Tag Archives: Alexandra Faye Braithwaite

Bloody Elle


Soho Theatre

BLOODY ELLE at the Soho Theatre


Lauryn Redding in Bloody Elle. Photo by Lottie Amor

“The audience are putty in her hand as Redding navigates along the highs and lows”


You should expect to leave Bloody Elle having fallen in love with ‘Elle’. Lauryn Redding, who wrote and stars, has created a superb one woman ‘gig musical’ show fizzing with life, music and humour.

Elle is a regular teenager who lives in a northern city in 2009, with home a tower block apartment that she shares with her mum. She escapes the daily monotony of working at her local ‘Chips and Dips’ shop by writing songs on her guitar. But then Eve starts working next to her on the counter, and her whole world changes. In many ways this is a classic Romeo and Juliet, both-side-of-the-tracks story, but the sensitive exploration of class and queerness ensures this still feels fresh.

Redding flips between roles as she tells Elle’s story, affecting comedic tell-tale mannerisms and accents to clearly differentiate colleagues, friends, her mother, and Eve. Although these characterisations initially feel slightly forced, Redding relaxes into the role so that transitions become smooth. Several characters stand out: Elle’s dour, Welsh Chips and Dips manager, and Eve’s Patsy Stone-like mother elicit laughs every time they appear. As Elle, Redding flirts outrageously with the audience, and it is impossible to resist her charm.

The music is the beating heart of this piece. Redding uses clever looping to create beautiful soundscapes with just her voice and guitar, occasionally supported by pre-recorded backing tracks in the same style (Alexandra Faye Braithwaite supports with Sound Design and Additional Composition). There are more musical snippets than full songs which keeps the piece bouncing along at speed. Redding’s strength is her lyricism, which is always fully consistent with Elle’s character, and she enunciates with such clarity and energy that you do not miss a moment. The audience are putty in her hand as Redding navigates along the highs and lows of a revolutionary first love, erotic sighs and choice vocal effects building exquisite tension to back ‘moment moments’. Redding is a supremely talented singer, comfortable in big, ballad-like moments as well as sensitive, softer songs.

The direction (Bryony Shanahan) is smart, with a sequence where Elle first enters Eve’s house particularly notable for some excellent physical humour, and great lighting effects (Mark Distin Webster).

Redding hops nimbly around a simple stage set on three raised levels, plain black but with splatters of white paint that are reminiscent of ubiquitous early social media ‘emo’ wallpapers. It is beautifully 2009. The platforms are set up like a back-of-pub gig with Elle’s guitars and mic stands spread between them. When singing, Redding uses mics to strong effect to add echoes and reverberations, but moves freely between them, not relying on amplification for spoken passages between songs that have the rhythm and thrust of spoken word poetry.

Though the majority of the action takes place in the late noughties, this is framed top and tail with present day Elle looking back, a decade on. The Unprologue is a cleverly meta introduction to the themes in the piece, though the ending contrasts this and the rest of the show with its ‘unproduced’ feel. Elle almost steps outside character to deliver a diatribe against suppression in all forms. This isn’t subtle by any means, but Elle has built up so much goodwill that she can spend a little time on a soapbox.


Reviewed on 13th July 2023

by Rosie Thomas

Photography by Lotti Amor



Previously reviewed at this venue:


Britanick | ★★★★★ | February 2023
Le Gateau Chocolat: A Night at the Musicals | ★★★★ | January 2023
Welcome Home | ★★★★ | January 2023
Super High Resolution | ★★★ | November 2022
We Were Promised Honey! | ★★★★ | November 2022
Hungry | ★★★★★ | July 2022
Oh Mother | ★★★★ | July 2022
Y’Mam | ★★★★ | May 2022
An Evening Without Kate Bush | ★★★★ | February 2022


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The Understudy



The Understudy

The Understudy

Online via www.theunderstudyplay.com

Reviewed – 20th May 2020



“Recorded in isolation, it is propelled by a cast that comprises the cream of the crop”


Of all his novels, David Nicholls has said that “The Understudy” is the one he most yearns to rewrite. Those familiar with the book would possibly balk at this show of modesty. It is true that it has been unfairly overlooked in the shadow of his better-known works, but it deserves more of the spotlight. The gentle, self-deprecating humour, laced with a sharp and cutting wit that can only come from experience, casts an astute eye over the ‘theatrical life’; taking us backstage and beyond.

For eight years Nicholls trod the boards himself. He was a failed actor, he admits, his career on a steep downward path. We somehow get the feeling he’s being too hard on himself, but his natural skills as a writer turned that failure into success and, with luck, his story can take centre stage now with its revival as a streamed, online radio play. Released in two parts, it is adapted by Henry Filloux-Bennett in response to Covid-19 thwarting the fully staged production. With director Giles Croft at the helm it is a wonderful homage to an industry under threat and reaffirmation that it has no alternative but to survive. (Consequently, all proceeds from the play go to theatre charities).

The story revolves around actor Stephen McQueen (no, not ‘that’ Steve McQueen); divorced, down on his luck and waiting in the wings for that big break. His ex-wife has given up waiting long ago, while his daughter wonders when he will get a proper job. McQueen’s luck looks set to change when he lands a job understudying the vane but talentless film star, Josh Harper, in the West End. He covets the leading man’s job, but unfortunately, he covets his wife too. When he sees an opportunity to steal both, things can only go horribly wrong.

Recorded in isolation, it is propelled by a cast that comprises the cream of the crop. You can almost ‘hear’ the twinkle in Stephen Fry’s eye as his affectionately sardonic narration weaves through the action; while Russell Tovey epitomises the hapless McQueen. Sarah Hadland, as ex-wife Alison, floors him with her sarcastic punches, but with her skilled shifts of tone can pick him up again with real affection. Josh Harper is suitably arrogant and wonderfully observed in Jake Ferretti’s portrayal. With Emily Atack as his love interest (on and off stage) and Sheila Atim as his intellectually and morally superior wife, they are all supplemented by a fine supporting cast.

The in jokes that litter the script will appeal beyond the theatre profession. Although those on the inside will be familiar with the mantra ‘Acting is Reacting’. It is hard to know whether the foreknowledge that each actor was recording their lines alone in their own homes affects our listening, but we are often all too aware of the isolation. There is a sense of detachment within the flow of dialogue and, inevitably, there will be a lack of chemistry. Nevertheless, with the editing skills and the addition of sound and music from Alexandra Faye Braithwaite, Annie May Fletcher and Sophie Galpin the show stands out as an excellent radio play in its own right. Even though it whets the appetite for the (hopefully) eventual fully staged production, it doesn’t seek to replace the live experience. This rendition of “The Understudy” succeeds in its own right and can, at least for now, step out to steal its own few moments in the spotlight.

Reviewed by Jonathan Evans


The Understudy

Part One available from 20th May Part Two from 27th May with both parts available for a month

Online via www.theunderstudyplay.com



Last ten shows reviewed by Jonathan:
Message In A Bottle | ★★★★ | Peacock Theatre | February 2020
Musik | ★★★★ | Leicester Square Theatre | February 2020
Nearly Human | ★★★ | The Vaults | February 2020
Tell It Slant | ★★★ | Hope Theatre | February 2020
The Importance Of Being Earnest | ★★★½ | The Turbine Theatre | February 2020
Closed Lands | ★★★ | The Vaults | March 2020
Max Raabe & Palast Orchester | ★★★★★ | Cadogan Hall | March 2020
The Kite Runner | ★★★★ | Richmond Theatre | March 2020
The Last Five Years | ★★★★ | Southwark Playhouse | March 2020
A Separate Peace | ★★★★ | Online | May 2020


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