The Secret Keeper | Review

★★☆☆☆  National Theatre Studio,  Ovalhouse

The Secret Keeper promises mystical mystery but only delivers cringy songs and confusing themes.

The Secret Keeper - production image 1 - Angela Clerkin (photo by Sheila Burnett)
Angela Clerkin| Sheila Burnett

In a fairytale village the daughter of the Dollhouse maker has a ‘gift’. She helps her father by keeping his deepest and darkest secret which changes him. He tells everyone to share their most intimate secrets with her to feel better. But what happens when one girl knows all the secrets in the village, including who killed her uncle?

Going into the theatre the atmosphere is eerie and promises a night of gothic and mysterious tales. However, that is only partly the case. The show switches between styles, which is confusing and lowers the quality of the production.

The Secret Keeper - production image 4 - L-R Niall Ashdown _ Angela Clerkin (photo by Sheila Burnett)
Niall Ashdown and Angela Clerkin | Sheila Burnett

It starts out feeling like a fairytale and the audience expects to watch a gothic style play, but then the style suddenly switches to a much more modern tone. This ruins the illusion and rips the viewer out of the story. The constant switches make it difficult to get lost in the play.

Things happen that don’t need to happen as they don’t help to tell the story and move it along, such as spontaneous singing.

The Secret Keeper - production image 6 - L-R Anne Odeke _ Niall Ashdown (photo by Sheila Burnett)
Anne Odeke and Niall Ashdown | Sheila Burnett

The spontaneous songs might be fun in a different, more modern setting, but with the fairtytale-like setting they seem silly and unnecessary.

Parts of the production were confusing, such as the gathering of the secrets. It wasn’t needed for the development of the story as the Good Daughter already showed that she was struggling to keep the secrets in.

Overall, the intentions of the production were good with a great storyline. The premise is intriguing but the execution of the production thoroughly disappoints.

The Secret Keeper runs at Ovalhouse until 21 October

All the Little Lights | Review

★★★★★ Fifth Word, Arcola Theatre

Jane Upton’s ever so important and powerful play is heart-breaking, thought-provoking and cannot be missed.

Esther-Grace Button & Tessie Orange-Turner in ALL THE LITTLE LIGHTS by Jane Upton - credit Robert Day
Esther-Grace Button and Tessie Orange-Turner |Robert Day
In the midst of rubbish, wrappers, empty bottles and fallen autumn leaves just off the railway tracks, three young girls are celebrating a birthday. Joanne and Lisa reunite, while Amy wants to belong. Lisa got out, but now she’s back and their past is haunting her. Where alcohol abuse is celebrated, a life threatening game where entertainment and violence is normal. In a society where the forgotten just want to belong and predators lurk around the corner. When does the victim become the villain?

Tessie Orange-Turner & Sarah Hoare in ALL THE LITTLE LIGHTS by Jane Upton - credit Robert Day
Tessie Orange-Turner and Sarah Hoare | Robert Day
The play makes several important points. No one cares about children without a family, how easy it is to turn villain after being the victim and the horrendous, long-lasting effects of sexual abuse.

In times where you can’t flick on the news without men getting away with saying things like “grab them by the pussy” and making it seem normal, and Harvey Weinstein who uses his powerful position to sexually assault women, this play needs to be seen. It needs to be seen now.

People need to be made to feel uncomfortable, their hearts need to break for the girls and what they’ve had to go through.

Tessie Orange-Turner & Sarah Hoare in ALL THE LITTLE LIGHTS by Jane Upton - credit Robert Day
Tessie Orange-Turner and Sarah Hoare | Robert Day
All three leading ladies, Esther-Grace Button, Sarah Hoare and Tessie Orange-Turner are remarkable. It cannot be easy to convey three forgotten and vulnerable teenage girls, who all have had horrible things happen to them, but Button, Hoare and Orange-Turner take the audience on a dark journey through unimaginable experiences.

Jane Upton’s script, directed by Laura Ford is simple, touching and shocking that will have the audience holding their breaths.

All The Little Lights runs at the Arcola Theatre until 4th November.

Paper Creatures Theatre Company: Exploring simple, compelling and bold stories.

It seems fitting that I meet the founders of the new theatre company Paper Creatures at the National Theatre.

Flood is the debut play by Paper Creatures | Paper Creatures
It’s only morning but the National Theatre is already buzzing with people, guided tours, tourists and people who are desperately trying to get tickets to Angels in America. We find a quiet and cool space on a warm, sunny day and start talking about Flood, the debut production by Paper Creatures.

The themes were important, we wanted to look at grief within the millennial generation, humour and heart.

Flood is a new comedy drama by playwright Tom Hartwell, about Adam who is “forced to confront his future when those closest to him return after the death of his Mum. Upon their arrival, repressed truths and unsettling secrets are revealed. Flood is a complex and humane portrayal of a group of friends struggling to define themselves beyond the confines of their small town.”

Starting rehearsal on 17 July, the two talk about the first read through of the script.

The first read through was really special. It was so relatble, he [Tom Hartwell] managed to take an ancient idea of a village flooding and put it in such a modern light of 20 year olds, dealing with home and identity.  We were fascinated with the idea, why is it that people want to leave their homes.

paper creatures
Founders Jon and Nathan | Paper Creatures
Jon and Nathan met when they were both working in an all-male Shakespeare troupe and travelled around the UK and Europe doing open air Shakespeare. “We became quite close on tour, got chatting and when we finished the tour we wanted to do something different after spending five months doing Shakespeare. We thought why don’t we put on a play?”

After seeing a lot of theatre once returned from their tour, they noticed that millennials need a “realistic and honest voice for our generation, the millennial generation, we sometimes felt we were painted a bit one dimensional.”

Also passionate about new plays, they decided to set up a theatre company.

The name paper creatures came from the paper representing the script, where it starts, the blank piece of paper. And then the creatures being the characters that come from that. We are the creatures that make the story and the theatre is the place where we perform, it’s the place where we can tell those stories.

Wanting to create a voice for not only this generation, Jon and Nathan also hope that in the future people will look back on these plays that are new writing now, but could be a potential classic in the future.

Poster for Flood|Paper Creatures
Talking about the importance of new writing, Paper Creatures explains why they’re happy to be part of London’s theatre community. “There is so much opportunity for fringe theatre, there are so many lovely pub theatres in London and around the UK. It’s thriving at the moment. It’s almost like a revolution, all these new playwrights emerging, coming out of every place you can imagine and then they get transferred to the West End.”

There is such a dynamic community of new writing on the fringe circuit in London that is dominated by the millennial generation in a very positive way and it’s so vibrant, so helpful and so supportive. It’s a really great community to be part of.

By setting up Paper Creatures, the actors want to create a “platform for young new writers, young creators from all different fields, lighting designers, sound designers, to come together and create stories which are simple, bold and compelling.”

Our long term goal is to create a really creative environment to tell these stories with our generation contributing to them, for our generation.

Flood runs as part of the Camden Fringe 2017 at the Tristan Bate Theatre from 31 July until 5 August. You can get tickets here.

@paper_creatures, @jon_tozzi, @NathanJCoenen

The Enchanted | Review

★★★☆☆ Pharmacy Theatre, The Bunker

An intense and brave tale of evil, the death penalty and the human inside a monster.

The Enchanted
The cast of The Enchanted | Dina T.

The play based on the novel by Rene Denfeld looks at the person behind a murderer and the death penalty. Waiting for your death on death row is lonely. Arden is mute and as he waits for his day, he listens and watches an investigator trying to save some of the prisoners from their deaths. While doing so, she uncovers the sad and disturbing past of some of the ‘monsters’ in the maximum security prison.

The choreography by movement director Emily Orme, conveys a sense of helplessness and sadness that carries throughout the whole play, with an eerie undertone through the music.

The Enchanted-2.jpeg
The Cast of The Enchanted | Dina T.

The stage and background are completely white and chalk is used to draw on it. However sometimes it doesn’t have enough of an impact as the light blue colour of the chalk gets lost easily.

The use of puppetry shows a certain vulnerability each of the characters have, it’s done so delicate and creatively it adds to the aesthetics of the show. However, the puppets are always used during narration, therefore they have to compete for the audiences’ attention with the actor on stage and it looses its impact slightly. It would’ve worked better if they had been on stage by itself.

The Enchanted-3
Corey Montague-Sholay (Arden) | Dina T.

Corey Montague-Sholay who plays the narrator and Arden, a silent killer is captivating. He captured the essence of his character and the play so well, it’s beguiling and so compelling that it would probably work with just him telling the story of all the other characters.

The Enchanted runs at The Bunker until 17 June.

Moonchild Theatre Company: “The Planets have aligned for us”

A new theatre company has landed in London. The Moonchild Theatre Company is staging its first play Pluto at the Baron’s Court Theatre, starting 18 April.

Charlotte Price (Charon/ Prof. Furtham) and Liam Joseph (Pluto)

The two co-founders Liam Joseph and Callum O’Brien met as Front of House staff at the Harold Pinter Theatre. Liam, whose background is theatre and acting and Callum who studied film, teamed up and not only co-found their theatre company but also created their first production. Callum wrote the script and is directing the play with Liam producing and starring in it. They both have a passion for space and astronomy and are interested in current affairs; socially and politically. Liam had already paid for the space at the Baron’s Court Theatre, so he asked Callum to write him a play.

“Pluto was an alignment of planets”, says Callum.

“When I was writing about space, at the same time I was reading an article on North Carolina passing a law in 2016 that makes you use the bathroom that you were born into. So, if you’re transgender that causes confusion. It was passed by a bunch of people who would never see the effect it would have on the community.”

He continues: “I was thinking about space and I was thinking about this story. People who have had their identity defined by people who do not know them and it’s quite similar to Pluto, who was a planet but is no longer a planet and it was defined for “him” based on people who have never been to the planet. I took these two stories and married them and we’ve created this unusual piece of work, but it works.”

“It could mean a lot of things to a lot of people, we deal with politics, we deal with friendship, depression and you could take it literally and it could be a story of planets.”

The two criticise the London theatre industry. “A lot of shows nowadays cater to a very specific or older audience.”

Callum adds: “I think new writing can cater more towards a millennial audience. A lot that Pluto deals with is frustration, your voice has been stolen from you, your agency has been deprived, you cannot speak out for what you want to and it reflects the way millennials are portrayed as; numb observers.”

As director, Callum wants to make Pluto and turn it into an iconic object that could be the “figurehead of the LGBT cause.” However, he is worried about trying to tackle too many issues in their production. “We run the risk of writing something that could be about everything and nothing.”

Unlike many other theatre companies, Moonchild Theatre Company caters to millennials; “I’d rather make theatre accessible, but a lot of shows follow the older generation, and the tickets are so expensive.”

“All great artistic movements cater to the young and it’s foolish to overlook them, they will inherit the world one day. What you teach them now, that’s what they’ll take with them later in life and if you can get them interested in theatre and art now, hopefully there will be a future for art, especially in a world with an administration that cut art funding and pride things like guns and war.”

Looking at the news and everything that’s been going on recently the play seems to “come at the right time. I think there’s something happening right now, something is going to happen soon, the young people are beginning to regroup and feel there is this slight injustice against something.”

The two recount how everything has happened at the same time and how the timing of meeting at the Harold Pinter couldn’t have been better. “It’s like a volcano, everything has come at once, LGBT communities, Trump and technology. It never would’ve happened hadn’t we worked in the theatre together. Liam and I wouldn’t have met. Charlotte Price, who is also in Pluto also works at the Harold Pinter as front of house, so does Aimee Leigh the production manager and Giuliana Davolio the set designer for Pluto.”

“We’re incredibly lucky to work in such a supportive venue”

Their manager Rachel is interested in what their doing, as well as ATG. “It makes it worth what we’re doing, to know that your manager is interested in what you’re doing outside of work, it’s really warming and quite rare, not many theatres have that kind of support. She’s been so nice, she’s let us put the flyers around the building and helps us put them in other theatres as well”, says producer Liam Joseph.

“It’s encouraging to know that someone in such a high position cares about new writing and helping her staff .”

The rehearsal for the play is going well according to Callum. Even though this is a stressful time, he finds it rewarding. “It’s the most interesting learning curve for me, knowing how to develop the script. All four of us have fine tuned it and arranged it and moulded this play to be something that we all want to be part of.”

In the future the team wants to create and produce theatre as well as film. “We also want to look at merchandising our company, because we feel like we’re very sell-able”, says Liam. “We’ve got a cool logo.”

“Creatively we would like to go off in every branch in media and art.”

After Pluto, the theatre company will potentially put up an exhibit of pictures from Pluto’s set and production in an art gallery in Camden. “That’s what interested us, because theatre is never looked at through still images, with the exhibition, you meet theatre and film in the middle.”

Help Moonchild Theatre Company stage their first production and donate to their IndieGOGO page.

IndieGOGO from Liam Joseph on Vimeo.

Pluto transfers to the Cockpit Theatre in August. It’s running at the Camden venue from 14 August until 17 August and is part of the Camden Fringe Festival.

#iheartPLUTO @MoonchildPluto

Muted | Review

★★★★★ Interval Productions, The Bunker Theatre

Sarah Henley’s heartbreakingly beautiful story of loss and love enchants the audience with emotional songs and astonishing voices.

Muted | Savannah Photographic

Michael is the frontman of a band called Lost Boy. He and his friends are an inch away from becoming a success. Then his mother suddenly dies from a hit and run accident and he never speaks a word again. His friends desert him and he lives with his uncle. Years later, his ex-girlfriend Lauren and his friend Jake who is now Lauren’s boyfriend, want to make things good again. When the band gets another shot at stardom, Jake tries to get Michael back in the band, because the label wants him to be the frontman once again. When Lauren tries to bring Michael back to normal, old feelings are re-emerging and a dark truth uncovered.

Teenage Michael ( Ed Campbell Bird) | Savannah Photographic

Jamie Jackson’s direction of the musical is fresh, artistic and contemporary, which works well with the venue, the story and the songs.

The teenage version of Michael, played by Ed Campbell Bird, appears as the inner voice of him, while he stays muted the teenage Michael sings and expresses his inner feelings. During flashbacks with the mother that explains their relationship, which was sometimes difficult, due to his mothers drinking and disappointment of his father leaving them. His uncle Will had to deal with the loss of the sister but couldn’t mourn her loss having cared for his nephew at a young age. Now he is torn between living his own life and staying with his nephew.

Lauren ( Tori Allen-Martin) and Micheal (David Leopold) | Savannah Photographic

Michael played by David Leopold has the ability to show Michael’s pain and sorrow of losing his mother. His life being turned upside down, the confusion of not knowing who the driver was and his friends suddenly abandoning him weighs on him heavily. His facial expressions and body language convey his feeling’s perfectly, making you instantly connect with Michael. He is a lost boy, which coincides with the name of his former band.

Tori Allen-Martin is not only an incredible musician and writer, she plays her part as the ex-girlfriend that was driven away by her guilt and, feeling helpless but unearths old feelings for Michael. Her voice also touches everyone in the audience. It is soft, yet strong, beautiful and emotional.

Muted runs at the Bunker Theatre until 7 January 2017.


Pride and Prejudice | Review

★★★★☆ Two Bit Classics, Jermyn Street Theatre

This play is an intelligent and heartfelt adaption of the Jane Austen classic. With witty and creative uses of narration, this story tells of one of the most romantic novels of all time.

Photo is courtesy of Carrie Johnson

When Mr Bingley moves to Netherfield Estate, Mrs Bennet gets excited as she hopes one of her daughters is to marry him. Having five daughters, she’s constantly trying to marry them off. Mr Bennet is a relaxed man compared to that of his wife, who is not as eager as his wife. When Jane meets Mr Bingley, they seem to have a mutual interest in each other. However, his sister doesn’t agree with their possible relationship. Meanwhile, Mr Darcy, a handsome and proud aristocrat, doesn’t make a good first impression with Elizabeth.

Joannah Tincey adapted the play, creating a theatrical experience of the novel. Starring two actors playing 21 characters that are distinguished and clear, finding the line between narrator and character. Her genius of exploring the 200-year-old story and turning it into a play that only uses Austen’s own words, is well thought and works brilliantly in the small space of the Jermyn Street Theatre.

Nick Underwood’s portrayal of Jane Bennett is elegant and feminine and an audience favourite. His coughing as Kitty creates laughter from beginning to end.

Two Bit Classics Pride and Prejudice Photo by Carrie Johnson
Mrs Bennet (Joannah Tincey) and Mr Bennet (Nick Underwood) | Carrie Johnson

Director Abigail Anderson created an engaging romantic play, bringing famous personas from British Literature to the stage. She uses the third person narrative that introduces a dialogue between two characters, and by addressing the audience, they create a sense of relationship.

Whereas it is slow at points, once you pick up the story, it’s easy to get lost in it. It also seems slightly confusing, the actors are running around, changing characters and it takes a while until you catch on. After understanding which person possesses what characteristic, it’s easy to follow their journey.


Jane Bennet (Nick Underwood) and Elizabeth Bennet (Joannah Tincey) | Carrie Johnson

The show uses a creative approach of narration in order to change characters. Underwood and Tincey narrate while acting and therefore explaining who is speaking. One element that makes this play so beautiful are the little differences between each character. A pipe for Mr Bennet, a handkerchief for Mrs Bennet. A change of tone, accent or body language. Those details accentuate the amazing character work by the two actors, showing that they know their characters very well.

Pride and Prejudice runs at the Jermyn Street Theatre until 21 December.

@TwoBitClassics @jstheatre #PrideAndPrejudice

Scrooge and the Seven Dwarves | Review

★★★★☆ The Sleeping Trees,  Theatre 503

Directed by Simon Evans, Scrooge and the Seven Dwarves is wonderfully creative and a hilarious spectacle that ignites the imagination.

John Woodbury (Scrooge), James Dunnell-Smith (One of the Seven Dwarves), Joshua George Smith (Snow White) | David Monteith-Hodge

The Sleeping Trees trio, John Woodburn (Scrooge, Santa Claus),  James Dunnell-Smith (Mrs Claus, Wicked Witch) and Joshua George Smith (Bob Cratchit, Snow White) have created their third  wonderfully chaotic panto that keeps throwing Christmas at you until you can’t help but feeling festive.

Christmas is ruined, the Wicked Witch of the West has stolen all the Christmas spirit, so who else but grumpy, old Ebenezer Scrooge to the rescue. Mrs Clause sends him on a journey, where he encounters the seven Dwarves (played by two actors) and Snow White. A T-Rex and Mary Poppins also make an appearance throughout the show.

Meanwhile, the trio encounter their own problems. Forgetting to book the 30 actor strong cast, they, again, have to put on the whole show themselves. Will the talent agent watching the pantomime choose them to be the new Hollywood superstars?

Ben Hales (Musician and Composer) on the far left | David Monteith-Hodge

The threesome are witty and have the ability to keep the entire audience intrigued. Playing several characters each, they’re showing versatility and the ability to create characters that stand out.

Ben Hales (Musician and Composer) perfectly plays the part of the puzzled audience member who gets dragged into the show. Chaotic at points but with a catchy and repetitive song, they bring the show home whilst you find yourself singing along and feeling excited for the holidays.

They throw Christmas at you with immense amount of insanity,  and a lot of ingenious stage charisma. All in all, this panto is the work of three incredibly talented comedian actors, making you laugh from start to finish.


Scrooge and the Seven Dwarves runs at Theatre 503 until Saturday 7 January 2017

Twitter: @wesleepingtrees @theatre503 #Scrooge503