Tag Archives: Emma Chapman

The Mirror Crack'd

The Mirror Crack’d


Royal and Derngate Theatre

THE MIRROR CRACK’D at the Royal and Derngate Theatre



The Mirror Crack'd

“Special mention goes for Ward’s restrained performance as the softly spoken starlet”


Original Theatre has assembled a first-rate cast for this new adaptation by Rachel Wagstaff of Agatha Christie’s classic novel.
The action is set somewhere in the 1950s, a time when supermarkets and showers are new commodities, and the death penalty is still a deterrent. It’s not too much of a spoiler to report that a murder is committed for which there are a number of prime suspects. From out of town, and whose arrival is causing so much excitement in the sleepy village, are Hollywood legend Marina Gregg (Sophie Ward) with protective husband and film director Jason Rudd (Joe McFadden), co-star Lola Brewster (Chrystine Symone) and amongst their faithful entourage are waiter Guiseppe (Lorenzo Martelli) and secretary Elia (Sarah Lawrie). From within the village are the wealthy Dolly Bantry (Veronica Roberts), the down-to-earth Leighs (Jules Melvin & David Partridge) and Miss Marple’s home-help Cherry Baker (Mara Allen). A variety of personages with colourful accents – some of them over-played – verges close to pantomime on occasion. But as crucial scenes are re-enacted with different interpretations – bravo Jules Melvin – generally the performances are honest and rise above the caricature.

Special mention goes for Ward’s restrained performance as the softly spoken starlet, and Roberts’ bustling Dolly who appears to be the real village gossip.

Director Philip Franks moves this large cast of twelve naturally around the stage. Often in frieze positions whilst action is highlighted elsewhere, occasionally unwelcome shadows are cast from the otherwise effective side lighting (Emma Chapman). Frank’s insightful direction provides a line-up of suspects for us to learn who is who which aids the interval fun of making a guess as to whodunnit.

A central revolving structure (Designer Adrian Linford) provides the imposing backing for both Miss Marple’s living room and the film studio with large French windows and sliding glass doors showing a mirror reflection of the action. An almost constant background of effective incidental music going on behind much of the dialogue (Max Pappenheim) enhances the suspense but also evokes the comfortable feeling of watching something familiar on Sunday evening TV.

For much of the first act, Miss Marple (Susie Blake) sits on a central winged armchair, her bandaged sprained ankle raised, whilst snatches of action take place in front of her. The humorous repartee between her and Chief Inspector Craddock (Oliver Boot), as Miss Marple subtly takes over the questioning of suspects, is well done. Boot, despite a stereotypical moustache and much pacing, holds his own amid the laughter.

As Miss Marple takes to her feet with the aid of crutches, and then a walking stick, the plot moves closer to a denouement. We hear backstories about key players but an effort to provide some gravitas by writer Rachel Wagstaff by tying things together within a common theme of personal loss doesn’t really hit home.

This audience shows that the character of Miss Marple is well-loved and Susie Blake’s reliable and sympathetic portrayal of her steals the show. Who would have thought that this amiable old spinster’s first word on waking up from a dream at the start of the play would be “bugger”?


Reviewed on 31st October 2022

by Phillip Money

Photography by Ali Wright



For the full details of the UK Tour click here


Previously reviewed at this venue:


Animal Farm | ★★★★ | Royal & Derngate | May 2021
Animal Farm | ★★★★ | May 2021
Gin Craze | ★★★★ | Royal & Derngate | July 2021
Gin Craze | ★★★★ | July 2021
Blue / Orange | ★★★★ | Royal & Derngate | November 2021
Blue / Orange | ★★★★ | November 2021
The Wellspring | ★★★ | Royal & Derngate | March 2022
The Wellspring | ★★★ | March 2022
Playtime | ★★★★ | Royal & Derngate | September 2022
Playtime | ★★★★ | September 2022
The Two Popes | ★★★★ | Royal & Derngate | October 2022
The Two Popes | ★★★★ | October 2022


Click here to read all our latest reviews


The Lion

The Lion


Southwark Playhouse

The Lion

Southwark Playhouse

Reviewed – 1st June 2022



“impassioned and emotive vocal performance”


“It’s a conversation.” Max Alexander-Taylor chats with audience members pre-show, sitting casually on empty seats, guitar in hand. He speaks, not as Benjamin Scheuer, the autobiographical character he plays, but as himself. These intimate moments prime the audience for a similar intimacy in performance: a three-quarter thrust in Southwark Playhouse’s The Little, the light from elegantly scattered shade-less lamps low and warm, a musical performance that is spoken as much as it is sung. This opening moment, however, also highlights the difficulty of reviving an autobiographical show with a new performer. The tension between actor and character remains nearly constant.

The Lion, a revival of the Drama Desk Award-winning 2014 folk musical, traces the story of Scheuer’s upbringing, his battle with cancer as a young man, and his coming to terms with an imperfect father. The narrative and character relationships are drawn through the constant motif and medium of folk music. The songs are thoughtful and specific—a line about Scheuer’s first girlfriend writing corrections to the White House correspondent at the New York Times remains ringing in my mind. Key moments in the character’s life are marked by the introduction of a new guitar, all of which line the back wall of the stage. These guitar changes serve as an effective storytelling mechanism—the electric guitar marks Benjamin’s burst into early adulthood, his final acoustic guitar is visually and sonically glossy, matching his personal triumph and maturation. The red guitar, however, which is introduced midway through the show, enters unaddressed. This break in convention takes away slightly from what is otherwise a narratively taught piece of theatre.

As the performance unfolds, Alexander-Taylor oscillates between disappearing into the character and narrating from outside of him. Instead of leaning into this tension, aside from the pre-show conversations, the performance attempts to gloss over it, which leads to a general unevenness. Alexander-Taylor’s disappearances, which become more frequent in the final leg of the performance, are quite compelling. The guitar work becomes both looser and more detailed, which is mirrored by his impassioned and emotive vocal performance. The earlier portions of the show would have benefitted from this looseness, though the directorial impulse of Alex Stenhouse and Sean Daniels to reign these moments in is understandable. The trade-off between clarity of langue and clarity of emotion can be difficult to manage, especially with verbose and narratively rich songs.

Emma Chapman’s lighting design is understated yet expressive. The exposed bulbs that litter the stage and audience alike glow and temper along with the emotional waves of the piece. A blue wash creates the impression of the dive bars in which Benjamin plays the angsty grunge and blues rock of his youth. A cool, harsh sidelight transports us to a moonlit cemetery. At the climax, light emanates from beneath the weathered wooden planks (set design Simon Kenny) that form the stage, filling the room.

While the tension between character and performer lends itself to narrative instability, The Lion does not want for technical prowess or pathos.



Reviewed by JC Kerr

Photography by Pamela Raith


The Lion

Southwark Playhouse until 25th June


Recently reviewed at this venue:
Operation Mincemeat | ★★★★★ | August 2021
Yellowfin | ★★★★ | October 2021
Indecent Proposal | ★★ | November 2021
The Woods | ★★★ | March 2022
Anyone Can Whistle | ★★★★ | April 2022
I Know I Know I Know | ★★★★ | April 2022


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