Tag Archives: Aruhan Galieva



Soho Theatre



“defies genres whilst remaining coherent and witty”

Written by Dan York Loh the piece is a thoughtful and vivid exploration of the experience of being mixed race in a working class British small town and also a reflection on Chinese philosophy, with further references to the legacy of economic austerity, lack of opportunities and alienation. The play features punk symphonies and psychedelic rock throughout. The actors tell the story of a character’s life, relaying personal events that make up the ‘unrepresentative experience’ of being mixed race in Britain. Interactions with memories and spiritual characters such as the Master of the Opaque are mixed into music and cheerful radio announcements for the EA Podcast. Directed by Alice Kornitzer, the show is in a free form style and the benefits of this freedom are utilised very effectively.

York Loh defies genres whilst remaining coherent and witty. Video projections paint the scene behind on the white walls of the set, providing abstract artistic visuals of the scenes. Composed by An-Ting Chang, the cast take up instruments to perform songs seamlessly and transitions are inventive and effective. During the midpoint the stage separates to reveal an octagonal screen, evoking a Pink Floyd gig as well as a wooden dock, emulating an older setting. The music is vibrant and sometimes angry. Songs about “The East vs West” and “Virtuosity” add to the reflective stream-of-consciousness style, whilst also being enjoyable musical moments. The base guitar hits through the lead’s oscillating notes whilst spoken word and lyrics are delivered.



The story utilises Chinese philosophy to talk about the narrator’s life, referencing the ‘Dao’ or ‘the way’ to talk about the various paths one can take in life. The character refuses to tell a cliche story, admitting they didn’t have a stereotypical upbringing; “lived in a 70s sitcom” and attended a Catholic school and stole cars. The play regularly breaks the fourth wall, addressing the audience and reflecting on how the show is being perceived; “far too indignant for subtlety”. The play discusses racism experienced by the narrator, in particularly, a haunting nursery rhyme is recited at various moments; “Chinese, Japanese, dirty knees, what are these”. The layers of this childhood insult are explored and dismantled. There are also reflections on crime, solidarity and the quest for identity. No and again there was some lack of clarity and some topics felt less explored than others. There was room for some tightening on the closing of the first act and as the writer says “the show’s already long enough”, but these issues don’t take away from the overall experience.

The actors portray the various spiritual characters flashbacks. Melody Chikakane Brown playing Master Obscure and Master Opaque with humour and wisdom whilst also portraying the main character in the flashbacks. Aruhan Galieva delivers impressive vocals and singing with energy and talent whilst also bringing levity through their flashback characters. Daniel York Loh plays guitar and minor characters, allowing the other performers to carry the major plot moments. The play is brilliantly unique and wonderfully performed, with the spirit of punk and rock permeating throughout.



Reviewed on 21st June 2024

by Jessica Potts

Photography © Soho Theatre






Previously reviewed at this venue:

JAZZ EMU | ★★★★★ | June 2024
BLIZZARD | ★★★★ | May 2024
BOYS ON THE VERGE OF TEARS | ★★★★ | April 2024
DON’T. MAKE. TEA. | ★★★★★ | March 2024
PUDDLES PITY PARTY | ★★ | March 2024
LUCY AND FRIENDS | ★★★★★ | February 2024
AMUSEMENTS | ★★★★ | February 2024
WISH YOU WEREN’T HERE | ★★★ | February 2024
REPARATIONS | ★★★ | February 2024



Click here to see our Recommended Shows page


Gin Craze

Gin Craze!


Royal & Derngate

Gin Craze

Gin Craze!

Royal and Derngate Theatre

Reviewed – 21st July 2021



“The energy of the full ensemble numbers has the audience clapping and whooping”


This new musical – book and lyrics by April de Angelis, music and lyrics by Lucy Rivers – brings to life William Hogarth’s shocking 1751 etching ‘Gin Lane’ portraying grotesque caricatures of people suffering from the Gin Craze that was rife in the early part of the eighteenth century. As the curtain rises, we meet a number of these ladies under the influence who sing, dance, and extol the virtues of their favourite tipple. A pawn broker’s sign hangs close to the stage, the same sign as in Hogarth’s print.

The set (designed by Hayley Grindle) is built on two levels and reinforces a view of the class divide with the wealthy Fielding family and a semi-sozzled Queen Caroline appearing on the upper level whilst the gin ladies are firmly rooted on the ground and at the bottom of society. Through the shadows of wooden beams and hanging ropes, we can see various musical instruments: harpsichord, violin, cello, double bass, guitar, timpani. Each member of the eight strong ensemble takes their turn at becoming the band. Plus the ever-present MD Tamara Saringer at the keys.

For much of the time we could describe this as a folk musical. The singing is gentle and refined, the lyrics ballad-like in form, and the duets between the two main leads contain excellent close folk harmonies. The arrangement of the songs is most striking particularly those making use of violin and cello underlay.

The energy of the full ensemble numbers has the audience clapping and whooping. “Gin Dive” is the standout song that reappears close to the end in a poignant unaccompanied close harmony version. “It’s the Law” becomes a good old cockney knees-up with comedy trombone. Many of the scenes can be described as bawdy – and are especially enjoyed because of that – at times they are out-and-out plain rude.

The plot – or the message of the show, perhaps – is summed up with the song title, “What does a woman have to do to get a better life?”. We follow the journey of Mary (Aruhan Galieva) who whilst working as a servant is knocked up by the visiting priest, kicked out into the street, tricked into giving away her baby, and narrowly avoids rape and prostitution by setting up as a gin hawker. We learn that life for a woman is not a bed of roses. But then, Mary befriends Lydia (Paksie Vernon), her saving grace.

Director Michael Oakley produces the most spirited scenes when the gin women appear on stage together. If their individual characters do appear on the caricature side of sincere then we can allow that they may have been first based upon a cartoon. But, in the midst of tragedy, despite the best efforts of this hard-working cast, there is little tension to be felt and we remain unmoved. Particularly, much of the momentum is lost after the interval as attention turns away from the rumbustious Gin Lane into the genteel home of the foppish Henry Fielding (Alex Mugnaioni) and his do-gooder sister Sarah (Rachel Winters).

April de Angelis and Lucy Rivers have created a most fascinating feminist – and musical – response to an interesting period of English history which reflects well on Hogarth’s masterpiece that initially inspired the idea.



Reviewed by Phillip Money

Photography by Ellie Kurttz


Gin Craze!

Royal and Derngate Theatre  until 31st July


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Animal Farm | ★★★★ | Royal & Derngate | May 2021


Click here to see our most recent reviews