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Aug 3rd

Broken Wings @ The Haymarket Theatre, London

By Trevor Gent

I have to confess I had never heard of Khalil Gibran before coming to see this show. Decades ahead of his time he was an outspoken advocate of equal rights and feminism. When Broken Wings was first published in 1912 (in Arabic) it was met with hostility in the eastern Mediterranean. But it was better received elsewhere, including North America where he has sold more than ten million books.


He described this first novel as ‘a spiritual biography’ a story full of personal discovery, romance, political thought and philosophy. It has inspired paintings and even a pop song. It has been adapted into a film, a play and now, a musical. So what is it?


'Broken Wings' is an autobiographical tale of tragic love based on Lebanese-born poet Kahlil Gibran’s 1912 masterpiece, with Book Music & Lyrics by West End star Nadim Naaman ("The Phantom of the Opera") and Music and Lyrics by Dana Al Fardan, one of the Middle East’s leading contemporary composers.


Khalil Gibran was born in Lebanon in 1883 and in 1895 his father is imprisoned for embezzlement, and the family assets are seized by the Ottoman regime. His mother emigrates to Boston with her four children to begin a new life. In 1901 Gibran returns to Lebanon, to study Arabic and French. That summer, the events of Broken Wings take place.


After a beautiful musical introduction by the on stage orchestra several dressed in traditional costume against a simple but effective set we are in New York City, 1923 where we meet an ageing Gibran in his cold studio who begins the show in narrative style setting the scenes.


Through poetry and music, he transports us back two decades and across continents, to turn-of-the-century Beirut. His eighteen-year-old self-returns to The Middle East after five years in America, to complete his education and discover more of his heritage. He falls deeply in love with Selma Karamy, the daughter of family friend and hugely respected local businessman, Farris Karamy. However, Selma soon becomes betrothed to Mansour Bey Galib, nephew of the powerful Bishop Bulos Galib, who has one eye on the Karamy family fortune. Gibran and Selma fight to reconcile their love for one another, whilst navigating the rules, traditions and expectations that their society lays before them.


Not knowing the story I initially had difficulty getting the gist of what was happening but that certainly makes you concentrate. I had been to see Sounds and Sorcery at the Vaults in the afternoon, an immersive show with the music of Fantasia. So maybe I had Disney on my mind but the music did seem a bit Disneyesque at times but mostly rather slow and ponderous. I have a feeling they won’t be as memorable in years to come. However, there are some very good songs, particularly Spirit of the Earth. This is reprised a couple of times during the show.


The cast perform their parts very well particularly the young Gibran and Selma and there are even a few laughs to ease the tensions. To be honest they were needed as the ending is a rather sombre affair, I heard a few sniffs around. Thankfully the departure back to America with his good friend Karim Bawab lifts you a bit. I was not blown away by this show, although the story was well told. A lot of people rose to their feet at the end for a standing ovation but I didn’t.


Broken Wings continues at the Haymarket Theatre, London until Saturday 4th August 2018. No tour dates are available at the moment.


Box office: 020 7930 8800

Running time:
2 hours 10 mins (including interval)

Wednesday - Saturday at 7.30pm
Saturday matinee at 2.30pm

The Broken Wings Concept Album was released in May. It is available for download on iTunes, Amazon MP3 and Google Play. Limited-edition CDs can be ordered via Auburn Jam Music using this link:

Check out the earlier video for Spirit of the Earth, the first song released from Broken Wings


Book: Nadim Naaman

Music & Lyrics: Nadim Naaman & Dana Al Fardan

Orchestrations: Joe Davison

Director:  Bronagh Lagan

Producer: Ali Matar

Photos by Marc Brenner through

Jul 17th

END OF THE PIER: Park Theatre, London

By Elaine Pinkus

When does comedy stop being comic? When does humour cross the line to cruelty and victimisation? Sharing a joke unifies us, ties us together and can be joyous. But spare a thought for those who are the butt of those jokes, the scapegoats who dread the next words to be uttered by the teller. In our age of political correctness our attitudes towards comedy have changed moving from the working class stand ups of the 70s and 80s to the acceptability of today’s comedians who are as much reliant on Twitter and social media as they are to live performance.  Perhaps this seems moralistic in concept and certainly our empathy moves with the swing of debate. But do not be put off. Danny Robin’s talents as a playwright, broadcaster and joke teller have given the Park Theatre, London, a delightful play in End Of The Pier with laughs a’plenty and thought provoking content.

Les Dennis, one of the UK’s best known entertainers, is  old-school comic Bobby Chalk, forced into retirement after he and his comic partner Eddie Cheese were exposed for racist indiscretion. ‘People forget all the good stuff ... they just focus in on one ... mistake.’  Widowed Bobby lives alone in a small, dingy house in Blackpool, surrounded by 1960s memorabilia.  His son, Michael, (Blake Harrison, The Inbetweeners), has followed in his footsteps and has become a much loved observational comedian  playing to audiences of 4 million and having a huge Twitter following. Yes, entertainment today relies on the voices of social media where exposure is instant and unforgiving.  And this is where the story lies. Michael has returned home to seek help from his father following a serious indiscretion which, if released onto Twitter, could destroy his career and his personal life. Clearly they have a fractured father/son relationship from which Michael has developed a Jekyll and Hyde persona, with his dark side becoming ever more forceful. His comedy is a mask for his own misdirected prejudices.

Les Dennis and Blake Harrison.jpeg

Les Dennis and Blake Harrison: photograph Simon Annand

Act 1 is a wonderful platform for the superb comic timing of Les Dennis who delivers a string of one liners which has the audience laughing out loud. Yes, the old ones are the best. Just like the seaside postcards, the corny old jokes still have that punch. Have you heard the one about .... There is honesty in Les/Bobby. His time as a comedian is over but he will always be a comic. Not so his son!

Moving to Michael’s plush dressing room in Act 2, we meet Mohammed, the victim of Michael’s serious indiscretion. Here Nitin Ganatra, (Eastenders fame) positively steals the show. Rather than expose Michael to the judgement of the Twitter feed, he demands a slot on his TV show. Here he reigns superb. The honesty of his act where he can laugh at himself, his race, his experiences come to the fore. We are laughing with him and enjoying his openness which is brilliantly funny. A comic and a comedian who allows us to enjoy perhaps the less politically correct humour that so inhibits free speech today. A fantastic 10 minute interlude (I wish there had been more).  Mohammed is the modern day comic with a naturalness that outranks the false and scripted humour of Michael.


 Nitin Ganatra 2.jpeg

Nitin Ganatra: photograph Simon Annand

With striking performances by Les Dennis, Blake Harrison, Tala Gouveia and Nitin Ganatra, and supported by Hannah Price’s production team, End Of The Pier is a play worth seeing and is another tick for the Park Theatre, London.


Photographs: Simon Annand


Venue: Park200, Park Theatre, Clifton Terrace, Finsbury Park, N4 3JP

Dates: 11 July – 11 August 2018

Times: Evenings Mon – Sat 7.30pm, Matinees Thu & Sat 3pm

Parents & Babies: Mon 23 Jul 1pm

Captioned: Fri 10 Aug 7.30pm

Prices: Previews £18.50, Standard £18.50 - £32.50, Concessions £16.50 - £23.50, Child (Under 16) £15 - £20
Booking: / 020 7870 6876


*10% telephone booking fee, capped at £2.50 per ticket.


Jul 6th

Knights of the Rose @ The Arts Theatre, London

By Trevor Gent


This is a classic rock musical of Shakespearean proportions. Featuring the ultimate playlist including legendary ballads and timeless anthems from Bon Jovi, Muse, Meat Loaf, Bonnie Tyler, No Doubt and many more.

In this epic tale of love, betrayal and sacrifice, the noble Knights of the Rose must defend their House and their honour. Even as the chivalrous Knights return from a glorious victory, a greater threat against the kingdom stirs. As they face the greatest battle of the Age, and betrayal threatens to tear them apart, can true love and honour triumph?

Woven from a rich tapestry of literature and high-voltage classic rock, this heroic new story charges its way into the heart of London for a limited run this summer.

The Arts Theatre was a new venue for me and I was pleasantly surprised how good it was. Very intimate being a small theatre and very friendly and helpful staff.

The production was very slick and entertaining. It’s like Shakespeare meets rock of ages with familiar tunes but in a different context. There were a few laughs when some of the songs started but my attention was held throughout. Clever but simple set and excellent acting.  There was photographer milling around during the show which was a bit of a pain but he did apologise for any inconvenience. Something a bit different so go along and enjoy.

More details on this link

Knights of the Rose is playing at the Arts Theatre, 6-7 Great Newport St, London WC2H 7JB until 26th August 2018

Created by Jennifer Marsden and Directed by Racky Plews.


May 30th

Moliere's TARTUFFE: Theatre Royal, Haymarket

By Elaine Pinkus

I would have loved to rejoice in this exciting experiment of Moliere’s Tartuffe, billed as the first dual language production to open in the West End, but sadly I was unable to do so. Disappointingly this production failed to meet my expectations on many levels.

Sebastian Roché and Paul Anderson (l-r) in Tartuffe. Photo by Helen Maybanks 192_preview.jpeg

Sebastian Roche as Orgon and Paul Anderson as Tartuffe: photograph Helen Maybanks

Written in 1664, Tartuffe set out to expose the hypocrisy and deception of religious zealots who manipulated those desperate to dedicate themselves to religious extremism and preyed upon their gullibility and naivety.This expose so enraged the church that it banned the play and it was not until five years later that this iconic French satire was performed to the delight of its audiences and has continued to entertain. Fast forward to our current day and its central theme retains its timeless quality. Manipulation of the gullible continues as does the violence of obsession, fanaticism and fundamentalism.

Adapted by Christopher Hampton and directed by Gerald Garutti,  and supported by the Institut Francais, Moliere’s Tartuffe is set in Los Angeles. Donald Trump has replaced the role of King Louis X1V and the versatile cast perform in both French and English. There are surtitles available for the audience on three separate screens. Whilst helping with understanding, these were a distraction and I found much of my time was spent checking the rhyming metre of the French couplets, the English blank verse and whether my French A level had equipped me with the skills of accurate translation.


So, to the tale: Film Tycoon,Orgon, is intent on attaining religious heights. So open to manipulation is he that he readily invites into his home the penniless and manipulative Tartuffe, a modern day American evangelist whose vile and deceptive ambition is to gain the worldly goods and chattel of his host for himself at the expense of the gullible and naive householder. Both Orgon and his mother, Madame Pernelle, will hear only what they want to hear, and see only what they wish to see. Nothing can convince them that Tartuffe is not what he says he is. And they, as the hierarchy of their household, enforce it on their family, rebuking them for their lack of faith. Taking advantage of the blind stupidy of the wealthy householder, Tartuffe sets about seducing both Orgon’s wife, Elmire and daughter Mariane, whilst cheating Orgon of his worldly wealth. It is only thanks to the cunning of Elmire and the strength of Dorine, the strongly feminist housemaid, that Tartuffe is exposed and finally taken away to jail, at the command of Trump’s aide.

At this point I can only wonder why both Garutti and Hampton chose to set the play in LA. As a comedy, this works well as a setting in a parlour or comfortable drawing room. The move to LA, using a set comprising a glass cube raised above sterile flooring with only a narrow table, lost the charismatic atmosphere so necessary to this observation of a family being torn apart. Where family members hid to spy on the attempted seduction of Elmire, they now had to wander/clomp round the glass cube, rather like Winnie the Pooh pacing around his honey tree. It felt awkward, clumsy and lost the farcical comedy of the trickery. When performing within the cube, lit with interesting colours depending upon the topic at that point, voices were muffled and unclear. It just didn’t work!

And that was the problem. The entire production felt uncomfortable. The moving between French and English lost the lyrical quality of the original; the wandering around the glass cube seemed pointless and added nothing to the theatre; the performances themselves were loud and at times simply noisy. Quel domage!


The cast of Tartuffe. Photo by Helen Maybanks 181_preview.jpeg

The cast of Tartuffe: photograph Helen Maybanks


Nevertheless, Audrey Fleurot (of ‘Spiral’ fame) looked stunning in her costumes, even though they restricted her movement to an extent. Sebastian Roche(London West End theatre debut) bravely performed his role as the naive tycoon (but was the chest baring scene necessary?) and Claude Perron as Dorine was strongly assertive. Paul Anderson (Peaky Blinders fame) was making his West End stage debut in Tartuffe, taking the role of this villain. But he lacked the credibility of this character and appeared ill at ease. (Again, was his chest baring scene necessary!) 

Paul Anderson and Audrey Fleurot in Tartuffe. Photo by Helen Maybanks 248_preview.jpeg Audrey Fleurot as Elmire and Paul Anderson as Tartuffe: photograph Helen Maybanks



Ending on a note of humour, albeit puerile, at the expense of Trump, twitters and all, the performance concluded. An interesting experiment but joyful, non!

Photography: Helen Maybanks

Theatre Royal Haymarket 

18 Suffolk Street




Friday 25 May – Saturday 28 July 2018





Mondays - Saturdays: 7.30pm 

Thursdays & Saturdays: 2.30pm



Prices from £15



020 7930 8800



Facebook: TartuffePlay

Twitter: @TartuffePlay




May 14th


By Trevor Gent

My review from Thursday 10th May. Sorry for the delay in posting as unfortunately I have been laid low from food poisoning after eating a burger (something I seldom do and now I know why) on the evening of the show but thankfully I am much better now.

Soap described as a breath-taking fusion of world-class acrobatics and water – bath time will never be the same again! Suitable for all ages... It's good clean circus fun!

Staged in the round as cabaret style entertainment in a tent with a stage adorned with bath tubs. The ensemble opens with the Gnarls Berkeley number ‘Crazy’ and an Opera singer too. Quite an appropriate song as it’s not normally things you associate go together.

This show is a mixture of Cirque du Soleil, meets carry on and Trumpton. Some very clever moves in an out of the bath tubs but not much Soap. However there is water so be warned, a bit like going to see the Killer Whale at SeaWorld, those in the front rows may be get wet. There are comic elements too and the audience is involved on more than one occasion. Some amazing tricks in this show and it keeps you engaged throughout (as there is no interval).

As well as the opening number Soaps live and electric soundtrack includes The Doors, Sia, Tool, Goldfrapp, Beethoven, Mozart and The Beatles - and singing live, is the Soap Opera Diva (Jennifer Lindshield - Carnegie Hall, NYC) – taking singing in the bath to a whole new level.

There is juggling too and even a striptease (a real tease) and a first for me. The lady contortionist was very good but personally something creepy about how they can do those things with their bodies, clever as it is. The Swan Lake number with the boys with just small towels covering their modesty was brilliant.


The trapeze finale with water raining down was mesmerizing and beautiful to watch. Brilliant entertainment and the cast mopped up too!


Soap continues as part of the Underbelly festival on the South Bank London until the 17th June 2018.

See website for details

May 2nd

Love From A Stranger at Richmond Theatre

By Douglas McFarlane

Love From A Stranger

"I've read everything from Agatha Christie, but I haven't heard of this", the lady in front of me in the queue said as we waited to go in.

It wasn't until I got to my seat, opened the program and read that this one was based on a short story, which was adapted into a play by Ms Christie. So, the lady in the queue was technically correct, it wasn't one of her many novels.

It was however classic Christie. We know there's going to be a murder, we just don't know who and when. One thing's for sure, we're only likely to know right at the end, despite many guesses. With many diversion tactics, murder suspects, murder victims, and where it will happen. 

One of the ladies behind me, gasped often. A flower was handed over. Gasp! A shadow passed the door. Gasp! Clearly an Agatha Christie fan, she was immersed in the story and expected every twist and turn to provide the anticipated information needed. That 'aha' moment.
It soon comes, and it's not who you suspect. It woudn't have survived that long if it was obvious.

Love From A Stranger, was well performed but the star of the show for me, was the set. It had a flow left to right and right to left, unravelling new items, closing others off, changing rooms, homes, and atmosphere every now and then. Accompanied with suitably eery music, the set complimented the story line and supported the actors, giving them a quality backdrop to take the audience on the murderous journey.

Love From A Strange is on at the Richmond Theatre until Saturday, then touring to Birmingham, Glasgow and Milton Keynes over the next few months.


Review by Douglas McFarlane


Apr 28th

Chicago, Phoenix Theatre

By Douglas McFarlane



You’ll have seen Chicago before most likely. It’s now in it’s 43rd year and I’d seen it quite a few times over this period.  I was wondering whether I would still enjoy it as much. Not since Ruthie Henshall performed as Roxy, has the female leads role been advertised as ‘starring’. I’ve seen the Billy Flynn role being plugged with Darius Danesh, the former Xfactor Scot, Marti Pellow, the former Wet Wet Wet Scot, and this time it wasn’t a Scot but American film star Cuba Gooding Jr.

It has been over 5 years since Chicago was in London, and its now taken over the excellent Phoenix Theatre where I saw Blood Brothers performed for many years. Next door is an excellent pre-theatre restaurant which was part of the former stage dressing area where Noel Coward & Laurence Olivier would have frequented. The Phoenix Theatre opened in 1930 with the premiere of Noel Coward's Private Lives featuring Coward himself in the cast along with a young Laurence Olivier.

With an impressive theatre, I had high hopes and there were a few surprises in the cast which were to transform the musical for me. It literally turned from a sexy show to entertain audiences looking for a great night out, to being recognised as a classic in my eyes.

What made the change ?

Well, Cuba Gooding Jr was excellent in the role, fitting the shady but dapper Chicago lawyer perfectly. His  subtle humour was evident all the way through and you couldn’t help smile at his performance. His dance routines were a delight and flirting with the dance girls with feathers the best I’ve seen.

No, it wasn’t just Cuba which made the big change. It wasn’t Ruthie Henshall either. It was a delight to see her in the ‘Mamma’ role, given that she made the original Roxy her own in the show’s revival in 1997. However, she’s a diminutive character and I prefer my ‘Mamma’s’ to have stature, a big presence and a belting voice.

It wasn’t AD Richardson either, back as Mary Sunshine, who always surprises audiences with ‘wait, what ?’ In her ‘reveal’ scene.  

It was a little known Belgian actress who stole the show for me. Sarah Soetaert is her name and you will be hearing a lot more about her in the future. From the moment she appeared to the end of the show, she had my attention. Her tone of voice, her 1930s styling, blonde curly locks, big smile and infectious character turned this show into a classic. The entire audience were bought into it. At times, I was realising why actors are sometimes called artists. This was an artistic performance. It raised the bar in the role to the point of making the show understandable and realistic, if that’s possible.

I’ll go and see Chicago again when she’s performing. She makes you laugh and have an inner warmth and great feeling when you leave the show at the end. The smile on everyone’s faces on leaving was evident, young and old, and it’s great to see a classic get off the ground again for a long run in it’s new theatre venue.

Review by Douglas McFarlane


Chicago is on at the Phoenix Theatre in London for the foreseeable future.

Apr 28th

Kindertransport, Richmond Theatre

By Douglas McFarlane



It means transport for children, in German. The train that takes Jewish children out of Germany before some of the darkest days of our history happened.

A small button was sewn onto the coat of the child. Mum insisted she did it herself, to help teach her to be self sufficient. You see, mum wasn’t going with her on the ‘kindertransport’, and knew that she may never see her beautiful daughter again.

On this premise, the play takes you through a well constructed, thoughtful, emotional journey. We experience the heartache from a number of angles. As the child leaves and the mother holds back her emotions, to her Manchester mother who looks after her, to the child’s older self, now a mum, having arguments with her teenage daughter on keeping information secret.

Tears streamed down my face. Not at a single specific moment. Just constantly during the first act.

We need to see plays like this. We need to experience for one evening, one story of this period, in order to realise how many of these stories there were. How big an atrocity it was, and to understand in some small way what it really means to humanity.

The audience was varied on this evening in Richmond. Teenage girls were in groups and in eager participation. Part of the English curriculum now, this play is about the period 9 months before the outbreak of World War 2 in which the UK took in 10,000 Jewish children from various countries. This year it is 80 years since the first train left.

As you’d expect, the cast were incredible with the now grown up Jewish child being played by the same actress who played the young Jewish girl 25 years ago.

You have to go and see this play. You have to understand this story. It has to continue to be performed.


Review by Douglas McFarlane


Kindertransport is on tonight at Richmond Theatre before heading for Manchester.


Mar 7th

Some Mother's Do 'Ave Them at the Richmond Theatre

By Douglas McFarlane


Some Mother's Do 'Ave Them

Some reviews are easy. They make you want to write and write. Stream of consciousness kicks in and you want to tell the world about the performance.

Tonight, I'm pleased to say, I saw something special.

Christopher Biggins, Jenny Eclair, Bonnie Langford....and that was just the audience.

It was press night at the Richmond Theatre, and there was something buzzing. The photographers were snapping away at the entrance. Those arriving seemed younger and cooler than the usual crowd. 20 something women constantly preening their hair, gay chaps standing around seeing and being seen and stars nodding at the bar, knowing their presence was noticed. Someone behind me asked her friend why it was such a different audience. Press night, I said.  

But I was taken by surprise by what I was about to see.

Buy tickets now is all I can say.

Joe Pasquale.

I had heard him talking about his role on BBC Radio 2 this week. He was suggesting he'd made the role his own.  He was of course talking about the classic Michael Crawford TV Series from the 70s which I used to love watching with my parents. 

Would it deliver, I thought. It was brave to take on an iconic role and I was suggesting on social media that it was going to get a great review just for that.  

However, it was incredible. Who'd have thought Joe Pasquale is an amazing theatre performer. The lines came thick and fast, and the dialogue was sharp, focussed and delivered at a pace that you'd expect from perhaps a farce.  This wasn't farce. This was something even better. 

Pasquale's performance was engaging, mesmerising, intriguing and just perfect. 

I want to see more of him in any comedy role. He's got a gift in his voice, his comedy timing, his natural delivery and warm character. 

All the other cast were truly amazing. Betty, played by Sarah Earnshaw was spot on. Susie Blake was delightful. Moray Treadwell simply exquisite. David Shaw, excellent. And Chris Kiely, perfect. 

I'm delighted to say it was the funniest thing I've seen for a long time..... in the Noises Off, The Play That Goes Wrong class.... and what impressed me more, was it reached out to young audiences. Those in front of me laughed as much as I did, and  stood up at the end for a well deserved standing ovation, whilst the cast were dancing to Mud's "Tiger Feet".

All I can say is, your life won't be complete unless you buy some tickets and get yourself and your belly, down to an Ambassadors Theatre near you, and laugh, and laugh and laugh.  I did, and it was a fantastic night at the theatre.  

I just love reviewing for gems like this.


Review by Douglas McFarlane


Coming to a theatre near you, including...



Tour Dates

LONDON Richmond Theatre

Tue 6 – Sat 10 Mar

Box Office: 0844 871 7651


BROMLEY Churchill Theatre

Tue 13 – Sat 17 Mar

Box Office: 020 3285 6000


PORTSMOUTH New Theatre Royal

Tue 20 – Sat 24 Mar

Box Office: 023 9264 9000


HULL New Theatre

Tue 26 – Sat 30 Jun

Box Office: 01482 300 306



Tue 3 – Sat 7 Jul

Box Office: 01325 405405


NORWICH Theatre Royal

Tue 10 - Sat 14 July

Box Office: 01603 630000


LEICESTER Curve Theatre

Tue 17 - Sat 21 July

Box Office: 0116 242 3595


See more at

Feb 27th

The Weir at The Richmond Theatre

By Douglas McFarlane

The Weir


The Weir is the name of a pub in Dublin which in turn was named after a nearby waterway. The characters in the pub congregrate at a slow pace. It's the countryside after all, where things move a little slowly.  The characters come to life one by one as they tell a variety of different stories each more stranger than the next. 

The stories continues throughout the 90 minute play, without an interval, and as they unfold they gently lull the audience to being part of their intimate environment. 

This is a play that has been performed around the world since 1997 and won an Olivier Award for best new play two years later. So it certainly had potential. However as it's a very quiet play, any audience movement or noise can be heard. Additionally, the female character, Valerie, was supposed to be from Dublin, but in this performance she was played as an English woman.

Having said that the two lead actors who took on most of the dialogue, delivered some great character interpretations and made this play worth seeing.  The audience on a cold wintry night were certainly warmed up after this evening's performance.

The Weir is on at the Richmond Theatre this week, before heading to the Arts Theatre in Cambridge.

Review by Douglas McFarlane