The English Heart, Etcetera Theatre

The English Heart, Etcetera Theatre

A play with political themes is always risky but in the last year, there have been so many political shocks that any playwright writing a politics based piece better like regular script changes.

Matthew Campling’s work is set during Brexit and just before the 2017 election (presumably so we can all have a night off from wondering if Theresa May will still be Prime Minister tomorrow) and focuses on the biggest Leave area in England; Boston Lincolnshire, an area which voted a whopping 76% leave and the couple that live there Marie (Anya Williams) and Jake (Jake Williams). Two outsiders (She went to Boarding School and he is from the North) they are jobless and bored; with their town and with each other. When Andre (Andrew Jardine), a British-born man raised in Post-Apartheid South African looking for (cheap) isolation.


(c) Matthew House


He embarks on an affair with both and this could become some bawdy sex show but Campling takes his characters seriously and it is always tasteful. It is a little too serious though. The whole menage a trois scenario is as campy as hell but instead, it is a look at belonging; with some excellent points made about that area of the country’s fear of not just the outwardly foreigners but men like Andre, a man who is typical of the southerners buying second homes. Maria and Jake’s relationship could be explored further. It is never truly explained why they stay there, jobless and lonely, which is a real shame that it becomes about their sexual obsession with Andre because this has the brewings of a story about loneliness as much as sexuality.

Jardine’s Andre is a complex man, facing up to his past as well as his future. Confident in his sexuality (he reminded me of a young Rufus Sewell) and lacking confidence in relationships it felt as though Campling focused too much on Andre and not the characters and backdrop of Brexit, which was a much an emotional outburst than an informed decision on both sides. Campling’s previous experience as psychotherapist means he understands people so it was a real shame that dialogue at times jarred using terms like “archive” to discuss suppressed memories and feelings, which people just don’t do.

It is a strong work, despite at times feeling like it has too much it wants to say in its 80 minutes. I really enjoyed Rachel Adams’ set, which seemed to embrace the theatre’s small space than fight against it.  I look forward to his forthcoming piece, The Secondary Victim, which explores his psychotherapist routes further.

The English Heart is on Etcetera Theatre, Camden from 13 June – 2 July. Tickets can be purchased here

Matthew’s play The Secondary Victim is on at Park Theatre 14 November – 9 December. Tickets are available now



Preview: Pride and Prejudice at Westminster Abbey

Preview: Pride and Prejudice at Westminster Abbey

On 9-10 August Illyria’s open air production of Jane Austen’s will come to the world famous Westminster Abbey’s Dean Yard as part of a UK Tour, now its fifth year. Its run at the 2003 Edinburgh Fringe the queue for returns stretched around the block.


In a social whirlwind of balls, dinners and very eligible officers, Lizzie Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy stand alone as the only sane people – and they hate each other! Or do they? Can she see beyond his pride, and can he overcome her prejudice, in order to achieve their mutual happiness? 

If your idea of Jane Austen is costume-drama, empire-lines and tea-parties, then this sparkling adaptation, based entirely on the original novel, is something to make you change your mind. Bring a picnic and have a ball as the irrepressible Illyria sharpen their claws to bring you Jane Austen at her vibrant, pacy, forthright, bitchy best!



Recommended for adults and children aged 5+

Child/Adult tickets: £13.50/£15

Tickets can be bought via the Westminster Abbey site

Dates and tickets for the rest of the tour can be found on Illyria’s website


Preview: Herstory Festival

Preview: Herstory Festival

Following the previous sold out and highly acclaimed three editions, HerStory FEMINIST THEATRE FESTIVAL returns to Theatre N16 on the 18th and 19th of June.

Founded by a European theatre maker Nastazja Somers, HerStory aims to challenge the misrepresentation of women in theatre and broaden its narrative by staging daring and political work and fighting for representation by those whose voices are often silenced.

During two nights HerStory will stage a multidiscipline range of high quality work which includes spoken word, performance art, new writing and solo shows.

I am delighted to announce that I will be appearing on a panel about female critics with Mary Nguyen and Kate Maltby, chaired by Laura Kressly. All-female panels are a rarity, even in theatre so don’t miss out. Details below and tickets can be purchased here


Spotlight on The English Heart’s Matthew Campling

Spotlight on The English Heart’s Matthew Campling

From our brief chats you’ve had quite a varied career history, what finally brought you to the world
of theatre and directing?

I grew up in a media family – my mother was a dancer and singer and my father a journalist and radio broadcaster. At University I did an English and Speech and Drama degree and then acted professionally in Johannesburg, South Africa (I’m British, my parents took us to SA when I was 8. Big mistake!) I discovered I preferred my own words to interpreting the words of others, so I started writing plays. I had five produced in SA. When I came to England I needed to make money so I went into the health service. I have a Diploma and BA Hons in Counselling and a Masters in Psychotherapy. I worked as a therapist for 20 years, during which I was also a magazine agony uncle for 10 years, a regular guest expert on ITV’s ‘Trisha’ show, and a regular commentator on radio, in print and on TV on men’s health issues, and my specialist subject, eating disorder recovery.
When I approached my 60th birthday I wanted something more fun and light so I returned to writing plays. The English Heart is my ninth produced play (I have done 3 since returning to the UK) and my 10th, The Secondary Victim, is at the Park Theatre in November 2017.

How much of a response to Brexit is The English Heart or was it an idea you had for a while?
For 17 years I owned a beautiful farmhouse outside Boston, Lincolnshire. I read in an article that Boston was the area in the UK with the highest votes for Brexit. So I started to think about a response which brought the two together. So The English Heart came specifically out of reading that article, although I’ve for some time been wanting to write about an unusual type of relationship between three people.

264000_description_the_english_heart_A5_frontThere seems to be a lot of nudity based on the rehearsal pictures. Is this a feature of your productions or something integral to the play?

He he! Nice question. Actually there’s no more actual nudity in the play than you would find on Brighton beach. I follow the classic guidelines of farces and comedies from the 1960s and 1970s. My cast are all young and lovely and semi-nudity is part of the fun of the play. I often work with actors who have done full-frontal nudity and I say that doesn’t usually happen in my plays. It’s about fun and suggestion – and I’ve seen some plays where there was full-frontal nudity that in my opinion added nothing.

What do you hope audiences will get out of The English Heart?
Politics is uppermost in our minds. I partly wrote The English Heart as my angry response to events of the past year. But I didn’t want to write a sober, serious debate where actors made one telling point and the audience has already thought everything that’s been said. I wanted to depict a group of 3 where they are thoroughly sick of Brexit, and have got to the stage of making outrageous jokes
which still have a serious purpose – expressing how people feel. So I hope audiences will see The English Heart as something of an antidote to toxic politics. Also, the relationship that emerges has a political dimension, as revealed in the last couple of scenes. I go with the idea that primarily people come to the theatre to be entertained. They have hard-working lives, they want fun and jokes and attractive people getting up to all sorts of antics. Well, in The English Heart anyway, my next play is MUCH more serious!

The English Heart is on Etcetera Theatre, Camden from 13 June – 2 July. Tickets can be purchased here

Matthew’s play The Secondary Victim is on at Park Theatre 14 November – 9 December. Tickets are available now


Twitstorm, Park Theatre

Twitstorm, Park Theatre

Twitstorm pitches itself as the ‘hilarious exploration of what can happen when the self-righteousness of social media gets out of hand.’ As a regular on Twitter, my interest was piqued instantly. We are told that the main character, Guy Manton, is a national treasure and the host of a popular TV show, until he gets caught up in a twitter frenzy after a remark was posted without his knowledge. As this is hardly an uncommon feature of Twitter now, I was curious to see the direction this play took.

I wasn’t expecting the play to touch on so many other big topics, including race, liberalism, the politics of charity giving and othering. Personally, I’d have liked some of these themes to be explored further. There were some interesting comments on the nature of charitable giving, with Guy’s wife regularly noting ‘it was just a small direct debit.’ For me this summed up the modern phenomenon of feel- good giving well.

On the whole, however, these big topics were clichéd and under developed. Stereotypes were plentiful, from the generic African conman to the chic-lit wife, via the egoistical celebrity. I didn’t think any of the characters were believable or original. The most authentic part of the play was the soliloquy from Guy attempting to make a public apology. This speech felt like we were seeing the inner most views of Chris England evangelising on how political correctness has gone too far. It would not surprise me if that soliloquy was the first thing that was written, with the rest of the story cobbled around it to make it an appropriate length show. I felt uncomfortable early on and initially I couldn’t place why this was. On reflection, I think it was exactly because I wasn’t the intended viewer for Twitstorm.

The small cast performed well, but the problem was they just didn’t have a good script to begin with. From the unbelievable entry of Ike, and immediate acceptance into the family, to the come-good ending, it was just all too easy. This felt more farce than comedy-cum-social commentary. Unfortunately, Twitstorm just didn’t live up to its potential, and the mix of gravity and comedy was often mistimed and ill judged. It is once again the declaration that middle class, middle aged white man can do no wrong, and if all else fails, go find yourself in Africa for 3 months and the world will forgive you. Personally, I am looking for more nuance in a story and sensitivity when dealing with weighty topics. If it were up to me Guy would have stayed away far longer…

Review by @loxsmith & @amychristel1

Disney’s Aladdin new cast rehearsal photos

Disney’s Aladdin new cast rehearsal photos

Ahead of its first anniversary at the Prince Edward Theatre, Disney’s Aladdin has released behind-the-scenes photography of the new company in rehearsals. Having opened to critical acclaim in London’s West End in June 2016, the hit musical based on the classic Academy Award®-winning animated film will celebrate its first birthday in the West End on 15 June 2017.

Matthew Croke joins the production in title role of Aladdin, marking his debut in a leading role in the West End, with his first performance on 5 June. Jade Ewen and Trevor Dion Nicholas continue in the roles of Jasmine and Genie respectively.

Aladdin features the timeless songs from the 1992 animated film as well as new music written by Tony®, Olivier© and eight-time Academy Award winner Alan Menken (Beauty and the Beast, Newsies, Little Shop Of Horrors). With lyrics from Olivier Award and two-time Oscar® winner Howard Ashman (Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid), three-time Tony and Olivier Award, three-time Oscar winner Tim Rice (Evita, Aida), and four-time Tony Award nominee Chad Beguelin(The Wedding Singer), and a book by Beguelin, Aladdin is directed and choreographed by Tony and Olivier Award winnerCasey Nicholaw (The Book of Mormon).

Tickets are now on sale for performances up to and including 2 December 2017 for individuals and 2 June 2018 for group bookings. For further details please visit

The new Aladdin company welcomes Nick Cavaliere in the role of Iago, whilst current cast members Miles Barrow, Leon Craig and Daniel de Bourg step into the roles of Omar, Babkak and Kassim respectively.  Don Gallagher and Irvine Iqbalcontinue in their respective roles of Jafar and the Sultan.

The new cast also includes Chanelle Anthony, Danny Becker, Cindy Belliot, Filippo Coffano, Nolan Edwards, Sinead Kenny, Travis Kerry, Dann Kharsa, Tarisha Rommick, Joshua Steel, Monica Swayne, Damien Winchester and Niko Wirachman. Danny Becker, Travis Kerry and Niko Wirachman join the production after entering international open auditions.

The remaining cast comprises Arran Anzani-Jones, Albey Brookes, Lauren Chia, Bianca Cordice, Cavin Cornwall, Melanie Elizabeth, Kade Ferraiolo, Antony Hewitt, Mitch Leow, Oliver Lidert, Ian Oswald, Kyle Seeley, Sadie-Jean Shirley, Ricardo Spriggs, Kayleigh Thadani and Jermaine Woods.

Aladdin is designed by Olivier and seven-time Tony-winning scenic designer Bob Crowley, five-time Tony-winning lighting designer Natasha Katz, Olivier and two-time Tony-winning costume designer Gregg Barnes and sound designer Ken Travis. Casting is by Jill Green CDG.

Ordinary Days, London Theatre Workshop

Ordinary Days, London Theatre Workshop

Ordinary Days is a one-act musical in which four young New Yorkers who aren’t quite happy with their lives sing out their troubles in just 70 minutes. The plot could be right out of Sex & the City, and it all comes across as a bit First World Problems, but the cast are great and there’s a kind of a twist at the end.

Warren (Neil Cameron) is trying to find meaning and purpose in a job which amounts to little more than looking after the cat of a trustafarian artist who’s currently in jail. Deb (Nora Perone) seems to find everything (EVERYTHING!) either annoying or stressful or both, which possibly has something to do with the graduate thesis she’s writing on Sylvia Plath. And now she’s lost her notebook. Oh no.

Jason (Alistair Frederick) is really excited to be moving in with his girlfriend Claire (Kirby Hughes), although she seems less keen to have him there. Why?

We find out later, possibly too late, in the penultimate song to be precise, why Claire’s unhappy. By which time Claire’s become a fairly annoying presence on stage. It’s a shame. She’s got a really good reason for being like she is.

While a lot of the action in this show seems fairly trivial, as well as unexplained, each character does end up in a better place than where they started. Even Deb seems to chill out a bit.

The ending of the show is very sweet and you’ll leave with a light heart even if you can’t help thinking that this musical could benefit from a major re-write (and possibly a second act) to really get under the skin of these characters. Ordinary Days would probably work better if we knew more about these four people singing at us. It’s only Claire that we really understand by the end of the show.