Tag Archives: James Hastings

United Queendom


Kensington Palace

United Queendom

United Queendom

Kensington Palace

Reviewed – 2nd March 2020



“a fabulous and thoroughly enjoyable journey”


If you are lucky enough to have a ticket for this sold out show you are in for a treat. If you don’t have a ticket try and get a return.

Kensington Palace is the venue and, when you arrive, you will discover that you have been invited to the birthday party of King George the Second. A feast of delights awaits you! Will you meet the King? Or maybe Queen Caroline? You will definitely see them, and you will also see Henrietta Howard, the Queen’s mistress, and a host of characters from the Georgian court. The Necessary Woman, played by the irrepressible Christina Ngoyi, will escort you to the entrance to the palace. She will probably explain that her job is emptying the many chamber pots that are scattered around. She will be shooed away by Deven Modha, as the Lord Chamberlain, the most important of the King’s staff, as he will no doubt inform you. You’ll pick up a glass of wine, and the revels will begin. At the bottom of a grand staircase you will suddenly by surrounded by a flurry of skirts and wigs as courtiers appear and mingle with the crowd. You will be taught how to bow or curtsy, and maybe hear some hints of scandal. Senesino, the renowned court musician and composer will play virtuoso violin and, later, you will hear his beautiful counter tenor as he sings an aria that echoes and floats down the King’s staircase. James Hastings plays him with such sublime talent, and such wonderful theatricality, that you won’t want the music, to stop. Some of you will be given a golden envelope and ushered away to visit the King’s inner apartments. I don’t know what will happen to the rest of you, as there are two ‘tracks’ to the show and two different experiences. One thing is certain; you will have a fabulous time, whichever way you go.

We were treated to some hilarious court mischief, exposed to factions supporting the King or the Queen, and invited to a salon, where the women of the court hosted such great thinkers as Isaac Newton to talk. Deborah Tracey’s vibrant Salonnieres and the fusty old fashioned Duke of Newcastle, brilliantly played by Richard Holt, disagreed about whether the earth is round of flat. On the way round the palace we come across the Countess of Hertford, a supporter of the Queen, who wears men’s clothing and raps up a storm. Lucy Reynolds clearly has fun playing her, and is a joy. We discovered that Lord Harvey is rather a naughty boy, especially when he is with Miss Vane – Stephan Boyce and Nadia Sohawon really are deliciously scandalous in these roles. And yes, we met the King and Queen and, of course, Henrietta Howard. Lavinia Co-Op is archly camp George II, and Miranda Heath and Yasmin Keita, as the two women central to this story clash and face off like two birds of paradise in a sparkle of jewels and a ruffle of feathers. But is it possible that this ‘Queendom’ could be united? is there, perhaps, another way of doing things? You’ll just have to go and see it to find out. If you can get a ticket.

The costumes are glorious, the wigs and make-up a flamboyant delight. And the music is divine. Susan Kulkarni, Victoria Stride and Patrick Neil Doyle respectively are a dream team of creatives. Nadia Sohawon’s choreography adds to the mix, which manages to be both historically accurate and contemporarily relevant, lit with touch of magic by Pablo Fernandez Baz. And all brought together into a fabulous and thoroughly enjoyable journey through one night in the Georgian court by director Christa Harris. Amid all the uproarious glee we learned a lot too. Unmissable.


Reviewed by Katre

Photography by Gail Harland


United Queendom

Kensington Palace until 30th March


Last ten shows reviewed by Katre:
The Legend Of The Holy Drinker | ★★½ | The Vaults | January 2020
Beige | ★★★★ | The Vaults | February 2020
Gypsy Flame | ★★★ | Network Theatre | February 2020
In My Lungs The Ocean Swells | ★★★★ | The Vaults | February 2020
Killing It | ★★★★ | Network Theatre | February 2020
La Cage Aux Folles | ★★★★ | Park Theatre | February 2020
Life And Death  Of A Journalist | ★★★ | The Vaults | February 2020
Spree | ★★★★ | The Vaults | February 2020
The Upstart Crow | ★★★★★ | Gielgud Theatre | February 2020
Time And Tide | ★★★ | Park Theatre | February 2020

Click here to see our most recent reviews


The Trench – 3 Stars


The Trench

Southwark Playhouse

Reviewed – 16th October 2018


“a slick, impressive show, so long as you don’t dig too deep”


As the only tunneller awarded a Victoria Cross in the First World War, William Hackett provides inspiration, storyline and main character (renamed Bert) for this play by Oliver Lansley. Despite his heart condition, Hackett enlisted in late 1915. A few months later he was denied leave to visit his 14-year-old son, who had lost a leg in a mining accident. Then, on 22nd June 1916, he was trapped underground with four comrades by a German mine blast. Over several days he helped rescue three but died going back for the last.

In this already cheerless saga, the amputation is replaced by news from home of a baby lost in childbirth, heightening perhaps Bert’s motivation to save his much younger colleague. To ramp up the melodrama further, the journey unfolds via a solid hour of iambic pentameter, spoken mostly by Bert (Lansley himself) as he scrapes and writhes through a claustrophobic set, aided by the multiple stage skills of Edward Cartwright, James Hastings and Kadell Herida, who play his comrades. The entombed ensemble is accompanied by the brooding presence stage left of the show’s composer Alexander Wolfe riffing dolefully on guitars, with sad melodies on sundry instruments occasionally aided by the multi-talented Hastings.

If this sounds unremittingly gloomy, it is. On the upside, The Trench is the work of Les Enfant Terribles, a theatre company with its own brand of showmanship and production design. Samuel Wyer provides an explosion of visual ideas and techniques, which provide the energy needed for an otherwise plodding tale. Shadow puppetry is used especially well to depict sepulchral columns of doomed troops; high tension wires and projections combine to create a cinematic overhead camera effect as Bert stumbles through the mire of the battlefield. The team also depicts the horrors that Bert encounters with a series of demonic puppets resembling the rotting carcasses of rats and horses, culminating in a red dragon, a reference to the Red Dragon crater by which the area is still known.

It’s hard to think what William Hackett would make of all this. Most likely he would enjoy the technical flair along with everyone else and may have recognised, too, the Music Hall style rhyming monologue, sustained from ‘A species on extinction’s brink’ all the way through to ‘The flickering flame of fate has faded’. Hackett might even have recognised Oliver Lansley’s actor-manager function but if so, probably wouldn’t have recognised himself. Hackett’s photos online suggest a less commanding figure than the one portrayed and a more vulnerable performance would have raised the emotional engagement hugely.

The glorification of WW1’s futile sacrifices can become a divisive subject especially at this time of year, but there’s no escaping that this is a slick, impressive show, so long as you don’t dig too deep.


Reviewed by Dominic Gettins

Photography by Rah Petherbridge


The Trench

Southwark Playhouse until 17th November


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Bananaman | ★★★ | January 2018
Pippin | ★★★★ | February 2018
Old Fools | ★★★★★ | March 2018
The Country Wife | ★★★ | April 2018
Confidence | ★★ | May 2018
The Rink | ★★★★ | May 2018
Why is the Sky Blue? | ★★★★★ | May 2018
Wasted | ★★★ | September 2018
The Sweet Science of Brusing | ★★★★ | October 2018


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