Tag Archives: Oli George Rew

Two Strangers

Two Strangers (Carry A Cake Across New York)


Kiln Theatre



Two Strangers

“Tim Jackson’s lively production never misses a beat, played out on a revolve that circles Soutra Gilmour’s ingenious set”

Given a limited amount of time, would you rather spend it with someone you’ve never met or with someone you may never meet again?

One of the many questions thrown into the air in the captivating new musical, “Two Strangers (Carry a Cake Across New York)”. Dougal (Sam Tutty) is in New York for a whirlwind thirty-six hours. He has arrived for the wedding of his father who abandoned him before he was born. The excitement at the invitation is matched by his puppyish elation at being in The Big Apple. Meeting him at the airport is Robin (Dujonna Gift), the sister of the bride. Her cynicism is as great as his enthusiasm. Do opposites attract? Well – not at first. We might think we are in familiar Romcom territory, but there is plenty of rug-pulling that makes us think again.

Dougal lives in a movie, reliving the technicolour hopes and dreams that spill from the silver screen. ‘Do you know what we’d do now if we were in a movie?’ is his catchphrase. Robin lives in the real world, vaguely haunted by the ghosts of past, present and future. They clash, but with sparks hot enough to weld them together – yet Jim Barne’s and Kit Buchan’s writing is too complex to ensure the customary happy ending, and I’m not about to tell you either.

The opening number; ‘New York!’ is a crowd-pleasing overture, instantly putting a stamp on the two personalities. Sam Tutty’s Dougal is intensely irritating but insanely vulnerable and gorgeous. Tutty can cast a laugh-out-loud one-liner and wrap it around a tear-jerking anecdote with worldly skill. His brash, ingenuous shell is dangerously fragile. Dujonna Gift, as Robin, is the antithesis of the American Dream, and cannot seem to shake off her current nightmare that has arrived in the form of her prospective nephew-in-law.

“For a musical, there is more than enough script, which gives the two actors plenty to chew on, and reveal their formidable acting skills”

They bond, reluctantly, over Robin’s Tinder App during the sensational, staccato musical number, ‘On the App’, which showcases the clever lyrics that run throughout the show. Like many of the songs it is almost rhapsodic in nature, blending styles like a confectioner would concoct the most delicious flavours. Jim Barne’s score cannot be separated from the book and lyrics (credited to both Kit Buchan, and Barne). They brilliantly mix the old and the new, the traditional and the urban, classic and modern, the sweet and the sour. ‘Under the Mistletoe’ is a gorgeous parody of the seasonal hit that we all pretend to frown upon yet secretly love. It rises above pastiche though, sending up its source with a glowing affection that will ensure the song’s place in everyone’s festive playlist.

There are too many standout numbers. ‘The Argument’, sparse and rhythmic, delivered with precision timing by Gift and Tutty is both timeless and progressive, blurred by the doubt and confusion of too much liquor yet with a sharpness that cuts open a bitter and heartrending reveal. It is the performances of Tutty and Gift that propel the show as much as the score. For a musical, there is more than enough script, which gives the two actors plenty to chew on, and reveal their formidable acting skills. Their range, which can rake up many emotions, matches their vocal versatility. Through them, too, we get a three-dimensional portrayal of the off-stage characters and a glorious insight into the relationships.

Tim Jackson’s lively production never misses a beat, played out on a revolve that circles Soutra Gilmour’s ingenious set of piles of greyed-out suitcases that open and close to reveal the various locations, props, and the surprises and secrets of our protagonists. These characters have many shades, reflected and amplified by Jack Knowles’ moody, sensitive and innovative lighting.

“Two Strangers…” is the perfect Christmas tale. Part dream. Part movie. Part fairy-tale. And, of course, the obligatory snowfall during its finale. The opening number, ‘New York!’, is reprised, shifting from the major to the minor. Tender, plaintive and haunting now, but with a rising crescendo that reassures us all. We have cried. But we have laughed too. Hope springs eternal.


Reviewed on 16th November 2023

by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Marc Brenner




More recent reviews from Jonathan:

Treason The Musical | ★★★ | Alexandra Palace | November 2023
Backstairs Billy | ★★★★ | Duke of York’s Theatre | November 2023
Porno | ★★★ | Arts Theatre | November 2023
The Time Traveller’s Wife | ★★★ | Apollo Theatre | November 2023
Lizzie | ★★★ | Southwark Playhouse Elephant | November 2023
The Ocean At The End Of The Lane | ★★★★★ | Noël Coward Theatre | October 2023
An Evening Of Burlesque | ★★★★ | Adelphi Theatre | October 2023
Othello | ★★★★ | Riverside Studios | October 2023
Flowers For Mrs Harris | ★★★★ | Riverside Studios | October 2023
Shooting Hedda Gabler | ★★★★ | Rose Theatre Kingston | October 2023
Trompe L’Oeil | ★★★ | The Other Palace | September 2023
Close Up – The Twiggy Musical | ★★★ | Menier Chocolate Factory | September 2023

Two Strangers

Two Strangers

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[title of show]

[Title of Show]

Above the Stag

Title of Show

[title of show]

Above the Stag

Reviewed – 15th February 2019



“The format of the show is stuffed full of comic and satirical potential”


[title of show] charts the story of writer and composer Hunter and Jeff (Michael Vinsen and Jordan Fox respectively) trying to write a musical with their friends Susan (Natalie Williams) and Heidi (Kirby Hughes) for an upcoming festival and all the trials and tribulations that accompany it. The beautifully meta aspect of the show is that Hunter Bell and Jeff Bowen were actually the creatives behind [title of show], which is the musical they wrote for an upcoming festival – it’s at one point described as ‘a musical about two guys writing a musical about two guys writing a musical’. This provides a delicious sense of spontaneity to the way the action on stage unfolds, as all the characters are aware that they are in a musical that is being written – one character remarks that Susan has been very quiet during the scene, she responds that it’s because she didn’t have a line in the script until now. The format of the show is stuffed full of comic and satirical potential, and moments like this wring all its possibilities fully.

However, the show was originally written in 2004 and has been considerably successful, even making it to Broadway in 2008, and so the second act of the show – which charts the journey of the show following the festival – feels disjointed and not quite as polished as a result. The first act’s blend of snappy dialogue, clever commentary and engaging songs that are fully integrated with the plot and characters are in the second act replaced with a messier concoction that feels more like a play that drags out a contrived conflict between two characters and begrudgingly throws a song in every now and then until the final sequence.

Thankfully, the shortcomings in [title of show]’s writing in the latter half is made up for by stellar direction and performances throughout. Director Robert McWhir takes every opportunity to let the story and the characters shine through, ensuring that the weaker elements feel more fleshed out and that the comedy and pathos is given the full spotlight. His smart staging makes the relatively cosy space feel huge, giving the actors ample room to take advantage of – and they certainly do. Every single cast member delivers an imaginative and encapsulating performance, although Michael Vinsen is especially exemplary in the relatability, drive, and hilarity he brings to Hunter. The only shortfall is that – as the actors don’t have mics – if they are at the opposite end of the space, lyrics can occasionally be lost.

This is a shame, as the music and lyrics are often catchy and clever. Numbers such as ‘Monkeys and Playbills’, ‘Die, Vampire, Die!’, and ‘Nine People’s Favourite Thing’ are all gleefully inventive and, thanks to Oli George Rew’s expert accompaniment, feel vivid and characterful in their composition.

The sheer love of musical theatre and the process of creation that [title of show] displays will make you fall in love with it despite some missteps, and will have you leaving the theatre truly charmed, and a little more inspired in your own dreams and aspirations.


Reviewed by Tom Francis

Photography by PBG Studios


[Title of Show]

Above the Stag until 10th March


Last ten shows covered by this reviewer:
Welcome ..? | ★★★★ | Bridewell Theatre | October 2018
Brat Kids Carnival | ★★★½ | Christmas In Leicester Square | November 2018
Chutney | ★★★ | The Bunker | November 2018
Motherhood or Madness | ★★★ | Katzpace Studio Theatre | November 2018
Specky Ginger C*nt | ★★½ | Katzpace Studio Theatre | November 2018
Pinocchio | ★★ | The Albany Theatre | December 2018
Fight Night | ★★★★ | The Vaults | January 2019
Original Death Rabbit | ★★★★★ | Jermyn Street Theatre | January 2019
Black Is The Color Of My Voice | ★★★ | Trafalgar Studios | February 2019
Soul Sessions | ★★★★ | Trafalgar Studios | February 2019


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