Tag Archives: Melanie Fullbrook

The Manny

The Manny


King’s Head Theatre

THE MANNY at the King’s Head Theatre


The Manny

“Above all, this is a comedy showcase with plenty to laugh at”


We start with a few basic rules of dating. But, despite their comic value, not ones that we really want to take on board. The protagonist – a character called ‘The Manny’ – is supposedly enjoying his lifestyle. By day he looks after posh kids and his nights are filled with casual dates. The lack of joy or purpose is unconcealed. Deliberate even. He won’t allow himself to feel anything substantial or lasting. “I’m falling for her – I’m going to get hurt” encapsulates an attitude borne of some deep-seated wound, or fear. The reasons behind this are not explored, which makes Sam McArdle’s job of winning the audience over that much harder.

But he succeeds. McArdle, the actor and writer who has brought this one-hander to the stage, also brings the required self-deprecation, initially, for the audience to root for such a self-destructive character. And more than the required amount of humour, albeit of the darker variety. The obvious comparison is ‘Fleabag’, but there are also definite shades of Nick Hornby’s ‘About A Boy’. “The Manny” is inspired by McArdle’s personal experience of being a male nanny, working for rich single mums in West London. Early drafts were written during lockdown, so it is inevitable that the themes of loneliness and detachment are going to rise to the surface.

Just as he is resigning himself to a life passing by without any real purpose, the Manny meets Molly, a once-hopeful actress who is now just as disillusioned with her life as he is with his. She sells beetroot brownies in Borough market, as opposed to playing Cleopatra on Broadway. The two are drawn to each other. Meanwhile, in his parallel existence, he meets Michael, a precocious seven-year-old Right-Wing child with no father figure. Until the Manny comes along, that is, and they both have lessons in life to deal to each other. Mel Fullbrook’s sharp direction shifts the action between the two scenarios with the seamless precision of a film editor.

The show runs into difficulties, however, when the character of the Manny truly starts to unravel, and the premise of the comedy becomes muddied. As McArdle digs deeper, he exposes fragments of the subtext, but doesn’t pull them up to the surface. It is clear that the Manny has ‘issues’ and although it’s not explicit, the term ‘mental health’ is never far from his lips. And it is not clear whether societal pressure or the increasing use of dating apps is being blamed for the characters’ lack of connection. These people are hurting in some way, and while we can relate to the situations, it’s not easy to relate to the characters. The ‘Manny’ himself comes full circle – which is a touch unsatisfying as it offsets any sense of self-realisation, redemption or of a journey we can empathise with or connect to.

But maybe we aren’t supposed to over analyse. Above all, this is a comedy showcase with plenty to laugh at. McArdle has the art of entertainment off to a tee. With his comic timing and easy demeanour with his audience, he has the expressiveness of a true raconteur; which is a precious gift in itself.


Reviewed on 10th January 2023

by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Gabriel Bush



Previously reviewed at this venue:


Tender Napalm | ★★★★★ | October 2021
Beowulf: An Epic Panto | ★★★★ | November 2021
Freud’s Last Session | ★★★★ | January 2022
La Bohème | ★★★½ | May 2022
Brawn | ★★ | August 2022
The Drought | ★★★ | September 2022
Fame Whore | ★★★ | October 2022


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Review of Daisy Pulls it Off – 4 Stars


Daisy Pulls it Off

Park Theatre

Reviewed – 8th December 2017


“filled to the brim with fun, frolics and is ideal for adults and children alike. Truly spiffing!”


Written by Denise Deegan in 1980, Daisy Pulls It Off follows Daisy Meredith as she becomes the first scholarship student to attend the prestigious Grangewood School for Girls. In this parody of 1920s schoolgirl novels, Daisy must overcome prejudice and snobbery from some of her wealthier peers in a bid to uncover missing treasure and save her new school.


The cast is made up of seven diverse adult actors who, as well as playing the schoolgirls, take on other roles such as school teachers and Daisy’s mother. The exceptions to this are Anna Shaffer (Daisy) and Pauline McLynn (Daisy’s newfound best friend, Trixie), who play the same roles throughout.

In terms of comic timing, the entire cast are spot on and deliver the witty script to almost constant laughter from the audience. This does mean the occasional word is lost, but it does not affect the overall delivery or understanding of the piece. Those actors who portray multiple characters do so very well, with effective physical and vocal differences delivered. Lucy Eaton (Alice/Miss Gibson) and Freddie Hutchins (Belinda/Mr Scoblowski) particularly stand out in the portrayal of their contrasting characters.

The set is basic, consisting of a black and white chalkboard-style theme and wooden chairs. However, as the schoolgirls flock the stage in their brightly coloured pinafores, the focus is immediately on them. The contrast between their colourful costumes and the lack of colour in the set works well visually. Another element that works effectively is the fact the cast move the set, consisting of wooden chairs, chalkboards and a wooden staircase, on and off stage themselves, whilst in character. This allows for minimal distraction, whilst allowing the production to flow well.

If you’re after some entertainment this festive season, look no further than Daisy Pulls It Off. Director Paulette Randall’s production is filled to the brim with fun, frolics and is ideal for adults and children alike. Truly spiffing!


Reviewed by Emily K Neal

Photography by Tomas Turpie


Daisy Pulls it Off

is at the Park Theatre until 13th January 2017



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