Share |
Jun 29th

MAMMA MIA! @ The Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury

By Yvonne Delahaye


With incredibly fortuitous timing, this delightful musical arrived in Aylesbury just as the sequel to the film MAMMA MIA! Here We Go Again is about to be released.  Judy Craymer had the ingenious vision of staging the story-telling magic of ABBA’s timeless songs with an enchanting tale of family and friendship unfolding on a Greek island paradise.  To date, it has been seen by more than 60 million people in 50 productions translated into 16 different languages. 

From West End to global phenomenon, the London production of MAMMA MIA! has now been seen by more than 10% of the entire UK population.  It’s one of only five musicals to have run for more than 10 years both on Broadway and in the West End. In 2011 MAMMA MIA! became the first Western musical ever to be staged in Mandarin in the People’s Republic of China.  The hugely successful International Tour, premiered in Dublin in September 2004 and has now visited 85 cities across 38 countries, selling more than 5 million tickets.

Its success has been extraordinary, buoyed by the release in 2008 of MAMMA MIA! The Movie, which became the highest grossing live action musical film of all time.

So just what has made this show so popular?  Of course it’s ABBA’s music and lyrics written by Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus, which everyone knows and loves. When ABBA won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974 with Waterloo, their catchy tunes, lyrics and outrageously flamboyant costumes assured them of worldwide success.  It’s warmth, familiarity and poptastic fun appeals to all ages and it was good to see some young children in the audience, loving the songs and the story.  I remember my young niece watching the DVD of the film when it came out over and over again and singing the songs in the car. 

Quite often if people try to write a storyline around the lyrics of songs it can be clunky and jarring, but this story works as the characters are real and relatable.  The book is written by Catherine Johnson, who gives it a light touch creating some very lovable and funny characters.  Central protagonist, Donna Sheridan, is played by Shona White, who bears more than a passing resemblance to Meryl Streep and wins the audience around with her warmth and understanding of Donna’s dilemmas. Her side-kicks, Rosie and Tanya, both played with great verve and humour by Nicky Swift and Helen Anker, make up the dynamic trio performing Dancing Queen in the iconic costumes.

Lucy May Barker playing Donna’s daughter, Sophie has an absolutely pitch perfect voice, with great stage presence and she’s definitely someone to watch.

The choreography by Anthony Van Lasst was wonderful and I especially enjoyed the guys dancing in flippers!  If you’ve ever tried to walk in them (and I have) you’ll know how difficult it is, so this routine is joyous to watch.

The costumes are divine, the whole production is slick, full of energy and fun and the cast seemed to be having as much fun as the audience.  The theatre was packed to the rafters and I’m sure it will continue to be around the Globe.  It’s a real ‘feel-good’ night out, which lifts everyone up and leaves you singing and dancing all the way home.

For future tour details visit

Reviewed by:

Yvonne Delahaye



Jun 28th

The Band The Musical - King’s Theatre, Glasgow

By Cameron Lowe


The Band’s tour rocks and rolls into Glasgow for a two week stay at this most prestigious of venues.  Featuring the music of nineties and noughties sensations, Take That, The Band was bound to be a huge box-office hit … but would the musical rock 5 star reviews?

From time to time, when writing a review, I recognise that my view will not necessarily represent that of the majority of ticket buyers.  At times like this I feel that I should provide some perspective.  A couple of sentences on where I am coming from …  I’ve never been a huge Take That fan!  There.  I said it.  I love pop music but I’ll never get further than the chorus when singing along to Take That.

From the reaction of the packed house at Glasgow’s King’s Theatre, this audience were HUGE fans of Take That.  They couldn’t resist singing along and loved all the tell-tale references to the costumes, choreography and the rich history of Take That.

There are all sorts of things which are good about this production.  The story is strong.  Very Strong.  Back in 1993, young Rachel (Faye Christall) and her 4 best friends win tickets to see their favourites live on stage – The Band.  Shortly after the gig, tragedy strikes the teenagers and the 5 friends become 4.  Soon afterwards, the 4 lose touch.  25 years later, an older Rachel (Rachel Lumberg) wins 4 tickets for a reunion concert of The Band in Prague. She reaches out to 3 friends to reunite on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.  Well defined characters explore how the passage of time has affected them and their loves, losses and realisations along the way.  There are plenty of laughs (both among the teenagers and their adult alter-egos) and the whole thing is underscored by The Band and their music. 


The Band themselves are woven through the scenes; occasionally interacting with the action - almost like big stars playing cameo roles in a music video. But mostly, The Band are a ghostly presence on the fringes of the action whenever they are not centre stage at one of the gigs.

Production levels are fabulous.  The Band’s costumes are amazing and the set is remarkably versatile and very cleverly designed by Jon Bausor.  The Band are choreographed flawlessly as they execute almost magical costume and scene changes – even convincingly guiding a passenger jet to take-off from the Kings Theatre stage.

My problem with the show (unexpectedly) is the music.  The songs don’t advance the plot.  At times the underscored lyrics are in open conflict with Tim Firth’s excellent script, rendering it inaudible.  The only exception to this is “Back For Good”, which sees the adult cast and their younger selves sing an octet that works on many levels with the storyline.  More of that, please!  If you are expecting a perfect match of story and song like Mamma Mia or Sunshine on Leith, I’m afraid you’ll be disappointed.

Cast performances are excellent.  The Band (AJ Bently, Nick Carsberg, Curtis T Johns, Yazdan Oafouri, & Sario Solomon) sing very well indeed and their interaction with the onstage action is confidently delivered.   Rachel Lumberg (Rachel) and Emily Joyce (Heather) are particularly strong; carrying recognisable traits from their younger selves and delivering grounded adult versions of those core characters.  Ms Lumberg tugs on all the right heartstrings as she comes to terms with the loss of a friend 25 years on.  Rachelle Diedericks as young Debbie delivers a particularly touching character.  Andy Williams gets a special mention as “Every Dave” for bringing a smile every time he is on stage.

Take That fans will love this show.  Everyone else will like it just as much as I did!


The Band – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

26/06/18 – 06/07/18

Matinees Sat 14:30

Evenings Mon-Thu & Sat 19:30

Fridays 17:00, 20:30

Box Office: 0844 871 7648 (bkg. fee)

Tickets: £23.40 - £53.40

 Image: Matt Crockett 

Jun 22nd

20th Century Boy the Musical

By Trevor Gent

20th Century Boy, a musical inspired by the life of rock legend Marc Bolan, to mark the 40th anniversary of the iconic star’s untimely death. Featuring classic T.Rex 70s hits Ride a White Swan, Metal Guru, I Love to Boogie, 20th Century Boy and many more.

Starting at 8pm this is a long show for a work night, the first act is over an hour and the second act is 80 minutes long, making a late finish, maybe a more sensible start would have been 7.30pm?

Had Marc Bolan lived he would have been 71 this September. Sadly he died in a car crash when only twenty nine though which is where the show starts. It then goes back and charts his life from adolescence, thorough his early career, falling in love and marrying and the trials and tribulations of his life. It shows just how much he fitted into his short life. 

You have to be a fan of Marc Bolan to stick with it and sadly, although I was a fan, one of the first records I bought was Metal Guru, we had to slip out before the end. The theatre cooling system was on full blast and there was not enough bodies producing heat to counteract the cold. The show certainly packs a lot in, as you can see from the length of it, and there are laughs and tears along the way. The fairly simple staging with a back screen projecting images worked mostly quite well but I found the clips of video accompanied by loud music at various times annoying.

As for the performances both actors playing the younger and older Marc Bolan were very good indeed, and I was particularly impressed with the singing voice of Marc’s love interest when he had finally made it in the states. It is maybe forgotten today just how successful he was at that time selling over 60,000 records a day. If you fancy a trip down memory lane then this could be for you. However, you will have to be quick as not so many dates left.

Still playing at the Wycombe Swan tonight and tomorrow and then the York Barbican between 24th and 26th June and Chelmsford Civic between 28th and 30th June.

Jun 20th

Summer Holiday the Musical at the Edinburgh Playhouse

By Clare Brotherwood

To be honest, I wasn’t that excited about going to see Summer Holiday the Musical.

I was barely into my teens when I saw Cliff Richard’s original film and, for me, there is no-one to beat him.

So, I thought, I’ll just wallow in nostalgia. After all, I still know all the words to all the songs: timeless classics like Bachelor Boy, Do You Wanna Dance? The Young Ones, The Next Time, Living Doll and, of course, Summer Holiday!

What I didn’t expect was to ‘put on my dancing shoes’ during the encore, clapping, cheering and waving along with the rest of the audience, including my young friend for whom the sixties belong to the history books. This production raised the Playhouse’s roof!

This really is a feel good show which brought sunshine into Edinburgh on one of its driecht days. Like Cliff’s other early film The Young Ones, it’s wholesome and fun, and gives today’s young audiences a taste of how uncomplicated life could be in ‘the good old days’!

Peter Yates’ original film script, adapted for the stage by Michael Gyngell and Mark Madigan, is about Don and his fellow mechanics who take an old London Transport bus to Europe for a summer holiday. On the way they rescue three girl singers and an American pop star who is running away from her Cruella de Ville-like mother and her agent - the only dark characters in what is a happy-go-lucky whirlwind of love and laughter. But then, maybe without them it would be too sweet?

Once I looked at the programme I knew it couldn’t fail, musically at least. Any show with Keith Strachan behind the orchestration is bound to be a winner and musical director Rob Wicks and his men do him proud.

On opening night the production was a bit slow to start, the sound echoing, but the company was energetic and enthusiastic and when Ray Quinn, in the Cliff Richard role, joined in he took the show to a different level. He may have big shoes to fill but he does a good job; throughout the show there are some lovely harmonies but Quinn’s voice is a cut above the rest and he also more than matches the dancers with his acrobatics.

Don’s mates each have their own characters. Edwin is the more sensitive member of the group but in Move It Joe Goldie really comes into his own as an Elvis sound-alike; Rory Maguire is lovable as the cheeky Cyril, while Billy Roberts is very much the cocky Jack the Lad as Steve.

Gabby Antrobus, Alice Baker and Laura Marie Benson play perfectly the dippy, giggly singers while Sophie Matthews’ American singer Barbara has extra depth, innocence and then passion.

Taryn Sudding as Barbara’s mother is a wonderfully screeching harridan; only Bobby Crush cuts a sad figure as Barbara’s camp agent with an ill-fitting wig. Famous all his life as a pianist, in the encore it was heart-breaking to see him playing a keyboard attached to the back of the bus (yes, the bus has a starring role too) that no-one could hear.

Summer Holiday the Musical is at the Edinburgh Playhouse until June 23. It then continues touring:

June 26-30: Plymouth Theatre Royal

July 17-21: Brighton Theatre Royal

July 24-28: Blackpool Winter Gardens

July 30-Aug 4: Leeds Grand

Aug 14-18: Wales Millennium Centre

Aug 23-27: Southend. Cliffs Pavilion

Sept 4-8: Dartford, Orchard Theatre

Sept 11-15: Chester StoryHouse

Sept 18-22: Wimbledon New Theatre

Oct 2-6: Stoke, Regent Theatre

Oct 23-27: Aylesbury Theatre

Oct 30-Nov 3: Glasgow Kings Theatre

Jun 20th

“Sunshine on Leith”, King’s Theatre Glasgow

By Cameron Lowe


Eleven years on from the first awe-inspiring tour by Dundee Rep. and with a movie release in the space between, Sunshine on Leith takes to the stage once again with a brand new production from West Yorkshire Playhouse.


With side-splitting Scottish humour married with true to life family drama and down to earth realism, “Sunshine on Leith” ticks every possible box for me.  I found myself bouncing from uncontrollable laughter to sadness and back again in a heartbeat!  From the familiar upbeat strains of “I’m on My Way” I was hooked again, finding myself grinning from ear to ear as I enjoyed this triumphant intelligent musical comedy drama.


The story follows Ally and Davy as they return from an army tour of duty and they set about picking up the pieces of their lives.  Ally is the long term boyfriend of Davy’s sister, Liz.  Liz introduces her brother to her nursing colleague, Yvonne, who is funny, bright, beautiful … but English!  Both couples are welcomed under the roof of mum and dad (Jean and Rab) who celebrate 30 years of marriage.


Part of the genius of this show is the way that the 3 separate love stories are interwoven with a huge back catalogue of hit songs from The Proclaimers.  The songs are not a simple headline grabbing add-on.  They each earn their place and advance the story so seamlessly that it is difficult to comprehend that they were not written for this purpose.  Throw the ‘R’ Away” celebrates the Scottish accent as the boys take a job in a call centre, “What Do You Do?” asks how Nurses should cope with the decline of the NHS, “Let’s Get Married” is an hilarious marriage proposal spoof situated in a Hibs supporters’ bar, “Sunshine on Leith” is a tear jerking lament as a family member lies in a hospital bed … the list goes on and on.  The drama is woven through with side splitting Scottish patter and down to earth characters that will speak any audience’s language.  Playwright and TV writer, Stephen Greenhorn, turned alchemist with this theatre gold.


This new production brings several updates to this much beloved show.  Some work well    and some, not so much.  I was delighted to see that time no longer stood still for the Henshaw family as the show was brought up to date with references to Brexit, The Kardashians and Nicola Sturgeon among others.  These bring fresh laughs and introduce the show to a new generation of fans.  The story took some tweaks from the 2013 movie; bringing in Rab’s estranged daughter (Nikki Patel) and adding extra pressure on his 30 year marriage; which unravels in a great crescendo at the end of Act 1.  Sadly, this production also handed over more of the second act’s tear-jerker songs to the chorus.  While well delivered vocally with beautiful new harmonies, this only served to detract from the hard hitting drama which was previously in very stark contrast to the uplifting first act.


The cast consisted of incredibly talented performers who acted, sang, danced and played instruments giving each scene a family vibe – like an old new year party singalong. Accents tended to be around 50 miles west of where they should be but that was quickly forgiven by the Glaswegian audience.  Performances were superb throughout with outstanding contributions from principals Phil McKee as Rab, Hilary Maclean as Jean, Neshla Caplan as Liz, Jocasta Almgill as Yvonne and Paul-James Corrigan and Steven Miller as Ally and Davy.


This is a great musical.  Get along to see it as soon as you can - Saturday night is sold out in Glasgow.  The tour makes its final stop in Inverness.


King’s Theatre, Glasgow

Tues 19 – Sat 23 June

Evenings at 7.30 p.m. (Saturday evening sold out)

Wed and Sat matinees at 2.30 p.m.

Box Office: 0844 871 7648 (bkg. fee)

Tickets: £23 - £60


Jun 12th

Blue Elephant Theatre - Summer Season 2018

By Carolin Kopplin

Blue Elephant Theatre continues its creative mix of new work from emerging artists for all audiences. Shows this season look at the dark and light in life: the struggles, themes and stories that guide how we live and what we think. Embracing cross art form performances, this summer is the perfect time to discover or rediscover the intimate Camberwell venue. 

This is the Blue Elephant’s first season as an Arts Council England NPO and it is fitting that many of the shows are very new pieces and fresh starts; many are Edinburgh previews and some are brand new works in progress. From interactive comedy to refugee superheroes and from modern adaptations of Greek texts to clowning and dance, the scope of the season is vast, offering something for all ages and tastes.

Cassandra by Found in Translation (12th – 16th June)

What if they'd believed Cassandra?

Based on Aeschylus’ Agamemnon, Cassandra takes us on a very personal journey through some of the struggles many women face in their lives; the choice between what’s expected of them and how they feel. Touching on the themes of #metoo and #timesup, Cassandra is a fiery reimagining of a classical text which gives a voiceless woman an audience. 

Established in October 2016, Found in Translation’s mission is to take Classical stories and update them for today’s audiences. They produce work that promotes education in the arts and Classical subjects to those that don’t have easy access to them otherwise. 

Suitable for ages 16+

The Tale of the Cockatrice by Mumblecrust Theatre (17th June)

A masterclass in adventure storytelling for all ages!

Deep in the vaults of an ancient priory a hideous creature awakens. A deadly cockatrice is born! Bold knights flee in terror... Can a humble nun defeat the beast?

Multi-Award-Winning Mumblecrust Theatre present two muddle-headed storytellers, an obscure British legend, breath-taking puppetry and spine-tingling live music in this dark and winding fable for monster-lovers young and old.

Mumblecrust Theatre is an award-winning theatre company based in the South West of England. Co-Artistic Directors Katie Underhay and Anthony Burbridge came together to fill a niche in children’s theatre, where slightly older children often get left out. From this collaboration, The Tale of the Cockatrice was born.

Best suited for 7-12 year olds 


The Family Blimp by The Klump Company (21st – 23rd June)

Physical theatre, grotesque and a lick of the absurd come together as the Blimps attempt to navigate through a strange new place and meet the demands of their new-fangled community.

Let’s play Home Sweet Home, after all- there’s no place like it.

The Klump Company are a brand spanking new ensemble, fresh from internationally acclaimed Ecole de Jacques Lecoq. They could mime the knickers off your granny. They probably won’t though…

Runner Up by Robert Hesp (28th June)

A series of performance actions and choreographies by Robert Hesp responding to ideas around/the feeling of failure.

Robert Hesp is a performance artist and contemporary dancer based in London. His work frequently straddles a variety of disciplines, using the tensions and overlaps as fertile ground for experimentation.

This performance is a work in progress showing and will be followed by a short discussion hosted by the artist. 

The Croydon Avengers by Maya Productions in association with Little Mighty (29th June & 1st July)

Can three teenage refugees become the heroes Britain needs?

Regina Rump is on the rampage! A trio of masked vigilantes are sending Croydon’s crime rate plummeting. They’ve run away from their war-torn homes and are just trying to help.

But Regina’s not happy. She orders her media empire to unmask the Avengers and get them off the streets. Are they terrorists? Criminals? Either way, she thinks they’re a threat to British identity.

Then a freak accident at the Gatwick deportation centre gives the trio powers beyond their wildest dreams. Can three teenage refugees really become the saviours of a doomed nation?

The Croydon Avengers blends comic book visuals with action-packed martial arts to tell a funny, powerful story of terrorist threats, heroism and true friendship in an England that seems frightened of anyone who’s different.

Led by Suzanne Gorman, Maya Productions creates diverse theatre to create change: socially, politically and culturally. Their vision is a world where people of all ages, abilities, culture and classes have the opportunity to experience world class theatre.

Aimed at young people aged 8-14 and their families.

Boxman by Flugelman Productions (4th – 6th July)

There are more than 60 million displaced people on our planet... people who have no home

Ringo is one of them. He is a survivor, a child soldier displaced from his homeland, sheltering in a cardboard box in an inner city park. He lives in plain sight but is invisible to the city around him. But inside his makeshift ‘home’, Ringo lives a life rich with stories and songs of a childhood far away, a family tragically lost and the complicated promise of a new beginning.

Started by sisters, Edwina and Victoria, Flugelman Productions brings together writers, performers, musicians and dancers from all over the world, inspired to tell great stories. They believe that theatre can save the world. Too grand a statement? At the very least, it can make all our lives better by helping us understand a little more of what it means to be human.

Where the Hell is Bernard? by Haste Theatre (10th July)

A darkly comic depiction of a Kafka-esque future

In a city where no one plays and no one ever leaves, a box of items bounces back to Lost and Found Office. Will the officers find its owner or something more? Mixing magical visuals, movement, live song and clown, award winning Haste Theatre create a darkly comic warning for the future.

Haste Theatre an all-female, international physical theatre company which creates fantastical worlds to portray and interrogate the everyday. Founded in 2013, Haste has toured nationally and internationally to theatres and festival across the UK, US and Italy. Fusing comedy and tragedy, the ugly and the beautiful – they shock, stimulate and entertain.

The Dame by Here’s One I Made Earlier & Duncan Reeves Productions (12th July)

A seasoned pantomime dame is alone in his dressing room, unaware he is preparing for his own performance of a lifetime....

Ronald Roy Humphrey has returned to the northern seaside town where he grew up for the Christmas season, and finds himself bitterly confronted with why he left all those years before.

As he starts to excavate his past, he steps back into history; bringing to life the ghosts who once paraded and performed along the piers and promenades, removing the layers one by one until he arrives at a tragic truth he had spent his whole life trying to forget.

A lost world of seaside entertainment, old time music hall and pantomime are brought to life in this one-man show where the past and present collide, magical realism meets bleak reality, and however many masks we wear, the truth will always be exposed.

The Dame is a one man show written by Katie Duncan, a past winner of Blue Elephant Theatre's Playwriting competition, and presented as a work in development. The show is performed by her father, actor and presenter Peter Duncan who is probably best known for presenting Blue Peter in the 1980s.

An Evening, A Beginning by KAMIENSKI (19th – 21st July)

Witness the beginning

Boundaries of contemporary dance are manipulated in this physical and fast-paced double bill by KAMIENSKI., premiering two brand new works.

Trojan Horse by LUNG in association with West Yorkshire Playhouse (26th & 27th July)

Why should I continue to be tolerant?

When the world has been so intolerant of me.

A new documentary play by LUNG (E15, The 56 and Chilcot), Trojan Horse follows the real life stories of Muslim teachers and governors who were accused of plotting extremism in Birmingham schools.

Founded in Barnsley in 2012, LUNG are a verbatim/documentary theatre company who make work with communities, for communities and about communities. LUNG create work that shines a light on political, social and economic issues in modern Britain using people’s actual words to tell their stories. The company is led by Matt Woodhead (winner of Director’s Guild Best Newcomer 2015) and Helen Monks (Upstart Crow, Raised By Wolves).

Listings Information: 

Venue: Blue Elephant Theatre, 59a Bethwin Rd, Camberwell, SE5 0XT (entrance on Thompson Ave)

Nearest tube: Oval (Northern Line)

Wheelchair accessible

Box Office: 020 7701 0100 |@BETCamberwell

Jun 11th

The Darkness or Else the Light at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

By Clare Brotherwood

Now that I am living in Scotland I am finding lots of theatrical gems in Edinburgh.

Not least of these is Strange Town, a registered charity, co-founded in 2008 by creative directors Steve Small (who created the Royal Lyceum’s education department and the award-winning Lyceum Youth Theatre) and Ruth Hollyman, who established the Festival Theatre’s education programme (and has lived in Tokyo where she set up a children’s theatre).

Because of them, each week 350 youngsters, from the ages of eight to 18, are engaged in learning theatre skills through their Youth Theatre groups, their Young Company, and their after-school drama clubs, and showcasing the work of emerging writers. And, as if that wasn’t enough, since 2011 their Young Actors’ Agency has been representing young actors from the ages of five to 25.

In their latest production, around 20 young performers have got together with writer Corinne Salisbury to create a piece about how social media makes us feel.

Who better to take us through the pitfalls than a teenage cast; no-one knows social media and its dark and light sides better than they do. On the bus home I heard someone say the production was like a school play – which is excusable. After all, it was a group of kids, only on this occasion it was a group of kids who, under the direction of professional director Catherine Exposito, were appearing on the stage of the Traverse Theatre and, later this month, the Leith Theatre and the Scottish Storytelling Centre.

Set against a black backcloth with circuit board markings on the floor, the production opens with the entrance of an aggressive group of hoodies in masks – the ‘voices’ of social media.

A mixed bunch of seven teenagers then find themselves invited to a meeting room in the middle of nowhere where a computer tells them that if they each tell their secrets everyone will be equal and there will be rewards.

What follows is how the situation affects different members of the group, especially when it ends with everyone having to take The Test which, because of their early activity on social media, predicts the lives they will leave.

It’s strong stuff, an important piece of theatre with, at the heart of it, the very generation who are part of it, telling the story with credibility and feeling.

Now I think I’ll just ditch my phone!

The Darkness or Else the Light can also be seen:

June 16-17: Leith Theatre

June 23-24: Scottish Storytelling Centre

Jun 9th

Matilda at Milton Keynes Theatre

By Louise Winter

Reviewed by Louise Winter  

7th June 2018 


Matilda Poster

From the fantastic floor-to-ceiling-wall-to-wall staging and lighting and the highly creative choreography, costumes and characterisation, to Minchin’s brilliantly original and engaging lyrics and music, this is a completely absorbing and immersive experience from start to finish; it is not in any way purely a children’s story. The dedication and attention to detail of Matthew Warchus, Dennis Kelly and Tim Minchin over the years of planning that went into this adaptation of Roald Dahl’s beloved story is evident in every element of this knockout show; one of the most fulfilling pieces of theatre I’ve seen in a very long time.  

On tour until Augustand for longer than usual runs at each venue, this is most definitely one of THE shows to get tickets for but they are selling very fast so act now! 

Matilda, on this night played by the exceptionally poised Poppy Jones, is the purest little sweetie. Jones, so very young, is stunning on stage playing her role without any mawkish or sugary sentimentalityMatilda waits to start school, enduring the derision and appalling treatment of her hapless parents -  Rebecca Thornill as her dance-obsessedlooks-driven mother and Sebastien Torkia as her ignorant wheeler-dealer father, who cannot comprehend how he has been saddled with a daughter and insists on calling her a boy. Thornhill and Troika are superb, both clearly having great fun with their deeply flawed characters.  

Matilda copyright Manual Harlan

image copyright Manuel Harlan

By the time Matilda gets to school she is far in advance of her peers, having read Dickens and Dostoevsky, and immediately draws attention from her gentle, morally responsible teacher Miss Honey and, unfortunately, the psychopathic headteacher Miss TrunchbullIt’s not really fair to pick out any individual among this immensely talented and consistent cast, yet special mention must be given to Craige Els who, having played the role for three years in the West End, has perfected his take on the maniacal Trunchbull and clearly relishes in her grotesque darkness; he gives depth and truth to the character’s twisted malevolence far beyond any two dimensional imagining and does not play for quick laughs.  

Matilda Manuel Harlan

image copyright Maneul Harlan

There are some superb set pieces, the gym class is magnificent and just wait for the swings! Among Minchin’s memorable score is the addictive ‘Naughty (which has been my earworm today), the beautiful, ‘When I Grow Up’, and the moving ‘This Little Girl’ among consistently fabulous songs.   

matilda Manuel Harlan

image copyright Maneul Harlan

This is powerfully creative theatre, rock solid in every aspect, fabulously entertaining, very, very funny but above all emotionally uplifting.  


Matilda plays MK Theatre until 30th June then continues on tour 

Box office 0844 871 7652 

Booking transaction fee applies 

Jun 7th

Love From a Stranger at the King's Theatre Edinburgh

By Clare Brotherwood

Although it has been a West End hit (albeit in 1936), with numerous radio and film versions to follow, I have never before seen Love From a Stranger.

Apparently, it rather fell into obscurity, which is unusual for an Agatha Christie thriller. Maybe it was because it was co-written by actor Frank Vosper (who fell out of a porthole on an ocean liner and drowned on his way home from the New York run in 1937!).

It is also unusual in that there isn’t a murder in the first act. In fact, it isn’t even a whodunit!

This version, produced by Fiery Angel and Royal & Derngate Northampton, is set in 1958, not the most colourful of times, and designer Mike Britton’s set perfectly reflects the austerity of the era with its earthy colours and women dressed in tweed suits. And the splitting of the set sideways to focus on different areas of the flat is novel, though it leaves the coffee table off centre!

The play is set in a London flat but it is not until well into the scene that we discover who the players are: Cecily Harrington has come into some money, is getting married and is renting out her flat. The annoying pseudo Mrs Bouquet, played by Nicola Sanderson, is her Aunt Lulu, and Mavis is her friend and sharer in the £50,000 win.

The first scene has a 50s feel - restrained and colourless, despite a lively performance from Alice Haig as Mavis - and seems overlong as Cecily (spinster material if ever I saw it) agonises over her doubts about her forthcoming wedding.

But, of course, all is not what it seems, and what starts out seemingly as a rather turgid play blossoms into one of the most psychologically frightening productions I have ever seen, thanks to director Lucy Bailey and gripping performances from Sam Frenchum as Bruce Lovell and Helen Bradbury as Cecily. The build-up may be slow but it’s worth the wait, even though I wasn’t sure, in the end, who did what!

Love From a Stranger is at the King’s Theatre Edinburgh until June 9. It then tours:

June 12-16: Theatre Royal Newcastle-upon-Tyne

June 19-23: Everyman Theatre Cheltenham

June 26-30: Theatre Royal Glasgow

July 3-7: Milton Keynes Theatre

July 1014: The Lowry, Salford

July 17-21: Theatre Royal Norwich

Jun 6th

Derren Brown - Underground at Theatre Royal, Glasgow

By Cameron Lowe


Review by David McCourt


Knowing something of how Derren’s show might go I found myself walking to the venue in Glasgow checking every sign post or advertising board for subliminal messages or suggestions of options people may be persuaded to choose during the show. In the theatre, again I couldn’t find anything that I thought would persuade me to make any unintentional choices. Or so I thought…


Derren appears on stage and instantly has you in the palm of his hand. His confidence on stage and presence immediately puts you at ease as he talks about the show all being about 5 secrets. The secrets (which shall remain as such) are the core of the show ... and boy what a show!


There are many words to describe Derren’s show. Spellbinding, Amazing, Unbelievable. It makes you question what is reality and what is fantasy. When the man is on stage, some 20 feet in front of you - totally live - there is no way there are any camera tricks or setups. It’s just not possible, he has nowhere to hide. The show is a combination of all Derren’s abilities. He is an accomplished magician and his love of magic stems from his ‘Papa’ who was, himself, a talented magician. During the show you also find out that Derren learned how to be a hypnotist so he would be more popular. After he’d become a master of both of these, he studied Psychology and has gone on to further master the art of persuasion which, in truth, he demonstrates with great affect. The show is full of good humour the odd mild profanity all of which is in context.


Some of the elements are simply awe inspiring; even showcasing Mr Brown's artistic skills upon occasion!  The original presentation style is a huge winner for the audience.  And all the while, Derren Brown adds seemingly random and unpredictable elements into the tricks ... and yet, the outcome is ALWAYS as he has predicted!!  Incredible.  Derren's quick wit and instant rapport with the audience keeps us enthralled even while we scratch our heads wondering how he did THAT one!!


Throughout the show your concentration is heightened as there are things that if you blink you will literally miss.  The banana, for example (all will make sense when you go see the show). The second half continues with more mind blowing skill. However, telling you about the main event would just spoil it for you.  So, I’m afraid, that will need to remain a SECRET!!!

If you are in two minds about whether to go to see this show ... keep one mind as a spare, as the mind you take with you will be blown!


Derren Brown - Underground

Theatre Royal, Glasgow

05/06/18 - 09/06/18

Tickets £22.90 - £46.90

0844 871 7648* calls cost up to 7 p per minute plus your phone company’s access charge