Tag Archives: Hannah Chissick



Charing Cross Theatre



Charing Cross Theatre

Reviewed – 8th May 2019



“there is a joy in seeking out the satirical bites beneath the whimsical coating”


Michel Legrand, who sadly passed away at the beginning of the year, was a prolific composer who, having written over two hundred film and television scores, only made his theatre debut in his late sixties with his musical fantasy, “Amour”, as it has come to be called. Bearing all the hall marks of a labour of love, it started life as a bijou musical based on the short story, “Le Passe Muraille”, by Marcel Aymé. A hit in Paris, it unfortunately didn’t travel well when it was given the Broadway treatment. Despite Jeremy Sams’ reshaping of the operetta, its modesty and style couldn’t really cope on Broadway and it closed after two weeks. It is essentially a chamber piece, and still remains so, which is why its Gallic charm fits perfectly under the arches of Charing Cross Station.

It is beautifully staged here by director Hannah Chissick and it certainly recaptures the show’s original dreamlike and wistful atmosphere. Sung through entirely, we rely on Sams’ libretto for the story, in which an unassuming office worker becomes a modern day ‘Robin Hood’ folk hero. Arriving home after work one evening, Dusoleil (Gary Tushaw) discovers he can walk through walls. Although initially seeking a cure for this from his doctor, he decides to use his powers to his advantage; stealing bread and jewels to give to the whores and street vendors of the town, but ultimately to win the heart of his beloved Isabelle (Anna O’Byrne).

The surreal and fairy-tale atmosphere is matched by Legrand’s hypnotic melodies while Sams’ lyrics are crafted to perfection; bristling with internal and external rhymes. But just when you think you are getting too much tongue-twisting cleverness, we are soothed by the legato of a love song. Tushaw leads the show with a presence that has hints of Chaplin and Tati, yet his voice has its own character entirely, simultaneously clear as cut-glass but smooth as an oak-cask single malt. Similarly, O’Byrne’s soprano is the perfect accompaniment. Although essentially the story of the man who walks through walls, Tushaw generously doesn’t pull focus, and the ensemble nature of the show lets us have a taste of each character; from Claire Machin’s tart-with-a-heart through to Alasdair Harvey’s chief prosecutor with a shady past; Jack Reitman’s dodgy doctor and, of course, the Gendarmes. Like the story that, thankfully, avoids a predictable ending, the medley of stock characters avoid caricature – testament to the uniformly strong and nuanced performances.

On the surface this could appear overly lightweight, yet there is more to it than meets the eye and there is a joy in seeking out the satirical bites beneath the whimsical coating. It is an engrossing production, with definite surreal touches, enhanced by Adrian Gee’s set and costume design that befittingly evokes a Magritte painting. Yet as witty and thought provoking as it is, the underlying love story doesn’t quite pull at the heart strings quite as it should, although the endearing qualities of this mad cap musical certainly warm the heart.


Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Scott Rylander



Charing Cross Theatre until 20th July


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Harold and Maude | ★★★★ | February 2018
It Happened in Key West | ★★ | July 2018
Mythic | ★★★★ | October 2018
Violet | ★★ | January 2019


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Mother Courage and her Children

Southwark Playhouse

Reviewed – 6th November 2017


“Lawrence articulates to the audience a character with steely determination and an innate inner strength”


Hailed by some as the best play of the last hundred years, I was excited to see this performance. The story follows a mother who is determined to make a living and protect her children through the barbaric Thirty Years’ War by any means available to her.

The scene is immediately set as you are led into the auditorium by ushers dressed as soldiers. The stage is a central walkway with seating on either side. As you enter, a boy is playing centre stage with toy soldiers alongside Barney George’s set of scaffolding, dirty tarpaulin, rope and smoke, illustrating the desolate landscape of war.

Part of the staging (and large portions of the play) are performed on a mezzanine level behind one half of the audience. If you are sat on this side it is almost impossible to watch without straining your neck or annoying the person next to you! This I felt was a strange decision from director Hannah Chissick and actually unnecessary as the main performance on the central stage and aisles worked well.

Josie Lawrence puts on a strong performance as Mother Courage. She articulates to the audience a character with steely determination and an innate inner strength that enables her to survive and adapt to whatever the war torn environment throws at her. She displays a huge range of emotions from deepest sadness to frustrated anger and uses quick witted humour to build relationships and diffuse dangerous situations. It is a remarkable feat given that she is centre stage for much of the 3 hours of the production.

Phoebe Vigor who plays Kattrin shows off her acting abilities by giving a stand out performance as the mute daughter. Using only facial expressions you feel her emotion and heartache without her actually uttering a word. You sense the depth of her helplessness and frustration whenever she sets foot on stage.

Laura Checkley playing Yvette brings life to the stage as the loud quick-witted prostitute. She commands the stage with a swagger and a sharp tongue that leaves the men she encounters a quivering wreck.

I enjoyed the performance but felt that something was lacking … perhaps not being able to see some of the acting didn’t help? It was also very long. Too long. To keep the audience engaged for the full 3 hours it needs to have much greater pace and stronger performances from the supporting actors.


Reviewed by Angela East

Photography by Scott Rylander






is at Southwark Playhouse until 9th December



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