Tag Archives: Dugald Bruce-Lockhart



Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch

WILKO at the Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch


“The show doesn’t just lay down the facts. It is a well-informed celebration. A nostalgia trip that also looks forward as well as backwards”

“Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you can tune into the ecstasy of life” declares John Wilkinson (more famously known as Wilko), bathed in the foggy orange glow of the Canvey Island oil refinery. Invariably Wilko was unlucky, yet he still managed to cling onto this ideology for dear life even – or rather especially – when it was slipping away from him. This is a man who bathes in the comfort of certainty; rejects religion and its tatty astrological and spiritual cast-offs in favour of science and creative pragmatism “being given twelve months to live is a great career move”. A rebel poet who never really grew up. An intellectual trapped in a chav’s body.

Jonathan Maitland’s biographical ‘play with music’ goes some way to explaining the outside forces that mould such a contradictory character but doesn’t dig too deep. Using quotations from Wilko himself, mixed with his own dynamic prose and the inimitable sound of Dr. Feelgood, Maitland opts for a more entertaining and dramatic approach. It is both a tribute and a tribute act. Dugald Bruce-Lockhart’s staging is quite a mash-up of styles that, on paper, should never work. On the stage, however, in the hands of a quintet of actor/musos it creates a powerful and compelling piece of theatre.

Wilko famously stated that his terminal cancer made him feel alive. Johnson Willis’ portrayal of him pulses with the same vitality and energy, and uncanny attention to detail. The roughcast Estuary drawl is as full of Shakespeare quotes as expletives and his tantrums burn with misunderstood indignation. If Willis has a strong grasp of the personality, he nails the physicality and musicianship; pacing around the stage with eyes like searchlights, his jerking head movements in time to the stark, percussive chords of his guitar, wielded like a machine gun. Willis’ star turn is matched by Jon House’s Lee Brilleaux – the band’s frontman – who died of cancer at the age of 41. We witness the bitter personality clash and arguments that broke up the band in the late seventies. In Maitland’s narrative they even extend beyond the grave as Brilleaux returns like Marley’s ghost, ultimately leading to a spectral reconciliation. House multiroles, as do the other cast members, displaying versatility and sleight of hand costume changes. David John, when not behind the drum kit brilliantly adopts many personas, as does Georgina Field, who predominantly convinces as bassist ‘Sparko’ with a persuasive, gender-swapped portrayal and stage presence.

“The cast excel at reproducing the Dr. Feelgood sound”

The love of Wilko’s life, Irene Knight, left him a widower a decade before his own cancer diagnosis. Georgina Fairbanks is no wallflower, and she presents a steely Irene, evoking how much she meant to Wilko and how much her untimely death – also from cancer – shaped the musician’s outlook on life. Not so successful are earlier flashbacks to Wilko’s childhood which hint at domestic violence and emotional abuse.

The show doesn’t just lay down the facts. It is a well-informed celebration. A nostalgia trip that also looks forward as well as backwards. Thankfully lacking in sentimentality there is still much pathos. And more than its fair share of humour. We drift in and out of reality as we shift from designer Nicolai Hart-Hansen’s hospital room backdrop to Thames Estuary skyline, to rehearsal room, to stage. The switch from dialogue to music is seamless too. The cast excel at reproducing the Dr. Feelgood sound, complete with the rough edges that “didn’t just usher in Punk, but fucking invented it!” as Wilko would say.

It is fitting that the show concludes with an encore rather than a curtain call. After some gorgeous, slightly surreal moments, including a beautiful a Capella rendition of Leadbelly’s ‘Goodnight Irene’ at Irene Knight’s funeral, the dry ice billows from the stage and the cast launch into a trio of upbeat, uplifting, foot stomping numbers. The band are in full swing, replicating the huge feelgood factor of Dr. Feelgood with staccato precision and virtuosity – particularly House’s impressive blues harp playing.

“Death gives me a technicolour gaze” hollers Wilko. This company give a technicolour performance. The filmmaker, Julian Temple, described Wilko Johnson as ‘one of the great English eccentrics, a great national treasure waiting to be discovered’. Jonathan Maitland’s “Wilko” is its own little treasure. Well worth discovering.

WILKO at the Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch

Reviewed on 7th February 2024

by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Mark Sepple

Previously reviewed at this venue:

THE WITCHFINDER’S SISTER | ★★★ | October 2021



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Mamma Mia! – Casting






Joining the previously announced Sara Poyzer, Kate Graham, Jacqueline Braun, Richard Trinder, Alasdair Harvey, Dugald Bruce-Lockhart, Georgina Castle, Christopher Jordan-Marshall, Bobbie Little, Harriet Bunton, Damian Buhagiar, Nye Rees and Caroline Deverill in the global smash hit musical MAMMA MIA! at London’s Novello Theatre from Monday 12 June 2017, will be Alishia-Marie Blake, Stuart Hickey, Mark Isherwood, Matt Jordan-Pidgeon, Tyler Kennington, Madeleine Leslay, Natasha O’Brien, Alice O’Hanlon, Alexanda O’Reilly, Adam Paul-Robertson, Oli Reynolds and Katy Stredder. They will be joining Tabitha Camburn, Adam Clayton-Smith, Katy Day, Katy Hards, Jennifer Hepburn, Robert Knight, Stacey Leanne Mills and Robbie Scotcher, who are already in the Ensemble.

From West End to global phenomenon, MAMMA MIA! is Judy Craymer’s ingenious vision of staging the story-telling magic of ABBA’s timeless songs with an enchanting tale of family and friendship unfolding on a Greek island paradise. To date, it has been seen by over 60 million people in 50 productions in 16 different languages grossing more than $2 billion at the box office. In 2011, it became the first Western musical ever to be staged in Mandarin in the People’s Republic of China. MAMMA MIA! is currently on its first ever UK Tour, receiving great critical and public acclaim.

MAMMA MIA! originally opened in London at the Prince Edward Theatre on 6 April 1999, before transferring to the Prince of Wales Theatre in 2004. The musical re-opened at the Novello Theatre in 2012, where it recently celebrated its London 18th birthday on 6 April 2017.

The London production of MAMMA MIA! has been seen by nearly 8 million people, played over 7,500 performances and has broken box office records in all three of its London homes.

Produced by Judy Craymer, MAMMA MIA! The Movie, starring Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan, is the highest grossing live action musical film of all time.

With music & lyrics by Benny Andersson & Björn Ulvaeus, MAMMA MIA! is written by Catherine Johnson, directed by Phyllida Lloyd and choreographed by Anthony Van Laast. The production is designed by Mark Thompson, with lighting design by Howard Harrison, sound design by Andrew Bruce & Bobby Aitken, and musical supervision, additional material & arrangements by Martin Koch.

MAMMA MIA! is produced by Judy Craymer, Richard East & Björn Ulvaeus for Littlestar in association with Universal.