Tag Archives: Andrew Langtree



VAULT Festival 2020



Network Theatre

Reviewed – 3rd March 2020



“might not be a musical revolution, but it is a confident, fresh, and well-crafted show”


Adam Lenson is on a mission. Under his new production company, he’s determined to foster a whole generation of British musicals that challenge and revolutionise the form, and Stages is the first musical to be produced under that label. So, understandably, Lenson and writer/lyricist/composer Christian Czornyj must have quite a lot riding on its success – but does Stages set the bar for a new era of musicals?

The show chiefly follows teen technophile Aiden (Max Alexander-Taylor) as his life and family are thrown into disarray when his mum, Alice (Anna-Jane Casey), is diagnosed with cancer. Aiden, as well as his sister Ellie (Aitch Wylie) and father Owen (Andrew Langtree) all struggle to come to terms with the notion of losing Alice, and with the concept of not having control. This theme is taken a step further by ostensibly putting control in the audience’s hands – there are a number of moments where the audience are given the option between two different possibilities which are voted on with coloured cards. These choices range from trivial, such as what colour hoodie Aiden wears, to deeply impactful, such as whether Alice should receive treatment, and initially give the audience a sense of real agency in the story, although this is then unfortunately taken away by an unexpected plot development.

Stages goes in hard on its inspiration from video games – the music is comprised entirely of 8-bit chiptune sounds, and the back wall of the set (Libby Todd) is a video screen that generates pixellated portrayals of the setting or of relevant text. It’s a bold, creative, and characterful choice that pays off through intuitive but unobtrusive storytelling. The songs, too, contribute greatly to the thematic choices the show makes – the music will remind you of different levels of your favourite games growing up, from the tranquil tracks that’d usually involve some sort of mystical forest, to tense boss battle-esque music. Perhaps a few too many numbers favour the former style, but it’s such a unique timbre that you won’t tire of it. All the cast also deliver stellar vocals under the supervision of Tamara Saringer, with some particularly beautiful harmonies on display.

The individual performances are equally excellent, with Wylie standing out in creating an idiosyncratic and relatable older sister, and Alexander-Taylor bringing an engrossing physicality to Aiden. It feels as though the actors are sometimes wishing for a little more to chew on, as the script and lyrics stray into being a bit too simple and repetitive at times, but Lenson’s direction knows how to find the heart of every moment. Stages might not be a musical revolution, but it is a confident, fresh, and well-crafted show that delivers its narrative in a new and exciting way.


Reviewed by Ethan Doyle

Photography by Nick Brittain


VAULT Festival 2020



Click here to see all our reviews from VAULT Festival 2020


The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ – The Musical

Ambassadors Theatre

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ - The Musical

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ – The Musical

Ambassadors Theatre

Reviewed – 3rd July 2019



“joyful, energetic and hilarious, with some moments of real tenderness and yearning”


I admit to being unsure if Sue Townsend’s geeky Mole would translate well as a piece of musical theatre, and I’m happy to say that my scepticism was unfounded. The show is joyful, energetic and hilarious, with some moments of real tenderness and yearning that bring a tear to the eye. It is a piece that truly reflects the time in which it was written and is set, the early 80s. There are lots of references that older audience members clearly enjoyed; Pebble Mill at One, Malcolm Muggeridge and, of course, the Royal Wedding. And it matters not at all that the younger ones don’t pick up on those moments; the lives of Adrian and his friends and family have plenty for everyone to relate to and enjoy.

The children’s parts are each played by a rotating cast of four. Adrian was played by Rufus Kampa this evening, and the huge applause and standing ovation he received were richly deserved. His Adrian had all the awkwardness and angst of Townsend’s much loved young teen, coping with his parent’s awful marriage and break up and discovering himself as an intellectual with a passion for the feisty, pretty new girl at school – Pandora. And Rebecca Nardin’s Pandora was pitch perfect; the flame that called to Adrian’s moth, sparkling, feisty and very funny. Her voice has a range and depth that are unusual in such a young performer, and she has a wonderful comedic instinct. Jeremiah Davan Waysome played Adrian’s friend, and rival for Pandora’s attention, Nigel with a lovely cheeky energy and the school bully, Barry, was made suitably odious by Jack Gale.

The adults in the cast also play children, and were clearly having a lot of fun doing so. The poignant moments between Adrian’s parents, Pauline and George, played by Amy Ellen Richardson and Andrew Langtree, were beautifully moving, and Richardson’s song ‘Perfect Mother’ was so full of sadness and regret that it hurt. ‘How Could You?’ a painful and powerful argument between Pauline and Grandma allowed both women to let rip with passion, a serious and intense moment, and a reflection of many such a confrontation from the real world. Rosemary Ashe’s Grandma is, by turns, fun, interfering and helpful to Adrian and his Dad, and she brings verve and a fabulous voice to the role. Ian Talbot gave a good turn as the grumpy communist Bert and Laura Denning clearly relishes hamming it up to just the right degree as Miss Elf and Doreen Slater. The final member of the adult cast is John Hopkins, and he somehow managed to strut, bluster and give a storming performance that was always just on the right side of overacting. His vile Mr Scruton, the headmaster, was a great, bombastic villain, and the sleazy lothario, Mr Lucas from next door, was just deliciously awful.

Jake Brunger and Pippa Cleary first wrote the book, music and lyrics in 2012, when they were ‘a pair of naive twenty four year olds.’ They met Sue Townsend and she was so impressed that she sold them the rights for a pound. She was worried that the story may be dated but, as Brunger and Cleary explained to her; ‘Despite the internet and mobile phones and all those terribly modern things, spots were still spots, school was still school, and boys still measured their things.” Director Luke Sheppard has translated their vision into a show that bounces with life and allows the early eighties to exist without trying to alter things for our contemporary sensibilities.

There is some inspired and very funny, choreography from Rebecca Howell and Mark Collins and the musicians do a great job with the score. The lighting design, by Howard Hudson, is unusual and effective and Tom Rogers’ set is an evocative, flexible home for the action. I found myself humming ‘Misunderstood’ on the way to the tube. This show has some good tunes too! The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ – The Musical is an excellent adaptation vividly brought to life by an outstanding cast


Reviewed by Katre

Photography by Pamela Raith


The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ – The Musical

Ambassadors Theatre until 12th October


Last ten shows covered by this reviewer:
The Thread | ★★½ | Sadler’s Wells Theatre | March 2019
Yamato – Passion | ★★★★★ | Peacock Theatre | March 2019
Hell Yes I’m Tough Enough | ★★½ | Park Theatre | April 2019
Little Miss Sunshine | ★★★★★ | Arcola Theatre | April 2019
Man Of La Mancha | ★★★★ | London Coliseum | April 2019
Sh!t-Faced Shakespeare: The Taming Of The Shrew | ★★★★★ | Leicester Square Theatre | April 2019
On Reflection | ★★★★★ | Underbelly Festival Southbank | May 2019
Zara | ★★★★★ | Geraldine Mary Harmsworth Park | May 2019
Elixir Extracts Festival: Company Of Elders | ★★★★★ | Lilian Baylis Studio | June 2019
Napoli, Brooklyn | ★★★★ | Park Theatre | June 2019


Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com