This production brought a fantastic and visually striking set design as well as stunning effects which tied the performance together brilliantly. Projections of scenery highlighted the beauty and richness of Syria and its beloved city of Aleppo. These visual aids and the dramatic sound effects helped to build an atmosphere and convey the harsh and bleak conditions faced by the refugees, whether it was the aggressiveness of the sea or the picturesque fields. This brilliantly written story also uses the vocabulary of the characters’ own dialect to give a voice to refugees, allowing them to share their culture and stories. The extended metaphor of the bees working in harmony brought Nuri hope throughout the play, and despite the reluctance of others to offer their help and the horrendous circumstances he is thrown into; Nuri finds a way to remain hopeful.

This deeply moving narrative demonstrates the reality of those seeking asylum and its authentic performance has the ability to move its spectators to tears. It is an outstanding production that is not to be missed and the unforgettable and sentimental story it tells will leave a lasting impression on its audience.