Tag Archives: Bryan Pilkington



Jack Studio Theatre



Jack Studio Theatre

Reviewed – 14th December 2018


“delivers on festive cheer and wholesome family entertainment”


Upon arrival, the corridor to the theatre is packed with an expectant audience, all of adult size barring one. Nonetheless there is a feeling of festive excitement. It seems no matter how suited up and cynical we become, everybody wants a little bit of magic this time of year, and a Christmas Cinderella show seems just the ticket.

Four of the five cast members begin as puppeteers for paper birds and an infant Ella, whilst Bryan Pilkington plays a benevolent and charming father. We’re introduced to Ella first as a crying bundle in a basket, then as a marionette; a clever bit of prop use sees a pair of empty boots being puppeteered about to portray Ella’s adolescence, and finally we are introduced to Molly Byrne as the fully-grown Ella.

Her father’s death is announced by the arrival of step-siblings played by Aimee Louise Bevan and Joel Black, wearing private school uniforms and punishing scowls. Bryan Pilkington transforms effortlessly on stage from kindly father to evil step-mother as he dons a haughty countenance, house coat and matching snood.

The general plot plays out as we expect, with Ella flung in to the role of lowly servant Cinderella, generally being tormented by her new and nasty family. She of course retains a twinkle in her eye and, whilst playing in the forest, she encounters the prince, as played by Charlie Bateman. Here the two bond over a shared avian passion, and Cinderella impresses with her great knowledge of bird calls rather than an innate delicacy and ladylikeness as the classic fairytale would have it, whilst Bateman’s prince is all limbs and enthusiasm, over the sullen and rebellious heir we have come to expect. Instead of glass slippers we have studded Dr. Martens, and instead of the dreaded panto audience participation, we have a pleasantly awkward chat with the prince, trying out his party banter. Most pleasing of all the production choices, though, is Ella’s stepbrother who, rather than conforming to the two-dimensional spoilt brat trope, shows some character nuance, developing a kinship with Ella and gaining her trust as a confidante. Black plays both nasty and nice equally convincingly, and though he’s let down a little by his singing, he pulls off the part very well.

Whilst it’s near impossible to avoid the syrupy sweetness of the Cinderella fairytale, the slightly bloody ending smacks a little of Roald Dahl’s take on proceedings rather than Walt Disney’s, and we enjoy a fairly ominous minor pastiche of ‘The Birds’ in serving the evil step-mother her just deserts.

Well-timed lighting and sound give the illusion of a much grander set-up than a fifty-seat pub theatre, and on the whole, the production does a lot with a little. There are some ropey vocals, and at times there’s a bit too much acting considering the intimacy of the auditorium, nonetheless, the Jack Studio Theatre delivers on festive cheer and wholesome family entertainment.


Reviewed by Miriam Sallon



Jack Studio Theatre


Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
The Golden F**king Years | ★★★ | April 2018
Kes | ★★★★★ | May 2018
The Night Alive | ★★★½ | May 2018
Stepping Out | ★★★ | June 2018
Back to Where | ★★★★ | July 2018
The White Rose | ★★★★ | July 2018
Hobson’s Choice | ★★★★ | September 2018
Dracula | ★★★½ | October 2018
Radiant Vermin | ★★★★ | November 2018
Sweet Like Chocolate Boy | ★★★★★ | November 2018


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Review of The Wolves of Willoughby Chase – 4 Stars


The Wolves of Willoughby Chase

Jack Studio Theatre

Reviewed – 15th December 2017


“a romping yarn with a wicked sense of humour”


I’m sure somewhere in my childhood I either read the Wolves of Willoughby Chase or it was on tv. I know I was a total coward as a child, I watched Daleks from behind the sofa and refused point blank to see anything with ‘ghost’ in the title. When I was eight, some long forgotten kids thriller (certificate PG) gave me nightmares for weeks and vaguely traumatised me for life, so I was a little concerned this story may well have been it, so I decided not to investigate further and to just go and watch this production with no real idea what tale would unfold (gulp).

It set a very atmospheric scene from the start with mist swirling around frosted oak trees, and the silhouette of buildings looming from the small and well used space (designed by Karl Swinyard) while the distant hint of howling hummed, and sinister dark figures emerged …

The young heroine Bonnie (played with gusto by Rebecca Rayne), is loved, indulged and blissfully unaware of her fate when her parents leave their estate, and her, in the dastardly hands of new governess Miss Slighcarp (villinously played by Adam Elliott). Quickly joined by her treacherous companion Mr Grimshaw (played by Bryan Pilkington) Bonnie’s life is thoroughly dismantled by the greedy pair.

Her poor, frail cousin (played with perfect decreasing wimpishness by Julia Pagett) becomes her companion, with local Simon (played by Andrew Hollingworth) their nearest friend in the remote woods that surround the house and shelter the howling wolves. But the children battle to save home and family, forced to take on a quest with courage and determination, with only a handful of allies – and geese – along the way.

The plot comes from a wonderful 1960s adventure story for boys & girls from a novel by Joan Aiken, but set over 100 years earlier, and has been adapted gloriously by Russ Tunney into a romping yarn with a wicked sense of humour. The pace is amazingly fast as you race through the tale, each classic plot twist embraced, loved and delivered with a raised eyebrow, a flounce, or an outrageous grimace.

Although the two ‘girls’ are a constant in the story, the rest of the roles are played by Adam Elliott, Andrew Hollingworth and Bryan Pilkington via quick change, off-stage voices and sheer physicality of acting. There is a tangible sense of the build up to the final show down, and the inevitable meeting of many of the characters (played by the same actor) making the urgency and humour delight the audience. I loved the way characters excused themselves to return as someone else, it didn’t detract from the story at all and filled the theatre with laughter.

With a few songs thrown in for good measure, an utter obsession with cheese, and a brilliant performance from the whole cast this is a fantastically feel-good, festive production. Oh and the laughs are ‘Simply Ridiculous’!


Reviewed by Joanna Hinson

Photography by Tim Stubbs Hughes




The Wolves of Willoughby Chase

is at Jack Studio Theatre until 6th January 2018



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