Tag Archives: Michael Taylor



New Wimbledon Theatre

AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN at the New Wimbledon Theatre


“the full, immensely talented, company give it their all as they wade through the likes of Madonna, Bon Jovi, Cyndi Lauper, Blondie, Hall & Oates, Status Quo… and the list goes on”

Picture the scene; in some non-descript boardroom as the initial production meeting for a new musical unfolds. As is the current trend, a successful movie is on the table undergoing the duke box treatment. The person, or persons (no one is actually credited), responsible for compiling the song list has their mind elsewhere. Or, more likely, they didn’t even show up for the brief. The memo in their inbox was enough. It’s the nineteen-eighties!

It’s difficult to decide whether the music is shoehorned into the book, or the thin wisps of script have been tacked onto a compilation CD from somebody’s forty-year-old record collection. Whichever, the result is a union that makes little sense. “An Officer and a Gentleman – the Musical” might have been a good idea at the time, but nobody has really thought it through.

Based on the successful romantic drama film starring Richard Gere and Debra Winger, the musical adaptation’s book is by Douglas Day Stewart and Sharleen Cooper Cohen (Stewart wrote the original film, based on his own experiences as a Naval Aviation Officer Candidate). It was four decades ago now, and very much of its time. There was a toughness underlying the romance and it delved into the lives of down-trodden characters. Although faithful to the original story, the inclusion of the musical numbers in Nikolai Foster’s revival displaces depth of character leaving us with a sense of bemusement as each anthemic chorus blasts its way into the auditorium.

Behind the wall of sound, the story follows Zack Mayo (Luke Baker) through his training as an aviation officer. Whilst continually in conflict with the hard-hitting, sadistic Sergeant Foley (Jamal Kane Crawford) he finds solace, and love (of sorts), in local factory worker Paula Pokrifki (Georgia Lennon). Meanwhile fellow candidate, Sid Worley (Paul French) starts dating Paula’s best friend Lynette Pomeroy (Sinead Long). Both men have been forewarned that local girls will use pregnancy to entrap an officer, seeking a way out of their humdrum lives. This forms a sizeable chunk of the narrative, steering one of the officers towards tragedy, while the other heads off towards his climactic happy ending.

The presentation, it has to be said, is impressive. Michael Taylor’s set mixes warm neons with imposing industrial frameworks while Ben Cracknell’s lighting creates the moods that the banal dialogue fails to convey. There are some odd choices in the songs’ arrangements, but Musical Director Christopher Duffy and his five-piece band pull it off like they’re playing to Wembley’s Twin Towers (remember – it’s the eighties!). Joanna Goodwin’s choreography is a real spectacle, although again, there’s little to suggest that she’d read the script. And the full, immensely talented, company give it their all as they wade through the likes of Madonna, Bon Jovi, Cyndi Lauper, Blondie, Hall & Oates, Status Quo… and the list goes on. And as the show goes on, it becomes increasingly difficult to match what we are hearing with what we are seeing. We wonder how Hall & Oates’ ironic ditty, ‘Family Man’, can underscore tragic (and fatal) heartbreak. An awkward dinner date precedes Heart’s ‘Alone’, delivered with disproportionate bombast. Histrionics has indeed overthrown emotion in this disjointed patchwork of a variety show.

Douglas Day Stewart’s film just happened to be written, released and set in the eighties. But at the time it didn’t define the decade. It seems bizarre that Stewart would allow the level of disrespect to his writing that is being shown here. Never mind the anticipated accusations that the story is inherently dated and misogynous. It’s just homogenous. Which is a shame as it has the potential to court controversy and inspire debate. Instead, we have Helen Reddy’s ‘I Am Woman’, juxtaposed with James Brown’s ‘It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World’, drained of the lyric’s original meaning. On the plus side, though, the songs are all crowd pleasers, and there is passion in the performances; even if nowhere else.

AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN at the New Wimbledon Theatre then UK Tour continues

Reviewed on 2nd April 2024

by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Marc Brenner



Best shows in March 2024:

THE LONELY LONDONERS | ★★★★ | Jermyn Street Theatre | March 2024
CONSIDERED SUICIDE WHEN THE HUE GETS TOO HEAVY | ★★★★ | Garrick Theatre | March 2024
BLUE | ★★★★ | Seven Dials Playhouse | March 2024
GUYS & DOLLS | ★★★★★ | Bridge Theatre | March 2024
POLICE COPS: THE MUSICAL | ★★★★ | Southwark Playhouse Elephant | March 2024
HIDE AND SEEK | ★★★★ | Park Theatre | March 2024
APRICOT | ★★★★ | Theatre503 | March 2024
IN CLAY | ★★★★★ | Upstairs at the Gatehouse | March 2024
HOSTAGE | ★★★★ | Etcetera Theatre | March 2024
ASSEMBLY HALL | ★★★★★ | Sadler’s Wells Theatre | March 2024
PRISCILLA THE PARTY! | ★★★★★ | HERE at Outernet | March 2024
MIND MANGLER | ★★★★ | Apollo Theatre | March 2024
BREEDING | ★★★★ | King’s Head Theatre (new) | March 2024
DON’T. MAKE. TEA. | ★★★★★ | Soho Theatre | March 2024
THE DREAM OF A RIDICULOUS MAN | ★★★★ | Marylebone Theatre | March 2024
THE DIVINE MRS S | ★★★★ | Hampstead Theatre | March 2024



Click here to see our Recommended Shows page


It's Headed Straight Towards Us

It’s Headed Straight Towards Us


Park Theatre



It's Headed Straight Towards Us

“Hound and West are outstanding”

Imagine your greatest enemy. Now, imagine being trapped in an actor’s trailer with them. That’s on a moving glacier. That’s on the side of the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull. That’s erupting.

‘Disaster comedy’ It’s Headed Straight Towards Us – written by Adrian Edmondson and Nigel Planer and directed by Rachel Kavanaugh – presents just this scenario. Gary Savage (Rufus Hound) and Hugh Delavois (Samuel West) are bitter rivals. From drama school through to their acting careers, the pair have always clashed; the former, a drunken, grouchy Hollywood wash-up; the latter, a neurotic, bit part actor nicknamed ‘Custard Man’ after an unfortunate incident in front of Alan Bennett which went viral online. To their horror, they are both set to star in the film Vulcan 7, before an avalanche halts filming and separates them from the rest of the cast and crew.

Trapped with 21-year-old runner and self-proclaimed seismologist Leela (Nenda Neururer), they are forced to confront their historic animosity as their situation becomes more and more perilous.

Hound and West are outstanding. Their constant bickering is utterly believable whilst also being brilliantly funny. Their quips and jabs at each other range from silly to deeply cruel and you never know what will come out next. Digs are made at sexual promiscuity, failed fatherhood, embarrassing career moments, just to name a few. The only thing of which they are in agreement is a hatred of Daniel Day Lewis.

We get to know our two leads intimately. Their deepest anxieties, greatest regrets, and dwindling hopes for the future. Though both completely unlikeable at first, we feel real pathos for our sparring (failing) actors, especially in the second half and the final scenes. Props also to Hound who spends the first hour in a heavy latex costume designed by Wendy Olver.

“our great attachment to Gary and Hugh is in no small part to the strong acting and clever script”

Neururer does well to balance the warring duo with her youthful eagerness and naivety. Her character is also the only one linked to activities outside the trailer via her headset and thus provides significant exposition and forward motion in the plot. The only slightly confusing element of the narrative is that it takes place in less than 24 hours – these two characters who so vehemently hate each other are very quick to get vulnerable. However, considering the unique space of the actor’s trailer, the claustrophobia of their situation, and some rather wonderful acting, this rapid opening up seems perfectly natural.

The set (designed by Michael Taylor) is really quite brilliant. We see the inside of a large trailer – there is a table with seating to the left, a sofa and pouffe in the centre, and a small bathroom on the right. All this sits atop a moving floor that rocks, jitters, and tilts as the tremors worsen. The trailer door leads to the back of the stage – there is no back wall, so any approaching character is seen. Snow – in the form of small pieces of white paper – falls along the front edge of the stage in a few scenes creating a pleasant effect.

The set is further enhanced by the impressive lighting designed by Mark Doubleday. Behind the stage is a large screen that reaches from floor to ceiling. The calming hues of the first half are soon replaced with angry reds – the mood of the natural world and the desperation of our characters expressed perfectly. Eerie sounds that evoke a certain natural mysticism play between scenes to further remind us of the power of the volcanic mound (Fergus O’Hare).

It’s Headed Straight Towards Us is an intimate exploration of hate and regret. Our two characters are inextricably linked whether they like it or not and they find a strange comfort in their familiarity with each other. Moreover, our great attachment to Gary and Hugh is in no small part to the strong acting and clever script. A play thoroughly worth seeing.


Reviewed on 19th September 2023

by Flora Doble

Photography by Pamela Raith


Previously reviewed at this venue:

Sorry We Didn’t Die At Sea | ★★½ | September 2023
The Garden Of Words | ★★★ | August 2023
Bones | ★★★★ | July 2023
Paper Cut | ★★½ | June 2023
Leaves of Glass | ★★★★ | May 2023
The Beach House | ★★★ | February 2023
Winner’s Curse | ★★★★ | February 2023
The Elephant Song | ★★★★ | January 2023
Rumpelstiltskin | ★★★★★ | December 2022
Wickies | ★★★ | December 2022

It’s Headed Straight Towards Us

It’s Headed Straight Towards Us

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