Tag Archives: Isobel Nicolson

Winner's Curse

Winner’s Curse


Park Theatre

WINNER’S CURSE at the Park Theatre


Winner's Curse

“Anderson’s regular convivial contributions raise the tone, giving the sense that we’re simply having a lovely chat with an old friend”


Clive Anderson is just a pleasure to be in the company of. Never mind if he’s any good at acting, because despite the fact he’s introduced as Nobel Prize-winning negotiator, Hugo Leitski, he’s really just being his charming, endearing self.

Via the premise of giving a talk on international negotiations, Anderson takes us back to his first peace negotiation alongside dab hand Anton Korsakov, the first man to truly teach him the art, or as they say, the dance of negotiating. The story plays out between two countries in a 24-hour cease-fire, with Anderson loitering just outside the limelight, pleasantly interrupting on occasion to give the audience various tips and tricks, which they’re to practice on their neighbour.

I’ve come alone, and thus have to thumb-war with a stranger, but presumably most of the audience is bartering and thumb-warring with their friend or partner, a gentle form of audience participation which I think most people would be comfortable enough with.

Seeing as the disputing countries are made up, director Jez Bond is free to present them as he pleases. Costumes and names would suggest these countries are somewhere in Eastern Europe, but most characters speak in received pronunciation, whilst Nichola McAuliffe and Barrie Rutter use various regional accents. This encourages a much-needed silliness in the plot, which would otherwise be a rather tense tale of bureaucracy and personal selfishness.

The details of the dispute are a bit muddled, but we’re given to understand that they’re not especially important. What’s important is not what’s on the table, but rather who’s sitting round it. That being the case, I wouldn’t mind if the first half were a bit shorter, the warring dialogue cut to the absolute bare necessities, because as it stands, a lot of the chat is wasted on nonsense politics that have no bearing on the plot.

The characters in Winner’s Curse are what we’re supposed to be focusing on and, indeed, what writers Daniel Taub and Dan Patterson have done best. Each bringing their own grievances and quirks to the discussion, and each appearing to represent the types of people that might very well be in such a meeting: the jaded diplomat, the wide-eyed idealist, the young militant, and the embittered traditionalist.

This is Arthur Conti’s professional stage debut, but you’d never know it. Playing the young Hugo Leitski, he embodies the well-meaning, charming, but ultimately privileged and naïve apprentice. Coming from the National Youth Theatre, I’ve no doubt this is his first step in following past alumni such as Daniel Day Lewis, Collin Firth and Matt Smith.

Winnie Arhin excels in moments of high tension, but she seems slightly miscast as Conti’s love interest; the chemistry isn’t there, and in those more informal moments away from the negotiations she seems uncomfortable rather than playful.

Taub and Patterson lean a little too heavily on glib or silly one-liners- McAuliffe’s dialogue, for example, is largely made up of nonsense antimetaboles such as “Better to shoot your load than load your shoot”, or “better to clap your deal, than deal with the clap”, which grows tired quite quickly.

That being said, Anderson’s regular convivial contributions raise the tone, giving the sense that we’re simply having a lovely chat with an old friend. This is the first time Park Theatre has set up in the round, and it works perfectly for this gentle atmosphere, giving Anderson the opportunity to move freely. The revolving stage has a similar effect, allowing everyone a little piece of the action.

Whatever faults there are in this production, casting Anderson as the host is a stroke of brilliance, because you want to take whatever he’s serving, and so it feels easy enough to shrug off any plot holes, or casting issues, and simply enjoy his company for the evening


Reviewed on 13th February 2023

by Miriam Sallon

Photography by Alex Brenner



Previously reviewed at this venue:


Another America | ★★★ | April 2022
The End of the Night | ★★ | May 2022
Monster | ★★★★★ | August 2022
A Single Man | ★★★★ | October 2022
Pickle | ★★★ | November 2022
Rumpelstiltskin | ★★★★★ | December 2022
Wickies | ★★★ | December 2022


Click here to read all our latest reviews





Watermill Theatre

RAPUNZEL at the Watermill Theatre



“The second act just gets sillier. And the sillier it gets the more we enjoy it.”


There’s a joke, in the form of a flowchart, currently doing the rounds of social media about how to work out if it’s Christmas. Is it November? Yes? Then it’s not Christmas. The folks down at the Watermill Theatre have obviously missed this as they seem fully intent on delivering a sleigh-load of festive cheer into the heart of the Newbury woodlands. For them, the season has started. It’s time to forget the dark nights, and the darker state of the nation, and embrace the innocent joy that has been locked away for too long.

Annie Siddons’ “Rapunzel” has something for all the family. But Disney it ain’t. It is not quite Grimm either as it strays somewhat from the original German fairy tale. But still managing to keep the central plotlines fairly intact. We are in the rolling hills of Tuscany – not really known for its dense woodland and trumpet-playing pigs, but you have to suspend disbelief to have any chance at all of keeping up with the story. A story told with heart-warming exuberance by the half dozen actor musicians.

Mother Gothel (Miiya Alexandra) is not so much the wicked witch, but an overprotective mother with good intentions. When she becomes aware that Rapunzel (Tilly-Mae Millbrook) is on the verge of pubescence, her innate, maternal fears kick in. Of course: lock her up to protect her. “Because I love you” she reasons to her bamboozled daughter, and Rapunzel meekly takes it.

Meanwhile – on the other side of the forest the Duchess (Miiya Alexandra again) is practically kicking her two sons (Roddy Lynch’s Paulo and Loris Scarpa’s Patrizio) out of the door. Time to seek adventure. Some sort of sexual stereotyping is going on here, but it’s all so tongue in cheek you grin and bear it. Actually, you grin like the Cheshire Cat. By this time, it’s all wonderfully absurd. You almost expect Graham Chapman to burst in with his Monty Python catchphrase; “Stop that, it’s silly”.

Prince Patrizio is the sensitive, musical, mandolin-strumming one who, having misplaced his brother, hears Rapunzel singing in her tower, discovers a way to climb up… you know how it pans out. He scares her, soothes her, kisses her and, ‘Hey Presto’, this is love. Knowing asides swoop over the kids’ heads to be lapped up by the adults’ more knowledgeable (debatable) and experienced (doubtful) minds.

The script dates back to 2006, when Kneehigh put their inimitable stamp on it. This company respect and replicate the spirit. A few topical references have been added – political, of course – relating to taxes, inflation, chancellors, recession and so forth. “Thank God we’re in a fairy tale and not real life”. The fourth wall, already crumbling now gets pulverised, mainly thanks to the wonderfully hilarious Emma Barclay with her wry delivery and comic flair. The second act just gets sillier. And the sillier it gets the more we enjoy it.

Isobel Nicolson’s set adds to the magic of the evening, cleverly creating the illusion of height on the relatively small stage. The fine ensemble cast weave themselves up, down, above and beneath the rickety spiral staircase. Greenery sprouts and retreats, musical instruments appear and disappear. There’s a fair bit for the performers to think about, and occasionally it gets messy, but it’s a delightful messiness that we are glad to be tangled in.

Like the princes in the forest, you may occasionally lose your way among the anarchic mayhem that is “Rapunzel”. Even the Brothers Grimm had two alternative endings to the tale. This show twists it in another direction still. It is an enchanting show. Oh, and did I say it was silly?



Reviewed on 21st November 2022

by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Ben Wilkin




Previously reviewed at this venue:


Brief Encounter | ★★★ | October 2021
Spike | ★★★★ | January 2022
Whistle Down The Wind | ★★★★ | July 2022


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