Tag Archives: Michael Vale




Royal and Derngate Theatre

PLAYTIME at the Royal and Derngate Theatre




“delightful entertainment of gentle comedy”


Dancing Brick presents a stage adaptation of the legendary film by Jacques Tati. An unlikely undertaking at first thought with the film’s notoriety for excessive detail, a myriad of characters, and almost no plot nor dialogue. And yet Co-Directors Valentina Ceschi and Thomas Eccleshare, with a cast of five (including Ceschi who doubles as an actor too), have created an evening’s triumph of mime and movement.

There is little plot – various people arrive in Paris at the airport, visit the Pour la Maison Paris Expo, stay in a hotel and go to a restaurant before returning to the airport. And there is little spoken dialogue – only occasional words are heard, some in French, some in English.

To start things off, Tati’s great comedic invention, Monsieur Hulot (Enoch Lwanga) enters through the audience. Dressed in his recognisable raincoat and hat, carrying an umbrella (Set & Costume Designer Michael Vale), Lwanga’s languid movements and sad reflective expression set the mood. He gamely blows up a balloon and then lets it down again.

Hulot enters the opening scene in the arrivals lounge (“Arrivee”) of a French airport. Dozens of characters come and go, arriving and departing via an escalator, criss-crossing the stage – a different hat, jacket, suitcase signifying a change in character. There are two nuns, two opposing volleyball teams, holiday makers, a beat combo, paparazzi… It is difficult to believe that this is a cast of just five actors and we shall see many of these characters again before the end of the evening. The humour within the scene is gentle rather than pratfall slapstick and the cast show off their consistently excellent mime skills. Their movement is accompanied by a background of foyer muzak, setting a light comedic tone, and a rhythm for the antics to follow.

One character stands out ahead of the crowd. Barbara (Yuyu Rau) catches the eye of Monsieur Hulot and there begins a burgeoning romance. Together they share a beautiful fantasy dance scene seemingly, and surreally, outside of their adjacent hotel rooms.

The highlight of the evening is an extended scene set in a newly opening restaurant. With non-stop action, the ensemble’s comic timing is impeccable. Characters come and go, a few running gags are followed – a missing cat, a fracas about balloons, an increasingly drunk waiter – the mayhem occasionally breaking out into quirky dance routines. Central to the activity and holding the scene together is the Maitre D’ (Abigail Dooley) who is excellently portrayed with superb characterization.

Two songs are introduced. The first by Chilly Gonzales & Pierre Grillet is beautifully sung live by Valentina Ceschi. The second by Martha Wainwright accompanies the final scene between Hulot and Barbara as they spend time in the park. The atmosphere for the first time is less zany than what has gone before, more melancholic. We realise that Barbara will soon leave and Hulot – the gentle clown – will once again be alone.

As the actors take their well-earned bows, they are joined in a curtain call by the stage management team who undoubtedly have done their bit in the wings to make happen the huge number of costume and prop changes.

Dancing Brick have created a delightful entertainment of gentle comedy maintained by the skill and indefatigable energy of this small ensemble.



Reviewed on 7th September 2022

by Phillip Money

Photography by Manuel Harlan


Previously reviewed at this venue:


Animal Farm | ★★★★ | May 2021
Gin Craze | ★★★★ | July 2021
Blue / Orange | ★★★★ | November 2021
The Wellspring | ★★★ | March 2022



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Sancho – An Act of Remembrance – 5 Stars


Sancho – An Act of Remembrance

Wilton’s Music Hall

Reviewed – 6th June 2018


“Joseph’s performance is impeccable, passionate and entrancing.”


When Paterson Joseph wrote ‘Sancho: An Act of Remembrance’, which was first performed in 2015, he could never have imagined the relevance it would have amidst the clamour of the Windrush scandal. Inspired by a portrait by Gainsborough and, as Joseph pointedly explains with a twinkle in his eye, an unattainable wish to be in a costume drama, we are lead through the surprising life and fate of Charles Ignatius Sancho. He was born in 1729 on a slave ship bound for the West Indies, brought to London at an early age by his master and subsequently taken in by the Duke of Montagu who employed him as a butler and, more importantly, educated him. Although Sancho was a significant anti-slavery campaigner and was to become the first Afro-Briton to vote in a British general election, his story is one of an aspiring actor, musician and composer, whose ultimate destiny lay in a grocer’s shop in Westminster. Joseph’s script brings a simple narrative alive with the colourful characters who shape Sancho’s life and the everyday events complicated by his origins.

Joseph’s performance is impeccable, passionate and entrancing. His command of the stage and the audience is remarkable. We are captivated by his own charisma and, with humour, drama and eloquence, he steers us through Sancho’s distinctive history, portraying the personalities around him with expressive accents and deftly-handled props. Together with co-director, Simon Godwin, they produce a show which is artfully paced and nuanced; from light-hearted moments involving the audience to the moving speech by Oroonoko, Prince of Angola, we move from one sensation to another. In addition, the frighteningly familiar current situation reflected in Act II builds to a powerful ending.

Inside the shabby-chic setting of Wilton’s Music Hall, the wood of Michael Vale’s set evokes the interior of a ship which stands as a reminder of Sancho’s journey as well as adapting to the many varied scenes. The costumes (Linda Haysman) and props adeptly complete the sense of transition as they are refashioned through the action of the play. The lighting design by Lucrecia Briceno enriches the diverse moods and the interjections of music (Ben Park) mark Sancho’s cultural aspect.

There are occasions when the chemistry between artists and audience transcend a wonderful performance and it becomes a unique experience, hard to put into words. Last night the craftsmanship in the writing and acting, the creative design and strong, pertinent message, were heightened by a receptiveness and a music hall setting which buzzed with excited energy – the enjoyment of a tremendous piece of theatre and awareness of this very British struggle which continues today.


Reviewed by Joanna Hetherington

Photography by Robert Day


Sancho – An Act of Remembrance

Wilton’s Music Hall until 16th June



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