Tag Archives: Joanna Murray–Smith



Cockpit Theatre



Cockpit Theatre

Reviewed – 17th August 2019



“There’s a huge range of emotions evoked here, and the script is sharp enough that we see these feelings constantly shifting and evolving as they are expressed”


Written by Joanna Murray-Smith and directed by Sarah Howard, Bombshells is a one-woman show that tells the stories of four very different women. These characters are each brought to life in four separate monologues brilliantly delivered by Laura Ashenden.

Meryl Louise Davenport is struggling with three children, one of them a young baby, and wrestling with conflicting feelings about being a bad mother. She desperately loves her kids but feels judged by other mums. And she desperately needs a coffee…

Tiggy Entwistle is at a public-speaking event, making a presentation about her keen appreciation of cacti, but keeps being distracted by her recent break-up. She finds that succulents and lost love suddenly have everything in common…

Australian Theresa McTerry is about to be married. Squeezing into her wedding dress, she tried to convince us – and herself – how much she adores Ted and cannot wait to be his wife. But then it dawns on her what she’s letting herself in for…

Finally, Zoe Struthers is a Brooklyn-based singer, on tour and on stage, trying to keep her career afloat…

In a highly expressive performance that draws out every nuance of the clever writing, Laura Ashenden reveals the joy and despair that lurk in unexpected moments just beneath the surface of daily life. There’s a huge range of emotions evoked here, and the script is sharp enough that we see these feelings constantly shifting and evolving as they are expressed. A roller-coaster spectacle this energetic must have been exhausting to deliver across eighty minutes, but you’d never know it from the sheer energy on display.

The simple set consists of a dressing table, a clothes rail and – most strikingly – a colour-coded circle of high-heeled shoes from within which the monologues are relayed. Two of the pieces feature live music from a singer/guitarist and a drummer, which adds a certain richness to the ‘wedding party’ and ‘live-in-concert’ segments.

The opening story is the most effective and really gets inside the pressures and pains of new parenthood, with all the self-doubt and uncertainty that accompanies a life turned upside down. The closing story seems the weakest, with the least room for its protagonist to develop, perhaps because the parts that are sung prevent the rapid-fire verbal outpourings that make the other personalities so three-dimensional.

The strongest monologues blend brash humour and insightful observation with a touching pathos and vulnerability. The characters become fully believable people you recognise and sympathise with. By peering into these four women’s inner lives, Bombshells helps us better understand our own.


Reviewed by Stephen Fall

Photography by Robert Piwko


Camden Fringe


Cockpit Theatre until 18th August as part of Camden Fringe 2019


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Don’t You Dare! | ★★★ | November 2018
Unbelonger | ★★★½ | November 2018
L’Incoronazione Di Poppea | ★★★★ | January 2019
Mob Wife: A Mafia Comedy | ★★★ | January 2019
Cheating Death | ★★ | February 2019
Bed Peace: The Battle Of Yohn & Joko | ★★★ | April 2019
Lysistrata | ★★ | June 2019
Much Ado About Not(h)Ing | ★★★ | June 2019
Alpha Who? | ★★★ | August 2019
The Ideal Woman | ★★ | August 2019

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Honour – 3 Stars



Park Theatre

Reviewed – 30th October 2018


“doesn’t use the opportunity of a revival to explore deeper the rage and disappointment bubbling under the script’s surface”


‘Honour’ is a topical and gripping four-hander that paints an honest portrait of middle-class life collapsing in on itself. Witty and erudite, Joanna Murray-Smith’s script, here revived after a successful National Theatre production in 2003, retains its relevance and is even enhanced playing now in a society were gender politics and the nature of relationships have moved firmly into the spotlight.

Henry Goodman plays George, an affable, “pretentiously casual” writer and intellectual being interviewed for a volume on ‘great minds’ by the ambitious and direct Claudia (Katie Brayben). Her presence in George’s life aggressively rocks the comfortable middle-class boat he and his writer wife Honour (Imogen Stubbs) have been cruising in for the last thirty-two years, and George’s decision to leave forces Honour, with the help of their daughter Sophie (Natalie Simpson), to re-evaluate what her life has become, and what it could have been.

Although familiar territory, Murray-Smith’s play asks some useful questions about resentment, guilt, passion, and above all love. How much should a person sacrifice for another? How much of our own lives do we give up out of a sense of duty to someone else’s? It pits careerism against relationships, a conflict particularly relevant in millennial circles and here a gentle reminder that it’s never too late for change.

The ensemble are convincing in their relationships and expertly play the insecurities, thought changes and verbal stop/starts that pepper the script. Stubbs and Goodman are riveting to watch and handle the emotional weight of their characters’ choices well. Sudden blackouts keep the audience on their toes, and Liz Cooke’s set, with its dilapidated blue wave looming over the course of events, foreshadows the story nicely but fails to ask any real questions of the script. The pastel blues of banal middle-class life are shocked into action by the blacks and reds of Claudia’s costume. Paul Robinson’s direction keeps things pacey and balanced, but again, doesn’t use the opportunity of a revival to explore deeper the rage and disappointment bubbling under the script’s surface.

Luckily, this is a gripping study of marriage with instantly relatable characters played by talented actors. It’s certainly a middle-class play about middle-class problems, but by playing it safe, misses out on directly challenging its seemingly middle-class audience itself. How much resentment, how much regret, do you carry around under the visage of well-to-do urban existence?


Reviewed by Joseph Prestwich

Photography by Alex Brenner



Park Theatre until 24th November


Previously reviewed at this venue:
There or Here | ★★★½ | January 2018
A Princess Undone | ★★★ | February 2018
Passage to India | ★★★ | February 2018
Vincent River | ★★★★ | March 2018
Pressure | ★★★★ | April 2018
Building the Wall | ★★★★ | May 2018
End of the Pier | ★★★★ | July 2018
The Rise & Fall of Little Voice | ★★★★ | August 2018
Distance | ★★★★ | September 2018
The Other Place | ★★★ | September 2018


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