Tag Archives: Joseph Skelton

The Conductor

The Space

The Conductor

The Conductor

The Space

Reviewed – 28th March 2019



“achieves a sensitivity and drama which fills the theatre and rouses our emotions”


In the besieged city of Leningrad in 1941, a conductor, against all odds, gathers together an orchestra of starving and weakened musicians to give a momentous performance of Shostakovich’s 7th Symphony. Even though he is said to have planned the work as a general comment on terror, slavery and oppression, its timing means that it is remembered as a force of psychological warfare against Nazi despotism by the battered spirits of a tyrannised society. In an elegant adaptation by Mark Wallington and Jared McNeill, based on Sarah Quigley’s novel, ‘The Conductor’ tells the story of the ‘Leningrad Symphony’ and how the devastating circumstances of World War II gave Karl Eliasberg the opportunity to rise from the shadows of mediocre musical standing and conduct the first performance there. With dramatic and evocative musical illustration, it shows the power of artistic expression fighting to overcome the surrounding atrocities. Who knows why these men in such dire physical state agreed to sacrifice their health and, in a few cases, lives for that concert? Possibly the extra rations offered to them but, more likely, to restore a sense of dignity in their souls and those of their fellow citizens.

Occupying half the stage, the composer sits at his grand piano, engrossed in composition as Eliasberg describes his own modest upbringing and aspirations and his admiration for Shostakovich’s genius. Joseph Skelton plays a conductor who wins our sympathy with his quiet, unassuming nature; describing himself as ‘cold’ and ‘good at keeping time’, he displays acceptance rather than bitterness. Deborah Wastell, with dexterous change of accent creates a handful of peripheral characters, adding detail to daily life – the mother who refuses to be evacuated, Shostakovich’s long-suffering wife, the dancer who befriends Eliasberg. And while we build an image of the hardships through Eliasberg and the people around him, Shostakovich appears detached from reality, absorbed in his own world. Daniel Wallington portrays this remoteness while evoking the moods of war, reminiscence and victory with his extraordinarily passionate piano playing.

‘The Conductor’ is a unique piece of theatre. It cleverly infuses the music into the narrative and completes the background picture with perceptive minor roles. Jared McNeill’s direction captures the contrast between the musicians and the trepidation in the atmosphere but as the action evolves (notably after the intense musical episodes) Eliasberg’s thoughtful pauses break the flow and the tension relaxes rather than heightens towards his ‘glory of fame and grief of loss’. While the piano is unable to recreate the textures and colours of a large orchestra, in this case it fits perfectly into context and Wallington achieves a sensitivity and drama which fills the theatre and rouses our emotions.


Reviewed by Joanna Hetherington


The Conductor

The Space until 13th April


Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Love is a Work In Progress | ★★★★ | October 2018
The Full Bronte | ★★★ | October 2018
Woman of the Year | ★★★ | October 2018
Little Women | ★★★½ | December 2018
Brawn | ★★★ | January 2019
Laundry | ★★★ | January 2019
The Dip | ★★★★ | February 2019
The South Afreakins | ★★★★★ | February 2019
FFS! Feminist Fable Series | ★★★★ | March 2019
We Know Now Snowmen Exist | ★★★ | March 2019


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




The Hope Theatre

FAT JEWELS at The Hope Theatre



“The space is wonderfully navigated, a clear indication of the quality of Luke Davies’ direction”


The smell of late night takeaway wafts through the space as we enter the living room of a flat on a South Yorkshire council estate. Pat has been having violent dreams and they are making him scared of himself. When he meets Danny, a family friend of his mums in the pub, Danny invites him back to his flat to implement a tailored therapy course that he assures Pat will heal him, but this is a sinister sort of therapy involving violence and cricket bats, and Pat isn’t allowed to leave.

The script is fantastically crafted, awfully inevitable yet still pumped with a claustrophobic sense of suspense. Joseph Skelton, the play’s writer, is a clear talent, mixing humour with darkness and presenting a narrative of desperate manipulation and complete abuse of power and trust.

Both characters are beautifully layered, lonely and confused and in crisis, in a climate where male mental health issues are notoriously under discussed and masculinity is defined by power. Robert Walter plays Danny, a man who is so fragile he is dangerous. Pat is played by Hugh Train, wide-eyed with the hope and optimism of this therapy, this friendship, later jaded and darker. Walters and Train deliver faultless performances, both as a pair and individually, at ease onstage, never dropping the pace for a moment.

The design is beautifully thought through, detailed and coherent, tied together by the repeating red of the furniture, the lampshade, a ketchup bottle, a sleeping bag. The space is wonderfully navigated, a clear indication of the quality of Luke Davies’ direction.

This is a brilliant piece of theatre, well-written, well-executed and unapologetically dark, investigating masculinity, mental health and abuse with an unflinching depth.


Reviewed by Amelia Brown

Reviewed – 5th July 2018

Photography by Laura Harling


Fat Jewels

Hope Theatre until 21st July


Previously reviewed at this venue
My Gay Best Friend | ★★★★★ | January 2018
Adam & Eve | ★★★★ | May 2018
Cockamamy | ★★★★ | June 2018


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