Tag Archives: Marcus Ayton



Theatre Peckham

RAPUNZEL at Theatre Peckham


“As a vehicle for the youth theatre to show their chops, Rapunzel is a very charming production”

Theatre Peckham sits just a stone’s throw from the thoroughfare of Rye Lane, with its bustling array of salt fish sellers, street-preachers and salon owners. Their Christmas show this year, Rapunzel, seeks to bring that vibrant atmosphere to life in an original take on the fairytale.

Under the direction of Suzann McLean, also artistic director of the theatre, Rapunzel is a world famous hair-dresser at vibrantly pink and glitzy Peckham salon Barnet Magic – but things were not always so. When she was just a baby her mother’s jealous cousin Cassie secretly kidnapped her, to use as ransom for an inheritance Cassie was denied. Locked in a tower for 18 years, Rapunzel is none the wiser as Cassie profits from her niece’s hairstyling prowess and continues to disadvantage Rapunzel’s mother Maddy.

It’s an overly long and convoluted plot with jumps in time necessitated by the involvement of a large youth company, outnumbering the adult cast more than three to one. One or two of the young cast surely have a future on the stage, full of energy and goofy charm and clearly having the time of their lives. Jazz Deer-Olafa’s choreography is engaging yet simple enough for everyone to be involved. There are even opportunities for some of the most unassuming cast members to have their moment in the spotlight and it is heartening to see the passion that has gone into the work of the show.

The adult performers are a bit of a mixed bag. Scarlet Gabriel as Maddy and Kellah-M Spring as Rapunzel come across as rather flat and low energy. At the other end of the scale, Jade Leanne Benjamin as the evil Cassie is over the top, particularly in the way she constantly adjusts her various wigs. Montel Douglas provides some light relief as both a distracted detective and Rapunzel’s saviour, Dignity Jones. But Marcus Ayton as Mama Bea is standout with his lilting Caribbean accent and aphorisms on point.

Original musical numbers by composer Jordan Xavier and lyricist Geoff Aymer do well to use elements of pop, R&B and afro-beats to reflect and appeal to the largely local audience. The lead performers seem to have a hard time hearing themselves over the music and there are some weak refrains that are repeated ad nauseum. It also feels like there is a missed opportunity in bringing out the ‘rap’ in Rapunzel more strongly.

As a vehicle for the youth theatre to show their chops, Rapunzel is a very charming production. It has community appeal in its hyper local setting and plot of triumph over adversity. Viewed through this lens, there’s plenty to come away from the show smiling about.

RAPUNZEL at Theatre Peckham

Reviewed on 6th December 2023

by Amber Woodward

Photography by Lidia Crisafulli




Some recent reviews:

Potted Panto | ★★★★★ | Wilton’s Music Hall | December 2023
Garry Starr Performs Everything | ★★★½ | Southwark Playhouse Borough | December 2023
Solstice | ★★★★ | Battersea Arts Centre | December 2023
It’s A Wonderful Life | ★★★★★ | Reading Rep Theatre | December 2023
The Time Machine – A Comedy | ★★★★ | Park Theatre | December 2023
Mother Goose | ★★★★ | Cambridge Arts Theatre | December 2023
A Very Very Bad Cinderella | ★★★★★ | The Other Palace | December 2023



Click here to see our Recommended Shows page


Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens

Union Theatre

Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens

Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens

Union Theatre

Reviewed – 18th May 2019



“Told in music and verse by the victims and culprits; the heroes and the cowards; the innocent and the culpable, the stories are heartfelt”


Originally titled “Quilt”, this is less a song cycle but more of a poetry reading inspired by the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, conceived in 1985 in San Francisco to commemorate the lives lost in the AIDS pandemic. With book and lyrics by Bill Russell and music by Janet Hood it attempts to show some of the sadness and horror that unfurled during the 1980s, but moreover the sense of community, hope and human spirit that always emerges from adversity. Which is what this outing at the Union Theatre brings to the fore. The impressive, sixteen-strong cast inject just the right amount of humour in order to quell the anger, and the result is a celebration rather than a rant.

Director Bryan Hodgson has set the production at the Memorial Quilt (which has since moved from San Francisco to Washington) and has the cast add their own panel to the tapestry on Justin Williams’ simple but effective square-box set as they each tell their story, so at the end of the show we have the full picture. It is a neat, personal touch that, while obviously not matching the scale, reflects the ongoing ideology. The Quilt itself is the largest piece of community art in the world, with each of the panels the size and dimension of a grave. Still growing, it receives at least one extra quilt panel per day.

Like the Quilt, this is a piece that lends itself to continued revision and, as was pointed out in the final rather ‘happy-clappy’ closing moments of the show, the aftermath is still with us. Until that moment, the richness of the evening was intact, held together by the rich thread of the vignettes. Told in music and verse by the victims and culprits; the heroes and the cowards; the innocent and the culpable, the stories are heartfelt. To slip into a kind of evangelism slightly spoils the effect. It is always a challenge to get the balance right with this sort of theatre, where the message is as important as the means.

The cast members are all skilled hands at this balancing act; measuring out the moments of comedy with the right blend of darkness, and knowing when to ask us to take things seriously or whether just to delight us with a skilled offhand observation. Sometimes the sincerity of the performances were at odds with the slick, stylised lighting (Alex Musgrave) and sound design (Henry Brennan), but the commitment of the actors outshone these quibbles, and their belief in the material manages to rescue the show when it steers too close to sentimentality.

After all, they are here to celebrate, not mourn. And Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens at the Union does just that.


Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Mark Senior PR


Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens

Union Theatre until 8th June


Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Twang!! | ★★★★ | April 2018
H.R.Haitch | ★★★★ | May 2018
It’s Only Life | ★★★★ | June 2018
Around the World in Eighty Days | ★★★ | August 2018
Midnight | ★★★★★ | September 2018
Brass | ★★★★ | November 2018
Striking 12 | ★★★★ | December 2018
An Enemy of the People | ★★ | January 2019
Can-Can! | ★★★★ | February 2019
Othello | ★★★★ | March 2019


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