Tag Archives: Lucy Rivers

Gin Craze

Gin Craze!


Royal & Derngate

Gin Craze

Gin Craze!

Royal and Derngate Theatre

Reviewed – 21st July 2021



“The energy of the full ensemble numbers has the audience clapping and whooping”


This new musical – book and lyrics by April de Angelis, music and lyrics by Lucy Rivers – brings to life William Hogarth’s shocking 1751 etching ‘Gin Lane’ portraying grotesque caricatures of people suffering from the Gin Craze that was rife in the early part of the eighteenth century. As the curtain rises, we meet a number of these ladies under the influence who sing, dance, and extol the virtues of their favourite tipple. A pawn broker’s sign hangs close to the stage, the same sign as in Hogarth’s print.

The set (designed by Hayley Grindle) is built on two levels and reinforces a view of the class divide with the wealthy Fielding family and a semi-sozzled Queen Caroline appearing on the upper level whilst the gin ladies are firmly rooted on the ground and at the bottom of society. Through the shadows of wooden beams and hanging ropes, we can see various musical instruments: harpsichord, violin, cello, double bass, guitar, timpani. Each member of the eight strong ensemble takes their turn at becoming the band. Plus the ever-present MD Tamara Saringer at the keys.

For much of the time we could describe this as a folk musical. The singing is gentle and refined, the lyrics ballad-like in form, and the duets between the two main leads contain excellent close folk harmonies. The arrangement of the songs is most striking particularly those making use of violin and cello underlay.

The energy of the full ensemble numbers has the audience clapping and whooping. “Gin Dive” is the standout song that reappears close to the end in a poignant unaccompanied close harmony version. “It’s the Law” becomes a good old cockney knees-up with comedy trombone. Many of the scenes can be described as bawdy – and are especially enjoyed because of that – at times they are out-and-out plain rude.

The plot – or the message of the show, perhaps – is summed up with the song title, “What does a woman have to do to get a better life?”. We follow the journey of Mary (Aruhan Galieva) who whilst working as a servant is knocked up by the visiting priest, kicked out into the street, tricked into giving away her baby, and narrowly avoids rape and prostitution by setting up as a gin hawker. We learn that life for a woman is not a bed of roses. But then, Mary befriends Lydia (Paksie Vernon), her saving grace.

Director Michael Oakley produces the most spirited scenes when the gin women appear on stage together. If their individual characters do appear on the caricature side of sincere then we can allow that they may have been first based upon a cartoon. But, in the midst of tragedy, despite the best efforts of this hard-working cast, there is little tension to be felt and we remain unmoved. Particularly, much of the momentum is lost after the interval as attention turns away from the rumbustious Gin Lane into the genteel home of the foppish Henry Fielding (Alex Mugnaioni) and his do-gooder sister Sarah (Rachel Winters).

April de Angelis and Lucy Rivers have created a most fascinating feminist – and musical – response to an interesting period of English history which reflects well on Hogarth’s masterpiece that initially inspired the idea.



Reviewed by Phillip Money

Photography by Ellie Kurttz


Gin Craze!

Royal and Derngate Theatre  until 31st July


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Animal Farm | ★★★★ | Royal & Derngate | May 2021


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Review of Sinners Club – 5 Stars


Sinners Club

Soho Theatre

Reviewed – 7th December 2017


“she is achingly cool from the moment she rocks up in a leopard print coat and huge sunglasses”


“An eye for an eye I deserve to die” the chilling final words of Ruth Ellis echo through a room lit only by flickering lights as a singer in a feathered cape tails off her belter of a last note. Welcome to ‘The Sinners Club’.

Presented as the live recording of a concept album about Ellis, the last women to be hanged in Britain, ‘The Sinners Club’ is wickedly unconventional with incredible musical performances. Ellis, who shot her unfaithful lover David Blakely in 1955, is embodied by singer-songwriter Lucy Rivers who also wrote the show. As the lead singer of The Bad Mothers she is achingly cool from the moment she rocks up in a leopard print coat and huge sunglasses. Her chemistry with the band members and the rest of the audience is electric and her performance is enrapturing for the entire 90 minutes. The small moments of stand-up like repartee between songs are delightful and her sharp quips get huge laughs. As if this weren’t impressive enough she also plays the guitar, piano and the violin in various musical numbers.

The space has been transformed into a recording studio complete with drinks cart and mismatched rugs. In the corner is a vocal booth from which our feisty singer argues with the recording editor, who exists only as a bodiless voice through the speakers. From this cell-like booth what start as creative difficulties begin to mirror Ellis’ desperate pleas for her lover to be faithful. Photos of Ruth Ellis are illuminated on the wall and recordings of her voice play on a loop at various points, giving the unsettling impression that she is haunting this retelling of her own story.

This is not a straight-forward retelling of Ellis’ life, and the singer weaves details from her own life into musical numbers and vignettes that require the audiences to piece events together. The three-man band supporting this musical endeavour are brilliant at reacting and performing with Rivers without detracting too much attention from her. Their collective energy means that even in sombre moments the pace doesn’t lag. An acoustic country song about Ellis suffering from her lover’s friend’s disdain is a particularly good number performed as the band sits in a circle providing harmonies.

Produced by Gagglebabble, Theatr Clwyd and The Other Room, The Sinners Club was captivating throughout and I was utterly blown away by Lucy Rivers and The Bad Mothers. You won’t leave knowing every detail of Ruth Ellis’ life but the lasting impression of the piece is far more powerful than facts alone.


Reviewed by Ella McCarron

Photography by Kieran Cudlip 



Sinners Club

is at the Soho Theatre until 30th December



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