Tag Archives: Grace Taylor



Upstairs at the Gatehouse

IN CLAY at Upstairs at the Gatehouse


“a hugely enjoyable and upbeat production, despite the moving subject matter”

The cosy pub venue is transformed by set designer Rachael Ryan into an artist’s studio/kitchen with dark wood shelves, stylishly chaotic pots and a potter’s wheel.

A live band of guitar, violin, double bass and piano sit snugly in the corner.

A woman enters, draped in a huge knitted cardigan, and linen trousers (costume also by Rachael Ryan). She is the picture of a chicly messy artist. With a thick French accent she begins to sing. I’ll admit, I’m a little doubtful.

But by the end of the first song Rosalind Ford has us in the palm of her hand.

The story is poignant, and true. The play follows the life story of Marie-Berthe Cazin, an early 20th century French ceramicist, whose work was often misattributed to the men in her life.

The shape of the piece is well crafted by writer Rebecca Simmonds, beginning with Marie waiting for the arrival of her childhood friend, acclaimed painter Henrietta Tirman, and then flashing back to tell the story of their friendship and Marie’s life.

The lyrics, written by Simmonds, and Jack Miles, are occasionally a little neat. However, the strength of Miles’ music transports the audience and give the songs an incredible emotive power.

Crucially however, Rosalind Ford as Marie is sublime. She is warm and full of life, dashing about the stage with cheerful mischief, assisted by clever direction from Grace Taylor. Her passion is overt – the song about discovering her love of ceramics is downright sexy. She is a captivating performer, who holds our attention right through this one woman musical.

This is the story of one female artist, but likely the story of many. It explores creativity, jealousy and the purpose of artistic talent. But it does so lightly, and with charm, making it a hugely enjoyable and upbeat production, despite the moving subject matter.

IN CLAY at Upstairs at the Gatehouse

Reviewed on 15th March 2024

by Auriol Reddaway

Photography by Felix Mosse



Previously reviewed at this venue:

SONGS FOR A NEW WORLD | ★★★ | February 2024
YOU’RE A GOOD MAN, CHARLIE BROWN | ★★ | December 2023
HOW TO BUILD A BETTER TULIP | ★★ | November 2022
FOREVER PLAID | ★★★★ | June 2021



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Fanatical – The Musical – 3 Stars

Fanatical - The Musical

Fanatical – The Musical

The Playground Theatre

Reviewed – 14th November 2018


“It all makes for a lively atmosphere, with a cast who seem to be having the time of their lives”


For the uninitiated, it’s worth swotting up before a visit to Fanatical. It deals tenderly with the worlds of cosplay, fandom and sci-fi; come prepared with your Lord of the Rings and Star Wars references brushed up. Be in no doubt: what you sign up for here is a heartfelt love letter to sci-fi and fandoms everywhere.

Fanatical is a musical set amidst the high pressure, high excitement atmosphere of a convention of sci-fi enthusiasts – in this case, ardent supporters of the (fictional, but incredibly fully-realised) world of space comic Angel 8. We too are immersed, brought along as newly adopted fans; gorgeously detailed comic art and digital projections of a really remarkable quality sweep us into the narrative.

A comic convention may seem an odd setting for a musical, but this high-energy cast make it all make sense. So high energy in fact that at times, in the relatively small confines of Latimer Road’s Playground Theatre, the volume and sheer vigour of the music felt somewhat overpowering. Audiences should be prepared for the double earnestness of musical theatre and cosplay (a fan-driven world where enthusiasts craft their own costumes) – indeed, kudos goes to those audience members in their own space-themed outfits.

It all makes for a lively atmosphere, with a cast who seem to be having the time of their lives. Especial note must go to Suanne Braun as Trix, who acts as a linchpin in both character and performance. Her laugh-out-loud rendition of ‘Any Moment Now’ was without question the highlight of the night, as Trix attempts seduction with Miranda-esque levels of awkwardness.

Writers Matt Board and Reina Hardy say in the programme that this show has been a long time in the making. It’s clear, with the attention to detail (our comic characters have animated avatars, theme music, life stories), that Fanatical is the result of a labour of love. Perhaps that love may have added to the occasional loss of discernment. The musical could be shorter and some songs, inevitably, are weaker. Overall there is certainly more filler than killer. Coming Up Next and Self-Aware are some of the toe-tappers, with the latter seeing Tim Rogers as Craig going in for some snarling judgement of the geeks. Similarly the lyrics to the excellent Nobody’s Watching, spat out with relish by Stephen Frost as frustrated writer Scott Furnish, are great fun. As ever, the bad guys get the best songs.

With less accomplished performers, this show might just tip into being an evening of self-indulgent geekery. Strong vocal and acting performances avoid this, and the cast’s abundant enthusiasm carries its audience irresistibly along.


Reviewed by Abi Davies

Photography by Scott Rylander


Fanatical – The Musical

The Playground Theatre until 8th December




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