Review: RIDE: a new musical, Forge (Vault Festival)


Martini Rating: 🍸🍸🍸🍸🍸

Freya Smith and Jack Williams’ brand-new musical RIDE, is quite simply sensational. An endlessly fresh and innovative musical delivered by only two actors and four musicians, brimming with plenty of heart, rhythm and story, this one is not to be missed.

Bolstering a strong narrative, RIDE is proficiently bold, well-written, engaging and thoroughly entertaining. Set in 1895 and following 24 year old Annie Londonderry, who has returned victorious to America as the first woman to cycle around the world, this vibrant female-led two-hander, wonderfully enacts as Annie telling and embellishing the story of her travels. With the unwitting assistance of a secretary named Martha, she delivers the retelling to several big-wig New York editors, aiming to demonstrate her versatility and secure a paid newspaper column. Smith and Williams thus, phenomenally capture Annie’s mounting ambition and irreverent charm. A blaring ambition and persuasive ability that often caused a tendency in her to focus on story over fact, Annie’s wild imagination and idealistic pitching of her story being tumultuously staged here. The piece augmenting in this, a fantastic amount of depth, as it touches upon the parts of Annie’s life she’d perhaps rather leave hidden and not confront, such as her Latvian immigrant status and Jewish heritage, (particularly in a period rife with anti-Semitic tropes, Annie Kopchovsky being her real name). As well as illuminating on the heart-wrenching death of Annie’s younger brother Jacob and the leaving of her own children in order to cycle around the world. Doing much to paint and explain Annie’s motivations, financial or otherwise, whilst gravitationally demonstrating just how easy it is to manipulate a press story for widespread appeal.

As aforementioned the work is strikingly well-written; a salient narrative, delivered with an imaginative, comedically-rich and vivacious book, that is paired with 10 simply outstanding songs. Smith and Williams’ score being characterised by its harmonic intricacies and repetitive motifs, making it catchy, smart, euphonious and most importantly, entertaining. These are certainly two writers to watch out for. Likewise, Smith’s direction, with help from Associate Director & Dramaturg Adam Lenson, is dynamic and assured, doing much to perpetuate and bring to life the many facets of Annie, bringing in turn, a lot of colour to Martha’s character. A character that could quite easily have remained two dimensional as a subordinate to the dominance of Annie, exploited by her into the role of a storytelling tool. The storytelling, story within a story nature of the writing, is furthermore mirrored perfectly in the staging and minimal set, allowing for Annie and Martha to manipulate the elements of the office space, such as filling cabinets, a writing desk, documents, flowers, a hat and coat-stand and more, these becoming wonderfully suggestive of various characters and locations, desk chairs instantaneously becoming bicycles travelling the breadth of the earth at speed.

As far as performances go, Amy Parker’s Annie is suitably boisterous and tricky, as she must be in order to try and play in a man’s world. Yet, Parker is also subtly able to convey Annie’s inner turmoil, and thus the truth she is running away from. Parker’s performance is therefore, beautifully dynamic, her Annie remaining unequivocally layered, she is charming and tenacious, yet burdened and visibly desperate. Parker also displays incredible vocal tonality. Whilst Amelia Gabriel, the Martha to Parker’s Annie, complements her perfectly. Not only is Gabriel’s voice equally as stunning, her timid, yet reliable Martha bounces from fear to joy in an instant, Gabriel providing some seriously sensational characterisation. Her facial expressions and physical abilities are unparalleled, Gabriel truly capturing the dedicated and intelligent employee, looking for excitement and true appreciation, but too afraid to overstep her mark and lose it all. Both demonstrating just how malleable and dexterous they are as performers. Whilst the four piece band consisting of writers Jack Williams and Freya Smith, James Pugliese and Tim Harvey are wonderful performers, despite their size they do much to fill out the sound and play in a particularly stylised manner, providing a distinctive and eclectic sound.

Bottle Cap Theatre’s RIDE plays VAULT Festival until Sunday, click here to book now.


Annie (& Monticello/Yates): Amy Parker

Martha (& Yates/Celine/Fred): Amelia Gabriel

Book, Music and Lyrics: Freya Smith & Jack Williams

MD/Guitar: Jack Williams

Keys: Freya Smith

Bass: James Pugliese

Drums: Tim Harvey

Director: Freya Smith

Associate Director & Dramaturg: Adam Lenson

Movement Director: Alfred Taylor-Gaunt

Production Manager: Hannah Roza Fisher

Lighting Designer: Tim Kelly

Costume: Anna Smith

Associate Producer: Naomi Chapman

PR: Michael Bodansky

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: Operation Mincemeat, Southwark Playhouse

Martini Rating: 🍸🍸🍸🍸🍸

You’d be mad to miss this in-demand and phenomenally executed, new British Musical. Bolstering a fantastic narrative, invigorating book and explosive score whilst packed, with humour, intelligence, precession, raw emotion and sentiment, this show quite simply has it all!

Based an a real British deception strategy employed during WWII by Ewen Montagu and Charles Cholmondeley, Operation Mincemeat tells the story of how they supposedly deceived Hitler, allowing the Allied forces to retake mainland Europe by entering through Sicily. The plan involved obtaining and planting a body off the coast of Spain, with correspondence in a briefcase chained to his wrist suggesting the Allies were planning to invade Sardinia. Knowing that the Spanish were neutral but working with the Germans, the ruse was fallen for and possibly played a part in convincing Hitler to move many of his troops from Sicily. Operation Mincemeat, (named after the operation itself), thus intelligibly and hilariously recounts how the pair proposed and then executed their plan, ‘Making a Man’ by creating the fictitious hero and Captain, ‘Bill’, which involved dressing a homeless man’s body with uniform, ID, receipts and momentos from his ‘fiancee’ to prove his legitimacy.

Presented by SpitLip the production is about to finish a sold out run at the Southwark Playhouse, having already completed a sell out stint at New Diorama last year. However, not to fear, due to popular demand they are returning to the Southwark Playhouse in May for a run in The Large this time and here’s why we think you should catch it…

As we’ve said before, Operation Mincemeat is based on actual events, so part of it’s striking nature, is the notion that it really is surprisingly accurate regarding the known facts of the strategy, (though it does employ some artistic license for the sake of pace, entertainment and gaps in what we actually know). Demonstrating how the initial idea was Cholmondeley’s, fleshed out and rehashed in collaboration with Montagu. The book cleverly drips in more detail such as describing the operation as like a Trojan Horse, not only because the plan was a deception like the Greek’s siege of Troy, but because Cholmondeley originally referred to the idea with the codename Trojan Horse. Whilst there are several (witty and depraving) references to Montagu’s naval career and a detailed staging of the transportation of the body, which was done on a submarine in a canister that prevented Oxygen from getting in. The piece also makes sure to include the key players such as the pathologist Sir Bernard Spilsbury, Bentley Purchase – a coroner tasked with finding a suitable body, Ian Fleming the English author and naval intelligence officer who reported to John Godfrey Director of Naval Intelligence, the British vice-consul Haselden who was stationed in Spain and instructed to let the British know when the body washed ashore, as well as to watch over the autopsy and make it look like the British wanted the ‘important documents’ back, Colonel John Henry ‘Johnny’ Bevan who worked with MI5 and headed up many deception strategies and an American Pilot Willie Watkins who coincidentally crashed in Spain only three days before the body washed up there.

But, not only is Operation Mincemeat a thrilling deep-dive into history, it is also wonderfully self aware. Knowing that many, in fact all of their key characters are white, privileged males who attended schools such as Eton, SpitLip choose to make fun of this fact in their opening number, characterising several of these privileged and esteemed men as fools. They then cleverly proceed to offset this by writing in smart and feisty female characters to represent legitimate (and during this period), silenced female ambition, as well as highlighting how women began working to help win the war in both WWI and II, giving the work an exciting, protofeminist edge, whilst ensuring the piece is endlessly entertaining and comedically vibrant. Snappy sections, chocked full of raucous punchlines and fast moving wit, where for instance, mad-cap ideas are suggested by Ian Fleming, riotously alluding to his later penmanship of the James Bond spy novels, alongside Monatgu envisioning his efforts will land him heroic honours and a film career, a nod to the history he wrote in 1953, The Man Who Never Was, made into a film in 1956 and scenes showing him stealing confidential files from the office, pointing to the spy novel Operation Heartbreak released in 1950 with a plot suspiciously similar to Mincemeat, are contrasted by slower, more sincere and weighted moments. Such as when Bevan’s spinster secretary Hester, (Jak Malone) heartbreakingly sings of a painful lost love as she helps compose a fake love-letter to ‘Bill’, (Dear Bill), truly and beautifully capturing the harrowing reality of war, whilst a female operative is shown to be hungry with ambition and seeks the renown of her male colleagues, agreeing to a series of dates with Montagu and paying him undying attention in the hope this will help her standing.

Needless to say SpitLip’s execution is stellar, they expertly weave caricature and comedy with Brechtian stylised performativity, employing representative costuming and set pieces, adept multi rolling and unequivocal gender blind casting. The onstage changes of persona for instance, are not only masterfully done, but are usually performed quickly and in full view of the audience for comedic and allusion-breaking effect. Resulting in: a whirlwind of eclectically different songs, bold characters and moving set pieces, generating a fast-paced, formidable and engaging piece of musical theatre, that still manages to supply gentle moments of humanity and realism despite its form and comedic content. Moving onto the aforementioned score, it’s phenomenally eclectic nature can be attributed to SpitLip’s use of Leitmotif, a successful methodology used by many much-loved musicals, involving applying musical styles to different characters. For instance, Cholmondeley is designed to be an unlikely hero, nerdy yet likeable, SpitLip give him power ballads to sing to demonstrate his aptitude despite his unassured nature. Bevan dives into Hamilton-esque politicised rap numbers demonstrable of his status, whilst throughlines of feminism are delivered in a fiery Girl band-style pop routine. Fascism comes in the form of Electro-funk dancing Nazis, whilst jazz and disco combine as the men of the tale forget about the blitz to put on the ritz. Finally a sea shanty is delivered by the Lieutenant and officers aboard the submarine as they float ‘Bill’’s body off into the sea, representing  Psalm 39 being supposedly read by Lt. Jewell at the time. The variegated nature of these compositions, as well as the undeniable brilliance of each, makes the music a true highlight, particularly due to the magnificence of the band; Felix Hagan, Ellen O’Reilly and Lewis Jenkins. The trio managing to dynamically accomplish a full and well-rounded sound, capturing with ease each of the chosen styles within the Leitmotif of the score.

Alongside them, the highly skilled cast of five are outstanding. David Cumming, Claire-Marie Hall, Natasha Hodgson, Jak Malone
 and Zoe Roberts can only be described as bounding balls of energy as they flit on, off and around the stage conveying such a wide-range of complex and uniquely different characters. All five displaying tremendous vocal tenacity and comedic intelligence. As previously mentioned, Malone’s Hester is a highlight, his delivery of ‘Dear Bill’ is monumentally emotive and raw, undoubtedly bringing a tear to many. Whilst Hall has a particularly beautiful and powerful voice, as well as a likeable and warming performance style. Alongside them, Hodgson and Cumming are endlessly energetic and stylised actors. Whilst Roberts, is similarly dynamic and sharp, she is also a remarkably malleable performer.

Regarding the design, as previously mentioned Helen Coyston’s work is wonderfully representative and includes several moving set pieces, these are cabinet draws for holding operation files in, that are pushed together to form tables, chairs, the submarine, Coroner Purchase’s morgue, raised platforms for the actors to stand on etc. The draws also hold key props, making them easily accessible and cleverly brought into the action. Not only does this allow for the fast-pace of the piece, moving from setting to setting, across Europe and back, it also constitutes the secrecy of the operation and highlights the arrogant characterisation of Montagu as he tries and succeeds in taking files from the office for his own gains. Brightly coloured telephones brighten-up and litter the backdrop of the playing space, also hanging above the actor’s heads, this does a marvellous and unassuming job in referencing the complications of communication during wartime, from the codebreaking at Bletchley letting Montagu and Cholmondeley know the ruse had been fallen for, to their correspondence with Haselden at his post in Spain and the manipulations of the German spy network both at home and abroad.

All in all, Operation Mincemeat is a triumph and should take its place amongst other great historically perceptive and hyped-up musicals such Hamilton and SIX. Click here to book now for the Southwark Playhouse in May.

Creative Team:

Writers/Composers – SpitLip
SpitLip are – David Cumming, Felix Hagan, Natasha Hodgson & Zoe Roberts
Choreography – Jenny Arnold
Set and Costume Design – Helen Coyston
Lighting Design – Sherry Coenen
Sound Design – Dan Balfour
Additional Casting – Pearson Casting
Publicity Artwork – Guy Sanders
Production Manager – Rich Irvine
Stage Manager – Roisin Symes



David Cumming
, Claire-Marie Hall, 
Natasha Hodgson, 
Jak Malone and 
Zoe Roberts



Felix Hagan
, Ellen O’Reilly and 
Lewis Jenkins

Review: The Boy in the Dress, The Royal Shakespeare Theatre, (RSC)


Martini rating: 🍸🍸🍸🍸🍸

An irreverently funny and astonishingly executed stage adaptation of a story of an ordinary boy who dares to be different. Resulting in a wholeheartedly entertaining and severely meaningful evening of fun – promoting positive change and tackling gender stereotypes.

Produced in-house by the RSC like Matilda the Musical, The Boy in the Dress is a hilarious, quintessentially British, comedy-musical, with an effervescent score, endlessly flashy choreography, sensational performances and a heartwarming message at its core. Adapted from David Walliams’ smash-hit book of the same name, the narrative follows Dennis, a seemingly ordinary 12 year old boy, who is the school’s star striker and loves football. But when his Mum walks out on his Dad, Dennis struggles without a female presence in his life. The only reminder he has of his Mum is a photo of her at the beach in a yellow dress, he sees a similar dress on the cover of Vogue in Raj’s newsagents and buys it. Before befriending the most beautiful and coolest girl in school, Lisa James, who is into designing her own dresses, the two thus form a bond over fashion and couture. What ensues is a witty exploration of Dennis discovering it is okay to be different and to be into both football and fashion. Though, after breaking the school uniform code with the help of his alter-ego, french exchange student ‘Denise’, he does have a few run ins with headmaster Mr. Hawtrey. With all new songs from Robbie Williams and Guy Chambers, a script by former RSC playwright in residence Mark Ravenhill and direction from RSC Artistic Director Gregory Doran, The Boy in the Dress is brought glitteringly to the stage.

The RSC have done a wonderful job in place making their entire theatre space for the occasion. All ages can play on the football tables in the bar areas, or draw on one of the school blackboards. There’s a Boy in the Dress themed Christmas tree, made out of sign posts relating to Dennis and his life, with Dennis in a dress adorning the top of it, whilst the costume exhibition has been disco-diva-fied and a telephone box outside is now filled to the brim with footballs. It’s the extra-special touches that really do count when it comes to a family show, enriching young theatre-goer’s experiences from the ground up. Aside from this, the production’s design itself is exquisite. Dennis lives in a supposedly ordinary town in an ordinary house, so the piece opens with a greyscale backdrop of ‘ordinary houses’. Throughout the first song ‘Ordinary’, the town’s inhabitants in greyscale costumes wheel out grey houses, appearing and moving in a uniform fashion. These houses beautifully and intricately fold out to create the various set pieces and locations such as Dennis’ room and bed, as well as his family kitchen, achieved with acute attention to detail. Eventually we start seeing splashes of colour in the ensemble costuming, firstly with an all pink colour scheme and then each town inhabitant starts to divert from the ‘uniformed’ scheme, until all ensemble members look totally unique, demonstrating the show’s thematic of individuality. Though we all seem ordinary, there is no such thing as ordinary, we are all extraordinary and unique. (This idea of non-uniformality tying in wonderfully with idea of Dennis going against the uniform code and the later change of his football kit to a dress).

To tackle the challenge of bringing football and the unpredictability of it to live theatre, the creatives have superlatively built puppetry and physical theatre into the work, (particularly Puppetry Director Laura Cubitt). The balls are often attached to sticks and moved around by a puppeteer/player, whilst physical theatre lifts are used at poignant match moments to highlight the intensity and importance of the action. With goal posts hydrologically appearing from the floor. Oddbod, the cheeky, charming and absolutely adorable dog owned by Dennis’ best-friend Darvesh, springs to life as a puppet, handled brilliantly by Ben Thompson. His delivery is full of realism and comedy, remaining captivating and a favourite with kids and adults alike.

In this age of ‘Cheer up Charlie’ (a national campaign that saw several West-End musicals welcome Charlie, a nine year old boy who was being homophobically bullied, into their theatres in a bid to make him feel better and let him know that being a boy and being into musical theatre is cool), it’s great to see so many men on stage in a musical and, most importantly, in prominent parts. Of the four child leads on each night, three are male, (ten in total), showing any young boys in the audience that they too could be on stage, acting, singing and dancing if they wanted to. Which brings us onto the wonderful positive messages to promote positive change woven into this piece. As aforementioned there are many males in prominent parts, particularly Dennis, his older brother John and their Dad, (Rufus Hound). This trio of men and no Mum, fantastically pushes to the forefront single parenthood from a male perspective. The three displaying phenomenal chemistry, Dennis being played on this evening by Toby Mocrei and John by Alfie Jukes. Hound, dextrously displaying heart-breaking moments of vulnerability in contrast with trying to present a strong vizard for his sons, as that’s ‘what men are supposed to do’. This, and the moment where Dennis misses his Mum and breaks down in tears and is subsequently told to stop crying ‘because boys don’t cry’, marvellously demonstrates the ultimately damaging effects of toxic masculinity. Gender stereotypes like this are therefore prodigiously shattered throughout. Boys can cry, boys can wear dresses and boys can dance and sing if they want to, what wonderful messages to be delivering to children today, alongside themes of persistence/never giving up and teamwork. This doesn’t mean that girls are left out though, there’s a whole number about girl-power and independence delivered by the ‘cool girls’, when considering if Dennis, (Denise) can join their crew. It is also worth mentioning that this production is big on diversity, with a diverse cast/ensemble. Characters such as Raj, Darvesh and Darvesh’s Mum as well as an overall plethora of accents/ethnic backgrounds, result in a more apt than most snapshot of multiculturalism in Britain.

As this piece is also being created with a young cast, at the RSC and and through in a similar methodology to Matilda , it is inevitable that the work shares similarities with its predecessor. It is Forbes Masson’s Mr. Hawtrey, a kid-hating and ebullient headmaster that gives off serious Matilda vibes, Hawtrey manifesting as a caricatured, Trunchbull-esque, paraodorical character. Whilst the idea of a boy in a dress, provides endless similarities to both Everybody’s Talking About Jamie and and Billy Elliot, touching lightly and innocently on the Queer and LGBTQ+ community. Yet The Boy in the Dress cannot be dismissed on grounds of unoriginality, the work feels endlessly modern and fresh and the school kids even ‘hit the woah’ during one of songs, (ask your kids). It is Mark Ravenhill’s sharp and witty book combined with Aletta Collins’ bold and reactive, modern choreography that allows the show to jump vibrantly off the pages of David Walliams’ book. Both are masterful at their crafts, Collins’ choreography is complex, sharp and endlessly entertaining, whilst Ravenhill captures Walliams’ intended hilarity and heart down to a t. The score by Robbie Williams and Guy Chambers is likewise, particularly revolutionary. The music is a powerful and catchy, eclectic mix with divine harmonies, powerful ballads, and largely lively ensemble numbers that are all intoxicatingly delivered, the show presenting a wonderful homage to disco at the end of act one.

As far as performances go, it is the child stars that carry this show. The youngsters we saw, Toby Mocrei, (Dennis), Tabitha Knowles, (Lisa) and Ethan Dattani, (Darvesh) have incredible presence, Mocrei and Knowles’ voices excel, they are each emotive and exceedingly powerful actors with an immense grasp of their craft, demonstrating wondrous consistency and clarity. Alongside them, teenager Alfie Jukes (Dennis’ brother John), has an equally as sensational and tragically underused voice, due to his self-assured delivery, Jukes asserts himself as certainly one to watch. As aforementioned Hound is a wonderfully dexterous actor, with the voice to back it up, the complexities of his delivery conveys the pains and anxieties of single parenthood fantastically. Whilst Irvine Iqbal, (Raj), Natasha Lewis, (Darvesh’s Mum), Charlotte Wakefield, (Miss Windsor) and Forbes Masson, (Mr. Hawtrey) carry the comedy, they are each exuberant performers, displaying unimaginable comedic timing and again, more than adequate voices. Furthermore the malleability and strength of the ensemble as a whole, ensures this production is sharp, witty, fast-past and of course, hugely entertaining. The benchmark for the calibre of the performances set by the young actors, is certainly met by this talented and hardworking ensemble supporting them.

To conclude, The Boy in the Dress is a must see, new British musical with a serious amount of heart and we are dying to see it get a much deserved London transfer. To catch it in Stratford-Upon-Avon click here.


Rufus Hound – Dennis’ dad
Irvine Iqbal – Raj
Natasha Lewis – Darvesh’s mum
Forbes Masson – Mr Hawtrey, the headmaster from Dennis’ school,
Charlotte Wakefield – Miss Windsor.
Dennis – Oliver Crouch, Jackson Laing, Tom Lomas and Toby Mocrei.
Darvesh – Ethan Dattani, Shivain Kara-Patel, Kassian Shae Ahktar and Arjun Singh Khakh.
Lisa James – Asha Banks, Tabitha Knowles and Miriam Nyarko
John – Alfie Jukes and Zachary Loonie
Other cast includes: David Birch (Maudlin Street Captain), Hannah Fairclough (ensemble), Max Gill (Big Mac), Ahmed Hamad (ensemble), Ryan Heenan (Rory), Charlotte Jaconelli (Lorna), Alim Jayda (ensemble), Christina Modestou (Miss Bresslaw), Alexander Moneypenny (Gareth), Clancy Ryan (ensemble), Cilla Silvia (ensemble), Jack Anthony Smart (Swing), Ben Thompson (Oddbod), Jamie Tyler (St Kenneth’s Captain), Georgie Westall (Swing), Grace Wylde (Louise).
From the novel by David Walliams
Adapted by Mark Ravenhill
Music and lyrics by Robbie Williams and Guy Chambers
Directed by Gregory Doran
Robert Jones (Designer), Aletta Collins (Choreographer), Mark Henderson (Lighting), Guy Chambers and Tom Deering (Orchestrators), Bruce O’Neil (Musical Supervisor and Arrangements), Alan Williams (Musical Director and Arrangements), Paul Groothuis and Tom Marshall (Sound), Laura Cubitt (Puppetry Director) and Pippa Hill (Dramaturg).

Review: High Fidelity, The Turbine Theatre


Martini Rating: 🍸🍸🍸🍸🍸

A stylised, retro musical, with plenty of heartbreaks and hilarity, High Fidelity at The Turbine Theatre bolsters an incredible and varied original score, insanely polished deliveries by all, an intricate set and punchy choreography. Asserting the theatre’s first musical as a must see!

Clearly stating their aim of: ‘Generating new work. Powering premieres. Re-energising classics.’ The Turbine Theatre’s UK premiere of High Fidelity is all that. Based on writer Nick Hornby’s novel of the same name, this high-flying, romantic, comedy-drama of a musical, has been re-energised for a British audience, bringing the setting back to the novel’s original location, London. The musical, which premiered in Boston before a Broadway engagement in 2006, alternatively had a Brooklyn setting. This staging as a result, gives the show an overall new and fresh feel, anglicising it, whilst of course bringing it to a British audience for the first time. As a result, High Fidelity is enviously vibrant and enthrallingly executed.

With music by Tom Kitt, lyrics by Amanda Green, and a book by David Lindsay-Abaire, High Fidelity follows record store owner Rob, a thirty-something obsessed with collecting rare vinyls, it hilariously charts Rob’s journey to self-discovery through his music collection and his lost loves. The narrative quickly denoting Rob’s talent for losing girlfriends. In response to Laura, (the love of his life) dumping him, he becomes determined to keep her off his list of ‘desert island, all time, top 5 most memorable breakups’, going on to reminisce about all of the girlfriends that he’s lost. What ensues, is a paradorical expedition which sees Rob reflecting on the past, whilst simultaneously hoping for one of the biggest romantic comebacks of all time. Though packed with humour and wit, the musical also boasts a lot of heart and vulnerability, providing a powerful look at what it is like to be a thirty-something and still figuring it out, highlighting just how much music can mean to someone. David Lindsay-Abaire’s book is consequently brilliantly constructed, his work is satirical and light-heated, yet emotionally rich. The time spent by Vikki Stone on the relocation of the setting back to London is clear, the references to Woolworth’s and places in Camden specifically, do much to give the piece a truly British sentiment and provide much more weight to the comedy from a British perspective. Additionally Tom Jackson Greaves’ direction wonderfully draws out the abundance of comedy written by Lindsay-Abaire, making High Fidelity, for its humour, a much needed form of escapism. (And by humour, we mean the laugh out loud kind of humour).

This production marvellously invites its audience into Rob’s ‘Last Real Record Store on Earth’. Engendering this through strip-lights that hang not only in the playing space, but also over the audience’s heads. So when these are initially switched on by store owner Rob, (Oliver Ormson), there is certain spark of magic that makes you feel as if you are instantly there with him, a moment that is beautifully paired with the plethora of band posters scattered around the auditorium. Yet it is the direction by Greaves, requiring the actors to move around and use the auditorium as a playing space, jumping down from the semicircular stage onto a stack of records and then the floor, that really envelops and immerses the audience into Rob’s world. As he addresses us directly, breaking the fourth wall and letting us know his internalisations, we are invited further and further into his story. In conjunction with this, Oliver Ormson makes a stellar leading man, his Rob, although a problematic and flawed character, is charming, exceedingly likeable and comedically vibrant. Ormson excels narratorially, knowing how to work a crowd with ease and as a result delivers several ‘knowing looks’ with just the right amount of intensity and hilarity, timing them perfectly. Similarly his voice is sensational, he has excellent power and tonality, perfect for such a rock-heavy role. Ormson also manages to emote the part superbly, making him a well-rounded, intelligent and truly entertaining performer, he is certainly one to watch.

Alongside Ormson, the entire company of eleven, (including him), are absolute powerhouses. Their conviction and attack is refreshingly inspiring, they deliver Greaves’ uniquely inventive and affectional choreography with ease and determination. Greaves doing well to fill, but not crowd the small space. Additionally the company effortlessly combine voices to deliver the intricacies and nuanced character of Kitt and Green’s variegated score strikingly well. The music is an eclectic and enjoyable collection of Pop, RnB, Soul and Rock inspired songs. The writers taking influence from artists such as Bruce Springsteen, Beastie Boys, Indigo Girls, Talking Heads, Aretha Franklin, The Who, Guns N’ Roses, Billy Joel, George Harrison, Percy Sledge and more. The sound therefore feels very nostalgic, the songs are ultimately original and new, yet they feel familiar, making the score a wonderful and exciting journey through music history. With this in mind, it is worth mentioning that the live band, placed just in view above the stage, are phenomenal. They provide an authentically retro-feeling sound that is big, bold and bluesy. Dan Samson should therefore be commended for his sound design to help to realise and integrate this, (his work of course replicating the sound of a record player’s stylus hitting a vinyl). Like many successful and popular musicals, High Fidelity employs a technique known as Leitmotif. This is where a certain musical style is applied to each character. As aforementioned, Kitt and Green took inspiration from several acclaimed artists, therefore they have crafted a unique and historically-inspired sound for each of their show’s characters. For example, Rob’s straight talking friend Liz is very much inspired by Aretha Franklin. Bobbie Little therefore delivers Liz’s song ‘She Goes’, with a certain Aretha Franklin-esque sass and power. Vocally, Little proving herself to be one of the best. Going back to Leitmotif, the methodology appears in shows such as SIX, Cats and Hamilton, it inevitably, as a form succeeds in High Fidelity as much as it does in those shows. The idea of Leitmotif congruently helping the composers to provided songs that are not only diversified, but reflective of the show’s theme of Rob’s passion for music, allowing them to beautifully pay homage to some of the greatest musicians of our time.

As far as the design goes, as aforementioned it ebbs out into the auditorium, but the stage itself, is designed with an innumerable amount of attention to detail and dexterity. The stage, semicircular in design is literally made to look like a record, giving it an overall thematic and retro aesthetic. Whilst, the shelving units that revolve to provide extra set pieces, are intricately littered with vinyls, they along with Rob’s till and record player, actually bring the shop realistically to life. Other movable set pieces, such as stairs and beds that slot away and almost appear from no where, are incredibly malleable and useful additions to take us momentarily out of Rob’s store. Making the design practical and compact, but ultimately aesthetically intriguing.

Having already mentioned the charm of Ormson and sheer power of Little, we cannot finish this review without commenting on the remaining individual performances as each one is equally as strong and unique, the company proving their adaptability by multi-roling successfully throughout. Carl Au’s absolutely adorable Scouser Dick, (Rob’s friend), is such a treat. Au presenting Dick’s naivety and anxieties with precision and dexterity, his song ‘It’s No Problem’ is irrefutably a highlight. Dick’s love interest Anna, is similarly played to perfection by Rosie Fletcher, she distinctively captures the character’s winsome charm and innocence, as well as her mild discomfiture when faced with romance. Au and Fletcher sharing breathtaking chemistry. Robbie Durham as Rob’s other friend Barry is severely entertaining and astute, whilst Joshua Dever’s delivery of Neil Young/Bruce Springsteen is packed with comedic excellence, Dever proving to be an ardent performer. Alongside them, Jessica Lee and Lauran Rae exude energy and excellence, pulling focus throughout, whilst Eleanor Kane is another highlight. Her delivery of American Country Singer Marie, is sensational, the characterisation and humour perfectly lands, alongside the character’s omnipotent allure. Shanay Holmes’ apple-of-Rob’s-eye Laura is a beacon of clarity, her voice is simply stunning, whilst her emotivity is strong. Finally, last but not least, Robert Tripolino’s Ian, a yogi who ‘handled Kurt Cobain’s intervention’ that Laura  evidently moves in with, is strikingly eccentric. Tripolino’s comedically rich performance is defined by his sharp wit and madcap characterisation, impeccably capturing the obliviously annoying and self-centred nature of the Ian.

To conclude every aspect of High Fidelity is flawless. From the cast, to the design, the direction and choreography, to the book and score, we can’t find a single fault, please do take the time to go and support this re-energised musical, you won’t regret it! Click here to find out more.


Book: David Lindsay-Abaire, (based on a novel by Nick Hornby)

Director: Tom Jackson Greaves

Music and Lyrics: Tom Kitt and Amanda Green

Lighting: Andrew Exeter

Design: David Shields

Sound: Dan Samson

Choreography: Tom Jackson Greaves

Paul Schofield: Musical Director & Music Supervisor

Vikki Stone: Book & Lyrics Adaptor

Will Burton CDG: Casting Director

Helen Siveter: Associate Director

Lewis Andrews : Music Programmer & Musician (Guitar)

Robyn Brown: Musician (Bass)

Steve Hynes: Musician (Drums)


Oliver Ormson – Rob

Carl Au – Dick

Robbie Durham – Barry

Rosie Fletcher – Anna/Alison

Joshua Dever – Neil Young/Bruce Springsteen

Shanay Holmes – Laura

Eleanor Kane – Marie/Sarah

Jessica Lee – Ensemble/Jackie

Bobbie Little – Liz/Charlie

Lauran Rae – Ensemble/Penny

Robert Tripolino – Ian

Review: Ghost Quartet, Boulevard Theatre


Martini Rating: 🍸🍸🍸🍸

Dave Malloy’s Ghost Quartet is a playful and hauntingly beautiful song-cycle telling four interconnecting ghost stories that span seven centuries, transcending cultures and generations. Delivered in a Brechtian style by four players – (friends/ghosts), these players drink, play a plethora of instruments and represent an abundance of characters, demarcating the scenes of the piece by naming song sides, i.e Side 1 Song 1 and so on. Making the work wonderfully stylised and fast-paced. As a song-cycle, the piece is also intoxicatingly thematic, putting emphasis not only onto the music and instruments being played, but universal themes such as love, death, loss and most importantly, whiskey. We are therefore introduced to several pairings of lovers, as well told about several deaths and see the players drink ‘whiskey’ before they hilariously pass the beverage around. A perfect example of how in true Brechtian style, the players break the fourth wall. A true masterclass in the style, particularly as the narratives are not delivered in chronological order yet they are still understandable and powerfully striking parallels.

Looking more in depth at the stories delivered, these are; a Brothers Grimm-esque fairytale about two sisters, a treacherous treehouse astronomer and a lazy evil bear, a retelling of Edgar Allen Poe’s short story ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’, a purgatorial intermezzo about Scheherazade from One Thousand and One Nights (Arabian Nights) and the ghost of jazz player Thelonious Monk, as well as a contemporary, moral fable about a subway murder, which includes the camera that is smashed at the beginning of the piece. From these interwoven narratives, it is clear to see that Malloy’s writing is intricately peppered with influences from many styles and stories. This not not only demonstrates Malloy’s dexterity in his writing, but also generates a treasure trove of hidden gems for audience members to excavate and be delighted by. Stylistically, the music, (provided by four scored voices, cello, guitars, dulcimer, Celtic harp, erhu, autoharp, piano, keyboards and percussion), is influenced by murder ballads, doo-wop, angular bebop, Chinese folk, Islamic adhan and the music of Bernard Herrmann and George Crumb. Meaning the score is a wonderfully eclectic and multicultural blend of folk, jazz, choral and more. If you loved the sound of Hadestown, you’ll love this!

Performed in the round at the brand new Boulevard Theatre, (the space’s inaugural piece and the piece’s London Premiere), the circular staging fits perfectly with the non-chronological, cyclical style of the work. Instruments litter the space, as do flight cases with books, lamps, tables, and rugs, making us feel as if we are in a non-description living room or smokey jazz bar, amongst friends, joining in with their drinking and jam session, all telling stories and larking around. Whilst the act of having the audience surround the space allows for an inherently immersive quality, the audience are no longer passive, as they, in Brechtian style, are spoken to directly, the actors able to reach anyone and everyone, involving them and where necessary pulling them up on stage. The design, allowing for a change in levels, as well for the actors to walk around, encircle and even dance, is thus wonderfully meaningful, malleable and aesthetically stunning. Emma Chapman’s lighting on top of this is exceedingly powerful and reactive, adding to the intensity of the piece and intrinsically complementing the stylistic choices of Malloy and Director Bill Buckhurst.

Buckhurst’s overall direction, joyfully creating moments for and allowing the actors to, interact with each other and their audience, juxtaposing this to the more intensified darker moments of storytelling, where the actors often sing in solitude or a solemn spotlight. Nevertheless the songs are always eerily delivered directly into the audience, the actors taking every opportunity to affectingly make eye contact. As far as deliveries go Carly Bawden, Niccolò Curradi, Maimuna Memon and Zubin Varla are sensational. Consummate storytellers, exceedingly accomplished musicians, ductile and emotive actors and absolutely stunning vocalists, able to blend together effortlessly. Curradi and Memon display wondrous power and adaptability, whilst Bawden is an effervescent and eye-catching performer and Varla demonstrates phenomenal timing and characterisation, performing with a twinkle in his eye throughout.

As the actors leave the space, fading away we are left with audience members playing a vamp on various instruments, the players have vanished without a trace, like ghosts, were they even there? An air of mystery remains, a powerful end to a powerful piece. Go and see this gorgeous song cycle, it’s 90 polished minutes of pure stardust, an evening you won’t regret.



Director – Bill Buckhurst

Musical Directior and Supervisor – Benjamin Cox

Designer – Simon Kenny

Movement Director – Georgina Lamb

Lighting Designer – Emma Chapman

Sound Designer – David Gregory

Casting Director – Will Burton CDG
Production Manager – Andy Reader

Additional Orchestrations and Arrangements – Benjamin Cox


Carly Bawden

Niccolò Curradi

Maimuna Memon

Zubin Varla

Review: Big the Musical, Dominion Theatre


Martini Rating: 🍸

If you aren’t at all interested in the underrepresentation of minorities, the perpetuating of gender stereotypes, casual sexism and racism, as well as emotional manipulation and mild domestic violence, perhaps Big the Musical is not one for you.

Based on the iconic 1988 film starring Tom Hanks, Big, first performed in 1996, follows 12-year-old Josh Baskin, who, after having inserted a coin into an unusual antique arcade fortune teller machine called Zoltar, makes a rash wish and is turned into a 30-year-old man. We follow Josh, (Jay McGuiness) as he awaits information on where another Zoltar machine is in order to wish himself back. He, in the meantime heads to New York City and by chance gets a job at MacMillen Toy Company, innocently falling for colleague Susan Lawrence, (Kimberly Walsh) in the process. Josh therefore experiences all of the pressures and tribulations of adulthood and dating. Just from the narrative alone, this seems like it would be a fun-for-the-whole-family comedy with many hilarious and relatable moments, lots of opportunities for lavish musical numbers and for the development of big, bold characters for children to look up to. However, Big in its musical format is not situated or executed well, though it does willfully include all of the iconic moments from the film.

Due to the huge digital screens that revolved and created much of the set, the show was treated to an elusively modern vibe, an incredibly cheap and tacky seeming modern vibe at that. Black bars often lining the edges of the aforementioned screens, thus breaking up the awful cartoon and panto-esque images meant to locate the scenes, with additional huge set pieces occasionally coming in at the sides. These often jolted as they moved and were unnaturalistic, unnecessary structures, resulting in a modern, yet cheap and nasty looking set that was definitely ambitious, meant to create a flashy, exciting aesthetic, but ultimately flopped. However, the 80s sounding pop-synth score with costuming and wigs that somewhat represented that era, (through they could have been more determinant of this and further developed), were elements suggestive of the same era as the film. The ambiguity with the design and content here, meant it was at first difficult to tell if the direction was aiming to modernise the piece and locate it in 2019, or not. Concluding not, as this makes the most sense and fits best with the language and subject matter, yet the prevalent of-the-era sexism, gender stereotyping and mild racism that occurs, (though passable at the time), was particularly jarring for the present audience and made us feel slightly offended and uncomfortable. Just, why was there a Saddam Hussein joke and why did it come out of a child actor’s mouth? There is already a question over the appropriateness of Big anyway, with Josh, a child eliciting a romantic relationship with the grown-up Susan, a surprising amount of laughter ensuing during the performance when she finds out Josh is 12 and worries that she is going to end up in jail, would the audience find it as funny if their genders were reversed? We think not. It was certainly painful to witness Josh telling Susan the truth and to watch her both slap him and then manipulate him by following this up with an ‘I love you’.

As far as casting, there has been some controversy over the entire adult cast being white, we don’t think a few diverse actors in each of the children’s team ensembles can save this casting choice from being totally unrepresentative of minorities. This, against the backdrop of the aforementioned poor taste joke, and highly middle-class nature of the show made for an uncomfortable and not necessarily relatable staging. We aren’t all two-dimensional, white, (mostly Male), hotshots earning huge salaries and climbing the corporate ladder. We also found a lot of issues in the direction. Big surprisingly has several funny moments that actually aren’t offensive, but most of the time the direction was so headstrong and fast-paced that a joke, or even an important plot point, hardly landed before the actors moved onto the next thing, leaving us dazed and unable to appreciate any of the comedy or trajectory. The musical even felt like it was trying too hard to be meaningful and relatable on the topic of teen angst. It was clear a lot of time and effort had gone into that, but it felt like a child’s perspective hadn’t really been consulted and came across at points as, cheesy and unsympathetic. As far as the choreography was concerned, this too was sub-par, the iconic Piano scene was fine and Jay McGuinness did get his ‘strictly moment’, but other than this there wasn’t anything that invigorating or visually exciting/challenging. Speaking of Jay McGuinness, he was fantastic and is probably what earns the martini here. McGuinness had great presence, displaying sincerity and childlike innocence in his acting, with a phenomenal voice and of course executing the choreography with wondrous passion and poise, accenting every move well. He did ridiculously well with what he was given. Matthew Kelly was also particularly charming, his delivery of George MacMillan, the toy company owner, was both warming and comedically charged. It is Kimberley Walsh’s Susan and Wendy Peters’ Mrs Baskin that are each tragically underwritten and thus fall flat. They each did well with the content and demonstrate Herculean voices, but their characters need to be fleshed out and their intents and desires more clearly communicated. This isn’t a show that bolsters inspirational and powerful women, despite Walsh’s characters’s executive position amongst many man in the business world.

Regarding the score, the sound as aforementioned, is perfect for representing the 80s, but what it does lack is memorability. We enjoyed a few numbers such as Stars, Cross The Line and Dancing All The Time. But we can only now remember a weak version of the melody of Cross The Line and we aren’t yet feeling inclined to listen to a cast recording. It was also apparent that many of the compositions were difficult to sing and therefore didn’t show off the performers voices too well. It is also worth mentioning here, that the children’s ensemble alongside Young Josh and Billy were all excellent and energetic performers, enigmatically filling the space and delivering the ensemble numbers with tumultuous power.

To conclude, we unfortunately don’t recommend Big, some stories stuck in the past, should just stay in the past. We so wanted it to be a fun and uplifting family musical that would brighten our week. We aren’t saying it had to have some grandiose moral message about social issues or appreciating the world whilst you‘re still young, but the creative execution in our opinion, wasn’t good enough to overlook the problematic subject matter. If you are at all intrigued and do however feel like catching the musical during its limited West End run, click here.

*On a side note, we were also deeply disappointed with the venue and staff. There were no visible Ushers to act as a deterrent for poor behaviour. Therefore a gentlemen in front of us was able to film at least 5 minutes of the show, periodically check his phone and listen to a voicemail message on full volume without being stopped. There was also a torrent of rustling nearby as well as shouting and whooping audience members. Don’t even get us started on the amount of people that got up to use the bathroom facilities. Not cool, Dominion, not cool.



Jay McGuiness – Josh Baskin
Wendi Peters – Mrs Baskin
Kimberley Walsh – Susan Lawrence
Matthew Kelly – George MacMillan
Lori Haley Fox – Mrs Kopecki./Miss Watson
Edward Handoll – Paul Seymour
Harrison Dadswell – Young Josh
Jamie O’Connor – Young Josh
Jake Simon – Young Josh
Jobe Hart – Billy
Theo Wilkinson – Billy
Charlie Bull
,Colin Burnicle
, Christie-Lee Crosson
, Vicki Davids
, Alex Fobbester, 
Leanne Garretty
, Stuart Hickey, Matt Holland
, Tash Holway, 
Ross McLaren
, Richard Murphy, 
Eddie Myles
, Katharine Pearson
, Anton Fosh, Gemma Fuller
, Gary Murphy, 
Katy Osborne
, Olufemi Alaka, 
Coco Cousin-Brown
, Asher Ezeguiel, 
Ellis Griffiths, Imogen Law Hing Choy, 
Noah Leggott
, Amaya Lucas, 
Cassia McCarthy
, Ophelia Parsons, 
Bailey Razdan
, Lucinda Wicks
, Chanel Zinyemba


John Weidman – Author
David Shine – Music
Richard Maltby (Jnr) – Lyrics
Michael Rose – Producer
Damien Sanders – Producer
Paul Gregg (for Encore Theatre Productions Limited) – Producer
Morgan Young – Director
Morgan Young – Choreographer
Simon Higlett – Costume
Tim Lutkin – Lighting
Simon Higlett – Design
Terry Jardine – Sound
Avgoustos Psillas – Sound
Stuart Morley (musical supervisor) – Music

Review: Sunday Favourites: Aimie Atkinson, The Other Palace


Martini Rating: 🍸🍸🍸🍸🍸

Sunday Favourites at The Other Palace are back with a bang! Aimie Atksinson’s offering this past Sunday was incredibly feisty and diverse, with a personable touch and of course, to top it off, her signature powerhouse vocals. Ensuring both a raucous and supportive atmosphere as each song was met with instantaneous roaring applause. Beyoncé who?

Produced by Lambert Jackson, Sunday Favourites provides fans with the opportunity to get up close and personal with their favourite musical theatre stars. Giving the performers the time and space to not only meet and greet many of their dedicated followers, but to curate and perform a unique set of their favourite songs in their own intimate solo show. Often, if they choose, the performers are joined by handpicked, special guest stars. Culminating in a effervescent early-evening of laughter, storytelling and spine-tingling arrangements of songs.

Aimie Atkinson’s show was no deviation from this. This glitzy evening included an abundance of special guests, jaw-dropping outfit changes, even some choreography and the true pièce de résistance, Atkinson’s phenomenal re-workings of songs, with beautiful arrangements and powerful yet often subtle harmonies. As Atkinson put it in her own words the evening was ‘so extra!’. From the additional little details, to the hair, to the outfits, to the shoes, to the make-up, to the voice, to the stories, she had it all in ample supply! Meticulously and carefully curating her evening with such flair, thought and precision, demonstrating that she is truly masterful at her craft.

As aforementioned the atmosphere was palpable as fans admiringly cheered with a well-deserved roaring applause after each song. The set-up and close proximity, due to the size of The Other Palace, wonderfully engendered a sense of intimacy. The blank, white frames of the Falsettos set glinting behind her, perfectly fitted in with the homely-vibe created. A rug adorning the stage beneath the drum kit, with some plant pots, a photo frame and knitted SIX-inspired dolls decorating the stage and piano, joined by a ‘Sunday Favourites’ light box and a large light up sign spelling out ‘AIMIE’ in lightbulbs. The stage, with its row of multitalented musicians and plethora of mic stands, thus looked like someone’s, slightly-extra, garage space converted for jam sessions with their band and, it subsequently felt as if we were all invited to watch. And what we got to see and hear was simply sensational. Hats off to Atkinson’s self-selected band too, who are competent performers, each playing with an abundance of zeal and in perfect synchronicity throughout. Keys: Katy Richardson (as seen in SIX), Guitar: Amy Shaw (also in SIX), Bass: Robyn Brown (also in SIX) and Percussion: Tristan Butler (not in SIX, but with a wig, he could be in SIX!).

The evening was decisively split into two halves, the first framing itself as a personable, one-stop-tour through Atkinson’s career to date. Between each song were several funny and heartwarming anecdotes to explain the process of landing each part or, how she met the special guest sharing the stage with her at that particular point, then going on to explain what the part was with a brief plot summary. Atkinson proving herself to be a proficient and humorous storyteller, able to successfully capture her audience’s attention and think on her feet, all whilst demonstrating a definitively humble nature, often finding herself taken aback by the obvious support and adoration in the room. The set in this half ultimately went as follows: Funny Girl’s Don’t Rain On My Parade (part of Atkinson’s winning set for the final of the BBC Voice of Musical Theatre), Somewhere Over The Rainbow (The Wizard of Oz), a cut song from Zorro The Musical with Arabella Rodrigo, A Million Love Songs (Never Forget) with Andy Coxon, Somebody’s Gonna Get Killed (Legacy Falls) with Amy Anzel and Pippa Winslow – accompanied by writer James Burn, Cry To Me (Dirty Dancing) with Fela Lufadeju, Breathe (In The Heights) with Genesis Lynea, Christina Modestou and Sarah Naudi, this would have been followed by All You Wanna Do (SIX) to bring us to the present day of her career, however there were moderate ‘technical difficulties’ and an interval came early, the rendition was however worth the wait! Atkinson throughout, alongside her brilliant anecdotal reminiscences, as previously mentioned – displayed her unique vocal talents and clear ability to put together an enchantingly distinctive cabaret show. Joining her on stage, Arabella Rodrigo and Andy Coxon both demonstrated equivocal vocal prowess and beautiful tonality blending with and offsetting Atkinson’s voice well. Whilst, the strength in characterisation and harmonies delivered by Amy Anzel and Pippa Winslow combined with Atkinson’s own talents to craft a strikingly hilarious and power-induced version of Somebody’s Gonna Get Killed from Legacy Falls, (the musical following a group of actors on a fictional American soap opera as they are faced with new executive producers). Fela Lufadeju similarly, helped Atkinson to deliver a sincerely soulful rendition of Cry To Me from Dirty Dancing, beginning with a spontaneous backbend that incited an overwhelming sense of WOW 👀. Finally, the four part version of Breathe delivered by Atkinson with original In The Heights London cast member Christina Modestou and Atkinson’s fellow cast members Sarah Naudi and Genesis Lynea was breathtaking. The vocals were spectacularly balanced, raw and emotive, whilst the arrangement was intricate and strong and the execution, stunning. All in all, this sing through of Atkinson’s career was mesmerising and hugely entertaining, from the ‘Lynx story’ to the end of the act, (you just had to be there).

Leading us on to the variegated and completely different second half, which can therefore be described as an antithesis to the sensational first act. It was carefully curated by Atkinson for her to, in her own words ‘do what I like’. The set here really giving the audience a glimpse into her vivacious personality. It included: A Whole New World from Aladdin with Johndeep More, Ed Sheeran’s Thinking Out Loud and Little Mix’s Woman Like Me with Genesis Lynea, Adele’s Rolling In Then Deep with Christina Modestou and Renee Lamb, the cut MegaSix and Ariana Grande’s God is A Woman with Christina Modestou, Renee Lamb and Genesis Lynea, All You Wanna Do from SIX with Annabel Marlow, Sam Pauly and Jodie Steele and an exuberant, sparkly, choreographed and dance-encouraged rendition of Proud Mary with Sarah Naudi, Genesis Lynea, Tom Gribby and Christina Dahlen. As before, this half also included a plethora of funny and adorable stories. Genesis Lynea featuring heavily here, demonstrated her truly unique voice, which is particularly rich and well-defined. Going on to then show off some accomplished rapping skills. Their duet of Thinking Out Loud, was a lovingly tender moment proving just how much these two performers care about each other. As was A Whole New World with Atkinson’s close, brotherly friend Johndeep More. More and Atkinson’s voices blending effortlessly as they gazed at each other with affection. Though Breathe was stunning, God is A Woman and All You Wanna Do tie for the best song of the night in our opinion. The vocal delivery of the Ariana Grande hit single was out of this world. Renee Lamb particularly snatched her chance to shine here, the tight harmonies and insanity of the notes hit, took this version up several notches. Yet there was a certain weight to having four generations of Katherine Howard in one place. Effervescently acted out and beautifully sung, the rendition was fresh, fun and wildly entertaining. Annabel Marlow was particularly fabulous to watch here. This half of the evening even had a brief appearance from Wolfie, Atkinson and Lynea’s German Sprintz, what a cutie! To conclude, if you didn’t see Aimie Atkinson’s Sunday Favourites, you missed out. Better luck next time friends!

Sunday Favourites are the perfect intimate opportunity to see your favourite West End performers stripped back with their own unique flair, future planned concerts include: Alice Fearn, Joe McElderry, David Hunter, Jason Pennycooke and Jodie Steele. Click here to find out more or book now.



Review: &Juliet, Manchester Opera House


Martini Rating: 🍸🍸🍸🍸🍸

We predict a hit!

Starting it’s ‘out of town’ try out before transferring to London’s West End, &Juliet opened with a bang at Manchester’s historic Opera House last night. This incredibly witty and immensely comedic musical, bolsters a soundtrack of 30 pop anthems, a ridiculously talented cast and a design to die for. Making it a must see event in either Manchester or London.

The show is set up on the premise that William Shakespeare, (Oliver Tompsett) has just finished writing Romeo & Juliet, but his wife Anne Hathaway, (Cassidy Janson) has other ideas. What ensues is a femme-positive and wonderfully inclusive musical remix that smashes all gender stereotypes as Anne sets about writing the show she wants to see. Which just so turns out to be a meaningful comedy and not the dark, dark tragedy Shakespeare is so keen to write. &Juliet thus beautifully re-imagines this Shakespearean classic, making an interesting commentary on Shakespeare and Anne’s marriage, as the pair begin to spar over what is to happen in the play and draw various comparisons between themselves and the star-crossed lovers. The show also intriguingly gives a nod to Shakespeare as an actor-writer with a share-hold in an acting company by having the couple write themselves into their new play, the opening showing the pair surrounded by a company of players. Throughout, Oliver Tompsett and Cassidy Janson have fantastically fiery chemistry that offers up a lot of opportunity for both comedy and depth. Tompsett’s William Shakespeare is remarkably flamboyant, mischievous and narcissistic, his delivery of the ‘world’s greatest playwright’ who wants it his way, is a perfect mansplaining and hard-headed counterpart to Cassidy Janson’s Anne Hathaway, who is incredibly witty, smart and independent. Anne is a bold, self-assured, rationalising character who just wants to see a women given a choice for once, rather than the passive character’s her husband has previously written – who are often told what to do. Janson delivers Anne effervescently with great clarity and witticism. Both Janson and Tompsett ultimately provide powerful vocals and comedically rich performances as they fumble about the stage together, their character’s playfully manipulating the story.

The mise en scène narrative that the pair devise, therefore starts with Juliet having awoken to find Romeo dead and instead of ending it all, she chooses to go on living. We get to follow her as she, (along with friends), seeks something more, tries to escape the will of her parents and almost makes the same mistakes. It is, like any good Shakespeare, subversive and full of twists and turns with various sub-plots, love stories and disguises. Thus, David West Read’s writing is a triumph, he has managed to reimagine and create complex characters that are exceedingly relatable and fresh. His book is a clever, vibrant and raucous ode to the bard with a modern twist that can symbiotically be seen as a meaningful parody. Juliet reclaiming her story asserts itself as the perfect girl-power take-back for this generation. Though at times the piece dances on the edge of pantomime, the level of comedy is groundbreaking and the storyline, inspired. As far as the music is concerned, as aforementioned the piece contains 30 pop classics, but &Juliet is no jukebox musical. Max Martin, (Dominic Fallacaro and Bill Sherman)’s choices and arrangements are strong, unique and impassioned, they interweave throughout the story effortlessly, propelling on the plot and artfully emoting. Whilst enraptured, it is easy to forget that all of these popular songs exist outside of this show, the incited delivery and obvious fresh arrangements ensure that they feel as if they were written for it. All of which is staged by the invigorating direction of Luke Sheppard, which certifies that the comedy and vibrancy of Read’s book packs-a-punch and is well-sustained and balanced, whilst allowing room for tender and understated moments to also trickle through, enacting to be as powerful and sincere as those of high intensity, or of visible teem. Additionally, Jennifer Weber’s choreography accents the arrangements flawlessly, her work is energetic, bold and connective. Allowing for beautifully ensemble-led work and aesthetically pleasing moments of awe.

The overall approach, thus fuses a new fiction, the historical past and today’s socio-political climate, the intent being to create a retrospective Shakespearean comedy for our times, which looks back to look forward, with the objective of promoting both female empowerment and the dismantling of the patriarchy. So whilst the music, choreography and dialogue are modern, (a critical choice to the ensure work’s relevance to its audience), the setting is still the 1590s. A necessity to allow Shakespeare and Anne to appear as characters and ringmasters, using fact and artistic licence to allow the audience look at Shakespeare critically, (as a potentially blinkered man who probably wrote without considering a women’s perspective). Not only does it show how far we’ve come towards gender equality since the time of Shakespeare, it dictates just how far we have to go, with many women internationally still in Juliet’s position, fighting for the freedom to take back their own story. Thus, this fusion is intricately shown in the representative costuming and design. Bright and modern coloured doublets, hose, corsets and tunics combine with baseball jackets, headphones, SnapBacks and sunglasses. Whilst hydrolic lifts, a revolve, confetti, coloured washes of lighting, projections and various modern set pieces – either lowered from the flies or carried in by the ensemble, combine with other design elements that do much to nod towards the playhouses of Shakespeare’s day, (in particular the Globe, or the modern reconstruction of it). For example, the projections often appear like ‘the Heavens’ painted onto the false ceiling of the Globe’s stage, whilst two colonnades flown down from the flies look very much like those that also reside on the stage there and the white wreath of flowers propped up centre-stage at Romeo’s funeral looks similar to the modern Globe’s circular logo, which represents the reconstructed theatre building. Furthermore, the walls around the edges of the stage are shown to be falling into disrepair and a balcony, like the one from which Juliet was wooed by Romeo looms centre stage, this is a gritty indication towards the ‘new fiction’. Juliet will/is tearing down her story and reclaiming it. Shown in her rousing number Roar as she finally takes control and subsequently rises in a new balcony, the railings including some padlocks similar to love-locks left at Juliet’s balcony in Verona, denoting Juliet as a female hero to look up to, as so many do when they pilgrimage to Verona to leave her letters. Therefore the design by Soutra Gilmour (Set), Andrzej Goulding (Video & Projection), Paloma Young (Costume) and Howard Hudson (Lighting) is beautifully representative, it’s modern flavour is a necessity to make the narrative ultimately relatable, whilst the historic allows us to look back at Shakespeare contrarily and for the use of Shakespeare and Anne as a vehicle for the narrative. Regarding Young’s work there are a few other enigmatic design elements that are worth mentioning. Throughout, Janson and Tompsett wield a quill in their hand dependent on who’s character is writing the narrative at that point, when Juliet finally takes back her story and ascends on the balcony, she is revealed to be wearing a doublet and hose, the top half of which is an intricate embellished golden quill, she literally wears the trousers and is the playwright of her own destiny here. The piece also does a lot to break gender stereotypes, Romeo’s initial costume is mainly pink, accented by a flowery pink backpack, the costume Juliet wears opposite him is, in contrast, a blue trouser suit. This seems like a pretty basic statement on the whole ‘pink for girls’ and ‘blue for boys’ gender stuff by swapping them over, however there is a delightful subtly in the fact that this moment can be compared to May (Juliet’s best friend’s)’s initial purple costume. As the gender-ambiguous character, there is something so tempered and pure in the signifier of them wearing a costume colour that is a mixture of the two colours the male and female Romeo and Juliet wear. The character of May, not only adds an air of inclusivity, they are also a great nod to Shakespeare himself who often toyed with subverting gender in his work, though of course, not in the same way. Arun Blair-Mangat plays May with a certain maturity and sincerity, though the character is somewhat naive, Blair-Mangat also manages to capture the uncertainty the character has in them-self and the rawness of the pain May has evidently experienced. He also has a particularly rich and unique voice. However, it does also feel like May was slightly underwritten, they disappear for a large proportion of Act 2 and their exact trajectory is partially unclear. May struggling with which toilet to go to followed by their rendition of I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman suggests the character is in the process of transitioning to be a woman, yet May later joins a boy-band. Would a girl in transition realistically agree to this? Therefore it is easier to try and understand May as simply gender-fluid, as aforementioned in the show, is it really any of our business which, if any gender they ascribe to?

Finally onto the rest of the individual performances. Looking into the credits of the entire cast, it is plain to see that they are pretty much all veterans when it comes to big musicals, something that is mind-blaringly obvious in the deliveries, as every single cast members can quite simply be regarded as sensational. Leading the company as Juliet, is the powerhouse that is Miriam-Teak Lee. Her voice is out of this world, with impeccable control and an immense range she battles from huge belting song to huge belting song, she will hence force be known as the riff queen. Her delivery is edgy, sharp-witted and enviably confident, she makes Juliet the Herculean hero that every girl should and will want to be, a self-assured, fiesty, independent woman that Shakespeare could never write. Whilst opposite her, Jordan Luke Gage’s vein, pouty, love-rat Romeo is a hilarious counterpart, Gage also displaying his wondrous vocal tonality. Tim Mahendran’s Francois, the self-effacing son of french nobility, like May has a great sense of naivety about him. Mehendran’s performance, like Blair-Mangat’s, has a purity and sincerity to it, the pair displaying infinite chemistry with one another, sharing in several well-crafted tender moments. However, the true award for on-stage chemistry goes to David Badella, (Lance – Francois’ Father) and Melanie La Barrie, (Juliet’s Nurse). The pair are intoxicating together, La Barrie, with her sardonic wit and enviable comedic timing and Badella, with his charm and silky voice. Their deliveries of the rekindled lovers are definitely a highlight! Whilst the ensemble of players surrounding them are strong, proving themselves to be multifaceted performers and a tight-knit collective, successfully moving set pieces, hitting the choreography hard and adding wondrous vocal depth, they do feel somewhat under-utilised. Particularly as they are often left loitering at the sides. Despite this many of them did manage to continuously pull focus, particularly Grace Mouat, Jocasta Almgill, Kirstie Skivington, Antoine Murray-Straughan and Kerri Norville.

To conclude, we have a revitalised hero on our hands and her name is Juliet. This female-positive show has it all, from the writing to the design to the delivery, the execution of it provides an inspirational, witty musical for our times, filled to the brim with relevance and passion not to mention its abundance of pop songs. Romeo Who? &Juliet runs in Manchester until Saturday 12th October and then on to London. Click here to book now for Manchester and here for London.



Juliet- Miriam-Teak Lee

Shakespeare – Oliver Tompsett

Anne Hathaway – Cassidy Janson

Lance – David Badella

May – Arun Blair Mangat

Romeo – Jordan Luke Gage

Nurse – Melanie La Barrie

Francois – Tim Mahendran

Company of Players – Jocasta Almgill, Josh Baker, Ivan De Freitas, Rhian Duncan, Danielle Fiamanya, Kieran Lai, Nathan Lorainey-Dineen, Jaye Marshall, Grace Mouat, Antoine Murray-Straughan, Billy Nevers, Kerri Norville, Christopher Parkinson, Dillon Scott-Lewis, Kirstie Skivington, Alex Tranter and Sophie Usher.



Music and Lyrics – Max Martin & Friends

Book – David West Read

Director – Luke Sheppard

Choreographer – Jennifer Weber

Set Designer – Soutra Gilmour

Lighting Designer – Howard Hudson

Costume Designer – Paloma Young

Sound Designer – Gareth Owen

Video & Projection Designer – Andrzej Goulding

Wig Designer – Linda McKnight

Musical Director, Additional Orchestrations & Arrangements – Dominic Fallacaro

Music Supervisor, Orchestrator & Arranger – Bill Sherman

Associate Director – Anna Fox

Associate Choreographer – Kendra Horsburgh

Casting Director – Stuart Burg CDG

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