Review: Lily Bevan Character Monologues, The Gift Horse at The Horse and Stables (Vault Festival 2020)


Martini Rating: 🍸🍸🍸🍸🍸

Encapsulated within in Nick Hern Books’ recent publishing of Lily Bevan’s blistering new play Zoo, are her Twelve Comedy Monologues (and one for luck), a rib-tickling collective of very human, expertly written comedy, character monologues for women, some of which featured in the BBC Radio 4 series, Talking to Strangers (co-written with Sally Phillips). Performed here by Bevan herself, Anne Odeke, Pandora Colin, Hedydd Dylan and Charity Wakefield, the twelve-ish monologues are delivered vibrantly by this cast of 5 with extraordinary prowess and comedic supremacy.

The monologues include: an overzealous guest dressed as an ass at a Nativity-themed fancy dress party, a pirate enthusiast vying for a loan to make her pirate cafe dreams come true, a strident pupil touring parents around her school and unknowingly over-sharing her observations as she goes, a tattooist who can’t quite seem to grasp scale or the logistics of helicopters, a Tudor-enthusiast determined to give newly weds the most authentic feast at their reception whether legal or not, a paranoid walker afraid of a swan who is ‘acting suspiciously’, a drunk women in the bathroom of an opera house who, after seeing Carmen is deliberating whether to tell her boyfriend she has cheated, a Hampton Court Palace shop assistant unwittingly thrust into the role of Catherine of Aragon as everyone else has Norovirus, a nervous women who cannot seem to stop asking questions during a waxing session, a Bridesmaid staging a coup on the Best Man’s speech due to his prior examples of misogyny, a blogging allotment owner berating her neighbour’s use of untreated manure, a nervous and extremely rambled voicemail following up from a steamy sex session and more.

Part of the allure of this selection of misfits and their stories is the absurdly relatable nature of their predicaments. Each monologue proving to be wildly variegated, yet distinctly rich with just the right dose of comedy and character. Demonstrating how masterful at her craft Lily Bevan is. Grouping these women and championing their ‘longing and loss and sadness’. Bevan intuitively touches on themes such as passion, dreams, desire, divorce, innocence, allure, the female experience and expectations, love and much more. Her dry-wit and sharp humour taking the audience on a joyful and hilarious rollercoaster, pinned together by recurring scenes, (i.e Nativity), yet they indefinitely will work as stand-alone pieces and we can see actor’s in training  picking these up in the future. They are just that good, and are cleverly often addressed to a silent character, providing even more hilarity. Whilst the comedic intelligence of the 5 tasked with delivering these pieces is perfection, each putting their own stamp on their chosen monologues, conveying and embodying the vastitude of the characters and enthusiastically staging and physicalising their situations, despite the ephemeral nature of the performance. Hamish MacDougall’s direction is at play here, the monologues vibrantly lifting from the pages.

Lily Bevan’s Character Monologues are back on Sunday 9th February, click here to book now. Click here to buy a copy of Zoo, which includes the monologues and click here to book tickets for Zoo at Vault Festival.

Review: SOLD, Studio (Vault Festival 2020)


Martini Rating: 🍸🍸🍸🍸🍸

Immensely powerful and artistically vibrant! A must see!

Co-produced by Kuumba Nia Arts and Unlock the Chains Collective, SOLD is a thrilling and unimaginably skilful blend of storytelling, song, drumming and dance. Taking inspiration from the storytelling traditions of the West African Griot/Jeli, the work does much to comment upon, embrace and explore the Black Experience and what exactly that means. Charting this through slavery suffered in Bermuda and British Caribbean colonies and more specifically through the eyes of slave, author and abolitionist Mary Prince. SOLD thus recounts Mary’s story, from her birth into slavery in Bermuda in 1788, through her various owners and years of suffering, to her arriving in England and writing a history of her life in 1831, beyond this, to her abolitionism, anti-slavery petition and testifying against brutality to her final disappearance from records in 1833.

The work is irrefutably thematic, affecting, strong and beautiful, written this way by writer and performer Amantha Edmead. Proving herself to be an adept and smart playwright, she cleverly situates the narrative within the moment Mary told her story for it to be transcribed for the purpose of being published. Not only allowing for a fast-paced and dynamic plot, as we explore all of Mary’s major life events, but also bringing immense weight to the significance of the book. As this was the first account of the life of a black women, let alone a complete history of a single slave, the book forming a personable record and example of the atrocities being committed across the empire. The ‘History of Mary Prince’ therefore demarcating the first step in Mary’s own abolitionism, a small, but nevertheless mighty step towards the end of anglo-slavery. Demonstrating not just how rare and important it was that she was given a platform, but also as a place marker for the many hundreds of thousands without a voice who she spoke for and the millions she evidently still speaks for.

Euton Daley’s direction and dramaturgy is inspired. Daley drawing from the fast-paced and thematic nature of Edmead’s writing, brings Mary’s story stubbornly to stage. With the help of Vocal Coach and Song Arranger Ayo-Dele Edwards and Choreographer Lati Saka, Daley creates a coruscating and emotive, truly stellar piece of theatre, where storytelling is ingeniously combined with recurring motifs to truly emote and convey the realities of Mary’s suffering, as well as her fleeting moments of joy. From childlike innocence, to her being Sold and torn from her family, to her endless beatings and gruelling work days, right through to her marriage and yearning to be free. There is something so ritual-like and spiritualistic about this methodology, the work allowing us to to really feel Mary’s pain and exults through the playful and domineering drumming, sorrowful and hopeful singing and strong, yet sometimes pained movement sequences. We experience it with her and that right there, is a true art form.

Edmead’s delivery is equally as captivating, not only is she a consummate storyteller, her characterisation is exquisite and her energy, boundless. Edmead effortlessly and instantaneously bringing to life several variegated characters, as well as measuring her physicality and vocal qualities to astutely demonstrate Mary’s changing age. Whilst Angie Amra Anderson is a fantastic musician, she is a wonderfully dexterous and soulful singer and drummer, providing the necessary glue to keep this piece together. Nomi Everall also deserves high praise for her malleable and symbolic set, the ropes and hanging nooses are wonderfully representative of not only the threat of punishment that hung over slaves, but also of their bindings through a lack of freedom, even when they weren’t bound or chained they were still answerable to their masters and ultimately not free.

For us, the question of whether to see SOLD this week at Vault Fest is a no brainer, go! It’s unique, moving and transcendent. ‘To be free is very sweet’. Click here to book now.


Director/Co-producer: Euton Daley

Writer/Performer: Amantha Edmead

Drummer/ Performer: Angie ‘Amra’ Anderson

Vocal Coach: Ayo-Dele Edwards

Choreographer: Lati Saka

KNA Co – Producer: John Sailsman

Review: Bored of Knives, White Bear Theatre


Martini Rating: 🍸🍸🍸🍸

A bold and dynamic piece of new writing with plenty of grit to get your teeth into.

Written by Kitty Fox Davis and Megan Louise Wilson, Bored of Knives is a witty, affecting and truly intriguing debut piece from new theatre company FlawState. Performed precociously by Kitty Fox Davis and Molly Chesworth, the work explores the complexities of female friendships through the lense of two long lost school friends, 1 & 2. Set in their preserved childhood den at 1’s parent’s house, we are left wondering what event separated the two of them in secondary school and subsequently, what tragedy has caused 2 to return to the den in order to try and reconnect with 1. The writing itself, is a clever and wonderfully intricate trail of breadcrumbs, the pair allude to something that caused them to be separated during their school years, (with 2 having been sent to another school and 1 told to let her be), but we do not find out exactly what happened. The smatterings of references to this event, with the women finally telling each other how it made them feel and their perspectives on it, mean FlawState carefully reel their audience into the pair’s story, engaging and engendering a desire to find out more. This also wonderfully capitulates the commonalities and difficulties in maintaining female friendships in adulthood, as well as the need for sisterhood amongst women in order to get them through the tough times.

The idea of the den as the setting is so beautifully thematic. Not only does the den signify the women’s youthful dreams, it also forms a place of safety from the outside world as well as representing innocence and the loss of it. The den enacts as a time capsule, it has been preserved over the years by 1. Due to incapacitating anxiety, she finds it difficult to live in the outside world and thus spends most of her time in the sanctity of the den instead of working or socialising. By keeping it just as it’s always been, she has forced herself to stay stuck in the past with it, encapsulating herself in the time capsule. The den, thus signifying her innocence and isolation. Throughout the evening as the two women learn more about each other the den gets messier and messier, a wonderful foreshadowing of the fact their dreams will be broken, 1’s innocence gone and their future together extinguished. 1 is also shown to want to keep tidying up, demonstrating her resistance to moving forward. Kurtis Lowe’s sensational sound design woven throughout and thus breaking up the narrative, allows for not only a fast paced piece, but is a phenomenally executed, foreboding to the later revealed tragedy. Whilst Gino Santos’ creation of the den, (combined with Louis Caro’s lighting design), is marvellously labyrinthine, Santos forcing us to feel as if we are really looking into a childhood dream. Making 1 and 2’s world compellingly tangible.

The conversations broached by this piece are not only affecting, they are also exceedingly important. Wilson and Davis compassionately, truthfully, and often facetiously touch on topics such as sex and relationships, mental health and anxiety, abuse and betrayal. Causing their work to be relevant, relatable and wholeheartedly realistic, the extensive research and development phases explained in their programme notes certainly pay off. Whilst Tom Ryder’s direction is exquisite. Bored of Knives is a devastating exposé on hopes and dreams, whilst 1 is trying desperately to stay exactly how and where she is in her life, 2 is searching for a future and an escape. This pushing and pulling of alternative desires is intriguingly brought to the forefront in Ryder’s vision. Whilst 1 tidies around 2, desperate to keep things as they are, 2 mentions what would happen if she were to have a hen do and subsequently dresses up in a white dress, a subtle signifier of her future aspirations even if they are out of her reach. Ryder also includes joyful sections where the pair act like kids, their friendship seemingly mending itself as they revert back to their childhood and adolescence by wearing wigs, dressing up, singing, playing games, eating snacks and drinking, excellently contrasted by the darkness of Lowe’s sound design often abruptly tail-ending these motifs. It is these jovial moments that make the overall tragedy and betrayal so powerfully severe. Kitty Fox Davis’ meek and righteous 1, riddled with insecurities and an ingrained desire to stay where she is, is an absolute delight. Davis is comically gifted, providing both a layered and warm delivery. Whilst Molly Chesworth’s hardened 2 is remarkably spirited and tenacious, Chesworth dextrously from the off, gives the impression 2’s mind is in two places at once and thunders through the piece with some unshakeably powerful acting. Both are simply stunning performers with exceptional chemistry.

FlawState are clearly making waves and have a bright future, to find out more about them click here. Or to catch Bored of Knives (TODAY 14/12/19), click here.


1 – Kitty Fox Davis

2 – Molly Chesworth

Voiceovers – Max Gell, Clive Marlowe, Adam Elliott and Viv Keene

Writers – Megan Louise Wilson & Kitty Fox Davis

Director – Tom Ryder

Producer – Kurtis Lowe

Associate Producer – Kitty Fox Davis

Media & Marketing – Megan Louise Wilson

Set Design – Gino Santos

Sound Design – Kurtis Lowe

Lighting Design – Louis Caro

Review: Maisie, The Bread & Roses Theatre


Martini Rating: 🍸🍸🍸🍸

Written and produced by Roger Goldsmith, Maisie is an emotionally penetrating, hard-hitting, must-see exegesis on grief, mental health and humanity from the male perspective.

Taking a charming look at the landscape of fatherhood regarding custody, divorce and parental separation, before buckling into a cataclysmic emotional rollercoaster, touching on suicide and psychological stability, Maisie is an incredibly powerful, full-circle, one-man show that is both affectingly and outstandingly delivered. Dan, having split up from his wife Mandy is constantly made to feel sub-standard, with Mandy showing off her new boyfriends in front of him and demanding things from him left, right and centre, but after it all, he still has his daughter Maisie. On this day, Dan is taking her to central London for a day out, her smile seems to paper over the cracks, but by the end of the trip his world is crumbling around him. With intelligible and complex direction from Gwenan Bain, Steven Blacker is a smart, enigmatic and captivating performer, bringing at tear to the eye in his poignant and endearing delivery of a dad who dotes on his daughter. His performance wondrously introduces us to several characters, particularly to Maisie herself, as he voices her playfulness we are left to imagine a bubbly six year old pulling on his sleeve. With that in mind, Blacker exhibits sensational characterisation and storytelling abilities, navigating us at an engaging and fast-pace through the crossing timelines of his retellings, dwelling on moments of disaster and delight in perfect measure.

Goldsmith’s writing of this 45 minute, epic monologue is searingly raw and impassioned, the personable feel to it allows Goldsmith to paint Dan as a universal father figure. We empathise and actually feel his glistening adoration for Maisie, as well as the bitter taste left from his divorce, (a pain he mostly hides for Maisie’s sake, particularly in response to the petty nature of his ex-wife Mandy) and then the loss in his eyes as sadness clouds his vision and he becomes a shell of a man, grief almost physically crippling him. Blacker stormingly conveys this all with his energetic characterisations, knowing looks, heavy sighs, void-like silences and held eye-contact with his audience. Bain has done a phenomenal job of building into her direction these held moments of mournful silence and contrasting motifs in which Blacker envisages and projects Maisie for his audience. The writing beautifully and symbolically coming full circle as Dan finally tells Maisie how tall Nelson’s column is, after earlier recounting how she once asked him that very question and he promised to find out. The design and direction effortlessly mimics and reflects this as Dan begins by stripping the set of most of its tools, paints and sheeting, (a reference to his job), showing that beneath it all, he is just a man, a father. Grief incapacitates him, forcing Dan to put down his tools completely, we only see him picking up the tools again once he’s financially forced back to the job and truly seems to have worked through much of his hurting. What’s underneath the sheets, paints and tools is new, signifying that he’s coming out the other end to a fresh beginning. This is all embellished by a superbly intricate sound design.

What’s so powerful and intriguing about Maisie, is the emphasis on the male perspective regarding parenthood, we do so often see from a female angle and do not necessarily delve much into what it must be like only seeing your child on weekends and not feeling as if you are bringing them up by living with them 24/7. Coinciding with some Herculean explorations into human kindness and mental health, Maisie also provides a complex divergence into the nature of thought processes and the many avenues the brain can take when in shock or grieving. Staging these particularly well.

To conclude Blacker seizes the innumerable challenge of this show, he delivers not just a story with a duplicity of characters, but a true rollercoaster of emotions from start to finish. Bain, in her direction, proves herself to be a true artist, carefully crafting the balance of Dan’s story, making sure each joyful or plaintive moment expertly lands. Whilst Goldsmith writes such a rhythmic, realistic and relatable story, that’s engaging and emotional from the offset. We hugely recommend this pocket-sized powerful piece. Maisie runs at The Bread and Roses Theatre until Saturday 8th Dec, click here to book now.


Goldsmith Productions co-produced by Stage Splinters
Performed by Steven Blacker
Directed by Gwenan Bain
Written by Roger Goldsmith
Technician Jordan Moffat

Review: Generation Whyyy?, London Tour


Martini Rating: 🍸🍸🍸🍸🍸

A smart, up-to-date and satirical sketch-comedy that wouldn’t seem out of place on prime time television.

Presented by the hilarious, Irish, female, comedy group Meela Goola, Generation Whyyy? is a fast-paced, witty and episodic sketch comedy navigating and capturing the trials and tribulations (or ‘first world problems’), encountered by many in Generation Y. Seizing hold of millennial fever, the trio wondrously take us on a madcap and intelligible adventure through the absurd and the intrinsically relatable. Delivering vibrant and rich snapshots of the difficulties and inanity of the ‘snowflake’ generation, these effortlessly weave together, the piece esoterically enveloping several recurring themes and plot lines. Resulting in a polished, sapient and side-splitting, high brow commentary on millennial culture. From those worrying about their follower counts and willing to do anything to grow them, to the phenomenon of reality tv, going viral and #influencers doing #ads that are totally genuine, to indie/gourmet food pop ups with their over complicated menus, the plain of online dating, (whether that be for those in their flirty thirties or the grannies amongst us), to modern day parenting, passive responses to the climate emergency and everything in between, Meela Goola successfully take a satirical survey of several nonsensical traits prevalent in the millennial populous, giving their audience plenty of food for thought and barrels of laughs.

Made up of comedians Sorcha Dawson, Laura Prendergast and Amy Kellett, the company are exceedingly talented writers, directors and caricaturists, creating a plethora of variegated and comedically rich characters drawn from their Irish background and beyond. These caricatures are thus wonderfully detailed and complex bouncing well off of each other. As aforementioned, the form includes recurring characters and motifs within several vignettes, the combined vignettes thus building towards the overarching commentary on today’s culture, enacting much like popular precursors such as Monty Python’s Flying Circus and Saturday Night Live, a testament to the trio’s conviction and high-quality content. It is their comedic intelligence and relevancy that makes the work feel so incredibly fresh and daring. Whilst the potency of the comedy ensures the evening is wholeheartedly enjoyable from start to finish. The technical aspects, as well as the short and snappy nature of the vignettes, also do much for the enjoyability factor, these ensure the piece is fast-paced and engaging. A quick lights up and down with several well-placed sound bites, propels us rip-roaringly from vignette to vignette. Whilst the representative and malleable props and costume used, help to instantaneously create the spectrum of characters. Meaning Dawson, Prendergast and Kellett are masters of their craft, with an innumerable awarity of their audience asserting themselves as certainly ones to watch out for in the future.

Catch Meela Goola and their show Generation Whyyy? on the remainder of their London Tour, at Barons Court Theatre 11th & 12th December. Or in Dublin closer to Christmas. To find out about future shows and to keep up to date with Meela Goola, follow them on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter by clicking the links.

Review: Pests, Drayton Arms Theatre

Martini Rating:

Brilliantly acted, intelligibly designed and intuitively directed, Pests is an absolute treat.

Presented by brand new theatre company One Night Stand Theatre, Pests written by Vivienne Franzmann is a gritty and devastating snapshot of impoverished Britain. Providing a powerful and unfortunately authentic elucidation on the realities of substance abuse, rape, abuse, miscarriage and mental illness. The company are also donating all proceeds to ‘Women in Prison’, click here for more information on the charity.

Originally commissioned by Clean Break, (the critically acclaimed theatre company known for working with female-identifying ex-convicts or those at risk of breaking the law), Pests follows two tragically underprivileged sisters, Pink and Rolly. The pair, having been born to an addict mother and abusive father, grew up in the care system. As adults they have become heroin addicts and live in squalor. Rolly is pregnant and has recently spent time in prison, whilst Pink provides sexual favours to men for money and clearly suffers with trauma and mental illness. Both are undereducated and have prevalent literacy issues, leaving them with very little life prospects. Since Rolly previously spent four years with a foster family whist her older sister Pink, was left in a care home to be brutally abused by men, a deep seated jealousy has festered inside Pink, a jealously that wonderfully manifests itself throughout the play. As a constant, Pink and Rolly’s lives seemingly revolve around violence, unemployment and poverty, Rolly wants something more, but Pink selfishly wants to keep them both together as they are. Therefore Pests boldly tackles the failings of society regarding those that are vulnerable and/or living below the poverty line.

Franzmann’s writing is strikingly fresh, she litters her work with pop-culture references, visual motifs and her own approach to language that both engenders the common, undereducated nature of the sisters, whilst demonstrating a witty and clever edge, to show that though they both haven’t received the best education they aren’t dumb, humorously hiding complex words throughout. One Night Stand Theatre thus, in the direction and design wonderfully play with these conceptualisations to draw out the meaningful nature of Franzmann’s writing, making their work feel very fresh, vibrant and of the now, as well as asserting it as funny, heartbreaking and real. The design truly brings us into the squalor, a sofa and stained mattress are just about distinguishable above the mountains of newspaper and rubbish. The text making many references to homes as nests and birds as well as cats, whiskers and pups. The scattered newspaper in their home therefore beautifully creates nest-like surroundings. The two sisters are birds and this nest is all they have, it’s as if they are waiting for society, the cat, to destroy them, one sister Rolly wants to leave the nest, hence why she pursues a cleaning job miles away and we see her trying to clean the mess. One Night Stand Theatre therefore deliver simply stunning visualisations of this recurring motif. Whilst the TV set and radio combine with the excellence of the sound design, to perpetuate the pop-culture references in the text, locating the work in the now or recent past. Furthermore, the lighting and sound design are masterful, the reactivity in this leaves a powerful and astonishing delivery of the internalisations of the sisters, particularly Pink, we live her reminisces of past abuse with her, bookended with lighting flashes or changes. As well as understand her bouts of paranoia and confusion due to the state of her mental health and addictions. These sections of internalised anguish and movement do much to keep a fast pace as much as they strongly emote the piece. There are however moments of total black out where the actors are clearly still delivering scenes and it would be nice to see their faces in these moments. Nevertheless, the design excels and is incredibly perceptive to the script.

Just as Ross Barbour’s direction is phenomenal, he brings to life the realities of poverty in such a delicately crafted and intuitive manner, he is able to draw out and build the necessary raw emotion with power and conviction, whilst leaving room for the moments of wit and humour to land. Barbour wonderfully building the visual motifs provided by Franzmann into his version of the piece, particularly The Wizard of Oz theme. As stated Pink and Rolly loved The Wizard of Oz as kids, Pink continuously sings the song ‘If I Only Had…’ and encourages Rolly to join in. In her states of instability the song recurs and is echoed in the sound design, it catatonically both anchors her in that frantic moment and in the sound, demonstrates just how unstable ishe is. Additionally Rolly is learning to read and has been taught by a friend, we see her copy of The Wizard of Oz which she stashes and reads allowed, as well as see the ruby red slippers Pink buys for Rolly and obsessively wills her to wear. These moments are delivered with poignancy and wonderful thematic emphasis. Regarding performances, both Caroline Maitland and Megan Macey are captivating. Maitland delivers the boisterous, jealous and sporadic Pink with efficacy and power, her emotivity and drive are sensational, though we witness the character making mistakes Maitland delivers Pink with some much depth that she makes us want to empathise with her and right all of the wrongs in her life. Whilst Macey’s Rolly in contrast, is wonderfully youthful and hopeful, Macey playing her with a certain charm and innocence, again engendering the audience to will her to find something better. Macey like Maitland is exceedingly emotive and delivers the more poignant scenes with tenacity and maturity. Both are simply stunning performers with great presence and chemistry.

To conclude Pests displays greatness in every aspect, a wonderful opening piece for One Night Stand Theatre. Find them on Twitter and Instagram @onstheatre. Pests runs at the Drayton Arms Theatre until Saturday 9th November, click here to book now.


Caroline Maitland – Pink

Megan Macey – Rolly

Ross Barbour – Writer

Writer – Vivienne Franzmann

Caroline Barton – Producer

Gabi Coomber – Tech

Raniah Al-Sayed – Movement

Bradley Leech – Fight

Review: The Feeling, The Other Palace Studio


Martini Rating: 🍸🍸

Presented by Monsteers Artistry in the intimate space of The Other Palace Studio, The Feeling written by Kyra Jessica Willis was dubbed ‘a new dark comedy musical’. Though the work tackled many social issues and fought fiercely to create tangible characters in the six friends the narrative revolved around – each with their own problems and differences, the musical quite clearly needs a lot of work and doesn’t quite feel as dark as the title suggests. It has gritty moments, but lacked either a shock factor or an engendered deep tragedy that had been truly built up to.

Monsteers are a young, British talent agency and collaboration of creative minds who garnered their name by merging two of their inspirations: Marilyn Monroe and West-End star Danielle Steers. Here, they collaborated to present a uniquely British, millennial-centric, jukebox musical featuring many modern rock, indie and pop classics. The piece, dramatically focussing on toxic relationships between mates and lovers, followed six problematic friends: Edie, Kasey, Jessie, Lexie, Archie and Mel, each with their own unique source of misery. However, unfortunately its sporadic and fleeting superficial conversations between characters meant it struggled to build the necessary levels of sincerity and believability, leaving its audience somewhat uninvested in both the narrative and the characters. As far as characterisation goes, this simply didn’t stretch too far beyond the two-dimensional. Which is a shame, as the writing posed a worthy attempt, there were several enigmatic moments of both depth and comedy, whilst the intent was good, aiming to shed light on social problems such as mental health, addiction, suicide, unrequited love and unwanted pregnancy. Perhaps part of the problem was the songs and their placements, these seemingly came from no where and weren’t always built up to, or interwoven well into the narrative. The changes from dialogue to song were also made severely abrupt as they were often accompanied by stark lighting changes and the loud beating of the piano, the sound and lighting thus neglecting to form a gentle incline into the musical sections. Furthermore, to its detriment, occasionally the choices of song didn’t quite fit the engendered mood. Thus the premise was strong, the format and design just didn’t quite lend itself to the proposed narrative. Perhaps a naturalistic play would have worked better, as the characters are reasonably relatable, with everyone knowing someone like at least one of the friends. From the shy and reserved cafe owner Mel to the cutting and sarcastic addict Jessie, or the sweet and nerdy love interest, Jamie.

Staging wise, the direction by George C. Francis did provide some vibrant moments, where characters had heated or tender exchanges, peppered with tension and passion. Francis ultimately utilising the small space well. But in direct contrast to this, there were also many rushed moments with the actors hurriedly bustling in or out of playing space that ultimately fell flat. As well as far too many directed exchanges between characters in the background, meaning attention was often drawn away from those in the foreground singing a ‘soliloquy’ to the actors residing behind them. These ‘knowing glances’ were both repetitive and distracting. As far as individual performances go there were a few diamonds in the rough. Firstly, Halie Darling’s Mel, the owner of the café they frequent throughout, is wonderfully naive and righteous. Darling’s performance showcases balance and clarity whilst remaining  understated, perfect for the character’s reserved nature. Whilst George C. Francis’ nerdy Jamie was both charming and adorable, his chemistry, (as Mel’s love interest), with Darling was particularly strong. Chloe Hazel’s obsessive and bitter Edie chasing after her ‘stolen ex’ Kasey, was perfectly sharp-witted and powerful at times. Her voice along with PJ Tomlinson, (Kasey) and Sean Erwood, (Archie) delivered some of the best vocals. It’s plain to see, that most of the issues with the rest of the performances would be easily rectified with more character development, in both the text and the rehearsal process.

To conclude, Monsteers Artistry show some creative promise, they just need to work on their craft to get the overall form right and with that, sincerity and proficiency will come.



Kasey – PJ Tomlinson

Archie – Sean Erwood

Lexie – Pippa Lea

Mel – Halie Darling

Jessie – Kyra Jessica Willis

Edie – Chloe Hazel

Jamie – George C. Francis

Holt – Chris Barton


Writer and Producer – Kyra Jessica Willis

Director – George C. Francis

Associate Director – Chris Barton

Musical MD – Connagh Tonkinson

Casting – Tara Jones

Stage Manager – Adeane Hardy

Review: The Secret Letters of Gertie and Hen, Time and Leisure Studio, (New Wimbledon Theatre)


Image: Imogen Hunter, Key Theatre Company 


Martini Rating: 🍸🍸

New writing is something to be fostered and nurtured but often is neglected, it begs the question, if not now, then when is a good time to listen to emerging voices in theatre? Eventually these creatives will be the ones who thrill and teach audiences using performance as their vessel, so the only way to ensure quality content is to give these voices a platform and room to grow. Something brand new theatre company Key Theatre have recognised, their mission statement identifying that they aim to bring to the stage exclusively new works, a proposal we are sure many will appreciate. Though it is difficult to catapult theatre out into the recognised landscape when you are just starting up and only producing unknown pieces, meaning this performance in the form of a workshop could only have been achieved with help from New Wimbledon Theatre offering Key Theatre the time and space, perhaps other established and generally commercial theatres could learn from this kind of generosity?

The Secret Letters of Gertie and Hen is an epic two-act, wartime drama centring on two ten-year old pen pals each on opposing ends of the Second World War, with Gertie living in Berlin with her mother, father and two sisters and Hen living in London with her parents and younger brother Thomas. The war prevents them from conversing with each-other, but crucially they never stop writing, (even if the letters are not to be sent), that is until their worlds collide again once more. This is a tender and delicately balanced testament to the bonds of friendship, undeterred by the political circumstances surrounding them and the miles between, they never stop caring for each other, despite their socio-political circumstances telling them their connection is wrong and even the hardships they face. Writer Imogen Hunter does an amicable job of crafting tangible and diverse characters, however inevitably, as this is a workshop put on in only four days there are many points to be laboured upon, something that the inner dramaturg in us will endeavour to expand upon. But do not get us wrong, this piece was a great, if not rough, attempt at crafting an emotional and raw story, with moments of pure beauty and emotion.

Firstly let’s look at the two families, the British and the Germans. The German family was very well developed in terms of war themes and relevance. With Gertie about to turn ten and to her dismay having to join the compulsory League of German Girls, her father Frank, an engineer with dangerous, opposing views to the Nazi regime and Helga, Gertie’s older sister smitten with Frank’s boss’s son, who happens to be highly indoctrinated by the regime. However the same cannot be said for the British family, we do not know much about their working life or opinions, or even feel emotionally involved with them. Another crucial point lacking was an explanation as to how the two families first met each other and what their connection was. Leading on from this, the plot was overloaded with war themes, to the detriment of believability. There was a mention of Dunkirk that developed into a prisoner of war plot line, Jews being hidden and fed by the German family, an injured German man taken in by the British, a brief evacuation of the British children to the countryside, elongated radio scenes with the voices of Hitler and King George VI and a severe fixation on the indoctrination of German people. One or two of these themes would have added up to a highly effective, emotionally potent, historical drama that would have been useful for school children learning of the events, (that is if it were to be cut down to about an hour). However this elongated epic, with many scene changes resulted in bouts of actors clunking across the stage trying to hit marks and change set, along with the audience feeling alienated as too many plot lines were hemmed in.

The letters read out by the two girls, were evocatively beautiful, painting a picture of endearment and friendship as was the elegant, original underscoring written for the show, however an intertwining of the two is certainly necessary, with perhaps action going along with the letters rather than a stagnant reading, beneficial for pace purposes as well as promoting engagement. It could also be considered that the letters may not have had to have been read in a chronological order, themes could perhaps be tackled between if the plot was condensed in this manner. Moving on, Scenographer Jen Wakeford, did a sublime job in transforming New Wimbledon’s black box space into a multilevelled, homely, locative setting in order to divide the area into bases for Germany and Britain. Though many costumes were unrealistic, they were representative as this was only a workshop and thus Key Theatre can be forgiven here. Heather Dunn also deserves high accolades for her technical ability to transform the space both lighting and sound wise despite, the little amount of preparation time and lacking equipment. Finally one must praise the actors who all did well to swallow this meaty script, particularly Maria Hildebrand, Melissa Livermore, Laura Perry and Isabella Hayward, the female Germans as it were, they were each dynamic and hugely entertaining.

To conclude, co-artistic directors Imogen Hunter and Jen Wakeford certainly have something there, they just need to work out what exactly it is and channel that. Do follow Key Theatre Company to see what they come up with next as they find their feet and to see the next staging of The Secret Letters of Gertie and Hen. Click here.