Tag Archives: Charlotte Espiner

The Play About my Dad – 4 Stars


The Play About my Dad

Jermyn Street Theatre

Reviewed – 29th June 2018


“Hannah Britland doesn’t disappoint, she is a brilliant Boo”


It is hard to imagine the horror of being caught up in Katrina, the category five hurricane that caused catastrophic damage along the gulf coast of America in 2005. Along with claiming some 2,000 lives it caused $125 billion worth of property damage as well as having a profound impact on the environment.

To do justice to the panic, horror and loss those involved must have experienced in a stage show is very difficult. However Boo Killebrew has written a play that travels through many times and places and successfully achieves that.

The Play About My Dad is an autobiographical account of her own experiences of the event along with stories of some that experienced the full force of Katrina. Running alongside these stories, which are fictionalised versions of what likely happened to them, is her reaction to the breakdown of her parent’s marriage and the subsequent reconnection with her father following his survival of the hurricane.

The two main characters are Boo herself (Hannah Britland) and her father Larry (David Schaal), a doctor called into action when the storm struck and who serves as the play’s narrator. They are performing and writing a play that tells these stories and it is an interesting vehicle that allows Boo to interact with the characters despite her having been partying in New York at the time.

We are introduced to the young Thomas family who decide not to evacuate to safer ground. Joel Lawes as Jay Thomas projects a relaxed southern approach to life and always has a positive approach to survival not necessarily shared by his wife Rena (Annabel Bates) and son Michael (T’Jai Adu-Yeboah). Also staying put is Larry’s elderly former nanny Essie Watson, played with conviction by Miquel Brown. Ammar Duffus and Nathan Welsh play two Emergency Medical Technicians and they connect and interact well every time they are on stage. There is pessimism and hope in equal measures. Juliet Cowan makes brief but impactive appearances as Sallye Killebrew.

Charlotte Espiner’s set is very basic with pallets, boxes and sheets of plywood that gives the impression of both protection and reconstruction. The lighting design from Ali Hunter is simple but effective with great use of blue under lighting to represent the incoming water and a chilling session when we listen to events in complete darkness.

The direction from Stella Powell-Jones moves the ninety minute no interval play along well ensuring attention is never lost. Elena Peña’s sound design is clever keeping the studio levels of a 175mph hurricane low, though never out of mind.

I felt the cast did everything expected of them, and rarely did I think they were acting. For the writer though, it must be difficult watching someone portray her on stage. In the playbook she writes ‘And as for the actress playing Boo, please make her really likable’. Hannah Britland doesn’t disappoint, she is a brilliant Boo.


Reviewed by Steve Sparrow

Photography by Harry Livingstone


The Play About my Dad

Jermyn Street Theatre until 21st July


Previously reviewed at this venue
Tonight at 8.30 | ★★★★★ | April 2018
Tomorrow at Noon | ★★★★ | May 2018


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All or Nothing – 4 Stars


All or Nothing

Arts Theatre

Reviewed – 9th February 2018


“this tight production proves itself worthy of this London run”


For people of a certain age, the sixties will be fondly remembered. From innovative technologies, the space race, war and protest to changing attitudes to fashion, politics and music,  it was arguably the most transformative decade of modern times.

Music wise whilst The Beatles were the biggest selling UK artists, over in East London four young lads with a love of American R&B music formed a band that enjoyed chart success during four eventful years from 1965 to 1969. All or Nothing – The Mod Musical celebrates the story and unique sound of The Small Faces and also plays homage to the fashions and pop celebrities of the time. Writer and cast performer Carol Harrison has diligently researched the band’s history and the show takes the audience on their journey from obscurity to demise. Their path to success is met with exploitation, betrayal and tragedy.

At the centre of the show is Steve Marriott and we see two versions of him. Older Steve, who appears unseen to others as a spirit, narrates the story from his point of view with both fondness and regret. Chris Simmons is quite brilliant in this role and we see his character gradually disintegrate as the show progresses. His storytelling is a guide to those without knowledge of the band’s history. Young Steve is played by Samuel Pope who accurately recreates the powerful singing voice and aggressive guitar approach Marriott was known for.

The story begins with the band’s final show at the Alexandra Palace when halfway through the set Marriott famously threw his guitar down and walked off stage. We are then taken back in time to his childhood with his venture onto the London stage as a child star in Oliver through to him forming his own band. The band’s naive ambition is exploited by Sharon Osbourne’s father Don Arden, who became their manager. Arden achieved notoriety in Britain for his aggressive, sometimes illegal business tactics. One scene shows him and an associate dangling impresario Robert Stigwood from an office window as a warning to ‘teach him a lesson’ for daring to discuss a change of management with the Small Faces. 

Despite Arden’s insistence that they produce catchy financially profitable pop songs they were true to their roots and had a number of hits that include Itchycoo Park, Tin Soldier, Lazy Sunday, Sha La La La Lee and All or Nothing that are accurately performed in this show. In 1968 they released their third and number one selling concept album Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake which on side two told the story of Happiness Stan, narrated in his unique Unwinese goggledegook by Stanley Unwin.

It has taken a lot of hard work to get this show to the West End. From Brighton Beach in 2013 to the London launch at The Vaults and three major countrywide tours, this tight production proves itself worthy of this London run. Whilst Marriott is the main focus there are notable supporting roles. Stanton Wright as bassist Ronnie Lane, Stefan Edwards as drummer Kenney Jones and Alexander Gold as organist Ian McLagan are competent musicians in their own right and faithfully recreate the Small Faces energy and sound.

Daniel Beales takes on many roles including Tony Blackburn (which got many cheers) and Stanley Unwin. Russell Floyd also takes on several roles and is menacing as Don Arden. Karis Anderson is one of Marriott’s love interests and takes centre stage in the role of PP Arnold revealing a beautiful singing voice in a brief but impressive cameo.

The cast make the most of a restricted stage area which has been brilliantly designed by Rebecca Brower and includes many pop art posters of the era. Costume designer Charlotte Espiner has put together some wonderful costumes that takes the audience back to those Mary Quant inspired designs.

It is clear that a lot of love and affection has been poured into this musical and the cast appear to enjoy themselves as much as the audience. Whilst the story is ultimately a sad one, those attending seemed to leave the theatre having had a great night out. So if you are a fan of the sixties, mod culture, the Small Faces or just want to know more about what happened in that decade this is a show for you. Book your seat and enjoy this powerhouse musical. And as Stanley Unwin would say ‘Are you all sitty comftybold two-square on your botty? Then I’ll begin’.


Reviewed by Steve Sparrow

Photography by Phil Weedon


Arts Theatre link

All or Nothing

Arts Theatre until 11th March



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