Tag Archives: Michael Thomas

For King & Country – 4 Stars


For King & Country

COLAB Factory

Reviewed – 26th April 2018


“a truly immersive show – the role the public plays means that no two performances are ever going to be the same”


A soldier in a second world war uniform is the only indication that something unusual is going on behind an unsuspecting doorway in South East London. He welcomes you into an intimate flag filled bar transporting you instantly back to the 1940s. Cast members circulate in period costume whilst Douglas Remington-Hobbs introduces himself and gives you a brief back story as to your purpose for the evening.

It’s December 1940, but not as we know it, Lord Halifax is Prime Minister, Edward VIII is on the throne, Nazi troops have landed in Britain and are rapidly advancing through the South East of England. Britain is in crisis and an emergency session has recalled both houses to Parliament. A small number of backbench MPs and their families are whisked away to a secret London location. As a member of the audience you assume the identity of one of these designated survivors. Almost immediately disaster strikes in London and soon you are electing a new Prime Minister and cabinet to take the lead and take control of the situation.

Peter Dewhurst is excellent in his role of Douglas Remington-Hobbs. He controls proceedings and is responsible for steering the audience through the tough decisions they have to make. He is quick witted and his ability to draw out suggestions and shoot down the crazy responses is brilliant. This is a truly immersive show – the role the public plays means that no two performances are ever going to be the same. The actors are talented and experts in improvisation. They feed trickles of information and direct you towards a solution – sometimes facing the difficulty of dealing with a particularly headstrong and passionate individual. The evening progresses with a mixture of healthy debates in a makeshift parliament interspaced with the audience being sent off to carry out a number of different tasks.

Notable performances also came from Christopher Styles and Edward Andrews playing Major Timothy Smythe and Squadron Leader James Muir. The set (Owen Kingston and Christopher Styles) is fantastic with the attention to detail adding to the atmosphere. The space is used to maximum effect and easily negotiated as you move through the different scenes. Whilst those with “elected” roles are given specific direction “unelected” audience members are left to wander freely as each scenario unfolds. Sometimes this allowed some to become a little bit lost with what was going on. I felt that it would have had a better flow if the “unelected” had been split into groups and given specific tasks.

Overall For King and Country is a clever, fun evening out – original and extremely engaging. A knowledge of historic events and participation is not essential but would add to your enjoyment enormously. Don’t worry if you are not “elected” to a lead role there are still plenty of opportunities for immersion.


Reviewed by Angela East

Photography by Owen Kingston


For King & Country

COLAB Factory until 10th June


Previously at this venue
Hidden Figures: WW2 | ★★★★★ | March 2018


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The Rivals – 5 Stars


The Rivals

Watermill Theatre

Reviewed – 22nd March 2018


“A feast of high-blown cod grandiloquence is delivered with crisp authority”


“Love. Zounds!” Newbury’s delightfully cosy Watermill Theatre has a sparkling hit on its hands in an adaptation of Sheridan’s The Rivals. First performed in 1775, and written in a desperate rush to finance a life lived beyond his means, the play satirises the lives of the well-to-do in the hotbed of intrigue that was Georgian Bath.

The twisting path to true love, with all its deceptions and vanities, is brought to life with real zest by a strong ensemble, directed by Jonathan Humphreys. The piece has been shortened and sharpened by its adaptor Beth Flintoff, complete with a re-written prologue and epilogue. The first compares the hot stories of today with Sheridan’s time, and the second keeps the focus on the women and the way love really does make the world go round.

James Cotterrill’s design features a period-looking thrust stage and a ravishing cascade of high kitsch drapes, in a riot of pink and purple frills and furbelows that neatly parodies the pretensions of the characters on the otherwise empty stage. This is a play of words, not deeds. A feast of high-blown cod grandiloquence is delivered with crisp authority by a talented cast.

Some of the best lines are spoken by the eponymous Mrs Malaprop, played with a wicked sense of fun by Julia St John. Her niece is memorably ‘as headstrong as an allegory on the banks of the Nile’. The malapropisms are sometimes new (I don’t think Sheridan knew about the calamari which Mrs Malaprop substitutes for a calamity) and they come so thick and fast you’ve hardly time to work out what she really meant to say before another rib-tickler comes along.

Michael Thomas plays Sir Anthony Absolute with a delightfully pugnacious swagger. Ncuti Gatwa is his son Captain Jack, the focus of a web of love complications that had the audience in stitches. His delivery, animated expression and movement (directed by Simon Pittman) wittily evoked the character of the silver-tongued dandy at the centre of the play.

His love is Lydia Languish (recent RADA graduate Emma Denly). She’s far from being a complete air-headed flibbertigibbet, in an interpretation that like Charlotte Bate’s satisfying portrayal of Julia that was as much about empowering the women as it was about reducing them to mere figures of fun.

As Faulkland, James Mack gave an engaging performance as a daft buffoon whose love always comes with a ‘but..’. Christopher Logan has some great comic moments in best stage Irish as Sir Lucius O’Trigger in a role that got Dublin-born Sheridan into trouble at the play’s premiere.

Daniel Abelson completes the versatile cast of eight as Bob Acres. He plays the role in a lusciously broad Bristollian accent that perfectly suits his booby of a character. Other characters are also played with versatility by the cast, so much so in fact that there seemed to be actors missing at the enthusiastic curtain call that concluded tonight’s performance.


Reviewed by David Woodward

Photography by Philip Tull


The Rivals

Watermill Theatre until 21st April


Teddy | ★★★★★ | The Watermill Theatre | January 2018


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