Tag Archives: Nick Walker

Allesley Silas

The Allesley Silas


Belgrade Theatre

Allesley Silas

The Allesley Silas

Belgrade Theatre

Reviewed – 26th July 2022



“Dowse does a fine job in keeping the audience engaged, finding a delightful lyricism in the words and being a natural storyteller”


Following a successful outdoor staging as part of the Coventry UK City Of Culture 2021 programme last year, “The Allesley Silas” has been adapted for Belgrade’s B2 performance space, where it plays this week. An adaptation of George Eliot’s 1861 novel “Silas Marner”, the play tells the story of a linen weaver who is wrongly accused of theft and subsequently withdraws from society. His loneliness and isolation cause him to move to the quiet village of Raveloe, and become obsessed with money, with his collection of gold coins becoming the only thing in the world that matters to him. One night, his gold is stolen, and Silas is devastated. Soon after, an orphaned child with golden hair enters his life when he finds her wandering alone in the snow, and he believes God has returned his gold to him in another form. Through caring for the child (whom he names Eppie), Silas begins to feel the warmth of human contact once more, and tries to overcome the pain of his past. However, the secret of her true parentage may bring fresh heartache to the lives of others in Raveloe.

Adapted from Eliot’s original novel into a two hour abridgement by Alan Pollock and directed by Olivia Marie, “The Allesley Silas” tells Marner’s story faithfully, if not always particularly excitingly. To be fair, Eliot’s tale is heavy on talking and light on action, and this production works within the parameters of the material and creates an enjoyable experience. The show takes a while to bed in and find its feet, with Act One feeling somewhat ploddy, although Act Two is much stronger. The plot is narrated on stage by Jill Dowse, which helps to tighten up the wordier stretches of the story, and Dowse does a fine job in keeping the audience engaged, finding a delightful lyricism in the words and being a natural storyteller. The production is underscored by folk-tinged incidental music (composed by Rebecca Applin) which maintains the setting and tone of the piece, and Abby Clarke’s set design is simple but effective, using a skeletal house structure as the focal point and framing the stage with wooden boxes which also cleverly double-up as floral borders to help show the passing of time and the seasons. The play is staged in the smaller B2 space, with its intimate nature suiting the piece really well and involving the audience in the story.

Adrian Decosta goes a great job as Silas, really taking the audience on the journey from wronged man to miser to nurturing father, and is particularly impressive near the show’s end where he finally gets closure on his past. Alex Allison is also wonderful as Eppie, brilliantly puppeteering (and vocalising) two child versions of her character before playing her for real in the show’s second act. She brings a real warmth to Eppie, and as a girl who is meant to shine like the sun, Allison is spot-on. Decosta and Allison create a bond throughout the show’s second act that feels genuine and heartfelt, which is lovely to watch.

Telling a 160-year-old story in 2022 is always going to be a tricky task, deciding whether to either modernise the story for today’s world or keep it as a period piece. This production goes for the latter, and although it may lack thrills, it offers a gentle and faithful look into the past, and finds real heart on its journey. Simply told, with the cast showing real affection for the piece, “The Allesley Silas” is a pleasantly nostalgic trip back to secondary school English class for audiences looking to dip back into a classic.


Reviewed by Rob Bartley

Photography by Dylan Parrin (from 2021 production)


The Allesley Silas

Belgrade Theatre until 30th July


All our July reviews so far – click on the link to read:

I Can’t Hear You | ★★★★ | Theatre503 | July 2022
The Hive | ★★★ | Hoxton Hall | July 2022
Report to an Academy | | Old Red Lion Theatre | July 2022
Barefoot in the Park | ★★★★ | The Mill at Sonning | July 2022
Flat and Curves | ★★★★★ | Toulouse Lautrec | July 2022
Hungry | ★★★★★ | Soho Theatre | July 2022
Pennyroyal | ★★★★ | Finborough Theatre | July 2022
Shit-Faced Shakespeare: Romeo & Juliet | ★★★★ | Leicester Square Theatre | July 2022
Millennials | ★★★ | The Other Palace | July 2022
Fashion Freak Show | ★★★★★ | Roundhouse | July 2022
Sobriety on the Rocks | ★★★★ | Bread and Roses Theatre | July 2022
Oh Mother | ★★★★ | Soho Theatre | July 2022


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We’ve Got Each Other

VAULT Festival

Weve Got Each Other

We’ve Got Each Other

The Vaults

Reviewed – 6 February 2019



“Because O’Donnell proves he’s a ‘triple threat’, it’s hard not to want more than what we’re given”


We’ve Got Each Other is an anticipated twelve-times Olivier Award nominated musical spectacular. A cast of thirty-five, a full band rocking Bon Jovi tunes, Bruno Tonioli choreography, gorgeous costumes, and confetti cannons make for an unforgettable night of theatre. Or at least it would have, if Paul O’Donnell had had the budget for it. Due to a few logistical snags, the final result is… a bit different from the initial pitch. But ‘the show must go on’, and on it goes, as a one-man musical. O’Donnell reassures us, we’ve got the script, some good music, and most importantly, we’ve got each other. And that’s a lot.

Paul O’Donnell is hilarious, wonderfully awkward and apologetic, as he talks the audience through the show that ‘might have been’. He sits on the side of a bare stage under an Ikea lamp with the script. He invites us to use our imagination to make up for the lack of… everything really. Lighting cues (Arnim Friess) follow actors who aren’t there. O’Donnell narrates the story and the dancing play-by-play, vividly immersing the audience into a non-existent jukebox musical. It’s a laugh-out-loud funny spoof. He relentlessly, lovingly, mocks every aspect of musical theatre from the overwrought melodrama down to the set changes. Various recorded versions of “Livin’ on a Prayer” (acapella, instrumental) serve as the soundtrack.

O’Donnell embraces the very camp he’s poking fun at: his enthusiasm for this terrible Bon Jovi musical is infectious. It’s a bit of a shame, then, that it takes him until the second half to get up out of the chair. He spends most of the time sitting, half-mimicking the would-be dancing. The restraint of his position seems at odds with his eagerness and excitement. It’s gratifying when he finally gets up and fully dances, sings, and acts out the scenes. If he were to do this from the start, it would ramp up the energy of the show, which feels underdone while he’s confined to the chair. Because O’Donnell proves he’s a ‘triple threat’, it’s hard not to want more than what we’re given. Additionally, for a Bon Jovi musical, it would have been nice to hear more than one Bon Jovi song. Not sure whether it’s intentional for humour or copyright reasons, but comedy-wise it seems like loading a six-barrel gun with just one bullet.

One man reading through a musical script on a blank stage sounds like a long sixty minutes. The catch is that somehow O’Donnell is funny, creative, and talented enough to pull it off. Fans of musicals will truly enjoy this hilarious, incisive love letter to the genre. But even my companions who are not regular theatre-goers were repeatedly in stitches. This no-budget musical may be livin’ on a prayer, but it’s living its best life. Give it a shot.


Reviewed by Addison Waite

Photography by Alex Brenner


Vault Festival 2019

We’ve Got Each Other

Part of VAULT Festival 2019




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