Tag Archives: David Guest




Charing Cross Theatre

RIDE at the Charing Cross Theatre




“a journey into truth, emotions, reinvention, celebrity and human spirit”


A new musical that stormed the VAULT Festival back in March 2020 about a sporting pioneer who may have embellished the truth has blossomed into a fully-fledged show that more than proves its worth at Charing Cross Theatre.

Writers Freya Catrin Smith and Jack Williams explore the life of shameless self-publicist Annie Londonderry, who allegedly became the first woman to cycle solo around the world in 1895, in the captivating and lively “RIDE.”

If the original small-scale production was a beautifully crafted cross-stitch which made the most of one of the Vaults caverns, this revamped and expanded version is a well-embroidered tapestry in which every thread is perfectly placed in a brilliantly used larger space.

Born of Latvian Jewish background Annie Cohen Kopchovsky emigrated with her family to America in 1874/5 but refused to be determined by her past. History (or should that really be her story?) suggests that she wanted to write for a New York newspaper but was approached by two businessmen with a wager of $20,000 that no woman could travel around the world by bicycle in 15 months.

Despite the hype and sensationalism, it’s clear that Annie was a great saleswoman and raconteur, changing her surname to get sponsorship from a spring water company and telling increasingly tall stories during her journey which enthralled the crowds.

“RIDE” is a well-crafted musical about a fighter and storyteller with a timeless message of liberation and achievement, never afraid to present Annie’s less than admirable qualities, yet itself unashamedly being creative with a story about someone who had such a casual relationship with the truth.

At its heart is a story of a New Woman eager for change in society. Scrutinising her claims amidst so much showmanship and self-promotion is part of the fun of this indefatigable show, which tells the tale as honestly as it is able given that it is largely selling the reality of a fake American dream.

There are more songs and a longer running time, yet even now the show seems to be pedalling furiously to be something bigger. Still, with Amy Jane Cook’s design the stage is opened up to allow a journey into imagination and the performances are suitably larger than life.

The setting is a newspaper office where an enthusiastic Annie persuades reluctant and sceptical secretary Martha to help recount her deeds. It is a two-hander where both performers triumph, balancing and playing off each other with care and skill.

As Annie, Liv Andrusier has an egocentric Barnum-like presence, though showing off herself and her accomplishments rather than a collection of circus acts, walking a tightrope between truth and fiction as she agitates and elaborates. She roars her way through the lively numbers – the title song remains a fierce showstopper, one of the best new songs in a contemporary musical; she is bold and brazen as she recounts her truth (“Everybody Loves a Lie” is a paean to the art of humbug) yet grasps the vulnerable as she recalls her family and background in the face of loneliness, anti-Semitism, insults and struggles as a feisty woman in a man’s world.

Yuki Sutton’s Martha is a gem, the timid and dubious assistant becoming a mistress of fabrication, not only taking over the story but also elaborating upon it, becoming a commanding presence in her own right.

While the characters begin as opposites, each suspicious of the other, they gradually learn from and believe in each other, with their contrasts keeping each other on track. And Andrusier and Sutton perform soaring duets that set the stage on fire with vivacious harmony and intensity.

Director Sarah Meadows captures the sense of façade without losing sight of the personal stories, however hard the facts may be to grasp. There is colour, light and shadow in a production that never once glows dull.

The small band excites the moment they play their first note. Led by energetic conductor Sam Young on keys, with Frankie South on guitar and Alex Maxted on percussion, the musicians show understanding of and enthusiasm for every cracking musical number, all of which are memorable and of the highest quality.

Originally produced by Bottle Cap Theatre it is no surprise that the show was snapped up by Deus Ex Machina Productions, who surely recognised the show’s beating heart of liberation from trauma and expectations, courage in adversity and the embrace of change and progression.

Smith and Williams write with depth and quality and it’s hard to believe that the near-perfect smaller show has been developed into something even better. They must be contenders for one of the best writing partnerships out there and with “RIDE” they have created a work of fresh energy, and unbelievable fun.

Magically profound and stunningly creative this might just be one of the best musicals this year, a journey into truth, emotions, reinvention, celebrity and human spirit.


Reviewed on 31st August 2022

by David Guest

Photography by Danny Kaan





Previously reviewed at this venue:


Pippin | ★★★★ | July 2021
Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike | ★★★ | November 2021


Click here to read all our latest reviews










“it’s encouraging that the producers are bringing traditional variety and cabaret to the central West End”


Magic, comedy, circus and cabaret combine for a new version of a show that wowed audiences at London’s Palace Theatre last year.

“Wonderville: Magic & Cabaret” is a more intimate rendering of “Wonderville: Magic & Illusion” with the advantage of being staged in its own venue (formerly Planet Hollywood) in the Haymarket. While currently taking bookings until the end of October producers are hoping the residency will be more permanent.

The magic begins the moment you enter the venue as designer Justin Williams has created not just a striking environment but a beautiful setting where the café, bar and theatre reflect the cabaret show itself.

On normal nights each show features acts from a roster which currently includes Chastity Belt, Desmond O’Connor, Mysti Vine (the three take their turn as hosts), Billy Kidd, Matricks, Dee Riley, Marc Oberon, Aurora Starr, Abi Collins, Tara Talland, Snookie Mono and Pi the Mime. On opening night we were treated to 10 acts and it was a particular joy to see the incomparable and legendary Fay Presto touring the tables beforehand and during the breaks for some close-up magic.

The cabaret table layout means there is a lot of opportunity for engagement between the performers and audience and while this can be achieved in a typical theatre auditorium, there is no denying that the smaller purpose-built “Wonderville” venue lends itself to close-up magic, an in-your-face sauciness and immersive entertainment.

The layout also means that acts wanting to engage with audience members or even walk around the floor often have to squeeze past them somewhat unceremoniously.

It’s unfortunate that a side balcony, which is on the same side as the small stage, means people sitting towards the back of it cannot see much of the entertainment and several of us there on press night ended up standing.

The atmosphere is one of burlesque, Vaudeville, spectacle and charm with each act given quite a short opportunity to show off their talents, though of course this is much in the tradition of classic variety shows.

While it is in the very capable hands of creative director Laura Corcoran and magic consultant Chris Cox there are many moments in the show which make it feel as though it’s been cobbled together at the last moment, with some of the performers seeming strangely ill at ease.

If the idea of the venue is to experience “the magic of magic” it seems odd not to have that as a running theme to give some cohesiveness to the evening. While the experienced cabaret hosts were enormous fun the choice of songs (after a promising opening of “A Kind of Magic”) was bizarre, however well performed – a singalong “Jungle Book” medley, “Life on Mars” and a Diamond medley seem unrelated to anything else.

There is also an overlap between some of the acts – charismatic Billy Kidd’s card tricks are terrific but largely repeated by Marc Oberon, while Amazi’s opening hoop spinning is pretty much done again by Abi Collins, though the latter’s act as man-eating lush Ritzi Crackers is one of the evening’s highlights.

Snookie Mono brings delightfully unexpected campness to sword-swallowing while Tara Talland’s hair-hanging draws sharp intakes of breath, though expecting an entire table to move out of the way in order for her to perform is clumsy.

The Matricks perform the most ambitious of the routines with Alexander Jesson smoothly presenting appearing girls, levitation and a skewered crate to thrilling effect.

Des O’Connor provides energy and humour as one of the hosts but it is Chastity Belt who commands the most attention, belting out numbers as though the venue was ten times the size, quickly having rapport with the audience and demonstrating her seasoned professionalism with sparkle.

While “Wonderville: Magic & Cabaret” might more naturally have a home in, say, The Vaults at Waterloo, it’s encouraging that the producers are bringing traditional variety and cabaret to the central West End. Even if the show needs a bit of tidying up one suspects something will be pulled out of the hat as the season progresses.


Reviewed on 16th August 2022

by David Guest



Recent five star show reviews:

Flat and Curves | ★★★★★ | Toulouse Lautrec | July 2022
Hungry | ★★★★★ | Soho Theatre | July 2022
Fashion Freak Show | ★★★★★ | Roundhouse | July 2022
The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe | ★★★★★ | Gillian Lynne Theatre | July 2022
Bugsy Malone | ★★★★★ | Birmingham Repertory Theatre | July 2022
Monster | ★★★★★ | Park Theatre | August 2022
Sap | ★★★★★ | Edinburgh Festival Fringe | August 2022
The Anniversary | ★★★★★ | Edinburgh Festival Fringe | August 2022
My Son’s A Queer | ★★★★★ | Edinburgh Festival Fringe | August 2022





Click here to read all our latest reviews