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Mar 28th

Princess Ida by Gilbert & Sullivan at the Finborough Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

Bridget Costello as Princess Ida

He who desires to gain their favour must be qualified to strike their teeming brains and not their hearts. They're safety matches, sir, and they light only on the knowledge box.

The Finborough Theatre is very skilled at unearthing hidden gems. Their latest find is a rarely performed work by Gilbert and Sullivan - their only 3-act opera and the only one with the dialogue written in blank verse. Princess Ida was produced between Iolanthe and The Mikado when G&S were at the height of their popularity and ran for 246 performances. As part of their "Celebrating British Musical Theatre" series, the Finborough presents the first production of Princess Ida in over 20 years in a slightly updated version by director Phil Wilmott.

Prince Hilarion and Princess Ida were married to each other when they were only babies. 20 years later, Prince Hilarion arrives at the castle to reclaim his bride who is now of age. Yet he is not alone. A long line of suitors are awaiting the lovely Princess as well, aware of the fact that the Princess is now eligible for marriage. However, Lord Gama has persuaded Princess Ida to leave the castle and head a university for women - men are barred from entering the institute. Prince Hilarion, Prince Cyril and Prince Florian dress up as women to gain access to the college. Yet soon their ruse is discovered and a battle ensues.

Wendy Carr, Georgi Mottram, Bridget Costello, Rachel Lea Grey, Laura Coutts, Victoria Quigley- ready for the fight.

Phil Wilmott cut the cast by six, reassigned some of the songs, and changed King Gama into Ida's Guardian Lord Gama who has acted like a father to Princess Ida but now has different ideas, which provides additional comedic possibilities - Gama is transformed from a protective father into a jealous suitor and Simon Butteriss makes the most of it.

It is surprising that Princess Ida has not been as successful as other works by Gilbert and Sullivan as the libretto is witty and there are many memorable tunes. True, Princess Ida makes fun of Darwin's theory of evolution and feminism, especially the idea that women could pursue higher education, which might rub people the wrong way. However, if one goes down this route The Taming of the Shrew could never be performed.

Simon Butteriss as Lord Gama

The orchestra has been reduced to two talented pianists, Richard Baker and Nick Barstow, and the set consists primarily of a huge painting of a stag that actually can be opened into the haven of Princess Ida's university (design by Maira Vazeou). Bridget Costello is a sweet Princess, feisty if need be, dedicated to her vocation and has a beautiful voice. Simon Butteriss is hilarious as her Guardian, Lord Gama as he tries to stifle any interest in the male sex by presenting men in the worst possible light to increase his own chances. Simon Butteriss has great rapport with the audience as he includes us in his musings and even sits down in sombody's lap. The suitors have their comic moments when they dress up as women and try to fool the other students. Simeon Oakes is a charming and sincere Hilarion and Jeremy Lloyd, Raymond Walsh, Nathan Elcox and Jordan Veloso portray dashing young men but the focus is truly on the women - Laura Coutts, Georgi Mottram, Wendy Carr, Rachel Lea-Gray, and Victoria Quigley - who are enchanting as the studious ladies. The cast consists of highly skilled singers who do justice to this lovely operetta.

A successful revival of a neglected work.

By Carolin Kopplin


Until 18th April 2015

Finborough Theatre

118 Finborough Road, London SW10 9ED

Telephone 020 7244 7439


Runs 2 hours 30 minutes including interval.

All photos by Scott Rylander.

Feb 16th

Fox and Symphony at the Battersea Arts Centre

By Carolin Kopplin


You say bagels and I say beigels ...

The Battersea Arts Centre is one of the most innovative and intriguing theatres in London, hosting companies such as Ridiculusmus and Theatre Ad Infinitum and brilliantly subversive artists like Chris Brett Bailey. Slowly recovering from the devasting fire that destroyed a third of the building and the main auditorium, the BAC is going strong and Artistic Director David Jubb is trying his best to restore the erstwhile town hall to its former glory, brick by brick. Meanwhile the remaining spaces within the building are put to good use.

Foxy and Husk is a performance artist, a human/fox hybrid, that combines theatre with cabaret and interactive films. Her previous show Fox Solo won high critical acclaim and toured internationally. Her new show Fox Symphony is a compilation of stories by members of the public about their relationship to national identity and community. Foxy travelled across the UK for six months, interviewing people and recording their statements. The show weaves together some of these narratives to create a portrait of contemporary Britain.

The show begins with a projection on the curtain ordering us to rise. As we get up, God Save the Queen is sung by an invisible choir and lip-synched by Foxy. Yet the text is slightly changed as the hymn goes on and gets quite a few laughs from the audience. As we sit down, Foxy presents a hard rock classic, rocking across the stage. Soon we meet the first interviewees, all played by Foxy in various guises as she lip-synchs the text so well that you hardly notice that the voices actually are recordings. The stories are intertwined with musical numbers to make the performance even more varied and entertaining. The performer has a splendid rapport with her audience and there is some very mild audience participation.

Foxy portrays every single character in her solo show. If there is more than one character, you will find one Foxy on the stage and a few more Foxies on film, playing musical numbers together - Foxy also masters a variety of instruments - or sharing their stories with us. Foxy's characters represent many different facets of Britain - a middle-class English woman, a Scot and an Irishman, recent immigrants, a Jewish Londoner who loves his beigels and shares his story over jellied eel in a Pie & Eel Shop, or a woman who doesn't want to be posh. Foxy she also devotes some time to the quintessential Londoners and city dwellers: the London foxes. 

This is an unusual and quirky show presented by a skilled and original artist. 

By Carolin Kopplin 

Until 17th February 2016

Battersea Arts Centre

Age Recommendation: 12+

Running time: 60 minutes

Further information on the artist and touring dates: 

Image by Manuel Vason.

Apr 12th


By Cameron Lowe

John CleeseFor the first time ever, comedy legend and the most senile member of Monty Python will be bringing his "An Evening with the Legendary John Cleese” tour to the UK. Best known for his idiosyncratic turns in Monty Python's Flying Circus and Fawlty Towers, John Cleese will bring his unique comedic perspective to Glasgow audiences for three nights only: Mon 6 – Wed 8 June.


Cleese has achieved a lot in his career which started as a sketch writer for BBC Radio’s Dick Emery Show and then The Frost Report. After this stardom beckoned, and Monty Python was created with Cleese co-writing and starring in four series and three films.


He went on to achieve further great success as the neurotic hotel manager Basil Fawlty in Fawlty Towers, which he co-wrote with his then wife Connie Booth. After huge UK success John went on to crack the USA with A Fish Called Wanda (which he wrote and starred in with Jamie Lee Curtis). The late 1990s saw the unstoppable Mr Cleese appear in the James Bond movie The World is not Enough and later Die Another Day. From writing to starring in plays, musicals, theatrical and comedy productions, to films and sitcoms, Cleese has done it all, and now it’s time for him to tell you about his jam-packed life.


Cleese says: "It is an evening of well honed anecdotes, psychoanalytical tit-bits, details of recent surgical procedures, and unprovoked attacks on former colleagues, especially Michael Palin".






An Evening with the legendary John Cleese

Theatre Royal, Glasgow
Mon 6 – Wed 8 June @ 7.30pm

Tickets: £21 - £33.50

Box Office: 08448 717 647 (bkg fee) (bkg fee)

Apr 1st

Our American Cousin at the Finborough Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

Solomon Mousley as Asa Trenchard

Wal, stranger, I don't know what they're going to do with me, but wherever they do put me, I hope it will be out of the reach of a jackass. I'm a real hoss, I am, and i get kinder riley with those critters.

President Lincoln was watching Tom Taylor's highly popular play about a British-American culture clash when he was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth on 14 April 1865. Tom Taylor was a successful English playwright whose work entailed comedies, melodramas, burlesques, and farces. Our American Cousin deals with a distant American cousin who inherits a large British estate on the brink of financial ruin. Does this storyline ring a bell? Right, it resembles the situation in our beloved Downton Abbey which makes one wonder why Taylor's play has never been performed in the past century.

Florence Trenchard (Kelly Burke) and Sir Edward (Andrew McDonald)

Rustic American Asa Trenchard arrives at the Trenchard Estate to accept his inheritance. His rough charm soon clashes with the reserved manner of his English relations. Only his cousin Florence is amused by his behaviour. Her father, Sir Edward, is facing financial ruin unless he marries off Florence to his unpleasant agent Richard Coyle but Florence is in love with a captain without a ship - Harry Vernon. Meanwhile Lord Dundreary, a male version of Mrs Malaprop, woos Mrs Mountchessington's daughter Georgina, a very delicate girl who is harbouring quite an unladylike appetite. Mrs Mountchessington has chosen Captain De Boots as a suitable husband for her other daughter Augusta but now has got her eye on future heir Asa as a possible husband. Asa's cousin Mary, who should have been heir to the estate, is working as a servant.

Georgina (Hannah Britland) and Lord Dundreary (Timothy Allsop)

Our American Cousin is a comedy with a melodramatic form. Many of the characters are rather clichéd, such as the villain and the brides-to-be, which was normal in the 19th century when actors were cast to fit certain type parts - even more than today. Interestingly enough, the big star of this vehicle was not Asa Trenchard but the foolish Lord Dundreary, as played by the popular actor Edward Askew Sothern who invented much of his dialogue, thereby changing his part of a supporting player to a leading role. The production by Over Here Theatre has included some of Sothern's improvised text entailing misquoted proverbs such as "Birds of a feather gather no moss". Timothy Allsop certainly does his best to make his character funny but there is little humour in Sothern's rambling text although several members of the audience seemed to disagree with me.

Lydia Parker's production is a very good one and if there are shortcomings this is due to the play which seems rather dated at times but is saved by the enthusiastic cast. Solomon Mousley is a very likeable lead with a quick smile and an angelic face and it is very amusing to watch how he shocks the fossilized aristocrats and the butler Mr Binny who takes Asa's affronts with a stiff upper lip. Kelly Burke is a self-confident and intelligent Florence who pulls all the possible strings to help her seaman return to sea again. Olivia Onyehara is lovely as the impoverished cousin Mary Merideth. Andrew McDonald combines gravitas with helplessness as Sir Edward Trenchard and Andy Rashleigh is a very distinguished butler. Hannah Britland has one of the best one-liners in the play as the sickly Georgina. Popular contemporary tunes are provided by skilled pianist and Musical Director Erika Gundesen.

Don't miss out on this curiously entertaining play. Hurry, the run is almost sold out!

By Carolin Kopplin 

Until 14th April 2015

Finborough Theatre

118 Finborough Road, London SW10 9ED

Telephone 020 7244 7439


All photos by Aoife Nally.


Feb 21st

The War Of The Worlds at the Dominion Theatre

By Douglas McFarlane

Jimmy Nail, Heidi Range and Michael Praed


After the end of We Will Rock You, the Dominion Theatre undertook an extensive amount of refurbishment and the result is a fantastic modern interior with great bars and comfortable spacious seating. 

With this new production, they've also shown how much electricity they can cope with, as the amount of lights, lasers and electronic special effects used would probably require as much power required to run a small village.

It's truly a spectacle of visual entertainment. From the opening bars of the now infamous song, Jeff Wayne commands the violinists, several guitarists, and a multitude of other musicians in the opening number and the chilling words "The chances of anything coming from Mars are a million to one he says......and still they come".  

Over the years, this show has taken on different guises on stage, and it's evolved extensively in this production. Every facet of it has been improved and enhanced, with more cast, more dancers, more lights, more scenery, and it works well.

I loved the artistic elements from the Red Weed, a dozen dancers giving the impression of the all encompassing killer weed.  It reminded me of the 'Hairy Panic' in Australia this week and brought it to life wonderfully.

The original HG Wells story is threaded through the musical composition and spoken by Liam Neeson on a variety of screens which pop up around on stage. He's telling the story years after the invasion and his character is acted out on stage by Michael Praed of Robin of Sherwood fame. There's a great cast including David Essex, Jimmy Nail, Daniel Beddingfield and Heidi Range of Sugababes fame. They each had great character in their voice and they complimented each other well. Much like Les Miserables or Jesus Christ Superstar, the parts required high quality singers with extensive range, and while their singing wasn't to the level of performers like Alfie Boe each of them held their own.

The original radio play of it was in 1938 narrated by Orson Wells, and it created panic across the UK as some listeners thought it was real. I performed in a version of this in Glasgow a number of years ago and it was clear that it would be easy to misinterpret if you'd missed the opening announcements.

The reviews haven't been good in their opening week. I'm not sure what everyone was expecting, but The Times gave it zero stars, and felt everyone was wooden. The Independent agreed and they both mocked the Liam Neeson screens popping up everywhere. Even the Evening Standard called it an "Overblown Display of Prog Rock Romp".

For me, this was great London entertainment and the audience were on their feet at the end which will surely help the production keep it's chin up in face of these negative and unnecessary presss reviews. What do they know anyway ?


Get yourself down to see THE WAR OF THE WORLDS at the Dominion Theatre and be prepared to immerse yourself in this 19th century classic brought to life with 21st century style.





Jan 16th

Ivor Novello's Valley of Song at the Finborough Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin
Katy Treharne as Lily and Lynford Hydes as David

Music settles the question.

After Perchance to Dream and Gay's the Word, the Finborough now presents Ivor Novello's unfinished work Valley of Song which was meant to be Novello's next Drury Lane musical when he suddenly died from a coronary thrombosis in 1950, The work was completed by Christopher Hassall - who had collaborated with Novello for many years - and adapted by Phil Park and Ronald Hanmer for the amateur stage. Set in Wales and Venice, this romantic musical revolves around young Welsh choirmaster David who is deeply in love with his leading soprano, Lily.

Amira Matthews as Maria, Sandy Walsh as Nan Brewster
and Jill Nader as Olwen Jones.

Nan Brewster, a shrewd business woman, celebrates the 25th anniversary of her chain of stores. A reporter arrives to write an article about this spectacular event, titling the story "Valley of Song". David, the local choirmaster, and the village choir present the beautiful song Cambria and I Know A Valley in Nan's honour. Nan thinks David's talents are wasted in the valley - he is a gifted composer who could go far but David doesn't want to leave. 
Lily is still undecided about David because unlike him she is ambitious and more adventurous: Lily wants to see the world and find the ideal man. When Nan decides to retire: "25 years of Brewster's is plenty", she asks Lily if she would like to travel with her. Lily immediately agrees - to David's chargrin. Nan's "faithful factotum" Gwilim and her housekeeper Olwen are also to come along. The grouchy Gwilim is not so inclined: "Abroad, it's a bit foreign, isn't it?" When they arrive in Venice, Gwilim is very critical of Italy at first but soon the charming Maria, who thinks the name of his Welsh home sounds like a bad cough, changes his mind. Lily has fallen head over heels for the shady Count Ricardo. Nan is very suspicious of the count and hires a private investigator who presents his results on the night that could be Lily's big break. 

Laura Allen, Ross McNeill, Richard Mark, Carla Turner, Katie Arundell,
Harrison Rose, Lee VanGeleen, Amelia Clay and Philippa Tozer

This romantic musical must have already seemed dated when Ivor Novello wrote it. The storyline is very corny and quite predictable and most of the songs cannot be counted among Novello's best. However, there is still a lot to be liked and it is thanks to the Finborough that we get to see a production of this rarely performed work.

Benji Sperring's imaginative production is set on a bare stage with only a backdrop as scenery. This makes sense because fifteen actors dance and sing on this intimate stage and provide all the colour and atmosphere to take you to a Welsh valley or the carnival of Venice. Linford Hydes and Katy Treharne make a lovely couple as the sadly romantic David and the sprightly and adventurous Lily and both have truly beautiful voices. Sandy Walsh is a charismatic Nan Brewster as she cares about her community, supports Lily in her endeavour and transforms her home into a hospital for wounded soldiers. Lee van Geleen, who took over the role of Gwilim on rather short notice, is very funny as the grumpy and proud "factotum", reminiscent of Malvolio. His scenes with the Italian hothead Maria, played with plenty of fire by Amira Matthews, are hilarious. Jill Nalder is endearing as the wise servant Olwen Jones. Richard Mark oozes charm from every pore as Lily's paramour Ricardo Favero. I Know A Valley, a very lyrical song celebrating Wales, and Rainbow In The Fountain are beautiful and memorable numbers. The choreography of Carnival in Venice is creative and playful. 

Don't miss the chance to see this rarely performed Novello! 
By Carolin Kopplin

Until 25th January 2014
Finborough Theatre
118 Finborough Road, London SW10 9ED
Feb 24th

An Inspector Calls - Milton Keynes Theatre

By Louise Winter

Reviewed by Lousie Winter 23rd February 2016

Inspector Calls poster

The core message of Priestly’s play, that of collective social responsibility, seems evermore relevant. First produced 24 years ago at the National Theatre, Stephen Daldry’s touring production was well received last night.

Using the device and style of a detective thriller it is fundamentally a philosophical play about social conscience, demonstrating how one person’s behaviour can have significant and even devastating consequences. The drama unfolds in stages as Inspector Goole arrives in the middle of a celebration and questions each member of the Birling family in turn as to their connection with a young woman who has committed suicide. Liam Brennan as Goole is suitably tenacious and commanding, gradually coercing each character to admit the truth and forcing them to consider their past actions and motivation.

An Inspector Calls Mark Douet

image copyright Mark Douet

Set and staging are most effective with an air of surrealism. The mini-sized lopsided house with tiny door and windows, perched high on stilts, contains the drawing room within which the Birling family are crammed toasting Shelia and Gerald engagement. This enclosed, too-small space gives a sense of discomfort and awkwardness, signifying the narrow, stifling middle-class conventions by which the family are all bound. The eventual throwing open of the front and sides of the house to expose the bright, sumptuous interior luminous among the bleak blitzed surroundings start the Inspector's exposure of the characters' secrets and misdemeanours.

Priestly’s dense text is key and Daldry’s production keeps this paramount not allowing any other elements to detract from this. Stephen Warbeck’s music is used sparingly to underline key dramatic moments and to heighten tension only. Daldry’s manipulation of time within the play: the events set in 1912, the 1940’s attired ‘Supernumeraries’ to witness the Birling family’s disclosures, and the moments where the audience is addressed, move the physical time around so as to place the central message in both the past and present.

AN Inspector Calls Mark Douet

image copyright Mark Douet

The cast are equally sharp and excellent, Caroline Wildi and Katherine Jack as Sybil and Sheila Birling are perfect. Wildi has some of the most amusing moments and the decline from her lofty, regal, and immaculate image to that of her sitting in the gutter disarrayed and dishevelled is symbolic of the collapse of the moral fibre of her character and all the family. Geoff Lesley as Arthur Birling is suitably gruff and inflexible, almost completely refusing to admit he has done anything improper. Hamish Riddle is superb as Eric Birling, his nervous energy, near hysteria and awkwardness perfectly pitched. Matthew Douglas plays with aplomb the falsely jocular and loud fiancé Gerald Croft and the realisation of the damage his past behaviour has done leaves him momentarily lost; only momentarily though. It is Sheila and Eric who you feel may have learned some type of lesson and who may go on to be better human beings. They are the only redeeming characters. However, the audience don’t escape. The play halts. The audience is addressed directly: think of and care about others instead of focussing on material possessions, power, and status. A message for our times and as pertinent as ever.

Priestly's theme is timeless. Daldry's production is full of suspense, thrill and anticipation.

At MK theatre until Sat 27th February

Tickets from 

0844 871 7652

booking fee applies



Jan 4th


By Cameron Lowe
Howard Panter and Rosemary SquireATG’s Howard Panter and Rosemary Squire have topped theThe Stage 100 for a fourth consecutive year. The exclusive list, compiled annually by the industry’s leading newspaper, ranks the powerhouses of British theatre. This year, Panter and Squire share the revered accolade with the National Theatre.

One of the biggest production highlights of 2012 was the ATG initiated, highly-successful reunion with Royal Court Theatre Productions. This collaboration led to a 2012 Royal Court West End season at the Duke of York’s.  Laura Wade’s Posh, April De Angelis’ hit comedy, Jumpy starring Tamsin Greig, and the highly-acclaimed Constellations starring Sally Hawkins and Rafe Spall, all received critical acclaim, garnering rafts of 4 and 5-star reviews. This trio of plays each celebrated and promoted fresh new writing, with Constellations winning this year’s Evening Standard Best New Play Award.

The last 12 months also saw the UK premieres of Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5 The Musical and All New People starring Zach Braff; the Australian premiere of Legally Blonde the Musical in Sydney; Pinero’s classic comedy Dandy Dick starring Patricia Hodge and Nicholas Le Prevost; Joe Penhall’s Blue/Orange starring Robert Bathurst;South Pacific in London and on UK Tour; the return of a brand new production of Spamalot to the West End; Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker in London and on UK Tour; Simon Callow starring in Being Shakespeare and The Mystery of Charles Dickens in London; The Mountaintop starring Samuel L Jackson and Angela Bassett in New York and 10 FFE produced regional pantomimes starring Hollywood favourites David Hasselhoff and Priscilla Presley.

Howard Panter said: “Rosemary and I are both humbled and delighted that The Stage continues to recognise that ATG is a great British success story, which brings music and creative brilliance to countless audiences around the globe. We have just celebrated our 20th anniversary, and the diversity, depth and breadth of what ATG does is, in many ways, unparalleled. 2012 was a historic year for the UK, in particular London, and we were delighted to play a small part and make our own contribution. We would like to congratulate the National Theatre, with whom we are honoured to share this distinction, on their success.”

Upcoming highlights for 2013 will include Howard Panter and British director Jamie Lloyd’s first collaboration, Macbeth starring James McAvoy in the reconfigured Trafalgar Studio 1, starting in February.  In the West End, Passion Play by Peter Nichols, the inaugural production from Tali Pelman Productions starring Zoë Wanamaker at the Duke of York’s, will open next spring. There will also be a brand new production of The Rocky Horror Show which will celebrate its fortieth anniversary and a UK tour of Priscilla Queen of the Desert starring Jason Donovan, set to open in Manchester in February.
Jan 15th

Tongues by Perfect Mayhem at the Tristan Bates Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin


Moral: Everything goes to shit. Reboot.

Perfect Mayhem was formed nine years ago and is dedicated to working with new or neglected North American playwrights. About a year ago, the company unearthed John Vanbrugh's amusing play The Provoked Wife at the Greenwich Playhouse, setting the action in the 1930s, which worked very well. This time they present a 30-minute play by a contemporary English author as part of "First:  A Season of Solo Performances" at the Tristan Bates Theatre.  

Kay, a war correspondent, makes an unscheduled stop during the Balkans conflict in Bosnia, in an area much like the Yorkshire Dales. As the lights go up, Kay is taking photos of an executed soldier although it makes her nauseous. In her monologue, addressed to the dead man, she confronts the cruel nature of war, journalism and the vagaries of map reading. She also explains the rules of  "Tongues" to him, a card game for children in which the loser keeps on playing until the bitter end. The absurdity of the situation and the humour of the text make this short one-hander a darkly comic play that also raises some important questions. 

Provence Maydew gives an intense performance as the not so hardened journalist who feels the need to connect and assist somebody, even if her attempts are in vain because the only other person around is dead. In this respect the play has an almost optimistic outlook on humanity. 

By Carolin Kopplin 

Until 16th January 2012,  7.30pm
Tristan Bates Theatre
The Actors Centre, 1a Tower St., London WC2H 9NP
Tel: 020 7240 6283
Aug 20th

Testing Times Returns to the People's Theatre

By Cameron Lowe
Back by public demand, Testing Times returns after a triumphant try-out run last year. Described as being “as witty and uplifting as Calendar Girls; as profound and engaging as The Vagina Monologues; and as moving and emotive as Blood Brothers”, the play received critical acclaim and inspired cathartic outpourings of emotion from audience members.

Testing Times

Based on playwright Steve Burbridge’s interviews conducted with HIV+ young men from around the region, this compelling new play explores the life-changing impact of being diagnosed HIV+ from the perspective of a young gay man, his partner and his mother. Frank and funny, poignant and provocative, Testing Times chronicles the journey from anger, fear and despair to acceptance, strength and hope.

It visits The People’s Theatre,  Newcastle for a strictly limited run of only four performances. 

17 to 20 November 2014