Tag Archives: Ben Jones

St Anne Comes Home


St Paul’s Church, Covent Garden

St Anne

St Anne Comes Home

St Paul’s Church, Covent Garden

Reviewed – 30th August 2020



“The three singers each give pitch-perfect, passionate performances that lift the material beyond the realm of ‘folk’, allowing the listener to hear the underlying grander potential”


Stories are everywhere; and the inspiration behind these stories can spring up in some of the most unlikely places. This is certainly true for Jack Miles, the writer/composer of “St Anne Comes Home”. There was nothing particularly special about his bus ride through a rain-soaked Vauxhall, his spirits as damp as the pavement outside his window. There was nothing special about the man in the church doorway, whose solitary, melancholic profile flickered past as the bus turned away. Yet half an hour later that vague shadow had morphed into a multi-coloured, multi-faceted scenario in Miles’ mind.

We all do it, at some point. Paul Simon famously scribbled the lyrics to the iconic folk song “America” while imagining the lives of his fellow Greyhound bus passengers. Finding the drama within the minutiae of the mundane is a skill that Miles has put to good use in this new ‘folk musical’ premiering in the centre of Covent Garden, as part of the Iris Theatre Summer Festival in the garden of St Paul’s Church.

James (Jordan Castle) is the focal character; homeless and, to the annoyance of the local fair-weather parishioners, has made a temporary home in the doorway of St. Anne church. Estranged from his young daughter he seems initially to be running away from his problems. Here he meets Bridget (Rebecca McKinnis) who is trapped in an abusive marriage and struggling to raise her own child. Over tea and sympathy, they share their stories. Meanwhile Russell (Mathew Craig), the Catholic priest, battles with his own demons, torn between letting James into the flock or, by bowing to his congregation’s unchristian intolerance, rejecting him.

It is within the songs that one gets the true sense of the story, rather than the dialogue of platitudes that link them. The three singers each give pitch-perfect, passionate performances that lift the material beyond the realm of ‘folk’, allowing the listener to hear the underlying grander potential. At times, however, the emotion outweighs the content. The storyline follows a predictable path along which the stakes are never raised high enough to warrant the sheer outpouring of grief and anger that these singers convey. If this is an obstacle to being swept away by the characters, we do have the consolation of being blown away by the charisma of the cast.

And Jack Miles has crafted a selection of very fine songs. Miles himself accompanies on guitar, alongside Claudia Fuller on violin and Ben Jones on Double Bass. Under Joe Beighton’s assured musical supervision the delicacy of the arrangements highlights the fluctuating moods and melodic structure. Jones switches from bowing to picking in a beat, matching the emotional U-turns of the characters, while Fuller’s violin soothes and angers in perfect time to the libretto.

From the back seat of a bus to a front seat in London’s theatreland (albeit in the open air, while most of the theatre’s doors are still closed) this musical has been a year in the making so far. Director Martha Geelan has been at the helm in shaping the drama, moulding the imagination of Miles into a refreshing new piece of musical theatre. I don’t think they should stop here though. The journey is only just beginning, but that is meant as a sincere compliment. At the moment it comes across as a storm in a teacup, but its horizons are so much wider than that.


Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Harry Grout


St Anne Comes Home

St Paul’s Church, Covent Garden


Previously reviewed by Jonathan:
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
The Understudy | ★★★★ | Online | May 2020
Godspell Online in Concert | ★★★★★ | Online | August 2020
Henry V | ★★★★ | The Maltings | August 2020


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Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde – 2 Stars


Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde

Rose Theatre Kingston

Reviewed – 14th February 2018


“The one moment of true violence on stage was badly managed, and failed to convince”


Robert Louis Stevenson’s late 19th century novella The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde revisits the same themes as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, written 70 years earlier. Now, in the second decade of the 21st century, its narrative of the duality of human nature and the merits (or otherwise) of scientific investigation, still have the power to fascinate. What a shame then, that this production remains in the dated and formulaic tradition of Victorian drawing room drama.

David Edgar’s script introduces three female characters to the original, but, despite some excellent work from both Polly Frame as Dr. Jekyll’s forward-looking sister Katherine, and Grace Hogg-Robinson as her plucky maid Annie, their inclusion seemed superfluous, and served only to detract from the pared-down tension of Stevenson’s tale. Indeed, the production as a whole was baggy, and lacked both pace and narrative drive. The inclusion of two sub-plots – Annie’s flight and subsequent appointment in Dr. Jekyll’s house, and Lanyon’s actions as a result of the exposure of his past – together with the final reveal of a formative incident in Dr. Jekyll’s childhood, crowded out the power of Dr. Jekyll’s terrifying experiment entirely.

The production failed to provide any moments of genuine fear, and Phil Daniels’ central performance often teetered on the edge of vaudeville, leaving the audience unsure of what was expected from them. Some able, but strangely-placed, pieces of theatrical business from Sam Cox, as Jekyll’s butler Poole, gave us the reason we needed to laugh, but this reviewer was not the only one to feel the comedy inherent in Daniels’ broad Glaswegian, drunken Hyde. The one moment of true violence on stage was badly managed, and failed to convince, and the decision to delay the conclusion, and thus dilute the impact, of Hyde’s original transgression, as witnessed by Utterson, seemed yet another way to diminish Hyde’s monstrous power.

The production design only served to underline the Fairground House of Horrors feel of the piece, with hackneyed visual and sonic tropes throughout. Rosie Abraham’s haunting voice was beautiful, but overused, and the glowing laboratory door and equipment seemed faintly comedic. As did the continual opening and closing of all three on-stage doors, which bordered on the farcical.

Ultimately, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde did not seize the imagination. It is a tale that still has the capacity to bite, but, unfortunately, this production rendered it toothless.


Reviewed by Rebecca Crankshaw

Photography by Mark Douet


Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde

Rose Theatre Kingston until 17th February then continues on tour



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