Tag Archives: Gilly Daniels



The Hope Theatre

UNCLE VANYA at The Hope Theatre



Uncle Vanya


“driven by a kind of energy and commitment that make it hard not to become invested”


I have to start this review with a confession. Despite loving theatre, and consistently pretending that I know lots about it, I have never consumed the work of one of its greatest writers. That’s right, I’ve never seen a single minute, nor read a single word, of Chekhov. And so, for me, the Hope Theatre’s production of Uncle Vanya was actually quite significant. Would it interest me? Would I understand it? More importantly – would I like it?

Yes, yes, and yes.

Adapted by Brendan Murray, Chekhov’s four expansive acts are stripped down into four tightly directed scenes bursting with emotion. The play begins in the aftermath of the disruption caused by Serebryakov, a former professor who has returned to the family estate along with his young wife Yelena. The estate is thanklessly managed by his brother-in-law Vanya and daughter Sonya, but now Serebryakov has new and worrying plans for it. Meanwhile, Vanya and country doctor Astrov have fallen in love with Yelena, Sonya is hopelessly in love with Astrov, and Vanya’s mother is ignoring them all in the pursuit of women’s rights. They are a family full of hope as well as hopelessness, both longing for something more and relishing the order of conventional life.

Despite the small size of the space, the world of 19th century Russia comes to life brilliantly, as does the emotional core of the play. The portraits on the wall, bureau in the corner, and samovar perpetually present on the dining table give a distinct impression of the era without being too distracting. The only downside of the stage design is that actors often have to squeeze past tables and chairs (and each other) in order to enter and exit. Nevertheless, the use of the space is effective.

There is excellent acting, particularly from Esme Mahoney (Yelena) and Cassandra Hodges (Sonya). Both have gravitas, a strong stage presence, and a firm grasp of their characters’ complexities. Hodges is particularly impressive in the final scene, delivering the closing lines in a bold and moving manner. Rory McCallum’s Serebryakov is both wearying and invigorating; Adrian Wheeler’s Vanya is dry-humoured and world-weary. All capture the inner conflicts of their character in a believable manner, making them sympathetic if not always likeable.

There are places where I wish things had come to life more vigorously. I wish that certain scenes weren’t so rushed, or that more was made of Chekhov’s frequent injections of humour. But these are minor points. On the whole it is very enjoyable – not perfect, but driven by a kind of energy and commitment that make it hard not to become invested.

So if you, like me, desperately need to improve your street cred by finally seeing some Chekhov, this is the show for you. Accessible, well-acted, and engaging: an ideal introduction to the work of a great and complex writer.


Reviewed by Harriet Corke

Reviewed – 25th April 2019

Photography by Cameron Harle


Uncle Vanya

Hope Theatre until 11th May


Last ten reviewed at this venue:
Medicine | ★★★ | August 2018
The Dog / The Cat | ★★★★★ | September 2018
The Lesson | ★★★★ | September 2018
Jericho’s Rose | ★★★½ | October 2018
Gilded Butterflies | ★★ | November 2018
Head-rot Holiday | ★★★★ | November 2018
Alternativity | ★★★★ | December 2018
In Conversation With Graham Norton | ★★★ | January 2019
The Ruffian On The Stair | ★★★★ | January 2019
Thrill Me: The Leopold & Loeb Story | ★★★★★ | April 2019


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Close Up – 3 Stars


Close Up

New Diorama Theatre

Reviewed – 18th February 2018


“this mixed-media performance does an adequate job at questioning our freedom of speech within the technological age”


In a world where sex and violence sells, where humiliation and ridicule have become the norm within the content we watch, you forget that there was once a time when strict laws against such matters were in place across the arts and media in this country. Odd Eyes Theatre’s new production, Close Up, examines the past and present to see whether pushing boundaries to the extreme has ultimately given us the freedom to profess ourselves as individuals. Written and directed by founding company member, Emilia Teglia, Close Up throws up an intriguing and timely conversation on what it means to be in the media within the 21st century and whether some of the restraints on the entertainment industry, 50 years ago, could be of benefit today.

Young and vivacious documentary maker Lauren (Sophie Delora Jones) is desperate to get her work signed with one of the big television networks. She hopes with her new project that she will finally be able to achieve this. Enter the elderly yet ever-so-glamorous ex-showgirl Grace (Gilly Daniels) who becomes the face and subject of Lauren’s film. Relaying stories of her youth, Grace reveals the adventurous life she had, including, touring the world whilst singing for the troops during WWII and her escapades on stage and television during the censorship years of the 50s and 60s. As Grace happily drifts through her memories, it is the metaphysical presence of her dear friend Kenneth Williams (played brilliantly by Andrew Goddard) that guides Grace through her newfound fame. However, the etiquette of television has somewhat changed from what Grace knew. Are Lauren and the immoral producer Jason (also portrayed by Goddard) exploiting Grace, all in the name of ‘entertainment’?

Considering Close Up is still in a work in progress stage, the performances given by each actor were extremely good. Hats off to Andrew Goddard for giving a tremendous go at portraying Kenneth Williams. It’s praiseworthy for the fact that Goddard does not try to completely mimic the comic actor, rather that he possesses the essence of Williams instead. To a younger audience that may have no or little idea of Kenneth Williams, some dialogue or in-jokes may go over their heads, however, having the millennial Lauren likewise unaware of who Kenneth Williams is, eliminates any risk of alienating part of the audience.

With the combined use of theatre, and live and prerecorded film, this mixed-media performance does an adequate job at questioning our freedom of speech within the technological age. Being a work in progress, there are areas within the plot that still need refining and reworking, however, the production is most definitely moving forward in the right direction. It will be compelling to see how it develops in the future.


Reviewed by Phoebe Cole


Close Up

New Diorama Theatre



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