Thursday 30 November 2017

West End Producer - The Man Behind The Mask

Many years ago Winston Churchill famously described the Russians as "a riddle wrapped in an enigma" 
Well, London's theatre scene has a similar riddle. For the best part of six years, no press night has been complete without the masked, mysterious and above all, enigmatic presence of the capital’s West End Producer. 
With a media persona that emerged on Twitter and has since taken him to become one of the most popular contributors to the industry’s weekly organ The Stage, WEP (as he is known) has become one of the “go to” commentators on the UK's theatre scene.
The masquerading pundit is fast becoming a prolific author too, with his second volume on the theatre world Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Going To The Theatre But Were Afraid To Ask, published this week.
Amidst a study strewn with bottles of vintage Dom Perignon, I caught up with West End Producer this week, to learn a little more about the man behind the mask…..

JB:    Here we are to discuss Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Going To The Theatre* (*But Were Too Sloshed To Ask). This is your second book, how many more do you anticipate writing? 

WEP:      Well, my dear, I did think that perhaps it's going to be something like a Harry Potter, that I’ll just keep writing and writing and writing. But no, I think there's only so much one can write about.

I think one more would be quite nice, a trio, wouldn't it, on the book shelf? But I don't know what the next one will be. It's about finding the subjects that are relevant and interesting, and of course, not repeating the same subjects but looking at theatre in a light, fun, yet supportive way. 

JB:    I'm curious about your writing process. Before the book goes to print, how much of your original draft is ripped out by the libel lawyers? 

WEP:      Well actually quite a lot my dear and may I say, what an excellent and very well thought out question!

What I do, I will have a first draft. Well to begin with, I will send about 10,000 words in to my editor, to Nick Hern Books, who will have a little read, and see if he thinks it's the right direction for them. 

But of course I don't want to get in trouble. It has to be based on fact. It can't be too naughty because even though I prod, and tease, and tickle (and slightly whip) some people involved in the industry, it's all done from a place of admiration, you see.

JB:    Along with many of your readers, I like to think of your writing as tongue in cheek. 

WEP:      Yes dear, tongue in cheek. That is it, yes. And my dear, my tongue's been in many cheeks.

It’s salacious gossip I know, but that's how one gets a career these days. So, WEP's tongue has been in many cheeks, my dear. 

JB:    Is that gossip salacious or, perhaps, fellatious?

WEP:      Both, my dear! 

JB:    You spoke earlier of the Harry Potter approach; of writing a string of titles. We know that J.K. Rowling’s inspiration came to her at a time when she was down on her luck, and she sketched out her anthology in an Edinburgh coffee shop. Where did your inspiration come from, to be an author, all those many years ago? 

WEP:      I suppose I’d done bits and bobs of writing as “me” anyway not as WEP, but actually I suppose that Twitter is a platform which is actually rather good for writing and writers. It helps writers to get rid of rubbish, the shitty things, because you have to keep it so concise, you see. I think Twitter, as a tool in the craft of writing, is actually quite valid. 

JB:    It must have been quite a challenge, leaping from 140 character tweets to 10,000 word manuscripts. How did you manage to bridge that gulf?

WEP:      To begin with, someone mentioned it to me, and said, "Maybe you should write a book because what you write is quite funny." So I just sat around and gave myself the target, when writing the first book, of writing 500 words a day, and I did that. 

I wanted to make sure that it still had the zing, and the power of a quick Tweet, which is why I try and make it quite funny and quite quick in the way it deals with things, but actually, I must say, the first book, it did just all come out of me quite quickly. Stuff doesn’t always come out of me quickly, but the books did.

I found the whole thing quite cathartic, quite therapeutic, writing these thoughts I had, writing these stories of things I'd heard. It just all came out, and I enjoyed doing it. That's the thing. You have to enjoy the writing.

If it's a chore, then first of all, what you're writing won't be very good I don't think and secondly, you'll start resenting the time that you put into it.

I find, if I'm honest with you, I have to write fairly late in the evening in my study. I sit here with either my Dom Perignon, or a lovely G&T, and I sit here and write with my musicals playing on my speakers. 

I’ll have the lights rather dimly lit, alone apart from my Jean Valjean teddy who's staring over at me with his enthusiastic eyes, yearning, inspiring me to write. And of course occasionally, my Miss Saigon blow-up doll will whip me when I start getting distracted. That's my writing ritual. 

JB:    The West End already has one world-famous musical about a man who hides behind a mask. Do you think there's room for a second?

WEP:      Oh, yes, my dear. Yes, indeed. I have to be honest with you, I have thought about it, talking to some people about doing a little show myself, more of a talk-thing, in the theatre, variety-thing, interviewing actors and the West End Wendies about their time in the theatre, and talking about my life a little because it is quite silly really that I'm a mask-faced impresario.

It's a slightly shocking, concerning thing that I do, but it's quite fun. It allows me to say things and write things and meet people like yourself.

JB:   And when the time for that musical arrives, who would you like to be cast in the role of playing yourself?

WEP:      Well, what a wonderful question. Let's have a think.

I think Hugh Jackman might do a good job because he looks quite similar to me in real life, you'll see. I think if we go on that, I think we'll give Hugh a call. If he says no, just in terms of ticket sales, we'll see if Cliff Richard’s available because at least we know he'll fill the theatre with lots of purple rinse old dears. As a producer, one always must think about bums on seats.

And who knows? Maybe we can get dear ███ █████ to play my mask. I'll see if she's up for it.

JB:    Changing tack. The book must have been going to print just as the terrible revelations of sexual exploitation began to dominate the news.

Your chapters offer sound suggestions to fans at the stage door, including the prescient advice: not to touch actors without their permission.

On a far more serious note, to what extent would you offer a cautionary word to your fellow industry professionals to behave similarly?

WEP:      I think my cautionary word to other producers, and everyone in the industry is that it is about respect and about knowing the boundaries. It's about treating people as you wish, and would want to be treated yourself. Not only just that, but knowing that some people are more sensitive than you possibly are. No one person is the same. So one person may feel different about a little kiss on the cheek, an overlong hug, or something. You have to be very perceptive and judge the situation accordingly. 

People need to remember that it is still a job. It is still a profession, and with that must come professional respect. That's the main thing that I think we all have to remember with this now, that we must respect each other as professional workers in our industry. We are not just all people who can touch and flirt and hug each other and cup each other’s balls. 

I think it's our duty to, particularly now, be more caring, more aware, more self-aware. That doesn't mean that one can't flirt, and one can't have fun because the worry is that flirting and fun will disappear. No, it won't. It will be done slightly differently, I think, more respectfully. You will be more aware of where the boundaries are and I think people will just start questioning themselves, and what they do, and what they say before they do it. That can only be a good thing.

JB:    Turning back to yourself, I note from your biography in the book that you were born during a particularly bloody production of Titus Andronicus.

WEP:      Yes, my dear, oh, dear me. The production photos of that show, I tell you, adorn my study rather disgustingly. It's a bloody show anyway, but it was particularly bloody that night!  I was literally born onstage, so really I had nowhere else to go to, no escape, my dear. Theatre was literally thrust upon me. As many people do in theatre, they thrust in a theatre, and I was thrust upon it. I haven't managed to escape since.

I'm thrilled that I haven't because I’m surrounded by wonderful people, silly anecdotes, ridiculously, fantastically talented human beings, and a wonderful community who do look after each other.

JB:    The book is sprinkled with references to some of the great musicals. Do you see it becoming referred to as an anthology, a reference book that people can turn to?

WEP:      Oh, well I do hope so, my dear. 

JB:    And as you’ve stated in your Twitter profile, "Plays are too long."

WEP:      Yes, sadly they do go on. The good thing with musicals is if there's too much bloody talking, get the conductor to move his little rod around, get the musicians to start playing, and suddenly we're whisked away, energy is on the stage again, and jazz hands wake us all up.

In a play, sadly, people sometimes go on talking, which is fine if the play is at least interesting.

Also, when we can't even hear what the bloody actors are saying, it becomes a thankless task, doesn't it?

Quite frankly, I'd prefer to be at home with my Miss Saigon blow-up doll sharing some intimate dance moves. 

JB:    This has been a fascinating interview. Thank you so much for your time and I wish you every success with the book launch! 

WEP:      Thank you too and let me say, well done to you, Jonathan. I love how involved you are and the amount of reviews you do, I think it's wonderful. They're great and you write so well, and it's lovely that I've known you for quite some time now.

JB:    That's very kind of you to say.

WEP:    So bless you, my dear. Enjoy, and please read the book again. I look forward to reading our little interview when it’s published. Have a wonderful Christmas, and if I see you about, we'll have a mulled wine.

Alright dear?

For the perfect Xmas gift you can buy a copy of  Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Going To The Theatre* (*But Were Too Sloshed To Ask) here:

Wednesday 29 November 2017

A Christmas Carol (narrated by Simon Callow) - Review


Released on 1st of December from Island Records, Simon Callow’s narration of Charles Dickens’ seasonal classic marks the 175th anniversary of Dickens self-publishing the original tale. Two years ago Callow adapted the novel into an acclaimed one-man staged performance and it is that version now being released.

Much like a luxuriously fruited and brandy drenched Christmas pudding, Callow’s voice (surely a national treasure in itself) serves up the festive fable in a recording that lasts a touch longer than the hour. Callow savours Dickens’ descriptions, his telling of the story offering up vivid portrayals of Ebenezer Scrooge, the three foreboding Spirits that visit him through the early hours of Christmas morning and all the other Cheapside characters. 

Adding a subtly seasonal musical backdrop and occasional musical interludes between the chapters, The Brighouse And Rastrick Band offer a selection of carols from their award-winning brass ensemble. In addition to Callow on CD1, a second disc provides a further 20 or so carol melodies recorded by the band, offering the opportunity to either sit back and listen, or maybe join in for a singalong.

It all makes for a marvelous recording and in our modern world, where video-based entertainment spews forth from screens that are everywhere, how wonderful to simply play this recording and let Simon Callow’s magical voice take one’s imagination back to 19th Century London.

Available to buy and download from all the usual retailers and digital platforms.

Monday 27 November 2017

Privates on Parade - Review

Union Theatre, London


Lyrics and book by Peter Nichols
Music by Denis King
Directed by Kirk Jameson

The Company

With the festive panto season finally on the horizon, why not consider skipping the traditional fairy-tale dames and instead head towards the Union Theatre for a snatch of Simon Green's take on Vera Lynn or Marlena Dietrich in Peter Nichols’ Privates on Parade. Set amongst the British Army in post WW2 Malaya and drawn from Nichols’ own experience, a song and dance unit of British soldiers is tasked with putting on morale-boosting variety shows to entertain the troops posted in the region.

Privates on Parade is very much a piece of its time, filled with wicked jokes and double-entendres every step of the way. The military is famous for its coarse humour and it is essential to context the show to its time when not only racism and sexism were rife, but homosexuality itself was a crime. So while modern day audiences may wince at Nichols’ dialogue, they should never forget his script’s historical accuracy nor its hints of underlying pathos.

Simon Green is superb as Captain Terri Dennis, the company’s leading “lady”. Green’s comic timing is spot on, along with his parodies of Dietrich and Lynn and his gin-swilling charm, irresistible.

There are equally good performances in the ensemble from Matt Hayden as the perfectly mannered, yet emotionally stifled Eric who is the epitome of a 1940's British gentleman while in the choreographed routines Tom Bowen is a joy maintaining an infectious onstage energy whilst playing the butt of continuous derogatory and racist abuse. As the honest and gentle Charles, who accompanies the entire cast on solo piano and thus truly enhances the authenticity of the “troop cabaret”, Tom Pearce is genuinely enchanting.

There are flaws here, with yet again the producers failing to conquer the Union’s unforgiving acoustics. Martha Pothen (the cast’s only female) and Samuel Curry do a convincing job as the leading romantic couple, but their occasional inaudibility makes it hard for the audience to warm to their charming "war-time love" narrative.

The show’s politics may speak of a time long past but Kirk Jameson’s assured direction nonetheless sees Privates on Parade offering one of the finest night’s entertainment currently to be found on London’s fringe.

Runs to 17th December
Reviewed by Charlotte Darcy
Photo credit: Toby Lee

Friday 24 November 2017

Scrooge The Musical - Review

Curve Theatre, Leicester


Music, lyrics and book by Leslie Bricusse
Directed by Nikolai Foster

Jasper Britton

Made At Curve is a brand name that is growing in traction. Producers Michael Harrison and David Ian have a canny eye for what will make a successful show and Scrooge The Musical is their latest partnership with Leicester’s Curve that sees the theatre’s Artistic Director Nikolai Foster helm a thoughtfully crafted take on the Leslie Bricusse show.

It all makes for classic festive fayre with Bricusse’s original work, last seen some 15 years ago, being subtly re-engineered for this revival. Jasper Britton (and Curve Board Member) heads the cast in the title role, convincing us throughout of the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge. As he is visited by the spirit of his dead business partner Jacob Marley and then the three ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future, we believe in Britton’s Scrooge learning to sip the milk of human kindness and to redeem himself.

Around Britton there are no co-leading roles, rather an ensemble of wonderful quality. Notable in the company are an enchanting Lauren Stroud who doubles up as both the fiancée of the young Ebenezer in times past and as the current wife of his nephew Harry. Anton Stephans turns in a crackingly fizzing take as the Ghost Of Christmas Present, while Danny-Boy Hatchard as local lad Tom Jenkins is also particularly striking.

The show has been put together with a view to taking the spirit of future Christmases on the road (Harrison and Ian are no fools) – and Michael Taylor’s ingenious designs, brilliantly  lit by Ben Cracknell, capture the gritty flamboyance of London’s Cheapside, the towering misery of Scrooge’s office and the impoverished warmth of the Cratchit household. No expense has been spared on the creative talent throughout the production – Sarah Travis has (as ever) done a wondrous job arranging Bricusse’s score, which on the evening is delivered by Neil MacDonald’s eight piece band. Local legend Stephen Mear returns to his home town to choreograph, bringing a magic to those numbers that allow a spectacle in movement – the Toy Ballet and The Milk of Human Kindness being two particularly ingenious routines (pantomime aficionados should look out for the two dames in the latter).

The musical makes no bones about the darkness of Dickens’ tale and Scrooge’s journey of redemption. The ghosts are scary (Karen Mann’s Marley is particularly ghoulish), with Britton fleshing out Scrooge’s journey of redemption in a way that highlights the character’s own childhood of emotional abuse and neglect.

There is perceptive stuff here, from both the leading man and Nikolai Foster, and by rights the show should be garnering 5 stars. But it is Britton’s singing that is perhaps the show’s only flaw. The actor’s eminent background has been hard won on stage and deservedly so, but his expertise stems primarily from the spoken word. While this Scrooge is undoubtedly believable, commanding our empathy, one cannot help but speculate how a different actor, who perhaps has a Valjean or the Phantom under his belt, might take Bricusse’s songs to their fullest potential. But… these are early days for the production and Foster is a shrewd director – it may well be that come mid-December Britton will inhabit the musical numbers with a more majestic vocal confidence and presence.

The story here is classic and heart-warming and it says much for the city of Leicester that a multi-racial cast, evidently drawn from a mix of ethnic backgrounds, can so lovingly tell a story that celebrates an English heritage. Scrooge The Musical is another Christmas cracker at the Curve.

Runs until 7th January
Photo credit: Pamela Raith

Sunday 19 November 2017

The Importance of Being Earnest - Review

Jack Studio Theatre, London


Written by Oscar Wilde
Directed by Sarah Redmond

Daniel Hall

As one of Oscar Wilde’s most famous plays, one wonders if its aged humour and possibly outdated social values will stand the test of time. Thankfully in Sarah Redmond’s capable hands the story thrives.

The production is driven by the leading performances of Daniel Hall and Riley Jones as Algernon Moncrieff and John Worthing respectively, with the pair bringing an infectious cheek and charming energy to the piece, portraying the mischievous socialites with ease.

Hall’s Algernon is instantly warmed to, his strong melodic voice giving elegance to the writing and an electricity to his onstage energy. Similarly Jones’ John charms, as the actor shows an intelligence and understanding of the material and its cadence that perfectly emulates an 1800’s gentleman.

As Lady Bracknell, Harriet Earle occasionally struggled, perhaps, early on in her career, lacking the Dowager gravitas that Bracknell demands. Earle must however be commended for her decision not to concede to the norm and overplay the “Handbag” line, delivering the iconic words with a gloriously dry incredulity.

Redmond directs the piece in a somewhat abstract form, with set and scenery made up of cartoon-esque black and white set pieces, giant calling cards and cut out animals. There’s a hint of the absurd to her interpretation, but nonetheless this innovative take on a classic play makes for a thoroughly enjoyable two hours.

Runs until 2nd December
Reviewed by Charlotte Darcy
Photo credit: Daniel Everitt-Lock

The Secondary Victim - Review

Park Theatre, London


Written by Matthew Campling
Directed by Matthew Gould

Susannah Doyle and Gary Webster

Matthew Campling who’s written The Secondary Victim has been a practising psychotherapist for twenty years and there is clearly a volume of professional experience that underscores his play. Sadly however, in its premiere at the Park Theatre we find that his work, while brilliantly performed, comprises a script that’s possibly more dysfunctional than many of the clients Campling may have counselled over the decades.

The titular secondary victim here (with the play’s title being almost a spoiler in itself) is Ali, a middle-aged psychotherapist who finds herself the subject of a complaint alleging sexual misconduct. Susannah Doyle puts in a fine shift as Ali, struggling with her own personal emotional challenges. An equally strong performance comes from Michael Hanratty as the complainant Hugo. We learn that he is Ali’s former client and, by many years, her junior.

In what seems a lengthy two and a half hours, Campling takes us through not only Ali’s own marital strains with husband Victor (Gary Webster), but also her counselling of another client who’s a paedophile, along with glimpses into the professional relationship she maintains with her supervisor Marilyn. Not only that, we also meet Jonny, Hugo’s subsequent therapist, who in an implausible coincidence strikes up an affair with Marilyn whilst the pair are away at a psychotherapy conference.

The human condition is complex and Campling might, in a more carefully crafted work, have been correct to reference so many of society’s challenges in his text. Unfortunately, the sum total of his writing amounts to an unconvincing sequence of events that appear to have been clumsily thrown together solely to advance his dramatic narrative and which place Ali in a perfect storm of domestic and professional catastrophe that defies credibility.

Not only does Campling’s writing lack subtlety he does his profession a grave disservice with the ethical standards of his psychotherapists seeming too often to be lacking. Professional boundaries are continually blurred, with all three therapists showing scant regard for client confidentiality.

There is a lot more dramaturgy that's needed here. As it stands, if Ali is the secondary victim then the audience, quite possibly, is the third.

Runs until 9th December

Thursday 16 November 2017

Coriolanus - Review

Barbican Theatre, London


Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by Angus Jackson

Haydn Gwynne and Sope Dirisu

Set in a time of modern day civil/class  warfare, Angus Jackson’s take on Coriolanus offers up glimpses of masterful performance. With design and costume by Robert Innes Hopkins, the production sets out to contrast the similarities between ancient, strife-torn Rome and today’s United Kingdom, polarised over Brexit. As the plebeian citizens revolt, clad in hoodies and torn denim and brandishing barbed wire donned bats, the patrician elite surrounded by glowing marble and cascading canopies have discarded their weapons in favour of carefully nursed champagne flutes.

It’s an intelligent concept, and there is some real beauty on stage, but the piece (much like Blanche McIntyre’s Titus Andronicus in this current RSC Rome season) lacks a weight in its argument. The cast are fairly young (too young?) and in the title role Sope Dirisu who while clearly a strong and intelligent actor, does not yet possess the gravitas or age to make his Coriolanus credible. Granted, his agility lends itself brilliantly to Terry King’s fight scenes; bloody, exciting and believable as they are, but the depiction of a boy playing at war does not stir the audience.

The saving grace of this piece lies with the women. As the more socially present of the two tribunes, the voices of the poor among the socialites, Jackie Morrison’s Sicinius Veletus is a feisty and undeterred figure. Her performance is almost Nicola Sturgeon-esque in her political battle to banish Coriolanus from Rome, with again a relevance to Britain’s current political standing being cleverly played. Not from this play, but referencing Morrison, Shakespeare’s words “Though she be but little, she is fierce”, are apt.

The evening’s star performance comes from Haydn Gwynne who brings a strength and elegance to Volumnia. Playing the ever loving yet overbearing mother of Coriolanus, she dreams of success and glory for her son, successfully moulding him into the figure of state that she longs to be but is just out of her grasp. Gwynne’s presence is magnetic, owning every inch of the stage from the moment she arrives. Her second-half speech, begging her son for peace toward Rome after his banishment and unity with their enemy is an unmissable masterclass in Shakespeare.

Runs until 18th November
Reviewed by Charlotte Darcy
Photo credit: Helen Maybanks (c) RSC

Friday 10 November 2017

Glengarry Glen Ross - Review

Playhouse Theatre, London


Written by David Mamet
Directed by Sam Yates

Christian Slater

Glengarry Glen Ross, David Mamet’s concise study into the snake-pit of commission fueled property sales, is as relevant today as it when it opened 33 years ago. In a Chicago real estate office, men plead and hustle as they focus only on closing deals, no matter the human price.

Sam Yates’ production is built around a tight, stellar cast. Camel coated Christian Slater (who bears more than a hint of Tony Blair in his appearance) is Ricky Roma, the alpha-male of the pack. Canny and mercenary, Roma’s senses and reflexes are razor sharp. Not only can he sniff out a potential sale across the banquettes of a Chinese restaurant (with a convincing turn from Daniel Ryan as James Lingk, the hapless john) he’s two steps ahead of the aggrieved Lingk the next day when he appears at the office to exercise his cooling-off option. Throughout, the playwright’s genius shines through as much as in what is not said, as what has been scripted. Mamet only hints at the characters’ outside lives with his play cruelly entertaining us in our ringside seats as we watch men crumble in the pressure cooker of the deal.

At the aged end of the spectrum are Stanley Townsend’s Shelly ‘The Machine’ Levene and Don Warrington’s grey haired, wizened Aaronov. Glengarry Glen Ross will always draw comparisons with Arthur Miller’s Death Of A Salesman and here it is Levene who is the realtors’ Willy Loman, a man so desperate for a lead that his once canny judgement leads him into catastrophe. Aaronov by contrast is almost a spent-force. Perhaps once upon a time he might have closed deals, but in Warrington’s artful interpretation we see a pathos-infused ineptitude.

Robert Glenister is Dave Moss, who brings an angry fire to his picture of a man who would happily contemplate incriminating his colleagues in pursuit of lining his own pockets, while as the youthful company-man, Kris Marshall is John Williamson, overseeing the leads and the deals and with a disquietingly accurate knack for sniffing out the poor performers in the team. Williamson shares Roma’s instincts, but combines them with a dispassionate, clinical ruthlessness. He may be the most principled employee of the firm, but he’s unquestionably the least empathetic.

Yates’ direction of his ensemble is tight, amidst a fast-paced script that allows little room for interpretation. Chiara Stephenson’s set comprising the Chinese eatery in act one and the men’s trashed office in the second half supports the narrative with an authentic detail.

The tragic essence of the play is that Mamet’s men are everymen, defining an ugliness of the human condition that is probably timeless. In an evening that is more of an American Nightmare rather than dream, Glengarry Glen Ross is an ugly story, beautifully told.

Runs until 3rd February 2018
Photo credit: Marc Brenner

Wednesday 8 November 2017

Mother Courage and her Children - Review

Southwark Playhouse, London


Written by Bertolt Brecht in a translation by Tony Kushner
Directed by Hannah Chissick

Josie Lawrence

Mother Courage and her Children is often dubbed one of the best anti-war plays of all time and it isn’t difficult to see why as this ambitious revival at the Southwark Playhouse sees Josie Lawrence storm her way through Tony Kushner’s translation with a vigour.

Hannah Chissick, inspired by the recent war debate, directs with the simplicity and audacity that Bertolt Brecht’s epic theatre demands. The talented singers are utilised well to emphasise the play’s themes (war is never ending, brings women to ruin, is never profitable, and is generally no good) with Lawrence’s soulful tones bringing a tear to many an eye. Lawrence, of Who’s Line Is It Anyway fame, is an absolute triumph, embracing the audience on her journey from cocky tradeswoman to a woman that Mother Courage would be ashamed of, so downtrodden is her outlook and situation. 

Mother Courage's trade comes with war as she follows armies across Europe with her simple wagon, selling simple goods alongside her even simpler children, all with different fathers and different difficulties. Along the way, new challenges are faced as battles are won and Generals enjoy the little food available. Her children are Eilif, played by the strapping Jake Phillips Head; Swiss Cheese, charmingly portrayed by the wide eyed Julian Moore-Cook; and Katrin, played by Phoebe Vigor, who blew everyone away with a sensitive portrayal of the metaphorically lost and mute young woman who somehow ends up being the hero of the piece. 

Love interests come in the form of David Shelley’s Chaplain who however dusty is as articulate and as good an orator as his character claims to be, even if his preaching often falls on deaf ears. Rival to The Chaplain is The Cook (Ben Fox), scrappy and cheeky, hinting at his hidden past. Their passion for Mother Courage is matched only by the whore Yvette, whose passion for her trade, red high heels and all, is played Laura Checkley relishing the brass and pantomime of her tragic opportunist. The strong cast is supported by the musical ensemble that includes Rosalind Ford who warms the cockles and Shiv Jalota who embraces this quite possibly unique opportunity to exhibit his beat boxing skills in a Brechtian context. 

It’s quite the experience to follow Mother Courage and her Children. Not an evening of light entertainment, producer Danielle Tarento has created an incredibly thought provoking and intriguing powerhouse of a show.

Runs until 9th December
Reviewed by Heather Deacon
Photo credit: Scott Rylander