Tag Archives: Mark Daniels



Cockpit Theatre



“a wholesome and welcoming atmosphere which continues into the bar after curtain-down”

Theatre has long benefitted from pop stardom. Whether by using featured artists to draw in the crowds, or more directly providing the soundtrack to the drama. Hits & Pieces from Matchstick Theatre Company draws on this happy relationship by asking four writers to create a 15 minute piece related to a pop song.

Previous selections have included Sisqo’s Thong Song, Don McLean’s American Pie, and Meat Loaf’s I Would Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That). This time, the song of choice is the Spice Girls iconic hit Wannabe – scientifically proven to be the most recognisable and catchy pop song of the last 60 years (look it up!).

Each writer can interpret the cue in whatever way their heart desires – leading to some quite surprising results. Matchstick Theatre Company member, writer and director Mark Daniels also acts as MC for the evening, creating a delightfully homespun atmosphere.

‘Gotta Get with my Friends’ written by Sophie Underwood kicks off the proceedings with a totally whacky, conceptual take on the theme. We meet a couple in crisis, played by Emma Read and Aaron Phinehas Peters, who need a shock to get the blood pumping in their relationship again. But her suggestion of an orgy with her best friends is not the most outlandish idea she has to get them to open up to each other. Kooky in theme and performance, including the bizarre use of vegetable props that are very visibly not what the actors are saying they are, it’s a bold start to the night with a very left-field interpretation of the piece’s title.

‘Ginger’, written by Annette Brook and performed by Roli Okorodudu, is a gear change towards a dose of realism. Okorodudu plays a woman who stumbles upon a queue of other women waiting for their chance to audition for a Spice Girls tribute act. After being assumed to be there for the part of Scary Spice, she muses on why she can’t be Ginger who aligns more with her own conception of herself, rather than just how she is perceived as a black woman in the world. It’s a confidently relaxed and laid-back performance with Okorodudu’s dry delivery enhancing Brook’s wittily written script.

After a short break Emma Read is back, this time as writer of ‘Tomorrow Land Tomorrow Land Tomorrow Land (It Never Ends)’. It’s a brilliant piece of comic misdirection, skilfully performed by Niall Hemmingway and Aisling Groves-McKeown. Groves-McKeown is a highly strung TV producer trying to capture Hemmingway’s experience of being part of a cult, but things aren’t quite as they seem. You’d be hard-pressed to see the link to the song choice of the evening with this one – but that does at least mean the night benefits from variety.

The final piece of the programme is the only one that really deals in the 90’s nostalgia one might have expected. However, writer Mark Daniels takes a unique perspective in the piece ‘Friendship Never Ends’ – that of a pencil case. Ails Duff and Zahra Jennings-Grant are Pencil and Rubber, two items in a woman’s Spice Girls themed pencil case that has been left in a cupboard for twenty years finally being taken off the shelf. Their personification and memories of a well-spent youth will delight any Toy Story fans – as well as the pencil case themed puns.

Matchstick Theatre Company does well to create a sense of community in this short evening of works. The involvement of various Company and cast members as writers, directors and actors, creates a spirit of collaboration for this cabaret-style entertainment. Coupled with audience engagement through polls and suggestions for future song-themes, it’s a wholesome and welcoming atmosphere which continues into the bar after curtain-down with a 90’s themed playlist. You’re gonna ‘Wannabe’ at the next event to check it out.



Reviewed on 14th April 2024

by Amber Woodward

Photography by Natasha Vasandani 



Previously reviewed at this venue:

THE THREEPENNY OPERA | ★★★ | September 2023
MY BODY IS NOT YOUR COUNTRY | ★★★ | August 2023
END OF THE WORLD FM | ★★★ | August 2023
999 | ★★★ | November 2022
THE RETURN | ★★★ | November 2022
L’EGISTO | ★★★ | June 2021



Click here to see our Recommended Shows page


Institute of Nuts

Matchstick Piehouse Theatre

Institute of Nuts

Institute of Nuts

Matchstick Piehouse Theatre

Reviewed – 28th March 2019



“a powerful commentary on toxic masculinity in modern society”


Mark Daniels’ new darkly comic play Institute of Nuts at the Matchstick Piehouse Theatre offers a powerful commentary on toxic masculinity in modern society. In the era of #MeToo, the need to address the pervasiveness of dangerous notions of manhood has become an increasingly pressing issue, and The Institute of Nuts puts a spotlight on how widely and blatantly these attitudes are encouraged.

The play follows sixteen-year-old Billy (Theo Toksvig-Stewart) as he navigates his new life at the Institute of Nuts, a training camp-cum-prison run by the Miss Trunchball-esque E (Tori Louis) who addresses her students only through screens. Billy is renamed B and is introduced to the effeminate P (Christian Andrews) and the Institute’s only female student, O (Molly Ward).

The trio take lessons on self-confidence, feelings and bravery led by the sportswear-clad M (Craig Abbott) in which they are told to lie, use violence and suppress their emotions (except during the “FA Cup, World Cup and Shawshank Redemption”) if they want to succeed. After lessons, B, P and O are encouraged to play games and listen to music that endorse hypermasculine behaviour.

B quickly learns the Institute’s quirks such as chanting “I am strong; I am powerful; I am the best” before every lesson and striking bodybuilder-inspired poses whenever E appears on the Institute’s screens. The justification for anything questionable is “because it is established” which echoes popular phrases like “boys will be boys” used to excuse bad behaviour. Distorted versions of Spice Girls’ songs play between scenes (music composed by Dan Bramley) to remind the audience just how far we are from ideas of womanhood.

The play’s staging combined with its direction (Edwina Strobl) is highly effective in emphasising an environment of repressive expectation and surveillance. The audience sits in an oval arrangement around the stage and screens hang high on walls at either end. The screens show E keeping a beady eye on her students and periodically flash with images of James Bond, football and the rapper Skepta. The position of the screens outside of one’s immediate eyeline means that the audience also often finds themselves being unexpectedly observed which adds to a general sense of unease.

Louis shines throughout the play with a presence which rightly dominates the space. Andrews builds in confidence and is successful in delivering a powerful and emotional finale as the students discover the Institute’s true intentions. The plot is appreciatively subtle in its themes during the first half, but the second half is rather blatant in its message which at times is a little on the nose and over-literal.

Importantly, Institute of Nuts reaches its dramatic climax with an iteration of the facts. 70% of suicides are committed by men, 95% of mass shooters are men and 95% of the United States’ prison population are men. Perfect, powerful, “I’m alright” men as P describes them. Institute of Nuts forces the viewer to confront the toxic masculinity that infiltrates everything from cultural institutions to benign leisure activities and consider how realistic the existence of such a training academy really is.


Reviewed by Flora Doble

Photography by Oli Sones


Institute of Nuts

Matchstick Piehouse Theatre until 12th April




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