Tag Archives: Danielle Phillips

The Upstart Crow


Gielgud Theatre

The Upstart Crow

The Upstart Crow

Gielgud Theatre

Reviewed – 18th February 2020



“What comes over as too silly, too exaggerated for me on the small screen, becomes uproarious comedy gold on stage”


This gloriously silly romp is clever, joyful and fabulously funny. There are enough Shakespearean references to please those who know their Bard, and mentions of so many of his plays I thought we were going for the full First Folio. But it’s all sewn together so finely that it never jars. It’s over the top and, at times, quite mad.

There were clearly a lot of fans of the TV series in the audience, and I have to confess that I don’t really like it on television. What comes over as too silly, too exaggerated for me on the small screen, becomes uproarious comedy gold on stage. The writing is very clever, and the twenty first century allusions to everything from sexism, racism and homophobia to leaves on the line never jars. Ben Elton has a genius for this, and he’s had a lot of fun with the script. “See it, Slay it, Slaughtered.” You’ll have to see it to find out where that came from!

David Mitchell’s Shakespeare is in need of inspiration. A new play has to be written for the Globe and he has writer’s block. His young friend Kate, a delightful Gemma Whelan, who desperately wants to act, but can’t because it’s 1605, reads a book on the loo. Books that Shakespeare steals his plots from. She tries to help him with ideas and, with the arrival of an assortment of characters including African princes, identical twins, a dancing bear, and a Malvolioesque Doctor Hall, the hapless playwright eventually comes up with a brilliant new play, and the best exit line ever. Mark Heap, as Doctor Hall brings true comedy magic with his ever larger pants and alarmingly cross-gartered cod-piece and Steve Speirs overacts with glee as Burbage. Helen Monks and Danielle Phillips are a delightful double act as Shakespeare’s daughters Susanna and Judith, and Rob Rouse’s servant, Bottom looks like he’s seen it all before, and probably has. The ‘African Princes,’ and supposedly identical, twins Desiree and Aragon, have arrived in the madness that is this particular form of Shakespeare’s London after a shipwreck, and Rachel Summers and Jason Callender enter into the cross dressing chaos with gusto. Reice Weathers deserves special mention for his portrayal of Mr Whiskers the Dancing Bear, and for spending the whole evening under stage lighting in a bear suit. The cast flip from contemporary language to Shakespearean verse with ease and energy, clearly enjoying the challenge. Director Sean Foley, has a real eye for comedy, wringing every last juicy bit of silliness from Elton’s script and Alice Power’s gorgeous set and costume design give us a London and Stratford recognisable from many a Shakespeare play.

The old ‘identical twins separated by disaster who don’t recognise each other because one is dressed as a girl’ thing is further complicated by a ‘black woman pretending to be a white man pretending to be a black man so she can play Othello’ thing, in a dizzying identity confusion. People fall in love with the wrong people, hide behind tiny trees and speak in loud asides that the others on stage can’t hear. It’s all as Shakespearean as can be. And it’s all rather wonderful.


Reviewed by Katre

Photography by Johan Persson


The Upstart Crow

Gielgud Theatre until 25th April


Last ten shows reviewed by Katre:
Martha, Josie And The Chinese Elvis | ★★★★★ | Park Theatre | December 2019
The Snow Queen | ★★★★ | Park Theatre | December 2019
Catch Of The Day | ★★★★ | The Vaults | January 2020
Coming Clean | ★★★★ | Trafalgar Studios | January 2020
Little Boxes | ★★★★★ | The Vaults | January 2020
Peeping Tom: Child (Kind) | ★★★ | Barbican | January 2020
The Legend Of The Holy Drinker | ★★½ | The Vaults | January 2020
In My Lungs The Ocean Swells | ★★★★ | The Vaults | February 2020
Time And Tide | ★★★ | Park Theatre | February 2020
Gypsy Flame | ★★★★★ | Network Theatre | February 2020


Click here to see our most recent reviews


Reared – 3 Stars




Reviewed – 10th April 2018


“too much disparity of genres detracts from a powerful drama”


At a time when families are being forced to remodel, adapting to the shifting face of politics and economics, ‘Reared’ tells of intergenerational conflict and how, in spite of the struggle to balance the weight of the past with the prospect of the future, it has its rewards. Eileen is juggling preparations for a new baby, a mother-in-law with signs of dementia, a headstrong teenage daughter and a husband who seems unaware of the implications of all this. It explores the complexity of close-knit relationships, what is passed down and what is obscured – the told and the untold – and unpicks secrets which shed a new light on situations.

The Irish touch gives a poignancy to the importance of women in the household and the painful yet inevitable moment when the roles are reversed. John Fitzpatrick’s writing brings all these ideas together in a work which is dramatic, funny, sentimental and, occasionally, almost farcical.

The initiative by ‘bold & saucy theatre’ of a female-led company has created a well-balanced cast, each woman illustrating the particular strengths and weaknesses of her age, with sympathetic supporting male characters. Shelley Atkinson as Eileen depicts the fortitude of the ‘sandwich generation’, coping with both parents and children, and skilfully shows her ability to be caring, practical and vulnerable. The sensitive subject of dementia is successfully reflected in Paddy Glynn’s performance as Nora, flitting between moments of confusion and lucidity, clinging on to her matriarchal status. Caitlin, excellently portrayed by Danielle Philips, represents the dilemmas and pressures of the young along with her friend, Colin (Rohan Nedd), who we warm to as he clumsily tries to do the right thing in an entanglement beyond his maturity. Daniel Crossley plays a likeable Stuart who appears distracted from reality, busying himself with useful jobs around the house.

The homely familiarity of the detailed set (Sammy Dowson) and the proximity of the audience to the stage increase the involvement with the actors. Jamie Platt’s lighting design and the sound by Dominic Kennedy add colour to the action, giving a quasi cinematic feel to the changes of scene. Sarah Davey-Hull’s mindful direction produces some intense and touching scenes – Eileen and Caitlin’s moving conversation, Nora’s developing dementia or Colin’s awkward eagerness – but it is difficult to coherently follow through so many threads of a story in ninety minutes.

‘Reared’ alludes to many social issues but the inclusion of such a quantity of relevant material means that we lose the depth of any one narrative. There is an overall sense of unevenness in the script and oddly discordant reactions at some key moments; seeds are sown and picked up later rather than unfolding, certain personal insights come across as light-hearted asides and a couple of build-ups of tension are left in the air. A contrast of emotions is always stimulating in the theatre but too much disparity of genres detracts from a powerful drama.


Reviewed by Joanna Hetherington

Photography by The Other Richard



Theatre503 until 28th April



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