Tag Archives: Josephine Starte

A Winning Hazard – 4 Stars


A Winning Hazard

Finborough Theatre

Reviewed – 10th September 2018


“beguiling pictures of money, marriage and manipulation, brought to life by inspirational director Phillip James Rouse and a talented cast”


The Finborough Theatre celebrates its home’s 150th anniversary in stylish and exhilarating fashion. In a slick lark of an evening we rediscover three comediettas by J.P. Wooler who humorously observes the hypocritical values of affluent Victorian society. Reputed for his inebriated opinions, his hidden treasures are beguiling pictures of money, marriage and manipulation, brought to life by inspirational director Phillip James Rouse and a talented cast. Keeping the work in its original period with fitting music (Julian Starr) and costumes (Martelle Hunt), Rouse gives it a contemporary feel in pace and movement. In the intimate space of this theatre we fully appreciate the amusing facial expressions and capering activity and, with a garden bench as the only prop to set the scene, the small stage and side doors create fast-moving and arresting action.

The six actors work perfectly as an ensemble as well as each bringing their own particular style to the roles. In ‘A Winning Hazard’, Dudley Croker and Jack Crawley, on learning that they will be disinherited if they fail to marry, desperately attempt to win the hands of Coralie and Aurora Blythe. The two suitors, played by Max Marcq and Edward Mitchell, and their sweethearts (Josephine Starte and Evelyn Lockley) form beautifully balanced and contrasting pairs as the story takes on improbable proportions. ‘Allow Me to Apologise’ is a farcical story of cross-dressing intrigue. With an amusingly fanciful plot, Jasmine Blackborrow is a comedically versatile Fanny Fairlove who, recently returned to Bath, disguises herself as Goliath Goth and rekindles a previous courtship with Hariette Seymour. The situation complicates with the appearance of the real Goth, in a wonderfully funny interpretation by Edward Mitchell, and Captain Seymour who steals Fanny’s heart. The play ends with a touching apology by Fanny to Hariette, giving the narrative a modern undercurrent.

To round up the trilogy, ‘Orange Blossoms’ sees Max Marcq in an explosive tour de force as Septimus Symmetry, renowned woman-hater, who is on the verge of losing his inheritance for not marrying before he is thirty five. When a group of friends arrives at his house, he finds himself in the middle of dangerous past liaisons and unfulfilled love within the couples, and is also surprisingly attracted to Loo who has come with them. He decides to stir up trouble between his guests to illustrate the fatuity of marriage. Robert Benfield is Colonel Clarence in a discerning portrayal of the older husband and his young wife, Isabella Clarence, is another of Josephine Starte’s distinctive characters.

Wooler puts across his irreverent views through amplified characters, absurd situations and witty dialogue. The writing does have its structural flaws – loose ends in the storyline, contrived endings and some less complete personalities – but this is artistically shaped and embellished by Rouse and his troupe. We can sit back and enjoy a frolicsome and uplifting insight into the lives and minds of the Victorian idle rich.


Reviewed by Joanna Hetherington

Photography by Scott Rylander


A Winning Hazard

Finborough Theatre until 25th September



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



Review of The White Bike – 5 Stars


The White Bike

The Space

Reviewed – 22nd September 2017





“the elaborate synchronicity in the movement serves the story well giving a sense of scope and spectacle to an otherwise intimate story”



Mixing the mundane and the mystical, The White Bike at the Space is a story about how sharply the world can come crashing down around us. 29 year old Isabelle cycles through London lost in her own thoughts, only to have the real world invade with cataclysmic consequences.


This is a beautiful play – a personal story told with a gentle touch. Director Lily McLeish has created an intricate and nuanced production which embraces the details of Tamara Von Werthern’s heartfelt script. A physical ensemble piece, the elaborate synchronicity in the movement (Simon Pittman) serves the story well giving a sense of scope and spectacle to an otherwise intimate story. The set design (Lucy Sierra) is well thought out and the soundscape Pete Malkin) compliments the action beautifully.


As Isabelle, Josephine Starte is charming. Sweet and naïve, she carries the production along with a winsome innocence as she takes us through Isabelle’s life. The whole cast are excellent as they construct the world around her, taking on a multitude of roles. Christopher Akrill’s Henry is an affable and calming presence and Helen Stern gives a warm, comforting performance as Isabelle’s mother Juliette. A particular highlight was Helen Millar’s credible and endearing turn as Lily and there is a surprisingly touching moment from Liam Faik as the man responsible for the tragedy at the centre of the play. While sentimental, nothing is overplayed or milked for shock value, creating genuine sympathy and affection for this world.


This is the story of an ordinary catastrophe. While there is a serious issue at the heart of this play, the production wisely avoids moralising and condemnation. It focuses on the individual and has much more impact for it. Based on a true story, the play is supporting the See Me Save Me Campaign. A lovely addition to the Space’s already exciting programme.


Reviewed for thespyinthestalls.com

Photography by Tommy Cha




is at The Space until 30th September





Click here to see a list of the latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com