Tag Archives: London Theatre Workshop

Hot Lips & Cold War – 5 Stars


Hot Lips & Cold War

London Theatre Workshop

Reviewed – 1st February 2018


“the three actors delivering palpable chemistry”


Welcome to the Kennedy administration, a time when race riots are escalating, the fear of nuclear war is unending, and the President keeps locking himself in the pool house with young ladies. In this piece developed through the London Theatre Workshop, Lizzie Freeborn takes us on a musical exploration of one of most glamorous and fraught periods in modern culture.

The show opens with a wide-eyed Irish girl called Maria (Sylvie Briggs), who finds herself in the confidence of Jackie Kennedy after being taken to America by the seedy Davy (Adam Small). Briggs is very engaging to watch and exudes an innocence which greatly contrasts with the scheming and deception the plot is so rife with.

Marcia Sommerford is poised but determined as Jackie Kennedy, and brings strength to a woman having to accept her husband’s infidelities and the pressures of a high-profile existence. “This isn’t a home, it’s an institution!” her husband reminds her harshly as she tries to create some domestic normality. Robert Oliver is suitably charming as JFK, and possesses an incredibly powerful voice (very fitting for the leader of the free world). Kenny O’Donnel (Lewis Rae) struggles to work for the interests of both parties while remaining impartial, and Rae succeeds in showing the conflict of professional obligations and personal opinions.

The costumes (Hal and Ruthie Theatrical Design) are very well done and include a notable number of changes for each character. Jackie Kennedy’s silk nightgown is a clever reminder that the First Lady was not lacking in sex appeal, albeit a more subtle kind than displayed by her more buxom love rival. In ‘Pentaxia’ we are shown the chemistry between JFK and his two partners as they dance around each other. This number demonstrates how JFK can be both an affectionate husband and a serial womaniser, with the three actors delivering palpable chemistry between them.

The subplot involving integration adds a nice balance to the glamour of the Kennedy-centred storylines, and leads to one the standout songs ‘You’ll Hear the South Roar’. Ashley Knight throws himself into the role of the prejudiced Southerner Jerome Kingsley and Florence Odumosu gives a powerful performance as Grace, a black staff member trying to protest injustice without jeopardising her position. Her son Marvin (Jamal Franklin) might even be more charming than the POTUS himself and his number ‘You Bet You Be Glad’ is particularly enjoyable.

Freya Tilly plays Marilyn with an effective differentiation between the public persona and the private, and gives an impressive rendition of the infamous ‘Happy Birthday’ incident without straying into parody territory. Marilyn’s death is staged particularly well (Tim McArthur) as the star walks away from the president who has grown bored of her and towards a brightly lit doorway at the back of the stage.

This was a thoroughly entertaining experience that offered alternative perspectives on iconic moments from this period. The score is strong throughout with more than a few standout moments from the cast, a definite recommendation.


Reviewed by Ella McCarron

Photography by Jamie Scott-Smith


Hot Lips & Cold War

London Theatre Workshop until 24th February



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King Rufus

King Cowboy Rufus Rules The Universe!

London Theatre Workshop

Reviewed – 15th August 2017





“The cast is on point, sustaining the focus and frenetic energy unwaveringly”



An English fop, who pretends to be an American cowboy but dreams of being King. There is no way to sum up the plot of Richard Foreman’s 2004 play, as there is none. This is a surreal abstract glimpse into the psyche of an infantile and reckless buffoon, playing with the power of his own subconscious – made all the more nightmarish for the very real links to a certain Mr Trump. 

This is a very ambitious and brave play for a fringe company to attempt and director (designer and choreographer) Patrick Kennedy’s team certainly give it their all.

It is worth saying straight up – this is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. It is disorientating, disconnected and confrontational from the off. This is not a world to get comfortable in yet Patrick Kennedy embraces it fully. This is his third Foreman play and he clearly loves the material. From the set detail to the glaring lights, this is a tightly choreographed piece which addresses each new image with precision. The care in which the grotesque is presented creates a genuinely unsettling atmosphere – like riding in a limousine with a drunk at the wheel. The comedy is dark, made more so by recent events – King Rufus at one point does a Nazi salute – and it offers up no answers. In forcing the audience to assemble it’s own meaning Kennedy succeeds admirably.

The cast is on point, sustaining the focus and frenetic energy unwaveringly. As man-baby King Rufus, Stewart Briggs has a dangerous innocence, credibly flipping from childish to psychotic in an instant, charming but never likeable. As Susie, the stand out performer Madelaine Nicole Jennings injects some sass and warmth into the gun-totting bride and Kate Baxter’s innocuous, dead-eyed Baron Herman brings a chilling undercurrent to all her scenes. But the highlight for me was the music – the ensemble, completed by Jessica Foden and Dev Joshi, is lyrically stunning, beautifully complementing Kieran Stallard’s composition.

However not all of the effects succeed. In an intimate space with a limited budget some of the visual props don’t have the impact needed to carry the images. The constant bombardment may have meant to be abrasive, but repetitive rhythm also risks becoming predictable and at one hour and 20 minutes the show certainly outstays its welcome.

This is not a show for everyone. It’s not one I would rush to see again. But it is exciting to see a young director and an accomplished cast use the fringe for what it was intended for – to take a risk and play with a more obscure type of theatre. For that reason alone I’m pleased I went and I hope to see more from this company.


Reviewed for thespyinthestalls.com

Photography by Alessia Chinazzo




is at the London Theatre Workshop until 26th August 



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