Upstairs at the Gatehouse

IN CLAY at Upstairs at the Gatehouse


“a hugely enjoyable and upbeat production, despite the moving subject matter”

The cosy pub venue is transformed by set designer Rachael Ryan into an artist’s studio/kitchen with dark wood shelves, stylishly chaotic pots and a potter’s wheel.

A live band of guitar, violin, double bass and piano sit snugly in the corner.

A woman enters, draped in a huge knitted cardigan, and linen trousers (costume also by Rachael Ryan). She is the picture of a chicly messy artist. With a thick French accent she begins to sing. I’ll admit, I’m a little doubtful.

But by the end of the first song Rosalind Ford has us in the palm of her hand.

The story is poignant, and true. The play follows the life story of Marie-Berthe Cazin, an early 20th century French ceramicist, whose work was often misattributed to the men in her life.

The shape of the piece is well crafted by writer Rebecca Simmonds, beginning with Marie waiting for the arrival of her childhood friend, acclaimed painter Henrietta Tirman, and then flashing back to tell the story of their friendship and Marie’s life.

The lyrics, written by Simmonds, and Jack Miles, are occasionally a little neat. However, the strength of Miles’ music transports the audience and give the songs an incredible emotive power.

Crucially however, Rosalind Ford as Marie is sublime. She is warm and full of life, dashing about the stage with cheerful mischief, assisted by clever direction from Grace Taylor. Her passion is overt – the song about discovering her love of ceramics is downright sexy. She is a captivating performer, who holds our attention right through this one woman musical.

This is the story of one female artist, but likely the story of many. It explores creativity, jealousy and the purpose of artistic talent. But it does so lightly, and with charm, making it a hugely enjoyable and upbeat production, despite the moving subject matter.

IN CLAY at Upstairs at the Gatehouse

Reviewed on 15th March 2024

by Auriol Reddaway

Photography by Felix Mosse



Previously reviewed at this venue:

SONGS FOR A NEW WORLD | ★★★ | February 2024
YOU’RE A GOOD MAN, CHARLIE BROWN | ★★ | December 2023
HOW TO BUILD A BETTER TULIP | ★★ | November 2022
FOREVER PLAID | ★★★★ | June 2021



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