Lillies on the Land by the Lions part.

Lillies of the Land is a frank and extremely well-researched play on the work carried out by the land girls during the war. Performed by two deaf and two hearing actors.

The war effort by the Land Ladies during World War 1 and 2 isn’t given the representation in the media they truly deserved. Without them, farms would have struggled and many people in the United Kingdom would have starved.

Phillipa Russell and Zoë McWhinney are both deaf actors. Russell combined sign language and speech. Whereas McWhinney used BSL throughout the play. Alongside Sarah Craig and Charmaine Wombwell, the two main verbal narrators combine some sign language into the narrative.

The storytelling explains the hard work and exploitation some of the land girls faced. Subjected to physical abuse, underpaid, if paid at all and harsh living conditions. The sense of duty kept them going. Yet I do wonder if they must have been exhausted and felt like giving up at times.

I had the added advantage of my guest this evening being deaf, which allowed her to understand everything that was going on during the performance and feel included. She mentioned that there aren’t words in BSL for everything and that McWhinney did an almost five-star performance in signing almost word perfect and being creative with some of the interpretations. Personally, my level of understanding is almost non-existent so I was intrigued to hear it from her perspective.

British Sign Language is starting to be used more often in mainstage Theatre which opens up the stage for deaf audience members, which is fantastic. The cast of four would have worked hard to be aware of each other’s body language and movements to follow each other’s next direction as verbal cues would not have always been possible. Each cast member appeared to follow each other with ease bringing an incredible achievement to the stage. A fitting tribute to all those land girls during the Wars.

For more information on this production and its current tour please use the links below.

Four Stars

Ballooniana! by Alexander Knott.

Balloons have been featured for many years at birthday parties, weddings and events taking place across the world. Dedicating a play to three sections of history where travel using rockets, wings and balloons all feature is educational and entertaining. Please don’t be put off by the slightly sinister poster.

Freya Sharp and Zöe Grain entertain the audience upon arrival with traditional french style pierrot mime performance, interacting with the members coming in to take their seats while the duo “clown around”. The pair are joined later in the production by the very talented musician James Demaine.

In 1783 french brothers Joseph and Jacques Montgolfier create the first hot air balloon. Their story is intriguing and based predominantly fact. They asked the King to sponsor their venture, who after some persuading agreed. I never knew that the King of France had ordered three animals to be the first to travel in their new invention as their lives were unimportant! Safe to say they all survived.

Writer and director Alexander Knott bring to the stage a cleverly scripted insight into “man’s” obsession with the sky, flying and what can be found above the clouds. From the early beginnings of Icarus to Neil Armstrong walking on the moon, where he explains to the president that all he could see was black.

Looking back to when my daughter was 17 her only request was for two helium balloons of one and seven, the joy on her face when I presented them to her.

There’s a poignancy at the moment with the world on the brink of a third World War that this fascinating historical “carnival of creativity” should end by being played out by the 1984 Cold War protest hit by Nena “99 Red Balloons”.

Selected as part of the New Wimbledon Theatre’s season of new writing please use the links below for more information on this production and future work.

Four Stars


Who Killed ‘Agatha’ Christie? by Tudor Gates.

If you’re expecting to watch an adopted play from the pen of the famous author Agatha Christie then you might feel slightly disappointed when you realise it isn’t. However, the plotline, twists and turns fail to disappoint and draw the audience into the storyline with bated breath.

Theatre critic Arthur Christie (David Gilbrook) has reviewed hundreds of plays during his long esteemed career. Destroying the playwright’s careers along the way is just part of his “subjective appraisal” and he certainly cannot be held responsible. However, playwright John Terry (John Goodrum) doesn’t share this opinion and has finally had enough of feeling on the outside of the literacy elite. But just how far will go to get revenge?

Christie reiterated many times in his reviews how “absurd and melodramatic” Terry’s plays were when he had reviewed them. However, the over melodramatic plot now being performed to destroy Christie leaves nothing to chance. From the tampered taped betrayal between his boyfriend, Brian Coombes and Terry’s fantasy wife Joanne Terry appears life-like as their tryst is taking place in the flat below them to their murders.

The strong reactions by Terry as he listens in to the couple “having sex” on his tape machine add to the dramatic effect. Goodrum’s sinister and calculated performance is disturbing at times.

As the plot unfolds we witness the fine details and exceptional mind behind the proposed “perfect murder” of Christie. Terry is far from inadequate and has the understanding and skills equal Christie’s literary elite status.

Gilbrook’s performance as a sufferer of angina was superb. Grasping his side, stumbling around the stage while desperately clinging onto his final moments of life while taunted by Terry who refuses to give back the life-saving medication.

As a critic watching this performance I left with an uncomfortable feeling. Criticising anyone can leave one open to repercussions.

For more information on this production please use the links below.

Four Stars

Crimes on Centre Court by New Old Friends.

When it comes to a good old-fashioned whodunit-style comedy. New Old Friends bring Crimes on Centre Court to the stage. Delivering an excellent service in concluding who murdered Lord Knows (Emile Clarke).

Lord Knows senior is murdered while eating his strawberries and cream laced with Brandy. His son the new Lord Hugh Knows returns to take over the helm. After all the tennis tournament at Wombledon Court must still take place. However, as the murders increase just how safe is anyone involved in the tournament?

PPDA is called in to help solve the case. Penny Pink (Sedona Rose) and Perry Pink (Ben Thornton) try to blend into the scenery and find out who murdered Lord Knows. However, Officer Cuthbert (Kirsty Cox) is called in as the bodies stack up and it all becomes rather dangerous.

The fantastic range of characters is performed throughout the play by the talented cast of four, From the well-groomed hedges to the landed gentry. Their role changes take place smoothly yet as the action speeds up at the end there is a comedic sense of urgency as the character’s headwear is the only part changed.

The highlight of the production is the amazingly talented singing hedges and scrubbery. Who better to keep the audience entertained between the scenes. Honestly seeing is believing.

Listening carefully you hear the mention of many infamous names associated with the tennis world. From the mention of “Fred” Digby and “Perry” Pink to the hot heated American player “Jon” presumably based upon John McEnroe when he shouts at the linesman “you cannot be serious”. It’s cleverly crafted and a fitting tribute to the real-life characters who shaped the game.

Writer and director Fergus Woods Dunlop has certainly won the audience over “game, set and match” with the brilliantly funny Crimes on Centre Court. Directing a large cast of characters with only four actors is a superb achievement.

For more information on the upcoming tour and remaining performances at Theatre Royal, Winchester please use the links below.

Four Stars

Crimes on Centre Court

Unfortunate: The Untold Story of Ursula the Sea Witch presented by Fat Rascal Theatre.

It’s rare as a reviewer to be invited to a tour of the Theatre as part of your invitation package. Tonight before being watching Unfortunate: The Untold Story of Ursula the Sea Witch. Behind the scenes at The Mast in Southampton gave the group of invited press a comprehensive and interesting guided tour of where and how the Theatre magic is created.

When I first read the press release the idea of an adult parody comedy musical from the perspective of Ursula the sea witch, the notorious villain from Aerial the mermaid. The concept intrigued me as to how this could work and I decided to find out how this would play out on stage. Well, I was certainly not disappointed.

The fast-paced adult-themed humour certainly lives up to the advertising. Cleverly scripted to bring current important affairs to the “surface” from the disgusting environmental crisis of waste being dumped into our seas, plus-size ladies are beautiful and the damage caused by the negative press has a lot to answer for and reminded the audience that men and women should be treated as equals.

Robyn Grant’s role as Ursula is outstanding and throughout the performance, her American accent reminded me of the incredible comedian “Ruby Wax” cutting to the quip and making a stand for powerful women. It’s never right that women standing up for themselves are often vilified.

Ursula’s love interest King Triton’s (George Whitty) charismatic charm and operatic voice left the auditorium stunned during several of his solo songs.

The fantastic display of underwater sea life puppetry bought the ocean scene to life and it would not have worked without them. However, Sebastian the crab played by Allie Dart was my overall favourite. Slipping in and out of an Irish accent throughout.

It’s refreshing to watch a musical comedy that highlights and raises such important topics without feeling like you have sat through a long speech. Presenting them in a way that you carry on considering them long after leaving the Theatre.

Outstanding musical performances all around and a selection of fantastic costumes. There’s nothing to dislike about this musical, I was “hooked” from the first number. As a company, they have set their sights on performing in the West End and I honestly think they have an excellent chance of fulfilling that dream.

For further information please use the links below.

Five Stars.


Medico by Stefania Licari.

Billed as a Theatre performance more exciting than the American television series “ER” Medico takes the audience through Stefania Licari’s medical training and her experiences from working in A&E to Intensive Care departments, through her comedic alter ego to educate and entertain audiences.

Licari kindly asks the audience at the beginning of the show if they should have a medical emergency during her performance please can it wait until the end of the show. For some reason, she’s a little bit busy during that time.

Candidly approaching all the first-hand experiences in the hospitals where Licari trained led to this warts and all creation, Medico. The gallows humour is often associated with those who work in the medical sector. She has her trusty skeleton to help her with the more technical aspect of the show.

Growing up in Milan, Italy with Sicilian family roots and now a British citizen. Licari reminisces over home and her native cuisine with fond memories as she compares it to our typically British damp cold days that soak into evey bone.

The production covers many of their varied experiences and talks about her love of the job. Be prepared to have a lesson on how to analyse urine! Licari has warmth and humour throughout the performance and is one of those Doctors I would trust with my life.

For more information on the performance please use the links below. Hopefully this will come back to the stage next year for the Edinburgh Fringe.

Four Stars.

Landscape with Weapon by Joe Penhall.

Behind every deadly weapon, nuclear bomb and latest weapon technology lies an engineer and a team of scientists working on creating something stronger and more accurate than weapons currently on the market. Where the government then takes over these designs to trade their arms and manipulate the world market.

Landscape with Weapons focuses on Ned (Danny Szam) whose deadly vision is to create a flock of drones capable of taking out enemies that are hiding in buildings or underground with horrifying precision. Therefore eliminating the need for mass killing and destruction of civilians often caught up in the firing line.

Brothers Dan (James Robinson) and Ned appear worlds apart at first as they try to understand each other’s world. Yet when Dan explains his venture into the world of botox Ned attempts to take the moral high ground over his brother putting “snake venom” into customers’ faces.

Suzy Bloom’s performance as Ross the government official responsible for obtaining Ned’s signature to sign over the rights for his designs and software begins with a friendly approach, as he questions the motivation behind the officials as to where these will end up she has to change her tactics to make him see “sense” with the help of Brooks (Malcolm Jeffries).

The Cockpit Theatre boasts a large stage area befitting of the large blueprint-designed floor tiles reflecting the images Ned sees when creating his designs. The three sections of surrounding seats allow the entire audience a good view of the action.

Overall the strong cast of four delivers a thought-provoking insight into the world of arms and double-dealing that one suspects will go on behind closed doors. Although first night nerves were evident and the ending appeared to cut off without any clear conclusions unless we are meant to never know how engineers in Ned’s position end their days.

For more information on the run currently showing from the 13th-18th of September at the Cockpit Theatre please use the link below.

Four Stars.

Photo credit Giacomo Giannelli

Dan ……………..James Robinson
Ned …………………..Danny Szam
Ross .………………… Suzy Bloom
Brooks ………. Malcolm Jeffries

Director ……………Jason Moore
Set floor & costume design …. Ian Nicholas
Sound/Lighting design .… Jonny Danciger

No Time for Strangers by Mermaids Performing Arts Fund.

When a stranger walks onto the train platform he has no idea what awaits him. Spotting the two friends already on the platform, who are deep in conversation what happens when they finally stop to engage with him?

The madness of the storyline mimics the chaos and uncertainty that could be found on a train platform. Nobody is sure when and where the next train is due. As he goes into the station offices to attempt to find someone who might know he discovers they have no idea either.

The script is disjointed and disorganised at times. Then it’s described as a play that doesn’t “take itself seriously ” and certainly lives up to the claim.

There are comedy moments within the script. With elements of the BBC comedy series A League of Gentlemen surreal ideas and formula running through it. I don’t particularly find this comedy funny. However, the audience was laughing most of the way through it.

For more information please use the link below.

Three Stars

Spit me Out by Slap n Tickle Theatre Company.

The two against one ratio of male to female actors deliver a hard-hitting story where Sophie recalls her first sexual encounter at school with the school’s “catch” Jamie McDonald, who transpires to be a sleazy sexual predator with no regard for anyone else’s feelings or boundaries.

Although the title appears to have a sexual connotation. The reference is made to the toxic male’s behaviour against the female. You can behave however you like and then simply “Spit her out” without any thoughts or consideration about the damage their behaviour has caused.

The hard-hitting musical production highlights that society still has a long way to go in changing the attitudes and ideas of what is acceptable and not acceptable behaviour towards women. There is no doubt that any form of forced sexual behaviour is a crime.

Toxic masculinity dominates the performance. Even when Sophie begins to talk about her experiences and reactions to her current boyfriend’s sexual preferences which make her uncomfortable. Her two male counterparts sing or speak over her, drowning out any opinions that she has or manipulating the events to fit their narrative over hers.

With sexual assault cases on the rise and prosecution levels extremely low. A huge amount of work is left to be done in our justice system to bring perpetrators to court and charged for these heinous crimes they subject their victims to.

Prepare to be challenged and feel uncomfortable throughout the performance. After all these subjects are not meant to be comfortable viewing.

For more information on this production please visit the link below. If you have been affected by any of the topics mentioned above there are a couple of website links you can access.

Four Stars

Rape and sexual assault

World Wide Web by Linda Morse.

For many years certain men, especially those in a position of power were allowed to get away with the most horrendous sexual misconduct against women. Victims of these abusers were sometimes known for colluding with them out of fear their careers would be finished and exposed. Meaning that the cycle escalated the crimes further enabling the abuser to continue.

World Wide Web by Linda Morse uses events similar to these in her play. Jess (Holly Cassidy) is a promising newly discovered working-class artist about to be launched next to her icon and now rival Minnie Goldchild (Tori Deffee). Jess believes Annette Seymour (Sarah-Jayne Wareham) owns the gallery and upon learning the truth everything begins to fall apart.

While awaiting trial gallery owner Sir Humphrey Neville-Wright (Neil Gwynne) known to his friends as “Humpty” is using his status and gallery contacts to launch a young new female artist with strong working-class roots. Could Jess become his next victim?

As the twisted story behind his sleazy activities is unravelled at quite a pace by Jess the level of disgust and uncomfortable watching rise within the auditorium. Especially as Humpty’s behaviour hasn’t changed even in the light of his upcoming case.

The plot is cleverly crafted and written with so many uncomfortable truths about how and why these men were allowed and enabled to continue on their paths destroying women’s lives in their wake. Be prepared for a challenging watch.

With a few edits to the script, this play can be held as an important part of documenting the disgusting practices that have taken place for many years to help launch very talented people, through unscrupulous manipulative alpha males. Using Jess’s position and talents as a powerful example that fame and money don’t need to be obtained through “sexual favours”.

For more information on this production please visit the link below.

Four Stars.

Linda Morse