Tag Archives: Laura Pitt-Pulford

Little Miss Sunshine

Arcola Theatre

Little Miss Sunshine

Little Miss Sunshine

Arcola Theatre

Reviewed – 1st April 2019



“Mehmet Ergen directs the show with a freshness and inventiveness that allows the versatile and talented cast to sparkle”


What a treat this is. Turning a successful film into a stage musical isn’t an easy task, but this production by Selladoor manages it wonderfully. The story is true to the original and if you are wondering how the small Arcola stage can accommodate a VW van, a motel, a hospital and a Beauty Pageant, go and see it purely for the ingenuity of David Woodhead’s design.

This is one of those evenings at the theatre that has the audience buzzing and leaving the theatre with huge smiles. Some will also have a tune in their head, as there are some truly memorable songs (William Finn) in the show. The cast are excellent; this is a real ensemble piece where everyone gets a chance to shine, even those with smaller roles, such as Imelda Warren-Green who personified the old adage that there is no such thing as a small part with hilarious performances as Linda and Miss California.

For those not familiar with the film (written by  Michael Arndt), the story is about the Hoover family; a rather dysfunctional tribe, who drive from New Mexico to California so that their daughter Olive can enter a children’s beauty pageant. Olive, played this evening by Sophie Hartley Booth was the heart and soul of the show. She was hilarious, sweet and utterly captivating. Her performance in the talent competition brought the house down. Three other children, Ellicia Simondwood, Yvie Bent and Elodie Salmon played the Mean Girls, both the voices in Olive’s head that tell her she isn’t good enough and the other competitors in the beauty pageant. And delightfully mean they were.

The rest of the family each have their problems. Paul Keating played Frank, the gay uncle who has unsuccessfully tried to kill himself, with a gentle sureness of hand. Gary Wilmot’s scandalous grandpa is living on the sofa. He loves to shock, yet has real warmth and Wilmot brought a gorgeous tongue in cheek style to the role. Sev Keoshgerian managed to be very funny, characterful and convincing as Dwayne, Olive’s brother, even during the majority of the show when he doesn’t say a word. The parents, Richard and Sheryl, played by Gabriel Vick and Laura Pitt-Pulford are broke and struggling. Gabriel is optimistic about his ‘ten point plan for success,’ and expecting a book deal that never comes, but despite all the setbacks and obstacles, the family are determined to get Olive to the pageant. Pitt-Pulford sang ‘Something Better Better Happen’ with such genuine emotion that it brought a tear to the eye, and Vick’s ‘What You Left Behind’ was powerful and touching. They felt like a real family, each individually falling apart but coming together in the face of their difficulties; pushing the van to get it started, determined to finish the journey.

The two other cast members are Ian Carlyle and Matthew McDonald, who both take on a couple of contrasting roles. Carlyle is outrageously loud as the wonderfully dreadful pageant host, and equally good as the man who stole Frank’s lover. McDonald also convinces, both as the ex-lover and as the long suffering technical guy at the pageant.

Mehmet Ergen directs the show with a freshness and inventiveness that allows the versatile and talented cast to sparkle. There is a stunning live band above the stage (Musical Director Arlene McNaught) that perform their hearts out for every number. The perfect package is completed with great sound (Olly Steel) and lighting (Richard Williamson) throughout and some excellent choreography (Anthony Whiteman).

If Little Miss Sunshine gets a West End transfer, and it deserves to get one, I will be happy to say that I saw it in this smaller, more intimate space. Do go, if you can. The whole thing is a joy.


Reviewed by Katre

Photography by Manuel Harlan


Little Miss Sunshine

Arcola Theatre until 11th May


Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
The Parade | ★★★ | May 2018
The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives | ★★★★★ | June 2018
The Rape of Lucretia | ★★★★ | July 2018
Elephant Steps | ★★★★ | August 2018
Greek | ★★★★ | August 2018
Forgotten | ★★★ | October 2018
Mrs Dalloway | ★★★★ | October 2018
A Hero of our Time | ★★★★★ | November 2018
Stop and Search | ★★ | January 2019
The Daughter-In-Law | ★★★★★ | January 2019


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The Grönholm Method – 4 Stars


The Grönholm Method

Menier Chocolate Factory

Reviewed – 23rd May 2018


“The piece twists and turns in a wonderfully layered structure of discovery”


Four people are waiting. These four people are interviewees. They have been told to expect a group interview but the ensuing ninety minutes is far more surprising and gruelling than any might’ve expected. Envelopes appear periodically in a drawer delivering them tasks to complete: they must decide which of them is not a real candidate but a member of HR, whether the company ought to hire someone undergoing gender reassignment, whether unstable mental health and extra marital affairs affect a person’s working ability, and so on. Inspired by actual procedures in HR departments, Jordi Galceran’s play, which premiered in Barcelona in 2003, is reset in a New York office by director BT McNicholl.

As the characters desperately try to puzzle their way through task after task, the audience are equally drawn in, as in the dark as the candidates themselves. The piece twists and turns in a wonderfully layered structure of discovery. It is impossible not to be drawn in, but the draw is surface level. This is not a nice world, and the people in it reflect that. Even at their most sympathetic it is hard to truly feel any empathy for them, and every breakdown is suspect in a play that refuses to stop surprising us. The piece is more thriller than drama, and there is little in which to emotionally invest or engage.

The cast of four is consistently strong. Jonathan Cake’s brutal Frank Porter is harsh, calculating and desperate, abhorrent at points, oddly likeable at others, albeit purely for his tenacity. Greg McHugh is softer but just as committed, the Harvard graduate who is revealed to be a trans woman, though the other characters’ universally transphobic responses perhaps show the play’s age for the first time. Laura Pitt-Pulford is Melanie Douglas – “Three men and a woman, as always,” she comments on arrival – determined to the point of ruthlessness, juggling the demands of work and life with a pragmatic coldness. John Gordon Sinclair’s Rick is a much needed contrast to his counterparts, bright and funny, always on hand with traffic-based small talk and tic tacs.

Tim Hatley’s design is beautifully detailed and fantastically well executed. A plush corporate conference room with white leather chairs, wooden panelling across the walls and an excessive amount of glass. The floor to ceiling windows at the back of the stage reveal the New York skyline, gradually darkening as the play goes on (lighting design by Howard Harrison).

BT McNicholl’s production is slick and well executed, an insight into an ugly world where brutality is rewarded and humanity stamped out, supported by four consistently strong performances.


Reviewed by Amelia Brown

Photography by Manuel Harlan


The Grönholm Method

Menier Chocolate Factory until 7th July



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