Tag Archives: Alistair Toovey

Legally Blonde

Legally Blonde


Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre

Legally Blonde

Legally Blonde

Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre

Reviewed – 24th May 2022



“It is a joy ride, although it does sometimes feel like you’re riding on a bus full of teenagers”


So where exactly did the stereotype originate? The Blonde Stereotype that is. Negative (‘dumb blonde’) or otherwise (‘blonde bombshell’), the perception of blonde-haired women has ignored the lack of evidence that suggests that blondes are less intelligent than other people. The first recorded ‘dumb blonde’ appeared in a French play in 1775; “Les Curiosités de la Foire’. She was dumb in the literal sense in that she didn’t talk much. Since then, blondes have had more fun, gentlemen have preferred them, and Hitchcock has fetishized them.

In 2001, writer Amanda Brown wrote about her experience as a blonde at Stanford Law School in various letters to friends which later became a novel and the box office success that was “Legally Blonde”. The musical, with music and lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin and book by Heather Hach, opened on Broadway in 2007 to mixed reviews. It’s West End run, starring Sheridan Smith, won three Olivier Awards, including Best Actress in a Musical for Smith.

The temptation is strong to focus on the possible relevance the story might have in today’s society. It is a cliché to state that times have certainly changed since the narrative themes burst forth into our consciousness. But it is safe to say that Lucy Moss’ staging is as self-aware as it can possibly be. Moss, riding on the global success “Six”, brilliantly uses the opportunity to satirise pretty much every stereotype possible. Nobody is safe. But what is extraordinary under her direction is the sheer sense of fun she brings to the production.

“Six” alumni Courtney Bowman commands the stage as the central character, Elle. Heartbroken after being dumped by her boyfriend Warner (Alistair Toovey) for not being serious enough, she decides she can win him back by showing she can achieve the same ambitions in the legal profession as him. In a plot line that loses touch with any form of credibility, she is accepted into the law school, rises high against odds and prejudices and eventually surpasses Warner. Along the way, everybody is put in their place, including misogynist law professors, jealous perjurers, closet gays. In fact, the characters who come out on top are the underdogs. The seemingly vacuous who ultimately reveal more depth than those who mock them.

Despite being hindered by a predominantly unmemorable score, the show still wins us over with its anergy and infectious comedy. And a couple of musical delights. The wit of O’Keefe and Benjamin’s lyrics shine through in particular during “Serious”, “Blood in the Water” and “Gay or European” which is surely the highlight of the night. It is miraculous how the words are sung so clearly with tongues so firmly set in the cheek. Homophobia, jingoism, and a whole host of other ‘isms’ are shot to the ground in a joyous few minutes of musical theatre snap, crackle and pop. Act Two opener, “Whipped Into Shape” showcases Ellen Kane’s slick choreography, pushing the all singing, all dancing ensemble to the limit.

“Legally Blonde” retains its comedy and loses none of its subversiveness in this brash and thoroughly camp production at Regents Open Air Theatre. It is a joy ride, although it does sometimes feel like you’re riding on a bus full of teenagers. Whilst there is little room for subtlety against the backbeat and spectacle, the current MT trend to introduce a Disney, cartoon-like, nasal shrillness to the delivery does grate over a couple of hours. But it’s worth it to reach the happy ending, buoyed up by the feel-good sensations that bounce the evening along.


Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Pamela Raith


Legally Blonde

Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre until 2nd July


Last show reviewed at this venue:
Romeo and Juliet | ★★★★ | June 2021


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Love Me Now – 4 Stars


Love Me Now

Tristan Bates Theatre

Reviewed – 29th March 2018


“a relevant and contemporary narrative that explores consent within a relationship”


The stage is taken up by a sloping double bed, red material snaking up the headboard to weave through the ceiling, clothes strewn, all slightly reflected in the shining black floor. Designer Fin Redshaw punctuates set and costume alike with bright red, a colour that bring out the intensity of the piece and mixes sexuality with foreboding. Michelle Barnette’s debut play is opened by B (Helena Wilson) entering through the audience, staring wide eyed at us as she moves to the stage, ‘Voulez Vous’ emblazoned across her T-shirt.

In B’s flat, A is preparing to leave post sex but when the door gets stuck, the pair are forced to discuss what exactly is going on between them. Interspersed with snapshots of their relationship prior to now, what begins as a conversation about a relationship unearths an ugly and pervasive misogyny. This is a relevant and contemporary narrative that explores consent within a relationship, the silencing of women, and the double standard surrounding sex and gender, that slut-shames women who have lots of sex and deems them “whores”, yet normalises and accepts this behaviour in men.

Helena Wilson is fantastic as B, urgent and warm, rounded and relatable, she comes alive onstage and is impossible to stop watching. Alistair Toovey as A is utterly unlikeable, callous and violent. Gianbruno Spena offers sinister comedy as C, but his characterisation feels the most stylised, the least natural.

What should have been the final scene is incredibly powerful, as B prepares to go out, shaking hand applying lipstick after a scene of near rape and near domestic abuse. This is an image of absolute strength in its vulnerability, reminding the audience how unfortunately normal this kind of narrative is, how many people have experiences like this and are forced to carry on. This should have been a brutally moving final moment.

Unfortunately this is not where the play ends. There is another half hour yet to come of light relief that descends into something more sinister, and a replay of earlier scenes, that seem an unnecessary over-labouring of the point. This second segment of the play does not take us anywhere we had not already arrived at, and does not give the audience and the actor credit for being able to understand and deliver respectively the impact of what has happened to B in her single lingering stare.

This is a compelling and moving piece of theatre with a stunning performance from Helena Wilson, that just didn’t know when to end.


Reviewed by Amelia Brown

Photography by Helen Murray


Love Me Now

Tristan Bates Theatre until 14th April


Helena Wilson
The Lady From the Sea | ★★★★ | Donmar Warehouse | November 2017
Alistair Toovey
The Box of Delights | ★★★★★ | Wilton’s Music Hall | December 2017



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