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Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch



Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch

Reviewed – 11th  February 2020



“succeeds in bringing the darkness of Macbeth to life through inspired direction, artful effects and compelling acting”


In an arresting version of his shortest, bloodiest tragedy, Shakespeare tells of unbridled ambition and the ensuing punishment in a tale of brutality, guilt, innocence and fate. Returning home from battle, Macbeth and fellow general, Banquo, come across three witches, whose supernatural element denotes temptation, and they foretell that Macbeth will become king. When Lady Macbeth hears the news, she persuades her husband to quicken things along by killing King Duncan. Afterwards, Macbeth becomes desperate with fear of losing the crown and gets rid of everyone who he thinks stands in his way, until nobleman Macduff gets his revenge. In contrast, Lady Macbeth is haunted by guilt, day and night, and eventually kills herself. The narrative has relevance today with its timeless themes and gives the central couple a modern slant through Lady Macbeth’s calculating dominance in their relationship – an unusual depiction of a wife for that time.

Douglas Rintoul’s mindful direction allows the play to be expressed by Shakespeare’s words which, in turn, enable the characters to develop. His subtle touches of imaginative staging, for example the silhouetted battles and murders, lessen the distraction from the psychological intensity and we are gripped by the horror of human nature. The technical effects enhance both the storyline and the atmosphere. A red laser shines across the bare stage, reminding us of the blood spilt for power. The lighting by Daniella Beattie illuminates the scenes with the glow of the northern landscape and the bleakness inside the castle. Paul Falconer’s incidental music and sound punctuates the action, adding clarity and mood to the plot, and the costumes (Chrissy Maddison) have an ageless simplicity, the earthy browns, blacks and greys of the men against the soft heather colours of the women.

Many of the cast play two or three parts, switching convincingly between them. The witches (Connie Walker, Danielle Kassaraté and Colette McNulty) are wild and mischievous with their sinister prophecies, while Tilda Wickham’s Malcolm verges on overly placid, especially when trying to pretend to be more tyrannous than Macbeth. Phoebe Sparrow as Lady Macbeth captures some poignant moments, notably the sleepwalking scene, but the hold she has on her husband appears as bullying rather than deep coercive malevolence and she seems to lose control quickly. Outstanding are Paul Tinto and Ewan Somers as Macbeth and Macduff. As the revengeful hero, Somer’s Macduff is played throughout with all his human traits intact, particularly when he learns of his slain family. Tinto, from brave warrior becomes the dominated spouse at home and then spirals into savage ruthlessness. Even his ‘To-morrow, and to-morrow…’ speech is said with a callous indifference for life.

A dramatically impressive production, it succeeds in bringing the darkness of Macbeth to life through inspired direction, artful effects and compelling acting, and portends another great year for Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch, The Stage Awards ‘London Theatre of the Year 2020’.


Reviewed by Joanna Hetherington

Photography by Mark Sepple



Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch until 29th February


Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Rope | ★★★★ | February 2018
The Game of Love and Chai | ★★★ | April 2018
Priscilla, Queen of the Desert | ★★★ | May 2018
Abi | ★★★★ | September 2018
Abigail’s Party | ★★★½ | September 2018
Once | ★★★★★ | October 2018
Haunting Julia | ★★ | November 2018
The Hired Man | ★★★ | April 2019
As You Like It | ★★★★ | August 2019
The Beauty Queen Of Leenane | ★★★★ | October 2019


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The Importance of Being Earnest

Watermill Theatre

The Importance of Being Earnest

The Importance of Being Earnest

The Watermill Theatre

Reviewed – 27th May 2019



“an inventive new take on an old favourite”


Should we care about ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’? Oscar Wilde’s best-known play about misplaced identities was written at the height of his fame. His brilliant wit shines in every scene and the piece features that line about a piece of left luggage that is probably as much quoted as ‘to be or not to be’.

The Watermill’s new production partly attempts to prove its relevance by setting the play in a contemporary apartment, which is all dull grey minimalism, and in the opening scene, decorated with a road traffic cone. It’s the kind of achingly trendy place that’s all concealed doors and cupboards, with a big Morris wallpaper feature wall, which in Sally Ferguson’s lighting design is cleverly lit to match the mood. At the start of the play the set seemed simply incongruous, lacking the glitz that might be expected of a London socialite’s pad. Weirdly, the cups are paper and the plates foil, a kind of knowing send-up that seemed just odd in the first half, but made perfect sense in the second when the play takes a surreal turn. The almost empty apartment does however come complete with a fully-liveried butler, played with glassy-eyed determination by the impressive Morgan Philpott. He begins and ends the show, as well as sustaining a crowd-pleasingly clever running gag throughout it that calls for the most impeccable timing.

So the scene is set for an inventive new take on an old favourite, as much beloved of amateur productions as it is of countless high profile cinema and stage versions. The lead, Algernon, is played by a splendidly gangling Peter Bray (RSC and the Globe). Wilde seems to have put most of himself into this ‘Bunburying’ young fop who gets some of the best lines. Bray more than rises to the challenge. As Jack, Benedict Salter is also excellent. In a splendid piece of direction by the very inventive Kate Budgen, Bray and Salter perform a kind of mad pas-de-deux to a Liszt piano concerto in a scene about muffins. ‘I can’t eat muffins in an agitated manner. The butter would probably get on my cuffs. One should always eat muffins quite calmly. It is the only way to eat them’. Much has been written about the gay sub-text, in a play which was written when to be ‘earnest’ was to be gay. What with the Bunburying and cucumbers for ready money, it certainly doesn’t lack in innuendo, and this was nicely handled in this production.

Both young men and their female opposite numbers, Gwendolen (Claudia Jolly) and Cecily (Charlotte Beaumont), are splendidly dressed in period costumes. Wilde’s young women may be trapped in a suffocating Victorian system where a woman’s marriage is more about money than love, but his characters shine in these interpretations. Charlotte Beaumont in particular has a kind of winningly mad insistence, that in the second half almost took the play into Lewis Carroll territory.

And what of Lady Bracknell’s ‘handbag’ line, so famously delivered with ringing disdain by Edith Evans, then whispered by Maggie Smith in a role also played by Judi Dench and even David Suchet? Connie Walker certainly brings the ‘gorgon’ to life in her commanding interpretation. Wendy Nottingham makes a suitably dowdy Miss Prism, and Jim Creighton is a satisfying Dr Chasuble.

‘To be born, or at any rate bred, in a hand-bag, whether it had handles or not, seems to me to display a contempt for the ordinary decencies of modern life that reminds one of the worst excesses of the French Revolution’. Just for lines like this, ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ is more than worth the price of a ticket. This fresh and inventive new production at the Watermill makes it more than doubly so.


Reviewed by David Woodward

Photography by Philip Tull


The Importance of Being Earnest

The Watermill Theatre until 29th June



The Watermill Theatre – winner of our 2018 Awards – Best Regional Theatre


Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
The Rivals | ★★★★★ | March 2018
Burke & Hare | ★★★★ | April 2018
A Midsummer Night’s Dream | ★★★★ | May 2018
Jerusalem | ★★★★★ | June 2018
Trial by Laughter | ★★★★ | September 2018
Jane Eyre | ★★★★ | October 2018
Robin Hood | ★★★★ | December 2018
Murder For Two | ★★★★ | February 2019
Macbeth | ★★★ | March 2019
Amélie | ★★★★★ | April 2019


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