Tag Archives: Niall Phillips


Tomorrow May Be My Last


Old Red Lion Theatre

Tomorrow May Be My Last

Old Red Lion Theatre

Reviewed – 26th May 2022



“Cooper embodies Joplin, strips her bare and dresses her up again in her own commanding and charismatic personality”


There’s a three-piece band jamming’ the blues, wearing shades and bandanas; stars and stripes are draped over chairs; a battered sofa; crumpled dreams bathed in tie-dye and the glow of lava lamps. Hard liquor and disembodied voices transporting us back to the ‘Summer of Love’.

That’s just the pre-show.

“Ladies and gentlemen – Janis Joplin!”. The band strikes up. The band breaks off. “Ladies and gentlemen – Janis Joplin!”. The band strikes up. The band comes to another resigned stop. Third time lucky. Joplin appears. The worse for wear, but totally fired up. And she’s off.

Did I just refer to Janis Joplin? I meant Collette Cooper. It’s difficult to separate the two. The mannerisms are spot on, thoroughly researched and executed. The drunken cackle, the Texan drawl, and the expletives. The physicality is striking, and Cooper’s voice has the ravaged quality Joplin possessed, soaked in the same spirit. The essence is undeniable and uncanny. Joplin courses through Cooper’s veins, striking right to her fierce heart. This is a stunning performance from start to finish.

Set in a festival, and backstage in her dressing room, in the late ‘60s, “Tomorrow May Be My Last” is a musical, anecdotal and a devastatingly emotional journey through the life and career of Janis Joplin. In between the songs, Cooper crawls into Janis Joplin’s skin and addresses the audience by way of talking, not so much to herself, but to her beloved bottle of Southern Comfort. Intimate and husky, she sears our hearts with self-deprecation, self-analysis, drunken logic, and raw revelations. And song.

Early on in life, Joplin gave herself two choices; either fit in or “become a fucking Rock Star”. She burnt bright, burnt fast, and at twenty-seven years old, her flame had burnt its last. Thankfully, Joplin never fitted in. But nor did she escape her childhood demons, the bullying that informed her body image. And she could never shake off the cloak of loneliness that forever weighed her down. “A Woman Left Lonely” is delivered by Cooper with gut-wrenching rawness and honesty.

The show features some of Joplin’s best-loved songs, placing them in glorious context by Cooper’s reminiscences. Launching into “Try (Just a Little Bit Harder)”, she flawlessly depicts the chasm that lies between the person and the personality that is seen on the global stage. Like many of the numbers, it is preceded by a perfect evocation of stage fright. We can taste the vulnerability, such is Cooper’s mesmerising performance. Backstage the loneliness throbs to the dying backbeat.

On stage she knew no limits. “Ball and Chain” was a landmark song in Joplin’s career, and a defining point in the show. Cooper commands her audience, ignoring the fact we may be sitting above an Islington pub. Instead, we are at the Monterey Festival, we are witnessing the birth of the ‘Summer of Love’.

“I don’t write songs, I make them up” Cooper tells us, paraphrasing Joplin while seamlessly adding one of her own compositions (co-written with Musical Director Mike Hanson). “Tomorrow May Be My Last” could be plucked from Janis’ own repertoire; it epitomises the mix of hope, idealism and tragedy that followed Joplin throughout her fleeting life. Throughout the evening, Cooper captures the essence, explores the danger, and amazingly unearths deep grooves of humour too.

With Jan Simpson on drums, Jack Parry on guitar and Dan Malek on bass, the effect is complete. Through the music Cooper not only comes to life, but she brings Joplin back to life. And sends her off again with a glittering finale. Joplin’s wild heartbeat finally comes to rest as the belt tightens around her arm, and the final drop of heroin chokes her veins. Almost before we can register the sadness and brutal waste of a life cut short, Cooper turns it back into a celebration of that extraordinary life. “Take another little piece of my heart” she sings. She puts her heart into this show, then hands it over to us. And we gladly take more than just a little.

Cooper embodies Joplin, strips her bare and dresses her up again in her own commanding and charismatic personality. Intimate and intense, we see the minutiae and the global side by side. We are forewarned that the show is “proper Rock and Roll loud”. As befitting the genre, Cooper comes back for an encore of “Me and Bobby McGee: “Feeling good was good enough for me…”. Well, there’s an understatement. The feel-good factor is off the scale.


Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Robin Hope



Tomorrow May Be My Last

Old Red Lion Theatre until 11th June


Other shows recently reviewed by Joe:
Us | ★★★★ | White Bear Theatre | February 2022
The Straw Chair | ★★★ | Finborough Theatre | April 2022
The Silent Woman | ★★★★ | White Bear Theatre | April 2022
The End of the Night | ★★ | Park Theatre | May 2022
Orlando | ★★★★ | Jermyn Street Theatre | May 2022
The Man Behind the Mask | ★★★★ | Churchill Theatre | May 2022
Til Death do us Part | ★★★★★ | Theatre503 | May 2022
The Breach | ★★★ | Hampstead Theatre | May 2022
Grease | ★★★★ | Dominion Theatre | May 2022
Legally Blonde | ★★★★★ | Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre | May 2022


Click here to see our most recent reviews


Review of Turkey – 3.5 Stars



The Hope Theatre

Reviewed – 28th September 2017


⭐️⭐️⭐️ 1/2



“moments of true theatrical beauty”


Turkey is impossible to simplify; somewhere between a modern Hedda Gabler and Yerma, it retains all the qualities of the greatest stories ever told, with a distinctly modern perspective. Hilariously funny, Turkey presents a liberal love story with a twist, though it’s crash-cut ending leaves the audience desperate for the end of the story.

The narrative follows the story of Maddie and Toni, a young lesbian couple who are happily monogamous, living a normal life. There’s just one issue; Maddie wants a baby and Toni can’t give her one. The visceral story explores the issues of motherhood in more unusual concepts, exploring the lengths to which one is willing to go to reach the ultimate goal and the consequences of tunnel-vision. The dialogue is incredibly well written and super snappy, with some truly breathtaking moments of stillness, though the pacing sometimes seemed to be lost in the middle of scenes.

The acting is strong and solid; Harriet Green gives a natural and consistently strong performance and Cameron Robertson flickers between an older man, out of place in the world of the young couple and a youthful exuberance that controls the stage. Pevyand Sadeghian (Madeline) gives a fiery performance, but sometimes lacks the depth that could make the character more likeable.

The set is constructed from a series of boxes and hanging props, allowing the piece to flit between abstract proxemics and physicality and the daring realism of the script and performances; credit must go to Niall Phillips’ direction for streamlining these differences into a coherent and well-functioning whole that serves the story with specificity and style. The comedy is incredibly well-written, truly highlighting the more dramatic moments, but can sometimes make the characters feel a little archetypal.

For me, the plot felt a little too centred around a single event or concept, rather than following through a more developed story line, and I would love to see this piece expanded and developed to 90 minutes or more, with a clearer reason behind the narrative. Turkey is a solid piece of theatre, with an interesting and uncommon story and some moments of true theatrical beauty. I look forward to seeing the next steps of Frankie Meredith’s writing career and will be watching closely; this is certainly a jaw-dropping achievement for Meredith’s first full-length play and the entire team must be commended for creating an original yet classically soulful story.


Reviewed by Tasmine Airey




is at The Hope Theatre until 14th October



Click here to see a list of the latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com