Review: Bathhouse! The Musical

Bathhouse! The Musical

Above the Stag Theatre, Arch 17, Miles Street, Vauxhall SW8 1RZ
#Tweetingit – review in 140 characters: 4* High-camp humour + harmonious voices + the odd gratuitous glimpse = raucous laughter all round
Down an unpromising road, underneath a busy train route in Vauxhall, is your friendly neighbourhood bathhouse.  
Here you will be greeted by Gyles Brandreth’s omnipotent voice, extolling the virtues of the steamy sauna and educating you, and bathhouse newbie Billy, in bathhouse etiquette.  The theatre itself is intimate to say the least, seating only 60, and often has to battle with the rumblings of the trains overhead.  If you are sitting in the front row, expect a little harmless contact with the cast and if you’re sitting beyond the front row, you are still very close to the stage.
In Act 1, we meet Billy, played with excellent comedy-timing by Ryan Lynch, and the regulars of the bathhouse whilst they tell us a little about themselves and what they come to the bathhouse in search of (spoiler alert: it is not to have a bath).  With catchy numbers such as ‘Bear’ and ‘The Workout’ performed with aplomb by the cast, the audience are led on a high-kicking, towel-dropping laughter-fest.  The singing is skilled and, at times, angelic.  The songs are generally fast-paced and upbeat, with a few slower songs performed with pathos; no mean feat for a story that, essentially, does not have a story. Billy starts visiting the bathhouse and soon meets The Bear, a suitably-hairy Tim McArthur (also the director), who is rather popular amongst the patrons of the bathhouse.  Billy has his first steamy encounter and is soon trying to progress the relationship to the next level, only to find the relationship is not as serious as he thinks it is.
In Act 2, the audience are treated to an educational number, ‘Penises are like Snowflakes’, an homage to…well, you can probably guess.  We catch up with Billy as he gets over his disappointment in the previous act by trying a spot of internet dating.  There are name-checks for well-known gay dating apps you’ve heard of and a great many that you, probably, haven’t.  Billy arranges to meet someone at the bathhouse, only to find that it is The Bear.  They perform a touching duet  and agree they are not right for each other.  The finale is a medley of the previously-performed songs, with some brilliant boyband-esque power gestures, and the cast dance and harmonise in perfect unison to bring the evening’s events to a raucous, confetti-strewn end.
If you’re looking for a thought-provoking storyline, Bathhouse! is not for you.  There are however genuinely hilarious moments, catchy songs and excellent tongue-in-cheek performances by the cast. The play does touch upon some of the difficulties gay men face, but it is generally played for laughs.  There are the odd flashes of backside, and more, here and there but not enough to make you blush.  Mature audiences only, but you should probably be young at heart.
Director: Tim McArthur
Writers: Tim Evanicki and Esther Daack
Booking until: 20 July 2014
Guest Reviewer – Judy Yau

Review: Tristram Shandy – Conception, Cock & Bull

St James Studio

#Tweetingit – review in 140 characters: 5* – unmissable Thoughts of a gentleman + this is your life 18th Century Style = bawdy tales of conception, birth and romantic inclination


Writing when properly managed is but a different name for conversation’…So said Laurence Sterne, creator of the legendary Tristram Shandy. Quite prophetic for an 18th Century novelist, bearing in mind emails and texts are now often looked upon as substitutes for real conversation. However, in the hands of the outstanding Stephen Oxley, conversation becomes king in this compulsive account of Tristram’s early life. Moreover, St James Studio provides the perfect outlet for a wonderfully consistent one man show. As Tristram, Stephen Oxley creates a relaxed atmosphere and uses the natural intimacy of the studio to great effect. He fixes eye contact with each and every member of the audience; shakes hands with gentlemen and discreetly kisses ladies hands’ seated in the front row. You feel privileged to be his confidante as he merrily romps through Act 1, a bawdy, funny and highly literate account of his conception and birth in 1718. Audience members are grandly dubbed ‘your worships’ and ‘your reverences’ as he carries us through a series of witty digressions along the way.

In Act 1, we are introduced to Tristram’s parents; his war obsessed Uncle Toby, amorous Aunt Dinah, officious maid, Susannah, decrepit butler Isiah and Uncle Toby’s magnificently titled man servant Corporal Trim. Each character is given life by Stephen Oxley’s skill with accents and ability to adopt a posture best fitting the character’s mannerisms. So good is he, you feel you know the characters even though they never appear on stage. Tristram goes on to regale us with stories of how he got his moniker, how Uncle Toby picked up his war wound and the mystifying family tradition for collapsed noses. His conception is hilariously imagined and explicit. The night of his birth is animated by the dramatis personae so skilfully brought to life by his own impressions. It’s almost annoying when Act 1 comes to an end just as the master story teller is getting into his stride.

Act 2 begins with the thoughts and opinions of Tristram, but he is quickly side tracked into an uncomfortable exposition of Uncle Toby’s attempts to woo Mrs Wadham, despite interference from her maid Brigit. Incidents involving sash cord windows are also described in minute and often excruciating detail. At 90 minutes including a 15 minute interval it seems all too brief as you feel there is much more Tristram could share with us. Two published volumes of Tristram Shandy would suggest there is more to be told. Stephen Oxley is an exemplary performer and it comes as no surprise that he has long been a stalwart of the Royal Shakespeare Company. It would seem an impossible task for one actor to hold court with just a casket and chair to assist him. But he completes the task with consummate ease. I think an 18th century stand up comedian would have sounded just like Tristram Shandy. But unlike his modern counterparts doesn’t resort to profanity, insults and aggression to make a point. This is observational humour at its very best.

Author: Laurence Sterne

Adapted and Performed by: Stephen Oxley

Director: Felicity Dean

Producer: Face to Face

Box Office: 0844 264 2140

Booking link:

Booking until: 14 June 2014

Review: Mugs Arrows

Old Red Lion Theatre, St John Street, the Angel

#Tweetingit – review in 140 characters: 4* Best man + best friend in conversation = post wedding analysis + game of darts interrupted by beautiful bride = the darkest of black comedies.

Mugs Arrows Press Shot 2

So two guys walk in to a pub and start playing darts…it sounds like the intro to a really bad joke. But it was the totally original opening to ‘Mugs Arrows’. The compelling tale of Pat and Ed, pondering the aftermath of their friend Simon’s wedding. There’s something very fitting about a pub staging a play set in a pub. The Old Red Lion is a wonderfully nostalgic setting with its snug bar and intimate atmosphere preserving the image of a traditional pub. Upstairs, the theatre plays host to a weird and wonderful story that never fails to hold your attention. A lecture style layout gives the audience a great view wherever they sit. You feel privy to the characters as their chaotic existence slowly begins to unfold. With drink in hand, a familiar scenario springs to mind. You’re meeting a friend and you’re early, but can’t help overhearing a conversation while you wait. You’re trying not to listen, but there’s something so strange happening you can’t help but listen. With this analogy chipping away I was immediately hooked. However, unlike overheard pub conversations you get to hear the whole story.

Pat was Simon’s best man and Ed is Pat’s best friend. The conversation slowly builds from mundane social chat to deep self analysis that’s both disturbing and extremely funny. We gradually begin to understand the complexity of Pat and Ed’s relationship. They are soon joined by Simon’s bride Sarah, who adds a beautiful, mesmerising presence to proceedings. Our deadly duo are transfixed and unhinged, but gamely fight her powers of manipulation. We are treated to the full range of human emotions – anger, greed, jealousy and passion are all thrown into the mix. We even get a spot of karaoke which trust me, works within the play’s context and maintains the weirdness level quite nicely. The story also branches into the realms of fantasy, dreams and symbolism. You may therefore arrive at more than one conclusion as to what it all means. The characters are very well drawn as they show you everything but ultimately, tell you nothing for certain. So never felt I got to the bottom of the characters. But therein lay the skill and beauty of such writing. We all interpret this type of story in our own way. Some will be infuriated by it; others will glory in its weirdness and complexity.

The cast were faultless in their execution of the story. Writer Eddie Elks was excellent as the cool, enigmatic Ed; Rhys King was thoroughly convincing as the angst ridden Pat and Chiara Wilde was stunning as the artful, controlling Sarah. I thoroughly enjoyed this play, because it challenges the general convention that a story has to be told in straight lines. It will twist and turn into different angles and leave you wondering where that particular line came from, and why it came in where it did? But the reward is there, they just make you work harder to find it. My friend and I also met Chiara Wilde and shook hands with Eddie Elks in the bar afterwards. How often do you get to meet the writer and co-star of the play you’ve just seen?

Author: Eddie Elks

Director: Ken McClymont

Producer: Molly Roberts/Third Man Theatre

Box Office: 0207 837 7816

Booking link:

Booking until: 21 June 2014

Review: The Blonde Bombshells

Upstairs at the Gatehouse, Highgate Village

#Tweetingit – review in 140 characters: 5* Unmissable WW2 – Blitz spirit (cross dressing draft dodging drummers) + all girl band = sisters doing for themselves.

Perched atop Highgate Village, the Gatehouse presents a challenging course of undulating hills en route from the tube. However, it was well worth the effort. The Gatehouse is a beautifully appointed Tudor style public house and provides the ideal setting for an intimate performance. Upstairs, an enthusiastic audience packed into every available seat, making the most of the venue’s competitive ticket pricing.

The story alights in 1943, a tumultuous year as the war finally turned in the Allies favour. The 8th Army had swept through North Africa and landed in Italy, the Dambusters heroic raid had fatally wounded Germany’s engine room and Ivy Benson’s all girl band became the BBC’s resident band. Ivy Benson ultimately provides the inspiration for the story of a female dance band keeping peoples’ spirits up while the men were away fighting. The production, always looked upon as a play with songs, and not a musical, divides into 3 neat acts. The girls led by saxophonist Betty are frantically searching for new band members. They are confronted with Lilly, a banjo playing nun; Elizabeth, child prodigy clarinettist and Miranda, a spoilt army driver, who confuses tenor sax with the trumpet. But she soon realises it’s the sax she can play, much to the relief of resident trumpeter Vera. Double bassist Grace and pianist May provide the band’s heartbeat and conscience. Just to complete the mix, we have Pat, boy drummer who sees the band as a way of avoiding joining the forces. It all makes for a glorious aggregation as the motley crew rehearse for their first appearance on the BBC.

The characters are infectious and lovable as they slowly mould into a slick unit. The transformation of Lilly, Elizabeth and Miranda into a close harmony vocal group is striking and gives the band an added dimension. Acts 1 and 2 are merely scene setting and I couldn’t help looking forward to Act 3 when the real action began. This is when the girls get frocked up and ready to kick ass. And do they kick it! All the legendary swing favourites are featured including ‘moonlight serenade’, ‘it ain’t what you do it’s the way that you do it’ and ‘tuxedo junction’. The aforementioned trio also give it large, affecting a great reading of the Andrew Sisters, legendary vocal harmony group of the 40’s. Whilst newsreel footage of the era pins down the historical sub text, this production has a timeless quality and doesn’t just rely on nostalgia to score points. This isn’t necessarily a show for the over 80’s strolling down memory lane. No, this is a party that all ages can enjoy and if you learn something about history that’s a bonus.

The cast were outstanding in their musicianship and vocal range. Louisa Beadel as Betty and Lauren Storer as Miranda played some mean sax. Emma Jane Morton as Elizabeth sounded sweet on clarinet. Eloise Kay as May and Giovanna Ryan as Grace harmonised beautifully from behind their piano and double bass. The petite Ashley Sterling as Vera got real power from the trumpet, while Josh Haberfield as Pat performed solidly on the drums. However, the most memorable performance came from Katie Arnstein as Lily, who made the most of a swinging nun transforming into a swinging vocalist.

I was amazed by the age range in the audience, there were kids as young as 10 present and they got as much from it as the over 80’s. However, the venue as good as it is, seems too cramped for a production of this type and would benefit hugely from a larger stage. This show is the epitome of a great night out, a heart warming tribute to the indomitable spirit of those who lived through the war years, and a fantastic foot stomping musical revue of 40’s swing.…don’t miss it!

Author: Alan Plater

Director: John Plews

Musical Director: Angharad Sanders

Producer: Katy Plews for Ovation

Box Office: 020 8340 3488

Booking link:

Booking until: 29 June 2014

Review – Limbo – London Wonderground

London Wonderground

Originally posted:

#Tweetingit – my review in 140 characters

5* A sexy, awe-inspiring, mind boggling (how does he bend in half like that?)performance with catchy music and seriously impressive stunts


London Wondergound is another world. Situated on the Southbank, this amazing place is bustling with excitement, cocktails are flowing and there are shows for everyone to enjoy; and Limbo is no exception. A sexy, breathtaking, awe-inspiring array of acts that keep you on the edge of your seat for the entirety of the 75 minute performance.

The 9-strong troupe defy many rules of physics and biology. They are dancers, singers, illusionists, musicians, jugglers, acrobats, sword swallowers, beat boxers, rappers, pole dancers and so much more.

This is a kind of adult Cirque du Soleil or modernised circus. Inside the ticketed area, there is a miniature adult fairground; a cocktail bar, pizza stall, dodgems and waltzers for chairs. Once summoned to the performance space, the audience enter into a big top style arena.

The music is incredible. I can agree that this music is as described; constantly surprising, always funky, very sexy and a little bit off kilter. Performed by Sxip Shirey , their style of music is JANK. Harmonicas, horns, mixing bowls, an electric kalimba, banjos and so much more. They are truly a talented bunch. Who would’ve thought that a mixing bowl could create so much atmosphere or that a tuba player could be so sexy?

Each and every act is stunning and trying to describe it all won’t do it justice. The performers are all unbelievable and often very funny. Danik Abishev’s balancing act, Jonathan Nosan’s ridiculously and mind bogglingly bendy body, Hilton Denis’ skilful tap dancing, Heather Holliday’s fabulous fire breathing and sword swallowing, and Evelyn Alard’s glamorous acrobatics. But the person who stood out for me was Mikael Bres.

I don’t think a pole dance could have been more impressive or sexy – and it was done by a man. Mikael Bres uses incredible skill and strength to perform this impressive pole dance. It wasn’t too over the top and the men in the audience, I doubt felt, uncomfortable – he was fully clothed afterall. This boylesque routine kept those who appreciated the male form goggly eyed, while his strength and speed with which he both climbed and descended the pole made the whole audience gasp.

You would think that with so many different types of acts and props and costumes to change that it would be a little disjointed. That is not the case; there is always something going on to fill these moments.

Many of the things that I saw I find difficult to fathom. I cannot even begin to think about how they do these things, or discover that they can in the first place. But, one final question I want answered by the cast: how on earth did you get fish net tights on within a few seconds without laddering them between acts? Now that takes skill.

For an incredible, breathtaking and astonishing evening out, in this beautiful and crazy world of Limbo, get down to the spiegeltent at London’s Wonderground.

London Wonderground
Southbank Centre, London SE1 8XX
For more details go to

Showing until 17th August 2014

Rhiannon reflects on…the great drama teacher behind every great actor

‘Tweetingit – Rhiannon Reflects in 140 characters

“All the world’s a stage” and those who guide you on to the stage and prompt you when you stumble over your lines, will never be forgotten


As you may have gathered from previous posts, I have been “into” theatre for a long time. My parents were both in CAT (Campaign Amateur Theatre) in Ely and I was occasionally drafted in to play a small role –  a skipping little girl( Gigi) or a member of the lollipop league (Wizard of Oz). Alongside this was both of my parents’ love of theatre, and musicals in particular, meaning that I was exposed to it from a young age.

I wasn’t, however, a confident child. My dad often says he doesn’t remember that I was shy, but I certainly didn’t like being in front of strangers. When I was 3, I spent an entire holiday “preparing” for the holiday talent show. I had the whole of “The Ugly Duckling” down to a fine art. I could quack away with the best of them, and not just saying the word “quack” – oh no, it was more than an onomatopoeic word – I could make a very good duck sound.

It came to the night, I was in a party frock ( I imagine, I don’t remember, I am just setting the scene), up I get to the front of the cabaret hall with an entire holiday camp of people staring back at me and, I open my mouth…..and I bottle it. Much to my parents’ dismay, I couldn’t do it (this has been mentioned on a number of occasions since 1989). A whole week of torment; me singing the same song over and over again, came down to me only managing to utter Humpty Dumpty. I’m sure there’s no need to say it – but I did not win that talent show (although I did win “Miss Haven” a few years later. I am not sure what I did, but I remember saying how much I loved Jason Donovan – see earlier “Rhiannon Reflects”

Nothing really changed in the confidence stakes until I got to high school and met a wonderful array of influential people and was thrust into drama classes with Mr Maughan – Keith.

Keith was completely mad and not everyone “got” him. He was a massive character with a massive heart and a bonkers sense of humour. Going into his studio, you would find him bouncing around the room, waving his arms around, playing a character he had just made up in time for the next drama class.  Every moment with him was entertaining.

Later on in high school we started cleaning his drama studio for him – we would find coffee cups that were god knows how old, piles of papers, photos, books – some probably quite important – littered around his “office.” But life was too short to spend oodles of time worrying about such trivial things when there were so many other more exciting things to do. Obviously there is a balance to be had but he certainly taught us to have fun and not to worry.

During our 6th form drama piece, he encouraged us to spend entire days acting like 7 year olds ( we were performing Blue Remembered Hills – a play designed for adults to play children). Running around the school, pulling pigtails, sliding on our knees down corridors, finger painting and constantly fidgeting – I am sure the rest of our teachers loved it.

Other than ensuring we did the best we could in this piece, I think the idea of getting us to play out these roles as 7 year olds, was to make us feel free – adults worry too much about what other people think, children don’t care – so just think and act like a child. Obviously there are times for being sensible – and the moral of Blue Remembered Hills is that you do have to grow up eventually –  but what Keith taught was that you should have fun and don’t let the world get on top of you. As we got older, other good lessons were given – ensure you drink plenty of good red wine (something which he ensured we did after his funeral when his wife and daughter kindly decided that his friends and family should make the most of his wine cellar), eat good cheese and make sure you have good friends around you (all of which he did and had in abundance)

Keith was the life and soul of everything. He looked after his students and friends (many of whom overlapped), drew them out of themselves, and developed everyone in some way or another – even those who had no hope in going further in the drama world.

There were a handful of teachers who had a profound effect on the person I have become and, for this, I cannot thank them enough. But they do say that behind every great actor, there is a great drama teacher. I may not have become and actor in the tradition sense, but life is just one big play isn’t it – mine being one he helped devise, the lines for which he helped me learn and which, with changing times, has been adapted, developed and rejuvenated. In part to him, my play has not been a flop. I know I am not the only one of his friends and students who feel like this. I wonder whether he knew, before he passed away, that he prepared so many of us for the theatre and stage of life, how much he affected those he taught and what an amazing teacher he was – I really hope he did.


Rhiannon Reflects on…immersive theatre

#Tweetingit – Rhiannon’s reflections in 140 characters

Immersive theatre – however we got so immersed, give it a go, there’s something out there for everyone

I blame Deirdre Rachid. What was is about that storyline that got the nation so riled up and wanting to actually get involved in the show?

Over the last decade or so, we have been given control over all forms of entertainment which we partake in. We vote for the next pop stars, the next person to appear on the Royal Variety Show, what dish someone is going to have cooked for them or the outcome of a storyline on a soap. Computer games “remember” the decisions you make and these decisions affect what experience the player has in the next edition of that game.

Just like in these games, in immersive theatre, everyone can have a different experience depending on how much is expected from them and how much they are willing to put into it. Every person who plays these games, has a slightly different experience.

Has it been decided, or have we decided, that we must have control, some sort of interaction, over the entertainment we are enjoying? We must be completely immersed in it, we can’t just sit back and watch what is going on in front of us.

When I was younger, there were much more simple versions of this immersive style -“pick your adventure” books – “turn to page 15 if you want to take the blue drink, turn to page 84 for the red one.” And then the drama unfolds depending on your choice. I was always concerned, however, that the more exciting option was available on the other route. Is this the problem with immersive theatre too? What if you choose “incorrectly” and you don’t see the best. Would it be better for a writer to tell you what the “right” option is and let you experience it?

Now, I have to say, I love immersive theatre and, in my book, there isn’t enough of it, but I do understand why some people don’t. You never know what you’re going to be faced with, how much you will be expected to do or to what extent you will be immersed. Youmebumbumtrain have done a show where you are the star; going around the rooms on your own and experiencing various different situations; being interviewed, running an exercise class, getting thrust into a working kitchen. What is the theme, the story, the point? What if the situation you are faced with, completely throws you?

I guess it depends on the type of immersion you experience.

Immer_city immersed their audience in their show, Wyrd, weeks before the “real” performance began. Facebook and Twitter profiles were set up for the characters, “pre show” events such as hen and stag do’s as well as false websites with clues about what you were going to experience. And then on the day, the performance began in the pub, meeting the cast to have your palms read, learning the backgrounds of each of the characters – if you were willing to question them.


It wasn’t necessary to have read everything or even to throw yourself in at the deep end and join in fully in the performance, but it certainly helped and really made for a fantastic couple of weeks of entertainment.

My review of Wyrd:

The Drowned Man has been incredibly well received but there are still a handful of people who just don’t get it – possibly not helped by the fact that one person might say that they were involved in a naked rave, that they found the roof top bar, that they were hurried away into a caravan to watch someone put their make up on.…. and yet what did you see? None of this? How can you possibly have got the same experience, did you miss some of the show, something important which made the whole thing make sense?

Some immersive/promenade shows just ask you to walk around and look into theatre spaces and watch what is unfolding. The immersive bit here is just that you are moving around. This was the case at St Pauls Church in Covent Garden where Iris Theatre put on various shows including “Alice in Wonderland” and “Julius Caesar”

My review of Julius Caesar :

So what are we in for next, how can these companies go even further? Upcoming immersive shows include an overnight performance of Macbeth where the audience get to eat with the Macbeths, sleep in their rooms and watch as the story unfolds overnight. Rehearsals have begun and everyone who is going has started to receive their passports for the event. There are still some tickets left and I truly think this is going to be one of the most interesting immersive shows that there has been for sometime. Get your tickets before its too late. and follow them with #RiftMacbeth on Twitter.

Also, part of the Festival of Theatre (LIFT 2014) is  “Roof”. Occupying a purpose-built ‘panoramic performance space’ on top of the car park opposite the National Theatre, it has been conceived by the mastermind of the incredibly successful “Ring”, David Rosenberg. Ring used clever panoramic headphones to create an incredibly unique  and almost  hallucinogenic experience, and set completely in the dark. Roof is set to be just as exciting.

My review of “Ring”

So back to the start of this reflection, to explain my first comment. I don’t know when this immersive theatre malarkey began. What it with Deirdre Rashid going to prison in 1998 in Coronation Street? “Free Deirdre” placards and protests being carried out by viewers. They wanted to get completely involved, have a say in what happened and immerse themselves in the storyline. Have we created this phenomena of immersive theatre ourselves?


Some people think theatre is becoming “too immersive” whatever that means. I have to say, I disagree. There is still plenty of “straight” theatre out there if that’s what you want and you needn’t attend these sorts of shows if they aren’t for you. Don’t like ballet? Don’t go. This is exactly the same – just another genre of theatre. As I said, I absolutely love immersive/promenade theatre and think everyone should at least give it a couple of tries. I cannot wait for my next installment (Rift’s Macbeth)

Let me know what you think.


Wasted – November 2013

Marlowe Theatre Studio – Canterbury

Writer: Kate Tempest

Originally posted:

#Tweetingit – my verdict in 140 characters

4* – Kate Tempest is an incredible poet and writer. A poignant look at our relationship with alcohol and wasted opportunities

“A play by the UK’s most exciting performance poet and rapper.” This may not sound like everyone’s’ cup of tea, however, having seen Wasted at The Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury, all I can say is – WOW.  Debuting as a playwright, Kate Tempest has written an extremely poignant, thought-provoking and moving piece about the difficulties of growing up.

On the 10th anniversary of their friend’s death, the story surrounds three protagonists; Charlotte, Ted and Danny who are dragging themselves kicking and screaming out of their teenage years into ‘the real world’. They are battling with the dramas of normal, boring life – feeling suffocated in the cosiness of their relationships, disillusioned with their ordinary jobs and wasting their lives getting wasted following missed opportunities.

Seemingly aimed very much at teenagers and university students; the majority of the tour dates are at Student Unions, this isn’t just about student life – in fact, it is even more relevant to those no longer in the depths of youth. Every part of life has its struggles and Wasted is written in such a way that it is applicable to those much older and younger than the characters on stage.

At 26 the characters still want to have fun but realise that if they get too drunk on a Saturday then their Sunday is wasted, they can’t clean the house or go to Ikea to pick curtains and then they’re back to the monotony of work the next day. It is also hinted at that this doesn’t change later on, there’s other responsibilities; kids, grandchildren, elderly parents – without saying it and making an exhaustive list of woes throughout life, Kate Tempest has hit on all of this while making it relevant to the entire audience

This isn’t all doom, gloom and misery though. There are some genuinely funny and touching moments which ensures that the audience don’t just sit feeling desolate. The nice things of being in your late 20s are alluded to and even the characters seem to realise by the end that it isn’t the end of the world that they aren’t rock stars, extremely wealthy or unable to change the world.

Not content with just writing a great script, Tempest and her team have created a feast for the senses. To compliment her words, technology is used to enhance every part of the play. Emotional monologues are heightened by close ups of the actors faces on a large screen – expressing the feelings which perhaps are suppressed on stage, the screen also creates much of the set throughout the play – a park or rave. The lighting by Angela Anson is simple but extremely affective, while Tom Gibbons’ and Kwake’s music is moving and continues to add to the endless levels of intensity within this show.

Poetry is scary for a lot of people but Tempest’s clever use of language to create this urban style of verse makes it all so easy. The language is very strong in places but in no way does this feel gratuitous. Kate Tempest is a true craftswoman – carving out stunning verses which can be understood by anyone and moulding a wonderful story to compliment the poetry with transitions between the two not feeling in any way unnatural. This can also be very much tributed to the incredibly talented cast, Cary Crankson, Alice Haig and Bradley Taylor, who work with the verse and pros with ease, finishing one another’s sentences and taking on the lines very naturally. Nothing feels forced, no words are used just because they fit. Everything which is written and said is there for a reason, it is sincere, beautiful and honest. This is an innovative, modern and completely unmissable play ranking high above the rest. You will not feel that your evening has been wasted – book a ticket for this play.

Brian Blogs – There was a time….

Brian is a friend and colleague who is a keen theatregoer and has recently started reviewing.

His contributions to this blog will revolve around reminiscing on times gone by in theatre.

Episode 1

#Tweeting it  – Brian blogs in 140 characters

Changing theatre attitudes – people eating, sleeping, talking, turning up late. Sure you wouldn’t fancy a night in front of TV the instead?

There was a time……when going to the theatre was an event, an occasion to savour and everyone dressed to impress, but there’s now been a seismic shift in the way which many people dress and behave. Back in the day, my parents would drag me kicking and screaming to the theatre. As a 10-year-old, I didn’t see the point of dressing up, but their pre-show ritual was always the same. Mum would paint her nails, get her best jewellery out and put her favourite frock on. Dad would polish his shoes, iron a shirt and put his only suit on. It all seemed a trial to me, but now I realise what an important lesson they taught me. Going out? Then get dress up! Send a message out! And that was exactly what people did. Film stars had their red carpet, we had the theatre. It was our chance to glimpse at how the other half might have lived.

But, fast forward 40 years and what have we got? Jeans, t-shirts, combats, trainers, tourists in fluorescent jackets with rucksacks, catching the Wednesday matinée of the Mousetrap, ’Hey Martha we’ve got another box to tick before we fly back home.” Don’t call me xenophobic, but why can’t they leave a bit more time and pick their luggage up from the hotel afterwards? Sure, I’ve been guilty of the grunge look occasionally but only because no one else seems to bother anymore, but that doesn’t make it right. Theatres are itching to force the issue, but they fear a stringent dress code will scare the punters off and then the game’s up. Or is it? I think theatres should call our bluff, it won’t kill us. I wouldn’t suggest we go down the Royal Opera House route of ball gowns and dinner jackets, but just ask for suits and dresses or something smart to be worn. People would accept it.

Allow me to briefly charge off at a tangent here; through a girlfriend, I managed to get a ticket for Robbie Williams ‘swing while you’re winning’, a one-off gig at the Royal Albert Hall in 2002. It was strictly black tie and if you weren’t dressed appropriately you didn’t get in. Nobody baulked at the idea of formal dress. We really pushed the boat out that night and travelled by white stretch limo. The dress code just felt right. Ok, not strictly theatre but the principle still holds good.

There is of course a flip side to my argument. Do theatres have any right to dictate how we dress? No, absolutely not, we have liberty to dress how we please. Office workers could argue that they wear a suit during the day, why should they have to wear one in the evening? I can’t reasonably argue against this because they do have a point. The question dear readers is whether culture = formality? Can we only offer culture with strings attached? Is it fair to make people so uncomfortable they feel like the proverbial dog’s dinner? It might just boil down to personal style, if you feel good in threads then you’ll look good and you won’t mind dressing up. To others, it’s a complete anathema and they would only wear a suit for major life events. It’s interesting to note that many pubs in the West End, bar customers in jeans and football shirts. Ok, this might be more about excluding warring football fans, but the West End is trying to set a standard that makes London the place to be. Maybe there’s a compromise here? What about restricting casual wear to matinees and Sunday performances. Or, how about making casual wear available for discounted tickets only? As always, it’s about degree and perspective.


Should we expect more from audiences or is it just limiting the masses when it is already an expensive night out?
Should we expect more from audiences or is it just limiting the masses when it is already an expensive night out?

There was a time….when the ‘fourth wall’ in theatre was an imaginary wall covering the front of the stage, well now the fourth wall has been replaced by a virtual plasma screen and people will use this ‘screen’ to eat, sleep and talk their way through a performance. They might as well be at home watching TV. I’ve sat next to people eating peanuts, crisps and meat pies, peanuts being the worst; 10 minutes working their way through a bag of KP and then another 20 minutes sucking their gums. I saw the Official Tribute to the Blues Brothers once, a show big on audience participation and we were jumping up every five minutes. I can’t describe the terror etched on the face of a woman who tipped an open bag of Revels into the aisle and then got on her hands and knees to retrieve them. One gentleman slept through most of Sweeney Todd. It was only when he started snoring that someone actually woke him up. Even more annoying is incessant chatter, about Mark’s operation, Joanne’s boyfriend, the price of diesel, the colour scheme for the nursery – come on guys there is a time and place for everything surely? And yet nobody complains. We’re strangled by that wonderful British trait of tolerance – dirty looks and the odd tut is about as bad as it gets.

Then there are some who treat the theatre as a night out at the pub. I saw the Dame Edna Everage experience at the Strand Theatre. We were in the back row of the upper circle, commonly known as the angels and also the cheapest seats in the house. Dame Edna quickly dubbed us “the paups”. Problem was if you leaned forward you had to hold onto the back of your seat – or else you’d fall out. One guy, who’d been severely imbibing forgot to do this and fell out and somersaulted down two rows landing in a lady’s lap. I did wonder whether Dame Edna, ever the anarchist, planted the drunken angel for effect? I later saw him being ripped to shreds by his wife in the foyer, so I doubt whether the subterfuge would have lasted that long….

(side note – see what Dame Edna expects from her audience at

“I don’t want to stand on that stage and see dirty sneakers, horrible jeans with holes in the knees and T-shirts.”

Dame Edna Everage

My final rant is reserved for ‘Mr Disturbance’, you know the one who always arrives late, wants to leave early and wants to get to the bar 5 minutes before the interval? Of course 5 minutes before the interval, you often get the showstopper, the foot-stomper, the 11 O’clock number, the tune you’re going to be whistling on the train home at 11pm – well the number of times I’ve missed that because Mr Disturbance wants to avoid the crush at the bar. Of course he couldn’t pre-order a drink like most sensible people because he was late – he was looking for a parking space wasn’t he? There are words for these people…

So what’s the bottom line here? Go to the theatre, but have some sense of occasion, remember where you are, have a drink, of course, but you want it to be a special night and it will be a great night before, during and after the show! Final shout goes to my parents. They introduced me to the theatre, taught me how to behave, how to dress and gave me my sense of style (if I’ve got any at all!)

Rhiannon Reflects….on Miss Saigon – 4 days

#Tweetingit – Rhiannon Reflects in 140 Characters



I have been listening to the music from Miss Saigon, for as long as I can remember. I know the songs (and all their harmonies, much to the annoyance of everyone around me) off my heart; I listen to it when I am angry, sad, happy – there is not a time when listening to Miss Saigon doesn’t make everything better.

When I was about 4, my parents got their glad-rags on and, much to my disgruntlement, went off, without me, to see Miss Saigon.  I seem to remember not really understanding why I wasn’t going; it was my favourite musical afterall (These Rhiannon Reflects are showing what a madam I was when I was a child)

A few years on, I went to see it for the first time. Having just Googled when John Barrowman was in it (I believe he was the first ‘Chris’ I saw beginning my lifelong love of him), I would’ve been about 8. Perhaps I was a bit young for the show considering the content but I don’t think I really knew what was going on for a lot of it.  I was with my dad who loves the show about as much as I do. We got to the end and were both sobbing and we left the theatre still crying. The second time I saw it, I was at an age where I really got it. I was a wreck. Three songs in, knowing what was coming up, I was crying. The people around me probably thought I was somewhat unstable. In the years since then, I have seen it another 5 times, all bar one, with my dad.

We have extensively debated the show – that’s right, we have actually had debates about it. For instance, when thy first changed Ellen’s song from “It’s Her or Me” to “Now That I’ve Seen Her”, we were horrified. What did they do? Ellen now seems more reasonable and understanding. I am not sure I would be terribly happy to be visiting the first love of my husband’s life…AND HER CHILD. The change in song changed the way I had always seen Ellen and I wasn’t sure why they have done it. I am still not sure, and everything I hear “Now That I’ve Seen Her”, it annoys me.  But now, they have done the unthinkable and, rather than going back to the original, there is a new song. Ok, I get it, things have to change, we have to move on, but cutting a whole song? Thankfully, they have done it with, as you can see above, my least favourite song but what might this do to Ellen now? I am hoping that this change makes more sense and makes Ellen a more rounded character – I can but wait and see.

I am beyond excited about going to see the new incarnation of Miss Saigon – but disconcertingly I am going on my own…lets hope the 7th time is the time it stops effecting you emotionally and I will be tear free…I think it highly unlikely but, for the sake of those around me, I can but hope.

Have you seen it in previews? Let me know what you think.

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