Review: The Sun The Moon And The Stars, Theatre Royal Stratford East

Theatre Royal Stratford East presents The Sun The Moon & The Stars, London  - Disability Arts Online

Star Rating: ★★★★

The Sun The Moon And The Stars is a searing new play from Dipo Baruwa-Etti. Enacting as an animated internal and external monologue, the piece dextrously intertwines passages of apostrophe with intense moments of extrinsic dialogue, delivered by a single actor and peppered intuitively with breathtaking instances of spoken word and physical theatre. The narrative following Femi, who is repeatedly visited by her brother Seun’s ghost as trial proceedings begin, attempting to convict his murderers for manslaughter. (Which, as it is in many cases, is pursued instead of murder charges as they are easier to get a conviction on), an already seemingly poor attempt at justice for a young black man, who had plans to be an architect and his whole life ahead of him. Yet, when it appears like the murderers are going to get away with it entirely, due to a convenient lack of evidence and unreliable eyewitnesses, Femi is forced to take matters into her own hands. As Seun’s ghost reveals his final moments to her, the piece explores Femi’s rage, as his reappearance as well as the trial, mean she is forced to come to terms with her grief nine months on from her twin brother’s death, spurring her on an impassioned and often morally ambiguous quest for a tangible justice.

Credit: Richard Davenport 

Emotively and authentically Baruwa-Etti‘s play traverses the complexities of dealing with loss and trauma alongside asking the big question, how do you get justice for a life taken away by others? Divisively showing it to be the fruitless quest it will always be, nothing being able to bring the deceased back, not even a life for a life, whether the men responsible are sentenced to one year or twenty four years they would still be alive, the one thing Seun no longer is. The piece therefore, creates an intriguing dichotomy and discourse upon the subjoined ideas of justice and peace. Femi being characterised as wanting justice at all costs, willing to do the unthinkable to achieve it, whilst her brother’s ghostly presence is shown to want closure, not only for himself but for those who knew him, reprimanding Femi and asking her to help him. Making it an interesting choice for them to be twins, intrinsically connected by birth, like the two prepositions, but also subordinates with independent aims and opposing opinions on how they can be achieved. Baruwa-Etti thus beautifully draws on this twin dynamic, intelligibly playing with symbolism and mythology in order to build this intricate and complex aforementioned discourse, with twins in mythology often being linked to justice and morality (i.e Inanna and Utu in Ancient Mesopotamian religion). The initial reference to Femi as a twin, insightfully has her refer to the idea that twins are usually either tragic or remarkable, this instance on the surface instinctively makes you think of the abundance of mythology surrounding twins, from the formidable like Apollo and Artemis to the tragic, such as Romulus and Remus, planting the idea that this story is a kind of Greek tragedy. However there is more to be explored here than you think, firstly, Femi is a British Nigerian, therefore Baruwa-Etti sews in Nigerian mythology and ideologies with ease, i.e Taiwo and Kehinde and Mawu-Lisa. Having Femi reflect upon her and Seun’s lives, describing how she, as the one who had the first taste of the world, the ‘Taiwo’, was meant to check it all out for both of them, whilst Seun, the one who lagged behind and who, Femi describes as following her lead and copying her, the ‘Kehinde’, as the first one gone, he might now be checking out the afterlife for them. An inkling of beautiful cultural nuance and a powerful look into how grief can easily affect consciousness and mental health, leaning people towards suicide, whilst effortlessly nodding to twin mythologies relating to the afterlife, (i.e Osiris and Isis in Egyptian mythology). Similarly, regarding Mawu-Lisa, many mythologies link deities who are twins to the planetary elements such as the stars (i.e Pollux and Castor/Arsu and Azizos in Ancient Syrian mythology), the sky and the earth (i.e Geb and Nut in Ancient Egyptian mythology) or the sun and the moon, Mawu-Lisa being Nigerian twin deities associated with the sun and the moon, giving the piece it’s name and overarching theme of Femi referring to feeling shadowed by the moon, (her grief) and wanting to experience the sun, something that can also be linked to the engendered temperament of the characters. Mawu is typically seen as a female deity associated with the moon, gentle and forgiving, whilst Lisa is associated with the sun and is fierce and punitive, the two are often described as complimentary. So it is interesting that Femi’s character is more inline with the sun in the sense she is acting out, full of rage and grief, whilst Seun’s ghost is calmer, firm but ultimately apposite caring more for those he loved than the fates of his murderers, their two temperaments appearing to be diametrically opposed instead of complimentary, each pursuing a different means to an end. In fact, it’s like by losing her twin brother there’s more of an imbalance there for Femi, whilst she is hotheaded like the sun, she also experiences a clouded sense of morality in her quest for justice, which can be seen as linked to the idea of the moon being darker, connected to the unconscious and sometimes things not being seen clearly, a reasoning for her rash actions. This also again strongly refers to twin mythology, where twins become personifications of order and chaos, (Jukihú and Juracán in Amerindian culture), perhaps Femi’s in balance is her chaos, whilst Seun’s ghost has appeared in order to restore order? Whilst stars are often seen as the spirt and cosmic order linking to the cycle of life, suggesting that true justice is unattainable, death is just part of life and nothing can bring someone back, once you accept this and absolve yourselves of responsibility, peace and closure thus becomes the desired step beyond grief. Similarly the piece artistically plays on the Shakespearean tragedy Hamlet in its opening and throughout, with Femi rhetorically asking what would you do if you saw a man standing at the end of the bed at midnight, going on to explain it depends on if you recognised him and that it was in fact her dead brother, a definite parity to Hamlet’s father appearing to him at the end of his bed to report a murder most foul, this occurrence for Femi thus plants the seed for her to avenge Seun’s death, and see that justice is served , the ghost having shown her how he died, so her quest for justice has a Hamlet extremity to it, ‘This is bout those men who stripped him of his crown‘, crown being a clear link to murdered king of Hamlet, Femi’s sought justice transpiring to not be exactly what Seun’s ghost intended. The sections of spoken word, perform as phenomenal modern indictments of Shakespeare’s verses of iambic pentameter. Thus Baruwa-Etti writes a piece that is emotionally strong, intelligible, sprinkled with wit and filled with metaphorical Easter eggs to be enjoyed. Tenderly and splenetically delivering a rightfully impassioned black perspective on the legal system that repeatedly fails minorities and makes them feel less than human. Whilst accurately depicting what it is like to reside in a society built on inherent racism, racism that determinately can cause a black man, like Seun, to lose his life in an instant. A tragic mirror to reality. Vehemently proclaiming that black is beautiful, and black should never be seen as a mark of being less than.

Credit: Richard Davenport 

Dipo Baruwa-Etti‘s writing prowess is also wonderfully complemented by the dexterity of the design, Peter McKintosh does much encapsulate the poetic nature of the work, creating a box which is not only used as the playing space, but becomes a physical directive of Femi’s grief, entrapping her in it as she does not leave this containment of space until the end of the piece in a moment of euphoria, thus throughout she is in a kind of stasis as she can’t see a future for herself beyond her pain, a man made purgatory as it were. The visible expanse beyond the box therefore becoming this unseen future. The forward nature of the set not only shrinks the playing space, allowing Kibong Tanji to not appear swallowed up by such an extensive stage surrounding her, but it brings her forward, closer to the audience, making the piece feeling more intimate, engaging and personable. Whilst the engendered emptiness, with little more than a chair by way of moveable set pieces, does much to covey the emptiness Femi must be feeling without a twin at her heels. Whilst the design can also been seen as doing much to resonate the similar purgatory her brother’s ghost must be in, trapped between this world and the next, the crosses carved into the walls on the left and right of the box, as light bleeds through them, become symbolic windows to the beyond. They can refer to traditional Christian beliefs surrounding cross iconography, such as a sign of resurrection (the ghost’s appearance), suffering (the brutal murder he experienced) and purgatory itself, the initial state after death where you supposedly carry crosses which are the sins you must be absolved from before you can ascend to an eternal life. Whilst other symbolic meanings of cross iconography are also intrinsically referenced here, such as the sun revolving around the earth, or how in parts of Africa, it is believed that a crossroads is a place where the worlds of the living and the dead meet. Making McKintosh‘s design another performative choice full of depth and intelligence, expertly carried out.

Credit: Richard Davenport 

This synergism of the writing and design also effortlessly filters through to the intuitive complexities of Oliver Fenwick‘s Lighting Design and Tingying Dong‘s Sound Design. As aforementioned in reference to the light bleeding through the cross cutouts, Fenwick and Dong do much to perpetuate the symbolism of the piece. For instance when the defence begin their opening statements, Femi describes their protestations as full of lies, buzzing around and stinging her as she helplessly listens, thanks to Dong we hear a very real sounding hoard of bees flying past, yet that is shown to subconsciously plant itself into Femi’s brain as the motif is repeated when something untrue or not wholeheartedly meant is said, adding a further layer of understanding to Femi’s internalisations, though what she says maybe stinging and bitter or even threatening, there’s a sense that she doesn’t mean it or won’t go through with it. Similarly the designers seamlessly work in tandem to create the sense of this ghostly presence appearing, from the realistic ringing sound overpowering Femi’s ears and the blurring of the remaining sound or music behind it, to the stark change in lighting state and appearance of a pulsing white light, use of shadows and moving lights. As sound and lighting elements intensify we truly get a sense of the crushing grief and pain that Femi is subjected to, the euphoric moment of release when the stars, (swirling white lights), fill the playing space and auditorium, is both a moment of aesthetic wonder and a beautiful symbolic image of both Seun and Femi finally getting peace, Femi exiting upstage and finally leave her box of grief behind. Referring back to the lighting reaching out to the auditorium, this effect is employed intermittently, the house lights coming up and the lamps around the seating areas lighting and dimming, this again does much to give the performance an intimate and engaging feel, creating this dynamic that Femi is talking both to herself and at you directly. Fenwick and Dong thus proving themselves to be consummate designers and atmospheric geniuses.

Credit: Richard Davenport 

Kibong Tanji (Femi) is an absolute powerhouse, her performance is raw, energetic and emotively intelligible. Dextrously conveying the character’s transcendence from despair to madness. She is an exceedingly malleable actor, able to burst rhythmically into passages of spoken word, deliver animatedly both sides of dialogue between characters without losing the pacing or meaning, as well as authentically divulging the inner workings of Femi that bounce from zero to one hundred in seconds. Dannielle ‘Rhimes’ Lecointe‘s Movement Direction is particularly compelling, these physically demanding moments being expertly performed with attack by Tanji. Nadia Fall‘s Direction is thoughtful, engendering an intensified and heightened delivery, that aims to convey just how much grief decimates Femi’s sense of self and her morality, utterly clouding her judgement. Arguably there is little contrast, because Femi is the only onstage character, meaning her consistent rage and lasered intent towards finding justice can cause a tendency for the delivery to feel repetitive and desensitising as it is so consistently heightened, Tanji frantically delivering line after line as she paces around the confined space, a cacophony of sound and lighting following her lead, creating this crushing image of Femi being trapped in her grief and even consumed by it. But this is all the intention of Fall‘s direction to convey an almost indoctrinated Hamlet-like rash and impulsive character and it does ultimately work, even if it feels a little jarring, and at times incoherent and in-empathisable. Though the character doesn’t display reflective moments of indecision, like Hamlet, this can be attributed to the loss of her twin, she is imbalanced and only half of a whole, therefore she is half of Hamlet, linking back to the aforementioned Sun and Moon temperaments of Femi and Seun.

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Credit: Richard Davenport 

To conclude, The Sun The Moon And The Stars is a wonderfully tragic expose on grief and the quest for justice. Its conception and delivery is full of artistic and symbolic wonder. Dipo Baruwa-Etti is an exceptional storyteller, we would definitely recommend a trip to see it. Click here to book now.

Credits: Written by Dipo Baruwa-Etti, Directed by Nadia Fall, Starring Kibong Tanji, Designer Peter McKintosh, Lighting Designer Oliver Fenwick, Sound Designer Tingying Dong, Movement Director Dannielle ‘Rhimes’ Lecointe, Assistant Director Justina Kehinde, Sound Design Mentor Christopher Shutt

Review: Keturunan Ruminah: A WhatsApp Play, Hatch + Omnibus Theatre (digital UK premiere)

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Star Rating: ★★★★

Keturunan Ruminah: A WhatsApp Play expertly shatters convention, bringing theatre into the palm of your hand. Uniquely giving audiences the agency to experience it however they wish, whether that be on the go, from bed, whilst multitasking, or any other way they desire. A tremendously enjoyable digital experience, playing on the idea that stories are all around us, they can be told in a multitude of ways through a multitude of mediums. The narrative is situated in a seemingly normal family group chat which dramatically transcends into a fever pitch of worry as the older family members scold their nephew Adi for not mentioning his mother’s illness, an illness that is speculated to be brought on by the possession of a ghost or spirit. A thrilling modern take on traditional beliefs and cultural integrity.

Creators, Hatch are an innovative cohort of cross-functional theatre makers based in Singapore and London. Aiming to produce explorative theatre that centres around localised narratives which easily resonate with global audiences. “We want to empower others to believe that every story waiting to be told has an audience waiting to be discovered.” And their WhatsApp play Keturunan Ruminah (Ruminah’s Descendants), is subsqeuently nothing short of groundbreaking, modern storytelling at its best. Turning the medium of theatrical performance on its head, the narrative being told entirely on WhatsApp‘s messaging platform, an inventive, fly-on-the-wall look into a family group chat, with events unfolding in real time. Interestingly this medium does much conceptually for the pacing of the piece, the at times, quick barrage of messages disorientates the reader, doing much to convey the common difficulty of keeping up in group chats that have multiple participants sending replies at once, whilst there were other moments where the flow slowed, allowing for the piece to engender an impression of tension, both in the sense that something dramatic is about to happen, and in the relationships between the characters, as conflicts of opinion and interpersonal tensions arise. Proving that it is possible to provoke a sense of theatricality even in the limits of a digital messaging platform. Hatch intuitively using as many capabilities as they could to really develop the nuances of their characters whilst driving the narrative, from misspelt text messages, to voice notes, videos, gifs, emojis, slang and attachments. Bookending their story with pre and post show announcements, perfectly constructing the idea that they are delivering is a piece of theatre, despite it’s unconventional nature.

Through the lens of a world that is so technologically advanced, but has experienced an abundance of lockdowns and travel restrictions, ultimately disconnecting us from each other, particularly large families, the theatrical form pays off. Not only because it enacts as a tangible look at what is a reality for most, having to digitally stay connected with our extended families, but also because it entirely changes how we consume theatre, adapting it for a technological age and ensuring that even in a global pandemic we can still experience new and exciting stories from the safety of our homes. Thus, oozing relevancy and perfectly conveying the very human need to stay connected and communicate when it’s not always possible to meet up in person. Keturunan Ruminah authentically and humorously navigating the challenges of staying up to date with members of a multigenerational family, hilariously capturing the way that these kind of group chats have become sporadic news reels, full of gossip, unsolicited advice and gifs, rarely ever of much substance other than to report something important such as a family death, or to update people on the mundane goings on, such as what one family member is having for dinner. Whilst doing much to create a family dynamic that is vividly seated in realism, a comedic mirror to many of our own family relationships.

Told in an intelligible mix of Malay and English, (you need only understand one of these languages in order to follow the story), as the drama unfolds, so do the nuances of these veritable, witty and ebullient characters including the engendered sense of family dynamic between them. Each character becoming universally relatable due to them being uniquely characterised by their generational and cultural subtleties, (Malay Muslims, ages ranging from twenties to sixties perhaps, the younger family members being more in-tune with western popular culture and conversational tones). The complex building of these variegated characters, thus humanising them by giving them depth and a certain sense of authenticity in the specificity and almost stereotyped nature of the characterisations. The partial westernised mannerisms of the younger characters from the way that they speak, to the way they engage in the group chat, sending gifs for instance, does much to aid a western comprehension and engagement with the piece. Obek Ita is the matriarchal auntie who thinks she knows best and will stop at nothing to have her opinion heard sending a series of voice notes to that end, Suriani another auntie is also opinionated almost challenging Obek Ita for her matriarchal status, but she is too busy preparing for her dinner. Both adding an element of humour in the blunt and overstating temperaments. Whilst Adi is an independent younger character, he doesn’t like being told what to do or being demanded of, but evidently cares for his mother deeply and doesn’t want to burden his family by asking for help, his cousin Fai has London on the brain but still offers to be there when his family needs him. M Nasir is that typical family member who never reads the group chat, popping in to add little value, suggesting that he hasn’t even caught up on the latest. Whilst the uncles Hj Jeff and Zachary add even more comedy value in their misspellings and misunderstandings, they can be stringent, yet seemingly will do anything for anybody. Therefore it is plain to see, Hatch have spent much time developing these endearing and coruscating characters for us to enjoy.

To conclude, in Keturunan Ruminah, Hatch have cracked the methodology for developing a unique theatrical experience that innovates and excites. They write authentic voices rooted in tangible stories with the ability to engage a multiplicity of people. The only true negative we could find is in the ending, it finished so abruptly with little exposition, the chat going silent with only Suriani remaining, did the suggested ghostly possession and prevalence of black magic reach the digital plain? Something more could have perhaps been done in order to round the ending off cleanly and clarify/resolve this. Though if the intention was for an ambiguous cliffhanger, then the desired effect was enacted. Nevertheless we were totally enthralled throughout. Learn more about Hatch here.

The Hatch Team: Hafidz Abdul Rahman, Khai, Mohamad Faizal Abdullah, Nadia Cheriyan, Johnny Jon Jon.

Review: I and the Village, The Bread & Roses Theatre

NEWS: The Bread and Roses Theatre to Reopen With Production of I and the  Village – Love London Love Culture

Star Rating: ★★★★★

Triumphantly bringing live performance back to Clapham’s The Bread & Roses Theatre, I and the Village is a beautifully tragic exposé on the treatment of asylum seekers by housing them in the Direct Provision accommodation used in the Republic of Ireland. The centres often being labelled a human rights issue and unnecessarily cruel, as delays in the inevitably flawed system mean applicants can remain in them for years awaiting a decision on their right to remain with very little freedoms afforded to them. Situated in a cramped ladies dorm-room of one of these centres, Darren Donohue‘s piece is therefore, incredibly poignant, doing much to convey the feeling of limbo and invisibility these asylum seekers must feel when not knowing, faced with potentially years of waiting for a decision, often separated from their families, unable to seek employment or start rebuilding their lives. As well as the inevitable struggle to hold on to a sense of identity when being house like an animal, living-in and sharing small cramped rooms, forced to comply with rules designed to limit and tame them, from what they can have in their rooms, when they can go out, when and where they can eat and more.

Credit: Ali Wright

The narrative itself, follows Keicha and Jeta as they await decisions on their status to remain in Ireland. Sharing a room, their memories and fantasies seep into the dank walls merging into one story. With Keicha being trapped in a world somewhere between the centre and her home in Nigeria, she suffers from PTSD spurred on from the trauma of losing her daughter to the Boko Haram, never truly knowing her fate left only speculating the worst. Jeta, a well-educated, Zimbabwean fugitive, who used to speak up on human rights issues despite the risk of it, thus sees her friend Keicha’s fragility and in a bid to protect her, plays along with the fantasy world, Jeta imploring new arrival eighteen-year-old Hannah to do the same. As the fantasies and memories are played out, it is difficult for the women to tell what exactly is reality, their reverie engulfing them, a dextrous depiction of the cabin fever the limbo of the centres must engender. Limited in what he can do, kind hearted Carl, battles with his morals and his position as Centre Manager. He understands the frustrations of the women and wants to help and protect them as much as he can, but is inevitably limited himself by the system put in place. Making I and the Village a powerful, emotive and topical story of longing, survival, hope and identity, depicting a system that continues to fail those seeking asylum. The piece also doing much to devolve the vulnerabilities of the women it tells the story of.

Credit: Ali Wright

Interestingly, I and the Village takes it’s name from Belarusian-French artist Marc Chagall’s cubist, oil painting, which can be described as a series of dreamlike images overlapping each other in a continuous space, the elements forming an integration of Eastern European folktales and culture, both Belarusian and Yiddish. This name therefore perfectly encapsulates Donohue‘s use of converging dreams and fantasies to not only depict the women’s past lives in their villages far away from Ireland, but the overlaps between reality and delusion demonstrating their betwixt and between stasis, a pressure cooker for their past traumas to fester and sense of identity to fade. Furthermore Donohue writes with incredible metaphorical intelligence, for instance time plays a big part in his story. Time is mentioned as passing and we know Jeta and Keicha having been waiting 7 and 8 years for decisions to be made on their applications, but we are never told how much time has passed throughout the story, we get the impression it has been months maybe even years, but that’s all. A stimulating depiction that in their kind of limbo, time means very little, it’s both hard to keep track of, and even if you do try to, you will go insane counting and waiting. Also symbolised by Hannah’s alarm clock, the alarm doesn’t work, referring to the fact that there is no specified end to her time there, no alarm she could even set. She repacks and unpacks her suitcase everyday to remind herself that there is no permanence to her situation. Thus, tenderly and authentically Donohue tangibly brings the stories of asylum seekers to life, from their experiences with violence, unethical policing and sexual assault, to the inhumanity they can face upon seeking refuge, as well as the unique and complex challenges they withstand regarding their mental health. With pre-migration experiences and post-migration conditions constituting as factors towards, and determining asylum seekers and refugees as statistically more likely to develop depression, PTSD and other anxiety disorders, than the remaining general population. This excellence in authentic storytelling must also be attributed to the work of Researcher and Dramaturg Matilda Velevitch, ensuring the work is true-to-life, well researched and complex.

Credit: Ali Wright

Design-wise, Constance Villemot excels. Villemot using a small rostrum to shrink the playing space further, authentically creating a cramped, uninspiring dorm-room decorated with three uniform beds and leaden lockers for any possessions, an adroit, veristic depiction of the dreary reality of the women’s lives. Almost prison-like in nature, magnificently fostering this sense of their entrapment in both the limbo of their reality and their own minds, having little to occupy them as they wait. Anchoring the piece well in this Direct Provision Centre and creating the perfect greying backdrop for the vivid imaginations of the women to take flight. Similarly Chuma Emembolu‘s sound and lighting design is incredibly receptive, doing much build the fantasy worlds, as well as the sharp transcendence back to reality from them. Emembolu contrasting harsh, stark white lighting with colour and vibrancy, whilst building complex soundscapes to aburptly contrast against the silence of the moments seated more in reality.

Credit: Ali Wright

Velenzia Spearpoint and Rebecca Pryle‘s direction is infallible, doing much to accentuate the wit and intricacies of Donohue‘s script. Their staging is hugely moving, giving the characters great depth, emotional vulnerability and allowing for an immense cognitive empathy to be developed between audience and actor. The piece is therefore highly engaging, whilst the pacing is also spot on, moving adeptly from moments of charming humour, joy and hope, to intensified drama and tragedy in an instant. Moments of fantasy being artistically eased in and out of, giving these instances an overlapping quality to them in order to suggest the women struggle to determine what is truly reality, or at least sometimes they don’t want to, escapism and nightmares intertwining before them. It is also worth mentioning that The Bread and Roses Theatre space is particularly challenging to direct a piece in, owing to its limited and unconventionally placed entranced and exits, yet Spearpoint and Pryle use this to their advantage in situating the piece in the dorm-room, a single door allowing the characters to leave and re-enter, further adding to the suggested cramped nature of their accommodation.

Credit: Ali Wright

Not only is I and the Village consummately written, directed and designed, the production also bolsters some exceptional performances. Chido Kunene‘s Jeta is wonderfully complex, Kunene charmingly capturing her cantankerous yet affable and empathetic nature, manifesting as a strong-minded, likeable and witty character. The intricacies of Kunene‘s performance dextrously conveying Jeta’s overwhelming desires and ultimate selflessness. Whilst Funke Adeleke proves herself to be a phenomenal actor, her Keicha, a character trapped in both her memories and trauma, is resolutely balanced providing moments of endearing humour, which are expertly transposed into those of disturbing and demented confusion or insistent role-playing. Her malleability of performance gives Keicha tremendous depth, we see her as a severely traumatised, impressionable and abused individual, trapped in her own head, innocent yet unstable. Whilst Adeleke ensures there is a suggested element of danger in Keicha’s instability, demonstrating the character’s overwhelming need of professional help, help she will never accept. An indication of the prevalence of negative societal attitudes towards mental health, particularly in Nigeria. Alongside Kunene and Adeleke, Mark Rush plays the good-natured Carl, with such tenderness, thought and like-ability, Rush demonstrating the ubiquity of his wit by creating this true-to-life, awkward, well-meaning character, competently accomplishing the frustrations and amiability of Carl, a man who really does care and wants to do his best for those in his facility, but is limited by the flawed system. Rush endearingly delivers this character who seems to reject the resentment thrown towards him. Carl becoming a indication that there are those good people out there working to try and make the transitions of asylum seekers as positive as possible, yet he has no actual power over length of time it takes and whether applications are denied or approved, the system being at fault, not necessarily those who are implicated in it. Finally Laide Sonola‘s Hannah, the new arrival, is spirited and full of teenage angst, Sonola consummately conveying the fact that Hannah has inevitably been hardened by her experiences at such a young age, not knowing where her parents even are now, demonstrated by her bitter resentment for friendship and insistence on solitude. Sonola proving herself to be conscientious actor, she expertly divulges the character’s fading spirit as time goes on, as well as her change in desire to play into Keicha’s fantasies, whether that be to pass the time or to break her chosen solitude.

To conclude, I and the Village is meaningful storytelling at its best and is a credit to its hardworking cast and creatives. A completely unmissable production. I and the Village runs until 5th June at The Bread & Roses Theatre, click here to book tickets.

Credit: Ali Wright

Creatives: Writer: Darren Donohue, Co-Directors: Velenzia Spearpoint and Rebecca Pryle, Researcher and Dramaturg: Matilda Velevitch, Assistant Director: Tom Ward, Producer: Natalie Chan, Set and Costume Designer: Constance Villemot, Sound and Lighting Designer: Chuma Emembolu, Stage Manager: Olivia Pryle, Technical Operator: Daniel Foggo, Creative Producer: Tessa Hart, Assistant Producer: Daniel Cartlidge, Sound and Lighting Trainee: Edmée Duval-Koenig

Cast: Jeta: Chido Kunene, Keicha: Funke Adeleke, Hannah: Laide Sonola, Carl: Mark Rush

Thoughts on MT Fest HouseFire, Turbine Theatre

(This is not a review per se, given the work in progress nature of the piece, nevertheless we will try to give you a sense of what we saw and it’s merits).

Star Rating: ★★★

HouseFire is one of eight work in progress musicals that are being given the opportunity to try out an initial staging with minimal rehearsal time. This format, provides audience’s the chance to therefore to get a look into how a musical is conceived and developed, whilst symbiotically allowing creatives to dry run their work in order to develop it further. Conceived by The Turbine Theatre’s Artistic Director, Paul Taylor-Mills, MT Fest is a champion of new British musicals and should be supported accordingly. Particularly in its new hybrid format with live, in-person audiences followed by digital streams. 

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Credit: Danny Kaan

HouseFire is a hybrid conjunctive of gig-theatre and musical theatre. An eco rock musical that intuitively teeters between absurdism and dramatic metaphor in order to deliver a spirited message on the urgency of the climate and ecological crisis. This specific iteration of the piece being an abridged version of the full 75 minute production, cut to 55 minutes here, shaving down much of the book in order to include the maximum amount of the show’s music in the allotted time. Taking its name from one of Greta Thunberg’s most famous quotes: “I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is”, the piece centres on a trio of endangered animals who have formed a rock band (The Last of Our Kind), to protest against the climate crisis. Leo, the snow leopard, lead singer and outspoken critic of the establishment, Ginger the Orangutan, who has her own tale to tell about the traumas of deforestation, and Alan the elephant, a gentle giant who is dealing with the loss of his family, keeping time on the drums. But their newly rebranded group ‘HouseFire’ is under threat from their corporate manager getting them to pander to the very capitalist system they want to destabilize. Entering Britain’s Got Talent is a great way to reach more people with their message, but it puts a strain on their already fractious relationships, and is it all just too little too late…

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Credit: Danny Kaan

Conceptually and musically the piece is very strong. Written by P Burton-Morgan (Book and Lyrics) and  Felix Hagan (Music), the work is quirky, emotive and witty. Doing much to convey the urgency of the crisis and it’s sad reality, as well as the way in which social media has become an important vehicle in social change, from the raising of awareness and voice, giving platforms to those previously underrepresented, to it’s ability to allow people to connect in a way they never have been able to before, debating and aligning events and ideas. Not the New Normal is a phenomenal anarchistic anthem that certainly sticks in your head, whilst Miles and Miles, is a beautifully tragic, herculean ballad of human destruction told from Ginger’s perspective. Meaning HouseFire‘s soundtrack is particularly punchy, raw, moving and emotive, contrasting rock numbers such as Do Less and You’re The Future, with more sombre and poignant songs such as Don’t Push the World Away and Remember. It does however, feel slightly jarring and disjointed to go from these effervescent rock compositions to the lighter, more traditional musical theatre moments. Nevertheless, the music is what drives the entertainment factor of HouseFire, a Studio Cast EP is also available here for you to listen yourself, (though the music has come on leaps and bounds even since the EP was released, seating itself more into it’s rock influences sanctifying itself as full of energy and raw emotion).

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Credit: Danny Kaan

Much of the book, (though as we said there were cuts made for this showing), is delivered by the voicemail messages the band’s manager leaves for them, from the confirmation of their spot on Britain’s Got Talent, to merchandising ideas, requests for them to tone down their political opinions and a suggestion that Ginger should front the band instead. Though this is an excellent methodology in grounding the piece in a form of plot and narrative/conflict and resolution, whilst providing moments of irony and humour, it does have the tendency to feel bit gimmicky and like a lazy form of storytelling. Regardless, we did enjoy the delivery of the piece. Alex Cardall, Eleanor Kane and Robin Simões da Silva all proving themselves to be phenomenal actor-musicians. Kane absolutely shines and vocally cannot be faulted, showing such range and dexterity, the delivery of Ginger is mature and full of complex emotional delicacy. Whilst Silva is equally as vocally astute, his compelled-to-action Leo, is witty and vibrant and intoxicatingly enjoyable throughout. Cardall delivers the docile and easy-going Alan with ease, authentically and sagaciously communicating the character’s grief and solitude. Alongside them, Lem Knight‘s pre-recorded The Manager is necessarily comedically rich and vivacious. It is also worth mentioning that the lighting design was exceptional, able to take us from a rock concert to backstage and into moments of great emotion in an instant, making the design incredibly slick and receptive.

To conclude HouseFire musically excels, the performances are of the highest calibre and the concept is intelligible and deeply meaningful. Book tickets to a livestream here, 31st May – 4th July.

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Credit: Danny Kaan

Creatives: Book & Lyrics by P Burton-Morgan, Music by Felix Hagan, Directed by P Burton-Morgan, Musical Director: Chris Poon & Musical Supervisor Mark Collins.

Cast: Alan/Drums: Alex Cardall, Ginger/Guitar: Eleanor Kane, Leo/ Bass Guitar: Robin Simões da Silva, The Manager: Lem Knights.

Review: Walden, Harold Pinter Theatre

Walden Tickets - Plays Tickets | London Theatre Direct

Star Rating: ★★★★

Kicking off Sonia Friedman ProductionsRe-Emerge Season is Amy Berryman‘s debut play Walden. A gritty, dystopian slice of life, situated in the near future. Imagining a world where the climate crisis has decimated the planet beyond repair, a group known as Earth Activists are establishing a movement of sustainable communities hoping to reverse the damage, whilst NASA on the other hand are utilising science, technology and a huge federal budget in order to plan and build a ‘habitat’ on Mars. Both looking for a future for humanity in their own ways. Walden, intricately enacting as a personification of hope despite the prevalence of crisis. The narrative revolving around twin sisters Stella and Cassie. Cassie, (Lydia Wilson) who having returned from a year-long Moon mission, a NASA botanist, finds herself in a remote cabin in the woods, where her estranged twin sister, Stella, (Gemma Arterton) a former NASA architect, has found a new life with climate (EA) activist Bryan, (Fehinti Balogun). Dextrously navigating the complexities of the relationship between the sisters and the rivalry that tore them apart, Cassie soon revealing she has been chosen to lead the expedition to Mars, living the life Stella always wanted.

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Credit: Johan Persson

Conceptually, Walden is fascinating, it imagines a future that, due to the the inactivity of various world leaders in policy-making to prevent further environmental devastation, is a very real eventuality. Amy Berryman‘s engendered imagining of this future, is therefore incredibly witty and tangible, full of both drama and humour, her overarching climate crisis commentary being well grounded in the veristic, complicated domestic sphere of Stella and Cassie. The result is an intelligible piece that interweaves the effects of climate change we are already experiencing today, such as air pollution, increasing temperatures, the need for sustainability, self-sufficiency or veganism as well as increasing instances of natural disaster, into the narrative without their prevalence being overbearingly accentuated. Alongside this, Berryman intuitively utilises her characters as vehicles to share some interesting discourse. For instance Bryan is used as the advocate for Earth, believing that, as the Earth Activist movement grows nature will heal, having already made a resurgence where he and Stella live, whilst Cassie is introduced as the corporate drone of NASA, ready to discard our planet for another one, believing it is too late to fix Earth, which it very well might be. Either standpoint being seen as valid, the characters enigmatically talking at the length about their moral perspectives on this. Additionally, the torn character of Stella, who is healing from the trauma of having to watch her sister who ‘didn’t even want it’ succeed where she couldn’t, can almost be seen as humanity, being faced with two options. Stella is embracing her new life with Bryan amongst nature, she like nature is hurt but healing, but if she was asked back by NASA to go up to space she would do it in a heartbeat, and so she sees the merits of both options. The added element of Stella wanting a baby, even adds a beautiful parallel with Mother Nature to her character, whilst her concern for those in the midst of the natural disasters further cements her as the earmark for humanity. Therefore this perspicuous trichotomy enables for an engaging and complex domestic rendering filled will moral depth and conflictual intent, situating the overarching environmental crisis in a more personal and palpable context. The piece also uses it’s characters to tenderly explore the human need to have something to live for whether that be your work, family or aspirations. Making it less of a sci-fi drama and more of a humanised discourse on our existence and the environmental crisis, coincidentally mentioning space travel.

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Credit: Johan Persson

As the piece centres on twins and their sibling dynamic, the work dutifully captures what it is like to constantly be compared and the emotional damage/impact on mental health this can have. With a raw, verklempt and piercingly intense performance from Gemma Arterton, we see the anguish and suffering it has caused Stella to watch her twin sister, who is supposed to be the same as her, live Stella’s dreams. The character having met Bryan in therapy, continually grapples with opening up to him. Whilst Cassie is similarly struggling, manifesting as a lost soul who has always done the same as her sister, she has now been thrust into a world she didn’t choose for herself and is looking for an exit. Lydia Wilson phenomenally conveying this internal conflict, as well as Cassie’s detached, apathetic nature. Making Walden a fantastic exploration of identity, both from the perspective of it being suffocating for twins to be constantly compared and kept together, as well as the feeling of loss when they are separated having become reliant upon each other. Cassie wanting the comfort of her sister returning to work with her quelling any doubts she might have, whilst Stella struggles in the face of Cassie’s success. Stella similarly, wills her body to be able to produce a baby jealous that Cassie is physically more capable than her, shown by their NASA trials together, whilst Cassie cannot comprehend this desire due to the stoicism instilled in her by the NASA training programs. This thematic of comparison goes deeper, used in regards to the aforementioned two possible ways forward for humanity, it being suggested that Bryan’s way is for the masses, the EA movement growing exponentially, whilst Cassie’s methodology is for the elites, the 1% who get to go to Mars first being the wealthy donors, essentially buying the privilege of survival. Corporate solutions being diametrically opposed to small scale activism, one is intent on preserving what we have, the other is building a fancy new one with donated funds, sound familiar to today’s climate activist movements? Of course it does. Berryman therefore beautifully gravitates her futuristic world around today’s reality, a bitter moral commentary on our failings. Highlighting the way corporations tend to care little for reducing their huge carbon footprints, intent on profiteering rather than making real change and it being small-scale activists who are dramatically changing their lives, much like the EAs of Walden who move away from modern technology and screens and use ’20th Century’ mechanisms and practices. Humorously, these mechanisms such as a toilet with a handle, and a world without screens or electricity, are talked about as if they were the reality of a million years ago.

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Credit: Johan Persson

For the most part Ian Rickson‘s direction is receptive and strong, doing much to augment the complexities of these three characters who all harbour their own variegated desires and opinions, however there are moments where it feels like the drama is forced or inauthentic, particularly when the piece is so well written and designed to be more of an impassioned, lo-fi excursus between the trio. Yes there are moments of suspense and conflict, but these are, on occasion, delivered too ardently and aggressively, shattering the true-to-life feel of the piece. Similarly, some ornamental, Neo Classical underscoring between scene changes is utilised, at times working well to decompartmentalise the character’s inner turmoil, however again it has a tendency to feel as if it is illegitimately trying to intensify the drama. As aforementioned, Walden has a lo-fi quality to it, enacting very much as a drawing room play, conducively Rae Smith‘s design intelligibly draws on this, (as well the topical elements of the piece), and is of the highest calibre. With much of the play’s subject matter, despite it being highly relevant, transpiring as futuristic in essence, we are faced with a realism in the design, not only grounding our understanding through this window of realism, but intuitively symbolising the regression to more sustainable living methodologies being made by activists like Bryan. Smith therefore dextrously creates this vérité, cramped yet cosy and characterful cabin the woods, packed with detail, the cabin opening out on to a deck, the deck being decorated with plants, suggestive of Bryan’s grow you own lifestyle. Beyond this is the engendered impression of an abundance of trees, setting the piece in nature, whilst visually suggesting that nature is healing, the backdrop thus becoming a further symbol for the piece’s thematic of hope, as it later transcends in a space-scape full of stars, suggesting the answer to the future of humanity could also be out there in the space as well. Thus Azusa Ono‘s lighting design combines inexplicably well with Rae Smith‘s design in order to create both aesthetic excellence and searingly meaningful visualisations.

Performance-wise, Arterton, Balogun and Wilson, provide a masterclass in acting, the importance of which in keeping the piece as engaging and inviolable as it is, should not be overlooked. Working well together they build a powerful, emotionally-charged dynamic. Arterton achieving the guarded intelligence of Stella perfectly. Delivering this emotionally-scarred, pained and conflicted character with ease. Whilst Wilson is incredibly quick-witted, her stoic and often perplexed Cassie provides an element of satire, whilst her renderings of Cassie’s internal doubts and discordant desires, give the character great depth, humanising her from her glassy, robotic exterior. Balogun’s Bryan is necessarily kind and strong, the laid back anchor between the two volatile sisters, Balogun determining himself to be an incredibly malleable and consummate performer, able to switch on an instant to convey Bryan’s quick temper, frustrations and emotional vulnerability.

To conclude, Walden is a high-concept, speculation into our future and discourse upon the climate crisis, it is hugely thought-provoking and intelligibly written. There are moments that feel a little forced, but the performances are exquisite, as are the design elements. Walden runs until 12th June, book here now.

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Credit: Johan Persson

Creatives: Written by Amy Berryman, directed by Ian Rickson, designed by Rae Smith, Lighting designed by Azusa Ono, Sound designed by Emma Laxton, Movement direction by Imogen Knight, Casting direction by Amy Ball.

Cast: Gemma Arterton, Fehinti BalogunLydia Wilson

Thoughts on MT Fest Cake, Turbine Theatre

(This is not a review per se, given the work in progress nature of the piece, nevertheless we will try to give you a sense of what we saw and it’s merits).

Cake | Sheffield Theatres

Star Rating: ★★★★

Cake is one of eight work in progress musicals that are being given the opportunity to try out an initial staging with minimal rehearsal time. This format, provides audience’s the chance to therefore to get a look into how a musical is conceived and developed, whilst symbiotically allowing creatives to dry run their work in order to develop it further. Conceived by The Turbine Theatre’s Artistic Director, Paul Taylor-Mills, MT Fest is a champion of new British musicals and should be supported accordingly. Particularly in its new hybrid format with live, in-person audiences followed by digital streams. 

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Credit: Danny Kaan

Cake is one of those rare concepts that almost certainly has immense potential to catapult into a smash-hit once complete. Having previously been commissioned by Paul Taylor-Mills under the title of Killer Queen, the piece has been in development for a few years. Set in 18th century France, the plot teeters on the edge of the French Revolution, utilising pop melodies, RnB, rap and spoken word to engender a fresh and modern retelling of the Affair of the Diamond Necklace. A real historical event that saw Marie Antionette implicated within a crime to defraud the crown jewellers of a diamond necklace. The further tarnishing of her already scandalous reputation, ultimately playing a part in the disillusionment with the monarchy and popular support for the eventual revolution. Set at the trial of Jeanne, (based on Jeanna de Valois-Saint-Rémy who was convicted of the crime), the musical plays on the idea that Jeanne was not a common thief and in fact set up by the men she came to associate with. The format of the piece using a series of flashbacks to propel the narrative forwards and cover various stages of the Affair. Jeanne, who is characterised as being highly outspoken and proud, is often silenced and dismissed, unable to defend herself in the courtroom because of both her lowly and female status, being labelled with slurs such as a whore or hussy, given to her here because of her gender and not her disposition. However history paints Jeanne as a women who took many lovers, orchestrating nefarious acts for financial gain, whilst Cake aims to turn this on it’s head, suggesting that scandal might just be false gossip manufactured by the male characters for their own benefit, an interesting discourse upon the way women’s lives have historically been recorded by history, i.e if their lives were recorded at all, they were often referred to as manipulators for their own ends, a whore, thief or adulteress and never for their merits. With Marie Antionette being another female whose reputation suffers the effects of gossip and scandal, the public believing her to be somehow involved, more interested in vanity than in the welfare of her people, spending huge amounts of money at a time of economic uncertainty and possibly masterminding the plot to take a cheap shot at the Cardinal, whom she openly disliked for his gossiping and attempts to thwart her marriage. Status therefore arising as an important feature of the engendered plot, as Jeanne’s involvement in the theft is shown to stem from her being intent on restoring her name, leading to her eventual befriending of the Queen in the first place. Hoping to ask for her help, (the real Jeanne having supposedly descended illegitimately from royal blood and sought further financial aid from the crown through Marie Antoinette who would not see her). Whilst the Queen is also shown to be trapped in a materialistic world of gossip and rumour, later pleading with Jeanne to confess and throw suspicion off herself. Giving Cake the potential to become a fantastic historical commentary with two vibrant and powerful female characters at its forefront. These character’s stories becoming intertwined with each other, their goals and treatment by men demonstrated to be inherently the same in-spite of their variegated similarities and differences. Though Jeanne represents for the discontented poor struggling to survive, the catalyst for the revolution, and Marie Antoinette the nobility, whose apparent lack of sympathy stirs up unrest, they are both on in the same, both of royal blood, deeply unhappy and monstrously regarded by history. A stark moment of comparison being drawn, when the pair confide in each other in a bathroom (because where else would women have a heart to heart?) and make a pact to switch lives for a while. A genius moral exposition on the lives of these two formidable women and the lead up to the French Revolution. Though there are several gaps in the plot yet to be written, what is presented is full of wit, intelligence, meaning and great vigour.

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Credit: Danny Kaan

Written by Jack McManus and Tasha Taylor-Johnson (Music and Lyrics) with Book and Lyrics by Morgan Lloyd Malcolm the musical does much to faithfully and rousingly convey key points in the affair such as the Cardinal (Cardinal Prince Louis de Rohan) falling out of favour with Queen (conveyed in the song Blacklisted), as well as him becoming enamoured by her, assuming Marie Antoinette to be in love with him due to the flattering correspondence he thought he was receiving from her. Alongside Nicole, (Nicole le Guay d’Oliva)’s part in events, a prostitute paid to dress up and pass as the Queen in order to confirm the desire for the purchase of the necklace. Yet the work as also goes further, providing great depth and colour to these characters, Nicole for instance sings ‘Turn the Lights Down Low‘ about the necessity of her work to stay afloat and how she takes the money to dress up as the Queen because its easy money no questions asked. Whilst the Cardinal becomes a flamboyant, proud and ambitious man who seems to gravitate towards folly and stupidity, making his mistakes, gullible nature and infatuation comedically vibrant and even sinister a times. Musically Cake is very strong, there are some fantastic numbers that are heavily influenced by Pop music and RnB, the eclectic mix of tracks, no one song sounding the same, such as ‘Bruises on my Body‘, ‘Turn the Lights Down Low’, ‘Blacklisted’ and more, showing much promise to become future favourites. This is not only because they are incredibly catchy and emotive compositions, McManus and Taylor-Johnson engender a distinctly nostalgic and compelling soundtrack. With the sound being achieved by superb vocal blending from the company, providing much of the underscoring to the main vocals throughout, giving the sound an overall raw and insurgent quality to it. Perfect for a piece set in preliminary days before the deposition of a monarchy.

Credit: Danny Kaan

In this staging, Director Drew McOnie does fantastic job in bringing to life these complicated and at times, distorted characters. Emma Kingston dextrously delivers an intensely glassy Marie Antoinette, who exudes a perfectly pompous facade, seemingly getting a thrill from closing her inner circle off to undesirables and remaining centre of attention, yet she phenomenally transcends the breaking of this harsh exterior to produce a more complex version of the Queen, afraid of losing her popularity and used to being confined to a palace of materialistic splendour, false friendships and people ready to use her for their own advantage. Kingston adroitly utilising her vocal talents to expertly achieve the pomp and overcompensating nature of the character. Tori Allen-Martin‘s Nicole is remarkably sultry, her powerful voice providing a discernment of sensual mystery and intrigue. Whilst her Judge, is a stark contrast, suitably stern and corruptible. Sebastien Torkia‘s Cardinal provides much satirical relief, interjecting the necessary misogyny directed towards Jeanne, Torkia’s comedic timing and delineation of the character proving to be searingly spot on. Alongside them, are Waylon Jacobs, an expert storyteller with emotional power and vocal adeptness, and Phoebe Panaretos, who delivers Jeanne, the misunderstood, scrappy protagonist with such and vigour and charm. Pantaretos is an enigmatic performer, who more than succeeds in this involuted role.

To conclude, Cake is certainly on the right track to become the next big thing, it has all the right elements: a solid concept, engrossing plot, complex characters, wit, humour, emotion, substance and meaning, a killer score and a modern twist that puts history under the scrutiny of presentism, making it relevant and exciting. It would be foolish to ignore the fact that there is a lot of work still to be done in order to realise the complexities of the plot, but the potential for a smash-hit is enormous. Book tickets to a livestream here, 31st May – 4th July.

Credit: Danny Kaan

Creatives: Written by Jack McManus and Tasha Taylor-Johnson (Music and Lyrics), Book and Lyrics by Morgan Lloyd Malcolm, Directed by Drew McOnie.

Cast: Judge/Nicole: Tori Allen-Martin, Jeweller/Narrator: Waylon Jacobs, Jeanne: Phoebe Panaretos, Marie Antoinette: Emma Kingston, The Cardinal/Jeweller Sebastien Torkia.

Thoughts on MT Fest The Man in the Ceiling, Turbine Theatre 

(This is not a review per se, given the work in progress nature of the piece, nevertheless we will try to give you a sense of what we saw and it’s merits).

The Man in the Ceiling - Belgrade Theatre

Star Rating: ★★★★★

The Man in the Ceiling is one of eight work in progress musicals that are being given the opportunity to try out an initial staging with minimal rehearsal time. This format, provides audience’s the chance to therefore to get a look into how a musical is conceived and developed, whilst symbiotically allowing creatives to dry run their work in order to develop it further. Conceived by The Turbine Theatre’s Artistic Director, Paul Taylor-Mills, MT Fest is a champion of new musicals and should be supported accordingly. Particularly in its new hybrid format with live, in-person audiences followed by digital streams. 

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Credit: Danny Kaan

The Man in the Ceiling is a heartfelt stage adaptation of Jules Feiffer‘s children’s graphic novel of the same name, written by Andrew Lippa (Music and Lyrics) and Feiffer (Book). Having been workshopped a few times in 2008, the piece eventually had a staging at Bay Street Theater, (Sag Harbor, New York) in 2017, before releasing a premiere studio album in 2019 and is now being reworked for a British audience. Centring on 12-year old Jimmy Jibbett, (Alex Austin), an aspiring cartoonist who would rather be drawing than studying or playing sports with his father, The Man in the Ceiling is an uplifting tale about following your creative passion against all odds. Disheartened by his father’s disapproval and unable to part his mother from her busy schedule, Jimmy turns to his uncle, who tries to understand but is too wrapped up in trying to write a love song for his next flop musical. Meaning Jimmy must look to his own world of creation for help, perhaps The Man in the Ceiling can lead him to his true destiny…If only Jimmy would look up!

Told from the perspective of Older Jimmy, (Obioma Ugoala), the work enacts as a meta staging of an important make or break moment in Jimmy’s childhood, with Older Jimmy remembering his past in order to draw it, as if writing the graphic novel the musical was initially based on, the memories simultaneously coming to life before him. A theatrical device which is magnificently delivered by Ugoala, with some exceptional and receptive direction from Annabel Mutale Reed. We see Older Jimmy react to the reprimands of his father, scribbling down his story throughout, even muttering phrases of dialogue as if locked in a trance of remembrance, as well as placing himself within the story, at times speaking for his imagined younger self. Determining him firmly as the author and narrator of his own story, a similar technique to that used by Lisa Kron and Jeanine Tesori in their musical adaptation of Alison Bechdel‘s graphic memoir Fun Home. Giving the piece an interesting multi-layered quality to it. For any children in the audience, there is a kid version of Jimmy that they can relate to, who, is on the cusp of growing up and struggling with not feeling good enough, even thinking about quitting his favourite hobby. Yet on the other hand, there is Older Jimmy, who’s very existence, not only helps to frame the piece well, ensuring the narrative is slick and continuously moving, he stands as an indication that years later Jimmy is still creating and doing what he loves, a beautiful end to a story which nearly sees the protagonist give up on his dreams for good. Making Jimmy a loving example of how perseverance in the face of adversity can result in greater long-term rewards. Furthermore, this thematic of doing your utmost to pursue your aspirations is perfectly captured by Feiffer and Lippa from all angles, creating a whole host of relatable characters. We see the ingrained sadness and frustrations of Jimmy’s father who narrowly failed to reach his goal of playing for The Mets, bitterly resenting the fact he can’t live vicariously through his son, as Jimmy has no interest in, or talent for sports like Charlie Beemer next-door. Something he realises he has to get over in order to help his son reach his full potential, an interesting exploration into a father-son relationship and the parental pressures placed upon children. Alongside this is Jimmy’s Uncle Lester, who never quite made it to Broadway but persists nevertheless. After writing a series of flops, Lester eventually sees his work staged on The Great White Way, but despite succeeding in finally finishing a love song it’s a critical catastrophe, making his dreams not what he thought they’d be. Regardless of a sadness looming over him, Lester is still able to help Jimmy celebrate his achievements. Finally there’s Jimmy himself, a boy who can’t seem to perfect the art of drawing hands, but with some help from The Man in the Ceiling, he finds that practice makes perfect and evidently goes on to continue to pursue his passion. Thus, the appeal of the show as a family-friendly, coming of age musical, bolstering a positive message about being yourself and trying your best to achieve your goals, with boundless relatability, exploring many family dynamics, is clearly perceivable. The current format being filled with character and heart. But, is it wildly inventive? No. There are several similar musicals out there, some aimed at family audiences, others not so much. However, there is something so charming about Feiffer’s story, particularly when combined with the musical excellence delivered by Lippa.

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Credit: Danny Kaan

Moving on to Lippa’s music then, the score is not only hugely enjoyable with many distinguishable songs that give much needed windows into the trials and tribulations of Feiffer’s characters, it is wonderfully complex, often displaying Lippa’s prowess in composing several interweaving melodies and countermelodies. A definite challenge to the cast, who undoubtedly succeeded in delivering the score at its full potential, accomplishing the layers of overlapping parts and multi-part harmonies with ease. A success that can also be attributed to the production’s musicians Sam Young (Musical Director/Keyboard), Elaine Ambridge (Viola), Becky Brass (Drums), David Hornberger (Cello), who worked hard to provide an effervescent and ultimately full sound.

One of the most appealing elements of the work is the way two opposing dynamics seem to work so well together, on the one hand you have the naivety of Jimmy, who has created a multitude of larger than life characters. As Jimmy draws these characters, they are shown to leap off the page, the rest of the company portraying them In full splendour for us to enjoy. Enchantingly staging the whimsy and boundless nature of a child’s imagination, (a full staging of which, combined with some vibrant design elements would be immensely kaleidoscopic, particularly if Jimmy’s drawings were animated and projected throughout before being inhabited by cast members). Whilst on the other hand you have these adult characters who are world weary, the overworked mother, who argues with the disillusioned father seen to be imposing his own aspirations upon his son, as well as the engrossed uncle, who is blinded by his work etc. Characters that any adult can relate to without any stretch of the imagination, their contentions being emotively brought to life by the aforementioned compositions of Lippa. Thus, we see them unable to support Jimmy, clouded by their own circumstances. Upon deciding to grow up and give up drawing cartoons, we see Jimmy almost transgressing into the bleak world of these disenchanted adults, his drawings having been thrown in a garbage bag stored under his bed and his characters no where to be seen, before The Man in the Ceiling, an extension of his imagination, appears to give him the help and support he needs in order to experience the success he has been craving. The two dynamics, adolescent imagination and world-weary experience combine to provide the necessary conflict and resolution. Suggesting there’s much to be learnt from the abounding resilience of children, the adults ultimately realising their mistakes and celebrating Jimmy which such enthusiasm. Reminding us to look carefully at the relationships we harbour with the children in our lives and that dreams, big or small are worth pursuing.

Finally performance-wise, the company of seven are simply exquisite. As aforementioned Obioma Ugoala‘s Older Jimmy is a sensational narrator, warmly guiding us through the piece. His young counterpart, Alex Austin (Jimmy) is a star in the making. The tonality to his voice at such a young age is phenomenal, whilst his acting is entirely credible and full of intricacies. His parents, portrayed by Matthew Croke (Father) and Sharon Rose (Mother) prove themselves to be knockout performers, able to capture the irresolute natures of their characters with dexterity and ease. Rose and Croke both delivering astonishing vocal performances. Similarly, Trevor Dion Nicholas is a master storyteller, able to provide innumerable depth and wit to his characterisations alongside vocal excellence. His Uncle Lester is wonderfully humorous bolstering a warm, yet wavering disposition. Alongside them are Vilberg Andri Palsson, (Charlie Beemer) and Jazz Jenkins, (Lisa). Palsson delivers a fantastic antithesis to Austin’s Jimmy, Beemer being the sporty, popular neighbour who Jimmy’s father wishes he was more like, who, in reality is an intolerable boy who tries to manipulate Jimmy into doing what he wants. Palsson wonderfully bringing this unlikeable, antithetical brute to life. Whilst Jenkins delivers a wonderfully sprightly Lisa, Jimmy’s caring sister, who doesn’t always perhaps show it in the right way often appearing to be more annoying than helpful. She is a dynamic performer who also harbours a beguiling voice.

To conclude, the work that has been done on The Man in the Ceiling to make it appeal to a British audience has certainly been worthwhile, the workshop felt polished and like it was very nearly the completed puzzle. The piece is perhaps not the most unique concept, with many parallels easily drawn to musicals like Eugenius, Fun Home, The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13¾, Superhero, SuperYou the Musical and more, but what it lacks in originality, it more than makes up for in authenticity and sentiment. It would not surprise us if we saw a fully staged UK production in the near future. Though, there are more developments to be made, for instance, more time could definitely be spent on introducing the characters Jimmy draws and why, even The Man in the Ceiling who, has very fleeting interactions with Jimmy could be elaborated upon further. We would also like to know more about Jimmy’s parents and their dynamic as well, in order to give them and the family as a whole more dimension. See it for yourself, book tickets to a livestream here, 31st May – 4th July.

Credit: Danny Kaan

Creatives: Music and Lyrics: Andrew Lippa, Book: Jules Feiffer, Direction: Annabel Mutale Reed, Musical Director and Keyboard: Sam Young, Musical Supervisor: Richard Beadle, Assistant Director: Jack McCann.

Cast: Charlie Beemer: Vilberg Andri Palsson, Jimmy Jibbert: Alex Austin. Father: Matthew Croke, Lisa: Jazz Jenkins, Mother: Sharon Rose, Older Jimmy: Obioma Ugoala , Uncle Lester: Trevor Dion Nicholas, Musician – Viola: Elaine Ambridge, Musician – Drums: Becky Brass, Musician – Cello: David Hornberger

Thoughts on MT Fest #50days, Turbine Theatre 

(This is not a review per se, given the work in progress nature of the piece, nevertheless we will try to give you a sense of what we saw and it’s merits).

50Days | Sheffield Theatres

Star Rating: ★★★

#50days is one of eight work in progress musicals that are being given the opportunity to try out an initial staging with minimal rehearsal time. This format, provides audience’s the chance to therefore to get a look into how a musical is conceived and developed, whilst symbiotically allowing creatives to dry run their work in order to develop it further. Conceived by The Turbine Theatre’s Artistic Director, Paul Taylor-Mills, MT Fest is a champion of new British musicals and should be supported accordingly. Particularly in its new hybrid format with live, in-person audiences followed by digital streams. 

Credit: Danny Kaan

Moving onto #50days, the piece is a fiery and impassioned retelling of, and discourse on, how events such as the Grand Remonstrance precipitated into the English Civil War. Interestingly it is set to a grime soundtrack and delivered through the lens of today’s ‘underrepresented Brits’, intending to draw several parallels between the disillusionment with the idea of kingship back then, to a similar disillusionment circulating today, with some of today’s Brits increasingly finding the idea of kingship a ‘tax drain’, ‘archaic’, ‘against autonomy’ and too strong a ‘reminder of colonialism’. Colonialism that inevitably is the root of much of Britain’s systemic racism today (aptly mentioning the treatment of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex). Therefore, who better to deliver this story of a collective who thought all men should be treated equal, than those who have more than likely experienced the aforementioned racism. Meaning, an extremely talented company of predominately POC actors are entrusted with delivering this explosive retelling. 

Credit: Danny Kaan

Conceptually, it has many merits, whilst it isn’t too much of a stretch to compare the piece to the likes of Hamilton given the modern political retelling and lyrically structured-nature of the work, there is something entirely original, fresh, relatable and tangible about Thabo Stuck’s piece, which is filled with character, humour and vibrancy. In order to ground his discourse as a comparison between 1641 and today, the piece starts in a modern day classroom, the teacher and students passionately debating history and its relevancy to themselves. As the discussion lands on Civil War, they begin to retell the story before adopting the characters entirely, though this is a useful and clever motif, the classroom setting will need to be revisited and threaded throughout the piece in order to make it feel less forced and gimmicky. Particularly as it is incredibly powerful to see the character of the teacher, struggling to keep control of his classroom, transition into the character of King Charles I, struggling to keep control of the radicalised Parliamentarians as they came to be known. Reuben Joseph’s King Charles I is therefore perfectly dimensional; self-reflective and aggressively righteous, demonstrable of Charles’ belief that King should use his divine right to rule with his conscience. Whilst Joseph physically and emotively convey’s the solitary side of the character, still mourning the loss of those closest to him in his early years, i.e his older brother, mother (and also his sister who moved to Heidelberg having married the Archduke Ferdinand of Austria). Similarly his wife, Henrietta is delivered as an equally fervent and complex character. Portrayed here by Nadine-Rose Johnson, we see her wielding influence over her husband, convincing him to attempt to personally arrest John Pym and four other problematic members of parliament by force, something the queen is actually suspected of doing, fearing for her family’s safety as the grumblings of unrest continued to spread. Johnson’s performance is aptly sultry, with a stunning tone to her vocals as she encircles around Charles convincing him of her wishes. On the flip-side of this number, she is singing of the executioners block, not only is this the perfect moment of foreshadowing, there’s a certain multi-layered approach to Henrietta’s convincing to be enjoyed. Her mannerisms are almost seducing him into agreeing to what she’s asking, but on the other side of it, she is presenting him with the possible danger if he doesn’t do something. Making Queen Henrietta a key of a player in the evolution of the narrative. Meaning the piece is doing much to tackle another of its aims, which is, to answer who are the women in this story? A foundation that could certainly do with being made more obvious and generally used more as the piece develops. 

Credit: Danny Kaan

Lyrically, the piece is fairly witty and intelligible, much of it being delivered in verses of enthusiastic rap. Whether a reactive conversation is being had between characters, or a monologue is enigmatically delivered towards the audience, the lyrics are always wonderfully offset and built up in layers with a series of truculent electronic beats, as is customary in grime music, the genre being heavily inspired by garage and jungle music. This format allows the piece to aptly portray conflicts between key characters. Furthermore, there is an interesting section of call and response initiated between the performers and audience as the piece’s climax is reached, (at least for this interaction of the show), wonderfully mimicking MC’s interacting with a crowd. However, in order to offer the piece balance, the work could potentially do with more sections that are sung through, which would not only enhance the conveying of individual character’s emotions, but also offer moments of relief from the wordier sections for both the performers and audience alike, additionally allowing the piece to become more appealing to traditional musical theatre fans. however, the strong stylised quality of the piece will also no doubt lend itself well to a future complex staging with a plethora of high energy movement sections and cultivated set design to match the engendered style.

Credit: Danny Kaan

Another positive of this performance was the casting and use of casting. Aminita Francis being allowed to take on the male roles of both Digby and the Prince of Wales, alongside Robert Saunders bringing to life Lucy Haye, allowed for the further highlighting of equality at the forefront of the work. Moving away from the idea of men being the only ones involved and of importance, as mentioned regarding Henrietta earlier, women can often be overlooked as possible key players in history and thus, allowing for a gender blind cast can highlight an ingrained tendency to assume this. Both Francis and Saunders excel at creating hugely entertaining and larger than life characters, without appearing to be overcompensating in order to perform as the opposing gender. Alongside them were Kyran Mitchell-Nanton and Cleve September as Pym and Manchester respectively, both of whom are dynamic, quick-witted, receptive and focussed performers, the perfect candidates to portray two of the upstart politicians trying to make some noise in Parliament.

To conclude, #50days definitely has a future ahead of it. Though inevitably there’s a lot of work to do, it speaks to a generation who are wondering why Britain is the way that it is, a generation who are gloriously outspoken and will eventually make great strides to change things in the future. Book tickets to a livestream here, 31st May – 4th July.

Credit: Danny Kaan

We have one thing left to say… What you call it? Fake News, what you call it? Gospel, what’s you call it? Scandal, what we call it? Mercury. 

Creatives: Thabo Stuck: Writer, Amiir Saleem: Musical Director, Ajjaz Awad: Director,

Cast: Aminita Francis: Digby/Prince of Wales, Reuben Joseph: King Charles, Robert Saunders: Lillburn/Lucy Haye, Nadine-Rose Johnson: Queen Henrietta, Kyran Mitchell-Nanton: Pym, Cleve September: Manchester

Review: You Are Here, Southwark Playhouse

Star Rating: ★★★★

Presented by The Grey Area Theatre Company for four weeks only at Southwark Playhouse, You Are Here is a tender 90 minute musical about finding yourself and simultaneously, what it means to be human. Something that inevitably resonates in these times when many of us have been faced with so much time for self-reflection. Set in 1969, directly after the moon landings, the musical centres around Chicago housewife Diana (Wendi Peters), who lives a particularly sheltered life and having watched the landings live on TV, is irreverently moved, by seeing people doing something exciting with their lives, to walk out of both her house and her suburban life in search of something more. Suddenly, as she ventures into the city, she realises she is alone in a fast-changing world and finds, through a series of chance encounters, that someone can turn one small step into a giant, life-changing leap if they so desire.

Diana (Wendi Peters) stands facing upstage looking at moon implanted into what looks like a white brick wall, she is standing between too purple chairs on a circular raised stage that is dressed to look like a patio. Credit: Southwark Playhouse.

To be brutally honest, if you are looking for something with an exciting plot where lots of things happen, plus a multitude of characters and cast members partaking in some extravagant dance numbers, you will not find it with this show. Though there are some enjoyable songs, many of them sound too much alike to be all that distinguishable when all is said and done. However, now we’ve got that out of the way, the positives; if you want quality and lots of it, that’s what you’ll get here. The performances are exquisite. Wendi Peters provides everything you need in a leading lady, she exudes tumultuous power and velocity as she blasts through the show’s songbook, whilst being able to deliver a sincere and complex performance of a hugely likeable and sympathizable character, perfectly conveying both Diana’s struggles to comprehend this new world she has thrust herself into due to her meek and inexperienced nature, as well as her passionate underlying desire to find something to latch onto. A desire you can see Diana meticulously trying to understand herself, or even suppress, inevitably a result of Peters’ consummate performance. Alongside Peters are Phil Adèle, Jordan Frazier and Rebecca McKinnis, a remarkable trio who wonderfully blend with Peters, delivering stunning harmonies throughout. They not only bring to life the varigated strangers Diana meets with immense skill, they are also tasked with embodying Diana’s subconscious, providing the voices inside her head, meaning you are treated to a real microscopic look into both who Diana is, and the human psyche. Which fits ideally with the overarching theme of the show, as it intends to deliver a true look into the resilience of the human spirit, a testament to some sensational and receptive direction by Matthew Rankcom. Thus, You Are Here purveys an interesting look into the human mind in response to both trauma and enlightenment. A fascinating angle on mental health as it examines what it’s like to feel inadequate, like you want to do more with your life without really knowing how or what. Maintaining that, that state is not permanent. Further exploring the idea of, if what you find, is what you expected to find, like the astronauts being faced with the rocky craters of the moon instead of ‘the sea of tranquility’ they were promised. As well as exploring the theme of grief, or at least the feeling that you should be grieving something. Therefore, the plot follows a small trajectory of Diana growing to be her own person, finding there’s more to life if you go looking for it, whether what she finds is what she actually wanted to find, a simple, yet beautiful story that is wholeheartedly relatable. There is one particular aesthetically charming moment as Diana is in awe of the world she has found, where she is lifted off of the circular bench towards the back of the stage, flying through the air supported by Adèle and McKinnis, the giant moon ingrained into the set in the foreground. A wonderful parallel to the astronauts she idealises for their bravery, for better or for worse reaching the moon. A moment where the overall meaning, direction and design robustly intertwine for aesthetic wonder.

Alongside the cast, are a small band of musicians under the musical direction of Laura Bangay, who are definitely worth a mention as though they be but little, they are mighty. Quite literally, they managed to counter the powerful voices of the cast, providing an equally as full and resonant sound as any large-scale orchestra. Thoroughly deserving of the humongous applause they received as the cast left the playing space for the final time and their playing of an outro came to an end. Design wise, Libby Todd does a good job of creating a malleable space that is multilevelled and can become pretty much anything depending on the actor’s proximity or usage of its elements. Not only does it seamlessly nod to the decor of a mid-century suburban modern home during the period, the home Diana escapes but is still always mentally trapped in, it also easily transitions from Diana’s sitting room, to her porch, a hotel lobby, a park bench and more. Whilst the real star of the show is the moon, Diana’s moon, an ever present reminder of the excitement Diana began her journey in order to discover, whilst grounding the play in 1969, during the lunar landings. The moon, starting the piece as Diana’s TV set where she first discovers the astronaut’s taking that first one small step. Coupled with Alex Musgrave‘s lighting design, there is much aesthetic decadence to enjoy throughout as well as symbolic whimsy.

To conclude, You Are Here is a very solid and incredibly well performed piece, it’s not the most thrilling musical in the world, but does that hinder the enjoyment of it? No, for production value it’s got plenty of merits. The cast are incomparable, as are the musicians. The direction is clean and well-thought out to match the overall thematics, as is the design. Wendi Peters is incomparable, whilst Jordan Frazier‘s Ruby is earnestly empathetic and good natured, Rebecca Mckinnis‘ Joan is justifiably nubile and austere and Phil Adèle‘s Daniel is a suitably scarred youth, likeable yet certainly grappling with the cards that have been dealt to him. The show is definitely worth a trip. Click here to find out more. You can also book tickets to watch the show’s livestream, click here for more information.

The cast are pictured from left to right Rebecca McKinnis, Phil Adèle, Wendi Peters & Jordan Frazier. Credit Southwark Playhouse

Creatives: Director Matthew Rankcom, Musical Director Laura Bangay, Movement Director Amie Hibbert, Set & Costume Designer Libby Todd, Sound Designer Charles Parry, Lighting Designer Alex Musgrave, Design Assistant Ana Webb-Sanchez, Stage Manager Orla Reeve Daly, Associate Director Samantha Dye, Associate Producer & Casting Laura Loutit

Cast: Wendi Peters, Phil Adèle, Jordan Frazier & Rebecca McKinnis

Review: The Mousetrap, St. Martin’s Theatre

Home | The Mousetrap
“Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap, The Case Reopen’s 17th May”

Star Rating: ★★★★★

With an initial socially-distanced performance schedule through to July, Agatha Christie‘s phenomenal, long-running, murder mystery, The Mousetrap returned to the West End on the 17th May with not one, but two all-star casts set to perform. And we managed to catch the show as it reopened with a bang.

Cassidy Janson (Mollie Ralston) and Danny Mac (Giles Ralston) sit on a sofa, Mollie is on the left reclining on the arm of the chair, she has auburn hair and is wearing a skirt, white coloured shirt and purple cardigan. Giles is on the right seated in a white shirt, tie, red button up sweater vest and dark trousers. Credit Tristram Kenton.

Having ran for 69 triumphant years, the show is soon to reach its 70th year on stage, remaining the longest running play on the West End and firmly, both a tourist and theatre-fan favourite. In keeping with the show’s core ideology, we of course promise no spoilers, but the one thing we can tell you is that the production is well and truly thriving, remaining as comedically strong, melodramatic and engaging as ever. Part of this, can inevitably be put down to the current casting, which we will endeavour to talk about shortly, but it is important to remember that the play itself, coupled with some enigmatic and intelligible direction from Ian Talbot is quite simply, in it’s own right, the winning formula. Not only is it a captivating watch that keeps you guessing, internally questioning whodunnit throughout, it’s also a piece that is filled with humour, drama and larger than life characters. Characters that you can’t help but sit back and really enjoy for what they are. To put it plainly, The Mousetrap is the pinnacle of British murder mysteries and should be experienced by everyone at least once. The narrative begins with guests starting to arrive at the newly opened Monkswell Manor, a murder having taken place earlier that evening in London. When a police sergeant arrives, the guests are warned that the killer is in their midst and one of them is likely to be the next victim, what ensues is a tumultuous adventure as the guests reluctantly reveal their sordid pasts.

Perhaps you might be sitting here thinking “it doesn’t sound like my sort of thing at all, it’s been running for 60-odd years so it is probably very boring and stuck in it’s time period”, whilst you yourself are perhaps super into everything that’s new and fresh. And of course new writing has its own merits and we should champion all of the new theatre pieces emerging as venues begin to reopen. But there is something so enjoyable, charming and even, dare we say it, fresh about The Mousetrap, there’s a reason it’s ran for so long and that is because it is entertainment in its purest form. The production is definitely not “tired” or “worn out” at all, in fact the design and costuming are particularly consummate. Grounding the piece perfectly in its genre, setting and time period, (a murder mystery situated In the atrium of a countryside manor house turned guest house in 1952). Whilst the design elements also do much to elevate and intensify both the comedic and dramatic aspects of the piece. For example, these elements deliver a perfectly realistic flurry of snow in the foreground, the impending doom of the group having been trapped indoors with a murderer and the fact that there is no escape or way to contact the outside world, complete with a an eerie window which is aggressively caught in the gust whenever it’s opened, as well as moments of intentional darkness and heightened volume for effect when required.

Moving on to the cast and their performances, the actors we saw were as follows: Cassidy Janson (Mollie Ralston), Danny Mac (Giles Ralston), Alexander Wolfe (Christopher Wren), Susan Penhaligon (Mrs Boyle), Derek Griffiths (Major Metcalf), Lizzie Muncey (Miss Casewell), David Rintoul (Mr Paravincini) and Paul Hilliar (Detective Sergeant Trotter). This company of eight share equal tenacity and skill, reverberating off of each other, the characters they deliver are all equally as unique, dynamic, multi-layered and full of jocularity. We found ourselves unable to decide who to watch during many of the scenes because each performer was as engaging as the next. Alexander Wolfe‘s Christopher Wren is bursting with both energy and a childish innocence, his comedic timing is unmatched. Whilst Lizzie Muncey‘s Miss Casewell is played beautifully inwardly and guarded as is necessary for her fearful yet direct and solitary nature. Susan Penhaligon plays a fantastically brash and openly disapproving Mrs Boyle, whilst David Rintoul delivers Mr Paravincini as a terrifically absurd caricature. Cassidy Janson and Danny Mac as the relatively newly married Ralstons, make a wonderfully sickly sweet young couple at the play’s centre, grounding the narrative and providing a sense of normality amongst the strange guests they have welcomed into their home, both actors are captivating and entirely plausible. Whilst Paul Hilliar and Derek Griffiths are both, in their own right, incredibly variegated and enjoyable performers to watch, dextrously dancing on the border of distortion and authenticity.

To conclude, it is a big deal that The Mousetrap has managed to reopen at the earliest possible moment following such a devastating pandemic. The production is not only a classic of huge historical importance to the West End, but it is now bolstered by two inevitably fantastic casts and feels as thrilling as ever. definitely worth a trip in the coming weeks. Click here to find out more and book tickets.

Susan Penhaligon, Paul Hilliar and Derek Griffiths
Mrs Boyle (Susan Penhaligon) sits in an armchair on the left looking up at Paul Hilliar (Detective Sergeant Trotter), who is centre of the frame in a coat, hat and gloves with ski goggles on his head and carrying a pair of skis over his shoulder. Derek Griffiths (Major Metcalf) is on the right standing next to Trotter and also looking at the Sergeant. Credit: Tristram Kenton.

Creatives: (1890 – 1976) Writer Agatha Christie, Director Ian Talbot, Artistic Director Denise Silvey, Costume Supervisor Janet Hudson Holt, Producer Adam Spiegel, Producer Sir Stephen Waley-Cohen, (1911-2003) Original Producer Sir Peter Saunders, Company Stage Manager Graham Ray, Deputy Stage Manager Becky Kensington

Cast: Cassidy Janson (Mollie Ralston), Danny Mac (Giles Ralston), Alexander Wolfe (Christopher Wren), Susan Penhaligon (Mrs Boyle), Derek Griffiths (Major Metcalf), Lizzie Muncey (Miss Casewell), David Rintoul (Mr Paravincini) and Paul Hilliar (Detective Sergeant Trotter).

Kate Tydman (Mollie Ralston), Nicholas Bailey (Giles Ralston), Joshua Griffin (Christopher Wren), Louise Jameson (Mrs Boyle), Paul Bradley (Major Metcalfe), Sarah Moss (Miss Casewell), Tony Timberlake (Mr. Paravicini), and Charlie Clements (Detective Sergeant Trotter).