Tag Archives: Holly Hughes


Union Theatre



Union Theatre

Reviewed – 20th March 2019



“excellent acting, purposeful direction and evocative visuals”


Spurred by the centenary of the Amritsar massacre, Phil Willmott sets this tragic tale of love, jealousy and vengeance in India during the British Raj, casting Othello as an Officer – one of the few Indian soldiers who made it through training at Sandhurst and back to a position of command in the British army. Within the rich tapestry of plot, characters and language Shakespeare epitomises the malevolent aspect of human nature, sparked by its undermining negative feelings of resentment, envy and insecurity. He also brings to light the subject of racism and in this production, we are reminded of the abhorrent attitude towards Indians in their own country. Inferior in rank and whose lower-class British background prevents any hope of promotion, Iago seethes with rancour and orchestrates those around him in an evil revenge; Othello, weakened by self-doubt, falls into the trap.

The scene is set with a tastefully oriental design and some strongly patriotic piano playing. But once the plot begins to unfurl, the background fades. Despite the resetting, it is the words which define the narrative and the dimensions and balance of the characters which bring context. Matthew Wade creates the impression of a young, earnest General, helplessly in love; he lacks the majestic quality of the original experienced warrior which makes his downfall by a malicious, conniving underdog so tragic. Rikki Lawton’s powerful rendering of a more identifiably modern Iago dominates the action and his psychopathic nature eclipses a personal hatred, making Othello simply another of his victims. With his significance diminished, this becomes Iago’s story.

Despite the imbalance we can enjoy the colonial flavour through the atmospheric set (Justin Williams and Jonny Rust), Zoe Burnham’s sublime, cinematographic lighting, detailed costumes, (Penn O’Gara) and solid, nuanced interpretations all round. In particular, Jerome Dowling’s Cassio wins our empathy as he is caught unawares in Iago’s net. As Desdemona, Carlotta De Gregori portrays the incomprehension and suffering of her husband’s turn of face with great sensitivity, but her initial coquettish behaviour towards him only hinders our perception of his standing. And a spirited Emilia (Claire Lloyd) adds plausibility to the era through her accent and demeanour, though fails to grow into the play’s increasing tension.

This modern take on ‘Othello’ has all the ingredients of success – some excellent acting, purposeful direction and evocative visuals – but as a consequence of the weight of importance between Iago and Othello on stage, it is in retrospect rather than a reaction to the drama that we feel the relevance of Willmott’s fresh approach.


Reviewed by Joanna Hetherington

Photography by Scott Rylander



Union Theatre until 6th April


Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
The Cherry Orchard | ★★★★ | March 2018
Twang!! | ★★★★ | April 2018
H.R.Haitch | ★★★★ | May 2018
It’s Only Life | ★★★★ | June 2018
Around the World in Eighty Days | ★★★ | August 2018
Midnight | ★★★★★ | September 2018
Brass | ★★★★ | November 2018
Striking 12 | ★★★★ | December 2018
An Enemy of the People | ★★ | January 2019
Can-Can! | ★★★★ | February 2019


Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com


Shit-faced Showtime: Oliver With a Twist! -3 Stars


Shit-faced Showtime: Oliver With a Twist!

Leicester Square Theatre

Reviewed – 5th September 2018


“an excellent format for a boozy night out with friends”


Continuing their now regular slot at the Leicester Square theatre, the Sh*t-Faced Showstoppers have swapped the boozy bard for drunken Dickens. If you haven’t heard of this now notorious troupe, five actors take to the stage to perform a classical theatre piece. The only catch is that one of them is very drunk. The group are most well-known for their take on Shakespeare classics; however this version of the Dickens musical drew just as big a crowd as most of their shows.

As you can imagine, or may well know, these shows are loose and riotous. The theatre itself has four bars, and it took fifteen minutes after the scheduled start time for the audience to move from the bar into their seats. The tacky set design with window etchings such as ‘Dickolas Dickleby woz ere’ further indicated what the audience were to expect. Indeed, what this group have created is an excellent format for a boozy night out with friends. The atmosphere in the room before the show was excitable, and the audience were free to shout and get involved. I was seated with beer in hand ready for whatever carnage may unfold.

The general consensus in the room was that most people enjoyed it, which was clear from the general hysteria in the room. Sadly, for me, I rather felt like the only sober person at a party full of jolly and drunk acquaintances. The drunken actor, playing Oliver Twist, slurred plenty of lines and went off on ludicrous tangents, speaking to the audience about subjects that had nothing to do with the play. It was a controlled mess which most people loved, however I felt rather short changed. Aside from the one inebriated actor, there wasn’t much to enjoy. The show appeared to be framed in a way that tailored best to the drunken actor, with short and simplified scenes that had plenty of room to allow them to be as silly as they want. Perhaps if it was the other way round, and the actor had to navigate themselves through a very tight-knit and nuanced show, I would have found it more entertaining.

The company has a unique premise, and indeed a crop of great talent. Their format has already achieved great success and looks as if it will continue to do so. If you are someone looking for a funny night out with friends, maybe a cultural pit-stop before a big night out, get yourself a ticket. If you are a theatre fan looking a comedic spin on some of your favourite shows, and you decide to go, maybe have a few drinks before.


Reviewed by Edward Martin

Photography by Rah Petherbridge


Shit-faced Showtime: Oliver With a Twist!

Leicester Square Theatre until 9th September


Sh*t-faced Shakespeare reviews
The Merchant of Venice | ★★★★ | April 2018
Romeo and Juliet | ★★★★ | June 2018


Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com