Tag Archives: Harry Elletson

Annie Get Your Gun

Annie Get Your Gun


Lavender Theatre

ANNIE GET YOUR GUN at the Lavender Theatre


Annie Get Your Gun

“SuRie, as the gun-toting Annie, carries the show – nailing her character with gunslinging accuracy.”


There could potentially be a fair bit to censure in the 1950s American musical, “Annie Get Your Gun”, especially with modern audiences whose awareness of racism, sexism and cultural sensitivities have shifted since the musical was written. And Irving Berlin’s “The Girl That I Marry” would surely get even the laziest feminist pounding her twitter feed in rage at its undisguised misogyny and condescension towards women. And throwaway jokes about swindling Native Americans out of their oil? Come on! But that is a debate I’m not entering into here. Except to say that the creators behind the inaugural season at Lavender Theatre have rightly decided that we have the wit and imagination to know that we are watching something from a different age. We can cope. And Simon Hardwick’s production, surrounded by the purple haze of lavender fields, shoots down any pre-packed misgivings that people may have in a feel-good blaze of escapism and classic entertainment.

It’s hard to come across a more winning opener than “There’s no Business Like Show Business”, which builds from its mellow summer breeze into a gusty and gutsy chorus, framing the story within Buffalo Bill’s Wild West touring show. Elliot Broadfoot’s impressive presence as Buffalo Bill Cody keeps a tight rein on the action, pinpointing the chapters of what is essentially a good old-fashioned love story. Annie Oakley (SuRie) rocks up into a small town in Ohio, and with her extraordinary shooting skills, catches the attention of champion marksman Frank Butler (Charlie McCullagh). The two are instantly smitten, but when Annie’s rising star begins to outshine Frank’s, the trouble starts.

SuRie, as the gun-toting Annie, carries the show – nailing her character with gunslinging accuracy. Gamine, yet sassily aware of her femininity, her charisma hangs over the stage like aromatic gunpowder. SuRie is clearly “Doin’ What Comes Natur’lly”. Equally believable is McCullagh’s Frank Butler. The chemistry between the two cautions us to stand back while sparks fly yet draws us in close to get a true feel for their inescapable magnetism. Drawn into their orbit are a fine cast. Frank’s spurned, scheming assistant, Dolly Tate, is gilded with Chlöe Hart’s comedic flair, while Jay Faisca’s ‘Chief Sitting Bull’ has a self-deprecating gravitas that gives a nod and a wink to the caricature he could be, yet still staying believable.

The open-air setting lends an appropriate festival feel, though more village fete than rodeo. It is as the sun sets that the magic filters through, conjured by and large by Berlin’s iconic songs. The classic foot tappers cannot fail to plant a smile on us, while the more stripped back, softer numbers dig deeper. SuRie’s vocals come into their own during “Moonshine Lullaby”, for example, or “I Got Lost in His Arms”, before rising to the duel of “Anything You Can Do (I Can Do Better)” with McCullagh – a fabulous moment of affectionate rivalry and harmonic one-upmanship.

Everybody wins. The guy gets the girl, and the girl gets her man (after learning, of course, that “You Can’t Get a Man with a Gun”). The real winners are the audience. It is a little bit out in the sticks, but that shouldn’t stop anyone making the effort to get there. “Let’s Go On With the Show… Everything about it is appealing”. The newly formed Lavender Theatre are on to a winner with this well aimed revival, that hits the mark.



Reviewed on 21st July 2023

by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Harry Elletson


Recently reviewed by Jonathan:


Once On This Island | ★★★★ | Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre | May 2023
Gypsy | ★★★★★ | The Mill at Sonning | June 2023
Robin Hood: The Legend. Re-Written | ★★ | Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre | June 2023
Stumped | ★★★★ | Hampstead Theatre | June 2023
Tarantino Live: Fox Force Five & The Tyranny Of Evil Men | ★★★★★ | Riverside Studios | June 2023
The Crucible | ★★★★ | Gielgud Theatre | June 2023
The Mikado | ★★★★ | Wilton’s Music Hall | June 2023
The Swell | ★★★★ | Orange Tree Theatre | June 2023
The Third Man | ★★★ | Menier Chocolate Factory | June 2023
The Sun Will Rise | ★★★ | Riverside Studios | July 2023
Run to the Nuns – The Musical | ★★★★ | Riverside Studios | July 2023
Operation Mincemeat | ★★★★★ | Fortune Theatre | July 2023


Click here to read all our latest reviews


Peter Smith’s Diana

Soho Theatre

PETER SMITH’S DIANA at the Soho Theatre

Peter Smith's Diana - Peter in black leather jacket seated

“Smith is best when funny – their quips are witty and well timed – but these moments are few and far between.”


Peter Smith’s DIANA is probably the most confusing show I’ve ever seen. Primarily because I don’t know who it’s meant for – certainly not lovers of the late princess or those interested in the impact of her persona. The performance is too wild, too unkept, for their liking. The genre too is muddled – are we watching cabaret, comedy, experimental theatre, spoken word, interpretive dance? Throughout the ‘play’ (and I use that word lightly), the audience is subjected to all sorts of…stuff…with no one thing ever reflected on long enough to really pack a punch.

The show has a promising start. Smith walks casually onto stage – the house lights still up – and speaks about their interest in Diana’s lost voice – a woman so visible yet so silenced. They rattle off four quotes from secret interviews which personally resonate with him. Logically, it is assumed that these four quotes will form four acts within the performance, a tether through which to always ground the performance in the life of the People’s Princess.

Unfortunately, this is not the case. Two of the aforementioned quotes feature in Smith’s winding monologue but there is no structure, no clear link. Recognisable mantras do not tie the piece together but rather offer the audience some respite – finally, something we understand! That is not to say that there is anything wrong with something interpretive, but Smith’s piece is so unrelenting, so lacking in moments of reflection, that it makes it hard to not be anything other than completely baffled. In one brief moment of silence after a particularly vigorous rant, a loud ‘what?’ was heard from the front row which perfectly summed it all up, to be honest.

There are recurrent themes – death, the ego, bodily autonomy – which, with some squinting, you can relate to the late Princess of Wales. Smith’s character in itself is confusing. Are they Diana? Are they a married woman of two children, as they proclaim? Presumably, their shifting persona is to highlight the many different groups who saw Diana as their icon. However, with no distinction, even in body language, no one perspective ever comes into view.

Positively, Smith’s energy is hugely impressive. The show’s pace is high, and their speech impassioned. They jump into song with ease – they have a terrific voice – though the ditties’ relevance can’t always be deciphered. One was about women on Sundays. No, I don’t know either! Smith is best when funny – their quips are witty and well timed – but these moments are few and far between.

Five florescent light sticks create the impression of a set and props. They are a boat, a bedroom, a cigarette, a microphone. They change colour – from harsh white to warm orange to aggressive red – and flash and strobe when Smith’s ego is challenged. One assumes that the lights represent the new light shone on Diana’s life through her clandestine interviews but, like Smith’s unclear character, this is metaphor is lost amongst all the other random musings.

Costume changes are abundant. There is a certain erotism to their regular undressing – for much of the performance, Smith is shirtless in lace pantyhose – and they at one point writhe around on a makeshift bed before throwing hot wax on their leg to signify semen. Their best outfit is a puffy white gown – at first thought to be Diana’s famous wedding dress but actually more akin to a vintage clown costume. Spectacle is certainly a notable theme throughout – there is an interesting discussion on the relationship between performer and audience – but it is unfortunately another weak musing amongst a lot of unrelated drivel.

In short, what does Peter Smith’s DIANA really say? There’s certainly a lot of words and countless topics discussed – TikTok, AIDS, Barbra Streisand, paedophilia, phones – but what we should pay heed to is completely unclear. The links to Princess Diana are tenuous it feels almost insulting to use her name in its title. Proceed with caution – this is probably not the show for you!


Reviewed on 18th July 2023

by Flora Doble

Photography by Harry Elletson



Previously reviewed at this venue:


Bloody Elle | ★★★★★ | July 2023
Britanick | ★★★★★ | February 2023
Le Gateau Chocolat: A Night at the Musicals | ★★★★ | January 2023
Welcome Home | ★★★★ | January 2023
Super High Resolution | ★★★ | November 2022
We Were Promised Honey! | ★★★★ | November 2022
Hungry | ★★★★★ | July 2022
Oh Mother | ★★★★ | July 2022
Y’Mam | ★★★★ | May 2022
An Evening Without Kate Bush | ★★★★ | February 2022


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