Tag Archives: Harriet Bunton

The Twiggy Musical

Close Up – The Twiggy Musical


Menier Chocolate Factory

CLOSE UP – THE TWIGGY MUSICAL at the Menier Chocolate Factory


The Twiggy Musical

“We do also feel light footed and energised such is the fun factor of the production, which boasts an impressive line-up of performers”

The overriding feeling coming out of the theatre having just witnessed “Close-Up: The Twiggy Musical” is of wanting to find the nearest police station to report a missing person. There was once an award-winning author, playwright, comedian, satirist, social commentator, observationist – with an astute and sharp mind. His name is credited in the programme as the writer, but there appears to be little trace of Ben Elton’s involvement, except for a sweeping pastiche of his trademark style here and there. We wonder if he passed the task onto a lazy sixth-former. And then we wonder how the book would have made it through the first week of rehearsals without being questioned by the director… oh hang on – Elton is the director.

Maybe ‘overriding feeling’ is a bit harsh. We do also feel light footed and energised such is the fun factor of the production, which boasts an impressive line-up of performers. It is quite a whirlwind tour of the back story of one Lesley Hornby with a few stopovers at certain landmarks on the way. Much of Twiggy’s life story is already known, but here the chain of events rewinds further still – to her parents meeting in the thirties, surviving the London Blitz and some choice moments of Twiggy’s childhood and schooldays. A retrospective, predominantly narrated by Elena Skye who personifies the iconic image we have of Twiggy, even though the character is reminiscing from today’s perspective.

We witness the professional and the personal. Her serendipitous discovery and rise to fame as a teenage model, her ill-fated relationship with the controlling and self-aggrandising boyfriend/manager, Justin de Villeneuve. Her parent’s support throughout her career, her mother’s depression. Her success on stage and screen, her shadowy moments locked in marriage to the alcoholic screen-star, Michael Whitney. The facts are fascinating and revealing. Many well-known areas are covered but there are insights into the dark corners too, all illuminated by the strong supporting cast and ensemble. Justin de Villeneuve is given a particularly hard time, which Matt Corner takes on with a cheeky, mocking self-deprecation. Darren Day’s self-destructive Whitney has moments of poignancy, which are manifested most strongly in song. The two stand outs are Hannah-Jane Fox and Steven Serlin as Nell and Norman Hornby respectively – Twiggy’s mum and dad.

“Elena Skye certainly knows how to put a song across, and the ensemble numbers are striking”

There is far too much unnecessary cross referencing of the ‘then and now’. Yes, we all know it was ‘different times’ then. The only refreshing twist on this conceit is when the father quips: ‘The show must go on. That’s what they say. Well, at least they did back then’. In that short remark we get a glimpse of the subtle insight that Elton is capable of, with what is a real and relevant indictment of the changing attitudes and their current effects on the theatre industry. But overall, Elton is thrusting over simplified lessons on socio-economic history at us, while glibly exploring issues such as alcoholism or post-natal depression. There is a positively surreal song and dance routine while Nell is receiving electroconvulsive treatment. And then suddenly we find ourselves in a fifties style episode of ‘Grange Hill’.

Despite racing through the song list like an extended medley of hits, there are moments where poignancy can show itself through the musical refrains. Elena Skye certainly knows how to put a song across, and the ensemble numbers are striking. The repertoire is pretty suitable on the whole, with only a few numbers showing the bruises from the shoehorn Elton is so keen on using. Some key cultural moments are glossed over while some are given too much airtime. And two and a half hours in we are suddenly offered a rapid ‘summing up’. Followed by an upbeat song and dance number.

The show does indeed end on a high that is greeted with a standing ovation. They say, ‘don’t kick someone when you’re down’. There is much to fault in this musical but, hey – the show can handle all the flak. It’s a sure-fire hit. And why not? It’s a brilliantly executed five-star show; with top-notch production values, wonderful performances, and a juke-box full of fabulous music. Just a preposterous one-star book.

CLOSE UP – THE TWIGGY MUSICAL at the Menier Chocolate Factory

Reviewed on 28th September 2023

by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Manuel Harlan



Previously reviewed at this venue:

The Third Man | ★★★ | June 2023
The Sex Party | ★★★★ | November 2022
Legacy | ★★★★★ | March 2022
Habeas Corpus | ★★★ | December 2021
Brian and Roger | ★★★★★ | November 2021

Close Up

Close Up

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Fiddler on the Roof (Cast Change)

Playhouse Theatre

Fiddler on the Roof (Cast Change)

Fiddler on the Roof (Cast Change)

Playhouse Theatre

Reviewed – 22nd June 2019



Friedman’s formidable presence is the perfect complement to Tevye; one that no Matchmaker could cap.”


Almost before Trevor Nunn’s “Fiddler on the Roof” opened last December at the Menier Chocolate Factory, it had ‘West End Transfer’ stamped all over it. Three months on from its relocation to the Playhouse Theatre it is still a richly deserved hot ticket. Settling into the larger space, the show has thankfully lost none of the intimacy and passion: there is always the fear of over-projection, but the subtlety and attention to detail of this production is beautifully intact, gently immersing the audience into the small Russian village of Anatevka in 1905.

Designer Robert Jones’ set – a ramshackle Jewish shtetl – spills out into the auditorium; the smokey darkness of the crooked wooden buildings backed by a foreboding bank of bare woodland, yet overlain with folk-tale lanterns and Tim Lutkin’s time-shifting lighting that conjures both the chilly light of an uncertain dawn with heart-warming twilight. A true reflection of the town folk’s stoicism in the face of their impending resettlement. Trevor Nunn has conjured up the perfect mix of mockery and menace in this atmospheric revival.

Based on the stories of one of the most famous and beloved of all Jewish writers; Sholem Aleichem, the story centres on Tevye, a poor Jewish dairyman, forever questioning ‘Tradition’, and the mysterious ways in which God moves. A patriarchal figure, his refusal to bend to the changing times is slowly eroded by the strong-willed actions of his daughters, who rebel against the custom of arranged marriage and choose to marry for love. Although he never quite lets go, Tevye’s grip on his heritage is increasingly fragile. Andy Nyman gives a stunningly natural and captivating performance of this central role. Whilst making light of his plight with precision-timed quips and asides, we are also continuously aware of his fear of the threat of exile and, more poignantly, his love for his wife and daughters.

In its first major cast change since the transfer Maria Friedman takes over as his wife Golde. Friedman’s formidable presence is the perfect complement to Tevye; one that no Matchmaker could cap. Their onstage chemistry evokes the hard-won intimacy built from the ups and downs of a twenty-five-year marriage; culminating in the tender self-realisation of their duet “Do You Love Me?” Friedman again pours the liquid gold of her voice over the achingly angelic “Sunrise, Sunset”, one of the choral highlights. In fact, the entire company do wonderful justice to Jerry Bock’s sumptuous score, with a sensitive, but never sentimental, interpretation of Sheldon Harnick’s lyrics. Molly Osbourne and Nicola Brown as the daughters Tzeitel and Chava are joined by Ellie Mullane impressively stepping in as Hodel. The three sisters give heartfelt performances, accentuating the satire often missed in “Matchmaker, Matchmaker”. The village matchmaker is indeed central to the story, and her role is made more vital by Anita Dobson who takes on the mantle with a thrilling energy, showing us her dab hand at comic timing.

But beneath this musical portrait of family and community is the solemn undercurrent of violence, anti-Semitism and persecution; sadly still all too pertinent. Matt Cole’s choreography, paying homage to Jerome Robbins’ original, shows how rapidly high spirits can descend into oppressed chaos, particularly when a vodka-soaked wedding dance is broken by the arrival of a vicious tsarist pogrom at the close of the first act. A threat that is taken to its tragic conclusion in the final scenes.

The human touch easily sits alongside the disturbing historical commentary. Yet, despite the epic themes, the staging of this production lends real intimacy to a thousand seat venue, and by avoiding the temptation to overplay to the rafters the emotional impact touches the heart with much more force. Its message is clear; but what is equally clear is that this quite simply is still a triumph of a show. Musical theatre at its best. Matchless.


Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Johan Persson


Playhouse Theatre

Fiddler on the Roof

Playhouse Theatre until 2nd November


Last ten shows covered by this reviewer:
Elegies For Angels, Punks And Raging Queens | ★★★ | Union Theatre | May 2019
Mycorrhiza | ★★★ | The Space | May 2019
The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button | ★★★★★ | Southwark Playhouse | May 2019
The Talented Mr Ripley | ★★★★ | Wilton’s Music Hall | May 2019
Vincent River | ★★★★ | Trafalgar Studios | May 2019
Pictures Of Dorian Gray (B) | ★★★ | Jermyn Street Theatre | June 2019
The Flies | ★★★ | The Bunker | June 2019
The Importance Of Being Earnest | ★★★★ | Tabard Theatre | June 2019
The Decorative Potential Of Blazing Factories (Film) | ★★★ | The Coronet Theatre | June 2019
Bitter Wheat | ★★★★ | Garrick Theatre | June 2019

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