Tag Archives: John Hopkins

The Sex Party

The Sex Party


Menier Chocolate Factory

THE SEX PARTY at the Menier Chocolate Factory


The Sex Party

“Despite everything, the performances are – individually and collectively – quite wonderful”


What exactly is Terry Johnson saying in “The Sex Party”? It is probably the biggest question being asked as the audience leave the Menier Chocolate Factory, but the answer lies at the far end of a very circuitous route, littered with the roadkill of dozens of other debates – some bigger, some smaller, some old and some new. If Johnson had the answer, we would probably be watching a shorter play, but we would also be witnessing the premier of something ground-breaking, brave and unprecedented. As it stands, though, Johnson’s writing, whilst being wonderfully sharp, gives itself too many challenges.

But there is one question that pulls focus from all the others. Johnson has (semi) joked in interviews that this play runs the risk of him getting himself “cancelled”. And he has already confessed to losing friends – not because of the subject matter but because of the new vocabulary and attitudes he has had to adjust to and adopt. The characters in the drama have similar fallings out. Honestly. Is this progress?

Like Mike leigh’s “Abigail’s Party”, there is more than way to look at “The Sex Party”. We can recoil from the cringe-worthy pretension of the faux pas and twitter-feed platitudes, or we can see it as a portrait of individual and marital unhappiness. Unfortunately, the focus is bound to fall onto the former, which leaves the cast with a much harder job. Despite everything, the performances are – individually and collectively – quite wonderful.

Alex (Jason Merrells) and his young girlfriend Hetty (Molly Osborne) are hosting their first sex party. Osborne gives a standout portrayal of the submissive liberal – one who excuses coercion if it can be seen to be a personal choice. The party guests are trawled from the internet or chance meetings, with the exception of Alex’s old flame Gilly (Lisa Dawn) and her tetchy, jealous husband Jake (John Hopkins). Jeff (a wonderfully gruff, outspoken and debauched Timothy Hutton) barges onto the scene with a rich presence we outwardly resent while secretly finding his offensiveness funny. Magdalena, his Russian trophy wife (Amanda Ryan) is in tow, upstaging him – and everyone else – with her ludicrous and laughable opinions. (They say that many a true word is spoken in jest). Enter cool and aware Camilla (Kelly Price) with posh-but-dim, blond-haired buffoon Tim (an impressive Will Barton who occasionally channels another prominent posh-but-dim, blond-haired buffoon). The elephant in the room is Lucy (Pooya Mohseni), a transgender woman who throws a spanner into the works, sets the cat among the pigeons, and generally throws every other metaphor and cliché into the mix.

Mohseni doesn’t enter until the end of Act One. Up until then the piece can be enjoyed as a kind of alternative kitchen sink drama. Although it is a beautifully crafted kitchen sink in Tim Shortall’s stunning set that depicts a stylish Islington fitted kitchen. They are all in the kitchen at this party, only occasionally retreating offstage into the lounge for some staggered and brief sex. Conversation is awkward and the debates more varied than in the second half. It is clear, though, that Johnson is poking fun at the characters and not the subjects they are discussing. This is an important point, and one that is so often missed.

After interval the tone darkens, but narrows its focus. But this could well be the brilliant purpose of the writing. At one point, Lisa Dawn – who gives us a show stealing performance throughout – laments the fact that her own issues are completely overlooked and overshadowed by the subjects that have bulldozed themselves into the collective and confused consciousness. Mohseni, the flagship of self-identity in this piece, does her best to moderate the argument with poise and a coolness that seems to be telling us that it really shouldn’t matter.

“The Sex Party” is putting its head above the parapet. It is certain to be knocked down. It deals with prejudice, but the irony is that the same prejudices will inform people’s perception of the play before they have even seen it. Which is a shame. Yes, it could be pruned somewhat, and have fewer non-sequiturs and tangents, but Johnson’s writing is as acute and observant as ever; and often funny.


Reviewed on 16th November 2022

by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Alastair Muir



Previously reviewed at this venue:


Brian and Roger | ★★★★★ | November 2021
Habeas Corpus | ★★★ | December 2021
Legacy | ★★★★★ | March 2022


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The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ – The Musical

Ambassadors Theatre

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ - The Musical

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ – The Musical

Ambassadors Theatre

Reviewed – 3rd July 2019



“joyful, energetic and hilarious, with some moments of real tenderness and yearning”


I admit to being unsure if Sue Townsend’s geeky Mole would translate well as a piece of musical theatre, and I’m happy to say that my scepticism was unfounded. The show is joyful, energetic and hilarious, with some moments of real tenderness and yearning that bring a tear to the eye. It is a piece that truly reflects the time in which it was written and is set, the early 80s. There are lots of references that older audience members clearly enjoyed; Pebble Mill at One, Malcolm Muggeridge and, of course, the Royal Wedding. And it matters not at all that the younger ones don’t pick up on those moments; the lives of Adrian and his friends and family have plenty for everyone to relate to and enjoy.

The children’s parts are each played by a rotating cast of four. Adrian was played by Rufus Kampa this evening, and the huge applause and standing ovation he received were richly deserved. His Adrian had all the awkwardness and angst of Townsend’s much loved young teen, coping with his parent’s awful marriage and break up and discovering himself as an intellectual with a passion for the feisty, pretty new girl at school – Pandora. And Rebecca Nardin’s Pandora was pitch perfect; the flame that called to Adrian’s moth, sparkling, feisty and very funny. Her voice has a range and depth that are unusual in such a young performer, and she has a wonderful comedic instinct. Jeremiah Davan Waysome played Adrian’s friend, and rival for Pandora’s attention, Nigel with a lovely cheeky energy and the school bully, Barry, was made suitably odious by Jack Gale.

The adults in the cast also play children, and were clearly having a lot of fun doing so. The poignant moments between Adrian’s parents, Pauline and George, played by Amy Ellen Richardson and Andrew Langtree, were beautifully moving, and Richardson’s song ‘Perfect Mother’ was so full of sadness and regret that it hurt. ‘How Could You?’ a painful and powerful argument between Pauline and Grandma allowed both women to let rip with passion, a serious and intense moment, and a reflection of many such a confrontation from the real world. Rosemary Ashe’s Grandma is, by turns, fun, interfering and helpful to Adrian and his Dad, and she brings verve and a fabulous voice to the role. Ian Talbot gave a good turn as the grumpy communist Bert and Laura Denning clearly relishes hamming it up to just the right degree as Miss Elf and Doreen Slater. The final member of the adult cast is John Hopkins, and he somehow managed to strut, bluster and give a storming performance that was always just on the right side of overacting. His vile Mr Scruton, the headmaster, was a great, bombastic villain, and the sleazy lothario, Mr Lucas from next door, was just deliciously awful.

Jake Brunger and Pippa Cleary first wrote the book, music and lyrics in 2012, when they were ‘a pair of naive twenty four year olds.’ They met Sue Townsend and she was so impressed that she sold them the rights for a pound. She was worried that the story may be dated but, as Brunger and Cleary explained to her; ‘Despite the internet and mobile phones and all those terribly modern things, spots were still spots, school was still school, and boys still measured their things.” Director Luke Sheppard has translated their vision into a show that bounces with life and allows the early eighties to exist without trying to alter things for our contemporary sensibilities.

There is some inspired and very funny, choreography from Rebecca Howell and Mark Collins and the musicians do a great job with the score. The lighting design, by Howard Hudson, is unusual and effective and Tom Rogers’ set is an evocative, flexible home for the action. I found myself humming ‘Misunderstood’ on the way to the tube. This show has some good tunes too! The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ – The Musical is an excellent adaptation vividly brought to life by an outstanding cast


Reviewed by Katre

Photography by Pamela Raith


The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ – The Musical

Ambassadors Theatre until 12th October


Last ten shows covered by this reviewer:
The Thread | ★★½ | Sadler’s Wells Theatre | March 2019
Yamato – Passion | ★★★★★ | Peacock Theatre | March 2019
Hell Yes I’m Tough Enough | ★★½ | Park Theatre | April 2019
Little Miss Sunshine | ★★★★★ | Arcola Theatre | April 2019
Man Of La Mancha | ★★★★ | London Coliseum | April 2019
Sh!t-Faced Shakespeare: The Taming Of The Shrew | ★★★★★ | Leicester Square Theatre | April 2019
On Reflection | ★★★★★ | Underbelly Festival Southbank | May 2019
Zara | ★★★★★ | Geraldine Mary Harmsworth Park | May 2019
Elixir Extracts Festival: Company Of Elders | ★★★★★ | Lilian Baylis Studio | June 2019
Napoli, Brooklyn | ★★★★ | Park Theatre | June 2019


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